This Week in Travel News
Active travelers have a need to know! Every week, there are things that can and do impact the art and act of travelling. Things you need to know about. We’ll report the highlights here, so you can focus on what you do best: Travelling! In case you missed it, here’s what happened This Week in Travel News!
No More Overbooked Flights?
The United incident. Over the past two weeks, it’s been the topic of conversation from frequent flyer lounges to Washington DC offices. Little has done more to bring the practice and problems of overbooking to our collective attention. Everybody (except the airlines) is crying foul, but nobody has taken action. Until now.
According to an Associated Press report, Southwest Airlines is putting a stop to it. Which is particularly impressive because, although the airline has had the fewest complaints about bumping passengers, they’ve been the worst offender. Last year, Southwest bumped nearly 15,000 passengers. That’s not just more than any other airline, that’s a substantial portion of the 40,629 IDBs (Intentionally Denied Boarding) in the U.S. last year. But no more.
According to an airline spokesperson, the airline had been considering the move for some time. Improved systems and forecasting tools, and a declining number of no-shows, would allow the company to stop the practice. While acknowledging some loss of revenue, Chief Financial Officer Tammy Romo told the AP it would be offset by reduced costs associated with accommodating bumped fliers. Government regulations require compensation up to 400% of the fare, to a maximum of $1,350. Episodes like United’s meltdown cost far more in public relations and brand management.
Currently, Jet Blue is the only major airline that bans overbooking, and the policy doesn’t seem to have hampered the company’s growth. Southwest, often seen as an industry maverick, stands to gain more loyalty and likely some new customers by dropping the practice. For their part, United has pledged to reduce overbooking, but the Big Three show no signs of stopping.
Many airline (and consumer) advocates claim it would force air fare higher, but we call BS on that claim. We are living in a time of record profits and ancillary fees that protect the airlines’ profit margins. If the marginal income generated by re-selling an overbooked seat is what keeps them flying, they need to reconsider their business model. And their career choice. However, history has proved that airlines will continue doing what they’re allowed to do until someone takes (or forces) action.
To be fair, taking action would be hard to do. Overbooking has been baked into the Contract of Carriage for most carriers for years. That means can’t passengers effectively “vote with their wallet,” and are left at the whims and mercy of government and big airlines. Not a place you generally want to be. We hear a lot about a Passenger Bill of Rights, but somehow the right to fly in the seat you paid for has never been included. And that, my friends, ain’t right. You know it. I know it. Let your Congressmen know it, too.
- How to Contact Your Elected Officials.
- Department of Transportation’s office of Aviation Consumer Protection.
- Learn about your rights as a passenger.
Electronics Ban Escalating or Not?
Conflicting reports this week seemed to inflate – and then deflate – the Trump administrations technology ban on flights from the Middle East and North Africa. According to a report in The Guardian, the administration was considering extending the ban to passengers flying from Europe and the UK. Shortly after, a Bloomberg report cited a TSA source as saying there are “no imminent” plans to expand the ban. Either way, we thought it’s a good opportunity to review the ban and its latest implications. Call it stirring up the hornet’s nest.
The original ban was unexpectedly imposed in late March, and kept passengers from boarding flights with anything larger than a smartphone for flights on from 10 airports in the Middle East. The administration claims the ban was imposed after “intelligence” emerged that terrorists may “smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items”. The UK soon followed suit, banning laptops in carry-on luggage on flights from six countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey. (The U.S. ban also included flights from Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.)
Almost immediately, technology and security experts criticized the ban, with some speculating that the move could be politically motivated. U.S. airlines have complained that carriers from the Gulf States benefit from government subsidies that American airlines cannot compete against, and have lobbied the government to intervene.
While it’s not clear yet whether the ban has benefited U.S. airlines, it certainly is hurting Gulf Carriers, including Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways. Last week, Emirates announced it is reducing flights to five of the 12 U.S. cities they serve. Daily flights from Dubai to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando will be reduced to five per week. Flights to Seattle, Boston, and Los Angeles will now operate once daily, instead of twice. In a statement, Emirates cited a “significant deterioration in the booking profiles on all our U.S. routes across all travel segments” over the past three months. The airline said U.S. government actions on entry visas, heightened security, and the electronics ban have had a direct impact on interest and demand for air travel to the U.S. Qatar Airways, also affected by the ban, told CNNMoney bookings were down also, but by less than 10 per flight.
One airline that is clearly benefiting from the ban is Air India. Passenger load on routes from the UAE to India have increased up to 20%. Many of those passengers are then flying to the U.S. and UK from India. With their laptops.
Brazil Feeling Temers
Brazil was rocked by anti-government strikes and protests on Friday, which effectively shut down tourism and other industries. The strike nationwide general strike was the country’s first in more than two decades, and was a protest against austerity measures by President Michel Temer.
Reuters news reported that the strike shut down highways and access to major airports in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and several other metropolitan areas. The three major American airlines were offering travelers free flight changes or waivers for flights to, from, or through both cities on 28 April.
While the strike has ended, unrest and protest against the controversial President and his programs are sure to continue. The country’s troubled economy can make it very attractive for tourists, but the political unrest – while not targeting foreigners – can make travel challenging.
Living it up in a land Down Under
Your options for sailing the southern seas have just improved. This week, Princess Cruises announced that four ships will call ports in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific home for the 2018-19 season. Leading the armada: Majestic Princess, which will sail six- to thirteen-day itineraries from Sydney and Auckland. Destinations will include New Zealand, Tasmania, and Fiji.
Sun Princess will sail 13 roundtrip departures from Syndey to New Zealand, Fiji, Tasmania and Queensland, plus a nineteen-day Asia and Australia voyage from Hong Kong to Sydney. Sea Princess has an eleven-day Papua New Guinea itinerary sailing from Brisbane, making her maiden call to the Conflict Islands. She will also circumnavigate the continent on a 28-day Round Australia voyage. For the adventurous, she will embark on a 35-day Hawaii, Tahiti, and South Pacific voyage in April 2019.
Princess will also take you inland with two cruisetours, the Australian Outback Cruisetour, and the Ultimate Australia Cruisetour. Details on these sailings are available online, and the cruises are open for booking now.
Deal of the Week
Make that the Deal of the Summer for Hilton Honors members. Starting 1 May, and lasting until 31 August, Hilton Honors members can earn double points for stays at all Hilton hotels. If you’re a Diamond-level elite members, it’s even better with triple points. You do have to register for this promotion.
There is no limit to the number of bonus points members can earn with the bonus, which is available at all Hilton-portfolio hotels. To pad your points a little more, the offer stacks with the 500 bonus points you can earn by booking your stay via the Hilton Honors mobile app.
You’ve got one more week to get up to 3,000 points every night with Marriott Rewards. Select locations only, through 9 May. Details
Take advantage of Norwegian’s Free at Sea Sale on Expedia! Choose up to 5 FREE offers with Norwegian’s Free at Sea.
- Free Drinks
- Free Excursion Credit
- Free Specialty Dining
- Free WiFi
- Friends & Family Sail Free
The Weekly Win
Cash or a free car rental? Both could be yours in AVIS App & Match instant win and travel sweepstakes. We have the details in The Weekly Win.