Tag: Expedia

There’s Drama in Online Travel

V

In a press release  issued early today, Expedia, Kayak and Travelocity announced that they have formed FairSearch.org, a coalition of large online travel sites and travel technology companies, banded together in an effort to urge the Justice Department to challenge Google’s proposed $700 million purchase of ITA Software.

ITA powers some of the Web’s most popular airline-ticket search and booking sites, including Kayak.com and Hotwire.com.  Expedia (owner of Hotwire and Expedia.com) as well as Kayak and Microsoft, whose Bing search engine relies on ITA for airfare searches, argued to Justice Department antitrust lawyers that with ITA’s data and technology Google could gain an unfair competitive advantage because it would, “enable Google to manipulate and dominate the online air travel marketplace.  The end result could be higher travel prices, fewer travel choices for consumers and businesses, and less innovation in online travel search.”

It didn’t take Google long to respond from it’s blog, stating that the deal would not result in higher travel prices or fewer choices for consumers because ITA and Google aren’t competitors, and that ITA doesn’t set ticket prices for sell tickets and Google doesn’t plan to either.  Google also noted that the three most popular travel websites in the U.S. – Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity – all use data provided by ITAs competitors. (Doh!)

Google said that it won’t be “choosing winners and losers in online travel” because its goal is to build tools that drive more traffic to airline and online travel agency sites and that those tools will create more overall online sales for those sites.   And by combining ITA’s ability to analyze data on seat availability and pricing with Google’s search engine could end the “frustrating experience” today’s airfare search, where a “simple two-city itinerary involves literally thousands of different options.”

Sounds a lot like the plot to the popular TV mini-series “V”.  The one where aliens move in and say they come in peace, but actually have sinister motives.  They claim to only need a small amount of Earth’s resources, in exchange for which they will share their advanced technological and medical knowledge.  As a small number of humans begin to doubt the sincerity of the seemingly benevolent aliens, it’s discovered that the aliens have spent decades infiltrating human governments and businesses and are threatening to take over the Earth.

Awesome.  Can’t wait to see how the real-life version plays out.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Earlier today Southwest Airlines announced a winter airfare sale with some one-way tickets as low as $30.   The sale lasts until Thursday, and like any fare sale, there are restrictions.  With this sale, customers can buy one-way tickets for $30, $60, $90 or $120 based on length of travel.  Travel dates are good between December 1 and December 15 and January 4, 2011 and February 16, 2011.  Sundays are not included in this fare sale.
  • Virgin America also announced a “No Tricks, Just Treats” fare sale today. Virgin America is now offering low one-day advance purchase fares to all of its destinations for travel between Oct. 26 through Oct. 31, 2010.  Tickets are on sale today and can be purchased via Virgin America’s Web site (www.virginamerica.com) and at 1.877.FLY.VIRGIN (1.877.359.8474). Restrictions, taxes and fees apply. Tickets must be purchased by Oct 30, 2010, and travel must occur between Oct. 26 and Oct. 31, 2010.
  • Starting next month, federal regulators will start cracking down on a new rule that requires air passengers to submit personal identification data when booking for flights and show a recognized government ID at the airport that matches the information. The rule was introduced last year, but the Transportation Security Administration imposed a year-long grace period that ends at the end of the month.

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.

Expedia Hangs Up its Phone Booking Fees

Expedia.com today announced that they’ve eliminated their $20 booking fee for travel reservations made over the phone.  Here’s what the NYTimes reported frexpediaom their In Transit blog:

“It’s the latest move in a fee war that has been playing out over the past several months among online travel agencies. Earlier this year, Expedia eliminated online fees for changing or canceling car rentals, cruises, hotels and most flights. It also did away with online booking fees for flights. Orbitz and Travelocity quickly followed suit, eliminating flight booking fees in June and later scrapping change and cancel penalties on hotel reservations.

Expedia wouldn’t say exactly what percentage of its bookings are made by phone, but Forrester Research estimates about 10 percent. The move gives Expedia a pricing advantage over airlines, which levy surcharges for phone bookings, said Henry H. Harteveldt, principal travel analyst at Forrester. Still, he does not expect that airlines will match Expedia’s decision.

But how about other online travel agencies? No word yet on whether Orbitz or Travelocity will eliminate their $25 charges for booking flights by phone.”

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Amie O’Shaughnessy, editor of family travel site Ciao Bambino! shares her top tips to make family travels smoother, and rounds up some great holiday escapes.  Check them out here.
  • The travel blog Jaunted has compiled five of the best ways to top off your mileage account and gain some extra miles without even leaving the ground.  “Everyone wants to be able to make it rain with excess miles, and with a little work and creativity, you’ll be doing just that.”

  • Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. has won a bidding war to control Cox Communications Inc.’s Travel Channel, the companies announced today.  Scripps has been aggressively pursuing international expansion. It has announced joint ventures to launch the Food Network in other countries. Travel Channel is seen as a network that could sell well internationally, aiding expansion, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Humbug: Airlines Double Holiday Surcharges

dollar plane

In early October, we noted that American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and US Airways added $10 surcharges to airfare for flights on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and for Jan. 2nd and 3rd – the busiest days for holiday travel.  Well, let’s now make that $20 each way!  Delta, American, United, US Airways and Northwest Airlines all announced that they have boosted their surcharge on some routes.

This could have a real financial impact for those traveling with large families during the holidays.  For instance, a family of five would have to add $200 to their total cost of travel.  That’s not insignificant.  In fact, it may be enough to keep some people at home this year.

What do you think?  Are these surcharges enough to sink your travel plans?  Or will you be flexible around the holidays and travel on off-peak dates?

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Omni Hotels have launched a 72-hour sale for stays between Dec. 2 and Feb. 10, excluding New Year’s Eve.  If you book by Thursday (11/5), you can get up to 40% off a room in cities such as Austin, Chicago, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Diego, New Orleans, San Antonio, Houston & Tucson.  Of course, the offer is subject to availability and can not be combined with other special offers.
  • Another day, another bird strike that diverts a plane.  This time it was a Delta Air Lines flight from Phoenix bound for Salt Lake City that was forced to make an early landing after it was hit by a flock of birds.  Airport authorities reported that the windshield of the plane was cracked, but nobody was injured.  According to FAA records, there have been 600 bird strikes nationwide this year and bird strikes cause 600 million dollars in damage to aircraft every year.
  • The state of Florida is suing online travel reservation companies over hotel taxes, the latest in a string of lawsuits nationwide claiming the sites owe local authorities millions of dollars.  Attorney General Bill McCollum sued Expedia and Orbitz today, claiming they failed to pay Florida the full amount of taxes collected on hotel room rentals through their sites.  Consumers are charged a rate when they book a room online, and the company later reimburses the hotels a lesser amount, allowing them to pocket service fees. The taxes are paid on that less expensive rate, prompting legal action by cities and states that claim they’re being cheated out of millions of dollars in tax dollars.