On this week’s travel news

Bruce’s Take - News you need to know
Bruce Parkinson,

Where Have All The Airlines Gone?
As reported on this week, if the recently announced merger of United and Continental is approved, there will be just four surviving American ‘legacy’ carriers: United Airlines, Delta, American Airlines and US Airways. The list of late and sometimes lamented airlines is longer, including Pan Am, TWA, Northwest Airlines, Eastern Air Lines, Braniff and soon, Continental. Until this week, Delta (formed by the merger of Delta and Northwest) was the largest carrier in the world by revenue. With United Airlines and Continental merging, they’ll take over pole position, but not by much, with combined revenue of just under $29-billion while Delta hovers around $28-billion. What will the merger of United and Continental mean for Canadian travellers? Likely not a whole lot, though the two airlines currently account for about 500 weekly flights from Toronto and Montreal alone. Some observers, including Canadian aviation analyst Robert Kokonis, predict higher fares with one less major player in the U.S. market, but he told that increases won’t likely be dramatic, as U.S. domestic airfares have barely budged in 15 years.

The Upside of Bad Situations
When a killer whale tragically took the life of a SeaWorld trainer, the story made headlines around the world. Unfortunately, the event has also had a severe impact on attendance at the theme park’s Orlando location. As reported this week, SeaWorld has come up with a dramatic way to boost the flow of guests, by dropping the admission price for kids aged 3-9 to just $5 for the rest of the year. The normal kids’ admission price is $68.95. In fact, SeaWorld won’t be taking any admission revenue from kids, as the $5 admission will be donated to a wildlife conservation project. Venerable travel writer Arthur Frommer describes the deal as “the most dramatic price reduction in the history of theme parks.” Frommer is a fan too, saying “I have always regarded SeaWorld as the highlight of Orlando, a unique experience that teaches the visitor about the world of sealife that inhabits our globe.” In a different upside to a bad situation, Club Med earned some kudos this week for the way it treated guests who couldn’t get home during the ash crisis. While many other European travellers faced significant out-of-pocket expenses when stranded without air transport, Club Med let its guests stay beyond the end of their reservations without charge, as it worked to find them a way home. Those scheduled to arrive during the no-fly period were allowed to rebook at no extra charge through October 31. We’ll give the Club two hands up for the classy moves.

Introducing the Immovable Airline Seat
From the people who first introduced a fee for carry-on baggage, here’s another airline ‘innovation’. Spirit Airlines has announced that new lightweight seats being installed on its aircraft will lack the ability to recline. As reported on, the airline calls them “pre-reclined” seats, meaning they are already tilted back about 3 inches. The beauty of the new slim leather seats is they are 30% lighter than conventional seats – which saves on fuel. And, by eliminating a steeper recline, the airline can also cram more seats into the plane. A lot more in fact: Spirit says it can seat 33 more passengers in the “pre-reclined” seats in its new Airbus A320. ‘To recline or not to recline’ is a major bone of contention among airline passengers, as the aforementioned Mr. Frommer found out when he railed against Spirit’s decision as yet another airline abuse of passenger rights. Frommer is clearly a recliner, but many of his readers begged to differ, citing personal space and the rudeness of passengers who slam their chair into full recline with no notice to the kneecaps behind them. He suggests asking permission before the recline, but in my years of flying that’s never happened, and I have the coffee stains to prove it.

Whodathunkit? Canuck Biz Travellers Play Fast & Loose With the Rules
As Bert Archer reported in the Globe and Mail recently, an unexpected picture of the Canadian business traveller was revealed at the National Business Travellers Association conference in Toronto: we ‘polite’ Canadians like to bend the rules more than our American counterparts. From an informal survey, Ipsos Reid found that 45% of American business travellers say they obey their employers’ travel policies while just 19% of Canadians said they comply with company rules about how to fly and where to stay. A third of Americans says they are satisfied with their companies’ rules regarding travel, while only 9% of Canadians said the same. Considering our reputation as law-abiding, this may come as a shock to the Canadian psyche. The most interesting part of the story came in comments from Nikki Germany, the Canadian president of Egencia, Expedia’s business agency. She says frugal Canadians often break the rules to save money rather than spend more. “Canadians are generally more fiscally conscious than our American counterparts,” she said, “prizing free parking or a discounted hotel rate over loyalty programs and premium bedding. I think it’s a cultural thing.”

By: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to as well as sister company,

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