TIME Food & Drink

A Man Got Served the Worst Sandwich Ever at Edinburgh Airport

"As soon as I opened it I burst out laughing"

What may well be one of the most miserly sandwiches ever served has gained viral fame around the world after a Reddit user posted a photo of the paltry offering he says he bought from the chain EAT at Edinburgh Airport for the equivalent of $5.

“This is what a £3.20 bacon and egg roll from Edinburgh Airport looks like,” user spambox wrote on June 30, of a miserable offering that contained hardly any filling. There doesn’t even seem to be any butter on the bread.

“Sadly on this occasion we fell below the mark and offer our apologies to this customer,” a spokesman for Edinburgh Airport told the Scotsman newspaper. “Clearly this is not the service we should be providing and we will be addressing this complaint with EAT.”

Still, spambox took a positive view of the experience, writing, “As soon as I opened it I burst out laughing as did my girlfriend because, well, look at it. It’s so bad it’s funny.”

TIME Travel

How to Earn Airline Miles Without Flying

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From credit cards to online shopping

There are plenty of ways to rack up frequent flyer miles, no flying required. Not all of us are in the high-flying position to jet off regularly on mileage runs — not yet at least.

I’m so, so close to reaching the threshold for a free ticket with American that I’m determined to get there without having to buy another one. Turns out if I play it right I can earn miles for plenty of things I’m already doing or would be doing regardless of whether miles were involved.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are the typical motherload for earning miles — buckets of them. But it’s not any or every credit card.

Ones billed as travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred will typically do the trick, as long as you watch the fine print about which credit cards transfer to which programs or have great redemptions. In case there’s any doubt, there’s the plastic airlines themselves offer, which can come with huge signup bonuses ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 miles that’s offered by cards like the British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card on occasion. (And if they don’t, wait to apply until they do! For point of reference, 25,000 miles is often good enough for one domestic round-trip ticket or more.)

Spending with the card also earns additional miles or points. It’s a whole wide world of gaming the system out there.

Some debit cards net miles with use, too. And while we’re talking money, Fidelity Investments often gives out wads of miles as promotional sign-up bonuses for opening a new brokerage account.

Hotel Stays

Even if they don’t tout their alliances, most major hotel chains are hooked up with some airline. I went to a wedding and stayed at an InterContinental Hotel Group property, so I could earn miles on American Airlines for my stay. I’ll take those, thank you very much. In fact, most major airlines have relationships with pretty much almost all of the hotel chains. Just make sure to drop your frequent flyer number off at the door.

Other booking sites like PointsHound.com and Rocketmiles.com up the ante and offer miles for hotel bookings made through their sites.

Car Rentals

Get somewhere with a car rental and earn miles. Like with hotel groups, most major car rental companies are affiliated with frequent flyer programs. It’s a quick and easy way for most travelers to keep their frequent flyer miles active, too.

The only thing to look out for when crediting those points to a major airline is that there may be a (small) surcharge but like everything else, there’s a way to avoid those too.

Dining Out

Maybe it has something to do with wanting to make up for the poor quality of airplane food but many airlines give miles for eating out at specific restaurants through their dining rewards programs. Searching “[Airline] dining rewards program” will bring them right up. Basically, any money I spend at restaurants in their network also will earn me miles. All it takes is a little premeditated action.

There aren’t even that many hoops to jump through, just sign up for the program with an existing frequent flyer number and associate a credit card with the account, which is how miles are issued. And then, you know, actually use that card to pay once there. (They have to get you somewhere, right?)

I plugged in a New Jersey ZIP code for a couple airlines’ programs for a quick look. Honestly, I had expected a smattering of blah chains to pop up but instead I got a nice spread of participating spots (mostly independently-owned) ranging from fine dining to pizzerias.

Shopping Online

A slew of airlines have arrangements with big name retailers so travelers can earn miles for purchases online. United Airlines’ MileagePlus Shopping works with Apple (a mile per dollar) and Macy’s (four miles for every dollar currently), for example. Getting those miles requires signing in and going to the airline’s shopping portal first but it’s really just an extra stop online for nifty travel bucks. By going through the website, the cookie gets logged onto the browser and you’ll eventually land on the retailer’s regular page. I am still in the market for a new laptop…

Rewards search engine Evreward.com makes it all that much easier. Searching the name of a store brings up every loyalty reward program that place is associated with including frequent flyer miles (and also hotel rewards). Banana Republic, for example, works with American, Delta, Hawaiian, Hilton, Southwest and United. Amazon lovers are out of luck.

Many frequent flyer programs also are linked up with online flower companies FTD.com and/or 1-800-Flowers.

Survey Sites

This is more of a piecemeal approach to earning miles but instead of falling down the rabbit hole of Facebook or Candy Crush or whatever it is, I can spend my idle time online completing surveys and questionnaires to earn miles. That can happen through sites like e-Rewards, which is global, e-Miles, Opinion Miles Club for United, e-Miles, and My Points.

On that note, follow airlines on social media and watch for their promotions and updates. From time to time they bait us with miles in exchange for simple likes or clicks. #clickformiles

Everywhere Else

DirecTV has been known to throw in some 30,000 miles as a sign-up bonus; even Netflix ran a similar promotion to spur new sign-ups. (No harm no foul in canceling an existing subscription and signing up again, either.) And JetBlue and Zipcar have a thing. The miles are out there!

This article originally appeared on Map Happy.

More from Map Happy:

MONEY Travel

The 10 Cheapest Flights in the US

JetBlue airplane
Larry MacDougal—AP

These roundtrip flights are all priced at $78 or less.

There’s nothing worse for the would-be traveler than when the wanderlust takes hold and the bank balance doesn’t agree. Don’t worry, because all is not lost: At least not with Hopper at hand to set you straight with a selection of the 10 cheapest flights currently on offer in the United States. (These prices are averages, based on billions of individual flight searches.)

Granted, they may not take you to the most distant continents, but they do offer wonders of a different kind, from Chicago’s blues bars to Philly’s food scene to the sights of the National Mall, all for $78 (that’s round-trip!) or less.

10. Washington D.C. to West Palm Beach from $78

If you fancy escaping the capital for a spot of sun and sand but need to do it on a budget, then these super-quick two-and-a-half-hour flights from Washington Dulles International to West Palm Beach are perhaps the perfect choice. Flyers can expect to pay in the region of just $78 for round-­trip tickets when going on Frontier Airlines. Prices stay pretty steady throughout the year, meaning there’s a chance of bagging a bargain hotel deal during the Sunshine State’s shoulder season. Oh, and this one costs just the same going in the other direction, too.

9. Kansas City to Chicago from $78

Also clocking up an attractive average price tag of just $78 round trip are seats on routes between Kansas City International and Chicago, which are cheapest when flying on Spirit Airlines and hit yearly lows in April, August and September (summer travelers, take note). Tickets cost just the same when flying in the other direction, which is great news for Windy City locals eager to escape the metropolis and try Kansas City barbecue at any number of world-famous joints.

8. Las Vegas to Denver from $78

The Mile High City is on offer for Las Vegas locals. Spirit and Frontier both offer sinfully cheap flights that you can nab for as little as $78 round-trip. In less than two hours, you’ll be on the ground (but high above sea level) in Denver. In summer, the Rocky Mountain ski slopes are perfect for hiking and biking, while the city itself has a popping bar scene, plenty of major sports teams, and the family-friendly Denver Museum of Nature & Science to enjoy.

7. Miami to Washington D.C. from $78

For a measly $78, Miami locals can escape the heat and head to … well, the swampy national capital of Washington D.C. So the weather isn’t always so pleasant in summer, but the eclectic food scene, patriotic monuments, and (mostly free) museums within the Smithsonian Complex more than make up for the humidity. The cheapest non-stop flights come courtesy of Frontier and land at Dulles (which is at least $60 cheaper to fly into than Reagan National).

6. Atlanta to New Orleans from $78

It’s an unbelievably short hop from Atlanta’s Hartfield-Jackson to New Orleans on one of these $78 flights. At 90 minutes a pop, Frontier can fly you into the heart of the country’s jazz scene (and one of the country’s most fascinating, historical cities). Within mere hours of leaving your house, you could be bobbing your head in a dimly lit jazz club, dancing your way around the bustling French Quarter, or licking the powdered sugar from your beignet-holding hands.

5. Charlotte to Philadelphia from $76

The next cheapest domestic flight comes courtesy of budget carrier Frontier, who’ve certainly lived up to their ultra-­low­-cost model with these round-­trip tickets on routes linking North Carolina’s largest city of Charlotte with bustling Philadelphia. That should leave plenty of cash for trying the city’s legendary cheesesteaks and hoagies (that’s sandwiches for most of you), not to mention the legendary Philadelphia Museum of Art.

4. Indianapolis to Atlanta from $68

Insiders have been calling Atlanta a tourist destination on the rise for some time now, and with these sub-$70 flights from Frontier, you can be among the masses! A fun nightlife scene nicely complements this historical city. See the moving Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Site, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum all in one fell swoop. For family fun, don’t miss the sprawling Georgia Aquarium or the World of Coca-Cola (the soft-drink giant is based here).

3. Las Vegas to San Francisco from $66

What could possibly be a better end to a week spent gambling, partying and gawping at Vegas’ glitzy sights than a soothing jaunt along the bracing cliffs of the Point Reyes National Seashore or a detox at the juice bars of San Francisco’s downtown area? Well, the prospect is well and truly on the cards for travelers this year, with round-trip flights on either JetBlue Airways or Virgin America between McCarran and San Francisco coming in with an average price tag of just $66.

2. Washington D.C. to Hartford from $66

It’s great news for any Washingtonians looking to escape the familiar sights of the National Mall for a spell this year, because flights from the city’s Reagan National Airport to the historic town of Hartford, Connecticut, are currently coming in as the joint cheapest in all of the United States. The non-stop connection is run by budget carrier JetBlue Airways and has an average ticket price of just $66 round trip. Oh, and the reverse journey costs just the same, meaning Connecticut locals can now enjoy the capital without breaking the bank.

1. Fort Lauderdale to Jacksonville from $66

OK, so it may only be a short hop of just over an hour up the coast of the Sunshine State from Fort Lauderdale to Jacksonville, but boy, does it beat a lengthy drive up I-95 — especially with the Florida sun beating down and the promise of getaways like Little Talbot and Black Hammock Island beckoning on the other side. The connection is run by low-­cost carrier JetBlue Airways, enjoys steady lows of around $66 round-trip throughout the year, and costs the same going in either direction.

This article originally appeared on Hopper.com. Hopper is a travel app that tracks and predicts airfare prices.

More from Hopper:

TIME Aviation

Delta Air Lines Experiments With Loading Carry-ons Before Passengers

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 lands in Las Vegas on March 3, 2015.
Larry MacDougal—AP A Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 lands in Las Vegas on March 3, 2015.

"Early Valet" trial runs from June 1 to Aug. 31 on select departures in the U.S.

Airlines seem to be forever tinkering with the boarding process in an effort to get passengers onto planes quickly.

Now Delta Air Lines is trying something new: pre-loading carry-on bags before passengers.

In a complimentary program the airline is calling “Early Valet,” agents will ask customers seated in the gate area if they’d like to participate, Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told NBC.

“Their bag will be specially tagged, similar to what you’d see at a hotel for room delivery,” said Durrant, “and then taken down onto the aircraft before boarding and placed above a customer’s seat based on their seat…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Aviation

These Are the 10 Worst Airports for Summer Travel

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Summer is high season for airline delays

You probably already know the worst airports for delays. They’ve been the same for years: Newark, LaGuardia, JFK and San Francisco. When the government finally got around to reporting its annual delay statistics for 2014 a few days ago, we saw those lists with the historical laggards. We yawned.

But look closer if you want to see the real problem airports. MileCards.com collected Department of Transportation on-time data exclusively for Fortune, crunching 10 years of data to generate a list of airports where summer delays are harsher than winter delays.

The government considers a flight delayed when it arrives 15 or more minutes later than the schedule. You can find all of the government’s on-time data on the Bureau of Transportation Statistics site.

Why are these the real problem airports? Because relatively problem-free winters leave air travelers with the false impression they can expect an on-time arrival all the time. But the exact opposite is true; summers are markedly worse.

That kind of Jekyll-and-Hide behavior can wreak havoc with summer travel plans.

Top 10 airports where summer delays are worse than winter delays


“JFK, like all of the New York area airports, is one of the most delay-prone all year round,” Brian Karimzad, director of MileCards.com, notes. “But it also gets hit harder during the summer by more frequent flights to connect to and reach European destinations during the heavy vacation season. Add to that afternoon thunderstorms and it’s a recipe for missed connections.”Put differently, you might be lulled into a false sense of confidence in JFK’s 71% on time rating during the winter. But come summer – bam! – it drops by almost 4%. And you have a roughly a 1 in 3 chance of experiencing a delay.

Also, runway repairs that weren’t possible during the colder winter months tend to happen during summer. And that, of course, creates even more delays.

How do good airports turn bad?

  • Every one of the airports with the biggest drop in on time performance during the summer is along the East Coast.
  • Four of the 10 (New York, Atlanta, Miami, and Raleigh) are among the 15 wettest cities in the U.S., with summer thunderstorms that throw a wrench in the spokes of busy summer flight schedules.
  • Half are connecting hubs like JFK, are busy hubs where seasonal air traffic can lead to lengthy delays.

So what’s the takeaway? It’s kind of hard to avoid the entire East Coast, especially if you live there, but if you’re considering a connection, avoid connecting through New York or Atlanta in favor of other hub airports.

“Consider alternate hubs like Minneapolis, Detroit, Houston, and Dallas, all of which have onward service to Europe and better on time records during the summer,” says Karimzad.

If you have to connect along the East Coast, try Charlotte, which has a 76.4% on time, and is the least likely to delay. If that’s not an option, go with Washington-Dulles (73.1%).

Historically, summer is high season for airline delays. This list of problem airports will help you avoid the worst of them.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

MONEY Travel

9 Mistakes You’re Making When Booking a Flight

man on cell phone at airport booking flights
Getty Images

Insider tips on getting the lowest airfare.

Wondering why you never manage to bag a flight for quite as cheap as the next guy? Pining for a summer getaway but really need to keep the cost down? Then this list of 9 mistakes that the average buyer makes when booking flights is sure to help.

1. You’re Only Checking One Airline

In the days of flight-aggregating websites and airfare-prediction apps, travelers no longer need limit themselves to the prices of just one carrier. So if you’ve always flown Airline X because you think they have the cheapest flights, check again! A new route may have opened up or an airline may have dropped its prices due to competition. Always comparison-shop before you hit that purchase button.

2. You’re an Impulse Buyer

It’s a very bad idea to rush into paying for your flight without exhausting all your options first. That means holding off the “buy” button until you’ve made sure there are no more competitive offers out there — from other airlines, to alternate airports, or to a different destination entirely. Oh, and if you do happen to find yourself regretting that impulsive buy moments after booking, then remember: Most major carriers in the United States allow you to cancel your booking within 24 hours of purchase — for free.

3. You’re Booking on the Wrong Day

Although it may seem a little odd and the savings may seem negligible, choosing the right day to book your flights can actually help reduce the cost of tickets. Hopper’s research has shown that buying on Thursdays (for domestic flights) and weekends (for international flights) offer the largest savings, on average. The data also revealed that it’s much more likely that passengers will be able to bag a bargain by buying on Thursdays for both domestic and international connections, because that’s when the vast majority of routes offer savings. (And that old adage about booking being cheapest on Tuesday? Not always true.)

4. You’re Not Checking Alternate Airports

When it comes to touching down in some of the world’s larger destinations, it’s likely that there will be more than one airport on offer. For example, New York boasts Newark, JFK and LaGuardia; London has Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow, and Washington DC is served by Ronald Reagan National Airport, Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International. So before booking, check all the available arrival points and include the cost of transfers into town in your final calculation.

5. You’re Not Being Flexible with Destinations

Perhaps you’re considering a trip to the bubbling baths and industrial beer halls of Budapest, Hungary, but can’t seem to find any bargain air connections into town. Well, a wise traveler would expand their range of choices and look at flights to Vienna, Munich, and Prague, too, all of which are just one manageable and affordable overland journey away from Budapest (especially when budget European airlines offer cheap connections!). It’s always worth checking out prices to alternative arrival points nearby — you never know, you may just discover some other place you love.

6. You’re Not Being Flexible with Dates

Hopper’s statistics have shown that there are some pretty hefty savings to be had on airfares by simply changing up the days of departure and return to suit the trends for particular routes. In general, Wednesdays are the best for travelers to depart, offering savings around $60 on international flights, while Sundays are the most expensive. For returns, Wednesdays are once again the best for international fliers, while Tuesdays come in as the cheapest overall for those on domestic flights. And these are just average savings — your own haul could be much higher.

7. You’re Not Including Taxes and Fees

It’s the same old story: shelling out for a “bargain” airfare because you forgot to add up all those additional fees, airport taxes, and the like. In recent years, the aviation industry has certainly become more transparent when it comes to these extra charges, but there’s still a whole load of potential costs for the would-be flier to consider, from checked- and carry-on baggage fees to fluctuating departure taxes.

8. You’re Booking Too Late

Generally speaking, the modern commercial airline industry does not reward spontaneity. In fact, with rapid and exponential growth in most airfares in the days leading up to take-off, it’s easy to see that — in most cases at at least — the early bird really does catch the worm. So, be prepared and plan your trips with ample time (at least 25 days in advance, according to Hopper research), and you should find your ticket prices are taking a turn for the more affordable.

9. You’re Booking Too Early

While many travelers think the earlier the better when it comes to bagging bargains in the air, the statistics actually speak to the contrary. Often, airlines will lower seat prices at a specific point before departure, all in the hope that the maximum amount of passengers will book for the maximum amount of money. The key is to buy just as carriers start to realign seat prices in accordance with demand (a process known as yield management). It’s a tricky thing but booking at the right moment can offer up potential savings to the tune of hundreds of dollars on some routes. Generally, waiting until 150 days out will save you the most money.

This article originally appeared on Hopper.com. Hopper is a travel app that tracks and predicts airfare prices.

More From Hopper:

TIME Research

The Scientific Reason Why Airplane Food Tastes Bad

It has to do with the dry cabin air

Why does airline food taste so lousy? A new study from Cornell University has come up with an answer, and it ain’t bad cookin’.

Turns out, the noisy environment inside a claustrophobic airplane cabin may actually change the way food tastes.

In the study, 48 people were handed a variety of solutions that were spiked with the five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (basically, a Japanese word for the savory flavor found in foods like bacon, tomatoes, cheese, and soy sauce). First, the testers sipped in silence, then again, while wearing headsets that played about 85 decibels of noise, designed to mimic the hum of jet engines onboard a plane.

What the researchers found: While there wasn’t that much of a change in how the salty, sour, and bitter stuff tasted, the noisy surroundings dulled the sweet taste, while intensifying the savory one—which might explain why a meal eaten on a plane will usually seem a little, well, off.

“Our study confirmed that in an environment of loud noise, our sense of taste is compromised. Interestingly, this was specific to sweet and umami tastes, with sweet taste inhibited and umami taste significantly enhanced,” said Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science. “The multisensory properties of the environment where we consume our food can alter our perception of the foods we eat.”

This isn’t the first time airlines have tried to figure out the reason behind funky in-flight food. The Fraunhofer Institute, a research institute based in Germany, did a study on why a dish that would taste just fine on the ground would taste, “so dull in the air,” as Grant Mickles, the executive chef for culinary development of Lufthansa’s LSG Ski Chefs, put it to Conde Nast Traveler.

German researchers tried taste tests at both sea level and in a pressurized condition. The tests revealed that the cabin atmosphere—pressurized at 8,000 feet—combined with cool, dry cabin air numbed the taste buds (kind of like when you’ve got a bad cold). In fact, the perception of saltiness and sweetness dropped by around 30% at high altitude. Multiplying the misery: The stagnant cabin dries out the mucus membranes in the nose, thus dulling the olfactory sensors that affect taste. All of which adds up to a less-than-fine dining experience.

The good news: This research may help airlines find a way to make in-the-air meals more palatable. (That is, for flights and airlines that still offer any food at all!)

The key, according to Mickles, may be using ingredients or foods that contain a lot of umami to enhance the other flavors. He may be on to something: The folks at the Lufthansa have found that passengers guzzle as much tomato juice as beer (to the tune of about 425,000 gallons a year). Turns out, cabin pressure brings out the savory taste of the red stuff.

Good to know. Now pass the earplugs—and bring on the Bloody Marys.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

TIME Transportation

Hired for Their Looks, Promoted For Their Heroism: The First Flight Attendants

Church Schroeder
AP Photo Ellen Church and Virginia Schroeder, another flight attendant, pose in front of a modern 12-ton United Mainliner on May 14, 1940.

May 15, 1930: Ellen Church, America’s first stewardess, works her first flight

Ellen Church could fly, but the airlines weren’t interested in hiring women pilots in 1930. In fact, they weren’t convinced that women could do any job aboard a plane, as the New York Times later noted.

So Church, who was a registered nurse as well as a licensed pilot, appealed to the chauvinism of airline executives to help women find work in the skies, as she herself hoped to do. She recommended that nurses be hired to perform some of the tasks then handled by co-pilots, like hauling luggage and handing out lunches, as well as to help put the public at ease about the dangers of flying on the clunky, crash-prone early passenger planes.

Who better than nurses to put fearful passengers at ease, and who better than women to show men it was safe to fly? Or as Church put it, per the Times, “Don’t you think that it would be good psychology to have women up in the air? How is a man going to say he is afraid to fly when a woman is working on the plane?”

Officials with Boeing Air Transport, the predecessor of United Airlines, went for her pitch, and agreed to hire eight women, conditionally, for a three-month experiment. On this day, May 15, in 1930, Church and seven others began their first day of work as the country’s first flight attendants. Four flew from San Francisco to Cheyenne, Wyo., and the other four flew from Cheyenne to Chicago.

After the three months had ended, the original eight stayed on — and other airlines began recruiting their own stewardesses. According to TIME’s 1938 analysis, the jobs were highly competitive, and the hiring process was steeped in sexism. “To get their $100-to-$120-a-month jobs, applicants for the 300 stewardess posts [since 1930] had to be pretty, petite, single, graduate nurses, 21 to 26 years old, 100 to 120 lbs,” TIME notes. “Many of them found husbands right after they found jobs; few married pilots.”

The work itself was much more than pouring drinks and looking pretty, however. Stewardesses cleaned the cabin, helped fuel the planes and bolted down the seats before takeoff. And while they normally drew on their medical training only minimally, in assisting airsick and panicked passengers, they occasionally played the part of first responders in an emergency — as when 22-year-old TWA stewardess Nellie Granger ministered to critically injured passengers and then stumbled through snowy mountains in search of help after her flight crashed in Pennsylvania in 1936. (TWA rewarded her heroism with a paid cruise in the West Indies, along with a promotion.)

Church’s proposal was a success by most measures. Hiring female attendants paid off so handsomely in the air, in fact, that railroad executives followed suit, hoping to bring some of their glamor down to earth. But TIME’s 1937 dispatch about a recruitment drive for hostesses on the New Haven rail line reveals that while Church’s pioneering efforts might have opened new doors for female workers, only those with pageant-winning looks and charm were allowed to walk through — in the air or on land. As the story explains:

Candidates are required to be unmarried, 5 ft. 7 in. to 5 ft. 10 in. tall, aged 24 to 35, 115 to 135 lb. in weight. College graduates are strongly preferred. They must pass a “personality test”—i.e., be reasonably personable as well as amiable. Because Superintendent H. W. Quinlan of the New Haven’s dining cars believes that grace of carriage and movement is important, he insists on modeling experience as well as hostess experience.

Read the full story, here in the TIME archives: Women on Wheels

TIME animals

How Bats Could Influence the Future of Air Travel

Researchers are learning from the way bats fly

A new study reveals how bats are able to fly with such precision in the dark, a finding that could eventually lead to innovations in airplane technology, researchers said.

The study, which examined big brown bats in North America and was published April 30 in Cell Reports, demonstrates for the first time that bats fly using highly sensitive touch sensors on their wings that respond to changes in airflow. These receptors then send signals to neurons in the bats’ brains, allowing the animal to make quick adjustments in flight.

The researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the University of Maryland say their findings could help people design aircraft that can sense and adjust to air turbulence and better avoid obstacles.

“This kind of information could be very important in the design of aircraft, particularly aircraft that must maneuver through complex environments,” said Cynthia Moss, one of the senior authors of the study and a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins. “Biology has done an exquisite job creating these animals that can maneuver so agilely, and so we might be able to learn some basic principles from the bat that could be transferred into technology.”


These Are the Best Flight Search Tools

Try searching on different days of the week

Online flight search services are big business, as more of us turn to computers and smartphones for travel planning. Last year, 40 percent of Americans booked flights, hotels, cruises and other holidays on their phones and tablets, a statistic based on 300 million bookings worth $150 billion, while the Economist reckons that online bookings account for 43% of total travel sales.

The options are growing. Google recently overhauled its flight aggregator service, Google Flights, with the addition of money-saving features posing serious competition to established heavyweights such as Kayak and Skyscanner. Then there are newer, design-led services like Momondo or Hipmunk, which offer filters by price as well as convenience.

Are you really getting the best deals?

We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to services that search other services for the best deals — but despite the thousands of results these services manage to turn up, you may not necessarily be getting the cheapest deal or even the fare advertised.

Buyer beware: Most fares found by these flight search engines don’t include the baggage fees charged by some low-cost airlines as well as United and Delta. In some cases, they don’t include fuel taxes and other surcharges.

Nor does every airline shows up in these metasearches, says Matt van der Rohe, an online travel expert with travel concierge service Flightfox. For example, Southwest Airlines does not put its fares on metasearch sites, and UK-based budget airline Ryanair saves its cheapest fares for its own site.

We picked six of the top-rated flight aggregator services and compared prices for 10 flights over a week in June, from domestic flights including New York to Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas and Austin, and international flights from New York to Toronto, Sydney, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong.

Which flight search service is best for you?


Available for iOS, Android, Windows and Kindle devices.

The granddaddy of flight aggregator search sites, Kayak, was recently redesigned to streamline its search interface. Kayak now offers tons of ways to filter your search, including an intuitive slider system for adjusting approximate takeoff times and options to show or hide redeye flights, view flights with Wi-Fi only and see “hacker fares,” where different legs of a journey are purchased separately. Also handy is the ability to adjust the maximum layover you’re willing to bear.

A new price trend graph offers advice on whether flight prices are likely to go up or down, giving you as much peace of mind as one might be able to expect, while the fee calculator can add credit card and check-in luggage fees to the posted fares. If you search for flight and hotel packages, Kayak can also tell you how much you’ll save by booking the two together over booking them separately.

Bottom line: Kayak almost always found cheaper fares than any the flight services in this list (or at least within a few dollars of the cheapest). On the NYC-Cancun flight, it scored the cheapest flight by far at $398 (compared to $466 and up on other sites), thanks to being the only site that accessed fares from Aeromexico. Its fee calculator for credit card and luggage fees also means you’re most likely to click through to a posted fare.


Available for Android, iOS, Windows, Kindle and, BlackBerry devices.

Skyscanner is the other search giant offers similar results to Kayak in an equally straightforward interface. It provides a couple of easy tools for filtering out particular features like takeoff times and number of stops. Clicking on a particular flight shows exactly how long the layover is. However, there is little additional information given about flights; for example, there’s no obvious indicator for overly long flights (as most of the other services in this list offer), nor does Skyscanner show in-flight amenities like Wi-Fi.

Bottom line: Skyscanner tended to turn up domestic fares that were roughly the same as Kayak’s, give or take $5 to $10, for flights that cost $300 to $500. It matched the other services for rates to Paris and Sydney but missed finding the cheapest flights to Hong Kong and Rio (despite finding the same airlines).


Available for Android and iOS devices.

SeatGuru is an airplane seat plan and flight search site, owned by TripAdvisor, offers many intuitive filters for your travel hunt in a simple, quick-to-use interface. Results are displayed in a clean, comprehensive style that allows you to sort based on price and direct flights, filter to “avoid early flights” and weed out pre-8 a.m. departures, and apply a “best value” selector calculated by flight time, cost and number of stops.

Each result displays various flight amenities, such as Wi-Fi, the option to purchase additional legroom and whether the seat pitch is average or good. SeatGuru uses the Expedia database for hotel packages, so you’ll see the odd, ad-like hotel suggestion pop up in the middle of your search results to show you how much you’d save by booking a stay along with your flight.

Bottom line: SeatGuru came up with comparable fares for international routes. For domestic flights, it sometimes turned up the cheapest fares found by the other services (give or take $5), but it was sometimes (Cancun, Austin) pricier by about 10 percent. Its filters for search results make choosing a flight easier than those on Kayak and Skyscanner.


Available for Android and iOS devices.

The home page of Hipmunk consists of a search box asking where you want to go and when. The real design beauty of Hipmunk is its “agony” rating of the ensuing results. Whereas older sites such as Kayak and Skyscanner leave analyzing its thousands of results to you, the hunter, Hipmunk orders flights by how long they take. Layovers usually push up the agony factor. You can also order flights by price and takeoff or landing times.

When booking flights, the outgoing and return legs are chosen separately, making it much easier to pick the times you want, rather than plowing through the endless list of flight combinations employed by many other sites. Any extra cost incurred by particular flight times is displayed next to the flight, so you can easily scroll to the choices that don’t cost extra.

Bottom line: Hipmunk tended to find the cheapest international fares (that is, as cheap or cheaper than the other services in this list) and around the same prices on domestic fares.


Available for Android, iOS and BlackBerry devices.

Momondo is a flight, hotel and car rental booking site that has a brilliantly fast search with intuitive controls. Flights can be ordered by price, speed or “best,” based on an algorithm computing flight duration and cost. There are extra checkboxes for filtering by airline, departure or arrival times and, uniquely, by frequent flier alliances, which is handy if you’re savvy about air miles. Two bar graphs show the rise and fall in price of both outgoing and return flights.

If you can’t quite decide where to go on your next vacation, hit the Trip Finder to find destinations based on what you want to do (city break, shopping, the beach), when you want to do it, a rough area to head for and, most usefully, the budget you have available.

Bottom line: Momondo has excellent coverage of online travel services and airlines and, in our test, it turned up the cheapest flights (either the same cost as the cheapest, or about 2 percent to 4 percent cheaper on both domestic and international). Choosing flights is made easy by a clever set of filters for airlines, flight times and convenience, while the bar graph fare calendar helps flexible travelers pick the cheapest dates.

Google Flights

With the world’s most-used search engine backing it, you’d expect Google Flights to clock a blistering search time, and it does. The interface is reassuringly clean, minimal and Google-y, returning results in about a second — much faster than every other service. At the top of each results list is a tip suggesting how you can fly for less; for example, we could have saved $25 on our $425 New York-LA flight by shifting the week-long trip forward by a day. This change is bookable by simply clicking on the tip. Otherwise, found flights are filtered with “best” flights first, based on flight times and flight duration balanced against cost; it doesn’t always choose the direct or cheapest routes.

Flights can be booked as separate legs with different companies. You can save your itinerary for price alerts on Google Now or share it via email with your travel buddies.

Bottom line: Google Flights scored the same fares for most domestic flights and the longest flight (NY-Sydney), but it turned up pricier flights for Paris, Rio and Hong Kong.

When travel agents come in

For straightforward flights — fly there, come back — most of us can quite easily get the best deals simply by hitting up one flight aggregator site or, in many cases, an airline that flies where we want to go.

But when it comes complex routes like a transcontinental trip in January from New York to Sydney with stops in Singapore and Bangkok, you’re unlikely to get the best price (or airline selection) by simply punching in a multi-city trip and booking it all through an aggregator site. For example, the low-cost airline Scoot that flies direct from Sydney to Singapore didn’t turn up as an option on this route (despite being listed on at least some of the other search engines).

This type of itinerary is where new-gen travel services such as Flightfox make their coin. Unlike traditional travel agents, Flightfox does not take a commission on flight sales. Instead, the company charges customers a flat fee for a human agent to hunt down the best fare for a given itinerary and then send the customer the link to book themselves.

Van der Rohe says he mostly uses the same sites as we might, as well as a few accounts that send extra information about fare availabilities. “What we have is a knowledge of routes, fare rules and loopholes that can lower the cost of itineraries beyond what you might see at first in flight search engines,” he says. (He won’t divulge what these loopholes are, exactly.) He did, however, share a few tips for searching with flight aggregator apps at home.

“There’s a lot to be said for brute force,” he says. Search as many flight combinations, airlines and routes as you can think of across many different sites.

If a flight aggregator site isn’t giving you the price you want, look up an airport’s Wikipedia page and see which airlines fly to it. Then search for fares on these airlines’ pages.

Comb forums such as FlyerTalk and MilePoint, which are bases for travelers to share flights and routes and deals.

Try searching on different days of the week. “Every day and every flight there are certain seats and certain fares, which change all the time,” van der Rohe says. (In the two days since the flights for this article was researched, some fares have dropped.)

If you’re very eager (or a travel manager),subscribe to Expert Flyer, a site aimed at frequent flyers that sends alerts when a particular seat on a flight becomes available. “Sometimes seats right next to each other are different fares,” says van der Rohe.

As for when to book to score those cheapest fares, Kayak research based on a year’s worth of search data found optimal days to leave and return and an optimal window during which to make your booking. For example, you’re likely to find the best airfares to Europe from the United States and Canada by departing on a Wednesday and returning on a Tuesday and booking six months in advance. In contrast, an Asia trip is best booked five weeks in advance, departing and returning on Wednesdays.

At the end of the day, finding the cheapest airfare is best accomplished by grunt work interspersed with anxiety over whether flights are going to get any cheaper. That’s why van der Rohe advises customers that if they see a price they’re happy with, they may as well just book it.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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