If You Fly United, There’s Now a New Way to Board

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The “angst” travelers feel at overcrowded gates may soon be eased at United Airlines terminals, an exec for the airline says. That’s because United just began a new initiative designed to relieve that particular “passenger pain point,“ as CNBC puts it, by changing up its departure protocol: The number of boarding lines has been cut from five to two, and overeager customers are now asked to stay out of the boarding area until their boarding group (one of six in total, including pre-boarders) is announced. “It’s too congested,“ a UA rep says of the current procedure, which often results in arriving fliers having to push their way through throngs of departing ones. Forbes notes customers can also opt in to receive push notifications via the mobile app, meaning they can hang out in nearby restaurants or shops until they receive an alert on their cellphones that it’s time to board.

Over the past year, United test-drove a variety of boarding options on about 12,000 flights, ending up with this system, which is similar to the way American, Delta, and Southwest queue up. United has been using the procedure at LAX since winter and will now implement it at all locations, per USA Today. It’s also spreading passengers around more equitably within its six boarding groups, which includes pre-boarders (e.g., families with young kids, service members), first-class passengers and frequent fliers in groups 1 and 2, and then everyone else in groups 3, 4, and 5. “The boarding process was one of the top areas customers told us they wanted improved,“ another UA rep says in a statement, noting customer and employee feedback guided the airline on the enhancements.

Head-Smacking Moment for Airline, Its Brand-New Plane

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Proofreaders are important. That’s the message Cathay Pacific is likely contemplating today after incredulous travelers spotted one of its new planes on the tarmac at Hong Kong International Airport, the airline’s name misspelled in large letters on the side of the aircraft (see a picture HERE). Missing from the word “Pacific,“ per the BBC: the letter “f,“ which prompted “no one gives an f” jokes online.

There’s some head-scratching going on over the embarrassingly prominent mistake, with an engineer for one of the airline’s sister companies telling the South China Morning Post: “The spacing is too on-point for a mishap. We have stencils. Should be a blank gap in between letters if it was a real mistake, I think.“ The airline, which may have to pony up a few thousand dollars to fix the error, tried to have a sense of humor about it all, posting pictures of the plane on Twitter and noting, “Oops this special livery won’t last long! She’s going back to the shop!“

Those Airport Security Trays Harbor a Lot of Cold Germs

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You probably wash your hands after using the airport bathroom—but what about after going through the security line? You might want to start, because a new study from the UK’s University of Nottingham and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare found that those trays you put your belongings in as you go through security had more cold germs on them than airport toilets, the New York Times reports. Researchers analyzed a variety of surfaces at Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa airport during peak flu season in 2015-16 and found evidence of respiratory viruses (including the common cold, influenza, and others) on 10% of them, CNN reports. But researchers highlight the security trays as the biggest risk, with 50% of them having respiratory virus germs on them.

Respiratory virus germs were also found on surfaces in the children’s play area, payment terminals, stair handrails, and a desk and divider glass at the passport check area. No respiratory virus germs were found on toilets—a finding referred to as “interesting” in a press release. “People can help to minimize contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a hankerchief, tissue or sleeve at all times but especially in public places,“ says a researcher. “These simple precautions can help prevent pandemics and are most important in crowded areas like airports that have a high volume of people travelling to and from many different parts of the world.“ Researchers also suggest airports install hand sanitization stations near areas of “intense, repeat touching of surfaces.“

Children Now Banned From Major Cruise Line

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Viking Cruises says it has listened to its customers and given them what they asked for: no children. The Switzerland-based company, which restricted its ocean voyages to people over 18 when it launched the service in 2015, says it will no longer accept bookings for children on its river cruises, which had previously allowed those 12 and over. This gives the company one of the strictest age policies in the industry, though since it already had very few children on its cruises, which are generally marketed to people over 50, it is unlikely to cost it much business, Orlando Weekly reports.

“Viking has always offered experiences that are designed for travelers who are 50 and older, with interests in history, art, culture and exploration. It’s what we’re known for,“ a company spokesperson said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “Previously, we had allowed a degree of flexibility in the minimum age for travel, but increasingly our guests have told us how much they appreciate an environment where they can travel without children.“

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