Welcome to The Check-In, our weekend feature focusing on all things travel.
Southwest executive tells Senate committee airline 'messed up' with holiday cancelations
Southwest Airlines COO Andrew Watterson was in the hot seat on Thursday, appearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to discuss the mass cancelation of Southwest flights around Christmas, which affected as many as 2 million travelers.
Bad weather played a part, but communication also broke down between the company's headquarters in Dallas and crews in other cities, and in an attempt to get back to square one, 16,700 flights were canceled in the last 11 days of December. In January, the airline said it expects this debacle will cost at least $1.1 billion in lost revenue and reimbursements for stranded travelers. Southwest "messed up," Watterson told the committee, adding that the airline is "intensely focused on reducing the risk of repeating the operational disruption we had in December, and repairing the trust our company has had and earned over our 52-year history." So far, he said, 2 million customers have received $300 in travel credits and all have been refunded for canceled flights.
Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, also testified and said much of this could have been avoided if the company had listened to his union, which shared concerns over a lack of investment in operations and preparation for bad weather. "Warning signs were ignored, poor performance was condoned, excuses were made, processes atrophied, core values were forgotten," he said.
Flight attendants share their tips for what not to do on an airplane
Every member of a flight crew wants travelers to have a pleasant — and safe — experience, from take-off to landing. Flight attendants will do their part, but there are a few things they want passengers to know about how they can also ensure things run smoothly.
First, if the seatbelt sign is on, don't ignore it. This "keeps you safe in unexpected turbulence," former flight attendant Kimberly Shaw told Travel + Leisure. If you hit a rough patch while not buckled in, that can "put you and others at risk." Another dangerous move is standing up as soon as the plane lands — you need to wait for it to be parked at the gate.
Onetime flight attendant Amanda McDowell told Travel + Leisure many of her colleagues would get annoyed when passengers headed to the lavatories "during takeoff and landing, or right when they got onto the aircraft when people are trying to board and organize themselves." Flight attendants need to be able to move through the aisles and make sure people are safely in their seats, so stick to going to the bathroom at cruising altitudes.
Speaking of the restrooms on planes ... former flight attendant Jo Jo Harder said to always, always wear your shoes in the lavatory (you don't want to know what might be on the floor) and clean up after yourself once you're done. "Passengers should wipe off the toilet seat and basin, then discard paper towels in a trash container," Harder suggested.
In Europe, art lovers can enjoy two rare chances to see masterpieces up close
Opportunities like this — to see more than two dozen works by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, all under one roof — don't happen every day.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam says there are 37 known Vermeers, and 28 will be on display in its new exhibition, "Vermeer," which opened Friday and runs through June 4. This is the first time so many pieces of his art have been brought together — they are rarely lent out — and The Washington Post isn't exaggerating with the headline "There will never be another Vermeer show as great as this one." Four days before the exhibit opened, the museum had already sold 200,000 advance tickets.
Not much is known about Vermeer's personal life, outside a few key dates — he was born in 1632, married in 1653, and died in 1675 — and the Rijksmuseum's general director, Taco Dibbits, hopes that this exhibit allows viewers to gain some insights into how he worked and the choices he made when it came to colors and the scenes he wanted to capture. "Vermeer depicts these moments of intense happiness where time stands still," Dibbits told CNN. "Everything comes together. There is this complete tranquility, this intimacy."
Some of Vermeer's most well-known pieces, including "The Girl with a Pearl Earring," will be on display, as well as "The Geographer," "Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid," "Woman Holding a Balance," and the newly-restored "Girl Reading a Letter at the Open Window," which has never before been shown in the Netherlands. "It's very exciting," Dibbits told CNN. "I have had this dream of having all the paintings together. Having 28 here is something we never thought possible."
Another one-of-a-kind art experience is happening in Florence, where visitors to the St. John's Baptistery can get an up-close look at its stunning ceiling mosaics.
The mosaics are being restored as part of a six-year project, and a 105-foot scaffolding platform has been set up for workers. Starting Feb. 24, visitors who reserve tickets in advance will also be able to use the platform to see the mosaics at eye level, The Associated Press reports, a treat for anyone who appreciates religious art.
"We had to turn this occasion into an opportunity to make it even more accessible and usable by the public through special routes that would bring visitors into direct contact with the mosaics," architect Samuele Caciagli told AP, adding that this is "a unique opportunity that is unlikely to be repeated in the coming decades."
The mosaics cover more than 1,000 square meters of a dome and wall, and feature scenes of John the Baptist and The Last Judgment that were created in the 13th century. The restoration is in its early stages, with workers removing grime, fixing loose stones, and assessing whether there is any water damage.
Plan accordingly: Upcoming events to add to your calendar
Aw, here it goes! If your favorite actor was on a TGIF, Nickelodeon, or Saturday morning NBC show, it's likely they'll be at 90s Con. This celebration of the decade that gave us Saved by the Bell, NSYNC, and "As if!" will take place March 17-19 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. A who's who of '90s stars will be on hand, including Sabrina the Teenage Witch herself Melissa Joan Hart; Full House's Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber, Dave Coulier, and Candace Cameron Bure; and All That's Amanda Bynes, Kel Mitchell, Lori Beth Denberg, and Danny Tamberelli. The full schedule hasn't been released yet, but there will definitely be photo and autograph ops and other fun ways to interact with your faves.
For more travel news and features, sign up for The Week U.K.'s Travel newsletter, delivered to your inbox every two weeks.