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This Week in Travel News

Join us every Friday for the latest news from the Travel Industry.

Chinese HNA Group To Buy Carlson Hotels
HNA Group has agreed to buy Carlson Hotels, which owns brands including Radisson and Country Inns and Suites, the latest in a flurry of overseas investments by Chinese companies. HNA Tourism Group will acquire all of Carlson Hotels Inc., the companies said in a joint statement released late Wednesday that did not disclose the purchase price. Carlson’s headquarters would remain in Minnetonka, Minn., after the deal is completed. The purchase is the latest in a string of global transactions by Chinese companies as they diversify abroad to counter slowing growth at home while also scooping up foreign expertise and technology. As part of the deal, the Chinese company will also acquire a 51.3 percent stake in Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group AB, which operates Carlson hotels in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Carlson has 1,400 hotels in 115 countries and territories and employs about 90,000 staff worldwide. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to be completed in the second half of 2016.

JetBlue To Launch NY LaGuardia-Boston Flights, Aiming At Business Travelers
Reuters reports JetBlue Airways Corp said Thursday that it will start six round-trip flights per weekday between New York’s space-constrained LaGuardia airport and Boston, in a bid to capture business travelers on the heavily trafficked route. JetBlue said it would move some of its LaGuardia-Florida flights to nearby Newark Liberty airport in order to free up take-off slots for the endeavor, now that the US Federal Aviation Administration has made it easier for airlines to grow at Newark.

United Airlines Cutting Chicago To London Flights June 30
The airline has been flying the route for the past seven years. United gave no warning and has not formally announced the cancellation. Travellers only found out last week when told by airport counter staff and when the United website would not book direct London-Toronto flights past June 30. A United spokesperson said last week the Chicago-London route was canceled because a regular review found it was “not meeting expectations.” London International Airport president Mike Seabrook said United was cutting a number of Canadian services because the low Canadian dollar was making the flights unprofitable.

Her Majesty Queen Máxima Of The Netherlands Named Godmother Of Koningsdam
Holland America Line’s tradition will continue when Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands christens Holland America Line’s new Pinnacle-class ship, Koningsdam, in a ceremony in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, May 20, 2016. embers of the Dutch Royal Family have launched 11 Holland America Line ships. Most recently, then-Princess Máxima christened ms Nieuw Amsterdam in 2010 and then-Queen Beatrix served as ms Eurodam’s godmother in 2008.

London’s Big Ben To Go Silent For Several Years
The British Parliament announced Tuesday that the chimes of Big Ben that have rung out across the British capital for more than 150 years are set to fall silent for “several months” to make “urgent” repairs. Big Ben is one of London’s most famous icons, and its “bongs” are broadcast live on BBC Radio. Urgent repairs are needed on the Great Clock and the tower that houses Big Ben. While almost everyone refers to the clock tower as “Big Ben,” that’s not technically true. Big Ben is the nickname given to the 13.5-ton bell that resides inside the Elizabeth Tower. The clock itself is known as the Great Clock.

Anne Frank House In Amsterdam Aims To Cut Queues With Timed Tickets
The Anne Frank House is introducing a new timed ticketing system to reduce the length of queues outside one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions. Visitors who want to see the museum before 3.30 pm will have to book their tickets online before they go. They will be allocated a 15-minute time slot so they can go in without having to wait outside. After 3.30 pm tourists will be able to pay at the desk as before and pre-purchased tickets will not be valid.

Australians Sue Scenic Over Flood-Disrupted European River Cruises
A class action against Australian-owned Scenic has begun in the New South Wales Supreme Court with 1,265 plaintiffs claiming ‘expensive luxury river cruises’ turned into ‘cheap second-rate bus tours’ because of extensive flooding in Europe in 2013. Heavy rain in France and Germany in April and May 2013 caused extensive flooding and water levels on the Rhine, Saone, Rhone and Danube rivers rose so high that river cruise ships were unable to operate as scheduled for about six weeks.

Biggest Theme Park In The Dubai Region To Open In October
It’s been two years in the making, but Motiongate Dubai’s development is on schedule; it will open its doors as the biggest theme park in the region this October. Motiongate is a park themed to DreamWorks, Sony Pictures, Lionsgate, Smurfs Village and Studio Central animation characters emerged to take the form of Dubai’s newest leisure and entertainment destination in 2014. Motiongate Dubai will be part of a larger complex of theme parks, which will include Bollywood Parks Dubai and Legoland Dubai. The entire complex will estimated to cost Dh10.5 billion that will cover 25 million square feet on the south side of Dubai near the border with Abu Dhabi. The complex is expected to attract 6.7 million visitors in its first year of operations. Motiongate Dubai will boast 27 attractions, with dining, retail and entertainment options throughout the area.

British Airways Takes on Budget Carriers With New Fares
British Airways has launched new fares in a bid to simplify short-haul travel and compete with its low-cost rivals. There are three new fare types – Basic, Plus and Plus Flex are now on sale, replacing the airline’s six existing options. Basic is the cheapest of the new fares and doesn’t include checked luggage. The new Plus fare includes a 23kg checked baggage allowance and allows free flight changes until the day of departure, up to one hour before the scheduled take off, though fare differences may apply. The Plus Flex fare, meanwhile, is fully refundable and includes a 23kg checked baggage allowance, free flight changes on the day, free seat selection at booking and free advance changes subject to fare difference.

Delta Air Lines Just Abolished One of the Most Hated Fees
Delta Air Lines has abruptly stopped charging extra for booking seats offline. “It is much simpler for our customers to not have to worry if they will pay a fee for ticketing with Delta,” Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s incoming president, said in a prepared statement. Phone reservation fees are among the most least popular charges in the travel industry. A recent survey found 49% of travelers “hated” them. The announcement came as a surprise, given that the airline industry lately has based its business model on ancillary fees, like these: $25 per ticket when purchased over the phone through reservation sales and $35 per ticket when purchased at airports and other ticket office.

Venezuela To Ration Electricity
On 21 April 2016, the Venezuelan government announced that it will begin rationing electricity nationwide for four hours each day, starting on 25 April. The electricity cuts will be in place for 40 days or until water levels at the Guri Dam, which provides the majority of electricity in Venezuela, stabilize. The schedule of cuts will be published on a daily basis in newspapers and on ministerial websites. Only the oil sector will be exempt from the rationing. The announcement is the latest in a series of measures aimed at reducing Venezuela’s electricity usage, including plans to shift the country’s time zone forward by 30 minutes on 1 May, reducing government workers’ workdays to six hours and giving them Fridays off for the next two months, and ordering shops and hotels to ration electricity.

Germany Rolls Out ‘Women Only’ Train Compartments
Special train compartments exclusively for women have been introduced by a German rail company. The areas for female passengers only are regularly checked by workers on services run by Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn (MRB) in the east of the country. Women-only train cars are in use in many cities – including Cairo, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur – but none are believed to be in the heart of Europe. Now, in a highly controversial decision, a private German railway company wants to adopt the idea as well. According to Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, women-only carriages will be available on trains running between Leipzig and Chemnitz.

FAA Orders Fix For GE Engines On 787 Dreamliners
Another problem for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The FAA has ordered an urgent fix for General Electric engines on up to 150 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, a step to avoid engine failure in icy conditions. The Federal Aviation Administration said it was requiring modifications to prevent fan blades from rubbing against the engine casing, which can cause “damage and a possible in-flight non-restartable power loss of one or both engines.” The measure was prompted by a report in January that such rubbing caused vibrations, leading the pilot to shut down the engine, a GE spokesman said.

Maryland And Royal Caribbean Sign New Contract
The Maryland Port Administration announced a new contract with Royal Caribbean International that will extend the cruise line’s year-round departures from the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore through June 2020. Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas will continue to offer a wide range of cruising experiences from Maryland to the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and New England/Canada. The Grandeur of the Seas will continue offering five, nine and 12-night roundtrip itineraries from Baltimore, including a new nine-night voyage to Nassau. In 2015, nearly 200,000 passengers sailed on 90 cruises from the Port of Baltimore. The Port ranks 6th on the East Coast, 11th in the U.S. and 20th in the world for cruise passengers.

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Is Economy Plus Really Worth It?

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Heard of Economy Plus or Economy Comfort but not sure what it means?

Economy Plus or Economy Comfort (both terms are correct and interchangeable, which term utilized depends on the airline) is the front section of economy/coach class that typically offers more comfortable seats. If you have purchased economy class on a flight, you are eligible to purchase one of these “plus” seats, at anywhere from $20-$120. International seats are typically more expensive than domestic seats.

Though generally not as cozy or as serviced as business/first class, this special seating offers more comfort to take the edge off a long flight. Understandably, many of our clients prefer this seating on long-haul international flights. Note that Economy Plus seats are NOT available with all airlines or on all airplanes. Delta, United, Virgin America, Frontier and JetBlue all offer economy plus/comfort on select flights.

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Economy Plus/Comfort CAN (but are not guaranteed to) include:

  • up to 1-2 extra inches of seat width
  • up to 2-3 extra inches of seat recline
  • up to 3-4 extra inches of legroom
  • Premium food service
  • Priority boarding
  • Seating in the first few rows of the economy cabin

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Don’t Confuse Economy Plus/Comfort with Premium Economy, which is a separate section–seats between Economy and Business/First. Premium Economy is only offered on select airlines, and can offer even more benefits at a different fare level.

Some airlines, such as United, allows complimentary access to Economy Plus seating for their Premier members and up to 8 of their traveling companions.

United Airlines is now offering an economy plus annual subscription, which automatically upgrades your seat to one on economy plus if available. If you do more than two international trips per year, it’s definitely worth it. The subscription also provides for two checked bags per flight for the subscriber and up to 8 companions. For more information and to book, check it out on United’s website.

This is just one of the insider tips that travel agents can offer. Ask your Willamette Intl Travel agent to book the best flights with guaranteed economy plus/comfort for you and your family. Call 800-821-0401 or email info@wittravel.com.

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