Wanna board early? Start packing lightly

bagsIt’s happening on an airplane right now.  A traveler with a massive piece of carry-on luggage is wrestling with it in the aisle – positioning it for the big lift to the overhead bin.  Meanwhile the following passengers are left waiting in line to watch this feat of strength and engineering before they can get to their seat.  It’s this scenario that has pushed American Airline to announce a new boarding policy this week that allows passengers with one carry-on item that fits under the seats to board planes earlier than others who require overhead bins.   AA tested the new boarding process earlier this year at a number of airports around the country and it has proven to improve on-time performance, while being easier and more enjoyable for passengers.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The results of the annual J.D. Power & Associates study on airline satisfaction were recently published, revealing that JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have once topped the industry rankings.  (Not surprising considering they have the friendliest re-booking policies in the industry.)  This is the eighth consecutive year that JetBlue has ranked as the top low-cost carrier.  Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines was named the top network carrier for the sixth straight year.  Surprisingly,  the 2013 survey also found that passengers are the happiest they’ve been in seven years with domestic airlines in general.  Really?
  • According to preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, for the third consecutive year Delta Air Lines beat out all other U.S. airlines in checked baggage and reservation change fees.  Out of a total of more than $6 billion in fees collected by all reporting U.S. airlines, Delta took home more than $1.6 billion.
  • An American Airlines flight from L.A. to New York had to make an emergency stop in Kansas City because a passenger had to let her inner Whitney Houston out.  Here’s a rather humorous video of the passenger being removed from the flight because she wouldn’t stop singing, “I will always love you.”  Even when the cops were hauling her off, she belted out the tune.  Feel free to sing along.

JetBlue Launches 48-Hour Airfare Sale

Flights on the CheapDo you have a far-away graduation to attend?  Or do you need to be somewhere for Memorial Day?  Well, if you need to fly and you haven’t booked a ticket yet in hopes of finding a low price, now may be your chance.  JetBlue just announced a 48-hour sale on select flights to various destinations around the United States and the Caribbean.  There are a number of one-way flights priced less than $100 – and you won’t find these fares on Yapta, Expedia, Orbitz, CheapTickets, Travelocity, Priceline or LowestFare – so it’s worth a look.  However, you need to book before May 8th by 11:59 PM.  Travel is good from May 21 through June 19, 2013.  Blackout dates apply: May 23-27.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • If you’re planning to fly Denver-based Frontier Airlines, you better bring some cash.  The airline announced last week that it would begin charging passengers $25-$100 who book tickets on third-party websites – like Expedia and Orbitz – for bringing their bags onboard the flight.  Passengers who purchase tickets on Frontier’s website will incur no additional charge for a carry-on bag.  They will also begin charging economy passengers $1.99 for coffee, tea and juice – starting July 1.
  • Did you know that there are marathons that are run on airport runways?  Me neither.  In fact, there’s a bunch of them.  If you’re interested, here’s a list of seven upcoming runway runs, six in the US and one in Canada.
  • Google is getting their own airport.  The company’s top executives needed a place to store their private jets, so they struck an agreement that allows them to build an $82 million fixed base operation at San Jose International Airport, including an executive terminal, seven hangars, ramp space for converted airliners and servicing facilities.  You could call that a perk.

Getting LuckyAre you a flirt at 30,000 feet?  If so, you may be interested in a new program from Virgin America called Seat-To-Seat Delivery service.  The service allows passengers to purchase regular or alcoholic beverages as well as food for another passenger on the plane and pass along a text message using the Red touchscreen terminals attached to the back of each seat.  Names are not included on the terminal screen, only a grid showing all seats on the plane. The passenger sending a text message, drink or meal will have to make sure which seat their intended recipient is sitting in before completing the purchase.

Beyond flirting between passengers, this service will be particularly helpful for families or large groups that are on the same plane, but spread among several sections.  However, if you’re looking to score, Sir Richard Branson has some tips for you.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Earlier today The House passed a bill that grants the FAA authority to use up to $253 million from various accounts to avoid reduced staffing and operations through September 30th.  Because of the sequester — the $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts that went into effect in March — the FAA on Sunday began furloughs of 47,000 employees, leading to flight significant delays. The bill passed today should avert those furloughs, as well as the closures of small airport towers.  Now only if they can figure out some way to get mail delivered on Saturdays.
  • A new system has been developed by a New York company called Plusgrade that works with airline reservation computers to hold online auctions for upgrades to premium cabins.  Ten airlines around the world are using it, and more are considering it.  And it’s not just business-class seats that are on the auction block.  El Al Airlines of Israel is also auctioning off empty middle seats.  Winning bids have average $150–a fair price to pay for many eager to have extra space on long flights.  Winning bids for upgrades from coach to business class average $800 – a great deal for a seat that typically is priced at several thousand dollars.
  • This week, United Airlines jacked up fees on passengers who need to adjust travel plans.  For flights within the U.S., customers must fork over at least $200 (up from $150) for changing tickets.  The carrier raised the change fee on certain international flights as well, from $250 to $300 for many routes to South America.  Don’t confuse these “change fees” with “rebooking fees” – which remain unchanged.  Change fees are applied when you change the time or date of your flight.  Rebooking fees are applied when you want to rebook your ticket at the lower available price (which Yapta conveniently alerts you to with all rebooking fees taken into consideration).

Bye-Bye Mini-Bar

mini-bar goneThe mini-bar.  The name itself makes you feel like you’re almost at your favorite watering hole.  Except for the fact that it’s five-times as expensive, and there’s nobody to keep you company.  Although mini-bar prices have always been high, they’re actually a sunk cost for many hoteliers.  So, large chains such as Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton have either started scrapping them – or have already abandoned them entirely.  Weary travelers looking for a convenient late-night snack or drink will now be forced to rely on vending machines or high-end hotel shops.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

Authorities are warning of a continuing scam, offering round-trip airline tickets, that has circulated in the mail since at least last summer. Here’s how it works: Scammers mail you a photocopied check (from “Travel Union of Scottsdale, AZ”) with an offer to exchange the check for “tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. from any major international U.S. airport.”
People who respond are either asked for their credit card information, or are asked to attend a travel club presentation with a membership fee of several thousand dollars. Bottom line: If it’s too good to be true, it ofen is.
  • The Los Angeles International Airport has launched a new program called Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) with the intent to calm nervous passengers waiting for flights.  Now that’s a program that sounds dog-gone good.
  • Authorities are warning of a continuing scam, offering round-trip airline tickets, that has circulated in the mail since at least last summer. Here’s how it works: Scammers mail you a photocopied check (from “Travel Union of Scottsdale, AZ”) with an offer to exchange the check for “tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. from any major international U.S. airport.” People who respond are either asked for their credit card information, or are asked to attend a travel club presentation with a membership fee of several thousand dollars. Bottom line: If it’s too good to be true, it often is.
  • According to the New York Times, Dollar Rent a Car and Thrifty don’t always drop rental car insurance when you verbally decline it.  Instead, they often have you sign the rental agreement with insurance added – and when you try to dispute it later, they point to your John Hancock.  Some people have filed lawsuits on the matter – so pay attention to the rental agreement up front and you’ll possibly save some money, frustration and hassle.

AirTran Puts Golf Destinations on Sale

Airtran Golf SaleIf you’re a golfer, AirTran has got a deal that will make you scream Fore!  The airline is currently conducting the “Greens Mean Go!” sale, which offers airfare to a number of domestic golf destinations at a steep discount.  The sale ends on Thursday, March 28 – and if you’re late, there’s no mulligans.  Travel is good through June 8th, so that spring golf trip you’ve been thinking about could be a real possibility. There are a few blackout dates (April 19, 21 and May 17 & 19), but you’ll definitely land softly on the green.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • JetBlue announced that it plans to offer its passengers a free satellite-based Wi-Fi service that is “significantly faster” than other in-flight Wi-Fi. The airline’s internet service, powered by Excede, claims to be more than twice as fast as any other in-flight Wi-Fi service. But before you get all excited to get your stream on, JetBlue also noted that you’ll need to pay for the Wi-Fi if you want to stream movies or “other entertainment”.
  • One of United Airlines’ frequent-flier members is suing the carrier on claims that the company is not awarding customers full credit for the actual number of miles for their flights. He accuses the airline of awarding mileage “closer to the direct distance (i.e., a straight line point-to-point irrespective of flight route) between the origin and the destination instead of the actually-flown miles for each flight.  Reports indicate that his claim might have some teeth – so if you’re a United Airlines frequent-flier member, you may want to pay attention to how this case unfolds.  You might be able to get your just rewards too.
  • Speaking of rewards, if you’re the type that prefers to stay at independently-run hotels, instead of the big chains, you should check out Stash Hotel Rewards.  It’s a hotel rewards program for independent hotels where members can earn and redeem points for free nights at one-of-a-kind properties.  (Five stays will typically get you a free room.) There are nearly 200 hotels across the U.S. that offer the rewards program – and there’s never any blackout dates for redemption.  Just another nice way to save!
  • American Airlines has begun testing a new boarding process that would let passengers with no carry-on bags board earlier.

GoodAveragePoorAccording to a new study done by the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm, Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines currently provide the best “customer experience” of any U.S. airline.  The study, which included a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers, evaluated three areas of customer experience, rating how functional, accessible and emotionally satisfying consumers find them.

Both Alaska Airlines and Southwest rated the highest at 68%, eight points above the industry average. The next airlines in the ratings were: AirTran Airways (65%), JetBlue (64%) and Delta Airlines (63%).  US Airways ranked the lowest at 45%.

The highest-ranked airlines are Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines, both with a rating of 68%, eight points above the industry average. Alaska Airlines increased five points from 2012 while Southwest Airlines dropped five points.
The next airlines in the ratings, in order, are: AirTran Airways (65%), JetBlue JBLU (64%), and Delta Airlines DAL (63%). The report is available at www.TemkinGroup.com.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Today at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, American Airlines introduced a new bag check-in system for departing passengers.  The new self-tag system with its own set of dedicated check-in kiosks will allow departing passengers who don’t need assistance from a customer service agent to check in their own baggage, print out baggage tags and avoid having to wait for an agent to do all of this.
  • What’s the world’s unfriendliest nation for tourists? Yep, you guessed it, Bolivia. Yeah, Bolivia. Where Mike Tyson once said he wanted to fade into. Venezuela and the Russian Federation were next on the list published by the World Economic Forum.  At the other end of the spectrum were Iceland and New Zealand.  In Iceland, they’re just happy to see you…or anybody for that matter.  And in New Zealand, well, who wouldn’t be happy in New Zealand.
  • Coming soon to an airport gift shop near you:  A new Lego machine that makes and launches paper airplanes. Whether this is actually “travel news you can use” is questionable.  But what the hell, it looks fun.

One-Way Airfare Sales Expiring On Thursday

oneway

Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways recently launched a sale on non-stop flights starting as low as $59 one-way.  The sale expires this Thursday, March 14 at 11:59 pm.  Fares are available for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays beginning March 19 through Oct. 30, 2013 with a 10-day advance purchase required (check fare rules for restrictions).  To see the list of available cities, prices, and to take advantage of these special fares, visit www.southwest.com and airtran.com.
Also, if you’re interested specifically in travel to Mexico, check out Alaska Airlines.  The airline has steeply discounted one-way flights to Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta from various West Coast cities – including San Francisco, San Diego, Portland and Spokane.  Sorry Seattle, you seem to have been left out of the fun.  (Que diablos esta pasando aqui!)  Similar to Southwest & AirTran, you need to purchase by 11:59 p.m. (PT) on March 14th.  Travel from the US is valid Sundays through Wednesdays from April 20, 2013, through June 14, 2013.  See the AlaskaAir website for more details – including blackout dates.
Here’s some more travel news you can use:
Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways recently launched a sale on non-stop flights starting as low as $59 one-way.  The sale expires this Thursday, March 14 at 11:59 pm.
Fares are available for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays beginning March 19 through Oct. 30, 2013 with a 10-day advance purchase required (check fare rules for restrictions).
To see the list of available cities, prices, and to take advantage of these special fares, visit www.southwest.com and airtran.Here’s some more travel news you can use:
  • If you want to keep your luggage, the statistics from 2012 indicate that you’d probably want to fly on Virgin America.  And at the other end of the spectrum, American Eagle was the most likely to lose your bag.  Here’s a complete look at who handles baggage the best.
  • Whatever you do, don’t take a picture of your seat or any other part of a United Airlines aircraft.  They may throw you off the flight because you’re sketching them out.  This happened just recently on one of United’s international flights departing from Newark.
  • The TSA recently upset a number of people by revising regulations to allow small pocket knives to be carried onto airplanes.  The changes, to take effect on April 25, 2013, will permit passengers to carry folding pocket knives with blades up to 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) in length, as well as sporting equipment such as lacrosse and hockey sticks and golf clubs.

United Flies You Through Airport Security for $9

With a new $9 fee, United Airlines is offering travelers a speedier trip through security. United announced Wednesday that it would offer the fee for what it termed “Premier Access.” Customers can get expedited check-in and quicker access to the security lanes.
United announced that it’s selling its Premier Access option to all fliers – a perk that had traditionally been reserved for elite frequent fliers, first- and business-class passengers and holders of United’s various credit cards.
The new fee follows the lead of other airlines selling priority services to non-elite travelers. JetBlue sells Even More Speed access to expedited security lanes at several airports. Delta offers priority boarding as an add-on fee under its Trip Extras program, also starting at $9 per flight. And Southwest Airlines recently added an option to board early for $40.

9-dollar-bill-480x416With a new $9 fee, United Airlines is offering travelers a speedier trip through security.  United announced Wednesday that it would offer the fee for what it termed “Premier Access.” Customers can get expedited check-in and quicker access to the security lanes.

United announced that it’s selling its Premier Access option to all fliers – a perk that had traditionally been reserved for elite frequent fliers, first- and business-class passengers and holders of United’s various credit cards.

The new fee follows the lead of other airlines selling priority services to non-elite travelers.  JetBlue sells Even More Speed access to expedited security lanes at several airports. Delta offers priority boarding as an add-on fee under its Trip Extras program, also starting at $9 per flight.  And Southwest Airlines recently added an option to board early for $40.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Frontier Airlines said this week that its customers will no longer be able to book tickets on Expedia because it wants to steer customers toward booking directly on the airline’s website, FlyFrontier .com. According to Frontier, the company saves up to $25 on each ticket that is booked directly on its website instead of through a third party — a savings that the airline says it can then pass on to its customers.
  • Delta is looking to include enhanced dining and entertainment options on its transcontinental flights between New York-JFK and Los Angeles plus San Francisco and Seattle. These enhanced services include high-quality wine in BusinessElite, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today for BusinessElite flyers, complementary headsets for customers in Economy Comfort and Economy along with movies and on-demand television shows.
  • The JW Marriott Marquis Dubai officially opened Wednesday as the world’s tallest hotel. Capturing the official record from the Guinness Book of World Records, the latest icon in Dubai’s skyline is made up of two towers standing 72 stories, 1,164 feet. Only one tower is currently open; the second is slated to open in 2014. If you’re thinking about booking a room, rates for one person per night start at $326.

JetBlue Announces One-Day Sale on Spring Flights

jetblue-logoEarlier today, JetBlue announced a one-day sale offering up to 20% off on round-trip flights departing between May 1-23.  The airline is also offering 15% off on round-trip flights departing May 28 – June 19.  To take advantage of the savings, simply visit jetblue.com/promo and book your trip before mid-night tonight using one of two promo codes: “SPRING20″ or “SPRING15″.

Both outbound and return dates must fall within offer period in order for discount to apply
You must select both flights in order for discount to appear. Once selected you will see the discount amount displayed in the itinerary subtotal on the right side of the flights page

Both outbound and return dates must fall within offer period in order for discount to apply. You must select both flights in order for discount to appear.  Once selected you will see the discount amount displayed in the itinerary subtotal on the right side of the flights page.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Southwest Airlines is now selling on-demand movies for $5 on flights equipped with Internet access — which is about 75 percent of its fleet.
  • United Airlines has been fined $130,000 for a violation of the DOT’s “tarmac delay rule.”  The agency found that the carrier did not inform passengers of a flight delay that provided them with an opportunity to leave the plane as it sat at the gate with the door open.  The consumer-protection rule that took effect in August of 2011 requires airlines to notify passengers on a delayed flight if they are able to leave the plane while it is still at the gate.  Airlines are required to notify passengers of that option every 30 minutes for as long as the flight is delayed.
  • British Airways announced that it will offer cheaper fares on selected routes to passengers who travel without checked luggage.  The airline says the fares will give its passengers “more choice”, but they are likely to be viewed as an attempt to compete with low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet.

Travel is the Secret to Sex-cess

This Valentine’s Day, you may want to consider taking your significant other on a trip rather than buying flowers.
A new survey out today by the U.S. Travel Association has found that couples who travel together have better relationships — and better sex — than those who don’t.
Nearly two-thirds of couples surveyed say a weekend getaway is more likely to spark romance in their relationship than a gift. Of the 1,100 U.S. adults surveyed, 72% think traveling inspires romance.
More than three-quarters, or 77%, of those who travel as a couple say they have a good sex life, compared with 63% of couples who don’t travel together. And 28% of the couples say their sex life actually improved after traveling together. Of those couples, 40% say the improvement was permanent.

mile high clubThis Valentine’s Day, you may want to consider taking your significant other on a trip rather than buying flowers.  A new survey out today by the U.S. Travel Association has found that couples who travel together have better relationships — and better sex — than those who don’t.

Nearly two-thirds of couples surveyed say a weekend getaway is more likely to spark romance in their relationship than a gift.  Of the 1,100 U.S. adults surveyed, 72% think traveling inspires romance. More than three-quarters, or 77%, of those who travel as a couple say they have a good sex life, compared with 63% of couples who don’t travel together.  And 28% of the couples say their sex life actually improved after traveling together.  Of those couples, 40% say the improvement was permanent.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Southwest Airlines and its AirTran Airways subsidiary said they have launched a three-day sale with one-way nonstop fares available for as little as $49 to select destinations, based on length of travel.  Southwest said that, for travel up to 500 miles, fares are $49 one-way.  For travel 501 to 1,000 miles, fares are $89 one-way.  For travel 1,001 to 1,500 miles, fares are $119 one-way.  For travel 1,501 miles or more, fares are $149.  The fares are available for purchase on southwest.com and airtran.com through Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 @ 11: 59 pm.
  • A device has been unveiled which could help air travellers prove when their luggage has been mistreated by baggage handlers.  DropTag is a device that can be attached to any suitcase, package, or piece of sporting or musical equipment. It contains a motion sensor which can recognise when an item of luggage is dropped or handled without care – when this happens, a warning is sent to the owner’s mobile phone.
  • It appears that American Airlines is going to take over US Airways – a merger that would create the world’s largest airline.  The new American Airlines would be 2.3% larger than United by capacity, and 2.2% larger by traffic, based on 2012 data.