Dubai has a lot of big things. At 688 feet, the Dubai Eye will be the tallest Ferris wheel in the world and part of the $1.5 billion Bluewaters Island entertainment project. At almost 12 million square feet, the Dubai Mall sits in the shadow of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Now, a multi-national company plans to build the world's largest man-made lagoon to the tune of $7 billion.
The yet to be named project will be nearly four times bigger than the current largest lagoon and have swimming, water sports and other water based leisure activities. If all goes as planned, developer Crystal Lagoons Corp that holds patented technology for building giant crystalline lagoons, hopes that their project will quickly become a popular warm weather destination.
Forget where your seat is located, how much legroom you have or the race to claim overhead storage space. These are all parts of flying that some passengers are better at coping with than others. One element of flight that all passengers share is landing. Usually, the aircraft glides in for a smooth landing or seems to hop or skip a bit as it touches down. But what if it hits the runway so hard that the plane's nose gear collapses? That's exactly what happened during the rough landing of a Southwest Airlines flight.
A careful driver approaches an intersection and the green light turns yellow. Red is next. What does the driver do? Hit the brakes, or floor it and hope for the best? It's a split-second call. Soon, Florida drivers will have more time to make that decision as the sunshine state lengthens the time before yellow turns red.
Research indicates that we make up our minds in about a second and that lengthening yellow light time will prevent more drivers from running red lights. Called the perception/reaction time, the state hopes to make that an easier decision with more yellow light time.
But let's think about this. You are driving along, approaching an intersection and the light turns yellow. If you know the light will remain yellow longer, will you stop?
You probably should, at least in Florida. While aimed to address the concerns of red light fine critics, each citation brings a fine of $158 and adds up to big money for local cities who split the fine with the state.
Waiting in line at Disney Parks can be avoided by a number of legitimate strategies. Get to the park early, stay late, legally use a free system in place that speeds things up and more. But nothing quite beats the instant access to rides granted to the disabled, a practice that had wealthy park visitors hiring savvy wheelchair-bound "guides" to bypass everyone else.
Paying over $100 per hour -- $1,000 or more for the day -- able-bodied park visitors posing as relatives of a handicapped went straight to an auxiliary entrance reserved for those with special needs. "My daughter waited one minute to get on 'It's a Small World' -- the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours," said one mom in a New York Post article last May. Misuse of Disney's Guest Assistance Card [GAC] program was so widespread that the theme park operator is discontinuing it in October.
In the new system, visitors with disabilities will be given an assigned return time equal to the estimated wait, one attraction at a time. Called the Disabled Assistance System [DAS], visitors with disabilities will still get "back door" access to attractions but will lose the time advantage they had under the old system vs. actually waiting in line.
Venezuela's late socialist leader Hugo Chavez set money controls a decade ago that have caused a wacky system of disparity between official and black market rates for local currency. One result has been flights out of Venezuela booked for months in advance as locals take advantage of a loophole to gain financially.
In Venezuela, the disparity between the official and black-market rates for the local bolivar currency is insane. It sells on the illegal market at about seven times the government price of 6.3 to the dollar. To compound the problem, there are strict limits on the availability of dollars at the 6.3 rate.
But a special currency provision for travelers with a valid airline ticket allows Venezuelans to exchange up to $3,000 at the government rate. The result has sold out planes flying half full, tickets bought by Venezuelans who had no intention of traveling. Others are exchanging currency, easily paying for their travel via the financial gain afforded by the special travel provision.
Airline seats continue to be a hot issue with air travelers. Instead of cramming into a smaller space with less legroom, some of us pay extra for a premium coach seat. Airlines like that idea and have offered a number of profit-boosting options, bundling early boarding, a prime location and more as part of the deal. Now Airbus has a plan to replace a row of three 18-inch-wide seats with a 20-inch seat on the aisle and 17-inch seats for the middle and window locations.
"The wider seats may be offered at a premium for those who require more room or as a reward for frequent flyers," says an ExecutiveTravelMagazine article, noting that a number of airlines are indeed interested in the new seat configuration.
The Airbus option comes at a time when airlines are taking a serious look at seating in both existing and new aircraft on order. United began featuring slimmer seats that grant more legroom on its Airbus fleet in May. Those proved so popular that United will roll out the change to all of its Airbus planes eventually.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been working on addressing long lines at airport security screening areas for quite some time. TSA Precheck lanes are being expanded to more airports every year and Global Entry lets frequent, pre-authorized travelers to zip into the United States. Just last week, we reported faster airport screening via a new TSA program. But that's not enough, says a travel trade organization, urging Congress to take action.
The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) is battling what they believe to be the cause of problems at our airports; budget restrictions and poor planning. They believe the current system leaves airports unable to handle millions of visitor a year. They have some specific recommendations too.
Calling for a 50-percent reduction in peak the wait times, the USTA believes it should take just 30 minutes to process travelers. They want Customs and Border Protection staffing and participation in the Global Entry Program increased. Congress should be involved in an ongoing way, and should require periodic progress reports, says the association in a list of 20 recommended policy changes.
Highway deaths are adding up. On a global scale, what is now 1.24 million deaths a year will triple by 2030 if something is not done. To raise awareness, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting has come up with Roads Kill, a project that draws on the Center's worldwide network of journalists to create a map highlighting road dangers around the world.
Need more reason to be concerned? In some parts of the world, road accidents and highway deaths rank fifth as a leading cause of death. That's more than HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and others.
Cruise lines have stayed away from Mazatlan, Mexico for several years, largely due to concerns the cruise experience might include a visit from a dangerous drug lord. With crime rates down in Mexico, west coast cruise ship itineraries are now retuning to Mazatlan.
Cruise lines had steered away from the port because of safety issues. There was no way that they would endanger the lives of their passengers by dropping them off at an unsafe place. The move was primarily a precaution as drug lord activity was happening far to the north of Mazatlan.
"We understand that travel agents and providers have a duty to inform their customers, but we feel as if we have been unfairly singled out as an unsafe destination," said Julio Birrueta, spokesperson for the Mazatlan Tourism Trust, according to Caribbean News Digital.
It's taken a long time but a quicker, more efficient screening process at the nation's airports looks to be coming into focus. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is planning a new three-tier system for passenger and baggage screening that taps features of ongoing programs to streamline the process.
Based on elements of the best parts of the existing Secure Flight and TSA PreCheck programs, the new system is "designed to increase the number of airline passengers who may be eligible for expedited screening," says a report in Travel Weekly.
Using that information, air travelers will be classified into three tiers -- expedited, standard or enhanced -- with each level requiring different procedures and qualifiers. The current system treats all travelers the same.
Under the new system, low risk travelers would be directed to the lanes now used for TSA's PreCheck program. Shoes and belts stay on. Laptops remain in cases.
Passengers would be screened at the time of booking, and the level of required screening would be embedded in the barcode of the traveler's boarding pass.