Archive for July, 2011

Resale sites give users an out for Groupon remorse

July 27th, 2011 by Mariah

NEW YORK — Wish you hadn’t bought that daily deal for a hot air balloon ride? You’re not alone.
A growing number of shoppers with buyer’s remorse are tapping an emerging resale market to unload the coupons they no longer want from sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

For the uninitiated, daily deal sites offer limited-time discounts of as much as 90% on a variety of products and services. But the elements that make the deals so enticing — the steep price cuts, limited supply and countdown clock — can also be a potent mix for impulse purchases.

The pitfalls are apparent in a key statistic; an estimated 20% of the discounts are never redeemed.

That’s where sites like DealsGoRound.com come into play. There’s no charge for sellers to list an unwanted coupon, but the sites takes a 10% cut if it’s sold. At LifeSta.com, another resale site for daily deals, sellers pay 99 cents plus 8% of the sale price. Buyers don’t pay any fees on either site.

“People buy deals with good intentions,” says Kris Petersen, founder and CEO of DealsGoRound. “But then the planning doesn’t come together or they run out of time to use the deal.”

The emergence of the resale market is a natural outgrowth of the explosive popularity of daily deal sites in the past year. Although Groupon and LivingSocial are by far the biggest and best known players in the space, there are now an estimated 400 similar sites, according Daily Deal Media, which tracks the industry. And this year, consumers are expected to spend an estimated $1.9 billion snapping up bargains, about double the amount spent last year.

The deals are usually tilted toward a higher-end clientele, with offers including discounts on restaurant vouchers, wine tasting tours and shiatsu massages. But circumstances can sometimes prevent shoppers from redeeming their coupons.

After paying $40 for a month of unlimited yoga classes on Groupon, Michael Roman found a more convenient venue for practicing his downward dog. So he decided to list the coupon on DealsGoRound.

He listed the deal for the same amount he paid, with plans to lower the price if it didn’t sell quickly. But the coupon sold within hours.

“The immediacy is what surprised me,” says Roman, a 47-year-old business analyst from Chicago.

If a coupon is popular enough, sellers may even be able to fetch a small profit. Because daily deal sites offer such steep discounts, sellers can list their coupons for more than they paid and still offer a bargain. For buyers, resale sites offer access to deals that are no longer available.

In other cases, sellers may have to ask for less than they paid. This usually happens when a coupon’s expiration date is fast approaching or if the retailer or service is too obscure.

The worst case scenario is that sellers never find a buyer; DealsGoRound says that happens with about a third of its listings.

It’s worth noting that technically, Groupon’s terms of use prohibit the unauthorized resale of its coupons. The fine print on LivingSocial’s site also prohibits the sale of its vouchers. But DealsGoRound, which is based in the same building as Groupon’s Chicago headquarters, notes that it has operated for more than a year without hearing concerns from any daily deal sites. It says it would honor any requests to stop listing coupons from specific sites.

In any case, consumers are flocking to DealsGoRound and Lifesta. The sites both have listings in more than 100 cities, shadowing the markets where Groupon and LivingSocial do most their business. DealsGoRound recently listed about 300 deals in Chicago; LifeSta listed about 500 in San Francisco.

Groupon notes that it doesn’t encourage the use of resale site because it can’t guarantee the authenticity of the coupons sold on them. But both DealsGoRound and LifeSta guarantee buyers refunds if there are any problems with the coupons. The sites require sellers to electronically submit coupon vouchers before they’re listed.

Like eBay, they work as intermediaries so transactions are kept seamless.

“There’s no meeting someone at Starbucks hoping they’ll show up,” said Petersen of DealsGoRound.

Another site, CoupRecoup.com, works more like Craigslist and lets buyers contact sellers directly. CoupRecoup doesn’t offer any guarantees, but sellers may like it because there are no fees.

Before turning to the resale market, however, check out whether it’s possible to get a refund is possible directly from the daily deal site.

LivingSocial gives shoppers five days to return deals for any reason. Groupon doesn’t offer such leeway. But the site says its customer service team works on a case-by-case basis to give buyers refunds or site credit if they can’t redeem a coupon for a legitimate reason. An example might be if a customer couldn’t attend a concert because of a medical emergency.

There’s another little-known clause worth nothing. To comply with federal and state laws, Groupon and LivingSocial say their coupons only lose their promotional value after the expiration date. The coupons are still good for however much the buyer paid for it.

So if a shopper pays $20 for a $40 restaurant voucher, the voucher is still good for $20 even after the expiration date. If customers run into problems, the sites will work with merchants to ensure the coupons are honored.

There are cases where buyers will simply be out of luck, however. For example, if you buy a deal for an event like a concert and it passes, there’s no way to get your money back.

Airlines Raise Fares as FAA Stops Collecting Tax

July 27th, 2011 by Mariah

Amid all the hubbub on Friday over the increasingly nasty debate over what to do with the nation’s debt, you’d be forgiven for missing this other political/spending story—one that has a direct connection to business travelers. The Federal Aviation Administration is out of money.

Congress failed to reach agreement on a measure that would have kept the FAA operating without problems, a move that led the agency to lay off 4,000 workers. None of those employees were air traffic controllers or safety inspectors, so the most critical part of the FAA’s job will continue to be done, but don’t expect anyone at the agency to pick up the phone to handle a passenger complaint.

For a brief moment, it seemed as though passengers might actually see an upside to the budget impasse. Without congressional authorization, the FAA is unable to collect certain taxes on tickets, about $30 on a $300 ticket. But never count out the airlines’ ability to see a chance to make a few bucks. Airlines like American, JetBlue and others raised their prices over the weekend. The hike? About $30 on a $300 ticket.

Study shows U.S. travelers are pressed for time, eager to relax

July 27th, 2011 by Mariah

The latest snapshot of U.S. travelers reveals them to be a stressed-out bunch who remain sensitive to price and continue to suffer from a syndrome known as “time poverty.”

That could prove to be a challenge for Central Florida’s tourism industry, but there is good news as well in the newest research by the Maitland travel research-and-marketing firm Ypartnership. For one thing, the number of people who say they are planning to take a leisure trip in the near future is rising, a sign that demand is returning.

When asked about their travel intentions, 61 percent of those surveyed said they planned to take a vacation by October, up from 56 percent at this time last year. About 14 percent of travelers said they plan to take at least one business trip during the same period, on par with a year ago.

“It’s pretty obvious that the destiny of the travel industry is listing toward leisure,” Peter Yesawich, the company’s chief executive officer, told hoteliers recently during a gathering of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association.

Yesawich drew his conclusions from two sets of data: the Ypartnership/Harrison Group 2011 Portrait of American Travelers and a quarterly poll of traveler intentions.

When it comes to finances, travelers say they’re more concerned this year about just about everything: the cost of gas, the cost of airline tickets, the economy in general. More than a third say they’re using coupons more often, and 31 percent say they’re waiting for sales more frequently.

That reluctance to pay higher prices has manifested itself at Orlando hotels, where occupancy is rebounding more quickly than average room price. Hoteliers managed to raise rates 5.1 percent during the first half of the year, but average daily room rates in Orlando are expected to remain below their peaks in 2007 and 2008 through the end of next year, according to Smith Travel Research, which surveys the hospitality industry.

“We’re still seeing people looking for the best deal,” said Scott Tripoli, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal. “A lot of shopping going on out there, a lot of third-party bookings.”

To lure price-sensitive travelers, some in the industry have turned to time-sensitive discounts — also known as flash sales — that encourage consumers to make quick decisions when booking.

A full 20 percent of leisure travelers said they have purchased a travel service through a flash-sale email, up from 14 percent last year, according to Ypartnership. Private sales and collective buying, on websites such as Sniqueaway.com or via companies like Groupon and LivingSocial, are also catching on.

At the Mona Lisa Suite Hotel in Celebration, flash sales are a part of the marketing plan, used to drive demand during slower months such as August and September. The hotel recently offered a two-night stay in a suite, with complimentary breakfast, for $184.99 a person on Overstock.com’s vacations website.

The short-term sales, generally good for a few hours to a few days, create a sense of urgency and are effective in helping consumers focus on a purchase decision, said Deborah Farish, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

“As long as you have a wonderful offer, something that is intriguing, something the consumer perceives as added value, … you can get great success,” she said. “If you put the flash up, you often see immediate results.”

While flash sales are gaining speed, Yesawich says the “long-form vacation” is losing ground. Pressed for time — something Yesawich terms “time poverty” — travelers are abandoning the weeklong escape and looking instead for close, quick getaways.

Orlando appears to be capitalizing already on that short-haul market: Last year, the destination drew more than half of its 38.3 million domestic visitors from within the Sunshine State, according to data from Visit Orlando, the area’s quasi-private tourism-marketing agency.

When they do arrive at their quick getaway, travelers want to be able to relax as soon as possible. That’s one reason the hotel spa is one of the hottest amenities in the industry, Yesawich said.

And with no time to spare, even during a vacation, consumers expect to have their expectations met.

“Tolerance for anything going wrong today is zero,” Yesawich said.

Health advisories issued for NYC beaches

July 25th, 2011 by Mariah

New York (CNN) – Health advisories were issued for four beaches in New York City Thursday evening as wastewater from a plant continued to discharge into the Hudson River, according to a press release from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

A four-alarm fire at the North River wastewater treatment plant triggered flooding of wastewater into the Hudson River Wednesday morning, after a blaze began in the plant’s engine room.

The health advisories were issued for South Beach, Midland Beach and Cedar Grove Beach on Staten Island, and Sea Gate in Brooklyn, according to the release.

The beaches are not closed but the New York City Department of Health recommends that people not swim or enter the water at those locations. They also recommend that young or elderly people, or anyone who suffers from a medical condition not go near the water at those beaches.

The advisories will last through Monday.

Popular Coney Island Beach was unaffected by the advisories as of Thursday evening.

All employees at the plant were accounted for following the incident with no injuries, New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway told CNN affiliate WPIX.

The facility was not operational on Thursday evening but department staff and contractors were inside the facility working to bring the plant online.

The plant is responsible for treating 120 million gallons of wastewater a day on Manhattan’s west side.

Enraged flier pelts crew with peanuts

July 25th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — An airline passenger is accused of assaulting and intimidating flight attendants after he allegedly became furious when he was asked to put away his electronic cigarette.

 

The incident happened Monday on a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, according to a complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court in Utah.

 

During the boarding process, Pogos Paul Sefilian brought out an electronic cigarette and began to smoke it on board, court papers say.

Electronic cigarettes look like the real thing, but they’re actually battery-operated devices that turn nicotine into a vapor that is inhaled by the user, according to the FDA.

 

When a flight attendant told Sefilian that the electronic cigarette was not allowed on board, he argued with her but put the device away, according to the complaint.

 

But not for long.

 

Sefilian took the e-cigarette out after takeoff and began to smoke it again, prompting the flight attendant to again ask him to put it away, court papers say.

 

“This enraged Sefilian and he began to loudly argue with the flight attendant,” according to the complaint.

 

“Later in the flight, he began to throw peanuts and pretzels at the flight attendant and towards the flight deck door.”

 

As the plane approached Salt Lake City, Sefilian stood and began opening the overhead compartments, court papers say.

 

Flight attendants asked him several times to close the bins and sit down, but he refused and “postured his chest out” at the crew, according to the complaint.

 

FBI agents met the flight when it landed and arrested Sefilian. He is accused of interference with a flight crew.

 

Sefilian was released from jail on Thursday, said Parker Douglas, his attorney. Sefilian’s passport has been taken away, which is customary when somebody is awaiting resolution of a federal case, Douglas said.

 

Sefilian, who lives in Sandy, Utah, has previous convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, Douglas said.

 

The attorney expects the case to be resolved quickly.

Secrets to avoiding flight delays

July 25th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — You’re all packed and ready to go, but when you get to the airport, you find that your airplane isn’t: Your flight is delayed.

That’s not how you want to start your trip (or end it, for that matter), but there are ways to lessen the chance that you’ll be stuck on the ground for long.

 

The fact that airlines are considered to have perform well if “only” a fifth of their flights are delayed shows just how complicated this industry is.

 

With weather, mechanical issues, airspace congestion and even things like crew scheduling getting in the way, running on time 80% of the time is good. The key is figuring out how you can make sure you’re on those 80% of flights.

 

Although there’s never a way to guarantee you’ll be on time — mechanical issues can strike anywhere — there are ways to lessen your chances of being delayed.

 

When booking your flight, try to fly in the morning. Airlines generally have the ability to “reset” the system over night. No, they don’t flip a switch, but a lot of airplanes spend the night on the ground, doing maintenance, etc.

 

So morning flights have a higher likelihood of going on time. By the time the afternoon rolls around, a day of delays and problems may have caught up. Severe weather is also more likely to be a problem in the afternoons during thunderstorm season.

 

Want proof? Take a look at the Department of Transportation’s monthly report.

 

The latest one, which covers delays in May of this year, shows that at the largest U.S. airports, on time arrivals peaked between 7 a.m. and 7:59 a.m., with 89.6% of flights arriving on time. By 2 p.m., that rate dips below 80% for the first time. By 6 p.m., it dips below 70%.

 

The one caveat to this rule? You might want to reverse your flying in San Francisco. San Francisco sees nasty delays when the fog rolls in, and that tends to be more prevalent in the mornings. So try afternoons into San Francisco.

 

You can also look for historical data on your specific flight to see how it generally performs. U.S. airlines are now required to show you on time performance when you’re booking a flight, and that can show some interesting trends.

 

If you’re flying US Airways from Phoenix to Chicago, for example, the 6:30 p.m. departure was on time 81% of the time, while the 3:10 p.m. departure was on time only 61%.

 

You can also go to FlightStats.com for a comprehensive look at historical performance of every flight. It is important to keep in mind, however, that past trends aren’t a guarantee. Anything can delay your flight on any given day.

 

The last thing to consider is airport choice.

 

Certain airports are known as the delay capitals of the world, and most happen to serve New York. Newark, JFK and LaGuardia all tend to sit toward the bottom of the pack in terms of on time performance, so you may want to consider White Plains if you’re heading north of the city or Islip if you’re on Long Island. For most, however, there aren’t great alternatives in New York.

 

San Francisco is often down there as well with its foggy days, but it has good alternatives in Oakland and San Jose, depending on where you’re going. If you’re on a connecting flight, it’s even easier to avoid some of these hot spots.

 

Other airports can have seasonal issues. Dallas/Fort Worth can get those nasty spring and summer storms that snarl operations, as can Atlanta. Chicago’s O’Hare can be tough at any time of year, but its recent opening of a new runway, with more on the way, has eased congestion.

 

In general, when the weather goes south, airlines have to look at canceling and delaying some flights to thin out the schedule. The flights from smaller towns tend to get impacted more, while international flights have priority. That’s another thing to keep in mind.

 

In the end, it’s important to remember that there’s no way to completely avoid delays. If, however, your schedule is flexible, there are ways to improve your odds.

Small towns could be hit hard by Delta cutbacks

July 21st, 2011 by Mariah

New York (CNN) — Sioux City, Iowa, had a recent concert with Elton John and Cee Lo Green.

Acting Mayor Tom Padgett says it’s not clear how that would happen in the future without airline service.

The city is one of 24 around the country that Delta Airlines has announced it can no longer afford to service.

“Loss of all air service would be devastating, though it is my belief that one way or another we will get an airline,” Padgett said.

Facing mounting cost pressures, including the cost of fuel and losing some $14 million a year, the airline plans to cut flights to small cities that are not profitable for it anymore. The cuts would have a huge effect on the economy and be a devastating blow to small towns mostly in the Midwest.

Other affected cities are in Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Delta says flights in these markets on average leave with 52% of the seats filled, with some locations as low as 12%. This compares to a domestic system load factor of 83% for 2010.

Weak demand in some markets has led to flights occasionally operated with no passengers on board.

Delta has filed a 90-day notice to terminate service to the cities and is retiring the Saab turboprops and some 50-seat jet aircraft, planes that allowed the airline to fly small numbers of passengers.

“We have been talking to these communities for over a year and trying to prepare them for the change,” Delta spokeswoman Kristin Baur said.

Delta was flying to these cities in conjunction with the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, created to ensure small communities continue to have access to passenger air service.

In some cases, airline service in EAS markets is subsidized by the government to the tune of $200 million a year. Those subsidies are scheduled to expire in 2013 if not approved by Congress.

Delta says it is looking for additional funding in nine markets and looking at other commuter airlines to pick up the slack in other markets. It’s working with Great Lakes Airlines to take over some of the Midwest cities that would lose service, Delta said.

Mayor James Wallin of Brainerd, Minnesota, says the local government spent $21 million to refurbish the second-largest airport in Minnesota over the last several years.

“We have a lot to lose if we don’t continue providing airline service,” he said.

Delta says it will continue to serve the affected communities through its Delta Connection partners until the Department of Transportation selects a replacement carrier and appropriate funding is available. In some cities, Delta is coordinating with other carriers to bid on the routes.

Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, Mayor Richard Johnson says he is disappointed but insists his town will still receive service because Delta is contractually obligated to find a replacement provider until its contract with the town expires. Losing a “key, vital service” for the National Guard training facility would be unfortunate, and the Guard would be “greatly inconvenienced” by losing the airline, he said.

All the major airlines have been cutting back due to the recession and high fuel prices. Now the industry remains focused on 29 major hubs and the cities that feed those hubs, which accounts for 70% of all passenger traffic, according to Delta.

Delta plans to reduce its capacity this fall by 4% and retire 140 aircraft. It has reduced its facility costs at 170 airport locations and 10 cargo locations across the system, saving more than $80 million annually.

These are the cities Delta says would be affected:

Muscle Shoals in Alabama; Fort Dodge, Mason City, Sioux City, Waterloo in Iowa; Hibbing, Alpena, Iron Mountain, Pellston, Sault Ste Marie, Escanaba in Michigan; Thief River Falls, International Falls, Brainerd, Bemidji in Minnesota; Greenville, Tupelo, Hattiesburg in Mississippi; Butte in Montana; Devils Lake, Jamestown in North Dakota; Pierre, Watertown, Aberdeen in South Dakota.

New technology will enhance privacy on body scanners, TSA says

July 21st, 2011 by Mariah

Washington (CNN) — The Transportation Security Administration is taking steps beginning Wednesday to eliminate the actual image of passengers in body scanners at airports, replacing them with a generic outline of a person.

The new software on its millimeter-wave Advanced Imaging Technology machines is designed to enhance privacy but maintain security standards.

It “will auto-detect items that could pose a potential threat using a generic outline of a person for all passengers,” according to a statement from the TSA.

“If no potential threats are detected, an ‘OK’ appears on the monitor with no outline, and the passenger is cleared,” the statement said.

TSA Administrator John Pistole said the new software is “something we’ve been working on for quite a while and we’re now to the point where, having done lab testing, we are ready to deploy.”

The software is similar to the previous software in terms of detection capability, Pistole said, but it addresses the privacy concerns that had been raised about screeners seeing details of passengers’ bodies.

The combination of the imaging technology with the new software “provides us with the best possible security with the best possible privacy,” he said.

Passengers will be able to view the same outline a TSA officer sees, and it will no longer be necessary for a separate TSA officer to view the image in a remotely located viewing room.

Currently, there are nearly 500 imaging technology units at 78 airports in the United States and more units will be deployed this year, the TSA said. Some of the units use the millimeter-wave technology, while others use “backscatter” technology.

Make the most of Machu Picchu

July 21st, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — It’s a hold-your-breath kind of place. Machu Picchu, one of the world’s greatest treasures, this weekend marks the 100th anniversary of its rediscovery by explorer Hiram Bingham.

This majestic and mysterious ancient Inca settlement sits in splendid repose high on an Andean mountaintop. The well-preserved site is the leading tourist attraction in Peru, the third-largest country in South America.

If you are planning to experience its magic, here are some things you’ll need to know:

Getting within range

Most visitors fly to Lima, Peru’s capital, then fly southeast to Cusco, located in a deep Andes valley.

You’ll need to spend a few days there to get acclimated to the higher elevation, nearly 11,000 feet above sea level. Cusco was once the capital of the Inca world, but today it’s a city that comfortably caters to the hordes of visitors who stop over.

After catching your breath, it’s time to travel to Machu Picchu. Most tourists take the train and there are different classes of service, from inexpensive to luxury. If you’re taking the train, make your reservations early, particularly in the high season from May to September.

Hardy folks will hike the Inca Trail, which can take three or four grueling days to complete and is no walk in the park. The number of people allowed on the trail each day is limited, so you’ll need to book with an Inca Trail outfitter months in advance and arrange for permits.

Reaching the mountain

Trains take explorers to Aguas Calientes, a neat and tidy town at the base of the mountain where Machu Picchu rests.

You buy two important tickets in the town center: bus tickets to Machu Picchu and entrance tickets for the ruins themselves (you can’t buy tickets to the ruins at the entrance).

Purchase Machu Picchu tickets at the Machu Picchu Cultural Center in Aguas Calientes. It’s best to bring cash for the tickets, although there is an ATM in town. You can also buy advance tickets to Machu Picchu in Cusco at the Institute of National Culture. Tickets cost about $44.

Buy tickets for the bus before you get on at the ticket office near the departure point. The ticket office opens and the first buses head to Machu Picchu around 5 a.m. The bus ride up the mountain takes 20 minutes but seems like forever, negotiating the stomach-churning switchback road to the top.

Seeing Machu Picchu

It is also called the Citadel, imperious and fortresslike on the mountain summit.

Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain” in Quechua, the language of the Incas. This old mountain is often covered in clouds, and the sheer drop at the edges of the ruins can be unsettling.

There are two very distinct sections. The agricultural area leads to the impressive urban sector, where the religious, astronomical and residential structures still stand. The entire site is about two square miles.

The Incas worshipped what they knew and built an impressive Temple of the Sun high above the residential zone. The days of the solstice were deeply special and spiritual to them.

But there are also impressive places where the residents lived and worked, even spent time in prison for offenses committed.

What’s the mystery?

The Citadel is not only enshrouded in mist but also in mystery. No one knows precisely its genesis, age, or intended purpose, how many lived there or why they left.

Bingham found Machu Picchu — purely by accident — on July 24, 1911, while heading a Yale University expedition to Peru. He was camping along the river near Aguas Calientes when he met a local campesino, or farmer, named Melchor Arteaga. He led Bingham up from the river to what were then jungle-covered ruins atop the Old Mountain. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Bingham was actually looking for the famed ruins of Vilcabamba, some 60 miles away, known as the last stronghold of the Incas.

The Incas were chased relentlessly by Spanish conquistadors, who began subjugating Peru in 1533. The Spanish probably never knew about Machu Picchu, either, because they pursued the Incas in the opposite direction.

The best way to experience the Citadel

Machu Picchu is too important to rush. Most tourists spend part of just one day at the site. They arrive in Aguas Calientes in midmorning by train, visit the Citadel for a few hours, then catch the late afternoon trains back to Cuzco.

I think it’s worth staying over in the town known for its hot springs and cold-running rivers. Aguas Calientes offers plenty of shops, restaurants and hotels.

Begin your visit early in the day and stay late, when crowds thin and you’ll feel you have Machu Picchu all to yourself. The ruins are open from dawn to dusk every day.

A stay of two days is optimal. On the first you can see every nook and cranny of the ancient settlement. Then on the second day, you can attempt to climb the mountains adjoining Machu Picchu. One is Huayna Picchu, which means “Young Mountain.”

Healthy hikers can make the trip in about an hour, but the path is very steep. If you can’t make that trek, there are two smaller peaks: Huchu Picchu, which is the smallest, and Wychu Picchu.

Machu Picchu is unquestionably a popular place. In fact, many scientists worry that the relentless crush of crowds is harming the ruins and could cause the Citadel to fall down the side of the mountain as soils shift

But for now the crowds still come. Every day is unique and mystical at Machu Picchu. Take your time and see it in all its glory.

How the 787 will change the way we fly

July 14th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) – Japan’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrived with much fanfare. Greeted by reporters, fans and All Nippon Airways staff carrying a “Welcome to Japan” banner, the plane touched down at Haneda airport Sunday morning. Applause broke out as the pilots stepped off the plane, emblazoned with the ANA’s blue and white logo.

Too bad it was three years late to the party.

Boeing originally planned to deliver the world’s first Dreamliner to ANA in May 2008, before a series of technical problems led to repeated delays.

The plane which landed on Sunday isn’t in Japan to stay. Rather it is on a week-long test run. The first permanent delivery of a plane is expected to be in August or September, with the first passenger flight coming a month later, according to ANA.

 

That will be the true test of Boeing’s long-anticipated aircraft and the first chance to see how the high-tech plane will actually change the passenger experience.

The biggest impact from the Boeing 787 should come from its range. The first mid-size, long range airplane, it will allow airlines to open up routes where they don’t have the passengers numbers to justify a larger plane like a Boeing 747 or an Airbus A380.

“An A380 is only viable with 400-500 people,” says Myles Goeller of aviation consulting group Seabury. “The Dreamliner is fantastic in that it offers very good seat economics in very small aircraft.”

Goeller says in theory that means airlines will be able to provide more flexibility, either by bypassing hubs to offer more direct flights, or adding flights to provide more schedule options. ANA has said the first route will be Haneda-Okayama or Haneda-Hiroshima, though it plans to deploy the plane “across its route network.”

Changes are in store for passenger comfort. Boeing says passengers will feel more refreshed thanks to the higher humidity and higher cabin pressure on-board the aircraft, helping reduce common frequent flier complaints like dry eyes and headaches. There is no way to verify those claims until the first round of travelers come off long-haul flights.

The plane also has bigger windows that can be automatically tinted and bigger overhead compartments. ANA is even installing a bidet-equipped toilet, ever popular in Japan. For a glimpse at ANA’s recently unveiled plans for the interiors, check out their 787 website.

This isn’t the airline I signed up for

July 14th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — When I worked at America West, we had a codesharing partnership with Continental. Friends would call me, confused.

 

“I bought a ticket on America West, but there’s a Continental airplane here. What’s going on?” This was common back then, but it has become a bigger issue with the growth of codesharing — airlines selling flights operated by partners as their own.

 

While disclosure of the airline operating the flight is required by the government, it’s still easy to miss if you aren’t paying close attention.

 

In fact, if you book a ticket on one airline, say United, it’s possible you’ll never set foot on a United plane. Let’s say you want to fly from Philadelphia to Krakow, Poland. You can book United flight 2216 connecting to United 9254 in Newark before finally getting on United 8756 in Munich. But you’re never stepping foot on United.

 

The first flight is actually operated by Piedmont Airlines. Piedmont is a regional affiliate of US Airways, so it will say US Airways Express on the side of the airplane, but it’s operated by Piedmont. Since US Airways and United are partners, United sells it with its own flight number. The second flight is operated by United partner Lufthansa. And the last flight is operated by Lufthansa CityLine, a regional subsidiary of Lufthansa. Confused yet?

 

 

For those who don’t care who they fly as long as they get there, this isn’t much of an issue. But for others, it’s a real problem. People have expectations of what they’ll get when they fly a certain airline and all these airlines offer different experiences. So what can you do? Here are some tips:

 

 

• Before you book, make sure you see which airlines are operating the flights. At a glance, if it’s a high flight number (like United 9254), it’s probably operated by another airline. Airlines usually operate the lower flight numbers themselves. But as mentioned, it is required by law that the operating airline is disclosed, so you will see it somewhere before you book.

 

• Once you find which airline is operating the flight, go to that airline’s website directly to learn more about what it offers onboard. Most airlines will provide information on in-flight entertainment, seating and meals on their own sites. But in this case, what you find on United.com won’t apply to these other airlines.

 

• If you’re concerned about legroom, go to seatguru.com and look up the airplanes for the airline operating the flight. Both Delta and Air France operate the Boeing 777, for example, but on some planes, Air France squeezes in an extra seat in each row. If you can’t figure out which plane it is, try seatexpert.com, where you can enter your flight number to find out.

 

• If safety records are your concern, I like aviation-safety.net. In general, U.S. airlines don’t partner with airlines that have poor safety records (at least, not currently). But if it’s an airline you don’t know and you want to know more, this website will give you accidents and incidents for all airlines with reasons behind each one (if known).

 

• Once you’ve booked, get all the information about the operating airline’s flights. For example, United 2216 is actually US Airways 4552 and United 9254 is Lufthansa 413. This will make it easier to find in the airport.

 

• Also, try to get the record locator (usually a six-character confirmation number) from each operating airline. When you book with an airline, you’ll get that airline’s record locator, but different airlines use different systems. If you try to use that United number with Lufthansa, it won’t work. United will actually give some of these on its website, but most airlines won’t. So call the operating airline once you’re ticketed, give them your flight information and name, and they can tell you what confirmation code they use to identify you. You may need that to check in online and it will be helpful if things go wrong.

 

 

Codesharing is just a part of flying these days, but it doesn’t have to be painful. Just educate yourself before you go, and you’ll know exactly what to expect.