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Friday, September 26, 2008

Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum Part VII

Oh, Canada. American airlines could learn so much from you. Here's why.

As of this week, Canada's two major airlines have adjusted their baggage fees and fuel surcharges to reflect the recent drop in oil prices. Air Canada has dropped its $25 fee to check a second bag on North American flights (there was never a charge for a first bag). Canada's largest carrier has also reduced its excess baggage fees for oversized and overweight pieces.

Meantime, West Jet has stopped assessing fuel surcharges on its North American flights. Those fees had ranged between $20 and $45 for a one-way flight.

How very Canadian to be fair about all of this. After all, there's logic in the idea that if airlines impose surcharges when costs go up, they should drop them when costs go down. But somehow, I doubt American carriers will take a cue from their Northern neighbors. Instead, after having used the fuel price increases of the summer as an excuse to tack on extra fees, the U.S. airlines will somehow find justification in continuing those fees, even after fuel prices have dropped.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Seeing Stars in Hollywood: Olympian Tips for Conquering Jet Lag

I was in Hollywood yesterday for a series of interviews, via satellite, about planning vacations during hard economic times. More on that in another post. This post is about that favorite Hollywood activity--star-spotting.

After my seven-hour (2 AM to 9 AM) gig in the studio, I was chatting with some people in the green room when Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin wandered in. Given my prospensity for play-by-play sports commentary (I was a sports broadcasting major back in college), I noted her mount (as they would say in the gymnastics world) by saying, "An Olympic champion has entered into our midst." No sooner did the words come out of my mouth (while shaking her hand) then a second gold medalist, the perky Shawn Johnson, appeared on the scene. Both young ladies are composed (as one might expect from girls who can fling themselves high into the air and still land straight up on a four-inch balance beam), well-mannered, and cute as can be.

Being quick-witted, I immediately donned my journalistic hat to ask the girls a few questions. You see, I have written several stories on how top athletes, from tennis players to baseball stars, deal with jet lag during their respective seasons. After all, if world-class athletes can perform at top levels while circling the country or the globe, the average person might be able to pick up a good tip or two for conquering jet lag.

And so I asked how the two teenagers managed to overcome jet lag. Liukin immediately asked the question with one word. "Water," she said declaratively (meaning drinking lots of it--as opposed to swimming in it, a la Michael Phelps). Johnson concurred, while also stressing the importance of setting one's watch and mindset to local time right away, and then putting in a full work day starting on Day One. Being able to arrive in Beijing ten days before the gymnastics competition was also crucial to achieving peak performance levels.

So, while most of us will never win an Olympic medal, nor take a spin on the uneven parallel bars (heck, I can't even manage to hoist myself to the upper bar), we can certainly learn the lessons of international top performance from the two Olympic champions. Whether you are heading overseas for work or pleasure, drink lots of water and adapt yourself to local time ASAP. You won't win a gold medal for your efforts, but you will likely find it easier to maintain your equilibrium on the road.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum: Part VI

United Airlines has a very special present for its passengers, right in time for the holiday travel season. Just when people are most likely to be loaded down with baggage, the airline is doubling its fee for checking a second bag. The $50 one-way charge kicks in November 10. The fee applies to coach passengers traveling within the U.S. or to Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Passengers who purchased tickets prior to September 15 may be exempt from the charge.

But here's some good news for United customers. The airline has decided that feeding the masses is a good idea after all. The airline has backed off of its much-criticized plan to stop serving free meals for transatlantic coach passengers. But United continues to tinker with its onboard menu. Starting October 1, business class customers flying on any of the airline's domestic routes with three-cabin service will find there's no longer a free hot meal. Instead, business class customers will be treated with a tasty box lunch. Upgrading to a hot meal, even for a price, will not be an option. As for those in the back of the bus, cold box lunches will be available only for those willing to pay cold cash.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Read Me

Greetings one and all. It's back to school time. For me, it's back in print time.

Check out my special Going Green section in The Washington Post on September 3. It's filled with interesting eco-information and all sorts of ways you can save money on energy bills while reducing your carbon footprint.

In the October issue of National Geographic Traveler, look for my brief on Albania.

And if you are in the mood for a chuckle, check out the Jane Air archives at www.wyndhamworldwide.com/women_on-their_way/jane-air/archives. The most recent post deals with how hotel guests can green their stay. Sense a theme here?