This week’s travel news

Restaurant tipping, travel complaints, luggage tags, Canada Is A Big Place travel blog, WestJet fleet

Take off eh.comIn The Customary Way
As reported in London’s Telegraph, writer Nigel Richardson was surprised to receive a call in his Phoenix hotel room as he readied for bed after an 11-hour flight. It was ‘Brad,’ Nigel’s waiter from dinner in the hotel restaurant. Brad enquired as to whether the meal was satisfactory and then informed Nigel that “being tired and all,” he may have “forgotten to express his appreciation in the customary way.” Translation from weasel-speak: “Where’s my freakin’ tip?” Like a good WASP (or ‘like a lemon’ as he puts it), Nigel got dressed again and paid off Brad. He had forgotten to leave a tip, but thought that perhaps Brad had exceeded the polite boundaries of entitlement with his phone call. Like a good Brit, Nigel blames Americans for raising tipping expectations in certain destinations to the point that it “amounts to a stealth tax on Western tourists and distorts local economies.” He makes a good point about economic distortion: in places like Cuba, even the lowliest and laziest tourism industry employee can earn more than a doctor if they can separate visitors from even a small amount of cash. At a Jamaican all-inclusive this year, witnessed a virtually continuous shakedown of guests, to the point where the head bellman scoffed at a US$2 tip for moving one bag less than 20 metres. “You can’t buy nothin’ with this,” was his retort. I’ll give you a tip, buddy…

Something Bugging You?
If you’ve travelled lately, there probably is. A survey conducted by U.S. travel websiteConsumer Traveler resulted in a Top 10 listof issues that most annoy travellers. You know things are bad when ‘lost luggage handling’ ranks 10th on the list and credit card foreign transaction fees ranked 9th. Those are highly annoying things. What could be worse? Well, the top three peeves got similar weight from those surveyed: ‘delayed and cancelled flights,’ ‘hidden fees and surcharges’ and ‘poor customer service.’ Then there’s the always entertaining ‘bait-and-switch advertising,’ and the dreaded ‘tarmac delays.’ ‘Security screening,’ ‘airline safety’ and ‘maintenance procedures’ round out the terrible ten. Come fly with me…

Tag It & Bag It
Speaking of luggage, The Globe & Mail reports that you may soon have the opportunity to lose your own, as Air Canada initiates a pilot projectthat will enable customers to print their own baggage tags from some hotels and convention centres. If that goes well, the next step is to study the feasibility of letting passengers print baggage tags at home, using special adhesive paper. Hmmm, just one more thing to remember as you attempt to rally the troops for that 6:00 a.m. sun flight.

Blogged Down
For sure, not every ad campaign is going to go viral, but you’ve got to think there’s a better chance when the hook is ‘The Best Job In The World’ as opposed to, say, ‘Canada Is A Big Place.’ That was the theme for a Canadian Tourism Commission project that sent twowriters on a paid (and expenses paid) jaunt throughout Canada. The intrepid journosblogged and videographed around this (big) nation, and sent their breathless missives through cyberspace to a waiting world. But who was actually waiting? As Simon Houptreports in The Globe & Mail, when the project wound up in early August, many of the videos had only a couple of dozen views. The ‘most discussed’ blog entry earned six comments. The CTC’s Elyse Mailhot told the Globe: “They had a certain following.” Enough of one, it appears, for the tourism folks to plan to send the pair out again this winter.

Any Port In A Storm Hurricanes don’t come out of nowhere. They’re tracked for days, weeks even, and while their path can be unpredictable, it’s almost always predictable enough for a cruise ship to successfully steer out of harm’s way. Islands and resorts aren’t nearly that mobile, so a Caribbean cruise can make a safe bet for a sunny holiday in the June-November hurricane season.  Not that you’re very likely to get hit by a hurricane at a Caribbean resort either (the Caribbean is a big place), but some people worry about these things. As MSNBC Travel columnist Anita Dunham-Potter reports, cruise are rarely cancelled due to hurricanes, and when they are, guests get a full refund. In most cases, ships will set sail regardless of the potential presence of a hurricane in the region, and simply change direction when necessary, substituting planned port calls as much as possible. That’s where things can get sticky, as some passengers want the exact vacation they’d planned. The cruise lines have an out – there’s a clause in the passenger contract giving them the right to skip or change ports during a cruise. So they’re not required to offer compensation, though they often do. Purchasing trip cancellation or interruption insurance is one solution. Another is to wait until January for your cruise. The option most hurricane season cruisers take is to enjoy the savings and the cruise, wherever the ship may sail.

Whoa Big Fella
With annual revenues of over $2.5-billion, 6,000 employees, 400 daily flights and a fleet of 86 Boeing 737s,  WestJet is no upstart underdog anymore. It’s been on a constant growth curve for many years now. But the recession is biting deep throughout the airline industry and there’s no clear indication of when air travel will begin to recover. As a result, Canadian Press reports that WestJet is easing back the throttle a bit, announcing this week that it has worked a deal with Boeing to defer delivery of 16 aircraft. To see the carrier through 2016, WestJet has also placed an order for 14 new planes.

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