Saturday, February 28, 2009

USA: passengers sue Boeing after Denver crash

Four passengers on a Continental Airlines jet that veered off a Denver runway in December have filed suit against the jet's maker. The lawsuits filed in federal court in Denver allege that Boeing Co. negligently designed and manufactured certain parts of the plane, including its "directional control mechanisms." The complaints contend the defective parts made it hard for the pilots to maintain runway heading while taking off in high crosswinds.
At least eight other passengers on flight 1404 are suing Continental. They claim the airline failed to properly operate or control the aircraft as it veered off the runway.

Source: Associated Press; read full article here>>.

Friday, February 27, 2009

USA: Departments of Homeland Security and State Certify Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Criteria

The U.S. Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State (DOS) announced on Feb. 26, 2009 that their efforts have enabled the departments to jointly certify to Congress that all statutory criteria have been met prior to implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) at land and sea borders on June 1, 2009.

WHTI is a joint DHS-DOS plan to implement a core 9/11 Commission recommendation, which Congress subsequently passed into law in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. Upon implementation of WHTI, travelers will be required to present a single WHTI-compliant document denoting both citizenship and identity when seeking entry into the United States through a land or sea border. The WHTI secure document requirement is already in place for all air travelers, and applies to travelers entering the United States who were previously exempt, including citizens of the U.S., Canada and Bermuda.

Source: DHS press release; find full text here>>.

German Supreme Court (BGH): reduction of limitation period for package tour claims void

Plaintiff took a package tour to Mauritius. Upon return on Aug. 18, 2005 he immedaitely complained with the tour operator about malperfomance of the package tour contract. About one year later, on Aug. 11, 2006 he filed a law suit claiming for (partly) repayment of the package tour price and compensation for loss of holiday enjoyment. Due to a wrong address of the defendant given in the law suit, same was delivered in Dec. 2006 only.
Both, first instance court (AG Bad Homburg) and appelate court (LG Frankfurt/Main) dismissed the claim: general conditions of contract of the tour operator provided for a one year limitation period for any claims of the package tourist. Both courts held that this limitation period had been missed due to the wrong address given in the law suit.
Plaintiff's further appeal to BGH was successful: in decision Xa ZR 141/07 of Feb. 26, 2009 the German Supreme Court held that
  • a brochure of the tour operator available in the travel agency where the contract was concluded did not constitute reasonable opportunity to take note of the general conditions of contract printed therein if same were not handed out to the customer,
  • the clause providing for a reduction of the two years limitation period as provided by law was void because of not differentiating between claims based on personal injury and other claims.
Source: BGH press release 42/2009, available in German here>>.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

USA/European Union: U.S. protectionism threatens next phase of open-skies talks

A key sticking point in negotiations over Open Skies II, which are set to resume in May, is the issue of foreign ownership of U.S. airlines.

The competing views of Europe and the U.S. seemed to drift further apart this month: while in the U.S., Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, reaffirmed his support for tightening foreign-ownership restrictions by inserting protectionist language in legislation to reauthorize FAA funding, the European perspective is that restrictions must be loosened, not tightened, if airlines serving the market hoped to survive the recession.

Source: Travel Weekly; find article here>>.

Friday, February 20, 2009

California: tax ruling against online travel companies

After years of underpaying transient occupancy taxes on hotel rooms, U.S. top online travel companies are being forced to pay the City of Anaheim the difference, plus penalties and interest, said a spokesman for the city's legal counsel. The US$21.3 million ruling is expected to influence a host of similar suits filed on behalf of local governments throughout the country.
At issue in the case was the companies' tax liability per the Anaheim Municipal Code - and the assessment of taxes owed over an undetermined period of time. According to the hearing officer, the defendants in the case will be required to pay the 15 percent transient occupancy taxes on the difference between the wholesale and retail rates of hotel rooms they purchased and resold in Anaheim between 2000-2008, as well as all service fees associated with the transactions.

Source: eTurboNews; find article here>>.

World Travel &Tourism Council: report on Climate Change

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), a forum for business leaders in the Travel & Tourism industry issued an official statement setting out the vision and commitment of Travel & Tourism industry leaders to tackle Climate Change as one of the single biggest threats to the world.
The report entitled "Leading the Challenge on Climate Change" was launched at Clarence House under the patronage of HRH The Prince of Wales.
The report lists ten key action items for the industry. One of the key commitments to action is a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035 over 2005 levels. The report also defines an interim aspirational target of a carbon emission reduction of 30% by 2020 in the presence of an international agreement, or a 25% reduction by the same year in the absence of such an agreement.

Source: WTTC press release; find full text here>>.

ECJ preliminary ruling: change in reservation re Reg 261/2004/EC

Reference for a preliminary ruling from the Bundesgerichtshof (Germany) lodged on 2 Dec 2008 - Sylvia Bienek v Condor Flugdienst GmbH

Case C-525/08

Questions referred
1. Does a change in reservation to another flight constitute a situation covered by Article 4(3) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights;
2. If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative:
Must that provision also be applied to a change in reservation which was not instigated by the air carrier, but by the tour operator alone?

Antarctica: call for stricter tourism regulations

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) has called for stronger controls after the grounding of an expedition cruise ship in Antarctica this week, the fourth such accident in that region over the last three years. ASOC said said Tuesday's grounding of Quark Expeditions' Ocean Nova was cause for concern. Marguerite Bay, where the accident occurred, has a number of Antarctic Specially Protected Areas that contain a number of bird and seal colonies, including over 30,000 Adelie penguins. ASOC said that tourism to Antarctica over the past decade "has been characterized by steep annual increases, diversification, and geographic expansion," with the number of visitors increasing to 46,000 in 2007-08 and 39,000 in 2008-09, a four-fold increase since 1990.

Source: Travel Weekly; find article here>> and the full text of ASOC's statement here>>.

Monday, February 09, 2009

UK: database to track international travel of all Britons?

Due to a report by The Sunday Times, British government is building a secret database to track and hold the international travel records of all Britons. The intelligence centre will store names, addresses, telephone numbers, seat reservations, travel itineraries and credit card details for all passenger movements in and out of the UK each year. The computerised pattern of every individual’s travel history will be stored for up to 10 years.
The database is seen as an essential instrument in the fight against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism.

Source: The Sunday Times; find article here>>.

Florida: settlement on refund of fuel surcharges by cruise lines

The Florida attorney general's office has reached an agreement with Oceana Cruises and Classic Cruise Holdings in which the cruise lines will refund a total of more than $3 million to cruisers who were charged fuel surcharges. The agreements were reached after the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division received several hundred complaints from around the country because cruise lines were retroactively charging a fuel supplement after cruises had been booked and deposited. The agreements were signed on Feb., 4. Similar settlements were reached last year with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Corp. and its subsidiary cruise lines.

Source: Press release by Florida attorney General to be found here>>.

Hawaii: smoking to be banned on Waikiki Beach

Legislation that would ban smoking on Waikiki Beach advanced in Hawaii Legislature Supporters say the bill could help boost tourism, while opponents say it will hinder an already struggling industry. "The beach is littered with cigarette butts, and this will make a statement that we want to keep one of our great resources litter-free. When you're on the beach and you're around children, this is not a good place to smoke to begin with," said state Rep. Tom Brower, who introduced the bill.

Source: Honolulu Advertiser; find Article here>>.