This week’s travel news

Business Class, Luxury Cruises, Rude Service

Take off eh.comThis Week’s Take offers you a capsule summary of the high and low lights of’s Daily Dispatches from the past seven days.

Behind The Curtain: Economically Priced Business Class
Airlines are dangling business class fares at up to two-thirds off in an attempt to lure back corporate passengers banished beyond the curtain. But as Gary Stoller reports in USA Today, the corporate fish aren’t biting in big numbers, even at slashed fares. It’s amazing how things can change in a few short years: business class seats have traditionally cost four to eight times as much as economy squeezers. That revenue model is what kept economy fares low and opened the skies to a much broader public. Even today, a survey of economy and business class fares on routes between major U.S. and international city pairs revealed the disparity in class pricing. Delta Air Line’s best economy round-trip fare from New York to London for an October 23 departure was $716, while the cheapest business class seat was $4,634. As CEO Rick Seaney commented to USA Today: “The real question is: Will business travellers pay substantially more for a more comfy ride as companies move toward increased austerity?” Premium fliers account for up to 30% of revenues for many airlines, and there were 20% fewer of them in the first seven months of this year, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Speed Up The Aerobics: The Under 50 Crowd Is Taking Over The Luxury Liners
There’s a new, younger crowd setting sail with luxury cruise lines these days, attracted by deeply discounted fares and compelling add-ons like free airfare and generous onboard spending credits. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, for example, has trumpeted great success in filling its cabins this year, but it offered a one-two-three punch of incentives to do it: 2-for-1 fares, free airfare and free shore excursions in every port. As reported in the Dallas Morning News this week, the result has been the rise of a new kind of cruise passenger – younger, and perhaps not quite as affluent as the norm. Luxury cruise line The Yachts of Seabourn reports 25% more first-time cruisers this year, and a 64% leap in the number of passengers 45 and under. Opinions are mixed among industry observers as to whether the new luxury cruise passenger is just dropping in for a weekend cruise or signing up for a grand voyage. Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of online cruise magazine Cruise Critic, says it’s hard to go back once you’ve tasted something better, and she welcomes the new crowd. “A lot of people make decent pay and prize a good experience. Luxury cruising now has a whole new energy in it,” she told the Dallas Morning News. Others say many of this year’s first-time cruisers on luxury lines like Seabourn, Silversea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Sea Dream Yacht Club and Crystal Cruises will be one-offs once – if – pricing returns to pre-recession levels. But that could be good news for premium cruise lines, which offer at least some of the perks of their luxury cousins.

You Talkin’ To Me?: How To Get Better Customer Service
Front-line customer service jobs aren’t usually well-compensated at the best of times, and these aren’t the best of times for the travel industry. Especially at airports, passenger nerves are frayed by strict security, tight luggage restrictions and other irritants, so front-line staff spend their days dealing with frustrated, stressed and angry customers. Not surprisingly, they can respond in kind. So, what do you do when faced with someone who seems determined to share their bad day with you? MSNBC travel columnist and blogger Christopher Elliottsays the best approach is to put yourself in their shoes, don’t provoke them and try to break through their defences with charm and empathy. “At a time like this, everyone expects the complaints,” says Elliott. “But going positive can have shocking results.” Shockingly good, that is. When a ticket agent or other front-line staffer feels like you’re going out of your way to be pleasant, they’ll often respond positively. The corollary applies, too, and if you decide to take on a surly staffer, chances are they have the power to make your experience even more miserable. If charm doesn’t work, Elliott says documenting your experience is the next best strategy, followed up by a brief, polite detailing of your concerns sent to company officials by mail or e-mail. This will often generate a positive response, even if it doesn’t solve the immediate problem. Better yet, says Elliott, is to travel with a company that offers good customer service every time. There are still a few out there.

Truth In Advertising: Cruise Lines Roll All Fees & Taxes Into Price
Luxury lines Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises have bucked the travel industry trend by rolling taxes, fees and surcharges into one advertised price. With most cruise fares, airfares and packaged vacation prices, additional fees often totalling hundreds of dollars are found only in the fine print, in order to present an attractive, if misleading, advertised price. As Oceania spokesperson Tim Rubacky told online cruise site Cruise Critic: “Our guests and travel agents told us they didn’t want to be nickel and dimed onboard, so we changed to include bottled water and soft drinks. But they also didn’t want to be nickel and dimed on the purchasing side.” In response, Oceania took the bold step of making its pricing inclusive, and competitor RSSC followed suit. With most luxury cruises sold by travel agents, the cruise lines are confident that their inclusive pricing policy will be explained, so they won’t be left at a disadvantage and may actually benefit from consumer approval of their transparent approach.

Is That Apartment Building Moving?: Massive Ships Take To The Seas
Some of the new cruise ships are so massive they look like large apartment buildings that have toppled over. The crescendo of the mega-ship trend will come late next month, whenRoyal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas launches in Florida. You’ve no doubt heard mention of this 5,400-passenger, 2,100 crew behemoth, which makes its predecessors look like lifeboats. On seeing depictions of the ship, most people’s first response is: “How does it float?” It appears, however, that the launch of Oasis will also mark the end of the cruise industry’s ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ fixation. Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise company, says it won’t be trying to compete, size-wise at least, with its rival’s big baby. In fact, Carnival CEO Micky Arison is reported to have said: “Some people want a holiday in the malls of America, and others want to be on a cruise.” Meow.

Photo Credits: Mlenny, kasayizgi

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