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Travel News: Pilotless Planes on the Horizon?

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Disney Cruise Lines Is Rumored To Be Buying Jack Sparrow Island For Their Own Caribbean island 

With three new ships in the works for Disney Cruise Lines, bringing the fleet up to seven ships, it comes as no surprise that Disney is reportedly looking for a second Caribbean island. Disney Cruise Lines has been expanding its non-Florida itineraries in recent years, adding a number of West Coast and Mediterranean tours, while Asian itineraries have been strongly rumored for some time, but the bread and butter of the award-winning cruise line are its Florida-based cruises. Disney Cruise Lines already owns one private island, Castaway Cay. This island, formerly known as Gorda Cay, just won Best Cruise Line Private Island by Cruise Critic for the second year in a row. Cruise Critic noted that the island is “easy to navigate, offers large swaths of pristine beach and free buffet lunch, as well as dedicated areas for kids and adults.” Some cruise itineraries include two stops at Castaway Cay and things could get crowded when the larger ships visit. 
 

The Next Frontier In Automation: Self-Driving Wheelchairs

The Daily Mail reports Canadian researchers have developed the technology for self-driving wheelchairs. Trials will begin in Tokyo for the self driving wheelchairs to ferry passengers around airports during the 2020 Olympic Games. Autonomous wheel chairs are being tested in a Japan airport for disabled flyers. Using sensors, they can navigate to a gate or shop via a destination input. They can also connect to luggage carts and other wheel chairs for group travel. Air travelers with disabilities will have a much easier time navigating one of Japan’s main airports, thanks to new smart wheel chairs. Haneda Airport outside Tokyo is beginning tests of the WHILL NEXT, an app-controlled self-driving wheel chair that can take users around the airport and even bring their luggage in a separate wireless vehicle behind them. It is hoped the system will be in place, alongside new smart billboards and navigation apps, in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
 
 

US Airlines Bump Fewer Passengers After United’s Dragging Incident

Following widespread outrage over a passenger who was violently dragged off an overbooked plane, U.S. airlines are bumping customers at the lowest rate in at least two decades. The Transportation Department said yesterday that just one in every 19,000 passengers was kicked off an overbooked flight in the first six months of this year. That’s the lowest rate since the government started keeping track in 1995. The biggest decline took place between April and June, partly because airlines began paying many more passengers to give up their seats. Airlines have routinely overbooked flights for years in the expectation that some passengers won’t show up. When a flight is overbooked, airlines typically offer travel vouchers to encourage a few passengers to take a later flight. Since then, United and other large U.S. airlines have introduced new measures to reduce overbooking, and raised the maximum amount that passengers can be offered to give up a seat. 
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New Italian Motorway Links Italy’s Tourist Destinations From Top To Boot Toe

The new A2, the former A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria Italian motorway, has been renamed to the Autostrada del Mediterraneo (Mediterranean motorway). It is a completely different way of thinking about motorways: not just the infrastructure and a comfortable road, but also a work through which to arrive in so many territories of southern Italy, crossed by its route. The Autostrada A1, or Autostrada del Sole, literally “Sun Motorway” or Autosole, is an Italian motorway that connects Milan with Naples via Bologna, Florence, and Rome. At 754 km, it is the longest Italian motorway and is considered the spinal cord of the country’s road network. 
 

Pilotless Planes Could Save Airlines $35 Billion, UBS Says 

CNBC reports a UBS note said “Reducing the intervention of human pilots on aircraft could bring material economic benefits and improve safety.” The bank stated that there could be a material profit opportunity of over $35 billion per year for the aerospace and aviation industry. A recent UBS Evidence Lab Survey of 8,000 people however showed that 54% of participants were reluctant to take a pilotless flight. Pilotless planes could not only be a future method of transport, but an economically-beneficial one too, according to new research by Swiss bank UBS which claims that they could save airlines billions of dollars. 

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Travel News: Will Hawaii get its Inter-island Ferry back?

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Alaska Airlines To Keep Current Loyalty Program
In a year full of bad news for frequent flyers (see Delta/Alaska fallout), Alaska appears to be stepping up, bucking the trend, and doubling down on Mileage Plan, its loyalty program. It’s the only remaining airline loyalty program that doesn’t have a revenue component attached to it.
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Will Hawaii Gets Its Interisland Ferry Back?
The Hawaii State Department of Transportation received a US$500,000 grant from the federal Maritime Administration to hire consultants to explore potential routes and boats for an inter-island ferry. But would it work this time? By all accounts, environmentalists were the reason the Hawaii Super Ferry was shut down, but some speculated the airlines were also behind the demise of this alternate mode of inter-island travel. Right now, roundtrip airfare between most islands is around $US300, although there are a few lesser-costing modes of travel on small turbo-prop planes. To put this into perspective, for US$600 roundtrip, one could fly from the US East Coast to Europe (around 3,500 miles from New York to the UK), while the furthest distance in the major Hawaiian Islands is from Kauai to the Big Island – a distance of only 305 miles. The Hawaii Superferry launched in December 2007 and was forced to shut down in March 2009. It subsequently had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with debts that included $135.8 million owed to MARAD which had provided construction financing guarantees.
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Atlantis Resorts Coming to O’ahu
The extravagant Atlantis Resorts announced plans to develop a resort project in Ko Olina on O’ahu. It’s expected to be built near Disney’s Aulani Resort, and will mimic Atlantis the Palm in Dubai. There will likely be numerous restaurants, nightclub, spas, aquarium, waterpark, and waterfront hotel rooms—but for now, all of that is speculation. Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone said that it will be designed as an “international destination for millennial travelers,” so it is unknown how much the resort will reflect the local ecosystem and culture.

Uber Is Losing Lots Of Money
Uber generated $3.76 billion in net revenue the first 3 quarters of 2016, but it is estimated that the bottom line will be a loss of more than $2.2 billion, with $800 million of that in the third quarter. By year end, it is expected that Uber will have netted US$5.5 billion. The company has tried to keep its financial information from public consumption, however, an anonymous source has revealed this data, which also shows that the San Francisco-based company is valued at a whopping $69 billion. That’s more than Twitter and General Motors combined.

Sandals Opening Fourth Resort In St Lucia
Sandals Resorts International has announced its plan to add a fourth resort to its award-winning list of properties on the Eastern Caribbean island. The Sandals brand has enjoyed tremendous success in St Lucia since 1993 when it made its first foray there and the newest resort, to be named Sandals LaSource St Lucia, will by all indications be a game changer. Groundbreaking for the new resort which will be nestled on 19 acres of land next to the existing Sandals Grande St Lucian Resort is set to begin in spring 2017. With the addition of this new resort, guests in St Lucia will now have the option of ‘Staying-at-One, Playing-at-Four’. Sandals LaSource St Lucia will boast an exotic infinity-edge sky pool bar offering picturesque views of the island’s beautiful north coast, 350 rooms and suites inclusive of the exotic SkyPool Butler Suites and all-butler signature swim-up Rondoval Suites, a first in the chain. The new resort will also feature an electrifying entertainment package to include a main stage with a 20′ high LED screen and a mobile DJ party scene.

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Lie-Detecting Robot Is The Customs Officer Of The Future
Travelers in the US and Canada may soon be forced to undergo a lie detector test as a standard part of airport security. The Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real Time (AVATAR) is currently being tested by the Canadian Border Services Agency and the US Department of Homeland Security. The robot, programmed to look for physiological changes that indicate lying through eye-detection software and other sensors, could help border agents catch terrorists or drug traffickers, according to San Diego State University researchers. “AVATAR is a kiosk, much like an airport check-in or grocery store self-checkout kiosk,” San Diego State University management information systems professor Aaron Elkins told SDSU’s News Center. The kiosk has a face on the screen that asks questions of travelers and can detect changes in physiology and behavior during the interview. The system can detect changes in the eyes, voice, gestures and posture to determine potential risk. It can even tell when you’re curling your toes. Passengers would be made to step up to the kiosk, then answer a series of questions such as, “Do you have fruits or vegetables in your luggage?” or “Are you carrying any weapons with you?” If lying is detected, a passenger is taken aside for further screening. Passengers are also asked a series of simple questions to measure whether they are simply anxious about flying. Elkins believes the kiosk, which he says is bilingual and polite, could be used not just for border security, but also for law enforcement and even job interviews. “AVATAR has been tested in labs, in airports and at border crossing stations,” Elkins explained. “The system is fully ready for implementation to help stem the flow of contraband, thwart fleeing criminals, and detect potential terrorists and many other applications in the effort to secure international borders.”

Some US Airlines Reducing Flights To Cuba
The Jamaica Gleaner reports some airlines in the United States are reducing flights to Cuba, with Silver Airways planning to trim its flight schedule to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country early in the new year. Silver Airways has become the second US airline to reduce the frequency of flights to Cuba. Between January and February, Silver Airways, which flies out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, plans to reduce the number of flights on six of its nine destinations to Cuba. The frequency of flights from FLL to Camagüey, Cuba will be reduced from five weekly trips to three; to Cayo Coco, Cuba from three weekly flights to two; to Holguín, to three per week instead of one daily flight; to Manzanillo, from three weekly flights to two; and to Varadero, Silver will trim its four weekly flights to three. Flights to Santiago, Cuba will also be reduced in February from one daily flight to three per week. Silver Airways, which does not offer flights to Havana, Cuba began regular flights to the island in September. The Silver Airways flights reduction follows American which announced in November that it would cut nearly a quarter of its flights to Cuba early next year due to poor demand. American, the US carrier with most flights to Cuba, had scheduled five daily flights to Havana and 56 weekly flights to other Cuban cities. But just over a month into operation, many of the flights were going half empty.

Port Everglades Gets Green Light To Deepen Channels
Port Everglades has received federal authorization for the US Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with a plan to deepen and widen navigation channels. The approval came as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, signed into law Dec. 16 by the President. The project, currently in the preconstruction engineering and design phase, can now proceed through the permitting and federal funding processes. It is anticipated to create an estimated 2,200 construction jobs and nearly 1,500 permanent direct jobs locally resulting from additional cargo capacity. Port Everglades received authorization for more than $335 million in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act earlier this month. The new legislation allows the port to take advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal and receive the larger, neo-Panamax cargo ships. The project addresses safe shipping requirements as older cargo fleets are replaced with much larger ships that require wider channels and deeper water. Larger cargo ships currently arrive from Europe and South America lightly loaded and can experience difficulty maneuvering safely when other ships are berthed in some of the port’s narrower channel areas. Key features are to deepen the main navigational channels from 42 feet to 48 feet (plus one-foot required and another one-foot allowable overdepth for a total of 50 feet), and to deepen and widen the entrance channel and parts of the Intracoastal Waterway so that cargo ships can pass safely by docked cruise ships.

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Korean Air Crew To Be Allowed To Use Stun Guns On Passengers
Korean Air Lines has said it will allow crew members to “readily use stun guns” to manage in-flight disturbances, after being criticised by US singer Richard Marx for its handling of an incident involving a violent passenger. The South Korean carrier also said on Tuesday it will beef up security training of crew members. Last week, Marx said on Facebook and Twitter he helped initially subdue “a psycho passenger attacking crew members and other passengers”. He also accused crew members of being “ill-trained” and “ill-equipped” to handle the “chaotic and dangerous event”. Korean Air Lines said on Tuesday its crew members were “hesitant” to use taser guns because they were permitted for use in only “grave” situations which jeopardise the life of a passenger or crew member or the safety of a flight.

Gatwick Prepares For Major Terminal Shake-Up
Gatwick Airport is advising passengers to check the terminal of their airline as three of its major airlines prepare to switch in January. British Airways will move to the South Terminal, Virgin Atlantic will move to the North Terminal, and easyJet, which currently operates out of both terminals, will consolidate its entire operation in the North Terminal. The move will be the airport’s biggest project to date and took two years to plan. The relocation will be staggered over three days with all three airlines operating a reduced flying programme designed to simplify the upheaval. Around 50,000 passengers will be travelling with the three airlines on the 277 flights that will be relocating across the 72 hours. From 24 January all easyJet flights will depart from the North Terminal, while from 25 January British Airways flights will depart from the South Terminal and Virgin Atlantic flights will depart from the North Terminal. Gatwick said the changes will improve passenger experience with state-of-the-art technology at check-in, security and immigration as well as new bag-drop zones. It will also bring new British Airways and Virgin Atlantic lounges. Gatwick’s COO said “We are ready to deliver this major step in Gatwick’s strategic transformation programme. The moves have been meticulously planned for more than two years, with close attention given to ensuring that the airport operation and the experience of our passengers is not affected during the transition. Relocating the airlines allows greater efficiency and positions all three carriers for growth, which in turn drives Gatwick’s growth. For our passengers, investment at every step of their journey through the terminal will be hugely beneficial.”

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