When should you have reservations about your hotel reservations?

When it comes to booking a hotel online, what you see isn’t always what you get.

Christina Daves knows. On several occasions, she’s shopped for a hotel room online and then clicked through to make a reservation, only to discover she was actually dealing with a third-party site that looked like a hotel site. Read more “When should you have reservations about your hotel reservations?”

What they don’t want you to know can hurt you

Filipchuk Oleg/Shutterstock
Filipchuk Oleg/Shutterstock
For several years, I’ve operated a customer service wiki, an underground website which contains the names, emails and addresses of company executives who can help consumers like you.

In the early days, I researched and published these names alone and at considerable risk, but now I’m lucky to work with a team of volunteers who make sure every name and address is up-to-date. (By the way, you can see the entire list of customer service executives here.)

And that brings me to today’s cautionary tale about customer service, which may inform your next buying decision.
Read more “What they don’t want you to know can hurt you”

New Web site predicts flight delays and cancellations

There are Web sites that predict air fares, like Farecast, and sites that offer a weather prognosis, like Weather.com. But how about air traffic delays? Well, now there’s a new site, Delaycast, that answers the question: “Will my flight be delayed?”

Delaycast uses a mathematical model to predict delays and cancellations, according to one of its founders, Rob Stevens. “In turns out that there are very clear, regular delay patterns that are somewhat predictable at every airport for every airline,” he told me. “And this is independent of weather or other traditional causes of delays – the system is simply overloaded.”

I checked my flight to Albuquerque tomorrow and found that there was a 57 percent chance of a departing on time, with the probability of a 9 minute delay and a 2 percent chance of a cancellation.

Delaycast is not meant to be used as a day-of-travel notification system, according to Stevens. “It is better used for advanced planning of a trip, and supports questions like, ‘Will I make that meeting on time?’” or, ‘Will I make my connection?’”

Instead of relying on 30-day trailing averages for a specific flight, as do some air fare prediction sites, Delaycast leans on an algorithm developed by Stevens and his team. That formula, he says, “is often more accurate for specific airport, airline, date and time selections.”

I think Delaycast is needed in today’s world of ever-present (and rising) airline delays. It would be great to see this application incorporated on one of the major online travel agency sites, to help customers make a more informed purchase.