The Department of Homeland Security set Jan. 23 as the new starting
date for a regulation requiring airline passengers entering the
U.S. from within the Western Hemisphere to possess a valid
passport. The move pushed back the original Jan. 8 start date by
According to Joanna Gonzalez, spokeswoman for the Department of
Homeland Security, the new date for the regulation, referred to as
the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), was due to a delay
in the rule-making process, rather than any difficulty with the
While conceding the new date may confuse some air passengers who
expected the rule to go into effect Jan. 8, Richard Webster, vice
president of government affairs for the Travel Industry Association
said overall the delay was “not a big deal.”
“Some will read into it that there was some sort of political
intrigue, or infighting or battling,” he said. “But this is just a
very busy period of time. There are a lot of things that [the DHS
is] working on. The WHTI is not the only policy that the DHS has
got going. I think the challenge was just going through all of the
checks with other agencies to make sure it was all buttoned up and
done right. We have said all along that [regulations] shouldn’t be
implemented until they are ready to go. They need to get it
Nevertheless, the passport rule for air passengers has raised
the ire of the Caribbean tourism industry, which fears island
destinations will lose business as travelers without passports
decide to go elsewhere.
On Sept. 29, Congress approved a provision that delayed until
June 1, 2009, implementation of passport requirements for U.S.
citizens re-entering the U.S. via land borders and seaports.
However, the delay did not impact air travelers, who, under the
provision, were required to have passports to travel to and from
destinations in the Western Hemisphere beginning Jan. 8.
TRIP ASSURED, REST NOT
Crossville, Tenn.-based Trip Assured has found itself in legal
trouble. Unable to collect their cancellation coverage the company
promised when cancelling their trips, a group of customers have
filed a class-action lawsuit against the travel insurer in the U.S.
District Court in Santa Ana, Calif.
The plaintiffs have two main charges: first, that the company
marketed its product as insurance although it was not a licensed
insurance-seller in any state. Second, that the company suggested
it would pay valid claims when it “never intended to do so,” as
shown by several “unreasonable requirements, traps and loopholes”
used to avoid paying claims, such as repeated requests for
documentation, failure to honor commitments to cover pre-existing
conditions and an arbitration clause that required claimants to go
to Tennessee to file their cases with the Better Business
The plaintiffs claimed that Trip Assured used “bullying and
intimidation” when these tactics failed, even filing a pre-emptive
lawsuit against a Florida claimant.
They also said the state of Tennessee should have acted sooner
against the company but may have been influenced by personal
relationships between the company’s owner and government
Trip Assured produced copies of recent letters to Tennessee’s
Division of Consumer Affairs and Trip Assured’s merchant bank, each
spelling out how the plaintiffs failed to comply with company
policy when cancelling their trips. Six states have issued orders
that the company stop selling in their states until it becomes
Agency clients who believe they qualify to join the class
action, should contact attorney John Tiedt at 951-343-3320.
FRONTIER DIRECT TO LOS CABOS
Frontier Airlines will begin direct service to Los Cabos, Mexico,
from Los Angeles beginning Dec. 9.
“We are excited to offer this new service to SJD,” said Andrew
Hudson, Frontier’s senior director of marketing, sales and
corporate communication. “This new route will provide travelers
from Los Angeles a convenient, accessible and affordable way to
travel to this poplar Mexican destination.”
This service will join the airline’s current nonstop service
from Denver to Los Cabos, which increased to daily Nov. 18. Daily
direct service from San Francisco also begins Dec. 9 and from
Kansas City, Mo., Dec. 16. The company has also announced plans to
do the same from San Jose, Calif., and Sacramento, Calif., pending
approval from the Department of Transportation.
NEW SILVER SPOON PROGRAM AT PENINSULA NEW YORK
Just in time for holiday visits to New York City, the Peninsula is
offering guests a ready-made itinerary for children. Guests can
choose from a selection of iconic New York activities in either a
prearranged itinerary for each age group, or they can select from
an a la carte list of activities parents and children will love
doing together. Also, every child who participates will get a
silver spoon, engraved with the child’s initials. The Silver Spoon
itineraries include: Tucker out the Toddler, recommended for ages
2-6. The day’s activities include a trip to Central Park via
Peninsula private car, picnic lunch, behind the scenes visit to the
Central Park zoo and a room-service dinner. The child’s schedule is
arranged so that parents may enjoy a range of spa treatments and
later enjoy a quiet dinner.
Another itinerary, Fast Forward to NYC Fun, is directed toward
7- to 14-year-olds, and includes a visit to the observation deck at
Rockefeller Center, thrill ride to the Statue of Liberty, lunch at
a space-themed restaurant and a personal shopper at FAO Schwartz.
Fifth Avenue Fairy Princess, for girls 6 and up, includes breakfast
in bed, a trip to the American Girl Store for shopping, lunch at Le
Grenouille and afternoon tea. Prices for the Silver Spoon programs
range from $150-$675.
GOT AN EYE FOR DECOR?
Sandals and Beaches Resorts is hosting a competition among travel
agents for best Sandals-style holiday office decorations. To
compete, agents must e-mail photos of their agency facades or
interiors by Dec. 8 to jross@unique vacations.com. Agents must
include the agency name, IATA/CLIA number, phone number and contact
Sandals will select and announce five winning agencies on Dec.
15, one from each of Sandals and Beaches’ five sales regions.
Each winning agency will receive a $1,000 check to be used
toward an agency holiday or New Year’s party, or as employee