Bring air traffic into 21st century – Video – Business News

Bring air traffic into 21st century – Video – Business News.

There’s a great CNN interview with Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, on the need to modernize the technology that controls the routes that airlines fly.  He makes a telling point:  the technology exists–we just need the federal government and the industry to commit to it.

Kelly’s point is that instead of using satellite-based GPS systems to route our airliners, we’re relying on ground-based radar sites that were developed in the 50′s.  Does it really make sense to rely on technology that’s more than fifty years old, when we have the capability of saving huge amounts of fuel and carbon emissions by using new technology that’s been available for years?  He notes that the industry alone can’t make the switch; the federal government is responsible for air traffic control, so it has to take the lead in migrating to new highways in the sky.  There is a movement afoot to do so, but given the cost of fuel and environmental consequences, we need to pick up the pace of adaption.

In reality, the same could be said of baggage tracking systems.  We have technology available that can significantly reduce the level of mishandled bags.  Now that the Department of Transportation has mandated that airlines must refund baggage fees for mishandled bags, perhaps we’ll see a move to adapt some of those technologies.

Posted in Airline industry improvement, Lost Luggage, Luggage Fees, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Associated Press: Govt wants airlines to repay fee after losing bag

Was this inevitable?  Now that the airlines have been charging for carry on luggage, the expectation that your bag will arrive at the same place you do–at the same time–has increased.  Along with the disappointment when it doesn’t.

And now the Department of Transportation is jumping into the fray, saying that passengers should be due refunds on those baggage handling fees if their bags don’t arrive at the correct destination on time.  Frankly, it seems only reasonable that we shouldn’t have to pay for a service that we don’t actually get.

And by the way, there’s an interesting number quoted in the accompanying article:  at one point the author refers to over 2 million bags a year that are mishandled in the US.  Perhaps.  But that number is over 25 million worldwide!

The Associated Press: Govt wants airlines to repay fee after losing bag.

Posted in Carryon Luggage, Lost Luggage, Luggage Fees | Leave a comment

11 Tricks to Cutting Travel Costs in 2011 – NYTimes.com

There’s a great article in the New York Times today on ways to reduce your travel costs.  I love one of them:  buy your tickets on a Tuesday.  That lets you take advantage of the industry tendency to match sales that are announced on Mondays.  Brilliant.

And there are some new sites discussed that aren’t particularly well known yet, but offer deep discounts.  This is well worth checking out if you intend to fly soon.

11 Tricks to Cutting Travel Costs in 2011 – NYTimes.com.

Posted in Carryon Luggage, Luggage Fees, Smart Travel, Travel Tips, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Make Sure Your Luggage Won’t Get Lost: Top 5 Tips from Savvy Travelers

It’s that horror story we all fear when we check our luggage: we made it, but our bag didn’t. From presenting to an important client in the same clothes you wore from New York to Los Angeles, to spending the first couple of days of an expensive ski vacation waiting for the rest of your gear to arrive, we’ve all been there.

Beyond relying on hope, there are actually a few steps you can take to reduce the odds that you’ll come away from the baggage carousel empty handed.

1. Avoid tight connections whenever possible. Over 50% of all mishandled bags are the result of missing connections. It’s often unavoidable: weather delays, traffic delays on the ground or in the air, the ripple effect of bad weather spreading throughout the system—there are a lot of reasons why connections that seemed manageable on paper suddenly turn into a sprint through the A concourse to reach a flight in the D concourse. And often, you’ll make it—but your bags won’t. And that’s the major cause of bags that are mishandled. So when you have the choice between two flights, try to pick the one with the longer layover, if it’s practical. You may spend a little more time in the airport terminal, but there’s a much greater chance you’ll have your bag when you reach your final destination.

2. Get to the airport early. Another leading cause of mishandled bags is “failure to board” . . . meaning that last minute rush to the airport, the unexpected traffic jam, the endless search for a parking space meant that you just made it aboard, but your bag didn’t. So this one’s pretty straightforward: give yourself a little extra time to check in for that flight.

3. Make sure the printed airline bag tag is right. Experienced travelers have learned to double check the printed airline bag tag to make sure the destination shown is correct. Believe it or not, ticketing errors are the third most frequent cause of mishandled bags. Agents get busy, boarding times loom, and in the rush to make sure everybody makes a flight, they can enter the wrong information for your bag. The answer is easy, though—just check your printed bag tags to make sure the correct itinerary is printed on them.

4. Use a next generation luggage tag. Full disclosure here: my company makes smart luggage tags designed to help prevent your bag from getting lost or delayed. So I’m hardly unbiased—but I’ll tell you why the new generation of smart luggage tags can help make sure your bag gets to where you’re going. The airline industry relies on bar coding to track the baggage it carries. Unfortunately, paper barcode tags can get separated from the bag or become unreadable to a bar code scanner. In that case, you want a back up luggage tag to confirm ownership information. The latest generation smart luggage tags go beyond that. The AvX SmartTag, for example, uses a network of live agents 24/7 to quickly provide baggage handlers with your correct destination, in the event the original paper tag is missing or unreadable. That can spell the difference between a minor delay of an hour or two, and a huge inconvenience when your bag is missing for a couple of days.

5. Pack light. Counter intuitive, perhaps. After all, the reason you check your bag is to accommodate all the stuff you need that won’t fit into a carry on. But one of the causes of mishandled baggage is weight and space restrictions. You can improve your chances that your bag won’t be the one that’s bumped, by making sure that it’s not the fifty pounder that’s straining at the seams. Try and make everything do double duty so that you can reduce the sheer amount of stuff you have to pack.

In the new realities of travel—with overhead bin space at a premium—checking your luggage is often a necessity, not a first choice. These tips from savvy travelers can at least tip the scales in your favor that your bag won’t go off the rails.

Posted in Lost Luggage, Luggage Tags, Smart Travel | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

AvX Featured in Pacific Coast Business Times

AvX had a nice write-up in the respected Pacific Coast Business Times recently. I was interviewed last week by Stephen Nellis, their technology editor. He turned out to be an interesting guy, and made the process pretty enjoyable.

Find the bag, follow the money:
Tech veteran builds business on lost luggage

by Stephen Nellis
Pacific Coast Business Times
Friday, 3 September 2010

AvX CEO interviewed by Pacific Coast Business TimesYou’ve just stepped off an airplane in London. You’re tired and jetlagged, and your bag is nowhere to be found. Looks like you’ll be presenting to the head of European operations in the clothes you’ve spent 16 hours in.

Santa Barbara technology veteran Cleveland Motley wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Motley is the founder and CEO of AvX Technology, a startup that has developed a high-tech luggage tag designed to help airlines get their bags to the right destination at the right time. And a lot of bags don’t—a Wall Street Journal estimate pegged the number at 31 million mishandled bags in 2008.

“What we’re selling is peace of mind and security that you’re doing something to make sure your bags don’t get lost,” Motley said. Before AvX, Motley was on the executive team that expanded Goleta-based Somera Communications to $240 million in revenues and a 1999 initial public offering.

The problem is that the technology airlines use to track baggage is old. When you check a bag, a barcode is printed that tells the airline where to route the bag, along with your flight plan. But Motley said industry data shows those tags can’t be read by scanners about 15 percent of the time.

If the tag is damaged or lost, the airline has no information to go on except whatever you’ve scribbled on your personal luggage tag.

Enter AvX’s “smart baggage” technology. It solves what Motley says is essentially a problem of information and connectivity.

Here’s how it works: A user signs up for the AvX service, which costs $25 for the first year and $20 a year after that. After booking a trip, the customer e-mails an itinerary to AvX, which stores that information in it databases.

The AvX tag, about the size of a credit card, is made of a tough material called Teslin and contains a barcode that airline scanners can read. It also contains a radio-frequency identification chip, included to future-proof the card when airlines switch to that technology.

If the bag is lost, airlines can scan the barcode to retrieve a phone number and account information about the bag’s owner. The phone number leads to a network of live agents that are available 24 hours a day to tell the airline where the luggage needs to go. Motley is hoping that such quick access to itinerary information will mean the difference between getting the bag onto the next flight from New York to London and taking a week to track down the owner.

“These were designed to work from Day One,” Motley said. “The live network is in place, the agents have been trained, and the code has been written.”

The tags also present some security advantages for people who are wary about putting their personal contact information on a baggage tag. The tags contain phone numbers and emails that any person who finds the bag can use to report the find, with automatic alerts delivered by AvX to the bag’s owner via text, e-mail or phone.

That also helps if you lose a bag in a taxi or hotel, which don’t face the same requirements as airlines for returning lost bags. “When the airline loses your bags, they’ll deliver it to you,” Motley said. “Let’s say you leave it in London. To ship a bag back to Santa Barbara, it’s at least $100 to $150.”

Lost bags are a pervasive problem in the airline industry. The International Air Transport Association has launched a program aimed at reducing mishandled luggage by 50 percent. The man heading it, Andrew Price, had his bags lost by airlines seven times during his first year on the job, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“You’re still in the situation where you’re at the mercy of the airlines,” said Brian Robertson of Santa Barbara-based Robertson International Travel Consultants. “An awful lot of luggage gets lost, but the retrieval rate is pretty good.”
Robertson said many of his clients choose luggage concierge services, which pick up bags at the passenger’s door before the trip and deliver them to the destination.

In addition to selling its tags to consumers, Motley says he plans to approach airlines and online travel booking sites about revenue sharing agreements for offering AvX tags to their customers. The airlines would gain revenue at no cost, and it might pave the way to automatically porting travelers’ itinerary data into the AvX system.

“If they have skin in the game, it will be in their interest to make it as seamless and painless as possible,” Motley said.

Right now, the RFID chips in AvX’s smart tags won’t get much use. That’s because airlines have been slow to adopt the technology. A disposable RFID tag costs 12 cents to 15 cents, compared with the 2 cents to 3 cents of a paper barcode tag, Motley said. But Motley is hoping AvX’s tags could help the technology catch on.

“They’re future-proof, but I think that future will come sooner rather than later”, Motley said. “Hopefully, we can accelerate it a little bit.”

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Flying Yachts and Other Flights of Fancy

Sometimes the focus of the SmartTraveler goes beyond protecting his checked luggage and wanders into the realm of what could be . . . this is obviously one of those times!

Yelkin Octuri is a french industrial designer who designs cabins for Airbus.  That’s his day job.  But in his spare time, he stretches the boundaries of design and creates fabulous machines that belong to the world of the imagination.  This is his idea for a superyacht that can convert to a flying machine.  It’s absolutely beguiling!  If the sheer audacity of the concept doesn’t wow you, the gorgeous drawings he’s created will.  This is Jules Verne updated.  I would LOVE to go around the world in 80 days in this.

This is just a design exercise, according to Octuri.  But he’s been surprised by the worldwide reaction to it . . . apparently a number of people have approached him and asked if it could actually be built.  That’s interesting–still some dreamers out there!

I think the quality of the renderings has a lot to do with that.  The design itself is lyrical and graceful, a fabulous counterpart to the concept.  But people are visual . . . when they see these drawings, they naturally ask, “well, why couldn’t we do this?”  It’s an attractive fantasy.

Flying yacht – OCTURI – Design & Interior, Fictional aircraft, Light.

Posted in Travel and Design | 1 Comment

Lessons Learned From Luggage Lost : NPR

This is just a classic story . . . and a great example of why we created the AvX SmartTag in the first place. 

The AvX SmartTag grew out of an effort to develop a technical solution to reduce the amount of baggage the airline industry mishandles.  We developed an integrated baggage tracking and reconciliation system that is more effective and less expensive than legacy solutions.  But as anybody who reads a newspaper knows, the airline industry has lost billions of dollars a year for the last several years.  So they’re not enthusiastic about making more capital investments in additional infrastructure, and taking on more recurring operational expenses.

So we took some of the technology that we developed for the systemic solution, and created a product that the individual traveler can buy right now.  The idea is to make an impact immediately, not when things turn around for the industry.

Take what happened to Bill in this story.  If his bag had had an AvX SmartTag, he could have saved a week of stress.  It’s that simple.  An industry-only priority contact number is written to a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chipset embedded in the SmartTag, and printed in a 2D barcode that any airline employee can read with a hand held scanner. 

So imagine your bag is sitting in an airport baggage handling facility.  Nobody knows why, nobody knows who it belongs to.  A baggage handler looks at it.  Sees the AvX SmartTag.  On the back, it says “Airline personnel:  Please scan barcode or use RFID reader for priority contact number to reach agent 24/7 for routing information.”  Pretty straightforward.  He or she calls the number, talks to an agent, finds out who the bag belongs to, and more importantly, what the correct destination is.

So you get your bag back, and the airline saves time, effort, and money trying to figure out where your bag is.  And everything happens a lot faster, a lot easier.

Lessons Learned From Luggage Lost : NPR.

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Flight Attendant Grabs Two Beers, Slides Down the Emergency Chute – WSJ.com

Seriously?  Talk about a bad day at the office . . .

When I first saw this story, details were sketchy.  Now it’s all over the web.

Apparently, 38-year old flight attendant Steven Slater got into it with a passenger on a JetBlue flight from Pittsburgh to New York when the passenger’s carry-on bag hit Slater in the head and Slater didn’t get the apology he sought.  So he got on the PA, told the passengers where they could all go–especially the guy whose bag hit him–grabbed a couple of beers, popped the emergency slide, and slid down to the tarmac.

He was arrested at his home for criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and trespassing.

Man!  Talk about a spectacular exit!  Give this guy style points, even if it might not have been the best career move . . .

This one’s going to go down in airline, if not workplace, lore.  We’ll be reading about this as an example of everything from workplace stress to the cumulative effect of charging for checked luggage.

Flight Attendant Grabs Two Beers, Slides Down the Emergency Chute – WSJ.com.

Posted in Carryon Luggage, JFK Airport, JetBlue | Leave a comment

Spirit Airlines: no hitch with carry-on fees – Yahoo! Finance

 

 

So Spirit Airlines began their first day of charging for carry on bags today–and apparently it went smoothly.  This is another one of those moves that is more nuanced that it would first seem.

The airline claims that it’s lowered overall ticket prices to a level that compensates for the additional charges.  They claim that the motivation for this move is to speed up departures . . . and that actually rings true with me.  As airlines have begun charging for checked bags, the final scenes aboard most planes, as people try to stuff ever larger carry ons into the overhead compartments, have been chaotic at best.  There’s little doubt that it’s added a new level of stress to ontime departures.

Still, it’s hard to embrace yet another fee.  Spirit’s CEO said that the overall cost of flying on Spirit will still be lower than flying on competitors–but New York Senator Charles Schumer has reportedly convinced five of the major airlines not to follow Spirit’s example–and they claim they won’t charge for carry on bags.  Kind of makes you wonder if the motivation behind Spirit’s move is as benign as they would lead you to believe . . .

Spirit Airlines: no hitch with carry-on fees – Yahoo! Finance.

Posted in Luggage Fees | 1 Comment

AvX SmartTag Launching Soon

We’re getting close to launching the AvX SmartTag.  It’s a lot like building a house . . . it takes at least twice as long and costs twice as much as you think it will.  So lots of little details are still getting resolved, lots of back-end work is still being completed.

But we’re close enough to see what it looks like . . . and it’s pretty exciting.  If this were a house, the painters would be coming next week.

In the meantime, we’re talking to people about it.  And everybody I talk to has a story.  It’s one of the universal experiences:  losing a checked bag for a few days.  If not them, one of their friends has had a bag lost for a few days and it screwed up a trip to Miami . . . Honolulu, Germany, Lake Tahoe.

The whole idea of the SmartTag is that it protects your identity (nobody I know wants to put their name, phone number and address on a baggage tag anymore) but puts an around-the-clock support network behind you.  It’s literally the first bag tag that can help prevent your bags from getting lost or delayed . . . and gives you a 24/7 ally if it does go off the rails.

I was talking to a friend of my wife, who asked when we were going to launch.  She mentioned that a friend of hers had gone to Germany recently to perform (she’s a dancer).  Apparently her checked bag missed it’s connection—which, by the way is not uncommon:  that’s where literally half of all mishandled bags occur.  The paper barcode tag that the airlines attach was ripped off during the process, and her bag sat somewhere.  She called the airline every day, but nobody knew where it was.  Finally, it was delivered on the fourth day, which was fortunate, because her performance was on the fifth day.  But it screwed up her trip, added a ton of stress to what should have been a pretty cool trip, and could have been avoided if there were a backup tag that was strong enough to stand up to the way baggage is often handled.

Enter the SmartTag.  This scenario is exactly what I had in mind when I was designing it.  Provide a backup to the airline systems that the traveler can buy right now.  Make it so affordable that cost isn’t an issue.  Take advantage of technological advances on a number of fronts to give it a capability that simply wasn’t even available a few years ago.  And give every traveler a way to reduce the odds that their bag will go missing.

Posted in Lost Luggage, Luggage Tags | 1 Comment