Lower fares, new fees for Frontier
Passengers beware: More airline fees are on their way. People flying Frontier Airlines will now have to pay extra to place carry-on bags in the overhead bin or for advance seat assignments.
The move comes as the Denver-based airline tries to transform itself into a fee-dependent airline, similar to Spirit Airlines or Allegiant Air – the only other U.S. carriers to charge such fees. The airline already charges $1.99 for a soda or water on its flights.
Frontier says that in exchange for these new fees, it is lowering its base fare by an average of 12 percent. The new charges apply to tickets purchased on or after last Monday.
Frontier carries 8.4 million passengers a year, about 1 percent of the overall traffic flown by U.S. airlines. Frontier flies three routes out of Fort Lauderdale, none out of Miami.
Frontier’s fee for using the overhead bin ranges from $20 for frequent fliers who book online to $50 for those who fail to pay before getting to the gate. Most will pay $25 if they check-in online; $35 if they check-in at the airport.
Quick screening extended to international airlines
The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its PreCheck expedited screening program to passengers on international airlines.
Air Canada on Tuesday became the first international carrier to participate, with TSA officials saying other foreign airlines would soon sign on. Airlines need to first update their computer systems to embed extra information in their boarding pass barcodes as well as printing a PreCheck logo.
Passengers in PreCheck lanes get to leave on their shoes, belt, and light jackets, keep liquids and laptops in their bags and use a standard metal detector, not the full-body scanners. Security agents can process twice as many passengers in PreCheck lanes in the same time as in a normal lane. That allows the agency to dedicate more staff to other passengers — those who theoretically pose the higher risk.
There are PreCheck lanes at 118 of the roughly 450 U.S. commercial airports. About 5 million of the 14 million passengers who fly each week receive expedited screening.
New safety measures at SeaWorld
Trainers at SeaWorld’s marine parks began wearing inflatable safety vests last week whenever they work near killer whales, yet another safety measure implemented after the 2010 death of a trainer who was dragged into a pool by an orca.
The five-pound nylon vests can be inflated like an airplane life jacket and have a tube connecting to a small oxygen tank that fits in a pouch in the back, said Kelly Flaherty Clark, SeaWorld’s curator of animal training. The vests took more than three years to develop with input from trainers, engineers and safety experts.
On Feb. 24, 2010, trainer Dawn Brancheau was interacting with Tilikum, a killer whale, in front of visitors in a pool at Shamu Stadium in Orlando when Tilikum grabbed her and pulled her off a platform into the pool, then refused to release her. Since Brancheau’s death, trainers have been unable to get into the water with killer whales amid calls for new safety measures.
The 22 trainers who work at Shamu Stadium have been trained in the use of the vests, which could buy a trainer time to be rescued if the trainer fell into a pool.
“It’s easy to use,” Flaherty Clark said. “It’s one of many changes that Sea World has made in the last four years.”
Disney expands FastPass availability
DisneyWorld, which has revamped its FastPass program to allow certain guests to reserve their passes in advance, last week increased the number of passes people can get.
FastPass+ users can make reservations using the My Disney Experience website or app or at the theme parks. There is no fee for FastPass+ reservations.
Previously, FastPass+ users were limited to three passes per day, and those three were restricted to one theme park. That has expanded on two fronts — but there are catches. Guests can get a fourth FastPass+, but only after the times for the first three have passed. The “extra” passes are secured by visiting a theme park kiosk. After the fourth one has been used, a fifth one can be obtained and so forth.
On the parkhopping front, guests can get tickets in a second theme park for the same day, but only after the times for the first three have passed. (Your park tickets must have park-hopping powers, of course.)