1998 Travel World In Review
by Rudy Maxa for Marketplace
New Word Added
We added a new word to our travel lexicon: "air rage." Forget about
passengers in dirty T-shirts -- I long ago gave up hoping people on planes
would dress as if they were going to a decent restaurant. Now, I'm just
grateful if they don't go nuts.
The most incredible story of air rage took place just a few weeks ago. A
passenger on a flight from Bangkok to Budapest aboard the Hungarian
airline, Malev, struck a pilot and tried to strangle a flight attendant.
After the crew managed to tie the out-of-control passenger into his seat,
he received a tranquilizer shot from a doctor on board. By the time the
plane landed in Istanbul, the passenger was dead. I bet flyers on Malev
these days are behaving very, very nicely.
The Year of the Carry-On
This was also the year of the great carry-on debate. But the airlines can't
agree on the rules. At several airports, airlines have erected some kind of
Plexiglas sizers at the mouth of baggage x-ray machines so if your bag is
too big to carry on, you can't even get it through security. In an absurd
twist, Continental is suing Delta for installing that shield on an X-ray
machine at the concourse the two airlines share at San Diego's airport.
it doesn't agree with Delta about the parameters of the Plexiglas, and its
passengers are being inconvenienced. As travel columnist Joe Brancatelli
points out, those X-ray machines aren't airline property -- they exist for
security purposes, not to determine which bag is worthy of being taken
aboard a Delta -- or anybody else's -- flight. It's time for the FAA to
set a standard we all have to live by.
Not the Year of the Travel Agent
'98 was not a good year to be a travel agent. Many airlines put a cap on
the commission they pay agents for selling an international ticket. A
limit on commissions for domestic tickets had already forced many agencies
to begin charging fees to customers. Expect that trend to continue. And
then there's the Internet. As recently as last year, the president of the
American Society of Travel Agents belittled the notion that Americans would
book many airline tickets on-line. Wrong. The on-line service that let
you bid on airline tickets, http://priceline.com, added hotel rooms to
its on-line menu about six weeks ago. And one cruise line, Renaissance,
encouraged customers to bypass agents by booking directly with the cruise
Travel agencies who don't
specialize or offer extraordinary service could face a lean new year.
Cruise Ships Expanding
Speaking of cruise ships, they got bigger than ever this year. And they'll
be bigger in '99 when Voyager of the Seas and the Carnival Triumph debut.
This year, the world's first non-smoking ship began service.
And if you like traveling abroad, airfares got lower in some parts of the
world. Low-fare airlines have come to Europe as continent-wide
deregulation finally brings Southwest-like prices to airfares there. In
Asia, bad economic news kept that continent at the top of the list for best
values for American travelers. If the economy in this country stays
strong, you'll find fewer empty middle seats in '99. With gas prices low,
highways and hotels will be more crowded, too.
All good news for a guy named Rudy Maxa, who's the Savvy Traveler for
Savvy Traveler on Marketplace