Today we are launching the Skift Business Traveler Newsletter, where twice a week we’ll be rounding up some of the best news, information, tips and tools focused on those out in the trenches and racking up miles.
Below, you’ll get a pulse on the daily heartbeat of what it means to be a smart business traveler, how to be agile about it by being on top of the news about airlines, hotels and other sectors of travel, to real-life dispatches from our correspondents and friends around the planet. We’ll also be taking your feedback on the industry and promoting a weekly discussion what’s good and bad in the industry. You’ll see more of that in the Social and Your Turn sections.
We’re going to aim to publish this twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday and build a separate subscriber base focused on business travelers.
Subscribe to the feed here and hit up [email protected] or @grantkmartin with tips and comments down the road.
Christmas is here early for tech-savvy travelers as the airline industry rapidly expands the frontiers into which you can now use your personal electronics. Early this month, the FAA removed the restriction on using electronics under 10,000 feet and most American airlines quickly changed their policies. European airlines are following suit.
We’re now getting news that airlines are allowing Wi-Fi usage even below 10,000 feet. Most airlines are restricted by the ground-based service that Gogo, their inflight wireless carrier uses, but Southwest Airlines just announced that its service, which uses satellite connections, will work from gate to gate. All this should lead to better productivity while in transit — or more distractions. You decide.
Social Quote of the Day
Americans will leave an avg. of 12 paid vacation days unused this yr. Shameful!
— Veronica Stoddart (@wanderlust13) November 19, 2013
American to let fliers bid on first-class upgrades: American Airlines is testing a new option that allows customers to bid on upgrades to their flight’s first or business class cabins. AA says it initially is offering the program on a trial basis for for flights between specific markets, though the company declined to specify which markets are included in the trial. Read more at USA Today
US Airways to Leave Star Alliance March 1, Join Oneworld One Month Later: US Airways plans to leave Star Alliance, an airline alliance that includes United Airlines and Lufthansa, on or about March 1, 2014 and will become a member of the oneworld alliance approximately one month later, according to two people familiar with the matter. Read more at Frequent Business Traveler
Almost Half of Economy Class Flyers Now Willing to Pay More for Space: Forty-one percent of economy passengers are willing to pay more to get better comfort within economy class and 34 percent of frequent travelers say they research seat size (think SeatGuru and RouteHappy) before purchasing a flight. Read more at Skift
Strangers in the PreCheck line: Have you ever been in the PreCheck line along with someone who has no idea why they are there? Turns out it’s because the TSA has vetted them, allowing them to use the PreCheck lane to relieve the pressure on the regular lanes. Read more at The Ticket
U.S. Airports Install Power Outlets to Keep Device-Addicted Flyers Happy: Airline passengers with electronic devices parched for pre-flight power often get creative about charging up their gadgets. To address these and other service issues for travelers, airports across the country have been rapidly expanding the number – and type – of accessible power sources. Read more at Skift
TSA Pre✓™ Expands to Include JetBlue Airways: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced the expansion of TSA Pre✓™ to include eligible customers of JetBlue Airways who utilize the airline’s mobile app. Today’s announcement makes a total of nine domestic carriers. Read more directly from the TSA
Google Travel Boss Defends Lack of Progress, Deflects Criticism: Plenty of people in the travel industry are underwhelmed about the seeming lack of market clout of Google Flight Search and Google Hotel Finder, but to Jeremy Wertheimer, vice president of engineering at Google Travel, the “rates of change” are all just fine. Read more at Skift
Star Fighter bus will let you play games with real joysticks: Thank you Japan for oshizushi, nigirizushi, manga, sukiyaki, anime, Akira Kurosawa, Majinga Z, katsu, shabu-shabu, tentacles, Gatchman, and now this space bus that belongs in sci-fi movie. Sure it’s gimmicky, but where else can you find a bus with a flight joystick to play games on each seat?. Read more at Kotaku
Skyscanner Is Making Its First Real Attempt to Crack Metasearch in the U.S.: Why should any traveler use Skyscanner rather than Kayak, Fly.com, TripAdvisor, Google Flights, Hipmunk, Room 77 or anyone else? “You will get better and more accurate results,” Williams contends, although there would be lots of disagreement with that. Read more at Skift
Bitcoin hits the road from limos to hotels: Bit by bit, fans of bitcoin—the virtual currency currently experiencing wild fluctuations in value—are finding ways to use the digital dollars for travel. Read more at CNBC
Mandarin Oriental offers free internet worldwide for loyal guests: Mandarin Oriental Hotels are a chain of 45 luxury hotels in 26 countries. Now, internet is free for any guest who books through Mandarin Oriental direct channels on a published rate and completes a customer profile for Mandarin Oriental. Read more at Loyalty Traveler
Downtown Vegas gets brand new hotel: The new Downtown Grand hotel and casino in Vegas has 12 restaurants. The 634-room Downtown Grand is already becoming a game-changer for the neighborhood. Read more at USA Today
Elites and Millennials Make Hotels Rethink How They Do Loyalty Programs: Hotels cater to elite members of their loyalty programs because they bring in lots of revenue, but a new study shows that even the elite aren’t overly loyal to a particular brand. The study also points out that hotel guests are skewing younger, and that Gen Y-ers, travelers age 24-36, now make up the largest group, accounting for 33% of guests. Read more at Skift
You Can Now Book Hotels Through Twitter: Loews Hotels are now letting users book hotel rooms completely through Twitter, removing the need for an online booking portal. Users need only tweet to @Loews_hotels and use the hashtag #bookloews for an online agent to respond to the tweet and sort out the details. Read more at Forbes
It was a surprise to see Johnny Jet, an old friend, sporting a handsome mustache on Facebook last night. My sources tell me that he’s using Movember as a cover, but I think we all know that he’s preparing for his cover on Details.
Tips and comments