Southwest to launch new service from Ft. Lauderdale with opening of new concourse

Just in time for the busy summer travel season, Southwest Airlines plans to launch a number of new international flights from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to several Caribbean destinations.

The airline announced earlier this year that a new five-gate international concourse set to open at the airport would allow it to offer service between Ft. Lauderdale and four new international destinations  — George Town, Grand Cayman; Belize City; Cancun, Mexico; and Montego Bay, Jamaica. Those flights are expected to begin on June 4.

RELATED: Silver Airways starts non-stop service between PBIA and Key West 

In November, Southwest said it plans to add nonstop flights between Ft. Lauderdale and two more destinations —  San Jose, Costa Rica and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

From Ft. Lauderdale, Southwest’s international flights already include several cities in Cuba as well as Nassau, Bahamas.

RELATED: Record number of tourists visit PBC; did Ballpark help?

The new concourse is expected to open next month. Initially, it will be used by Southwest Airlines and Silver Airways, airport officials said.

Silver Airways offers international flights between Ft. Lauderdale and  Bimini, Freeport, George Town, Governor’s Harbour, Marsh Harbour, North Eleuthera and Treasure Cay in the Bahamas.

 

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

 

Best side roads to get you around busy holiday shopping traffic in Palm Beach County

You’re not alone. Yes, I’m talking to you, the person who is looking for a way home that doesn’t take you past a shopping mall. Or a way to your doctor’s appointment that won’t lead you along a street where cars will be stacked up in a right-turn lane to get to JC Penney’s.

I used to work at a mall. I was an assistant manager at Picture People at the Mall at Wellington Green while in college, and during the holidays I often walked 10 or 15 minutes from a distant parking space to the store.

» RELATED: Your holiday shopping guide

And that was after I sat in traffic for 20 or 30 minutes just trying to find a parking space to begin with.

So I know all too well the pain of struggling to navigate traffic around a shopping mall during the holidays. That’s why I’ve put together this list of side roads and alternate routes to help you get around the deadlock.

Inside, shoppers are happily searching for the perfect gift. Outside, it's the Wild West of traffic. Don't worry — we'll help you get around the traffic. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post) —    Wellington  -  Macy's shoppers head out into the Mall at Wellington Green Friday for more Black Friday savings.
Inside, shoppers are happily searching for the perfect gift. Outside, it’s the Wild West of traffic. Don’t worry — we’ll help you get around the traffic. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post) — Wellington – Macy’s shoppers head out into the Mall at Wellington Green Friday for more Black Friday savings.

All of these routes are going to take you a little out-of-the-way. But if you time it just right, you’ll save yourself the headache of sitting bumper-to-bumper with other frustrated drivers who just want to get home.

Check out my suggestions, then comment to share your ideas.

Gardens Mall / Downtown at the Gardens / Legacy Place

This is a great destination shopping area — but if you want to avoid it altogether, that could be difficult. Suggested routes: Military Trail to Kyoto Gardens Drive, then take Alternate A1A north to Donald Ross Road or south to Burns Road.

Palm Beach Outlets

This area is surrounded by development, so there’s still quite a bit of potential for congestion, even on side roads. Suggested routes: Use either Village Boulevard or Australian Avenue to travel north and south and avoid the stretch of Palm Beach Lakes directly to the south of the mall, where most people access the shopping area’s parking lots.

Mall at Wellington Green

I have a particular soft spot for these options, because I use them quite frequently. Suggested routes: If heading or coming from the west, use Stribling Way and State Road 7; if heading or coming from the east, use a combination of Lyons Road, Stribling Way and State Road 7.

Boynton Beach Mall

This can be a little tricky; similar to the Palm Beach Outlets, the Boynton Beach Mall has seen a surge in surrounding development in recent years, especially with the addition of more homes in Renaissance Commons. If you don’t need to drive near this mall during the holidays, don’t. Suggested routes: For east-west travel, use Gateway Boulevard to the north or Boynton Beach Boulevard to the south. For north-south travel, take either Lawrence Road or head east of I-95 to take Seacrest Boulevard. (Again, these routes aren’t for people in a rush — just for those who want to avoid that bumper-to-bumper traffic you inevitably find near malls around the holidays.)

Town Center at Boca Raton

This area is a great destination shopping spot — along the lines of the Gardens Mall. It also happens to offer some of the more direct routes that let you get around it. Suggested routes: For north-south travel, take either Powerline Road or Military Trail. Just keep in mind that Military does not intersect with Glades Road, so if you need to get onto I-95 or Florida’s Turnpike, you may want to head St. Andrews Boulevard, which borders the mall south of Glades but saves you the trouble of going too far north or south. For east-west travel, take either Palmetto Park or Yamato roads.

Now it’s your turn: Comment to share your thoughts on holiday shopping traffic and how you try to avoid it each year.

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.

 

 

 

 

Do we really need that much parking? #BlackFridayParking tackles the issue

Do we really need as much parking as we have? Is there a better way we could use that space? A hashtag campaign on Black Friday is designed to spur conversation on the issue.

» Scroll down to take our parking poll

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Strong Towns — an organization that promotes sustainable development — is having its fourth annual #BlackFridayParking social media event, which it hopes calls attention to the “excessive amount of parking” in the U.S., the group’s founder, Charles Marohn, wrote on the Strong Towns blog.

During the event, Strong Towns encourages people to take photos of empty parking lots on the day seen by many as the benchmark for maximum parking capacity, then post the photos on social media with the tag #BlackFridayParking.

In his blog post, Marohn argues that parking is costly, both to build and maintain, and lowers a city’s tax base. He also said it “fragments neighborhoods and makes them less walkable,” which can have a negative effect on small businesses.

Here are a few posts from last year:

Read more from Strong Towns about Black Friday Parking.

 

You have to check out this wild float coming to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

File this under “How did they do that?”

Krazy Glue is getting in the float game for the first time this year at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and this moving madness is bound to wow parade-goers.

This turkey has nothing on Krazy Glue's wild float for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
This turkey has nothing on Krazy Glue’s wild float for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

The float is designed to show off Krazy Glue’s strength — it can hold up to 2,000 pounds per square inch — and showcases upside-down cars, precariously placed towers of chairs and more.

» PHOTOS: Preparing for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Fun House float is more than three stories tall, Krazy Glue said in a news release. The main room rocks back forth as furniture hangs from the ceiling and walls. Carnival performers will walk with the float, including acrobats and street artists.

A rendering of Krazy Glue's float for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Provided)
A rendering of Krazy Glue’s float for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Provided)

“Krazy Glue is an instant solution and the only super glue that allows consumers to create ‘krazy’ things,” Victor Misawa, senior vice president of marketing, writing and creative expression for Newell Brands, said in a news release. “Macy’s has been a fantastic partner in bringing the brand’s remarkable ability to glue things together to life with the Fun House float. We’re thrilled to debut our fun and ‘krazy’ float during the landmark 90th anniversary of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”

This is the 90th anniversary of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Watch it on NBC from 9 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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