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Hefty spending by business travelers returns

The AIG effect may be dead.

During the nation’s financial collapse, insurance giant AIG held a weeklong retreat at a swanky resort in Dana Point, Calif., less than a week after getting an $85 billion federal bailout. The scandal sparked such outrage that most business travelers steered clear of ritzy hotels and first-class airline seats, opting for cheaper options.

But big spending on business travel seems back in vogue.

During 2014, business travelers in the U.S. spent $292 billion, a 6.7 percent increase over 2013, according to a study by the Global Business Travel Association, which projects business travel spending to jump an additional 6.2 percent to $310 billion in 2015.

But the same study said that the total number of business trips taken increased only 1.4 percent in 2014 and is expected to rise 1.7 percent this year.

That means that some of that spending growth is going toward more expensive trips, said Joseph Bates, vice president of research for the trade group for business travel managers.

“I do think we are starting to see companies relax their travel policies as corporate profits have been healthy for a while,” he said.

But Bates said business travelers also are scheduling more meetings per trip to be more efficient.

Still, don’t expect to see business travelers splurging the way they did before the recession.

“Companies are still concerned about perception,” Bates said.

LAX chocolates at center of spat

Travelers flying in and out of Los Angeles International Airport should stay clear of the chocolates sold at the airport’s two Kitson shops.

That warning comes from Kitson itself. The L.A. boutique that sells novelty souvenirs is in a dispute with the Hudson Group, the New Jersey company that operates dozens of airport stores, including the Kitson stores at LAX.

Kitson is trying to get out of the licensing contract that lets Hudson sell its merchandise at the airport, contending that Hudson has overpriced some items and put new wrappers on expired See’s candy so it can sell them with new expiration dates.

A Hudson representative disputed the charges of selling expired candy and said the prices of three items that were slightly overpriced have been lowered.

Kitson spokeswoman Courtney Saavedra said Hudson’s actions are ruining Kitson’s reputation.

“We’ve worked for 15 years to develop a brand of which we are very, very proud and we represent Los Angeles,” she said.

Saavedra said Kitson has tried to talk about the problem with airport officials and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, to no avail. To spur some response, Kitson posted a sign on its Robertson Boulevard store, saying “Does Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, condone corruption and collusion at LAX?”

Garcetti’s office said the mayor is not getting in the middle of the dispute.

Allegiant Flights host game show

When you run a small, low-cost carrier with a tiny marketing budget, you have to be creative to get publicity.

That explains why Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air has allowed a television crew to film a game show in the cabin of its planes during regularly scheduled flights.

“We are always looking for ways to get lots of exposure,” said Brian Davis, Allegiant’s vice president of marketing.

“The Game Plane,” hosted by Mark Walberg of PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow,” recently signed with Allegiant to begin filming a second season of episodes that include trivia contests and onboard games of skills, with cash prizes and vacations awarded between takeoffs and landings.

Allegiant reported a 13 percent growth in passengers in 2014, compared with the previous year, plus a 9.5 percent increase in income for the first nine months of the year.

Davis said he doesn’t know if the game show has played a direct role in boosting the carrier’s popularity or profits but passengers seem to like being part of the show.

“The feedback we’ve gotten from customers has been great,” he said.