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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.