Travel notes: Diagon Alley shaping up as Harry Potter park expands

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Anticipation is heating up for the summer opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando.

Universal launched a national television ad campaign last week on the new park -- a re-created London alley where Harry Potter kept his bank holdings and purchased supplies for his Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry -- which will be based at Universal Studios.

The Hogwarts Express train will connect Universal Studios to Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park, where the original Wizarding World, now called Hogsmeade, is based.

Universal will require visitors to buy more expensive "park-to-park" tickets -- which allow admission to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on the same day -- if they want to ride the Hogwarts Express, according to the Universal website. The resort recently raised prices for such passes by 6 percent to 17 percent, depending on the number of days.

The highlight of Diagon Alley will be a multidimensional thrill ride -- Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts -- that will whisk riders out of the vaults beneath Gringotts Bank, where wizards keep their gold and other treasure.

The new attraction will double the size of the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter park, Universal officials say.

-- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Transparent Airfares Act

Legislation that would let airlines advertise airfares without adding in fees and taxes has the support of -- you guessed it -- the nation's airline industry.

The bill introduced March 6 by Reps. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., would negate a rule adopted in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Transportation that now requires airlines to advertise the full cost of tickets, including fees and taxes.

The Transportation Department has already fined the nation's airlines thousands of dollars over the past three years for violating the "full-fare" advertising rule.

Under the new bill, dubbed the Transparent Airfares Act, airlines can advertise the base fare, with extra fees and taxes listed separately on the same print ad or with a link or pop-up window on websites.

Airlines for America, the trade group for U.S. airlines, said last week that the current federal rule is unfair because it masks how much government fees raise airfares.

"It's a misnomer to characterize the current law as a consumer protection rule when it really protects the government, not airline passengers," said Nicholas E. Calio, president and chief executive of the group.

-- Los Angeles Times

Customized beds?

In the battle among hotels to offer the most comfortable beds, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is going to the mattresses.

The luxury hotel company with 92 properties, including three in the Los Angeles area, will begin to offer guests customized beds, with mattress toppers that vary in firmness at the request of guests.

The program, expected to be available at all Four Seasons hotels by 2016, comes in response to a survey the hotel company commissioned. It found that about half of all guests like medium firmness, 28 percent preferred extra firm and 14 percent liked soft mattresses.

Under the new program, guests can choose from three mattress tops that vary in firmness. Guests can request the firmness they want when they check in, and returning guests will find their favorite mattress top already in their room.

"This new research supports what our guests have told us: Everyone has different sleep needs, but the desire for a good night's rest is a universal passion," said Chris Hunsberger, executive vice president for product and innovation at Four Seasons.

In fact, 30 percent of those surveyed said uncomfortable beds have forced them to request a new hotel room. A handful have even sacked out on the floor or in the bathtub to get a good night's sleep.

-- Los Angeles Times


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