ICYMI – This week in Travel News (4 March 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!

Next Stop: Cuba

American Airlines applies for routes to Cuba, via @TravelLatte.net

(Photo: American Airlines)

After decades of restrictions, Americans are eager to take advantage of the relaxing rules on travel to Cuba. It’s a Top 10 Destination on almost every list you can imagine this year. And American Airlines is eager to provide transportation.

The carrier this week filed applications with the Department of Transportation which propose robust scheduled service between the U.S. and Cuba. From American’s Latin America gateway in Miami, there would be 10 daily flights to Havana, along with daily flights to Camaguey, Cenfuegos, Holguin, Santa Clara, and Varadero. Additional Havana routes in the proposal include daily service from American’s hub airports at Charlotte and Dallas/Fort Worth, and once-a-week service from Chicago and Los Angeles.

American Airlines already provides 23 weekly charter flights to Cuba from Miami, Tampa and Los Angeles, and has been flying Americans to Cuba for 25 years.

The other Dallas-based carrier, Southwest Airlines has requested up to six daily flights from Fort Lauderdale to Havana, along with two daily flights from Tampa, and one daily from Orlando. Federal regulations that have hampered the airline at Dallas’ Love Field for decades also keep them from flying to Cuba from DAL.

Delta, United, and a host of other U.S. carriers submitted applications as well. Delta is seeking daily service from Atlanta, New York’s JFK International, Miami, and Orlando. United has propsed service from Houston, Chicago, Newark, and Dulles in Washington DC.

While restrictions on travel to Cuba have loosened recently, it won’t be a free-for-all. U.S.-Cuba agreements reached last month will allow commercial air travel to 10 Cuban cities, but limited to 20 daily round-trip flights to Havana, the most sought after destination. American carriers have submitted applications for more than double that.

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The Department of Transportation expects to award routes this summer, based on testimony and the airlines’ own documentation. If all goes well, regularly scheduled commercial service to Cuba could be a reality this fall.

Patience, Disney fans, patience.

Like children on Christmas Eve, fans of Disney and cruising are giddy with anticipation. Unlike Christmas Eve, the goodies won’t arrive tomorrow. Or even next year.

Disney has announced that two new ships will join the fleet, though details at this point are almost completely unknown, aside from the fact that two ships will be christened in 2021 and 2023. Disney says the ships will be bigger than today’s, weighing in at 135,000 gross tons and expected to carry about 1250 guestrooms each. Other details, including designs, itineraries, and names are still under development.

Considering the recent integration of Star Wars into the Disney universe, we’d like to see the new ships be of the interstellar variety, setting sail for the Top 10 Vacation Spots in galaxies far, far away. A 10 day cruise to beautiful Naboo, perhaps? Yes, please!

The fictional Naboo via @TravelLatte

The fictional Naboo seems an idyllic destination for the Jedi on vacation.
(Image: StarWars.com © Lucasfilm Ltd.)

It’s time to write your Congressman Senator!

This is becoming a weekly thing for us. First it was support for the SEAT Act amendment to the FAA Reauthorization bill. This week, it’s what we like to call the BED Act. Okay, we made up the name, but the action is real. Or, at least, could be.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskell has introduced S.2599, the Truth in Hotel Advertising Act of 2016. Similar to the Transparent Airfares Act, this bill would require hotels and online booking sites to disclose any fees that are typically charged at the end of a stay, and disclose them during the booking process.

And the crowd goes wild.

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The Act would give the Federal Trade Commission the ability to enforce penalties on companies that advertise hotel rates without including those mandatory fees. This could include the much-hated Resort Fee, but would exclude taxes and government fees.

Of course, the FTC warned the hotel industry in 2012 to include compulsory fees in their advertised rates but, without a stern “or else,” nobody paid much attention. In fact, a study this year by Travelers United showed more American hotels than ever are charging resort fees. Not surprisingly, consumers were less happy than ever. That same study shows customers paid a little more than $2-billion in mandatory resort fees last year, up 35% compared to 2014, accounting to more than 16% of the revenue from consumer bookings.

S.2599 has no co-signers so far, but has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. While the committee considers the action, you should contact your Senator to ask for their support. Heck, might as well contact your Representative, too.

One step closer to Marriwood.

Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts took another step down the aisle this past week, filing papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission stating that they have cleared pre-merger antitrust reviews in the United States and Canada. There is also a mandatory waiting period which has expired, meaning the companies can move forward with merger activities.

But hold on to that bouquet; the hospitality heavyweights still need approval from the competition authorities in the European Union and other regions where the companies operate. Then there’s the stockholder vote on March 28th. All signs are pointing towards approval, and the union is expected to be complete in June 2016.

Marriwood: Marriott meets Starwood, via @TravelLatte

Marriwood: The merger of Marriott and Starwood probably won’t create new brand names, but there’s one we’d like to suggest.

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