Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Most Stressful Airports in the U.S.

While travel shouldn't have to be stressful, it often is, especially when dealing with airports. Whether it's the massive crowds or waiting in the long security lines, all the crowded hustle and bustle often leads to travel stress. Recently the KRC Research group released a study on the most stressful airports in the United States based on interviews with over 1,500 business travelers. Here are the results for the top 10 most stressful U.S. Airports;

1. Chicago O'Hare International Airport, 2. Los Angeles International Airport, 3. John F. Kennedy International Airport, 4. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, 5. New York's LaGuardia Airport, 6. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, 7. Newark Liberty International Airport, 8. George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport, 9. San Francisco International Airport, 10. Miami International Airport.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Airlines Facing a Shortage of Pilots

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported that US airlines are facing the most serious threat of a serious pilot shortage since the 1960s.  Higher experience requirements for new employees is about to take hold as the industry is also bracing for a wave of retirements. Federal mandates that take effect next summer will require all newly hired pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of prior flight experience, that is six times the current federal minimum. Raising the cost and time to train new pilots in time when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already, have made the profession less attractive then it once was.

Meanwhile, thousands of senior pilots at major airlines will start hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65 soon. Another federal safety rule, which will give pilots more rest time is scheduled to take effect in early 2014. This change is expected to force passenger airlines to increase their pilot ranks by at least 5%. Adding to the problem is a small but steady stream of U.S. pilots moving to overseas carriers, many of which already face an acute shortage of aviators and pay handsomely to well-trained U.S. captains. Airlines for America, a trade group of the largest carriers that collectively employ 50,800 pilots now, cites a study by the University of North Dakota's aviation department that indicates major airlines will need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to replace departures and cover expansion. All U.S. airlines, including cargo, charter and regional carriers together employ nearly 96,000 pilots, and will need to find more than 65,000 over the next eight years.

The biggest impact for passengers is expected to be with the smaller, regional carriers. They have traditionally been a training ground feeding pilots to the bigger airlines, but this trend is expected to change.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Airline Policies for Passengers Who Don't Fit in One Seat

Many airlines are now implementing policies for passengers that don't fit in a "normal-width" seat, which is typically 17 inches wide.  Some are requiring the purchase an additional seat, while other airlines are dealing with each passenger on a case-by-case basis.  In some cases, passengers have been refused boarding.  These are some of the current airline policies:

Air Canada
After a Supreme Court ruling, the airline must offer larger passengers a free seat, but only after receiving an approved doctors note. Those without medical approval may expect to be required to purchase a second seat at a cost to be determined by the airline.

If a customer cannot lower the armrest, they will be required to purchase an extra seat. The airline will sell you the second seat at the lowest available cost.   If none are available, the passenger may not be able to fly.

Passengers must fit within the 17 inches between armrests or purchase a seat in advance. Those who do not cannot be guaranteed boarding unless a second seat is purchased in advance. The second seat can be purchased at the airport only if there is still space available on the flight, and the lowest available fare at the time will be offered.

Customers who are unable to fit into a single seat, unable to properly buckle their seat belt with an extender or unable to lower both armrests without encroaching must purchase an additional seat when booking the original reservation. Two adjacent seats will be offered at the same rate in advance; if you have not handled this when you arrive at the airport, see an agent before proceeding to the gate if empty seats are available, you may be able to snag one for free.

Passengers are not required to purchase additional seats based on size, but you may be asked to move or wait for the next flight with additional seating space. The airline does recommend that you purchase an additional seat in advance if you think that you might need one and cannot afford to wait around for a flight with empty seats.

If airline staff determines that you will not fit into one seat, they can require you to purchase another one. The seat will be offered at the lowest possible fare at the time of purchase.

The airline does not officially require the purchase of a second seat; armrests are 17.8 apart, which good news for many larger customers. Passengers do have the option to purchase a second seat, regardless of size, at the current fare offered.

Customers who encroach on any part of a neighboring seat should book the needed number of seats prior to travel. The armrest is considered to be the definitive boundary and measures 17 in width. The seat will be offered at the same price as the first one at time of booking it is not recommended to wait until you arrive at the airport; Southwest is known for being particularly inflexible on this issue.

Armrests must be able to go down and stay down regardless if you are seated next to a friend or family member you must purchase a second seat. Those who decline to do so or upgrade to larger seats risk being refused at the gate. A second seat may be purchased for the same fare as the original seat provided it is purchased at the same time those who do not risk being charged walk-up fares later on.

US Airways
Handles it case-by-case, offering extra space when available, or may require waiting for a later flight. If the passenger will not change flights, they will be required to purchase a second seat at the gate.

Virgin America
Larger guests are asked to purchase two seats in advance upon initial booking; no specific policy regarding those who choose not to.

Some airlines will give refunds for the second seat purchased if the airplane does not fly full.  That is something you would want to check directly with the airline about.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Disney Radio Frequency Identification "Magic Band"?

Walt Disney Parks has reportedly filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for a new type of wrist band with RFID - Radio Frequency Identification technology.

Disney is calling this new wrist band the "Magic Band," and it would possibly replace park admission paper tickets. The band has what seems to be the new FastPass Plus logo and appears to be personalized with the owner's name. The application describes the new band as something you wear on your wrist that transmits a wireless signal, is powered by a small round battery, and has no on or off switch.  Disney hasn't announced the purpose of the wrist band - but it seems likely that this new Magic Band could be used to replace paper admission tickets, no more tickets to scan, just a wrist band to swipe. It would also reduce lost paper ticket issues, and possibly allow hotel guests entry into resort hotel rooms.

There could be other reasons beyond simple guest convenience that Disney wants to use RIFD technology to track guests. What if Disney could precisely understand traffic patterns, and then take action to better distribute people around the park - such as deploying entertainment or sending special offers to mobile phones? It's possible these bands, it is mainly speculation at this point.