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Recent Travel Changes That May Affect You

SmarterTravel

No long report this week—instead, let’s look at some interesting developments that might affect your travels.

Will Jet Blue Trash Its Product?

Last week, the trade media obsessed over JetBlue’s announcement that it will start charging at least some travelers for a checked bag and that it would cut the legroom for most travelers. Most media sources praised the move, pointing out how much revenue it will gain. What nobody stressed, however, is how much revenue JetBlue might lose by downgrading its product. JetBlue has prospered, at least in my view, by offering a superior product at a reasonable price. And the two most important differences from the “me, too” approach of most other airlines is the first no-charge checked bag and the extra legroom. To be sure, even after the planned shrinkage, JetBlue will still have the best legroom in the industry, at least by an inch or two. But, if, as Wall Street requests, JetBlue becomes more like Spirit, will it lose its appeal and lose out in the end? Hard to say.

Southwest Says No

At least partially in response to JetBlue’s move, Southwest announced that it was quite happy with its present product: two no-charge checked bags and low change fees. I suspect that Southwest studied the options carefully and determined it would lose more in ticket revenue by abandoning its consumer-friendly policies than it would gain in extra fees. Way to go, Southwest.

Good News for Cruisers

If—unfortunately—you have a medical problem mishandled at sea, you can now sue the cruise line for malpractice, at least in some courts. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeal recognized the right of cruise travelers to hold a cruise line vicariously liable for negligence of onboard doctors and nurses. This is a complete reversal or prior court doctrine, most notably cited in the notorious “Barbetta” case, which held cruise lines immunized against such suits. The 11th Circuit didn’t find in favor of the plaintiff, but it ruled that the plaintiff’s suit could proceed. Although not many of you will ever suffer from medical malpractice at sea, the most important result of this ruling is that the other immunities cruise lines hold can also fall under attack.

Allegiant Adds More Nowheres and Somewheres

Allegiant has become one of the country’s most profitable airlines by following its unique business model: Less-than-daily nonstops from nowhere to somewhere. That means flying from airports serving small populations to the country’s top tourist destinations. It has begun to run out of “low-hanging fruit,” and it has announced both new nowheres and new somewheres to start next year.

The nowheres are getting bigger, now including cities as large as Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Omaha, Pittsburgh, and Richmond, with trips mainly to various Florida destinations.

The newest somewhere is New Orleans, which will get seasonal flights from Cincinnati, Columbus, and Indianapolis, plus year-round flights from Orlando.

New routes already flying include Cincinnati–Mesa and Peoria–Orlando.

I keep hoping Allegiant will select New York as a new somewhere; I can see a big demand by both leisure and business travelers. To avoid congestion and high costs, it should target Long Island MacArthur airport as its base; transportation from there to Manhattan is much better than from Stewart Field. As of now, however, I get the feeling that Allegiant isn’t really interested in my advice. Oh well, that’s happened before.

Get a Room

If you’re expecting out-of-town family or friends for a holiday visit, don’t get a guilt trip for putting them up in a nearby hotel or motel. A new release from Priceline cites survey results that some 68 percent of Americans “agree that having out-of-town guests or family stay at a hotel would actually make the holidays easier.” A smaller but still substantial 25 percent say they would “love to be relaxing in a hotel over the holidays.” And as long as you can afford it, picking up the tab for a brief hotel stay could be a much more welcome holiday gift than some trinket or other.

Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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