It seems that Continental is getting the idea that it is e-mail that matters the most to travelers, and not all of the other bells and whistles of the Internet.

Many airlines have been playing around with offering Wi-Fi for a fee on their planers, but according to The New York Times, Continental is testing a system where they will provide you with free e-mail access, but if you want to do more than that it’ll cost you.

Personally I think this is a fantastic idea.  As I’m 6’3″, the idea of trying to take up some of my cramped seating in coach with my laptop has never appealed to me, but getting out my iPod Touch to just work on cleaning up my e-mail would thrill me.  The Continental flights will be offering both the e-mail only solution and the full Wi-Fi for a while so that they can see which service people seem to prefer.

Considering the length of most domestic flights, I would say the e-mail only solution is going to be the over-whelming winner … that, and it’s free.

Categories: Travel, Wi-Fi   
 

There is no doubt that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed terror attack has changed thing for travelers yet again, but it took a leaked document to let passengers know exactly what the new rules are.

Yesterday we told you that the Transportation Security Authority’s (TSA) new rules in the wake of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed bombing on Christmas Day.  Confusion has been the order of the day since these new rules came to be enacted, but now, thanks to a leaked document to Gizmodo, we have a bit of a clearer picture as to what is going on exactly.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
Transportation Security Administration
Aviation Security Directive
Subject: Security Directive
Number: SD 1544-09-06
Date: December 25, 2009
EXPIRATION: 0200Z on December 30, 2009
This Security Directive (SD) must be implemented immediately. The measures contained in this SD are in addition to all other SDs currently in effect for your operations.
INFORMATION: On December 25, 2009, a terrorist attack was attempted against a flight traveling to the United States. TSA has identified security measures to be implemented by airports, aircraft operators, and foreign air carriers to mitigate potential threats to flights.
APPLICABILITY: THIS SD APPLIES TO AIRCRAFT OPERATORS THAT CARRY OUT A SECURITY PROGRAM REGULATED UNDER 49 CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS (CFR)1544.101(a).
ACTIONS REQUIRED: If you conduct scheduled and/or public charter flight operations under a Full Program under 49 CFR 1544.101(a) departing from any foreign location to the United States (including its territories and possessions), you must immediately implement all measures in this SD for each such flight.

1. BOARDING GATE

1. The aircraft operator or authorized air carrier representative must ensure all passengers are screened at the boarding gate during the boarding process using the following procedures. These procedures are in addition to the screening of all passengers at the screening checkpoint.
1. Perform thorough pat-down of all passengers at boarding gate prior to boarding,concentrating on upper legs and torso.
2. Physically inspect 100 percent of all passenger accessible property at the boarding gate prior to boarding, with focus on syringes being transported along with powders and/or liquids.
3. Ensure the liquids, aerosols, and gels restrictions are strictly adhered to in accordance with SD 1544-06-02E.
2. During the boarding process, the air carrier may exempt passengers who are Heads of State or Heads of Government from the measures outlined in Section I.A. of this SD, including the following who are traveling with the Head of State or Head of Government:

1. Spouse and children, or
2. One other individual (chosen by the Head of State or Head of Government)
3. For the purposes of Section I.B., the following definitions apply:
1. Head of State: An individual serving as the chief public representative of a monarchic or republican nation-state, federation, commonwealth, or any other political state (for example, King, Queen, and President).
2. Head of Government: The chief officer of the executive branch of a government presiding over a cabinet (for example, Prime Minister, Premier, President, and Monarch).

2. IN FLIGHT

1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:
1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.

AIRCRAFT OPERATOR ACKNOWLEDGMENT: The aircraft operator must immediately provide written confirmation to its assigned PSI indicating receipt of this SD.
AIRCRAFT OPERATOR dissemination required: The aircraft operator must immediately pass the information and directives set forth in this SD to all stations affected, and provide written confirmation to its PSI, indicating that all stations affected have acknowledged receipt of the information and directives set forth in this SD. The aircraft operator must disseminate this information to its senior management personnel, ground security coordinators, and supervisory security personnel at all affected locations. All aircraft operator personnel implementing this SD must be briefed by the aircraft operator on its content and the restrictions governing dissemination. No other dissemination may be made without prior approval of the Assistant Secretary for the Transportation Security Administration. Unauthorized dissemination of this document or information contained herein is prohibited by 49 CFR Part 1520 (see 69 Fed. Reg. 28066 (May 18, 2004).
APPROVAL OF ALTERNATIVE MEASURES: With respect to the provisions of this SD, as stated in 49 CFR 1544.305(d), the aircraft operator may submit in writing to its PSI proposed alternative measures and the basis for submitting the alternative measures for approval by the Assistant Administrator for Transportation Sector Network Management. The aircraft operator must immediately notify its PSI whenever any procedure in this SD cannot be carried out by a government authority charged with performing security procedures.
FOR TSA ACTION ONLY: The TSA must issue this SD immediately to the corporate security element of all affected U.S. aircraft operators.
FOR STATE DEPARTMENT: Retransmittal to appropriate foreign posts is authorized. Post must refer to STATE 162917, 201826Z Sep 01, Subject: FAA Security Directives and Information Circulars: Definitions and Handling, for specific guidance and dissemination.

Gale Rossides
Acting Administrator

For now it appears the rules are set to expire on Dec. 30th, but don’t be surprised if these get extended in at least some sort of modified version beyond that date.

As we said yesterday, travel as light as possible for now, folks.

Categories: Security, Travel   
 

Thanks to the latest failed terrorist attack, it may be best for you to leave as many electronics at home as possible.

While there is no doubt we love gadgets around here, with the increase in travel regulations due to the failed terrorist attack on Christmas Day by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab are making us all rethink what we take on a flight with us.

While the rules for travel inside the United States seem unchanged at this time, the amount of security checking at the security checkpoints is definitely up.  The amount of electronics you have with you is going to definitely increase that time even more, and putting gadgets in your checked luggage is never desirable.

Those of you going on international trips will be fine leaving the United States, but your return trip will be a different matter all together.  While the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) has yet to make a formal announcement, some international airlines have posted comments on their sites.  This one come from Air Canada:

New rules imposed by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration also limit on-board activities by customers and crew in U.S. airspace that may adversely impact on-board service. Among other things, during the final hour of flight customers must remain seated, will not be allowed to access carry-on baggage, or have personal belongings or other items on their laps.

There is also a statement from British Airways you can read, but it says essentially the same thing.

If you are traveling outside of the U.S. any time in the near future, you need plan ahead for your return trip, or if you are a resident of another country coming to the United States, plan for your arrival.

Hopefully these rules will get more formalized soon, and perhaps they won’t sound quite so scary, but for now you need to reduce how much you are carrying with you period.

Categories: Gadgets, Travel   
 

hotel laptopHave you ever noticed that the cheaper the hotel, the better the odds are that it will provide you with free Internet access?

Over my years of travelling since the Internet became a mainstream utility, I have had the opportunity to stay in hotels of just about every price level.  When Internet access first started to appear in hotels, all of them charged for it, but as time wore on, it came to be viewed more as a necessity and was given away just like in the old days when you would see hotel signs that said “Free HBO!”  Well, now those signs say “Free High Speed!”, but it seems to only happen at lower tier hotels for some odd reason.

When speaking with a friend of mine yesterday, she made a passing joke that next time I visited her I should book a room at a fancy hotel that had opened near her just so she could stay with me and enjoy the fancy room.  Wanting to see just how much of my money she had just spent, I looked up the hotel and it was in the range of $329 to $419 a night per room.  One thing leaped out at me:

Wireless High Speed Internet Access in All Guest Rooms (Charge)

Yes, they were willing to let me stay in their rooms for hundreds of dollars a night, but by golly they wouldn’t let me on the Internet for free!  Mind you these rooms have 37″ – 42″ flat screen HD TVs, iPod docking stations, dual-line cordless phones and so on, but yet giving me free access to the Internet would somehow break them?

Mind you my friend and I were just joking about staying at this place, but free Internet has actually become a deciding factor for me in where I stay.  The Internet has become an essential tool in the lives of a good number of people, and as a professional blogger, I can not go without it.  Even while I was on vacation this past August, my first in 13 years, I had to spend time each day writing, having to pay to access the Internet would have not been fun.  Luckily my hotel offered free Wi-Fi and I was able to get work done while sitting out on the dock, with a gorgeous backdrop of private yachts and fishing boats to look at over the top of my screen.  I may have been working, but at least I got to enjoy it.

Why the higher-end hotels feel the need to charge for Internet access is beyond me.  Considering what people already pay for these rooms, and all of the amenities that they give you for free, the charging for Internet access just comes off as greedy in my eyes.  They know you want it, they know that most likely you will use it, so why not make an extra couple of bucks?  And, you know, I probably wouldn’t mind it if it was around $1 or $2 dollars a day, but no, most of these places charge you $9.95 for 24-hours of access.  That’s highway robbery in my opinion.

Are they going to start charging you for electricity as a separate fee next?

Categories: Opinion, Travel   
 

universal mobile phone chargerEver gone on a trip and forgotten your charger for some rechargeable item? Thought about asking your hotel front desk to see what they have to help you out?

I’m currently on vacation (my first in 13 years) and I ran in to the most amazing idea at a Springhill Suites the other day.  As I walked up to the front desk to check in, the clerk was helping two guests go through a large basket of cell phone chargers.  Each was wrapped in a plastic bag and they were trying to find the one that would math the guest’s phone as she had forgotten her charger.  I didn’t ask at the time, but I just had to satisfy my curiosity as to what was going on.

I went back up to the desk later to arrange for my airport shuttle the next day, and as the same clerk was working, I asked about the chargers.  She said it was a basket full of the chargers people had left in their rooms and never come back to claim.  The hotel opted to keep them as a courtesy to guests who forgot their chargers.  While there was certainly no guarantee they would have the charger for your specific phone, it is better than running out to a store and having to buy a new one right away.

The clerk didn’t know if this was a chain-wide policy, but either way it certainly would never hurt to ask your front desk if they do such a thing.  If more hotels aren’t doing this, they should.  Although, hopefully with universal chargers on the way, it will become a whole lot easier for everyone to always find a charger.

Categories: Travel   
 
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