Travel Technology

My New App Obsession: Flightradar24


Even though I work mostly online, I’m not actually very good with technology. That being said, I do love apps. All kinds of apps, as they’re great when on the go, and great for passing time while waiting to board a flight, waiting for an aircraft door to close, waiting for a hotel shuttle to pull up, etc.

As an aviation geek I’m shocked that I only recently downloaded flightradar24. I was familiar with, which is a great website for tracking flights. But I didn’t realize that they also have an awesome app.

There’s a free version of the app with limited features, and then there’s a “premium” version for $3.99.

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UAE Makes It Illegal To Swear In Text Messages


All things considered I’m a fan of the UAE, and in particular Dubai. Would I want to permanently live in Dubai? No way. But to me there’s something indescribably electric about the city, something which always makes me enjoy going back, and which keeps me intrigued.

I communicate with my friends in the UAE primarily using WhatsApp, and do occasionally have an ever-so-slightly foul mouth, so I did a bit of a double take when I saw the below story, entitled “UAE pushes for $68,000 fine for swearing in WhatsApp message.” Via

“A recently introduced law in the UAE makes it a criminal offence to swear or use abusive language a text messages.

Anyone convicted of the offence could face a fine of up to $68,000 (AED250,000) and a prison sentence. Expats will also be deported from the UAE under the cybercrime law.”

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Airline/Hotel Twitter Customer Service Is About To Get Easier


One of the nice side effects of Twitter (other than finding out what your favorite celebrity had for lunch) has been the customer service many travel brands have provided through their channels. While the quality of the service can be inconsistent, many brands do a great job, all things considered. It’s nice to be able to fire off a direct message to an airline or hotel in order to get something done, rather than having to pick up the phone and call (especially when out of the country or on a plane, where you’re limited to wifi).

The one slight annoyance is that you’re limited to 140 characters, both via Tweeting and direct messaging. I suppose that’s not something we can complain about, given that short messages is sort of the reason that Twitter exists.

That being said, it looks like Twitter will be lifting the 140 character limit on direct messages at some point in July.

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Using Google Flights To Find Cheap Fares


When it comes to planning mileage runs, or looking for great fare deals, the go-to tool for most of us has been the ITA Matrix. ITA is a powerful tool, and makes searching for specific inventory buckets or fare combinations more practical. However, ITA is also becoming slow and glitchy, and the interface isn’t exactly beginner-friendly.

Part of the reason for the slowness of ITA has to do with the new tool Google has developed for finding flight deals. Google Flights is designed to be more approachable to the general population, so I thought it might be helpful to talk about how to use Google Flights to save money on airfare.

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Gogo Raises Unlimited Pass Prices For Existing Members


As I’ve explained many times before, inflight wifi has really changed my ability to travel. As someone who can work from a laptop with an internet connection anywhere in the world, it greatly reduces the “opportunity cost” of time I spend on planes. Given the amount of domestic flying I do, a Gogo Unlimited monthly membership is a no brainer, regardless of the cost. Of course I’d rather pay less than more, but that applies to just about every aspect of my life.

Gogo has been raising their prices for wifi over the years, which is understandable, given that the number of planes with wifi connectivity has been increasing as well. Furthermore, Gogo has been investing in better technology for inflight wifi, in hopes of increasing the speed of the service drastically.

However, up until now Gogo has typically been grandfathering in existing members at the old rates, meaning I haven’t really been impacted by price increases.

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Cathay Pacific Adding Wifi On A350s


A few years back I was almost morally opposed to wifi on planes. In a way, planes were somewhere I could disconnect and recharge, since I’m otherwise basically connected to technology 24/7/365.

However, my impression of inflight wifi has shifted dramatically over the years. It has changed my life for domestic flying, as I can stay connected and work while flying, which greatly reduces the opportunity cost of moving around the country.

Meanwhile on international flights I’ve also come to love inflight internet. While I don’t necessarily work as efficiently on international flights as on domestic flights (since there’s more to “enjoy”), it is nice to have a wifi connection so I can at least make sure nothing exciting is going on in the world.

I absolutely love Cathay Pacific’s first class product, though it does drive me slightly bonkers that they don’t have onboard wifi. They’re otherwise a pretty cutting edge airline, so I find it puzzling that they don’t see the value in investing in inflight wifi.

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Internet In China: Staying Connected While Traveling


We just finished a whirlwind trip to Beijing, and given so many people are traveling to China this month thought it might be helpful to share our insights on dealing with internet in China, and bypassing the censorship restrictions of the Chinese government.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert at the internet, technology, nor China in general. I just know well enough to not marinade my laptop, which makes me in charge of tech around here. 😉

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Delta Improving Wifi Coverage & Speed In 2016


To me, Delta as an airline is such a hilarious contradiction. There’s no arguing that they’re the best US airline operationally. They’re truly the airline of the business traveler, and the fact that they’re so profitable is a testament to that.

Conversely, though, I don’t think there’s an airline in the world that slaps their frequent flyers in the face as much as Delta. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about the program not being rewarding or the fact that they “innovate” news ways to deny people miles, but rather the complete lack of transparency and goodwill with which they operate their program stuns me. Introduce a revenue based program and devalue your miles if you want, but eliminating award charts altogether… really?!

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

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New App Will Tell You If Your Plane Will Crash


Technology is a beautiful thing. It enables me to do what I love for a living every day. iPhone apps are also a lovely thing. They enable all kinds of things, from an on-demand car service, to other on-demand “services.”

CNN had a story today about a new iPhone app which will tell you the chances of your plane crashing. “Am I Going Down?” is available in the iTunes store for 99 cents.

When you use the app you enter your origin, destination, airline, and aircraft, and it will tell you the probability of you “going down.”

So, you want to fly British Airways on a 747 from New York to London?

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Could Electronics Soon Be Banned From Flights?


There have been quite a few news headlines lately about how al-Qaida is apparently planning five attacks on commercial airlines flying to Europe around Christmas.

I have several flights to/from Europe around the holidays, so when my mom heard the news today she instantly sprung into “scared” mode. My response whenever these kinds of threats are discovered is to say that I’m ultimately happier knowing about the threats which have been uncovered, as opposed to the countless number of threats we don’t know about. After all, what you don’t know about can’t hurt you… until it does.

Anyway, I’m not an intelligence expert so won’t chime in further there. Instead I’ll just share what’s apparently being considered as a possible preventive measure.

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Gogo Introduces Global Unlimited Plan


As I’ve said many times before, I’m a big fan of in-flight internet. I don’t actually remember how transcons worked in the days before Gogo.

I have a Gogo Unlimited plan for $44.95 per month, which is well worth the money to me. I believe the cost is now $59.95 per month, though they’ve grandfathered in people with old pricing plans. While it’s certainly not cheap, it’s a bargain compared to what they’re charging nowadays for individual flight passes, which can often be ~$25.

Anyway, I just received the following email from Gogo:

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New AT&T Passport Plan For International Travel


Staying connected while abroad is something I really struggle with. Generally speaking I don’t sign up for a phone plan when abroad, so simply use hotel wifi and hotspots to stay connected, and then use Google Voice and Skype to make phone calls. It generally works for me, though now that I often spend weeks at a time abroad, I really do need a better solution.

Earlier in the year the T-Mobile Simple Choice International Plan really innovated connectivity for frequent international travelers. As part of that plan, consumers can get unlimited international data and texting in 122 countries at no extra charge and flat-rate calls for just $0.20 a minute. Equally awesome is how simple the plan is (as the name suggests). There is no need to get a special plan or activate it when traveling. You just turn on your phone when you’re abroad and it works.

Naturally I’ve been extremely tempted to switch to T-Mobile, though still haven’t pulled the trigger. I currently use AT&T, and was ready to dump them in favor of T-Mobile. The only problem is that 90% of the people I ask about T-Mobile look at me in pure horror because of how bad their coverage apparently is in the US (to those of you with T-Mobile, is it true?).

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Earn Mobile Bonuses From Your Computer


Many travel related companies now offer incentives or promotions for booking travel using your smartphone.

— Through November 16, Club Carlson will give you 3000 bonus points for booking via their app.
— Ben reports that HotelUpgrade will get you special perks, including on corporate and AAA rates, but only if you book via their app.
— Hilton and SPG often offer bonus points during their promotions for booking via the app.
— National gives 75 bonus points towards their One Two Free promo
— etc.

The reason for this requirement is fairly simple – these companies want to change your behavior. They want you to think of them and launch their app when you are making last minute plans from the road. It is a very lucrative market and they want to be a fingertip away. And they are willing to buy their way into your thought process.

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