June 4-10: Bill Passed to Reduce TSA Wait; U.S. Approves Flights to Cuba; WOW Starts California Service; MGM Resorts Eliminates Free Parking; & Naked Restaurants on the Rise

House Passes Bill to Reduce TSA Wait Times

It goes without saying that airport security lines have been a mess these last few weeks. So much so, the House of Representatives stepped in and approved the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) “Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act” yesterday, which was introduced at the end of May (if only the government works this quickly on all issues). The bill still needs to pass the Senate, but faced with mounting pressure of potential chaos at the airports during the upcoming summer travel season, it should pass (hopefully) without an issue. This bill will reallocate TSA’s “behavior detection officers” to screening duties; requiring the TSA to have a minimum number of staff at all checkpoints; and allowing local agencies more flexibility to use non-screeners on non-sensitive duties like like restocking bins.

U.S. Approves Flights to Cuba

Commercial flights to Cuba are now one step closer to reality with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today approving flights to Cuba for six U.S. carriers. The DOT approved flights on American Airlines from Miami; Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Silver Airways from Fort Lauderdale; Frontier Airlines from Chicago and Philadelphia; and Sun Country Airlines from Minneapolis; with flights expected to begin in fall. These approvals are for service to all Cuban airports other than Havana. The DOT said approvals for Havana will happen sometime in summer, which is when American and JetBlue plan to start selling tickets.

WOW Starts California Service

Here’s some good news for Californian’s: WOW air, Iceland’s budget airline that’s been offering $99 one-way flights to Europe from Baltimore and Boston, is now flying from San Francisco, with service from Los Angeles starting on June 15. Nonstop flights to Reykjavik from San Francisco will be available five days a week and four days a week from Los Angeles, also from as low as $99 one-way. From there, travelers can make their way across most of Europe either on WOW or one of the many other European low-cost carriers. WOW offers connecting service to 23 popular European destinations including Amsterdam, Berlin, London and Paris from $149 one-way. These new routes will be on new Airbus A330-300 aircrafts with only one class of service, and the seat pitch (the distance from one point on one seat to the same point on the seat behind it) will vary from the standard 30 inches or you can upgrade to 34 inches. By comparison, JetBlue’s seat pitch falls within the same range, while Spirit Airlines has a pitch of 28 inches.

MGM Resorts Eliminates Free Parking

Revelers to Las Vegas who plan on spending time at any MGM Resorts, take note: parking isn’t free anymore. Announced back in January, almost all hotels and casinos under the MGM Resorts umbrella now charge $8 to $10 for self-parking and $13 to $18 for valet parking. The hotels on the list are The Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, MGM Grand, Monte Carlo, New York-New York and Vdara. Delano, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage will start charging next Monday. Nevadans will still get to park free until December 29. If you’re balking at the parking fee, a list of free parking locations is available here.

Random News Story of the Week: Naked Restaurants on the Rise

Two upcoming restaurants with a common theme made the news this week, but for slightly different reasons: Both restaurants, The Bunyadi in London and The Amrita in Tokyo, will be following in the footsteps of a one-time affair in Melbourne where patrons dined in the nude (or near-nude, as the case may be). The Buyandi, set to open later this month already has over 40,000 people on their waitlist, offers a five course vegan and non-vegan menu for £69 (USD$99), in an “all-natural, ‘Pangaea-like’” dining experience. The restaurant had a soft opening and received positive reviews from the first set of diners.

The Amrita will open next month but is already creating controversy because of the restrictions they have in place: no overweight diners. And you have to be between 18 and 60. And you can’t have tattoos (although there are no mention if men with hairy backs are allowed). According to the rules listed by the restaurant, “If you are more than 15 kilos (33 pounds) above the average weight for your height, we ask you refrain from making a reservation.” According to Miki Komatsu, a spokeswoman for the restaurant, “In London they allow overweight patrons in and some guests complained they had a terrible experience … If fat people are allowed in it could be miserable for some guests.” Meals will set you back 80,000 yen (USD$750) and includes a dance show with male models. If you don’t want to watch a group of men gyrating while dining, the meal alone will cost 14,000 to 28,000 yen (USD$130 to USD$260).


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