Archive: February, 2010
Here's another followup on the issue of when air travelers may be too fat to fly. This article from USA Today provides a comprehensive look at finding the most comfortable seat on any airline's airplanes.
Who says there's no bipartisanship in Washington? The Senate last night, on a 78-18 vote, approved legislation creating a travel promotion program designed to reverse the fall in foreign visitors the country has suffered since 9/11. The travel promotion bill, pushed by a broad coalition of travel-industry groups for the last two years, passed the House last fall by an even larger margin and now goes to President Obama, who says he'll sign it.
Passing the legislation also is an indication that Congress isn't afraid of raising taxes -- provided, of course, that the taxes won't be paid by U.S. citizens. The program will require isitors from about three dozen countries, mostly in Europe, whose citizens don't need U.S. visas to pay a $10 fee for entry into the country, raising $100 million year. Private-sector travel companies will provide an equal amount to advertise the U.S. abroad.
About 20 percent of today's scheduleded PHL depatures have been canceled because of the weather. More details can be found here.
Starting in the mid-1990s, airlines stopped paying traditional travel agents commissions, hastening the spread of online do-it-yourself selling of tickets and putting numerous agents out of business. The airlines have done their best ever since to push customers to book tickets on their own Web sites, or if that fails, to online travel agencies such as Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity. Now, in a logical development, with online booking by travelers themselves hitting a plateau, Orbitz is the first online travel agency, to offer a special booking site for traditional agents.
The travel agenices that have survived the elimination of commissions charge customers fees for booking regular airline tickets and planning some trips, but they usually don't charge fees for arranging cruises or package trips that include accommodations because they still earn commissions on most of those. Orbitz's move was outlined in an article today in the trade paper Travel Weekly (the OTA acronym used in the story stands for online travel agency). Read the full story here...
AirTran plans to start flying nonstop between ABE--Lehigh Valley International Airport and its hub in Atlanta on May 4, and to increase the frequency of its flights between ABE and Orlando the same day. The ATL flights won't be at the most convenient times: The single daily flight out will depart at 6 a.m., and the return departs ATL at 10 p.m. But for business travelers that means they could make a roundtrip in a single, long day, something that now would involve using ground transport to get to and from PHL.
To Orlando, which is much more a leisure-travel market than it is business travel, AirTran plans to bump up its service from four days a week to daily when the new schedule kicks in.
The National Transportation Safety Board, seeking to reduce accidents and other incidents in which airline pilots were distracted from their duties during flights, wants to routinely monitor cockpit voice recordings to make sure pilots are doing their jobs. Pilots don't appear to like the idea. Read more about it here.
The Oneworld airline alliance, led by American and British Airways, has gotten boosts from Japan and the U.S. government in the last month, ending speculation that it was doomed to fail in the face of competition from two other big airline partnerships. Japan Airlines, operating in bankruptcy, agreed to continue as a member of Oneworld rather than switching to SkyTeam, the partnership led by Delta. Then the Department of Transportation gave tentative approval to antitrust immunity to American, BA and other Oneworld members to jointly sell tickets and coordinate schedules.
Alliances remain troublesome to some airline observers and consumer advocates, who see them as reducing competition on many international routes. Others, including both airline executives and groups such as the Business Travel Coalition, say that the American-BA partnership is necessary to prevent domination of international service by Delta and other SkyTeam airlines, and those in the even-larger Star alliance, which includes US Airways, United and Continental.
A good history and current analysis of the subject was published today by the industry trade paper Travel Weekly. Find it here.