Hello from San Diego

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I am writing to you this week from sunny San Diego, California. This is my second week in San Diego as we had a company meeting here last week and this week I am at a Travelport conference. San Diego is a great place for meetings. The downtown is rather compact and easy to walk almost anywhere. The airport is only a mile from the downtown with easy transfers. The hotels are very good and pretty reasonably priced most of the time. There is so much to do here, including SeaWorld, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, amazing golfing, San Diego Harbor Cruise, deep-sea fishing, swimming, the beach, plus you are just a few miles from Tijuana, Mexico. This place is fun.

83% of our readers say they would fly on the Boeing 737 MAX within 6 months of when it returns to service –

This surprised me a little. I had heard many people say they would not fly on the airplane even when it returns to service. I for one think the Boeing 737 MAX will be the safest plane in the sky when it returns. They have checked and double-checked everything. Boeing and the FAA are betting their whole future on this plane flying safely into the future. As I said last week, I hope to volunteer to be on a test flight for AA or UA in the coming weeks.

Have you ever tried playing airline seat assignment roulette? – 

I refuse to pay extra for those roomier seats with extra legroom offered by the airlines under the brands of Economy Plus (UA), Main Cabin Extra (AA), and Comfort+ (DL). So here is what I do to bag those seats without paying for them. The majority of people are like me and don’t want to pay an extra $50 for that extra legroom so they go online in advance and select seat assignments for those seats in the back of the plane that don’t cost extra. I simply wait until the last few days (or even hours) before the flight and all the “no fee” seats are taken. This leaves the airline to assign me a seat from one of the remaining “extra legroom” seats. If the plane is not full there are sometimes full rows empty that I can stretch out in. This works well when traveling as an individual but is not as easy when traveling as a couple or family. You also risk getting stuck in a middle seat if the plane is full. I have used this technique dozens of times and have been a happy camper every time.

Have you noticed how new buildings are getting rid of men’s and women’s restrooms – 

Many of the new hotels, restaurants, and lounges I visit are replacing men’s and women’s bathrooms with unisex bathrooms. I actually really like this idea as it makes all the restrooms much larger. One restaurant I was in had 6 individual rooms that are used on a first-come-first-served basis. I actually think this makes the wait times much less. I think guys like this new idea, however, I have heard from several women who say they don’t like sharing with men who they say are so messy (and leave the lid up).

Something tells me there are too many new hotels being built –

As an active real estate investor I have been amazed at all the hotel properties I have seen coming up for auction recently. In many primary and secondary cities, there have been dozens upon dozens of new hotels built in the last 5 years.  I think in many markets that we have hit the tipping point where supply is exceeding demand. This means that in some cities you will see pressure on rates to stay level or rise a few dollars while in some super competitive cities rates may actually go down next year.  I think pricing pressure will be most acute in the 3-star hotel category as that seems to be the area with the most new hotels being built.


Join our amazing Passion Play tour next June – book today!

We have secured 20 tickets to the unique Passion Play, June 3-13, 2020, and we still have space available. Join us on a once-in-a-lifetime journey which takes place only every 10 years. We start in Munich, then swing by Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle in Neuschwanstein on our way to Oberammergau in the alpine region of Upper Bavaria to attend the world-renowned Passion Play. Our next stop is Salzburg with its “Sound of Music” traditions, Vienna with its palaces and stunning Lippizan horses at the Spanish Riding School, and finally fairy tale Prague, where we end our journey. This trip is ideal for anyone who wishes to hit some of the most spectacular cities and sites in Europe. Call or email our friendly Group Department and Beth today, (402) 858-0033, GroupDepartment@executivetravel.com. Do not hesitate – this is one of my favorite trips. CLICK HERE for full details.

I want to be the first person to fly on the Boeing 737MAX

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The 737 MAX has been grounded since early this year after two tragic crashes. It appears that in the next 90 days that 737MAX will get FAA approval to fly again. Some people say they won’t fly on the troubled airplane. The major airlines know that some customers will push back with concerns about the new plane even when all the bugs have been worked out. I understand that United and American will be flying many test flights with no paying customers – in addition to the thousands of hours that the FAA has already tested – to demonstrate to the public that the 737MAX is safe. Here is one thing you can take to the bank. The relaunched 737MAX will be the safest airplane in the sky. Boeing is betting their whole company on it and so are the bureaucrats at the FAA.  I am so confident that the Boeing 737MAX is safe I will volunteer to fly on the first flight that United or American Airlines puts in the air.

Will you be willing to fly on the Boeing 737MAX the first 6 months after it is approved to fly again?

Please CLICK HERE to answer this one question survey.

Should you be able to recline your seat on an airplane? The results are in – 

Last week I asked my readers if reclining their airplane seat is their right since they paid for the seat, or if seats should remain upright at all times and the results were definitive. 71% of those surveyed state that seats should remain upright the whole trip, 17% say it’s their right to recline and 12% said there are exceptions to each side. The most common comment was that airlines have made legroom so minimal that for you to recline your seat on a plane for your comfort, you are causing pain to another traveler.

You’d better be serious about taking immunization vaccines if you travel internationally –

My son Matt and I recently traveled to India and China for business. Before we travel we always visit our local immunization expert at our local University Health Center https://health.unl.edu/travel to make sure we have our standard Malaria, flu and other vaccines before we travel. This year my son Matt returned from our trip and was very sick and lost over 11 pounds in just a few days. It appears that even though he got vaccines for Hepatitis A and B that there are unique strains of it that have no vaccines.  The list of vaccines when traveling to Asia includes influenza, TDAP, Measles and Mumps, and Hepatitis A and B along with tablets for Malaria just to name a few.  I highly recommend that you keep up with all your vaccination protections prior to traveling beyond the borders. CLICK HERE to find a list for children and adults.

Delta, United and now Southwest miles never expire –

Southwest Airlines is joining Delta and United in changing their frequent flyer program so that their miles never expire. This is a big thing for people who don’t fly as much and have seen those miles quietly disappear before they can accumulate enough for a free ticket. CLICK HERE to read more.

The best travel deal of all time is about to get harder to use –

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Companion Pass is the best travel deal of all time, in my humble opinion. The companion pass allows customers to choose one person to fly (plus taxes) with them free for the remainder of the year it is earned, plus the following calendar year. Basically you and your spouse (friend) can travel two for the price of one. Amazing! Currently to get a Companion Pass you have to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. As of January 1, 2020, the requirement will increase to 125,000 qualifying points to earn a Companion Pass. CLICK HERE to read a great article on the easiest way to earn a Southwest Companion Pass.

The first annual “Top 10 Airline Pet Peeves”

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For years I have been providing you with my top 10 hotel pet peeves. People keep asking me to add my airline pet peeves, so here you go. Several weeks ago I ask our 90,000+ readers to give me their biggest pet peeves and here are the winners. This will be the first installment of my airline pet peeves. Please let me know what you agree with, what I missed, or what bothers you the most.

Airline pet peeve #1 – Baggage fees

Airlines are more profitable today than they have ever been, and part of the reason is the introduction of ancillary fees. Airlines have added more and more fees for things that used to be included as part of your ticket. The worst of these is a baggage fee. Believe it or not, you can actually check on two bags and in some cases pay more for your baggage fees than the cost of your airline ticket. WOW!

Airline pet peeve #2 – No legroom

It’s no surprise that airlines have been removing legroom over the past few years to make bigger profits. What may surprise people is how much it has changed. In the 1970s the average width of a seat was more than 18 inches and the average pitch (the distance from the front of one seat to the front of the next) was 35 inches. With the average American getting taller and wider, you’d think those numbers would have grown, but it’s the opposite. The average width of a seat today is only 16.5 inches (loss of 1.5 inches) and the pitch has shrunk to 31 inches on most planes (a loss of 3 inches). Basically the airlines have added two more rows on an airplane to sell 12 more seats.

Airline pet peeve #3 – Why is boarding so difficult?

Whether it’s the boarding class system of the major airlines or the cattle-call system of Southwest, boarding always seems to take three times as long as it needs to. Why have the airlines not invested in research to make this a faster, more efficient process so travelers do not feel the anxiety of wondering if they will be able to bring their carry on or stand up multiple times to let people into the rows?

Airline pet peeve #4 – Plane cleanliness 

This should be a major focus of every airline, but it seems to be overlooked by most. Cramming 150 people into a metal tube that hasn’t been cleaned properly is a sanitary and safety concern. Build 20 more minutes into each turn-around and make sure the plane is clean for the next batch of travelers.

Airline pet peeve #5 – Change fees

The 21st century moves at an amazing pace. People, technology and innovation are continually evolving and improving yet the airlines still feel the need to charge $200 (at least) to change any little piece of your flight itinerary. It would take 3 minutes for one of their employees to make the change, yet airlines continue to be greedy and charge for quick fixes. Here’s an idea: let the traveler change it online himself/herself for free. Three cheers for Southwest who does not charge a change fee.

Airline pet peeve #6 – They can never get the temperature right

One of our readers Chris wrote in to tell us on a recent flight from LIS-EWR, the plane was absolutely freezing with many of the travelers shivering with no way to warm up. Another reader, Christy, writes that she often bakes while waiting on the runway in PHX. It’s 2019! Why can’t the airlines find a way to keep the airplane at a comfortable temperature? If you are going to choose a temperature the airlines you should always keep the plane a little cooler as you can always pull on additional clothing. If the plane is hot there is nothing you can do but sweat.

Airline pet peeve #7 – CRJ-200 aircraft

This entry actually comes from Erik, here in Lincoln. In the survey sent out two weeks ago, I asked for pet peeves I may have overlooked, and Erik picked a great one. Lincoln has a smaller airport and primarily uses tiny regional planes such as the 50 pax CRJ-200. These tiny planes should be retired for good. If you have a window seat and you are over 6 feet tall your neck will be permanently bent when you get off the plane. Maybe I could put in a disability claim after flying on these small tubes.

Airline pet peeve #8
 – Animals on board that are not service animals

Our reader Sonya from Maryville asked why she’s not allowed to have peanuts on a plane due to allergies, but people can purchase a “service animal” vest and bring an animal aboard who is clearly not trained to be a service animal causing her eyes to swell and throat to be scratchy. I agree that airlines need to crack down on service animals and require ample proof of training before allowing an animal onboard.

Airline pet peeve #9 – Loyalty programs are becoming useless

In the golden age of aviation, travelers picked an airline and stuck with it. Each airline would reward their travelers handsomely for their loyalty. Nowadays, unless you live in a major hub, the benefits of airline loyalty are nearly non-existent. With most airlines moving to a “dynamic” award system, the cost for most flights will never be reached by the casual traveler. The best value is investing in a credit card program to be able to move your points and miles to dozens of airlines and hotels when needed.

Airline pet peeve #10 – Reclining seats  

Reclining seats was the most mentioned pet peeve our readers had when surveyed. Dozens of travelers felt that reclining seats (paired with the shortened legroom) led to the worst flying experience, with two commenters saying that non-reclining seats were their pet peeve. With the reduced pitch in the seats, this debate is a hot one in the traveling community. What do you think? Is reclining your seat your right since you paid for the seat, or should all seats remain upright at all times? CLICK HERE to give us your opinion.

Airline pet peeves – Honorable Mention 

  1. Confusing pricing – How can the same seats have 8 different prices?
  2. Tiny bathrooms
  3. Always delayed/Missed connections
  4. Food and drink choices on board
  5. Travelers jumping the line when disembarking the plane
  6. Passenger hygiene issues – Should airlines have a hygiene requirement?
  7. Airlines changing your seat without informing you
  8. Entertainment onboard – playing games on the back of my seat
  9. People saving seats on Southwest Airlines

There goes my free annual supply of shampoo as hotels replace plastic bottles with wall dispensers –

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The hotel industry is moving quickly to replace those small plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles in your hotel bathroom with wall dispensers.  I have to confess for the last 40+ years I have taken the liberty of bringing home hundreds if not thousands of bottles of hotel shampoo and conditioner to use at home and to give away to homeless shelters and people in need. In the coming months, most of the major hotel chains will be eliminating offering plastic bottles of shampoo and replace them with wall-mounted pump dispensers. The hotels are making this major change saying it will have a positive environmental impact. But we also know that it is cheaper to buy shampoo in a 55-gallon drum than putting it in small bottles and only half are used and the other half is thrown away. When I first learned of the change I was disappointed but now I think it is better for everyone and is a small way to help our fragile environment.

Airlines are making flying so painful and expensive many people are driving where they once used to fly –

This weekend my wife and I are traveling from Lincoln, Nebraska to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for a family reunion. I fly over 100,000 miles every year so my first thought was to fly. Then I thought to myself it has been years since I took a road trip and what better time of the year to travel than when the temperatures are cool and the leaves are turning color. I then turned to Google Maps which said driving was 530 miles and would take 7 hours and 43 minutes. That seemed like a lot of car time until I did the math of how much time it took me to fly. My drive to the Omaha airport takes an hour and if I arrive an hour before my flight and park my car I have 2.5 hours invested before the trip. Add the 1.5 hours of flight time and 30 minutes to get the rental car plus a 1.5-hour drive from Chicago, O’Hare to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and you have a total travel time for flying of 6 hours compared to 8 hours of driving. Now compare the cost. The cost for two for flying is $900 ($450 X 2) plus a rental car for 3 days @ $50 a day totals $1050. The cost of driving 1060 miles roundtrip is about 50 cents a mile or $530 dollars. The bottom line is it takes me only 2 hours more to drive plus I save $500. Add in the hassle of parking, security, the extra cost of checking in luggage, possible delays or cancellations and you can see how the airlines are pushing away many people who used to fly the friendly skies. If you look at the cities that are a six to eight-hour drive from Omaha they include Minneapolis, Denver, St. Louis, Kansas City, and even Chicago. If two or more people are traveling this makes it even easier to justify a road trip.

Pay the extra $100 this winter and fly non-stop flights –

Missing a connecting flight because of a delayed flight has become a nightmare. In years past there were usually enough empty seats on other flights, you could make it to your destination, just a few hours later. Today with all the airline consolidation there aren’t enough empty seats on airplanes to deal with the extra passengers when a flight is canceled or delayed. Add in a major snowstorm and you have a 3-day tidal wave trying to find flights to get home. With this in mind, I will do almost anything I can to try to find non-stop flights to get to my destination. You will often pay as much as $100 more for direct (non-stop) flights but if it saves you a half-day of travel it is worth the price to me.

Procrastinators alert! Prices around the holidays are skyrocketing – 

This is normally the time of the year that procrastinators are shocked to see how expensive it is to fly during the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Today I did a quick check and was amazed to see how high prices were for flying around both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Normally these are two of the busiest weeks of the year to fly. Procrastinators can expect to pay $600 or more for the primo travel days. You can still find some reasonably priced flights but you will need to be very flexible with your days of travel. For example, returning from Thanksgiving on Saturday instead of Sunday will often save you over $100. If you have not made your holiday travel plans yet please do it now as this window of opportunity will close fast. The airlines know they can increase prices around the holidays and they want to make hay while the sun shines. The last few seats on planes will be filling up fast in the next few days. Please take my advice on this one and buy your tickets now.

There is a really nice two-week window in November and December to find good airfare prices –

Everyone knows that traveling around Thanksgiving and Christmas is busy and expensive. This year we are seeing that there are two windows that have reasonable airline prices. The first period is the first two weeks of November. The second period is the first two weeks of December. The airplanes during these dates appear to have a lot of empty seats. We have even been able to find several frequent flyer ticket seats during this time so you know the airlines have empty seats.

FINAL CALL – join Women of Nebraska/Women of the Midwest to Israel and Jordan –

Last month, I returned back from the most amazing trip to Jordan and Israel. If you would like to experience the biblical wonders of the Holy Land, then join our women-only tour this coming February 20 – March 2, 2020. The deadline to sign up is October 28, so please do not hesitate. This tour is limited to 15 travelers and the journey will take you to all the extraordinary sites of Jordan and Israel, incl. Petra, Madaba, Mount Nebo, Caesarea, Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and Jerusalem. CLICK HERE for full tour details and call or email Beth at our friendly group department today, (402) 435-8888, GroupDepartment@executivetravel.com.