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Heathrow introduces driverless travel pods

August 19, 2009

the ULTra Personal Pods are being rolled out at Heathrow Airport / ULTra (Source: ULTra)

the ULTra Personal Pods are being rolled out at Heathrow Airport / ULTra (Source: ULTra)

The future of public transport has arrived with UK’s Heathrow Airport rolling out driverless travel pods to transport passengers between terminals and the airport car park. The world’s first fully-automated ULTra Personal Pod cars, designed by Advanced Transport Systems, run on their own network and can reach speeds up to 40km/h.

The pods can transport four passengers and their luggage at a time, and waiting times will not exceed one minute. Promoted as being immune to accidents and traffic jams, using thinner roads and requiring no drivers, they are being hailed as the future of transport.

The airport’s fleet of 21 pods will take passengers to the correct terminal using information from their frequent flyer cards or by typing their flight details into the computer, with no stops in between.

“The PRT trial will offer an exciting, quick and environmentally friendly option for passengers travelling from the business car park to Terminal 5,” John Holland-Kaye, Commercial Director of Advanced Transport Systems, said.

Powered by batteries, they are more environmentally friendly than normal coaches. Heathrow Airport announced their interest in using the pods two years ago.

Continue Reading & PetMD launch co-branded pet travel resources

August 18, 2009, a full-service pet travel company providing worldwide door-to-door pet transportation services, has joined forces with the largest online pet health resource, PetMD, to provide free pet travel and pet health resources to their websites’ visitors.

The strategic affiliation will allow guests of PetMD to access’s country-specific pet import requirements organized in convenient, printable checklists that the pet owner can take to their veterinarian’s office prior to traveling with their pets. These new resources available on PetMD will help pet owners work with their veterinarians in preparing the correct paperwork, blood tests and vaccinations that are required prior to international pet travel.

Additionally, PetMD visitors can purchase pet travel crates that comply with international shipping standards, as well as watch’s educational video series with topics ranging from selecting the appropriate size and style pet travel crate to crate training tips for stress-free pet travel. will now feature PetMD’s Pet Health Library in their pet moving resources section. This fully searchable database written by veterinarians promises to be a valuable online resource for’s relocating clients who might find themselves in need of pet health information.

Travel Insurance: when to get, skip

August 18, 2009

A lot of people travel around the world with full insurance coverage or none. Some countries require you to purchase travel insurance – for example travel to any Schengen country requires you to show the proof of travel insurance when you go for a visa.

The costs for travel insurance varies for the destination country which may determine the ‘category’ of travel – adventure, family, sports, medical etc. And some insurance companies will ask for your purpose of travel, based on which the costs may be higher or lower.

There are cases where one may need travel insurance, whereas sometimes you can do away with it.

Pre-9/11, it was estimated that only eight to nine percent of leisure travelers in the United States purchased some type of travel insurance. Today, it’s closer to 30 percent. Trip cancellation/interruption represents 90 percent of coverage.

Traditional distribution channels such as travel agencies and travel suppliers such as cruise lines and tour operators are responsible for three-quarters of the market, but other channels such as online agencies, airlines, brokers, internet sites, and direct to consumer sales are growing steadily.

Travel medical and medical evacuation-only policies only cover a fraction of the total market, at 5.5 percent of travel insurance sales, but has increased by about 33 percent since 2006.

Travel guru Peter Greenberg appeared on CBS Early Show, with some advice on when to get travel insurance and when to skip it, what you need and some scams to watch out for.

Some of the questions answered by Peter are:

  • Why do you need travel insurance?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Where do you buy the insurance, and from whom?
  • What are the two primary reasons to purchase travel insurance?
  • What are plans available?
  • What are some things you need to be careful of?
  • What is the difference between medical insurance and medical evacuation coverage?
  • What are some tips on purchasing insurance?

Read more at Travel Insurance: When to Get, Skip

JetBlue’s $599 Unlimited Travel Pass

August 12, 2009

If you are planning a vacation that involves a lot of air-travel then JetBlue’s new unlimited travel pass may be for you! For $599, customers can purchase an unlimited travel pass that lets them fly for free to any of the airline’s 56 international and domestic destinations as often as they like between Sept. 8 and Oct. 8.

The JetBlue pass appears to be a great deal if you plan on flying more than once in that month. Consider this: A quick search by ABC News today found that the cheapest JetBlue flight from New York’s JFK Airport to San Francisco on Sept. 8, returning two days later, would cost $344.80. Do that trip twice and you have already saved money.

JetBlue has a limited number of routes and often has fares of $99. So, while the San Francisco example above makes it sound like a great deal, some passengers might need to make six trips to make it worthwhile.

Passes must be purchased by Aug.21 and it includes all taxes unless flying to Puerto Rico or one of JetBlue’s international destinations. Travelers who have already purchased a flight on JetBlue within that travel window can convert their existing ticket into a pass.

Although this may appeal to students, by September students are back in school, so they aren’t ideal candidates for this promotion.

Read more

Couchsurfing can help make friends and save money

August 11, 2009

CouchSurfing is an online community of friendly hosts who are ready and eager to throw their convertible couches open to travelers from across the world. The service offers more than a free place to crash; it connects travelers with like-minded people who are excited to share their enthusiasm for their hometown. But aren’t you going to be immediately robbed and stabbed by the opportunistic lechers lurking on the internet, you ask?

Um, no. CouchSurfing relies on a robust reference system that discourages unsavory things like robbing and stabbing. All users fill out detailed profiles and upload pictures. It’s an awkward mishmash of online dating and Craigslist apartment hunting, but you generally end up with a good sense of your host or guest.

If you want to find a good host, fill out your profile completely and honestly, and upload a few pictures to prove that you’re normal. Use the filters to find the right couch, and send a personable request that shows that you bothered to read the host’s profile. In the bigger cities it’s not unusual for hosts to get several requests every day, so make an effort to stand out.

Even if you aren’t traveling, most cities have events for local hosts who want to meet other adventurous people with an appreciation for wanderlust.

Some people are understandably spooked by the idea of sharing a home with a stranger, but for those who can accept that most people are fundamentally decent, CouchSurfing is an easy way to have a great time.


What is CouchSurfing?
CouchSurfing is an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world. Since 2004, members have been using their system to come together for cultural exchange, friendship, and learning experiences. Today, over a million people who might otherwise never meet are able to share hospitality and cultural understanding.

How does CouchSurfing work?
CouchSurfing members share hospitality with one another. These exchanges are a uniquely rich form of cultural interaction. Hosts have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world without leaving home. ‘Surfers,’ or travelers, are able to participate in the local life of the places they visit. We also give more people the chance to become travelers, because ‘surfing’ lowers the financial cost of exploration.

The CouchSurfing community continues to expand its horizons. Members are always finding more ways to connect and learn about each other. Every day, people across the world share coffee, camping trips, meetings, language exchanges, discussions and all sorts of other experiences. offers dream travel job

August 5, 2009 is offering a job travelling the United States for 12 weeks, with a $50,000 salary. The applicant chosen will travel to various tourist destinations, video blogging their adventures. The website is looking to revolutionize the adventure travel industry.

After the November 1st deadline, one applicant will be chosen from a pool of thousands for the job of a lifetime. For twelve weeks, the selected applicant will traverse the United States in search of exhilarating adventures and captivating travel destinations. The entire experience will be documented by the selected applicant and aired for millions of viewers on Each webisode will include interactive links to travel information about each destination. Viewers will also be able to review exclusive details about each location in real time, and discover valuable resources for planning a trip of their own.

The Couture-Abro Group will be paying all of the travel expenses as well as offering a generous salary, benefits, and an array of high tech electronics to use along their three month cross-country journey.

Beginning June 20, 2009, interested applicants for this job of a lifetime will be able to apply at by filling out an application and uploading a video resume about themselves. Finalists will be contacted in the fall and may be asked to participate in additional interviews.

Megabus offers fifty-thousand $1 seats

August 5, 2009



Megabus, the first intercity express bus service offering fares as low as $1, today announced it is offering an additional 50,000 $1 seats for travel Sept. 14 to Nov. 19, 2009. The $1 seats will be available on all Megabus departures (subject to availability) in all 30 cities during the Sept. 14 to Nov. 19 travel period. Travelers will need to use the promo code HOTDEAL when booking for a chance to book the $1 fares.

“The economy still has individuals and families hesitant to spend money, especially on leisure items such as travel,” said Dale Moser, president and COO of Megabus. “Megabus’ low fares make travel very affordable and at $1, there’s no reason to stay home.”

Megabus’s new double-decker coaches include amenities such as free Wi-Fi, on-board restrooms, reclining seats and video entertainment. Half of its fleet currently has power outlets for laptops, and other half will be fitted with them by October 2009.

The company operates in 30 cities in the United States and Canada including New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and Toronto. Unlike many other bus services, all Megabus services are intercity express, so they don’t make numerous time-consuming stops at small towns.
While other modes of transit such as airlines and trains are seeing a decline in business, Megabus has seen its ridership triple to 3 million since its inception in 2006.

Visit for additional information on routes, schedules, amenities and fares.

JetStar launches ‘text’ boarding

August 5, 2009

Sample text message from JetStar (image source: The Age, Australia)

Sample text message from JetStar (image source: The Age, Australia)

Boarding a plane will be as simple as receiving a text message from later this year as Jetstar rolls out the mobile phone scanner from a company based in Melbourne. The machine is aimed to reduce waiting times for airline passengers by allowing them to head straight through departure gates with the simple swipe of a phone handset.

Jetstar sends a message to your phone with a special code in it – just a standard SMS message – and as you go up to the boarding gate, you scan your phone and it prints out your boarding pass. The text message just looks like random numbers and letters to a normal person but the computer analyses (the sequence) and prints out the ticket. You can go straight to the boarding gate and go to the plane if you don’t have any baggage. Right now you have to be there half and hour beforehand and you’ve got to wait around.

Jetstar CEO Bruce Buchanan said the technology was a first for the industry and would reduce waiting times, making flying easier. These new world first technologies will make the Jetstar airport experience more convenient, hassle free and simpler. Importantly, it will also improve service levels from Jetstar Airport Customer Service personnel by freeing them to get on with the job of processing checked-in baggage.

While some US airlines already allow passengers to check in with internet-enabled wireless devices, including phones, Jetstar says the new technology is a world first in allowing the service to work on all mobile phones. Despite concerns over the security of mobile phones – a security conference recently revealed Apple’s highly popular iPhone was vulnerable to cyber attacks via SMS – Mr Hornlimann insists the text ticket is safe.

“It’s as secure as any current message. (At the moment) you can print out your web check-in in PDF and if someone else gets their hands on it and, unless the airline asks for identification at check in, they could board the aircraft. There are validation processes. If you come up and someone else has already boarded with that ticket, a customer service person from Jetstar would ask for identification.”

Earlier this month Jetstar began SMS ticketing, allowing customers to book flights via a text message from their mobile phone. Customers must first register on the Jetstar website. The mobile phone scanner will be live tested at Melbourne’s Avalon Airport in a month’s time and is expected to be rolled out across Australia in November.

Currently there are no plans to extend the scanners into New Zealand or other locations Jetstar services across Asia.

Cheap airline tickets on Twitter

August 4, 2009

JetBlue and United Airlines, two major airline carriers in the US, have started using the service to offer discounted seats on flights that weren’t filled. These types of discounts have been available from airlines for a while, starting with emails in the 90s, but Twitter fills this particular need perfectly.

JetBlue started posting its “Cheeps,” the Twitter-only discounted fares, in July and has since usually published new fares every Monday for flights for the following two weekends. Twitter has to act fast though as the tickets are usually sold out the same day. United Airlines started its program earlier, in May, and the “twares,” as the company calls them, don’t come at a regular interval and can also be available for any flights not just weekends. As expected, these don’t last too long either – sometimes only a few hours.

“By promoting the Cheeps through Twitter, we give the already spontaneous audience of Twitter users a chance to grab great last-minute fares,” Morgan Johnston, JetBlue spokesman, told USA Today. “Twares are all about surprising our customers with low fares for a very, very limited time,” Robin Urbanski, United Airlines spokeswoman, also said. “[They] sell extremely fast because the prices are unbeatable.”

The flights can go for as little as $9 and the two companies have had some success with the programs and, though it’s too early to tell, it’s hard to imagine that the companies aren’t making a profit from the venture as the associated costs are very low.

American Airlines introduces new fare finding app on Facebook

August 3, 2009

AA Facebook Fare Finder App

AA Facebook Fare Finder App

American Airlines has launched a new ‘fare finding‘ feature on its Travel Bag application on social networking website Facebook.

The feature, which does not currently have an official name, allows Facebook users to find the lowest prices American Airlines flights without leaving Facebook to search. If users then wish to book flights they will be taken to American’s website to do so.

The carrier’s Travel Bag application allows users on Facebook to share travel experiences, reviews, comments and photos with friends and other users. The new fare finding feature means that users can now also personalise and plan up to three trips at a time.

JetBlue Airways offers discount on travel fees for pets

August 3, 2009

JetBlue Airways is offering a special discount of 50% off its standard JetPaws pet fee of US$100 each way for PETCO customers.

A special promotional code can be obtained from any of PETCO’s shops in the US or at The discount is available for flights booked between 1 and 31 August for travel between 1 and 30 September 2009.

JetPaws is JetBlue’s in-cabin programme for pet owners. The airline accepts up to four small cats or dogs in the cabin of the aircraft on international and domestic flights. The combined weight of the pet and carrier must not be over 20lbs.

Airlines benefiting on cancellation fees

July 30, 2009

Change and cancellation fees amount to an added 3.2% of U.S. airline passenger revenue, totaling $527.6 million for the first quarter. Some airlines now make even more from these fees than they do from the much-maligned checked-baggage fees. Amid high fuel prices last year, several big airlines pushed up the change fee on domestic tickets to $150 from $100 last year. Budget carrier JetBlue recently increared its fee to $100 from a affordable $40.

Airlines say they charge change fees and cancellation penalties to give travelers incentives to purchase full-fare, unrestricted tickets and to limit no-shows for flights, reducing the need to overbook. They also say they make their tickets non-transferable because they don’t want companies buying up inventories of cheap tickets and doling them out for employee business trips or creating a secondary ticket market.

A Southwest spokeswoman says the carrier hasn’t had to rely on penalties to manage overbooking because it takes historical patterns of customer cancellations and changes into account. She says the airlines believes it draws more customers by making it easier to change travel plans if necessary.

Why should we be charged $150 to change a $200 ticket because someone got sick and couldn’t fly that day? A spokesman for American proffers the following advice: “Every traveler should weigh the likelihood they will have to change their itinerary prior to travel when assessing each fare type and price.”

Read more at Wall Street Journal’s article: Your Bad Luck Is a Windfall For Airlines

BestParking finds cheap parking in cities & airports

July 29, 2009



If you are shopping for best rates to park your car and you’re crunched for time, then BestParking has already crunched the numbers for you and can help you find the best rate.

How much can you save by comparison shopping? In our tests there was a disparity between the highest priced and lowest priced parking area. In the screenshot above, for example, we searched for parking around Los Angeles International Airport for a 7-day period. Among the airport parking garages there was an almost 100% difference between the highest price and the lowest price for parking.

That kind of price gap isn’t a big deal if you’re only parking for a single day and are willing to pay a little surcharge for convenience but if you’re plunking your car in long term parking for a week you could save yourself some serious cash by picking the right lot.

If you didn’t plot out which parking garage to use ahead of time, fire up the browser on your mobile phone and head to the mobile version of BestParking to get a last minute rate check.

American Airlines raises baggage fees by $5

July 27, 2009

Despite lowered fuel prices, American Airlines just can’t seem to figure out how to make money. That’s too bad for you — because you’ll be paying higher bag fees.

DowJones says the airline reported a 21% drop in second-quarter revenue last week. Get your wallet out, travelers.

The fees “will rise to $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second on tickets bought after Aug. 13. The changes will also affect regional affiliate American Eagle and AmericanConnection flights.”

Tips for saving money on rail travel

July 27, 2009

Rail travelers are feeling the pinch due to another wave of fare increases and can beat ‘trainflation’ by smarter online buying.

Some of the train operating companies are using the rail franchise system to rip off passengers by raising fares up to 10% above inflation on some routes – is keen to help rail passengers get the right ticket at the best price. In the current climate, rail fare increases must be a bitter pill to swallow for passengers feeling the pinch. Statistics show, however, that in spite of year-on year price increases, actually help people beat ‘trainflation’.

Top tips for saving money:

Be flexible
Find out when you need to travel for the cheapest tickets. It’s ideal for those whose travel date is flexible.

Stay alert
Ticket Alerts offer travellers email alerts of cheap fares on favourite routes as soon as Advance tickets go on sale.

Beat the clock
By specifying your time of travel, tickets requiring you to travel on specific trains (Advance and Off-Peak) tend to be cheaper than Anytime fares

Opt for off-peak
Avoid the more expensive, peak times. Peak times can vary between different train operators but as a rule of thumb off-peak is after 9am weekdays and after the evening rush hour, around 7pm

Stay single
Two single tickets are often cheaper than a return, so be sure to click on the ‘two singles could be cheaper’ banner during the fare selection process.

Carry a card
Having a railcard could save you 1/3 off rail fares.

Be alternative
Some routes are operated by several train companies and quite often the slower, longer journeys will be cheaper than the faster one

Try a different route
You may be able to get a cheaper ticket by going on a different route or using a different departure station. For instance people travelling from Birmingham to London can go from Birmingham New Street to Euston or Birmingham Moor Street to Marylebone using different train operators.

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