U.S. firms are expected to boost business travel spending in 2013

American companies are ready to write bigger checks for business travel this year.

The Global Business Travel Assn. is expecting companies to spend $266.7 billion in 2013. That would be a 4.6% increase over last year, when the "fiscal cliff" and Superstorm Sandy put a crimp in travel.

Still, the group predicted that companies will trim trips 1.1%.

A rise in spending and a drop in trips means that more travelers will stay longer, perhaps scheduling more meetings per outing, said Rebecca Carriero, a spokeswoman for the trade group representing business travel managers.

"Business travelers will try to be more productive to maximize their time," she said.

In 2012, business travel spending grew a modest 1.6%, reflecting caution by companies about splurging in the face of a presidential election, debate over the fiscal cliff and the storm that shut down much of the East Coast for several days.

"You did see companies wanting to see the results of the election and the fiscal cliff debate," Carriero said. "Companies were sort of holding their breath."

FCC to boost high-speed Wi-Fi availability

Getting delayed at an airport may be less of a headache in the future if you are traveling with a smartphone, laptop or tablet computer.

The Federal Communications Commission said it is increasing by 35% the availability of high-speed wireless Internet at airports, convention centers and conference hubs.

Internet users would be able to access higher Wi-Fi speeds, and that means more portable devices could stream high-definition movies and television.

The effort was announced by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski during the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He said the FCC will take the first steps in February to release up to 195 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 gigahertz band. He called it the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be released for Wi-Fi use since 2003.

"As this spectrum comes on line, we expect it to relieve congested Wi-Fi networks at major hubs like convention centers and airports," he said.

The one possible glitch is that the 5 gigahertz band is already in use, predominantly by federal agencies, and must be reallocated for the public. But Genachowski said the FCC plans to act on the effort quickly.

FAA warns of exploding coffee pouches on planes

Flight attendants, forced to work long hours with little rest and battle unruly passengers with oversized carry-on bags, could also face another midair hazard: exploding coffee filters.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a safety alert to all airlines warning that packages of coffee grounds enclosed in filters have burst while coffee was being brewed in commercial planes.

The FAA has recorded about a dozen coffee explosions in the last 10 years, causing first and second-degree burns to flight attendants and passengers.

Just before the coffee pouch bursts, flight attendants might see water overflowing from the brewer and hear a hissing sound, the FAA warned. When flight attendants lift the coffee pot handle, the hot grounds can splatter on the face, neck, hands and arms of anyone nearby, the agency said.

FAA officials say accidents can be avoided if flight attendants keep the coffee maker clean and refrain from doubling or folding the coffee pouches.

The Assn. of Flight Attendants is collecting information to warn its 60,000 members to take precautions, association spokeswoman Corey Caldwell said.

"We are reaching out to our safety committees at each carrier to assess the situation," she said.


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