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Airline delays are at an all time low — Or are the airlines just better at managing expectations?

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

flight board

NPR social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, interviews Silke Forbes, associate professor, Tufts University, about a recent research project she led with colleagues to understand how she arrived 30 minutes early on a flight from Cleveland to Washington that she took years earlier, but had taken less time.

“Airlines are arriving earlier relative to their schedules so there are fewer delays and we’re all happy about that, but if you look at how long it actually takes to complete the flight, it’s taking longer than it used to,” said Forbes.

“So, we’re spending more time in the air at the same time we’re being told that we are arriving early.”

Listen to the NPR broadcast here to learn the psychology behind airlines’ move to stretch flight time schedules.

ExpertFlyer’s Air Travel Trend Summary for 2018

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Here at ExpertFlyer not only are we privileged with insider knowledge of important airline industry information that affects how consumers travel by air, we also have great friends in the field who graciously share their valuable expertise with us. For 2018, we want to share some of the important trends that our president, Chris Lopinto, has highlighted for the year.

first class

Airline Cabin Classes

  • Expect an increase in “luxury amenities” for Business & First Class seats, especially on international long-haul routes and some domestic flights.
  • On the other end of the scale, more “Economy Minus” fares, and the restrictive rules that go along with them on domestic rules will also increase. And, of course, the continuing devaluing of frequent flier miles and programs, even for top-tier elites (This is happening where the basic economy fares are being applied to more flights and routes).
  • A new trend in airline cabins is the “densification” of economy classes across the board. This is the process of creating additional rows and in some cases more seats per row on larger planes, much to our discomfort.


General Airline Service

  • Airlines will continue the pricing model of “pay for what you want.”
  • Airlines will provide more routes to smaller cities (Iceland Air, a European Low-Cost Carrier is adding new flights to smaller US cities and others should be expected to follow).
  • Travelers can expect that upgrades will be more readily available for purchase rather than an elite “perk” for their most loyal customers.
  • Expansion of business models (such as Airbnb getting into the “travel business,”) which allows companies to engage with clients for a longer period of time.

mobile tech for travel


  • Continue emphasis on mobile tech and app usage for end to end ease when booking and managing flights.
  • Onboard tech enhancements will continue for airline differentiation and on-board airline entertainment such as TV monitors on headrests will give way to closed-circuit apps to access and enjoy entertainment content from personal mobile devices
  • The increased use of VR technology by travel agents and hotels will become more prominent to give customers a “preview” of what they can expect from specific destinations.


4 tips to build your bleisure travel muscles

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the rubber meets the runway

bleisure travel

Taking the blah out of business travel is easy when you combine a little leisure “me time” on your trip. Just ask any seasoned road warrior and they’ll wax poetic about the bennies associated with “bleisure” travel. recently offered some nifty tips for mixing business with pleasure that are worth taking note of:

4 tips for bleisure travel

If you plan to blend your business and leisure travel, here’s how to make it a win for you and your company.


Yuan says Google Flights “allows you to find all the cities, and the fares, near your destination. It’s a great way to tag on other travel.”

He recalls one of his most memorable bleisure trips. “I had several meetings in Jakarta, and I thought, ‘Where can I go for the weekend before?’” Through Google Flights, he found that he could fly from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Bali for less than $100. “If I’m flying for 24 hours to get to Jakarta from the United States, I want to go ahead of time. So I spent the weekend in Bali, and it was also the weekend of my birthday.”


For frequent travelers, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry is essential for expediting the security check. You don’t need to remove your shoes or belt, and you can keep your 3.4-ounce liquids in your bag and your computer safely in its case. TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years and Global Entry is $100 for five years. (Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck.)

Several popular travel rewards credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ and The Platinum Card® from American Express, reimburse cardholders for these fees.


“If you don’t have status on an airline, get that first,” Yuan says. Elite status in a frequent flyer program gives you airport lounge access, priority boarding, complimentary upgrades and more. When you’re on long-haul flights or visiting multiple cities, these luxuries can make travel a  better experience.


Keeping your personal expenses separate from your business expenses is a no-brainer.

“We’ve found that many employees will have two separate credit cards — one for business expenses and one for personal expenses — which makes it easier for reporting purposes,” Bandourian wrote.

Again, make sure you review your company’s rules and guidelines regarding travel first.

For more tips and advice on the best travel reward credit cards and earning more points, read our post with travel reward and credit card expert, Jason Steele.

Did you know…Air France unveils redesigned and expanded Business class lounge at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport?

Air France announced today the reopening of a completely redesigned, much larger and totally renovated Business class lounge. With an open kitchen, private saunas and a detox bar, the company has created a real bubble of well-being for its Business customers and Flying Blue Elite Plus cardholders in Hall L at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Terminal Two.

 air france business class lounge

The 3,200 sq. m. lounge will open in two stages. The first part of 2,180 sq. m. was unveiled on January 25 and the second section, which will reveal new areas, is set to be unveiled in July 2018.

“This lounge is perfectly in line with Air France’s strategy to move upmarket, in the same way as the lounge at Terminal 2G,” explained Anne Rigail, Customer EVP. “It has been designed to surprise our customers with innovative services on the theme of well-being and gastronomy.”

A subtle balance between elegance, comfort, and creativity, this lounge reflects the identity of the Air France brand. In the choice of materials, furniture and with a palette of bright colors, Air France and the agency Brandimage have designed a refined new lounge, a new ambassador of chic French style.

The largest well-being area in an Air France lounge 

For the first time, an Air France lounge is devoting more than 550 sq. m. entirely to well-being. In a refined setting, everything has been designed to immerse the customer in a cocoon where time seems to stand still. The well-being area provides customers with:

·         An “Instant Relaxation” area to relax comfortably on loungers or in mini-suites for optimal rest;

·         A detox bar to relax, with a selection of fine teas;

·         An area dedicated to facial treatments with two private cabins where customers can benefit from the expertise of Clarins beauticians;

·         Two private saunas to freshen up between flights;

·         Large luxury showers.

Fine dining on show

 air france business class lounge

The lounge highlights the finest French dining experience:

·         A “La Table Gourmet” dining area, designed in the spirit of a Parisian brasserie, with an open kitchen where a Chef prepares tasty hot dishes by putting the final touch on the dish in front of customers;

·         A self-service offer which invites customers to discover seasonal flavors for all tastes, with simmered casseroles, salads and pastries;

·         A selection of wines and Champagnes chosen by Paolo Basso, world’s best sommelier in 2013.

Digital art at the heart of the customer experience

In collaboration with French start-ups Superbien and Tetro and the agency Brandimage, Air France has created a real immersive and sensory experience thanks to digital services:

·         In the entrance hall, a series of screens accompanies customers and takes them into a world of travel with soft and airy lighting effects;

·         A three-dimensional digital creation is on show in the center of the well-being area. A surprising art form that changes shape, intensity and color throughout the day;

·         A sky with soothing lighting, in a light therapy style, for a moment of complete relaxation.

Unique spaces

To meet the needs of all customers, Air France has also come up with:

·         “Le Club”, a private area, to spend time alone or with others in a warm atmosphere;

·         “Le Petit Salon” to take time out in a place where all is quiet and smartphones are silent;

·         An “At Your Service” area, to be assisted by Air France staff in the lounge to reserve showers and saunas, change seats or flights, etc.;

·         “Air France Shopping” showcases to discover and purchase a selection of unique Air France-branded objects.


New tool helps air passengers apply for refunds due to delayed, canceled or overbooked flights

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

airhelp logo AirHelp, a flight compensation company and air passenger rights advocate, has launched the world’s first tool for travelers to check their eligibility for compensation from flight disruptions up to three years in the past. The feature also allows travelers to visually map out their journeys directly from their mobile devices into an adventure map for social sharing. This first-of-its-kind technology will enlighten consumers to compensation they may have never known was available to them.

“Raising awareness of air passenger rights and identifying new ways to be a consumer advocate has always been our priority,” says AirHelp CEO and co-founder Henrik Zillmer. “Over nine million air passengers are entitled to compensation for disrupted flights every year, yet most of these travelers don’t know that they are eligible or understand how to pursue a valid claim. Our new tool will produce compelling content for today’s social media-driven consumers, while building a platform for automatic notifications about compensation eligibility. We’re excited to educate even more travelers about their rights in a fun, interactive manner with technology.”

LISTEN to our interview with AirHelp CEO, Henrik Zillmer



ExpertFlyer: Tell us about AirHelp and how you’re helping consumer air travelers?

Henrik Zillmer:  We’ve actually been working on AirHelp for many years. It’s been three years in the making. What we have built is a feature where you can log in with your email and we can then find the flights that you have been on in the last few years. By doing that, we can match it against all the flights that are eligible for compensation according to air passenger rights, and then tell you, “Hey, you were on a flight that was delayed three hours, and you are entitled to compensation.” The airline may not have told you, but we can tell you or we can also help you get it. It’s like having a little lawyer in your pocket that informs you if you have a right to compensation.

EF:  That’s interesting. Explain how you act on the consumer’s behalf to secure the refund or compensation?

HZ: We send an email if we find a flight that’s eligible. In general, we also just keep you informed about your rights. It can be that you’re entitled to other things, such as food or accommodation or transportation, and that’s also something we inform users about. But if you are entitled to cash, and here we’re not talking about a voucher or miles on your account, but if you’re entitled to cash, then we go and fill out a claim on your behalf, send it to the airline, and talk to the airline, and then get them to pay the compensation. If they don’t pay out, then we even go to court, taking legal action if they don’t want to follow the law. That’s our specialty. We’ve done that more than 50,000 times. We’re quite experienced in suing the airlines and making sure they follow the law.

EF: In terms of cost to the user, what’s the fee associated with the service?

HZ: The new feature is completely free, and you can use it whenever you want and it can tell you if you’re entitled to compensation. It’s like a lookup service. If you want us to go and claim the money on your behalf, then we charge a 25% success fee. So it’s a no win, no fee pricing model. If we don’t get anything, you haven’t paid anything. Very simple.

EF: In addition to offering this valuable tool, your company is also involved in consumer travel advocacy. Talk a little bit about that.

HZ: This whole idea of AirHelp actually came five years ago, where there was a law in Europe that said you were entitled to a lot of different things if the airline delayed you. But it was only about 1% of travelers who actually knew that they had rights. So we saw it as an opportunity to go out and make sure that all air passengers are informed about their rights and make sure that the law actually works.

Since then, we have been fighting to make sure airlines are following the law, but also to make sure that the Department of Transportation and also the European Commission of Transportation are aware of how airlines are treating their passengers, and also make sure that there are laws in place that are consumer-friendly and not only favoring the airlines. We’ve been touring around on different travel conferences, talking about air passenger rights, and we’ve also set up an organization that’s called Air Passenger Rights. We’re trying to promote consumer-friendly air passenger rights all over the world.

EF: Let’s say you’re a frequent business traveler, maybe taking three to four airline trips per month. Potentially, on average, how much do you think that person might recoup per year based on delays and all of those issues?

HZ: It is all about probability, and it’s not all delayed or canceled flights that are entitled to compensation. For example, if it’s a weather delay, then it’s not the fault of the airline, and therefore you’re not entitled to anything. That’s just tough luck. But if it’s a technical problem or it’s a cabin crew shortage or maybe air traffic control, then it is the airline’s fault, and then we can get compensation.

Statistically speaking, it’s only one flight out of 100 that is entitled to compensation. If you’re a business traveler, maybe you clock in 100 flights a year. Well, then, you have one every year. But it works three years back, so you can actually go back in time and still claim. If you use our service today,  you’ve been flying a lot the last two years, then, of course, the likelihood is much higher.

EF: Just so people understand, what are the conditions under which you are entitled to some sort of reimbursement?

HZ: The conditions vary from state to state or country to country, from region to region. There are many different laws, and that is why it is also very difficult for the air passenger or the customer to understand what their rights are. This is why AirHelp exists because consumers are not lawyers — not all of them. Finding out what the law says in my particular case, in my country, that’s difficult. That’s where we come in – we do all that legwork associated with rules and regulations, so consumers don’t have to. Suffice to say, the “magic” mark that generally applies to all is three hours. The flight needs to be delayed more than three hours before the laws kick in.

EF: You have another interesting feature that’s a little more on the fun side, right? Talk about that.

HZ: In addition to, of course, offering our help getting you compensation, we have also developed a feature where we then display all the flights that you have been on in the last three years on a big travel map. Here, you can then see where you’ve been, which countries, which airports, what’s your favorite airline, how much time you spend in the sky. That’s a little scary. Also, how much time you waited in security or watched safety demonstrations on board, or how much money you’ve spent on air tickets. It’s all the information that you as a business traveler probably never thought about, but here in less than 10 minutes, we show you everything. That gives you a little bit of intelligence about your flying habits. So very fun to see and very fun to share with your friends and compare travel habits.

EF: Is there anything else we should know that I haven’t asked before we let you go?

HZ: I think you should try it out. As I said, it works three years back, so you get all the past flights. Maybe there is some hidden money in your inbox. You never know.