Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Secure Flight Data (SFPD) Beginning July 1

The TSA has recently notified airlines about information regarding Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD). Beginning November 1, 2010, all reservations without full SFPD will be rejected by the TSA's Secure Flight rule and will not be processed. Operating airlines that do not comply will be subject to penalties. TSA requires the full name, date of birth and gender, as it appears on non-expired government issued photo ID that travelers plan to use for travel identification, for all passengers flying to/from/within/over the United States, and for all U.S. Operating Carriers.
Although this mandate for airlines is effective November 1, 2010, some airlines have announced they will begin enforcing the SFPD requirements as early as July 1, 2010, to ensure compliance with the TSA.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tropical Storm Alex soaks the Yucatan Peninsula

The first named storm arrived in the Yucatan Sunday with heavy rain and 35 miles per hour wind, which should increase to 60 mph as it makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
The storm may become a hurricane with up to 85 mph winds. Cancun and Cozumel were soaked with 2-4 inches of rain over the weekend, a glancing blow compared to
Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize where up to 15 inches of rain created mudslides and floods in many areas. Some air traffic and cruise itineraries may be impacted as Alex makes its way north.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Workmanship issues" halt Boeing 787 test flights

SEATTLE (AP) -- Boeing Co. is halting flight tests on its new 787 jet after finding that some of the planes have improperly installed parts in the tail.

"This is not a design issue or a flight testing finding. It's a workmanship issue," said the head of the 787 program, Scott Fancher, in a news conference on Friday.

Delivery of the first 787 scheduled by the end of the year to Japan's All Nippon Airways Co. will not be impacted by the inspections and repairs.

Extreme Airfares

Airlines are continuously upgrading and refining the travel experience for their first class passengers, an almost non-existent number of travelers that are actually willing to pay for those seats in the current economic environment. While companies and organizations tighten their travel restrictions for their top travelers allowing no more than business class, that does not stop the airlines from introducing more exotic offerings of massage full size beds with luxury linen, gourmet meal and wines, etc... but is anyone really paying those "suggested retail" prices?
Here's a sample of fares:
Washington-Beijing Round-trip First Class $29443
Washington-London $17531
New York-Sydney $26312
Washington-Paris $16737
Taking London and Paris as examples, these are 6-7 hours flights (eastbound), and 7-8 hours (westbound) with fares of $16737-$17531.
Passengers usually use upgrades to sit in first and pay as little as $1800 for a round-trip business class seats.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leveraging your frequent flyer status

Many savvy travelers are learning how to leverage their elite status on one airline to other airlines. Many carriers offer a matching status if they see the potential of winning over new elite travelers. Elite status holders may choose that approach if they accumulated excessive miles that they cannot use, or to simply diversify their free travel options. Such status will also open up upgrade possiblities and the use of VIP lounges at airports that may not be served by their preferred carrier. For more information, or to see if you may qualify, please send us an inquiry to info@premieretravel.com

Monday, June 21, 2010

U.S., Europe Ink Pact To Standardize Air Traffic Systems

U.S., Europe Ink Pact To Standardize Air Traffic Systems

By Amon Cohen BTN

JUNE 21, 2010 -- Journey times and fuel consumption between the United States and Europe could be reduced after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and European Commission signed a memorandum of cooperation last Friday to harmonize air traffic services across the two.

The agreement commits the two to standardizing their air traffic modernization programs, which have until now been developed separately. FAA's NextGen and Commission's SESAR projects both seek to introduce satellite-based navigation that would enable commercial aircraft to fly more direct routes and shorten the separation between aircraft, thus improving air traffic control safety and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Airlines had expressed fears that the U.S. and European Union might develop incompatible systems, requiring them to fit two sets of satellite navigation equipment.

"Harmonization is the key to the future of air travel over the North Atlantic," said FAA chief operating officer Hank Krakowski, who signed the memorandum with European Commission director for air transport Daniel Calleja in Madrid last week. "This agreement allows us to work together to give the airlines a seamless transition between our airspaces."

The agreement details 22 specific areas of cooperation, which also include research into alternative fuels and better ways to coordinate on safety issues, such as responding to volcanic ash clouds. The Commission hopes to obtain approval from member states and the European Parliament to allow the agreement to take effect early in 2011.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bargain Europe?

With airfares in line with summer of 2009 and business class discounts on certain airlines, Europe looks like a relative bargain this summer thanks to the decline in the value of the euro versus the dollar. Last summer, the average exchange rate was 1 euro= $1.54. This year, the euro's rate has tumbled to around $1.23. The recession and belt tightening in Europe is creating additional opportunities for Americans to stretch their dollars further particularly in countries like Spain and Greece...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spirit Airlines and Pilots Union Agree...

June 16 (Bloomberg) -- Spirit Airlines Inc. and its pilots reached a tentative contract agreement that may end the first strike at a U.S. passenger airline since 2005, the union for the employees said.
Flight operations, which have been suspended since June 12, will resume June 18, the carrier said on its website.

The wisdom of travel insurance

Travel insurance can provide you with the best coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellation/interruption, baggage damage, medical evacuation, and much more. Plus, with every Travel Guard insurance plan you will also receive 24-hour travel assistance. To demonstrate the importance of purchasing travel insurance, here are some common examples of what could go wrong:
It's 10 p.m. and you and your immediate family arrive at the airport for a connecting flight, only to find that your flight has been cancelled. Who can assist you with finding new flights in order to arrive at your destination on time?
You arrive at your destination but your luggage doesn't. If it's lost, who will help you find it? If it's delayed, who will pay for your necessities? If your luggage stolen, who will pay to replace it?
You're driving your rental car and are involved in an accident. Who can help you find a physician?
Other recent examples include the volcanic ash disruption, strikes, and bad weather that have grounded passengers around the world and caused hardships on many travelers.

Airline strikes- the beginning?

As British Airways and its UNITE union go into the third week of "industrial" action a.k.a. strike, Spirit Airlines pilots across the pond to the west walked out last Saturday over pay and benefits. Spirit Airlines strike resulted so far in hundreds of canceled flights and losses estimated at over $2 million per day for Spirit.

While the results of these actions are mixed and the final outcome is unknown, one thing is becoming clear. The unions representing airline workers in the U.S. as well as Europe are agitated after years of cuts in pay and benefits, and as the air travel demand has seen a healthy rebound, the unions are getting vocal about restoring some of the wages and benefits. This trend will likely continue while the airlines are trying to recover from the worldwide recession of 2008 and 2009.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The #1 domestic carrier in on-time arrivals.....

United was the #1 carrier in on-time performance for domestic scheduled flights among the major U.S. Carriers in 2009 and the first quarter of 2010*

*According to recently published arrival data in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report, United ranked highest in on-time performance for domestic scheduled flights as measured by the U.S. DOT (flights arriving within 14 minutes of scheduled arrival time) between January 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010, when compared to the largest U.S. global carriers based on available seat miles, enplaned passengers or passenger revenue, which includes Delta (including its Northwest subsidiary), American, Continental and US Airways.

Spirit Air strike disruptions...

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- Spirit Airlines is canceling all of its flights through Tuesday, stranding thousands more passengers as a pilot's strike continues into its second day.

The discount carrier said on its website Sunday that all Spirit Airlines flights have been cancelled through June 15. Spirit pilots walked off the job Saturday amid an ongoing contract dispute with the airline that has lasted for more than three years. Spirit pilots have said their pay lags behind competitors such as AirTran Airways and JetBlue.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Florida Panhandle takes a hit

With no relief in sight from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Florida panhandle is beginning to feel the impact of the spill on its tourism industry. Billing itself "the whitest beaches in the world", the Gulf Islands National Seashore is starting to see tar balls land on its beaches.

Pensacola and the neighboring resort towns are getting cancelations at an increasing rate. Restaurants, hotels and condo rentals are feeling the impact. The continuous coverage of the oil gushing out and the effect on wild life is taking a toll. Florida stands to lose the most in tourism as it is the top destination for vacationers and relies on tax revenue from hotels, lodging, restaurants and entertainment for their budget.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Baggage Confusion

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced Automated Carrier Baggage Rules (ACBR), the latest project in IATA's Simplifying the Business program. ACBR will provide a central database for interline baggage rules, enabling airlines, travel agents, and passengers to know what baggage rules will apply for any given itinerary.

“Airlines have a variety of different rules and fees depending on the number of bags checked, class of travel, frequent flyer status and routings. ACBR will put all of that information in one place so passengers can have a complete understanding of baggage fees before they buy their tickets—even for complicated journeys.”

Travel Management companies and airlines will have the database to disclose clearly and accurately to the passengers the baggage policy as it pertains to specific itineraries and class of service.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Car Rental Fees (a new low!)...

Creativity in inventing fees is not an airline monopoly. Car rental companies have set a new standard in charging their customers more fees in addition to the nickeling and diming that renters have come to expect.

Examples include charging higher rates if you return the car earlier than expected. A fee if you do not drive the car enough (in the form of a "re-fueling fee"), a premium for younger drivers, extra drivers, child safety seat surcharge and the punitive refueling fee, heaven forbid, if the vehicle is returned 100% re-fueled.

There is also a semantic issue growing as car rental companies re-define the size of the vehicle. What used to be small/compact is now defined as intermediate, and the new large is the old intermediate.

What to do: Check your insurance policy coverage. Chances are you are covered for auto rental as well with minor exceptions. Do not fall for the hard sell pitch and go for the $24.99/day coverage. Inquire about the rate if you return the car early or late, as some companies charge a full additional day for a mere one hour overage. Return the car fully fueled and avoid the exhorbitant re-fueling fee that can go as high as $6/gallon. Finally, make sure that you get a confirmation for the actual vehicle size or the "equivalent" that you desire...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Business Class Bargain to Paris? Openskies

So what is Openskies?
It is the new subsidiary of British Airways that started flying May 3, 2010 between Washington Dulles Airport and Paris/Orly. The 70-seater flight features a single aisle 757 with two types of business class: sleeper and regular business seat. The best kept secret about this high end service is the price...starting at $835 (one way, based on round-trip plus taxes and fees),
it is the best value in the air at the moment. Boarding takes a mere 10 minutes, even for a full flight, with the added benefit of getting into and out of Orly airport....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

DOT Proposes Additional Consumer Protections for Air Travelers


Washington, DC – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today proposed new consumer protections for air travelers, building on the Department of Transportation’s recent rule banning carriers from subjecting passengers to long tarmac delays and other deceptive practices.

Specifically, the new proposed rule would:

• increase compensation for passengers involuntarily bumped from flights

• allow passengers to make and cancel reservations within 24 hours without penalty

• require full and prominently displayed disclosure of baggage fees as well as refunds and expense reimbursement when bags are not delivered on time

• require fair price advertising

• prohibit price increases after a ticket is purchased

• mandate timely notice of flight status changes

“Airline passengers have rights and should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when they fly,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “With this rulemaking, we’re proposing to strengthen the consumer protections enacted last month and raise the bar for airlines when it comes to treating passengers fairly.”

The rule published last December, which adopted a three-hour limit for airline tarmac delays for domestic flights, also required U.S. carriers to adopt contingency plans for lengthy tarmac delays at large-hub and medium-hub airports and to publish those plans on their websites. Today’s proposed rule would expand the requirement for having contingency plans to include foreign airlines’ operations at U.S. airports and would require carriers to adopt contingency plans for small- and non-hub airports.

The rule also would require the reporting of additional tarmac delay data to DOT. The Department would collect this data from all U.S. and foreign airlines operating aircraft of 30 or more seats on flights to and from the United States and charter flights. Currently, the Department collects this data only for the domestic scheduled flights of the 18 largest U.S. airlines.

The proposed rule also would increase the potential compensation for being involuntarily bumped from oversold flights. Currently, airlines may limit compensation for involuntary bumping on flights to $400 if the carrier arranges substitute transportation scheduled to arrive at the passenger’s destination one to two hours after the passenger’s original scheduled arrival for domestic flights, or one to four hours for international flights, and to $800 if the substitute transportation is scheduled to arrive more than two hours later for domestic flights, or more than four hours later for international flights. The proposed rule would quickly increase these limits to $650 and $1,300, respectively, and thereafter adjust the amounts for inflation every two years.

The Department also proposed a number of measures to make it easier for consumers to know how much they will have to pay for air transportation. Carriers would be required to provide special notice any time baggage fees are increased, and to notify passengers buying tickets whether they must pay to check up to two bags. It also asked for comment on several alternatives under consideration to provide greater access to air transportation to persons with severe peanut allergies.

To support President Obama’s open government initiative, the Department has partnered with the Cornell eRulemaking Initiative in a pilot project, Regulation Room, designed to improve the public’s ability to understand and participate in this rulemaking through a web-based discussion format. Information on the Regulation Room can be found at www.regulationroom.org.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Travel Tip- Baggage

Shhh......(keep it to yourself...)
Even if your bag exceeds the overhead bin size, you may want to "gate check" it...
Most airlines are not equipped to charge passengers at the gate, so they will be happy
to speed up the boarding process by checking your oversized bag at the gate for free.

Previewing June travel

As we are now past memorial day weekend, airlines continue to "calibrate" fees and surcharges based on stronger than expected demand. This means more fees, higher fares and additional surcharges. It appears that an across the board fare hike of $10-$30 is sticking as airlines matched each other. Another trend seems to be taking shape: more tickets, including full fares, are being subjected to cancelation and change fees. We expect this trend to continue...
Posted by travelguru at 2:30 PM