Choice Hotels is offering enough Choice Privileges® points to redeem for a free night at over 1,500 hotels for those who take two separate trips up through May 14. Corporate travelers can book through a travel agent or corporate booking system. In addition, Choice is offering up to 20% off their Best Available Rate at participating hotels for booking in advance on ChoiceHotels.com. Travelers must first register before their first trip at ChoiceHotels.com to earn unlimited free nights. ChoiceHotels.com, 3/4/14
United has installed new bag-sizers at most airports and has emailed itsfrequent fliers, reminding them of its rules on carry-on size. Some passengers are being sent back to the ticket counter to check their oversized bag and pay a $25 fee, which has previously been waived. Size limits on carry-on bags have been in place for years, but airlines have inconsistently enforced them. Some have suggested that this is an attempt to collect more fees, but United says it’s simply trying to speed up the boarding process. The Associated Press, 3/4/14
Delta is moving away from rewarding customers purely on the number of miles flown to one that rewards flyers based on dollars spent. Each flyer will be eligible for between five and 11 miles per dollar spent, subject to their current SkyMiles status, as well as two more miles per dollar for paying with a Delta SkyMiles credit card. Industry observers believe other major airlines will probably have to follow Delta’s lead; in fact, Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin America already use a similar system. TravelMole, 3/4/14
Adding to its previously-announced new international routes to Aruba, Jamaica and the Bahamas, Southwest is expanding its network to Cancun and Los Cabos, Mexico. As of August 10, it will fly daily non-stops from Atlanta and Baltimore to Cancun and between Santa Ana, CA and Los Cabos. There will also be weekly Saturday Milwaukee-Cancun and Atlanta-Bahamas flights and in October daily non-stops from Denver to Cancun and Saturday flights to Los Cabos. There will be no more AirTran flights by 2015. TravelMole, 3/4/14
Airlines are focusing on letting wealthy fliers pass through airports without having to mingle with the masses. For first-class international travelers, American offers private check-in at Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York, which United has matched in Chicago and Newark. In Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York and Minneapolis, Delta will drive passengers with tight connections to their plane in a Porsche. Emirates (Dubai) and Lufthansa (Frankfurt) have separate first-class gates/terminals. Miami Herald, 2/27/14
Virgin is secretly planning to develop a cruise operation that would aim to eventually compete with industry giants including Carnival. Virgin Cruises is expected to be headquartered in the U.S., reflecting North America’s status as the world’s biggest cruise market. Forecasts call for cruises to carry 22.2 million passengers worldwide in 2015. Virgin has been looking into a range of potential opportunities across the wider leisure sector, including a four-star city-center concept called Virgin Hotels. Sky News, 3/4/14
Virgin has introduced a new, short animated movie drawn from various genres to inform passengers of aircraft emergency procedures. The airline decided to use this cinematic medium to capture the attention of more passengers during those mandatory presentations, played thousands of times weekly. This smart and snappy film is yet another clever Virgin approach to creating a unique flight experience for its passengers. Click here to preview.
The Transportation Security Administration has greatly expanded its expedited airport screening program called Pre-check for millions of passengers and expects to screen half of all passengers via this method by the end of the year. Pre-check participants move through checkpoints faster, keeping on their shoes and jackets, and leaving laptops and small containers of liquids in their carry-on bags. Security experts question whether it is thorough enough. And privacy experts warn against giving up personal information in exchange for a faster trip through the checkpoint.
The 1st airline fare increase of the year is modest and will primarily affect business travelers who buy flights at the last minute. Delta, initiated a $10 per round-trip fare hike earlier this week for high-priced tickets. United, Southwest and AirTran all matched the Delta hike. Another attempted increase by American and US Airways of $22 per round-trip for flights between the U.S. and Canada failed when Delta refused to match the increase in this market.
The Airline Reporting Corporation, ARC reports that sales of airline tickets are up. U.S.-based travel agencies sold more tickets in January 2014 than in January 2013. The consolidated dollar value of airline tickets sold by travel agencies increased 2.83 percent year-over-year comparing January as well. The totals: $7.84 billion vs. $7.62 billion in 2013. ARC settled $86 billion worth of carrier ticket transactions in 2013, for more than 9,400 travel agencies.
The deadline for visitors to Turkey to get an e-Visa has been extended from April 1 to the end of the year. Tourists can get Turkish visas on-line at, www.evisa.gov.tr/en or at the port of entry until Dec. 31, 2014, using kiosks. After the new deadline all visas must be processed electronically, online prior to travel. Visitors will be denied entry without an e-Visa.