Downgraded: Continental and US Airways add international luggage fees
Following in the steps of American Airlines and British Airways, Continental and US Airways have now also added a fee for a second checked bag on international flights. US Airways also bumped up the fee for domestic luggage fees by $5 per bag.
Upgraded: Japanese car rentals
Travelers renting a car in Japan can now reserve a wireless enabled netbook for about $10 per day. The company, Oryx, includes the cost of the wireless service.
Downgraded: Blaming the victim
A Stamford, Connecticut franchisee operating under the Marriott name stupidly and offensively blamed one of its customers, saying she “‘failed to exercise due care’ before she was raped at gunpoint in front of her children in a hotel parking garage.” Stay classy, Stamford Marriott! Now, the Marriott mothership is distancing itself from the words (and legal strategy) of its franchisee.
Upgraded: JetBlue-Lufthansa partnership
It took a while — I blogged about the possibility of an alliance partnership back in December 2007 — but JetBlue and Lufthansa are finally talking about codesharing. The consequences will be interesting. I’m particularly interested to see if Lufthansa will be selling JetBlue segments on tickets to destinations served as well by Star Alliance members United and US Airways.
Downgraded: Enterprise Rent-a-Car
Rental cars typically don’t have a great reputation, and this doesn’t help: Enterprise saved money on its rental fleet by requesting that GM delete safety features — features that were otherwise standard. The savings per vehicle: $175. 66,000 Chevrolet Impalas without side curtain airbags were rented out, and then subsequently sold as used vehicles.
Downgraded: Bangkok airport duty-free
If you’re in Bangkok, you might want to skip the duty-free shop. Customers have been falsely accused (better: framed) of shoplifting. And thanks to an apparently collusive agreement between the police, the duty free operator (King Power), and individual “translators,” all working in cahoots, travelers have been forced to pay up thousands of dollars in order to leave the country. “The British Embassy has also warned passengers at Bangkok Airport to take care not to move items around in the duty free shopping area before paying for them, as this could result in arrest and imprisonment.” Absurd! Read the whole convoluted story of the “zig zag scam” here.
British Airways is looking to sell its all-business class OpenSkies subsidiary, only a year after buying L’Avion and merging the two operations. The airline-in-an-airline is still operating, though, and there are some pretty sweet deals for premium class travel. If you’re flying between New York and Amsterdam or Paris anytime soon and looking for a relatively inexpensive upgrade, this could be the ticket. (~$1230 all-in roundtrip for a 140° cradle seat, or ~$2100 for a 180° flat bed.) But I wouldn’t book more than a month or two out.
Upgraded: Inflight internet overseas
Lufthansa is reportedly exploring ways of restarting the now-defunct Boeing Connexion satellite-powered inflight internet service. The receivers are already installed on many of their planes (a process which was undertaken at a hefty cost. Panasonic is the most likely provider of the services to the airline.
Downgraded: The St. Regis Monarch Beach
You may recall the St. Regis Monarch Beach in California as the site of controversy — Weeks after accepting a huge federal bailout, AIG executives spent nearly half a million smackers to host a swank affair at the resort. Now the resort itself has gone into receivership: Creditor Citigroup has foreclosed on the property, taking possession from the franchisees, Makar Properties. (Perhaps not surprising if reports of 15% occupancy rates are true.) But foreclosure doesn’t mean closure. The property remains open, albeit under new ownership.
Upgraded: Exotic inflight vermin
Paging Samuel L. Jackson! A passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight departing Phoenix was stung by a scorpion in flight. The creature fell out of luggage in the overhead bin, where numerous other scorpions were residing.
Downgraded: Budget Rent-a-Car’s ethics
Budget Rent-a-Car is still working with Trilegiant, the shady operators who send out “checks” you shouldn’t endorse. Signing the back commits you to an expensive membership in a “consumer club” with minimal benefits — all billed to the credit card you used when you rented a car from Budget. I reported on this back in January. I just received a similar solicitation this week, offering me a $10 check in exchange for a $219.98/year membership in “HealthSaver.” Shame on you, Budget, for pimping out the credit card data that your customers trusted you with.
Downgraded: Airline fees
Another week, another hike of airline fees. Continental, as part of its earnings report, is raising the cost of checked luggage by $5, bringing it to $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second. Also: Delta is adding a $5 in-person luggage fee for bags not checked in in advance online.
Every time you try to make a cynical or snide remark about the state of the airline industry, griping about how unpleasant it’s become, Ryanair meets or beats that cynicism. The airline now wants to ban checked luggage entirely. Seriously. They claim — and I say “claim” because I’ll believe it when I see it — that they’ll be implementing this by 2010, the same deadline for offering inflight gambling and pay toilets. Are they that desperate for attention that they need to keep floating these increasingly annoying ideas?
Upgraded: Republic Airlines
Downgraded, eventually: Midwest Signature Service
Republic, best known for providing regional jet services to a range of carriers, has bought Midwest and Frontier Airlines. In the case of Midwest, they’re getting rid of the Boeing 717s and replacing them with Embraer 190s. That’s a narrower tube. Translation: Expect cuts or elimination of Signature Service seats at the front of the plane.
Upgraded: Holding TSA accountable
Remember the traveler who was harassed by the TSA for carrying $4700 in cash? He refused to answer questions until the TSA agents explicitly told him he was required to respond, and caught it all on tape. Now he’s suing the TSA, with help from the ACLU.
Upgraded: Continental miles
Well, not upgraded much, but here’s a quick way to earn 100 miles for “learning about” Continental-branded credit cards.
Not only is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner delayed again, but some significant redesigning is necessary in order to get it airworthy. That’s bad news for the company’s management (or shareholders), or the airlines that have to wait even longer to receive their orders. As a passenger, I’d rather have a safe plane start flying late than an unsafe plane on time. Nonetheless, some are accusing Boeing of a coverup.
Upgraded: Flight tracking
Visually cool, though not completely practical: Lufthansa has commissioned a neat representation of their flight traffic. Watch a fancy demo below. Be warned, the sound has some crazy-high-pitched sounds, which detract from the experience.
(Update: The designers deleted the video. No idea why. I’ll leave the embed up in case they bring it back. In the interim, have a still/screenshot instead.)
Upgraded: JetBlue joining Star Alliance?
German carrier Lufthansa bought a 19% stake in JetBlue, a $300 million investment in the original luxe discount carrier. There’s no talk of merger, or even alliance. Yet. But the companies Lufthansa invests in have the tendency to join Star Alliance.
Upgraded: Star Alliance, again
So JetBlue’s membership is pure speculation. But Star Alliance *did* invite Air India into the alliance for eventual membership. And just yesterday, Air China and Shanghai Airlines officially joined the alliance.
Upgraded: Silverjet, at Maxjet’s expense
Maxjet’s woes, Silverjet’s joy? “Silverjet, which operates all-business-class flights from London to New York and Dubai, said that through Tuesday, the carrier had seen a 20 percent surge in bookings since MAXjet’s announcement.”
With a major treaty to be signed in Lisbon, some EU member states’ prime ministers are flying there together, carpool style, in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. (Thanks, Dr. Vino!)
Upgraded: Editors’ hateful laziness
Who came up with this headline? “French rude and their hotels smell.” Top shelf editorial work, team!
Downgraded: Traveler’s IQ, and traveler’s brain cells
If you packed a one-liter bottle of vodka in your carry-on, and airport security says you can’t take it onboard, what would you do? If you said, “Open the bottle and chug the entire contents before going through the metal detector,” then you might be the now-hospitalized 64-year old resident of Dresden, Germany who proved he couldn’t hold his liquor at the Nuremberg airport. He should have just checked the booze.
Lufthansa doesn’t just have a lounge for their first-class passengers in Frankfurt. They have a separate terminal.
Many describe it as the best airport lounge in the world. Private baths. Sit-down dining. Dozens of complimentary single-malt scotches. Bellhop service for your bags. As a final luxury, you’re chauffeured to your flight in a Porsche Cayenne or Mercedes S-Class.
To get into the First Class Terminal, you have to be an “HON” member of Lufthansa’s Miles & More program (600,000 qualifying miles over two years) or flying on a Lufthansa first class ticket that day.
And remember: Award tickets count! Using your miles for an over-the-top experience like this is a good move, in my book. Sure, you could get from point A to point B in coach, too, with fewer miles, but for a few thousand more miles, you could be flying in real style.
I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but thanks to Gary Leff’s recent post on the subject, we now have a video tour as well. Watch it below.
Want more lounge porn? Have another video. For those who understand German, or who just want more visuals of the first-class terminal, here’s a news report:
Still can’t get enough? Browse the photo gallery here.
Upgraded, finally: Lufthansa economy-class entertainment
Lufthansa’s calculus has always seemed to be, “Should we give placate people in economy class with decent in-seat entertainment, or should we liquor them up for free? Let’s go with the liquor!” (Other airlines, say, Virgin Atlantic, have managed to do both, but let’s set that aside…) They’re finally reconsidering the entertainment options, if only on three routes. Still: Thank the heavens. My favorite real-world example of bad Lufthansa inflight video, broadcast on those overhead screens: A decade-old episode of the German crime drama “Derrick,” with an episode title that translated to “Rose on a Dump.” I’m not making this up. (Couldn’t they have shown the episode “Pornocchio” instead?)
Upgraded: Airbus A380 delivery dates
Singapore Airlines, the first airline to take delivery of its Airbus A380 mega-jumbo, is officially taking delivery of the plane on October 15, 2007. The first flight, from Singapore to Sydney, is scheduled for October 25.
Downgraded: The real Virgin America story
Virgin America knows how to play the PR game. No news there. But when the chips are down, they still need to figure out their schedule and customer service. But hey, the entertainment is decent. Mark Johnson of Jaunted flew a PR-free flight with Virgin America last week, and has the full report.
Downgraded: Charlotte security
Upgraded: Charlotte’s ability to bounce back
Charlotte Airport TSA agents let someone through security without screening. Flights delayed, passengers inconvenienced, etc., etc. But one thing I can tell you: The delays weren’t long-lasting. Later that same day, I caught a flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia, and it was all fine.
Downgraded: Hotel bathroom amenities
The China recalls keep rolling in. And now, hotel amenities are due for the seemingly inevitable report of poison. Gilchrist and Soames toothpaste is conveniently flavored with antifreeze. (I’ve seen G&C products, but never their toothpaste. My loss.) Better check that bag or box of mini-soaps, shampoos, etc. that the frequent traveler inevitably has stashed in their home. Toss the ‘paste.
It’s hard to blog without an internet connection. The BellSouth idiots first mistakenly shut down our dial tone but kept the DSL running. We called for service. They came, turned on dial tone, and shut down the DSL. Thanks. Great. Not once — not once — has BellSouth (now merged and rebranded AT&T) gotten one thing right on this phone line on the first try.