Posted May 14, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com
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Posted November 11, 2008 by Carl Unger
With a new administration coming to the White House this January, many are wondering how the world will look under a new president. Will the economy recover? Will the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan be resolved? Will wind farms and solar panels start popping up all over the country?
Well, here at the BookingBuddy blog, we're curious to see how a new administration changes the travel landscape. Shortly after Barack Obama was elected last week, we gathered in an undisclosed location, ordered about 50 pizzas, a few cases of energy drinks, and put Airplane! on the DVD player. Our task: Draft a list of ways the President-elect could improve the travel industry. We pored through Department of Transportation reports, highly classified TSA documents, and thousands of anecdotal reports from travelers like you, looking for problems and finding answers. We emerged a few days later with a list of suggestions so wise that the printed words actually glowed with what can only be described as a shimmering light of hope.
Much to our dismay, however, we quickly learned that Salon.com had already published a list of its own, and while Salon's list isn't luminescent exactly, it is pretty darn good.
So, back to the drawing board. We split a five-pound bag of M&Ms and a few gallons of Mountain Dew and this is what we came up with. Mr. President, you can thank us later.
1. Onboard seat upgrades for all. We like AirTran's idea for first-come-first-served business-class upgrades on the plane. Let's see more airlines adopt similar policies. Bonus points if you can convince airlines to give upgrades away for free (like, say, if you do a top-notch tap dance routine, you get the empty business-class seat).
2. More airlines realizing their food isn't really good enough to sell. United got the hint, will other airlines follow suit? Methinks a gentle nudge (or a sharp elbow to the ribs) from you may help clarify the picture, if you get my meaning. Alternately, good food for sale would be acceptable.
3. More free helicopter rides. Nothing says "executive" like landing on top of a skyscraper, and Continental is making the dream of a high-flying luxe lifestyle a reality for all. So even if you're just a bored hamburger-flipper (or an underpaid travel news blogger), you can fly like some of the richest folks in the world (except Bill Gates, who probably has some sort of teleportation device).
4. Better advertising. Spirit's amusing political play on words and United's surreal animations notwithstanding, this wasn't a great year for airline ads. Never mind that airfares are usually displayed without taxes and fees, which borders on outright deception by making them seem lower than they really are, but the ads just aren't that good. Southwest took a wrong turn and ended up in creepyville, and Spirit—well, Spirit just does its own thing, doesn't it?
5. Stop the a-la-carte revolution. Sure, it's good for business. Sure, most people don't seem to mind too much. But pretty soon you'll have to pay to buckle your seat belt! I don't want to point any fingers (and certainly not at American, US Airways, or United!) but a few airlines have been leading the charge. I think a stern talking-to would set them straight.
Well folks, there are the five ideas I can print. There were more ideas, trust me, but I mean it when I say these are the ones I can print. What ideas do you have? Any suggestions for our President-elect? Leave a comment below with your thoughts. I'm pretty sure he reads this blog regularly, so he'll see them. Thanks
Posted October 22, 2008 by Zak Patten
Nothing is less smile-inducing than going to the movies and choosing a seat, only to realize it doesn't recline. Or maybe finding the remnants of someone's Cherry Coke and Junior Mints stuck to the floor where your feet are supposed to rest. For whatever reason, you feel no compunction about standing up and moving to a more appealing part of the theater. Would that it were so easy on flights! Well, with AirTran's new onboard upgrades to business class, a little of that movie magic may be coming to a plane near you.
AirTran, the low-fare carrier that was recently named the fourth-most-reliable airline by Forbes, has now begun offering $49 to $99 seat upgrades after passengers have already boarded. While most airlines routinely allow upgrading at check-in or the gate, AirTran's move puts upgrades where they have the most immediate appeal. Because you never crave a better seat more than when you're faced with any one or all of the following:
- Trying to squeeze your adult-sized body into a space clearly made for a doll.
- A hygienically challenged seatmate who may just fall asleep (and drool) on your shoulder.
- The latest issue of SkyMall as your sole source of in-flight entertainment.
- Having to shell out money for every little mediocre amenity, from a one-ounce bag of pretzels to half a can of Sprite or a mini-pillow.
For fifty or a hundred bucks it's not like you'll be getting a private cabin a la Singapore Airlines. But when you first stretch out your legs, take that sip of gin and tonic, and look at the person next to you (as opposed to on top of you), that economy-class frown will just melt away.
(Photo: Justin Cederholm/Airliners.Net)
Posted October 1, 2008 by Carl Unger
Forbes.com recently released a report on what it considers to be the most reliable airlines in the industry. Southwest came out on top, with JetBlue third and AirTran fourth—meaning low-cost carriers (LCCs) took three of the top four spots on the list, ahead of all the "big" airlines except for Continental, which placed second.
In short: LCCs rock.
Here's how Forbes came up with the list. The website "collected five years' worth of data relating to on-time arrival, cancellations, complaints and mishandled baggage from the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Transportation. Delays and cancellations, the factors most likely to ruin a flier's day, were given double weight." Forbes also included rankings from J.D. Power and Associates' consumer satisfaction reports, and factored in each airline's financial strength.
The result, as I mentioned above, puts Southwest firmly on top overall, as well as in several individual categories (particularly punctuality and cancelations). AirTran was the best at not losing its passengers' luggage, while JetBlue fared very well in customer-service topics.
What makes this list interesting is that LCCs, while typically successful from a price standpoint, and in some cases known for their customer service, don't necessarily have a reputation for good performance. After all, Forbes prefaces its own results by writing, "Budget carriers aren't always considered smooth-running operations offering a consistent level of service." As this report shows, however, the LCCs are doing more than holding their own in the hostile, turbulent airline industry.
Posted July 15, 2008 by Carl Unger
In a rare display of industry solidarity, CEOs from 12 major U.S. airlines signed an open letter addressed to, well, all of us. In this open letter, airline customers are asked to "pull together to reform the oil markets" that are causing airfares to skyrocket across-the-board. The CEOs who put their John Hancocks on the letter represent AirTran, Alaska Airlines, American, Continental, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Midwest, Northwest, Southwest, United, and US Airways.
While it lacks the tension and drama of a gathering of the Five Families, this letter is a remarkable and bold move, and illustrates the dire state of the air travel industry. CEOs of fiercely competitive airlines have banded together to basically beg their collective customer base to help restore order and sanity to the oil market. I can't recall ever seeing anything quite like it.
So what are we supposed to do? Call Congress. According to StopOilSpeculationNow.com, any self-respecting citizen or airline passenger should contact his or her Congressional representation and demand the government reform its weak oversight of oil speculation.
I'll stop short of saying this sounds like the airline industry placing the burden of responsibility on its customers. Instead, perhaps the airlines have realized the problem of expensive oil isn't going anywhere soon, and understand they need to work together for a solution. Further, they know none of their customers are flying anywhere without them, so they're appealing to us help save the day.
So in the end, you see, we're all one big, loving family anxious about oil and trying to mitigate out-of-control fuel costs. Group hug, everyone!