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Category: Hugo Martin

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International visitors continue to spend more in U.S.

A bright spot in the nation's rebounding economy continues to shine.

International tourists are spending record amounts in the U.S., surpassing the pre-recession totals of  2008, according to the latest data from the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.

In October, international visitors spent $13.1 billion on travel to the U.S. and for tourism-related activities while they were there, a 13% increase over October 2010, the agency said.

Travel and tourism-related spending has increased, on average, more than $1.5 billion a month in 2011 and is on pace to break the record previously set in 2008 before the global economic slowdown.

The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries expects industry-related exports to surpass $152 billion for 2011.

Four countries are expected to account for two-thirds of the projected growth in international visitation to the U.S. over the next five years. About 31% of the growth will come from Canada, 13% from Mexico, 10% from China and 7% from Brazil, the agency said.

Meanwhile, the total spent by Americans traveling abroad reached $91.9 billion in the first 10 months of 2011, an 8% increase over the same period in 2010, the agency reported.

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-- Hugo Martin

Chart: Spending by international visitors in the U.S., monthly data. Credit: U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries

 

Airlines expected to increase onboard offerings

Passengers are served aboard a Delta flight.

Besides charging passengers to check luggage, the nation’s airlines have collected billions of dollars in extra revenue by turning their cabins into flying department stores.

And experts foresee big growth in such sales in the coming years.

The nation’s top airlines take in an average of nearly 12% of their revenue from onboard sales of food, drinks, online entertainment and blankets, among other items and services, according to industry studies.

In the future, airlines are likely to expand such offerings to include “destination-based attractions,” such as car rentals and hotel reservations and more entertainment options, according to a study released last week by Toronto-based GuestLogix, a provider of onboard sales technology to the world’s airlines.

The report predicts that most of the sales will be made from the entertainment system installed in the seat backs instead of from the carts that flight attendants roll down the cabin aisle.

“I think airlines are thinking about the passenger and trying to get them what they want,” said Chris Gardner, a managing director at GuestLogix.

GuestLogix found that revenue from so-called “comfort items” such as headphones, blankets, pillows and in-flight entertainment jumped 70% in the first half of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009.

Prepared meals and other fresh food generated nearly three times as much as revenue as pre-packaged snacks in the first six months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009.

Finally, the report confirmed what many in the airline industry had long assumed: The longer the flight, the more the airline sells in on-board products and services, particularly alcoholic drinks.

On flights under 500 miles, the average sale of alcoholic drinks was about $22, compared with $71 on flights over 1,500 miles, the report found.

“The longer the flight, passengers are less likely to wait until they are on the ground to buy food or have a drink,” the report said.

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: A chef and sommelier serves passengers on Delta Air Lines. Credit: Delta Air Lines

Carry-on bag fee at Spirit Airlines a success, analyst says

Spirit Airlines passenger at check-in area

Florida-based Spirit Airlines took a heap of criticism last summer when it announced that it was going to be the first — and so far only — airline to charge passengers up to $45 in extra fees to pack carry-on luggage in its planes’ overhead compartments.

Two federal lawmakers even threatened to impose a tax on all airline revenue generated by such fees, a penalty that has yet to be adopted.

But an industry consultant on airline revenue ideas has declared Spirit’s carry-on baggage fee a major success.

In the 12-month period after Spirit launched the fee in August 2010, the airline flew 24.5% more passengers compared with the same period in 2009, according to a study by Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks, a Wisconsin airline consultant.

Meanwhile, the airline reported a 10% to 12% profit margin in the nine months after the fee was added, a much higher margin than most of its larger competitors, according to the report.

“More than a year later, passenger traffic and revenue results have proven the skeptics wrong,” Sorensen said of the carry-on fee. A spokeswoman for Spirit declined to comment about the report.

Even more important than higher revenues, Sorensen said the carry-on fee has created a cost incentive for passengers to carry fewer bags into the cabin, thus speeding up the boarding process.

"Flight attendants report passenger boarding and unloading occurs far more quickly,” he said in the report. “This preserves Spirit’s desire to keep ground time at a minimum.”

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Jim Rader rolls his luggage away from the Spirit Airlines ticket counter after checking in for a flight at LaGuardia Airport in New York in February 2010. Credit: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg News

U.S. airlines blast court ruling on European emissions plan

Plane_getty595

The Court of Justice of the European Union upheld an emissions-reduction plan for airlines Wednesday, prompting an outcry from airlines and cheers from environmental groups.

The European emission plan would impose taxes on airlines that exceed strict emission limits when flying in and out of European countries.

U.S. airline representatives say the emission plan violates international agreements and have hinted that the tax could force airlines to increase airfares for travel to Europe.

“Today’s court decision further isolates the EU from the rest of the world and will keep in place a unilateral scheme that is counterproductive to concerted global action on aviation and climate change," according to a statement by the U.S. trade group Airlines for America, formerly known as the Air Transport Assn.

The association estimates the emission plan will cost U.S. airlines more than $3 billion through 2020.

Meanwhile, environmental groups applauded the ruling.

"It is high time airlines actually live up to their green claims and comply with the EU law, which will cut pollution and spark low-carbon innovation," said Annie Petsonk, international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund.

The Court of Justice, Europe's highest court, ruled on the emission plan in response to a challenge by the U.S. trade group and several individual airlines.

The European Commission launched the cap-and-trade emission plan in 2005, targeting utilities, manufactures and airlines. Starting next year, greenhouse gas emissions from airlines will be capped at 97% of their average 2004-06 levels and 95% in 2013.

Airlines that don't use all their allowances can sell the excess to those carriers that exceed the limits. The cost for violating the plan is 100 euros, or about $142, for every ton of greenhouse gases that airlines emit above the limit.

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— Hugo Martin

Photo credit: Getty Images

California to draw more than $100 billion from tourists in 2011

Tourists@hollywoodsign

Travel and tourism in California is expected to generate a total of $104.4 billion in direct spending in 2011, a 10% increase over last year.

The 2011 forecast included in a report by Tourism Economics, a Pennsylvania-based tourism consulting firm, also projects continued growth in travel spending in 2012.

California is expected to exceed the $100-billion mark for the first time ever in 2011 thanks to growth in domestic travel spending and a surge in international travel to the Golden State. Travelers to California spent $95.1 billion in 2010, according to the report.

Overall visitation numbers to California are expected to be up 4% in 2011, compared with last year. That increase includes a 6.9% growth in international visitors and a 9% increase in overseas visitors from such countries as China, France and Australia, according to the report.

Overseas visitors are most valued in the tourism industry because they typically stay longer and spend more money than domestic visitors.

Total travel-related employment in 2011 is expected to reach 890,000 jobs, or about 4% of the state's total employment, the report said.

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Leisure and business travel continue to grow

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--Hugo Martin

Photo: Brazilian tourists Masra Andrade, left, and Ticiana Santana have their picture taken with the Hollywood sign. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

Some flight attendants want '30 Rock' off American Airlines

Alec Baldwin on "Saturday Night Live"

Actor Alec Baldwin was thrown off an American Airlines flight this month after a fracas involving his cellphone. But now some flight attendants want his television show booted from the airline.

Baldwin was supposed to take a Dec. 6 flight from Los Angeles to New York but got kicked off the plane because he refused to stop playing a game on his cellphone as the flight was about the depart. He also slammed the door to the plane’s bathroom. In a statement, the airline said he violated Federal Aviation Administration rules and “was extremely rude to the crew.”

Baldwin, who stars in the NBC comedy “30 Rock,” later made fun of the controversy when he appeared on "Saturday Night Live" dressed as an American Airlines pilot. He also vowed not to fly on American again.

But the airline’s flight attendants are not laughing. Several members of the Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants have asked American to stop showing episodes of “30 Rock” on the airline’s onboard entertainment systems until Baldwin apologizes.

For now, American says it will continue to show “30 Rock” on its flights.

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Alec Baldwin, left, and Seth Meyers on "Saturday Night Live." Credit: NBC

Business travelers hate Houston and the middle seat, survey says

Business-class passengers on a United flight to Hawaii.

Imagine a business trip that starts with a delayed flight to Houston. On the flight you must sit in the middle seat next to a sick passenger or perhaps a crying baby. When you check into your hotel, your bed is a mess of bedbugs and dirty linen.

These horrific business trip scenarios emerge from an online survey of 3,756 business travelers who were asked to choose their least favorite city to visit and cite the top reasons they hate to travel.

But the source of the survey data might be biased on the subject. ON24, a San Francisco provider of virtual meetings and webcasting technology, conducted the survey to promote online meetings over face-to-face business trips.

When it comes to picking least favorite cities to visit for a convention or trade show, Houston got the most votes, with 49% of the survey respondents, and Los Angeles came in second with nearly 42%.

Asked to list their top travel gripe, 53% chose sitting in an airplane middle seat, 51% said having their flight delayed and 43% chose getting stuck next to a sick passenger or a baby.

When it comes to lodging, nearly 53% said they were concerned about sleeping in a room with bedbugs and 45% worry about dirty linen.

When asked what they dislike about trade shows and conventions, more than 60% cited boring presentations. Nearly 20% said they disliked a common trade show sight — attractive women who staff show exhibits, often known as “booth babes.”

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Business-class passengers on a United flight to Hawaii. Credit: Richard Derk / For The Times

First 11 months of 2011 were safest for air travel since 1945

An American Airlines plane takes off from Los Angeles International Airport

If you suffer from a fear of flying, here’s something that might calm your nerves: The first 11 months of 2011 have been the safest period for commercial air travel since 1945.

The global accident rate for January through November was 22% better than the same time last year and marked the safest period since a United Nations aviation agency began collecting data in 1945, according to the International Air Transport Assn., an airline trade group that issued a recent safety report based on the UN data.

Globally, there have been 486 passenger and crew fatalities in the first 11 months of the year, down from 784 fatalities in the same period last year, according to the trade group. In the first 11 months of 2011, the accident rate was 2.16 per million passenger takeoffs, down from 2.78 per million in the same period last year.

The most common accidents this year have been “runway excursions,” which occur when airplanes veer off or overrun the runway. Such incidents represented 23% of all accidents in that period, according to the report.

A spokesman for the trade group said he didn’t know why the first 11 months have been so safe but added that several changes over the years have improved overall aviation safety.

For example, IATA spokesman Perry Flint said manufacturers now build more reliable airplanes that include backup safety systems. He added that more countries are adopting international safety standards and annual safety audits.

“In general,” Flint said, “the safety trend line is moving in the right direction.”

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Photo: A plane takes off from Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times. 

Christmas and New Year's travel numbers expected to grow slightly

 

Christmas and New Year's travel numbers expected to increase slightly

With gasoline prices dropping, the Automobile Club of Southern California predicts that the number of Southern Californians traveling for the Christmas and New Year's holidays will increase slightly over last year.

For the end-of-the-year holidays, the Auto Club says 7.13 million Southland residents will travel at least 50 miles, a 1.4% increase over last year.

Of those holiday travelers who will take trips between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, 90%, or 6.3 million, will travel by car. That’s a 2.5% increase over last year.

Gasoline prices have been dropping in recent weeks. But the price of a gallon of regular gas, ranging from about $3.50 to $3.65 a gallon in Southern California, is still 30 cents higher than at this time last year, according to the Auto Club.

Nationally, 91.9 million Americans are expected to take end-of-the-year getaways, also a 1.4% increase over last year.

“In a positive sign for the economy, the number of travelers for this holiday period is expected to increase despite higher costs for gas and airfares,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services.

The most popular destinations for Southern Californians over the Christmas and New Year holidays, according to Auto Club travel agents, are:

1) Las Vegas

2) San Diego

3) San Francisco

4) Grand Canyon

5) Anaheim (Disneyland)

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Demand and fares continue to rise for the nation's airlines

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Los Angeles highway traffic. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Demand and fares continue to rise for the nation's airlines

Deltalax

The nation's airline industry continues to rebound from the Great Recession with federal reports showing airline traffic and airfares on the rise.

The average domestic airfare in the U.S. rose to $370 in April, May and June, up 8.5% from the same period in 2010, according to a report Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The $370 fare--not adjusted for inflation--is also 6.5% above the previous second-quarter high of $347 in 2008, according to the bureau.

During the recession, the average fare in the same three-month period dropped to a low of $302 in 2009.

Meanwhile, the nation's airlines also reported carrying 551.8 million domestic and international passengers in the first nine months of the year, a 1.9% increase from the same period in 2010, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The total passenger numbers for the first nine months are the highest for that period since 2008, according to the bureau.

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Hugo Martin

(Photo: A Delta Air Lines staff member helps a passenger at Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times)

 

Fraudulent airline ticket orders on the rise, reporting group says

LAXatXMAS
The number of fraudulent airline tickets ordered in the U.S. has surged recently, with more than $1 million in unauthorized tickets issued in the last few months.

The Airline Reporting Corp., the Arlington, Va.-based company that settles transactions between the nation's airlines and travel agents, reported Monday 82 incidents of unauthorized tickets ordered from August to November.

The face value of the fraudulent tickets in 2011 is more than $1 million, with the largest single incident valued at more than $77,000, according to ARC.

In contrast, Airline Reporting reported only 18 such incidents of fraudulent ticket orders in 2010.

The company attributes the surge in fraudulent tickets to online scams targeting travel agents. The scammers send "phishing emails" to travel agents that appear to have been sent from the global distribution systems that provide travel agents the ability to book and issue airline tickets, according to ARC. The agents who open the email are directed to  log in to a fraudulent website and type in their credentials to order tickets.

Airline Reporting publicized the increase in fraudulent ticket orders to warn travel agents to be on the lookout for such email scams.

“ARC has banded together with other industry leaders to educate agents on how to identify these illegal emails and avoid navigating to fraudulent links,” said Chuck Fischer, director of operations integrity at ARC.

Airline Reporting settles about 45% of all airline ticket transactions in the country. It does not report on tickets purchased by customers directly from the airlines.

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Passengers submit boarding passes at Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times. 

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