Say what?!

Usually I do a “double duty” post on Thursday. However, this week I’m all up in a lather over the announcement by American Airlines that they will be charging $15 to send my luggage on their planes. This isn’t a second bag charge like we’ve seen from United, Delta and others. This is your first and if you’re smart, only bag. Checking luggage has always historically been part of your ticket price when you fly. I feel like the airlines are changing the rules of this game and not in my favor. It’s like having your bank tell you that there’s now a fee to use a teller. What really galls me is that the airline is crying poverty as the reason for the new charge. Their business model doesn’t accommodate for $126 oil. Hmmmm…well it seems to accommodate $6 million dollar salaries. Maybe it’s time to reallocate guys.

2008 Summer of train travel?

A lot of travel journalists have been projecting an increase in train travel this Summer. They see it as an alternative to high airfares and gas prices. Amtrak declared May 10th National Train Day and put on events from coast to coast. They are marketing heavily to steal customers away from the airlines as fuel prices continue to rise.

I myself am considering a train trip. There are pros and cons to consider though. Train travel is still more expensive than flying (though that may not last long). Also, trains take a lot longer to get to the destination. A trip to L.A. by train is 8 hours long and involves 3 train changes, on a plane it’s 45 minutes and a non-stop flight. However, on a train I can purchase a compartment and have space to work and privacy. On a jet, even in First Class, I’ve still got little space of my own. I’m wondering, are you considering train travel this year? If so, what is driving your decision?

Are the Europeans starting to sweat?

USAToday.com is reporting that American tourism bookings are off by 15% in France, Spain and Italy. Is it just me or are the Europeans starting to sweat? For decades Europe has been the Summer playground of American travelers. We loved the people, the sites and the prices. The dollar was high (not anymore!), so everything seemed cheap. But now? Well oil is over $100 a barrel, flights are expensive, and hotels priced in Euros seem far out of reach. Europe has responded by offering pricing in dollars, packages, and discounts (Harry’s Bar in Venice offers a 20% discount to Americans). I wonder, is it enough to get us to return?

Airline passenger complaints up 60%

The Airline Quality Rating report was released this week and the news is not good. Even though fliers have low expectations for their travel, airlines are still not meeting their needs. The report finds that last year there were more cancellations, lost luggage and rude service than in years past. Travelers this year are being asked to pay additional fees for luggage, fuel and security. I’m wondering, how can this get worse?

Die in the sky?

Last week 2 people died on planes. One was a woman passenger on an American Airlines flight. The other a co-pilot on a British flight to Cyprus who died enroute. It’s not something that you want to think about I know.

The good news is that many airlines, and now airports as well, have AED equipment and trained personnel ready to help you should you find yourself in distress while in the air. American Airlines led the charge to get AEDs installed in all of their planes. An AED is an Automated External Defibrulator. This device can be used for people with heart trouble. American also carries oxygen onboard. While it’s not always the case that they can save a life (the woman on the flight last week passed away), isn’t it good to know that they will try their best?

Merger mania?

Looks like Delta and Northwest Airlines are nearing an agreement to merge. If that happens, United and Continental may be the next to join the party. USA Today.com ran a story today speculating that there could be a Delta-NWA announcement in the next couple of weeks. This would severly curtail competition in the skies. There are currently 5 majors (United, American, Delta, Northwest & Continental) airlines providing service. They’ve all struggled since 9/11 to maintain profitability. With strong fare competition from smaller airlines like JetBlue, Southwest, Frontier and Virgin American they may be feeling that a merger is in order. We’ll see if this can pass anti-trust legislation, but I have to admit the thought of these mergers has unnerved me. Are you ready for “super carriers”?

Between a rock and a hard place

United Airlines announced this week that it would begin charging some fliers $25 for checking a second piece of luggage on future flights. Now it seems that the airlines have been nickle and diming us since 9/11. They charge for food, headsets, blankets and pillows. Anything they can to improve their profits. This though, seems like just too much. Here’s the thing, in the past year they’ve been enforcing weight ratios claiming that the high cost of jet fuel is driving the trend. They’ve even charged people for overweight bags. That we all understood. Then they declared that you couldn’t take anything over 3 oz. through TSA security and we all started having to check our cosmetic bags as well. Now they have us where they want us. United has declared that if you’ve purchased a super saver fare and don’t have status with their frequent flyer program they’re going to charge you for that second bag. Does that mean any second bag? My cosmetic case weighs almost nothing, but must be checked. I’m outraged at this development. What do you think?

What do you think?

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 TSA has been in every airport checking baggage, scanning passengers and making it safer to fly. Or have they? According to a report by a team at Harvard School of Public Health they have found no evidence that TSA screenings are preventing any incidents. In fact they found that most of the new procedures implemented by the TSA (3-1-1, no shoes policy) were implemented in reaction to threats reported in the news media. I’ve often questioned the necessity of taking off both my shoes and my belt when going through airport security. I have on occasion questioned the screeners about this and have always been told that I must do so, even when their own website indicates that removing your shoes is optional.

How do you feel about TSA? Are they making our skies safer or just making our lives more complex?

Pod hotels

Small, tech savvy hotels are becoming quite the rage. I think it’s a brilliant idea for airports. A small, cozy space to crash for a few hours and recharge your batteries (and your iPod!). According to USA Today, rates start at just $52 for a 4 hour powernap at London’s Heathrow airport for a Yotel room. It includes a flat screen t.v., iPod charging stand and comes with self serve check in. What could be better?

Say what?!

USA Today is reporting that airlines are cutting their flight schedules and reducing capacity across the U.S. I can’t understand the logic behind this decision, when we’re right at the time they are needed most. Plenty of planes are flying at 70% percent occupancy, yet the airlines are blaming high oil prices for causing them to cut flights to save money. Sure if the planes were half full I could understand consolidating onto other equipment and saving some gas. However, with Christmas a mere 2 weeks away and business travelers busier than ever I really don’t see why the airlines are taking planes out of commission. Besides, oil has dropped from a high of $100 per barrel to $88 per barrel. Where’s the fire guys?