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Category: Hugo Martin

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TSA to expand faster security check program

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In the two months since the federal government launched a program letting fliers who provide background information to zip through special airport security checkpoints, more than 120,000 passengers have taken advantage of the program.

Fliers who participate in the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program don’t have to remove shoes, belts or coats at designated airport checkpoints. So far, the TSA has invited only some frequent fliers with Delta and American airlines to participate in PreCheck at airports in Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit and Miami.

The number of passengers using PreCheck is expected to grow quickly because TSA Administrator John Pistole announced last week that first-class and other “elite” passengers on United and Continental airlines will be allowed to participate in the program next year.

United and Continental are set to merge by March to create the nation’s largest airline.

The program is also expected to expand to airports in Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Los Angeles early next year. The idea behind the program is to allow TSA agents to devote more resources to checking high-risk passengers and travelers the agency knows little about.

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: A TSA official displays how full-body scanners work at Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Red Roof Inn launches redesign based on guest suggestions

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If you could redesign your hotel room, what would you include?

Red Roof Inn, one of the nation’s largest budget hotel chains, has launched a $90-million redesign effort this month for its nearly 350 hotels across the country based on the comments of thousands of guests in Texas, Georgia and Ohio.

The data was collected from email surveys taken over the last 12 to 18 months.

The top request by guests was for more electrical outlets in each room to power all of those smartphones, e-readers and other mobile electronic devices. The chain said it will add a minimum of four extra outlets per room as part of the redesign project.

The second most requested change was to install flat-screen TVs. The hotel chain plans to put 32- and 37-inch flat screen TVs in every hotel room nationwide by the end of 2012.

Other changes that are coming as a result of the guest survey are new wood-like flooring instead of carpeting, more powerful shower heads and more bathroom counter space.

“When someone is traveling, they want to feel at home, or better,” Red Roof President Andrew Alexander said in a statement.

The Red Roof Miami Airport hotel will be the first to get the upgrade. The chain’s 12 hotels in California should get the redesign work completed by the end of 2014.

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: A rendering of a renovated Red Roof Inn room. Credit: Red Roof Inn

Disneyland and union settle long labor dispute

Disneylandhotelworkers

Ending a four-year dispute, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim reached a five-year contract agreement with 2,100 hotel workers.

The dispute had bogged down recently over healthcare cost increases in Disneyland's proposed contracts.

The labor union, Unite Here Local 11, claimed the workers could not afford the increases and organized several protests at the theme park and at Disney's Burbank studios.

"We’re extremely pleased that the Disneyland Resort hotel cast members represented by Unite Here Local 11 have overwhelmingly supported this fair and comprehensive agreement,” Tony Bruno, vice president of Disneyland Resort Hotels and Downtown Disney, said in a statement.

The new contract, which extends through January 2017, includes wage increases and a decreased workload for housekeepers. It also gives workers a choice to remain in the union healthcare plan, with employee contributions of $7 to $10 per week, or transition to one of Disney's healthcare programs and be eligible for a one-time bonus.

The new contract also provides job security and seniority protection for both full-time and part-time workers.

The contract covers housekeepers, food and beverage workers, front-desk staff and other hourly workers at the Disneyland Hotel, the Grand Californian Hotel and the Paradise Pier Hotel.

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Unite Here members protesting at Disneyland. Credit: DisZine.com

Airlines trade group predicts global profits to shrink in 2012

Airlines LAX

A trade group for the world's airlines fears surging fuel prices and the ongoing Eurozone crisis could cut into the industry's rebounding profit margin.

In a report filed Wednesday, the International Air Transport Assn. maintained its previous prediction that the world's airline industry would collect $6.9 billion in profits this year, or a margin of 1.2%. But the group lowered its profit forecast for 2012 from $4.9 billion to $3.5 billion, or a margin of 0.6%.

And if the Eurozone crisis evolves into a banking crisis and another steep recession, the association predicts the airline industry could lose up to $8 billion next year.

“The biggest risk facing airline profitability over the next year is the economic turmoil that would result from a failure of governments to resolve the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis,” said Tony Tyler, the association's director general and chief executive.

But the group reported good news for airlines in North America, which are expected to finish 2011 with $2 billion in profits, up from a previous forecast of $1.5 billion, thanks in part to increased travel demand. Airlines have also kept profits high by packing more passengers per plane.

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Southwest Airlines sued over drink coupons

— Hugo Martin

Photo: Planes land and depart from Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

 

Americans get less vacation, still don't use it all, study says

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American workers expect to receive less vacation time in 2011 than the previous year but still won't use all of their allotted time off, according to a study on vacation habits by the travel website Expedia.com.

The main reason given: Worries about money.

While American workers said they expect to get an average of 14 days of vacation in 2011, the workers only took 12 days off of work, according to the study that polled 7,803 workers in 20 countries.

In 2010, the average American worker received 15 days of vacation and only took 12, the study said.

In contrast, the average French worker said he expected to receive 30 days of vacation in 2011 and will take all of them, according to the study.

But the Expedia study concluded that the world's most vacation-deprived workers live in Asia. Japanese workers say they will take only five vacation days in 2011 out of 11 days they earned. South Korean workers will take seven out of an allotment of 10 days of vacation.

The top reason given by workers worldwide for not taking vacation time was that they believed they could not afford it. American workers lead the world in money worries, with 34% of American workers saying they can't afford to take vacation time, according to the study.

Still, the study found that when asked to describe their financial situation, almost half of Americans who were polled called it "solid" or "good."

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Lawmakers and airlines square off over bag fees

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Vacationers relax on a beach. Credit: Getty Images.

American Airlines bankruptcy: 'Business as usual' for passengers

Aa

The parent company for American Airlines, the nation's third largest carrier, filed for bankruptcy, citing high labor costs and a volatile economy.

American Airlines, the largest carrier at Los Angeles International Airport, sought to assure passengers that the filing would not affect their travel plans, saying all tickets, reservations and reward points would be honored.

"American Airlines remains open for business," said Craig Kreeger, the airline's vice president for customer experience. "It's business as usual."

Until it filed for Chapter 11 protection Tuesday, AMR Corp. represented the last major network carrier in the U.S. to avoid bankruptcy in the tumultuous decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Many of American Airlines' competitors that renegotiated labor contracts and debts in the bankruptcy process have reported strong profit margins in the past few years.

But AMR posted a net loss of $884 million in the nine months that ended Sept. 30, more than double the loss of the prior year's nine-month period.

The board of directors of AMR Corp. also announced Tuesday that it had appointed Thomas W. Horton chairman and chief executive officer of the company, succeeding Gerard Arpey, who informed the board of his plans to retire.

Arpey, 53, was chief executive officer since 2003 and chairman since 2004.

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Southwest Airlines sued over drink coupons

Leisure and business travel continue to grow

TSA says no new study of scanner health effects needed

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: An American Airlines plane at Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times

 

Southwest Airlines sued over drink coupons

An Illinois man who said Southwest Airlines rewarded him with at least 45 drink coupons for buying premium-priced "Business Select" tickets is suing the airline, saying it now refuses to honor the couponsAn Illinois man who said Southwest Airlines rewarded him with at least 45 drink coupons for buying premium-priced "Business Select" tickets is suing the airline, saying it now refuses to honor the coupons.

Such drink coupons were once printed without expiration dates, but Southwest changed its policy on Aug. 1, 2010, saying the tickets given to Business Select passengers may be used only on the day of the travel.

The plaintiff, Adam Levitt, said the policy change amounts to a breach of contract and makes his coupons worthless. He is asking for compensatory and punitive damages, to be determined at trial.

"Southwest decided that it would make more money -- improve its bottom line -- by choosing not to honor the coupons that consumers had already paid and bargained for," said the complaint filed in federal court in Chicago.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status for Southwest customers in the U.S. with unredeemed drink coupons.

The airline declined to comment on the lawsuit, but Southwest spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said the airline changed the policy because some passengers were making photocopies of the coupons to get free drinks.

"We made the decision to post an expiration date on the coupon to prevent the unauthorized copying of the coupons," Eichinger said

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TSA says no new study of scanner health effects needed

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: A Southwest drink coupon. Credit: Southwest Airlines

Lawmakers and airlines square off over bag fees

Www.baggagereuters.com

With the busy holiday travel season in full swing, federal lawmakers, passenger rights advocates and airlines are squaring off in Congress over one of the thorniest issues in flying today: baggage fees.

But the bottom line is that you will probably get no reprieve from the fees any time soon.

A Louisiana senator proposed legislation last week that would allow airline passengers to check one bag for free on each flight.

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu said the bill is meant to protect passengers from excessive fees.

The legislation would also guarantee that passengers can bring carry-on bags at no extra charge and get access to water and bathrooms on flights.

“Passengers have been nickeled and dimed for far too long and something has to be done about it,"  she said in a statement.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano recently suggested that airlines should let passengers check one bag for free to reduce the number of carry-on bags packed into the overhead bins. She said  carry-on bags slow the screening process and increase the screening cost nationwide by $260 million a year.

More than 72% of air travelers said that the growing volume of carry-on bags is one of their top frustrations in a recent survey by the U.S. Travel Assn.

But the industry group that represents the nation’s airlines opposes Landrieu’s bill.

“Obviously we don’t think it’s appropriate for the government to regulate what services a private industry should offer to customers and at what price … especially since aviation was de-regulated in 1978," said Steve Lott, a spokesman for the Air Transport Assn.

Landrieu’s bill has been sent to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for a hearing.

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Photo: An employee keeps and eye on luggage at John F. Kennedy Airport. Credit: Reuters

AT&T adds cell sites to serve LAX travelers

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Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday rush, AT&T has activated three cell sites at Los Angeles International Airport to serve air travelers.

AT&T already had sites to serve cellphone users in the area but the three new sites, resembling antennae installed on the roofs of parking garages, are the first to be installed on airport property, according to airport officials.

The cell sites, added over the past month, are designed to improve capacity for cellphone users at the airport, especially the 2 million passengers expected to fly out of LAX during the holiday weekend.

The sites are part of a $20-billion nationwide effort by AT&T to upgrade and expand its network infrastructure.

RELATED:

Leisure and business travel continue to grow

John Wayne Airport ready for Thanksgiving crowds

Thanksgiving travel in Southern California expected to rise

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: LAX at night. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Leisure and business travel continue to grow

LAXatXMAS

Despite higher travel costs, the world's hotel industry continued to enjoy a higher pace of leisure and business bookings in October, according to an analysis of global data.

Global hotel bookings for leisure travel rose 4.7% in October, compared with the same period last year, despite an increase in average daily rates of 2.5%, according to the report by Pegasus Solutions, a Dallas-based technology provider for the travel industry.

In North America, leisure travel bookings grew by 5.8% in October over the same month last year, while hotel rates jumped 4.3% in that same period, according to the study.

Business travel bookings grew in October by 4% worldwide, and by 3.3% in North America, compared with last year, according to Pegasus Solutions. The global hotel rates for business travelers increased almost 3% over the previous year and by 4% in North America.

But based on advanced booking data, the study predicted that the pace of business and leisure travel bookings will slow down starting in January.

"All regions are feeling the effects of the limping global economy one way or another on top of local influences," according to the report released Monday. "North American travel is performing reasonably well, driven primarily by the United States."

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John Wayne Airport ready for Thanksgiving crowds

Prices for Thanksgiving travel and feast going up

TSA says no new study of scanner health effects needed

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Travelers wait in long lines at Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times

John Wayne Airport ready for Thanksgiving crowds

OntarioLAT

Just in time for the holiday crowds, officials at John Wayne Airport in Orange County say they have repaired a faulty baggage-handling system at a new terminal that opened last week as part of a $543-million expansion project.

The pressure was on at the airport because the new terminal -- Terminal C -- opened Monday with a baggage system that had failed to pass a certification test by the Transportation Security Administration. The system combines the conveyor belts installed by the airport with the baggage screening machines of the TSA.

Without TSA certification, the system was shut down, and passengers traveling through Terminal C on Southwest Airlines or Frontier Airlines were forced to hike over to Terminal B to fetch their luggage.

But airport officials had good news Friday. They announced that the baggage-handling system had been certified and would be operating by Sunday.

At least 386,000 Southern Californians are expected to fly for the holiday weekend, a 1.9% increase over last year, according to a forecast from the Auto Club of Southern California.

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: The new terminal at John Wayne Airport. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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