Downgraded: Prospects for carrying on liquids in the European Union
While the European Union’s European Commission is aiming to allow you to carry on liquids again — as we reported back in October — airports and airlines are actually fighting the EC and lobbying to keep the nearly five-year liquid restrictions in carry-on luggage:
In recent months, trade groups representing hundreds of airports and dozens of airlines have quietly stepped up the pressure on the European Commission to abandon its plan for a gradual easing of restrictions. From April 29, the change would allow passengers passing through Europe from a third country to carry liquids, aerosols and gels purchased either at an airport duty-free shop or on board a non-European airline. They are calling instead for the ban to remain in place until 2013, when Brussels has vowed to eliminate all cabin restrictions on such goods.
“The existing technology is not fit for the purpose,” said Olivier Jankovec, the director general of the Airports Council International Europe, a lobbying group based in Brussels that represents more than 400 airports. “We risk paralyzing the big hubs.”
But the intense lobbying has so far failed to sway the commission, which committed two years ago to simplifying the often onerous security screening process. It remains a source of frustration for passengers who are forced to jettison drink containers, toothpaste, skin creams and even jars of marmalade before boarding planes.
Aides to Siim Kallas, the European transportation commissioner, said he remained unconvinced by the industry’s arguments and was satisfied by the performance standards set by European regulators for liquid-explosive detectors. Moreover, they said, the numbers of transfer passengers likely to be affected by this first phase of the plan should be manageable.
Upgraded: AA miles on Facebook
It’s a spin of the wheel, essentially, but you could earn a random number of American AAdvantage miles — between 100 and 1,000,000 — if you “like” the AAdvantage program on their Facebook page. I think these “like” campaigns are kind of lame, but hey, if you’re a Facebooker, have some free miles. Full details here.
Upgraded: Atlanta Braves parking for Delta SkyMiles Medallion members
I guess this is a thinking-outside-the-box perk for upper-tier Delta elite frequent fliers: Medallion-level members get access to a special parking area within the Green Lot for Atlanta Braves games at Turner Field. It’s not free parking — normal rates apply. I’ve never been to a game at Turner Field, but the Green Lot looks like it’s as convenient as it’s going to get.
Upgraded: Taiwanese analysis of American aviation
For those who appreciate the kitschy animations of global news by the Taiwanese animators at Next Media Animation, please enjoy this cartoon analysis of American aviation’s obsession with fees. Note the not-so-subtle digs at the age of U.S. flight attendants (ouch) and the ragging on US Airways in particular, going so far as to use their logo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the video celebrates the triumphant Asian airline industry, singling out Cathay Pacific. Who knows, maybe Cathay paid for this episode. Watch it below.
Thinking of traveling for the holidays this November or December? The good folks at FareCompare have mapped out the dates when the major airlines in the US have added “peak travel day surcharges.”
This phenomenon of peak surcharges began last year. It’s getting worse, not better, as more airlines adopt these fees that aren’t technically part of the base fare.
While there’s more to airfares than just these surcharges, avoiding (or minimizing) these fees can make a holiday trip more affordable.
Here’s a snippet for the Thanksgiving dates:
Note that Thanksgiving Day, and days prior to the marked dates on the chart, are surcharge-free. Interestingly, AirTran, which added surcharges over the summer, is refraining now.
Click on the image to see the full post and December date info.
For a limited time, InterContinental Hotels Group properties will reimburse some guests’ checked baggage fees. So a hotel chain — including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites — is indirectly subsidizing airlines. Interesting.
Beginning Aug. 16, when travellers book two consecutive weekend nights at any one of the 4,500 IHG hotels worldwide for stays between Sept. 1 and Dec. 30, 2010, their checked bag is free. Travellers can participate each and every weekend they stay with an IHG hotel during the “Check It Free” promotion period, when they pay for their hotel stay using their Visa® Card.
Download a rebate form via www.ihg.com/freebag and submit it with copies of your hotel receipt and baggage fee receipt for the same trip postmarked by Jan. 31, 2011.
Rebates are in the form of a prepaid Visa card, which carries monthly fees if you don’t exhaust it within six months.
The rebate has quite a few moving parts: 1) weekends only, 2) 2 night minimum, 3) Q4 only, 4) pay with Visa. Break any one of those rules, and say bye-bye to the rebate. Plus: 5) expiring-balance on the rebate itself.
Given those restrictions, this is potentially useful for weekend getaways. But for weekend getaways, won’t a carry-on suffice?…
So this ends up being great PR for IHG, but not necessarily something that will benefit the masses. That said, if you can map this out in advance, and you can make this work: Go for it!
We can only hope this is a trend:
Harrah’s Entertainment has eliminated resort fees at all of its Las Vegas properties.
Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and PH Towers Westgate were the last in Harrah’s Las Vegas portfolio to do away with the extra daily charges.
The resorts join Caesars Palace, Harrah’s Las Vegas, Paris Las Vegas, Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino, Flamingo Las Vegas, Bally’s Las Vegas and Imperial Palace as official “no resort fee zones,” the company said.
Good riddance. Resort fees are perhaps the ultimate way a travel company can screw you. Mandating fees for standard hotel amenities and providing no way of opting out — I’ve never understood how that isn’t legally required to be part of the base rate. (At least airline fees are something you can typically avoid if you adapt your behavior, such as choosing whether or not to check a bag… but I digress.)
Fees make it hard to compare apples to apples, since side-by-side comparisons of rate on most websites won’t include resort fees. That’s anti-consumer.
The fees also took money out of the pockets of travel agents, both large and small. The resort fee, after all, was not commissionable.
The elimination of the fees probably means an increase in base rates. After all, Harrah’s collected $12 million in resort fees in Las Vegas last month alone. Expect to see those fees reflected in base rates soon. But that’s fine. It’s honest. It’s fair. And it should be supported.
I’m a firm believer in rewarding good behavior, and conversely, punishing bad behavior. If you’re a consumer, avoid resort fees when you can (except when you Priceline a room and can’t choose the specific hotel). If you’re an agent, don’t promote properties that stiff you and your clients. And if you’re a hotelier, remember that you’re in the hospitality business, and resort fees are anything but hospitable.
Chicago O’Hare is expanding. And if you’re renting a car at O’Hare in August and beyond, you’ll be paying for it.
[Chicago's city council] today approved without dissent a measure backed by Mayor Richard Daley to charge [at least $8 more per day] on rentals at O’Hare to cover the cost of a consolidated rental-car center needed to accommodate two new runways that are to be built as part of the O’Hare Modernization Plan.
City Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said earlier this week that the fee will likely be around $8 each day on cars rented at O’Hare, but said she could seek to raise it considerably if the cost of the rental facility ends up being higher than anticipated.
The new fee, which should be in place by August, would go on top of an existing $2.75 flat fee and an 8 percent tax on O’Hare rentals.
How might this look? Here’s a sample rental today, before the fee kicks in. You’ll see the current $2.75 flat fee and the 8% tax in there, but obviously no $8 fee (yet):
This is a rental with National, on a base rate of $42.90, fyi.
Adding $8 to that menu would make the total fees $20.32 on a $42.90 base rental, or 47.3% in taxes and mandatory fees.
But hold on, there’s more… This comment from the city’s aviation commissioner, which partially justifies the fee: “The per-day rental fee at LAX airport in Los Angeles is $18.”
Why, if LAX charges $18 on top of their other fees, then Chicago charging $8 would be a veritable bargain! Except that LAX doesn’t charge $18 a day.
Here, see for yourself. Same car rental company, same car class, same base rate of $42.90 a day, but at LAX:
I don’t see an $18 charge in there. I see a bunch of charges, yes, including a $10 charge. And these fees are steep — 49.1% of the base rate, to be precise. But if Chicago is going to point to LAX as an example of high fees, they should try to be more honest about it.
In the U.S., airlines don’t typically charge a fee for using a credit or debit card to purchase a ticket. (Allegiant is an exception, by charging a $14.99 “convenience fee” for online bookings with credit card payment. Other U.S. airlines have tried, but failed thusfar.)
In Europe, a credit card fee is more of a norm. But Ryanair, which has been charging a fee for years, was just slapped down by the German courts for charging the fee:
Germany’s federal court of justice found yesterday that Ryanair placed consumers at a “disproportionate disadvantage” by offering no way to pay for flights without incurring a fee.
“By charging the fee is shifting in a one-sided manner on to customers the costs of fulfilling its own legal obligations … without bringing any service in return,” said the court, a practice at odds with German law.
The case against Ryanair was brought by Germany’s leading consumer organisation. It complained about the fee, which ranges from €1.50 to €4 per flight and passenger.
By not accepting cash payments, it argued, Ryanair offered customers no opportunity to pay for flights without paying extra.
I can understand the motivation behind this fee: Merchants accepting credit cards give up a piece of each transaction to the credit card processing bank. (The percentage varies according to card brand and total transaction size.) But there are rules to which merchants are required to adhere. I couldn’t find a European merchant agreement. But in the US, for example: “Visa merchants are not permitted to establish minimum transaction amounts, even on sale items. They also are not permitted to charge a surcharge fee when you use your Visa card.”
It will be interesting to see if other European countries see similar cases. Credit card fees aren’t limited to Germany, after all.