Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: November 16-20

Since the last time we last chatted, I've been a pretty busy guy. On Thursday, November 12 (my brother Sean Cassels' birthday— sorry buddy but I had to be somewhere), I flew down to Aruba and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino while covering Hyatt's Travel Agent Awards. Yes, I was in Aruba but it wasn't like I was splashing around in the Caribbean Sea the whole time. I took a property tour, seen in the video below, and am still working on my follow-up for the next print edition of Travel Agent.

Upon my return, I had to perform my civil duty by participating in the justice squad... that is attend jury duty for two days. Fortunately, being married to a legal marketer and the offspring of a doctor and nurse gave the lawyers plenty of reason to excuse me from a medical malpractice case (Attention patient: next time try medical tourism).

Now back in the chilly Northeast and away from near sequestration, I see that this whole Twilight New Moon is the big deal this weekend, Sarah Palin's book tour is mainstream media's dream come true, and professional sports should change the label on marijuana from recreational drug to performance enhancer as Cy Young-winner Tim Lincecum has been busted for possession of pot (not too long after Michael Phelps was caught smoking after winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics).

But as exhilarating as brawling teenage vampires and werewolves, former vice presidential candidates, and hippy athletes may be, we've got other topics to discuss here this week, so let's take a look.

Hate Them, Can't Leave Them

George Dooley's feature piece on airline fees and how they may lead to more disaster in the industry broached familiar territory for travel agents and their clients. One reader, John, shares a recent experience he had and touches on it to iterate his take on where airline baggage fees are leading us, saying:

I was on a flight a few weeks ago when a small passenger was trying to put a large heavy bag in the overhead bin. She lost control of it and injured another passenger who was seated under that spot. If she had been allowed to check that bag for free, the other passenger would not have been injured. I can see what is coming - weigh the passenger and all the bags and charge accordingly. That way everyone is paying their fare share. Run the airlines like a freight company - it cost so much per pound to transport from point A to point B. Charge what it actually costs, plus 15 percent profit and everyone will be happy.  Then the airlines can compete again on who has the best meals and best service.

I have to disagree with John's point that everyone will be happy. Something tells me only new problems would arise (especially for agents getting phone calls from clients complaining that they cannot board and that they feel fat). Meanwhile, he could be right about treating passengers like cargo. After all, United Airlines is implementing a pay-more-to-fly-if-you-are-fat policy while Ryanair customers are heavily in favor of a "fat tax" for obese passengers.

Stuck Between A Terminal & A Jetway

Continuing with the air travel and passenger theme, I'd like to address a comment made by Katy about the best airports for getting stranded. She asks:

Being a travel agent, this info will be helpful when choosing connection cities for my clients. Would you be able to expandy on this list and tell us more?

Katy, glad to help. For starters, click through the related story link about the 10 best and worst airports for sleeping, where you'll get more informatio about other airports.

From my personal experience, I can name two airports and one terminal where I've been stuck for awhile and was not destroyed by the experience. Chicago's O'Hare airport may be famous for delays, but its easy access to public transportation to the center of the city and back was quite convenient when I had a five-hour layover there back in 2004. With 90-minutes of roundtrip travel time, I was able to enter the Windy City and grab a beer while watching Bears fans throw a conniption over one Rex Grossman.

Meanwhile, as much as I understand many would not want to visit Philadelphia (I lived there for two years), it's airport is also easily accessible/departable via the city thanks to public transportation.

Finally, as much as New York's JFK is a living hell for some, JetBlue's Terminal 5 is pretty kick-ass. The free Wifi, array of shops and dining, the salon (in which I have not yet partaken but have heard good things) and the proximity of bar service near all gates was quite ideal as I journeyed to Aruba last week (granted the Bloody Mary the bartender comped me to bring on the plane my have slanted my judgment here).

But I am just on person, and I am not an agent, so what say you readers? Can you help Katy and I expand on this list of airports where it's not so bad to get stuck?

American Airlines, Anxiety & Angst

There were two stories we recently published that invovled American Airlines (AA) which received some interesting comments. This first was about the ongoing tussle between AA and Virgin Atlantic over Japan Airlines (JAL). I have no opinion on the matter, so I'm steering clear of who I would say is right or wrong in this situation. But it appears an AA employee, going by the name Ryan M, felt the need to state his company's case on the matter, writing:

Once again, Virgin’s comments are long on accusations and rhetoric and short on the facts. American is opposed to a Delta-Japan Airlines (JAL) tie-up for the same reason we are confident our transatlantic immunity application will be approved: to preserve and enhance competition.
SkyTeam with a Delta-JAL combination would account for nearly 60 percent of U.S.-Tokyo passengers, as opposed to oneworld’s approximate 44 percent share of U.S.-London passengers. AA and British Airways only account for about 40 percent of U.S.-U.K. traffic, whereas Delta-JAL would consolidate the positions of the two largest U.S.-Japan carriers with more than 60 percent share of U.S.-Japan passengers, leaving oneworld with just a 6 percent share.
The bottom line is we’re aiming to level the playing field for alliance competition in the transatlantic market and to prevent an unlevel field for alliance competition from evolving in the transpacific.

Ryan, it's an honor having your eyes perusing our site. I am not taking sides here, but I'll say I had a pleasant experience flying AA from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico and then over to St. Thomas for my recent honeymoon before flying back from St. Thomas to Miami and then back up to New York (and yes, the Miami airport deserves its placement in the top five airports for getting stranded mentioned above), so if you want to help me out with another flight sometime I'd be very happy. I've never flown Virgin, if that helps persuade you :)

Another commentator had some curious words to share about AA, but they were not in defense of the airline nor about its competition with other carriers. This time, it was about the recent announcement that ARC and AA are going to develop a dupicate ID tool to avoid mishaps with overbooking flights. Sounds like an interesting idea, but for NYC Travel Agent it sounds a little Orwelian, sharing:

I'm very curious on how a fool-proof system will be created to make matches on duplicate bookings?Something tells me they will use their access to now-required APIS & Secure Flight data in order to create the cross-check use? Privacy matters?

I think something being so publicized and, hopefully, regulated could avoid trouble related to NYC Travel Agent's concerns, but I'm not industry expert and the only type of law I am adept at is communicaiton law (say whatever you want as long as it's true). Privacy concerns will never go away. Hardcore liberals accuse the government of using security as a reason to invade privacy whereas hardcore conservatives say healthcare reform will contribute to the removal of our civil liberties. But I think NYC Travel Agent is right in raising this issue right away. Does anyone else share his concern or, perhaps, think he/she is getting too paranoid like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory?

What's In A Word?

Hurricane Ida has come and gone and seems to have been the worst of the season. It sadly killed hundreds in El Salvador before disrupting many cruise itineraries in the Gulf Coast region near Florida and Alabama. Our own Dave Eisen wrote about the subject, choosing "Hurricane Ida Wreaks Havoc Along Gulf Coast" as the headline, and one reader did not agree on the choice of verb and adjective. Paul Graber, commented:

I think the headline is sending out the wrong message.

Because Paul neglected to share what in the headline was wrong and what he thinks a better message would have been, it's not easy to answer this statement precisely. On one hand, I think anyone who was on those cruise ships or about to embark would consider trip cancelation and storm-battling havoc. On the other hand, when places like Panama City report that the storm left them "unscathed," then perhaps the headline was a tad dramatic. Still go you to read it though, right?

Crucon Cruise: Good or Bad?

In the last weekly wrap, I addressed Maria Jones' critical comments on the company and asked readers to reply in agreement with or in contrast against Ms. Jones. Peter Blank answered the call, stating:

I have found Leana and CruCon customer service to be responsive and especially quick to apply price reductions.

Thank you Peter for chiming in. We now have one for and one against the company, so who is going to jump in and be the tiebreacker in this rubber match of comments? Anyone? Anybody? Bueller?


Guess who's back?! Don't be surprised, YTB remains one of the more highly-contested topics of conversation round these parts of the Internet. So when Dooley reported on the company's third-quarter earnings (or lack thereof?), it was only a matter of moments for someone to chime in. And that someone was Jay, who asked:

Will someone please pull the plug on this scam?

It may take awhile Jay. Despite YTB's court troubles in California as well as in Illinois, it is likely not going away anytime soon. Fallout from court settlements can take forever (I know from experience as I await word on what's happening after Tishman Speyer lost its appeal of a class action lawsuit over rent stabilization in Stuyvesant Town neighborhood). Best of luck to all of us, eh?

Beauty Queen Babble

No, we're not talking about Sarah Palin's stint as a beauty queen contestant nor are we talking about Carrie Prejean's little display on Larry King, we are talking about Miss Texas USA Brooke Daniels. We have mentioned her a few times before as a result of her attendance at the Miss Spain contest in Cancun, and some people are ANGRY! Check the comments for yourself, because this latest one, posted by someonewhoknows, just has me confused:

I don't understand how people can judge from afar???? I wonder what they thought about the stockers who were obviously watching them the whole are just sad girls who dont have lifes!! Btw thier mother is beautiful and far from preggers!

I think someonewhoknows means stalkers, not stockers. That aside, as amusing as I find this I am confused as to a story can elicit such raw emotion from some commentators, which then only spawn more craziness. But I'm not going to complain, it makes this part of me week that more interesting. Anyone else want to throw some turpentine on this brush fire?

Thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday, I won't be writing the Weekly Wrap next week so we'll be in touch again later in the month. Until then, don't forget to keep these conversations and topics of discussion going in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online that is for all kinds of travel agents and professionals. Log in and/or sign up today.