Because it’s there
Afew weeks ago in this space we denounced, for the umpteenth time, the loathsome Air Passenger Duty that the British government imposes on airlines and their passengers. Since then, Airlines for America has turned the spotlight on another odious European levy, the German Air Transport Tax. This one has been in effect since the start of 2011, but U.S. airlines, which have been paying under protest, just got around to challenging it in a German court. The German tax is lower and less illogical in its application than the British tax, but it’s 45 euros, or about $59,
for every passenger departing a German airport for the
U.S. (Arrivals aren’t taxed.) For flights within Europe, it’s
We wouldn’t mind a
tax on air travel if the
revenue went to government programs that
support air travel, such as the U.S. taxes that finance the
air traffic control system and infrastructure grants. But
that doesn’t seem to be the case here. The tax revenue isn’t
paying for control towers or runways.
And though the tax was initially styled as an environmental tax, it appears that the revenue isn’t buying windmills or biofuel either. It’s going into Germany’s general
The airlines argue, “Germany cannot arbitrarily close its
budget gap on the backs of the U.S. airlines and their pas-
sengers who already pay taxes at excessive rates. This is a
short-sighted cash grab.”
At some point as the court case proceeds, we expect the
airlines will invoke the Chicago Convention, the revered
global treaty that, since the 1940s, has provided the legal
framework for international aviation.
Every country that signed it, including Germany, agreed
that “no fees, dues or other charges shall be imposed …
in respect solely of the right of transit over or entry into
or exit from its territory of any aircraft … or persons or
In other words, don’t tax air travel just because “it’s
there.” This principle is as valid today as it was when the
nations of the world agreed to it 68 years ago.
A welcome sign
For several years travel advocates have been urging the federal government to take stock of its security, customs and entry procedures and try to make the whole experi- ence a little more pleasant for arriving foreign visitors and returning U.S. travelers. We were pleased to note one more small sign last week that the government has been listening. Customs and Border Protection wants to broaden the
Alan Fleschner contributed much
rule that allows family members traveling together to sub-
mit a single customs declaration. The existing language
covers “members of a family residing in one household”
who are related “by blood, marriage or adoption.”
That was good enough for the 1950s, but it doesn’t ac-
count for many of today’s nontraditional family groupings.
Thus, the government is proposing to add “two adult indi-
viduals in a committed relationship, including, but not lim-
ited to, longtime companions and couples in civil unions
or domestic partnerships” as well as foster children, step-
children, half-siblings, legal wards and “other dependents.”
This is a small step, but it’s a welcome and welcoming
gesture. Let’s have more of them.
to careers across travel industry
When I read the obituary of Alan Fleschner in the March 12 issue of Travel Weekly, I was reminded of many things about Alan, both from a personal
and professional perspective.
He was a wonderfully kind and generous individual
with a spectacular sense of humor, and he enjoyed everything and everyone around him. Alan was my friend and
professional colleague for more than 30 years.
He contributed much to many people’s careers in travel, most especially mine. When Alan was the publisher of
the Official Hotel and Resort Guide, I was a hotel client.
Over a series of wonderful lunches at our favorite restaurant, Berulia, in New York City he convinced me to leave
my hotel career and to join OHRG as his ad director.
This was a pretty bold move, but vintage Alan, and it
changed my life. We began to travel the world together,
visiting hotel clients in every market. This was mercifully before the Internet age, and we actually met with
people face to face, from ITB to Tianguis and World
Travel Market and back again. As I write this, I know
many people will read this and well remember this time
in our careers.
When Alan was named publisher of Travel Weekly, he
recommended that I become publisher of OHRG, a position I held for several years and through two changes of
ownership. Throughout this time, Alan was a colleague,
friend and adviser. It’s been a long time since I took over
OHRG from Alan, but his memory, and most importantly, his presence has always been a part of my subsequent
moves in the travel industry.
Thanks, Alan, for all that you did for all of us.
Bill Lawrence, director, hotel partner solutions
CCRA Travel Solutions
Fort Worth, Texas
On Cuba travel, U.S. should not
kowtow to right-wing lobbyists
As a follow-up to Andy Pesky of Protravel Inter- national [Letters: “The U.S. government should state clearly all rules for travel to Cuba,” Feb. 27],
it is time for the government to stop giving in to ultra-right-wing Cuba lobbyists and open travel to Cuba.
In the Cold War era, it was proven that contact between citizens of the free world and the citizens of very
restricted countries proved to be effective in creating [a
desire for freedom] among the restricted populations.
This has been proven again and again in such countries
as Russia, Hungary, Vietnam, Libya, Egypt, to name a few.
By allowing Americans access to a massive new market only 90 miles from the closest U.S. shores, our corporations will be able to compete with European, Latin
American, Canadian and Mexican entities in creating
better infrastructure in Cuba, a better flow of person-to-person understanding and cooperation, eventually leading the people of Cuba to become more open-minded to
live side by side with us Americans.
Who knows: Could such efforts bring changes to the
Marxist regime in Cuba?
The exiled right-wing Cuban lobbyists have managed
to undermine open trade with Cuba, while we watch our
neighbors clean the table.
As a travel professional, I want to be free to sell travel
to any part of the world, wherever my clients wish to go.
That should not be restricted by politics.
Being able to travel and experience foreign cultures
should be a God-given right, just like freedom of speech
and religion. It furthers the social media movement in
helping to create wake-up calls in restricted nations.
Tor Jensen, president
Jensen World Travel
When will government recognize
the importance of inbound travel?
For decades, those D.C. denizens who live within the Beltway in their own pampered world, busily amassing funds for their next election — and who really don’t
give a damn what happens outside of Washington — have
ignored the importance of incoming travel to the U.S.
Now, given the extremes of our dysfunctional Homeland Security agency, every prospective visitor to our
country is branded a terrorist until proven otherwise, this
by means of an exhausting rigmarole of red tape and bureaucracy. These turned-away visitors now vacation elsewhere: Dubai, Shanghai, Cape Town or Buenos Aires.
We have millions of unskilled, unemployed citizens
who might find jobs if we permitted more visitors to enter
the U.S. We would need more hotel maids, taxi drivers,
porters, guides, tour bus drivers, restaurant staff, etc.
Maybe, the White House is waking up to this — finally!
Last week, a friend, an Argentine lady with her own
thriving business, visited me from Buenos Aires. The U.S.
Immigration officer blandly looked her in the face and
asked: “Ever been in jail?” I kid you not!
Turen ‘vacation crafters’ column
inspired, but begged 2 questions
Thanks, Richard Turen, for another great column, “Introducing the world’s best vacation crafters” [Feb. 20]. I always enjoy your articles as soon as I
see them on the website. You’ve really influenced how
we manage our little cruise agency.
I am in the process of creating a Hawaii customized
vacation boutique. I lived there for 26 years and was the
event planner for Merrill Lynch. It’s my goal to be included in the Conde Nast list of the World’s Top Travel
I have two questions in that regard:
1) How do the “vacation crafters” you featured get paid
for their services? Do they charge a per-hour fee, include
a markup, etc.?
2) How do they get the “word out” (other than Conde
Nast) that they have this unique knowledge about a destination?
Larry C. Jackson, owner
Cruise Holidays of Viera
Please send letters for publication to Travel Weekly, attn:
Letters Editor, 100 Lighting Way, Secaucus, N.J., 07094, or
email them to TWletters@travelweekly.com. Travel Weekly
reserves the right to edit all letters for length and to conform to our style and standards.