Posts Tagged ‘should not be paying extra for Wi-Fi’

Some Travel Problems in Need of Solutions

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Some Travel Problems in Need of Solutions

Published: August 22, 2011


Chris Gash


“SOLUTIONS” seems to be the buzzword here at the annual convention of the Global Business Travel Association.

People are talking about new technological solutions to problems like rising prices for business travel and the complications inherent in efficient booking of airfares and hotels.

Before we get into that, though, there are a few basic solutions I’d like to see. First, convention hotels. I’m at the Hyatt Regency, one of about 20 hotels designated for the roughly 6,000 corporate travel managers and suppliers in attendance.

The nightly room rate is $245, not counting various local taxes that are added at checkout. After the convention leaves town, the same hotel room goes for $144. Meanwhile, the price for Internet service, which is remarkably sluggish, is $12.95 a day. (After I complained about the slow speed, the hotel manager said he would have the charge dropped.)

At a news conference to announce new mobile technology solutions on Monday morning, Hervé Sedky, the senior vice president for the American Express business travel division, mentioned Wi-Fi service because that is often prenegotiated with hotels by meeting planners. Those who attend big conventions that bring in tons of money “should not be paying extra for Wi-Fi,” he said.

So solve that one, please, business travel managers.

And now we move to the sharply rising cost of business travel, which accounts for about $240 billion a year in domestic spending.

American Express said on Monday that the average domestic one-way airfare increased 8 percent, to $260, in the second quarter compared with the price in the quarter a year earlier. The average international one-way fare increased 9 percent, to $1,810. Domestic hotel rates were up 3 percent, to an average of $156, and international hotel rates rose 11 percent, to $258.

Business travel has been rebounding since 2008, especially international business travel. But those rising costs are worrisome to those who need to manage those budgets.

One area of talk about travel solutions that has caught my attention here came from John S. Pistole, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.

Mr. Pistole gave a well-received speech Sunday night in which he expounded on an agency initiative to “transform how aviation security works in the U.S.” That’s being done through greater reliance on multiple layers of security — and not just some blue-uniformed screener intimately patting down an elderly woman tottering next to her wheelchair, which was the last sight I had of aviation security before departing from the Tucson airport for Denver early Sunday.

I recently wrote here about a initiative being tested at Boston Logan International Airport. It involves a greater use of what the agency calls behavioral detection officers, who will engage some passengers, many randomly selected, in conversation to determine who might be acting oddly enough to warrant a more thorough look at the checkpoint. This is based in part on the Israeli system of passenger interrogation, though of course the Israelis screen far fewer passengers than the 1.8 million people a day the T.S.A. puts through its checkpoints.

Another solution, which I also wrote about here recently, involves tests to start next month at two airports of a so-called trusted traveler program, in which frequent travelers who agree to provide extra personal information for background checks can qualify for “enhanced” security clearance, based on the idea that “travelers we know the best and trust the most” don’t need as much scrutiny as others who have not qualified for the program, Mr. Pistole said. But even the trusted travelers would go through basic security and would also be subject to random full-bore inspection.

The agency had not discussed what, exactly, an enhanced security process would entail. However, Mr. Pistole did say that it would most likely involve “a dedicated lane, the ability to keep shoes on, and possibly keeping laptops in carry-on bags.”

Now, that would be an actual solution, from my point of view. For example, as a trusted traveler, I could then wear my cowboy boots to the airport, which I can’t do now because it’s such a production to tug them off in a line of impatient fellow-travelers.

The convention continues through Wednesday, so I’ll catch up on developments in another column. Meanwhile, I have to go find lunch. I had a bite of a dry bagel at the convention center this morning, and it was so bad that I had to toss it in the trash.

Now there’s a travel solution someone could work on: making a decent bagel outside of the Northeast and Los Angeles. How hard could that be?


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