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Tag Archives: business travel

Southwest hikes fares for business travelers

Southwest Airlines Co. said Friday it matched other airlines in raising prices on tickets favored by business travelers.

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Southwest’s action virtually ensured that the increase of $6 to $10 per round trip will stick. The increase applies to last-minute tickets often purchased by corporate travelers.

The airlines left prices unchanged on advance-purchase tickets used more often by leisure travelers.

Jaime Baker, an analyst with J.P. Morgan who tracks fares, said Southwest was the last and most important major airline to go along with the increase on business travelers. If Southwest — the nation’s largest discount airline and a price-setter on many routes — had balked, it could have forced other airlines to roll back the increase.

US Airways, Delta, United and Continental confirmed that they raised prices this week, indicating that the airlines are confident about business-travel demand heading into the fall.

This week, United Continental Holdings Inc., US Airways Group Inc. and Southwest reported that an important revenue ratio rose between 6 to 11 percent last month compared with August 2010. That was thanks to full planes and about 10 broad price increases this year.

Baker said the August revenue numbers indicate that demand for corporate travel hasn’t slowed down despite the weak economy. But he predicted that business travel will weaken in the fourth quarter.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

9 tips for insanely busy travelers

Many frequent and hardcore travelers are extremely busy people.

One type of traveler crams business and pleasure trips into single junkets. Another type corrals an entire family through an itinerary that would kill a hardy donkey, let alone an exhausted working parent. Another type micromanages their trip down to the minute such that they’re setting alarms at all times of day to keep themselves on schedule. And then there are those who are so busy they can barely find enough time to take their vacations, much less do all the nuts-and-bolts tasks of planning those vacations.

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We’ve compiled nine tips to make your trips more efficient and to meet the ultimate goal of any busy traveler: to get there on time and with minimal hassle.

Slow down, you move too fast

Before we get started here, let’s take a step back and think about slowing down. I appreciate that to do both of those (step back and slow down) at the same time might be tough for some of us, so grab the arms of your chair and take a deep breath first.


In some cases, folks just need to slow the heck down. It wasn’t so long ago that you’d take a boat to Europe. (Imagine Joe Linecutter dealing with that kind of pace.) Travelers in less hyper-developed countries will continue to experience maddening slowdowns and complete shutdowns; in the nation of the all-night CVS and the 24-hour ATM, some folks are shocked to hear “I’m sorry, sir, we’re closed.”

Time isn’t always going to bend to your will; for your own sanity, you’d better get used to it.

Okay, that’s enough deep breathing and slowing down for a weekday. Let’s put the hammer down and get back up to speed. Here come the tips:

1. Travel WAY light.

This is the one key thing you can do to guarantee easier passage through security, tight connections, terminal shutdowns, backtracking planes and other serious and mundane hazards of post-9/11 travel. It’s also the best way to avoid the many baggage fees that the airlines are now heaping on travelers who dare to bring more than a carry-on.

2. Dress for success at security.

Your favorite traveling clothes and accessories could cause slowdowns at security. Leave the jewelry at home, remove your piercings (if possible) and wear clothing that won’t hold you up in the security line — like slip-on shoes, belts with plastic buckles instead of metal, and simple clothing that doesn’t require elaborate searching.

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3. Expect delays.

A truly busy person has learned how to move projects around, make doctor’s appointments from the train platform, walk the dog while the coffee’s brewing. If you’re this kind of person, you’re probably only truly put out if you can’t get anything done at all. Thus, some traveling items to help you cope with those all-too-frequent delays at the airport:

Program the phone numbers of your airline, car rental company, shuttle service and hotel into your cell phone. If you’ve got time to kill during a flight delay, you can make a few calls and provide your new ETA to anyone waiting for you at your destination. (For even more efficiency, check to see which other airlines also fly your itinerary and program their phone numbers in as well — that way if your original flight is delayed, you can start calling around for alternatives.)

Have a to-do list of productive things you can work on during delays. This might be a good time to read that chapter in your guidebook on the history of the place you’re visiting, or to sketch out a detailed itinerary for the first few days of your trip.

4. Have other folks do some of the work.

Some examples: Ask the front desk at the hotel to call you a cab, make a dinner reservation, or organize a tour or day trip. Book your airfare, hotel and car rental at a single Web site — or, if you don’t mind a little less customization, book an organized vacation package that includes accommodations, transportation, meals and sightseeing.

5. Use a travel agent.

Following on from the previous tip, why not leave all the heavy lifting to someone else? Investing some time in finding a travel agent you can trust and communicate with will save you time (and maybe some money) in the long haul. Consider the difference between scouring countless Web sites for the best deal and itinerary, then making a purchase, then putting together your own travel itinerary versus placing one phone call or e-mail to your travel agent — this could add up to hours of your life on every trip.

6. Ask for seats near the front of the plane.

You’ll get on last, granting you time to get more things done before boarding lockdown, and you’ll get off first. Many airlines now allow you to select your seat online at the time of booking or check-in (sometimes for a fee) — this is the best way to guarantee yourself the seat you want.

7. Know where the airport gas station is.

If you are responsible for returning your rental car with a full tank of gas, ask where the closest gas station is when you rent your car. This way you won’t be driving around looking and hoping for a gas station to fill your tank just before returning.

8. Reuse your packing list.

If you’re the type of traveler that scribbles down a hasty packing list before every trip (and inevitably forgets some vital item each time), get organized by creating a single comprehensive packing list and saving it on your computer. Before each trip, customize the list as necessary and then print out a copy to refer to as you pack. Need help getting started? Use our interactive packing list.

9. Use these time-tested tactics.

I lump these together because we’ve gone over them endlessly at, but they’re always worth repeating:

Fly direct. Connections cost time; missed connections cost lots of time. Avoid layovers where you can.

Fly early in the day; there are fewer delays, cancellations and people in the airport.

Consider alternate airports. They’re less crowded and often better located, and they have fewer flights going in and out — all common sources of delays.

White House seeks to boost post-recession travel

The White House on Wednesday sought to reassure travel industry leaders that the United States cares about tourism and hopes to push the industry as the country recovers from a recession that left many without the means to spend as much on vacations and business trips.

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Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, told executives at the Global Travel Tourism Summit that the U.S. wants to help make travel easy and safe, attract international visitors and spur business.

“All of these investments stem from a single belief: If it’s easier to travel through the United States, more people will choose to do so,” Jarrett said. She was one of three Obama administration officials expected to speak at the summit.

Global tourism took a big dip in 2009 as the economy struggled, with visitors around the world spending $2.33 trillion on domestic travel and $1.03 trillion on international travel, a combined $283.5 billion less than they spent in 2008.

“Where there is commitment, travel and tourism does thrive,” said David Scowsill, the council’s president and chief executive. “It will happen if you’re determined to make it happen.”

Americans will spend an estimated $714 billion this year on domestic travel, while international travelers are expected to spend far less — $171.2 billion — visiting the United States, according to data from The World Travel Tourism Council.

At the summit, Jarrett and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood touted investments in high-speed rail, the creation of a public-private corporation to promote tourism in the United States and agreements to expand international and cargo air routes. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was scheduled to talk about safety at the conference on Thursday.

They also faced questions about America’s commitment to travel given a perception of preferential treatment to other business sectors and an offhand remark Obama made two years ago that irked hoteliers and other companies that took it to mean he was against business travel.

Obama, who was speaking about companies that took bailout money using the taxpayer funds to take trips, has clarified the remarks personally on several occasions.

“We get it — we think all of you contribute mightily. You all contribute a lot to our economy,” LaHood said. “This administration is committed to what you’re all doing. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here this morning.”

LaHood’s comments came after Scowsill said during his opening address that tourism isn’t held in the same regard as other industries in the United States, including banking and automobiles, even though it contributes about as much to the global economy.

The council, a trade group based in the United Kingdom made up of about 100 travel industry CEOs around the world, estimated tourism will directly and indirectly contribute nearly $6 trillion to global domestic product in this year. That number is up from $5.7 trillion last year.

Scowsill said tourism is 9 percent of global domestic product, while autos contribute 8 percent and banking contributes 11 percent.

“Just look at the attention government bailouts and protections those industries attract, whilst we, the tourism industry, receive second-class treatment,” Scowsill said. “We need to change the rules.”

Jarrett said the United States is working to expand its ability to process tourist visas for international travelers, with the State Department hiring 700 new officers in 2010 and creating about 100 consular positions overseas since 2007.

“We’re proud of what we’ve done, and we will work hard to do better in the months and years ahead,” Jarrett said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Fewer hubs mean fewer options for fliers

In the newest round of airline mergers, some airports will lose a significant chunk of scheduled service and, in some cases, their regional hub status.

For travelers in cities such as Cleveland and Memphis, Tenn., that means getting from here to there may soon be more costly and more complicated.

“Business travelers bear the brunt of the impact from hub downsizing,” said Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition. “They travel to call on customers, prospective customers and governments in smaller cities. Fewer frequencies to these cities will result in higher prices, less productive travel and fewer options when there are air travel disruptions.”

In March, Delta Air Lines — which completed a merger with Northwest in 2008 — announced plans to cut about 25 percent of its current service at Memphis International Airport, which had been one of Northwest Airlines’ three major hubs. Airline officials described the move as a necessary cost-cutting measure.

The cuts, to be completed by the end of the year, mean that many business and leisure passengers who enjoyed nonstop flights to and from Memphis will now likely be making a connecting stop at Delta’s major hub in Atlanta, about 300 miles away. “Fares for passengers who previously just transited in Memphis won’t change that much,” said Tom Reich of aviation consulting firm Air Service Partners. “But those customers from the smaller regional markets will be hurt.”

Memphis currently serves about 9.5 million passengers a year, said Larry Cox, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. He expects an 8 percent to 10 percent drop in passengers as a result of Delta’s cuts.

“Delta did what it had to do — eliminate unprofitable flying from Memphis,” said Cox. “We don’t want to lose that service, but it’s understandable in the economy.”

Reich predicts Southwest Airlines, which recently acquired AirTran, will add a few new flights in Memphis, but he believes Delta will continue cutting capacity in Memphis. “It will be a continual unwinding of the hub, maybe over four or five years. That’s a typical strategy. It took US Airways that long in Pittsburgh from the first announcement of cuts until the hub was gone.”

Airline consolidations

US Airways pulled its hub out of Pittsburgh International Airport in 2004. Following the airline’s move, passenger traffic dipped from a 1997 peak of more than 20.7 million passengers to about 13.3 million in 2004 and, by 2009, to just over 8 million. The airport closed its commuter terminal and put up walls at the ends of the A and B concourses so areas of the terminal didn’t look abandoned.

US Airways is still the No. 1 carrier at Pittsburgh, but the airport has spent the last few years diversifying both its mix of carriers and its sources of income. Pittsburgh has attracted new carriers such as Southwest and JetBlue and successfully transformed itself from a transfer hub to a bustling origination and destination airport. More travelers from western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio now use the airport, and in 2010, passenger traffic inched up to about 8.2 million.

The airport’s commuter terminal is now being used as an overflow security checkpoint for the main terminal. “And when business improves,” said airport spokesperson JoAnn Jenny, “we can just take down the walls at the ends of the concourses, flip a switch to turn the electricity on and be up and running there.”

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Pittsburgh would still like to have a hub, Reich said. “But with airlines shrinking and consolidating, they’ve made the best out of a bad situation. You can’t expect any airport to do it better than Pittsburgh has.”

Like Pittsburgh, airports in St. Louis and Cincinnati have also lost their hub status. After American Airlines bought TWA in 2001, it began downsizing its service at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport until the hub was eliminated entirely in 2010. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport was Delta Air Line’s second-largest hub until 2005. Since then, there’s been a steady stream of downsizing, prompting the airport to close an entire terminal and some concourses.

Reich also suspects that Cleveland Hopkins International Airport may lose its regional hub status as a result of last year’s $3 billion merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines.

It’s a road the airport has been down before: Cleveland once served as a hub for both American and United, but now only Continental remains. “Continental is now Cleveland’s third and longest-standing hub,” said airport director Ricky Smith. “So there’s some level of insecurity about the United-Continental merger opening the door for the hub to be scaled back altogether.”

New business for some airports

Where there are losers, of course, there are also winners.

Howard Mann, vice-president of InterVISTAS, a travel and transportation consulting firm, counts airports in Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Baltimore among the winners.

Southwest Airlines began service to Denver International Airport in 2006 with 15 daily flights to three destinations. Although Southwest does not use the traditional hub model, preferring a point to point system, the airline has since expanded to 139 daily flights through Denver as of May 2011. Denver is now the fifth largest station for Southwest and has been the fastest growing market in the carrier’s history.

“At Denver International Airport, Terminal 3 now serves Southwest Airlines flights and it is busier than ever with passengers making connections,” said Mann. “In Fort Lauderdale, Spirit Airlines brought more connections to Terminal 4 and totally changed the dynamic there.”

Now that the merger of Southwest and AirTran is official, Mann predicts plenty of new service and nonstop flight offerings at both Denver and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“The entire country is facing reduced domestic capacity,” said Mann. “Every airport is working toward getting frequency of flight back. Some just have to work harder than others.”

Harriet Baskas is a frequent contributor to, authors the

“Stuck at the Airport” blog

and is a columnist for You can follow her on



High-tech ‘sniffer’ may speed up airport checks

It could be the answer for every weary air traveler, a high-tech screening system that filters passengers according to risk and scans and “sniffs” them as they walk through, taking a fraction of the time of a usual security check.

Customs and immigration could also be combined at the same screening station, curbing queues and increasing time for that all-important pre-flight browsing or duty-free shopping.

At an annual meeting of airline chiefs in Singapore, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) displayed for the first time a mock-up of a three-channel passenger screening system of the future.

Pre-flight screening categorizes people according to risk, which then channels them into “enhanced,” a polite way of saying highest risk, “normal” and then the least risky, which is “known traveler.”

“It’s the future we envision about 5 to 7 years from now,” said Ken Dunlap, IATA’s global director for security and travel facilitation.

“We’re looking at a way of increasing security where we don’t treat every passenger that has a pair of toe-nail clippers as a potential terrorist. We’re looking for a paradigm that is based on looking for bad people, not only bad things,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the IATA meeting in a plush casino resort in central Singapore.

Multiple layers of security checks in recent years have greatly increased the time it takes to get on a plane, leading to longer queues, frayed tempers and worries about invasive pat-downs.

IATA envisions technology developments that rapidly screen passengers, depending on the channel they go through, to cover advanced X-ray, shoe scanning, full-body screening, liquid detection and electronic sniffing for traces of explosives.

“What we’d like to have a passenger do is not break stride and walk right through to the checkpoint,” Dunlap said.

He said 2.8 billion people were going to travel by air this year, rising to an estimated 16 billion by 2050. That meant the current screening systems and procedures had to change.

“For a lot of airports it’s a nightmare scenario,” he said, referring to more passengers and slowing screening times.

Some of the technology still needed development, such as high-tech sniffing technology for traces of explosives.

While it exists now, it still needs refining before it can detect traces of dangerous chemicals in passengers walking through a curtain of air, Dunlap said.

“What we’re trying to do is figure out, do there need to be gates, what type of technology needs to go into this.”

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.