Why New Orleans’ airport is MSY — and other airport code mysteries, explained

Developers Lynn Fisher and Nick Crohn have created a new site that explain the origin of airport codes.

Three-letter airport codes came about because pilots found the National Weather System’s two-letter codes inadequate to identify all the available airports. Today, airport codes are called International Air Transport Association Airport Codes (IATA) and are established by the airline trade association, founded in the 1940s.

I could lose hours in this site. If you’ve ever wondered why Nashville is BNA or New Orleans is MSY, click over to find those, and many more, out.

(via Vox)

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Tipping: Gratuitous Expense

The Economist recounts some of the unexpected tipping that is suggested for when people travel to the U.S.:

The American Hotel & Lodging Association, a trade body, publishes a “Gratuity Guide”, with suggested rates that can make one wince. Examples include up to $2 per person for the driver of the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel; as much as $5 per bag for porters; door staff, meanwhile, should expect up to $2 for the onerous task of flexing their fingers at one of the taxis queued up right outside; and housekeeping should be left up to $5 a night. Top of the heap is the concierge. His suggested rate is $5 for booking a guest a table in a restaurant and $10 if he has something more difficult to do, like find a tricky theatre ticket.

As the article mentions, this all sounds crazy, but it’s a systemic problem: most of these employers don’t pay their employees minimum wage with the expectation that tips will make up the difference. As a restaurant server in college: good luck getting the restaurants to pick up more of the server’s salaries just to lower the expected tip amount for patrons.

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Flying to Europe This Summer? First, Focus On Crossing the Atlantic

The Huffington Post on how to find the best fares to Europe:

One of the biggest mistakes that Americans make while planning a trip to Europe, in summer or any season, is myopically focusing on a specific route. You want to visit Amsterdam, so you only search into that airport. Or you want to visit Glasgow, so you neglect to look at a map and consider, maybe, Inverness.

Or you only look at a particular airline, perhaps to collect those increasingly hard-to-spend miles, and ignore some of the under-the-radar discounters such as XL Airways, Condor, Wow, Norwegian and Thomson.

But flights to Amsterdam are $1500 round-trip this summer? Singapore Airlines recently had New York to Frankfurt for $799 round-trip July nonstop. And Frankfurt to Amsterdam is just $106 round-trip on KLM this summer. Or take the train. It’s just four hours.

Great advice. We often forget that traveling from country-to-country in Europe is like traveling from state-to-state here in the U.S. One other thing I might add: don’t worry about flying into and out of the same airport. In November, Julie and I are flying into Zurich, but out of Munich. It’s an easy train ride between the two cities and it really opened up award space.

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TSA’s Secret Behavior Checklist to Spot Terrorists

The Intercept on some new techniques being cooked up by TSA:

Fidgeting, whistling, sweaty palms. Add one point each. Arrogance, a cold penetrating stare, and rigid posture, two points.

These are just a few of the suspicious signs that the Transportation Security Administration directs its officers to look out for — and score — in airport travelers, according to a confidential TSA document obtained exclusively by The Intercept.

It’s worth clicking over to see everything that the Intercept has uncovered.

(via The Verge)

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Southwest CMO Kevin Krone on the future of marketing

Coming at the tale end of an interview with Mashable, Southwest Chief Marketing Officer, Kevin Krone, on the future of the airline industry:

[T]here are three or four [macro trends], in my opinion. One is that people will want companies to learn more about them so that they can help them more efficiently; and again, companies have to do this in a way that’s not creepy. Secondly, I think that things that are optional today — tools and techniques that companies offer to people — will become mandates in the future. There will just be a higher bar that customers demand of us as companies and as marketers. Thirdly, I think that results for marketers should become better and more efficient. We’ll know more about the customer, we’ll be better able to tailor messages and send them at the right time. The marketing work should become more efficient. And then lastly, I think that the amount of data we can get — managing it, learning to use it — all that will add to the industry’s complexity.

It’s all about data, data, data. The more they can collect, the more they can market things to you. Let’s hope that manifests itself as something useful to the consumer.

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Runway repair at JFK airport could be bad news for summer travelers

From Mashable, it looks like some work is being done on JFK this summer:

The main arrivals runway at JFK will be closed for repairs and resurfacing for about five months starting at the end of April, just as the summer travel season gets underway, and will likely remain closed through most of hurricane season. When the winds are calm and visibility is clear, the closure of one runway doesn’t cause major disruptions at JFK, which has four runways and rarely operates all four at the same time.

I have to imagine that there’s a good reason why they’re doing these repairs during the busiest time of the year for travel for one of the busiest international airports (winter weather, probably), but this sounds like a disaster. JFK rarely uses all its runways, but as the article explains, they’re closing down the one that’s used the most often.

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United Will Pay for a Hotel Room on Arrival from International Flights

Point Me to the Plane on a little known perk:

At certain airports, like London-Heathrow and Frankfurt, United has arrival lounges available (sometimes via a partner) and GlobalFirst/BusinessFirst passengers are entitled to access the lounge. However, at other airports, like Brussels, there are no arrival lounge facilities. In these instances, United will get you a room (or access to a gym) at a nearby hotel, so that you can freshen up. For example, in Brussels, United will provide a room at the Sheraton Brussels Airport Hotel.

You’ve got to be traveling on United internationally in First or Business to take advantage of this, but that’s such a great amenity. I imagine you’re going to have to do a bit of arguing with representatives to get this, so make sure you mention it when you’re checking into your flight.

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Update to TSA Pre

From an email I just received from American Airlines:

This month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is making changes to the TSA Pre✓® Trusted Traveler Program that will impact which travelers receive expedited screening. If you’re not already a member of one of the Trusted Traveler programs like Global Entry or the TSA Pre✓® Application Program, you will probably see a decline in how often you receive expedited screening, even if you’ve previously “opted-in” through a frequent flyer program.

The best way to increase your chances of receiving TSA Pre✓® on a regular basis is to register for a Trusted Traveler Program with the Department of Homeland Security at dhs.gov/tt. Once you receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN) from TSA, be sure you update your AAdvantage profile.

Julie and I were having this discussion yesterday as we waited in TSA Pre line behind people taking off their shoes. I hate to be elitist about this, but the whole point of TSA Pre is to expedite lines. When you give it to people who have no idea what it is or how to use it, it’s exponentially slows things down. Good to hear it will decrease for those who haven’t signed up.

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Airlines’ worsening customer service: The blame game

The Economist compares the two arguments for whose fault it is that Economy Class on flights has gotten so bad. Their conclusion:

We would perhaps have couched it in less confrontational language, but the reality is that customers are effectively demanding worse service. While we might say in surveys that we care about quality, when it comes to clicking the button to purchase a flight, we overwhelmingly choose an airline on price. And so carriers do everything they can to give us what we want: cheaper fares over a pleasant experience. This is the reason that Spirit Airlines, by far-and-away the most complained about airline in America, is hugely profitable, while Virgin America, a far more accommodating airline, has historically struggled to make a profit.

Bingo. Airlines can’t/won’t provide high amenities and low prices. There’s always exceptions to the rule, but when forced to choose between the two, people choose low prices.

Of course, those of us in the travel game have figured out how to have both.

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Senator Robert Menendez — possibly corrupt, definitely bad at using AmEx reward points

Over at Vox, a great rundown of one of the (many, many) mistakes that Senator Robert Menendez recently made:

Only a jury can decide whether Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is guilty of corruption, but based on the facts alleged in the federal indictment he is definitely guilty of poor credit card reward points management.

Consider this:

From on or about April 8, 2010, through on or about April 11, 2010, MENENDEZ stayed in an executive suite at the five-star Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme valued at $4,934.10. MENENDEZ solicited and accepted from MELGEN 649,611 American Express Membership Rewards points (hereinafter “AmEx points”) in order to pay for the suite.

In other words, Menendez and Melgen scored about 0.76 cents’ worth of value per AmEx point. That’s not very good.

Vox goes on to suggest that he should have transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt or transferred those Membership Rewards Points to SPG points for better redemption value.

Come on!

Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt, sure. But Membership Rewards to SPG?? You only get a 3:1 transfer from Membership Rewards to SPG!

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