While other airlines are dissuading customers from transacting business at the airport, by imposing penalty fees, American Airlines is looking to smoothe things for passengers at the counter. At Boston Logan Airport, the airline is testing a new set of mobile check-in devices.

The machines, called “Your Assistance Delivered Anywhere,” or YADA — insert Seinfeld joke here — won’t be tied to a specific spot. Instead, AA staff will be able to rove around, checking bags, printing boarding passes, clearing upgrades (!), and providing flight and gate information. The program is designed to reduce wait-times. It sounds like they’ll need a skycap tailing them, to carry the bags off.

It’s a six-week test, so it will be interesting to see how the new procedure plays out in the real world.

Boston AA travelers: Please post your experiences with the YADA in the comments!

Categorized in: airports, American Airlines

bangkok airport chanel Upgrades and Downgrades    Duty free and other scams, OpenSkies, scorpions, fees, more

Downgraded: Bangkok airport duty-free
If you’re in Bangkok, you might want to skip the duty-free shop. Customers have been falsely accused (better: framed) of shoplifting. And thanks to an apparently collusive agreement between the police, the duty free operator (King Power), and individual “translators,” all working in cahoots, travelers have been forced to pay up thousands of dollars in order to leave the country. “The British Embassy has also warned passengers at Bangkok Airport to take care not to move items around in the duty free shopping area before paying for them, as this could result in arrest and imprisonment.” Absurd! Read the whole convoluted story of the “zig zag scam” here.

Downgraded: OpenSkies
British Airways is looking to sell its all-business class OpenSkies subsidiary, only a year after buying L’Avion and merging the two operations. The airline-in-an-airline is still operating, though, and there are some pretty sweet deals for premium class travel. If you’re flying between New York and Amsterdam or Paris anytime soon and looking for a relatively inexpensive upgrade, this could be the ticket. (~$1230 all-in roundtrip for a 140° cradle seat, or ~$2100 for a 180° flat bed.) But I wouldn’t book more than a month or two out.

Upgraded: Inflight internet overseas
Lufthansa is reportedly exploring ways of restarting the now-defunct Boeing Connexion satellite-powered inflight internet service. The receivers are already installed on many of their planes (a process which was undertaken at a hefty cost. Panasonic is the most likely provider of the services to the airline.

Downgraded: The St. Regis Monarch Beach
Upgraded: Irony

You may recall the St. Regis Monarch Beach in California as the site of controversy — Weeks after accepting a huge federal bailout, AIG executives spent nearly half a million smackers to host a swank affair at the resort. Now the resort itself has gone into receivership: Creditor Citigroup has foreclosed on the property, taking possession from the franchisees, Makar Properties. (Perhaps not surprising if reports of 15% occupancy rates are true.) But foreclosure doesn’t mean closure. The property remains open, albeit under new ownership.

Upgraded: Exotic inflight vermin
Paging Samuel L. Jackson! A passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight departing Phoenix was stung by a scorpion in flight. The creature fell out of luggage in the overhead bin, where numerous other scorpions were residing.

Downgraded: Budget Rent-a-Car’s ethics
Budget Rent-a-Car is still working with Trilegiant, the shady operators who send out “checks” you shouldn’t endorse. Signing the back commits you to an expensive membership in a “consumer club” with minimal benefits — all billed to the credit card you used when you rented a car from Budget. I reported on this back in January. I just received a similar solicitation this week, offering me a $10 check in exchange for a $219.98/year membership in “HealthSaver.” Shame on you, Budget, for pimping out the credit card data that your customers trusted you with.

Downgraded: Airline fees
Another week, another hike of airline fees. Continental, as part of its earnings report, is raising the cost of checked luggage by $5, bringing it to $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second. Also: Delta is adding a $5 in-person luggage fee for bags not checked in in advance online.


Downgraded: Baggage carousels
I realize that airports are looking for ways to make money, and I admit I’m surprised this hasn’t been tried earlier, but the checked baggage conveyor belts will now display advertising at select airports. Yet another reason to carry on instead of checking bags…

Upgraded: Global travel
Downgraded: Swine flu

Good news on the swine flu front: A vaccine for H1N1 should be ready by mid-October. If true, that could have huge implications for the movement of travelers across borders.

Downgraded: Laptops at airports
How many laptops are lost at US airports weekly? 12,000. WEEKLY. And of those, 1200 are at LAX. Most are left behind at security checkpoints. Only a third are ever recovered. That’s horrible, and embarrassing for everyone involved.

Upgraded: Star Alliance
Continental gets the final nod to join Star Alliance. It will be departing SkyTeam.

Upgraded: Upgrades to Hawaii on Continental
Perhaps in the spirit of joining a new alliance, Continental is changing its rules to allow its elite-level OnePass members to upgrade free on flights to Hawaii. Jared Blank has more.

Upgraded: Traveling like a Dolphin
For the person who has everything, and wants to travel a little deeper: A personal submarine based on a dolphin. Promo video below. Bizarre.

“Oh my God, they’re throwing guitars outside!” If you’re a musician, this is not what you want to hear your seatmate exclaim while you’re waiting to depart the gate at O’Hare.

After musician Dave Carroll and his band Sons of Maxwell witnessed United Airlines baggage handlers tossing their instruments outside the aircraft, they feared the worst. And indeed, Carroll’s guitar was broken. He tried to get the airline to pay for its repair or replacement, but when regular channels failed, he broke out into song, instead. The result: The song and video, “United Breaks Guitars.” Watch it below. Toe-tapping may ensue.

Forget “Rhapsody in Blue,” this could become the new United theme…

I feel Carroll’s pain. In 1993, I checked a guitar as luggage on a British Airways flight from Zurich to New York via Heathrow. Though it was in a sturdy case, wrapped and taped up well, the guitar arrived (two days late) in pieces — the tape had all been cut off, and the case looked like it had been run over by a truck. Literally. Guitars and airlines clearly don’t mix.

Carroll has posted the entire backstory on his site. It’s not just the sight of guitars flying through the air. It’s the customer service runaround that got his goat. This is apparently song 1 in a three song trilogy.

It may have taken a video, but United is now ready to negotiate (the puns are included free):

Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based United, said late Tuesday afternoon that the airline has changed its course and wants to speak with Mr. Carroll today to settle the matter. She declined to comment further until she spoke to him. “This has struck a chord with us,” she said. “We’re going to contact him directly.”

(Thanks, Patrick!)

Categorized in: United Airlines

Downgraded: Bali’s public health strategy
While a vigorous attempt to contain the spread of the H1N1 flu virus is understandable and sensible, Bali is taking the notion to a new level:

Upon landing at Bali’s airport planes will be taken to a remote aircraft parking area where the plane and its passengers will be sprayed with disinfectant. Passengers will then be disembarked and subjected to thermal scanners.

However, the Jakarta Globe is reporting that Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport is now requiring all arriving international air passengers to undergo a blood test. Nyoman Murtiyasa, the head of the airport’s health office, quoted in the Jakarta Globe said that all passengers arriving from overseas would be required to take a blood test at the airport.

Thermal scanners? Sure. Blood tests for everyone? Extreme. They make United States passport control seem downright lovable.

Downgraded: Airline uniforms
The airport administrators at Nepal’s Kathmandu Airport are taking an unusual step in an effort to reduce bribery: They are banning pockets in airline personnel uniforms. In a few months, expect reports of secret back-room sewing operations and black market tailoring.

Upgraded: Onboard duty-free, online check-in
Remember when airlines gave you extra miles for online check-in? It’s not coming back, alas. But Virgin Atlantic will give you a coupon for £6 off onboard duty free shopping when spending £30 or more. Whoo?

Downgraded: Jamaican sand wars
500 truckloads of white sand were stolen from a Jamaican resort development site in July 2008. Now, it’s going to trial, and other resort owners are among the accused. (hat tip to Veronica Stoddart)

Upgraded: Overview of disparate carry-on luggage rules
Steven Frischling at Flying with Fish has compiled a great list of 65 airlines’ carry-on baggage restrictions. Be sure to check the rules before your next flight.

Upgraded: Cruises with a theme
Downgraded: Pirates; Conscience

Finally, a cruise concept for the bloodthirsty: A Russian company is sponsoring pirate-hunting cruises. $5000 gets you on board, and you can rent AK-47s and buy ammo. The money quote: “They are worse than the pirates. At least the pirates have the decency to take hostages; these people are just paying to commit murder.”

Upgraded: Eclipse travel
THIS is a concept trip I could do: Special flights to view the upcoming solar eclipse. (Thanks, Kim!)

eclipse flight Upgrades and Downgrades    blood tests, airline uniforms, pirate cruises, sand wars, and more


It hasn’t yet taken off in the US, but checked-luggage wrapping stations are cropping up in airports around the world. For a fee, an attendant will encase your suitcase in plastic wrap. A few small incisions to restore access to the handles and wheels, and off you go.

I’m admittedly a skeptic, though I jealously wonder how fat the margins are in this business.

On the one hand, I see the logic: If it’s wrapped tightly with plastic, it’s less likely to break open or be damaged by moisture. Some of these services, such as SecureWrap, also include some luggage insurance in the cost of the wrapping.

But how much protection is this, really? An airport security official looking to inspect your bag’s contents will just cut the plastic right off. A determined thief will do the same. How much protection is this, really? And for 6 euros (the price charged at Madrid) or 9 dollars (the price at JFK) per item, is this money well spent?

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Categorized in: airports, luggage, travel