Weekend what we’re reading: iPhone thefts, hotel WiFi fees, US Air offers 1st-class meals in coach


This weekend we take a look at the exploding number of smartphone and tablet thefts. Charging for Wi-Fi access becomes one of the biggest hotel differentiators. And, US Airways has upgraded their coach meals for those willing to pay $20 for a “first-class-style” meal and free wine.

Fighting the iCrime wave

Theft of iPhones and iPads is reaching crisis proportions and exploding. Reports note, “In New York, there were more than 26,000 incidents of electronics theft in the first 10 months of 2011 — 81 percent involving mobile phones — according to an internal police department document. In Washington, D.C., cellphone-related robberies jumped 54 percent from 2007 to 2011…”

We were buried in an e-book when the subway doors opened at the Bergen Street stop in Brooklyn. In a flash, a pair of hands dove into my date’s lap and ripped away her iPad. Chasing the guy was instinctive. But he had a crew backing him up that I never saw. Instead of winning back the iPad, I found myself lying on the platform bleeding, my jaw split in half.

Nabbing electronic devices isn’t new. But lately it is growing “exponentially,” according to a 2011 report from the New York Police Department. The lucrative secondhand market for today’s niftiest handsets has produced an explosion in “Apple picking” by thieves. A used iPad or iPhone can fetch more than $400.

Wi-Fi fees drag hotel satisfaction down

Fees for Internet are one of the biggest irritants when it comes to hotel bookings. Just like hotel visitors hated to use hotel phones with their exorbitant charges, Internet Wi-Fi fees are engendering the same resentment. More interesting — lower-priced hotels provide Wi-Fi for free in most cases, while luxury hotels charge; go figure.

One item in particular — Internet costs and fees — is pressing some guests’ buttons, churning up “resentment, frustration and anger,” says Stuart Greif, a J.D. Power vice president. “At the luxury level, where they’re paying for a lot more, there’s a feeling you should be giving more freebies, like Internet Wi-Fi, which many lower-priced hotels offer for free.”

The anger is rooted in this cultural shift: We’re at a tipping point where hotel guests value Internet access as they would a bed and hot water, says Greif. “You can’t live without it.”

First-class food on US Airways coach

In the never-ending world of ancillary airline fees, US Airways has added a new one. Passengers can now pay $19.99 to receive a “first-class-style meal in coach on international flights. Plus, bring your plastic — US Air no longer accepts cash aboard international flights.

Looking to boost revenue and attract international travelers, US Airways on Wednesday began offering first-class-style meals for coach customers on flights to Europe, the Middle East and South America — for $19.99.

Travelers will have to order the premium meals at least 24 hours in advance, US Airways said. They can select either a vegetarian or chicken meal. Philadelphia’s dominant airline said it would also offer free wine with the meals.