Finding Discounted Fares for Seniors- Part I of a II Part Article
For Part II of the series of articles: Finding Discount Fares for Seniors- Part II
(12/14/13)- : (Editor’s Note: Thanks to Ashot Hayrapetyan for pointing out to us that there were several broken links on this site. Ashot also pointed out to us the site Cayole Cruises which is “the only website that offers future cruise site predictions i.e. people can learn whether they should buy a cruise now or wait for a cheaper price in (the) future”. It can be found at www.cayole.com
(1/10/10)- A viewer to this article, Gina, was kind enough to take the time to send us the following e-mail:
I recently discovered your page here: www.therubins.com/genlinfo/airdisc.htm
I wanted to let you know that the link points to a website that is no longer working.
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(1/3/10)- For a detailed list of the rules for items allowed in carry-on and
checked bags at the airport please go to: www.tsa.gov
(1/1/10)- A set of new rules, which will be adopted in 120 days, would begin levying heavy fines against U.S. airlines for subjecting domestic passengers to lengthy tarmac delays. The new rules adopted by the Transportation Department sets fines of as much as $27,500 per passenger when airlines leave fliers stuck on a plane on the ground for more than 3 hours.
Fines would also be assessed if food and water were not provided to passengers when a plane has a delayed takeoff of more than 2 hours.
The rule applies to planes with more than 30 seats.
Senator John D. Rockefeller (Dem-W.Va), who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, had introduced similar type legislation in Congress last summer.
(10/5/09)- Last June, Verified Identity Pass (VIP), the company founded by Steven Brill ceased operations, much to the dismay of its almost 200,000 participants. For more information on VIP please see our items dated 5/4/08 and 3/12/08 below.
Kurtis Fechtmeyer, an investment banker based in Emeryville, Calif., said that his new investment group Henry Inc., had signed a letter of intent with Morgan Stanley, VIP's largest debt holder to buy its assets and reopen the operation under the name of Clear.
Mr. Fechtmeyer said that his company hoped to begin operating in time for the coming holiday season. Former members of VIP can join Clear with their membership intact.
If a former member of VIP does not want to join Clear their personal information will be destroyed. Mr. Brill had been forced out of VIP earlier this year, and has been sued for breach of contract. Last year, a company laptop containing the personal information of about 33,000 members was lost for a week at San Francisco's International Airport.
Mr. Brill, now runs Journalism Online, a venture that seeks to develop ways for newspapers to charge for online access.
(8/20/09)- We at therubins recently received the following e-mail from Anthony Laborin, checked out the lowfare comparison site he recommended and think it can be a very useful tool in comparing airline and travel costs. Thanks for the suggestion Mr. Laborin, and for taking the time to e-mail your suggestion to us.
From: Anthony Laborin To:
Monday, August 17, 2009 12:31 PM Subject: Suggestion for The Rubins
I enjoyed the good resource section for travel on your website, www.therubins.com/geninfo/airdisc.htm. I also wanted to let you know about another site, http://www.lowfares.com, which helps you search from some of the main travel sites to find the cheapest flights around. Feel free to check out the website, if you find it as useful as I do please link to it.
(6/5/09)- As of June 1, 2009 even U.S. citizens must show a passport, passport card or enhanced driver's license for land and sea border crossings from Mexico, Canada the Caribbean or Bermuda. For additional info on this topic please see our item date 9/24/08 below.
(6/1/09)- Expedia.com said it will make permanent its promotional "elimination of the fee" when customers book airline tickets over the Internet . The promotion was due to expire on May 31. Orbitz.com, a unit of Orbitz Worldwide Inc., and Sabre Holdings Corp's Travelocity.com also have ongoing promotions in which they have eliminated the fee, but they have not stated whether or not they will eliminate the fee on a permanent basis.
Other companies including Priceline.com Inc and Expedia Inc.'s Hotwire.com permanently stopped charging airline-booking fees in 2007 on most tickets. According to PhoCusWright, a travel research firm, about 31% of people who spend time shopping with an online travel agency book the flight on the airline's own site.
The fee runs between $7 to $12. In eliminating the fee, the online agencies thus bring the price for the ticket in line with the price charged by the airline itself.
(5/19/09)- Google has entered the flight information data field using information that it gleans from Flightstats.com. If you know the flight number, you can send a text message to Google (466-453) with the flight number, and they will send a text message back to you with the latest departure and arrival information from Flightstats.
U.S. airlines' on-time performance during the first three months of 2009 was the best for that period since 2003, the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said.
The 19 carriers reported an on-time performance overall rate of 79.2% in the quarter, up from 70.9% a year ago. The average on-time figure over the last 14 years is 77.1%.
Hawaiian Airlines, owned by Hawaiian Holding Inc., had the best on-time performance of 91.2% for the month of March, and 91.5% for the first quarter of the year.
A flight is counted as "on time" if it operated less than 15 minutes after the scheduled time shown in the carriers' computerized reservation systems.
Of the 31 biggest airports, Salt Lake City had the best on-time arrival and departure performance in both the month and the quarter, while Newark, NJ had the worst times for both the month of March and the first quarter of the year.
(1/15/09)- Statistically a flight is deemed "late" if it arrives 15 minutes or more after its expected time-of-arrival. The average delay for late airline flights was 57 minutes in 2008, which made it the fourth straight year of increased delay of arrival time according to FlightStats.com a flight tracking service. The average delay in 2005 was 52 minutes.
Of the flights that did arrive, 75.4% of them were on time, again according to figures from FlightStats. This figure was up from 73.5% in 2007
Flight cancellations in 2008 were just about at the same 2% level that they were in 2007. Southwest Airlines Co. had the best on-time arrival percentage of 81.2% in 2008, while American Airlines' 58.6% on-time arrival rate was the worst among the major airlines.
(11/6/08)- Hertz Global Holdings Inc. said in a press release that it has implemented price increases at its retail rental location in North America and Europe to be effective for reservation made for November 10 and after.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent-A-Car, all owned by the Jack Taylor family, have increased retail pricing in October at its airport locations.
Hertz said its car-rental rates would rise by an average of more than 10% at North American airports, which comes to about $5 per day. The company will raise rates abut 5% in off-airport markets, and about 10% in European airport and downtown locations.
(9/24/08)- As we discussed in our item dated 8/2/08, now is a good time to apply for a passport card, especially for those who spend a lot of time driving or ferrying to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda. Here is a comparison between the passport cards and the passport book:
Right now, adult travelers who are 19 or older who are returning to the U.S. at a land or sea border, must provide a birth certificate or other evidence of citizenship, plus a government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license. Those 18 or younger must provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
Starting June 1, 2009 an "enhanced" driver's license will be one of three identification cards given to participants in the Department of Homeland Security's "trusted" traveler program.
Currently only the state of Washington is issuing "enhanced" driver's licenses, while New York, Vermont, Arizona and Michigan are in the process of developing them according to the DHS. They will cost about $15 to $30 more than the regular driver's license.
Please note that even after June 1, 2009, children 16 to 18 traveling in a school group or other religious, sports or social group can use a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship as long as they're traveling with an adult.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced in August that the passport card would work the same as a book passport for the purposes of verifying employment eligibility.
(9/15/08)- JetBlue Airways Corp. is auctioning off more than 200-roundtrip flight and six vacation packages this week on eBay, with opening bids set between 5 cents and 10 cents.
The flights are to more than 20 destinations, including four "mystery" JetBlue Getaways Vacation Packages.
Each auction will have a specific range of dates in which customers can travel. The dates, times and flight numbers will be posted when the customers bid. The packages include airfare and four-night stay for two at Marriott hotels in locations including Las Vegas and Nassau, Bahamas.
(8/2/08)- More than 350,000 Americans have ordered the wallet-size identification cards that are designed to speed border crossing by U.S. citizens to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, according to State Department officials.
More than 7,600 cards have been mailed out, and all the orders are expected to be filled by September 30th. New applications will take about four weeks to process.
The card is good for 10 years and costs $45 for adults and $35 for children under 16, but it is not valid for any type of air travel. It can be used for only land or sea crossings.
Starting in June 1 2009, travelers will be required to present documents proving both citizenship and identify when entering the U.S. through a land or sea border.
Applications can be made at any passport-processing site. If you already have a passport, the cost is $20.
(7/10/08)- The Transportation Security Administration has given the go-ahead for passengers to use newly designed carry-on bags that will let airline passengers pass through security without having to take their laptops out for X-ray inspection.
Kip Hawley, the agency's director, said that the T.S.A. would accept the new laptop cases as soon as they come on the market, if they have been given the acceptance by the agency's product security department.
More than half-dozen luggage manufacturers have submitted prototypes for testing at checkpoints at three airports: Dulles, outside of Washington; Austin-Bergstrom in Texas; and Ontario, near Los Angeles. The TSA estimates that about one-quarter of all air travelers carry laptops with them.
The requirement that all laptops must be removed from their cases and pass through the X-ray security device has rankled air travelers, and thankfully this may be ending soon.
Two of the biggest luggage manufacturers, Pathfinder Luggage and Targus said that they hoped to have the new cases available for sale as early as September of this year. A spokesman for Pathfinder said that it would sell the briefcase version of the product for $100 to $150 and the wheeled version for $150 to $200. Targus said that it expected to sell its product for about $39 for the basic model, and up to $100 for its more expensive version of the item.
(6/29/08)- United Airlines said it would put a minimum stay requirement on almost all its coach fares for travelers starting October 6. About two months ago the airline added a Saturday night stay requirements on 65% of its routes. Most other major airlines have followed the lead of United in these matters, even though they were eliminated in 2001 by these same airlines.
For some of the lowest fares in some markets, a combined Saturday and Sunday night stay will be required. This requirement has been used by the airlines to discourage business travelers from buying the cheapest fares.
(6/2/06)- The six network airlines put in another round of fare increases over the Memorial Day weekend, ranging up to $60 for a round-trip ticket, said Rick Seaney, the chief executive officer of Farecompare.com. It was the 11th fare increase of the year that all major carriers had joined in.
The list of airlines going bankrupt continues to increase. The latest casualty is Silverjet, the business-class-only British airline that ceased operations on Friday, May 30th. Silverjet, which flew from London to New York and Dubai, failed to receive a $5 million payment from Viceroy Holdings, an investment fund based in the United Arab Emirates.
Silverjet thus joins Eos Airlines and Maxjet in the group of failed business-class-only airlines. Recent failures have occurred in the American carriers ATA Airlines, Aloha, and Skybus. Oasis Hong Kong Airlines ran out of money last month.
(5/15/08)- Eos Airlines Inc., a trans-Atlantic, all-business class airline joined the growing list of bankrupt airlines when it filed a bankruptcy petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, listing $70 million of assets and debt of $35 million.
The company was formed in 2005 with funding from a West Coast venture-capital firms. The carrier operated Boeing 757 planes outfitted with just 48 seats that converted to lie-flat beds. Prices, which ranged from $2,700 to $3,400 round trip, were much lower than business class on larger competitors.
Eos was based in Purchase, N.Y, and it advised passengers to contact their credit-card companies for refunds and to contact other airlines directly to make alternate travel arrangements. Other airlines are not under any obligation to honor Eos tickets.
(5/4/08)- Updating our item dated 3/12/08 below, Fast Lane Option, or FLO has agreed to buy Unisys' Go Registered Traveler program, which is used at MeCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
Clear, which is owned by Verified Identity Pass estimates it now has 140,000 members, but only about 93,000 members have completed its registration process. Steven Brill, the chief executive of Verified said, "Our renewal rates have been 90 percent."
Travelers in one program can use their cards at any airport offering the service. FLO and Preferred Travelers sell tiers of membership, charging as much as $349 a year for a package that includes access to airport lounges and discounts on car rentals. Free or discounted memberships in Clear are available through hotel and credit card loyalty programs.
Clear enrolled more than 5,000 people the last week of March.
(4/15/08)- The casualties continue to mount in the airline industry, with two more airlines filing bankruptcy claims, in addition to the ones we cited in our article dated 4/6/08 below.
Unlike the others however, Frontier Airline, with 6,000 employees and 62 Airbus jets, plans to keep flying its normal schedule. The company agreed to sell off 4 of its planes since its cash position has now dwindled to $170 million.
Oasis Hong-Kong Airlines, a long-haul budget carrier has also gone into bankruptcy and cancelled all its flights. This bankruptcy left thousands of its customers stranded in Hong-Kong, London and Vancouver.
Oasis operated four roomy Boeing 747-400s with twin aisles on its nearly 13- hour flights from Hong-Kong to London and Vancouver, Canada. The company allocated 22% of its seats to business class and charged as little as a third the prices of its competitors.
Skyway Airlines, of Milwaukee and Skybus Airlines of Columbus, Ohio have also recently ceased operations.
The combination of higher fuel costs and a recessionary environment are causing a dwindling airline industry into a corner. With costs escalating, and yet with fewer potential customers flying, we would not be surprised to see even more airlines either combining or going into bankruptcy.
In February, slightly over a quarter (25.96%) of domestic flights arrived late according to the Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports. It was at 25.99% in 2007.
(4/6/08)- ATA Airlines, the Indianapolis based discount airline company filed for Chapter 11-bankruptcy protection on April 2 and shut down operations on April 3. The shutdown will affect 2,300 jobs and will have a major impact on the Hawaiian air market where the company was a major operator. The shutdown will have major implications for consumers since it will limit the number or cheaper seats available, and remove a competitor in the industry.
It will also have a major affect on Southwest Airlines Co., since it funneled passengers to Hawaii and other destinations through ATA. Aloha Airgroup Inc., which is already under Chapter 11 court protection had announced earlier this week that it was suspending passenger operations and had laid off 1,900 employees.
Champion Air of Bloomington, Minn., said it too would shut down at the end of May and lay off 550 workers.
On the other hand, Northwest Airlines Corp., announced that it would raise fares, fuel surcharges and baggage fees and cut its domestic flight schedule by 5%. The company also announced that it had suspended plans to hire more pilots and flight attendants, and would cut capital spending that does not involve airlines by about $100 million this year, to $150 million.
(3/28/09)- The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision that we discussed in our item dated 12/30/07, in ruling that the federal Airline Discrimination Act (ADA) of 1978 pre-empts states from passing laws such as the recently passed New York Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights. Unless this ruling is reversed, if the case is appealed, or if the federal government passes legislation for a federal Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights air travelers who are stranded in a plane that is on a runway for over 3 hours without food, water or clean toilets will not have any legislation protecting their rights to the aforementioned necessities.
The Air Transport Association of America, an airline trade group had appealed the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence E. Kahn in Albany, N.Y. that dismissed the suit brought against the legality of the recently passed law in N.Y.
John Milgrim, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, said, "The office is currently reviewing the decision." The attorney general's office defended the law in the federal proceedings. The appellate court concluded that the Federal Aviation Administration's ability to maintain uniform standards for air travel would be detrimentally affected by allowing each state to set its own rules.
(3/12/08)- There are presently only three companies authorized by the Transportation Security Administration to offer expedited security lines at U.S. airports. The biggest of those companies is Verified Identity Pass Inc., which has about 100,000 members who pay a fee of $99 per year.
It has been 7 years since Congress approved the concept, but the program is in operation at only 16 out of the 3,364 airports in this country. Each airport receives between $77,000 and $250,000 a year from Registered Traveler companies.
Unisys Corp., operates at Reno-Tahoe International Airport and Vigilant Solutions offers services at Jacksonville International Airport in Florida. The membership operated across participating airports, regardless of the company that sold the pass.
Verified operates at the following airports: Albany International Airport; Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport; Denver International Airport; Indianapolis International Airport; Little Rock International Airport; JFK Airport in N.Y at Terminals 1,4 and 7; Newark Liberty International Airport, Terminal B; Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, Terminals A and C; Orlando International Airport ( where the program started for Verified); Reno/Tahoe International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 1 and 3; Westchester County Airport, N.Y.; Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport; Washington Dallas International Airport; and Oakland International Airport.
(2/22/08)- The latest figures from the Transportation Department show that more than 26% of commercial flights in the United States arrived late or were canceled last year. The only time travelers had more difficulty getting to their destinations on time was in 2000, when more that 27% of the flights were late or canceled.
Excluding cancellations, 2007 was the worst year on record for flight delays, with 24.2% of flights arriving late, compared with 23.9% in 2000. The government first started compiling these figures in 1995.
The worst month of the year 2007 for the nation's largest 20 airlines was December, when more than a third of flights were late or cancelled, mostly because of weather. One of the other reasons behind the increase in delays is because the airlines are replacing larger planes with smaller ones in order to maximize profits, since it is easier to fill a smaller plane with revenue paying passengers, than it is to fill a larger plane.
Starting in March, Kennedy Airport in New York City will cap flights to 80 an hour at peak times, down from about 100 as required under a new federal plan aimed at cutting down on congestion. Similar caps, which already exist at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, will also go into effect at Newark-Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
(1/24/08)- During the first 10 months of 2007, airlines carried 570.2 million passengers on domestic flights, a 3.5% increase over the same period in 2006, according to Department of Transportation statistics. The number of seats available increased 1.9% domestically for the same period.
The domestic load factor, the percentage of seats filled, was 80.5% in the first 10 months of 2007, compared with 79.6% in the same period of 2006 according to latest figures compiled by the agency.
In 2007, 28.3% of flights arrived late at the top 28 airports, compared with about 23% in 2006, according to figures compiled by FlightStats.com. The three airports with the worst overall on-time flight arrival rates were in the New York region: Kennedy (59.8% on time); Newark Liberty (58.05%) and La Guardia (57.6%).
(1/12/08)- The State Department said it would begin accepting applications on February 3 for passport cards as alternatives to passports for Americans who travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The wallet-size cards will cost $45 for adults and $35 for children, cheaper than a regular passport, and adults who have passports will have to pay only $20.
They will be accepted for land and sea crossing between the United States and Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, but not for flights.
(1/6/08)- According to a new rule from the Transportation Department, airline passengers cannot pack any loose lithium batteries in checked bags, although the batteries are permitted if contained within laptops, cellphones or other electronic devices.
The department said that loose lithium batteries could short-circuit and create fire hazards in cargo holds.
The new rule also limits to two the number of large-size spare lithium batteries that may be brought on in carry-on-bags, but that restriction applies mostly to professional and industrial-use batteries, and does not affect most lithium batteries used in consumer electronics such as laptop computers and cellphones.
(12/30/07)- A federal judge in Albany, N.Y. has upheld the New York State law that would penalize airlines that fail to provide adequate services to passengers stranded on the runway for more than three hours. This means that starting January 1, 2008 airlines operating in New York can be fined up to $1,000 per passenger if they do not supply water, fresh air, and working rest rooms during delays of 3 hours or more.
The law, called the Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights hopefully will spread to more states, but the Air Transport Association, an airline industry group that brought suit to overturn the law said that it would appeal the decision. One of the sponsors of the legislation, Democratic Assemblyman Michael N. Gianaris from Queens said; "Today, New York stood its ground on the front lines of the battle to protect the flying public."
The New York law is the first one of its kind in the U.S. It also requires the airlines to provide information explaining passenger's rights and how to file complaints. It allows the New York attorney general to sue any airline found violating the legislation.
The Air Transport Association argued against the legality of the law, claiming that the federal government and not the individual states should set the standards for these situations. This claim is similar it contends to the recent decision from the Supreme Court in which it overturned California's legislation as to California's environmental protection laws.
(12/22/07)- A provision in the recently enacted budget bill, that President Bush indicated that he would sign, pushed back the plan by the Department of Homeland Security to require passports from border crossers from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean until mid-2009, a year later than planned.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said he expected Mr. Bush to sign the bill, despite the administration's insistence on carrying out the passport requirement for security reasons by next summer.
The budget proposal that was passed by the Congress and sent on to the president for his signature is considered a victory for him, since it did not contain any language in it that would require the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by any specific date.
(10/19/07)- The Transportation Security Administration announced that it had rejected the most recent application by General Electric for its shoe-scanning device at airports that would have eliminated the need for the removal of air travelers' shoes before flights.
The agency said that the G.E. shoe scanner "does not meet minimum detection standards." In July, the agency had rejected an earlier version of the machine. G.E. is in partners with the Clear program that is aimed at providing expedited boarding arrangement for its members.
A prototype of the machine, in use in a lane at the Orlando International Airport in Florida, will be discontinued immediately. The Clear version of the Registered Traveler program operates at 10 airports, and has signed up 68,000 members who pay $99.95 a year to belong to the program.
Competing versions operate at two additional airports.
(9/29/07)- The paper airline ticket will be a thing of the past by May according to the head of an international airline association, the International Air Transport Association. This will mean a savings of about $3 billion annually on the roughly 400 million tickets sold outside the United States alone. The electronic ticketing system was first introduced in 2004.
When the association started its program, only about 16% of tickets issued worldwide were electronic. The agency estimates that 84% of tickets are now electronic. The switch is even more advanced in the U.S. The Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC), an industry owned company that clears tickets sold in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, said that electronic ticketing last month accounted for 96.88 percent of tickets it settled.
Electronic ticketing helps travelers complete flights using different airlines. It is estimated that settling payments between airlines and travel agents costs about $1 an electronic ticket, compared with $9 with paper. Electronic ticketing also eliminates the need to track blank tickets carefully to prevent theft, fraud and forgery.
(8/23/07)- The new passport requirement in connection with travelers returning to this country from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean or South America has had the unexpected side effect of uncovering a large number of child support scofflaws. This in turn has forced them to pay up their obligations before they can receive their passports.
The State Department denies passports to noncustodial parents who owe more than $2,500 in child support. Once the applicant makes good on the debt, he or she can reapply for their passport.
The Passport Denial Program has resulted in almost a doubling of the denials this year over last year. States have reported collecting at least $22.5 million through the program this year, which in turn is forwarded to the child's parent who was entitled to it. This program actually started in 1998, but the benefits have really come to the forefront under the new passport program.
Margot Bean, commissioner for the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement said that her office has helped almost 17 million children since the program began.
(8/16/07)- In testifying recently before a House Transportation subcommittee Stephen Brill, the head of Verified Identity Pass Inc, stated: " TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has not been treating R.T. (Registered Traveler) like a good deal." His company's Clear program now is operating at seven airports and intends to expand the program to other airports shortly.
Kip Hawley, the Homeland Security assistant secretary who heads the TSA stated that current technology "is not yet there to provide significant screening benefits to RT members."
Although RT members get front-of-the-line access, they still have to pass through the regular security checkpoint. Mr. Brill asserted that members should be able to pass through the special kiosks made by GE in partnership with Verified that detect explosives and metals to scan shoes without their being removed.
Mr. Hawley testified at the hearing that "When it works up to standard, we'll be delighted to accept it,"
(8/11/07)- According to the latest figures from the Department of Transportation airline delays in the United States are at their highest level in at least 13 years. The industry's on-time performance in the first six months of the year was its worst since 1995, the earliest period for which the agency has comparable data.
Nearly a third of domestic flights on the major American lines were late. Weather related delays accounted for about 7 percent of the rise for the month of June. In spite of this woeful record demand for air travel continues to rise at very strong levels. Most experts feel that this problem will only worsen in the coming months.
(7/25/07)- Verified Identity Pass Inc, whose Clear program has about 55,000 members (for additional information please see our item dated 7/2/07) announced it would open one of its expedited boarding lanes at La Guardia Airport in New York in partnership with AirTran Airways. The company also said that it would be opening at Albany airport next month.
Steven Brilll, the chief executive of the company said that the company should be able to have 100,000 members by September. The membership fee is $99.95 a year. As we noted in our earlier item, the company now has a competitor, rtGo, which is operated by Unisys, which charges a yearly membership fee of $100.
(7/18/07)- The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that would allow the State Department to hire Foreign Service retirees to help handle a backlog of 2.9 million passport applications. The Senate had passed a similar measure earlier this month, but because of slight differences in the two measures, the legislation will have to be resolved through a joint committee meeting.
After the differences are resolved each legislature must pass the measure before the president can sign it. For additional fill-in information on this topic please see our item dated 6/10/07 below.
(7/02/07)- Verified Identity Pass Inc, whose Clear program has about 48,000 members now has a competitor in operation under the Registered Travel Program. The new program, which is operating out of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, is called rtGo. Membership in rtGo, which is operated by Unisys, is $100 a year.
Under the program, participants cleared in a background security check receive an identification card encode with biometric data, like iris scans and fingerprints.
Verified's Clear program has locations at Terminals 1,4 and 7 at Kennedy International Airport in New York, as well as airports in Orlando Fl; Cincinnatti Ohio; San Jose, Calif.; and Indianapolis Ind. For additional information on Verified please see our item dated 1/21/07 below. Verified plans to open a lane at Newark International Airport shortly.
While members in these programs get special expedited lanes, the Transportation Security Administration still has not approved allowing members to pass through security without removing shoes, laptops or outer garments.
U.S. airlines carried 177.7 million passengers in the first quarter this year, up 1.6% over the same period in 2006 according to figures from the Transportation Department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. American Airlines carried the most passengers, domestic and international combined in the period.
(6/27/07)- FareCompare.com, an air-fare-tracking Web site reported that the cheapest fares for summer travel are down 8% to 15% versus last year. Even though many airlines boosted one-way fares by $5 of $10 earlier this month, the latest of several attempts this year to raise prices, fares have still come down. Please keep in mind that oil prices are down about 7 % from their price a year ago.
Air-Tran Airways, a unit of Air-Tran Holding Inc. has just launched a summer sale for 14-day advance purchase flights. Many of the major airlines have matched this sale with sales of their own. Continuing competition from low-cost carriers and a flagging slow down in demand on certain routes is pushing fares down.
Tickets for the Air-Tran sale must be booked by July 3, but travelers can fly through November 14.
(6/10/07)- The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security jointly announced that they were temporarily suspending some of the provisions of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initative. In particular the suspension dealt with the need for having a passport when a traveler is flying back from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda.
Through September a traveler flying back from one of those destinations need only have a government-issued photo id and online receipt of their passport application. Officials said that only online receipts from applications electronically trackable would be accepted as proof that a traveler had a passport coming.
Passport requirements from all other destinations remain in place. Please see our item dated 3/2/07 to read further about this matter. The change occurred because the State Department has become flooded by applications for passports, which in turn caused massive delays in their being issued.
The State Department said that it expected to issue about 17.5 million passports in the fiscal year ending in September, up from just over 12 million last year. The telephone number for the national passport information line is 1-877-487-2778.
(5/9/07)- Delays on domestic flights rose in the first quarter of this year, with 25.25% of flight arriving late, compared with 21.35% in the first quarter of last year according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics
The number of lost or otherwise mishandled checked bags rose in March to 7.71 per 1,000 passengers compared with 5.81 per 1,000 passengers in March, 2006.
(4/29/07)- Starting May 22 a new extreme low-fare airline will commence flying the domestic skies in this country. The airline, Skybus Airlines promises at least 10 seats on every flight priced at $10 one-way before taxes.
Skybus will charge extra for all items such as $5 to check a bag, $10 for a preferred seat, and $2 for a soda. Carrying food onboard will not be allowed. The airline will sell tickets only through the Web site, and it will not have a phone number to call for reservations. It will outsource its maintenance, the staffing of ticket counters at airports and its baggage handling.
Initially, Skybus will connect Columbus Ohio to Burbank, Cal; Portsmouth, N.H.; Bellingham, Wash., Kansas City, Mo; Richmond, Va.; Fort Lauderdale, Fl; and Greensboro, N.C. In June, the airline will have flights to Oakland, Ca.
The airline has 4 leased Airbus 319s, which carry 144 passengers, with four more, expected by the end of the year. It has an agreement with Airbus to acquire 65 planes directly from Airbus beginning in late 2008.
(4/14/07)- In our item dated 11/30/06 below we wrote about forecast.com. It has now expanded its database to include the ability to determine the cheapest flights from any airport in the U.S. The site is constantly updated so that there are changes occurring frequently. Be careful, because this site does not include data from Southwest Airlines.
For extensive data on any particular flight there is www.flightstats.com This site will enable you to see how frequently any particular flight has been delayed over the year, and the number of flights on a particular route. This site measures on-time arrival or departure as the moment the plane touches down or leaves the runway, not when the aircraft pushes away from the gate.
(4/2/07)- Vanguard Car Rental of Tulsa, Okla., which owns National and Alamo announced that it would be merging with Enterprise Rent-a-Car, not with the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group as we stated in our item of 2/23/07.
Enterprise is already the largest car rental company in the U.S., with a fleet of about 880,000 vehicles, and a network of almost 7,000 locations. Enterprise is based in St. Louis, Mo.
Vanguard is owned by Cerberus, the private equity firm that bought the company out of bankruptcy when it was ANC Rental Corporation. The National and Alamo brands were previously owned by Republic Industries controlled by H. Wayne Huizenga.
(3/20/07)- Passport applications filed from October to March were up 44% form the same period a year ago according to the latest State Department figures. Since the change in the law in January that requires airline passengers to have passports when returning from Mexico, Canada and most places in the Caribbean, the department has not been able to keep up with the demand for passports.
The State Department said that it would hire 400 more people to handle the increase demand, but in the meanwhile it could take up to 10 weeks instead of the normal 6 weeks to process routine applications, according to the department.
Expedited requests, which normally take 2 weeks to process at a cost of $157 instead of the normal fee of $97, could take 4 weeks instead of the normal 2-week waiting period.
Until recently, only 27% of eligible Americans had passports. The new requirement set off a rush with a record 12.1 million passports issued last year, and as many as 17 million expected this year, the State Department said. About 74 million Americans have valid passports.
(2/28/07)- In a change from earlier rules, the Bush administration has announced that children 15 or under will be allowed to cross the borders at land and sea entry points with certified copes of their birth certificates rather than passports.
Those 16 through 18 traveling with school, religious, cultural or athletic groups and under adult supervision will also be allowed to travel with only their birth certificates. Children entering the United States by air will still be required to show passports.
The new passport rules will take effect in regards to children beginning January 2008.
(2/23/07)-A deal is said to be in the works to combine four of the nation's largest car rental companies. Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, a unit of DaimlerChyrsler, is in early talks to merge with Vanguard Car Rental of Tulsa, Okla., which owns National and Alamo. If completed, a deal would create the third-largest rental car company in the U.S.
The four rental car companies are National, Alamo, Thrifty and Dollar.
The leading car rental company in this country is Enterprise Rent-a-Car, with Hertz Global Holdings being number 2. The combination would push Avis Budget Group down to number 4 in terms of revenue.
The average rental price of a midsize car has risen to about $57 a day this year, from $52 last year, according to Neil Abrams, president of Abrams Consulting Group in Purchase, N.Y, which follows the car rental business.
Cerberus Capital Management acquired Vanguard out of bankruptcy for $240.1 million in cash when it was called ANC Rental Corporation. The National Car Rental Co. went public in 1947, while Alamo went public in 1973. H.Wayne Huizenga's Republic Industries acquired both, combining them into ANC in the mid-nineties.
Republic Industries, now known as AutoNation, spun off ANC in 2000. ANC had gone into bankruptcy in 2001.
Dollar was founded in 1965 in Los Angeles and acquired by the Chrysler Corporation in 1990, making it part of its Pentastar Transportation Group, alongside Thrifty. Chrysler filed for an initial public offering of the rental car unit in November 1997.
(2/2/07)- A new rule that went into effect recently requiring all U.S. citizens, including children, returning to this country by air from any country in the Western Hemisphere to present their passport applies only to air, not those arriving by land or sea.
Officials in the Department of Homeland Security said they expected to rollout the same restrictions for passengers arriving by land and sea by January 1, 2008. A 2004 law in which Congress adopted many proposals of the September 11th commission mandated the change.
Citizens of Canada and Bermuda traveling to the U.S. by air will also have to show passports to enter the country.
Until recently, only 27% of eligible Americans had passports. There were 12.1 million passports issued to Americans last year by the State Department. It takes about 6 weeks for a passport application to be processed, but if immediate action in getting a passport is required, it can be done within a week for an increased fee.
Customs will also accept merchant marine cards and Nexus air cards, which are issued to citizens and legal immigrants in the U.S. and Canada who are frequent travelers, and have passed a background check. Active duty military personnel are exempt.
(1/21/07)- Terminal 7 at Kennedy International Airport in New York became the 2nd airport terminal to have a "fast check-in system) that enables boarding airline passengers to speed up the boarding clearance time delay. Boarding passengers will still have to remove their shoes for screening because the Transportation Security Administration still has not granted Verified Identity Pass Inc final approval for its use at Kennedy.
Verified has over 30,000 members in the program at the Orlando International Airport where its Registered Traveler program first gained operational approval. The program operates under the name of Clear, which charges $99.95 per year for membership. This includes a cost of $28 that is the federal fee involved in the program.
(12/25/06)- Verified Identity Pass Inc. announced that because of a delay in processing new members it would delay the start of its expedited boarding system at Terminal 7 at Kennedy International Airport in New York until either January 3 or 4, 2007.
The company expects to open its 3rd facility at Indianapolis on January 11th, followed one week later by the opening at the San Jose Airport on the 18th of January, which in turn will be followed on the25th of January at the Cincinnati airport.
Up until now Verified's Registered Traveler program has operated only at the Orlando International Airport.
(12/13/06)- Verified Identity Pass Inc, which began the first Registered Traveler program at the Orlando Florida International Airport, announced that it expects to open its second site in Terminal 7 at Kennedy International Airport in New York on December 19th. Steven Brill, who heads the company, said that they are processing the paperwork necessary to open the program at the airports in San Jose, California; Cincinnati; and Indianapolis, Ind.
Verified has over 30,000 members in the program at the Orlando airport under the program name of Clear. Clear charges $99.95 per year, which includes the federal fee of $28.
Unisys Corporation announced that it is working with the Homeland Security Department so that it could open its own version of the Registered Travelers program at the Reno/Tahoe International Airport in Nevada, where the company has a contract to start operating once the security administration approves.
The Registered Traveler program provides identity cards, which include not only data on place of birth and home address, but also fingerprints and eye scans. Travelers who belong to the system can then go through expedited security in special lanes.
(11/30/06)- A viewer of this article was kind enough to add two more names www.itasoftware.com and www.sidestep.com to our item of "(7/18/06)- There is a new Web site that mines the data from all U.S. airlines except Jet Blue and Southwest, and tries to predict the changes in airfares over a seven-day period. The site is located at www.cheapflights.com ' The site has flights to and from Seattle and Boston, but promises to have all the major American cities by year-end
This site therefore is going beyond sites such as Kayak ( www.kayak.com ), Sidestep (www.sidestep.com/air ) and Farechase (www.cheapflights.com ) that search the listings of the airlines and travel sites like Orbitz, and then displays the best deals, since it tries to predict what the fare will be in the next seven days."
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it would charge a fee of $28 for travelers wishing to participate in the expedited airport-screening program. This was a sharp drop from the originally announced $100 fee that the agency said it would charge.
This is the fee imposed by the TSA to cover the cost it incurs in doing the background check on the individual hoping to participate in the expedited screening process at airports. Orlando, Florida is the only airport, so far, that has the program actually operating.
(11/23/06)- Delta AirLines, which is operating under bankruptcy protection, recently announced that it was cutting prices on some its seats on more than 10,000 domestic routes. The airline has also recently been in the news since U.S. Airways, another airline operating under bankruptcy protection, announced that it was interested in merging with Delta.
The price cuts apply to coach-class seats purchased at least seven days in advance by December 5 for travel completed by December 12. The cuts exclude flights on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the following Saturday and Sunday.
The airfare-research firm FareCompare LP of Dallas calculated an average fare reduction of $281 on the 10,685 city pairs affected. Most other major airlines announced cuts in their own airfares to match and even in a few cases to exceed the cuts made by Delta, while at the same time keeping the same date restrictions as those in the Delta plan.
(11/15/06)- We at therubins received
the following e-mail from Karl Ginter:
"Just wanted to let you know about www.hotelsbycity.net we are an online travel company focused primarily on hotels. We run a Blog, and custom write all of our city guides, we currently have over 500 travel guides located here: www.hotelsbycity.net/guides/ and more than 1000 images of cities worldwide
We think the site is worth taking a look at.
(10/17/06)- The maximum amount that an airline passenger can receive for being bumped from a flight is $400. This was an amount that was set in 1978, and that amount has not changed since then. If that maximum amount were to be adjusted for inflation it would be at $1,200 in terms of today's dollars. In fact it pays for airlines to bump some passengers since the penalty is less than what the airline can make on a higher paying passenger.
The number of people involuntarily bumped off flights in the second quarter of 2006 jumped up more than 40% to 185,368, compared with the same period in 2005 according to FAA data. It was the highest number in any second quarter since 2000. This figure does not include passengers who voluntarily gave up their seats for another offer from the airline that they expected to fly on.
Among the large domestic carriers, Northwest Airlines had the highest rate of people with tickets who were denied boarding for voluntary or involuntary reasons. JetBlue Airlines had the lowest numbers for a major air carrier in regards to bumping.
(10/1/06)- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it would charge a fee of about $30 for travelers wishing to participate in the expedited airport-screening program. This was a sharp drop from the originally announced $100 fee that the agency said it would charge.
The fee is imposed to reimburse the TSA for the background check, administrative costs and the cost of paying screeners who run the special lines needed for this program. If the agency determines that it is not incurring any substantial additional costs as a result of the program, it will not impose the fee.
The cutback in the fee was a direct result of a meeting between Kip Hawley, the chief of the TSA and the companies that want to provide the program at airports, who had pressed the TSA to roll back any proposed fee.
(9/16/06)- Updating our item of 5/6/06, there are now 27,000 air travelers who have enrolled in the Registered Traveler program initiated by Stephen Brill's Verified Identity Pass Inc. So far this program, at Orlando International Airport, is the only one of its kind in full operation in this country. Verifeid calls its program Clear.
Mr. Brill has stated that he expects the program to be in effect this fall at Terminal 7 at Kennedy International Airport in New York. The program will be operated as a partnership at that terminal with British Airways, that terminal's major tenant.
Under Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations, the airlines that control a terminal, as well as airports, can offer the program, if the agency approves the program. Verified is seeking approval for its program at airports in San Jose, Calif., Indianapolis and Cincinnati, as well as a Canadian version in Toronto
About 20 other airports are now seeking approval for similar programs from the TSA. Los Angeles, California and Atlanta, Georgia presently have such applications pending.
(8/21/06)- According to the August air travel report from the Department of Transportation, more than 33,000 passengers were involuntarily denied boarding on U.S. airlines from January to June of 2006. This was up from 25,000 during the same period last year, and marks the largest number since the first half of 1997 when 33,426 passengers were bumped from flights.
If you are bumped from a flight the first thing you should ask from the airline is a written statement to explain how the airline determined who is bumped, and what you are entitled to as a result of being bumped.
Verified Identity Pass Inc. announced that it now has over 29,000 people enrolled in its expedited passenger boarding system at Orlando International Airport in Florida. For more on this system please see our items dated 5/6/06; 12/24/05 and 12/1/05.
The program requires people to provide fingerprints or an iris scan upon enrollment and to submit to a background check conducted by the Department of Homeland Security. The company said that it would expand the program to Indianapolis, Cincinnati and San Jose shortly.
The federal government paid for five other airports- in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Boston Houston and Washington, to try out the program last year with a total of 10,000 enrollees. After the trials were evaluated, the program was approved, and a number of airports are in the process of applying.
(8/11/06)- UAL Corp.’s United Airlines announced a cut in its leisure fare rates for the autumn season on Monday. AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, Delta Airlines and Continental Airlines matched the price cuts on a limited basis.
All the airlines held their fare levels for business fares, which are much more expensive than leisure fares. Corporate travelers at the last minute typically buy business fares.
Strangely enough United recently increased the fares for business travel by $5 to $10 last weekend. Business fares are about 20% higher than they were last year.
Load factors, or percentage of seats filled averaged 85.3% in June across the U.S. airlines, according to the Air Transport Association, an industry trade group. In June the industry logged its 16th consecutive month of increased revenue, growing 14.6% compared with a year earlier as measure by revenue airlines take in for flying a passenger one mile.
The cut in leisure fares is anywhere from 4% to 8%. The summer travel season this year will be the first profitable one for the airline industry in the last five years. Please keep in mind all the recent "givebacks" that the industry has won from their unions, since 5 of the industry leaders went into bankruptcy proceedings over the last few years.
(8/8/06)- Chaotic is a word that best describes what is happening to air-travel this summer. What with the airlines being about 90% booked, weather delays and domestic capacity down, it has been a very rough summer for people using planes this summer.
One of the best tools available to an air-traveler is the FAA site at www.faa.gov and its "airport status and delays" link to see the conditions at an airport that you may be using.
If you need more details however about the conditions at the more than 900 airports, and 420 airlines worldwide the site FlightStats.com site is the one for you to use.
Besides containing information on every flight the site contains a lot of historical and predictive information. On the predictive side the site looks at what the conditions are likely to be at any airport in the next 10 days. There are links that send alerts to travelers three hours before flight time. You can follow the flight path of any plane in the U.S.
(7/24/06)- For those consumers who rent cars it is not only the cost of gasoline that is rising. Car rental prices are increasing almost as fast as is the price of gas. Hertz Corp. added another 5% above what it had been charging since last November, when it instituted a $3 a day increase. In September, Cendant Corp.'s Avis and Budget Car Rental Companies instituted increases of $5 per day.
The Abrams Rate Index, which follows the cost of car rentals, has prices at airport rental counters up 26% compared with the prices of last year. The index measures the cost of a midsize car rented a week in advance, and averages the price to be around $54 a day, up from $43 in March 2005, and $44 in April 2006.
Finding Discounted Airline Fares For Seniors
Average Cost for Hotel and Car Rental in Some Leading Cities
(From Dow Jones Travel Index)
For the week of June 4, 2006
Source: The Wall Street Journal
(7/18/06)- There is a new Web site that mines the data from all U.S. airlines except Jet Blue and Southwest, and tries to predict the changes in airfares over a seven-day period. The site is located at www.farecast.com The site has flights to and from Seattle and Boston, but promises to have all the major American cities by year-end
This site therefore is going beyond sites such as Kayak ( www.kayak.com ), Sidestep (www.sidestep.com/air ) and Farechase (www.cheapflights.com ) that search the listings of the airlines and travel sites like Orbitz, and then displays the best deals, since it tries to predict what the fare will be in the next seven days.
(6/20/06)- American Airlines, United Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines and US Airways followed the move by Delta Airlines by increasing one-way walk up fares by $50. These are the fares that are usually purchased by business travelers. This increase is a bigger one than the airlines usually impose, but because of reduced capacity the airlines are able to impose bigger and bigger increases on the public
This latest increase will affect some of the most expensive flights, which have already increased by 21% in the last year, according to Harrell Associates, an airline data-tracking firm.
(6/16/06)- Hertz Corp., the car-rental company, has abandoned one-way drop-off charges, mileage fees and in-state-only rentals. One-way price rentals are also falling. In general, the rates are still slightly higher for one-way rentals than they are for round-trip rentals.
To promote the policy, Hertz is offering a free upgrade from midsize to full-size cars until the end of July for one-way rentals.
Enterprise-Rent-A-Car Co. is also expanding its one-way rentals. It has recently started adding one-way rental capabilities within Florida, Texas and California, for pick-up and drop-off at different airports.
Vanguard Car Rental USA Inc.'s National brand also does not charge a drop-off fee.
(611//06)- Before travelling overseas it is imperative that you find out what vaccinations you will need for the country or countries that you are travelling to. The government has set up a site that will enable you to determine which vaccinations you will need. That site is located at www.cdc.gov/travel.
(5/17/06)- According to the Abrams Travel Data Rate Index, a weekly barometer that includes data on car-rentals, the price of a one-day airport rental of a mid-size car booked a week in advance has climbed to $48.31 this past week, up from $45.36 a year earlier.
Two new Web sites Kayak and Mobissimo let you search many car-rental and travel providers at once. Two of the older sites may still provide you with the ability to get the rented care at the cheapest price. They are Hotwire and Priceline. Hotwire provides car rentals at the airport only, but neither of these sites lets you know which car rental company you have selected until after you have booked and paid the site.
Hotwire partners with Hertz, Avis and Budget, as does Priceline, but Priceline also works with Alamo and National Inc. also. Be aware of the fact that neither of these two sites allows for any refunds.
(5/6/06)- The Transportation Security Administration said it is going ahead with plans that will allow travelers registered in a security program to speed through checkpoints at as many as 20 airports by this summer. Presently the only airport that has such a program up and running is the one operated by Verified Identity Pass Inc. at the Orlando International airport in Florida. Verified has over 20,400 travelers enrolled in its program.
(4/29/06)- With the sharp increase in the cost of fuel causing an increase in the price of airline tickets it becomes more important than ever to try and find discount flights. Senior citizen discount flight plans are being sharply cut back on by the airlines but there still are some plans available.
At a cost of $12.50 a year, people over 50 can join AARP's travel deal, which uses Travelocity's site. The plan affords a 10% discount on airfares, hotels and rental cars through United Airlines and Lufthansa to London.
United Airlines has a "Silver Wings" program for travelers over 55 that includes over $300 in travel credits a year and double miles on flights. Membership is $240 per year.
American and Northwest have senior deals in select markets.
(2/23/06)- General Electric Co. announced that it would invest $16 million for a minority stake in Verified Identity Pass Inc, the company with the first approved contract to speed passengers through the screening process at the Orlando airport. For more information on Verified please see our item dated 12/1/05.
Under the Orlando program, travelers' identities are confirmed through fingerprints or eye scans. The member traveler then goes to a separate shorter line than the one used by the non-member travelers for screening. GE has a security subdivision that makes baggage-screening equipment. GE hopes to be able to provide Verified with shoe-scanning equipment that will allow travelers to keep their shoes on while being checked out.
GE is also developing technology that checks for explosive devices by having the traveler enter a kiosk and touch a button. GE declined to specify exactly what its stake in Verified will be through the $16 million investment.
(2/11/06)- Kip Hawley, the assistant secretary for homeland security, announced that the latest version of the Transportation Security Administration's proposed computerized system to check the names of airline passengers against terrorist watch lists could be vulnerable to hackers. This in turn means that the long-delayed TSA program called Secure Flight will be delayed again, with no target date set for the program to begin.
The agency has been working on the program for four years, and has spent at least $140 million on it.
(12/24/05)- A consortium of companies has announced that they will team up to form a new organization to compete with Verified Identity Pass Inc. to help speed air travelers through the security system at various airports. Saflink Corp., a Bellevue Washington biometrics company, heads the partnership.
Microsoft will create the database to store traveler records; Johnson Controls will provide systems at airports to check traveler identification against a biometrics database; Expedia Corporate Travel will help market the cards and ID Technology Partners will work with policy and political issues that arise at the TSA or in Congress.
The Orlando Airport program fun by Verified Identity has signed up more than 10,000 members who pay an annual fee of about $80. Saflink expects to charge about $100 for members in its program.
(12/9/05)- Kip Hawley, the assistant secretary for homeland security who oversees the security agency announced some significant changes in the screening of airline passengers. Included in the changes will be revisions of the patdown process and the end of a ban on small scissors and certain other sharp tools.in carry on luggage.
The changes go into effect on December 20, 2005. Small scissors with blades of 4 inches or less will be allowed in carryon cases as will tools of seven inches or less. A certain number of passengers will be subject to more intensive searches even if they are not identified by the computerized check of suspect lists. These checks should last about an additional 2 minutes, and will be done without regard to ethnicity or nationality.
What happens at each airport as far as security checks will vary from day to day. There might be shoe checks done at one airport on a particular day while at another airport hand held detectors to detect explosives will be used. Screeners will now search the upper and lower torso, the entire arm and legs from themid-thigh down to the ankle and the back and the abdomen, significantly expanding the area checked now.
The security at the airports will now involve the usage of more dogs to detect and check for explosives, as well as the usage of more modern age technology for determining the presence of explosives.
All knives will still be prohibited as well as drills, hammers and saws. More federal marshals will be flying planes with greater frequency also.
(12/1/05)- Expedited screenings at airports are about to happen at about 40 airports throughout the U.S. Verified Identity Pass Inc., which has been operating a pilot program at Orlando International Airport, expects to receive approval to expand the program shortly. The pilot program at the Orlando airport has been processing as many as 580 passengers a day.
Verifited's card, called Clear, enables travelers who register their fingerprints and iris scans, and are then cleared by the Transportation Security Administration to pass through airport checkpoints without being submitted to secondary security inspections. The Clear card costs $79.85 a year, and so far it is mainly frequent business fliers who have joined the program.
(11/15/05)- Did you ever wonder how likely it is that a flight that you are about to catch will actually take off, or be on time, or even be cancelled? Well there is a database that is even more accurate on this score than is the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics site at www.bts.gov. The information on the government's site is 30-60 days older and is not as detailed as is the data that can be found at www.flightstats.com .
The database for this site comes from FlightStats, a Portland, Ore. company, that is a unit of Conductive Technology Corp. FlightStats developed the Web-based products for American Airlines. Included in the database is information about almost every domestic flight in the U.S. It can tell you the prior history as to how often a flight has been delayed, canceled or diverted, along with a maximum, minimum and average delay.
You need to download "Crystal Viewer" software from the site to get into the database and get the most out of it, but that is easily accomplished at the site. PriceGrabber now includes FlightStats ratings on dependability on its airline booking site If you are travelling by air overseas, please keep in mind that the European Union requires airlines to compensate customers in cash for cancellations without prior notification.
(11/05/05)- Kip Hawley, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief announced that his agency planned to offer airline passengers nationwide the chance to avoid extra security checks by paying a fee and agreeing to a background check. Mr. Hawley said the "registered traveler" program would begin June 20, 2006 after an overall evaluation of airport security.
Officials did not say how much individuals would have to pay to belong to the program, but private companies selected to run the program would set the fee. Officials of the agency said that they were still studying other means to try to avoid unnecessary security delays at the airports. It was deemed likely that the prohibition on passengers carrying scissors and small knives onto planes would be revoked.
(10/23//05)- More hotels are beginning to offer free Internet access to its guests, rather then hitting them with the $9.95 charge per day that most had been charging. Last month Radisson SAS Hotels & Resorts, the high-end brand owned by Rezidor SAS Hospitality abandoned it charges for both broadband and wireless access at most of its hotels.
This summer, Cendant Corp's Howard Johnson pledged to complete a complimentary rollout of free Wi-Fi by March. In May, InterContinental Hotels Group announced that it had installed high-speed Internet access in 2,700 North American Hotels, and is offering the service free at five of its brands, including Hotel Indigo and Candlewood Suites properties. In June, Choice Hotels International rolled out complimentary Wi-Fi at most of its properties.
Best Western committed to putting free high-speed Internet access across North America, and Drury Hotels put free Wi-Fi in its lobbies in July.
According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers' Hospitality Practice the average U.S. hotel room rate hit $9049 this year up from its prior peak of 485.28 in 2000
(9/13/05)- The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has a program called "Operational Safety Audit" that independently examines different airline safety categories. It currently uses six different companies as accredited auditors who go in and examine all aspects of an airline operation. Typically a team of six experts visits an airline for five days.
The auditors examine all aspects of the airlines operation, from mechanics to management. If problems are found the airline has 6 months to correct it. The site can be found at www.iata.org/iosa/registry. Currently there are 58 airlines that have passed the test. There are approximately 250 airlines flying throughout the world, but many of them are not part of the IATA system.
(8/21/05)- Alamo Rent A Car has announced a prepayment plan that gives online renters who book ahead of time up to a 10% discount for their car rentals. When a domestic reservation is made on Alamo.com, the charge will hit the card immediately as opposed to when the car is actually picked up. If the potential customer changes his mind 24 hours before the reservation date, a $25 fee will be imposed against the credit card. If the customer cancels more than 24 hours before the reservation date, Alamo will charge the cardholder $10.
Reservations need to be made at least 24 hours before the date that you want the car. This discount does not apply to rentals in the New York metropolitan area and San Jose, CA. Alamo has also introduced an online check in system for its car rentals.
(8/9/05)- Cendant Car Rental Group, the parent of Avis Rent A Car System Inc. and Budget Rent A Car System Inc. announced that it would raise rates by $5 daily and $20 weekly for rentals after September 10. The company also said that its two subsidiaries would lower the age limit required to rent to 21 years old from 25 years old, and would charge $25 a day for drivers under 25 in most states
Ford Motor Co.'s Hertz Corp. raised its prices by 5% for rentals starting in early July. Cendant increased its prices by 5% at that time. Enterprise Rent-A-Car said that it has no plans for an across-the-board rate increase at this time. A spokesman for Vanguard Car Rental USA Inc.'s National Car Rental and Alamo Car Rent A Car said that it would also be increasing its prices to match the increase that Cendant was proposing.
(8/03/05)- Thanks to one of our viewers we have added two more sites that will help you find the cheapest airline fare to various destinations. They are www.ExpertFlyer.com and www.itasoftare.com . These two sites go directly into the airline inventories themselves.
(7/16/05)- In January of this year Delta Airlines placed limits on its one-way coach fares at $499, and $599 on its first-class fares anywhere in the U.S. The company just announced that because of the increased costs that it was incurring as a result of the higher price of gasoline, it was increasing the cap to $599 for coach and $699 for first-class tickets within continental U.S.
(3/21/05)- Please note that the average daily rate for economy cars from 6 major auto rental companies in Florida will increase sharply because of the demand that will be ensuing from those on spring break. According to the Dow Jones Travel Index the average rate for an economy car in Orlando and Miami will be $108. That is 44% higher than what it was last week, and three to four times what the rate was at the beginning of the month. Luxury car rentals down in Florida are as high as $177.85 per day.
(1/31/05)- If a potential international traveler is forced to be in a position where he/she must pay full fare, a recent change in the ticketing procedures by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) can be used to help obtain a cheaper price for the tickets. Under the revised rules, which went into effect on January 15th, the traveler no longer needs to be in the country where the ticket purchase is being made. IATA is a trade group of 270 carriers that set the guidelines for the industry to follow.
Thus if you are flying overseas and must pay full fare prices, purchase two one-way fares. You will pay the higher fare for your flight from the U.S., but you will get a cheaper rate from the foreign terminal back to the U.S.
Under the change voted upon by the IATA members, the airlines voted to eliminate a printed code on the ticket that showed where the ticket was purchased. This coding system enabled the airlines to set fares depending on the country from which the flight originated. IATA's members also did away with restriction that charged much more for flights with connections through some international hubs.
The higher fares still automatically kick in on flights with a layover of 24 hours or more.
Airlines have different prices for travelers in different countries, and most of the time the cheapest fares were only for individuals outside the U.S. Now if you are traveling overseas, you can purchase one-way tickets to that destination from the U.S., and make the other one-way purchase at the lower price from the foreign country.
Travelocity, which is a subsidiary of Sabre Holdings, introduced a new feature on its site called Flight Navigator. The site will contain a plethora of information and particulars about different flights. Included in this information which will be the availability of meals on board, whether the seats offer extra legroom and the number of seats available at a certain rate.
Both Expedia, which is a subsidiary of IAC/InterActive and Travelocity have opened small kiosks and retail stores in some of the major tourist areas around the country. In expanding into brick-and-mortar operations both companies hope to be able to capture an increased share of the hotel and travel agency business.
The Expedia kiosks will be run under the Activity World label, which the company bought for an undisclosed sum in 2004. The kiosks will carry the "Expedia Fun" label in about 55 hotel lobbies. Travelocity began its entry into the kiosk format with its purchase of Allstate Ticketing, which sells Las Vegas show tickets, Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam tours and other activities in more than 20 kiosks in and around Las Vegas.
(1/10/05)-The big airlines lost an estimated $5.5 billion collectively this year, according to airline analysts estimates in 2004. Many of them find themselves in bankruptcy. On the other hand, companies like Southwest, JetBlue and AirTran all made money in 2004. Delta Airlines has broken with the pack of major airlines by announcing fare caps for its routes and different categories of passengers. It also eliminated the requirement of a Saturday night stay. In doing so, the company hopes to be able to become profitable once again, if as it claims, its employees give back salary, health-benefit and pension plan benefits.
Included in the Delta package is a $499 one-way cap on coach-class fares, and a $599 cap on business-class fares. All the other major airlines quickly cut their fares on those routes where they directly competed with Delta. As an example of the new fares that Delta is charging, passengers are paying $84 on average for one-way fares from New York to Miami, and just over $200 to fly from New York to San Francisco, according to Black Aviation Solutions, an industry consulting firm.
Almost every day we are hearing of the cuts and give backs given to the major airlines by their unionized employees as they endeavor to emerge from bankruptcy proceedings. Along with the rest of corporate America, they are increasing the premium cost, if not even eliminating the health-care benefits for their retirees. For a related article to the battle emerging between the airline industry and its attempt to walk away from their employees defined-benefits pension plans please see our article Corporate Retirees Health-Care and Pension Plans .
(12/13/04)- Passengers will be entitled to have other airlines honor their tickets upon the payment of a $50 fee, if their booking airline goes out of business. The $50 fee is an increase over the $25 fee that previously existed for such situations. With 3 airlines presently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings this is an important protection that has been extended to airline passengers.
The provision requiring the honoring of the tickets is contained as a provision in the recently passed intelligence revision legislation. It is the third time that this protection has been extended to airline passengers, but the provision is good for only one year. Some of the healthy airlines and credit card companies have objected to the provision, since they feel that they are being unfairly penalized.
The fee can be no more than $50 for a round-trip ticket, but the rebooking of the flight must occur within 60 days of an airline's disappearance. It is the responsibility of the passenger to arrange the rebooking within the designated timeframe.
(10/30/04)- Orbitz Inc., the online travel agency, announced that it will guarantee that airline tickets purchased on its Web site are the cheapest travelers can find, or it will give a $50 voucher to any user who can find the same flight at least $5 elsewhere. The offer only applies to domestic flights, and does not include the $6 service fee that the company charges to book. Orbitz will require that you fill out a form online by midnight central time on Orbitz.com to get the $50.
In addition to this move Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia have sent out warning letters to some or all of the leading travel search engines asking them to stop displaying the agencies' fares on their sites. The letters threaten legal action if the search engines do not stop displaying their prices. Most travel search engines merely take you to the travel agencies sites, but do not actually sell you the tickets.
(10/24/04)-Congress failed to extend the three-year old law when it recently adjourned, which required healthier airlines to honor the tickets of airlines that become grounded. The law is set to expire on November 19, 2004. There are presently three major carriers in Chapter 11 bankruptcy-law proceedings, and Congress will not reconvene until November 16, 2004.
The Senate had moved to extend the program when it added an amendment to the intelligence-reform bill, but the House failed to enact anything that would extend the program. Thus as we head into the busy Thanksgiving travel season, many travelers can find themselves stranded or with valueless tickets. Consumer advocate groups are recommending that when you purchase an airline ticket you use a credit card, instead of cash, a check or a debit card.
The current law, which is due to expire, requires carriers to provide services to stranded passengers depending on seat availability and route overlaps. Passengers have 60 days to make travel arrangements with other airlines after their carrier goes out of business. A switching fee of $50 can be charged for the service. Healthy airlines are opposing renewal of the law.
A new group of specialized search engine companies are challenging the established online travel agents like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. These new sites can scan as many as 150 other travel sites, including the airlines them selves for the best prices. It then allows the traveler to do side-by-side comparisons rather than having to check lots of different sites.
Almost none of the specialized search engines charge a fee. They make their money when the user travels to the site to make the booking. The one exception to this is Qixo, which charges roughly $20 to users who make a purchase off this site. List below are four of these new specialized travel search engine sites:
(7/05)- Thanks to one of our viewers we have added two more sites that will
help you find the cheapest airline fare to various destinations. They are www.ExpertFlyer.com and www.itasoftare.com . These two sites go
directly into the airline inventories themselves
You can now sign up with most airlines so that you will receive free e-mail and/or text messages advising you when a plane is running late. Orbitz and Expedia offer the same free service. With some airlines there is a catch in that only ticketed passengers may get access to the service. Non-ticketed passengers get alerts only at preset times, which means that they might not receive the alert in time. You can go to the airline Web site to see how you can enroll for this service.
The Transportation Security Administration has added a new feature to it online site. The new feature at www.TSA.gov lets you know the average wait time at an airport for the security check before you can board the plane. After clicking on the Wait Time link visitors will be prompted to enter the state, airport, day of the week and time of travel for the perspective flight. The site will then provide a chart with the average and maximum wait times at the selected checkpoint. The data is based on a four-week rolling average that is update daily.
Overall, domestic fares for autumn travel are down about 13% from last year, according to the aviation research travel firm Harrell Associates. With the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library scheduled for the fall, look for some of the biggest discounts being available to Little Rock, Arkansas. Southwest Airlines and US Airways are going toe-to-toe in the battle for lowest price among the discounted fares.
While most of the airlines had increased their fares, Northwest Airlines raised only discounted, leisure rates. Most of the airlines have joined in the smaller fare increase as proposed by Southwest Airlines. Southwest increased its one-way fares by as much as $2 for flights of more than 600 miles in response to higher jet-fuel prices. Dallas based Southwest Airlines is the only airline to consistently report profits even in the recent downturn that the industry has undergone. For flights of less than 600 miles the increase was $1 each way and all flights within the state of California were increased by $2 each way.
In checking to try and find the best price for a particular airtrip that you are taking, a new site has been added to the arsenal that includes the usual Big Three online ticket-buying Web sites-Expedia.com, Travelocity.com and Obritz.com. SideStep.com, which must be downloaded onto your computer, and then when you launch an online search, it pops up asking of your like SideStep to try the same search. Sidestep will conduct a thorough search of both the airline's sites themselves and a lot of other travel vendor sites. SideStep is only a referral service since it then would connect you to the Web site you want to make the purchase of the flight ticket.
UAL Corp.'s, United Airlines has formed a new club called Ameniti, which will allow members to take advantage of a two-for-one deal. The club costs $295 a year, and the offer is available to travelers who are members of UAL's Mileage Plus frequent flier plan. Each time an Ameniti member buys one full-fare ticket in any class for domestic travel or in first or business class for international travel, he, or she can get another ticket free.
Both passengers must travel together on the same itinerary and fees for the free ticket aren't included. The new deal will start April 1. Ameniti members will also be entitled to complimentary room upgrades at hundreds of participating Starwood Hotel & Resorts properties. New members will also automatically receive a $300 shipboard credit on cruises. Ameniti members must book their travel and hotel stays at 1-877-AMENITI.
Under a new policy from the Transportation Security Administration, passengers who set off metal detectors will be invited to try again, after depositing metal objects in the tray. Previously, setting off the metal detector meant an automatic secondary screening.
Who is the number one company in the online travel agency business? According to PhoCusWright, a travel research firm, Expedia, which was number two has become the number one online travel agencies with 40% of the sales online being made in 2003. Number two is Travelocity, which accounted for 20% of such sales and Orbitz in third place with a 17% share of the online travel agency sales. In 2001 Travelocity was number one with 30% of the market share and Expedia was in second place with a 30% share of the market.
Industry experts attribute some of Travelocity's decline to its decision in 2000 to obtain hotel room inventory from Hotels.com, a consolidator, rather than through special agreements like those that Expedia has with individual hotels or chains.
Suppose you are a senior citizen and you are thinking of taking a flight. How do you find the cheapest way to get there? This can be a complicated question but we hope to make your answer somewhat easier in the following article. Remember however that in order to be able to get the best deal you must be willing to spend some time shopping around.
The airline industry may be cutting airfare rates, but in a blow to older passengers, most of the airlines have eliminated the club programs that had been available for seniors. The one club program that is still available is United Air Lines' Silver Wings Plus Program. Most of the time you can do better with a sale price that the airline is having rather than using the coupons from the club.
Southwest Airlines offers one-way fares at flat rates of from $39 to $129, depending n the length of the flight, for people 65 and older. Midwest Airlines offers discounted flat rate fares to people 55 and older. U.S. Airways' offers "special fares" through AARP, which are available to members only plus one companion.
There were 2 airlines (Continental and United) that used to offer all three-discount options that are available to seniors: the standard 10% discount, coupons and special travel clubs. They may however exclude certain promotional fares from being included in this offer. Continental Airlines will be increasing its annual fees for club membership by $50 to $375 in August 2002. Lifetime membership at Continental with spouse will climb to $8,210 from $6,385.
The travel clubs offered by the airlines are the most difficult to evaluate since they often include hotels, car rentals tours and cruises along with the airline fare. Thus even though the discounted airline ticket may be more expensive the other benefits may more than make up for the additional cost. You may have your own special deals with a car rental company or hotel to evaluate in determining which is the best and cheapest method for you to use. The following are the travel clubs for the 4 airlines that have all three programs we have discussed:
Seven of the airlines used to sell prepaid coupon books of four coupons to those who are 62 or older that range in price from $542 to $595. These airlines were:
Those that do not offer prepaid coupon books are but have discount policies:
Coupons require a large initial outlay and are good for only one year or you will lose them. Coupons do not include taxes and surcharges. They are not transferable from one individual to another.
Hotel.com has severed it marketing agreement with Travelocity.com because it feels it can go it alone better than through any partnership arrangement. These two companies have a marketing agreement that is not due to expire until 2005. Travelocity recently stated that it was going to increase the number of hotel room arrangements on its site. Please keep in mind that Hotels.com and Expedia are owned by InterActive Corp., while Travelocity is owned by Sabre Holdings, the airlines reservation system.
Incidentally InterActive has agreed to buy Hotwire.com, the online travel site for $655 million in cash. Hotwire operates in the bargain basement segment of the travel market known as the "opaque" market, since people do not know what company they will be traveling with until they have paid for the service.
Travelocity generated about 18% of Hotel.com sales in 2002. Hotels.com and Expedia are now expected to work together so that Hotels.com will offer Expedia vacation packages, and Expedia will offer Hotels.com's time-shares. Overstock.com a site that contains bargains on consumer goods such as luggage, cameras etc. has also expanded into the travel industry. In marketing other companies' excess inventories it was only a natural for the company to expand into the travel industry. Overstock will specialize in last-minute deals marketed on behalf of third parties, known as consolidators, which negotiate with suppliers for extremely cheap "distressed" inventory.
The Justice Department concluded its anti-trust investigation of Orbitz, the Internet travel site owned by five big airlines by ruling that the site does not violate the anti-trust laws. The site which was started by American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines Northwest Airlines and Continental Airlines was the subject of a complaint by several of the on-line travel sites as concentrating too much power in the hands of the big airlines.
Hilton Hotels, which also owns the Doubletree, Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn chains, has struck an agreement with Expedia Inc. aimed at meeting the challenge that the hotel industry faces from the online travel agency sites. The agreement includes a two-year partnership with Expedia, which is named as a preferred provider with the Hilton chain of hotels. Expedia as part of the pact has agreed not to undercut Hilton's own prices. Expedia will cut its commission from 28% to 18% for each sale of a Hilton hotel room. Hilton will direct that the hotels it owns or manages use Expedia exclusively as their third-party vendor.
Hilton guests will be steered away from all outside Web sites, since the chain will stop awarding points in its loyalty program, HiltonHonors, to guests who do not book directly with Hilton, or its chains. Two warnings will be issued to guests who book with outside sites before points will be curtailed. At the same time Hilton is guaranteeing that its Web sites, 800 numbers and properties will offer the same prices for a hotel room on any given day, and assuring that its prices will be the lowest on any Web retail site.
Expedia is the largest online travel merchant having sold $590 million worth of bookings in 2002 and it has roughly 750 employees. To give you an idea as to how much smaller the travel merchants are in comparison to the conventional travel agencies, Carlson Wagonlit, which is one of the largest of them had sales of $10.7 billion in 2002, and it had a sales force of about 16,000 people. Travelocity's chief executive, Sam Gilliland said that although there has been a slight drop off in bookings online recently he was not thinking of laying off any of the company's 1,000 customer service agents.
Only 9% of all hotel rooms are booked through the third-party Web sites such as Hotels.com or Expedia.com. Hotels.com and Expedia.com accounted for about 60% of online hotel bookings in 2002. All Web sites combined accounted for $3.1 billion of the room sales in 2002 which was up 53% from sales in 2001 according to PhoCusWright, a travel research firm. The large hotel chains do not want this type of an increase to continue, or else they see the same fate happening to them as happened to the airline industry.
Under a deal that Priceline.com Inc. announced with TravelWeb LLC, Priceline will sell discounted hotel rooms on its Lowestfare.com site. Lowestfare.com lets consumers see brand names and exact locations before they book the reservation. TravelWeb was formed when five of the largest hotel chains banded together to create their own Web site. Among the five hotel chains in this group are: Marriott International Inc., Hilton Hotels Corp. and Hyatt Corp. The hotel reservations company Pegasus Solutions also has an partial ownership in TravelWeb. Several of the other large chain hotels are requiring their subsidiaries to post their lowest rates on their own sites. TravelWeb is due to start up in mid-April. Thus you will have to do a little surfing on the Web to find the best rate if you are looking to book a hotel room.
Priceline will invest $8.5 million in TravelWeb and become an owner of 14% of the shares of TravelWeb, and Jeffrey H. Boyd, the chief executive of Priceline will gain a seat on TravelWeb's board. Lowestfare will sever its agreement with Hotels.com in the U.S., and will sell rooms that only Travelweb.com provides. TravelWeb has agreements with the owners of 4,500 hotel properties in the chains to sell discounted rooms. Priceline bought Lowestfare.com in the summer of 2002 from the financier Carl C. Icahn. Hotels.com currently has relationships with 8,000 hotels. To help attract business to Lowestfare.com, Priceline will direct losing bidders on its site to Lowestfare.com. Lowestfare.com willhave dirext access to the central reservations systems of the hotel chains.
Average domestic airfares are 18% below 2000 levels, according to David Swierenga, the chief economist at the Air Transport Association, the trade group for the airline industry. Because of a weak economy in general and because more people are driving to nearby locations instead of flying, people are not taking advantage of these lower fares the way the airline industry had hoped. The headline news carries many stories about the possibility of several airlines going bankrupt.
The cruise industry is also suffering from the weak economy and the bankruptcy of several of the cruise lines. Unlike the airline industry however, very few people book their cruises on the Internet. Only 2.7% of cruises were booked online last year, up from 1.3% in 2000. In contrast about 25% of airline tickets are booked online, according to Jupiter Research. If you are looking for bargains in connection with taking a cruise, Priceline.com, Travelocity.com and Icruise.com are moving aggressively to extend their reach into this area. Skyauction.com lets people bid for cruises in an auction format.
Expedia, the online travel service announced that it would start charging customers a booking fee of $5 an airline ticket to make up for the reduced airline commissions and other reduced payments to travel agencies. Expedia said the fee would not be assessed on vacation packages. The company had reported more than 4.2 million transactions for the quarter ended September 30, 2002, with the majority of those transactions coming from airline ticket sales.
The Transport Security Agency, the new agency that was set up to oversee the security arrangements at the nations various airports, including the 44,000 federal screeners at the airline gates has set up a site at http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information that gives you the details of the agencies security procedures. Note: Thanks to Michelle Peng of Educator Labs we were able to update this link that she pointed out that we were using a broken old link.
The U.S. Department of Transportation proposed regulations that would affect
how airline tickets are distributed through the computer network. These
proposed regulations are now open for 60 days of public comment before becoming
federal policy. Under the proposed new rules all airlines would not have to
participate in all four of the computer reservation systems that are now in
operation. The rules that are being eliminated include the rule that says all
airlines must provide flight and fare information to all the computer
reservation systems. The other rule that may be eliminated is the one that
prohibits exclusive deals between travel agents and airlines.
According to the Department of Transportation the present rules limit an airlines ability to bargain for better terms with a particular airline. The proposed changes would give the airlines more flexibility in choosing how they distribute tickets. In other words under the proposed changes the airlines can continue to give Orbitz, the Web travel site owned by several of the largest airlines exclusive access to special Web only bargain airfares. Expedia and Travelocity would be dealt a major blow under these proposed changes.
Among other things, the new rules would eliminate a rule that requires airlines that own part of a computer-reservation system to participate in other reservation systems. The competitors to Orbitz would like to see the government strike down a clause in the Orbitz's charter which guarantees that participating airlines provide their lowest fares to Orbitz.
Northwest Airlines said that is had created a Web site called WorldAgent Direct for travel agents so that they can give their customers the same fares that Northwest offers to potential clients on its own site. WorldAgent also will have the more sophisticated software available on the site so that the needed accounting and other services will be available for the travel agents.
Travel agents can use the Web sites of airlines to buy tickets for customers, but they do not use these sites because they do not help them perform accounting and other functions, as do the more sophisticated computer reservation systems that they are presently using. Northwest is a co-owner of one of those sites, namely Worldspan, with Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. The operator of the computer reservation system charges a fee, which will not be the case when the airline's own site is used. The three airlines that own Worldspan recently announced that they would be selling it to a private investment group named Travel Transaction Processing. Travel Transaction is a new company that was formed by Citigroup Venture Capital Equity Partners and Teachers' Merchant Bank of Toronto.
Orbitz charges a transaction fee of $6 to $7 a ticket, but it rebates about $3 of the fee the airlines pay to the Worldspan reservation system which processes most of the tickets sold on Orbitz. Orbitz, also charges travelers $5 a ticket, which is a fee that Expedia and most other online travel agencies do not charge.
Cendant Corp, which owns the rental-car operator Avis Holdings Inc. has agreed to buy Budget Group Inc. out of bankruptcy which will create the second largest car-rental company in the country. A committee of creditors as well as federal regulators has approved Cendant's deal. The purchase covers Budget's operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Latin America. The largest car-rental company in the U.S. is Enterprise Rent-a-Car.
Orbitz has been using Worldspan, one of the three reservation systems to handle all its bookings. The other two are Sabre and Galileo, each of which charges the airlines about $4 per flight segment on each ticket booked. The average ticket has about 2.5 segments, which means that the airlines pay about $10 a ticket on average to the reservation systems. The reservation systems in turn offer rebates to the travel agencies on this money.
The airlines have given Orbitz access to the cheaper fares that may be up on their own Web sites, and Orbitz in turn agreed to pass back to the airlines 60 % of the rebate it receives from Worldspan. Orbitz is now charging the airlines a flat fee of $4 a ticket, no matter how many flight segments may be involved in executing the ticket.
The downturn in the economy is having a pronounced effect on the car rental business as shown by the fact that Budget Group, the owners of Budget Car Rental filed for bankruptcy. It thus became the 2nd major car rental company within a year to go that route.
In an interesting development in the industry, the largest company has expanded as the others have withdrawn. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which surpassed Hertz to become number one, has opened over 100 new airport locations this year and has plans to open another 22 by year end. Enterprise is pricing its airport rentals about 20% lower than its rivals as it attempts to expand its market share, and in doing so is forcing the other car rental companies to lower their prices also.
This is shown by the fact that Hertz is offering special discounted rates and packaging deals tied to vacation spots, and Avis is offering free vehicle upgrades to customers who ask for them. Budget is offering a special weekend rate of $19.99 if a booking is made three weeks in advance. Alamo will give you a discount if you present them with a membership card from discount clubs such as Sam's Club and Costco.
Last year passenger traffic was down 6% in North America, according to the report of the Airports Council International, a trade group. Atlanta's Hartsfield International handled the most passenger traffic of any airport in the world, 75.8 million, down 5.4% from 2000. Filling out the top five were: O'Hare International in Chicago, 66.8 million, down 6.9%; Los Angeles International, 61 million, down 8.3%; Heathrow International in London, 60.7 million, down 6 %; and Haneda Airport in Tokyo, 58.3 million, up 4.1%.
Orbitz Inc. the Internet's third largest on-line travel booking site is a publicly traded company that originally was owned by the country's 5 largest airlines.. Expedia, the largest on-line travel site is majority owned by USA Networks. Travelocity the number two travel-booking site had been a publicly owned company till March of 2003 when it was bought by Sabre Holding Corporation. Orbitz is owned by American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines who have invested over hundreds of millions of dollars into the startup of the company.
Flying from one city to another in Europe has gotten much cheaper if you are willing to do some Internet searching on your own. One of the disadvantages of using some of these budget airlines is the fact that their airports may be located further out from main city limits, and some do not provide snacks, but the savings can be huge.
Some of these budget airlines are as follows:
Travelocity.com announced an agreement with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts that allows them to market theme-park tickets and hotel rooms in Orlando directly from Disney instead of through third-party wholesalers. The agreement allows Travelocity to buy Disney World vacation products a la carte and then package them with other Travelocity products. Travelocity's principal wholesalers are American Express Vacations and Gogo Worldwide Vacations. Travelocity is the first major online travel agency to reach an agreement of this kind with Disney.
Sabre Holding Corp., which was originally the airlines reservation company that was spun off from American Airlines has paid $420 million to purchase the remaining 30% stake of Travelocity.com that it didn't already own. Sabre also purchased Site59, a Web site selling last- minute weekend travel package With the effects of the recession and the fall off in air travel we expect to see more mergers in the coming month in the travel industry.
Ebay and Priceline.com announced that they would collaborate for online sales of airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals. Shoppers on the eBay travel page will be able to either "name your own price" or "buy it now", since Priceline will supply the travel products, computer infrastructure and transaction processing for the site.
A new company named Comet Systems http://cometsystems.com has aligned itself with Orbitz, the online travel agency owned by the airlines, and will automatically search Orbitz to find the lowest fare available for you to use on that site. Comet can not use this automatic system to help you with the lowest fares on Travelocity, which has an exclusive marketing arrangement with AOL, or MSN, which is exclusively bound to Expedia. The latest version of Comet's cursor is required for this new price comparison service. The system does not work with Macintosh computers, and works only with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.
Southwest Airlines, the largest low-fare carrier, has blocked Orbitz, the airlines travel site from displaying its fares and flight information by refusing to file the data with an airline-industry clearinghouse, Airline Tariff Publishing Company. Southwest, which is not an owner involved in Orbitz, and has sued the travel site in May, alleging that the site falsely claims it offers the lowest air fares.
The airlines are resuming the Internet check-in systems that were suspended after September 11. Northwest and Delta became the first two of the major airlines to resume their Internet check-in systems. Northwest customers can use the Web to print out an 8 1/2-by-11 inch-boarding pass, which is presented at the gate, along with ID, to a gate agent before boarding. Northwest also announced a cut in prices on its Every Day Deals fares and reduced the minimum advance-purchase period from 21 days to 14 days before travel. The savings vary from as much as 25% to 50% and also included business-fare discounts to include companies with travel contracts.
Delta Sky Miles members can check-in via the Internet, and then show their Sky Miles card in lieu of a boarding pass to get on the plane. In the checking-in over the Internet you must answer the FAA mandated questions about your baggage contents.
The FAA has issued a directive on what may be carried on board an airplane under the new security procedures. You may bring on the plane one "personal bag" which according to Paul Takemon, an FAA spokesman is defined as " a purse, a laptop, a briefcase." You may also carry on nail clippers, safety and disposable razors, tweezers, eye-lash curlers,walking canes, unbrellas and as long as you have a medical permission, you may bring on syringes. The briefcase or purse has to be of reasonable size
Rosenbluth International's BizTravel.com became the first online travel company to close down its operations because of the severe decline in air travel, that ensued from the September 11, 2001 tragedy. Thus you will no longer be able to be entitled to airline "delay refunds". American Classic Voyages, the largest American-flagged cruise line sought bankruptcy protection in Federal Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. The company owns seven vessels with 3,480 berths.
In looking at the airports arrival-on-time numbers, rather than individual airlines on-time numbers, an air traveler can see that the odds are heavily against arriving on-time at several of the major airports. The worse news is that there is very little relief in sight. As an example the airport with the worst on-time arrival record is the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport where 31.3% of the flights were 15 minutes or more late in the first 5 months of this year. It will not be until sometime in 2006, when a third runway is scheduled for completion, that there will be major relief at that airport.
Los Angeles International Airport, Boston, Chicago's O'Hare, New York 's Kennedy and LaGuardia, Newark, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco all had at least 25% of their flights arriving late. The industry and airport executives are trying to have federal, state and local officials change the legal morass that is required before runway construction permits are granted. That however must be looked at in light of the rights of residents who live near the airports.
Delta Air Lines, the nation's 3rd largest airline, is offering an additonal 20% off round-trip tickets bought off its Web site. United Airlines promptly matched Delta's move on its Web site. The airlines usually offer anywhere from a 5 % to 10% discount for bookings through their Web sites.
The Wall Street Journal reported in its June 22, 2001 edition that as the airlines have been eliminating security guards at the luggage check-out area, the number of baggage thefts have been climbing. "Delta Air Lines in Atlanta-the biggest carrier at the world's busiest airport-just ended hand checks there". Under Department of Transportation regulations an airline is responsible for only up to $2,500 for each piece of lost luggage.
The National Business Travel Association has a web site that although mainly geared for the business traveler, is also helpful for the leisure traveler as well. The site is broken into 7 categories that are as follows: Business Travelers Tips, Travel News and Bulletins, Know Your Rights, Travel Advisories (Safety Alerts), International Travel, Tell Us About Your Travel Complaints and a Travel Survey. The tips are an amalgam of items collected from more than 1,400 of the association's corporate travel managers. The site is located at http://www.BizTraveler.org and might be quite useful to you. Incidentally if you are trying to find where an ATM machine is located at any of the world's airports try using http://www.johnnyjet.com. This site contains a wealth of other data that is quite helpful to travellers.
For those of you who have to travel without having had the opportunity to make plans in advance there are sites that specializes in such air travel arrangements. They are as follows:
The airlines hope that their newly planned joint venture called Orbitz, will become more of a total travel site than just an airline-booking site. It is estimated that the carrier's cost is about $5 when seats are sold through travel agencies, with the cost being slightly higher through "override" fees for pushing certain routes.
The following are some Web travel sites with no order of preference:
Please be aware of the fact that several hotels are imposing new fees on extended use of local and toll free telephone numbers. This has been initiated to try and prevent guests from using their laptops for extended periods of time and thus tying up the trunk lines. Be sure to check with your hotel as to their policy on this matter.
Have you ever called an airline to find out if a flight is leaving on time? Or how about calling to find out what time a flight will arrive at your local airport? How long are you kept on hold while trying to get this information. Much to your relief you now can get all this information on an Internet site. The URL for that site is http://www.trip.com and it contains information supplied by the Federal Aviation Administration and is updated every 7 seconds.
The data is about 3 minutes behind the flight's path. The exact arrival and departure times for all flights are displayed either on a topographical map or in a text message. The information will also include the speed and altitude of the flight and the direction it is heading in. You can even arrange to have e-mail sent to you by Trip.com telling you of the exact time of arrival for a traveler's flight. All these services are provided at no charge.
Other sites that keep you advised as to a flight's status are: http://www.flighttracker.com , http://www.itracku.com . If you want to find out about the delay status at any airport in the U.S. go to the FAA site at http://www.fly.faa.gov. If you want to see what time at any given moment in the U.S. go to http://www.time.gov. If you want to find out the exact time anyplace in the world go to http://www.worldtimeserver.com. To find the home page for any airline in the world go to http://www.travelshop.de.For a travel guide for any airport in the world go to http://www.quickaid.com which also contains detailed maps of the terminals and information on ground transportation, airlines and hotels.
In addition to Orbitz 6 of the major airlines are investing in their own Web site to sell cheap tickets, taking aim at Priceline. The original project was named Project Purple Demon, and has now been renamed Hotwire.com. The site announced that they had sold over 100,000 tickets in their first 100 days of operation.
For comparison purposes Priceline sold 1.29 airline tickets in the 3rd quarter of 2000 and booked 1.1 million hotel-room nights and rental-car days. The majority investor is Texas Pacific Group, and also includes UAL, AMR, NWA, Continental, US Airways and America West Airlines. The site also now has 19 overseas carriers as partners.
The site also added 1,500 U.S. hotels for room reservations in 25 major
cities, and also has rental-car agreements with Hertz Corp. and Budget Group
Inc. Hotwire differs from Priceline on one key point, namely consumers won't
have to name their own price to get cheap tickets. The site will allow you to
select an actual discount fare based on the route you choose. The site will
mask the identity of the airline and precise time of departure and routing
(including nonstop, one stop or connections) until you have
made the actual purchase.
If you want to talk about injustice how does this grab you? Minnesota has a pending $1.50 per day rental-car surcharge to fund a new baseball stadium in the state. In Memphis there is a new 2% surcharge on car rentals to pay for the new arena for the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team. Atlanta and Fort Worth/Dallas also impose surcharges on rental-car rates to help pay for new sports facilities in these cities.
See our article for an assortment other Senior Citizen Discounts.
FOR AN INFORMATIVE AND PERSONAL ARTICLE ON PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS WHEN SELECTING A NURSING HOME SEE OUR ARTICLE "How To Select a Nursing Home"
By Allan Rubin
updated January 1, 2010