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Business Travel Travel News

Expect Delays At San Francisco International Airport This Month

If you’re flying in or out of the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) this month, there’s something you should know. From September 7 – September 27, two of its runways are under construction. The runway closure is causing major delays and cancellations, both on domestic and international flights, and shorter flights more affected. Here’s what you need to know and the best tips to avoid a travel issue at SFO. 

Why is construction causing delays? 

The construction project for SFO’s runway 28L was planned, but is causing flight delays and cancellations nonetheless. The runway typically serves 68% of the airport’s flights. With only two other runways operational, it’s no surprise issues are occurring. For comparison, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport has five runways, and Chicago’s O’Hare Airport has eight. This past Sunday, 266 flights were delayed and 52 were cancelled by 4pm. Though seemingly high, it is significantly lower than the previous Sunday, with 358 flights delayed and 137 cancelled.

The time frame of the project was slated for September, specifically to avoid inclement weather. As you can imagine, escaping temperamental fog and rain can be difficult in the Bay Area. Precipitation is usually low at this time of year. Airport traffic is also lower, dipping between summer travel and holiday travel. Construction started September 7, and is scheduled to be out of use until September 27. A bit of good news though, airport officials said last week that crews reached the halfway point of the project two days ahead of schedule.

What can I do to avoid flight delays or cancellations?  

Unfortunately, not much. If you must fly through SFO this month, plan for a two to three hour delay. The airlines are also doing their best to reduce travel issues. Legacy airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines, are waiving change fees during the dates of construction. Alaska Airlines and Southwest have adjusted timing of their flights and warned travelers to expect delays. Here are some other tips for flying through SFO this month:

  • If your plans are flexible, change your travel to a different day or time. SFO suggests flying out before 9am, when flight delays typically begin. 
  • If possible, fly out or into a different airport. Oakland International Airport and San Jose International Airport are both close by. 
  • If your plans are set in stone and cannot be changed, expect delays. Download the airline’s app to stay up to date on your flight’s status. Your flight may be delayed, but you could at least you’ll avoid spending it in the airport.

 

Christopherson Business Travel is a corporate travel management company with more than 60 years of experience. Contact us to learn more about our consultative approach to account management or schedule a demo of our AirPortal technology. 

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Business Travel Travel Industry Travel News

Restrictions Coming To ‘Smart Bags’ Starting Jan. 15, 2018

Lithium-ion batteries have a pretty awful reputation when it comes to plane travel. They’re the reason why hoverboards began spontaneously exploding and are now no longer allowed on flights. They’re also the culprit for the briefly released Samsung Galaxy Note7, which had similar instability issues and also banned from flights. Part of the technology that makes lithium-ion batteries so powerful also leads to them overheating and as a posing a serious fire hazard. In result, new policies regarding the proper procedure for lithium-ion batteries on flights are being created. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have recently announced an updated protocol for passengers traveling with lithium-ion batteries, including items like smart bags.  

What are ‘smart bags’?

Smart bags are typical pieces of luggage, but also feature integrated technology. There are a few different models on the market, but most allow travelers to weigh their luggage and even lock it through an app on their phone. Some can track your luggage using GPS. And others can even be used as a mobile charging station for phones and laptops. This autonomous smart bag is hands-free and will automatically follow the owner as they walk! As amazing and innovative as these new smart bags are, they unfortunately use lithium-ion batteries to operate. Due to the unpredictability of lithium-ion batteries, a debate has taken hold. Where is the safest place for smart bags on an aircraft? Should these batteries be stored in the cargo hold, where the Department of Homeland Security recently announced large electronics should be placed? Or, should they be in the cabin, where if an error occurs, it could be addressed immediately? Now some airlines are taking the lead and implementing policies that regulate lithium-ion batteries on air crafts. 

 

Airlines restrictions on lithium-ion batteries and smart bags

Delta, American, and Alaska are the three airlines leading the charge on these restrictions. Both recently announced their decision to ban smart bags with non-removable lithium-ion batteries from flights. The removed batteries should then be brought in the passenger’s carry-on, similar to how passengers should bring extra batteries. If the battery is removable, the smart bag will be allowed on the flight.  American added that in their policy, non-removable batteries will be allowed, but only if the battery can be turned off. If the traveler cannot turn off or remove the battery, the bag will be refused. These restrictions will go into place starting January 15, 2018. 

It should also be noted that many smart bag companies claim their products comply with TSA and FAA procedures. This may be true, but they are not endorsed by the airlines. 

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Travel Industry Travel News

Airlines Updating Overbooking Policies

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you have probably noticed recent scrutiny over airline’s overbooking policies. In the wake of an event on a United Airlines flight, these processes and its protocol have heavily been in the media. In response, most major airlines are updating overbooking policies.

What is overbooking?

Overbooking is the process of airlines overselling seats on most flights. Using advanced algorithms airlines estimate the number of no-shows or canceled tickets. This allows them to fill flights to capacity, while saving on fuel costs and keeping ticket prices low. Read our recent blog for everything you need to know about overbooking.

Updates made to overbooking policies

United:  Their new policy says passengers will not be removed from the plane once they have boarded. Also, local police will no longer be used to forcibly remove passengers. And crew members will not be allowed to bump passengers from planes. They will require one-hour advanced notice of the plane boarding, or wait for a later flight.

Delta: Though still allowing displacement of passengers once they have boarded the plane, they raised their compensation rate.  Originally capping at $1,350, it is now $10,000. Compensation has also been increased at the gate, from $800 to $2,000.

Southwest: This airline has said they will end overbooking policies completely. Gary Kelley, CEO of Southwest said to USAToday, “We’ve been taking steps over the last several years to prepare ourselves for this anyway… As we have dramatically improved our forecasting tools and techniques, and as we approach the upcoming implementation of our new reservations system on May 9, we no longer have a need to overbook as part of the revenue management inventory process.”

American: They have updated their Conditions of Carriage policy to no longer allow passengers to be removed from the plane once it has boarded. They also stated their compensation has never been capped, and it will remain that way.

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Business Travel Travel Industry

Everything You Need To Know About Airlines Overbooking Tickets

We all nonchalantly agree to this when we book a flight, but the fact of the matter is that all major airlines overbook their flights, often leaving travelers in the lurch. Overbooking came into the spotlight this week when a United passenger was forcibly removed from a flight, leaving many of us wondering the extent of enforcing this policy.

It’s standard practice for airlines to sell more tickets than the plane has seats, anticipating a few cancellations and missed flights. Rather than having half empty planes take off, extensive calculations are been made determining the probability of no-shows. Additional tickets are then made available based on these solutions. The video below from Ted-ed perfectly summarizes the process and statistics behind overbooking.

Though overselling results in more profits for the airlines, not having enough seats on a flight is still a common occurrence. According to the video above, about 50,000 people get bumped off their flight each year.  Overbooking processes are outlined in each airline’s “contracts of carriage” policies, which passengers agree to when tickets are purchased.

What happens when a flight is oversold?

Federal rules require that airlines must first ask if any passengers will voluntarily give up their seat. Airlines can individually decide on compensation, but typically a travel voucher or gift card is given.

If passengers are unwilling to voluntarily to give up their seats, airlines are then allowed to bump fliers involuntarily. Every airline has a different policy on how they decide who is denied travel as well as their compensation.

  • United – Excludes individuals with disabilities and unaccompanied minors. Priority is then determined by passenger’s fare, class, itinerary, status of frequent flier membership, and order of check-in.
  • Delta – Decided with regards to priority boarding rules and elite status and check-in order and cabin.
  • JetBlue – JetBlue claims they never overbook flights, but have information in their contracts of carriage if a situation arises. Passengers denied boarding involuntarily will receive $1,350 dollars.
  • American – Usually deny boarding based upon check-in time, but may include additional variables such as severe hardships, fare paid, and status within AAdvantage program. Compensation and protocols differ for domestic and international transportation.
  • Spirit – Unaccompanied minors and people with disabilities are excluded. The last customer to check in will be the first to be involuntarily removed first from an over booked flight.
  • Southwest -The last Passenger who receives a boarding position will be the first Passenger denied boarding involuntarily in an oversale situation, with no preference given to any particular person or category of fares. Compensation differs based on their readiness to get the passenger on anther flight.

How business travelers can avoid being involuntarily removed for oversold flights

Getting to your meeting on time is tricky enough when you’re a frequent business traveler. It’s best to keep additional possibilities to a minimum.

  • Check-in early
  • Acquire elite or member status through the airline

 

Christopherson Business Travel is a corporate travel management company. We’re focused on getting our travelers to their destination smoothly, and with limited headaches for the travel manager. Contact us to learn how we do it.

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Business Travel Travel Tips

Redeeming Business Travel Frequent Flyer Miles: They’re Not Just for Tickets Anymore

Airlines now offer multiple options for the redemption of frequent flyer miles.
Airlines now offer multiple options for the redemption of frequent flyer miles.

Frequent flyer programs have now been around for 32 years. American Airlines started the first program and the premise was simple–fly on American, accumulate miles, then cash those miles in for a free ticket. The idea quickly caught on and created a fierce loyalty between the traveling public and the airlines.

As mileage accounts grew, it became obvious to the airlines that the programs needed to be tweaked. After all, road warriors were racking up some pretty serious miles. Over the years we’ve seen that mileage redemption for a “free” ticket has been increased. As technology improved, airlines were also able to increase the number of miles needed to travel at peak times or to popular destinations.

The watchword from the airlines was to be “flexible.” To most people that meant they would have to check other dates or times which may not be as desirable. But being flexible also meant you may not get to fly to the city of your choice.

For example, if you wanted to perhaps cash in your miles for a family vacation to Disneyworld, you would want to fly into Orlando, right? But trying to get a free ticket to Orlando could mean draining your frequent flyer account. It’s a popular destination and the airlines would rather have fare paying passengers in those seats. So the mileage redemption is going to be high. One recommendation would be to try a surrounding airport, such as Tampa. It’s about a 90 minute drive, but one family saved about half of their miles by choosing that airport over Orlando. And, since they were renting a car anyway, it really didn’t add much to the cost of their entire vacation.

In time, airlines also soon began to realize that a lot of road warriors didn’t want to see the inside of an airplane during their vacation. After all, many of them spend a week or two each month in planes and airports. And another flying trip, even for a vacation, would just mean more time doing what they already do for business. The airlines also realized that, collectively, their top 10-20% of travelers had millions of miles sitting on the books. So they’ve now created new ways to redeem those miles for merchandise or benefits.

You can now cash in miles for airline club memberships, GPS units, household goods, and even Broadway show tickets. Some airlines even run auctions for exotic vacations. You can also donate miles to charity. For example, Delta has partnered with organizations such as Children’s Miracle Network, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Hero Miles.

Visit your favorite airline website to see the many different options for redeeming your miles.

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Travel News

Q1 Was a Mixed Bag for the Airlines

The major U.S. domestic airlines had widely varied results for the first quarter of 2012.
Delta Air Lines posted a first-quarter net profit of $124 million versus a $318 million loss for Q1 a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, the company’s pre-tax loss was $36 million, representing a $355 million improvement from the first quarter of 2011, despite $250 million in higher fuel expense. The airline posted a 10 percent increase in revenue, year-over-year, to $7.2 billion.
US Airways Group posted a first-quarter net profit of $48 million versus a $114 million loss for Q1 a year earlier. The net profit included a special $70 million credit associated with a slot transaction executed with Delta, at New York LaGuardia and Washington National airports. Passenger revenue increased 11.5 percent, year-over-year, to $2.9 billion.
United Continental Holdings posted a first-quarter net loss of $448 million versus a $213 million net loss for Q1 last year. The loss included $162 million in special costs, primarily related to United’s integration of Continental Airlines, according to the carrier. Corporate revenues increased 10 percent year-over-year.
American Airlines parent AMR posted a first-quarter net loss of $1.7 billion, versus a $436 million net loss for Q1 last year. Bankrupt AMR attributed the loss to $1.4 billion in reorganization items and an increase in fuel costs. Consolidated unit revenues increased 10.3 percent year-over-year.

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Travel Management Travel News Travel Tips

Delta’s SkyMiles Medallion Status Match Challenge

Are you a top-tier frequent flier?
Have you heard about Delta’s SkyMiles Medallion® Status Match Challenge?
If not, we’d like to share some valuable information about how to leverage your current elite status (on American, United, or Continental) to receive comparable benefits on Delta.
Until June 30, 2012, if frequent fliers meet the outlined criteria, they will receive Platinum, Gold or Silver Medallion status from Delta for 90 days, based on their current elite level with another airline. To then maintain those matched Medallion rewards through the remainder of 2012, the flier would then simply need to earn a specific number of qualification miles. The required number of qualification miles is based on the matched Medallion level.
But what are the benefits of doing this?
Well, depending on the Medallion level, members enjoy exclusive privileges such as:

  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades for paid tickets
  • Access to preferred seats and economy comfort seats
  • Priority wait list status
  • Fee waivers for baggage and ticketing charges
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Premium benefits on in-flight food and beverage
  • Lounge access

Plus participating in challenges like this means you don’t have to start at square one in accruing points and miles if you want to switch airlines.
To be considered for this Status Match Challenge, visit Delta.com and submit your information. You can also find more general information on airline status matches here.
 
 

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Travel News

American Airlines Continues to Reorganize


American Airlines continues to experience difficulties, as compared to most of their legacy airline peers. Their recent bankruptcy filing as well as the recent announcement that they plan to cut 13,000 employees are indications of this continued struggle.
A combination of three factors has created a perfect storm for American Airlines at a time when other major airlines are actually experiencing strong comebacks:

  1. American was the only one of the legacy airlines who didn’t file bankruptcy in recent years. This has left them straddled with unrealistic labor contracts.
  2. They are the only one of the major airlines that didn’t find a merger partner (Delta/Northwest, United/Continental, and US Air/America West).
  3. They have led the charge in going “direct” for their distribution, which has alienated their sales and marketing partners (see “Where is American Airline’s Distribution Strategy Headed?“).

American Airlines once had a legacy of being an industry leader in many areas. Under the leadership of Bob Crandall they pioneered computer reservation systems with SABRE. They were a pioneer with their AAdvantage frequent flyer program. They also have a rich history of great service and many accomplishments. We hope that with this reorganization they will be able to find their way and continue to contribute to making the airline industry a solid part of the US economy.

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Travel News Travel Technology

United Now Offers Mobile Check-In

United has installed mobile check-in at its four hub cities – Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles – plus Las Vegas, Dallas-Fort Worth and LaGuardia Airport in New York. Thirty more locations will be offering mobile check-in by summer
Denver joins 43 other U.S. airports, plus Frankfurt, Germany in offering this service. In 2007 TSA introduced the pilot program with Continental Airlines adding shortly thereafter Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airways. For the most up-to-date information as to what airports offer the program and an airline list of cities providing this service; go to the TSA website or each individual airline’s website.
Mobile check-in saves time at the airport by letting you check in and get your eBoarding Pass right from your PDA or web-enabled phone (iPhones, BlackBerrys, etc.) within 24 hours of your departure. It’s the fastest, most convenient way to check in. You must first go to the airlines website to start the process. At the airport, TSA security officers use hand-held scanners to validate the authenticity of the boarding pass at the checkpoint

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Travel Management Travel News

Fees, Fees and more Airline Fees

In the beginning we may have been caught off guard by ancillary fees charged by some of the major airlines, Delta, United, Continental, American Airlines and others, but what is happening now? Are we learning to accept them, ignore them or just plain hate them?
According to a study by ProMedia Travel, many corporations are reporting that anywhere from 5% – 15% of their corporate travel budgets have been consumed by airline ancillary fees. What appears to have happened is that many airlines have ‘unbundled’ their fees, but have not lowered airfare. Consumers are okay with paying fees for items or services that add value to their travel experience, however, they are not okay with paying fees for what use to be included in the cost of their airline ticket such as baggage fees. Checking baggage is an essential part of travel and most people feel should be included in the price of the ticket, the quoted price by the airline, which it isn’t.
Several carriers, such as JetBlue and Southwest, are charging additional fees, but these fees are for services that add value while fares remain reasonable and a checked bag is included. This has allowed these airlines to generate revenue while at the same time keeping their customers happy. JetBlue does this by charging additional for seats with extra leg room and their TruBlue program has no blackout dates, you can use points to book any seat on the plane, points don’t expire and change and cancellation fees are reasonable. Though the boarding process with Southwest can be challenging at times, their philosophy is similar, they don’t charge change or cancellation fees and neither airline charges for the first checked bag, and they use this as a very effective advertising tool.  These airlines are actually turning million dollar profits while the major carriers are reporting multi million dollar losses.  When will the major airlines realize that there is something to be learned from JetBlue and Southwest Airlines?
We don’t necessarily need to become a prisoner to ancillary fees. Travel managers can try using the increased cost of doing business with the airlines as a tool during contract negotiations. The Department of Transportation could make a ruling mandating that airlines display what every passenger considers to be part of a reasonable airline ticket, and then allowing us to ‘opt out’ of items like a first check bag.

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Travel News Travel Technology

Flying the Connected Skies?

Continental Airlines’ announcement last week that it would begin offering wireless internet (Wi-Fi) access aboard its aircraft beginning the second quarter of 2010 brought to close an exciting year of innovative in-flight communication advances.
Virgin America, the upstart discount carrier based in San Francisco, CA was the first U.S. carrier to offer fleet wide Wi-Fi access in May of 2009. American, Delta, United and US Airways followed shortly thereafter with staggered deployments of Wi-Fi across their respective fleets meaning in-flight Wi-Fi access will be a reality with all the legacy carriers in 2010.
As for the discount carriers, Virgin America is definitely leading the charge with Air Tran recently announcing the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi across its fleet. Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Jet Blue have begun testing Wi-Fi on certain aircraft while Midwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines are still considering the option of offering this service to their customers.
As with almost any other service now offered on board, in-flight Wi-Fi will come at a cost. To find out which airlines offer Wi-Fi access and how much they charge based on your destination, call Christopherson/Andavo Travel and our trusted travel advisors will be glad to answer your questions.

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Travel Management

Airline Fees, Alliances and Saving Money

Airline alliances – what is the fuss all about? Besides the ability to earn a free ticket by flying virtually any airline in the world is there really any benefit to knowing which alliance you should belong to? Well, consider this: “How to make consumer-hated airline fees more digestible” was the subject of a three-day meeting earlier this month of the Ancillary Revenue Airline Conference in Huntington Beach (fancy speak for a gathering of airline executives and businesses that serve the industry interested in finding ways to offer coach passengers separate products and services typically offered as part of the ticket price for business and first class passengers). The New York Times estimates that airlines collected $USD 10.25 billion in such fees in 2008 – a staggering 346 per cent increase over 2006. CLEARLY – fees are here to stay and more likely than not will spread to more services offered by airlines.
Understanding airline alliances – who partners with whom and who offers reciprocity – is one way you can avoid paying the fees being levied against the normal traveler these days. OneWorld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance ALL waive ancillary fees for their preferred customers.
To learn more about how to leverage your airline memberships while keeping a little extra money in your pocketbook over the holidays, call Christopherson/Andavo Travel and our trusted travel advisors will be glad to answer your questions.

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Travel News

Need Miles? Here some ideas

With summer vacations fast approaching and wallets seemingly thinner than they should be, more people are turning to their frequent flyer programs to help lower the expense of their vacation.  Some folks are discovering that their miles have been devalued over the last year or two and suddenly need a few more miles in order to secure the flights that they want.

Here are some options that may allow you get a few more miles.

US Airways is offering double qualifying miles.  The offer runs through April 30th, 2009.  You do need to register prior to traveling.  The url is https://www.usairways.com/awa/Content/dividendmiles/promotions.aspx.
United Airlines has a variety of offers which can be found at: www.United.com/mileageplus under the Airline Promotions section.  These range from bonuses of 10,000 miles for flying on specific routes to triple miles in some markets.  You do need to register in order to gain these benefits. Most of these offers require that travel is completed by late April or early May so you will want to get started as soon as possible.
American Airlines is offering members of the AAdavantage program the chance to earn double elite status miles from now until June 15th, 2009.  You do need to register at www.aa.com/dbeqm in order to get these miles.
Delta Air Lines is currently offering bonuses for flying between Cincinnati and select cities.  The have a weighted or scaled approach to their bonuses.  Travel must be completed no later than the 12th of May, 2009.  The first roundtrip is worth 3,000 bonus miles and by the time you complete your fifth trip you will get 10,000 for your trip.  You do need to register for this trip at: www.delta.com/cvgbonus.
Continental is offering a variety of promotions, including double elite qualifying miles.  Most of their current promotions require travel to be completed no later than May 31st, 2009.  You will need to register at www.continental.com/onepass and go to News and Offers for the specifics.
Other strategies for enhancing one’s miles can including using specific car rental agencies, staying at hotels and participating in their frequent guest programs, or one can get miles by taking advantage of various credit card offers or there are the shopping and service options. 
The car rental agencies typically offer some set number of miles per rental, regardless of the length and cost of the rental.  Generally these offers range between 250 and 1000 miles per rental.  You can use rentals to help build your miles incrementally over the course of a year.
The hotel programs generally allow you to convert their points into frequent flyer miles.  Depending on the program, it may not be worth converting the points to miles since the points can be used for free night stays.
The credit card programs frequently have hidden costs ranging from fees to utilize miles, to higher interest rates or fees to transfer points to miles.  My advice is to do your homework to make sure that the program works for you before signing up.
The shopping and services option that most airlines now are can be a gold mine of miles.  You can get miles for purchasing everything from music at iTunes, to buying dinner, to purchasing electronics at Best Buy.  Plus you can get miles for using Netflix, or Brinks Home Security or T-Mobile or for using partners when you do your mortgage or when you make investments through select brokerage firms, just to name a few options.  If you are going be spending the money for shopping or if you need to get a mortgage or you are buying an investment or any number of other services, why not get miles for it.
Last but by no means least, you can purchase a limited number of miles directly from the airlines.  So if you find that you are short by 1000 or 5000 miles, you can buy enough miles to get you to that next award level. 
Hopefully you will find that some or all of these ideas are helpful and allow you to maximize your miles and allow you to enjoy your summer vacation at little or no cost to you.