This week’s travel news

The Airline Pricing Obstacle Course, Boeing & Airbus Hear Footsteps As Competition Looms, and Water & Lights Show Is Next Step In Making Disneyland Grand

The Airline Pricing Obstacle Course
Airline pricing continues to make headlines for befuddling passengers. In the U.S., new ‘unbundled’ fees seem to appear every day. The latest is American Airlines charging from $9 to $19 for the privilege of boarding early – just after the premium passengers. Why would people pay for that dubious benefit? Mostly because high fees for checked luggage have spurred many passengers to bring only carry-on, creating a free-for-all battle for overhead bin space. In the UK and Europe, no-frills airlines continue to offer what look like jaw-dropping low fares, which can more than double when ‘optional’ fees are added. Carriers like Ryanair, easyJet and Flybe charge up to £30 to put a standard 20kg bag in the hold. Passengers also face fees for paying by credit card, printing boarding passes and selecting seats. Next month Ryanair will hike luggage costs by £10 if passengers don’t check in online. In today’s crazy airline landscape British tabloid News of the World says a ticket on British Airways can end up costing less than one on a no-frills carrier, because it doesn’t charge booking fees or to check in luggage. Here in Canada we can count ourselves lucky on some counts. Neither Air Canada nor WestJet have taken unbundling to the levels of airlines south of the border, never mind Europe. But even here, the final price of a flight can double from the advertised amount due to extra fees, fuel surcharges and government taxes. As reported this week, legislation was passed by Parliament three years ago that would force airlines to advertise the full cost of a ticket. But a last-minute amendment won by the airline lobby delayed the advertising provision until the government and industry held consultations. As another legislative session comes to a close, it appears that Transport Minister John Baird has for a second time reneged on a commitment to move the process forward. It looks like we’ll continue to need calculators to figure out the price of a flight for some time to come.

Boeing & Airbus Hear Footsteps As Competition Looms
While their own rivalry has certainly been fierce, Boeing and Airbus have pretty much enjoyed a duopoly in the large passenger aircraft market for many years. But that’s going to change as some of the fast-emerging BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – bring their own flying machines to market. Canada is striving for a piece of the pie too, with Bombardier set to take on the big guys in the 100-149 seat market with its CSeries, set to enter service in 2013. Other competitors include China’s Comac, Brazil’s Embraer and Russian companies Sukhoi and United Aircraft Company. Almost all of the new competition will be in the narrow-body market, because of the prohibitive cost of entry for wide-body construction. The price of developing new jets like Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner or Airbus’s new A350 is estimated at more than $12 billion, making it unlikely that challengers will emerge until 2030 at the earliest. In the short-haul market, leaders Bombardier and Embraer will also see some new competition from Japan’s Mitsubishi. By 2014 the company hopes to be airborne with the first passenger aircraft to be built by a Japanese company since the mid-70s. It’s a beauty, too, with sleek lines, a dipped nose, a more spacious cabin than its competitors and perhaps most importantly, a highly fuel-efficient engine.

Water & Lights Show Is Next Step In Making Disneyland Grand
Five years in the making, a new evening water and lights show at Disney’s California Adventure in Disneyland has kicked off a $1.4 billion expansion. The 25-minute ‘World of Color’ show takes place in the Paradise Bay lagoon and features 1,200 fountains and water screens on which images of iconic Disney characters are projected. Lasers, fire, lights and music are other components of a show described by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs as “exhilarating”. The growth continues with a Little Mermaid attraction opening next year and a 12-acre Cars Land that will be unveiled in 2012. The expansion marks the continuation of plans to transform the original Disneyland theme park into a multi-day resort destination. The new attractions aim to piggyback on the popularity of Disney and Disney/Pixar characters, with the goal, Disney says, of “adding product that tells a story.”

Buying A New Knee In Bangkok
Medical tourism is fast becoming a worldwide, multi-billion dollar industry. In the U.S. alone it’s currently a $20-billion market but experts predict that to multiply to $100-billion by 2012. While Americans travel to overseas hospitals in order to pay as little as 10% of what they would pay at home, Canadians are going for different reasons – mostly to avoid long wait-times for things like hip or knee replacements or cardiac surgery. In the past, the bulk of medical travel has been for cosmetic procedures, but that is quickly changing as facilities improve around the world. As reported in trade rag, travel agency marketing organization Travelsavers has been researching the market for some time and has now made the leap with the formation of Well-Being Travel. Travelsavers member agencies in Canada and the U.S. won’t sell the medical services– they’ve teamed up with a company called Companion Global Healthcare for that – but they will arrange air and hotel stays based around state-of-the-art hospitals in places like India, Thailand and Turkey. Executive vice president of Well-Being Travel Anne Marie Moebes is definitely a convert. She required dental work priced at $18,000 in the U.S. and got it for $4,000 including airfare in Central America. She says “you could eat off the floor” in its partner hospitals which included Bumrungrad International in Bangkok and Anadolu Medical Center in Istanbul.

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

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