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Marriott International Continues to Expand Across North America

by Lux Joseph 28. January 2015

Commercial Medical Escorts has entered into its Caribbean and Canadian travel season. While we transport patients worldwide throughout the year, we definitely can identify and see trends in the different destinations throughout the year. It is very common for our office to move several patients a week back to different parts of Canada including Ontario, Albert, Quebec, and British Colombia.  When our escorts typically overnight in Canada one of the major hotel brands that is commonly use is the Delta hotels. However, a recent agreement with a major US hotel chain means changes among upscale hotels in Canada.

 

Throughout Canada, the Delta brand has a total of 38 hotels. Marriott International saw Canada as a breakthrough in a market which they do not 100% dominate. When individuals stay at hotels throughout Canada, Marriott International is not the first hotel that comes to mind. However Delta, is a brand that is recognized throughout the Canadian market and Marriott saw that as an opportunity for brand success.    This major acquisition will increase Marriott International hotel count to 120 in all of Canada. Delta Hotels currently has approximately 10,000 rooms. This acquisition will make Marriott International the largest full-service hotel company in the country.

 

Throughout the last decade we have observed a variety of large acquisitions within the hospitality industry. The airline industry being one of the biggest players in acquisition has demonstrated the positive and negative effects that it has on consumers.  Marriott has been aggressively seeking acquisitions to improve its expansion throughout the world. Many companies that expand too quickly find themselves unable to meet their demand, but that doesn’t seem like the future for Marriott. Marriott International has been expanding aggressively so that they can maintain a strong presence in attractive regions throughout the world. Other recent acquisitions include acquiring Protea Hospitality Holdings in Africa and Moxy Hotels in Italy.

 

When selecting hotels for our escorts to stay in, we consider a variety of things similar to things consumers should consider when making their own hotel reservations. The Internet has become a great resource for individuals, but it isn’t always the most accurate. With today’s technology, hotel pictures can also be deceiving or embellished to look better than they really are. We strongly encourage you to utilize Trip Advisor to read up to date reviews or consult a travel advisor. Marriott is a well-known brand, but as you enter into different countries American brand hotels are not always available. Be smart, research your destination and ensure the hotel meets your needs, but is also in a safe area.


Understanding the Tarmac Delay Rule

by Lux Joseph 18. January 2015

Every day we have nurses, physicians, and patients traveling to different parts of the world via commercial airlines.  We arrange travel for our clients on more than twenty airlines and in a single day we can have more than ten transports occurring simultaneously.  With this data, one can only imagine the number of delays that can occur since we are using commercial airlines. It is one of the challenges CME and other medical escort companies face however; it is one challenge that cannot be avoided. Sky Cap Corp, our in-house travel department, works tirelessly to ensure appropriate connection times for our escorts and patients, but one can never tell what type of delay may occur on daily basis due to weather, mechanical, air traffic, or even a strike by an aviation union. CME is fortunate that Sky Cap Corp is continuously monitoring our flights to ensure seamless transfers and if a delay is going to affect a transport a backup plan is in place.
 
If you are traveling alone or made your own arrangements you may be left out in the cold “figuratively speaking” in an event of a delay or cancelled flight. As a passenger it is important for you to understand your rights and what airlines are and are not responsible for. Recently the Transportation Department fined Southwest Airlines $1.6 million dollars for violations of the tarmac delay rule that occurred during a snowstorm in January 2014. But do you know that the tarmac delay rule is and what rights you have?


The Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings issued an announcement in 2011 that outlined the tarmac delay:
 
A reportable tarmac delay is a tarmac delay at a large, medium, small, or non-hub U.S. airport that lasts for more than three hours. The 3-hour limit begins when passengers no longer have the option to get off of the aircraft, which usually occurs when the doors of the aircraft are closed. However, if an aircraft is at the gate with the doors open, and passengers are not allowed off the aircraft, the time limit would start at the point when passengers were no longer permitted to deplane. If the flight that experienced the reportable tarmac delay is reported under the Airline Service Quality Reports required by 14 CFR Part 234, the data for that flight should be reported under Part 234 instead of Part 244.
 
In the final rule, we state that covered carriers should file Part 244 reports for any reportable tarmac delay of “three hours or more.” This standard is inconsistent with the tarmac delay contingency plan requirements under Part 259 and the existing reporting requirements of the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), both of which use a “more than three hours” standard. We intend to correct this inconsistency in a future rulemaking to make it clear that carriers do not need to file a report for a tarmac delay of exactly three hours. In the meantime, as a matter of enforcement policy, we will accept reports under Part 244 that meet the “more than three hours” criteria. For additional information, please refer to BTS Accounting and Reporting Directive No. 303A, issued on August 12, 2011.
 
Europe has a similar policy in place in regards to tarmac delays as well. Keep in mind though, delays due to weather does not require the airline to provide any particular compensation to passengers affected by weather related delays. Within the European Union, if a plane is boarded and sits on the tarmac for more than five hours, passengers will have the right to demand to be let off. If the tarmac delay is more than an hour, the airline must provide air conditioning, use of toilets and water.
 
In reference to recent events surrounding the Ebola virus the tarmac rules do not apply. In the event that a passenger on board an aircraft is suspected to have Ebola or another serious contagious virus or illness, passengers may be held on the plane to ensure health and safety policies are followed. No fines will be assessed to the airline. A safety relation or security related reasons are the only incidents that may exempt an airline from the hefty fine.
 
In the recent incident with Southwest, the assessed fine was much higher than previous incidents recorded by the DOT. The DOT advised this was due to the large number of passengers and flights that were affected. Southwest claimed that is was due to a shortage in staff, and the DOT advised there should be an appropriate amount of staff available as a contingency plan in the future to prevent this from happening again. Weather was a factor in this particular incident, but the DOT is making it very clear that they are serious about their rules and regulations. Southwest’s fine was more than the total amount of fines that have been issued since 2009 (5.24 million).
 
As a passenger on a commercial airline it is critical to understand that the tarmac delay rules don't just impact what happens when you're onboard a flight that's stuck at the gate. Airlines are required to post flight delay information on their websites for every domestic flight. You can even visit www.flightaware.com to see the statistics of on time arrival for a particular flight. You can compare delay trends flight-by-flight (and airline by airline) to lessen your chances of a lengthy delay.
 
If you are subject to a tarmac delay, we encourage you to call the airline or check their website to get information on filing a formal complaint. To learn more about the new federal tarmac delay rules, visit http://airconsumer.dot.gov/, the official site of the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings.

JetBlue Gives You Less

by Lux Joseph 16. December 2014

Jetblue Airlines and Southwest airlines appear to be the only two US Carriers that still allow passengers to travel with one checked bag free of charge. For travelers, this is a luxury considering every other airline charges a fee for a checked bag and those rates van vary among carriers. But is Jetblue shifting their philosophy and joining the reins of their competitors by adding baggage fees to their products?
 
JetBlue Airways recently made the decision to charge for checked bags in the upcoming quarter after pressure from analysts advising them to align their fees with their competitors. When we asked our travel agent how he thinks this will affect passengers he stated, A lot of individuals still look to JetBlue and Southwest because of the first bag checked for free however, that is primarily your travelers who dont travel frequently. Most individuals who travel frequently have status with one or more of the airlines, or have a credit card that pays for the first checked bag to ultimately it will not affect them. The decision to charge for bag fees was not a single decision made by JetBlue Airways. This shift comes with other changes including fare structures, legroom in economy class, and plane configuration.
 
As mentioned earlier, these decisions were driven by a Wall Street viewpoint to increase the maximum revenue potential for JetBlue Airways. In regards to checked bags, JetBlue plans to introduce a fare structure that will be three tiered based on the number of bags the guest has. Similar to other airline programs, the higher fares offer more flexibility and increased number of frequent flier points to be earned. Just a small increase for the airline will drive approximately 65 million in additional revenue for 2015.
 
Along with the fare structure change, JetBlue is reconfiguring their airplanes to add additional seats. This is another attempt to add additional revenue to their sales portfolio. However, this will affect the customer experience with a decrease in seat pitch. JetBlues current seat pitch is 34.7 inches. However after the planes new configuration the seat pitch will decrease to 33.1. The average traveler may be disgruntled by this change, but JetBlue will still lead the industry with the largest seat pitch. On the A320s the increased number of seats will go to 165 whereas they could have increased it to 180. JetBlue believes in the customer experience, but also realizes its place in the industry. In the USA alone we have seen the number of major domestic carriers decrease year over year due to bankruptcy and mergers. JetBlue is attempting to find a medium between making the numbers profitable, and also meeting the needs of their customers.
 
When JetBlue Airways first introduced these changes, the first thought from consumers was negative, but that is because the change hasnt been fully processed by the traveler. They have decreased the seat pitch, but they are still ahead of all their competitors. They are beginning to charge for bags, but they still will have fares that include a first bag checked for free. JetBlue is leaving the decision up to the customer as to whether they add a fee to their flight or choose a fare in which it is included. These fares are scheduled to begin in early 2015.
 
Southwest will soon reign as the only USA carrier to include the first checked bag free of charge. While Southwest may see this as an opportunity to acquire a share of JetBlues customer’s who oppose the fee; it will be interesting to see if these changes actually shift customers to look at Southwest as their new carrier of choice. When travelers look for an airline ticket there are a variety of factors that are considered including fare cost, baggage fees, destinations, seat comfort, in-flight entertainment, etc. A small change like this may not mean a loss of business for JetBlue, but instead, additional revenue that was sitting on table.
 

 


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