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Home Travel Western Travel Buzz Latest News, Deals & Savings for Nov. 30

Latest News, Deals & Savings for Nov. 30

Three airlines have been fined for stranding passengers overnight on an airplane at Rochester International Airport, Gray Line of Alaska has debuted its 2010 Alaska and the Yukon and a special offer for couples, and JetBlue Airways has received top honors in five categories in this year’s Zagat Airline Survey.

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Three Airlines Fined for Stranding Passengers on Airplane

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined Continental Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines a total of $100,000 for their roles in causing the passengers on board Continental Express flight 2816 to remain on the aircraft at Rochester International Airport on Aug. 8, 2009 for an unreasonable period of time.

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In addition, DOT assessed a civil penalty of $75,000 against Mesaba Airlines, which provided ground handling for the flight, for its role in the incident.

Continental also provided a full refund to each passenger and also offered each passenger additional compensation to tangibly acknowledge their time and discomfort.

These precedent-setting enforcement actions, announced Nov. 24, 2009, involve consent orders that reflect a settlement by the carriers of violations alleged by DOT's Aviation Enforcement Office.

They are the first enforcement orders punishing carriers for extended tarmac delays, as well as the first time a carrier acting as a ground handler for another airline has been punished for failing to properly help passengers leave an aircraft during an unreasonably long tarmac delay.

"I hope that this sends a signal to the rest of the airline industry that we expect airlines to respect the rights of air travelers," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We will also use what we have learned from this investigation to strengthen protections for airline passengers subjected to long tarmac delays."

The Aviation Enforcement Office's investigation found that all three carriers violated the law that prohibits unfair and deceptive practices in air transportation for their respective roles in the incident, in which a Continental Express flight from Houston to Minneapolis/St. Paul operated by ExpressJet was diverted to Rochester due to bad weather in Minneapolis.

The aircraft reached Rochester about 12:30 a.m. and the passengers were stranded aboard the aircraft until approximately 6:15 a.m. when they were finally deplaned into the terminal.

Prior to diverting to Rochester, ExpressJet contacted Mesaba personnel at Rochester to request assistance at the airport, which Mesaba, the only airline staffing the airport at the time, agreed to provide.

Shortly after the flight arrived in Rochester, the ExpressJet captain asked the Mesaba employee handling the flight whether the passengers could deplane into the airport terminal.

In response to this initial inquiry, and other subsequent inquiries, the captain was told that passengers could not enter the terminal because there were no Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners on duty at that hour, despite the fact that TSA rules would have allowed the passengers to enter the airport as long as they remained in a sterile area.

Continental and ExpressJet, in separate orders, were found to have violated the prohibition against unfair and deceptive practices in air transportation because ExpressJet failed to carry out a provision of Continental's customer service commitment requiring that, if a ground delay is approaching three hours, its operations center will determine if departure is expected within a reasonable time, and if not the carrier will take action as soon as possible to deplane passengers.

According to DOT, ExpressJet also failed to take timely actions required by its procedures, including notifying senior ExpressJet officials and providing appropriate Continental officials with notice of the delay. Continental was found to have engaged in an unfair and deceptive practice since, as the carrier marketing the flight 2816, Continental ultimately is responsible to its passengers on that flight.

The consent order covering Mesaba finds that the carrier engaged in an unfair and deceptive practice when it provided inaccurate information to ExpressJet about deplaning passengers from flight 2816.

Gray Line of Alaska Unveils 2010 Offerings for Alaska, the Yukon

Gray Line of Alaska has debuted its 2010 Alaska and the Yukon brochure and is now taking reservations for all 2010 tours, with a special offer of $500 off per couple when a six-day or longer tour is booked by Dec. 31, 2009.

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"Gray Line's special offer is a great incentive for folks to book their Alaska trip before the end of this year," said Mark Mumm, director of sales and marketing. "We offer many six- to 11-day tours throughout Alaska and the Yukon ranging from Denali packages to escorted tours, self-drive trips, highway tours, adventure tours and post-cruise connection packages.

"Gray Line has the ability to customize any itinerary to suit each traveler's schedule and desired route," Mumm emphasized." We have the knowledge and infrastructure - day boats, trains, motor coaches - to create exactly the Alaska experience each guest or group desires."

A leader in Alaska and Yukon tourism with more than 60 years experience, Gray Line of Alaska specializes in planning custom tours and day trips as well as offering pre-planned tours.

In 2010 Gray Line is featuring a total of 29 customizable tours and many day trips ranging from Anchorage sightseeing to Arctic flightseeing, including:

  • Self-Drive Tours: Gray Line offers four pre-planned, self-drive tours, which include a rental car, a set itinerary, hotel reservations and select tours en route.

  • Escorted Group Tours: Gray Line offers two itineraries ideal for those who prefer to explore Alaska with the camaraderie of a group and the convenience of a tour guide to handle logistics and provide information. Both are eight-day tours on which guests travel by a combination of luxury glass-domed rail car, boat and deluxe motor coach and stay at first-class wilderness lodges in many locations.

  • Denali Tours: Gray Line features many tours to and within Denali National Park, one of Alaska's most popular attractions because of the wildlife, wilderness scenery and majestic Mt. McKinley.

  • Day Tours / Custom Group Tours: Besides Denali, Gray Line offers a wide range of day tours and adventures in many destinations, including Anchorage, Alyeska, Seward, Talkeetna, Fairbanks, Skagway, and Juneau, Alaska; and in Whitehorse and Dawson City, Yukon Territory.

Gray Line plans custom tours for groups as well as individual travelers. A group may wish to add a trip to Denali following their cruise or do an extensive tour of interior Alaska and the Yukon. Gray Line can customize their trip with the addition of sightseeing tours, meals and beverages, parties, private shuttles and more. Itineraries can be tailored to fit group needs and preferences, including flexible departure times and routes.

Arrangements and reservations for Alaska tour packages can be made with your travel agent or via the Gray Line web site at
www.graylinealaska.com  or by calling (800) 544-2206.

JetBlue Wins Zagat's Best Rated Large Domestic Airline Award

JetBlue Airways has received top honors in five categories in this year's Zagat Airline Survey, including Best Rated Large Domestic Airline for economy-class seating and Best In-flight Entertainment for domestic flights for the second straight year.

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JetBlue was also recognized as the leader in Comfort in both the domestic and international economy class categories. When asked which domestic airline operates in the most green manner, JetBlue landed the top position.

In 2008, it was rated Most Eco-Friendly airline. In addition, the New York-based carrier ranked second in each of the 2009 survey's Best Value for the Money, Best Consumer On-Time Estimates in the U.S. and Best Luggage Policy categories.

"JetBlue gives today's traveler more value, more comfort and more quality entertainment for their airfare, and we are excited that our customers and Zagat's surveyors have recognized us as their carrier of choice for two years in a row," said Robin Hayes, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for JetBlue. "We are honored to receive top ratings in several categories of Zagat's airline survey this year. Above all, this honor is a testament to our more than 12,000 crewmembers who provide our customers with high-quality, friendly service every day of the year."

The survey is based on the experiences of 5,895 frequent fliers and travel professionals who rated 16 domestic and 73 international airlines, and 30 domestic U.S. airports. Each airline was separately rated on its premium and economy service for both domestic and international flights. The average surveyor took 16.6 flights in the past year aggregating 97,600 trips.

JetBlue serves 60 cities with 650 daily flights. With JetBlue, all seats are assigned, all travel is ticketless, all fares are one-way, and an overnight stay is never required. For information or reservations call 1-800-JET-BLUE or visit
www.jetblue.com .


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