Has TSA PreCheck reached a tipping point?

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On Monday I was flying from Minneapolis to Lincoln and when I arrived at the airport to go through the security checkpoint I noticed a shocking thing. The regular line for security was only 6 people long and the TSA PreCheck line was 30 people long. As many of you may know the TSA PreCheck line is supposed to be an expedited express lane that traveler’s pay $85 for the right to speed through the security line. It would appear that there are so many people that have purchased TSA PreCheck that the advantages promised may in the future quickly disappear.

I’m starting to think about converting to a cash-back credit card as airlines jack around with point values –

Have you noticed how rapidly the major airlines are making it much harder and more expensive to redeem airline frequent flyer miles for free tickets? Delta has been the most obvious as they have devalued their Skymiles points to the point where it can take 640,000 miles for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe. American Airlines, however, appears to be the most reasonable for their customers to redeem miles as they required only 115,000 miles roundtrip for a business class ticket for a recent trip. If AA follows the path of DL it will be time for all of us to say goodbye to airline-sponsored credit cards and replace them with cash-back cards.

I love Uber prices, I hate Uber wait times –

Sunday afternoon I flew to Minneapolis for a meeting and when I arrived at the airport I walked toward the Uber loading area. On my way up the escalator, I noticed a whole line of taxi cabs. I know that sometimes it can take 10 minutes to wait for an Uber so I decided to jump in a cab. When I arrived at the hotel the taxi fare was $42.  On my way back to the airport Monday I pressed my Uber app and the fare to the airport was only $28. The driver was there in just minutes. When Uber is on time (less than 5-minute wait)  I love it as it saves me about 50% on the cost of a taxi. When I have to wait more than 5 minutes for Uber I often just grab the taxi and pay a bit more. I guess you would call me a “convenience buyer”.

Hotel resort fees are getting pressure to go away –

Hotels have rapidly adopted adding $25 to $75 a day resort fees on top of the published room rates in many destinations. They do this to hide the total cost of your stay and to get around paying commissions to agents and taxes to governments. To put it bluntly, hotels that charge these resort fees are not being ethical with their customers. For many years I have blasted hotels for doing this. Now the big online travel websites are starting to push back with those hotels by charging them commissions on the resort fees they charge customers. It will be interesting to see if they have enough power to make hotels treat people with honesty and integrity again.

You may soon see robot bartenders in hotels –

One of the most expensive costs for hotels is the cost of providing services for their customers in a smaller, limited service hotel, (like Courtyard by Marriott). New robotic technology is allowing for cost savings programs that will allow hotels in the future to be able to provide bar service without an attendant. I can see that people who want a drink are able to use a kiosk to punch in their drink order and the robot does the rest. This would cut a lot of cost for hotels and yet still provide a service for their customers. CLICK HERE to read a great article about this idea.

Final Call for the Greatest Tour to Israel and Jordan! – 

We have a few open spots left on our once-in-a-lifetime journey to Israel and Jordan this September 11-22. An unforgettable trip is ahead of us, an incredible pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and an adventure into Biblical history with lifelong memories to bring back home. CLICK HERE to see the detailed tour program. Call or email Beth today at our friendly group department, 402-435-8888 or GroupDepartment@executivetravel.com. Do not hesitate!




Warning! Getting a passport renewed takes 8 weeks as State Dept. faces backlog – 

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The State Department says they are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of passport applications, which along with staffing cuts is causing the time to get a passport processed to increase from an average of 6 weeks up to 8 weeks. You had better take a look at your passport and see when it expires as many countries will not let you enter if your passport will expire within 6 months of your travel dates. So with the 8 weeks, it now takes to process a new or renewing passport you have an 8-month window you have to factor into your next international trip.

One option is to get passports processed faster than 8 weeks is to pay $60 for an expedited service which only takes 2-3 weeks. Executive Travel has an agreement with CIBT that allows us to get your passport processed quickly . If you need to renew your passport call our office at 402-435-8888 and we can help.

Kansas City has lowest airfares in the region but Omaha is catching up fast  – 

A recent study showed that during the last few years airfares from Omaha’s Eppley Airport have actually gone down over 20% and are now within 10% of the cost of the airfares offered out of Kansas City International Airport. The average round-trip airfare from Kansas City to 15 major U.S. cities is $256. This is amazing when looking at airfares from coast to coast which are at historic highs. Omaha was close behind with an average lowest airfare at $284 RT. Lincoln, unfortunately, has some of the highest airfares in the region with an average airline ticket price of $417 to the 15 cities we compared last week.

Omaha has closed the airfare gap with Kansas City as savings not worth driving extra three hours –

Five years ago I did an airfare comparison between Omaha and Kansas City and found on average it cost $108 RT more to fly from Omaha than Kansas City. This week that same comparison showed only a $28 gap in average airfares. Five years ago a family of four saved over $400 by driving to Kansas City to fly. Today it would be hard to justify driving the almost 3-hour drive, one way, to save $28 per person.

Here is a comparison of airfares (based on July 10 departure and July 17 return) –

United Airlines launching new software to help connecting passengers not miss their flight – 

Earlier this year United Airlines launched a new software called ConnectionSaver. Since its launch four months ago, more than 14,400 customers, who would have otherwise missed their connections, were able to make their flights because of the new software.  The software watches for late arriving connecting flights and holds connecting flights so the passenger can make their connection. The good news is even the flights that were held were only held an average of 6 minutes from their original departure time.  This is fantastic news for travelers. Hip-hip-hooray for United Airlines! CLICK HERE to read more.

 

Catch Broadway! Join our great trip to New York City in March!

We are excited to have the Lincoln Community Playhouse and Morrie Enders lead yet another delightful tour to the Big Apple, March 19-23, 2020. This trip is a great mix of group events and free time that includes highlights such as Ground Zero, Radio City Music Hall, Grand Central Station, Museum of Modert Art, the New York Public Library as well as two of Broadway’s biggest hits. This trip will fill up fast! Call or email Beth today to sign up: 402-435-8888 / GroupDepartment@executivetravel.com. To see the details tour brochure CLICK HERE.




Airfares seem crazy high right now – Some are deciding to drive?

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My son Matt needs to be in Minneapolis in ten days and after looking at the cost of flying from Omaha to MSP has decided that he will drive the 378 miles rather than pay over $800RT for an airline ticket. Airlines have been quietly increasing prices and I have been amazed at how high summer airfares have become. I think a lot of the increase in airfares is simply the fact that airplanes are very full and airlines naturally increase the prices as planes near capacity. I think a lot of people will be shocked if they have to take a last minute flight this summer. That last flight you bought for $350 might be double or triple the cost of flights between now and Labor Day.

The rapid decline in gas prices and increased airfares will push people to rent a car and drive instead of fly this summer – 

Gas prices are falling like a rock. In some states, the price is below $2 a gallon.  In the last 4 weeks, they have dropped over 20% and experts say they could continue to go even lower. Using the business trip mentioned above from Omaha to Minneapolis renting a car for the week is about $250 plus 30 gallons of gas @ $3.00 a gallon has a total cost of $340 compared to the $800 airfare. The real savings comes in if you are traveling with 2 or three people. Airfare for three people on this trip would be $2400 compared to the $340 cost of driving for a savings of $2,060. The obvious objection to driving is the extra time it takes to drive the 378 miles from Omaha to Minneapolis. This should take about 6 hours to drive. Compare this to leaving home 2 hours prior to your flight to arrive at the airport, park, check-in, etc. Take the 90-minute flight (hope you are not delayed) and then wait the 30 minutes to get your bag and you have invested four hours to fly. Basically driving takes you only 2 additional hours and you save a bundle.

Don’t expect the Boeing 737 MAX to fly before Labor Day 

The unfortunate grounding of hundreds of Boeing 737MAX airplanes around the globe has caused major headaches for airlines and customers alike. Boeing says they have fixed the software but the airlines say they will need a lot of training and testing before they want to put the bird back in the sky. The regulators also don’t want to bear the brunt of the politicians’ wrath if something goes wrong with a relaunch so they will double and triple check to make sure everything is picture perfect before they certify the Boeing 737MAX is ready to fly again. I think taking all these planes out of service is one additional reason why the airfares are so high this summer. I think it will be September before the 737 MAX gets the green light to fly again.

Identity theft can turn your dream international trip into a nightmare  

When you are traveling in a foreign country this summer there are some very basic things you can do to prevent you from falling into the identity theft trap that the bad guys have set up. I recently found an article in usatoday.com that outlines  11 tips to keep you safe when traveling internationally. Even though the article is several years old. Almost all the tips are applicable today. CLICK HERE for all the scoop.


Travel ban to Cuba squeezes off Americans after three years – 

Three years ago the Obama administration opened the doors for Americans to travel to Cuba. Just days ago the Trump administration reversed course and prohibited most ways to visit the giant island to our south. Cruise ships have had to divert many sailings since the announcement as Cuba had been a perfect port of call for those ships with a home port of Florida. I am glad that we were able to have several groups visit Cuba in the last two years as I think it will be many more years before Americans are allowed to visit Cuba again. CLICK HERE to read more.


Few spots left on the greatest Italy tour …for women only! – 

This is your chance of a lifetime to make your dream come true! Join Women of Nebraska this September 17-28 on an irresistible journey from Rome to Venice. Visit the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, experience a “movie-lovers” tour of Rome, take part in two cooking classes, taste and sip your way through the country of slow food, enjoy Assisi, fall in love with Florence, and finally, spend three days in Venice, including the island of Murano and Burano. Travel solo or two-by-two. We have a few spots left. Call or email Beth today, 402-858-0033 / GroupDepartment@executivetravel.com and CLICK HERE for full tour details.




Giant 3-day airfare sale kicks off with $49 fares each way

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Southwest Airlines launched its bi-annual fare sale which has certain flights as low as $98 roundtrip. This sale only applies to travel between August 20 and December 18 and does not allow travel around major holidays. Traditionally, the lowest fares are mostly available on flights Monday through Wednesday. 

This sale usually begins a price war with all airlines, causing traveler’s wallets to be a little thinner than they normally would be after booking their trips. Don’t wait! Tickets must be purchased by Thursday, June 6. Book your fall trips now to save some money. For help navigating the sale, reach out to the friendly travel advisors at Executive Travel by calling 402-435-8888.

 

Airlines working hard to make your frequent flyer miles worth less – 

Recently Lufthansa Airlines (Germany) announced they were converting their Miles and More frequent flyer loyalty program from a tiered pricing model to dynamic pricing or selling award seats related to the retail market price. They are following Delta and United who announced previously that they were doing the same. Basically what this new change means is that your frequent flyer miles are rapidly becoming worth less and less. In essence, they are devaluing your miles so it takes a lot more miles to redeem for free tickets. Delta Air Lines was the first to launch dynamic pricing and the cost to redeem miles for free tickets has skyrocketed. The rule of thumb used to be that a frequent flyer mile was worth about 2 cents. With this new dynamic system, I think your miles are worth about 1 cent each. This is really a sad thing to happen to the airlines’ best customers.

 

World’s shortest flight on the world’s largest airplane is only 211 miles – 

Emirates Airlines recently announced they are launching their shortest flight using the jumbo double-decker Airbus A380 airplane. The new flight will fly from Dubai to Muscat, Oman which is only a 211-mile flight.  Starting July 1 the 500 plus passenger plane will have two daily flights. Even though the flight is only 211 miles by the time the plane pushes back from the gate it takes about one hour and 10 minutes from gate to gate. Having a flight this short makes no sense for local travelers as they could drive from Dubai to Oman in about 3 hours. That is a lot shorter than the time to drive to the airport and arrive 2 hours before flight time. My guess this is for people who are connecting in Dubai that want a premium first class and business class experience that only the A380 can give. CLICK HERE to read more.

 

TSA approves flying high with hemp product CBD –

Travelers who use Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, can now take them on their flights according to a recent ruling by TSA. Select forms of medical marijuana are also now permitted to be taken on flights. I guess this is what they call flying high.READ HERE for more

 

American Airlines is spreading its wings by adding 9 new seasonal flights to Europe this summer –

The world’s largest airline is adding a bunch of new flights beyond the bread and butter hubs of Europe. American is adding to its Philadelphia hub with nonstop service to Berlin, Germany, Bologna, Italy, Dubrovnik, Croatia, and Edinburgh, Scotland. AA will also add service from Chicago to Athens, Greece. The Dallas hub for AA will add service to Munich, Germany and Dublin, Ireland. The Charlotte hub will add a flight to Munich while the PHX hub has added a flight to London. That’s a lot of new seasonal flights.  To find out more CLICK HERE.

 

More than three out of ten hotel rooms go empty each night – 

Recent figures show that the occupancy rate for hotels is about 67% this year. This means that 33% of all hotel rooms in the United States sit empty on average. Ever wonder why there are all these ads for hotel web sites everywhere? Basically, they are trying to fill the millions of empty rooms available every night. For the past ten years, we have seen a hotel building boom because of low-interest rates and also an increase in hotel demand that outpaced supply. This caused room prices to increase almost every year for the last ten years. Prices are starting to moderate this year and I hope we will see very low increases in 2020.

 

Attend our Israel and Jordan Travel Night tonight! – 

Please attend our free and informative Travel Night tonight at 6 PM at Cornhusker Bank, 8310 O Street, Lincoln, NE 68510. Learn all about our exceptional journey to Israel and Jordan this September 11-22. CLICK HERE to RSVP. Call our friendly Group Department (402-435-8888) to receive a tour brochure or see the detailed program HERE. See you tonight!




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