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Tag Archives: travel

Travelers around the world stranded by Sandy

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PAUL J. RICHARDS / AFP – Getty Images

Italian tourists Patrizio D’Emido (left) and his girlfriend Joelle Carota (right) sit in Ronald Reagan National Airport stranded between flights, with a handful of other travelers, as Hurricane Sandy blew through Washington, DC on Monday.

Stuck. Stranded. In limbo. Whatever you call it, weary fliers grounded by Hurricane Sandy were eager to change their status on Tuesday as airlines and airports began assessing damage from the powerful storm.

On Tuesday, all New York City-area airports were closed, including John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia and Teterboro. JFK International will be reopened Wednesday, but LaGuardia will stay closed “due to extensive damage,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a news conference.

Carriers have canceled 18,000 flights since Sunday, and that number is still expected to grow, according to FlightAware.com.

With no way of getting out of or into the Big Apple and other parts of the East Coast by air, there’s a huge backlog of fliers around the country and the world with nowhere to go.

Some travelers spent the night on cots set up at airports including Newark Liberty, Boston Logan International and Chicago O’Hare International. Others snapped up hotel rooms — hotel bookings are up 15 percent in New York City and 68 percent in Washington compared to last week, according to data provided by Orbitz.

The question now: When will airline schedules get back to normal?

“A lot of it depends on what kind of damage they assess at the New York metro airports and when those reopen,” said Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor at Orbitz.

“Should flights, for example, start going back out tomorrow on a limited basis, we don’t anticipate flight schedules really getting back to normal until late this weekend, early next week,” she said.

There’s already a big backlog of travelers who canceled their flights before the storm so there won’t be a lot of seats to rebook displaced fliers on, Tornatore noted.

Video: NBC’s Tom Costello talks about transportation interruptions for the areas affected by Sandy.

For stranded travelers, there’s nothing to do but wait. 

Claire Conroy, who lives south of Boston, is stuck on the West Coast until Thursday. Conroy flew out to San Diego, Calif., with her mother and sister last week to celebrate her niece’s first birthday. When they realized over the weekend that they might have trouble returning Monday as planned, they spent 35 minutes on hold with JetBlue to rebook for a flight on Sunday afternoon. But it was too late.

“When we got to the counter, the flight was still listed as on time but was in fact canceled. The soonest flight we could get on was Thursday afternoon. Even then, only two of us are on that flight — my sister will be (flying) Friday. That’s how fast the seats were filling,” Conroy said.

Slideshow: Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath

Nicole Abramowski — who grew up on Long Island and now lives in Berlin, Germany — was flying home to New York for the first time in over a year to visit friends and family when she got stuck. She made it as far as London, where she was supposed to catch an American Airlines flight to JFK International on Sunday but it was canceled right before the gate opened.

The carrier booked Abramowski on a Thursday flight and put her up in a hotel, but later found out only two nights of her stay are covered and she has to pay for the rest of her accommodations herself.

“Hotel rooms here are 150-200 pounds a night, which is a whole month’s rent for me in Berlin on my salary and completely unaffordable,” Abramowski said, pointing out that she is stuck in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

“After an hour on the phone and taking a bus back to the airport to speak with them in person, they tell me it’s not their responsibility, ‘We didn’t even have to book you into a hotel for those two nights.’”

Her whole hotel is filled with people trying to get to New York, Abramowski said.

“I feel bad for everyone having to deal with this. We have bad timing,” she added.

American Airlines has suspended operations until Wednesday at nine airports in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including Ronald Reagan Washington National, Dulles International, Baltimore/Washington International, Norfolk International, Philadelphia International, Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and Bradley International.

US Airways has similar closures, plus cancellations at airports in Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Delta Air Lines is resuming flying at Boston Logan and the major Washington-area airports on Tuesday, but its operations continue to be shut down in New York. 

United plans to resume inbound flights in the Big Apple on Wednesday. The airline warned that it is experiencing extremely high call volume due to the storm.

JetBlue posted a photo of its planes waiting out Sandy in Puerto Rico and asked passengers for patience.

“We will be ready to start operations as soon as Wednesday morning if the airports and public transportation are open, but we expect it will take much longer to get back to business as usual,” the airline said on its blog.

Air travel isn’t the only mode of transportation impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Amtrak service remains shut down in the Northeast Corridor through Tuesday.

It’s not a good time to be a tourist either. In New York, the Statue of Liberty crown reopened to the public on Sunday, but the monument remains closed Tuesday because of the storm. All Broadway and off-Broadway shows have been canceled for Tuesday. 

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Sandy snarls flights: What you should know if you’re traveling

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Andreas Gebert / AFP – Getty Images

A man walks in front of a flight information board highlighting canceled flights to the U.S. at the airport in Munich, Germany, on Monday. International air travel from Europe and Asia was hit by flight cancellations as much of the United States’ eastern region battened down for the threatened impact of Hurricane Sandy.

If you had to define a travel nightmare, this would be it: Thousands of flights canceled, train service halted, public transit on pause and countless travelers going nowhere fast as Hurricane Sandy menaces the East Coast.

“There are travel messes and then there are travel messes,” said Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com.

“You have things like the Icelandic volcano, for example, which was only (affecting) trans-Atlantic traffic. This is bigger because it’s both trans-Atlantic and Eastern seaboard. The Eastern seaboard controls sort of the nation, so it trickles down throughout the nation. Even if you’re flying on the West Coast you could be delayed because of what’s going on.”

Deteriorating weather conditions forced airlines to cancel nearly 14,000 flights through Tuesday, and that number is expected to grow, according to Jackie Butcher, a spokesperson for FlightAware.com. Philadelphia International was most affected on Monday with 1,259 cancellations, followed by the three major New York City-area airports.

Video: Sandy shuts down East Coast.

John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International and LaGuardia remained open on Monday, but the Port Authority of New York New Jersey discouraged travelers from even trying to get to the airports.The agency also began setting up cots for stranded passengers and placed sandbags at Newark Liberty. Photos showed flood waters from Hurricane Sandy approaching LaGuardia runways and taxiways on Monday afternoon.

The ripple effects are being felt across the country and even the world, as travelers trying to fly into the region to either get back home or make a connection are in limbo. Even Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot made famous by the “Miracle on the Hudson” flight, tweeted that he was “stuck in PA” because of Sandy on Monday afternoon.

Hailey Walmsley was scheduled to return to Boston after attending a wedding in Atlanta, but she is stuck at the city’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport – often dubbed “Hotel Hartsfield” when travelers in transit have nowhere to go – and told she won’t be able to fly out until Thursday.

“My flight was actually canceled twice,” she told Atlanta’s NBC affiliate WXIA. “So now it’s just kind of up in the air.”

In Denver, where about 50 flights to the East Coast were canceled, Steve Houston was trying to get home to Belfast, Ireland.

“My biggest concern was that I would leave Denver, get to New York, and then get stranded in New York and be sitting there in the middle of the hurricane,” Houston told Denver’s NBC affiliate KUSA.

JetBlue closed its New York City operations Sunday night and proactively canceled more than 1,000 flights through Wednesday morning, said airline spokeswoman Sharon Jones.

“High winds are no bueno for flying machines, so we are sheltering our aircraft in other cities,” the airline said on its blog.

American Airlines suspended operations Sunday night until Wednesday at nine airports in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including Ronald Reagan Washington National, Dulles International, Baltimore/Washington International, Norfolk International, Philadelphia International, Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and Bradley International.

“First flights into these cities will resume Wednesday. First flights out of these cities will take place after noon on Wednesday,” said spokesman Kent Powell.

Video: Sandy could cost airlines $450 million, a source told CNBC.

Delta Air Lines, which has cancelled about 2,500 flights, expects to resume limited operations at its LaGuardia and JFK hubs on Tuesday afternoon, with a full restart targeted for Wednesday. Operations at other East Coast airports are expected to resume by mid-morning Tuesday.  

Still, the good news is that the storm is hitting during a relatively slow travel period, FareCompare.com’s Seaney said. Airlines also had plenty of notice to move planes to safer grounds and pre-cancel flights, he added.

“They’ll be able to unwind (the backlog) in a day or two completely as long as there’s no major damage to airports,” Seaney said.

Related: Hurricane Sandy, by the numbers

All airlines now have hurricane-related travel waiver policies in effect, allowing passengers to change their reservations without a fee.

If you bought tickets through sites such as Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz, call those companies and have them rebook, instead of calling airlines directly, because the carriers’ phone lines may be jammed as everyone scrambles to change plans, advised Airfarewatchdog.com founder George Hobica.

Also keep in mind that if you are stuck at the airport, hurricanes are considered a “force majeure” event or an “act of God” by the airlines, which means that cancellations are viewed as out of the airlines’ control and the only thing travelers are entitled to is a refund, Hobica said. In other words, you may not get a hotel voucher.

Here are some more tips if you have to fly into or out of the region this week:

  • Sign up for alerts from your airlines and follow them on Twitter to get the latest information on your flights;
  • Monitor the FAA’s flight information map for any airport delays or closures;
  • Have items like medications, your hotel and airline phone numbers, a change of clothes and toiletries with you, Hobica advised. If they’re kept in checked luggage and you’re stranded, you’re most likely out of luck;
  • For JetBlue travel waivers, click here;
  • For United travel waivers, click here;
  • For Delta travel waivers, click here;
  • For American travel waivers, click here;
  • For US Airways travel waivers, click here;
  • For Southwest travel waivers, click here.

Air travel isn’t the only mode of transportation impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Amtrak cancelled nearly all service on the eastern seaboard on Monday, and public transit was suspended in New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

It’s not a good time to be a tourist either. In New York, the Statue of Liberty crown reopened to the public on Sunday, but the monument will be closed Monday and Tuesday because of the storm. All Broadway and off-Broadway shows have been canceled for Monday. 

More hurricane coverage from NBC News:

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Google tool tracks Hurricane Sandy and emergency resources

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MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to stay well, feel better

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In a city built on bad behavior, one hotel is hoping to appeal to more health-conscious guests — or at least ease their pain.

On Friday, the MGM Grand Hotel Casino opened the doors on 42 Stay Well Rooms designed to counter the effects of jet lag, promote better sleep and take some of the sting out of the morning after.

The rooms feature more than a dozen health-oriented amenities, including blue-shaded lighting to counter jet lag, dawn-simulating alarm clocks so guests awaken slowly and air- and water-filtration systems that eliminate toxins and pathogens.

There are even showers that infuse the water flow with Vitamin C — said to promote healthy hair and skin — and a dedicated TV channel featuring a welcome from Dr. Deepak Chopra.

“There is a customer out there that is inspired by this,” Scott Sibella, MGM Grand president and COO, told CNBC. “This is their lifestyle at home so why not bring it to Las Vegas?”

Video: Stay Well Rooms Debut at MGM

Of course, few would suggest that great masses of people will suddenly view Las Vegas as a health retreat but more visitors are seeking a less toxic experience while in town, says Anthony Curtis, president of LasVegasAdvisor.com, an online newsletter.

“You see lots of people playing slots with their shirts pulled over their mouths or wearing surgical masks,” he told NBC News. “There’s been a real big push lately — non-smoking sections, green initiatives — to accommodate (health-conscious travelers).”

As for the health benefits of MGM Grand’s Stay Well Rooms, only more rigorous testing will be able to ascertain any salutary effects. The company cites the fact that it collaborated for four years with doctors and researchers at Columbia University Medical School, among others, in developing the concept.

Other medical professionals are more skeptical. “It could help but there’s also the placebo effect,” said Dr. Stuart Rose, founder and medical director at the Travel Medicine Center of Western Massachusetts. “When you tell people a treatment will make them feel better, they’ll usually feel better.”

To test that theory yourself, you can book a Stay Well Room at rates that generally run $20 to $30 above the hotel’s standard room rates.

Alas, there’s no word yet on whether the benefits of the in-room amenities accrue to reversing the effects of alcohol, overeating and going bust.

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.

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Snake on a plane! Flight crew finds reptile under seats

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Though it became a well-known pop culture joke after Samuel L. Jackson’s 2006 fictional movie, snakes can sometimes be found on a plane.

That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday when a cabin crew was checking an airplane that landed in Glasgow, Scotland, according to The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The flight had come in from Cancun, Mexico when staff found a 18-inch long, juvenile snake under a row of seats in the passenger cabin, the newspaper reported.

A Scottish animal welfare charity was called in to recover the snake, The Scotsman reported. 

An inspector with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Billy Linton, said Glasgow Airport staff “remained remarkably clam” after finding the snake, the BBC reported.

The snake, which has been named “Furtivo” (meaning “sneak” in Spanish), is believed to be a Middle American smooth-scaled racer, according to the BBC.

“Racers aren’t venomous but, like all snakes, they can bite and Furtivo is very feisty,” said Linton, according to the BBC.

The airline at the center of this incident was not named.

Back in April, a pilot in Australia made an emergency landing after a snake crawled down his leg.

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Ex-‘Dallas’ actor arrested with handgun at LAX

Getty Images file

Jack Scalia.

Jack Scalia encountered some turbulence before he even had a chance to hop on a plane. The actor, who starred in the original “Dallas” TV series, was arrested at LAX Thursday for carrying a concealed handgun, E! News has confirmed. 

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According to airport authorities, Scalia was stopped at a screening station at around 1 p.m. after airport security discovered that the 61-year-old had a handgun in his carry-on. The weapon was reportedly unloaded. 

The actor was charged with possession of a concealed handgun and transported to the airport’s police station, where he was booked.

Check out other stars’ police run-ins in our Mug-Shot Mania gallery

After his stint on “Dallas,” which lasted from 1987 to 1991, Scalia appeared on several TV shows, including “General Hospital,” as well as a slew of direct-to-video movies. 

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