The Health Risks of Longer Travel

June 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While those who don’t travel for work envy those who do, those who really spend their weeks navigating airport terminals, car rental counters, and there’s-no-place-like-home uncomfortable hotel rooms can attest to its negative psychological, physical, and social effects. Aside from their road warrior stories, there is now real data that supports the negative impact of their travel.

According to the Harvard Business Review, there are now several scientific studies that corroborate these realities:

  • Those who travel frequently, particularly those doing long-haul travel (both in distance and time away from home), age more quickly.
  • Those who travel frequently are at increased risk of experiencing a stroke, heart attack, or deep-vein thrombosis.
  • A plane wing on a long-distance flight. Longer travel can have negative health effects if you're not careful.

  • Frequent travelers are exposed to unhealthy levels of germs and radiation. Yes, radiation. According to an article in the Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, an annually published report that details for employers their human resources responsibilities, travelers who fly more than 85,000 miles per year are absorbing radiation levels that exceed regulatory exposure levels for the general public in most countries.
  • Frequent travel also affects the body through jet lag, stress, mood swings, sleep problems, digestive problems, as well as the well-documented effects of the lifestyle: lack of exercise, poor eating habits, and excessive alcohol consumption.

With all the technology at our fingertips to connect virtually, why then is business travel increasing? According to an article written by Marcus Holmes, co-director of the Social Science Research Methods Center at the College of William & Mary, face-to-face meetings have been proven to “increase rapport and empathy, facilitating cooperation and enhancing bonds between the parties.”

Boris Baltes at Wayne State University says research also shows that virtual communication actually decreases effectiveness between colleagues, increases the time it takes for work to be completed, and leaves team members generally feeling dissatisfied about the process. And a 2005 article in The Leadership Quarterly said leaders found it simpler to build and maintain high-performing teams with regular, physical contact with those reporting to them.

So, what’s the long-haul traveler to do to combat the effects of his or her work-related travel? The research strongly suggests developing a strong support system at home to counteract the negative impacts. Still, the fact remains that corporations are not addressing this concern internally, nor are they preparing their employees with the tools they need to withstand the stress of frequent travel.

That means you need to take care of it yourself. You’re worth it. Find time to rest on your trip, eat healthy food rather than junk or rich food, and be sure to take time to exercise, even if it’s just a short walk before dinner.

How do you maintain your health during business travel? Do you exercise and eat right, or do you go hard and use your time at home to recover? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Fuzz (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

New Warning about Luggage Tags

June 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if air travelers don’t have enough things to keep track of when navigating an airport terminal, a recent report now suggests you need to be aware of potential hackers trying to access your flight reservations and other private information from your seemingly innocuous luggage tag.

The six-digit identification number located on your boarding pass, as well as on the accompanying luggage tag of your checked bags, is all a hacker needs to access all kinds of personal information — your email address, your phone number, your address — as well as your flight itinerary and frequent flier account.

This has become such a target-rich code for hackers because the airlines’ global reservation systems are antiquated and vulnerable. Put in place in the 1960s, their software coding does not account for personal privacy laws that have been instituted since that time.
Don't share photos of your airline luggage tags on social media -- the bar code is readable and contains a lot of personal information.
Since the onus is on the traveler to be alert and protected, here are a few suggestions to stop would-be hackers:

  1. Don’t post your boarding pass on social media. Hackers know our tendency to unwittingly overshare, so all they have to do is Google “boarding pass images” to reap a harvest.
  2. Consider only using a virtual boarding pass that comes to your email and uses a scannable image to get you through TSA. If you aren’t carrying a physical record that can be misplaced, lost, or captured by a hacker with a cell phone who takes a picture of what you’re carrying in your hand for anyone to see, your personal data is safer.
  3. Create complex passwords for your data so that if someone gets your information, they don’t have easy access. There are numerous apps available that create random, unique, strong passwords that are difficult to hack. The days of using one password for everything are over.
  4. Take your boarding pass when you exit the plane. Don’t stash it in the seat pocket in front of you. Doing so leaves that valuable code accessible to anyone who happens to find it.

Travel safety involves more than using a money belt or backing up valuable data before you leave. It also means taking steps to avoid getting hacked, even on something as simple as a boarding pass.

What are some extra security steps you take to protect yourself? Do you have any special tricks or even gadgets that you like to use, such as an RFID-blocking wallet? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Tony Webster (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

Smaller Airports Gain Attention of international Carriers

June 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re planning your summer overseas vacation, you may be surprised to discover you have new options for flying out of a smaller regional airport closer to home. According to Brian Pearce, chief economist and director of the International Air Transport Association, 700 routes have been added in the past year.

The increased numbers of people traveling, the entrance of new low-cost carriers bringing long-haul flights to consumers, and the frustration with congestion at bigger airports have fueled the upsurge in offerings at smaller airports, John Grant, senior analyst with OAG, told the New York Times.

While most of the new airports with international offerings are in the U.S., carriers have increased their fight options in European and Asian markets as well. This provides travelers with a larger selection for segmented travel while overseas as well.

What has made this a profitable consideration for the airlines? The manufacturing of mid-size aircraft with better fuel efficiency. Since 2012, Boeing and Airbus have found markets for their smaller medium- and long-range planes with carriers looking to expand their offerings between smaller cities.

Norwegian Air is hoping their 737s will give them access to new airports. (That's Henrik Ibsen on the tail.)

Norwegian Air is hoping their 737s will give them access to new airports. (That’s Henrik Ibsen on the tail.)

Norwegian Airlines is banking on the addition of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft to increase its route map. The seating configuration can be customized to seat between 100 to 230 seats. “The Max, that’s a single aisle that can fly on routes to secondary cities,” Bjorn Kros, Norwegian’s CEO, told the New York Times. “You will see a lot of low fares and a new segment of people start flying.”

Airlines are also finding smaller cities attractive because of the savings in ground costs. Hotel costs for crew, landing fees, and fuel costs are lower at smaller airports than at the bigger ones. Travelers also save because their costs — like car rental and parking — are lower too.

Airports are also using data about the travel costs of companies in their cities. For example, Hartford, Conn. airport officials showed Aer Lingus how 23 of Hartford’s business were spending $40 million on trans-Atlantic flights every year. So Aer Lingus has begun daily flights to and from Bradley International Airport.

If people can get to their events a few hours faster, rather than traveling an additional two or three hours to fly out of a major airport, everyone wins.

Finally, passengers benefit from these new routes because it’s a lot less hassle when flying from a smaller airport. Security lines move quicker, customs and immigration lines are shorter, and baggage is claimed faster. Who wouldn’t want those benefits if they could get them?

Do you fly out of regional airports or battle your way through the larger ones? Do you have any preferences? Share them in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Arpingstone (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Would You Ride in a Driverless Uber?

February 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

When Uber began testing driverless cars in several cities (and battled with California over its right to do so without a permit) last year, select passengers who wanted to try the experience weren’t the only passengers in the car. That’s because Uber is conducting research and has operators in the vehicles as it tests them in real life scenarios.

As Uber engineers test the automation, several things are proving to be troublesome for the artificial intelligence to interpret. First and foremost, the unpredictability of human drivers makes it challenging for the AI to compensate. For example, crossing over into the left lane to make a right-hand turn is a scenario that does not compute for the software.

Self-driving Uber prototype being tested in San Francisco

Self-driving Uber prototype being tested in San Francisco

Another quandary is bridges, so the company chose Pittsburgh specifically because of its many bridges, as a way to iron those bugs out. Bridges are difficult for driverless cars to handle, said Uber’s engineering director Raffi Krikorian, because they lack environmental cues that streets have, namely buildings. According to Business Insider, Krikorian said Pittsburgh was the “double black diamond of driving” and he believes conducting research in that city will help the research advance quickly.

Weather is also proving a challenge because snow, for example, obscures lane markings, making navigation tricky. Uber is also finding other challenges from nature during its tests, such as trees. The cars rely on high-definition maps with landmarks to navigate. In Pittsburgh, the images on those maps were taken in the winter when there were no leaves on the trees, so the car can’t determine what the new objects on its route are.
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Delta Premium Economy to Premiere in 2017

February 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For years, customers have complained about the increasing discomforts of flying: the ever-shrinking seat size and legroom, lack of food options, and other amenities. One airline even boldly touts that its seats don’t recline! (Actually, that might not be an entirely bad thing, having ridden with people’s seatbacks in our laps before.)

So it’s no surprise that the major carriers are looking to position themselves as being attentive to their passengers’ comfort needs. United recently unveiled its p.s. (premium service) option and now Delta has announced its own Premium Economy program to bring customers more comfort when they travel.
Delta Airlines A350 jet
Premium Economy will premiere later this year when the company’s A350 aircrafts are introduced into the fleet. In these new planes, Premium Economy will have 48 seats and will only be available on specific international flights.

The most luxurious of all Delta’s enhanced seat offerings, Premium Economy will have a dedicated cabin and attendants, up to 38 inches of seat pitch, up to 19 inches seat width, and up to nine inches of recline. Currently, according to SeatGuru, the standard economy seat average is between 31 and 34 with a 17- to 18.5-inch width.

The seating will also feature adjustable head and foot rests, as well as name brand amenities, pre-flight drink service, special meal service, and a 13.3-inch seatback entertainment screen. Premium Economy passengers will also have priority security clearance, check-in, boarding, and baggage handling.
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American, United Launch Automated Screening at O’Hare

January 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Just in time for the recent busy holiday travel season, American and United both launched automated screening lanes in order to help lessen the bottleneck in the TSA checkpoints, a serious problem travelers faced in summer 2016.

The two airlines followed the lead of Delta, which partnered with TSA in May 2016 at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Delta underwrote $1 million dollars of the total TSA investment to bring the automation to the Atlanta airport.
United and American Airlines have installed automated screening at Chicago O'Hare Airport
The automated screening lanes feature the following innovations:

  • Stainless steel countertops that enable several passengers to place their items in bins simultaneously;
  • Automated conveyor belts that draw bins into the X-ray machines, and return them to the front of the queue;
  • Bags identified as a potential threat are automatically pushed to a separate area to allow bins behind it to continue through the screening process uninterrupted;
  • Property bins that are 25 percent larger than the bins in standard screening lanes in order to accommodate roller bags; Read more

Chip Technology Keeps Checked Luggage in Check

January 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve reported here before about the increased use of RFID chips in checked luggage and luggage tags to tilt the odds that your bag will arrive with you at your final destination in your favor. There have been new innovations in the effort to reduce lost bags, this time from Delta. Once you see what they’ve been doing, you may never look at those little paper baggage tags the same again.

This year, Delta has implemented RFID technology into its complimentary baggage tags, eliminating the possibility of a bag being unscanned due to a smudged, wrinkled, torn, or obscured tag. Now, in every airport where Delta operates, its bags only need to be be in proximity to the radio scanners to be accounted for. As with the older tags, fliers can track their checked bags using Delta’s mobile app.

Delta Airlines demonstrates its RFID system on a piece of checked luggageImplementing these kinds of changes can be costly and disruptive because they require infrastructure adjustments. While some airports, such as Las Vegas’ McCarren International Airport, have been using RFID for over a decade, any new tracking system is typically the responsibility of the individual airline.

Delta spent $50 million on the system, which included scanners, printers, and said tags. Widespread use of these types of tags has been slow to come online in the airline industry, according to the International Air Travel Association. But the deadline for all 265 member airlines to be able to fully track and trace all bags is 2018. And the system is expected to work, not only on an airline’s own flights, but also connecting flights with another carrier.
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This Travel Scam Hacks Your Phone

December 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

File this under the category “Now We’ve Heard Everything.” According to an article in Smarter Travel, the latest scam to target travelers involves what’s called “juice-jacking.” Travelers desperate for a charge plug into a public charging station that, unbeknownst to them, is masquerading as a data port to steal their phone’s private and personal data.

Once a phone is connected to the station, everything on the device is downloadable: passwords, photos, emails, messages, bank account information. Worse yet, additional malware might also be infecting the device. How can you protect yourself against this new hacking method?

Using a battery pack instead of an almost-too-convenient charging station can help you avoid the juice-jacking travel scam.

Using a battery pack instead of an almost-too-convenient charging station can help you avoid the juice-jacking travel scam.

For one thing, be wary of public USB-friendly charging stations. There’s a chance that it’s a bogus charging station, and instead of just charging your batteries, you could give hackers access to your mobile device.

Instead, always travel with your own power pack. Some of our new Crew™ 11 Carry-on models feature a built-in battery pocket and external USB port. No more digging for your accessories or relying on potentially unsafe charging stations. Just plug your battery into the internal charging USB cord, and then plug your normal charging cord into the port on the back of your luggage.
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Corporate Travel to Increase due to Cheap Airfare in 2017

December 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Emerging market activity in South America and Asia combined with cheap airfares is expected to afford more companies the opportunity for more corporate travel and to conduct business face-to-face with its clients in 2017.

2017 may see more corporate travel around the world. Delta's new A330 can make your trip a little more comfortable.According to Advito’s 2017 industry forecast, the outlook for various regions is the result of some tangible economic indicators, as well as some intangible appetites. Here’s how the forecast breaks down by region:

North America

North American business travel is expected to be strong, although concerns about the presidential election and a possible interest rate hike are creating some uncertainty for 2017. Continuing competition between the top three airline carriers will keep airfares cheap, while hotel rates will increase as the chains reduce the number of rooms they make available at a negotiated discount. They will instead seek to implement dynamic pricing for corporate travel clients, thereby decreasing their negotiating options and driving up rates between three and five percent.
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IRS Sets New Per Diem Rates for Business Travelers

December 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Ah, winter! That time of year when a young business traveler’s fancy turns to thoughts of travel allowances.

Each October 1, the IRS releases their new per diem rates that business travelers can either collect or declare on their taxes. The new figures allow employees to receive a set amount (per diem in Latin means “for each day”) to compensate for meals and incidentals incurred daily while traveling for work purposes.

Your lodging and food costs are part of your per diem business travelers' rates.

Your lodging and food costs are part of your per diem business travel rates.

Employers provide this benefit to employees in exchange for the filing of an expense report. Why is the expense report necessary? If the employer cannot produce this paperwork, the government views per diem reimbursement as income, which means it’s taxable. As long as the paperwork is filed and the amount expensed doesn’t exceed the federal daily limit, that money is all yours.

What if you’re self employed? These federal per diem rates don’t help you much as they only apply to meals, and you’d better keep excellent records for everything else related to your travel if you want to deduct it from your taxes.
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