All posts in One-on-One

Biometrics Technology Promises to End Long Lines at the Airport and Increase Personalization

This month’s One-on-One features an interview with Joey Pritikin,VP of Marketing and Product Management at Tascent, a leading maker of biometrics technology. Pritikin discusses the company’s recently published whitepaper, “A New Golden Age for Air Travel,” which, in part, details how iris recognition and other biometrics can expedite security checkpoints and make flying an enjoyable and personalized experience again.

Tascent recently published a white paper that explores the potential of biometrics technology as a way for the airline industry to make air travel enjoyable again. What exactly is biometrics technology?
Biometrics is the use of unique human characteristics to establish and verify individual identity. Typical biometric modalities include fingerprint, face, voice, and iris recognition, each of which has its own benefits. As consumers, with the introduction of Touch ID on the iPhone and a variety of other emerging technologies, we are becoming familiar with the way biometrics can provide enhanced convenience for access control or mCommerce. We see this as a watershed moment for the biometrics industry, to be followed by increasing use of varying biometric modalities in ways that increase efficiency, personalization, and security. Tascent, with many of our industry peers, sees iris recognition in particular as an ideal biometric for many applications as it is very fast, accurate, stable, and non-invasive. When implemented in the right way, it can also be very intuitive and well suited to a wide variety of commercial applications. Continue reading →

Peer-to-Peer Rental vs. Home Swapping – One on One with Jim Pickell, Pres., Homeexchange.com

While peer to peer rentals have been attracting a lot of attention lately, the first sharing economy startup for travelers, HomeExchange.com, is experiencing renewed interest and a tremendous growth surge by offering a zero cost option to travelers. ExpertFlyer goes One-on-One with Jim Pickell, president of HomeExchange.com, the first, largest and fastest growing online home exchange club in the world.

We’ve been covering the sharing economy quite a bit recently with the soaring popularity of Airbnb, Flipkey, Uber and Lyft, to mention a few.  Your service is similar to Airbnb, but very different at the same time.  Give us a quick overview of the service.

Soaring popularity sounds about right! Last year, the sharing economy was everywhere, from the proliferation of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, as you’ve mentioned, and more. HomeExchange.com belongs to the “sharing economy” in that it is a peer-to-peer service—the concept is you stay in my home, and I stay in yours. But in that exchange, there’s a simple and important distinction that sets us apart from other companies: there is no monetary exchange between our members. We’re 100% exchanges, not rentals. Continue reading →

goSeek.com hopes to shake-up the monopoly in online booking

ExpertFlyer goes One-on-One with Clem Bason, former president of Hotwire.com and current head of freshman hotel metasearch engine, goSeek.com, to learn how they’re overcoming the online booking monopoly with hidden deals and extras that consumers haven’t been effectively accessing before.

You have about one year under your belt as a freshman hotel deal metasearch engine. Talk about goSeek’s niche and how your first year has been?

goSeek was born out of two observations.  The first is that consumers are searching a large and ever-increasing number of sites before actually booking, seeking the best value.  Years ago they were visiting other sites 20 times before making a purchase.  Today the number is likely 30+.  Yet these same people are saying – even after all that searching – that they are not satisfied with the value of their travel purchase.  In fact, over half are dissatisfied.  They have a visceral sense that there is a better price out there.  And I can tell you that there most certainly is.  I can take a recent hotel purchase from just about anyone and find a better price.  There are hidden discounts out there everywhere.  You just have to know where to look.  Most folks don’t. Continue reading →

Air Travel in the Era of Terrorism — Still the Safest form of Transportation

You’re still more likely to get struck by lightning a half dozen times than you are dying in a plane crash, but travelers are more anxious than ever – and it’s not because they believe the plane is unsafe, but rather some of its passengers. Terrorism, hijacking, kidnapping and all sorts of frightening and unspeakable acts have flooded our consciousness and fuel our fight or flight reflexes.

So, what do we do if air travel is not an option, but a requirement for business or a family emergency? We posed this and other issues of concern to respected aviation and security specialists, including Stephen Lloyd, former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Director of Safety, Patrick Smith, an airline pilot, host of askthepilot.com and author of COCKPIT CONFIDENTIAL, and Phil Derner, President and Founder of NYC Aviation, a news resource for aviation enthusiasts.

According to Stephen Lloyd, more than 850 million passengers traveled on more than 9 million flights on both domestic and international airlines in the U.S. alone last year. More than 3 billion passengers traveled globally. Since 9/11, the U.S. and many other countries have dramatically increased aviation security measures to prevent or deter future attacks. Improved intelligence and physical security both inflight and on the ground have been very effective and will continue to improve. Statistically, air travel remains the safest mode of transportation on the planet.

Are home-grown radicals a new reason to fear air travel?

When we consider the growing trend in home-grown radicalization, a new set of variables – and threats – come into play.  Smith says, at a certain point, there is only so much you can do.  “That’s not being defeatist; it’s acknowledging the reality that commercial aviation will always be a high-profile target, and that a resourceful enough criminal will always find a way to skirt whatever safeguards we have in place.  It’s also very important to recognize that the real nuts and bolts of keeping terrorists away from planes isn’t really the job of TSA screeners on the concourse. It’s the combined efforts  of law enforcement, FBI, CIA, Interpol, and TSA too, working together behind the scenes, inspecting checked luggage and cargo, reviewing passenger data, and foiling plotters BEFORE they reach the airport.”

Phil Derner

Phil Derner

Phil Derner asserts, there are no current threats from crewmembers at this time, nor is there reason to believe that airline employees are more prone to radicalism versus any other industry. “The consensus, as supported by recent events, is that there is a larger terror threat in busy areas on the ground in cities due to their easy access and crowds. A person with ill-intent would be less likely to go through the obstacles of airport security and other layers of safety.”

When you don’t want to fly, but have to …

Folks who do not necessarily want to travel, but must for business or family obligations should not panic unnecessarily over terrorism. “When it comes to safety threats that are on an aircraft, terrorism is pretty low on the list in terms of likelihood,” says Derner. “For passengers, maintaining good situational awareness is something that should be exercised at all times, whether they are flying or not. While we can’t witch hunt, we need to ditch the “it can’t happen ‘here’ or ‘to me'” mentality and must speak up when something doesn’t feel right. Better safe than sorry.”

As for clothing, Derner advises that people should wear clothing that prepares them for the “most likely of the unlikely,” which would be a standard aircraft evacuation. Most of this pertains to footwear that allows one to walk or run in case they need to go down a slide and walk or run from the aircraft through rain, snow, mud, water or rocky terrain. High heels may not be a girl’s best friend in this instance. Otherwise, comfortable clothing like khakis or jeans can help protect from bumps and scrapes as opposed to wearing something that leaves the skin exposed.

Lockdown or fight back

When confronted with violent behavior or a terror threat, it’s difficult to foresee how one might react or should react.  Is it better to remain quiet and calm or to retaliate and fight your captors? “In my opinion, it’s most important to remain as calm as possible and try to best understand the threat, says Lloyd. “Fighting back against hostage takers may have grave consequences for yourself and others. Unless you are trained for combat or law enforcement, you better know what you are doing before you act.  However, keep in mind, there is always the chance that you may become a help to others who have taken action.”

“I am a firm believer in, if you see something, say something,” says Lloyd. “I don’t know of a situation when I wouldn’t speak up. This is not the time to worry that you might offend or bother someone. Your life and the lives of others depend on all of us as travelers reporting suspicious objects, packages or bags without an owner and suspicious activity by any person.”

Thoughts on the TSA from the cockpit

Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith

Smith agrees that the TSA does a lot of good things, but it tends to be the stuff that we don’t see, the behind-the-scenes work. The parts that we do see — the lines at the x-ray machines and body scanners — include a lot of tedium and, quite frankly, waste: wasted time and wasted resources.

“Confiscating toothpaste and hobby tools and tiny toy guns does nothing to make us safer, while using up large amounts of time and money that could be redeployed elsewhere. And one of the most frustrating ironies of all is that pretty much none of the carry-on restrictions put in place after 9/11 would have prevented those attacks in the first place.  The success of the September 11th attacks had nothing to do with weapons or screening protocols. The hijackers could have used ANY form of hand-made weapon. What the men exploited wasn’t a weakness in security, but a weakness in our mindset, and our understanding of a hijacking, based on decades of precedent. The only weapon that really mattered was the simplest, lowest-tech weapon of all: the element of surprise.  The 9/11 plot unfolded because of failures at the FBI and CIA levels. The hijackers were known to these agencies prior to the attacks.”

Smith suggests moving past our self-defeating fixation with the September 11th scheme and stop fussing over harmless pointy objects. “The focus should be on explosives. Or, perhaps more importantly, on people who might use explosives.”

Feeling the fear – Moving through it

Derner recommends taking a deep breath and grounding oneself in the reality that air travel is still the safest it’s ever been and terrorism is not as likely even on the high terror end of the spectrum in Western nations. “A drone is more likely (though unlikely overall) to create a safety threat to an airliner than a terrorist is.”

Prepare yourself before a trip by reading up on the destination and safety tips. “A great place to start is the U.S. State Department Website, travel.state.gov, says Lloyd. “There you’ll find information for travel abroad, including safety tips and information about your destination. They also host the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, (STEP) where you can automatically receive the most current information compiled about the country where you will be traveling or living. You will also receive updates, including travel warnings and alerts.

People should consult the State Department to look for warnings of places that they are traveling to, and undergo safety practices that should be exercised even when not traveling. Having a plan that can deal with things that might go wrong is 90% of survival. When a tragic event takes place and people say “I never thought it would happen HERE,” they are saying that because they had no plan and were unprepared.”

 

 

 

How Norwegian Air became the best long-haul low-cost airline in the world

This month’s One-on-One features nimble long-haul discount air carrier, Norwegian Air. We interviewed Director of US Communications, Anders Lindstrom, about the company’s recent acknowledgement by Skytrax as the best long-haul low-cost airline in the world. The company was also named Europe’s best low-cost airline for a third consecutive year.

According to news reports, Norwegian seems to be betting the farm on leading the market as a long-haul discount carrier – you’ve agreed to buy 19 Boeing 787s, which effectively doubles the size of your Dreamliner fleet. What’s Norwegian’s long-term plan, particularly in the US market?
We’re actually quadrupling our current size of eight Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners that we operate now. We have 30 787-9 Dreamliners on order that will enter our fleet between 2016 and 2020.

For the US, we have ambitious growth plans, just as we have for long-haul operations in general. For Norwegian, our long-haul routes are performing exceptionally well and are very profitable. We will add a lot more frequencies, routes and also new destinations for the US in the next few years. We still see so many opportunities here in the US for growth.

Additionally, in 2017, we will start taking delivery of the Boeing 737-MAX, and we have 100 on order, which will allow us to launch routes from the western coastline of Europe to the northeast U.S., thereby introducing routes that are currently unserved by any other airline.

Norwegian already offers more nonstop routes from the U.S. than any other European airline, but in a few years, we will most likely be the leading transatlantic airline. We will also continue to expand at London Gatwick, where we are currently the third largest airline. We are looking to launch routes to South America, South Africa and Asia.

Talk about the current routes that are available now from and to US cities?
Norwegian currently offers 34 routes from 9 U.S. airports (BOS, BWI, FLL, JFK, LAS, LAX, MCO, OAK and SJU). Of these, BOS and BWI will start with flights to the French Caribbean: Guadeloupe and Martinique, on December 3, whereas all other airports have nonstop to Europe, where we have flights to Copenhagen, London, Oslo and Stockholm, as well as seasonal routes to Bergen. At JFK and BOS, we actually have more routes than any other international airline. In May 2016, we will launch a number of European routes, as well from Boston Logan, and we will later also introduce European routes from BWI.

Is there really a $69 fare that exists from the US to Europe on your airline?
Not yet, but soon! When we launch routes with the Boeing 737-MAX in 2017, we will have introductory fares at $69. These will probably go on sale late 2016, or early 2017. But you can already buy $69 fares from BOS, BWI and JFK to Guadeloupe and Martinique this winter. Norwegian is the cheapest option to get to the Caribbean, and that’s on brand-new aircraft with comfortable leather seats. We’re also the first airline to offer free Wi-Fi all the way to the Caribbean.

With the European routes on the 737-MAX, average roundtrip fares will be somewhere around $300 – $350, so significantly less than anything you find in the market right now.

You’re currently in the 3rd position in Europe among discount carriers. Who are your chief competitors and do you see Norwegian’s position moving into a higher slot?
Ryanair and EasyJet are number one and two, respectively. In fact, Ryanair is the largest airline in Europe in terms of passenger numbers, which really shows the strength of the European low-cost airline industry. Both airlines have been operating longer than Norwegian has and we’re pleased about our rapid, yet stable and profitable growth. Norwegian started flying in 2000 as a small Norwegian domestic airline with just a few routes and has now grown to become the world’s fastest-growing airline. What really sets us apart from any other European low-cost airline is that we a have a long-haul network, and also the number of awards we’ve won for our service, so it’s low fares, but highly quality.

What makes Norwegian so successful? How are you winning in such a volatile and competitive marketplace?
I think it’s a combination of low fares and great service. People want cheap tickets, but they also want friendly service and a great product. And we don’t fly to small, distant airports, we take our customers to where they are actually travelling.

Talk about your frequent flyer rewards program. What types of perks do you offer customers?
Norwegian Rewards is a really simple loyalty program, because you never need to guess how much your points or miles are actually worth. With CashPoints, you know the exact value of your rewards and what you can use. It’s equally easy to figure out how many points you will earn: on LowFare tickets it’s 2% of the ticket price (excluding taxes and any potential additional charge) and on Flex tickets, it’s 20%. You can earn CashPoints on flights, hotel bookings and car rental.

You can use your CashPoints for flights, or to pay for extra luggage, insurance or to change your ticket.

Any new routes, deals or particularly interesting destinations that our viewers/readers should take advantage of in 2015 and 2016?
Right now, our fares to Guadeloupe and Martinique start at $69 one-way, including taxes, which are unbeatable fares to the Caribbean, and these are two hidden gems of the Caribbean. We also have fares for just over $150 to Europe available online. Even better deals exist though our Premium fares. For as low as $600 you get dedicated check-in, fast track security, lounge access, really comfortable recliner seats with 46-inch legroom, full meal services and drinks. That’s cheaper than our competitors charge for their premium economy, and this is quite a step up from that, so we highly recommend it.