Air Travel Secrets from a Professional Airline Critic

October 9, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

When it comes to finding the hidden secrets about air travel, there’s no one better to turn to than a tried-and-true expert. And not just an expert, but someone who’s paid to find problem areas in the airlines’ performance.

Brent Bowen is America’s leading airline critic — and frequent air traveler — who has uncovered a few secrets on how to find the right carrier for you, how to avoid pain on your flight, and how to understand those obscure rules of air travel.

Bowen is an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor, and he publishes the Airline Quality Rating, a report we’ve sometimes written about on this blog. And the fact that he still flies shows that he’s figured out several secrets, which means he has less-eventful flights and is able to relax more while he’s on the plane.

The bottom line is simple: if you don’t make an informed decision about your travel plans, someone else will, and chances are that “someone” will be the airline. Their main concern is getting you from point A to point B safely; it’s up to you to do it in comfort and style. So here are some of Bowen’s secrets for having a more comfortable flight.

Knowing the right air travel secrets can help you have a more comfortable flight.Finding the right airline for you is key. You need one that fits your needs and budget. Do you need early seating? Do you want to avoid extra fees? Or is seat room a big concern? Dealing with an airline directly may give you more control over seating preferences, so research tickets and loyalty perks before you settle on one for the foreseeable future.

Next, know the rules. Air travel has become complex and most folks are unaware of the recent surge of fees and restrictions currently held by airlines. Be aware of the rules, especially with “low cost” carriers, who will often make up the lost ticket costs with additional fees. Look for deals and chances to avoid fees, such as joining an airline’s loyalty program or buying your ticket with one of their points-earning credit cards.

Whenever possible, Bowen says, fly nonstop as stopovers increase chances of lost luggage, delays, or other misfortunes. You only have one flight to contend with, so if there are any delays, you’re still going to get to your destination. But if you have a multi-leg flight, one late flight can throw off the entire trip.

If nonstop is not an option, then avoid checking a bag. Try to purchase a better seat to avoid the middle seat/back of plane (choose the upgrade to Economy Plus). And check the airline’s website and see if you can choose your seat in advance.

If you’re traveling for business and these options fall outside your corporate travel policy, see if you can make your own arrangements, and request reimbursement later. Alternatively, it might be better to take a longer trip than one with additional stops.

What are some of your air travel secrets to make sure you arrive in comfort? Road warriors, what tips have you learned that we could all benefit from? Share them on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Vincent Desjardins (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Stay Productive on the Road: These Companies Have a Desk For You

October 4, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

When traveling for business, you want space: space for your laptop, space for your phone, space to work, and a place to possibly even hold a meeting. But where can you find all this in order to stay productive?

Look no further than Spacious, a solution to “space” when working outside the office. Spacious turns restaurant dining areas into workspaces when they’re not actually open for business. The service has grown to nearly 20 locations since its debut just two years ago.

According to a recent article in USA Today, Emily Merrell, founder of Six Degrees Society joined Spacious last September. In less than a year, Merrell was so impressed by Spacious, she began using various locations for her office. In fact, when she recently moved to San Francisco, Merrell continued to use Spacious to run Six Degrees, an organization she created and which organizes networking events for women.

“I like the flexibility and that I can go to many locations,” she says. “In New York, I literally will go to the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side and Brooklyn, to three or four spaces in a day.”
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TSA, American Airlines Testing 3D Screening of Carry-on Bags at JFK

October 2, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is starting to look at luggage in a whole new way. A way that’s faster, more efficient, and will get you through the security checkpoints much faster. It’s called 3D screening and it looks at your blag in three dimensions, not the traditional two.

According to an article in USA Today, the TSA announced plans to begin testing a 3D scanner for carry-on luggage. The device, created by Analogic, has already begun testing with American Airlines at New York’s JFK airport. The test began in late July and uses a ConneCT scanner.

A 2D bag being screened. 3D screening will let you also look at the depth of bags.The partnership with Analogic and TSA could transform aviation security by adding state-of-the-art computed tomography (CT) technology to the security checkpoints, according to José Freig, American’s chief security officer.

“At American, we are always looking at ways to invest in technology that raises the bar on global aviation security while improving the customer experience,” Freig said.
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Lights Out for These Hotel Mattress Myths

September 20, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Ah, the hotel bed. Sometimes it’s a real crap shoot as to whether you find a comfortable bed like you’ve got at home, or something that should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention. If you don’t sleep well while you’re traveling, it may not just be that you’re away from home. It may be that your bed is, well, terrible. Or at least, not very comfortable.

While hotels advertise that their beds will give you “sweet dreams” and dispel any idea of counting sheep, not all guests would support those claims.

According to published reports in a USA Today article, two recent surveys say guests aren’t buying the idea of amazing beds.

The article asserts that hotel beds are at best, just plain old average.

Eighty-one percent of travelers say the “single-most important feature” in a hotel room is the bed, according to a hotel guest survey by MattressAdvisor.com. With plenty of guests complaining about poor sleep, not enough sleep, and restless sleep, what’s a weary traveler to do?

First, be picky about where you stay. Choose wisely.
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Business Travelers Increasingly Use Lyft Ride-Sharing Services

September 18, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

It used to be that, when you needed to get across town or to the airport, a loud whistle or the wave of an arm would bring a car to your feet. There was a time when a cab was the sole form of a solo ride for pedestrians.

Then Uber hit the streets, which began to threaten the public transportation mainstay; coming in from the back of the pack was Lyft. These days, the tried-and-true method has been overtaken by a sleeker, newer model, and ground transportation is becoming a neck-and-neck race between two contenders. And it’s the taxis that may be left out in the cold.

Lyft usage is increasing among business travelersAccording to USA Today, Certify, a business expense tracking company, reported that Lyft is seeing more growth than Uber and the “old-fashioned” taxi.
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Business Travel is Best Perk for Millennial Professionals

September 6, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you employ a lot of Millennials — the generation between ages 19 and 38 — you may appreciate knowing they consider business travel to be a major perk, and they actually enjoy it. So much, in fact, that many of them will often create reasons to take a trip.

(This may be welcome news to the seasoned travel veterans who are just as happy to stay home.)

Approximately 75 percent of young professionals describe business travel as a serious bonus to their work, with 65 percent considering it to be a status symbol, according to a new study commissioned by Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

Millennials like business travel enough that it's a major perk for them.Business travelers between 23 and 35 shared positive responses toward travel and more than half admitted creating a reason to travel for work. Globetrotting is such a perk that 39 percent say they would refuse a job offer if travel wasn’t required.

One of the perks, according to the young professionals is making friends. In fact, 75 percent have widened their circle of friends. Another is getting more accomplished while meeting in person. Eighty-one percent achieve more while face-to-face.
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No Powders Will be Allowed onto Planes, says TSA

August 28, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Starting June 30 it will be more difficult for international travelers to bring powders on their trips, at least in large quantities. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has adopted a stricter policy on baby powder, protein powder, dry spices, coffee, tea, and more through airport security.

Basically, the new regulation states that any passenger on an inbound international flight with 12 ounces or more of powder might be subject to additional screening at security checkpoints. What’s more, if TSA agents can’t identify the powder, then it may be confiscated and thrown away. So while it may not be a problem for coffee and tea drinkers, since that’s easily identifiable, certain spices may pose a potential problem.

The TSA is no longer allowing powders on inbound flights from foreign points of origin.This means even dry baby formula could be subject to a search or even confiscation. Of course, this only affects international flights coming into the US. Flying from North Carolina to visit your sister in Portland, Oregon is still okay.

Still, if you’re trying to bring large amounts of powder through security, you may want to consider shipping it to your final destination anyway. This policy might not be limited only to inbound international flights for very long; it’s possible it could expand to domestic flights in the future.
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Airline Complaints Drop in April 2018, Rise in May

August 23, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Just like airplanes, airline complaints are going up and down. For the most part, airlines are continuing to improve their baggage handling rates and reducing the number of canceled flights, which is leading to fewer complaints from passengers.

Thanks to new baggage handling technology and better planning and scheduling, we’re seeing fewer issues for passengers, which is putting travelers in a better mood, at least for the month of April.

One of the common airline complaints is about arrival and departure times.According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the dozen airlines that report baggage handling issues had 2.39 cases of mishandled bags for every 1,000 passengers, as reported in April 2018.

That’s a drop from March which had 2.59. What’s more, April 2017 saw a rate of 2.5, so there was an improvement from month to month, as well as year-over-year.
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Which U.S. Airlines Have the Most Economy Class Legroom?

August 21, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you noticed your personal space is shrinking on flights? You’re not imagining things. The space between your seat and the seat in front of you is getting smaller (or maybe a little bigger), depending on your airline. Over time the average seat pitch — the distance between the back of the seat in front of you and the front of your seat back (i.e. your personal space) — has shortened. Only two decades ago the pitch could be anywhere from 34 to 35 inches. Today the legroom is closer to 30 or 31 inches, depending on the airline.

Do you know how much legroom is available in your airplane?There are, however some airlines that may “fit” your need better than others. If you want to stretch your legs and not your budget, here are several airlines and planes worth checking out.

If you don’t want to pay extra for “economy plus” or “premium economy” upgrades in the major airlines, here are the carriers’ current pitch sizes.
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The Dirtiest Place in the Airport is Not What You Think

August 14, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Often thought of as the filthiest of places, an airport public restroom may not necessarily be the dirtiest place in the airport. What could be worse? Security bins? Ticket counters? The place where you and thousands of other travelers have to take your shoes off?

Curious as to what spot actually is the dirtiest, InsuranceQuotes, a Texas-based insurance company, went to three major U.S. airports and airline flights and performed 18 tests across six different surfaces. Samples were sent off to a laboratory to find the average number of colony forming units (CFU) or bacterial or fungal cells per square inch.

Basically, the more CFUs there are, the more contaminated a surface is.

Self-check-in kiosks is often the dirtiest place in the airport.The results were surprising: self-check kiosks contained the highest level of CFUs with 253,857. Armrests at the gate were second with 21,630 followed by water fountain buttons with 19,181.

It makes sense: all day, countless people tap the same screen to get their tickets, unaware the dirtiest place in the airport is right at their fingertips. The self-check-in kiosk is the one place nearly everyone is forced to touch. Not surprising then is that the world’s business airport, Hartsfield-Jackson, was the germiest of all three subject airports. Just one kiosk alone came back with 1 million CFU.

Remember that “filthy” restroom? An airport toilet contains 172 CFU on average.

The close proximity of other passengers and stale air in the airplane is blamed for illnesses, but maybe it’s the pre-flight contact instead. We may never know.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

The best way is, of course, complete avoidance whenever possible. Check into your flight from your smartphone or at home on your computer (just your germs there).

That being said, if you do find yourself at the airport, here are a few tips for cleaner traveling:

  1. Barefoot is bad! Walking barefoot through security makes you more susceptible to germs and infections like athlete’s foot, so always wear socks through the airport security line.
  2. Hand sanitizer. Carry TSA-approved size mini bottles of hand sanitizer for quick clean ups after touching dirty screens.
  3. Resting your elbows on armrests at your gate is comfortable, but if you wipe them down with disinfectant wipes first, they’ll be comfortable and clean.
  4. No brainer: always, always, always wash your hands after using the restroom. Public or private. Airports and everywhere. Always. Use soap and warm water for seconds; that’s “Happy Birthday” twice or the Alphabet song once.

“Safe travels” has a whole new meaning when you say ‘bon voyage’ to germs.

How do you avoid germs on your trips? What did you think the dirtiest place in the airport was? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: Marek Ślusarczyk (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.5)

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