Wearable Technology Looks Cool, But Will Travelers Actually Wear It?

Wearable technology - Dick Tracy watch
Flickr, LamdaChiAlpha

Imagine being able to navigate a foreign city without a map or paying for a museum ticket with your watch, thanks to your cool electronic gadgets. Now imagine getting mugged around the corner, or leaving your expensive toy on a bus. Wearable technology such as Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch have fueled a lot of buzz among technology fans and travel marketers, but will travelers actually want to wear them?

A survey of 1,000 adults showed that while 75% were aware of at least one form of wearable technology, less than 10% was actually interested in using it. While the Samsung smartwatch announcement increased interest, and 52% would wear something on their wrist, only 5% would wear something on their face like Google Glass.

High price tags — $299 For the Galaxy Gear, and over $1,000 for the developer glasses — are one cause for consumers to hesitate, though travelers are more likely to invest in the latest technology, especially if it helps document their trip or explore a new place. Privacy is another concern, as the devices collect information based on your movements to improve the experience. How about the fact that having such a device marks you as wealthy? Smartphones have become fairly commonplace in the world, but there are still places where you’d be wise to keep your iPhone in your pocket, or even the hotel safe. The newer and snazzier the device, the more it shows that you have money to burn, and might make you a target of thieves. Will they make you look like a tourist? Not necessarily more than any device, but they certainly won’t help you to blend in.

Would you use wearable technology, while traveling or at home? What innovations would you like to see for travel?

Rampant Airport Delays Lead to Violence in China

Flickr user gomattolson

Although the number of airline passengers has skyrocketed over the past decade, China’s infrastructure has been unable to keep the pace. And as the number of delayed flights have risen, so too have the accounts of passenger brawls and acts of civil disobedience.

The problem has gotten so bad, the employees of at least one Hong Kong airline are learning kung fu as self defense.

Beijing Capital International is the worst airport for on-time departures, with an average delay of nearly 90 minutes. Another Chinese airport, Shanghai Pudong International, ranks fourth on that same list. Fewer than 30 percent of flights leaving Beijing airport are on time.

China plans to invest $230 billion to build 55 new airports in the coming decades, including a second in Beijing that will become the world’s largest when completed. But that’s little solace to the passengers who are constantly bumped from their flights now.For more than a year, passengers — mostly Chinese, but some American and other nationalities — have routinely acted out against airline staff. A three-day and multiple cancellation delay for a 2012 United flight from Shanghai to Newark led to frazzled nerves and fisticuffs. After baggage personnel were caught manhandling travelers’ luggage, they were attacked and beaten by passengers. After the passengers were finally able to make it to their destination, they received $1,000 vouchers for a future United flight, although no one seemed to be in a hurry to use it.

Also in 2012, 20 or so angry passengers angered by a 16-hour flight delay, stormed the Shanghai runway, narrowly missing an oncoming plane. In July of this year, 30 other irate passengers stormed a runway in Nanchang after a seven-hour delay. The Shanghai passengers would later receive about $160 in compensation from the offending airline.

With no end in sight to delays, the problems seem to be worsening — more than 26 fights were broken up at Chinese airports between May and August of this year. Some of these brawls have sent airport employees to the hospital with severe injuries.

Luckily there have been peaceful protests as well. Last year a group of stranded passengers took over the public announcement system to sing songs after airline staff deserted the terminal.

Photo Of The Day: San Antonio Riverwalk

Nan Palmero, Flickr

Entitled, “Skip The Puddles,” today’s featured photo was submitted by Flickr user Nan Palmero to the Gadling Flickr Pool. Palmero shows off the Johnson Street pedestrian bridge in San Antonio, Texas — the shallow depth-of-field and overcast skies highlight some of the turn in weather starting to affect the nation as fall sets in.

We’d love to feature your photos and videos on Gadling, so please add them to our Flickr Pool (with Creative Commons licensing!), tag @GadlingTravel on Instagram or email us at OfTheDay@gadling.com.

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?

Best Ways to Use Airline Miles

Flickr user dasnake

Few things are as frustrating to travelers as a huge bank of frequent-flier points and not being able to use them. With fewer seats and routes available, airlines are making it more difficult to trade miles for free flights, knowing they can sell more tickets at a premium price. They’re gambling that customers with large banks of points will stay continue to stay loyal for fear of losing the miles they’ve worked so hard to accumulate.

So if you can’t cash in your points for flights, what can you do with them?

Donate Them
At a former job years ago, a colleague needed to fly home for a family emergency but didn’t have the money. A few employees quickly pooled frequent-flier points that allowed him to make the trip. Another time, some extended family members used their combined miles to send a cousin and her new husband on a honeymoon.

If you don’t have a needy co-worker or family member, you can always give them to an organization that will use them to help others. The Fisher House Foundation’s “Hero Miles” program has provided more than 40,000 tickets to wounded, injured and ill service members and their families over the years, while Mercy Medical Airlift provided almost 10,000 free airline tickets to patients in need, thanks to generous mileage donations. The Make-A-Wish Foundation has need of more than 2.5 billion miles in order to send kids and their families to their desired destinations around the world.

Trade Them
On Points.com, you can either trade your miles from one airline for another carrier’s points or even exchange them all together for various products or gift cards from retailers like Amazon or Starbucks. But the exchange rates for miles are fairly high in many cases, and should only be used if you have a large block of miles that are going to expire soon. My friend Tim Wozniak exchanges expiring miles for magazine and newspaper subscriptions.

Use Them For Other Travel Needs
The Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney posted an excellent piece this week on redeeming airline miles for hotel rooms, rental cars and more. Not surprisingly, the elite-level traveler is going to score much better deals than your average flier — the amount of American Airlines miles needed for hotel stays and car rentals is 40 percent less for platinum-level frequent fliers than the rank-and-file. A penny per mile is the typical exchange for domestic flights, car rentals and hotels for most higher-level loyalty programs. One travel expert McCartney spoke to believes mileage programs will eventually evolve into package deals, encompassing flights, hotels, cars and travel insurance.