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Float planes next to skyscrapers in Vancouver make me smile (Chris McGinnis)

These countries make me smile

How often do you get to take a happy trip to one of the top 10 happiest countries in the world? I’m flying through Switzerland next week and will be on the lookout for smiles Why? Well, in the recently released 2015 World Happiness Report, Switzerland ranks as the most happy country in the world, followed […]

American's Admiral's Club at SFO has unusual bonsai type trees (Image Chris McGinnis)

American Admirals Clubs get consistent new look, feel

American Airlines says that is will soon begin “the most expansive lounge makeover in the airline’s history.” First up for the facelift: The Admirals Club lounges at Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) and Sao Paulo International (GRU) airports, both of which are currently closed. It sounds like American is taking a page from the Delta Sky Club […]

The former Rush and Four Points hotel is now a shiny new AC Hotel by Marriott (Image: Marriott)

Chicago’s glut of hot new hotels

Chicago openings: Hyatt, Marriott. The new Hyatt brand that was announced a few months ago — Hyatt Centric — has opened its first property in the heart of Chicago. The Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago occupies a former office building at 100 W. Monroe St. and offers a “minimalist decor” in its 257 guest rooms. […]

Rendering of the new Hyatt Regency Tyson's Corner now open in a mixed use development on the Metro Silver Line

New hotel openings of note

More openings: D.C., Georgia, Colorado. Hyatt opened a new property in metro Washington D.C.’s fast-growing Tysons Corner area, 15 miles from both Washington Dulles and Washington Reagan National; the 300-room Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center is accessible via the Washington Metro Silver Line— train service to Dulles Airport on the Silver Line should commence in […]

(Image: Brian Cantoni / Flickr)

Get your Netflix on hotel TV

Netflix in your hotel room? Since the streaming entertainment service Netflix has grown so fast and attracted so many subscribers, wouldn’t it be nice if you could access it while you’re away on business? Marriott thinks so, and the hotel giant is currently testing the availability of Netflix and other streaming services like Pandora and […]

Portland gets Uber back (Image: Uber)

Uber’s back in Portland

Portland OKs Uber — for now. The Portland, Oregon City Council has agreed to let Uber and Lyft operate in the city for the next four months, subject to certain conditions. Currently, UberX is the only option in town and airport to city runs cost $30-$40 each way. Get $20 off your first Uber ride! […]

Charlotte-Douglas Airport's new hourly parking deck is home to a  consolidated car rental facility.

Renting a car in Charlotte just got easier

New rental facility at Charlotte. Rental car operations at North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport have moved to a newly opened consolidated facility in the airport’s new hourly parking deck. The new rental facility is a short walk from the terminal, eliminating the need for the rental car shuttles previously used. Next year, the airport […]

NextGen technology is speeding things up at Atlanta's busy Hartsfield Jackson

Atlanta airport getting faster, bigger. SFO, too

If flight operations in and out of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson seem to be running more smoothly these days, that’s because air traffic control improvements resulting from the FAA’s new NextGen technology are allowing more flights to take off and land at the busy airport. The new procedures let aircraft fly closer together on approach, and opened up […]

Rendering of the new Westin hotel at Denver International Airport (Starwood)

Rail link & hotel at Denver airport just around the corner

The long-planned rail link between Denver International Airport and Union Station in downtown Denver passed a milestone last week when rail cars pulled into the airport station for the first time. The Regional Transportation District’s electric-powered East Rail Line will now undergo an extended series of tests before the trains start carrying passengers in 2016. […]

Seattle-Tacoma airport is due for a big upgrade on wi-fi speed (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

NYC airports lag on free Wi-Fi; Sea-Tac sizzles

Several months ago, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey promised it would make 30-minute free Wi-Fi sessions available at all three of its major airports — Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark — by fall of 2014. Some progress has been made, but the promise is still unfulfilled; According to USA Today’s Harriet Baskas, […]

Alaska Airlines will market premium coach seats. (Photo: Jim Glab)

Alaska adds new premium economy seats

Alaska adds premium seats. In the middle of May, Alaska Airlines will reportedly start marketing extra-legroom coach seats — i.e., those in bulkhead and exit rows — as a premium economy product. Besides the 7 to 8 inches of extra legroom, passengers in these “preferred seating” rows will also get free drinks and priority boarding. […]

A hearty breakfast on JetBlue's Mint transcon (Chris McGinnis)

JetBlue’s Mint class paying off

It’s been almost a year since JetBlue started deploying its new premium front-cabin service — called Mint — on the New York JFK-Los Angeles route, and the long rollout process (its first phase, at least) is coming to a close this spring with the new cabins installed on all of the carrier’s JFK-LAX and JFK-San […]

United is giving up on 10 new 787-9s it had ordered.

United revamps fleet- for the better?

In announcing its quarterly results last week, United Airlines revealed plans to make some major changes in the makeup of its fleet. For starters, the airline will swap out an existing order with Boeing for 10 787-9 Dreamliners to 10 777-300ERs instead. United also said it will extend the lifespan of 21 767-300s that had […]

This is the secret stairway to the crew rest area on a Cathay Pacific 747 (Chris McGinnis)

13 air travel experiences to have before you die

With the proliferation of “must see before you die” lists, I’m moved to submit my top 13 airline business class experiences to have before you die. Some of these I’ve been lucky enough to experience myself. Others, I just been able to photograph… and some I can only dream about. Take a spin through my top […]

Sir Richard Branson

Virgin Hotel Chicago grand opening [sexy slideshow]

Wondering how Virgin throws a grand opening party for its very first hotel? Here are some photos that illustrate the showy event in Chicago last week. (All photos courtesy of Virgin Hotels) To read TravelSkills full report on the Virgin Chicago grand opening event, see this. @RichardBranson @MattMcGorry @Char_McK  To read TravelSkills full report on the […]

The Virgin Hotel brand debuts in Chicago (Photo: Virgin America)

Six cheeky features at the first Virgin Hotel

Imagine disembarking from a Virgin America flight and checking in at Hotel Meh. Now imagine extending the vibe at a Virgin Hotel. It’s like business travel surround-sound. Or at least that’s what Virgin Hotels is betting on. The Virgin Hotel Chicago celebrated its grand opening April 16 (after the industry practice of a soft opening […]

United's summer business class sale. A 747 at ORD (Image: Chris McGinnis)

United business class sale

Every year about this time I keep my eyes peeled for business class sale fares for summer travel. As regular TravelSkills readers know, we wrote about a recent spate of summer biz class sales on European carriers. Today, United jumped in the fray with some across-the-pond discounts, too. (Keep an eye out for other US […]

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Easier than ever to fly private (Part 2)

In contrast to the private jet operators mentioned in Part 1 of this series, California-based Surf Air (www.surfair.com) is not a flight booking service — it’s an actual airline, but a members-only one that offers all-you-can-fly service to and from several airports — mainly between southern California and Silicon Valley — for rates starting at […]

This Phenom 100 jet from JetSuite seats six (JetSuite)

It’s getting easier to fly private (Part 1)

After going into a big slump during the Great Recession, business travel by private aircraft is making a strong comeback. Bombardier, a major manufacturer of business jets, predicts that the worldwide fleet will grow from 15,200 in 2013 to 22,650 by 2023. And some new companies have been springing up to broaden the market of […]

united

Banned from United

Now this feels kinda scary, weird and big-brotherish. Last week prominent security researcher Chris Roberts was banned from flying United after speaking on TV and tweeting about airline security vulnerabilities and his alleged ability to hack into and tamper with inflight systems during flights. Back on March 22 on Fox News, Roberts boasted about how he’s been able to […]

Turkish Airlines inaugural flight with San Francisco mural arrives at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

Turkish Airlines pinging Silicon Valley (VIDEO)

This week, San Francisco International welcomed Turkish Airlines inaugural Boeing 777 flight from Istanbul, and TravelSkills was there on the runway to capture the moment. (I was there broadcasting live using the new Periscope app in my iPhone. Are you on it yet? If so, be sure and follow me!) Turkish is pushing hard for the Bay […]

United's hearty new first class breakfast (Photo: B.D.)

Is United’s food getting better?

One of the best gauges I have for picking up on travel trends are the emails I get from TravelSkills readers. And over the course of the last few months, I’ve been getting more positive emails (and photos) about United meals than before. Which means good things are happening in the those kitchens and galleys, […]

The new Loews Regency San Francisco looks like a tuning fork in the skyline (Image: Loews)

Brand new luxury hotel brand: Now in NYC & SF

In a blockbuster move earlier this year, Loews Hotels & Resorts acquired San Francisco’s poshest hotel perch, the Mandarin Oriental. This week, Loews announced the San Francisco property as well as its slick new (ish) hotel at 61st & Park in New York City would be the first two “Loews Regency” hotels, a new brand for […]

(Image: TheTaxHaven / Flickr)

How LinkedIn can upgrade your next trip

Getting face-to-face is the single most powerful benefit of business travel, but are you leaving something on the table? How do you initiate a meeting with someone who would further your goals down the road? Is there background info that could strengthen your meeting outcomes? Consider tapping into the power of LinkedIn when you plan a […]

What's hot in Vegas?Maybe these guys know (Photo: Moyan Brenn / Flickr)

6 hottest spots in Vegas this year

Headed to Las Vegas and trying to make the most of a quick trip? Like most business travelers, you have little time to waste on old, tired offerings, right? The last time I was there my meetings ran over, and I had little time to get out and see what was new before I had to race […]

Ti tip, or not to tip. That's the question for a lot of frequent travelers (Dave Dugdale / Flickr)

6 tricky tipping dilemmas that trip up travelers

If only tipping were simple. You already know the etiquette for the common travel situations: restaurant servers, taxis, housekeeping. But sometimes it’s not so straightforward. Here are six scenarios that can trip me up when I’m traveling: 1. I have no small bills. Sadly, I find myself in this situation more often than I’d like […]

Taking a spin around Copenhagen in an electric car was a blast two years ago- now it's a lot cheaper! (Chris McGinnis)

Top 10 most deeply discounted European cities

With the dollar at new highs against the euro and other currencies, nearly everyone is pondering a trip across the pond this summer. Leisure travelers are ready to see the sightss at a discount, of course. But business travelers are headed over, too, trying to keep European customers happy now that they are paying a lot […]

Get business class meals like this one on SAS at a discount this summer! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Business class on sale

Business travel volume tends to drop off a bit in the summer, when road warriors take their vacations. But airlines still have just as many premium cabin seats to fill, and some of them try to lure summer business with fare deals. If you don’t have enough miles to secure award seats — or more likely, […]

Halekulani

Virgin America to Hawaii: deal or no deal?

After months of hints and speculation, Virgin America made it official today: Starting November 2, they will fly to Hawaii from San Francisco.  Of course, you can expect that Virgin will do these flights right. I envision funky, tiki touches like mai tais, leis, aloha shirts and Hawaiian mood lighting. For example, the carrier is […]

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Time to pay for PreCheck

When PreCheck first rolled out, it was reserved for a secret society of frequent travelers– primarily a beta test group of high mileage members of Delta SkyMiles and American AAdvantage programs (and eventually United MileagePlus). Airlines sent special invitations to their high-mileage flyers based in the few cities where PreCheck lanes first emerged in the […]

Lobby at the brand new Residence Inn Boston Seaport is a blended, communal space (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Even if you are not 18-34 years old…

…the millennial generation is going to change the way you eat, drink, relax, connect and collect rewards on the road. Big time.   These young whippersnappers (aged 18-34) are into sharing, community, social media and technology– so much in fact, that they value a good wi-fi connection more than a good meal. That’s pushing hotels to invest […]

SFO

Coyotes (and other rare sights) on the runway

Last week when I was between the runways at SFO to watch and report on British Airways’s new A380 arrival, I spied upon several interesting things. First off was this fake coyote located on a grass strip between the runways. It’s there to scare off birds and prevent bird strikes, which have been on the rise at […]

Photo: Nick Harris / Flickr

How to catch an earlier flight without paying a fee

Getting on an earlier flight can mean getting home in time to have dinner with your family, rather than a solo snack around midnight. If you are headed off on vacation, it means you might be able to make it to the beach in time to get some sun. During normal airline operations, changing to […]

The Celebrity Infinity frequently calls on San Francisco (Photo: Celebrity Cruises)

San Francisco’s new floating hotel

San Francisco never seems to have enough hotel rooms. Especially when a giant conference rolls into town like the Salesforce Dreamforce event, which last year attracted more than 60,000 out-of-towners and will likely attract even more this year. Instead of moving the giant confab away from its hometown to more spacious quarters, Salesforce has come up with […]