Thursday, November 27, 2014

Roadboy's 2014 Awards

A Year in Review

Travel can help solve the world's problems. Those who explore our world develop insight and respect for other cultures.

For those that do travel the process can be a challenge. And, frequently those that profit the most from our travel (government and the travel industry) deserve special recognition for exceptional and creative efforts to make travel harder and more expensive than it needs to be.

Herewith, I offer Roadway's travel awards for 2014.

1. The Worlds "Silliest New Travel Law"
Venice relies entirely on tourism for its economic survival, yet in 2014 Venice enacted a new law prohibiting "noisy" wheeled suitcases. The law allows "inflatable" wheels on luggage (a product that does not exist).

2. The "Up, Up and Away" Award
2014's plunging aviation fuel prices should have delivered some bargain airfares, right? No way, fares went up steeply in 2014. The fare hikes prove there is no link between airfares and operating costs. Fares are based on competition. Now that airline merger mania is nearly complete, airlines seem to be trying to perfect a S&M passenger experience. They are looking for ways to make coach seats even smaller. Legroom will soon cost even more. Want to print boarding passes at the airport, check bags or get a seat assignment? Open your wallet.

3. The "Welcome to The Garden State" Award
There were 3 tragic ebola deaths in the US in 2014. Conversely, zillions of Americans die each year from smoking and obesity related health issues. Our politicians, however, joined the "fair and balanced" Fox network nitwits in a full ebola aneurism. They described plane loads of ebola laden passengers arriving from Africa to infect us. Of course, once they realized there aren't any direct flights between the US and the ebola stricken countries they opted to simply asking arriving passengers if they've visited Africa anytime recently. Yet, in New Jersey anyone answering yes wins Governor Christie's full rendition and lock down treatment.

4. The "Bye Bye Same Day Cancellation" Award
Hotels pulled record profits in 2014, yet the hospitality industry (an oxymoron!), responded by quietly adding new fees and eliminating same day cancellations. So, when making reservations, read that tiny print. It will likely inform you that the era of "cancel by 6 PM date of arrival" is over

5. The "Disappearing Final Hotel Bill"Award
Hotels rarely slip final bills under the door preferring to e-mail them instead. Roadboy however, still asks to see the bill. It makes it easier to remove any "resort fees" I wasn't notified of (along with any $6 bottles of Fiji I didn't actually drink). In fact, in 2014 hotels imposed all sorts of new nuisance fees and / or penalties. Now at check-in I ask for disclosure of any penalties or fees (things like new "early departure" penalties) they might inflict. For instance say you get your work done a day early and want to leave, in many hotels you'll have to pay for the room you vacate (even if they re-rent it!)

6. The "Max Bialystock Award" 
This is my award for selling something you don't actually have (which we'd normally call fraud, right?) Well airlines do it everyday. According to "Fast Company" 26 million travelers in the US and EU in 2013 were denied boarding due to overbooking. Bumped passengers are typically offered airline vouchers. Airlines love those vouchers because only 15% of them ever get redeemed. Southwest is the worst offender, followed by United, Delta (Skywest), Expressjet and US Airways (and its buddies American, Mesa and American Eagle).

If you are "bumped" due to overbooking for more than an hour you have defined rights and may not want to accept a voucher the airline initially offers.  In fact, when you accept a voucher you waive your rights to full compensation. Here is what you are entitled to:

A delay less than an hour entitles you zip.
A delay of 1-4 hours entitles you to 200% of the one-way value of your ticket (capped at $650).
A delay 4+ hours entitles you to 400% of the one-way value of your ticket (capped at $1,300).

Only when passengers demand full compensation will airlines curb overbooking.

7. The "Out of My Way" Award
The Airline industry is probably the only one where staff demands priority over their best customers. I always find it ironic when flight crews walk past me at security, hold my bags into the X-ray scanner in order to cut in line. Some used to say "excuse me", now they just throw everyone stink eye whilst they jamb 3 bags and a schooner of fluids through the scanner.

8. The "Chertoff Legacy" Award
In 2014 the last of those $250,000 Rapiscan x-ray scanners disappeared. They were championed by then Homeland security czar Michael Chertoff. Then once most US airports had them Chertoff "resigned" his position to form the Chertoff Consulting Group. The Rapiscan's units never met specs for privacy and were soon removed, yet taxpayer's never got a refund.

Elsewhere in the world Rapiscan units were prohibited since "they had never been subjected to testing on humans". That is not actually correct. Here, in the US, they got a full test.....on you and me.

By the way, Rapiscan immediately became one of The Chertoff Group's biggest clients.

Remember just say "Opt Out"!

9. The "Websters Vs. T-Mobile" Award
This year T-Mobile advertised a new plan featuring "Unlimited" International Talk, Data and Roam". I wet myself. Roadboy's idea of "Unlimited" is: "my I-Phone works wherever I travel for a week or a month".

But when I asked "what if I stay 6 months in London?" the definition from T-Mobile of "unlimited" went all grey. So, I went online, called customer service and visited a store, still no answer. I then said "let me speak to your Supervisor". That is when I found out that T-Mobile defines "Unlimited" as two weeks or less outside of your "Home" network each year.

10. The "Welcome to the UK" Award
Ms. M spent nearly 6 months this year in the UK. We began the visit in Dublin where our Irish Customs officer emphatically advised: "BE SURE TO CHECK IN WITH BRITISH IMMIGRATION WHEN YOU GET TO LONDON!"'

So at Heathrow we walked all over the special arrivals hall devoted just to planes landing from Ireland (hmmm, go figure) looking for British Customs / Immigrations. We finally gave up and exited through those big frosty glass doors that lead you into the main terminal. In the terminal we consulted every map and directory we could find and asked three different OLP's (Official Looking People) where we'd find the Customs offices.

None could direct us to the British Customs Office at Heathrow. Why so stealthy? Of course since Britain never knew Ms. M arrived there was no issue with her departure. 

So there you go 2014 was a banner year!

Roadboy can hardly wait to start traveling in 2015!

Roadboy's Travels © 2014 

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