February 21, 2007

ELLIOTT’S E-MAIL
Travel tips, news and information
February 21, 2007

Can airlines police themselves? Well, to paraphrase Garrison Keillor, it’s been a not-so-quiet week in the airline industry. The JetBlue Valentine’s Day meltdown gave the Passenger Bill of Rights new momentum, to the point where a contrite David Neeleman announced yesterday that his carrier would voluntary adopt its own bill. In many ways, this looks like ’99 all over again: The airlines are saying they can do better without government intervention. But can they? What do you think? Plus, in this issue, listen to a new public radio commentary, read the latest Troubleshooter column, and dig into the archives for more insights into weather delays.

» Read this week’s newsletter online.

FIRST | Random thoughts about the week in travel

Burning question … Pretend you’re David Neeleman — It’s the morning after. You’ve just introduced a bill of rights, apologized to your passengers in full-page newspaper ads, and maybe fired a few people. What now? What would you do? Send me a note or shoot me an IM (celliottlive on AIM).

A note to readers. Last week I discovered that one of the forms on my Web page wasn’t working properly, and messages sent to me may have not been received. If you’ve recently sent me a something and haven’t heard back, rest assured, I’m not ignoring you. I probably haven’t received your email. Please consider re-sending your note.

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SIGHTINGS | Noted Elliott appearances online and offline

Travelocity’s hidden change fee
— The first set of tickets Melanie Mouras buys on Travelocity is a bargain. But when she needs to change her itinerary, the price of her tickets skyrockets — and then there’s a surprise $30 change fee on top of the expected $100 fee from the airline. Should Travelocity offer Mouras a better deal? And why does it cost an extra $30 to switch flights? (From The Troubleshooter)

Bad weather, bad business — A series of powerful winter storms has shut down some of America’s busiest airports recently. But commentator Christopher Elliott thinks airlines are being a little too quick to take a snow day. (From Public Radio)

A round-trip on the conveyor belt — In North American airports, there are warnings posted above the luggage carousels: “Please don’t step on the conveyor belt.” These signs are often missing when you travel internationally, and I recently discovered why. (From The New York Times)

BLOGGED | New posts on CSR and Ellipses

Can airlines police themselves? — A few weeks ago I suggested that airlines might be able to fend of a Passenger Bill of Rights by adopting key elements of the proposed law in their contracts of carriage. I didn’t think any airline in its right mind would go that far. But that was before Jet-Blew it on Valentine’s Day. (From Ellipses)

Why we don’t need a Passenger Bill of Rights — When airlines start adopting their own Passenger Bill of Rights, something is wrong. Something is very wrong. But later today, a humiliated JetBlue is expected to unveil what it’s calling a Customer Bill of Rights. Here’s David Neeleman, JetBlue’s chief executive, with a preview. (From Ellipses)

How JetBlue can recover from its tailspin — Remember 2002? It was the year after the horrific events of 9/11. The airline industry had taken a figurative nosedive. The United States was about to go to war. The economy was in the toilet. One of the only
bright spots was a growing low-fare carrier called JetBlue. (From Ellipses)

Airports escape passenger rights rules — Most of the versions of the almost-certain-to-be-passed Passenger Bill of Rights that I’ve seen don’t address the airports’ responsibility when there’s a lengthy delay. Makes you wonder if the nation’s airports are getting away with something. They probably are. (From Ellipses)

Travel bloggers have their ‘Rathergate’ moment — Feb. 15 will go down in the history of travel blogging as an historic day. It was our long-awaited “Rathergate” moment — a time when travel bloggers finally realized the power of their medium. Nothing will ever be the same. (From Ellipses)

JetBlue’s passenger rights legacy — JetBlue’s corporate DNA has always been a 99 percent match with Southwest — the plucky low-fare carrier that zigs when everyone else zags. But now, in an Invaders-Of-The-Body-Snatchers-like turn, JetBlue seems to have become infected by an alien virus and is turning into a legacy carrier in front of our eyes. (From Ellipses)

FLASHBACK | A retrospective from the Elliott archives

More on delays …

Creative delays — Ever board a flight that went nowhere? Maybe the plane just rolled out onto the runway and then returned to the gate, or worse still, it never even moved? Happens all the time. (From The Travel Critic)

Flying the stormy skies
— Some people just don’t know how to fly. Ask Daniel Nazar and that’s what he’ll tell you. Stranded for four hours in Kansas City on a recent Vanguard Airlines flight, the computer repairman from Milford, Texas, was denied meal vouchers or a reasonable explanation for the delay. (From The Travel Critic)

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