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Travel News This Week

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Royal Caribbean Tightens Cruise Cancellation Policy
Royal Caribbean International is tightening its cruise cancellation policy, making passengers more on the hook for a larger portion of the fare if they decide not to go before sailing. The policy has multiple changes. Chief among them: the cancellation window during which you would only lose a deposit is gone. For full cancellation details, be sure to contact your Willamette Intl travel agent! 
 
NASA To Develop Supersonic Airplane
CNN reports NASA to develop ‘quiet’ supersonic airplane for those who still hanker after the supersonic air travel offered by Concorde. NASA has announced it’s going ahead with plans to develop an aircraft that can break the sound barrier, but quietly. Without the sonic boom the plane could operate commercial routes over land. NASA has awarded Lockheed Martin a $247.5 million contract to build the supersonic aircraft. It wants the aerospace company to refine, build and test the experimental aircraft, known as the X-plane or “Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator,” and deliver it to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center by the end of 2021. 
 
American Airlines Lifts Curtain On Chicago-New York Shuttle Today
Chicago Business Journal reports American Airlines will debut its branded Chicago-New York shuttle service Wednesday. The shuttle launch is sure to spark yet another heated operational rivalry between AA and United Airlines, both of which have major hubs at O’Hare International Airport and both have extensive flights between two of the nation’s principal business markets. 
 
Travel Fraud Is Exploding, and It’s Hurting Travelers
Travelwirenews reports Travel fraud is on the rise, and it’s quickly becoming everybody’s problem. The rise of online travel has created a wealth of convenience and opportunity for users, who can now access last minute and discount fares to a degree unheard of even 20 years ago. However, says the digital security firm Sift Science, this has also created a broad platform for thieves and con artists. Travelers, hosts and even huge companies are vulnerable. Thieves steal, on average, between $283 and $588 per fraudulent transaction. In total, fraud costs billions of dollars per year. Airlines alone lose from $2.4 billion to $4.8 billion to credit card fraud annually, and it happens at virtually every point in the industry. For many travelers, it can represent a very real problem. For researchers and industry, “fraud” defines any purchase made under false pretenses. The trouble is that in travel there are many points of contact where this can go wrong. Thieves can often book travel using stolen credit cards or financial information, effectively stealing a high-value airline ticket or hotel room in the process. For hotels especially, same-day bookings are up to 4.3 times more likely to be fraudulent because the short time frame makes it far harder for the hotel or authorities to detect anything wrong. By the time a consumer has noticed the charge on his or her credit card statement, the criminal is often long gone. 
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India Limits Visits To Taj Mahal To 3 Hours Per Person
CNN reports the enormous white marble tomb, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can attract at least 50,000 visitors a day on the weekend, according to a spokesman for the Archaeological Survey of India, which oversees the Taj Mahal. “Sometimes people end up spending a whole day at the Taj. This creates a situation where there are too many people,” the spokesman D N Dimri told CNN. “It is being implemented so that the movement of visitors can be regulated. Day by day, the number of visitors are increasing. This is to ensure no untoward incidents or accidents occur.” He added there had been no incidents due to overcrowding at the site. 
 
China To Unveil World’s Longest Sea Bridge
Travelwirenews reports it is billed as the world’s longest cross-sea bridge. After seven years of construction, the new link between Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China is finally complete. Beijing says the $20bn project will cut travel time in half, bringing China and its two territories closer together.
 
New Whale Protection Strategy In Gulf Of St. Lawrence
Canada has developed a more nuanced approach to protecting North Atlantic right whales from vessel strikes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The 10-knot speed cap applies in certain areas, but ships will be allowed to travel at normal speeds in two set shipping lanes when no whales are observed. 2018 sees a fixed speed restriction in a large area of the Gulf where the whales aggregated in 2017 and a dynamic management approach for the shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island where temporary mandatory speed caps will be activated should a right whale be observed. 
 
Airport Pays $7,500 For Dog To Chase Birds From Runway
Fox News reports Yeager Airport, located in West Virginia, has purchased an 18 month border collie named Hercules to help protect public safety. The pup has been hired to chase birds and other animals off the runway, a problem that has been a concern for the Charlestown, W.Va., airport. “Every airport has problems with bird strikes and wildlife on the airfield. It’s a big safety hazard, so a dog can be a real predator,” Nick Keller, assistant director at Yeager, said. “It will keep birds, deer, coyotes, rabbits away from the airfield.” Hercules will have a reflective vest, safety goggles and ear protection to wear while he is at work. Keller said the dog could potentially reduce deadly animal collisions once trained. Hercules is currently being trained in North Carolina on a range of verbal and whistle commands. Yeager staff must also be trained to handle Hercules while he is at work. While on the clock, Hercules will be outfitted with a reflective vest, safety glasses and ear protection.
 
Scenic Expands To Northwest Passage, White Sea
With Scenic adding a second ‘discovery yacht’ in May 2020, the company is expanding itineraries. New are a 21-day Northwest Passage exploration, a 13-day adventure through Russia’s White Sea and, in late 2019, two opportunities to visit North America’s Eastern Seaboard, from New York City or Halifax. Scenic new Northwest Passage cruise will embark in Copenhagen and skirt the coast of Greenland before transiting the Canadian Arctic to end at Nome, Alaska. Limited to just 200 passengers and departing Aug. 15, 2020, ‘Across the Northwest Passage’ is a once-in-a-lifetime journey and a pinnacle of polar exploration. With the highest ice class rating of any luxury ship (Polar Class 6), Scenic Eclipse will make its way from Copenhagen along the coast of Greenland and through the Canadian Arctic until reaching Nome, Alaska. Travelers will get to visit Inuit communities and learn from the shipboard expert discovery team. There will be opportunities for kayaking amid icebergs, viewing polar bears and Arctic foxes and hiking across the frozen tundra. Russia’s White Sea is another seldom-visited area Scenic will explore. 
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Lindblad Expeditions Unveils Short Galapagos Cruises
Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Islander will sail a series of short one-week Galapagos cruises in 2018 and 2019, giving vacationally-challenged people the opportunity to see the bucket list destination without spending too much time away from home or work. Dubbed the “Wild Galapagos Escape,” the one-week journey is onboard the recently refurbished, 48-passenger National Geographic Islander and features five days in the archipelago, plus a one night pre-voyage stay in Guayaquil and the option of another night post voyage at no additional charge. All sailings include multiple shore excursions each day from walks and hikes to kayaking, snorkeling and paddle-boarding. New in 2019, passengers on any Lindblad sailing in the Galapagos receive complimentary drinks (excluding certain premium brands) and an hour of free Wi-Fi per person, per day. Dates for the Wild Galapagos Escape sailings are: 2018: November 24 and 29; 2019: April 27; May 2, 11 and 16; August 31; September 5, 14 and 19; and October 31. For those who have a little bit longer and also want to see Machu Picchu, the eight night Wild Galapagos & Peru Escape trip includes a night in Lima, two nights in Peru’s Sacred Valley and five nights on National Geographic Islander in the Galapagos. Departures for this tour are December 1, 2018; May 4 and 18, September 7 and 14, and November 2, 2019. Both trips include roundtrip charter flights from Ecuador to the Galapagos.
 
Air New Zealand And Virgin Australia To Terminate Alliance
Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia are set to end their seven-year-long trans-Tasman alliance in October. The termination will impact the strategic alliance launched by the airlines at the end of 2010 to partner on various services between New Zealand and Australia. Both carriers decided not to renew their existing regulatory approval for the alliance, which expires on 28 October. 

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Travel News: Spain promises Extra Security

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Spain Promises Extra Security In Tourist Areas

The Spanish Government has said it will increase security at tourist sites across the country following last week’s terror attacks. Interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said areas deemed to be potential terror targets would be given special protection. There will also be increased security at the Spain/France border, while Italy is putting up barriers at popular landmarks. The Times reports barriers appeared over the weekend in central Milan, they will also be erected in Palermo and Rome, while security has been tightened up in other areas, such as Bologna. Italian interior minister Marco Minniti is reported to have said he is ‘amazed a van could have driven undisturbed down La Ramblas’. The driver of the van has now been found and killed. Despite last week’s attacks, Spain’s terror threat level has not been increased and remains at four.

Rome Experiments with Controlled Flow of Tourists at Trevi Fountain

Italy Magazine reports Rome is experimenting with a new measure aimed at controlling the crowds at one of its most iconic monuments, the Trevi Fountain. This comes during a summer when problems caused by mass tourism have become more apparent than ever in a number of Italian destinations. From 9 am until midnight, ten volunteers (retired Carabinieri and traffic policemen) will take turns patrolling the area around the Trevi Fountain, directing the flow of visitors and making sure people don’t misbehave. During peak hours, visitors will have to follow a specific path, accessing the fountain from the central entrance and exiting from the one on the left. “This measure is intended to allow everyone to enjoy the monument more effectively,” Diego Porta, commander of Rome’s municipal police, told La Repubblica. “Tourists can throw their coins, take a photo and then leave in order to make room for others.” The volunteers are also tasked with presiding over the monument, and sanction possible inappropriate behavior, such as eating, playing in the water, sitting or leaning on the fountain, which would violate the ordinance signed in June by Rome’s mayor Virginia Raggi to safeguard the city’s artistic fountains. “We’ll make sure that tourists don’t eat in the area adjacent to the monument and don’t sit on the edge of the fountain,” added Porta. The experiment, which began at the end of July and is scheduled to continue for 80 days, will become permanent in October if the results are deemed positive. The Trevi Fountain reopened in November 2015 after a $2.2 million restoration funded by the Italian fashion house Fendi.

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Antwerp Plans New Terminal for 2020

Nadine Brasseur, who heads up cruise operations for the city of Antwerp said the city has plans to build a new cruise terminal, that should be finished in 2020. “Our current cruise terminal is located directly in the city center,” she said. “Passengers like that. They can walk two minutes and enjoy the Christmas markets, for example, eat in one of many restaurants, have a Belgian beer or visit museums.” A 28,000-passenger season this year will be highlighted by a first-time call from Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ Columbus, which will become the biggest ship to ever call at the Belgian port. Also scheduled is a first time call from Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator, and another exceptional news item: a first time turnaround call from the Crystal Symphony, said Brasseur.

American Airlines To Offer Premium Economy On Hawaii Flights

American Airlines is selling Premium Economy tickets on flights between Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and three Hawaiian cities, beginning on December 15th. American is launching service with Premium Economy fares from DFW to Kahului Airport beginning in December and from DFW to Kona International Airport and Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport set to begin on June 7th, 2018. Also, AA will launch Premium Economy seats from Los Angeles International Airport to HNL, beginning on December 15th until January 7th. The routes will be operated on retrofitted Boeing 777-200s. This is the first time a domestic route will include the larger seats and elevated service Premium Economy offers with its 2-4-2 layout. American Airlines’ Premium Economy offers seven more inches of legroom than standard seats. Customers receive noise-reducing headphones, an amenity kit, blankets and pillows, meal service, and free alcoholic beverages. It was launched earlier this year on international flights to Barcelona in Spain, and Seoul in South Korea.

IHG Goes To 24-Hour Cancellation Policy

Travel Weekly reports InterContinental Hotels Group is introducing a policy enabling customers at most hotels to cancel without penalty if they give at least 24 hours’ notice. The move comes about a month after Marriott International tightened its cancellation policy, requiring guests at most hotels to give 48 hours’ notice to cancel without penalty. IHG’s new policy will go into effect next month across most of IHG’s chains (Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental, Staybridge Suites, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, Even and Candlewood Suites) in the Americas and Europe, and by October for the Middle East, Africa and Asia, excluding China (where most hotels already have a same-day cancellation policy). Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants chain will retain its 48-hour cancellation policy.

American Airlines Will Now Alert You If Your Bags Get Lost 

American Airlines has launched a program that alerts travelers when their bags don’t arrive at the same airport. Airline passengers often must wait at the baggage carousel until every suitcase has been picked up before realizing that their bags didn’t land with them. Now, Fort Worth-based American Airlines is giving travelers a digital alert if their bags don’t arrive at the same destination at the same time. The alert comes through the contact information provided by the fliers during the booking or check-in process. Loyalty reward members at American Airlines can also get notices through the airline app. The alert tells travelers if their luggage has arrived early or will arrive later. If the luggage is arriving late, the alert informs the traveler to head to the Baggage Service Office to arrange a pickup later or notifies the passenger to fill out a mobile baggage order to have the airline deliver the bag to the traveler’s home, office or lodging. American Airlines’ system relies on bar codes that are printed on each bag label. To keep track of the bags, the bar codes are scanned at several points in the loading and transportation process.

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Glasgow Could Have Water Taxi Service To Airport

A Venetian-style entry to Glasgow has been proposed with plans for a water taxi service from the airport. Arriving passengers would be whisked up the Clyde into the city centre in 25 minutes. Boats would operate from a pontoon on the White Cart Water about 500 m east of the airport. The plans include passengers transferring from the terminal in golf buggy-style vehicles. These would eventually be replaced by a travellator, a moving walkway which would have to go either over or under Abbotsinch Road. The scheme has been devised by John Hillis, who runs power boat trips on the Clyde in Glasgow. He said the route would provide visitors with a stunning introduction to the city. Hillis also said more transport options to the airport were required as it continued to grow, It handled more than 1 million passengers for the first time in June and the annual total has grown by 7 per cent, to 9.7m. 

Conservation-Themed Murals At Honolulu Airport Are Under Threat Of Destruction 

Two of Hawaii’s landmark conservation-themed murals are under threat of destruction by Hawaiian Airlines. The 35,000-square-foot murals “Hawaiian Humpbacks” and “New Millennium” painted in 1999 by renowned marine life artist and muralist Wyland, were created as a gifts to the city of Honolulu to recognize the past, present, and future of Hawaii’s fragile marine life ecosystems. The murals at the Pacifica Airport Center Building, 3049 Ualena Street, Honolulu, were among 100 murals painted in 17 countries by the artist over a 30-year period as part of one of the world’s largest arts-in-public places projects. In every instance, the artist donated his time and services, receiving no compensation, while project partners provided support. The murals are intended to raise global environmental awareness. Hawaiian Airlines, which recently purchased the Airport Center Building, has threatened to remove the mural, “painting it over with a neutral color.” The Airline has threatened to begin destruction of the mural as early as last Friday. Hawaiian Airlines has maintained they will only allow Wyland to restore the mural pending a signed agreement that would remove any protections the public has for the artwork – and allow the company to move forward with the destruction of the mural, regardless of the artist’s efforts to save it. The airline is using building repairs or spalling to set an artificial deadline to pressure the artist into signing an agreement. Wyland has agreed to donate his time and services to repaint the mural and provide all insurance. The murals stand as important beacons to the people of Hawaii and the millions of visitors who come to the Islands every year.

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Travel News: TSA ramping up for Spring Break

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TSA getting ready for Spring Break Travelers

The Transportation Security Administration is gearing up for the Spring Break travel period, which usually begins around the end of February and continues into April. According to a release, the TSA expects to screen about 62 million travelers at airports across the country in March alone, and it expects to hit a ten-year high traffic volume. “As we approach the Spring Break travel period, security remains our top priority, and we are taking every measure, both seen and unseen, to protect the millions of air travelers,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia. The agency is also collaborating with vendors, airlines and airports to open automated screening lanes in the coming months. Such lanes are designed to improve the screening process by automating many of the functions and allowing passengers to move more quickly through a security checkpoint. Automated screening lanes are currently available at Newark Liberty International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International.

Record Number of Cruise Ships On Order 

When 2017 opened, there were a record 73 cruise ships on order, and now, according to the 2017-2018 Cruise Industry News Annual Report, that number has surged to 82 with recent orders from Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and a small unnamed luxury brand. The orderbook now totals at least 82 ships, not including a number of known options, meaning the cruise industry is looking a decade of solid growth even as older, smaller vessels are retired. The orderbook is well up from another previous record of 70 ships on order, set in 2016, which eclipsed the year 2000, which saw some 67 ships on order early in the year, according to data from Cruise Industry News. While ship volume is a record, the average size of ships is staying put at approximately 3,000 passengers, offset by smaller luxury and expedition ships. The average tonnage of ships on order is approximately 117,256. 

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One For The Record Book: Holland America Line’s Eurodam’s 11th Perfect USPH Score

Kudos to Holland America Line’s Eurodam as it earned its 11th consecutive 100 score on a routine US Public Health inspection, a run that’s unprecedented both for the company and the cruise industry. The inspection was held Jan. 14 during a turnaround at Port Everglades at the start of a seven-day Caribbean cruise. This follows on the heels of sister ship Koningsdam achieving a perfect score on its first USPH inspection in December. In 2016 five additional HAL ships aced USPH: Eurodam, Maasdam, Veendam, Noordam and Westerdam. The year before 10 perfect scores were received by seven HAL ships: Eurodam, Noordam, Veendam, Zuiderdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Ryndam and Statendam.

British Airways strike for 7 days

Unite, the trade union of British Airways’s cabin crew, has announced another strike for seven consecutive days from March 3. The mixed fleet crew, who make up around 15 percent of the total BA cabin staff, have been in a long-running dispute over pay and Unite said that the solid results announced earlier on Friday by BA’s owner IAG meant they could meet the union’s demands. If you’re booked on British Airways, please check their website for updates before your flight. 

American Airlines boards passengers based on ticket cost

American has announced an update to its boarding process that will take the new fare into account. The company says that starting March 1, boarding groups will no longer be called by their current name. Instead, travelers will now board as part of a group ranging from Group 1 to Group 9. The changes may spark some confusion amongst travelers, who are used to the airline only using four groups to designate main boarding lanes. Now, however, groups 1-4 designate priority boarding lanes, while groups 5-9 represent main boarding lanes. Basic Economy travelers will be the last to board. Other airlines are likely to follow if this boarding method proves effective. Read more here: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/american-airlines-announces-new-boarding-process-022717.html

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Jimmy Fallon Loves Travel Agents

What better spokesman could there be for the new Jimmy Fallon ride at Universal Orlando than Jimmy Fallon himself? Jimmy turned up in person at a reception for members of the travel press to showcase the new ride and Universal Orlando Resort’s new water theme park, Volcano Bay, coming in April and May, respectively. And there was even a nod to travel agents. “Of course I use a travel agent. Travel agents get you the best rooms and the best rates,” Jimmy said when asked by TMR. “I was friends with a travel agent growing up in Saugerties, NY; I’ve used a travel agent my whole life. I don’t even know how to book my own trip.”

Egypt’s Visa Fee To More Than Double

Egypt is increasing fees for entry visas from $25 to $60 for incoming tourists starting 1 March. The foreign ministry informed airport security officials about the fee increase earlier this week. Egypt last raised the fee for its visa in April 2014, when it was increased from $15 to $25. Several tour operators have said that the decision would cause problems for tourists who booked trips based on the old rate. Some in the tourism sector say the decision should have been announced several months beforehand, expressing fears that the move might affect the country’s efforts to revive tourism, a pillar of the economy and a key source of foreign currency. 

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Pisa Is Adding A Ferris Wheel To Attract Tourists

Pisa, Italy, known for its leaning tower, is adding a Ferris wheel to attract tourists. Andrea Ferrante, Pisa’s culture commissioner, announced details about the wheel on state television, the Associated Press reported. The wheel will be more than 165-feet tall. (The tower is about 183-feet tall.) Italia Nostra, an organization dedicated to preserving Italy’s history, has come out against the ride, saying it will “clash” with Pisa’s Medieval architecture, AP reported. Controversial or not, the attraction is set to rise in a parking lot this summer to test if tourists like it. In addition to getting a bird’s eye view of the leaning tower, riders will also be able to see the Mediterranean. Pisa is on Italy’s western coast, about an hour’s drive from Florence. Ferris wheels have become popular as tourist attractions in several cities around the world. The London Eye may be the most well-known.

Elvis still a star

Nearly four decades after Elvis sang his last tune, his legacy got a US $45 million boost with the Thursday opening of a major new attraction at his Graceland estate – an entertainment complex that Priscilla Presley says gives “the full gamut” of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. About 200 people streamed into “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” after the late singer’s wife cut a ribbon and allowed fans to see the complex for the first time. Resembling an outdoor mall, the 200,000-square-foot campus sits across the street from Graceland, Presley’s longtime home-turned-museum. The complex features a comprehensive Presley exhibit with clothing he wore on stage and guitars he played, a showcase of the cars he owned and used, a soundstage, a theatre, two restaurants and retail stores.

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