All Things Travel: American Airlines Merger Takes Off

BOSTON (CBS) – The American Airlines merger with US Airways is on schedule to be completed in about 18 months.

That was the message brought to Boston on Thursday by Jim Carter, Managing Director and Eastern Sales Division for AA, to about 40 corporate travel managers at a Boston luncheon.

These corporate travel managers account for more than $100 million in airline revenue for passenger flying in and out of Logan Airport.

The combined airline will challenge JetBlue as the number one airline in passengers arriving and departing at Logan Airport. Emerging from bankruptcy, the combined airline now operating under the AA brand showed a $402 million profit in the first quarter of the year.

American is now the largest airline in the Northeast with major hubs in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, Charlotte and Miami.

Bob Weiss, CBS Boston travel contributor

Bob Weiss, CBS Boston travel contributor

The merged airline gives American corporate customers use of the US Air Shuttle routes to LaGuardia Airport in New York and Reagan Airport in Washington. Having the shuttle will assist the new airline in a strong selling point as corporate air contracts go out to bid.

The first step in merging the two carriers was moving US Airways from the Star Alliance to the Oneworld alliance that also includes British Airways and their flights from Boston to London. The two airlines’ frequent flyer programs are also being merged.

The majority of U.S. airlines are showing strong profits and cash flow that is allowing them to buy new fuel-saving jets which in turn is helping companies like Boeing show record profits.

AA has 500 new planes on order and will take delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner later this year. 83 new aircraft will join its fleet this year. It has 50 Dreamliners on order. The carrier will also need to hire 1,500 new pilots in the next five years.

One of the interesting factors in the Dreamliner is that the number of First Class seats is being reduced to make room for Business Class seats, where corporate travel managers put their customers on long haul flights.

Logan Airport now has 105 AA departures a day and according to Carter could add more service as the merger is completed. The first step could be a resumption of service between Boston and San Francisco.

“I would not be surprised to see a few more dots on the map,” said Carter.

One of the problems facing American is at Logan Airport’s Terminal B where currently AA operates on one side of the terminal and US Airways on the other with the new United Terminal in between. One suggestion made by this reporter to eliminate confusion for departing passengers, is to rename the two parts of that terminal north and south.

All Things Travel Reports can be heard on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

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Summer Travel a Bigger Priority for Americans This Year

Summer Travel

Summer travel is turning out to be a bigger priority for Americans this year. Reports indicate that people are spending more money this year than last on costs to visit their favorite vacation destinations.

USA Today reports that in a survey of nearly 300 travel counselors by American Express Travel, 45% said that the booking for their travel have seen an increase from last year. This is even despite the fact that 67% of people have indicated that they have found the cost of travel to be up from last year, mostly because of higher hotel rates and more expensive airfare.

Travel counselors are not surprised, however, that the amount of people traveling, as well as the amount of money that they are willing to spend, is up from this past year. With the cold, harsh winter that the United States has just faced, many people are eager to get away, and many (more than usual, in fact) are even spending a great deal more for amenities, namely excursions. People are willing to pay premium prices this year, despite rising costs.

Since summer travel is a bigger priority for Americans this year, the amount spent on travel this summer through online travel bookings will be close to $61 billion, which is a 15% growth from last year, according to Adobe. The fastest growing bookings, however, are airline bookings, which will have a 28% growth.

On average, a summer trip by an American is 10 days long. The top favorite vacation destinations include Rome, Paris, London, Orlando, and New York. However, recently travelers have been expanding their travel destination ideas, with other cities becoming increasingly more popular as vacation hotspots. Some of these include cities in Brazil, such as Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Sao Paulo, Salvador, and Manaus. These have all seen a year-by-year increase in booking popularity. Additionally, Hilton Head, Grand Junction, Milan, S.C., Colo., and Bucharest are also becoming popular places for Americans to visit.

The top vacation destinations for this summer, according to reports, will be Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, and Hawaii. Hawaii is already trending all over social media, having had 1.1 million mentions in one month alone. However, for people who can not afford to spend a bundle on vacation, there are plenty of options with sights to see and things to do that will not break the bank. With summer travel as a bigger priority for Americans this year, it goes without saying that many are looking for affordable options, even if they are spending more than last year. Some cheaper summer options include Nashville, TN, Traverse City, MI, Mackinac Island, MI, New Orleans, LA, Boston, MA, Savannah, GA, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, and Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. Whether looking for a city with interesting shops and unique dining, looking for a unique tourist experience, or looking for a nature adventure, at least one of these places has something to offer anyone who is on a vacation budget but still needs a summer escape. Many of these cities also offer affordable deals on hotels and accessibility to historic places and special events, and are a small scale summer travel alternative to a big city vacation.

By Laura Clark

USA Today
Wall St. Cheat Sheet
Travel Agent Central

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Is Buying Travel Insurance Smart?

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Ultimate travel tech tools and tips for families

This is expected to the one of the busiest summer travel seasons ever. An estimated eight in ten vacationers kicked off summer with a road trip Memorial Day weekend. With a whole lot of traveling ahead, there are countless opportunities to use tech to make your life a little bit better.

Here’s a stack of family summer travel tech tools and tips to help you get the most out of your next vacation:

1. Don’t get caught roaming

If you’re going cross-country or even doing a bit of globetrotting, you could find yourself racking up hundreds of dollars in smartphone roaming charges. You used to have to worry about roaming for your cellular calls, but in the age of smartphones it’s all about data roaming. This can be even worse, especially if you have a Facebook or Twitter addiction.

To avoid sticker shock, seek out a carrier that doesn’t pile on roaming charges. When it comes to national carriers, T-Mobile‘s looking like your best bet right now. The company’s Simple Choice plan includes international roaming for no extra charge, covering over 120 countries. Text and data are included for no additional fee, with calls in all corners of the globe coming in at 20 cents per minute — but, let’s be honest, if you can text or email for extra charge, how often will you really be calling?

The best part is T-Mobile doesn’t require a contract, so if you have a big trip coming up, you can start a plan to supplement your other, pricier carrier’s plan while you’re out exploring the world and save a few bucks along the way.

You can also use an app such as Rebtel or Ringo to help keep roaming costs down, or buy a SIM card from the country you’re traveling to through a service like Telestial.

2. Back up battery!

Your summer travel plans are hopefully full of sandy beaches, cool drinks, nightly campfires, and lots and lots of relaxing. Your phone, on the other hand, will still be working 24/7 to keep you connected, and its battery never takes a vacation, so make sure it has the extra juice it needs to do its job by equipping a Mophie battery pack case.

Unlike some backup batteries, Mophie’s packs don’t add a whole bunch of bulk to your sleek phone, and while it makes your gadget a little bit bigger than it is when naked, it won’t feel like a brick. Mophie makes battery backup cases for just about every iPhone model, along with Samsung’s Galaxy phones, with prices starting at $79.95.

There’s also the Juno Jumpr, which we showed off in the video portion of this story. It’s a handheld high-capacity battery pack that powers up your phone or tablet, and can even jump start a dead car battery. It comes with its own small jumper cables and everything, so you can just toss it in your glovebox and always have backup power when you need it. The Juno Jumpr is priced at $89.99.

3. Tech on the beach

Tech and water don’t mix, but there’s all kinds of new gadgets that you don’t have to worry about keeping dry. Sony’s newest Xperia smartphones and tablets play well with water, which means you can take them for a swim or even shoot video underwater. Sony’s high-tech handsets vary in price depending on model and your carrier.

If you want some tunes to accompany the sound of waves rolling in, Scosche’s boomBottle is perfectly at home both on dry land or wading in the surf. You wouldn’t want to take it diving, but its weatherproof design means that rain or splashes from out-of-control pool parties are just fine. These beats will cost you $129.99.

Simply want to envelope your smartphone in an ultra-protective case? With a $79.99 LifeProof Fre case you can drop your phone into 10 feet of water and leave it there overnight. Pull it out the next morning, and it’ll work perfectly, as if it had never gone out for that midnight swim. If you’re worried about dropping your phone into the ocean depths or leaving it on the bottom of a lake, simply add on the LifeJacket. Yes, LifeProof has created an external flotation device for smartphones, starting at $39.99.

SnowLizard also has you covered. Literally. SLXtreme iPhone cases are extremely durable, waterproof, and even include a built-in solar charger that will let you take advantage of the bright summer sun. Starting at $129.99.

4. Backseat bickering

An upset baby can seriously ruin a car trip, and nothing makes little ones more whiny than being totally miserable in a too-hot car seat that pulls, pinches, grabs, and just generally makes them crazy. Evenflo’s new Platinum series seats are designed to keep baby happy for as long as humanly possible. They feature heat distribution technology that keeps the tiny passenger at an optimal temperature, which means less crying and more miles with smiles. These soothing seats start at $149.99.

By the way, in the video for this story, I did something really stupid with this car seat. I put the baby in backward. The doll we were using is small, and I buckled it into the seat facing forward. The seat should have been turned the other way for an “infant.” Doh!

Keeping older children entertained is an entirely different story, as they’re not usually content to simply stare out the window. The new PlayStation Vita is perfect for this (if Mom and Dad don’t steal it …). It’s slimmer, lighter, thinner, and more comfortable to hold than the original Vita to better give kids a real gaming experience within the palm of their hand. There are a ton of great bundles, like getting the new Vita with Borderlands 2, and you can even download full games directly to the system, which means boredom goes bye-bye. Systems start at $199.

If your kids aren’t gamers, snag Griffin’s CinemaSeat, snap in your iPad, and let them watch hit movies for as long as they want. It’s easy to install and includes pockets to store important bits like headphones and charging cables. It’ll cost you $39.99

5. Keeps tabs on everything, and everyone

Hitting the sky with all your valuables in a suitcase can be scary, but Trakdot’s luggage tracking system can put your mind at ease. Not only will it send you a text message or email to let you know that your bags safely made it to the same destination as you, but it can even spot your gear anywhere in the world, if it happens to take an unexpected detour. For $49.99, it’s affordable assurance.

Misplaced luggage is one thing, but losing track of your kids in a hectic airport or tourist trap can be downright terrifying. FiLIP is a wrist-worn smart locator that functions as both a phone and a personal guardian to keep tabs on your children. The gadget can make two-way calls to and from five pre-programmed numbers, and will keep your family in touch at all times. The FiLIP itself is $199, with unlimited voice and location data for just $10 per month through ATT.

Whether you’re planning on spending a quiet weekend at the campground, a wild week on the beach, or even an intercontinental trip to see the sights, these tech tools will make your trip less stressful, more organized, and of course, a ton of fun. What travel gadget is a must-pack for you? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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Americans willing to spend more on summer travel this year


London is a popular tourist destination for U.S. travelers.iStock

After one of the coldest winters in recent history, Americans are hitting the road this summer travel season—and they’re willing to spend more to get away.

American Express travel surveyed nearly 300 travel advisors who said their summer travel bookings are up 45 percent compared to the same time last year.

The results are surprising considering that 67 percent agents found the cost of travel to have risen due to higher hotel rates, and more expensive airfare. Travelers are still willing to spend even more on extras like day excursions,  and only 20 percent indicated budget as their customers’ top consideration, the survey found.

“After one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record, it’s no surprise people are itching to get away this summer,” says Laura Fink, vice president of American Express Travel said in a release. “That long, cold winter has fostered a demand for travel where customers are placing a premium on perks and amenities to upgrade their trip experiences despite rising costs.”

The survey found that travelers are taking trips that average 10 days and that the top five destinations for travelers are London, Paris, Rome, Orlando and New York.

Meanwhile, a recent Adobe Digital Index report shows that booking travel online has also experienced a 15 percent growth from last year and 48 percent more people are booking travel through tablets and mobile devices. The report, which analyzed data from over 33 billion visits to more than 1,300 travel websites, predicts overall online travel bookings will reach $61 billion between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

While Americans are becoming more adventurous with their vacations- trips to big cities in Brazil, Milan and Bucharest are up- Adobe found that the top summer destinations for U.S. travelers are Hawaii, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Diego and San Francisco.

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Travel Search Startup Hipmunk Raises $20 Million In Funding

Online travel planning company Hipmunk has raised $20 million in Series C funding led by Oak Investment Partners. Based in San Francisco, Hipmunk was founded by Adam Goldstein and Steve Huffman.

Hipmunk distinguishes itself from the competition by offering an “agony” filter for flights and an “ecstasy” filter for hotels. “Agony” for flights is based on price, duration and the number of stops. When a user searches for a flight on Hipmunk, results are displayed chronologically by the time of day on a single page. “Ecstasy” for hotels is based on price, number of stars and reviews pulled from Amtrak train routes and Airbnb rental property results are also integrated into Hipmunk. Hipmunk has a tabbed interface so that you can set up multiple searches at the same time.

Hipmunk can customize hotel search options based on neighborhoods. In November 2012, Hipmunk hired local travel writers to launch neighborhood guides so that you can find a place in an area that is suitable to your interests. Hipmunk also checks with hotels to find out if there are charges for WiFi and parking. You can identify the type of traveler that you are, whether the trip is for a romantic getaway, a family vacation or business purpose. Hipmunk will filter results based on those interests.

Hipmunk’s hotel search business is growing rapidly. Mobile hotel bookings are up by six times year-over-year, according to TechCrunch. Last year, Hipmunk added same-day hotel booking for last-minute planners. There is a way to toggle heat maps within the hotel search feature to show hot spots for shopping, food, nightlife and “walkability.”

“The winners in the next generation of travel will be the companies that can do the best job serving all user needs, across all platforms,” said Goldstein, CEO and co-founder of Hipmunk, in a statement. Car rentals will be added to the Hipmunk platform sometime soon.

Launched in August 2010, Hipmunk participated in the Y Combinator startup accelerator as part of the summer 2010 class. Prior to launching Hipmunk, Huffman co-founded massive user-generated link-sharing website Alexis Ohanian, another Reddit co-founder, joined the Hipmunk team shortly after the company launched. Ohanian oversaw the design of Hipmunk’s website and its adorable chipmunk mascot. Hipmunk initially depended on Orbitz for flight data initially, but the company signed a deal to use the QPX Solution managed by Google’s ITA Software in November 2010. The company generates revenue through reservation commissions.

Goldstein came up with the idea of Hipmunk when he spent hours helping his friends booking their flights while in school. As Goldstein neared graduation, he decided to build a travel website from the ground up after pitching the idea to Huffman.

Previous investors Institutional Venture Partners and Ignition Partners also participated in this round of funding. Ren Riley, general partner at Oak Investment, is joining Hipmunk’s board of directors. Hipmunk plans to use the funding for cross-platform development, marketing and recruiting efforts.

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3 Travel Stocks to Buy as Vacationers Pinch Pennies

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Louis Navellier

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Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of the summer travel season. Many investors are going to take this as an opportunity to jump in and blindly buy travel stocks as a theme for their portfolio.

That’s a terrible idea.

We saw all sorts of articles this week suggesting you rush out to buy the hotel and recreation stocks as the season for summer fun begins. This is another one of those ideas that sounds fantastic, but the numbers tell a different story. Using Portfolio Grader to look at the travel and recreation stocks, I’m seeing discount airlines and -related stocks as strong buys among travel stocks — not the resorts and recreation stocks.

Southwest Airlines (LUV) has long been one of the favorite choices of cost-conscious travelers, and the company is having a fantastic 2014 so far. Earnings are up 87% so far this year; in the most recent quarter Southwest had year-over-year earnings growth of more than 160%. Analysts have been raising their estimates for both the rest of 2014 and 2015 as the fundamentals continue to just get better quarter after quarter. The stock is rated “A” by Portfolio Grader and is a “Strong Buy” at the current price.

Spirit Airlines (SAVE) is quickly becoming a favorite of budget travelers. Spirit is a no-frills airline that allows customer to take advantage of very low fares and then pay for any upgrades they may desire. Consumers seem to like it, as earnings are up more than 60% so far this year. The company is doing better than Wall Street was expecting and earnings estimates have been raised several times in the past month. Spirit Airlines just announced a bunch of seasonal routes for summer travel to places like Atlantic City and Myrtle Beach — that move should help drive profits all summer long. The stock is rated “A” by Portfolio Grader and remains a “Strong Buy.”

Consumers are pinching pennies when they book their travel as well. The desire to save as much as possible on air travel, hotels and vacation packages is driving sales and earnings growth at industry-leading online travel concern Priceline (PCLN). In spite of all the attention Priceline gets from Wall Street, this company continually outperforms their expectations. Priceline has posted four consecutive positive earnings surprises, and analysts recently raised estimates for the summer travel season and the rest of 2014. The stock has received an “A” grade from Portfolio Grader since January and remains a “Strong Buy” today.

Travel season is upon us, but that doesn’t mean all travel stocks will move higher. Using Portfolio Grader can help you find those stocks that will see powerful profit increases from cost-conscious vacationers this summer.

Louis Navellier is a renowned growth investor. He is the editor of five investing newsletters: Blue Chip Growth, Emerging Growth, Ultimate Growth, Family Trust and Platinum Growth. His most popular service, Blue Chip Growth, has a track record of beating the market 3:1 over the last 14 years. He uses a combination of quantitative and fundamental analysis to identify market-beating stocks. Mr. Navellier has made his proven formula accessible to investors via his free, online stock rating tool, Louis Navellier may hold some of the aforementioned securities in one or more of this newsletters.


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A 60-Second Guide to Travel Hacking

I’m flying over Louisiana as I write this. After a weekend visiting family, my wife and I are heading home to Northern Virginia. Earlier this month I journeyed to Omaha to attend the Berkshire Hathaway meeting with our son. Two weeks from now it’s off to Minnesota for a week of fishing with a friend. We have travelled enough this year to give Gulliver a run for his money.

Our travels have introduced me to a new concept–travel hacking. The term describes ways frequent travelers save loads of money. It’s more than finding a “deal” online. It’s discovering a magical world of free travel, upgrades, and elite status. Saving a few bucks on your next vacation is as magical as I Dream of Jeannie. Travel hacking takes us to Hogwarts with Harry Potter on a Nimbus 2000.

In this 60-second guide, I’ll share 10 tips I’ve learned thus far.

1. Sign up for airlines credit cards

Frequent flyer miles are the lifeblood of travel hacking. There is an art and science to both earning and redeeming miles. Airline rewards credit cards are the starting point. Every major airline offers a branded credit card. These cards typically come with several perks. They offer bonus miles for new card members; free checked bags, with some limitations; priority boarding; and a shortcut to elite status.

Most cards offer enough bonus miles for at least one free rewards ticket. Examples include the United MileagePlus Explorer card (up to 30,000 bonus miles), Citi AAdvantage World MasterCard MasterCard (up to 50,000 bonus miles), Delta’s SkyMiles credit card (up to 30,000 bonus miles), and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Card (up to 50,000 bonus points).  You can find a list of airlines cards at

2. Earn miles in unexpected ways

Beyond the bonus miles, you can earn additional miles from using an airline credit card. In addition to everyday purchases, airlines offer special promotions when their card is used at certain retailers. One site,, tracks these promotions. You can search by retailer to find the airline credit card that offers the richest rewards for the purchase you intend to make.

3. Sign up for generic travel cards

Travel hackers also carry generic travel rewards card. These cards enable you to redeem points or miles to pay for travel. The key is to find cards that offer 2% or more on purchases when redeemed for travel. Two such cards are the Capital One Venture card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. The Barclaycard can generate up to 2.2% on every purchase when rewards are redeemed for travel.  Like airline miles cards, these travel cards also offer various signup bonuses that can be worth as much as $400 or more.

4. Use airfare aggregators

Online sites like Kayak make it easy to compare airfares across multiple airlines and travel sites at the same time.  Kayak makes it easy to compare the fares it finds with other online aggregators, such as CheapOAir, Expedia and Priceline.

5. Go beyond conventional airfare sites

The popular airfare aggregators are just the beginning.  Before booking a flight, check sites like Momondo for travel deals.  A helpful feature of Momondo is its tool that makes it easy to compare fares for different departure and return dates.  If your schedule allows for some flexibility, you may be able to save money by flying on different days. Finally, make sure to check the airline’s website before booking.  You can sometimes find the same flights for a lower fare.

6. Watch for cheaper flights

Use  Airfarewatchdog to keep an eye on lower fares.  The free sight will send you an alert when a lower fare is available to your destination of choice.  Another option is to search for deals using Adioso’s Deals Radar.  This tool shows you airfares to popular destinations over time. You can subscribe to receive email alerts as new deals become available.

7. Follow travel blogs for deals

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Hipmunk Raises $20M Round For Its Agony- And Ecstasy-Based Travel Search

Flight and hotel search startup Hipmunk is announcing that it has raised $20 million in Series C funding.

The round was led by Oak Investment Partners. Hipmunk co-founder and CEO Adam Goldstein told me that he’d been looking to raise money from a firm that had experience in consumer travel, and Oak fit that description because it previously backed flight search service Kayak. Oak general partner Ren Riley is joining Hipmunk’s board of directors.

Founded in 2010 by Goldstein and CTO Steve Huffman (who also co-founded Reddit), Hipmunk quickly became my flight search engine of choice, and not just because the company’s chipmunk logo/mascot is ridiculously cute. Instead of giving users a long list of options, Hipmunk presents them with a colorful grid, and instead of focusing on price, it also allows users to sort results based on “agony” (which combines price, flight duration, and number of layovers).

The Y Combinator-incubated company quickly added a hotel search, which used a similar sorting principle, except this time it was “ecstasy” instead of “agony.”

Over time, Goldstein said Hipmunk developed another big selling point — comprehensiveness.

“When we first launched, I’ll admit we did not have the most comprehensive selection,” he said. However, that’s changed as Hipmunk developed relationships with airlines, travel agencies, and even Airbnb and Homeaway.

Yesterday, Goldstein reiterated a point he made last year, namely that even though Hipmunk has no plans to abandon travel search, hotels have become its priority, in part because hotel search is more lucrative. That part of the business has been “growing like a rocketship,” he said, with mobile hotel bookings up 6x year-over-year.

More recent additions to the product include same-day hotel booking and improved cross-platform features. Goldstein said cross-platform continues to be a big priority — not just making sure Hipmunk has options on multiple platforms, but also allowing users to start a search on their phone and then complete it on their laptop, or vice versa.

“We’re not done with new verticals,” he added. “We’ll add cars [i.e., car rentals] and other stuff, but we’re not done with flight or hotels, either. We’ll keep … trying to make that experience as low friction as possible.”

Existing investors Institutional Venture Partners and Ignition Partners also participated in the new funding, as did Hipmunk’s angel investors. This basically doubles the amount of funding that the company has raised, bringing the total to $40 million.

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