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)

Hilton Guests Control Preferences with Smartphones

April 10, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

As if we weren’t already using our smartphones for everything, including as an automated assistant and running our smart homes, Hilton is now offering a “smart room” for its hotels nationwide. This will provide their guests the ability to manage their preferences without putting down their beloved devices.

According to a story on TravelMarketReport.com, the hotel chain plans to make some of its rooms “mobile-centric” this year, allowing guests to change the thermostat, operate the light switches, and sync their streaming service to the room’s television through the Hilton Honors app. And making the hotel room feel more like home will be possible by uploading personal images to the room’s digital frames. Then, you can take photos of your loved ones with you without actually packing any photos in your suitcase.

“Hey Hilton”

Hilton guests will be able to select their rooms and open their doors with their smartphones.This move is the first in the hotel’s ultimate goal of providing guests the ability to use voice commands to control these features. If you already have an Amazon Echo or Google Home device, you’re already familiar with how they work. A simple “Alexa” or “Okay Google” will let you activate one of its different commands, like turning on smart lights, changing the channel on your TV, or even ordering more coffee from Amazon Pantry.

Hilton is currently testing the system in one of their hotels, but said they plan to “scale rapidly” in the US this year.

Hilton expects to adapt the connected room based on the feedback it receives from its users. Hilton Honors app users already have the ability to check in, make their room selection, and open the door with a digital key, thus skipping any check-in lines if you’re at a conference. According to the company, four million keys have been downloaded since the program’s inception.

Marriott International is also vying for guests interested in utilizing mobile-centric amenities. It’s testing a voice-controlled shower and a yoga class video that can be viewed on the room’s full-length mirror.

Have you had a chance to use the new Hilton Honors app or smart room? Do you use a similar device at home? Will this make you more likely to stay at a Hilton? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Hilton Hotels (Used with permission)

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)

How Tech Has Transformed Business Travelers’ Productivity

January 9, 2018 by · 1 Comment 

If you were taking bets on whether business travelers would say their time on the road boosted their productivity, would you wager that a large percentage says it does? Or do you think most people say their travels have cut into their productivity?

If you said the former, you’d be right. According to a survey by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, 80 percent of business travelers claim that technology has greatly increased their ability to get work done while away from the office.

(Part of it may also be from not having to attend so many meetings.)

Many business travelers take their laptops with them to get work done.With a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop — the top three “travel tools” business travelers declared they couldn’t live without — no longer do people lament over lost time spent en route to clients. The advent of wifi in the sky and almost everywhere in between, downtime is almost a thing of the past. Business travelers utilize flight time and layovers, as well as time in hotel rooms to catch up on correspondence, complete proposals, and send documents wirelessly to keep projects on schedule.

“The business traveler can be so much more productive than even five years ago thanks to technology,” said Simon Nowroz, Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s CMO told Travelpulse.com, a travel news site. “Think about the advances where a business traveler used to have so much down time between a flight, taxi and hotel. Now, they can log in and work while on the plane or wherever they happen to be. With the continued emergence of the tablet, as well as numerous apps, travelers don’t feel out of touch as they carry out business.”

This ability to continue working whenever and wherever has prompted many — 78 percent — to actively seek ways to travel for business. Nearly nine of 10 survey respondents also claimed that they gained significant knowledge and perspective as a result of their business travels.

How do these road warriors stay connected while away from the office? Email is still the prevalent method of communication with 44 percent selecting it as their primary means of keeping in touch. Surprisingly, nearly 24 percent make phone calls while only 14 percent prefer to text important information to those back at the office.

Three other modes of technology cited as helpful in maintaining connectedness with loved ones were phone calls (44 percent), Skype (24 percent), and texting (14 percent).

Business travelers, do you stay more productive when you’re on the road? Or do you find that you lose productive work time because of time in the car or in the air? How do you stay in touch with loved ones and the office while you’re traveling? Share your ideas with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: ChrisDag (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

American, Delta Ban Smart Luggage If Batteries Are Not Removable

January 4, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you received smart luggage for Christmas, we don’t mean to spoil your new year, but three major airlines — American, Alaska, and Delta — have already banned suitcases and carry-on bags that are equipped with integrated lithium-ion batteries and external charging ports.

In short, if you cannot remove your battery from your smart luggage, you can’t use the bag on those airlines.

Smart luggage: Crew Executive Choice 2 Backpack has a built-in phone charger. You supply the power pack though.

Crew Executive Choice 2 Backpack – with REMOVABLE phone charger

If you bring your luggage into the cabin, you can leave the battery in place, but you must have the option to remove it in case the airline needs to move everyone to a smaller plane.

The airlines cited concerns about inflight fires, as happened with the now-famous Galaxy Note 7 smartphones and kids’ hoverboards. You may also remember the Federal Aviation Administration’s short-lived ban on laptops with the same batteries in cargo holds on incoming international flights.

The ban goes into effect January 15 on American, Delta, and Alaska Airlines, even as United Airlines says they will soon follow; Southwest Airlines is reviewing their policy as well. Delta’s statement cited “the potential for the powerful batteries to overheat and pose a fire hazard risk during flight.” American declared its internal safety team evaluated these bags for necessary “risk mitigation” and deemed they “pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft.”

Smart luggage: Travelpro Crew 11 USB Port

The Crew 11’s built-in power port is a great way to keep your mobile devices powered up and ready to go, but you can still remove the battery.

Before you return your smart luggage, make sure your replacement bag has the option where the battery can be removed or disconnected. Even if you toss the battery into the main compartment of the luggage, you can carry the bag onto the plane with you. But it has to be removable.

Travelpro has two Collections which feature a dedicated exterior power bank battery pocket which allows users to insert their own battery, connect a charging cable, and make use of an external USB port. Because the battery is not provided by the company, nor is it integrated into the hardware of the suitcase’s frame, travelers can remove it at any time within seconds. This puts all Travelpro’s luggage in compliance with any airline or FAA policy, current or future.

The collections which feature the dedicated power bank exterior pocket and external USB port include:

  • Crew™ 11 Softside and Hardside Collections, available in various carry-on models including the 21″ Expandable Spinner and 22″ Expandable Rollaboard® Suiter
  • Crew™ Executive Choice™ 2 Collection which includes a Pilot Brief, Checkpoint Friendly Backpack and Wheeled Brief

The FAA has a longstanding policy of banning spare lithium-ion batteries in checked luggage, while allowing passengers to stow them in carryons.

Did you get a smart bag for the holidays? How does this news impact you?on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Top Five Little-Known Travel Apps for Business Travelers

December 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

When a traveler who has logged 2 million air miles and stayed 1,000 nights in a hotel offers his top five travel apps, you listen. Thanks to Maurice Freedman for sharing his “Swiss Army Knife suite of travel apps” to help all of us amateurs experience travel like a pro.

Freedman’s first app is stayconnect. It may seem like a small luxury, but being able to control the television in your hotel room without touching the remote could save you from picking up some unwanted germs. It doesn’t work in all hotels, but the 600,000 where it does makes it a worthy addition to your phone. (Plus it may help you change TV stations at a restaurant or coffee shop.)

Mobile phone being used by a woman with red painted fingernails, accessing her travel appsYou don’t have to depend on the hotel’s concierge for restaurant recommendations or to get reservations if you have the OpenTable app. You can search by location, cuisine, or price, and reserving a table is simple as pie. You can book and cancel without penalty too, which is great when your plans change on a dime. The only downside to this app is that not all dining establishments use it.

Don’t want to leave your hotel room to eat because you’re already in your comfy clothes for the night? Room service is not your only option. With Seamless, you can scroll through over 12,000 delivery menus for restaurants with 80+ kinds of cuisines, pay online (including tip), and then sit back and wait for your food to come right to your door.

If your phone comes with a weather app, you may question Freedman’s next recommendation. But does your weather app tell you when it’s going to rain in your specific location and how long you can expect that precipitation to inconvenience you? If you purchase Dark Sky, you won’t be caught without an umbrella when you need it, and you can set it to notify you at a specific time each day so that you know whether to expect blue or cloudy skies.

Texting is great until you have to leave the country. Then how do you communicate if your phone plan doesn’t cover international travel? What’sApp is your perfect solution. It works regardless of carrier or phone type and over one BILLION people enjoy its free service. All you need is wifi or a data plan to talk, text, or share locations.

What are your favorite little-known travel apps? What have you been using on your most recent travels? What’s the most esoteric-but-useful one on your mobile phone? Share your best travel apps with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Skeeze (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Delta, JetBlue Begin Testing Biometric Boarding Passes

November 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The future is now, or nearly so, now that the scanning of fingerprints is reaching mass adoption in the travel world. Delta is partnering with independent airport security company CLEAR to capitalize on its proven biometric data technology for expediting the boarding process.

“We’re rapidly moving toward a day when your fingerprint, iris, or face will become the only ID you’ll need for any number of transactions throughout a given day,” Gil West, Delta COO, said on the company’s website. “We’re excited Delta’s partnership with CLEAR gives us an engine to pioneer this customer experience at the airport.” While only in phase one of development, the potential is real for the printed or even electronic boarding pass to quickly become a relic of the past.

Delta Airlines' machine for biometric boarding passesThe current biometric boarding passes pilot program offers eligible Delta SkyMiles members who have also purchased CLEAR to navigate Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport using only their fingerprint as identification. They can clear security and enter the Delta Sky Club. Phase two would allow them to also check luggage and board their flight using their biometric boarding passes data.

JetBlue also began testing the use of facial recognition in June on just one route: Boston to Aruba. In its pilot partnership with air carrier technology company SITA and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), passengers have their picture taken at the gate. SITA’s technology compares that photo with the one on file with CBP to see if it matches the passenger’s passport photo. Because the flight is international, all passengers should already have a passport on file. If JetBlue decides to extend this technology to domestic flights, some other form of identification would have to be used, since not all travelers have valid passports.

Jim Peters, SITA’s chief technology officer, said in a JetBlue press release: “This biometric self-boarding program for JetBlue and the CBP is designed to be easy to use. What we want to deliver is a secure and seamless passenger experience . . . This is the first integration of biometric authorization by the CBP with an airline and may prove to be a solution that will be quick and easy to roll out across US airports.”

Have you ever used biometric boarding passes to get onto your flight? Would you use it, or do you prefer the traditional methods? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Delta Airlines

Five Ways to Watch TV & Movies while Traveling

October 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Binge watching is sometimesone of the only things that makes a long-haul flight, road trip, or long-distance traveling tolerable. If you want to catch up on your favorite TV series or stream a movie you didn’t see in the theater, you don’t have to be tech-savvy to access media content on the road. You just need to plan ahead.

1. Download content from Hulu or Netflix

You can watch Hulu Plus or Netflix on different electronic devices while traveling.While Hulu and Netflix are great for streaming your favorite shows and movies, they’ve both recently begun allowing people to download content to be watched later. Before you start traveling, while you’re still on wifi, download as many episodes or films as your device will hold (don’t forget to save room for photos on your phone!)

2. Buy it on iTunes

If you don’t have Netflix or Hulu, or the content you want isn’t available for download, see if you can find it on iTunes and buy or rent it there. If you buy it, you have the added bonus of always owning that content, so you can watch it over and over to your heart’s desire. But you can only watch the Netflix/Hulu content for a limited time. If it’s ever removed from the streaming services, your copy will be lost as well.
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Business Travelers Can Continue to Carry Laptops in their Carry-On Luggage

July 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The United States Department of Homeland Security has ended a four month ban on laptops in carry-on luggage on U.S. bound flights from the Middle East and North Africa. The ban was originally enacted because terrorism experts were concerned that explosives could be concealed in electronics as large as laptops and mobile tablets. It affected ten airports and nine airlines that are based in the Middle East.

The King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was the final airport to have the ban lifted, after they and the other airlines and airports implemented new security measures designed to check for explosives in the large electronics.

Officials visited the ten airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, and confirmed that the security measures were in place.
Business travelers on Etihad Airways and other Middle East airlines were concerned about a laptop ban.
The airports originally affected include Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Jeddah, Saudia Arabia; Riyadh, Saudia Arabia; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, UAE; and Abu Dhabi, UAE. The carriers most heavily impacted by this ban were Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudia, and Turkish Airlines.
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Business Travelers Rejoice! Global In-Flight Wifi Connectivity Growing in 2017

July 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Years ago, business travelers used to love or hate their flights. It was either a much-needed escape or a stint in solitary confinement. Like it or not, you were unreachable for the duration of your flight. No phones, no wifi, no Internet. If you didn’t bring out some printouts or reports to read, you didn’t have anything to work on.

Now, apart from the smaller seats, you can function as if you never left your office at all.

According to Routehappy’s 2017 wifi report, Global State of In-Flight Wifi, there is more in-flight connectivity than there has ever been. They found that 39 percent of global flights and 83 percent of U.S. flights’ actual seat miles — miles flown multiplied by the number of available seats — offer wifi connectivity as an amenity. There are also 60 airlines worldwide that now offer in-flight wifi over most regions of the globe.
Business travelers will be able to use their wifi enabled cell phones more in 2017. This is a man texting on a plane.
“2016 was the year that airlines outside the U.S. committed to high-quality, in-flight wifi at a rate only previously seen by U.S. carriers, and 2017 will see those commitments come to life,” Routehappy CEO Robert Albert said in a Business Travel News article.
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