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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.

Your Guide to JetBlue Wi-Fi

now has nine Airbus A320s hooked up with Fly-Fi, and they’ve released a handy-dandy updated list of Fly-Fi routes those aircraft will operate. It’s a growing list, with nearly 35 daily flights able to go about their internet business as usual from 35,000′.

Fly-fiIf you’re a busy business traveler and need to rely on JetBlue’s Wi-Fi to get some work done on your next flight – you can now go online to see if your flight will be Wi-Fi equipped.  The airline now has nine Airbus A320s hooked up with “Fly-Fi,” and they’ve released a handy list of Fly-Fi routes those aircraft will operate.  It’s a growing list, with nearly 35 daily flights able to go about their internet business as usual from 35,000′.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Cruise Critic, the world’s largest cruise site, recently launched Price Drop, a tool that compares recently reduced cruise fares with the highest published rates from the past seven days.
  • Nothing clears up the polar vortex blues like a $200 round trip flight to San Francisco or a $400 round trip flight to Hawaii. Want more of that kind of cure? Check out these top 5 flight deals compiled by the Christian Science Monitor.
  • In its recent yearly overview, the TSA reported that officers across the nation confiscated over 1,800 guns, 81 percent of them loaded. That’s a 16 percent increase from 2012. Glad to see that airline policy and airport security are taking root in people’s minds and that we’re trending in the right direction.

2014: The Year of In-Flight Communication

plane-takeoff-wifi-intro2014 is certainly shaping up to be the year of in-flight communication.

JetBlue recently debuted its new Wi-Fi offering, called “Simply Surf,” which will provide basic internet service that’s free to passengers until June 2014.  There is also a premium service offering, called “Fly-Fi Plus,” which is reported to be eight times faster than the ground-based systems used by most airlines today.  It is a little pricey, however, at $9 per hour.  Simply Surf and Fly Fi will continue to be rolled out across the entire JetBlue fleet in 2014 and 2015.

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines, which already offers Wi-Fi on 435 planes, announced that passengers can now iMessage during flights for $2.  The airline announced Wednesday it had launched gate-to-gate text messaging on all Wi-Fi-installed aircraft.  The new service enables passengers with Apple devices operating on iOS 5 or later the ability to iMessage gate-to-gate for $2 a day.  Android messaging apps will be added early in 2014.

Travelers on Southwest Airlines can now iMessage during their flights for $2.
The airline announced Wednesday it had launched gate-to-gate text messaging on all Wi-Fi-installed aircraft. The new service enables passengers with Apple devices operating on iOS 5 or later the ability to iMessage gate-to-gate for $2 a day

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • As the FCC considers rescinding a long-time ban on phone calls during commercial flights, JetBlue and Delta have already rejected the notion of allowing it on their flights.  Why?  Because it bothers most people who took a passenger survey.
  • New data  shows that 24% of U.S. travelers will buy a gift at the airport this holiday season as last-minute shoppers use the downtime before their flights to top off their Christmas lists.  Or if your the Grinch, it could mean that 76% of people have just been naughty – and aren’t worthy of an airport gift.

Happy holidays from everyone at Yapta – and safe travels!

TSA Collects $531,395 in Loose Change

Ever leave a few coins behind in the bins at airport security?  If so, you’re apparently not the only one.  Last year alone, the TSA collected $531,395.22 in change left behind at checkpoints.  Yes, a half mil!  According to reports, the agency collected about $499,000 in U.S. currency, and another $32,000 in foreign currency, at their checkpoints.  Federal law requires the TSA to report the amount of unclaimed money they keep every year to Congress – but what’s happening to it? One possibility is it would go toward airport amenities for service members.  A bill passed in the House on Dec. 3 (and now headed to the Senate) would require the TSA to give the loose change to such non-profits as the United Service Organization that operate centers in airports.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

for some lucky travelers on American Airlines, Christmas will be coming early this year on Friday, Dec. 6 — at baggage claim no less.
That is when arriving AA passengers waiting for their checked bags at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport will find special gift boxes appearing on the conveyor belts along with their belongings. Inside each box will be a gift certificate for 250 AAdvantage miles and a special Coca-Cola polar bear or blanket.
  • For some lucky travelers on American Airlines, Christmas will be coming early this year on Friday, Dec. 6 — at baggage claim no less. That is when arriving AA passengers waiting for their checked bags at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport will find special gift boxes appearing on the conveyor belts along with their belongings.  Inside each box will be a gift certificate for 250 AAdvantage miles and a special Coca-Cola polar bear or blanket.  This type of baggage carousel promotion seems to be catching on as AA and Zappos recently teamed up for a similar Thanksgiving campaign in Houston.
  • By now you probably know that your luggage gets treated like a rented mule once you hand it over to the airline.  That said, there’s 5 things everyone should do before checking their luggage.  If you’re curious, check out this article from Jaunted.
  • If you’re a frequent Yapta user, you know that when the price of your flight drops, you can be eligible to claim a credit from the airline – but only if you booked your ticket directly with the carrier.  Well, there are also a few advantages to booking your hotel directly with the supplier – instead of with an OTA.  Here’s 4 benefits to booking your stay direct.

Airlines Ease Restrictions on Electronic Devices

Phones AllowedSince the FAA ruled that radio signals from personal electronic devices didn’t pose a threat to aircraft safety during takeoff and landing, the majority of airlines have quickly changed their policies.  Delta, JetBlue, American, United, Alaska, US Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Virgin America have all loosened their restrictions on the use of personal electronics during flight.  However, Southwest Airlines is the first U.S. airline (and likely the only one for some time) to provide the option of gate-to-gate Wi-Fi Internet service.  That’s because it uses a satellite technology that differs from the air-to-ground technology used by Gogo, which powers the inflight Wi-Fi for most other airlines.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The TSA said that JetBlue Airways would join its roster of airlines participating in its Pre-Check airport security program.  JetBlue is the ninth airline to be included, joining Southwest, which announced its participation last week, Alaska, American (which now also includes US Airways), Delta, Hawaiian, United and Virgin America.  Pre-Check’s expedited security screening process allows travelers to leave their shoes, light outerwear and belts on, leave liquids and gels in carry-on bags and keep laptops in their cases as they move through security scanners.
The Transportation Security Administration said Thursday that JetBlue Airways would join its roster of airlines participating in its PreCheck airport security program. JetBlue is the ninth airline to be included, joining Southwest, which announced its participation last week, Alaska, American (which now also includes US Airways), Delta, Hawaiian, United and Virgin America.
PreCheck’s expedited security screening process allows travelers to leave their shoes, light outerwear and belts on, leave 3-1-1-compliant liquids and gels in carry-on bags and keep laptops in their cases as they move through security scanners.
  • According to Fast Company, the biggest improvements to the quality of airline food will have nothing to do with celebrity chefs or newly discovered tastes. It is technology that will improve the experience of in-flight dining. New planes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner feature improved cabin pressurization systems that not only make passengers feel healthier, but improve cabin humidity up to 15%. This improvement in humidity makes it all the more likely that your sinuses will stay open in-flight. So, on newer planes like the 787, food will just taste better.
  • The Daily Beast recently named the 20 worst airports for Thanksgiving travel.  Here’s their “top” 5:    San Francisco (SFO), Chicago Midway (MDW), Newark (EWR), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Houston (HOU).   If you’re not flying through these airports next week – be thankful.

Yapta Signs Reseller Agreement with CWT

cwttttBig news!  Earlier today, CWT announced that it has launched a new airfare tracking solution, powered by Yapta FareIQ, that will provide U.S.-based clients the opportunity to capture savings when booked airfares drop in price.  Here’s what was announced in their press release:

“We are committed to providing our clients with innovative tools that drive efficiency in their travel programs,” said Patrice Simon, vice president, Innovation and Business Development for CWT. “This fare tracking solution provides real-time pricing on each Passenger Name Record (PNR), which can deliver significant cost savings for our clients.”
FareIQ’s patent-pending Intelligent Price TrackingTM technology provides in-depth, 24/7 analysis and insights into corporate airfares, spotlighting opportunities to re-book tickets at lower prices, saving corporations crucial travel dollars on a daily basis. The solution will integrate seamlessly with the workflow of CWT travel counselors by dynamically monitoring pricing on individual PNRs. Upon recognizing a savings opportunity, CWT counselors will proactively re-ticket the reservation if the fare adjustment is in line with the client’s program policies, is appropriate for the traveler and results in net savings. This means that once a traveler has booked through their company’s preferred channel, no further action is necessary to re-ticket the lower fare should one become available.
CWT completed a successful pilot program in 2013 with select clients. “Savings opportunities in mature travel programs can be limited. Having completed a pilot program with CWT and Yapta, I’m confident that the new fare tracking solution will provide savings to our travel program with no disruption to the traveler,” said Pam Massey, senior manager of Global Travel for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Travelers may even gain a renewed confidence in booking through the corporate program knowing that they will be ticketed a lower price should one come available.”
“We’re very proud to have one of the world’s leading travel management companies as a reseller of FareIQ,” said James Filsinger, CEO of Yapta. “We look forward to working closely with CWT to help their customers monitor the price of their fares more dynamically – and to help them realize unprecedented savings on their overall airfare spend.”

‘“We are committed to providing our clients with innovative tools that drive efficiency in their travel programs,” said Patrice Simon, vice president, Innovation and Business Development for CWT. “This fare tracking solution provides real-time pricing on each Passenger Name Record (PNR), which can deliver significant cost savings for our clients.”

FareIQ’s patent-pending Intelligent Price TrackingTM technology provides in-depth, 24/7 analysis and insights into corporate airfares, spotlighting opportunities to re-book tickets at lower prices, saving corporations crucial travel dollars on a daily basis. The solution will integrate seamlessly with the workflow of CWT travel counselors by dynamically monitoring pricing on individual PNRs. Upon recognizing a savings opportunity, CWT counselors will proactively re-ticket the reservation if the fare adjustment is in line with the client’s program policies, is appropriate for the traveler and results in net savings. This means that once a traveler has booked through their company’s preferred channel, no further action is necessary to re-ticket the lower fare should one become available.

CWT completed a successful pilot program in 2013 with select clients. “Savings opportunities in mature travel programs can be limited. Having completed a pilot program with CWT and Yapta, I’m confident that the new fare tracking solution will provide savings to our travel program with no disruption to the traveler,” said Pam Massey, senior manager of Global Travel for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Travelers may even gain a renewed confidence in booking through the corporate program knowing that they will be ticketed a lower price should one come available.”

“We’re very proud to have one of the world’s leading travel management companies as a reseller of FareIQ,” said James Filsinger, CEO of Yapta. “We look forward to working closely with CWT to help their customers monitor the price of their fares more dynamically – and to help them realize unprecedented savings on their overall airfare spend.”’


The Best Week of the Year to Book a Cruise

National Cruise Vacation WeekIf you’ve been thinking about taking a cruise, but didn’t think you could afford it – you may want to reconsider it next week.  The week of October 20-27 is National Cruise Vacation Week and most of the major names in the industry – like Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and Princess Cruises – are participating by making you an offer you can’t refuse.  They’re all extending special offers like on-board credit, a percentage off the current cruise fare, complimentary cabin upgrades, reduced deposits, two-for-one cruise fares, free pre-/post-cruise hotel nights, and spa credits.  If you’re interested in staying in-the-know on what many call “The World’s Largest Cruise Sale,” you can register to receive cruise news and specials from participating cruises lines.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Southwest Airlines is set to participate in the TSA security pre-check program starting in mid-November.  TSA Pre-Check allows airline passengers who have gone through a screening process to use a faster dedicated security screening lane at airports. Those cleared to use the TSA Pre-Check security lane typically do not have to remove shoes or take their laptops and liquids from bags. Belts and light outerwear also do not have to be removed for security screening.
  • O’Hare International Airport has opened a second new runway that officials say will begin to ease the Chicago hub airport’s congestion and eliminate the flight delays that have a ripple effect across the country. Of the nation’s 29 busiest airports, O’Hare ranked dead last in on-time departures throughout the first seven months of this year, with only about 67 percent of flights taking off on schedule, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • Wrestling to rip-off those sticky paper airline luggage tags could become a thing of the past.  British Airways has started customer-trials of new re-useable digital bag-tag.  The personalized electronic tag eliminates the need for a new paper version every time you fly.  It’s currently being tested by passengers flying in and out of Heathrow’s Terminal 5.  BA’s electronic bag-tag can be used by passengers who have their booking details sent to their smart-phone using the British Airways app.  Perhaps we’ll see this technology come to the U.S. sometime soon?