The process from booking to flying has been increasingly streamlined as airlines cut costs and invest in infrastructure. Ticketing, baggage drop-off, seat selection and a variety of other services have all been simplified, often to the point where there are only a few staff members handling a massive check-in line.
Where airline staff is still critical is at the boarding gate, where upgrades, ticket changes, passenger loading and a variety of other issues are still handled. To handle that dynamic environment, anywhere between one and a handful of airline agents is necessary for operation.
If the Swiss group Kaba has its way though, those staff members may start to disappear. The company has designed an automated check-in device that scans your boarding pass and allows passage from the terminal to the aircraft – all without interfacing with an agent. It’s a tool that could speed up the boarding process as well as cut down on costly staff necessary at the gate.
Already in limited operation in Europe, Kaba’s first automatic gate is now operating at the MaCarran airport in Las Vegas, and if the trial is successful then distribution will expand.
And what happens when you bring a mobile boarding pass to the gate or the system doesn’t automatically process your ticket? At this point, there will still be staff on hand to manually process your boarding. But if this pilot program is successful, you can expect a lot fewer staff to help in the future.
We launched our Hotel Madness tournament on Monday and the entire first round is now live. If you don’t know what Hotel Madness is or you just need a refresher, check out our introductory post. First round voting is open until 11:59pm EDT this Sunday, March 20. Be sure to vote in each and every match-up listed below. Simply choose the hotel pet peeves that bother you the most. The winners will advance to the second round, which you’ll be able to vote on next week.
Make your voices heard. Vote, leave comments and let us know what you hate most about hotels.
Our final Hotel Madness first round match-up is about coming and going. It’s a battle of two evenly-matched peeves as #8 seed Room not ready on time takes on #9 seed Early checkout times. Hotels make a point of telling you that check-in is at 3pm, yet we often find ourselves killing time in the later afternoon after a day of travel waiting for housekeeping to have our room ready for us. Why can’t we just shower, lay down and relax? Meanwhile, for all the money that we paid for the room, you’d think that we could checkout later than 10am. We gave you money, why are you shooing us away like an unwanted houseguest?
Read more about this two sides of the same coin below. Then vote for the one that you just can’t stand. The winner moves on to the second round.
(8) Room Not Ready On Time
You’ve been on a combination of planes, trains, buses and camels for the last 32 hours. You’re tired, long overdue for a shower and haven’t eaten since you departed because you don’t pay for airline food on principle. It’s 4pm local time and you just want to check into your hotel room, clean off and get this trip started in earnest. Your room, however, is still filthy from the last weary traveler who made themselves at home there. Check-in time is 3pm but no one seems to care. The hotel will be happy to hold your bags for you, though. Isn’t that sweet?
(9) Early Checkout Times
Thanks for staying with us, now get the hell out. It’s 10am and even though we told the next guest that check-in time is 3pm and we will most likely not have the room ready for them by then, we need you to get out of our hotel so that we can, well, we’re not sure what we’ll do with it for the next few hours. We just need you out of it.
Are you ticked off by having to wait for your room to be ready or incensed by being kicked out early? Vote now!
First round voting ends at 11:59EDT on Sunday, March 20.
Does it always feel like the other line is moving faster? When you’re standing in an airport this holiday season, you’ll probably feel this a lot. You’ll have to wait to check in (unless you do this at home), wait at the airport security checkpoint, wait to get something to eat and wait to board the plane. Invariably, you will become annoyed that everyone who chose the other line is moving along at a nice clip, while you’re only moving to shift your weight from one foot to another.
So you’ve chosen your vacation destination – booked the tickets, agonized over TripAdvisor to find a hotel, and bought the guidebooks or downloaded the apps. Whether you like to plan your itinerary in advance or play it by ear, there are a few things you should research in advance to make your arrival – and your trip – go smoothly.
From airport taxis to local laws to transit passes, what should you know before you go?
Best way from the airport to the city – This should be your first order of business – figuring out the most efficient and/or least expensive way to get to your hotel before you find yourself being hounded by taxi touts at baggage claim or standing in the rain waiting for a bus that comes every two hours. London’s Heathrow Express is a great compromise between an exorbitant taxi ride and a long Tube ride with transfers, but other cities may have cheap cab fares (find out approximately what you should pay before you get in the car) or excellent public transportation systems connecting with the airport. Check out any guidebook or the Getting In section of a Wikitravel article for the best info and check if your hotel offers pick up service for a good value.
How much cash to start with and in what denominations – Now that you know how to get to your hotel, you’ll need cash to pay for your transfer. No matter what the exchange rate, you should find out how much money to withdraw from the ATM or exchange at the airport (note: most airports in the world have ATMs and will give you a better value than exchanging currency, but it never hurts to have some backup cash). Lonely Planet‘s Cost Index is great for determining about how much cash will cover a taxi ride, a meal or two, and other expenses for your first day or so. Some countries will give you large bills that are hard to break – try entering an odd amount like 130 to get some smaller bills or visit a newsstand to get change.
What’s the tipping culture – So you’re in the taxi, cash in hand to pay the driver, do you tip? In many countries, like Turkey, people don’t generally tip taxi drivers, perhaps rounding up to the nearest lira or two, so a 38 TL fare would cost 40 TL (taxi drivers here are so loathe to give change they may eat the cost of a 52 TL fare and give you change for the 50). Likewise for restaurants and cafes, 10% is standard in many places outside of the US and often included in the bill. I’ll never forget leaving a 20% tip on top of an included 10% in a London bar – the waitress was thrilled but I felt like a fool. Figure out what’s appropriate and do as the locals do to avoid stiffing or overcompensating for service.
A few key phrases in the local language – This is a necessity in some countries, and always a courtesy to know a few words of a foreign language. “Please” and “thank you” and “where is the bathroom?” will always be useful, and “two beers,” “another one” and “check” will usually result in good things.
When to leave for the airport when you depart – It’s hard to think about going home when you’re enjoying vacation, but knowing how much time to allow for your departure can help you to maximize your last day. While your airline might tell you how far in advance to arrive, better to ask someone who really knows how long to budget, like your hotel concierge. A Lisbon hotel front desk clerk once saved me several hours waiting at the airport by letting me know the recommended three hours before check-in was overkill.
What’s legal – Learning about the local laws can save you headaches and money. I just discovered that in Warsaw, jaywalking is illegal and punishable by a 50 zl fine, hence why all the residents wait patiently at crosswalks for the light to change. In some cities, it’s fine to bring a bottle of wine or beer into a park for a picnic, but in others, public drinking can get you fined. Knowing what’s legal can also help you avoid (or seek out, depending on your proclivities) potential danger areas such as red light districts. Wikitravel is good at listing info on local laws and dangers.
What days museums are free or discounted – Visiting a museum on a free day might allow you to see something you’d otherwise miss due to the admission price, and free nights are often packed with locals and fun events. Find out what days you can get free to help plan your itinerary. Rick Steves’ guides always have a good summary of free (as well as closed) days.
The real value of a transit or tourist pass – Many cities have a museum or tourist card that you can purchase to get free admission at many sites for a set time. But before you invest in a pass, check out if you really want to go to the included places (cheesy sights like wax musuems are invariably included) and if you’d have enough time to really enjoy visiting them all. Similarly, public transportation passes can be great in a city like New York, where a Metrocard can save you time and money, but if you prefer to walk or cab around town, you might skip it. The single best deal I’ve found is the Japan rail pass, which must be purchased in your home country, and gives free or discounted access to public transit and many of the country’s awesome bullet trains.
Where to get help if you need it – I used to think registering with the U.S. Department of State when traveling abroad was a bit silly but a friend at the embassy in Istanbul stressed how important it is in case of a disaster in locating citizens, as well as to help Americans abroad in trouble. Leave your travel details with friends back home, carry the contact details for your embassy and credit cards and check your insurance policy for coverage away from home.
Can’t-miss tips from locals and travelers – Here’s where social media can really help you have a great vacation – before departure, ask your travel-savvy friends on Facebook and Twitter what their don’t-miss recommendations are for what to see or where to eat. Even if they are well-known attractions, having a tip from someone who’s been there will help you prioritize. You can always ask us at Gadling, chances are one of us has been there and can provide recommendations – just post to our Facebook page or send us a tweet @Gadling.
Other tips you’ve found handy to know in advance? Leave us yours in the comments.