Posts in the category "Air Travel":

Alaska Air & JetBlue top airline survey ratings

Alaska Airlines Salmon Thirty Salmon

The J.D. Power 2015 North America Airline Satisfaction Study is out today and both Alaska Airlines (in the traditional carrier segment ) and JetBlue (in the low-cost carrier segment) remain at the top of the heap in terms of customer satisfaction.

Alaska Air ranked highest in its category for the eight consecutive year, followed in the rankings by Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.

JetBlue ranked at the top of its segment for the 10th consecutive year, followed by Southwest Airlines.

The study measures passenger satisfaction with North America airline carriers based on seven factors (in order of importance): cost and fees; in-flight services; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; aircraft; check-in; and reservation. You can see the full list here:.

Living in the Age of Airplanes – preview on an A380


From “Living in the Age of Airplanes” – St. Maarten Fly Over


I was a fortunate guest for the in-flight preview of “Living in the Age of Airplanes”, a new National Geographic film by Brian Terwilliger, that is narrated by Harrison Ford, with an original score by Academy Award-winning composer James Horner.

The film opens this Friday in IMAX, giant screen, digital and other special specialty theaters but on Monday, Emirates hosted a reception in its new lounge at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport and then invited guests on board one of the carrier’s newest double-decker A380s for a special film preview flight over the Los Angeles area.

The 47-minute “Living in the Age of Airplanes,” was shot in 95 locations in 18 countries across all 7 continents and starts off with a quick review of transportation history that reminds viewers that “in a single century aviation went from impossible to nearly perfected.”

After guests watched the film on the 20-inch seatback monitors in Business Class, filmmaker Brian Terwilliger chatted with reporters. “It’s not a movie about airplanes, but how the airplane has changed the world,” he said. “We don’t know what it’s like not to have airplanes, so it’s hard to imagine how life would be without them.”

Terwilliger is known to aviation enthusiasts for his 2005 high-definition documentary “One Six Right,” which told the story of general aviation and the role the local airports.
In his new film he calls airports “portals to the planet,” suggests that “If we couldn’t fly, we probably wouldn’t go,” and poses the question “And if we didn’t go, how different would our lives be?”

On-the-ground perks in your airline boarding pass

Ticketing office

Courtesy San Diego Air & Space Museum archives via Flickr Commons.

Airline tickets may no longer come with meals, pillows or much legroom on planes. However, on some domestic and international flights, paper or electronic boarding passes come packed with a wide variety of on-the-ground bonuses.

For example, travelers on Virgin America can present their boarding pass for a free scoop of Humphry Slocombe’s ice cream at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Sadly, that sweet offer expires at the end of this year (so hurry over), but there are plenty of other boarding pass perks that extend into 2015.

Ski – and taste wine – for free

Passengers who show a boarding pass from any airline can score complimentary entry at some ski or snowboarding locations in the U.S.

For example, at Steamboat Ski & Resort in Colorado, passengers can use their boarding passes for a free night of skiing on the evening of arrival. Those who arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday can get a free skiing night on Thursday.

Several ski resorts participating in the Alaska Airlines Ski the West promotion are offering a free day of action on the slopes. Among the offers are a free day-of-arrival pass for out-of-state travelers at Alaska’s Alyeska Resort, and a second-day-ski-free offer in Taos, New Mexico.

Passengers who show an Alaska Airlines boarding pass (paper or digital) in the wine regions of Oregon, Washington and Sonoma County, California, may check a case of wine for free.

Boarding passes also make Alaska Airlines passengers eligible for free wine-tastings at more than 300 participating tasting rooms in Oregon, and more than 200 wineries in Washington state. In addition, under the Taste and Tote program in Washington, Hertz offers car rental discounts and waives the drop-off fees at three regional airports—Pasco/Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Yakima.

International airlines offer boarding pass perks

Austrian Airlines introduced its “World’s most valuable boarding pass” program in 2006, providing passengers with free access to museums and galleries and discounts at shops and restaurants for up to 10 days after they land.

Although the program is expiring at the end of 2014 for a reboot, an updated version will be offered in 2015 “with the same goal, to offer our passengers interesting benefits,” spokesman Wilhelm Baldia said.

Korean Air offers two boarding pass programs. Those flying from an overseas region to Korea can access the Excellent Boarding Pass Korea perks for seven days, and receive discounts on a host of attractions. These include tours, performances, meals, cellphone rentals, shopping, currency exchange fees, rental cars and airport ground transportation.

The Excellent Boarding Pass Worldwide offers a wide variety of perks outside of Korea, and is valid for up to 30 days from departure.

Through the Magic Boarding Pass program on Asiana Airlines, passengers have access to a wide variety of special offers.

An international boarding pass presented in Korea offers discounts on exchange rates, at shopping outlets, tourist destinations, concert halls and on ground transportation. An international Asiana Airlines boarding document also provides perks at premium outlets, hotels, restaurants and attractions in Japan, the U.S., Europe and Hong Kong.

In Singapore, passengers who fly on Singapore Airlines have a full month from the date of travel to use dining, shopping and other deals offered with their boarding passes.

“Tangible benefits for services that every passenger needs, such as the discounts on airport transfers offered by Korean Air and Singapore Airlines, offer the most value,” said Raymond Kollau of “Overall, I quite like the idea of thinking beyond the flight by offering all passengers, especially those in the economy cabin, boarding pass perks that let them make more of their stay in a city,” Kollau said.

(My story on airline boarding pass perks first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)

ANA’s app for anxious airline passengers

Anxious about flying?

ANA (All Nippon Airways) has an app for you.

Released just in time for the holidays, when people find flying even more stressful than usual, the ‘ANA Takeoff Mode’ app offers fliers a simple, distracting puzzle (users must maneuver a ball on screen to collect points), along with relaxing music.

Designed to be used during take-off, when anxious fliers are often the most fearful – and when passengers are now allowed to keep their electronic devices turned on (officially) – the app somehow also measures the amplitude and frequency response of the ambient noise inside the aircraft cabin and, when the aircraft’s engines are at full throttle during takeoff, a special animation and message is triggered.

Would you find this useful?

Travel tune-up: re-thinking airline loyalty programs

Photo from UW Digital Collections, via The Commons on Flickr

Photo from UW Digital Collections, via The Commons on Flickr

About 25 million people had plans to travel by air this Thanksgiving weekend and, as they return from their holiday, some are already making travel plans for 2015 using the frequent flier miles they earned from airline loyalty programs this past year.

But changes in some of those programs might make some travelers rethink their allegiances now.

Alaska Airlines will begin offering increased mileage bonuses for a number of fare classes and elite Mileage Plan members. Starting January 1, the airline will be offering big mileage bonuses to first class, refundable coach and MVP Gold upgradeable travelers.

Both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are joining the fray by upping the antes for flight miles and elite programs, through a mix of cash spend and frequent flier miles.

Beginning January 1, 2015 the cash spend required for reaching various levels of Premier status on United Airlines in 2016 will be raised. And starting March, 2015, United passengers will earn award Mileage Plus frequent flier miles based on an equation that takes into consideration ticket price and frequent flier status instead of actual miles flown.

As of January 1, 2015, Delta Air Lines SkyMiles members will earn miles based on ticket price and elite program status as well and, as these charts outline, the cash spend for reaching for reaching various Medallion levels is increased as well.

Various websites (many of which earn commissions from promoting mileage-linked credit cards) parse the minutiae of the airline mileage rules but “come next February, I think a lot of people are going to drop status because of these changes,” said Brian Kelly, founder of “Even though they may have flown the same amount as the year before, they most likely won’t hit the revenue requirements.”

It may be more difficult to accrue elite status, but United and Delta have still rolled out some helpful all-access perks.

In August, Delta introduced Delta Studio, which offers movies, TV episodes, music, games and other free entertainment options on all of its domestic aircraft and two-cabin regional jets.

Just this week, United expanded its free on-board wireless video streaming to Android devices, and will also offer bonus mileage incentives to smartphone app users via MileagePlus X.

And, as part of a major make-over underway at United’s hub at Newark Liberty’s Terminal C, passengers will be able to use Mileage Plus award miles to pay for purchases in restaurants and stores via the 6,000 iPads OTG Management is installing as part of the project.

In the second quarter of 2015, American Airlines’ AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles members will become part of the same frequent flyer program.

Mileage balances will be combined, elite levels will be aligned and a new upgrade policy for elite status members flying on American and US Airways will be put in place.

Do you want to check luggage with that ticket?

In the first half of 2015, JetBlue will launch a three-tiered flyer program that will allow some passengers to get up to two pieces of luggage checked for free, along with other incentives.

Meanwhile, Hawaiian Airlines will offer its travelers the option of earning travel miles “based on distance flown, not based on ticket spend and Elite status,” spokeswoman Alison Croyle told CNBC. “The airline will also not require any minimum spend to make elite status.”

Based on the host of incentives and upcoming changes, airline watchers say passengers need to decide whether certain loyalty programs are worth keeping.

Elite status is becoming harder to earn and less valuable, at least at the mid and lower tiers,” said ThePointsGuy’s Kelly.

“So you need to identify what you want out of your program,” he added. “Calculate how much extra you pay for your loyalty and see if you’re receiving more than that back in perks and the value from miles. If not, then it may be time to switch.”

(My story about airline loyalty programs first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different version.)

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