Hotel taxes, fees refunded, DOT rules, Boeing’s orders, vacation packaging, Overstock travel and more travel news

In other hotel, aviation and travel industry news last week…

  • Last year, Chicago took the top spot as being the city that charges the most taxes to travelers in the country and effective January 1, 2012, they’ve raised hotel taxes another percentage point. It brings the hotel portion on par now with New York and Las Vegas. Another article, however, states they don’t see “any move to raise taxes on the travel industry.”
  • Checks are beginning to arrive in mailboxes across the country with refunds of fees charged for using credit cards overseas. A class-action lawsuit that required filing a claim back in 2008 is finally being settled and people are getting surprises in the mail ranging from $18.04 to thousands of dollars. I quite honestly don’t remember if I filed a claim. I hope so, because the travel period was from February 1, 1996 through November 8, 2006 and I was overseas quite a bit during those 10 years. Were you?
  • The Department of Transportation extended the deadline for airlines to advertise fares inclusive of taxes and fees by two days. Now effective January 26th, American Airlines requested the delay since they claimed Tuesdays are the busiest day of the week for their website and the previous January 24th requirement would have been too burdensome. No other airlines objected.
  • Boeing orders are up 52% this year compared to last, in part due to a record-setting year for the 777. The manufacturer delivered 477 aircraft in 2011, but has a backlog of 3,771 unfilled orders. President and CEO Jim Albaugh stated, “As our current commitments become firm orders and we add even more customers, I have no doubt that 2012 will be the ‘Year of the 737 MAX’.”
  • A subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, MLT Vacations, is now the travel wholesaler selling Air France Holidays and Alitalia Vacations. They also run the Delta Vacations brand. Vacation packagers receive bulk fare contracts from airlines, hotels and other travel providers and then combine them to sell complete vacations at a price cheaper than what you’d be able to book individually with each unit. I worked for a couple of these outfits in the 1990s and really enjoyed a unique side of the industry not known by many.
  • Online retailer launched a travel page on their popular website. Powered by Priceline, you can book complete vacation packages or individual air, car and hotel reservations. It really acts like a portal, though, because as soon as you enter any type of search criteria, it redirects you to Priceline.
  • On January 1st, the former Las Vegas Hilton rebranded as The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, ending its more than 40 years as a chain hotel. This past Tuesday, workers removed the Hilton logo from the side of the building.
  • GDS firm Travelport modified their planned re-pricing of certain functionality within Apollo, Galileo and Worldspan that would have cost travel agencies approximately $35 per month per terminal. Not unlike airlines, the company unbundled several integral features of the systems that were once free and wanted to start charging for those services. After backlash from agency groups, they relented and modified their planned changes.
  • Finally, a proposal for a third runway at Hong Kong’s airport has been submitted to the government for consideration. Cathay Pacific and Dragonair, as well as the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, backed a study supporting the expansion to keep Hong Kong as “the regional and international leading aviation center.”


  1. The Las Vegas Hilton was a few blocks off the strip, so I wouldn’t call it a strip hotel. There is still a Hilton Vacations Club at the back of the Flamingo property, which I consider the strip.

  2. Yup, those combo vacation packages ‘can’ be a good deal. Buyer beware though… The first time you get plopped in a flea-bag hotel, 3 miles from the beach at a “Beach Resort” destination, yo umay change your mind. As with any significant transaction, you get what you pay for. Be careful! Some package operators are legitimate, honest sellers of seriously nice packages. Sadly, a Lot of them are thugs and thieves, delivering about $0.25 for each dollar spent. How does one know the difference? Oh, how I wish I could answer that one! These days, even prior (good) experience provides no assurance that you will recieve what you THINK you are paying for. Be careful and read ALL of the fine print before punking down that credit card number. If any participant won’t reveal the complete contract in advance, run like hell. Frankly, self-booked road trips within one’s own region, becoming a repeat visitor to small establishments that you already know, is often are much more pleasant experience. Whe the little town’s hotel operator says, “Oh yes, Mr. C., we have not see you since [date], when are you coming…” the end result is usually a lot better. New places can be tons of fun, but watch your wallet and know what you are buying… There’s as LOT to be said for regional road trips, even if the fuel is expensive. Building relationships with a few favored places can also have major, unpublished benefits. When was the last time that the genuine owner(s) of your favorite three or four-star hotel asked you to join them for supper? (And your offer of payment would have been a serious insult to Mrs. Inn-keeper.) I encourage folks to travel near home when possible, know your own region and establish some relationships with folks that you know. I’ve also done this in couple of places in Europe. While I cannot drive from home, I ignore the unpleasant flight and am welcomed almost as family when I arrive. In one case (20+ years experience)the small Bavarian inn has almost become a second home. The family understands that I come to unwind and recharge a bit and they help me do that. I pay for everything, but there is no abuse and no fussing. Mamma or a daughter does my laundry, but at a reasonable price. I share a few meal with them and have no idea what I actually pay; far less than driving to the big city and chancing an unknown. Better food, far better company and sometimes I help with the cooking or washing the dishes. The third generation’s kids call me uncle. There is never a quibble about the bill and I suspect that these folks have as much fun as I do. The average daily cost is about 100-110 Euros per day, including a handsome gratuity that always embarrasses Momma! Where is this place? The speak mostly German, with some English and tolerate my miserable German with grace. And I’m not saying any more. The take-home here is to find a location and culture that you enjoy, develop some relationships and stick with them. When I need a break, I call my friends. Momma (or Pappa) ask only when I will arrive. The rest is just magic.
    Just for fun, match that with your ‘five-star’ hotels, in any country or culture! I double-dog dare you!

  3. @Cook: Thanks for your heartfelt comment. Yes, absolutely, there are some questionable operators out there, but most “known” ones are quite reputable.

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