The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has decided to push back
for one year the Oct. 26 deadline that required countries
participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to begin issuing
passports embedded with biometric data. However, in rolling back
the deadline, the DHS said VWP countries would be required to
produce passports with digital photographs by Oct. 26.
Additionally, VWP countries are required to present an
“acceptable plan” to begin issuing integrated circuit chips, or
E-passports, within one year, the DHS said. The DHS said it would
require that all E-passports be submitted by Sept. 1, 2006, in
order to be validated by Oct. 26, 2006.
The DHS said it decided to extend the biometric passport
deadline to Oct. 26, 2006, after “extensive consultation” with
Congress and the Dept. of State. The travel industry also lobbied
in favor of delaying the deadline.
Crystal Cruises Adds Surcharge
Crystal Cruises implemented a $4 per person, per day fuel
surcharge on cruises departing after July 15 that are not paid in
full by that date.
In a brief statement Crystal said it had “resisted the
implementation of a fuel surcharge for many months ... however, we
find that we cannot ignore the continued rising price of oil and
its negative impact on our operating costs.” Earlier this year,
competitor Radisson Seven Seas Cruises introduced a $2.85 per day
fuel surcharge on its voyages. Star Cruises also has levied fuel
charges on passengers.
Pleasant Signs Deal With United
Pleasant Holidays signed a five-year agreement with United Airlines
for blocked space, with inventory risk, on Hawaii flights from Los
Angeles and San Francisco. The arrangement becomes effective Jan.
16, when Pleasant’s current contract with ATA ends.
Pleasant had similar arrangements with ATA for the last 11 years
but changed to United for three reasons, according to a Pleasant
spokesman: more flights, better prices and more flexibility in
terms of seasonal variations in demand.
The deal is similar to arrangements Pleasant has for buying
blocks of hotel room nights, with one important difference: no
“That’s the whole idea,” said a Pleasant spokesman. “That’s not
to say the contract could not be renegotiated as it goes. But we
are committed to buy the seats no matter what. That is our
ASTA to Offer New Domain
Beginning Sept. 1, members of the American Society of Travel Agents
(ASTA) will be eligible to purchase a new Web address, thanks to
the launch of the new domain name “.travel.”
Because industry eligibility must be verified, purchasing a
.travel domain name will be a two-step process. ASTA members must
first authenticate their membership by completing an online
application between July 1 and Aug. 23. Then members can purchase a
“.travel” domain name with any approved registrar.
New Rail Europe Site
Rail Europe Group launched a new point-to-point rail ticket booking
engine featuring live inventory of European and U.K. trains at its
trade-exclusive Web site.
Dispensing with the timetable-based approach, the new booking
engine mimics airline booking engines, showing “available trains at
available fares,” according to the company.
New features include: incorporation of seat reservations in
overall ticket fares; online, side-by-side comparison of first- and
second-class fares; and immediate confirmation of ticket purchase
and seat reservations.
Agent commission on rail tickets ranges from 4 to 7 percent.