Delta and Starwood Combine Forces
With so much competition, airlines and hotels have had to get creative to keep customers coming back. So it makes sense that an airline and a hotel group would band together to foster loyalty to both. Starting March 1, Starwood Preferred Guest elite and Delta SkyMiles Medallion members will get Crossover Rewards, which means both miles and points when you book flights or hotel rooms. More specifically, Delta Medallion members earn one mile per dollar when staying at a Starwood hotel, plus the Starpoints. They will also get perks like priority check-in, late checkout, and that all-important free internet access. And Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum members who fly Delta get a free checked bag and priority check-in and boarding, plus one Starpoint per dollar spent on top of the usual miles.
What do you think of these programs? Would they keep you loyal, or do you always go with the lowest price, no matter what?
Study Ranks Best and Worst Airports in the U.S.
Nonstop flights are always the best option, but sometimes you can't avoid making a stop along the way. So which are the best airports for connections? Travel Leaders Group asked hundreds of travel agents which airports they use-and avoid-for their clients, and here's what they had to say. More than 40 percent of the responding agents chose Atlanta as the hub they prefer, with Charlotte and Dallas/Ft. Worth coming in second and third. Atlanta wasn't every agent's favorite airport, though. It also ranked third on the list of least-favorite airports, behind Chicago's O'Hare and New York's JFK. But if you do get stuck in Atlanta, take solace in the fact that the airport came out on top for amenities and restaurant options (don't miss the excellent One Flew South). Minneapolis/St. Paul and O'Hare were also tops for amenities and dining options. Is there an airport you avoid at all costs? Let us know in the comments!
Airports Are Being Stripped of Controversial Scanners
When body image scanners made their way into airports in 2010, travelers raised concerns over privacy violations and radiation exposure. Now, three years later, those scanners are being removed from airports around the country. According to an article in Bloomberg, the reason behind the removal is that OSI Systems, who manufactures the machines, has not been able to meet a congressional deadline to make the produced images less revealing. The company reported that it wouldn't be able to perfect the technology until 2014, and the TSA chose to void the $5 million contract. The 174 machines now in use will be taken out of airports and used at other government agencies. There will still be some body scanners in use, though. The Bloomberg article states that the TSA will continue use 60 machines manufactured by L-3 Communications Holdings. These machines use radio frequencies (instead of the X-ray radiation used by the OSI Systems machines) and have been producing less revealing images since 2011. What do you think? Are you happy to see the machines being taken out of service?
FAA Grounds the Dreamliner
If good things come to those who wait, those of you eagerly anticipating your first ride on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can find some consolation in, well, waiting a little longer. The Federal Aviation Administration announced on January 16 that it was grounding the innovative jetliner until an apparent risk of fires caused by its lithium-ion batteries is corrected. The move directly affects United Airlines, which operates six Dreamliners. But the FAA’s decision was mirrored around the globe, including two Japanese airlines voluntarily grounding more than 20 planes. The Dreamliner’s journey from drawing board to runway has been fraught with delays, and this latest setback is especially dramatic because it speaks to the very heart of the jetliner’s promise: Each 787 employs two lithium-ion batteries, which help to make it more fuel-efficient and comfortable than any jet before it. While lithium-ion batteries can be charged more quickly than other airpline batteries, they are known to catch fire; in order for Boeing to include them in the 787, the FAA had to issue a special rule. But when pilots on All Nippon Airways smelled smoke and received automatic warnings of battery problems, they made an emergency landing and the current investigation began. As we’ve reported here, the Dreamliner holds a lot of promise both for passengers and for those who’d like to see eco-friendly planes take to the skies. Its light carbon-fiber construction and extensive use of batteries provide 20 percent better fuel efficiency; windows are 30 percent bigger than on any other commercial jets and employ electronic dimming instead of shades; cabin air is cleaner, lower pressure, and more humid; and storage bins and armrests are significantly bigger. TALK TO US! Have you already taken a ride on the Dreamliner/ What did you think? Will this current setback affect your future travel plans once the 787 is back in the air?
Finally! Google Maps Returns to the iPhone
What made Apple realize its mapping technology was failing miserably? Maybe it was when folks started pointing out that its maps were missing entire cities. Maybe it was when they realized that they were duplicating islands in the South Pacific. Then there was that farm in Ireland that was listed as an airport (oops—glad the Irish government caught that error before the pilots figured it out the hard way!). More recently, they've been leading people astray in the Australian desert. No wonder Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology—his company released a product that not only annoyed, but actually endangered (and in some cases offended) millions of people. To be fair, it has also provided a great deal of comedic value (the Huffington Post did a nice job of rounding up their more entertaining mistakes). In any case, all of this is a long way of saying that Apple did the world a huge favor yesterday by releasing Google Maps new app for the iPhone in its app store. The free app is even better than the one that was originally installed on the iPhone. It includes turn by turn directions, three-dimensional views, public transit directions and listings for 80 million businesses around the world. The one perk that users will only find on Android platforms are directions inside buildings such as malls. I'm not the only one who is thrilled to see Google Maps return to the iPhone. The new app is so popular that within just a few hours of being released it had received 10,000 reviews, 90 percent of which gave the product the highest rating possible—five stars. Three cheers for two tech companies that were able to set aside their differences long enough to give the people a mapping product that works. Now, if only some of the other powers-that-be could follow suit...