American & US Airways at T2 + Sonoma airport expands + UberX + Delta/Virgin + EVA expands

Have you ever been inside American's Admiral's Club at SFO Terminal 2? Nice! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Have you ever been inside American’s Admiral’s Club at SFO Terminal 2? Nice! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

US AIRWAYS-AMERICAN AT SFO. We asked our airport contacts when we might start seeing operations of merged American and US Airways at SFO’s  Terminal 2, but consolidation does not sound imminent. A spokesperson told TravelSkills: “The airlines will run separately for some time, so no word yet on combined operations.” Also, only six days to go and neither SFO or United has revealed what the first arrival or departure will be from the new T3E (opens Jan 28). Any guesses? Ours would be a flight to/from United’s home base of Chicago… but who knows? Please prognosticate below. 

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 1.57.52 PMMORE FLIGHTS FROM SONOMA? The Charles M. Schulz (Snoopy) Airport in Sonoma County is getting a makeover that could result in more nonstop flights.  With the biggest expansion since World War 2, the airport could soon see nonstops to Denver, Phoenix and Guadalajara in addition to the current Alaska Air flights nonstops to Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and San Diego.

UBERx CUTS PRICES. I dunno about you, but UberX has become my most frequent choice for transportation to and from the airport in SF and elsewhere. It’s just so easy. And now, it’s getting cheaper than cabs! In a new effort to be “the cheapest ride in town” UberX has cut its rates by 20%. Uber says that uberX rates are now 26% cheaper than cabs. Currently UberX from downtown SF to SFO is $25-$33; black car service is $65. From downtown SF to Oakland Int’l Airport, the fare is as low as $39. What do you think about Uber and UberX? Save $20 on your first Uber ride by clicking here. 

Shiny new EVA Air 777-300ER flies SFO-TPE (Photo EVA Air)

Shiny new EVA Air 777-300ER flies SFO-TPE (Photo EVA Air)

EVA AIR INCREASING. Taiwan’s EVA Air will bump up its weekly SFO-Taipei frequencies to 14 from the current 12 on July 3. EVA told TravelSkills that since joining Star Alliance last year, demand from business travelers flying EVA to Taipei and beyond has increased. EVA gets three more brand new Boeing 777-300ER in the second quarter which it will deploy on all its North American routes. We included EVA Air’s business class seat in our Business Class Sampler story from 2013Have you flown EVA Air? What did you think?

American Eagle's new name and logo

American Eagle’s new name and logo

NEW NAME. SAME PLANE. American Eagle, the commuter partner of American Airlines, has announced it will change its name to Envoy (which, not coincidentally, is what US Airways calls is business class product).

Delta's arrival kiosks at it's new JFK Terminal help reduce immigration wait times (Photo: Delta)

Delta’s arrival kiosks at its new JFK Terminal help reduce immigration wait times (Photo: Delta)

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NEW PASSPORT READERS AT ORD AND JFK…So, you may have heard about these new passport readers popping up in places like Delta’s terminal 4 at JFK and ORD, and wondered, “Why did I pay the $100 for Global Entry.” Well, there is a difference…these are totally separate systems. With this passport scanning system (free, no $ or interview required) , new arrivals insert passports, answer similar questions to what is found on the traditional blue landing card, and then wait in line to show a receipt to the CBP official who verifies that it is indeed you. So unlike Global Entry, kiosk users don’t bypass that step completely although it is much faster. The time spent with the CBP agent is reduced because users have already entered passport info into the system.

DELTA AND VIRGIN ATLANTIC LINK SCHEDULE. As we reported late last year, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have launched a joint venture, which officially started on Jan. 1. It includes all flights between the U.S. and the U.K., including Virgin’s daily flight from SFO to Heathrow. This means Bay Area flyers can now book SFO-London Heathrow nonstops on Delta.com, even though the flight will be operated by Virgin Atlantic. Benefits for travelers include access to Virgin’s impressive lounge network and earning and redeeming SkyMiles on either carrier. We hear mixed reviews about Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class seats on the SFO-LHR run on its 747-400… many love them, others say they are a bit tatty and in need of replacement. (Virgin’s newest version of Upper Class is currently only available on its A330s and 747-400’s flying to/from London Gatwick.) Have you flown Virgin Atlantic lately? How was it?

Looking out the window from landing jet at Asiana crash last summer (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Looking out the window from landing jet at Asiana crash site last summer (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

SAFEST YEAR EVER? Despite the Asiana tragedy at SFO last summer, 2013 clocked in as the safest ever for air travel. In related news, last week the San Francisco Fire Department released gruesome video of the Asiana crash rescue scene, which clearly shows the body of one of the teenage victims and early attempts to keep fire trucks away. Very sickening and sad.

FLY OVER CANADA MUCH? Then you’ll be pleased to know that Gogo recently flipped the switch on its new Canadian network, which means more connectivity onboard Air Canada flights. Currently, only two Air Canada Airbus A319s have Gogo onboard testing out the service. Even if you don’t fly Air Canada, you’ll get better reception when, for example,  you are on a Virgin America flight to Boston that flies over southern Canada to get there.

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PLEASE, RECRUIT YOUR FRIENDS. If you like TravelSkills, would you please tell your friends and colleagues about it? The ONLY way we grow is via word of mouth from happy readers. Like every online publication, we need more eyeballs and appreciate your support.  Here’s something you can copy and paste into an email TODAY!

Have you ever heard about TravelSkills—TravelSkills– for frequent travelers? It’s a free local travel blog that I subscribe to. It’s full of helpful news and advice for frequent travelers who live in the Bay Area…just like us.  I think it’s definitely something you could use. See “Subscribe” in the upper right margin of the blog, or just sign up right here. Thanks! [ADD: *Your signature*]

 

– Chris McGinnis

And just in case you missed it, here’s what else you need to know about Bay Area Travel over the last month:

United transcon bonus + United 787 domestic + Fewer 747s + Delta vs Alaska

*How to earn a quick 40,000 United miles*

Anticipating T3E + Google Int’l + New Virgin Visa + More Southwest nonstops

Southwest: Blackfish backlash

United: T3E & UA500 & 49ers-Seahawks Game fares

What to do if pulled over by the police [Infographic]

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  • John

    For most that don’t know, there is a group that is trying to bring back Pan Am in the traditional sense but as a Low Cost Carrier hubbing out of southern airport (possibly in Texas) with scheduled and chartered flights to the Caribbean, and South America as the original Pan American Airways flew many years ago before they flew to Asia and Europe and other parts.

    On other items mentioned in The BAT:
    It appears that Alaska, Virgin America, Jet Blue, and Southwest will remain solid. United will improve over the next few years, American will have merger pains with US Airways for awhile but will come out pretty good with all their new aircraft coming. Delta has always been a good airline, but I would not fly them if they actually tried a takeover of Alaska. Alaska is growing with flights to the east coast from Seattle, and is highly regarded here in the Bay Area. San Jose now sees the most Alaska flights in the Bay Area, but down the line both SFO and Oakland will see more Alaska flights as economics improve and terminals are re-built.

    On other notes….sad to see the classic 747 start to retire. LAX will see two new 747-8’s to and from Frankfurt on Lufthansa. Already they have one a day, but it doesn’t appear that many carriers are interested in four engine aircraft except for the A-380. The 777 is a great looking plane, but no aircraft beats the 747. The A340s will be the next to go after the 747 as airlines opt for the two engine fleet.

    On American and US Airways eventual merger completion and consolidation into Terminal 2 down the line at SFO, after Terminal 1 goes through a massive reconstruction (except where Delta gates are), then American will move back to Terminal 1 when Boarding Area B and the lobby area is done by 2026.

    When Terminal 2 opened as the original SFO terminal in 1954, TWA, Pan Am, United, American, Western, and others shared the terminal space. The terminal became The Central Terminal, and the South Terminal (which is now terminal one) was completed in about 1964, and American, TWA, Western, Pan Am, and other domestic and international carriers moved in. United, PSA, National, Delta, Airwest were in the expanded Central Terminal (now T2). In the early 80s, the Central Terminal became the International Terminal for about 18 years until the present International Terminal was constructed.

    See you, Chris at SFO in a couple days

  • Simon

    It’s really worth a go, even though I’ve since switched to United (being in SF). The bar is a cool experience on the flight, the seat is comfy and a lot roomier than their new seat (from what I hear). The only downside, and it’s minor, is that you really have to crane your neck to stare out of the window. Having aisle access is brilliant too.

  • http://www.travelskills.com/ Chris McGinnis

    Thanks, Simon! I’ve never flown Virgin Atlantic in biz class but hope to one day!

  • Simon

    Chris – some minor corrections, the ‘new’ virgin business seat is only on the A330 which now serves IAD, JFK and BOS I believe (as well as some Gatwick/Manchester rotations) – the seat on the 747’s @ Gatwick are the same seats as those on the remainder of the fleet. It’s a good seat, but yes, a bit tatty. I’ve not flown it, but the general consensus isn’t good when it comes to the ‘new’ seat.

  • T

    I’ve flown a couple times with EVA on economy and overall it’s pretty decent. Food and service is good on board and at TPE. Sometimes they would upgrade the onward connection to prem econ if available. It’s definitely better than UA, though it’s easier to earn miles with UA flights.

  • http://www.travelskills.com/ Chris McGinnis

    Thanks, Richard! Makes me want to jump on an EVA flight for my next trip to Asia! Thanks for sharing your first hand experience. — Chris

  • http://twitter.com/rchen Richard Chen

    EVA’s Royal Laurel (long-haul J) is one of the better-kept secrets in the Star Alliance lineup IMHO. I’m a big fan.

    + Zodiac’s Cirrus seats in 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration. Same as CX and among the best seats in the market.
    + Pre-order meals from expanded menu, like SQ’s “Book the Cook” service. Some of the options were Din Tai Fung-branded, which was fun even if not spectacular.
    + Vintage Dom Perignon (2003) served. Who does that anymore?
    + Cute Rimowa-branded hard shell amenity kits.
    + TPE is a perfectly fine airport, at least in T2. Lounge is fine, with nice shower suites.
    + Late-night SFO departures make for easy, restful same-day connections past TPE.

    – Food options in-flight (and at TPE) are probably not as interesting to those with aversion to Asian food.
    – Their SFO lounge is laughably small; use the sparse UA lounge which is at least not crowded at late hours.
    – Some of their onward connections are not daily service, making it hard to construct itinerary.
    – Vintage website (2003-ish) that’s just plain old lame.
    – The Hello Kitty jet only serves LAX.

    … all at fares significantly lower than SQ/CX/NH/UA. In particular, I can’t *ever* imagine choosing UA over BR.

  • Michael James

    I have flown EVA Royal Class ( J) twice last year from SFO and like it very much. It is a 1-2-1 layout but the. Seats were a little hard but the service was very good.

    As for the passport readers, I have used it in ORD and found it easy to use and it did expedite things. I did find that if there are travelers, who are not that tech savvy, it slows things down a bit. One couple must have been there five minutes trying to figure out which way their passport should be inserted. A airport helper told me that the airlines paid for the machines to be installed. They may be coming to SFO by the end of the year, according to a friend who works UA Int’l arrivals.

  • Nat

    Ah yes, saw those passport machines in Dallas coming from EZE on American. We had a very very quick connection after a tarmac delay and the machines definitely sped up the process.

  • Sobiloff

    I’ve flown the VS non-stop between LHR and SFO twice now, once upstairs and once downstairs. The seatback entertainment system in the 747 has some good variety and depth, but you’re right that the interior is getting a bit tatty in places. Their “Clubhouse” lounge at LHR is extraordinary, however, and well worth the experience! My only disappointment is that there’s no way to use Delta points to bump up to their Premium Economy.

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