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Ed Perkins on Travel: The good and the bad: Get ready

Ed Perkins on Travel: The good and the bad: Get ready

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I've said many times that in the travel industry nothing catches on as fast as a bad idea: You needn't look far to see a bunch of them. A corollary is that good ideas often disintegrate quickly. Still, the next few months should give us some developments to anticipate with pleasure.

Good Idea: Inexpensive comfortable airline seat. Breeze, David Neeleman's start-up airline, initially limited to short haul routes, will introduce the Airbus 220 next year. And, at least initially, he promises a great product. It will have 36 "nicest" seats out of a total of 126, arranged two-by-two with 39 inches of pitch — essentially better than most first class seats on the big domestic lines. Rather than charge conventional first-class fares, however, Neeleman proposes to offer those nicest seats for a modest upgrade charge over regular economy. They won't feature bottomless wine bottles and lavish hot meals, but they'll provide something the other lines can't: adequate room to accommodate today's king-size travelers without crowding. Regular Breeze economy "nice" seats, at five-across and 32-inch pitch, will also be marginally better than the giant lines' sardine-can offerings, but I'm most intrigued by the "nicest" concept. For decades, the only truly comfortable seats on other lines have been in first or business class, priced at levels that are at least double the economy fare and often four or five times higher: The ability to have a roomy seat on a transcon flight for $50 to $100 extra sounds attractive. We'll see if the traveling public agrees.

Good Idea. Smart health wallets. Regardless of what you think about vaccination, it's clear that having recognized vaccination validation at hand on a smart device is going to be a virtual necessity for many travel activities. The federal government does not plan a national approach, so the big private-sector U.S. health systems are finally waking up to the need to provide such systems. You'll probably be able to download your verified records and store on an existing iPhone and Android health wallet app before next spring. If you aren't sure, ask your primary doctor which outfit has your records. The associated idea — that travel will be very difficult for you if you don't use a smart device — can be either good or bad, depending on your viewpoint. But if it's bad, it's one bad idea that's here to stay.

Good Idea. Honest hotel price comparisons. Hotels have not abandoned the widespread deception of excluding mandatory fees in their initial price displays. This nefarious practice, which started out as "resort" fees, has burgeoned to hotels in all areas, classes, and price ranges. Absent government regulation, it's up to online travel agencies (OTA) and metasearch systems to rectify the problem. They've been doing so on car rental rates for years, but they're only slowly adding it on hotel searches. Kayak was first to offer fee-inclusive searches as an option: Among the others I checked, Expedia and Hotels.com now show a fee-inclusive "totals" figure for each hotel on the initial search page, but Agoda, Booking, Hotwire, and Priceline still do not. For now, stick with Kayak's system — it's still the easiest to use.

Good idea: Virtual queuing for TSA check. United and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) are testing a new system to ease the hassle of long TSA lines: Reserve a 15-minute window for entry in advance, get your reservation posted to your smart device, wait for your time somewhere comfortable, and avoid many minutes of pushing and shoving in a crowded line. There's no fee; participation in the test is optional. Unfortunately, the test does not accommodate travelers with Pre-check.

Good Idea: Low-fare airline lounges. Access to an airport lounge need not be confined to travelers on giant legacy lines. Low-fare EasyJet has just opened a lounge at London/Gatwick, in partnership with No1 Lounges. EasyJet doesn't offer any premium services, so, presumably, all entry will be fee-based, with rates starting at £18.50 (about $25) per visit and maybe bundled into some higher fare categories. The lounge is included in Priority Pass. Are you listening, Allegiant, JetBlue, and Southwest?

(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins@mind.net. Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website at www.rail-guru.com.)

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