Posts tagged ‘Travel’

Passenger Boarding Passes with SSSS Require Additional Security Screening

By Chad Upton | Editor

For a while, I travelled every single week of the year (except for Christmas). Of all the new airports, airplanes, taxis, rental cars, hotels, motels, customs, passports, visas, bad restaurants and other necessities, airport security was the most stressful.

TSA Lines

I  have nothing to fear. I’m not on any watchlists, I don’t have a redress number, I literally don’t even take the free airline snacks with me (you have to declare them at all of the international border crossings I usually encounter). (more…)

February 17, 2014 at 8:00 am 3 comments

Why Some Restaurants Provide Wet Towels at Meals

By Chad Upton | Editor

If you’ve ever flown first class or eaten at a first class restaurant, you’ve probably been handed a wet towel. The first time this happens, you’ll probably be confused and look to others for guidance on what to do with it.

Generally, it is used to clean your hands. This tradition comes from Japan, where “oshibori” (wet towels) are handed out before meals, to clean hands. In Japanese restaurants, they may be hot or cold, depending on the season. Some people may also use the towels to clean their face.

This tradition has been expanded outside of Japanese restaurants where the practice varies greatly. In Western restaurants, wet towels may be served beforeand/or after the meal — to clean your fingers and around your mouth. According to Etiquette Scholar, it is not polite to clean beyond these areas, such as your neck or behind your ears, in a restaurant.

Many airlines offer wet towels, particularly in first class. They are sometimes offered immediately after takeoff, which is standard in first class on British Airways, among others. These towels are usually hot, but may be cold if you’ve just boarded from a particularly hot environment or if the cabin air conditioning is out-of-order. At this time, they are useful to clean your hands before eating or to clean the travel sweat off your skin (forehead, back of your neck, etc.). On longer flights, wet towels may also be served after a meal or just prior to landing.

Wet towels are traditionally made from cotton and moistened with water. Lemon juice is sometimes added to the water for its fragrance and degreasing properties. In recent years, pre-moistened disposable towels have gained popularity and are often wrapped in a plastic package. These towels come unscented and in a variety of fragrances. They sometimes contain other cleaning solutions such as alcohol.

The next time you’re given a wet towel, you can tell everyone what it’s for and where this tradition came from.

If you’re interested in a particularly long, fairly humorous and sometimes snobby discussion about wet towels, you’ll love this thread on FlyerTalk.com.

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Photo: Christopher Doyle (cc attribution)

Sources: FlyerTalk.com, PlanetTokyo, Wikipedia, Airline Towels, Etiquette Scholar

April 15, 2011 at 2:00 am 2 comments

The Hidden Lever to Raise Airplane Armrests

By Chad Upton | Editor

Airplanes are cramped places.

The leg room is short, the aisles are thin and the headroom isn’t room at all. The bathrooms provide some private space and a complimentary gymnastics lesson.

If you’re tall, fitting your knees behind the seat in front of you is a painful reality that many of us live with each trip, unless you get an exit row, a courtesy upgrade or a hole in your wallet.

Even if you’re not very tall, when you stand up in your seat, you have to duck to avoid a head-on-collision with the overhead bin, especially in smaller regional jets.

But, a few years ago, I saw a person in the row ahead of me raise the aisle armrest. That was a game changer for me. No more ducking! Simply raise the armrest, then stand up while you slide off your seat into the aisle.

There are a few planes that do not have movable aisle armrests. However, most of them have a small lever or button on the underside of the armrest, near the hinge. Pushing or sliding this lever will release the hinge lock, allowing you to raise the armrest.

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January 17, 2011 at 2:00 am 24 comments

Why Airplane Shades Must Be Up for Takeoff and Landing

By Chad Upton | Editor

You may not have heard of this, but it’s law in some countries and it’s growing in popularity around the world. The reason is similar to why the airlines dim the interior lights during takeoffs and landings at night.

In short, it’s for safety in the event of an accident. With the window shades up, passengers and crew can spot dangers outside the planes before they open an emergency exit. Dangers like fire, water and running airplane engines can be hazardous if someone opens an emergency exit right into them.

During bright daylight, it also allows your eyes to adjust to the brightness outside, which could be critical during an accident.

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Photo: contraption (cc)

Sources: Airliners.net, Straight Dope

December 10, 2010 at 2:00 am 3 comments

How to Get the Best Price When Shopping Online

The internet has completely changed bargain hunting and finding the best price couldn’t be any easier.

I like to use Google products (formerly known as “Froogle”). It compares prices at thousands of retailers and show you the best deals along with ratings for each retailer.

Google products also searches sites like ebay. Although, it’s worthwhile checking ebay independently, there are lots of auctions for new products or if you’re willing to take a used one then you’ll get a great deal. If you’ve looking for something that doesn’t ship well, such as appliances, be sure to check craigslist.org or kijiji.com (owned by ebay). They let you search for products in your area so shipping is not necessary.

Sometimes the best price is at a website you’ve never heard of. This is when customer ratings and common sense are really helpful. If you’ve never heard of the retailer and can’t find a phone number for the office on the site, then I probably wouldn’t order from them. Amazon might be the only exception to this and in fact they’re one of my favorite online retailers, they frequently have the best price and their shipping and customer service are great.

If you’re searching for cameras, be weary of small companies based in New York City. They usually have the best price on camera equipment, but there are lots of online horror stories about some of these companies.

(more…)

February 26, 2010 at 12:48 am Leave a comment

Why do Airplanes Fly at High Altitudes?

A few years ago, I was on a short, low altitude flight on a cold December evening in the Northeast. Because it was a short flight to a tiny airport, the aircraft was a small turboprop plane.

The flight was bumpy from the start. Somewhere in the middle, the flight crew was providing beverage service when the captain turned on the fasten seat belt sign. He instructed the crew to return to their seats and buckle up; before they made it to their seats, we hit a low pressure air pocket and the plane took a sudden drop.

It was just like a roller coaster making its towering first drop. We were in free fall for what felt like a really long time, but was probably only a couple of seconds. A few people flew out of their seats and hit their heads on the overhead bins, the crew was in the isle and did the same. Drinks, books, purses and other personal articles were thrown around the cabin, making a huge mess. (more…)

February 23, 2010 at 1:06 am 1 comment

Why Airplanes Don’t Always Fly in Straight Lines to Their Destination

If you’ve ever been on a flight equipped with a screen that shows the flight path, you might notice some zigs and zags that make your direct flight look like a scenic air tour. There are a number of reasons for this, but most of the time it comes down to Air Traffic Control (ATC).

Some people think that air traffic controllers are the guys that stand on the ground, waving lighted wands to guide the plane up to the gate. Those guys are actually part of the ground crew and they only have control over your flight for the last couple hundred feet before you reach the gate. The rest of the flight is controlled by someone else and it’s not the pilot.

The pilot flies the plane, but his course is being set by somebody on the ground. Those people are known as Air Traffic Controllers.

This system is a lot more complicated than it seems.

At the airport, the air traffic controllers sit up in the control tower. Those guys decide who gets to take off and land, which runways they use and when. They also direct planes that are moving around on the ground between gates and runways on the apron and taxiways. This aims to provide an organized flow of ground traffic and a safe flow of air traffic.

Once your plane has left the immediate area of the airport, the pilot must then communicate with a regional controller at an Area Control Center (ACC). If you’re on a long flight, you may get passed from one ACC to the next multiple times as you fly across the country.

Why? (more…)

February 17, 2010 at 2:39 am 13 comments

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