Singapore Airlines Cancels the World’s Longest Commercial Flights

Singapore Airlines Airbus A340-500; 9V-SGE@LAX;08.10.2011/620dq
Flickr/Aero Icarus

The longest commercial flights in the world — Singapore Airlines’ flights 21 and 22, running between Singapore and Newark, New Jersey — are slated for cancellation The Economist’s Gulliver blog reports. The flights traverse 9,525 miles in about 19 hours.

Qantas’s 8,576-mile route between Sydney and Dallas now has the top honor, according to USA Today, with Delta’s Atlanta to Johannesburg flight (8,434 miles) a close third.
Singapore Airlines cancelled the flights as part of a deal with AirBus, the Economist writes, in which “Singapore will get five new A380s and 20 new A350s, and the manufacturer will buy back the A340-500s that the airline uses on its super-long-haul routes.”

Singapore Airlines Makeover Signals Future of Air Travel

USA Today Enters the Travel-Guide Game




With its signature bold visuals and mainstream sensibility, USA Today has entered the travel-planning arena. A new online-only series called Experience Travel launched last week, aggregating the media giant’s deep bank of travel content into easy-to-use overviews of popular destinations and travel themes.

Experience Las Vegas rolled out the series. Upcoming editions will cover cruising, food and wine, beaches, skiing, New York City, the Caribbean and Florida.

If the Sin City guide is any indication, the Experience Travel format offers a simple (and free) get-in-and-get-out way to browse for travel inspiration, insider tips and trends. It’s uncluttered, abbreviated and driven by excellent, enticing photography. The best content is organized into photo galleries for different types of travelers. Tips take the form of the photos caption, often just one sentence.

There’s a booking engine, too, but it simply sends you to an official tourism board’s website to search for hotels, flights, tours and shows from square one. Experience Travel has no functionality built into its content.

That’s fine with me – there are plenty of ways to book travel online. Experience Travel shines as a place for inspiration and ideas. For instance, the Vegas edition presents seven themed photo galleries, for penny pinchers, high rollers, shoppers and the like (gamblers and elopers, you’re out of luck). The Wallet Watcher will learn of an off-the-menu steak dinner for $9 and a 48-hour, all-you-can-watch show pass at Caesars Palace for $119. There are 42 tips for cheapskates alone; unfortunately, too many are watered down and generic. Several amount to something like this: “Hard Rock’s rates can drop below $60.” Great – but when, usually? Some tips are just plugs and simply don’t belong, like the Stratophere’s observation deck for Wallet Watchers. Experience Las Vegas leaves out the admission price – it’s $18 per person, and the thrill rides at the top cost extra. It’s a great place to watch your wallet become a lot lighter.

The sections Best of Vegas and Vegas Buzz are rich with trend features and news pulled from USA Today’s travel page. On the other hand, the sections for Hotels, Restaurants and Shows aren’t curated; they’re broad, rambling lists with scant details. It appears that every accommodation in the phone book is listed, down to the Hitchin’ Post RV Park and Motel. To weed though these unfiltered sections, click “Show Only Editor’s Picks” at the top of the page.

Though the company’s release described the series as a set of “travel planning tools and information,” its strength, at least at this early stage, is on the information.

[Photo credits: Moyan_Brenn and Taberandrew via Flickr]

Four Seasons relaunches hotel websites in $15 million brand initiative




Four Seasons
has today launched the latest upgrades to their brands hotel websites, a $15 million corporate initiative that places a greater emphasis on images, social media, special offers and destination “experiences”.

Looking almost Tumblr-esque in layout, the sites use real-time social media data from Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor to show reviews from visitors, both positive and negative.

Such a bold move could be risky for hotels, but, as we’ve noted before, Four Seasons as a brand excels at social media,training hotels and staffers in how to respond properly to individual messages.

Hotel expert Barb De Lollis of USA Today quoted the brand’s marketing chief Susan Helstab, who said that “there’s no room for smoke and mirrors in today’s socially networked world.” She cited a brand survey saying that 33% of guests rely heavily on TripAdvisor when making booking decisions, but that one person’s “bad” may be another person’s value-add.

“If you find that not every experience is equally positive, you will understand the framework for that experience. Maybe it was from a traveler who wasn’t quite like you,” she says. “Maybe you want an active kids’ pool with lots of amenities (unlike the writer of a particular review that complains about the pool scene).”

We’re happy to see the new website playing up the destination as much as the property – lush, vivid photos and an extensive “Destination” and “Highlights” page play up what there is to do in the area. Meetings and Weddings, while extensively built out, take a back seat in the main navigation for tiny, top-level tabs, indicating that this is a site that is speaking to the leisure consumer rather than the corporate one that forms much of the brand’s base. UGC content from sites like Flickr also gives a more personal touch, and fully-functioning mobile sites allow on-the-go travelers to book.

While there are still a few kinks to work out (not all room types load with images and we caught a few typos) the site looks impressive and modern, more like what we’d expect from a boutique chain rather than a big brand with 86 hotels under their belt.

We’re excited to see if other hotels follow suit.

Where are all the travel guide apps for Android?

travel guide apps for AndroidNearly two years ago, I bought my first smartphone: the T-Mobile Android MyTouch*. I’m only occasionally jealous of my iPhone-carrying friends, as I find few travel guide apps for Android. Even after a move to Istanbul, I still use and rely upon it daily; Android‘s interface is fast and easy-to-use, and seamless use of Google applications like Gmail and Google Maps is part of the reason I bought it in the first place. Living in a foreign country means English-language books and magazines are expensive and hard-to-find, and like many travelers, I don’t want to carry bulky books around when I’m on the road. This leaves a perfect opportunity for mobile developers to provide real travel guide content and not just travel-booking apps, especially apps produced by reliable media sources with professional editorial. These days, every guidebook and travel magazine publisher is coming out with apps for the iPhone and now iPad, supplying users with content and directions on the go, but there are hardly any for Android.

So what’s available for mobile travelers from the top travel book and print sources? Better hope you’re running Apple OS…Guidebooks:

  • Fodor’s: Happy 75th Birthday Mr. Fodor, but we wish you had more than just five city guides for purchase (in London, New York, Paris, Rome, and San Francisco) and only for Apple.
  • Frommer’s: iPhone guides are available for ten major cities in the US, Europe and Asia, but nada for Android.
  • Lonely Planet: iPhone users are spoiled for choice: dozens of city guides, language phrasebooks, audio walking tours, and eBooks optimized for the iPad. Android users in 32 countries including the US are in luck: there’s a free Trippy app to organize itinerary items, as well as 25 “augmented reality” Compass city guides and 14 phrasebooks. NOTE: This article originally mentioned that the Compass guides were unavailable in the Android Market store, but they should work for most US users. I happen to be in a country where paid apps are not available and not shown in the Market.
  • LUXE City Guides: 20 cheeky city guides work for a variety of mobile phones, including iPhone and Blackberry, but none are compatible with my Android. Bonus: the apps come with free regular updates and maps that the paper guides don’t have.
  • Rick Steves: If you are headed to Europe, you can get audio guides for many big attractions and historic walks for iPhone, plus maps for the iPad. You can also download the audio files free for your computer, and props to Rick for mentioning that Android apps are at least in development.
  • Rough Guides: Here’s a new one: the Rough Guides app works for many phones but NOT the iPhone OR Android! It’s not as slick as some of the other guides (it’s a Java app) and you will use data to use it on the road, but it provides lots of info for many cities in Europe. You can also find a Rough Guides photo app on iTunes to view pictures from around the world with Google Maps and captions from Rough Guides.
  • Time Out: City travelers and residents might want to look at the apps from Time Out for 5 European cities and Buenos Aires, with Manchester and New York on the way. More cities are available for free on iTunes, search for Time Out on iTunes to see what’s available. iPhone only.
  • Wallpaper* City Guides: 10 of the design mag’s 80 city guides are for sale for iPhone for Europe, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles.

Print media:

  • Conde Nast Traveler: It makes sense for magazines to embrace the iPad, and CNT has free Apple apps specifically for Italy, cruises, and their annual Gold List of hotels and resorts. Blackberry users can download an etiquette guide, but Android users are snubbed.
  • National Geographic: As befitting any explorer, Nat Geo has a world atlas, national parks maps, and games featuring their amazing photography, all for iPhone. A special interactive edition of National Geographic Traveler is for sale on the iPad; you can also read it on your computer. Androids can download a quiz game and various wallpapers; and all mobile users can access a mobile-friendly version of their website at natgeomobile.com.
  • Outside: Adventure travelers can purchase and read full issues on the iPad, but no subscription option yet.
  • Travel + Leisure: The other big travel glossy also has an iPad app for special issues. Four issues have been released so far with one available now on iTunes (romantic getaways) but future editions will follow to be read on the app. Just in time for spring break and summer, they’ve also released a Travel + Leisure Family app with advice and articles specifically geared towards travel and families. The apps are both free but you’ll need an iPad – these are designed for tablets, not phones. You can also read full issues of T+L and their foodie cousin Food & Wine on Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Color ereader; you can save per issue if you subscribe to the e-reader version.
  • USA Today Travel: Most major newspapers have mobile readers for all types of phones, but USA Today is the only one with their own travel-specific app. AutoPilot combines an array of cool travel booking capabilities and information with articles and blog post from the newspaper. Only iPhone users can enjoy free.

Two of our favorite magazines, Budget Travel and Afar, have no mobile apps yet but great online communities to tap into their extensive knowledge.

All in all, other than Lonely Planet’s Compass guides, a pretty weak showing for Android travelers. While iPhone has been around longer as a mobile platform that Android, they’ve lost the market share of users to the little green robot. As Android is available on a variety of phone manufacturers and providers, expect that number to continue to grow, along with the variety and depth of content for mobile and tablet users. Will the developers ever catch up or will travelers have to choose?

*Android has not endorsed this or paid me anything to write about them. But to show I’m not biased – Apple, feel free to send me a sample phone and I’ll test out the apps!

Photo courtesy Flickr user closari. Special thanks to Sean O’Neill, who blogs on Budget Travel and the new BBC Travel blog.

Cruise line to raise fuel surcharges. Others to follow?

cruise fuel surchargesIt’s not just gas at the pump rising in price, cruise lines too are paying more for fuel and some are passing along the cost to passengers.

Cunard Line, already charging a fuel surcharge since last May, today announced an increase from $3.85 to $6.00 per person per day on new bookings made on or after December 31, 2010. The supplement is capped at $200 per person on longer voyages and includes all guests traveling.

Cruise lines have resisted adding back on the unpopular fuel surcharge even though fuel prices have exceeded the threshold they commonly notify guests it would take to resume the fee. Fuel surcharges started in 2007 when oil went above $100 per barrel but were removed in late 2008 after pricing went down below $70.

The current price of a barrel of crude oil is about $90.

Other signs point to seeing more of cruise line fuel surcharges too. Earlier this month, British Airways raised their fuel surcharge for the first time since 2008 on long-haul flights by 10 pounds (about $16) each way.

Still, the cruise industry does not want to add the fee back. When speaking of fuel surcharges earlier this month, Carnival Corp Vice Chairman and COO Howard Frank told USA Today, “I don’t see that in the cards … not based on where we see fuel for this year.”

Photo courtesy Cunard Line