Virgin spaceport unveiled
When Virgin Galactic space tourists get ready to be launched 50 miles above the Earth, they’ll first hang out in a new facility called the Gateway to Space. The company founded by Richard Branson recently revealed the look of the new terminal located at Spaceport America in Las Cruces, N.M. This is the new home for customers to earn their astronaut wings, by rocketing into the upper atmosphere aboard its fleet of SpaceShipTwo vehicles, see the curvature of the Earth and experience weightlessness. On display were two floors dedicated to spaceflight operations but also customer spaces. Virgin Galactic said the facility is now operational and able to support paying customers. While the company has not announced the first date for its paying customers to take the first commercial flight, hundreds have already signed up at a price of about $250,000 a ticket. Branson has said he’ll be on the first flight.
Spirit knows WhatsApp
“Just text me.” That’s the pitch that Spirit Airlines is making to customers looking to book flights on the go. Customers can now message the discount carrier over WhatsApp to start making reservations, ask questions or modify their travel. The service will be available in English and Spanish. There’s a $25 charge for a new booking or modifications made through WhatsApp, which is what it would cost to book over the phone. Customers will first interact with a chatbot to pinpoint basic information about a request and then be passed on to a Spirit agent. Guests finalize their flights by following a link that takes them outside WhatsApp. Other airlines have experimented with more direct ways to reach travelers. Delta Air Lines said it was testing a new feature that lets travelers send the airline a message from an Apple device if they have questions or other issues.
On the boardwalk
Stroll along a historic walkway where coastal views pair with seaside fun. Offering affordable family fun since 1907, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in California features free entertainment as well as the chance to hop aboard two rides that proudly claim National Historic Landmark status. The Giant Dipper, a red and white wooden roller coaster built in 1924 and featured in several films, is a fan favorite. Don’t miss the Looff Carousel, open since 1911, featuring one of few remaining working ring tosses. Riders on outside horses can grab rings from a dispenser as they spin, then toss them into a large clown’s gaping mouth, resulting in bells and flashing lights. Take a break from games, mini golf and laser tag to look toward the sea. You are likely to see dolphins, sea lions and otters swimming offshore (beachboardwalk.com).
These miles won’t expire
United Airlines is changing its frequent flier plan so that miles accrued don’t expire in a member’s lifetime. Wednesday’s change to MileagePlus aligns United’s program with those of Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways. Delta changed its mileage expiration policy in 2011. American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, requires members to earn or redeem miles at least once every 18 months, as had United. Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines require account activity at least once every two years. The more generous policies reflect efforts to make airlines’ co-branded credit cards — and the miles attached to spending on them — more attractive to travelers.