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Delta Orders 100 New Boeing 737-900ER Aircraft

Posted by thetraveldoctor on September 3, 2011


New Delta 737-900ER

The New Delta 737-900ER

Delta Airlines announced on August 25, 2011 that it had ordered 100 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft from Chicago Based Boeing Corporation. These aircraft will be for delivery between 2013 and 2018. These aircraft will replace older planes in the Delta fleet.

The order will enable Delta to add 100 fuel-efficient, state-of-the-art 180 seat aircraft to its world wide fleet, replacing on a capacity-neutral basis older technology aircraft that will be retired from the fleet. The new Boeing 737’s will have a range of 3,200 nautical miles and will be able to operate on any domestic route offered by Delta.

The new 737-900ER will be Delta’s first aircraft to feature Boeing’s new “Sky Interior,” which offers expanded carry-on luggage space, a roomier, more airy cabin and an LED lighting system that provides different color schemes, such as a soft blue sky and a relaxing pallet of sunset colors throughout the aircraft.

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Southwest Vacations Hassle

Posted by thetraveldoctor on March 9, 2010


Al and Lil at Universal Studios New Years Day 2010

Al and Lil at Universal Studios New Years Day 2010

Just returned from a very cold trip to Orlando Florida. My wife and I took a Southwest Vacations package to Orlando at the Doubletree Universal. I love to fly Southwest Airlines as their crew, planes and gate areas are the best in the business.

I decided to use Southwest Vacations because the package of Hotel, Car and Flight were much less expensive then booking each component separately. I knew that something was not right when I tried to lookup my flight to put my rapid reward number in the record and the Southwest website told me it could not find my reservation. Now to be fair to Southwest Airlines, Southwest Vacations is run by the Mark Travel Corp, which owns Funjet Vacations and a number of other airline tour companies. The big problem is that Southwest Vacations issues paper tickets. I cannot tell you the last time I used a paper ticket on a domestic flight. Paper tickets are a hassle and they can be lost or stolen. Well, what Southwest Vacations does not tell you is that you cannot check in on line ahead of time, you can only get a “Security Document” that will get you through the security checkpoint, but you still have to stand in line to get a boarding pass. Plus, you cannot get this Security Document on the Southwest Airlines website, you have to go to the Southwest Vacations website, which is a completely different website. So once I figured this out, I tried to check in, as the website said, “Check in Online” which is really not correct. After jumping through a number of hoops, I was able to print out the “Security Documents”. It was a real hassle at Midway Airport in Chicago, but we got to the gate and I was able to stand in line and get a real boarding pass. The disaster was on the return trip.

It’s January 3, 2010 at 500AM. My wife and I had a 735AM Southwest flight from Orlando to Chicago Midway. I could not check in on line at my Orlando hotel because as you read earlier in this store, you can’t do that with paper tickets. We walk into the front door of the Orlando airport and look over at the Southwest Check In. To our surprise, there is a line that looks to be at least an hour and a half. Now we had only carry on luggage, so I asked the Southwest agent if we had to stand in line, she told me “know, just go to the self serve kiosk and check in. Well, you guessed it, it would not let me check in. So I ask the Southwest agent for help. She came over to the kiosk and tried 3 times to check us in. It just would not work. She said to me, “Why don’t you go out to the skycap and let him check you in.” I said “That is a great idea, thank you!” So I went outside to the skycap station. Well, there was a line there too, albeit a much shorter line (15 min instead of 1.5 hours) and the skycap then checked me in and we were on our way to the gate. Getting to the gate was a whole other story, as Orlando shut down the screening area for about 45 minutes but I will not bore you with the details. We did get home on our scheduled flight. I still love Southwest, but the vacation division has to allow the issue of etickets so passengers don’t run into the kind of problems we had.

Thinking of a cruise? Read my blog post on the new Oasis of The Seas at http://thetraveldoctor.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/oasis-of-the-seas-makes-some-last-minute-changes/

Posted in airlines, airplane, airports, bags, Hotels, luggage, news, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Royal Caribbean Returns to Labadee Haiti

Posted by thetraveldoctor on January 23, 2010


Royal Caribbean Ship at Labadee, Haiti with beach in foreground.

Royal Caribbean Ship at anchor at Labadee, Haiti

Royal Caribbean returned to Labadee Haiti this past week. It was the first time the Royal Caribbean ships have stopped at Labadee since the devastating earthquake leveled Port au Prince on January 12, 2010.  Labadee is Royal Caribbean’s private resort and is located on the northern coast of Haiti. The Labadee resort area did not sustain any damage from the earthquake and was able to reopen to passengers of Royal Caribbean cruise line this past week.

Royal Caribbean has taken some criticism since returning passengers to the Resort. I for one applaud the company for bringing tourist back to this country that urgently needs the money. Royal Caribbean has pledged one million dollars toward the relief effort in Haiti. And with the return of the ships to Labadee brings urgently needed supplies and food for the people of Haiti. Royal Caribbean is using every ship in it’s fleet that calls on Labadee as a supply ship for the relief effort bringing much needed food, supplies and personnel. Royal Caribbean has contributed the largest proportion of tourist revenue to Haiti since 1986, employing 300 locals and allowing another 200  locals to sell their wares in the native market within the resort. Royal Caribbean pays the Haitian Government $6 (US) per passenger that arrives on their ships to Labadee. This means that a Voyager Class ship that holds 3114 passenger pays a total of $18,684 per visit. There are at least 3 ship visits per week at $18,684 equals $56,052.00 per week. Plus all the money the passengers spend at the native market, Royal Caribbean is pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into Haiti every month. And they have been doing this since 1986!

Zip Line at Labadee

Zip Line at Labadee

More than any other company in the United States, Royal Caribbean has been helping Haiti for over 20 years. So the next time you hear one of these pompous radio talk show host beating up on Royal Caribbean for bringing tourist back to Labadee, ask yourself, what has that talk show host done for the people of Haiti before or even after the earthquake? Some food for thought.

Posted in Brilliance of The Seas, caribbean, cruise line, cruises, emergency, Haiti, investments, islands, news, royal caribbean, sailing, seniors, ships, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Farewell To Travel Trade Publications after 80 Years!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on October 26, 2009


 

Joel and Lenore Abels

Joel and Lenore Abels tribute dinner

It was a family run business for more than 3 quarters of a century. Joel and Lenore Abels were the best friends the travel industry ever had. Joel passed away on January 25, 2007 at the age of 80 and Lenore passed away 2 months later. The industry lost two great supporters that year.

 

I wondered what would happen to the publication that was built from scratch 78 years ago. I soon found out that the publication was sold to Ian Gittlitz and that he was going to continue the rich tradition of Travel Trade.

Things started to change at Travel Trade and it just didn’t look right. Then came the headline ” Ian Gittlitz, one of the owners of Travel Trade, had been arrested on embezzlement charges. If convicted, Gittlitz faces four to 15 years in prison.”

I was still told that Ian’s son, Seth was running Travel Trade and he was planing a great celebration for the 80th anniversary. But then things started to go south. They stopped publishing the print version of the publication and went to a “Web Only” version. Then at the end of September of 2009, the Website started to shut down. I tried for 3 weeks to contact someone at the offices in New York, but all I was able to get was a voice mail box. Then on October 20, the Website was pulled off the web and the phones were disconnected. This is very sad. Something that took 78 years to build was trashed in less then two and a half years. I am sad to see it go, but I will always remember my many years of friendship with Joel and his wife and what wonderful people they were.

 

Posted in airlines, airplane, caribbean, cruise line, cruises, Europe, Government, Las Vegas, luggage, news, royal caribbean, seniors, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

United Airlines Needs Customer Service Lessons

Posted by thetraveldoctor on June 20, 2009


United Terminal at O'Hare

United Terminal at O'Hare

This has got to be the height of how not to treat a customer. My daughters Mother-in-law purchased 2 round trip tickets for my daughter and her husband for their honeymoon. They were headed to Rome, Italy from Chicago. The best fare and connections were through Toronto on Air Canada. The entire itinerary was on Air Canada except for the first leg of the trip which was from Chicago to Toronto. This leg was a code share flight with United Airlines. That means that United Airlines operated the flight, but the ticket showed an Air Canada flight number but also said “Flight Operated by United Airlines.”

The tickets were purchased about 4 months ago. During that time, United Airlines had a major schedule change and canceled a large number of flights. One of those flights  was the Air Canada code share flight that my kids were on. Now you would think that United would have let us know that the flight was canceled. That would have been the proper thing to do, but remember, this is United, an Airline that does not know what the words “Customer Service” means.

So let’s jump ahead to the night before the flight. I ask my daughter what the flight number was so I can check the times and maybe even get them checked in and get a boarding pass. She gives me her itinerary and I proceeded to look up her flights, but I could not find her first flight number. So I checked all the flight from Chicago to Toronto and I found that her flight did not exist anymore. So I tried to check her in on the United website. But it was not able to check them in as the website said that they did not have a flight from Chicago to Toronto. Now I am really worried. So we call Air Canada. They tell me that they have rebooked them on a United flight to Toronto at 110PM. So I felt a little better, but I still didn’t trust United. So I  called United Airlines Reservations. By the time we got to a real person I was very nervous. I gave the United reservation agent the reservation number and I was told the flight was an Air Canada flight. I told the agent, “No it is your flight, because it is a 737 aircraft and Air Canada does not have any 737’s. The agents argued with me for a few minutes, but then agreed with me that it was a United flight. I hung up, but I still was not feeling very good about this, as it was still not showing the flight correctly in the United reservation system.

The No Customer Service Gate Check In

The No Customer Service Gate Check In

Fast forward to the next day. My kids arrive at O’Hare Airport at 11AM for the 1;10PM Flight. They get in the International check in line and they wait, and wait and wait. After 50 minutes in line, they get to the kiosk and try to check in. But my fears come true and it will not let them check in. It says on the screen “Cannot complete check in, Please see agent.” So they turn around and grab an agent and she tells them they have to go and stand in yet another line to see an agent. They have now been at the airport for 1 hour trying to check in. The next line has at least 40 people in it and only one agent working the line. It takes them 40 minutes to get to the agent. Once they get to the agent, they are told  by the agent “You are too late, I cannot check you in, there is only 20 minutes before flight time. Go to Air Canada, it’s their ticket.” Can you believe that! And she was rude on top of it. They told her that they have been waiting almost 2 hours in LINE! There was no response from the agent. So they gathered up their luggage and  walked from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2, which is a long haul.

The Air Canada Agent they finally checked in with could not have been nicer to my Daughter and Son In Law. She could not believe that United treated them so poorly. She apologized and booked them on an Air Canada flight at 2PM and up graded them to First Class. This is the sign of a Class Airline. United can learn a lot about customer service from the Ticket Agent at Air Canada. Because if you don’t treat your customers with respect, then you won’t have any customers. And if you don’t have any customers, you won’t have an airline. Just some food for thought United!

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Grand Hyatt NY Gets An “F” For Accommodations!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on June 6, 2009


 

Grand Hyatt Hotel New York City

Grand Hyatt Hotel New York City

I just returned from a business trip to New York where I gave a presentation to a group of travel industry professionals. The conference went well, but that is not my reason for writing this. The problem was with the Hotel.

The conference hotel was the Grand Hyatt in New York City. This is a very large business hotel located right next to Grand Central Station on 42nd street. I was excited about staying at the hotel as I really enjoy the Hyatt brand. 

 

I arrived at 1250AM in stead of 1030PM as my flight was late from Chicago due to weather in the New York area. So I am now very tired, somewhat wet as it has been pouring rain for the entire trip from Newark Airport to the Grand Hyatt Hotel and I had to wade through the rain to get to the Super Shuttle Bus. I walk into the lobby of the Grand Hyatt and proceed to the Registration Desk. Now remember it is 1250AM on Thursday morning and there are at least 12 people waiting in line to check in. Now that would not be so bad, but there is only one desk clerk handling the check in and to add insult to injury, there are approximately 15 self service check-in kiosk that all say “OUT OF SERVICE – SEE DESK CLERK TO CHECK IN.” So now I am very tired, I have a bad headache and I am standing in a line that is not moving at all. 

 

20 minutes later I make it up to the desk clerk. I give him my name and my reservation number. He types it into the computer and then I see that look on his face that I have seen to many times before. You know the look of bad news at 115 in the morning. So he tells me that the room I reserved was not available. My heart dropped! I said you have to give me a room. He tells me that he has a queen size smoking room. I said to myself, “how bad could a smoking room be?” So I say to the desk clerk, I just need a room to sleep in, I will take the room. 

 

So he gives me the key card and I proceed to the 15th floor room I was assigned. I get to the room and open the door and walk in and then it hit me. This room REAKED of smoke! Oh did it stink, it just knocked you over. It smelled like someone chain smoked no-stop for a week! But again, I was so tired and I had this terrible headache and I just needed so sleep. So I climbed into the bed and fell asleep. 

 

When I woke up, I really look around the room for the first time. The window shade was all stained and looked as if someone threw a cup of coffee on it. The lights on the night stands did not work properly. The Desk lamp shade was broken and had a hole in it.  There was a floor lamp that was leaning over like someone bent the base.  And the final straw, the wifi in the room did not work.

 

I walked into the bathroom to take a shower. The bathroom look pretty good, so I get into the shower, close the curtain and turned on the water. I adjusted the temperature and then the tub started to fill up. Ok, so the drain was running slow. I hit the shower button and the shower turned on. It started to spray nicely around the curtain and on to the floor. I could not get a good flow onto me, but it did a great job of making a puddle on the floor of the bathroom, which I could not stop.

 

I was really frustrated by this time. I got out of the shower and threw two towels on the floor to soak up the water. I then dried myself off with a third towel, at least they gave me 4 towels and they were not the usual fluffy Hyatt towels, they were very scratchy and thin towels.

 

The service was just fair throughout the hotel. The public areas were very nice, but the service was poor at best. I stay in lots of hotel rooms during the year and this was a stay that I want to forget. I cannot recommend the Grand Hyatt in New York until they do something to improve the quality control of the rooms and the attitude of the staff.

Posted in bags, Credit Cards, economy, first class, food, Hotels, luggage, lunch, news, options, PC, pillows, restaurant, seniors, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations, Wifi | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Disney Names New Ships

Posted by thetraveldoctor on April 6, 2009


 

Disney Ship in Port

Disney Ship in Port

Disney Cruise Line has named it’s two new ships. The cruise line began construction on the two new ships in March. The ships are being built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. The delivery dates for the ships are 2011 and 20012. The new ships will weigh in at 128,000 GRT’s and will have 1,250 staterooms. The new ships will be named The Disney Dream and The Disney Fantasy. A Disney spokesperson called the names “a natural choice for our ships.”

Posted in airlines, Art Auctions at Sea, cancun, caribbean, cruise line, cruises, disabilities, economy, food, Hotels, investments, islands, luggage, Med, Mexico, news, Panama Canal, restaurant, sailing, ships, tickets, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Vacations, Wifi | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Delta Queen Reborn As Chattanooga Hotel

Posted by thetraveldoctor on February 11, 2009


 

The Delta Queen On The Mississippi

The Delta Queen On The Mississippi

A welcome befitting a Queen, the 82 year-old Delta Queen Steamboat arrived in Chattanooga on Wednesday February 11. Hundreds of people turned out to welcome the Queen to Chattanooga which will be it’s new home as it will become a floating hotel.

 

Ambassadors International, which owns the Delta Queen has chartered to Harry Phillips, owner of Chattanooga Water Taxi and Fat Cat Ferry. Mr. Phillips has hired  Sydney Slome, owner of Chattanooga’s Stone Fort Inn, to manage the Delta Queen Hotel. The hotel is slated to open to the public in April. The hotel will have 87 cabins and can hold 174 guests.

The Delta Queen was built in 1926 and has a steel hull and a wooden superstructure. Currently the Delta Queen cannot legally operate overnight cruises at present because its congressional exemption from fire safety laws was allowed to expire on Oct 31, 2008. 

The Delta Queen will host Dixieland jazz bands, cabarets and musical revues. Tours of the vessel will also be available.

So if you are planning on visiting Chattanooga this summer, you may want to book a cabin on the historic Delta Queen.

Posted in bags, cruise line, cruises, disabilities, economy, first class, food, Hotels, luggage, news, pillows, restaurant, sailing, seniors, ships, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

San Antonio, A Great City to Visit!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on January 8, 2009


The Rio San Antonio River Cruise

The Rio San Antonio River Cruise

just returned from a fantastic trip to San Antonio and the Alamo Bowl. I loved the City of San Antonio and its famous Riverwalk. The first thing you need to know if you are planning a trip to San Antonio is the San Antonio Airport is under construction and it is a bear to get around. The roadway in and out of the airport is all torn up and there are temporary entrances for all the terminals and the walk from the drop off point to the ticket counters is very long.

The City of San Antonio’s downtown district is always jumping. This is due to the Riverwalk that winds it’s way through the entire downtown area. You have to take the boat tour. The boats are run by the Rio San Antonio Cruise Company. The cost of the 30 minute river tour is $7.75 (cash only) and you can board at two different areas along the Riverwalk. Since we were there right before New Years, the Riverwalk was all lit up with thousands of Holiday Lights on all the trees lining the river. The lights come on at dusk. If you can take the river cruise right around 530PM, it is a beautiful ride.

The Alamo Dome was a great place to see a football game. We went to see our team, Northwestern University take on Missouri in the Alamo Bowl. It was a great game and we enjoyed cheering on our Wildcats. And even thou we didn’t will, we did cover the point spread, so in my book we won.
San Antonio gets two thumbs up from me!

Posted in airlines, cruises, economy, free, Government, Hotels, luggage, news, sailing, seniors, ships, State house, Texas, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Governor Blagojevich Poll

Posted by thetraveldoctor on December 20, 2008


With all that is going on in Illinois Politics, I thought it was time to ask the people if the Governor of Illinois should resign. He serves at the pleasure of the people and we have to tell him if he should stay in office or leave for the good of the state of Illinois. Vote and I will forward the poll results to the Lt. Governor.

Posted in economy, emergency, Government, Illinois, investments, news, options, State house, Uncategorized, US House | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »