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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 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 […]


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)

Mileage redemption tips + Buy Delta MQMs

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 […]


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

It’s time for a reprise of one of the most perennially popular posts on TravelSkills. That’s because one of the busiest travel days of the year is coming up, and the holidays are right around the corner. Enjoy and spread the word! –Chris Over time, most frequent travelers adopt an unruffled, zen-like attitude when it […]

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 […]

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 3.48.14 PM

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 Have a great Thanksgiving! –Chris   >>Take a peek at what you may have missed on 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 […]

Which country boasts this gorgeous passport design? See below

New look for Newark + United goes Android + New Delta look at LAX + Fee at Hilton/Marriott

AIRLINES Just in time for the busy holidays, United has (finally) extended its new onboard streaming service to Android users. Apple iPhone and iPad users (as well as those on any laptop)  have been able to give the new service a try since last spring.  To use it, you must first download the United app […]

Delta & Alaska Air battle for Seattle (Photo: Jim Glab)

Delta push at Seattle + Seat pitch compared + Southwest “Swagger” + Delta’s newest jets +

AIRLINES Delta’s big(ger) Seattle plans. Last week Delta’s CEO told employees the company wants to expand from its current 11 gates to 30 gates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, making it “a huge international gateway.” With those gates, Delta could operate up to 240 flights a day. Delta has been steadily adding transpacific and domestic flights […]

Heathrow Train

Much needed upgrade in London

The City of London has released plans for a futuristic upgrade to The Tube, one of the world’s largest underground rail systems. But don’t hold your breath– the fleet of 250 new trains won’t hit the tracks until the mid-2020s, and are anticipated to remain in service for 40 years. The Piccadilly Line, well-used by business travelers […]

United revealed even more "updates" to MileagePlus this week (Photo: United)

Say what? Even more cuts to United MileagePlus

Just a few weeks ago, United matched Delta in boosting by 20 percent the amount of dollar spending required in 2015 for MileagePlus members to achieve elite status levels in 2016. And now United has made some more “updates” to its loyalty program starting early next year that will further chip away at the benefits […]


Google’s travel advice

Ninety percent of holiday travel is by CAR, not by plane. With that in mind, the smarties at Google took a deep dive into their data and came up with some helpful insight and advice for avoiding Thanksgiving traffic as well as top searches in Google Maps before, during, and after Thanksgiving. Traffic data was pulled from the Monday […]

The new scent globe a London Heathrow Terminal 2 (LHR Airports)

My 9 favorite travel smells

This week sees London-Heathrow’s brand new Terminal 2 “The Queen’s Terminal” operating at full capacity with all 26 airlines (primarily Star Alliance) now in their new home. Airport authorities planned for the transition to take place over the five months instead of in one fell swoop. Good thinking since the process seems to have gone without a […]

(Photo: Uber)

United changes rules + Radical plan for NYC airport + Centurion “Studio” + Uber’s friends in DC

AIRLINES.  Did you get the email from United last week? As expected (and as usual) the carrier mimicked Delta’s recent move to increase the amount of dollars members must spend to get (or maintain) Premier status. The 20% bump up applies to qualifying activity in 2015 for status in 2016. The 25K spend threshold on MileagePlus co-branded credit […]

A brilliant fall day in NYC from the top floor of the Parker Meridien hotel (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Virgin’s next moves? + NYC + New Lufthansa seat + Eastern Airlines + More A380s

AIRLINES Virgin shares soar in IPO. And the airline could, too. This is going to be really fun to watch. Virgin America shares hit the market on Friday morning at $23 each, and took off to reach $30 by the end of the day. That makes Virgin worth about $1.3 billion. Now, with about $220 […]

Flight attendants are eager to help take photos of folks like me crossing scenes like sitting in KAL's Celestial Lounge off the bucket list

Trip Report: Korean Air A380 Seoul-Atlanta (Part 2)

Last month I finally crossed this off my bucket list:  Flying from Seoul to Atlanta on a Korean Air A380. KAL’s big blue A380 is Atlanta’s one and only double decker and I’ve wanted to float into my old hometown on it since the service started in September 2013. The first leg of that journey started in […]

Here's a rendering of the new connector viewed from the ramp (Fentress Architects)

New options for Delta flyers at SFO

Delta flyers at SFO can now take a yoga break, partake of local organic food and wine or check out a cool museum space at SFO. That’s because there’s a brand new airside (behind security) connector between Terminal 1, Boarding Area C or “T1C” (used by Delta) and the world famous Terminal 2, designed by the San Francisco […]

Korean Air

Trip Report: Korean Air B777 & A380 (Part 1)

Ever since Korean Air launched its Airbus A380 service between Seoul and Atlanta in September 2013, I’ve longed to take a seat on that 14.5-hour whopper of a flight. Last month, I finally got my chance when Korean Air invited me over to Seoul for a look at the fast-growing, modern-yet-quirky South Korean capital. The first leg […]

Delta has expanded its popular Porsche pick up service to three more airports (Photo: Delta)

Delta bumps bennies + BART-Oakland sets date + LAX airlines move + Hilton HHonors hacked + W in Beijing

AIRLINES Delta expands Porsche transfers, expedites at Heathrow. Delta continues to lead the way when it comes to adding new services for its best customers. For example, last week it announced an expansion of its Porsche tarmac transfer program to three more airports — New York LaGuardia, Seattle-Tacoma and Detroit Metro. The program offers gate-to-gate rides […]

Poolside at the Modern Honolulu hotel- great for sunbathing or a power breakfast (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

New hotels: Honolulu

At TravelSkills, we love new hotels. They smell better, work better, feel better, and are usually bigger, brighter and hipper than others. But new can also have its downside: Construction noise, service issues, and/or locations in sketchy or “upcoming” neighborhoods. Some are so new that TripAdvisor reviews are scant compared to more established hotels. In […]

Centurion Lounge

First look: Centurion Lounge at SFO [photos]

The new American Express Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 3 opens on Thursday, November 6. It joins three other Centurion lounges at New York LaGuardia, Dallas Ft Worth and Las Vegas McCarran airports.  A spokesperson told TravelSkills that the next Centurion Lounge will open at Miami International in the first half of 2015. […]

Inside Emirates outstanding hub in Dubai (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

2 airlines offer free inflight wi-fi

Inflight wi-fi still feels like a miracle to me. It’s even more miraculous when it is free. Right now, you can get it for free on two carriers: One international, the other domestic. Today, Emirates announced that it will soon offer free wi-fi on all 53 of its A380 superjumbos, and on 28 (out of about […]

Chris McGinnis

6 steps for getting the “best” airfare

My eyes roll and I sigh every time I see study or opinion about “the best day” to shop for airline tickets. It’s all a bunch of malarkey!  And it’s even more bogus at this time of year when the peak holiday travel season is approaching and all “rules” get thrown out the window. For many years, […]

The long awaited BART link to Oakland airport expected to open this month (Photo: BART)

Delta hubs suffer + Shuttle moves at LGA + Oakland BART connection + Double Hilton points

AIRLINES Demand keeps driving fares upward. When the price of oil goes up, air fares go up. So when oil prices fall as much as they have in recent months, air fares go down, right? Not in a period of strong demand for air travel. Jet fuel prices are down 22 percent this year, but […]

Virgin Galactic

Flying next to Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two [VIDEO + PHOTOS]

Last week Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Two crashed in the Mojave desert. One pilot died in the crash, another survived. Virgin Galactic is now absorbed with finding out exactly what happened and is posting regular updates about the crash on its Facebook page. While the crash is a tragedy and setback for the ambitious program, it reminded […]

A shiny new British Airways A380. Clean as a whistle! (Photo: British Airways)

How often do planes get washed?

Like a shiny, freshly washed and waxed car, a shiny, clean plane is a thing of beauty. Right? But have you ever excitedly peered out at the plane you’re about to board and thought, “Hmm, that big bird needs a bath!” As much as what’s inside the plane is what counts (especially in these days […]

Marriott wifi

Marriott’s new “free” wi-fi: Is it fast enough? [POLL]

Today Marriott announced that it would offer free wi-fi to all Rewards members at all its brands, worldwide, including Ritz-Carlton, starting in January. That’s 42 million members getting free wi-fi at more than 3,800 hotels around the world. That’s huge! Or is it? (See poll below) Dig into Marriott’s release about the plan, and you’ll […]

Virgin America get a ceremonial squirt with its inaugural flight from Dallas to New York La Guardia (Photo: Virgin America)

A new way to get to New York – La Guardia

Virgin America’s first flights into New York’s close in LaGuardia Airport arrived yesterday. The new nonstops originate from Virgin’s new mini-hub at Dallas Love Field (DAL) and are currently on sale for just $89 each way. Virgin now offers four daily roundtrips on the important business route. Southwest Airlines offers three daily roundtrips. The new service provides […]

JetBlue hosted a shindig at San Francisco's Bentley Reserve to kick off its new Mint service on SFO-JFK (Photo: JetBlue)

Half off first class JFK-SFO fares

JetBlue’s new Mint class nonstops cranked up on the SFO-JFK run on Sunday, offering a totally new premium transcon experience…and significantly lower first class fares on the popular route. Key points: >Currently the lowest Mint roundtrip fare is $1,200– that’s about half off compared to average first class fares on offer before Mint entered the market. […]

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