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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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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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Travel Industry Travel News

Delta Partially Returning Complimentary Meals

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
  • United’s Polaris Class offers locally sourced and seasonal fare
  • 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.

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Travel Industry Travel News

United Announces New Basic Economy Class

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.

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Travel News

United Offers VIP Luggage Delivery

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.

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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.

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Travel Industry Travel News

United’s New Business Class Polaris Solves Business Traveler Discomforts

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.   

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Business Travel Travel Industry

United Airlines flies high in my book

United Airlines international travelWhile 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.

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Travel Industry Travel News

Southwest Airlines joins TSA’s PreCheck Program

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.

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Business Travel Travel Industry

A Double Take on United – Earn Double MileagePlus Miles through Nov. 21

Mileageplus_newlogoUnited 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.

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Business Travel Travel Industry

United Airlines and Marriott Hotels Join Forces

Get even more perks with United and Marriott's RewardsPlus program.
Get even more business travel perks with United and Marriott’s RewardsPlus program.

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.

For more information, or to sign up, visit marriottrewards.com/rewardsplus.

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Business Travel Travel Technology

Is there Wi-Fi on your next United flight? Plan ahead to stay connected.

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!

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Business Travel Travel Management

United Airlines Changes Boarding Process

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
  • Group 3 – Economy Plus and Economy window seats
  • Group 4 – Economy middle seats
  • Group 5 – Economy aisle seats
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Travel Industry Travel News

FAA Lifts Grounding: Dreamliners Are Back in Service

Dreamliners are back in service

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!

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Business Travel Travel Industry Travel Management Travel News

Airline Exchange Fees On the Rise: How will this affect business travel?

airline exchange feesIt has started again.

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.