Four Major Airlines Do Well in 2016 BTN Travel Survey

The results of Business Travel News’ (BTN) 2016 Airline Survey are out, and the nation’s four major airlines have cause to celebrate, as satisfaction levels among corporate travel clients rose nearly across the board.

Here’s how the big four airlines ranked on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) in various categories, according to BTN.com.

Distribution – Providing comprehensive published and private content through preferred booking channels.

1. Delta – 4.33

2. American – 3.9

3. United – 3.8

4. Southwest – 3.2

Complaint resolution – Responding quickly and effectively to buyers and travelers.

1. Delta – 4.45

2. Southwest – 3.54

3. United – 3.46

4. American – 3.41

Communication with buyers – Informing buyers of changes in airline management, products, programs, data, reporting, sales and service.

1. Delta – 4.45

2. American – 3.7

3. United – 3.67

4. Southwest – 3.45

Account managers and sales reps – Participating in productive and frequent meetings and holding the power to negotiate agreements, offer options, and make price and service decisions.

1. Delta – 4.43

2. American – 3.51

3. United – 3.51

4. Southwest – 3.31

Customer service for travelers – Timeliness, reliability, cleanliness, support and communication.

1. Delta – 4.43

2. Southwest – 3.78

3. American – 3.51

4. United – 3.46

Networks, partnerships and frequencies – Service to the destinations corporations need to reach.

1. Delta – 4.39

2. United – 3.92

3. American – 3.91

4. Southwest – 3.49

Value – Worth of service levels relative to fares, fees and other services.

1. Delta – 4.04

2. Southwest – 3.96

3. American – 3.56

4. United – 3.34

Analysis, by airline

Despite concerns following years of airline consolidations, the BTN study results show that competition remains strong among the largest carriers. A FINRA representative said that post-consolidation, she’s seen airlines work harder to set themselves apart from one another to earn corporate customer loyalty.

At the same time, U.S. carriers continue to post healthy profits in 2016, which they are investing back into their own products and services.

All four U.S. carriers — American, Delta, Southwest and United — that had enough corporate use to be included in the survey, improved their overall scores. More impressively, every airline improved its scores in all 10 categories with only one exception: United Airlines dropped just four-hundredths of a point on a five-point scale in buyers’ rating of its distribution channels.

Delta lost only a slight edge in its premium over the other three carriers at 4.3 — its total score was 0.77 points above its closest competitor, compared with a 0.9-point difference last year.

Rankings among the other three airlines were a much closer race. American Airlines overall score improved the most from last year, with the airline rising up to second place, pushing both United Airlines and Southwest Airlines down one spot in the rankings.

Delta improves operational performance

Delta Air Lines improved its operational performance for the second year in a row, with Delta’s highest scores in client communications and complaint/problem resolution.

Corporate survey respondents cited the products and services Delta has developed for corporate travel clients, including its Corporate Priority program, which offers benefits and protections to corporate travelers regardless of frequent-flyer status.

Buyers also singled out the Delta Edge reporting program, which expanded to include meetings spend this year. In meetings pricing, Delta beat its competitors by more than a full point in BTN’s survey, the biggest victory margin of any individual category.

American Airlines

American Airlines increased its overall score more than the competition by 0.26 points. Its most significant improvements were related to negotiations: transient pricing, meetings travel pricing and services and amenities.

Last year, American received fewer than 3 out of 5 points in each of those categories. In 2016, all increased above that mark, and American moved from last to second or third in each.

United’s turnaround

It’s a new day at United Airlines, and many give more than a little credit to new president and CEO Oscar Munoz. While United slipped a place in rankings, it made significant gains in complaint resolution, communication with buyers and customer service for travelers.

One change that boosted customer service scores was a new escalation desk within the sales support organization, reducing a backlog of problems like baggage issues and refunds. Additionally, United has made sales support services more efficient by reducing demand for them, including giving travel agents more leeway in rebooking travelers after schedule changes or irregular operations.

Southwest’s value

While Southwest trailed its competitors in total score, it also was the only carrier to come within firing range of Delta in any individual category; in overall price and value, it scored only eight-hundredths of a point below Delta.

Southwest has differentiated itself by refusing to charge bag fees — the only major U.S. carrier not to do so — nor change fees. In the past few months, it also allowed A-List and A-List Preferred status members who arrive early to go on standby for earlier flights without paying the fare differentials.

Besides the price-value relationship, Southwest scored highest in communications with buyers and complaint/problem resolution. One reason is that Southwest gave account managers more autonomy to take care of problems when they arise.

Source: http://www.businesstravelnews.com

Holiday Travel Survival Tips

The holiday travel season is upon us, and as always, the nation’s roads and airports are expected to be busier than usual. According to the Orbitz.com® 2016 Holiday Travel Survey, 72 percent of Americans are planning to travel at least once between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Whether you’re driving or flying, here is some sage advice from expert travelers on how to stay happy and healthy on the road this holiday season.

Be strategic when you fly or drive

Earlier is better when it comes to booking holiday flights and hotels, while there is still availability and reasonable prices. Use websites such as Orbitz.com, Kayak.com, WhichBudget.com, LastMinute.com, FareCompare.com, Priceline.com and Yapta.com to search and compare the best airfares and times.

Book as early as possible in the morning, so if a flight is delayed or cancelled, you’ll have a better chance of getting on another flight. If you’re traveling out of country, make sure you understand the country’s passport requirements and have paperwork in order ahead of time.

Avoid the busiest business commuter times: Monday mornings, Friday evenings and Sundays. Instead, fly on the least crowded days: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Also avoid flying or driving on peak holiday travel days. During the peak season, the day before and after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are usually the busiest days to travel.

One way to avoid peak travel times is to fly on the day of a holiday. Most people want to get where they are going and arrive before the festivities begin, which is why Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are both better times to fly. Another bonus: By arriving on the day of, you may avoid some of the stress and rush leading up to the holiday event.

If you have to travel on a high-traffic day, drive or fly early in the morning for fewer delays—afternoon flights tend to incur more delays and cancellations. Or, consider the red eye and fly overnight, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Another tip: avoid connecting flights if possible. The lower fare you may receive isn’t worth the extra work and stress. If you can afford, book a flight with zero connections. If not, book them with plenty of time between flights as  weather, air traffic, crew connections and other factors affect airline schedules.

Pack light and ship gifts ahead.

If possible, pack with a carry-on roller bag only — it will save you the hefty baggage fee and get you on the plane and out of the airport faster. If you’re going to have to check luggage, pay your baggage fee ahead of time online, it’s usually a bit cheaper. Also weigh your baggage ahead of time and make sure it is under 50 pounds to avoid having to pay an additional fee.

Pack a carry-on bag with your favorite snacks, so if you get hungry, you’re not at the mercy of the airline’s snack schedule. Bring wet naps and hand sanitizer, as airplanes and airports are full of germs. If you wear contacts, bring a spare pair, along with your glasses. Also pack some books and magazines and a portable music player—they help make the time pass quicker.

Once your flight is booked, head to the post office and mail gifts to your destination ahead of time. You’ll have to pay shipping, of course, but you’ll save on extra baggage fees and negotiating that giant dinosaur through security check. Want an easier option? Shop online for gifts and have them delivered to your destination. Gift-wrapping is available through many websites.

Print your boarding pass ahead of time.

The night before or day of the flight, print out your boarding pass online ahead of time. Make sure you’re seat assignment is indicated on the airline’s check-in page.

Get to the airport early.

Get to the airport as early as possible—at least two hours ahead of your boarding time (not flight time), if not more. If you don’t plan on printing out your boarding pass ahead of time, take advantage of the boarding pass kiosks at most check in gates. They will save you time online standing on line, and most gate employees are happy to help you get your pass. Have a credit card on hand with a name that matches your name on the reservation.

Know what to expect at the gate.

To get through the gate as efficiently as possible, have your driver’s license and boarding pass in hand, remove metal jewelry, loose change, shoes, belt, jacket, cell phone and PDA and place them in the plastic bins, and open and remove your laptop. Remember to remain patient and polite—you don’t want to upset a TSA agent. Also, bottled water is not allowed through security, so wait to get to the gate to buy water, coffee and other snacks.

If you’re driving …

Nothing can add stress to a road trip like an unexpected mechanical problem. If you do plan on driving long-distance this holiday, make sure your vehicle is in safe working order. Have the car battery, fluid levels, lights, windshield wipers, brakes and belts and hoses checked by a certified mechanic. Regardless of age, have the tires balanced and alignment checked. Also have the oil changed and fluids topped off, including coolant, antifreeze, radiator, transmission and wiper fluid, and replace the air filter.

Also pack smart for winter driving. A roadside emergency kit should include a spare set of keys, hidden in a magnetic spare key hider somewhere on the vehicle. It should also include a blanket, flashlight with fresh batteries, and tire gauge to check tire pressure throughout the trip. Keep extra food and water in case of an emergency in the trunk, and check your spare tire and jack.

If you aren’t already a member, sign up for AAA or other roadside assistance policy. Consider buying a GPS system (if your car isn’t equipped with one). They not only make finding your destination a lot easier, a good GPS can help you find restaurants and points of interest along the way.

You can’t control the weather.

Sometimes, no matter how prepared you are, Mother Nature reminds us how all-powerful she is. If you and your loved ones are stuck, try and make the most of it. Most major airports have several (pricey) restaurants and snack bars, so relax, have a good meal and enjoy the “captive” family time. But don’t stray too far from the gate: Flight times and even gate changes can happen in an instant, so keep your eyes and ears open.

Eat well and stay rested

One of the keys to reducing stress and staying healthy on the road is to take good care of yourself. The holidays are a minefield of sugary junk foods and alcohol, so try and balance it out with lots of fruits, vegetables and water.

Be prepared and pack healthy snacks to bring on your drive or flight. Bananas, apples and healthy snack bars are good travel options. Also drink plenty of water and get enough sleep—two key factors in keeping your immune system strong and staying healthy. Turn off your phone and computer close to bed time, and start “powering down” from your long days.

What Flyers Can Do to Improve Air Travel

American Airline’s new controversial TV commercial saluting “the world’s greatest fliers” has created some backlash, seemingly putting the onus of customer satisfaction on the passengers, not the airline.

While the message may have been questionable, it is true that individuals can do things to make the overall flying experience easier and more enjoyable for themselves and others. Here are some tips from expert travelers.

Be smart about booking.

Take advantage of travel websites such as Orbitz.com, Kayak.com, WhichBudget.com, LastMinute.com, FareCompare.com, Priceline.com and Yapta.com to search and compare the best airfares and times.

Book as early as possible in the morning. Afternoon flights tend to incur more delays and cancellations, so if a flight is delayed or cancelled, you’ll have a better chance of getting on another flight. Or, consider the red-eye and fly overnight, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Avoid flying during busiest business commuter times: Monday mornings, Friday evenings and Sundays. Instead, fly on the least crowded days: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Also avoid flying on peak holiday travel days. During the peak season, the day before and after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are usually the busiest days to travel.

One way to avoid peak travel times is to fly on the day of a holiday. Most people want to get where they are going and arrive before the festivities begin, which is why Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve are both better times to fly. Another bonus: By arriving on the day of, you may avoid some of the stress and rush leading up to the holiday event.

Another tip: Avoid connecting flights if possible. The lower fare you receive may not be worth the extra time and stress. If you can afford it, book a flight with zero connections. If not, book them with plenty of time between flights as weather, air traffic, crew connections and other factors affect airline schedules.

Pack light and ship gifts ahead.

If possible, pack with a carry-on roller bag only — it will save you the hefty baggage fee and get you on the plane and out of the airport faster. If you’re going to have to check luggage, pay your baggage fee ahead of time online, it’s usually a bit cheaper. Also weigh your baggage ahead of time and make sure it is under 50 pounds to avoid having to pay an additional fee.

Pack a carry-on bag with your favorite snacks, so if you get hungry, you’re not at the mercy of the airline’s snack schedule. Remember, you can’t bring water through the security check, so buy a bottle once you get to your flight’s gate. Bring wet naps and hand sanitizer, as airplanes and airports are full of germs. If you wear contacts, bring a spare pair, along with your glasses. Also pack some books and magazines and a portable music player — they help make the time pass quicker.

When packing, roll, don’t fold. This travel-tested packing technique has been used by flight attendants for decades. Rolling—not folding—the clothes in your luggage allows you to pack more in less space, and helps avoid wrinkles, too.

Don’t pack them in the carry-on bag as soon as you roll them. Once all the clothes are rolled, stand the carry-on up and pack heavier items such as shoes and books first at the wheel-end of the case so they don’t move around and crush the other items. One flight attendant claims she can pack clothes for 10 days by rolling instead of folding them. Another advocates the use of vacuum space saver bags.

If you need to bring gifts or materials for work, head to the post office and mail them to your destination ahead of time. You’ll have to pay shipping, of course, but you’ll save on extra baggage fees and negotiating clumsy packages through security. An easier option is to shop online for gifts and have them delivered to your destination. Gift wrapping is available through many websites.

Before heading to the airport

Print your boarding pass ahead of time. The night before or day of the flight, print out your online boarding pass. Make sure your seat assignment is indicated on the airline’s check-in page.

Know what to expect at security. Prepare for the security check beforehand. While getting dressed, limit your jewelry, wear slip-on shoes and socks, and if possible, avoid wearing a belt or jacket. Liquids, gels and aerosols must be in 3.4 ounce (100ml) or smaller containers. Some exceptions are prescription and over-the-counter medicines, baby formula, breast milk, juice and other essential liquids. All liquids, gels and aerosols must be placed in a quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag.

When you get to security, have your boarding pass and ID ready. At the X-ray machine, remove your shoes, belt, coat, jewelry, phone, PDA and loose change and place them in a plastic bin to be scanned. Laptops must be removed from their bag and also placed on the conveyor belt to be scanned.  Finally, keep your boarding pass and ID handy until you’re through security. Once you’re at the gate, you will only need your boarding pass to board the plane.

Get to the airport as early as possible — at least two hours ahead of your boarding time (not flight time), if not more. If you don’t plan on printing out your boarding pass ahead of time, take advantage of the boarding pass kiosks at most check-in gates. They will save you time online, and most gate employees are happy to help you get your pass. Have a credit card on hand with a name that matches the name on the reservation.

If you travel a lot, you may want to look into the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck trusted traveler security screening option. PreCheck members are eligible for expedited security screenings at participating airports. More than 336,000 passengers have gone through the PreCheck lane already. PreCheck is currently available at New York’s Kennedy, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Los Angeles airports for members of American Airline’s AAdvantage program, and at Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City airports for Delta SkyMiles members. The TSA announced that US Airways, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines will begin PreCheck operations later this year. PreCheck is also available to members of the Customs and Border Protection agency’s Global Entry program.

When traveling abroad with your smartphone, let your service provider know so you are activated for international use. To avoid high pay-per-use rates, use the data portion/Internet access only when you need to check e-mail. Use free Wi-Fi whenever possible, but never to access bank accounts or personal financial information. Don’t connect to networks titled “free public Wi-Fi.” They are often unsecured networks created by hackers. Also, be aware of the roaming rates, especially in European countries.

Finally, be on time, and be nice. This might seem obvious, but it’s true — when you’re well prepared for your trip and on time, your trip will go a lot easier and be much less stressful. Be kind to the ticketing agents, flight attendants and other airline personnel. It’s their job to make your trip as pleasurable as possible. With few exceptions, they’re working as quickly as possible, so cut them some slack if things get hectic. Remember they have to deal with people and deadlines all day long. Please and thank you goes a long way in the airport and on the plane.

New Efforts to Improve Airport Safety

Airport security and travel safety is a concern for many frequent flyers. Here are some of the latest security-related news items from the TSA and FAA.

TSA announces new tech to speed up security lines

In late July, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it plans to implement new technology that should speed up airport security screening lines by up to 30 percent.

The automated screening system was developed in partnership with American Airlines, which is contributing $5 million to the project, and will be introduced by the end of 2016 at four of the country’s largest airports: Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles International and Miami International.

The automated system consists of screening belts that deploy bins that are 25 percent larger than the bins used in regular screening lanes, saving travelers time, reports Travel Weekly. Bags that require extra scrutiny are diverted automatically so that bins behind can continue through the system. Another benefit: Radio frequency tags are attached to each bin, increasing the accountability of items as they go through the belt.

Two such belts are already in use in partnership with Delta— who reportedly invested $1 million in the project—at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and the TSA says they have enhanced security, in addition to reducing traveler wait times by about 30 percent.

Another TSA initiative called computed tomography (CT) would enable passengers to leave liquids, gels, aerosols and laptops in their carry-on bags. This technology is currently being used by the TSA at some airports to screen checked bags, including Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

Source: Postbulletin.com

FAA bill to improve security and airport experience

In the wake of attacks here and around the world, the Senate recently approved a bipartisan aviation bill by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to increase airport security, as well as improve the overall customer experience for travelers at airports.

One of the most important aspects of the bill calls for increasing security personnel and K-9s outside of security perimeters to help ensure that unsecure areas of the airport where people are vulnerable are better protected. The bill would also improve the vetting process of all airport workers and employees with access to secure areas, and requires security assessments of all overseas airports serving the U.S.

Frequent flyers will also be happy to read that the bill requires airlines to refund paid baggage fees within 24 hours when items are lost or unreasonably delayed.

Additional efforts will be made to improve air travel for people with disabilities and ensure that children 13 years of age and younger are seated next to an adult or older child traveling with them.

The bill will also make it easier for trusted travelers to join the TSA paid PreCheck program offered to trusted travelers who are allowed to go through faster security screening lanes at airports. The TSA also plans to market PreCheck better so more people can find out about it.

The bill funds FAA programs for another 14 months and is now waiting for President Obama’s signature.

Source

Get Ready for a Summer Road Trip

According to GasBuddy.com’s Fuel Price Outlook 2016, the average gas price in the U.S. will be $2.28, which means that American motorists will spend $20 billion less on gas than in 2015, and also that the roads will likely be busier than last summer.

Before you head out on that road trip, here’s some advice to help you and your loved ones stay safe, save money, and have fun on the road this summer.

Summerize your vehicle – Just as you would winterize your car or truck for the cold weather, summerize it for the hot weather. Here’s a pre-road trip vehicle checklist.

  • Fluids: Top off all fluids to the manufacturer’s recommended levels. If the vehicle is due for an oil change, get it done before you leave. Have the engine coolant filled with 50/50 coolant—50 percent water and 50 percent coolant. This will help the engine run cooler and more efficiently in hot weather.
  • Tires: Check that the treads are not too worn down. Driving on bald tires is particularly dangerous in the summer because of the high temperature of the roads. Worn tires also mean a greater risk of hydroplaning on wet roads. Make sure all four tires are filled to the proper pounds/square inch—that’s 32 PSI on most mid-sized cars, but check the wall of the tire for your vehicle’s proper PSI. This will help tire wear and help save on gas consumption.
  • Air conditioning: Most new vehicle’s A/C systems run off the electrical system, which can be a heavy load on the alternator. Have a mechanic check that your vehicle’s electrical system is running efficiently.
  • Lights: Make sure all lights are in working order, windows are clean and the windshield wipers are working properly.
  • Gas: Fill up before you leave: You never know when you may get stuck in a traffic jam with no gas station near.


Preparing for the trip

You can avoid a lot of problems and stress on the road by planning ahead and preparing your vehicle. Here’s what to do before you pull out of the driveway.

  • Paperwork: Make sure the vehicle’s registration and insurance are up to date, and keep the paperwork in the glove compartment.
  • Clean: Clean out your vehicle to create more room and reduce the overall weight to improve gas mileage.
  • Directions: Know your route and length of trip. If you’re using a GPS, pre-program your destination’s address into the unit and make sure the GPS can find the location. Print out a hard copy of the directions—both there and back—in case the GPS malfunctions. It also doesn’t hurt to have a highway map of the states you are driving through.
  • Supplies: Expect the best, but be prepared for the worst. Pack a first aid kit, car jack, spare tire, reflective jacket, torch and fire extinguisher.
  • Snacks: Purchase a cooler and fill it with ice, bottles of water, and healthy snacks that can be eaten easily on the road, such as apples, bananas and sandwiches. This will save you time and money on the road. Avoid junk food and sugary drinks—it will make you tired and sluggish while driving.
  • Children: If traveling with young children, make sure they have some easily accessible items to make their trip more comfortable, such as a favorite stuffed animal, music player, electronic game and books. Caution them not to read or play their game too much in a moving vehicle or they may get car sick.
  • Pets: If you’re driving with pets, be sure to have enough water and pet food on hand, and never leave an animal in a hot car. Heat stroke can kill pets quickly. If your dog or cat is small enough, keep them in a pet carrier. For larger dogs, consider buying a harness and securing them with a seat belt in the back seat.
  • Packing: Place heavier luggage at the bottom of the trunk, with lighter bags on top. Make sure all items are tightly packed and secured, so nothing can fly forward in the vehicle in case you stop short. Keep luggage below window level for a clear line of sight out the back of the vehicle.

On the highway

And here are some common sense reminders for when you’re out there on the road.

  • Drive the speed limit. Driving at or just under the posted speed limit is a good idea for several reasons. In case something happens on the road, such as a car stopping short in front of you, it will give you a little more time to react.
  • Never text while driving and use a hands-free device if you must talk on your phone. Avoid other distractions as well and use extra caution when going through construction zones.
  • Safety: To avoid fatigue on the road, stop about every two hours to stretch and move around. If driving far, stop at a motel at the halfway point and get some sleep. Booking ahead online can save you money and reduce stress. As an added safety measure, tell a friend or relative your plans and approximate time of arrival before you leave, and check in with them when you arrive.

Avoid the Lines and Make Your Flight on Time

In the past months, you’ve probably seen and heard a lot about excruciatingly long lines at airport security checkpoints. At Chicago O’Hare in May, more than 400 passengers had to spend the night on cots and the floor after missing their flights. Flyers across the country are rightfully upset, prompting the Twitter hashtag, #iHatetheWait.

While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been increasing employee overtime and bringing in more screening officers, airline officials are also exploring the pros and cons of privatizing airport security.

In the meantime, here are some things you can do to help ensure that you get to the airport early and make your scheduled flight.

Summer travel tips from the TSA

1. Apply for a trusted traveler program, such as TSA Pre✓®, Global Entry or NEXUS. These help expedite the boarding and security check process. To find out which trusted traveler program best suits your needs, see the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Program comparison chart.

2. Make sure you have proper ID, such as a driver’s license or other state photo identity card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Important: Make sure that your name matches your boarding pass. For a list of accepted IDs, see the TSA’s Identification page.

3. Don’t pack prohibited items. Knowing what is prohibited at the airport and on planes will help the screening process go much quicker. Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. If you’re not sure what’s prohibited, check the TSA’s list of prohibited items at TSA.gov.

4. Leave plenty of time. Arrive at least two hours before your flight when flying domestic, and three hours early when flying international. Allow for more time at larger, busier airports.

5. Prepare for airport security checkpoints by having your ID and boarding pass out. Remove large electronics from bags, such as a laptop; remove 3-1-1 compliant liquid bags, and consider checking your bags instead of carrying them on to save time.

What’s the 3-1-1 liquids rule?

According to the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, you are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item.

Additional advice from a travel expert

Wall Street Journal travel writer, Scott McCartney, shares some useful travel tips he’s compiled over the years talking to travelers like you.

McCartney thinks the most important thing when going through airport security and dealing with the TSA is to be consistent and have a routine. For example, it’s very easy to end up losing your driver’s license when walking through the airport because you’re taking it out of your pocket a lot, and you may forget where you put it. His routine is to instantly put his license back in his wallet before he moves on.

When it comes to carryon baggage, make sure you put items, such as books, electronics and liquids back in the same compartment every time, so you know exactly where they are and where to unzip to get to them. He also thinks it’s good practice to put larger bags through the x-ray belt first, with the laptop being the last thing that goes through.

This way, if you get delayed at the metal detector/body scanner machine, your laptop will be the last to come out, and you’ll have the laptop bag already. You don’t want to be standing there holding your shoes, laptop, etc. without a bag.

McCartney also suggests printing your boarding pass early. Here’s why: Not only does it eliminate a stop at the airline’s check-in counter — if you don’t have to check a bag — but it’s an important way to claim your seat on the flight. If you’re an infrequent flyer flying on a less expensive ticket, and the flight is overbooked, those who have not checked in are in greater danger of being bumped from the flight, if the airline has to bump somebody and can’t get enough volunteers.

Since compensation is based on the price of your ticket, airlines typically look for the cheapest tickets, and so if you check-in and claim your seat early, it makes it harder for the gate agent to bump you from the flight.

Visit TSA.gov for more flying tips and to learn about how you can receive expedited screening through TSA Pre✓®.

Safety Checklist for Traveling Alone

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world,” said Freya Stark. While traveling alone can be an enriching experience, it has its unique challenges. Here’s what to do and be aware of when traveling solo, courtesy of John Golicz, CEO and founder of Unicomm, LLC.

Book a hotel for increased safety.
House-sharing companies such as Airbnb can be a great affordable alternative to pricey hotels, but if you’re traveling alone, a hotel can offer increased safety, including locked entrance and room doors, a key card, security staff and cameras.

It’s ok to change your mind.
If you check in somewhere and don’t feel comfortable, move to another hotel. Security always comes first and always trust your instincts, especially when traveling alone.

Move through the airport quickly.
Airports are crowded, and a person traveling alone can be a potential target for thieves. So move as quickly as possible through the airport to the secure area.

Always pick your own taxi.
Never let a stranger pick a taxi cab for you. Again, trust your instinct in this situation. If someone offering a ride seems questionable, or you just feel weird, move on to the next one. Once you get into a taxi, be sure to check that the person driving matches the license photo at the front of the car.

Take a photo of your hotel’s info.
One of the great things about smartphones is having an easy camera on hand. So use it to take photos of your hotel’s stationery with address and numbers on it and send it to a friend or relative. Also take a photo of the street that the hotel is on, subway stop, etc—anything that can help finding the hotel easier if you get lost.

Store important documents in the cloud.
It’s important to have physical copies of your passport and banking info on hand, but store all critical documents in the cloud as well as backup. When you do this, you won’t panic if anything gets lost or stolen, and you’ll be able to print these documents anywhere that has internet.

Consider a travel tour company.
A great way to travel alone, but not be alone, is to book a trip with a travel adventure company. There are many choices for trip themes, from cooking and foodie tours to extreme adventures. Choose a tour with about 10-15 people and search for adventures that will have like-minded travelers.

Use apps for a smooth trip.
Smartphone apps really can make travel easier. Always be sure to download your airline’s travel app, too. This is the best resource for up-to-date flight information.

Source: 8 Important Safety Tips For the Solo Traveler, 1000traveltips.com

What to Know about Flying with Pets

If you’re a pet owner who travels a lot, you know how difficult it can be to leave your four-legged family member behind—both emotionally and logistically. Whatever your reason for wanting to fly with your pet (you’re going on vacation, moving or showing your pet in a national dog show) it’s generally easier to fly with pets today than it was a decade ago. Here’s an overview of what to know about flying with Fido—or Morris.

Small dogs in the cabin

Most commercial airlines offer only two options for pets: cabin or cargo. Usually only small dogs that will fit in a crate or carrier can ride in the cabin with the owner. (We’ll explain the exceptions in a moment.)

Most airlines charge around $100.00 per pet, per carrier, and limit the number of dogs per flight to around five. Dog weight and carrier measurement requirements vary by airline, but small dogs usually need to fit comfortably in a carrier that is approximately 8-9 inches high, 12-13 inches wide and 15-23 inches long. The dog must also be able to stand and easily turn around in the carrier.

Medium to large in the cargo

With some exceptions, medium- to large-size dogs have to ride in the cargo hold area of a commercial airliner. This section of the plane, located below the cabin, usually has the proper ventilation, air pressure, and heating or cooling required for a safe animal flight, but it is beneath the passenger section and nobody will be able to check on your pet.

On newer jets, a separate area is walled off specifically for pets. While this area is usually safe for pets, there have been cases of pets getting loose, or overheating or freezing during flight, so be sure to check the airline’s pet cargo policy and ask the airline specific questions about your pet’s safety before committing to the flight. You can also check the Department of Transportation (DOT) for monthly airline incident reports involving pets. While there is some risk, thousands of pets safely fly every year and get to their destination in need of a good stretch, but otherwise just fine.

Emotional support dogs

Some commercial airlines will make an exception and allow large dogs to fly in the cabin, if they are an “emotional support animal.” The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 broadened the American Disabilities Act, which recognized service animals in public places.

The Air Carrier Access Act allows for mentally or emotionally impaired persons to be accompanied on flights by an emotional support animal on the condition that the correct documentation, including a letter from a licensed physician or mental health professional verifying that the emotional support animal would provide some degree of comfort, is provided.

If a pet is determined to be an emotional support animal, they are not restricted to a crate/carrier and are even allowed to sit on their guardian’s lap, unlike other animals who must fit under the seat in a carrier. Additionally, airlines are not allowed to charge additional fees when your support animal accompanies you.

Ready to fly? Here’s what to know and do.

Is Fido fit to fly?
Before moving forward with travel plans, determine honestly if your pet is a good candidate for air travel. If your pet is very young, very old or not in good health, it’s best to leave them at home. Also, some breeds don’t travel well in cargo, such as snub-nosed dogs like pugs, which are prone to breathing difficulties. Many major airlines no longer allow such breeds to fly in the cargo hold.

Visit the vet
If you’re moving ahead with plans, make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian for a check-up and make sure all vaccinations are up to date. Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian dated within 10 days of departure. For travel outside the United States, additional planning and health care requirements may be necessary.

Buy and test a carrier
Be sure to buy a carrier that best suits your pet and the airline’s requirements. Carriers are available in both hard-sided and soft-sided. Soft-sided carriers are more suitable for carry-on and tend to fit better under the seat, but they’re only permitted in the cabin only. If your dog will be traveling in the cargo hold, purchase a hard plastic carrier with holes for ventilation instead.

Carriers must be big enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. If the carrier does not permit him to do this, the airline will refuse transport.

To make sure the carrier will fit under the seat on your flight, check the size restrictions of the airline. After you’ve purchased an appropriate carrier, write your dog’s name on it and include identification tags with your home address and phone number, and the best number to reach you while traveling.

Pet photo and ID
Just in case, snap a photo of your pet with your phone and print a few copies in case he gets lost during the trip—it will make it easier for airline employees and local authorities to search more efficiently. You might also consider a permanent form of ID, such as a microchip or tattoo that will help track down your pet if lost.

Call and book early
Airlines require advance notice of traveling animals, and the number allowed in cabins varies by carrier, so book your pet’s ticket as soon as possible. It’s best to call the airline and make sure there is a “seat” available for your pet on the flight. Once the agent has confirmed availability, reserve both your seats on the same ticket while you’re still on the phone with the agent.  Some airlines are more pet-friendly than others. JetBlue has a four-legged loyalty program, JetPaws.

Fly direct, if possible
If possible, book a non-stop, direct flight and try to fly on a weekday when airports are typically less hectic. If your pet will be traveling in the cargo hold, it’s best to fly in the morning or evening during the summer, and midday during the winter to avoid extremely hot or cold temperatures.

Get to the airport early
On the day of the flight, get to the airport at least two hours before departure, but no more than four. Go straight to the airline’s check-in counter—curbside and self-service check-in are not allowed.  Have your dog’s health certificate handy. You will not be allowed to check your pet in more than four hours before the flight.

Food, water, exercise
Feed your pet about four hours before the flight so they have a chance to digest before boarding. Then continue to give the pet water right up to the time of travel. Empty the dish before checking in so it doesn’t spill during the flight. If you’re checking the dog, leave the dishes in the carrier so an airline employee can provide your pet with food and water in the event of an extended delay before or after your flight. Before leaving for the airport, take your pet for a walk to get some exercise and empty his bladder to make the flight more comfortable.

Relax, don’t sedate
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in most cases, dogs should not be given sedatives or tranquilizers prior to flying because they can create respiratory and cardiovascular problems as the dog is exposed to increased altitude pressures.

They can also alter the animal’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium, which can cause them to be off balance and get hurt. Popular television dog trainer, Cesar Millan, recommends using lavender oil as an “association scent” to help your pet relax while flying. In the weeks before the flight, he suggests putting a drop of oil on your hands at feeding times or before walks. Once onboard, “the positive association will allow him to calm down and remain relaxed.”

Once you’ve arrived

When your flight arrives at your destination airport, if your pet was in the cargo area, it will be delivered to baggage claim. At most domestic airports, with the exception of certified service animals, pets in the airport terminals are not allowed outside their carrier crates, and violations may be subject to a fine.

Service animals are permitted on airport trans and leashed animals are permitted in pet-friendly areas of the airport, such as Animal Relief Areas. Animal Relief Areas provide drinking areas with bowls and garbage areas with mutt mitt dispensers.

Some airports have built pet-friendly “resort” areas. Denver International Airport offers “Paradise 4 Paws,” featuring private suites, flat screen TVs, massage therapy, on-site medical experts, and obedience training.

When you’re ready to leave the airport, take your dog for a long walk before you check-in at the hotel to let your pet stretch, relieve itself and acclimate. Also expect them to sniff out the area and hotel room before settling down.  Stay calm and relaxed, and your pet should calm down within a few hours ready to enjoy your joint vacation.

Contact the airports you will be traveling through for details about their specific pet policies.

Packing list checklist

Don’t forget these items when packing your dog’s suitcase:

  • Health certificate and medical records
  • Contact information for your regular veterinarian and an emergency contact at your destination
  • Comb, brush, and flea control products
  • Any special medication your dog might need
  • Spare collar with id tag
  • Pet wipes or grooming products
  • Paper towels and stain remover
  • Enough dog food and treats for the entire trip
  • Plenty of bottled water (a sudden change can upset your dog’s stomach)
  • Food and water dishes
  • Leash and poop bags
  • Your dog’s favorite toy and blanket
  • A list of dog friendly restaurants and attractions at your destination

Sources: www.bringfido.com and www.dogfriendly.com

How to Pack Effectively for the Plane

Effectively packing for a flight can be the difference between an enjoyable, stress-free trip and an on-the-road nightmare. Forget an essential item and you’re scrambling to find the nearest store; pack too much and you end up disorganized and having to pay extra for a bag fee. Here are 10 fundamental packing strategies that every traveler should learn from Caroline Costello at SmarterTravel.com.

Roll, don’t fold.

Many travel experts—including backpackers, who must stuff months’ worth of clothing into a bag the size of a box of wine—agree that rolling is superior to folding. Tightly rolled clothes take up less space than folded ones. Plus, they’re less prone to getting deep wrinkles from fold creases.

Make a packing list

When it comes to packing, procrastinators fall short. Start your packing process days or even weeks ahead of your departure date; this gives you time to craft a complete list, plus purchase any additional items you might need for your vacation. Creating a packing list is a fail-safe way to ensure that you never, ever forget to bring something important.

Know your airline’s baggage-fee policy

Figuring out the airlines’ tricky and befuddling baggage-fee policies is key to any budget-minded packing strategy. While most airlines permit travelers to check at least one bag on international flights, the majority of U.S. carriers charge big bucks for bags checked on domestic flights. Spirit Airlines—that notoriously customer-unfriendly discounter—even charges as much as $100 for carry-on bags.

Avoid bag fees with these packing tips

Before you begin packing, take a peek at your airline’s website and read its baggage policy. This is something you might even want to do prior to buying your plane ticket, especially if you’re set on bringing a checked bag or two. Consider flying on Southwest, which permits at least one free checked bag on domestic flights.

Know the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule

What happens if you don’t follow the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) 3-1-1 rule for carry-on luggage? If you attempt to bring a large bottle of shampoo or a full-size gel deodorant through the security line, a TSA agent will confiscate your stuff, holding you up in line in the process. So get familiar with the agency’s rules: All liquids brought onto planes must be in 3.4-ounce bottles or smaller and inside a single, clear, quart-size zip-top bag.

Use your personal item wisely

It’s standard for airlines to permit each traveler to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item onboard planes. This personal item is subject to specific size requirements (these vary by airline), but something like a purse, laptop bag, or backpack is generally acceptable.

In her article, “Five Tips for Fitting it All in a Carry-on Bag,” Caroline Morse advises travelers to leverage their personal-item allowance, suggesting, “Forget wasting my personal-item allowance with a tiny purse. I’ll bring a larger tote bag that I can stash under the seat but will still give me extra storage space. This will come in handy for keeping all of the things I’ll need to be on hand during the flight within arms’ reach as well.”

Wash your clothes on the road

If you’re staying in a hotel, call in advance to see if laundry services are available and how much they cost. Travelers staying in properties without laundry facilities or taking cruises—cruise lines are notorious for charging an arm and a pant leg for laundry services—can wash clothes in sinks and hang them to dry. Pack a travel-size packet of laundry detergent and a sink stopper to clean your clothes in the bathroom sink in your hotel room. Some hotels have them now, but just in case, purchase a portable laundry-drying line with suction cups that attach to shower walls for drying.

Pack dual-purpose garments

If it’s two-in-one, it’s one less thing to pack. Dual-purpose items, such as pants that turn into shorts or a jacket that turns into a travel pillow are worth their weight in airline baggage fees.

Layer

This advice is twofold: Wear layers and pack in layers. First, your on-the-road wardrobe should feature plenty of layers, which will help you jetset through multiple climates in style and comfort. Second, the items in your bag should be packed in neat layers for easy screening. According to the TSA, “Pack items in layers (shoes one layer, clothes one layer, electronics one layer, etc.)” so that the security agent screening your bag can get a clear picture of what’s inside. The faster the TSA agent can screen your stuff, the faster you’ll get through the security line.

Never check essential items

It’s terribly important to keep your valuable and essential belongings in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage. Your passport, identification, money, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, and other valuables should always be brought onto the plane with you. We probably don’t need to tell you why you need to keep your passport and wallet on your person. But if the airline loses your luggage (or if a TSA agent gets sticky fingers), you’ll regret stowing your expensive watch in a checked bag.

Use packing aids

To make your clothes even more compact, pick up an Eagle Creek Compression Sac. You can use it to shrivel your clothes into a tight, vacuum-packed bundle that takes up very little suitcase space. Other packing aids that can help you organize better and fit more into your bag include packing envelopes and packing cubes.

2015 Reader’s Choice Travel Awards

Ever wonder what your fellow travelers’ favorite airlines, hotels and cities are? If so, read on as we present some of the winners of Condé Nast Traveler’s 28th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards.

According to the website, this was the largest travel survey in their history with more 128,000 travelers submitting millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments to help Condé Nast compile a list of travel favorites.

Here are some of the results, including the best U.S. airlines, hotels and big cities:

Best U.S. Airlines

1. Virgin America
Overall Rating: 81.726

2. JetBlue
Overall Rating: 75.433

3. Hawaiian Airlines
Overall Rating: 72.583

4. Southwest Airlines
Overall Rating: 70.086

5. Alaska Airlines
Overall Rating: 69.453

Best U.S. Airports (for waiting out a winter storm)

1. Portland International Airport, Oregon

2. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport

3. San Francisco International Airport

4. Palm Beach International Airport

5. Philadelphia International Airport

6. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

7. Orlando International Airport

8. Tampa International Airport

9. Raleigh-Durham International Airport

10. Logan International Airport

Best Big Cities in the U.S.

1. New York, NY
Overall Rating: 85.944

2. San Francisco, CA
Overall Rating: 84.298

3. Chicago, IL
Overall Rating: 83.875

4. Boston, MA
Overall Rating: 83.513

5. New Orleans, LA
Overall Rating: 82.870

6. Washington, D.C.
Overall Rating: 81.722

7. Honolulu, HI
Overall Rating: 80.874

8. Austin, TX
Overall Rating: 80.584

9. Seattle, WA
Overall Rating: 80.33

10. Portland, OR
Overall Rating: 79.892

11. San Diego, CA
Overall Rating: 79.564

12. San Antonio, TX
Overall Rating: 79.440

13. Nashville, TN
Overall Rating: 78.782

14. Denver, CO
Overall Rating: 75.535

15. Philadelphia, PA
Overall Rating: 75.210

Top 25 Hotels in the U.S.

1. Waldorf Astoria Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Score: 96.25

2. The Restoration on King, Charleston, South Carolina
Score: 95.47

3. XV Beacon, Boston, Massachusetts
Score: 95.455

4. The Willcox, Aiken, South Carolina
Score: 94.933

5. The Inn & Club at Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Score: 94.668

6. The Surrey, New York, New York
Score: 94.62

7. The Alfond Inn, Winter Park, Florida
Score: 94.537

8. West Street Hotel, Bar Harbor, Maine
Score: 94.375

9. The Inn Above Tide, Sausalito, California
Score: 94.178

10. Hotel Vermont, Burlington, Vermont
Score: 94.168

11. Watch Hill Inn, Westerly, Rhode Island
Score: 94.042

12. Montage Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California
Score: 93.921

13. Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina
Score: 93.878

14. 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio
Score: 93.479

15. Four Seasons Hotel, Westlake Village, California
Score: 93.46

16. Old Edwards Inn and Spa, Highlands, North Carolina
Score: 93.356

17. Gage Hotel, Marathon, Texas
Score: 93.193

18. The Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport, Rhode Island
Score: 93.122

19. The Pitcher Inn, Warren, Vermont
Score: 93.119

20. Lumiére Telluride, Telluride, Colorado
Score: 93.092

21. Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, San Antonio, Texas, United States
Score: 92.907

22. Mokara Hotel & Spa, San Antonio, Texas
Score: 92.868

23. 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
Score: 92.778

24. North Block Hotel, Yountville, California
Score: 92.778

25. Trump International Hotel & Tower New York, New York, New York
Score: 92.711

Source: Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2015