Nov 252011
 


Good morning

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday, and will have a relaxing day today, enlivened only by a bit of ‘Black Friday’ shopping; although if you’re like me, you’re perhaps increasingly taking advantage of bargains online, in what is now being referred to as ‘Cyber Monday’.

Talking about bargains, read on for the announcement of a special deal on Qatar Airways – up to 25% off – on tickets you buy between now and the end of Monday.  And if you don’t know who Qatar Airways is, there’s a quick introduction to the airline as well.  Hint – they’re another of those middle Eastern ‘wonder’ airlines, part of the triumvirate that comprises themselves, Emirates and Etihad.

While competition seems to bring out the worst in our domestic carriers, it unquestionably brings out the best in these three airlines, and while our dinosaurs struggle to control the speed of their shrinking, these three new super-airlines struggle to control the speed of their growth.  There’s probably a lesson in all of that, if one were to think about it hard enough and long enough….

There’s also an extraordinary ‘special deal’ for The Travel Insider and hopefully for you too.  Read on to discover the amazing ‘reader challenge’ put forward by an incredibly generous reader; I hope you might be able to rise to his challenge.

Apropos of which, subsequent to the formal/normal end of this year’s fundraising drive, there have been some other contributions come in by check, and I would be remiss not to mention in particular three new super supporters – Kan, Jerry and Phil – and two super duper words-fail-me supporters, Bill and, well, let’s just call him ‘Ononymous’.

I posted an article on Wednesday that has already attracted some interesting early comments in response (on legislation proposing to make it compulsory for airlines to allow us to check one free suitcase), as well as an article that must surely frustrate supporters of high speed rail.  Don’t blame me – I don’t make the news, I just report it!

I don’t think any of us want a full-on newsletter today. But a couple of quick comments just to round this part of the newsletter out.

First, following up on the article below about baggage fees.  Here’s an interesting story about how airfares this Thanksgiving were up 11% on last year.  An 11% increase in fares?  Maybe so, but what about the baggage and other fees?

This is one of the main reasons why airlines like baggage fees so much – they can ‘fly beneath the radar’ with baggage fees and publicly complain about how their airfares aren’t rising in pace with fuel cost increases and general inflation, while all the time, pocketing billions of extra profit from baggage (and all the other) obscured fees.

That’s not the only ‘benefit’ to the airlines of fee income.  Their fee income is currently exempted from the 10% airfare tax, too.  And many times, when negotiating discount or commission rates, the airlines will agree to discounts on their fares, but will avoid having any reductions in their ancilliary fees.  Or – on the basis of ‘heads they win, tails they don’t lose’ – they’ll make a great show of giving some ‘free’ fee waivers and leaving the basic fares relatively undiscounted.

One of the reader comments raises the obvious question – if the airlines are forced to cut back on their fees, won’t they just stick it to us in airfares instead?  I don’t think they will, as you’ll see in my reply.

Here’s an interesting and amusing story of an airline getting its deserved come-uppance in the world of Twitter.  What appalls me the most though is the original bribe that Qantas offered people in an attempt to ‘go viral’ and become a trending topic on Twitter.

In return for a gratuitous tweet about Qantas, you were to be entered in the running for a grand prize comprising – wait for it – a pair of Qantas first class pyjamas and an amenity kit.  A prize so trivial in nature that Qantas’ cost of postage to send the gift out probably vastly exceeded the value of the gift itself.  This laughably trivial prize probably incensed the Tweeters still more to come up with tweets quite the opposite of those which Qantas hoped to get.

Talking about come-uppances, how about a ‘stand-uppance’?  Read this story of a middle seat passenger on a nonstop almost seven hour US Airways flight from Anchorage to Philadelphia.  He thought he was lucky, with an empty aisle seat on the plane next to him – indeed it was the only empty seat on the flight.

But then, just before the door closed and the plane pushed back, US Airways found another passenger to squeeze onto the flight – quite literally.  He was estimated to weigh 400 lbs, and was so big that not only did the middle seat passenger have to get up and stand for the entire flight, but the passenger in the window seat was squashed, too.

There’s a picture in the linked story.

Now, I surely understand that ‘people of size’ have every right to fly, the same as anyone else.  But their right to fly doesn’t give them any extra entitlement to space belonging to an adjacent passenger.  Airlines either need to sell a second seat or give a second seat to such people for free.

Instead, the poor middle seat passenger had to stand for the flight.  The flight attendants, while saying they ‘sympathized’ with his predicament, wouldn’t even let him sit on one of their empty unused jump seats.

US Airways subsequently apologized, and offered a $200 travel voucher to the middle seat passenger.

The 25 worst passwords people use on the internet – worst as in ‘most common’.  Is yours on this list?

She’s back – the bikini wearing TSA x-ray scanner protester.  You know you want to see the picture in the article, don’t you, so here’s the link.

Lastly for this part of your weekly compilation, what else but a bathroom story.  It used to be that a well known travel secret was to go to a McDonalds whenever you needed a restroom, particularly in countries where the bathroom standards aren’t necessarily of a very high standard.

Did you know that in New York, a teeming city of approximately 8.2 million residents and very popular with tourists, there are only 20 public toilets – all pay toilets at that?  That’s a disgrace and a worse situation than some of the most appalling third world cities one could ever hope to not visit.

So it seems in New York, even the wonders of McDonalds are insufficient to serve the needs of the city’s residents and visitors, and so people are now turning to the 109 Starbucks stores (in Manhattan alone) to supplement the services at the Golden Arches.  But not every Starbucks store is thrilled by this….

More details here.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels

 

 

David.

 

 

  2 Responses to “Weekly Roundup Friday 25 November 2011”

  1. I traveled from the US Virgin Islands to Miami on fri nov 25 on aa.

    During the flight the airline stewardess announced they would be coming thru the cabin to collect for the children of Africa any donation would be appreciated.  They then proceeded to walk thru the cabin with a plastic bag taking donations.

    I have never experienced this in my different flights but was wondering if you have and what exactly is the airline doing allowing this.  Your thoughts.  

  2. This is reasonably common on international flights.

    The original concept was that passengers would probably have some now ‘useless’ pocket change from the country they were leaving, and would happily donate it to some worthy cause, rather than take it home and have it clutter their house and eventually get lost.

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