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Skift Business Traveler: So Can We Use Our Phones or Not?

Feb 24, 2014 12:00 pm

Matt Slocum  / Associated Press

A plane passenger checking her cell phone before a flight in Boston. Matt Slocum / Associated Press


What to Know Now

Hey everyone, it’s Doug Lansky from Destination Development Watch filling in for Grant Martin. What’s DDW? For the business traveler, it covers major development projects that cities and large companies are undertaking to attract visitors and improve the travel experience.

When was the last time you listened to a pre-fight safety briefing? When Virgin Atlantic made it entertaining, as they’ve just done again. What about the airlines that don’t make safety fun? I noticed a lively discussion on a business travel forum about pre-flight safety. To paraphrase the debate, it’s certainly valuable information, but is anyone paying attention? Will there come a point when they might just say, “please take a moment to look over the emergency procedures in the safety card” just as they do when they want to inform us about inflight movies?

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Top Story

Want to make a business call in business class? Or a free call in economy? Looks like the Department of Transportation and the Federal Communications Commission are going head to head on this one, according to a recent AP story. The DOT wants to continue the 23-year-old ban on in-flight phone usage. Not because of air navigation safety issues, as we’ve been led to believe for years. Now that the science is out on that, the reason to continue the ban is because of a new threat: our sanity. Many believe cell phone use would disturb fellow passengers… presumably more than it already does on buses, trains, subways, airports and at other pubic venues.

Congress is now scrambling to come up with some legislation to back this. “When it comes to cellphones on planes, tap, don’t talk,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa.

Two months back, the FCC voted to pursue allowing calls, stating that the use of cellphones in-flight wouldn’t interfere with ground-based cellular networks. Recent polls show that travelers and frequent flyers alike find in-flight mobile use would be disruptive. The flight attendant union agrees. In a press release, they stated: “Besides potential passenger conflicts, flight attendants also are concerned that in emergencies, cell phone use would drown out announcements and distract from life-saving instructions from the crew.”

There’s clearly some mixed messages here, not least of which was the lack of objection when airlines installed seat-back phones. When in-flight Wifi began in 2005, passengers started making VoIP calls at altitude (and can still make them). Thanks to the release of a ban last October, we can even hold onto our phones and tablets during takeoffs and landings. Now they’re just trying to figure out if it would be too bothersome to use them with traditional cellular networks (and skirt their in-flight Wifi charges). The winners in this showdown? FaceTime and Skype.

Social Quote of the Day

The Olympics end Sunday. Putin said, “I’m sad to see everyone escape – I mean, get away – I mean, go home.”

- @FallonTonight

airline industry

Airlines

Emirates Launching Daily Service Between Dubai and Chicago: Starting August 5, a Boeing 777-200LR will depart Dubai at 0945 and arrive at Chicago O’Hare at 3:25pm. The return flight departs Chicago at 2035 and lands in Dubai at 7:10pm the following day.  Read more at Business Traveler

United to Use New “Stretched” Dreamliner for Flight to Australia: For United’s Los Angeles – Melbourne flight, the airline will use a new 787-9 that is 20 feet longer and will carry up to 40 more passengers than the current 787-8 model Dreamliner. Read more at USA Today

Thai Airways Expects Further Losses: The Asian carrier is anticipating net loss of about THB12 billion baht (USD$368 million) in 2013 and just as much in 2014 due to new aircraft costs and fewer tourist arrivals because of political unrest Read more at Airwise

A passenger uses his mobile phone while queuing at a Lufthansa check-in desk at Berlin Tegel airport

Airports

Berlin’s Aging Airport Is Growing Faster Than Any Other in Western Europe: Berlin’s Tegel airport has subsisted by chance alone, defying the odds as passenger growth outpaces every other major hub in Western Europe. The airport reported passenger growth of 7.9 percent last year, more than twice the pace of London Heathrow, the busiest hub in Europe. Read more at Skift

Boingo Named Exclusive Wi-Fi Provider for Dubai Airports: Dubai Airports announced earlier this week that Boingo Wireless will become the exclusive Wi-Fi provider for Dubai International and Al Maktoum International airports. A basic service will be available for free to the more than 66 million passengers that pass through the airports annually. Read more at Skift

Google Goes Indoors at Cork Airport: The Irish airport has become the first in the country to make Google Indoor Streetview on Maps available for all public areas of the airport. Read more at Airport World

Tech

Expedia is Stealing Market Share from Priceline’s Name Your Own Price: Expedia fights back. Expedia Inc.’s Hotwire business has suffered at the hands of Priceline’s knock-off product, Express Deals. Now Expedia is doing the hard hitting. While Priceline has made gains in its semi-opaque business — you know the hotel price up-front but not the hotel name — Expedia has been taking share from Priceline’s bidding feature Read more at Skift

Orlando Airport Adds Biometric Kiosks for International Arrivals: A fleet of new self-service kiosks have landed at the Orlando Airport for passengers who have received Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to flying. Passengers can now have their passport automatically read, submit their fingerprints and have their facial image captured — all by machine. Yes, this is the brave new way we say “Welcome to America!” Read more at Future Travel Experience

The Parc Hotel exterior

Hotels

Starwood Is Bringing Westin Hotels to Egypt: Other brands may be squeamish with the current political situation, but Starwood is taking chances on Egypt. The 128-key Westin Cairo Golf Resort & Spa Katameya Dunes is due to open early next year at a luxury residential compound in the New Cairo City district. The resort will feature 27-hole championship golf course, and will be the development’s flagship resort. Read more at Skift

Parc Hotel Expects to Draw Modern Chinese Travelers to Queens: Scheduled to open here in March, the strikingly modern Parc Hotel has a few firsts for the area, like a rooftop lounge with a view of Manhattan’s skyline, and an apparently high in-demand dog spa menu. Plus, the Flushing Meadows neighborhood in Queens, New York is home to the best collection of Chinese restaurants on the East Coast. Read more at Skift

Hotel Rates in Americas Region Are Up 2% with an Average of $112: In addition to the rise in rates, the average occupancy is now 52.5 percent, a 2.4 percent increase over last year, according to data compiled by STR and STR Global. Read more at Hotel News Resource

Your Turn

I wish Grant well as he bounces around China and Thailand and offer him the same blessing I got from my college roommate (now a philosophy professor) before I set off to travel the world: “May your stools remain firm and your bus drivers conscious.”

Tips and Comments

Can be sent to gm@skift.com and @grantkmartin. We publish the Business Newsletter twice a week on Monday and Thursday.

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