Coming & Going: Pricier hotels, tired pilots and saddles for planes

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Friday, September 17, 2010; 12:52 PM

If your hotel tariff looks a teensy bit higher these days, blame it on the rate creep of summer 2010.

According to Hotels.com's recently released Hotel Price Index, after seven straight quarters of price drops, rates are on the climb - up 2 percent worldwide.

"Two percent isn't a tremendous rise," said Victor Owens, Hotels.com's vice president of marketing in North America. "We're still talking about levels we last saw in 2003-2004."

While rates in the $$$$$ destinations of Venice, Moscow and Abu Dhabi dropped, hotels on the Italian island of Capri jumped by 7 percent to an average price of $267, and in Geneva by 8 percent, to $254. As for Bali, a night in paradise leapt from $129 to $203.

Domestically, New York is still the most expensive apple in America, with an average rate of $224, up 14 percent. For cheap beds, check out Norfolk, where rates average $84, down from $101, or Toledo, Ohio, down 17 percent to $79.

"Demand has recovered most quickly in the two- and three-star tier," said Owens. "There are still tremendous deals at the four- and five-star level."

For the complete study, see www.hotel-price-index.com.

What's good for the pilot. . .

Airline pilots would work shorter hours and get more time to sleep between flights under new rules the Department of Transportation proposed last week.

Under the proposal, pilots would have nine hours of rest prior to duty, up from eight. They'd also get 30 consecutive hours off per week, a 25 percent increase. Under current rules, pilots can work up to 16 hours a day. The proposal calls for a maximum of 13 hours and less - nine hours - for pilots who have flown overnight or on several flights. Tired pilots would also be allowed to turn down flights without penalty.

The proposed rules are open for public comment at www.regulations.gov.

A saddle or a seat?

If you thought airplane travel couldn't get any more uncomfortable, think again.

Italian company Aviointeriors has designed an airplane seat that would reduce passenger legroom in economy class even more, from the conventional 28 inches between seats to 23 inches or less. Passengers would sit at an angle in the SkyRider seat, which resembles a saddle with an arm rest. CoGo asked a company spokesman whether that could possibly be comfortable for passengers. "Obviously the SkyRider comfort is not the same of a Business Class seat, but for sure it is acceptable," spokesman Gaetano Perugini wrote us in an e-mail.

Airlines would charge less for the seats but still make a profit because overall capacity would increase, the company explained. The seats would also have space for personal bags.

Matt Daimler, founder of SeatGuru.com, said that he expects airlines to continue to cram as many people into their planes as possible. Last week, Allegiant Air announced that it would add 16 seats to its fleet of MD-80 series aircraft, bringing the total number of seats to 166 per plane. Earlier this year, Spirit Airlines said it would install "pre-reclined," or stationary, seats that weigh less and cut down on fuel costs.

"Just a couple of short years ago, I would have laughed at the design," Daimler said of the saddle seats. "But the seat pitch battle ignited by Spirit Airlines has me cringing with the thought that these seats could really be coming to an airport near me."

The Federal Aviation Administration has not approved the saddle seats. And Jami Counter, senior director of TripAdvisor Flights, doesn't expect it to.

"I think the saddle seat probably won't see the light of day," he said, "for two reasons: safety and passenger acceptance."

Reporting: Andrea Sachs, Nancy Trejos. Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: cogo@washpost.com. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company


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