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This Week in Travel

There are not 1, not 2, but 3 Guiness World Record attempts in This Week in Photos – find out who’ll set the next record. There’s some history-making in our travel news roundup as well, at least where your smartphone or tablet is concerned on your next flight.

Soon you won’t have to put down that book on your iPad as your plane hits the tarmac thanks to a decision by the FAA to allow the use of electronic devices for the duration of flights. While this does mean you can play games and work on drafting a blog post about your trip, it does not give you the freedom to pass time by calling Grandma or texting a friend – voice calls and use of data plans will remain banned aboard flights.

Virgin Airlines is joining the recent trend of high-quality in-flight safety videos (if you haven’t seen Air New Zealand’s video featuring Betty White you must catch up), releasing an information music video led by G.I. Joe and Step Up 2 director Jon M. Chu. The video brings together dancers, singers and choreographers from American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, and is a little catchy (I may or may not be humming the tune as I write this).

Gadling reports that the Leaning Tower of Pisa, isn’t “leaning” as much as it once was. The iconic bell tower is standing up a little straighter these days due to a massive restoration project. A new study out this week says that the tower has straightened by 1 inch (2.5cm) since 2001.

Still haven’t booked Thanksgiving travel? It’s not too late, but you’re going to need to be creative. Johnny Jet has rounded up 10 ways to find cheap Thanksgiving travel that could be your key to saving some money this holiday season.

Courtesy of iStock

Travelers flying the friendly skies may be able to use their mobile devices a little longer when taking off and landing. Later this week, the Federal Aviation Administration advisory panel is expected to relax restrictions on in-flight device use as early as next year.

What does this mean for passengers? The new guidelines would ease restrictions on tablets, e-books and previously downloaded podcasts and movies. Phone calls, texts, email and passengers using their own Wi-Fi will still be banned.

Without asking for formal device testing, the FAA will ask airlines to certify their planes can handle any potential interference. The main purpose of the new guidelines will be to create a single policy that covers all airlines. So pretty soon you may not have to be so quick to turn off all your electronic devices come takeoff.

Reuters

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered all U.S. Dreamliners to cease flying until the battery fire risk is investigated.

Following a nightmarish few weeks for the long-awaited Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the FAA has ordered that all 787 fleets be grounded as a precaution after an emergency landing in Japan. And that was after a series of other incidents, including a battery fire aboard an empty Dreamliner in Boston last week.

Japan, India and Ethiopian airlines have grounded their Dreamliners, and other nations where 787s were in service have followed suit.

Boeing President Jim McNerney issued a statement that the company is working around the clock with customers, regulators and investigators to solve the problems.

“Boeing deeply regrets the impact that recent events have had on the operating schedules of our customers and the inconvenience to them and their passengers,” McNerney says. “We are confident the 787 is safe, and we stand behind its overall integrity.”

But what about the fliers? Will they lose faith in the Dreamliner, even if the safety issues and bugs are resolved? Will the dreamy ‘mood lighting’ and larger windows ever override the trepidation of setting foot on a Dreamliner again?

Will you fly on a Dreamliner once the issues are resolved? Tell us in the comments.

The Federal Aviation Association will add air traffic controllers to 27 towers after another air-traffic controller fell asleep on the job. This time it was at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada.

After several attempts to contact the air-traffic controller, the pilot of an air ambulance, carrying a critically ill patient, was forced to land at the airport early Wednesday. Federal transportation officials said the controller could not be reached for 16 minutes.

In the last two months, there have been 4 other incidents where an airplane pilot was unable to reach a sleepy air-traffic controller at a U.S. airport, including Washington, DC’s Reagan National Airport and Seattle’s Boeing Field-King County International Airport.

The FAA has demanded that additional controllers staff overnight shifts where only one controller works. The National Transportation Safety Board and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have announced investigations of these recent air traffic control incidents.

Southwest Airlines Repairs Cracked Planes
Photo: News photographers huddle around the damaged piece of the Southwest Airlines
flight 812 at NTSB headquarters in Washington (Reuters)

Four Southwest planes, repaired for cracks, will likely return to service by Saturday. Airline officials say the 5th plane with cracks in the skin will be held back for additional, previously schedule maintenance.

Southwest grounded 79 of its older Boeing 737 aircraft for inspections after a hole opened in the roof of a similar plan over Arizona last week, forcing an emergency landing. The defective plane will be flown to a maintenance center for permanent repairs until Boeing determines how to fix the problem.

Boeing has already provided instructions on how to fix the cracked planes, which is usually a 2-day job.

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