5 things to look for in Brightline’s new passenger trains

We got our first look this week at the new train for All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger-rail service.

With trains set to start rolling this summer between West Palm Beach and Miami with a stop in Fort Lauderdale, journalists were given tours of two train cars, a locomotive and the Brightline maintenance facility just north of downtown West Palm.

Brightline unveiled its first passenger train Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at the Brightline repair facility in West Palm Beach. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
Brightline unveiled its first passenger train Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at the Brightline repair facility in West Palm Beach. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

» RELATED: Take a look: All Aboard’s Brightline unveils first passenger train

Ticket prices are yet to be announced, but those who hope to hop aboard can expect to see various ticket packages to cater to customers’ needs, Brightline President Michael Reininger said. Travelers will be able to choose between two levels of car: the Smart Coach, which has four seats across per row with an aisle down the middle; and the Select Coach, which features wider seats, free snacks, alcoholic beverages, and two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other, allowing for solo seating.

» PHOTOS: All Aboard Florida unveils Brightline, train designs

Here are a few features inside the trains for travelers to watch for:

WiFi: Each Brightline train car is equipped with free on-board WiFi. Brightline officials said with multiple antennas per train, the WiFi signal will be powerful enough to allow guests to stream TV shows and movies, or play online games.

Brightline officials say each set of seats on its passenger train will be equipped multiple electrical and USB outlets. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
Brightline officials say each set of seats on its passenger train will be equipped multiple electrical and USB outlets. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Power: Each seat has access to multiple power outlets and USB ports. One seating configuration, which has four seats facing each other with a table in the middle, has outlets between each of the seats, with another set of outlets that pops up out of the table.

One of the hands free wash rooms inside new Brightline passenger train unveiled Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at the Brightline repair facility in West Palm Beach. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
One of the hands free wash rooms inside new Brightline passenger train unveiled Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at the Brightline repair facility in West Palm Beach. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Touchless bathrooms: The bathrooms on the Brightline train are mostly touchless — you still have to grab the toilet paper yourself. Toilets flush with the wave of your hand, and the sink and soap also are motion-activated. For those who forget to flush, the toilet will do it for you when you open the door to exit.

Mind the gap: Each train car has “gap fillers” that bridge the gap between the car and the station platform. There’s about a three-inch difference in height between the two, Brightline said, so the gap filler will allow travelers in wheelchairs or with strollers or walkers to safely cross.

Luggage rack inside a Brightline passenger train Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at the Brightline repair facility. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
Luggage rack inside a Brightline passenger train Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at the Brightline repair facility. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Pet-friendly trains: Brightline trains will have room for both large and small pets. Smaller critters will have to travel in carriers, which can be stowed under a seat or in the overhead luggage area. Pet owners also can make reservations for larger pets — but they’ll get their own larger carrier at the end of the train, near the luggage racks.

» RELATED: 

Construction advances on Brightline’s Miami station

Brightline opponents call financing plan shift a “scheme” to avoid lawsuit

 

Wanna go to Havana? Three airlines kick off flights from Fort Lauderdale

Just days after the first regularly scheduled commercial flight to Havana, Cuba, in five decades left the United States via Miami — and within a week of the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro — flights between Fort Lauderdale and island nation’s capital will begin.

The landmark flights follow a recent pledge by President-elect Donald Trump via Twitter to “terminate” the deal between the U.S. and Cuba if “Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole.”

Three airlines will launch direct flights to Havana from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in coming days. JetBlue Airways’ flight took off at 11 a.m. today; Spirit Airlines’ flight leaves at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow; and Southwest Airlines’ flight departs at 11:55 a.m. Monday.

» RELATED: Fidel Castro dies: Music, dancing, parades fill Miami streets

Air travel between the U.S. and Cuba had been limited to charter flights until earlier this year when, as part of President Barack Obama’s plan to normalize relations between the two countries, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved several airlines to provide regular commercial air service.

JetBlue's first regularly scheduled flight to Cuba leaves Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Aug. 31, 2016. (Kristina Webb/The Palm Beach Post)
JetBlue’s first regularly scheduled flight to Cuba leaves Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Aug. 31, 2016. (Kristina Webb/The Palm Beach Post)

JetBlue held a lively celebration at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport at the end of August as one of its planes became the first regularly scheduled commercial flight in 50 years to go to Cuba. The flight, which took about an hour and landed in Santa Clara, was heralded as a milestone both for the airline and airport, as well as U.S.-Cuba relations, which Obama has worked to thaw in the past two years.

Among the changes ushered in by the Obama administration: more air travel, more business opportunities, and a lift on the restrictions barring the import of Cuban cigars and rum to the U.S.

But the administration’s actions have not been without controversy. Some politicians — including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father fled Cuba for the U.S. — have said that despite Obama’s claim that his administration is helping the Cuban people, the shift in policy actually helps the Castro family and others in power in Cuba.

In a blog post, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez said that by the end of the year, airlines estimate they will have conducted more than 500 round trip flights — equal to more than 90,000 passenger seats — between Havana and Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando and Tampa.

“The numbers themselves are impressive,” Mendez wrote, “and they underscore the significant benefits that President Obama’s policy of re-engagement is having for both the American and the Cuban people.”

Despite the current administration’s optimism, there is uncertainty among travelers and officials as to how Trump’s presidency will affect flights to Cuba.

Earlier this month, a federal official cautioned that it’s too soon to tell what effect a Trump presidency could have on how U.S. airlines operate to and from Cuba. Jenny Rosenberg, acting assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, said in a conference call with reporters that it’s too soon to “speculate on the current agreement that we have.”

 

Mark Gale, CEO and president of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, told The Palm Beach Post in August that he’s proud of his team and JetBlue, whose flights account for about a fifth of all traffic at the airport.

“To have that very, very first flight come out of our airport is a great honor,” he said.

 

 

 

 

These are the best and worst airlines for mishandled baggage

Having your baggage lost, damaged or stolen is a quick way to spoil an otherwise fun holiday trip. According to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are a few airlines you might want to avoid if you don’t want this to happen to you.

The most recent Air Travel Consumer Report from the DOT shows that in September, Frontier Airlines had the greatest number of reports of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers, at 5.62, while Southwest Airlines had the overall most reports of mishandled bags, with 30,049.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

» RELATED: Florida sees record tourism pace

For the first nine months of this year, the DOT said that Expressjet Airlines takes the lead for the greatest number of reports per 1,000 passengers of mishandled bags, with 4.41, and Southwest again ranked at the top, with 342,155 total mishandled baggage reports.

In compiling its data, the DOT looks at reports of lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered baggage for major airlines.

» RELATED: Flying for the holidays? These airlines are the worst for cancellations

So which airline is the best when it comes to mishandled bags? For both September and the first nine months of 2016, Virgin America leads the pack.

Here’s the full list from the DOT for January through September:

1. Virgin America: 5,838 mishandled baggage reports; 1.01 reports per 1,000 passengers
2. JetBlue Airways: 40,217 mishandled baggage reports; 1.66 reports per 1,000 passengers
3. Alaska Airlines: 30,228 mishandled baggage reports; 1.71 reports per 1,000 passengers
4. Delta Air Lines: 171,120 mishandled baggage reports; 1.86 reports per 1,000 passengers
5. Spirit Airlines: 33,320 mishandled baggage reports; 2.26 reports per 1,000 passengers
6. United Airlines: 146,781 mishandled baggage reports; 2.58 reports per 1,000 passengers
7. Hawaiian Airlines: 20,509 mishandled baggage reports; 2.65 reports per 1,000 passengers
8. Southwest Airlines: 342,155 mishandled baggage reports; 3.04 reports per 1,000 passengers
9. Skywest Airlines: 74,066 mishandled baggage reports; 3.28 reports per 1,000 passengers
10. Frontier Airlines: 36,541 mishandled baggage reports; 3.42 reports per 1,000 passengers
11. American Airlines: 327,157 mishandled baggage reports; 3.54 reports per 1,000 passengers
12. Expressjet Airlines: 71,284 mishandled baggage reports; 4.41 reports per 1,000 passengers

 

 

 

Thanksgiving traffic at Palm Beach International to grow by 5 percent

The number of passengers flying in and out of Palm Beach International Airport during the busy Thanksgiving week rush is expected to grow by 5 percent this year, airport officials said Friday.

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The airport estimates between 160,000 and 170,000 travelers will pass through its doors during Thanksgiving week, up from 155,000 during the same time period last year.

The busiest travel days are expected to be Wednesday, Nov. 23 and Saturday, Nov. 26, airport officials said.

 

Flying for the holidays? These airlines are worst for cancellations

If you’re flying to visit family and friends for the holidays, you may want to check the holiday flight cancellation record for your air carrier.

Regional airline flights were three times as likely to be canceled during the holidays than large airlines, according to a recent survey of U.S. Department of Transportation data by MileCards.com.

Two girls play with dolls on the floor as their parents wait to board Thanksgiving flights at the Salt Lake City international Airport. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Two girls play with dolls on the floor as their parents wait to board Thanksgiving flights at the Salt Lake City international Airport. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

» RELATED: Canceled flights at an all-time low, feds say

The travel website looked at canceled flights during Thanksgiving and December at the 50 busiest U.S. airports from 2010-2015 and found that more than 3 percent of regional flights were canceled, compared to about 1 percent of flights via large airlines.

Spirit Airlines and JetBlue ranked at the top of the list for most holiday flight cancellations among commercial airlines, with 2.3 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Delta had the best holiday flight cancellation record among large airlines, the study found.

The site also found that flights booked around the December holidays are five times more likely to be canceled than Thanksgiving flights.

The report follows news from the DOT earlier this week that September 2016 marked an all-time low for the number of canceled flights.

» RELATED: 9 tips to help make your holiday air travel more safe

 

9 tips to help make your holiday air travel more safe

With more Americans slated to travel this holiday season, the Federal Aviation Administration released a list of safety tips to help make air travel easier.

“I’m asking air travelers to take an active role in aviation safety when they fly this holiday season,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a news release.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

RELATED: Canceled flights at an all-time low

Here are the FAA’s nine safety tips:

Leave your bags in an evacuation: In the unlikely event that you need to evacuate, leave your bags and personal items behind. Your luggage is not worth your life. Passengers are expected to evacuate an airplane within 90 seconds. You do not have time to grab your luggage or personal items. Opening an overhead compartment will delay evacuation and put the lives of everyone around you at risk.

Pack safe: Pack safe and leave hazardous materials at home. From lithium batteries to aerosol whipped cream, many items can be dangerous when transported by air. Vibrations, static electricity, and temperature and pressure variations can cause hazardous materials to leak, generate toxic fumes, start a fire, or even explode. When in doubt, leave it out.

RELATED: Airline discrimination complaints up 37 percent

Don’t bring that Note7: Leave your Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone at home. You are prohibited from transporting this recalled device on your person, in carry-on baggage, or in checked baggage on flights to, from, or within the United States.

Watch your batteries: If you have spare batteries, pack them in your carry-on baggage and use a few measures to keep them from short circuiting: keep the batteries in their original packaging, tape over the electrical connections with any adhesive, non-metallic tape, or place each battery in its own individual plastic bag. You cannot fly with damaged or recalled batteries.

Follow carry-on rules: Prevent in-flight injuries by following your airline’s carry-on bag restrictions.

Stow your electronic devices: Use your electronic device only when the crew says it’s safe to do so.

Listen to the flight crew: Pay attention to the flight attendants during the safety briefing and read the safety briefing card.

Wear your seatbelt: Buckle up at all times.

Bring a safety seat or device for young children: Your arms cannot hold onto a child during turbulence or an emergency.

 

 

 

Airline discrimination complaints up 37 percent

More people are reporting instances of discrimination by airlines, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

As part of its monthly Air Travel Consumer Report — which also includes data about flight cancellations, mishandled baggage and on-time delays — the DOT said it was releasing the data on reports of airline discrimination as concerns rise about the treatment of passengers. The data includes complaints of treatment based on ancestry, color, national origin, race, religion and sex.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The DOT found that there were 67 complaints from January to September this year, up from 49 complaints for the same period last year — a rise of 37 percent.

RELATED: Should you clap when your plane lands? Take our poll

For the first nine months of this year, there were 52 complaints regarding race, eight regarding national origin, four regarding sex, two regarding religion and one regarding color.

Six of those complaints were received in September: three regarding race, two regarding national origin and one regarding religion. This is down from eight in September 2015 and 15 in August of this year.

The DOT investigates all allegations of discrimination against airlines to see if a violation has occurred.

RELATED: Canceled flights at an all-time low

 

 

 

Canceled flights at an all-time low, feds say

If you booked a flight in September that was canceled, your experience was one of a dwindling number, according to a new report from the federal government.

Among reporting air carriers, just .3 percent of scheduled domestic flights were canceled in September — the lowest for the past 261 months with similar records since January 1995, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

September’s canceled flights also were down from the same month last year, when .4 percent of flights were canceled, and from August of this year, when 1.4 percent of flights were canceled.

POLL: Should you clap when your plane lands?

A few other notes from the DOT’s September air traffic report:

How many flights were on time? In September, 85.5 percent of flights were on-time. That’s down from 86.5 percent in September 2015 and up from 77.6 percent in August this year.

How many airlines reported extended delays? No carriers reported tarmac delays of more than three hours for domestic flights or more than four hours on international flights.

Why were flights delayed? The most common causes of flight delays were aviation system issues, late-arriving aircraft, extreme weather, security reasons, and maintenance or crew problems.

How many bags were mishandled? The mishandled baggage rate for September was 2.23 reports per 1,000 passengers, down from 2.41 in September 2015 and 3.15 in August of this year.

 

 

 

Should you clap when your plane lands? | Poll

It might be the top thing that divides frequent fliers. The one thing that separates those who travel via air often, from those who don’t.

Yes, we’re going to talk about whether or not you should clap when your flight lands.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

After reading a post from a friend on Facebook this past weekend where she vehemently defended her right to clap, I decided to ask my Facebook friends: Do you clap when your flight lands? When and why? The answers were … kind of all over the place.

Amanda Parmelee, a former Delray Beach resident who now works as an outreach coordinator for a North Carolina nonprofit, said she tends to clap at the end of rough flights. In one instance, she said, “The applause was actually shared by everyone. There was a bit of skidding, and I think everyone was just happy to have touched down without incident.”

A friend from college, Cheyanne Lent, said she claps at the end of every flight.

Vincent Tran, a former coworker, quipped that he doesn’t clap when his flight lands — but he does clap when his Uber driver gets him safely to his destination.

Travel writers seem to be torn when it comes to this issue. An ABC News travel writer said, basically, “What’s the harm?”

“I can think of plenty of worse things people could do on a plane than clap when it lands,” Lesley Carlin wrote for the site.

Earlier this year, a flight attendant wrote a list for The Huffington Post of the 12 things passengers need to stop doing. And yes, clapping when the plane lands is on the list.

USA Today’s popular Ask the Captain column took on the question in 2013. John Cox, who writes the column and flew for U.S. Airways for 25 years, said often the pilots don’t hear the applause. It’s OK to clap, he said, but he doesn’t: “I don’t clap … because I recognize the professionalism of the pilots and know that they are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do.”

So it based on experience? Some articles indicate it could be first-time travelers who are more inclined to applaud. A Travel and Leisure article theorized that it could be that, or it could be the destination: People might just be really excited to get where they’re going.

Where do you stand? Vote in our poll below, then comment to explain your position.

 

FAA: PBIA navigation points once named for Trump now equestrian-themed

A set of navigation points near Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach that once honored part-time Palm Beacher and President-elect Donald Trump now have more of an equestrian bent.

The Federal Aviation Administration — which announced it would change the names of the navigation points early in Trump’s presidential campaign — said the new so-called “fixes” are now in line with Palm Beach County’s role as a top equestrian destination. In July 2015, when the agency said the points would be renamed, new names had not yet been chosen.

President-elect Donald Trump (from left) stands with his son, Barron, wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka after delivering his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning in New York City. (Getty Images)
President-elect Donald Trump (from left) stands with his son, Barron, wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka after delivering his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning in New York City. (Getty Images)

» RELATED: How are divided Trump-Clinton local families reacting to election?

“In general, the FAA chooses names that are non-controversial and relate to the area in which the fixes are located,” the FAA said in announcing its decision. The Trump names had been in place since 2010, part of a batch of fixes named for prominent Palm Beachers including Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and musician Jimmy Buffett.

It’s common for the FAA to give navigation points five-letter code names, each with a local twist. For example, Orlando International Airport has several nearby points named for Disney characters.

The Trump points were UFIRD, short for “you’re fired,” Trump’s catchphrase on his reality TV show, “The Apprentice”; DONLD and TRUMP; and IVNKA.

» RELATED: Trump in Palm Beach — A complicated relationship

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One point was not renamed with the western communities of Palm Beach County in mind: The FAA said UFIRD became CRRMN, in honor of an FAA employee named Carman.

Here are the other points formerly named for Trump, with their new names and meanings from the FAA:

• DONLD is now RIDRR, short for “rider,” because Palm Beach County is home to a large equestrian community.

• TRUMP is now RBACK, short for the “rollback” equestrian maneuver.

• IVNKA is now SLIDZ, after the sliding stop some horses are trained to do after a rundown maneuver.

» RELATED: Part-time Palm Beacher Trump’s campaign defied gravity

» RELATED: How a Donald Trump presidency could affect Palm Beach County