Business Travelers Can Continue to Carry Laptops in their Carry-On Luggage

July 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The United States Department of Homeland Security has ended a four month ban on laptops in carry-on luggage on U.S. bound flights from the Middle East and North Africa. The ban was originally enacted because terrorism experts were concerned that explosives could be concealed in electronics as large as laptops and mobile tablets. It affected ten airports and nine airlines that are based in the Middle East.

The King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was the final airport to have the ban lifted, after they and the other airlines and airports implemented new security measures designed to check for explosives in the large electronics.

Officials visited the ten airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, and confirmed that the security measures were in place.
Business travelers on Etihad Airways and other Middle East airlines were concerned about a laptop ban.
The airports originally affected include Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Jeddah, Saudia Arabia; Riyadh, Saudia Arabia; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, UAE; and Abu Dhabi, UAE. The carriers most heavily impacted by this ban were Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudia, and Turkish Airlines.

A ban on the citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen still remains in place, although several U.S. court hearings are challenging those restrictions.

The aviation industry has been trying to come together with a united message to governments and stakeholders about regulation and supporting the industry,” Will Horton, senior analyst at Australian aviation consultancy CAPA, told Reuters.

The ban was nearly expanded to cover all flights into the U.S. from the Middle East and Europe, which had international business travelers concerned. Since many business travelers have long been practitioners of “carry-on luggage only” travel, this could have had serious ramifications on business travel in general.

Instead, the U.S. accepted new security and screening measures from the airports in Europe and Middle East, other than the original ten airports, thus preventing the expanded ban. And now that the U.S. has lifted their ban on the remaining airlines, business travelers can continue to carry their laptops and tablets in their carry-on luggage.

That was a bit of a close call for business travelers, but we can remain productive. We’ve also talked about how to function without a laptop, should a similar ban return. How would you cope if the ban were instituted? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Alex Beltyukov (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

TSA May Require Additional Screening for Additional Items at Airport

July 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if we weren’t already in the throes of the busiest season for traveling, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that it might require more items to be removed from your carry-on luggage during screening. For the past 18 months, TSA has been testing how to make it easier for its officers to consistently view what’s in the bags they screen daily.

According to Wall Street Journal “Middle Seat” columnist Scott McCartney, the X-ray machine color codes the items inside the bag based on the density, and the more tightly packed the bag is, the harder it is for all its contents to be identified. That makes it difficult for screeners to identify the items within the bag.
TSA Bag Check
TSA officials have been considering having all electronics, food, and paper added to the list of items that must come out of every carry-on during screening. Why food? Certain items, such as chocolate, are dense and mimic the shape of explosives, often creating the necessity of a second look, just to be sure. Paper, including books and notepads, obscures other things, forcing the screener to tag a bag for a manual check that slows the line.

If you haven’t heard us sing its praises before, all these measures give us another reason to urge frequent travelers to invest in TSA’s Precheck. According to the TSA, the removal of these additional items would only apply in regular screening lines.

What should you do if you can’t afford Precheck and want to make sure your bag doesn’t get tagged for a manual search? Think through your packing strategy and be organized.

Store items that you already know need to be removed in the easy-to-access exterior pockets of your luggage. Consider electing to pull out that special chocolate bar you purchased at a gourmet shop as a souvenir so that it can be screened in plain sight in a separate bin with your jacket or shoes. Have a specific place you always store that favorite book or notepad you plan to use to help you pass the time onboard.

While these additional items haven’t been added to the official list, thoughtful packing before you arrive at the airport will help you develop a few habits that could save you some time and avoid unwanted hassle if the list is expanded.

How will these new rules, if they go through, affect you? Are you an electronics-only traveler, or do you carry a lot of paper and food as well? Let us hear from you in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Bradley Gordon (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Business Travelers Rejoice! Global In-Flight Wifi Connectivity Growing in 2017

July 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Years ago, business travelers used to love or hate their flights. It was either a much-needed escape or a stint in solitary confinement. Like it or not, you were unreachable for the duration of your flight. No phones, no wifi, no Internet. If you didn’t bring out some printouts or reports to read, you didn’t have anything to work on.

Now, apart from the smaller seats, you can function as if you never left your office at all.

According to Routehappy’s 2017 wifi report, Global State of In-Flight Wifi, there is more in-flight connectivity than there has ever been. They found that 39 percent of global flights and 83 percent of U.S. flights’ actual seat miles — miles flown multiplied by the number of available seats — offer wifi connectivity as an amenity. There are also 60 airlines worldwide that now offer in-flight wifi over most regions of the globe.
Business travelers will be able to use their wifi enabled cell phones more in 2017. This is a man texting on a plane.
“2016 was the year that airlines outside the U.S. committed to high-quality, in-flight wifi at a rate only previously seen by U.S. carriers, and 2017 will see those commitments come to life,” Routehappy CEO Robert Albert said in a Business Travel News article.

Three carriers boasted the highest wifi availability: Delta, United Airlines, and Emirates. Only one US carrier, Virgin Airlines, was able to claim 100 percent availability on all its flights.

This bodes well for customers of Alaska Airlines, which acquired Virgin in December 2016. Meanwhile, JetBlue had just completed retrofitting all its planes with wifi service, but it is only available on its flights across the continental US.

While wifi connectivity is more and more prevalent on US and international flights, making the best use of it still requires a bit of planning. Downloading documents or entertainment options at home, such as podcasts or television episodes, before you fly will increase the speed at which you can access them while connected to your flight’s wifi system.

Business travelers, how important is wifi to your in-flight productivity? And will you pay for it, or only use it if it’s free? And will it be just as important to have on the flights that fall under the laptop ban? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Tom Woodward (Flickr, Creative Commons)

The Health Risks of Longer Travel

June 22, 2017 by · 1 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.
Read more

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.
Read more

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.
Read more

Next Page »