Be Ready for Spring Travel with These Helpful Tips from SEA Airport


Give yourself plenty of time, parking will be tight, find other ways to get to SEA

Spring has sprung, and travelers are getting back on airplanes!

Air travel is near pre-pandemic levels from now through until mid-April. keep the spring in your step giving yourself extra time. Parking will be a challenge, and your best option may be to use alternate ways to get to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

By The Numbers

Spring break travel volumes are expected to be 80-85% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019. That is close to the busiest days we’ve seen since the pandemic back in August of last year. For spring break, high volume days are expected throughout each week with Thursdays and Fridays as the busiest. The highest volumes will see up to 140-145,000 passengers per day going through the airport. Pre-pandemic passenger numbers reached as high as 160,000 per day during the spring of 2019. SEA forecasts passenger numbers for the year will be about 6% below 2019 levels with near full recovery in 2023 at about 1% less than 2019.

It may have been a while since your last flight through the airport, but do not underestimate how long your experience may take during peak travel periods. Travelers can find stress-free ways to skip the line and make your trip more predictable.

What’s the best advice for travelers?

  • Get here early! Two hours before your boarding time for a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight.
  • Masks are still required at the airport – The federal public transportation mask mandate is in effect until April 18, 2022. While local regulations no longer require them, continue to wear your mask over your nose and mouth while traveling. And check your destination’s COVID-19 requirements for entry. Visit XpresCheck if testing is required for your destination, they’re available on the baggage claim level.
  • The SEA Airport parking garage is busy. Think of alternate modes of travel to get to the airport or arrive an extra 45 minutes earlier to find a stall
  • Use SEA Spot Saver to reserve your spot in the TSA line and avoid congested security lines at the airport.
  • Download (or update!) the flySEA App for alerts, maps, info and more.
  • Use Order SEA, our mobile ordering service, including gate delivery for food from all over the airport.

Alternate ways to get to SEA Airport

  • Avoid the hassles of driving with Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail. Public transit is by far the best option if you want to stay out of a traffic jam.
  • Catch a ride with taxis or app-based rideshares like Uber and Lyft, or other modes of ground transportation.
  • Rent your own ride. All rental car companies operate at an off-site rental car facility where dedicated shuttle buses transport passengers for free 24-hours-a-day, 365 days a year.
  • Pedal power! Yes, you can even bicycle to the airport with bike racks and two ways to access the airport on a bike.
  • If you still plan to park, expect 45-60 minutes to find a stall. Off-site parking facilities are also expected to be very busy or already full.
  • If you’re picking up or dropping off loved ones:
    • Check out the new and improved Cell Phone Lot! The new access ramp is a game change with better flow for entry and exiting you can pick up your passengers easier. Use it instead of shoulder parking, which is dangerous and illegal!
    • Travel hack! Use the Departures Drive for pickup at night and the Arrivals Drive for passenger drop off in the morning.

Airport Parking Will be a Challenge

Why is parking so congested? Demand is up and supply is down. More customers are driving private vehicles than choosing ride share or public transit. Pandemic-related closures reduced the number of parking stalls in the area outside the airport while a garage improvement project and a recent fire has led to temporary reductions at the SEA garage. Shuttle bus driver shortages also continue to impact the availability of off-site parking options for airport employees.

Safety First, Avoid Shoulder Parking

Vehicles are encouraged to use the new reconfigured cellphone lot and avoid dangerous parking along the shoulder of the airport drives. Violators will be cited as the Port of Seattle Police are working with the Washington State Patrol for emphasis patrols during the holiday.

Give me the Traveler Basics

  1. The CDC guidance for travelers changes depending on your COVID-19 vaccination status. Check with your airline for the state or country where you plan to travel.
  2. Be ready for security checkpoints. SEA and TSA want to help you move through security checkpoints as quickly as possible. Travelers are required to remove electronics larger than a cell phone from carry-on luggage. Also, remove foods and liquids from your carry-on luggage, prepare to hold up your boarding pass for review, and wear your mask. You can also see the latest Identification and Documentation Requirements.
  3. Need more travel hacks? Our Customer Care team has the best advice to navigate SEA like a frequent flier.
  4. SEA is adding new services to make travel more accessible and improve the travel experience beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Check out our SEA Social Story developed for traveler with sensory sensitivities such as autism, but also great overall tips for kids. Learn more about accessibility at SEA. The interactive map on the flySEA App offers accessible route directions.
  5. Check with the City of SeaTac to see if there are any road construction projects that might hinder your access to the airport.

Contact

Perry Cooper | SEA Airport Media Officer
(206) 787-4923 | [email protected]



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Hyatt Regency Hill Country Announces Spring Travel Experiences for Guests


windflower pool at Hyatt Regency
Courtesy photo

Nature Walks, Wildlife Feedings, Beach Volleyball & More

San Antonio, Texas  – Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, an award-winning resort nestled in the Texas Hill Country and just 20 minutes from downtown San Antonio, announces its spring travel experiences. Throughout the season, the resort will offer a variety of recreational activities ranging from beach volleyball to family-friendly movies under the stars.

“Situated on 300 secluded acres, our resort is an ideal destination for a spring getaway that everyone will enjoy,” said Steven J. Smith, General Manager at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa. “The resort provides a variety of outdoor activities for guests to fully enjoy the beautiful spring weather here in Central Texas, with everything from our award-winning water park and championship golf to a variety of fun family activities.”

The resort’s spring schedule of activities includes guided nature walks, wildlife feedings, biking trails, beach volleyball, tennis, fireside s’mores and a nightly outdoor movie showing. Guests can also meet sloths, bearded dragons, a ball python, macaws, and a variety of animals through Zoomagination showcases during special weekend appearances. The recreation activity schedule will vary weekly, and guests are encouraged to visit the resort’s website for the latest news and updates.

Surf’s Up at FlowRider

In addition to the spring activities, guests can enjoy a true oasis at the resort’s award-winning water park. The five-acre park features a 950-foot lazy river modeled after the nearby Guadalupe River to replicate an authentic Hill Country river float experience, a two-story water slide, two pools, and two whirlpools. It also offers a FlowRider wave simulation machine which creates a barrel-less wave for surfing, bodyboarding, and knee-boarding.

Hyatt Regency Hill Country is home to Hill Country Golf Club, where golfers of all skill levels can enjoy a world-class golfing experience. Featuring 27 holes and spanning more than 200 acres, the course was designed by Arthur Hills to showcase the dramatic beauty of the area by leveraging the diverse terrain of rolling meadows and lush hillsides, to wooded ravines and tranquil lakes and ponds.

Guests looking to relax can visit the onsite Windflower Spa for a luxurious spa experience. Reflective of the resort’s roots as a historic family ranch, the spa is designed as a traditional Central Texas farm house. It features several signature treatments including the “Lemongrass Mimosa” body scrub, the “Day at the Barn” spa day service, and “Romance at the Ranch” couples’ massage.

For more information or to book a stay at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, please visit HyattRegencyHillCountry.com or call 800 233 1234.

About Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa

The AAA Four-Diamond Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa is nestled upon 300 acres of the historic Rogers-Wiseman family ranch – just 16 miles from the San Antonio International Airport and famous downtown River Walk. The 500-room resort offers casual elegance and authentic Texas hospitality, while beautifully blending the convenience of the city with the peaceful charm of the Texas Hill Country.

Resort amenities include the full-service Windflower – The Hill Country Spa, featuring 21-treatment rooms with world-class services, a five-acre water park with a FlowRider® wave machine, two-story waterslide, four swimming pools, country-style lazy river, more than 100,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space, and much more. A variety of excellent on-site food and beverage options are available, including award-winning Antlers Lodge, offering a unique Texas dining experience that overlooks Hill Country Golf Club, the resort’s lushly landscaped 27-hole Arthur Hills-designed golf course. Windflower – The Hill Country Spa, Antlers Lodge, and Hill Country Golf Club are available for both resort guests and the general public to enjoy. For reservations or information, contact 800 233 1234 or visit us at HyattRegencyHillCountry.com.





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Finns on why Finland is the happiest country in the world


The thing about the Finns, in my experience, is they’re one of the most reserved people on the planet. Blatant signs of glee are not in their playbook. I remember silent breakfasts with my first host father, watching him stare out the window, barely acknowledging my presence. He wasn’t being rude. He was being Finnish. Classroom management wasn’t an issue at my high school, Imatran Yhteislukio, either. Behavior isn’t a problem when no one speaks out. Even when I joined a school friend for aerobics classes at the local gym, the mood was more silent disco than fitness frenzy. Was this low-key melancholy vibe happiness? Do Americans — who came in at No. 16 on the World Happiness Report — have this entire happiness thing all wrong?

I decided to contact my Finnish friends to find out: Is the World Happiness Report right? Are Finns really that happy?

“We have a saying in Finland: ‘If you’re happy, you should hide it,’ ” says Veera Lavikkala, a consultant at a software company in Kirkkonummi, west of Helsinki. The 37-year-old mother of two says that, in Finland, boasting about one’s good fortune is considered gauche.

“Finns have a subdued happiness,” agrees Katja Pantzar, an expert on the topic and author of “Everyday Sisu: Tapping into Finnish Fortitude for a Happier, More Resilient Life.” Pantzar was born in Finland before her family moved to Australia and finally Vancouver, B.C., where she grew up. When an opportunity to work for Finnair’s in-flight magazine came up 20 years ago, she returned to her homeland and has never looked back. In fact, she’s so enthusiastic about the Finnish lifestyle — including its frequent trips to the sauna and its bike-friendly city planning — that she’s written two books on the topic. And she has a special insight into the Finnish psyche. “They might be totally satisfied, but they don’t have the same body language, like smiling,” she says. But don’t let Finns’ poker faces fool you. If the World Happiness Report is to be believed, Finns are masking a deep contentment built on an appreciation for a society that puts the public good first.

“Everybody has access to the basics,” says Liisi Hatinen, a communications coordinator in Espoo, a city outside of Helsinki, and a mother of two. She’s talking about guaranteed health care, tuition-free school, a living wage and affordable housing. “These programs are well thought out and work, so that’s the basic foundation for you to be happy.”

Where people of other nations, including our own, measure success in material wealth — the right car, the bigger house, the best job, the better neighborhood — Finns find satisfaction elsewhere. This was never more obvious to me than on Christmas Eve 2001. As is custom in Finland, that night, Santa came to my host family’s home to greet my excited 4-year-old host brother, Otto. We ate a nice meal, exchanged small gifts and went to bed. I then shut my bedroom door and quietly cut open an enormous box overflowing with presents that my parents had shipped to me. I tore the paper as delicately as possible so as not to alert my hosts; the display of American excess was far too embarrassing. But to my surprise, when my host sisters found my holiday loot the next day, they simply said, “Oh, that’s nice,” with nary a look of jealousy between them. The joy of sharing the holiday with their family seemed to be reward enough. Who needed more stuff?

“We do want to achieve things in our life,” says Johanna Ovaska, a principal at the middle school in Imatra and mother of two. “But it’s not like ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians.’ ”

Essi Ala-Kokko, a 46-year-old photographer who grew up in Kauhajoki and moved to Chicago for art school, fell in love and stayed, puts it this way: “I’ve come to a conclusion that it has to be that we’re just satisfied with very little. We don’t have to have extremely successful careers. We don’t have to have a ton of money. We like the simple things in life, like our forest walks and hanging out with friends.”

Enjoying downtime is easy thanks to the Finnish work-life balance. “We get five weeks’ vacation,” says Jukka Multisilta, a strategy consultant in Helsinki. That’s opposed to Americans’ average 10 days of paid time off, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Multisilta recently joined a friend on a 10-day motorbike trip from Helsinki to Nordkapp, the northernmost tip of Norway. Along the way, he and his friend had access to free open wilderness huts maintained by Finland’s national park system, a perk making outdoor adventure more affordable. The trip was amazing, he says. “​​The light is so crazy when you go up north, so everything looks magical.”

Of course, Finns don’t have to drive at all to enter nature. Green space is everywhere in the country of more than 5 million. “I have four winter swimming holes within two kilometers from my house,” Pantzar says. But let’s be real: Although ice plunges are believed to be physically and mentally beneficial, I find it hard to believe that Finns are polar bear swimming themselves to happiness.

And a forest walk isn’t the answer, either, although I’m sure it’s great for mindfulness. Tuition-free education, however? That’ll improve your mood. Sure, Finns pay more taxes for the privilege, but my friends tell me that not sweating college expenses was well worth it.

Lavikkala and her sister were the first people in her family to go to high school, she says, and they “both went to university. We both have a degree. We didn’t have to take student loans. If you have the capability, you can be anything you want in Finland.”

I have to laugh. I recently opened a 529 college savings account for my son. He’s 6.

And that’s the thing. There are a lot of stressors that Finns, especially Finnish women, don’t have to worry about.

“I really think that the position of women is a big thing in our happiness,” Ovaska says. “Have you seen our government? We have a woman prime minister. She’s [36] years old. Then we have four other main ministers who are also young women. So it’s pretty big girl power.”

Reaching the highest rungs of public office isn’t such a wild idea when the government actually supports motherhood. Hatinen is now on Month 12 of her maternity/parental leave. She could take three years total if she wanted to, but opted for a little over a year. “I get 70 percent of my salary, and then if I keep taking time after 10 months, I think it drops to 300 euros [about $330] a month,” she says. As for day care, there’s no need to fret about that price tag, either. “Finland provides free universal daycare from eight months until the start of formal education at age seven,” according to the World Economic Forum. I tell her about my rather luxurious — by American standards — eight weeks of maternity leave. The minute it was up, we enrolled my son in a Montessori school. His monthly tuition was the same as our mortgage.

But more importantly, should a woman or her baby get sick in Finland, regardless of the prognosis, treatment won’t be as financially devastating as it can be in the United States and elsewhere.

“I’m planning to tell my son about his birth soon,” says Sirja Lassila, a Swedish teacher and mom of two in Imatra. Three weeks before his due date, she’d noticed her baby had suddenly stopped moving in the womb. Her husband drove her to the nearby hospital, where she had an emergency C-section. Resuscitated after delivery, her son still needed critical care, so he was raced by ambulance 142 miles to Helsinki, to the country’s best children’s hospital. He got great care and was able to come home — by ambulance again — a week later.

“It wasn’t totally free,” she says in a correction email to me a day after our interview. I brace myself for the figure, scrolling down the email. According to a Health Care Cost Institute study of more than 350,000 commercially insured deliveries in 35 U.S. states between 2016 and 2017, the average spending per C-section was $17,004. “We did pay some bills, altogether about 200 to 300 euros,” she writes, or about $220 to $330. How’s that for a happy ending?

Of course, life isn’t perfect in Finland. Toni Tikkanen, a documentary writer for Finnish TV series “Arman Pohjantahden alla” (“Arman Under the North Star”) is quick to tell me that racism, inequality, violence, depression and suicides happen there, just like in the rest of the world. But, he adds, “I think, as a nation, we are trying pretty hard to make a change for the better, and we have a pretty strong support system.” So is Finland the happiest country? Tikkanen says yes.

After talking with these Finns, I’ve come to agree as well. Turns out, I had Finnish happiness all wrong. Resting Finn face isn’t rude, it’s a look of understated serenity. And although I would never trade my U.S. passport for anything, for a nation born out of the idea of the pursuit of happiness, we might consider what Finns can teach us about the subject. While the American ethos to individually fight our way to personal success is admirable, the Finnish system that ensures that no one has to worry about basic needs — well, that sounds like a recipe for happiness to me.

Potential travelers should take local and national public health directives regarding the pandemic into consideration before planning any trips. Travel health notice information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDC’s travel health notice webpage.



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Local tourism expected to increase amid rising fuel, air travel cost | WETM


ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – After two years of lockdowns and travel restrictions due to COVID-19, people across the country — and the Twin Tiers — are packing their bags and planning what’s likely their first summer vacation in two years.

Even with COVID-19 cases down and warmer weather around the corner, seasonal travel will likely look different, economists told 18 News. With the cost of air travel up, passenger levels are expected to be down.

“I know families specifically that have canceled flights because of the cost of airline tickets right now,” Financial consultant Matthew Burr said.

American’s will still travel, but those in the hospitality sector expect people will get to where they’re going differently, likely hitting the roads instead of the skies. That means more so-called “staycations” and trips to local attractions.

“In the past, when we’ve had fuel increases, we tend to get people from closer to home than we would otherwise,” Brittany Gibson of Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen said.

Gibson, however, told 18 News she is concerned that with inflation at a 40-year high, business might not do as well as it has in past seasons.

“It’s a definite concern,” Gibson said. “When we see those people [the question is] are they going to buy as much as they have in the past? It’s a double concern on our part.”



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Geico Nationals high school basketball tournament tips off in Fort Myers


A national championship high school basketball tournament that had been played in Madison Square Garden in New York City for three years now is calling Southwest Florida home.  

The Geico Nationals will have an eight-team boys tournament and a five-team girls tournament. The games will be played Thursday through Saturday at Florida SouthWestern State College’s Suncoast Credit Union Arena with tickets on sale for $10 at geicohoops.com. The girls championship game will tip off at 10 a.m. Saturday and will be followed by the boys title game at noon.  

ESPN’s channels will broadcast the entirety of the tournament, but Paragon Sports President Rashid Ghazi also is hoping to have fans in the stands after putting on the tournament last year without them due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The tournament began in 2009 at Georgetown Prep in Washington, D.C., when it was known as the National High School Invitational. Dick’s Sporting Goods became the title sponsor, and the event moved in 2014 to Madison Square Garden before moving to Christ the King High School in 2019.  

“Ultimately, COVID was much worse than any of us expected it to be,” Ghazi said of the canceled 2020 tournament, which would have been held in South Carolina. “So, we canceled the event because COVID was so fluid and fast-moving. We realized we couldn’t hold it safely anywhere in the country.  

“We decided to look for a new home in 2021. With COVID still in flux and New York under a lot of restrictions, we wanted to move it to Florida or Georgia. We looked at Atlanta and various venues in Florida.” Because FSW already served as the home of the City of Palms Classic basketball tournament, a premier high school event in the country, in mid-December made choosing the same venue as an easy choice.  

IMG Academy from Bradenton, Oak Hill Academy from Mouth-of-Wilson, Virginia, and Montverde Academy from near Orlando all played at FSW in the 2021 City of Palms Classic.  

“There are a couple of reasons why,” Ghazi said of choosing FSW. “We thought the venue was a great size. The venue was available. We love the connections with City of Palms. That venue is used to high-end basketball well. We knew there would be strong recognition with IMG, Montverde and Oak Hill, because they’ve all played in the City of Palms before. And Fort Myers is a beautiful location.  

“We always want to host it where the destination is a place for people to go. For the kids, for the clients and for the schools. Fort Myers is a gorgeous location with beautiful beaches.”  

Paragon Sports also secured the hotel rooms for the visiting teams a year ago, when the bookings were far cheaper than they are now, the height of tourist season. “A year ago, it wasn’t so much the typical tourist season because of COVID,” Ghazi said. “We were able to lock in hotels for 2021, because people still weren’t traveling. We locked in hotels months ago. If you look now, there’s a shortage of rooms in the area. But we had planned well enough in advance. We enjoyed the venue so much. FSW rolled out the red carpet for us.”  

The national tournament could continue and evolve into a Fort Myers fixture, he said, depending on how this year goes, but “right now our plan would be to come back.” 



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Air Canada: 2023 Corp. Travel Could Reach 80 Percent of ’19


Air Canada projected corporate travel in 2023 could recover to 75 percent to 80 percent of 2019 levels, according to the company’s March 30 Investor Day presentation. Leisure demand is expected to surpass 2019 levels by then.

Still, the carrier’s capacity plans lag even those demand-recovery dates. Air Canada reported 2022 capacity guidance of approximately 75 percent of 2019 levels, which represents an increase of about 150 percent from 2021 levels. The carrier forecast summer 2023 capacity to be 85 percent to 90 percent restored, and about 90 percent to 95 percent restored by summer 2024. Air Canada also projected a return to pre-pandemic levels of profitability by 2024.

The carrier will acquire 26 extra-long-range versions of the Airbus A321neo aircraft, which can be used for North American and select transatlantic routes, it announced March 22. Deliveries are to begin in the first quarter of 2024. The new aircraft will “advance [Air Canada’s] environmental goals” with a projected fuel efficiency gain of up to 23 percent versus its previous aircraft on transatlantic flights and up to 17 percent on North American flights, according to the company.

The new aircraft also will allow the carrier to expand its Signature Class service in North America with lie-flat business seats, according to Air Canada. The new planes will accommodate 182 passengers in a configuration of 14 lie-flat Signature seats and 168 Economy Class seats. 



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Consumer alert: New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides consumer tips for smart travel planning


The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) reminds New Yorkers of their rights as they plan spring and summer travel. Travel disputes remain one of the top complaints handled by DCP. In 2021, DCP fielded hundreds of complaints from consumers who had to cancel or reschedule their travel plans due to COVID-19. As restrictions due to COVID-19 lift and more New Yorkers are traveling again, consumers should be informed of their rights, shop smartly to safeguard their hard-earned money and stay vigilant to protect themselves from scams.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions to travel, but also taught consumers valuable lessons about traveling responsibly,” said Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez, who oversees the Division of Consumer Protection. “By following these tips, New Yorkers will be better prepared to navigate the marketplace and spend responsibly as they plan their long-awaited travel this spring and summer.”

“As New Yorkers resume travelling, they are strongly encouraged to read any travel insurance policies and related documents carefully if they are considering the purchase of travel insurance to fully understand what is covered in the event that travel plans go awry,” said Superintendent of Financial Services Adrienne A. Harris.

SHOPPING SMART FOR TRAVEL

There are basic travel tips that consumers should be aware of when they are booking travel:

  • Do your research. Consumers should always weigh in the factors of a trip before purchase, including price, location, availability of activities and cancellation policies. Also consider whether the location has any Covid-19 restrictions in place, such as testing or vaccination status, prior to booking the trip.
  • Get all confirmations in writing. To safeguard against scams via changes in agreements, consumers should always get confirmation of plans in writing, whether booking online, over the phone, or in person. Retailers are required to disclose terms and conditions to consumers—always receive a copy of the agreement and save it for reference.
  • Beware of “all inclusive” or too good to be true offers. All-inclusive offers sound great but can have hidden charges and fees in their terms and conditions. Consumers may not even be aware of such fees until check-out, when their bill is higher than advertised. Sometimes these offers come with an agreement to join a membership or participate in a presentation. Always inquire about mandatory fees that may not appear in the advertised price, such as resort fees and taxes. Read the fine print when taking advantage of an “all-inclusive” offer.
  • Try to pay with a credit card, if you can. Credit cards often offer more protection than paying by cash, check or debit card. Some credit card companies also offer perks like trip insurance or concierge service while traveling and may offer additional protections if the trip is cancelled. Check with your credit card company on the conditions of travel expenditure reimbursement.
  • Review your travel agreements. Did you know you have an opportunity to cancel a travel agreement? The New York State Truth in Travel Act safeguards consumers against fraud, false advertising, misrepresentation, and other abuses. Travel agents and promoters must provide consumers with written disclosures of all the terms of the travel service within five days of purchase or agreement. Consumers should review the terms of the agreements fully upon receipt and ensure they align with what the consumer purchased. Consumers have until midnight of the third business day after receiving the agreement to cancel. Consumers can also cancel any time during the five-day period prior to receiving the disclosures.
  • Use reputable travel agents/tour companies. Consumers should research thoroughly before choosing an agent or company to work with. Keep track of arrangements and contracts, and review terms and conditions, especially the cancellation and refund policies. Reservations often require a deposit that may not be refundable. If the trip is cancelled, the deposit might only be applied toward future travel or may be forfeited altogether. Consumers should be sure they understand the policy prior to putting down a deposit.
  • Consider trip insurance and whether you need a ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ policy. Travel insurance can offer consumers relief in case of emergency before or during their trip, as coverage ranges from incidents of lost baggage to missed connections to potential medical emergencies. However, most standard travel insurance policies do not cover trip interruption or cancellation due to COVID-19 because such standard policies usually exclude coverage for an epidemic, pandemic, or similar public health event. Some trip insurance plans offer ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ coverage at an additional cost, which is often substantially higher than standard travel insurance and normally only allows up to 75 percent refund of traveler expenses if the trip is cancelled.?Prior to purchasing a plan, review the terms of the policy and ask your insurer about coverage that may be excluded.

TRIP CANCELLATION

When all or part of a trip is cancelled, the cancellation policy and a consumer’s right to a refund will vary based on laws that regulate the company’s industry, who initiates the cancellation, when the cancellation is made, and the company’s own policy.

  • According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines may offer refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fees charged, for cancelled or significantly delayed flights, even when flight disruptions are outside their control. If an airline isn’t doing that, consumers can report it to the U.S. Department of Transportation. If consumers cancel a reservation for any reason, consumers will be subject to the refund policy agreed to at the time of purchase, which may be no refund at all.
  • Cruise Lines. Refund options may vary by cruise line. The cruise ticket contract lays out the company’s cancellation policies and your rights. For example, you may be offered a refund, credit, or voucher for a future cruise. If you opt for a credit or voucher, make sure the expiration date is far enough out that you can use it. Read more from the Federal Maritime Commission about consumer rights and the recourse that might be available to you.
  • Cancellation policies for hotels, motels, and online accommodation marketplaces can vary greatly, even within the same company based on the season, room type, or length of stay. Some may offer a choice between a refundable or nonrefundable rate while making the reservation. Be sure you fully understand the cancellation policy prior to making a reservation.

If a consumer is having trouble getting a refund owed for all or part of a cancelled trip, they are encouraged to file a complaint with DCP.

SIGNS OF A TRAVEL SCAM

The Federal Trade Commission warns against common travel scams. Some signs of a scam when booking travel include the following:

  • You have “won” a free vacation. Scammers will sometimes entice consumers with a free trip, but then disclose fees or deposits to get access. A prize should not include spending money and is likely a scam.
  • The details of your trip are vague. Consumers may be offered a stay in a five-star hotel or on a luxury cruise line, but then few details about the trip are presented. Always confirm and review the name of the company and location of the trip details.
  • You have limited time to accept the offer. Scammers often pressure consumers to make quick decisions about a deal, making it likely that the consumer will not have time to investigate the offer. Never feel pressured to agree to any terms you have not reviewed on your own.
  • You must pay in an uncommon way. Cryptocurrency, wire transfer, and gift cards are difficult to trace and perfect for scammers looking to take advantage of consumers, who will not be able to recoup their losses if they pay this way. If a travel company insists that you pay in one of these ways, decline the offer and report the company.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides voluntary mediation between a consumer and a business when a consumer has been unsuccessful at reaching a resolution on their own. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time here.

Travel insurance is regulated by the Department of Financial Services. Consumer with complaints about travel insurance policy or ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ coverage issued in New York or by New York companies should contact DFS online or through the DFS Consumer Hotline at (800) 342-3736 (212) 480-6400 or (518) 474-6600 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM).

For more consumer protection tips, follow the Division on social media at Twitter: @NYSConsumer and Facebook.


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Travel to Qatar for World Cup 2022: Guide, requirements and FAQ on tickets, hotels and weather


Later this year, Qatar will make history as they host the first-ever World Cup held in winter, with the tournament getting underway on Nov. 21. 

Running until Dec. 18, the timing and location of the competition has sparked controversy and intrigue in equal measure as fans prepare for a feast of international football from all around the globe. Format-wise, 32 teams from eight groups will compete for a place in the knockout rounds in the lead-up to the final in Doha. 

Some of the biggest heavyweights from around the world have already booked their tickets to Qatar, including Germany, Brazil, France, and Argentina. The Canada, USA and Mexico national teams will join them in the Middle East after surviving the CONCACAF qualifying stages.

Below, Sporting News runs through some of the key things you will need to know if you’re planning to head to Qatar this year. 

MORE: Which teams have qualified to the 2022 World Cup?

Travel requirements to gain entry to Qatar

Any visitors to Qatar who are non-citizens “must submit a negative pre-travel PCR lab result obtained no more than 48 hours before the time of departure from the country of origin” as cited by the US Embassy to Qatar.

Fully vaccinated or recovered travelers will not need to quarantine or provide proof of a negative rapid antigen test on arrival. Non-vaccinated and non-immune visitors will need to quarantine for five days in a hotel or five days “home quarantine” for those with relatives in the country (proof of residence and relationship is required).

They will also be required to take a rapid antigen test on day five of hotel/home quarantine before being allowed to freely roam in the country. 

Travel restrictions currently present in Qatar

The US Embassy to Qatar currently advises a Level 4 Travel Advisory level, which indicates that citizens should not travel to the country based on high levels of COVID-19 being prevalent. Of course, with the World Cup just around the corner, many fans from all over the world will be looking to book up to see the world’s greatest players take center stage. 

Those keen on taking the trip should follow updates from the U.S Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs website for more details as they arise before the World Cup kicks off. 

MORE: World Cup intercontinental playoffs set to be held in Qatar

Qatar World Cup 2022 travel packages

Travel packages for the World Cup range from week one of the tournament right through to the final. 

Qatar Airways, the official airline of the country, is offering up a host of packages that can be found below that include flights, accommodation, and match tickets:

  • Support Your Team – Week One and Two (four-game package)  – from $6,590 
  • Early Groups – Week One (three-game package) – from $4,950
  • Later Groups – Week Two (three-game package) – from $4,700
  • Knockouts – Round of 16 (two-game package) – from $3,800
  • Knockouts – Quarterfinals (two-game package) – from $4,050
  • Knockouts – Semifinal and Final (three-game package) – from $7,300
  • Knockouts – Final and third-place game (two-game package) – from $5,600

FIFA is also offering several packages for the tournament; however, flights, accommodation, and tickets will all need to be bought separately for the finals in Qatar. 

USA Match Hospitality is also a verified distributor worth checking out for soccer fans embarking on an adventure to the Gulf Region this winter.

Flights to and from Qatar: How much will they cost?

Four cities will host 2022 World Cup matches: Doha, Al Wakrah, Al Khor, and Al Rayyan. Doha will be the main port of call for soccer fans heading to the tournament, and Doha Hamad International Airport will be ready to receive visitors from November when the competition kicks off. 

Since 2021,  Four U.S. cities – Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C. – are offering two daily flights from the US to Qatar, while Dallas-Fort Worth increases to 12 flights per week with Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle all providing daily service.

For example, one passenger flying out from Washington Dulles International Airport to Doha on Nov. 16 and back on Dec. 19 to the same airport (duration of the tournament) would set themselves back roughly $2,100. 

Admittedly not cheap, but a worthwhile price to pay to see their heroes in action on the big stage. Below is a list of some airline providers for those looking for more information on the exact costs from their location: 

Hotels in Qatar

There will be several different options for visitors during their stay, including fan villages, cruise ship hotels, standard hotels, and local apartments and villas to call home for their time in Qatar. But given the demand, the availability might disappear quickly.

The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has an official accommodation agency, which has important information and portals regarding the exploration of options to stay in the country according to one’s budgetary reach. 

It might be worth looking beyond standard hotels, however, as a lot of them are believed to already be fully booked due to the mass influx of block-buyers looking to secure their place at the World Cup well ahead of schedule.

The official FIFA World Cup website, Qatar Airways, and Trivago website may be some of the strongest resources available for consumers to inquire about potential stays in Qatar that cater to their needs. 

MORE: Who are the oldest players in World Cup history?

Car rental in Qatar 

Car rental in Qatar will vary from company to company, though SIXT offers some deals to help visitors get on the road. 

Usually, these tend to start at around $175 per day, but will rates per day often decrease based on the length of the rental. For example, with SIXT, picking up a vehicle for the first week of the tournament would cost around $132 per day. 

In terms of the whole tournament, you are looking at around $127 per day to get yourself a rental car. Nevertheless, this will vary from dealership to dealership. 

Here are some other notable car lenders in Qatar that would be worth checking out for local rates: 

  • Europcar Qatar
  • Al Taif Rent a Car Co
  • United Car Rentals Qatar
  • Oasis Rent a Car
  • Auto Z Car Rental
  • Total Rent a Car
  • Al Saad Rent a Car Co Wll

Popular questions about travel to Qatar

Clothing – what should I wear?

Qatar is an Islamic country, with a very traditional outlook on life. Despite there being no mandatory dress code in the country, modest and conservative clothing items are advised. For men, this means the wearing of shorts may be frowned upon, whereas for women, they should try to avoid the use of tank tops or mini skirts in particular.

Sleeveless shirts are also not permitted, along with strapless or see-through clothing. There could be legal punishment if you do not adhere to these rules, so it is probably best to be careful if you are planning on going to the finals. 

What will the weather be like? 

The weather will be warm, with average temperatures in November and December reaching 82 and 75 Fahrenheit respectively. 

Prepare accordingly for potential fluctuation in weather which could mean a steep increase in temperature across these months. It is unlikely to rain during this timeframe, and having barely any breeze in the country will leave you feeling sweaty, so don’t forget your deodorant and sunscreen!

What side of the road do they drive on in Qatar?

In Qatar, they drive on the right side of the road, similar to the United States and Canada which will come as a relief. Most cars are automatic, though you should be warned that driving through Qatar might take a little while to get used to due to its unique landscape. 

Will I be able to drink alcohol in Qatar?

Technically yes, but it may be more complicated than that depending on your situation arriving in Qatar. Alcohol is not illegal in the country, though it is prohibited to be consumed in public, and being drunk is illegal. 

You need to be of 21 years of age and have a permit to buy alcohol currently, though it is not yet confirmed whether these rules will be in place during the duration of the World Cup. Alcohol is in very short supply, only being able to be obtained from authorized distributors (mostly found in Doha), licensed restaurants and luxury hotels. 

Alcohol will be available to buy in stadiums during the World Cup only for those who hold hospitality packages. It will cost around $13 for a pint of beer in Qatar, due to the country imposing sin taxes on alcohol as it is not a cultural norm. 

What is the emergency number in Qatar?

The emergency number in Qatar is 999 for those needing to get a hold of emergency services. 

What currency do they use in Qatar?

Qatar uses the Qatari Rial as its form of currency. $1 USD would be the equivalent to 3.64 Qatari Rials in current currency exchange rates.





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Chryssa Westerlund on Dulles, Reagan National airports’ rebound


The Washington Post spoke with Chryssa Westerlund, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority — which operates Dulles International and Reagan National airports — about navigating the pandemic and expectations for travel the rest of the year.

Q: It felt like in March 2020, the system changed and flights stopped and passengers stopped coming. Was that your experience, that this change was incredibly swift and dramatic?

A: We had been monitoring the situation for a couple of months leading up to March. We had seen some of the flights being suspended to China. But yes, in terms of March, I think we saw a pretty dramatic drop-off. There was a period of repatriation where we saw a surge of folks that had not intended to travel, so Dulles did see a lot of that traffic for a couple of weeks immediately after the impact. But overall, yes, it was an incredibly significant drop, probably faster than we have seen, certainly in my career.

Q: What were some of the challenges you were faced with immediately?

A: I think our immediate concern was the same as the rest of the country: How do we all take care of our customers, our passengers and our employees? Our focus really turned immediately to health and safety, and so, very quickly, we increased our cleaning procedures. We moved our employees into close-in parking so they wouldn’t be on a bus. We dropped all of our close-in parking rates so our passengers could pay economy prices for walkable spaces and didn’t have to take the bus. And then really, just communicating and, of course, putting the mask mandate in as quickly as we could.

Q: When did you start to feel like the most acute phase of the crisis had passed for your airports? And then, what was the process of trying to adjust to some kind of new normal?

A: Last summer, it became apparent that people were getting more comfortable with flying again, that we were seeing the leisure traveler really come back in force last summer, and that’s only continued to increase. That really gave us a line of sight that, at least mentally, people were in a place where they were more comfortable with the process of traveling on an airplane. Then really, it became more about what was open within the destinations that they wanted to go to and how safe they felt when they arrived.

Q: What’s the situation with international travel? Is that still down much more than domestic?

A: It continues to be down more than domestic. We did see a nice surge when it was first reopened, and it was really a fantastic experience to see some of these families that have been separated for almost two years have an opportunity to see each other. In some cases we saw grandparents who had never met their grandchild. So that was a really great experience to see that opened back up.

There has been, still, a large number of restrictions in place with travel that added to the cost, that added to the concern when it came to international travel. Those are slowly coming away and I think we are seeing an uptick in international travel. Our airlines are really placing their bets on international travel coming back this summer very strong. We have the same amount, if not more, international capacity scheduled for this summer at Dulles International as we had in the pre-pandemic. So as of right now, they’re still optimistic. You know, it’s a very uncertain time frame with the fuel costs, with the international crisis being driven by Ukraine.

Q: For domestic flights, are you expecting to see this summer be comparable to 2019 or are you expecting it might still be somewhat lower? Or might there be some pent-up demand?

A: Coming into this year and looking at where we’re at now, we are expecting a strong summer again. Leisure travel is very strong, if not, in some cases, stronger than it was before 2019. The fact that companies have not pulled all of their employees back into the offices has allowed people to work from other destinations. That has increased what we call the “bleisure” travel, a combination of business and leisure, where they’re functioning as employees from destinations that might be farther away. True business travel isn’t going to come back, though, I think, until we see the federal government and agencies move back into their offices. There’s really no one for these contractors to meet with when everybody’s working from home. So I think that’s going to be the tipping point as to when we see travel look a lot like the pre-pandemic levels.

Q: For people who haven’t traveled through an airport in the last couple of years, how is their experience going to be different at National or Dulles?

A: Certainly at Reagan National with the completion of the new security checkpoints, the addition of the new concourse, I think folks are going to be really happy with their experience. But it’s a different flow of passengers, so they need to give themselves a little bit more time because it’s not exactly what they experienced on a pre-pandemic basis. I love to highlight the fact that we have been monitoring the customer feedback on those changes, and we’re seeing a 96-percent positive reaction to the new checkpoint. So in that way, I would say everything that’s happening at Reagan National, they’re going to be very happy and pleasantly surprised with the positive impact on the journey. The other aspect of it was, we almost doubled the amount of post-security concession opportunities at Reagan National by moving those checkpoints.

But of course, most importantly, they need to wear their masks. The mask mandate is still in place. And also think very strongly about making a parking reservation. With so much leisure travel, we are seeing our parking garages already filling on weekends so far in 2022, and that is likely to continue to be a trend. So if folks want to have the peace of mind and the guarantee that they have a space, they should definitely make a reservation.

Q: On the concession side, how healthy is that? Have you seen people go out of business? Have you seen new concessions come in?

A: The pandemic has been a really scary time for our concessionaires. At one point, probably 85 percent of them had closed their doors and were sitting on the sidelines trying to figure out what to do and how to keep their businesses viable. The airports authority was very thankful for the fact that the federal government stepped in and provided a significant amount of financial support to the airports, because that allowed us to turn around and be very generous with our partners. So we’re happy to say that virtually all of our concessions partners are still viable businesses. Close to 95 percent, if not more, are now open again and operating.

Q: Do you feel like there’s going to come a point by the fall where you’ll be able to look back and say, “We’re really back in the swing of things here”?

A: We are seeing our customer satisfaction numbers are doing well. And in some ways, you know, the lower passenger count helped that, because it’s not as crowded. They’re finding a nice seat, and they’re able to get through their concession lines very quickly. So in that sense, I think our customers are actually having a better experience and really appreciating everything that’s happening in the airports.

I like to be optimistic and think by the end of this year, we will be approaching pre-pandemic levels of travel in certain months. Our forecast for the whole year is really to be back to about 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels, but that starts a little slower in the start of the year and kind of works its way all the way back to the top at the end of the year.



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Reporter’s notebook: Traveling along Ukraine’s southern border


Our team spent five days tracing the southern border of Ukraine. We drove more than 650 long miles through the big open, empty lands and packed small towns of Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, countries that have welcomed more than 1 million people fleeing the war.

On the way, we found countless individual stories of horror, perseverance and kindness — and a group of unique countries giving back any way they can, while living with their own fears that they could be next.

Moldova in some ways felt the most like Ukraine. The only other non-NATO, non-EU country along the border, Moldova and Ukraine are also two of the poorest countries in Europe. Many families live across the border here, and both countries have lost territory to Russian aggression in the past.

There’s a kinship you can feel between the countries, with so many people we meet here calling Ukrainians “their neighbors, their brothers.”

Despite few resources and crushing numbers, Moldovans are doing whatever they can to help. Since the start of the war, more than 380,000 people have fled through the country, more than 15% of the country’s entire population and the most per capita of any other country.

We discovered an old movie theater in the country’s capital of Chisinau that had been left standing empty for four years, now converted into a shelter for up to 200 people. The walls were crumbling, but the place had brand new mattresses on the floor.

The makeshift home meant a place to stay for Irina and her four-year-old son, Arcadyi. Irina tells us she didn’t want to leave Odessa. Her other son turned 18 in October and since he is now old enough to fight, he isn’t allowed to leave Ukraine. But she says he told her she had to go, she had to save his little brother. She had to make sure at least one son survived this war.

She chose to come here to Moldova, because it was the closest that she could stay to her other son. It’s something we hear from many refugees — the desire to stay as close to home as they can. But Moldova is complicated. It’s close to Ukraine, but also to Russia. There are pro-Russian parties in the government and in some groups in town.

While we’re at the shelter, a tractor pulls up to drop off supplies. On it — a large Z, a symbol that’s now become synonymous with Putin’s forces in Russia and is often seen on the tanks there. A tractor with support for Russia, dropping off items that locals have donated to help Ukrainians feeling the Russian attack? Nothing about the scene makes sense, but it’s perhaps the best explanation of life in Moldova.

Close proximity to Russia means some people befriend the country, and many are worried that they could be invaded next.

We found a similar fear in Romania. On my way out of the region, we flew out of a small airport close to the border. A security guard there asked us what it was like in Ukraine. I asked if he had family there. He said, “No, I’m just worried that Putin will come after us next.”

Romania is also a NATO and European Union member. Attacking it would have worldwide implications. But even with these assurances, people here still live in fear.

Romania has the largest border with Ukraine of any EU country. Driving along the winding road as it hugs the dividing line between the two countries, we see mostly vast, empty miles. It makes sense that it’s a well-known route for illegal crossings. That could mean men trying to flee Ukraine. We see at least one man sitting with police on the side of the road. But at official crossings, it is almost exclusively women and children.

In Siret, Romania’s busiest border crossing, we meet Elenea and her young daughter Katya just moments after they cross. The mother tells us they’re from Kiev and lived right by the television tower that was bombed recently. They wanted to stay, but when one of Katya’s classmates died, Elenea knew she had to leave. We’re there as she FaceTimes her husband to let him know they made it across safely. He had to stay behind to fight.

Working in this job, you’re used to being with people during the worst and often hardest moments of their lives. But witnessing this intimate moment broke me. A simple check in between husband and wife, now torn apart by war. Their daughter now asking when she would be able to see her dad again. A heartbreak so big, you could see it.

Sadly, their story isn’t uncommon. We met so many families forced to separate, unsure when, or if, they will ever be together again.

And as war rages on, the numbers of those fleeing only keep increasing. We hear rumblings from NGOs and volunteers, even other refugees, about hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Ukrainians waiting just on the other side of the border. People want to stay in Ukraine, but may have to flee as the fighting moves west. We ask for numbers of those at the border, but no one is able to tell us for certain.

While everyone says they want to remain open to refugees, resources are already stretched thin. If one million people turns into 2 or 3 million, there are concerns about how these countries can keep up.

For now, people are stepping up however they can.

In Slovakia, we meet Father Pavel Novack who leads a congregation at a small church less than a mile from the border. He helped turn a school nearby into a shelter, one of 24 in this small region. Everything inside is donated from the community. He’s already helped more than 100 refugees, and on the day we visit there are 34 people living inside. Entire groups of families and friends share one room, but always with a roof, food and plenty of hope to go around.

Father Pavel says refugees of all faiths are welcome. He shows us his church and tells us that in Orthodox Christianity the sermons are always sung, and as the sun sets outside he begins to pray. After a day of running around chasing stories and driving hundreds of miles, his song stopped our whole crew and forced us to stand still. His voice filled the tiny house of worship with a calmness we hadn’t felt in days. In that brief moment, the war, the heartache, the violence all felt far away.

It’s these moments that will stick with me. Of people sacrificing everything to save their families. Of people giving everything of what little they have to help others. Of people trying to find joy even in the darkest moments of war.

On our final day, we visited a small park in Moldova and stumbled into a group of older people dancing. As Moldovan music blasted on speakers and elderly couples held hands and shouted in delight, you could feel their joy from across the park. With war just a few dozen miles from where they stood, and with refugees fleeing unthinkable violence, this group remembered to dance.

We watched this moment of joy, of life lived well, and were reminded what’s worth fighting for.



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