TIME Airlines

Delta Bans Shipment of Hunted Animal Trophies

In the wake of Cecil the Lion's death

The Internet is still buzzing with reactions to Cecil the Lion’s death at the hands of American dentist Walter Palmer while Palmer was on vacation in Zimbabwe. Reviewers expressed their disgust on Palmer’s Yelp page, Marco Rubio began an argument about the controversy on Twitter, and a rumor recently started flying around that Cecil’s brother, Jericho the Lion, was hunted as well (this has since been confirmed to be false).

One thing we’ve all learned from this: Lots of people are not okay with tourists hunting and beheading animals for sport.

All those who were deeply offended by Cecil’s death may be pleased to hear that Delta has made it more difficult for hunters to take home trophies from their kill. The airline issued the following statement Monday:

Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight. Prior to this ban, Delta’s strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species. Delta will also review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies with appropriate government agencies and other organizations supporting legal shipments.

MONEY Estate Planning

What Happens to Your Airline Miles When You Die?

airplane flying off into the dawn with colorful clouds
Getty Images—Getty Images/iStockphoto

The official rules may say one thing, but heirs usually have options.

What would you do if you knew you had a potentially valuable asset that could vanish upon your death? Your bank account, empty. Your antique car, gone. Your grandmother’s jewelry, evaporated.

Globe-trotters appear to have that problem: Many airlines say officially that frequent flier miles are not your property and cannot be willed to your heirs upon your death.

“It is a big problem, because people accumulate lots of miles that they don’t use, and the policies of the different airlines are different,” says Gerry Beyer, a law professor at Texas Tech University School of Law. “They’re constantly shifting the policy, and sometimes it depends upon who you talk to and what you can get done.”

Frequent flier miles pose a bigger problem for estates than other loyalty programs because heavy travelers and rewards-card wizards can accumulate many hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of miles, Beyer says. And that adds up: By one estimate, 500,000 miles could be worth between $4,000 and $10,000, depending on the airline.

But can you pass your miles on? That depends. The secret is: Don’t take an airline’s written policy at face value. The terms of service often say one thing while the carrier’s practices offer another path.

Get the Paperwork

For example, American Airlines’ AAdvantage program terms and conditions say, “Neither accrued mileage, nor award tickets, nor upgrades are transferable by the member upon death.” That seems pretty clear.

But if you read on, you’ll see that the airline reserves the right to decide, “in its sole discretion,” to pass your miles on to beneficiaries “upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to American Airlines and upon payment of any applicable fees.”

American Airlines spokeswoman Laura Nedbal clarified that the airline does indeed transfer mileage to heirs. How it works: Upon request, American Airlines provides a special affidavit form for beneficiaries to sign, affirming that they are the rightful recipients of the miles. Your heirs will need to complete it and send that back, along with the death certificate. Happily, as of now, there are no mileage transfer fees.

Similarly, United has a procedure for transferring miles — but you have to know to ask about it. The MileagePlus program rules say mileage may not be transferred, except as “expressly permitted by United.”

Spokeswoman Karen May says the airline has made “case-by-case exceptions” when members have died. Should your heirs apply for one of those exceptions, they would need to send the death certificate, a signed and notarized affidavit provided by United, and a $150 mileage transfer fee, May says.

Ask Nicely

Smaller carriers don’t always have paperwork ready for heirs to sign, but they might have luck if they just ask nicely.

For instance, Virgin America’s Elevate Reward Points credit card program rules say points “may not be transferred upon death.” But although the small airline doesn’t receive that many requests to bequeath points, says spokesman Dave Arnold, he confirms that the airline does make “case-by-case” exceptions to its rules when heirs provide documentation of a bequest.

Even if you can’t pass on your miles, you can leave your username and password behind. At Southwest Airlines, for instance, you can’t will your miles to heirs — but the Rapid Rewards program rules say your points will live on in your account 24 months after your last account activity. During that time, if your heirs have your account information, they can go into your account and use the miles, or transfer them for a fee of about 1 cent per mile, says spokesman Adam Rucker.

And no rule is ironclad. Take Delta, which made headlines in 2013 when the airline said it would stop honoring bequest requests. Delta’s SkyMiles program rules still say points may not be transferred upon death, and a Delta spokesman confirmed that, officially, that’s still the policy.

But tell that to Roberta Bekerman, a widow who wrote to Delta, “It is with great sadness that I inform you that my beloved husband, Philip, passed away on Dec. 21 … Please be so kind as to transfer his accrued SkyMiles into my account.” Delta did, the New York Times reports.

The Takeaway

You simply can’t guarantee that your spouse or kids will get your miles. “One of the biggest problems is the airlines change their policies so many times, even if you do everything perfect when you write the will, it might not work anymore,” Beyer says.

Still, there’s a good chance your airline will honor your request anyway. The best you can do is add a line to your will that says, “I leave [name of heir] my airline miles, if allowed,” Beyer suggests — and advise your children to be polite to the airline customer service reps. Either that or spend down your miles when you’re still alive; now’s the time to enjoy them.

MONEY Travel

How to Get the Most Out of Your Frequent Flyer Miles

Aaron Foster—Getty Images

Don't be loyal to an airline that's not loyal to you.

Earning and using airline miles used to be simple. Fly 25,000 miles and earn a free flight. It is not so simple anymore.

The process of redeeming miles is changing in a way that makes it more difficult for all but elite flyers to earn rewards.

One key change: Delta Air Lines’ announcement in mid-July that its SkyMiles rewards will be based on what you spend, rather than on the distance you travel, and the cost will be based on demand rather than a fixed amount.

Experts like Brian Kelly, known as The Points Guy, expect more major airlines to follow suit.

To help sort out the changes to the miles game, Reuters asked Kelly for his advice for travelers to best take advantage of widely varying airline loyalty programs.

Q: Are airlines suddenly being less loyal to their loyal customers?

A: The real answer is that loyalty is being redefined.

In the past it used to be that whoever flew the most was the most loyal, but airlines are now saying it’s whoever spends the most.

Basically, the wealth gap is increasing between economy and first class, which I guess makes senses as the industry keeps changing.

Q: It seems like all the airlines are treating miles like currency, and devaluing them.

A: Pretty much. Every month there are billions of points and miles pumped into the system. But there are just not that many flights, or hotels for that matter, so they are looking for ways to have you redeem more miles and points for less value, and I don’t see that changing.

Q: What airlines are the most generous to their frequent flyers right now?

A: It really depends on where you live and how much you fly, but I still think American Airlines has the best top-tier elite status. American is also the most generous, in my opinion, with international upgrades giving eight system-wide upgrades, versus six on United.

Q: What should travelers look for when they are deciding which airline loyalty program to focus on?

A: Travelers should not have blind loyalty. The biggest thing is don’t put all your miles in one basket. You should get a credit card that allows you to transfer to multiple programs.

You can be loyal to one airline, but don’t over-expose yourself because that program will probably change or that airline won’t fly where you want, so it’s good to have points in all different programs just like your stock portfolio.

Q: Is it even worth it to try to accumulate points with credit cards?

A: Always do the math. If you’re not getting at least 1-2 cents per mile in value you should really just think about getting a cash-back card. The Citi Double Cash and Fidelity Amex both give about 2% back. Why earn one airline mile that’s worth one cent when you could get 2 cents back in cash, which you could use toward anything?

Also, don’t always think that airline mileage cards – especially ones where you’re only earning one mile per dollar spent – are the best value. Sometimes cash is king and the ability to use that cash to purchase whatever you want is a great option.

Q: What strategy should consumers employ for travel this summer or fall?

A: I would recommend that people redeem miles in the near term, don’t hang on long-term in the next several years because these programs are evolving and they are evolving quickly.

If you are spending a lot of money on short flights you should take a look at Delta and United and the programs that reward based on money.

If you’re an economy traveler, especially international, you’re going to lose big time, so do the math and choose a program that rewards you the most.

And, frankly, don’t be loyal to an airline if they’re not loyal to you. If you’re earning less miles and paying more and not getting the perks, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

Read next: This Is the Single Greatest Frequent Flyer Perk Ever

MONEY Airlines

This Is the Single Greatest Frequent Flyer Perk Ever

Alamy—© zechina / Alamy

Get the CEO treatment

Being upgraded to first class is pretty nice. But even the most elite frequent flyers still must deal with many of the hassles of commercial flights—including the long waits to check in, the pass through security gates, and allowing time for hundreds of commoners to board and sandwich themselves into those tiny seats at the back of the plane.

A new upgrade program from Delta could eliminate some of these headaches by moving its best customers from commercial flights entirely. The program, as Bloomberg reports, would allow a very small number of Delta’s most elite “Diamond Medallion” frequent flyers to pay $300 to $800 extra to board private jet flights that accommodate a maximum of a few dozen passengers.

Initially, the program will focus on East Coast flights, and naturally, they’ll be offered by Delta Private Jets, the private jet unit operated by Delta. The move seems motivated by the desire to keep the airline’s highest-spending customers happy, while simultaneously filling up seats on luxury private jets that might otherwise be half full.

“This is truly a groundbreaking new approach from both industry standpoints,” Delta Private Jets vice president of operations James Murray said in a statement. “Nobody else can do what we’re talking about doing.”

Read next: 5 Ways That Traveling on the Cheap Has Changed—for the Better

MONEY Airlines

Two of America’s Most Expensive Airports Just Became the Cheapest

Delta Airlines passenger jet and service truck at Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, 2014.
Steve Allen—Alamy Delta Airlines passenger jet and service truck at Atlanta International Airport .

Long-suffering travelers see relief with cheaper flights.

CheapFlights.com has just released the latest edition of its Airport Affordability Report, and shockingly, the two most affordable airports in 2015 were among the nation’s most expensive a year ago.

America’s two cheapest airports based on average airfares found on CheapFlights are Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky (CVG) and Atlanta (ATL), where average domestic fares run $199 and $231, respectively. Last year, CVG and ATL ranked #77 and #74 in the country in terms of average flight prices. Several other big cities made significant leaps in terms of affordability ranking too: Chicago-O’Hare, Philadelphia, New York-LaGuardia, and Cleveland all landed in the top 10 in 2015, while none was ranked higher than #31 a year ago.

What caused Cincinnati and Atlanta airports in particular to become so affordable in such a short period of time? Cincinnati has traditionally been one of the country’s most expensive airports because it was long dominated by one airline, Delta. But years of airline mergers and reductions in service meant that flights decreased at hubs like Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Memphis, which were once overwhelmingly served by a single airline. Sensing opportunity, smaller airlines more likely to offer discount flights stepped in to occupy some of the space formerly occupied by the legacy carriers. As a result, overall fares at the airports dropped.

As the Cincinnati Business Courier reported recently, “Low-cost carriers like Frontier and Allegiant Airlines increasing flights have been responsible for a significant drop in average fares at the Cincinnati airport.”

Atlanta is another airport that has traditionally been largely dominated by Delta. But over the years Delta was forced to compete with the discount carrier AirTran on many routes. Southwest Airlines purchased AirTran in 2010, and for a while average fares increased as Southwest consolidated flights and flight prices rose as supply decreased.

In recent months, though, low-fare carriers such as Spirit and Frontier Airlines have significantly bolstered their presence at Atlanta with new flights at the major gateway. What’s more, Atlanta is always among the world’s busiest airports, and the presence of more and more carriers battling it out for all of those travelers puts downward pressure on pricing.

The bottom line is pretty simple: More competition translates to lower prices for travelers.

MONEY Travel

New Bill Could Cap Airline Checked Baggage Fees at $4.50

Passengers line up to check in for a flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 in New York.
Mark Lennihan—AP Passengers line up to check in for a flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 in New York.

Somehow, though, the most likely result is higher fees paid by travelers.

On Wednesday, Congressman John Mica (R-FL) introduced legislation into the House that would severely limit how much airlines can charge passengers for checking baggage on flights.

The airline industry collected a whopping $38 billion in fees last year, with checked baggage charges—which are typically $25 and up for a service that was included in the cost of a ticket not long ago—providing a big chunk of that revenue. Mica’s bill, however, would cap the cost of checking a piece of luggage on a flight at just $4.50.

Or more specifically, the bill would mandate that airlines “may not collect from a passenger a fee for an item of checked baggage on a flight in passenger air transportation if the amount of the fee exceeds the total amount of passenger facility charges that could be imposed.”

A passenger facility charge (or PFC) is the fee that airports can tack on each time a flier travels through an airport. They are limited to $4.50 for each leg of a journey, and, in the case of a flight with multiple layovers, are capped at a maximum of $9 per one-way trip and $18 per round trip. The money is used—or at least is supposed to be used—to fund airport infrastructure maintenance and improvements.

Why does Mica want baggage fees lowered to the same level as PFCs? “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” the Congressman said in a press release. It appears as if his true intention isn’t to lower checked baggage fees so much as it is to use the threat of such legislation as a way to make an increase in PFCs more palatable to the airlines. Mica and others say that the airlines have been getting rich on baggage fees (and other fees, and higher fares), but that baggage revenues in particular are “not contributing to the airport improvement fund. So, taxpayer revenues now pay the difference to operate and maintain the air control and air service systems.”

Not surprisingly, the airlines see things differently, and don’t want PFCs increased because the added costs discourage travel without providing any direct benefit to the airlines. “What’s good for travelers is to not nearly double the tax they pay to step foot in an airport when airports have more than enough resources to invest in infrastructure today,” Airlines for America spokesman Vaughn Jennings said, per Bloomberg. “That is why airports can’t point to a single project that’s not moving forward due to a lack of resources.”

Above all, if there’s an increase in fees passed on to travelers, the airlines want to be the ones making the decisions—and reaping the rewards. As for the prospect of a bill passing that would cap baggage fees at $4.50, don’t hold your breath.

MONEY Travel

Millennials Will Pay More For These Air-Travel Extras

Ben Pipe Photography—Getty Images/Cultura RF

Young flyers are more willing than older travelers to pony up for these perks.

Air travelers complain a lot about being nickel and dimed all along their trip, but younger flyers especially say they are happy to pay up if it makes the journey easier.

A new report from flight update app company FlightView finds that 75% of millennials, compared with 60% of all flyers, are willing to pay extra for certain conveniences.

The survey of about 2,300 people shows that travelers care most about reducing baggage headaches and using mobile devices freely.

Of those willing to pay anything at all, 53% said they’d pay for special RFID baggage tags that use radio frequency technology to reduce the likelihood of lost suitcases, while 40% said they would pay to check luggage at airport gates so as not to have to lug bags around airport restaurants (and bathrooms).

Hate waiting forever by the carousel for your bag? You aren’t alone: 37% said they would pay for priority baggage claim.

As for in-flight bonuses, while only about one half of all respondents said they would pay extra for amenities, 60% of millennials were open to spending more in the air.

The most popular in-flight perks were related to technology: 64% of those willing to pay anything said they would purchase high-performance WiFi with enough bandwidth to stream video, while 50% said they would pay for in-seat electrical outlets for charging devices.

Only 22% said they would pay extra to exit the plane faster upon landing.

A spokesperson for FlightView says the distribution of millennials’ preferences for each perk mirrors that of all survey respondents.

Read More: 10 Free Airline Amenities That Make Flying Fun Again

TIME climate change

How Climate Change Could Make Your Flights Longer

airplane blue skies
Getty Images

Longer flights would burn more fuel and contribute more to climate change, a study suggests

Flights over the Pacific Ocean have gotten longer due to climate change-related changes in wind patterns, a shift that could be mirrored in other regions across the globe, according to new research.

Air travel currently accounts for more than 3% of the carbon emissions driving human-caused climate change, and the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests a feedback loop where longer flight times lead to greater carbon emissions and vice versa. If flight lengths continue to grow as climate change intensifies, so will the industry’s carbon emissions.

Researchers evaluated data on air time—the time spent in the air between takeoff and landing—on flights between Honolulu and Los Angeles, Honolulu and San Francisco and Honolulu and Seattle on four major carriers over an 18-year period. They attributed 88% of the year-to-year variability in flight times on those routes to two climate phenomena: the El Niño Southern Oscillation and the Arctic Oscillation. In total, those phenomena added 133 flying hours per year on those routes, or around one minute per flight, the authors conclude.

Read More: Strong El Niño Set to Bring California Drought Relief

“That kind of time is wasted when somebody isn’t sitting in their seat when the flight attendants are asking them to,” says study author Kristopher Karnauskas, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. “But those aren’t the only three routes, and you have the potential for pretty huge changes in fuel expense across the world.”

The potential impact only increased when researchers looked at projections of future climate change. A warming world may lead to stronger winds that further slow flights between Hawaii and the west coast of the United States. Still, Karnauskas says that understanding what climate change means for the flight times in other parts of the world requires more research. It’s possible that climate systems increase (or decrease) flight times elsewhere.

“I’m not saying that climate change is going to cause the global flights to be longer, they might even be shorter,” Karnauskas says. “But if you change the amount of time that planes are in the air and how much fuel is burned on annual basis by the aviation industry, that’s a feedback.”

Airlines spend millions of dollars every year studying how to fly most efficiently, including carefully examining the weather. Karnauskas say they should also take into consideration wind patterns and climate change.

TIME JetBlue

This JetBlue Video Shows You How Not to Behave at the Airport

Preston Rescigno—Getty Images

Don't push and shove, please

We’ve all been there: waiting outside a departure gate at the airport, ready to storm the jetway like it’s the Bastille, hoping to avoid too many sharp elbows in the mosh pit of travelers that’s sure to form.

JetBlue, though, wants to change all of that.

The airline — which made waves recently when it became the latest carrier to completely do away with free checked bags — has posted a humorous video on its Twitter account showing how you shouldn’t behave when boarding a plane.

Things to avoid include blocking the entrance, trying to get on the plane before your row has been called, and getting in the way of someone in a wheel chair who is trying to board. It even features one woman who decorates a gourd as a child to try to get on the plane before everyone else.

Watch below if you need a quick refresher before you jet off on a summer vacation.


Airline Scams Take Off on Facebook

Jake Rajs—Getty Images

Beware shady airfare sweepstakes and voucher scams.

July and August are historically the most popular months for air travel in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Travel Statistics, and when most people plan a vacation, they’re looking for deals. That desire to keep expenses down while also getting away for a few days makes the summer months prime time for travel scams.

Here are two recent examples of schemes that prey on your hopes to travel at a low cost as a way to steal money or personal information.

Flight Voucher Scam

Someone posted $200 airline vouchers for the price of $100 to a community buy/sell/trade group on Facebook, reports ABC7 in Denver, and at least one victim has come forward saying he paid for the vouchers, which had been used by the time he tried to book a flight for family to come visit. Before purchasing the vouchers (note: vouchers generally aren’t transferrable), he met the seller and checked with the airline to confirm their validity, but when he tried to make travel arrangements they had already been used.

This happened in Arvada, Colo., where police are investigating four related cases, ABC7 reports.

Fake Airfare Sweepstakes

You can fall victim to a scam even if it doesn’t involve money (at least not initially). A fake sweepstakes made the rounds on Facebook over the Fourth of July weekend, in which users could “like” a page and share a post from Virgin Airlines (not really Virgin Airlines) for a chance to win free flights for a year.

The idea behind this scheme is to drive thousands of people to a Facebook page and, once the page is popular enough, drive those users to scam content or malware. It’s called like farming, as Jennifer Abel explains in her report for Consumer Affairs. “Liking” a post with suspicious content may not directly harm you, but it could make you a target for other scams.

It’s good to want to save money on travel, but there are plenty of ways to do that without buying tickets from strangers or entering contests. If you’re a frequent traveler, you may want to consider getting a credit card with travel rewards. Take a look at our list of the Best Travel Credit Cards in America to get an idea of how you can benefit from a card like this. You generally need good or excellent credit to qualify for these products, and it’s best if you don’t carry a balance on them (they have high interest rates), but travel credit cards can be a huge money saver. It’s important you see the big picture: Many rewards cards also carry annual fees, which may outweigh their benefits, depending how often you use them, and it’s never a good idea to go into debt for the sake of earning a reward.

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