Airport Departure Gate Sign (Photo: iStockphoto/Halbergman)

Welcome to this week's Today in Travel Question of the Week. A reader recently wrote in to ask about the forthcoming repair work at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport:

"How much will the coming runway construction affect travel at JFK? I have to think there will be lots more delays, and there are already plenty!"

First, here's a little background. On March 1, JFK is closing down its busiest runway, a nearly three-mile long strip of asphalt that handles roughly a third of the airport's traffic. The runway will be closed for about four months, during which the asphalt will be replaced by concrete, and the strip will be widened by 50 feet. The concrete surface is expected to extend the runway's lifespan by 40 years, and airport officials tell the New York Times that the project should eventually save about 10,000 hours in delays per year.

But in the here and now, the concern is that closing JFK's busiest runway will result in nothing short of chaos, with the already delay-prone airport sinking further into inefficiency....read more»

Alaska Airlines 737 up close (Photo: Alaska Airlines)

Alaska Airlines announced it will install Aircell's popular Gogo in-flight wireless service on its aircraft. The carrier had previously been linked to Row 44, a competing provider whose main client is Southwest.

The selection of Gogo surprised many, because unlike Row 44, which uses satellite-based connectivity to deliver access, Gogo relies on ground-based towers to transmit a signal. Alaska Airlines, however, flies across vast swaths of undeveloped land in Alaska, meaning Aircell will have to add infrastructure before the carrier can deliver the service to its hometown customers. In its release, the airline said, "Aircell will expand its network to provide Gogo Inflight Internet service on flights to, from and between, key destinations in the state of Alaska," suggesting that some destinations in Alaska will be without the service, at least initially....read more»

Suitcase on bed (Photo: Index Open)

Packing for a vacation always poses the dilemma of what's essential, and items that travel well are more likely to make the cut. Share your best secrets for traveling wrinkle-free....read more»

Airplane Silhouette Blue Sky (Photo: iStockphoto/Dan Barnes)

Following a series of incidents in 2009 that drew pilot behavior into sharp focus, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reccommended that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) use onboard black box recorders to monitor and review pilot chatter and conduct in-flight. USA Today's Alan Levin writes that the move would be "unprecedented," and that it "represents the first time that workplace monitoring could extend into the nation's cockpits."

The two most notable airline incidents in 2009—the crash of Continental Flight 3407 outside Buffalo, and, in August, the Northwest incident involving a plane that overshot Minneapolis by some 100 miles—involved pilots who, to a degree, were not paying enough attentionto flying their aircraft. NTSB Chairwoman Debbie Hersman told USA Today that if accidents rates are to be reduced, "It is essential to understand what is going on in the cockpit." According to Levin, "Investigators say the effort is part of a broader trend to reduce misbehavior and inattention by transportation workers in the age of instant messaging and cellphones." He also writes that the NTSB says "the reviews should be done anonymously and could not be used to punish individual pilots."

But critics of the NTSB's proposal point to two main drawbacks: Recording all in-flight chatter represents an unwarranted invasion of privacy, and, perhaps more importantly, the idea fails to address the deeper and, likely, more crucial circumstances that lead to these sorts of incidents....read more»

Airplane Being De-Iced (Photo: iStockphoto/Richard Goerg)

It's rare for a storm to earn itself a new moniker, but that's exactly what the "snowicane" has done. Numerous airlines have issued contingencies for travelers flying during the storm....read more»

Madrid, Spain (Photo: Ryan McVay)

Heads up: Fans of Tapas, Flamenco, and all things Spain have a few days left to enter the Institute of Tourism of Spain's "Best Feeling Ever" contest. The winner will receive a free weeklong trip to Spain for each of the next three years.

The contest seems pretty straightforward—you write a short note saying why you want to go, and then people on Facebook vote for your reason—but there are quite a few marginal ways to increase your chances of winning. You will be given daily tasks and questions, to be completed via Facebook or Twitter, and these add points to your total....read more»

Kiss free airplane meals goodbye (Photo: iStockPhoto/Bill Grove)

A yogurt parfait with granola and fruit on Virgin America. Frontier's Deep in the Red candy mix of strawberry licorice, Swedish fish, and cherry ju-ju coins. In the last year, these two snacks stand out as my most delicious moments in the air.

On most flights, moments of comfort are few and far between. As someone who doesn't sleep much on planes, my airborne consolations come in two forms: food and entertainment. I suspect I am not alone.

So I'm curious, and asking you for your airline food faves. They can be free or for sale; sweet or savory; snacks or meals. They can even be business- or first-class luxuries, if you've been lucky enough to partake. ...read more»

Millimeter Wave Passenger Imaging Machine Used by TSA (Photo: Transportation Security Administration)

Boston's Logan International Airport and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport are set to receive the first of 150 new whole-body imaging machines that will roll out nationwide this year. Logan will receive three machines, with one going to O'Hare. Both airports are due to receive the machines in the next few weeks.

Boston CBS affiliate WBZ reports that Logan and O'Hare were chosen "based on risk ... and whether the airports were physically able to install the machines and provide screeners to operate them." According to the Chicago Tribune, the remaining machines should be fully deployed by June, though no details are available as to which airports will get them, and when.

O'Hare and Logan are such large airports that the implementation of one scanner, or even three, will have a negligible effect on most travelers. And the few passengers that do find themselves lined up for the body scanners can opt for a pat-down instead....read more»

Man getting poked in the eye by paper plane.

Charisse Jones at USA Today reports that airline fees are beginning to frustrate travel agents—brick-and-mortar agencies and online behemoths alike. The preponderance of fees along with the unpredictable and often muted changes to fee policies make it difficult for travel agencies to keep up. "Now," Jones writes, "some who help plan and book travel are demanding that the travel industry come up with standards that would let them more easily provide and display up-to-date information on a flight's final cost, from the fare to baggage fees."

This reflects several aspects of the travel industry, and the ways it has changed over the past two years. Airlines don't exactly broadcast new fees or fee hikes, and often bury the news in press releases with deceptively innocuous titles. Take, for example, American's recent move to replace free standby with a $50 confirmed seat policy. The headline of the corresponding press release? "American Airlines Streamlines Its Airport Processes."

For people trained to see through this sort of PR bait-and-switch (such as yours truly), a headline like "American Airlines Streamlines Its Airport Processes" is a screaming red flag....read more»

Bathroom: Stall with Toilet (Photo: Index Open)

All Nippon Airways (ANA) seems to have a strange fascination with bathrooms. Back in October, the airline publicly asked customers to hit the restroom before boarding, in an effort to minimize aircraft weight and shorten lines for the onboard loo.

Now the airline is making waves again, by announcing it will designate ladies-only bathrooms aboard its aircraft. Today in the Sky reports that ANA will declare one restroom, generally located in the aft, to be women's-only. Women's-only bathrooms will be present on all but its smaller planes, such as its Boeing 737s and Airbus 319s, even when they are flying longer routes. ANA says the decision follows "numerous requests from passengers."...read more»

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