Archive for November, 2013

One-on-One with Kevin Weiss, CEO of Xhibit Corp., & SkyMall

In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Kevin Weiss, the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Xhibit Corp., as of May 2013, after the merger of SkyMall and Xhibit Corp. We talked to Kevin about his new role and what his plans are – particularly over the holiday season – for the company’s famous inflight catalog, SkyMall. The popular publication is distributed in airplane seat pockets and seen by approximately 650 million air travelers annually – that’s nearly 88% of all domestic air passengers.

Founded in 1990, SkyMall is known for offering a unique curation of over 30,000 products for the Home, Health, Pets, Office, Fashion, Gifts and more.  Skymall is giving all ExpertFlyer Facebook fans a special 20% discount  through 12/31/13 when they enter ExpertFlyer’s Facebook Contest Giveaway here: http://a.pgtb.me/DzK6vt.

Kevin Weiss, CEO Xhibit Corp and Skymall

SkyMall is more than just a catalog in the airline seat pocket.

— Kevin Weiss, CEO, Xhibit Corp.

Congratulations on your new role as Xhibit and SkyMall’s Chief Executive Officer.  Can you talk a little bit about the merger and how it will affect SkyMall, as well as how the catalog is evolving, especially in today’s digitally-oriented marketplace? Is SkyMall’s niche simply tied to its unique distribution advantage or is there more?

Let me answer the last question first.  SkyMall’s niche is really about cool products.   Many of the products are quirky and innovative. The thing that I like about the collection it that it is generally merchandise that people don’t normally think about.

When we think about the shift taking place to digitally-oriented marketplaces, we get very excited. Today, over 80% of our sales take place on our newly-implemented website. The merger with Xhibit will enable us to enhance our new platform that we launched in September with video, games and apps for smart phones. All of this is being done to enhance the customer’s shopping and buying experience.  While we continue to see great value in our in-flight printed catalog,   we believe that the explosion of Wi-Fi on planes will create even more buying opportunities for fliers.  As an added bonus, several airlines now allow passengers to go to SkyMall.com without being charged a Wi-Fi access fee.

Who are your best customers – who is purchasing from SkyMall on a regular basis and now that Wi-Fi is allowed inflight how will that impact sales when SkyMall customers can easily access online competitors, like Amazon.com and other Internet retailers?

Our best customers are frequent travelers who adapt well to new technology and enjoy unique products.

As I said before, we see in-flight Wi-Fi as a great benefit to our business.  If you think about the “olden days,” people had to see the catalog in-flight, decide they wanted to buy something, either take the catalog with them or write down the item, get to their destination, remember that they were interested in a cool product, and THEN either call us or go online to buy it.  Today, with the Wi-Fi on the plane, we’re just a click away.  It really has made it much easier for customers to place orders with us.

In general, what type of products do people seem to buy more of from SkyMall?

Best selling products change based on the time of year. Right now, the NFL Wine Shoe Holders are a hot item.

How does SkyMall’s pricing compare to online outlets and stores?

SkyMall has a Price Guarantee.  Everything at SkyMall is offered at the same prices you’d find in the original manufacturer’s catalog. There’s no additional markup.

The holidays are upon us again, what will be your top-selling items this Christmas and Hanukkah?

Once again the SkyMall Holiday Catalog is full of great holiday ideas for decorating, entertaining and gift giving!  Some of the early favorites include My Adventures Books, the sippy wine glass and Campus Letter Art.  Have you seen the Harry Potter Remote Control Wand? Another great SkyMall gift for someone who has ALMOST everything!

Can you give our readers some tips on how to shop SkyMall and any special deals or promotions they can take advantage of in time for the gift-giving season?

The best way to know what’s going on at SkyMall is to subscribe to our exclusive SkyMall Offers email at SkyMall.com.  We are also happy to offer all ExpertFlyer Facebook fans a special 20% discount  through 12/31/13 when they enter ExpertFlyer’s Facebook Contest Giveaway here: http://a.pgtb.me/DzK6vt.  Unique coupon code and link will be visible upon entering the sweepstakes.

Starting 11/15/13 through 12/9/13, we are running a 25 Days of Cool Giveaways sweepstakes where we are giving a cool product away every day and a grand prize $1,000 SkyMall Shopping Spree.  Participants can enter at skymall.com/25Days.

What’s your vision for SkyMall over the next 3-5 years?  Any pivotal changes on the horizon?  How is mobile and social media playing a part in SkyMall’s marketing and customer service efforts?

Our new website was the first real change we have made in a few years. It is already serving our customers and partners well. We are now in the process of designing new apps that will run across most smart phones. We want to make the interaction with SkyMall fun and rewarding. As we expand our marketing reach, you will see us invest in video and image recognition technology to allow customers to interact with the catalog through their smart phones – even down to the purchase of products. Finally, you should expect us to seek opportunities for international expansion. It is a very exciting time to be at SkyMall.

 

7 (more) ways to save on your next group getaway

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In our final Group Travel installment, we add 7 more ways to save on your next group getaway from our friend David Chait, co-founder and CEO of Travefy.com, an online trip planner that solves the coordination chaos of group travel.  For our previous tips, check out parts one and two.

travefy.com1. Remember size does matter… for hotels. When searching for group hotel deals never forget that 10 is the magic number. Hotels tend to keep static pricing for any group booking 1 to 9 rooms. At 10 rooms, however, most hotel managers are empowered to start offering bulk discounts as well as key perks like a free organizer’s room. Hotels are all about vacancy management, so 10 rooms is the general rule of thumb for moving the needle on their nightly yield.

2. Decide rental vs. hotel. You can’t go wrong with either a hotel or a vacation rental, both of which have specific benefits. They also both tend to be priced similarly with the average U.S. hotel priced at $118 a night and the average rental condo at $99 a night (assuming you’re not cramming 6 people in a 1 bedroom condo).

Given this information, the key factors in determining your best way to save is the cost of food & gas/transportation. Higher food prices benefit rentals where you can cook on the cheap, whereas higher gas or transportation prices favor hotels, which tend to be in a city’s downtown area. These prices can be found on a number of sites across the web and should be factors.

3. Find and verify a rental gem. Vacation rental sites are filled with gems, but there are also a lot of dishonest listings. To really capitalize on potential rental savings, you must verify the details the best you can. Don’t just read reviews and view pictures – take stock in the quantity. For reviews, a higher number not only provides a more accurate picture, but ensures your renter is a veteran. In terms of pictures, make sure there are pictures beyond the room you’d be renting. Fuller photo coverage is a great sign that everything is in good working condition.

4. Research airlines. Know your hubs and routes. While some may argue that individual airline experiences themselves are somewhat commoditized, never lose sight that individual airlines “own” certain routes and hubs. Use this to your advantage to find the best routes. This also might mean splitting yourself across two airlines for a given destination to maximize the savings. For these “hacker” fares, be sure to price them out yourself to capture all of the savings.

5. Pick your days. If you have some flexibility in your potential travel plans, remember that you can save money on flights dependent upon the days of the week you travel. As a general rule flights in the middle of the week are much cheaper than weekend flights. (“Weekends” include Friday and Mondays, which are also inflated by business travellers.) Why not take a Wednesday to Tuesday vacation?

6. Book quickly and alone. Unlike hotels, group airline discounts DO NOT EXIST. In fact, group bookings are actually more expensive. A limited number of seats exist at each price point, so when you book your group together everyone is typically charged at the highest price ticket as opposed to the lowest. To avoid this painful pricing, always book your airline ticket solo.

7. Plan ground transportation. One way groups unnecessarily increase the cost of their trip is to forget to plan ahead regarding ground transportation. Without a transportation plan, individuals rely on cabs and other costly methods to get themselves from the airport to their destination. Aggregating your group for shuttle-like services can save each traveller 50% or more.

 

 

“Did you know…Russian crash investigators find voice recorder?”

(Yahoo! – Finance)

tartarstan airlinesThe Tartarsan Airlines plane crash, bound for the central city of Kazan, Russia, may have crashed due to a manual second landing attempt and pilots’ over-compensation to gain speed after a steep climb.  According to an Associated Press report, the last word the pilot of the Boeing 737 uttered was “circle.” Moments later the jetliner slammed into the ground, investigators said Wednesday, killing all 50 people on board.

“The Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee, which investigates plane crashes across the former Soviet Union, concluded a day earlier that the crew failed to land at first attempt, began to stall in a steep climb, then overcompensated — plunging the plane into a near-vertical dive. The report was based on the data retrieved from the plane’s flight parameters recorder, which also showed that its engines and other systems were working fine until the plane hit the ground.”

Read the full story here: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/russian-crash-investigators-voice-recorder-112734426.html

7 ways to save on your next group getaway – Part 2

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics – Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In Part 2 of our Group Travel series, Kyle Killion, co-founder of flightswithfriends.com, finishes up the last of his seven ways to save and travel smart when you’re going away with a crowd. If you missed tips 1 – 4 in Part 1, catch up here.

HotelTonight.com5. Don’t compete with your own group for flight prices

Airlines specify the number of seats that will be available at a certain price. Even if there are 80 seats left in coach there might be two for $199, ten for $299, etc. When you are searching for prices set the number of passengers to the total number of people in your group. That way you will know the price that everyone will pay.

6. Last minute discounts on flights are dead

Booking your flight less than 30 days before it departs plays into the airlines hands. Since 2008 demand is much higher than supply so as soon as you know when you want to travel; book it.

7. They were replaced with last minute hotel deals

Great apps like HotelTonight let you book a room the same day at a big discount. You do run a risk of not having enough rooms for your whole group if you don’t book as close to noon as possible.

Happy flying!

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