I had high hopes for Apple Pay. I love the convenience and security of not having to worry about carrying around a load of credit cards and the system – along with Google Wallet – are more secure than the cards we are using today. Last week I talked about my disastrous experience trying to use Apple Pay for travel, including two hotels that had no idea what I was talking about. Well, it looks like it won’t be getting any better anytime soon.

As they do very frequently, SmartBrief asked their readers a polling question: Has your hotel adopted the Apple Pay system? The responses say it all.

Apple Pay

Over three-quarters of the respondents said Read More…

Posted by Carol Margolis | 5 Comments

RiteAid CVS Apple PayLast week I wrote about Apple Pay for travel. While it was a general failure for travel, I was pleased to say it worked very well at domestic merchants like McDonald’s and Starbucks. I can also add the drugstore chain Walgreens to the positive list.

Speaking of drugstores, Walgreens competitors CVS and Rite Aid decided they don’t want Apple Pay. No specific reason was given but this article notes that both companies are supporting a rival system known as Merchants Customer Exchange (MCX).

Visiting the MCX website may offer some clues why they are dumping Apple Pay. MCX is a merchant-owned checkout system. In other words, these companies see it as a way to avoid paying fees to Apple and others. The MCX system is actually going to be a downloadable app called CurrentC, available for both Apple and Android. According to the website, it is currently in private testing but is expected to be available to the public next year. No specific date is available.

Like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, this will be a Read More…

Posted by Carol Margolis | One Comment

Quite a few years ago now, I needed a new cellphone but I didn’t want an iPhone. Sure, my husband had one as did all of our kids, but I wanted something different. Two hours later I returned home. With an iPhone. Since then I have added updated models, an iPad, and a Mac Air so I guess I am kind of iHooked.

iPhone 6

Everyone has different features they most like about the new iPhone 6 but for me, one of them was the long awaited Apple Pay. As I said in a previous post, this has the potential to be a real game breaker for processing purchases. Would it really be possible to Read More…

Posted by Carol Margolis | One Comment

This article reminded me of the recent Wi-Fi survey sponsored by Honeywell. In their second annual survey, Honeywell tells us that about two-thirds of passengers look for Wi-Fi when selecting a flight. The article slightly misstates that almost 30% will change flights to standby to have better Wi-Fi. The survey actually said that 29% would be willing to fly standby only if the Wi-Fi was as fast as they had at home.

Based on my experience over the past few years with Wi-Fi – and admittedly I am a big fan of Read More…

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There are many websites and apps out there with hotel reviews. What’s typically absent is the ability to see these properties side-by-side. Enter SmartDepart.

With this app – or through their website – you can sort hotels in a city by price, number of stars, reviews, or amenities. The web version won’t win any awards for beauty but behind the sparse home page sits a wonderful engine. A great feature is the ability to limit your search to properties within a chain such as Marriott, Hilton, or Starwood. For example, you can search only for a Courtyard or DoubleTree or Westin at a specific location. This is a great time saver for those who either have a certain preference or have elite status with a specific chain, though it is additional work to click on all the types of properties within a chain.

What’s missing is the Read More…

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Based on a recent survey, it seems most travelers are ready for wearable tech. A whopping 77% said they are ready for it if it helps them with their travels.

The survey had 6,300 participants from 15 countries. They tell us, for example, that 97% of their respondents carries either a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. A bit more surprising; 20% travel with all three items. This suggests a lot of business travelers in their response mix.

But that doesn’t reconcile with the fact that only 76% use airline apps. Less than half (43%) say this has improved their travel while even more (53%) want to receive personalized travel alerts on their devices. Half of respondents want to be able to use their smartphones for boarding while more than half (57%) want airport maps and directions.

Respondents were also almost equally divided on things like Read More…

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A frequent topic on talk boards is how much compensation is a passenger entitled to when a flight is delayed or canceled. Startup AirHelp might be able to help you. They created a free app to help you get through the maze of receiving the compensation you are entitled to.

AirHelp states that only 0.1 percent of passengers receive the compensation they are entitled to. That number seems extremely small but they do not explain in the article how AirHelp arrived at that figure. To their credit, AirHelp wrote a blog comparing compensation between the US and EU. While overall it is pretty good, they are a little misleading when it comes to US involuntary bumps. As I wrote some time ago, it is very rare for passengers to be involuntarily denied boarding. Much more common is the situation where an overbooked flight asks for volunteers.

Except for the rare involuntary denial, compensation in the US varies depending on many factors. One thing the app does not consider is airline status. There is more than ample anecdotal evidence that airlines give far better compensation to elites, with more benefits including overnight accommodations if necessary in many situations.

If this app is free, how does AirHelp make any money? Ah, the small catch. If they can help you recover any compensation, they take 25% for doing all the work. Frankly you can do it yourself but if you want some help and wouldn’t receive anything without them, you are certainly better off with their assistance. They say the average claim takes 6-8 weeks.

So far, AirHelp has figured out how to work directly with your Gmail account if you have your flight information there. That’s a great start but they need to expand this to more platforms, especially TripIt. Perhaps that is in the works for the future. On the other hand, the app is in need of an update. According to the Apple store, it is optimized for iPhone 5. Hopefully it won’t be long before they update this for iPhone 6 and the latest iOS 8 update.

They actually have a competitor app out there called refund.me. However, this app is for EU flights only and also lags in updating and optimizing for the current products and operating system.

For sure, there are limitations with the AirHelp app. If your flight is to/from the EU, it might be able to target your compensation. If your flight is domestic US, they can’t help at all unless you are involuntarily denied boarding. Bottom line, check it out if you are flying into/out of EU and your flight is delayed/canceled.

Posted by Carol Margolis | No Comments

Ack! I think my head exploded!

The first day of the second annual BAcon Conference had our blogger brains brimming by day end and day two was not about to let up.

Focus: Tips on writing better. Have our writing be found by more readers. Learn all the techy stuff that is behind the scenes of our printed words. Hone are skills.

Sounds easy, ay? Uh uh. Learning that JetPack is not what George Jetson donned in order to fly to work but rather a WordPress tool with a bazillion options that can change the look and feel of our blog was all great stuff, though I’m sure I saw a brain or two erupt in the conference room.

Having a speaker from Planet Google itself was cool. Google’s Krista Seiden gave us know-how about Google Analytics, at least as the tool exists today. You think the airlines change their programs a lot? Put them up against Google always changing its top-secret algorithms any day. BoardingArea’s own Jeffsetter then gave us even more great stuff to hone our Google Analytics skills. Our brains were smoking’!

On a serious note, attorney Jonathan Tubin addressed the important area of legal issues that bloggers never think about until it is too late. I don’t think you’d be interested to read “Cell Reviews” from our 6’x8’ steel-walled rooms, but I could be wrong.

Affiliate programs were discussed (and we know you love our disclosure). Randy brought in an excellent panel including Adam Allamar, Grieg Santos-Buch, and Jeremy Zafrios to teach us how to be on the up-and-up so that we’re fair-and-square with our readers.

BAcon Las Vegas

Perfect for the afternoon (I used to love sitting around a circle in kindergarten while Mrs. Clair told us stories), we had storytelling by Cindy Reed who offered excellent tips for writing posts that will keep you, Dear Reader, reading to the end. John Hawkins filled our brains more with his amazing know-how o Jetpack for WordPress.

So much learning, so many brains exploding – though all in a good way. Our skills are definitely honed but good!

For those who had enough energy remaining, Randy invited us to attend an evening with him on the 64th floor of the Delano Hotel for adult beverages (just to take care of any remaining brain cells we might have had).  Sponsored by Mlife and Hyatt Gold Passport, this was a fun time to once again spend time with our fellow bloggers and take in amazing views of Las Vegas.

Mix lounge Delano Las Vegas

Seriously, there was a Day 3?  After a bit of brain recovery mode.

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Reporter stopped by TSA agent who didn’t know District of Columbia is in US

Right at my home airport MCO, a resident of the District of Columbia (the seat of our national government) was asked for his passport. Why? The TSA agent did not recognize his Washington D.C. license, and was unaware that it was a place. It’s not the first time the TSA has run in to this problem, but some light is being shed on the subject because it happened to a reporter. The TSA has since confirmed that yes, D.C. driver’s licenses are valid forms of ID.

Fake TSA screener probes passnegers at SFO

In a bizarre situation, a drunk 53 year old San Francisco man allegedly posed as a TSA agent and directed two women to private booths to be pat down. Authorities quickly discovered the ruse and arrested the man, who was on his way to board a flight to Hong Kong.

Consumers, airlines oppose TSA fee hike

In an effort to pay down the deficit, Congress has approved an increase in TSA fee hikes that will bring in billions over the next few years, but both consumers and airlines are not happy about the changes. Those who oppose the increase, which goes into effect next month, say that the government is treating them like a bottomless piggy bank.

Boeing Preps the 787-9 Dreamliner for Farnborough

The Farnborough Air Show is going on this week in England. In a sneak peek of what is to come, Boeing released this video of a Dreamliner being put through it’s paces.

Posted by Carol Margolis | No Comments

Left - photo taken with default camera app. Right - photo edited with Snapseed and VSCO Cam. iPhone 5s - Hong Kong

Left – photo taken with default camera app. Right – photo edited with Snapseed and VSCO Cam. iPhone 5s – Hong Kong

The best camera is the one you have with you, and these days most of us carry one with us almost everywhere. Your cell phone can take some great pictures, and they’re getting to the point where they’re challenging traditional point and shoots. Using your phone as your main travel camera also means one less item to pack!

If you like snapping a picture and sharing it with friends, then more power to you. But if you like to tinker, edit, and tweak your images to give them a little pop (or fix a small mistake), you’ll want to open them in a photo editing app. There are thousands of apps out there, so where do you start? Here are our favorite photography apps for travel:


snapseedA great app that has been around for years, this photo editor was so good that Google bought them up and made it free. While Snapseed has some great filters, the real power lies in its standard photo editing capabilities. Adjusting the color temperature, straightening your horizon, and sharpening your images are easy to do. Their auto-correct is (usually) a great start, and you can even adjust selective parts of the image or add a tilt-shift to your landscapes.

Free on iOS & Android


vscocamVSCO Cam’s strength lies in its film emulation. If you miss the look and colors of old film stocks (i.e. Kodak, Agfa, Fuji, and Polaroid films), then run your photos through the many filters VSCO Cam offers. You can edit the filter’s intensity, as well as sharpness, grain, vignettes, and fade. You can also selectively edit the hue of the highlights and shadows to create your own look. Post your creation to your favorite social network right from the app, or the VSCO Grid – their own showcase of photographers who use the app.

Free with in-app purchases on iOS & Android Read More…

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Here are some articles and links from around the travel world that came across my desk this week. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments, post them on our Facebook page or send them my way on Twitter.

Piling On the Luxury

With spending on both business and international travel expected to increase in 2014, airlines are looking to cater to their highest paying customers at the front of the plane. The New York Times gives a comprehensive rundown on the ways airlines all over the world are trying to bring luxury to the skies.

Airlines offering fewer flights, fewer seats

While airlines are focusing on their higher end passengers, medium and small sized airports are feeling a little left out. A watchdog group has found that seats and flights across the board, and especially in smaller communities, are getting cut back. Reasons go from rising fuel costs to pilot shortages for regional airlines.

The Instagram Travel Hashtag That’s Worrying the Airlines

Want to get a glimpse of what it’s like working for an airline? The Instagram hashtag #crewlife finds flight attendants and pilots posting photos of what it’s like off-duty. While a quick search brings up acceptable and safe for work photos, I’m wondering how long it’ll take until someone gets fired for not following company guidelines. Read More…

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