Friday, January 23, 2009

Austria: Reference for Preliminary Ruling on Reg. 44/2001 in regard to websites

On Nov. 6, 2008 Austrian Supreme Court (OGH) decided to file a reference for Preliminary Ruling to European Court of Justice in regard to interpretation of Reg. 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, asking whether
  • a journey on a cargo ship (including transport, overnight stays, some recreational facilities on board and the opprotunity for shore leaves) contituted a "contract which, for an inclusive price, provides for a combination of travel and accommodation" under Art. 15 sec 3, if so,
  • an agent's website (not providing online booking) was a sufficient measure to be regarded as to "pursue commercial or professional activities in the Member State" (Art. 15 sec 1 lit. c).
The decision is available for downlaod in German language here>>.

Friday, January 16, 2009

USA: Online travel companies win at federal appellate court in hotel occupancy tax case

The Interactive Travel Services Association announced that a federal appellate court has affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought by Pitt County, North Carolina, which claimed that online travel companies, including, Expedia,, Orbitz, and Travelocity are responsible for paying the county's hotel occupancy tax.
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit's decision of Jan. 14, 2009, rejecting Pitt County's tax claims is the first appellate decision by any federal or state court nationwide on the merits of the occupancy tax issue. In rejecting Pitt County's appeal, the court ruled that under the clear language of the county's occupancy tax ordinance and North Carolina's state sales tax statute (G.S. 105-164.4), the online travel companies are not lodging "retailers" subject to the tax.

Source: press release of Jan. 15, 2009; find full text here>>.

IATA forecast for 2009

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA),the world's airlines are expected to lose US$2.5 billion in 2009. Passenger traffic is expected to decline by 3 percent following growth of 2 percent in 2008. This is the first decline in passenger traffic since the 2.7 percent drop in 2001.

Source: eTurboNews; find full article here>>.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Spain's Prado Museum Teams Up With Google Earth

The two have been working on a project that allows people to zoom in on the gallery's main paintings. This is the first of its kind involving an art museum. The project involves 14 of the Prado's best paintings, including Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas, Francisco de Goya's Third of May and Peter Paul Rubens' The Three Graces and you can zoom in on details not normally seen with the human eye. Google Spain says the images on the internet were 1,400 times clearer than what would be rendered with a 10-megapixel camera. 8,200 photographs were taken of the paintings and then combined with Google Earth's zoom-in technology. You can see the images by going to Google, and downloading Google Earth software, type in Prado Museum in the search engine. Once the museum zooms into focus, click on the square with the name of the museum.

Montana lawmakers consider to limit recreational liability

The Montana House Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would limit the liability of the businesses, and shift it onto the shoulders of thrill-seekers involved in the risky activities. The bill states that recreation providers, such as whitewater rafting companies or backcountry ski guides, cannot be held responsible for the "inherent risks" of an activity.

A similar Wyoming bill protects outdoor recreation and sports providers from being held accountable for unavoidable risks.

Source:; find article here>>.

Taiwan to become 'smoke free'

Taiwanese authorities on Sunday banned smoking in all indoor public places including hotels, restaurants and airports. Smoking had previously been banned in public areas including hospitals, schools, theaters, libraries, office buildings and elevators.

Source: AFP; find article here>>.

USA: flight delays to become an actionable breach of contract?

According to rules proposed by the Department of Transportation (DOT), passengers may be able to sue airlines for breach of contract if flights are delayed too long on the tarmac,.

If adopted, the rules would require airlines to develop contingency plans for lengthy tarmac delays -- including time limits for such delays. Those contingency plans and limits would become part of each airline's contract of carriage, a legally binding agreement that outlines an airline's responsibilities to passengers.

Also under the proposed rules, the agency would declare flights that remain "chronically delayed" to be an "unfair and deceptive practice," opening carriers up to possible civil penalties. The Department of Transportation would require carriers to publish flight-delay data on their Web sites.

Source: The Wall Street Journal; find article here>>.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

USA: Passenger Bill of Rights in Congress

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) on Jan. 13 introduced the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights in the Senate. The bill will give airline passengers legal rights by preventing them from being held indefinitely on planes, ensuring passengers' needs are met, and helping airlines coordinate with government agencies.

The main provisions of the new bill are:
  • Airlines to offer passengers the option of safely deplaning once they have sat on the ground for three hours after the plane door has closed.
  • Airlines to provide passengers with food, potable water, comfortable cabin temperature and ventilation, and adequate restrooms while a plane is delayed on the ground.
  • A consumer complaint hotline so that passengers can alert the agency about delays.
  • Airports and airlines to develop contingency plans to be reviewed and approved by DOT, and fines for air carriers and airports that do not submit or fail to comply with contingency plans.
The senators' motion was welcomed by the Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights.

Source: eTurboNews; find article here>>.

USA: passenger sues airline for deicer incident

A passenger who was gassed with deicing fluid while aboard an Alaska Airlines flight on Christmas Eve has sued the Seattle-based carrier, claiming the blast of ice remover has caused persistent headaches. In an initial account, airline officials said passengers suffered from eye and respiratory irritation but did not require medical care.

Source:; find article here>>.

Grenada: ban on off-beach bathing suits

According to Associated Press, Grenada began enforcing an indecent exposure law banning bathing suits away from the beach. While violators are usually just ordered to cover up, the law allows for a $270 fine or six months in jail.

EP: Written Question + Answer re PTDRev

Parliamentary questions
25 November 2008
WRITTEN QUESTION by Karin Riis-Jørgensen (ALDE) to the Commission

Subject: Revision of the Package Travel Directive

More than 25 European airlines have gone bankrupt over the last year.

In each case, the victims were consumers, who ended up paying for a product they did not receive.

In the light of this situation, does the Commission intend to revise the 1990 Package Travel Directive (90/314/EEC) so that it also covers the purchase of air tickets only or will it put forward new initiatives which take account of this problem?


Answer given by Ms Kuneva

on behalf of the Commission


The Commission is of course aware that there have been several airline bankruptcies lately which have caused worry and loss for thousands of people.

As implicitly indicated by the Honourable Member, consumers leaving on a package tour are protected under Article 7 of the Package Travel Directive. Under this provision organisers/retailers of package tours are obliged to provide sufficient evidence of security to be used in case of insolvency for repatriation of consumers and refund of money paid.

As to consumers who do not buy packages, but merely airline tickets and who are therefore not covered by the Directive, the Commission is to address this issue in different ways.

The new Regulation on common rules for the operation of air services within the Community, which entered into force on 1 November 2008, strengthens the financial criteria for the approval and validity of air carriers' operating licences. That further clarifies and streamlines the financial monitoring of air carriers by the national aviation authorities and should have a preventive effect on bankruptcies, thereby reducing the number of passengers that will be affected by such sudden interruptions of services.

Furthermore, in order to have a better view of the effects of past bankruptcies of scheduled airlines in the EU since 2000, the Commission has launched a study on the existing schemes and options concerning the consequences of a bankruptcy on passengers. Before taking any view on potential measures, the Commission waits for the results of the study it has launched, which will be available in the coming weeks. It will keep Parliament informed on its outcome.

Thirdly, the Package Travel Directive is one of eight directives subject to the review of the consumer acquis. The Commission carried out a public consultation to collect stakeholders' views and input on the need for a revision of the Directive and on the issues which require in-depth examination. There was a consensus on the need to modernise the Directive. A number of respondents also called for an assessment of the actual detriment suffered by consumers when travel arrangements fail. The Commission has therefore initiated a study on consumer detriment in the field of package travel, the outcome of which will feed into the upcoming impact assessment. One of the issues that the Commission will carefully examine is that of the protection of consumers when buying the elements forming a package separately from different websites.

Subject to the outcome of the Impact Assessment, which will be conducted in 2009, the Commission may present a proposal on a revised Directive in 2010.

Tanzania: towards a system for hotel classification

Tanzania is looking at modalities and ideas from tourist stakeholders on best options that would help to grade tourist accommodation facilities and make them match with those in other countries in the East African bloc. In November 2006, the East African Community (EAC)’s Council of Ministers approved the EAC classification and standardization criteria to be used in East African partner states in line with the EAC Treaty, Article 115(2), which gives a greenlight to the grading exercise of the accommodation facilities.

Source: eTurboNews; find article here>>.

USA: Southwest Airlines to settle dispute over refund of fees

Southwest is notifying passengers that it has agreed to settle a class action seeking the return of security fees and airport passenger facility charges that passengers paid for when they bought nonrefundable tickets that were not used.

The proposal is to pay $4 to each eligible passenger for unused tickets purchased between Jan. 21, 2000, and June 30, 2006.

Source: Travel Weekly; find article here>>.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

USA: new Visa Waiver requirements now in effect

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reminding travelers from all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries that they are now required to obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States. This requirement applies to all eligible citizens or nationals traveling under the VWP.

ESTA is a web-based system, initially launched in August 2008, that determines the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the VWP prior to boarding a carrier to the United States. To date, more than 1.2 million ESTA applications have been received, and more than 99.6 percent of applicants have been approved, most within seconds.

DHS announced to take a reasonable approach to travelers who have not obtained an approved travel authorization via ESTA, and to continue an aggressive advertising and outreach campaign throughout 2009. Travelers without an approved ESTA are advised, however, that they may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing, or be denied admission at a U.S. port of entry. Visitors may apply for travel authorization via the ESTA Web site at

Source: DHS press release 01-12-2009; find full text here>>.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

California: trial against alledged pyramid scheme company

The Los Angeles County Superior Court set a Sept. 21 trial date for California’s lawsuit against the multilevel marketing/online travel company YTB.

The state is accusing YTB of operating an illegal pyramid scheme and engaging in deceptive business practices.

Source: Travel Weekly; find article here>>.

TV news about the case can be forund at YouTube here>>.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

USA: seven airlines sue FAA over Crew Rest Rules

Seven major U. S. carriers, including American Airlines, Continental Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, JetBlue and two smaller carriers, have joined in a lawsuit to protest stronger federal rules governing crew rest on longer international flights. The airlines alledge the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had bypassed the usual rule-making process and the new rule would subject the airlines to “substantial burdens and costs".

The FAA rules would require that pilots on the longest international flights get more rest before flying again. The extra rest would be required even when only 10 percent of flights on a particular route exceed 16 hours. The rules are intended to cover pilot fatigue, an issue that some say is a growing concern.

Source:; find article here>>.