Tag Archives: executive travel

Ride Sharing Services Attempt to Get the ‘Lyft’!

A and E Adir Katzin demonstrating ride sharing in a limoAbout a year ago, we posted an article about the dilemma facing both the Southern California limousine and taxi services in regards to the introduction of ride sharing services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.

For those unfamiliar with the situation, these various ride sharing systems operate as a series of Smartphone apps for iOS, Android and other cell phone operating systems. The idea is that by using these apps, customers can ‘hail a cab’ online and a driver, usually unregistered with the State of California would pick up the customer and drive him or her to their destination.

Since that time, the controversy has escalated. Back in June of 2014, the Los Angeles City Council threatened half the operations of all Southern California based ride-sharing services. Even with the “ban”, these companies continued to operate their smartphone apps and provided rides all over the Los Angeles region. From LAX to nightclubs, the pink mustached vehicles of Lyft and similar ridesharing services were utilized everywhere.

As of September 18, 2014, a landmark decision has been reached rendering California the first state in the nation to legally regulate these ride-sharing apps and services. According to a press release from the California Public Utilities Commission, the regulations establish a new category of business called a Transportation Network Company, requiring those companies to obtain a license from CPUC, conduct criminal background checks, establish a driver training program, and hold a commercial insurance policy with a minimum of $1 million per-incident coverage.

While this decision is being hailed by the independent companies as an enormous victory, opening their relatively new foothold in the door even wider, taxi and limousine companies need not despair just yet.

Reading both the nuts and bolts of the argument and the comments, what stands out again & again is the issue of customer service.

These upstart companies (Lyft, and the rest) are succeeding because they are new and fresh. They are actually listening to what the public wants and needs and delivering it. Cars are clean, drivers are friendly, rates are affordable.

The taxi industry as a whole has had a bad rep for years but consumers have had no other choices. Due to their monopoly on the market, taxi drivers have become increasingly slovenly, surly, rude, etc. Overcharging is rampant. Drivers have been able to rest on their laurels because they know passengers are stuck with them and had no other options.

Limo companies are kind of lost in the shuffle between the two, but taking a limo or a Town Car has always signified class and a level of upscale service which has remained consistent throughout this “battle”. Limos are also surprisingly affordable, but that never crosses anyone’s mind.

If either company wants to succeed, customer service must be put at the forefront. Taxi drivers have the experience but not the attitude. Lyft has the friendliness, the cleanliness and the care, but not the professionalism or the finesse of premier limo service. That’s where the biggest edge of limo service comes in.

Consider both sides when making your decision.

Limo service offers these 3 things that ride-sharing services do not:Premier, personalized/vetted chauffeurs with

1. Premier, personalized/vetted chauffeurs with CONSISTENT price.

2.  High-touch customer service and support.High-quality vehicle selection and variety.

3. High-quality vehicle selection and variety.

Consider a limo or a town car first before going for a trendy ride -sharing app.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Things You Don’t Know About International Travel

International Travel

As the CEO and founder of a worldwide transportation network, I spend roughly half of my waking day speaking with airport car service clients and corporate travel planners.  As a byproduct of this hectic schedule, I’ve learned a few savvy tips and tricks  for making your travel experiences easier. From watching the entire last season of “Breaking Bad” to learning how to call outside of a foreign country for free!  Here’s five guarded travel tips gathered from discerning and seasoned business travellers, that I’ve put together just for you

You Can access your Netflix Account While Traveling Abroad.

Additionally you should be able to view Hulu and HBO Go, browse Pandora Radio or checkout your Facebook status in China. You’ll need one thing- a VPN. This is also known as a “Virtual Private Network,” and what it accomplishes is simple and amazing!  It allows you to route your Internet traffic through a network with a distinct IP address, mirroring your network back home in The USA, while you’re browsing away in a train in Berlin.

Hide My Ass! (Yes that’s really the name) and Strong VPN are two reputable and cost effective VPN options, they start at $6.55 per monthly use.

Once you’re logged in, you’ll have a fair access to numerous global servers. Getting set up is a cinch and both VPN services have top notch 24-hour customer service hotlines. Any of the aforementioned VPNs are compatible with a tablet, smartphone or laptop.

You Can Call the States for Free

T-Mobile has one of the best coverage options for international travellers; it’s a closely guarded secret they’d rather you not know about.  You can bet that they won’t publicize that all international calls made over a Wi-Fi connection are free. Like, totally free. You can forget about data or roaming charges altogether.

Calls are made using Wi-Fi connect with a UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) network.-this kind of works in the same way as the VPN.  What a UMA does is give the caller using the Wi-Fi a separate and standalone IP access to T-Mobile’s core network.  This essentially mirrors the same type of wireless connection made in the United States.

As a matter of plain stated fact-Mobile, hands down, has one of the best overseas data plan. Unlimited email access can be had for a monthly fee of $19.99-not bad!   Unfortunately the use of Twitter and Facebook is not included in this plan.  But honestly once you get the hang of the Wi-Fi and UMA network you can freely surf the web browser and log into any and all social media apps.

Electronic Pick-Pocketing is On the Rise

Tech savvy thieves are now using what’s known as RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) “skimming”.  RFIDs are really just the condensed radio frequency chips that hold all the data contained in your passports, credit cards and other personal identification cards that have a magnetic stripe.  Snatching that data is easy as pie for some of these thieves. The majority of them stroll around with a portable card reader and briskly walk by or ‘bump’ you in a crowded place.

I have heard a personal story of one  executive whose data was snatched while travelling,  only to find his bank accounts drained, within hours. Pickpocket hotspots include shopping malls, train stations and busy hubs like airports.

The best defense is a personal offense: Think about shopping around for a RFID-Anti Theft wallet or personal carrying case. Some travel specialists recommend PacSafe’s anti-theft RFIDtec 150 RFID blocking passport case.

Forget About the Power Converter.

I can’t tell you how many times I get asked about adaptor plugs for different countries, and if one needs to invest in a converter. Here’s the bottom line. Today, almost all up to date electronic gadgets come with a built in power charger as part of the adapter.  Yes that includes iPhones, tablets and cameras as well as almost all smartphone models.

What you will need however is what’s called a travel plug adapter. Different countries use different kinds of plugs. In Eastern Europe, there’s these distinct looking round two headed prongs. In England there’s those square shaped three-pronged plugs. Just remember to do some homework before you travel overseas, and find out what kind of travel plug adapter you’ll need. I personally recommend Kensington International travel plug adapter.

The only instance when you will you need a power converter is when using appliances that use an inordinate amount of wattage; hair curling irons, blow dryers or Norelco type shavers.  Honestly, you’ll thank me later for purchasing these items abroad; You can save yourself a whole lot of headaches and possible socket meltdowns!

Download the App for That

Need some useful sentences in Japanese? Personal travel recommendations from a local guide   Underground subway schedules?  There’s probably an app for that. Seriously

It’s a wise choice to by contextually specific travel apps for your destination city  before you travel abroad. Some of my favorites include: mapswithme (for offline downloadable navigation), currency (for up to date exchange rates) and worldmate (for everything from flight updates to travel itineraries)

Smart Apps  don’t hog up too much memory and many are free. The paid apps are often the best investment you can make when you find yourself in a jam in a foreign land.

5 Pieces of Travel Tech Gear You’re Not Using Yet

Travel Tech Gear That’s a WIN!

While flying the “friendly skies” and jet setting for business may sound exciting, there are common complications inherent when moving you and all your stuff from A to B.  Here are some hot new products that hit the shelves recently.  We have chosen 5 of the most preferred pieces of travel tech gear recommended by some of our airport car service clients. All are priced below 100.00 and easily pay for themselves in both convenience and utility.

 

Iogear Bluetooth 4.0 USB Micro Adapter iogear-bluetooth-adapter

What: The Iogear Bluetooth 4.0 USB Micro Adapter is a tiny piece of tech wonder that can convert any PC with a USB port into a Bluetooth-enabled device.

WIN!: This teeny adapter engages with Bluetooth 4.0, the most recent generation of Bluetooth technology- and the fastest. Also, this micro adapter uses very little power itself,  so it won’t drain the battery life of your laptop or device.

Cost: $12

 

Kensington International Travel Plug AdapterKensington International-Travel-Plug-Adapter

What: The Travel Plug Adapter is a packable adapter fitted with plugs that function in over 150 countries.

WIN!: You don’t have to buy a separate  adapter each time you travel to a different country, and this portable gadget takes up very little space in your carry-on

Cost: $20

MyGica A680B USB HDTV Tuner MyGica-A680B-USB-HDTV-Tuner

What: The MyGica A680B USB HDTV Tuner is a USB adapter that allows your PC  to receive HDTV signals.

WIN!: You can watch HDTV for free-on your PC! This tiny USB stick gives you the capability to watch, pause  and rewind live HDTV.  You can even play with a recording cue and set scheduled recordings to watch later-right onto your hard drive. The tuner is compatible with Windows 7 Media Center, the caveat is that it doesn’t play nice work with earlier versions of Windows. Buyer beware.

Cost: $24

The Speck CandyShell Card Case

What: The Speck CandyShell Card Case protects your iPhone while providing a

speck candy shell with cash

utilitarian slot to stash cash and cards credit cards.

WIN!: The case has a grippy, rubberized slot that securely stashes currency and credit cards , eliminating the need to schlep around a heavy purse or wallet.  The rubberized  trim also remains flush with the iPhone’s bezel, which supposedly defends the notoriously fragile iPhone screen should it land face first.

Cost: $25

DreamTraveler iAD301 DreamTraveler-iAD301

What: No mess of cords and devices scattered across your hotel room desk. This elegant and simple charger consolidates the mess into an intuitive and user friendly design. iLuv  walked away with a  2012 CES Innovation award for this slim travel-size combo power strip featuring built in surge protection and a USB charger for iOS devices completed by a slide-out charging port.

 

WIN!: The Device can charge six devices simultaneously with one USB charging dock, two separately amped USB ports, and three grounded outlets.  Charge all your Apple products in a snap. The hottest facet of DreamTraveler’s design has to be the three built in grounded outlets which let you charge everything from a camera to a laptop.

Cost:  $70 (currently on Backorder)

 

 

Images: kensigton.com, iogear.com, meritline.com, bhphotovideo.com

5 Hot New Apps for International Travel

top-travel-apps

Award Winning International Travel Apps

International Travel can be complicated. There have been some recent releases of high end robust software.  Some are free, all are feature rich and offer the international traveller the capabilites of a personal travel agent in the palm of their hand

 

MapsWithMe: is the ideal buddy to bring on any executive travel journey as it provides travel manuals and offline maps for any global location. Once set up, just check the boxes for the places you’ll be staying and the app will give you the ability to download “offline”maps and any pertinent info regarding the location you will be staying at. (Including local guide-like tidbits). Maps are sourced from OpenStreetMap and virtual travel manuals come from Wikitravel.

mapswithme app

Currency: gives real time info on exchange rate covering in excess of 100 currencies and countries. This app is perfect for overseas travel when you need up to the minute exchange rate conversion info. This app gives a data rich” thumbnail flags” readout for the appropriate currencies. All you have to do is enter your currencies that you plan on using during your journey and you can instantly keep a close eye on the exchange rates at a glance. You have the option of manually refreshing exchange rates or allowing the app to auto refresh in hourly or daily intervals.

currency app

WorldMate: app basically has all you’ll need under one thumbnail. It tracks your itinerary and provides accurate weather forecasts.  It also gives you a currency converter and allows you to book hotels through the free version.  There’s also the indispensable travel notifications, which keep you in the know with weather affected delays and syncs to do lists for the day. Some of the hottest capabilities of the Gold version ($3.99-iTunes) of this app include: weather forecast, currency conversion, live flight updating, and a snazzy tip calculator.  It also features a rich database of flight and Hotel Searches and World Clocks.  The high end Itinerary manager as well as automated flight alerts are some of the most raved about features

worldmate app

Safe To Go™ is a robust dual user integration app that provides a dialed in user experience.  It is on one hand, a mobile app that allows travellers in the field real time access to flight and itinerary updates.  On the other end it has an integrated corporate travel desktop app that keeps an eye on corporate clients in the field and provides travel alerts.  It’s great for times with high security alert, as well as zones with security hotspots.  While it’s no replacement for executive protection-it comes close. Complete with an itinerary and software management for everything from car, hotel and flight info.  The hottest facet of the app is the ability for the client manager to provide “duty of care by alerting travelers if they’re in a danger zone; kidnapping, criminal, political, extreme weather, health hazards, etc.”

safe-to-go-app

Word Lens: app has native translation software built into it.  It uses your phones camera to capture printed words from the foreign language and translates them into the language of your choice.  Many of our airport car service clients use Word Lens for family vacations, executive travel or just for the heck of it.  It’s integrated for use on the iPad or iPhone and while the app is free language bundles are a paid upgrade.

Worldlens-app

 

 

 

images: apkfullapps.com, computerworld.com, tripatlas.com, corporatetraveldesigns.com,inpiratoblogs.com

How to Deal With Rude Airline Employees

Air Travel Survival

There’s been a lot of recent news coverage surrounding bad attitudes at the airport: flight attendants getting confrontational, gate agents having mental meltdowns, ticket agents who won’t move a finger for you. It seems that airline employees are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. Is anyone really that shocked?

Changes in Airline Personnel

Airline employees have been dragged around quite a bit in recently. Management has leveraged their unions, reduced the zeros in their paychecks, cut their pensions, rearranged  work protocol, slashed personnel and even hidden behind bankruptcy protection.  Yet airlines have found a way to bathe CEOs and top brass in bonuses. Just pay close attention at LAX or JFK airport during the peak flight hours. You’ll find employees performing the functions of their jobs, but their spirit is broken.

It’s not that there aren’t any compassionate or competent airline employees around anymore, but they are few and far between. Chances are, the next time you fly, you’ll find one out of every three employees in a crabby mood or with a less than shining attitude. I wouldn’t accept it, but I can empathize with it and I understand the traveler’s pain as well.

Here are a few tips for dealing with airline employees with bad attitudes:

 

  1. Approach Cautiously: If the first thing to come out of your mouth is something to the effect of, “Could this airline mess up my trip anymore?” you are probably not going to get the most stellar service.
  2. Situational Awareness: Take a second to empathize with what the employee is experiencing at the time you approach her. Are they getting berated by another passenger? Is there a delay that is beyond their control? Is the airline clearly understaffed for this Particular flight? Give them a modicum of understanding.  More understanding is really what the world needs now.
  3. Hands Off: You might mean it as a simple gesture to get the agent’s attention, but nobody likes getting groped or poked by a stranger, and most will take it the wrong way.
  4. Keep Your Voice Down: The easiest way to get a poor response is to shout at an airline employee. They will instantly put their guard up, and many of them will refuse you any further help or service
  5. Tone Down Your Language: The minute you start with any obscenities your cause is lost. What is guaranteed to happened is that the agent will shut down in a very calm manner and then refuse any further help.  The other scenario will have them dishing it right back at you-and then refusing any further service.
  6. Kill Them With Kindness: If you are exceedingly nice to a rude person, sometimes you can disarm them-even improve their attitude. Besides, lowering yourself to their level of crassness is beneath you right?
  7. Be Selective: If you see that one employee seems grumpier than the others, go to the more agreeable one. Why set yourself up for an uncomfortable situation?
  8. Get a witness: If you are subject to extremely abusive behavior, ask someone who witnessed it to back up your story. Get a brief statement in writing if you can, along with a signature.
  9. Remain Calm: In a calm, metered tone ask nicely to speak with a supervisor, manager or a higher up. Nine times out of ten that will bring swift results and end the abuse. Whatever you do, don’t make a scene at the airport.
  10. Taking Formal Action: If you plan to file a formal complaint, get the agents name and employee number, along with the contact info of any witnesses. Draft a letter of complaint and reread it before you print it-time provides great perspective.  Be detailed in your letter.  If the airline gets a high number of complaint letters, sanctions will be taken against the employee.

Airline employees have had a rough time as of late and are less resilient to abuse than before.  Honestly, the majority of complaints most business travelers share with me have very little to do with the actual airline employees; Delays, foul weather and smelly seat mates are often beyond their control.  During the course of your travels, practicing a bit of smart empathy may eventually get you where you need to go that much smoother.



Special thanks: James  Wysong
Image: tecca.com

How To Zip Through Airport Security – FAST!

Fly Through Security Checkpoints

A handful of seasoned business travelers have figured out methods to deal with the TSA’s security snags.  Most of them are valued Los Angeles Limo passengers of ours and frequent executive travelers

For many of us, it is still a cumbersome and often intimidating thing when it comes to airport security. Here are a few tips and tricks to make your air travesl a breeze:

Think Like a TSA Agentvacum space bag

First, ask yourself: how long will my trip be?  Are you travelling on a weekend getaway, or will your trip be a week long or even longer? The answers will help you figure out the  type and number of bags you will have to bring with you to the airport, as well as he nature of items you will be packing.  Please keep in mind that less is more for most destinations This caveat holds true particularly when it comes to luggage fees.  Many airport car service clients we have interviewed try to pack everything into two carry-ons. They often cluster groups of clothing or any cloth or fabric items into a Space bag.

Place Electronics On the Top

Pack all of your cables, chargers and similar gadgets into a bag and make them the final items you put in the case. It’s a smart idea to have that ganglion of potentially suspicious-looking cables in one easy-to-reach  location-it makes those pesky TSA inspections much easier.

Turn Your Carry-On Into A Best Friend On WheelsDelsey Helium Fusion Carry on

As it goes, the heavier the bag, the fewer things you’ll be able to put in it. Look for bag that does not add a lot of weight itself, such as the Delsey Helium Fusion Carry-on which only weighs only 9 lbs.

On most airlines, the carry-on bag should be no larger than 45 linear inches and fit in an overhead compartment or under the seat. Linear size is made up of the length + width + height

 

Invest in The Right Travel Gadgets

One neat  gadget for carry-ons that can help you zip through airport security check points quicker is the Scanner Bag luggage tag. Many of our car service clients have used it on several trips nowscannerbag luggage tag and can’t stop talking about it.  It’s ideal for grouping all the items that you usually have in your pockets like cell phone, keys, and wallet. Isolataing all those items in one place instead of spread out all over  those filthy  plastic bins makes things easier, more sanitary and lets you gather yourself in a snap once you make it through security.

 

Pack Like a Flight Attendant

The New York Times featured an article that highlighted the packing strategies of flight-attendant Heather Poole, who basically lives out of her carry-on for over a week at a time. With baggage fees on the rise, knowing how to pack your carry-on like a pro can save you save you time and money. Here’s how she does it:

Heather rolls her clothes to avoid wrinkles and make economical use of space. By rolling several garments together rather than packing them flat, you are able to fit quite a bit more in and it distributes the weight more evenly. Here’s a key point: set those rolls to the side once you’ve created them. She puts her shoes in first then starts adding heavier layers of rolled clothing. She then continues putting clothing in order of heaviest to lightest. For example, pants go in first because they’re bulkier and larger, then comes the  lighter shirts, followed by undergarments. This arrangement also makes it easier for the items to compress when the suitcase closes. Toiletries and other items should definitely go on top because most toiletry bags often have some form of liquid in them and may need to be removed during security screenings.

Packing the same items, using any other technique can result in a suit case that will not close. Next time you pack, make sure you roll your clothing and pack from heaviest to lightest in order to easily fit everything you need.

What are some of your secret travel tips? Let’s hear ’em in the comments!

 

Special thanks: Adam Dachis
Images: theweek.com, ebags.com, amazon.com, jaunted.com

Airline Codesharing: The Naked Truth

codesharing business travel

The Truth About Airline Codesharing

One of the prime examples of consumer confusion and pain is airline codesharing. Many of our Los Angeles Limo passengers have shared their recent experiences with us -as much out of frustration as confusion. One passenger recently booked a flight on Continental Airlines, but after the merger, it became a United Airlines flight. When he looked closer at his reservation, it said “Expressjet Airlines Inc. doing business as United Express” — two completely new airlines.

 “Is that a codesharing flight?” he asked. “And if so, is it something I need to be worried about?”

 Yes, it is. And yes, anyone who is concerned about transparency and consumer best practices should care about it.

Perhaps I can share our Limo passenger’s perspective on codesharing: It’s a lie.

Lack of Transparency

Airline spin doctors have done a pretty darn good job persuading regulators and the flying public that codesharing is good. They use vague catch phrases like “synergy” and guaranty customers nonexistent benefits.

If A traveler purchases a ticket on United Airlines, They expect to fly on United Airlines-not  Expressjet or Volaris. If they wanted to fly on one of those airlines, They would have their travel agent book them on one of those flights, wouldn’t They?

Maybe my viewpoint is antiquated, but when I make a reservation at the Ritz Carlton I expect to stay in a building that says “Ritz Carlton” on it; when I rent a Hertz car, I expect to pick it up from an office that says “Hertz” on it; and when I buy a ticket on United Air Lines, I expect the plane to say “United Air Lines.”

Read the Small Print

The FAA has given the airline industry an artistic license to lie.  When an airline does reveal a codeshare it’s almost nonexistent — more of an afterthought, in small print.  The bottom line is that if an airline doesn’t have the resources or capability to operate the flight itself and has to outsource it to another competing company, then it should be plainly stated as such to the consumer.

With air travel, what you see ain’t always what you get. Yet one more reason to remember to read the fine print. 

Basically what’s happening in the airline industry is that airlines are unequivocally lying by pretending other companies’ products are its own – It’s nothing more than a clever trick they call “codesharing”

Meet  Mr. Smith

Let’s just call him “Mr. Smith”.  He’s a regular Executive Limo client of ours that reserved a round-trip flight on American Airlines from New York to London. At least that’s what he thought.

In truth the flight was actually operated by American’s codeshare partner, British Airways. Mr. Smith had paid $120 for “preferred” seats, which on the AA.com site, looked pretty inviting.

“Then I got on the plane,” he said. “These preferred seats were behind the wall of a toilet. So for eight long hours I heard flushing, door opening and closing, people standing in line to get to the one of only two bathrooms in coach. I could not even sleep.”

On the American Airlines website, it didn’t make mention of the toilets. But on the British Airways site, he says, they were clearly highlighted, and he would have definitely not paid the additional upgrade cost for the seats.

That’s just one of the many nightmares of airline codesharing, which I choose to call an outright lie. Many airline apologists, say codesharing allows travelers  to fly to more destinations, collect more award miles, and get better service.

Each of those arguments is arguably erroneous .

But before I get to that proving that, let me explain what occurred to Mr. Smith when he complained. He deduced that since some of the “benefits” of the AA preferred seat had gotten ‘lost in translation’, the airline would be happy to refund the $120 he’d paid.

He sent a simple, polite e-mail to the airline.

This was their response:

While many customers have found this service to be a convenient option, we know that each of our customers values different parts of the overall travel experience, and all of our Your Choice travel services are optional,” it replied. “This allows us to keep our fares low, while offering the individual products and services that our customers value.”

American refused to refund the fee.  “I feel deceived,” he said.

Top Worst Complaints with Codesharing

The codeshare experience Mr. Smith shared with me is small potatoes in the big picture. Mr. Smith even conceded himself that his assistant may have simply misunderstood the preferred seating option on the airline’s convoluted site. It gets even uglier when baggage is lost and airline codeshare partners start playing hot potato with baggage accountability.  What usually happens is they reroute the customer complaint to each other until the passengers resigns in disgust. It’s also tricky when each airline “partner” has different luggage allowances or ticket rules, and plays with them to their own advantage.

It’s very easy to get lost in a “no-man’s land” between codeshare partners, where no airline is willing to take accountability for anything. (Think I’m over reacting? I know of two separate travel agents right now that are wrangling a doozy of an incident involving three codeshare partners and a missing refund. No one is willing to pony up-what a nightmare for everyone involved!)

Three Codesharing Myths Busted

Before I Step down from my soap box, let me address a few of the myths surrounding codesharing

Myth: Codesharing allows you more access to more destinations.

Fact: Nope. The airline you’re booking a ticket with is still headed to the same number of cities. Its codeshare “partners” are servicing the remainder and allowing the airline “partner” to claim those destinations as its own. That is a lie.

Myth: Codesharing allows you to collect and redeem more award miles.

Fact: Seriously? Try redeeming your well deserved frequent-flier points for a flight and tell me how that works out for you. Unless you’re a master of adaptation or have an extensive knowledge base of programs and codeshare partnerships, you’re going to feel like a chump for having believed that argument. It’s meaningless lip service

Myth: Codesharing improves service.

Fact: Nope again!. Codesharing  gives your airline license to offer sub-par service and then transfers the blame to an airline partner for its own gaff.

The Bottom line

Lying is wrong, even when airlines do it, and even when they say it’s for the good of their passengers-especially when they say it’s for the good of their passengers.

When government agencies sanction the airlines to fib… uh, I mean, codeshare, they do something very important.  Something that travelers barely notice: They stop competing. Fewer competitors means a smaller market and fewer price options –great for airlines, not so much for travelers.

 

special thanks: frommers.com 
Image: msnbc.msn.com

Can Catching The Flu be Your Most Expensive Travel Spend This Year?

Flu Season and Business Travelsick business travel

The sneezing and coughing you hear from the aisle next to you is a sign that flu season is upon us once more. This means it’s time to get your flu shot again. While nobody Aims to get sick, travelling during the peak of flu season has some serious consequences outside of a fever and running nose. Hearing what these are should make you think twice about skipping your flu vaccine this year.

 

How Expensive is Catching The Flu?

First, about $87.1 billion is deducted annually from the U.S. economy due to influenza, with businesses feeling about $16.3 billion of that. While you may not be wracked with personal guilt about calling in sick or missing out on a business meeting, that  $16 billion-particularly in a weak economy-can mean the difference between having a job today and applying for unemployment benefits next year.  Last year, Americans called in more than 70 million sick days due to the flu.

 Vaccination Solutions

Many business travelers are not thrilled at the idea getting an annual flu vaccine. In all honesty, the vaccine is a cocktail of the most common influenza virus strains that may be most prevalent during the flu season. It’s a calculated guess, not a guarantee that you won’t get the flu. Also, some people feel strong as an ox and don’t believe their chance of catching the flu is very high. Then there are numerous anecdotes of how the flu shot got someone sick or how ineffective it really is

 However, the repercussions of getting the virus while travelling should give you cause to pause and think about being vaccinated. First, the average cost of a flu shot is $35 per person, which is often covered by health insurance, and is easily available from drug stores like Rite Aid, local health departments and physicians. Overall, this cost is a trifle when compared to what contracting the flu could cost you.

 Out of Pocket Costs

If the flu is detected early on, a doctor may prescribe an anti-viral medication like Relenza or Tamiflu. These medications are only prescribed within the first 48 hours of the flu. As of this writing there is no generic version of Tamiflu, and uninsured patients can anticipate paying over $100 per 10-day dose. When it comes to the out of pocket cost of getting sick, you can also look forward to the annual CVS pharmacy shopping trip.  The average American can anticipate spending from10-80$ on over the counter (OTC) medications, depending on the severity of symptoms. The most popular OTC items purchased range from tissues to cough medications.  All told one-third of flu sufferers will spend between $250 and $1,000 during the recovery process

 Add to all this the loss of valuable productive time and income and you can see a no win situation developing. This gets even worse if you a need to be hospitalized, which is a real possibility. Perhaps, the most frightening statistic from the flu is the cost of life. The numbers vary-due to data discrepancies in the field- but the CDC estimates between 4,000 and 40,000 flu-associated deaths each year.

 The Bottom Line

Don’t even think about skipping your annual flu vaccine this season. It’s a tangible investment, both for your pocketbook and your health. The minimal cost of getting a shot is small compared to the potential losses you could incur by contracting the virus.

 

 

Special thanks: Investopedia.com, Image taskrabbit.com

7 Lifesaving Travel Lessons Learned from Sandy

Stranded by Sandy

Hurricane Sandy essentially halted all travel along America’s East Coast.  Flights were grounded and scores of travelers were affected locally and globally. FlightAware counted 8,962 flights cancelled as a result of the storm. The risk-modeling firm EQECAT predicts the storm’s economic damages may be from 10-20$ Billion in cost.

The storm affected not just travelers departing from the region, but also those booked on flights spanning across the globe. In departure cities as distant as Hong Kong, hotels were booked to capacity for several nights by travelers unable to get back home. As we move into the season of winter travel, when storms become more prevalent, there are 7 things you can do to avoid some of the worst case scenarios that many business travelers found themselves stuck in during Sandy.

Negotiate for Solutions With Your Airline

During the fall out of the storm most Airlines offered the chance to make itinerary changes free of charge.  They even went so far as to offer a no hassle refund policy.

An Associated Press news report says business travelers should “keep in mind that airlines usually only waive this [itinerary-change] fee once.  Be certain you want to change your itinerary before you lock it in.” Or Else, it could cost up to $150 to make a second change. Travelers who decided to cancel a reservation were offered a flight voucher for future travels but were allowed to ask for cash instead, according to the AP report.

 Although many airlines do not make a policy of covering the cost of hotel stays for incidences of weather-related delay, extreme circumstances can change the tide in your favor. The United Airlines cancellation policy states that when delays are “not within United’s control,” that they may offer food and beverages, or meal vouchers, and “we may be able to give you a distressed passenger rate voucher for a nearby hotel.”

 Purchase Appopriate Travel Insurance

You can purchase  a travel insurance policy that covers any lost monies if your flight is cancelled due to severe weather and one that provides 24/7 emergency travel services. Many families and business travelers choose Travel Guard’s Gold plan

 Use a Top Tier Travel Agent

During the peak of Sandy’s force, the nation’s best travel agents were working around the clock to rebook and save travelers who found themselves stranded.  They even worked well into the week following the whole Sandy fiasco.  The necessity for such travel agents is one of the reasons many of our Limousine Clients use such powerful firms as Altour, Protravel International, and Valerie Wilson Travel.  These are agencies that possess their own rate desks and have quite a bit of clout with the airlines.

 Use an Executive Air Travel Concierge

If you did not book through a travel agent and your flight has been cancelled, your airport has shut down, and you absolutely must get out on the next flight, it’s time to call an A-Team of travel concierge experts. Some of these high level travel professionals can work miracles for you.  Their fees vary but average out at a $150.

 Find Out Alternate Seat Availability-FAST!

Scores of travelers who decided to phone their airlines during the whole sandy mess were put on hold for hours…and more often than not they did not get the help they required. The only real data an airline agent gives you is what is displayed on their computers.  This info can offer an incomplete picture during times of natural disaster or unusual circumstance. There are, however some recently available tools out there for you.  These can help you direct the airline agent exactly where and what to look for. One of the most popular free tools is FlightStats. Sign up, Log in and  navigate  to the “Flights” drop-down menu, select  “Flight Availability” and you can find the seats you need on flights out of the airport where you’re stuck.

 Call An Airline’s Overseas Reservation Number

As major airlines grounded thousands of flights, numerous business travelers were unable to reach a human being by phone (even at the airline’s elite desk); others were automatically rerouted on alternative flights that had already been cancelled.  When an airline’s U.S. phone lines are busy, try calling in to the flight company’s desk abroad—for example in London or Frankfurt. United airlines, for example, provides these contact numbers for its reservations agents in Europe. (Don’t forget to dial in Using Skype-much cheaper)!

 Get Techy With It

Now that you have an alternate number to call, that doesn’t mean it will be any easier to reach a an operator and go through the whole process of itinerary rescheduling.  According to FlightAware, often the best way to make flight changes is on airline websites, since “call centers are typically overwhelmed during major events.”

Try posting a Twitter update and concerns regarding any itinerary changes or rebooking needs.  When you do this make sure that you mention the twitter handle of the airline you’re using. There are times when this can produce a speedy response from customer service rather than just trying to call it in. If you do try this, be aware it’s not a guaranty of moving forward with your route.

special thanks: wendy perrin, cntraveler.com, image: matrixphotos.com

Is Executive Air Travel About to Get Worse?

Executive Traveller Pain Pointsairport transportation

Let’s be honest, most business travellers do not look forward to  flying.  Between the delays, sudden cancellations, flight rerouting and an overtaxed infrastructure there are more than enough pain points to complain about.  Many of our limousine passengers speak to us about the poor system of communication and about overbooked planes filled beyond capacity.

 

But what we hear most from our limo service clients is how uncomfortable it is to fly the friendly skies these days.  It is particularly painful for big and tall passengers.  Many of our clients are unable to justify the business expense of an upgrade, so they suck it up and grit their teeth in economy, or end up paying exorbitant amounts out of pocket for business class upgrades.

Shrinking Seat Pitch Measurments

The good news is that air travel is about to get even worse. Several major domestic airlines, such as JetBlue, which previously used to boast the most legroom, will be reducing their seat “pitch” measurements by at least 3/4 of an inch.  While it may not sound like much, every inch counts in cramped spaces (Pitch is better known as “the distance between any given point on a seat to the identical point on the seat in the next row forward or to the rear,” this according to SmarterTravel.com.) In a nutshell those teeny tiny seats are about to get even teenier and tinier.

 From Boston.com:

Southwest is one of several airlines squeezing seats closer together in order to pack in more passengers, create rows with extra legroom for people willing to pay more, or both. Southwest Airlines has started adding six more seats to its planes, losing an inch of room between seats in the process. WestJet, out of Canada, is whacking several inches of space to make room for a section of higher-fare seats with extra legroom

Higher Cost for Basic Amenities

Legroom is basically following suit with in-flight meals checked baggage and pillows-once complimentary amenities are now available at a price. In a dog eat dog industry, this gives airlines the ability to showcase low base ticket prices, while creating a new revenue base from executive travellers that are able or willing to pay those additional fees.

This pattern isn’t something novel or brand new.  Several airlines, including United, have been strategically selling pricier economy seats with ‘extended’ legroom for years. The real issue of contention is that the really cramped seats just keep getting smaller and smaller. More than 9 years ago, average seat-pitch size was 32 inches, today its 31 inches.  More than a few major airline carriers offer seats as small as 28 inches, according to Boston.com.

The airlines say that they’ll be able to offer lower base price ticket options. The cold, hard truth is that no matter how they pitch it, fewer ‘reasonably priced’ seats will be available overall.  What some carriers are doing is to remove rows of the smallest seats to make room for the “premium” seats. In other words, expect be pay more for that same, uncomfortable seat.

Special thanks CIO.com Al Sacco, Image:optimizedexective.com