Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Travel world-class — radio taxis are here to stay

The rude and dishevelled Indian cabby who takes you for a ride may soon be a thing of the past. Welcome to the growing fleet of radio taxis that boasts of sedan cars, courteous chauffeurs and fair meters matching world standards!
These taxis, which come equipped with two-way wireless systems and air-conditioners, have been plying in many cities since 2001. Besides luxury, on offer are hassle-free and safe rides — a major requirement in cities, especially for women.

“Safety is our USP,” said Binod Mishra, head (operations), Mega Cab 1929, a leading radio taxi operator in the city, where the murder of an Australian national by a cab driver last year had sullied the image of the entire lot.

“A woman can travel alone anywhere, anytime and be assured of safety as the taxi is fitted with the global positioning system, which helps keep track of the vehicle,” he said. The wireless system in the cabs also allows the passenger to get in touch with a family member if need be.

Drivers of call taxis, as radio cabs are known in the southern Indian cities of Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, are not always impeccably dressed, but they are definitely courteous and never overcharge.

Delhi alone has around 500 of them. Across India, these taxis are a far cry from the yellow-black cabs (green-black in Delhi) and the rickety three-wheelers (auto-rickshaws), whose drivers are notorious for haggling despite government efforts to reform their habits.

“I have always been afraid of being cheated by the auto-rickshaw drivers as I know that their meters are unreliable,” said Kamini, a homemaker in north Delhi.

But Mishra remarked: “Commuters no longer need to put up with tantrums of taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers, who invariably refuse to ply to distant areas. “All they need to do is hail a radio taxi over telephone and be picked up from their door step. Airline passengers can also book these taxis at counters in the airport.”

“What we are seeing is people using auto-rickshaws have moved on to call taxis and don’t mind paying a little extra,” said Jayaraj (one name) of Fast Track Call Taxi in Chennai.

They are expensive compared to regular taxis, starting at Rs15 and charging Rs15 for every kilometre. But then many don’t mind dishing out some extra money for the facility. “It is the best thing to have happened in many years. I no longer need to put up with auto drivers pestering for extra money,” noted K Govindarajan, a Bangalore-based software engineer and a regular user of call taxis.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say that call taxi is the next best invention after sliced bread!” quipped Mishra. Business has been wonderful for these call taxi operators. Already, these taxis have replaced auto-rickshaws in the central (railway) station in Chennai, where there are at least 38 registered call taxi operators compared to just a few in 2001.

Mega Cab 1929, which recorded a turnover of Rs2.50bn ($57m), proposes to expand its operation to Lucknow, while plans are being firmed up to launch the service in Mumbai with a fleet of 500 vehicles shortly. “At least now not all taxis can be called villains of tourism,” said Jayaraj.

Source: IANS

Monday, May 02, 2005

Airlines announce price hikes

After American Airlines again raised fares late Thursday, Northwest Airlines Corp., Delta Air Lines Inc., and Continental Airlines Inc. said they, too, would raise fares in most U.S. cities.

American blamed fuel prices for fare increases of $5 one-way and $10 round-trip on most domestic and U.S.-Canada flights. It was the latest among several fare hikes by U.S. airlines in recent months. Some stuck when competitors matched them; others were abandoned.

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said the airline matched American except in markets where they offer fares to compete with Southwest Airlines Co. and JetBlue Airways Corp. Northwest also didn't raise its higher-priced walk-up business fares, he said.

Continental and Delta acknowledged matching the increases Friday afternoon.

This is at least the fifth fare increase since February, said Tom Parsons, who runs discount travel Web site Bestfares.com. He said that in recent years, it's often been Northwest that acted as a spoiler, refusing to go along with increases by others

Source: http://www.timesonline.com/site/news.cfm?brd=2305

Travel agents urged to unite to face challenges

Fahd El Hosni, President of the Abu Dhabi Travel and Tourism Agencies Committee (ATTAC) on Sunday told the travel agents to be aware of the challenges ahead and called on them to be united to face these challenges.

El Hosni was addressing the fifth annual general meeting of the ATTAC held at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Sunday, according to a statement from ADCCI. El Hosni said that the ATTAC made several achievements during last year, which were highly beneficial to the members.

Listing the achievements and activities of the ATTAC during the year he said, several intensive meetings were held to create awareness on BSP among the travel agents with the help of internationally reputed BSP experts.

It also set up a joint committee with bar to enhance cooperation between airlines and travel agents. The ATTAC also launched its magazine “Al Zajel’ during the year, he said.

It also finalised the feasibility study for setting up a specialized institute to impart training on all aspects on the travel industry. The committee also finalised all arrangements to hold the first travel agents exhibition in Abu Dhabi from May 14 to 20 in co-operation with the Abu Dhabi Mall.

Addressing the gathering, ADCCI director General Mohammed Omar Abdullah called on the ATTAC to promote Abu Dhabi as one of the best tourism destinations in the region.

Abdullah promised all the help from the ADCCI in all the endeavours of ATTAC to improve the business atmosphere on the travel and tourism sector of Abu Dhabi.

Abdullah also lauded the good work done by the ATTAC since it was set up five years ago to protect the interest of the travel agents in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Source: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/index00.asp

Egypt Travel Advice Reviewed after Tourist Attacks

The Foreign Office has reviewed its travel advice for Egypt in the wake of the latest attack on tourists.
In an apparent revival of violence against foreigners – Egypt’s most vital industry – two veiled women shot at a tour bus yesterday. The fiance of one of them later blew himself up as he leaped off a bridge during a police chase.

Seven people – none of them Britons – were wounded in what was the second strike against visitors in less than a month.

It followed an explosion near a bazaar in central Cairo earlier last month, and three attacks on hotels and resorts in October, which together killed 34.

Nevertheless, while the FCO website warns that there is “a continuing threat from terrorism throughout Egypt”, and the situation is under review, the “overall level of the advice has not changed”.

It says Egyptian authorities believe that the “perpetrators of the three incidents are linked”, and adds that travellers “should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.”

Both women as well as the bomber were killed in the attacks, which took place within about two hours of each other in locations about 2.5 miles apart.

Among the wounded were an Israeli couple, a Swedish man, an Italian woman and three Egyptians. Two Egyptians were wounded in the shooting, which targeted a bus headed toward one of Cairo’s most prominent historic Islamic sites.

The attacks increased fears that militants are launching a new round of violence in Egypt, which saw a bloody campaign by Islamic extremists in the 1990s. After that campaign was suppressed, the country saw a lull in violence until October.

Tourism is Egypt’s biggest earner of foreign currency, and the industry has recovered after being severely hurt by the violence in the 1990s.
The Interior Ministry said that yesterday’s bombing was a result of the police round-up of those behind the bazaar attack.

Two militant groups posted Web statements claiming responsibility for the twin attacks – the Mujahedeen of Egypt and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Neither claim’s authenticity could be verified.

Source: http://www.pressassociation.co.uk/

Air safety imperiled in controller slipup

Air traffic controllers at Tokyo's Haneda airport who mistakenly directed a Japan Airlines aircraft to land on a closed runway Friday were unaware of their mistake despite repeated questions from the approaching pilots, officials said over the weekend.

According to transport ministry officials, all of the 18 controllers on duty at Tokyo International Airport had forgotten the 3,000-meter runway A was to be closed from 9:30 p.m. Friday for maintenance.

JAL's flight 1158 from Obihiro in Hokkaido, carrying 51 passengers and crew, landed at 9:39 p.m. while the captain of another JAL flight decided to abort the landing after receiving inconsistent instructions. By law, captains are required to follow controllers' instructions. Only in exceptional cases do pilots question or disobey instructions.

Calling it a serious incident that could have led to an accident, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport's Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission is now investigating.

Meanwhile, the 18 controllers have been taken off regular duty for retraining to prevent a recurrence, according to officials.

They added that the ministry, which has recently criticized JAL's handling of a string of safety mishaps, has apologized to the airline via the ministry's Tokyo airport office.

Transport Minister Kazuo Kitagawa, rattled by his staff's mistakes, will also inspect Haneda's air traffic control office today.

According to the ministry, the captains of both flights had been told of the scheduled closure. Work on the runway's lamps was scheduled to start around 11 p.m.

The captain of flight 1158 twice asked for confirmation before finally landing minutes after the runway had closed.

Flight 1036 from New Chitose Airport, also in Hokkaido, had 161 people aboard when the controllers asked it to land on runway A.

The captain of that flight also questioned the instruction.

Despite the repeated requests for confirmation, the controllers only became aware of their mistake when another controller, on standby for a late-night shift, reminded them of the closure around 9:40 p.m., the officials said.

Still, one controller told the second aircraft to continue its descent to runway A, but advised in a separate comment that runway A could not be used. The captain then decided to abort the landing and retry. The controllers then approved a re-approach.

No one was injured in the incident. It came amid a series of air and railway safety problems, including last week's tragic train derailment that killed 107 people in Hyogo Prefecture, which have seriously shaken the nation's trust in safety.

According to the officials, the controllers were informed of the scheduled maintenance work a month ago.

The deputy chief controller was scheduled to remind the shift of the closure at a meeting Friday, but did not.

No one raised the issue at the meeting.

Because maintenance usually takes place at night, the deputy chief admitted being unaware that the closure would take place during their shift, the officials said.(IHT/Asahi: May 2,2005)

Source: http://www.asahi.com/home.html

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Travel House to market Globus holiday packages

ITC-owned International Travel House Ltd. (ITHL) has tied up with leading group travel operator Globus Cosmos to sell the latter's holiday packages to the Indian traveller.

The alliance with Globus would enable ITHL, one of the largest total travel management companies in India with a presence in 11 cities and a sales turnover of Rs.3 billion ($70 million), to offer its customers a variety of high-end dream destinations.

"Last year, 6.5 million Indians went abroad on holidays. Of this, 50 percent are high-end travellers," pointed out Anil Bhandari, managing director, ITHL. This trend complements the business interest of Globus Cosmos, which specialises in high-end travel services, including personalised itineraries for customers.

High-end travel is a term Globus Cosmos director (sales) Mike A. Schields uses to describe holidays in castles and villas in places like Ireland or Scotland. While promotion of up-market products would be a priority, ITHL would also market affordable tour products of Globus Cosmos. "Globus also offers Cosmos Tours for budget travellers, Monogram Tours for vacations at special destinations and Avalon Waterways for cruises and river rafting," Schields said. However, ITHL would initially promote only five select tour packages of Globus Cosmos, including the European Sampler, Scenic Delight, the Tulip Time Cruise and Switzerland at Leisure.

These destinations, ITHL believes, are most suited to the Indian market and fall under the category of escorted tours. "We are initially looking at sending 500-600 people this year and grow to four-digit figure next year," Bhandari said, pointing out that the number of outbound Indian tourists was expected to grow by 22-25 percent every year.

Source: Indo Asian News Service

New U.S. Passport Rules Worry Industry

Travelers from the United States will eventually be required to carry passports to all foreign destinations, including Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean — destinations that previously did not require such documentation.


Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dutch Airlines pulled up for lost baggage of Indian passenger

International air carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which lost an Indian passenger's baggage in 1993, has been found guilty of "deficiency in service" by the Delhi State Consumer Commission and ordered it to pay him a compensation of Rs 50,000. "The compensation of Rs 50,000 towards the loss or injury suffered by the complainant due to negligence in service on the part of the opposite party (the airlines) would meet the ends of justice", commission president Justice JD Kapoor, members Mahesh Chandra and Rumnita Mittal said.

Complainant AK Gupta, a businessman, said when he arrived at Delhi from Amsterdam on May 30, 1993 he did not find his suitcase which contained among other things two film rolls with pictures of his import-export related sample design.

He claimed that due to the loss of the 30 kg baggage, which contained samples of certain orders, he suffered losses to the tune of Rs 3.95 lakh as many buyers cancelled their orders.

Though he visited the Airlines office many times and made several enquiries no effective action was taken by them to trace the missing suitcase, he said.

The Airlines admitted that Gupta's baggage was lost during transit. The court, however, said since Gupta did not disclose the contents of the suitcase and its value to the Airlines, they cannot be held liable to compensate him to the extent of worth of the contents.

"But, the consumer is entitled to seek compensation on account of injury, mental agony and harassment he suffered due to the loss of his valuables", the court said, adding it is the weight of the baggage that determines the loss.

Source: Press Trust of India

American Airlines hikes fares

American Airlines has added another $5 each way to most of its North American fares, starting immediately. Now it's waiting to see whether rivals match the increase.

After years of attempts by various legacy carriers to raise fares, only to rescind them days later when competitors did not do the same and bookings fell, some recent increases have stuck.

The reason they stick is the reason they're attempted in the first place: all the airlines, even the discount carriers, are spending far more than last year because of soaring jet fuel prices. Crude oil still is trading above $50 a barrel, and American, the world's largest airline, has famously reported that each dollar rise costs it $80 million a year. .

Source: Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

Travelers Advantage(R) Travel Tips: Online Check-In Emerges as Convenient Time Saver in Security Age

Online airline check-in is the hot new trend among on-the-go travelers who seek to save time, avoid lines, efficiently navigate airport security and take-off on their adventure.

Most major airlines now offer online service that allows you to check-in, print your boarding pass or even change your seat assignments -- all with the click of a mouse, according to Travelers Advantage. You can get it all from the convenience of your home PC, hotel room or even aboard your cruise. And some airlines are even offering bonus frequent flier miles and other incentives for online check-in customers.

A recent J.D. Power and Associates study found that more than half of airline passengers are taking advantage of time-saving check-in options, with 38 percent currently using self-check-in kiosks and 17 percent checking in online through airline websites. The study also found that passengers using kiosks wait half as long for their boarding passes as those who interact with an airline representative. Passengers using electronic kiosks wait an average of 7.2 minutes for a boarding pass, compared with 14.2 minutes at the ticket counter and 9.4 minutes at curbside check-in.

Most airlines allow you to check-in and get boarding passes online from 24 hours to 30 minutes prior to your flight, depending on the carrier.

"Airports across the globe feature electronic check-in kiosks that have become second nature to many savvy world travelers," said Julia Ryan, vice president of Travelers Advantage and TravelersAdvantage.com. "The next level of convenience in travel is online check-in, which allows you to print your boarding pass before you step out of your hotel room or set foot at the airport."

The virtual travel experts at TravelersAdvantage.com offer these tips about online check-in:

1. Click It & Ticket ... You can check-in, print your boarding pass,
change seat assignments, receive upgrades and earn frequent flyer
miles -- all online at your airline's website. Finally, you can avoid
the long lines at check-in. Confirm with your airline, as each one
offers different check-in features.

2. When to Check-In Online ... Most airlines allow you to check-in and
get your boarding passes online from 24 hours to 30 minutes prior to
your flight. This is your opportunity to try the ease of online

3. Have E-Ticket, Will Travel ... The convenience of online check-in is
available to travelers with ticketless airline reservations. Keep
your e-ticket, ticket number and frequent flyer number handy to
expedite your request and earn points while cruising the online

4. Printer Friendly ... Make sure you have access to a printer in your
hotel, on your cruise or in your home. Some airlines allow you to
reprint your boarding pass multiple times, while others only allow you
to print your boarding pass once. If a printer is not available when
you complete your online check-in, you may have to visit an airline
agent once you arrive at the airport. Please check with your airline,
as policies and procedures can vary.

5. Domestic or International Flights? ... Most airlines offer domestic
online check-in operations, and some -- Continental, Northwest and
U.S. Airways -- also feature international online check-in.

6. Arrival Time ... You should arrive one-to-two hours prior to your
departure. The time might vary depending upon your destination and if
you have baggage to check.

7. Checked Bags for Online Travelers ... No need to worry about checking your bags when using online check-in. Most airlines allow you to check bags using either curbside or the self-serve kiosks.

8. Why Should I Use Online Check-In? ... Some airlines -- U.S. Airways, Delta and Northwest -- offer bonus miles and/or seating upgrades when you use online check-in. Consult your airline and discover your

9. Security Checkpoint-ers ... place valuables in carry-on baggage; stow mobile phones, keys, loose change, money clips, metal hair accessories, etc., in carry-on; remove laptop from case to send through X-ray on trays; wait until you reach your destination to wrap any gifts; remove belt and shoes; take a deep breath and take your
time unpacking and repacking your belongings so you don't leave anything behind.

10. Cool Travel Gadgets Get You There In Style ... GPS devices/electronic maps; MP3 players & iPods; digital travel alarm; portable DVD players; Buckey Pillows, travel pillows & travel massagers; digital cameras, PDAs, mobile phones; and laptops all add pizzazz to your trip.

Source: PR Newswire Association LLC.