London Tests Free Public Wi-Fi
In London, finding free Wi-Fi has been about as difficult as finding Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at the train station that goes to Hogwarts. But that may soon change. Until the end of 2011, London will let the public enjoy free Wi-Fi in 26 hotspots downtown, such as Oxford Street, reports BBC News.
The new trial service, sponsored by Nokia, will limit downloads to one megabit per user. That's enough space to look up directions or restaurant reviews, but not enough to watch a video. With luck, that limit will ensure that many people can use the service at the same time in crowded areas.
Unlike some other cities in the U.S. and the world, London has only offered spotty complimentary Wi-Fi over the years in a way easily accessible to international visitors. (Many services required users to have accounts with local phone companies or banks.)
Or, try one of the 400-odd Starbucks coffee shops around town; many provide free Wi-Fi to customers, and as of this fall, you no longer have to own the U.K. version of the Starbucks Card to enjoy this perk. Caffe Nero, a local competitor chain of coffee shops, also introduced free Wi-Fi for customers this fall, though you have to fill out an online registration form with your e-mail address to use it.
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Poland Crash: Tips on Surviving an Emergency Plane Landing
Tuesday's fiery crash landing of a plane without wheels underscores the importance of passengers following airplane safety instructions. All 220 passengers flying LOT Polish Airlines from Newark, NJ, survived the crash in Warsaw. The happy ending is mainly due to the skill of pilot Tadeusz Wrona, who made all the right moves after discovering that his landing gear wasn't working. But another key safety factor is that passengers had paid attention to the safety briefing from flight attendants. Plane crashes are survivable. In the US, a federal study of plane crashes found that roughly 95 percent of passengers survived. Where's the safest part of the plane to sit? Internet searches will turn up results claiming that the back of the plane is safest. But that belief is based on 1970s amateur analysis of plane crashes, reports journalist Barbara S. Petersen. No one knows if one part of a plane is safer than another. That said, a few years ago Ed Galea, a professor at the University of Greenwich, in England, studied the seating charts of more than 100 plane crashes and crunched the numbers in his computer. He found that people seated within five rows of a exit had the best chances of escape. Passengers in aisle seats were also more likely to survive. So, sitting in an aisle seat within five rows of an exit may be a help. Another statistic worth noting: A large majority of survivable plane crashes happen in the first few minutes and the last eight minutes of a flight. No plane has ever been knocked out of the sky by turbulence, as scary as turbulence can be. A couple of pointers from experts: Focus on opening your seat belt In an emergency, many people panic. The typical passenger may try to open their seat belt as if it had a button like seat belts in cars do. Keep thinking about pulling the latch open in the final seconds before impact, while you're in the brace position. Count the rows to your nearest exit beforehand Keep that number in your head. If you're seven rows away from an exit, and the cabin fills up with smoke and there are almost no lights, you'll have to count seven rows until you feel your way to the exit. (Geeks will point out that the nearest exit may not be working. If that happens, move on to the next.) Remember, your chances of survival are excellent. You don't have to know the perfect thing to do. You don't have to be brave. In many cases, the most important thing is to simply take action to get out. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. NEW AT BUDGET TRAVEL: Would You Fly More Frequently if Airline Seats Were More Comfortable? SNL Takes on Southwest Airlines Is Air Traffic Out–of–Control?
One Airline Boards Its Customers Faster Than Most
An article in this morning's New York Times quotes a Boeing study that found boarding times to have increased by 15 to 25 minutes since the 1970s. Getting people on planes used to take 15 minutes, now it typically takes between 30 to 40 minutes. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('56fcca7f-a4a5-4809-a1a8-108be8f8f2f6');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)There is, however, at least one airline that still manages to get all of its customers onboard in just 15 minutes. That airline is Southwest. The reasons why boarding times have increased for other airlines might shed a light on why Southwest's process is so speedy. According to the New York Times article, the problem is largely due to the revenue-driving measures most airlines have added in the last couple of decades. First, you have fees for checked luggage, which means that more people are bringing their belongings into the cabin—and slowing everybody down by trying to find room in the overhead bins (and blocking the aisles while they do so). Interestingly enough, when Spirit Airlines started charging passengers $20 to 40 per carry-on bag (more than they charge to check luggage), their boarding times decreased by six minutes on average. Next, in addition to business and first class, you have new classes of passengers—premium economy, early boarding—which complicates the boarding process (and spells less overhead bin space for the coach travelers who follow). On top of that, airlines have been cutting capacity left and right, which means that planes are more packed than ever. So what does Southwest do right? Essentially the opposite of everybody else: they don’t assign seats, they don’t charge to check luggage, and they don't offer different "classes" of seating. They do have two options for travelers to board early (either by purchasing a "Business Select" ticket or the "early-bird check-in" pass for $10), but otherwise, people just grab seats as they get on the plane. The results are fewer obstacles in the aisle and a faster gate-to-seat experience. But do travelers appreciate the faster process? I've heard the boarding procedure at Southwest described as a "cattle call," and having been through the experience myself I can say that at times it feels more hectic than on other airlines (there is something comforting about knowing exactly which seat you will sit in). Given how much money major U.S. airlines make on ancillary fees ($12.5 billion in 2011 alone), it seems unlikely other companies will be adopting the Southwest boarding model anytime soon, but as the airlines explore new methods of getting people on planes, it certainly can't hurt for us to sound off on what we like (and don't like). Thoughts? Opinions? Do you appreciate the Southwest boarding method? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Video: the Best Way to Board Airplanes 4 Most Common Reasons Airlines Lose Luggage 5 Credit Cards Every Traveler Should Consider
The Legal Ramifications Of Drinking And Flying
Have you ever been on a plane next to someone who seems a little wobbly? Maybe they smell a bit of rum and coke. Or are slurring. Maybe they start to act up a little, start demanding more drinks, or harassing the crewmembers and other passengers. It's one thing to have a drink before your flight, or to have some wine with dinner onboard. But, if you're wondering what the consequences are for being completely intoxicated on a flight, they can be pretty severe. Earlier this month, an American Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles was diverted to Denver after a drunken passenger struck a flight attendant in the face, the Associated Press reported. Flight attendants had to restrain and sit on him until the flight landed, upon which he was arrested and charged with interfering with flight crew. First off, a passenger who already appears intoxicated at the gate shouldn’t be allowed to board, according to federal regulations. Air carriers have federally-required protocol for dealing with disturbances involving the service of alcoholic beverages onboard, the removal of a passenger who appears to be intoxicated, and how to handle passengers who have brought their own alcoholic beverages onboard (I personally witnessed this last one myself, when an elderly woman on an international flight I was on tried to crack open her Duty Free vodka bottle). If a passenger doesn't comply with federal regulations and interferes with a crewmember, it can be considered a criminal violation, resulting in arrest. In August, the U.S. Ski Team dismissed an 18-year-old member of its development squad after he was accused of getting drunk and then urinating on a fellow passenger aboard a JetBlue flight to New York, according to a story in USA Today. Criminal charges were later dropped. While these are some of the more extreme cases, surely many readers have been in a situation that could have veered towards the uncomfortable and even dangerous had a passenger's drinking habits escalated during the flight. Have any drunken passenger horror stories you care to share? Indulge (but perhaps don't over overindulge) us in the comment section below. More from Budget Travel: Are Ads Inside Planes and on Rental Cars Obnoxious? Trip Coach: Share Your Upgrade Strategies Ever seen a flight attendant freak out?
Are Ads Inside Planes and on Rental Cars Obnoxious?
Or can you deal with them if the tradeoff is cheaper prices? European carrier Ryanair isn't only a pioneer in terms of charging low fares upfront and then nickel-and-diming passengers with fees after they've booked. The airline has also been ahead of the times with its decision to basically turn its airplanes into giant billboards in order to make money via advertising. In 2006, Ryanair announced a partnership with a company called InviseoMedia, which installed ads where they were sure to find the attention of a seriously captive audience: on the seatbacks of the carrier's planes. By 2007, the New York Times reported that ads were popping up pretty much everywhere passengers looked inside certain aircraft. There were ads on the overhead bins and seatbacks inside planes operated by Ryanair and another European low-fare carrier, Germanwings. Ads also showed up on napkins and tray tables aboard the likes of AirTran and US Airways. USA Today recently reported that Spirit Airlines, which has followed Ryanair's lead in terms of piling on fees, is now leading the charge among American carriers in terms of on-board advertising. Advertisers' messages are front and center on Spirit flights, from the aprons worn by flight attendants to (no kidding) the air sickness bags. It's enough to, well, make some passengers nauseous. Airlines aren't the only facet of the travel experience being inundated with new ads. A Budget Rent a Car location in Atlanta made news over the summer by offering customers discounted rates if they agreed to drive vehicles that prominently advertised local companies. At least the renters received a discount in the ad deal. With ads in (and sometimes, on) airlines, the tradeoff isn't so clear. The rise of ad-splatted airplanes has coincided with a period in which airlines have pulled in billions more in passenger fees, while at the same time flight prices have risen steadily, even among the so-called "discount" or "low-fare" carriers. Regardless of whether ads help lower travel costs, and regardless of whether airline passengers like, hate, or ignore in-flight ads, they appear to be here to stay, as unavoidable as TSA checkpoint lines. The reason why this is so is explained in the USA Today story by GuestLogix, a company that helps airlines sell on-board purchases: "Airline passengers are among the greatest consumers in the world," the company says. "They are focused shoppers with a strong appetite to purchase." Based on this assumption, airlines just feel like they have to sell to passengers during every part of the travel experience. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Should Hotels That Charge for Wi-Fi Be Boycotted? Buy Your Holiday Plane Tickets Now to Avoid Fare Hikes Would You Skip Housekeeping for a Cheaper Hotel Bill?