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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.

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.