I’m hosting a Google Hangout event on Tuesday, August 13th at 7:30pm Eastern to discuss technology and travel, what devices and innovations were important in the past, what the state of the art is now, and what’s missing.
It’s organized by National Car Rental, since they’ve announced their new mobile app (can you believe they really didn’t have one before?) and they think it is pretty cutting edge travel technology. There’s one piece of it, being implemented next month, that could be.
Now, there are only two real innovations in the rental car space that I’ve been able to think of over the past couple of decades. One is the loyalty program profile where your credit card is on file, no need to stop at the rental counter. National, like all of the other major brands, does this. The second is National’s “pick your own car” Emerald Aisle feature.
They haven’t taken the app in new revolutionary directions, but it’s fucntional and begins to take customizing your rental one step further by letting you pick a specific vehicle minutes before arriving at the lot.
I Was Initially Far More Interested in the New National Mobile App than the Chat
When National was first emailing about the online discussion of the evolution of travel technology, I wasn’t that interested, I actually emailed back saying I’m a whole lot more interested in the app!. I realize discussions like this are supposed to help generate interest around their mobile app, but it’s the app itself that interests me.
I’ve been renting quite a bit from National. I’m an Executive Elite with them, but that’s not really much better than ‘Executive’ status which comes with an American Express Platinum card and which last year was also included as part of Milepoint Premium status.
Joining Emerald Club gets you access to pick your own car from the ‘Emerald Aisle’ at participating (most airport) locations. Executive status lets you pick a car from the Executive Aisle, usually better and newer cars.
Though I suppose my Executive Elite level has been a bit helpful in requesting specific cars though without really flashing status in a ‘do you know who I am’ sort of way I haven’t had too much difficulty getting airport staff to send me off in Infinitis and the like (renting in Miami a couple of months ago there was a sea of minivans and SUVs in the Executive aisle).
The one piece of a trip I’m likely to forget is to reserve the car, so I’d like to have an app on my phone so I can worst case manage it on the way out of the jetway when I realize that I need the car and don’t have one. And dealing with an app is going to be a bit faster and more seamless than a mobile website. I’ve felt like something was missing with National not having an app — though rental car apps I’ve used like Avis’ have been clunky to date, to say the least.
Good Topics, a New Technology, and Mostly Great Fellow Panelists Should Make the Chat Interesting
I was initially reluctant because I didn’t even know what a ‘Google Hangout’ was. But I decided to overcome my fear of having to figure out technology when they let me know other folks they were approaching for the event included JohnnyJet, Chris McGinnis and also Scott from Hack My Trip. The fourth person I admit I do not know, Rachel Wolery of ‘Zip Set Go’.
Also joining the Hangout will be Rob Connors, Assistant Vice President of Enterprise.
National’s Mobile App Looks Pretty Good
I downloaded it for my Android phone several days ago (there’s an iPhone version as well). But it’s only just been announced today.
I’ve had a bit of opportunity to play with it, but not to pick up a car yet since loading it up, though that’ll happen before next week’s chat (I don’t stay ground for long but haven’t been in the air this month yet).
The one feature that goes beyond expected is the ‘virtual aisle’ — the ability to pick your car as you head to the lot.
The “Virtual Aisle” – Members familiar with National’s “Emerald Aisle” will have access to a mobile “Virtual Aisle” that will let them choose their exact rental vehicle before arriving at the rental facility. Using the app, Emerald Club members can see the real-time inventory available at airport locations with non-secured lots, then choose and reserve the specific car they wish to drive. The Virtual Aisle will be piloted in Tulsa, Richmond, and Omaha beginning next month, with a rollout in select locations nationwide expected soon after.
I haven’t used it yet, it rolls out next month and only in 3 locations initially. But the concept is a good one if it only saves me from schlepping up and down the aisle until I settle on my car!
The app is supposed to reserve a specific car for 15 minutes, giving you time to pick it up.
They put together a video to walk you through the app, but honestly you can just download it (and there’s a built-in tutorial but – let’s face it – it’s an app and isn’t that hard).
Join the Chat, and More to Come
I hope you’ll join me for the Google Hangout event on Tuesday, August 13th at 7:30pm Eastern — both because it should be interesting and also because I don’t want to be all alone trying out this new Google Event thing that I’m totally unfamiliar with.
I understand National is going to be giving me a gift card of some kind for hosting the event, and if that’s right you’ll likely see a gift card giveaway coming on the blog.
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