Airlines cashing in on BA Strike

Flight prices rocket as BA cancels nearly all flights

Pilots strikes by British Airways pilots have prompted fares to soar this week as rival airlines take advantage of demand.

A search by TravelMole this morning showed one-way EasyJet flights from Nice to London tomorrow (Wednesday) have rocketed to £660 to Gatwick, £611 to Stansted and £510 to Luton, and that excludes checked-in luggage or any other ‘extras’.

An easyJet flight back from Nice tonight (Tuesday) was showing this morning for £824.

Rival airlines have raised their fares substantially for journeys on strike days and later this week as stranded BA passengers scramble to rebook.
Almost all BA flights have been cancelled for the 48-hour strike, which ends at 23:59 tonight.
Yesterday only five flights took off, four from Heathrow and one from Gatwick.

The British Airline Pilots Association has said the strength of feeling among striking British Airways pilots should be a ‘wake-up call’ for the airline.

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said: “Pilots are standing firm and have shown just how resolute they are today. British Airways needs to start listening to its pilots and actually come up with ways of resolving this dispute.”

Earlier in the day, BA chief executive Alex Cruz accused the pilots of a ‘cynical own goal’, adding that the airline was open to talks.

But BALPA told TravelMole it had given BA ‘countless opportunities to resolve the dispute, including a request to meet Cruz at the end of August.

A spokeswoman said BA ‘did not even reply’ on Wednesday September 4 when BALPA offered to call off the strike if BA would agree to discuss a proposal the union had put forward.

BALPA added: “The strike today has shown that BA pilots are resolute. The only way to end this dispute is for the company to listen to its pilots and get back to negotiations with a serious offer.”

TripAdvisor accused of failing to stop fake hotel reviews

In a nutshell
TripAdvisor is refuting claims by consumer rights group Which? that it has been failing to stop fake and suspicious five-star hotel reviews. It says an investigation by Which? is based on a ‘flawed understanding of fake review patterns’ and relies on ‘too many assumptions, and too little data’.

What did Which? investigate?
It analysed 247,277 TripAdvisor reviews of the top 10 highest ranked hotels, by travellers, in London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Cape Town, Punta Cana, Jordan, Las Vegas and Cairo, plus 10 Premier Inns and 10 Travelodges in London (but we’ll come to those later). It compared the proportion of first-time three-star reviews, arguing that these are rarely faked, against the proportion of first-time reviewers who left five-star reviews.

What did the investigation find?
It found multiple cases where the number of five-star reviews made by first-time reviewers were significantly higher than the number of three-star reviews. For example, at the highest rated hotel in Cairo 79% of five-star reviews were left by profiles that had no other contributions on the site, compared with 14% for three-star reviews. Shortly after Which? shared its findings, TripAdvisor removed reviews from the property and it lost its status as the official ‘best hotel in Cairo’. Which? Travel reported 15 of the worst cases to TripAdvisor, which admitted that 14 of these had already been caught with fake positive reviews in the last year.

What did it conclude?
Which? believes this research raises a number of serious issues with reviews on TripAdvisor.

“Reviews are not verified and therefore it is not clear whether reviewers have even stayed at a hotel when they rate it. Travellers do not know whether hotels have been trying to cheat the system,” it said.

“Despite 14 of the hotels flagged having had at least one suspicious review removed in the last year, none of them carried any kind of warning at the time Which? looked. And TripAdvisor’s most serious warning – the red badge – remains on hotel sites for just a matter of weeks.”

What did TripAdvisor say in its defence?
TripAdvisor says it’s far too simplistic to assume all first-time reviewers are suspicious as every genuine reviewer in the world is at some point a first-time reviewer.

It argues: “Accurate fraud detection requires analysis of a wide range of data-points, such as IP information, location data or details about the device an account was using when submitting a review. This crucial data is missing from Which’s analysis, and therefore its findings do not and cannot provide a reliable indication of the true volume of review fraud.

“By contrast, we employ sophisticated fraud detection technology that is able to analyse hundreds of data-points based on a knowledge and understanding of review patterns gained from tracking hundreds of millions of reviews over a near 20-year period. This includes an ability track and analyse first-time reviews in far more detail and with far more rigour than Which’s team was able to do. We also have an industry-leading team of fraud investigators who work tirelessly to protect the site from fake reviews.

“We are confident our approach works, and is one of the reasons we continue to retain the trust of many millions of consumers worldwide. They know from their own experience of using TripAdvisor that it is a source of useful and accurate information on which they can rely.”

And what about Premier Inn and Travelodge?
While Premier Inn reviews did not arouse suspicion, at two of the Travelodges almost half of the hundreds of five-star reviews came from first-time contributors who’d never reviewed anywhere else. Which? claims that TripAdvisor admitted that earlier this year that one of the hotels in question – the Travelodge Wembley Central – had been given its red warning badge, the site’s most severe warning, designed to let travellers know that reviews may have been manipulated and indicating that the hotel ‘repeatedly fails to remedy its behaviour and refuses to cooperate with TripAdvisor’s investigators’.

What does Travelodge have to say?
“We did experience a breakdown in our internal communication when TripAdvisor identified an irregular pattern of reviews at our Wembley Central Travelodge Hotel that needed investigating. Unfortunately on this occasion that matter was not managed effectively within the timeframe, and we have taken appropriate action to ensure this does not happen again.

“Wembley Central Travelodge has undergone a full refurbishment earlier this year and we are satisfied that the hotel reviews accurately reflect the customer experience at the hotel.”

What the Mole says:
We tend to be a bit wary of Which? investigations which are often based on a small sample. On this occasion it wasn’t so much size of the sample but the selection. We find it odd that hotels in rather random destinations like Jordan, Las Vegas and Cairo were included. If we were being cynical, we’d question whether these destinations were singled out specifically because of the extent of the discrepancies found at certain hotels.

That aside, it does highlight that travellers shouldn’t place too much faith in review sites and should widen their research when making travel decisions and, of course, ask a trusted travel agent.

Taken from Travelmole 09/09/19

Cruise industry helps Bahamas Hurricane recovery

Industry takes action to help Bahamas hurricane recovery

Cruise lines are rallying round to help the Bahamas following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian.

The death toll has climbed to 30 and is expected to be even higher.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis described the worst areas as being ‘decimated’.

Dorian battered the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, and with Grand Bahama’s sole airport out of action, getting supplies to affected areas is problematic.

Minnis said it is ‘one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history’.

The International Red Cross estimated nearly half of all homes on Grand Bahama and the Abacos have suffered major damage or were completely destroyed.

Up to 60,000 people will need immediate food aid, clean water and shelter, the UN said.

Who is doing what?
Carnival Cruise Line has joined with the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation to pledge $2 million in funding and ‘in-kind’ support.

Royal Caribbean has also pledged more than $1 million to support relief efforts.

MSC is sending a senior delegation from the cruise line, along with managers from its philanthropic arm, the MSC Foundation, to meet with officials and key relief organisations to identify what help is needed most urgently.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration has cancelled a sailing and is instead taking food, water and other supplies and volunteers from Palm Beach to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.

It will also be taking Bahamian residents who were stranded in South Florida, free of charge.

It is scheduled to return to the Port of Palm Beach on Saturday with Bahamian residents who wish to evacuate to the US and have proper documentation.

Taken from Travelmole 05/09/19

EU say no change to UK flights until October 2020

EU confirms no change to UK flights until at least October 2020

UK airlines will still be able to operate flights between the UK and the EU until at least October next year after the European Commission extended the deadline in their unilateral contingency legislation, released today.

Under previous legislation the deadline for this contingency was set for March 2020, but this extension will now allow customers to book their travel further in advance in the confidence that flight schedules will not be affected, said ABTA.

The move follows lobbying by ABTA with key EU destination countries, which promoted the mutual benefits of increasing consumer confidence for next summer’s peak season.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “ABTA has been pushing hard for this extension, which is to the mutual benefit of UK customers and the EU, and we are encouraged that the European Commission has responded today by extending the deadline.

“This legislation was originally passed as a contingency measure in the event of a no-deal scenario, an extension until at least October 2020 will give customers much needed confidence in making their travel plans.”

ABTA said it will continue to lobby the UK Government, EU officials and destinations governments on issues relating to Brexit that are impacting the travel and tourism industry.

Taken from Travelmole 04/08/19

Wow Air Ceased Operations

Wow Air has ceased operations after it failed to secure a rescue deal.

The airline had already cancelled flights today, claiming it was just until it finalised a rescue deal with a group of investors.

But this last-ditch attempt has failed and the airline has now been forced to stop flying once and for all. Continue reading

Airbus to End A380 in 2021

Thursday 14th February 2019
Published on Thursday, February 14, 2019

Airbus pulls the plug on superjumbo

Airbus will stop making the double-decker A380 ‘superjumbo’, which is the world’s largest passenger aircraft.

In a statement, the manufacturer said the last deliveries of the aircraft will be in 2021. Continue reading

Online booking sites investigated by Watchdog

Published on Wednesday, February 6, 2019 By Travelmole

Hotel booking sites to ditch misleading sales tactics

Six of the biggest hotel booking sites are to change the way they advertise to consumers following an investigation by the competition watchdog.

Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago were all subject of a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation last year.

Continue reading