Posts with «travel & tourism» label

NYC’s ‘de facto ban’ on Airbnb is already removing listings

Those firing up Airbnb to look for a short-term rental in New York City right now may find the pickings a bit slim. Officials in the city have started enforcing new regulations mandating that hosts will have to file a registration application — and meet a set of requirements — to be able to rent homes to guests for less than 30 days. Hosts can only rent out homes for short-term stays if they're also staying there, and only two guests are allowed at a time. These requirements are part of old and existing rules on rentals, however, and only the Short-Term Rental Registration Law itself is new.

NYC's Office of Special Enforcement said on its website that on September 5, it started collaborating with booking platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo to ensure that they're honoring the city's verification system. These companies will now have to check whether hosts listing their homes for stays less than 30 days have been approved by authorities. According to The New York Times, only 257 application registrations have been approved so far out of the 3,250 that were lodged as of August 28. That would mean thousands of listings could be removed from Airbnb, seeing as the company estimates that almost 15,000 hosts had short-term rental listings across NYC as recent as last month. 

Airbnb called the law a "de facto ban" on short-term rentals and filed a lawsuit, which was dismissed last month, to try and block its enforcement. Theo Yedinsky, the company's global policy director, said the rules "are a blow to [NYC's] tourism economy" and that "[t]he city is sending a clear message to millions of potential visitors who will now have fewer accommodation options when they visit New York City: you are not welcome." 

The city's authorities argued that enforcing the new law would help prevent housing "being lost to the practice of illegal" short-term rentals. Hosts renting out homes for short periods contributes to the housing shortage, they said, and makes it more expensive to live in the city as a result. 

Airbnb told The Times and CNN that reservations with a check-in on or before December 1 will not be cancelled, but the company will refund the fees it received related to those stays to comply with the new rules. Meanwhile, all bookings starting on December 2 will be cancelled, and guests will be refunded. In addition, hosts will find their listings converted to long-term rentals only if they allow bookings of 30 days or more on the platform. All listings that only allow short-term bookings will be deactivated. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

United Airlines has grounded all flights due to a 'computer issue'

You might be in for a lengthy wait if you were planning on catching a United Airlines flight today. The company has issued a nationwide ground stop because of a "computer issue," as ABC News first reported. "United Airlines asked the FAA to pause the airline’s departures nationwide," the Federal Aviation Administration told Engadget.

United wrote in a statement on X (formerly Twitter) that it's "experiencing a system-wide technology issue." Aircraft that are on the ground will stay there for now and airborne flights will carry on to their destinations. The company pledged to share more details as they become available and to get travelers on their way as soon as possible.

We are experiencing a systemwide technology issue and are holding all aircraft at their departure airports. Flights that are already airborne are continuing to their destination as planned. We will share more information as it becomes available. Thank you for your patience as we…

— United Airlines (@united) September 5, 2023

United has grounded flights following a similar issue in the UK just last week. An air traffic control glitch led to the cancellation of a fifth of UK departures and 27 percent of flights that were due to arrive into the country last Monday, when the issue occurred

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Virgin Galactic's first private passenger spaceflight will launch as soon as August 10th

Now that Virgin Galactic has flown its first commercial spaceflight, it's ready to take civilians aboard. The company now expects to launch its first private passenger flight, Galactic 02, as soon as August 10th. Virgin isn't yet revealing the names of everyone involved, but there will be three passengers alongside the usual crew. You can watch a live stream on the company website.

The inaugural commercial flight, Galactic 01, flew in late June. However, all three passengers were Italian government workers (two from the Air Force and one research council member) conducting microgravity studies. While it's not clear what 02's civilian crew will do, they can be tourists this time around.

The firm has been ramping up its operations in recent months after numerous delays from previous years. While Galactic 02 is just Virgin's seventh spaceflight of any kind, it's the third in 2023. The company says it's establishing a "regular cadence" of flights, and you can expect them to become relatively routine if this voyage goes as planned.

The improved frequency is important for the company's finances. Virgin has operated at a loss for years, and lost over $500 million in 2022. The business won't recoup those losses any time soon even at $450,000 per ticket, but paying customers are key to softening the blow and making a case for space tourism.

Blue Origin and SpaceX have already flown civilians into space, and at altitudes higher than the 50-plus miles Virgin flies. However, they haven't established regular launch schedules for tourists. SpaceX's lunar trips won't happen until the company can finish testing Starship, and Blue Origin is waiting to resume flights following a rocket failure in 2022. In that regard, Virgin may be the closest to achieving its tourism goals — so long as maintains the pace it's setting this summer.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Cruise launches an Android app for its self-driving taxis

Cruise has finally launched an Android app for ridehailing, giving potential customers in San Francisco the option to call one of its robotaxis even if they're not iPhone users. The self-driving car company told Engadget that 20 percent of its waitlisters are on Android, and an app for the platform is one of people's most-requested updates on social media. Cruise's new Android app will come with all the upgrades the iOS app has received since it launched, including the ability to drop a moveable pin on the map by long pressing on the screen. 


The company recently started operating in all areas of San Francisco 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Employees have been able to hail robotaxi rides from across the city at all hours for months, but Cruise opened daytime rides to public "power users" in specific portions of the city back in April. To note, when Cruise secured the first ever driverless deployment permit issued by the California Public Utilities Commission last year, it was only given permission to operate in select areas of San Francisco from 10PM to 6AM. 

Passengers with Android phones who become power users, or customers who sign up to test beta features and to send feedback to Cruise for free rides, will be able to hail daytime rides. A spokesperson also told us that Cruise is continuing to expand the availability of daytime rides in San Francisco, so even paying customers will eventually be able to use the service. When the company announced its 24/7 operations, Kyle Vogt, its CEO, said that we'll soon see Cruise "open up full operations in other cities." He said "operating robotaxis in SF has become a litmus test for business viability," and that if the technology can work there, "there's little doubt it can work just about everywhere."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Virgin Galactic completes its final VSS Unity flight test before space tourism debut

Virgin Galactic is finally on the cusp of launching its space tourism business. After a late start, the company has completed its last VSS Unity flight test before commercial service starts. The Unity 25 mission tested both technical functionality and the overall experience for astronauts, and reached space at roughly 12:26PM Eastern. The launch also made a little history: crew member Jamila Gilbert became the first female astronaut from New Mexico, according to Virgin. Gilbert and fellow crewmates Chris Huie, Luke Mays and Beth Moses are all Virgin employees.

The company has delayed this test multiple times. The final delay stemmed from difficulties upgrading the VMS Eve host aircraft, which ferries Unity to 50,000 feet. Virgin completed an unpowered test flight in late April, but its first crewed flight dates back to July 2021, when founder Richard Branson joined Moses, Sirisha Bandla and Colin Bennett for Unity 22. Unity 25 is Virgin's fifth spaceflight of any kind.

The successful test is important for Virgin. It has operated at a loss for years as it kept pushing back its space tourism plans, and lost over $500 million in 2022 alone. While the company hasn't said when it expects to fly paying customers, it needs those passengers' $450,000 tickets to help recoup its investment. Now, it's more a matter of firming up details than overcoming technological hurdles.

Virgin trails Blue Origin, which is already launching civilians into space. It's closer to passenger spaceflights than SpaceX, though. While Elon Musk's outfit announced its lunar tourism plans years ago, it has yet to send a Starship rocket into space with crew aboard. Not that SpaceX is necessarily concerned. Virgin is focused on less ambitious (if also less expensive) suborbital flights where Starship will be used for both tourists' lunar orbits and NASA's Moon landings.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Disney’s pricey, immersive Star Wars hotel is shutting down

Less than 19 months after opening Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, Disney will close the hotel's doors. Star Wars fans who are willing to splurge now have until the end of September to try the two-night experience.

“Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is one of our most creative projects ever and has been praised by our guests and recognized for setting a new bar for innovation and immersive entertainment,” Disney told CNBC in a statement. “This premium, boutique experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and as we prepare for its final voyage, we will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our guests and fans.”

The hotel opened at Walt Disney World in Florida in March 2022 and it promised fans a one-of-a-kind jaunt. Guests are immersed in a Star Wars story. As passengers on a starcruiser, they encounter a First Order officer and stormtroopers who board the ship to find Resistance spies. Guests can choose to join the light side or the dark side and they may encounter the likes of Chewbacca, Rey and Kylo Ren.

Along with the room, food and drink (except for alcohol), access to Disney World's Hollywood Studios park, a Magic Band and valet service are included in the stay. But for all that, guests are charged a pretty penny.

A two-night stay for two people at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser starts at $4,800. For a group of three adults and one child, the rate is $6,000. That cost is on top of travel expenses and anything else that tourists might want to do in the area. As such, the hotel is out of the price range of many parents who want to take their kids to Disney World.

Disney didn't explain the reasons for closing down Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, but the writing has been on the wall for a while. Late last year, reports suggested that the hotel was struggling with falling demand and was seeing occupancy rates of as little as 25 percent. In March, it emerged that Disney was cutting back bookings. In the end, it seems Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser was an ambitious experiment for which not enough fans were willing to pay through the nose.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Cruise's robotaxis are heading to Houston and Dallas

Cruise's robotaxis are continuing their push across the Lone Star State. The self-driving car company has announced it plans to begin supervised testing in two more Texan cities, Houston and Dallas, joining its earlier move into Austin (yes, the home of still robotaxi-less Tesla). For now, the expansion is focused on familiarizing the car with the areas, rather than picking up passengers. Residents of the two cities can expect to start seeing Cruise's robotaxis cruising down the streets with a safety driver inside.

In a tweet sharing the news, Cruise said supervised testing in Houston should start in a matter of days while Dallas will be "shortly thereafter." Cruise's robotaxis are already available on a limited basis overnight in Austin and Phoenix and all day in certain areas of San Francisco. 

The speed General Motors-owned Cruise is advancing has brought some concerns. In January, San Francisco's Transportation Authority asked regulators to limit or temporarily pause Cruise and competitor Waymo's expansion, citing repeated cases of their cars inexplicably stopping in traffic and blocking emergency vehicles. As of yet, things have done anything but slow down. Since the request, Cruise celebrated one million fully driverless miles on top of making its robotaxis available at all times in San Francisco — though full access is only for employees.

Right now, there's no set date for when the public will have access to rides in Houston or Dallas. Going off the timeline of other Cruise expansions, it will likely take at least a few months until anyone can hail a self-driving car in either city. Even then, it will probably start with a small group of people and only at night. Anyone interested in taking one of Cruise's robotaxis has to sign up for a waiting list and be accepted to create an account. The company says its limited available cars will keep its services invite-only for the time being.

We’re getting bigger in Texas…

Introducing our next 2 cities— Houston and Dallas!

— cruise (@Cruise) May 10, 2023
This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Uber starts offering flight bookings in the UK

Uber has started offering domestic and international flight bookings in the UK and will continue rolling it out across the whole region over the coming weeks, according to the Financial Times. The company's general manager for the UK, Andrew Brem, told the publication that this is "the latest and most ambitious step" it has taken to achieve its goal to become a wider travel booking platform. 

Uber first revealed its plans to add train, bus and flight bookings to its UK app in April last year and launched the first two options a few months later. Brem said train bookings have been "incredibly popular" so far and have grown 40 percent every month since they became available, though he didn't give the Times concrete ticket sales numbers. 

For its flights, the company has teamed up with travel booking agency Hopper. The Times says Uber will take a small commission from each sale and could add a booking fee on top of its offerings in the future. It's unclear how much the company's cut actually is, but it charges its partner drivers 25 percent on all fares. As the Times notes, offering flight bookings could also help grow Uber's main ride-hailing business even further, since users are likely to book rides to and from the airport through the service, as well. 

Although flight bookings are only available in the UK at the moment, the region — one of its biggest markets outside North America — only serves as a testing ground for Uber's plans. Brem told the publication that the company is hoping to expand flight offerings to more countries in the future, but it has no solid plans yet. Uber did offer $200 chopper rides in the US back in 2019, but that service was discontinued in the midst of pandemic-related lockdowns. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Airbnb refocuses on cheap rooms as its rentals get pricier

The pandemic is over, according to Airbnb (that's debatable), so the company is gearing up for a massive summer of vacationing. It's introducing over 50 new features to its rental platform, including an expansion of the more transparent pricing it unveiled last year. Most importantly, though, it's refocusing on the pitch that made the company a success: Being able to easily rent low-cost rooms. It's relaunching that experience as "Airbnb Rooms," which will make it easier to find private rooms, as well as offer more details up-front to potential renters. 

A new "Host Passport" feature will help you get to know hosts before booking, a useful feature since you'll most likely be sharing their living space. Listings can also show if a bedroom has its own lock, and if the bathrooms are private or shared with the host. “Airbnb Rooms are often more affordable than hotels, and they’re the most authentic way to experience a city," Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement. "This is the soul of Airbnb.”

The company says it'll have over a million Airbnb Rooms listings, and that more than 80 percent of them will cost under $100 a night. Given how much Airbnb prices have skyrocketed over the last few years, as hosts pumped up cleaning costs and built mini-rental empires, it makes sense for the company to highlight its more affordable offerings. For many travelers, including this reporter, hotels often seem cheaper and easier to book than many Airbnb options. 

As for other upgrades, Airbnb will also let you view checkout instructions before completing a booking (which could be a useful red flag for potential nightmare hosts), it's improved map performance and revamped wishlists completely (including the ability to write notes). The company is also reducing service fees for stays longer than three months, as well as for stays longer than a month if you pay with a linked bank account. Not surprisingly, Airbnb is also getting into the pay over time game with a new partnership with Klarna.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Cruise self-driving taxis can now operate around the clock in San Francisco

You won't necessarily have to hail one of Cruise's robotaxis at night in San Francisco. Company chief Kyle Vogt has revealed that Cruise now has permission to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week across all of San Francisco. Only employees will have access to the whole region for those hours. However, Cruise is also opening daytime rides to public "power users" for the first time. While you'll only have access to a limited portion of the city at first (mainly Pacific Heights, Richmond and Sunset), it's now just a question of where you are, not when you're going.

Staff have already been riding during the daytime for months. San Francisco officials have resisted expanding access to robotaxis from Cruise and Alphabet's Waymo over concerns the companies are moving too quickly. There have been incidents where the driverless cars blocked traffic, including emergency vehicles. The city's Transportation Authority has instead pushed for limited rollouts with gradual expansions.

Well folks, we did it. I have been waiting for this day for almost 10 years.

I am proud to announce @Cruise is now running 24/7 across all of San Francisco!

This is a pivotal moment for our business.

Let me tell you why 👇(1/6)

— Kyle Vogt (@kvogt) April 25, 2023

There's no timeline for wider deployments elsewhere, but Vogt promises that operations will "soon" grow in other cities. Successful use in San Francisco is a "litmus test" for robotaxis in other cities, the executive claims. The city's challenging terrain, unusual roads and wet weather are daunting for self-driving car sensors.

The wider access could help the GM-owned brand claim an edge over Waymo. Cruise was the first to start charging for self-driving rides in San Francisco. Now, it can tout non-stop service for some passengers. Waymo still has an advantage in areas like Phoenix, where it has charged for public rides for a while, but it clearly has a more difficult fight ahead.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at