Business travel

  • Food fight

    Airlines in America are in a race to improve their meals

    by A.W. & C.R.

    IN THE 1950s—when the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a cartel of airlines, used to set fare levels and service quality on international routes—there were few differences between major carriers. One way to persuade passengers to choose one airline over another was to offer better meals as entertainment on board. And so an arms race to serve fancier food on transatlantic flights began. It came to an end in 1958, when SAS, a Scandinavian carrier, was fined $20,000 by IATA for serving open sandwiches that, contrary to IATA’s rules, contained overly fancy ingredients such as ox tongue, lettuce hearts and asparagus.

  • Come fly with Xi

    Why China is swooping on Georgia’s airline industry

    by M.R.

    IN ANCIENT times, traders on the Silk Road connecting China with Europe rarely ventured into the northern Caucasus region that is now home to Georgia. Diverting from established routes through Armenia and Anatolia to the south served little purpose unless conflict made the trackways impassable. Today, advances in transport and logistics mean that geography is less of a hurdle for traders. But friendly relations are just as important. Having signed free trade agreements with China and the European Union, Georgia is keen to pitch itself as a trade-and-transport hub for President Xi Jinping of China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

  • It’s a dog’s life

    United Airlines kills another pet

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    GULLIVER recently wrote about a pet that suffered a grizzly end after it was not permitted to fly. Spirit Airlines refused to allow a hamster on board as an emotional-support animal and it ended up being flushed down an airport toilet. But sometimes it is more dangerous for an animal to be permitted to ascend to 35,000 feet. Particularly, it seems, if it is flying on United Airlines.

    On March 12th, on a flight from Houston to New York, a United Airlines flight attendant knowingly stowed a French bulldog in the overhead compartment, where it died, the family that owned the dog alleges.

  • Tally-no

    Will British airlines lose their rights to fly to America after Brexit?

    by C.R.

    THERE has been much chatter among frequent flyers in London this week about a front-page splash in the Financial Times claiming that British negotiations with America to replace the EU-US Open Skies Treaty are in trouble:

    The US is offering Britain a worse “open skies” deal after Brexit than it had as an EU member, in a negotiating stance that would badly hit the transatlantic operating rights of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. British and American negotiators met secretly in January for the first formal talks on a new air services deal, aiming to fill the gap created when Britain falls out of the EU-US open skies treaty after Brexit, say people familiar with talks.

  • Paying for service

    Digital money has made it harder to tip the hotel housemaid

    by A.W.

    Last summer, Uber at last started allowing its customers to tip their drivers. There was nothing actually preventing them from tipping before. At the end of the ride a passenger could have pulled out his wallet, fished around for change and handed the driver a few dollars. But it would have seemed absurd to do so, when everything else about the transaction was handled through a few taps of the app. The app didn’t enable tipping, so riders didn’t tip.

    All of this highlights the conundrum for hotel housekeepers. Increasingly, people book hotel rooms through their computers or phones. They pay, and often pre-pay, with their credit cards. They get around town with app-based ride-hailing.

  • Trouble in paradise

    A brawl on a cruise ship raises worries about security at sea

    by H.G.

    THE cruise industry sells itself as a relaxing way to travel, a world away from the hassle, queues and crime of travelling on land. Yet not all holidays look like the brochure, and cruises are no exception. Earlier this month one such voyage, nicknamed the “cruise from hell”, came to a resounding end in Melbourne, Australia. Dozens of brawls had broken out on board the Carnival Legend, a ship owned by the world’s largest cruise firm, many of which had apparently been instigated by a family group of 23. It appears that the crew struggled to control the situation. One video seems to show crew members kicking a passenger on the ground.

  • Making the airline pay

    How to ensure Ryanair foots the bill for flight delays

    by M.R.

    THERE is little doubt that Ryanair takes umbrage at EU261, a piece of European law that guarantees passengers compensation in the event of most flight delays and cancellations. Michael O’Leary, the low-cost carrier’s boss, insists that he complies with the “ridiculous” piece of legislation. But many say otherwise. Indeed, Mr O’Leary seems to revel in refusing to give out compensation; he once told a customer who dared to ask for one “you’re not getting a refund so fuck off”.

  • Flushed with failure

    A hamster is the latest victim in the row over emotional-support animals

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    THE roster of emotional-support animals that are and are not allowed onto flights in America can sound, at times, like a retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. Although the number allowed on for nothing has grown in recent years, airlines—which believe that the loophole is being abused by those not wanting to pay to transport their pets—are fighting back. Only last month a peacock was barred from a United Airlines flight for bending the rules, and for not even being the right size for a normal plane seat. But the debate has now taken a deadly twist. The victim is a hamster.

  • No birds allowed

    Why United Airlines has got into a flap over a peacock

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    FEDERAL guidelines in America stipulate that airlines must allow passengers with disabilities to bring support animals onto flights. The rules were originally designed with guide dogs for the blind and the like in mind. Yet in recent years the rules have allowed a host of unusual and exotic animals to board planes for their owners’ emotional wellbeing.

    Last weekend United Airlines, America’s third-largest carrier, drew the line at a peacock. A woman arrived at Newark International Airport and attempted to board her flight with the large bird, which she claimed was an emotional-support animal.

  • Place in the sun

    A travel agent is trying to charge fees for sunbeds

    by A.W. & C.R.

    IN KEEPING with the trend for charging for things travellers used to get free, it should perhaps come as no surprise that sunbeds are the latest feature of a standard holiday on which travel agents are slapping extra fees. Thomas Cook, a British package-holiday firm, has announced that it will allow holidaymakers to pre-book poolside loungers for £22 ($31) per person. Six days before the start of a trip, travellers will get an email offering them the chance to reserve specific sunbeds. The booking tool will include a map that allows people to see where the sun will shine at various times of day.

  • Free as a bird

    How to board a plane without a boarding pass

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    EARLIER this month a woman arrived at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago without a ticket, boarding pass, or passport and flew to London. Prosecutors claim she did this by sneaking past officials from the Transportation Security Administration, a government agency responsible for airport security, while they were inspecting other travellers’ boarding passes. She was briefly thwarted when she tried to do the same thing at the boarding gate for a flight to Connecticut. But the gate agent caught her and asked her to sit down.

  • Ruffling feathers

    Why drones could pose a greater risk to aircraft than birds

    by H.G.

    THE “Miracle on the Hudson”—the successful ditching of a US Airways jetliner into New York’s Hudson River in 2009 after it hit a flock of geese—taught frequent flyers two things. First, it really is possible to land an aircraft on water, just as is shown on seat-back safety cards. Second, and more worryingly, the incident showed how dangerous birds can be to aircraft, particularly when they get sucked into engines. The machines are supposed to be designed to withstand an impact by the feathered creatures. Using big guns, chickens have been fired at aircraft engines in safety tests since the 1950s. But what about drones?

  • Pay per pooh-poohing

    Some hotels charge visitors for bad reviews

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    TRAVELLERS have grown accustomed to annoying hidden fees, from the baggage charges that bring airlines tens of billions of dollars a year to the resort fees that account for nearly a fifth of American hotels’ revenue. But a new one that has popped up in recent years might be the most irksome of all due to its sheer perversity: fees for leaving bad reviews.

    Last March, a couple arrived at the suite they had booked at the Abbey Inn in Indiana only to find, they claim, a dirty bed, a foul smell, an insect infestation and no hotel employees on the premises to assist them. Upon leaving, they did what so many travellers do these days.

  • Stretched budgets

    Legacy airlines are facing new competitors on transatlantic routes

    by M.R.

    EVEN for a global industry like aviation, Primera Air’s business model seems remarkably cosmopolitan. The Icelandic-owned budget airline is headquartered in Latvia, but mainly operates low-cost flights from Denmark and Sweden to sunny places in the Mediterranean. This summer, it will begin long-haul flights from Britain and France to America. The company bears more than a passing resemblance to Norwegian Air Shuttle, another nominally Scandinavian airline with global aspirations.

  • Jumbo bet

    The days of the A380 look numbered

    by C.R.

    ASK frequent flyers which is their favourite aircraft and most come up with the same answer: the A380 superjumbo made by Airbus, a giant European planemaker. Able to carry 525 passengers in a typical three-class layout, on two full-length decks, the aircraft still feels spacious, with wide aisles and plenty of headroom. Frequent flyers also admire the freshness of the cabin air, the lighting systems that are designed to reduce jet lag and the quietness of the cabin. “You can hardly hear it take off,” one fan recently told Gulliver. “And I can actually go to sleep on the plane unlike any other I’ve been on before.”

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