As part of “Travel Again and Travel Better” effort, consumer group brings thought leaders and consumers together to shape a better future travel experience
WASHINGTON – Sept. 9, 2020 – The need for greater transparency, simplicity, respect and experience consistency for consumers were all unanimous and repeated themes to come out of the first webinar with a live audience and a panel of travel experts, journalists and bloggers hosted by Travel Fairness Now, a non-profit coalition of travelers advocating for greater transparency, competition and fairness in travel.
The free webinar, entitled “Travel Again and Travel Better: Creating a Better Travel Experience for The Future,” was part of an ongoing effort to influence the creation of a better travel experience for consumers in the future. A free replay can be viewed here.
“As we look forward to traveling again, what we want are reassurances from those involved in the travel industry –airlines, hotels and others that they will keep us safe from a health standpoint, as we’ve never had to think about this before,” said panelist Henry Harteveldt, president, Atmosphere Research Group and travel industry analyst and advisor.
“But this pandemic has not dampened our thirst or passion for travel. It may be a short–term block, if you will, an obstruction. We will travel again. But we want the travel companies to be transparent with us and don’t beat around the bush. Tell us what we are going to get and what we are not going to get so our expectations are fairly managed.”
During the one-hour discussion, JT Genter, freelance editor for AwardWallet, and freelance writer for ForbesAdvisor and NerdWallet, said, “We need to focus on simplicity and transparency. I see from my own family members and friends how different hotel and airline policies can really confuse them.
“Thinking about the future, if I could redesign travel, I would make it as transparent as possible. If you look at credit cards, all the fees and charges are very clearly displayed. Why can’t it be that way with travel suppliers? Airlines and hotels aren’t required to provide the facts on what they are providing.”
William J. McGee, aviation and travel adviser for Consumer Reports Advocacy, and also the author of “Attention All Passengers,” talked about the disconnect between taxpayer support for the travel industry and the difficulty consumers are having getting refunds when airlines cancel flights, something carriers are required to provide.
“Consumers say to us we just gave a $50 billion bailout to this industry and I can’t get my $250 back. I came in good faith. Airlines have force majeure clauses that work for airlines, but not for consumers.”
On the issue of health protocols for passengers flying during this period of concern about the COVID-19 virus, McGee said, “We need the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to be more proactive on a national level. A patchwork quilt formula of each airline and each airport coming up with their own policy will not work. Travelers are not being protected. After 9/11, Transportation Secretary Mineta, working under President Bush, acted within days. Here we are, four or five months in, and all we have is a set of recommendations with no rules for airlines, no rules for airports and no rules for passengers. It is unacceptable.”
Jason Cochran, editor-in-chief at Frommers.com, said, “Suppliers are having to court us again, so airlines and hotels are having to listen to us again. This is the closest we’ve been to a more clean piece of paper since 9/11 of us telling them of what we want.
“Overcrowding, fees, price of travel, the way we are treated when we raise concerns to the DOT or the airlines– and get ignored up until now – might change because the industry now desperately needs us to survive. Before we felt a cavalier attitude that we weren’t going to be listened to. That’s changing.”
“We are grateful to our panelists and the participants in our first webinar for contributing to an important conversation on the type of travel experience consumers want – and deserve – in the future,” said Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director of Travel Fairness Now.
Ebenhoch added, “We applaud the recent decision of major U.S. airlines to eliminate change fees on most fares on domestic routes, but we encourage them to make changes in transparent, simple ways that don’t cause consumers to worry about what they may be missing in the fine print, such as forfeiting the remaining value of a ticket they are exchanging.”
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