Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.
Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.
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I am one of the three percent. I fly American Airlines, which flies about three percent of the flights out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The airline does not have a big presence at MSP, but when it had a sysytem-wide computer malfunction on Tuesday, it grounded flights across the nation, including at MSP. The computer breakdown meant that the airline could not access its reservation system, but also could not print boarding passes, track bags or determine the weight on a plane. Fortunately, the outage lasted only a few hours.
United suffered similar computer problems last year, in August and again in November, after it combined its reservation system with Continental as a result of the airlines' merger. Combining computer systems can create loads of problems.
When I few American at Easter, from New Orleans back home via Dallas, a storm popped up in Dallas (as happens frequently in the South), threatening my connection. The kind flight attendants told me not to worry unduly. If weather was delaying our flight (which was taking a much longer route around the storm), it was certainly delaying others. They predicted I would make my connection, even if I got home a little later than expected. Then, almost on cue, the pilot announced the skies had cleared and we would be only a few minutes late.
Let's hope that when American merges with US Airways, no storm clouds hover over the merged computer systems.
Deals sometimes seem tailor-made for Minnesotans. The latest in that category comes from American Cruise Line, which sails the Queen of the Mississippi. This summer, the company is offering a $1,000 saving per stateroom on seven-night Upper Mississippi sailings. The deal is good on 10 sailings in June, July and August. Itineraries include cruises traveling between St. Paul and St. Louis; Memphis and St. Louis; and St. Louis and Cincinnati. Amenities on the paddlewheeler include a putting green, a calliope and some of the largest staterooms on the river, with 150 rooms on four decks. Rates start at $3,695 per person double after discount, plus $250 port charges. Book the deal no later than April 19 at 1-800-814-6880.
How to use a seat belt. What to do if the oxygen masks drop. Where to find the emergency exits. Look around the cabin on your next flight when this information is shared and you'll see that most people would rather peruse the SkyMall catalog than attend to the tutorial. Sure, it's all very dull stuff. Unless it suddenly becomes vitally important. So kudos to Delta for injecting a dose of humor into their videos, a move that could boost brand identity as well as flier's attention.
In the safety video I saw recently aboard a Delta flight, a man adjusted his shoe tassels to help clear the aisle and a human-sized robot turned himself off when it was time to power down electronic devices.
Even the popular so-called "Deltina," the flight attendant reminiscent of Angelina Jolie who starred in a previous Delta video, made a cameo, wagging her finger at a man who had taken out a flamboyant pipe.
The best moment comes when a man leaves an aft bathroom just as everyone turns to find the exit row behind them. It can't compete with New Zealand Air's "Bare Essentials of Safety" video, in which flight attendants and a pilot appear in uniforms painted onto their naked bodies (it's discreet, really). But if it draws our attention, good for Delta (and us).
The Twins lost their season opener last night, but during the next few months things may look up for them. One thing will certainly be on the rise: temperatures at ballparks and the number of fans at them. When summer gets into full swing, so do baseball ballpark tours.
Bob's Baseball Tours, based in Redwood Falls, Minn., offers two tours. One begins in Phoenix. The second begins in Redwood Falls with a pickup in Bloomington, Minn. It heads west to games in Cleveland (with the Twins), Boston, New York and other Major League parks as well as a stop at the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Sorry, folks, but this one is full, though you can get on the waiting list).
Jack Buckley Baseball Tours, out of LaCrosse, Wis., offers a huge variety of trips, including one that heads west from Phoenix, travels to 7 ballparks and takes in 9 games, including the Twins vs. the Los Angeles Angels at L.A.'s Angels Stadium game on July 23.
Sports Travel and Tours, a New England-based sports tours operator, has announced their trips for the summer, and they cover most of the major league parks and several minor league parks in all parts of the country. “The Wheelhouse” six-day tour includes ball games in Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit, with stadium tours, museum visits, and the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Just have a weekend? The “Beantown Blast” includes three games—all in Boston—coupled with tours of both the city and of Fenway Park.
Rude recliners in the row in front of you. Crying children one row back. People seated next to you who just won't stop talking. What would you do in the face of these travel frustrations? That's what the Plymouth, Minnesota-based Travel Leaders Group wants to know for their most recent travel survey. The survey is open to all U.S. consumers -- you can find it here -- and also asks about whether you'll be spending any tax refunds on travel and what your feelings are on the new Transportation Security Administration's guidelines on allowing pocketknives onboard aircraft. For travel junkies, this is an opportunity to express your travel opinion, not to mention daydream. "What is your number one dream international destination?" is among the questions, for instance. Travel Leaders is a nationwide travel agency company, and often takes the pulse of travelers by asking their travel agents about travel trends or reaching out for public opinion.
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