Dec. 12-18: U.S.-Cuba Reach Commercial Flight Agreement; Theme Parks to Install Metal Detectors; Royal Caribbean’s Tallest Slide; & more

This week’s round-up brings the latest airline and travel news – from U.S. & Cuba reaching an agreement to resume commercial, theme parks to install metal detectors and new safety protocols, and Royal Caribbean’s new megaship with world’s tallest slide at sea, to United’s opens store in Newark that allows users to use miles for purchases, and airline cancels popular route over alleged discrimination. Enjoy!

U.S. & Cuba Reach Commercial Flight Agreement

After months of waiting, the United States and Cuba finally reached an agreement on late Wednesday night to allow commercial flights between both countries. The agreement allows for 110 daily flights with 20 flights a day to Havana and 10 flights a day to Cuba’s nine other airports. It’s not clear however, when the airlines will be able to fly all the available slots to Havana’s José Martí International Airport as the airport is not set up to handle this volume of flights.

While this agreement means you don’t have to fly charter or fly from an airport outside the U.S., the United States still has a law in place that bars tourism travel to Cuba. American travelers will still need to meet one of 12 requirements to visit the largest island in the Caribbean, such as having family members in Cuba or being a Cuban-American. The U.S. State Department is make a statement that “a stronger civil aviation relationship will facilitate growth in authorized travel between our two countries— a critical component of the President’s policy toward Cuba.”

And all major U.S. airlines including American Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines have all express interest in flying to Cuba, with American being the first to state that will submit a service proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and with hopes to start service as soon as possible.

Theme Parks to Install Metal Detectors

Following the recent attacks, theme parks including SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, Disney World and Disneyland will be introducing new safety protocols, including the installation of metal detectors. In addition to the metal detectors, spokeswoman for Walt Disney, Jacquee Wahler, added that Disney will be using more local police and vapor wake K9 units (dogs trained to detect body-worn explosives) on both properties. Vacationers heading to SeaWorld Orlando should also expect bag checks in addition the metal detector screenings.

Royal Caribbean’s Tallest Slide at Sea

It goes without saying every time a major cruise company introduces a new ship, it will have all the bells and whistles any passenger can imagine and then some! Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas is no different, and is set to be the largest cruise ship upon its release. The biggest feature of the new ship is its slide, the Ultimate Abyss, which will be the world’s tallest at sea. The slide is 150 feet above sea level and thrill-seekers will slide down 100 feet (approximately 10 stories) of twists and turns on to a customized mat. You will have a wait a bit before you can experience the slide for yourself, as the Harmony of the Seas’ maiden voyage won’t commence until May 2016.

United Opens Mileage Store in Newark

United Airlines’ MileagePlus members flying from the airline’s hub in Newark’s Liberty International Airport now has a new way to spend their hard-earned miles. Located in terminal C, the Miles Shop carries travel supplies and other items. Shoppers can use their miles to pay for items or opt to use cash or their credit card, which will earn them five miles for each dollar spent. Items range in price from 600 to 50,000 miles, and include United Airlines model airplanes for 4,000 miles, York Times Travel Guides for 4,900 miles, and Delsey suitcases for 37,000 miles. Currently the store will be open through the holiday season.

Random Story of the Week: Airline Cancels Flight Route over Alleged Discrimination

When an airline discontinues a particular route, it usually has to do with the route not being profitable. Kuwait Airways, however, decided to eliminate a popular route between New York City’s JFK International Airport and London’s Heathrow Airport after the DOT threatened legal action over alleged discrimination. Back in September, the DOT gave Kuwait Airways 15 days to respond to its warning for illegally discriminating against an Israeli national by refusing to sell the traveler a ticket. The airline argued that they weren’t discriminating because under Kuwaiti law, they are not allowed to do business with Israel or Israelis. The DOT didn’t accept that reasoning, and on Dec. 15, Kuwait Airways notified the “DOT that they will be eliminating service between JFK and London Heathrow.” The service could resume, eventually, if the airline’s petition with the Federal Court of Appeals, filed in November, goes in their favor.

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