ICYMI – This week in Travel News (12 February 2016)

In Case You Missed It: There is so much that happens in the travel industry every week and only a portion of it is reported in TravelLatte or other travel blogs. Each week, we aim to capture some of the highlights from the past week in Travel News. Please let us know you like it with a comment!

Note: Winter Storms & Cruise Ships Don’t Mix

Before dumping a foot of snow on New England, Winter Storm Mars gave Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas a good dowsing after leaving Cape Liberty, New Jersey, for Port Canaveral, Florida. Starting at 4pm on Sunday, the ship encountered hurricane force winds and high seas.

Passengers were confined to their cabins (with free access to the mini-bar) while equipment and furnishings were flying on deck. The ship suffered widespread minor damage, but nothing endangering its safety. As Royal Caribbean tweeted, “These ships are designed to handle these kind of conditions, though they prefer not to encounter them.”

Though the cruise company tweeted that the storm was unexpected, meteorologists forecast the storm track and warned of the rapid intensification and likelihood of massive waves for hundreds of miles surrounding the storm center, about a week beforehand. Four passengers were injured in the storm, which forced the ship to return to port in New Jersey. Royal Caribbean is giving passengers a full refund plus a discount on a future cruise.

It’s time to write your Congressman!

Just as we were decrying the airline industry’s move to placate the flying public by bringing snacks back to Economy (at least, at United and American Airlines), one man is doing something to make flying more comfortable. Or, more to the point, safer, by establishing minimum seating requirements. (One would hope they’re roomier than what we have now.)

That man is Tennessee Representative Steve Cohen, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation, who believes the reduced seat size may be good for business but it’s bad for safety. According to the Congressman, seat size has shrunk from 18 inches in the 1970s to about 16.5 inches today, while pitch, the measurement of the distance from one seat to the one behind it, has shrunk from by about 4” inches in the same time. If you’ve been on an airplane in the past decade, you’ve no doubt noticed.

That, of course, allows for more seats on the plane, and more profits for the airlines. In turn, that has kept air fare at moderate prices. The problem, Cohen says, is that nobody’s done the research to prove this is safe in the event of emergency evacuation. It’s hard enough getting out of your seats to use the lav; can you imagine trying to escape in an emergency?

© Disney-ABC Domestic Television

© Disney-ABC Domestic Television

This week, the Tennessee Democrat presented his Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act as an adjunct to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Reauthorization bill, which also has provisions to require airlines to refund baggage fees if bags are overdue by more than 24 hours, prohibit in-flight cell phone calls, and privatize the air flight controllers and the updating of the flight control system. But don’t get your hopes up; the Committee rejected the amendment by a vote of 22-36. Yep, it’s time to write your Congressman and express your support for the SEAT Act. Cohen did not expect to win this fight. At least, not right away. But it is an election year, and there’s no better time to make your voice heard.

Wait, did he say affordable air fare?

Indeed. It never seems that way when you need it most, but air fare is not only more affordable (relatively) than it was years ago, it’s also genuinely lower. At least, in the United States.

After seeing the airline industry soar from widespread losses to record profits, the cost of fuel nosediving, and aircraft that are more fuel efficient than ever, it’s understandable that passengers were hoping to see air fares tumble. But just because they haven’t plummeted doesn’t mean they haven’t come down.

Airlines are soaring and prices are falling, via @TravelLatte.met

For a change, airlines are soaring and prices are actually falling!

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, are fares were at their lowest prices of the decade. The DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows average round trip domestic fares were $372 during the third quarter of 2015; down 6.2% compared to 2014.

Yet that’s paltry compared to the 37% drop in fuel prices, and that’s because fuel is only one small factor in determining how they charge for your flight. Supply and demand are the two biggest drivers and, which demand has remained high, the airlines have done a good job of managing supply. Not only is there less competition today in the U.S., a good number of airports around the nation have fewer flights per day, and to fewer locations, than they have in the past.

What does it mean for you? Enjoy the (slightly) lower prices when you find them, but don’t expect a flurry of falling prices.

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