During a recent week when all of America was focused on the Boston marathon bombing, and later the flight delays caused by the sequester, a major travel event occurred that got almost no attention: United Airlines raised the fee for changing an air ticket to $200. A family of four planning to fly on June 16, for instance, which then encounters an emergency requiring they fly four days later, will be charged $800 for the right to do so. The increase amounted to a full 33 percent, lifting a former penalty of $150 for changing a ticket, to $200.
Let’s say you crave a beach vacation in a hot, tropical area – but you don’t care exactly where. Or you want to fly to California but don’t care whether your destination is Los Angeles or San Francisco. Or you crave a cultural vacation but don’t care whether it’s in New York or New Orleans.
A columnist for the Los Angeles Times, David Lazarus, has revealed one of the most questionable schemes – of dubious ethics – in travel today. Lazarus has discovered a person running a website that advertises the sale, for $100, of a slick, black, plastic card identifying the holder as a “reviewer” of hotels and restaurants.
You’re about to read one of the most startling, but probably accurate, new discoveries about airline shenanigans in recent travel history. A book by USA Today reporter William J. McGee, titled “Attention All Passengers: The Airlines’ Dangerous Descent,” is claiming that numerous airlines have begun collecting data on their passengers and would-be passengers - their previous purchases, the extent of their cost-conscious attitudes, their race, income and gender, whether they make impulse purchases or else “shop around” - and then tailoring the prices offered to them according to those personal characteristics. Two passengers requesting the same flight at the same time are quoted different prices on the airlines’ websites.
It’s a significant development: EasyJet, the British budget air carrier, has announced that, like its rival Ryanair, it will no longer employ staff to issue your boarding pass or otherwise attend to your pre-boarding needs. Except for an “emergency facility” that it said it will maintain for Luddites who fail to obtain boarding passes from their computers and printers at home (and it makes that promise somewhat ambiguously), it will stop employing a human being to check you in (there will be a single separate area for depositing your luggage, with a luggage tag that you also will have printed at home).
Because Great Britain clearly is the most popular trans-Atlantic destination among Americans, it behooves us to stay current with touristic developments there, both for the purpose of recommending visits by others or for affecting our own vacation plans. And among those developments, the British are claiming that the ability of tourists to visit, and even use, some of the facilities that were built for the 2012 London Olympics is a new and potent reason for a visit.
l receive countless inquiries asking me to suggest novel methods of vacationing __ tactics designed to get the listener or reader out of a vacation rut. To my surprise, these questions continue to recur, even though I regard the answers to them to be rather obvious. Here is my take on five suggested tactics for avoiding a "vacation rut":
The press is full of reports that most of the major airlines American, United, Delta among them have reduced the number of holiday dates to six on which they will be charging surcharges of $20 to $40 each way. So this Thanksgiving and Christmas, it will be only a small number of instances like the day before Christmas or the day before Thanksgiving, or the day after New Year's when rates will suddenly skyrocket, as compared with the 12 or so days that saw such surcharges in 2010. Are the airlines frightened that they will be unable to fill their seats if they suddenly charge more on such days?
We live and learn. When a caller to my radio program recently requested information about how to obtain a "European passport" (she meant an Irish passport entitling the bearer to all the privileges of the European Union), I casually responded that this was impossible, it couldn't be; I was certain that an American could not enjoy dual citizenship.
In January, exceptions to the 50-year-old embargo against travel to Cuba were announced by the Obama administration, raising hopes that this totally counterproductive policy finally would be phased out.