This week’s travel news

Nervous travellers, travel deals, lost luggage, sleep over sex, frequent flyer programs

Take off eh.comSweating? Nervous? Irritable?
Forgive us for assuming, but we thought behaviour profiling was already a key tool in the arsenal of our erstwhile airport security folks. Not so, according to an Ottawa Citizen report on aCanadian Air Transport Security Authority pilot project that will utilize trained “behaviour detection officers” to search out airline passengers who may be showing physiological signs of hostile intent. Unfortunately, that could represent a significant percentage of today’s airline passengers – most parents, to be sure, not to mention those whose luggage has not arrived or those who have been standing in a security line for an hour. Israel, which operates what is widely agreed to be the safest national airline (El Al) and the safest international airport (Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International), has relied on behaviour detection in its security efforts for many years. Their philosophy bears some resemblance to the U.S. National Rifle Association slogan “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” They are so confident of their people watching system, you don’t even have to take off your shoes at Ben Gurion security. Here in North America, we seem to be more preoccupied with what people are carrying on than the people doing the carrying. That’s changing though, especially south of the border, where there are now over 2,000 behaviour detection officers patrolling airports.

Travellers Getting Drunk On Deals
They’re practically giving it away. Hotel rooms, cruises, packaged holidays and airfares (except for the tax and fees part) have all been deeply discounted in what many travel industry observers are calling ‘The Year of the Travel Deal.’ In the U.S., even reasonably priced National Parks have been offering ‘fee-free’ weekends. A CNN report suggests some travellers are getting a mite greedy. The story reports comments from travel industry journalist Ruthanne Terrero, who attended a recent gathering of European tourism officials where people swapped stories of wealthy frequent travellers demanding outrageous perks for bringing their business to struggling travel companies. “They’re drunk on deals now and totally assuming the world is theirs. It might be, but not the entire world,” Terrero told CNN. For those with the means it’s a wonderful time to travel: it can’t last, but we’ll enjoy it while we can.

Even The Bag Man’s Bags Are Lost
The head of the International Air Transport Association’sBaggage Improvement Program is charged with the task of reducing by half  the rate of baggage ‘mishandling’ at major offending airports by 2012. Now if airlines would just quit losing his luggage, Andrew Price could get on with the job. According to a Wall Street Journal article, Price’s bags were mislaid no less than seven times in his first year on the job. On one memorable occasion, Price flew from Canada to Switzerland. His bags arrived as he was at the airport on his way home. So he sent them straight back – and get this – they arrived a week later! Last year, about 31 million bags arrived late and 1.8 million disappeared into the ether. IATA says that while baggage handling has improved over the years, with a lower percentage of misplaced bags, it’s still a major problem. It’s not just a problem for the bag-less travellers either: reuniting passengers with their bags costs airlines an estimated $2-billion a year. Plus, IATA says that increased security in recent years has complicated the process. It’s not always the airlines’ fault. Passengers can help alleviate the problem by checking their luggage early and ensuring bags are properly labelled. In conducting ‘diagnosis visits’, Price and his team are uncovering solutions that can solve the mishandling problem in 90% of situations. Godspeed Mr. Price – and perhaps just take carry-on in future.

Frostbitten Canucks Turn Up The Heat
Westin Hotels provides the ‘Heavenly Bed,’ but it’s up to guests what they do with it. In a surprising survey result, 51% of Westin guests from around the world said they’d prefer a perfect night’s sleep to a night of great sex. In an even more surprising development, more men than women chose slumber over more active horizontal pursuits. And in a truly shocking development, Canadians were the only nationality in the survey to choose sex over sleep. Raise the flag and salute the beaver! It seems like the sexual revolution is truly over now, because when Westin conducted the same survey a decade ago, just 31% chose sleep over sex. Are the boomers going bust?

Frequent Flyer Programs Soar While Airlines Sink
Who would have ever thought that a frequent flyer program would make hundreds of millions in profit while the airline that spawned the program wallows in the red? That’s the case at Australian flag-carrier Qantas. In the first half of the year, Qantas brands lost about $70-million, while Qantas Frequent Flyer earned pre-tax profits of $350-million. In an Australia-based blog written by a veteran aviation reporter, Ben Sandilands says it’s not surprising that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is rethinking plans to spin-off the reward program into a separate company, as Air Canada did with Aeroplan. “It’s too valuable to the company to sell off,” writes Sandilands,  “a point painfully obvious in Air Canada, where a cash generating, minimal cost program like the Qantas Frequent Flyer would be incredibly useful to a balance sheet under siege.” Aeroplan does still come in handy for Air Canada – it recently loaned the airline $150-million.

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