This Week's Travel News: News you need to know - Macleans.ca
 

This Week’s Travel News: News you need to know

Class Action Lawsuit Aims To Tackle ‘Hidden’ Airline Fees, You Have The Right To Be Denied Entry, and Recycled Hotel Soap Is Saving Lives


 

Class Action Lawsuit Aims To Tackle ‘Hidden’ Airline Fees
A Vancouver lawyer is in the process of filing more than a dozen class action suits against airlines over what he sees as their practice of charging hidden extra fees and describing them as “taxes.” Jim Poyner has already filed suit in B.C. Supreme Court against British Airways and is in the process of initiating litigation against Air Canada and 11 other airlines. The practice of separating taxes, security fees and fuel surcharges outside the base price is a pet peeve of Canadian travellers, because it makes it more difficult to find the final price. For example, TakeOffeh.com recently noticed an Air Transat return flight from Toronto to London Gatwick advertised at $249 in large print, while much smaller print below read: “Add taxes $405.” When ‘taxes’ are 160% of the base, people tend to get suspicious. Poyner told the North Shore News that most of the “taxes” aren’t being charged by governments at all — but fuel surcharges or other fees added by the airlines. According to Poyner’s suit, one woman who flew from Vancouver to Turkey paid British Airways almost $970 for her ticket fare, plus $450 in taxes. But $326 of that tax were additional airline charges, said Poyner. If the lawsuit gets certified as a class action suit and he is successful, Poyner says airlines could be forced to pay back their customers a significant chunk of money. Poyner said his law firm was first tipped off to the practice by a travel agent who didn’t feel the practice was fair.

You Have The Right To Be Denied Entry
While Europeans can travel from country to country without so much as flashing a passport, ‘the world’s longest undefended border’ between Canada and the U.S. is a much less friendly place. Recent incidents at U.S. border crossings are a reminder to Canadians to take the process seriously… because border officials sure do. As the Windsor Star reports, five women from that Southern Ontario city were fingerprinted, photographed and denied entry into the U.S. while en route to a yoga course. U.S. border regulations require foreign visitors to obtain a student visa for vocational training, which is how the yoga course is classified. One of the women first told border officials that she was just going shopping before admitting she was also visiting for a course. As a result, she has been barred from entering the U.S. for five years. Chief Ron Smith of U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the Star that while some Canadians may not know the rules, they are clear and not new. However, stricter enforcement appears to be the result of heightened anxiety about terrorist attacks. It goes both ways too – U.S. media have featured several reports of Canadian border officials turning back visitors for minor offences committed decades ago. Even those heading south to volunteer labour for organizations like Habitat for Humanity are warned to have an invitation letter with them or risk being declared persona non grata. And even if you’re having a very bad day, it’s a very bad idea to respond brusquely or rudely to border officials. If you want to hear what happens when you bring a little ‘tude to your U.S. border crossing, check out this audio recording which purports to be a confrontation between a Canadian couple heading for outlet shopping in Niagara Falls, New York and a series of U.S. border officials. A helpful site covering requirements for Canadians travelling to the United States is www.voyage.gc.ca.

Recycled Hotel Soap Is Saving Lives
Where’s does all that hotel soap go? (Other than in your toiletry bag!) At TakeOffeh we assumed those barely-used little bars of soap and shampoo bottles ended up in landfill – and sadly, most of them do. However, we were pleased to find out from National Geographic Traveler that a non-profit group is working to change that. Florida-based Clean the World collects, sterilizes and recycles old hotel soaps, shampoos and conditioners into clean products, then distributes them to impoverished countries and U.S. homeless shelters. The goal is to help developing countries combat diarrheal diseases that cause nearly 1.8 million childhood deaths per year. Regular hand-washing can help avoid these unnecessary deaths. Clean the World is the creation of Shawn Seipler and Paul Till, who, like many hotel guests, asked themselves what happened to all that abandoned soap, found out, and then did something about it. The list of donors runs the gamut from a five-star Ritz-Carlton to a mid-market Quality Inn, a boutique hotel in Times Square to a business-oriented Embassy Suites hotel. The effort seems to be gaining momentum, with Walt Disney World Resort hotels pledging their support in February. Let’s hope this is one idea that ‘goes viral’ – there’s absolutely no reason why barely-used product should be bubbling up in landfill sites.

By: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to Takeoffeh.com as well as sister company, OpenJaw.com

Photo Credits: 7nuit, hockeymom4, velvelvel


 
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This Week’s Travel News: News you need to know

  1. Let's hope this is one idea that ‘goes viral' – there's absolutely no reason why barely-used product should be bubbling up in landfill sites.

    Maybe so, but I must wonder about the economic and environmental (!) impact of hobbling together all these little bits from so many locations, shipping them somewhere, scrubbing them clean and repackaging them. Has anyone seriously considered these costs versus asking Procter and Gamble (or whomever) to just make them some new products and sell them at or slightly below cost as a charitable gesture?