Skift Travel News Blog

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

Ground Transport

IDEAS: Uber Launches Festive Holiday Bus

3 months ago

Uber has launched a suite of festive programming designed to help customers ‘go anywhere, get anything, and celebrate together this season’.

For December, any guests who are looking to celebrate with friends through Uber Charter will have the opportunity to experience one of Uber’s festive buses, which offers holiday inspired amenities including karaoke, holiday lights, photo props and more.

Credit: Uber

The festive karaoke coaches will be available to users in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Washington, D.C, and are bookable in the Uber and Uber Eats apps. 

In addition to the festive party buses, Uber will also be looking to continue to spread the holiday cheer through a number of initiatives, including a Dr. Seuss inspired Christmas kit, reindeer outfits for its delivery robots in select U.S. cities, and gift collections curated by a number of celebrities.

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.

Ground Transport

Amtrak Ridership Jumped a Quarter in Fiscal 2023, Fell Short of Full Recovery

3 months ago

Amtrak carried 28.6 million customers on train trips during its latest fiscal year. That number, while an improvement of nearly a quarter from 2022, fell short of its aim to match pre-pandemic ridership of 32.5 million trips.

But even as overall numbers fell short of those four years ago, Amtrak said Thursday that the number of trips across its national passenger rail network had fully recovered — and was up in some places — by September, the last month of its 2023 fiscal year.

“Amtrak ridership continues to set post-pandemic records,” CEO Stephen Gardner said in a statement Thursday. “We’re inspired by the soaring demand for intercity passenger rail and are eager to continue connecting more people and places.”

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains in San Diego
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains in San Diego. (wyliepoon/Flickr)

The railroad has ambitious expansion plans, dubbed Connect U.S. and largely funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, that could see it add dozens of new passenger rail corridors and trains across the country over the next decade. The first route of that expansion could be new service between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., sometime next year. The route was previously operated in 2005 but suspended after Hurricane Katrina damaged tracks. And, new engines and passenger cars on order will add capacity and improve service on everything from Amtrak’s high-speed Acela train to its state-funded corridors and long-distance trains.

During the year ending in September, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor that connects Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C., was once again its busiest route. The railroad carried 12.1 million riders on the corridor, up 31% from last year and down just 3% from 2019. Ridership fell 7% on its second busiest route, the Pacific Surfliner in California, to 1.5 million trips during the year; trains on the corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego were affected for up to six months last fall after coastal erosion temporarily closed the tracks.

Amtrak’s ridership numbers indicate that privately owned Brightline’s new Miami-Orlando passenger rail line that opened in September will likely be the second busiest intercity passenger train this year.

Amtrak posted some of its biggest ridership gains on state-supported routes in Connecticut, North Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. The largest jump was to Norfolk where ridership doubled from 2019 to more than 480,000 passengers this year; Amtrak added a third daily train to Norfolk from Washington in 2022. And, affirming the maxim “build it and they will come,” ridership climbed nearly 72% compared to four years ago to nearly 87,000 passengers on the railroad’s Ethan Allen service to Vermont that was extended to Burlington last July.

Amtrak leadership will discuss the railroad’s performance and plans at a public board meeting on Friday.

Ground Transport

IDEAS: Eurostar Launches Rebrand with New Ad Campaign

5 months ago

The new Eurostar – which has been created following the merger of Eurostar and Thalys – has launched with a new brand identity, all underpinned by its new motto, ‘Together We Go Further’.

The launch, which includes a new website, mobile app and loyalty program, has kicked off with a new 60-second advertisement created by adam&eveDDB and DDB Paris, which will launch across the rail operators European destinations from 16 October 2023.

In addition to the TV spot, the campaign also features a number of out of home and digital elements, for which ten artists were commissioned from the cities served by Eurostar, with the aim of ‘bringing each destination to life’. 

“Travel inspires us and renews our sense of creativity, which we wanted to bring to life in our new campaign. We wanted to create the feeling of excitement customers feel when they are about to embark on a journey to discover Europe. We have packed the commercial and OOH ads with hidden details for the public to enjoy and discover the more they revisit, in the same way we explore our destinations,” said François Le Doze, chief commercial officer at Eurostar.

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.

Ground Transport

Brightline Sets Date for First New U.S. Intercity Passenger Rail Line in Decades

6 months ago

Private rail operator Brightline will open long-awaited passenger service between Miami and Orlando on September 22, three weeks later than previously planned.

Brightline will initially offer 16 daily trains between Florida’s two largest metropolitan areas. Trips will take a little over three-and-a-half hours — comparable to the time it takes to drive between Miami and Orlando — and make four intermediate stops, including in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Brightline previously planned to begin train service to Orlando on September 1.

Brightline trains Orlando
Brightline plans to begin passenger rail service to Orlando on September 22. (Brightline)

The rail line is the first newly built passenger train in the U.S. in decades. Amtrak has opened several new lines in recent years, including to Burlington, Vt., in 2022, but those expansions mostly involved upgrading existing tracks. Brightline upgraded existing tracks between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, Fla., and built 40 miles of new track and right-of-way to Orlando. Trains terminate in the new South Terminal complex at the Orlando airport.

Orlando is only the beginning for Brightline. The company, which is owned by private equity firm Fortress Investment, also plans to build a 281-mile high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., in the Los Angeles area. Work on the roughly $12 billion Brightline West line could begin later this year with a target of opening in time for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Both the Orlando and Las Vegas rail lines come amid a flurry of new passenger rail investment in the U.S. President Biden’s 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $66 billion for new passenger rail with the bulk of that going to Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor that connects Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. The Department of Transportation will distribute a portion of those funds as competitive grants to projects around the U.S., funding that Brightline plans to seek for its Las Vegas project.

Ground Transport

IDEAS: dnata Aims to Cut CO2 Emissions by 80 Tonnes with Switch to Biofuel in United Arab Emirates

6 months ago

Dnata has announced a new initiative designed to reduce its environmental footprint across its operations in the United Arab Emirates. 

Credit: dnata

The global air and travel services provider has announced that a number of the group’s brands have switched their vehicles to run on a biofuel blend, which should save around 80 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions per year – the equivalent of over 320,000 kilometers driven by a petrol-powered car.

This includes 31 trucks at the dnata Logistics hub in Dubai, 21 buses as part of a joint venture with City Sightseeing Dubai, the introduction of biofuel generators at Arabian Adventures, and a joint venture with Alpha Flight Services (Alpha) which has seen five landside vehicles converted to run on a biofuel blend.

The latest announcement forms part of dnata’s two-year green operations strategy, with US$100 million already committed to investing in green operations to enhance its environmental efficiency globally.

“We constantly explore and implement emission reduction methods across our fleet and infrastructure to reduce our carbon footprint. The introduction of biofuel to a diverse range of our UAE businesses is an important step in our ongoing journey. It offers a simple and effective method of cutting emissions throughout the fuel lifecycle, without requiring any changes to equipment,” said Steve Allen, CEO of dnata Group.

“We will continue to invest in our operations, including large-scale infrastructure solutions, to further enhance our sustainability performance and achieve our green operations targets,” Allen continued.

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.

Business Travel

Lyft Names Former Amazon Exec as Its New CEO

11 months ago

Ride-sharing firm Lyft has appointed David Risher, a former Amazon and Microsoft senior exec, as its new CEO.

Lyft’s co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer are stepping down from their respective roles as CEO and president, and moving into non-executive roles, the company revealed on Tuesday.

Risher was employee number 37 at Amazon, and was the retailing giant’s first head of product and head of U.S. retail. He was also a general manager at Microsoft. He has been a member of Lyft’s board of directors since July 2021.

Lyft’s business division recently reported that managed bookings have grown 60 percent year-over-year, following the return of large events and conferences. For the 2022 fourth quarter it posted revenue of $1.2 billion, 21 percent up on the same quarter in 2021.

Ride-sharing and car-pooling are expected to increase this year after the pandemic all but wiped out the concept. Now as more companies look to cut carbon emissions, car-pooling is seen as effective way to travel more sustainably. Rival BlaBlaCar last month announced it was buying Klaxit to further expand.

“Logan and I were told we were crazy to think people would share a ride in another person’s car,” said Lyft’s Zimmer. “Over a decade later, Lyft is creating economic opportunity, building a sustainable future, and helping people make meaningful connections — with the support of millions of riders and drivers. I can’t wait for what’s next, and look forward to working with our deeply-capable successor, David, to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.”

Meanwhile, Hertz’s chief financial officer effective Kenny Cheung is leaving the company. He will be replaced by chief accounting officer Alexandra Brooks on an interim basis, the company said on Tuesday.

Travel Technology

Bus Ticket Marketplace Busbud Makes 2nd Acquisition of 2022

1 year ago

Busbud, an online marketplace for bus and other ground transport tickets, is now offering more software services to operators in that industry following a company acquisition. 

Montreal-based Busbud has acquired Toronto-based Betterez, according to LP Maurice, CEO and co-founder of Busbud. 

The deal was made with a mix of cash and equity, Maurice said. As part of that deal, the group that made undisclosed investments into Betterez in 2017 and 2018 are now investors in Busbud. 

That means Amadeus Ventures is now a “key investor” in Busbud, along with JetBlue Ventures, Porter Airlines CEO Michael Deluce, and Donald Carty, former CEO and chairman of AMR Corporation. Angel Gallego, executive vice president of travel distribution for Amadeus, is joining the Busbud board as an observer. 

“As part of that transaction, they became shareholders into Busbud — pretty significant shareholders,” Maurice said. 

Further details about the deal price and terms were not disclosed.

The Busbud marketplace allows consumers to compare and buy tickets for intercity busses, trains, and other forms of ground transportation from nearly 4,000 companies in 16,000 cities across more than 80 countries.

Betterez is a reservations and ticketing management software platform, enabling mobile ticket sales and more for ground travel operators. 

Betterez is used by about 50 of the 4,000 bus companies that sell tickets through Busbud, Maurice said. 

“We could take what we think is a pretty good piece of software, a reservation system, and really introduce it to either folks that don’t have any — which is actually surprisingly often — and also people who have legacy systems but may not have all the range of functionality that Betterez offers,” Maurice said. “And they can become a lot more innovative and drive a lot more sales.” 

Busbud acquired Recorrido, a Chile-based intercity bus marketplace, earlier this year to support  expansion plans in Latin America. Busbud also raised $11 million earlier this year, bringing its total to $44 million raised. 

The company now employs more than 150 people worldwide and is hiring. 

Busbud has quadrupled net revenue year-over-year in 2022 and is now “significantly above” 2019 levels, Maurice said. 

He attributes much of that growth to increased demand for travel post-pandemic. And he is confident Busbud will continue doing well even as some consumers have less disposable income.  

“We’re actually seeing a lift in people taking the bus and not driving,” Maurice said. “Most of them are actually leaving their car at home because of gas prices.” 

Travel Booking

Europe’s Multi-Modal Travel Platform Omio Raises $80 Million

2 years ago

Multi-modal transportation platform Omio has raised $80 million, with plans to expand via new partnerships, acquisitions and further growth into the U.S. after Europe-wide expansion.

Omio launched in North America in 2020, but was then hit by the pandemic. However revenue has recovered to more than double pre-pandemic levels, and according to reports founder and CEO Naren Shaam said the U.S. market had “bounced back.”

The Berlin-based travel app, which integrates more than 1,000 transportation providers across trains, buses, ferries, cars, airport transfers as well as flights, may also be able to tap into increased demand for sustainable travel (it claims that one in four customers change their bookings from flights to trains), as well as travel’s holy grail of the connected trip.

Earlier this year Omio helped build a new international website for the UK’s London North Eastern Railway, to make train travel easier to book for overseas customers. The rail company counts 10 countries as its global market, including China, Japan, Spain, South Korea and Italy. The new search and booking engine lets customers in those countries purchase tickets in their own language and currency.

In March it added a partnership with CheckMyBus, a global intercity bus search engine, while it also has collaborations in place with Kayak, Huawei and Portugal’s state-owned railway company.

Omio’s Series E funding came from new investors Lazard Asset Management and Stack Capital Group. Existing investors NEA, Temasek and funds managed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management also contributed.

In 2020 Omio raised $100 million to fund the purchase of other travel companies, after buying Australia-based Rome2Rio in 2019.