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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?

FallSalesAlaska Airlines has launched an “End of Fall Sale” that enables travelers to get flights from $49 each-way for travel between October 10 and December 11.  There’s some nice deals to be had here:  Seattle to Vegas for $89 each way;  San Francisco to Portland for $69 each way; and Los Angeles to San Jose for $59 each way.  However, as with most airfare sales, the deals won’t last forever.  This sale ends at midnight (okay, 11:59 pm) PT on Thursday, October 3rd.  Also, some blackout dates do apply.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many hotels across the country are joining the cause with pink-themed promotions and fundraising events.  For example, at The Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle, customers can dine on sweet, conscientious confections, such as the pink lemon roulade cake filled with strawberry-lemon mousse. Ten percent of the price each dessert sold will go to Susan G. Komen Puget Sound, the Puget Sound area affiliate of Susan Komen for the Cure.
  • Looking to save on your flights for this coming holiday season?  Well, here are some handy tips.  (Of course it includes using Yapta!)

National Rental Car Offers Free Rental Days

rental-cars-02Looking to cut your rental car costs?  Well, National Rental Car is offering a free rental day after completing two qualifying rentals.  (They’re considering one “qualifying rental” as two or more days in a mid-sized car.)  National is calling the promotion OneTwoFree and it runs through the end of January.  So, if you’re a frequent business traveler – or if you’re planning a leisurely week away – you should have enough time to score some free rental days.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Wanna get a preview of the new JetBlue premium lie-flat “suite” seats that will be coming to the airline’s brand new Airbus A321s in May 2014?  Check it out here.  The seats will debut on trans-con flights between JFK and LAX, and JFK and SFO.
  • If reducing your carbon footprint is a priority, Alaska Airlines may be the carrier for you. In its first efficiency study, the International Council on Clean Transportation ranked the Seattle-based carrier as the nation’s most fuel-efficient major airline, followed by low-cost Spirit Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. According to the study, Alaska was 26% more fuel-efficient than the least efficient airline, Allegiant Air.
  • A report released this week by the U.S. Travel Association finds that peak wait times to go through customs and border patrol at some major airports hit nearly 5 hours this year. Miami International, New York’s John F. Kennedy and Chicago’s O’Hare had some of the worst wait times. What’s more, the report concludes that unless officials take action like hiring new agents and investing in new technology, these numbers may climb even higher: By 2021, there may be 13.8 million more visitors coming through JFK, 10.5 million more through Miami and 9.6 million more through Los Angeles.

Airfare Prices Dropping In Time for the Holidays?

air-trafficAccording to research firm Innovata, airplane capacity is once again on the rise.  Between October and December it estimates that U.S. airlines will offer 1.3 percent more flights to travelers.  So, why should you care?  Well, eliminating capacity (the number of planes flying to duplicate destinations) was a technique airlines used to cut fuel and operations costs.  They could just pack more travelers into the same planes and charge higher prices.  Generally speaking a reduction in capacity limits options for consumers and can result in higher fares – while increases in capacity increases options and can result in lower fares.  This means that this could be the year you fly for Christmas or Thanksgiving without paying top dollar.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Hate flying with kids and infants?  A handful of Asian carriers are starting to introduce “no kids” sections on their flights.  Malaysia Airlines and now Scoot, the low-cost subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, have both introduced child-free seating areas.  Let’s see what happens when mommy decides to take her little one for a stroll through the no-kids section on one of these flights.
According to research firm Innovata, airplane capacity is once again on the rise. Between October and December it estimates that U.S. airlines will offer 1.3 percent more flights to travelers.
  • Some significant changes are coming to an airline seat near you.  In September, Delta will begin receiving the first of dozens of Boeing jets with power outlets at seats throughout the plane.  And next year, JetBlue will introduce lie-flat seats on non-stop flights between New York and Los Angeles, and New York and San Francisco.  Earlier this year, United began featuring slimmer seats on its Airbus fleet, offering more legroom despite squeezing on extra seats.  It will soon be offering these seats on all 152 of its Airbus planes.
  • Airlines are still tinkering with boarding processes, trying to get you on and off more efficiently.  Alaska Airlines has been experimenting with opening two doors (a novel concept) – one at the front of the plane, and one at the rear.  American Airlines is experimenting with letting those who checked their bag or, in some cases, those with just one bag they’ll put under the seat, board first.  Ideally, these passengers will simply walk to their row and sit down.  The airlines says the technique is occasionally abused by somebody who hoists a carry-on in the overhead bin, but overall it’s shaved a few minutes off the boarding process.