Summer is the high season for air travel, and we've been keeping an eye on new developments that are changing the way people get to the airport, what they do during layovers, and even how they choose to travel with their pets.
COOL AIRPORT LOUNGES. Got a layover between flights? Airlines are making that time more enjoyable with exciting new "sky lounges" that include eye-popping design, great service and food and drinks, and even outdoor areas. JetBlue's outdoor rooftop lounge at JFK is open to all passengers who've passed through security and includes landscaped spaces, seating, great food (hot dogs and ice cream!), a children's play area, and a dog-walk - a first! Other lounges are a little more exclusive - a few hundred dollars a year or a $50 "day pass," like Delta Sky Club in Atlanta, includes showers, work stations with plug-ins, and a separate "quiet" room.
FLY WITH FIDO AND FLUFFY. We may joke about how "traumatic" flying can be for humans, but for pets stored in the baggage hold, the experience is no joke. Despite airlines' best efforts, there's lots of loud noise and jostling (though, contrary to urban myth, the hold is heated). Many fliers with cats and small dogs are now opting to carry their pet in the cabin in a container under their seat (as a "carryon"). When flying with a dog or cat, you should check the airlines' policy in advance, leave extra time for check-in, and be sure you have an up-to-date health certificate.
SAY BUH-BYE TO FREE BAGGAGE CHECK. Of the major U.S. carriers, only Southwest still offers free checked bags. JetBlue recently did away with the policy for its basic fares when it rolled out a new three-tiered fare system last month. So if you're flying JetBlue, American, United, or Delta, you're allowed two checked bags under 50 pounds and a carry-on, but you've got to pay for the checked bags. TIP: If you're a frequent flier, some reward program credit cards will give you access to free baggage check and other perks.
MIDDLE SEAT ANXIETY. The folks at Zodiac Aerospace had the best intentions when they designed their LifeStyle airplane seating. Their goal was to give passengers more room and to fit more seats on the plane. But the Twitterverse reacted harshly to the proposal, which would include middle seats that face "backwards," so you're face-to-face with the folks in the row "behind" you. Some fliers have described that proposal as a dystopian fantasy/torture device.
NEW WAYS TO GET TO THE AIRPORT. Can't talk your friends or your significant other into driving you to the airport anymore? You're not alone. But a new generation of car services is stepping up to make the trip easier than ever: Download the Uber app and you can order a car with a touch of a screen and even track your car's location via real-time map. We Drive ("Your Car, Our Driver, You Save") will drive you to the airport in your car, then drive it back to your home, and text you a photo of your car safely parked, for less than most car services.