In-flight musical chairs
The Transportation Department has issued a new rule that addresses a problem many musicians have when flying with costly, fragile instruments like cellos and guitars. Starting in March airlines will be required to treat such instruments just like any other passenger's carry-on bag. So if you stow your guitar in the bin, flight attendants cannot remove it and require you to check it, "even if the space taken by the musical instrument could accommodate one or more other carry-on bags," the rule says. Musicians who travel with larger instruments, like cellos, must purchase an extra seat; the new rule states that the seat cannot cost more than a regular passenger seat.
New York Times
Icelandair expands schedule from MSP
Icelandair, which offers affordable airfare to Iceland and Europe, will expand its schedule in 2016 between Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Iceland's Keflavik International Airport. The airline resumes seasonal service between the two airports on May 12 with four flights a week, increasing to daily departures during the summer months. The airline plans to fly the route through Jan. 10, 2016, and resume it again in March 2016. In the past, the service has been offered between May and October. From Keflavik, travelers can connect to more than 20 destinations in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and continental Europe. Passengers can also spend up to seven nights in Iceland at no additional airfare. "Icelandair offers an important alternative for European travel and helps keep transatlantic fares in check," said Jeff Hamiel, executive director of the Metropolitan Airports Commission. More information at www.icelandair.com.Kerri Westenberg
Deal of the week
Rail-and-cruise packages on sale
With Vacations by Rail, save up to $200 on rail-and-cruise vacations in Canada and Alaska. The Canadian Exchange Rate Promotion applies to four trips; book by Feb. 28. Prices vary. For example, the May 13 departure of the Trans Canada by Rail & Alaska by Sea vacation starts at $3,565 per person double, including port fees and $150 discount. Rate includes four nights aboard VIA Rail, three nights' hotel, seven-night Alaska cruise, all meals on ship and train, transfers, and city tours in Vancouver, B.C., and Toronto. The Holland America ship stops in Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Ketchikan. Info: 1-877-929-7245; www.vacationsbyrail.com.
Hotel rates went up in 2014
If hotel rates seemed a bit higher last year, it wasn't your imagination. The average U.S. hotel rate in 2014 was the highest ever — up 4.6 percent to $115 a night — and industry experts are predicting a 5.2 percent increase by the end of this year. On top of higher rates, you can also expect hotels to add more guest charges, such as fees for early check-in. A report by STR Inc., a hospitality research firm, also shows that the average revenue collected by hotels for each available room rose 8.3 percent to a record $74, and occupancy jumped 3.6 percent to 64.4 percent. The highest room rates in 2014 were in New York, where hotel guests paid an average of $263 a night, according to STR.
Los Angeles Times