Ahead of Rosh Hashana, the first Annual Turkey Awards....

The Travel Adviser: I abhor stupidity, and as we usher in a New Year we are also prompted to ask forgiveness and be humbled.

September 27, 2008 21:29
3 minute read.
Ahead of Rosh Hashana, the first Annual Turkey Awards....

pomegranate 88. (photo credit: )


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I'm a meticulous person; others might use words like obsessive. I prefer to see myself as organized, and wish the world worked in the same manner. I abhor stupidity, and as we usher in a New Year we are also prompted to ask forgiveness and be humbled. Almost 30 years ago, Michael Medved and his brother Harry co-authored The Golden Turkey Awards, a book that remains close to my heart. In that spirit, and with no tongue in cheek, I offer my First Annual Turkey Awards. All names in my list need to dig deep and request clemency for the sins they unfortunately continue to commit. • Alitalia - This nationally owned Italian airline has become a joke. While it hemorrhages over $1 million a day, its unions have rejected several reasonable offers to rectify the situation. Almost 18,000 workers have deluded themselves into believing that going on the dole is better than making an honest living. • British Airways - A bloated bureaucracy that believes it can scrap paying commissions to travel agencies, and only permit advance booking in economy class 24 hours prior to a flight, it constantly attacks competitors dating back to Laker Airlines and including Virgin Atlantic and BMI. Like all good English theater, this show needs some fresh blood. • Consumer Councils - In North America, Europe and Israel, these quasi government councils give far too much credence to the airlines' positions and far too little protection to the consumers. Why do they permit airlines to offer fares without taxes added? • Debts - The oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett opined that buying airline stocks was the stupidest thing he had ever done. Yet banks and governments all over the world continue to lend airlines huge amounts without demanding a viable business plan. As banks and financial centers weather the current hurricane of sub-prime debt, I am anxious to see how the airlines pare down their red-ink mountain. In the end it will fall on us taxpayers. • El Al - Now operating as a private carrier, its management has chosen to cease flying to Chicago & Miami, and gave up flights to Cyprus and Turkey. Its percentage of the market continues to plummet, and while its security remains the envy of the industry, passengers are opting for lower fares and better service. • Frequent Flier Programs - Started by American Airlines in 1981, this attempt to bond consumers to specific airlines has become a heavy burden. Rather than keeping the program honest, airlines constantly raise the amount of miles needed for redemption while lowering the available seats. The word "free" has long ago disappeared. EL AL charges over $400 for a "bonus" ticket to North America. • Gasoline - Be it speculators or basic supply & demand, the price of gasoline and airline fuel has quintupled in the past two years. What rankles me is that while airlines had no problem raising their fuel surcharge when a barrel was over $140, now that it's back in the $100 range, how come no airline has lowered its surcharge? • Hotel Association of Israel - Because Israeli facilities have refused to create some type of rating system, potential clients are often confused if not reserving at a brand-name hotel. This incestuous, buddy-buddy situation allows self branding of hotels, to the detriment of the consumer. • Israir - The ineptitude of this upstart airline boggles the mind. After going to the Israeli Supreme Court to get the right to fly to New York, mismanagement, shoddy aircraft and poor consumer service forced it to cease the flights, along with flights to London & Moscow. El Al is laughing all the way to the bank. • Kosher meal suppliers - I've had clients complain about how inedible such meals are on a multitude of airlines, ranging from Alitalia to Qantas. Hard to fathom, when EL AL uses kosher suppliers all over the world and its product is constantly top notch. If airlines can provide excellent vegan meals, is there any reason that a decent kosher meal can't be found? • Lufthansa - One of the best airlines around in terms of service and security, in Israel it has an insidious practice of offering only ultra-Orthodox passengers discounts. Being religious or Orthodox isn't enough for them; only the ultra-Orthodox need apply. It leaves me a bit nauseous as they try to divide us. • Malev - The Hungarian airline, after years of touting its services to North America, has decided to give up the notion of getting Americans or Canadians to visit Hungary. Eat goulash instead. Mark Feldman is CEO of Ziontours, Jerusalem. The rest of his Annual Turkey Awards will appear in his next column. For questions and comments, e-mail him at mark.feldman@ziontours.co.il

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