This Week in Travel News

Amazon Strikes Deal with Atlas Air, Takes Stake in Company
Amazon has struck a deal with major air transport firm Atlas Air of Purchase, NY, leasing 20 of its Boeing 767-300 jets and taking up to a 30% stake in the company. Atlas is also a supplier of transport planes to UPS. This follows March news that Amazon was leasing 20 Boeing 767-300 cargo jets from Air Transport Services Group Inc., while at the same time taking a 20% stake in the Wilmington, OH-based company.

RCI Europe Is Being Sued By Its Members
Timeshare operator RCI Europe is being sued for £2.4 million damages by members of its holiday property exchange club. They have taken their case to the High Court in London, which will consider a class action lawsuit on Monday. The suit alleges that RCI Europe ‘skims off’ the best accommodation from its pool of available properties and sells them, rather than making them available to exchange club members. RCI Europe, which is part of the US hotel group Wyndham Worldwide, denies the claims. There are 487 claimants in the class.

Delta Moves To Require Roundtrip Purchase For Lowest Fares
The Cranky Flyer reports that if you fly Delta and you like to buy one way fares on nonstop flights, get ready to pay more. Delta has been moving toward making its lowest fares require a roundtrip purchase on nonstop routes, even in major, highly competitive markets. It also appears to be playing with advance purchase requirements, among other things. Clearly the revenue management team is trying to flex its muscles and increase revenues in a time where they’ve been going down, but other airlines aren’t going along. Apparently Delta thinks that it has enough pricing power to go back to the way things were before low cost carriers started to dictate pricing. That sounds like wishful thinking.

Delta To Add New International Premium Economy Cabin In 2017
Delta will add an upgraded premium-economy cabin to its long-haul international flights beginning in 2017. Delta becomes the second US carrier after American to add a Premium Economy section on International flights. The seats will be a distinctly different seat than its current economy seat, offering not only extra legroom but also additional recline and width, leg rests and other seat upgrades. Customers flying on international premium economy tickets also typically enjoy service enhancements, such as priority check-in and upgraded in-flight dining options. Delta will debut the product on its new Airbus A350 widebodies, which are expected to begin flying for the carrier next year.

Fort McMurray Evacuated
Canadian authorities evacuated the Fort McMurray community in Alberta as a wildfire threatened the city. The mandatory evacuation order has affected approximately 80,000 people; local officials have described it as the biggest evacuation in the province’s history. While no injuries have been reported at this time, the fire has destroyed numerous residential and commercial buildings. The fire has also forced the city’s hospital to shut down and has blocked major roadways. As of 0730 local time yesterday Fort McMurray International Airport is closed to inbound flights. Fort McMurray is located in Canada’s oil sands region, approximately 270 mi/430 km north of Edmonton. Oil projects have not been affected thus far, as they are largely located north of the city, while the fire is worst in the south. However, at least one company is evacuating non-essential staff members, and officials are asking companies to house evacuees at their camps. The wildfire began on 30 April-1 May and firefighters seemed to have the flames under control early on 3 May, but shifting winds compromised the efforts and forced the evacuation order later in the evening. Conditions were expected to worsen on 4 May.

Mexico City Issues Pollution Alert
The pollution alert said 40% of vehicles must stay off the roads in Mexico City. Authorities issued a pollution alert on 3 May, as smog in the city reached 1.5 times above the acceptable limits. Pre-existing regulations require 20% of vehicles to stay off the roads on any given weekday in a bid to alleviate the city’s smog problem. The issuance of the alert means that an additional 20% of vehicles have to observe the same restriction. The rule regarding the 20% of cars that must remain off the roads during weekdays was implemented in April and will remain in effect through June.

US To Boost Airport Staffing To Manage Long Security Lines
Reuters reports that airlines are worried that long security lines may discourage summer travelers. The government said yesterday it will add airport staff and bomb-sniffing dogs and ramp up pre-screening enrollment efforts. The TSA will add officers at airports expected to have the highest passenger volumes and has asked Congress to approve additional funds to pay for officers’ overtime and to meet “critical short-term needs.” Security officials are on high alert for potential attacks by groups inspired by Islamic State. On March 22, suicide bombers killed 32 people in Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train. Airlines such as American had voiced concern that staffing levels at U.S. airports were insufficient to handle heightened security and greater passenger traffic that’s expected for the peak summer tourism season.

Severe Turbulence Injures 31 On Etihad Flight
Flight EY474 from Abu Dhabi to Jakarta hit the unexpected turbulence about 45 minutes before arrival at Soekarno Hatta International Airport. 31 people were injured and 10 of them were taken to hospital. Medical and emergency teams met the Airbus A330-200 aircraft on landing. Nine passengers and one crew member were taken to a nearby hospital and the other 22 were treated by paramedics at the hospital clinic and then released. Etihad said the turbulence also caused some damage to cabin storage areas. Etihad Airways sent a support team from its home base in Abu Dhabi, and is assisting passengers scheduled to travel on this flight, by rebooking them on alternate flights or providing hotel accommodation.

Princess Cruises To Unveil Downton Abbey Exhibits On UK-Based Ships
Princess Cruises announced that it will include Downton Abbey exhibits on two of its UK-based ships from next month. Both the 3,100 passenger Emerald Princess and Caribbean Princess will showcase costumes and jewellery worn by several characters from the hit television drama. At least once per cruise the displays will be made available for guests to view on the Princess Theatre stage. As part of the exhibits an exclusive ‘making of Downton Abbey’ film will be played and afternoon tea served afterwards. Episodes of the show will be available to watch on guests’ stateroom televisions. The exhibit will be on Emerald Princess from May 20 to September 5 when she sets sail from Southampton to destinations across Europe, including the Mediterranean and Scandinavia. Caribbean Princess’ exhibit will be available from May 18 to September 3 during her season sailing around the British Isles.

JFK Gets A Pet Relief Facility
The Associated Press reports that JFK has designed a 7–square room in Terminal 4 as a pet relief facility where guide and service dogs, emotional support animals and other pets traveling with passengers are permitted to relieve themselves without having to go outside. New federal regulation going into effect this August will require all airports serving over 10,000 passengers per year to install a pet relief area in every terminal. In addition to New York’s JFK Airport, the pet bathrooms can be found at Washington Dulles International Airport, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

House Bill Blocks Norwegian Air To Deny Flights To US
Despite receiving a first approval by the Department of Transportation on 15 April, the Transportation Committee of the House of Representatives passed a bill that blocks the DOT’s decision. The bill saw members of both the Democrats and the Republicans together on the issue. “Our bipartisan legislation sends a strong message to DOT – we must stop this race to the bottom, and protect the open and fair trans-Atlantic aviation market” said Peter DeFazio, one of the sponsors of the bill. Norwegian Air is already operating flights to the US, amid some controversy. Theoretically they want to operate trans-Atlantic flight with a subsidiary company based in Ireland, Norwegian Air International (NAI). Moreover, there is a general worry over labor condition and recruitment. Apparently, Norwegian Air recruits its employees in Thailand via a Singapore-based recruitment firm.

Canada Place Celebrates 30 Years As Vancouver’s Waterfront Landmark
Monday marked the 30th anniversary of Canada Place in Vancouver. Thirty years ago, Expo 86 welcomed the world to Vancouver with its opening ceremony, launching a world fair in the port city of Vancouver. Canada Place was one of several unique and recognizable architectural features constructed for the international exposition, said a statement from the port of Vancouver. The building, designed to resemble a ship with five large sails against a backdrop of the mountains, water and city, served as the Canada Pavilion during Expo 86. Today, Canada Place is owned and operated by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and houses the Vancouver Convention Centre East, Pan Pacific Hotel, FlyOver Canada, World Trade Centre and WestPark. The Canada Place cruise ship terminal welcomes over 800,000 passengers every year. Canada Place was recently identified by Vancouver residents as the landmark that best represents the city.

Cruise Line Building Ships With Underwater Lounges For Whale Watching
Whale watching tours have become a popular addition to many cruise line itineraries and now French liner Ponant wants to take cruisers on a truly immersive adventure with the launch of four new expedition ships featuring underwater observation lounges for optimal aquatic mammal viewing. Unlike the standard mega-liners which can hold thousands of guests, Ponant’s new yachts will carry about 184 passengers, served by a crew of 110, reports Cruise Advice. Details on the “Explorer Class” fleet were unveiled earlier this month at a gala in Sydney, Australia. Some of the ships first cruises will take place in the Kimberley region off the Western Australia coast, an area known for its Humpback whale population. The four ships will double Ponant’s existing fleet, though the new ships are slightly smaller than the liner’s four sister ships Le Boreal, L’Austral, Le Soleal and Le Lyrial which welcome up to 264 guests per sailing. Two of the new ships are set to be delivered in 2018. Each of the new ships will be “Ice Class” ranked meaning they can travel through Polar regions and easily maneuver through secluded coves largely off-limits to huge ships. In addition to boasting underwater observation lounges, the ships will have Infinity glass-edged swimming pools, allowing guests to swim right to the side of the vessel – which Ponant claims is a first for an expedition ship. The ship interiors will house 92 staterooms, each with a private balcony, a gym, spa treatment facility, formal and casual dining spaces and multiple bars.

Brussels Airport Departure Hall Reopens After Terrorist Attacks
Brussels airport partially reopened its departure hall on Sunday, about six weeks after Islamic State suicide bombers killed 16 people there in blasts that gutted parts of the building. The two attackers detonated suitcase bombs in the departure hall on March 22, before a third bomber blew himself up on a metro train in the city. In all, they killed 32 people. From Monday, 111 check-in counters will be open in the airport departure hall and another 36 in a temporary buildings, according to the airport management company. This brings departure passenger capacity to at least 80% of that before the attacks. The Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, was on hand for a special ceremony officially reopening the repaired departure hall. During the dedication of a plaque bearing the names of victims. In addition to the repairs needed inside the facility due to the explosions, the airport has also added more security, including more officers stationed before entering the terminal. The AP said that the reopening was an important step in the facility’s and city’s recovery from the attacks. Officials hope to have the airport back to 100% capacity by mid-June.

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