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Why full planes and small seats could be a problem

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Feeling the squeeze

Weight load and distribution is a delicate balance in terms of airplane safety, but as people’s average heights and weights change over the decades, it’s a situation that needs to be monitored.

Air New Zealand – which just topped a list of 2023’s best airlines – is on the case by asking all of its international departing travelers to hop on the scales as part of a passenger weight survey, the results of which are thankfully anonymous.

And in the United States, two senators are raising the alarm about cramped airline seats. They’re calling for new cabin evacuation tests, saying that the Federal Aviation Administration is ignoring “the reality of flying in America today” and that the safety testing carried out in 2019 wasn’t fit for the purpose.

Also this week, South Korea’s Asiana Airlines is no longer selling seats near the emergency exits on Airbus A321s, after a recent incident in which a man allegedly opened a door midflight. Yikes!

Destination inspiration

Pop quiz: What was the world’s first capital city be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? No, it wasn’t Rome or Athens, it was Quito in Ecuador. This underrated capital, with its historic center built on the remains of an Inca city, deserves to be more than just a stopover on the way to the Galapagos Islands.

You probably haven’t stacked up many postcards from Karakorum, Mongolia’s ancient capital. However, as the home of the Khan dynasty, from Genghis to Kublai, it’s a motherlode of cultural history. And now that the country’s president has vowed to revitalize the city, the future’s looking bright, too.

Aficionados of late 20th-century American culture may instead prefer a self-guided “Dazed and Confused” tour of Austin, Texas. Richard Linklater’s stoner cult hit has just celebrated its 30th anniversary but to misquote Matthew McConaughey’s character Wooderson, “That’s what I love about these Gen X movies, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”

Big dreams, big dollars

China is building a 15-mile, $6.7 billion bridge featuring eight lanes, artificial islands and an undersea tunnel. It’s part of its plans to turn its Greater Bay Area, one of the world’s largest and most populated urban regions, into an economic hub to rival San Francisco or New York. There might be some bumps on the way, though.

In Rwanda, work’s underway on a new $2 billion airport just south of the capital of Kigali. Developers hope the new facility, which will be able to handle 8 million passengers a year when it opens in 2026, will be the jewel in the crown of Africa’s aviation industry.

Finally, plans have been revealed for what could be the world’s largest ocean restoration project. If construction goes ahead, the ambitious project in Dubai would consist of 77 square miles of artificial reef, creating a home for more than one billion corals and 100 million mangrove trees.

Dare to bare

With topless bathing now allowed at Berlin’s public swimming pools and on the popular vacation island of Nantucket, it’s been a big year for fans of life au naturel. There are now more places than ever to frolic fabric-free at clothing-optional beaches. Here’s our roundup of 20 of the world’s best nude beaches.

In case you missed it

First Rome’s Trevi Fountain turned black, then Venice’s Grand Canal turned green. 

This video explains why Venice went Hulk-hued.

How “begpackers” became some of Asia’s least popular tourists. 

Turns out people don’t like being asked to fund other people’s vacations.

A Sherpa saved a climber in Mount Everest’s “death zone.” 

He says it was the hardest rescue in his life.

These flight attendants fell in love on an airplane.

Here’s their feel-good story to kick off Pride Month.

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