Tag: DOT

Private Jets Go Public

According to a report from The Globe and Mail, you can now order a private jet to pick you up, anywhere in the world, within 4 hours, from your mobile device.  The service is now available by using a new mobile app from Blue Star Jets.  You simply type in your location and destination, see what’s available and for how much, and order it.  It’s that simple – and, as you may have guessed, very expensive.

The Globe and Mail reports that it a flight from Kelowna, B.C. to Seattle had more than a dozen options, ranging in capacity from 8-13 passengers and in price from $20,097.60 – $61,625.99.  Expensive as it may be, the publication also notes that it may make some sense for business travelers:  If you have a team of eight, $20,097.60 works out to just over $2,500 a person.  Regular Air Canada fares (WestJet doesn’t fly to Seattle) would be more than $1,000, if you could get eight seats with four hours notice, which, on Tuesday, you could not. There were only five departure times available, anyway, just one of which was in the morning, and they all connected through either Vancouver or Calgary with travel times of more than three hours.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The National Transportation Safety Board is asking regulators to require all passengers to have their own seats and seat belts, including children under the age of 2 – who are currently allowed to sit on an adult’s lap.  The recommendation, made last month, is similar to others the agency has submitted to the FAA over the past two decades, only to be rebuffed.  But this time, the agency is using the recent plane crash in Butte, MT as an example.  To be continued…
  • The DOT has updated its consumer guide to air travel, which provides a quick summary of what to look for when buying a ticket, and what protections you have during travel.  It’s also a good starting point when you have an airline-related problem and need more information before deciding what to do next.  If you travel frequently, you’ll want to bookmark it.
  • Steven Slater, the former JetBlue flight attendant that cursed out a passenger over airplane PA system, took a beer from the galley and proceeded to slide down an emergency exit chute, will be mentally evaluated for a possible plea deal.  This news came after he appeared in a New York City courtroom for a brief hearing on criminal mischief charges.

Why European Travelers Get Better Airfare Deals

FlagWorldAccording to recent research, European consumers can find far better deals on airfare than can North American consumers.  This is despite the fact that Europe has significantly higher taxes and fees on air travel.

Why?

In 1997, the EU instituted an “open-skies” policy, resulting in more routes, more airline competitors, and lower fares.  The open-skies policy lowers airfares by creating a single aviation market among all member countries.  The increased competition leads to greater choice and lower fares.  The airline market in North America is more regulated than in the EU, and as a result, both the U.S. and Canada currently prohibit foreign-owned airlines from offering domestic flights.

While the United States and the EU signed an open-skies agreement in 2007, foreign airlines still do not have full access to the U.S. internal market.  The U.S. retains some of the most restrictive laws on the foreign ownership and operation of airlines in the world, starving its airlines of capital and limiting their options for recovery, growth, and participation in a rapidly globalizing industry.

So what do you think?  Should U.S. and Canadian policymakers  follow Europe’s example and establish a true open-skies agreement?  Or, more realistically, should the Canadian government pursue an open skies agreement with Europe on its own?  In which case, I’m catching my next flight to Europe from Vancouver.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Airlines could face steeper fines for bumping passengers and could be required to prominently disclose all fees (including those checked bag fees you love) under new passenger-centric rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.  The proposed rules would raise compensation to up to $1,300 to passengers bumped from overbooked flights.  The new rules would also address growing consumer confusion over fees ranging from checked-bag charges to a summer travel surcharge that make it increasingly difficult for would-be travelers to comparison shop among carriers.
  • For all the Star Wars fans out there, the Wyndham Orlando Resort is offering a special rate of $69 per night during the “Star Wars Celebration V” at the Orange County Convention Center in August 2010.  Guests can opt to upgrade to a junior suite for $20 more.  Star Wars fans will be minutes away from the Convention Center with complimentary transportation provided.

Continental Says: “No Food For You!”

The Soup Nazi

Continental Airlines, the last carrier to provide free meals for economy class fliers, announced that they will finally start charging for in-flight meal service beginning this fall.  No more free breakfasts and sandwiches, hot meals and desserts in coach.  Passengers will continue to get a free (small) snack and beverage on even the shortest flights, but all other food will now cost you.

Continental will still have free food in coach on international flights, as well as domestic flights longer than six hours.  Currently, Continental flights lasting less than two hours have free pop or juice and a bag of pretzels or biscuit cookies.  Flights of two to 3 1/2 hours have a small sandwich roll or a muffin in the morning. Flights over 3 1/2 hours have a free hot sandwich or other hot meal, or breakfast in the morning.

The airline also announced that it will debut new lunch sandwiches for first-class passengers (such as a chicken parmesan Tuscan sandwich) and updated first-class dinner pasta dishes (such as spinach & cheese cannelloni with pomodoro sauce) on April 1st.  No foolin’!

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • British Airways is preparing for a major strike by flight attendants, and many critical flights between the U.S. and the U.K. could be canceled.  6,000 flight attendants are expected to walk off the job in protest over pay and staffing levels.  The first three-day phase of the strike is planned to start this Saturday.  As a result, half of all flights to JFK are likely to be scrapped.
  • American Airlines has filed for a temporary exemption from the DOT’s new rule that limits the time passengers can be held on the tarmac, saying delays caused by the closure of the main runway at New York’s JFK airport could cost them millions in fines.  JetBlue and Delta asked for exemptions last week.  Those three airlines are the largest operators at JFK.

New Law Limits Airport Tarmac Waits to 3 Hours

delayed flightThe U.S. Department of Transportation announced that starting in April, U.S. airlines will be required to let travelers leave airplanes that have been sitting on the tarmac for 3 hours, provided doing so doesn’t jeopardize safety and security or disrupt airport operations.  Airlines that violate the rules face fines of up to $27,500 per passenger.

Under the new rules, carriers must provide passengers with food, such as pretzels or granola bars, as well as potable water within the first two hours a plane is delayed. They also must maintain working lavatories.  They also are barred from scheduling chronically delayed flights and required to provide passengers with each flight’s on-time record.

The new measure is tougher than many in the aviation industry expected and represents a significant victory for passenger-rights advocates.  Many airline executives had argued against setting a time limit for delays, saying large numbers of travelers could be stranded if carriers cancel flights out of fear of penalties that they otherwise would have flown.

The new rule leaves airlines and airports with little time to resolve a host of logistical issues.  One problem is that aircraft lined up for takeoff can’t easily pull out of the line of planes when they reach the time limit.  And returning to the gate may create a whole new set of headaches for passengers, who may find themselves stranded overnight rather than for several hours.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity, the American Society of Travel Agents and the U.S. Tour Operators Association have all filed suit against New York City to stop the extension of a hotel tax on their clients, according to legal documents.  They allege that a law enacted in June to extend the city’s hotel room occupancy tax to “third-party travel intermediaries” is “unconstitutional and illegal,” as the city “has no inherent power to tax.”  The law, which came into effect in September, was passed as part of a measure by New York to solve a budget shortfall amid lower tax receipts due to the global economic downturn.
  • A fight broke out between passengers waiting at the busy Delta terminal at JFK, but no one was injured before police arrived.  The incident arose after some passengers were booted from an overbooked Haiti-bound flight.  Delta’s website shows that its scheduled 9am flight to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, departed nearly two hours late – and there’s reports of frustration on Twitter on other Delta flights as well.  Snow storms are likely to blame for the delays.

Airlines Lost Your Luggage? Know Your Rights.

The Wall Street Journal reports that many airlines may be in violation of federal rules by “limiting reimbursement” when a traveler’s baggage is lost, delayed or damaged on domestic flights, and the federal government is finally cracking down to help consumers.lost baggage

According to the article, a number of airlines will pay for expenses only after the first 24 hours from a flight’s arrival.  Additionally, many airlines also put a limit on what they’ll offer to pay passengers per day for expenses related to the lost luggage – which the DOT says is a violation of its domestic baggage-liability rule. The only limit allowed, the agency says, is that total liability for lost domestic baggage is $3,300 per passenger, including replacement costs and incidental expenses.

‘”Travelers should not have to pay for toiletries or other necessities while they wait for baggage misplaced by airlines,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We expect airlines to comply with all of our regulations and will take enforcement action if they do not.”‘

The DOT has given airlines 90 days to modify their rules and practices before the agency launches any enforcement actions.

Here’s more travel news you can use:

  • Air New Zealand is conducting a “Matchmaking Flight” in which single passengers participate in speed dating and matchmaking games.   Many of these traveling singles have already gotten a sneak peek at some of the folks they’ll be meeting along the way via online profiles posted on the airline’s social media website (check them out at thematchmakingflight.com).
  • Air Canada now offers both free BlackBerry and iPhone applications for travellers.  Travellers with BlackBerry smartphones will be able to get real-time flight information from Air Canada, which claims to be the first North American carrier to offer such a service.  The BlackBerry app will also provide information for Jazz flights, the Halifax-based regional carrier.  Travellers will be able get electronic boarding passes and other flight details such as delays and itinerary changes.  The airline also is planning to offer WiFi services on some flights to the U.S west coast.
  • Manchester UK Airport has admitted it might be illegal for children to use its new “nude” security scanner when it comes into operation at the end of the month. ( The full body scanner reveals everything under clothing… in detail.)  The airport has now said that no one under 18 will be subject to scanning until it can clarify the law on indecent images of children.