PROBLEMS WITH PRECHECK? We are hearing from an increasing number of travelers frustrated that they are not being chosen for PreCheck, the TSA’s new trusted traveler fast lanes at ATL and elsewhere. While the TSA will not reveal why or why not travelers are chosen, we are now hearing about some patterns… for example, those who are NOT chosen have made their reservation within 24 hours of flight time. Others report that they are never chosen if they are flying on the domestic leg of an international trip. I’ve found that using the Delta mobile app, which displays my boarding pass on my smartphone, nearly always gets me the “three beeps” and into the fast lane. What about you? Are you noticing any other patterns in the TSA’s “random” selection process? Leave your comments below.
BETTER, FASTER INFLIGHT WI-FI. Canadian regulators have given the greelight to Gogo, the popular in-flight wi-fi provider, to get started on extending its ground-based network north of the US border. Service should be available starting in 2013. Also, JetBlue now says that it will (finally) offer a faster new satellite-based inflight wi-fi product—for free—starting in early 2013. JetBlue says that the new service is fast enough to allow streaming of movies in-flight—something you cannot do on the current version of Gogo. Maybe this competition will force Gogo to temper its recent price increases—now running at $18 for transcon flights. Not to be outdone by JetBlue, its largest competitor in the key NYC market, Delta now says that using new technology, it, too will offer the option of streaming movies and TV shows using inflight wi-fi on all 800 of its domestic two-class aircraft “by the end of 2013.”
WI-FI SURPRISE. With Delta and AirTran leading the industry with in-flight wi-fi on nearly every flight, we in Atlanta are pretty spoiled. Such ubiquity is not the case elsewhere, and in fact, only 31% of domestic flights (1,165 aircraft) in the US have it. At Southwest, 35% of planes have it, just 22% of American Airlines planes have it, and at United, the world’s largest carrier, only 1% of its flights have it. Another big surprise: Usage of inflight wi-fi on the planes that offer it it miniscule—just 5.4% for the first half of 2012. I think that number is quite low due to the fact that most flights are so short that it does not make sense to log on in-flight— but I have witnessed a much higher usage rate on those 3-5 hour transcons out west. As a matter of fact, the availability of wi-fi is THE main factor when I’m chosing an airline for flights longer than three hours. What about you? How important is in-flight wi-fi in your airline decision? Please leave your comments below.
TOUGHER TO TRACK SKYMILES. Customers who keep track of their mileage program balances on sites like AwardWallet.com or TripIt Pro are losing the ability to track their Sky Miles. Delta is cutting off these sites from accessing our frequent flyer program data and frustrating members in the process. According to a cease and desist letter, Delta feels these sites are performing “computer trespass.” What this means is that Delta is making it tougher for its best, most loyal customers to keep track of multiple programs in one place. In addition to Delta, American and Southwest/AirTran do not participate with third party programs designed to make life a little easier for frequent travelers. To us, that’s short-sighted and frustrating. Frequent flyers, not the airline, should be able to choose with whom they share their program data. Do you agree? Have you used these programs to help monitor your miles? Please leave your comments below.
EASY 500+ SKYMILES BONUS. You gotta park at the airport anyway, so why not help out The TICKET, and our newest sponsor, Peachy Airport Parking, on your next trip? You’ll help yourself, too, since Peachy is offering TICKET readers 500 SkyMiles plus three SkyMiles per dollar spent. If you are tired of worrying about on-airport lot sellouts, long, dark walks to your car or the congested mess that is Camp Creek Parkway, just exit I-85 south at Sylvan Road, one mile north of the airport, and follow the signs to Peachy. Once there, you’ll find extra wide spaces in a secure, climate controlled indoor lot, a free car wash and a short two-minute shuttle ride to the airport. Daily rates are just $6.99 outdoor or $8.99 indoor. COME ON! Help keep The TICKET free by clicking on this link or on the ad to the right to learn more about ATL’s newest parking option. Note: You have to click on the link and print the page to get the SkyMiles!
SEEING DOUBLE AT SOUTHWEST/AIRTRAN. From now through November 15, Southwest Rapid Rewards and AirTran A+ Reward members earn DOUBLE points on all flights. On Southwest, more expensive Business Select fares earn 24 points per dollar– that’s four times more than the standard six per dollar on its cheapest Wanna Get Away fares. Must register here to get the bonus: Southwest | AirTran
TICKET editor Chris McGinnis discusses his outlook for the fall travel season on national news! If you have plans for trips between now and through the holidays, tune in!
SKY CLUB NUMERO 54. The 54th Delta Sky Club (and third at La Guardia) has opened in the lounge that was formerly the US Airways Club in Terminal C. Now part of the expanded Delta operation there, passengers transfer between the two terminals by shuttle bus, but a bridge is already under construction. The club features the same snazzy look of other renewed clubs around the system and has excellent views of Delta’s new gates and terminal operation. (Stay tuned to The TICKET for a slideshow of Delta’s new Sky Club at ATL’s new Terminal F.)
EASIER CHARGING. Tired of being one of the huddled masses gathered around the single electrical outlet near your gate? Delta is adding new charging stations at gate areas in 13 more airports. For example, in Tokyo, four of Delta’s gates were recently updated with power stations that feature six standard U.S. 110 volt outlets and two powered USB ports. Delta also is adding the popular feature at airports in Anchorage, Alaska; Austin, Texas; Denver; Dallas/Ft. Worth; Houston Intercontinental; Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee, Wis.; New Orleans; Ontario, Calif.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; and Syracuse, N.Y.
DC-9’S STILL FLYING. With Comair out of the picture, Delta has reinstated mainline jet service (using its fleet of ancient DC-9s inherited from Northwest) between Atlanta and Chattanooga, and Atlanta and Wilmington, NC.
SHOOTING THE MESSENGER? Atlanta Airport has fired three long-term PR professionals in the wake of the generally negative reception by travelers and the media of ATL’s new terminal F. Yep, these were they key contacts who helped The TICKET with our extensive coverage of the new terminal. They have all received stellar employee reviews over the years, but were served termination papers effective this month. We are vexed by the whole thing…. it just smells funny. What do you think? On our Facebook page, W Evans comments: “It is so political there. From what I understand these three were wonderful employees. Guess someone’s relative needed a job!” Leave your comments below.
DID YOU KNOW… Did you know: That the TSA now allows travelers aged 75 and older to pass through airport security screening with jackets and shoes on?
MUSICAL SEATS ON THE AIRBUS. Delta has quietly removed a row of first class from its Airbus A-319 and A-320 planes. When these were in the Northwest fleet, they offered 16 seats, but now the planes offer just 12. It’s important to understand that Delta did this to add Economy Comfort seats in the main cabin. Since many of these planes are used on routes to Latin America or cross-country, the added space in Economy Comfort when an upgrade doesn’t clear is certainly appreciated. What do you think? Is it better to have more first class… or more Economy Comfort? Leave your comments below.
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STEALTHY SKYMILES AWARD CHANGE. Earlier this month, Delta quietly raised the award redemption levels for a few mid- and high-tier mileage awards by 5,000 miles—with no advance warning. These include economy class awards to and from the Caribbean, Mexico, deep South America, and Europe where, for example, the mid-tier redemption increased from 90,000 miles to 95,000 miles. Luckily, travelers willing to pay the exorbitant high-tier mileage for a business class ticket to Southeast Asia can save 20,000 miles since Delta dropped the redemption level on that lone award. Surprisingly, many travelers do redeem their SkyMiles for these mid- and high-tier awards despite being a very poor redemption value. For now, at least, none of the low level awards were affected. Hmm. This does not bode well for the future…as airlines have consolidated and competition is reduced, I’m afraid we’ll see more high-handed and troubling moves on the part of Delta…and all the remaining legacy leviathans. What do you think? Is it time to start dumping those miles before they are devalued out of existence? Please leave your comments below.
B-A-A-A. Did you hear that ATL, like a handful of other airports in the country, is considering using a herd of sheep and goats to help keep plant growth near runways trimmed back? WXIA reports that these goats would be the same ones that have helped clear kudzu and other growth at City of Atlanta parks like Chastain. Apparently the herbivores do a better job than humans, and help avoid the use of harmful herbicides.
EASIER ORDERING AT MSP. Flyers used to ordering a meal on the built-in iPads in the New York Delta gate areas can now enjoy the same service when flying through Delta’s Minneapolis/St. Paul hub. The concept has proven quite popular and Delta is now working with restaurant operators to distribute 250 iPads to restaurants in Concourse G: , MinniBar, an upscale “sandwich bar;” Mimosa, a French country restaurant and raw bar; and Shoyu, a Japanese eatery. The iPads will be placed inside the restaurants at each seat so diners can order from a visual menu. While waiting for their meals, customers can use the iPads to surf the Internet, check email, or visit social media sites. Plans call for expanding the program with 4,500 iPads to other Delta hub airports.
HOLA ARGENTINA. Aerolineas Argentinas, Delta’s first full South American partner is now officially a part of SkyTeam. However, the full roster of reciprocal benefits does not begin until the end of 2012. Between now and then, travelers can earn and burn miles on the Argentine carrier and make use of its lounges, but Sky Priority benefits will not be extended until the end of the year at their hubs. From the US, Aerolineas Argentinas flies nonstop from Miami to its hub in Buenos Aires only. Have you ever flown Aerolineas Argentinas? If so, what did you think?
FREE WI-FI AT LAX. On your next visit to LAX, be sure to take advantage of their new, free-of-charge wireless Internet service. The airport is dropping its expensive fees to use its signal and joins numerous other major airports like San Francisco, Las Vegas, Denver, and Orlando in easing the strain of waiting for a flight. Hello, Atlanta Airport?? Hello?