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.The 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)
Some people really like a deal. Others are gluttons for punishment, especially reporters who need a column topic.
Seth Kugel, the Frugal Traveler, recently profiled Megabus and his experience traveling from New York to Silver Springs, Md., to Knoxville, Tenn., to Lexington, Ky. The entire itinerary cost him $63. But was it worth it?
Haven’t heard of Megabus? Well, perhaps you’re not cash-strapped and looking for the cheapest possible way to get to your desired destination. Megabus’ fares start at $1. No, that’s not a typo.
Serving the 14 of the 50 states, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada, and eleven countries in Europe, Megabus is all about bang for the buck.
Megabus is a double-decker, climate-controlled, clean coach that will get you where you need to go, but it doesn’t boast it will do much more than that. Still, it’s not trying to pass itself off as something that it’s not. It’s no-frills, affordable, reliable way to travel. Period.
Megabus is just the latest iteration of bus travel. Greyhound popularized affordable mass ground transportation and became a favorite of those averse to flying. My sister was one of those travelers.
While she lived in Grand Rapids, Mich., the rest of the family lived in Jackson, Miss. In order to visit us, she would embark on a road trip that took 48 hours end-to-end. Her trek included long layovers at terminals in major cities as well as circuitous routes between her Point A and Point B. You could say that she wasted all kinds of time en route, but she preferred it to flying, and she thought it was completely worth it.
So, if you don’t have much money, but have to get somewhere within the United States or Canada, consider Megabus. Just remember Seth’s biggest suggestion: pack a pillow and a blanket.
Remember the vacations you took with your parents? If you were lucky enough to fly, your entertainment only needed to last a few hours. But if you went over the river and through the woods to wherever you were going, then time yawned ahead of you. Unless you were properly prepared.
Nowadays, there’s no way you can possibly be bored while en route to your destination, thanks to all the entertainment and information available online? You might hear someone utter a few choice words if they discovered they didn’t have the latest episodes of their favorite podcast, that ebook they’ve been waiting to start, or the latest game app at their fingertips because they didn’t realize there wouldn’t be wifi.
So, don’t be like those unfortunate souls. Take a few moments in the days before your trip and assess your entertainment and information needs. Perhaps you want to catch up on your favorite television show. Download recently aired episodes to your tablet or be sure to add the Netflix app to your phone so that your queue is ready to go.
Second, Flydelta.com and the Delta app are excellent ways to keep track of your flight status and can be shared with your ride at the airport, so they’re not endlessly circling or waiting in the cell phone lot, wondering where you are. The Trip Advisor app can also let you spend your time in the air planning activities when you land.
If you want to get some work done while en route, set up your documents folder to sync to a cloud service like Google Drive or iCloud so your work isn’t stranded while you’re soaring through the real clouds. Evernote is also a great place to store travel information, and it isn’t wifi dependent.
New podcasts appear every day and most are a free, quick way to learn new information or while away the time. Note to Self and Serial come to mind. Check Overcast or other podcasting apps to find a few favorites.
If you’re traveling with children, a new game app can buy you valuable minutes of silence. If you haven’t investigated this realm lately, believe us, there’s so much more than Angry Birds. Try Noodles or Two Dots. The fun thing about Two Dots is that you can download the soundtrack and enjoy it as background music if you don’t want to play the game.
Travel time doesn’t have to be down time. It can be productive, entertaining, and even relaxing. Just make sure you download and sync everything before you leave home or your hotel, and you won’t be dependent on airport or airplane wifi.
Photo credit: jeshoots (Pixabay, Creative Commons)
The last thing an international traveler wants to deal with after a long trip is getting through customs. It’s always an unknown, like playing a game of roulette. Will it take a few minutes or will it take an hour?
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is in discussions with 10 additional overseas airports to roll out the “welcome home” banner by instituting pre-clearance processes similar to what it already has in place at 15 other international airports. It’s a lot like the TSA’s Pre-Check program, where select individuals can bypass the TSA checkpoint and walk right to their gate.
“I want to take every opportunity we have to push our homeland security out beyond our borders so that we are not defending the homeland from the one-yard line. Pre-clearance is a win-win for the traveling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest U.S. airports,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a DHS press release.
CBP currently offers this service at nine airports in Canada: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnepeg, as well as airports in Dublin and Shannon, Ireland; Aruba; Nassau, Bahamas; and Bermuda. When passengers fly through pre-clearance airports, they are treated similar to passengers on a domestic flight.
The 10 proposed new sites include: Tokyo’s Narita International; Brussels, Belgium; Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Oslo, Norway; London Heathrow and Manchester in the United Kingdom; Madrid, Spain; and Instanbul, Turkey.
Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of the CBP, said that pre-clearance helps identify security threats. Last year it expedited re-entry for 17 million US-bound passengers.
Here’s how the process works: while in flight, passengers complete a simple customs form. Upon arriving, they are directed to a self-service kiosk. The kiosk scans their passport, photographs them to ensure their identity matches the passport, scans the customs form electronically, and issues a receipt. A customs officer scans the receipt and may ask a few questions. Then he or she sends the passenger on their way.
And they get to go home a little bit faster.
We all think we know the ins and outs of air travel, knowing as much about the rules and tendencies of airlines. But it turns out, these hard and fast rules aren’t nearly as hard or fast as we previously thought. Good Morning America and Yahoo recently busted four travel myths, and discussed how they’re not always correct.
Economy is always cheaper than first class. Not so. It depends on the route and how many stops you’re willing to make along the way. For instance, the same flight between LA and New York could be $500 less in first class than it is in economy if you’re willing to incorporate a stop into your travel itinerary. If you’re more interested in saving money than time, it’s a good idea to investigate flights with at least one stop. It might take you longer to get there, but the first class amenities might make you forget all about the time.
Non-stop flights are “never” cheaper. It’s possible they aren’t, but this statement misses the real question: how valuable is your time? Time is money, especially when you’re talking about valuable, not-getting-it-back vacation time. If you want to have more time on vacation, and less time traveling, you may want to spend the extra money on that nonstop flight.
Discount airlines “always” have the cheapest flights. Again, no blanket statement can ever bear the weight of being true 100 percent of the time! The only way you’ll know which airline has the cheapest fare is to comparison shop. Use a comparison website like Expedia or Travelocity, and then check out the airlines’ websites themselves. You may occasionally find the big legacy airlines are offering the cheaper flights.
Summer flights are “never” delayed as much as winter flights. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Thunderstorms can involve severe turbulence, lightning strikes, icing due to sudden temperature change, hail damage, and water ingestion by the engines. When thunderstorms occur at or near hub airports, the probability of any of these occurring can halt inbound and outbound traffic, which in turn can create ripple effects to more destinations than a severe winter storm in the Dakotas.
The takeaway is there are no absolutes in travel, and myths are often just that. If you can be flexible and do your due diligence, there’s a good chance you can find a flight that will suit your needs and your desires.
- What are your favorite travel myths? (flyertalk.com)
Whether you live across town or across the country, everyone dreads the travel hassles that seem to accompany Thanksgiving. This year we want to ease your stress by debunking some of the common myths surrounding turkey travel — you already have enough stress spending time with family.
We found a recent USA Today article that debunked a lot of Thanksgiving travel myths, and will hopefully put your mind at ease.
While many think the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year, that’s not the case. According to Julie Hall, public relations director for AAA, it is the busiest travel day of the Thanksgiving weekend, but it isn’t the busiest travel day of the year.In fact, the busiest travel day of the year in 2014 was August 8, according to the Department of Transportation statistics. The day before Thanksgiving is only in the top 10. See, we’ve already reduced your stress a bit.
Another myth is that more airline delays coincide with Thanksgiving; this also is wrong. According to Christine Sarkis at SmarterTravel.com, Thanksgiving travel has averaged a 19 percent delay record over the past three years, while there has been an average delay of 22 percent in travel just from January to August of this year alone. So, we’re already three percent better.
Frequent fliers also have reason to be relieved. Most airlines no longer have blackout dates, but they do charge more miles for tickets during Thanksgiving week. So, just avoid traveling back on Sunday, when airlines really jack up the “points price,” and you can get back home without losing your shirt.
In fact, you might even be surprised to find a last-minute deal to a popular tourist destination and decide to ditch the extended family gathering altogether! After all, the “you’ll never find a last minute airfare deal” myth is just that: a myth. Just don’t bank on it. Plan ahead as much as possible.
Finally, keep in mind that while the Wednesday before Thanksgiving isn’t the busiest travel day of the year, remember that car travel that day will be its heaviest between 3 and 5 p.m., so you can avoid sitting and do more cruising if you get an early start, like in the morning. You can always nap when you get there.
Better yet, leave on Tuesday morning. Tell your boss we said it was okay.
Happy trails, and happy Thanksgiving, from Travelpro!
Want to know how the “other half” lives and travels? Delta wants you to, too. This summer, the airline proudly unveiled extensive renovations of Terminal 5 in LAX, the world’s fifth busiest airport. Their renovations were part of an $8 billion overall renovation of LAX.
The refurbishments include upgraded food and beverage offerings, extensive improvements to its Sky Club, new jet bridges, an expanded ticketing lobby, four additional security checkpoints, new baggage claim carousels, and international baggage recheck facilities. But Delta made sure got the most press was its new Delta ONE lounge.
Delta ONE is the airline’s first premium check-in lounge with a dedicated entrance and security accessible from the private lounge.
In other words, it’s paparazzi-proof.
The 3,200-square-foot space boasts high-end furnishings and amenities, such as a refreshment bar, two restrooms, check-in kiosks, two seating areas (with comfortable chairs that aren’t soldered to the chair next to it), and a service desk created by MotoArt and fashioned from the tail of a DC9 jet.
It is expected to service 150 to 200 passengers a day — travelers Delta counts (and there are 360 of them) as its top tier, highest revenue generating customers. Translation: rich and famous folks.
Those who purchase Delta’s VIP Select service will be eligible to use the lounge, which is just the first of such Delta ONE lounges to be constructed in New York, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, and Seattle. Other hub cities are expected to be added to the list. Also available as part of the Select service is the hiring of a Porsche to meet the plane on the tarmac and escort the passenger and his luggage off the airport grounds.
What’s the swankiest airport lounge you’ve ever visited? Have you ever been to a Delta ONE or similar lounge? And will you take us with you next time you go? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
Wish you could travel the world but don’t see how you could afford it? Meet Ben Schlappig, 25. Since he was 13, Ben has been doing just that. Traveling around the world. Wherever he likes. For free.
A bored, bright teenager, Schlappig figured out how to work the airline travel system, manipulating rewards programs and airline-affiliated credit card incentives and discovering in the process a game he could win. By the time he was 16, he had so mastered the game that he became the first person to cross the Pacific six times in one trip.He loved the high so much he dedicated himself to it full-time. After graduating from University of Florida with a degree in marketing (he traveled the entire time), he decided to start a business to help others do just what he does. The business is called PointsPro and its motto is simple: Make Your Dream Trip a Reality.
Schlappig flies first class and only stays in luxury hotels, all of which he pays for with points. And he does it constantly. A recent Rolling Stone story followed Schlappig around and mentioned that he flew to seven cities around the world in seven days.
He doesn’t stop, except to sleep for the night at one of his luxury hotels, enjoy a session in a high-price spa, and then it’s back to the airport for his next flight. Schlappig doesn’t see what he does as fraud; he just knows how the system works, and he works it. Hard.
He earns points with credit cards, and little-known tricks in the frequent flyer programs. He usually flies about four to six hours a day, and is a well-known figure in this small circle of enthusiasts in the game known as The Hobby. Fans greet him wherever he goes, and he receives a lot of attention — and free champagne — from those who are in the know.
He chronicles his ongoing world traversing adventures via his blog, One Mile at a Time. He has no permanent residence, living exclusively in hotels (he doesn’t pay for them either), and has logged 400,000 miles in the past year.
- The 11 Craziest Elite Airline Perks (wisebread.com)
- 6 ways to fly first class, for free (rss.cnn.com)
- “The Hobby” is an underground club of travellers who “hack” airlines to fly around the world for free (theplaidzebra.com)
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).
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?
In our last blog post, we talked about hotel hacks you can use while you’re on the road. With a little ingenuity and a few of the complimentary items most hotels offer, you can have a semi-civilized existence if you need food, a shave, to shine your shoes, or to even remove unwanted odors.
Another travel hacks video from Dave Hax tells us how to pack and travel with just a few simple items to make packing easier and our time on a plane or train more comfortable. Here are a few things we learned.
- If your shoes get dirty while you’re sightseeing, use the hotel shower cap to cover the soles. If you suffer from SFS (smelly feet syndrome), help yourself (please!) to the teabags in the hotel room and use them as shoe deodorizers.
- Don’t want to bring your laptop protector but need something to protect your computer inside your suitcase? Fold your hoodie around it and you’re good to go! Your hoodie can also be used as a makeshift pillow. Provided you’re not already using it as your laptop protector.
- If you’ve never learned how the Marines fold their clothes to make the most use of their duffel space, read our post on making a skivvy roll. It’s genius, and it helps you count pairs of underwear, socks, and t-shirts easily.
- If you don’t want to watch the in-flight movie, and don’t want a crick in your neck from hunching over your phone, pack a sandwich bag in your carry-on. Place the phone inside the bag and use the tray table clip to hold the bag at viewing level. Then, poke a small hole in the bag for your headphones. If you don’t have a bag, you can fold your sunglasses and use them as a stand.
- If you have a hard time remembering your room number, take a photo with your phone when you arrive.
- If your phone battery is running low and you don’t have a lot of time to charge it, put the phone in “flight mode” and it will charge faster.
- For all you McGyver fans out there, a clean, empty lip balm tube can be used to hide rolled-up bills when you’re going out.
With these tips, your next trip can be cleaner, more efficient, more enjoyable, and adequately charged. What other hacks do you use when you travel? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.