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Airlines get early jump on fare hikes in 2013

All major carriers have matched Delta's hike of $4 to $10 on flights booked within seven days of travel. U.S. fares are expected to rise 4.6% this year.

February 25, 2013|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • Delta Air Lines was the first carrier this year to put a new fare hike into effect. If the past is any indication, expect to see new hikes every two months or so.
Delta Air Lines was the first carrier this year to put a new fare hike into… (Charlie Riedel, Associated…)

When a trade group for corporate travel managers recently predicted airfares would rise in 2013, the group probably didn't expect the hikes to be launched so quickly.

Domestic airfares are expected to jump 4.6% in 2013, while international rates will probably rise 8.3%, according to a survey of travel managers by the GBTA Foundation, an arm of the Global Business Travel Assn.

The group attributed the increase to rising demand from companies ready to take advantage of new business opportunities in a strengthening economy.

Only a week after the group issued its prediction, Delta Air Lines Inc., the nation's second-largest air carrier, initiated a fare hike of $4 to $10, specifically designed to hit business travelers who book within seven days of their flight.

By the end of last week, every major carrier had matched Delta's increase, according to FareCompare, a website that keeps track of such hikes. JetBlue Airways Corp. expanded the hike to include flights booked beyond the seven-day period.

The increase is the first of 2013 to take hold.

If the past is any indication, expect to see new hikes every two months or so. In 2012, the nation's major airlines adopted seven hikes out of 15 attempts.

For hotel guests, water pressure is key concern

Despite all the money and effort hotels put into selecting comfortable beds and soft pillows, a new study suggests that hotel guests are more likely to choose a hotel based on the water pressure in the shower.

A Boston marketing and public relations company has analyzed what people say about hotels by studying more than 18,000 online conversations for a six-month period on various social websites, blogs and forums.

The company, Brodeur Partners, used for the first time what it calls "conversational relevance" to measure how much people talk about a hotel and how much of it is positive.

What do they say?

When it came to positive overall comments, the Hilton, Marriott and Four Seasons hotel chains got the highest scores in the study.

Conversations about the rooms centered around the size, followed by discussions about connectivity and technology, the study found. When guests had conversations about what they like to see or feel in the room, most of the talk was about the shower, specifically the water pressure, surpassing talk about the bed or the sheets.

Jerry Johnson, head of planning for Brodeur Partners, said the advantage of analyzing online conversations is that "you are measuring behavior. You are hearing real honest conversations."

Hotels, he said, may respond to the study by improving whatever hotel feature guests are saying is lacking, perhaps even installing new shower heads.

Hotel chain responds to online reviews

About three years ago, the economy hotel chain Red Roof Inn tested out a new in-room feature in its Columbus, Ohio, hotel.

In addition to installing outlets near the desks in the rooms, the hotel added several outlets on the nightstand so travelers could keep their portable devices charging near the bed.

By monitoring comments on the travel review website TripAdvisor, the hotel chain found that the extra plugs were a big hit with travelers. The hotel decided to install them throughout the chain.

"It's a simple thing but it's extremely meaningful to the traveler," hotel chain President Andy Alexander said.

For the third year in a row, Red Roof Inn recently earned the highest customer satisfaction score among economy hotels in an analysis by Market Metrix, a San Francisco Bay Area hotel market research company.

Alexander attributes the chain's high score to its efforts to follow and respond to online reviews.

It's because of guest comments, he said, that Red Roof has tried other improvements, such as installing wood floors in the rooms and vessel sinks in the bathrooms.

What's next? Alexander said the hotel chain offers free wireless Internet to all guests but might consider offering higher speed Wi-Fi to members of its loyalty program.

"You can't stand still," he said.

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