Travel Briefs

Winter flight cancellations were a record

NEW YORK (AP) – It’s official: This winter was the worst for fliers in the 20 years that the government has been collecting data.

During the first three months of this year, U.S. airlines canceled 4.6 percent of their flights, the Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.

Mother Nature is mostly to blame, with a relentless wave of snow and ice storms paralyzing airline traffic across the nation.

But airlines are also quicker to cancel flights these days, sometimes a day in advance of a storm. The shift in strategy came in response to new government regulations, improvements to overall operations and because canceling quickly reduces expenses.

Details emerge about new Harry Potter ride

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – The centerpiece of the new Harry Potter-themed area at Universal Orlando Resort will take visitors into Gringotts bank to help retrieve a magical object and re-create a scene from the wildly popular book and movie series.

Universal executives announced Tuesday that the ride will be called “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.” It re-creates a scene from the final Harry Potter book and film.

“It takes you into one of the great moments of the fiction,” said Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative.

The ride and the themed area – called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley – will open in the summer. It will double the size of the Harry Potter landscape in the park.

Among the features of the new ride: a 60-foot dragon atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank, a labyrinth of Gringotts vaults, and a marble hall with goblins. Riders will be taken into a world as part of a quest to retrieve a magical object to defeat Lord Voldemort.

The ride will use 360-degree themed sets, digital high-definition animation, 3-D projection systems and live special effects.

Woodbury said the goal was to use new technology and intensely detailed storytelling to thrill Harry Potter fans and entice those who haven’t read the books or seen the movies.

The new themed area will be located at Universal Studios Park. It will be tied to the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter area at Universal’s Islands of Adventure via the Hogwarts Express train.

During the train ride, riders will spot characters and magical creatures from the book. Among them: Hagrid on a flying motorbike, the Weasley twins on brooms, and the Knight Bus in London traffic.

Universal’s team worked with a group from the Harry Potter films on the new themed area.

If fans want to see both parks, a two-park ticket will be required. For adults, a two-park ticket for one day costs $136; for children, it costs $130.

Phoenix airport boasts record numbers in March

PHOENIX (AP) – More than 4 million passengers passed through Phoenix’s international airport during the month of March, setting a record.

City officials announced Monday that March marked the busiest month in the history of Sky Harbor as well as a 3.2 percent increase over the numbers recorded in March 2013.

Phoenix Aviation Director Danny Murphy says spring training, students on spring break and Arizona’s weather helped to attract visitors in March.

In the first three months of this year, the airport saw a 3.3 percent increase in passenger numbers compared to the same time period in 2013.

Officials say April statistics for Sky Harbor are not yet available.

Hotels and resorts throughout the valley also saw a nearly 3 percent increase in occupancy in March compared to the same time last year.

Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk re-opens

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk has reopened following a 16-month renovation.

Media outlets report the museum reopened Saturday. More than 1,000 people attended a preview party Friday night.

The $24 million project included a redesign of the museum’s interior and the addition of two wings. The new wings will house galleries for American and European painting and sculpture and provide more space for a glass collection.

Travel Briefs

Hawaii spending by visitors drops 3.5 percent

HONOLULU (AP) – Spending by visitors in Hawaii fell by 3.5 percent in March compared with the same month one year ago to $1.2 billion, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said Monday.

The number of travelers to Hawaii also dropped, sinking 5.2 percent to fewer than 729,000 visitors.

The state tourism agency has been anticipating slower growth following two record-breaking years for the industry, CEO Mike McCartney said in a statement. The outlook for the summer is strong, McCartney said, but the fall season should be challenging because of increased competition, a strengthening U.S. dollar and a hike in Japan’s consumption tax.

Travelers from the state’s biggest market – the western region of the U.S. – led the declines in March.

There were 9.2 percent fewer visitors to Hawaii from the area, and they spent 14 percent less money while here.

About 2 percent more Japanese visitors, who make up the state’s biggest international market, came to Hawaii. Spending by travelers from Japan declined 0.6 percent.

By county, spending fell 9.5 percent on Oahu and 4.3 percent on Kauai as the number of visitors to both places declined. But spending climbed 5.7 percent in Maui County and 4.9 percent on Hawaii Island. Both Maui and Hawaii counties also had more visitors in March.

Disney says Shanghai theme park to get $800 million boost

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Disney says it and its Chinese partner will spend $800 million more on their Shanghai theme park, bringing the total investment to nearly $5.5 billion.

The extra spending will go toward more attractions, entertainment and other offerings. Most of the additions are targeted to be completed by opening day, which is aimed for the end of 2015.

CEO Bob Iger said in a statement that Disney has been impressed with the growth of China’s economy, the expansion of the middle class and a significant increase in travel and tourism.

Shanghai Shendi Group owns 57 percent of the park while The Walt Disney Co. holds the remaining 43 percent.

Each will contribute a proportionate share of the extra investment.

Chicago museum extends Disney exhibit by 3 months

CHICAGO (AP) – The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is extending a popular exhibit of Walt Disney archives.

Anne Rashford is director of temporary exhibits at the museum. In a statement Monday, she says the exhibit is being extended for three months. It is now scheduled to end Aug. 3.

The exhibition, titled “Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives,” includes more than 300 artifacts from nine decades of Disney history. It features costumes, props and artwork from classic Disney animation, live-action films, theme parks and television shows.

Rashford says the exhibit offers a rare peek into Disney’s life and “the unforgettable entertainment he created.”

Attendees must purchase a separate ticket for the exhibit in addition to their museum admission.

Frontier cutting fares but charging for carry-ons

DENVER (AP) – Passengers beware: More airline fees are on their way.

Another airline is promising to change the way we fly by offering cheap base fares but then adding on a bevy of additional fees. Passengers flying Frontier Airlines will now have to pay extra to place carry-on bags in the overhead bin or for advance seat assignments.

The move comes as the Denver-based airline tries to transform itself into a fee-dependent airline, similar to Spirit Airlines or Allegiant Air – the only other U.S. carriers to charge such fees. Frontier already charges $1.99 for a soda or water on its flights, a fee it added on July 1.

Frontier says that in exchange for these new fees, it is lowering its base fare by an average of 12 percent. The new charges apply to tickets purchased on or after Monday.