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6 posts from September 2009

September 30, 2009

And We Have a Winner: The Top 5 World’s Worst Business Travel Experiences

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By: Ilana Reichert

 StressGuy We asked you, and you told us: We asked you to submit your worst business travel experiences for our contest, and you delivered far beyond our expectations.

 Of the hundreds of stories that could curdle the blood of even the most experienced traveler, it was hard to select a winner. In the end the Grand Prize of an Amazon Kindle 2 goes to Rob S. of California, who has certainly earned it.

While all the stories were horrifying, below are the Top 5 World’s Worst Business Travel Experiences—the ones that got to us the most. We gave points for humor and originality. Highlights (or lowlights!) of the stories include an electronic breakup, bed bugs, a highly unusual marathon, and a gentlemanly Parisian robber.




Grand Prize-Winning Story: “Hell in 100 Words”

Rob_samborn_2009 Rob, 37, submitted his story to us under the title “Hell in 100 Words” and told us a pithy little tale of horror. We spoke with Rob to hear more of the story, which took place in 2006. It began with dysentery during one of Rob’s business trips to India. He had been careful about food, but he believes it was a cup of chai tea that got him in the end.

“You really have to boil the water for ten minutes to kill the bacteria,” Rob told us. “I became extraordinarily sick.” A conference in a hot, filthy tent two days later only made matters worse. Rob managed to give his presentation—he’s a partner in a company that manufactures water testing devices—but the temperature in the tent was about 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

But nothing compares to what took place when Rob finally tried to go home. The flight to New Delhi was uneventful, but then, “The red tape and security at the New Delhi airport were an absolute nightmare,” says Rob. “We ended up arriving there three hours early, yet even with that amount of time I was still in danger of missing my flight. I was in a security line with about 200 ahead of me.”

In this instance, Rob was able to overcome the situation by asserting himself. “I started making a big fuss because I really wanted to get home, so the airport personnel brought me on the plane with about ten minutes to spare, and I was happy.”

That happiness was short-lived. After the plane had safely touched down in Newark, New Jersey, it seemed like nothing else could go wrong. Rob boarded his connecting flight to Los Angeles, and that’s when it happened. “The plane was sitting on the runway waiting to take off, when suddenly the entire plane shook,” Rob recalls. “The pilot got on the PA system and said, ‘We’re not sure what has happened.’ Turns out, we were in a plane crash.”

Another plane had crashed into Rob’s plane on the runway. “The damage was so severe that both wings were completely messed up—and this was a 747!” says Rob. So the passengers had to wait for a new plane—and even that became a nightmare. “Four hours later, the crew was MIA. Every 45 minutes we’d be told ‘We think it’s coming, we should be leaving in 5-10 minutes so don’t leave the area,’ so we couldn’t go anywhere,” says Rob. “We finally got a new plane, but crew was gone and nobody had any idea where they were…they showed up two hours later.” And all this, mind you, while Rob was still sick to his stomach.

At last the passengers were able to board the plane, and the story seemed to have a happy ending at last. Until, four hours into the flight, the pilot announced, “Folks, you’re not going to want to hear this, but it turns out we’ve burned too much fuel. We have to make emergency fuel landing in Albuquerque.”

 By the time Rob finally landed in Los Angeles, he probably needed a hug. But that was not to be. He turned on his Blackberry and discovered that his girlfriend had broken up with him via email while he’d been away. And when he returned home, his kitchen was infested with mice.

Rob sent a complaint to Continental Airlines for all that he’d suffered on their flights…and received a $75 voucher. He has vowed never to fly with them again.

 Today, Rob has put the harrowing experience behind him, and we hope the Grand Prize will help with that as well. He has been to India many times since the experience, and when we spoke, he was planning a trip to Japan.

The Top 5 Stories

In their own words, here are some of the best stories that made the cut:

 “Efficient Handling of Overbooking—the African Way” by Tom M.

 I was traveling on business in Nigeria. I had to take a flight to Kaduna, Nigeria on a local airline. When we were returning to Lagos, at the Kaduna airport, we were made to walk out to the plane, walk AROUND the plane two times (while a guard with a machine gun blocked the steps) and then, on 'lap 3' everyone broke into a run and the guard stepped aside while everyone bounded up the steps.

The reason: the flight is regularly oversold and only the first 100 or so passengers up the steps get to go. (There is some poor guy on crutches in Kaduna who is probably STILL there...)
Airplane
 “Welcome to Chile” by John H.

I flew from Vancouver to Santiago, Chile via Lima Peru. The flight was very good and when I landed in Santiago nature was calling (it had been a long flight).

Standing in front of the urinal I was suddenly surrounded by three fellows—one on each side and one behind me. In their broken English they proclaimed, "We want your stuff"! Well they took my brief case and coat and left. I zipped up and was after them but they were quick and I lost them.

I immediately went to the police and she was gorgeous and her only words in English were: "Welcome to Chile.” All I had left was about $1, no passport, airline ticket, etc., but I did have my sense of humour! To make a long story short, the Canadian Embassy was no help whatsoever—no monetary or moral support: “Look after yourself buddy for ‘losing’ your passport.”

I was told I had to find my own way to the embassy and with no money that was impossible. Well, after talking to America Airlines and getting a new airline ticket, talking to the police and my business associates in Chile, I managed to get on a plane to my final destination in Puerto Montt. After arriving the Canadian Embassy wanted me back in Santiago so they could re-issue me a passport. I tried doing it via Fedex but since the forms were in English and French (not Spanish) no one would notarize my signature.

 Off to Santiago I went with a letter from them stating who I was (no ID, no getting on the plane). Hired a taxi and off to the embassy, I had money now from my friends. Four hours later I had my passport and case closed. It cost me alot of money and time but the best part is that I was later invited to the embassy for a wine and cheese reception. I told the consular general my story and he apologized for the way I was treated. I doubt if things have changed, but who knows.

The moral of the story is, go through security before hitting the can! I do not blame Chile for this could happen anywhere in the world and if it does happen I hope the Canadian embassy looks after you better than they did me!

 “The Polite Parisian Robber” by Ed T.

Europe In a two day period, I had flown from St. Louis to Paris, worked a meeting for a few hours, and then hustled off on the TGV to Rotterdam where I worked another meeting. At the end of this second day, I took a train to Brussels where I would be meeting and working with a distributor. I exited the Brussels North station, laden with luggage and samples required for my three week journey.

Unfortunately, as my hotel was only a few blocks away, none of the taxis would give up their spot in the queue for such a meager fare—I was forced to walk. About half way to the hotel, I heard a voice behind me speaking in French. I turned, said "Pardon me", and the now embodied voice brandished an automatic pistol in my face and demanded, "Give me your money or I will kill you now."

I gave him my money—US dollars, French francs, and Dutch guilders—and the thief inquired, "What is this?"

 "Money,” I replied. "They'll change it for you at the station."

He took my passport and then began to reach for my wedding band when I protested: "Please do not take that, it is my wedding ring."

"You are married?" he said. "So am I! Do you have children? I have two boys." If not for the gun in my face, I would have thought he was going to start showing me family photos. He was extremely polite, even apologizing for his actions. "It's my family—I need to feed them,” he explained.

The US Embassy (where I went to replace my passport) was amused by the polite gentleman bandit. Somehow, though, the bloom was off the rose for me.

 “Bed Bugs!” by Anonymous

On a one night visit to my company's West Coast office, I was booked into a no-frills hotel. I woke up the next morning covered in itchy bites. I peeled back the sheets-- bed bugs! I packed and fled the premises. Later, I caught a redeye flight back east and went right to work, toting my luggage with me.

I didn’t know my little bloodsucking bedbug friends had hitched a ride, infesting my entire office within days. The company spent hundreds of dollars on exterminators, and, when that didn't work, new carpeting and couches. I’m itching just thinking about it.

September 29, 2009

Want to Fly on the Air France Inaugural A380 Flight? Oui Oui!

TomBotts

By Tom Botts for Hudson Crossing.

Air France has just announced details of their plans to offer seats on the inaugural A380 flight from Paris to JFK and, a day later, JFK back to CDG. The 1st flight (which is really the inaugural flight) leaves Paris CDG on November 20th with the return from JFK (after some crew rest and photo ops, no doubt) on November 21st.

They are auctioning 380 seats - unclear what will happen to the other 158 seats but one would assume that press, dignitaries and other various hangers-on will fill them.

Pick your seat and get out your wallet!

All details can be found here.

September 23, 2009

WorldMate Live 3.0 for Blackberry: Oh, The Places You’ll Go

At last it’s here: A shiny new version of the WorldMate for Blackberry travel app, with sleeker looks and hotter features than ever before. We’ve integrated Yelp.com, the go-to site for restaurant listings, shopping, and nightlife in all major US cities. Now that wealth of information—thousands upon thousands of stores, restaurants and pubs, with customer reviews—fits into the palm of your hand.

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 Find the best sushi place nearest you, or a shop that sells the fashions you love. And when you’re done dining and shopping, relax at the city’s highest-rated bar, recommended by hundreds of customer reviews.

WorldMate for Blackberry 3.0 also boasts a streamlined and improved hotel booking feature with sharp hotel photos, and an upgraded Calendar Sync feature.

Eat, Shop and Be Merry with WorldMate's Mobile App

New city? No problem! With our new local search service which integrates Yelp, you'll have everything you need at your fingertips!

Big_3D_Yelp_Icon

  Find the Best Restaurants. Search for restaurants in all major US cities, or select the option to  search for restaurants that are nearby. All locations appear on a map so you can easily find them. Once you've chosen your area, find the restaurants with the highest star ratings and the best  reviews. Ready to reserve a table? Click on the number to make that call!

 
Yelp-results

          For diners with special needs like vegetarians, vegans, or Indian food addicts, this travel app allows           you to search for restaurants by category. Feel like some Vietnamese cuisine? There may be just the place on a block near you.

Big_3D_Yelp_Icon  Shop 'Til You Drop. Or don't drop, because you won't be wasting time and energy searching for the store you need! Whether your glasses need adjusting or you just want to browse the GAP, with just a click you'll know where to go. The Empire State Building is located in a great shopping area for fashion, but did you know there's an office supplies store down the block? With our travel app, you'll know it all.

Big_3D_Yelp_Icon  Be the One Who "Knows a Place." After work, you and your colleagues want to grab a drink before dinner--where do you go? With the reviews of locals at your fingertips, you'll be the one who can suggest the most unique and elegant lounge that tourists never find.

 Book Your Hotel in Style

Our new hotel booking system is smoother and faster, so you can find and book a hotel within seconds.

Hotel search 

With our new system, you get the star rating and prices at a glance. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and that's why we now display photos of the hotels.

Hotels results

 Stay In-Sync With Your Travel Schedule

 To top it off, we've simplified and improved our itinerary / BlackBerry calendar synchronization module. This solved many issues some users have encountered and makes it simpler to keep your calendar (Outlook, Lotus Notes, Entourage or any other) automatically updated with your itinerary - and vice versa.

  In the spirit of keeping WorldMate Live for BlackBerry the best product in the category, these new features are available to all users - free as well as Gold members. So what are you waiting for? Get the upgrade now !

September 21, 2009

WorldMate 1.6 for iPhone: Get 5-Day Weather Forecast & Itinerary Sharing

 The WorldMate 1.6 travel application for iPhone has exciting new features for free and Gold subscribers.

 Now you can share your itinerary with family, friends and colleagues, and get a 5-day weather forecast wherever you are in the world.

Itinerary Sharing at WorldMate for iPhone

With one click, share your itinerary with any of your iPhone contacts. This service is available to both free and Gold subscribers.

Whether you want work colleagues to know your schedule, or you want to alert your family and friends that you’ll be nearby, itinerary sharing at WorldMate for iPhone does the trick.

Itinerarysharing

 5-Day Weather Forecast at WorldMate for iPhone

Don’t be surprised by the weather. Get a 5-day weather forecast for any major city in the world, so you'll know if you need to pack a parka or winter coat for your trip, or if you can expect glorious sunny days. With a weather forecast, you'll be alerted to storms or climate conditions that could delay your flight.

The weather forecast service is available to free and Gold subscribers, and offers you three options:

Current city: Get the 5-day weather forecast for the city you’re currently in. Don't get caught in the rain without an umbrella, or in the cold without your coat. You'll leave for work knowing exactly what to expect.

Itinerary Cities: Get the 5-day weather forecast for the cities on your itinerary, so you know if you should pack an umbrella, sunscreen or both.

All Cities: Select any of the cities listed for a 5-day weather forecast.

Weatherforecast

In the spirit of keeping WorldMate for iPhone the best product in the category (as evidenced by notable reviewers including TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb), these new features have been added to both WorldMate and WorldMate Gold as free upgrades. So what are you waiting for? Get the upgrade now at the App Store and share it with your friends and colleagues!

September 09, 2009

NBTA And The State of the Business Travel

The National Business Travel Association holds a huge annual conference bringing together all the stakeholders in  the business travel market—Travel Management Companies (TMCs), corporate travel managers, airlines, hoteliers, travel technology companies, convention & visitor bureaus, etc.  We’ve just returned from this years show in San Diego and were struck by a couple of encouraging developments.

First of all, there is a lot of optimism even though the business travel has taken a hit along with the rest of the economy.  Some of the downturn was due to political overreaction in Washington D.C. early this year chastising companies for holding national sales events or attending trade shows in ‘luxury’ locals such as Las Vegas.  Ever since, the travel industry has effectively persuaded the federal government that business travel is a key means to foster corporate growth.  In fact, the event kicked-off with words of encouragement relayed from President Obama of his support of the NBTA.  The bottom line is that most attendees sincerely felt that the industry is back on track towards growth and prosperity.

Another key take-away was the substantial buzz about mobile services in general and WorldMate in particular.  We held three days of back-to-back meetings with TMCs which are looking to get a leg up on the competition and to improve their bottom lines through mobile.  These TMCs are getting squeezed in all directions—airlines no longer pay commissions, meta-search and other online consumer services are cutting into their business, and corporations as large as Walmart are moving towards in-house travel departments.  TMCs need mobile to differentiate their offering, improve customer service, and build new distribution for selling travel.  They see great value in partnering with WorldMate because of our mobile expertise and long term industry leadership.  In most of our meetings, there was at least one person who had been a long-time WorldMate user.  One of whom has been a loyal customer since 2001!

We came away from NBTA truly encouraged.  TMCs clearly understand our value proposition and share our vision for the role of mobile in the travel industry.  So, too, do the airlines, hoteliers and road warriors we met.  Everything is falling into place for mobile services to revolutionize business travel…and we promise to continue our efforts to lead this movement.

September 03, 2009

The BlackBerry Pilgrimage

With all the buzz surrounding Apple, it is easy to forget that developers have been building apps for RIM years before the iPhone was but a gleam in Steve Jobs’ eye.   Well, in November, over 1000 such developers will make the pilgrimage to the 2009 BlackBerry Developer Conference in San Francisco.  In what may be a surprise to our readers, the BlackBerry app community is thriving with more than 2,000 apps in BlackBerry AppWorld…plus countless more that are distributed through other channels.  Much is made of iPhone’s 65,000+ apps, but good luck trying to browse for an app that’s not in its categories’ Top 100 list.  When it comes to searching for a quality car navigation app or streaming media player for your smartphone, 2,000 and 65,000 are essentially the same.

At any rate, it is good for everyone involved to see developers thrive on both platforms.   We’re sure they’ll be lots of exciting announcements at the event.  If you’re attending, please to stop by and say hello.  This video (with a Cameo appearance by our VP of BizDev) is a preview for those thinking about coming.