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Marriott International Continues to Expand Across North America

by Lux Joseph 28. January 2015

Commercial Medical Escorts has entered into its Caribbean and Canadian travel season. While we transport patients worldwide throughout the year, we definitely can identify and see trends in the different destinations throughout the year. It is very common for our office to move several patients a week back to different parts of Canada including Ontario, Albert, Quebec, and British Colombia.  When our escorts typically overnight in Canada one of the major hotel brands that is commonly use is the Delta hotels. However, a recent agreement with a major US hotel chain means changes among upscale hotels in Canada.

 

Throughout Canada, the Delta brand has a total of 38 hotels. Marriott International saw Canada as a breakthrough in a market which they do not 100% dominate. When individuals stay at hotels throughout Canada, Marriott International is not the first hotel that comes to mind. However Delta, is a brand that is recognized throughout the Canadian market and Marriott saw that as an opportunity for brand success.    This major acquisition will increase Marriott International hotel count to 120 in all of Canada. Delta Hotels currently has approximately 10,000 rooms. This acquisition will make Marriott International the largest full-service hotel company in the country.

 

Throughout the last decade we have observed a variety of large acquisitions within the hospitality industry. The airline industry being one of the biggest players in acquisition has demonstrated the positive and negative effects that it has on consumers.  Marriott has been aggressively seeking acquisitions to improve its expansion throughout the world. Many companies that expand too quickly find themselves unable to meet their demand, but that doesn’t seem like the future for Marriott. Marriott International has been expanding aggressively so that they can maintain a strong presence in attractive regions throughout the world. Other recent acquisitions include acquiring Protea Hospitality Holdings in Africa and Moxy Hotels in Italy.

 

When selecting hotels for our escorts to stay in, we consider a variety of things similar to things consumers should consider when making their own hotel reservations. The Internet has become a great resource for individuals, but it isn’t always the most accurate. With today’s technology, hotel pictures can also be deceiving or embellished to look better than they really are. We strongly encourage you to utilize Trip Advisor to read up to date reviews or consult a travel advisor. Marriott is a well-known brand, but as you enter into different countries American brand hotels are not always available. Be smart, research your destination and ensure the hotel meets your needs, but is also in a safe area.


Understanding the Tarmac Delay Rule

by Lux Joseph 18. January 2015

Every day we have nurses, physicians, and patients traveling to different parts of the world via commercial airlines.  We arrange travel for our clients on more than twenty airlines and in a single day we can have more than ten transports occurring simultaneously.  With this data, one can only imagine the number of delays that can occur since we are using commercial airlines. It is one of the challenges CME and other medical escort companies face however; it is one challenge that cannot be avoided. Sky Cap Corp, our in-house travel department, works tirelessly to ensure appropriate connection times for our escorts and patients, but one can never tell what type of delay may occur on daily basis due to weather, mechanical, air traffic, or even a strike by an aviation union. CME is fortunate that Sky Cap Corp is continuously monitoring our flights to ensure seamless transfers and if a delay is going to affect a transport a backup plan is in place.
 
If you are traveling alone or made your own arrangements you may be left out in the cold “figuratively speaking” in an event of a delay or cancelled flight. As a passenger it is important for you to understand your rights and what airlines are and are not responsible for. Recently the Transportation Department fined Southwest Airlines $1.6 million dollars for violations of the tarmac delay rule that occurred during a snowstorm in January 2014. But do you know that the tarmac delay rule is and what rights you have?


The Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings issued an announcement in 2011 that outlined the tarmac delay:
 
A reportable tarmac delay is a tarmac delay at a large, medium, small, or non-hub U.S. airport that lasts for more than three hours. The 3-hour limit begins when passengers no longer have the option to get off of the aircraft, which usually occurs when the doors of the aircraft are closed. However, if an aircraft is at the gate with the doors open, and passengers are not allowed off the aircraft, the time limit would start at the point when passengers were no longer permitted to deplane. If the flight that experienced the reportable tarmac delay is reported under the Airline Service Quality Reports required by 14 CFR Part 234, the data for that flight should be reported under Part 234 instead of Part 244.
 
In the final rule, we state that covered carriers should file Part 244 reports for any reportable tarmac delay of “three hours or more.” This standard is inconsistent with the tarmac delay contingency plan requirements under Part 259 and the existing reporting requirements of the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), both of which use a “more than three hours” standard. We intend to correct this inconsistency in a future rulemaking to make it clear that carriers do not need to file a report for a tarmac delay of exactly three hours. In the meantime, as a matter of enforcement policy, we will accept reports under Part 244 that meet the “more than three hours” criteria. For additional information, please refer to BTS Accounting and Reporting Directive No. 303A, issued on August 12, 2011.
 
Europe has a similar policy in place in regards to tarmac delays as well. Keep in mind though, delays due to weather does not require the airline to provide any particular compensation to passengers affected by weather related delays. Within the European Union, if a plane is boarded and sits on the tarmac for more than five hours, passengers will have the right to demand to be let off. If the tarmac delay is more than an hour, the airline must provide air conditioning, use of toilets and water.
 
In reference to recent events surrounding the Ebola virus the tarmac rules do not apply. In the event that a passenger on board an aircraft is suspected to have Ebola or another serious contagious virus or illness, passengers may be held on the plane to ensure health and safety policies are followed. No fines will be assessed to the airline. A safety relation or security related reasons are the only incidents that may exempt an airline from the hefty fine.
 
In the recent incident with Southwest, the assessed fine was much higher than previous incidents recorded by the DOT. The DOT advised this was due to the large number of passengers and flights that were affected. Southwest claimed that is was due to a shortage in staff, and the DOT advised there should be an appropriate amount of staff available as a contingency plan in the future to prevent this from happening again. Weather was a factor in this particular incident, but the DOT is making it very clear that they are serious about their rules and regulations. Southwest’s fine was more than the total amount of fines that have been issued since 2009 (5.24 million).
 
As a passenger on a commercial airline it is critical to understand that the tarmac delay rules don't just impact what happens when you're onboard a flight that's stuck at the gate. Airlines are required to post flight delay information on their websites for every domestic flight. You can even visit www.flightaware.com to see the statistics of on time arrival for a particular flight. You can compare delay trends flight-by-flight (and airline by airline) to lessen your chances of a lengthy delay.
 
If you are subject to a tarmac delay, we encourage you to call the airline or check their website to get information on filing a formal complaint. To learn more about the new federal tarmac delay rules, visit http://airconsumer.dot.gov/, the official site of the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings.

Travel Outlook for 2015 from ASTA

by Lux Joseph 11. January 2015

Our in-house travel department has shared with CME some outlook on travel this upcoming year, 2015. CME works closely with our travel department to ensure we are providing on the best travel arrangements for our clients. Our travel department has extensive knowledge on the medical assistance industry as well as travel. As our travel department is partnered with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), he has advised us that ASATA has set an aggressive agenda for 2015 in its mission to be the lead advocate for travel agents who, in turn, are the strongest allies of the traveling public. The agenda includes action at both the federal and state levels, continues work begun in 2014 and adds new initiatives that support free and unfettered world travel.


“ASTA is the only industry organization with the know-how, the staff, the resources and the alliances to effectively defend the interests of travel agencies across the country,” said Sky Cap Corp President and CEO Joseph McNamara. “This was reflected in our work in 2014, a banner year for ASTA advocacy that saw us leverage our unique strength as an association before the U.S. Congress, the White House, federal agencies and all 50 state legislatures in the fight to keep the retail distribution channel strong and thriving for years to come.”

The Association’s advocacy priorities for 2015 include:

  • Ensuring Transparency in the Cost of Air Travel: ASTA will work to ensure that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) landmark rulemaking on airline ancillary fees provides agents and consumers full access to airline ancillary fees and the ability to purchase the complete air transportation product; and will fight airline efforts to insert the so-called Transparent Airfares Act overturning DOT’s full-fare advertising rule into “must-pass” Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation in Congress.
  • Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Travel Agents: ASTA will fight against proposals in Congress and at the DOT that will require agents to make new and unwarranted disclosures to consumers during airline ticketing, such as one in a 2012 law requiring notification that the aircraft their client is flying on may be sprayed with insecticides.
  • Fighting Oppressive Taxation: ASTA will continue to oppose any state proposals to apply new taxes to agency fees and other income, including proposals to subject service industries such as travel agencies to state sales taxes, and to apply state and local hotel taxes to hotel “intermediaries” such as agents. At the same time, ASTA will work with its car rental partners to enact federal legislation to preempt state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes on car rentals.
  • Cuba Travel: Building on the recent agreement reached between the U.S. and Cuban governments to ease long-standing restrictions on trade and other interactions between the two countries – including those preventing American citizens from travelling to Cuba – ASTA will work with President Obama, Administration officials and the U.S. Congress to ensure that Americans are free to travel to Cuba without constraint from their own government. While working toward a full repeal of the travel ban, the Association will petition the Administration to expressly permit any travel agent to book travel for Americans lawfully entitled to travel to Cuba under the new regulations called for by the President in late 2014.
  • Travel Facilitation: ASTA will support the expansion of “Trusted Traveler” aviation security programs, such as TSA’s PreCheck and CBP’s Global Entry, and will ensure that agents have a voice and active role in their implementation. On the international side, the Association will support the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, which will streamline visa processes for “inbound” travelers and help the U.S. recapture its historic share of worldwide overseas travel. 

The highlights of ASTA’s advocacy work during 2014 include:

  • White House Meeting: In March, ASTA secured a first-ever meeting in the White House to brief President Obama’s advisors face to face on the value of the travel agency channel to both consumers and to the small business-driven national economy.
  • IATA NDC: The association worked collaboratively with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other aviation stakeholders to ensure that the DOT’s August approval of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) initiative was subject to a number of consumer protection conditions designed to protect competition and consumer privacy. Going forward, ASTA will work to ensure that agents’ views and business needs are taken into account as NDC is further developed – as a member of several IATA advisory committees as well as a recently-announced initiative to develop understanding of the impact (e.g., from a business, technology and commercial perspective) of NDC for travel agents.
  • Hazmat Notification Regulations: ASTA was successful in its efforts to rework a burdensome DOT regulation that would have required agents to secure their client’s acknowledgement of complex federal hazardous materials restrictions before issuing an airline ticket. Instead, starting in 2016 the disclosure requirement can now be fulfilled any time prior to check-in, such as by automatically providing it on the passenger’s itinerary. This is a big win for agents, as the original requirements would have added to existing passenger notification requirements travel agents have to comply with regarding code-share flights, insecticide spraying and others issues. These requirements would have saddled the industry with more than $58 million in initial training and programming costs and $26 million per year in ongoing compliance costs. 
  • Travel Insurance Reform: Working with a coalition led by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, ASTA and its members have helped reform costly and complex travel insurance licensing in 31 states. Members’ grassroots efforts – including committee testimony in Colorado (Rich Sattizahn), Hawaii (Rachel Shimamoto, Wendy Goodenow) and Maryland (Larry Swerdlin, Jay Ellenby) – were instrumental in moving this initiative forward. Once in place nationwide, these standards will save agencies thousands of dollars in annual licensing costs while reducing the risk of state fines for non-compliance. Counting only the 31 states that have adopted the standards, ASTA estimates the collective savings for the travel agency industry to be $7.5 million per year thanks to this reform.

As one can see, having a travel department that has a strong relationship established with the travel industry demonstrates progressive growth and outlook for CME’s operations. CME’s business relies heavily on the travel industry and people traveling around the world. If there is a declining trend in travelers that is something that CME wants to know because it can impact our business significantly. While we do not want people to become ill or injured, we are proactive in demonstrating the importance of travel insurance to travelers around the world.


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