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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Hotels

Marriott’s Vacation Rentals Unit Expands Down Under

6 months ago

Homes & Villas by Marriott International has just expanded into Australia and New Zealand, marking the vacation rental operation’s debut in the Asia Pacific region.

The move adds more than 350 upscale homes to its network. Destinations include Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, and Orange in Australia and Auckland and Queenstown in New Zealand.

Marriott has been on a big expansion push for Homes & Villas, with 30-fold growth since 2019 to more than 50,000 units.

Listen to Homes & Villas Vice President Jennifer Hsieh explain the company’s strategy via the Skift Podcast: How Hotels and Short-Term Rentals Fit Together.

Travel Booking

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

6 months 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.

Airlines

JetBlue Ups Offer for Spirit Airlines Again, Now Totaling $3.7 Billion

6 months ago

With the likelihood improving of a successful bid for Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways has raised its offer for the discounter a second time in as many weeks.

The New York-based airline is now offering Spirit shareholders $33.50 per share, or a total of $3.7 billion, JetBlue said Monday. That is a $2 per share improvement over its last offer of $31.50 a share that it made on June 6, and $0.50 more than it initial offer in April of $33 per share.

“After discussions with the Spirit team last week and further due diligence review, we are more convinced than ever that a JetBlue-Spirit transaction would create a true national competitor to the Big Four and deliver value to all of our stakeholders,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said.

(Ryan McLean/Flickr)

“Our previous proposal was met with an extremely positive reaction from Spirit stockholders, and we believe they will be even more pleased with these improved terms, including additional regulatory commitments that reflect our confidence in our ability to obtain antitrust approval and are a direct result of our diligence,” Hayes added.

With regulatory approval the top of concern of Spirit’s leadership team, JetBlue reiterated its commitment to divest all of Spirit’s assets in Boston and New York, as well as gates at the Fort Lauderdale airport where both airlines have bases. The airline told Spirit’s board Monday that it would “not increase its presence in the airports covered by our Northeast Alliance” with American Airlines if the deal occurs.

Spirit has twice rejected JetBlue favoring, instead, its preferred merger partner Frontier Airlines. However, after JetBlue’s last offer, Spirit gave the carrier the same level of access to due diligence data that it had granted Frontier — something JetBlue had been seeking for months.

Denver-based Frontier declined to improve its offer, which totals roughly $2.9 billion in cash and stock, after JetBlue raised its bid on June 6.

A JetBlue-Spirit merger would create the fifth largest U.S. airline.

Airlines

Air Canada Adds Only Nonstop Between Thailand And North America

6 months ago

Air Canada will offer the only nonstop flight between North America and Thailand this winter when it adds new service to Bangkok.

The Star Alliance carrier will connect Vancouver and Bangkok from December 1 to April 14, Air Canada said Monday. The route is the first between North America and Thailand since Thai Airways ended nonstop flights between Bangkok and Los Angeles in 2012, Cirium schedule data show.

In addition, Air Canada will also resume service between Toronto and Mumbai, which was suspended in March 2020, with a stop in London Heathrow due to the closure of Russian airspace on October 29. Both the Bangkok and Mumbai routes will be served with Boeing 787 aircraft.

(Air Canada)

“We continue to pursue our strategy of expanding our global network in response to pent-up demand, and expect to operate approximately 81 per cent of our 2019 international capacity this winter,” Air Canada Senior Vice President, Network Planning and Revenue Management Mark Galardo said in a statement.

Airlines

Amex GBT, Accenture and Shell Partner on New Sustainable Fuel Platform

6 months ago

American Express Global Business Travel, Shell and Accenture have teamed up to launch Avelia, a so-called book-and-claim platform designed to help businesses buy sustainable aviation fuel.

The book and claim model allows companies to pay for the fuel, and claim the benefits, even if it’s not available at their departure airport. The fuel is instead fed into another aircraft in an airport where available.

The goal is to drive down the costs of a fuel that’s between two and eight times dearer than conventional jet fuel.

“Once book-and-claim is approved by industry bodies as an acceptable form of emissions reduction, Avelia could enable airlines and companies who choose sustainable aviation fuel to authenticate, record and report the associated emissions reduction benefits of the fuel towards their voluntary environmental, social, and corporate governance reporting, regardless of where in the world the fuel is used to fuel a flight,” the company said.

The model is also used when purchasing “green electricity” and has been described as one of the most suitable solutions by the European Union. “It balances the fuel’s technical potential, the administrative burden for the aviation industry and fundamental EU Emissions Trading System requirements, like fraud protection,” according to one study.

Drop in the Ocean

The road to decarbonizing business trips is a long one, however. It’s still hard to tell if there’s any meaningful impact. The fuel is still very expensive, and as a pilot program, Avelia will initially offer one million gallons of the fuel, which it claimed was enough to power almost 15,000 individual business traveler flights from London-to-New York.

Overall this pilot wants to demonstrate the credibility of the book-and-claim model. Avelia was developed by Shell and Accenture, with the support of the Energy Web Foundation, but wants to tap into the buying power of Amex GBT’s 19,000 customers.

Will they pay the premium?

“Sustainable aviation fuel is a key enabler of decarbonisation in the aviation industry, and it’s available today. However, it’s currently scarce and costs more than conventional jet fuel,” said Jan Toschka, president of Shell Aviation. “Avelia will help trigger demand for sustainable aviation fuel at scale, providing confidence to suppliers like us to further increase investment in production, and in turn helping to lower the price point for these fuels.”

Amex GBT recently formed an alliance with Shell to help increase the supply of sustainable aviation fuel.

Shell has committed to purchasing the environmental attributes equivalent to 100,000 gallons of the fuel over the pilot phase. It said it would increase that as soon as more of the fuel is available, as it wants to abate 45 percent of its corporate travel emissions through sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.

Sustainable aviation fuel can be made from plant or animal material, and can reduce lifecycle emissions by up to 80 percent compared to conventional jet fuel

“We’re calling on all companies to join us and share the costs and benefits of sustainable aviation fuel across the travel and aviation sectors,” said Paul Abbott, CEO of Amex GBT.

United Airlines and United Airlines Ventures last week announced they were buying at least 300 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from utilization company Dimensional Energy over a period of 20 years. United aims to be a “100 percent green net zero” by 2050, without the use of traditional carbon offsets.

On Sunday, Qantas Airways and Airbus said they would invest up to $200 million to accelerate the development of a sustainable aviation fuels industry in Australia to help meet the airline’s goal of lowering carbon emissions.

Airlines

South America’s Largest Airline Latam Cleared to Exit Bankruptcy

6 months ago

South America’s largest airline, Latam Airlines Group, can exit its U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring after a judge approved its reorganization plan Saturday.

The Chile-based carrier will exit its restructuring leaner than when it went in after shedding its Argentine subsidiary, but with $8 billion in new capital including $5.4 billion in new financing from shareholders Delta Air Lines, Qatar Airways, and the Cueto family, as well as its major creditors. Delta, Qatar Airways, and the Cuetos will also maintain equity stakes in Latam.

latam airlines a320
(Alexandro Dias/Flickr)

“This is a very important step in the process to emerge from Chapter 11, and we will continue working hard to complete the remaining steps in the coming months,” Latam CEO Roberto Alvo said in a statement on June 19.

Latam is the last of the big three Latin American airline bankruptcies to come to a close following Avianca’s exit in December, and Aeromexico in March. Latam plans to exit Chapter 11 in the second half of the year.

Tourism

Thailand to Further Relax Entry Rules for Tourists on July 1

6 months ago

Thailand will end its requirement for pre-travel “Thailand Pass” registration for foreigners on July 1, its embassy has said. Proof of travel insurance, of at least $10,000 coverage for medical treatments,  will also no longer be mandatory.

However, they will still need to show proof of vaccination or a Covid-19 negative test result.

The tourism-reliant country has suffered over the past few years, and is taking a range of measures to kickstart its economy.

These include delisting cannabis as a narcotic drug, which while designed to boost medical and health purposes will also encourage more backpackers to its hedonistic beaches. It’s also extending the service hours of bars and pubs, according to reports.

The relaxation follows a similar lifting of rules that began June 1 for Thai nationals, who since that date are no longer required to register using the Thailand Pass. In May, the country lifted the requirement for vaccinated tourists to take a Covid-19 test before their arrival.

Other destinations including New Zealand and Egypt are also easing their requirements for foreign visitors.

Airlines

Toledo Largest U.S. City to Lose Air Service Due to Pilot Shortage

6 months ago

Toledo, Ohio, has the unfortunate distinction of being the largest U.S. city, and one of the first, to entirely lose air service on a network carrier due to the pilot shortage.

American Airlines will end flights to Toledo from Chicago O’Hare on September 7 citing the “regional pilot staffing shortage,” a spokesperson confirmed Thursday. With American’s departure, Toledo will lose its sole connection to the global airline network — in other words, there are no longer one-stop flight connections to Los Angeles, New York, or Tokyo. Allegiant Air will continue to serve Toledo but the discounter serves a leisure traveler niche of people that only want to go to Orlando or Phoenix, and not further afield.

(MrJacon000/Wikimedia)

Other airports have lost air service since U.S. airlines began reporting a shortage of pilots last year. For example, American dropped Williamsport, Pa. — a city of less than 28,000 people in 2021, according to the U.S. Census — from its map in September 2021, Cirium schedules show. But most have either lost a network carrier, primarily United Airlines, or nonstop flights but retained other air service. In addition, the 29 airports that SkyWest Airlines is exiting are all part of the U.S. government’s essential air service program that mandates a replacement — like Southern Airways Express — be found before SkyWest ends flights.

Toledo is a unique case. Long the headquarters for Jeep and a decent size metropolis of more than 260,000 people, it is sandwiched between two much larger airports: Detroit at just over an 1 hour distant and Cleveland two hours away, according to Google Maps. So the loss of American is not a huge blow in the scheme of things but, with regional pilot costs rapidly rising, it hints at things to come.

Online Travel

T-Mobile Launches Travel Portal in Partnership With Priceline

6 months ago

T-Mobile is getting heavier into travel with the debut of a discount travel website in partnership with Priceline.

The U.S.-based telecom services provider also announced Thursday it is offering free Wi-Fi on certain Delta, American and Alaska airlines flights for T-Mobile customers, and will be expanding its free Wi-Fi services to 210 countries and destinations to customers signed up for certain plans.

In the background, a woman uses Wi-Fi on a Delta aircraft. Photo source: Delta.

T-Mobile Travel is powered by Booking Holdings’ Rocket Travel, and potentially also leverages Booking’s $1.2 billion acquisition of hotel wholesaler Getaroom.

“To meet T-Mobile’s needs, Priceline curated a totally custom and unique combination of travel technology, sales and support services and product, most notably leveraging the technology capabilities of Rocket Miles and Priceline inventory,” a Priceline spokesperson said.

T-Mobile Travel claims to offer exclusive hotel discounts of up to 40 percent, as well as flights and car rentals. Skift didn’t see any short-term rentals in the mix.

Regarding the discounts, Skift found a listing for a queen-bed room at the Shoreham Hotel in New York City in early July for three nights for $730 that was 34 percent lower than on Expedia.com. T-Mobile claimed it was a 37 percent discount.

In addition to the new travel website, Delta, American and Alaska Airlines starting June 21 will begin offering free Wi-Fi for T-Mobile customers on select flights, T-Mobile said. “United Airlines will follow,” T-Mobile stated in its announcement. “And T-Mobile will continue to work hard to keep customers covered on even more airlines over time.”

T-Mobile will also will add certain streaming services on some of these flights for free or at a discount, the company said.

T-Mobile customers who have selected its Magenta Max or Business Unlimited Ultimate Plan will get 5GB of high-speed Wi-Fi, where available, for no extra charge in more than 210 countries and destinations, the company said.

Airlines

U.S. Airfares Drop For First Time in 2022

6 months ago

The steady runup in ticket prices for flights in the U.S. this year appears to have come to an end. New data from Hopper found that average domestic fares have fallen by $20 to $390 since mid-May.

“Demand for domestic travel, which has been surging since late January also slowed in May, plateauing in line with airfare prices,” Hopper wrote Wednesday. However, the travel booking site noted that this is common as new bookings in mid-June begin to shift to fall trips that are after the summer travel peak ebbs in August.

(Hopper)

In addition, despite the $20 drop — the first since the beginning of the year — U.S. domestic airfares remain roughly 18 percent higher than at the same time in 2019. International airfares are up 22 percent year-over-three-years.

(Hopper)

Staffing, fleet, and other issues limit how much more U.S. airlines can fly. Most carriers, including the Big 4 — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines — have either cut flights to mitigate disruptions, or loaded schedules with fewer flights than they had planned at the beginning of the year. The situation is expected to ease in the fall and winter when there is less travel demand, and training backlogs shrink.