We take time to examine a worsening battlefield in airline travel. More carry-on bags are slowing down boarding and creating havoc with published airline schedules. Free airport WiFi is now a ripe target for cybercriminals. So, we provide some precautions. And the GPS systems that we use for directions have many surprising GPS magic capabilities.
Overhead bins are a battleground. Here’s what airlines are doing to fix the problem they caused
We are facing a battle for overhead space in planes because of a problem that the airlines themselves created. They started charging for checked bags and the fee has started a rush to carry-on luggage that avoids the checked-baggage fees. Plus, beyond the checked-baggage fees, the airlines began squeezing in more seats per plane without adding any new checked baggage space. It is a perfect scenario where collecting more fees from passengers has created problems that were predicted by many but ignored by the airlines.
The general rule for airlines is always profits over passengers. However, now the carry-on limitations are beginning to delay take-off times and have extended boarding times. So, there are new costs that the profits have generated. Nothing is totally free. More carry-on bags mean more fuel used to catch up in the air. Less on-time flights result in poor schedule maintenance. And now, the airlines have found that they are spending more money on bigger baggage bins.
“The airlines recognize that they needed to do something,” says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group. “They created a monster.”
He said more air travelers started to carry their bags onto planes after the Rollaboard suitcase was popularized in the 1990s. But the real catalyst came during the recession, when traditional airlines, struggling with high fuel costs, introduced fees for checked bags in 2008. American was first, charging $15 for the first bag, followed over the next several months by competitors. Southwest remains a holdout, allowing passengers to check two bags free of charge. Last year, the largest U.S. airlines raised their checked-bag fee to $30 from $25.
“We’ve been living with the legacy of that since then,” says Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorksCompany, which consults with airlines on fees.
Why you should never use free airport Wi-Fi
Do you still use free airport WiFi? Airports make ideal hunting grounds for cybercriminals, in part because there are so many easy marks in one place. Study after study shows that free airport WiFi has one of the most notable risks to passengers’ computers, mobile phones, and other devices. Here is the basic advice. Rather than use the free airport WiFi, follow these rules.
Use your smartphone’s personal hotspot.
You already have a good solution in the palm of your hand. “It’s much more secure to use the hotspot that’s enabled on your smartphone,” says Guccione. “Almost every smartphone today, whether it’s an Android device or iPhone, has a built-in personal hotspot that is far more secure than public Wi-Fi.”
Use a virtual personal network.
If you have no option but to connect to a public Wi-Fi network, it’s smart to get into the habit of using a virtual private network (VPN), which boosts security by creating an encoded tunnel between your device and a server.
Five GPS magic tricks you probably don’t know
Travelers use GPS systems to map their routes and find addresses every day using cell phones and other navigation systems. However, the uses of GPS are becoming more and more sophisticated every day. Scientists have devised a way that they may predict earthquakes and track ground waves during earthquakes. Researchers have developed better systems for determining flash floods and volcanic activity. It seems that everything from snowfall, water levels, and tides can be measured.
GPS consists of a constellation of satellites that send signals to Earth’s surface. A basic GPS receiver, like the one in your smartphone, determines where you are — to within about 1 to 10 meters — by measuring the arrival time of signals from four or more satellites. With fancier (and more expensive) GPS receivers, scientists can pinpoint their locations down to centimeters or even millimeters. Using that fine-grained information, along with new ways to analyze the signals, researchers are discovering that GPS can tell them far more about the planet than they originally thought it could.
Here are some surprising things scientists have only recently realized they could do with GPS.
- Feel an earthquake
- Monitor a volcano
- Measure water levels
- Probe snow
- Sense a sinking
- Analyze atmosphere
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past ten years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018. He also served on the Consumer Advocacy Subcommittee of the Transportation Security Advisory Board.