Travel news: Hotels add fees like airlines, Best/worst cars in America, bus beats plane for short trips

Mimicking the airlines, hotels get fee-happy

Guaranteeing two queen beds or one king bed will cost you, as will checking in early or checking out late. Don’t need the in-room safe? You’re likely still paying. And the overpriced can of soda may be the least of your issues with the hotel minibar.

Vacationers are finding it harder to anticipate the true cost of their stay, especially because many of these charges vary from hotel to hotel, even within the same chain.

Coming out of the recession, the travel industry grew fee-happy. Car rental companies charged extra for services such as electronic toll collection devices and navigation systems. And airlines gained notoriety for adding fees for checking luggage, picking seats in advance, skipping lines at security and boarding early. Hotel surcharges predate the recession, but recently properties have been catching up to the rest of the industry.

The most hated car company in America is

The most-loved car makers include Mercedes-Benz DDAIY, +0.66% which holds its No. 1 spot from last year despite a 2% decline in customer satisfaction, and Subaru 7270, -0.20% Morgeson says that the dominance of Mercedes-Benz isn’t surprising, as luxury cars — thanks to often superior quality and service — often

By |September 1st, 2014|News|0 Comments|
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    Rep. DeFazio comments on and misquotes his misguided Transparent Airfares Act

Rep. DeFazio comments on and misquotes his misguided Transparent Airfares Act

Finally, after months of attempting to figure out the motivation of Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) in co-sponsoring the anti-consumer Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 together with Bill Shuster (R-Penn), Mr. DeFazio responds to an op-ed in his local newspaper.

Though Mr. DeFazio claims that the op-ed opposing his bill contained inaccuracies, Mr. DeFazio’s defense of his bill was replete with inaccuracies. Mr. DeFazio misquoted his own bill, and misstates the current Department of Transportation (DOT) rule that his bill was designed to replace.

I am dissecting Mr. DeFazio’s comments because what he claims the bill says and what it really says are two different things. The claimed purpose of the bill is far better served by leaving the DOT rule it aims to replace, in force.

These misstatements either indicate that Mr. DeFazio doesn’t really understand the significance of the legislation or that he is being disingenuous. It would be far better if he were to admit that he was hoodwinked by the airline lobbyists and that he made a mistake. That would put to rest the questions about why Mr. DeFazio supports this legislation. (Here is a link to the full text of this bill.)

In the first paragraph of his defense,


    Travel News: In-flight entertainment BYOD, wearable technology in flight, Dallas-to-DFW rail link

Travel News: In-flight entertainment BYOD, wearable technology in flight, Dallas-to-DFW rail link

Air passengers prefer their own gadgets over seat-back options

Airline passengers generally like the idea of ditching seat-back onboard video screens and instead wirelessly streaming movies and TV shows to their own portable devices, such as laptops and iPads, according to a new study.

But passengers also expect some kind of compensation, such as more free entertainment or lower ticket prices, from airlines which will save money by eliminating the screens aboard their aircraft, according to the research report, “Airline Passengers Receptive to BYOD Future” by market research firm Osurv.

The study said the U.S. airline industry’s trend toward BYOD – bring your own device – video entertainment delivered wirelessly is “its most significant cost-cutting campaign since tacking on fees for checked baggage and inflight meals.”

How wearable technology can revolutionize IFE, empower crew and redefine the onboard passenger experience

“Cabin crew could send private or group messages in multiple languages directly to passengers wearing smartglasses. Food selections, passenger requests or medical info could also be sent directly to the cabin crew.” Live flight information, updates on delays, re-routes and bookings could also be communicated via smartglasses “without the need for laptops and other bulky computing devices”.

Google Glass is best for hands-free use cases,

By |August 26th, 2014|News|0 Comments|
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    Travel news: US High-speed rail, a joke; Asians in Europe; Tourism in Turkey, US Airline profits

Travel news: US High-speed rail, a joke; Asians in Europe; Tourism in Turkey, US Airline profits

“America’s High-Speed Rail Dream Has Become a Global Joke”

Last week, People’s Daily, the newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, ran a lengthy analysis of high-speed rail development under the headline, “America’s High-Speed Rail Dream Has Become a Global Joke.”

Seeing the “revolutionary impact” high-speed rail has had on the economies and on people’s daily lives in China and Europe, it said, “Americans’ high-speed rail dream has become increasingly intense.” But, it adds, “though America leads in freight rail, its passenger rail conditions are terrible.” The article cites, by way of example, a train ride from Washington to Boston that was scheduled to take between six and seven hours but took 13 hours because of heavy rain.

Asia’s role in tourism: You ain’t seen nothing yet

It being peak tourist season in Paris, there were queues everywhere, and this was the biggest sign of change: There were as many Asian faces as Caucasian in those lines.

On the Bateaux Mouche and at Moulin Rouge, Asian faces dominate. These are the new markets of first-time travelers. And, well, first-time travelers have got to do the main tourist sights before they move on elsewhere.

At Moulin Rouge, Fanny Rabasse, the head of communications, told me

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    Passport Officers Are No Better at Performing Photo ID Checks Than You Are

Passport Officers Are No Better at Performing Photo ID Checks Than You Are

A study done in Australia indicated that trained passport officers were no better at matching faces with photographs than students.

The test involved 49 passport officers. Some were new to the service. On average the officers had been with the department for more than eight years. And, three had received advanced face recognition training. The tests spanned several years and involved the retesting of the same officers.

…the main takeaway seems to be that training doesn’t really help someone accurately match a face up with a photo. Some people are just better at it than others, and that should probably be taken into account when someone is assigned the duty of identifying photos.

Familiar faces are very easy for humans to identify, but faces we’ve never seen before are extremely difficult to match up to a photograph. Jobs that require photo ID checks—border patrol officers, airport security, bouncers—could be among many lines of works threatened by the inevitable robot takeover. Facial recognition software is becoming more and more accurate. Facebook’s DeepFace project can analyze two photos, lighting and angle notwithstanding, and reveal with 97.25% accuracy whether or not the photos are of the same person.

Note with title photo: (a) Example valid ID-photos

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    Travelers United and Business Travel Coalition duel with airlines in Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Travelers United and Business Travel Coalition duel with airlines in Pittsburgh Post Gazette

The recently passed House bill, the Airfares Transparency Act, was introduced by Bill Shuster, the Representative from 9th district nearby Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Charlie Leocha of Travelers United and Kevin Mitchell of Business Travel Coalition wrote an op-ed that was published on August 7th in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

A response was sent as a letter to the editor by Airlines for America and published on August 19th. Subsequently, Charlie Leocha submitted a response to the airline response that is may or may not be published. Because Rep. Bill Shuster is in such a powerful position, these op-eds, responses and this debate in the major newspaper that circulates in his district is extremely important and informative to airline consumers in general. Here is the back and forth.

Make airfares truly transparent. Airlines want Congress to sow more confusion.
by Kevin Mitchell and Charlie Leocha

Last week, in a scene right out of NetFlix’s “House of Cards,” H.R. 4156, the Orwellian-titled Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by voice vote with no chance for debate and no record of how each member voted. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Blair, chairman of the powerful House Transportation Committee, championed the

Senate Commerce Committee queries airlines about privacy

When I talk about privacy and travel, most travelers look at me blankly. I get the “What-me-worry?” stare. But, travel records tell a lot about travelers and privacy rules and regulations are few and far between. Now, the privacy issue is on the radar screen of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The Senate Commerce Committee has recently sent a letter to airlines noting privacy concerns.

An additional transparency issue concerns how airlines handle personal information that they obtain from consumers through the ticket purchase process or otherwise. Data collected during ticket purchase can include a passenger’s name, credit card numbers, date of birth, addresses, travel destinations, and travel companions, among other information. No comprehensive federal privacy law currently applies to the collection, use, and disclosure of consumer travel information. Consumer advocates have expressed concern that airline privacy policies can contain substantial caveats and that it is difficult for consumers to learn what information airlines and others in the travel sector are collecting, keeping, and sharing about them.

Airlines, hotels, rental cars, tour operators, cruise lines and other facets of the travel industry all operate via giant information technology (IT) networks. Each operator has their own network and each operator is plugged into even

By |August 21st, 2014|Privacy|0 Comments|

Stop dressing police and TSA like storm troopers

This past week in Ferguson, Missouri, next to St. Louis, violence has erupted after an unarmed person of color was shot and killed by a policeman. The ensuing riots and uproar have fixated the nation on a problem that has been brewing for years.

It is brewing near your communities — the connection between the police and the people they serve is fraying. The closest that most Americans come to feeling the oppression of police is when they pass through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints at airports. No one enjoys the feeling.

TSA is, frankly speaking, a boogieman. Checkpoints, intimidating screeners, strip-search machines and pat-downs with no probable cause are dreaded.

Newspaper editors report vitriolic reactions to stories about TSA from the public.
(from my testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives on Transportation and Infrastructure,Subcommittee on Aviation, Washington, DC, November 29, 2012)

I had an opportunity to testify before the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in November 2012 about TSA and its effect on the traveling public. Back then, I suggested, to chuckles from committee members and the hearing audience, that TSA security inspectors be dressed in pastel colored polo shirts, rather than in the storm trooper

When airlines misrepresent the truth to you and Congress

An airline pricing bill, passed out of the House committee, is based on two major prevarications. Here's the scoop and a petition already with 35,000 names that will help consumers fight back.

TSA changes security fee rules to boost administration income

In late March, earlier this year, Travelers United learned that the new September 11th Security Fee implementation would result in a far greater financial burden on travelers than merely increasing the fee from $2.50 to $5.60 for passengers flying on non-stop flights (those flying on multi-stop flights will see the security fee increase from $5 to $5.60). However, by changing the definition of a round-trip, TSA has opened the door to even more dramatic increases in security fees.