July 2009


PrintEarlier this week, I got to try out a new feature being rolled out by many airlines- onboard wi-fi. I was waiting in the gate area for my Airtran flight from Atlanta to Orlando when a GogoInflight rep came walking through. She was handing out cards that had a code on it that would let people use the onboard wi-fi for free for the flight. Of course, I took one.

Once I got on the plane but before electronic devices had to be shut off, I tried to get online. I was picking up a signal, but all I could pull up was a webpage saying the service was unavailable (as I found out later, this is normal. The service doesn’t activate until the plane is above 10,000 ft. to comply with FAA regulations). After takeoff, I was able to get in, register for the service and start surfing in less then two minutes. The connection speed was quite good- it was similar to the speed that I get at home on my broadband connection. Having the wi-fi connection was quite entertaining. I got caught up on my e-mails, checked various social networking sites and even tracked my flight through Flightaware during the trip. Since Airtran doesn’t have much in the way of inflight entertainment besides XM radio, having the wi-fi connection made the time fly by.

Having internet access on the flight made the trip home much more pleasent for me and it’s something that I would consider paying for in the future. Gogo offers several different rate plans depending on the length of the flight and the device used. For a short one-hour hop that I was on, I wouldn’t pay for the service. But if I was on a long transcon flight, paying about $8 to have internet access on my iPod Touch would be well worth it.

Airtran has definitely taken the lead in getting wi-fi installed. They are the only US airline that has it on all of their planes. Airtran even has some funny videos showing what proper “Internetiquette” is and how to use the service. Gogo Inflight can also be found on some American, Delta, United and Virgin America flights. The service is also expected to appear on Air Canada and US Airways flights in the future. Southwest has been testing out wi-fi service with Row 44, but unlike the competition, they aren’t charging for it for now. Alaska Airlines is also testing with Row 44, but is charging for the service.

Overall, the addition of wi-fi is a great move in an age where having services taken away is much more common.

PrintEarlier this week, I got to try out a new feature being rolled out by many airlines- onboard wi-fi. I was waiting in the gate area for my Airtran flight from Atlanta to Orlando when a GogoInflight rep came walking through. She was handing out cards that had a code on it that would let people use the onboard wi-fi for free for the flight. Of course, I took one.

Once I got on the plane but before electronic devices had to be shut off, I tried to get online. I was picking up a signal, but all I could pull up was a webpage saying the service was unavailable (as I found out later, this is normal. The service doesn’t activate until the plane is above 10,000 ft. to comply with FAA regulations). After takeoff, I was able to get in, register for the service and start surfing in less then two minutes. The connection speed was quite good- it was similar to the speed that I get at home on my broadband connection. Having the wi-fi connection was quite entertaining. I got caught up on my e-mails, checked various social networking sites and even tracked my flight through Flightaware during the trip. Since Airtran doesn’t have much in the way of inflight entertainment besides XM radio, having the wi-fi connection made the time fly by.

Having internet access on the flight made the trip home much more pleasent for me and it’s something that I would consider paying for in the future. Gogo offers several different rate plans depending on the length of the flight and the device used. For a short one-hour hop that I was on, I wouldn’t pay for the service. But if I was on a long transcon flight, paying about $8 to have internet access on my iPod Touch would be well worth it.

Airtran has definitely taken the lead in getting wi-fi installed. They are the only US airline that has it on all of their planes. Airtran even has some funny videos showing what proper “Internetiquette” is and how to use the service. Gogo Inflight can also be found on some American, Delta, United and Virgin America flights. The service is also expected to appear on Air Canada and US Airways flights in the future. Southwest has been testing out wi-fi service with Row 44, but unlike the competition, they aren’t charging for it for now. Alaska Airlines is also testing with Row 44, but is charging for the service.

Overall, the addition of wi-fi is a great move in an age where having services taken away is much more common.

In the wake of the “United Breaks Guitars” video, several other people have posted responses to the video.

One is the creator of the original video and his reply to United, along with the promise of another video.

One is from Taylor Guitars with some great advice about how to keep guitars from getting broken and what to do if they do get damaged.

To show that United’s not the only one breaking things, here’s a video from a guy whose dulcimer was broken by Northwest. And the guy who inspired Dave to do the United song wrote a song about his guitar’s fate with Republic Airlines.

Finally, for all the guitar players out there, Westjet promises to take good care of your precious cargo.

The lesson in all of this? Don’t check fragile things if at all possible. Contact the airline if they do damage your stuff, and if they don’t listen, don’t be afraid to complain in a creative manner.

In the wake of the “United Breaks Guitars” video, several other people have posted responses to the video.

One is the creator of the original video and his reply to United, along with the promise of another video.

One is from Taylor Guitars with some great advice about how to keep guitars from getting broken and what to do if they do get damaged.

To show that United’s not the only one breaking things, here’s a video from a guy whose dulcimer was broken by Northwest. And the guy who inspired Dave to do the United song wrote a song about his guitar’s fate with Republic Airlines.

Finally, for all the guitar players out there, Westjet promises to take good care of your precious cargo.

The lesson in all of this? Don’t check fragile things if at all possible. Contact the airline if they do damage your stuff, and if they don’t listen, don’t be afraid to complain in a creative manner.

Countless articles and websites like Flyertalk are devoted to getting the best out of frequent flyer programs. But what about people who aren’t frequent flyers but still want to take advantage of the programs to get free flights and upgrades? There are several programs and strategies that infrequent flyers can use to get some free flights and other bonuses along the way. So if you’re unfamilier with all the different ways you can get miles without flying (and how to maximise the miles you do get from flying), read on.

1. Sign up for frequent flyer programs– This may seem obvious to seasoned travellers, but for folks who only fly a few times a year, they may not know about it or think it’s worthless. However signing up for most frequent-flyer programs is quick and easy. It’s just a matter of filling out an online form or two and you can do it at the same time you’re buying your tickets if you do it through an airline’s website. Even if you fly an airline just twice a year, it may be enough to get benefits. For example, I flew Airtran late last year and will do so again this month. Those two roundtrips are enough to get a free business class upgrade on my next flight. And all I had to do for that upgrade was fill out a form and make sure my number was attached to my bookings.

2. Don’t let miles expire– Many programs will let you keep miles indefinitely in your account as long as you keep the account active. And in most cases, that activity can come from shopping, eating out, renting a car, using a credit card- it doesn’t have to be flying. For most programs, miles will expire after 12 to 18 months of inactivity, so as long as you do one activity a year to keep those miles alive, you can keep accumulating miles towards a free ticket. Or, if you really don’t want to worry about expiring miles, consider flying with Continental, which doesn’t have miles expiration at this time.

One caveat- most of the low-cost carriers like Airtran and Southwest have credits that expire after 18 months, no matter what you do. So you’ll have to keep expiration dates in mind as you’re planning trips.

3. Take advantage of airline alliances- When I was in college, I started flying somewhat frequently for an office that I was volunteering for. Most of my flying was with Delta and Northwest, which are in the same Skyteam alliance. Unfortunately at the time, I didn’t realize that I could credit the flying I did on Northwest to Delta and vice-versa. Had I done so, I would have gotten a free ticket on one of those airlines. By crediting all your flying you do in an alliance to one member, it makes it quicker to hit your target.

4. Use an airline-affiliated card– If you pay off your credit card each month, have good credit and want to get enough miles to get a free ticket in a matter of days, signing up for an airline-affiliated card is the way to go. The cards usually have large sign-up bonus, come with no mileage expiration and sometimes other benefits such as avoiding some fees. Gary of View from the Wing wrote an excellent post comparing most of the major card programs.

5. Shop online– Nearly all the airlines offer an online shopping portal where purchases will get airline miles. If you’re going to go shopping, you might as well get some points along the way. Also, most airlines have partnerships with various rental car companies and other businesses that can also earn miles.

6. Eat out– The iDine program offers miles for when you dine out at certain restaurants. All you have to do is register your credit/debit cards with the program and pick an airline to credit the miles to (don’t worry, Idine doesn’t charge anything to your card). Here’s the list of links to each airline program.

7. Click for miles- Two websites, e-rewards and e-miles, offer miles for filling out surveys. Neither offer a lot of miles, but it’s an easy way to create some activity to keep milege accounts alive.

Hopefully this advice will help you get that next ticket or upgrade that you want even if you don’t have elite status with an airline. Happy flying!

Most customers who have a complaint about the service from an airline might call the airline about it. Some might write the company a letter.  Some might even go online and write blog posts about their bad service. But this guy decided to put his story of woe to a song.

Update: Looks like United got the message. They just posted a tweet saying “@tinamack This has struck a chord w/ us and we’ve contacted him directly to make it right.” Good for United that they finally responded. But it’s unfortunate that it got to this point first. At the same time, the guitar player should have never checked his guitar in the first place, but carried it onboard with him.

This week, the Sears Tower in Chicago opened up a set of glass boxes that jut out from the side of the building. Visitors stepping out onto the glass floor of the boxes will find themselves standing 1,300ft. (396 meters) over the city streets. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart or for folks afraid of heights, but for everyone else it’s a great way to get a thrilling and unique view of the city. However, it’s not the only place where people can “walk on air” to get a great view of a place.

Grand Canyon Skywalk– In 2007, the Hualapai tribe opened a glass walkway that juts out over the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Visitors seemly step off an edge of a cliff and find themselves standing 4,000 ft. (1,219 meters) above the Colorado river. Most glass floors are located on towers, so this skywalk is unique in its canyon location. It’s also the highest skywalk in the world.

One of the Tokyo lookdown windows. Photo by Torsodog.

One of the Tokyo lookdown windows. Photo by Torsodog.

CN Tower– This tower in Toronto, Canada has the world’s highest glass elevator at 346 meters (1,135 ft.) tall. It also has the highest glass floor located in a tower.

Calgary Tower– Further west in Canada is the Calgary Tower. It has a glass floor that’s 36 ft. long and 4 ft. wide and is located 525 ft. (160 meters) in the air.

Shanghai World Financial Center– This skyscraper has the highest observation deck in the world. It also has a  glass skywalk on the 100th floor.

Tokyo Tower– The tower has two sections of floor that are made up of glass to create “lookdown windows” so visitors can see the base of the tower.

Eureka Tower– Located in Melbourne, Australia, the tower has a feature called “The Edge”. It’s a large glass box that moves out 3 meters (10 ft.) from the side of the building. The one downside of this attraction is that cameras are not permitted on the ride.

Several other towers also have glass observation decks including the curvy Spinnaker Tower in Porthmouth, England; Blackpool Tower in Lancashire, England; and the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand.

Flickr also has a nice set of photos of glass floors from around the world at the “On the Glass Floor” photoset.

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