This Week in Travel News

This Airline Will Find You A Friend For Long Layovers
USA ToDay reports on an interesting program for travellers who have a long layover in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. If you have a long layover at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, you could combat your boredom with overpriced bitterballen and stroopwafels at the unimaginatively named Dutch Kitchen, or you could actually head into the city and try an improved menu of food and drinks, all while accompanied by an Amsterdam resident. KLM, the country’s flagship carrier, has launched a Layover with a Local program, which pairs travelers who have at least six hours to kill with a local who’s willing to show them around the city. What’s the catch? Other than a willingness to endure some awkward small talk, travelers 18 and older who want to participate must fly KLM from the U.S., Canada or Italy between March 22 and May 31 and they must have an iOS device to register on the Layover with a Local app.

In February, Icelandair launched its own Stopover Buddy program, which pairs travelers with an Icelandair employee who will show them a good time, based on their interests. The free service allows Icelandair passengers to spend their stopover (the airline allows for stopovers up to seven days without any additional airfare costs) with a Stopover Buddy selected from one of six categories: Adventure, Culture, Food, Health, Lifestyle and Nature. The Stopover Buddy program is available through April 30.

Frankfurt Airport Launches Its First Gaming World
Fraport AG has launched a new “Gaming World” at Frankfurt Airport (FRA). Passengers who have time before taking off can now try out the latest arcade games free of charge, including car racing, soccer, fun for kids, dancing, and fitness games. Based on Microsoft’s Xbox One console, the Gaming World features both interactive games projected on monitor walls and computer-assisted games on gaming pedestals. There’s something for every age group, ranging from classic Tetris (a tile-matching puzzle video game) all the way to dancing games. With the Gaming World, Frankfurt Airport is taking a new approach to helping passengers spent their waits enjoyably.

Forbes releases 2016 list of top hotels and restaurants

For the 58th year, Forbes has searched out what it thinks are the top hotels and restaurants in 29 countries.  Paris locations are on the list for the first time this year, and plans are to add the Middle East and Africa for 2017.  You can see the list here: 

More nude selfies at Machu Picchu?

A British man has reportedly been arrested in Peru after posing naked for a photograph at the Machu Picchu ruins. According to Peru’s news agency, Andina, the Brit and a Frenchman were detained after removing their clothes at the Unesco World Heritage site and taking a selfie. Reports say they were taken to a police station and then to court, where they were charged with moral misconduct. Since March 2014, local authorities have tightened surveillance at the tourist site to clamp down on a rise in visitors taking nude photos and streaking.

Alaska Air varies schedule for full eclipse

Lucky passengers on Alaska Airlines Flight 870 got a planned treat: a total solar eclipse. The flight from Anchorage to Honolulu purposefully adjusted its departure time so that the plane’s passengers could see the eclipse’s totality. The plot to change the flight’s course happened over a year ago, according to Alaska Airlines. Joe Rao, an associate astronomer at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, figured out that Flight 870 would be in the perfect spot to see the total eclipse. But the flight’s scheduled departure time would mean the plane would miss totality by 25 minutes. Rao then called Alaska Airlines, convincing the company to delay the flight to 2PM local time. Yes, Rao and other eclipse lovers filled Flight 870’s seats, to get a great view of the event from 37,000 feet. And those who just wanted to get to Hawaii only arrived about half an hour later than expected.

Turkish police fired rubber bullets to break up Women’s Day rally

Turkish police on Sunday briefly detained at least one woman and fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd of hundreds of people trying to mark International Women’s Day in central Istanbul. The group, which gathered two days before official Women’s Day commemorations on March 8 in order to draw more supporters on a Sunday, had ignored a ban on the march by the Istanbul governor who scrapped this year’s rally, citing security concerns. They were seeking to draw attention to women’s issues in Turkey, which ranks 77th out of 138 countries on a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) index of gender equality.

Renew passport app

A new app called ItsEasy lets you renew your passport from your phone. It was launched this month by David Alwadish, who has been expediting and renewing passports for over 35 years through his government-verified company, “My mantra is that time is money,” Alwadish told Business Insider. “People value their time and the ability to not have to run around.” Once users download the free app, they are taken to a homepage, where they have the option to select renewing a passport. Once you enter in your information, the app will check to make sure your passport qualifies and is ready to be renewed. You’ll be asked to indicate how soon you need the renewed passport: within the standard time of under six weeks or an expedited passport within three weeks. A printable renewal form, a trackable US Postal Service priority-shipping label, and instructions are sent by email, along with guidelines on how to take passport photos on a phone.

Why Airport Security Lines Have Grown Longer

According to Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal, the reason is tight budgets and demands for better detection practices. Huge lines at some airport security checkpoints are creating fear of a summer travel meltdown and growing tension between airlines, airports and a TSA beset by budget issues and a mandate to tighten up security. Chicago O Hare has had Monday morning lines snaking through concourses, delaying hundreds of flights. Atlanta has seen peak-time security screening waits of nearly an hour recently because checkpoints are woefully understaffed.

Schengen Collapse Would Force Costly Terminal Redesigns 
Reuters reports a collapse of Europe’s 26-nation Schengen zone of passport-free travel would create major congestion and cost larger airports hundreds of millions of euros to redesign terminals, airports association ACI Europe said. The Schengen zone, which also has four non-European Union countries as members, was created more than 30 years ago and airports have as a result designed terminals to have separate Schengen and non-Schengen zones. The free-travel agreement has come under increasing strain due to the refugee crisis, with several countries imposing temporary border checks in order to stem the flow of people from countries such as Syria. Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, said while it was not on the cards, any moves to reinstate air border controls between Schengen states would have a drastic impact and that restructuring airport facilities could easily cost hundreds of millions of euros for the largest airports. There are around 443 airports located within the Schengen zone, used by around 1.2 billion people in 2015, said ACI. It would also lead to longer travel times because airports would no longer be able to guarantee connection times between flights, he said. The shortest connections are about 45 minutes at present.

Self-cleaning plane lavatory in the works

Boeing engineers and designers have developed a self-cleaning lavatory prototype that uses ultraviolet (UV) light to kill 99.99 percent of germs. The cleaning system can disinfect all surfaces after every use in just three seconds. The lavatory uses Far UV light that would be activated only when the lavatory is unoccupied. Far UV is different from the UVA or UVB light in tanning beds, and is not harmful to people. Boeing engineers have shown through testing on their prototype that this innovation can minimize the growth and potential transmission of micro-organisms. Boeing has filed for a patent on this concept. 

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