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Skift Travel News Blog

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


U.S. Adds New Travel Warning Category to 6 Countries Where Citizens at Greater Risk of Being Detained

1 year ago

Tourists and business travelers take note, because the U.S. government has added a new destination risk category.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order called “Bolstering Efforts to Bring Hostages and Wrongfully Detained U.S. Nationals Home.” And as part of that move, it will introduce a new risk indicator — “D” for wrongful detention — to the State Department’s travel advisories.

These advisories exist for all countries around the world to warn Americans of risks they may face in traveling to particular destinations.

To start with, six countries will be issued the latest “D” category, which is aimed at deterring and punishing wrongful detention of U.S. citizens abroad by authorizing government agencies to impose sanctions and other measures.

They are Myanmar, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela, which are all deemed to be places where there is elevated risk of wrongful detention.

The indicator joins the existing “K” for kidnapping indicator that covers the risk of kidnapping and hostage taking by non-state actors as well as a range of other existing risk indicators.

“We are eager to share how the Biden-Harris administration is expanding the toolkit that the U.S. government uses to help bring home American hostages and wrongful detainees” said a senior administration official.


CDC No Longer Tracks Cruise Ship Covid Outbreaks

1 year ago

The Center for Disease Control has retired its Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships, effective Monday. Under the program, the CDC monitored Covid outbreaks on cruise ships. Under the program’s color-coding system, cruise ships were coded with colors indicating the number of positive Covid-19 tests among the crew who boarded within a 14-day span. 

“While cruising poses some risk of COVID-19 transmission, CDC will continue to publish guidance to help cruise ships continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for crew, passengers, and communities going forward,” the agency said on its website.

Travelers can contact the cruise line directly about outbreaks occurring aboard their ship.

Earlier this year, the CDC removed its Covid-19 notice against cruise travel.


Airlines Told to Stop Charging Adults Extra for Adjacent Seating for Children

1 year ago

The U.S. Office of Aviation Consumer Protection has issued a notice urging airlines to do “everything in their power” to ensure children aged 13 or below are seated next to an accompanying adult with no additional charge.

The U.S. Department of Transport said it continued to receive a low number of complaints from consumers about family seating, but there were complaints that involved instances where young children, even as young as 11 months, were not being seated next to an accompanying adult.

In November the office will review airline policies. If their seating policies and practices are barriers to a child sitting next to an adult family member or other accompanying adult family member, the department said it will consider additional action consistent with its authorities.

Gordian Software Raises $25 Million for Airline Cross-Selling Tools

1 year ago

Many travel sites such as Priceline, Hopper, and tap technology from Gordian Software to help upsell travelers buying airline tickets by merchandising extras such as seating assignments and checked baggage. The Seattle based travel startup has managed to raise some money on its own, closing a $25 million Series A round of funding, Skift learned on Tuesday.

Investors such as Accomplice, Vinyl, Kinnevik, DST Global Partners, and Latitude, participated, placing a $200 million valuation on the company, a graduate of the Y Combinator incubator.

“Gordian is operating at 15 times its 2019 revenue,” said TJ Mahony, a partner at Vinyl and a new Gordian Software board member.

The startup said its annualized revenue run rate had more than tripled since January.

“Since integrating Gordian’s airline seat map solution, we’ve been able to offer our customers a more seamless purchasing experience through our app,” said Dakota Smith, chief strategy officer at Hopper, the mobile-first travel booking agency. Hopper uses Gordian to offer seat selection as a paid upsell after customers book tickets.

More than 100 online travel companies and sites are customers of Gordian’s APIs [application programming interfaces] for travel websites.

The company’s approach to building the data feed enables online travel sellers to use a fraction of the resources than if they attempted to build the product internally, it said. The feed lets sites consume upsells from upwards of 100 airlines, including Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, China Eastern, China Southern, Delta, Emirates, Etihad, Finnair, Ryanair, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, and United.

While many other tech vendors have focused on helping airlines with the shopping and booking parts of airline sales, Gordian has concentrated on the post-booking part, where it fine-tunes the upselling.

Low-cost carriers such as Ryanair, Spirit, and AirAsia have for years generated roughly a third to nearly half of their top-line revenues from the sales of extras such as reserved seats, priority baggage, and in-flight meals. But they also typically do much of that upselling directly via their websites and mobile apps.

Larger airline groups are still playing catchup in both offering ancillaries and in selling them across channels.

“The moment when I knew that Gordian had legs was after I had cold-emailed several airline people at the senior vice-president level who I didn’t know,” said Gordian CEO and Co-Founder Stephen Grabowski. “I expected that these people wouldn’t respond to cold emails. But I got a 70-ish percent response rate and was landing meetings with these folks.”

Airlines often haven’t been getting any upsells in these online channels because the agencies weren’t offering them. So any gain is flowing directly to their bottom line. As a result, ordinarily bureaucratic carriers found ways to prioritize the integration.

“Airlines are large enterprises that usually take months to give access to outside developers to their technical systems,” Grabowski said. “But one major carrier gave us production access within two weeks.”


Bankrupt Airline SAS and Pilots Reach Deal Ending Two-Week Strike

1 year ago

Scandinavian airline SAS and its pilot unions reached a deal late on Monday that ended a 15-day strike.

The multi-year accord includes needed cost savings and productivity improvements for the airline, SAS said. And pilots received a commitment from the carrier to rehire 450 furloughed crew members, as well as SAS’s backing of a $97 million (1 billion Swedish kroner) unsecured claim by the unions in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.

But the strike came at a cost for SAS. The airline was forced to file for bankruptcy in the U.S. the day after crews walked out on July 4; a process that is expected to take up to a year to complete and does not come with the guarantee of success for SAS. In addition, the airline cancelled roughly 3,700 flights over the 15-day industrial action that cost it at least $145 million.

SAS Airbus A320 landing at London Heathrow
(Matt Kieffer/Flickr)

“With these agreements in place, the pilots are doing their part in this difficult situation,” SAS CEO Anko van der Werff said in a statement. “We now get on with the important work of progressing our transformation plan SAS Forward and building a strong and competitive SAS for generations to come … The strike has been a tough situation for our customers, for our employees, and for our company as a whole.”

Despite the agreement, SAS had cancelled 99 flights — or 32 percent of its schedule — as of 10:00 a.m. in Europe on Tuesday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. The airline warned travelers that flight disruptions are expected to “continue during the following days” as it returns to normal operations.


Strong U.S. Dollar Prompts American Visitors to Europe to Splurge

1 year ago

American tourists to Europe have more buying power than usual, which means that the dollar can buy 15 percent more than a year ago. Visitors are spending on everything from wine to handbags. Here are some interesting statistics from The Wall Street Journal on Monday:

“Overall, travelers from the U.S. spent 56% more money in Europe in June than they did during the same period in 2019, according to VAT refund provider Planet. Richemont, which owns Cartier and watchmaker Vacheron Constantin, reported 42% higher sales in Europe in the quarter that ended June 30.”


The U.S. dollar’s value relative to the euro is the strongest it has been since 2002, the WSJ reported. The move by the U.S. central bank to boost interest rates has attracted some international investors, distorting currency markets.

The flip side is, of course, that the U.S. has become more expensive to most international visitors, holding back the recovery of tourism spending. The New York Times has a helpful infographic on which currencies are held back the most.


Heathrow Airport Gets Caught Up in Another Storm

1 year ago

Airports can do no right at the moment, caught between passengers baying for blood and airlines that just want to fly people.

On Friday Frankfurt Airport became the latest hub to cut flights in a bid to ease delays and cancellations.

But London’s Heathrow, which is the UK’s biggest airport, is under fire for taking action it hopes will improve operations.

As Emirates rejects its passenger cap, one UK-based association has called Heathrow’s plan an “outrage.”

“The Heathrow passenger cap is an outrage for business and leisure travelers,” said Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association. “The arbitrary daily passenger number has been selected done without consultation with airlines and the wider travel community. This is a betrayal of all UK travelers, leaving airlines, travel management companies and travel agents to pick up the pieces.”

He called for Heathrow to be more “transparent about their problems.”

Two UK government bodies, the Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority, have also requested John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s CEO, provides a “credible” recovery plan to get the airport back to business, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the Global Business Travel Association is putting pressure on the European Commission to address staff shortages.

It argued “business travel momentum” was being threatened because the current six-week background checks required for employees working at airports and in the airline sector was causing a bottleneck. 

“Staff shortages are having a significant impact on travel programs and are threatening to affect the speed and trajectory of recovery of the business travel industry,” said Catherine Logan, regional vice president, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “The Global Business Travel Association is calling on the European Commission to prioritize and expedite the needed safety background checks to help alleviate the pressure at airports.”

The UK has already accelerated national security checks for new airport employees, but will that be enough for Heathrow? Passenger numbers are set to soar in a couple of weeks when families begin their summer vacations, which could compound an already complex situation.


Tokyo’s Toggle Hotel Brings Color to Bleisure Trend

1 year ago

One of the most talked about trends in travel has been how many people are merging business with leisure in “workcations” or “bleisure.” The Toggle Hotel in Tokyo caught our eyes for how it brings the concept of blended hospitality to life.

The Toggle Hotel has painted most of its interiors in only two colors, accentuating how guests can toggle between leisure and business. Located by the Suidōbashi train station in Chiyoda City, the property has painted each floor in a different pair of colors.

Continuing with its theme of blurring boundaries, the hotel has placed its lobby on the top floor. People start their stay with skyline views and can enjoy a break in a cafe — also painted in only two colors.

Klein Dytham Architecture is the firm behind the project.

The Toggle Hotel


Frankfurt Airport Cuts More Flights in Effort to Ease Summer Disruptions

1 year ago

Frankfurt Airport joined London Heathrow among major European hubs slashing flights to try and ease delays and cancellations just as the peak of summer air travel is about to begin.

In a notification to airlines by operator Fraport on Friday, Frankfurt will reduce the number of aircraft movements — a takeoff or landing is considered one movement — to 88 an hour from 96 beginning the week of July 18. The reduction is expected to remain in place through at least August, and follows an earlier cut from 106 movements in June.


Jens Ritter, the CEO of Lufthansa Airline, the largest carrier in Frankfurt, on Friday called the reductions “right” in an otherwise muted statement about the poor state of operations at the airport.

“In recent weeks, we have already cancelled flights in several waves to relieve the overall system,” he said. “Since the already increased capacities of the ground handling services in Frankfurt are still not sufficient due to a high sickness absence rate, even for the flight schedule that has already been reduced several times, the decision taken by Fraport today is right.”

Ritter added that, since Lufthansa has already cancelled thousands of flights through the end of the summer, other airlines “will now also contribute to an even reduction and stabilization with flight cancellations.”

The cap is likely to raise an outcry at some other airlines. Following a new cap on passenger numbers at London’s Heathrow airport, Emirates called the cap “entirely unreasonable and unacceptable,” and said it would not implement them.


Shareholder Group Recommends Against Spirit-Frontier Merger

1 year ago

Shareholder group Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) is advising investors in Spirit Airlines to vote against a proposed merger with Frontier Airlines.

“The proposal from JetBlue appears to represent a superior alternative,” ISS said in a report Friday. “Shareholders are therefore recommended to vote AGAINST the proposed merger with Frontier.”

The recommendation is a reverse of ISS’ last advisory for a Frontier merger on June 24.

(Edward Russell/Skift)

Frontier CEO Barry Biffle, in a letter to Spirit CEO Ted Christie on July 10, said they were “very far” from garnering shareholder support for the Spirit-Frontier combination. He added that Frontier would not “propose any further modifications to the financial terms” of its merger proposal, which was valued at roughly $2.4 billion in cash and stock at the end of June.

JetBlue’s all-cash offer is valued at nearly $3.8 billion, including a $400 million reverse break-up fee.

Spirit, while it continues discussions with both Frontier and JetBlue, has repeatedly backed a merger with Frontier citing lower regulatory approval risk. The main concern is JetBlue’s unwillingness to offer to end its alliance with American Airlines in the northeast in exchange for antitrust approval. JetBlue has offered to divest all of Spirit’s assets in Boston and New York — the two markets covered by the American alliance — as well as gates at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

Spirit shareholders are scheduled to vote on the Frontier proposal on July 27.