Virgin Atlantic Launches Wearable Tech Trial at Heathrow

September 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Wearable technology — fitness bands, health monitoring devices, Google Glass, and even garments that light up when your phone rings — is beginning to appear in business settings like airports. Instead of wearable technology being solely used as a consumer device, staffers are in the early testing stages of using it to help them do their jobs better. Airports have talked about using wearable technology in the past, but it finally took off (pardon the pun) when the airline, Virgin Atlantic, tested out Google Glass and the Sony Smartwatch at London-Heathrow Airport in the Upper Class Wing.

Virgin Airline's MollyThe technology was used to create a more customized customer service for passengers. Google Glass was used to identify passengers through facial recognition, while Sony Smartwatches were used to increase efficiency of passing along information instead of referring to paperwork.

Virgin Atlantic’s findings were presented at FTE Europe 2014. Although the trial lasted only six weeks, preliminary results were positive. The goal was to simplify the airport experience and reduce the amount of paperwork for the staff and passengers.

The only problem they discovered involved the reliability of connectivity, which they decided could be resolved by increasing wifi signals and using Bluetooth (something most travelers would love to see as well).

Right now, using wearable technology in airports is only in the testing phase, but as more airlines like Virgin Atlantic take the plunge and embrace the future, we may see wearable technology in the airport world quickly, and hopefully seamlessly.

 

Photo credit: Peter Russell (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Hotels Adapt Business Centers for Today’s Traveler

September 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As broadband gets faster, wifi is found in more places, and smartphones can do everything but walk your dog. We’re seeing the world being disrupted, thanks to all this new technology. One place we’re seeing it is in hotel business centers.

While it was an important hub of activity 15 years ago, it’s now that lonely, empty room sitting next to your hotel lobby. There are a few desks with computers and printers. They used to be quite popular, before tablets, laptops, and smartphones sent everyone to their rooms for the night.

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites - Paso Robles Business Center

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites – Paso Robles Business Center

Hotels are realizing a change is in order for the business center. USA Today’s Nancy Trejos wrote an article about different hotels are approaching the business center. Some are getting rid of theirs completely while others like having the space available if a guest needs something. Others are making hotel rooms more “business center-like” with desks, USB outlets, and reachable plugs. Hotel rooms are becoming a workplace, not just a place to sleep, and the hotels are having to adjust their business centers.

As long as a hotel accommodates the needs of their business oriented guests, they’re going to earn more business versus another hotel because they recognize the needs of their target customers. When I visit a new hotel, especially on business, I quickly check the business center and my room. Is the room going to be a help or a hindrance? Will I enjoy working there, or will it be uncomfortable?

I sometimes go to the business center so I can get out of the room and into a place where I can work better. Personally, I’d like it more if a business center was like a coffee shop with a friendly, social atmosphere. I think more people would use it because it’s more of what they are used to.

As hotels look to change their business centers, they need to focus on what their guests are trying to do. If they need access to a printer and fax machine, they may already have that capability, but no longer through a business center. If travelers want a light and enjoyable place to work, the business center should have several small tables and chairs so it can be more of a social setting.

Regardless of what’s happening, business centers are changing as a direct result of new technology that makes traditional business centers obsolete. What are some features you would like to see in your favorite business center? What could you do without? Leave a comment below and share some of your ideas with us.

Photo credit: Holiday Inn Express – Paso Robles, CA (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Seth Godin on Stress-Free Travel for People Who Stress Easily

August 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Some people love to travel and find it very relaxing. It’s another adventure they can’t wait to take. Other people get very stressed, and they’re less interested in the journey than the destination. What if I forget something? Which gate has my flight? Did it change? Where do I get my ticket? What about security?

On of our favorite marketing authors, Seth Godin, came up with a witty list of anecdotes called “Self Assurance Checklist for the Anxious Traveler.”

Author Seth Godin at PDF 2007

Author Seth Godin at PDF 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We wondered if some of his points may be a little far-fetched — ship your favorite pillow to your destination ahead of time — but we all know people for whom this would be a very reassuring and important detail. They want to be sure of a good night’s sleep, and they don’t want a crick in their neck from sleeping on an under-stuffed and overused hotel pillow.

Godin makes points about planning, parking, and packing. Research the area around the takeoff airport, the landing airport, and the hotel in case you forgot to pack something or need to kill time. He also recommends taking a photo of where you parked and emailing it to a friend, in case you forget where you left your car.

The last suggestion may seem to be a bit much since you could just as easily look at the photo once you return to the parking lot, but it doesn’t hurt for that extra step of preparation in case you lost your phone or it died.

When it comes to packing, lay out the clothes you want to take a few days before the flight, and see if they’ll all fit into your luggage. If it doesn’t, eliminate what you can until it does. This way you know everything fits and that it’s all packed and ready to go.

Traveling does not have to be stressful, even for the most anxious of travelers. If you know you’re going to be nervous about your trip, and want to make sure you have all the bases covered, read Seth Godin’s list a few times, and take flight.

Share any tips that you use to reduce stress when traveling.

TSA’s New Smartphone Rules May Cause Bigger Problems

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Thanks to new proposed rules regarding dead mobile phones and tablets, many travelers are worried about what could happen if their portable electronics die before they get through airport security.

The new rules require that all electronic devices must be able to be powered up at security, after it was revealed that Al Qaeda has figured out how to disguise bombs in electronic devices without detection. Currently, the only flights affected are those going into the United States, but not out of the country, or within it.

The Controversy

Cell phone and battery charger

Cell phone and battery charger

What happens when someone cannot power up his or her devices? According to an article by Conde Nast, the dead devices would be held at the airport or could be shipped to the owner’s house. If the devices are held at the airport, where would they be stored and what kind of security would oversee this storage? Many people have expressed concern at possibly being without their phones because of a dead battery, especially when their power cable is in their luggage.

The Costs

If the devices are to be shipped to the owner’s house, this method could be quite costly, especially for travelers returning to the US. Depending on how the policy is enacted and enforced, there could be a lot of confiscated devices to process.

One suggestion we’ve seen lately is to install electrical outlets and chargers at security stations. This means airports would have to relocate power supplies and install plugs. Then they would have to allow time for devices to charge enough to power up. However, this would solve the problem for travelers whose mobile device died in the airport. Another possibility would be charging stations outside security, where people can charge for several minutes before entering the line.

Will This Create Backups?

On the other hand, what kind of problems could be created as people fumble with dead phones, trying to charge them at the new stations, or even arranging them to have sent back home. And, what if you miss your flight? Though the new rules are for safety and security, the implementation process could cause quite a dilemma for many travelers if it’s not planned and implemented well.

Word to the wise: regardless of where you’re traveling, charge all your devices before heading out to catch your flight.

Gatwick Airport Tests Hi-Tech Security and Passenger Technology

August 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Remember how impressed you were the first time you saw an airport faucet that turned on automatically when you waved your hand in front of them? (Don’t pretend you weren’t!)

It’s almost shocking how far airports have come technologically since then. Case in point: Gatwick Airport’s chief information officer, Michael Ibbitson, recently told FutureTravelExperience.com about the new technology that’s not just wowing passengers, but also streamlining the passenger experience and making travel safer for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the technological advances Gatwick has made.

Speeding Up Bag Check

English: Gatwick South Terminal Zone K check-i...

Gatwick South Terminal Zone K check-in concourse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Automated bag check and check-in are technologies well on their way to mass adoption at this point, but Gatwick is aiming to make them more efficient than ever.

EasyJet has been testing a bag drop system fueled by Phase 5 Technology at its Gatwick hub. According to Ibbitson, the average passenger took 76 seconds to process — the goal is to get passengers through in 45 — so they’re tweaking the system, working toward maximum efficiency.

Automated Security

One of the major headaches of air travel, no matter how far you’re traveling, is getting through security. Gatwick is attempting to make security checkpoints smoother by automating them — the systems installed in 2012 have cut wait time to an average of a mere 107 seconds — and installing Security Max lanes that will enable even more passengers to prepare for the checkpoint at once.

Iris Scanning Technology

The wildest technology we read about: Biometrics as a single passenger token. The gist is that when you check in at the airport and drop your bag off, a machine also scans your iris — an identity marker that’s almost impossible to forfeit — and all your passenger information, from baggage tracking to your passport and boarding pass, is encoded into the scan.

A single scan of your iris is all it takes to move you through the rest of the travel process throughout the airport — and even at your destination.

According to the Future Travel Experience post, this technology is well within reach — it’s the widespread implementation of the technology at airports worldwide that will take some time.

What technology would you most like to see implemented in your favorite airport? The sky’s the limit, so they say — leave a comment with your loftiest technology dreams.

How to Cope With The Worst Travel Scenarios

August 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Not to diminish any travel woes you’ve experienced — trust me, we’ve all been through enough horrible delays and cancellations to know how frustrating they are — but after reading a recent Budget Travel blog post, I’m grateful for the low drama factor of my travel mishaps.

If you thought having your flight canceled and being stuck overnight is the worst it can get, think again. Here are a couple of the worst-case scenarios I hope you’ll never have to face.

Getting Arrested in a Foreign Country

English: Chancery of the Manila American Embas...

Chancery of the Manila American Embassy. Official photo from THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S REGISTER OF CULTURALLY SIGNIFICANT PROPERTY. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve all heard horror stories about winding up in a Thai prison…well, for some it’s a reality.

Cultural differences can sometimes translate into legal differences, too — or maybe you’ve just behaved very badly — but your first step in the right direction if you’ve gotten into legal trouble is to call the embassy. They may not be able to get you off the hook right away, but the embassy will at least help ensure that you have legal counsel.

It would also behoove you to check out the State Department’s website for insight into the customs and laws of the area you’re traveling to.

Finding Yourself in the Middle of a Natural Disaster

This actually happened to me back in the ’90s: During a sales meeting in Key West, Fla., a hurricane rolled through during the night. There was a lot of wind and rain and the power went out, but we were otherwise unaffected.

If you find yourself in a more severe situation, the best thing to do is listen to local authorities. Also be sure to contact family and loved ones as soon as possible to ensure they know you’re all right.

If you have access to the Internet, your local embassy’s website is a great resource for emergency personnel, hospitals and the like — but the Budget Travel article recommends finding a major hotel if you can’t get online and need to know what to do beyond following the authorities’ instructions.

Our favorite tip: Register your travel abroad with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program — we’d never heard of it until we read the Budget Travel blog post, but it’s a great idea and sounds easy to implement.

Have you experienced one of these nightmare travel scenarios? How did you react, and how did the situation turn out? Leave a comment and tell your story.

Why Are Smaller Flights Cancelled More Often?

July 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

There are a lot of contributing factors that lead to canceled flights, although it seems to happen more to smaller flights on smaller regional airlines. And there may be a reason for that.

It’s easy to assume that lightly booked flights are always the first casualties — and that’s true to an extent, according to Scott McCartney, the Wall Street Journal’s travel editor. A video featured on Peter Greenberg’s Travel Detective site explains some of the other factors contributing to a flight’s cancellation.

The airlines’ ultimate goal is to inconvenience the fewest number of passengers. That often means that the lightly booked flights are the first to go, but that’s almost never the only reason.

Mechanical Problems

Aircraft: Canadair CL-600-2B19 Regional Jet CR...

Canadair CL-600-2B19 Regional Jet CRJ-200ER (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Issues with the physical workings of airplanes are the most common factors that cause flight cancellations. If a plane that’s due to carry a heavily booked flight has a mechanical problem, the airline may simply swap out planes with one with a much lighter passenger load. For those passengers, they are out of luck.

Weather

Lightly booked flights and small planes are influenced more by inclement weather. It’s fairly simple to cancel a single turn for a regional jet: The flight out gets canceled and the flight in gets canceled. You’ll probably end up waiting for the next one, or possibly end up on a two hour bus ride to your final destination.

Economic Factors

McCartney stresses that a flight is rarely canceled for purely economic reasons. It’s never that simple. Airlines have to pay their crews regardless of whether they fly; the only savings are fuel, which does represent a large amount of money, but not enough to be the sole motivator.

Unless a flight is canceled due to bad weather, the airline will also have to pay for passengers’ hotels, meals, and sometimes re-booking on other airlines. Even on small planes and lightly booked flights, paying for all that can be a major cost to the airline.

Tips For Avoiding Cancellations

McCartney suggests that paying attention to whether you’re flying out of a small airport or big hub can make a big difference in whether your flight will be canceled.

If you have a choice and are able to handle early mornings, opt to fly out as early in the day as possible. If your flight is canceled, you’ll have a better chance of getting re-booked on a flight later that day, even if it’s just on standby.

Stuck at the airport and not sure when you’ll be getting home? Check out our blog post with tips for making the most of your situation.

How to Avoid Being Stranded at the Airport

July 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a frequent traveler, you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you get the notification: Flight canceled. There are few worse feelings when you’re headed to an important meeting, on a long-awaited vacation or — worst yet — home after a busy time away.

There’s a silver lining: Conde Nast Traveler’s The Daily Traveler blog published a post with some great tips for making your way home if your flight’s been canceled and you’re stuck at an airport.

A busy airport

(Photo credit: eGuide Travel)

The steps CN outlines are ones I haven’t given a lot of thought to honestly. I’ve had a few major cancellations happen to me in my travels — and while I don’t recommend it, I pretty much rely on my past experiences of “playing the game.” The key to winning said game? Make sure you have a lot of alternatives.

The first step for me has always been to approach the airline directly to find out your options. But from there, what you do depends on how badly you want to get home.

Having a sort of slush fund for a recovery budget is one thing CN’s article recommends. Recovery budgets and security measures like travel insurance can alleviate the financial burden of a canceled flight or long delay, but it doesn’t necessarily make getting home any easier.

When I lived in Michigan, I had a flight canceled during a snowstorm — there were no flights coming or going out of the Detroit airport. But we were headed to Grand Rapids, which was only a few hours’ drive — so my coworkers and I rented a car and drove through the snow to reach our final destination. (Renting a car is often cheaper than getting a hotel room.)

I encountered a similar situation in a past life, when I was working on the East Coast. I had a presentation to give in Hyde Park, N.Y., and our flight out of Philadelphia got canceled. We didn’t have the option to spend the night — we had a presentation to give and had to be there — so we drove six hours to our destination and made the presentation as planned.

However, the airline refused to surrender our luggage to us before we left, so we met our bags at the Hyde Park airport when the canceled flight eventually arrived. In that case, we just had to punt, wear the same clothes from the day before, and give the presentation. There are times the show must go on, regardless of what you’re wearing. (It was also a valuable lesson in why it’s better to travel with carry-on bags than checking them on short trips.)

If driving isn’t an option for you, my two favorite tips from CN’s article are to find an airport with a lot of flights and be open to alternate airports. If you’re reasonably flexible with your travel plans, you can often find another way home or to your destination with minimal pain.

What’s your biggest cancellation nightmare? Commiserate in the comments section and give us some ideas.

How To Improve And Differentiate The Passenger Experience

July 15, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

Go through enough harrowing travel experiences, and you might start to wonder whether airports, airlines and security personnel are conspiring to conduct a cruel, long-term experiment on just how much stress and misery travelers can take.

Contrary to popular belief, many officials are working to make the experience better for travelers. An encouraging blog post on FutureTravelExperience.com features some technologies and ideas that airports are trying out to make travel more pleasurable.

Music

English: Scandinavian Airlines Airport Lounge ...

Scandinavian Airlines Airport Lounge at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (HEL). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many airports have started introducing music — both recorded and performed live — as a way to enhance the passenger experience. And this choice wasn’t made on a whim! Results of a study by researchers at Montreal’s McGill University released in March 2013 say that listening to music helps with four major health-related factors: “management of mood, stress, immunity and as an aid to social bonding.”

FTE’s article mentions regular musical performers at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, and that introducing music for its travelers’ enjoyment has increased the airport’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) score to 4.14 out of 5.

I have even enjoyed an authentic Chicago blues band while waiting for my luggage at Chicago Midway’s baggage carousels. This is one way to reduce the stress, while waiting for your bag to arrive at the carousel.

Places To Rest

It’s safe to say that much of the stress and unhappiness around air travel happens because of a lack of rest. From waking up early to wait in long security lines and gate seating areas, everything’s a little worse when you don’t have the rest you need.

Helsinki Airport has created some potential solutions to the stress and exhaustion of travel: relaxation areas with sleeping tubes, rocking chairs and even a book swap.

Traveling to Abu Dhabi? The Guide To Sleeping In Airports, a blog dedicated to exactly what the name says, mentions sleep pods right out in the middle of the terminal with roll-up shades that completely enclose travelers trying to get a bit of shut-eye.

In the United States, Minute Suites at airports in Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Philadelphia offer a private place to catch a quick nap or enjoy some peace and quiet to get a bit of work done at the airport. The price is $34 an hour.

Or if you’ve got the time, you can purchase a day pass at an airline’s travel lounge and spend a few hours there between your flights. For example, a day pass at Delta’s Sky Club is $50 for a single day. The chairs are comfortable, there’s snack food available, and even easy access to electrical outlets and wifi.

What’s Your Experience?

Have you experienced any of these new travel amenities? Seen something we didn’t mention! Comment here with your thoughts.

Airliners, Travelers Need Luggage Etiquette

July 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As airlines keep raising and creating fees, people are always going to look for ways to avoid paying them. Luggage fees are no different. No one wants to spend an extra $50 just to to check one suitcase, so everyone is bringing on carry-on’s, which are creating further problems and serious breaches in good manners.

As passengers, we need to have some etiquette about our luggage, like not whacking people in the noggin with it, or not cramming both your bags in the overhead bin. This prevents other people from getting their bag into the bin, which means they’ll have to gate check them, which means they’ll have to get them at baggage claim. It also means the boarding process is slowed down, which means we all reach our destination much more slowly.

English: Luggage compartments of an Airbus 340...

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

Pack lightly. If your rollaboard is completely full for a 4 day trip, you may have too much stuff. Imagine having to pay for your luggage by the pound. Now what could you get rid of? What is it you don’t actually need? Once you figure that out, you may be down to a reasonable amount.

Of course, you could always ship your belongings, possibly for much less than you’re going to pay in baggage fees. You can even ship your suitcase itself in a box. Ask your local Fedex or UPS store for help.

Finally, arrive early, and maybe consider buying a seat upgrade. For the cost of a checked bag, you may be able to upgrade for the same amount, and ride in much more comfort than your original seat. Not only that, you can get on board early and find a place for your luggage. So weigh your options: fly for less — in less comfort — and check/gate check your bag, or fly in more comfort and have your bag on board with you.

Passengers aren’t the only ones who should have to display some patience and manners. We hope the airlines can encourage this etiquette as well. Make sure people are only putting one bag in the overhead bin. Adopt a seating system where the people who sit near the back can get on first (and then make sure they’re not putting their bag up front). And would it be too much to ask that the overhead bins actually be large enough to hold everyone’s bags?

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