Just in time for the recent busy holiday travel season, American and United both launched automated screening lanes in order to help lessen the bottleneck in the TSA checkpoints, a serious problem travelers faced in summer 2016.
The two airlines followed the lead of Delta, which partnered with TSA in May 2016 at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Delta underwrote $1 million dollars of the total TSA investment to bring the automation to the Atlanta airport.
The automated screening lanes feature the following innovations:
- Stainless steel countertops that enable several passengers to place their items in bins simultaneously;
- Automated conveyor belts that draw bins into the X-ray machines, and return them to the front of the queue;
- Bags identified as a potential threat are automatically pushed to a separate area to allow bins behind it to continue through the screening process uninterrupted;
- Property bins that are 25 percent larger than the bins in standard screening lanes in order to accommodate roller bags; Read more
If you’re an avid traveler, you may have noticed that this year’s biggest airline trend has been something everyone can appreciate: convenience. Airlines are looking for new ways to provide faster, more efficient service to their passengers, so many of them are turning towards mobile technology to accommodate their passengers’ needs and stay ahead of the competition.
If you’re an avid smartphone user, you know one thing is true: almost everyone has a mobile app these days. Some are useful; others, not so much. In keeping up with the times, most major airlines now offer mobile apps, which allow travelers to check on flight status or find other basic travel information. However, there’s only so much you can do via most mobile apps before you find yourself calling a 800 number — something which United Airlines kept in mind when re-designing their mobile app this summer.
United Airlines’ updated app (available on iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10) goes behind the basic features, allowing travelers to manage their journey in real time. For example, the updated app is designed to ease the stress of flight delays and cancellations. When a flight is cancelled or delayed, a passenger may find alternate flights and travel options directly via the mobile app, as opposed to dealing with a crowded airport help desk.
In addition, United Airlines’ mobile app currently supports a mobile boarding pass, which allows travelers to simply scan the barcode on a screen at airport security checkpoints. This feature is currently available in over 40 major international airports. United aims to have this option available at all airports they serve by this coming fall.
In a recent statement, United Airlines’ Vice President of Merchandising and e-commerce Scott Wilson stated, “The new features and updated look of these apps give travelers increased convenience, flexibility and control. United will continue to invest in building powerful mobile tools for our customers with many significant enhancements scheduled to roll out over the next year.”
What other convenience features would you like to see United and other airlines include in future iterations of their mobile apps?
- FWA now accepting mobile boarding passes (wane.com)
- This Is What Boarding Passes Should Look Like (wired.com)
- I Will Never Print My Boarding Pass Again (intercall.com)
- 5 Ways Location-based Apps Enhance Travel (wcgworld.com)
- Airports and Airlines Struggle to Meet Mobility Expectations of More Than 60% of Travelers Surveyed, Despite WiFi Wake-Up Call 12 Months Ago (sys-con.com)
- How The Explosion In Travel Apps Makes It Easier For Marketers To Reach Affluent Frequent Flyers (embargozone.com)
- Air travellers in the slow lane on technology (itpro.co.uk)
If you’re a frequent traveler who racks up baggage fees faster than you rack up airline miles, you may be pleased to discover that United Airlines has recently launched a new program to help their most frequent fliers save money. The airline has rolled out two new individual subscription options that offer their customers access to Economy Plus seating or pre-paid baggage fees.
“The Economy Plus and checked baggage subscriptions offer our customers more of the comfort and convenience they value year round,” said Scott Wilson, United’s vice president of merchandising and e-commerce. “We are pleased that, as we launch these services, we are able to provide new options for customers to tailor their travel experiences.”
United’s new baggage subscription plan (which will presumably be one of the more popular options) works as follows. The basic plan (which covers flights within the continental US) starts at $349 per year and allows one traveler to check one bag per flight. From there, the package can be upgraded based on the traveler’s needs.
For example, travelers can pay an extra $30 per year to check two bags per flight, as opposed to one, and additional travelers can be added onto the plan at $100 per person, per year. The plan can also be upgraded to cover all of North and South America at an additional $100 per year, or global travel at an additional $450 per subscription.
Travelers who frequently pay extra for the Economy Plus option (which offers seats that have more leg room and are located at the front of the cabin) may want to spring for United’s new Economy Plus subscription plan. Starting at $499 per year, this plan allows fliers to upgrade to Economy Plus for no additional fee.
The real question is – are these plans worth it? That depends. United Airlines’ standard baggage fee is $25 per bag, per trip. This means that those who subscribe to United’s basic $349 per year baggage plan would have to make seven or more round-trip flights within the year to come out ahead. In other words, casual travelers may want to stick to paying their fees on a per-flight basis. But for those who find themselves up in the air quite often — say, once a month or more — this plan may result in major savings.
- United: ‘Subscriptions’ offer a year’s worth of fees (usatoday.com)
- United wants you to pay $499 a year for extra legroom (myfox8.com)
- Travellers admit lying to get an upgrade (telegraph.co.uk)
There has been plenty of buzz this year about how airlines and airports are modernizing their service to customers by offering free wifi, customer service via social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and upscale shopping experiences. Now, United Airlines is partnering with BagsVIP to offer a luggage delivery service for domestic flights.
For a starting price of $30 per bag, United/BagsVIP will deliver your bags to a hotel, business, or residential address, seven days a week, including holidays. If your arrival destination is within 40 miles from the airport, the service says you will receive your bags within 4 hours of your flight arrival.The service is fairly easy to use: after making your flight reservations, just make a separate reservation for your baggage delivery. At the airport, check your bags as you usually would, but don’t forget that you still have to pay for any associated fees. When your bags arrive at their final destination, BagsVIP will be alerted and within four hours, your bags will be delivered to you. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to sign for them once they get there.
Even though many of us don’t mind waiting around for a bag or two after a flight, United’s luggage delivery service could certainly come in handy for many of us. A business traveler on a tight schedule, a family with a lot of bags and kids to corral, or an elderly person traveling alone could all easily find value from this luggage delivery service.
- Travel smartly with United airlines (articlecoin.wordpress.com)
International baggage fees are going up again on United: Houston’s CultureMap blog reported in mid-June that the airline had increased baggage fees on many international flights by 43 percent.
Though the first bag is still free to check on international flights, the price of a second bag is now nearly half again as much as it was: It’s now $100.
The change took effect on June 1, and it’s the coach passengers who are looking at bearing the brunt of the costs.
But knowing that the first bag gets overseas for free, the uproar over this higher fee gave us reason to wonder when — and whether — travelers would really need two huge bags for an international trip.
If you’re traveling for as long as 10 days, you can avoid this fee by packing everything in one check-in sized bag and one carry-on. If you’re budget conscious but not as efficient when you’re planning what to take on your travels, the $100 fee for the second checked-bag is a strong incentive to learn to pack more efficiently.
When you’re packing clothing, remember that you probably won’t see anyone twice — outside of your family, friends or colleagues, if you’re traveling with a group — and no one is going to single you out for doubling up on a piece of clothing. If they do, ask them how they liked lugging their giant suitcase around.
Pack items that are color coordinated and can be washed and dried easily and quickly. Accessories take up very little space and can change your look a lot from day to day. Limit the pairs of shoes you bring too. Wear your biggest shoes on the plane.
Keep liquids, cosmetics and other toiletries limited to the basics, too — you’d be surprised how much space those things take up! Simplicity is best when you’re traveling. Maybe even consider buying some of these overseas, if you’re going to be gone for a while.
So, when might you actually need that second bag? We can’t think of many instances, actually. If you’re going on a long trip and know you’ll be bringing more items home with you than you came with — and those items won’t fit in a duffel bag or suitcase that you can carry on — that could be cause for a second checked suitcase.
The same goes for if you’re visiting friends or relatives and need to take gifts or other items to them. But you might consider buying an inexpensive suitcase from a second-hand or discount store that you can just leave it at your destination and save on fees during your return leg.
Have you ever traveled internationally with two checked bags? What did you pack? And would you do it again now that the fees are higher? Tell us in the comments when and how you did it, or plan on doing it in the future.
- Airlines Expand Size of Luggage Bins (travelproluggageblog.com)
- Packing Guide for Travellers – Flight Centre NZ (flightcentre.co.nz)
- Make your carry on luggage your backup plan (business.financialpost.com)
- Avoid Damage to Your Luggage by Packing Lighter (and Other Tips from a Baggage Handler) [Travel] (lifehacker.com)