News And Notes For Friday, January 11th, 2013

Out of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show comes a gadget for travelers who like to check a bag when they travel.  I hate checking bags, so this probably isn’t for me.  TrakDot is a small gadget that goes in your suitcase when you travel.  A smartphone app allows you to see where your bag is in the event it doesn’t drop onto the baggage claim belt like it’s supposed to.  The device is supposed to retail at $50 with a small annual fee.  I see a few issues here:

1.  If you land in Miami and check the smartphone app to find out your bag is in Chicago, it’s no guarantee that information will get your bag back any sooner.  The airlines still need to locate the bag and send it to you.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it can help speed up the process in certain instances.  I just wouldn’t expect to walk up to the baggage counter at United and show them your smartphone app and 5 minutes later they’ve located your bag 1,000 miles away and have it redirected capably.

2.  I read two conflicting articles on how the device works.  One says it shuts off the transmit function when it reaches a certain speed, another said it was altitude-based.  At a bare minimum, it’s possible this device is NOT FAA compliant even though they promise it is.

Anyway, a nifty gadget for the price if it works and you like to check luggage (which, unless it’s medically necessary, you’re nuts).

American Airlines is discounting the purchase of miles again.

January 11th

The sweet spot here is exactly 40,000 miles purchased, where with the bonus  you’ll be paying 2.2 cents per mileAA sold miles for cheaper earlier last year, at roughly two cents, so this isn’t the best deal they’ve had out there.  It is lower than most offers I’ve seen.  If you’re trying to top off an award, you may consider buying now.  If not, I’d say hold off and focus on buying items you need through the various shopping malls to generate miles for free.

Priority Club is undergoing a major renovation of their award charts.  All the travel bloggers have reported on this one, and I’m a bit behind as I was traveling all week (and, admittedly find very little value in the Priority Club program).  But, I figured there may still be a few folks who hadn’t heard the news.  View From The Wing has a very detailed breakdown of what we know so far.  At risk is the areas of higher value in the Priority Club program.  See, the current model has redemption amounts per brand, which differs from the likes of SPG, Hyatt, Marriott, etc. who all generally frame hotel redemptions on some formula of average rate or occupancy.

If you were a smart Priority Club member, then you could redeem at a lesser brand in a big city (think New York, Chicago for brands like Staybridge or Candlewood) and get a room for a steal compared to other programs.  Well, apparently Priority Club finally saw the light and will be plugging properties into a category based more on the values used by other programs.  So, if the average rate is higher in a big city (regardless of brand) the room will likely cost more in the future.

Starwood is adding to the Austin marketThey announced a Westin in the downtown area, which is a good addition to this market.  There’s a Westin North of town, but not really close to anything.  There is a Sheraton and a W downtown, but I’d lean toward the Hyatt Regency over these properties.  I’m sure a Westin will do well in downtown Austin.

5 Comments

  1. I think we need a gadget that videos people that open up your bag! Last yr if the TSA opened your bag, they left you a paper inside letting you know so….last month, I was on a Delta flt, which cancelled due to a mechanical…I retrieved my cked bag (so I could rebook my flt to MIA on AA) and it had already been opened (my yellow plastic tie wrap had been changed to black). Then, once we landed in MIA the luggage seal was again changed! No Notes from TSA…but nothing was missing.

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