Skift Take

Today's podcast looks at Southwest’s huge fine, visa free travel, and solo married travelers.

Series: Skift Daily Briefing

Skift Daily Briefing Podcast

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Good morning from Skift. It’s Tuesday, December 19. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

The U.S. Department of Transportation has hit Southwest Airlines with a $140 million fine over consumer-protection violations during last year’s holiday travel meltdown, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi. 

Maharishi reports the fine is 30 times larger than any previous DOT penalty for consumer-protection violations. The DOT said most of that money will go toward compensating future Southwest passengers for any disruptions.  The department had concluded that Southwest didn’t do enough to protect travelers during a massive winter storm that forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights. 

Next, destinations worldwide are increasingly waving visitor visa requirements. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden delves into the impact of visa-free travel on tourism, using our artificial intelligence chatbot Ask Skift and additional reporting.

Jorden writes that destinations view lifting visa requirements as part of their strategy to increase visitor numbers. Visa processing delays have been a significant obstacle to the industry’s full recovery. Travel authorities in particular are looking to attract more visitors from India, with several nations having eliminated visa requirements for Indian travelers recently.

Jorden cites China as one country that’s received a major boost from a visa-free travel policy. China’s foreign ministry recently said a policy that went into effect this month has helped increase tourism from the countries involved — including France, Germany and Italy. 

Finally, more older married women are embarking on trips without their spouses, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy. 

Brophy lists Boston-based tour operator Road Scholar — which specializes in educational group travel for older adults — as one company seeing a surge in married female guests traveling solo. Roughly 60% of Road Scholar’s solo traveler customers in 2022 were married women traveling without their spouses. Road Scholar has said the boom reflects the emergence of Baby Boomer female travelers. 

Brophy notes that younger female travelers are also largely eager to travel solo. A StudentUniverse survey found that 58% of Gen Z female travelers are extremely interested in solo international travel.  

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Tags: holiday travel, skift podcast, solo travel, southwest airlines, visa waiver, visas

Photo credit: A Southwest plane at a gate. Stephen M. Keller / Southwest Airlines

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