ASTA Responds to Passenger Rights

*Disney Expands Cruise Line
*Windstar Sold
*Rock Out With Globus

ASTA has issued a statement in response to recent calls for legislation creating a so-called “Passenger Bill of Rights.”

“ASTA believes it is clear beyond debate that, absent an unforeseen but clear present threat to safety, passengers should not be forced to remain on aircraft without adequate food, water and toilet facilities for periods such as eight or more hours waiting to take off. That said, any solutions that are developed must be measured and appropriate to the circumstances at hand and should not create new problems worse than those sought to be cured.

“Given the attention that recent mishandling of passengers by American Airlines and Jet Blue have attracted, it would have been easy for ASTA to fuel the fire with demands for an elaborate ‘Bill of Rights’ for all airline passengers,” the statement read. “Instead, we have approached the Air Transport Association (ATA) with the objective of a collaborative dialogue about the solutions to these issues, which go well beyond aircraft mired in snowstorms. ATA has indicated an interest in such dialogue, and we hope that it will commence very shortly.”

ASTA believes that one potential path to a solution may lie in creating a regime in which there is proportionality between delay and length of next flight segment as the basis for when passengers must be given the right to deplane.”

ASTA president and CEO Cheryl Hudak, added: “To be absolutely clear about this, ASTA will not accept the argument that these problems are too infrequent, affect too few passengers, are too unpredictable to warrant more than apologies. Nor should airlines avoid responsibility by claiming that these incidents are too costly to cure on an assured basis.

“ASTA believes that airlines must, as Jet Blue is trying to do, recognize their responsibility in +these situations and take concrete steps to address the issues before they arise again,” said Hudak. “We are anxious to work with consumers, airlines and other interested and responsible parties to find solutions that protect consumers’ interests and are economically and practically attainable.”

Disney Cruise Line to Expand

The Walt Disney Company plans to expand its successful cruise business by adding two new ocean liners. Scheduled to launch in 2011 and 2012, the ships will more than double the passenger capacity for Disney Cruise Line.

The company signed a letter of intent with Meyer Werft shipyard, based in Papenburg, Germany, to negotiate a contract to build the 122,000-ton new cruise liners, which will be two decks taller than the existing 83,000-ton ships, the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder. Each ship will have 1,250 staterooms. Specific design plans and itineraries for the yet-unnamed ships are still in development and will be unveiled at a later date.

Disney Cruise Line’s first two ships were purpose built for families to reconnect and recharge. From a theater featuring live musical spectaculars to a luxurious spa for adults and nearly an entire deck dedicated to children’s activities, the ships offer something for all ages.

“Focusing on families has been smart business for us,” said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “More than 95 percent of Disney Cruise Line guests rate their cruise experience as excellent or very good. Families know they can trust us to provide a quality, immersive Disney experience. As a result, Disney Cruise Line continually sets sail with the highest load factors in the industry of nearly 150 percent.”

Disney Cruise Line, which traditionally offers three-, four- and seven-night Caribbean cruises, has also experienced strong demand for new itineraries. Trips to the Mediterranean and to the West Coast have recently set booking records within the company and booked 30-50 percent faster than the existing itineraries at higher prices.

“With a larger fleet, we’ll have greater flexibility to offer a variety of itineraries,” Rasulo said. “This is a business that our guests love, and we’re pleased to give them more options to explore the world with Disney with two new ships.”


Carnival to Sell Windstar

Carnival Corporation & plc has agreed to sell its Windstar Cruises brand for $100 million to Ambassadors International Inc. Windstar Cruises, which operates three sailing vessels, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Holland America Line, a unit of Carnival Corporation.

“Windstar is an outstanding and unique cruise product and has garnered an extremely loyal following, however Carnival Corporation & plc’s growth strategy is focused on expanding our core growth brands and opening new markets,” said Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation & plc chairman and CEO. Stein Kruse, president and chief executive officer, Holland America Line, added: “We are pleased to have a committed buyer like Ambassadors International to take over Windstar. The transaction has been structured to ensure a smooth transition for all parties.”

Carnival expects the sale to close in the second quarter of 2007, subject to any applicable regulatory requirements.

Globus Introduces Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour

On the eve of the 43rd anniversary of the Beatles’ legendary appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” Globus introduces the Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour England, offering American travelers their own up-close experience with the most popular band of all time. The tour explores the sites that shaped the Beatles’ music and also visits the haunts of other music royalty.

The Rock n’ Roll England tour includes stays in Liverpool with a stop at “The Beatles Story,” the world’s only Beatles-themed visitor attraction as well as visits to St. Peter’s Woolton, Penny Lane and the Liverpool Institute. A once-in-a-lifetime performance by a Beatles tribute band concludes the time spent in this rock-inspired city. The concert offers the chance to hear the Beatles’ famed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band playlist live, nearly 40 years to the day after its release, at the famous Cavern Club, site of nearly 300 Beatles’ performances.

“Travelers are certain to see a whole different side of England on this vacation,” said Phillip Gordon, president and CEO of the Globus family of brands.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour England vacation also features London sightseeing with a local rock ‘n’ roll expert, visiting hangouts of renowned musicians, including Jimi Hendrix’s former home and the place that launched Bob Marley’s reggae revolution. Also, through a partnership with the legendary Hard Rock Cafe, Globus passengers will experience a welcome dinner at the world’s original Hard Rock Cafe. The journey ends with a performance of the hit sold-out musical “We Will Rock You,” featuring 31 of Queen’s greatest songs.

Departing on May 28, this six-day vacation is available for a land-only price of $1,679. As an added incentive, travelers who book a Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour England air-inclusive vacation between now and Feb. 28 will receive a discount of $200 per couple.


New Tauck Group Sales Promotion

Tauck World Discovery is helping travel agents attract more group business by offering a special incentive for parties of 10 or more. For every 10th guest traveling on selected tour departures, the tour cost is waived for the 11th guest. The incentive is available on selected departures of 26 different itineraries in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, including two of Tauck’s popular European river cruises.

“We’re looking to drive more group business directly through the front doors of our agent partners,” said Navin Sawhney, Tauck’s senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Agents will receive their normal commission rate on each of the 10 paying guests. Agents who organize their own groups may forgo the complimentary tour for the 11th guest, and instead earn a 20 percent commission rate.