Coming and Going: Booking Fees, Passport Day, State Slogans, Seatmate Blues

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Travelocity Waives Fees

The war for dominance among third-party travel booking sites is heating up.

Travelocity last week eliminated airfare booking fees on tickets sold through May 31. The announcement came six days after Expedia took the same step.

Many industry experts believe removal of the booking fees, which run from $7 to $12 per ticket, will become permanent, putting pressure on competitor Orbitz to also get rid of its fees.

"They're definitely testing the waters," said Carroll Rheem, director of research for Phocuswright, a travel industry research firm. "The permanent removal of these fees is a definite possibility."

Travelocity also announced that through May 31 it will offer a PriceGuardian promotion, promising refunds if another Travelocity user books the same vacation package at a lower price. Orbitz already offers a Price Assurance program that automatically refunds customers if someone finds the same flights at a lower price. Expedia twinned its no-booking-fees promo with an extra free night on select hotel stays. And Priceline, a booking site that stopped collecting booking fees in 2007, announced Wednesday that it will offer price-protection refunds on air tickets and vacation packages.


Passport Day

On Saturday, "Passport Day in the USA" will be celebrated nationally, which means all State Department passport agencies and some other passport acceptance facilities will be open to the public. Many of them will host events to help educate Americans about upcoming changes in passport requirements. Perhaps more important, Saturday is the one day on which "appointments and expedite fees are not required for those applying at a passport agency," according to a news release.

For hours of operation and info on participating offices, go to


Branding Irony

This year, the Old Dominion celebrates the 40th anniversary of what may be the greatest slogan in state branding history, "Virginia Is for Lovers." Just the right mix of surprising and safe, VIFL has proved enduringly appealing.

Not every entity -- city, state or country -- is as successful at capturing its charms in four or five words, of course. The latest bomb seems to have been dropped by Wisconsin, which, perhaps in a nod to current realities, was seeking an alternative to "Life's So Good." Fair enough, but last Monday, when its replacement -- "Live Like You Mean It" -- was announced, it was difficult to tell who was more disappointed: Wisconsinites who felt they were being scolded for past extravagances or various folks who'd previously laid claim to the catchphrase (e.g., a life coach, a motivational speaker, Bacardi rum). Frank assessments are all the rage in travel-slogan circles these days. Not frank as in "Berlin Is Poor, but Sexy," but frank as in "Close to Home. Far From Ordinary," which Missouri recently unveiled, the unpoetic replacement for "Where the Rivers Run."

What all these slogans share is their indisputability, the minimum requirement for a good motto. That's an area Nigeria might want to work on. The West African nation, attempting to shed a crime-ridden image, has also revealed a new slogan, "Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation." But when author Isawa Elaigwu stepped up to a podium last week to speak in support of rebranding efforts, he had an announcement of his own: Someone had just stolen his cellphone.


Against the Wind

It's been more than two years since an American Airlines plane bound from Reagan National to Dallas was diverted to Nashville after an incident involving excessive flatulence by a female flier. (Fellow passengers became alarmed after smelling matches the woman had struck.) It's apparently rare that such a situation necessitates drastic measures, but it's an annoyance nonetheless, according to a new survey by TripAdvisor. In a poll of 1,500 air travelers, "19 percent have experienced excessive flatulence" by seatmates, which puts EF at No. 3 on the Web site's list of "unfortunate behaviors" endured by fliers.

Coming in at No. 2, since you asked, is "obvious intoxication," which 25 percent of survey respondents say they have witnessed. And the winner? "Loud snoring." A whopping 44 percent of fliers have suffered through that annoyance. No word on how many survey respondents have -- like us -- had the honor of sitting next to a passenger who exhibited all three behaviors. Remind CoGo to tell you that story sometime.


Taca is offering a sale from Washington Dulles to several cities in Central America. Fares range from $349 to $499 round trip, including taxes. The $349 fare applies to Guatemala City; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Managua, Nicaragua. Purchase at by March 23. Complete travel by May 31. Other airlines matching in some markets.

Reporting: Carol Sottili, Scott Vogel

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