Travel New Flight Routes Taking Off This Fall
Flight review: Crossing the Atlantic on Air France’s 777-300ER in business class, New York to Paris
During the COVID-19 crisis, our team has temporarily ceased taking review trips. However, we are still publishing new flight, hotel and lounge reviews, from trips taken just before the lockdown, like this one. Please note that if you fly during the coronavirus pandemic, you will encounter a very different experience, both on the ground and on board, from what was …Great hard product, delicious food and a amicable crew.
Thedue to heavy smoke from the wildfires in California sparked national attention. But another story is smoldering in the state: 34 of its 300 state parks have had to due to the fires, which have brought additional pressure on public spaces already straining under a surge of pandemic crowds.
California is experiencing its, as firefighters continue to battle more than two dozen major fires that have killed 25 people and left scores more displaced. So far, this has seen 3.3 million acres ravaged across the Golden State—a record-breaking 26 times more than the acreage lost to fire last year.
The flames have destroyed countless structures, including historic facilities in, California’s oldest state park and home to iconic thousand-year-old redwoods. In August, Big Basin temporarily closed its gates; it’s unclear when the park will reopen.
A great short-haul business class: review of Cathay Dragon on the Airbus A321
During the COVID-19 crisis, our team has temporarily ceased taking review trips. However, we are still publishing new flight, hotel and lounge reviews, from trips taken just before the lockdown, like this one. Please note that U.S. citizens cannot currently enter Hong Kong due to the coronavirus, but are allowed to transit through the airport. The experience both on the …Full (and tasty) meal service, plenty of inflight entertainment content, excellent service.
In California and across the country, the combination of natural disaster, pandemic, and economic retrenchment against the threat of recession spell trouble for the future of state parks.
Since the onset of the, increasing numbers of Americans have been seeking relief from lockdowns by escaping to the great outdoors. As a result, national parks such as and have experienced .
State parks are seeing surges in visitors, too. In June, Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks6.6 million visitors, up from 5.6 million during the same month in 2019. , , and are among many states that have experienced similar surges. While it’s too soon to say how this year’s state parks visitation numbers will compare to the 759 million visits in recent years, early word suggests that pandemic-fueled visitation could break previous records.
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These natural areas are appealing for a number of reasons, says Grady Spann, president of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD). “In a lot of our states, we want a state park within 100 miles of every citizen of the state,” notes Spann, who is also the director of Arkansas State Parks. “And very often, state parks are either free to visit or much more affordable [than national parks] with their entry fees, amenities, and camping facilities.”
But while abundant visitor traffic is great for the state parks’ profile, surges can test the limits of staff and resources. Among other impacts, increased foot traffic erodes trails and weakens boardwalks. In places like New Hampshire’sand Washington’s , a rise in visitors is leading to rampant littering. To help minimize the damage, Utah’s rangers in April started as early as 8 a.m. Similar scenes have played out in , , , and other states.
Alaska Airlines makes bigger play for Los Angeles with 8 new routes from LAX
There are big competitive changes coming to Los Angeles International Airport this fall, and everyone seemingly wants in on the action. Alaska Airlines plans to fly 35 routes from Los Angeles (LAX) — its most ever — by the year’s end. That will come after eight new routes that will launch between September and December, …Alaska Airlines plans to fly 35 routes from Los Angeles (LAX) — its most ever — by the year’s end. That will come after eight new routes that will launch between September and December, the Seattle-based carrier said Thursday. The additions range from Eugene (EUG) and Medford (MFR) in Oregon to Kona (KOA) and Lihue (LIH) in Hawaii, and Tampa (TPA) in Florida.
Keeping state parks clean and safe for visitors is expensive. While Americans have found solace from the pandemic in state parks, most probably don’t know that these oases operate on a patchwork of funding sources that have become increasingly vulnerable.
Most of the country’s 10,234are primarily funded by their respective state budgets, with the balance coming through a variety of mechanisms. In California, for instance, money for state parks comes from three sources: a general fund (which is tied to the state budget,) visitor use fees, and special funds. The latter can include rents paid by retailers within state parks or state boating tax revenues.
In rarer cases, such as California’sor Maine’s (home of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the ), partial financing comes from private sources, such as development-focused or underwritten by wealthy benefactors. In theory, private support can allow state parks to withstand economic tremors like a recession or a pandemic.
Contributions from the federal government to state park operating budgets are minimal. In 2016, for example, federal fundsfor just one percent of the state parks’ cumulative operating expenses. And while this year’s gives national parks a much-needed $10 billion over five years for the maintenance of facilities and infrastructure, none of those dollars are earmarked for state parks. However, state parks may find some help through the GAOA-supported Land and Waters Conservation Fund. Lewis Ledford, executive director of NASPD, notes via email that the fund can provide grants to state governments for maintenance-related projects in parks and public lands. But that’s far from a comprehensive solution.
Flight review: JetBlue’s A321 in economy from Fort Lauderdale to New York
Editor’s note: During the COVID-19 crisis, our team has temporarily ceased taking review trips. Instead, we have been publishing a selection of popular reviews from recent years — like this flight review from June 2019 — as well as resuming publishing of new, previously unpublished flight, hotel and lounge reviews, from trips taken before the lockdown. We hope this will help you …This review covers a flight from 2019, and you can expect your experience to be different today.
Waianapanapa State Park, Hawaii
Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina
Letchworth State Park, New York
Chugach State Park, Alaska
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, California
Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington
Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada
Bahia Honda State Park, Florida
PALO DURO CANYON STATE PARK, TEXAS
Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Missouri
Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina
Eldorado Canyon State Park, Colorado
Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware
Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia
Natural Bridge State Park, Virginia
Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin
Heading for austerity?
Hawaii’s state parks, which receive an average of, offer a troubling glimpse of the potential future. These parks are funded by a trifecta of state taxpayer dollars, revenue generated from park entry fees charged to out-of-state visitors, and a “transient accommodations tax” for tourists, which functions like a resort fee.
But with pandemic travel restrictions in place, Hawaii tourism has taken a nosedive since late winter. The state’sstart date has been pushed back more than once, and Governor David Ige recently that the current start date (October 1) will likely be punted into the fall. Even if Hawaii opens its doors to visitors tomorrow, the months-long lapse of funding means the Aloha State’s parks are in trouble.
“Our revenue derived from user fees went from $500,000 a month to essentially zero,” says Alan Carpenter, assistant administrator of Hawaii’s Division of State Parks. “Our parks have still been busy with visits from local residents, but they don’t pay entry fees. Those fees allow us to do things like trim coconut trees and pump septic systems—things that still have to happen. For the first three months of the pandemic, myself and my boss were closing the park gates.”
The challenges that Carpenter describes point to a looming catastrophe for state parks: additional funding cuts on top of revenue lost to reduced tourism. The coronavirus pandemic hasstate budgets. Dwindling tax revenue from multiple sectors plus unemployment, business closures, and the mounting cost of running public programs and facilities during the pandemic have pushed many state budgets to the limit. And since states can’t run an operating budget like the federal government can, their options during a budget crisis are localized belt-tightening or fiscal intervention from Washington.
Those two choices—austerity or assistance—summarize the partisan divide that’s stalled the next round of pandemic aid. While House Democrats’ HEROES Act included $540 billion in funding for states, the Senate Republicans’ bill offered no relief. Meanwhile, states are in limbo, figuring out how to keep the lights on, even as money dries up.
Historically, parks are often among the first victims ofduring times of economic turbulence, says Jayni Rasmussen, a senior campaign representative for (OAK), an organization that works with the to offset costly park entrance fees for disadvantaged families.
“It’s just the standard that’s been set through past decades,” she says. “We’ve been sending letters to the Hill requesting provisions in the next stimulus bill that are going to benefit parks and park-adjacent nonprofits that help connect families to parks. Those partnerships are just hemorrhaging money right now.”
What states are doing
For now, most state parks remain open for business, but they’re running on borrowed time. Pending fiscal intervention from Congress, some states could limit access to their parks or even close them.
Pennsylvania isvisitor access fees for its parks—a marked departure from the state’s tradition of free park entry and, for some visitors, a financial barrier. New Jersey has already shuttered some of its state parks and wildlife management areas so that staff and resources can be funneled to the most-visited state parks. (Governor Phil Murphy’s 2021 fiscal year budget extracts $9.6 million from the state parks budget, according to a from the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.)
In California, the state parks foundation has launched ato dissuade lawmakers from slashing the parks’ budget to address the state’s growing budget deficit, made worse by the cost of fighting the ongoing wildfires.
“This has been a fiscally challenging year for everyone,” says Ledford. “In one state, the parks lost well over a million dollars in their ski operations run by parks because it was necessary to shut down in the spring, during one of the best spring skiing years in recent history. And to control crowds, their state parks had to limit parking all summer to 50 percent, reducing revenue by almost a million dollars on a $12 million budget.”
Left out in the cold
For Americans like Jill Higgins, the looming threat of austerity is making it tough to get through a pandemic with no end in sight. Before COVID-19, the Boston resident occasionally found time for hiking, while juggling duties as a union electrical apprentice, bartender, and part-time student. But these days, her state’s parks have become an important resource for weathering the health crisis.
Recalling “trees covered in tufts of vegetation and branches” and ribbon-like creeks that reminded her of a fairy land, Higgins says she fears the possibility of park access restrictions, and what that could mean for Americans like her seeking relief from the trauma of the pandemic.
“It would be awful for so many people if we lost access to state parks,” Higgins says. “I don’t have children, but watching families going to these parks with their kids and being present with each other—or just being there myself—was a reprieve from everything.”
Miles Howard covers outdoor and urban recreation for National Geographic, Boston Globe, VICE, NBC News, and Southwest: The Magazine. His latest book is Moon New England Hiking. Follow him onand .
Alaska Airlines is launching new West Coast routes, joining the list of US airlines switching focus to leisure travelers – here's the full list .
Alaska Airlines is continuing its West Coast expansion with a focus on leisure routes as business travel shows few signs of meaningful recovery.Los Angeles and Palm Springs are the main focus of the route expansion with the former just receiving 12 routes in July. The Seattle-based airline joins American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and United Airlines, among others, in growing its leisure route networks as demand shifts away from business travel and the pandemic enters its fourth season.