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)

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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This is What Air Travel Will Look Like in 100 Years

September 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The United States turned 240 years old this year. If you think about where we were in terms of transportation at the dawn of our nation, compared to the technological advancements we have experienced just since 2000, the tantalizing possibilities of the future of air travel are mind boggling.

According to Boeing Senior Technical Fellows Brian Tillotson and Kevin Bowcutt, space travel and hypersonics will be at the forefront of aviation innovation. Boeing, which is celebrating its centennial this year, talked with Travel + Leisure about its dreams and goals. Some of these may come to fruition as early as 2035.

The Harrier Jump Jet's VTOL may be a model for one of the future features of air travel

The Harrier Jump Jet, one of the most famous and successful fixed-wing single-engine VTOL aircraft. It can take off and land in areas without a long runway.

  • Tillotson speculates air travel will begin at home with the plane coming to pick you up at your residence, and takeoff and landing will most likely be vertical.
  • You may be able to book a flight simply by thinking about it. This may seem far fetched, but with advancements in mobile devices and wearable technology, it may end up looking, according to Bowcutt, like an evolved version of Uber.
  • Tillotson forecasts that airport security will be the product of many linked networks, allowing law enforcement to more easily identify those with criminal histories.
  • Planes may be transparent, according to Tillotson, in order to help maintenance crews identify problems more quickly. It’s also possible, with this kind of construction, that every surface could double as a display screen, allowing for efficient troubleshooting.
  • Airplanes will become smarter, according to Bowcutt, utilizing software that will alert maintenance personnel when a part is wearing out so that mechanical delays become a thing of the past. This should improve safety and reduce costs. Read more

Three Things that Could Change Airline Travel Forever

February 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If a genie in a bottle granted you three wishes that could only be applied to your airline experience, what would they be?

Middle airplane seat with extra amenities

Teague has some interesting ideas about airplane design, including making that much-maligned middle seat more desirable.

Funny you should ask. Teague, a Seattle design firm that has designed the interiors of all Boeing’s planes since 1946, took a swing at that question and came up with some innovative suggestions. They may not be your top three, but with time you might come around to see the merits of their questioning of the industry’s status quo.

Would you ever consider checking all your luggage, even if it was only a carry-on, if it would be free to do so? What if you would be charged for your carry-on? According to Teague’s own blog post, the airlines are drunk on baggage fees. They’re a boon to the business, but perceived as a fine to the traveler. So, if you eliminate carry-ons (other than a briefcase or purse) and only allow checked bags, what benefit would that be for the consumer?
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Four Travel Myths Busted

November 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We all think we know the ins and outs of air travel, knowing as much about the rules and tendencies of airlines. But it turns out, these hard and fast rules aren’t nearly as hard or fast as we previously thought. Good Morning America and Yahoo recently busted four travel myths, and discussed how they’re not always correct.

Economy is always cheaper than first class. Not so. It depends on the route and how many stops you’re willing to make along the way. For instance, the same flight between LA and New York could be $500 less in first class than it is in economy if you’re willing to incorporate a stop into your travel itinerary. If you’re more interested in saving money than time, it’s a good idea to investigate flights with at least one stop. It might take you longer to get there, but the first class amenities might make you forget all about the time.

English: S7 Airlines Boeing 767-300.

S7 Airlines Boeing 767-300. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Non-stop flights are “never” cheaper. It’s possible they aren’t, but this statement misses the real question: how valuable is your time? Time is money, especially when you’re talking about valuable, not-getting-it-back vacation time. If you want to have more time on vacation, and less time traveling, you may want to spend the extra money on that nonstop flight.

Discount airlines “always” have the cheapest flights. Again, no blanket statement can ever bear the weight of being true 100 percent of the time! The only way you’ll know which airline has the cheapest fare is to comparison shop. Use a comparison website like Expedia or Travelocity, and then check out the airlines’ websites themselves. You may occasionally find the big legacy airlines are offering the cheaper flights.

Summer flights are “never” delayed as much as winter flights. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Thunderstorms can involve severe turbulence, lightning strikes, icing due to sudden temperature change, hail damage, and water ingestion by the engines. When thunderstorms occur at or near hub airports, the probability of any of these occurring can halt inbound and outbound traffic, which in turn can create ripple effects to more destinations than a severe winter storm in the Dakotas.

The takeaway is there are no absolutes in travel, and myths are often just that. If you can be flexible and do your due diligence, there’s a good chance you can find a flight that will suit your needs and your desires.

Boeing Adding More Carry-On Luggage Storage Room

September 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Rollaboard owners rejoice! Boeing is trying to solve the ongoing carry-on luggage problem by adding bigger overhead bins.

According to a new Travel Pulse article, the new bins, called “space bins,” will carry more luggage than the previous bins. This will hopefully ease the stress and strain put on travelers and flight attendants as more people try to sneak larger bags onto flights.

Boeing Space BinsThe new bins will also be easier to load and see into, which is helpful since more than one traveler has been hit on the head by people removing heavy bags they didn’t quite realize they couldn’t carry.

One drawback is that it will decrease head space a bit.

It will be interesting to see how Virgin Airlines reacts to the news, given they recently said the interior plane space is actually the most valuable space. They were discussing charging for carry-on bags, and allowing free checked bags. Will this move be a revenue generator for them?

From Boeing’s perspective, they’re likely responding to requests from the airlines, who are hearing from customers. Right now, the airlines want to continue to charge for checked bags and allow carry-ons. Those passengers looking to save some money will be better able to maneuver their carry-ons and fit them into the new large bins.

Meanwhile, we’ve also been hearing some airlines are considering reducing the allowed carry-on sizes to accommodate more passengers using their carry-ons. However, Delta has said they plan to allow carry-on sizes to remain the same as they have been in the past.

We like the idea of the bigger bins. If you could turn your carry-on bag sideways (which is what Boeing is suggesting), you can fit six bags into the space instead of four. The loss of headroom does not seem like a great loss, especially since we’ll all be sitting. We’ll see if that continues to be the case or if headroom will be subject to shrinkage like everything else on the plane.

What are some of your ideas for getting more (or fewer) carry-on bags into the plane? Leave your ideas in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Boeing Media Room

Airlines Putting a Stop to Mileage Runs

January 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Airline mileage mavens, take note. The days of making mileage runs to boost your frequent flier membership levels may be coming to an end.

A recent article in the Seattle Times says that United and Delta airlines are cracking down on a practice known as “mileage running”.

Basically, this practice entails purchasing a low-cost, long-distance ticket and just flying in order to make sure you stay eligible for elite flying status on an airline. For example, if you’re 15,000 miles short of keeping your Super Elite Titanium level, you might purchase the lowest-cost ticket to fly from Chicago to London to Frankfurt to Rome, and back again, all in a four day whirlwind trip.

For short to medium-haul flights.

Business class for short- to medium-haul flights. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keeping a higher status can earn you extra miles and other perks such as upgrades to business class or the ability to hang out in the premium lounge. The mileage run often involves a round trip ticket to a destination the traveler has no time to enjoy, connecting through as many stopovers as possible.

It’s not that surprising airlines are cracking down on this. What is surprising is that people are willing to take such drastic steps, such as spending an entire weekend flying to Europe or South America and back just to gain these ticket points. I have to wonder whether it’s all worth the effort and discomfort.

I find that the elite airline mileage programs tend to be problematic anyway. I’ve had trouble booking tickets to the place I want to go and at the time I want them. A lot of blackouts and restrictions apply, not just for the free tickets, but also on what tickets you can use toward getting the free tickets. For me, getting rewards from my credit card has proven to be a lot more worthwhile. I find fewer restrictions in every area of the transaction. There are some credit cards that are specifically geared toward accruing travel points, and I use those whenever possible.

Plus, consider how valuable your time is. Many people don’t have the time to take a long haul trip over a weekend like that. It may be worthwhile to spring for a business class ticket once in a while rather than spending 36 hours traveling just to get upgraded. You have to calculate whether the benefit is greater than the cost, both concrete and abstract.

Last-Minute Travel Upgrades: Are They Worth It?

December 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

We have discussed the little luxuries of traveling and how the experience can be enhanced by little niceties such as a mint on your pillow or a bottle of water when you check in. Getting an upgrade can be one of them.

Or not.

I have been offered upgrades due to my loyalty status in a frequent traveler program. They have been offered as a courtesy and to keep my continued business. In that sense, it’s worth it, because I’m going to keep using that airline, hotel, or rental car company. But for others, it may not give you the benefits you need.

English: EK J-Class

EK J-Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When checking into the airport or hotel, or renting a car, companies have begun asking at the counter if you want to pay for an upgrade, trying to make it sound like a good deal. For some, the upgrade is totally worth it, while others end up feeling like they suffered from a marketing scheme.

In the past, car rental companies ask if you want an upgrade for $10 a day more, but this is a relatively new concept for hotels and airlines. Airlines have increased their profit margins by this method of marketing alone, selling seat upgrades from Economy to Economy Plus, for example.

Some people have had good experiences with this new airline trend while others have not. According to Christopher Elliott’s article in the Seattle Times, Linda Petzler had a wonderful experience with her upgrade and found it well worth it. As she journeyed from London to Dallas, she made an upgrade to business class for $500 more. On the other hand, Judith Patrizzi made an upgrade on her trip from Rome to Boston, which she later regretted. She received terrible food and bulkhead seats with no more room than the ones she would have received without the “upgrade.”

This is a situation where you have to weigh the pros and cons. Is the room worth it? Or is saving money more important? We suggest always asking if you want an upgrade. Sometimes it may be given to you without a fee. For example, if your hotel has multiple stories, ask if they have any rooms on a higher level available with a great view. These are usually nicer and bigger anyway, and won’t necessarily cost anymore.

Would you pay for an upgrade to a nicer seat, room, or car? Is it worth it, or an unnecessary expense? Leave a comment on our blog post or on our Facebook page.

Five Myths About Flight Attendants

October 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

We all know flight attendants greet us as we board our plane and bring us some snacks and drinks, but that’s only a small part of their job, and definitely not the most important part. A lot of people have misconceptions about flight attendants.

According to a July 2014 USA Today article, some of these include:

  1. Layovers are one big party.
  2. You should tip flight attendants for good service.
  3. Flight attendants are in it for the free travel.
  4. Flight attendants are basically waitresses/waiters in the sky.

USA Today interviewed several flight attendants to debunk these myths and educate the public.

English: A female flight attendant of Air Dolo...

A female flight attendant of Air Dolomiti (Italy) on board an Embraer 195 performing a Pre-flight safety demonstration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example, they said layovers are not parties, especially since they usually only last 8 – 10 hours. In fact most flight attendants do quite the opposite. Sara Keagle, flight attendant and The Flying Pinto blogger, calls these people slam clickers. Slam clicking, a popular term among flight attendants, refers to when a flight attendant gets to his or her hotel, ‘slams’ the door, and ‘clicks’ it locked.

Think twice about tipping. Most airlines have policies against accepting tips. Though the gesture is courteous and appreciated, most flight attendants will not and cannot accept it. Interesting fact: most tips are offered on flights to and from Las Vegas. Kari Walsh, flight attendant of 22 years, says she would rather receive praise via social media.

Free travel can definitely be a job perk, but it’s not as easy as you might think. Planes are often packed and sometimes even overbooked, especially around the holidays, so finding room for a flight attendant and family is difficult.

They’re also not there to help people lift their luggage into the overhead bins. While they want to be as helpful as possible, if they’re injured lifting your bag they are not covered by the airlines.

Flight attendants are there to attend to passengers’ needs, but they’re not there to serve passengers. Yes, they bring us our snack or meal, but that’s not the first item on their job description. Their primary role is to keep passengers safe, update us on any delays, turbulence and to actually assist if there is an emergency.

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