TIME Travel

This is America’s Healthiest Airport


Nearly all the restaurants in this airport offer at least one healthy, plant-based entrée

Travel plans in the near future don’t need to undo your newly minted resolutions, thanks to surge in healthful food offerings at airports across the country.

A recent survey showed that most restaurants at 75 percent of the nation’s busiest airports offer at least one healthy, veg-focused dish. This year’s healthiest airport, surprisingly, wasn’t highly ranked Portland International, or even body-conscious Tampa or star chef-studded JFK in New York.

Instead, it was Baltimore/Washington International Airport that took the top spot for its vegetable and hummus plates, gluten-free quinoa pasta, and locally sourced vegetable salads, just to name a few. Nearly all the restaurants in BWI offer at least one healthy, plant-based entrée.

Sure, you have to pass by Potbelly Sandwich and hand-shaken margaritas at Zona Cocina, but the selection of healthful options and nutrition-minded eateries (low-fat frozen yogurt at Tasti D’Lite; Nature’s Kitchen Fresh Café) have given BWI something to brag about.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Travel

What You Need to Know About Traveling to Cuba

American flag with signboard of Cuba Southernmost Point, Key West, Fla. © F1online digitale Bildagentur GmbH / Alamy

There are 12 types of travel that are permitted, including family visits, journalistic activities, professional research and meetings

It’s happening, people. Travel to Cuba just got as little easier, thanks to a new set of regulations that take effect today and expand on President Obama’s recent policy changes.

The Department of Treasury dropped the amended regulations on the lap of tour operators and others with a stake in travel to Cuba yesterday morning. Just how quickly these changes can and will be implemented remains foggy—as do some of the particulars, which will likely be hashed out in the coming days and weeks. So watch this space.

In the meantime, for a sense of what the new regulations mean, we reached out to T+L’s trusted network of travel specialists for more insights. (A big hat tip to GeoEx, an operator that has been active in the country for several years, for help deciphering these regulations.)

Here’s what we know:

  • All travel to Cuba must still meet certain activity-related requirements. There are 12 types of travel that are permitted, including family visits, journalistic activities, professional research and meetings, educational activities, public performances, and religious activities.
  • “People-to-people travel,” the most common way most Americans currently now experience the country, is considered a form of educational travel that promotes meaningful exchanges between U.S. citizens and Cubans. It is officially still subject to “appropriate conditions” (meaning certain activities, such as going to the beach, are not permitted) and requires some sort of guide or agent to accompany travelers. In other words, you will still need to visit with a licensed tour operator.
  • Some operators are anticipating that the requirements and enforcement of people-to-people itineraries will soon be relaxed—meaning that even on these structured trips, you could more or less be able to travel through the island as you choose.
  • The new Treasury regulations lay the groundwork for a more simplified, general license for all types of travel to Cuba, which could open the door for more tours (and tour operators) bringing Americans to the country.
  • That said, the tourism infrastructure in Cuba remains very limited. It will be difficult for new companies to deliver meaningful experiences—for now.
  • Commercial flights are now authorized to Havana, but don’t expect them to start immediately (though U.s. carriers are already champing at the bit). Logistically, they will likely take several months to implement. So for the time being, it’s charter flights only from the States.
  • Americans can now bring back up to $400 in souvenirs home with them—that includes $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco.
  • U.S. travelers can also now use their credit cards in Cuba—a change that exists only on paper until U.S. financial institutions actually develop a presence in the country.

In essence, new flights, new tours and tour companies, and new ways to explore the island are coming soon. “Although things are sure to change in Cuba, we are viewing the regulatory amendments as very positive, and are excited about the possibilities.” says Jennine Cohen, the managing director for the Americas at GeoEx.

What remains to be seen is how long it will take to build up the tourism infrastructure in Cuba to meet increasing demand from Americans—and what this new tourism infrastructure will look like. “It is going to take a significant amount of time for Cuba to be considered a prime destination for tourists,” says Dan Sullivan, President and CEO of Collette tours.

In the meantime, the best experiences will be offered by operators who know the country well—and have relationships and connections already in place. We recommend GeoEx, Collette, InsightCuba, G Adventures and Smithsonian Journeys.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Travel

These Are the Airline Fees Actually Worth Paying For

Getty Images

Getting your seat upgraded for a 15-hour-long flight would be quite worth it

This article originally appeared on Map Happy.

Fees are the reality of flying today and it’s left us with a whole bunch of to-pay-or-not-to-pay questioning. So, which extras are actually worth paying for?

This sucker punch of an article from The New Yorker was shared all over the internet recently: “Why Airlines Want to Make You Suffer.” I found it painful to read, mostly because it made me confront how much flying has changed over these past years — for the more stressful. Or as the article puts it, more “miserable.”

It all comes down to a industry-wide move to the fee-based model, which flyers have experienced the slow and costly shift to. First came the charges for checked bags. Then meals disappeared on flights and now someone tells me that seats have actually been shrinking.

That same article even makes the counterpoint that:

The airlines, and some economists, argue that the rise of the fee model is good for travellers (sic). You only pay for what you want, and you can therefore save money if you, for instance, don’t mind sitting in middle seats in the back, waiting in line to board, or bringing your own food.

Sure. I guess.

Unfortunately, whether you like it or not, not all fees are worth it. Here’s our take.

Checked Bags

Ideally not but sometimes it can’t be avoided. Here’s our list of U.S. airlines’ baggage fees for a better idea of what we’re all up against. Keep things to one bag because the big fees come after bag number one. For the wise packers: When gate-checking, there’s no fee. Make sure the look and size is right (carry-on) to get it past check-in.

Upgraded Seats

Yes—at least for long flights. Like for those really, really long international flights. I weigh the cost-value benefit based on flight time and my projected mental and emotional state for the duration of the flight. If it’s an overnighter or I’m going to be spending quite a bit of time in that seat, those extra inches at my feet really do make a difference. This is one area where it’s an advantage to be short.

We’re not just getting bigger, either. Seats these days are smaller than they’ve ever been. It doesn’t mean there aren’t cost-free methods to get more room though.Get a wingman and snag a whole row with this method or this trick if you’re flying solo.


No. Now it really comes down to personal taste and preference but overpaying for mediocre (at best) food is something that really grates on me. There are lots of really good snacks for traveling. And I’ve reported before, bringing home-cooked food through security is kosher with the TSA, too, as long as it’s packaged properly.

If anything, buy at the airport before or after, where there are at least non-boxed options. (I also consider ending up at a place like Chicago O’Hare where Rick Bayless has his Tortas Frontera outpost, a real food win. Erica loves this place too.) In fact, T Magazine says we are living in the golden age of airport restaurants, so eat up.

As for alcohol, mini liquor bottles actually can be carried on, so mixed drinks can come free. As an extra, here’s the super duper crazy list of airlines that serve booze. It might not be the best tasting but you ain’t paying.

Ticket Changes

Sometimes this can’t be avoided but there are ways to minimize the damage. In fact, in some cases just buying a new flight can be cheaper than changing it. For those d’oh moments when a ticket is booked, there’s a grace period of 24 hours during which the ticket can be changed—that also can be hacked to 48 hours. And when it’s too late for that, we’ve found that waiting until the very last moment to change it—we’re talking the day of—is cheapest.

In-Flight Wi-Fi

Not if you just want to use basic Google apps. But if you need a little bit more, there’s also a way to mod your browser to get cheaper in flight Wi-Fi. Dude, there’s even a whole guide on this stuff, courtesy of Erica. But just to know before you jump through all this hoopla, this is exactly how much in-flight Wi-Fi will cost you on your next flight.

Airport Lounges

Depending on the day, airport and layover you might hear something different from me. Sometimes I’ve just got to a get shower and want to splay out on a comfortable chair with complimentary beverages. And if I don’t have access already granted with status and I’m facing a doozy of a layover, I’ll potentially shell out. This post goes a little bit more in-depth on the topic.

There’s just no right answer here but a lot of it is going to depend on the lounge you’re thinking about. Here’s a hint: If you can just pay for a separate standalone shower, that’s usually the best amenity to give in to.

More from Map Happy:

TIME Transportation

This Guy Flew Delta to New York With Only One Other Passenger

Travelers Embark On Holiday Travel Day Before Thanksgiving
Delta planes at the Salt Lake City international Airport on November 27, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey—Getty Images

Enough refreshments for seconds?

An empty commercial airplane—is that kind of like a private jet?

Chris O’Leary, media strategist and editor of a New York-based beer blog, would be the person to ask. O’Leary had booked a New York-bound Delta flight from Cleveland that was delayed for several hours on Monday. When the beer enthusiast stepped on the plane, he found out he was the only passenger.

“It was definitely the most memorable flight I’ve been on in recent memory if only for the sheer lack of passengers to become bothersome,” O’Leary told ABC News. “There were no screaming babies, no one listening to loud lyrics or reclining their seats or taking their shoes.”

O’Leary got a private safety briefing and one-on-one briefing from the captain about the flight.

Shortly before takeoff, the plane returned to the gate and picked up one more passenger, for a grand total of two fliers on the 76-seat plane.

[ABC News]

Read next: Donald Trump Says Air Traffic Controllers Deliberately Flying Planes Over His House

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Travel

The Travel Hacks You Should Know (But Probably Don’t)

Getty Images

Know your baggage policies inside out

This article originally appeared on Map Happy.

Travel hacking is often synonymous with credit card churn and gaming points and miles. I’m no stranger to those tactics but I’ve always been more interested in the nifty, devious ways to get what you want while on the road. Here’s the best of the best, tried true and tested.

I think it has to do something with the fact that I grew up surrounded by engineers and tinkerers which might have to do something with my obsession with travel hacking. At any rate, you won’t find any generic tricks here because there’s nothing I really hate more than generic advice.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to travel internationally than domestically, even once you factor in airfare. That’s because if you’re coming from a country with a high cost of living—the U.S. is one—traveling in countries that have lower costs of living can be cheaper or the same price as traveling in the U.S. Even then, sometimes the differences are so dramatic that even a $700 airplane ticket can get absorbed in the savings. I’ll use Expatistan and the Big Mac Index to try to gauge costs when I’m budgeting for places I’ve never been before. I even ran the final numbers from actual trips I took to San Francisco and Colombia to compare the difference.

If you’ve bought a ticket, there’s a 24-hour get-out-of-jail-free card for pretty much all of the airlines (American is the exception to the rule for this but even they have their own version of it). If you’re flying United, there’s also a way to ninja hack it, extending the time period to 48 hours without having to pay a small fee to lock in airline prices.

Flights can have two different prices for the same ticket depending on the market it’s sold in. Blame it on foreign currencies. This sometimes leads to cheaper prices in one market, either due to currency fluctuation or controlled market pricing. It’s not extraordinarily hard to take advantage of this, either. In fact, sometimes it’s as easy as changing the regional website of an airline’s website.

British Airways is the best program for redeeming domestic flights. It sounds counterintuitive but if you want to stretch those miles as far as they can go (in the States at least), the best program is a frequent flyer program not even based in the U.S. That’s because unlike North American frequent flyer programs, British Airways uses a distance-based chart, often requiring way less miles to redeem a ticket than United or American.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly to your connection than your destination and then to ditch the final leg. This is called hidden-city ticketing and while I’ve never done it, I know people who have engaged in it. Be careful, because it could get you into a whole bunch of trouble, though it seems most airlines tend to target those that use and abuse it. The carriers highly discourage this, so use our guide to find tickets at your own risk! (For what it’s worth, we did have one reader who checked with American before doing it and American had no issues with it.)

Ditching a flight can be cheaper than changing it. The cost of change fees are so exorbitant these days that it can be more than the cost of a new ticket. If you really want to change a flight, its often better to do it on the day of your flight for a heavily reduced change fee.

Heading to multiple destinations can be a complex booking process but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to book an open-jaw ticket with zero backtracking—time is money, hello—and why it may be worth the extra cost. There’s no need to do a roundtrip to Las Vegas and then a separate roundtrip to San Francisco when you can just fly to Las Vegas from the origin and leave from San Francisco back to the same place.

There’s no need to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi if all you want to do is use basic Google apps on a phone. But if you need full access, I researched official Wi-Fi pricing for three domestic routes of varying lengths (for all airlines) so you can gauge whether you should pay for that Internet access ahead of time. There’s actually many ways to get cheaper Wi-Fi onboard.

It takes two people to snag a whole row, without incurring any risk of ending up in the middle seat. Not that I think the middle seat is so bad but some people have a serious aversion to it. Here’s a low-risk, high-reward strategy that will hopefully end with the row of your dreams.

Not that traveling solo doesn’t have its advantages. In fact, if things aren’t looking so great in the economy cabin, that’s the best time to score a seat upfront for free. It does require you to forego a seat assignment but if the other option looks like you’re next to the bathroom in the back anyways, I don’t think it can get that much worse.

Gate check a bag to avoid check-in fees. Most gate agents are more concerned with getting the plane taking off in time, not nickeling and diming passengers. Simple enough.

Know baggage policies. Inside and out. Though most people know that Southwest and JetBlue (until they announce the new bag fee, at least) waive the first bag, what they don’t know is cumulative baggage totals if they’re checking in multiple bags. We’ve done the math here for all the airlines and Virgin America is by far the most consumer friendly for this.

As a side note, most people don’t seem to know that when an airline waives a paid checked bag and a passenger chooses to check another bag, the bag fee for that bag is actually the second bag fee. (In other words, it doesn’t defer the sliding scale. Just because you waive the $25 first bag, that doesn’t mean the second bag is now $25. You pay the cost for the second bag surcharge, which can be $35.)

Surviving long-haul flights is an art. While it’s tempting to pop an Ambien and doze off until the plane reaches the destination, there are specific strategies that will ease your comfort. For instance, I always choose an aisle seat in the middle section of the plane and prefer to use the washroom during specific times during the meal. Worst case scenario, just look up which international airlines serves free booze and which don’t.

Stay connected to your U.S. mobile for free. Short of switching to T-Mobile, most people don’t realize they can stay connected to text messages and calls by using Google Voice through the official app and the Hangouts app. This requires an unlocked phone and purchasing a prepaid SIM that includes data access. Pay $13 for a week for unlimited calling and copious amounts of data (I’ve gotten 4G unlimited data in another country for this price point before) or $30 for 120MB of data and no calling? The upside is that you can make as many local calls as you want, easily and cheaply.

More from Map Happy:

MONEY Travel

How the U.S. Quietly Fixed the Most Annoying Thing About Air Travel

Hours-long tarmac waits were a scourge to frequent flyers. Then, suddenly, they weren't.

There are few things worse than being trapped inside a plane while it sits on the tarmac for hours. Travelers leaving Abu Dhabi were reminded of that fact this past weekend when a fully boarded Etihad Airlines flight 183 was held on the ground for 12 hours due to fog.

According to reports, passengers were given only one meal during what became a 28-hour trip to San Francisco, and had to deal with clogged toilets along the way—not exactly the best start to a new year.

The good news is that tarmac horror stories like this one have become increasingly rare for American air travelers. But that wasn’t always the case. In February 2007, more than 1,000 passengers were stranded on JetBlue flights out of John F. Kennedy International Airport for almost 11 hours. One year later, a Delta flight from Atlanta to West Palm Beach kept passengers trapped on the runway for 10 hours.

Those incidents were especially egregious examples of traveler mistreatment, but they were indicative of a larger trend. Between May 2009 and April 2010, a whopping 693 boarded flights sat for more than three hours on U.S. tarmacs. For a while, being trapped in a plane for hours before takeoff became, if not common, at least something like business as usual. Relatives wouldn’t be shocked to hear you spent a few hundred minutes stuck in preflight purgatory on the way to a holiday visit.

And then, in a flash, it all changed. From May 2010 through April 2011, the Department of Transportation recorded 20 total tarmac delays—a 97% drop from the previous year. In the twelve months from November 2013 to October 2014, there were just 47 such delays. The frequent flyer’s worst nightmare had suddenly come to an end.

What happened? The reason’s as simple as could be: The federal government decided to start cracking down on tarmac waits. In August 2010, the Department of Transportation imposed new rules that would fine airlines as much as $27,500 per passenger if a domestic flight sat for more than three hours on the tarmac without travelers being able to voluntarily leave the aircraft. The regulation was later extended to include international flights that stay on the tarmac for over four hours.

Airlines quickly learned the DOT wasn’t kidding about its new policy. When American Eagle Airlines delayed 15 flights for more than three-hours in May of the following year, the department slapped the company with a $900,000 fine. A plane with as many passengers as Etihad’s flight 183 could owe millions of dollars for a sufficiently extensive delay. With that kind of money on the line, companies realized it wasn’t in their interest to keep passengers cooped up for too long.

While some at the time were worried the new rules would lead to increased flight cancellations and ultimately hurt air travelers, their fears appear to have been unwarranted. Cancelled flights went up only slightly, and according to experts, the benefits of the regulations to passengers outweigh the costs. Flights are cancelled once in a while, says George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, but the DOT’s rules “definitely prevented a lot of suffering.”

Instead of cancelling masses of trips, Hobica has seen airlines become more adept at allowing passengers to leave the plane if they choose while letting the remaining travelers stay on board. Airports now have busses equipped with stairs to evacuate fed-up customers from a long tarmac wait, and some have even adopted a dedicated gate for emergency deplanings.

“The rules have definitely reduced the number of tarmac delays all around,” Hobica says. But that doesn’t mean we’re safe all the time. The DOT’s rules only apply on American soil. Outside the country, flyer beware.


MONEY Travel

Delta Airlines to Offer Five Seat Classes

Delta Air Lines will soon slice the cabin into five seating classes, ranging from no-frills economy to premium flat-bed seats.

TIME Travel

Korean Air Exec Sorry in Macadamia Nut Controversy

She offered a contrite apology for lambasting a flight crew member over service she deemed unacceptable

An executive at Korean Air, and daughter of the company’s chairman, issued a public apology and resigned amid outrage over her treatment of a flight crew member when she was unhappy with the way she was served macadamia nuts in first class.

“I sincerely apologize for causing trouble for everyone,” said Heather Cho, 40, who was head of Korean Air’s in-flight service division before stepping down this week. “I’m sorry.”

Cho, seated in first class on a Korean Air flight departing from JFK airport in New York, was displeased after she was served macadamia nuts in a bag rather than a dish. She ordered the plane back to the gate so the cabin crew chief could be expelled from the flight causing a small departure delay, Reuters reports.

The incident has touched a raw nerve among the public in South Korea, a country dominated by a small number of giant, family-operated comglomerates, known as chaebol.


TIME Saving & Spending

The Secret to Getting a Ridiculously Cheap Thanksgiving Flight

Aerial view of airplane
Stephan Zirwes—Brand X/Getty Images

Every travel agency is saying something different, but there are some tips that aren't up for debate

For years, travel search engines have scoured through their dense databases to determine the best day to book your Thanksgiving flights. This year, like every year, there’s a lot of mixed messages on what to do if you’ve procrastinated on booking tickets. Here’s what the big players are advising for cheap domestic U.S. air tickets:

  • Kayak: Book in early November, about two to four weeks before Thanksgiving.
  • Skyscanner: Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving.
  • Orbitz: This Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday. If not then, then before Nov. 18.
  • Cheapair: It depends on way too many things.

So what’s the takeaway? It’s better to be safe and book flights now, but you if you’re a risk taker, you can wait until the beginning of November to book your flights. But try not to wait until the week of Thanksgiving. It’s also important to weigh the risks of an unexpected fare hike in light of what your benefits of waiting actually are. These hyped “savings” are usually only about 5 to 10% less than the average fare, which amounts to $15 to $30 if your ticket costs $300.

In fact, since airline fares are notoriously difficult to understand, often the better question to ask is what not to do when you’re booking Thanksgiving flights.

Here are a few tips that travel search engines all agree on:

Don’t book a departure flight on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 26), or a return flight on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 30).

Airfares increase as flights get fuller, and the Wednesday and Sunday flanking the Thanksgiving holiday are when the most people are traveling. A simple airfare search shows just how much more expensive it is to book travel on one of these days. In some cases, fares are up to twice as high.

If you have to book for Wednesday or Sunday, then book your tickets as early as possible.

If you’re locked into a Wednesday departure flight, aim for a Friday or Tuesday return flight, which is around 25% cheaper than returning on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, according to an analysis by Cheapair.

Booking a return flight on Sunday results in the most dramatic airfare spike, and there’s not really much you can do to save money other than to book your departure flight on Thanksgiving Day. But the tradeoff of sacrificing a chunk of your holiday is a discount of only about 10%, so it may make more sense to pick a different day—even if it’s Wednesday. In general, having a Sunday return flight means you’re stuck with a sky-high ticket price.

Consider booking a departure flight or return flight on Thanksgiving Day—or both.

If you depart and return on Thanksgiving Day, your fare may be up to 30% cheaper than the average price, according to Kayak. And even if you only depart (and not return) on Thanksgiving, those savings are particularly meaningful when applied to longer, more expensive flights. For example, flying the JFK-LAX route departing on Thanksgiving instead of the day before can save you nearly $100.

Don’t book flights in groups.

If you’re booking as a family and there are only a few flights left in the lowest fare category, it’s possible the airline will bump the entire party up to the next fare category, according to Cheapair. That doesn’t mean you can’t travel as a family, though: you just might have to book each person’s ticket individually.

Check other smaller airports nearby.

There’s often regional and even international airports near the ORDs, JFKs and LAXs of major U.S. cities. If you’re in Chicago, for example, consider Chicago Midway Airport instead of O’Hare; if you’re in Los Angeles, consider Long Beach Airport instead of LAX. Both are cheaper airports than their neighboring giants, according to Cheapflights.com, which ranked the nation’s 101 most affordable airports.

Check smaller airlines.

The five biggest U.S. airlines—American, United, Delta, Southwest and JetBlue—all increased their base fares slightly despite lower fuel prices and a worldwide fear of Ebola. While the effect on consumers is not yet clear, it’s also worth checking out smaller airlines like Spirit, Frontier and Virgin.

Read next: The Old Advice on When to Buy Flights Is Wrong (And So Is the New Advice)

TIME ebola

Why One Airline Flies To West Africa Despite Ebola

"It is our humanitarian duty to operate there"

Several major airlines including British Airways and Emirates have suspended service to Ebola-stricken regions of West Africa in response to a rapidly worsening Ebola outbreak, and Americans seem to agree with the service halts: 58% of people polled in a recent survey from NBC News want to ban all incoming flights from West African countries with Ebola.

But two airlines—Brussels and Royal Air Maroc, Morocco’s largest airline—have continued serving Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Brussels Airlines says it has no plans to stop flying into Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia in the immediate future. “It is our humanitarian duty to operate there,” said Geert Sciot, a vice president at Brussels Airlines. “Without our fights it would become almost impossible for medical staff to reach the country.”

In recent days, health and governmental officials have warned that a shortage of flights limits the ability to get aid to the region and ultimately could worsen the global Ebola crisis.

Sciot, who said that the airline has made flights to Africa a focus of their service for decades, said that the World Health Organization and other health groups had directly asked senior airline leadership to continue service to West Africa. Health groups also partnered with Brussels Airlines to implement measures to ensure safety for the passengers and crew.

All passengers leaving the region have their temperatures taken and are screened with a questionnaire; patients with Ebola symptoms are not allowed to fly. Airline crew are not permitted to spend the night in at-risk locations, so they travel on a Brussels flight to Senegal when they need to stay overnight in West Africa.

“It’s absolutely safe for us as an airline, for our passengers and for our crew, to operate these flights,” said Sciot.

Despite conducting what he described as a public service, Sciot acknowledged the potential fallout from people who are concerned that flying to West Africa may help spread Ebola.

Part of that attention undoubtedly surrounded the death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the only person to die of Ebola on American soil. Duncan flew on Brussels Airlines from Liberia en route the United States before exhibiting symptoms of the disease.

Sciot said that compared to last year, about the same number of people fly on the route and revenue is comparable, though there is a wait list for cargo space.

“For our image, I don’t think we benefit from this at all,” he said. “We get a lot media requests linked to a disease.”

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