Steve Barsh wants you to come to his condo in Lake Tahoe next weekend

What would you do if you had a three-bedroom condo all to yourself on the year’s busiest weekend in Park City, Utah? Steve Barsh decided to invite a few of his friends over. And he has a lot of friends. It took no time for Barsh, the chief executive of the vacation rental site PackLate.com, to fill the unit with a several virtual acquaintances. What happened next may become part of social media lore. I asked him to explain.

Let’s start with the rental. How did you end up with such a large unit?

I was in Park City skiing with some of PackLate’s investors. It was Sundance Film Festival and the cheapest hotel I could find was $600 per night.

So I turned to PackLate the day before check-in and got a great last-minute deal on a three-bedroom condo for $400 a night.

Nice. Most people would just say, “Ah, more room for me!” But not you. What were you thinking?

I walked in the door, looked around, and thought, “This is huge, but it’s a waste for just one person.”
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Vacation rental expert offers tips on avoiding scams


Anthony Lipschitz is the chief executive of iStopover, a site that connects homeowners who have spare rooms, apartments or homes to rent with travelers looking for affordable accommodations. With several high-profile cases of vacation rental customers being ripped off — including, ahem, some of my colleagues — I wanted to find out how to avoid becoming a victim.

Apart from the recent stories about vacation-rental scams, how big a problem is this?

It’s a problem, but like everything else in life, you do have choices. If you choose to use pure classified sites then you have no recourse if you do get scammed. You should always use a site that has a telephone number and dedicated support, so you know who you’re dealing with and who to go to if something does go wrong.
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American Airlines: “We want the customer to know what the total cost of the trip is”

Cory Garner is the director of distribution strategy for American Airlines. You may have heard about American removing its flights from Orbitz this week and Expedia’s subsequent action to “de-emphasize” American’s fares. I wanted to find out why – and how it might affect customers. Here’s our interview.

Why did you remove your flights from Orbitz?

It’s important for us to be free to customize our product offerings to improve the customer experience, and to distribute our products in a way that doesn’t result in unnecessary costs.

Unfortunately, we were unable to reach an agreement with Orbitz on this point and determined it would be better to part ways, for now. We’re open to talking with them to reach a viable, mutually beneficial agreement and hope to one day return to their site.

How about yesterday’s action by Expedia to de-emphasize your fares?

We’re disappointed that Expedia is making American Airlines flights and fares more difficult to find on its website.

This discriminatory action is unwarranted, especially considering that American has taken no action against [it] and continues to operate in good faith with Expedia.

While tickets for air travel on American remain available for purchase on Expedia, its favoritism toward other airlines’ airfares may lead consumers into believing that they have fewer choices, even in situations where American’s fares are lower, and schedules are superior, than other airlines that are listed first.
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Ex-TSA officer: “Every new controversy breaks down morale further”

Ron Moore is a former Transportation Security Administration officer at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and whistleblower who has called for better Congressional oversight and training for federal screeners. With some of the busiest air travel days of the year still ahead of us, and with the TSA continuing to insist body scans or pat-downs are necessary, I wanted to know what he thought. Here’s our interview.

So what did you think of Opt-Out Day?

When I discovered that The Rutherford Institute was filing suit on behalf of the pilot who refused to go through screening, then a larger movement evolved, it seemed fishy.

Since the early days, TSA was a target for private firms with the help of Rep. Mica of Florida in particular and this looked like an attempt to move the ball forward in that direction.

It has been a media firestorm more than an airport firestorm. TSA policy will not change one bit if private firms are paid to staff the checkpoints. I think TSA always poorly rolls out new policies as virtually no one at headquarters has worked a checkpoint.

That doesn’t mean that passengers shouldn’t ask questions and TSA shouldn’t be accountable, but the media narrative didn’t match the reality in my opinion.
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Virgin America’s Cush: Passengers “should not have to ask” for customer service

Virgin America begins service to Orlando tomorrow. Remarkably, the three-year-old airline has stayed off my radar, when it comes to customer complaints. I asked David Cush, Virgin America’s chief executive, how he’s done it.

First of all, congratulations on adding service to Orlando. I live here, so I’m pretty excited about having a new airline in town. At the same time, I’m curious about your reasons for coming here. Orlando isn’t exactly a lucrative business travel destination. What’s the appeal?

Orlando has an incredibly strong year-round tourism economy and a great deal of convention traffic. The addition of Orlando also helps us address seasonality in our still growing network. As we grow we do have to balance out our network for seasonal traffic patterns – adding a sunny warm weather destination like Orlando helps us balance our winter schedules.
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Vail Resorts’ Katz: New EpicMix application is “best of both worlds”

EpicMix is Vail Resorts’ newest online mobile application for winter sports, and with ski season just around the corner, I asked Rob Katz, Vail Resorts’ CEO, to weigh in on social media and skiing. Here’s our interview.

Let me pick up where we left off the last time we talked. At the end of our interview, I mentioned that I had several family members who haven’t skied and were not interested. And I asked you how I could persuade them. You recommended showing them one of your resorts, which is, in fact, what I did. And now they’re hooked. So, I guess to follow up on that, how do you keep families interested in a mountain resort experience?

It’s great news to hear you and your family are hooked on skiing. At our five world-class resorts, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly, we try to offer a variety of family programming and activities for children of all ages — both on and off the snow — to give families the best possible experience at our resorts. Plus, the nature of doing activities together like skiing, snow tubing, ice skating, and attending unique family events like Kidtopia at Keystone Resort gives parents an opportunity to spend time with their kids to create those lasting family vacation memories.
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