A century of commercial flight


The airline industry celebrated 100 years of commercial flight on New Year's Day with a re-creation of the first flight with a paying passenger. On Jan. 1, 1914, the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line flew the first scheduled air service, flying across Tampa Bay. Abram Phell, then mayor of St. Petersburg, paid $400 at an auction for the 23-minute flight. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, $400 in 1914 is equivalent of $9,322.76 today. Last week, Kermit Weeks, founder and CEO of Fantasy of Flight, flew his full-scale reproduction of the Benoist Airboat biplane, pictured, across Tampa Bay from St. Petersburg's North Yacht Basin to the Peter O. Knight Seaplane Basin in Tampa. As part of the commemoration of the first century of commercial flight, IATA has set up a website, www.flying100years.com, featuring historical reference materials and a timeline.

Frosch Travel buys Florida agency
Frosch Travel of New York and Houston, a $1 billion agency best known for its corporate travel services, acquired Adventure Travels of Pompano Beach, Fla., a member of the Signature network and a major cruise producer that has operated from the same location since its founding in 1965. Adventure owner Bill Cooper said he expects Frosch technology and expertise to yield "further benefits and services to our clients."

DOT sleuths nab another retailer
In one of its first acts of the new year, the Transportation Department (DOT) issued a fine against WK Travel, operator of the OneTravel website, for allegedly failing to disclose the identity of the operating carrier on codeshare flights during test calls made by DOT investigators. Half of the $95,000 fine will be waived if the firm avoids repeat violations for one year.

Amtrak boosting Auto Train capacity
Amtrak is boosting capacity on its Auto Train service, citing "growing demand." The railroad will be adding up to 60 coach seats on various dates through March 31. Auto Train carries passengers and their cars daily in each direction between Lorton, Va., and Sanford, Fla., accommodating up to 600 passengers on peak days.

Latvia adopts euro, to phase out lat
Latvia, which joined the European Union in 2004, adopted the euro as its currency on Jan. 1, the 15th anniversary of the euro. Latvia, the 18th country in the euro zone, will phase out the lat by midmonth. The old currency was pegged at one lat to 1.42 euros.

Steiner's Celebrity contract not renewed
Steiner Leisure said its contract to operate the spas on Celebrity Cruises ships, which expired Dec. 31, has not been renewed. Celebrity said it would name a new operator in the near future. Steiner holds the spa concession on the lion's share of cruise ships, including those of Celebrity's sister brands Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises.

Asian river ship sinks under tow
Pandaw River Expeditions' 60-passenger river cruise vessel Saigon Pandaw sank off the Malaysian coast last month while being towed for repositioning to Myanmar. There were no casualties. For the remainder of the season, Pandaw will deploy the 10-passenger Kalay Pandaw in Myanmar. It has two additional 40-passenger river cruise vessels launching in Myanmar in July, the Kindat Pandaw and the Kalaw Pandaw, on which the company plans to reaccommodate passengers.

Hilton to rebrand famed Paris hotel
Hilton agreed to rebrand the historical Concorde Opera Hotel in Paris in late 2014. The 266-room hotel, near the Saint-Lazare train station, was recently acquired by a Blackstone affiliate. Hilton said it will undergo a "significant" renovation before it is rebranded as the Hilton Paris Opera.

Jamaica welcomed 2 million in 2013
Jamaica hit the 2 million mark for 2013 stayover visitors on Dec. 29, marking the first time the country has welcomed 2 million visitors in a year. Jamaica hosted 1.8 million stayover visitors in 2012.

Friends & Colleagues
Apple Leisure Group appointed Scott Bacon vice president of development for Eastern Caribbean and the Bahamas. Bacon most recently served as regional director, Americas Southeast and Caribbean for the Preferred Hotel Group. He also previously served as director of revenue management and e-commerce with Florida's Sirata Beach Resort, and yield manager for Pacific Southwest Airlines. • • • CSM Lodging named Dan Maurer director of sales and marketing for the Marriott Minneapolis West Hotel. Maurer most recently served as director of sales and marketing for the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest and before that held the same post at the Crowne Plaza Minneapolis West. • • • The Somerset on Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos appointed Urmas Karner as general manager. Promoted to rooms division manager is Clarissa Cox, who has been on staff at the resort since 2010. Karner formerly held management positions with several Manhattan hotels and private-membership beach and boat facilities in the New York area. • • • Carlo Bicaci has been named general manager of the 103-suite Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, which opened on Dec. 7. Most recently, Bicaci oversaw the launches of several hotels and restaurants, including the Brasserie Lipp in Mexico City and Quattro Gastronomia Italiana at the JW Marriott Mexico City Santa Fe. He also served as operations head for five resorts and seven city hotels in Latin America for InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. • • • Viceroy Hotel Group named Martin Kipping as general manager of Viceroy Zihuatanejo on Mexico's Pacific coast. Kipping formerly was resort manager at Viceroy Hotel Anguilla in the Caribbean. • • • Blue Residences, the first luxury condo resort on Aruba's Eagle Beach in 20 years, named Jan van Nes as general manager. Van Nes is a former director of tourism for Aruba.

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