Liquids on planes: The end of 3-1-1?

The Economist’s Gulliver on a new machine that may end the liquid restriction on flights:

Now there is some hope on the horizon. Fox News reports that the Insight100, a new machine manufactured by a British company, “can identify the chemical composition of liquids sealed in non-metallic packaging” by shining a laser at the container and analysing the spectrum produced by the light. The machine is already in action at dozens of airports across Europe, has low false-positive rates, and has been short-listed for a prestigious engineering prize.

Honestly, the liquid restriction itself doesn’t bother me too much, but taking it out of bags in non-TSA Pre lines drives me crazy.

As the article highlights, the real question here is if this is faster than the current method. If it is, the cost will probably be worth it. If it’s not, the issue becomes how much longer are we willing to wait in security lines to be able to bring more liquid on a flight? For how many people are the current rules too restrictive?


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Earn Up To 2000 Marriott Rewards Per Month On Facebook

The Points Guy on Marriott’s new Facebook Promotion that earns you 2000 Marriott Rewards Points Per Month:

Marriott Rewards members can earn up to 2,000 Rewards Points per 30 days for participating in specific social media tasks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare. This includes “liking” pages which is the most lucrative at 250 points per property and also sharing social media content, checking in at specific properties and using unique hashtags (e.g., #LoveMarriottRewards) for 25 points each. My goal would be to like 8 different hotels per month to hit 2,000- there are about 50 participating properties and hopefully more join as time goes on. 2,000 points at about 1 cent per point = $20 per month for liking 8 hotels, which should take about 2 minutes. Not the worst point payday!

Marriott Rewards points aren’t the most valuable, but with as many as you have the possibility of earning, the sheer number makes this worth it. Marriott Points are also transferrable to Southwest to qualify for the Companion Pass.

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Google Maps adds offline support to iOS

Jacob Kastrenakes of the Verge on the latest update to the Google Maps app bringing offline maps support:

Among the most helpful of the updates will certainly be offline maps, which is now front-and-center on iOS for the first time and in a more robust form on Android: after searching for or tapping on a location, Maps will display an option to save that area for use without an internet connection. Google is introducing a way to manage those offline maps too, allowing users to see what locations they have saved through their profile.

I’d previously been using CityMaps2Go for offline maps while traveling abroad. I’ll check out Google Maps offline support while I’m in Rome.

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The Transparent Airfares Act, hiding the true cost of your flight

Christopher Elliot writing for the Washington Post on the new bill hide the true cost of your flight:

The Transparent Airfares Act would effectively void a Department of Transportation regulation called the full-fare advertising rule, which is supported by consumer groups and airline passengers and has been upheld by the courts. That rule requires airlines to quote a price that includes all mandatory taxes and fees.

If this passes, it gives airlines the ability to show you only the cost of the actual ticket–not fees and taxes. This effectively allows airlines to bury the true cost of the ticket in fees, which won’t have to be quoted until right before you pay.

I do have to give them points for being able to call this the Transparent Airfares Act with a straight face.

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The way we board airplanes makes absolutely no sense’s Joseph Stromberg reports that the way we board airplanes makes absolutely no sense:

Both simulations and real-life experiments have proven the standard method to be the slowest out of several different ones. In 2012, the TV show “Mythbusters” recruited 173 people to compare four methods in a replica airplane interior and found that Southwest’s boarding method was the fastest. A close second was allowing all windows seats to board first, then all middles, then all aisles (outside-in).

The article is worth a read if just to see the various methods of boarding an airplane (and which one is the most efficient), but it’s at the end of the article where Stromberg theorizes why airlines don’t use the best method:

One possible answer is that the current system actually makes them more than they’d save by switching. As Businessweek pointed out, airlines often allow some passengers to pay extra to board early and skip the general unpleasantness. If the entire boarding process was faster to begin with, many people might not pay extra to skip it.

Bingo. Besides upgrades, arguably the second biggest perk to being an elite member (or credit card holder) is boarding the plane first. Enough so to where even an airline (like Southwest) that boards based on pre-assigned numbers, sells the ability to get an earlier place in line.

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Membership Rewards Transfer Bonus to Virgin Atlantic Starts Today

Via Mommy Points, 1:1.3 Membership Rewards Transfer Bonus to Virgin Atlantic Starts Today through the end of May:

This means that instead of the regular 1:1 transfer ratio, there will be a transfer ratio that gives you 1,300 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles for every 1,000 Membership Reward points you transfer.  Savvy points collectors used to use these transfer bonuses to take advantage of the 1:2 transfer rate from Virgin Atlantic to Hilton HHonors, but that rate changed to 2:3 in February of this year.

AmEx has been seesawing between Virgin Atlantic Bonuses and British Airways bonuses.

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Americans Have Fewer Credit Cards And Less Debt

Hitting the FiveThirtyEight trifecta, Mona Chalabi on why a Gallup survey finds more and more Americans not owning a credit card:

[From Federal Reserve data on consumer credit,] the turn coincided with the financial crisis of 2008. That makes sense. Since then, banks have tightened their lending standards; many people have lost jobs, and thus access to credit; and some people may have become more cautious about accumulating debt.

Interesting trends: percentage of Americans with credit cards is down, debt per credit card is down, total revolving credit is down.

What’s striking to me, though, is the implication throughout the article that the reason Americans have credit cards is to carry debt. I assumed most Americans carried credit cards for the convenience of not having to carry cash (or worry about how much is in your checking account with a debit card). I always thought of debt as the consequence of misuse, not the intended purpose.

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Flight Delayed? Your Pilot Really Can Make Up the Time in the Air

Quite a bit of conjecture from FiveThirtyEight’s Benjamin Montet on pilots being able to make up lost time in the air, but still some interesting deductions:

When a flight is delayed by less than 30 minutes, it consistently takes between 340 and 350 minutes to travel between the East and West Coasts. But when the delay is longer — between 35 and 50 minutes — the flight time between coasts drops. Then, it only takes 320 to 330 minutes. The flight time reverts back toward six hours when the delay exceeds 50 minutes.

Montet continues:

That means if your plane takes off 35 to 50 minutes after its scheduled departure, you can expect to make up about 20 minutes of that time in the air. But if the delay is any longer than 50 minutes, you shouldn’t get your hopes up. I suspect the pilots are more willing to press the accelerator, and consequently accept the higher fuel costs, if they believe there’s a good chance they can still get to their destination on time.

His reasoning makes sense: if you’re going to be late, why waste the fuel to be a little less late? But if there’s a chance to be on time, it may be worth it to try and make the time up.

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