Are new loyalty programs good for passengers? In this week’s USA Today column, I answer that question. And it’s a total shocker. Don’t believe me? Read for yourself … if you dare.
What do you think of the “new” American Airlines? It’s been a few months since the merger of American and US Airways was approved by government regulators. What do you think of the “new” American? Is it better? Worse? About the same? As always, don’t forget to include your full name, city and occupation. Your answer may appear in a story.
Just ask someone like Daphne Gemmill, a lifelong US Airways frequent flier whose allegiance to the company goes all the way back to its predecessor, the old Piedmont Airlines.
“With the merger of US Airways and American, I thought my combined lifetime miles might put me in the million-mile category,” says Gemmill, a retired federal government employee. (Million-milers get VIP treatment, a coveted perk for passengers.) So she logged into her account, only to find her “lifetime” miles were gone — voided because of “inactivity” on her account.
“Guess those miles aren’t really lifetime miles, since I’m still alive,” she sighed. Continue reading →
The TSA’s “randomizer” in action at Orlando International Airport on Feb. 28, 2014. This iPad-based application sends roughly every third passenger to the faster Pre-Check line. The rest are offered given a conventional screening. If the arrow points left, it’s your lucky day.
The Transportation Security Administration’s vaunted new PreCheck system, which offers selected air travelers access to expedited security screening, is hurtling toward its first big test: a crowd of spring break passengers, quickly followed by a crush of inexperienced summer vacationers.
Although the agency assigned to protect U.S. transportation systems says that it’s ready, some travelers remain unconvinced. They point to problems with the existing PreCheck procedures and their own often inconsistent experiences with them.
Here’s how PreCheck is supposed to work: Passengers pay an $85 enrollment fee and submit to a background check and interview. In exchange, they may receive a pre-9/11 type of screening that allows them to keep on their shoes, belts and light outerwear, leave their laptops in their cases and not remove clear zip-top bags of liquids and gels from their carry-on luggage. Continue reading →
Common sense has always been a precious commodity in travel. You don’t need stories about tourists plunging off cliffs in their cars or YouTube videos of national park visitors nearly being mauled by wild animals they were trying to pet to be reminded of that uncomfortable fact.
But is common sense as we know it dead? Talk to other travelers and to survival experts, and the troubling answer is: maybe.
The severity of the problem became clear to me when a regular reader of this column, Robert Welch, e-mailed me a photo he took of a hotel door left ajar. Welch, who works in the security department of a large chain hotel in New Orleans, says every night, guests leave 25 to 30 doors ajar, presumably so they can run down the hall or out to dinner without having to remember their key cards. That’s about 6% of all rooms.
“It’s the No. 1 reason why a theft occurred whenever I’ve investigated it,” he says. Continue reading →