What we’re reading: WestJet expanding service to US, online vs. traditional travel agents, most improved airport


WestJet to challenge Air Canada in U.S.

WestJet will be challenging Air Canada by expanding service to the United States.

The push includes offering year-round flights for some U.S. cities currently with summer-only operations and adding departures in others, said chief executive officer Gregg Saretsky, 54. Calgary-based WestJet will unveil some of those plans next month when it releases its 2014 schedule, he said.

Is the best travel search engine around the corner?

The New York Times tested pricing and service from traditional travel agents vs. online travel agents and found that the Mom & Pop travel agent on the corner provided better service, suggestions and often beat the prices from the big online boys.

I remember the days when it wasn’t faceless online search engines that helped me find the best deals on flights, but real live people called travel agents. Ivica got me a great bargain to Croatia. Alla helped me maneuver domestic flights within Russia, with an unbeatable price. And Fanny planned my dream trip to China with expert ease.

Actually, it’s pretty easy to remember those days: they were just last month. Those trips were actually only tests — tests of the real-life niche travel agencies in New York City and elsewhere that serve specific immigrant communities, pitched against the popular Web sites — like Expedia, Kayak, Vayama — that have become go-tos for travelers.

The result: Nearly every time, travel agents bested the Internet big boys on both price (the objective part of the test) and service (what you might call the essay question). In other words, the agents suggested alternate routes, gave advice on visas and just generally acted, well, more human than their computer counterparts. (All research was done in mid-January for trips in March.)

The most improved airport of 2013 is…

The Jauntys, Jaunted’s Travel Awards, presented its 2013 most improved airport to Los Angeles International Airport because of the Tom Bradley International Terminal’s facelift.

Gone are the days we dreaded arriving or departing from the shambles of this international terminal. TBIT actually made us embarrassed to think that, for some travelers, this would be their first glimpse of America. Thankfully, 2013 was the year we said good-bye to the missing floor tiles, terrible food options, and wires hanging from the ceiling; a fresh era of international air travel from LA took shape under lofty ceilings and new technology.