Catching up on travel news 1-19

American Airlines bright new look. What do you think? (Photo: American Airlines)

American Airlines bright new look. What do you think? (Photo: American Airlines)

If you’ve been following TravelSkills this week, you know that I’ve been buried in the Boeing 787-ANA debacle— interesting times in Tokyo! Hope you enjoyed the coverage.

Thanks to ANA for inviting TravelSkills along for what turned out to be a very bumpy ride. All 787’s are currently grounded, and new San Jose – Tokyo flights are in limbo for the near future. Currently, it appears that the crux of the issue is the overcharging of the plane’s highly volatile lithium ion batteries.

Now I’m reviewing all the news I missed on this side of the Pacific last week. Lots happened here that will have an impact on TravelSkills Readers– BATs!

>American Airlines rolled out a new livery for its planes (see above). So long to its polished silvery birds. As usual, pundits have generally panned the new paint-job, but at TravelSkills, we like it. What do you think? Too bad that American’s presence continues to dwindle in the Bay Area as it focuses on other key hubs.

>The movement to re-name SFO for Harvey Milk is stirring up controversy– some city leaders and gay rights advocates embraced the idea early on, but the tide seems to be shifting away a name change, at least according to the letters to the editor in the San Francisco Chronicle. In any case, it appears that San Francisco voters will likely be seeing this on a November referendum. Let’s go ahead and vote on it now! How do you feel?

How do you feel about renaming San Francisco International Airport?

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Please leave any additional comments you have about renaming SFO in the comments box below. 

>The TSA has decided to remove all “backscatter” screening machines that use low-dose X-rays made by Rapiscan. Instead it will be using only the L3 millimeter wave machines (that use radio waves) nationwide. At SFO, only millimeter wave machines are in use. However, in San Jose, backscatter machines are still in use. Millimeter wave machines are circular, glassed-in units. Backscatter machines require passengers to stand between to large blue boxes.

>United has changed its boarding process, reducing boarding groups from an unwieldy seven to six. “Preboarding” is for Global services, uniformed military and passengers requiring assistance. Group 1 will now be for paid first/business class, Premier 1K and Platinum. Group 2 is for Premier and Star Alliance silver, gold, Mileage Plus Awards and Explorer card holders (good luck!). Groups 3-5 will be for everyone else. Will this help or hurt the boarding process?

>United has installed satellite based wi-fi on one 747, which means that passengers on that jet can log on on the long over-water flights. It’s also put it on two A319 flying domestic routes. (Good luck determining which ones and whether you’ll have it on yours…) Too bad you still can’t log on over the good old USA on most UAL flights, as you can on all Delta and Virgin America flights, and most Southwest and American flights. However, United says that the wi-fi access should be available on over 300 mainline aircraft by the end of this year. In an interesting new twist, the price is tiered– standard speed runs between $4 and $15 based on flight duration. For faster speeds, you’ll pay between $6 and $20.

>Starting in 2014, Delta Air Lines will require its elite level members to hit certain spending thresholds (from $2,500 to $12,500) in addition to miles flown to attain or maintain “medallion” status. This is seen by many as the first step in a process that will turn SkyMiles into a program based on how much money passengers spend instead of how many miles they fly. Virgin America and Southwest have already moved to revenue-based plans. Could United be next? Probably not until it has put its operational house in order… but you never know… stay tuned…

>The flu epidemic that has missed California is now hitting the state rather hard. Time to wash hands frequently, travel with a handkerchief and handiwipes, and keep your fingers away from your face. And if you get sick, please cough into your sleeve, collar or a hanky— not into your hand! Or just stay home and off planes…


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  • John

    Way too much talk of Harvey Milk Airport. If there was a name to give SFO, heck why not, San Francisco’s Jetsons Airport……have a big pic of Judy and Elroy and gang draped over the entry as you pass under the International Terminal. The political correctness of San Francisco City Hall is never any surprise to anyone as they are so into themselves, the demands of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, along with those who are constantly in the Society column of the SF Chronicle. Unfortunately, Fox News has caught on, and loves to slam SF.

  • Joyce

    I don’t mind American Airs new tail – can’t quite see what is “gray” about the cabin. Looking down a row, it’s usually just the tail visible.
    I’d really like the honoring of Harvey Milk, but it is so easy and memorable to say EsseeFO now. It’s the best name. Most people are used to Dulles and Kennedy now. And maybe even Love Field in Dallas…but not SFO right now.

    BTW – THANK YOU SO MUCH for your comments on coughing, etc. I’ve had a lung transplant and wearing my best for an entire flight is no fun, and just walking around the gates can be trouble. How difficult is it to REALLY cover your nose & mouth?? xxx

  • John

    One last AA livery comment, one person said that new paint job looked like a Greyhound Bus. I have to admit that was a funny comparison. It sort of does remind me of Greyhound.

    On the other hand, a fellow commercial airliner follower said the plane looked like Captain America…..and, I commented back…..yes, very good observation.

    Even the striped blue on the tail seems influenced from United’s earlier tail with the small red and blue overlapped U’s with the blue striped background. They can always brighten the Eagle in the front, or slightly enlarge it without major costs.

  • John

    Meant to say, Harvey Milk would have been angered by the acts of violence at City Hall. He was a non-aggressive man, and anti-violence. He would have done very well if living today.

  • John

    Hey Chris,
    When the idea of renaming SFO as Harvey Milk Int’l Airport, I instantly remembered when someone proposed renaming the airport Joseph Alioto Int’l Airport, and that was panned too.
    I remember the tragic day in November of 1978 when someone walked into one of my classes at Canada College in Redwood City and announced the story. It was stunning. After Dan White was found innocent by reason of insanity (the twinky defence based on his diet), The City errupted in violence near City Hall, not because of the death of Mayor Moscone, but because of the death of Harvey Milk. Harvey would have been angered by the response to the violence as he was a pacifist as well as a activist. Joe Alioto was controversial with certain ties and other personal problems, and was a no BS kind of Mayor as I recall. SFO will remain San Francisco International Airport because renaming the airport after anyone is problematic. The Board of Supervisors do some funny things like turning their heads when The Folsom St Fair, and other fairs that promote idiot and grotesque behavior in public to fill the coffers of hotels, restaurants, and the City itself. Even if San Francisco’s biggest braggart, Herb Caen was still around, he would not put anyone on a pedestal, not even himself for this typical self serving idea.

    Oh, and I am with you and your staff in that American’s new look is great. They will stick with it for the next 40 years while others will change every 10 years.

    cheers, and welcome home
    john shea

  • Chuck

    AA’s new logo is like a little slice of Texas in the sky. now focus on the inside of the plane!

  • Mara

    AA’s new logo itself is OK, but you can’t see the eagle part on a washed-out gray paint job. Major fail.

    As a DL gold/platinum who buys Y-UP international tickets on DL/KLM/AF 2-3x/year, the change won’t affect me, but I can imagine this will have quite an effect on others. About time — since the NWA merger, there have been too many elites overwhelming the lounges and pushing for Zone 2 boarding.

    And for heaven’s sake, leave SFO’s name alone! I agree with all the comments on SFGate about this. So over this slap-a-name-on-everything trend.