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)

2016 Top Quality Rankings for Airlines, Virgin America Ranks #1

November 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

For the past 26 years, Dean Headley, a researcher at Wichita State University’s business school, and Brent Bowen, Dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, have co-authored the Airline Quality Report, a quality ranking of the largest 13 airlines in the United States.

The report uses performance data gathered from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s monthly Air Travel Consumer Report to determine the intersection of public perception of each airline’s quality with the airline’s actual performance.

Virgin Airline's Molly

This year, Virgin America Airlines earned the top spot for the fourth year in a row. JetBlue jumped from fourth to second place, and Delta retained its third place position. The report examines performance in four categories: on-time performance, baggage handling, involuntary denied boardings, and customer complaints.

This report is an objective way for consumers to determine an airline’s overall performance and to examine its attention to whatever detail of the flying experience is important to them. The report found that overall performance for the industry as a whole improved over 2015, while the category that saw the most change was complaints.
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Flight Etiquette 101: Seat Reclining Courtesies and the Golden Rule

October 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s one of the biggest causes of conflict on a flight, and you’ve probably encountered it more than once if you’re a frequent business traveler: Should you recline or not recline your seat?

The topic is a hot button with seasoned travelers, so we thought we might suggest a few ways you can be considerate of others as you contemplate whether or not to push that little button on your armrest.

Which are the best seats on planes you can get?First, consider the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” In other words, think about how your actions could impact the person directly behind you, and then wonder if you would like the same thing done by the person in front of you. If you’ve ever felt hemmed in, or had your laptop slammed shut, because someone else exercised their “right” to recline, ask yourself, what would you have liked done before they leaned back into your space.

That’s possibly the biggest courtesy in seat reclining: Offer the person behind you the same courtesy you want from the person in front of you.

Of course, that may mean there are times when you shouldn’t exercise your right to recline, like during beverage and meal service. Imagine not being able to eat because you can’t see your tray, or get your drink past the other person’s seat back.
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