U.S. Will Resume Commercial Flights to Cuba
For the first time in more than 50 years, U.S. commercial flights to Cuba will soon become a reality. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx signed an agreement in Havana on Tuesday setting the stage for U.S. carriers to submit applications to operate commercial flights, with new routes likely in a matter of months.
Ready to visit Cuba? Well, it's not yet as simple as buying a plane ticket. Travel by U.S. tourists is still restricted, but the Treasury Department has expanded the categories under which Americans are allowed to visit the communist-ruled island, including exceptions for artists and journalists, those visiting family, and people-to-people education programs (we like package tours like those offered by Friendly Planet and Intrepid Travel).
The resumption of commercial flights is another big step toward opening Cuba to American travelers. Last fall, we knew that commercial flights were on the horizon, and that played a role in our naming Cuba our No. 3 “Where to Go in 2016” destination. If you’re looking for some travel inspiration, check out our latest video, “A Gorgeous Day in the Life of Cuba,” above.
Travel News: The First Women's Rock Guide Course, Share Winter Foundation Gets 32,000 Kids Out on the Slopes, and a New Adventure Travel Marketplace Launches
From grants to help women get into the guiding industry to an organization that's introducing the younger generation to the joys of snowy sports to a new way to book adventure travel, today's travel news is designed to get you up and moving. Fixing the Climbing Industry's Gender Imbalance Women participate in outdoor activities nearly as frequently as men, but they often lack representation at the top levels—and a new program from The North Face and the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) wants to do something about it. According to a 2018 study by the Outdoor Industry Association, 49 percent of the U.S. population ages six and up took part in outdoor activities at least once in 2017, and 46 percent of those participants were women. But when it comes to the ever-popular sport of rock climbing (see: the profusion of rock-climbing gyms in urban settings and suburban enclaves alike), AMGA reports that only eight percent of its certified guides are women. That’s no small discrepancy. In an effort to recalibrate and put more women into leadership roles, the organization has teamed up with the North Face to launch the first Women’s Rock Guide Course, a grant-driven professional training program that will provide 12 women with partial scholarships for AMGA's intro-level course. “Trained female guides are in short supply and high demand, and we see this opportunity as a catalyst to get more women involved in our programs,” says AMGA president Angela Hawse. “Everyone benefits with more women onboard: Men benefit from subtle opportunities to learn how to better serve women guests, and studies show that teams make better decisions and are more successful when women represent at least a third of the team.” Applications are due March 17 and the course, which will be designed and taught by women, begins in September. (amga.com) Getting Kids to Play Outside The children are the future, as they say, and the Share Winter Foundation is doing its best to ensure that that future is bright by sending the next class of winter sports stars out onto the slopes. With programs tailored to underserved and underrepresented communities, the grant-making organization aims to overcome barriers to participation in 21 states and 60 ski areas nationwide—and create a lifelong love of skiing and snowboarding in the process. This season, Share Winter will fund winter activities for more than 32,000 youth, a 6.7 percent bump from last year, with a goal of sponsoring 100,000 kids annually by 2028. To find programs in your area and to donate to the cause, visit sharewinterfoundation.org. A New Way to Book Adventure Travel With half a million registered users, 800,000 social-media followers, and an overall reach of more than 12 million people, the Outbound Collective has built a significant community since its launch in 2013, and now the digital adventure-travel platform is expanding into hospitality. Already a resource for finding and planning outdoor experiences through expert trip reports and user-shared content, the Outbound recently introduced a new adventure-travel marketplace to provide its readers with lodging options and tours. Among others, users can now book yoga retreats with Yogascapes, photo trips with Moment, or heli-skiing with CMH, go glamping with Under Canvas, or reserve accommodations at any of Aramark’s national- and state-park properties. (theoutbound.com)
Travel News: All WOW Air Flights Canceled. Here’s What You Need to Know.
As our colleagues at Lonely Planet reported earlier this morning, Icelandic super-bargain transatlantic carrier WOW Air has canceled all of its flights as the company appears to be in financial collapse. WOW's website announces that the company has ceased operations and suggests that stranded passengers contact other airlines in hopes of receiving a discounted "rescue" fare. (Aer Lingus, the flagship airline of Ireland, announced that it would provide rescue fares to WOW passengers with tickets to fly between today and April 11, subject to availability.) Passengers Stranded With WOW passengers stranded at airports and prospective European vacationers holding WOW tickets for upcoming trips asking, “What do I do now?” we offer some tips from the air-passenger-rights company AirHelp. Claim a Refund If you’ve booked using a travel agency or partner airline or package tour company, the company that booked your trip may be responsible for refunding some or all of the cost of your canceled flight(s). If you’ve booked directly with WOW using a credit card, the credit card company may be able to stop the payment to the airline and refund your fare. If WOW files for bankruptcy protection, there is also the chance that the airline would repay debited cash to customers. AirHelp CEO Henrik Zillmer cautions, "Customers who have booked their tickets directly with the airline do unfortunately have narrow chances of reimbursement of their costs and must address their claims directly to the bankruptcy trustee of the airline."
TSA Workers Are Moving to the Southwest Border. Will Airport Security Be Affected?
CNN reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans to send up to 175 law enforcement officials and up to “400 people from Security Ops” to the Southwest border to assist with immigration duties, according to an internal email obtained by CNN. TSA May Face Depleted Resources According to the CNN report, TSA acknowledges that the “immediate need” at the border presents “some risk” of depleted aviation security. The effort will not involve TSA’s airport screeners—the most visible part of the TSA’s daily activities—but will involve employees who work in behind-the-scenes security roles, including monitoring airport security lines, conducting airport sweeps, and working with local and state law enforcement officials. Will Your Travel Experience Be Affected? Because the move of TSA workers to the border will not initially involve uniformed screeners, chances are most travelers will not immediately experience longer lines or wait times at airport security. However, the effect on behind-the-scenes security initiatives—arguably as crucial to TSA’s mission as routine screening—remains to be seen. TALK TO US: If you experience longer-than-usual wait times at airport security, please share your stories in the comments below. This story is evolving, and Budget Travel will continue to follow developments that may have a direct impact on air travelers.
Security Lines Are About to Get Shorter for US Passengers
Ninety-four per cent of people in the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck lanes clear the scanners in under five minutes, and now even more passengers are set to benefit from the agency’s expedited screening program. On Monday, the TSA added five international airlines to its roster of participating carriers: Austrian Airlines, Canada’s Swoop, PAL Express (Philippines Airlines), and the Mexico-based Viva Aerobus and Interjet. Letting pre-approved fliers skip through security lines without the hassles of separating out their liquids, taking off their shoes, or pulling out their laptops, PreCheck is available for passengers on 72 domestic and international airlines, provided they’re US citizens, nationals, or permanent residents who’ve gotten the all-clear. (Members of the US Armed Forces are also eligible.) After being fingerprinted and passing a background check and an in-person interview, applicants pay US$85 for a five-year membership, gaining access to express lines on US departures and domestic connections after US returns. (For smoother reentry from overseas, Global Entry costs a little bit more, but it streamlines the customs process and includes PreCheck benefits, while SENTRI and NEXUS cover the Mexican and Canadian borders.) With some 2.2 million passengers and crew members passing through TSA checkpoints daily, the agency recommends travelers arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international—time that could be better spent on the ground, enjoying a destination, rather than waiting on line. Of course, PreCheck doesn’t completely guarantee expedited service either (the agency reserves the right to implement additional screening measures), but for many frequent fliers, the likelihood of an easier airport experience is worth the risk. To learn more and to apply, visit tsa.gov.