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May 23, 2015: For Business Class travelers on US airlines—both domestic and international services—look forward to big interior cabin changes with DeltaAmerican AirlinesUnited Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Movie streaming, better internet, enhanced food and beverage selections, bigger better more comfortable seats, maybe even improved inflight service attitude? Sorry coach travelers, but look for smaller seats and more of them.

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May 21, 2015: Beware when you book a flight on Frontier Airlines – although they’re adding more routes, especially from the west coast, this Denver based airline has embraced the low cost super budget model followed by Spirit Airlines in the U.S. and Europe’s easyJet and Ryanair—super low price for a ticket then a rash of up charges for booking a seat, checking a bag, bag carry on, printing a boarding pass if you show up without one, early boarding and charges for any food or beverages you want on board—as much as $3.00 for a bottle of water! Still no charge for bringing your own food and beverages onboard – but give them time on that opportunity!

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May 20, 2015: Alaska Airlines and their child, Horizon Air, receive the Travel Curmudgeon’s “Atta Way To Go” award this month! Not only is their service good and their planes clean, they’re also bringing back complimentary food and snacks—and a selection of inflight entertainment and Internet. When you travel on Horizon you still receive free wine or a craft beer—and can ship a case of wine for free—FREE!—now that’s a word you don’t usually associate with an airline. And Alaska has just announced new service to two cities in Costa Rica—wow they must know something about what a neat undiscovered travel destination that is.

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May 19, 2015: Our pals at Southwest Airlines—who used to be a low cost airline but not so anymore—are making a big deal these days boasting they have the largest seats of any carrier. Somehow they’ve determined that the skinny armrest (by the way most carriers are reducing arm rest size to add more seats) counts as part of the individual seat size. With American travelers getting bigger and wider (more girth as a friend says) count on your travel experience being even more uncomfortable and skinny!

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May 18, 2015: United Airlines is making a big deal lately on how they are redesigning their airport gate area to improve passenger service and the gate area environment. You really think so? Why not just take the millions of dollars allocated for this project and hire a few more gate agents to help with the check in and boarding process? This misappropriation of funds gets the Travel Curmudgeon’s “How wasteful can you be?” award for May.

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A word or two on US air carriers—Can they be trusted?

May 17, 2015: U.S. air carriers are churning out record profits these days. Aviation fuel, like petrol for your car, has dropped in price but airfares haven’t—never do when the airlines save hundreds of millions of dollars each month—not that they shouldn’t make a profit (on their mostly over managed business model with top heavy executive management). But come on now, give us travelers a break and reduce or eliminate those fuel surcharges you added on to the price of tickets the past couple of years? Bet none of your top executive management took a pay or bonus reduction?

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Travel Tidbits: Sicily

May 15, 2015: On the Italian Island of Sicily, also an underrated and visited destination, your travel experience can take the range from visiting a producing winery once owned by the Mafia to hiking the only active volcano in Europe –by the way, more wine is produced in Sicily than Tuscany – and its, for the most part, inexpensive and outstanding.

When asked about the history of Sicily, a tour guide responded that “you would need more than two hands to count all the conquers of Sicily over the years”. The volcano, Mt. Etna, is “sleeping now” with the last major eruptions in 2001-2002 when its inner rumbles and eruptions could be felt every 30 seconds. One of the most significant eruptions was over 300 years ago, lasting over 122 days, destroying more than 40 villages and resulting in 840 deaths. The main crater atop Etna is still active with smoke visible almost every day – and by last count over 200 inactive craters. The amazing thing about trekking around the volcanoes lower levels is you can still feel the heat coming off the ground.

One of the numerous inactive creators on Mt Etna—you can feel heat from the volcano coming from the ground.
One of the numerous inactive creators on Mt Etna—you can feel heat from the volcano coming from the ground.
A Curmudgeon travel gem on Sicily—Taormina Sicily – the bottom of Italy's west coast "boot" of in the distance.
A Curmudgeon travel gem on Sicily—Taormina Sicily – the bottom of Italy’s west coast “boot” of in the distance.
High a top a mountain overlooking Taormina – a small church carved out of a rock wall—note the rock interior ceiling.
High a top a mountain overlooking Taormina – a small church carved out of a rock wall—note the rock interior ceiling.
The Travel Curmudgeon making his way up the "resting" volcano stop Mt Etna in Sicily.
The Travel Curmudgeon making his way up the “resting” volcano stop Mt Etna in Sicily.

Travel Tidbits: Malta

May 14, 2015: If you haven’t been you should go – a travel gem and still very reasonably priced. Charm, hospitality, and ease of getting around are great qualities of this tiny but significant island. It is best known in historic times as a “hub for pirate operations” and more recently known for a visit from Hilary Clinton—not sure of any pirate significance there?

The War Museum in Malta was hard to find but well worth the effort. The Museum itself has been almost kept in tact from hits from its use as a major control center for thousands of troops, planes and ships, as the allies used it as their base for retaking Sicily. Malta can get crowded during the day as its a major day trip stop for small and large cruise ships that ply the waters in the area. Hotel service and hospitality some of the best your Curmudgeon has experienced anywhere!

The ancient wall still surrounds Malta, keeping pirates safe inside.
The ancient wall still surrounds Malta, keeping pirates safe inside.
Casual fishing village dining in Malta
Casual fishing village dining in Malta
Small Fishing Village in Malta
Small Fishing Village in Malta
The Travel Curmudgeon in Malta reviewing a restaurant menu featuring the Obama Burger, with numerous indecisive toppings!
The Travel Curmudgeon in Malta reviewing a restaurant menu featuring the Obama Burger, with numerous indecisive toppings!

Travel Tidbits: Venice

May 12, 2015: Did you know that Venice has 426 Gondola’s that operate the canal water tours that make this “one in a world” setting so famous—and they are all operated by one company! Each Gondolier his own character, from tour guide to singer to musician – and the job is usually handed down within the family.

Venice has over 40 miles of canals, the best being the tiny canals that run through and along the back streets, many being one way – well it is Italy so that doesn’t really matter or hold water! Canals can be as deep as 25 feet and as shallow as 2 feet. Venice, they say, is over 800 years old and consists of over 400 islands – the most popular outside of Venice being Murano, world famous for its hand made blown glass. Some of the more spectacular pieces can cost hundreds of thousands’ of dollars and are considered artwork.

Venice can be exhilarating and confusing at the same time. Locals, most of whom can’t afford to live there, pretend not to speak much English, or any other language for that matter. It has some great places to dine and snack but not in or around St. Marks. And the farther away you find accommodations from St. Marks the more reasonable your room rate will be – albeit very small but who cares, you shouldn’t be in your room anyway!!!

Please remain seated with your hands and legs out of the water while the Gondola in motion!
Please remain seated with your hands and legs out of the water while the Gondola in motion!
Someone going the wrong way?
Someone going the wrong way?
Gondola rush hour at St Marks.
Gondola rush hour at St Marks.