Skift Take

Between travel bans, actual and potential laptop bans, and stepped-up security measures, the last nine months have given us whiplash. Business travelers who have had to navigate these various changes must be wondering what the U.S. government will come up with next.

The Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report is our weekly newsletter focused on the future of corporate travel, the big fault lines of disruption for travel managers and buyers, the innovations emerging from the sector, and the changing business traveler habits that are upending how corporate travel is packaged, bought, and sold.

It’s only been a few months since the U.S. laptop ban was lifted in July after making headlines for most of the spring and early summer.

The security measure, which applied to U.S.-bound travelers leaving from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa, required personal electronics larger than a mobile phone to be placed into checked baggage. That caused issues for business travelers who often work through their flights and who are supposed to keep devices with potentially sensitive business information close at all times. Safety advocates also spoke out about the danger of laptops overheating and starting fires.

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration weighed in on that threat, filing a paper with a U.N. agency that sets safety standards for global aviation. Citing concern about lithium-ion batteries, the FAA recommended passengers not be allowed to pack large electronic devices in checked bags on international flights without specific permission from airlines. That means the FAA is saying passengers should do the exact opposite of what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was requiring earlier this year.

No ban is yet in place, and it’s not clear whether the FAA’s recommendation will be accepted and enforced. Also unknown is whether individual countries might implement such rules for domestic flights. Whatever happens, business travelers and travel managers should pay attention — and government officials should better communicate how they are weighing safety and security concerns with the policies they propose.

In other news this week, we have stories about the continued fight between Uber and Lyft to get more customers. Lyft is gaining more riders but remains a distant runner-up. And Uber made itself more relevant to customers by announcing a new credit card. Rewards can, of course, be used for rides.

— Hannah Sampson, News Editor

Business of Buying

Lyft Continues Steady Rise in Popularity Among Business Travelers: Signs point to an ongoing malaise for Uber as Lyft gains more market share. But the smaller ridesharing company still lags behind in overall usage by business travelers. Read more at Skift

IHG Is Planning to Create a New Luxury Brand: IHG has fewer brands in its portfolio compared to most of its competitors, so adding a couple more makes sense. Read more at Skift

Interview: ANA CEO on His Star Wars Strategy and Why Sushi Doesn’t Fly: Other airlines serve sushi, but not ANA, Japan’s largest carrier. Why? ANA takes its food seriously, and its chefs don’t think sushi tastes right on planes, so it serves sashimi instead. That’s attention to detail. Read more at Skift

Air France-KLM May Add a Surcharge for Bookings Via Global Distribution Systems: Experts have been expecting Air France-KLM to follow competitors Lufthansa and IAG in tacking on a charge to bookings made through middlemen such as Amadeus and Sabre. The question now is who else might join? And how might the global distribution systems respond? Read more at The Company Dime

Safety + Security

The U.S. Urges Airlines to Ban Laptops in Checked Bags: Watchdog groups questioned the safety of transporting large numbers of laptops in checked baggage when the U.S. and UK governments banned those devices in the cabin on some international flights. The message from the FAA now shows that those groups were right to be concerned. Read more at Skift

5 Questions on the Latest Laptop Ban Proposal: Experts said it was dangerous for flyers to check their laptops during the first international laptop ban. The U.S. government has now reversed its stance, but it seems implausible that international aviation authorities will take action. Read more at Skift

Global Airlines Add Security Interviews on U.S.-Bound Flights: Enhanced security procedures for international flyers headed to the U.S. seems like compromise between U.S. security agencies and global airlines. The question is whether the strategy will have a negative effect on passenger experience going forward. Read more at Skift

Disruption + Innovation

United Airlines Struggles to Keep Its Polaris Promises: Did United Airlines promote its new Polaris cabin faster than was prudent? The answer is probably yes. But remember, in 2016, United was losing high-value customers to competitors. It likely wanted to make a splash by highlighting its future plans. Read more at Skift

Uber Enters the Loyalty Game With New Credit Card: It makes sense for Uber to enter the credit card and loyalty arena. This card could be a solid alternative for frequent travelers who don’t want to shell out a large annual fee. Read more at Skift

High-Speed Rail Plans Materialize Between Baltimore and Washington: Building high-speed rail is a terribly slow process in the U.S., but this 15-minute stretch between Baltimore and D.C. is a good start. It would be welcome news for day-trippers and business travelers. But extending it to New York? Now we’re talking. Read more at Skift

Why Do Airlines Still Make Passengers Check In for Flights?: Let’s remember that this is not a new concept. Continental Airlines introduced automatic check-in about a decade ago, and while some customers liked it, it did not make travel more enjoyable for most travelers. Read more at Skift


Skift editors Hannah Sampson [[email protected]] and Andrew Sheivachman [[email protected]] curate the Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Thursday.

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Tags: business travel, corporate travel, ctir

Photo credit: A man holds his laptop at a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at O'Hare International Airport in this photo from 2016. After an earlier laptop ban forced some travelers coming to the U.S. to put large electronics in checked luggage, a new proposal from the U.S. says laptops should not be allowed in cargo at all. Kiichiro Sato / Associated Press

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