Sandy

If there’s a silver lining for the occurrence of a natural disaster, it’s that they often serve as a reminder that airlines are run by people, not computers.  In response to the fallout of hurricane Sandy, most airlines are allowing affected customers to make one ticket change without the usual change fees.  And for those who had their flight cancelled as a result of the storm – which is reported to be approximately 14,000 – the airlines are refunding them in full.

As a reference for all stranded travelers, here’s an airline-by-airline list of weather waivers.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Hotels ranging from elite luxury accommodations to budget-priced properties have prepared ahead by stocking light sticks — and in some cases flashlights — specially for the storm.  Even though most hotels have a generator for at least limited lighting, they’re meant to give guests an extra layer of security.  Oh, and they’ll work great on Halloween.
  • The TSA plans to test using a private vendor next year to expand its expedited-security program at airports.  Travelers who aren’t part of an airline frequent-flier program would be able to pay a vendor a fee to undergo a security check based on criteria set by the agency.  The company would notify TSA who gets approved, and applicants who pass a second review by the agency would be admitted to the PreCheck program.
  • Airlines are tapping celebrity chefs such as Suzanne Goin (Singapore Airlines), Michelle Bernstein (Delta Airlines), and Sam Choy (American Airlines) to cook up the kind of meals you don’t expect at 30,000 feet.  American Airlines is going a step further by letting first- and business-class passengers review and reserve their in-flight meal via the airline’s website. You get to choose from among two or three entrees — the same choices you get when you board the plane.
airlines are tapping celebrity chefs such as Suzanne Goin by Singapore Airlines, Michelle Bernstein by Delta Airlines and Sam Choy by American Airlines to cook up the kind of meals you don’t expect at 30,000 feet.
American Airlines is going a step further by letting first- and business-class passengers review and reserve their in-flight meal via the airline’s website. You get to choose from among two or three entrees — the same choices you get when you board t

Flying Coach Is About To Get a Little More Cramped

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If you think flying coach sucks is a cramped and claustrophobic experience, then you’re going to hate what’s coming in the months ahead.  An increasing number of airlines are starting to install more paid-legroom seats on their planes (because people buy them), eating into the legroom of the standard coach seat – which we all know is already limited.

Airlines such as JetBlue, American, United, Frontier, and Spirit are introducing a new class of roomier seats with names such as Economy Plus (United) and Classic Plus (Frontier) that offer passengers more space to spread out but at a higher price tag.  To make room on the plane for these pricier seats, the standard coach experience gets a little more cramped.

In the past, the economy section on an average long-haul plane represented about 90% of the seats, with first-class seats making up the balance.  Today, 10% to 30% of the spots on a major airline are extra-roomy economy seats. To make room for the new seats, airlines have eliminated 10 to 40 standard economy seats per plane.  On some airlines, many of the remaining economy seats got pushed closer together.

Get ready to love thy neighbor.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • There could be changes on the horizon for how you buy an airplane ticket online. Starting next year, a group of airline carriers agreed to start using a new system that could lead to personalized pricing for flyers.  Airlines will begin asking customers for more personal information, travel history, frequent flyer membership and credit card use.  Using this detailed information, they will then produce a customized ticket price.
  • The Chicago Tribune warns, “Procrastinators beware: Don’t put off booking holiday airline travel this year, unless you want to pay more and get stuck in a middle seat in coach.  Holiday ticket prices will generally rise from here. Count on paying $3 more per seat for every day you put off booking.”
  • ABC News revealed that many of the country’s busiest airports also rank at the top for TSA employees fired for theft.  Sixteen of the top 20 airports for theft firings are also in the top 20 airports in terms of passengers passing through.

JetBlue and Southwest Offer Short-Term Sales

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JetBlue has launched a 24-hour sale to celebrate “National Bosses Day“.  Book today (before midnight ET) and you’ll save big on select flights between October 30th and December 12th. There are a number of blackout dates, day-of-week restrictions, and travel window exceptions – but there’s a number of routes that are steeply discounted that you won’t find on Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia or Priceline.

Southwest Airlines has launched “10 Days of Great Deals” where it’s discounting select flights between October 26 through February 14.  The promotion expires October 25th at midnight ET – and there’s a bunch of other restrictions too – but it could be a good deal for those with flexible travel schedules.

Book October 16, 2012 only (the earlier of 11:59 PM ET or local time).
Fares not available on Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, or Priceline.
Travel 10/30 – 12/12/12. Blackout dates 11/16-11/26/12 (Day of week restrictions, travel window exceptions, and additional blackout dates apply and vary by rou”Fly like a boss.  Pay like an intern.”

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Speaking at an airlines conference in Dubai, Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (the airlines’ trade group), underscored the need for an overhaul of airport security processes.  He predicted that by 2020, governments will be using a “checkpoint of the future” where passengers can race through without stopping, removing clothing, or taking liquids and laptops out of bags.  One can dream, can’t he.  (Sigh.)
  • A traveling airport exhibit called “Banned Booty” from Artist Steve Maloney has turned items confiscated at TSA checkpoints into high art. The exhibit is currently at The Palm Springs Air Museum from Oct. 17 to May 31, 2013.
  • Over the past two years, OTG Management, an operator of airport restaurants, has spent $10 million putting some 600 iPads in passenger waiting areas and on dining tables. This is just the beginning, too. The iPad project is taxiing for takeoff with 7,000 iPads to be deployed across four North American airports in the next 18 months.

Airport Body-Scanners Now More “Gumby-like”

gumbyDue to privacy concerns and heavy scrutiny from travelers regarding the use of body scanning technology at airport security checkpoints, the TSA has unveiled new machines that will project an identical “Gumby-like” image for each person, detecting weapons and other non-metallic materials – without actually showing the passenger’s body, TSA officials said.  Both TSA screeners and passengers will be able to see the images at checkpoints.

The new image is rudimentary, gender-neutral figure with mitten hands, a halo of hair, and no nose – a marked contrast to the photo-negative-like pictures that are so explicit that they are viewed in private rooms by TSA officers.  (Insert smutty thoughts here.)  The new machines also produce no radiation – which was a concern for a number of travelers.

The machines are already being installed at Logan Airport in Boston, but they will likely be coming to an airport near you sometime soon.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Think your stuff is secure once it’s safely locked in your hotel room?  Think again.  Hackers have created a device that fits into a dry-erase pen that can be used to instantly open hundreds of thousands of hotel door locks worldwide.  The pen exploits a flaw in lock-maker Onity’s system.  It relies on the fact that the locks have very little security on their memory systems, allowing any device that knows the Onity lock “language” to unlock it.
  • American Airlines grounded 48 of its Boeing 757s for a second time after determining more repairs were needed to keep passenger seats from coming loose.  Earlier this week AA grounded 48 planes after seats had come loose on two of them during three separate flights in the last several days.  Two flights had to make emergency landings.  The airline said the repairs will be completed by Saturday – but some flights will be delayed and others will need to be canceled until the repairs are done correctly.
  • Flying for the holidays this year?  Well, it’s gonna run you a little more than last year.  (What?  Did you actually think holiday travel would get cheaper?)  The average domestic airfare for travel during the upcoming holiday season has risen about 3% over last year.  I wasn’t a math major, but that’s an increase of about $10 on a $300 ticket.  Probably not enough to keep you home, but enough boost airline revenue.  It’s how the game is played.

Fall SaleThe Fall is a great season to catch airfares on sale.  Here’s a few sales that will help you save today:

  • In recognition of the presidential campaigning season, Virgin America is running its “Both Sides of the Isle Win” sale.  Travelers booking by August 20th and willing to travel by November 14th now have some nice fares to choose from.
  • JetBlue has extended its “Turn Over a New Leaf Sale” until midnight tonight (8/17).  The airline is offering one-way fares from $49 to a number of destinations for travel between September 4th and November 14th.
  • Southwest Airlines is conducting a “Nationwide Sale” through August 24th where you can catch low fares (starting at $69 each way) on nearly all flights from August 24th thru February 13th.  Of course, blackout days apply – so check with Southwest.com for details.
  • AirTran is also offering discount fares through August 24th (competing with SWA) on hundreds of flight combinations around the country.
  • Even American Airlines is getting into the sale swing, discounting tickets purchased by August 24th and valid for travel through February 13th.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Ever been frustrated by fuel surcharges?  Well, try this on for size:  After being forced to take an emergency layover in Syria, passengers on Air France Flight 562 were asked to open their wallets to check if they had enough cash to pay for more fuel.
  • CNN recently spotlighted the “The World’s Top 10 Airport Lounges” which offer first-rate amenities, privacy and calm.  Can you guess which U.S. airport lounge made the list?
  • Planning to travel for Thanksgiving this year?  Well, you may want to start shopping for tickets a little early this year.  A number of reports indicate that airfares are climbing with no leveling-off in sight.  In fact, the cheapest fares are likely the ones you’re seeing now.

Airport Avatars Make Their Debut

avatar

Passengers at Logan International Airport’s Terminal E waiting to get through a main security checkpoint now have a new voice guiding them on proper safety protocols along the way.
“Carla,” a new airport avatar that speaks in English and Spanish, was introduced today at the bustling terminal. “Carla” is a video projection of a woman dressed as a Massport customer service representative and is expected to assist nearly 6,000 travelers a day between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Among her duties, “Carla” instructs passengers to have their IDs and boarding passes available for inspection, and reminds passengers to remove their shoes, outer garments, and laptops, liquids and medicines from carry-ons.

Logan International Airport in Boston today introduced “Carla”, a new airport avatar that speaks in English and Spanish.  Carla is a video projection of a woman dressed as a Massport customer service representative and is expected to assist nearly 6,000 travelers a day between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.  Among her duties, Carla instructs passengers to have their IDs and boarding passes available for inspection, and reminds passengers to remove their shoes, outer garments, and laptops, liquids and medicines from carry-ons.

Meanwhile, Washington Dulles Airport has also employed the use of an avatar – except her name is “Paige”.  She performs similar duties as Carla, but her job apparently isn’t guaranteed.  (Not even an avatar has job security.)  Paige is on a three-month trial at Dulles while airport administrators gauge her usefulness.  If she’s a success, the airport will start installing others.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Alaska Airlines quietly adjusted their checked baggage fee policy for first class travelers.  Beginning July 10, some passengers who upgraded to first class will be charged $20 fee for their first and second checked bag – something they previously got for free.  This is the first time a U.S. airline has levied a checked bag fee to a passenger riding in the front cabin, upgrade or otherwise.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported three bold predictions that will likely impact your future stay at a hotel: (1) Basic internet access will be free within all U.S. hotels.  (2) Hotels will become more energy-efficient, and (3) hotel lobbies and restaurants will evolve further into more social venues in which guests interact.
  • Last week, J. D. Power and Associates released its annual North American airline satisfaction report, which showed that overall passenger satisfaction with airlines declined this year after two years of small improvements. The study measured customer evaluations of fares and fees, in-flight services, boarding and baggage, flight crew, check-in and reservations, and the airplane cabin and seating.  Interestingly, the survey found that passengers favored two airlines that do not charge for checked bags, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines. Southwest allows two free checked bags; JetBlue allows one.

scanners 2If you’re one of the few people who view the pat-down at airport security checkpoints as a free massage, then you’re going  to be disappointed to hear that the Department of Homeland Security is making plans to “dramatically reduce” the number of pat-down searches performed at the nation’s airports. The DHS has issued a request for technology companies to come up with a hand-held scanning device that can be used instead of pat-down searches on passengers that set off alarms during full body-scanners. As you may have guessed, the free massage thing really hasn’t caught on – so they’re turning to technology to improve the experience.

To date, the TSA already operates about 700 full-body scanners at 180 airports across the country.  When the scanners detect a hidden object, TSA workers perform a pat-down search.

In a government document, the DHS said it seeks a hand-held device weighing less than 5 pounds that can determine whether a hidden object on a passenger is a weapon or explosive. The device should produce a result in less than 15 seconds

Plan approval and testing could take more than a year, but you should be aware that this type of technology is on the horizon.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • I don’t know about you, but sometimes I stress about my travel.  Will I make my connection?  What will the security line look like?  Do I have to switch concourses?  Well, if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the “tips for avoiding travel stress” recently noted by CNN.  I feel better already having read it.
  • JetBlue today announced a 2-day “The Summer’s-Hoping Sale” that is offering $59 one-way fares on select routes.  (Hope the marketing department didn’t burn the midnight oil when contriving the name of the sale.)  Book by May 30 for travel between June 5 and September 26.
  • For the first time since they began collecting baggage fees in 2008, the nation’s 17 largest airlines made less from the fees than they did the year before, a sign travelers are changing their packing behavior.  But the airlines are countering the consumer chess move.  United, Delta, American, and U.S. Airways are either retrofitting older planes with bigger overhead storage – or purchasing aircraft with bigger bins.  It’s not because the love you.  They just want to start charging you a fee for carry-on luggage as well.

FareIQ logo

Yapta today announced the launch of FareIQ, the corporate travel industry’s only independent airfare price tracking solution.  For the last several months, Yapta has been developing in cooperation with early beta partners, an airfare price tracking solution designed specifically to engage with any back-end corporate travel environment. The launch of FareIQ marks the start of a formal pilot program with early corporate adopters that will enable enterprises to capture savings when their corporate airfares drop in price.

“FareIQ was built on more than five years of knowledge and expertise tracking airfares for consumers and successfully identifying millions in potential savings,” said Ken Myer, President and CEO of Yapta.  “Based on our intimate understanding of airfare prices, we’re confident we can deliver savings to enterprises of any size.  We’re looking forward to serving our early pilot customers– and helping them realize airfare savings that are typically missed.”

FareIQ’s patent-pending technology provides in-depth analysis and insights on corporate airfares, spotlighting opportunities to save as market prices shift on a daily basis.  Prior to officially launching its pilot program, FareIQ tested its technology in a six-month beta study that revealed $2.8 million in savings on a sample of 100,000 business itineraries.

FareIQ’s pilot program will encompass a partnership with several large travel management companies (TMCs) and their clients including CorpTrav Management Group, a global travel management company widely recognized for providing its clients with innovative and cutting-edge technology solutions.

“We’re constantly looking at innovative technologies that make our clients’ travel programs more cost efficient, and our partnership with FareIQ is a natural continuation of these efforts,” said Lisa Donovan Berry, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing for CorpTrav Management Group. “As importantly for our customers, FareIQ can deliver the savings for CorpTrav clients without impacting the traveler’s itinerary.  Since FareIQ looks for savings based on identical itineraries – travelers maintain the same carrier, travel dates, departure times, and other preferences.”

“Agencies are embracing the technology because airfare tracking is a perfect complement to the types of services they already provide for their clients,” Myer said. “Our technology finds lower prices, their clients re-book to save money, and the agency strengthens the value of its services.  It’s truly a win-win scenario for everyone.”

For more information about FareIQ or to take part in the FareIQ pilot program, email bizdev@yapta.com or visit www.GetFareIQ.com.

Late April Showering Airfare Sales

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If you’re looking for a cheap flight, you may be in luck if you can act fast.  There’s a couple of sales that will be expiring very soon that you can still take advantage of – if you’re willing to book now.

  • AirTran is conducting a “Nothin’ But Net Escapes Sale”  that expires tomorrow, April 26th – so take a peek at their discount fares before they expire.
  • Virgin America is offering some nice “Fares to Fly By” – but they expire tonight at midnight.  Take a look before they disappear.
  • Delta is promoting flights to various destinations across Europe with low prices from select cities around the U.S.   This offer doesn’t expire until April 30th, but it’s worth having on your radar.
  • And lastly, Alaska Airlines is also serving up some nice prices on flights to popular destinations in the western U.S. – including Alaska and Hawaii.  You have a bit more time with these offers too as they expire at the end of April or in early May.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • A new website called MissTravel.com launched earlier this month that offers “hot people” free travel.  Sound shallow?  Well, it is.  The site connects rich people (the 1%) with good-looking people who want to gallivant around the world on the rich person’s dime.  However, the site insists it’s not an escort service.
  • Multiple airport screeners have been arrested for allegedly taking handsome bribes to look the other way while loads of illegal drugs slipped through security at Los Angeles International Airpot… er, Airport.
  • Howard Johnson is offering anyone named Don Draper a free night after the television show Mad Men featured the hotel chain in a recent episode.  In that episode, the character named Don Draper and his wife go to a HoJo only to find the pool is closed.  HoJo’s marketing team is playing along and offering a free night’s stay to anyone with the legal name Don Draper (as a mea culpa) if they stay before August 31st.  However, it begs the question: Is a night at HoJo’s really worth the investment in a fake ID?
Howard Johnson is offering men named Don Draper a free night after the television show Mad Men featured the hotel chain in a recent episode.
In the episode, the character of Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) and his wife, Megan (played by Montreal native Jessica Pare), go to a HoJo in upstate New York, but when they get there, the pool is closed.

“AirCruise” the Caribbean & Bahamas this Fall?

DSC_0786_noTL

An Orlando-based company called Mauiva (pronounced Mow-ee-va) this week introduced a 7-day “AirCruise” that serves the Caribbean & the Bahamas.  A Mauiva AirCruise is an all-inclusive destination-hopping experience via private plane.  The company’s Caribbean & Bahamas AirCruise (dubbed the “Sun & Fun Experience“) will take flight beginning in September and will depart from Orlando, traveling to Grand Bahama Island, then to Grand Cayman, and finally, Cancun.

Mauiva AirCruise guests spend at least 2 days in each destination enjoying the all-inclusive experience – including deluxe resort accommodations, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and VIP access to various attractions and adventures.

What’s most surprising is the price.  It’s only $1,999 at the double-occupancy rate.  That’s a pretty good deal.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Virgin America is getting into the TV production business.  Starting this month, Virgin passengers will be able to access original content by such big-name stars as Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller and Seth Green.  The “Virgin Produced Channel” was developed in partnership with Virgin’s TV production division.
  • Ever wondered when is the best time to book your flight?  The New York Times recently dove into this question and published some interesting insights.  Note that they suggest using Yapta.
  • After years of neglect, airlines are turning their attention back to their airport lounges.  As competition for the lucrative business traveler has intensified, airlines are pumping money into their lounges, adding more comfortable seating and power outlets, plus upgrading snacks, drinks and other amenities.  Hey, at least they’re putting your baggage fees to good use.