Study Determines World's Safest Airlines
Airline passengers have lots of complaints: lack of legroom, outrageous baggage fees, annoying seatmates. There are great things about flying, of course. There's the incredible view from 35,000 feet, plus the good chance that at the end of the flight you'll either be on vacation or home sweet home. But really, the most important thing to consider with air travel is safety. A new report from the Air Transport Rating Agency (ATRA) determined the 10 safest airlines, and the good news is they are probably all airlines you already fly.
The Swiss organization, founded in 2011, determined the top ten safest airlines of 2012 to be (in alphabetical order) Air Canada, Air France/KLM, AMR Corporation (American Airlines and American Eagle), Delta Airlines, International Airlines Group (British Airways), Lufthansa, Qantas, Southwest Airlines, United–Continental Holdings, and US Airways. The Holistic Safety Rating studies are released on a yearly basis, and take a wide variety of factors into account to determine criteria that leads to a safety rating—how many passengers each plane holds, the number of employees and cabin crew, overall condition of aircraft in use by the airlines, the number of aircraft considered to be at risk, and the number of accidents over the last ten years, among other factors.
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Banks Launch Credit Cards That Work Better Overseas
Americans traveling outside the US often find that their credit and debit cards don't work at many places, such as gas stations and ATMs. That's because most other countries have switched from magnetic stripe, signature-based cards to "chip-and-PIN" technology, which means that their cards come with a microprocessor chip that adds additional security. Last week, Bank of America began issuing credit cards with chips embedded in them, making them easy to use when traveling abroad. Not to worry: These cards still have the magnetic stripe and will be accepted as usual in the US. All new BankAmericard Travel Rewards, BankAmericard Privileges, Virgin Atlantic travel credit cards, and Merrill Lynch credit cards will now come with the travel-friendly technology. Customers who hold the following cards will be able to visit banking centers or call BofA to ask to receive replacement cards with the chip:: BankAmericard Cash Rewards, BankAmericard Power Rewards, BankAmericard, AAA Members Rewards, NEA, Asiana Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Other banks will copy the move, as the production costs for the chips are dropping -- currently down to $3 a chip. Visa has told businesses they have until 2015 to switch to card-reading machines that accept chip-and-PIN cards. After that date, merchants will become liable for any fraud that may result from a fake signature. In related news, the new Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve has a chip. So does the Travelex Chip and Pin Card. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL The Death of the Travelers' Check? (40 comments) The Breakdown on 8 Travel Loyalty Programs in 2012 Citibank and Chase Drop Foreign Exchange Fees on Some Cards
Study: Airlines Are Ripping Off Passengers with Inflated Fuel Surcharges
There should be an investigation. Airlines are covertly padding their revenues with fuel surcharges, according to a new study. Since April 2011, US airlines have hiked fuel surcharges by 53 percent on average, says a study by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, the corporate travel management firm. But the cost of jet fuel has only risen by 23 percent, having fallen from highs a year ago, as the LA Times' Hugo Martin was the first to report. The surcharges can add hundreds of dollars to the price of a plane ticket for a long-distance trip. No US airline has lowered its fuel surcharge this year, despite oil prices — which closely reflect jet fuel prices — having dropped 8 percent so far in 2012. Let's assume for a minute that the airlines are being dishonest. What's in it for them? Since January, the US government has stopped airlines from advertising fares without including surcharges along with taxes. One theory is that travel agents earn their commissions off the base fare, not the total ticket price. So airlines can cheat agents of a bit of cash by disguising some of their revenue in the fuel surcharge. Another theory is that fuel surcharges are taxed at a different, lower rate than the base rate, benefiting the airlines. If what the study suggests is true, then the airlines are probably breaking the law. The airlines have broken the law before. Last year, federal prosecutors found that airlines have done it before. Between 2000 and 2006, 21 airlines engaged in price-fixing. They made up for lost profits by artificially inflating fuel surcharges, and they agreed to pay enormous fines as a result. No major US airlines were charged. In April of this year, the British government said British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways engaged in price-fixing of passenger fuel surcharges and fined British airways millions. Maybe it's time to launch a fresh investigation about what's happening now with fuel surcharges by US airlines. Hey, Feds! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL What's Your Biggest Pet Peeve When You Fly? (50+ comments) Court Ruling Gives Europeans Option to Re-Take Vacations If They Get Sick (14 comments) Why Airlines Should Bring Back Delicious In-Flight Meals (12 comments)
Six Hotel Chains Now Allow Reward Point Gifts to Wounded Veterans
Today a new program launched that allows Americans to donate hotel rewards points to wounded U.S. veterans and their families. Six hotel chains have joined in the "Hotels for Heroes" program: AmericInn, Best Western, Choice Hotels (Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, Rodeway, etc.), Marriott, Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, Four Points, Aloft, etc.), and Wyndham. For instance, a Best Western loyalty program member could donate 2,500 points by clicking the Best Western loyalty donation webpage. That donation would be worth a free night's stay at a Marriott hotel for military service members in need related to a medical condition.or a loved one visiting that person. The program, Hotels for Heroes, hopes to cut travel costs for wounded veterans receiving military health care and their visitors. It will be run by the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation, which has built 50 homes away from home for the relatives of veterans and military personnel who are wounded, injured or ailing and are being treated at regional medical facilities in the U.S. and Germany. Hotels for Heroes is the next step for Fisher House, which has long enabled American travelers to give frequent-flier miles to the families of service-members at a military or Veterans Affairs medical center with its Hero Miles program. SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL A Cool Small Town Comes Together After Flooding Budget Travel's 2012 Breakdown on Major Hotel and Airline Membership Programs Looking To Save Money On Books? Read And Return Them At The Airport
UNESCO Adds 8 New Spots to the World Heritage List
It's a feather in any location's cap to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so congratulations are in order to the eight new sites added for 2012. "New" might not be the best adjective, actually. The sites include Chengjiang Fossil Site in the Yunnan Province of China, where 196 species that help determine how today's animal groups have developed over the last 530 million years, and Catalhoyuk, a 34–acre Neolithic site in Turkey that was occupied as far back as 7,400 B.C. The other natural and man–made wonders include seven painted timber farmhouses in Halsingland, Sweden that date back to the 19th century, Rio de Janeiro's Carioca landscapes (including Corcovado Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer), and the Western Ghats mountain chain in India. The preserved Belgian mining community of Walonia was also designated, including a mine dating back to the end of the 17th century. The final two are natural wonders in Africa: the 18 Lakes of Ounianga in Chad and the Sangha Trinational, three contiguous national parks in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and the Congo that total more than 1.8 million acres. The members of the United Nations organization use some pretty lofty criteria for the designations: the sites must meet at least one of the 10 criteria, which include being "a masterpiece of human creative genius" and representing "major stages of earth's history." There are now 962 properties in 157 countries on the World Heritage List. In the U.S., the 20 UNESCO sites include Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and Yellowstone National Park. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 12 Oldest Places in America 15 Places Every Kid Should See Before 15 12 Most Colorful Towns in the World