I bet Richard Branson is issuing a personal apology

for this one.  Kevin Smith, actor/director and indie darling got into a snit with Virgin America yesterday when he missed his plane. Seems they boarded the flight early and paged him (at least they said they did), but he wasn’t at the gate in time to get on board.  After a tiff with the staff he and his traveling companions’ were separated from their luggage and re-booked on a later flight..  But this is Kevin Smith, so almost immediately the whole debacle wound up on his Twitter account.  Bad news for Virgin.  The last time he tweeted Southwest had to come crawling to him on their hands and knees apologizing for marking him “too fat to fly”.  All I can say is I wish I had this kind of clout, they’ve already issued him a full refund and 3 new tickets for future travel.

Get ready for more legislation

3,300 people are currently stranded at sea off the coast of Mexico on the Carnival Splendour.  The ship suffered a fire in the engine room and their crew and engineers have not been able to restore power since generators were damaged in the fire.  The results is that their passengers are stranded on board without air conditioning, hot meals or working toilets.  They’re basically on a floating desert island at this point, and this is day 2.  While the company is making arrangements to tow the ship in to port, it’s got to be a nightmare for those cruisers.  Can you imagine 48 hours without a working bathroom?  I certainly can’t.  I think we’re going to hear more about this one, and I’m guessing it will be at a hearing in Congress asking for a tarmac law to accommodate cruisers.

Mandatory tipping is an oxymoron

I caught wind of this New York Post article yesterday about New York’s hotel bars assessing a mandatory 18 – 20% tip on bar tabs.  It’s crazy!  I mean drinks in Manhattan already run around $15 – $20 each.  Add on a 20% tip and we’re talking about $18 – $24 per tipple.  Besides, when I tip a bartender for a drink, and I’m paying in cash, I normally leave a couple of dollars, not $3 – 5 per drink.

Now I understand that New York bartenders are upset that Europeans don’t tip.  Still, tips are a reward for good service.  That means they are at the sole discretion of the patron, and can not be mandatory.  All I can say is watch your bar bills closely people and if you see an unwarranted tip, have it removed.  It’s your right.

Could you be blacklisted by a hotel?

First there was Tripadvisor.com.  It was a great forum for travelers to go and share their hotel experiences with one another.  Now hoteliers are fighting back.  Turns out there are as many “bad guests” as there are bad stays.  What gets you blacklisted by a hotel?  Well you reverse the room charge on your credit card (i.e. skip out), smoke in your non-smoking room, trash said room or steal things.  Those and many more offenses can get you added to the GuestChecker.com database.  Just thought you should know.

Back in time

Now you can do more than visit an area when you vacation, you can revisit an era. The Resorts Atlantic City casino announced that it is undergoing a makeover and will be reborn in 1920’s style. The reason for the face lift? Oddly it’s a popular television show on HBO called Boardwalk Empire. Based on the book by Nelson Johnson, Boardwalk Empire captures the seedy underside of Atlantic City and their powerful local crime bosses.  I saw a couple of episodes myself and have to admit the show and the time period in which it’s set are fascinating. The 20’s sizzled with prohibition and scandal.  It spawned the speakeasy which has made a huge comeback in the past few years.  So, what more perfect model could there be for a casino?  I have to say that I’m intrigued by the idea of going back in time.  May have to plan a trip to Atlantic City.

Will the terrorist alerts keep you home?

All the talk in travel yesterday was about the heightened terror alerts for Europe. Britain and the U.S. both issued warnings to travelers, but most surprisingly even Japan jumped on the bandwagon. That’s awful news.  Fall is historically a slow time there. From my perspective great for inexpensive fares, beautiful weather, and having the cities all to yourself.

Still, if you already had a trip planned, would the terror alerts cause you to reconsider or even change your plans?

Oprah giving away a continent

Yesterday afternoon on the premiere episode of her talk show Oprah surprised her audience.  To celebrate her 25th year in television talk she decided to take them, en mass, on vacation.  Where would they go?  She teased about Philadelphia and then New York, but when the big reveal happened the announcement was the entire audience would be flying for 8 days to Australia!  Yes, the Land Down Under.  I would count this possibly the greatest public relations victory for the Australian travel industry ever engineered.  Oprah, you’ve still got it because we are all so jealous!

The “baby section”

We’ve all used this slang, usually when we’re seated next to a crying infant on an airplane.  It’s most fliers worst fear.  Now it’s out in the media.  There was talk last week about establishing a family’s only section on airplanes. Personally I’m of two minds on the subject.  One the one hand parents can’t really “control” their children.  Kids are kids, they make noise and get bored on flights.  On the other hand if I’m paying hundreds of dollars in airfare I’d really like a quiet, restful flight.

Carriers think it’s a terrible idea because they have no clue how many families will be on each flight.  I’m curious though if they’ll change their minds and view it as a revenue generator.  Would you pay extra for a seat away from families?  You may soon be asked that question.

Do you take a stuffed animal on the road?

I found an article online this morning that reports that as many as 1 in 4 men takes a stuffed animal to sleep with when traveling. Women do it too. I guess if I was a business traveling road warrior I might do it as well. I mean you’re away from home, in a strange room with no one for company. Maybe the animal is just a comfort, a reminder of loved ones left behind. I do know that I’ve been with folks who were traveling with childhood stuffed animals.  Myself I don’t sleep with a stuffed animal, but I do have to cop to the fact that I have a couple on the dash of my car. Our cross country roadtrip demanded mascots, that’s them on the left.

The non-solution solution

I read a lot of articles about travel each day.  One thing I’ve noticed recently this that travel writers spend all of their time in advice columns telling you to, “achieve elite status” on your favored airlines.  They act like this is the holy grail of flying. The idea being if you’re “elite” you’ll get upgrades, your missed flights will be re-booked faster, and you won’t pay fees.  Well that last one is true, but the first two are completely at the airlines’ discretion.  Being an elite member is certainly a good thing, but you are not alone up there.  United Airlines elite members are legion as are American’s.  The truth of the matter is you shouldn’t need elite status just to get to your destination without inconvenience.  Airlines are a service industry.  That should be part of their basic contract of carriage.