COVID era LAX travel: Lot E parking, basic economy fall flat


After a 14-month hiatus, I was scheduled to return to flying with back-to-back trips, one to Washington, D.C., one to Washington state, two airlines, two kinds of tickets, all with the same mission: hugging. The two questions before me: Could there be too much hugging of your family after two years apart? And what would I learn flying to Seattle and Washington Dulles on Delta and Alaska, respectively, from LAX?

Answer to the first question: No. There is no such thing as too much hugging of people you love and have missed. Answer to the second: I learned plenty and also had the awful realization that travel muscle memory fades. Here are some pitfalls worth noting if you’re flying after not flying for a while.

Beware what you think you know

Some of the new rules of flying have been repeated so often that they cannot be a surprise: Wear a mask in the terminal and on the plane and expect limited in-flight food and beverage. Check and check.

Here’s one I didn’t anticipate before my 7:45 a.m. departure to D.C.: That place you always parked may not be open. Check and nearly mate.

I left home in plenty of time for my flight. Good thing because there was a surprise: Lot E, the economy lot at LAX, is closed, and there is no timeline for reopening.

The sign at Lot E told me I could park at the airport. A recording on the telephone number [(310) 893-4676] on the LAX parking website said the same thing; my bank account told me I could not. But the recording also reminded me I could park at nearby hotels and third-party lots.

Time to renew my romance with the Parking Spot on Century Boulevard, which I jilted when Lot E opened in 2019. It welcomed me as it always had, but time was running short, so instead of parking on the less-expensive rooftop (which often says it’s full but usually isn’t, in my experience), I parked in its welcoming covered parking lot.

My five days of parking cost $133, just $37 less than my round-trip main cabin fare to D.C. on Alaska. If/when Lot E reopens, I’m breaking up with Parking Spot. Again. (Note to Ben Affleck: Be careful about rekindling an old flame. Someone always gets burned.)

You already know that about airfares, rental cars and hotels, but it’s also true for ride-sharing.

My Uber to LAX for the Seattle trip cost $39.91, plus tip. But upon returning, the fare quoted for LAX to home was $63.71. I checked Lyft, and it was quoting $40. Had I known Lot E was closed, I would have used ride-share for my trip to D.C. Lesson learned. Again.

Basic economy may no longer be your BFF

In a bid to mitigate the pandemic blow, airlines that offer the no-perk basic economy ticket loosened up. In the Before Times, an unused basic economy ticket was money down the drain. No credit, no refund. You couldn’t pay a change fee in hopes of recouping at least some of the ticket’s value.

During the pandemic, airlines’ hard hearts softened, and you could change a basic ticket, avoid the fee and retain its value.

Now it’s back to the bad old days. A basic ticket on most airlines has morphed into its old self — no changes and no financial relief. You are stuck, and your ardor may cool.

Confession: I lucked out big time on my basic Delta ticket to Seattle. All the things that make basic economy dicey — bag fees and, sometimes, no carry-on, no seat selection until the 11th hour, boarding last so you must take the Penny Pincher Walk of Shame past the non-basic fliers — weren’t an issue on my trip.

I flew Delta in the waning days of its empty middle-seat policy and scored an aisle seat in a three-across in which there were but two of us. I also didn’t have to board last because Delta was boarding back to front and my seat, 21C, was in the first group called. All of us were offered drinks and snacks (almonds and a mini Clif bar), and I finally got to see “News of the World” on the way out and “Soul” on the way back.

Delta also offered to check my bag for free on my return to LAX, although I have no idea why. I happily accepted because I’m not tall or strong enough to hoist my bag into the overhead without help — that’s an ego bruiser — and my bag was waiting for me when I got to baggage claim.

For $150 round trip, what’s not to love? Alas, I think my first trip in basic may also be my last because those stars may never align again. But it was fun while it lasted.

There are worse things than crying babies

Pre-pandemic, I would have said, “Yeah, like what?” One little pumpkin head wailed most of the way from Dulles to LAX. I can’t say I didn’t notice, but I can say I didn’t mind. Much. Maybe I’ve made peace with the notion that this baby was not on this flight just to make me miserable. Or maybe I was so fortified by all that hugging that this tearful tyke was nothing more than a blip on the scale.

May it ever be so.





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Gauge on retail sales flat


U.S. retail sales stalled in April after a sharp advance in March when pandemic-relief checks provided millions of Americans with increased spending power.

The value of overall retail purchases was essentially unchanged last month after an upwardly revised 10.7% gain in March that was the second-largest in records back to 1992, Commerce Department figures showed Friday.

The total value of retail sales was a record $619.9 billion in April.

While consumers may begin to shift more of their spending to services such as entertainment and travel as pandemic fears dissipate, elevated savings supported by fiscal stimulus should help underpin retail demand.

The question is whether consumers will continue to spend without stimulus checks. “The April retail sales tip the odds toward slower sales in the coming months,” said analysts at Contingent Macro Advisors.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Friday’s report comes amid other signs the economy is improving as vaccinations accelerate and business restrictions are relaxed. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 473,000, a new pandemic low. And consumer confidence hit its highest level last month since the pandemic began.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear a mask or social-distance outdoors and in most indoor settings, which may get more people to travel, eat out or shop.

Consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of all economic activity in the U.S., is closely monitored by economists to gauge the nation’s economic health. Friday’s report covers a third of all consumer spending but doesn’t include services, like hotel stays or haircuts.

Eight of 13 retail categories registered declines in April sales, with the largest percentage decrease at clothing stores, which fell 5.1% after a 22.7% surge in March.

Sales at non-store retailers, which include e-commerce, fell 0.6% in April. General merchandise store sales fell 4.9% and the value of purchases at sporting goods outlets dropped 3.6%.

The value of restaurant receipts rose 3% after a 13.5% March gain as states across the country eased restrictions on indoor dining capacity.

Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers climbed 2.9% in April, even as automakers faced production constraints due to the global semiconductor shortage.

So-called control group sales, which exclude more volatile categories including food services, car dealers and gasoline stations, dropped 1.5% in April after an upwardly revised 7.6% jump in March.

The pandemic substantially reshaped consumer behavior. Grocery store spending surged during the pandemic while restaurant revenue dropped. Apparel sales plunged as Americans canceled events, and spending on outdoor activities and home improvements soared. As vaccinations have picked up and warmer weather has taken hold, the retail industry has been waiting to see if spending will revert to its prepandemic levels.

The Easton Town Center, a popular open-air shopping center in Ohio, has been getting “close” to 2019 levels of foot traffic, though bad weather in April dampened some of its momentum, said Jennifer Peterson, the center’s chief executive. She said the center was planning to create summer attractions like a “prosecco plaza” and resuming events like concerts and movie nights with new adjustments like social distancing and masks.

“We’re thinking of this summer as kind of a relaunch of Easton, knowing that the pandemic has really put people’s mindsets in a different place,” Peterson said. “We want to bring them back with joyful activities.”

Retailers will continue to walk a tightrope in the coming months as they work to attract shoppers while creating a safe environment. The latest wrinkle came Thursday with the CDC’s new guidance for masks, saying that it is safe for fully vaccinated people to remove face coverings in most indoor settings.

Retailers, from individual chains to shopping centers, are still reviewing that guidance and figuring out what it could mean for employees and customers. The CDC’s declaration does not override mask orders from states, counties or cities. The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents thousands of grocery store workers, called the guidance “confusing” and said it failed to consider employees who regularly interact with unvaccinated, unmasked customers.

Information for this article was contributed by Olivia Rockeman of Bloomberg News (WPNS), by Joseph Pisani of The Associated Press and by Sapna Maheshwari of The New York Times.



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Retail sales were flat in April as stimulus spending waned


  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / APRIL 19
                                A woman carries Target shopping bags as she leaves the store in New York.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / APRIL 19

    A woman carries Target shopping bags as she leaves the store in New York.

NEW YORK >> Retail sales in the U.S. were flat in April after soaring in March, when many Americans received $1,400 stimulus checks that boosted spending.

The report today from the U.S. Commerce Department was worse than the 0.8% rise Wall Street analysts had expected. But it wasn’t all bad: March’s number was revised upwards to 10.7%. Americans started receiving a third round of stimulus checks that month, helping retail sales soar.

The question is whether consumers will continue to spend without stimulus checks. “The April retail sales tip the odds toward slower sales in the coming months,” said analysts at Contingent Macro Advisors.

Friday’s report comes amid other signs the economy is improving as vaccinations accelerate and business restrictions are relaxed. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 473,000, a new pandemic low. And consumer confidence hit its highest level last month since the pandemic began.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear a mask or social distance outdoors and in most indoor settings, which may get more people to travel, eat out or shop.

Consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of all economic activity in the U.S., is closely monitored by economists to gauge the nation’s economic health. Friday’s report covers a third of all consumer spending, but doesn’t include services, like hotel stays or haircuts.

The report today suggests Americans were heading out last month to eat instead of shop. Sales at restaurants and bars rose 3%. But sales fell at stores that sell clothing, sporting goods and furniture.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.





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Retail sales were flat in April as stimulus spending wanes


NEW YORK (AP) — Retail sales in the U.S. were flat in April after soaring in March, when many Americans received $1,400 stimulus checks that boosted spending.

The report Friday from the U.S. Commerce Department was worse than the 0.8% rise Wall Street analysts had expected. But it wasn’t all bad: March’s number was revised upwards to 10.7%. Americans started receiving a third round of stimulus checks that month, helping retail sales soar.

The question is whether consumers will continue to spend without stimulus checks. “The April retail sales tip the odds toward slower sales in the coming months,” said analysts at Contingent Macro Advisors.

Friday’s report comes amid other signs the economy is improving as vaccinations accelerate and business restrictions are relaxed. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 473,000, a new pandemic low. And consumer confidence hit its highest level last month since the pandemic began.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear a mask or social distance outdoors and in most indoor settings, which may get more people to travel, eat out or shop.

Consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of all economic activity in the U.S., is closely monitored by economists to gauge the nation’s economic health. Friday’s report covers a third of all consumer spending, but doesn’t include services, like hotel stays or haircuts.

The report on Friday suggests Americans were heading out last month to eat instead of shop. Sales at restaurants and bars rose 3%. But sales fell at stores that sell clothing, sporting goods and furniture.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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Retail sales were flat in April as stimulus spending waned


NEW YORK (AP) — Retail sales in the U.S. were flat in April after soaring in March, when many Americans received $1,400 stimulus checks that boosted spending.

The report Friday from the U.S. Commerce Department was worse than the 0.8% rise Wall Street analysts had expected. But it wasn’t all bad: March’s number was revised upwards to 10.7%. Americans started receiving a third round of stimulus checks that month, helping retail sales soar.

The question is whether consumers will continue to spend without stimulus checks. “The April retail sales tip the odds toward slower sales in the coming months,” said analysts at Contingent Macro Advisors.

Friday’s report comes amid other signs the economy is improving as vaccinations accelerate and business restrictions are relaxed. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 473,000, a new pandemic low. And consumer confidence hit its highest level last month since the pandemic began.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear a mask or social distance outdoors and in most indoor settings, which may get more people to travel, eat out or shop.

Consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of all economic activity in the U.S., is closely monitored by economists to gauge the nation’s economic health. Friday’s report covers a third of all consumer spending, but doesn’t include services, like hotel stays or haircuts.

The report on Friday suggests Americans were heading out last month to eat instead of shop. Sales at restaurants and bars rose 3%. But sales fell at stores that sell clothing, sporting goods and furniture.



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Police smash in door during drugs raid in Leicester city centre flat after tip-off


Police carried out a drugs raid on a city centre flat after a tip-off from local residents.

Officers smashed in the front door of a property in Rutland Street in Leicester at about 10am on Saturday, April 17.

Police said they executed a search warrant looking for drugs and a person of interest.

A small amount of cannabis and a mobile phone were seized in the raid.

No arrests were made.

A Leicestershire Police spokesman said: “Around 10am on Saturday 17 April officers executed a warrant under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs at a property in Rutland Street, Leicester.

A member of the Leicester City police team tweeted: “Central Leicester early morning rapid entry warrant executed today. Officers searching for persons and illegal substances. #YouSaidWeDid #Keeping CommunitiesSafe.”



Police smashed in a door of a flat
Police smashed in a door of a flat

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Flat irons, hair dryers and curling irons


As the coronavirus vaccine rolls out across the country and more and more people are fully-vaccinated, there is a greater desire to travel in 2021 — and while non-essential, one travel-friendly accessory to consider grabbing is the compact flat iron or hair dryer. Equipping travel-ready staples may be especially significant this year as 89 percent of Americans polled in a December 2020 Hotels.com survey said they plan on taking more “spontaneous” trips in 2021. If you’re looking to travel as the weather warms up, then you’re likely stocking up on hand sanitizer, face masks, portable chargers, portable speakers and Lysol disinfecting wipes, too.

Some travel-friendly mini hot tools pack a similar punch to their full-sized cousins and often cost less, too. For example, a three-piece CHI Air gift set that includes a mini flat iron, curling iron and blow dryer will only set you back $90 compared to the full-sized hair straightener, which alone costs $130. Mini hot tools are readily available at beauty specialty stores like Sephora, Ulta and Dermstore. You can also order them from Shopping reader-favorite retailers like Walmart, Amazon and Target.

We found six lightweight and portable hot tools that won’t take up too much space in your suitcase, along with some options favored by celebrity hair stylists.

Hairstylist Kristen Shaw previously called the $30 BaByliss flat iron “compact, thin and perfect” for touching up your edges and part. The six-inch-long hair straightener is equipped with .5-inch-wide titanium plates that heat up to 430 degrees Fahrenheit. It also earned a 4.4-star average from more than 4,370-reviews on Amazon.

The biggest difference between Harry Josh’s travel curling iron and the full-size model is an optional marcel clip. When you remove a curling iron’s clip, it transforms into a curling wand, creating loose curls and waves rather than ringlets. Hairstylist Caile Noble previously told us he relies on the full-size ceramic curling iron because the barrel minimizes frizz, distributes heat evenly and adds shine. “You can achieve consistent curls or waves with overall less damage to each section,” he said. Harry Josh’s travel curling iron earned a 4.93-star average rating from more than 30 reviews on Dermstore.

The Drybar Baby Brush is a hybrid between a flat iron and a paddle brush. After drying your hair, run the ionic straightening brush through it to help smooth your strands and minimize flyaways. Given the device’s small size, it is conducive when you need to focus on styling your roots and bangs. Drybar’s mini straightening brush heats up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and boasts a 4.2-star average rating from more than 450 reviews on Amazon.

If you’re unsure how to curl your hair, then Melophy’s cordless iron is worth considering. After selecting from six temperatures and 11 timer settings, place your hair into the iron’s chamber and press the start button to curl your hair automatically. After a three-hour charge, Melophy’s rechargeable curling iron offers a one-hour cordless battery life. This ceramic curling iron automatically turns off after 10 minutes of non-use and earned a 4-star average rating from more than 3,400 reviews on Amazon.

Hot Tools Professional is a relatively affordable brand and popular among hair experts like Kristen Shaw, who previously told us she has been “a Hot Tools die-hard for years.” This foldable hair dryer is equipped with a concentrator nozzle to smooth your hair and a diffuser to enhance your natural curl pattern. It features two heat and two speed settings, along with a cool shot to help lock your style in place. The ionic hair dryer is best suited for those with fine-to-medium hair because it has a relatively lower wattage, according to hairstylist Annagjid “Kee” Taylor. This is the sole hot tool on our list that comes with a 7-year warranty if you shop directly through the brand.

T3, a popular hot tools brand, created a two-piece gift set featuring the T3 SinglePass Compact flat iron and T3 Featherweight Compact hair dryer in two colors: Rose and White. The flat iron has .8-inch-wide ceramic plates with a single pre-set temperature: 410 degrees Fahrenheit. As a bonus, it comes with a heat-resistant cover for added safety. T3 says the ceramic Featherweight hair dryer boasts an ergonomic design and folding cord. It features two heat and speed settings and a cool shot and includes a concentrator nozzle and travel storage bag.

Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.





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