This week's travel news

Airline secrets, online travel booking, H1N1, Oasis of the Seas, Ryanair

Take off eh.comThings Your Airline Won’t Tell You
Airport luggage scales are not likely something you think about much, unless your luggage is overweight, as fees have skyrocketed in recent years. But now that you’re paying, it would be nice to know the scales are accurate, and according to U.S. research, they often aren’t. That’s just one of the things your airline doesn’t want to tell you. An article published by Budget Travel suggests there are several others. For example, airlines can add an unscheduled layover to your nonstop flight with impunity. And your carefully selected seat can disappear if the airline chooses to use a smaller plane on the route. The airline you booked may not even be the airline you fly, as code sharing deals allow airlines to sell seats on other carriers. Ah, the friendly skies.

Internet & Agents Make A Good Pair
As the Detroit News reported this week, booking travel on the web can often be a chore. A study by Forrester research reveals consumer find many travel sites overwhelming and difficult to navigate citing lack of flexibility and confusing options. Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Forrester says it’s a “wake-up call” for online companies to reassess their sites and make them less complicated. However, with close to to $90-billion worth of business and leisure travel speeding through cyberspace this year, it’s apparent the web is still a powerful tool in the travel domain – both for travel agents and consumers.

Bill Maloney, CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents, told the paper that agents appreciate it when customers do research online. “It helps consumers be better prepared when they go to a travel agent and that way the agent can better assist them,” he said. “It also is an incredible tool for travel agents. With more information at their fingertips, they can help a wider range of clients with more requests.” Plus, when the final booking is made with an agent, there’s a warm body to call in the event something goes wrong.

Forget The Flu ‘Fraidy Cats
With predictions of a resurgence of the H1N1 virus as flu season returns to North America, more questions are sure to be raised and more people will choose to risk the flu at home rather than abroad. It’s time to call in the experts, which is what the Ottawa Citizen’s Tom Spears did this week.  Spears asked travel medicine specialist Dr. David Colby whether Canadians should delay their travels until the flu pandemic runs its course. Colby’s answer was unequivocal: “Absolutely not. This flu is incredibly mild. It has a lower mortality than our regular seasonal influenza, so I wouldn’t let this dissuade me from travelling anywhere.” Dr. Shariq Haider, another Canadian travel medicine specialist, says the only reason the flu should interfere with your travels is if you have it before you go. In that case, stay home and get better.

She’s A Big’Un
There’s an obscure phrase that originates in Canada’s easternmost province: “A t’ousand pound dog is a big #$%*ing dog.” We can safely adapt those colourful words this week by saying “A 225,000-ton cruise ship is a big #$%*ing cruise ship.” We’re referring of course to the much ballyhooed Oasis of the Seas, now in final construction in Finland. USAToday was one of a few media outlets given a sneak peek this week, and cruise industry journalist Gene Sloan was nearly lost for words. He recovered, however, enough to describe “the immense size and complexity of this groundbreaking vessel.” The $1.5-billion (yes billion) Royal Caribbean ship will be nearly 40% larger than any other cruise vessel. It will carry 5,400 passengers and 2,160 crew members. It took 1.7-million hours to design, and 8,000 person-years to build.  The ship’s hull weighs the equivalent of 30,000 cars. The open-air Central Park ‘neighbourhood’ on Oasis will feature 12,000 plants. The superlatives go on, but no doubt you get the idea. will give you a firsthand look after our return from the Oasis pre-inaugural cruise in late November.

Ryanair? Nah, But We’ll Have A Rye’n’Coke
Ryanair didn’t become one of the largest airlines in the world by insulting its customers, mocking governments, slamming airport officials, swearing at travel agents and threatening to shoot environmentalists. Well, actually, CEO Michael O’Leary did and said all those things. So why is the airline so successful? If you believe O’Leary, it’s because “the European consumer would crawl naked over broken glass to get low fares.”

This week, Calgary Herald Features Editor Lisa Monforton asked the question: “Would the Ryanair model fly in Canada?” A travel agency owner said yes, but a prominent aviation analyst offered a definite no. Rick Erickson says Canadians wouldn’t go for the “cattle-car experience,” even for very low fares. Erickson’s other stated obstacles are onerous government policies. The fact is, there are so many government fees and taxes applied to air travel in this country that it’s hard to tell when a fare started out low.

Photo Credits: gchutka, enviromantic, 0one0,, FilipeS’ photostream