Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Survey says: CLT among America's 'hottest' airports

A press release issued in honor of Aug. 17 being "National Aviation Day"  says good-old Charlotte-Douglas International is one of the 10 hottest airports in America.

And we're not talking about  tarmac temperature.

The "Hottest Airports in America" list that has Charlotte as No. 7 was generated by Hot or Not, whose  website home page says, "Find the Hottest people near you, and let them find you too!"

Hot or Not is an android (Google Play) app about sex appeal.

"We surveyed people within a certain radius -- we can target, based on location," said a Hot or Not representative. "Someone within the airport area would probably be voting."

When you "play the game" on your phone, the profile picture of another Hot or Not players nearby pops up on your phone.

And you can vote whether you consider that person "hot" or not.

Hot or Not says it has more than 8 million users in the United State.

The data used in the airport survey, pulled in July, goes back  as far as June 17, when its most recent updated app was launched in the United States.

Here's their list of "Hottest Airports in America":

1.       Denver
2.       Fort Worth, Texas.
3.       Orlando, Fla.
4.       Newark, N.J.
5.       Los Angeles
6.       Las Vegas
7.       Charlotte
8.       Seattle
9.       San Francisco
10.   Minneapolis

If the findings are accurate, what does this say about Charlotte?

Not much, actually. That's because, as a rule of thumb, 80 percent of passengers at CLT are between flights; only 20 percent board or depart here.

If anything, it may speak to the sex appeal of our fly-through guests who are waiting for the next jet to elsewhere.

(P.S. The  CLT concourse photo shown above is by Observer photographer Todd Sumlin.) 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Will flying cost less this Labor Day weekend?

Flying away for Labor Day weekend?

The online travel agency  CheapOair said last week that its data is pointing to a lower demand -- and possibly some lower prices -- for domestic destinations for Labor Day vacationers.

CheapOair says these are the most  popular U.S domestic fly-tos (Denver tops the list), what the average round-trip fare is for Labor Day weekend, and how the airfare price has changed from the same weekend in 2013 (the percentage of change is in parenthesis):

Denver: $268 (up 40 percent)
Orlando, Fla.: $269 (down 15 percent)
Tampa, Fla.: $276 (down 6 percent)
Washington, D.C.: $289 (down 16 percent)
Boston: $293 (down 32 percent)
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: $310 (down 26 percent)
Miami: $336 (up 10 percent)
Los Angeles: $339 (down 19 percent)
San Francisco: $354 (down 19 percent)
Seattle: $369 (down 1 percent)

The devil, of course, is in the details: The farther you are from your destination, the more expensive it will be. And what kind of routing is involved? What about departure/arrival days and times go with it?

Consider a quick trip to San Francisco (the Golden Gate Bridge is shown above).

Checking CheapOair at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 11, there were two round-trip fares between Charlotte (CLT) and San Francisco (SFO) at $436.70, including taxes -- one-stop flights via JetBlue. Both leave Charlotte at a reasonable time: 12:12 p.m. or 4:20 p.m. on Aug. 29; on the way back on Sept. 2, they leave San Francisco at 10 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.

The catch? Your one stop is in Boston, where there's a two-hour layover in either direction... making for an eight-hour flight either way.

That said, Labor Day is considered a "drive" holiday, and if airline demand is indeed down this year -- and you don't mind taking a longer, round-about, one-stop journey -- you may find deals out there from discounters or  airlines.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Most-popular cruise lines and ships? Depends on what you want

CruiseCompete (, an online cruise-booking site, has released a review-based list of the  20 Most Popular Family Cruise Ships for January to June 2014

1.Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas
2.Celebrity Eclipse
3. Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas
4. Holland America Eurodam
5.Princess Cruises Island Princess
6. Celebrity Solstice
7. Holland America Ryndam
8. Norwegian Epic
9. Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
10. Princess Cruises Ruby Princess
11. Holland America Rotterdam
12. Disney Fantasy
13. Princess Cruises Crown Princess
14. Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas
15. Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
16. Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
17. Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas
18. Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess
19. Celebrity Summit
20. Carnival Conquest

This comes just a day after CruiseCompete released a trends report whose lists included the most popular cruise lines and most popular cruise ships, based on "actual consumer quote requests and transactions taking place via"

Among the most popular cruise lines and ships listed below, only two -- Carnival Cruise  Lines and RC's Caribbean Princess (shown above) -- were included in the "family cruise ships" list above... where they were ranked 20th and 18th, respectively:

 Most popular cruise lines
(Based on the total number of quote requests for each cruise line in the given month)
1. Premium/Contemporary: Carnival Cruise Lines
2. Luxury: Oceania Cruises
3. River: Viking River Cruises

Most popular cruise ships
(Based on the total number of quote requests for each ship)
1. Premium/Contemporary: Caribbean Princess
2. Luxury: Queen Mary 2
3. River: American Star

Are there list contradictions? Maybe not. While family cruising may be growing in popularity, it's only one segment of a considerably larger industry. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Biltmore plans fall wine events

Too early to think about autumn?

 For leaf-peeping, certainly. People start thinking about drives in the N.C. mountains around Labor Day and are ready to head to the hills in mid-September. Truth be told, leaf coloration most years isn't even peak in Quebec and northern New England until the end of that month.

But planning has its advantages -- especially when it comes to selecting any post-Labor Day weekend to head out of town. Our lives in the metro area are simply that busy.

Up in Asheville, Biltmore is also busy in the months ahead, and their schedule of special events is already out. 

September is N.C. Wine Month at the estate, with a full lineup of wine tastings, Live After 5 concerts (they continue through Oct. 25) and Friday wine-paired dinners at the Market Gardener’s Cottage or the winery. There are winery tours and Grand Tasting events. Ongoing wine-related activities include a daily "Red Wine & Chocolate" seminar.

Wine events are held at Antler Hill Village & Winery, Biltmore House and Gardens and other estate locations.  Details:

Special over-weekend deals at the Inn on Biltmore Estate include a Labor Day package (Aug. 30-Sept. 1), a Fall Celebration package timed for Halloween events (Oct. 24-26) and the Our State Package (Oct. 31-Nov. 2), which highlights Biltmore's agricultural history.

Another reason for planning a Biltmore trip in advance? Starting Sept. 2, you can save $12 on daytime admission when your ticket is purchased online seven or more days in advance. Book six days ahead of your visit and you can save $7.

For details on programs and admission: