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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TSA Pleads with Congress for Overtime

June 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It was the recipe for a perfect storm. The security screening process at most major airports was already operating at capacity, and the summer travel season was just months away. In an attempt to anticipate the influx, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) campaigned to get 25 million travelers to sign up for its PreCheck program. But the campaign to enroll members in the program only netted nine million users, so Congress cut nearly 10 percent of TSA’s workforce: 4600 people.

Now summer is here and TSA is understaffed, so it pleaded with Congress to authorize overtime for its existing workers while it scrambles to hire and train 768 new officers. The reallocation of funds from one account to another, to the tune of $34 million dollars, was approved May 12. TSA had originally planned on completing its needed hiring by September, but the estimated eight percent increase in travelers anticipated between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day changed that.

TSA Bag CheckSince the first of the year, TSA has been advising travelers to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight in order to allow adequate time to navigate the security line. Many have not heeded this advice and a harbinger of what was to come was seen in March during Spring Break when nearly 7,000 travelers missed their flights due to long wait times.
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Quebec City Airport Deploys Apple Watches

November 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Technology drives efficiency in our daily lives. We retrieve information from our laptops, tablets, and phones and use it to make decisions in real time. But can personal technology be deployed — and trusted? — in a airport environment with the same results?

According to an article on FutureTravelExperience.com, airport management at Canada’s Quebec City Airport is testing this idea by equipping workers in specific roles with smartwatches. They’re working with SITA Lab, a technology research firm that works with the air transport industry to conduct the tests.Quebec City AirportThe watches replace tablets that workers used to check for updates about gate changes and other operational details. The watches are connected to the SITA Airport Management System, which will push notifications to duty managers with real-time operational updates.

Being able to push notifications to a wearable device is allowing workers to take immediate action, according to Marc-André Bédard, Quebec City Airport’s Vice President of Information Technology. This, in turn, is creating a better experience for travelers, eliminating wait times that caused delays because workers weren’t getting critical details in a timely manner.

While this trial may signal the end of the walkie-talkie, it remains to be seen if the smartwatches can withstand the rigorous wear and tear these workers put them through during their typical shifts. If it does, we’re curious as to how well the watches will hold up to this kind of use, and whether the technology will spread to other airports around the world.

What are some of your TILTS (“technology I’d like to see”) ideas? What about technology you’ve seen used in airports, train stations, or on the road? Share your experiences with us below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Harfang (Creative Commons)

A Potential Tax Cut for Airline Travelers

October 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

When you purchased your airline ticket last week, you probably knew you paid some fees. But did you know about these?

The Domestic Flight Segment tax, the Excise Tax of Kerosene (jet fuel), the September 11th Security fee, and, my personal favorite, the Domestic Passenger Ticket tax (where you’re being taxed because you live in the US and are traveling within the US).

Plane of Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Plane of Delta Air Lines, Inc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Congress decided it might have an opportunity to boost its approval ratings by reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration’s funding (which expired September 30, and was extended for six months) in such a way that both our traveling experience and the airports we travel through might be improved.

Here’s the problem: airlines rely on an outdated IRS-instituted fee structure. That structure excludes from taxation some services like checked bags and change fees (that we all end up paying), allowing airlines to skirt the prescribed taxes by exploiting these loopholes. Those incidental fees added up to $3.4 billion in bag fees and $2.3 billion in reservation change fees way back in 2010.

Congress was also examining how it could reallocate funding so that airports could improve their facilities. Airport lobbyists have been challenging Congress to raise the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (bet you didn’t know you paid that one) from $4.50 to $8.50. The current funding for the 2012 Federal Modernization Reform Act expires September 30, and there hasn’t been a discussion about or adjustment to these fees since 2000.

Airlines are claiming that passengers have already paid enough fees imposed by the government, while trying to divert attention from the fees passengers are really frustrated about paying, like the bag fee and change fee, not mention the often overlooked pet travel fee and the last-minute seat upgrade.

Congress’ re-examining the way airlines hike their prices without increasing the ticket price could result in changes that create happier travelers. But they haven’t been able to agree on matters of graver concern than this, so is there much hope of true change that could result in more money in our wallets?

Google Enters Travel Booking World

October 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve been thinking about going to Montreal or New Hampshire in a few weeks to see the fall colors. When you start your search process, you notice that Google is offering to not only help you book your flight, but your hotel as well.

The ubiquitous tech giant is now dipping its proverbial big toe even deeper into the travel booking pool with its new initiative, “Book on Google”. And it has some of the other booking websites a little nervous.

Montreal, First YMCA. Now Hotel Gault.

Montreal’s Hotel Gault. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Google is currently conducting a beta launch in North America with 20,000 hotels that allows travelers to remain in its own navigation system from initial search to completed booking. Google’s partner? Sabre, the biggest global distribution system in the world used by more than 350,000 travel agents to access accommodation information.

The new “Book on Google” is the next generation of Google Hotel Ads, a search engine that searches other search engines and compiles the results for available hotels. What “Book on Google” provides that Google Hotel Ads doesn’t is direct booking all the way through to payment on mobile devices from Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ platforms.

The hotels share the commission with Google and Sabre. This program complements Google Flight, which resulted from the purchase of ITA software, a flight information company, in 2015.

So now you can book a flight and find a place to lay your head without ever leaving Google. What’s next? Google room service, please.

Would you book with Google, or have you already done so? Let us know what you think in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

Boeing Adding More Carry-On Luggage Storage Room

September 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Rollaboard owners rejoice! Boeing is trying to solve the ongoing carry-on luggage problem by adding bigger overhead bins.

According to a new Travel Pulse article, the new bins, called “space bins,” will carry more luggage than the previous bins. This will hopefully ease the stress and strain put on travelers and flight attendants as more people try to sneak larger bags onto flights.

Boeing Space BinsThe new bins will also be easier to load and see into, which is helpful since more than one traveler has been hit on the head by people removing heavy bags they didn’t quite realize they couldn’t carry.

One drawback is that it will decrease head space a bit.

It will be interesting to see how Virgin Airlines reacts to the news, given they recently said the interior plane space is actually the most valuable space. They were discussing charging for carry-on bags, and allowing free checked bags. Will this move be a revenue generator for them?

From Boeing’s perspective, they’re likely responding to requests from the airlines, who are hearing from customers. Right now, the airlines want to continue to charge for checked bags and allow carry-ons. Those passengers looking to save some money will be better able to maneuver their carry-ons and fit them into the new large bins.

Meanwhile, we’ve also been hearing some airlines are considering reducing the allowed carry-on sizes to accommodate more passengers using their carry-ons. However, Delta has said they plan to allow carry-on sizes to remain the same as they have been in the past.

We like the idea of the bigger bins. If you could turn your carry-on bag sideways (which is what Boeing is suggesting), you can fit six bags into the space instead of four. The loss of headroom does not seem like a great loss, especially since we’ll all be sitting. We’ll see if that continues to be the case or if headroom will be subject to shrinkage like everything else on the plane.

What are some of your ideas for getting more (or fewer) carry-on bags into the plane? Leave your ideas in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Boeing Media Room

Boeing Patents New “Cuddle Chairs”

September 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The name sounds weird, but “cuddle chairs” may change the way we travel and sleep on planes.

Boeing has recently patented a new travel chair that will allow passengers to sleep more comfortably by leaning forward into a backpack-like extension.

Boeing is calling them “cuddle chairs.” You sleep upright with your face resting against the cuddle chair, which attaches to your seat. It has a place for your face, so you can easily breathe. It’s like the hole on a massage table when you lie face down.

It’s nice to see Boeing think about customer comfort, but we’re not sure that cuddle chairs are going to cut it. Titling forward is not that great ergonomically sound although it may be better than other popular sleep options, such as slumping over sideways in your seat and leaning on whoever happens to be seated next to you.

Tilting forward could put a strain on your lower back, so we’re wondering if they have done research on the positioning. I was talking with Scott Applebee about this recently. He has a background in office furniture and he says that good office chairs should have a slight backward tilt to it, which you obviously won’t get from the forward lean of the cuddle chair.

The backward tilt opens up your body cavity a bit so you’re not putting stress on your lower lumbar. You don’t really even want to sit up straight, let alone forward. There are ways to lean forward but still keep your back in a good position but it doesn’t look like the cuddle chair will let you do that.

Another thing that concerns us is the feeling of being trapped by a device you strap around your head. Will the cuddle chairs really be all that cuddly? We’ll have to actually experience the cuddle chair before we decide if it will really work.

What about you? Will you try the cuddle chair if it’s ever available? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Video credit: The Patent Yogi (YouTube, used with permission)

USTA Study Shows Open Skies Is Crucial to US Airlines, Economy

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article on Travel Pulse discusses a study commissioned by the US Travel Association on the Open Skies Agreements. These agreements foster open international policies regarding travel. The study says they not only help the U.S. air travel economy, they help the U.S. economy in general.

Some major U.S. carriers recently challenged the agreements. The recent influx of some Persian Gulf airlines, among others, has brought more competition into the U.S. market, which doesn’t thrill American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines.

Delta Boeing 747-400

Delta Boeing 747-400 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“When the Big Three first embarked on their lobbying campaign against Open Skies, they had our attention because they claimed that their position was about protecting U.S. jobs,” said USTA president and CEO Roger Dow. “But it took about 30 seconds of reflection to realize that breaking those agreements is likely to have terrible consequences for U.S. employment, and now we have research in hand conclusively illustrating that.”

Since there are now three large legacy carriers in the U.S., they’ve developed a bit of a stronghold on the U.S. market. There’s less competition and therefore, looking from the consumer standpoint, if some of these other airlines come in, maybe we’ll get better fares.

The article says that research indicates that the Open Skies Agreements are very much pro-traveler and that these agreements support competition.

“The travel community weighs every policy proposal against a very basic set of criteria: is it pro-competition, pro-growth and pro-traveler? The Big Three’s move against Open Skies epic-fails every part of that test,” said Dow.

The challenge seems to be focusing mainly on Persian Gulf airlines that fly into the U.S., but the study, which was conducted by Oxford Economics, indicates that the airlines cited actually pump quite a bit of money into the U.S. economy.

Virgin America Contemplates Charging For Carry-On Bags

July 21, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Yes, you read that right, Virgin American is considering charging customers for carry-on bags. A May 19 article in Global Traveler reports on remarks made by Virgin American CEO David Cush on the topic. He said he thought charging for customers to put luggage in the belly of the craft and giving them prime space within the cabin for free was rather backwards. He also noted that charging the same amount of money for baggage on short and long flights is a bit nonsensical as well.

This would make Virgin one of the bigger airlines to take this step. Spirit and Allegiant already charge for carry-on baggage in excess of one personal item such as a backpack or purse. Could this start a reverse migration to checked bags? Would more people check bags instead of carrying them on?

English: Luggage compartments of an Airbus 340...

Luggage compartments of an Airbus 340-600 aircraft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a concern on the side of the airlines because there’s so much activity with carry-ons: it takes longer to board and deplane because of all the bags people bring on flights with them. That means the potential is there to not arrive at the destination on time. On time arrivals is a metric that all airlines track. From the travelers standpoint, they’re doing it to avoid checked baggage fees. In other words, the airlines have created a problem for themselves that they’re now looking to solve.

It will be interesting to see if Virgin America really goes forward with this idea. It will create another layer of add-on pricing, which could make Virgin less competitive. Allegiant and Spirit are known for having low base ticket prices and then charging add-ons to customers for almost everything. We wonder if Virgin America would need to lower the base price of its tickets if it decides to start charging for carry-on luggage. Otherwise, they could be undercut by bigger airlines.

On the other hand, if Virgin went forward with this plan, other major carriers may also jump onto the bandwagon, and we could all start paying for our checked bags.

What would you do if Virgin and other airlines started charging for carry-on bags? Let us hear from you here or on our Facebook page.

New Family Travel Association Works to Help Family Travelers

May 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article in USA Today discussed a new organization fighting for the plight of families traveling with children. The Family Travel Association is a new industry association that seeks to inspire people with kids to travel and to educate them on the positive impact that traveling has on both children and adults.

“Now, the industry is joining forces to present a clear and unified message — that travel with kids can be transformational, not just recreational, and that there are things you can do with your children that you may never have dreamed possible,” said Rainer Jenss, president of the FTA, said in the article.

Jenss said the goal of the FTA is to lead the industry toward making travel easier for parents with children since many surveys indicate that parents often come home from trips more frazzled than when they left.

English: PBair female flight attendant at work...

Female flight attendant at work on board of a ATR 72 (Thailand). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The FTA plans to promote kid-friendly companies, including airlines and hotels that tailor services to families with kids. The fact is, many businesses are either unaware of how to make things easier for families or are sometimes downright unwelcoming.

The article even mentions a mother who always flies with a print out of each airline’s rules for traveling with children, since flight attendants are often unfamiliar with the facts.

Since travel is both beneficial and difficult for families, the FTA has a lot to offer if they can make things easier for parents shepherding their children through the pleasures and perils of vacationing.

It’s very beneficial to be able to get away with your family. In fact, our Vogue line is intended for the family traveler, so this association is something we’re very interested in following and seeing how it turns out.

Would you use it or not? What are some of the difficulties and joys you’ve had traveling with your family? Leave us a comment below or stop by our Facebook page and share your thoughts.

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