Archive for 'Uncategorized'

What’s Behind the Airline Passenger Recline Rage?

Reclining-Airline-seat-horrorIn recent weeks there have been a handful flights that have reported passenger disputes over reclining seats.  While the reclining seat issue is no doubt a forward and back debate, one thing is for certain: there’s a real sense of recline rage that’s emerging among today’s passengers.  But is this to be expected?  After all, seat legroom is shrinking, most flights continue to operate at capacity, and let’s face it – people aren’t getting any nicer.

According to Independenttraveler.com, the standard airline seat once had 33 to 34 inches of room between a seat and the one in front. That measurement, known as the pitch, has fallen in many airlines to about 31 inches.

Additionally, many first-class seats run about 21 inches wide, about the same size as a typical Amtrak train seat, but still smaller than many movie seats.  However, seats in economy are just 17 inches wide.  Airlines thus are able to put more seats in each row, so that the coach section not only feels more cramped, it looks like a sardine can.

That said, if you’re not up for being packaged like a sardine – and traveling makes you a little “salty” to begin with – you may want to consider purchasing a seat with extra leg room.  For example, Virgin Atlantic will give you an extra 3 inches for $60 each way.  Sanity, after all, comes at a price.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California – located directly across the street from Apple’s corporate campus – has started testing a pair of robotic bellhops named “Botlrs” – wheeled service vehicles designed to deliver small items from the front desk to a client’s room autonomously.  They’re designed to look like none other than R2D2 from Star Wars.  Okay, so these may be the droids you’re looking for.
  • According to Bloomberg-BusinessWeek, Southwest is also no longer the low-fare leader in many cities, having steadily raised prices in recent years.  Southwest’s average one-way fare rose 8 percent, to $163, over the past year.  The lowest nonstop one-way fare from Chicago to Los Angeles on Southwest, American, United, and Virgin America, for instance, was $156.10 on Sept. 10.  That was $44 more than Spirit’s cheapest.
  • You may have heard or seen the hit TV series “Storage Wars” or “Auction Hunters” where people bid on the unknown contents of storage lockers.  Well, now mystery luggage auctions have also become big business.  Scores of suitcases are routinely found abandoned by absent-minded travelers at Heathrow Airport in London.  The airport is unable to trace around 200 of them a month, and most of the time they end up at Greasby’s auction house in south London, which takes a commission from sales then passes the proceeds to the relevant airline.  Be looking for it on the the next auction reality series.

Should You Start to Expect Less Customer Service?

SERViceAccording to a recent report on NPR, restaurants and hotels are posting new job openings faster than they can fill them.  In periods when the broader job market is bleak, jobs in this sector tend to get snapped up quickly. While this is a promising sign for the economy – indicating that people are doing better in general –  what does it say about the level of service you should expect during your next hotel stay?  Should you expect less?  Or, will hotels offer higher salaries to lure more or better applicants?  If you truly value customer service, it’s certainly something to consider when booking your next hotel stay.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • United Airlines announced today that it is revamping its in-flight service, including the introduction of premium-cabin meals on flights that are more than two hours and 20 minutes, or 800 miles.
it was revamping its in-flight service, including “introduction of premium-cabin meals to flights of shorter duration, beginning in 201it was revamping its in-flight service, including “introduction of premium-cabin meals to flights of shorter duration, beginning in 2015
  • Brace yourselves.  JetBlue is becoming a little more concerned about the bottom line and appears to be warming to a first-bag fee to help boost its profits, which have consistently lagged what Wall Street has considered appropriate given the industry’s consolidation and solid profitability.
  • According to a recent report by AirfareWatchdog.com, some domestic airlines perform better than others when it comes to canceled flights, on-time arrivals, mishandled bags, denied boardings, and customer satisfaction. This year Delta, which typically ends up toward the bottom of the performance list, ranked No. 1 in overall performance, thanks to more on-time arrivals, fewer canceled flights and mishandled bags and better customer service.

RoomIQ logoIt’s an exiting day here at Yapta as today we’ve announced the beta launch of RoomIQ, a dynamic hotel price tracking solution designed exclusively for corporate travel organizations.  RoomIQ, developed in cooperation with Yapta’s Customer Advisory Board members and early beta partners, automatically tracks corporate hotel reservations and sends price drop alerts when room rate savings are available.

“RoomIQ is a natural complement for customers currently using our airfare price tracking service, FareIQ, to significantly reduce their travel spend,” said James Filsinger, President and CEO of Yapta. “Since launching FareIQ two years ago, we’ve saved corporate customers millions on airfare – and our early data shows the potential savings that can be captured as a result of RoomIQ can be just as great.  Hotel prices can be as volatile as airfares, and there are typically no penalties for making savings adjustments to reservations when room prices drop.”

Yapta is launching the RoomIQ beta with early adopter customers and several large Travel Management Companies (TMCs), including Travizon and Ultramar, due in part to their previous success with FareIQ Intelligent Price Tracking and the ease of implementing RoomIQ.  Using the technology, the TMCs will be able to gain real-time visibility into hotel savings opportunities for their customers by receiving price drop alerts on identical and comparable rooms.  When a hotel savings opportunity is available, RoomIQ will immediately issue a series of alerts that enables those savings to be acted upon by an agent or a travel manager.

RoomIQ allows clients to tailor the solution to identify a variety of specific cost-cutting scenarios.  For example, in addition to automatically monitoring the same property for a lower rate, RoomIQ will also observe prices on comparable room types, non-preferred properties to preferred properties, and like-to-like amenities such as parking, internet access and breakfast.  The unique rate-level amenity comparison functionality allows travel managers to assign values to amenities for additional and more accurate identification of savings opportunities, instead of limiting comparisons strictly at the property level.

RoomIQ integrates seamlessly with FareIQ, requiring no additional setup to use one or both services.  And the seamless integration means travel managers and users gain single sign-on access to Yapta’s extensive, real-time reporting via its dynamic, web-enabled dashboard.

For more information about RoomIQ or to take part in the RoomIQ beta program, email hotelbeta@yapta.com.

Airfare Sales Blooming in June

48-hour saleEveryone knows that a good deal on airfare is hard to find.  It often requires some time, effort (research) and persistence to ferret them out.  That said, there have been a few sales that have bubbled to the surface in recent days that we thought we’d pass along to make your life easier, and your wallet a little heavier:

JetBlue - Earlier today the airline announced a 48-hour sale on one-way fares (starting at $59) from a number of its major hubs.  If you book by midnight, June 18th you can save on flights departing from September 3 – October 29th.  The only catch is that you must fly on a Tuesday or a Wednesday.

Virgin America – Sir Richard’s airline is currently offering flights from San Francisco (SFO) to Newark (EWR) starting at $199.  That’s a pretty good base price for a trans-continental flight.  They’ve also got flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Las Vegas (LAS) starting at $59.  You could spend more in gas if you drove.

Air France – Have some business to conduct in Europe? Air France has a summer sale on business-class flights from JFK that are available through July 2nd. For example, non-stop airfare from JFK to Paris starts at $3,045 round-trip, with taxes.  Or connecting flights from JFK to Rome are starting at $3,324.  These prices are about half of what you would normally pay for a business class flight to Europe.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • As if baggage fees weren’t bad enough, American Airlines, Delta and United have now reduced the size of your carry-on baggage, restricting the size of your bag to a max width of 14 inches, down from the former 15. You know what they say, give em’ an inch – they take you for miles.  Wait, that’s not how it goes!  Fret not, JetBlue and Southwest still allow for a luxurious 24 inches by 16 inches by 10 inches.
  • Delta recently celebrated the opening of the new Delta Flight Museum, a 68,000 square-foot facility located at the airline’s world headquarters in Atlanta.  The museum traces Delta’s history and the development of commercial aviation.  In addition to hundreds of never-before-seen artifacts, the museum features a collection of 5 historic aircraft, a 117-seat theater and a 30-seat conference room located inside the fuselage of an L-1011 TriStar aircraft.

Your Luggage Can Outsmart Your Airline

smart luggageThere will be a day when your luggage is smarter than your airline.  Want proof?  At a recent company event, AT&T showcased “Smart Luggage” with embedded GPS technology that lets you track the suitcase’s whereabouts – even when your airline doesn’t know its location.  Using Smart Luggage, you get an alert when the bag is off the plane or if someone happens to take it beyond a designated “geo-fence.”  You can also easily identify your bag against look-a-likes on the carousel by tapping an app on your phone and lighting up an LED beacon on the luggage.

Pricing and availability of Smart Luggage is still unknown at this time – but be looking for it flashing on an airport carousel near you sometime soon.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Last year alone, the TSA pulled 171 of its full-body scanners from airports in the face of widespread outrage over the graphic images they captured.  However, with a price tag of $130,000 to $170,000, scrapping the scanners wasn’t an option.  So, instead they’re now being used to scan prison inmates at correctional facilities in Arkansas, New York, Michigan and several other locations.
  • Curious to know what major airport is home to the most expensive flights in the country?  Well, according to PlaneStats.com, it Cincinnati – where travelers pay an average of 22.2 cents per mile in the fourth quarter of last year.  And the cheapest?  That would be San Juan, Puerto Rico, at an average of 10.7 cents per mile.
  • Earlier this month, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson and Chicago O’Hare — two of the world’s busiest airports — announced the introduction of biometric Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks. The kiosk features an integrated fingerprint scanner, which is able to detect and read fingerprints at any angle and regardless or wetness or dryness. APC kiosks enable international travellers to rapidly clear passport control by entering their own immigration information. Automating this process via self-service kiosks decreases international arrival wait times by as much as 80% for kiosks users and 50% for all passengers.
the kiosk features an integrated fingerprint scanner, which is able to detect and read fingerprints at any angle and regardless or wetness or dryness.APC kiosks enable international travellers to rapidly clear passport control by entering their own immigration information. Automating this process via self-service kiosks decreases international arrival wait times by as much as 80% for kiosks users and 50% for all passengers.

Airline Baggage & Change Fees Working Too Well?

Bag feesAccording to recent data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation, domestic airlines collected $6.16 billion in baggage and change fees in 2013.  That’s up from $6.04 billion in 2012.  Baggage fees accounted for $3.35 billion, while reservation change fees added up to $2.81 billion.  These ancillary fees helped the 26 passenger U.S. airlines make a net profit of $12.7 billion in 2013, up from a profit of $98 million in 2012.  (Note the shift from “millions” to “billions”.)

Speaking of baggage fees, Frontier Airlines is taking the game to a new level.  In particular, that level above your head.  The Denver-based airline recently started charging passengers up to $50 for storing carry-on luggage in the overhead bin.  If your baggage is small enough to be tucked beneath a seat, you can bring it on free of charge.  Spirit Airlines was the first to impose a carry-on fee in 2010.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Stash Hotel Rewards has announced a pet photo contest in honor of National Pet Month (May) where 3 winners will each receive a two-night stay at any pet-friendly Stash partner hotel.  The “Pack Your Pet photo contest” will run from May 1-25, 2014.  To enter, visit www.facebook.com/stashrewards and submit up to 3 photos of your pet having fun while traveling – on the road, in the hotel, or out exploring.
  • If you travel for business, you know that renting a car can become an expensive proposition – especially when accounting for tolls roads.  Some travelers have been charged a $30 “administrative fee” to process toll expenses for as little as $1.25.  This being the case, car renters are becoming more savvy at avoiding these types of service charge fees.  Here’s 6 ways to avoid these surprise service charges.

It Pays to Procrastinate?

milesIf you’re a frequent business traveler, you’re probably one of those that stockpiles reward miles on all your flights.  Well, airlines – like Southwest, Delta, and JetBlue – have made some significant changes that may impact the way you book your business flights in the future.  Under new airline policies that reward travelers based on fares, not distance, fliers looking to accumulate miles (or points) now have incentive to book expensive tickets close to the departure date rather than plan ahead with cheaper advance-purchase itineraries.

According to the WSJ.com, a recent poll showed that over 80% of corporate travel managers have expressed concerns that these changes will drive business travelers to wait until closer to the trip and purchase a ticket at a higher fare than if they had purchased it either 7 or 14 days in advance of the trip.  (Intelligence that can be mined by subscribing to FareIQ.)

Most businesses let employees keep frequent-flier miles or rewards accrued on business trips, a perk of being away from home.  High status brings upgrades and smoother travel.  Any move by companies to claim the miles may touch off a serious backlash.  More on this soap opera as it unfolds…

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Wanna know why your luggage looks beat up when it magically appears on the airport carousel?  Just watch this video as Air Canada baggage handlers launch bags 20 feet from a plane.
  • A story about a teen boy surviving a 5.5 hour flight in a jet wheel well is making headlines.  However, what’s most surprising is that this sort of stowaway activity is more common then people may think.  The USA Today cites at least 4 instances since 2010.

Delta Announces In-Flight Mentoring Program

Delta Innovation ClassDelta Air Lines has announced a unique in-flight mentoring program – called “Delta Innovation Class” – intended to help up-and-coming professionals take advantage of their flight time with some of “the smartest people in the world” – including leaders in technology, science, the arts and more.

This mentoring program works like this:  Chosen business and creative leaders in various fields will be traveling to select events around the globe, and they’ll be sitting in the “Mentor seat.” The seat next to them will be open, and entrepreneurs can apply — through a partnership with LinkedIn, which vets these candidates — to sit next to these leaders for the duration of the flight and talk about their business. Check out Delta’s video for more information.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The Huffington Post recently published a story explaining how to get a refund on a non-refundable airfare and avoid change fees.  The most-often used method is to cancel within 24 hours of booking (which FareIQ will monitor for businesses) – but there are other scenarios where airlines will give you a refund.  Unfortunately, those scenarios are death or a severely delayed flight.  I’m not sure which is worse.
  • Want further proof that the travel industry is constantly evolving?  Airbnb, the 5-year old start-up that lets people rent their rooms and homes directly to travelers, was recently valued at about $10 billion.  That’s a higher valuation than hotel industry giants, Hyatt and Wyndham.
  • Southwest Airlines has kicked-off a “pilot program” for the use of mobile boarding passes, enabling security to scan the passenger’s iPhone or Android device instead of a paper boarding pass.  Under the pilot program, boarding passes will be accepted for flights originating out of Austin (AUS), Dallas Love Field (DAL), and Houston Hobby (HOU).
That sum puts it above hotel groups like the Hyatt and the Wyndham,

transparent-pricingNew legislation was introduced in the House this week that is intended to restore transparency to the advertising of U.S. airline ticket prices, and ensure that airfare advertisements are not forced to hide the costs of government from consumers.  The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 calls for advertisements for passenger air travel to state the base airfare and separately disclose any government imposed taxes and fees and the total cost of travel.

Most view the Bill is a good thing.  But there are those who think it’s bad for consumers.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Delta Air Lines is changing its frequent flyer program so that starting in 2015, customers will earn miles based on how much they spend, not just miles flown.  Delta is leaving the minimum number of miles needed for a U.S. trip at 25,000 miles and lowering requirements on some flights, especially international ones in business and first class.  Loyalty programs at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, JetBlue and Virgin America are already based on spending, not miles.
  • Hey you… yeah you with the over-sized carry on.  You better watch out for United Airlines.  Beginning March 1st, the airline has started cracking down on carry-on bag size, forcing passengers to adhere to its rules and check oversize luggage.  United’s baggage-size rules aren’t new, but they are now being strictly enforced.  In case you’re wondering, the maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag on United flights are 14-by-22 inches and 9 inches deep, including handles, wheels and legs.
  • You might not have to bring a Subway sandwich or Starbucks frappuccino on your flights anymore. The LA Times writes in this post that several airlines are adding tastier and more improved food options to lure passengers to choose their airline over others.  Virgin America offers its first-class passengers a selection of hors d’oeuvres, such as olive and mozzarella cheese skewers and warm mixed nuts; the airline will add a signature ice cream flavor soon, too.  United Airlines also serves gluten-free items like sandwiches, salads and snack bars.

Airline Rewards Programs Ranked For the First Time

airline-rewardsFrequent travelers looking to make the most of their miles may want to pay attention to the results of the inaugural Mile Satisfaction Survey from MileCards.com.   According to the survey that compares the five largest U.S. frequent flier programs (which represent about 90% of frequent flier members at U.S. carriers), Southwest Airlines’ rewards credit card ranked No. 1.

Sixty-two percent of Southwest Rapid Rewards members said they would recommend the program to others. United Airlines was No. 2 at 55 percent. Fort Worth-based American Airlines was No. 3 at 52 percent. Delta Air Lines was No. 4 at 49 percent. US Airways, which merged with American in December, was last at 43 percent.
Sixty-four percent of Southwest’s credit card holders said it’s easy to get a travel award, compared with 56 percent for United, 53 percent for American, 48 percent for Delta and 45 percent for US Airways.
Half of frequent fliers say their biggest frustration is award flights costing more miles than expected. Southwest ranked well in that category, with the lowest average miles cost (21,176 miles) of the five largest U.S. airlines. See infographic at lower right.

Sixty-two percent of Southwest Rapid Rewards members said they would recommend the program to others. United Airlines was No. 2 at 55 percent. Fort Worth-based American Airlines was No. 3 at 52 percent. Delta Air Lines was No. 4 at 49 percent. US Airways, which merged with American in December, was last at 43 percent.

Sixty-four percent of Southwest’s credit card holders said it’s easy to get a travel award, compared with 56 percent for United, 53 percent for American, 48 percent for Delta and 45 percent for US Airways.

Half of frequent fliers say their biggest frustration is award flights costing more miles than expected. Southwest ranked well in that category, with the lowest average miles cost (21,176 miles) of the five largest U.S. airlines.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Have you ever wondered when is the best time to book your airfare?  Well, the Travel Editor for CBS, Peter Greenberg, explains why he targets 1 a.m. on Wednesday mornings in the time zone where the airline’s booking center is based.
  • The price to board an airliner in the United States has risen for the fourth straight year, making it increasingly expensive to fly almost anywhere.  The average domestic round-trip ticket, including tax, reached $363.42 last year, up more than $7 from the prior year, according to an Associated Press analysis of travel data collected from millions of flights throughout the country.