Transportation & Logistics

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How Will Airline Fiascos Impact Sports Travel?

3 May, 2017

By: Michael Popke

The bad news the travel industry has faced this year isn’t good for the sports business, either. President Trump’s (failed) travel bans initially put athletes all over the world on edge, and high-profile incidents involving a passenger dragged off an overbooked United Airlines plane and an American Airlines employee taunting a passenger to “hit me, hit me” following an incident involving a stroller and a crying mother likely sparked lively discussions in classrooms and chat rooms — leading young athletes on travel teams to worry about their safety on airplanes and in airports.

At least one airline, Delta, is taking proactive steps to avoid ugly confrontations over overbooked flights. The company “has authorized gate agents to pay up to $2,000 to entice customers to voluntarily give up their seats when flights are overbooked, an increase from the previous maximum of $800,” according to Travel Weekly. “The airline has also authorized supervisors to offer up to $9,950, up from $1,350.” United, meanwhile, recently announced its own reforms, although pundits are wondering if they're too late.

Don’t expect the same courtesy from hotels, though. “While United Airlines’ forcible removal of a paid passenger is generating greater scrutiny of the airline industry’s overbooking practices, it is unlikely to alter how hotels treat guests when a reservation can’t be honored because a property is full,” Travel Weekly reports, in a separate story.

“Hospitality analysts said … that because hotels often face the prospect of losing revenue in the event of a late cancellation, they will sometimes, like airlines, overbook. Hotels can also be oversold if a guest insists on extending his or her stay beyond the original departure date or if weather leaves guests stranded. In such cases, guests who either are not loyalty members, didn’t book directly or try to check in late at night can sometimes find themselves without a room.”

All the more reason for sports event organizers and travel team representatives to book all hotel rooms ahead of time and review relevant air-travel policies and procedures with athletes before trips. (It’s a good idea to check in with them after an event, too, to make sure they returned home safely and without incident.)

Unfortunately, concerns about flying safely and securely could soon get worse. As Condé Nast Traveler reports, three Transportation Security Administration programs have been singled out by the Trump administration as unnecessary, with the funds saved by their potential elimination likely going toward immigration enforcement and building a border wall. 

The endangered programs include the Behavioral Detection Officer program, developed a decade ago to “sniff out suspicious persons with observation techniques,” a federal grant program that provides added security against terrorism at large hub airports; and the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response program, which stations security agents (often with canine units) in airports, rail stations and other transit hubs.

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