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puppies and kittens are relaxing to nervous fliersPills, booze, loud music, deep breathing — these are some of the desperate methods employed by the nervous flier to get through takeoff, landing and every bump in between. But one airline is encouraging a remedy that is a tad more … wholesome: puppies and kittens.

Starting this September, British Airways will air “Paws and Relax,” an in-flight channel available on long-haul flights that showcases cute and cuddly domestic animals. As reported by the Telegraph, the programs will include “Simon’s Cat” — an animated series about a man and his cat; “The Secret Life of Cats,” a popular BBC documentary about cat cams; and “America’s Cutest Dog” (think Animal Planet’s “Too Cute! Puppies”).

9 Up-Close Animal Encounters

The channel also features cameos from residents of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, the U.K.’s oldest home for dogs and cats, located in London.

British Airways believes the new pet programming will “enhance the wellbeing of customers,” in addition to being just plain endearing. If viral cat videos on the Internet have taught us anything, it’s that people love watching them.

If, somehow, animals aren’t your thing (or you’ve seen every episode on repeat), then switch over to the “Slow TV” channel, which features footage from a continuous, seven-hour train ride from Oslo to Bergen. (Potentially a better sleep aid than Xanax.)

Which in-flight channel do you hope they have on your next flight?

How to Cope with Fear of Flying

– written by Brittany Chrusciel

Remember being a kid and wearing those mood rings that changed color based on how you were feeling? British Airways is taking that concept to the next level with its new “happiness blanket,” which uses neurosensors and fiber optics to read and display a wearer’s mood.

CNN reports that the blanket, which is currently being tested in first class on select flights, turns blue when the wearer is relaxed and red if the wearer is tense. You can see it in action below:


Why does an airline need to know your mood? Per CNN, British Airways hopes that keeping track of fliers’ emotional states can help the airline optimize different aspects of the in-flight experience such as the brightness of the cabin lighting and the timing of meals. A laudable goal, but I’d argue that these aspects of a flight are the least of the airlines’ customer service issues these days. What about adding more legroom, cutting baggage fees or letting us change our tickets without paying a fortune?

Personally, I’m glad this is just a test for data collection; I’d rather not have my emotional state on display for all my fellow passengers to see. Here’s hoping that one of these days an airline comes out with a magical blanket that actually brings happiness instead of just measuring it — that would be something we could all smile about.

The IndependentTraveler.com Airport Scavenger Hunt
10 Ways to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

– written by Sarah Schlichter

piggy bank airline ticketsI’ve just booked the kind of deal that makes me feel like I’m a great explorer.

I’m Marco Polo stumbling onto an overland trade route to China or Magellan finding his way around Cape Horn. In my mind, I have discovered something truly sensational — dare I say something that could even change the way that people look at the world … of great deals on airfare.

I’ve booked a deal for a roundtrip transatlantic flight for more than $1,400 less than the normal ticket price by adding on a rental car.

Normally, if you’re booking a trip for a week or so, you only get a cheap fare if you stay over at least one Saturday. Book a Monday – Friday flight, as many business travelers do, and the airlines gouge you. However, if you fly British Airways and book a package deal through its Web site (flight + rental car, hotel, etc.), you are granted access to the super-secret cheapo rates.

Evidence my booking. I was looking for a flight from London to either Philadelphia or New York, and after a few hours of searching, the lowest fare I found was £1,497 (a little over $2,300) on the British Airways Web site. But when I clicked on the “flight + car” package option, the total price dropped to £555 (about $880).

Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare

Unable to believe my eyes, I called one of BA’s agents, who confirmed that, indeed, you can get this kind of deal routinely by booking a package. “When we’re selling holidays, we’re a tour operator and we have preferential rates, which we’re able to pass … on to the consumer,” said Tracy Long of British Airways Holidays. “If you’re booking anything more than just a flight, you’re able to take advantage of deeper discounts.”

In my case, booking a package may also have dropped me into the leisure travel category, which usually offers cheaper rates than those for business travelers.

So enjoy your discounted flight and rental car or hotel stay courtesy of IndependentTraveler.com, and when you brag about the deal to your friends, be sure to claim the discovery for yourself.

See Our Latest Airfare Deals

– written by Jamey Bergman

airlines behaving badlyThis post is the first in a new series called “Airlines Behaving Badly,” which will chronicle the oft-wicked ways of the air travel industry.

“This is an emergency announcement. We may shortly need to make an emergency landing on water.”

Not what you want to hear at 3 in the morning, cruising about 35,000 feet above the North Sea. But that is exactly what happened to some 275 passengers aboard a British Airways flight from Miami to London Heathrow on Friday night, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph.

As expected, the passengers — many of whom were awakened by the calm female voice on the automated announcement — panicked. Fortunately, they didn’t have much time to work up a frenzy as the cabin crew quickly canceled the alert.

Oops. A flight attendant reportedly announced on the public address system about 30 seconds later that the message was played by mistake.

Readers’ Worst Airplane Horror Stories

In August 2010, that same terrifying message was accidently played aboard a British Airways flight from London to Hong Kong. If it’s that easy to release the beast, perhaps it’s time to jettison it.

Should the need arise for such a message, just let the flight attendant scream into the mike: “We’re going to die! We’re going to die!”

The response would likely be the same. Well, not exactly the same, but passenger reaction might well be just as terrified.

The plane landed without incident on Saturday, and British Airways issued an immediate apology to the passengers, although some complained that the airline had trivialized their fear.

The Daily Telegraph reported that a passenger said he couldn’t think of anything worse than being told your plane’s about to crash. Hmm, can you?

– written by Jodi Thompson