Airlines are Getting Better at Handling Bags but Winter Remains the Worst Time for Lost Luggage

Heading into winter, fliers should take extra precautions with their checked luggage _ December and January are traditionally the worst months for lost bags.

To avoid problems, arrive at the airport early enough to let your bag get to the plane, and print out a copy of your itinerary from the airline’s website and stick it inside just in case all the tags get ripped off.

planeIn the U.S. during the first nine months of this year, 3.3 bags for every 1,000 passengers didn’t make it to their destination on time, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s not great if you are one of those people whose bag is delayed or lost. But consider this: during the 2007 peak in air travel, airlines were mishandling more than twice as many suitcases _ 7.2 bags per 1,000 passengers.

Globally, the baggage-mishandling rate has fallen 61 per cent from its peak in 2007, according to SITA, an aviation communications and technology provider. That has saved the industry $18 billion.

The vast majority of bags _ 80 per cent _ aren’t lost but just delayed, according to SITA. And it takes about a day and a half to reunite passengers with their bags. Another 14 per cent are damaged or have their contents reported stolen. And nearly 6 per cent of bags are lost or stolen completely.

December and January tend to be the worst months because there are a lot of infrequent travellers checking multiple bags, and a few snowstorms can add to delays and suitcases that miss connections.

The overall improvements to baggage handling come after carriers spent millions of dollars to upgrade their systems.

Tug drivers now get real-time updates of gate changes so they can change their path and ensure that bags make their connection. Scanners allow bags to be tracked throughout the system, preventing a suitcase bound for Chicago from being loaded onto a plane to Detroit. Gate agents have printers to help tag bags that are checked at the last minute because of full overhead bins. And, overall, fewer bags are being checked because of bag fees.

“We continue to invest in technology and in processes so we understand where bags are at all times, and we can manage the failure points,” says Bill Lentsch, senior vice-president for airport customer service and cargo operations at Delta Air Lines.

Airlines are also starting to empower passengers _ or at least keep them better informed.

Delta was the first airline to allow fliers to track their own checked luggage, first on the airline’s website in 2011 and then on its mobile app in 2012. Bag tags are scanned when the suitcase is dropped off, loaded onto a plane, loaded onto a connecting flight and then again before being placed on the carousel at baggage claim. Passengers can see all those scans.

American Airlines followed suit in August, allowing passengers to see when a suitcase was loaded or unloaded from a plane. Right now, it is only available on the airline’s website but will eventually be part of the mobile app.

Sitting on a plane ready for takeoff and knowing that your suitcase isn’t in the hold below might be frustrating. But airlines say they would rather have passengers know it then and talk immediately to a baggage representative, once on the ground, instead of standing at the carousel waiting for a suitcase that isn’t there.

If your bag is late, you might be able to get some bonus frequent flier miles or even a voucher toward a future flight.

Since 2010, Alaska Airlines has promised that suitcases will be on the carousel within 20 minutes of the plane arriving at the gate. If not, passengers get a $25 voucher for a future flight or 2,500 bonus frequent flier miles. Delta copied that policy this year, offering 2,500 bonus miles to existing members of its frequent flier program _ but no voucher. Act quickly: Alaska requires you to reach out within two hours of arrival; Delta within three days. And ultimately it’s your stopwatch against the airlines’ _ they are the final arbiter of tardiness.

And if you wanted to get that $25 checked bag fee refunded, you are out of luck.

canada-press

 

Paris air travel proceeds, but some cancel future visits as subdued mood prevails

By David Koenig

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Even as airlines operated a normal schedule of flights into and out of Paris, travellers with future plans to visit the French capital reconsidered their options after a series of terror attacks. Some quickly cancelled their tickets, a worrisome sign for the travel and tourism industries.

Joe Nardozzi, a 31-year-old New York investment banker, and his wife won’t be taking the wedding-anniversary trip they planned later this month.

“I have no interest in losing my life over a trip to Paris,” he said.

Travel agents said some clients called to cancel trips, and one advocacy group for business travellers predicted that corporations would let frightened employees do the same.

Decisions by companies and leisure travellers could hinge on whether the Paris attacks are seen as a one-time event or the vanguard of a stepped-up campaign by Islamic radicals. Islamic State, the group fighting in Syria and Iraq, also claimed last month that it bombed a Russian passenger jet over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, although investigators have not determined the cause of the crash that killed 224 people.

Still, some Americans cancelled upcoming trips after seeing coverage of the terror on Paris streets.

Blake Fleetwood, president of New York-based Cook Travel, said about 10 customers out of the roughly 30 with trips booked to Paris told him they want to cancel. He and his wife might do the same next month.

“It’s a terrible situation,” Fleetwood said. “It’s going to hurt the travel industry, the hotels, the airlines, the restaurants.”

Tourism to the French capital already took a big hit earlier this year from the attacks in January that killed 17 journalists, police and shoppers at a kosher grocery. The Paris tourist office said the number of hotel stays fell 3.3 per cent in the first three months of the year, a drop it blamed specifically on the January attacks.

The situation had just begun to improve, with summer visits by U.S. travellers, who are Paris’ biggest group of foreign visitors rising significantly.

The new attacks targeted neighbourhoods in Paris’ trendy east side, which Paris tourist officials had specifically mentioned in a recent update on tourism in the capital.

Kevin Mitchell, who runs an advocacy group called the Business Travel Coalition, expects some worried corporate travellers to cancel trips to Europe.

“These companies have to continue to do business,” he said, “but for some period of time they’ll give employees a lot of leeway about travelling to Europe and Paris in particular.”

It’s not just Western visitors who might avoid Paris after the attacks. Egyptian college graduate Aya Sayed has always dreamed of strolling the streets of the City of Light.

“I would be too afraid to go because I don’t want to be mistreated because of my headscarf or ethnicity,” she said. “Who knows what they might do to us now?”

Consumers with travel insurance that includes terrorism coverage can probably recover the cost of a trip to Paris, according to Squaremouth, a policy-comparison website. But even policies that cover terrorism may only apply to trips scheduled in the next week or month and might not apply to travel in other parts of France or Europe more broadly, a company spokeswoman said.

Wendy Perrin, who writes about consumer topics for TripAdvisor, encouraged people to keep travelling in a post on her Facebook page.

“The answer is not to stop travelling … The answer is to keep travelling, to make friends around the world, to be a thoughtful ambassador for your country,” she wrote.

Even travellers who go to Paris are likely to be in a less celebratory mood. Toronto residents Mark Hutchison and Ashleigh Marshall planned a big night out during a Paris stopover on their trip back home from Tanzania _ “go to a restaurant, go to a bar, have a glass of wine,” Hutchison said. Instead, they decided to hunker down in their hotel with a bottle of wine once the sun went down Saturday evening.

“It’s a lot to take in,” he said of the deadly attacks. “You can’t make sense of it.”

canada-press

 

Survey Says: Seat Kickers Are The Most Annoying Of All The Annoying Airline Passengers

Read more

Sneaky snowbirds could have financial wings clipped by new program

By Jim Bronskill

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA – Snowbirds beware: The federal government will use its planned border exit-tracking system to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in social benefits now going to people who shouldn’t receive them due to absences from Canada.

Newly obtained memos say the Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada expect to save between about $194 million and $319 million over five years once the long-anticipated system is fully in place.

Federal officials have been working quietly to satisfy privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien’s office that personal information will be properly collected, used and disclosed under the program.

Under the 2011 perimeter security pact, Canada and the United States agreed to set up co-ordinated systems to track entry and exit information from travellers.

For the moment, the tracking system involves exchanging entry information collected from people at the land border — so that data on entry to one country serves as a record of exit from the other.

The first two phases of the program have been limited to foreign nationals and permanent residents of Canada and the United States, but not citizens of either country.

The initiative was to be expanded by June 30 of last year to include information-sharing on all travellers crossing the land border.

In addition, Canada planned to begin collecting information on people leaving by plane — something the United States already does — by requiring airlines to submit passenger manifest data for outbound international flights.

Federal officials have said work continues on the final phases, though no revised dates have been disclosed. The U.S. has legislative authority to proceed, but Canada would need to pass a bill.

A summer 2014 memo, recently released under the Access to Information Act, says savings can be expected through “preventing abuse and eligibility fraud” with respect to the employment insurance, old age security and child tax benefit programs by ensuring Canadian residency requirements are fulfilled.

It estimates savings over five years of:

— $48 million by Employment and Social Development Canada for the old age security program;

— $21 million by Employment and Social Development Canada for the employment insurance program;

— $125 million to $250 million by the Canada Revenue Agency for the child tax benefit program.

For instance, if a Canadian citizen or permanent resident was out of Canada for more than 183 days, entry-exit information would be shared with the revenue agency to administer the child tax benefit, says an explanatory memo.

However, this information alone would “never form the basis” for action against someone, as it is merely intended as a tipsheet. Verification would be needed before a federal agency could crack down on the traveller.

It has long been known that information from the entry-exit initiative would also be used to track the movement of suspected fugitives, child sex offenders, smugglers and terrorists, as well as identify people who remain in Canada past visa-expiration dates and help determine when those slated for deportation have voluntarily left.

The initiative’s scope prompted the federal privacy commissioner’s office to express concern it had expanded “beyond its initial parameters,” says one memo. But Canada Border Services Agency officials felt the objectives were “entirely consistent” with the perimeter security pact’s commitment, the memo adds.

Therrien’s office is waiting to receive detailed assessments from federal agencies as to how they would use entry-exit information, said Valerie Lawton, a spokeswoman for the privacy watchdog.

“We’ve emphasized that each institution will need to demonstrate that the proposed collection and sharing is necessary and effective, undertaken in the least privacy-invasive manner possible and designed so that any loss of privacy is proportionate to societal benefits.”

The border services agency had no immediate comment.

However, the internal notes describe several measures to protect privacy including signs at the border to notify travellers their information may be used for program integrity. People flying into Canada have been warned for many years that information on their customs declaration card may be shared.

Legislation to implement the final phases of the entry-exit initiative will spell out exactly how the information may be used and disclosed, and there will be redress procedures under which people can request access to their personal information, ask for corrections if needed and file complaints.

canada-press

Ultra low-cost Icelandic airline WOW air lands in Canada; offers cheap service to Europe

Source: CNW Press Release

WOW air, Iceland’s only ultra low-cost airline, announced October 1, 2015 that it will begin service to Europe via Iceland from Toronto and Montréal beginning in May 2016 from just CAD $99 one way including taxes¹. Flights to Europe will depart Toronto’s Pearson (YYZ) and Montréal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau (YUL) via Reykjavik, offering travellers the cheapest connection between Europe and Canada.

After spending about an hour in Reykjavik, it’s just CAD $149 one way, including taxes, to the following European destinations: London, Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Dublin, to name a few. Service from Montréal will begin on May 12, 2016 and Toronto services will begin May 20, 2016. Both services will operate year-round, with departures on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

“WOW air prides itself on offering the lowest fares possible as well as the biggest smile and the friendliest service. When we announced our U.S. routes last year, we promised that it was just the beginning of our growth into North America,” said Skúli Mogensen, sole owner and CEO of WOW air. “I’m thrilled to now announce our new routes to Canada, especially as I lived in Montréal for nearly a decade and also because the Icelandic people feel a special affinity for Canada. ”

The airline’s entry into the Canadian market is expected to create an estimated 100 jobs in the travel sector and represents an investment of CAD $60 million for the two routes to both Toronto and Montréal airports.

Originally launched in November 2011, WOW air now connects travellers from twenty destinations across the U.S. and Europe with the Icelandic capital. Total passenger numbers for June to August 2015 were up a massive 45 per cent on the previous year with 295,000 passengers transported on business and holidays. Passenger loads across all services averaged 95 per cent in July.

WOW air’s expansion into the Canadian market follows the successful launch of transatlantic services from Boston and Washington, DC in early 2015. Both services now operate with consistent carrier loads of more than 90 per cent.

“We have just had our best summer ever and, with these new routes launching in May 2016, next summer is another chance to break records. These great Canadian cities will become our newest destinations but I look forward to announcing even more in the not-too-distant future!” said Mogensen.

The flights between Reykjavik and Canada will be operated using WOW air’s fleet of new Airbus A321 Extended Range aircraft. The airline’s Airbus A320 family aircraft will carry passengers between Reykjavik and other European destinations.

Tickets for the Canada flights went on sale on October 1, 2015 via the company’s website: www.wowair.ca

Europe and South Pacific emerging as good a travel bargains with the low Canadian dollar

Read more
Page 2 of 1712345...10...Last »

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from ILSTV

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest