Would you pay for half a seat?

It's the new space race

With cabin space at a premium, one US-based travel agency has proposed airlines create more room by selling the middle seat - by halves.

"People are getting wider rather than taller and this idea would allow two like-minded but otherwise unconnected customers to club together to buy the middle seat," says Michael Batt, the founder of Travel Leaders Group, Minnesota.

Batt says there is a growing segment willing to pay more for comfort. "[It would also] ensure they have extra elbow space and substantially more baggage space in the overhead locker and under the middle seat in front of them." It is also attractive for larger people who have to squeeze in a standard seat or pay for the whole adjacent seat, he says.

What's in it for airlines? Fuel savings through weight reduction.

Best of both worlds

Bleisure, yet another word blend and the practice of mixing business with leisure, is on the rise, according to Tamara Lohan, who sees the trend reflected in bookings on her boutique hotel website Mr and Mrs Smith.

"People are extending their work trip, flying out their partners and family to enjoy the extension as a holiday. This means the hotels have to be up to that too," Lohan says.

She nominates The Upper House in Hong Kong, where about 30 per cent of guests are in the pursuit of bleisure, as an ideal place for work and play.

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"It's perfectly positioned in Central and caters for the business traveller's every need." Lohan's other bleisure picks include QT Sydney, where staff will book you into top restaurants; Shoreditch House, London with access to the city and West End; and Fullerton Bay, Singapore.

Lending a hand in Italy

Australians are leading the tourist charge in Vernazza, a village in the Cinque Terre devastated by floods at the end of 2011.

Local Ruth Manfredi says up to 95 per cent of the  300 travellers who have joined  local landowners to rebuild terracing and restore vineyards and olive groves are Australian with voluntourism excursions run by  Busabout and TreadRight Foundation.  See savevernazza.com.

That's entertainment

Always the innovator, Virgin Australia's new in-flight entertainment system is set to transform the way we pass the time at 30,000 feet.

By downloading the free app Virgin Australia Entertainment to their own smartphone or tablet, passengers have in-flight access through the plane's Wi-Fi to 300 hours of television, movies and music, with content updated monthly.

The advantages are enormous, including significant cost savings from not having to fit seatback screens and weight reductions (and fuel savings) from not carrying the associated hardware.

The system currently operates on about 30 planes in the fleet and will be installed on all the airline's 737 Embraer and A330 aircraft servicing domestic and short-haul international routes. Virginaustralia.com. - Sally Webb

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