Could LAX to Tehran Soon Be a Reality?

Pigeons in The Masjid-i Jami, Isfahan, Iran. Against sunset background.
Getty Images/Vetta

A direct flight to Iran? According to the Iranian airline Asseman, it’s possible, if relations improve. The airline’s managing director, Abbas Rahmatian, points out that because the airline recently transported President Hassan Rouhani to the United Nations meeting, it was requested to open up flights to the United States and Canada. Apparently the airline has 33 planes in operation and are completely capable of overhauling them.

While direct flights between the United States and Iran seem a little far off, it’s not surprising that Iran’s airline industry would want to look outwards; currently more than 60 percent of Iran’s total 220 planes are grounded because of technical and logistic issues. “Iranians airlines are facing great losses due to the low price of domestic flight tickets,” Sirous Baheri, managing director of Airtour Airline, which also operates in Iran, said, as reported by the website Skift. “They are currently having difficulties competing with foreign airlines.” Things are so bad that the deputy transport minister recently called for 16 of the country’s airlines to merge because they were in bankruptcy.Open Iranian airlines up to foreign markets like the United States and Canada, maybe they will have the potential for competing again. Of course that will depend on diplomatic relations improving. There’s the usual strict U.S. State Department travel warning, and because the United States does not have diplomatic relations in Iran, you can’t expect any consular services while there (although you could go to the Swiss embassy who handles all that stuff for the United States). And of course you need a visa.

So while you wait for those direct flights to open up, you may want to consider a few other methods of travel.

Ryanair Officially Tries to Be Nicer

airplane on runway and looking...
Shutterstock / Peshkova

In this day and age of social media, it’s getting harder and harder for airlines to get away with bad behavior. Lose someone’s luggage? You’ll hear about it within minutes of them landing. Serve a bad meal? Expect that to go viral on Instagram. If your customer service isn’t spot-on, you’ll be sure to hear about it.

But one airline has consistently refused to bow to customer requests. Ryanair is known for the kind of service that elicits complaints. In fact there are entire websites dedicated to documenting how much people are frustrated with what happens aboard Ryanair planes. But despite complaints, Ryanair has managed to find its way to the top of Europe’s airlines. Those baggage fees may seem ridiculous, but the airline is profitable for a reason.

Now with the European economy going downhill however, CEO Michael O’Leary knows that the airline can’t risk to lose passengers, and he is working on making the airline, well, nicer.The man known for proposals like onboard pay toilets (you’re only flying for two hours, you should be able to hold it) is now suggesting that his airline has to transform its brand; just offering crazy low fares isn’t enough.

On the heels of last month’s news that the airline forced a man to pay nearly $260 when he had to change his flight from Dublin to Birmingham because his entire family had died in a fire, Ryanair is now turning on the charm. According to The New York Times, that includes reducing oversized baggage and boarding card reissue fees as well as allowing a small carry-on no larger than 35 x 20 x 20 centimeters to be carried aboard flights from Dec. 1 onwards. Oh, and there will be “quiet” flights, meaning that people flying before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. will avoid the loud in-flight announcements.

It’s all in the hopes that people keep choosing Ryanair wherever they fly in Europe.
“As some of these policy changes will require website changes and handling staff retraining, we will be rolling them out over the next few months as we strive to further improve Europe’s number one customer service airline,” customer service director Caroline Green said.

Will it work? Only the travel social media sphere will be able to tell us.

By 2016, the Chinese Will Spend More on Business Travel than Americans

Busy street in Hong Kong, China. (Purposely blurred with camera slow shutter speed.)

As China grows, so does how much the country’s inhabitants travel, especially when it comes to business travel.

While the United States has lead the pack in terms of spending on business travel, Americans are about to be overtaken by the Chinese: by 2016 China will have the world’s largest business travel market, according to Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

What does that mean?

For one, China will have to grow its airports. Several airports already have had to double or triple their capacity, and over the next decade China is planning to build about 100 new airports. Because of the growth in travel within China, next year Beijing Capital International Airport is to surpass Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as the world’s busiest airport.

Secondly, other surrounding countries like Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong can expect to benefit, as 95 percent of the travel will stay within Asia.

As business travel grows in China, the rest of the world will have to watch and see how the country deals with it. As Joe Bates, vice president of research at GBTA, told the Los Angeles Times, “the real question is can they keep up with the demand.”

And the Chinese better work on managing their business travel stress.

Who Are the Richest People in Travel?

Andrew Magill, Flickr

Skift took a look at the recent Forbes 400 list and pulled out all the people that had a connection to the travel industry. It found 30 people on the list who were in some way involved with travel.

It’s no news that there’s money to be had in travel. In fact, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2012, global tourism was responsible for $2.1 trillion to global GDP and 101 million jobs.

So who’s on the list? The top spot for the richest travel investor goes to Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise Rent A Car, with a net worth of $11.4 billion, and who comes in at No. 36 on the overall list. But maybe more impressive is the Pritzker family, the owners of Hyatt; 10 members of the family are on the Forbes 400 list.Based upon the rankings, hotels, casinos and cruise lines seem to be the most lucrative areas of travel investment. But then again, so is online media: Barry Diller of Expedia has a net worth of $2.1 billion.

According to Skift’s list, here are the top five richest people in the travel industry, with their overall Forbes listing:

36 Jack Taylor and Family Enterprise Rent A Car $11.4 billion
61 John Malone Cable TV, Expedia $6.7 billion
61 Elon Musk Tesla Motors $6.7 billion
70 Micky Arison Carnival $5.9 billion
118 Barbara Carlson Gage hotels, restaurants $3.9 billion

Looks like it’s time to go and brainstorm a new travel app that rents cars in a luxury casino on a cruise.

Airline Mistake Offers $0 Tickets, Will Honor If ‘Appropriate’

airline mistake
JamesZ_/Flickr

It was an airline mistake and the number of tickets sold is unknown, but a glitch on the United Airlines booking site offered some really good deals yesterday. Only the automatic airport fees and other surcharges added to flights by airports around the country were included, not the price of the flight. The flash sale-like offerings were caused due to an error loading fares into the United computer system.

This is not the first time this has happened. A similar mistake happened in May 2002 when a fare sale accidentally appeared as a $5 round-trip ticket for about 45 minutes. In 2008, United accidentally stopped charging a fuel surcharge that was as much as $130. In that case, the airline honored the price of tickets sold without the surcharge.

But what about those unbelievably low fares? Will United honor the obviously incorrect pricing?
“As always, we will do what is appropriate,” United Continental Holdings Inc. spokeswoman Megan McCarthy told the Huffiington Post.