Exclusive: Memo Details New United Airlines ‘Super Elite’ Level

I’m incredibly lucky. On my first day as editor-in-chief of Gadling, a highly reliable source sent us this memo. Too good to be true? Absolutely. As a hopelessly loyal frequent flier, I’m definitely gonna be lining up for this new program. If only I could get a blog on BoardingArea, my life would be complete. (OK, I’d settle for a blog on Upgrd, too!)



In an effort to recognize and reward our most valuable customers, we are introducing a new elite level, Global Services Plus. Selected MileagePlus® Global Services members will be upgraded to Global Services Plus membership before the new elite level launches June 1. Please be advised of special protocols for MileagePlus® Global Services Plus members.

Nondisclosure of Program

The invitation-only Global Services Plus program and its benefits are highly confidential. The names of program members may not be shared with anyone except any third party with which United has a marketing relationship. Media speculation about who may or may not be a Global Services Plus member will likely increase in coming weeks. Please do not confirm or deny the existence of the program or anyone’s program participation, even when it seems obvious.

Identifying Global Services Plus Members

All Global Services Plus members will be identified in your reliable SHARES reservation system with the code ENTLD. They may also be recognized at the airport, where they crowd around a gate agent, demanding to be upgraded. They are known to frequently use the phrase, “Do you know who I am?” (Please note: Sometimes they know who they are.)Addressing a Global Services Plus Member

Please do not refer to Global Services Plus members by their names or look them directly in the eye. A simple “sir” and “madam” is unacceptable when speaking with a Global Services Plus member. They must be addressed as “your highness” or “your royal highness” at all times. It is also required that you bow when in their presence.

Use of Carriers

New UnitedLitters® will be used to carry Global Services Plus members to and from the aircraft. Employees are currently being trained in the use of litters. Global Services Plus members may initially choose from a wide selection of carriers, including Egyptian, Chinese and French litters. All airport ticket agents and gate agents will be required to act as royal litter bearers.

Upgrade Priority

In the unlikely event a Global Services Plus member is not seated in United Global First®
or United BusinessFirst® you are authorized to remove any passenger from the flight, regardless of status, in order to make room for the Global Services Plus member. In addition, if there is insufficient room in the overhead space for a Global Services Plus member’s luggage or pet, you are authorized to remove another passenger’s luggage and gate-check it, or to remove the lower-status passenger, if necessary.

Interaction with Other Passengers

Unfortunately, it will sometimes be necessary for a Global Services Plus-level flier to interact with other passengers. If that happens, you must refer to the other passengers as “the little people” or “peasants.” Note: Employees are encouraged to call non-Global Services Plus members “gate lice” and “kettles” in the presence of a Global Services Plus member and to laugh at the member’s jokes.

Flight Attendant Protocol

Because of their high value, Global Services Plus members will be given special latitude when dealing with United flight attendants. On occasion, these special customers may refer to an attendant as “honey” or “babe” or snap their fingers and demand the attention of a “stewardess” or “steward.” Also, they may repeatedly press the flight attendant call button for no apparent reason. If this happens, it is imperative that crewmembers respond with a smile and “yes, master.”

Customer Service

In the event of a customer-service failure – for example, if a United Global First® lie-flat seat fails to recline all the way or a Global Services Plus members’ Chardonnay is not chilled to the right temperature – you are required to take immediate corrective action. It is mandatory that the new United Cat O’ Nine Tails®, which are now being introduced on all aircraft as part of the TSA’s new SortaSafeFlying program, are swiftly used to administer punishment. An employee may either choose to self-flagellate or may opt to have a supervisor administer the punishment in the presence of the Global Services Plus member. You must continue administering the punishment until the Global Services Plus member says, “enough.”


If a non-elite or a lower-tier frequent flier acts in any way that offends a Global Services Plus member, it is to be considered an infraction comparable to interfering with a flight crew. This may include accidentally bumping up against the Global Services Plus member while boarding the aircraft, using the lavatories in United Global First®, attempting to stow luggage in an empty overhead compartment in United Global First® or the simple fact that they exist and are sitting in United Steerage® or United SteeragePlus®. These bothersome passengers may be removed from the aircraft at your whim or can be double-cuffed and left in the aft galley for the duration of the flight.

[Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Bing Travel: “We save the average couple $50 per trip”

Hugh Crean is the general manager of Bing Travel, Microsoft’s new travel search engine. Microsoft is trying to chip away at Google’s search engine dominance, and Bing Travel is part of a multi-pronged effort that also includes shopping and health-related microsites. Crean’s company, Farecast, was acquired by Microsoft last year and folded into MSN Travel. I asked Crean about what Bing means to travelers.

Q: Farecast. MSN Travel. Now Bing Travel. My head is spinning! Couldn’t you just leave well enough alone?

Crean: It’s true that we’re giving the guy who changes our name on the front door some good business this year, but we’re excited that as part of the overall Bing search strategy, Bing Travel is a solution that a lot of travelers will discover and learn about in the coming weeks, months and years. Frankly, we’re simplifying things. With Bing Travel, Microsoft now has a single online destination for travelers.

Q: How is Bing Travel different from MSN Travel?

Crean: For starters, we incorporated all the great Farecast features – price predictor, hotel rate indicator, deals, planning tools, fare alerts, and more. Plus, we added the travel editorial travelers have used and read for years at MSN Travel. Beyond those core features, we have a really deep integration with Bing.com that makes Bing a great search site for travelers. Try a general Web search on Bing.com for ‘flights from LAX to SFO.’ Right at the top of the results you’ll see our prediction on whether to buy now or wait, deals out of LAX, a link to our flexible travel tools and more.
Q: Bing is about a week old. Has anything surprised you about the reaction to the new site, and particularly to Bing Travel?

Crean: We’re excited that travel is a key vertical in Bing and that the user response to the Bing and Bing Travel has been generally positive. There is plenty of room for improvement and we’re anxious to receive any and all feedback from customers so we can make it even better.

Q: At the heart of Bing Travel is data-mining technology that predict the price of an airline ticket or hotel room. Can you explain how it works?

Crean: At the core of Bing Travel is a passion to help consumers make faster, more informed decisions by delivering a more organized travel search experience and providing interesting features and functionality which help users accomplish key tasks more easily.

The prediction is a good example of how we make customers smarter and more empowered when shopping for airline tickets. Every night we gather and analyze millions of airfares (we basically run and catalog every possible search for every destination and every possible date). We then monitor those fares over time. Through machine learning and other really complex methods employed by our team of data miners, we are able to predict airfare pricing trends over time. The process and the information we provide for hotels is different, but employs many of the same basic principles.

Q: I really like the way you turn airline yield management on its head. Yield management tries to predict how much money a passenger is willing to pay for a ticket. But Farecast — sorry, Bing Travel — tries to predict when airlines are likely to offer the lowest fares. How much money have you saved your customers?

Crean: We are complimentary to the airline’s yield management and in fact, we give consumers the confidence to buy when they otherwise wouldn’t open their checkbook. The airlines control their pricing, and we are offering a free tip that builds consumer confidence. Importantly, we’re a search experience and not a travel agency, so when the consumer is ready to buy we connect them with a click directly to the airline or online travel agency to buy their tickets. A third-party audit showed that we save the average couple $50 per trip. I couldn’t tell you how much money we’ve saved travelers over the life of our company, but we get emails and tweets all the time from fans who save $100, $200 and even more by using our price predictor.

Q: Those fare prediction charts that show up when I do a fare search are extremely helpful. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been asked, “Will fares go up?” But I’m wondering: How do you know if you’re right? Have you ever subjected yourself to an audit of any kind?

Crean: Yes, we have subjected ourselves to a third party audit. Navigant Consulting found that our airfare predictions are 74.5 percent accurate. We’ve never claimed to be perfect, and you’ll see that alongside our predictions we include a confidence rating. Our goal is to be transparent and provide as much information and data as the consumers need so they can make a smart decision about their travel.

Q: When you look at hotels on Bing Travel, you don’t see the same kind of chart as you do when shopping for fares. Instead, there are three given designations: “Deal”, “Average” and “Not a Deal.” How do you come up with those labels, and how is your algorithm for hotels different than it is for airfares?

Crean: Hotels is a very different product than air with distinct comparison and pricing dynamics, so our approach is unique based on the category. With hotels we aren’t predicting what that particular rate is going to do over time, the way we do with airfare. We mark hotels as “Deal” or “Not a Deal” based on the historical rates for that hotel over time, and a few other indicators. Again, we’re presenting as much data for travelers as possible so they make and informed choice. We like to say that all our results are based on science, not marketing.

Q: Don’t look now, but car rental prices are climbing. They could sure use a little Bing attention. Any plans?

Crean: Don’t drive any conclusions from this, but we’re definitely keeping the door open on a rental car product.

Q: I’ve noticed that Bing Travel includes more than just a way to search prices. There are blogs and forums. How do these fit into a search engine?

Crean: With Bing Travel, we’re extending beyond comparison shopping and providing content that helps travelers get inspired about where to travel and be up to date with the latest travel news. A recent Forrester report said that 20 percent of travelers start their search without a specific destination in mind. So, the idea is to complement quality travel editorial content with community content to provide useful planning insights for travelers.

Q: Bing Travel isn’t the only site that tells travelers the best time to buy. Others, notably Farecompare.com, have similar features. How do you plan to differentiate yourself from those products, moving forward?

Crean: To be clear, no other online travel site provides a Price Predictor, which predicts if airfares are rising or falling and provides consumers with a recommendation to buy now or wait. The Hotel Rate Indicator, which uses science to indicate which hotel rates are deals, is also a differentiated offering available only to Bing Travel. Even our approach to airfare deals, leveraging billions of historical airfares to help consumers know what is a deal and why it’s a deal, is unique to Bing Travel. We’re committed to continued innovation to help consumers make faster, more informed decisions when searching for travel.

Costello: “The traveling public cannot be ignored any longer”

Jerry Costello is the co-sponsor of the FAA Reauthorization Bill of 2009, which contains several important new rules designed to help air travelers. I asked the Illinois congressman, who is also the chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, about passenger rights and the prospects that new rules would be adopted by the Senate and signed into law.

Q: The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index gives the domestic airline industry an average score of 64 our of 100 — essentially, a failing grade. What do you think needs to be done to fix the industry?

Costello: Ultimately, service will be as good as an individual airline wants it to be. The economic pressures of running an airline – which hit rock bottom after 9/11, through the boom period of the middle of the decade, to another lull currently – will always be there. It is a cyclical business. The key is to be able to focus on the customer experience at all times, and Congress can help emphasize these issues.

Q: The FAA Reauthorization Act contains a number of provisions that could potentially help passengers. If they become law, which of the new rules do you think will improve air travel the most?

Costello: Short-term, I believe the emergency contingency plans for airlines and airports to better prepare for long tarmac delays can have an impact on the worst of these situations. We won’t eliminate all of these situations, but I am hopeful the horror stories will be dramatically reduced. Long-term, empowering the Joint Planning and Development Office to really drive the NextGen process, and providing the funding to do it, will improve the system for everyone.

Q: In a statement following the passage of the Act, you called the new law “long overdue.” Can you elaborate on that? When it comes to passenger rights, how long overdue are these new laws? Why do you think it’s taken so long to get here?

Costello: The bill is overdue because we started the reauthorization process in 2007. The House passed a bill similar to H.R. 915 that year, but the Senate did not.

It could be argued that the passengers’ rights provisions were more timely in 2007, coming off of the very public tarmac delay incidents in the beginning of the year and a very busy summer travel season, and the fact that this year the number of flights have been dramatically reduced and some improvements in passenger satisfaction have been recorded. However, they are still extremely important, for as I mentioned above, this is a cyclical business, and the problems of tarmac delays and congestion and delays still need attention.

Q: I want to ask you about one section of the bill that’s gotten a lot of attention, regarding airline emergency contingency plans. The current bill would require airlines to come up with a plan to provide food, water, restroom facilities, cabin ventilation, and access to medical treatment for passengers onboard an aircraft at the airport that is on the ground for an extended period of time without access to the terminal. It would also allow passengers to deplane following excessive delays. What is an “excessive delay”?

Costello: Trying to determine the precise answer to that question is the wrong approach to the problem. What we have seen clearly through the hearing process and anecdotal evidence is that this varies depending who you ask. For one traveler, half an hour can seem interminable, and for another, far longer is OK, if you get the traveler where he or she needs to go that evening. Most would agree that beyond three hours is becoming excessive, but what if the plane can leave five minutes later?

It is also clear that airlines and airports need some flexibility in dealing with these situations, because they are not one size fits all. What H.R. 915 does is make sure that the proper planning is taking place, that food, water and basic necessities are being met while making preparations to get passengers off of the plane in the worst situations. If these plans are not made, fines will be issued.

Q: I asked an executive at one of the major airlines about passenger rights last week, and he said he believes many of the issues raised by your bill have already been addressed by the airline. If that’s true, then why are these passenger rights provisions needed?

Costello: For some airlines, that may be true, and I hope it becomes the norm. But we have seen over the last decade that the airlines have not been good at self-regulation. The statistic you quoted in the first question bears this out.

Q: There are several other provisions that have gotten virtually no attention from the media. For example, there’s a new rule about disclosure of insecticide use on aircraft, a rule that tightens the smoking ban on planes, a requirement that airlines must offer the option of flight change notification by email, and a requirement that the Transportation Department set up a complaints hotline. Why were these issues important to Congress? In your opinion, why have tarmac delays generated more public interest?

Costello: In general, the flying public is tired of getting poor customer service, and more than anything, just want good, on-time information. People can accept bad weather or a mechanical problem, but they want to know what is going on. The e-mail notification and hotline provisions address this need. The other provisions address health concerns.

Q: Your bill contains a prohibition against voice communications using mobile communications devices on a scheduled flights. Why is that necessary?

Costello: Everyone has experienced poor cell phone etiquette and how annoying it can be. Our bill will make sure the current ban on in-flight cell phone use is not lifted. Beyond the annoyance factor, this is a safety issue. Flight attendants already have to deal with people that will not hang up their phones, and physical altercations between passengers are not unheard of. Also, in-flight cell phone use is not conducive to providing safety instructions and other important announcements.

Q: One other thing about the bill that struck me was language that says the Secretary of Transportation must begin investigate consumer complaints regarding flight cancellations, overbooking, lost and delayed luggage, refund problems, fare overcharges, frequent flier issues and deceptive advertising. Isn’t that what the Transportation Department was supposed to be doing all along?

Costello: In my experience, the FAA’s performance improves on an issue with vigilant congressional oversight. We want to make it clear in this legislation – to both the FAA and the airlines – that the traveling public cannot be ignored any longer. This is precisely why we have held regular hearings on consumer issues since taking over as chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee.

Q: The bill is being considered by the Senate now. What kinds of changes should we expect, when it comes to passenger rights issues?

Costello: I am not expecting many changes, but that is a question for the Senate. The key is to move quickly in passing a bill so we can get to conference and enact it into law.

American Airlines’ Mitchell: We want to give passengers “what they value most”

Mark Mitchell, American Airlines’ managing director of customer experience, is the point man for customer service at the airline. With the summer travel season now underway, I asked him how air travelers could have the best possible experience, and what airlines like American are doing to make it better.

Q: What can air travelers do to get the best possible customer experience from an airline like American?

Mitchell: Our goal is to provide travelers the best possible experience, and it begins long before someone steps inside an American Airlines plane. We strive to ensure that our tools, processes and interactions make it easy for someone to choose American — whether it’s booking online at aa.com or redeeming AAdvantage miles with our new flexible awards booking tool or making a call into our reservations system. And once in our care, the American Airlines team is committed to doing everything within its power to offer travelers the best customer service.

We take this very seriously. More than 200 employee-led teams across our network over the past two years have been working to identify issues and develop solutions within six key issues customers care about: delays and delay management, gate interactions and the boarding experience, on-board interaction, cabin interior condition, baggage handling and baggage resolution.

Q: Is it possible to run a profitable airline and have happy customers? Or does an airline have to choose one over the other?

Mitchell: We believe that customer satisfaction is a critical part of the path to profitability. American is committed to enhancing the customer experience, and we believe that will help turn our company around financially.

Although the economic environment remains challenging, we continue to look for new ways to improve operations to provide passengers the best experience possible. For example, we know on-time performance in the form of predictable and reliable schedules is important to our passengers. Some aspects that affect on-time performance — such as bad weather — we cannot control. But American is focused on those things we can control.

We implemented new procedures last year, including adding time to our schedule, re-adjusting flight plans to increase speed, pairing pilots and flight attendants with specific aircraft and deploying new technologies to help speed our customers through the airport. The enhancements were made with one simple goal — get our passengers to their destinations on-time, with as few hassles as possible. And while we do not control bad weather and delays because of air traffic control issues, we are seeing that the new system we have built is helping us to navigate a better airline when these events occur.

Q: What should customers expect from an airline like American?

Mitchell: They should expect that American will deliver on its promise to offer safe, dependable, on-time service. American is continuing to invest prudently in the airline, even during these difficult economic times to help us deliver on this promise more consistently. In addition to many technology investments to provide better tools for our employees and customers, we also began taking delivery of 76 Boeing 737 aircraft that will help us keep customers loyal to American while helping the company reduce costs.

Customers should also expect that American will continue to lead the industry in making booking travel easier. American recently introduced ”One-Way Flex Awards” — this gives our 63 million AAdvantage members more options to redeem travel. They new technology provides customers the ability to use miles on a one-way basis at half the round-trip mileage requirement and to combine different types of award travel on a single ticket.

Q: What should they not expect?

Mitchell: Travelers should not expect airlines to be able to account for bad weather or airport delays caused by congested airports or outdated air traffic control system in every instance. However, we continue to invest in new technologies that will help us better navigate through these issues and speed up recovery when they occur.

Q: American Airlines created your position in 2007. If I recall, the idea was to demonstrate American’s commitment to a better overall customer experience by adding a new leadership position within the company. How is the customer experience better today than it was when you started?

Mitchell: The customer experience has improved on many levels. I am fortunate to work every day with a dedicated team of employees from various backgrounds, including information technology, maintenance, flight and customer service, to support our frontline employees where the customer experience activities ultimately take place. Our role is to track results, identify best practices, and work across various functions and organizations to facilitate and ensure activities are successfully carried out.

By all measures, we have been successful. For example, in year-over-year comparisons between December 2007 and December 2008, American has seen complaints across all six issue areas decline by more than 28 percent and a marked improvement in customer experience ratings in five of the six customer service issue areas.

Q: Last year, American Airlines implemented a new customer blueprint that focused on delivering the basics, including safety, dependability, cabin cleanliness, baggage handling, courtesy and professionalism. Why was such a blueprint necessary?

Mitchell: The customer blueprint was born out of our need to formalize how we wanted to differentiate the travel experience for our customers and was based on feedback from the many different work groups involved in improving our customer experience scores. It also provides the basis for our roadmap and to establish priorities for our many customer initiatives.

It is tangible and visual, and it serves as a good reminder for all of us to keep the customer experience first and to remember to give our customers what they value most.

Q: The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index has just been released, and your airline scored a 60, which is down more than 3 percentage points from last year. What accounted for that drop, in your opinion?

Mitchell: I can’t account for the Customer Satisfaction Index, but I can tell you that American’s internal customer satisfaction surveys — from cabin cleanliness to handling baggage to onboard interactions with our flight attendants and delay management — show marked improvements from a year ago. And the benchmarks we measure ourselves against indicate otherwise as well. In fact, in mid-May, American paid out $14 million to approximately 72,000 frontline employees for meeting customer service and operational goals during the first quarter of 2009.

Q: It’s been a year since American Airlines added a $15 fee for the first checked bag. From a customer service perspective, how is that working out?

Mitchell: Customer acceptance on domestic bag fees has gone well. Even in the earliest days a year ago, the process went more smoothly than many expected. Since then, customers have come to understand — and we believe, accept — the process and the concept of paying for the optional services that you choose.

Selling food onboard is another similar example. Basically, those who use it, pay for it. Those who choose not to pay for it, don’t. That would include approximately 50 percent of American’s domestic trav
elers who do not check a bag and therefore do not pay a fee.

Incidentally, that percentage of carry-on travelers has not changed — it is about the same as before the fee was implemented. We have seen a decline in the number of second checked bags. Also, premium travelers are exempt from the charges. That includes top-tier AAdvantage members, full-fare travelers, as well as those traveling on military fares.

When it comes down to it, approximately 25 percent of American’s domestic travelers actually pay the first checked bag fee — that means about 75 percent do not.

Q: In Gerard Arpey’s recent remarks at your shareholders meeting, he said the key to American’s a la carte pricing initiative’s effectiveness is that it gives customers the ability to customize their travel experience as they see fit, according to what they value most. What are the customers you interact with telling you about a la carte prices?

Mitchell: The fact is airlines’ costs continue to outpace fare increases and have not produced the type of returns necessary to sustain a healthy business. The key to our unbundled — or a la carte — pricing initiative is that it gives customers the ability to customize their travel experience as they see fit, according to what they value most.

As an industry leader, American recognized that the industry needed to balance revenue with giving value to our customers. We began offering unbundled services such as buy-on-board food in 2004, and continued to lead this trend on the bag fee front in 2008, with the rest of the industry following.

We recently enhanced our buy-on-board food service in the coach cabin, selling Boston Market sandwiches and salads on some longer flights. We have assembled a team as well to focus on maximizing the customer value proposition across all the optional services we have available. This team is working diligently across our many channels to understand how to offer each of these in a way that customers get the value for what they choose to purchase.

Q: I want to stay on the subject of prices for a second. Transparency seems to be a big buzzword in the travel industry. Some online travel agencies have starting quoting total prices for certain items, like hotel and car rental rates. Do you believe your customers would benefit from having fares quoted that included all taxes and mandatory fees?

Mitchell: While total price may sound like a simple concept, in practice it is not. If one or two airlines were to choose to do that while others did not, their prices at first blush would appear to be more costly than those advertised or offered by competitors. Most Internet Web sites and computer reservation systems show the lowest prices first. Those who follow the industry know that it takes only a very small difference in price on any given route to drive customers away.

The bottom line is that the absolute full price, including any additional taxes or fees that are not already within the base fare, are fully disclosed to the shopper before they ever have to push the purchase button. They do see the bottom-line price before purchasing and that is the most important fact here. Full price before you buy.

Q: There’s a debate raging in Washington over passenger rights at the moment. I think it’s fair to say the airline industry has resisted most of these proposed new rules. Do you envision any scenario under which the defeat of the latest passenger rights legislation might lead to a better customer service experience?

Mitchell: We believe that the issue of how passengers are treated on flights when delayed on the ramp has been addressed by each carrier individually. Our goal at American is to ensure our customers and their belongings get to their desired destinations safely and on time. In the event of bad weather, we’ll always make the safe decision. As I mentioned earlier, we have implemented a host of new initiatives designed to enhance the customer experience, especially when planes are uncontrollably delayed at airports due to bad weather.

Read more of Elliott’s interviews on his travel blog.

Talking Travel with with Karen Schaler, author of “Travel Therapy: Where Do You Need to Go?

Karen Schaler is the author of Travel Therapy: Where Do You Need to Go? A former embedded war correspondent in Afghanistan, she’s experienced the highs and lows of travel. I asked her how to get the most out of your next vacation.

Schaler: It’s all about changing your attitude by changing your environment. By using travel therapy, visiting different destinations can help you deal with what you’re going through in life. Whether you’re going through a breakup, lost your job, stressed out, looking for a way to add some sizzle to your relationship or re-invent yourself you can use travel therapy to make sure you’re picking the trip that’s best for you based on what you need and want.

Q: Where did the idea come from?

I personally have been using travel as my therapy for years to not only help me get through the tough times but to also celebrate special occasions. I got the idea after I returned from working as an embedded war television correspondent in Afghanistan. I was going to the gym when I was grumbling about something insignificant and said out loud, “I need to get on a plane, I need some travel therapy.” It was like — bam.

I had been using the concept for years but had never put it into words. I knew I had to write about it so I could share the idea and hopefully help others pick vacations and special trips matching their emotions. So I finished the documentary I was working on about Afghanistan and quit my television career of more than 15 years. I knew there was more I could do and contribute so I cashed in my 401K and starting traveling and doing the research for the book.

Q: At a time like this, when travel — especially air travel in the United States — is awful, shouldn’t people be staying home when they want any kind of therapy?

Schaler: It all depends on your personality and where your head and heart is.

With travel therapy, there isn’t one answer that fits everyone, or one trip that has the answers. It’s all about picking a trip that fits what you personally need, not your best friend, or your neighbor, but you. For some people, getting on a plane and getting away is exhilarating and liberating and they barely notice the delays and travel headaches. While for others even the idea of air travel gives them hives.

Q: How do you know what trips to pick?

Schaler: Not every trip is for everyone in the book in each chapter there are fun, simple quizzes that help you narrow down the trips that are best for you. That way, you’re not just picking any random trip and ending up disappointed with your destination.

Q: Where should people not go if they’re looking for a therapeutic travel experience?

Schaler: Again, this depends on your personality and what you’re looking for. In the book, each chapter has a section called DO NOT ENTER giving you a list of places you shouldn’t go.

Q: For example?

Schaler: If you’re looking for a romantic escape, you don’t want to go to a family friendly resort where you have screaming kids killing your quiet time. However, if you’re looking to reconnect with your kids then a family friendly choice is the perfect option. Key to remember is one person’s idea of travel therapy could be another person’s nightmare. You need to pick the trip that’s right for you.

Q: Where is the most therapeutic destination for you?

Schaler: This answer changes depending on what I’m going through in life. When I was uninspired at work and looking for a challenge traveling and reporting in Afghanistan was the perfect place because it helped me realize life is short and never to settle.

When I was searching for a way to re-invent myself I found volunteering at an orphanage in Malawi was a life changing experience that helped me gain perspective and appreciation for everything I have.

When I want to really spend quality time with a boyfriend, I love sailing because I can truly disconnect with the world and reconnect with who I am with. Honestly, I find anytime I can travel and experience new place and meet new people I’m happy and thankful for each moment I have on the trip and can’t wait to write about it and share it with others. I really do love it that much. Good thing I’m a travel writer, right?

Q: Absolutely. So what advice would you have for those of us who are disillusioned by travel, who would really rather stay home? Can we be rehabilitated?

Schaler: Hummm…let’s see, what are you going to find at home. The same o’ll same o’ll? How has that worked for you so far? If your answer is “not so great” then get off the couch, turn off the TV, and pry your fingers off your BlackBerrys.

There’s a whole world out there waiting for you to explore. Anyone can change, you just need to take the first step and planning the right trip is key and can help you find your way in more ways than one!

Q: I want to ask you about when therapy goes wrong. Has that ever happened to you? What can you do about it?

Schaler: Of course we’ve all taken the wrong trips. It happens when you don’t spend the time doing your research and you come home disappointed and disillusioned.

Making sure this doesn’t happen was one of the inspirations behind writing this book. In this economy, you can’t afford to take the wrong trip, so I wanted to have one compressive book that helps you plan a trip and get it right the first time so you’re not wasting your valuable time and money.

In the rare case if you researched and planned and you still find yourself on the wrong trip try and think outside the box and be flexible. Spend time thinking about what you can change to make it better instead of just complaining about what’s wrong.

Q: Some therapies in the medical field have been discredited, like leeches and lobotomies. Convince me that this isn’t just another faddish cure that will go the way of transcranial electroshock.

Schaler: Travel therapy will never be a faddish cure because the benefits from travel are timeless. It will never go away because there is a whole world to explore and once you get started it’s hard to stop.

When people complain to me about something like being stressed out or sad about a breakup, I like to say, “Take two trips then call me in the morning.” Of course there is never one cure that works for everyone, but I’ve heard amazing stories from the travelers and therapist I have interviewed about how travel changed their lives. I know it has changed mine.