Google Flights, FAA funded, Heathrow’s pods, hotel unSafes, more Qantas strikes and a GDS fined

In other airline, hotel and travel industry news this week…

  • Google launched a much-criticized Flight Search feature this week. Limited to airfare searches for travel within the United States, this is definitely just a teaser as confirmed by Google’s Inside Search blog where the company states, “This is just an early look, not the final destination.” The highly critical industry followers were expecting a fully functional Googled version of ITA Software, and while I agree with their reviews, I’m certain this is beta version for which the company will now get earfuls of “free” testing data and advice. I’ll make a separate posting in the future comparing it against what I’ve seen of Everbread’s Haystack.
  • Funding for the FAA has been given a stay of execution once again, now until January 31, 2012. This is the 22nd “temporary” extension for the administration, if you can call more than four years temporary. Labor rules, subsidies, airport slot issues and even arguments over bike paths and walking trails in the bigger-picture transportation bill will have to be dealt with in the coming months. Even with the 2012 elections becoming the focus in Washington, I hope both sides take heart and draft long-term funding as transportation and aviation interest groups have been urging.
  • I need to begin a trip originating at London’s Heathrow Airport soon to try out their new “laser-guided travel pods” that whisk travelers from the parking garage – sorry, car park – to the destination (terminal) of choice. Braniff envisioned something like this back in the 1960s assuming it would be available by 1975 (humorously). If Heathrow could get these pods to whisk you between terminals for connecting flights, now that would really be something.
  • Do you use hotel safes? You know, the in-room ones where you select your own numeric code? I do, but will certainly be sure to test out whether or not it has a default password as demonstrated in this short video clip. Most do, I’m sure, but I don’t think it should be as obvious as 0000.
  • The one-hour work stoppages by engineers at Qantas have been bad enough, but now 3,800 baggage handlers and other ground staff are planning a four hour strike this coming Tuesday September 20, 2011. Qantas will reportedly swap in larger aircraft on some routes in an attempt to more quickly reaccommodate passengers whose flights have cancelled. Here the unions are asking for five percent annual pay raises for the next three years, as well as job security entitlement.
  • The Department of Transportation fining airlines isn’t anything new, especially for the easiest breach requiring them, for example, to disclose that the “United” flight you’re on from Los Angeles to Reno is actually operated by Skywest Airlines. In a first for the Global Distribution System industry, the DOT has fined Amadeus $95,000 for failing to follow through with travel agencies to ensure their software correctly displayed these codeshare flights. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood states, “We expect all companies that sell or facilitate the sale of air transportation – airlines, travel agents and GDSs alike – to comply with the laws we enforce.”

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