Yes, Ryanair, there is a Santa Claus—and you definitely made his naughty list this year. You, too, TSA. And let's not forget you, Spirit Airlines. You were very bad as well. Of course, not all travel providers, websites, and apps were naughty in 2011. Some were actually very good. This year, we at SmarterTravel made a list and checked it twice in order to tell you which travel companies we think we were most naughty or nice.
It wasn't enough that Ryanair put forth the idea of removing all but one bathroom from each of its planes as a way to add more seats. Or that a Spanish judge voided the airline's pay-to-board fees and called them "abusive." Oh, no. The Ireland-based carrier had to take it to a whole new level by suggesting it would allow in-air pornography on its flights—for a fee, of course. Now that's naughty.
Spirit wasn't much better this year. Just in the past few months, North America's master of nickel-and-diming unveiled its own abusive boarding-pass fee and nearly doubled its compulsory "passenger usage fee," effective next year.
Meanwhile, US Airways made our list by boldly raising its prices nearly 500 percent on its Pittsburgh/Philadelphia route, effective the moment its low-cost competition, Southwest, pulls its service from the route. This happens more than we'd like, and US Airways isn't the only guilty party—just the most prominent one in recent memory.
Last but not least, the TSA gets a lump of coal this year for its continued support of potentially hazardous backscatter body scanning technology, which was recently banned in Europe over health concerns. Good thing Santa doesn't have to pass through security this Christmas.
The nicest travel innovation of the year comes from Room 77, which has added a price search function to its room-locating capability. Room 77 is like SeatGuru for hotels: You use it to find and secure the best room at your hotel. Now you can get the best price in the same place.
We may not care for its position on body scanners, but we do have to credit the TSA for one thing: its handy "Can I bring ... through security checkpoint" widget, into which you can type what you want to bring (fruitcake, wrapped toys, guns, etc.) and the website will tell you if it's allowed. This one is a surprisingly customer-friendly tool from a notoriously unfriendly bureaucracy.
Tour outfitter Viator, which sells sightseeing excursions in destinations around the world, recently launched an app that lets you search its offerings. We like it because it often beats the prices charged by cruise lines and package operators for the same tour.
This year we also fell in love with GateGuru, an app that can direct you to the best food at the airport based on ratings and user reviews. It's like the TripAdvisor of airport cuisine.
Who's on Your List?
You've read our picks, now share yours. Did any travel providers, websites, or apps win you over this year—or lose your business forever? Let us know in the space below!