Thursday, August 28, 2014

American and US Airways pull fares from Orbitz - What does this mean for other airlines?

In the wake of the news that American Airlines and US Airways have severed ties with online travel agency Orbitz, you can bet other airlines will surely take notice.

As in, “What’s in it for me?”

If this dispute is about lower booking fees and commissions, as American Airlines president Scott Kirby alluded to, it will bear watching how other U.S. carriers react to how this all plays out.
American Airlines announced Tuesday it has pulled its fares off of and its affiliates, effective immediately, and that its merger partner US Airways will pull its fares from Orbitz effective Monday, Sept. 1. Combined, American and US Airways account for 25 percent of the domestic air travel market.

American said it could not come to an agreement with Orbitz on a new contract.

“We have worked tirelessly with Orbitz to reach a deal with the economics that allow us to keep costs low and compete with low-cost carriers,” Kirby said in a statement. “While our fares are no longer on Orbitz, there are a multitude of other options available for our customers, including brick and mortar agencies, online travel agencies, and our own websites.”

Negotiating ploy? Maybe. For all we know, American’s flights could be back on Orbitz before you get to the bottom of this article. In fact, most experts agree this is a singular dispute, American vs. Orbitz, as American looks to be competitive with discount, budget airlines – many of whom, like Southwest, don’t even bother to use Orbitz.

“This is a business dispute with one company and one company only,'' Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst with Atmosphere Research Group, told USA Today. "For the traveler there's really not that much inconvenience here. You can still shop for various airlines on Orbitz. ... You can book American Airlines partners through Orbitz, like British Airways and Cathay Pacific. And at the same time, if you prefer to use online travel companies, you can buy through other sites, like Expedia and Travelocity.''

Harteveldt also told the Chicago Tribune: “This is not a harbinger of other disputes that are likely to occur.It’s a very singular issue, strictly between Orbitz and American.”

Far be it for anyone without a financial background to dispute that thinking, but one thing needs to be noted – simple human nature.

At this point, unless every deal between online travel agencies and the airlines are exactly the same in terms of booking fees, other airlines must be wondering: what caused the dispute, what is the pricing structure and, more importantly, if this is settled, what kind of deal American is getting compared to their deals?

This actually hurts Orbitz more than it hurts American and US Airways. There has been a dramatic shift of late to passengers going straight to airline websites anyway, hence some of the money and infrastructure the airlines have devoted to their own online presence. If travelers are hellbent on flying American or US Airways – or just curious to see if their fares are competitive with others – then they’re going to American or US Airways’ websites. Or, worse for Orbitz, to Travelocity or Expedia.
Orbitz lost almost five percent of its stock on Tuesday. American was unchanged. Wall Street couldn’t have delivered a more pointed message.

Now it’s a wait-and-see how other airlines react. Because United, Delta, JetBlue … they hold the power here. They just don’t realize it yet.
Steele Luxury Travel

Monday, August 25, 2014

On the Go // Long May They Reign: Gay Travel Capitals

We hear it all the time: “it’s the gay capital of ________.” Destinations are so eager for gay travel dollars, they go a little above and beyond when hyping up the gay cred. Here is a quick guide to the REAL leading cities of their respective regions.

Of Africa
It’s not like Africa has a lot of competition. That does not mean Cape Town got to the top of the heap easily; it had to fight off Durban and Johannesburg (so what if they are all in the same country). Cape Town is also the only city that publicly states it wants to knock off all other competitors in the Southern Hemisphere, and you gotta admire that kind of drive.

Of Asia
Talk about a brawl, because we have not two, not three, but four cities duking it out: Bangkok, Taipei, Manila, and Tokyo. Each has its plusses, but this is one instance where word of mouth wins out: Bangkok is where you want to be. The real news out of Asia is that Taipei and Manila score has high as they do.

Of Europe
Berlin. Shocker.

Of North America
This is going to hurt, but top honors go to…Toronto. Yes, New York, San Francisco, and even Panama City sit in the front of the class, but Toronto is front-er. In terms of clubs, bars, laws, parties, events, and a homocopia of other reasons, Canada’s undisputed gay capital is also that of the continent. Ow.

Of Oceania
Again, not a lot of competition; we all know about Sydney Mardi Gras. Which is why it must be a serious slap to Aussies that the Kiwis take the gay gold. And for a simple reason: We can marry in New Zealand, but not Australia. Auckland is the gay capital of the country, and thus of the South Pacific.

Of South America
Hope you like to tango, because Buenos Aires leads the way for our brothers to the south. Actually more Euro than Latino, the lively capital of Argentina juuust edges out Rio. Gay marriage is legal in Argentina, and no offense, but Brazil can’t even win a soccer match.

Of the United States
And the winner is…Washington, D.C.?? Because LGBTQ legal status is changing so much at the state and federal levels and clubs come and go (New York’s club scene, so vibrant in 2000, is gone), The Advocate — and they do their homework — looked at things like gay population numbers, etc. So believe it. DC rules.

Be Sure to contact Steele Luxury Travel for all of your LGBT travel needs:

United Airlines Improves Food On Board

United Airlines today unveiled new, improved lunch, dinner and beverage choices for domestic first-class customers, offering travelers chef-inspired meals and premium beverages that elevate their in-flight experience.
Among the changes:
  • New, premium salads beginning this month for customers flying United First and United Business within North America;
  • New, premium sandwiches and wraps, beginning Sept. 1, for United First and United Business customers within North America;
  • Addition of Prosecco sparkling wine in premium cabins beginning this fall;
  • Introduction of premium-cabin meals to flights of shorter duration, beginning in 2015; and
  • Fresh meal options for premium-cabin customers on United Express flights, beginning in 2015.
Premium-Cabin Refresh
This month, United began offering customers in premium cabins on North America flights four new salad entrée choices – a Southwestern salad, an Asian-style noodle salad, seasonal greens with roast beef and blue cheese salad and a Strawberry Fields salad – replacing the previous chicken and shrimp salad options.

In September, premium-cabin customers on flights within North America will enjoy new chilled sandwiches and wraps – Italian prosciutto on tomato focaccia, a Thai-style chicken wrap, Cobb salad wrap and caprese on Asiago baguette – as well as new warmed options – turkey and Swiss on cranberry baguette, ham and Swiss on pretzel baguette, chicken and mozzarella on tomato focaccia and roast beef and cheddar on Asiago baguette.

Designed by United's team of chefs, the new salads and sandwiches will be made fresh daily and paired with a gluten-free soup, along with United's signature service elements, including warmed nuts, premium snacks and warmed cookies.

On transcontinental flights and on longer mid-continental dinner flights, the airline will continue to offer customers a choice between a pasta dish and a chicken or beef option.

"These changes mark the beginning of an extensive overhaul of our North America and international food service, offering travelers a level of service above that offered by our peers," said Lynda Coffman, United's vice president of food services. "Our new selections offer customers more of what they tell us they want when they travel – variety, bold flavor combinations and higher quality."

Additional Food and Beverage Changes

Beginning this fall, United will add Prosecco sparkling wine to its premium-cabin beverages on mainline North America flights.

By mid-2015, United will further enhance its in-flight dining by:
  • Launching completely redesigned menu concepts and expanding premium-cabin meals within North America to flights that are more than two hours and 20 minutes, or 800 miles;
  • Upgrading premium-cabin meal service on domestic and international United Express flights, replacing snack boxes with freshly prepared food; and
  • Significantly enhancing United Economy meals and beverages on long-haul international flights.
United offers in-flight meals and snacks depending on flight duration, departure time, origin and destination. Specific breakfast, lunch and dinner parameters are available at

Steele Luxury Travel

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Delta Improving Boston-to-New York Shuttle Service

Delta Air Lines will move New York operations of its Delta Shuttle between Boston-Logan International Airport and New York's LaGuardia Airport from the Marine Air Terminal to Terminal C beginning Nov. 2.

Boston Shuttle customers will enjoy new departure and arrival facilities at LaGuardia in Terminal C as well as upgraded service to Boeing 717 aircraft. The move is part of Delta's strategy of adding bigger aircraft on more routes.

In 2012, Delta completed renovations to Terminal C as part of its $160 million investment to modernize and connect Terminals C and D at LaGuardia and opened a new 7,600 square foot Delta Sky Club featuring a full wall of windows with runway views. Customers will also have access to Delta's five new restaurants with menus led by celebrity chefs, an expansive food hall and fresh markets.

Weekday flights depart near the top of the hour from 6 a.m. through 8 p.m. and will be operated by Delta using Boeing 717 aircraft which accommodates 110 passengers including 12 first-class seats in a two-by-two configuration, 15 Economy Comfort and 83 economy seats in a two-by-three configuration. Boston-based customers will now be able connect through Delta's LaGuardia hub for access to 64 additional cities.

"Delta Shuttle customers between Boston and New York will fly on larger mainline jets as we shift operations to Terminal C," said Gail Grimmett, senior vice president – New York. "Customers will enjoy a great Delta Shuttle product with the frequency and amenities they've come to expect as well as being able to experience our most updated space at LaGuardia."

Delta Shuttle service began on its Boston to New York and Washington, D.C. to New York routes on September 1, 1991 after Delta completed the purchase of the Pan Am Shuttle. For nearly a quarter century the Delta Shuttle has been a core part of its New York operations. In June 2010, Delta added New York to Chicago-O'Hare service to the Shuttle operation.

Customers flying the Delta Shuttle between New York-LaGuardia and Boston will enjoy:
  • Convenient, top of the hour schedule for Delta Shuttle customers including 15 weekday departures
  • Check-in as close as 15 minutes prior to departure without bags or 30 with checked bags
  • Dedicated check-in counters exclusively for Shuttle customers
  • Expedited security screening with nearby access to TSA Pre-Check lanes for eligible passengers
  • Dedicated gates – located near the Delta Sky Club in LaGuardia's Terminal C – with access to complimentary coffee and newspapers for all customers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Financial Times and power at the gate
  • Advanced seat selection on all Delta Shuttle flights and complimentary access to Economy Comfort seats for SkyMiles Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members at the time of booking
  • Two classes of service with complimentary upgrades for SkyMiles Medallion members when available.
  • Complimentary onboard snacks including bagels in the morning before 10:30 a.m. or gourmet nut mix for flights after 10:30 a.m.
  • Complimentary beverages in-flight including craft beer and wine in all classes of service
  • Cocktails available for purchase in economy
  • Access to in-flight Wi-Fi on all Shuttle flights
  • Access to power from every seat on the Boeing 717 aircraft
Delta Shuttle flights between New York and Chicago-O'Hare International Airport or Washington Reagan-National Airport will continue to operate from LaGuardia's Marine Air Terminal operated by Delta Connection partner, Shuttle America using E-175 aircraft.

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On the Go // Swell Dudes - Brazil Surf Camp

Now we have a whole new reason to go to Brazil: South America’s only LGBTQ surf camp running October 25 – November 1, 2014 in the state of Santa Catarina.

Brazil may be more famous for Carnival and its mammoth São Paulo gay pride, but the nation also has some of the best wave action in the hemisphere. Under expert tutelage, beginners will learn how to shoot the tubes like a pro. When thinking of high-profile sports, surfing probably isn’t the first to spring to mind, but one look at seriously hot practitioners like Greg Cipes should definitely widen your scope. Google the pic of him in low-slung sweats. It is totally worth it.

Back to the camp. You cannot beat the events gay cred: openly gay Thomas Castets, founder of, tackled the subject of homophobia in the surf world with his recent, and award-winning, documentary “Out in the Line-Up.” He also asked members of the world’s leading online LGBTQ surfing community for suggestions to improve this situation.  

Said Castets, “we found that gay surfers really wanted us to create surf trips with other gay surfers. So we partnered with Brazil Ecojourneys to organize a week of surfing, relaxing, and yoga in the gorgeous town of Praia do Rosa in South Brazil. After a successful first run last year, we knew we had to do it again in 2014.”

The 2013 camp pulled in surfer dudes from Canada to Argentina (that’s literally both ends of the Americas). 2014 attendees will land in Florianopolis, capital of Santa Catarina, before moving on to Praia do Rosa, a seaside town with not only some serious swells but also one of the gayest beaches in the country south of Ipanema. And you will not be alone — Praia do Rosa is set squarely on a major whale migration route. You may find yourself with some very big company. Did you know a whale penis is called a “dork?”

Anyhoo, newbies will get guidance from Praia do Rosa icon Capitão David, AKA “The Captain,” surf coach and owner of the oldest local surf school, established in 1995. 15,000 students have gone from total neophytes to surfing experts under his steady hand. But anyone thinking this is a walk in the part, au contraire. The lessons are hours long, and be prepared to wipe out more than once. Practice, practice, practice.

However, once you get the basics down, a whole new world is open to you. Hawaii, Costa Rica, Portugal, and France have whole communities based on the sport. No one ever said you had to be flat on your back while getting a tan.

For more information, go to or contact Marta Dalla Chiesa of Brazil Ecojourneys at contact  Steele Luxury Travel can assist with all of your travel planning to Brazil including discounted business class airfare!  Contact us at

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Etihad Acquires 49 Percent of Alitalia in New Plan

Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the UAE, completed an investment deal with Alitalia as part of a plan to save the Italian national carrier and bring it back to profitability.

Under the terms of the agreement, Etihad is investing 560 million euros  ($745 million) in Alitalia, purchasing a 49 share of the company.

Core Alitalia shareholders have also committed an additional $400 million investment in the turnaround strategy. The package also includes $800 million in debt restructuring and $400 million more in loans from Italian financial institutions. The total investment in the turnaround strategy is more than $2.3 billion

The plan also includes the addition of new long-haul routes from Rome and Milan to Abu Dhabi and beyond, signifying network consolidation with Etihad routes.

The plan is intended to bring the carrier back to profitability by 2017.

James Hogan, president and CEO of Etihad Airways, said, “For Etihad Airways, this is a strategic, long-term commercial investment. On completion, we are committed, with the other shareholders, to build a reinvigorated Alitalia as a competitive, sustainable and profitable business that can operate successfully in the global air travel market.

“We believe in Alitalia. It is great brand with enormous potential. With the right level of capitalization and a strong, strategic business plan, we have confidence the airline can be turned around and repositioned as a premium global airline once again.”

Steele Luxury Travel

Temporary Flight Restrictions Issued Near Lambert–St. Louis International Airport

Commercial pilots across the country were issued a NOTAM earlier today, Aug. 12, stating that a 3 mile area around Ferguson, MO had been placed under “temporary flight restrictions.”

The NOTAM gives the reasoning for the enforcement as a being due to a law enforcement operation. Only relief aircraft operations under the direction of the St. Louis County Police Department are allowed in the airspace over Ferguson until the restrictions are lifted.

The temporary flight restrictions create a no-fly zone in a 3 nautical mile radius (around 4.5 miles) around Ferguson. According to Google Maps, the center of Ferguson is less than three miles from the edge of the airstrip at Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, but according to the airport it is still open.

Civil unrest has been amplifying all week in Ferguson following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on Saturday, Aug. 9. Riots and looting began the next night and spilled over into Monday when it was reported that police used tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowd.

The NOTAM did not say when the restriction would be lifted over Ferguson airspace.

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