Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Air pilgrims face holy water ban"

"Pilgrims on the Vatican's new chartered airline have been told to leave holy water behind for security reasons.
Officials at Tarbes-Lourdes airport in southern France said that bottles of water from the shrine at Lourdes could present a potential terrorist threat.
The pilgrims were told they could not carry holy water in bottles bigger than the maximum allowed: 100 ml.
Security staff at the airport said they were simply following international anti-terror regulations.
Measures limiting liquids allowed in carry-on baggage came in response to claims by British police in 2006 that there was a plot to bring down US-bound flights using liquid explosives.
Francesco Pizzo, Mistral Air's president, said the company had to respect international regulations on the matter.
The airline provided a small bottle of holy water, in the shape of the Virgin Mary, for each passenger, once they had boarded the plane for the flight home from Lourdes.
Mistral Air began flights from Rome to Lourdes on Monday and plans to extend its service to other Roman Catholic shrines."

Source: BBC News.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Illegal travel operators earn millions USD"

"Investigators of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) recently inspected tour operations related to groups of visitors at Hanoi's Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature). In less than two hours, they discovered nearly ten cases of violations of the Tourism Law, mainly illegal international travel operations.
So far this year, VNAT has asked the Ministry of Public Security to expel 18 foreigners who illegally worked as tour guides in Vietnam.
VNAT's investigation revealed 25 tour guides who violated the Tourism Law, six companies committed violations related to international travel services, and four illegal foreign tourism representative offices." Read more >>

Source: VietNamNet Bridge.

Vietnam: Man sues budget airline over disabled-access fee

A Vietnamese man is suing the country's budget airline for charging him a wheelchair service for his disabled wife to board a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi claiming the airline did not inform him of any extra fees for disabled passengers when he purchased tickets for the flight. Pacific Airlines is refusing to pay the man's claim of 25 dollars, half the fee he was charged, because it would "create a bad precedent," a spokesman told the English-language Vietnam News.
No court date has been set for the case, filed August 16 in Tan Binh District Court of Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam does not have strong laws requiring equal access for disabled people, according to Trinh Minh Hien, head of the Ministry of Transport's legal department.

Source:, reas full article here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Calmer heads should prevail on U.S. visa provision"

Yesterday, the International Herald Tribune published a very interesting article, written by Daniel Griswold, Director of the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies, on the current US Visa Policy, that is available in full text, here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"Terror alert puts cloud over Bali travel cover"

As reported by Clive Dorman, at The Age, "A Travel law specialist has warned that government advice about travel to Indonesia may technically invalidate travel insurance for trips to the holiday island of Bali.
Even though insurers continue to cover travellers to Bali, Tony Cordato, of Sydney's Cordato Partners Tourism Lawyers, believes the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's advice for travel to Bali triggers the exclusion clause in travel insurance policies that disqualifies covering anyone who ignores government warnings.
The department advises that people should 'reconsider their need' to travel to Indonesia, including Bali, 'because of the very high threat of terrorist attack'. It is the second-highest category, a so-called level four warning. Mr Cordato said that while the issue had not been tested in court, 'the conclusion must be that there is no travel insurance coverage for travel to countries where level four travel advisories apply'.
Travel insurers and the Insurance Council of Australia have so far been unwilling to weigh in on the issue. But the industry is already facing a dramatic increase in disputes over travel insurance policies as more Australians, particularly older Australians, travel overseas."

Friday, August 24, 2007

"British Airways Plc and Korean Air Line Co. Ltd. Agree to Plead Guilty and Pay Criminal Fines Totaling $600 Million for Fixing Prices [...]"

As stated by the US Department Of Justice, "WASHINGTON — U.K.-based British Airways Plc and South Korean-based Korean Air Lines Co. Ltd. have each agreed to plead guilty and pay separate $300 million criminal fines for their roles in conspiracies to fix the prices of passenger and cargo flights, announced the Department of Justice. Today's plea agreements are the first to arise from the Antitrust Division's ongoing investigation into the air transportation industry.
The charges against the two airline companies were filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Under the plea agreements, which are subject to court approval, British Airways and Korean Air have agreed to cooperate with the Department's ongoing investigation.
'The Department of Justice is committed to vigorous antitrust enforcement and will continue to bring to justice those who fix prices and thereby deprive the American public of the benefits afforded by a truly competitive market,' said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. 'International law enforcement cooperation is crucial in prosecuting global cartels such as these, and today's enforcement actions represent the successful coordination between the United States and the U.K.'s Office of Fair Trading.'."

This Press Release is available in full text.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"China Tells Its Tourists No Shouting"

"China's advice to its citizens who travel abroad: No fighting, no shouting and, please, no extortion.
The new guidelines for Chinese tourists, posted on the Foreign Ministry's Web site Tuesday, cover a wide range of dangerous or problem behavior to help head off trouble. Travelers are told to avoid drawing attention to themselves, respect local customs, and keep a wary eye on strangers.
'Keep peaceful in public places, don't talk loud and avoid sticking out,' the guidelines said. 'Don't get involved in other people's quarrels in public places,' it added, a nod to the Chinese habit of gathering in large crowds to observe or even take part in others' arguments and fights.
The suggestions also urged Chinese to respect local laws and not to try to cut corners or make threats. 'When your legal rights are violated, avoid making things worse and resolve the problem through upright channels, not through extortion or other illegal methods,' the guidelines said.
Along with the booming economy, Chinese have become a major presence in international tourism in recent years. While most are welcomed for the cash they spend, there have been incidents of Chinese abroad causing both offense through obnoxious behavior and being preyed on by criminals or cheats.
The number of Chinese who travel outside their homeland each year is expected to nearly triple to 100 million people by 2020."

Source: The Associated Press.

Austria: Court of appeal decision on information about Ramadan related restrictions

Oberlandesgericht Wien (Vienna Court of Appeal) recently decided that tour organizers and travel agents have a duty to inform about Ramadan related restrictions in hotel services. Plaintiff had booked a package tour to Abu Dahbi including accommodation in the well reputed luxury hotel "Emirates Palace". At arrival plaintiff and his wife were told that due to Ramadan breakfast time is limited to 11 am. Next morning they entered the breakfast room shortly before 11 am, the plaintiff wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt. He was told that the hotel's dress code requires trousers and jacket in breakfast room but, however, as an exception allowed to stay for this time. When on the beach they ordered cigarettes and beer they were told that this was impossible due to Ramadan, kiosk, restaurant and café at the beach and the other 20 restaurants within the hotel area were closed, eating, drinking and smoking in public was prohibited and could only be done in the hotel room. As due to the booking situation it was impossible to change hotel, they broke off their vacations. The competent employee of the tour organizer knew about the Ramadan but did not tell the travel agent where the tour was booked.
Court of appeal held that the tour organizer had culpably failed to inform about Ramadan related restrictions and therefore granted repayment of full prize and compensation for loss of holiday enjoyment.

(Oberlandesgericht Wien 27.02.2007, 4 R 153/06h)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Mergers: Commission clears proposed acquisition of US provider of electronic travel distribution services Worldspan by Travelport (US)"

According to the EU Press Room, "The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation Travelport's proposed acquisition of sole control of Worldspan. Both companies provide electronic travel distribution services through a Global Distribution System (GDS). The Commission was initially concerned that the proposed transaction would give rise to competition concerns on the market for the provision of GDS services to travel service providers (airlines, car rental companies, hotels, etc) in the European Economic Area (EEA) and to travel agents in several Member States (Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands and the UK), and therefore opened a detailed inquiry (see IP/07/607). However, the in-depth investigation has shown that the acquisition is unlikely to result in unilateral price increases by the merged firm. It also found that the reduction of the number of GDSs operating in the EEA from four to three would be unlikely to result in coordinated behaviour between the remaining GDSs. The Commission has therefore concluded that the proposed transaction would not significantly impede effective competition within the EEA or a significant part of it."

This Press Release is available in full text.

"Vatican plans flights to shrines"

"The Vatican is to launch a low-cost charter flight service to transport pilgrims to holy sites worldwide.
The inaugural flight on 27 August will go from Rome to Lourdes in France.
A small Italian airline, Mistral, will provide the planes, with the interiors decorated with sacred inscriptions such as: 'I search for your face, Lord.'
Other destinations could include Fatima in Portugal and Santiago di Compostela in Spain, the Holy Land, Poland and a Catholic shrine in Mexico.
The vicar of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, is expected to be on the first flight to Lourdes, which already attracts eight million pilgrims each year.

Big Business
Some of the cabin crew will be 'specialised in the voyages of a sacred nature' according Italy's Ansa news agency.
The BBC's David Willey in Rome says religious tourism is already big business, with some 200 million Christian pilgrims expected to visit holy places in different parts of the world this year.
When Pope Benedict XVI travels abroad he normally charters a plane from the Italian national carrier, Alitalia, or from the country he is visiting, our correspondent says.
The Vatican City has no airport, just a helipad used occasionally by the Pope."

Source: BBC NEWS.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

UK: OFT takes action against 13 airlines over misleading holiday pricing

Following the OFT's warning to the holiday and travel industry in February, the OFT has successfully taken action against 13 airlines that did not include all fixed, non-optional costs, such as taxes, in prices on their websites.As a result eleven airlines have already changed their advertisements and websites (both their homepages and booking processes) to include fixed, non-optional costs in their advertised prices and the OFT expects continued compliance from these airlines. Two other airlines, Aer Lingus and Ryanair, have changed their homepages, but have said technical issues prevent them from changing their entire website booking processes immediately. However, the OFT is satisfied that these airlines will be making these changes shortly, and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the agreed changes are made.

In a co-ordinated move, ABTA - The Travel Association has taken action against members that have failed to comply with the ABTA Code of Conduct in relation to the same type of misleading price indications. On 13 June, the ABTA Code of Conduct Committee handed out fines and reprimands to several ABTA members for failing to include fixed, non-optional costs in prices. The OFT strongly welcomes and supports ABTA's action.

Source: OFT press release 118/07.

US-Court: Airline passengers can't back out of searches

Citing concerns about terrorism, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that airline passengers lose their right to object to a search after they go through initial security screenings. Judge Carlos Bea wrote that requiring authorization from passengers during ongoing searches "makes little sense in a post 9/11 world."
The San Francisco-based court, ruling in a case involving a Hawaii man, said airline passengers couldn't refuse searches once they place their belongings on an X-ray tray or walk through a metal detector. It was the appeals court's second decision in the case of Daniel Kuualoha Aukai because it wanted to clarify an earlier decision on the issue of consent. Last year, the court ruled Aukai couldn't back out of additional searches even after he no longer wanted to board a flight.

Source:; read full article here.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

USA: Airline Liable for Death from Lost Baggage

The United States Court of Appeals upheld a lower Federal Court's ruling against American Airlines. The airline forced an elderly woman to check her bag along with necessary medical devices.
The airline lost her checked items. The victim died at age 65 after flying from Los Angeles to Guyana in 1997. It is thought that this is the first case to ever hold an airline liable for the death of a passenger caused by delay or missing baggage.
The lower court had ruled that the airlines were responsible for a "willful misconduct" death. The District Court concluded that the seizure of the victim's bag proximately caused her death.
Source:; read full article

Friday, August 03, 2007

UK: British Airways fined £269m for fixing prices with Virgin

British Airways was fined a total of £269 million for conspiring to fix the price of air fares but the airline could be forced to pay out millions more to passengers seeking compensation.
Office of Fair Trading (OFT) fined BA £121.5 million for anti-competitive behaviour, the largest penalty it has levied against a single company. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) fined the airline a further $300 million (£147 million), the second largest anti-trust penalty it has levied.
These fines could be dwarfed by compensation demands from passengers and companies who have paid higher fares because of BA’s actions. British passengers are understood to have signed up to a class-action lawsuit that has been filed in the US and a further legal demand for restitution is expected to be filed in a London court this year.
The charges against BA relate to two instances of price fixing. In the first, BA and
Virgin Atlantic discussed the amount they would charge customers to cover increases in the price of fuel. These “fuel surcharges” were introduced in 2004 and, over a period of 18 months until early last year, the two airlines colluded on the level and timing of increases to their surcharges.
The second case of price-fixing relates to fuel surcharges for carrying cargo. This is a far wider investigation that covers about a dozen airlines in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Source:; read full article