Taking the kids — and where to go for spring break

Let’s not kid ourselves.

None of us want to wait until summer for some fun in the sun. We all could use some rest and relaxation right about now, whether your family’s idea of vacation heaven is a bluebird sunny day on a ski slope, a blue-sky sunny day on a beach or a hiking trail.

Let’s not forget a sunny day at your favorite theme park checking out the latest attraction, or letting the kids lead the way through a city you’ve always wanted to show them.

Maybe that’s San Diego (www.sandiego.org) where the weather is warm, there are family attractions galore (everyone loves the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld!) and the crowds don’t arrive until summer. Another plus: The new Legoland Hotel (www.legoland.com) opens in nearby Carlsbad, Calif., in early April.

Maybe this is the year to tour London (www.visitlondon.com) or Paris (www.parisinfo.com). "Many airlines have sales in the market for Europe. Going in the back end of March, you’ll get longer days, nicer weather, smaller crowds and cheaper fares," said Travelzoo editor Andrew Young, who suggests using a site like http://www.fly.com to search multiple sites at once for the best fares.

"Wait a few months and fares will go up $300 to $500," he warns.

I met lots of families beating the summer crush at the Grand Canyon a couple of spring breaks ago. (Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa, http://www.hiltonsedonaresort.com, about a two-hour drive from the canyon, is offering a whole range of complimentary spring break activities and special rooms rates from March 23 to April 6, 2013 — everything from pizza-making and movie nights to kids’ golf.) Other families I know make it a tradition to head to Yosemite National Park in April.

With so many options, no wonder spring break has become an exceedingly popular vacation time for families who find it easier to get away for a few days in March or April rather than during the summer with the demands of work, camp, sports, summer jobs and summer school.

The good news: It’s not too late to plan a getaway, whether you’ve just got a weekend or a week. "It feels like for families it is a more spontaneous decision of where to go in March or April than other times of the year," says Thomson Family Adventure’s Jim Kackley, who sees many last-minute bookings, even for international trips.

Your kids probably are begging for a trip to Orlando (www.visitorlando.com/more) — and Orlando is the country’s Family Spring Break Capital — but here’s a suggestion: Go after spring break in May or June, You’ll save significant bucks and avoid the spring and summer crowds.

(Check out our Taking the Kids Sun, Snow and Sea Spring Break Ideas http://www.takingthekids.com/seasonal-travel-tips/special-sun-snow-and-sea-spring-break-2013-vacation-ideas.)

Here are five of our 2013 ideas that are sure to please:

1. Opt for an eco-adventure somewhere you’ve never been. Consider Nicaragua, where eco-friendly resorts like Morgan’s Rock (www.morgansrock.com) have become a private nature preserve. Check out those monkeys in the trees! "Nicaragua has turned the corner and is quickly becoming the next great vacation spot," says adventure outfitter Dan Austin of Austin Lehman Adventures (www.austinlehman.com), which is now organizing special family Nicaragua trips that might include zip-lining, cloud forests and surf lessons. "The best value in Central America," Austin said, "is the amazing scenery, interesting history and activities the kid in all of us will love." Add ‘locals’ that are warm and welcoming and you have a winning formula."

Thomson Family Adventures suggests Guatemala because besides plenty of fun in the sun, you can take a chocolate-making workshop, visit a fair-trade coffee plantation and explore Mayan ruins.

2. Go to Washington, D.C. The nation’s capital (www.washington.org) has more free attractions — and more spies — than anywhere in the country. Since so many of the museums and memorials are free, you don’t have to worry if the kids get antsy after an hour or two in one of the Smithsonian museums, for example. And there’s always the chance to fly a kite on the National Mall, stop in to meet your congressman or visit Ford’s Theater after seeing the new "Lincoln" movie.

3. Opt for fun in the snow. You’ll find plenty of late-season deals — and sunshine — from New England to California and plenty of off-the-slope options whether you want to snowshoe, dogsled, zipline, careen down a mountain coaster, go to a concert or indulge in a spa day — or two. "March is typically the snowiest month in the mountains and most of the storms roll through overnight, leaving the days warm and sunny," says Ski.com’s Dan Sherman, noting there are great deals across ski country on ski.com with savings as much as 30 percent off on lodging. Get a third night free at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, for example (http://www.skiheavenly.com/Plan-Your-Trip/Vacation-Deals-and-Packages/.) Kids ski free all April at Aspen’s four mountains (www.aspensnowmass.com).

4. Play ball! Take your favorite Little Leaguer to see his or her favorite baseball team during spring training. The games are much cheaper, of course, than during baseball season and you might even get that coveted autograph. We’ve gone to spring training games in Arizona (www.cactusleague.com), as well as Florida (www.floridagrapefruitleaugue.com) and love the informal atmosphere at the stadiums, as well as the options to hit the beach in Florida and the mega resort pools in Arizona after the games.

5. Show your kids that history can actually be fun. Tour a civil war battlefield or time-travel back to another era at a living history museum like in the Historic Triangle of Virginia. (Check out the website for kids on the Colonial Williamsburg site, http://www.history.org/kids, where the kids could dress up like colonists and play 18th-century games at Colonial Williamsburg, learn the true story of Pocahontas at Jamestown and visit a Continental Army encampment at Yorktown Victory Center (www.historyisfun.org).

Can you feel the sunshine yet?

Eileen Ogintz is a syndicated columnist and writes about family travel on her Taking the Kids blog. Follow "taking the kids" on http://www.twitter.com, where Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.

Source : foxnews[dot]com

When vacations go bad: surviving a fiery ride on South Africa’s luxury Blue Train

Despite the best laid plans, a perfectly pleasant vacation can suddenly turn disastrous–just ask the more than 3,100 passengers on the Carnival Triumph cruise line. 

Although disasters like the Triumph are rare, living through a vacation gone bad can be a scary thing, especially when there are lives and property are lost.  

But, as I experienced myself, a travel mishap, while upsetting can evolve into moments of surreal humor and fodder for a pretty great travel story.

I recently was on a trip when the luxury Blue Train caught fire in the middle of the South African desert.  In my case, rather than "hell-like" unsanitary conditions and long food lines like on the Triumph, the biggest concern, as the 53 passengers were evacuated, was dwindling champagne reserves and whether we’d still have to wear suits and dresses to dinner. Welcome to travel disaster, first-class-style.

While watching coverage of the Carnival Triumph disaster, I thanked my lucky stars that our own trip hadn’t taken such a turn for the worse.

Palace on Wheels

The five-star Blue Train—named Africa’s Leading Luxury Train at the 2012 World Travel Awards—has been called a "can’t-miss travel experience" with an unblemished record for more than five decades. Known as a “palace on wheels,” the Blue Train runs once a week from Cape Town to Pretoria, just outside Johannesburg, South Africa. The 27-hour all-first-class journey features butler service, soundproofed sleeping compartments, en suite bathrooms (all with showers, many with tubs!), and two nightly dinner seatings requiring passengers to dress up in their finest: dresses for the ladies, jacket and tie for the gentlemen.

The waiters wear white gloves and blue and gold uniforms, there’s an afternoon tea, and the wood-paneled corridors tinkle with classical music. It’s a Downton Abbey-esque fairy tale, lulling you into such cozy bliss as the train snakes through the stunning South African countryside that the real world seems but a distant memory.

Never underestimate the importance of luck while traveling, however.  What could have unraveled into tragedy as our train caught fire became a mild comedy of errors. 

Rolling Out the Blue Carpet

Our journey began without incident in Cape Town, where we were escorted to a private waiting room at the train station, the proverbial red carpet literally rolled out for us. (Actually, ours was blue.) We received our tickets, porters took our bags, and then we boarded, ready for the adventure to begin. Once on the train, we oohed and aahed at our luxuriously appointed Deluxe Cabin, with two twin beds, a private bathroom, and large picture windows allowing you to see the countryside zooming past. Lunch was similarly spectacular: a highly elaborate affair involving cloth napkins, silver cutlery, fine china, salmon tartar, kingklip fish, and delicious South African wine from Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

After lunch, it was back to our cabin where our butler Andre seemed to have read our minds: our beds were unfolded, made-up, and endlessly inviting. We crawled under the covers, sank into the pillows, and had a two-hour nap as the train chugged and swayed over the tracks. Pure bliss.

Post-nap, we stopped for a half-hour excursion in a miniscule Victorian-meets-Wild-West town called Matjiesfontein, where the passengers and crew had a glass of sherry in a commemorative Blue Train glass. By the time we’d walked the town street and peeked inside the gorgeous Lord Milner hotel, it was time to re-board the train and continue our journey through the heart of South Africa.

Disaster in the Desert

About two hours outside the Victorian town Matjiesfontein, the train slowed, then ground to a halt. As my friend and I sat in the plush club car, drinking champagne and munching on cucumber sandwiches, another passenger pointed out the Blue Train staffers running outside the picture window, pointing in the direction of the first car as they sprinted. Suddenly, we noticed a plume of billowing smoke: the train was on fire.

Everybody seemed uncertain, tentative: surely this would be fixed immediately and we’d be on our merry way? More champagne was poured. The watercress sandwiches were considered. The smoke plumes became darker. But soon, passengers were wandering through the club car, saying they heard we might need to disembark. About 15 minutes later, a staffer confirmed it, rushing into the club car and instructing us to get off the train with our luggage—and quickly.

I grumbled as we returned to our cabin, taking our luggage down off the shelves above our Murphy beds and stuffing the toiletries spread on the bathroom counter back into our carry-ons. “This is all so silly,” I huffed, still not realizing the magnitude of the fire. Before I left the bathroom, I reapplied my eyeliner.

Once outside the train, however, I finally got a glimpse of the situation firsthand, where the locomotive was burning—and realized that, far from being a minor inconvenience, it had the potential to turn into something horrible were the wind to shift: the entire train could easily have been engulfed, along with the dry countryside bush surrounding us. Suddenly, I felt like one of the pompous first-class jerks in Titanic, commanding for my evening tea to be kept warm in my suite while I temporarily indulged the silly people begging me to go on deck.

American winter is South African summer so, as you can imagine, it wasn’t exactly chilly outside. Aided by staffers, the passengers lugged our bags as far away from the fire as possible, then gratefully accepted the bottles of water being passed out by  the Blue Train staff. As we all watched helplessly while staff simultaneously tried to put out the fire and unhook the burning locomotive engine from the rest of the train, a group of British tourists took the initiative, raiding the club car, producing champagne bottles and popping corks as we surveyed the locomotive car quietly burning. Keep calm and carry on, eh?

After an hour, while the staff still worked to free us, I desperately needed to use the bathroom. I climbed back on board, where I crossed my fingers that my toddler-sized bladder wouldn’t result in my fiery demise. On the way to the bathroom, I stumbled across a group of American and Canadian tourists in the lounge, laughing and swapping stories as they drank vodka tonics and beers. I asked them if they knew that it wasn’t safe to be on board, and they cited the air conditioning, refusing to disembark in the blazing heat and insisting that everybody was overreacting.

Two hours later and 6600 gallons of water later, the fire was raging larger than ever, but we were finally unhooked. We cheered and sighed in relief as another train arrived to haul us to safety, just as the sun began to dip beneath the horizon.

The Show Must Go On

While cocktail attire is typically required at each of the evening’s two dinner seatings, the management made an announcement reliving us of the duty. However, my friend and I decided that, disaster-averted, it would be nice to honor the train’s original spirit, so: on went the dresses, the pearls and the perfume. As we walked down the hall toward the dining car, passengers popped their heads out of their open compartments—the experience massively bonded us all—applauding our decision to dress up. Though my friend and I were the only dressed up duo in the first seating, as the second seating sauntered in two hours later, everybody was showered, scrubbed, and dressed to the nines—as if nothing had ever happened.

The water reserves were severely diminished—to say nothing of the alcohol—and we would ultimately be stranded overnight in the desert, waiting for the signal points in the rail network, which were harmed by the fire, to repair. However, back on board in the comfort and safety of the Blue Train, the passengers were mostly happy to sit and simply enjoy the train itself as the luxury machine whirred back to life.

The classical music resumed in the hallways; the white-gloved waiters returned to their posts. Andre came to our cabin to check on us after dinner, and gave us turndown service and another glass of sherry, which we sipped as we stared out the picture window at the gaping black desert, the Southern Cross twinkling overhead while we gave thanks for a trip ultimately saved.

For a five-star “palace on wheels,” disaster or no disaster, the show must go on.

The Blue Train’s Response

Kudos must be given to the swift and successful response of the Blue Train’s management, who handled the crisis while honoring the train’s deservedly luxurious reputation.  All passengers were given full refunds, offered vouchers for future travel, and immediately booked onto direct flights from Cape Town to our final destination Johannesburg.

The next morning, once the signal points were fixed, another train arrived to haul us back to Matjiesfontein, where two luxury coaches drove us three hours to Cape Town for our flights. We were given a packet with our tickets and a written statement from the Blue Train’s executive manager Hanlie Kotze, which explained what had happened (one of the locomotives overheated and caught fire, which then affected the signal points throughout the rail network, causing our overnight delay) and offered apologies.

The statement read in part: “The Blue Train is synonymous with luxury hospitality, tourism and leisure. One of our value propositions is to offer personalized excellent service at all times…One disappointing incident is one too many…It would have been our greatest honour to treat you to the full Blue Train experience you so truly deserve, and we know that this (refund) gesture will not make up for the disappointing experience, but hope that this incident will not discourage you from visiting us again in the not so distant future.”

Despite the mishap, I was impressed with the Blue Train’s response—to say nothing of the splendor of the train itself—and would indeed return. I await my next journey on the “palace on wheels” eagerly.

Source : foxnews[dot]com

The state of the cruise industry today

Back in December, I provided a general guide to help travelers decode cruise deals for wave season, and now that we’re two months into it, I thought I’d report back on where the best values are. 

For the industry overall, we’ve seen everything from the expected influx of cruise bookings, incredible discounts, flash sales and flight credits, to the unexpected distress in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Our hearts go out to those affected by the stranded Carnival Triumph and we’re happy to hear that passengers are finally back on dry land. It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for cruisers and the cruise industry, but my opinion is that this disaster was an anomaly and not at all indicative of the cruise industry as a whole.

Many Hotwire customers have been asking whether we’ve seen cruise prices fall since the accident. At this point, we haven’t seen a reduction in pricing or bookings. We’re currently seeing the expected amount of interest – and faith – in cruising, but also keep in mind that it took a few weeks for prices to change in the wake of last year’s Costa Concordia tragedy, so I’ll keep my eye on the data. 

Speaking of which, we are constantly keeping a pulse on what’s trending –  where people are sailing, how long they’re away, or what cruise lines folks seem to be shopping – in order to help our customers get the best deals. This year, various factors like sluggish economies and higher airfare prices have impacted the cruise industry in different ways, and have led to some interesting opportunities. I’ve provided an overview of those trends below, and hopefully they can help both novice and experienced cruisers alike to make better-informed decisions as they book their next getaway.  

2013 Destinations

While much of the industry continues to evolve, the most popular destinations haven’t changed. It’s not surprising to see the Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas and Alaska top the list again this year. Most of the major cruise lines sail to these locales, meaning there are more ships and bargains to choose from during wave season. 

In my last post, I discussed how the Caribbean is a popular winter destination to get to by air, and the same holds true for cruisers. When it gets cold at home, folks love sailing to these idyllic isles with their warm weather and crystal clear waters. Come summer, Alaskan cruises with glacier excursions and land adventures rise in popularity.

One area that’s undergone significant changes over the past year is Europe. Many lines moved their ships to Europe before the economic downturn, and now there are plenty of cabins to fill – and excellent deals to entice travelers – for a couple of reasons. 

First, Europeans have been experiencing slow economies, so they’re spending less money on cruises and this certainly impacts the number of folks on ships in the region. Second, the rising cost of international airfare has caused more North Americans to choose cruises closer to home in ports like Florida, New York and San Francisco. 

Realizing this trend, some cruise lines are offering amazing deals like $1,000 in airfare credits to attract more Americans, so folks should look for those bargains before dismissing the idea of a European cruise just because it might be too expensive.

Trends in Cruise Length

Now that we have a better idea on where folks are cruising this season, let’s talk about the length of their trips. 

This year, the majority of folks booking on Hotwire have been looking for 4- to7-night cruises, which has led to some interesting insights. For example, we’re seeing a younger demographic sailing in 2013 on cruises of this length. 

Cruises have been known to attract families, particularly during the summer when school is out, as well as couples and retirees looking to travel any time of year. But this year, younger folks are looking to set sail for a quick getaway at a reasonable price. Additionally, as I’ve mentioned before, Americans overall are being more budget-conscious this year and cruises that sail for a week or less tend to give you the best bang for your buck.

The great news is that those who can’t get away for long vacations and don’t want to spend a bunch of money are in luck; cruise lines are taking note of this trend and are adding more shorter-length cruises to cater to these travelers. As such, there are sure to be deals to meet the demand. 

That being said, travelers with more robust vacation budgets who still want a similar deal can also extend their time at sea. Several lines are allowing people to string two or more cruises together to create custom itineraries that are better suited to their vacation schedules.

Top Selling Cruise Lines

When it comes to which cruise lines folks are choosing for their next getaway this season, it seems most are sticking to major lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian already have a number of brand-new ships with positive buzz around them. 

In fact, Royal Caribbean has two of the most talked about ships in the contemporary cruise market – Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas – which have a ton of on-board amenities to enjoy like an ice skating rink, a rock climbing wall, surf simulators and a zip line. And Norwegian plans to unveil two new ships that will have fantastic entertainment options and new family programs. 

One of those is Breakaway, which is scheduled to launch this May out of New York, and the other is Gateway, which is scheduled to launch in 2014. These lines tend to offer the most value for your dollar and all continue to offer fantastic deals as they compete for cruisers, especially Norwegian which has really been going the extra mile when it comes to their offers. Carnival is a line to watch as the news coverage around the Triumph situation may affect pricing in the coming months, but it’s too soon to tell just yet.

A little information can go a long way if you’re looking to save money on cruises this season. And with the market at its peak during this time of year, it’s important to know what to look for if you want to get the biggest discounts. Staying in the loop on popular cruise routes, trip lengths and ships will help you save big and ensure you get that cruise you’ve always dreamed of.

Clem Bason is the president of the Hotwire Group. Every month he provides FoxNews.com readers travel information, tips and advice to help them plan a fun, affordable trip.

Source : foxnews[dot]com

10 coolest 20th century-era skyscrapers

Today, skyscrapers are growing taller thanks to design innovations that have allowed engineers to build to almost limitless heights. But bigger doesn’t always mean better. Some of the coolest looking skyscrapers arose during the mid to late 20th century. Here is a list of 10 of the most eye-catching skyscrapers completed before year 2000 that are worth a visit.

Source : foxnews[dot]com

The best cruise ship cabins

If you think cruising means cramped quarters and dated cabins, think again. In the Condé Nast Traveler 2013 Cruise Poll, our readers rated these ships as having the best accommodations at sea.

Source : foxnews[dot]com

Taking the kids — and including museum time on your next trip

Wow!

It’s not easy to find a place that equally inspires kids and grown-ups, whatever their ages.

Welcome to one of the most wonderful museums I’ve visited lately — The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Ariz. — a 200,000-square-foot building housing nearly 15,000 instruments and artifacts from around the world with nearly 5,000 on display at one time.

See the piano where John Lennon composed the song "Imagine," one of Paul Simon’s guitars, Elvis’ costumes and the first Steinway piano, which was built in a German kitchen in 1836.

Then take the kids to the huge experience room where they can create their own music on guitars and ukuleles, play xylophones and harps or bang on giant Chinese gongs and drums. The instruments may come from all around the globe but the music they make certainly brings us all together.

We were in Scottsdale staying at the historic JW Marriott Camelback Inn for a weekend combining hiking, biking and museum visits. (We also stopped in at the famous Heard Museum, which for more than 80 years has given visitors the opportunity to learn about the arts and culture of the native peoples of North America.

Wherever you are this winter or wherever you’re planning to go for spring break, take time to visit a museum exhibit that would especially interest your family. For example, if you are visiting New Orleans, stop in at the National World War II Museum where a special exhibit, "Gridiron Glory," shows kids how much the sport of football has changed from its beginnings in the late 19th century to the Super Bowl today. And everyone will love the UA Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center with WWII planes hanging from the ceiling.

If you are in New York, don’t miss the new exhibit "Our Global Kitchen" at the American Museum of Natural History that shows us how food gets from farm to table and the role it plays in different cultures. You can even get a virtual cooking lesson and play FoodShips, the interactive game that demonstrates how difficult it is to transport various foods.

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is opening "Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age" this month, complete with fossil tusks and skulls, interactive videos and more, as you relive the story of the Snowmastadon Project, the huge Ice Age fossil site unearthed near Snowmass Village in 2010. See fossils from the site on display for the first time and watch museum volunteers prepare fossils found at various digs. (Maybe you have a future paleontologist in your gang?) If you are skiing at Snowmass, take time to visit the Ice Age Discovery Center right in the village. (Here’s what I said about our visit there.)

At large museums, seek out special family workshops and interactive areas designed for kids. The Musical Instrument Museum recently started a new Mini Music Makers weekly music program for children five and under that has proved so popular, a second day has been added each week into April.

Take time for smaller museums too. When I was visiting Washington, D.C., with a group of teenagers who attend our high school, someone suggested we make time for the National Museum of Crime and Punishment whose mission is to give visitors insight into crime and crime fighting. It’s easy to see why this museum is a winner for teenage boys with its exhibit on high-speed police chases, Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled car, the chance to try to hack into a computer or crack a safe and its crime lab. (The kids also gave thumbs up to the International Spy Museum, http://www.spymuseum.org, with its new 007 exhibit.)

In San Francisco, we loved the small Boudin Museum and Bakery Tour (just $3) where you see the huge sourdough bread bakery in action but also learn about San Francisco history in the process. (Did you know that the same sourdough starter has been used at Boudin since 1849? Or that Louis Boudin rescued the starter from the burning bakery following the 1906 earthquake?)

Wherever you are, let the kids help choose which museum — and which exhibits — to visit. Take a virtual tour before you go. The American Museum of Natural History has a special kids’ website with interactive games to encourage kids’ interest. So does the Smithsonian

In many cases, like at the new Natural History Museum of Utah — spectacularly located adjacent to the Red Butte Garden where locals and visitors come to hike — you can download The Trailhead to Utah app that lets your smartphone help guide your family through the exhibits to learn more about Utah’s ecosystems, fossils and native cultures.

Today’s technology makes museum going so much easier — and more fun for everyone. At the Musical Instrument Museum, guidePORT technology enables you to watch a video and hear the music as soon as you walk up to the exhibit, headphones in your ears, without any buttons to push or text to read. (Hidden identifiers at the exhibits cue the guides when a visitor is standing in front of the video monitor.)

Musical instruments have been acquired from more than 200 countries and date back to between 4000 and 5000 BC, though today’s music and musicians, including Taylor Swift, are also celebrated.

Maybe you’ve visited Costa Rica or Switzerland or maybe your kids have a friend from Mexico. Here’s a chance to explore a little of that culture through the universal language of music — watching musicians and hearing their music while standing in front of these instruments.

Where to start? Like in any museum you start with what interests you most. I’ll be the grown-up waiting on line with the kids to play the xylophone.

Eileen Ogintz is a syndicated columnist and writes about family travel on her Taking the Kids blog. Follow "taking the kids" on http://www.twitter.com, where Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.

Source : foxnews[dot]com

Nine reasons why the American/US Airways could benefit consumers

I’ve been reading some rather dire predictions about the fate of the U.S. airline industry as a result of the American/US Airways merger. Here are nine reasons why the merger actually might be good for consumers. Call it "silver lining" reasoning, but consider:

1. There will be real savings, which can be passed along to consumers (or at least put a brake on fare rises). Better use of fuel-efficient jets between the two fleets (AA can get rid of those gas guzzling MD-90s); back office savings (accounting, marketing, IT, management, sales, PR, etc).

2. Fares won’t increase all that much, if at all. If airlines have learned one thing, it’s that people stay home, drive or video-conference if fares go too high. Most air travel is discretionary, not "must do."

3. If fares on certain routes do go higher, that will make it more profitable for competitors to step in and lower fares once again. Yes, fares on "duopoly" nonstop routes (those where only US and AA fly nonstop, such as Dallas DFW-Charlotte, Philadelphia-Miami) may go higher at first, but that will open the door for VirginAmerica, JetBlue or another carrier to step in profitably.  In fact, once the airline industry becomes consistently profitable, we may see another JetBlue enter the fray.

4. Service should improve. Bankrupted airlines lead to grouchy employees, dirty planes, and generally a bad experience. Maybe they’ll bring back coloring books for the kiddies.

5. You’ve been paying for these bankruptcies through the backdoor anyway, all these years. Every time an airline files Chapter 11, it reneges on its pension plans,  and the U.S. government takes over–that comes out of your taxes. And investors (banks, pension funds, etc.) who lose money on airline investments pass the losses on to you one way or another.

6. You’ll still have at least four options to get from A to B on many routes, or as many as 9 on some routes (New York to LA for instance).

7. Foreign-based airlines are expanding service from the U.S.–Emirates, Turkish, Air Berlin, Qatar. That may help keep international fares moderate.

8. You’ll have more ways to get where you’re going if there’s a delay or cancellation. Pre-merger, American wouldn’t put you on a connecting flight through US Air’s Charlotte hub if your flight via Dallas is canceled; but a combined AA/US will do just that. More flight combinations will be possible.

9. You’ll have more miles to play with. If you have 10,000 in US and 15,000 in AA (not enough for a free trip), now you will have enough.

This may seem contrary to logic, and a bit Pollyanna-ish, but airline consolidation is a reality and it’s not going to be as bad as some consumerists predict. In fact, it may be a win-win.

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and founder of the low-airfare listing site Airfarewatchdog.com.

Source : foxnews[dot]com