Downgraded: The word “guarantee”
A week ago, I argued that it was worth looking at Mexico for some good travel bargains, especially 6 or more months out, when H1N1 flu scares will hopefully be behind us. In the interim, Mexican tourism is suffering tremendously. For example, hotel occupancy in Cancun has dropped from 77% to 23% in a matter of two weeks. Cost-cutting has ensued, and one chain, AM Resorts, has rolled out a somewhat misguided “flu-free guarantee” for 10 of its 11 Mexico hotels, beginning Friday: “The company will give three free vacations over the next three years to any customer unfortunate enough to pick up the H1N1 flu virus at one of its Mexico resorts.” It’s hard to vacation — even for free — when you’re dead.
Downgraded: Colgan Air
The National Transportation Safety Board has released transcripts of cockpit conversations before the doomed Colgan Air-operated Continental Flight 3407. The Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 went down in icy conditions. More disturbing: the cockpit recordings showed that one of the pilots felt under-trained for the experience. The quote, minutes before things got a lot worse: “I’ve never seen icing conditions. I’ve never de-iced. I’ve never seen any — I’ve never experienced any of that. I don’t want to have to experience that and make those kinds of call[s]. You know I’d have freaked out. I’d have, like, seen this much ice and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re going to crash.’” Pilots who haven’t had de-icing training? Flying to Buffalo?? In February???
Downgraded: Your luggage… because it’s been sucked into a jet engine
Passengers on board Japan Air Lines flight 61 got a treat as their plane began its taxi to the runway. Engine number 1 of the Boeing 747 sucked in a misplaced luggage container. Passengers and ground personnel were unharmed, but it made for good imagery.
Downgraded: Embassy Suites’ notion of the suite
Embassy Suites is considering shrinking the size of its rooms, but keeping the current price. Then, they’ll charge a premium for the current suite configuration. Somehow, they’ll try to spin this as an improvement, I’m sure.
Upgraded: Opaque booking of hotels
Travelocity is rolling out opaque booking for select hotels. Interspersed with named hotels, you’ll find “secret” hotels whose identity is only revealed after purchase. This sort of sale is typically associated with Priceline and Hotwire, but it’s hardly new. GTA Hotels has done this for ages. EasyClickTravel used to offer “off the record” hotels, but they have discontinued the practice. A company like Travelocity might be able to get this to work alongside its named offerings, because of its size, but the competition from the established opaque booking specialists seems to be pretty strong. We’ll see if it lasts.