Upgraded: Passenger discontent with frequent flyer miles devaluation
A miffed Continental customer is suing the airline for charging him fees and higher mileage levels when trying to book an award ticket with his OnePass miles. He’s suing for “levying an illegal penalty, breach of contract and unjust enrichment,” technically. The details:

According to the lawsuit, Simon tried to book a flight in January from Los Angeles to Cleveland for 25,000 miles, which was the number of miles needed to earn an economy-class round trip within the lower 48 states when Simon joined the airline’s OnePass frequent-flier program several years ago.

The airline demanded 50,000 miles even though reservations officials said there were empty seats on some flights, said Simon’s lawyer, who described his client as a semiretired man in his 60s who “travels a fair amount.”

As much as the fees and continued mileage devaluation irk me, and as annoying as it is to be party to a contract where the rules are so prone to shifting, I don’t think he has a leg to stand on, legally. He may travel a fair amount, but Continental’s OnePass program is notorious for “selling out” tickets at the “EasyPass” level…

Downgraded: Expedia users’ web histories
Expedia is tracking your browsing habits and selling those data to advertisers, who may target you based on your purchases on the travel site. It’s cookie based, so it’s targeted to the computer you’re using, and allegedly doesn’t include personally identifying information, but your computer may be betraying information about you that you don’t want to share.

Downgraded: Homonyms
On the show “24,” the plot has turned to a private corporation that is plotting to use biological weapons against American citizens. That fictional company, clearly inspired by Blackwater (which is now renamed “Xe”…) is called “Starkwood.” I barely heard the “k” in the name when they first mentioned it on-air. My first thoughts: Why would Westin and Sheraton want to kill people?… (And yes, my wife makes fun of me for watching “24,” which she oh-so-lovingly derides as a “boy soap opera.” Guilty as charged!)

Downgraded: Digging to China
Ever wonder where the exact opposite spot on the earth is from where you’re standing? Too lazy to find a globe? The Antipode Map website is for you. And just so you know, if you want to “dig to China,” you’d better be standing in South America.

dig to china map Upgrades and Downgrades    Mileage lawsuits, unfortunately named villains, and digging to China

Downgraded: Uses of college budgets
I know that baggage fees suck, but is refunding students who fly back to school their $15 or $25 baggage fees really the best use of college funds?

Downgraded: “Fakeproof” passports
I love stories like this: British authorities touted the safety and security of their “e-passport,” effectively a passport with an embedded radio-frequency chip. Hacker-proof, they claimed. It was cracked, cloned, and altered within minutes. Minutes. Not even hours, much less days, or weeks. Minutes. The computer researcher proved his point by changing the data to make the passport appear to be Osama bin Laden’s, complete with passport photo. Just awesome. (Recall that, as posted a couple years ago, the easiest way to destroy the chip inside your passport, if you’re wary of RFID scanners stealing your personal information, is with a hammer.)

Downgraded: American Airlines upgrades
A downgraded upgrade? Indeed. American recently rolled out copayment fees for many of its upgrade awards. See the changes on the award chart here. More evidence of the devaluation of miles, if you needed a reminder.

Upgraded: European booking war hilarity
Britain’s Thomson Holidays, part of the TUI Group, came under heat for offering vacation rentals in Greece or Turkey for £14 a week. At £2 a night, that’s some cheap sleeps. Why was this problematic? Competitors complained that Thomson was changing customer expectations, causing travelers to hold out and wait for the rock-bottom room rate, instead of booking early. Sounds like crybaby talk to me.

Upgraded: Alliance dalliance
It’s not really a surprise, given the urge to merge that’s rampant in aviation today, but American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia are looking to link up. They’re already alliance partners within Oneworld, and this isn’t a merger (yet), but the three airlines are trying to get antitrust immunity, so they can collude and set fares together. There’s really no benefit to consumers in this, especially if you fly between London and the United States. AA and BA dominate those routes, and the companies want to expand their price-setting power.

Upgraded: Google Maps’ sense of humor
Remember how Google Maps gave directions from the U.S. to Europe which included the instruction to swim across the Atlantic? Those jokesters recently did it again, suggesting you kayak across the Pacific Ocean. (They took it down, alas.)

kayak across pacific Upgrades and Downgrades    Baggage fee refunds...from colleges? High tech passports faked.  Kayak to Australia.  And more!

Upgraded: Your chance to speak your mind on aircraft interiors
Friend of the blog Addison Schonland is doing some market research on aircraft interiors, and what you want to see inside those aluminum tubes. Take his poll, which will hopefully filter through to airline designers and execs attending the Aircraft Interiors Expo show next month.

Upgraded: Stormy weather
Priceline is once again rolling out a cute promotion, which promises to pay the cost of your vacation package if your trip is rained out, through November 16, 2008. The “Sunshine Guarantee” kicks in if a half inch of measured rainfall is present on HALF of the days of your trip. That’s a lot of rain, so don’t count on any payout. Kerala monsoon holiday, anyone?

hotel glasses Upgrades and Downgrades    November 13, 2007    Hotel room glasses, Skybus x2, Paris wine, and more

Downgraded: Hotel-room glasses
I’m always a little wary of those glasses in hotel rooms, but now we’ve got hidden-camera proof that we shouldn’t be using them — or washing them ourselves before every use. Fox Atlanta planted cameras in several hotels, including Holiday Inn, Sheraton, and the Ritz-Carlton. In each hotel, housekeepers don’t remove the glasses for cleaning in the dishwashers downstairs. At best, they simply rinse them. At worst, they spray them with poisonous household cleaners, handle them with the same gloves they wore when cleaning the toilet, or dry the rinsed glassware with the same towel you used as a bathmat that morning. Disgusting. (Thanks, James!)

Upgraded: Ways to contact Skybus
Skybus, the notoriously hard-to-reach airline that tries to tell its customers that there’s no working phone number at the airline, has been exposed. How to contact Skybus, according to Skybus? Write an e-mail. After seeing far too many boilerplate e-replies that don’t address the problem, Chris Elliott has posted the executives’ contact information, including e-mails.

Upgraded: Advertisers’ unwitting sense of irony
Skybus again: CapitalOne is shelling out the big bucks to paint pigs all over a Skybus A319. It’s a savings account ad — a piggy bank theme — plus a riff off “When pigs fly,” leaving you, the consumer, with hijinks and hilarity. But if you’re an airline, do you really want your plane looking like a pig? Skybus, the flying pig? Wallow aboard!

Upgraded: Paris wine
Where to find a good wine bar or wine retailer in Paris? Look no further. Dr. Vino hits the scene with yet another installation of his wine maps. The Paris wine map features both stores and bars.

Upgraded: Getting on the bump list
The Cranky Flier notes that United has started asking for volunteers on overbooked flights at the time of check-in. Talk about getting in front of the problem. Unfortunately, the net effect for travelers is negligible, because you can’t (yet?) be guaranteed a bump by registering for one online. You still have to drag your butt to the airport and wait at the gate. Registering online only gets you an early spot on the list, if that’s your bag.

Upgraded: Smokin’ hot suitcases
The joke luggage insert (ahem, the Citizen’s Insertable Swiftness Manifest) posted last week included several jokes about smoking luggage. Now life imitates art. Phoenix SkyHarbor Airport was actually shut down after a smoking suitcase was discovered.



google directions Screw air travel: Google suggests you get out and swim

Google, either encouraging physical fitness or zero population growth, offers the above helpful suggestion when mapping the route from Chicago to London.

Click the image for a larger screenshot, or see here for the full directions and map of the route.

29 days, 22 hours to get there? Maybe I will fly after all.

Update: Google took it down. But the reason for the joke may be this:

Benoît Lecomte is a long distance swimmer from France born in 1967 who was the first man to swim across the Atlantic Ocean in 1998. He did this to raise money for cancer research as a tribute to his father. During his 3,716 mile journey in 73 days, he was followed by a support boat that had an electromagnetic field for 25 feet to ward off sharks. He did, however, still encounter sea turtles, dolphins, and jellyfish.

The feat, performed in 1998, took him 72 days, with 6-8 hours spent swimming each day in sessions of about two hours length. He was accompanied by associates in a boat, where he could rest and eat between each swimming period. The swim extended from Hyannis, Massachusetts to Quiberon, Brittany, France. He stopped for 1 week in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. He achieved the goal in 72 days, and took lots of practice to get across. He had many fans once he reached land. Lecomte is now looking forward to swimming across the Pacific Ocean to the Phillipines.

The instructions on getting to London (or anywhere else in Europe for that matter) all involved getting into the water in Massachusetts, and getting out in Brittany. Mystery solved!

(via Gadling)

Categorized in: bizarre, maps
Posted by: Mark Ashley

byobchicago Travel map roundup

Everyone knows that you can map your driving route using MapQuest or Google Maps. No surprises there. But beyond simply telling you where to go, there are more and more so-called “mashups” that combine maps with other travel-relevant information. Consider:

  • Want to know the route you’ll fly? Run the airport codes through the Great Circle Mapper to see the shortest flight route between cities.
  • Prefer to track flights in real-time and see where they are on a map? Try FlightAware for US-based flights or AeroSeek for many (not all) international flights.
  • How about your hotel? TripAdvisor, which collects reviews from people around the web, has started mapping hotels and lets you sort them by “popularity” rating.
  • If you’re a Priceline user who bids for your hotel room, check out BetterBidding.com’s hotel maps, which list the hotels people have actually won in the auction, as well as the prices they paid, in major American cities.
  • Finally, when you get to a city, how about a good restaurant or wine bar? Or even better: a good liquor store and a BYOB restaurant! You’re in luck if you’re traveling to New York or Chicago: Annotated maps of New York wine shops and wine bars, and Chicago wine shops and BYOB restaurants.

Got other interesting map combinations of interest to travelers? Post about it in comments!

- Getting more accurate flight tracking
- World travel, graphically

Categorized in: maps, travel

198493800 55431c0eae o Cheaper airport parking: Mapping the best ratesParking at the airport? Before you automatically grab a ticket at the airport’s official parking lot, consider the site AboutAirportParking. The site uses Google Maps to show the locations of the various airport area parking sites, with information on pricing, links to the lot operator, etc.

The site allows users to write reviews of parking facilities. On the downside, the information is limited to airports in the United States for the time being. Frequency of shuttles to the airport would be a nice feature to include, too.

Since many lots are at hotels, also consider ParkSleepFly.com, the directory of airport hotels with long-term parking packages, which I mentioned recently.

(via GoogleMapsMania, thanks to reader THC!)

Categorized in: airport parking, maps, travel