What's New in Travel Newsletter

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What's New in Travel

ETC Travel Thanksgiving Closure

The ETC Travel offices will be closed on Thursday, November 26th and reopen on Monday, November 30th for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
As always, our after-hours numbers will be working so please do not hesitate to utilize this resource if you require immediate assistance. They can be reached at (866) 382-4584, whenever our office is closed.

Happy Holidays!

Icelandair flights finally bookable using Alaska Airlines miles

Back in September, Alaska Airlines announced a partnership with Icelandair that had us excited to finally book a straightforward trip to Iceland using miles, something that had been nearly impossible to do in the past without indirect routes and lengthy layovers. At the time of the reciprocity announcement, we didn’t know how many miles a redemption would cost or when we’d actually be able to redeem. Thankfully, we now know what we’re looking at. Here’s the official award chart:

The redemption chart is favorable, with the most economical round trip coming in at 45,000 round-trip. That’s 15,000 less than an economy roundtrip to Europe on either Air France, KLM or British Airways through Alaska, and only 5,000 miles more than an economy roundtrip to Hawaii on Alaska. Especially given the many low-cost options to continue onto mainland Europe from Iceland, this a very good redemption value for flights from North America to Europe.

5 Ways to Keep your Information Secure During Hoiday Travel

Airport and On-Board Wi-Fi are not notorious for being the most secure way to surf the internet. Here are a few ways to not become a target of information theft during your holiday travels.

  1. Listen to your apps/devices when they say you connection is not sucure.
    Essentially, heed the warning signs that pepper your browser, especially the URL bar that signals if you are not secure. You will do well to heed this warning in particular: If a Wi-Fi access point requires you to install anything (software, plugin, or a security certificate) before connecting, disconnect immediately. This is a known scam that can install malicious software that causes immediate damage (ransomware, malware, viruses, etc.) on your device.

  2. Install a separate web browser for traveling or connecting to unknown Wi-Fi access points.
    Use this alternative browser for basic surfing and never log into your email accounts, social media accounts, or post any personally identifiable information.

  3. See if your home internet router has a virtual private network option.
    Once set up, you can safely connect to your home network from any Wi-Fi access point and surf with the same security that you would at home.

  4. Just don't connect to unknown/unsafe Wi-Fi.
    If possible, use your phone as a Wi-Fi tether. This will allow you to connect your laptop or other Wi-Fi only devices to the internet via your mobile data instead of an unsecure Wi-Fi connection.

  5. Basic stuff... make sure you type in websites using https:// and not just plain http://.
    This will tell the browser to connect securely (or display an error if it can't) to your online service and give you very strong protection.
Remember, you are never 100% safe online. However, if you follow these tips and use common sense you will be much safer.

Avoid International Roaming Charges

Few things irk international travelers so much as unexpected international roaming charges. By running bandwidth-heavy apps, sometimes unwittingly, they might rack up hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in fees, and often don't know the damage until they get home. Increasingly, though, smart consumers can avoid surprise charges. In November, Verizon said travelers visiting more than 65 countries could elect to pay $10 per day (or $2 in Canada and Mexico) to use phones as they do in the United States—with the same data and calling plans. Much of the Caribbean and Europe is covered, but the program is weak in Asia, so if you're visiting China or Japan, be careful.

On Sprint and T-Mobile, many customers receive free international data as part of their plans, though on slower networks than usual. Not all countries are covered, so you'll want to check before you go. Of the big companies, AT&T might be least customer friendly, charging most international travelers $30 per month for 120mb of data, enough for email, social media, and light web surfing. Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T charge for calls.

Many cell carriers have changed in part because customers now have more connectivity options abroad. One new option is Skyroam, a small Wi-Fi hotspot travelers can carry in a pocket or purse. As long as they have the hotspot, they can pay as little as $10 per day for unlimited data in more than 70 countries. By tapping into local cell networks, Skyroam can offer 3G and 4G speeds in some places, though it throttles speeds for heavy users. Skyroam works in some out-of-the-way places, including Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Cambodia, Ghana, and Fiji, and is currently offering five free day passes to give it a try.

"The model is changing, and carriers aren't real happy about it," said Eric Plam, vice president and general manager of Skyroam North America. "But people should not have to turn off their phones because they are afraid of the consequences."

Delta to Discontinue Acceptance of Pets as Checked Baggage

Effective March 1, 2016, Delta will discontinue acceptance of pets as checked baggage, and will instead accept shipment of pets for travel as freight through Delta Cargo. Pets as carry-on will continue to be an option for Delta customers and there are no changes to Delta’s policy of welcoming service and emotional support animals in the aircraft cabin.

Delta recognizes that pets are important members of one’s family, and this change will ultimately ensure that the airline offers a consistent, high quality for customer service for customers who choose to ship their pet with Delta Cargo.

Marriott to Buy Starwood

Marriott International Inc. today announced it will buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts in a $12.2 billion deal, creating the world’s largest hotel chain.
Now with a combined presence in more than 100 countries, the merger will help both companies expand its global reach. The combined company will operate or franchise more than 5,500 hotels with 1.1 million rooms worldwide.
Marriott currently has three-quarters of its rooms in the United States, while Starwood gets nearly two-thirds of its revenue from outside the country. Starwood, the parent company of 10 brands including Sheraton, St. Regis, Westin, W, and Le Meridien, said in April it was considering a sale.
Arne Sorenson will stay on as president and chief executive of Marriott, and the company’s board will expand to 14, adding three members from Starwood.

Passengers' Rights in the Event of an Airline Strike

In the wake of Lufthansa's strike last week, let’s take a look at what you are entitled to in the event of a strike. Of course, rights differ between the US and Europe but here is a look at both:

In the United States

In the U.S., compensation differs from airline to airline. Generally, an airline does not have to provide compensation for a canceled flight. Usually it does, especially if the flight is canceled in the same day, but that usually comes in the form of meal vouchers and even hotel vouchers while you are being re-booked.

In Europe

in a nutshell, European Union regulations require airlines to offer you either a full refund of the unused parts of your tickets, or to provide other air options in due time. Some airlines may also allow you to rebook your flights at no extra cost.
When an EU airline is used, it is liable to pay for the cost of a hotel and food for all those stranded as a result until a replacement flight is provided.
However, most airlines classify strikes as a force majeure event, like a volcanic eruption. In this case, the cancelations will be treated the same as weather delays/cancelations and they will only provide meal tickets, hotel rooms, and transportation where needed.

For more information on the rules and regulations followed by airlines originating in the European Union, feel free to peruse them as outlined by the European Commission.

Alaska Air Continues to Grow

The Alaska Air Route Map will give you a list of new destinations and frequencies including Costa Rica, Charleston, and Los Angeles. In addition to the new flights, Alaska has recently partnered with Hainan and Icelandair giving you even more chances to gain Alaska Miles and redeem them to destinations all over the world.

Delta Continues to Expand Service from Sea-Tac

Delta has made huge strides in turning Sea-Tac Airport in to a new Delta hub. So far, they have invested $15 million in upgrades and renovations and have plans to add a new 21,000 sq. ft. Sky Club and add additional ticket counter space for Delta One customers. Along with these upgrades, flight service is also increasing including 4 daily flights form Sea-Tac to Orange County’s John Wayne Airport beginning May 1st, 2016. Below is a map that depicts where and when Delta will offer service to various destinations.

Security Enhanced Outside the US in Response to Russian Aircraft Crash

Out of an abundance of caution, Department of Homeland Security and TSA are enhancing security at certain non-US airports following the October 31st crash of the Russian airliner Metrojet Flight 9268 over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Travelers should be aware that they may notice or be subjected to these enhanced security measures when traveling outside of the US.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Welcomes Spirit Airlines in 2016

Spirit Airlines is the ultra-low cost airline of the Americas and Home of the Bare Fare. Spirit will begin twice daily service to Los Angeles on March 24, 2016 followed by two daily flights to Las Vegas on April 14, 2016. Connections will be available to an additional 15 cities via Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

About Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines is committed to offering the lowest total price to the places we fly, much lower than other airlines, on average nearly 40% less. Our customers start with an unbundled, stripped-down Bare Fare™ and get Frill Control™ which allows them to pay only for the options they choose – like bags, seat assignments and refreshments – the things other airlines U bake right into their higher ticket prices. We help people save money and travel more often, create new jobs and stimulate business growth in the communities we serve. With our modern and fuel-efficient all-Airbus fleet, we operate more than 350 daily flights to more than 56 destinations in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.
When booking a fare with Spirit Airlines, be sure to take into consideration that you must pay for your seat, any baggage including carry-on, and any beverages or snacks consumed on board as part of their Bare Fare pricing. As expected, the rates for seats and baggage increase closer to departure date. For example, a carry-on bag costs $26 at time of booking, $31 before online check-in, $36 during online check-in, $55 at the airport reservation desk, then finally $100 at the gate. Taking these into consideration, Spirit Airlines can be the most affordable fare if you don't mind skipping the peanuts and plan way ahead with your packing.

Check the Spirit Airlines website to see add on options to their Bare Fare.

TSA Pre-Check Demystified

TSA’s Pre-Check program has recently gone through some changes. Here are the key points to remember:

  • The application process:
    1. Fill out the online application which takes 10-15 minutes to complete.
    2. Schedule an in person, 15 minute interview at a Pre-Check Enrollmet Center which includes finger printing.
    3. Pay the $85.00 fee.
    4. Your number will arrive by mail 2-3 weeks after the application process is complete.
  • Once approved, the number is valid for 5 years and a notification to renew will be sent about 6 month prior to the expiration date.
  • TSA Pre-Check is offered by 12 airlines including Alaska, Delta, Air Canada and American Airlines.
  • 162 airports offer a pre-check line, however it is never 100% guaranteed.
  • You have between 48-72 hours for Pre-Check however, even if it is entered at the airport at check in, you can still get pre-check.
  • Children under 12 years old may go with their parent/guardian through pre-check.
  • TSA Pre-Check is for domestic flights only. If you frequently travel internationally, it may be better to apply for Global Entry instead.
  • If something goes wrong with your Pre-Check number, there is a 24/7 hotline that either you or ETC Travel can call to find out what went wrong. (1-866-289-9673)
  • For more information, or to begin the application for a Trusted Traveler Program, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Website.

  • Track Your Bags with American Airlines

    As requested by travelers, it is now possible to track the status of checked bags from the check to the carousel with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. This will provide insight about when the bag is checked in, on a plane, and when it arrives at baggage claim. All that's needed is the bag tag number or record locator.

    Simply to to aa.com/baggage and click on "Track you bags."

    Alaska Airlines to Open a Second Board Room Airport Lounge at Sea-Tac

    Alaska Airlines announced it will open a second Board Room airport lounge in Seattle in addition to expanding hours of access at its other lounges.

    The new lounge will open in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport's North Satellite in mid November. It will offer members and first-class passengers the airline's famous pancake machine as well as a variety of beverages including juices, soda, coffee, and espresso, beer, wine, and cocktails.

    Port of Seattle Incentives Help Spur New Small Community Air Service From Sea-Tac Airport To Port Angeles and Moses Lake

    “As a Pacific Northwest-based company, SeaPort Airlines is very pleased to announce service to Port Angeles, Moses Lake, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport next spring,” said SeaPort Airlines President and CEO, Robert McKinney. “With our focus on serving smaller communities, we believe SeaPort is a great match for Moses Lake and Port Angeles. We’re looking forward to working with these communities, as well as staff at Sea-Tac, to successfully restore this needed air service.”

    At Moses Lake, SeaPort will offer three roundtrips to Sea-Tac each weekday along with one roundtrip to Portland International Airport. Port Angeles will be provided with five roundtrips to Sea-Tac each weekday. Reduced flight frequencies will be offered on weekends. All SeaPort Airlines flights are operated with 9-passenger Cessna Caravan turboprop aircraft.

    For more information, visit SeaPort Airline's website.

    jetBlue to be First U.S. Carrier to have Complimentary Wi-Fi on Every Plane in its Fleet

    By Fall 2016, jetBlue will have 20mbps internet on all of their planes. This gives travelers the ability to stream video, run multiply devices, and function as though they had their home Wi-Fi connection. In days where airlines are beginning to charge for everything they can think of, jetBlue's announcement that Wi-Fi will be free on every plane is a breath of fresh air.

    Gogo Adding Lightning Speed 4G Connectivity to Airline WiFi

    Most mobile device junkies, business people, parents and grandparents who want to stay connected to the office or back home during flights sign on to Gogo for their in flight WiFi fix. Sometimes the connections work great, other times not so much. But in two years those ups and downs will mostly be ups. Broomfield, Colorado-based company has announced it is working on a new 4G connectivity solution for the business aviation market, hooking up from you airplane seat could get easier and supersonic speedier. Eturbonews today, Oct. 14 reported on the cyber breakthrough quoting John Wade, Gogo Business Aviation's executive vice president and general manager, as saying, "We cracked the code on in-flight connectivity many years ago, and we're excited to continue offering more and more performance to customers. Gogo Biz 4G is a solution business aircraft operators can count on. It leverages Gogo's proven air-to-ground network and technology that has already flown hundreds of thousands of hours aboard thousands of business and commercial aircraft." Created specifically for the business aviation market, Gogo Biz 4G is a specially-designed application of Gogo's latest air-to-ground technology. The Gogo Biz 4G equipment package will incorporate dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi service and a host of other features – all from a single, lightweight box.

    Frequent Travelers Can Skip the Passport Line into the U.K.

    U.K. introduces Registered traveler scheme aimed at making it easier for frequent travelers to enter the UK. For a £70 ($106) annual application fee, citizens from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand Citizens who have a visa or an EEA family permit, or who have visited the U.K. four times in the past year for business, education, tourism, education, or medical treatment can take advantage of the program. The program allows non-E.U. citizens to use the ePassport gates across the U.K. as well as the country’s faster entry lanes in Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, London City, Luton, Manchester, and Stansted airports, and in the Eurostar terminals in Brussels, Lille, and Paris.

    To find out if you qualify and to begin your application, visit the U.K. Government website.

    Delta Basic Economy vs. Economy

    Not sure whether to choose Basic Economy or Economy? Use this chart to help make your decision.

    New Non-Stop Delta Flights out of Seattle

    Flying Delta out of Seattle has never been easier!

    • Orange County, CA - 4 Daily Non Stop Flights
    • Billings, MT (BIL) - Starting December 19th
    • Boston, MA (BOS) - Daily Non-Stops Starting April 4th, 2016
    • Bozeman/ Big Sky, MT (BZN) - Year-Round, Daily Non-Stops as of Aug. 1, 2015
    • Cancun, MX (CUN) - Seasonal Non-Stops Dec. 18th, 2015 - April 9th 2016
    • Kona, HI (KOA) - Daily Non-Stops begin Dec. 19th, 2015
    • Missoula, MT (MSO) - Daily Non-Stops begin Dec. 19th 2015
    • Orlando, FL (MCO) - Daily Non-Stops begin Dec. 19th, 2015
    • Pasco/Kennewick, WA (PSC) - Three-Times Daily begin Nov. 1st, 2015
    • Victoria, BC, CA (YYJ) - Three-Times Daily begin April 4th, 2016
    • Edmonton, Alberta

    Checked Bag Fees

    With JetBlue's recent addition of a checked bag fee, here is a look at checked bag fees across carriers.

    2015 Corporate Travel Index:
    Top 10 US Cities With The Highest Business Travel Costs In Hotel, Car Rental and Food

    Hotel Costs:.

    Car Rental Costs:.

    Food Costs: