What to Do if you Lose your ID Before a Flight

June 12, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve checked every pocket, looked in every drawer, retraced your steps over the last seven days, and the worst has happened: you lost your ID, and you’re flying back home in a few hours.

Before you have a meltdown in your hotel room or Uber and wail like Dorothy, “There’s no place like home!” there’s good news: You can still fly home, even if you’ve lost your identification. It won’t be as easy as clicking your heels together, but it can be done.

Check-in desk at Athens International Airport. Start here if you ever lose your ID.Let’s start with the basics. Get to the airport as early as possible, because this is going to take some time. Your first stop should be at your airline’s check-in counter to report the situation to a representative.

They have the power to grant you permission to proceed to your next step — security — provided you have other forms of identification — a credit card in your name, or even a digital copy of your birth certificate, driver’s license, or passport. This is why you should take photos of those documents and keep them in a secure place, like Evernote or Google Drive.

Even some other document that states your name and address, such as an electric bill or official correspondence, will work. Keep in mind that the airlines will not issue you a refund if you miss your flight because you have this problem, so you have to get there early.

Once the airline representative is satisfied you are who you say you are, you may think you’re over the rainbow. Sadly, you’re not. You still have to pass through security. Many people come and go so quickly here, but that will not be your experience. TSA will ask you the same questions again, so don’t treat them poorly — your clearance depends on their goodwill, so if you create a scene, you might not be getting on that plane. Go willingly with them to the separate room they’ll likely take you to, and be as polite and patient as possible.

After their additional screening is complete, you’ll be free to head to your gate and board your flight. If, however, this happens while you’re traveling abroad, your best first course of action is to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy to get the process underway to get replacement passports.

But if you want to expedite the process and save yourself some headaches later, here are two suggestions: 1) Have scans of your birth certificate, driver’s license, and passport stored in the cloud so you can access them with your phone in case this ever happens. 2) Storing hard copies of those documents in a secret spot in your suitcase is best if you’re traveling abroad.

With some luck, plenty of patience, not to mention politeness, you’ll be at your final destination in no time, with a great story to tell, and hopefully a short delay on getting a replacement ID.

Have you ever lost your ID before a flight? How did you manage? Any suggestions on how to navigate the process? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Things to Do When Your Flight Gets Canceled

June 5, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Weather these days is getting more and more unpredictable. Winter brings heavy blizzards and ice in the Midwest and Northeast, spring brings thunderstorms and tornadoes, and it’s hurricane season in the Southeast from June through November. So chances are, you’re going to see flights get canceled or postponed because of the weather.

If that happens, there are several ways to make the most of the situation. If your rescheduled flight is for later in the day, you can stay in the terminal and tackle your inbox or other necessary reading. You could purchase a day pass to an airport lounge and have a quiet environment complete with food and drinks in which to wait it out.

Check the departure board when your flight gets canceledBut if you’re looking at an 10 – 12 hour wait, or even an overnight delay, you can go home or to your hotel and try again the next day. This too allows you to get some rest, investigate other options, or do what work you can while in the “holding pattern.”

If you’re stranded away from home and you’ve already checked out of your hotel, be sure to use your rewards app for your favorite hotel chain to check availability. Your status may help you beat out others trying to secure a reservation for the night. (Another option: search Google Maps for a nearby hotel and call them directly. Avoid calling the hotel’s 800 number; they’re not as plugged into the individual hotel’s reservations as the local people.)

Work with a travel agent. A recent Nor’easter almost wrecked one family’s Disney vacation, but having booked their travel with an experienced agent, having followed her tiny piece of advice — purchasing seats instead of relying on the airline to assign them — assured them seats on an oversold flight many were unwilling to risk rescheduling due to the impending snowstorm. Because of their agent’s knowledge of the system and counsel, they made one of the last flights out and were able to maintain their desired itinerary.

The family’s story shows a good reason for buying travel insurance. Sometimes you can’t settle for being rescheduled by the airline because other portions of your itinerary hinge on your making a flight. If you have travel insurance and your flight is canceled or your destination is closed for weather, you won’t be out that money — it will be repaid through your insurance, and you can reschedule at a later time for another flight or trip.

Finally, investigate alternate transportation. If you absolutely must get somewhere and the airport is shut down, consider renting a car (if roads are passable) or taking a bus to your destination. Again, using a car rental app when searching for a rental car may get you keys when others waiting at the counter may be out of luck.

What do you do when your flight is canceled? Have you ever had to face that? How did you manage? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Bryan Alexander (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Bots Poised to Take Over Travel Industry

May 15, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s not just other people who know you these days. Thanks to machine learning, artificial intelligence has evolved to the point that your personal preferences for nearly everything are not only being cataloged, they can assist an AI system in helping you complete everything from a hotel booking to a dinner reservation.

The process is so seamless that sometimes you may not even be aware you’re being helped by a computer instead of a real person. Chatbots are ubiquitous on online travel sites and airline reservation systems, as well as some financial institutions, software help centers, and ecommerce websites. They allow human agents to work on more complex issues, and they facilitate faster processing and confirmation of orders and reservations.

Delta Airlines' machine for biometric boarding passes. The travel industry is moving more toward this kind of technology.

Delta Airlines’ machine for biometric boarding passes

AI’s use in the travel industry is the result of traveler feedback about desired efficiency and convenience. For example, if you don’t want to make any decisions, Google Trips can plan a complete itinerary based on what it has learned from your past travel experiences. Just tell the app where you want to go, and everything is kept in one location and can be adapted if your plans change en route.

The hotel industry is also partnering with technology innovators, like IBM, to provide their guests with “personalized” attention from a robotic concierge, 24/7. Connie, the result of a partnership between Hilton and IBM, provides details about the hotel, its amenities, and local attractions. Its software allows it to continually enhance users’ experiences because it is able to learn from interactions and apply that knowledge in future conversations.

AI is also being used to enhance security at airports. While all of us are aware of the body scanners used in the security screening process, one airport is testing the use of hidden facial recognition cameras to identify who is moving through security areas. Dubai International Airport is testing its facial recognition in real time through the implementation of a virtual aquarium, where cameras track and catalog who moves through the tunnel.

With all this data collection, the next concern for this technology is the potential that exists for breaches of privacy and security, as well as misuse by the organizations storing our data. Do travelers have the right to know if they’re being scanned, photographed, and their data stored somewhere? As we continue to crave efficiency and convenience, this issue will have to be addressed.

What are your thoughts? Are you ready to welcome our robot overlords, or are you a little hesitant to turn your information over to a machine? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Delta Airlines

Air Travel That’s Easier on Your Brain and Body

May 8, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

We all know the basics for staying at our best during air travel: get plenty of rest, eat right, stay hydrated, exercise, and avoid caffeine. But here are a few tips to enhance your experience as you prepare for your next time to fly.

Knowledge is power, so instead of allowing your brain to be preoccupied the night before you take off with details about how you might make that 40-minute layover window, go online and determine the best way to navigate the distance between gates or terminals. You’ll go in with a plan and your brain will then be able to relax and solve other less troublesome problems while you sleep.

There are a few things you can do to make your air travel easier on your brain and your body.Instead of relying on airline food or airport food to nourish you, pack your own snacks, such as trail mix, jerky, or dried fruit. Sticking to your diet or eating regimen will allow your body to weather the rigors of travel without diverting energy and effort to digestion. If you need some sort of energy boost, pack a high-fiber snack such as an apple, a pear, or some raspberries. Even choosing to pack a simple baggie of bran flakes can, with the purchase of a carton of milk at a terminal restaurant or store, become a healthy alternative to a donut with coffee.

Speaking of caffeine, avoid it in order to remain hydrated during air travel. Notorious for their dry environments, the recycled air in planes doesn’t help your system function at its best, and caffeine is also known to increase dehydration. Drinking extra water the day before will help ward off the sluggishness associated with dehydration. Pack a reusable water bottle — make sure it’s empty when you go through security — to help you have access to water without paying through the nose for a plastic bottle.

Substituting green tea for coffee will give you some caffeine with extra benefits. Green tea also contains EGCG, an immune-boosting antioxidant, and L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid known to help you be calm and relaxed in flight.

Exercise while traveling doesn’t have to entail packing special shoes or clothing. Simply choosing to walk up the escalator or between terminals instead of taking the airport’s shuttle system will kickstart your body’s metabolism and increase your mental sharpness.

Traveling by plane can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. How do you cope with flying, especially if you’re a regular flyer? Share your tips in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Adrian Pingstone (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Five Tips for Getting Your Passport and Avoiding Headaches

May 3, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Passport applications and renewals are surging at an all-time high, so if you’ve been meaning to renew your old passport or need to apply for a new one, we’d like to give you some tips to make the process as painless as possible.

The reason for the surge dates back to 2007, when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative of 2007 required all those traveling to the United States from other countries to show a valid passport or approved documentation. This changed from the days when US citizens could travel between Canada and Mexico with just their driver’s licenses. In 2007, 18 million passports were issued, and now all those are approaching or have exceeded their 10-year issuance limit.

Another reason for the record number of applications and renewals is the Department of Homeland Security’s implementation of phase four of the REAL ID Act. Beginning January 18, 2018, a driver’s license was no longer sufficient identification for boarding an airplane if the state didn’t comply with the mandated standards set by the DHS.

So, how can you get that little blue book in the shortest time possible so you don’t encounter any travel headaches? Here are our five tips.

Photo of a U.S. passport1. What should be obvious by now is this: don’t wait until the last minute to start. If you have a few months before your trip, that may not be enough time. Expediting is possible, but due to the glut of applications and renewal requests, don’t push your luck.

2. For you procrastinators, there is a service you can pay to handle the process for you. Called govWorks, it exists to change the way people interface with federal and foreign governments. The company can accelerate processing for travel visas, passports, and other travel documents by facilitating access to a customer’s information from a secure platform.

govWorks CEO Adam Boalt said, “Many countries will not accept a passport with less than six months of remaining validity. If possible, you should get a passport renewal at least nine months before it expires.”

3. If you travel internationally frequently, consider applying for a 52-page passport. Many people aren’t even aware this is an option, but that almost doubling in capacity can really come in handy when each country requires two stamps for entry and exit from its state. When a page can only accommodate four stamps, the standard 28-page booklet can fill quickly.

4. If you plan to travel with your children and live in a state that is currently out of compliance with the REAL ID Act, get passports for yourself and your children. Keep in mind that children’s passports aren’t issued for the same length of time as adult passports. They are only good for five years and will be required for children who travel with their parents in the continental US if their parents don’t have REAL ID-compliant documentation from their state.

5. Consider having two passports. Boalt confirmed it is possible, and sometimes necessary, to simultaneously hold two valid passports. “Some countries reject passports that contain visa stamps from certain other countries, such as traveling into Israel if you have a stamp from Saudi Arabia. Second passports are also helpful for frequent travelers who might need to apply for multiple visa applications on an ongoing basis,” Boalt said.

Bonus: Finally, don’t assume a passport is all you need to travel to certain destinations. Thoroughly investigate all necessary documentation before planning an itinerary. If you don’t, your biggest travel headache could occur at the airport gate when you are turned away because you lack the appropriate travel visa. To help travelers avoid this frustration, Boalt created Travel Visa, a division of govWorks. Do some investigating and make sure you have what you need before you ever leave the house,

Are you an international traveler? Do you have any passport success stories or horror stories? What have you done to get your passport renewed? Share your tales with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

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)

Supersonic Air Travel Just Took Another Big Step Toward Rebirth

March 22, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Boom Supersonic has partnered with Japan Airlines (JAL) and Virgin Group billionaire Richard Branson to bring supersonic air travel back to the skies. Boom, headquartered in Denver, wants to revive the ultra-efficient method of flight and make it accessible to non-millionaires. With JAL’s 10-million-dollar investment and Branson’s commitment to purchase the first 10 jets and offer the assistance of Virgin Galactic with test flights, we could see the first supersonic jet in the air this year.

Boom Airlines new jet will bring supersonic air travel back to the skiesBy collaborating to build a swift, more efficient model that capitalizes on the previous successes of the Concorde (the groundbreaking airplane fleet that was operated by British Airways and Air France for 27 years), Boom hopes to overcome the exorbitant costs associated with this specialized form of commercial flight and improve the travelers’ experience.

According to Boom’s FAQ, the plane’s interior design will provide, among other amenities, a large window, immediate access to the aisle, and a personal overhead bin to each passenger.

Its prototype, the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, is one-third the size of its eventual commercial offering, and flies at 1,300 mph, twice the speed of today’s jumbo jet. The full-size model is projected to fly at 1,700 mph. JAL’s investment will allow them to purchase 20 jets when testing is complete. Seating 55 passengers each, they could create a flight itinerary between San Francisco and Tokyo that could take half the current 11 hours to complete.

The Boom Airplane factory

JAL president Yoshiharu Ueki hopes the partnership will “contribute to the future of supersonic flight with the intent of providing more time to our valued passengers while emphasizing flight safety.”

Supersonic air travel, which cuts the transatlantic flight time between New York and London from six hours to three and a half, hasn’t been available since 2003. When in operation, tickets were $12,000. According to Blake Scholl, Boom’s founder and CEO, the expected ticket price will be just $5,000. Boom claims it is on schedule to be operational in 2023.

Would you try supersonic air travel for $5,000? Does the price make it more likely? How likely are you to fly supersonic once it becomes available? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Boom Airlines (used with permission)

Business Travel Outlook for 2018

March 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Things are looking good for business travel. According to a recent survey by The GO Group, LLC, a ground transportation company that operates shuttle services to over 90 airports, the percentage of respondents expecting to do more business travel is almost double what was anticipated in 2016 (27 percent vs 15 percent). A mere six percent of travelers thought they’d travel less.

This is a major change from 10 years ago, when the Great Recession, saw a major drop in business travel as well as vacation/personal travel. But as the economy has improved, consumer confidence is on the rise, business travel spending is up, and more people are hopping on board airplanes and staying in hotels around the country and throughout the world.

Business travel often means working in an airport between flights. This is a photo of a white MacBook Pro taken in the Hong Kong airport.And when travel dropped 10 years ago, we saw a big rise in unemployment in the travel industry — fewer business travel opportunities meant fewer airline passengers and hotel nights, which had a ripple effect on the entire industry.

When it improved, there were key gains felt throughout the world. According to a report from the World Travel & Tourism Council,

. . . travel and tourism directly contributed US$2.3 trillion and 109 million jobs worldwide. Taking its wider indirect and induced impacts into account, the sector contributed US$7.6 trillion to the global economy and supported 292 million jobs in 2016. This was equal to 10.2% of the world’s GDP, and approximately 1 in 10 of all jobs.

Similarly, GO Group President John McCarthy believes this anticipated uptick in travel should have a “huge impact on airlines, hotels, and related industries.” McCarthy sees this increase as having nothing but positive implications for those seeking jobs within both the travel and tourism sectors.

Although an equal percentage of the respondents (27 percent) expected to see no change in the amount of business travel they would do in 2018, 39 percent were unsure how their travel schedules would be affected by their companies’ growth strategies. But the term “growth strategies” is heartening enough to make us think travel will continue to rise.

What plans do you have for business travel in 2018? Are you going to increase, decrease, or keep it about the same? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page,  or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Mark Hillary (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

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)

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