News Briefs, Week of July 18, 2016

TripAdvisor adds user reviews of flights

TripAdvisor redesigned its flight search to include user reviews of airlines. A "flyscore" feature measures a flight based upon reviews of legroom, seat comfort, cleanliness, service, food and beverage, value, WiFi, in-flight entertainment and check-in and boarding processes. The airline reviews offer TripAdvisor users the same feature for flights it is known for with hotels and restaurants.

Costa introduces onboard robots
Costa Cruises put humanoid robots on the Costa Diadema that speak English, Italian and French. The five robots, called Pepper, give out information on things like restaurants, excursions and ports; dance with guests; play games and pose for selfies. Pepper, equipped with voice- and facial-recognition technology, can simulate human intuition. Five Pepper robots are slated to be placed on the Costa Fascinosa in September.

Southwest applies for LAX-Mexico routes
Southwest Airlines will apply to fly from Los Angeles to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, Mexico, after the finalization last month of an aviation agreement between the U.S. and Mexico that removed the limit on the number of carriers that can serve any U.S.-Mexico city pair.

Two top Virtuoso agencies combine
Toronto-based Worldview Travel has acquired Century Travel for an undisclosed sum. Century is one of the 10 largest agencies in the Atlanta area, with sales of $54 million and more than 70 associates. Century's executive team will stay in place.

Delta will cut U.K. flights due to Brexit
Delta will cuts its service between the U.S. and the U.K. by 6% for the coming winter as a result of Brexit. The cuts will be seasonal, said CEO Ed Bastian, reflecting an expectation that fewer Brits will take vacations to the U.S. next winter due to the weakened pound, which fell 12% vs. the dollar in the fallout from Brexit.

Accor completes Fairmont acquisition

AccorHotels completed its acquisition of FRHI Hotels & Resorts and its luxury brands Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel for $840 million from the Qatar Investment Authority and Kingdom Holding Co. of Saudi Arabia. Accor's other brands are Sofitel Legend, So Sofitel, Sofitel, MGallery by Sofitel and Pullman. Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel represent 154 properties, with 40 in development, in 34 countries.

Universal opens its newest onsite resort
Universal Orlando opened its fifth onsite hotel, the 1,000-room Caribbean-themed Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. The hotel features Universal Orlando's largest pool, at 16,000 square feet, with a waterslide, kids area, sand beaches and waterfalls that light up at night.

JetBlue looks to add service in Atlanta
JetBlue wants to begin service from the world's largest airport in September 2017. A JetBlue executive wrote to the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport's general manager  that the carrier would launch 16 daily flights, if the airport gives it two gates. The letter added that Atlanta, a Delta hub, is overpriced and lacks competition.

Friends & Colleagues
Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, has named Stacie Faulds its director of marketing. Faulds most recently spent 20 years at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, most recently as the bureau's director of marketing. • • • AccorHotels named Chris Cahill to a new position, CEO of luxury brands. Cahill will lead the integration of the three brands acquired last week from FRHI Hotels & Resorts -- Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel -- as well as oversee Accor's existing luxury brands: Sofitel Legend, So Sofitel, Sofitel, MGallery by Sofitel and Pullman. Cahill most recently served as executive vice president of global operations at Las Vegas Sands Corp. • • • Virgin America CFO Peter Hunt will be promoted to president of the carrier once it is acquired by Alaska Air Group. Alaska Airlines COO Ben Minicucci will become Virgin America CEO. Alaska's $2.6 billion purchase of Virgin America is expected to close early in the fourth quarter. Hunt will head day-to-day operations of Virgin America until Virgin and Alaska receive a single operating certificate, which Alaska said is expected in early 2018. David Cush is the current president and CEO of Virgin America. • • • Stacy Ritter is the new president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, replacing the retiring Nicki Grossman. Ritter served as an elected commissioner for Fort Lauderdale's Broward County until assuming the post.


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