Monday, October 10, 2011

Observations in the Travel World

I have been chained to my desk as of late and, as a result, travel excursions have been limited. However, the number of travel stories I have read has been quite abundant, and my thoughts have been reeling all day--let's face it, the last few days--about everything that has been going on. So, in an effort to get my thoughts out there--and to finally post something after a long absence--I've decided to discuss some of my observations.

American Airlines

As many of you may or may not know, American Airlines is not doing so hot. In fact, its stock prices fell to their lowest point since 2009 last week, and there have been rumors that it will file for bankruptcy. American is the leader in declines among major airlines, and investors said they think the airline will run out of cash reserves. What's worse? Other airlines saw a drop in their stocks after news of American's poor performance, causing many of them to cut capacity and, possibly, raise fares--two things that are never good for travelers. So what does this mean? Well, it could lead to the downfall of one of the largest airlines in the U.S., a company that felt it was too big to fail back in 2008 when the recession started and was the only big name that did not file for bankruptcy protection at that time. It certainly is not a promising sign for the airline industry, especially since analysts expect air travel demand to slump at the end of this year, even with the busy holiday season ahead. I, personally, have only flown American a couple times in my life, and I've never been all that impressed with it. I usually opt for UnitedContinental or a budget airline like Frontier. In all honesty, this kind of failure may be exactly what American Airlines needs to turn things around. But bankruptcy is, for now, only a rumor, and there is no telling if it will actually happen.

New Planes, New Seating

After a three year delay, Boeing finally delivered its first 787 Dreamliner to All Nippon Airways a couple weeks ago, and UnitedContinental said it will fly the jet in 2012. The new jet uses technology like lightweight composites and advanced propulsion that are said to increase fuel economy and environmental sensitivity. While I may not get the chance to fly on one of these jets in the near future, it is still exciting to see something so innovative come on the scene. I can only imagine the passenger experience these new planes will provide. Since UnitedContinental plans to use them on only two international routes--Houston to Auckland, New Zealand; and Houston to Lagos, Nigeria--I guess I will need to save up as much money and vacation days as possible in order to book a ticket.

In other plane news, Lufthansa reconfigured the seats in its jets, allowing it to add more rows while still providing passengers with plenty of legroom. I know what you're thinking, it doesn't seem to add up. How can you squish seats together, adding at least two to three more rows, and still give people more room? Well, you install thinner seats. The airline replaced thick foam padding with strong mesh and placed the magazine pocket at the top of the seatback to give passengers more room for their knees. I think this is a trend we will be seeing more often, since many airlines are being forced to cut flights due to financial woes and are trying to find more ways to bring in revenue. Adding extra seating will help make up for money lost from other cuts. Plus, the seats still take into account passenger comfort and satisfaction, meaning everyone wins!

The Airbus A380 is a double-decker jet that seats about 500 passengers, but Korean Air has rolled out its own layout with 407 seats. It has three sections: first class, prestige or business class, and economy class. The entire top deck is for prestige class and the first class suites have 24-inch HD screens. Also, it will have a duty-free shop at the back of the plane, as well as three bars: a self-serve bar on each deck and a "Celestial Bar" in the back of the top deck. Um...I think the description says it all.

Cheap Tickets/Giveaways

LAN Airlines, a Chilean carrier, selected a Latin American-themed restaurant in New York City where it gave out free vouchers for round-trip tickets to South America. Yeah, that's right. If you were at Nuela last Thursday night, you were one of the lucky diners who recieved a free flight. It doesn't seem fair that those people should get that kind of prize just for being in the right place at the right time, but it's all part of a larger marketing campaign for the airline. And let's be honest, I wouldn't complain at all if my dinner was interupted by a woman handing me a free flight to a foreign country. In fact, that would make my meal even more enjoyable.

Even though I didn't get a flight for free, I was able to take advantage of a limited-time holiday sale from Southwest Airlines. I had been scouring the travel websites the last couple weeks trying to find a reasonable price for a flight home for Christmas. However, I was not having much luck finding anything for under $300, so I figured I would hold off the search for another week, and lo and behold a deal came along. I was able to snag one-way tickets on Chicago-Denver routes for $99! And over Christmas...a definite steal in my opinion. So now I've booked my holiday trip home and I am so excited that I get to spend the money I saved on more gifts for my family! (Or on a new pair of shoes for myself, but I'm not that selfish.)

In Closing...

Those are the travel stories and experiences that have been on my mind lately. I apologize for not having anything more exciting, but I do hope to follow up with some destinations pieces in the coming days. So feel free to chime in on these topics and leave comments and opinions. I love reading them!

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