Delta Air Lines to Ditch Zone Boarding in 2019

March 7, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Delta Air Lines passengers will soon find boarding their aircraft done in a different way that’s supposed to cut down on confusion, speed up the boarding process, and best of all, stop everyone from crowding around the gate 10 minutes before their section is called.

According to a recent USA Today article, the airline now boards passengers by ticket type, and not by its long-standing zone method. Changes went into effect on January 23 on flights and were created to reduce pre-boarding stress for flyers.

United Airlines switched to a similar process last fall for the same reason.

Delta's new color-coded boarding chart eliminates their zone boarding“Every customer values consistency and a sense of knowing what to expect when they’re traveling,” said Tim Mapes, Delta’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, said in a company news release. “We have been listening to our customers about the stress they often feel at the gate before boarding, and implementing small changes for years. This latest enhancement further refines how Delta’s process works and is designed to better link the Delta product they purchased to differentiated experiences throughout their journey.”

The new, color-coded process required renaming boarding groups and will increase the number of those groups.

First in will be the pre-boarders. Then Delta One suites. First Class will be next. Travelers who pay for upgrades or are upgraded to Delta’s Comfort Plus board next. The Atlanta-based airline said the addition of Comfort Plus boarding was recommended by gate agents to reduce crowding at the gate. A two-month test in Atlanta proved positive, and so they made it the new standard.

Travelers with platinum or gold medallion status in Delta’s Sky Miles program will be known as the new Sky Priority boarding group and will follow Comfort Plus passengers on board. Those with seats in the main cabin will board according to their number. Delta’s lowest frequent flier tier, silver and certain credit card holders will board with the Main Cabin 1 group. Last but not least, Delta’s no-frill basic economy fare will board last.

Delta's new color-coded boarding chart

Have you tried out the new Delta boarding method or any other airline’s method? What did you think? How do you think this will help reduce congestion and crowding at the gates? Share your thoughts and experiences on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Source: Delta.com

How Women Travelers Can Protect Themselves on the Road

January 29, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Women who frequently travel are often concerned about their personal safety and security, which can sometimes give them pause about where and when they travel.

In a recent article for Entrepreneur magazine, contributor Kim Albrecht suggests several ways in which women can keep themselves safe while traveling for business. We found a few we thought you should know right away, but highly recommend you read the entire article for the rest of the tips.

Albrecht, the Chief Marketing Officer at SAP Concur, reported that women are making up half the business traveling population and they continue to be on the move. Since women face more travel safety risks than their male counterparts, it should come as no surprise that 83 percent of women polled said they’ve experienced a safety issue or concern in the last year while traveling for work; only 53 percent of women always or sometimes report their experiences. Alarmingly, only 18 percent of corporate travel policies specifically address female safety needs.

Albrecht partnered with Kathy Leodler, CEO of security firm Rampart Group, and former FBI special agent, SWAT commander, and corporate security director, and together, they created a safety checklist sure to come in handy for female travelers.

Like most activities, Albrecht says, preparation is key.

Check your employer’s travel insurance program and learn what is covered. Self-employed? Not a problem. You can also buy private travel insurance. Hard copies and electronic copies of your travel insurance are important: keep both with you while traveling. Share the details of the insurance benefits with a trusted person.

Speaking of copies, make copies of your passport ID page to make it easier to file a report and get a replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy with a trusted contact at home and carry another with you. Do the same with your trip itinerary in case your smartphone is lost or stolen. (It helps to keep a copy in the cloud too, so you can access it from, say, an Internet cafe or hotel business center.)

The Lemon Tree Hotel - Chandigarh. This hotel has a women-only floor for women travelersWell-known hotels are generally safer and some offer female-only floors. Ask before you book, and if necessary, switch up hotels to get a more secure one or one that offers a female-only floor. You might want to check out Maiden Voyage which offers a list of certified female-friendly hotels worldwide.

Book a flight with arrival time during daylight hours. This is especially important for international arrivals. And make sure you only take licensed taxis from the specified taxi loading zones at airports and hotels. If you prefer a ride sharing service, but would like to request a female driver, Uber and Lyft don’t offer that as an option, but there are several ride sharing services in specific cities.

The U.S. Department of State has important information for every country in the world including visa requirements, safety and security conditions, health and medical considerations, local laws and areas to avoid. Learn where the closest US embassy or consulate is located at your destination. There is an option to enroll your trip with the State Department in the event of an emergency, so be sure to do so if you’re traveling to a State Department hotspot.

Do you like to wander? Apps like TripIt can provide valuable local information such as safety scores for categories like women’s safety, physical harm, health and medical, theft, and more.

Modesty is a safe bet when it comes to clothing and wardrobe, said Albrecht. Leave jewelry at home, particularly expensive pieces to avoid standing out. Choose shoes that are comfortable and ones that don’t restrict mobility, should you need to move quickly.

Albrecht also suggests packing a decoy wallet with a small amount of cash and expired credit cards. You can wear a hidden money belt with actual cash and cards.

So whether you travel to the next city or across the globe, listen to your intuition: if you feel a bad vibe from somewhere or someone, listen to your gut instinct and remove yourself from the situation. And be sure to check out Albrecht’s article for other safety tips when you travel.

If you’re a woman and a frequent traveler, what do you do to keep yourself safe on your travels? Share your tips, suggestions, and stories on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Shankar S. (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

United Airlines Launches Color-Coded Process for Streamlined Boarding

December 18, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Customers spoke and United Airlines listened. Travel is becoming a bit more colorful for customers of United as their signage and boarding process becomes color-coded. The carrier recently launched its streamlined boarding process across its 1,000 gates worldwide, after Los Angeles International Airport was the first facility to test out the new process.

Maria Walter, managing director of Global Operations Strategy for United, said the change was inspired by customers. In a press release on the United website, Walter said, “We listened to customers and employees as we tested a variety of processes on thousands of flights until we found a better boarding process that results in less time spent waiting in lines, improved communication and a better way to recognize our Premier customers while balancing out the number of passengers in each boarding group.”

According to United:

The improvements start with reducing the number of boarding lanes from five to two, giving customers added space, more time to relax and less time spent in line. . . United app users will also receive a new alert when boarding has begun for their flight, making it easier to know when to make their way to the gate. . . Digital displays in the gate area also keep customers informed with updated helpful boarding information.

The traditional boarding process of using groups will remain, but passengers will be processed through a color-coded system creating shorter lines and shorter wait times. A recent USA Today article stated that instead of boarding by row — the method in place for decades — Group 1 travelers will include frequent flyers, active military, and families traveling with children under two. They’ll board first when airline personnel announce “Premier 1K.”
A diagram explaining United Airlines' new color-coded boarding process.
Group 2 will be called next, and includes first class and business class flyers; they’ll also board in lane 1. They will be joined by Platinum and Gold level frequent flyers. Both Groups 1 and 2 will use the Blue lane. Stragglers of Group 1 and 2 will still board through the Blue lane.

Meanwhile, Silver-level frequent flyers, select United credit card holders and passengers who have purchased priority access will enter lane 2, now known as the Green lane.

Following those two groups will be Groups 3, 4, and 5 which consists of Economy Plus, United Economy and Basic Economy. These travelers will board after the first two groups, entering through lane 2. They’ll also board in the Green lane.

United will begin adopting new technology to send text messages, as well as send updates via digital displays in the gate area.

What are your thoughts on United Airlines’ new boarding process? Is this something you’re looking forward to? What’s your ideal boarding process? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Courtesy of United Airlines

2019 Global Travel Forecast

December 11, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Travel agents and frequent business travelers will want to pay special attention to the latest information from Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), the global travel agency. Each year, they issue a forecast of what they expect the following year’s global travel forecast will look like.

The goal of the report, says CWT is “to enable travel buyers around the globe to create and support their travel programs for next year whether local, national, regional or in-between.

Here are a few of their predictions from their 2019 Global Travel Forecast.

The Asia Pacific region will see price increases: 3.2% for air, 5.1% for hotel, and .5% for ground transportation. The growth of the tourism and business travel market for Asia (especially China, now the world’s biggest corporate travel market) is putting pressure on the travel industry, which means travelers will have trouble not only getting rooms at their preferred properties but at their preferred rates as well. So book early, and have a backup plan ready.

The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore. The 2019 global travel forecast predicts higher prices and limited availability for hotels in Asia and other parts of the world.

The Fullterton Hotel in Singapore

There will be a global increase in demand for rooms. We already said tourism and business travel is going to grow in Asia, but this is also true for Europe and Africa. Plus, the introduction of “ultra-long haul flights” will also increase leisure and business travel. More people going to more places means a need for more hotel rooms. While this means that there will eventually be more hotels, it doesn’t help in the short term, so make sure you book early or consider Airbnb and other room-sharing websites to find a place to stay.

Rental car companies will increase their prices, at least in the U.S. CWT is expecting to see an increase in car rental prices in Q4 2019, as the three main car rental agencies — which cover 90% of the US market — are seeing their fleet costs and maintenance costs increase and the residuals on their used cars are going down. The projected increase in price is 1% for corporate business travelers.

Amazon’s artificial intelligence is going to have an impact on travel According to CWT’s report, the travel industry is full-to-overflowing with all kinds of data on travelers — credit card, travel and expense HR data, combined with all the actual travel data like flights, car rental, and hotels — AI and machine learning systems are able to personalize and automate a lot of business travel functions. This means self-booking travelers are more likely to interact with a chatbot than a real customer service person on the other end of the computer line.

Fare tracking, fare forecasting, and the use of chat bots to book flights and hotels are increasingly the norm. Personalizing travel is no longer just about upgrades and ancillary services. Algorithms are being built to fully understand traveler preferences and behavior, and to extract more revenue by offering relevant products and services in real time.

Right now, as the economy is in an upswing, we’re expecting more and bigger things to happen in the global travel market. More of you will be traveling more often to more places. Of course, you’ll pay a little more too, but if you’re able to see a positive ROI on your business travels, or just have a fun time on vacation, it will all be worth it. Just remember to book things early, and always keep your confirmation numbers handy.

What are your travel plans for 2019? Do any of Carlson Wagonlit’s predictions have an effect on what you’re planning for next year? Share your ideas and your own predictions on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Holgi (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

Free Wifi On Planes? Make Sure You Practice STRICT Security

November 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

How important is it to you to have free wifi on planes? Are you able to stand being disconnected from the office for 1 – 6 hours? Or do you have to be connected at all times? And if it’s that important, are you willing to pay for in-flight wifi, or do you sit and suffer because you don’t want to pay $10 for a few hours of connectivity?

Delta Airlines is beginning to offer a rare incentive for their fliers and giving us all free wifi on their flights. Last year, they began offering free texting to their passengers, and this year, they’re upping the ante.

In a recent Travel Market Report article, Delta Air Lines said it would provide the free amenity, and according to Delta CEO Ed Bastian, it would be faster than what we’re already used to.

A man sitting on an airplane wearing a knit tube over his head and his laptop computer. His hands fit into little openings near the laptop. This is not good security if you're using free wifi on planes.

No, this won’t help.

Speaking at the Skift Global Forum in New York recently, Bastian said he didn’t know of anyplace other than in an airplane that you can’t access free wifi, so he wanted Delta to be the first to provide it to passengers. When the fee would be dropped remains unclear, but it is expected to be well-received.

We’re definitely in favor of free wifi, but it’s critical that you follow strong security measures in order to keep your computer and your personal information safe from prying eyes.

  1. Make sure you use a VPN (virtual private network) to encrypt all web traffic to and from your computer.
  2. Make sure your malware protection and firewall are current. If you don’t have any, buy some.
  3. Never do any banking or transmit sensitive financial data while you’re on a free wifi system. If you need to do it, wait until you’re on the ground, and do it on your phone with the wifi turned off. Cellular data is harder to intercept.
  4. Be sure the wifi system you want to log onto is the right one. There are many imposters that look legit — Free_Airport_Wifi may look legitimate, but you can’t always tell. Make sure you know the official name of the official wifi, and ask someone who works there if you’re not sure.

These steps are always important, even if you don’t travel very often. But if you’re going to use free wifi, whether it’s at a coffee shop, the airport, or even a plane, you have to take steps to make sure you don’t fall victim to cybercrime.

Are you looking forward to Delta’s free in-flight wifi? Or do you prefer to stay unconnected while you’re flying? Some people want to answer emails, while others just want to read a book. How about you? Tell us your thoughts on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Becky Stern (Flickr, Creative Commons)

How to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling

October 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Several weeks ago, we wrote about how one of the dirtiest places in the airport is the check-in kiosk at the front of the airport. Thousands of fingers poke at the screen every day, and no one cleans it off. Compare that to the airport bathrooms, which are cleaned hourly. In other words, the airport bathroom is much more sanitary than a computer kiosk.

Other germ-laden places you face during air travel? Armrests on the seats at the gates, armrests on the plane, and the tray tables.

And let’s not forget the security checkpoints. It turns out that the containers you send through the x-ray machine are also some of the nastiest places in the airport. Everyone touches the containers, but not everyone has clean hands.

The 2017-2018 flu season was one of the worst in history, and we’re not sure what 2018-2019 is going to bring. And since it’s right around the corner, you’re at greater odds of getting sick when you travel this winter, so preventative measures are key to staying healthy.

One way to prevent the flu is getting a flu vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), now is the time to get one, and you should get it sooner rather than later, as it takes two weeks for the vaccine to provide the highly-desired protection. Even if the vaccine is not 100% effective, or you get infected with another strain of the flu virus, the vaccination reduces transmission in the population in general, as well as lessens your own symptoms.

Self-check-in kiosks is often the dirtiest place in the airport.If you want to avoid getting sick when you travel, there are a few precautions you should take. First, the CDC suggests carrying a travel health kit, consisting of tissues, soap, alcohol-based sanitizer, and pain/fever medicine. We’ll also recommend adding some sanitizing wipes as well. Having these items handy may reduce your risk of infection and keep you well.

Use the hand sanitizer whenever you touch a dirty surface, or use the sanitizing wipes to wipe down those surfaces before you ever touch them. Wipe down the the armrests at the gate and your armrests and tray table on the plane. Use the hand sanitizer once you board and again after you use the bathroom on the plane.

Avoid traveling when you feel ill. Should you become ill, your physician can prescribe drugs to treat the flu infection, making the illness shorter and milder. The same is true for a cold — it may not be as severe as the flu, but it can still put a damper on your trip.

And when you do travel, follow a few simple rules:

  • Avoid close contact with people who appear sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough by doing it in your sleeve.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after you blow your nose or use the bathroom.
  • Avoid touching your face if you’re in public because that’s often how the flu gets into your system — through touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with dirty hands.
  • Finally, hygiene, sleep, drinking plenty of water, and eating right will greatly help reduce your risk of contracting most illnesses.

How do you stay healthy when you travel? Do you have any “I got sick on a business trip” horror stories? Share them with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

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

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)

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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