STAFF PICKS: If I Were Travel Commissioner For a Day
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It’s rare when a Hollywood actor truly makes us think about our lives. But bless her heart, that’s just what Andie McDowell did when she fought a courageous fight against the airline industry to reclaim what was rightfully hers – a fight-class seat away from the “tourist class."
Her argument was fair. Is it too much to ask to simply get what we paid for? So it got us here at TravelPulse thinking. What if like McDowell, we rose up and took back what is rightfully ours in this travel world? Some people in this world tackle global issues of importance, some of us would rid the world of one less #firstworldproblem at a time.
Here’s what each of us would do if we were dubbed Travel Commissioner and could change one thing about the world of travel today.
Janeen Christoff, Senior Writer, Destinations: I would eliminate resort fees. The whole idea of going to a resort is to use the facilities there. That should be included in the room rate. There is usually no option to opt out of paying it and not using the facilities like gym and spa so it's shady not to include the fee in the rate. Be transparent.
Josh Lew, Senior Writer, Airlines and Air Travel: At some overseas airports, they have a second bag search area at the gate. Having this extra layer of security is fine, but in both Seoul and Hong Kong I have had water bottles confiscated even though I bought them two minutes earlier from a kiosk that was literally 30 feet away.
Worse, I realized that people who knew to stuff their water way down in the bottom of their bag (where it wouldn’t be found with a cursory search) didn't have to give up their drink. The rule should be the same everywhere in the world: if you bought it in the secure airside terminal, then you should be able to take it on the plane without having to hide it.
Tim Wood, Editor-in-Chief, TravelPulse: I am banning Continental breakfast. It has this regal sound to it, like, “Darling, please join me for Continental breakfast where we shall debate the issues of the kingdom while we sip tea and eat crumpets.”
The reality is, you get stale cereal, Donettes dumped into a faux-silver serving tray and scrambled eggs that will likely never decompose, let alone experience anything resembling safe passage through your digestive system.
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Even worse, you see non-guest posers shuffling in from outside stealing this rubbish. And more often than not, seating is so limited that you have to use the garbage can to balance your Dixie plate.
Shame on the hotel industry for making Continental a swear word. Either direct us to the Denny’s down the street or pony up for a legit breakfast.
Gabe Zaldivar, Senior Writer, Business Travel, Tech and Gear: I will take off my shoes and belt at TSA even though it doesn't aid in securing the flight. I will also line up like one cow amid a herd of aimless cattle waiting to get on the plane. And I will even settle for a seat that is one size too small for normal humans.
But I am tired of of all the incessant fees on already expensive flights, especially the unnecessary one that comes in changing flights to a plane that is specifically undersold. If I can tap my phone a few times to settle an Abe Vigoda filmography conundrum (rest in peace, mighty Fish), you can push a few buttons and get me on an earlier flight without a $50 fee.
Jason Leppert, Senior Writer, Cruises and Cruise Travel: While it's great that we can finally use our small electronic devices on most airplanes during takeoff and landing, I can never understand why laptop computers are not permitted to then be securely held or placed snug in the seat pocket for easy access afterwards.
Instead they must be stowed in your carryon or loose under the seat in front of you where it can flop or slide about and be nearly impossible to reach later without first becoming a contortionist. To be sure, I'm all for safety when procedures are logical, but I would definitely reevaluate this policy.
Theresa Masek, Editor-in-Chief, Vacation Agent and Agent@Home Magazines: My biggest complaint isn’t with airline policies, but with the airports themselves.
Now that we’re urged to check in two or more hours before departure and often must endure flight delays and cancellations, why can’t there be more comfortable places to pass the time? Airport restaurants and bars are tiny, cramped, crowded places where it’s almost impossible to find a chair or barstool.
Or, they’re just carry-out places selling food to eat off your lap at the gate or hunched over the fold-down tray on the plane. I’m sure the real estate is expensive and the powers-that-be want us in the duty-free shop, but I still wish there were more sit-down restaurants in airports these days.
Donald Wood, Senior Writer, Breaking News: If I could change one aspect of the travel world, it would be the “prime time” or “surge pricing” associated with ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber. It’s understandable that rides during the busiest times of the day and week will cost more, but the unpredictability of the increases is frustrating for travelers. Transparency and clarity when booking a ride about the prime-time charges would be the first thing I would change about the travel industry.
Brian Major, Senior Writer, Caribbean and Latin America: I’d have to say that were I the Travel Commissioner, the policy I’d change immediately to start my reign of better customer service for all would be the whole idea of paying for baggage. I’m not talking about folks who are seemingly transferring a small business to another location and have a dozen or so bulky parcels.
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I mean regular, everyday leisure travelers carrying two or few bags each. The idea that a customer of this sort is charged for even one bag on a transportation vehicle strikes me as bordering on ludicrous. Would a customer aboard a bus or an Amtrak train expect the same treatment? Not likely. Why are we compelled to accept these policies aboard airlines?
David Cogswell, Senior Writer, Tours: If I were the genie of the travel industry with omnipotent powers and could grant one wish, I would roll back the clock and when the airlines asked Congress for anti-trust immunity so they could all combine into a few mega airlines I would say no. I would like to see a more diverse and competitive marketplace.
Anti-trust laws were put in place for a good reason, to maintain competitive markets, to prevent them being taken over by just a few players who can control the markets without really having to compete, as we have now in our airline industry.
Patrick Clarke, Senior Writer, Hotels and Resorts: While no one is asking hotels to do away with cancellation fees altogether, the recent trend of harsher cancellation penalties is disconcerting to say the least.
Last year, Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International rolled out policies charging guests the equivalent of one night's room rate for reservations canceled the day of check-in. Even more recently, Hilton has been experimenting with $50 anytime cancellation fees that would charge guests a flat rate for canceling their stay at any point up until the day of check-in, at which time they would be charged the nightly room rate.
Rich Thomaselli, Senior Writer, Custom Content: Despite Ms. MacDowell's issues, for the most part your seat is the one you paid for. It's always going to be there. It's not going to move. Somebody might try to sit in it, but they'd be wrong — or disingenuous — if you're holding the boarding pass.
So for the love of 35,000 feet, why can't airlines simply return to the easy days of back-to-front seating? Why do first and business class have to board early? Why do frequent flyers in the middle of the plane have to board first? For what? For dozens, if not hundreds, of other passengers to traipse by them, step on their feet, whack their shoulder with a carry-on and get held up in the aisle?
I understand the whole argument of precious overhead bin space. But airlines would be much more efficient — and passengers much happier — by starting from the back of the bus forward
Mike Isenbek, Senior Editor: As the almighty Travel Commissioner, I lament global warming. Greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere by our industrialized society is causing a melting of winter travel destinations and flooding of low-lying tropical island paradises.
Unfortunately, commercial aircraft and cruise ships — the workhorses of traveler transportation — pour a prodigious amount of these harmful gases into the air. Any policy that goes against reducing, halting or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from commercial aircraft or cruise ships must be abolished before it’s too late.
Barry Kaufman, Managing Editor: If I were put in charge of travel, I would institute an immediate and comprehensive ban on selfies. I realize this would be wildly implausible in terms of enforcement and most likely violates several clauses of the first amendment, but I’m just really over the whole thing.
How many beautiful vacation snaps have you seen where some goober’s face is covering half the shot? How many times have you nearly bowled over a clueless tourist who was filming themselves in the thrilling act of walking down a street? Enough, I say.
What would you do if you could be Travel Commissioner for a day? Email your suggestions to email@example.com or Tweet us @TravelPulse using hashtag #travelcommish.
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