2017 Air Travel Consumer Report Results

April 24, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

As the traveling public becomes more discriminating about which airline it flies and who’s the best at getting them where they’re needing and wanting to go on time, the annual Air Travel Consumer Report, a compiling of data submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, reads like a tell-all tabloid.

And despite the crushing media stories about some problems, the airline industry has improved its performance year over year.

For example, 2017 was the lowest year for bumped passengers since 1995. The rate — just .034 for every 10,000 passengers — is half the rate of .062 of 2016.

That number doesn’t account for travelers who accepted travel vouchers or offered to give up their seats on overbooked flights, two of the ways airlines reduce the statistic they have to report to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Cancellations, on-time performance, tarmac delays, flights that are chronically delayed, and the causes of flight delays are also detailed in the report. The overall on-time rate was 80.2 percent, a small decline from 2016 when the number was 81.4 percent. That makes the numbers reported by the top three airlines exceptional.

Table from 2017 Air Travel Consumer Report by U.S. DOT

Hawaiian Airlines led the way in on-time performance with 88.2 percent on-time arrivals. Delta Airlines was second, with 83.5 percent, and Alaska Airlines rounded out the top three with 83.4 percent. According to the report, “a flight is counted as ‘on time’ if it operated less than 15 minutes after the scheduled time shown in the carriers’ Computerized Reservations Systems (CRS).”

The reporting of on-time arrivals is particularly important because the report shows that the number one cause of delays for passengers was due to late arriving aircraft (6.74%). The second leading factor contributing to delays was air carrier delay, which is defined as circumstances due to maintenance or crew that are within the airline’s control. That accounted for 5.46 percent of delays in December.

The report’s quarterly figures also highlighted unusually high tarmac delays for December 2017, as 96 flights reported tarmac delays of three hours or more.

While that seems unusually high, there’s actually a good explanation for it: 77 tarmac delays were from planes that were held away from the terminal at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport due to the December 17 power outage. Another 14 were delayed departing from Atlanta because of a snowstorm on December 8. This makes the actual number of flights with an on-tarmac delay of three hours or more only 5 for for December 2017.

The airlines are listening to customer complaints and are doing everything they can to make our flights a more comfortable experience, and that shows in the improved numbers of 2017 over 2016.

Have you noticed an improvement in performance, or do you have your own story to tell? Share it with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Transportation (Public Domain)

Google Flights Can Predict Delays Before They Happen

April 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a frequent traveler, you probably have the mobile app for whatever airline you’re loyal to. Why? Not only can you check in to your flight 24 hours before your flight leaves, it also informs you of any current delays to your flight. You can adjust plans before you ever get to the airport and make any schedule changes necessary.

But what if you could save yourself the hassle of being caught in a flight delay before it ever occurs? You can, if you use Google Flights.

A new feature has been added to the app that uses machine learning algorithms and historical flight data to predict the likelihood of a specific flight being delayed. Not when the flight is actually delayed, but when it could be delayed. That could be a significant head start on making any schedule changes and could save you lots of headaches and stress!

Photo of a flight departure screen showing a delayed flight. Google Flights can more easily predict these now.While it’s not a 100% guarantee that a flight will be delayed, Google has said that it only posts the delay when it’s 80 percent certain.

While Google Assistant already informs you of a delay, Google Flight’s new features also provide detailed information about the cause, be it weather or system delays that prevent flights from taking off. To check the status of your flight, all you have to do is supply your airline and flight number or search your airline and route.

The Google Flights updates also allow travelers to view what isn’t included in the price of a ticket you’re considering. For example, United Basic Economy doesn’t allow you to access overhead bins, choose your seat, upgrade your seat, or change your ticket, but you may not have known that. Now this information is now available for all American, Delta, and United fares, so you can look up your ticket’s amenities online and see which ticket will provide you with the best value and most comfort.

Flight delays are expensive, aggravating, and exhausting. The airline apps have helped this a great deal, but if you start using Google Flights, some of this inconvenience can be avoided.

Have you used Google Flights? Is this something you’ll start using in the future? What do you hope it will provide for you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Jason Tester Guerilla Future (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

Supersonic Air Travel Just Took Another Big Step Toward Rebirth

March 22, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Boom Supersonic has partnered with Japan Airlines (JAL) and Virgin Group billionaire Richard Branson to bring supersonic air travel back to the skies. Boom, headquartered in Denver, wants to revive the ultra-efficient method of flight and make it accessible to non-millionaires. With JAL’s 10-million-dollar investment and Branson’s commitment to purchase the first 10 jets and offer the assistance of Virgin Galactic with test flights, we could see the first supersonic jet in the air this year.

Boom Airlines new jet will bring supersonic air travel back to the skiesBy collaborating to build a swift, more efficient model that capitalizes on the previous successes of the Concorde (the groundbreaking airplane fleet that was operated by British Airways and Air France for 27 years), Boom hopes to overcome the exorbitant costs associated with this specialized form of commercial flight and improve the travelers’ experience.

According to Boom’s FAQ, the plane’s interior design will provide, among other amenities, a large window, immediate access to the aisle, and a personal overhead bin to each passenger.

Its prototype, the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, is one-third the size of its eventual commercial offering, and flies at 1,300 mph, twice the speed of today’s jumbo jet. The full-size model is projected to fly at 1,700 mph. JAL’s investment will allow them to purchase 20 jets when testing is complete. Seating 55 passengers each, they could create a flight itinerary between San Francisco and Tokyo that could take half the current 11 hours to complete.

The Boom Airplane factory

JAL president Yoshiharu Ueki hopes the partnership will “contribute to the future of supersonic flight with the intent of providing more time to our valued passengers while emphasizing flight safety.”

Supersonic air travel, which cuts the transatlantic flight time between New York and London from six hours to three and a half, hasn’t been available since 2003. When in operation, tickets were $12,000. According to Blake Scholl, Boom’s founder and CEO, the expected ticket price will be just $5,000. Boom claims it is on schedule to be operational in 2023.

Would you try supersonic air travel for $5,000? Does the price make it more likely? How likely are you to fly supersonic once it becomes available? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Boom Airlines (used with permission)

Business Travel Outlook for 2018

March 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Things are looking good for business travel. According to a recent survey by The GO Group, LLC, a ground transportation company that operates shuttle services to over 90 airports, the percentage of respondents expecting to do more business travel is almost double what was anticipated in 2016 (27 percent vs 15 percent). A mere six percent of travelers thought they’d travel less.

This is a major change from 10 years ago, when the Great Recession, saw a major drop in business travel as well as vacation/personal travel. But as the economy has improved, consumer confidence is on the rise, business travel spending is up, and more people are hopping on board airplanes and staying in hotels around the country and throughout the world.

Business travel often means working in an airport between flights. This is a photo of a white MacBook Pro taken in the Hong Kong airport.And when travel dropped 10 years ago, we saw a big rise in unemployment in the travel industry — fewer business travel opportunities meant fewer airline passengers and hotel nights, which had a ripple effect on the entire industry.

When it improved, there were key gains felt throughout the world. According to a report from the World Travel & Tourism Council,

. . . travel and tourism directly contributed US$2.3 trillion and 109 million jobs worldwide. Taking its wider indirect and induced impacts into account, the sector contributed US$7.6 trillion to the global economy and supported 292 million jobs in 2016. This was equal to 10.2% of the world’s GDP, and approximately 1 in 10 of all jobs.

Similarly, GO Group President John McCarthy believes this anticipated uptick in travel should have a “huge impact on airlines, hotels, and related industries.” McCarthy sees this increase as having nothing but positive implications for those seeking jobs within both the travel and tourism sectors.

Although an equal percentage of the respondents (27 percent) expected to see no change in the amount of business travel they would do in 2018, 39 percent were unsure how their travel schedules would be affected by their companies’ growth strategies. But the term “growth strategies” is heartening enough to make us think travel will continue to rise.

What plans do you have for business travel in 2018? Are you going to increase, decrease, or keep it about the same? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page,  or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Mark Hillary (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

What to Do in an Emergency While You’re Traveling

February 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

When Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest airport, experienced a catastrophic power failure due to a fire this past December, 30,000 people were affected. If you were stranded somewhere due to a local emergency or natural disaster, do you have a plan in place for letting colleagues, friends, and family know of your safety and whereabouts?

While it may seem obvious that you could text, call, or take to social media to let those important to you know you’re okay, there are other alternatives you might want to consider as a backup plan if needed.

If you’re fortunate to have access to the Internet, contacting coworkers, friends, and relatives can be achieved through the aforementioned options as well as the check-in feature on Facebook.

Hospital Emergency sign in big red lettersThis function became increasingly useful and popular during the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando and the Las Vegas concert shooting. Facebook was able to use a mobile phone’s location finder app, ask users if they were safe, and they could mark themselves as safe, putting friends’ and families’ minds at rest from hundreds of miles away.

But what if an incident were to strand you overseas or you weren’t on social media? There are other methods you can use, such as apps that work on wifi or cellular signals. Apps like Skype for phone calls, WhatsApp and Voxer for texting work on mobile phones or even an iPad or iPod Touch with wifi capabilities. And of course, if you have access to a laptop or Internet cafe, you can always send a quick message that way.

However you decide to get in touch with your loved ones, you should have a plan in place before you travel so that those you leave behind will know how they’ll hear from you in the event of a local emergency. Here’s one suggested protocol. Feel free to establish one that works best for you.

  • Designate one person as your main contact.
  • Provide that person a list of others they should contact once they hear from you.
  • Decide if you want your main contact to broadcast your status via social media or private channels.
  • Let those on that list know who you have put in charge of letting them know of your status.

If you have a basic emergency plan in place, you can easily let people know via simple electronic technology.

But if worse comes to worse, you can always find a phone booth and call someone collect.

What plans do you have for communicating in an emergency? Do you have any plans or strategies already in place? Have you ever had to use them? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: FreeGreatPicture.com (Creative Commons 0, Public Domain)

Five Tips for Traveling in Winter

February 15, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Traveling in winter isn’t for the faint of heart. It can be discouraging and downright frustrating to try to “move about the country” when Mother Nature seems out to get you. When I lived in Pennsylvania, near Scranton, I would often fly from Scranton to Philadelphia to my final destination.

Time after time, during the winter, my flight was usually canceled due to weather. Finally, in order to save myself the aggravation and be able to more accurately predict my itinerary, I decided to skip the Scranton leg of the flight and rent a car either to or from Philadelphia. I learned my lesson, and if I can ever help it, I skip the small regional flights during the winter months.

There are a few other things I learned about weatherproofing winter travel. While you can’t change the weather, these will at least give you options that keep you from being held hostage by it.

This is a common sight during travel in winter. This is a Norwegian SAS airplane on the ground and covered with snow.First, follow my lead. Don’t book a connecting flight through a city that has a reputation for being hit hard by winter storms: Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Detroit, and Boston. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for some sort of delay or cancellation. If you have to make connecting flights, make them in southern cities less likely to get hit with major winter weather — Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix. I’ve seen flights from Detroit to Portland, Oregon make a layover in Dallas rather than Chicago, which avoided big snowstorms.

Better yet, book non-stop whenever possible. Sure, you may not get as many frequent flier miles, but you’ll get where you’re going and eliminate one possible leg where you might end up getting stuck because the connecting airport got snowed or iced in for 24 hours.

Always try to book your travel to depart first thing in the morning. When weather delays occur later in the day, you’re already out of the worst of it or your flight may be one of the few that gets out at all. Also, those on earlier flights have more rebooking options than those who wait until later in the day to change their itinerary or return home.

Never be without extra clothing. Even if it’s just a couple pairs of fresh undergarments, pack enough so that if you are delayed or stranded, you won’t have to wash out anything in the sink and hope it dries overnight in the hotel bathroom.

Finally, build time into your schedule so that you can afford to absorb a delay or cancellation. While this is smart travel advice throughout the year, it’s particularly wise to do this when traveling in winter: don’t schedule your arrival on the actual day you’re expected to give a presentation or close a big deal. Getting there the day before will ensure you’re there when you need to be, not sitting at the airport texting colleagues explaining why you’re not.

Most importantly, when you’re traveling during the winter, remain flexible, be aware of your options before you leave, and have backup plans. And if you can, work with a travel agent who can put all this together and make the quick changes on your behalf instead of you stressing out about it.

How do you deal with traveling in winter? Do you have any tips that help you get where you’re going? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Pxhere.com (Pxhere.com, CC0, Public Domain)

PreCheck and Global Entry Merger Considered

February 13, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are considering merging their respective “trusted traveler” programs, which means you don’t have to choose which program to use if you travel both domestically and internationally.

According to David Pekoske, Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) Administrator, easing traveler headaches across both the domestic and international systems is the main reason he is evaluating the idea with his colleague Kevin McAleenan, CBP Commissioner.

PreCheck, administered by TSA, provides travelers the option to go through a screening process that, for a fee, puts them at the proverbial “front of the line” when navigating security. Global Entry, administered by CBP, provides many of similar benefits for those wanting to streamline their customs and immigration process when re-entering the country after traveling abroad.

TSA PreCheck sign showing the way to an empty pathway, next to a line packed with people.This means, if you travel abroad frequently, you need PreCheck to leave the country fast, and Global Entry to get back in just as quickly.

Pekoske told TravelPulse.com the maintenance of two distinct infrastructures for PreCheck and Global Entry is a “big duplication of effort, sometimes in the very same airport.”

Currently, both programs support 12 million travelers. Sharing technology advances and data is another reason the idea is attractive to Pekoske. Global Entry, run by CBP, already uses facial recognition, while TSA doesn’t yet have the ability to use this when screening travelers, and that additional security measure appeals to DHS.

The travel industry is watching this development closely, and is all for the merger. According to Eben Peck, executive vice president, advocacy, for the American Society of Travel Agents, “Having two trusted traveler programs with similar costs, benefits, and application procedures has proved to be, at times, confusing and frustrating for travelers. A single program allowing travelers to get through the airport screening process quickly would be a welcome development, and we urge DHS to move this concept forward.”

There is no timeline for moving this concept forward from talking to implementation, but anything that would streamline the processes would be advantageous to the flying public.

Do you use PreCheck or Global Entry? Would you like to see the two merged? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Grant Wickes (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

How to Sleep Well on a Plane, Even in Coach

January 18, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Need to catch a few winks during your next flight? Sleeping well on an airplane can seem as elusive as sighting a unicorn, but we’ve tapped an expert, Heather Poole, one of our earliest sources for stories and a Travelpro professional user. Heather is an 18-year veteran flight attendant, and author of the book Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet, for some pro tips.

You may know that seatguru.com will allow you to investigate which seats recline and which ones don’t on every airplane on your itinerary. But did you know that beyond seat choice, the side of the plane you book matters? We’re creatures of habit: each night we have a preferred side of the bed we choose for slumber. Turns out, the same principle applies in the cabin of a plane.

You can sleep well on a plane with an eye mask or other accessories.Choose your seat on the same side of the plane as your favorite side of the bed. If you like to sleep on your right side, pick the right side of the plane, especially if you’re getting the window seat. This will guarantee that your position in your seat will mimic whatever direction you face as you begin your sleep journey.

Travel comfortably. We’re not suggesting you wear pajamas onboard, although Poole said she has seen savvy travelers board in sweats carrying the suit they’ll don once they deplane, according to an Entrepreneur.com story.

Let’s talk about the cumbersome donut pillow. While you may scoff at those who carry it along like a teddy bear because it didn’t work when you tried it behind your neck, your opinion of the sleep aid may change if you change where you place the fat part of the pillow.

If you tend to tilt your head to the side as you drift off, position the pillow there. If you want to keep from being awakened by that annoying, and slightly embarrassing head jerk, rotate the pillow the hold your chin in place! Sweet dreams may be further enhanced if you spritz a bit of lavender oil, known to help your body relax, on the pillowcase.

Finally, travel with a baseball cap, even if you only wear it on the flight. You don’t have to incorporate it into your outfit, but having it may create just the right environment for snoozing. Joshua Craven said he pulls the bill down over his face and inserts earbuds shortly before the flight takes off (but, of course, after the safety demonstration announcement has been completed). It shields his eyes from light and he has an enhanced sense of privacy because the hat covers his face. Plus, people immediately get the hint that you’re not interested in conversation so you can avoid having your sleep interrupted.

How do you sleep on a plane? Do you have any special tips or tricks that help you catch a quick catnap on your air travel? Share them with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Stanley Wood (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Should You Let Business Travelers Book on their Own?

January 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

What kind of trouble could business travelers get in if you cut out the corporate travel arranger at your company and booked your own business travel? Is it encouraged, or are you required to use the corporate travel office at all costs? The ubiquitous nature of apps and websites for locating budget hotels, ride-sharing options, and flights make it easy for people to take charge of their own travel logistics.

This is something corporate accountants and managers are having to choose whether to accommodate or penalize, and the problem is only growing.

While having someone else attend to your travel arrangements used to be a luxury, a bigger issue is that those doing the booking may know nothing about the city, the proximity of the airport to the client, and the logistics required to get from the client to the hotel they’ve booked. The person who makes that kind of trip on a regular basis is by far the more knowledgeable authority on the subject, which makes him or her the logical choice to make the arrangements.

Business travelers walking through an airport. You can still fly even if you're trimming your travel budget.But companies are concerned that letting business travelers book their own travel arrangements may give them less leverage when negotiating corporate rates for hotels and car rentals if they can’t show that their personnel is using them.

However, according to research by Egencia, the corporate travel management subsidiary of Expedia, business travelers often book outside their company’s stated travel policy, especially when procuring lodging, because they need to be closer to their client or because they found a better price than their company’s corporate rate and can pocket the per diem difference.

Road warriors need freedom to orchestrate their own itineraries in order to maximize their time out of the office. Giving them this latitude would reduce staff overhead, eliminate confusion, and utilize the business traveler’s knowledge of the cities and the accommodations in each. Why should a travel manager who doesn’t travel tell the employee where to stay and what time to get there? There are times that road warrior may end up cooling their heels for several hours in an unfamiliar airport because the corporate travel agent wanted to save $30 or make sure their traveler used the right airline.

For those who have control over the details of their travel budget, TravelBank has produced an app that helps estimate trip costs and customize their trip to anticipate and respond to upcoming expenses. TravelBank even rewards users when their trips come in under budget. For example, when a user’s bottom line comes in $500 under the budget, they receive $250 in credit to use with its partners in the travel industry with whom they’ve negotiated rates that rival those that corporations procure for their employees.

At Travelpro, we have the best of both worlds. I investigate my own schedule — optimal flight times and finding the hotel that’s closest to the client — and then communicating that to our travel manager and asking that they make every effort to book what I’ve requested. So far, it’s worked out great, and I’ve been very happy with the arrangement.

As long as business travelers know and comply with the company’s travel policy, allowing them to secure their own reservations only makes sense. But it also makes sense to let your road warrior experts blaze their own trail, as it were, because they already know what they’re doing.

Business travelers, o you book your own travel or do you have a corporate travel agent doing it for you? What has been the most efficient use for you? Share your ideas with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: MauriceBMueller (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Seven Questions To Ask Before Your Next Air Travel

December 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or an occasional traveler, the old adage applies: Forewarned is forearmed. With amenities varying widely by carrier, it’s important to ask these seven questions before your next air travel to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal and most amenities.

Is the flight refundable? Most airlines charge you to change your flight, and the only way to avoid this is to book business or first class or book using points or miles. In the event you do need to change your flight, try picking up the phone and calling the airline instead of attempting to navigate its system online. Each carrier also has a Twitter account, which can also help you cut through the red tape and get your situation resolved quickly.

An Air France flight, a nice plane for international air travelWill I earn frequent flyer miles on this flight? Contrary to what you think, not all flights automatically qualify for a carrier’s frequent flyer program. By using Google’s ITA Matrix and wheretocredit.com, you can search for your flight’s booking class, which is what the airline uses to apply credit to its reward programs. Keep in mind that you’ll need to apply to an airline’s rewards program first in order to earn miles.

What’s included? What’s not included? Many used car dealers used the phrase, “no ups, no extras” when quoting a price to a prospective buyer. That meant the list price was the price. Not so in today’s world of budget airlines! If you’re wondering how the ticket price could be so low, investigate what’s not included and you’ll find the rest of your fare. It’s not uncommon to be charged for checking luggage, gaining access to overhead bins, and eating. If you know you’ll need to check a bag, add it on when you purchase your ticket. It will only get more expensive to do so when you check in online, or when you do so at the airport the day of the flight.

How much legroom does a particular seat offer? If this is an important detail for your air travel itinerary, I recommend Legroom for Google Flights Chrome extension, which not only reveals how much room you’ll have between your seat and the next row but also what the flight’s carry-on restrictions and amenities are. Seatguru.com also offers information about seat width and pitch so you can determine how comfortable you will be while en route.

What happens if I’m delayed? A delayed flight is inconvenient, but if you book your flight using a premium credit card, any additional expenses you incur — an overnight at a hotel, meals, and even cash to cover booking a new flight — may be covered by the insurance the card provides to members. If you don’t do air travel regularly and don’t want to carry a credit card with a high annual fee, you can still purchase flight insurance for peace of mind.

Where does my flight originate and where does it land? While this may seem like a strange question, it’s extremely important to know, especially when your air travel takes you through an unfamiliar city. You may think you’re booking your flight through the city’s main airport, but what if you’re wrong? New York and Chicago each boasts two airports, while many foreign cities, such as London, have multiple airports. Not knowing where your flight originates could cost you dearly — you might even miss your flight entirely. Being knowledgeable about the city and your airport is crucial for a smooth experience.

Do I need to print my boarding pass? In this age of technology and mobile apps, you’d think this was a silly question, but some low-cost carriers require a printed boarding pass and may charge you anywhere between $10 – $20 to do so! Having an online version will not get you on the flight, so be sure to print it at home, or know you’re going to be charged for that precious document.

What are some of your air travel questions and preparations? What will make you buy or not buy a particular ticket? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Skeeze (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

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