SFO runways reopen + Fewer amateurs in PreCheck + Coach cocktails now $8 + United’s cool passport scan app

SFO's new EMAS runaway plane lane is finished! All 4 runways now open (Photo: SFO)

SFO’s new, federally mandated, EMAS crushable concrete “runaway plane lane” is finished! All 4 runways now open (Photo: SFO)

SFO runways reopen early. Good news for Bay Area travelers: San Francisco International goes from two operational runways to four effective today (August 10) as a major construction project wrapped up a month ahead of schedule. The two runways had been closed since May 17 to install federally-mandated Runway Safety Areas (designed to catch and slow down runaway planes), requiring airlines to adjust their summer flight schedules. (More photos here) Luckily, the project had minimal impact on SFO flight operations.

Fewer amateurs in TSA PreCheck lanes? Now this sounds hopeful: “We’ll start pulling back on the number of people who we include on a random, managed-inclusion basis, because we want to, frankly, cater to those who have actually signed up, and who we have the highest confidence in because we know the most about them,” John Pistole, TSA Administrator told the New York Times when asked about overcrowding in TSA PreCheck lanes. This is music to the ears of the 440,000 people who have actually paid for the service, and who have been complaining loudly about the increasing number of “random” travelers chosen to pass through the speedy lanes. Have you noticed any improvements?

More kiosks speed re-entry. The latest expansion of Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry kiosks is at Mineta San Jose International Airport, where two of the self-service devices are now in place for program members. Meanwhile, Detroit Metro Airport has installed 30 Automated Passport Control self-service kiosks for inbound international passengers who aren’t part of Global Entry, and Minneapolis-St. Paul now has 10 of the kiosks in its Lindbergh Terminal. (Have you noticed any change in immigrations and customs processing in the US lately? Are the kiosks helping? Please leave your comments below.)

Are you going to try flying into Dallas Love Field starting in Oct? Let us know! (Photo: Justin Terveen)

Are you going to try flying into Dallas Love Field starting in Oct? Let us know! (Photo: Justin Terveen)

No surprise: Southwest adds DAL-SFO/OAK. Southwest’s big expansion of service at Dallas’ close-in Love Field later this year is adding two more business destinations: San Francisco and Oakland. Starting January 6, the carrier will initially operate only one daily roundtrip in each market, but that’s still enough to give some competition to Virgin America Airlines, which plans to launch its own DAL-SFO service on October 13 with three flights a day — and three classes of service, something Southwest lacks. Will you start to fly into Dallas Love (DAL) or stick with DFW? Leave your comments below, please.

United app will scan passports. A big hitch in checking in for international flights with an app has been the need for a passport scan. But now United has come up with a solution: It’s testing an upgrade to its mobile app (for both iOS and Android) so customers can do just that. “After initiating the app’s check-in feature, customers will have the option of verifying their existing stored passport data or scanning their passport. The app uses the mobile device’s camera feature to capture travelers’ passports, similar to a mobile banking deposit,” United said.

In-flight service squeeze at DL, AA. Flying on Delta during the cocktail hour? Be prepared to shell out $8 for that mixed drink in coach, up from $7, the airline confirms … Starting next month, American Airlines will discontinue serving meals to first class passengers on most flights under two hours 45 minutes, replacing them with snacks (exception: some of the most popular routes, like ORD-LGA).

Emirates arrives at Chicago ORD (Photo: Emirates)

Emirates arrives at Chicago ORD- that’s the Chicago city flag (Photo: Emirates)

Emirates to Chicago ORD; AA juggles Brazil service. Emirates last week started new daily 777-200LR non-stops between Chicago O’Hare and Dubai … American will discontinue Charlotte-Sao Paulo service Oct. 1, but will add new routes in December from JFK and MIA to Viracopo Airport in Campinas, Brazil; on October 25, AA will start seasonal suspensions of JFK-Dublin, ORD-Dusseldorf and PHL-Zurich flights … Air France now offers international first class travelers onward connections by four-seat private jets at Paris CDG. (Trivia Question: What do the four stars on Chicago’s city flag represent? Answer here.)

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Uber continues to disrupt ground transport with a new carpool sharing option (Photo: Uber)

Uber continues to disrupt ground transport with a new carpool sharing option (Photo: Uber)

Uber, Lyft try ride-sharing. Popular ride-finding service Uber is adding a new feature for users: Share your ride and both customers can save money. Called Uberpool, the feature is currently in beta; Uber still promises a ride in five minutes if you opt for Uberpool, and if it can’t find a ride share, it will give you a discount anyway. Competing ride-finder Lyft introduced a similar service called Lyft Line, initially available only in San Francisco and only via iOS devices. Meanwhile, an app called TaxiMagic — used to summon licensed taxicabs — is changing its name to Curb and upgrading its service to include higher-priced black car and limo rides. How do you get around on the ground? Leave your comments below. And if you’ve not tried Uber, do so from our links and you’ll get $30 off your first ride!

In Case You Missed It…

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–Jim Glab & Chris McGinnis

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  • Rick Christman

    I hope John Pistole, TSA Administrator, is true to his word. I flew from San Diego this morning, checked in at 0445 for a 0640 flight. To my surprise, there were more people in the TSA PreCheck lane than the normal lane! It became longer than I have ever seen it before I entered the Security!

  • kwa829

    Seattle has 14 kiosks (open to everyone, not just Global Entry) for international arrivals. Additionally, there are also Global Entry kiosks but the advantage of global entry seems diminished. See http://blogs.seattletimes.com/northwesttraveler/2014/06/24/automated-passport-kiosks-speed-up-sea-tac-other-airports/
    At these kiosks, you answer a few questions. Then it takes a picture of you, prints a receipt with the picture on it, then you proceed to show the receipt to an officer as you proceed onto baggage claim. Then after you claim baggage, you hand the receipt to the customs officer as you exit the international arrivals area.

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

    Thanks for pointing this out. We’ve removed the item until we can get further clarification from the study authors at HVS. — Chris

  • NeutralNovice

    So… the big airlines, if I’m not mistaken, are making record profits and yet they continue to increase prices on everything, now including drinks which I’m sure already have a 1 Million percent markup than what they are paying for it. Service doesn’t seem to improve. Available seats are harder to come by (thus, more expensive) due to “fleet optimization” where airlines basically reduce the number of seats to simply match demand. Le sigh. The prospect of flying anywhere just seems to be getting worse and worse.

  • Frank

    But what percentage of people on those AA flights are actually going to the DFW area, and how many are connecting given that DFW is an AA hub.

  • Frank

    Zero “tax” at SJC? If only…

    A rental last week at SJC shows a concession recovery fee (~10%), a CA tourism fee, a customer facility charge of $7.50 *per day*, plus tax at 8.75%.

    An equivalent rental at SFO shows a similar concession recovery fee (~10%), the same CA Tourism fee, a vehicle license fee, tax at 11.5%, plus a customer facility charge of $20 fixed.

    So for a 1-2 day rental, SJC works out cheaper. At 3 days it’s basically a push. Beyond 4 days, SFO is cheaper then SJC.

  • Sam @ SFO

    Good news for Bay Area travelers, perhaps, but not-so-great news for SFO-based plane spotters. I’ve loved sitting at the park and watching everyone line up to turn around at the end of 28L. It’s also been great to routinely get a good show from 280 (my daily commute), when those are regularly such a rare treat. Oh well, 1R and 1L reopening means getting closer to the smaller jets at the beginning of their roll, which is cool and makes it easier to read tail numbers, so it’s not all bad, but I have been enjoying the current situation. (And have only been delayed while traveling once from it, towards the beginning.)

  • Veejay

    Been waiting for dal-Bay Area nonstop service on southwest. I think they underestimate the route. AA has been flying several non-stop dailies between sjc/sfo and Dfw.