This week’s travel news

The moral conundrum of flying with the Flu, Passenger rights misses it's flight, and Tourists make tempting targets

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



The Moral Conundrum Of Flying With Flu
In two separate polls conducted earlier this fall, over 50% of respondents said they would board a flight even when suffering from the H1N1 virus rather than pay airline rebooking fees. As MSNBC reported this week, that’s not good news for health officials or fellow passengers. “Ideally, sick people should stay off planes,” organizational behaviour consultant Mary Federico told MSNBC. “But it’s unrealistic to expect that to happen … There is little or no flexibility with flights. Availability and cost and penalties are issues.” It’s also unrealistic to expect airline or airport security staff to be successful in intercepting potentially contagious passengers. “On every flight I work, people are coughing, sneezing, and not covering their mouths — including a few crew members,” said United Airlines flight attendant Susan Fogwell. “Since I’m not a doctor, I have absolutely no clue whether someone has H1N1, a cold, allergies, or whatever.”

Passenger Rights Misses Its Flight
A private member’s bill that would penalize airlines for delays, cancellations and lost luggage was “essentially killed” this week, Canwest News Service reported. The Commons Transport Committee voted 7-4 in favour of a motion urging Parliament to drop the bill on the grounds that it comes down too hard on Canada’s airlines. Bloc Quebecois committee members joined Conservatives to outvote the opposition Liberals. Modelled after the European Union Passenger Bill of Rights, the law would force airlines to compensate passengers from $500-$1200 for ‘unreasonable’ tarmac delays, lost luggage and delayed or cancelled flights. The issue has been in the news of late after Canwest broke the story that a 2008 federal passenger rights information campaign dubbed Flight Rights Canada was created with the input and approval of Canada’s major airlines. Transport ministry officials say that makes it an effective industry/government collaboration; opponents call it collusion with an industry the Transport ministry is charged with regulating. The sponsor of the bill, Manitoba MP Jim Maloway, says he will work to salvage the legislation. “This is a passenger bill of rights,” he told Canwest. “This is a very popular bill.”

Tourists Make Tempting Targets
Using common sense and a wearing a money belt are two of the best precautions travellers can take to avoid being ripped off on the road. For us polite Canadians, another piece of advice offered by Travel + Leisure magazine may go against our better nature: beware strangers who approach you on the street, even at the expense of being rude. It’s a sad-but-true fact that tourists make tempting targets for thieves. That’s not news, but a U.S. State Department official says new tech tools like Blackberries and cell phones have improved con artist communication. Among the more popular techniques are distractions like squirting mustard on a tourist’s clothing then making clumsy attempts to apologize and clean up while an accomplice steals bags, purses and wallets. Another one is a staged scene where a woman takes a fake tumble down stairs or an escalator. While onlookers are gawping or trying to help, pickpockets are hard at work. Even the savviest travellers aren’t immune: Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler admits to being scammed “in an interesting assortment of ways” over the years. But he advises travellers to find a balance between caution and openness: “Equally, I’ve encountered wonderful honesty and helpfulness,” he says. Travel scams can happen anywhere – even here at home where the Travel + Leisure writer says he was taken for $15 in a ‘currency -exchange con’ at a coffee shop.

The Little Racoon That Grew
Porter Airlines now carries more passengers in a few days than Air Canada did during its last 12 months at Toronto City Centre Airport in 2005. In the highly competitive ‘triangle’ of Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, Porter has usurped WestJet to assume the number two position after Air Canada. The airline is building a new $45-million terminal on the island and claims to have been profitable since the summer of 2007. It’s all pretty amazing stuff for an airline that launched amidst controversy and a widespread belief that it would fail. CEO Robert Deluce told The Financial Post that the airline owes some of its success to adapting some of the qualities of its raccoon mascot, Mr. Porter: tenacity, determination and taking a strategic approach. TakeOffeh has never really considered the raccoon’s strategic nature, but thinking back to a pitched battle over household garbage, it’s hard not to agree with Deluce.

Struggling Vegas Rolls Dice With Massive CityCenter Project
Opening next month, CityCenter is an unprecedented $8.5-billion dollar destination-within-a-destination on the Las Vegas strip. A joint venture between MGM Mirage and Dubai World, the project has had some rocky moments regarding financing and will open at a time when the existing hotels in Vegas have had to deep-discount to fill rooms. The 67-acre site will open in stages but when complete will include the following: ARIA, a 61-story, 4,004-room gaming resort; luxury non-gaming hotels including Las Vegas’ first Mandarin Oriental, the Harmon, a 400-room luxury boutique hotel and the Vdara Hotel & Spa; Veer Towers, the development’s only strictly residential buildings; and Crystals, a 500,000-square-foot retail and entertainment district.  USA Today reports that some of the world’s leading architects and designers are involved in the project, and the results are impressive. From the outside, there’s a futuristic look owing in part to the fact that two of the half-dozen glass and steel towers are on a five-degree tilt. Inside, Kitty Bean Yancey reports that CityCenter “resembles a modern art gallery and mind-boggling design showcase. CityCenter CEO and professional poker player Bobby Baldwin calls the project “the next step in the evolution of Vegas.”

Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to as well as sister company,

Photo Credits: JeanellNorvell,,

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