Virgin Atlantic flies only Boeing 787s on its SFO-London nonstops (Photo: Virgin)
Today United and Virgin Atlantic have a great deal on round trip, nonstop flights to London from many major US gateways- just $481 round trip for winter and spring trips!
This is an especially good deal– any time we see nonstops west coast to Europe for less than $500, we jump!
What’s best about this sale is the wide window during which you can get the deal- according to Google Flights, the deal is good for flights from now all the way through mid May 2017. This includes the popular and busy spring break timeframe.
Google flights showing SFO-London for just $481 for winter and spring trips
From SFO, you can now fly on Virgin Atlantic’s two new B787 Dreamliners plying the route across the pond. United flies 777s on the SFO-LHR Heathrow route.
WOW Air’s one-stop flights from SFO to London are as low as $440 (with big fees). From Oakland, Norwegian Air offers fares from Oakland to London as low as $385 roundtrip (with restrictions) so this is clearly a competitive move on the part of the majors. From San Jose, there are competitive fares ($495) on to London on Air Canada and United, but require a stop enroute.
NOTE: Currently British Airways does not seem to be participating in this great deal.
Find these deals on Google Flights. NOTE: If flights are not found on Google flights, try United.com or VirginAtlantic.com, both of which are still showing these fares as of 6 pm Wednesday.
Virgin Atlantic flights SFO LHR
Fares available on Weds January 18 and subject to change.
United Airlines Boeing 737-800s will soon fly nonstop to New York and Chicago from San Jose (Image: Chad Slattery / United)
With major U.S. airlines adding more flights at Mineta San Jose International this winter and spring, and with international flight options taking off, the airport has been making substantial improvements to handle increased passenger traffic.
New domestic flights starting in the first half of the New Year include:
A pair of new nonstops for United Airlines, both starting March 9. United will begin twice-daily flights to its big hub at Chicago O’Hare, and one daily roundtrip to its East Coast hub at Newark Liberty International. United will use 737-800s on both routes.
Staking a bigger claim in California, Alaska Airlines will inaugurate new transcontinental service on the SJC-Newark route on March 12, operating one daily roundtrip, followed by new intrastate service three times a day from San Jose to Hollywood-Burbank beginning March 16. These are the fourth and fifth new Alaska Airlines routes at SJC since late 2015, giving the carrier a total of 16 destinations.
On May 1, Air Canada is due to add a third daily frequency between San Jose-Vancouver.
American Airlines’ seasonal service between San Jose and Charlotte is set to resume May 5.
Delta will boost its presence at San Jose beginning May 25, when it expands its schedule to Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson from two flights a day to three.
And Southwest will kick off daily San Jose-Reno service June 4.
You can find more details about new San Jose routes here.
SJC’s popular business class lounge awarded “Priority Pass Lounge of the Year for North America.” (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Even without these new flights, SJC has been experiencing healthy growth in passenger numbers. Through the first 10 months of 2016, the domestic passenger count topped the 4 million mark, an increase of more than 7 percent year-over-year. And thanks to new flights across both the Atlantic and Pacific, international traffic at SJC jumped more than 68 percent during that period.
New and improved passenger amenities at Mineta San Jose make life easier for travelers. The three-year-old Club at SJC in Terminal A, a lounge open to all travelers on a paid basis and also a part of the Priority Pass network of airport lounges, was recently named the Priority Pass Airport Lounge of the Year for North America.
International travelers at SJC are finding their lives a little easier thanks to recent improvements that help them to speed through passenger processing. Many domestic travelers rely on TSA’s PreCheck program to move through security screening more quickly, but now some international travelers at San Jose can also take advantage of that benefit: Lufthansa – which began San Jose-Frankfurt flights last summer – recently became the first European airline to begin participation in PreCheck.
International travelers at SJC can now download Customs and Border Protection’s free Mobile Passport Control app on their phones or tablets and use it to submit their passport data and Customs declaration form to CBP. A coded electronic receipt shown to the CBP officer lets them move quickly through the arrivals process. And the airport also offers CBP’s Global Entry kiosks for international arrivals who belong to that trusted traveler program, allowing them to bypass lines. Also available at SJC are Automated Passport Control kiosks where arriving travelers can submit their entry information.
No need to fill out paper customs and immigration forms when you have the new Mobile Passport Control app
And more enhancements are on the way. This spring, the airport is expected to finish a renovation of its International Arrivals Building that will add 5,600 square feet along with a second baggage carousel and an enclosed waiting area.
A image of the future International Arrivals lobby (Image: SJC)
On a lighter note, Mineta San Jose has garnered attention and acclaim for its recent deployment of three interactive customer service robots – an appropriate innovation for an airport that serves as the gateway to Silicon Valley. Even more interactive robots – smaller ones – are featured in the airport’s new play area for children in Terminal B.
You can find more details about new San Jose routes here.
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The CLEAR trusted traveler program is expanding to Atlanta (Image: CLEAR)
In recent airport news, Atlanta gets ready for Clear, and adds electric charging stations; Cathay Pacific relocates its operations at New York JFK; Boston Logan gets another passenger lounge; a vegetarian restaurant debuts at Newark; there’s a new place to gas up your returning rental car at Washington Dulles; and Baltimore/Washington opens a fitness center.
At Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, biometric ID firm Clear is expected to begin operations sometime in the next few weeks,according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Delta, which holds an equity stake in Clear, has pledged to expand the service to more of its hub airports, and Atlanta is the biggest. The new Clear lane at ATL will be in the airport’s domestic terminal South, near the entrance to the TSA PreCheck line and close to the Delta check-in area. Clear members pay $179 a year (Delta offers discounted rates to SkyMiles members based on elite status) and can use Clear kiosks to gain expedited access to security checkpoints. Clear has not responded to our requests for more information about Clear lanes coming to LAX and JFK.
Meanwhile, ATL has also unveiled 102 new charging stations for electric vehicles. Scattered around the airport’s parking facilities, the chargers come in two versions: “Level 1 chargers are ideal for longer-term charges, while Level 2 chargers provide a full charge in less time,” the airport said. You can find a full list of charger locations here.
At New York JFK, Cathay Pacific has relocated operations from Terminal 7 to Terminal 8. The airline said the new location will mean “a more seamless travel experience” for customers making connections to or from its Oneworld partner American Airlines. Cathay noted that its first and business class passengers, as well as eligible Marco Polo Club members, will be able to take advantage of American’s premium lounges in T8, including an Admirals Club and a Flagship Lounge.
Newark’s new Thyme vegetarian restaurant in Terminal C. (Image: OTG Management)
Newark Liberty International Airport’s newest dining option is something you rarely if ever see at a major airport: a vegetarian restaurant. Called Thyme, the new facility in United’s Terminal C is overseen by chef Amanda Cohen, who operates a restaurant called Dirt Candy in New York City. Thyme offers a variety of all-vegetarian entrees, with ordering via iPad, as well as beverages that focus on fresh fruits, herbs and spices.
Airport Lounge Development has opened its second passenger lounge at Boston’s airport, The Club at Boston Logan in Terminal E. The company also operates a lounge in Terminal C at BOS. The new Terminal E lounge is open to anyone for a day pass price of $40, and at no charge to members of the Priority Pass, LoungeKey and Lounge Club programs, as well as premium passengers of participating airlines. Amenities include a bar, snacks, Wi-Fi, power plugs, TVs and various reading materials. This summer, the new Boston Logan Club is expected to add another 3,500 square feet with new restrooms, showers, seating for 67 more guests, enhanced food service, a productivity zone for business travelers and a relaxation zone with comfortable seating.
You can gas up and grab a bite at Dulles Airport’s huge new Sunoco station. (Image: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority)
Returning a rental car at Washington Dulles and you need to fill up the tank? Airport officials just cut the ribbon on a new Sunoco mega-gas station combined with a food and convenience store not far from the car rental lots. Located at 44950 Rudder Road on the way into the airport, the new facility has 28 fueling positions as well as an 8,600 square foot APlus convenience store that includes a Laredo Taco Company dining outlet and a Subway sandwich shop.
Got time for a quick workout at Baltimore/Washington International? A new ROAM Fitness facility has opened post-security in BWI’s new connector linking Concourses D and E. It has free weights, stretching areas, cardio equipment, yoga mats, a pull-up bar and other fitness amenities, including showers. Persons who aren’t carrying their own workout gear can rent it at the facility, including shoes. Admission cost $40 for a day pass, or $175 for a month.
Delta is adding several more routes out of Seattle (Photo: Jim Glab)
In domestic route news, Delta, Alaska and American each announced several new markets for 2017; JetBlue kicks off a California corridor route; and Spirit adds 10 markets.
Delta just announced plans to pile on more flights at its growing Seattle hub this year, with tickets for the new routes going on sale January 14. The new service includes a daily roundtrip to Milwaukee beginning March 9; three flights a day to Eugene, Oregon starting April 1; a daily Nashville flight as of May 26; a daily Raleigh-Durham flight effective June 8; a daily roundtrip to Austin beginning June 12; two flights a day to Redmond, Oregon as of June 12; and one a day to Lihue, Kauai starting December 21.
Portland International will get more Alaska Airliners service this spring. (Image: Jim Glab)
Alaska Airlines will beef up its operations at Portland this spring and summer with new service in four markets. It will begin a daily roundtrip May 22 from Portland to Philadelphia; another on June 5 from PDX to Milwaukee; and a third on June 6 from Portland to Baltimore/Washington International. Those will all operate seasonally until the last week of August; Milwaukee gets a SkyWest E175 while the other two will use 737s. Then on August 18, Alaska’s Horizon Air will start new daily year-round service from Portland to Albuquerque with an E175.
Routesonline.com reports that American Airlines’ latest schedule updates include new summer service in seven markets, all starting June 2. From its Phoenix hub, American will add service once a day to Eugene, Oregon; Jackson Hole, Wyoming (seasonal until August 21); and Medford, Oregon. Jackson Hole gets an A319 and the other two will use American Eagle/SkyWest CRJ-700s. From Dallas/Ft. Worth, American Eagle/Envoy Air will start flying once a day to Traverse City, Michigan (seasonal through August 21) and to Billings, Montana, using E175s. And from Chicago O’Hare, Eagle/SkyWest will start one daily CRJ-700 roundtrip to Bozeman, Montana (seasonal until October 4).
JetBlue last week revived an intra-California route. (Image: Jim Glab)
JetBlue, which briefly flew the intra-California route from its Long Beach focus city to San Jose seven years ago, jumped back into that market last week. The airline will use its 150-seat A320s to fly the route four times a day.
Spirit Airlines unveiled plans to add 10 new routes this spring from Houston, New Orleans, Baltimore/Washington and Detroit. From Houston Bush Intercontinental, Spirit will begin year-round service to Newark and seasonal flights to Seattle on April 27. New routes from New Orleans, all operating year-round beginning May 25, include Baltimore/Washington, Cleveland and Orlando. The new BWI service, all seasonal and starting May 25, will be to Oakland, San Diego and Seattle. And new seasonal service starts May 25 from Detroit to Oakland and Seattle.
That’s not the fare to WOW’s Reykjavik hub – that’s the fare for a trip to the Continent via a Reykjavik connection. These are base fares; steep and numerous fees apply for various amenities such as carry on baggage, advance seat selection and, um, water. See fee menu here.
The airline didn’t say how long the sale fares would be available – just that they are on sale now “for a limited time.” The $69 fare is available from San Francisco and Los Angeles via Iceland to Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bristol (U.K.) and Edinburgh, WOW said, for travel from January 15 through April 5. WOW flies Airbus A330s from the West Coast.
Caveat: The $69 fare is apparently available only for eastbound travel; the price for return flights ranges from $129 to $199. Still, a roundtrip for a $199 base fare is a pretty good deal.
For example, when going through the booking process on WOW’s website, the cheapest fare we could find between San Francisco and Edinburgh, including a $100 fee for a large carry on bag (such as a rollaboard) is $370. That’s roughly $70 for the outbound flight, $200 for the return (including taxes) and a $100 bag fee. That’s still very very cheap!
Here’s a screenshot of fares from WOW’s website today (Tuesday).
The new sale also includes $99 fares from Boston to Reykjavik, or $129 from Boston to Paris, London Gatwick, Amsterdam, Berlin and Stockholm; and $99 from Miami to Reykjavik, or $149 from Miami to Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt, London and Paris.
The airline’s U.S. website with full details on the sale is at https://wowair.us/. NOTE: Due to the popularity of this sale, the WOW Air site is extremely slow and in some cases timing out, so keep trying….
United is scaling back its six-month-old route from SFO to Auckland. (Image: Aucklandnz.com)
In international route developments, United will scale back its San Francisco-Auckland and LAX-London service; China Southern will boost capacity to San Francisco; China’s Hainan Airlines seeks two more U.S. routes; Alaska Airlines begins Cuba flights from the West Coast; Hong Kong Airlines schedules its first service to North America; and LOT Polish will resume a Chicago route.
Is there too much new capacity between the U.S. and New Zealand? United Airlines has decided to suspend its San Francisco-Auckland flight this spring and turn it into a seasonal route. United will halt the 787 service April 16 and pick it up again October 28, according to Routesonline.com. But then on December 16, 2017, United will boost frequencies on the route from seven a week to 10, using a 777-200ER. United kicked off the SFO-Auckland route last summer, just after American started flying from Los Angeles to Auckland. And a little over a year ago, Air New Zealand added a new Houston-Auckland route.
In other news, United has dropped plans to add a second Los Angeles-London Heathrow to its schedule this year. The second flight had been scheduled to begin April 4, but United apparently had second thoughts about committing more seats to a crowded market, with five other airlines already offering non-stop service between Los Angeles and London. And from its Newark hub, United this week ended its daily service to Belfast, Northern Ireland, as it previously announced. The Belfast Telegraph reports that Belfast Airport officials are in talks with several other carriers to add a U.S. route.
China Southern will add more seats from San Francisco to Guangzhou (Photo: Wikimedia)
China Southern Airlines has filed plans to increase capacity to San Francisco from Guangzhou, Routesonline.com reports. It will start by changing aircraft as of March 26 from 787-8s to larger 777-300ERs on its four weekly non-stop flights from Guangzhou to SFO and its three flights a week from Guangzhou to SFO via a stop in Wuhan. Then on June 21 it will increase frequencies on the non-stop route from four flights a week to six.
Hainan wants to add 787 flights from Chongqing to LAX and New York. (Photo: San Jose Airport)
China’s Hainan Airlines, which has several U.S. routes already, wants two more. The carrier has applied with U.S. authorities to start flying two or three times a week from Chongqing to Los Angeles within the next few months, followed by a similar schedule from Chongqing to New York JFK in the second quarter, using 787s on both routes. Hainan already flies to Beijing from San Jose, Chicago and Seattle, and to Shanghai from Seattle and Boston.
Alaska Airlines has finally launched its new Havana service, becoming the only airline to fly to the Cuban capital from the West Coast. The daily service originates in Seattle, then stops in Los Angeles before continuing non-stop to Havana. The 737-900ER flight leaves SEA at 5 a.m. and departs LAX at 8:50 a.m. Chris was on the inaugural, and will file a report shortly.
Hong Kong Airlines, which has a route network all around East and Southeast Asia as well as Australia and New Zealand, plans to begin its first transpacific service to North America this summer. The airline said it will star flying once a day on June 30 between its Hong Kong base and Vancouver, using an Airbus A330.
LOT Polish Airlines has set a July 2 start for new service between Chicago O’Hare and Krakow, operating one flight a week on the route with a 787-8.
Southwest will boost capacity by 3.5 percent this year. (Image: Jim Glab)
Southwest Airlines said its summer schedule, which starts June 4, will feature 22 new domestic and international routes, including some from the Bay Area as well as an expanded Caribbean network based at Ft. Lauderdale and a new presence at Cincinnati.
The company said it expects to increase its overall capacity this year by 3.5 percent (measured in available seat-miles) compared to 2016.
The airline’s new service on the West Coast includes three flights a day between San Francisco International-Portland and one a day between San Jose-Reno, along with seasonal non-stop service from Oakland to Newark Liberty International. At San Diego, Southwest will begin new daily flights to Boise and Salt Lake City, as well as seasonal service to Newark, Spokane and Indianapolis.
However, California’s Orange County Register reported that Southwest will trim its operations at John Wayne Airport due to a shift in capacity allocations among airlines there. Southwest this week ended its Orange County-Mexico City service, the newspaper said, and on January 14 it will eliminate flights from John Wayne to Austin, Kansas City, Portland, St. Louis and Seattle, followed by the end of Puerto Vallarta flights April 25.
At Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood, Southwest said it expects to cut the ribbon in early June on a new international concourse, designated Concourse A in Terminal 1. The facility will serve passengers on flights to eight international destinations, including four new ones: Montego Bay, Jamaica; Belize; Cancun, Mexico; and (subject to government approval) Grand Cayman. Southwest already flies from FLL to Nassau, Bahamas and the Cuban destinations of Havana, Varadero and Santa Clara.
Southwest’s expanded Caribbean network out of Ft. Lauderdale. (Image: Southwest)
Other new service from Ft. Lauderdale starting June 4 includes daily intra-Florida service to Orlando and daily flights to Washington Dulles and Philadelphia. Elsewhere in Florida, Southwest will kick off two daily non-stops between Tampa-New York LaGuardia and weekend flights between Pensacola and Denver.
Another big focus in Southwest’s summer schedule is Ohio, where it will begin service at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport with five flights a day to Chicago Midway and three a day to Baltimore/Washington. At Cleveland, the airline will add service to Atlanta and a second daily roundtrip to St. Louis. On the losing end of the schedule changes in Ohio are Dayton and Akron-Canton, where Southwest will terminate its service.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, Southwest’s summer schedule includes new service between Indianapolis-Newark twice a day and Nashville-Minneapolis once a day.
The airline is offering introductory sale fares on many of the routes for travel this summer. The sale fares’ booking deadline is January 26. Sample one-way starting sale fares include: San Francisco-Portland, $49; San Jose-Reno, $39; San Diego-Boise, $89; Ft. Lauderdale-Washington Dulles, $69; Ft. Lauderdale-Cancun, $89; and Ft. Lauderdale-Montego Bay, $99.
An artist’s rendering of the “new” JFK Airport. (mage: New York Governor’s Office)
Now that work is underway on a multi-billion-dollar rebuilding of LaGuardia Airport, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has outlined an ambitious effort for an equally massive transformation of JFK Airport.
The proposal put forward by Cuomo and his Airport Advisory Committee this week envisions a more integrated facility, with terminals that are connected to each other instead of the current sprawling layout of independent structures, and that will be more easily accessible with the help of big improvements in transportation infrastructure within and to the airport.
In announcing the plan, Cuomo noted that JFK handled a record 60 million passengers in 2016, with that number projected to grow to 75 million by 2030 and to 100 million by 2050. The airport as it is today will exceed its maximum capacity in about eight years.
New roadways and mass transit would make airport access easier. (Image: New York Governor’s Office)
Past efforts to expand JFK have been “piecemeal,” Cuomo’s announcement said. “This legacy has produced the airport’s current condition with disconnected terminals, an inconsistent passenger experience, facilities that are quickly running out of capacity, on-airport roadways that are confusing to navigate, and an airport that is increasingly difficult to access.” He said JFK currently ranks 59th among the world’s 100 largest airports “and falls far short of today’s global standards.”
Older terminals would be rebuilt and relocated and newer ones expanded. (Image: New York Governor’s Office)
The plan for a new JFK includes the following elements:
Interconnecting the airport’s terminals “by expanding newer terminals and redeveloping/relocating older terminals.” The report said older terminals include 1, 2 and 7, while newer ones include 4, 5 and 8.
A redesign of the airport’s interior roadways “to evolve into a ‘ring road’ configuration,” permitting faster access to terminals.
Centralized and expanded parking lots inside the ring road layout, “with clear short-term and long-term parking options.”
A passenger-oriented quality control program for all airport facilities that will “ensure world-class amenities – including fine dining, duty-free shopping, best-in-class retail, and conference and meeting room facilities.” The report noted that this started last month with the groundbreaking for the TWA Flight Center Hotel, which will be linked to JetBlue’s Terminal 5 and will use the old Eero Saarinen-designed TWA Terminal as its centerpiece.
Expanded taxiways that will reduce ground delays for aircraft and will increase the number of takeoff and landing slots that the airport can accommodate.
An overhaul of security technology at the airport to keep it “state-of-the-art,” including “future global best practices such as facial recognition and video tracking software.”
The redesign would bring parking closer to terminals. (Image: New York Governor’s Office)
The state’s plan for JFK also includes improvements to transportation infrastructure outside the airport. Cuomo has endorsed $1.5 billion to $2 billion in highway improvements intended to untangle “key bottlenecks in road access to and from JFK on the Van Wyck (Expressway) and at the Kew Gardens Interchange.”
The advisory panel also recommended ways to improve mass transit to JFK, such as doubling the capacity of the existing AirTrain that links the airport to the key transit hub of Jamaica Station; improving connections to the AirTrain at Jamaica Station from subways and the Long Island Rail Road; and “exploring the feasibility of a one-seat rail ride to JFK” – i.e., one that wouldn’t require a transfer to the existing AirTrain line.
An interior ring road would link terminals. (Image: New York Governor’s Office)
The proposal did not suggest a timetable for the project, but did say the effort “has the potential to drive up to $7 billion in private investment” toward the estimated total cost of $10 billion.
Readers: What’s your opinion of JFK Airport? What kind of improvements do you think are most urgently needed there?
American’s new premium economy seating is on 787-9s in more markets. (Image: American Airlines).
In international route updates, American Airlines is adding premium economy-equipped 787-9s to more markets; China Airlines planes an aircraft change and more flights to San Francisco; Xiamen opens sales for a new LAX route; JetBlue boosts Bermuda capacity; Alaska adds a Mexico route from Sacramento; Avianca increases Los Angeles service; and Delta expands Caribbean code-shares.
The new premium economy section that American Airlines is putting into its 787-9 Dreamliners will soon appear on more routes. The section first appeared on Dallas/Ft. Worth-Sao Paulo and DFW-Madrid flights in November, and now it is due to debut on DFW-Paris and DFW-Seoul flights starting January 9 and February 16 respectively. Although the seats are out there, they’re not yet officially on sale as premium economy fares. That will begin early next year, American said. In other news, American is planning to upgrade the aircraft on its Raleigh-Durham to London Heathrow route. On March 5, it will switch from a 767 to a 777-200, offering about 40 percent more seats.
China Airlines will put a new Airbus A350 onto its San Francisco-Taipei route next spring. (Image: Airbus)
More flights are coming on the San Francisco to Taipei route, along with a new aircraft type. China Airlines, a member of Delta’s SkyTeam alliance, reportedly plans to boost frequencies on the route from seven a week to nine starting May 14, and to switch aircraft from a 777-300ER to a new Airbus A350. Then in early August, the carrier will add two more weekly flights on the route for a total of 11 a week.
China’s Xiamen Airlines has started taking bookings for its planned new service between Xiamen and Los Angeles International, due to begin on June 27. The carrier will use a 787-9 Dreamliner to fly the route three times a week.
JetBlue is adding more capacity to Bermuda from its Northeast focus cities. Beginning May 18, it will operate daily year-round flights from New York JFK, with a second daily frequency from May 18 through October. The airline will also increase its Boston-Bermuda daily service from seasonal to year-round as of May 18, and will upsize aircraft on its Bermuda routes from 100-seat Embraer 190s to 150-seat Airbus A320s.
Alaska Airlines plans to add a new route from California to Mexico next summer. As of June 10, the airline will offer weekly 737 service (on Saturdays) between Sacramento and San Jose/Los Cabos.
The LAX-Bogota route will get more Avianca Dreamliner flights next year. (Image: Avianca)
Got business in Colombia? The Colombian carrier Avianca will boost its West Coast service in 2017, increasing frequencies on the Bogota-Los Angeles route from four a week to daily starting on March 28. Avianca uses a 787-8 Dreamliner on the route.
Delta is expanding its code-share partnership with Seaborne Airlines on flights beyond San Juan to various Caribbean island destinations. In recent weeks, Delta has put its DL code onto Seabourne flights from San Juan to St. Maarten, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, and on March 5 it will do the same on Seabourne service to La Romana, Dominican Republic.
A Boeing 737MAX in Norwegian livery. (Image: Boeing)
Norwegian Air, Europe’s fast-growing low-cost transatlantic airline, revealed plans to begin new service between New York State and Scotland next summer with fares as low as $69 one-way.
The Scotsman newspaper reported this week that the carrier plans to use its newly acquired Boeing 737MAX aircraft to launch super-low-cost flights linking Edinburgh with the New York area.
Norwegian will be getting six of the planes in April, and will start flying the new Edinburgh route a few months later, the newspaper said. The 737MAX is a next-generation, fuel-efficient model of the 737 that can fly longer distances than its predecessors.
Norwegian Air CEO Bjorn Kjos told the newspaper that the airline will cut costs on the new route even more by using “secondary airports” in New York for the service instead of JFK or Newark to take advantage of lower landing fees. (Although Norwegian’s base fares are very low, passengers are assessed separate fees for a wide variety of amenities and services.)
Kjos didn’t identify any airports, but The Times Herald-Record newspaper in upstate Middletown, N.Y. recently reported that Norwegian plans to start a significant amount of transatlantic service in 2017 – as many as 21 flights a week — from Stewart Airport to Scotland, Ireland, England and Norway with its new 737MAX aircraft.
Stewart Airport is in Newburgh, N.Y., a Hudson Valley town about 60 miles north of New York City. Despite the distance from the city, Stewart is controlled by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
New York’s little Stewart Airport could get a lot busier next year. (Image: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)
Norwegian is also said to be considering new transatlantic 737MAX routes out of Providence, R.I., or Portsmouth, N.H.
An official with New York State’s Orange County, where Stewart Airport is located, told the newspaper that discussions have started with bus lines to provide express service between the airport and New York City for Norwegian’s passengers, and that plans are under way to expand the airport’s Customs facilities. Officials suggested that a large Norwegian presence could lead U.S. carriers to operate more domestic service into the airport.
The airline already flies from New York JFK to London Gatwick with fares starting at around $150 each way, and recently announced plans to increase service next year on routes from Gatwick to New York, Oakland, Los Angeles, Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando. The company also won U.S. approval recently for its new Irish subsidiary, which is expected to start flying to the U.S. East Coast from Cork and Shannon, Ireland in 2017.
International Airlines Group plans to fight back against transatlantic low-cost competition. (Image: IAG)
British Airways’ parent company plans to launch new low-cost transatlantic service from Barcelona to the U.S. in 2017.
International Airlines Group — which owns British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and the low-cost Spanish airline Vueling – is considering adding a new subsidiary in 2017 that will offer cheap fares to and from the U.S. West Coast in response to low-fare competition from Norwegian, according to The Times of London.
The newspaper said IAG’s new operation is expected to use Airbus A330s to fly from Barcelona’s El Prat Airport to San Francisco and Los Angeles beginning in June 2017. The new venture is also targeting transatlantic flights from Barcelona to Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Havana, Cuba, the report said.
Tickets are not expected to go on sale until February or March 2017, and no fare information is currently available according to CAPA.
Vueling, IAG’s low-cost Spanish subsidiary that serves short-haul markets, will provide passenger feed into Barcelona for the transatlantic flights. There were no details yet on specific schedules or fares for the West Coast service. IAG suggested that it might operate the new service under one of its existing brands if it does not create a new subsidiary.
Europe’s legacy airlines have recently been stirred to action on the low-cost front as Norwegian adds more long-haul routes at extremely low base fares. Norwegian in recent months has started or announced new and increased low-fare service from major U.S. airports to London Gatwick, Paris and Barcelona, especially from the West Coast. Lufthansa is concentrating on growing its low-cost Eurowings subsidiary, adding aircraft from Airberlin and Brussels Airlines for that purpose.
Air France KLM recently revealed plans to develop a low-cost long-haul operation tentatively called Boost, based at Paris Charles de Gaulle, although few details are available. And in addition to IAG’s new Barcelona-based operation, British Airways is adding service to Oakland and Ft. Lauderdale in 2017 from London Gatwick instead of its Heathrow hub, in response to Norwegian’s increasing Gatwick service. BA is said to be planning eventually to use higher-capacity 777s with 332 seats instead of 280 for its long-haul Gatwick operations, in order to make them cost-competitive with Norwegian.
Virgin America will add SFO-Orlando flights next year. (Image: Virgin America)
In domestic route news, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America provide details of their new San Francisco flights; American Airlines adds routes at Washington Reagan National and Phoenix, but drops one from Los Angeles; Delta adds a pair of Florida routes; OneJet expands at Pittsburgh; and Frontier will resume seasonal Cleveland-West Coast service.
Alaska Airlines has announced details of the new San Francisco services it mentioned earlier this week. On June 14, Alaska’s Virgin America unit will begin daily A320 flights from SFO to Orlando – but you’ll have to wake up early, because they depart SFO at 6:30 a.m.
On June 15, Alaska will expand its California Corridor presence by launching three daily SFO-Orange County roundtrips, increasing to four on July 18. (You might recall that Virgin America jumped into the SFO-SNA market in 2009, only to jump back out less than a year later in the face of stiff competition from Southwest.). Also on July 18, Alaska adds a pair of daily San Francisco-Minneapolis-St. Paul roundtrips. The Orange County and MSP flights will use 76-seat SkyWest E175s with first class, premium class and main cabin seating.
Delta is beefing up its east coast presence with new service from Boston to Florida. On February 18, Delta will begin twice-daily service from Boston to Tampa, and on February 17 it starts weekend-only (Saturday and Sunday) flights from Boston to Ft. Myers. (JetBlue also flies both routes.) Both routes will use Airbus A319s.
An American Eagle/Republic E175 will fly from Washington D.C. to Northwest Arkansas. (Image: American Airlines)
American Airlines plans to expand at Washington Reagan National in the spring. On April 4, it will kick off new daily American Eagle/Republic Airlines service from DCA to Northwest Arkansas Airport in Fayetteville (near Walmart headquarters) with an Embraer 175. And on the same date it will begin twice-daily American Eagle/PSA Airlines service from DCA to Grand Rapids, Mich., with CRJ 200s; and daily Eagle/Republic roundtrips from DCA to Pensacola, Fla., with an E175.
Meanwhile, American this month began new American Eagle/SkyWest daily CRJ 700 service between its Phoenix hub and Santa Fe, N.M. American used to fly to Santa Fe from Los Angeles, but discontinued that service in 2015. It also serves Santa Fe from Dallas/Ft. Worth. And speaking of Los Angeles, American has decided to discontinue its three-year-old non-stop service between LAX and Pittsburgh as of February 14.
OneJet uses small Hawker 400XPs on short-haul routes. (Image: OneJet)
One airline that’s growing at Pittsburgh is OneJet, which operates small business jets in regional markets under public charter rules. OneJet plans to begin daily PIT-Richmond service March 1, followed by daily PIT-Albany flights March 22. It already flies from Pittsburgh to Hartford, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Louisville and Cincinnati.
Frontier Airlines, which introduced seasonal flights last year from Cleveland to four West Coast cities, is bringing them back in 2017. In April, Frontier will add service from Cleveland to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland, with flights operating three or four days a week and fares starting as low as $79 one way.
Will Airberlin be absorbed into Lufthansa? (Photo: Air Berlin)
It looks like Germany’s second-largest airline will be absorbed into its largest as Lufthansa moves in on Airberlin.
The dealings in Germany could affect U.S. travelers because Airberlin has routes to a number of U.S. cities from its bases at Berlin and Dusseldorf; it recently announced plans to begin San Francisco-Berlin and Los Angeles-Berlin flights next summer. Lufthansa’s U.S. flights go into its hubs at Frankfurt and Munich.
According to German media, Airberlin has been facing financial difficulties for some time, and has been propped up by Etihad Airways, which owns a 30 percent stake in the German carrier. And Etihad has recently been negotiating with Lufthansa over Airberlin’s fate.
Last week, Lufthansa agreed to lease 38 planes and crews from Airberlin; the Airbus A319s and A320s will go to Lufthansa’s growing Eurowings low-cost subsidiary and to Austrian Airlines, which Lufthansa also owns. Lufthansa also agreed to begin code-sharing with Etihad starting next month, putting its LH code onto the latter’s flights from Frankfurt and Munich to Abu Dhabi.
And this week, Airberlin’s board appointed a new CEO for the airline: Thomas Winkelmann, a longtime Lufthansa senior executive. The German financial newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the German federal government and state governments in Munich and Dusseldorf “have agreed to facilitate Airberlin’s gradual integration into Lufthansa, which would lead to the effective merger of the nation’s top two airlines.” And the prominent industry publication Aviation Week said that Lufthansa “has begun to look at ways that it could integrate the remaining parts” of Airberlin following that big lease agreement.
There was no immediate word on the likely fate of Airberlin’s long-haul aircraft, like the two-class A330s it flies to the U.S. Airberlin is a member of American Airlines’ Oneworld global alliance, While Lufthansa is part of United’s Star Alliance.
Expansive check-in hall at Frankfurt Airport’s new Terminal 3. (Image: Fraport)
German government officials reportedly didn’t want to see Etihad negotiate a sale of Airberlin to a foreign carrier. But a combination of Airberlin and Lufthansa will face possible opposition on antitrust grounds, Handelsblatt noted. “With 30.3 million passengers and more than $4.2 billion in revenue last year, Airberlin is a big fish to swallow, even for a carrier the size of Lufthansa,” the newspaper said.
Much of Lufthansa’s growth is concentrated on its Eurowings unit, which it sees as its primary weapon in competition against giant intra-European low-cost carriers like Ryanair and Easyjet. Earlier this month, Lufthansa said it would purchase the remaining 55 percent of Brussels Airlines that it doesn’t already own. So Lufthansa’s growing aviation empire will include Austrian Airlines, Swiss International, Brussels Airlines – and probably Airberlin, although that carrier’s identity might not survive. Even without Airberlin, the Lufthansa Group would control 700 aircraft, with up to 180 of them in Eurowings.
Many reasons to love Portland PDX Airport! But what about ATL, SFO, or… LGA? (Image: Port of Portland)
The nation’s favorite large airport, according to the poll of 39,000 North American travelers? It’s Portland International (PDX), for the second year in a row, scoring 786 on a 1,000-point scale.
In its 11th annual survey of traveler satisfaction with U.S. airports, J.D. Power and Associates found that customers are a little happier overall with the airport experience than they were last year – but the company suggests that may not last, as some facilities are embarking on huge construction projects that will impede passenger access.
Tampa came in second (775) and Las Vegas McCarran ranked third (759). The lowest satisfaction score among the 31 large airports in the study went to New York LaGuardia (649), just below Newark Liberty International (669). Also ranking in the bottom five were Philadelphia, Chicago O’Hare and Boston Logan.
The average score for the group was 724, and San Francisco International barely topped that at 725, while Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson rated 733. Los Angeles International was sixth from the bottom at 702.
Among medium-sized airports, the top three, in descending order, were Indianapolis, Buffalo and Ft. Myers/Southwest Florida. Cleveland Hopkins was dead last with a 704 score, just below Maui’s Kahului and Connecticut’s Bradley International, both at 724; and Oakland International, at 726. Ranking slightly above the median score of 760 were San Jose at 761 and Orange County/John Wayne at 765.
J.D. Power noted that the overall increase in the average satisfaction score — 731 this year vs. 725 in 2015 —came despite increased passenger traffic of 5 to 6 percent nationwide.
Construction of a new, grander LaGuardia Airport is causing headaches for travelers. (Image: New York Governor’s Office)
But the polling firm warns that passenger satisfaction could be damaged by big construction projects in the works at some major airports. “This heavy construction will make it more difficult for travelers to access the airport and, once there, it will likely make it even more difficult to navigate the crowded terminals,” the company said.
We’ve already seen evidence of problems like this at New York LaGuardia, which has started a multi-billion-dollar reconstruction. Other major infrastructure projects in the works include Los Angeles International and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson. (In fact, J.D. Power noted that passenger satisfaction at ATL dropped nine points in the past year.)
Here are the complete listings:
In many cases, it’s more about the airport terminal than the airport overall. For example, the new TBIT International terminal at LAX is awesome, but the rest of the airport leaves a lot to be desired. And anyone who has flown Southwest via SFO’s slouchy (now under renovation) Terminal 1 should know that it’s a far cry from the world class Terminal 2 or United’s nice T3E boarding area. Same goes for JFK- some terminals (like Delta’s new T4) are nice, others not so much.
Readers, do you agree with J.D. Power’s poll results? Which airport do you consider the best or worst, and why?
The Alaska Virgin America deal is done. More details to come. (Image: Alaska Airlines)
Virgin America and Alaska Airlines today officially closed their merger, which means that Virgin America is now a fully-owned subsidiary of Alaska Air Group. To celebrate, Alaska Air is flying a freshly painted, brand new 737 to San Francisco this morning for a big event. TravelSkills will be there, so stay tuned for a full report (and photos) on the festivities!
Most important for now: The Virgin America website says that travelers should not expect to see any major changes to the Virgin America product or onboard experience within the next 12 months.
The combined airline is now the fifth largest airline in the U.S, and the largest on the West Coast, offering travelers more flights and more rewards.
New benefits for guests will launch on Monday, December 19, 2016 including the ability for Elevate members to earn points on Alaska flights (and vice versa), priority airport benefits for elite frequent flyer members, and a new codeshare agreement. Yes, this means that Bay Area travelers can will soon earn Virgin points on Alaska flights to/from San Jose and Oakland!
British Airways added San Jose-London service last spring with a new 787-9. (Image: British Airways)
Mineta San Jose International Airport is entering a real boom period, with both domestic and international airlines adding new routes right and left. With a growing regional population and a perfect location as the gateway to one of the world’s biggest technology hubs, Mineta San Jose is well positioned for continued growth into the 21st century.
That technology hub, of course, is Silicon Valley. Some of the world’s leading tech giants have offices no more than a dozen miles from SJC, including companies like Apple, Google, Symantec, Intel, Cisco, Adobe Systems, Netflix, SanDisk and many more. Not only is a trip to Mineta San Jose a fraction of the distance to San Francisco International Airport for these companies, but SJC’s smaller size makes the airport experience less hectic for passengers (through the first nine months of 2016, SJC boarded fewer than 4 million passengers, vs. almost 20 million at SFO).
With all those business travelers close by, and with its fast-growing, high-income population (San Jose is the 10th largest city in the U.S., and its metropolitan area has a median household income of $100,385), it’s not surprising that airlines are eager to accommodate that market.
Lufthansa uses an A340-300 on its new San Jose-Frankfurt route. (Image: BriYYZ/Wikimedia Commons)
In recent months, Mineta San Jose has attracted new routes from several international airlines, among them:
Lufthansa this past summer began flying non-stop to Frankfurt five times a week, using a 298-passenger, three-class A340-300. Through its Frankfurt hub, the German carrier offers connections to 100 cities in Europe and beyond.
British Airways last spring kicked off the first non-stop service from SJC to London Heathrow, using a brand-new, 216-passenger, four-class Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. It’s BA’s fourth destination in California, along with Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
In September, Air China launched a new transpacific route from SJC to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, making San Jose the airline’s 10th North American gateway. The Chinese carrier uses a two-class, 237-seat Airbus A330-200 to fly the new route three days a week. SJC Aviation Director Kim Becker said the new route is expected to bring $65 million a year in economic investment to the San Jose area.
It’s not as far away, but another new international destination for SJC that started this year is Vancouver. Air Canada last spring kicked off twice-daily service between the two cities, using Bombardier CRJ-705s. Airport officials noted that Vancouver is sometimes called Silicon Valley North, since more than 200 Silicon Valley companies have offices there.
While the Lufthansa and British Airways flights represented SJC’s most recent transatlantic non-stops, it already offered transpacific service to Tokyo with All Nippon Airways (ANA) and to Beijing with Hainan Airlines.
Alaska, Southwest, United and JetBlue are all growing at SJC. (Image: Jim Glab)
New domestic routes are also proliferating. San Jose got another new transcontinental flight last month, when Southwest Airlines began a daily roundtrip to Baltimore/Washington International. At the same time, Southwest also started new twice-daily SJC-Salt Lake City service. And American Airlines this past summer added daily seasonal service between SJC and its Charlotte hub.
In March of next year, both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines are set to begin new daily non-stops from SJC to Newark Liberty International, and United will start twice-daily flights from SJC to its big Chicago O’Hare hub as well. In mid-May, Delta will add a third daily SJC-Atlanta flight.
Intra-California traffic is also booming, attracting new service in the California corridor. Last summer, Alaska Airlines started flying three times a day from SJC to both San Diego and Orange County’s John Wayne Airport. And on January 4, JetBlue will kick off SJC-Long Beach service, offering four daily roundtrips, followed by three daily Alaska Airlines flights to Burbank beginning in mid-March.
You can find more details about new San Jose routes here.
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Air Canada will use regional jets like the Embraer 190 on new U.S. routes. (Image: Air Canada)
In international route news, Air Canada will add some new transborder routes next year; Virgin Atlantic will drop a key U.S.-London service; China’s Hainan Airlines applies for rights to two U.S. cities; United suspends two Europe routes this winter and one next summer; American goes all-787 on a London route; Volaris adds two U.S.-Mexico routes and Delta drops one.
Air Canada said it plans to add or expand half a dozen U.S. routes next spring, using regional jets on all of them. On May 1, the airline will begin new daily service from Toronto to San Antonio and Memphis, and its Vancouver to Phoenix service will be expanded from seasonal to year-round. On the same date, Air Canada will start seasonal Toronto-Savannah, Ga., flights for the summer, operating six times a week through October 15. On May 18, Air Canada will begin twice-daily flights between Vancouver and Denver, and on May 26 it will add daily flights between Montreal and Dallas/Ft. Worth.
Virgin Atlantic’s summer Chicago-London Heathrow flights, which last year operated from mid-May through mid-October, will not resume in 2017, according to Routesonline.com. Virgin said suspension of the Chicago flights will allow it to add a third daily Los Angeles-London flight, as previously announced.
Hainan wants to add 787 flights from Chengdu to LAX and New York. (Photo: San Jose Airport)
What’s the big attraction of Chengdu, in central China’s Sichuan province? For one thing, it has a population exceeding 10 million. China’s Hainan Airlines has asked the U.S. Transportation Department for rights to fly to Chengdu twice a week from Los Angeles in the first quarter of 2017, and three times a week from New York in the second quarter, using 787s on both routes. It already has the approval of China’s government. Chengdu is already served by United from San Francisco, by China Eastern from LAX via Nanjing and Sichuan Airlines from LACX via Hangzhou.
United Airlines plans a temporary suspension of two routes to Germany this winter, according to Routesonline.com. United will drop its four weekly Newark-Hamburg 767 flights from January 9 through May 4, and its five weekly Houston-Munich 767 roundtrips from January 10 through April 3. And next summer, United has reportedly decided not to offer previously planned seasonal daily 757 flights between Newark and Oslo, which had been scheduled to operate from May 5 to September 5.
The main cabin on an America Airlines 787. (Image: American)
American Airlines, which currently uses 767s and 777s on its Chicago O’Hare-London Heathrow route, reportedly plans to change over to all 787-8 Dreamliners for those flights beginning March 5. The airline’s three daily ORD-LHR flights will be supplemented with a fourth daily 787 roundtrip for the summer starting April 4. AA also will replace its daily 767-300ER flight from O’Hare to Dublin with a 787-8 from July 5 through October 4.
Delta’s daily Los Angeles-Guadalajara 737-800 flight is due to be discontinued February 1. But Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris continues to expand transborder service. This month, it started daily A320 roundtrips from Monterrey to Denver, and in March it is due to launch twice-weekly service from Guadalajara to Milwaukee.
Sunset at the Golden Gate Bridge (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
If you have cross-country flying in your future, now’s the time to book your winter flights. Today nearly all airlines are heavily discounting transcon flights between New York and California, California and Florida, California and Atlanta, Seattle and New York or Boston.
What’s nice is that these these fares apply to nearly all flights from January through March– and all major carriers are participating. And what’s unusual is the time frame of this sale– these fares are good all the way into March, which means they’ll apply during the busy and expensive Spring Break period, too.
Anytime we see fares below $300 for transcontinental flights, we know that we have a very good deal on our hands. Now’s the time to book if you have business on either of the coasts, or would like to visit Florida for some mid-winter sun!
A few examples of great deals on transcon nonstops:>
>SFO/LAX-Miami or Ft Lauderdale: $275-$295 roundtrip (all) UPDATE: $217 roundtrip on AA, UA (!)
A Qantas 787 will fly the carrier’s longest nonstop route (Image: Qantas)
Today Qantas announced that it will soon operate the first nonstop flight between Australia and Europe: Perth-London. It will be the carrier’s longest route. Flights won’t start until March 2018 using the Australian carrier’s new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which carries 236 passengers. The flight is expected to take about 17 hours and cover 9,010 miles. When Qantas created the first “Kangaroo route” to London in 1947, it took four days and nine stops. According to this CNN article, San Francisco-Delhi on an Air India 777 is the longest route by distance, at 9,400 miles- but due to winds, that flight could be shorter in duration. Other sources say that the current longest flight in the world is Emirates nonstop between Dubai and Auckland at 8,824 miles.
Also this weekend, seats on United’s new Boeing 777-300ER, which will include the new Polaris business class seat, went on sale. Would you like to give the new bird- and that new Polaris seat a try? On February 16, United flight 443 departs SFO at 12:40 pm and arrives EWR at 9 pm. UA1920 departs Newark at 7 am and arrives SFO at 10:23 am. If you want to fly up front, a round trip Polaris business class seat on the inaugural flight from San Francisco to Newark is currently selling for a steep $3,075 one way. (Later in the month, the business class fare drops to about $1,500 each way.) The new 10-across Economy class is much cheaper– about $186 one way. United will fly its new 777 on SFO-EWR from February 16-May 4. Starting on March 25, a new 777 will fly between SFO and Hong Kong. Polaris business class fares are about $2,700 each way. Economy class is running $745 round trip. When we checked on Sunday, it appeared that so far eight Polaris seats had sold on the inaugural SFO>HKG run.
Seat availability on United’s inaugural Polaris business class flight SFO-EWR
TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):
TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis doling out the travel tips at SFO for CNN (Image: CNN)
During the holidays, I’m frequently on TV and radio doling out travel advice as the holiday hordes anticipate their trips. Here are my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
Q: When’s the best time to buy airline tickets for Christmas? Due to high demand, there simply are not any real airfare “deals” on the peak days around Christmas and New Year’s this year. Travelers who want the most convenient flights on their preferred airlines should book as soon as possible to get seats on those flights – otherwise they will likely be stuck paying the same high price for less desirable flights that depart super early or late, they’ll have to sit in those dreaded middle seats, or make several stops en route to their destinations. Best way to monitor air fares: Google Flights
Q: Should I drive or fly this year? I always stick to the five hour rule: If you can drive to your destination in five hours or less, it’s likely smarter to hit the road instead of the skies during the holidays. This is especially true for families traveling together. If you haven’t done so yet, download the Waze app, a GPS-based mapping tool that uses information provided by other drivers to help you avoid traffic, road hazards – and speed traps! Find least expensive gasoline using GasBuddy.
Q: What’s a good way to avoid holiday travel stress? Always try to book nonstop flights, because you double your chances of a delay or cancellation with a one-stop flight, even though you might save a few bucks. Another stress-busting move: Consider staying over in a hotel when visiting families during the holidays. Rates at mid-range hotels in or near airports or suburban office parks hit annual lows during holidays (due to the lack of business travelers), and facilities are usually new and nice. For example, the popular Best Western Plus Grosvenor hotel has rates as low as $80 per night over Christmas weekend- they are normally around $150. Having your own space at a hotel is a big relief for both the traveler and the host during the stressful holidays.
Christmas weekend rates at this Best Western Plus near SFO tumble to just $80 per night on Dec 23-25- rates are normally closer to $150 (Photo: Best Western)
Q: Are there any alternatives or hidden secrets to getting good deals this year? If you have the flexibility to travel during the slowest times of year, the so-called “dead weeks” of early December and early January, you can save 50-70 percent on airfare or hotels. Some ski resorts will discount lift tickets during dead weeks. It’s also a good idea to check out airline or hotel social media streams on sites like Twitter or Facebook to look for short term, last minute sales. For example, JetBlue has an extraordinary “12 Days of Christmas” sale this month with some great bargains for those who are ready to drop everything and go. (Note: The JetBlue sale has been so popular that it’s frequently overloaded the site this week, so keep trying.)
Q: Is now a good time to redeem points or miles for trips? It’s nearly impossible to use airline frequent flyer awards during the blacked out, heavily restricted peak holiday season. On the other hand, demand for hotels declines during holidays, which means that it’s a lot easier to redeem those hard-earned loyalty points—or find good last minute deals. This is also a good time of year to consider using your credit card points to pay for pricey airfare and hotels. Why is now great time to consider a new credit card? See this.
Q: What about airline baggage fees? If possible, avoid checking bags during the holidays; the risk of your bag getting lost and ruining your trip is just too high. Try to learn to live out of a carry-on. If you have too much for a carry on, ship your bags ahead of time, but do so at the “ground” rate at UPS, FedEx or the Postal Service. Shipping a 25 lb. bag via next-day or two-day express is just too expensive. How expensive? See this.
The airline said the expanded seating in the 5,600-square-foot lounge can now accommodate 140 passengers, using contemporary furnishings from the British manufacturer Boss Design. Guests will now find power plugs and charging stations near every seat, and the Club’s Wi-Fi has been improved with higher speeds.
American Express Platinum and Reserve cardholders get comped access to Delta Sky Clubs. Individual annual membership fees run around $450 depending on your Medallion tier. And single visit passes are available for $59.
The RDU Sky Club — located post-security on Terminal 2’s second level, across from Gate C3 – also features a larger business center, and the free beverages at the lounge’s bar now include local craft beers from Carolina Brewing Company, along with wines, seasonal cocktails and Starbucks coffee and espresso.
The RDU Sky Club overhaul is just the latest in a series of projects for the airline’s lounges. Early next year, Delta said it expects to unveil an expansion of its Club at Newark Liberty International, with a redesigned bar and additional food options. At New York JFK’s Terminal 4 and Atlanta’s Concourse E, Delta plans to add spa services including seated chair massages with meditation audio/videos and a new line of spa and wellness products.
Here are some more views of the RDU Sky Club, courtesy of Delta:
Norwegian Air is upsetting the apple cart even more on transatlantic fares for summer trips. (Image: David Peacock / Norwegian Air)
>Upstart low-fare carrier Norwegian Air poised to put even more pressure fares to Europe next summer with more flights
Last week, we reported that low-cost European carrier Norwegian plans to add a new route from Orlando to Paris next year, and to expand Paris frequencies from Los Angeles, New York and Ft. Lauderdale in July. From the Bay Area, it recently added London and Barcelona. But now Norwegian has even more plans to add cheap flights in 2017, especially to London and Ireland.
For one thing, Norwegian just announced plans to increase capacity between the U.S. and London Gatwick starting in mid-April. The airline said Oakland-Gatwick frequencies will increase from three flights a week to five; its Los Angeles-Gatwick schedule will grow from five flights a week to daily service; Ft. Lauderdale-Gatwick increases from one weekly flight to two; and Orlando-Gatwick will grow from two weekly flights to three. In August, Norwegian will boost its New York JFK-Gatwick from seven flights a week to 13.
And that’s not all. Last week, the U.S. Transportation Department finally awarded a foreign air carrier permit to Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International – despite rabid opposition from U.S. airlines. The U.S. said it had no choice but to issue the permit under terms of the U.S.-Europe Open Skies agreement.
U.S,. travelers will get more low-fare Norwegian seats to London Gatwick in 2017. (Image: Jim Glab)
And Norwegian said as soon as that decision came down, it immediately started planning new services from the U.S. to Ireland; it expects to announce details early next year and to start flying next summer.
Norwegian said it is currently planning to launch new flights from “the Greater Boston and Greater New York areas” to Ireland’s Cork and Shannon airports. It hasn’t figured out pricing yet, but it noted that other U.S. route introductions typically featured starting fares as low as $69 one way, and average roundtrip prices of $300 to $350 including taxes. However, the airline’s many add-on fees typically boost the total travel cost.
USA Today reports that Norwegian will fly from New York’s suburban Newburgh Airport and perhaps Portsmouth NH using new smaller 737 MAX jets instead of its stable of larger Dreamliners.
A BART train at San Francisco International. (Image: Peter Biaggi / San Francisco International Airport)
Last week, we reported that the Bay Area Rapid Transit System’s new line to Oakland International Airport is losing money due to competition from ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. But now there’s news that BART’s San Francisco International service is suffering the same problem.
According to the San Francisco Examiner, BART officials found that ridership on the overall BART network during October was down 1.7 percent compared to the same month a year ago; they also said that the airport line to SFO is performing 9.6 percent under budget.
Currently the BART fare from SFO to downtown San Francisco is $8.65 one-way and takes about 30 minutes. UberX or Lyft fares SFO to city run about $25-30.
And they made it clear that the slump in ridership is due to an explosion of rides on car-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. SFO airport rides by Uber vehicles increased from about 81,000 pick-ups and drop-offs in October 2014 to 469,823 in October 2016. For Lyft, the comparable numbers were 16,784 and 108,388 respectively. The ride-sharing services were authorized to serve the airport in 2014.
The newspaper said a BART official told it that Uber and Lyft have “changed the environment” for travel to and from the airport, with rail ridership leveling off in 2015 after being on a growth track.
BART’s board of directors have told the agency’s officials that rather than looking to cut service, they should try to find new ways to increase ridership. BART is said to be considering group discounts as one possibility.
According to the East Bay Times, figures from BART indicate that the Oakland Connector line is losing money and seeing its ridership decline – even though the airport’s passenger numbers are rising.Specifically, instead of meeting BART’s initial expectation of a $2 million profit on the Airport Connector during its first two years, the line has lost $860,000. And during the third quarter of this year, rider numbers fell 4.5 percent from the same period a year earlier.
What about you? How has your getting-to-the-airport routine changed since the emergence of ride sharing? Has this trend reached beyond the Bay Area? Please leave your comments below.
LAX’s Terminal 1.5 will link T1 and T2. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)
In airport news this week, Los Angeles moves forward with a couple of new construction projects; Delta overhauls its Sky Club at Raleigh-Durham; Chicago introduces a new tool for passengers to determine taxi waiting times; Minneapolis-St. Paul adds some new gates and restaurants; and Air Canada cuts the ribbon on a Maple Leaf lounge at Montreal.
Pending final approval from the city council, the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners has given a tentative OK to environmental and design plans for what it is calling the Terminal 1.5 project – construction of a six-level, 417,500 square foot building connecting Terminals 1 (Southwest) and Terminal 2 (International). It won’t have any boarding gates, but will provide a new baggage claim area on the lower level, a ticketing lobby on the upper level, security screening on the concourse level and office space on the top two levels. Pre-security walkways on the first two levels will connect Terminals 1 and 2. The facility is expected to open in the summer of 2019. Meanwhile, airport officials are releasing a request for qualifications for design and construction of LAX’s planned Consolidated Rent-A-Car Center, which will be near Interstate 405 in Manchester Square. It will be linked to terminals by an automated people-mover system.
On December 6, Delta officials will cut the ribbon on the airline’s renovated Sky Club at Raleigh-Durham Airport, located on the second level of Terminal 2 across from Gate C3. The club has new contemporary furnishings; power outlets and charging stations near every seat; faster Wi-Fi; an expanded business center; a bar with free beverages including local craft beers, premium wines and cocktails as well as Starbucks coffee and self-serve espresso machines.
LoLo American Kitchen has opened in MSP’s Terminal 1. (Image: SSP America)
Noting that passenger counts at its Terminal 2 (Humphrey Terminal) have increased by 5.4 percent this year, Minneapolis-St. Paul International said it has opened four new aircraft gates at that terminal, which is used by Southwest, Sun Country, Icelandair and Condor. Besides the new gates (H11-H14), the project also included a new nursing mothers’ room and an indoor pet/service animal relief area. In Terminal 1, meanwhile, two new food and beverage options have opened. Concourse E is home to LoLo American Kitchen and Craft Bar, with seasonal local cuisine and craft beers; and Concourse D is the site of Republic, a “gastropub” offering local beers and small plate cuisine – along with live music performances during peak travel periods.
The Chicago Department of Aviation announced a new texting tool that passengers can use to get live updates on taxi waiting line times at the city’s two airports. Users simply text the word “taxi” to 312-883-8404 for O’Hare Airport waiting times, or 312-883-7969 for Midway Airport. The city also offers “e-hailing” for taxis through apps available at www.Chicabs.org, and the Aviation Department provides taxi wait times, traffic updates, weather and special travel alerts through its website at www.flychicago.com.
The food service area in Air Canada’s Montreal Maple Leaf Lounge. (Image: Air Canada)
Following a year-long overhaul, Air Canada’s International Maple Leaf Lounge at Montreal Trudeau has reopened. Located between Gates 52 and 53, the 11,000-square foot facility has room for 259 passengers. It has floor to ceiling windows, a full service bar with free drinks, a live food station, specialty coffees, free Wi-Fi, showers, a work area and more. It’s open to eligible Air Canada and Star Alliance customers.
Havana this week became the 100th point on JetBlue’s route map. (Image: JetBlue)
In international route developments, major U.S. carriers this week started service to Havana; Virgin Atlantic expands capacity out of Los Angeles; Qatar Airways will add another U.S. gateway; Norwegian increases service to Paris; two carriers add Vancouver routes to China, and one begins Las Vegas flights; San Francisco gets more capacity to Panama; and a Mexican low-cost carrier starts a Chicago route.
Major U.S. airlines this week are starting their long-planned new service to Havana, Cuba. American Airlines operated the first scheduled flight in 50 years, on its new Miami-Havana route. American also kicked off Havana service from its Charlotte hub this week. United Airlines started flying from its Newark hub to Havana, and this weekend it will add a weekly Saturday flight from Houston Bush Intercontinental to the Cuban capital. Havana became the 100th city on JetBlue’s route map, with the carrier starting service there this week from New York JFK, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale.
Delta on December 1 is set to begin Havana flights from Atlanta, Miami and New York JFK. And there’s more to come, including Southwest Airlines service to Havana from Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale beginning December 12, and Alaska Airlines’ service from Los Angeles starting January 5. Despite all the hoopla about U.S. airlines returning to Cuba, there is still some uncertainty about whether or not the incoming Trump Administration will allow these flights – and other Obama-initiated liberalizations – to continue. Trump has threatened to end some or all of the new U.S.-Cuba initiatives unless he can get a better “deal” from the Cubans.
Virgin Atlantic’s LAX Clubhouse has views of the runway and, in a really clear day, the Hollywood Hills. (Image: Virgin Atlantic)
Delta SkyMiles members on the west coast will see more capacity to London Heathrow in 2017 as Delta joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic plans to add a third daily Los Angeles-LHR flight starting on May 1. All three of Virgin’s daily LAX-London flights will use three-class 787-9s. The three flights will depart LAX at 5:50 p.m., 6:30 p.m. (the new one) and 8:55 p.m. (Interesting to note that all of Virgin’s SFO-LHR flights are now on 787s, too.)
Qatar Airways, which started service from Doha to three new U.S. cities this year – Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles – said it plans to add Las Vegas as its 11th U.S. gateway in 2017, although it hasn’t yet announced a starting date or schedule details.
Norwegian plans to increase capacity between the U.S. and Paris in 2017. (Image: Norweigan)
According to Routesonline.com, Norwegian plans to add Orlando-Paris Charles de Gaulle as its newest transatlantic route in 2017, starting service July 31 with one 787 flight a week. The report said Norwegian will also increase capacity on other U.S. routes to Paris at the end of July, boosting Los Angeles-CDG frequencies from two a week to four; New York JFK-CDG from four a week to daily flights; and Ft. Lauderdale-CDG from one to two a week for the summer season.
December 2 is the launch date for Hainan Airlines’ new Las Vegas-Beijing route. The carrier will use a 787 to operate three flights a week. In other China developments, China Eastern Airlines is due to begin a new route between Vancouver and Nanjing three times a week beginning December 20, using an Airbus A330-200; it already flies from Vancouver to Shanghai and Kunming. And Hong Kong Airlines plans to launch daily Hong Kong-Vancouver flights – subject to government approvals – on June 30 as its first North American route.
At San Francisco International, Panama’s Copa Airlines — a Star Alliance member — has added a second daily roundtrip to Panama City with the unfortunate departure time of 12:38 a.m. from SFO. And at Chicago O’Hare, Mexican low-cost carrier Interjet has started flying to Mexico City. The airline is operating two flights a day with 150-seat Airbus A320s.
The BART link to Oakland Airport is losing money and riders. (Photo: BART)
It was just two years ago that the Bay Area Rapid Transit system launched service on its Airport Connector line from Coliseum Station to Oakland Airport. But now the line is having money problems in the face of competition from ride-sharing companies.
According to the East Bay Times, figures from BART indicate that the Oakland Connector line is losing money and seeing its ridership decline – even though the airport’s passenger numbers are rising. Specifically, instead of meeting BART’s initial expectation of a $2 million profit on the Airport Connector during its first two years, the line has lost $860,000. And during the third quarter of this year, rider numbers fell 4.5 percent from the same period a year earlier.
At the same time, the report noted, business on ride-sharing services like Uber, Lyft and Wingz has tripled. The fact that airport passenger numbers grew by 6 percent while BART’s Airport Connector ridership has dropped indicates to airport officials that the ride-sharing companies are benefiting at the expense of the mass transit line.
Also, Oakland Airport makes driving to the airport more attractive by offering a variety of on-airport parking discounts and freebies based on your airline or destination. More on those here.
The AirBART station is located at the front door of Oakland International
There has been some speculation that BART’s $6 fare for a ride to OAK might be too expensive compared with the convenience of door-to-door ridesharing service. BART officials defend the service, noting that the airport line coves 96 percent of its operating costs with passenger fares, vs. 76 percent for the BART system overall. Still, they say BART will take a comprehensive look at its fare structure in 2017, not just for the Oakland Airport Connector but for the whole system.
New airline service is boosting OAK’s passenger numbers. Southwest Airlines has been building up more domestic routes out of Oakland Airport, and transatlantic travelers are seeing new low-cost options from Norwegian Air Shuttle, which keeps adding European routes at OAK. Norwegian’s inauguration of Oakland-London Gatwick flights earlier this year has drawn a competitive response from British Airways, which will fly the same route starting in March 2017.
Have you used the BART connector or flown to or from Oakland lately? How does it compare to other Bay Area airports? Please leave your comments below.
>The new United Polaris lounge at SFO will be located in the space now occupied by the existing United Club in Boarding Area G (near security) and will be one of the largest United Polaris lounges. Phase 1 of the new lounge is scheduled to open mid-2017 with a full completion by the end of 2017.
>The new Polaris lounge will have two levels. It will encompass the existing United Club space (upstairs) plus the footprint of the adjacent existing Singapore Air and Eva Airlines lounges (downstairs). The new United Polaris lounge will welcome these airlines’ passengers under the same entrance requirements for United passengers. (This represents a long-awaited upgrade to Singapore Air’s dated lounge at SFO.)
>Only customers traveling in United Polaris business class or United Polaris Global First on long-haul international flights, as well as customers traveling in international first or business class cabins on Star Alliance partner airlines will have access to the United Polaris lounge. This includes super elite Global Services members who are not flying business or first class- we asked United for clarification on this and they restated the strict policy: Customers ticketed for United Polaris business class or United Polaris first class, as well as customers traveling in international first or business class cabins on Star Alliance™ partner airlines will have access to the United Polaris lounges.
The new Polaris Lounge will be located near gate 92A- upper right of this image. New United Clubs will be on both sides of corridor near gates 93 and 94. CLICK for larger map (Image: SFO)
So, what about United Club members who are not traveling in business or first class? Where will they lounge in Boarding Area G? United’s got you covered with TWO new United Clubs located near gates 93 and 94.
The first new United Club will open by Gate 93 in mid-2017. Although unconfirmed by United, I’m assuming the new space currently houses the rarely used #Converge@FlySFO meeting room- a relatively small room. But fear not small spaces! United will renovate the current Global First lounge (across the corridor by gate 94), convert it into a United Club by early 2018. After that, United will continue to operate both Clubs, according to a spokesperson.
The current Converge@SFO space likely to be converted into United Club (Image: SFO)
What else does United have planned for the SFO lounge scene?
>While no hard date was provided, United says that the old-school United Club in Boarding Area F will be renovated as part of a larger renovation program for the terminal.
>United is looking at options for additional space for its newest United Club in Boarding Area E– which is a nice new addition (opened 2015), but is small and frequently overflowing.
>United will continue to offer its arrivals lounge on the lower level on Concourse G.
Thoughts? Questions? Please leave ’em in the comments and we’ll try to elicit answers from United.
United’s new club at LAX Terminal 7 has a glassed-in outdoor terrace. (Image: Matthew Klint)
As a part of its ongoing $573 million overhaul of passenger spaces at Los Angeles International’s Terminal 7, United Airlines on Monday cut the ribbon on a big new United Club at the airport. (Official opening date is Dec 6)
At 20,000 square feet, the club is one of the largest in United’s system — more than three times the size of its year-old San Francisco International club, for instance (See our review of SFO United Club here.)
From a perch atop Terminal 7, the lounge offers sweeping views of the airport, the Hollywood Hills and the city skyline. Plus the new United Club features an outdoor terrace along with a big enhancement of food and beverage options for members. Members can take their drinks or meals onto the terrace to enjoy an alfresco experience- and oh, so LA.
As I was preparing this post at my desk in San Francisco, fellow travel blogger Matthew Klint popped up on Twitter from LAX with photos of the ribbon cutting (with United CEO Oscar Munoz!) and this overview: “The lounge is quintessentially LA –50s style with a great mix of open space and comfort. The outdoor terrace provides great views and the lounge food will be locally sourced. Bathrooms are spacious (but no showers) and bar is well-stocked. Oscar says the Polaris Lounge in Chicago opening later this week will blow away even this spectacular lounge.”
The new LAX club is one of United’s largest- with spectacular views (Image: Matthew Klint)
The new club is just one part of a much larger rehabilitation of United’s Terminal 7/Concourse 8 at LAX, along with a new lobby and new baggage claim areas. The airline is also working with the Transportation Security Administration to install five new automated security screening lanes, like those United recently opened at Chicago O’Hare and Newark Liberty International.
Scroll down for our slideshow- all photos courtesy of Matthew Klint, editor of the LiveandLetsFly blog.
Check out that iconic LAX view!
All food to be locally sourced
Fantastic ramp and runway views all around
At 20,000 square feet, this lounge is larger than the new one at United’s SFO hub
No showers in the bathrooms, and United’s now standard airplane window mirrors
United CEO Oscar Munoz and blogger Matthew Klint
Many thanks to Matthew Klint for kindly acting as our correspondent and sending us photos from the ribbon cutting event in Los Angeles!
Oakland’s new Escape Lounge boasts nice tarmac views and more! (Photo: K Taylor)
This month, Oakland International Airport opened a new Escape Lounge that’s open to all passengers for a $45 one-time-use fee. It is located in Terminal 1 (all airlines except Southwest, which operates out of Terminal 2) between gates 8 and 8A, across from gate 9. The 2,700-square-foot facility can accommodate 50 travelers, and will have separate zones for relaxing, dining/drinking and work. It’s open daily from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.
The lounge is another of an increasing number of “common use” lounges found at other airports across the country. For example, MAG, the British company that runs Oakland’s lounge, also has outposts at Minneapolis-St Paul International and Bradley International in Hartford, CT. Similarly, there are 10 “The Club” lounges at airports across the US, including The Club at SJC, which which provides free access to business class passengers of international airlines operating there.
While the Escape lounge in Minneapolis offers access to holders of Priority Pass, the Oakland Escape lounge does not at this time.
The Escape lounge is best suited for business and first class passengers headed to Europe on Norwegian Air or British Airways (Photo: K Taylor)
Premium cabin customers of Norwegian Airlines flying non-stop from OAK to London-Gatwick, Oslo, Stockholm, and Barcelona will receive complimentary use of Escape Lounge. We are still awaiting final word on whether British Airways business class passengers will get comped access to the lounge when its London-Gatwick nonstops arrive at Oakland in April.
The lounge includes contemporary furniture and great runway and tarmac views. It also boasts, “An extensive complimentary locally inspired menu (see it below); a wide array of unlimited complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, including local coffee brand RoastCo; flight information screens; free high-speed Wi-Fi and reading materials” according to a press release. The bar offers a wide range of complimentary beer, wine and booze plus higher end brands and craft beers for $5-$15.
Well-known local Oakland chef Chris Pastena has developed breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Pastena owns Chop Bar, Lungomare and Calavera in Oakland.
Take a spin through our photos below:
Full bar (Photo: K Taylor)
(Photo: K Taylor)
Plenty of room to eat, work or relax, including semi-private booths (Photo: K Taylor)
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served (Photo: K. Taylor)
(Photo: Keonnis Taylor)
Chef Chris Pastena helped develop breakfast, lunch and dinner menus (Image: MAG)
Oakland’s Escape Lounge is located in Terminal 1 across from Gate 9 (Photo: K Taylor)
Oakland has been on a roll lately, adding new international flights, offering bennies like free parking, a new all-rail BART link to downtown San Francisco, and now, a new lounge.
Have you used Oakland Airport lately? Would you now? Please leave your comments below.
United & other carriers discounting business class across the pond for the holidays. (Image: United)
Before we get to the Top 10, let’s take a look at something exciting. Over the weekend, airlines have started to put business class on sale for Christmas/New Year’s flights. Since business travelers typically shy away from travel during the holidays, airlines will lower fares signficantly to fill up those empty flat beds. So if a lie-flat flight to Europe sounds nice, check out a few sample roundtrip business class holiday season fares that caught our eye when taking a spin through Google Flights on Saturday. Keep in mind that business class fares to Europe usually run in the $5,000+ range.
New York or Washington DC – Paris: $2,118 (United)
Atlanta-Paris: $2,368 (Air France)
San Francisco-Paris: $2,618 (United)
Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose-London $2,800 (British Airways, Virgin Atlantic) First class is $3,800
UGLY: This happened on Delta this week- and has already received 2 million views on Facebook. Yuck. Delta has apologized for the incident. Foul language warning! Click on video below or see full Facebook post here. Interview with witness here.
Delta’s statement on the incident: “Our responsibility for ensuring all customers feel safe and comfortable with Delta includes requiring civil behavior from everyone….The behavior we see in this video does not square with our training or culture and follow up will continue so we can better ensure our employees will know they will be fully supported to make the right decisions when these issues arise.”
How would you react if a passenger went off the hook like this on your flight? Leave your comments below.
Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:
A fast screening lane like this one at Atlanta has opened in United’s Newark Liberty International hub. (Image: Delta)
In airport news, Newark is the latest facility to start using automated TSA screening lanes to speed up the inspection process; British Airways plans a big upgrade of its terminal at New York JFK; healthy snack machines are coming to San Francisco International; Baltimore/Washington International opens a new connector between two concourses and a new security checkpoint; and Miami International adds a bunch of new shops and restaurants in its North Terminal.
United Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration have opened the first of 17 automated screening lanes coming to United’s hub at Newark Liberty International. Like the other automated lanes popping up around the country, the Newark lane allows several passengers to load their items into bins simultaneously; has an automated conveyor belt that pulls the bins into the x-ray machine instead of requiring travelers to push them; shunts questionable items off onto a separate belt for more detailed inspection without slowing down other passengers; and offers bins that are 25 percent larger than other lanes. The new automated lanes are expected to reduce screening wait times by 30 percent.
British Airways announced plans to spend $110 million improving its airport facilities in the U.S., and the bulk of that amount – more than $65 million – will be spent on its Terminal 7 at New York JFK. The airline said the JFK terminal will get an overhaul of check-in, security and gate areas as well as upgrades to its first class and business class lounges. The rest of the funding will be used for improvements to British Airways’ airport lounges at San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Houston and Seattle. (A BA spokesperson told TravelSkills that there’s no current update or timeline for the long-awaited expansion of its lounge at SFO’s International Terminal A.)
Healthy snack vending machines coming to SFO will accept smartphone payment systems. (Image: Gilly Vending)
Want to grab a quick snack at San Francisco International? You’ll get more healthy choices starting next year thanks to the airport’s new contract with Gilly Vending. The company said its vending machines will be stocked with “organic, gluten-free, low-salt, sugar-free and low-calorie” product selections. “The offerings in the new multi-year contract will highlight only premium quality snack products from recognized brands packed with an abundance of nutrients and antioxidants which are proven to boost energy and stamina such as dried fruits, coconut chips, carob, quinoa, chia, nuts and whole grains,” Gilly said. Yum! What’s more, the machines will accept cashless pay systems including Google, Android and Apple Pay.
The new D/E Connector and security checkpoint at BWI. (Image: Baltimore Washington Airport)
Baltimore/Washington International Airport has opened a new secure connector linking its Concourse D with its international Concourse E. The $125 million expansion project also includes a new security checkpoint for domestic and international passengers, as well as new passenger concessions and restrooms. The airport plans to eliminate the old security checkpoints for the D and E concourses. Other aspects of the project include an outdoor patio with airfield views, and a children’s play area. The connector will serve as an art gallery for displays of the work of local artists. Officials noted that BWI’s passenger traffic hit a record 24 million in 2015 and is continuing to grow this year.
Officials at Miami International have cut the ribbon on the North Terminal Marketplace – a collection of 10 new restaurants and shops intended to give travelers “a multi-cultural taste of Miami,” the airport said. Located between Gates D-26 and D-29, the marketplace includes a pizzeria; a Caribbean specialty restaurant; singer Gloria Estefan’s Estefan Kitchen Express; a farm-to-table restaurant called Fig and Fennel; an empanadas outlet; a seafood deli; and retail shops selling cigars, Miami Marlins merchandise, designer porcelain dolls, and fashions from Perry Ellis.
Recently CNN invited me out to the airport to talk about how travelers can best deal with delays and cancellations- here’s the nut of my seven tips- watch the video [below] for the full story.
1) Book the first flight of the day. The first flight usually spent the night at the airport, and does not need to fly in from somewhere else. Early flights are usually cheaper and less crowded, too.
2) Learn to live out of a carry on bag. I know this is easier said than done, but doing so can make or break a trip. TIP: Wear (and pack) all black! Thinking about shipping luggage ahead of time? Read this first!
3) Be sure airline has your updated contact info. When was the last time you updated your personal profile info? How will the airline reach you?
4) Be sure you have the latest version of the app of your airline downloaded to your phone. Also, use apps like Tripit, FlightStats, FlightAware, LoungeBuddy and HotelTonight if stranded. Note that most airlines no longer pay for hotel stays due to weather-related cancellations.
5) Buy day pass to airline airport club. Best $50-$60 you can spend. However, ask to take a peek into the club before you fork over the fee- many times clubs are more crowded than terminals! Use the LoungeBuddy app to locate your options.
6) Don’t stand in line if your flight is canceled! Get online or on the phone instead.
7) Know when to ask for a FULL REFUND! Did you know that airlines must refund your money if they cancel your flight for any reason? This only applies to cancellations or extreme delays.
Please take a watch for my tips and advice! How do YOU handle (or avoid) delays? Please leave your comments below!
The new satellite concourse at LAX (Image: YouTube/LAWA)
Sometimes it seems like Los Angeles International Airport is just one long, continuous construction project. And now passengers have another big expansion job to look forward to.
The city’s Board of Airport Commissioners has just given the green light to funding the construction of a $1.3 billion Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC) as an addition to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The first phase of the MSC will be a 12-gate facility located to the west of the TBIT and connected to it by a 1,000-foot-long passenger tunnel. It’s expected to become operational late in 2019.
The new satellite concourse is just wwest of the Bradley Terminal. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)
Work has already started on the site of the new concourse with the demolition of a pair of old hangars. The airports authority said a second phase will bring additional gates to the south end of the new concourse. Meanwhile, the airports body has also approved funding of a related Baggage Optimization Project, which will improve baggage handling capacity at both the new concourse and the TBIT.
Here’s a video fly-through look at the project:
Officials said the new MSC will include two gates capable of accommodating extra-large intercontinental aircraft like the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747-8. The other gates will be designed to handle smaller widebodies like the 777, 787 and A330. The concourse will also feature a variety of retail and dining venues and will have room for new airline lounges.
A tunnel will link the new concourse to the Bradley Terminal. (Image: Los Angeles World Airports)
The new MSC is just one part of the ongoing development projects at LAX. The airport and Delta also recently announced a seven-year, $1.9 billion overhaul of Terminals 2 and 3 so Delta can move there from Terminals 5 and 6. And the airport is also planning to construct a big automated people mover system that will link all the terminals with a new intermodal facility that should allow more travelers to use mass transportation to get to and from LAX.
More flights, more availability for award flights on Korean Air (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
In international route news, Korean Air plans to boost West Coast frequencies next year, Norwegian’s Las Vegas routes will be cut back to a seasonal basis; Aer Lingus adds a new U.S. gateway; Air Canada adds a pair of summer Europe routes from Vancouver; Fiji Airways will boost San Francisco service; two German airlines add new U.S. routes next summer; and ANA will start direct service to Mexico City.
Korean Air’s 2017 schedule plans include more flights to the West Coast, according to Routesonline.com. On March 26, Korean’s San Francisco-Seoul Incheon schedule is tentatively set to increase from seven flights a week to 12, then grow to 13 in June and 14 in September. The carrier will utilize a mix of B747-8 and B777s on the route. KAL likely added more capacity since Singapore Air moved its daily SFO-Seoul nonstop to LA to make way for its nonstop SFO-SIN service. From June through August, the airline will increase Los Angeles-Seoul Incheon frequencies from 14 to 19 flights a week. And Korean’s Seattle schedule shows daily flights during May, September and October, up from five a week for the same months this year. (FYI, Korean Air is a partner in Chase Ultimate Rewards- many readers love to unload their points to fly KAL in first or business class because space is frequently available. Get a new card, earn the bonus, and redeem away!)
Here’s how TravelSkills reader JS flew KAL in first class by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Korean Air SkyPass. He told us: “As you probably know it’s incredibly easy to find first class space on Korean since so few people in the U.S. either have those miles or know about the transfer process from Chase. In addition, even though Delta and Korean are both members of SkyTeam, Delta members cannot redeem their miles for first class on other SkyTeam carriers.”
Norwegian Air Shuttle has been growing at Las Vegas, but it has now decided that its four routes to Europe will operate seasonally instead of year-round. Why? Because it discovered this year that sometimes Las Vegas is just too hot in the summer for its planes to take off, so they’ve had to sit on the ground until temperatures dropped. The cutoff temperature for the airline’s 291-seat Dreamliners is 104 degrees, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, so for 2017 the airline will suspend its service to London, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen from late March until November. The publication said the airline is studying the possibility of rescheduling summer departure times to early morning or late in the day for 2018.
Aer Lingus is adding a Miami route next year. (Image: Aer Lingus)
Ireland’s Aer Lingus will add Miami as its newest U.S. gateway next year. The airline set a September 1 start for the new service, operating three times a week between Miami and Dublin with a 266-seat A330-200. Aer Lingus also said it will boost its Los Angeles schedule from the current four flights a week to daily departures from May 26 through the end of August; increase Chicago O’Hare service from 12 flights a week to twice-daily departures beginning May 26; and add a fourth weekly flight from Orlando effective March 14.
Air Canada will give travelers new options to Europe from Vancouver next summer. The carrier said it will start daily flights from Vancouver to Frankfurt on June 1, using a 787-8 with business class, premium economy and regular economy seating; and three flights a week from Vancouver to London Gatwick with an Air Canada Rouge 767-300ER with premium and regular economy seating.
Fiji Airways is boosting capacity to San Francisco in 2017. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Fiji Airways must be doing well with its San Francisco-Nadi, Fiji route, because it plans to increase capacity next summer. Instead of operating two flights a week for eight weeks, it will keep them going from June 1 through late October, and will add a third weekly frequency from June 19 to August 8 – and it will upgrade the aircraft it uses from an A330-200 to a -300.
New travel options to Germany next year include service from Seattle to Cologne and from Pittsburgh to Frankfurt.The Seattle route be flown by Lufthansa Group subsidiary Eurowings, with three A330-200 flights a week operating seasonally from July 11 through October. And the Pittsburgh-Frankfurt route will be flown by Condor Airlines, with two 767 flights a week from June 23 through September.
Chris McGinnis inspecting a Boeing 787 at Tokyo Haneda (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Want to get from Mexico to Japan without flying through the U.S. or Canada? Japan’s All Nippon Airways announced plans to begin the first non-stop service between the countries, with daily flights from Tokyo Narita to Mexico City beginning February 15. It will be ANA’s longest non-stop flight, and will use a 787-8 Dreamliner with business class and economy seating.
Lyft is dumping the pink moustache for a new look, and its pick-ups will soon be color-coded. The new dash-mounted Lyft Amp will glow orange, pink, purple, silver, teal or yellow which will help riders more easily spot their ride. See the video for how it will work:
Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:
The new Premium cabin is configured 2-2-2 (Photo: Hawaiian Airlines)
Hawaiian Airlines’ A330s equipped with lie-flat seats in a new business class cabin will be flying to their first official mainland destination starting in February. And it’s not on the West Coast.
The airline tells TravelSkills that its first mainland route to see the new seats on sale will be New York JFK-Honolulu. Hawaiian this week starts selling the new “premium” seats on its flights HA50 and HA51 for travel February 18-May 25; sales for later flights are TBD. A quick scan of JFK-HNL fares on HawaiianAir.com shows the lowest price for first class round trips to be about $1,600 on the low end to $4,000 on the high end.
In early October, Hawaiian started selling the seats on routes from Honolulu to Asia/Pacific destinations for travel beginning in December. And as a suprise and delight feature, Hawaiian ran them between LAX and Hawaii a few times this summer.
Lie-flat seats in Hawaiian’s new A330 Premium Cabins are now on sale for New York-Honolulu flights. (Image: Hawaiian Airlines)
Hawaiian Airlines’ new A330 Premium Cabin has lie-flat seats. (Image: Hawaiian)
Premium Cabin flyers will be served Hawaiian-inspired cuisine. (Image: Hawaiian Airlines)
The Premium Cabin has 18 lie-flat leather seats that are 20.5 inches wide and 76 inches long, in a 2-2-2 layout. Front-cabin travelers get new amenity kits, cotton quilts and lounging pillows, as well as two USB ports and one A/C outlet. The new in-flight entertainment system – with more than 100 hours of movie and TV programming – is available via 13-inch tablets that sit on a telescoping arm. The Premium Cabin also offers new in-flight dining options with regional dishes from Hawaiian chefs.
Besides the new Premium Cabin, the planes will also get 28 more Extra Comfort seats – the carrier’s premium economy option. The refit will trim total capacity on the widebodies from 294 seats to 278, including 18 in Premium Cabin, 68 in Extra Comfort and 192 in the main cabin (which will still provide 31-inch pitch, the airline notes).
Premium Cabin flyers will get bountiful amenity kits. (Image: Hawaiian Airlines)
Hawaiian is not part of any of the big three global airline alliances, but it maintains partnership agreements with seven airlines (including JetBlue and Virgin America, but no longer with American), which allow members of frequent flyer programs to earn and burn miles on Hawaiian flights.
It’s increasingly unlikely that we’ll see Hawaiian’s lie-flat seats on the West Coast over the long term because the carrier will soon begin to deploy its newest 190-seat Airbus A321 on these shorter routes where a lie-flat seat is likely superfluous.
Have you flown Hawaiian Airlines before? Would you pay more to lie-flat on your next trip to the islands?
The new Beijing lounge is SkyTeam’s sixth worldwide. (Image: SkyTeam)
The global SkyTeam alliance – including Delta, Air France-KLM, China Eastern, China Southern, Korean Air and others – will soon open a new lounge at Beijing’s Capital International Airport.
The alliance’s sixth lounge worldwide, the Beijing facility is for first class and business class passengers and elite-plus members flying on any of the 12 SkyTeam carriers that serve the Chinese capital.
The Beijing lounge in Terminal 2 can accommodate 160 persons in its 8,600 square feet. It features a buffet service with hot and cold Chinese and international cuisine; bar service; big, curved windows with airport views; free Wi-Fi; a business area with computers; power outlets throughout; showers with towels and toiletries; a TV room; relaxation area; and VIP room.
The other lounges are in Dubai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London Heathrow and Sydney. The alliance said its 12 member airlines at Beijing operate more than 3,700 flights a week there.
Here are some views of the lounge courtesy of SkyTeam:
Have you used a SkyTeam lounge before? Which one? How would you compare it to others? Please leave your comments below.
The interior of Delta’s new Airbus A321. (Image; Delta)
In domestic route developments, Delta will put new aircraft types on routes to San Francisco, Portland and San Diego; Alaska adds a couple of transcontinental markets; Southwest grows at Austin and Denver; and Spirit jumps into four Ohio-Florida markets.
Delta this year started to take delivery of new Airbus A321s, and according to Routesonline.com, customers in San Francisco and Portland will start to see them in 2017. The site said Delta’s advance schedule shows the new plane being introduced on a few of its many San Francisco-Atlanta flights starting in early March, and replacing the 737-900ER on its Portland-Detroit service starting in June. Delta said the A321s will feature big, pivoting overhead bins; next-generation seats in all three seating categories; large entertainment screens; USB and power ports; and LED lighting that changes with the phase of flight. (The A321 is the plane that seems to be replacing the aging Boeing 757, which is no longer being made.)
Meanwhile, following the recent news that JetBlue plans to extend its front-cabin Mint service onto the New York-San Diego route next August, thepointsguy.com reports that Delta apparently will be putting a 757 with front-cabin lie-flat seats onto one daily flight in the same market effective in June 2017. (Update: Airlineroute.net tells us that Delta had this aircraft on a SAN-JFK flight this past summer as well.) It’s the same aircraft type Delta uses for the lucrative JFK-San Francisco/Los Angeles routes. JetBlue has embarked on a long-term expansion of Mint service onto more transcon routes. Similarly, United has deployed a couple widebody B777-200s on SFO-BOS (but with standard first, not lie-flat) to take on JetBlue’s Mint expansion.
Alaska Airlines is adding more transcontinental flights. (Image: Alaska Air)
Speaking of San Diego and transcontinental routes, Alaska Airlines just announced a new one: The carrier said it will begin daily roundtrips between San Diego and Baltimore/Washington International starting March 15. The eastbound leg will be a red-eye. Alaska already flies to BWI from Los Angeles and Seattle, and its other San Diego transcons include Boston, Orlando, and new service to Newark starting next week. Last week, Alaska also kicked off a new daily roundtrip between Portland and Newark. Next spring, Alaska will start San Jose-Newark service as well. In other news, Alaska just began weekly seasonal service on Saturdays between Bellingham, Washington and Kona, Hawaii.
Southwest Airlines will begin new service on March 13 linking Kansas City with Austin, offering one daily roundtrip. Southwest also plans to expand its limited service between Denver and Albany, N.Y. The airline currently flies that route on weekends only, and just on a seasonal basis, but on April 25 it will make Denver-Albany a year-round route with daily flights.
Spirit Airlines has added Ohio’s Akron-Canton Airport as the newest dot on its route map. Last week, Spirit launched daily flights from Akron-Canton to Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale and Ft. Myers. The Tampa and Ft. Myers routes will be seasonal only. Next spring, Spirit will add seasonal flights from Akron-Canton to Myrtle Beach and year-round service to Las Vegas.
The CLEAR trusted traveler program is expanding to four more airports. (Image: CLEAR)
CLEAR, the members-only organization that lets you bypass those long security lines and go right into screening, will soon be available in four more major airports.
In an email to members, company said that it plans to open new CLEAR lanes at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, Los Angeles International, New York LaGuardia and New York JFK. It did not say exactly when it would appear in those airports – just that “We will be sharing launch dates in the coming weeks.” What’s also not clear (couldn’t help myself!) is whether CLEAR will only operate at Delta terminals at LAX and NYC or if it will be in multiple terminals as at SFO.
CLEAR already has airport lanes at Austin, Baltimore/Washington, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, San Antonio, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and both Washington D.C. airports. You can look up exact CLEAR locations here.
CLEAR’s new logo
Earlier this year, Delta acquired an equity stake in CLEAR, and since then the company has been expected to open new facilities at the carrier’s primary airports – and the four new ones certainly fill that bill.
Standard membership in CLEAR costs $179 a year, but Delta’s involvement in the company has brought discounts for SkyMiles members based on their elite status. Membership is free for Diamond Medallions, and just $79 a year for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallions. Non-elite SkyMiles members are eligible for a $99 CLEAR annual membership.
CLEAR gives members biometric-based IDs that let them access priority lanes for security screening. That gets them quickly into the regular screening process — or even into PreCheck for eligible flights, if they are a member of that TSA trusted traveler program. With regular PreCheck lines getting longer at some airports as TSA continues to push for greatly expanded traveler participation in that program, CLEAR might be a better way to go if it’s available at your preferred airports. (It’s definitely save me a few hundred dollars in flight change fees when I’ve been late to the airport, or been surprised by super-long lines.)
Have you used CLEAR or do you plan to now that it’s hitting critical mass in terms of key airports? Please leave your comments below.
New automated TSA screening lanes in American’s Terminal 3 at Chicago O’Hare. (Image: American Airlines)
Those new, speedier, more automated TSA airport security screening lines are proliferating quickly: This week new lanes opened at Chicago O’Hare for both United and American Airlines customers — including the first one exclusively for PreCheck members. And more lanes are coming to airports Dallas Ft Worth and Atlanta as well.
United said it has opened a “fully redesigned” TSA PreCheck security checkpoint for its Terminal 1 base at Chicago O’Hare, with one of the new automated checkpoints for PreCheck travelers and two others for regular screening. At the same time, American Airlines said it now has two of the faster screening lanes in operation at its Terminal 3 at O’Hare.
United’s new automated TSA security lanes at Chicago O’Hare (Photo: United)
Similar to the new lanes that opened earlier this year at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson and more recently at Los Angeles International, the new facilities allow up to five passengers at a time to load their carry-on belongings into plastic bins, and automatically draw bags into the x-ray device instead of requiring passengers to push them. They also have an automatic return conveyor belt to bring empty bins back to the beginning of the line, and a secondary screening belt for bags that need an extra inspection, so that they won’t hold up the line. The bins are also 25 percent larger than before.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the new lanes are helping O’Hare to eliminate security bottlenecks that hampered its operations. “Earlier this year, wait times at (O’Hare’s) TSA checkpoints escalated to an unacceptable 104 minutes,” he said. “Working together with our federal and airline partners, we resolved this crisis and today have average wait times that are among the shortest of major airports in the country.”
Another fast screening lane is being built at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson. (Image: Delta)
Last month, United opened a pair of the faster screening lanes in its Terminal 7 at Los Angeles International Airport. And earlier in the year the concept was first introduced by Delta and TSA at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson. Speaking of ATL, another new automated TSA lane is now being constructed at the South security checkpoint, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution – although this project will not require the checkpoint to be shut down as it was last spring when the first two lanes were installed there.
Meanwhile, the board that governs Dallas/Ft. Worth International this week is expected to approve a $3.5 million expenditure to install 10 of the faster screening lanes around the airport, in Terminals A, D and E. The plan calls for two machines each at checkpoints near Gates A21, D18, D22, D30 and E18, according to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. The work is expected to be finished by next spring.
United is also working on an overhaul of security screening at its Newark hub, where it is consolidating four checkpoints into one centralized facility. American said it expects to add the new lanes early next year at Los Angeles, Miami and New York JFK as well.
Readers: Have you had a chance to try these new automated screening lanes yet? What did you think?
Everyone’s talking about this video from a United plane where the pilot had to make a post-election announcement telling passengers to shut up and get along– or take another flight. Pretty good!
Marriott & Starwood offer Cyber Monday deals that are worth checking out post-feast!
This latest Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion offers members rates up to 25% off at more than 2,100 hotels and resorts globally. From November 25 through November 28, members can book hotel rooms starting as low as $79 per night for stays between December 9, 2016 and January 16, 2017. Must book on Marriott.com, the Marriott Mobile app and by contacting a hotel or the telephone reservation center, all using promotional code “444.”
SPG is getting a head start on Cyber Monday, launching special rates November 21 through December 4– featuring discounts of up to 30% for stay dates through September 4, 2017. Plus, SPG members get an additional 5% savings when booking directly through the Cyber Monday sale site (when it activates).
TSA is looking for ways to boost the number of enrollment centers for its PreCheck program. (Image: TSA)
After it set a goal of enrolling 25 million Americans in the TSA PreCheck expedited screening program, the government started looking for ways to get more travelers enrolled by using private-sector vendors. But now it has abruptly canceled that effort.
That’s good news for travelers who feel like the program was getting a little too popular, leading to longer waits.
The reason? Cybersecurity worries.
Last year, the agency sought additional companies it could work with to set up enrollment centers around the country; TSA this year has also been adding staff, increasing hours of operation and opening more locations for its existing enrollment program as it increased marketing efforts to draw consumers in.
But the agency recently ended that search, citing “concerns about the ability to ensure vendors properly safeguard testing data in light of the increased and evolving cybersecurity risks over the past year.”
When the TSA PreCheck line at SFO looks like this I’m glad I renewed CLEAR- with the Delta discount! (Chris McGinnis)
“As currently written, there is risk in using personally identifiable information during the testing phase of the process,” TSA noted. “While risk mitigations were included in the current RFP testing approach to protect the sensitive data during testing, TSA has determined it will no longer accept the risk associated with sharing the test data.”
The agency said it try again in near future once it can be sure it aligns with the Department of Homeland Security’s best practices for cybersecurity. PreCheck currently has almost four million members, and has said it hopes to reach 25 million by 2019.
TSA already works with MorphoTrust USA, which operates IdentoGO PreCheck enrollment centers around the country. This past summer, the company beefed up that effort by opening temporary sign-up locations at hotels in major cities and airports.
Southwest has added two more California routes out of San Jose. (Image: Jim Glab)
In domestic route developments, Southwest kicks off new service out of San Jose; JetBlue sets one new transcontinental route and plans the extension of Mint service to another; Delta and American establish new spokes from their Seattle and Charlotte hubs respectively; and all-you-can-fly Surf Air has a new way for customers to meet its membership fees.
Southwest Airlines this week launched service on a pair of new routes out of Mineta San Jose Airport. The carrier started flying once a day from SJC to Baltimore/Washington International and twice a day to Salt Lake City. The eastbound BWI flight is not a redeye, but it departs very early – at 6:35 a.m.
JetBlue’s front-cabin Mint service is coming to San Diego-JFK next year. (Image: JetBlue)
JetBlue Airways has announced plans to add yet another transcontinental route next spring. The airline set a May 3 start for once-daily service linking its Long Beach, California focus city with its Florida counterpart at Ft. Lauderdale. The new flight – which operates as a redeye eastbound – will give JetBlue a total of 35 daily flights to 13 destinations out of Long Beach. Earlier this year, it started new service form Long Beach to Reno/Tahoe and to San Jose. Meanwhile, Routesonline.com says that JetBlue is targeting its San Diego-New York JFK route for the next expansion of its Mint service. The site said the carrier has tentatively set August 15, 2017 for the introduction of Mint service on one of its two daily JFK-SAN flights.
Delta’s next expansion of its growing Seattle base will be a daily flight linking SEA with Milwaukee, due to begin operating on March 9 – a route already served by Alaska Airlines and Southwest. Delta plans to use a Delta Connection/SkyWest Embraer 175 on the route.
American Airlines this week inaugurated service on a new spoke out of its Charlotte hub, offering twice-daily flights to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The service uses CRJ-700s operated by American Eagle/PSA Airlines.
Surf Air offers private aircraft flights around California. (Image: Surf Air)
Want to try out Surf Air, the all-you-can-fly membership club that offers small-plane flights on a California intrastate network? If you’re a member of Lufthansa’s Miles & More loyalty program, you can take advantage of a special promotion through the end of March 2017. The company said it is inviting Lufthansa frequent flyers to try out a single roundtrip flight for 25,000 award miles, or an all-you-can-fly membership for travel within California (and to Las Vegas) with redemptions starting at 50,000 for a one-month participation.
Faster, easier re-entry to US via foreign pre-clearance facilities like this one in Dublin, Ireland (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security identified 10 overseas airports for expansion of the US Customs and Immigration Preclearance program. And now the department has named 11 more.
For travelers, this means that you’ll clear US customs and immigration at foreign airports, and your international flight back to the US will arrive like a domestic flight- you just get off and go home. These stations usually include Global Entry kiosks for faster processing. For business travelers, the primary downside is that once you pass through, it might be impossible to wait for your flight in an airport or business/first class lounge.
“Preclearance allows DHS to screen individuals prior to boarding a flight, which means we are able to identify threats long before they arrive in the United States,” said DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. “I look forward to the opportunity to grow our Preclearance operations in the Western Hemisphere, particularly into South America where CBP does not currently operate them.”
The airports newly named as Preclearance possibilities include Bogota, Buenos Aires, Edinburgh, Iceland’s Keflavik, Mexico City, Milan Malpensa, Osaka Kansai, Rio de Janeiro, Rome Fiumicino, Sao Paulo Guarulhos and St. Maarten.
Before a new a station can be opened, the U.S. and the host country must negotiate an agreement allowing it – and that can be a slow process.
One of the next airports to get Preclearance will be Stockholm’s Arlanda. (Image: Swedavia)
Of the 10 airports selected last year for possible Preclearance locations, DHS said the U.S. has just signed an agreement with Sweden for a Preclearance facility at Stockholm Arlanda, which isn’t expected to open before 2019. DHS said it “continues to engage with many of the host governments” from the other locations, and “expects to announce additional agreements in the coming months.”
Those other airports from the 2015 selection process include Brussels, Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), Tokyo Narita, Amsterdam Schiphol, Oslo, Madrid, Istanbul Ataturk, London Heathrow, and Manchester.
Most of the existing U.S. Preclearance stations are in Canada – at Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg. Other Preclearance facilities are at airports in Dublin, Shannon, Abu Dhabi, Aruba, Freeport and Nassau (Bahamas), and Bermuda.
Have you tried using Preclearance yet? How did that go for you? Please leave your comments below.
American Airlines has won tentative approval to fly from Los Angeles to Beijing (Photo of lunch in Beijing: Chris McGinnis)
There a new nonstop option to China on the horizon for American Airlines flyers.
The U.S. Transportation Department has tentatively approved American Airlines’ request for a new route from Los Angeles to Beijing.
Once it wins final approval, American is expected to start flying the route in 2017. American currently flies to Beijing from its Dallas/Ft. Worth and O’Hare hubs.
The new China authority is for daily non-stops from LAX to Beijing, a route not currently served by any U.S. carrier. Both American and Delta had applied for the route, but DOT tentatively decided that giving it to American would even things out among the Big Three serving Beijing from west coast, since Delta already flies there from Seattle and United does the same from San Francisco.
DOT said it couldn’t assign the LAX-Beijing route to both American and Delta because the U.S.-China aviation agreement limits the number of flights between the two countries, and the allotment for U.S. carriers has nearly been used up. The agency said it will continue to hear objections and counter-arguments to assigning the route to American until November 29, after which it will issue a final decision.
The only carrier currently offering LAX-Beijing non-stops is Air China.
Aeromexico jets load up a Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
For Delta flyers, a new deal with Aeromexico means it could get a lot easier to earn and burn SkyMiles for transborder trips- but such deals also limit competition, which could lead to higher fares.
The Transportation Department gave its tentative approval to a grant of antitrust immunity for a joint venture between Delta and Aeromexico – subject to certain conditions. Final approval of the application would mean that the two airlines can “coordinate their network planning, pricing, and sales activities, as well as enhance the alignment of their respective frequent flyer programs,” DOT said.
But in order for Delta and Aeromexico to win final approval, the agency said they would have to sell off enough takeoff and landing slots to accommodate 24 new daily transborder flights from Mexico City and six from New York JFK.
“The Department tentatively finds these conditions are necessary to prevent harm to consumers resulting from the carriers’ dominant positions at MEX and JFK, and the inability of new entrant carriers to access slots at the airports,” DOT said. The agency also said it wants to limit the grant of antitrust immunity to five years. DOT said it would issue a final ruling after a comment period that runs through November 30.
Is this the look of things to come for the combined Alaska Airlines and Virgin America?
The Instagram photo of a shiny red, purple gradient and blue Boeing 737-900 with the words “More to Love” along the fuselage has circulated among aviation geeks over the last few days. The image, which appears to be in an aircraft hangar, also clearly shows the Alaska Airlines Eskimo face on a navy blue tail.
The Puget Sound Business Journal came across the photo and surmised: “The photograph appears to be an aircraft painted to promote the airline combination to travelers and employees of the airlines, rather than be a new livery for all Alaska and Virgin airplanes.”
We’ve reached out to Alaska Airlines for a comment about the image, but have not heard back.
New aircraft liveries always draw plenty of commentary, most of it negative. But I’ll take a stand on this one: I like it and would not mind seeing it as the permanent new livery of the combined carrier. What about you? Please leave your comments below.
In the meantime, the whole Alaska Airlines-Virgin America deal still seems to be stuck in limbo at the Justice Department. The latest rumors about the deal emerged yesterday on The Street, with an insider stating that the combined carrier would have to give up gates at SFO and LAX and terminate code sharing agreements with Delta and American to close the deal.
United is boosting capacity on its new route from SFO to Auckland. (Image: Aucklandnz.com)
In the latest international route news, United boosts capacity on a new transpacific route out of San Francisco but drops a transatlantic route; a Chinese carrier starts new flights to Los Angeles; Chicago O’Hare gets a new route to Taiwan; low-cost Icelandic carrier WOW adds another U.S. gateway; KLM revives Miami flights; and Delta resumes service to a Canadian destination.
United Airlines just started its San Francisco-Auckland service in early July (after a 13-year hiatus), but now the New Zealand Herald reports that the airline is increasing capacity on the route. It said United has boosted flight frequencies between SFO-Auckland from five a week to daily service, and has also switched out the 787-8 it was using on the route to a larger 777. SFO-AKL fares are currently in the $1,000 roundtrip range, but occasionally dip slightly below that.
Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, United plans to drop its current service linking Newark with Belfast, Northern Ireland effective January 9. Why? Because the subsidy paid to United over the last three years ran out. The cancellation has caused much consternation as it was the only nonstop link between Northern Ireland and the US.
At Los Angeles International, Chinese carrier Sichuan Airlines is due to start new service on December 6 to Jinan, with continuing same-plane service to Chengdu. The carrier will use an Airbus A330-200 for the service, which will operate twice a week, according to Routesonline.com. News of the new route comes just a couple of weeks after Sichuan Airlines, with little fanfare, kicked off its first U.S. route; in mid-October it started flying, also twice a week with an A330, from LAX to Hangzhou with continuing service to Chengdu.
One of EVA’s 777-300ERs has “Hello, Kitty” livery. (Image: EVA)
Taiwan’s EVA Air last week started flying between Taipei and Chicago O’Hare, operating four flights a week with a 777-300ER. EVA offers extensive connections beyond Taipei to other Asian destinations, including 27 cities in mainland China. EVA also flies to New York, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver.
Wow Air, Iceland’s fast-growing low-cost airline, will add yet another U.S. gateway on June 17, when it begins service from Pittsburgh International to its hub at Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport with an Airbus A321. The carrier will offer fares starting as low as $99 each way to Iceland, with connecting service starting at $149 each way to European destinations including Paris, London, Frankfurt and others – plus add-on ancillary fees, of course.
Wow Air will use a narrow-body for new Pittsburgh service. (Photo: WOW Air)
KLM, which dropped service to Miami in 2011, started it up again last week. The Dutch airline is offering three flights a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays) from Miami to Amsterdam Schiphol using an Airbus A330-200. The seasonal service will continue through June 2017.
Delta Air Lines will revive service from its New York JFK hub to Halifax, Nova Scotia, effective January 9. The carrier said it will use a 76-seat CRJ-900 on the route, offering first class, Comfort+ and regular economy seating.
Carving out some time for Thanksgiving travel this year? I’m not! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
The crazy Thanksgiving peak travel week is almost upon us; it can be a great time for reuniting with family and friends back home, but it can also be a time of travel trauma when you’re actually trying to get there.
Overall, travelers, the airlines and airports seem to have gotten the Thanksgiving travel drill down in recent years. When everyone plays by the rules and the weather cooperates, everything goes pretty smoothly and there’s a collective sigh of relief and a “well that was not so bad after all” when it’s all over. Hopefully that will happen again this year.
Did you think Thanksgiving travel was crowded and hectic last year? Well, in 2016, according to the airline trade organization Airlines for America (A4A), you can expect to see 55,000 more passengers per day than you did during last year’s Thanksgiving holiday period. “Highly affordable air fare is driving that increase,” A4A said. Airlines have bumped up capacity to handle the extra loads.
U.S. airlines expect to carry an average of 2.27 million passengers a day during the Thanksgiving period, which A4A defines as the 12 days from Friday, November 18 through Tuesday, November 29. Thanksgiving is Thursday, November 24. The group said it expects the busiest travel days to be – in descending order – Sunday the 27th, Monday the 28th, and Wednesday the 23rd, with the lightest travel, as usual, on Thanksgiving Day itself.
But the travel search engine Skyscanner looked at its data and came to a different conclusion: It predicts the busiest day for air travel will be Saturday, November 19, “with travelers taking advantage of the short workweek to get away for a longer period of time,” said Randi Wolfson, the company’s communications chief for the Americas.
And where will it be the busiest on that day? Skyscanner predicts that passenger traffic will hit levels three times or more above average at New York LaGuardia; Washington Reagan National; and Orange County, California’s John Wayne Airport. Traffic is expected to be twice the usual level or more at both Chicago airports, all three Bay Area airports, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, New York JFK, Newark, Philadelphia, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles International and Burbank.
Another take on holiday travel trauma comes from Milecards.com, which conducted a study of airline cancellation rates over the holidays during the past six years at the nation’s 50 busiest airports.
Its main conclusion? “If you have only one holiday to choose for a flight home, make it Thanksgiving” instead of Christmas, Milecards said. Why? Because the flight cancellation rate around the late December holidays is five times greater than at Thanksgiving – 2.1 percent of all flights vs. 0.4 percent. The days when your flight is most likely to be canceled are December 26 and 27, the company said, while the best odds for avoiding a cancellation are on December 23 and 24.
With a hub at New York’s JFK, which has been hit by snowstorms during recent holidays, JetBlue takes a hit. Chart: Milecards.com
The worst holiday-period cancellation rate is at Newark Liberty International – almost three times the national average, and it’s worse around Christmas than Thanksgiving, with a cancellation rate of almost 6 percent. Airports with the lowest cancellation rates around the holidays are Honolulu, Oakland and Seattle, while the lowest rates for major connecting hubs are at Salt Lake City and Denver.
Milescards found that cancellation rates are much higher for shorter flights, such as San Francisco-Sacramento, than for longer flights such as transcons.
Low fares but high hotel prices in NYC this December (Image: Jim Glab)
Looking for a nice, easy trip during one of the slowest travel periods of the year? Maybe you are taking a mileage run? Then take a look at these fares for transcontinental trips (East, West coasts & Florida) during the first two weeks of December.
Starting on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Nov 29) and running up until the Christmas holiday peak, fares are just $267 round trip on all carriers flying between San Francisco and New York City.
Fares are slightly higher at around $285 round trip between Los Angeles LAX and New York City, too. Any time I see a California-New York nonstops drop below $300 I know I’ve got a great deal on my hands.
And it’s not just California– lowest fares are running at about $282 between Seattle and New York, too on Delta, Alaska and JetBlue.
Google Flights for SFO-JFK trips Dec 5-Dec 12
Caveat: Early December may be a cheap time to fly to NYC, but it’s not a cheap time to stay in a hotel there… those first few weeks of December when the first flurries fall and 5th Avenue gets all decked out in holiday splendor are super expensive at hotels. On early December weekends it’s tough to find a decent hotel for less than $500 per night. But everyone has a friend with a sofa-bed in NYC to stay with, right? 🙂
And for New Yorkers headed west, December is a fabulous and festive time to be in Wine Country. And in LA and SoCal, you can still go to the beach.
Fly California to Atlanta to see Delta’s new Sky Club on Concourse B for less than $300 round trip (Photo: Chris Rank, Rank Studios)
SFO-Atlanta is super cheap in December, too. I’m looking at just $248 round trip on United’s ATL-SFO nonstops. Delta’s are higher, but still a bargain at about $313. If you are willing to chance it with Frontier on ATL-SFO, you can go for $197 roundtrip, but you’ll pay dearly for extras like checked bags.
And hold on… are you ready for it? You can fly nonstop between LAX and Atlanta during December for just $192 roundtrip on American! Delta is slightly higher at around $260 round trip.
Super low fares on ATL-LAX in December! Source: Google Flights
From LAX there’s even more! Check Google flights on LAX-Ft Lauderdale or LAX-Orlando and you’ll find roundtrip fares in the $200 (or less!) range. Vamos!
NOTE: These fares are available on Google Flights Wednesday, Nov 2 and subject to change.
British Airways will fly nonstop between Oakland and London-Gatwick using a Boeing 777-200ER (Photo: British Airways)
Brexit does not seem to be having much impact on British Airways’ plans for the burgeoning San Francisco Bay Area.
Today the airline announced that it will add a nonstop flight from Oakland to London-Gatwick on March 28, 2017. This is this is in addition to its recently deployed daily 787 Dreamliner nonstop between San Jose International and Heathrow, as well as its two dailies between SFO and Heathrow using an Airbus A380 or Boeing 777.
This means that you can now fly BA to London from all three Bay Area airports- no other carrier offers that. It also means that British Airways will be flying about 1,250 seats per day, each way, between the San Francisco Bay Area and London.
The new OAK-LGW flights will operate four days a week using a Boeing 777-200ER that seats 275 passengers: 203 in economy, 24 in premium economy and 48 in business class. (That’s a lot of room for upgrades or award flights!) The new flights will allow BA to tap into the populous and wealthy East Bay suburbs full of travelers who don’t (or won’t) cross the Bay for a flight out of congested SFO.
Gatwick Airport (LGW) is 28 miles south of central London but still convenient and even preferred by many travelers. Why? Because the easy 30-minute, approximately $25 Gatwick Express train can whisk you from the airport to Victoria Station in the heart of the city every 15 minutes. London’s Heathrow Express, while speedier, drops you off at Paddington Station, which may not be as convenient. On the flip side, those traveling into Oakland from London can now get to downtown San Francisco via a new BART spur that connects the the airport to the city in about 30 minutes for about $10 each way.
London’s three primary airports. The Gatwick Express train connects the airport with Victoria Station (Image: Visit London)
This surprise move by BA comes on the heels of Norwegian Air’s introduction of Oakland-Gatwick nonstops last May.
To celebrate this announcement, British Airways has launched special fares for travel from March 28 to May 12 at about $600 roundtrip per person in economy and $1,115 in premium economy. Business class fares run about $3,600. These fares include taxes, fees and charges.
These sale fares are higher than Norwegian Air base fares (which can run as low at $400 round trip), but keep in mind that Norwegian is a bit more fee-happy than British Airways. For example, you’ll pay $65 each way ($130 round trip) to check a bag on Norwegian Air for the flight to Gatwick– if you fly beyond Gatwick, you’ll pay a whopping $130 each way ($260 round trip) for that checked bag. British Airways does not charge a fee for the first checked bag for economy class passengers. Both carriers charge fees for booking specific seats ahead of time. Norwegian Air flies a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route that has economy and premium economy seats, but no business class.
BA Club World (business class) travelers flying out of Oakland receive up to five days of free parking in OAK’s Premier Lot, an added value of $190. Also, an airport spokesperson told TravelSkills that British Airways and MAG, which manages Oakland’s new airport lounge, are working out an agreement to provide BA customers with complimentary access to a new Escape lounge located in Terminal 1 near BA gates. But at this time, no agreement has been reached. One-time passes to the lounge (opening in mid-November) go for $45.
British Airways is a member of the Oneworld alliance.
The year-round, 4x per week OAK-LGW flights will depart Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. BA will use Gatwick’s SouthTerminal where it moves into new digs in January– improvements include a brand new business class lounge, and upgraded check in area, and easier access to the Gatwick Express. (Currently, BA operates out of Gatwick’s North Terminal.)
BA seems to be on something of a roll recently. In addition to the new Oakland flight, British Airways has announced new nonstops to Ft Lauderdale and New Orleans from London in the last month.
Would you fly British Airways between Oakland and London? Why or why not? Why do you think BA is making this move? Please leave your comments below.
Delta and ANA have shifted routes from Narita to Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport. (Image: Haneda Airport)
In international route news, Delta shifts a pair of Tokyo routes to a new airport and ANA does the same; Delta and Virgin Atlantic expand code-sharing to India with Jet Airways, and Delta drops a couple of Italy routes; British Airways adds a U.S. gateway – but not from Heathrow; JetBlue sets the launch dates for its new Havana service; and Alaska postpones the start of its new Cuba route.
New rights to fly to/from Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport took effect over the past weekend, resulting in some route changes at Delta and at Japan’s All Nippon Airways. Delta has started its new nonstops from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Tokyo Haneda, which replaces its MSP-Narita service; Delta also shifted its Los Angeles-Tokyo flights from Narita to Haneda (and earlier this month, Delta dropped its New York JFK-Narita route as well). Delta still flies to Narita from Seattle, Portland, Detroit and Atlanta.
Delta’s code-sharing with India’s Jet Airways is expanding to London and to Virgin Atlantic. (Image: Delta)
Across the Atlantic, Delta and partner Virgin Atlantic announced an expansion of Delta’s code-sharing partnership with India’s Jet Airways, which is currently available for connections to India via Paris and Amsterdam. Starting November 2, passengers on Delta and Virgin Atlantic flights into London Heathrow will be able to connect onto Delta code-shares operated by Jet Airways to Mumbai and Delhi, and beyond to 20 domestic destinations in India.
In other transatlantic news, for 2017 Delta will no longer offer summer seasonal service from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Rome or from New York JFK to Pisa; both routes had been planned to launch May 25. And to South America, Delta has just switched aircraft on its Atlanta-Buenos Aires route from a 767 to an A330-300, providing a 20 percent increase in the number of seats it flies.
British Airways next summer will add a new Florida route. The carrier said that starting July 6, it will fly to Ft. Lauderdale four days a week during summer and three days a week the rest of the year. But it will fly the route out of London Gatwick, not Heathrow. BA will use a 777-200 on the route, which will be its fourth into Florida.
Refrigerator magnets from a recent trip to Havana (Chris McGinnis)
JetBlue is the latest U.S. carrier to announce the starting dates for new service into Havana. JetBlue, which won rights for three routes into the Cuban capital, said it will begin daily roundtrips out of its New York JFK base on November 28; daily flights from Orlando on November 29; and daily service out of Ft. Lauderdale starting November 30 (increasing to twice a day December 1)
Alaska Airlines, meanwhile, has pushed back the start of its single new Havana route. The carrier had planned to start Los Angeles-Havana service on November 29, but now won’t begin flying the route until January 5.
What do flight attendants love most about SFO? A fun new promotional video from San Francisco International Airport, introduced by Tony Bennett, offers personal accounts from flight attendants representing a number of airlines about the interesting things to see and do at the airport. See video What do you love most about SFO? Leave your comments below.
Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:
This week Alaska Airlines revealed a new paint job, or livery, on a new 737-900ER. At first glance, that American flag wingtip may look like a move to integrate Virgin America design elements (see its flagged winglet here) into the look of Alaska Airlines, but it’s part of a new initiative called “Alaska Airlines Salutes,” to support and honor those who serve. The design features an Alaska Airlines Salutes medallion and a fallen soldier badge, with the Battlefield Cross to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The plane also features five rings surrounding the engine, representative of the five branches of the United States military, and American flag winglets.
National is installing free popup lounges with wifi like this one at Washington Dulles (Photo: Jeff Pearce)
In airport news this week, new technology could soon be coming to TSA’s carry-on bag screenings; Oakland Airport gets its first premium lounge; National Car is opening “pop-up” airport lounges for Emerald Club members; San Jose introduces robots; and better Wi-Fi is coming to Boston Logan.
Starting next week, members of National Car Rental’s Emerald Club will have a new lounge option at five major airports. The rental firm said it will bring back free “pop-up” lounges for Emerald Club members at Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare, Sacramento, St. Louis and Washington Dulles. They’ll remain in place through April, then move to other airports for the summer, National said. All will be located post-security in one terminal per airport; they’ll be open 24 hours, but only staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Users will get free Wi-Fi, charging stations, and access to tablets and TVs for checking flight status, sports, news and weather information.
For years, the Transportation Security Administration has relied on traditional x-ray technology to see inside travelers’ carry-on bags – not always with great results. But those machines could be replaced soon with a more effective technology, according to a report from Bloomberg News. It said that the CT scanners currently in use behind the scenes to inspect passengers’ checked bags could be adapted to serve the same purpose for carry-on bag scans. “Instead of the two views of a bag generated by the current machines, CT scanners shoot hundreds of images with an X-ray camera spinning around the conveyor belt to provide screeners with three-dimensional views,” Bloomberg noted. Among the benefits of using that technology for carry-ons: Passengers would no longer have to remove liquids and laptops from their bags.
A new pay-per-use Escape Lounge opens at Oakland in November. (Image: MAG)
A mid-November opening is expected for the first premium passenger lounge at Oakland International. Operated by the U.S. division of Britain’s Manchester Airport Group (MAG), the Escape Lounge will be available to all travelers on a pay-per-use basis, for a fee of $45 on site or $40 if booked in advance. The 2,700 square foot facility can accommodate 50 travelers, and will have separate zones for relaxing, dining/drinking and work. Food will be supervised by Oakland chef Chris Pastena, whose restaurants include Calavera, Lungomare and Chop Bar. Admission fees cover food, drinks and Wi-Fi. MAG also operates an Escape Lounge at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, and it just opened one at Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport.
San Jose International’s new robots Norma, Amelia, and Piper (Image: San Jose International)
Mineta San Jose International has rolled out – literally – a trio of friendly robots to help travelers find their way around the facility, giving directions to gates, shops and restaurants. Users can even take a selfie with the devices, which are equipped with 32-inch touch screens and were developed by a South Korean firm called Future Robot. You’ll find them at Gates 11, 21 and 25. Information can be displayed in six languages.
The board of directors at Massport, which oversees Boston Logan Airport, has voted to revise its contract with Boingo, the provider of the airport’s free Wi-Fi service. Massport said a new pilot program starting this month in Terminal E will increase the allowable free Wi-Fi session time limit from 45 minutes to four hours, and will also boost connection speeds. In addition, users will see a new single-click link to the Wi-Fi without ads. The pilot program will run through March. Massport said passengers at Logan currently make 24,000 Wi-Fi connections per day, with an average session time of 88 minutes.
Photo of the inflight map of the northerly course of our SIN-SFO flight on Singapore Airlines (Chris McGinnis)
(INFLIGHT SIN>SFO) Well, that was a quick trip! If you’ve been following TravelSkills this week, you know that I jumped on Singapore Airlines’ new nonstop A350 flight from San Francisco to Singapore on Sunday. (Read part 1: Southbound SFO>SIN post)
Here it is on Thursday morning, and I’m northbound,somewhere out over the big dark Pacific Ocean, on the return flight (SQ 32). Our flight started out over the South China Sea, then passed between the Philippines and Taiwan, continuing up along the east coast of Japan. Then it was out over the Northern Pacific, where we skirted past the Aleutian Trench on course to arriving at SFO.
I love a good exotic flight board and the one a Singapore Changi does not disappoint! (Chris McGinnis)
We departed Singapore at 9:25 am on Thursday, and we’ll arrive in San Francisco at 8:40 am on the same day– after flying for about 14 hours. Crazy to think that we’ll arrive before we left. Tailwinds have been kind to our flight, cutting about two hours off our flight time. The southbound journey on Sunday-Monday took 16 hours and 11 minutes, departing noon Sunday, and arriving at around 7 pm on Monday evening.
On this return flight, I was able to watch one movie– Captain Fantastic– highly recommended, a tear jerker but I’m always easily brought to tears on planes for some reason. You? I was also able to get some work done on the laptop, sleep for about four hours, enjoy two gorgeously presented meals (see below) and write this post.
Inflight wi-fi from Panasonic has been extremely fast and reliable on this flight (less so on the way down)– I’m amazed that I can upload photos and post this from the plane. Crazy! I purchased a 24-hour in-flight wi-fi pass for $22— very much worth it to me.
Hainanese pork chop with fried rice (Photo Chris McGinnis)
As usual, for meals, I tried to go native and order Asian/Singaporean dishes. For dinner, I chose the Hainanese pork chop with fried rice. It was good, but a little tough. Breakfast was far better- I opted for the oriental dim sum and loved every bite.
Four choices for breakfast in Singapore Airlines business class- I went native! (Chris McGinnis)
Breakfast onboard Singapore Airlines SQ32 somewhere over the northern Pacific (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
This has been a quick trip– just two quick days in Singapore and three very bumpy nights of not-enough-sleep. I’m surprised I have the will and wherewithal to write this! Hope you’ve enjoyed my reports.
I’ll close with one more unusual photo from this trip: A word of warning about some monkey business going on outside my window at the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort on Singapore’s southern coastline.
A warning about monkeys at the lovely beachside Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa resort (Chris McGinnis)
United will fly E175s from San Jose to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Image: United)
In domestic route developments, United will offer special service out of San Jose for a big convention in January; Delta adds an Austin route and expands in the Twin Cities; JetBlue is about to jump into the fray on one of the northeast’s busiest routes; American exits three Philadelphia markets; and Virgin America will operate a pair of seasonal services out of New York City.
With a nod to the big temporary demand coming out of Silicon Valley, United Airlines plans to operate a virtual shuttle service for techies going to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next January. According to Airlineroute.net, United Express/SkyWest will offer seven daily roundtrips between SJC and Las Vegas from January 4 through January 9 only, using Embraer 175s. The temporary United service will offer an alternative to Southwest’s heavy schedule in the SJC-LAS market.
Austin Bergstrom Airport will get new Delta service to Raleigh-Durham. (Image: City of Austin)
Delta has set a March 9 starting date for new daily service linking Austin, Texas with its growing Raleigh-Durham base. The carrier said Austin is the “largest unserved non-stop market” from RDU. The flights will be operated by Delta Connection/GoJet with a 76-seat, two-class CRJ-900.
Meanwhile, Delta also announced some additional service out of its Minneapolis-St. Paul hub next year. A key development for SkyMiles summer vacationers: Delta’s winter seasonal service from MSP to Honolulu, which begins on October 29, will now continue operating continuously through Labor Day 2017 instead of stopping in April as previously planned. Also coming from Delta at MSP next summer: The addition of a third daily flight to San Jose, a sixth to Phoenix, and a second to Richmond.
JetBlue will use E190s for its new LaGuardia-Boston flights. (Image: JetBlue)
October 31 is the launch date for JetBlue’s entry into the busy New York LaGuardia-Boston market, which is dominated by the Delta and American shuttle operations. JetBlue plans to offer six daily roundtrips between LGA and BOS, using E190 aircraft with 100 seats, including 16 in JetBlue’s Even More Space section and 84 in regular economy. The entry into the LaGuardia market will make JetBlue the only airline serving Boston from all three New York-area airports. In another part of the country, JetBlue recently started daily service between New Orleans and Ft. Lauderdale, in competition with Southwest and Spirit.
As part of an ongoing rethinking of the Philadelphia hub it inherited from US Airways, American Airlines plans to end service next February in three regional markets. Getting the axe are AA’s three daily CRJ200 fights between PHL and Newark, along with its twice-daily service from Philadelphia to Binghamton., N.Y. and Elmira, N.Y.
Virgin America said this week it plans to bring back service next month in two seasonal markets out of New York JFK. On November 1, it will begin daily non-stops between JFK and Ft. Lauderdale, and on November 19, it will begin service between JFK and Palm Springs, California.
Interiors on JetSuite’s Embraer 135 aircraft (Photo: JetSuite)
There’s exciting news this week from two small but innovative California-based carriers that could put them on a strong growth track. JetSuite, a small-plane public charter operator in the California corridor and elsewhere, announced an equity partnership with a major U.S. airline; and Surf Air, which employs an all-you-can-fly pricing model, is talking about a major fleet expansion – and it said it will extend its operations to Europe starting next month.
JetSuite Inc. said that JetBlue Airways has taken a minority stake in the company, an investment that it said will help to “fuel its fast-growing JetSuiteX service.” JetSuiteX uses 30-passenger jets on a network that includes Burbank; San Jose; Las Vegas; Carlsbad, Calif.; Concord, Calif.; Mammoth, Calif.; and Bozeman, Mont. JetSuiteX promises “more destinations and flights coming soon,” and claims to be the fastest-growing public charter company in the country.
From the Bay Area, JetSuiteX offers nonstops between Concord (in the East Bay) and Burbank. (Its Concord-Las Vegas nonstops were cut in May). From San Jose (using the Atlantic Aviation terminal), it flies to Burbank and Carlsbad (near San Diego). Currently, fares are running as low as $79 on a handful of flights each week in November. In December, the lowest fares are at about $99 each way.
JetSuite CEO Alex Wilcox at a kickoff event in Concord, CA earlier this year (Photo: Chris McGinnis
JetSuiteX markets its flights as “a private jet experience that is affordable and accessible to a broad audience.” JetSuite CEO Alex Wilcox said JetBlue will not be just a passive shareholder, but a “strategic partner” that will “allow us to accelerate our growth.” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes commented that acquiring a stake in JetSuite “makes sense as we continue to execute on our west coast plan and invest in innovative ideas that reflect the disruptive spirit of JetBlue.”
The two had already created a customer loyalty link, with TrueBlue members able to earn points on JetSuiteX flights. Among the points currently served by JetSuiteX, JetBlue flies to San Jose, Burbank and Las Vegas. JetBlue has been beefing up its west coast presence lately – for example, it said it will launch multiple daily flights between San Jose and Long Beach in January – as it positions itself for tough competition from a combined Alaska Airlines-Virgin America after those two companies complete their merger.
The JetSuiteX Terminal at Concorde- a nice break from the craziness at OAK or SFO! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Meanwhile, Santa Monica-based Surf Air – which operates even smaller planes and calls itself “an all-you-can-fly private air travel club” – is said to be in talks with Brazilian manufacturer Embraer for a major fleet expansion. Media reports from Brazil said Surf Air is looking to buy up to 50 small Phenom 300 executive jets, an order worth about $495 million.
Although it currently uses Pilatus turboprops for intra-California flights, Surf Air says it will use executive jets like this one for its new European division. (Image: Surf Air)
The Phenom 300, which can carry seven to nine passengers, is Embraer’s most popular business jet. The reports quoted Surf Air’s CEO as saying that the company is also talking to U.S. manufacturer Textron about its Cessna Citation CJ4 business jets.
Surf Air operates executive private aircraft on scheduled flights around an intrastate California network that includes airports in the Bay Area, metro Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Truckee/Tahoe, Napa, Monterey, Sacramento and Palm Springs, as well as Las Vegas.
Surf Air needs more planes in part to accommodate its planned expansion to intra-European markets, which is now planned to get under way at the end of November. Its monthly membership fees there will start at $2,400. It will begin with flights between London’s Luton Airport and Zurich, and then gradually expand to add flights to Geneva, Cannes, Paris, Dublin, Ibiza and Amsterdam.
Fares for November SFO-SIN roundtrips are currently about $800 round trip in economy, $1,800 in premium economy and $4,200 in business class. There are no first class seats on the A350. There are 42 business class seats, 24 premium economy seats, and 187 standard economy seats on this bird. United also flies nonstop between SFO and Singapore using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Good luck send-off with a dragon lion dance at SFO Gate 93 (Photo Chris McGinnis)
At the gate, SIA and SFO teamed up to celebrate the first SQ 31 flight with a gate event that included a noisy, good luck, send-off dragon dance with drums, plus food, drink and swag (luggage tags, model planes) for all passengers. It’s always super special and exciting to take an inaugural flight– every passenger boarded with a big smile.
To easily spot an A350, look for curly wingtips and black, rounded cockpit windows (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Looking out of SFO gate 93 at the brand new A350, I was looking for its most distinguishing features so I could always remember how to spot it on runways. From now on, I’ll always notice the A350 by its unique curly wingtips (see ’em?) and the blacked out, round-edged cockpit windows. Currently, it’s the only A350 flying into SFO.
Always helpful Singapore girls pose for a photo during early boarding (Photo: Robert Silk)
Thankfully Singapore Air arranged for me to get on the plane a few minutes early to take photos of each cabin before take off. When I got onboard, the Singapore girls were busy scurrying around getting the plane ready, but took the time for a quick photo.
Economy class on Singapore Air’s new A350- best seats are bulkhead row 47 and window row 48 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Economy class seats are configured 3-3-3. To me, the best economy seats are in the bulkhead at rows 47 and 48 on either side. The two seats on either side (not center) of row 47 don’t have seats in front of them (only a door), and the window seats in row 48 have open space in front of them, too. These seats are near lavatories, which might be bothersome if trying to sleep (but who really is able to sleep in economy class anyway? Not me!).
Singapore Airlines A350 Premium Economy is a good option for those who can’t bear the thought of 17 hours in economy (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Same goes for Premium economy seats– bulkhead is probably best. However, on our flight, an unlucky set of parents were seated in the bulkhead (typically where airlines place parents flying with babies) and their baby cried for nearly the entire flight. So you take your chances when choosing the bulkhead.
Bulkhead seat 19F: My business class playpen for the next 17 hours on SIA’s Airbus A350 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
There are two sections in the 42-seat business class, separated by a galley. I was in seat 19F, on the bulkhead behind the galley. These bulkhead seats have nice “wraparound” ottomans that other seats don’t, so when the seat back folds down into a flat bed for sleeping, you have plenty of space to move around. The non-bulkhead seats are a bit cozier and feet must fit into a narrow space for sleeping. Not uncomfortable, but not as spacious as those bulkhead playpens. Note that the bulkheads in the center are larger than the bulkheads by the window, so given a choice, take the center. Downside to the bulkhead is proximity to the galley, which can be noisy and bright if you are trying to sleep.
Business class passengers get voucher for 30 MB free internet
When checking in at SFO, gate agents provided business class passengers with a voucher good for 30 MB of inflight Internet. That 30 MB ran out in about half an hour of browsing and email, so I bought a 24 hour pass for $22. The connection was fine for light browsing and email, but I was unable to upload photos to share on my Facebook or Twitter feeds as I’ve been able to do on other transoceanic flights.
Singapore Airlines 14-page menu for SFO-SIN flights (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Amazing: Singapore Airlines’ inflight menu is 14 pages long! The airline is experimenting with a new flexible dining option on the SFO-SIN flights, so you have about 10 choices for appetizers and main courses (one of which, oddly, is a barbecue pulled pork sandwich). There are two meal services on this flight, but you can also choose to eat whenever you want. I chose to enjoy the full dinner service, which began an hour or so into the flight and took about two hours to finish– no problem on a 17-hour flight, right? An elaborate meal helps pass the time!
There are all kinds of cool new things about the A350, but the one that really knocked my socks off? The automated trash bin the the lavatory! Watch the video above to see how its motion sensors open and close the the flap so you don’t have to touch it. What a great idea since I’m always a little grossed out when I have to push my used towels into the bin.
Stunning 6 pieces of silverware with dinner service on Singapore Airlines plus a delicious starter of prawns and pickled cauliflower drizzled with a lovely lemony dressing (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Another amazing aspect of Singapore Airlines service… the six pieces of silverware you get to use for dinner!
Six wines from which to choose on Singapore Airlines SFO-SIN (Chris McGinnis)
Some excellent wine choices, including Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve champagne pre-flight as well as a 2012 Chateau Belle-Vue Cru bordeaux.
Lamb Biryani main course on on SFO-SIN in business class on Singapore Airlines (Chris McGinnis)
When I fly international carriers, I always try to go native and ask for whatever is the most local and exotic, so I was surprised to see so few Asian entrees on the new business class menu. When I asked my flight attendant about this, she recommended the lamb biryani– an Indian dish, but since Singaporean cuisine is such a melange of different Asian flavors, she said that this was my best bet if I wanted to go native. She was right! It was delicious and spicy. I want it again as I type this 24 hours later!
Main course beef filet on Singapore Airlines business class SFO-SIN (Chris McGinnis)
The passenger across the aisle ordered “grilled US choice beef filet” and I was able to catch the flight attendant for a photo of this perfectly prepared and garnished dish before she served it.
Since this was a brand new plane for flight attendants, there were some timing issues and hiccups in the meal service– having flown Singapore Airlines several times before, I noticed the imperfections. However, on a new plane, just like at new hotels, I’m very forgiving, and once crews learn how to work on the new A350, service bumps will surely even out.
Snuggling in for sleep in business class with my Bucky eyemask and Mack’s earplugs (Photo: Robert Silk)
My RX for sleeping well on planes includes a Bucky eye mask, Mack’s silicone earplugs, and Nite-Time melatonin tabs. On this flight, I tucked in and slept well for about five and a half hours– until those poor parents with the screaming baby began pacing through the business class cabin and allowing the kid to wail in the nearby galley. Oy.
Singapore Air does not provide amenity kits on this flight. Slippers and eye masks are in seat side bins. Toothbrushes, razors, combs, mouthwash and lotion are available in lavatories. Unlike my recent trip to Sydney on Qantas (a 14 hour flight), Singapore does not provide pajamas for business class passengers, so I suggest you pack a t-shirt to sleep in and ask flight attendants to hang your shirt so it’s fresh when you get off the plane.
One key reason I was able to sleep well on this flight: Flight attendants kept the cabin blissfully cool. I’ve had other wonderful business class experiences that were marred by overheated cabins. Yuck!
A soothing cup of green tea does the trick (Photo: Chris McGinnis
Once I woke up, flight attendants came by and asked to help convert my seat from bed back to upright seat. Singapore’s business class seats are unique in that the seatback folds forward to make a nice wide bed– on other airlines, the seat usually reclines fully into a flat bed. After I was situated and upright, I asked for a nice warm cup of green tea, a perfect way to wake up as we flew over the Philippines.
Egg noodles with chicken and mushrooms for breakfast (sort of ) (Chris McGinnis)
I slept through the second meal service, but I had pre-ordered a big bowl of noodles as my breakfast… or lunch? Not sure due to the time change. In any case, it was a nice way to wake up and greet the afternoon in Asia, even if the soup arrived lukewarm.
Singapore Air’s inflight entertainment system is arguably the best in the world— there are hundreds of movies, TV shows and games to choose from. But my favorite by far is the inflight map! This one offers all sort of viewing options that I could sit and watch for hours. The video above shows what we saw as we approached Singapore. Talk about exotic! Wow.
Our flight path took us out over the Pacific to the north of Hawaii, over the top of the Philippines and into the South China Sea, then straight into Singapore.
One of many stunning gardens that greet arriving passengers at Singapore Changi Airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Singapore Changi airport is considered one of the very best in the world for a variety of reasons, including the gorgeous garden displays throughout the terminal. A perfect example is this beautiful bird set up to welcome passengers as we entered the customs and immigration halls– through which we passed in about 30 seconds.
Overall, I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about getting on a plane for 17 hours— even when I knew I would be sitting in a big business class seat on Singapore Airlines. I thought I’d reach a point where I’d be screaming to myself “get me outta this plane!” But it never happened. This flight, which ended up being 16 hours and 11 minutes due to calm headwinds, was no different than a 12 hour flight to Europe, or a 14 hour flight to Australia.
The new Blu2o restaurant with California cuisine at LAX’s Terminal 6. (Image: Westfield)
Following up on a redesign and overhaul of its Terminal 2 earlier this year, Los Angeles International Airport has now finished a similar redevelopment of Terminal 6. T6 is used by Alaska Airlines, American, Copa and Great Lakes Aviation. It is connected to Delta’s Terminal 5 by an underground pedestrian tunnel.
The $70 million, 20-month project – carried out in partnership with airport concessions and design specialist Westfield — brought 21 new retail and food & beverage concepts to the terminal, officials said, with an overall theme “inspired by L.A.’s iconic Sunset Boulevard.” Besides the shopping and dining options, the project also gave the terminal new bathrooms, floors and ceilings as well as new electrical and IT infrastructure.
T6’s new Osteria Italian restaurant is from celebrity chef Fabio Viviani. (Image: Westfield)
New eating options in T6 include Osteria, an Italian restaurant run by “Top Chef” Fabio Viviani; a multifaceted Marketplace by Wolfgang Puck including The Kitchen, WPizza and The Wine Bar; a restaurant called Blu2o, with “L.A. beach-inspired cuisine;” The Habit Burger Grill; a venue called Earthbar, serving up healthy juices and salads; and a Wahoo’s Fish Taco outlet.
The bar at Wolfgang Puck’s Marketplace. (Image: westfield)
Concessions also include a Peet’s Coffee & Tea; See’s Candies, with 100 kinds of candy and chocolate; a pair of Starbuck’s outlets; and Point the Way Café, specializing in craft beers. Retail shopping outlets include a Tumi luggage store; Belkin electronics accessories; M. Fredric apparel; a MAC Cosmetics store; and several newsstands/sundries locations.
Healthy grab-and-go items at T6’s new Earthbar. (Image: Westfield)
“The new terminal experience is organized by interconnected neighborhoods that guide travelers on their journey,” Los Angeles World Airports said. “After passing through the TSA checkpoint, travelers initially encounter a Downtown L.A. vibe. This neighborhood feels like an urban street, complete with concrete walls and metal finishes. The new ribbon ceiling and terrazzo floor guide travelers into Sunset Plaza, which has inviting, open spaces to eat, drink and people watch. Travelers then flow into the Sunset Strip and Garden Terrace zones, where high-end retail and local dining burst with the energy of West Hollywood.”
WPizza is part of Wolfgang Puck’s Marketplace. (Image: Westfield)
LAX’s Terminal 6 has a new Tumi store. (Image: Westfield)
New Delta Sky Club at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Photo: Scott Hintz)
Last week, Delta opened a new Sky Club lounge at its growing Seattle hub. And what a club it is. We had a chance to preview it before it opened last Friday and we were impressed.
This new club is located in the main terminal between Concourses A and B, near gate A1. It’s the second Sky Club at SEA, complementing the existing lounge in the South Satellite terminal near gates S9 and S10. But this new lounge is far larger, newer and nicer — and definitely worth going out of your way to visit if you have enough time, even if you are flying out of the satellite terminal.
New Skyclub location between Concourses A and B at Sea-Tac airport
Entrance to new Skyclub near gate A1 at SEA
The new Seattle Sky Club is one of the largest in the Delta network at over 21,000 square feet and with enough space to seat over 400 visitors. (Compare that to the new Atlanta Sky Club with 25,000 square feet and room for 500.) The design is modern and sleek, quite similar to the design of the also-new Delta lounge at SFO. It felt more like something you’d experience at a BA lounge at Heathrow or maybe a Cathay lounge in Hong Kong in terms of it being large, light and airy, and packed with a lot of amenities. Kudos to Delta for really upping its game here.
Speaking of amenities, here are the highlights: Comfortable seating and power ports galore. You have a choice of long, partitioned benches; individual club chairs; sleek modern curved benches that feel like they belong in the mod, vintage TWA terminal at JFK; dining table/chairs; connected seats with high walls for privacy; quad-seat cubes facing away from each other; desk workstations; private pods with work lighting and swivel table/desk; and many other varieties of club chairs. There is truly a comfortable seat for everyone in this lounge. And all seating had power outlets integrated or adjacent to the seat. Even the dining section had clever power-port “towers” so you can charge up while enjoying the food (more on that below).
Elegant and functional seating at the new SEA Sky Club (Photo: Scott Hintz)
Private workstations are one of the many seating options at the new SEA Sky Club (Photo: Scott Hintz)
Power ports are everywhere, including these “power towers” throughout the dining area (Photo: Scott Hintz)
A gorgeous two-story space with lots of natural light and great views of the tarmac and Mount Rainier off in the distance (or so we’re told — it was cloudy on the day we were there). Delta has incorporated local design elements throughout such as a glass wave design in room partitions, natural wood, and colors that evoke the Pacific Northwest. There’s also a beautiful mosaic-style mural of the famous Pike’s Place market sign made by the same artist who did the similar Golden Gate bridge mosaic in the SFO Skyclub. See our review of the SFO Sky Club! This will be a very comfortable place to kill time or get work done at SEA.
Beautiful two-story, 30-foot space with lots of artwork and nods to the Pacific Northwest (Photo: Scott Hintz)
Pixelated mural of Pike Place Market by artist Craig Alan McMillan, the same artist who did the Golden Gate Bridge mural at the SFO Sky Club (Photo Scott Hintz)
Views from the expansive 30-foot windows in the Skyclub. Mount Rainier is supposedly visible on clear days (Photo: Scott Hintz)
Six private shower rooms with Malin+Goetz toiletries. There are three “standard” size rooms and three larger ones that we’re told can accommodate families if you are traveling with kids; but even the smaller rooms were large and impressive. The room has a private toilet, sink, and of course, shower area. The design is very high end and just feels luxurious. Well done, Delta.
Private shower rooms includes shower, toilet, and sink with Malin+Goetz amenities (Scott Hintz)
Delta’s first foray into a spa integrated into a Sky Club. It’s run by Asanda and offers chair massages and relaxation treatments, all for a fee. I tried a 10-minute sample chair massage and it was great (normal pricing is 20 minutes for $50 or 45 minutes for $100). I also tried samples of two of the relaxation treatments where you lie in a zero-gravity chair, but honestly, didn’t care for either of them. The first is called Nap26 and you basically listen to white noise on headphones to relax, but I could still hear outside sound and the white noise just felt a little annoying to me. The other one I tried is the Deepak Chopra Dream Weaver, where you listen to a little bit of Deepak himself speaking in a calm voice to guide you to a relaxing “other” world, then you wear glasses with embedded LEDs that blink in various colors and formations to create hypnotic visual images (you keep your eyes closed and just pick up light and patterns). The blinking LEDs sort of freaked me out and made me stressed and anxious, the opposite of the intended goal. Maybe others will like it, but I would urge caution.
Chair massage and relaxation chairs at the SEA Sky Club spa (Scott Hintz)
Chair massage and relaxation chairs at the SEA Sky Club (Scott Hintz)
Enhanced food and drink It seemed that there was more food on offer here than I’ve seen at other Sky Clubs, not quite the full buffet you might see at a foreign carrier’s lounge, but getting close. Delta says it’s partnering with chef Ethan Stowell to provide food that has a local flair to it, in addition to a mac and cheese dish from Beecher’s Cheese, which is a Seattle institution (and we can attest to it being delicious). As far as beverages, it was the standard Sky Club setup of free and premium offerings, but here Delta will have Washington State wines, as well as spirits and beers from local makers. THE BAR at Delta Sky Club offers a variety of premium and complimentary options including Washington wines such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, cocktails from local distilleries including Glass Vodka, Westland Distilleries and more, Georgetown Lucille IPA craft beer, and freshly brewed Starbucks coffee.
Mac and cheese and other hot food options at the SEA Sky Club (Scott Hintz)
Salads, crudites, and other food options at the SEA Skyclub
All in all, this Sky Club is a fantastic new space that will be welcomed by frequent travelers. It also ups the game considerably in terms of lounge experiences offered by U.S. carriers — so American, United, and Alaska should pay attention, but even foreign carriers are put on notice. It definitely shows how much effort Delta is putting into growing its Seattle hub.
For west coast flyers, Seattle is an increasingly viable option for international journeys. Delta flies nonstop to five cities in Asia from SEA (Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo/NRT, Seoul, and Hong Kong) and three cities in Europe (London/LHR, Amsterdam, and Paris), with most of those airports offering tons of connections on Delta partners to get you almost anywhere you want to go. And Seattle is a somewhat efficient routing, as most west coast flights go up the coast over the Seattle area anyway to get to Asia or Europe.
Sky Club members and certain American Express cardholders have unlimited access the club. Non-members can pay a one-time fee of $59.
What’s Next for Sky Clubs? A renovated Club in Raleigh-Durham is scheduled to open in late November and will offer additional seats, more accessible power and a new food and beverage area. A new Club expansion is coming to Newark in late 2016, including a redesigned bar and more food options.
This post was written by TravelSkills contributor Scott Hintz
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United installed a basketball court (!) inside its massive SFO hangar to celebrate a new sponsorship (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
This week United announced a long-term sponsorship of the Bay Area’s Golden State Warriors basketball team. To celebrate, the carrier installed a temporary branded United-Warriors basketball court (complete with parquet floors and hoops) in United’s SFO Maintenance hangar where over 1,000 employees (and TravelSkills!) watched a dance team, drum corps and a handful of Warriors shoot hoops. As part of this agreement, United will soon have branding in Oakland’s Oracle Arena and, beginning in 2019, inside the new Chase Center, the team’s new arena on the San Francisco waterfront just south of downtown. MileagePlus customers will have the opportunity to use their miles for access to premium seats, suite tickets, VIP experiences and Warriors autographed items.
Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:
Guests at St Regis gala take a gander at Singapore Air’s newest business class seat (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
This week in San Francisco, Singapore Airlines put on a posh gala at the St Regis to celebrate the launch of its newest, longest nonstop flight between San Francisco to Singapore.
SIA will deploy its newest aircraft, an Airbus A350, on the 17-or-so-hour flight, the first of which departs from SFO this Sunday. It’s the first time an Airbus A350 has touched down for commercial service at SFO. Fares for November flights are currently about $800 round trip in economy, $1,800 in premium economy and $4,200 in business class. There are no first class seats on the A350. (TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis will be on the inaugural flight, so stay tuned for his trip report!)
The city’s travel and diplomatic community gathered for a fancy fete where we dined on appetizers, meals and wine served in business and first class on Singapore Airlines flights. On the floor of the event space were two of Singapore’s latest generation business class seats– just like the ones on its new A350– along with a dozen or so “Singapore girls” to assist in transforming the plush leather seat into a nice wide bed for sleeping.
Dinner menu included dishes served onboard Singapore Airlines flights (Chris McGinnis)
Prior to the event, I was able to sit down with Mr. Mak Swee Wah, Singapore Air’s Executive VP – Commercial, to talk about the new plane and the new nonstop flight, which will be the longest in the SIA network. Here are some highlights from our chat:
TravelSkills: What’s so great about the new A350? What will passengers notice about the plane as soon as they walk onboard? How does it differ from the current B777s used on the route?
Mr Mak: This is the very latest generation twin jet in the market and is much more efficient than other planes. It is perfectly sized [253 passengers] for us to deploy on less dense routes. Singapore-Amsterdam was the first route for our A350s and San Francisco is the latest. The first thing passengers may notice when boarding is how spacious the cabin feels. The shape of the A350 fuselage is such that the side walls are nearly vertical, providing additional shoulder and head space for passengers seated at the windows. When onboard, passengers will notice the latest generation of our seats in all classes- for example, in business class, they’ll enjoy the third iteration of our new business class seat. The carbon fiber used to construct the plane not only makes it lighter and more efficient, it also helps in pressurization and humidity, which makes flights feel more comfortable and helps prevent jet lag. It also makes inflight food taste better. Hepa-filters keep cabin air as clean as in hospitals. Plus, the windows on the A350 are larger than on other Airbus planes- so better views, too.
TravelSkills: SIA is using SQ 31 and SQ 32 as the flight numbers for the SFO-SIN nonstop service. Did you all consider giving the new flight the iconic SQ 1 and SQ 2 designation that you now use on the SFO-Hong Kong-Singapore flights?
Mr Mak: There’s a logic to our flight numbers. For example, all the flights to/from the Americas have single or double digits. Since SQ1 and SQ2 were our first flights ever to the US, we want to preserve that history. Our flights to Singapore via Hong Kong are well established and popular, so we don’t want to change a good thing. When I see the numbers 31 and 32, though, it makes me think in Cantonese where numbers can have significant meaning. The number 3 signifies life and the number 1 is something like long-lasting or longevity. So flight #31 could be about long-lasting life. With 32, you have 3 meaning life, and 2 meaning easy or comfortable. This is not how the company came up with those flight numbers, but it’s a nice way for me to explain them to you and your readers! [Read more about Chinese number superstitions here]
Singapore Airlines execs, Singapore’s ambassador to the US, local media and Singapore girls on stage at the St Regis (Chris McGinnis)
TravelSkills: What did Singapore Air learn about long distance flying when it ran A340s between Newark and Singapore- an 18-20 hour flight that was then the longest in the world?
Mr Mak: We flew the Airbus A340 between Newark and Singapore from 2004-2013. It was an all business class flight with just 100 seats. On long flights like that, our service proposition really comes out and we take a three pronged approach offering good seats, good food and good entertainment. On the new A350, we’ll have the latest generation of our inflight entertainment system, which is arguably the best one in the world. We are currently working on expanding flexible dining options on ultra long haul flights so passengers can eat and sleep on their own cycle. [Later in the evening during a speech Mak said:] When we launch New York-Singapore nonstops in 2018 with the new A350ULR [“ultra long range”] we will reclaim the crown of the world’s longest commercial flight. And we’ll make business travelers in New York and Singapore very happy.
Singapore Airines nondescript SilverKris lounge at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
TravelSkills: Are there any plans to upgrade or enhance the Singapore Air Silver Kris lounge at SFO?
Mr Mak: We are looking at our options there. We are aware of the complaints from passengers about the facilities and are working on solutions to improve the lounge.
TravelSkills: United is sure to put its Polaris business class on its SFO-SIN nonstop soon. How will SIA compare or compete with that? How will you convince the many hardcore United Mileage Plus members to fly SIA instead? That’s 17,000 miles round trip!
Our schedules, our hard and soft product, our route network and our well-known inflight service all contribute to a very compelling value proposition. We are also a member of Star Alliance, so MileagePlus members can still earn miles when flying on SIA. [Here’s how you’ll earn United miles when flying Singapore Air]
TravelSkills: Will the A350 be able to fly full year-round or will there be weight or passenger limitations?
Mr Mak: The aircraft can definitely perform on the SFO-SIN flight. However during winter months when winds shift, we will have to carry more fuel and less weight– fewer passengers, less cargo or a little of both.
Singapore’s long-range A350s will fly non-stop to Los Angeles and New York in 2018. (Image: Airbus)
Paul Edwards, the head of Design and Brand Management at Airbus made a speech at the St Regis gala about the new flight and the new plane– here are some interesting nuggets about the A350 that he shared:
>The current version of the plane is the Airbus A350XWB, which stands for Extra Wide Body. At 19.6 feet wide, it’s more spacious than the competing Boeing 787 Dreamliner at 18 feet, 11 inches. The longer range version is the A350ULR which stands for Ultra Long Range, and will be deployed on the New York and Los Angeles runs. [Interesting to note that SFO is closer to Singapore than LAX!]
>The A350 is 25% more efficient than other similar aircraft, which means it burns less fuel per passenger making it “the most environmentally friendly aircraft in the sky”
>The A350 has the largest overhead bins flying– so large that they don’t install them in the center of the plane– which makes it feel much more spacious.
>Cabin air on the A350 is changed every 2-3 minutes and is recirculated through hepa-filters which helps maintain a “fresh smelling” cabin
>There are 12 separate temperature zones on the A350, so rarely will you find hot or cold spots.
>The rate of change in cabin pressure is controlled by onboard computers and gradually increases or decreases during take off and landing, preventing ear-popping.
>Cabin pressure is the same as you’d find at about 6,000 feet on the ground [so about like Denver]. Other aircraft have cabin pressure at about 8,000 feet.
>The A350 is about six decibels quieter than other aircraft, which results in better sleep– and less need for noise canceling headsets.
>In economy class, those obnoxious underseat metal boxes that contain inflight entertainment systems have been removed to provide more legroom.
>New LED cabin lighting has thousands of variations, and they use a blue hue which supposedly helps counteract the effects of jet lag.
Have you flown Singapore Air? Do plan to? Please leave your comments below!
Airport officials this week released an animated video (below) of what the overall facility and its new security checkpoints will look like after all the work is finished, which won’t be for about four years. It will bring the biggest changes to DCA since its Terminals B and C opened almost 20 years ago.
Although the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority had always looked to Dulles International to handle the region’s long-term growth in air traffic, it seems that passengers continue to prefer the short trip to close-in Reagan National over a long journey out to IAD, so DCA’s passenger numbers have been setting records every year. Last year they topped 23 million, well above the airport’s capacity.
The primary goal of the big renovation is to reduce congestion in the terminals. One big piece of the project will be construction of a new concourse for commuter and regional flights on the north side of the airport. Once it opens, passengers will no longer have to use what the Washington Post has called the airport’s most “notorious choke point,” Gate 35X, where they board shuttle buses to get to their aircraft. That will require demolition of the airport’s executive offices and a couple of hangars.
National Hall, which offers dining and retail venues along a glass-enclosed walkway on the Terminal B and C concourse level, will also get a makeover, with security screening moved to the arrival level.
The plan also involves work on airport roadways and construction of a new parking garage. Much of the roadway work will be done at night to minimize inconvenience to passengers. The overall project is expected to cost about $1 billion.
Etihad will shrink its San Francisco schedule and increase DFW service. (Photo: Etihad)
In international route news, Etihad will trim its San Francisco schedule and grow at Dallas, but WOW Air will increase service at SFO and Los Angeles; British Airways adds a new U.S. gateway; Southwest drops a Mexico route out of southern California; and Mexico’s Volaris adds more U.S. service.
Two years ago, Etihad Airways added San Francisco to its route map with daily flights to its Abu Dhabi base using a Jet Airways B777 and prompting “Jetihad” snickers. Etihad finally deployed its own metal on the route earlier this year, but now Routesonline.com reports that Etihad plans to cut its schedule by more than half. Effective next February 1, Etihad is due to reduce SFO service from seven flights a week to just three – and that is expected to continue into next summer. Then on February 2, Etihad will boost its Dallas/Ft. Worth-Abu Dhabi schedule from the current three flights a week to daily service, noting that traffic on that two-year-old route has “exceeded expectations.”
Skúli Mogensen, the founder and CEO of WOW Air (Photo: WOW Air)
While Etihad cuts back west coast service, ultra-low-cost Icelandic carrier WOW Air will grow. Last June, the company started operating five flights a week from San Francisco to Reykjavik, and four a week from Los Angeles. But on March 26, WOW will increase its schedule to daily flights from both west coast cities – with one-way fares starting as low as $99 (plus heavy-duty fees, of course). WOW operates single-class A330-300s, although it does offer some extra-legroom seats for an extra charge.
On March 26, British Airways will begin flying a transatlantic route that currently has no non-stop service: New Orleans to London Heathrow. BA will fly the route on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a three-class 787-8 and a 9:10 p.m. eastbound departure. The carrier said roundtrip fares will start at $734 in economy and $2,145 in Club World business class (based on current exchange rates).
British Airways will use a Dreamliner on its new route to New Orleans. (Image: British Airways)
Southwest Airlines flyers in southern California’s Orange County will have to find another way to get to Mexico City after January 4. That’s the date when Southwest is due to discontinue its daily 737 flights between John Wayne Airport and the Mexican capital.
Mexico’s low-cost Volaris just keeps expanding its transborder network. According to Routesonline.com, the carrier has plans to bring on four new U.S. routes this winter. On February 1, Volaris will begin daily service between Miami and Mexico City, along with four flights a week linking Miami with Guadalajara. Then on March 1, it will add daily flights from Mexico City to New York JFK and four a week between Mexico City and Houston. Just this month it added nonstops between SFO and Mexico City.
San Francisco’s Terminal 1 overhaul is leading to some closures. (Image: San Francisco International Airport)
In the latest airport developments, San Francisco warns travelers about some upcoming closures; Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson starts work on a major project; an international carrier opens a lounge at Newark Liberty International; and American will adjust its presence at its Philadelphia hub.
At San Francisco International, officials are advising travelers that due to ongoing renovation work in Terminal 1, some facilities and areas there will be closed in the days ahead, possibly resulting in some inconvenience or congestion. On Monday (October 24), the connecting walkway linking Terminal 1 and International Boarding Area A will be closed, so passengers will have to use AirTrain to transfer between those points. Also, the Southwest Airlines ticket counters will move to a new location closer to Delta and Frontier. On the arrivals level, October 21 is the starting date for closure of the traffic lane closest to Terminal 1 from Doors 1 through 10; and on the departures level, closure of the lane closest to Terminal 1 from Doors 1 through 5 starts October 28. Click here to see details and suggested tips for affected passengers. The airport has created a cool video simulation of the reconstruction process for T1. Worth a look but turn down the volume to avoid the Game of Thrones-like soundtrack 😉
A dramatic new canopy and a new tunnel are part of Atlanta Airports $20 billion in improvements (Photo: ATL)
Preparatory work has begun at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson for the installation of those massive overhead glass canopies above the pickup and drop-off areas outside the domestic terminal. It’s one of the most visible parts of the airport’s ongoing $6 billion expansion and renovation project. The initial stage of the canopy project – construction of the foundations — has led to some lane closures in the area around the terminal. The closures started earlier this month for shuttle and commercial vehicle pick-ups and drop-offs in the outer lanes of Terminal North, and similar closures will begin October 30 at Terminal South. Airport officials are advising travelers to build in extra time if they’re going into those areas.
Air Canada opened a Maple Leaf Lounge at Newark. (Image: Air Canada)
At Newark Liberty International, Air Canada has opened a new Maple Leaf Lounge for premium passengers near its departure gates in Terminal A, beyond the security checkpoint. The facility offers free Wi-Fi, refreshments, and work areas that include free printing. Air Canada operates up to 23 flights a day from Newark (including United code-shares), serving Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. The airline said it will open a new Maple Leaf Lounge in Montreal next month, and an expanded facility in Vancouver next summer.
American Airlines inherited a hub at Philadelphia International from its merger with US Airways, and it is planning some changes to its operations there in the months ahead. On January 1, American will consolidate its arrival and departure banks – scheduled to maximize connections – from eight a day to six. This will mean rescheduling of flight times in many cases, so if you’re a regular PHL traveler, check AA’s schedules. The airline also reportedly plans to reduce the number of flights it operates at Philadelphia, although in some cases it will switch from smaller to larger aircraft to minimize the impact on passenger capacity.
Airberlin will add Berlin nonstops using A330-200 from San Francisco and Los Angeles next summer- at decent prices. (Image: Airberlin)
Germany’s second largest airline, Airberlin, will launch new nonstops between San Francisco and Los Angeles and Berlin-Tegel airport four days a week starting next May. This marks the first time for a nonstop to Berlin from the Bay Area. Flight time between SFO and TXL is about 11 hours.
A quick glance at airfares on Google Flights for June and July 2017 show round trips in the $1,300 range in economy– a good price for peak season transatlantic flights. Business class flights are about $3,400 round trip. Airberlinalso offers upgrades to XL economy seats with 20% more legroom for about $100 each way. (LAX fares are similar)
AirBerlin also flies nonstop between San Francisco, LAX and Dusseldorf during summer months. Air Berlin is a member of the Oneworld Alliance and is 30% owned by Etihad Airways. Last month Airberlin announced a radical restructuring that will ultimately lead to more of a focus on business travelers- you can read all about that here: “The new airberlin; analyst presentation”
Airberlin will fly nonstop from eight US cities in summer 2017 to Dusseldorf and Berlin: San Francisco, New York (JFK), Boston, Chicago, Miami, Orlando (new), Fort Myers, and Los Angeles. The airberlin hubs in Berlin and Dusseldorf are conveniently connected with many airberlin destinations in Germany, Europe and beyond.
All Airbus A330-200 operating these flights are equipped with airberlin’s premium long-haul product: 19 seats in the exclusive full flat business class section (1-2-1 configuration) and 271 Economy Class seats, including 46 XL Seats, which offer around 20 per cent more legroom.
Airberlin will add Berlin service from San Francisco and Los Angeles. (Image: Airberlin)
In international route news, Airberlin plans a big increase in U.S. service for 2017, including new flights from Berlin to San Francisco and Los Angeles; Emirates adds another U.S. gateway starting in December; Lufthansa will add more capacity out of Denver; Etihad will more than double frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth; and Southwest sets the starting date for its new Havana service.
Airberlin, which started new routes this year from Dusseldorf to San Francisco and Boston, will increase frequencies in those markets for 2017 and will also add more new U.S. routes including San Francisco-Berlin, Los Angeles-Berlin and Orlando-Dusseldorf. The company said its current U.S. operation will have up to 50 percent more flights when its 2017 summer schedule kicks in during May.
Among the changes: San Francisco-Dusseldorf service will increase from the current five weekly flights to daily service, and so will the current four flights a week between Boston and Dusseldorf. New service to Berlin’s Tegel Airport will include four weekly flights from SFO and three a week from Los Angeles. The new Florida route will bring five flights a week between Orlando and Dusseldorf; the carrier already flies to Miami and Ft. Myers. Airberlin said it is getting three more A330-200s to handle its increased U.S. schedules.
Emirates will use a 777 on its new Ft. Lauderdale route. (Image: Emirates)
Emirates has announced a December 15 start for service to its 11th U.S. destination. The carrier will begin daily flights from Ft. Lauderdale to its Dubai base using a three-class 777-200LR. Emirates already flies to Orlando, a route it launched last year. The new Ft. Lauderdale service will benefit from Emirates’ code-share partnership with JetBlue, which has a hub at that Florida airport.
Lufthansa sees room for growth on its Denver-Munich route, which began earlier this year, so the carrier said it will boost frequencies on March 26 from the current five flights a week to daily departures, using a 255-seat A330-300. “Preliminary data show that for the first summer of service, the number of people traveling between Denver and Munich has increased by nearly 50 percent,” a Denver Airport spokesperson said, adding that the top connecting markets for Denver-Munich passengers include Budapest, Prague, Krakow and Kiev. Lufthansa also flies from Denver to Frankfurt.
Etihad will boost frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth (Photo: Etihad)
Finding more traffic than it initially expected on its almost two-year-old route between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways plans to boost service from the current three flights a week to seven effective February 2. The carrier will continue to use a 777-200LR on the route. Etihad offers connections to 100 destinations from its Abu Dhabi hub, and also offers American travelers pre-screening by U.S. Customs and Border protection at that airport.
Southwest is the latest U.S. carrier to announce a starting date for its new rights to serve Havana, Cuba. The company said that on December 12, subject to Cuban government approval, it will begin flying to Havana from both Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa. (Southwest also set a November 13 inaugural date for flights from Ft. Lauderdale to the Cuban beach resort of Varadero.) The carrier is offering introductory Havana fares starting at $59 each way for purchase through November 20. Southwest set up a web page at www.Southwest.com/Cuba with details of the requirements for travel to Cuba and its flight schedules.
Southwest will add two more California routes in March. (Image: Jim Glab)
In domestic route news, much of the action is in California, including a pair of new Southwest routes, new American flights from northern California and LAX, a new Delta market from Los Angeles, and new intrastate service from JetSuite and a small Hawaiian carrier; meanwhile, Alaska upgrades its equipment on two California routes.
Southwest Airlines, which has focused much if its recent growth on California, plans to add another pair of routes there. The carrier said that beginning March 9, it will start new service to Salt Lake City from both Sacramento and Burbank. Southwest is offering introductory fares starting at $59 one-way for booking through October 20.
American will begin Phoenix flights from Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schultz Airport. (Image: Charles M. Schultz Airport)
On February 16, American Eagle/SkyWest will kick off new daily non-stops between Sonoma County’s Charles M. Schulz Airport in Santa Rosa and AA’s Phoenix hub. The carrier will use a CRJ-700 on the route. Elsewhere in California, American plans to initiate summer seasonal service next year from Los Angeles International to Grand Junction, Colorado. The flights will operate from June 3 through August 19, also with an American Eagle/SkyWest CRJ-700.
Outside of California, American will begin new regional jet service on February 16 from Phoenix to Bullhead City, Arizona; and AA this month began American Eagle/Envoy Air flights twice a day from its Chicago O’Hare hub to Akron/Canton.
As we mentioned the other day in a post about the expansion of lie-flat premium seats on transcontinental routes, Delta plans to launch new service on April 24 between LAX and Washington D.C.’s close-in Reagan National Airport, using a 757-200 equipped with fully-flat seats in the front cabin. At the same time, Delta will drop one of its two daily Salt Lake City-DCA flights, replacing it with a Salt Lake-Washington Dulles service.
A Phenom 100 jet from JetSuite (JetSuite)
JetSuiteX, which offers small-plane public charters within California, will begin new service October 17 between San Jose and McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. The company will use a four-seat Phenom 100 to fly the route four times a week, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On the same day, JetSuiteX will boost frequencies between San Jose and Burbank to two flights a day– and currently flights from both Concord and San Jose to Burbank are on sale for just $59 each way (for November trips) and that includes checked bags and wi-fi.
Following United’s recent decision to stop flying between San Francisco and Santa Maria, California, that town just got new service from an unlikely source: Hawaii-based Mokulele Airlines. The carrier is flying four times a day between Santa Maria and Terminal 6 at Los Angeles International Airport using nine-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan turboprops.
In nearby Santa Barbara, meanwhile, Alaska Airlines has started to use new 76-passenger Embraer 175s on its routes to Seattle and Portland, replacing 70-passenger CRJ-700s. The new planes have first class, Preferred Plus and regular coach seating, and are equipped with Wi-Fi service.
In a joint effort by United Airlines and TSA, the new “innovation lanes” are due to go into use this week in United’s Terminal 7 at LAX. The new design permits up to five passengers at once to load their personal items into bins on conveyor belts, instead of doing so one at a time.
The lanes also feature “return” belts that bring empty bins back to the start of the process, sparing TSA workers the chore of doing that manually. And bags that are determined to need more detailed inspection after being x-rayed are shunted off the main conveyor so they don’t slow down the line. The new lanes were first introduced earlier this year by Delta and TSA at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International.
The two United lanes in T7 are expected to be joined by at least nine more in other LAX terminals by the end of 2017. In Atlanta, use of the new lanes has reportedly reduced waiting times in security screening lines by 30 percent.
TSA said it has succeeded in reducing long waiting lines to manageable levels. (Image: Jim Glab)
United has said it is also bringing the new lane design to its hubs at Chicago O’Hare and Newark Liberty International. At the latter airport, United plans to combine four existing security checkpoints into one central facility with 17 lanes.
American Airlines is also on board with the new lanes, planning to bring them to its Phoenix Sky Harbor hub by the end of this year, followed by installations at Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, LAX and Miami.
TSA and the airlines put the “innovation lanes” on a fast track this year after the agency started facing extra-long wait times for security screening at the beginning of the busy summer travel season. The agency also budgeted more for overtime, urged more travelers to join its PreCheck program, and started hiring more screeners to deal with the problem, and officials said last month that it all worked. They said their efforts reduced waiting time to 30 minutes or less for 98 percent of travelers, and to 15 minutes or less for 92 percent. PreCheck members typically wait five minutes or less, TSA said.
SFO’s new 221-foot air traffic control tower operational this week (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
After more than a year of preparation, air traffic controllers will be working in San Francisco International Airport’s gorgeous new control tower this weekend.
Rising up in a graceful flare, the new tower is 221 feet tall. The 650 square-foot controller work area gives air traffic controllers unobstructed 235-degree views of SFO’s runways and taxiways. It replaces the current tower on top of Terminal 2, which will be dismantled quickly beginning in January because it obstructs runway views from the new one.
To celebrate, let’s revisit the behind-the-scenes tour TravelSkills took in 2015 when the airport turned the tower over to the FAA, whichspent the last year outfitting the voluptuous, flared cylinder with its systems, testing them and training controllers.
Ready to take a tour? Let’s start at the bottom and move to the top.
Inside the new corridor connecting SFO’s T1 and T2. View from T2 entry. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Part of the tower project was to create a bright new land side corridor (along the roadway) connecting Terminal 1 with Terminal 2. What’s amazing about the corridor is that it has a glass roof so you can stop and peer up at the new tower. Handrails are needed to keep folks from falling over as they crane their necks to view the beautiful new metallic cone. It’s gorgeous, almost hypnotic, and vertigo-inducing to look up at it as the clouds roll by.
The view looking up from the new glass-roofed corridor between T1 and T2- note the waterfall of lights panels facing west (Chris McGinnis)
A new computer controlled display now lights up the tower in a variety of colors, which can be seen from miles away after dusk. Like the Empire State Building or San Francisco City Hall, the new “waterfall of lights” is used for special occasions– orange when the Giants win, or red and green for Christmas, etc.
Inch-thick, blast-proof glass across the front of the building under the tower (Chris McGinnis)
The FAA has offices in a three-story building at the base of the tower, where the exterior and glass walls have been thickened and hardened to prevent damage from truck bombs on the nearby roadway.
The structure is built on “bay mud” according to project manager Tony Kingsman who said that the tower is supported in bedrock 140 below ground, and is designed to withstand an 8.0 earthquake and still be operational.
This is SFO’s fourth control tower. The current one was built in 1981 atop the current Terminal 2, deemed seismically unstable, so construction began on the new tower three years ago.
It cost about $120 million to build the tower, FAA office building and corridor. The FAA kicked in about 70 million of that– enough for a basic, utilitarian structure, but SFO wanted it to be an iconic, torch-like symbol of the gateway to the Pacific, so it contributed an additional $50 million for aesthetics, as well as additional airport space like the new corridor.
With the new tower open, the old tower will be dismantled quickly so as not to obstruct runway views from the new one. There is talk of the airport adding a outdoor viewing platform, open the the public, in the old tower’s footprint atop T2, but for now, that’s just talk.
Okay then. Let’s crawl up inside this spectacular structure! Watch this video and scroll through the images and video below.
(NOTE: This video was shot last year before the FAA moved its equipment into the tower.)
Aside from the stunning view, note that US Airways/American is now operating out of Delta’s Boarding Area C (Chris McGinnis)
First taking an elevator up about 10 floors and then walking up a spiral staircase, you enter a wonderland of planespotting— a full 270 degrees of unobstructed airport views through 24 giant panes of 1-1/2 inch-thick glass. On the western side of the 650-square-foot “cab” there are a few pillars that hold up the roof. I’ve never seen a view like this one.
Looking out from 221 feet over Terminal 2, home of Virgin America and American (Chris McGinnis)
The tower complex is covered in at least 100 lightning rods grounded by shiny woven metal cables. Look closely and you’ll see them (Chris McGinnis)
Looking out at the United hangar and (oddly) looking down on the current control tower, which will soon disappear (Chris McGinnis)
Installation of air traffic controller stations- there is room for 13 controllers up here, but usually only 6-8 on the job. (Chris McGinnis)
Looking out at one of two cranes used to clean and maintain the tower exterior (Chris McGinnis)
Looking over the parking lot and international terminal (Chris McGinnis)
Air traffic controllers’ break room is one level below the cab- talk about a room with a view! (Chris McGinnis)
Here’s the view from the air traffic controllers break room. Nice! (Chris McGinnis)
Your excited TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis pondering a lightning rod on the top of SFO control tower (Doug Yakel)
Bloggers are squealing about United’s award booking changes. But United says it’s for the better (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Frequent travelers groaned and rolled their eyes again today as United unloaded another devaluation of its MileagePlus program. But Delta tossed its long oppressed silver medallion members a bone.
At United, as with other programs, devaluations feel like death by 1,000 cuts. Earlier this month, MileagePlus members had to swallow higher award travel change fees and accept fewer options for stopping over on award trips. Today, United restricted members’ ability to book multi-city trips, only allowing flight combinations that United creates for the trip and blocking the ability to manually build award itineraries.
At first, most miles & points bloggers thought this might be a mistake or glitch in the system. But in fact, it’s not and United released the following statement spinning the move as a positive: “The new MileagePlus redemption award changes have been designed to make multi-city searches easier, give our customers greater flexibility, offer the Excursionist Perk, and provide efficient options that meet their travel needs. Selecting the multi-city option where United offers nonstop service will break up the search into two separate awards. We believe our multi-city pricing is consistent with the industry. Additionally, our customers have greater flexibility when booking multi-city travel. United.com offers ways to optimize searches – for example, you can select preferred connection cities, specific airports, etc.”
Graceful lineup of Delta tails at ATL (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Over at Delta, SkyMiles Silver Medallion members are “now eligible for unlimited complimentary first class upgrades on award trips 24 hours prior to departure.” That’s a nice gesture, but the reality is that SkyMiles members with more valuable metallic cards will almost always snag those seats before a silver medallion does. Especially when traveling to, from or between a Delta hub like Atlanta, Minneapolis, New York or Los Angeles. Even gold medallions find few upgrades on those hub-to-hub flights. Plus, Delta is now selling those first class upgrades, too, making the chances of a silver getting one even dimmer. But hey, you never know when a free big seat may pop up. So enjoy it if you get it!
In related Delta news, the carrier announced today that Richard Anderson, who became Delta’s chairman after stepping down as CEO in May, is retiring effective immediately. The suddenness of Anderson’s departure (at age 61) has tongues wagging and wondering and only time will tell what the real story is here. Any ideas?
LOT Polish will use a 787 for new Los Angeles service in 2017. (Image: LOT Polish)
In international route news, LOT Polish Airlines will begin new service to Los Angeles and Newark; American Airlines officially launches its new international premium economy class in a few weeks; British Airways drops a Philadelphia flight but American adds one; KLM will fly to Minneapolis-St. Paul and offers San Franciscans a 787 sneak peek; and Icelandair plans to open up two more U.S. gateways.
LOT Polish Airlines will kick off the first non-stop service between the West Coast and Poland on April 3, 2017 when it begins service between Los Angeles International and Warsaw. LOT will fly the LAX route four times a week using a 787-8 Dreamliner. Also in April, the Polish carrier will resume service from Warsaw to Newark Liberty International, a hub for its Star Alliance partner United. The Newark flights will begin April 28, initially operating three times a week with a leased 767-300ER, but switching to a 787 in August. With the addition of Newark flights, LOT will trim its 2017 summer schedule out of New York JFK from 12 flights a week to nine.
American’s new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)
When American Airlines puts its new 787-9s into international service next month, they’ll come equipped with the carrier’s new premium economy cabin – a first for U.S. airlines on international routes. The first flights to offer the premium cabin will be from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Sao Paulo on November 3 and from DFW to Madrid on November 4. The premium economy service is in addition to (and priced higher than) the airline’s extra-legroom seating in the regular economy cabin. Premium economy seats have a 38-inch pitch, greater width than regular economy, adjustable headrests and footrests, larger video screens, noise-reducing headphones, free drinks and more.
British Airways’ longstanding Philadelphia schedule of two daily flights to London Heathrow will change in March 2017 when it drops one of them – the 10 p.m. departure. But joint venture partner American Airlines will pick up the slack, boosting its own PHL-LHR schedule from one flight a day to two.
Delta’s transatlantic joint venture partner KLM plans to kick off service on March 27 from Delta’s Minneapolis-St. Paul hub to Amsterdam using an Airbus A330 for three flights a week (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday). It hasn’t flown the MSP-Amsterdam route for 15 years, according to Airlineroute.com. Delta serves the route with two to three flights a day. Elsewhere, KLM is about to resume Miami service, as previously announced. October 30 is the launch date for the carrier’s three weekly flights from MIA to Amsterdam, which will continue through March 23 with a two-class A330.
Business class seats on KLM’s 787 Dreamliner (Photo: KLM)
In San Francisco, meanwhile, KLM is inviting travelers to visit a Pop-Up location that the carrier will open at Union Square (445A Sutter Street) October 14 to 22, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Pop-Up’s purpose is to promote KLM’s 787 Dreamliner, which it put onto its SFO route a few months ago. Visitors can experience the airline’s World Business Class and a virtual reality simulation of the 787, and will get a chance to win free tickets to Amsterdam.
Icelandair will expand its U.S. network in 2017 with the addition of two new gateways. The carrier will begin seasonal summer service to Reykjavik from Philadelphia four days a week beginning May 30, along with year-round flights from Tampa twice a week starting September 6. Also for the 2017 summer season, Icelandair will boost Denver-Reykjavik service from seven to nine weekly flights from June 1 through mid-September; and will increase its Portland schedule from three a week to four on May 20, adding a fifth weekly flight June 14 through August 31.
The spectacular view from the brand new CityScape bar atop the Hilton San Francisco. Note the cranes on the new Salesforce Tower, soon to be the tallest building in town at 1,070 feet and 61 stories. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):
Airport Encounters now playing in LA (Photo: Larry Gene Fortin)
TravelSkills reader T.M. sent along a great recommendation for frequent flyers living or visiting LA: “People watching has always been a fun way to kill time between flights. Now, thanks to a cast of more than two dozen actors and eight writers, we can watch ten terminal vignettes in the new Los Angeles-based play, ‘Airport Encounters.’ Staged in the intimate 50-seat Lounge Theatre in Hollywood, the play is an entertaining take off on air travel and its passengers. Here’s the link to get tix: neoensembletheatre.org”
Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:
American’s new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)
United’s hub operation at Washington Dulles got a new lease on life. (Image: metropolitan Washington Airports Authority)
In airport news this week, Seattle Tacoma International is giving a preview of what its new international arrivals facility will look like; Phoenix Sky Harbor will inform travelers about the waiting times for TSA lines; a unique restaurant concept is coming to Newark Liberty; United signs a new lease at Washington Dulles, and Turkish Airlines opens a lounge there; and Virgin America switches terminals at Boston Logan.
Those recurring rumors that United Airlines is about to get rid of its Washington Dulles hub have been put to rest by the news that United has signed an extension of its lease at IAD, guaranteeing it will keep a big presence there through 2025. There had been speculation that United might shift more of its East Coast connecting traffic and international flights to Newark. In other developments at Washington Dulles, Turkish Airlines has its first U.S. airport premium lounge there. The 5,000 square foot facility has showers, free Wi-Fi, a buffet, business area with six Cs, and a selection of newspapers and magazines.
The Port of Seattle has released renderings of the new international arrivals facility (IAF) to be built at Seattle-Tacoma International, due for completion in 2019. Citing a “dramatic increase” in the number of international flights at SEA’s South Satellite, the Port said the existing federal inspections area at the airport is already beyond peak capacity. The 450,000-square-foot IAF will be east of the current Concourse A, and will be linked to the South Satellite by a 900-foot elevated walkway across the top of Concourse A. “Creation of a secure international corridor on Concourse A will mean more gates for arriving international flights with a direct connection to the IAF,” the Port said. The facility will increase the number of international widebody-capable gates from 12 to 20; increase the number of Passport booths and kiosks from 30 to 80; increase bag carousels from four to seven; and reduce minimum connecting times from 90 to 75 minutes. Here’s a link to a gallery of images for the new IAF, and an animated fly-through video.
A rendering of the interior of Seattle’s new international arrivals facility. (Image: Port of Seattle)
Flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor? You can now see what the waiting times are for TSA security lines before you head to the airport, if you’re leaving from Terminal 2 or 4. The airport now posts security waiting times on its website (www.skyharbor.com), on flight information displays in the terminals and at PHX Sky Train stations, and on visual paging screens in the terminals. “This amenity will be especially helpful for customers traveling through Terminal 4, since passengers can use any of the four security checkpoints in that terminal to access any gate,” the airport noted, adding that T4 handles 80 percent of the airport’s customers. The service will add T3 data later this year. Note: The waiting times are for regular TSA lines, not PreCheck.
The new Daily restaurant at Newark’s Terminal C. (Image: OTG)
The newest dining venue to open at United’s Newark Terminal C hub – part of the facility’s ongoing $120 million redevelopment — is called Daily, described by concessions partner OTG as “the world’s first airport restaurant where the entire menu changes every day.” Why? In order to present the freshest possible cuisine, the restaurant will base its menu on the produce, meats and fish currently available from nearby farmers’ markets. (Which has us a little concerned considering what’s near Newark Airport 😉 The centerpiece is a wood-burning grill for preparing meat and fish entrees. Other new venues recently opened at EWR Terminal C include Saison, a French bistro; Riviera, with French country dining; Little Purse, serving up dumpling and noodle dishes; and Tacquila, specializing in street tacos.
At Boston Logan, Virgin America has moved its operations from Terminal B to Terminal C, in order to be close to merger partner Alaska Airlines. Virgin flies from BOS to San Francisco and Los Angeles, while Alaska has flights to Seattle, Portland and San Diego. Spirit Airlines has also relocated at BOS to Gates B37-38 from another part of Terminal B.