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

July 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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 The ban was originally enacted because terrorism experts were concerned that explosives could be concealed in electronics as large as laptops and mobile tablets.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TSA May Require Additional Screening for Additional Items at Airport

July 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Bradley Gordon (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Business Travelers, Beware of Cyber hackers on Planes

February 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It seems we can find ways to connect with the world, even from 30,000 feet. While flying used to be a no-wifi zone, connectivity is now available on 78 percent of US flights, according to an article on TravelWeekly.com.

This may be good for business travelers, but it can be bad for security while in-flight. According to Richard Blech, CEO of Secure Channels, a cyber defense firm, “The easiest way to look at this is that [wifi] is a public network, and public networks, in general, are not secure…If there is someone on the aircraft that wants to get into the network, they are going to get into the network.”

A man sitting on an airplane wearing a knit tube over his head and his laptop computer. His hands fit into little openings near the laptop.

No, this won’t help.

According to several security experts, something most travelers don’t consider when using onboard wifi is their proximity to others. “You’ve got three to five hours locked in, and everyone’s stationary,” Blech said. “That’s a world of time for a hacker.”

With this in mind, should you avoid logging on while flying? No, but common sense should prevail. Here are some tips for being mindful of a possible cyber threat while en route:
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Delta Premium Economy to Premiere in 2017

February 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For years, customers have complained about the increasing discomforts of flying: the ever-shrinking seat size and legroom, lack of food options, and other amenities. One airline even boldly touts that its seats don’t recline! (Actually, that might not be an entirely bad thing, having ridden with people’s seatbacks in our laps before.)

So it’s no surprise that the major carriers are looking to position themselves as being attentive to their passengers’ comfort needs. United recently unveiled its p.s. (premium service) option and now Delta has announced its own Premium Economy program to bring customers more comfort when they travel.
Delta Airlines A350 jet
Premium Economy will premiere later this year when the company’s A350 aircrafts are introduced into the fleet. In these new planes, Premium Economy will have 48 seats and will only be available on specific international flights.

The most luxurious of all Delta’s enhanced seat offerings, Premium Economy will have a dedicated cabin and attendants, up to 38 inches of seat pitch, up to 19 inches seat width, and up to nine inches of recline. Currently, according to SeatGuru, the standard economy seat average is between 31 and 34 with a 17- to 18.5-inch width.

The seating will also feature adjustable head and foot rests, as well as name brand amenities, pre-flight drink service, special meal service, and a 13.3-inch seatback entertainment screen. Premium Economy passengers will also have priority security clearance, check-in, boarding, and baggage handling.
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Travel Tip: How Hackers are Targeting Frequent Flier Miles

February 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve worked hard to earn your frequent flier miles, logging all those flights and using your airline credit card whenever you can. And you probably think your miles and points are safe and secure, just waiting for you to redeem them.

Except your miles might be the target of hackers who have figured out how to crack your account, and are plundering it, selling those points for cash or tickets. Now that most airlines no longer send out monthly statements that keep travelers updated on their balances, hackers have begun taking advantage of the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality to do their worst.
Different loyalty cards for hotel stays, car rentals, and frequent flyer miles
But you can protect yourself from these hackers if you just take a few security steps.

First, you need to protect your airline account. Fortunately, most airlines quit using the 4-digit PIN code they had used for years, and replaced it with full password protection. But that doesn’t help you if you’re still using your dog’s name as the password. Pick a complex password that’s hard to remember or even figure out, the more complex, the better.

Rather than try to remember the password or write it down, use a password management app like 1Password or LastPass to keep track of it. Better yet, let the app generate a complex password. You can choose a random scattering of letters, numbers, and special characters, or a string of unrelated words, and store them in the app. Security experts estimate that passwords like this can take centuries to break.
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What to do If Your Flight is Canceled

January 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s every weary traveler’s nightmare scenario: the flight you’re supposed to be on is canceled. What you do next will determine whether your day is totally ruined or ultimately redeemed. Not every situation can be remedied, but knowing a few action steps can make all the difference in getting you to your destination.

Get on the phone.

The faster you get on the phone with the airline to rebook your flight, the better your chances are of making it to your final destination. It’ll do you little good to stand in the long line with everyone else who’s waiting to speak with the ticket agent at the gate. Tip: If you feel like talking to a gate agent, go to another gate of the same airline where a flight recently left. They’re all plugged into the same system, and can do just as much for you as your original gate’s agent.

If your flight is canceled, there are a few options for you, if you act fast.

Adjust your itinerary.

Be sure to have some alternatives in mind, because the agents don’t always know the destination region where you’re flying. For example, you may not be able to get into Chicago due to weather, but if Chicago is your final destination, you could reroute through Milwaukee or even Indianapolis and be within driving distance of the Windy City. Thinking through your options and presenting them to whomever you’re working with to rebook your flight will let the agent know you’re flexible.
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Travel Insurance: It Pays to Know Your Coverage

December 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve ever suffered a missed flight or hours-long delay because of weather, mechanical problems, or even a computer system failure, you understand why travel insurance has become a popular must-have item among business travelers.

Passengers may miss flights due to airline delays, spending a night either in the airport or a nearby hotel. They have to make new travel arrangements, cut trips short, or switch airlines to get to their final destination.

Travel insurance won’t prevent this from happening, but there are certain situations that travel insurance would cover for you, such as reimbursement for meals and hotels, or new tickets, or even the purchase price of the plane ticket and hotel reservations.

Travel can be cut short for any number of reasons — airline problems, sickness, death in the family, political unrest, strikes — so it makes sense to consider your options before you travel.

Without travel insurance, you may end up sleeping at the airport.

Without travel insurance, you may end up sleeping at the airport.

Some credit cards offer insurance when you use it to buy your ticket, but travel insurance is not equal in their remuneration. So it pays to examine your options carefully before you buy insurance.

If you’re wondering where to start, we suggest Squaremouth. The online site provides one-stop comparison shopping for all major travel insurance providers in the United States. It’s crucial that you read the language carefully before purchasing coverage so that you know exactly what is and isn’t covered.

In certain situations, some passengers will have coverage for missed flights due to airline delays, but won’t have coverage if a flight is canceled. Some policies also offer reimbursement for delay-related expenses, such as meals and hotel rooms, but all receipts must be saved and submitted with your claim. (Be sure to take photos of all your receipts on your mobile phone.)

If you bought your ticket through a travel agency, many agents play a key role when an unexpected interruption in their clients’ travel plans causes headaches. In these types of situations, one of the perks of using an agent is that they will act as your liaisons with the insurance broker. Some travel insurance companies offer concierge service, which will handle procuring a ticket on another flight and making a hotel reservation while you are stranded, waiting to see what will happen next.

Travel insurance policies can offer multiple, cumulative payouts for mishaps that occur during a single itinerary. For example, if your flight was delayed, and you were stranded on the tarmac for several hours, and your bags didn’t reach your final destination, all three of those incidents may entitle you to remuneration. That scenario netted one customer of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection Air Care $1550.

If you didn’t purchase separate travel insurance, you might still be able to collect for an unanticipated inconvenience by enlisting the services of AirHelp. This automated service works with a team of lawyers to determine if your claim is worthy of compensation, and there’s no fee unless a claim is paid.

Life happens. The unexpected can’t be avoided. But before you travel again, consider purchasing a little peace of mind to make the unexpected a lot easier to handle.

Do you get travel insurance, or do you just fly and hope for the best? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Bart Van Poll (Flickr, Creative Commons)

6 Frequent Flyer Secrets for Successful Travel

November 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Just like every skill you’ve learned, it takes practice to do it well. Hard work, lessons painfully learned, and watching experts so you can learn from their mistakes.

So it goes with business travel. When you first start out traveling, you learn where your most comfortable seat is (hint: it’s not the middle one). You learn how long it takes to get to the airport. And which hotels offer the best beds.

U.S. News & World Report‘s recent article on frequent flyer secrets helped take some of the stress out of travel planning and booking. Here are a few of our favorites.
united-787-at-den
Use flight price predicting apps to determine the best time to buy your ticket. Sites such as Hopper, Google Flights, Kayak, and Flyr will provide you with very reliable information so that you don’t pay more than you need to to get where you want to go.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could know the regular prices for items, so you can easily tell if something advertised as “on sale” really is a good deal? While we may not have that for grocery stores yet, that service is available for air travel. If price is your biggest travel determiner, you can subscribe to sites like Million Mile Secrets and Skiplagged to know the regular prices of certain tickets, so you know when a better deal actually is a better deal.
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Geneva Airport Begins Its Luggage Robot Bag Drop Trial

November 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Even with his vivid imagination, Leonardo Da Vinci, recognized for inventing the world’s first robot, could never have envisioned this application for his creation. Or that it would be used in coordination with another of his inventions, the flying machine.

Yet here we are, as Geneva Airport has been trying the world’s first fully autonomous, self-propelling baggage robot to assist travelers with their luggage. Working in collaboration with Swiss telecommunications company SITA and BlueBotics, a robotics company specializing in Autonomous Navigation Technology (ANT), the company has named their robot “Leo,” after the famed Italian inventor and artist.

Leo the luggage robot at the Geneva Airport in Switzerland

Leo the luggage robot at the Geneva Airport in Switzerland

Leo can check in luggage, print baggage tags, and transport the luggage to its designated baggage handling area using information gathered by scanning passengers’ boarding passes. After the bags are loaded into the robot’s compartment, Leo displays the boarding gate and departure time to the travelers. No one other than a baggage handler can reopen the compartment once it departs for its designated destination.

Massimo Gentile, head of IT at the airport, sees great potential for use of robots in the future. He told FutureTravelExperience.com, “The use of a robot such as Leo limits the number of bags in the airport terminal, helping us accommodate a growing number of passengers without compromising the airport experience inside the terminal. Leo also proves the case for increased use of robotics to make passengers’ journey a little more comfortable.”

Dave Bakker, president of the European division of SITA, agreed. “Leo demonstrates that robotics hold the key to more effective, secure and smarter baggage handling and is a major step towards further automating bag handling in airports. Leo also provides some insight into the potential use of robots across the passenger journey in future,” he told FutureTravelExperience.com

While some kinks remain to be worked out, such as scalability of the entire system, the capacity, both in size and weight that the robot can carry, and how it navigates in snowy conditions, this trial at Geneva’s airport makes it clear that ANT robotic assistance is here to stay.

What do you think? Would you trust a luggage-carrying robot with your bag? Or would you prefer to check your bag yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: SITA (Used with permission)

5 Ways to Save Time and Energy at the Airport

November 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

As frequent travelers, and the luggage supplier to business travelers all over the world, we’ve shared a lot of travel advice. And one of the things we know is that while we may not enjoy sitting in an airport, trying to get work done, it’s worse to stand in line and not get any work done at all.

A recent article in Smarter Travel shared several ways to save time and get us out of line, as well as save some money in the process. These can save you anywhere from several minutes to a few hours of time, and let you get more work done, or you can simply have more time to relax.

Download your airline’s app. This free service will let you know if your flight has been delayed, and has up-to-date information about arrival and departure times. You can be in the know about where to find your connecting plane. Plus, the GateGuru app can give you information about security wait times, gate changes, and maps of over 200 airports.

The TSA Security lines at Denver International Airport

The TSA Security lines at Denver International Airport

Check in online. This is the easiest way to bypass a line and get on your way to security faster. Online check in also provides you with a virtual boarding pass which you can scan with the TSA officer instead of having to juggle it and your identification. Better yet, just use your airline app. You don’t even have to mess with your laptop and printer.

Protect Your Personal Information. Be very, very wary about using public wifi. Not every free wifi hotspot you see is legitimate; some enterprising thief can set up a fake hotspot called AIRPORT_WIFI and you’ll never know the difference. So, be sure all your computer security and the firewall are up to date, before you leave the office. Next, never do any personal banking or financial transactions online when you’re in public. If you need to work online, use your mobile phone’s personal hotspot.

Bring food with you. You won’t be gouged for overpriced airport food that probably isn’t very healthy, and you’ll know who handled that piece of fruit before you. Consider some pre-packaged energy bars as well, because they’ll keep in your bag for a few days.

Mark your luggage. Even if you don’t check your bag, there are still a lot of black carry-ons out there. Be sure to have a luggage tag with your name and address securely fastened to the bag. Consider adding something to distinguish the bag from everyone else’s, like a decal, or tying a very small tchotchke to the handle.

How do you minimize downtime in the airport? What do you do to avoid lines and still say efficient? Share some ideas in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Melissa Gutierrez (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

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