Once again, airlines are charging their customers new fees in an effort to boost revenue. If you’re getting ready to roll your eyes, not so fast – once you hear some of the perks that accompany these optional fees, you may be more than willing to fork over the extra dough.
It’s no secret that airlines make the majority of their revenue from the extra fees they charge, namely, baggage fees, in-flight meals, cancellation fees, and the like. While we’re all guilty of griping about airline fees (and no one likes paying them), many consumers don’t realize that thanks to the high cost of oil, these additional fees help keep fare prices from skyrocketing – up to 15% higher, according to some experts. In fact, such fees bring in more than $15 billion a year and are one of the reasons many airlines are profitable.
Unfortunately, revenue from such fees is dropping. According to recent figures released by the government, 2013′s Q2 revenue from bag fees fell seven percent compared to the same period last year. In other words, airlines are now scrambling to find new sources of revenue, and this means more fees.
Thankfully, airlines have learned a lesson from their last few fee changes. Instead of opting to charge customers more for things that used to be free, they’re using this as an opportunity to find new ways to improve their customers’ travel experience by offering VIP worthy perks and services in exchange for a small fee. While some of these upgrades have been around for a while (think access to private lounges or a seat with extra legroom on your flight), some of these new upgrades are designed to make travelers’ lives easier.
For example, we’ve all had those times when we need to get work done on our flight, but can barely fit a large, unwieldy laptop on the tray table. To remedy this issue, some airlines are now offering in-flight iPad rentals. You’ve probably also had those moments where you find yourself wishing you’d sprung for the extra leg room upgrade – now, many airlines are offering in-flight upgrades. And, our personal favorite, some carriers are even offering luggage delivery service.
As airlines begin to focus more on customer experience, particularly through the use of technology, we expect that we’ll see more perks come available in the future. According to John F. Thomas of aviation and travel consulting company L.E.K. Consulting, “We’ve moved from takeaways to enhancements. It’s all about personalizing the travel experience.”
Would you pay extra for VIP-worthy add-ons? If so, what type of perks would you like to see airlines offer? Share with us in the comments section or via our Facebook page.
- 5 things to watch in airline industry in 2014 (star-telegram.com)
- Gadgets Can Finally Be Used During Airplane Take-Off, British Airways Decides (news.softpedia.com)
If you’ve ever wished you could bypass extensive airport security lines, now you can. A private traveler program called CLEAR now gives travelers the opportunity to jump to the head of the airport security line — think of it as a sort of high tech version of Disney’s Fast Track pass.
It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not. In fact, the CLEAR program was awarded Safety Act Certification by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, making it the only expedited traveler program to be placed on the “Approved Product List for Homeland Security.”
How CLEAR WorksIn order to join the CLEAR program, interested participants are required to go through a somewhat extensive application process. Those who wish to participate in the program need to provide everything from their social security number to the make and model of their car. Additionally, participants must have their iris and thumb print scanned and pay $179 per year for their membership.
Once approved, users will receive their microchipped CLEARcard, which they can then present to CLEAR representatives at participating airlines. Once scanned (they asked for those iris and thumb print scans for a reason), members can then proceed to the front of the security line. The only downside to the CLEAR program is that, unlike the TSA’s Pre-Check program, CLEAR members must still go through the standard TSA security screening process, shoe removal and all.
Currently, the CLEAR program is available in seven airports within the United States: San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, Orlando, and Westchester County. The program also has two more Texas locations on the way.
So the real question is, at $179 per year, is the CLEAR program worth it? That depends on where you’re flying to and from, and how often you travel. As they say, time is money, so if you frequently fly in and out of one of the participating airports, the $179 per year fee might be worth the ability to breeze through airport security in five minutes.
Would you participate in the CLEAR program, or are you a current member? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.
- The longest airport security line: TSA to start security background checks (mysecuritysign.com)
- Keep your shoes on. Huntsville airport adds TSA PreCheck to expedite security screening (gallery, video) (al.com)
- TSA PreCheck program expands in Utah (ksl.com)
- TSA Rolls Out Expedited Screening Program At SoCal Airports (losangeles.cbslocal.com)
While traveling can be an enriching, wonderful, life changing experience, it can also be stressful, especially if you’re not well prepared. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, there are certain things you can do to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible. We have compiled a list of our five favorite travel tips from the TravelPro team and other travel industry experts to ensure your next trip goes off without a hitch.
1. Get in the (time) zone
There’s nothing worse than wasting the first day of your trip feeling completely jet-lagged. Instead of making an abrupt switch, set your watch to the time zone you’ll be visiting as soon as you board your flight and act accordingly. This means that if you’re visiting Thailand and it’s 11pm Indochina Time, then guess what? Time for some shut eye.
2. Invest in an international SIM cardIf you travel abroad quite often, an international travelers’ SIM card is worth the investment. You can pick these up on sites like Ekit and most work in over one hundred countries around the world. You can even register your SIM card with Ekit and have it map your journey, allowing friends and family members to not only follow your travels, but ensure you’re alive and well.
3. Get your finances in order
If you’re leaving the country, do your research. Your debit card may be useless in many countries. In some places (such as Myanmar), ATMs are not connected to international networks, whereas in others (i.e. Japan), you’ll find that your card isn’t even the correct size for ATMs. Also, don’t just inform your bank of your travel plans once. Be sure to call and confirm they’ve noted your account before you leave. Finally, exchange a small amount of money — enough to last a day or so — prior to leaving the United States. In the event that you run into issues withdrawing money, you won’t find yourself stranded and penniless in a foreign country.
4. Plan for the worst
As the saying goes, expect the best, but plan for the worst. Leave copies of your itinerary and all travel documents with a trusted friend or family member. Hide an emergency credit card and back-up identification in an inconspicuous location, keep scanned copies of everything (especially your passport!) on your computer, and back-up your photos as often as possible. If you are pick-pocketed or your hotel room is robbed, you’ll be grateful you took these extra precautions.
5. Don’t make it obvious you’re a traveler
Nothing screams “I’m new here!” than walking around with tags on your luggage. As soon as you pass through customs, be sure to rip the tags off of your bags and discard them. If you need to pick up a taxi to your hotel, leave the international area make your way over to domestic arrivals. Chances are, you’ll end up paying less for that ride anyway, since some international cab drivers try to take advantage of foreign visitors.
Are you a savvy traveler? Have you picked up any valuable tips on your travels? Share your tips with other travelers in the comments section.
- How To Choose The Best International Cellular Data Plan (forbes.com)
- New SIM card gets you local data rates everywhere, launches in HP tablets and Google Chromebooks (venturebeat.com)
- Why Traveling with Gift Cards are Safer than Carrying Cash (honeymoon.answers.com)
There’s nothing worse than taking a flight when cold and flu season is in full swing. Combine the confined space with that nonstop cougher across the aisle, and you’re almost guaranteed to wake up at your destination with a scratchy throat. Fortunately, with a little education and preparation, you can dodge any viruses that come your way, even if you find yourself sharing a seat with your neighbor’s gross used tissues.
Why is it easier to pick up the cold or flu on a plane? Many of us seem to have an easier time getting sick when flying. While many people believe it’s due to the “recycled air” on flights, that’s actually a bit of a myth. In general, most planes use a 50/50 mix of outside and recycled air, while some planes actually use more outside air. Additionally, newer airplanes are equipped with HEPA air filters that capture 99.9% of particles, including airborne viruses.So what’s the real culprit? Well, aside from any sick people in your immediate area, it’s actually the germs that linger on the surfaces you touch — the seatback tray, arm rests, seat, and so on. You know, the areas of the plane that dozens of people have touched, rested on… maybe even drooled on? And let’s be honest, those airplane bathroom sinks don’t really lend themselves to a good hand washing. To prevent picking up a virus from the surfaces on the plane, wipe everything down with an antibacterial wipe, use hand sanitizer while in-flight and give your hands a good washing with anti-bacterial soap when you first arrive at your destination.
Another common cause of the post-flight virus is low cabin humidity. At very low levels of humidity, we become dehydrated and the mucus in our noses and throats (i.e. our natural defense system) dries up, making it that much easier for germs to invade our system. In order to prevent this from happening, it’s important to stay well-hydrated while traveling. Drink plenty of water before and during your flight and consider using saline nasal drops to keep your sinuses hydrated.
The next time you’re getting ready to fly, don’t forget to stock up on antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer and perhaps a few vitamin C tablets for good measure.
Do you have a tried-and-true method for staying healthy while flying? Share with us in the comments section.
- Get out the hand sanitizer, flu season gears up (stltoday.com)
- Using Hand Sanitizers for Flu Prevention in the Workplace (staples.com)
- Health Department: Flu season slow to arrive, but certainly on the way (vtdigger.org)
- Stay Healthy: Tips for Avoiding the Flu (pediatrics.answers.com)
- Why you really get sick on planes – and how to prevent it (io9.com)
- How to stay healthy during holiday travel (kineticfix.com)
- Avoid catching a cold while flying (wwlp.com)
- Ten ways to stay healthy while travelling (brighterlife.ca)
If you have flown internationally more than once, you’ve likely found yourself tied up in a frustratingly long customs line upon arriving at your destination. Between having to fill out customs forms and wait while dozens of people in front of you are questioned by customs officials, there is a good chance you will find yourself waiting anywhere from a few minutes to an hour in order to officially enter your destination country. Now, some airports are attempting to fix this issue through the use of a new Automated Passport Control (APC) program.
The APC kiosks – which were developed by the Vancouver Airport Authority and U.S. Customs and Border Protection – were first tested in Vancouver International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport with great success. Designed to help travelers move more quickly through the border clearance process by entering information at a self-service kiosk, the APC can be used by all U.S. and Canadian passport holders.At the touch screen self-service kiosk, travelers will be prompted to answer a series of questions. Once finished, a receipt will be issued and travelers will present their passport, travel information and receipt to an officer for verification.
Dylan DeFrancisci, Director of Customers and Border Protection Preclearance Operations, told FutureTravelExperience.com: “Automated Passport Control is a key component of CBP’s modernization strategy at ports of entry. By allowing travelers the option to enter their own passport and identification information at the self-service kiosk, we are able to increase efficiency while enhancing security.”
At O’Hare Airport, the average U.S. Customs wait time during peak hours was reduced by 33% and the number of passengers waiting for more than 60 minutes has dropped by 58% and the number of passengers missing their connecting flights fell by 31%. Thanks to its success, the Automated Passport Control program has been expanded to several more airports throughout North America, including the Montréal-Trudeau Airport.
We’d love to hear your feedback! Do you think these kiosks are a step in the right direction, or do you feel the traditional customs clearance method is best? If you’ve had opportunity to use one of the new Automated Passport Control kiosks, how was the experience? Share with us in the comments section below, or via our Facebook page.
- We Used an Automatic Passport Kiosk and Loved Every Second of It (jaunted.com)
- Passport kiosks at Bush Airport (texpate.com)
When it comes to budget air travel, Southwest Airlines is the go-to option for many savvy travelers. While Southwest’s fares may have risen slightly in the last few years (according to some experts, up to 39% over the last five years) the airline continues to offer an array of complimentary perks that are practically unheard of in a time when airlines seem to be continually looking for new fees to charge their customers.
While many airlines are beginning to charge fees not just for checked baggage, but also for carry on luggage, Southwest Airlines continues to offer free checked bags. In fact, each passenger is allowed to check up to two bags free of charge. The airline also offers smaller perks, such as complimentary snacks in-flight. However, one of the biggest perks Southwest offers is one that many travelers were unaware of: until recently, passengers could no-show for a flight without penalty. Instead, the value of their ticket would simply be applied to their account as a credit for future use, no questions asked.
Recently, however, Southwest Airlines opted to change its ultra-forgiving policy to one that penalizes travelers that simply no-show for flights. While the airline is becoming a bit more strict, Southwest’s policy still remains extremely forgiving, especially in comparison to other major airlines. While passengers who no-show for their flight will lose the face value of their ticket, not all hope is lost.
Under their new no-show policy, Southwest Airlines will continue to credit the face value of the ticket to a customer’s account as long as they notify the airline of their absence within 10 minutes of the flight’s scheduled departure. Additionally, customers can still make changes to nonrefundable tickets ahead of time without penalty. In contrast, most major airlines charge up to $200 for itinerary changes.
While Southwest’s new policy does tighten the reins a bit, we’re not complaining. After all, giving the airline notice of your cancellation up to ten minutes before the flight leaves a simple trade-off in exchange for the ability to change your itinerary up to the day of travel. Without breaking the bank.
- Southwest buys LaGuardia slots from American Airlines (bizjournals.com)
- Southwest Airlines to get 22 AA slots at New York LaGuardia, with Virgin America to get 12 slots (aviationblog.dallasnews.com)
With the economy slowly but surely returning back to normal, business travel is back on the rise. In the first quarter of this year, business travel accounted for 56.8% of all trips taken, making it the most popular reason for travel. For hotels, business travelers are their bread and butter, accounting for almost 20% of occupied room nights in the United States and 30% of lodging industry revenue.
While this recent increase in travel for both business and pleasure is undoubtedly good news for hotels, airlines and the like, it appears that as a result, U.S. hotels are less willing to cut corporate travel managers a deal on hotel rates.Unlike small companies (or the average traveler), corporations don’t simply book employee business travel on third party booking sites such as Priceline or Expedia. Instead, each fall, corporate travel managers negotiate the following years’ rates with the hotels they do business with – and for better or for worse, they are locked into these rates for the following year.
According to research conducted by Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the Tisch Center for Hospitality at NYU, corporate travel managers can expect to pay between 5 – 6% more when booking hotel rooms for business travelers in 2014. Unfortunately, corporations aren’t the only ones that will pay more for lodging in the upcoming year – overall, the average daily rate for hotel rooms has risen by 4.5%. According to Nashville-based STR, the average daily rate for US hotels through July is $109.95.
While a 5 – 6% rate increase may not be crippling to independent travelers, this type of rate increase can have a massive impact on the travel budgets of large corporations that spend hundreds of thousands per year on business travel.
As a result, many corporations are opting to work with more affordable hotels (such as Holiday Inn) as opposed to luxury, full service hotels. Others are simply allowing their employees to choose their own accommodations, as long as they stay within the allotted budget – a tactic which is appealing to millennials who prefer to make their own decisions.
- What should you expect from your business travel provider? (practicallyperfectpa.com)
- Short-Term Apartment Rentals: What You Need to Know (apartmentguide.com)
- Business travel spending expected to rise in 2014 (nbcnews.com)
- Business travel goes super sci fi, leaps forward 50 years (tnooz.com)
When it comes to taking medicine with you on a flight, many people are unsure of the proper protocol. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of traveling with a cold, what should you pack, tablets or cold syrup? And if you do bring cough syrup with you through airport security, is it subject to the Travel Security Administration’s 3 ounce or less 3-1-1 rule for liquids?
If given the option, your best bet is to skip the liquid medicine and pack tablets or gel caps in your carry on luggage instead. This way, you can simply avoid any issues at the TSA security check point.
That being said, the TSA does allows some wiggle room for what it refers to as medically necessary liquids, such as liquid medicine, baby formula and breast milk. However, they do not clarify if over the counter medicines are considered “medically necessary,” meaning it can be left up to the discretion of each airport’s security team.
If you strongly prefer liquid medicine over tablets or gel caps but don’t want to chance having a full bottle discarded at security, you may also be able to locate travel size bottles of certain brands of cold medicine at your local pharmacy. Alternatively, you may also simply transfer your liquid medicine into a travel size container and include it in your 3-1-1 liquids bag at the TSA checkpoint.
If you have no particular preference between tablets or liquid cold medicine, your best bet is to simply stick with cold tablets. Not only will they take up less space in your carry on luggage, but if you need to take a dose in flight, you won’t have to worry about any spillage.
In fact, if you find yourself traveling often, it may be a smart idea to simply set aside a separate bag of travel-friendly over the counter medicines to have available, should you need them.
- Airline Travel – The Steps For Boarding a Plane (itravel01.wordpress.com)
There’s no two ways about it, traveling during the holiday season is rough. Not only are airports and highways busier than ever, but so are you. If you’re planning on spending the holiday season out of town, you now have the added stress of not only packing and making travel arrangements, but also ensuring that all of your holiday gifts are purchased and make it to the appropriate destination.
With this in mind, we asked our in-house travel experts: when heading out of town for the holidays, what’s the best way to ensure that your holiday gifts arrive at the appropriate destination?
Shopping before you go
With so much going on during the holiday season, the last thing many people want to worry about is last minute holiday shopping. For this reason, many people tend to purchase their holiday gifts before they leave town.
While going this route may put your mind at ease, logistically, this may create a bit of a headache during travel. Depending on how many gifts you need to transport, you may pay extra baggage fees due to additional weight — you may even find yourself paying extra for a suitcase reserved solely for gifts! If you do plan on this option, remember, do not wrap your presents until you arrive at your destination, as TSA may need to unwrap them for security purposes. Also, make sure none of your gifts are on the TSA’s list of prohibited items.
Shopping upon arrival
If you have a day or two to squeeze in some shopping and you’re going to an area with plenty of stores (a large city or somewhere in close proximity to shopping), this may be a good option. However, if you’re planning on visiting a tropical island two days before you’re due to exchange gifts, you may find yourself gifting hotel gift shop trinkets to your loved ones. While we all know it’s the thought that counts, the little ones in your family may not be overjoyed to receive a conch shell with googly eyes.
Your best bet?
The TravelPro team agrees: if it’s possible, your best option is to shop for the bulk of your presents online, then have them delivered to your destination. This will allow you to get your shopping done ahead of time, without having to worry about the logistics of getting your gifts from point A to point B. You save yourself the hassle and cost of a heavy suitcase, or even a second suitcase. Everyone gets what they want, and you get to relax and shop on your own time.
Or you could just give gift cards.
- How to Buy Holiday Gifts That Won’t be Regifted (doorinface.com)
- Top Tips to get your Holiday Orders in time (shapeways.com)
- How to buy holiday gifts without losing your mind (katieleigh.wordpress.com)
- Buy This, Not That: Holiday Edition (money.usnews.com)
- 10 Tips for Holiday Shopping 2013 (suddenlyfrugal.com)
There’s nothing worse than having a delayed or cancelled flight, especially if you’re on a tight schedule or need to pick up a connecting flight. However, if you’re feeling as if you’ve been running into less complications and delays while traveling this year, you’re not mistaken: records show that when it comes to flight times, things are looking up.
According to the US Department of Transportation, flight times for the first half of 2013 (January to June) were the best they’ve been in 19 years. During this period, the top 16 airlines arrived at their destinations within 15 minutes of the scheduled time 78.1% of the time. In addition, flight cancellations are at the seventh-lowest rate in 19 years, with only 1.68% of flights being cancelled during the first half of this year.
Why the sudden change? While airlines have become much more focused on customer experience in the recent years, it’s safe to say that the effort to stay on schedule is also a cost-saving measure. Flight delays aren’t just frustrating for passengers, they can also be quite costly for the airlines themselves.
Researchers from Northern Illinois University recently discovered that every minute a flight is delayed at the gate resulted in a $30 increase in costs for the airline. Additionally, the US Department of Transportation has created stricter penalties for tarmac delays, fining airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for violations of this rule. Last month, United Airlines was hit with a $1.1 million fine for tarmac delays at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
Of course, the improvement in flight times also has something to do with the economy. According to Alan Bender, professor of Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, “Airline mergers and the lackluster economy have meant fewer flights — and fewer flights means less congestion and therefore, better on-time performance.”
Wondering which airline and airport to select in order to improve your chances of being on time? According to the US Department of Transportation’s report, the most on-time airlines were Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines. The least on-time were American Eagle Airlines, AirTran Airways and ExpressJet Airlines. When it comes to airport delays, much of it has to do with weather. Newark’s Liberty International had the lowest on-time arrivals at 67.1%, and Phoenix had the highest, with 85.46% of flights arriving on time.
We’d love to hear your feedback. Have you noticed an improvement in arrival times this year? Tell us in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.
- Airlines improved on-time performance in August (seattlepi.com)
- United Airlines Fined $1.1 Million for Long Tarmac Delays (on.aol.com)
- Airlines On Endless Quest for Better Boarding (travelproluggageblog.com)