Delta Speeds Passengers To Their Flight In Sports Cars

Porsche
Automotive Rhythms, Flickr

We’ve all seen (or been) those passengers running through the airport, suitcase flying behind them, as they desperately try to make their connecting flight. Now, Delta Airlines has come up with a solution to get connecting passengers to their aircraft as quickly as possible — whiz them there in a Porsche.

Passengers that are running late for their next flight have been surprised to find themselves shuttled across the tarmac in a $50,000 luxury sports vehicle. Delta says Porsche donated eight of the cars as part of a marketing campaign, and the perk helps to keep fliers happy.But don’t get too excited yet — the service is only available to super elite frequent fliers, and even then, you have to be running really late for your flight. Although that’s just a small percentage of all air passengers, those frequent fliers who travel more than 125,000 miles per year are where the airlines make a lot of their money, so ensuring those customers are satisfied is good for business.

The Porsche rides program is currently available in Atlanta, but is being expanded to New York, Minneapolis and Los Angeles this month.

Airlines Can’t Keep Up With Customers’ Social Media Complaints

Flickr user Patcard

Days after the son of an irate passenger bought a promoted tweet to shame British Airways, a second European airline is feeling the sting of a social media barrage aimed at its alleged ineptitude.

Air Berlin flight 8109 took off on August 9 without a single piece of checked baggage for the 200 passengers on board. Making matters even worse, it couldn’t locate any of the bags for weeks, causing a storm of Twitter complaints and a Facebook page devoted to the debacle.

That one incident would be bad enough, but according to Slate.com, Air Berlin also lost the musical instruments of two high-profile touring bands, one from Sweden and the other from Canada. The Toronto-based Metz vented their frustrations on Twitter, first to announce their gear was lost and again, two weeks later, to announce they’d finally recovered their instruments.

Scrolling down the airline’s Twitter page, visitors are met with apology after apology by the airline for missing baggage. Compliments on great service are hard to find.

How much of an impact are the angry Facebook posts and tweets really having? It’s obvious from the most recent complaints that Air Berlin hasn’t fixed the problems. Despite Hasan Syed’s tweet which received more than 25,000 impressions, British Airways has yet to respond publicly. Doctor Who and Torchwood fan favorite actor John Barrowman let his 217,000 followers know when he had an issue with a late departure and faulty seat on his Delta Airlines flight, but didn’t provide a promised update of a potential resolution.

From personal experience, I can say angry tweets aimed at Delta Airlines for a disastrous overseas flight in June never received a response. (Although to be fair, they did respond later after my wife logged an official complaint. More than 30 days after the initial complaint, but hey, Delta is rarely on time for anything.)

Have you used social media to lodge a complaint against an airline? What’s been the end result? Does social media shaming work or are old-fashioned complaint calls still the best way to vent your frustration?

Man’s Response To $1,400 Overweight Baggage Fee Prompts Police Action

overweight fees
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Lockwood (This isn’t the luggage in question, but you get the idea)

Police in New York and Seattle were called in to investigate when a man ditched his luggage in order to avoid overweight baggage fees, NBC reports.

The unidentified traveler was going to take Delta Air Lines Flight 1452 from Seattle to JFK when he was told his baggage was overweight and he would have to pay $1,400 in fees. The man decided that whatever he was lugging across the continent wasn’t worth that much money and left it behind. When the abandoned bags were spotted it sparked a security alert and the check-in area was closed for two hours.

The passenger, blissfully unaware, flew to JFK only to find police waiting for him. He was questioned and released after police decided that he hadn’t intended on causing a panic.

It’s unclear how many bags this guy had or where he was going, but a look at Delta’s overweight fees show that he was probably carrying his prize antique brick collection to display at the London Brick Fair this summer. No, that doesn’t really exist.

Worried about getting slapped with extra fees? Check out our guide to packing your luggage efficiently. Or you can simply wear 70 items of clothing to avoid overweight baggage fees.

Delta Opens Terminal 4 At New York’s JFK (VIDEO)

Courtesy Delta Air Lines.

Things are looking up for those traveling through New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Delta Air Lines. After years of planning, and as part of a $1.4 billion investment, the carrier and partners opened a shiny new terminal today.

Under the 360,000-square-foot expansion, Delta says that the company not only renovated check-in areas and other facilities, but also added nine new gates, new retail and dining offerings, a 24,000-square-foot Delta Sky Club with a rooftop terrace and an improved baggage handling system. In addition to the expansion opening today, a second phase of redevelopment will bring 11 more gates, upping the total number to 27 upon completion in summer 2015.

The renovated terminal primes Delta to take (even more) advantage of the largest hub of aviation activity in the United States, New York. Delta says the company provides service to more destinations from New York than any other airline, and is also investing more than $160 million to expand and update their terminals at LaGuardia Airport.

To get a better look at JFK’s Terminal 4, check out the video after the jump.

Speed Through Airport Security Checkpoints, One Way Or Another

airport security

As airport security checkpoints get more crowded and lines get longer, travelers are arriving earlier than ever to make that flight on time. Arrive late; miss the flight. Once at the gate, passengers may wait longer than normal as airlines juggle the start of boarding with actual anticipated takeoff time. Keeping passengers in the aircraft or on the ground too long may result in a hefty fine. While the aircraft may be ready and the flight crew willing, passengers may face delays beyond their control caused by budget cutbacks.

Frequently flying out of Orlando International Airport (MCO), I see crowds on most days at just about any time as vacationers come in town to visit Walt Disney World, Universal Studios or any one of a number of central Florida attractions. Frankly, the thought of the process being slowed down by budget cuts is terrifying to those who work out of that airport.

How terrifying? Enough to make frequent fliers re-think their game plans and look for new ways to expedite the boarding process.

Take The Express Lane
airport securityI recently re-joined CLEAR, the biometric fast pass through security at MCO. I had been a member in 2005 when the service had over 200,000 members. But shortly after a laptop with the names and detailed information of 33,000 CLEAR customers was reported stolen in 2008, the service shut down. Starting back up in 2010, I had thought about joining again but was a bit apprehensive about the whole program and lines seemed to move along pretty well at MCO anyway.

Then came talk of sequestering, budget cuts and TSA downsizing, which quickly reminded me just how much I hate lines, slow people and inefficiency. Example: On a rolling sidewalk at the Minneapolis/St Paul airport, clearly marked stand to the right, walk to the left, I made a point of educating our children that “there is no ‘mosey’ lane kids.”

Primed to take the bait of a LivingSocial CLEAR trial offer ($18 for three months, spouse included), we stopped by the CLEAR kiosk not long ago to complete registration. I answered a variety of security questions and gave prints of fingers and thumbs, along with a retina scan and a copy of my passport and driver’s license. The process took about five minutes. From what I could see, that was far longer than those observed going through the CLEAR security checkpoint.

Stopping briefly to verify their identity then right on through the normal x-ray scan without any wait has the potential to save passengers time. One TSA officer told me, without hesitation, that amount of time could be “hours if staffing is reduced.”

The main drawback with CLEAR is that it is only offered in a few airports. Besides Orlando International Airport (MCO), CLEAR service is available at Denver International Airport (DEN), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Westchester NY Airport (HPN).

Will I keep CLEAR after the three-month trial? Hard to say; at an annual rate of $179 per person, frequent fliers working out of a CLEAR-enabled airport will probably have no trouble justifying the price. As reports of actual government cutbacks cause longer lines, even less-than-frequent fliers could suddenly become interested, as I was.

For travelers not based by a CLEAR-enabled airport, there are other options though. To get there, we need to start by thinking outside of the United States.

Global Entry Program
airport securityInternational arrivals can speed up the process of entering the United States by using automated kiosks at most major U.S. airports via the Global Entry Program. I signed up for this one too because I have several international flights coming up in the next few months. The $100 fee is good for five years.

One of several Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler Programs, including SENTRI (expedites crossing between the U.S. and Mexico), and NEXUS (expedites processing between the U.S. and Canada), Global Entry requires a fairly detailed online application to begin.

You’ll need your valid passport, driver’s license and a clean criminal record to get conditionally approved. A face-to-face appointment at an airport processing center completes the application.

TSA Pre
airport securityThe TSA Pre✓ program allows some frequent fliers, invited by their participating host airline (Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines or US Airways), along with those enrolled in a Trusted Traveler Program, to speed through the airport screening process for domestic flights.

Odds are that if you qualify for the program through an airline, you already know about it. Those who don’t make it via airline invitation can back up to the Global Entry Program, pay the $100 for five years and enjoy the benefits.

Once enrolled in one of CBP’s eligible Trusted Traveler Programs, like the Global Entry Program mentioned above, air travelers are automatically qualified to participate in TSA Pre when flying a participating airline at a participating airport.

To make that work, once signed up for a Trusted Traveler Program, travelers provide their Trusted Traveler account number in the “Known Traveler Number” field when booking travel.

That number, along with reservation information goes into TSA’s Secure Flight system and enables access to the TSA Pre✓ line at participating airports by embedding a secret code in boarding passes.

In addition to a faster lane, TSA Pre✓-approved travelers can leave their shoes, light outerwear and belts on and keep their 311 liquids packed away. Laptops and small electronics no longer have to be removed either. The program is no guarantee of expedited processing, as TSA will continue random checks, but it sure can’t hurt.

Orlando International Airport where I am trying the CLEAR membership is one of those airports.
Observing both the CLEAR line and the TSA Pre ✓ line, CLEAR seems to be the winner for speed. We’ll find out as we test both over the next few months.

Travelers React to Big Changes on Airport Security

[Photo Credits- Flickr user alist - tsa.govChris Owen]