As Americans, we frequently write to our representatives in Congress and tell them how we feel on various vital issues, in an attempt to influence their actions. But if there is any one topic on which a public outcry can affect government policy, it’s the question of whether airline passengers should be permitted to make and receive cellphone calls during the course of a flight. A recent announcement by the incoming chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to the effect that the ban on such phones might be lifted, has set off a storm of protest more violent than any I can remember. And I’m betting that if those protests continue in number and volume, they will prevent this assault on our privacy in the air.
Starting now, visitors to New Orleans may enjoy a free two-hour walking tour of the city’s highlights, conducted by an historian of that town’s exotic history. Instead of introducing you to what are probably inaccurate and untrue tales of ghosts and vampires, New Orleans’ new walking tour is a serious but highly entertaining exploration of the actual events that resulted in the most interesting city in America.
In a sad development for the traveler, the Department of Justice has dropped its opposition to the merger between American Airlines and U.S. Airways, settled the lawsuit it had brought against that combination and announced it would permit this further monopolization of our skies. When that same proposal was first announced several months ago, it seemed inconceivable that the two carriers would be permitted to become the largest airline in the world. Public opposition was violent and near-universal, a number of state attorney generals filed strong protests and the federal government was livid.
Many recent travel questions are on topics that puzzle or challenge a great many would-be travelers. Here they are, along with my answers:
In the bitter competition between theme parks in Orlando, Fla., the Harry Potter exhibit at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure has recently scored a public-relations victory. Journalists have weighed in with the conclusion that Universal’s “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” currently is the outstanding attraction in America’s theme-park capital.
Every day, whether in my regular mail or e-mail, I receive invitations to purchase luxury-priced travel. This cruise for $6,000. That African safari for $8,000. This or that tour of the mountain villages of Bulgaria for only $5,500 per person (based on double occupancy).
l receive countless inquiries asking me to suggest novel methods of vacationing __ tactics designed to get the listener or reader out of a vacation rut. To my surprise, these questions continue to recur, even though I regard the answers to them to be rather obvious. Here is my take on five suggested tactics for avoiding a "vacation rut":
The press is full of reports that most of the major airlines American, United, Delta among them have reduced the number of holiday dates to six on which they will be charging surcharges of $20 to $40 each way. So this Thanksgiving and Christmas, it will be only a small number of instances like the day before Christmas or the day before Thanksgiving, or the day after New Year's when rates will suddenly skyrocket, as compared with the 12 or so days that saw such surcharges in 2010. Are the airlines frightened that they will be unable to fill their seats if they suddenly charge more on such days?
We live and learn. When a caller to my radio program recently requested information about how to obtain a "European passport" (she meant an Irish passport entitling the bearer to all the privileges of the European Union), I casually responded that this was impossible, it couldn't be; I was certain that an American could not enjoy dual citizenship.
In January, exceptions to the 50-year-old embargo against travel to Cuba were announced by the Obama administration, raising hopes that this totally counterproductive policy finally would be phased out.