Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The newest way to travel

Yet more madness in the airline industry!

According to the April 6, 2010 edition of USA Today, "Spirit Airlines has become the first airline in the USA – perhaps in the world – to say it will charge fliers for putting carry-on bags into its overhead storage bins."

"In addition to lowering fares even further, this will reduce the number of carry-on bags, which will improve inflight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, all of which ultimately improve the overall customer experience," Spirit's Chief Operating Officer Ken McKenzie says in the airline's release. "Bring less; pay less. It's simple."

Sheesh, what a crock of s**t! Customers are getting milked like crazy for the privilege of getting on an airplane. Is paying a fare not enough?

Luckily, JetBlue (again, based out of the United States) seems to agree with me. Check out their tongue in cheek response, again thanks to USA Today:

"JetBlue also suggests – tongue in cheek – that when customers can't use JetBlue, they should consider 'our expertly-crafted Extrago Sherpa Shirt special outerwear' for flying an airline like Spirit. JetBlue says the shirt – which it points out is a joke and is not actually for sale – is designed to hold an entire trip's worth of necessities, including the money you'll save by not checking or carrying on your bag." What does this shirt look like? Take a look at the top of this page!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trouble in paradise, another one bites the dust - Skyservice shuts down

Wow! Didn't see this one coming. Charter operator Skyservice ceased operations this morning, stranding thousands of passengers. Good grief, what the heck is happening in this crazy industry?

Here is the full story from today's (March 31st) Winnipeg Free Press:

WINNIPEG — Some passengers are stranded in paradise today, after the sudden collapse of a popular charter airline stunned the travel world.

On Wednesday morning, Skyservice announced it would cease operations immediately, after Ontario's Supreme Court handed the 15-year-old airline over to a receiver. Debt problems and "changes in the Canadian vacation tour market" led to the shutdown, the airline said in a press release. According to its website, the airline flew 20 Airbus and Boeing aircraft and employed 1,200 people. It provided charter flights for major tour operators such as Signature Vacations and SunQuest.

The news came as a shock to many — especially the folks booked for an 8 a.m. flight to the Dominican Republic out of the Winnipeg airport this morning. That flight has been rescheduled for 8 p.m. today while tour operators scramble to find aircraft to accommodate their booked and stranded passengers. By Wednesday afternoon, all of tour operator SunQuest's passengers had been slotted onto alternate flights, the company said in a release.

Winnipeg travel agent Ron Pradinuk said that although Skyservice's sudden death is a big surprise, it will not make a long-term impact on the industry. "These are big players... they've got contacts with airlines all over the world. I'm confident that these major operators will find aircraft for (tourists) by the time they need to return," Pradinuk said. "It's going to be a blip... I don't think it will affect anything a week from now."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Those crazy Icelanders

Whale watching is so last year

Volcano watching is the latest offering from the ever inventive Icelandic travel industry.

Ever quick to spot an opportunity where others see disaster, our friends at Iceland Excursions have come up with something even better than whale watching.

For only €55 they will take you to see the current volcanic eruption for yourself. At a safe distance, their guides give you a good overview of the geology of the area and tell you all about it.

Still prefer whale watching? Good. They have that, too.

Thanks to the Iceland Express website for this info!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sexy txting = coercion to commit sin


Two members of an Emirates Airline cabin crew have been jailed for three months in Dubai for exchanging lewd text messages, the Dubai newspaper The National reports.

A 42-year-old flight attendant and her 47-year-old cabin services supervisor -- both Indian -- were convicted of "coercion to commit sin," for sending the texts, the newspaper says, quoting court documents.

An appeal courts this week upheld the December convictions, saying the texts "fulfilled all the necessary angles of coercion to the commitment of sin," but cut a six-month sentence in half and dropped a deportation order.

The case came to light after the flight attendant's estranged husband filed a lawsuit against her in 2009 claiming that she was involved in an illicit relationship with the supervisor, the newspaper says.

Top ten list - total passengers

The numbers came out today for the top ten airports in the world by total passengers. To put this in perspective for the local readers of this blog, Richardson International Airport here in Winnipeg sees approximately 3 million a year.

So that means Atlanta has 29 times the passengers that Winnipeg does! Maybe this is just a big deal to airport geeks (like me) but it helps make sense of the sheer volume of passengers that use these airports.

Top 10 list (by total passengers) for 2009, according to the Journal-Constitution:

1. Atlanta (87,993,451 passengers; down 2.3%);
2. London Heathrow (66,037,578; down 1.5%);
3. Beijing Capital (65,329,851, up 16.8%);
4. Chicago O'Hare (64,397,891; down 8.8%);
5. Tokyo Haneda (61,903,656; down 7.2%);
6. Paris Charles de Gaulle (57,884,954; down 4.9%);
7. Los Angeles (56,518,605; down 5.5%);
8. Dallas Fort/Worth (56,030,457; down 1.9%);
9. Frankfurt (50,932,840; down 4.7%);
10. Denver (50,167,485; down 2.1%).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

WestJet's new loyalty program

Do you travel with WestJet? Have you been hoping that the airline would figure out some kind of loyalty program to reward you for your hard earned travel dollars? If so, then you will be happy to know the long awaited WestJet frequent flier program was finally unveiled yesterday.

"The WestJet Frequent Guest Program" gives the traveling public the opportunity to earn and accumulate WestJet dollars, which can be used as cash toward the purchase of any flight on any date to any destination - including seat sales. These 'dollars' can also be used towards WestJet Vacations packages, up to a maximum of 500 'dollars' per person.

The program is fairly simple in its approach, according to WestJet. You fly and earn 'dollars' towards future flights and vacation packages. The really nice things is that it isn't point based, it doesn't require advance booking, and there are no blackouts or seat restrictions. (Aeroplan, which is associated with Air Canada, has many of these drawbacks.)

A quick check of frequent flyer/loyalty rewards blogs did find a few concerns with the new WestJet program. There is apparently a high-spending threshold before you can start earning awards, and WestJet does not have the same global reach that Air Canada (and Aeroplan) can offer through membership in the Star Alliance.

Still, props to WestJet for taking a simpler approach to loyalty rewards. I think it fits in nicely with the way they originally positioned the company as an affordable alternative to Air Canada. While it is no doubt aimed at frequent fliers as WJ battles for control of the Canadian market, my guess is that it will also be appreciated by the less frequent traveler who will be pleased to earn a few dollars off their future flights or vacations.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Who'd have thought?

From March 5, 2010 USATODAY

"Since its humiliating bankruptcy in January, Japan Airlines has faced mass layoffs, customer fury and national shame, but its worst nightmare may yet lie ahead: a potentially thriving black market for the uniforms worn by its air stewardesses." That's from The Times of London, one of numerous media outlets reporting that demand from fetishists and sex clubs has forced ailing JAL to work to keep its flight attendant uniforms from falling into the wrong hands.

The problem may be bigger than most would initially think. Scott Mayerowitz of ABC News reports that "in Japan plenty of people are willing to pay top dollar for an experience with a club entertainer clad in an authentic Japan Airlines flight attendant uniform." He adds "people have been known to pay thousands of dollars for the outfits of JAL and rival airline All Nippon Airways, or ANA."

Airlines officials are not only concerned that the issue could tarnish the company's corporate image. ABC's Mayerowitz writes "outside of the fetish factor, JAL worries that in the wrong hands, missing airline uniforms could pose a security risk."

Indeed, an unnamed JAL spokeswoman tells the London Telegraph: "It's a question of security, as anyone wearing a JAL uniform at an airport could quite easily access restricted areas, but we also do not want people misrepresenting the company or damaging our image in any way."

The Telegraph adds JAL has warned its staff not to sell their uniforms, "fearing that laid-off air crew could try to auction their old stewardess outfits on the internet for a profit." How much could the uniforms fetch? Britain's Sky News writes "Asahi GeinĊ, a weekly tabloid magazine, reports that a rare full set is on sale on Yahoo Japan's auction site for over £2,000 and there are suggestions the latest uniform could fetch even more." In case you're wondering, £2,000 is about $3,010 at today's conversion rate.

To fight the "new flood of uniforms on to the black market," the Telegraph reports JAL is considering sewing tracking computer chips into its uniforms. Fellow Japanese carrier ANA – which faces similar problems – already does that. In the meantime, an unnamed JAL spokesperson tells the Times that the carrier has a series of measures that make it "virtually impossible for an individual to hold on to their uniform after they have left their job."

Still, the spokesperson acknowledges to the Times that at least one uniform belonging to a business-class attendant hit the black market a few years ago after it was reported as stolen. The carrier's solution in that instance? It paid nearly $2,000 to buy it back off the black market.