Sunday musings: Wolves in Yellowstone, Not so trusted travelers, buying a low fare lock


This Sunday we ponder the effects of reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone and, I hope, realize the unintended consequences of many of our conservation actions. TSA learns that all trusted travelers aren’t to be trusted. And, a new travel player allows passengers to pay to lock in low fares.

Wolves change Yellowstone rivers
The video above provides plenty of food for thought about how the environment is interconnected. Some have said that in our zeal to maintain and preserve the status quo of nature at Yellowstone, man has introduced dramatic changes. It seems that nature is not fixed. It is ever evolving. What man perceives as bad sometimes results in ultimate good. Like forest fires that allow new growth and regeneration of soil. In this case wolves, despised by ranchers, bring unexpected good that makes their land more productive.

Not-so-trusted travelers from Global Entry program
It seems that all of the folk who go through Global Entry, one of the Customs and Border Protection Trusted Travelers programs, aren’t to be trusted. Some of those who sign up for the program are using it as a means to skirt the law.

“Global Entry provides a level of trust not afforded to regular air travelers,” said Devin Chamberlain, CBP Port Director. “Violations of any kind will result in removal from the program.”

The violators, all returning U.S. citizens, failed to declare personal use steroids and prescription drugs and failed to report the transport of currency over $10,000. Two events occurred February 26 and the last March 1, 2014.

How to reserve an airline ticket — until you’re ready to buy
Will travelers be willing to pay a small fee to lock in a low airfare to be purchased in the future? This start-up has collected something in the range of $1.7 million from investors who believe there may be a successful business in selling options on airline tickets.

I see some wrinkles to be ironed out. In effect, the 24-hour airfare change rule already allows passengers to hold reservations for a day without paying a fee. And, airline pricing actions are so unpredictable that this may become a real crap shoot. It is another example of gaming a bad airline customer interface.

Options Away works like this: Users can search for flights and buy an option to purchase a ticket in the future at the price being offered now, in case they’re not ready to commit. Options Away built algorithms to determine the likelihood of fares increasing or tickets to sell out, and it prices options accordingly. Typically, prices range from about $5 to hold a round-trip ticket for 24 hours; $14 to $25 for seven days; $18 to $30 for 14 days; and $36 to $50 for 21 days. Options Away pockets the fee even if a user doesn’t book a trip.

The concept is similar to United Airlines’ FareLock program, which allows fliers to hold a fare for seven days. But Options Away acts like Orbitz or Expedia Inc., featuring flights from a range of carriers. With the new funding, it plans to include international flights.

  • Lisa Simeone

    The Yellowstone wolves video is beautiful.

    I have to laugh at the Trusted Traveler story. The fact that people can scam CBP is no surprise. Frankly, hats off to them, especially since CBP harasses innocent people all the time. Trusted Traveler is just as idiotic as the TSA’s Pre-Check. Two bureaucratic extortion rackets that provide a false sense of security. As if someone with criminal intent can’t figure out a way around them.