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.
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.
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.
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.
Delta does it again. While most airlines are cutting out snacks and even beverages from their service, Delta announced they are reinstating complimentary meals. Starting with economy class, Delta began offering free meals late last year for a trial period. Testing out ways to improve customer satisfaction, most fliers were surprised to see the once commonplace amenity again.
Beginning in March, they will offer meals on long-haul domestic flights between JFK and Los Angeles and San Francisco. Later this Spring, complimentary meal service will be added to 10 other major domestic markets including: Boston to San Francisco; Los Angeles and Seattle; Washington National to Los Angeles; JFK to San Diego, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon; and Seattle to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Raleigh-Durham.
Are in-flight amenities, like complimentary meals returning?
After merges and cutbacks, complimentary meals and even drinks from airlines seemed to be a thing of the past. Now, in an effort to improve customer satisfaction, airlines are returning to these staples. Some have even surpassed the traditional in-flight meal to offer higher value products.
United, Delta and American have dramatically improved their airport lounge catering services, offering healthier and fresher options
Delta’s Intercontinental One Suite also provides a five course meal based on seasonality.
JetBlue and American are vying for best in-flight products and service among the legacy carriers.
Delta was the first airline to bring Wi-Fi to domestic flights. Then in-seat power outlets. Now meals. What will be next? Massage chairs in first class? Spa services? Massage therapists available after the meal? One can only dream…
Christopherson Business Travel is a corporate travel management company. With more than 60 years of experience, we provide travel solutions with our custom technology and dedicated account management. Contact us to learn how we do it.
Though not completely unexpected, United Air Lines announced their new basic economy class last week. With Delta’s economy class running since 2012, and American Airlines revving up for their new class, this was not a huge surprise. With many of the same low-budget priorities, there is one restriction of United’s basic economy class that made the travel community do a second glance.
United’s no-frills basic economy class
An exciting change for the budget-conscious flier, United can now offer lower priced seats on some of their existing flights. This puts United in competition with no-frills airlines, such as Spirit or Frontier. With this limited structure comes a few restrictions. First, basic economy fliers won’t be able to pick their seat. With this come no guarantee that they will be able to sit with their companions. Voluntary flight changes won’t be allowed, and basic economy fliers will be the last to board the plane. In regards to travel points, fliers will accrue Milage Plus award points, but they will not go toward elite loyalty status.
But, the limitation that’s creating commotion is in regards to baggage. Basic economy fliers are allowed only one carry-on and will not have access to the overhead bins. Their carry-on will have to fit under the seat in front of them. United believes this will save time with onboarding procedures and decrease delays.
This is all part of United’s attempt to diversify and customize the experience for their differing fliers. But has this gone too far? With United also recently announcing their Polaris business class, I can’t help but feel the disparity as if aboard the Titanic. The Polaris class offers roomy, adjustable seats with down pillows and noise-canceling headphones. While their basic economy offers a carry-what’s-on-your-back mentality and limited guarantees.
What do you think of the newly announced basic economy class? Will you be booking them? Do you frequently travel with limited luggage? Let us know in the comments below.
Checking luggage at the airport is relatively easy and straightforward. You hand your bags over to an attendant and then pick them up at your destination city. Can’t get much simpler, right? Well, United Airlines has taken it lightyears past simple with their recently announced their United VIP Luggage Delivery service! This innovative service just may change how frequent business travelers fly. Rather than waiting for your luggage at baggage claim, you can head off to your important meeting or conference. United will deliver your luggage to your hotel or specified address, so you can focus on your own agenda.
United VIP luggage delivery
Available in over 250 cities throughout the U.S., this United service is provided by BagVIP. Additionally, it includes plane changes or transfers. Read the specifics below:
Deliveries need to be scheduled at least one hour prior to the scheduled flight departure. Reservations can be made as soon as your flight is booked. More information can be found here.
United guarantees the traveler will receive their baggage within four hours after their flight’s arrival.
For this 4 hour time window, the final destination must be within 40 miles from the airport.
If the destination is located between 41 and 100 miles from the airport, the baggage will arrive within six hours after the arrival of the flight.
Additional fees apply for this delivery service. The first bag is $29.95. Adding a second bag increases the price to $39.95. Interestingly, the rate for 3-8 bags delivered in $49.95.
United’s checked baggage fee also still applies
This a perfect solution if your travel day is already overbooked with meetings and dinners. Or, you could use VIP luggage delivery service for golf clubs, skis or strollers. At the reduced price to deliver 3-8 bags, I’ll consider it for my next ski trip.
Christopherson Business Travel is an award-winning corporate travel management company. We love providing travel management solutions to busy organizations, and have the client retention rate to prove we know what we’re doing. Contact us to learn more about our innovative travel technology and consultative account management solutions.
United Airlines is reinventing international business class with their latest creation, Polaris. We were fortunate enough to preview it last Thursday in downtown Denver. The event was held in the beautiful and historic Brown Palace Hotel and Spa and featured informative and interactive stations. It included their business class seats, as well as a virtual reality demonstration of the lounge and carrier.
United Polaris Business Class
This international business class overhaul encompasses lounges in their hub locations as well as on-board international flights. It is very apparent that significant time, thought and attention went into this development. The ideals of relaxation, comfort, exclusivity and excellence are very top of mind in every detail. I especially see the benefits for busy business travelers. Though there are many examples, I think my favorite is the ‘do not disturb’ button at every seat. Let’s say you eat a pre-boarding meal in their exclusive lounge (yes, that’s also a new addition), so when you board the plane you can simple go to sleep after take off. No issue of waiting until after dinner service to make it apparent that you don’t want to be disturbed. Continuing our example, let’s say that you wake up in the middle of the flight, completely parched. Well no need to flag down a flight attendant while everyone else is sleeping. You can simply use their walk-up bar station to grab water, drinks, or assorted snacks at your convenience. Every detail has been considered.
A few other amazing takeaways of the new Polaris Business Class:
All seats are designed to have aisle access and ample legroom. No walking over neighbors if you fly in the middle seat. There is no more middle seat on Polaris.
Ample outlet and technology placement. Each tray has a phone or tablet perch, to actively use your devices on the plane. Work can comfortably be done in these seats.
Fold down seats with the length of 6’6’’.
Amenity bag including spa-quality Soho House & Co. Cowshed products, black out eye masks and headphones.
Elegant cuisine created by The Trotter Project, which will specialize in locally sourced and seasonal flavors. For example, if you are flying out of the Denver hub, you may be able to anticipate flank steak, mashed potatoes with a palisade peach cobbler for dessert. These are products local to Colorado and in season.
On-board linens provided by Saks Fifth Avenue. Enjoy two pillows, a sheet, and a duvet. If that is not enough, pajamas, a mattress pillow top and a cooling gel memory foam pillow is available upon request.
When to expect changes
The first United Polaris Class lounge will open on December 31, 2016 at the O’Hare Airport. Eight additional lounges will open at Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles International, New York/Newark, San Francisco, Washington Dulles, Hong Kong, London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita. Specific dates are not yet known. Access to these lounges will only be to those with a business class ticket. General access or day passes are not allowed to this lounge.
Airplanes will be quickly renovated with this business class update. United will start with the Boeing 777-300 carriers in December 2016. They will be available in early 2017. Booking and reservations for Polaris has not yet been established.
Our hands-on guided look at United’s innovations got us pretty excited for the new advances. We could truly imagine ourselves in the new lounge and comfortably snoozing aboard. Overall, United’s Polaris Business Class is something we can’t wait to enjoy for ourselves. United’s website can keep you updated on latest news or explore it’s additional features.
While airlines constantly receive complaints for one reason or another, I have found that United Airlines continues to “up” their game when it comes to their international service.
I have long been a premium flyer with United but never thought their service matched other international carriers. I flew them simply for convenience as one of their hubs is in Denver (where I am based). But in the last couple of years, I have seen a great improvement in both the attitude of the in-flight crew and the service offered.
Did you know they serve ice cream sundaes in business class on international flights? I look forward to this, since most desserts are pretty predictable and boring. Their entrée options are tasty and varied, and most of the flight attendants seem to be enjoying themselves. (Of course, you will occasionally find one here or there that spoils this.)
A smile or a kind word can certainly go a long way when you are traveling. The memory of your flight may not be the highlight of your trip, but on United Airlines you have a chance. Give them a try again.
There are now eight airlines participating in TSA’s Pre-Check program. Southwest Airlines’ frequent travelers can now earn pre-approved status and enjoy the benefits and expedited services of the TSA Pre-Check program.
The other major carriers participating in the program are Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, Untied, US Airways, and Virgin America. All major airports offer this service, but not all terminals offer TSA Pre-Check lines and some terminals have limited hours of service, so be sure to check this information before you decide that it’s safe to run late for your flight. Remember also that TSA Pre-Check is airline specific so if you earn TSA Pre-Check on Delta you won’t qualify for TSA Pre-Check when you travel other airlines.
TSA plans to begin an open enrollment program for the general population later this year. This program will allow qualified citizens and lawful permanent residents to enroll after submitting for a background check. The cost of this program will be $85.00. If you travel internationally the best program for you will be the Global Entry program managed by Customs Boarder Patrol and costs $100.00 for five years.
At participating airports with both TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry you will not be required to remove your shoes, belts, light jackets/outerwear and you can leave your laptop computers in their cases and your 3 ounce bottles of liquids and gels in your carry-on bags.
United Airlines announced this week that it would be offering a month-long special for members of the airline’s MileagePlus loyalty program: the opportunity to earn unlimited double-award miles. In order to participate, members must register for the promotion and complete their travel between now and November 21.
The offer is applicable to all flights on United and United Express–which together operate an average of 5,341 flights per day to more than 360 airports across six continents. Even though the promotion is only valid for travel within the U.S. (read: “within the lower 48,” since Alaska and Hawaii are excluded), domestic segments within international itineraries are included–so you might pick up some significant mileage nevertheless.
“This promotion gives us another opportunity to reward our MileagePlus members for their commitment to flying with us,” said Praveen Sharma, United’s vice president of loyalty. “It’s a great opportunity for MileagePlus members to earn twice the miles during the busy fall travel season.”
To register for the double-miles offer, visit united.com/promoregistration and enter your MileagePlus account number, in addition to promotion code TB2M06.
If you’ve had your fill of traveling though (we’re just sayin’), there are plenty of options for redeeming those extra miles in other ways. United’s loyalty program is one of the most flexible, allowing members to apply their award miles toward travel, hotel stays, and car rentals–but that’s not all. The airline offers a couple of unique programs for award redemption: MileagePlus Headliners, through which members can redeem miles for theater and sporting-event tickets and bid on a variety of amazing experiences, and the MileagePlus Digital Media Store, which gives members the opportunity to trade miles for songs, albums, television shows, and movies.
As business travelers, we are always looking for ways to enhance our travel experience. And this summer, United Airlines and Marriott Hotels joined forces to provide just that–an enhanced, and “rewarding,” experience.
Recently, United’s MileagePlus® and Marriott Rewards® combined to become “RewardsPlus.” The newly linked loyalty program offers the following:
Status in both programs for select United Premier and Marriott Elite Members
The ability for MileagePlus Premier members to convert miles into Marriott Rewards points
More value when converting points between programs
By joining forces, United MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards are able to provide their most loyal members with unprecedented travel benefits. RewardsPlus grants United Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, and Premier Gold members Marriott Rewards Gold Elite status and the array of benefits that come with it. Marriott Rewards Platinum Elite members will receive MileagePlus Premier Silver status, featuring some of United’s most popular elite perks. Status offerings will be effective until January 31, 2014.
Marriott Rewards and MileagePlus members also now receive added value when transferring points into miles and will get additional miles for vacation packages. Also, MileagePlus Premier members will be able to convert their miles into Marriott Rewards points.
In addition, all MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards members will receive a 20% discount when converting Marriott Rewards points into MileagePlus miles and a 10% bonus for MileagePlus miles on Marriott Rewards travel packages.
United is adding Wi-Fi to more and more of their planes. A Wi-Fi installation progress chart as well as additional details about United’s current Wi-Fi equipped aircraft can be found on United.com.
To determine if a flight offers United Wi-Fi, you can check the Inflight Amenities tab on the Flight Status & Information page for an upcoming flight, look for the Wi-Fi logo on the side of the plane as you board, or listen for the announcement by your flight crew once your flight has reached 10,000 feet.
You don’t have to stop being connected just because you are on a plane!
United Airlines is changing the way they board planes. This new process will supposedly reduce boarding time by 20%.
Coined “WilMA,” this boarding process replaces the former system of assigning economy customers to groups based on row numbers. With WilMA, economy groups three, four, and five are seated in order of window, middle, and aisle, respectively, when boarding aircraft.
WilMA Boarding Process is as follows:
Group 1 – Global Services, Permier 1K, Premier Platinum, and all Front Cabins
Group 2 – Premier Gold, Star Gold, Premier Alliance Silver, Star Alliance Silver, Paid Premier Access, Chase Club Card and Chase Presidential Plus Card holders
After months of being grounded due to a faulty battery system, the FAA has lifted the grounding of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The aircraft is headed back into service throughout the coming weeks.
Eight airlines have the ultra-modern Dreamliner in their fleet with United Airlines being the only U.S. carrier in the group. Ethiopian Airlines will be first to resume service with other airlines following shortly after. United announced it will resume Dreamliner flights after May 31, initially serving the Houston to Denver route.
May the Dreamliner be hugely successful this time around!
Last week, United Airlines announced an increase in their fees for exchanges and then this week, U.S. Air made the same announcement. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before Delta and other airlines join this game of Follow the Leader.
Most major airlines, until last week, charged $150.00 for exchanges associated with domestic reservations and $250.00 for international reservations. The new fees introduced by United Airlines are now $200.00 to change domestic reservations and $300.00 for international reservations.
While I understand this is a revenue-generating tactic by the airlines, it is also, unfortunately, a huge disservice to their travelers. My simple advice to Delta (and it’s probably the same advise you would give them!) is: “Don’t raise your change fees!”
As a frequent business traveler I would be willing to shift all my business solely to Delta if they were to leave their fees where they are. I believe that concern for, and loyalty to, travelers will generate traveler loyalty to the airline.
As a travel management company, Christopherson Business Travel sees how change fees affect our customers’ bottom lines, and this increase will significantly impact travel budgets across the board.
While increasing change fees has an obvious negative impact on companies with business travelers, I see this increase benefiting airlines in two ways. First, they will increase revenue with change fees. And second, travelers may now choose to buy refundable tickets, which can be significantly more expensive than non-refundable fares.
This is where the benefit of working with a Travel Management Company like Christopherson Business Travel comes in handy. When working with a full-service travel agent, you will receive expert advice on whether it is financially advantageous to purchase a refundable ticket based on the likelihood that your travel plans may change.
For up-to-date information on changes in airline fees you can refer to individual airline websites or call Christopherson Business Travel, and let our agents worry about it for you.
Most of us have experienced a flight delay while traveling for business, right? How about a flight delay that resulted in a missed connection? What did you do about it? Did you feel like you had support during this time?
I recently flew United Airlines from Honolulu to San Francisco and then onto Salt Lake City. The flight from Honolulu departed approximately 10 minutes late. This was not a problem considering we had an hour to connect and would be arriving in the same terminal as our connecting plane. However, upon arrival into San Francisco we were held on our plane for more than 40 minutes as we waited for our gate to open. This wait seemed to last an eternity knowing that I was going to miss my flight and that there was nothing I could do.
But worrying wasn’t going to help the situation, so we kindly asked the flight attendant to make an announcement to allow the connecting passengers off the flight before the rest of the plane de-boarded. It was really all we could do at that point.
Since then, I’ve thought about this experience and wanted to share a few more tips for other business travelers who might be facing the same situation. And if you have any additional ideas, please share them in the comments below.
Business Travelers: What To Do if You Encounter a Flight Delay that Results in a Missed Connection
Ask the flight attendant to make an announcement to allow connecting passengers off the flight before the rest of the plane de-boards.
Turn your phone on and use TripIt alerts to find out where your next gate is. This really helped me hurry because I didn’t have to find a monitor in the terminal to look up my gate.
Ask the gate agent for assistance. If, upon arriving at your gate, you find that the door has closed, it doesn’t matter. They won’t let you on even if the plane is still there. But make sure the gate agent helps you find an airline ticketing counter or help desk.
When at the ticketing counter demand assistance, professionally of course. If you don’t get the answer you want, ask for a supervisor or insist on additional help. When I went to the ticketing counter I didn’t get the answer I wanted and I thought “being nice” was going to be best. However, had I asked more questions and demanded a supervisor I could have been compensated for my hotel stay.
Remember, you are the customer and the business traveler. You do have rights and the airlines do have a commitment to make sure their travelers get to their appropriate destination.
United unveiled it’s Dreamliner 787 aircraft on August 2nd, however it will not be in commercial service until October. United has not announced what cities it will serve first, however it will ease into service on domestic routes before transitioning to long-haul service. By March the Dreamliner will begin non-stop service between Tokyo and Denver.
United has 50 Dreamliners on order, five of which the carrier expects to have in its possession by the end of this year.
This particular Dreamliner will come with signature advances allowed by the jet’s modern construction. They include: windows that are 30% bigger than those on other wide-body planes, storage bins built to accommodate roll-aboard bags common with today’s fliers, flights pressurized to the equivalent of 6,000 feet in elevation, and higher humidity levels, which Boeing and United say should mitigate issues such as fatigue, headaches, and jet lag.
Families traveling with small children on United Airlines are no longer able to preboard as they have in the past. United recently instituted a new policy wherein families with children, who aren’t flying first or business class, now have to board with their ticketed boarding groups. The airline adopted the policy last month “to simplify the boarding process and to reduce the overall number of boarding groups,” says United spokesman Charles Hobart.
United claims that the boarding process has continued to run smoothly despite the change. This move comes as airlines are now beginning to charge fees to board early and sit in certain areas. US Airways and American Airlines have also adopted this policy.
Have you been considering an airline credit card? You really can’t get through an airport terminal anymore without seeing the advertisements or being asked by an airline employee if you’d like to sign up for their branded card. “Earn 25,000 miles just by signing up … that’s enough miles for a free ticket!!” Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall the last time I redeemed 25,000 miles for a free ticket.
My advice? Don’t get drawn into the card just for the initial free miles you’ll receive when you sign up. Look into all the benefits and interest rates, and pick the one that is right for you.
For example, the Delta Gold SkyMiles® card by American Express® has a $95 yearly fee, which is waived the first year. This card offers one free checked bag for up to 9 people on your booking. The card will essentially pay for itself if you and a companion were to take just one trip a year and each check a bag. It also offers priority boarding, which means you should be able to find that coveted space in the overhead bin before the majority of passengers board the aircraft.
If United Airlines is your choice, they have similar benefits with their MileagePlus® Explorer Card by Visa®. United also includes two complimentary day passes to the United Club® every year. The airline clubs are a great place to wait for your flight. You can relax a bit, and avoid the crowds at the gate.
Hotels, and even Disney, also offer their own branded credit cards so you can earn points for room nights and travel packages. So be sure to check out all the benefits before signing up.
A number of changes have occurred within the airline industry in the last month. Some, like the merger of United and Continental, have been very visible, while others have gone by unnoticed. And yet, many these changes will have long lasting impacts upon both the industry and its travelers.
With the United merger, we have seen the combining of two very large companies—including tens of thousands of employees, thousands of aircraft, hundreds of airport facilities, numerous policies, two frequent flier programs, and their reservations systems. Most of these changes will result in subtle differences that won’t seem all too unusual. However, there is one very noticeable change, that I haven’t seen mentioned in the media, and that is the change in the policy concerning exchanges and change fees.
Prior to the merger, United permitted travelers to make a change on a nonrefundable ticket with the payment of a change fee. If the new fare was lower than the original fare, then the change fee could be deducted from the difference. For example, if the initial ticket was a $850.00 round trip ticket between Spokane and Savannah and the new ticket was a $500.00 round trip ticket between Spokane and Denver, then the $150.00 change fee could be deducted from the $350.00 residual amount, leaving $200.00 on a nonrefundable credit:
$850.00 (old ticket) – $500.00 (new ticket) = $350.00 (residual amount) – $150.00 (change fee) = $200.00 in credit
This credit would be valid for a set period of time, generally one year from the date of issuance of the original ticket. But the change that occurred on March 3rd, however, is that United adopted Continental’s policy of not permitting the change fee to be deducted from that difference, instead the change fee is charged at the time of the exchange. This means that in order to make an exchange one has to initially pay more money out of pocket, however in the end, the traveler winds up with a larger credit. So in the above example, the math would change to:
$850.00 (old ticket) + $150.00 (change fee) = $1000 (initial out of pocket expense) – $500.00 (new ticket) = $500.00 in credit
While this may not seem like a big deal to some folks, to others, having to pay that extra fee out of pocket, is a bit of a burden.
There is also one disturbing aspect to this change that I have yet to mention.
United has made this new policy retroactive to all nonrefundable tickets, regardless of the date of issuance. This means that tickets issue last October, under the old rules, are now subject to the new rules, which I think has the potential for legal action by some travelers since it seems to be in violation of United’s contract of carriage which states the following points: RULE 3 APPLICATION OF CONTRACT
A) These rules constitute the conditions of carriage upon which UA agrees to provide Domestic and International Carriage and are expressly agreed to by the Passenger. These Rules are also the tariffs filed by UA in accordance with certain government regulations.
E) Except as otherwise provided within specific fare rules, transportation is subject to the Contract of Carriage and charges in effect on the date on which the Ticket is issued. References to pages, rules, items and notes are coterminous and include revisions, supplements and reissues thereof.
F) Where the Ticket has been purchased and issued before the effective date of an increase in the applicable fare, the increase will not be collected, provided there is no change in Origin, Destination, Stopover point(s), flight(s) or dates shown on the original Ticket.
K) Except where provided otherwise by law, UA‘s conditions of carriage, rules and tariffs are subject to change without notice, provided that no such change shall apply to Tickets issued prior to the effective date of such change.
This break from tradition and their long standing contract of carriage could have long term implications if it becomes normal for airlines to change the rules after the consumer has purchased their tickets.
While United made the biggest and most noticeable changes, Delta has also worked in a couple of changes worth noting. First, they have modified their international baggage policies. They have lowered the fee for a second checked bag for coach travelers and increased the fee for the third through tenth bags and for overweight bags. Additionally, they have added a second checked bag fee for transpacific flights. These changes can be viewed here.
The other and potentially more interesting change is that Delta has rolled out a new product for select domestic flights between Detroit, Orlando, Ft. Myers, Ft. Lauderdale, and Tampa. The new product is called Basic Economy and it creates a new type of fare. This fare is nonrefundable and non-changeable, except in the case of involuntary changes, like irregular operations. This product cannot be combined with refundable or changeable fares, nor does this product allow advance seat assignments. Currently this option is only available to the identified markets, however if successful, I would expect to see Delta expand in the future. If that happens, don’t be surprised to see other carriers come out with similar products. Currently the cost difference between this new Basic Economy ticket and the standard nonrefundable ticket is less than $10.00 in each direction. That could change fairly quickly and if it does, don’t be surprised if the difference increases to more than $50.00 in each direction.
The good news is that agents at Christopherson Business Travel are aware of this new product and can offer these choices to travelers. The bad news is that currently, travel sites such as Orbitz don’t make an obvious differentiation between the two types of fares, so travelers booking online will have to be very careful and read the fare rules in order to avoid getting stuck with a non-changeable ticket.
At the same time, Delta is rolling out what they call Trip Extras. This allows travelers to purchase a variety of “extras,” such as additional SkyMiles and/or 24 hour Wi-Fi Passes, which allow unlimited Wi-Fi on all GoGo-equipped Delta flights. It also allows travelers to purchase priority boarding. Delta offers packages that combine various options, such as the LIFT package that combines Priority Boarding and an extra 1000 miles, or the ASCEND package that includes Priority Boarding and the 24 hour Wi-Fi pass. These extra services are currently available for purchase at Delta.com and at the kiosks. Once purchased, they are nonrefundable and non-changeable.
As you can see, the one constant in the airline industry is change.
Mileage programs have become a major source of revenue for U.S. carriers and a primary source for retaining business travelers and keeping them away from competing carriers. United’s MileagePlus members, for example, are waiting with anticipation for the official launch of the new 2012 program, which will take effect once United and Continental have completed their conversion to a single technology system, scheduled for later in the first quarter of 2012. United will advise its members of the effective date in the coming weeks. Until then, United’s MileagePlus and Continental’s OnePass programs will continue to operate separately.
The new United MileagePlus program will have four membership levels: Premier 1K
100,000 Premier qualifying miles or 120 Premier qualifying segments Premier Platinum
75,000 Premier qualifying miles or 90 Premier qualifying segments Premium Gold
50,000 Premium qualifying miles or 50 Premier qualifying segments Premier Silver
25,000 Premium qualifying miles or 30 Premium qualifying segments
Global Services will continue as an exclusive, invitation only program for United’s top customers. United is also offering additional ways for travelers to earn miles through a MileagePlus Explore Card. Complete benefit information and details can be found online at MileagePlusMergerUpdates.com.
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
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.
United Airlines and Continental Airlines have rolled out a process to merge award miles from Mileage Plus and One Pass programs. Combining your airline flight activity can help you earn award travel and elite status faster. Members can complete the process online here.
To use this process, the name on each account must match. Members will need to be sure to have their account membership numbers and pin to complete the transaction. Once accounts are merged, members can then roll miles into the joined account.
One more item to note is that with the merger, some flight numbers are changing as United and Continental combine their schedules. It is a good idea to reconfirm any upcoming flights to be sure your itinerary reflects any recent changes to flight numbers, operating carrier and possibly, times.
For further information or help, contact Mileage Plus Customer Service at 800-421-4655.
Several months ago Christopherson Business Travel announced our partnership and integration with TripIt. Who would have thought that this innovative smart phone application would become so popular? For those of you missing out, TripIt is an application designed to simplify online travel planning. Users can generate a master itinerary with maps, directions, and weather for any destination. Activity planning can be accomplished through the comprehensive itinerary. Plans can be easily shared, monitored, and updated through available downloads.
As a Christopherson AirPortal user your can sign up for TripIt from the AirPortal front page. From that point on your trips will be automatically sent to your smart phone via TripIt. TripIt will be especially useful for those who travel often. It generates a master itinerary with all travel information in one place, ready to share with coworkers, family, and others. Your information flow will be streamlined and collated into one easily managed application.
There are two plans: Basic TripIt and TripIt Pro Enterprise program. The basic program is good but the Pro Enterprise program is where it’s at. Basic TripIt is free and right now, Christopherson Business Travel has a great deal going on for TripIt Pro Enterprise.
With TripIt Pro Enterprise you will be notified of gate changes, airline flight delays, baggage carousel changes, alternate flight options and more. For the Christopherson rate of $39 a year, your travelers can enjoy the luxury of a worry free travel experience. If your entire company would like to be part of the TripIt Pro user family then we can sign you up for only $1 per ticket issued.
Contact a Christopherson account manager today for a 30 day free trial. Call 866-327-7700 or email us at email@example.com. It won’t take you 30 days to wonder how you ever stayed on top of your travel without TripIt!
In honor of Earth Day last Friday, I thought I would share with you how companies large and small are looking at their carbon footprints. As an account manager, recently I have had companies request data regarding their carbon footprint and miles flown. It got me thinking about who the greenest companies are within the travel industry. Some of the information I was able to find took me by surprise.
As a business traveler myself, I know the importance of staying connected. On my business trips, I find myself carrying an array of electronic gadgets to get me through the day. Over the past few years, airlines and airports have assisted travelers with their lonely electronically-connected commutes through offerings of charging stations and wi-fi connections.
The latest to join the “connected” offerings is Continental Airlines. Just this week, they announced they have executed a letter of intent with inflight entertainment provider Live TV to offer inflight wi-fi via Ka-band beginning next year. The company plans to offer the service on more than 200 domestic Boeing 737 and 757 aircraft equipped with DIRECTV. This will provide onboard connectivity and more than 95 channels of live television programming to customers flying within the continental United States.
United Airlines currently offers inflight Internet service on 14 aircraft. This planned expansion by United Continental Holdings to offer more inflight wi-fi services underscores the company’s commitment to providing unique options that enable customers to customize their travel experience.
For you the business traveler, it means you now have more options to keep up with your busy life.
On October 1, 2010 the merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines received legal approval, allowing the two airlines to operate under a Chicago-based holding company called United Continental Holdings, Inc.
The United Continental merger milestone happened at the end of the same week that Southwest Airlines announced its purchase of Airtran Airways. While the airline industry consolidation has been taking place for many years, the recent combination of Delta-Northwest, United-Continental and Southwest-Airtran has put the consolidation process in hyper-mode.
The merged United-Continental will be based in Chicago and will operate under the United name; it will feature Continental’s logo. The airline will be run by Continental’s CEO, Jeffery Smisek. Both carriers will begin to merge operations in 2011 and a single operating certificate from the FAA is expected by 2012.
After a review of Avis Budget’s $1.33 billion bid by Dollar Thrifty’s board of directors, Dollar Thrifty turned down the offer. Even though Avis’s offer is higher than the $1.13 billion dollar offer in place with Hertz, Dollar has decided to decline Avis’s offer.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has set Sept. 8 as the effective date for a new $10 fee on foreign visitors, which will help fund the new tourism promotion program created by the Travel Promotion Act.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car will start delivering electric cars to some non-airport locations in January.
The company will initially deliver 500 Nissan Leaf vehicles to neighborhood branches with the infrastructure to support the cars.
Tourism businesses in the Gulf Coast region could lose between $7.6 billion and $22.7 billion in visitor spending over the next three years, according to research commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association. In addition to developing recommended actions for the government, U.S. Travel endorsed an idea earlier this month where BP would set set up a $500 million emergency marketing fund that would be disbursed as grants to local destinations for information and marketing campaigns.
Spirit Airlines… another fee? When speaking with an airport employee becomes an option rather than a necessity, Spirit Airlines is thinking about charging for that service, CEO Ben Baldanza told ABC News on Tuesday. “When there’s a way for customers to do it themselves electronically, at that point, we could consider charging a few dollars to interact with a human,” he said. “But if the only way we can do the transaction for you is to talk to a human, we’re not going to charge you for that.”
TSA Week at a Glance: 7/26/10 thru 8/01/10 – www.tsa.gov
8 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
18 firearms found at checkpoints
6 passengers were arrested after investigations of suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents
In the midst of volcanoes and strikes and demonstrations, you might have missed some interesting developments in the world of frequent flier news this week.
United Airlines says “keep your money..” – well, at least some of it. The airline announced this week that its elite members in its Mileage Plus program will no longer have to suffer the indignity of paying a co-pay fee when using miles to upgrade flights in the continental U.S., Alaska or Canada.
Frontier Airlines announced that it will end its mileage program partnership with AirTran. Due in no small part to the union of Frontier Airlines and Midwest Airlines under the Frontier name last month, the Frontier-AirTran partnership is scheduled to end on July 16, 2010.
Delta Airlines announced that beginning fall 2010 elite members of Delta’s SkyMiles program will enjoy upgrade benefits on Alaska Airlines flights as part of the Delta/Alaska partnership extension.
For more information on each of these revelations, contact your Christopherson Travel Advisor.
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
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.
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.
Continental Airlines’ much anticipated entrance into the Star Alliance took place on Tuesday, October 27. Continental brings its young fleet, flier-friendly services and over 60 NEW destinations to the world’s largest airline network. An integral part of Continental’s move to the Star Alliance will be its codeshare agreement with United Airlines. While this agreement will allow travelers to purchase flights on approximately 400 codeshare routes (mainly domestic and Trans-Atlantic) it also heralds the decision by both carriers to synergize best-in-class features for frequent fliers. In fact United recently announced plans to match Continental’s Elite Upgrade policies on its domestic routes beginning 2nd quarter 2010.
So what do you think? A good move for Continental? The Star Alliance? Please share your thoughts with us.
In the meantime, for answers to any questions about what this development means for your OnePass or Mileage Plus accounts or the Star Alliance in general, call Christopherson/Andavo Travel and our travel advisors will be glad to assist.
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.