Sometimes an airline does things right. Not often, true, but every once in a great while. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I rarely have anything good to say about the airline industry. New regulations announced this month by the Department of Transportation are just the latest evidence that the airlines aren't able to offer good customer service on their own, and have to rely on the government to step in and force them to be good corporate citizens. But here's a quick little story that shows maybe, just maybe, things are improving and that at least one airline is doing things better.
It has been 12 years since the air-passenger rights movement first got off the ground, but now it's positively soaring, thanks to a new set of consumer protections announced today by the Department of Transportation. Among other things, provisions in the new rule would close a loophole that exempted international flights from the tarmac delay limits enacted last year; require airlines to prominently list all fees a passenger might face on a flight; increase maximum compensation paid to involuntarily bumped passengers from a range of $400-$800 to $650-$1,300; allow passengers to cancel or change a reservation within 24 hours with no penalty (if the reservation is made at least a week before departure); and force airlines to refund baggage fees when they lose a customer's luggage. Most of the provisions will go into effect 120 days after publication in the Federal Register.
This is me with my first bike. Just kidding. It's my second bike. But my favorite bike of all was a lime-green metal-flake Schwinn Stingray with gooseneck handlebars, a white banana seat, sissy bar with red reflector, and a treadless rear tire that let you lay a brodie 10 feet long. Unfortunately, it belonged to my sister. That's the memory that stirs in me as we approach all the events set for Bike Month in May.
Raymond Bickson, chief executive and managing director of the luxury chain Taj Hotels, Resorts, and Palaces, gave a master class in hotel branding to a select group of CEOs yesterday. It's a story that few have heard: how that company regrouped, rebounded, and reinvented itself in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack that killed scores of people and nearly destroyed the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (above).
The latest Canadian Club "Hide A Case" competition is now underway—without me. As you might remember from an item posted here last year, the company has hidden dozens of cases of Canadian Club in exotic locales around the world since 1967; most of them were discovered by adventurers thanks to the distillery's clues printed in magazine advertisements. Now four Americans and four Canadians have solved the latest series of clues and are headed for the island-nation of Tonga, where one of the few remaining hidden cases of C.C. whisky—and a check for $100,000—awaits the person who discovers the exact location.
Starbucks' recent logo change to a more minimalistic design is just the latest outburst of an unfortunate trend that has caused the demise of too many strong, recognizable logos, including many in the travel industry. In recent years we've seen Holiday Inn lose its charmingly clunky script logo in favor a cartoonish letter H against a field of lime green. Effect? Meh. Hertz dropped its familiar shadow and added a background of yellow, lots and lots of yellow. Expedia eliminated its funky old airplane and replaced it with shimmering bands of light that make one pause and think, "Is that supposed to be an airplane?" And Hotels.com killed off bag-totting Benny the Bellhop because...because...who the heck knows? Personally, I miss Benny.
But at least one travel company has seen the error of its ways.
The New Yorker Hotel in Midtown Manhattan considers itself a pet-friendly property, but management is kicking it up a notch to coincide with the canine Oscars: the annual Westminster Dog Show. The hound-happy hotel's fourth floor will be transformed into a puppy paradise February 10–14. Guests will pay an additional $50 per pooch for access to doggie treadmills, a grooming station, and "a specially designed potty area," which I am pretty sure is just for the dogs, not the owners. A highlight of the hotel's Bowser weekend will be the Big City Little Dog Fashion Show and Cocktail Party on February 11 ($25), which is great if you like to get tipsy and watch poodles parade around in booties and berets.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.
Royal Caribbean International made a smart move yesterday by posting a Youtube video from Captain William S. Wright, the cruise line's senior vice president of marine operations. The post follows the "serious incident" on Sunday involving the line's Brilliance of the Seas, which was rocked by 70-knot winds and "very, very large" waves in the Mediterranean en route to Alexandria, Egypt. Some 60 passengers were hurt; injuries were mostly minor, according to Wright.