Wednesday Briefing: More on Virgin’s New Cruise Line, White House to Require Delayed Baggage Refunds

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin at the Miami press event.

From the latest on Virgin’s new cruise line to new White House rules regarding air travel, here are the top travel industry headlines to follow this morning. 

Virgin’s New Cruise Line Now Virgin Voyages

We haven’t heard much from Virgin’s new cruise line since it was announced back at the end of 2014. That changed at a Miami press event yesterday when Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson announced the brand’s new name — Virgin Voyages — and updated media on what’s ahead for the cruise line. 

Virgin Voyages, which will be headed by President and CEO Tom McAlpin, who also had helped to found Disney Cruise Line, plans to start construction in the fourth quarter of 2017 on three new ships, each of which will accommodate more than 2,700 passengers and 1,150 crew. The ships, which are scheduled for delivery starting in 2020, will sail with the Climeon Ocean system that transforms low-grade energy into electricity, lowering emissions and environmental impact. The ships will homeport from PortMiami, offering Caribbean cruises. 

What to expect? Branson has vowed that the new cruise line will make a strong effort to appeal to first-time cruisers, promising that the brand’s “approach will appeal to cruisers and non-cruisers alike, and we look forward to being in Miami and delivering an experience for people who want a new way to cruise" when he announced PortMiami as the brand’s homeport last year. 

Travel Agent’s Susan Young had a chance to speak with Virgin Voyages officials about the line’s latest plans — stay tuned to our cruise newsletter Monday for more

Port Canaveral Estimates $7 Million Damage From Hurricane Matthew

In other cruise news, officials at Port Canaveral have announced that the port sustained as much as $7 million in damage from Hurricane Matthew, Florida Today reports. The damage could have been much worse, however, had the storm passed closer to shore when it was near Brevard County. The port was also able to reopen quickly after the storm, limiting the loss in revenue from cruise lines. 

The port sustained $2 million to $3 million in damage to buildings, which could increase to $5 million to $7 million as repair work continues. More detailed figures will be released later this week. The port has reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance in repairs. 

Obama Administration Announces New Rules for Airlines

In air travel news, the Obama Administration and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have issued a series of new rules for airlines covering delayed baggage and airline advertising. 

The DOT has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to require airlines to refund fees for checked baggage if a passenger’s luggage is substantially delayed. 

Additionally, the DOT has released new final rules regarding airline advertising. These new rules include a requirement that large U.S. airlines report performance for any plane that flies under their banner, including flights of their domestic codeshare partners, which are typically smaller, regional airlines that are sold under the brand of the larger airline. Additionally, online ticket agents are prohibited from “undisclosed biasing” of flight offerings on behalf of certain airlines. U.S. airlines must also now report on how often they mishandle wheelchairs, as well as the total number of mishandled checked bags and the total number of checked bags. 

The DOT is also conducing a separate rule making to explore a requirement that airlines must share fee information with ticket agents on products that were previously included in standard airfare, such as checked baggage, advance seat assignment and priority boarding fees. The DOT says such a move would help customers get an “all-in-one” price when they shop online. 

Finally, the DOT has issued a Request for Information on whether the practice by some airlines of preventing online travel sites from listing certain sets of the airline’s fare and flight options constitute an unfair practice. The DOT will be soliciting feedback from consumer groups, industry and other stakeholders on the matter. 

Jonathan Tisch Back as Loews CEO

Finally, in hotel news, Loews Hotels has announced that Jonathan Tisch will resume the duties of CEO following the departure of Kirk Kinsell for personal reasons, effective immediately. Tisch will also continue to serve as chairman of the company and co-chairman of the board for Loews Corporation

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