Skift Travel News Blog

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

Hotels

IDEAS: One Night Standard App Returns After Pandemic Hiatus

10 months ago

The Standard has announced the return of its last minute booking app, One Night Standard.

Having originally launched in 2015, the return of One Night Standard sees the hotel chain once again offering spontaneous reservations for same-day bookings at the lowest available rates across The Standard portfolio, following a hiatus during the Covid-19 pandemic

Credit: The Standard

Users of the app are given access to the best possible price for a room at Standard Hotels from 3pm daily, with the latest version of the app building in a new partnership with the dating app, Feeld.

“Guests are not only enthusiastically returning to travel, but are dropping inhibitions and allowing themselves to live spontaneously once again,” said Standard International CEO, Amber Asher. 

“It feels great to bring One Night Standard back for all those who missed it during the past few years and lobbied for its return. It is particularly gratifying because we have added some stunning new locations like Ibiza and Bangkok that are just perfect for impromptu late-night fun.”

According to a release from The Standard, the app is the only one of its kind developed by a hotel brand.

One Night Standard is available to download at the App Store or on Google Play via this link.


Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.

Travel Technology

Travel Tech at JetBlue, Avis, Hilton and Avianca Still Seems Archaic

1 year ago

There’s been well-deserved excitement in travel tech circles in recent years about everything from the New Distribution Capability to chatbots and the arrival of generative AI, but the reality is that much of what passes for travel technology is still backwards these days.

An elevator at the Phoenix Airport car rental center on January 10, 2020. Source: Flickr.com/Tony Webster

Here are a few recent examples:

Avis: Rental Counter Can Be Unavoidable

Avis informed me a few days ago that I couldn’t modify an upcoming reservation at Newark Airport to add electronic toll charges because I made the reservation using points. In a chat, the Avis agent assured me I could add E-ZPass at the counter — although there are often elongated wait times there.

In November at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, as an Avis Preferred member, I was supposed to be able to view the app and go directly to the parking lot to retrieve my rental car, but that didn’t happen. Eventually, an Avis agent at the car rental counter told me I hadn’t been able to go directly to the car in the parking garage because I arrived during an employee shift change, and the cars were not in place and ready. The wait for the cars was at least 45 minutes at the rental counter.

JetBlue Ticket Modifications: You Need to Cancel and Rebook

In early January, I tried to modify a JetBlue flight booking at JetBlue.com, but wasn’t able to. During a text chat, JetBlue told me in what I think was an automated answer that since I booked the flight with points, I’d have to cancel and rebook it to make the change. “TrueBlue point bookings are managed online,” JetBlue stated. “Changes require you to cancel and rebook. Points are returned to the TrueBlue account. Bags/seats are refunded to the original payment.”

If I had booked the original flights with dollars instead of TrueBlue points, I probably would have been able to easily modify the booking online. But don’t airlines want their customers to join their loyalty programs, and redeem those points? Instead, there is a disincentive when points functionality lags.

Avianca Blames the ‘System’ on Multi-City Booking Issue

About a week ago, I wanted to book a multi-city itinerary on Avianca.com, but there was no option to do so. I was looking to book Punta Cana-Cartagena-Medellin-Punta Cana. I complained on Twitter in frustration, and Avianca kindly messaged me within minutes of my tweet that its customer service agents would reach out, which they did. But after a back and forth with one of the agents over a couple of days, he informed me that the Avianca “system” wouldn’t allow him to make the multi-city booking, either. The agent said I should try booking the tickets separately.

I did book the flights separately — but with another airline. 

Can’t Bypass the Front Desk at a Hilton Property

In November, I reserved a room for a few nights at a Hilton Garden Inn in New Jersey. A Hilton email informed me I could use the Hilton Honors app for a contactless arrival. The idea was to skip the front desk, head to my assigned room, and unlock the door with my phone.

When I arrived at the property, a very nice front desk employee informed me that for security purposes I would have to show her an ID so it turns out at this particular property, at least, there would be no bypassing the front desk. She then handed me a couple of card keys for my room door.

Moral of the Story?

Despite all the boasts from airlines, hotels, and car rental companies about seamless this or frictionless that, the reality is often more traditional and clunky. The travel industry still finds itself plagued by outdated, legacy technology or more modern applications that sometimes aren’t well thought out.

Airlines

JetBlue Wants to Make Group Travel Easier With New App

2 years 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

2 years 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

2 years 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

2 years 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?

2 years 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.