Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Business World is Flat

Airlines continue to scramble outdoing each other for the better business class seat.  Demand for lie-flat seats is high and discerning business class passengers are questioning why many airlines are slow in converting their business class cabins to lie-flat seats.  What we are seeing are business class passengers not only asking for the type of aircraft they will be flying on but also the seating configuration, access to aisle and the pitch of the seat.  180 degrees with luxurious amenities are musts.  However, many U.S. and European carriers have been caught flat-footed (no pun intended) by the sudden preference to the roomier and more comfortable lie-flat bed and cannot convert fast enough.  Gulf carriers with spiffy newer aircraft and luxury amenities have taken the lead and the race is on by the laggards to catch up.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Premiere Travel Services: Congress Gives TSA a 224% Fee Increase

Premiere Travel Services: Congress Gives TSA a 224% Fee Increase: Congress granted the TSA the authority to increase its fees from $2.50 per travel segment with $10 cap to $5.60 per segment uncapped.  T...

Congress Gives TSA a 224% Fee Increase

Congress granted the TSA the authority to increase its fees from $2.50 per travel segment with $10 cap to $5.60 per segment uncapped.  This represents a minimum of 224% increase.  Of course, TSA thinks that it needs the higher fees.  This increase is effective on all ticketed purchased starting July 21.

From the TSA website: "The revenue generated from these security fees is utilized to help ensure the safe and efficient flow of people and commerce."

With this type of bump in added air travel costs, base fare of tickets is increasingly becoming a smaller percentage of the actual total cost of an airline ticket.  Once taxes, fees, baggage, seat assignments and other ancillaries are added, costs are higher.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Centralized versus Distributed Managed-Travel Model

"Reprinted with permission from author."
There has been some recent discussion in Europe and North America about the efficacy the globalization of managed-travel programs. Business Travel Coalition (BTC) offers additional perspective regarding what can be termed a “centralized” versus a “distributed” model for modern managed-travel programs.

When U.S. airline industry deregulation moved forward in 1978, many large corporations pursued a strategy of consolidating to one national travel agency – that eventually morphed into today’s travel management company (TMC). The goal was to bring some control to an exceedingly complex, if not somewhat dysfunctional airline distribution system.

Since the early 1990s, this national strategy has evolved into “globalizing” with one mega TMC.  A strong case has been made for centralized oversight of a corporation’s worldwide travel activities. However, it is not clear if centralizing to one TMC, for all global services provided, produces justifiable incremental benefits for a large corporate, university or government managed-travel program. Indeed, such a strategy can deprive travel departments of the expertise, relationships and problem-solving resources of best-in-class regional agencies and TMCs around the world.

The promises of nationalization, and then globalization, included quality travel data consolidation, superior customer service and lower airfares via larger TMCs’ purchasing leverage.

Some travel departments, however, have not been satisfied with either the results of national consolidation, or globalization efforts. Today they 1) look to third parties for expert data consolidation, 2) experience uneven global customer service levels from some mega TMCs, and 3) leverage their own purchasing volumes and expertise in negotiating airline and other supplier contracts.

Moreover, local corporate field-office managers are often unimpressed with the benefits of globalization and can be resistant to such programs. They sometimes see beneficial local supplier deals canceled, often feel that cultural business practices from the Home Office are forced upon them, and where problem solving was once a relatively simple process, it can become bureaucratic. It is exceedingly important to the success of a globalized managed-travel program that local managers buy into and actively support such a program.

What true quantifiable value, for example, is there in service standards being determined for a travel agency “affiliate” in Vitoria, Brazil by a mega TMC based in the U.S.? Furthermore, how could a homogenized American approach to travel service standards across various regions of the world and cultures be expected to be workable?

There is a technology-enabled viable alternative to globalization as it is currently conceptualized and practiced. Low cost structures, personalized service for the business traveler, responsiveness to management needs and good technology have always been the hallmarks of regional TMCs within the U.S. and around the world, and what many corporations want.

A single TMC can be tasked with coordinating a global travel management strategy that includes regional travel agencies run by service-oriented entrepreneurs who are 1) expert in local markets, 2) low-cost producers and 3) able to drive superior value for an overall program.

Communications, data parsing, the Internet and other emerging technologies will continue to be the enablers of new ways of solving travel industry problems and driving beneficial change. Travel managers and senior executives considering a global travel program should consider the benefits and drawbacks of both a “centralized” and “distributed model.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

Best Deal in the Air and Ground: Global Entry

For a mere $100 over 5 years, or $20 a year, American international travelers can save tons of time with expedited clearance upon return to the U.S.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.

How Does the Global Entry Program Work?

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Though intended for frequent international travelers, there is no minimum number of trips necessary to qualify for the program. Participants may enter the United States by using automated kiosks located at select airports.
At airports, program participants proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification, and make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and interview before enrollment.
While Global Entry's goal is to speed travelers through the process, members may be selected for further examination when entering the United States. Any violation of the program's terms and conditions will result in appropriate enforcement action and revocation of the traveler's membership privileges.

New Downtown Washington, D.C. Enrollment Center Open

Consider scheduling your Global Entry interview at the newest enrollment center in downtown Washington, D.C.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

United Follows Delta In Altering Frequent Flyer Program

The term "Frequent Flyer Program" will start shifting again next year due to United's announcement changing its MileagePlus program in line with Delta's previous announcement.  In essence, it is no longer how frequently a traveler flies but the rewards will be based on how much the traveler pays.  It is expected that American Airlines will likely get on board this and match Delta and United soon.

United's Statement:

June 10, 2014

United announces changes to 2015 MileagePlus program    

Today United announced it is making changes to the MileagePlus program in 2015. Members will earn award miles based on their ticket price rather than distance flown.

United announces changes to 2015 MileagePlus program
  • Starting March 1, 2015, the award miles earned on most tickets for United and United Express flights will be based on ticket price, that is, base fare plus carrier-imposed surcharges and MileagePlus status, instead of the distance traveled.
  • Starting in early 2015 all MileagePlus members will be offered opportunities to use their award miles to purchase United Economy Plus seats, and to purchase subscriptions for Economy Plus and checked-baggage.
  • Members will still earn Premier qualifying miles (PQM) based on the distance flown and this change does not affect the qualification requirements for 2015 Premier status.
  • This program update will apply to all MileagePlus members worldwide.
The award miles members earn on most tickets for United and United Express flights will be based on ticket price (base fare plus carrier-imposed surcharges). Members with MileagePlus® Premier® status will earn even more miles.  

Member level  
(at the time of flight,
on or after March 1, 2015)

Award miles per U.S. dollar spent
Premier® Silver
Premier® Gold
Premier® Platinum
Premier® 1K®
and Global ServicesSM

The new earning structure will apply to most tickets for travel on United and United Express flights, and most United-issued tickets on airline partners with ticket numbers beginning with "016." Members may earn up to 75,000 award miles per ticket.

Additional program details
MileagePlus members currently earn award miles on United, United Express or United's airline partners based on distance, fare class and MileagePlus Premier status. Some airline partners will continue to offer miles based on distance, fare class and MileagePlus Premier status, even after the MileagePlus program changes March 1, 2105.

There are no changes to the way members earn miles on a MileagePlus cobranded credit card: For example, United MileagePlus Explorer cardmembers will earn two miles for each $1 spent on tickets purchased from United, in addition to the miles earned for the flight.  

  • Miles are earned based on MileagePlus status at time of departure, not time of purchase.
  • Tickets operated by a Star Alliance™ or MileagePlus partner airline that are not ticketed by United (ticket numbers that do not start with "016") will continue to earn award miles based on distance flown and the purchased fare class.
  • Members will continue to earn Premier® qualifying miles (PQM) based on the distance of the flight. Premier members will continue to earn a minimum of 500 PQM on United and United Express flights shorter than 500 miles.
  • Award miles are not earned for payment toward United travel products (such as Economy Plus seating or upgrades) or fees (such as checked baggage fees, MileagePlus Upgrade Award co-pays and change fees).
  • Purchases in a currency other than U.S. dollars will be converted to U.S. dollars.
Specialty tickets
Specialty tickets that earn award miles in the current program (including, but not limited to consolidator/bulk, group, tour and other tickets where the fare paid is not disclosed on the ticket) will earn award miles based on a percentage of the distance flown and the purchased fare class as of March 1, 2015. Please refer to the chart below for details.

Eligible fare classes
Flight operated by United and
United Express
J, C, D, Z, P, F, A
Y, B, M
E, U, H, Q,V,W
S, T, L,K, G, N

More information and frequently asked questions can be found at

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Using "FAA Regulations" As An Excuse

You hear it everywhere and every time there is an announcement on board.  Now you hear it on the ground.  Airlines liberally use the term "FAA Regulations requires.....".  Truth is that FAA regulations is for the "advancement, safety and regulation of civil aviation, as well as seeing development of the air traffic control...", contrary to what airlines claim, FAA does not micro-manage luggage issues.  Each airline has its own set of rules with no standards adopted in place.  As a result, passengers are bewildered and confused about the "rules and regulations" of luggage with each airline setting its own fees and policies.  Lately, airlines have sent their own hired personnel to roam around TSA lines looking for over-sized baggage and informing some passengers that their bags are too big to go on board due to "new FAA regulations".  Regardless of the type of aircraft or class of service, large discrepancies exist even on the same trip by the same airline.  On a recent trip, the author carried a mid-sized bag on board without a question.  The same bag with the same contents on the same type of aircraft on the return trip was flagged as "too large" by the very same carrier and had to be checked in.  Airlines would be wise to adopt a clear policy without erroneously referencing the FAA.
To see the FAA Airline Carry-On Baggage checklist: