Skift Breaking News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

JetBlue Wants to Make Group Travel Easier With New App

5 days ago

Ever tried to plan a trip with friends? The multiple planning emails, messages, Airbnb wish lists, can all get a bit overwhelming when one just wants to hang out with their pals. Well, JetBlue Travel Products has an app for that.

Troupe, which launched on Wednesday, is an app that allows groups to plan their trips together in a coordinated fashion. Users can “suggest, vote, and comment on dates, destinations, activities and stays,” as well as “manage RSVPs, create polls, share notes, add suggestions, and vote as a group to build consensus and lock in a plan before they book” in the app, according to JetBlue Travel Products.

JetBlue Troupe App
(JetBlue Travel Products)

“As we continue to look for fresh solutions to ease friction in travel and expand JetBlue’s reputation for great service, the Troupe app aims to simplify group travel planning and perfectly aligns with our goal to build new travel offerings that transform how people travel,” JetBlue Travel Products President Andres Barry said.

Troupe joins the growing universe of ancillary travel products JetBlue offers travelers in its push to become something of a broader travel tech company. The airline launched Paisly, a website that offers travelers trip add ons to their flights, including activities, hotels, and rental cars, last year. And, in 2020, it debuted JetBlue Vacations.

In July, JetBlue said its travel products division was on track to meet its target of $100 million in operating income this year.

Online Travel

Tripadvisor Begins Letting U.S. and Canadian Hotels and Restaurants Self-Identify as Woman- Or Black-Owned and More

3 weeks ago

Tripadvisor began letting some hotels in the U.S. and Canada self-identify in their business listings if they are woman-owned, Black-owned, or Asian-owned, for example.

Other categories include Disability-owned, Hispanic/Latinx-owned, Indigenous-owned, LGBTQIA+-owned, and Veteran-owned.

Tripadvisor doesn’t verify whether indeed the business is at least 51 percent owned — which is the criteria — by that group. That’s similar to its approach to user reviews.

Beach Hill Smokehouse in Toronto self-identifies as Black-owned. Source: Tripadvisor.

Businesses must have claimed their listing, can self-identify in more than one category, and then that self-identification would be noted under the listings details in both the Tripadvisor website and app, Tripadvisor said. Tripadvisor sees itself as a platform, which enables people to make judgments based on the “wisdom of the crowds,” so to speak.

The new woman-owned or veteran-owned designations, for example, specify that the restaurant or hotel identifies themselves in this manner.

Tripadvisor has been testing the new feature, and stated that “hundreds” of businesses already have taken advantage of it. It plans to roll out the feature more broadly.

The company said its intent was “to make its platform more inclusive of the diverse communities using its influential website and app.” The hope is that travelers may gravitate toward businesses that are woman-owned or Asian-owned if that is their inclination.

Airlines

A Flight Attendant’s Tips for Travelers Reveal a Lot About the Industry Too

3 months ago

Are flight crews sometimes the last to know about cancellations?

Veteran flight attendant Kristie Koerbel’s tips for travelers on navigating the current travel chaos and cancellations, as published in The New York Times, also had some interesting tidbits about the airline industry as a business.

Shown here, a Delta flight attendant offers complimentary welcome Bellini cocktails in November 2019 for an inaugural flight. Delta Air Lines

Koerbel wrote that it is wise to download the app of the airline you are flying — or trying to fly, that is — because “in some cases you will know a flight is canceled before the flight crew even knows.” She also said travelers can use the app to track bags, the whereabouts of the incoming flight, and to rebook.

Another interesting factoid? Here’s why you will be chilled flying in short-sleeves.

“Here is a flight attendant secret: We sometimes keep the airplane cold intentionally. For people who struggle with airsickness, heat makes it worse. We don’t want anyone to use those sick sacks,” Koerbel wrote.

Koerbel tied some of the spate of flight cancellations to a fact that many people in the travel industry already know — there are time limits to how long flight crews can work.

“Something that is not common knowledge is that flight crews have time limits on how long they can work, generally 12 to 16 hours at a stretch,” Koerbel wrote. “Besides being unsafe, it’s illegal for us to fly longer than that. If your flight crew gets delayed and hits that time, it doesn’t matter if you have somewhere to be, we are done when we are done. The way things are right now, there aren’t many back up crews, so your flight may be canceled.”

The labor shortage at airlines and airports isn’t all about flight attendants and pilots.

“Now we are short-staffed and overworked,” she wrote. “Not just pilots and flight attendants, but also ground crews. You may not think about ground crews, but without them there is no one to park the planes, drive the jet bridges so you can board and get off, load your bags and retrieve them, or scan boarding passes.”

All of those airline buyouts or staff cuts during the pandemic have come home to roost, so to speak, as workers bolted to leave the airline industry. When Amazon and Uber offer comparable compensation to low-paid ground crews, the airline industry has a problem.

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb Debuts Safety Features for Solo Travelers

4 months ago

Airbnb announced today that it is introducing an in-app safety feature for solo guests staying in private rentals and shared rooms.

Once the solo traveler books a stay in these accommodation types, Airbnb will begin offering expert tips in the app.

“The key component of this new feature is the ability for the solo traveler to easily share, with one-touch, their reservation itinerary with the important and trusted people in their lives for added peace of mind and in the rare event of an emergency during a stay,” Airbnb stated. “The itinerary includes: listing address, reservation code, and check in and out dates.”

It appears as though Airbnb began development of the feature with solo women travelers around, but broadened it to include all solo travelers. Tour operators and many companies have place new emphasis in the past few years on trying to ensure the safety of solo travelers.

English speakers will be the first to get access to the feature, Airbnb stated, but the company intends to introduce the product in other languages and in additional countries.

Online Travel

Are Uncool Things Like Hotels and Booking.com Making a Comeback at Airbnb’s Expense?

4 months ago

Just look at their market caps — Booking Holdings $92.05 billion and Airbnb a humbling $77.8 billion.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Booking’s share price has notched “single-digit gains” over the last six months, while “Airbnb’s shares have lost nearly a third of their value.”

Reporter Laura Forman attributes some of the discrepancy to the comeback and relative affordability of urban hotels versus soaring rates for short-term rentals.

Not to mention, we’d point out, seeming out-of-control cleaning fees with little rationale for the heft of the cost.

Airbnb’s average daily rates climbed 37 percent in the first quarter when measured against the first quarter of pre-pandemic 2019, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing STR data, the story said average rates for urban hotels around the world in April haven’t yet inched back to pre-Covid levels, while the average price of a room night for hotels as a whole has risen less than 15 percent in April compared to the same period three years ago.

Of course, as the story notes, Airbnb has the brand advantage over Booking.com as Airbnb spent less than a quarter of its revenue on sales and marketing in the first quarter of 2022 while Booking shelled out more than half its revenue on sales, marketing and related expenses.

Still, there’s a reason that Booking.com spends so much on performance marketing on Google even as Airbnb has reduced the percentage of revenue it spends on marketing on Google and elsewhere since 2020. The reason Booking.com spends so much? It seemingly is working.

The Wall Street Journal cited Sensor Tower data tallying Booking.com’s app installs in April as being 13 percent higher than in January 2020 while Airbnb’s app downloads fell 12 percent in the same timeframe.

“Ironically, Booking has managed to reinvigorate interest in its namesake brand this year by promoting its tired image,” the Wall Street Journal said. “A Super Bowl commercial for Booking.com featured The Wire star Idris Elba mocking the brand as having ‘never been accused of being sexy, flash or lit,’ unless, he adds, ‘we’re talking literal.'”

We’re unsure how much weight to give to Booking’s Super Bowl ad — which seemed to underwhelm — in its app download number uplift.

The signs of life in Booking’s stock price compared with six months ago has a lot to do with the comeback of cities, the reopening of Europe, where Amsterdam-based Booking.com has most of its strength, and the relative affordability of hotels.

After all, while some people wrote off cities during the pandemic as being permanently scarred, Booking’s Glenn Fogel argued — as did Peter Kern of Expedia Group and Steve Kaufer of Tripadvisor — that urban hotels and cities would be back. It appears as though that’s starting to take shape.

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