New air travel rules go into effect this week. T+L Features Director Nilou Motamed outlines what you need to know.
This morning at a packed media briefing on the safety of cruising held by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), key representatives from the industry answered questions, and, not surprisingly, were eager to quash any rising fears in the wake of the Costa Concordia tragedy.
The takeaway? Despite recent events, seafaring travelers have little reason to worry. According to Michael Crye, Executive Vice President of CLIA, between 2005 and 2011 the industry carried 100 million passengers, with 16 fatal maritime casualties. While 16 is far too many, in this less-than-perfect world that number is astoundingly low. The percentage of risk is minimal: broken down, the number implies a one in 6,250,000 chance of passenger casualty per year (that’s far less than the odds of getting struck by lightning in any given year, according to the National Weather Service).
Still, the International Maritime Organization (an arm of the United Nations with 170 member countries) is reviewing all safety practices immediately. A few items up for consideration:
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts announced yesterday that it was placing an immediate ban on shark fin and phasing out Chilean sea bass and blue-fin tuna within the year. According to Shangri-La spokeswoman Maria Kuhn, the new policy, which affects all 72 properties, has been a long time coming. “In December 2010, we took shark’s fin off our menus as a first step towards completely phasing it out,” says Kuhn, who is based in Hong Kong, where the company’s headquarters are.
Shangri-La joins Peninsula hotels, which announced a ban on shark fin in November. For both properties, it’s a bold, gutsy move. Both have a serious presence in China, where shark fin, long considered a delicacy, has become de rigueur at banquets. In fact, Shangri-La, which already runs 35 hotels in Hong Kong and mainland China, has 23 properties under development in China. It also has hotels in Taiwan and Singapore.
The Costa Concordia’s accident off the Italian coast is a horrible tragedy, with at least 11 people dead and others still missing. But the industry’s record for safety remains strong: Nearly 14 million people cruise each year on major cruise ships, and few industry watchers can even remember the last time a fire or ship failure resulted in passenger deaths.
The U.S. Coast Guard is involved with safety aspects of the cruise ship design before it is even built. Once launched, each cruise ship that sails from the U.S. must pass U.S. Coast Guard certification. Each is inspected at least every six months on both announced and unannounced inspections that include reviewing staff safety procedures. Crews are drilled regularly on safety procedures. Those that don’t sail from U.S. ports still must meet safety standards set by individual countries and by SOLAS, an international safety and standards convention that is set by International Maritime Organization, an arm of the United Nations.
USA Today | Travelers are treating in-flight Wi-Fi like a bag of peanuts: They'll take it, if it's free.
Airlines are spending millions of dollars to equip planes with Wi-Fi capability. But only a small percentage of travelers have used the service since it was introduced in 2008, numbers from providers and analysts indicate.
"It is certainly something everyone recognizes as a value, both to the airlines and the passengers," says Michael Planey, an industry analyst at H&M Planey Consultants. "The question is at what point do airlines or service providers make money or stem losses?"
Airlines and in-flight Wi-Fi providers won't disclose how much the service is used.
With a new year comes a rush of planning and, at T+L, we've already mapped out the hottest destinations of 2012. But even as we report on new discoveries and trends, it's worth looking back at what grabbed readers' attention in the past year.
In case you missed it, the most-read article of 2011 ranked dangerous U.S. airports, while also noting improvements that have made air travel safer overall; even former pilots posted comments weighing in on the controversial topic. Some popular articles like America's most beautiful college campuses touched on personal loyalties, while others shared insider recommendations to help you plan that next trip (how about an affordable all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica?).
So, take a look, and then tell us: what was your favorite T+L article, and what would you like us to cover in 2012?
1. T+L's Most Dangerous U.S. Airports
Airline safety is on the rise, but near accidents are still more common than you might think.
Cruise ships can be lifesavers—they get us away from the daily grind and inspire us to explore exotic places. But these floating cities can also literally save lives. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday morning, when Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity rescued two rowers whose small boat had sunk in the Atlantic.
In January, it’ll be two years since Haiti suffered the ravages of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Life there since has not been easy—some 1.5 million Haitians still live in tents, daily routines, health, and education are still impacted by severe lack of infrastructure, and tourism has all but evaporated. As of today, there are only 500 hotel rooms in the Caribbean country's capital city. But that’s about to change.
Travel + Leisure's international editor, Mark Orwoll, makes an appearance to comment on American Airlines' recent news that it is filing for Chapter 11. Watch to find out what the airline's new status means for travelers.
REUTERS | American Airlines and its parent company AMR Corp filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday to cut costs and combat soaring fuel prices and dampened travel demand.
American Airlines was once the largest U.S. carrier, but is now third behind United Airlines and Delta Air Lines. It had been the only major U.S. airline to avoid a bankruptcy filing in the last decade and consequently has the industry's highest labor costs.
The airline hopes bankruptcy will cut labor costs after it failed to reach a deal with pilots and other work groups after years of fruitless negotiations. Analysts question, however, whether restructuring under Chapter 11 of U.S. Bankruptcy Code will address operational shortcomings and bolster revenue.
The filing also leaves AMR vulnerable to unsolicited takeover bids by rival airlines in the rapidly shrinking airline industry.
"It completes the cycle," said Helane Becker, an analyst with Dahlman Rose & Co. "Every major airline in the united States has filed for Chapter 11."