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New jets SFO-LAX + Europe summer deals + United move at ATL + Delta wi-fi progress + Cathay biz class sale

AIRLINES Delta eyes 717s for LAX-SFO. Delta will put larger Boeing 717s onto eight daily Los Angeles-San Francisco “California Shuttle” flights starting June 4, retaining Embraer 175s on the other seven of its 15 daily flights, according to the website Airlineroute, which tracks planned service changes across the industry. Delta obtained scores of former AirTran […]

Turkish coffee is a thick brew served with water to help wash it down! (Photo: Erica Ashleson / Flickr)

Coffee: 5 ways in 5 cities. Or Starbucks?

No matter where you start your work day, coffee is typically in order before meetings begin. But how you brew the bean at home is likely quite different from the way it’s done in other parts of the world. If you can’t have your joe your way, then have it like a local! Or you can go find the nearest Starbucks. When […]

Check in counter at The Nines hotel in Portland, OR (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

5 key questions to ask at hotel check-in

Here are five questions every smart traveler should ask when checking in a hotel: (This is a Blast from the Past post making a reappearance on TravelSkills. Enjoy!) 1) What’s the location of this room? When you ask about the specific location of the room, the clerk becomes personally involved in your room choice—and does not […]

wi-fi

Which countries have fastest hotel wi-fi? Surprising answer

Do you insist on consistently good quality and wide availability of in-room Wi-Fi at hotels? Then you better travel overseas, according to a new report from HotelWiFiTest, the website that tracks these things worldwide. The U.S. ranks fairly high up on the list for the availability of free hotel Wi-Fi, but fairly low down for […]

I'm one of the lucky travelers living in a Virgin America hub. Love those US flag winglets!  (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

My two favorite airlines. Yours?

Last week a travel blogger for Forbes asked me to comment on what I feel are the two best U.S. airlines for business travelers. You’ll find a snippet of what I told him here. But I thought my full answer would make for a good TravelSkills post. So here’s what I wrote about my two current faves […]

I'm always happy to see a sign like this one on my recent JetBlue flight to New York (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Ranking inflight wi-fi by airline

I’m addicted to inflight wi-fi and my ticket purchase decision is nearly always dependent on wi-fi availability onboard. That’s probably because I run an online business and being offline for long periods can have significant consequences. But it’s not just me. I’ve noticed a big increase in the number of passengers onboard accessing wi-fi from their […]

A long black coffee contains espresso and hot water (Katherine Lim / Flickr)

Australia Day: 5 ways to behave down under

It’s January 26: Australia Day 2015, a perfect time to examine the subtle and not so subtle ways of our Aussie mates. With the Australian dollar hitting new lows against the US dollar, now’s a great time to extend a business trip…. or just head down for a nice vacation. This is the first of a TravelSkills […]

Plane

Plane runs out of fuel, ditches near Hawaii VIDEO

Have you ever wondered what happens when a plane runs out of fuel over the ocean? The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a small plane from the Bay Area had to ditch in the ocean using a built in parachute after running out of fuel near the coast of Hawaii. The pilot of a single engine […]

The elegant new(ish) W Hotel in Paris near Opera (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Crashing currencies: More travel deals for Americans

In case you’ve not kept an eye on foreign exchange markets, you should know that the dollar is soaring compared to nearly every major currency in the world. That means that right now during the so-called “dead weeks” is not only a very cheap time to fly to Europe, Australia or Japan, it’s also a […]

Rendering of the modified 747 that will buzz Burning Man this August (Courtesy Lance Powell)

Big storm + Unusual 747 + NYC Helicopters, rail link + Marriott Megabonus + Choose car from plane

Developing: A potentially crippling winter storm is bearing down on the Northeast and airlines are starting to announce waivers.”We are facing most likely one of the largest snowstorms in the history of this city,” says NYC mayor Bill DiBlasio. By Sunday evening, airlines had pre-emptively canceled over 800 flights.  The key thing to remember in […]

A mesmerizing look at a Delta jet from a window of ATL's Concourse E (Photo: AP Gouge Photography)

Best photo + United meals + Bid for Virgin upgrades + Delta downgrade + New Asian nonstop for SJC

AIRLINES United improves front cabin meals. February 1 is United Airlines’ launch date for upgraded meal service in United First and United Business cabins on North American mainline flights of at least 800 miles. Transcontinental and Hawaii flights will get a new multi-course meal service with “heartier entrees,” United said, while flights of four hours […]

The SkyMall catalog was full of quirky, questionably  used items like this ball tosser (Photo: SkyMall)

SkyMall bankruptcy surprises few

SkyMall bankruptcy surprises few. If you see a SkyMall catalogue in the seatback on your next flight, you might want to save it — it could soon be a collector’s item. The venerable in-flight shopping diversion and its parent company have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with an eye toward selling off their assets. What […]

A Chinese high speed train at the West Beijing station (Photo: Fabio Achilli / Flickr)

Beijing Moscow train set to speed across Asia

This week China announced that it’s going to build a $250 billion Beijing-Moscow bullet train, which could be in service within 10 years. California’s $68 billion high-speed rail service between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which broke ground earlier this month near Fresno, will take at least 14 years to complete. And it already has a […]

(Photo: Jim Glab)

6 tips for better plane pics

If you’ve ever wished for a pastime that could make your hours at the airport or on the plane more endurable, how about aircraft photography? No matter how jaded you’ve become from your travels over the years, you might still think — as I do — that seeing a big commercial jet lift itself into […]

It's beach time in California this weekend! Temps could hit 80 degrees in Carmel, pictured here (Chris McGinnis)

7 last-minute fare deals worth a look!

Deal Alert! As usually happens at this cold dark time of year when we all feel like we’ve traveled enough, the industry responds with some pretty tantalizing “dead week” deals. The most alluring are those to warm weather destinations, but the best deals (and most seats) are to less balmy destinations. If you have a […]

Virgin Atlantic

Wait…I have to sit where?

TravelSkills reader S.G. is not at all happy about how Delta Medallion level flyers are treated when flying on new Virgin Atlantic codeshare flights– here’s his Reader Report! Dear Chris: I want to give you an update on my Delta/Virgin experience, which is my second experience, and not so great, nor was it for some Diamonds. […]

Cuba

Delta at JFK + First Virgin Hotel opens + Cuba + Free parking at Oakland + Marriott backs down

AIRPORTS Delta expands at JFK. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Delta Air Lines have cut the ribbon on a $175 million expansion of Terminal 4 at New York JFK. The 11-gate, 75,000-square-foot extension of T4’s B Concourse allows Delta to move most of its regional Delta Connection flights there from […]

Cathay Pacific

United bonus miles + Delta to Shanghai + Beware mileage thieves + Chris speaks Russian

AIRLINES United offers bonus miles to elites. Matching a similar move by American Airlines, United has come out with its own offer of bonus miles for MileagePlus members who buy tickets in premium cabins. The longer the flight and the higher one’s elite status, the more bonus miles United piles on, up to 12,000 for […]

Did you know that there are two types of touch screens? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

How do touch screens work?

Can you count how many touch screens you encounter on a single trip? Frequent travelers probably use touch screens more than most — smartphones, airport check-in or Global Entry kiosks, seatback entertainment systems are just a few. Did you ever wonder how they work? The infographic below (from Visual.ly) provides an interesting look at the two […]

The new terminal at Dallas Love Field feels a lot like SFO's Terminal 2- light, airy, modern with a broad selection of dining & shopping options. Were impressed! (Photo: Chris McGinnis(

New SFO competition + Delta fights for Love + United Wi-Fi + Air China’s 747-8s + Bag woes at Denver

AIRLINES New SFO routes for Southwest, JetBlue. Virgin America got some new competition on a couple of key routes last week as Southwest kicked off new daily service between San Francisco and Dallas Love Field, and JetBlue started two daily flights between SFO and Las Vegas. Southwest also added daily flights between Love Field and […]

Delta Connection flight for mileage item (Photo: Jim Glab)

Mileage switch begins + Etihad mess + Marriott’s Mi-Fi blocking policy + Free Wi-Fi at NYC airports

AIRLINES Big mileage switch starts. On January 1, Delta became the first of the Big Three U.S. legacy airlines to transform the basis of earnings in its loyalty plan from distance flown to money spent. Under the new regime, non-elite SkyMiles members will get five miles per dollar spent on air fare, Silver Medallions earn […]

SkyPriorityatTokyoNarita

AirTran is over + SkyTeam priority perks + Hotel wi-fi standards + AMEX lounge for SYD

AIRLINES AirTran’s legacy for Southwest. With Southwest subsidiary AirTran Airways due to fly off into the pages of aviation history this week as its last remnants are fully absorbed into its parent airline, Forbes takes a look at just what AirTran has brought to the larger carrier. Besides making Southwest the largest U.S. airline (in […]

VirginAmericaWiFiservice

Faster Virgin Wi-Fi + Hertz status for SkyMiles + Kimpton purchase + Free Internet at Starwood

 AIRLINES Virgin speeds up in-flight Wi-Fi. Flyers on Virgin America who use in-flight Wi-Fi should notice an improvement in download speeds now that the airline has completed the deployment of Gogo’s ATG-4 Wi-Fi service on all 53 of its Airbus A320s. With speeds topping out at 9.8 Mbps, the ATG-4 service is more than three […]

When you pay full price for a big seat up front on American, you could earn a 12K mile bonus (Photo: DearEdward / Flickr)

American ups the ante in fight for premium travelers

The latest salvo in the battle for front-cabin travelers comes from American, which unveiled a bonus promotion for 2015 that rewards extra miles — in some cases a lot of extra miles — to AAdvantage members who buy pricey premium seats. Although American calls it a “promotion,” it is unlike other mileage promotions in some […]

United's going big with the new iPhone 6 Plus. (Photo: United)

iPhones on United + Delta backtrack + Holiday first class sale + Uber issues + New hotel for NYC

AIRLINES UA flight attendants get iPhones. Passenger purchases on United flights will soon be processed through an iPhone 6 Plus. The airline said it plans to give the big new iPhones to 23,000 flight attendants in the second quarter of 2015, and they’ll be able to handle most in-flight retail transactions. In the months to […]

The Trivago Guy is finding the best hotel rates in our test (Photo: Trivago)

New breed of hotel discount sites

It’s hard to miss the Trivago commercials on TV these days – they seem to be everywhere, and were propelled to infamy by a blogosphere riveted by the slightly disheveled look of the spokesperson, the aptly named “Trivago guy.” So pushing past the hype, how does current crop of newly popular hotel-only search sites pan out […]

This smart traveler used points to get $150/night rate at this big pink hotel in Honolulu (Photo: Bret Robertson / Flickr)

Advice from a road warrior [sponsored post & contest]

I got my start in the travel industry teaching novice business travelers how to “learn the ropes” of the road through a training program. That’s why my company is called Travel Skills Group, Inc., a name that eventually morphed into the TravelSkills.com blog you are now reading. I would contract with HR departments at big […]

SFO Plan West

Tip: Stormy weather slowing you down? Here’s why…

Flight delays at San Francisco International Airport regularly exceed two hours when it’s rainy, windy or foggy, while airports in San Jose and Oakland report few if any delays. As I write this, the FAA is reporting delays averaging 3 hours 40 minutes at SFO. Here’s why: As most frequent travelers know, delays mount at SFO […]

It's hard not to smile when you share beautiful views of San Francisco, with candy canes and gingerbread men.

Is this the best flight of the year?

By Nancy Branka By the time December rolls around each year, the last thing I want to do is to get on a plane. I am, by now, a jaded, tired business traveler. I am just plain done with TSA agents, done with vying for position in boarding groups, done with heaving my carry-on over […]

New quilted seat covers for Delta's first class flyers (Photo: Delta)

Delta rebrands cabins, classes of service

SkyMiles members who are thoroughly versed in all of Delta’s cabin and seating options will have to do a little re-education following the airline’s announcement that it is “redefining” and rebranding its products into five categories. The new cabin/seating regime takes effect March 1, 2015, with the following designations: >What is currently BusinessElite becomes Delta […]

VirginAmericasobanoodles

Virgin food award + Delta beer + New flights to Europe + 3 Miami hotels + First A350

AIRLINES Virgin takes top honors in food study. Charles Platkin, a nutritionist also known as the Diet Detective, has come out with his annual ratings of airline food in terms of its nutritional quality, and Virgin America has captured the top spot. “It’s great that Virgin America also provides ALL nutritional information, NOT just calories, […]

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis having fun with Emirates flight attendants during the A380 tour at SFO

How Emirates welcomes a new plane [Photos]

This week Emirates Airline deployed not just one, but TWO giant Airbus A380s between Dubai and the US. On Monday, the 489-passenger double-decker touched down at San Francisco International and on Wednesday another one landed at Houston Intercontinental. Luckily, TravelSkills was invited to tour the new plane and to attend two of Emirates celebratory events in San Francisco, […]

Feelin' like Fiji? Then check out Alaska Air! (Photo: KenC1983 / Flickr)

5 smart mileage redemption tips

Don’t let frequent flyer miles burn a hole in your pocket because they always lose value over time.   The longer they sit there, the more expensive the awards become. In the past year, we have seen three major airlines adjust their award charts downward, with United Airlines’ moves being the most drastic. United nearly doubled […]

Check out the knee room in economy class on Japan Airlines' new Sky Suite 777 (photo: Chris McGinnis)

4 comfortable classes on JAL’s Sky Suite 777

Japan Airlines is making a big push to win back the hearts and wallets of frequent travelers, and in the US it is deploying its slick new Sky Suite 777 to do so. Just this week, it added the newly configured aircraft to the busy San Francisco-Tokyo Haneda run, replacing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route. […]

One of Marriott's newest, largest hotels is on sale today only! Marriott Marquis Washington DC

Marriott’s Cyber Monday deals

It’s not just retailers jumping on the Cyber-Monday bandwagon. The travel industry is there, too, and Marriott is one of the first out of the gate with some great deals for winter trips. Today only, you’ll get 30% off rooms rates at over 180 Marriott hotels across multiple brands. To get the deal, you must […]

Philadelphia

Uber out in Vegas + United changes routes + Delta in Philly + Virgin’s next moves? + New India visa

AIRLINES Alaska boosts mileage bonuses. Alaska Airlines has an early Christmas present for its Mileage Plan members: bigger earning bonuses for certain fare classes and for MVP Gold 75K elites starting January 1. The bonus for first class fares jumps from 50 to 75 percent, and for refundable coach (Y) fares from 25 to 50 […]

My most famous foot photo ever (Chris McGinnis)

6 most annoying actions of infrequent flyers

Over time, most frequent travelers adopt an unruffled, zen-like attitude when it comes to flying. But at times, especially during the peak holdiay travel season, infrequent flyers exhibit certain behaviors that get under their skin. Below are my top six irritants. What are yours? 1) Seatback tappers- You know,  the ones who repeatedly tap-tap-tap on the seatback […]

credit cards

Thanksgiving, Schmanksgiving!

Once your turkey coma has worn off, gather up the fam and start planning for the Christmas/New Years period, which you can bet is going to be one of the busiest in recent memory. How do we know this? Because the holiday travel season usually mimics the peak summer travel season, which this year was very […]

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22 fun facts about flying

For your holiday reading pleasure, here are 22 fun facts about flying that you may not know. An entertaining and enlightening read from the folks at FlightRight.com. Have a great Thanksgiving! –Chris   >>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! << . Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate […]

Washington Dulles Airport's curves are sure lovely. Bu not its commute! (Photo: Joe Wolf / Flickr)

36 most/least frustrating airports

Just in time for the holiday crunch, Bloomberg/BusinessWeek has put together a spot-on ranking of the 36 largest airports in the US and Canada. What’s best about this ranking is that it is based on a survey of 3,000 frequent travelers who know a thing or two about airports, plus a full analysis of drive time […]

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