Mercedes transfers at SFO + United Closer to Tokyo + Virgin’s new menu + Uber not here + Slick SkyTeam lounge

Take me to the plane, James! United to roll out Mercedes tarmac transfers at SFO

Take me to the plane, James! United to roll out Mercedes tarmac transfers at SFO

TO THE PLANE, JAMES! United is bringing its Mercedes-Benz tarmac transportation service to SFO, offering  Global Services members “greater comfort and convenience throughout their travel experience.” United will offer the tarmac service this spring – using Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC SUVs with environmentally friendly clean diesel technology – to whisk a handful of lucky Global Services members and United Global First customers to their connections in San Francisco. United representatives will meet customers at the aircraft, escort them to the waiting Mercedes-Benz vehicle and drive them across the tarmac to their connecting flight. United says it will give priority to customers with close connections. United introduced its tarmac transportation service last summer at Chicago ORD and Houston IAH. (Not sure how much utility locals will get out of the service, but it’s sure nice for transferring passengers!) Delta Air Lines started this trend when it began offering its top customers transfers via Porsche Cayenne at its sprawling airport hub in Atlanta. It proved so popular that it expanded the service to airports in Los Angeles (LAX) and New York JFK.

Tokyo's Haneda Airport is much more convenient than distant Narita.

Tokyo’s Haneda Airport is much more convenient than distant Narita.

TOKYO HANEDA. If you’re tired of the 60-90 minute haul from Tokyo’s Narita airport into the city after a transpac United flight, take heart: The DOT has tentatively approved plans for United to add SFO flights to the more convenient and close-in Haneda Airport, located about 25 minutes south of downtown. No word yet on when those flights might start. Currently, only Japan Airlines offers nonstops from SFO to Haneda. ANA’s flights from both SFO and SJC land at Narita. As we reported last year, Delta’s nonstop flights from SFO to Tokyo Narita come to an end on March 30.

Soba noodles with lemongrass shiitake broth on the menu up front on Virgin America

Soba noodles with lemongrass shiitake broth on the menu up front on Virgin America

CLASSY FOOD. Virgin America is rolling out a classy new first class menu on its long hauls from SFO & LAX to: New York, Newark Boston and Washington DC (Reagan National only). The new menu will include the addition of cocktail hors d’oeuvres of roasted tomato, marinated artichoke heart, olive and mozzarella skewer, served with warmed mixed nuts — as well as a choice of two appetizers and three entrées in-flight. The ‘cherry on the top’ of the new service is the debut of the airline’s first custom ice cream flavor, developed in collaboration with San Francisco’s cult favorite ice cream maker, Humphry Slocombe. NICE: anyone with a Virgin America boarding pass can get a free scoop between March 4 and June 30 at either Humphry Slocombe store in SF (in the Mission and at the Ferry Building).

VIRGIN GETTING LOTS OF DALLAS LOVE. Remember our post last week about Virgin America’s desire to go big  at Dallas Love Field? Well, this week the Department of Justice pretty much ruled Delta out of the competition, leaving it to a decision between granting gates to Virgin America… or to Southwest, which already controls 16 of the airport’s 20 gates. Southwest has said that if it gets the gates, it will add service to all three Bay Area airports.

ECO-CUP. United is introducing a new “eco-friendly” insulated hot beverage cup this month. It’s made from 50% recycled material and due to its thickness, does not need a sleeve, which helps reduce waste. The new cup replaces the polystyrene cup currently in use.

Screen grab from Bloomberg video of new Google terminal at SJC

Screen grab from Bloomberg video of new Google terminal at SJC

GOOGLE AIRPORT. By now you’ve likely heard that Google is building its own airport terminal (used to house the company’s 12+ aircraft) in the grounds of San Jose International Airport. Here’s a peek at what it will look like.

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 10.33.55 AMUBER NOT EVERYWHERE. Nearly every Bay Area Traveler is big on the new generation of ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft. (If not, sign up here and get $20 off your first ride!) While calling up an Uber car in SF is almost second nature, you might be surprised to learn such services are NOT available in: Austin, Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans, Portland, St. Louis. Low cost UberX is no longer available for rides to or from LAX, although its black cars are still permitted.

LOUNGE AT LAX. The Virgin America lounge in Terminal 3 at Los Angeles now accepts the Priority Pass card for entrance. That means American Express Platinum cardholders, who have Priority Pass Select, also have free access. Non members can pay a $40 per visit fee. Have you checked out Virgin’s lounge or “Loft” at LAX Terminal 3? What did you think? Leave your comments below.

The swank new SkyTeam Lounge at Istanbul (Click on photo for 360 degree tour!)

The swank new SkyTeam Lounge at Istanbul (Click on photo for 360 degree tour!)

NEW SKYTEAM LOUNGE TO OPEN IN DUBAI…SkyTeam is boosting its own branded lounge network (operated jointly with airlines at a specific airport). London Heathrow was the first, and recently a SkyTeam lounge opened in Istanbul. Plans to open a lounge in Dubai are in place with a projected opening date of early 2015. SkyTeam lounges are open to premium cabin travelers and SkyTeam Elite Plus members (Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion) on international itineraries.

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  • netopiax

    Yes, I took an UberX to LAX without incident just two weeks ago, and also I was told today that UberX drivers are skirting the regulations to make pickups by lurking in the large parking structures that sit in the middle of the terminal roadway at LAX.

  • Chris McGinnis

    Hey Neut! Virgin America believes that their entire terminal 2 at SFO is as nice as any lounge, so they don’t need one. I agree with them! — chris

  • NeutralNovice

    Any word on SFO, the VX hub, getting their own VX Lounge/Club @ T2 instead of going all the way to ITA for the VS Clubhouse?

  • thinker

    No, though unless you’re flying one of the T3 airlines, it’s unlikely you’ll get past security.

    Allegiant Air
    US Airways (Starts February 12, 2014)
    Virgin America
    Virgin Australia (Departures)

  • thinker

    uberX can provide dropoffs at LAX, but not pickups. Your article says both pickups and dropoffs are prohibited.

    “Drop-offs at LAX are unchanged. Drivers using UberBLACK, UberSUV and uberX can drop you off at the airport as they always have.”

  • Margita

    Do you have to be flying Virgin America to enter Lounge with Priority Pass card?

  • Marco1019

    I’ve visited the Virgin American Loft a few times & I’ve enjoyed it. It’s comfortable, pretty quiet, and offers solid Wi-Fi. The food selection is mostly comprised of snacks, so you may want to head over to Gladstone’s if you want a full meal. The bar selection has enough to satisfy most palettes.

    Also, while they have a flat-screen TV listing flight departures, VX employees now walk around the lounge to ask & inform everyone that a particular flight is boarding.