Latest News

The new InterContinental Westminster near Buckingham Palace. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Hilton’s Conrad snags posh new London hotel

Hilton’s Conrad brand announced today that it will take over the InterContinental Westminster, which just opened in December 2012. The new Hilton Conrad London Westminster will make its debut in September. The hotel has a central London location, service, and style business travelers require. It also has a handsome restaurant and bar with a type of food […]

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Best & worst hotels, airports for Wi-Fi

  Free wi-fi is great, but you usually end up getting what you pay for, right? Well, maybe not, according to an interesting study by a Wefi, a mobile network management company. According to the study, the hotel chains that offer the fastest wi-fi are in the budget and mid-priced category, with brands like Red […]

Delta's new post-security Sky Club rising in the shadow of SFO's new ATC Tower (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

New Delta Sky Club rising at SFO

Delta has confirmed to TravelSkills that it will open a brand new Sky Club at San Francisco International Airport in 2015. In the photo (above) that I snagged while boarding a Virgin America flight from a Terminal 2 jetway last week, it appears that the new club will be located on the upper level and will have […]

Southwest Airlines turning its old leather seats into sneakers & soccer balls (Photo: Southwest Airlines)

Airline fees up 1,200% + Unusual new seat design + Wild Dreamliner ride + Secret Service warns about hotel PCs

AIRLINES ‘Ancillary revenues’ skyrocket. In 2007, the world’s airlines took in $2.45 billion in “ancillary revenues” — those fees they charge for various amenities and services. By 2013, that figure had jumped to $31.5 billion — a 1,200 percent increase — according to the latest study by IdeaWorks Company. That’s $16 per passenger. United had […]

The sight of this just wrecks me. Imagine the tropical or romantic dreams of the traveler who packed this.

How I watched the #MH17 tragedy unfold

Every time a plane crashes, my adrenalin spikes, I fall into news gathering mode, and I begin to recall the air crashes that have occurred during my 25 year career as a travel writer, broadcaster and author. Most poignant of all to me was the ValuJet (now AirTran) flight 592 (Miami>Atlanta) crash into the everglades in May […]

Rooftop pool at Kimpton's Hotel Wilshire in LA (Photo: Kimpton)

Unusual ways to earn hotel rewards points

This week the Kimpton Hotel Group, the rapidly expanding chain of 62 funky and functional boutique hotels across the US, rolled out a unique new frequent stay program. To me, the most unusual feature of the new Kimpton Karma Rewards program is that travelers earn points not just for spending the night (and spending money), but for interacting […]

A CLEAR card entry point in SFO's Terminal 3 at about 8 pm last Monday (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Should I renew my CLEAR card?

Last week I received an email from CLEAR Card (see above) asking me to renew my $179 annual membership. In the past, renewal for CLEAR was an easy decision. I always thought that $179 was a small price to pay to have CLEAR come to my rescue when surprised by an unusually long line at airport security. […]

Etihad Logo

New global carrier for SFO with an Indian twist

Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways announced on Monday that it will fly to San Francisco International starting November 18. SFO will be the sixth U.S. city served by the rapidly expanding UAE carrier. Kinda…. This comes on the heals of Emirates Airline’s recent announcement that it will add double decker A380 flights at SFO starting […]

New Boeing bins allow Alaska Air travelers to pack em in sideways (Photo: Boeing)

Bigger bins + Check-in not required + Beware LAX traffic mess + New low fare O’Hare flights + Big new build hotel LA Live +

AIRLINES Alaska gets ‘Space Bins.’ Alaska Airlines said it will be the first carrier to install new “Space Bins” from Boeing — a new generation of overhead bins that will hold 48 percent more bags than the Boeing Sky interior pivot bins currently on Alaska’s planes. On a 737-900ER, that’s room for 174 standard bags, […]

The glittering view from a United 767 approaching London Heathrow (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

World’s 5 most popular cities (and my comments)

London is the most popular travel destination in the world. (I would agree with that!) The British capital reclaimed the most popular spot based on air travel arrivals and foreign visitor spending, besting last year’s most popular destination, Bangkok, by more than 2 million visitors according to MasterCard’s Global Destination Cities Index released this week. Where else are […]

Virgin America uses the "crane game" to depicts traveler frustration with frequent flyer programs (YouTube)

Are frequent flyer programs designed to fail?

This clever new 30-second video from Virgin America hits the nail on the head when it comes to traveler irritation with frequent flyer programs. The video uses the popular “crane game” to depict how travelers feel when trying to redeem miles for trips or perks. It arrives at a time when we’re more frustrated than normal due to […]

Lyft cars are easily identified by fuzzy pink moustaches (Photo: Raido / Flickr)

Are Uber, Airbnb or Lyft safe?

By Nancy Branka Safety is a primary concern for most female business travelers, but it factors into travel decisions of both sexes. So, as I recently made my first-ever reservation on Airbnb.com for a business trip, I stopped and wondered, “Is this smart?” New “sharing economy” travel suppliers such as Airbnb, Uber or Lyft can be exciting options for […]

Southwest Airlines 737's taking over many AirTran international routes (Photo: Jim Glab)

More TSA scrutiny on cell phones + Southwest overseas + United carry-on enforcement + SF hotel rates soar + More Silvercar

AIRLINES Cell phone scrutiny. As part of newly enhanced security procedures, be sure your cell phone is charged up before going to the airport, especially when returning from the US from overseas. Sounds like the TSA has received credible information that electronics could be used in a terrorist act involving aviation. Here’s part of the […]

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7 ways to avoid summer storm delays (TravelSkills on CNN)

Don’t let peak season storms like Arthur spoil your well-laid travel plans. Just follow TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis’s advice as shared on CNN! (Click on arrow to launch video) Watch the video to learn more about these seven tips: 1) Book the first flight of the day 2) Learn to live out of a carry on […]

Carly Simon looking and sounding great at 65 on the ferry between Martha's Vineyard and Woods Hole, Mass. (and me!)

Traveling with Carly Simon (reprise)

I’m still a little bit star struck. Last week, on the first leg of my journey home from my summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., I traveled with one of my all-time favorite singers and songwriters, Carly Simon. (Note: This is a reprise of a post from a previous Fourth of July weekend that I […]

New flight paths are about the biggest change fliers have felt during SFO runway shutdow (Courtesy SFO)

San Francisco airport runway construction update

You must see this mesmerizing video of fog rolling over SF from Simon Christen. On May 17, San Francisco International Airport shut down two of its four runways for federally mandated safety upgrades. Since then, summer fog and heavy air traffic have caused occasional minor back ups, but significant delays have been minimal. Over the last […]

Chatting with Delta CEO Richard Anderson (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

Peek behind the scenes at Delta

Delta invited TravelSkills to a rare, behind-the-scenes look at its operations in its massive Atlanta hub last month. Here’s a peek at what makes the third largest US airline tick, and a few nuggets of info we never knew: -Our group had an intimate chat with the surprisingly down-to-earth Delta CEO Richard Anderson about the […]

Room with a view! A posh new Peninsula opens in Paris (Photo: Peninsula Hotels)

Free wi-fi NYC airports + New Star Alliance member + More food at ATL + Clear card in Vegas + UberX on sale

AIRPORTS Free Wi-Fi coming to NYC airports. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has renegotiated its contract with Boingo Wireless so passengers will be able to access limited free Wi-Fi starting this fall. Travelers at JFK, LaGuardia, Newark and Stewart airports will get 30 minutes of free access; after that, fees kick […]

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5 ways Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner still wows

The shine has not come off Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. It’s been almost four years since ANA, the inaugural customer for the 787-8, took possession of the first aircraft and flew its first commercial flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong. Yet, while 150 or so Dreamliners are currently in service, the plane is used primarily on international routes. […]

This is a screenshot of Gogo pricing on a recent BOS>SFO flight (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

How to save $$ on pricey inflight wi-fi

During long summer flights, one of the best ways to tune out the crowded, hot conditions on the plane is focus on something else… like your email or social networking sites. Thankfully, getting connected via wi-fi in the air is getting easier and faster thanks to advances in technology. But it’s not getting any cheaper. […]

Chengdu's modern airport is the fourth busiest in China (Photo: Christian Ortiz / Flickr)

Is Chengdu China’s Chicago?

Chicago’s “Second City” nickname reflects an age-old inferiority complex– it was the second largest city in the U.S. until overtaken by Los Angeles. So, when I began a trip from San Francisco to Chengdu, in southwest China and the capital of the Sichuan province, I wondered if what I’d heard about Chengdu was true. What I had […]

Rendering of Delta's new lie flat seating on transcon 757s. Been on one yet?

Delta waffles on transcon upgrade policy

Delta has quietly begun offering complimentary upgrades to its high-level Medallion members on transcontinental flights to/from New York-JFK after yanking them away last March. Pulling those cherished upgrades on these five-hour flights resulted a prolonged rash of bitter complaints from Delta’s best customers on its most lucrative routes. This is not an “official” policy change, but Delta is […]

My most famous foot photo ever (Chris McGinnis)

6 most irritating 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 summer 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 […]

Travel hassles keeping you grounded? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Pay more for fewer hassles? + Delta’s big boast + United expands in Latin America + Lush new LAX lounge

BUSINESS TRAVEL Survey: Travel hassles inhibit trip activity. Everyone knows air travel is a hassle these days, with flight delays, ever-higher fees, security logjams and such. Now the U.S. Travel Association has measured the impact of the hassle factor in a traveler survey: It found that consumers avoided 38 million air trips last year, or […]

Emirates' depiction of its first class shower suite (Photo: Emirates Airline)

Newer, lighter Emirates A380s coming to SFO, IAH

Emirates is deploying  its giant double-decker Airbus A380 on nonstop routes from both San Francisco International and Houston Intercontinental to Dubai (DXB) on December 1 and 3 respectively. The new aircraft comes with showers, wi-fi and, yes, even the option of using your mobile phone during the flight. (Oh my!) The A380 also brings true lie-flat business […]

SAS light attendants change into chef outfits when serving dinner (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Trip Report: SAS business class SFO-Copenhagen (PHOTOS)

Throughout this summer, I’ll be sharing a handful of trip reports from unusual or interesting flights I’ve taken over the last year. Some of these are reprises of previous posts. Enjoy! The flight from San Francisco International (SFO) to Copenhagen (CPH) is the longest flight operated by SAS. It lasts about 11 hours. From the US, SAS […]

(Photo: Jason Tester Guerilla / Flickr)

Is Uber illegal?

The recent brouhaha between popular ride sharing services (such as Uber or Lyft) and airport authorities may have frequent travelers uneasy about using them for airport runs. San Francisco seems to be the locus of the current controversy, but airports are taking action in other cities, too. For example, San Antonio airport authorities cited drivers and impounded cars last week.   […]

Eventually, you'll catch trains from Denver's modern Union Station to Denver International Airport 40 miles northeast of downtown (Photo: RTD)

Biz Trip: Denver

Even the most notorious nose-to-the-grindstone business traveler will have a difficult time not having fun in sunny, booming Denver, Colorado. Its location near the geographic center of the US, a world-class airport and a rash of recent hotel developments in its pedestrian-friendly core have combined to make Denver an increasingly regular stop on the business […]

Dramatic skyline view from the newest Hyatt in Tokyo (Photo: Hyatt Hotels)

Minty fresh transcons + AA US Upgrades + Salt Lake fight + United SFO consolidated + Amex/Uber tie up + Tokyo’s newest hotel

AIRLINES JetBlue introduces transcon business class. This week JetBlue operated the first transcontinental A321 equipped with its new Mint business class, offering 16 lie-flat seats (including four privacy suites) and an array of special amenities and perks. It’s designed to compete with the recently upgraded premium cabins of its transcon legacy competitors, but at a […]

Virgin Avatar

Mood lights on at new Virgin America site

At 10:00 p.m. last night Virgin America began the process of switching over to its newly redesigned website. Today the mood-lit carrier is turning on the lights at the new VirginAmerica.com with a whole new look and feel for a faster, smoother and more intuitive booking experience. Carefully avoiding quick website switchover headaches that are all too common in the […]

On opening day, United was offering free champagne and mimosas to guests (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

First look: The newest United Club (PHOTOS)

United’s newest United Club opened last Sunday and TravelSkills was there with a camera! Check out the photos and deets on the new Club located at San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 3, on the mezzanine level between boarding areas E (the new one) and F. The 5,000 square foot, 103-seat club is temporary. It will […]

The price of a beer is a good gauge of the overall travel cost of a country (Photo: Hector Rodriquez / Flickr)

Beer price index helps gauge cost of trips abroad

Enjoying a beer in a foreign land is one of the primary pathways to exploring a new culture, meeting locals and soaking up the scenery (and the suds). But the price of that beer varies wildly around the world, and a new study by a Berlin-based startup company called GoEuro helps gauge how cheap, or expensive […]

A snarky version of Delta's SkyMiles site marked up with United changes announced today (Source: FlyerTalk- creator unknown)

United’s new copy & paste MileagePlus program

It’s no surprise that United announced that it’s changing to a revenue-based frequent flyer program starting in March of 2015. What is surprising, though, is how closely it mimics Delta SkyMiles’ proposed changes that go into effect in January 15. Jokes about it are flying around on social media sites (like the altered image above). […]

M Club Lounge Marriott San Francisco Airport Waterfront (Photo: Marriott)

Marriott’s M Club lounge experiment

Is there steak behind Marriott’s M Club Lounge sizzle? The giant hotel chain’s fans have been buzzing about its brand new club room concept, up-and-running now at four properties: San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront, New York Marriott East Side, Wichita Marriott, and Marriott Marquis Washington, DC. Next in the queue is an M Club at the Miami […]

Free Champers at the brand new United Club at SFO on opening day! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

More transpac + Slim-line seats slammed + More A321s + New SFO club + ATL free wi-fi + New Hilton brand

*Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.*  AIRLINES U.S. carriers launch new transpac routes. Transpacific travelers are getting several new options this month. Delta last week started daily non-stops from Seattle to Seoul, and on June 16 will add daily flights from SEA to Hong Kong. […]

You know you're on a 787 when you look out the window after take off and see the elegant swooping of the wing (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

Flying on a brand new United 787 Dreamliner

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.  After a few technical difficulties early last year, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is rolling out quickly across many carriers. There are now about 140 flying around the world. In the US, United is currently the only carrier flying the fuel-efficient, composite […]

Onboard British Airways's new A380 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The sad state of summer airfares to Europe

If you are planning to buzz over the pond this summer, I hope you’ve already made your reservations. Whether you’re flying at the front or the back of the plane, it’s going to be painful. But there is some light at the end of the tunnel summer…and some bright spots when it comes to business […]

Afternoon tea at the Palm Court in London's elegant Langham Hotel is a sight to behold! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Tip: What exactly is “high tea?”

Next time you are traveling in the UK or elsewhere in the current or former British Empire and a friend or colleague invites you “to tea” will you know what he or she means? “Tea” can refer to any of several different meals or mealtimes, depending on a country’s customs and its history of drinking tea. […]

Delta's premium economy seat, Economy Comfort (Photo: Delta)

Economy comfort gets an upgrade (for some)

Today Delta rolled out a souped-up version of its Economy Comfort product on transcontinental B757 and B767 flights between New York-JFK and the west coast (Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles). In addition to standard Economy Comfort bennies like four extra inches of legroom in a seat at the front of the coach section and priority […]

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Feast your eyes on United’s new London lounges (PHOTOS)

United Airlines moves into London-Heathrow’s spiffy new Terminal 2 (The Queen’s Terminal) today and will open up its posh new business and first class lounges to passengers for the first time. Last month United invited a small group of media folks (including TravelSkills!) to London for a preview of its brand new  United Global First […]

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