Archive for the ‘Professional Travel’ Category

Our reporter confirms rumors of long lines at U.S. Customs entry, to his chagrin

Posted on: June 20th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

Summer is upon us and that means lots of people will be traveling abroad.  Those people can expect to wait in excruciatingly long lines at border control and customs this year, according to Dallas Morning News reporter James Osborne.

Travel officials have been warning that the wait through Customs and Border Control would be long this summer due to budget cuts, and the U.S Travel Association have been attempting to convince Congress to direct more funds their way so that they can hire more officers and reduce wait times.

On James Osborne’s recent trip through DFW International, however, he waited at least an hour and a half at customs, and things looked much worse for non-U.S citizens.  We can only assume that, unless Congress manages to provide funding to the U.S. Travel Association that things will get decidedly worse as the summer travel season reaches its peak.

The future of in-flight Wi-Fi

Posted on: June 12th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

America’s Federal Communications Commission has announced that it plans to expand the amount of bandwidth available for in-flight ground-to-air wi-fi services.  Theoretically this will lead to a faster, more reliable internet connection while in-flight.  Currently, however, only about 10% of customers are even willing to pay for in-flight wi-fi because of how unreliable and slow it is.  Will this really fix the problem?

Read more at www.economist.com

Speeding Customs

Posted on: June 10th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

The Chicago Department of Aviation announced that Chicago O’Hare International Airport will be installing 32 Automated Passport Control machines and have them in use by July 1st.  It will be the first airport in the U.S to implement the new technology, which is intended to speed up customs clearance.  Travelers with U.S passports will be able to move through border clearance by using a self-service kiosk to enter their passport information and information from their paper declaration cards.  The technology is already in use at Vancouver International Airport.

Read more at www.nytimes.com

A reward for packing light

Posted on: June 8th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

The baggage fees introduced by American carriers have created a strange situation.  In an effort to avoid baggage fees, travelers try to cram as much as they can into their carry-on bags, often trying to fit over sized-baggage into the overhead bins.  As a response some carriers have begun allowing passengers without carry-on baggage to board first.

American Airlines announced that it would make this practice official policy.  Those who pack light – without any carry on baggage – will now be able to board before groups larger than two, but not before uniformed members of the armed forces, first- and business-class passengers, and elite frequent flyers.

This is probably only really good news for passengers on short trips who don’t already have elite frequent flyer status.  Ultimately it will depend on how strictly the rule is enforced.

Read more at www.economist.com

What makes air passengers happy?

Posted on: June 7th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

JD Power & Associates’ 2013 North American Airline Satisfaction Study is out and it’s telling us just what it takes to keep air travelers happy.  Turns out it might just be as simple as a smile from their flight attendant and in-flight wi-fi.  Passengers who were greeted warmly ranked their satisfaction scores up to 106 points higher than those who were not greeted with a smile at check-in.  Travelers who had wi-fi on board were also happier than those who did not.

This survey, and others like it, helps point to the important issue of in-flight satisfaction, which new companies like Routehappy (launched in April 2013) hope to capitalize on.  Routehappy allows users to search for flights according to a certain happiness rating based on things like seat layout, seat comfort, noise level, length of layovers, number of stops, entertainment options, and wi-fi availability.

Personally I’d have to agree with BBC Travel’s informal poll.  In-flight comfort is the biggest factor for me on a commercial flight.  I can bring my own entertainment, but I can’t fix how much leg room they give me.

Read more at www.bbc.co.uk

Fees Take on New Altitude

Posted on: June 6th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

The report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics is in. In 2012 American air carriers took in $6 billion in fees from their passengers.  That’s a 3.8% increase in baggage fees and a 7.3% increase in reservation charges since 2011.  Despite that increase, passenger volume increased only by 0.8% between 2011 and 2012.

Read more at www.nytimes.com


The Dreamliner flies again

Posted on: June 4th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

After months of rigorous testing and a bit of a redesign the 787 Dreamliners have returned to the skies! The airships were grounded last January due to an issue with overheating battery which caused a parked craft to catch fire in one incident.  United Airlines operated their first flight since the grounding on the 20th of May between Houston and Chicago and had no problems.  The airline plans to send the Dreamliner on its first international route on June 10th, from Denver to Tokyo, and then has plans to introduce more throughout the year.  They plan to introduce eight of the Dreamliners by the end of 2013.

Several other international airlines also plan to increase their Dreamliner service over the year, but there may be some reason to be cautious before booking your first flight on a 787.   During one of the Dreamliner’s test flights in May a switchboard was damaged due to a loose nut.  While this didn’t affect passenger safety, it does suggest there might still be a a few kinks to be worked out.

Read more at www.economist.com

Not quite ready for prime time

Posted on: May 31st, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

Does a mini solar-powered electrical socket that you can take wherever you go sound like the solution to your power problems?

That’s basically what the Window Socket is.  This portable charger sticks to a pane of glass and charges from the sun’s energy, becoming an electrical outlet wherever you may need one.   It sounds excellent right?  It can be almost impossible to find an outlet in an airport, and hotels always seem to be a few short.  But there may be a reason it isn’t yet an essential in every traveler’s bag.

The downside is that the Window Socket has a long charge time – at least five hours – which makes it easy for someone on the go to forget. It also uses a standard European plug (not such a big deal), but only delivers at 1000mAh, so most appliances that you plug into the wall wouldn’t run.  However, that’s much higher than required for any USB socket.

All in all the Window Socket sounds like a pretty excellent device, but it might not be quite ready to solve all of our traveling power woes.

Read more at www.economist.com

Limited Options for Airline Check-In

Posted on: May 29th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

In 2009 low-cost Irish airline Ryanair removed its check-in desks in favor of baggage drop desks in hopes of shortening lines by moving the entire check-in process online.  Now its British competitor, EasyJet has done the same, encouraging all its passengers to check in online and either print their boarding pass before arriving at the airport, or download it onto a smartphone.

Though many airlines have offered online check in to their passengers for several years, only Easyjet and Ryanair are pioneers in doing away with check-in desks altogether.  Will this only be a trend for low-cost airlines, or will major airlines be following suit?

And will they be more likely to follow in Ryanair’s footsteps and charge passengers outlandish fees for forgetting to print out their boarding passes before arriving to the airport?

Read more at www.nytimes.com

A few of your favourite fees

Posted on: May 27th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

Anyone who flies frequently knows there are some pretty ridiculous airline fees out there, but some are a bit more irksome than others. According to J.D Power & Associates’ 2012 North American Airline Satisfaction Study, passengers find baggage fees are the least reasonable, with only 28% of the flyers surveyed saying they thought they were reasonable.   However, there are many fees that travelers are more than willing to pay.  70% of those surveyed were perfectly happy to fork over extra cash if it meant they got priority boarding, and close to 65% were happy to pay to upgrade their tickets to business or first class.

(Of course, when you fly charter, you get a pass on all these fees while enjoying the added convenience of flying when and where you want to.)

Why does it matter? The 2013 study is due out soon, and it will show us just how complacent travelers have become when it comes to extra airline fees.  And it will determine whether or not that will lead to even more fees from airlines in the future.

Read more at www.economist.com