Catching up on Bay Area Travel News, Feb 24

FREE PARKING AT SFO? Last week a new service called FlightCar soft-launched an innovative new car sharing service at SFO. FlightCar lets people parking at the airport rent their vehicles out to other travelers. Every rental is insured up to $1 million, and every renter is pre-screened. Depending on the size, age and condition of your car, you can also make up to $10 per day in gas credits. (And you avoid having to pay for airport parking.) Airport valets are at SFO to pick up and drop off cars to renters. They even wash your car. If you are a renter, FlightCar valets meet you at the airport with your rental. Rates are about 30% less than what you’d pay the big guys like Hertz or Avis. Watch the video above to see how it works. Would you do this? Please leave your comments below!

NEW UNITED FLIGHT BONUSES. Remember last year when TravelSkills broke the news about United’s new flights from SFO to Paris and Taipei? Those inaugural flights are coming up soon, and United is offering mileage bonuses on both runs. To Paris (11,000 miles roundtrip), you’ll earn 50% to 100% bonus award miles for flights between April 11 and May 31. Register here. For Taipei (13,000 miles round trip), United is also offering 50% to 100% bonuses for flights between April 9 and June 30. Register here. (UPDATE 2-25-13: United has confirmed that dates for the launch of these flights has been affected by the grounding of the 787 Dreamliner. Tentative new start dates: SFO-Paris: April 26; SFO-Taipei: June 6.)

Chris McGinnis inspecting ANA's maintenance hangar at Haneda Airport on the day before the 787 was grounded. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

BAT-man Chris McGinnis inspecting ANA’s maintenance hangar at Haneda Airport on the day before the 787 was grounded. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

787 UPDATE: If you didn’t get a chance to jump on one of those shiny new Boeing 787 Dreamliners when United had them at SFO, or when ANA was flying them from San Jose to Tokyo, it sounds like it might be a while until you get the chance to do so. United announced this week that it was dropping the 787 from its schedule through at least June, and has put off new routes set to use the plane, such as Denver-Tokyo. ANA announced today that it has canceled all 787 flights, including San Jose-Tokyo, through at least May 31.

STARWOOD SPG TEAMS WITH DELTA. Delta and Starwood have launched a unique new program called Crossover Rewards, which offers reciprocal benefits in both programs. This means that starting March 1, Starwood Preferred Guest elites get access to Priority lines when checking in and can board Delta flights early. Delta Diamond and Platinum Medallions will get elite level benefits in the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, including 4 pm checkout, free internet, and one SkyMile per dollar spent on room rate in addition to Starpoints. They will also get one free check bag. Details and registration or Insiders tell TravelSkills that a Starwood brand will team up with Delta later this spring with some trendy inflight amenities or other promotions. Have you flown Delta from the Bay Area recently? What did you think?

HILTON HHONORS DEVALUED: Effective March 28, Hilton HHonors will play under a new set of rules. Instead of the current seven award tiers, there will be 10. The highest tier will now require a whopping 95,000 points per night, up from just 50,000. You’ll pay more during high season, and less during low season. This is indicative of a travel industry trend I’ve been following—when paying with cash or with points, peak season prices are rising through the roof due to rising demand from travelers. The only way to get the best deals at rates that feel reasonable is to fly or stay during low or so-called “shoulder” seasons. How do you feel about this? Angry enough to dump Hilton and move to a competitor? Well, not so fast…This week Starwood rolled out its adjusted list of hotel award categories, with more hotels moving up than down—not as severe as Hilton’s, but still. Thoughts?

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Atop the shiny new $7 billion Marina Bay Sands complex in Singapore (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

SWEATY IN SINGAPORE. Your BAT editor recently traveled to Singapore to research and write his latest BBC Business Trip Column: Business Trip: Singapore. If you haven’t been there recently, check out this column to learn about the city’s newest hotels, hottest tables, and how those new casinos are affecting the local economy.

STREAMING MOVIES ON SOUTHWEST. Last week Southwest announced that it would offer more on demand TV and movies on all wi-fi equipped aircraft (75% of its fleet). Movies cost $5 per device. Wi-fi access (via Row 44) costs $8 per day. Most Southwest flights I take are so short that movies aren’t really an option. What do you think? Have you tried using Southwest’s in-flight Row 44 wi-fi product, which seems to get about as many complaints as the Gogo system used by other carriers? Please leave your comments below.

Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport?

Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport?

HARVEY MILK AIRPORT. Despite the lukewarm reaction to the idea (among TravelSkills reader and others) the campaign to add Harvey Milk’s name to SFO continues. SFgate’s City Insider blog said, “Privately, politicos say they’ve heard from plenty of local constituents, including gay and lesbian residents, who like the brand name of SFO, don’t think it’s worth the cost, fear the embarrassment of losing at the ballot or just don’t think it’s worth getting worked up over either way.” The Harvey Milk Foundation has donated $4,500 to a campaign to get the measure on the November ballot, and there’s a slick new website promoting the cause. Have you voted in our poll yet? Please do!

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.

— Chris McGinnis



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  • Nancy M

    i think FlightCar sounds like a great idea! when i go on a trip, it’s usually for about a month, so parking gets really expensive, even if i find someone in the neighborhood to rent out their garage space to me. i of course understand the concerns re: parking tickets etc. but i wouldn’t enter an agreement with FlightCar unless i felt certain they would take care of those. wear and tear is a legitimate concern. red light tickets NOT a concern (when the cops send the photo of someone who is not you, just tell the court that – you do not have to rat anyone out, simply tell them it’s not you, and if necessary send a picture of the real you to back that up). moving violations – the cop tickets the driver, not the car! removing stuff from the car – OK, that does require some time for a pack rat like me, but it’s probably a good exercise in tidying up. i’ll probably try them out on my next trip unless i hear horrendous stories about them before then…

  • Al Gilbert

    FlightCar seems like more risk than reward for car owners. Even if FlightCars insurance covers liability, just getting a moving violation off my record would be a hassle not worth the $10 gas card reward. Also, my insurance company would probably frown on me lending/renting my car to strangers.

  • Mara

    As a Peninsula dweller who:

    A) goes crazy with the horrible BART-to-CalTrain connector (sorry, the service is a joke — if timed perfect, it’s 1 hour to Redwood City. Think more like 90 min for something that’s a 25-min drive…)
    B) has an old rattletrap clunker car

    …I might consider it. I would want a restriction to driving just in the Bay Area tho, unless they have AAA Gold towing to bring my poor car back to its Mountain View mechanic 😉

    Love the idea, but to be honest a better one would be a Peninsula Sanity Shuttle with super limited stops at major points off 101. A taxi to Millbrae CalTrain is too much, but taking at least 30 minutes via BART (you have to go to San Bruno first, if it’s before 8 PM on a weekday) to try and catch increasingly infrequent trains doesn’t work either.

    Heck, just have a shuttle to CalTrain to start! Those of you who live near BART lines have it good, but there are 1-2 million folks between SFO and SJC on the 101 corridor who could really use something better than unreliable shuttles or sporadic public transit.

    Did I hijack this thread or what? :)

  • MLD

    Note that United has delayed SFO-CDG until 2013 April 26 [formerly it was starting 2013 April 11] and SFO-TPE until 2013 June 6 [formerly it was starting 2013 April 9]. I believe United’s promotions are good only for travel on these new nonstop flights.

  • PH

    I would also decline to try FlightCar on the basis of lack of clarity regarding liability and for camera moving violations in addition to parking tickets. Somebody else can be the paying guinea pigs for them.

    On long trips out of SFO, I park at Millbrae BART station, pay $8.10 for the round trip BART tickets, and just $6 per day. BART even has even clarified (this used to be vague) that when you have weekend or holiday days at either the beginning or end or both of your parking stay, you don’t have to pay for those days, although you do have to pay for the weekend/holiday days that are in the middle of your parking stay. In practice this means that on really long stays, the $6/day rate wins out over other options, and for shorter stays, you often get a few free days that help this option win out. For example, for a 3-day weekend getaway starting Friday and ending Sunday, you pay $8.10 for the BART ticket and $6 for parking on Friday, but you get Saturday and Sunday for free, averaging to $4.70 per day. Or, if you have a 9-day trip starting Saturday and ending the following Sunday, you pay $8.10 for the BART ticket and 5*$6 for the five weekdays, averaging to $4.23 per day. BART service is generally pretty speedy (roughly every 15 minutes), just watch out for a late start to service on weekends.

  • chris

    Thanks, Marv. In addition to the gas credits, you do get to avoid paying airport parking fees, which can be significant on longer trips. But I hear ya! — chris

  • Marv

    So, I have to remove all personal items from the car; sunglasses, spare I-pod for audiobooks I listen to while driving, any spare change I keep laying around, and give access to the renter of my home address from the DMV paperwork kept in the glove box. All for $10 per day in gas credits? If the renter goes from SFO to LAX and back in a week and I’ve had 2000 miles put on my tires, is that worth $10? What about parking violations which show up on my vehicle a week or month later? Absolutely NOT worth the risk, hassle and wear/tear on my vehicle so I can avoid paying for parking at SFO (I use Sky Park and get free days for parking as it is)!