Archive for the ‘Air Travel’ Category

Frequent Flyer Tip – Assign Value Your Frequent Flyer Miles To Help Decide How to Use Them

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Thanks to credit card offers and frequent travel you may be sitting on a LOT of frequent flyers miles, but that doesn’t always mean you should use them up quickly.   Here are some tips on effective collection and use of frequent flyer programs and miles:

Collect more frequent flyer miles:
I’m amazed how many people don’t take advantage of frequent flyer programs, which will save a frequent traveler *tens of thousands* of dollars over a lifetime.     So the first tip is USE THESE PROGRAMS!      Second tip is  DON’T LET MILES EXPIRE!.      That usually involves simply spending a bit with credit card linked to your miles program, buying or gifting a few miles through the program, and other cheap approaches.    Even at the low valuation of a penny a mile, losing 25000 miles is like losing $250 cash and is often easily avoided.

Travel is NOT the easiest way to get miles.    Credit Card sign ups with flyer miles programs  are increasingly generous, so it’s not uncommon to get 50,000 or even more miles for a simple credit card sign up, often using cards sponsored by United Airlines, Delta Airlines, US Airways, British Airways, and more.     Although using these and other credit cards will often allow you to collect a few miles, a good trick if your record keeping is good is to cancel the cards after a year (before the fee kicks in) and then sign up again with the new offers that will come your way soon.    Depending on your credit and other factors, you can get hundreds of thousands of extra miles by simply signing up with different cards via different airlines over the course of a few years.   The best online resource I’ve found to help with this is The Points Guy.    Tips there are very helpful and he’s usually got the best offers current credit card offers highlighted and explained.

Using your miles wisely:
I like to assign a value to my miles to help compare offers.     I generally use a penny per mile but that may be somewhat low for most people.    I’d say .02 per mile would be on the high side.      For example if I can use 25,000 miles for a round trip but the ticket would cost me $350 I’d tend to use miles.    On the other hand if I’d need to use 50,000 miles for that $350 trip I’ll pay for the ticket.

Miles values will vary for different people since people have different levels of comfort (first class upgrades can be relatively cheap using miles vs cash), flexibility  (more flexibility means your miles will be a lot easier to use), inconvenience (miles are often somewhat trickier to use compared to booking a paid flight) and the fact that people’s time differs in value   (for example if you value your time at minimum wage and can spend more time looking for deals the miles may be worth *more* to you than if you value your time at, say,  $50+ per hour.

To get an idea of how many miles you’ll get for various trips, use the mileage calculator at Airport City Codes – just enter your two airports and add up the miles from different legs of the journey.

 

Sioux City – SUX Embracing a funny designator as a brandable name

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Sioux City used to complain about their three letter FAA designation as “SUX”  Airport.    But now, in what appears to be a clever marketing move, they’ve embraced it.   More from CNN here.

Rick Steves on Rethinking the Massive Cost of Airport Security

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Great post today on Facebook by Rick Steves about how we need to do a rational job of assigning costs and benefits to our Airport Security apparatus.   Although I agree with him I think a lot of the blame is with … those of us who continue to irrationally fear terrorism more than the *hundreds* of other greater risks around us, many of which we could mitigate very cheaply.   For example a smoker is creating fairly substantial death risk for themselves, and could live longer simply by spending *less* on smoking.   In other areas like auto accidents (which kill hundreds of times the number of people killed in terror incidents), we could simply make sure more people buckle up and fewer drive drunk.   The cost of these measures is trivial but the lives saved would be vastly more than we save with our TSA security measures.

Of course a challenge Rick is not addressing is that the irrationality many of us apply to this topic means that if we DO have terror incidents it will discourage many from flying at all.   This irrational result means that it might actually be good policy to provide more anti-terror measures than you would apply in a more rational world, because people’s fear might wind up creating large scale problems with the global transportation system.   Thus we might need to spend billions more than is rational in order to prevent losing tens of billions from irrational economic decisions.

Still, the moral of the TSA story is that our safety is coming at a cost that may not be sustainable.   Therefore we should start educating the public to be more rational in how they assign risk and reward, and start working towards sustainable safety spending rather than excessive and irrational political spending programs.

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Rick Steves on Facebook:
I’ve been through a lot of airports lately, and I have to say, when people joke about TSA meaning “thousands standing around,” it has a ring of truth. In November, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that we spend about $8 billion a year on scanning machines, all that time-consuming checking, and employing those people who stand between us and our departure gate. And that cost doesn’t even consider the valuable time wasted by travelers who need to allot extra time to cover surprise delays at airport security.

 Sure, we need to spend some money and time on security. But does anyone in government have the nerve to raise their hand and ask, “Could we lighten up here a bit?” or even “Aren’t we going a bit overboard there?” Bloomberg Businessweek reports that entire years go by (such as 2011) when TSA doesn’t spot a single terrorist trying to board an airplane. And then there’s s this staggering statistic: “In fact, extremist Islamic terrorism resulted in just 200 to 400 annual deaths worldwide, outside the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq — the same number…that occur in bathtubs in the US each year.”

 

Following 9/11, there was, understandably, a push to strengthen our airport security measures. But these efforts may be costing us even more lives. According to Cornell University researchers cited in Bloomberg Businessweek, after 9/11, frightened travelers switching from flights to drives resulted in over 200 more traffic fatalities every month. In the long term, due to security hassles, about 5 percent fewer people fly than used to, resulting in even more road fatalities. In other words, far more people have died on the road as an indirect result of 9/11 than actually died on 9/11.

 

Maybe it’s time to come to grips with the risk of terrorism and finally put it in a rational perspective. Many will say, “If TSA and all the security saves just one life, it will be worth it.” The way I see it, wasting money wastes lives. Intimidating people into driving instead of flying wastes lives. A nation can reach a point where its passion for showboat security designed to make people feel safe actually kills them. Security is good, but a cost-benefit awareness is simply smart. What do you think?

Abandoned Airports List (USA Airports)

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Thanks to Paul Freeman for a great resource featuring abandoned and little known airports.  This list was recently updated on May 1, 2012 and it features over 1500 listings grouped by US State.

www.airfields-freeman.com/

TSA Precheck Program = Sensible Security.

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

TSA’s new precheck program is in early stages and not available to everybody, but if you are asked to join it’s probably a good idea. Here’s David Pogue, the New York Time’s technology writer, favorably reviewing the process:

Although TSA’s PreCheck is free you will have to “opt in” and only certain flyers are offered this opportunity at this time.
Look for a popup when visiting your airline’s Web site.

Pogue reports that “you can also get in to eCheck by joining a similar program like Sentri, Global Entry or Nexus”.

Read more here from David Pogue about the TSA Precheck Program

TSA Precheck Program from TSA

TSA Pre™ is currently available for eligible passengers flying on participating airlines that have opted in at the following airport checkpoint locations:

  • Atlanta (ATL): T-South Checkpoint (Delta only)
  • Chicago (ORD): Terminal 3, Checkpoint 8 (American only)
  • Dallas (DFW): Terminal C, Checkpoint C30 (American only)
  • Detroit (DTW): Checkpoint 2 on the ticketing level (Delta only)
  • John F. Kennedy (JFK): Terminal 8 Main Checkpoint (American only)
  • LaGuardia Airport (LGA): Delta Main Checkpoint (Delta only)
  • Las Vegas (LAS): D Gates First Class Checkpoint (American and Delta)
  • Los Angeles (LAX): TSA Pre✓™ screening lane (American only)
  • Miami (MIA): D2 Checkpoint (American only)
  • Minneapolis (MSP): Lindbergh Terminal, Checkpoint 4 (American and Delta)
  • Seattle (SEA): Checkpoint 5 North (Alaska only)
  • Salt Lake City (SLC): Terminal 2 Checkpoint (Delta only)
  • Washington D.C. (DCA): Terminal B, South Checkpoint for gates 10-22 (Delta and Active Duty U.S. Military only)

In 2012, TSA plans to expand TSA Pre™ for eligible passengers flying on participating airlines at the following airport locations:

  • Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
  • Denver International Airport (DEN)
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  • Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
  • Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL)
  • Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
  • Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  • Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
  • Portland International Airport (PDX)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  • Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC)
  • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)

TSA plans to continue expanding the TSA Pre™ concept to include additional airlines, as well as airports that participate in CBP’s Global Entry program, once operationally ready.

 

 

(Jan 2012) Airline Rules from US Department of Transportation

Friday, January 27th, 2012

The second phase of the new airline passenger protections are now in effect.   These rules are designed to solve problems consumers have faced for years regarding cancellations of tickets and flights and pricing problems.

·        Requiring all taxes and fees to be included in advertised fares.
·        Banning post-purchase price increases.
·        Allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.
·        Requiring disclosure of baggage fees when passengers book a flight.
·        Requiring that the same baggage allowances and fees apply throughout a passenger’s journey.
·       Requiring disclosure of baggage fee information on e-ticket confirmations.
·        Requiring prompt notification of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions.

Generally these seem to be a step forward where regulations will simply make the systems more transparent, although one can make a strong case that the new notifications and 24 hour purchase rule will increase costs for the airlines – costs that will need to be passed along to consumers.

Spirit Airlines has another objection to the new rules, which they assert require them to hide government taxes in their fares. For more about this challenge see their special website here:  keepmyfareslow.org

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“New Rules” full Press Release from the Department of Transportation:

DOT 111-11
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

U.S. Department of Transportation’s Expanded Airline Passenger Protections Take Effect

WASHINGTON – New consumer protections for airline passengers established by the U.S. Department of Transportation go into effect today, and will make flying more convenient and hassle-free for air travelers nationwide. The new consumer protections, finalized earlier this year, include requirements that airlines refund baggage fees if bags are lost, increase compensation provided to passengers bumped from oversold flights, and provide passengers greater protections from lengthy tarmac delays.

“The Obama Administration believes consumers have the right to be treated fairly when they fly,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.  “The Department of Transportation’s new passenger protections will help ensure that air travelers receive the respect they deserve before, during and after their flight.”

Effective today, airlines will be required to refund any fee for carrying a bag if the bag is lost.  Airlines are already required to compensate passengers for reasonable expenses for loss, damage or delay in the carriage of passenger baggage.  Under the new rules, airlines must now prominently disclose all optional fees on their websites, including but not limited to fees for baggage, meals, canceling or changing reservations, or advanced or upgraded seating.

The new rules also double the amount of money passengers are eligible to be compensated for in the event they are involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight.  Previously, bumped passengers were entitled to cash compensation equal to the one-way value of their tickets, up to $400, if the airline was able to get them to their destination within a short period of time (within 1 to 2 hours of their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and 1 to 4 hours for international flights).  If they were delayed for a lengthy period of time (more than two hours after their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights), they were entitled to double the one-way price of their tickets, up to $800.  Under the new rule, bumped passengers subject to short delays will receive compensation equal to double the one-way price of their tickets, up to $650, while those subject to longer delays would receive payments of four times the one-way value of their tickets, up to $1,300.  Inflation adjustments will be made to those compensation limits every two years.

The Department of Transportation’s new rule also expands the existing ban on lengthy tarmac delays to cover the international flights of foreign airlines at U.S. airports, and establishes a hard four-hour time limit on tarmac delays for all international flights at U.S. airports.  It also extends the three-hour tarmac delay limit for domestic flights, currently in place only at large-hub and medium-hub airports, to flights at small-hub and non-hub airports as well. All carriers subject to the tarmac rule will be required to report lengthy tarmac delays to DOT.  In all cases, exceptions to the time limits are allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.   Carriers must also ensure that passengers stuck on the tarmac are provided adequate food and water after two hours, as well as working lavatories and any necessary medical treatment.  

Additional measures under the new rule will take effect January 24, 2012, including:

·        Requiring all taxes and fees to be included in advertised fares.
·        Banning post-purchase price increases.
·        Allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.
·        Requiring disclosure of baggage fees when passengers book a flight.
·        Requiring that the same baggage allowances and fees apply throughout a passenger’s journey.
·       Requiring disclosure of baggage fee information on e-ticket confirmations.
·        Requiring prompt notification of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions.

The final rule, proposed rule and comments are available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2010-0140.

Google buys ITA Flight Search Software.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Google’s aquisition of ITA software, a powerful flight price comparison engine, may eventually add a huge new twist to the flight search space although Google’s current position is that they won’t enter this market as a competitor, rather as a more helpful and user friendly search routine for flights.   It remains to be seen how Google will implement this tool over time, but it’s probably bad news for what in QuickAid’s view is the best current player in this market, Kayak.com.    We’re not sure but believe that  ITA already powers Kayak’s search.

This from Google:

On July 1, 2010, Google announced an agreement to acquire ITA Software, a Cambridge, Massachusetts flight information software company, for $700 million, subject to adjustments.

  • Google’s acquisition of ITA Software will create a new, easier way for users to find better flight information online, which should encourage more users to make their flight purchases online.
  • The acquisition will benefit passengers, airlines and online travel agencies by making it easier for users to comparison shop for flights and airfares and by driving more potential customers to airlines’ and online travel agencies’ websites. Google won’t be setting airfare prices and has no plans to sell airline tickets to consumers.
  • Because Google doesn’t currently compete against ITA Software, the deal will not change existing market shares. We are very excited about ITA Software’s QPX business, and we’re looking forward to working with current and future customers. Google will honor all existing agreements, and we’re also enthusiastic about adding new partners.

 

Google Press Release and Video on the ITA Aquistion: http://www.google.com/press/ita/

Bureau of Transportation Statistics – a great online resource

Friday, November 18th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am often amazed at the resources that pop up online without much fanfare.  One for Transportation is the Research and Innovation Technology Administration, thankfully shortened to  “RITA” , which is part of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics at BTS.gov .     Here you’ll find flight, airline, and airport statistics provided by the US Government that include everything from flight delays to jobs in the industry.   If you are a researcher this is an essential resource, and even travelers will find the information very interesting.   Did you know, for example, that extra baggage fees were $887 million – almost a billion dollars –  in the second quarter of 2011.  This is a lot of extra revenue for the airlines and also suggests an obvious budget cutting travel tip – travel light and use a carry on rather than checked baggage!     You won’t save $887 million, but one of the reasons that number is so high is that the extra baggage fees have become exceptionally high over the last few years as many flights do NOT provide any free checked bags.   My personal experience has been that travelling light has many, many advantages.    For example on our 2010 family trip to Venice, Italy we decided to walk to our hotel from the train station rather than hire a water taxi.   This was a charming walk because we only had one bag each to roll along, with more it would not have been possible.

 

British Airways Miles tips from “The Points Guy”

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Brian Kelley is “The Points Guy“, a frequent flyer who helps others get the best from their credit card frequent flyer deals and other travel offers out there.

In an excellent and detailed series of articles linked below, Kelley offers a lot of advice on the British Airways points system, which based on my limited experience offers some challenges in terms of fuel surcharges and other added on fees.   After signing up for new cards my wife and I now have over 200,000 miles to use, but I’m concerned that the “free trips” to London I thought we’d score from this are fading away fast, though it appears BA may allow us to combine several segments – a promising development.   I’ll be reading Kelley’s advice carefully to try to maximize the benefits of the British Airways Frequent Flyer Program.

 

British Airways Frequent Flyer Travel Tips from “The Points Guy” Brian Kelley:

General tipsPost 1 – Booking BA Awards, Post 2 – Booking Partner Awards, Post 3 – Oneworld Alliance, Post 4 – Taxes and Fees, Post 5 – Household Accounts, Post 6 – Companion Ticket, Post 7 – Using ExpertFlyer for Partner Award Availability, Post 8 – The Art of the Stopover, Post 9 – Leveraging Miles and Cash Redemptions, and Post 10– Using Qantas.com to Find Oneworld Award Availability. Also, be sure to check out my post on the credit card deal itself and the lengthy Q&A in the comments section.

Los Angeles Airport LAX: LAX Control Tower and LAX “Theme Building”

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011


Flickr Photo Credit:
monkeytime | brachiator

The futuristic looking LAX “Theme Building”, one of the great icons of international aerospace industry, reopened in 2010 after its post 9/11 closure for many years.

Here the LA Times reviews the situation as of last year: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/03/local/la-me-lax-building-20100703

As a major international gateway airport LAX is one of the world’s busiest Airport venues.

More from the LAX Los Angeles Airport Authority Official Websites:

LAX Parking:   Click here

LAX Maps:  Click here

LAX Flight Info from OAG:  Click here