Southwest pads schedules + New airline for SFO + Chris at GBTA + Salt Lake makeover +

Turkish Airlines's exotic business class lounge at IST (Photo: Turkish Airlines)

Turkish Airlines’s exotic business class lounge at IST– soon to connect nonstop to SFO (Photo: Turkish Airlines)


Southwest’s on-time strategy. Southwest Airlines has seen its on-time performance suffer in recent months, dropping from 83 percent to 70. So it will turn to a favorite airline strategy for dealing with the problem: Starting next month, it will revise its schedules to allow for longer travel times—i.e. it will “pad its schedule.”

Turkish comes to SFO. Rapidly expanding Turkish Airlines will start San Francisco-Istanbul non-stops on April 13, 2015. Introductory fares for the 16-hour flight are already on sale for $699 in economy. Business class is running $4,000-$6,000. Turkish Flight 80 will depart SFO at  6:10PM and arrive in Istanbul at 5:05PM the next day. Flight 79 departs IST at 1:15 PM and arrives SFO at 4:25 PM on the same day. Turkish will use a Boeing 777-300ER on the 13-hour flight with business class in a 2-3-2 configuration and coach in a 3-3-3 configuration and no first class. Turkish Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance. Do you think of Turkish Airlines as “exotic?” I do and that’s how I described it on SFgate last week– but many readers felt that description was wrong. What do you think? Leave your comments below! 

JetBlue weighs a bag fee. JetBlue and Southwest are the only two major airlines that don’t charge a fee for a passenger’s first checked bag (Southwest allows two checked bags free).  But JetBlue officials, concerned about all that lost revenue,  are hinting that they might reconsider their policy and start charging for that first bag. If they do, can Southwest holdout on its own?

US Airways shuffles partnerships. US Airways has started code-sharing with Finnair, a member of sister company American Airlines’ transatlantic joint venture. US Airways’ code goes onto Finnair flights to Helsinki and beyond, from JFK and Toronto, and members of the two carriers’ frequent flyer programs now have mutual benefits. Meanwhile, Dividend Miles will end its partnerships with Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines effective August 1. They were holdovers from US Airways’ former Star Alliance membership.

Briefs: Like British Airways, Swiss has started charging fees for advance seat reservations; on long-haul flights, fees are $32 for a “standard seat,” $54 for a “preferred-zone” seat, and $109 for an extra-legroom seat. Unreserved seats can be selected for free within 23 hours of departure … Virgin Australia will end its Los Angeles-Melbourne service in late October, but will boost LAX-Brisbane from four flights a week to daily (and in SF we still waiting for Virgin Australia to link with Virgin America and bring some much need competition on SFO-Australia routes)… Qantas will replace the 747 on its Dallas/Ft. Worth-Sydney route with an A380 in September.


TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis is attending the big Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) convention in Los Angeles this week. The giant expo attracts about 7,000 travel industry professionals for educational sessions, speeches and panels with the likes of United’s Jeff Smisek or Delta’s Richard Anderson. It also offers an outstanding exposition where travel suppliers display and boast their latest, greatest products and services for business travelers– to me, the coolest part is the ability to check out about 20 business and first class seats in one place! Stay tuned to my Twitter feed to see what I’m seeing and hearing. Find me say HEY if you are there, too!


A mock up of the new terminal at Salt Lake City International

A mock up of SLC’s brand new terminal provided by Salt Lake City International

Salt Lake City starts massive reconstruction. Work started last week on a $1.8 billion, years-long overhaul of Salt Lake City International Airport that will replace its existing three terminals with a single extra-large one. One level of the three-story facility will be reserved for international travel and Customs. The existing airport opened 50 years ago — well before Delta started using it as a hub. The first half of the new SLC airport is due to open in 2019 and the second in 2022. Delta announced this week that it will add SLC-Amsterdam nonstops using a B767 starting next May.

CBP boosts staffing at five airports. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it has forged partnerships with five major airports that will mean increased CBP staffing for processing international arrivals, leading to reduced waiting time. The new pacts are with SFO, LAX, MCO, LAS and DEN. The agency said similar arrangements that it has in place with DFW, IAH and MIA — combined with the new Automated Passport Control kiosks — have reduced line time at those airports by 30 percent. Have you noticed?

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Atlanta Airport gets another PreCheck center. The TSA has opened a second PreCheck application center at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, located pre-security in the main terminal so the general public can access it without having a boarding pass. The new TSA facility is in Terminal South near Delta’s ticket counters. (The earlier facility is at Gate A19.)

Possible LAX mess. This item appeared on TravelSkills two weeks ago, but it bears repeating: This weekend, July 25-28 in Los Angeles, is being dubbed the “Century Crunch”, when Century Blvd. — a main road into LAX, used by one-third of all passengers — will close for demolition of an old railroad bridge. Officials advise everyone to avoid the area. 

sfo cab

(photo: Alfonso Jimenez)

Taxi app starts airport bookings. An app called Flywheel — which lets users hail a cab electronically, track its position, and pay with a smartphone — has started taking advance bookings for taxi rides to San Francisco-area airports, including SFO, OAK and SJC. By the end of this month, the company said, the app will provide the same service in Seattle and Los Angeles, with more locations to be added “in the coming weeks.” Interesting to watch cab companies add technology to help them compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft (which by the way are two ride-sharing companies we’ve heard are feeling the urge to merge. Stay tuned to TravelSkills for more on that as we investigate!) Don’t forget that you get $30 off your first ride if you sign up for Uber via TravelSkills links. Just do it! 

TSA seeks queue tips. The TSA is shifting so many passengers to PreCheck lanes that it is getting concerned about how fast the lines move. So the agency has turned to, a “global innovation marketplace,” to offer $15,000 in prizes to persons who can come up with the best ways to overhaul TSA’s airport lines. “The concept will be used to develop a model to be applied in decision analysis and to take in considerations of site specific requirements, peak and non-peak hours, flight schedules and TSA staffing schedules,” TSA said.

In Case You Missed It…

>Delta is building a new Sky Club at San Francisco International.

>New studies determine the best and worst airports and hotels for Wi-Fi.

>”I cringe when I hear people talk about the so-called golden age of travel.” Check this InsideFlyer Q&A with Chris about his career and the travel biz. A good read!

>A leading business hotel in London will join the Hilton family in September

>New report shows where business travelers spend money. Would you believe Chick-fil-a? (Check out the controversy this post elicited in the comments!)

–Jim Glab & Chris McGinnis

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  • Chris McGinnis

    it’s 13 hours

  • Spenser Bunn

    How long is the SFO-IST flight really going to be? 16 hrs or 13 hrs? Planning a cruise that will be start/end in IST. Would be great to have a non-stop flight vs. connecting.

  • Roan

    I flew TLV-IST-AMS on TK a few years ago and I was impressed. The first flight (TLV-IST, under 2 hours) was on a narrowbody plane, but the service was good and they served a meal. For the second flight (IST-AMS, 3 1/2 hours) I was on an A330. I hadn’t expected that on such a short flight, but I got intercontinental-level service with a widebody plane with nice entertainment systems and a meal (again).

    I wouldn’t say their A330s are something to avoid, and I was quite happy with the entertainment on that plane. I’ve never flown their 777s though so maybe those are so amazing that they make the 330s look like crap?

  • Chris McGinnis

    I haven’t forgotten seeing that big red roo at SFO every night either. I miss it! — Chris

  • Roan

    Too bad Virgin Australia is killing LAX-MEL, but a little while ago United announced that they’re going to operate that route directly (rather than via SYD) starting in October with the 787-9:

    As for Qantas on DFW-SYD, doing that route with a 747 was insanity. They had to stop in Brisbane westbound because SYD is just out of range, often leave luggage behind to even make it to Brisbane, and even then they would sometimes run out of fuel and have to stop twice (once to refuel, once for domestic connections from Brisbane). Now with the A380 they’re cutting the Brisbane stop, because they’ll have a plane that can actually operate on that route. Glad to see Qantas management is apparently coming to its senses (their engineers said this was a bad idea from the start), though I haven’t forgotten that this flight used to be the SFO-SYD flight.

  • Chris McGinnis

    Jeez JC, sounding pretty harsh and preachy today! I’m pretty well traveled and follow the airline industry closely and still think of TK and Turkey as exotic… I think exotic is a positive thing… sounds like you think it’s pejorative. I did state that the flight was 13 hours on both posts – the 16 hour reference in the comment section was a mistake I’m unable to correct. — chris

  • JC

    I don’t think of TK as exotic, but I think it also depends on the audience. For someone who hasn’t traveled much, TK may seem exotic. On the other hand, a well-traveled individual who follows the airline industry may perceive TK as very mainstream. Anyone who follows the airline industry knows TK has grown rapidly in recent years, and much of that expansion is in the form of its image and brand. TK is a strong member of the Star Alliance, and its service is now very highly regarded.

    I think the bigger concern is misleading people into thinking the flight is 16 hours. IST-LAX is blocked at 13:45 and IST-SFO will be slightly shorter. The eastbound sector will be blocked at under 13 hours (and even shorter during the winter months).

  • Brad

    I wouldn’t call Turkish ‘exotic’. If anything, I found Istanbul surprisingly Western when I visited. I’d much sooner call Abu Dhabi or Dubai exotic.

  • Jim

    Hi Chris. I love the new website and the variety of articles. Our TK experience is limited to several internal flights while visiting Turkey last year. Those experiences were good to very good. That is a comparision to domestic US carriers which have the bar set pretty low. That said, we have friends who have flown TK in both their Premium Economy and Business Class with good experiences. As a result, we were please to see TK coming to SFO. We have started shopping for Business Class tickets for next May. We found a nice routing on TK on line and made a reservation that gave us 72 hours to hold the reservation before purchasing. The next morning we decided to change our return date to one day later. There was no way to change the online reservation. We found a Customer Service number, called, navigated the prompts and finally got a recording saying ‘due to heavy call volume your wait time may be 20 minutes’. It was over 45 minutes. The agent said he could change the return date and the price would remain the same. We thought great. Then yesterday, Sunday, we went on line to purchase the tickets and discovered we could not complete the transaction on line and were directed to customer service. So back on the phone, same number, same recording with a 20 minute wait time. However the wait time was over 80 minutes. We were ready to purchase the tickets when the agent said the price had increased over $2000. I explained what the previous agent had said and the agent said to call back this morning and discuss with a Supervisor. I said that would be beyond the 72 hour reservation. She said the Supervior could reinstate the ticket. Well I just got off the phone, needless to say, the Supervisor was no help. In fact, he was beyond rude. He basicly accused me of lying.
    We have been traveling internationally over 34 years. We have logged millions of miles, visited over 94 countries in all classes of service. We are NOT novice travelers. And I have never posted a complaint on Social Media of any kind, until today. They say ‘never say never’ but it’s a pretty good chance TK will never see one cent of profit from my patonage.

  • Chris

    SF is “home”, though I’ve been based in GVA for years. As a Turkish Airlines ‘Elite’ flyer, I’m delighted TK is flying home. I can use fewer miles with more availability than perhaps any other Star Alliance carrier to get home in business. It’s in the wrong direction but Istanbul stopovers are divine. Full vacations are too.

    While I wouldn’t call TK “exotic” I could see why one would. “Unusual” would be more like it. After take-off you’re offered a piece of fresh ‘lokum’ (Turkish delight), a nice touch akin to Swiss International’s obligatory Swiss chocolate bar freebie. The music during the boarding and ‘deplaning’ process is contemporary Turkish with traditional instruments. The orange juice is freshly squeezed and delicious. The food, at least departing from Istanbul, is delicious and consists of freshly roasted peppers, charred eggplant, wonderfully seasoned meats, without too much salt. You can have the anise-flavored ‘raki’ with your meal. Cabin staff can be excellent or just okay, but overall after perhaps 40 flights, most long-haul to LAX or to Asia, with TK I find they veer more towards excellent. Okay, **concession** it begins to sound exotic in the sense that only 3-4 other airlines can aspire to this level of detail and service in economy, yes economy — and business class is very good. Last note: Their 777s are good, as are their 737-800s. Try to avoid the other, older aircraft, especially the Airbus 330s on connecting flights for lack of proper entertainment systems.

  • Hugo Traeger

    Flew Turkish Air IST-CDG last year. It seemed efficient and somewhat utilitarian but not the least bit exotic.

    And their company spokesperson is the less than exotic Kobe Bryant. They may need to hire Steph Curry if they run any ads in the Bay Area.

  • Kirk

    Ya, just teasing! I know you get to travel a lot, and certainly more than me. :)

  • Chris McGinnis

    Thanks, Kirk! I’ll add that little AMS tidbit right now. I get out quite a lot and still think of TK as exotic :) –Chris

  • Kirk

    Ya, I thought the term exotic was a little strange; I remember thinking that you need to get out more! 😉 As a major worldwide airline, and consistently ranked best in Europe, they are barely more exotic than British Airways.

    Btw, since you discussed the new international setup at SLC: SLC-AMS starts May 1.