Airlines are issuing only nonrefundable tickets for Dec. 16-Jan. 10 ??? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This is the first time I've heard that. It talks about it near the end of the article. Apparently, it's in an attempt to cover losses if travelers cancel because of Y2K anxiety.

July 5, 1999

Rising prices, Y2K fears are impacting party plans

Edward Martin

They fretted. It was December, but Raintree resident Sue Jones and friend Page Walker from Belmont were already looking beyond the tinsel to more than a year into the future. How to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium?

"The more we thought," says Jones, the mother of two, "the more we realized we wouldn't want to be anywhere else with anyone else but our families and friends."

Flash forward. This coming New Year's Eve, at the uptown Omni Hotel, the two families and 23 others will be sharing hors d'oeuvres and drinks. In an adjacent room, their children get their faces painted, have caricatures drawn and giggle at a magician's tricks. As fireworks burst at midnight, they rush to the windows or downstairs to join revelers on The Square. Then they retire to their rooms.

Happy millennium. If the party, arranged by Dot Adams & Associates, seems cozy but subdued for a calendar change that comes once every 1,000 years, don't blame lack of practice, say event planners, travel agents and hoteliers.

Six months from the new year, at a time when many hospitality experts had expected the millennium to be rocketing North Carolina's $11 billion hospitality and travel industry to new heights and carrying Charlotte's $2.3 billion contribution along with it, Y2K is turning into something of a surprise party.

Hotels such as the uptown Hilton Charlotte, which offers a package of entertainment, dining, room and New Year's brunch, are half-booked, but many are taking a pass on public events and virtually all still have open rooms.

At The Park Hotel, the two ballrooms have long since been rented to private groups, says manager Wayne Shusko, who doesn't plan a millennium package. "Years ago, we had some bad experiences on New Year's, and the wear and tear on the hotel isn't worth the incremental money from packages," he says. Rates, normally $119 on weekends, will jump to about $250.

Air travel? "A lot don't want to fly because they're scared of what might happen," says Carol Palmer, AAA Carolinas in Charlotte travel branch manager, despite Federal Aviation Administration assurances that domestic air transportation is safe from date-related computer dangers. At Trexler World Travel Service, Brenda Bolton, manager of operations and sales, notes one striking fallout from those fears. "We have no clients in the air between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2," she says.

Cruises and tours? Berths are widely available for the same reason that some other Y2K businesses are slower than anticipated -- high prices. Operators are testing the fare waters with charges such as Royal Caribbean's seven-day millennium cruise out of San Juan, at $2,128 per person from Charlotte, as much as 50% higher than a year ago.

Consumers are saying no to those prices, along with others such as Las Vegas hotel rooms that start at $500.

And, millennium or not, human nature doesn't change. "It's simply hard to think about New Year's Eve in June," says Beth Ramsey, senior event manager at Mary Tribble Creations.

Many in the travel and tourism industry attribute what appears to be a slow millennium start as much to overblown expectations as to reality. Virtually all segments of the hospitality industry have at least doubled charges, expecting enormous demand from a party-hungry public.

Importantly, however, Ramsey voices a common opinion -- it's not too late for a bonanza. "We haven't had many requests for events yet," she says, "but we expect that to change closer to the end of summer."

In fact, millennium magic has already produced winners. Jim Austell, musician and president of J&J Productions Inc., a Charlotte booking agency, is among those who say virtually all groups are able to command strong rates. His group, Alibi, has booked a gig for a charge of $15,000, up from the usual $5,000.

At the Hilton Charlotte, Curtis Brown, general manager, went to work in August reviewing video and audio tapes before signing, more than a year ahead, the Fabulous Kays. They'll play in the main ballroom for revelers who pay $590 for a "gold" package that includes room, buffet, brunch and other amenities. A "silver" package, with a nine-piece jazz band, is $400.

That's still shy of the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, where a three-night package that includes meals, a specially commissioned musical composition and music by The Drifters will go for $4,250 a couple. About 200 of 800 rooms are left. Charlotte's uptown Marriott, University Place Hilton and Sheraton Airport Plaza are also offering packages.

But revelers who expect to merely walk in, pay a cover charge and celebrate are likely to be disappointed. It's easier and safer to rent ballrooms to private groups or offer only party packages that include a room.

Brown says the Hilton "rations" rooms to make sure all party guests have a bed, and at the University Place Hilton, Julie Queen, general manager, says the hotel will offer only room-based packages.

The Adam's Mark rented its Symphony Ballroom, along with smaller ones, to a private promoter who'll sponsor millennium-eve concerts. "We won't have a lot of space left to do our own thing," says Susan Francis, marketing director, although the hotel plans to offer a room package.

And some segments of the travel and tourism industry could be setting themselves up for a backfire. Airlines are issuing only nonrefundable tickets for Dec. 16-Jan. 10 in an attempt to cover losses if travelers cancel because of Y2K anxiety.

Tour vendors are taking a similar approach, demanding immediate deposits and full, nonrefundable payments six months in advance.

That amounts to a game of chicken with consumers, and some resortls are blinking first. "Several properties have already lowered their prices," says Bolton. "A lot of people look at all this and say, `Wait a minute -- we can stay close to home, have a quieter party, then go somewhere else after the millennium and get a lot more for the dollar.'"

Considering factors like those, Jones, husband Troy, and their friends and families say a celebration at the Omni with a view of the new millennium arriving on The Square -- even if relatively quiet -- is appealing.

"This will come once in a lifetime," says Sue Jones. "We wanted something to do with the kids, to make an evening they remember forever."

Edward Martin is a Charlotte-based free-lance writer.

-- Gayla (, July 05, 1999


Sorry! I forgot the link.

-- Gayla (, July 05, 1999.


Thanks for referencing that article. It has several interesting implications.


-- Jerry B (, July 05, 1999.

I have never purchased a REFUNDABLE airline ticket.

-- (nearly)Ready and Waiting (, July 06, 1999.


Thanks for a very interesting article. My only comment is to urge caution in how far this information can be taken as an indication of pending Y2K problems. The key statement is . . .

{snip} Airlines are issuing only nonrefundable tickets for Dec. 16-Jan. 10 in an attempt to cover losses if travelers cancel because of Y2K anxiety. {end snip}

Because of "Y2K Anxiety". Not Y2K PROBLEMS. Theres a BIG difference.

Kind Regards


-- W0lv3r1n3 (, July 06, 1999.


Because of "Y2K Anxiety". Not Y2K PROBLEMS. I agree, thats what it said, but do you really think that any company is going to admit they have problems? Of course they are going to blame it on something else.

Airlines are issuing only nonrefundable tickets In case some people dont knownonrefundable tickets can be used for future flights, if you pay a fee to change the travel date (usually $50.00).

-- BiGG (, July 06, 1999.

OK, guys, given a choice, where would you rather spend the rollover: In an airplane, or at Times Square....?

Also, where shall we send the body?

-- say (your@prayers.folks), July 06, 1999.


I accept that it would be unlikely for a large company to come forward with transparent information regarding their problems, thats a downside of the competitve market system. However, bearing in mind how many other systems and processes involved in getting the average 757-load of tourists up in the air, they have plenty of potential "villains" to choose from when deciding where to place the public blame.

Turn the argument on its head. How would an airline's harassed staff be MOST LIKELY to answer a query as to the cause of a problem ? They could explain that they are understaffed in the baggage handling department, or that nobody is around to drive the pushback truck, or that the pilot was taken sick, or that the plane has a technical fault. Or any of a million other "excuses". However, all these would be met with cries (from the passengers) of "So what ??? Thats YOUR problem. We're the customers, we've paid. Your airline must be sub- standard, next time we'll fly {insert name of competitor}".

Or, they could be canny, and blame the problem on a vague "Y2K computer problem", knowing that few people understand enough about the subject to uncover the lie, and also knowing that Y2K is identified as a global, pervasive issue, which cant be blamed on one company in isolation. Problem solved. "Its that pesky Y2K sir, yes, everyones got the same trouble, youd be no better on XYZ Airlines, I can assure you"

So it cuts both ways.

To interpret every press release indicating that companies are being cautious about the end of this year as a sure sign of catastrophe is to over-egg the pudding. Likewise, to believe every story of claimed "Y2K problems" at face value is to underestimate people's ability to identify a convenient and anonymous scapegoat in times of stress.

Neither of these effects make it any easier to second guess the true state of play, but when all is said and done, the fact that the airlines are planning to continue operations into the new year suggests to me that someone somewhere is confident enough in their analysis to approve the risking of billions of dollars worth of airliners and the reputations of some very large companies. You really think thats based on a guess ?

Kind Regards


PS - "say" - neither, given a choice.

-- W0lv3r1n3 (, July 06, 1999.

"OK, guys, given a choice, where would you rather spend the rollover: In an airplane, or at Times Square....?

Also, where shall we send the body?

-- say (your@prayers.folks), July 06, 1999."

In a 1950's prop-plane, over Times Square, droppin' William McKinley reelection campaign buttons on the hordes of generation-lasters below.

Drop the body? Give me a chute and chuck me out over a "Wild Bill" rodeo...........thanks, I'll see ya......"Geronimooooooo!" hehehehe:}

-- Mike (, July 06, 1999.

Talking about y2k prices and gouging...We have friends who were scheduled with 5 or so other couples to be on a cruise on Dec. 31 in the Carribbean. They had prepaid 2/3s of the fare. When they were notified in March (?) that the last of their payment was due, they also received a statement that the fare had been increased from $3000 for the 2 of them to $10,000. All the couples cancelled.

-- Valkyrie (, July 07, 1999.

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