Airlines have enjoyed much freedom with respect to how they run their operations as well as compensation for flight delays, refunds, changing already booked reservations, and air fare add-ons that include baggage fees, pillow and blanket charges, on-board meals etc. Many of these items now fall under new regulations as imposed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and for the most part are more consumer-friendly.
These new regulations are already in effect. Concerning delays, international carriers now must adhere to the same delay laws already in effect for domestic carriers. The maximum limit for tarmac delays in the States now must be followed by international airlines. The rule is three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international. Passengers must also receive updates from the airline every 30 minutes. So, just about every commercial flight within the U.S. will now be covered.
Foreign carriers must issue airfare refunds within 20 days and make every effort to deliver lost luggage within 24 hours. Customers now have 24 hours to cancel a reservation without penalty for departures more than a week in advance.
These rules are now the same for domestic airlines as with foreign carriers.
The DOT has also increased airlines’ compensation to passengers who are bumped involuntarily. The fee went up from $800 to $1,300 for delays lasting more than two hours. And, people traveling on frequent-flyer miles, consolidator tickets and travel vouchers also qualify.
In October all taxes and extras must be disclosed to the traveler with the fare quote. No more guess work. How long these laws will be in effect remains a question mark, but it’s all good for the consumer.
Best in the business
Travel and Leisure magazine in its August issue listed what its writers consider the best in various categories of resorts, hotels, and airlines, etc.
If you are into visiting cities the overall top five include: Bangkok, Florence, Rome, New York City and Istanbul. In the United States the top five are: New York City, Charleston, Chicago, San Francisco and Santa Fe.
These would not necessarily be my pick, but here are the top islands: Santorini, Greece; Bali, Indonesia; Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; Boracay, Philippines; and Great Barrier Reef, Australia. In the United States and Canada, the top five include: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; Vancouver Island, British Columbia; Nantucket, Mass.; San Juan Islands, Washington State; and Mackinac Island, Mich. The top Caribbean islands are Cuba, The Abacos, St. John, Virgin Gorda and the Grenadines.
The top cruise lines are: (large ship) Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and the Cunard Line.
Small-ship lines are: Seabourn, Silversea Cruises, Lindblad Cruises, Seadream Yacht Club and Windstar Cruises.
River cruise lines include: Tauck, Uniworld Boutique Cruises, Viking Cruises, Amawaterways and Avalon Waterways. River cruising has caught on big with American travelers the last three years and the companies are expanding quickly.
The top tour operators in the world are: Micato Safaris, Ker & Downey, Explore, Inc., Wilderness Safaris and Austin-Lehman Adventures. Frankly, I had never heard of these top tour operators prior to reading the listing in Travel and Leisure.
The top five domestic airliners are: Virgin America, Jetblue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines. The top five international carriers are: Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic Airways.
The top five car rental agencies include: Zipcar, Hertz, Autoeurope, National Car Rental and Enterprise rent-a-car.
Did any of these top picks surprise you? They did me.
The top five hotels and resorts in the U.S. are: Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.; Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, Utah; San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, Calif.; Four Seasons Resort, Jackson Hole, Wyo.; and Stephanie Inn, Cannon Beach, Ore.
In Hawaii, the top five picks are: Four Seasons Resort, Hualala, Hawaii; Halekulane, Oahu; Four Seasons Resort, Maui at Wailea; Four Seasons Resort, Lani; and Travaasa Hana, Maui.
In the Caribbean, voted best are: Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis; Couples Tower Isle, St. Mary, Jamaica; Couples Swept Away, Negril, Jamaica; Hotel Saint-Barth Isle De France, St. Barts; and Couples Sans Souce, St. Mary Jamaica.
In Europe where many Americans now travel, the top five resorts are: Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy; Turnberry Resort, Scotland; Hotel Splendido, Portofino, Italy; Plazazzo Sasso, Ravello, Italy; and Vill De Este, Cerobibo, Italy. The top hotels in Europe are: Stafford London; Olissippo Lapa Palace, Lisbon; Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris; Brenners Park Hotel, Baden-Baden, Germany.
Now that we are in the fall months, this is usually a good time to travel almost anywhere. Many of the tourists have gone home, airfares are less expensive and the weather is cooler making for good walking in the cities.
In fact, fall is my favorite time of year for many things.
The cruise lines continue to offer lower fares, especially the up-scale lines and you may wish to examine what these deluxe lines offer compared to the mid-range cruise companies. So many of the deluxe lines now offer rates that include airfare, wines with lunch and dinner, at least one free sightseeing tour in each port of call, and complimentary hotels for the night before boarding your cruise ship in Europe. Some even give generous free credit for stateroom expenses aboard ship.
One of my favorite cruises is the central Mediterranean. They usually last 12 days and include Italy, France, Monaco, Spain and a Spanish Isle.
Right now there are many ships doing this type of itinerary so look into several cruise lines to assist your choice. An experienced travel agent who has been there can also advise you.
If you like good food, Italy is a good choice, as is France. It is wise to research where to eat on the Internet before you go.
The Greek Islands are also a good choice in the fall of the year. Its cooler and again, many of the tourists have gone home. A week’s cruise through these islands is a wise choice in my opinion. This gives you several of the islands to sample with no air required between the islands. Or, as long as you are in Europe, take two cruises, one in the central Mediterranean and the other in the Greek Islands. Often you can find a ship that does both back to back.
The world is such a beautiful place — get out and see it.