Runway closure at LAX + New Starwood brand + More passport kiosks + New tier for IHG elites + Fast cars

Runway closure could put a crimp on LA flights (Photo: Phil Whitehouse / Flickr)

Runway closure could put a crimp on LA flights (Photo: Phil Whitehouse / Flickr)

Runway work at LAX. Los Angeles International Airport has started work on an improvement project for all four of its runways that will continue almost uninterrupted for the next two years. The job will require the closure of one runway at a time, and as a result, “passengers may begin experiencing impacts such as delays or a slight increase in wait times aboard aircraft,” the airport authority said. It noted that the biggest impact might be on the operations of Airbus A380s and 747-800s, which can only use two of the airport’s runways. The project includes the addition of so-called “Runway Safety Areas” at the ends of each runway to give pilots a little more leeway if they undershoot or overshoot their landings. A similar project at San Francisco International last year had little impact on flight operations, and actually wrapped up ahead of schedule.

TravelSkills

**TRAVELSKILLS HOUSEKEEPING! We will be updating our format over the next few weeks to make it more easily read on mobile devices. Things could get a little buggy so please bear with us as we make the transition. Thank you, dear readers! We look forward to hearing your feedback when it’s all done.**

An increasingly common sight at airport customs and immgration halls (Photo: Customs 7 Border Protection)

Kiosks like these are an increasingly common sight at airport customs and immigration halls (Photo: Customs 7 Border Protection)

Customs kiosks come to SFO, LAS. Those automated passport control (APC) kiosks continue to proliferate at major U.S. airports — a good thing for flyers, since they can cut down the line time for those re-entering the country by up to 40 percent. This week, San Francisco International is hosting a media event to show off the first of 40 new APCs it is installing in its U.S. Customs arrivals facilities. (SFO’s a little late to the show, since more than 30 airports already have them.) Meanwhile, Las Vegas McCarran last week unveiled a number of newly installed APC kiosks in the Customs Arrivals Hall in TerminWeekend Editional 3. And Miami International — one of the first airports to deploy the devices — said it has ordered 44 more APC kiosks, which will give it a total of 80. Passengers use the devices to enter their personal information and scan their passports, receiving a receipt to present to a Customs officer. Important: These kiosks are not Global Entry kiosks.

HOTELS

New elite tier at IHG Rewards. InterContinental Hotels Group said it will add a new top membership level to its IHG Rewards Club in July, for those who earn 75,000 points in a year or stay 75 nights. Those who achieve this new tier will get 100 percent bonus points on qualifying stays, and a choice of 25,000 bonus points or the upgrading of a family member or friend to Platinum level in the program. In addition, “The qualification requirements for all membership levels have been restructured to BestWesternLogomake it easier for members to be rewarded for their loyalty,” IHG said — e.g., 10,000 points or 10 stays will earn a Gold membership, and 40,000 points/40 nights will qualify a Gold member for Platinum.

Related: How to get a tidy 70,000 IHG Rewards Club points!

How to get $50 from Best Western. Best Western’s new spring “Jump Start” promo can help cut the cost of your summer trip, which by most indicators, could be one of the most expensive in recent memory due to high demand. All you have to do is stay at Best Western twice between now and May 25, and you’ll get a $50 gift card to use this summer. Registration required

The Royal Palm South Beach is part of Starwood's new Tribute brand (Image: Royal Palm)

The Royal Palm South Beach is part of Starwood’s new Tribute brand (Image: Royal Palm)

Starwood’s new brand. Marriott has its Autograph Collection, Hilton has Curio, Choice Hotels has the Ascend Collection, and now Starwood has introduced its own new brand of independent but affiliated hotels. It’s called the Tribute Portfolio, and Starwood said its members will be “four star upper-upscale hotels.” The first Tribute property is the Royal Palm South Beach Miami, and others will soon join in Asheville, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Savannah, Ga.; and Charleston, S.C., the company said. Tribute properties will retain their independent names and designs, but will take advantage of Starwood’s booking channels and will be a part of the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program. Starwood said it expects to have 100 members in the Tribute Portfolio in five years.

Like to drive fast cars and stay at fancy hotels? (Image: Hilton)

Like to drive fast cars and stay at fancy hotels? (Image: Hilton)

Hot cars at Waldorf-Astorias. Like to drive really hot cars that you would never dream of buying yourself? Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria brand has just introduced a new program called Waldorf Astoria Driving Experiences at 12 of its properties in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. Participants can book a package that includes a hotel stay and a “premier supercar driving experience” that puts them behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Italia, McLaren MP4-12C, Porsche GT3, Lamborghini Huracan, or Lamborghini Gallardo. They’ll also get driving tips from racing pros and suggested local touring routes to follow.

Oldie but goodie: Don’t make these 8 mistakes when visiting San Francisco!

Considering a new credit card? Then consider these offers from our credit card partners: 

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a nice 40,000 point sign up bonus (after spending $4,000 in first three months), and you can use points on several airlines, hotels and other travel providers. Nice: no irritating and expensive foreign transaction fees. That 40,000 point bonus with Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is good for $500 in travel when booking through the very robust and flexible Chase Ultimate Rewards program, plus it now offers primary rental car collision coverage (most cards provide secondary coverage).

The United Explorer Card is perfect for those who don’t fly or spend enough to earn elite status– that’s because the card provides some nice elite level perks like priority boarding, passes to United Clubs and free first checked bags. Other nice perks: no irritating foreign transaction fees, primary car rental collision coverage and double miles on tickets purchased from United. Right now you can get 30,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $1,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details here.

Recent: Turkish Airlines pings Silicon Valley

In Case You Missed It…

::

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

NYC airport squeeze + Uber taking over + New Turkish livery + Top hotel programs + New Marriott in Venice

Summer storms could trip up travelers at JFK (Photo: Caren Mack Photography)

Summer storms could trip up travelers at JFK (Photo: Caren Mack Photography)

Squeeze on NYC airspace? Runway repair work at New York JFK starting this spring and lasting through summer could mean flight delays not just at JFK but at all of the region’s airports, since their airspaces tend to overlap. The Associated Press reports that JFK will shut down its main arrivals runway at the end of April for almost five months for resurfacing and repairs, making it longer and wider and giving it a new lighting system. The availability of three remaining runways at JFK should preclude any flight operations problems during good weather, AP said, “but during inclement weather, the loss of that runway could cause a ripple effect of delays at all three of the major airports in the crowded skies above New York.” TIP: At JFK and other airports, try to fly as early in the day as possible during summer to avoid the season’s airport-snarling afternoon thunderstorms. Uber

Uber overtaking taxis for biz travel. Certify, a major provider of business travel expense reporting software, said its analysis of first quarter spending data shows that Uber is quickly making massive inroads into ground transportation. In this year’s first quarter, the firm said, Uber transactions by business travelers accounted for 46 percent of all paid car rides, up from 15 percent a year ago, while the proportion of taxi/limo/shuttle rides dropped from 85 percent to 53 percent. The average Uber ride cost $31.24, vs. a typical taxi fare of $35.40, Certify said. In San Francisco and Dallas, Uber rides now dominate over traditional taxi service for business travelers. If you haven’t joined the crowd and tried Uber yet, do so from this link and you’ll get $20 off your first Uber ride!

Turkish Airlines getting a special San Francisco-themed livery (Photo: Turkish Airlines)

A Turkish Airlines B777 getting a special San Francisco-themed livery (Photo: Turkish Airlines)

Turkish Airlines arrives. On Monday, Turkish Airlines inaugural Istanbul-San Francisco flight arrives painted in a specially themed livery. Turkish provided a sneak peak of the 777 getting all dolled up for the flight. We’ll have full coverage of the arrival here on TravelSkills and on our social media channels.

Loose change adds up for TSA. You know how you throw all your metal stuff into a bin when you go through the TSA security checkpoint, and if you’re in a big hurry to make your flight you might accidentally leave a few coins behind? Ever wonder what happens to that change? It goes into the TSA’s financial coffers and helps fund its operations. And just how much are we talking about? In 2014, travelers left behind pocket change totaling $674, 841. That’s a $37,000 increase from the previous year. New York JFK had the biggest spare change bonanza for TSA, at $42,550, followed by Los Angeles International at $41,506.

Recent: 6 tricky tipping dilemmas that trip up travelers

HOTELS

Best Western Reward points can be redeemed at 4,000 hotels worldwide, like this one near the Opera in Paris. (Chris McGinnis)

Best Western Rewards points can be redeemed at 4,000 hotels worldwide, like this one near the Opera in Paris. (Chris McGinnis)

Hotel Loyalty satisfaction poll. The newly released 2015 Hotel Loyalty/Rewards Program Satisfaction Report from J.D. Power and Associates ranks Hilton’s HHonors in the number one spot, tied with the Delta Privilege program at Canada’s Delta Hotels, a chain that was recently purchased by Marriott. Roaring into third place is Best Western’s Rewards program which has emerged as one of the powerhouses among hotel loyalty programs in recent years. In fourth place is the IHG Rewards Club at and in fifth, Marriott Rewards. The poll found that program members who can earn points for making product or service purchases at hotels showed much higher satisfaction scores than those who can’t; ditto for earning points at restaurants. The survey questioned 2,900 loyalty program members. What’s your favorite hotel program? Why?

Los Angeles restaurant recos: TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis just took a four-day business trip to Los Angeles and highly recommends two restaurants: One is perfect for a power lunch. The other is the newest hottest place to see and be seen. Check it our on our Facebook page, and be sure to LIKE it!

+

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

+

New JW Marriott Venice (Marriott)

Chic new JW Marriott Venice (Marriott)

Openings: Istanbul, Rio, Venice. In New York City, the former Mondrian Soho hotel on Crosby Street in Manhattan has been sold to new owners who have rebranded it as the NOMO SOHO (NOstalgic + MOdern) and brought it into the Preferred Hotels collection …Starwood Hotels has cut the ribbon on its first St. Regis property in Turkey. Located in an upscale shopping area in the city’s Nisantasi neighborhood, the new 118-room St. Regis Istanbul has floor-to-ceiling views of the Bosporus and a Spago restaurant from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck … With the Summer Olympics coming to Rio de Janeiro next year, Hilton Worldwide has opened the 298-room Hilton Barra Hotel in the Brazilian city’s Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, five minutes from the Olympic Park … Forty acres of gardens and landscaping surround the newly opened JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Venice, Italy, located on a private island; most of the 191 rooms have glass walls and private balconies …  The new 391-room Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino in Panama City, Panama, has become a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection.

Weekend Edition

Did you miss yesterday’s issue of our Weekend Edition? No worries! Here ya go:

Delta hub in China? + Lufthansa lie-flat + AA points promo + Delta mileage sale + SAS new biz class

In Case You Missed It…

 

::

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Delta hub in China? + Lufthansa lie-flat + AA points promo + Delta mileage sale + SAS new biz class

Shanghai Pudong PVG airport a new Delta hub? (Photo: Matt_Weibo / Flickr)

Shanghai Pudong PVG airport a new Delta hub? (Photo: Matt_Weibo / Flickr)

Delta eyes Shanghai hub. Delta said last week it will relocate its operations at Shanghai Pudong Airport from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 on April 13 in order to be close to its codeshare partners China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines, and Delta CEO Richard Anderson suggested in a message to employees that Shanghai could be Delta’s next hub as it builds up the China-U.S. market with its partners. He compared it to the existing link between Delta and partner KLM at Amsterdam Schiphol. Delta currently flies to Shanghai from Seattle, Detroit and Tokyo Narita, and if it wins government approval, will add Los Angeles-Shanghai Weekend Editionservice in July, giving it a total of 28 flights a week from the U.S. The code-sharing pacts with China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines give Delta access to 30 destinations beyond Shanghai. And Delta’s customers will have access to a new SkyTeam Lounge that China Eastern plans to open in the airport’s Terminal 1 later this year.

AA accelerates elite points. Members of American Airlines’ AAdvantage program can get on the fast track to elite status by buying pricey premium cabin tickets this year. The company said members who buy full-fare first and business class tickets (fare categories J and F) from now through December will earn 3.0 elite-qualifying points per mile — the usual 1.5 per mile plus a new bonus of an additional 1.5. For discount first and business fares (R, D, A, I, P), the regular 1.5 points per mile is supplemented with an extra 0.5 points for total of 2.0. The bonus applies for travel on American, US Airways, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, Qantas and Japan Airlines. Hmm. That’s starting to sound like a revenue-based frequent flyer program to us…

original_Lufthansa_New_Business_Class_Rollout_Dates_Routes

Lufthansa’s new lie-flat seat (Lufthansa)

Lufthansa lies flat. Thankfully Lufthansa is rapidly shedding its old-school angled lie flat seats, and they will be completely gone in a few months. A Lufthansa spokesperson confirmed that, for example, the carrier’s A380s between Frankfurt and SFO now feature the new business class product. “The Business Class retrofit process of the entire Lufthansa long-haul fleet will be completed in the second quarter of this year,” he said.

Related: Business class on sale for summer! 

A mesmerizing look at a Delta jet from a window of ATL's Concourse E (Photo: AP Gouge Photography)

A mesmerizing look at a Delta jet from a window of ATL’s Concourse E (Photo: AP Gouge Photography)

Delta mileage sale. Delta, which recently changed its SkyMiles rules to make some domestic/Latin America/Caribbean award flights available starting at 10,000 miles one-way, is greatly expanding the number of markets in that deal in a new promotion for spring travel (April 30-June 20). The purchase deadline is April 23. Sample markets include Atlanta-New Orleans, New York LGA-Orlando, Seattle-Phoenix, New York JFK-Bermuda, Atlanta-Nassau and Los Angeles-Mazatlan. among others.

American’s merger milestone. Although they’ve been operating under common management for some time, American and US Airways were technically separate airlines — until last week, when the FAA finally granted the company a single operating certificate for the two carriers, a step that American called “a major milestone” in the merger process. Although that makes a difference to air traffic controllers (all flights will now go by the AA call sign “American”), the change will be transparent to passengers, who will still check in at aa.com or usairways.com or their respective check-in counters. American recently started merging the frequent flyer accounts of the two carriers into a single AAdvantage program, but it still has to combine the two airlines’ reservations systems — a big job that has caused problems for some earlier airline mergers.

Popular: Heyo paleo travelers– check this out

++++

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

++++

New routes: Southwest, Delta, JetBlue. Southwest Airlines last week kicked off the latest expansion of its growing network out of Dallas Love Field, adding daily non-stop service to Columbus, Indianapolis, Memphis, Milwaukee, Panama City Beach (Fla.), Portland, Sacramento, San Jose and Seattle. On April 11, Southwest will add Saturday-only service from DAL to Charleston, S.C. Southwest also started new daily service last week between Kansas City and New York LaGuardia … Delta said it will add two new South American spokes from its Atlanta hub on December 19, including daily service to Medellin, Colombia and three flights a week to Cartagena, Colombia … JetBlue plans a December 10 start for new flights from Albany, N.Y. to Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando, with one daily roundtrip in each market.

SAS using Google's Street View technology to show off it's new cabins (SAS)

SAS using Google’s Street View technology to show off it’s new cabins (SAS)

SAS ‘Street View’. SAS is using Google Street View’s technology to give customers a look at the interiors of its newly upgraded long-haul A330/340 aircraft. Users can navigate their way through the plane to look at the features of SAS Go, Plus and Business classes, checking out the entertainment systems, the seats and even the bathrooms. You can try it out here. But it will be a while before you can actually sit in the new seats. A spokesperson told TravelSkills, “We are upgrading a total of four 340s and the upgrade is should commence just after the summer.”

In Case You Missed It…


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Virgin America to Hawaii: deal or no deal?

Halekulani

Sunset, slack guitar and mai tais at the fabulous Halekulani in Honolulu (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

After months of hints and speculation, Virgin America made it official today: Starting November 2, they will fly to Hawaii from San Francisco. 

Of course, you can expect that Virgin will do these flights right. I envision funky, tiki touches like mai tais, leis, aloha shirts and Hawaiian mood lighting. For example, the carrier is offering free mai tais to all passengers at SFO’s Terminal 2 today to celebrate the announcement.

VirginAloha

Virgin’s new Aloha-inspired gif

But don’t expect amazingly low fares.

Virgin’s introductory fares from between SFO and Honolulu or Maui are $398 round trip with restrictions. That’s more than many of the sale fares we’ve seen so far this year from Alaska Air, Delta, Hawaiian, and United, which at their lowest point hovered around $320-$350 round trip.

To me, that’s a signal from Virgin that it’s not in this crowded market to compete on price. Instead, I bet it will make a big deal about service.

For example, sale fares are available only during the slow “dead weeks” of early November and early December. Want to fly to paradise for Christmas? It’s going to cost you. The lowest economy fare I could find on the site today is a whopping $1564.00. Wanna fly up front in first class? That will cost you $2,998 round trip according to Virgin’s website today.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.31.51 AM

Checking with Hawaiian Air today, I found fares from the Bay Area to the islands as low as $368 round trip for fall flights– cheaper than Virgin’s introductory fares.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.45.59 AM

Would you rather use points? Elevate members can redeem reward flights to Hawaii – with no black-out dates, for as few as 8559 points– but keep in mind that Virgin’s redemptions are based on ticket prices.

Related TravelSkills post: 7 things to know about Hawaiian Air

Free mai tais at SFO's Terminal 2 today to celebrate Virgin's new Hawaii flights (Photo: Virgin America)

Free mai tais at SFO’s Terminal 2 today to celebrate Virgin’s new Hawaii flights (Photo: Virgin America)

Here are details about Virgin’s Hawaiian schedule:

Virgin America

Virgin says that the flights will be operated with brand new Airbus A320 aircraft that it will get later this year, which will be equipped with fuel-saving, ‘sharklet’ wingtip devices, which help aircraft operate more efficiently, especially over longer haul routes.  And they’ll need it– flights to Hawaii run 5-6 hours in length according to Virgin’s website.

What do you think? How will Virgin fare in a market that already has keep competition from four major players? Will you fly Virgin to Hawaii? Please leave your comments below.

–Chris McGinnis

Did you miss our TravelSkills Weekend Edition? Not a problem! Here are the links:

Suspicious behaviors + 2 lounges at SEA-TAC + 80K HHonors points + CLEAR expands + New Wyndham program + Pricey room service

Delta Aeromexico + Delta dogs + United beer + 787s delayed + Japan Airlines + Remnants of SkyMall

In Case You Missed It…

  •  How to avoid fees when you want an earlier flight.

::

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Time to pay for PreCheck

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 1.53.30 PM

There are 26 PreCheck enrollment centers at airports across the country (Photo: TSA)

When PreCheck first rolled out, it was reserved for a secret society of frequent travelers– primarily a beta test group of high mileage members of Delta SkyMiles and American AAdvantage programs (and eventually United MileagePlus).

Airlines sent special invitations to their high-mileage flyers based in the few cities where PreCheck lanes first emerged in the summer of 2011. All members had to do was “opt in” and like magic, they became part of PreCheck. They did not have to apply or pay a fee to be part of the popular program.

Were you one of the lucky chosen few who just opted in? Many TravelSkills readers were! We remember hearing from you :)

If you’ve never applied for PreCheck, never paid a fee and received a “known traveler number” (KTN) then you need to pay attention to this.

This month the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is making changes to PreCheck.

The agency warns that if you are just an opt-in member, and not a full-on, card-carrying, paid member of its trusted traveler programs with a KTN, you will see a decline in how often you are chosen for expedited screening. 

The TSA blog states: If you want to keep receiving TSA Pre✓ on a consistent/reliable basis for the next five years, you are encouraged to enroll in one of the four trusted traveler programs offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

To learn more about these programs, and to view a comparison chart of the benefits, visit www.dhs.gov/tt.

tsa_precheck_whosflying

Bottom line: If you’ve never paid to be part of a trusted traveler program and do not have a KTN on your frequent flyer profile, your chances of getting in the PreCheck line are slim and none.

–Chris McGinnis

Did you miss our TravelSkills Weekend Edition? Not a problem! Here are the links:

Suspicious behaviors + 2 lounges at SEA-TAC + 80K HHonors points + CLEAR expands + New Wyndham program + Pricey room service

Delta Aeromexico + Delta dogs + United beer + 787s delayed + Japan Airlines + Remnants of SkyMall

In Case You Missed It…

  •  How to avoid fees when you want an earlier flight.

::

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Delta Aeromexico + Delta dogs + United beer + 787s delayed + Japan Airlines + Remnants of SkyMall

Aeromexico jets load up a Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport (Chris McGinnis)

Aeromexico jets load up a Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport (Chris McGinnis)

Delta plans Aeromexico joint venture. In addition to its joint ventures with Air France/KLM/Alitalia across the Atlantic and Virgin Australia across the Pacific, Delta now wants to create a similar partnership with Aeromexico, a member of its SkyTeam alliance. The companies said the proposed joint venture would let them coordinate routes and schedules across their networks. “Upon receipt of the required governmental approvals, Delta and Aeromexico will seek to expand opportunities to co-locate and invest in airport facilities by improving gates, lounges and the overall connecting experience. Additionally the airlines will increase joint sales and marketing initiatives,” Delta said. JVs like this don’t typically result in lower fares; instead you can expect a better, more consistent experience. In other news, Aeromexico is starting up two new U.S. routes this week, with Mexico City-Ontario, Calif. service four times a week and Mexico City-Sacramento three times a week.

United's newest beer.

United’s newest beer.

Free beer on United. Starting this month, United will offer a new beer onboard: Goose IPA, which it describes as “a craft beer that delivers a fruity aroma, dry malt flavor and long hop finish.” Goose IPA arrives on United almost a year after Goose Island’s 312 Urban Wheat Ale, which IPA will gradually replace. United says that on April 15, it will offer free Goose IPA on select flights from Chicago and Houston departing between 4 and 6 pm.

AA 787s delayed. Two months ago, American Airlines announced the initial routes for the first of 42 Boeing 787 Dreamliners it has ordered, with the first flights starting in May. But the 787 rollout could be delayed by a problem in the supply chain: Not enough seats for the planes. In fact, Boeing has taken the unusual step of putting two of the new Dreamliners — which were supposed to be delivered to American late last year — into storage in the California desert, because the French company making seats for the planes hasn’t delivered them. No word on how this might affect AA’s Dreamliner schedules.

Chris's labs don't fly- but they love a good road trip!  At Bixby Bridge along California's Pacific Coast Highway. (Chris McGinnis)

Chris’s labs don’t fly- but they love a good road trip! At Bixby Bridge along California’s Pacific Coast Highway. (Chris McGinnis)

Delta dogs. The Humane Society of the United States urges people not to ship their pets by air “unless absolutely necessary.” I agree with that and would rather drive my pooches across the country than force them to undergo the danger and trauma of an airline flight in the cargo hold. (Our big labs aren’t small or civil enough to ride with the passengers. See above!) According to Bloomberg, for $50 Delta will place a new device on your pet’s crate, noting location, temperature and position. If the temperature rises above 85 degrees for example, it will send an alert to Delta. Pet owners can also monitor their animal’s stats by visiting a website. However, the device only provides data before and after the flight because the device relies on cellular communication, which must be disabled during the flight. What do you think about pets in the cargo hold? 

Readers sound off! Check comments: New Marriott/Hilton cancellation policy irks (Reader Report)

Visa simplifies in-flight charges. Credit card giant Visa said in a blog post that it has introduced new global payment standards for airlines’ ancillary fees that should simplify expense reporting for travelers and expense processing for companies. Under the new standards, charges will be specifically identified by the type of transaction, like baggage fees, in-flight food purchases, upgrades and so on. Visa noted that airline ancillary fee credit card purchases have jumped by almost 400 percent since 2008 as carriers changed their business models. Visa said that with the changes, “consumers can more easily understand charges on their bill.” It also means more transparency for your accounting or travel department.  For example, what previously may have read, ‘Airline Air 0014567891014′ would now read ‘Airline Air WiFi.’ “

Have you checked out TravelSkills new advertising partner Personal Capital yet? The site is designed to help busy people manage finances– and we’ve noticed that hundreds of TravelSkills readers have clicked on the links provided on the blog… and we are wondering what you think of the service. Please leave your comments below or email chris@travelskills.com. Thanks!

Delta's 20-minute guarantee (Photo: Jim Glab)

Delta’s 20-minute guarantee (Photo: Jim Glab)

Delta extends bag guarantee. A couple of months ago, Delta issued a limited-time guarantee for checked bag deliveries on domestic flights: Any SkyMiles member whose bag took more than 20 minutes to make it to the carousel could get 2,500 bonus miles as compensation just by filling out an online form. That was supposed to expire March 31, but on Friday Delta said on its Facebook page that it has extended the offer. The airline’s “Bags On Time” web page lists no new expiration date. Irritating: Several TravelSkills readers are reporting that Delta gate agents now frequently fudge about lack of overhead bin space on planes during boarding, forcing passengers to gate check carry ons. But once on board, these passengers report seeing acres of unused overhead bin space. Has this happened to you? 

New Japan route. Japan Airlines has reintroduced daily non-stop service between Los Angeles and Osaka’s Kansai International Airport — a route it stopped flying more than eight years ago. The service is being operated as part of JAL’s joint venture with American Airlines. The carrier is using a 787-8 Dreamliner on the route, with 42 business class seats and 144 economy seats. Related: JAL’s new SkySuite 777 on TravelSkills 

SkyMall purchase. A New Jersey company purchased the remnants of SkyMall at a bankruptcy auction last week for $1.9 million. The company has also bought rights to failed companies like Ritz Camera and Polaroid. Details are still sketchy, but the LA Times reports that the new owners have said that the SkyMall website continues to generate lots of traffic and sales and suggested that in the future, the SkyMall magazine might instead be distributed in airports and hotels, instead of airplanes. Another company called SKY2BUY (which was apparently trying to buy SkyMall, too), is considering starting a new special advertising section inserted into airlines’ existing in-flight magazines. My favorite catalog is The Herrington Catalog, which features a curated collection of truly useful travel-related items, plus clothing and an excellent Europeanish travel shoe selection. What’s your favorite catalog?

Weekend Edition

Did you miss yesterday’s TravelSkill Weekend Edition? Not a problem! Here’s the link:

Suspicious behaviors + 2 lounges at SEA-TAC + 80K HHonors points + CLEAR expands + New Wyndham program + Pricey room service

 

In Case You Missed It…

  •  How to avoid fees when you want an earlier flight.

::

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Suspicious behaviors + 2 lounges at SEA-TAC + 80K HHonors points + CLEAR expands + New Wyndham program + Pricey room service

Keep yawning in check at the airport! (Photo: Natalia Lobato)

Keep yawning in check at the airport! (Photo: Natalia Lobato / Flickr)

Don’t do this at the airport. We recently reported on a lawsuit filed by the ACLU that seeks to put an end to TSA’s controversial SPOT program — Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, in which TSA agents are trained to look for travelers exhibiting “suspicious” behaviors. Now a website called The Intercept has obtained a list of the specific behaviors that TSA agents are taught to watch for, like excessive yawning or throat-clearing, “widely open staring eyes,” or a face that appears “pale from recent shaving of beard.” Check out the list to see if you might be mistaken for a terrorist. Have you ever been singled out as “suspicious” by TSA personnel? Why?

Weekend EditionBig Hilton HHonors bonus. The Hilton HHonors Surpass/Amex card is offering a fat 80,000 HHonors Bonus Points if you spend $3,000 within the first three months of membership. If you are a Hilton regular, this card is a good one with automatic HHonors Gold status, plus you earn 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton brands. Annual fee: $75.  Details here

New lounges at Sea-Tac. Airport Lounge Development, which operates pay-per-use passenger retreats at several facilities, has opened a pair of them at Seattle-Tacoma International. An individual day pass to the facilities costs $35 (vs $50 at most major airline clubs), and the company also seeks out partnerships with international carriers who might want to offer the amenity to premium passengers. Known as ‘The Club,’ the Seattle locations are in Concourse A near Gate 11, and in the South Satellite near Gate 59. You’ll find similar clubs at seven other airports in the US (such as ATL, SJC), all with free snacks and beverages, Wi-Fi, workstations and showers.

Your CLEAR card will get you in the fast last at SF Giants games this season (Image: CLEAR)

Your CLEAR card will get you in the fast last at SF Giants games this season (Image: CLEAR)

CLEAR’s got game. After testing the concept last fall, airport trusted traveler company CLEAR will broaden its scope, setting up shop May 1 at the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park. Members will use biometric ID verification to gain expedited entry to the ballpark via a Fast Access lane located at the Willie Mays gate. (They will still be subject to bag checks, however.) CLEAR has identified major sports venues as a natural market for its product. (More on SFgate.) This spring, CLEAR says it will be adding service at Baltimore Washington and Miami International Airports. What do you think about CLEAR?

New entrance at ATL. Drivers heading for Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson’s domestic terminal can take advantage of a newly opened northbound entrance from Riverdale Road, made evident by a new 35-foot-tall sign. The new entrance means the previous airport access point from Riverdale Road, at the south end of Terminal Parkway, has been permanently closed. The change is made possible by the opening of the Riverdale Road-Airport Boulevard intersection. Airport officials said the change should mean safer trips for travelers by “eliminating short weaves and merges.” What’s more, “The improved roadways will also reduce congestion caused by traffic leaving the airport from the Rental Car Center and simplify airport access from Riverdale Road,” officials said.

Orange County OKs ride-sharing. Officials of southern California’s Orange County have approved passenger pick-ups by ride-sharing companies Uber and Wingz at John Wayne Airport. Both were due to start last week, under terms of a new agreement with the county that calls for the ride services to pay a fee of $2.25 per airport pick-up. Ride-sharing services were already allowed to drop off passengers at the airport, and Uber’s premium services like UberBLACK and UberSUV had been permitted to make pick-ups under a separate agreement.

Did you miss this? Coyotes (and other rare sights) on the runway

HOTELS

(Image: Hyatt)

(Image: Hyatt)

Room service/minibar costs rated. You’ve finished a long day of meetings and just want to crash in your hotel room with a club sandwich. But how much are you willing to pay for that sandwich? How about $24.15? That’s the typical cost of a club sandwich delivered by room service at New York City hotels — the most expensive in the country, according to a new TripAdvisor survey. How about just a snack, like peanuts from the minibar? That’ll cost $12.78 in Boston. A nice minibar vodka cocktail? New York wins again, at $16.76. In Denver, by contrast, the club sandwich is $11.65 and the vodka $7.17. And everything costs a lot less at hotels in foreign destinations, the survey found. Readers: What’s the most you ever paid for a hotel room service order or a minibar selection?

Wyndham revamps Rewards. Wyndham Hotel Group, which has 7,650 properties worldwide across a number of brands, plans to launch a “re-imagined” version of its Wyndham Rewards loyalty program on May 11. The company said the “core features” of the new Wyndham rewards include earnings of 10 points per dollar spent or a minimum of 1,000 points per stay, whichever is more; “Go Free” awards that let members claim a free night for 15,000 points with no blackout dates; and “Go Fast” awards, which allow members to book a night for 3,000 points plus cash. For details, go to www.wyndhamrewards.com.

In Case You Missed It…

  •  How to avoid fees when you want an earlier flight.

::

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Coyotes (and other rare sights) on the runway

SFO

Fake, or decoy, coyotes are used to scare birds off the runway at SFO. JetSuites Phenom, too!  (Image: Chris McGinnis)

Last week when I was between the runways at SFO to watch and report on British Airways’s new A380 arrival, I spied upon several interesting things.

First off was this fake coyote located on a grass strip between the runways. It’s there to scare off birds and prevent bird strikes, which have been on the rise at Bay Area airports recently.

Have you ever seen this little fella? He (or she) is one of several located around the airfield.

Air traffic controllers who read TravelSkills report that pilots frequently spot the decoys, think they are the real thing, and then report them as runway hazards.

According to FAA data, there were 10,856 recorded birdstrikes nationwide in 2013. That’s almost double from 2003, just 10 years before (5,886 strikes), according to a report on NBC Bay Area news.

Then there was this big bird that buzzed over my shoulder! (See video)

Then there was this unusual sighting:

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways A340 at SFO- a rate bird indeed (Chris McGinnis)

Qatar Airways does not offer commercial flights to SFO, yet here was a big Airbus A340 parked over by the United hangar. While I have not been able to confirm this, rumor has it that a member of the Qatari royal family comes to San Francisco for periodic treatment at a local hospital. So the plane comes, and waits, for the royal to receive treatment, then flies home. An A340 typically holds about 300 passengers. But not this one! I wonder if any TravelSkills readers have the scoop on this plane?

–Chris McGinnis

In Case You Missed It…

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

How to catch an earlier flight without paying a fee

Photo: Nick Harris / Flickr

Can you guess in which airport this photo was taken? Answer at the bottom of this post! (Photo: Nick Harris / Flickr)

Getting on an earlier flight can mean getting home in time to have dinner with your family, rather than a solo snack around midnight. If you are headed off on vacation, it means you might be able to make it to the beach in time to get some sun.

During normal airline operations, changing to an earlier flight will cost you, unless you’re an elite level frequent flyer or purchased a full-fare ticket. Arguing that it’s in the airline’s best interest to allow you on an earlier flight because it opens a seat that could be sold to others just won’t cut it. A request like that will elicit a very brief response that ends with, “NEXT IN LINE PLEASE.”

(This is a Blast from the Past post — one of last year’s most popular– making a reappearance on TravelSkills. Enjoy!)

There are two scenarios that can often lead to getting on an earlier flight, free. Your seat assignment may not be ideal but at least you’re on your way sooner. The key is finding and exploiting the fact that something bad is happening and it will cost the airline a lot less to put you on an earlier flight than staying with your current reservation. It requires a bit of on-the-spot research combined with a high-degree of diplomacy. You have a lot more options if you don’t check luggage.

First scenario: your missed connection.

Let’s say you’re in Sioux Falls with a ticket to Atlanta via Chicago O’Hare; your flight departs at noon and has a one hour connection in Chicago, arriving in Atlanta around 5:00 PM.

When you get to your gate at the Sioux Falls airport around 10:45 AM, you see that the early morning flight (on the same airline) was delayed, is still at the gate and departs in 15 minutes. Getting on this earlier flight would allow you to connect in Chicago and grab an earlier flight to Atlanta.

There are two things to do immediately: check the status of the aircraft that’s in route to Sioux Falls that will become your scheduled (noon) flight to Chicago. Don’t trust the airline’s monitors, check via FlightAware’s mobile app, it can track multiple legs of an inbound aircraft on many (but not all) airlines.

If your inbound flight is running late and there is a reasonable possibility of missing your ticketed connection from Chicago to Atlanta, it’s definitely in the airline’s interest to put you on the earlier flights (provided that a seat is available) especially if your scheduled flight from Chicago to Atlanta is the last flight of the day and/or oversold.

The same argument can be made even if you’re not making a connection but your incoming aircraft is running late. With justification, gate agents have the ability to waive fees. Your job now is to make them aware of your impending connection problem and how the airline can avoid it.

Did you miss: How to enjoy dining alone

Second scenario: other passenger’s missed connection.

You’re in San Francisco with a ticket on the last flight of the day to Seattle. However, there is an earlier flight and you’re at SFO in plenty of time to take it.

First thing to do is to see if there are available seats. You can ask an agent or log onto the airline’s mobile site and see if it’s possible to buy a one-way ticket (don’t abandon your effort even if shows full). It will also be very helpful to know if your ticketed flight is full or even oversold.

There are likely numerous other passengers en-route to San Francisco who are connecting to Seattle. Some of those inbound flights could be late or cancelled; gate agents can view the passengers whose inbound flights may not arrive in time. They’re called “miss-connects” and you want one of their seats! Approach the gate agent and ask about miss-connects and inform the agent that you’re on the later flight (it will be very helpful if your ticketed flight is full or oversold).

Putting you on the earlier flight allows the airline to accommodate the “miss-connects” onto your later flight without hassle or cost to anyone.

Don’t miss: Why you should change the credit cards you carry

Gate agents: handle with care.

(Photo: dykstranet / Flickr)

(Photo: dykstranet / Flickr)

Gate agents are the most powerful people you will ever encounter when dealing with an airline.

They rarely hear good news; be especially nice to them. I find that asking for their help or advice with a bit of empathy or humor goes a long way toward success: “It looks like my noon flight is running late and my connection is in doubt, do you think it would be possible for me to take this earlier flight to Chicago and then the earlier one to New Orleans?”   or “Does it appear there’ll be any miss-connects for this earlier flight, I’d be very happy to open a seat for you on the later flight.”

Sometimes also mentioning that the earlier flight allows you to get home and see your family helps as well, empathy goes a long way. Gate agents have families too.

How often are you able to get gate agents to bend the rules and allow you to change flights without a fee? Please leave your comments below. 

-Bob Cowen

PHOTO: This photo was taken by Nick Harris at Chicago O’Hare airport! How many times have you walked through this tunnel?

Blast from the Past is an occasional feature on TravelSkills where we revive old, but still relevant and previously popular posts to enlighten our newest readers. This week, we revive one our most popular posts from 2014! 

 

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

San Francisco gets fourth Airbus A380, larger lounge

TravelSkills was out on the runways at SFO to watch the first British Airways A380 touch down (Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills was out on the runways at SFO to watch the first British Airways A380 touch down (Chris McGinnis)

San Francisco International took on its fourth A380 flight on Sunday afternoon (March 29) when British Airways flight 287 touched down on a perfect spring day– and TravelSkills was there on the runway to watch the big bird touch down!

In addition to the new British Airways arrival, there are now three more A380s calling on SFO: Air France (Paris), Emirates (Dubai), and Lufthansa (Frankfurt).

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis was out on the runway on Sunday to watch to big bird land! Watch the 30 second clip here or see below.

BA’s A380 will operate as BA286 from SFO to London on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  The same flight on Tuesdays and Wednesdays will continue to be operated by a Boeing 747, as will the carrier’s second daily flight the BA284.

British Airways served 500 cupcakes adorned with A380 photos to passengers in boarding area (Chris McGinnis)

British Airways served 500 cupcakes adorned with A380 photos to passengers in boarding area (Chris McGinnis)

A British Airways A380 carries 469 passengers– 14 in first class (on the main, or lower deck), 97 in business class (split between upstairs and downstairs), 55 in premium economy (on on the upper deck), and 303 in economy (both upper and lower decks).

BA’s A380 has 111 first or business class seats, plus a lot more room for elite level members of its Executive Club and Oneworld alliance programs. Compare that to its 747 with just 84 first/business class seats (299 seats total).

British Airways intends to squeeze in another floor at its SFO lounge (Chris McGinnis)

British Airways intends to squeeze in another floor at its SFO lounge (Chris McGinnis)

A larger plane means that the BA Terraces Lounge at SFO is barely large enough to comfortably accommodate the larger crowd. As a result, a BA spokesperson told TravelSkills that plan are currently underway add a third floor to its existing Terraces Lounge at SFO’s Boarding Area A (Int’l). Renovations should be complete within a year or so. 

BA has a word of warning about A380-related crowding on its website. While I have been unable to confirm, I expect that “alternatives” mentioned here might include use of its Oneworld partner JAL or Cathay Pacific lounges nearby.

British Airways

Lounge regulars should also know that when flying on BA’s new A380, there is no longer a private boarding area as there is with 747 flights. Due to its size, the A380 must dock at gate A9 at the end of the concourse, not in front of the lounge like its 747s do.

Related: Riding on the Red Carpet Route to London (BA A380)

British Airways' signature forward & rear facing business class seat. Note window bins on upper deck (Chris McGinnis)

British Airways’ signature forward & rear facing business class seat. Note window bins on upper deck (Chris McGinnis)

I think best business class and economy seats on BA’s A380 plane are on the upper deck. Why? In business class, the front and rear facing seats are configured 2-3-2– narrower than on the main deck where it’s 2-4-2 with two middle seats. Plus, window seats on the main deck in all classes do not get the special bins underneath windows (due to curvature of the fuselage).

Best economy class seats are rows 81-83 at the rear of the upper deck (Chris McGinnis)

Best economy class seats are rows 81-83 at the rear of the upper deck (Chris McGinnis)

The best economy class seats on the plane are at the back of the upper deck– rows 80-83, which is a small intimate cabin that feels almost private, plus it’s very quiet due to its distance from the engines. There’s also one economy seat on the main deck, 25D, that does not have a seat in front of it.

(On BA economy and business class, you can choose seats 24 hours ahead of your flight for free; otherwise you must pay a fee to reserve a specific seat. Details.)

British Airways premium economy seat on upper deck configured 2-3-2 (Chris McGinnis)

British Airways premium economy seat on upper deck configured 2-3-2 (Chris McGinnis)

British Airways posh First class can be yours for $10K round trip (Chris McGinnis)

British Airways posh First class can be yours for $10K round trip (Chris McGinnis)

Currently fares for May round trips between SFO and London Heathrow are $1275 in economy, $2,200 in premium economy, around $7,000 in business class and $10,000 in first class.

More good news: More premium seats on BA’s A380 mean that it could be easier to redeem miles for these trips.

–Chris McGinnis

Related: Riding on the Red Carpet Route LAX to London (BA A380)

 

Did you miss our recent Weekend Editions? No probs! Here are the links:

1,000 Marriott points + AA/US combine + Most hated fees + Delta-Virgin expands + Daylight saving + new routes

Most expensive city + Airport phoning + 25 million more PreCheckers + Cameras in rental cars + 2-4-1 deal in LA

In Case You Missed It…

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

1,000 Marriott points + AA/US combine + Most hated fees + Delta-Virgin expands + Daylight saving + new routes

A brand new Marriott Courtyard in Salisbury, NC (Marriott)

A brand new Marriott Courtyard in Salisbury, NC (Marriott)

Get 1,000 Marriott Rewards Points. Courtyard by Marriott hits its 1,000 hotel milestone on Tuesday (March 31) and is offering 1,000 Rewards points to all members checking into any Courtyard hotel worldwide on that day. The company says that it will give away over 50 million points as part of the promotion. The festivities will be centered around the brand new Courtyard in Walla Walla, Washington, designated as the 1,000th hotel. The very first Marriott Courtyard opened in Atlanta in 1983 near Northside Hospital (since razed) according to Mark Woodworth of PKF Consulting. The Courtyard brand celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2013 and is Marriott’s second largest revenue generator.

Get 50,000 more Rewards points with the Marriott Rewards Premier Card

DaylightSaving-World-Subdivisions

Daylight Saving Time Reminder. Most of Europe switched over to Daylight Saving Time last night following the move made in the US three weeks ago. Did you know that Daylight Saving Time is primarily observed in the US and Europe only (See blue above)? The rest of the world remains on standard time. (Orange and red denote countries that have either stopped observing Daylight Saving Time or have never observed it.)

British Airways A380 arriving San Francisco. British Airways brings its big Airbus A380 to San Francisco today. The big new bird will fly SFO-London Heathrow five days a week complemented by a 747 on the remaining days. BA will also keep its second daily 747 on the route. Stay tuned for more details in a future post.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 7.23.45 AM

AA starts merging loyalty accounts. March 28 is the day American Airlines begins merging US Airways Dividend Miles accounts into American’s AAdvantage program, a process that will take “several days,” the company said on its website. Dividend Miles members will be notified by email when the procedure is complete; once it is, they can book award travel through aa.com, but until then they can’t book free trips. Also, “Elite upgrades will vary by airline until we combine reservation systems later this year,” AA said. “To make sure you’re eligible for elite upgrades, you should book flights that are marketed and operated by the same airline – either US Airways or American. If you’re booked on a codeshare flight, you’ll only be eligible to upgrade when you check in, and as always, upgrades are based on availability.”

Readers all hot and bothered by this TravelSkills Reader Report: Shakedown in Mexico

Survey determines most hated fees. Even though major airlines have been trumpeting the amounts they’re spending on passenger enhancements these days, most air travelers — 62 percent — remain “frustrated” by the air travel experience, and would pay more to see improvements, according to a new consumer survey by the U.S. Travel Association. Three out of five said they would pay up to $4 more per ticket in user fees for larger, more efficient U.S. airports. Respondents cited airlines’ $200 change/cancellation fees as the most reviled, followed by $50 seat assignment charges, $25 checked bag fees and $50 priority boarding fees. On another issue, seven out of 10 respondent said that instead of trying to block access by foreign carriers, U.S. airlines should improve their own quality of service to be more competitive.

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

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

DOT lets Delta keep Tokyo route. The Transportation Department tentatively ruled on Friday that Delta can keep its existing Seattle-Tokyo Haneda route, but only if it maintains year-round daily service. Delta had sharply reduced its Seattle-Tokyo schedule during the winter, prompting competitors to ask the government to give them the Haneda rights. American wanted to fly Los Angeles-Haneda and Hawaiian Airlines had filed for Honolulu-Haneda rights.

Delta, Virgin expand partnership. Delta and joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic announced an expansion of their joint venture schedules across the Atlantic this year. Upcoming new routes include a daily Philadelphia-London Heathrow flight starting April 26 and a daily New York JFK-Manchester flight beginning May 21, both operated by Delta; and a daily Detroit-LHR roundtrip starting June 1, operated by Virgin Atlantic. Next month, Virgin is set to add a second daily Los Angeles-LHR flight (in addition to Delta’s once-daily service, for a total of three a day) and to open a new Virgin Clubhouse at LAX. This weekend, Virgin lays on a second daily Atlanta-LHR flight and a second San Francisco-LHR service five times a week. Overall, the partnership’s schedule calls for 39 daily transatlantic flights this summer.

Shoulder Surfing. Have you ever been the victim of “shoulder surfing” when you just know that the person next to you on the plane is watching everything you do on your laptop. This hilarious video records what happens when someone fights back by turning on his laptop’s camera. How do you handle nosy neighbors on planes? 

United delays extra SFO-China flight. United Airlines has pushed back its plan to add a second daily San Francisco-Shanghai Pudong flight, citing slot issues. Instead of starting in early May, the extra flight won’t begin until July 2. United will use a 787-9 for the new service.

New routes: Emirates, Austrian, Philippine. Fast-growing Emirates will add another U.S. gateway on September 1, when it begins daily Orlando-Dubai non-stops, using a three-class 777-200LR … Lufthansa affiliate Austrian Airlines, a Star Alliance member, will start flying a 777 from Miami to Vienna five times a week on October 16 … Philippine Airlines has revived New York JFK-Manila flights four times a week, operating via a stop in Vancouver.

Weekend Edition

Did you miss yesterday’s Weekend Edition? No probs! Here’s the link:

Most expensive city + Airport phoning + 25 million more PreCheckers + Cameras in rental cars + 2-4-1 deal in LA

In Case You Missed It…

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

.

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Most expensive city + Airport phoning + 25 million more PreCheckers + Cameras in rental cars + 2-4-1 deal in LA

San Francisco's dubious new title (Photo: Gags9999 / Flickr)

San Francisco’s dubious new title (Photo: Gags9999 / Flickr)

San Francisco: We’re Number One! The City by the Bay has captured first place in a new study, but it might not be an enviable ranking: According to the trade publication Business Travel News, San Francisco is the most expensive business travel destination in the U.S., with average costs (hotel, meals and incidentals) totaling $509.50 a day. That’s almost $15 a day more than second-place New York City. Boston ranked third, at $465.52. But San Francisco is a bargain compared to the travel costs Weekend Editionin some foreign cities, like number one-ranked Caracas ($1,325) and number two London ($576).

U.S. airport mobile networks rated. Have you noticed differences in your phone’s mobile data connections from one airport to another? The differences in network reliability and speed are real — and significant, according to a new report from RootMetrics. The company tested data networks at 50 major U.S. airports, and determined that Memphis International provided the best experience for travelers, while Dallas Love Field showed the biggest improvement, jumping from 40th place in a previous study to fifth place in the latest rankings. Rounding out the top five were Pittsburgh in second place, Chicago O’Hare in third, and Ft. Myers, Fla. in fourth. San Diego ranked in last place among the 50 airports. Atlanta scored a seventh place ranking, while San Francisco was 45th.

World’s 10 highest (and lowest) quality cities

PreCheck at Honolulu International (Photo: Hawaiian Airlines / Flickr)

PreCheck at Honolulu International (Photo: Hawaiian Airlines / Flickr)

‘Trusted Travelers’ increase. Do those TSA PreCheck security lines seem to be getting a bit longer? The Transportation Security Administration said last week that the number of registered PreCheck members has topped the 1 million mark. What’s more, Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program — whose members are also eligible for the expedited PreCheck treatment — now counts more than 2 million travelers in its ranks. But just wait: TSA officials told a House committee hearing last week that they expect to sign up another 25 million Americans in PreCheck and CBP Trusted Traveler programs over the next several years — insisting that they would also reduce the number of non-members who are currently being selected for the speedier security lanes.

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

Why are cameras in Hertz cars? If you sat behind the driver’s seat in a rental car and saw a camera pointed squarely at you, wouldn’t you be a little suspicious — or at least curious? That’s what some Hertz renters are seeing: cameras and microphones installed in the company’s NeverLost navigational units. Hertz insists that the cameras are currently non-functioning and can’t be turned on. It suggests that in the future, renters might be able to turn them on for “videoconferencing” with Hertz representatives. Huh?

The new Kempinski Beijing looks like it belongs on another planet! (Photo: Kempinski)

The new Sunrise Kempinski Hotel Beijing looks like it belongs on another planet! (Photo: Kempinski)

Openings: Bahrain, Budapest, Beijing. A man-made island overlooking the capital city of Manama is the setting for the newly opened Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay. The 273-room urban resort’s restaurants were overseen by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck … The newest luxury hotel in Budapest is the Aria, which opened this month; located next to St. Stephen’s Basilica, it offers free breakfast and free high-speed Internet … The new 306-room Sunrise Kempinski Hotel Beijing, which boasts extensive meeting facilities and a unique circular design, is actually located at Yanqi Lake near the Yan Mountains, almost 30 miles from the city center … Raffles Hotels has cut the ribbon on the 173-room Raffles Jakarta, linked to the new Ciputra Artpreneur Centre in the city’s Golden Triangle … Effective October 1, 2015, Hilton will take over management of the Hotel Nikko Tokyo, located in the waterfront area of Odaiba, rebranding it as the Hilton Tokyo Odaiba … In Central America, InterContinental Hotels Group has opened a newly built Crowne Plaza less than a mile from Panama’s Tocumen International Airport.

The Getty Center overlooking the 405 and downtown LA (Photo: Justin Vidamo / Flickr)

The Getty Center overlooking the 405 and downtown LA (Photo: Justin Vidamo / Flickr)

Culture in L.A. Got business in Los Angeles? If you’re going there between April 6 and May 19, you might want to tack on a couple of extra days and bring your significant other along. Those are the dates of the new “Culture L.A.” promotion organized by the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. Visitors who stay in a hotel at least one night during the promotion period can get two-for-one admissions to more than 30 of the area’s top performing arts venues and tourist attractions, including the Getty Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles Zoo, L.A. Chamber Orchestra, Aquarium of the Pacific and many more.

In Case You Missed It…

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

.

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Biz class discounts + Ryanair reversal + Delta/United Apple watch + Hotel shower fee?

Ryanair's reversal on plans for ultra-low transatlantic flights (Photo: Ryanair)

Ryanair’s reversal on plans for ultra-low transatlantic flights (Photo: Ryanair)

Ryanair denies U.S. route plan. Dublin-based Ryanair, the largest intra-European ultra-low-cost carrier, late last week denied earlier reports that it plans to start flying to 14 U.S. cities within five years. According to the initial reports, the airline’s board was said to have approved the ambitious expansion plan, which would have called for transatlantic fares as low as 10 pounds (about $15) one-way — supplemented by the many ancillary fees for which Ryanair is famous. But a few days later, the Ryanair board issued a terse one-sentence statement saying that it “has not considered or approved any transatlantic project and does not intend to do so.”

4 ways to find discount biz class. If you want to snag a rare business class discount this summer, now would be a good time to start looking, according to a Wall Street Journal article posted this week. Many airlines discount business class during summer, but only if you purchase 60-90 days in advance. It also suggests waiting for last minute biz class discounts presented when you check in online or at the airport (Virgin Atlantic Etihad, Air Canada, Air India, Alitalia), bidding for upgrades on the likes of LOT, Etihad, KLM, Virgin or Air New Zealand, or using specialized travel agencies that sniff out biz class discounts by using unusual routings or volume discounts.

This week’s most popular post: FAA: Stay out of that (filthy) seat back pocket

Delta's got an app for that  new Apple watch (Photo: Delta)

Delta’s got an app for that new Apple watch (Photo: Delta)

Delta, United prepare Apple Watch apps. Following up on American’s plan to be an app launch partner for the new Apple Watch, both Delta and United are working on their own apps for the device. Besides providing a new way to store electronic boarding passes for airport check-in via Apple’s Passbook, the Delta and United apps would reportedly provide flight notifications, gate numbers and changes and other preflight data. The Delta app would also let users know which baggage carousel to go to when their flight arrives. The Apple Watch is due go on sale April 24.

Frontier boosts bag fees. Effective May 1, ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines will increase some of its baggage fees. For purchasers of basic economy fares, The gate check fee for a bag that exceeds permissible carry-on dimensions goes up from $50 to $60; and the fee for a first checked bag goes from $20 to $25 when purchased at web check-in, and from $25 to $30 for airport check-in. For both basic economy and Classic Plus fare buyers, the fee for a second checked bag rises from $30 to $35. All the more reason I think a lot of travelers will shy away from these carriers despite their recent big expansions into cities like Atlanta.

Have you checked out Personal Capital yet? A powerful new tool from the former CEO of PayPay and Intuit (Quicken) to help busy people manage finances– some say it’s a better tool for wealth management than Mint.com. If you, like many business travelers, have a tough time keeping up with your investments, you should check it out today and help support TravelSkills!

JetBlue adds Florida code-shares. JetBlue has forged a new code-share partnership with regional carrier Silver Airways, giving customers access to JetBlue-coded connections beyond Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale on 14 Silver routes within the state of Florida. Silver flies 34-seat Saab 340B Plus turboprops. JetBlue said that later this year it expects to expand the code-sharing to 13 Silver routes between Florida and the Bahamas. Meanwhile, JetBlue also announced that it will deploy its Mint premium-cabin service with lie-flat seats on flights from New York JFK to Barbados and Aruba starting in November.

Soak in the view from the shower at the Radisson Blu Royal hotel in Stockholm (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Soak in the view from the shower at the Radisson Blu Royal hotel in Stockholm (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Are ‘long shower fees’ coming? As travel suppliers look for new ways to soak their customers, could hotels start charging extra for spending too long in the shower? The University of Tulsa reportedly received a government grant to develop new technology that tracks the amount of water used in each hotel room. Could that be the infrastructure for a new revenue stream from long-showering guests? It might be a good idea in drought-stricken California, but customers in other regions would probably think such an idea is all wet.

Room rates ramp up. If you’re working on your business travel budget for the next couple of years, you better allow for significantly more spending on hotels. The prognosticators at PKF Hospitality Research are predicting that average U.S. room rates will jump by almost 12 percent from 2014 to 2016, as rising demand allows hoteliers to adjust prices upward. PKF said it expects to see average U.S. hotel occupancy (percentage of rooms filled) reach a record 65.6 percent this year, pushing room rates up by 5.3 percent. That will be followed by a 2016 increase of 6.3 percent in average daily rates, the company predicts.

Weekend Edition

 No time to read Saturday’s Weekend Edition? No probs! Here ya go:

Uber NYC + Feds watching you + New LAX lounge + Best airport + Airport parking

In Case You Missed It…

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Uber NYC + Feds watching you + New LAX lounge + Best airport + Airport parking

(Photo: Jason Tester Guerilla / Flickr)

(Photo: Jason Tester Guerilla / Flickr)

NYC taxis losing the Uber battle. The New York Post reports that ride-finding service Uber has reached a critical milestone in New York City, no doubt the biggest market in the nation for hired cars: There are now more Uber vehicles than licensed taxicabs in the Big Apple. The paper said that Uber now has 14,088 “black and luxury cars” available for hire in New York, vs. 13,587 medallion taxis — although total trips by taxi still vastly outnumber Uber rides. Uber drivers reportedly like the more flexible hours and the higher earnings compared with traditional yellow cabs. Meanwhile, Uber continues to face plenty of legal troubles around the world, most recently in France, Germany and South Korea — including a new ban of its lower-priced car service in Germany. Weekend EditionHave your Uber habits shifted over the course of the last six months? Please leave your comments below. And if you can’t comment because you’ve yet to give Uber a try, sign up here and get $20 off your first ride. 

Feds eye facial recognition. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has quietly started testing new facial recognition technology on U.S. citizens re-entering the country at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. According to the tech news website Motherboard, the program is intended to help Customs officers catch individuals who may be using a passport that isn’t their own — although some observers question what CBP plans to do with the passenger photos it accumulates. Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union last week sued the Transportation Security Administration, demanding to see documents related to its “Screening Passengers by Observation” (SPOT) project. That’s the program that trains TSA officers to watch for passengers exhibiting suspicious behaviors or appearing stressed or frightened, and subjecting them to extra inspections. The ACLU alleged that separate studies have found there is no evidence that the program works at all; an ACLU attorney said the program “wastes taxpayer money, leads to racial profiling, and should be scrapped.”

FAA: Keep out of the seat back pocket

Our famous photo of the updated men's room with a view at Singapore Changi Airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Our famous photo of the updated men’s room with a view at Singapore Changi Airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Changi tops airport list — again. For the third year in a row, Singapore’s Changi Airport has ranked as the world’s best in the annual passenger survey conducted by Skytrax. And once again, no U.S. airports managed to make it into the Top 10 Best list. London-based Skytrax is unique in its survey sample size: It claims more than 13 million travelers from 112 countries voted in its annual online poll, which covered 550 airports worldwide. Rounding out the Top 10 after Changi are, in order: Korea’s Incheon, Munich, Hong Kong, Tokyo Haneda, Zurich, Central Japan, London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol and Beijing Capital International. Rated the best North American airport for the fifth consecutive year was Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. Readers, do you agree? In your experience, what is the world’s best airport?

Looking over the duty-free area at LAX from the terrace of the new Emirates lounge (Photo: Emirates)

Looking over the duty-free area at LAX from the terrace of the new Emirates lounge (Photo: Emirates)

Emirates lounge at LAX. Emirates officials have cut the ribbon on a new $6.2 million Emirates Lounge at Los Angeles International Airport. Located in the Tom Bradley International Terminal, it’s open to first and business class passengers as well as Platinum and Gold members of the airline’s Skywards loyalty program. Seating 157, it offers a buffet food service, business center, free Wi-Fi, shower facilities, TV and reading areas and a prayer room.

Parking at Atlanta. Atlanta-area travelers worried about finding a parking space at the busy Hartsfield-Jackson Airport have a new option: online parking reservations. The airport said that for a $5 booking fee, customers can now reserve a space in the domestic Park Ride Reserve lot, which costs $12 a day; or in the international hourly parking deck for $16-$24 a day (the fee varies based on demand; the online rate is a significant discount from the regular $32 a day). Reservations must be made at least 24 hours n advance. The airport’s new parking reservations page is here.

Why you should change the credit cards you carry

In Case You Missed It…

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Turkish Airlines newest US route

Turkish flights to SFO start in April. Rumors swirl around ATL, too. (Photo: Eric Salard / Flickr)

Turkish flights to SFO start in April. Rumors swirl around ATL, too. (Photo: Eric Salard / Flickr)

Turkish Airlines is set to launch new nonstops between Istanbul and San Francisco on April 13. SFO is one of nearly a dozen airports the carrier serves in North America. Its meteoric rise on the air travel scene has been mesmerizing, and the airline can now claim that it serves more countries (108) than any other airline in the world.

Its route map is staggering with 265 destinations across Africa and Central Asia that many frequent travelers may have never even heard of, and its coverage of Europe goes beyond serving national capitals to connecting secondary and tertiary cities like Bilbao, Spain; Friedrichschafen, Germany; and Vilnius, Lithuania.

Turkish flies to more countries than any airline in the world.

Turkish flies to more countries than any airline in the world.

Turkish will compete with the big three Middle Eastern carriers (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways) thanks to its well-positioned hub that allows it to connect north to south as well as east to west traffic. The airline is a bullish competitor with European airlines too, often pricing fares between the US and Europe well below the competition.

For example, we found roundtrip coach fares SFO-IST in May for just $917. Business class roundtrips are just $3,900. (A press release states that there are coach fares as low as $699 roundtrip, but we’ve been unable to find them.)

Turkish Airlines is a member of Star Alliance and is known for providing a decent amount of award space to travelers interested in redeeming miles. Stateside, partner United Airlines almost always has plenty of Turkish seats available, which are searchable via united.com.

Turkish has a fleet of new Airbus and Boeing aircraft coming online at a steady pace, and as a result of this growth, its main hub is beginning to see the strain of the airline’s growth. Plans to open a new Istanbul airport are in the works with the first phase of construction set for 2019. This will increase the airport’s capacity to 90 million passengers and give Turkish Airlines the ability to stretch its wings as far away as South America and Australia, the only two significant white patches in its route network.

Even economy class meals like this one are impressive on Turkish (Photo: Sergey Melkonov / Flickr)

Even economy class meals like this one are impressive on Turkish (Photo: Sergey Melkonov / Flickr)

Frequent travelers with the airline will recognize its onboard cuisine to be one of the best. Designed by catering company Do & Co, there is always a wide selection of Turkish cuisine on board. All passengers are treated to Turkish Delight (a pistachio-stuffed sweet) after boarding, no matter where they are seated. And most flights feature an onboard chef in the business class cabin that prepares the meals.

The inflight experience is not without its drawbacks, though. The Muslim influence of the Turkish government sometimes puts pressure on the airline to not be as free with alcohol as other airlines. Turkish used to provide champagne upon boarding, now it is only upon request. And receiving a refill on wine or cocktails often requires a friendly reminder to the flight attendant who may not offer it automatically.

 Turkish Airlines lie-flat business class seat (Photo: Turkish Airlines)

Turkish Airlines lie-flat business class seat (Photo: Turkish Airlines)

Another issue: aircraft cabins are typically kept so warm that North Americans get uncomfortable. Over several recent flight experiences, I noticed the cabin temperature set to 78 degrees, and many of the airline’s long-haul planes lack individual air vents.

The new SFO flight will use the 777 aircraft, which Turkish has equipped with true lie-flat business class seats and free (!) wi-fi on most of its birds. Turkish Flight 80 will depart SFO at  6:10PM and arrive in Istanbul at 5:05PM the next day. Flight 79 departs IST at 1:15 PM and arrives SFO at 4:25 PM on the same day. Turkish will use a Boeing 777-300ER on the 13-hour flight with business class in a 2-3-2 configuration and coach in a 3-3-3 configuration and no first class.

Not to be missed: Turkish Airlines two-level lounge at Istanbul Ataturk. Wow. (Photo: James Cridland / Flickr)

Not to be missed: Turkish Airlines two-level lounge at Istanbul Ataturk. Wow. (Photo: James Cridland / Flickr)

Not to be missed: Turkish Airlines’  double-decker business class lounge which is the envy of most airlines and a conversation point among savvy frequent travelers. Roaming masseurs, self-playing pianos, self-serve beverage stations, private napping rooms, video game stations, a golf simulator, billiard table, and even a kids’ playing area are among the special amenities. Live cooking stations at every turn produce fresh pizza, pasta and omelets made to order, an array of fresh salads and Turkish appetizers, Turkish sweets, coffee, fresh lemonade, and grilled meats. Planning a long connection in Istanbul is worth the extra time to take advantage of the lounge’s unending space.

Rumors swirl of potential new service to Atlanta although nothing has been announced.

There is no doubt that when Turkish touches down at San Francisco in April that long-haul flyers will find a worthy competitor. Just be ready to ask repeatedly for booze and to fight your way through a congested Istanbul airport upon landing.

–Ramsey Qubein

Did you miss this our recent Weekend Editions? No probs! Here they are for ya:

Better Virgin seats for Delta elites + AA US program merger + Fastest airlines + Delta shrinks at CVG + Lufthansa A380s

United schedule changes + Easy 1,000 HHonors points + Virgin 2-4-1 + New United gates + Lyft beats Uber

In Case You Missed It…

  • Here’s what you should know about Spring Break and its travel impact.

Why you should change the credit cards you carry

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Better Virgin seats for Delta elites + AA US program merger + Fastest airlines + Delta shrinks at CVG + Lufthansa A380s

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330 (Photo: Mark Harkin / Flickr)

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330 (Photo: Mark Harkin / Flickr)

Better Virgin seats for Delta Medallions. Remember our I have to sit where? post regarding a reader complaint about Virgin Atlantic’s shabby treatment of Delta elites? Well, it seems that there’s been a policy change. We learned about it from TravelSkills reader SG who wrote: “Virgin Atlantic is now allowing Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallions free access to exit row and their extra legroom seats. I learned this this morning when I spoke to a Virgin Atlantic agent who helped me over the telephone. The only reason I know this is because I tried to choose my seats on their website for a March flight to LHR and I was unable to do so and I reached out to them over the phone. If you decide to dig into this let me know what you learn, as I am surprised that I would not have known this without asking.” So of course, we dug into it and here’s what a Virgin spokesperson told TravelSkills: “That’s correct, Delta Diamond and Platinum Medallions are entitled to assign an Exit or Extra Legroom seat free of charge from day of booking, for themselves only. This is the same for Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold Members.”

Statistics guru tackles flight delays. Nate Silver, the statistical analyst who rose to prominence by correctly predicting election results when he worked for the New York Times, has set his sights on air travel delays. Silver’s website (fivethirtyeight.com) has a new interactive feature that tells travelers the odds of delays on any given route, based on historical statistics from airlines and airports. Silver notes that 54 percent of U.S. flights arrive ahead of schedule, but there is considerable variation among delayed flights — e.g., Silver ranked Virgin America as the fastest airline for shaving seven minutes off “a typical flight relative to other airlines” in the past year; United ranked last on that list, with an average six minutes longer than competitors.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 3.13.19 PM

AA will merge mileage programs soon. American Airlines told its frequent flyers that it will fully integrate US Airways’ Dividend Miles program into its own AAdvantage plan within 30 days. Once the programs are combined, “we’ll begin transferring your Dividend Miles mileage balance, Preferred‑qualifying activity and million mile balance into your AAdvantage account on a one‑to‑one ratio,” AA said. “We’ll determine your elite status level by looking at your combined elite‑qualifying activity for 2014, and separately, your combined 2015 year‑to‑date elite‑qualifying activity.” If you have accounts in both programs, American wants you to let it know by March 20 and has compiled an online guide to how you should proceed.

Living in a condo… inside the airport?

Lufthansa's A380 maiden FRA-SFO voyage loads up in 2011 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Lufthansa’s A380 maiden FRA-SFO voyage loads up in 2011 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Lufthansa expands premium economy. Now that Lufthansa has installed premium economy seating on all of its 747-8s and 13 Airbus A340s, it has started adding the new cabin class to its Airbus A380s. The first premium economy-equipped A380 flew between Houston and Frankfurt last week and will enter continuous service on that route April 9. Another overhauled A380 goes onto the Los Angeles-Frankfurt route at the end of March, and premium economy should be available on all Lufthansa’s A380 routes — including San Francisco — by April 22. The premium economy seats offer 50 percent more legroom and upgraded in-flight services and amenities, and purchasers can check two bags for free.

Alaska adds East Coast routes. The next step in the escalating competition between Alaska Airlines and Delta at Seattle will come September 16, when Alaska plans to launch daily service between SEA and New York JFK, Delta’s transatlantic hub. It will be only one flight a day in a market dominated by Delta, but it sends a message. Meanwhile, last week Alaska kicked off new daily roundtrips between Seattle and United’s hub at Washington Dulles — the only one of the three D.C.-area airports not served by Alaska. In other news, Alaska filed for government approval to fly from California’s Orange County Airport to Puerto Vallarta three times a week and to Los Cabos four times a week.

Delta shrinks again at Cincinnati. At the peak of its Delta hub status, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky offered almost 700 Delta flights a day; since then, the airline has gradually but steadily reduced its presence at CVG, and with a new round of cuts coming in the months ahead, it will be down to less than 100 flights a day. That includes the elimination of service to Madison, San Diego, New Orleans and Jacksonville, and reduction of frequencies in a number of key business markets. By this summer, Delta will be flying to 36 cities from Cincinnati.

How to get on earlier flight without paying fee

A shiny new Etihad Boeing 787 (Photo: Etihad)

A shiny new Etihad Boeing 787- note the wing flex? Pretty! (Photo: Etihad)

New 787 routes from Etihad, AeroMexico. Etihad Airways, which has been using an Airbus A340 on its two-year-old Abu Dhabi-Washington Dulles route, will replace it March 15 with a new 787-9 Dreamliner. The carrier said it’s the U.S. debut for its “next generation first, business and economy class products,” with eight suites in first, 28 “Business Studios” and 199 coach seats. … AeroMexico said it will put a new 787-8 into service beginning April 5 on four flights a week between Mexico City and Los Angeles.

Uber is back at Austin: We just learned from TravelSkills reader TK that Uber is now back in the good graces of Austin Bergstrom Airport and will be allowed to operate temporarily for SXSW. An airport release states: “Transportation Network Companies Lyft and Uber are permitted to provide on-demand transportation services at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on a temporary basis. The ridesharing companies have reached an agreement with the City of Austin, Department of Aviation to operate at the airport for a temporary period, not to exceed 45 days, until a long-term agreement can be reached between parties.”

Weekend Edition

Did you miss yesterday’s issue of our Weekend Edition? No probs! Here ya go:

United schedule changes + Easy 1,000 HHonors points + Virgin 2-4-1 + New United gates + Lyft beats Uber

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis is in Dublin this week as it prepares for St Patrick's Day-- as seen here at the airport. Stay tuned for updates and a review of Aer Lingus brand new lie-flat business class seat (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis is in Dublin this week as it prepares for St Patrick’s Day– as seen here at the airport. Stay tuned for updates and a review of Aer Lingus brand new lie-flat business class seat (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

In Case You Missed It…

  • Here’s what you should know about Spring Break and its travel impact.

Why you should change the credit cards you carry

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

United schedule changes + Easy 1,000 HHonors points + Virgin 2-4-1 + New United gates + Lyft beats Uber

Say Aloha to Hawaiian's new slimline seats. (Photo: Hawaiian)

Say Aloha to Hawaiian’s new slimline seats. (Photo: Hawaiian)

Hawaiian adds seats. Hawaiian Airlines is increasing the capacity of its inter-island 717s from 115 to 120 passengers with the installation of new “slimline” seats. While some travelers have found the extra-slender seats to be less comfortable than the traditional kind, Hawaiian figures its passengers shouldn’t mind since all of its inter-island flights are under 60 minutes. Have you had the opportunity to go slimline yet? What did you think?

Schedule change in Chicago. If you fly through Chicago a lot, be on the lookout for plenty of schedule changes as United “rebanks” its flights this month. Air Transport World reports that United’s re-banking allows it to shorten connection times Weekend Editionand improve directional flows at hubs, especially those that rely on East-West traffic flows. United successfully rebanked at its Houston and Denver hubs last year.  ATW reports that United expects departures at O’Hare to fall 8% in some periods while aircraft size will increase 10 percent, allowing it to increase revenue and maximize use of valuable slots

New promo from Virgin. Virgin America is offering two-for-one fare discounts on its Dallas love Field routes to Elevate members when they provide the email addresses of three friends who might want to join that frequent flyer program. And the friends will get discounts of up to 20 percent. Virgin is also matching any competitor’s fare out of DAL through April 30. For details, go to www.weinventedhigherexpectations.com.

Why you should change the credit cards you carry

Rendering of the new SunTrust Park

Rendering of the new SunTrust Park coming in 2017

Delta goes to bat for Braves. When the Atlanta Braves move into their new stadium — SunTrust Park — for the 2017 season, marketing partner Delta will be there too. The expanded partnership between Delta and the ball club calls for the opening of an 18,000-square-foot Delta SKY360 Club on the lower level of the new ballpark, accessible from the premium seating areas. The club will offer dining, a pair of 20-foot video screens, and a 30-foot bar. The new park is located on the northern edge of the city in Cobb County near Cumberland Mall and the Galleria.

1,000 Easy HHonors points. This just in from Hilton… remember the glitch that stymied a promotion for 1,000 easy HHonor, points? Well, it’s back. HHonors members will need to update their passwords by April 1. As of that date, members will be required to create a new password upon login; Hilton will no longer accept PINs. “Since we know this can be a hassle for members, and to encourage adoption of this new login procedure, Hilton is offering an incentive of 1,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points if members update their passwords by March 25, 2015,” the company said. Just log in to your Hilton HHonors account, then go to “personal information” to change your password. More info

apple watchesTravel apps for Apple Watch. Why should you have to haul out that clunky smartphone every time you want to check in for something? The Apple Watch, unveiled last week, has already started to attract new apps from a variety of travel companies. The initial list includes American Airlines (check in with your watch), Starwood Hotels (open your room door with your watch), TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Expedia and Citymapper. Meanwhile, Marriott announced that instead of providing a credit card at check-in, its guests can soon use Apple Pay, simply by bringing their iPhone 6 or Apple Watch close to a contactless reader at the front desk. The service will be gradually deployed starting this summer at brands including Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Edition and Renaissance.

Mobile Passport

Passport app expands. A new app called Mobile Passport, introduced last summer for U.S. travelers re-entering the country at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport, is now available for Miami arrivals as well. Users simply input their profiles and answer Customs and Border Protection questions on the app (vs on the old paper forms), then proceed to the Mobile Passport Control express lane, skipping the longer lines. It’s available in the App Store and at Google Play. (We still prefer Global Entry, where you enter via a kiosk instead of a human, but this is pretty good– free, too.)

United tests new gates. Want to see what United Airlines’ next generation of boarding gates might look like? Check out Gates B-4, B-8 and B-10 in United’s Terminal 1 at Chicago O’Hare. That’s where the carrier is testing a new gate-area design that features things like mood lighting, new seating layouts, standing work stations and “boarding poles” (a la Southwest) for more orderly boarding.

Why you should change the credit cards you carry

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 2.38.19 PM

Image: Lyft

Lyft in, Uber out at Austin. How can a ride-sharing service win approval to operate at an airport in competition with traditional taxi services? By giving the airport a piece of the action. With the popular SXSW festival starting up in Austin last week, Lyft won approval to transport passengers at Austin-Bergstrom Airport by agreeing to give the facility 10 percent of its profits. Uber failed to come to terms with the airport, so its drivers have been threatened with citations if they try to operate there. Meanwhile, San Francisco International Airport said last week it has developed a new system for tracking “app-based forms of ground transportation.” SFO officials said the technology — which it will license to other airports — collects data to be used “for fee calculation, roadway planning and facility improvement efforts.”

In Case You Missed It…

  • Here’s what you should know about Spring Break and its travel impact.

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Living in a condo… inside the airport?

Residences at ATL would be in hotel located in the western edge of main terminal (Image: Hartsfield-Jackson)

Residences at ATL would be in hotel located in the western edge of main terminal (Image: Hartsfield-Jackson)

Yes indeed. Hotel-style “residences,” which are a huge trend in the hotel industry, could be part of a new “airport city” at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport according to a report on AJC.com.

AJC reports that the airport’s general manager says that a proposed mixed-use development adjacent the to airport’s main terminal will likely include a hotel, office space, a gas station and retail, adding that residential development is “not off the table.” These condos or apartments could be available in as soon as three years.

Could you imagine living that close to an airport? Having the front door of your condo building connected to the entrance to the airport? Looking out the window at a control tower and jets taking off? Would this be a good thing… or  bad thing?

Breakfast at home overlooking the runways? (Photo: Miami International Airport Hotel)

Breakfast at home overlooking the runways? (Photo: Miami International Airport Hotel)

If you lived in a condo at Atlanta Airport, you would also have MARTA at your front door, which means that you could actually have a life off the frequent flyer track.

If the condo-at-the-airport concept works in Atlanta, it could easily spread to other airports. One great candidate for a condo makeover would be the ailing Miami International Airport Hotel– which is located literally on top of the main terminals.

There’s the big Hilton at O’Hare and the Hyatt at Dallas Ft Worth– both could include condos as well. At London-Heathrow, there’s a Sofitel and a Hilton that are both connected to the airport.

The view from my room at the brand new Hyatt Seoul Incheon (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The view from my room at the brand new Hyatt Seoul Incheon (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

When I was recently in Seoul, I stayed at the brand new Grand Hyatt Incheon, which is part of a mixed use development– really a small city sprouting up at the entrance to Incheon Airport that already includes a hospital, the INHA International Medical Center, as well as several apartment buildings.

This Crown Plaza's front door opens into airport terminal at Singapore Changi Airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This Crown Plaza’s front door opens into airport terminal at Singapore Changi Airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

In Singapore, there’s a Crowne Plaza hotel inside the terminal that could include condos. And then there’s that gorgeous 5-star Fairmont inside Vancouver International.

Up an escalator from Vancouver's airport terminal to the Fairmont (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Up an escalator from Vancouver’s airport terminal to the Fairmont (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Where else could we see residences on airport grounds? I know that many TravelSkills readers figuratively state that they feel like they “live” at the airport. But would you ever consider actually moving in and really living there? Please leave your comments below.

–Chris McGinnis

In Case You Missed it…

>Which cities worldwide have the best (and worst) quality of life?

>United renovates airport clubs, boosts food quality.

>Virgin Atlantic will boost San Francisco schedule with a 787.

>Hilton finally jumps on the free Wi-Fi

 

Did you miss TravelSkills Weekend editions? No probs! Here they are:

Don’t buy Gogo onboard + Virgin to Hawaii? + Clever Delta ad + LaGuardia slots

$64,000 roundtrip + Bevy of new flights + Southwest bag fee + Lufthansa update + Kimpton nightcap

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

5 things you should know about Spring Break ’15

Watch out for rowdy coeds over the next few weeks as Spring Break blooms across the US (Photo: Sandpiper Beacon)

Watch out for rowdy coeds over the next few weeks as Spring Break blooms across the US (Photo: Sandpiper Beacon)

A long, cold and snowy winter and low gasoline prices combined with improving consumer confidence and stock market rallies is resulting in what could be a very busy and expensive spring travel season. If you are headed south, you need to prepare for noise and crowds. 

NICE SPREAD: Luckily, the spring travel season is spread out this year – roughly six weeks long – beginning this week and ending in mid-April, after Easter (Sunday, April 5). Interest in spring getaways is definitely up– for example, advance bookings for March and April at Best Western’s 2,000+ hotels in the U.S. are up 7.1 percent, compared to this time last year.

STRONG DOLLAR: The recent dramatic strengthening of the U.S. dollar is helping drive increased interest among Americans in international travel this spring – to Mexico, the Caribbean and especially Canada, where Best Western’s advance bookings for March and April have soared 18.7 percent.

Related: Crashing currencies = More travel deals for Americans

A4A

PACKED FLIGHTS: Airline trade group A4A projects spring 2015 air travel to rise to its highest level in seven years, with passenger volumes expected to fall just below the 2007 peak. Approximately 134.8 million passengers (2.2 million per day) are expected to fly on U.S. airlines during March and April compared to 132.2 million last year, up 2 percent over last year. This includes a record 17.2 million travelers (283,000 per day) on international flights. To accommodate the expected growth in demand, airlines are increasing the number of seats by 3 percent or 64,000 seats per day during this period.

Late spring travel deals: 6 must-see spring travel flash sales

CHEAP GAS: Gasoline prices have been in free fall over the last six months, but as the peak spring travel season approaches, prices have started to inch up. For example, the average price paid for a gallon of gas has jumped 20 cents from $2.27 in mid-February, to $2.47 in early March, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The biggest gas price increases are on the west coast, where the average price per gallon is now back to more than $3 per gallon. The cheapest gasoline (less than $2.20 on average) is in Gulf coast and Rocky Mountain states, which is great news for beachcombers or skiers.

Watch out for surprise crowds on weekends at the top 5 airports according to A4A

Watch out for surprise crowds on March weekends at the top 5 airports according to A4A

ROWDY COEDS: If you are flying on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays during March, you’ll find airports in or near college campuses and warm weather destinations packed with vacationing students, creating longer lines at airport security. In Atlanta, Emory, Univ of Georgia and Morehouse are on break this week.  Georgia Tech and Georgia State start March 14. See Collegiate Spring Break Calendar here. Also, beware of crowding and possible delays on highways and skyways on the days leading up to, and shortly after, Easter Sunday, April 5. To get the lowest fares, try to postpone trips until non-peak times, such as late April or May, known as the “shoulder season.” Also, travelers who can travel mid-week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays are also more likely to find lower fares. TIP: If you are a business traveler staying over in a resort or beachside area, ask for a quiet room away from the pool or other public areas, which may attract a rowdy spring break crowd.

Most of these snippets are from my Spring Break Trends Report on Best Western’s YouMustBeTrippin.com blog.

–Chris McGinnis

In Case You Missed it…

>Which cities worldwide have the best (and worst) quality of life?

>United renovates airport clubs, boosts food quality.

>Virgin Atlantic will boost San Francisco schedule with a 787.

>Hilton finally jumps on the free Wi-Fi

 

Did you missed TravelSkills Weekend editions? No probs! Here they are:

Don’t buy Gogo onboard + Virgin to Hawaii? + Clever Delta ad + LaGuardia slots

$64,000 roundtrip + Bevy of new flights + Southwest bag fee + Lufthansa update + Kimpton nightcap

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

$64,000 roundtrip + Bevy of new flights + Southwest bag fee + Lufthansa update + Kimpton nightcap

The big bed in Etihad's 3-room Residence aboard its A380 flying to New York in December (Photo: Etihad)

The big bed in Etihad’s 3-room Residence aboard its A380 flying to New York in December (Photo: Etihad)

The $64,000 question. Etihad Airways said it will put an Airbus A380 onto its New York JFK-Abu Dhabi route starting December 1, giving ultra-affluent air travelers a chance to try out the carrier’s posh cabins that it calls “The Residence by Etihad.” The 125-square-foot cabins have a living room, en-suite shower and a bedroom with a double bed, and come with white-gloved, Savoy-trained butler services. The roundtrip fare for the Residence between New York and Abu Dhabi? A mere $64,000. Which begs the question: Who in the world would pay that? Well, somebody out there already has! Etihad issued a press release on the day after the product announcement stating that it sold the Residence on the inaugural flight “within hours.”  What’s it like onboard? Check out Etihad’s video below. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 9.19.27 AM

Clever comment of the week. Last week’s TravelSkills post US airlines vs Emirates, Etihad & Qatar sure struck a chord with readers, with the majority sounding off against US airline whining (see above).

Routes: American, Alaska et al. American Airlines last week kicked off new daily service between Miami and Austin … Alaska Airlines has started flying between San Diego and Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island three times a week … Air China will boost frequencies between Los Angeles and Beijing on May 2 when it adds a third flight four days a week, increasing to three daily roundtrips July 1; also on July 1, Air China will move from Terminal 2 at LAX to the Tom Bradley International Terminal … Lufthansa has put a new 364-seat 747-8 Intercontinental into service between Newark and Frankfurt.

 Southwest reassures on bag fees. Southwest Airlines is still under lots of pressure from Wall Street to start charging fees for checked bags — especially since JetBlue caved on that policy recently and will soon issue a new fare structure that eliminates a free checked bag for the lowest prices. But Southwest’s CFO told an aviation conference last week that the airline still has no plans to change its policy, which currently allows passengers two free checked bags.

Southwest heads south. This week, Southwest launched new nonstops to international destinations south of the border: San Jose, Costa Rica (from Baltimore) and Aruba (from Houston). Each of the new routes is longer than 2,000 miles each-way. San Jose service marks a milestone for the carrier by establishing a presence in a new country (not preceded by AirTran) and by connecting Central America to the Southwest network.

Inflight wi-fi fee hits a new high

All doors open during a behind-the-scenes tour of Lufthansa's hangar in Frankfurt (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

All doors open during a behind-the-scenes tour of Lufthansa’s hangar in Frankfurt (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Lufthansa updates in-flight experience, fares. Now that Lufthansa has almost finished refitting all its long-haul cabins with new seats –a job that should end by the third quarter, including expansion of premium economy seating from the current 30 planes to all 106 long-haul aircraft — the carrier plans to roll out some service enhancements. That includes “Business Class Restaurant Service” on long-haul flights starting this summer, with tables set individually, meals served from the galley instead of a cart, and more flight attendants in the business cabin; and the expansion of its FlyNet in-flight Wi-Fi service to all intercontinental flights. Lufthansa will also introduce new economy fares on intra-European flights next fall, with three levels: Light (no checked bags, rebooking or refunds), Classic (one bag, advance seat selection and rebooking for a fee) and Flex, with the most options included. Have you flown Lufthansa recently? What did you think? 

Food critic Elliott Mackle is back! Anyone who has lived in Atlanta for a while probably remembers food critic Elliott Mackle’s zingers in the AJC or Creative Loafing when it came to the Atlanta food scene. He’s a long-time TravelSkills reader and provides us with his take on Delta’s business class cuisine onboard a recent roundtrip between Atlanta and Buenos Aires. Here’s his Reader Report.

AmEx adds Gold Card benefits. Holders of American Express’ Premier Rewards Gold Card will see some additional benefits starting June 1, the company said, including double Membership Rewards points for purchases at U.S. restaurants, a $100 credit for incidental airline fees like checked bag charges, elimination of foreign transaction fees on trips abroad, and a personalized travel service. Oh, one more thing: The annual fee for the card will go up from $175 to $195 on the same date.

Don’t buy Gogo onboard + Virgin to Hawaii? + Clever Delta ad + LaGuardia slots

HOTELS

Kimpton’s free booze. The latest perk for guests at Kimpton Hotels — now a division of InterContinental Hotels Group — is the “Nightcap Program.” Guests at 17 Kimptons will get a free “small pour of a nighttime libation” and a paired snack each evening — things like scotch and shortbread, port and blue cheese, etc. It’s available at 17 Kimptons now, with more to be added through the year. Add this to the long list of “little things” that Kimpton always gets right– it’s one of my favorite hotel chains.

Mock up of the brand new Loews Chicago hotel

Mock up of the brand new Loews Chicago hotel

Openings, rebrandings: Chicago, Philadelphia, etc. Just weeks after announcing it was taking over San Francisco’s Mandarin Oriental, Loews Hotels has cut the ribbon on the 400-room Loews Chicago Hotel, two blocks east of Michigan Avenue just north of the Chicago River. It’s in the lower 14 stories of a 52-story tower … The former Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing is now the 348-room Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing … InterContinental Hotel Group’s new Kimpton Hotels subsidiary has taken over management of the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach, Calif., close to the city’s famous pier … Melia Hotels this month opens the 369-room Melia Paris La Defense in the district of the same name — the largest four-star hotel to debut in Paris in 10 years … Dubai has its fifth Hyatt-branded hotel with the opening of the Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights; its 464 rooms occupy a pair of 538-foot towers … Got business in Haiti? Marriott opened the doors of its newly-built Marriott Port-au-Prince … Starwood has added a new Luxury Collection property in Mexico City: Las Alcobas, a gorgeous 35-room boutique-style property in the upscale Polanco district.

Why you should change the credit cards you carry

In Case You Missed it…

>Which cities worldwide have the best (and worst) quality of life?

>United renovates airport clubs, boosts food quality.

>Virgin Atlantic will boost San Francisco schedule with a 787.

>Hilton finally jumps on the free Wi-Fi

Weekend Edition

Did you missed yesterday’s issue of TravelSkills Weekend edition? No probs! Here ’tis:

Don’t buy Gogo onboard + Virgin to Hawaii? + Clever Delta ad + LaGuardia slots


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Don’t buy Gogo onboard + Virgin to Hawaii? + Clever Delta ad + LaGuardia slots

Twitter

Gogo’s prices when purchased onboard. Do you follow Chris on Twitter? @cjmcginnis CLICK!

Don’t buy Gogo on the plane. I was surprised to see the price for a Gogo wi-fi day pass on a Delta transcon flight at a whopping $50 last week– the highest I’ve ever seen it. I’m very glad I took the minute or two while waiting in line to board to buy a day pass in advance on Gogo’s website for just $16, saving $34. If you are a inflight wi-fi freak like me, buy your passes ahead of time. It’s quick and easy– buy one or more passes online before the flight, save them to your account, and when you sign on from the plane, access your pass and you are on. For $16 instead of $50. Buy Gogo passes here.  Southwest offers wi-fi for just $8 per day per device, but we hear regularly that service is very spotty. Regrettably, United does not offer a pre-purchase option yet– here’s a shot from its inflight wi-fi FAQ page

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 8.57.38 AM

Are you a winner or loser? “A switch to a revenue-based frequent-flyer program from a miles-based model causes a loss, though a negligible one, in points earned for domestic U.S. flyers, according to research released this week by PricewaterhouseCoopers,” reports Business Travel News. Examining mainland U.S. domestic routes on the 11 largest U.S. airlines, the PwC study determined that travelers on average earn 45 fewer reward points per one-way trip when accrual is based on dollars spent. But the switch will more deeply affect a Weekend Editionclear set of “winners” and “losers,” according to the report. Winners = business travelers driven by schedule more than price and frequent short-haul travelers. Losers: travelers who frequently fly nonstop routes and travelers who tend to buy tickets well in advance.

Virgin eyes Hawaii service; AA to LaGuardia. Virgin America hopes to add Hawaii to its route map, and American Airlines said it would like to launch LaGuardia-West Coast service if that New York airport gets rid of its existing “perimeter rule” that precludes such long-haul flights. Virgin reportedly hopes to take advantage of more fuel-efficient A320s equipped with “Sharklets” on their wings to begin new flights from the West Coast to Hawaii, perhaps as soon as later this year. Meanwhile, AA president Scott Kirby told an aviation conference last week that if LaGuardia’s limit on flight distance is relaxed, his company would like to operate “a lot of flights from LaGuardia to the West Coast,” although he noted that would require major infrastructure enhancements at relatively decrepit LGA. In any case, if the perimeter rules are relaxed, the Port Authority is going to have to mix and match the limited number of slots available at LGA– which could be contentious and messy. 

Virgin Atlantic adds Dreamliner at SFO, elsewhere

New Delta ad. Does business travel allow you the time and opportunity to indulge “the child within you?” Delta seems to think that it does — or it should — and illustrates that idea along with a jaunty song in an unusual new TV ad. What do you think of the Delta ad: Does it capture the essence of your business travel experience? See video here Please leave your comments below. 

New SFO-Auckland service coming? Press reports from New Zealand indicate that Air New Zealand could lose its current monopoly on non-stop flights to North America. The reports said United is considering the launch of non-stop San Francisco-Auckland flights with a 787 Dreamliner, and that American — a joint venture partner with Qantas — has its eye on new Los Angeles-Auckland service. Qantas pulled out of the non-stop LAX-Auckland market three years ago.

scough

The new Scough could help you avoid colds & flu. Or hide from your enemies (Photo: Scough)

‘Scuse my Scough. How can you protect your health aboard a germy airplane during flu season without wearing a surgical mask? A Brooklyn start-up is producing what it calls the Scough a scarf with an embedded active-carbon filter “impregnated with silver ions,” designed to protect the wearer from the germs of others (or to protect others from your germs). Priced from $49, they’re intended to be more fashionable and less conspicuous than more medical-looking devices (until you wrap them around your nose and mouth, perhaps giving you a slight resemblance to a stagecoach robber or a terrorist).

Why you should change the credit cards you carry

In Case You Missed it…

>Which cities worldwide have the best (and worst) quality of life?

>United renovates airport clubs, boosts food quality.

>Virgin Atlantic will boost San Francisco schedule with a 787.

>Hilton finally jumps on the free Wi-Fi

Don’t miss TOMORROW’s Weekend edition where we cover: Several new route announcements, Southwest on bag fees, Etihad’s residence in NYC, Lufthansa’s upgrades, a big batch of new hotels and more Amex Gold Card bennies.

World’s 10 highest (and lowest) quality cities

How to enjoy dining alone

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

United Clubs upgrade food & renovate

Breakfast scones and "bagel sticks" are part of the new breakfast menu coming to United Clubs (Photo: United)

Breakfast scones and “bagel sticks” are part of the new breakfast menu coming to United Clubs (Photo: United)

Have you grown weary of same old spread of carrots, crackers, hummus triangles and shrink wrapped cheese at United Clubs? Then get ready for an overhauled complimentary menu launching this week, as well as several major Club renovations in coming months. United is even talking about adding a new food-for-purchase option at its Clubs. 

Hummus, sliced peppers, olives and pretzel crisps for afternoon snacking (Photo: United)

Hummus, sliced peppers, olives and pretzel crisps for afternoon snacking (Photo: United)

The all-new complimentary food menu, from a Greek yogurt bar, scones, and hot oatmeal station to hummus with pretzel crisps, soup, salad, salami, and peppers debuts today at Chicago O’Hare and will be rolled out Houston, Denver, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington Dulles by the end of summer. All United Clubs worldwide will feature the new food by the end of the year.

United's new complimentary food menu will replace current offerings. (United)

United’s new complimentary food menu will replace current offerings. (United)

United also says it will launch an upgraded beverage-for-sale program of premium wines, beers and spirits including Champagne Laurent-Perrier and Trinchero Family Estates Wines. Although there are few details, United says that is also plans to test a new food-for-sale pilot program later this year as well.

See all of United’s new Club food photos here.

Here’s what breakfast looked like the last time I was at the United Club at SFO:

Breakfast at the United Club at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Breakfast at the United Club at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Renovations:

In the coming year, the airline will renovate all clubs in Chicago O’Hare, Washington Reagan, Hong Kong and Tokyo Narita. It will also build new clubs in Atlanta (T-gates) and San Francisco, and “begin major changes in Los Angeles.”

United says that these new Clubs will reflect the new look that you may have already seen at the airline’s recently revamped Chicago O’Hare, Boston, London Heathrow, San Diego and Seattle Clubs.

Related: Feast your eyes on United’s new London Lounges | First look: United’s Newest Club at SFO

So…whaddya think? Please leave your comments below.  

Chris McGinnis

(Image: Crafic)

(Image: Crafic)

6 practical, protective or fun phone cases

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!

 

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Virgin Atlantic adds Dreamliner at SFO, elsewhere

Virgin Atlantic's shiny new toy coming to SFO: Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 (Photo: Virgin)

Virgin Atlantic’s shiny new toy coming to SFO: Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 (Photo: Virgin)

Virgin Atlantic is doubling its flights between San Francisco and London Heathrow by adding a second daily flight. What’s most exciting is that it will deploy its newest aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, on the route starting October 24.

Also exciting for Bay Area travelers headed to London this year is that British Airways will bring its big new Airbus A380 to San Francisco starting on March 29.

Last year Virgin Atlantic said it would add a second flight between San Francisco and London five times a week for the summer season, starting on March 29. But now Virgin says that the second daily SFO-LHR flight will switch to daily starting October 24. (The flights are part of Virgin’s partnership with Delta, so you can earn and burn your SkyMiles on this flight.)

Details/seatmaps/photos of Virgin’s 787

Upper class mood lighting onboard Virgin's new Dreamliner (Photo: Virgin)

Upper class mood lighting onboard Virgin’s new Dreamliner (Photo: Virgin)

By the end of this year, Virgin says it will have an efficient new Dreamliner on both daily flights, replacing the current, gas-guzzling, 4-engine 747 and A340 on the route. This should be especially good news for TravelSkills readers who have reported that the current Virgin Atlantic upper class offering was getting a bit tatty.

Virgin also revealed today the next routes for the new 787-9 Dreamliners. It has already taken delivery of three of the aircraft with six more due over the course of 2015. In addition to San Francisco, the 787s will be flying several other US routes this year, including Boston, Washington Dulles, Newark, JFK, and Los Angeles to London Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787-9 aircraft are configured with 264 seats which consist of 31 Upper Class seats, 35 Premium Economy seats and 198 seats in Economy.

Related: Flying on a brand new United 787 Dreamliner (Trip Report)

The new Upper Class bar onboard Virgin's new Dreamliner (Photo: Virgin)

The new Upper Class bar onboard Virgin’s new Dreamliner (Photo: Virgin)

Chris McGinnis

(Image: Crafic)

(Image: Crafic)

6 practical, protective or fun phone cases

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

New transcon biz class + United mistake + Seattle + Cruise for miles + Marriott expiring

Lie-flat comfort on Air Canada's new Business Class Transcon flights (Photo Air Canada)

Lie-flat comfort on Air Canada’s new Business Class Transcon flights (Photo Air Canada)

DOT excuses United on fare errors. A couple of weeks ago we reported on the controversy that erupted after United Airlines refused to honor some ridiculously low transatlantic air fares that many people booked through its website — if they switched their country of origin to Denmark. Although we disagreed with them, many observers felt that United should be held accountable for its mistake and should let those lucky travelers keep their bargain purchases. But now the U.S. Department of Transportation has weighed in, ruling that United didn’t have to honor the fares because to find them, consumers had to “manipulate the search process” by switching home countries to take advantage of a currency conversion glitch.

New Air Canada transcon biz class. March 1 is the launch date for a new Air Canada product it calls Business Class-Transcontinental, to be offered on widebody flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Toronto, as well as on intra-Canada service linking Calgary-Toronto, Vancouver-Toronto and Vancouver-Montreal. The airline said it will bring the comforts of its international business cabin to the transcon routes, including seats that recline fully flat, large pillows and duvets, noise-canceling headsets, priority check-in and boarding, Maple Leaf Lounge access and more. It will be on 787s, 777s, 767s and A330s.

United's new digs in the "T-gates" Concourse- no train ride required (Photo: Atlanta Airport)

United’s new digs in the “T-gates” Concourse- no train ride required (Photo: Atlanta Airport)

United at ATL. A United spokesperson confirmed to TravelSkills that a new United Club is indeed underway at Atlanta’s T-gates concourse adjacent to the main terminal, although she could not comment on the exact location. It’s expected to open “this fall.” Additionally, nearly Weekend Editionall United operations have moved to the much more convenient T-gates from Concourse D.  From ATL, United offers nonstops to Newark, Washington Dulles, Chicago, Denver, Houston and San Francisco. This TravelSkills post of United’s newest club at SFO should give you an idea of what the ATL and other planned renovations will look like.

Delta grows at Seattle. Delta’s next round of expansion at Seattle will come on December 19, when it plans to add new daily service to Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island — a route already served by Alaska Airlines. On the same date, Delta will add a second daily flight from SEA to Palm Springs and will begin daily seasonal service from SEA to Tucson, up from the current weekly flight. Starting in May 2015, meanwhile, Delta said it will extend its seasonal SEA-Fairbanks and SEA-Juneau service to year-round daily flights.

hdr_alaska_qq

Cruise with MileagePlus miles. Got a ton of United miles burning a hole in your pocket? The airline said last week that MileagePlus members can now book cruise vacations through its loyalty program and pay with miles. The ships of some two dozen cruise lines are available, United said, with itineraries worldwide. Sample prices: We saw a seven-night western Caribbean sailing on Princess cruises at 70,471 miles for an ocean-view cabin or 129,294 miles for a suite (mileage prices are per person based on two in a cabin). A new web page has been created at https://cruises.mileageplus.com/ where members can search all the cruises available. Not enough program credit? You can also combine miles and money to buy cruises, United said.

HOTELS

1,000 Easy (?) Hilton Points. Last week you read about how to earn 1,000 Hilton HHonors points for simply changing your password, but the promo was put on hold due to a technical glitch. Well, it seems the glitch is still hampering the bonus, but a spokesperson assures TravelSkills that it will indeed come back. So stay tuned.

Marriott gets tough on expiring points. According to the View from the Wing blog, Marriott is telling Marriott Rewards members that effective in February 2016, it will start enforcing a clause in its program rules that says all of a member’s points will expire without any qualifying activity in the program within 24 months.

Popularity contest: Here are the most read TravelSkills posts this past week, in descending order of popularity. Did you read them all?

  1. Why you should change the cards you carry
  2. Bloodbath for airlines a boon for travelers
  3. West Coast – New York LaGuardia flights on horizon?
  4. How to enjoy dining alone
  5. Does Virgin America need lie-flat seats to compete?

And our most popular post of all time? See it here.

Did you miss yesterday’s issue of our Weekend Edition? No probs! Here ya go: 

Southwest growth spurt + Better food? + Wi-fi on Delta + Hilton double + Whatever!

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

West Coast – New York LaGuardia flights on horizon?

New York City’s three primary airports: Newark, LaGuardia, Kennedy

New York City’s three primary airports: Newark, LaGuardia, Kennedy

I think I might be dreaming, but the Wall Street Journal reported today that regulators in New York are studying removing the age-old and useless “perimeter rules” that forbid most flights from west coast cities from landing at close in and convenient La Guardia airport.

Here’s the nut of that article:

Port Authority

In late 2013, when San Francisco-based Virgin America snagged 12 slots at New York’s popular (but creaky) La Guardia Airport (LGA) I began to wonder if it would launch an effort to get rid of the rules (see post). I suspect both Delta and Virgin would love to add lucrative new routes from their hubs at LAX and SFO as well as other key west coast cities such at Seattle, Las Vegas, Portland or San Diego. American Airlines, with a big presence at both LAX and LGA would likely love to see the rules dumped, too.

Last year Virgin CEO David Cush said that the airline had a few tricks up its sleeves, and I’m wondering now if transcon flights from LAX and SFO to LaGuardia might be one of those tricks. Today, a spokesperson told TravelSkills, “We’re very supportive of the move to lift restrictions at LaGuardia, as long as the process also ensures that smaller and new entrant carriers at that airport have fair access in terms of the potential expansion opportunities.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to fly nonstop from SFO, SEA or LAX to close-in LaGuardia (LGA) and only have to deal with a 25-or-so-minute hop into Manhattan instead of that 45+ minute, traffic-clogged slog in from JFK or Newark? Last year I flew Delta from California (via Atlanta) to La Guardia and was very impressed with its two recently updated terminals there. 

From LGA, the trip to Manhattan via cab or car is about 25 minutes vs 45-60 minutes from JFK. (Cost is $30-35 plus tip and toll from LGA and a flat $52 plus tip and toll from JFK.)

Delta's swank LaGuardia facilities (Photo: ICRAVE Design)

Delta’s swank LaGuardia facilities (Photo: ICRAVE Design)

The useless “perimeter rules” forbid flights from more than 1,500 miles away from landing at LGA, effectively shutting out west coast cities. They were put in place to help shift demand to the newer Kennedy and Newark airports in the 1960s.

Does Virgin America need lie-flat seats to compete?

If the Port Authority decides to abolish the rules, or at least make some exceptions, it won’t be the first time– For example Denver International, which is 1,600 miles away, received an exemption from the rule in the 1980s. Oddly, the rule does not apply on Saturdays and back in 2004, now defunct American Trans Air (ATA) proposed nonstop service from LaGuardia to SFO with continuing service to Honolulu. Delta offers Saturday only flights from between LGA and Aruba.

In 2009, Senator John McCain tried (but failed) to abolish the perimeter rules at both LGA and Washington-National.

Last year, similar rules disallowing flights from the west coast to the very convenient Washington National Airport (as opposed to the horribly inconvenient Dulles International) were overturned, allowing nonstops on Virgin and United from San Francisco.

What’s your preferred NYC airport? Why? If  La Guardia’s perimeter rules get overturned, would you choose it over Newark or JFK? Please leave your comments below. 

–Chris McGinnis

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Flurry of new flights + Amex pickle + Delta in Dallas + Easy 1,000 HHonors points update

Spirit plans to make big inroads at ATL. But would you fly Spirit?

Spirit plans to make big inroads at ATL. But would you fly Spirit?

Flush with cheap fuel profits, airlines are rapidly expanding their footprints in cities across the U.S. To wit: 

Spirit grows at Atlanta, LAX. Two ultra-low-cost, fee-heavy airlines have new growth spurts coming up. Spirit Airlines is aiming to grab a bigger piece of the seemingly impenetrable Atlanta market from Delta and Southwest by adding nine new routes there. Keep in mind that Spirit offers a knee-numbing 28 inches of non-reclinable seat pitch– the least in the industry. Plus, you pay extra to carry on a bag or reserve an aisle or window. (See fee schedule here.)New flights include Cleveland, Las Vegas and Orlando starting May 7; Baltimore/Washington, Philadelphia and Tampa beginning June 18; Los Angeles as of August 20 and Boston and Ft. Myers starting September 10. (Will Delta and/or Southwest match those low fares? Hopefully they won’t match Spirit’s fees.) Spirit also announced two other new routes out of Los Angeles — Baltimore/Washington and Kansas City, both beginning July 9 …

WeekendEditionMeanwhile, Frontier Airlines said it will launch new seasonal service out of Philadelphia April 30 to Houston and Minneapolis. On April 14, Frontier will begin new Chicago O’Hare service to Los Angeles and Austin, followed by new non-stop beginning April 30 from ORD to San Francisco and Raleigh/Durham. Would you ever use an ultra-low-cost airline? Under what circumstances?

New routes: Southwest, AA, Delta. Southwest plans to add four new domestic routes on August 9, including Oakland-Columbus, Boston-Columbus, Orange County, Calif.-Portland and Washington Reagan National-Ft. Lauderdale … Subject to Transportation department approval, American Airlines plans to take over Alaska Airlines’ Los Angeles-Mexico City route on June 4, boosting frequencies from one to two a day, according to the trade journal Travel Weekly … Delta is set to launch daily service between Boston and Milwaukee June 5, using a two-class, 76-seat CRJ-900, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Predicting spring-summer airfares

Higher merchant fees help American Express fund popular benefits like Centurion Lounges (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Higher merchant fees help American Express fund popular benefits like Centurion Lounges (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

American Express in a pickle. Last week Amex lost its fight to prohibit merchants from encouraging customers to use other credit cards. The court ruling handed down this week means that merchants can now convince customers to use Visa or Mastercard plastic instead of Amex, something which was prohibited (and enforced) before. Why would a merchant want to do this? Because the fees American Express charges merchants are around twice as much as other cards. Amex has long been able to get away with this because it claims that it brings higher value customers to merchants, and uses the higher fees to fund the popular Membership Rewards program, and offers bennies like the popular Centurion lounges.

JetBlue offers The Wall Street Journal. A new partnership between JetBlue and The Wall Street Journal will give the airline’s passengers free unlimited access to the newspaper’s WSJ.com website content through the Fly-Fi Hub, JetBlue’s lineup of free media offerings via its in-flight Wi-Fi system to passengers’ personal electronic devices.

Court fight over Love gates. Southwest Airlines is going to federal court to challenge a Transportation Department advisory that essentially told Dallas airport officials to find some way to allow airlines currently using Love Field to keep using it. The airline in question is Delta, which is currently operating its DAL-Atlanta flights with a pair of gates subleased from United. However, United last month transferred those gates to Southwest, which has said only that it will let Delta keep using them through July 6.

IHG Rewards bonus + Kimpton purchase = interesting!

HOTELS

Just in time for SXSW the enormous new JW Marriott Austin (Rendering: Marriott)

Just in time for SXSW the enormous new JW Marriott Austin (Rendering: Marriott)

Austin’s biggest hotel opens. Marriott officials have cut the ribbon on the 1,012-room JW Marriott Austin, which they said is the city’s largest hotel — it takes up the whole block bounded by Second and Third streets, Brazos Street and Congress Avenue, within walking distance of the convention center and State Capitol. It has 112,000 square feet of event space and 42 meeting rooms, along with a fifth-floor pool deck and bar, three restaurants and a full-service Starbucks.

Best new credit cards for frequent travelers

Easy 1,000 HHonors points UPDATE. This week Hilton sent TravelSkills an announcement that the login process for all Hilton HHonors members was being updated. PIN numbers will no longer be accepted and members will have until March 25, 2015, to create a new password or update their existing password. It said that those who update the password by by March 8, 2015 get 1,000 bonus points as a thank you. BUT, since getting this, we’ve learned that there is a technical issue with this process right now and the deal has been put “on hold.” A Hilton confirmed to TravelSkills that the bonus will indeed come back as soon as the tech glitch is fixed. So standby.  Eventually (and hopefully) once the issue is resolved, you will log in to your Hilton HHonors account, then go to “personal information” to change your password.

Did you miss yesterday’s issue of our Weekend Edition? No probs! Here’s the link:

United changes + SFO Sky Club + Southwest devalues + New Virgin route + Beijing bird!

In Case You Missed It…

>Should airports restrict the sale of alcohol to passengers?

>Fortune magazine designates “most admired” travel-related companies.

>San Francisco’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel will change hands next month.

>Planespotting: The 757 vs. 767.

Have you been following our super popular Planespotting 101 series? Check out our first three installments here: 

Planespotting 101: Boeing 757, 767 (latest)

Planespotting 101: Boeing 737 vs Airbus A320

Planespotting 101: MD-80/90 & Boeing 717

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Restrictions on free-flowing airport booze?

American Airline's self serve bar at its LAX Flagship lounge (Photo: Lounge Buddy)

American Airline’s self serve bar at its LAX Flagship lounge (Photo: Lounge Buddy)

It happened again yesterday. As I was putting this TravelSkills post together, yet another boozed up traveler described as “uncooperative and combative” was taken into custody at LAX  and was dragged away “kicking and screaming.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 7.59.32 AM

Headline from today’s LATimes.com

The US Federal Aviation Adminstration (FAA) deals with around 150 air rage incidents every year and over the past 20 years has had to take action against more than 4,000 passengers. Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority reported 114 air rage incidents (many fueled by alcohol) in the UK in 2014, up from 85 in 2013, 47 in 2012 and 39 in 2011 according to the Daily Mail.

It’s become so bad that the British Air Transport Association is now putting pressure on airport sales of booze. “Passengers are responsible for their own behaviour, but airport bars and duty free shops can play their part by making sure they sell alcohol responsibly,” said Nathan Stower, the association’s CEO, in The Telegraph.

As incidents like this increase, I’m wondering if we’ll soon see efforts to cut back on the “open bar” concept at airport lounges, because it seems that many of these incidents begin at the airport, and then play out on board.

Fortune’s 10 most admired (travel-related) companies

I also wonder what effect restrictions on free-flowing airport booze may have on the burgeoning business of airport lounges.

To help understand, I asked Tyler Dikman, the founder of the popular Lounge Buddy app about this. Here’s our Q&A.

Q: Are there regions where “open bar” is more prevalent/less prevalent or illegal?

LoungeBuddy: In some parts of the world, where alcohol consumption is not the accepted norm due to religious reasons, you may find far fewer open bars at airport lounges, or even a complete ban on alcohol sales and distribution. In general, most lounges around the world feature open bars with unlimited well drinks. Self-serve open bars are typically found in Europe and Asia, where high-end lounges are more prevalent, and there is less stigma against drinking. International airlines that operate airport lounges in the US, such as British Airways and Emirates, continue to provide self-serve open bars. While virtually all US airline lounges now have open bars, only a select few feature self-serve bars, such as the United Global First Lounges and American Airlines Flagship Lounges.

Bartenders on duty at Delta's Sky Club in Atlanta (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Bartenders on duty at Delta’s Sky Club in Atlanta (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Q: Do you think that airport clubs may resort to more controlled “bartender only” drinks? Why or why not?

Internationally, we actually see the opposite. Upscale lounges such as the newly renovated The Wing First Class Lounge at HKG now feature a self-serve champagne bar. We see a continued liberalization of the self-serve alcohol policy across Europe and Asia, as well as Australia. In the US, domestic lounges remain tight-fisted with alcohol, keeping bottles behind the bar, and even charging extra for premium beer, wine, and spirits. We don’t see this policy changing in the near future.

Q: Does the drunk passenger situation seem to be more prevalent overseas than in the US

The short answer is no. With hundreds of millions of passengers passing through airports in the US each year, the likelihood of encountering the few bad eggs will of course increase. Air rage incidents can occur anywhere, and we’ve seen reported spikes in the UK, China, and other countries. Most of this, of course, can be attributed to the overall increase in passenger traffic over the past decade.

Q: How valuable is the “free” cocktails component of club membership?

We find that most travelers who purchase club memberships typically value comfort, privacy, and convenient business amenities the most. However, complimentary beer, wine, and cocktails are certainly a very popular aspect of the airport lounge experience as well. In terms of value, if you consider that a typical cocktail at an airport bar costs approximately $15 including tip, then just two to three drinks in an airport lounge can represent the cost of a standard one-time entry pass ($35 – $50). With an annual lounge membership, the value of these free drinks can be even greater. Of course, we don’t recommend purchasing a membership for the sole purpose of overindulging in alcohol at the airport lounge. However, we do find that alcoholic beverages remain one of the most popular amenities inside the lounge.

What do you think? Should airports restrict booze sales? If so, how would that impact your decisions around airline lounge use? Please leave your comments below. 

–Chris McGinnis

Have you been following our super popular Planespotting 101 series? Check out our first two installments here: 

Planespotting 101: Boeing 757, 767 (latest)

Planespotting 101: Boeing 737 vs Airbus A320

Planespotting 101: MD-80/90 & Boeing 717

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!

 

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Fortune’s 10 most admired (travel-related) companies

Apple's iPhone, seen here in leather, has become a frequent travel essential (Photo: Omar Jordan Fawahl / Flickr)

Apple’s iPhone, seen here in leather, has become a frequent travel essential (Photo: Omar Jordan Fawahl / Flickr)

This week FORTUNE magazine churned out its annual list of “most admired” companies.

While most of the top 10 are not specifically travel-related companies, they all have a profound impact on our daily lives as frequent travelers. Here’s what I mean.

1) Apple. Think about how Apple has transformed the travel experience with the iPhone and iPad. These days 48% of TravelSkills readers access the blog from mobile devices and we have Apple to thank for that. And Apple has been pumping soothing music into our ears for years helping us to forget about cramped cabins and screaming babies, right?

Related: 6 tips for taking better iPhone pics

2) Google. I can’t think of a company that has altered the travel experience more in the last decade than Google. Most helpful for me as a frequent driver is its new Waze map app– a wizard at showing me short cuts around traffic, and keeping me alerted to speed traps. Then there’s flight status. Did you know that you can enter “Delta 134″ in the Google search bar and get immediate flight status? Or enter “SFO JFK” and get an immediate “ballpark” figure on flight price. Oh, and then there’s ITA Matrix, the best airfare research tool out there. The list goes on and on…

3) Berkshire Hathaway. In addition to owning NetJets, which is perhaps the best known provider of private jet services, Berkshire Hathaway is a big provider of travel insurance, most recently rolling out an innovative new protection product called Aircare that pays you up to $1,000 for things like missed connections or long tarmac delays.

4) Amazon. Let’s face it, frequent travelers rarely have time to shop. With Amazon at our fingertips, we can order nearly anything online from the plane or hotel room and have what we need at home when we get there. Sorry SkyMall! Related: SkyMall bankruptcy no surprise

Starbucks in Dubai? (Photo: Joi Ito / Flikr)

Starbucks in Dubai? (Photo: Joi Ito / Flikr)

5) Starbucks. We just wrote about how frequent travelers should strive to soak up local culture by drinking coffee like locals do. But do we always do so? Or is the most frequently phrase we use overseas, “Where’s the nearest Starbucks?” In addition, Starbucks and Delta just partnered and will serve a whopping 68 million cups of coffee this year on Delta flights.

Related: Coffee 5 ways in 5 cities…or Starbucks?

6) Walt Disney. Walt Disney not only touches us when we are on vacation with the kids, but when we are standing in line at TSA, which took its queue control technology from Mickey.

7) Southwest. Despite the fact that it’s not always the lowest fare option any more, Southwest’s no-nonsense business practices around boarding planes and not charging penalties for itinerary changes resonate with frequent travelers. I just wish they still had an AirTran-like business class section for those long flights…but that would probably just complicate things.

Check in at the new American Express Centurion lounge at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Check in at the new American Express Centurion lounge at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

8) American Express. Were it not for a large cash infusion and long term support from American Express, Delta Air Lines would likely not be around these days. Frequent travelers also love AMEX for its new Centurion clubs and highly regarded Membership Rewards program.

Related: First look Centurion Club at SFO

9) General Electric. It’s not just lightbulbs. The GE conglomerate is one of the largest jet engine manufacturers in the world.

"I'll just have a diet Coke." (Photo: Jellidonut / Flickr)

“I’ll just have a diet Coke.” (Photo: Jellidonut / Flickr)

10) Coca Cola. The other most frequently used phrase by frequent travelers? “I’ll just have a diet Coke.” Or a “Coke light” when overseas. Right?

Other travel companies near the top of the most-admired list?

19) Singapore Airlines

27) Boeing

37) Marriott International

39) Delta Air Lines

Here’s the full list of 2015’s most admired companies from FORTUNE.

–Chris McGinnis

Have you been following our super popular Planespotting 101 series? Check out our first two installments here: 

Planespotting 101: Boeing 757, 767 (latest)

Planespotting 101: Boeing 737 vs Airbus A320

Planespotting 101: MD-80/90 & Boeing 717

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Big new Hilton in SF + New status/perks at Hilton/Hyatt + Fastest hotel wifi? + New storm

Parc55HiltonSFO

The Parc 55 is now a Hilton. Note the nearby SF Hilton Union Square tower in the upper left (Photo: Hilton)

Hilton adds two San Francisco hotels. HHonors members should be happy to hear this: San Francisco’s 1,024-room Parc 55 Hotel, located downtown at 55 Cyril Magnin St. near the Powell Street BART station and Union Square — is now a Hilton. The lodging giant said it purchased the Parc 55 (formerly a Wyndham) and four other hotels with the whopping $1.95 billion proceeds from its sale of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York to China’s Anbang Insurance Group. (The Waldorf will continue to be managed by Hilton, the company noted. And word on the street is that a massive, and much needed full renovation of the storied-but-tired property is in the works.)  Meanwhile, Hilton is taking bookings starting June 1 for a newly built Hampton Inn a few blocks away from the Parc 55 at 942 Mission Street near the Moscone Convention Center.

Weather update: Nearly 1,700 flights canceled to/from Northeast airports as the area is walloped by yet another winter storm. And another storm is now bearing down on Southeastern states. Airlines are issuing waivers for those wishing to postpone trips. In the meantime, it’s 72 degrees, sunny and springlike in San Francisco and the plum trees are poppin’ purple! Here’s some hope for the shivering masses: Daylight savings starts in just three short weeks! March 8. Still have the winter blues? British Airways just released a video of Oxford University’s all male a capella group Out of the Blue, remaking Wham’s holiday classic, ‘Club Tropicana’ in Malta.  Watch the fun video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92wSOebt4Nw

San Diego's new Terminal 2 WEST is state of the art while the rest of the airport is pretty dour

San Diego’s new Terminal 2 WEST is state of the art while the rest of the airport is pretty dour

Virgin moves at San Diego. Virgin America Airlines, which flies five times a day between San Diego and San Francisco, has moved its check-in operations at SAN from the dour, aged east side of Terminal 2 to the sparkling new west side. The new Virgin check-in counters and kiosks are located between the Delta and JetBlue positions, and airport signs have been changed to reflect the move. United also operates out of the new west side of Terminal 2.

Which hotel chain has the fastest free wifi? Huffington Post reports that of all hotel chains that advertise free Wi-Fi, good old moderately priced brands like Quality Inns, Ramada Inns, La Quinta and Best Western are among the very best, according to a recent study from Hotel WiFi Test, a site devoted entirely to testing Wi-Fi service. The company’s research found that nearly all midpriced hotel chains, for example, have functioning, free Wi-Fi, and it’s faster than what you’ll find at Hilton, Marriott or Sheraton.

When to buy your spring-summer airline tickets? 

Expedia buys Orbitz. Apparently online mega-travel site Expedia wasn’t satisfied with its recently announced plans to buy rival Travelocity, because Expedia is now planning to gobble up Orbitz and its affiliated companies as well, for $1.6 billion. Besides Orbitz.com, that includes Orbitz for Business, CheapTickets.com, ebookers and HotelClub. Besides its namesake website, Expedia also owns Hotels.com, Hotwire.com and Trivago. This leaves Expedia and Priceline as the two major OTA players. Do you use online travel agencies, known as “OTAs” to book trips why or why not?

HH_logo_bev_color_pos_TM_print

HHonors offers lifetime Diamond status. Longtime Diamond members of Hilton’s HHonors program will have that status extended for the rest of their lives, an HHonors spokesperson told TravelSkills. Specifically, the lifetime status will be offered to anyone who has held Diamond status for 10 or more years (not necessarily consecutive) and has completed at least 1,000 nights of paid stays. “Over the past several years we have learned from members that Lifetime Diamond Status is something our most elite members are extremely passionate about,” the spokesperson said, adding that members who met the requirements by December 31, 2014 will receive a lifetime card and a gift in the mail.

Hyatt has new perks for elites. Hyatt’s Gold Passport program is adding some new perks for top-level members. Starting March 1, Diamond members who transfer a free night paid with points to family or friends will have their Diamond in-hotel benefits (like breakfast, Regency Club access etc.) extended to those guests. Also effective March 1, Gold Passport Diamonds will get a pair of free passes each year for access to United Airlines’ airport lounges. And starting February 14, Diamonds and Platinums will get free premium Wi-Fi access at all Hyatts worldwide.

Seen this entrance to the new Baccarat hotel on W 53 in NYC yet?

Seen this entrance to the new Baccarat hotel on W 53 in NYC yet?

Another posh NYC hotel coming. March 2 is the opening date for the next of New York City’s posh and pricey hotels. This one is The Baccarat, at 20 West 53rd Street. Rates will reportedly start at about $729 a night for a classic king room. As its name suggests, the hotel’s decor will be heavy on glass and crystal touches.

WeekendEdition

Did you miss out on Saturdays’ Weekend Edition of TravelSkills? Check it out here!

Southwest Big Love + Hidden Delta rules + Remarkable Atlanta deal + SFO Centurion chef

.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 9.39.35 AM

70,000 IHG Rewards Club points. How?

Now that IHG is absorbing Kimpton, one of our favorite hotel brands, it’s time to consider getting more deeply involved in the popular IHG Rewards program…and maybe even get the IHG Rewards Club card. In addition to the Kimpton news, a primary motivation right now is that Chase just rolled out a nice 70,000 points sign up bonus for the card (up from the standard 60K offer) after you spend just $1,000 in the first three months of account opening. What will 70,000 IHG points get you? Several free nights at IHG hotels, depending on when and where you say, and if you can take advantage of its lucrative point breaks and last minute reward nights options. Sign up today!

In Case You Missed It…

>American sets schedules for first 787 Dreamliners.

>Chris tries out (and photographs) JetBlue’s new Mint Class.

>InterContinental’s loyalty plan adds Kimpton hotels, new signup bonus.

Have you been following our super popular Planespotting 101 series? Check out our first two installments here: 

Planespotting 101: Boeing 737 vs Airbus A320

Planespotting 101: MD-80/90 & Boeing 717

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Don't miss the travel deals posted on TravelSkills!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

8 things every frequent flyer wants

How about a little peace of mind for your Valentine this year? (Photo: Clear)

How about a little peace of mind for your Valentine this year? (Photo: Clear)

Even busy travelers love to know that when they’re out of sight, they are not out of mind (or heart!). Say “you’re special” to the frequent flyer in your life with one of these gifts for Valentine’s Day.

CLEAR membership

Nothing is more frustrating than bumping into an unexpected delay at airport security. Or worrying about it. Giving a CLEAR gift card means your beloved can skip the worry, and skip the lines for six months. CLEAR lines are now open at 10 airports with two more quickly on the way: San Francisco-SFO, San Jose-SJC, Las Vegas-LAS, Denver-DEN, Dallas-Ft Worth -DFW, Houston-IAH & HOU, San Antonio-SAT, White Plains-HPN, Orlando-MCO and soon in Miami-MIA and one other that will soon be announced. CLEAR’s six-month gift card is specially priced this week only (thru Feb 14) at just $49– that’s nearly half off the standard price of $90. Plus, giving CLEAR means more time to phone you from the gate, right?

Smartphone battery backup

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 7.08.03 PM

Power management is the new time management, and carrying spare juice for a smartphone is an insurance plan of the highest value for biz travelers. These battery backups come in all shapes in sizes, and most will charge a smartphone and tablet simultaneously. Only you know what works best for your bae: a stylish statement, like the colorful Kate Spade charger ($80), a case that boosts charge like the Mophie (from $100), or a simple stick charger like the PowerStick (from $40). (Okay, I know you are wondering…here’s how you define “bae;) )

Lounge access

Business travelers know an airport club room is an indispensable oasis. Learn where your lover’s lounge gaps are and then fill them. Many airlines offer gifting of lounge passes, like American (one day, $50; one month, $99) and United (one year, $500 or 60,000 miles). Or if you’re on a super-tight budget, just sneak into his or her phone and install the LoungeBuddy app to put club room info at his or her fingertips. It’s the thought that counts.

Airport massage

Did you know that foot massage is the most requested service at airport XpresSpas?

Did you know that foot massage is the most requested service at airport XpresSpas?

Even the strongest bodies sag under the stress of travel. A gift card for an airport massage (like at XpresSpa, from $25) may be just the push your favorite flyer needs to take a pampering break—to stow that laptop back in the carry-on and relax into a massage during a flight delay. Before buying that card, check out this listing to learn which massage shops are at the airports frequented most often.

Inflight entertainment

Say it with a movie. Gift Casablanca or Top Gun ($15 each), and you send an instant “you’re my hero” message—plus provide a couple of hours of entertainment for a long flight or a night alone in the hotel room. In the iTunes store, you can shop for an item and then gift it with just a few clicks. Specify the day you’d like it sent, and type in a message. Be Mine.

Travel blanket/eye mask

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 7.25.05 PM

No more snuggling into questionable blankets on long flights: Your partner will appreciate a highly packable bit of luxury, a cashmere travel set that includes a blanket, pillow and eye shades ($395). Priceless. If you’ve just started dating and this is too much of a commitment, even a fleece travel blanket ($12.95) will be appreciated.

Carry-on organizer

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 7.17.58 PM

A carry-on quickly becomes a creepy nest of snaky black cables, and digging through it inflight can require contortions. The GridIt organizer keeps everything where it should be, while providing lots of flexibility ($49.94). Suddenly, a place for everything and everything in its place. There’s even one that doubles as a MacBook carrying case (pictured).

Packing cube

Even the savviest traveler can take packing to the next level. Packing cubes, like these from Tumi ($45), make prepping for a trip a pleasure—and unpacking even better. Good for the morale in lots of colors and practical, too.

I know I’d love to receive any of these gifts, but I hear it’s better to give than receive. And for last-minute shoppers like me, a special tip: Gift cards, like those from CLEAR, are delivered instantly and your loved one will think you’ve been planning for weeks!

What’s the best travel gift you’ve ever received? Best you’ve ever given?

Disclosure: Thank you for reading TravelSkills! We will periodically send out messages like this one from commercial partners about topics relevant to frequent travel.  Our sponsors’ support, and yours, help us keep TravelSkills a free publication. 

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Aer Lingus sees green in U.S. [PHOTOS]

Two Aer Lingus crew members checking out the new furniture (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Two Aer Lingus crew members checking out the new furniture (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Aer Lingus says that the return of non-stop flights between San Francisco and Dublin last year (after a five year hiatus) counts as the most successful launch in the Irish airline’s history.

It’s so pleased with the success of the route that it’s bumping up Airbus A330-200 frequencies to daily (from 4x per week) starting May 4.

The new business class seat in partial recline (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The new business class seat in partial recline (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Plus, the San Francisco-Dublin route (the longest flight in its network) is the first to get Aer Lingus’ new lie-flat business class seat. At 6.5 feet long and nearly two feet wide, the Irish-made seats are some of the most spacious in the sky. In addition to all that sleeping space, Aer Lingus offers business class passengers free wi-fi, and a whole new menu.

The first planes with the newly outfitted cabin arrived at SFO this week.

Aer Lingus new business class seat in fully flat position (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Aer Lingus new business class seat in fully flat position (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This week the airline threw a shindig at the Four Season’s hotel in Palo Alto to celebrate its success in the Bay Area and to show off the new business class seats. Why Palo Alto and not San Francisco? Because most of Aer Lingus’ business class passengers work and live in Silicon Valley.

Current fares for Spring roundtrips between SFO and Dublin are in the $1000 range for economy, and around $4500 in business. Aer Lingus does not offer first class. 

Plenty of storage space for laptops and like (Photo Chris McGinnis)

Plenty of in seat storage space for laptops and like for techie travelers (Photo Chris McGinnis)

Here are some more photos from that fete!

Samples of preflight beverages (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Samples of preflight beverages and Irish-American camaraderie (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Irish butter. Mmmm. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Irish butter. Mmmm. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

It's not just passengers on Aer Lingus flights- freight like dairy, pharma and electronics, too. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

It’s not just passengers on Aer Lingus flights- freight like dairy, pharma and electronics, too. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

>Aer Lingus is not a member of the Star Alliance, Oneworld or SkyTeam. However, it is a United code share partner. But the SFO-DUB route is not a route where the carriers share a code. Nonetheless, due to the partnership, United Mileage Plus members can earn miles on Aer Lingus flights… but there are limits based on fare paid. Business class fares earn 150% of base miles flown, but economy fares earn just 50%-75% of base miles. Many of the lowest fares do not earn miles at all. You can redeem 60,000 MileagePlus miles for economy round trips on Aer Lingus, or 140,000 for business class. Details here. 

>One of the best things about flying Aer Lingus is that passengers pre-clear US customs and immigration in Dublin before boarding the plane. That means when you land at SFO, it’s just like a domestic flight… you can hit the ground running as soon as you touch down. Aer Lingus currently flies into the international terminal (Boarding Area G).

–Chris McGinnis


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Etihad vs “Jetihad”

One of very few photos provided by Etihad to welcome it's new SFO-Abu Dhabi flights (Photo: Etihad)

One of two photos of the provided by Etihad to welcome it’s new “Jetihad” SFO-Abu Dhabi flights (Photo: Etihad)

Last November, Etihad Airways launched new nonstops between San Francisco International and Abu Dhabi. But in an unusual twist, it did not launch the service using an Etihad aircraft. Instead, it substituted a Boeing 777 aircraft and inflight amenities from India’s Jet Airways, of which Etihad is part owner.

Etihad has made a big splash over the last year among frequent flyers by rolling out a new three-room cabin onboard its A380 last December. The Residence includes a “living room,” private bathroom with shower, a bedroom with a double bed and a suited, London-trained butler. The Residence is one of many firsts Etihad has brought to the premium flying experience in recent years.

The highbrow amenities, and the well-crafted media circus around their introduction has raised travelers’ expectations about flying one of UAE’s flag carriers.

Etihad uses a Jet Airways 777 on its new SFO-Abu Dhabi run (Photo: Aero Icarus / Flickr)

Etihad uses a Jet Airways 777 on its new SFO-Abu Dhabi run & one of two JFK flights (Photo: Aero Icarus / Flickr)

While it’s always exciting to get new nonstop service at SFO,  it was a bit of a letdown to learn that Etihad would launch the SFO-Abu Dhabi flights with a leased Jet Airways plane instead of a shiny new B777 of its own…just like the ones recently deployed from Los Angeles and Dallas.

Etihad has one of the youngest fleets flying, with the average aircraft age of just 5.5 years.

An Etihad B777-300ER flies between LAX and Abu Dhabi (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

An Etihad B777-300ER flies between LAX and Abu Dhabi (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

When I asked around about why SFO would get the Jet aircraft instead of a new Etihad B777, I learned that it was because the rapidly expanding airline simply did not have enough of its own aircraft to enter the market. Experts also said that the Bay Area does not have as robust a premium class market as LA, New York or Dallas.

Having never flown Jet Airways, or Etihad, I was eager to see photos of the plane. So were readers…over the last few months, I’ve been peppered with queries about the aircraft interiors, services and amenities on the SFO flight. However, despite multiple requests, Etihad couldn’t provide more than two original photos– the one at the top of this post, and another one showing a ribbon cutting inside the SFO International Terminal.

In December,  I heard from a longtime TravelSkills reader  (“S.P.”) who had just flown from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi on a new Etihad B777 in first class and was returning to SFO (also in first) on the new “Jetihad” nonstop.

Perfect! I asked S.P. to help us with our new series of “Reader Reports” by taking some notes and photos from his journey so I could report them here. (Last month’s Reader Report “I have to sit where?”)

His first missive was regrettably full of disappointment about the Jet Airways plane from Abu Dhabi to SFO. So I asked him to balance it out by sharing his thoughts on the LAX-AUH flight on the Etihad flight, which he really liked.

Below are some excerpts from our emails and some photos to help compare the two trips. Keep in mind that S.P. only took photos on the Abu-Dhabi-SFO leg of the trip. I’ve done my best to include photos of Etihad interiors from other sources to help compare.

S.P.: Overall, the AUH-SFO leg of the trip was a big disappointment.  My expectations were sufficiently low, knowing that the Jet hard product wouldn’t be the same as Etihad, but the actual experience was significantly worse than those expectations.

I was surprised by how different this flight was than the one we took Los Angeles-Abu Dhabi on the outbound (on an actual Etihad aircraft).  I knew in advance that we’d be on a Jet Airways aircraft, but I thought everything else would be Etihad — entertainment, food, crew, etc.  But boy was I wrong.

UAE 2014 (358)

Here’s how Etihad explains to passengers why they are onboard Jet Airways aircraft instead of Etihad. (Photo: S.P.)

UAE 2014 (353)

Photo of Jet Airways first class seats (Photo: S.P.)

 S.P.: In first class, the suite is pretty similar in form to what you find on Etihad.  The finishes on the Jet seat were not nearly as nice as Etihad, the seat motors were loud and creaky like an old jalopy, and my seat wouldn’t even move in all the directions it was supposed to.  The controller for the seat was also much worse than Etihad, very hard to read and use. The Etihad aircraft had really nice mood lighting that adjusted throughout the flight — something about it was very cool and felt glamorous.  No such lighting on Jet.
(Courtesy: Ben Schlappig / OneMileAtATime

Photo of Etihad first class seats (Courtesy: Ben Schlappig / OneMileAtATime

S.P.: First class on Etihad from LAX was very luxurious feeling with beautiful finishes, especially the soft beige Poltrona Frau leather seat. Everything in my suite felt new, high end, and of course, was fully functioning. The entertainment system on Etihad has a few cool features that you don’t find on the Jet aircraft (even though it is the Etihad entertainment system on Jet).  I enjoyed being able to view two live cameras, one that looked straight down at the ground and the other that was a perspective from the flight deck, looking forward.  The other cool feature was the ability to watch live TV, which is great for getting a news update while you’re stuck flying for 15+ hours.  Jet didn’t have either of these features.

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

UAE 2014 (360)

First class amenity kit on Jet Airways operated flight (Photo: S.P.)

Etihad amenity kits  feature colorful Sadou patterns pa centuries-old Abu Dhabi weaving craft. (Photo: Etihad)

Etihad amenity kits feature colorful Sadou patterns pa centuries-old Abu Dhabi weaving craft. (Photo: Etihad)

S.P.: The contents of the amenity kit on the Etihad flight were pretty basic, especially for first class, but I did like that the bag itself was somewhat “authentic” in that it was made of woven wool fabric that I read was some kind of UAE traditional design (as opposed to some generic high-end case like Givenchy or Ferragamo).  Much better than the cheap, black rubber bag given out on Jet.

UAE 2014 (366)

First class lavatory on the Jet Airways operated flight (Photo: S.P.)

S.P.: The bathroom situation on the Jet operated aircraft was also a clear step down.  Etihad had two lavatories in first, one large one and then a second smaller one.  But the Jet aircraft only had one and it was pretty ghetto. It was very rough around the edges and just didn’t feel clean. I really liked having two lavs for the first class cabin, which only has eight seats.  One of them was smaller, but perfectly adequate, and the second one was very large and easy to move around (great for changing clothes) with nice, high-end finishes
UAE 2014 (357)

Business class on the Jet Airways operated flight to SFO (Photo: S.P.)

Business class on Etihad (Photo: Etihad)

Business class on Etihad (Photo: Etihad)

Despite the addition of several new aircraft elsewhere in its network, an Etihad spokesperson at first told TravelSkills that there were no immediate plans to replace the Jet Airways B777 on the SFO to Abu Dhabi route. Update: After this post appeared, the spokesperson contacted TravelSkills to say that the possibility of replacing the Jet aircraft with an Etihad aircraft on SFO-AUH is now “under review.” 

Keep in mind that this reader is one of the few lucky ones to travel in first class– most TravelSkills readers will be flying in business class or economy, and their experiences could be completely different. So here are some other resources to help make your decision to fly Jetihad or not.

>Jet Airways on SkyTrax

>Jet Airways 777 first and business class seats on FlatSeats

>Jet Airways 777 seats maps/reviews on Seat Guru

>Jet Airways website

>Etihad business class page

Have YOU flown Etihad on a Jet Airways operated aircraft (there’s one on the two New York-Abu Dhabi flights, too). Please leave your comments below, or submit a Reader Report to us which we will consider for posting!

–Chris McGinnis

Post script: Etihad provided TravelSkills with the following statement regarding this post:

Our absolute commitment at Etihad Airways is to being the very best in the hospitality industry for our guests – whether you are comparing us with the best airlines, hotels and restaurants – and, also across every class of service.  We greatly appreciate the support and ongoing feedback from our guests within the San Francisco market, which we launched late last year using an aircraft leased from one of our partner airlines, Jet Airways and is operated by Etihad Airways. This feedback helps us constantly improve the travel experience for our guests as we always strive to offer the best in flight hospitality in the world. We value the feedback our guests have shared with you and with us which we will certainly take into account as we continue to further improve upon the product.

(Reader Report is a new series of posts from TravelSkills readers about their recent travel experiences. Would you like to submit a Reader Report on a recent travel experience? Let us know and we’ll send you some guidelines! We are looking for short, sweet, concise reports– no rants. Photos always appreciated! Email us!

 

Putting a wrap on airport security checkpoints

New jets SFO-LAX + Europe summer deals + United move at ATL + Delta wi-fi progress + Cathay biz class sale

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Singapore Air reveals a new seat. Why?

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines’ new premium economy seat is 19.5 inches wide- two inches wider than standard economy (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

Singapore Airlines will become the next international carrier to jump on the premium economy class bandwagon later this year as it introduces the roomier seating on its A380 and 777-300ER aircraft.

The Asian carrier will roll out the new seating product in August on the Singapore-Sydney route, followed by Singapore-Hong Kong and Singapore-London Heathrow. The deployment schedule calls for introduction of premium economy on the Los Angeles-Tokyo-Singapore route starting December 1, followed by New York-Frankfurt-Singapore December 14 and San Francisco-Seoul-Singapore on January 6, 2016.

Singapore Airlines

Seat pitch in SIA’s new premium economy is 38″, up from 32-33 in standard economy (Image: Singapore Airlines)

Singapore’s new premium economy section — with a 2-4-2 configuration — will offer seats with 38-inch pitch, width of 18.5-19.5 inches, eight-inch recline, 13.3-inch touchscreen HD monitors, noise-canceling headsets, power outlets, and two USB ports.

In-flight service will provide a choice of three entrees as well as champagne and wines; premium economy passengers will get priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling, and a checked bag allowance of 35 kg (77 pounds). Members of the airline’s KrisFlyer program who buy premium economy tickets will earn 110 percent of miles flown.

The company has set up a special website detailing the service and amenities of the new seating class, as well as the schedule for deployment on international routes.

Related: How to say “hello” the right way in Singapore? 

Singapore Airlines

Here’s what you get with your Premium Economy fare on Singapore Airlines (Image from SIA website)

Here’s a footnote from history: This will not be Singapore’s first effort at premium economy seating. When the airline launched A340-500 non-stops from Singapore to Los Angeles and Newark in 2004, the specially configured planes had business class and premium economy seating (but no first class or regular economy). That configuration was eventually changed to all-business-class on those two routes (which were the longest commercial non-stops in the industry), but the flights were discontinued in October 2013.

And our choices for the two best all around credit cards offering 40K bonus miles are …. 

Premium economy class has been adopted by a growing number of carriers in recent years; it’s now offered on at least 21 international airlines as a dedicated product (not counting the extra-legroom economy seating — such as United’s Economy Plus or Delta’s Comfort +). Most recently, Lufthansa brought premium economy sections onto intercontinental routes out of Frankfurt starting last fall, and it just introduced them onto select Munich routes (to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai) last month.

Here's Cathay Pacific's newish premium economy seat on a B777 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Here’s Cathay Pacific’s newish premium economy seat on a B777 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Transpacific airlines currently offering premium economy seating include Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Japan Airlines, China Airlines, China Southern, EVA, Philippine, Qantas and Cathay Pacific, according to Seatguru.com, which has a handy comparison chart detailing the seat pitch, width, and amenities of all premium economy cabins worldwide. (Here’s TravelSkills earlier report on the Cathay Pacific premium economy product.)

Why the trend toward premium economy seating? Think of it as a gradual recycling of airlines’ premium cabins, one that has a lot to do with corporate travel policies. First class cabins on international routes have been gradually disappearing, in part because fewer companies were willing to foot the bill for their employees to travel in such luxury. But they were more willing to pay for business class on long-haul flights — so airlines started to improve their business class products to compete for those high-revenue passengers. Over time, business class has become de facto first class on many airlines (it’s not a coincidence that United calls its international business class cabin BusinessFirst).

Delta's new Comfort + seat offers more legroom, but that's about it (Photo: Delta)

Delta’s new Comfort + seat offers more legroom, but that’s about it (Photo: Delta)

Some corporate bean-counters have taken aim at those new and improved business class seats in recent years, especially as fares have increased; but they still had no problem with economy seating — and increasingly, premium economy seating (which, after all, still has “economy” in its name). So airlines are trying to cash in on that enhanced revenue source.

What’s the price differential? SeatGuru estimates that premium economy fares are “generally” about 65 percent less than business class fares. Comparisons to regular economy are more complicated, but SeatGuru says that on transpacific routes, premium economy fares cost about 95 percent more than standard economy.

–Jim Glab

Putting a wrap on airport security checkpoints

New jets SFO-LAX + Europe summer deals + United move at ATL + Delta wi-fi progress + Cathay biz class sale

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

 

 

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

38 new Marriotts + Double SkyMiles + Wi-fi block spank + New Hyatt brand + Virgin in Nashville

Marriott just added 120 new hotels in Canada

Marriott just added 38 new Delta hotels in Canada, like this one in Toronto

More opportunities to earn Marriott Rewards.  Marriott International will greatly increase its presence in Canada with the planned acquisition of that country’s Delta Hotels brand for $135 million. Delta has 38 hotels with 10,000 rooms in 30 Canadian cities; after the deal is complete, that will boost Marriott’s total presence in Canada to more than 120 hotels and 27,000 rooms. Marriott said that will make it “the largest full-service hotel company in Canada.” Meanwhile, Marriott also announced plans to bring its new Moxy brand from Europe to the U.S., with three new Moxy properties in New York City and others in San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans and Chicago. The first Moxy opened in Milan last fall and others are coming in Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin Copenhagen and London. The Moxy brand will be modern and high-tech, with “highly social” lobbies, “free and furiously fast Wi-Fi” and such.

InterContinental offers double Delta miles. Members of InterContinental Hotels Group’s IHG Rewards Club who select Delta SkyMiles as their earning option can get double bonus miles for every qualifying stay at an IHG property from now through April 30. The offer requires online registration.

Blizzard warning in Chicago and heavy snow to snarl air travel Monday and Tuesday (Image: NWS)

Blizzard warning in Chicago and heavy snow to snarl air travel Monday and Tuesday (Image: NWS)

Storm update: Airlines have started to cancel flights and issue waivers of change penalties for Monday/Tuesday flights across a wide swath of the northern US. The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Chicago. Stay warm and remember: If your flight is canceled and you decide to bag your trip completely, the airline owes you a full refund.

FCC gets tough on Wi-Fi blockage. The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau issued a stern warning last week that it won’t tolerate hotels or other commercial establishments blocking customers’ personal Wi-Fi hotspots. Last year, the enforcement agency fined Marriott $600,000 after one of its affiliated properties was caught doing just that in conference rooms; it said last week it is seeing a “disturbing trend” of similar activity and is currently investigating several complaints. “No hotel…may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network,” the FCC said. Think this has happened to you? Go to www.fcc.gov/complaints or call 888-CALL-FCC with details. Do you prefer your own hotspot to the hotel’s Wi-Fi? Under what circumstances?

Full capitulation by Marriott. At first, it Marriott put up a fight over the heated hotspot issue, but quietly issued this “we thought we were doing the right thing” statement Saturday morning:  Bethesda, Md., January 30, 2015 – Marriott International has decided to withdraw as a party to the petition seeking direction from the FCC on legal Wi-Fi security measures. Our intent was to protect personal data in Wi-Fi hotspots for large conferences. We thought we were doing the right thing asking the FCC to provide guidance, but the FCC has indicated its opposition. As we have said, we will not block Wi-Fi signals at any hotel we manage for any reason. And, as of January 15, we provide free Wi-Fi to all members of our Marriott Rewards program who book directly with us. We’re doing everything we can to promote our customers’ connectivity using mobile and other devices, and we’re working with the industry to find security solutions that do not involve blocking our guests’ use of their Wi-Fi devices.

SpringHill Suites Security. Have you seen how SpringHill Suites is putting a wrap (and some cushy couches) on airport security? See this

Will this be disappearing soon? (Photo: Consumerist Dot Com / Flickr)

Disappearing soon? (Photo: Consumerist Dot Com / Flickr)

Demise of the hotel room phone upon us? We’ll have a TravelSkills post this week about a new app that could spell the end to the room phone.

Hyatt’s new brand. Is there no end to new brands in the hotel industry as major companies try to capture the growing market of Millennial business travelers? Hyatt has introduced five brands since 2006, and here comes a sixth: Some 15 Hyatt properties in key business destinations (like New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami and Paris) will take on a new identity this summer as the company launches the Hyatt Centric brand. Hyatt says it will be “a full-service lifestyle brand” for travelers who want “a cosmopolitan vibe in the center of the action” (hence the name Centric). Like so many new brands, Centric will offer a public area where guests can work and socialize, along with a “knock ‘n’ drop” room service (i.e., no “formal delivery”). For more, go to www.hyattcentric.com. Which new hotel brands have you tried? What’s your favorite? 

Related: Our take on Starwood’s Aloft brand – SLIDESHOW 

A brand new Virgin hotel planned for hot-n-happnin-now Nashville (Rendering: Virgin Hotels)

A brand new Virgin hotel planned for hot-n-happnin-now Nashville (Rendering: Virgin Hotels)

Virgin’s Nashville plans. Virgin Hotels just opened its first property — in Chicago — but already has released plans for its second, which will open in Nashville in fall of 2016. Appropriate to its address at One Music Row, the 240-room hotel will include one non-standard facility: A recording studio. Also on tap are a live entertainment venue, Virgin’s trademark Commons Club bar/restaurant/hangout space, a gym, wellness center and rooftop pool.

WeekendEdition

Did you miss the Saturday issue of our WEEKEND EDITION? Here ’tis! 

New jets SFO-LAX + Europe summer deals + United move at ATL + Delta wi-fi progress + Cathay biz class sale

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Putting a wrap on airport security checkpoints

SpringHill

Have you ever seen an airport security checkpoint that looks like this? (Photo: SpringHill Suites)

When was the last time you felt cool, calm and collected at an airport security checkpoint? 

You might feel that way the next time you pass through the new “Experience Zone” at Oakland International Airport’s Terminal 2 (used by Southwest Airlines).

Since last month, OAK’s security checkpoint area has been wrapped in colorful wall art, pumped full of soothing sounds from Pandora radio, and bathed in calm lighting, eye-catching videos and helpful displays showing current queue wait times.

Instead of just stanchions, benches and tables like you see at most security checkpoints, here you’ll find hotel-lobby-quality furnishings, rugs and a soft, comfortable place to sit down and “recompose” after passing through security.sponsored-slider

The new look is not just cosmetic– tests of similar airport Experience Zones show that security lines move about 25% faster than normal according to SecurityPoint Media, the company behind the effort.

Take a look at this time lapse video below to see how Oakland’s airport security was transformed from a cold and foreboding space that felt like a warehouse into something warmer and more familiar.

Watch the transformation in this 90-second time lapse video

“We have received tremendous feedback from travelers who have experienced the transformed security zones in some of the country’s busiest airports,” said Craig Fowler of SpringHill Suites. “We are excited to be able to continue to extend the hospitality of our brand by providing enhanced surroundings and unexpected moments of relief to busy travelers.”

The enhancements are a collaboration between SpringHill Suites, Oakland International, and SecurityPoint Media, which as created similar installations at Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Ft Worth and Charlotte Douglas airports. 

“This latest conversion in Oakland is the most dramatic to date,” said Joe Ambrefe, CEO of SecurityPoint Media. “Balancing the unique culture of each airport with the science of queue theory has proven to redefine the screening area as a point of service excellence.”

SecurityPoint Media

Watch the transformation in this 90-second time lapse video

Disclosure: Thank you for reading TravelSkills! We will periodically send out messages like this one from commercial partners about topics relevant to frequent travel.  Our sponsors’ support, and yours, help us keep TravelSkills a free publication. 

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

New jets SFO-LAX + Europe summer deals + United move at ATL + Delta wi-fi progress + Cathay biz class sale

Delta 717

Delta’s new Boeing 717s used to belong to AirTran (Photo: Delta)

AIRLINES

Delta eyes 717s for LAX-SFO. Delta will put larger Boeing 717s onto eight daily Los Angeles-San Francisco “California Shuttle” flights starting June 4, retaining Embraer 175s on the other seven of its 15 daily flights, according to the website Airlineroute, which tracks planned service changes across the industry. Delta obtained scores of former AirTran 717s from Southwest and has been phasing them into service; last fall, it replaced some of the 76-seat E175s on its LaGuardia-Boston shuttle with 110-seat, two-class 717s. And Delta plans to put 717s onto its LAX-Portland and LAX-Las Vegas routes in June as well. Been on a Delta 717? What did you think?

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 9.52.44 AM

Storm warning. Yet another big winter storm (this time named “Linus”) is expected to hit a wide swath of the northern US and could affecting flying this week. Details. Plan accordingly.

United on the move at ATL. United is moving its Atlanta operations from distant Concourse D to close-in Concourse T at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson. The T-gates are located alongside the main terminal building, which means that passengers can walk from the curb to the plane without having to descend into the giant airport’s bowels for a ride on the “Plane Train.” A United spokesperson told TravelSkills that the United Club on Concourse D closes this weekend and that it is “in the process of evaluating potential opportunities to build a new United Club in the T Concourse.” From ATL, United flies to Newark, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington Dulles and Houston.

United bows out in Dallas Love battle. Southwest Airlines has nabbed two more highly contested gates at Dallas Love Field, giving it 18 of the small airport’s 20 gates. It subleased the gates from United, which will move out of Love to concentrate its operations at Dallas Ft Worth. (United used the Love gates for a handful of regional jet flights to Houston.) Delta currently has temporary authority to serve Love Field with five daily nonstops to Atlanta, but only until July 6. Southwest plans to use the new gates to add nonstops to Memphis, Milwaukee and Seattle and beef up frequencies to cities it already serves.

The noodle chef at Cathay Pacific's business class lounge at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The noodle chef at Cathay Pacific’s business class lounge at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Cathay biz class sale. Cathay Pacific is offering some decent discounts for business class flights from the US to several cities across the Pacific. Examples: West coast US to Australia in biz class is running about $8,000 round trip. From the US to most cities in Asia, business class is running around $5,200. Worth a look if you or your company can spring for biz class. The catch: You must book 90 days in advance.

Must see reader comments on this TravelSkills post! My two favorite airlines. Yours?

Fares to Europe are not as high as we expected, but probably won't stay this low for long

Fares to Europe are not as high as we expected, but probably won’t stay this low for long

Europe fares for Summer. We keep hearing about how expensive it’s going to be to fly to Europe this summer due to high demand from Americans with fists full of strong US dollars. BUT, we’ve seen some very good deals for summer trips if you book now. Using the new FLYR site we found these examples: Aer Lingus nonstops between New York and Dublin were running at just $762 for June roundtrips this week, and just $1050 in the peak month of July. From San Francisco Bay Area, SAS or Norwegian Air are currently the cheapest way to get to Europe this summer– Norwegian out of Oakland is pressuring all carriers to discount fares, and we are seeing some roundtrips to Europe running as low as $1,000 to $1,200 during peak summer months. Considering Europe this summer? Might want to check fares now because US-Europe roundtrips during peak summer could easily exceed $2,000 in coming months.

In Hong Kong, coffee is mixed with tea to make yuanyang (Photo: Calvin / Flickr)

In Hong Kong, coffee is mixed with tea to make yuanyang

Drink coffee like a local, or seek out Starbucks when overseas? Tell us! 

Alaska extends free entertainment. Passengers on many Alaska Airlines flights will continue to get free premium movies and TV shows streamed via their personal electronic devices for another two months — i.e., through the end of March. (That’s in addition to the usual no-fee list of some 100 titles.) More than half of the airline’s fleet is currently equipped with streaming technology, and all aircraft should have it by April, Alaska said. And on its long-haul flights, the company has started renting Microsoft In-flight Entertainment tablets (available free to first class flyers and MVP Gold 75Ks) with a selection of films, games, magazines, music and Internet access. The fee is $8-$10.

From Delta regarding international wifi progress

Here’s the latest on Delta’s rollout of inflight wifi on its international fleet, which is progressing more slowly than expected. Among US carriers, Delta has about 37% of its international fleet outfitted with wi-fi–  primarily on its 747s and A330s but coverage is sparse on its much larger fleet of 777s and 767s.

In-flight innovations: Southwest, Virgin Atlantic. Airlines have been known to host band performances at the airport — JetBlue does this regularly at its JFK terminal — but in the air? Southwest is carrying the band Imagine Dragons on a four-city tour, and as part of the hoopla, the group will perform an in-flight concert later this month aboard a flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta. If your in-flight preferences are more cerebral, Virgin America this month started offering in-flight audio and video academic lectures on a variety of subjects, provided by The Great Courses. The curriculum covers everything from cosmology to cooking, history to music. Readers: What’s your in-flight preference? Rock concerts or learning enhancement?

Qantas Samsung VRheadset

New fangled inflight entertainment aboard Qantas.

Qantas tests VR headsets. Virtual reality (VR) is primed to be the next big thing in entertainment technology, providing an immersive, 3D experience. Qantas is getting a jump on the trend by offering Samsung VR headsets to first class passengers on some of its Los Angeles flights starting in March, and at its first class lounges in Melbourne and Sydney.

BA revamps mileage plan. British Airways is coming out with a big overhaul of its Executive Club loyalty program effective April 28. Among the changes: The number of Avios earned (that’s Executive Club’s “currency”) will basically be increased for passengers in business and first class — especially in the higher fare classes — and decreased for those flying on the lowest economy fares. The cost of reward travel is also being restructured with the introduction of peak and off-peak pricing. You can see all the details on the airline’s website

*

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Big storm + Unusual 747 + NYC Helicopters, rail link + Marriott Megabonus + Choose car from plane

Rendering of the modified 747 that will buzz Burning Man this August (Courtesy Lance Powell)

Rendering of the repurposed 747 that will buzz Burning Man this August (Courtesy Lance Powell)

Developing: A potentially crippling winter storm is bearing down on the Northeast and airlines are starting to announce waivers.”We are facing most likely one of the largest snowstorms in the history of this city,” says NYC mayor Bill DiBlasio. By Sunday evening, airlines had pre-emptively canceled over 800 flights.  The key thing to remember in these stormy cancellation situations is that you are entitled to a FULL REFUND if the airline cancels your flight and you decide it’s not worth taking the trip at all. Here’s what Delta’s waiver for Monday-Tuesday (Jan 26-27) states.

Delta waiver

Unusual 747. In an interesting adaptive re-use of a scrapped 747, a group called The Big Imagination Foundation is working on bringing part of a fuselage to the giant Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert this summer. (See rendering above, and read what SFist has learned about it. ) I’m probably to old for Burning Man, but seeing this sure makes me want to go. Have you been? 

CONSOLIDATION

Aer Lingus + British Airways. British newspapers are reporting that British Airways parent IAG’s sweetened offer for Irish carrier Aer Lingus will be accepted and an announcement could come early this week. The Guardian reports: “Aer Lingus is the fourth busiest operator at London’s Heathrow behind British Airways, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic – with its expanding transatlantic routes a particular attraction to IAG. The Irish airline is well known to IAG boss Willie Walsh, who was chief executive of Aer Lingus between 2001 and 2005 before taking the helm at British Airways.”

Expedia buys Travelocity. Giant online travel agency Expedia, which has been providing services to erstwhile competitor Travelocity for the past couple of years, has now purchased that site from Sabre, the global distribution system, for $280 million. For years, Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline have dominated the web-based travel agency game. Could this be a sign of more consolidation to come in an increasingly crowded field of old and new competitors? Readers who have followed my career may recall that I was once a spokesperson and travel trends expert for Expedia. During that time, I would never have dreamed that our arch competitor would end up swallowed up by Expedia. Times sure change! Related: Mergers that make sense

This TravelSkills post 7 last-minute fare deals worth a look! went viral last week, resulting in nearly 500 new readers signing up for our daily or weekly emails! Welcome to TravelSkills, folks! We hope you enjoy the ride! –Chris

AIRPORTS

(Photo: Gotham Air)

(Photo: Gotham Air)

New heli service in NYC. Gotham Air is joining the crowdsourced travel app game in New York City, allowing users to book helicopter flights to Newark or JFK airports. Its partner is Helicopter Flight Services, which does the actual flying from three Manhattan heliports. You can book your own departure time, and “as soon as four seats have been sold, the flight is confirmed. You are never on the hook for anything more than the price of your seat,” the company said. Scheduled flights will begin this spring, and the app should be available at the iTunes store early in February. First time users pay $99 to JFK or EWR; after the first ride, a one way fare is $199 – $219 dependent on departure time. Would you or your company spring for that? 

Here's a before and after look at Oakland Terminal 2's security checkpoint. (Photo: Security Point Media)

Here’s a before and after look at Oakland Terminal 2’s security checkpoint. (Photo: Security Point Media)

Branded airport security. Oakland International is the US airport to get wrapped in SpringHill Suites branding. Terminal Two, home of Southwest Airlines at OAK, offers “a new, relaxing atmosphere before and after the checkpoint with modern furniture, wall art, calming lighting, soothing music, custom video content and displays showing current queue wait times. A post-screening recompose area outfitted with comfortable, soft seating welcomes travelers to gather their belongings in a more relaxed setting.” What do you think about big brands stepping up to improve the airport experience as a means to expose travelers to their brands? Please leave your comments below. 

Rail link for LaGuardia? New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said last week that plans are in the works to build something New York-area travelers have wanted for decades: a rail link to LaGuardia Airport. The plan calls for a dedicated rail link from the airport to the existing Willets Point station a mile and a half away, next to Citi Field (home of the New York Mets). There, travelers could transfer to the Long Island Railroad or to the Number 7 subway line into Manhattan. Don’t hold your breath, though: The $450 million project won’t be finished until 2020.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

HOTELS

Marriott renews MegaBonus. It’s time for the latest version of Marriott’s popular MegaBonus promotion. Marriott Rewards members who register online by March 25 can earn 2,500 points for every paid stay at the company’s 15 brands from February 1 through April 30, up to a maximum of 25,000 points.

The Westin Market Street has a new name. (Photo: AAA)

The Westin Market Street has a new name. (Photo: AAA)

New name for Westin SF. Last Thursday night, guests went to bed at the Westin San Francisco and woke up at the Park Central hotel. The 36 story hotel at the corner of Third Street and Market Street (frequently confused with the Westin St Francis on Union Square) was previously the Argent Hotel and before that,  the ANA. Hotel staff told TravelSkills that for the time being, the hotel is still a “Starwood affiliated” hotel, so you can still earn Starwood points for stays. But the hotel’s new owners could change that in coming months. In perennially packed San Francisco, a hotel does not have to do much to attract business travelers, but we found a few new deals (like 15% off) on its website. 

CARS

National’s new Virtual Aisle. National Car Rental’s Emerald Club members who book a mid-sized car can bypass the counter and pick any vehicle in the rental lot’s Emerald Aisle at major airports. But we’ve been doing that for years. Here’s what’s new: Now National’s mobile app has a new “Virtual Aisle” feature fulfilling the same function for airports where National doesn’t have a dedicated Emerald Aisle. So as soon as you land, you use the app to pre-select a car from real-time inventory at 19 airport locations, including Tulsa, Richmond, Omaha, Knoxville, Norfolk, Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Huntsville, Greensboro, Long Beach, Honolulu, Tucson, Reno, Baton Rouge, Phoenix (Mesa Gateway) and Savannah.

Look for this instead of the big furry stache (Photo: Lyft)

Look for this instead of the big furry stache (Photo: Lyft)

Lyft lifts the big ‘stache. What was ride-sharing service Lyft thinking when it decided to put a giant furry pink moustache on the front of all its cars? Apparently the powers that be at Lyft have come to their senses– sort of. They’ve decided to remove the Big Pink Fuzz, and instead will give their drivers a little banana-sized pink moustache that sits on the dashboard and glows softly at night. The move is part of a brand re-design brought on in part by Lyft’s new creative director Jesse McMillin, snatched from Virgin America last year. Read our 2011 profile of the very interesting and talented Jesse McMillin here.

At TravelSkills, we are big Uber fans, not only because of their generous $20 off your first ride referral program, but because the service has probably made the most consequential change in our travel habits than just about anything in recent years. But Uber’s reputation has taken a hit lately, so we’re wondering how many readers have considered  or used similar services like Lyft, Sidecar, or even gone back to taxis with apps like FlyWheel. Please leave your comments below.

Did you see Saturday’s TravelSkills Weekend Edition?

WeekendEdition

 

Best photo + United meals + Bid for Virgin upgrades + Delta downgrade + New Asian nonstop for SJC

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

6 tips for better plane pics

(Photo: Jim Glab)

Always be ready for the opportunity to grab a perfect shot out the plane window, from your gate, or a nearby parking lot (Photo: Jim Glab)

If you’ve ever wished for a pastime that could make your hours at the airport or on the plane more endurable, how about aircraft photography?

No matter how jaded you’ve become from your travels over the years, you might still think — as I do — that seeing a big commercial jet lift itself into the air is a pretty majestic sight. Since so much of your business life is spent in and around aircraft, you might like to document it — for posterity, for your office wall, social media posts, or just for your own enjoyment — with photography.

I’ve been taking pictures of jet aircraft for decades. I’m not a “planespotter” — I don’t sit outside the airport fence in a folding chair waiting for some action — but I’ve found that you can get good aircraft pictures from inside some terminals, from inside the plane, or from areas just outside the airport.

First, a word about equipment: For the best results, don’t rely on your phone’s camera — carry a real camera, preferably a DSLR with good resolution. And equip it with a medium-range zoom lens. Even from a good vantage point, you’re probably not going to get too close to the planes when they’re taking off and landing (to my mind, those are the best shots — but not the only ones). In any case, a zoom will bring you in closer. I keep an 18-135 mm. lens on my camera, and it seems to be great for most situations.

UPDATE: BEST photo submitted here

Here are six things I’ve learned about capturing great aircraft shots:

(Photo: Jim Glab)

San Diego’s airport offers some excellent views from the terminal (Photo: Jim Glab)

  1. Your results depend largely on opportunity and luck. Airport configurations vary considerably, and even at the same airport, takeoff and landing runways can change from day to day, so you can rarely be sure that you’ll get good views from the terminal. But sometimes you can. Once you’re checked in at the airport, walk around your concourse to see what’s going on outside the windows. If it’s a linear concourse, walk down to the big windows at the end. I’ve had some great luck at LaGuardia’s main terminal and more recently at San Diego (both airports have runways fairly close to the terminals, since they are surrounded by their cities with no room for expansion).

You can boost your chances if you happen to be at an airport that offers an outdoor terrace or observation deck. These are making a comeback at a number of locations; here’s a list of possibilities worldwide.

  1. Keep your camera ready for action. If you do find a spot with good views of the runways, you’ll only have a few seconds to get zoom in and get shots of an aircraft as it takes off or lands — no time to fiddle with camera settings. Don’t be shy — stand right up next to the window. As far as I know, there are no rules prohibiting photography at airports, and the ACLU seems to agree. (Even taking photos of TSA checkpoints shouldn’t present a problem, according to the agency’s blog.)
(Photo: Jim Glab)

Consider using silhouetted travelers to humanize photos of the big metal birds (Photo: Jim Glab)

  1. Watch for good views of aircraft taxiing up to the gate, or parked at the gate. Consider a photo with the aircraft in the background, and waiting travelers in the foreground — a little tricky from an exposure standpoint, but you can keep the travelers in silhouette.
(Photo: Jim Glab)

Be prepared to grab some great shots out the plane window like this one (Photo: Jim Glab)

  1. You might not like the next tip, since business travelers seem to be addicted to aisle seats. But if you’re in a window seat, you can sometimes catch good shots through the aircraft window as the plane makes its way from the gate to takeoff. Again, keep that camera ready because any opportunity that presents itself will be fleeting. Shooting from a window seat is about the only way to get a nice photo of aircraft all lined up waiting for takeoff during a busy period.

Do you have a great photo of an plane? Hit us with your best shots and we’ll post the BEST ones here or on our Facebook page! Send them (with caption and attribution) to: chris@travelskills.com 

UPDATE: BEST photo submitted here

(Photo: Jim Glab)

This fantastic shot was taken from a rental car lot near LAX (Photo: Jim Glab)

  1. Don’t put your camera away once you arrive at your destination and start to leave the airport. Some of the best vantage points for landing and departing aircraft are from the rental car lots. I waited years for the chance to photograph a 747 in the air from a reasonably close vantage point, and I finally got my chance while I was standing outside in the Hertz lot at LAX, when a Korean Air 747 came in for a landing almost directly overhead. I also got some great shots of inbound planes from the parking lot of a Whole Foods near the Las Vegas airport.
(Photo: Jim Glab)

Photo editing software can help produce unusual photos like this (Photo: Jim Glab)

(Photo: Jim Glab)

Photo editing software makes for some amusing possibilities! (Photo: Jim Glab)

  1. If you’re semi-serious about this kind of photography, buy some photo editing software and learn how to use it. At the very least, you can crop and enlarge your plane shots. If you have photos of aircraft against a plain blue sky, it’s pretty easy to cut-and-paste, removing the plane from the original photo and then inserting it into another one; that can make for some amusing or interesting possibilities.

–by Jim Glab

Do you have a great photo of an plane? Hit us with your best shots and we’ll post the BEST ones here or on our Facebook page! Send them (with caption and attribution) to: chris@travelskills.com 

UPDATE: BEST photo submitted here

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Delta at JFK + First Virgin Hotel opens + Cuba + Free parking at Oakland + Marriott backs down

Delta's Terminal 4 at New York JFK (Photo: Delta)

Delta’s Terminal 4 at New York JFK (Photo: Delta)

AIRPORTS

Delta expands at JFK. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Delta Air Lines have cut the ribbon on a $175 million expansion of Terminal 4 at New York JFK. The 11-gate, 75,000-square-foot extension of T4’s B Concourse allows Delta to move most of its regional Delta Connection flights there from Terminal 2. Delta said the expansion will make for easier connections and improved access to amenities in both its terminals. The facility features a new JFK jitney bus stop in addition to those at Gate B18 in T4 and Gate C60 in T2. All the new gates provide enclosed jet bridges for boarding regional aircraft. New facilities are great… but have have you walked the length of Delta’s T4 at JFK? It’s way out there. Way.

Free parking at Oakland. Bay area travelers who fly to Texas out of Oakland International can get up to three days of free parking in the airport’s Daily Lot. They just have to show a copy of their e-ticket itinerary (to any airport in Texas) along with a printable coupon available at www.OaklandAirport.com/ParkFree.

WeekendEdition

A 747 to Honolulu! Starting May 15, Delta is re-introducing Boeing 747-400 operations on Atlanta – Honolulu route, for the first time since October 2009. The 747-400 will operate daily, replacing Airbus A330-300. (Airline Route)

Reader question: TravelSkills reader A.S. has a question. Can anyone answer this one? Why don’t the airlines in the US onload and offload passengers from both ends of the plane, like they do in Europe? Please leave your answer below.

CUBA

Vamos a Cuba! In case you’ve been under a rock all week, you should know that new relaxed rules about travel to Cuba went into effect on Friday. NBC sent a crew out to TravelSkills World HQ to interview Chris about the new rules. While the interview lasted about 20 minutes, The TODAY Show used only about 20 seconds. (You can see it in the clip above at about 1:30 mins). What else did I say? I agree that this is a smart move– it’s time to abandon a 54 year old policy that is not working. AND, I think that it’s a GOOD thing that congress is going to stall on full repeal of the current embargo with Cuba, because once that is lifted, swarms of American’s kept away from this forbidden fruit of the Caribbean are going to invade and Cuba simply cannot accommodate them right now. Cuba simply does not have the infrastructure (hotels, roads, buses, airport gates) to deal with millions of Americans eager to get there. Once the embargo does come down and Americans have easy (and cheap) access to the island, the tourist economies of Florida and many Caribbean islands are going to take a hit– that’s probably a hidden reason there is so much opposition in Florida to relaxing travel restrictions. Also, many Canadians and Europeans have long favored vacations in Cuba because of the lack of Americans. That of course is going to change. Prices will rise, crowding will be an issue. In the near term, I also think we’ll see much more business travel to the island as US companies are eager to tap into this market of 11 million people and US hotel companies, cruise lines, airlines jump into the market. How do you feel about Cuba? Are you eager to see it? When might you go? Leave your comments below.  

HOTELS

virgin hotel chicago

The first Virgin hotel in the US has opened in Chicago and here’s a peek inside (Photo: Virgin Hotels)

Dead week hotel deals abound. Except for this MLK weekend, we are still in the depths of the “dead weeks” when travel prices plummet and last minute deals abound. This means that it makes good sense to wait around for last minute deals by trolling sites such as Hotwire or apps such as HotelTonight for deep discounts. New York Hotel Week will conclude shortly with super low rates ($100 to $200 per night) at some of the best known and most trendy properties in town (details here).  This month, hotel prices in key European cities have fallen to their lowest in the past four years, according to the Trivago Hotel Price Index (tHPI)– and a strong dollar is making Europe an even better bargain for US travelers this year.

Virgin’s first property debuts. Sir Richard Branson’s latest travel venture, Virgin Hotels, has opened its first property in downtown Chicago. The 250-room hotel — in the Old Dearborn Bank Building at 203 N. Wabash — offers free high-speed Internet, an absence of many traditional fees, and a social space called The Commons Club for dining, drinking and mingling. Virgin Hotels also introduced a downloadable app called Lucy that can be used to request hotel services, control guest room TVs and thermostats, find local restaurant suggestions and play music and movies.

Marriott revises Wi-Fi blocking policy. To re-clarify its position on guests’ personal Wi-Fi hotspots, Marriott said last week that because it “listens to our customers,” it will not block guests’ personal Wi-Fi “at any of our managed hotels.” (Note: Lots of Marriott-branded and affiliated hotels are not managed by Marriott.) A few weeks ago, the company said it would never block such activity in guest rooms or public areas, but it hedged on meeting rooms. Marriott and the American Hotel and Lodging Association have petitioned the FCC for a rules interpretation that would allow hoteliers to “detect and contain rogue and impostor Wi-Fi hotspsots” in conference rooms. Hotspots at meetings might be safe for now, but Marriott said it will continue to pursue the effort at the FCC “to clarify appropriate security measures network operators can take to protect customer data.”

In Case You Missed It…

+++
>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

United bonus miles + Delta to Shanghai + Beware mileage thieves + Chris speaks Russian

united

(Photo: Jim Glab)

AIRLINES

United offers bonus miles to elites. Matching a similar move by American Airlines, United has come out with its own offer of bonus miles for MileagePlus members who buy tickets in premium cabins. The longer the flight and the higher one’s elite status, the more bonus miles United piles on, up to 12,000 for Premier 1Ks on long-haul flights of more than 3,000 miles (and p.s. transcontinental flights). Unlike American’s promotion, which is good all through 2015, United’s only applies through the end of February. That’s because on March 1, MileagePlus switches over to a new regime of earning based on money spent rather than distance flown. Delta made that same switch January 1, which is why it felt no need to match American’s premium-cabin mileage bonuses. For details on United’s plan, go to www.united.com/newyearbonus.

United bonus

JetBlue’s double miles. JetBlue has come out with its own seasonal bonus promotion for members of its TrueBlue loyalty program. The carrier is offering double base flight points on all flights booked and flown by March 8. The promotion requires online registration.

Delta’s Asian Situation. Could it be a coincidence? Just days after American Airlines asked the Transportation Department to take away Delta’s Seattle-Tokyo Haneda authority and give it to AA to launch Los Angeles-Haneda service, Delta filed for approval to operate Los Angeles-Shanghai Pudong flights starting July 9 — a route already served by American as well as United and China Eastern. Delta said LAX-Shanghai was the route “most requested by our corporate customers.” The airline will use a 777-200LR with BusinessElite, Economy Comfort and regular economy seating.

Cathay Pacific

Taking a lean back in Cathay Pacific’s premium economy seat on a B777-300

Cathay Pacific will expand San Francisco-Hong Kong service effective June 12 from twice-daily departures to 17 non-stop B777 flights a week. These new planes are outfitted with Cathay’s new(ish) premium economy cabin (pictured above), business class and regular economy class– no first. The third flight will depart SFO at 1:40 a.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays with an early-morning arrival in Hong Kong. Check out Chris’s SFGate.com post about a unique Cathay Pacific “delivery flight” from the Boeing factory in Seattle to Hong Kong. And check out the plane’s roomy crew rest area in this short video. 

Miles stolen at AA, UA. Cyberthieves have used stolen usernames and passwords to access AAdvantage and MileagePlus customer accounts, in some cases securing free flights or upgrades, according to the Associated Press. The airlines reportedly notified affected customers in recent weeks — just a few dozen at United, but some 10,000 at American, the report said — and have frozen their accounts. The airlines noted that their own systems were not hacked, and that no customer credit card information was obtained. Readers: Do you take any special steps to keep your frequent flyer account access secure? Post comments below.

INTERNATIONAL

Google Translate uses you phones camera to translate signs.

What language problem? Do you get frustrated on overseas trips because you can’t read the local signs or understand conversations? With the newly updated Google Translate app, you can simply point your phone’s camera at printed words (as long as they’re in French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian or Russian) and see the English translation on the screen. The app will also translate spoken words into English (and vice versa), and with the new update it can automatically detect which foreign language it is hearing. Since I’m usually more baffled by signage in Japan or China than in Europe, I’m looking forward to the day that Google makes it work across the Pacific! In the meantime, the app does a nice job with Russian– watch me speak it in the video below.

In Case You Missed It…

–Chris McGinnis

+++
>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<
What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

New SFO competition + Delta fights for Love + United Wi-Fi + Air China’s 747-8s + Bag woes at Denver

The new terminal at Dallas Love Field feels a lot like SFO's Terminal 2- light, airy, modern with a broad selection of dining & shopping options. Were impressed! (Photo: Chris McGinnis(

The new terminal at Dallas Love Field feels a lot like SFO’s Terminal 2- light, airy, modern with a broad selection of dining & shopping options. We’re impressed! (Photo: Chris McGinnis(


AIRLINES

New SFO routes for Southwest, JetBlue. Virgin America got some new competition on a couple of key routes last week as Southwest kicked off new daily service between San Francisco and Dallas Love Field, and JetBlue started two daily flights between SFO and Las Vegas. Southwest also added daily flights between Love Field and Oakland, completing its initial expansion at the close-in Dallas airport following the end of Wright Amendment restrictions last fall. That rule basically restricted service out of Love Field to states bordering Texas, and when it ended Virgin America moved its Dallas operations from DFW to Love Field. As a result of all this, November 2014 passenger traffic at Love Field jumped by 37 percent over the same month a year earlier. Meanwhile, Delta executives last week were in talks with Dallas airport officials trying to find a way to maintain the airline’s presence at Love Field for its DAL-Atlanta flights. As of this weekend, Delta negotiated a deal allowing it to stick around Love Field for the next 180 days. Have you flown into Love Field yet? Thoughts? On a recent stopover there, we were very impressed (See photo above).

American will cluster DFW schedules. In a few months, American Airlines plans to overhaul schedules at its Dallas/Ft. Worth hub, bringing groups of arrivals and departures closer together into clusters or “banks” instead of spreading them out evenly over the course of the day. The change will mean shorter connecting times for many travelers. AA did the same thing at its Miami hub last year, and plans a similar change at Chicago O’Hare in 2015.

WeekendEdition

Wi-Fi launched in United regional jets. United announced that it has started to roll out in-flight Wi-Fi in its United Express fleet. The project, slated for completion by the middle of this year, will bring Internet service to more than 200 United Express E175s, E170s and CRJ700s, using Gogo’s ATG-4 air-to-ground technology. “Additionally, the company will begin providing Personal Device Entertainment on regional jets this year, offering customers hundreds of complimentary movies and television shows to view on their Wi-Fi-enabled iOS and Android devices using United’s mobile app, as well as on laptop computers,” the company said. Interesting: United has chosen to use Gogo for these aircraft instead of its own United Wi-fi system rolling out on larger aircraft. Which system to you think is better? Please leave your comments below. 

Carriers battle for Tokyo Haneda. American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines last week filed for new rights to fly to Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport (HND), as the Transportation Department studies whether Delta should forfeit its existing route authority in the Seattle-Haneda market. The U.S. only has access to four daily slots at HND; the others are used by United from San Francisco, Hawaiian from Honolulu and Delta from Los Angeles. American, which wants to use the slot for daily LAX-Haneda service, is arguing that Delta is underutilizing the Seattle authority, operating just a handful of flights through the slow winter season. Delta maintains it will resume regular service in March when business picks up. Hawaiian wants the slot for Kona-Tokyo service.

Air China brings 747-8s to New York, San Francisco (Photo: Air China

Air China brings 747-8s to New York, San Francisco (Photo: Air China)

Route news: Air China, Delta, JetBlue, etc. Star Alliance member Air China is bringing new four-class (including premium economy) 747-8 Intercontinentals to its non-stop Beijing-New York JFK and Beijing-San Francisco routes. Last week, the airline put a 747-8 onto one of its two daily JFK flights, replacing a 777-300ER; the SFO service starts May 1 … Delta will revive seasonal summer service between Pittsburgh and Paris CDG May 10 with five flights a week, increasing to daily in June …… JetBlue will expand at Ft. Lauderdale April 30, adding daily flights to Cleveland and Detroit; JetBlue also announced plans to fly from Portland, Oregon to Anchorage from June 18 to September 8 … On April 16, Spirit Airlines will launch regular daily flights from Boston to Las Vegas, and seasonal service from BOS to Detroit and Cleveland … Effective March 13, Frontier Airlines will add new daily service from Philadelphia to Atlanta, Charlotte and Chicago O’Hare.

denverairport

United’s having baggage problems at its Denver International hub (Photo: Jim Glab)


AIRPORTS

Baggage woes at Denver. United Airlines last month brought in a new company at its Denver International Airport hub to handle baggage on United Express flights, and the changeover has been traumatic. According to the Denver Post, United and its passengers at Denver in the past few weeks have been facing problems of “lost luggage, delayed flights and a chaotic baggage claim area, with bags tossed everywhere.” Some travelers have waited up to two hours to see their bags on the belt, only to be told to go home and wait for delivery, the newspaper reported. The problems extend not only to arriving DEN travelers, but to bag transfers onto connecting flights. Readers: What’s the longest you’ve ever had to wait to get your checked bag back? Do you believe bag delivery problems are worse at some airlines/airports than others? Which ones?

Carmel

Follow Chris on Instagram!

Airport lounge app debuts in U.S. LoungeBuddy, a smartphone app that lets users find and buy access to airport lounges, has expanded to the U.S. Previously available only in the U.K., the app is initially working with Alaska Airlines Board Room lounges as well as Minute Suites. “No memberships, elite statuses or premium seat purchases are required,” the company said. “As of today, instant lounge access will be available in 16 of the busiest airports throughout the world, including major hubs in the United States like Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Atlanta (ATL), Seattle (SEA), Philadelphia (PHL) and Los Angeles (LAX). LoungeBuddy will continue to roll this functionality out to more partner lounges within the US, Europe, Canada, Asia and Australia.” Download the free app here.

maseratighibli

Avis adds the 2015 Maserati Ghibli to its fleet (Photo: Maserati)

CARS

Avis’ hot new car. If you think an expensive, sporty vehicle will really impress your clients and colleagues, Avis has a new option for you. The rental giant has added the 2015 Maserati Ghibli to its Avis Signature Series; it’s available at locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Orlando, Las Vegas, Phoenix and south Florida. The car’s 3.0 litre twin-turbo V6 engine cranks out 345 horsepower. What’s the rental rate? If you have to ask… Other Avis Signature Series cars include the Chevrolet Corvette, Lincoln Navigator, Infiniti QX60, Mercedes GL450, BMW X5, the BMW 3 Series Sedan and the BMW 5 Series Sedan.

In Case You Missed It…

+++
>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

AirTran is over + SkyTeam priority perks + Hotel wi-fi standards + AMEX lounge for SYD

It's all Southwest, all the time at ATL these days. AirTran is no longer visible (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

It’s all Southwest, all the time at ATL’s North Terminal these days. AirTran is no longer visible (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

AIRLINES

AirTran’s legacy for Southwest. With Southwest subsidiary AirTran Airways due to fly off into the pages of aviation history this week as its last remnants are fully absorbed into its parent airline, Forbes takes a look at just what AirTran has brought to the larger carrier. Besides making Southwest the largest U.S. airline (in passengers flown), AirTran has given it international routes, a bastion in Delta’s fortress hub at ATL, and set the stage for new domestic growth. The magazine also notes that Southwest’s integration of AirTran was one of the smoothest mergers of the past several years. Here’s a good WABE/NPR report on AirTran’s final flightWhat do you remember most about AirTran? What will you miss most? Please leave your comments below.

More summer Europe routes: UA, DL. United and Delta have both announced additional seasonal summer service to Europe. United plans to fly from Chicago O’Hare to Rome from June 3 to September 23, using a three-class 777. Delta will begin 767-300 flights from Atlanta to Dublin five days a week on March 29, increasing to daily June 1; 757-200 service from New York JFK to Stockholm four times a week as of June 5, increasing to five a week June 15; and 757-200 flights from JFK to Malaga, Spain beginning with five weekly frequencies June 4 and increasing to daily on June 29. Good news: More summer flights to Europe usually means better award seat availability.

WeekendEdition

BUS_P002

Guest using Wi-fi at Hyatt Regency Chicago (Photo: Hyatt)

HOTELS

Hyatt’s free Wi-Fi: Everyone, everywhere. Just days after Starwood Hotels matched Marriott by saying it would offer free standard Wi-Fi systemwide to members of its Preferred Guest program who book directly through a Starwood channel, Hyatt has upped the ante on those two lodging giants. Starting in February, Hyatt said, it will offer free Internet in all guest rooms and public spaces of all its brands worldwide — and you don’t have to book through a Hyatt channel or even be a member of Gold Plus Rewards to get it. “Internet connectivity is no longer an amenity. It has become an integral part of travelers’ daily lives and a basic expectation,” said Kristine Rose, Hyatt’s VP for brands. “Travelers shouldn’t have to remember which brands or locations offer it for free or the strings attached to get it.” Currently, free Wi-Fi at Hyatt is limited to certain brands and to elite Gold Passport members. The company noted that where it is available, Gold Passport Diamonds and Platinums will get a free upgrade to premium Wi-Fi service.

tmarriottachotelneworleansbourbon

Lounge at Marriott’s AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon (Photo:: Marriott)

Free hotel Wi-Fi: Great perk or gimmick? Now that Marriott, Starwood and Hyatt have all announced plans to offer free Wi-Fi systemwide in the weeks ahead — launching a bandwagon that other chains are likely to jump on — travelers will have to judge whether the free version is fast and reliable enough. In each case, the three hotel companies will also provide “premium” Internet access for free to the top elite members of their loyalty programs. As Starwood defines it, “Standard Internet access is sufficient for web browsing and emailing. Premium Internet access allows for streaming content and downloading large files.” But those are fairly vague definitions. With increasing numbers of travelers carrying more and more devices, all siphoning data through that same “standard” Wi-Fi pipe, will current hotel systems be sufficient for the demand? Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, suggested in a USA Today column last week that it’s time for the lodging industry to develop common standards for the levels of Wi-Fi connectivity hotels offer their guests, with clear guidelines as to who gets what, and for what cost (if any). In our own reader poll, conducted after Marriott started the free standard Wi-Fi ball rolling in October, only 28 percent were happy with a basic Wi-Fi connection, while 54 percent said they would use it, but it was “frustrating,” and 18 percent preferred to pay for a faster link. What’s your opinion on this issue? Share your comments below.

Openings, rebrandings: Marriott, Starwood, Four Seasons, etc. The first U.S. property in the AC Hotels by Marriott brand — which has 75 locations in Europe — opened this month in New Orleans. The AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon is in the old cotton exchange building on Carondelet Street at the edge of the French Quarter … Also newly opened in The Big Easy is Starwood’s 410-room Le Meridien New Orleans, a remaking of the former W Hotel … There’s a second new Le Meridien in the South: Le Meridien Charlotte, close to that city’s Uptown Business District, is a transformation of the hotel previously known as the Sheraton Charlotte and the Charlotte City Center Hotel … Philadelphia will lose its Four Seasons Hotel in June, when the property is due to close for renovations before reopening under an as-yet-unnamed brand … Newly opened in the heart of downtown Miami is the YVE Hotel Miami, an upscale concept property that will, for instance, offer its guests bikes, scooters and Car2Go vehicles to get around town … Outside the U.S., the former Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin, Ireland, will become the InterContinental Dublin on January 1 … In Colombia, Starwood has cut the ribbon on the 168-room W Bogota in the center of town, its third W property in Latin America.

Resolve to get more out of your good credit score in 2015 with a new credit card! Here are our picks for the two best all-around cards– Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

AIRPORTS

SkyPriorityatTokyoNarita

SkyTeam aligns priority perks. Delta’s SkyTeam global alliance — which includes Air France, KLM and 17 other carriers — said last week it has become the first alliance “to deliver aligned priority services worldwide” for Elite Plus, first and business class customers at some 1,000 airports. And at the world’s top 60 airports, SkyTeam said, it is currently rolling out SkyPriority Fast Track lanes at security checkpoints (already at 39 locations) and immigration (now available at 21 airports) for its premium flyers. The global program offers premium customers priority check-in areas and baggage drop-off, priority service at ticketing and transfer desks, and priority boarding and baggage handling. Readers: What’s your experience with finding common procedures and policies in place when you connect across global alliance partners? Any problems?

Sydney gets two new lounges. The International Terminal at Sydney, Australia’s airport has added two new lounges for weary travelers. American Express has cut the ribbon on a new Lounge that seats 60 and offers Wi-Fi, power outlets, food and beverages and more. It’s open to AmEx Platinum and Centurion cardholders for free, and to other AmEx cardholders for $55. Meanwhile, Delta’s SkyTeam alliance also has a new lounge at SYD, with seating for 150 travelers as well as showers, massage chairs, food and beverage service and Wi-Fi. It’s available for business class passengers on SkyTeam carriers, and for elite members of their loyalty programs.

In Case You Missed It…

+++
>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Faster Virgin Wi-Fi + Hertz status for SkyMiles + Kimpton purchase + Free Internet at Starwood

VirginAmericaWiFiservice

Virgin America Wi-Fi service (Photo: Virgin America)

 AIRLINES

Virgin speeds up in-flight Wi-Fi. Flyers on Virgin America who use in-flight Wi-Fi should notice an improvement in download speeds now that the airline has completed the deployment of Gogo’s ATG-4 Wi-Fi service on all 53 of its Airbus A320s. With speeds topping out at 9.8 Mbps, the ATG-4 service is more than three times faster than the first generation of in-flight Internet. To promote the enhancement, Virgin and Gogo are offering a chance to win roundtrip flights, a new iPad or free Wi-Fi service for a year to persons who “share their best ‘office in the sky’ moment on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #OfficeInTheSky.” Readers, what’s your experience with in-flight Wi-Fi? Too slow? Too expensive? Or just right? Post comments below.

Gogo Wi-Fi Tip: Did you know that you can buy Gogo day passes online before your flight for just $16 vs the $35+ fee you’ll pay for connecting on the plane? This saves the most money for longer transcon flights. Get your passes ahead of time here: Gogo $16 day pass

SkyMiles offers Hertz status. Delta has bolstered its partnership with Hertz by offering SkyMiles Medallion members elite status in the car rental company’s Gold Plus Rewards program, which will give them expedited service and car upgrade eligibility. Gold Medallions can join Hertz’s Five Star Program, while Platinums and Diamonds are eligible for the Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle. Delta set up a web page with a link to the registration process for Hertz status enrollment. Medallions can also scan Hertz’s summary of benefits for the Gold Plus Rewards status levels.

Alaska debuts new in-flight perks. Streaming in-flight entertainment to personal electronic devices is just one of the perks Alaska Airlines is rolling out as part of its new “Alaska Beyond” in-flight improvements. The company said entertainment streaming — currently available on 50 of its 737s, and coming on the rest by April — will be free through January 31; after that, movies and TV shows start at $1.99. The improvements also include new Recaro leather seats with power outlets and USB ports at every seat (currently on 95 percent of its aircraft) and new in-flight service that offers “locally-sourced, artisan food and beverage from iconic Northwest brands.” Later in 2015, Alaska is due to begin installing new overhead bins that provide 48 percent more storage space.

WeekendEdition

Routes: Southwest, JetBlue, AA. Southwest will add new service next year on several routes: On June 7, it will begin twice-daily Los Angeles-Portland, Ore. flights as well as new daily service between LAX-Indianapolis, Oakland-Nashville and Oakland-New Orleans. On June 28, it will add twice-daily Indianapolis-Boston flights and daily service between Austin-St. Louis and Austin-Orange County, Calif. … JetBlue last week inaugurated three new Florida routes from Washington Reagan National, including twice-daily service to Jacksonville and daily flights to Ft. Myers and West Palm Beach … American Airlines has filed for government approval to start code-sharing with Mexican carrier Interjet, with plans to put the AA code onto Interjet flights from Mexico City to Huatulco, Villahermosa, Merida, Tuxla Gutierrez and Oaxaca.

China connections: United, Virgin. United Airlines plans to boost seasonal capacity from San Francisco to China in 2015. The carrier said that from May 6 to October 24, it will double its SFO-Shanghai service to two flights a day, and from June 4 to September 1 it will increase SFO-Chengdu frequencies from three a week to daily. Meanwhile, Virgin America said that starting in 2015, it will offer members of its Elevate program reciprocal benefits with China Eastern, so they can earn and burn miles on the Chinese carrier’s flights. Virgin will also add the Shanghai-based airline’s code to a number of its U.S. routes.

Why not let holiday spending help you snag big credit card mileage bonusesCheck out our recommendations here and get your 40,000 miles! 

AIRPORTS

qantasloungelax

Qantas First lounge at LAX (Photo: Qantas)

New Qantas First lounge at LAX. Qantas has cut the ribbon on a new Qantas First lounge at Los Angeles International Airport that’s more than three times the size of its predecessor. The new Qantas First facility — open to first class customers, Qantas Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers, and Oneworld Emerald and international first class flyers — can seat more than 200 guests. It has a 74-seat restaurant with cuisine from Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry, as well as enhanced services like faster Wi-Fi, wireless printing, cable TV, a pair of private work suites and seven shower suites. Meanwhile, Qantas last week increased service on it s LAX-Melbourne route from seven flights a week to 10.

HOTELS

Guest room at Kimpton's Hotel Monaco Philadelphia (Photo: Kimpton)

Guest room at Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco Philadelphia (Photo: Kimpton)

InterContinental to acquire Kimpton Hotels. The popular and fast-growing boutique chain Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, with 62 U.S. properties and 16 more in the works, is being acquired by InterContinental Hotels Group for $430 million. Noting that the boutique hotel business is “the fastest growing segment in the industry,” IHG said that Kimpton, with its distinctive designs and decors, will be “highly complementary with IHG’s Hotel Indigo and EVEN Hotels brands.” The purchaser said it would speed up the growth of Kimpton in the U.S. and introduce the brand in foreign destinations, citing a “significant opportunity” for expansion in Europe and Asia. There will be no immediate impact on customers; Kimpton told members of its Karma Rewards plan in an email that its program and the IHG Rewards Club “will continue to run as separate loyalty programs” for the time being.

Starwood expands free Wi-Fi. On the heels of a similar announcement by Marriott two months ago, Starwood Hotels & Resorts said that effective February 2, 2015, members of its Starwood Preferred Guest program who book their rooms directly through a Starwood digital channel including websites and mobile apps will get free standard in-room Wi-Fi access at all the company’s brands. Starwood already offers free Internet at its Aloft, Element, and Four Points by Sheraton brands in North America, and to SPG Platinum members. Starwood’s other brands include St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W, Westin, Le Meridien and Sheraton.

Hilton digital check-in goes live. Hilton Worldwide announced last week that guests who use its Hilton HHonors app can now check in digitally at more than 4,100 of its properties worldwide in 11 brands, using their own smartphones, tablets or desktops. They can also use the app to select a specific room for their stay. Next year, Hilton said, it will expand the app’s functionality so guests can unlock their room doors with their smartphones, starting with its Conrad, Hilton, Waldorf Astoria and Canopy by Hilton brands. Have you tried digital check-in with any hotels yet? Any problems?

In Case You Missed It…

+++
>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

iPhones on United + Delta backtrack + Holiday first class sale + Uber issues + New hotel for NYC

United's going big with the new iPhone 6 Plus. (Photo: United)

United’s going big with the new iPhone 6 Plus. (Photo: United)

AIRLINES

UA flight attendants get iPhones. Passenger purchases on United flights will soon be processed through an iPhone 6 Plus. The airline said it plans to give the big new iPhones to 23,000 flight attendants in the second quarter of 2015, and they’ll be able to handle most in-flight retail transactions. In the months to come, “United plans to develop a number of customer-focused tools for the device,” a spokesman said.

AmEx-Delta: No point transfer cap after all. American Express and Delta said they have agreed to “a multi-year extension” of their 18-year-old co-branded credit card partnership. And as part of that deal, the companies announced that they have backed off an earlier plan to cap American Express Rewards point transfers into SkyMiles at 250,000 a year. Also, “Platinum Card members from American Express and Delta Reserve Card members can continue to enjoy access to the Delta Sky Club,” the companies said. It was only a couple of months ago that the limit on point transfers, which was supposed to take effect January 1, was announced — and neither AmEx nor Delta offered any hints as to why it is now being dropped. Readers — care to speculate on the reason? Was this a big deal for you or not?

First class holiday sale from Virgin. Act fast (booking deadline is midnight Sunday, December 14) and use promo code MERRY50 and you can save 50 percent off Virgin America’s first class and Main Cabin Select fares for travel December 19-January 2.

Why not let holiday spending help you snag big credit card mileage bonuses? Check out our recommendations here and get your 40,000 miles! 

Here's a rendering of American's new look at the airport

Here’s a rendering of American’s new look at the airport

AA promises big customer improvements. American Airlines marked the one-year anniversary of its merger with US Airways last week by announcing it will spend $2 billion on passenger-oriented improvements in the months ahead. Besides fleet renewal — some 112 new aircraft will be delivered next year, AA said — improvements will bring new seats (including lie-flat, direct aisle access first and business class seats “on nearly every American Airlines widebody jet”); power ports in every row on narrow-bodies and at every seat on newly delivered 777-300ERs and 787s (AA’s first Dreamliner is due in the next few months); new Bose headsets in premium cabins of international and transcon flights; and Wi-Fi on international routes. Airport facilities and Admirals Clubs will also get an overhaul. Another part of the plan: American will install Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi over the next year on 250 of its two-class regional jets. Which passenger enhancement would you most like to see on American? Post comments below.

Cleveland Shuffle: Flights cut, added. United’s big drawdown of service at Cleveland Hopkins isn’t finished yet. The carrier’s latest cutbacks will include the end of Cleveland-Dallas/Ft. Worth service on March 5, followed by termination of flights to Ft. Myers, Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa on April 7. Meanwhile, JetBlue said it will add Cleveland as the 88th destination on its route map starting April 30, when it launches two flights a day to Boston. And low-cost Frontier Airlines plans to pull its service from Cleveland to LaGuardia, Washington Dulles and Chicago O’Hare in the weeks ahead.

International routes: China Southern, Delta, EVA. December 16 is the launch date for China Southern’s new service from San Francisco to Guangzhou, operating via a stop in Wuhan three times a week with a 787 … Delta kicks off new daily service December 20 between its Salt Lake City hub and Mexico City … Taiwan’s EVA Airways plans to begin new service between Taipei and Houston Bush Intercontinental in June 2015, flying three times a week with a 777-300ER.

Lufthansa’s new course. What’s going on at Lufthansa? Pilots have staged disruptive walkouts in recent weeks as the airline moves forward with a plan to compete against low-cost carriers by expanding its budget Eurowings subsidiary on both short and long-haul routes while still maintaining a full-service operation at the parent airline. Lufthansa chief Carsten Spohr explained the strategy in a New York Times interview last week. Have your plans been disrupted by LH pilot strikes? How did you handle it?

Recent: Better hotel deals on these 5 hotel-only sites? 

AIRPORTS

Delta coddles arrivals at Heathrow. Delta premium passengers flying into London Heathrow can now take advantage of a new arrivals lounge the carrier has opened in Terminal 3. Available at no charge to BusinessElite passengers as well as SkyMiles Diamonds and Platinums, the facility has 11 private showers, clothes pressing and shoeshine services, breakfast service, Wi-Fi and a business center. It’s open from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. daily.

CARS

Uber’s legal ups and downs. It’s a real roller-coaster ride for the lawyers at ride-sharing app Uber these days. On the upside, Uber (and competitor Lyft) just won approval from the Dallas City Council to operate legally in that city effective April 30. On the downside, district attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles last week filed suit against Uber alleging violations of various consumer protection statutes (although both cities recently settled a similar case against Lyft). But that’s not Uber’s only difficulty: Web site The Daily Beast last week published a summary of the legal problems facing the company in a number of venues. And then there’s this: Who’s Driving You?

Have you entered the contest to win a $200 Amex gift card plus one year of National Executive status? All you have to do is offer one great travel tip! 

HOTELS

A big new Virgin hotel for NYC...but why not SF? (Photo: Virgin Hotels)

A big new Virgin hotel for NYC…but why not SF? (Photo: Virgin Hotels)

Virgin America adds sister hotel firm to Elevate. The newest participant in Virgin America’s Elevate loyalty program is its new sister company Virgin Hotels. Its first property is due to open in Chicago in mid-January; Elevate members will get 1,000 points per stay (doubled from January 15-March 31), and Gold members will receive free breakfasts and room upgrades. A Nashville property is expected to open in 2016, followed by a New York City hotel in 2017. The developer of the Manhattan property, at Broadway and 29th Street, last week revealed some details about the 38-story, 475-room hotel, including a rooftop bar, outdoor pool and spa. (We wish they’d build a new one in in San Francisco!)

In Case You Missed It…

+++
>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Tip: Stormy weather slowing you down? Here’s why…

(Photo: SlightlyNorth / Flickr)

Flight delays at San Francisco International Airport regularly exceed two hours when it’s rainy, windy or foggy, while airports in San Jose and Oakland report few if any delays. As I write this, the FAA is reporting delays averaging 3 hours 40 minutes at SFO.

Here’s why:

As most frequent travelers know, delays mount at SFO almost every time a storm blows in off the Pacific. Just look at these sad numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics: SFO ranked 27th out of 29 major airports in on-time arrivals in the first 10 months of 2014. It ranked 18th out of 29 in on-time departures (an improvement over 2013 when it ranked 23rd).

Why does SFO seem to suffer so many more weather-related delays than other airports in the Bay Area?

Of course, the answer is endlessly complicated, but for the most part, the main reason is capacity. SFO’s runways are too close together to allow simultaneous operations during wet weather. Due to environmental concerns, there are no current plans to further separate the runways, which would require expansion into the Bay.

SFO Plan West

The West Plan at SFO allows up to 60 aircraft arrivals per hour (Illustration provided by SFO. Yes, we know about the “SJO” mistake on this image.)

SFO runways are designed to handle up to 60 aircraft arrivals per hour in dry weather. That’s because the airport operates two sets of parallel runways– one set for takeoffs, the other for landings. These parallel runways intersect at their midpoint forming a giant “X.” (See figureDuring dry weather, two streams of planes can land and take off from these parallel runways.

The problem is that planes are only allowed to take off and land simultaneously on these parallel runways during clear, dry weather.

When storms blow in, air traffic control changes up the formation in which planes land, from the dry weather “West Plan” (with aircraft arriving on runways 28L or 28R and departing on runways 01L or 01R– see above) to the stormy weather “Southeast” plan (when aircraft arrive on 19L & 19R and depart on 10L & 10R– see below).

When air traffic controllers switch to the Southeast plan, simultaneous operations on parallel runways is forbidden, which cuts the airport’s arrivals capacity in half– from 60 down to 30 or 38 per hour, depending on the severity of conditions. All planes must land in single file, which causes delays when there are 60 planes scheduled to land, but air traffic control only allows 35. And when planes arrive late, it’s likely that they will also depart late.

Related: Is this the best flight of the year? 

During rainy weather, SFO switches to the Southeast plan, which slows down operations

During rainy weather, SFO switches to the Southeast plan, which slows down operations (Illustration provided by SFO. Yes, we know about the “SJO” mistake on this image )

If you live in San Francisco, you can tell when planes switch to the Southeast Plan because arriving aircraft whistle and moan as they descend through the clouds over the city as they approach SFO.

What can you do to avoid this? Fly early during storm season. Before 9 a.m., arrival volume at SFO is below 30 per hour. But after 9 a.m., just over 30 aircraft are scheduled to land. The arrivals rate peaks between 12 noon and 2 pm when 40+ aircraft per hour are scheduled to land at SFO. The situation usually does not improve until later in the afternoon when arrival volume falls below 30 per hour.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

The main reason that airports in Oakland and San Jose don’t face such on-time performance issues– even when it’s raining–  is that their volume is low. They rarely exceed their capacity for arrivals in good or bad weather. (For example, neither airport is included in the BTS’s top 29 airports cited above.)

Late last year, SFO announced that new landing procedures could help reduce delays– but those new procedures only apply during periods of low ceilings (fog) but not rain.

Would you consider switching your flying to Oakland or San Jose due to delays at SFO? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below. 

– Chris McGinnis

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Is this the best flight of the year?

It's not every day you board a 747, destination: North Pole.

It’s not every day you board a 747, destination: North Pole.

By Nancy Branka

By the time December rolls around each year, the last thing I want to do is to get on a plane. I am, by now, a jaded, tired business traveler. I am just plain done with TSA agents, done with vying for position in boarding groups, done with heaving my carry-on over my head.

But on Saturday I had the privilege of experiencing the joy of air travel again, on what was pretty much the best flight ever. Of course, this was no standard trip. It was the “Fantasy Flight,” staged by 120 United Airlines San Francisco-based employees for children recovering from serious illnesses.

The flight was to embark from SFO’s Gate 82, where the 54 families would board a 747, fly for approximately one hour, then land at the North Pole—AKA Gate 86. From check-in at a specially decorated ticket counter to arrival where kids, most dressed in their Christmas finest, received gifts and sat on Santa’s lap, smiles abounded. (OK, maybe they were punctuated with the occasional crying toddler sibling.) I eavesdropped on a conversation with one family, parents and two children, eager to board the plane because the kids had never flown before. What a way to spend a Saturday.

Have you ever seen an airport gate look like this?

Have you ever seen an airport gate look like this?

Normally bland gate areas were transformed to holiday wonderlands thanks to myriad blow-up decorations—life-sized Christmas trees, clusters of snowmen, Santa in a hot air balloon. A Lionel train ran the length of the departure gate. Meanwhile, choirs sang Christmas carols, elves offered refreshments, fairies painted children’s faces and Mike Hanna, United’s SFO station manager, introduced a cadre of special guests, including former 49er football players and 13 Olympians.

The SFO-based United employees have staged this event for 20 years running, and similar events are held at other United hubs. The effort requires months of fundraising to reach the $20,000 required to put on such an event: Employees generated $3,000 from a silent auction and food sales, United donated the use of the plane, and Chevron provided the fuel. From what I could hear, many of the employees—all of whom donated their time–had participated in the event before and looked forward to it each year.

Meanwhile, the frequent traveler in me wondered about the logistics of an unscheduled “fantasy flight.” As I pondered these questions, a series of conversations shed light on my musings. Here’s what I learned.

It's hard not to smile when you share beautiful views of San Francisco, with candy canes and gingerbread men.

It’s hard not to smile when you share beautiful views of San Francisco, with candy canes and gingerbread men.

How do pilots develop a flight plan for a flight to nowhere?

I buttonholed Captain Jim Abell, United assistant chief pilot, NW region, who told me the main thing was for the flight to stay out of the way of traffic at the busy airport, maintaining close communication with TRACON. He mentioned that this 747 would “take off like a rocket,” because we would be unusually light—just a sip of fuel, no cargo and a load of lightweight passengers. This was basically a sightseeing flight, he said, so we’d maintain a cruising altitude of just 3,000 feet, making views a priority: taking a track across the bay, over Alcatraz, then a left turn and through the Golden Gate, flying down the coast as far as Monterey before turning back. (I loved the idea of sightseeing on a 747.)

Santa and Mrs. Claus hung out on the upper deck before making their dramatic appearance.

Santa and Mrs. Claus hung out on the upper deck before making their dramatic appearance.

How would the North Pole narrative deliver the magic for both skeptics and believers?

About an hour in, just when we flew over Pebble Beach, flight attendants announced that bad weather had delayed our landing at the North Pole. Instead, Santa and Mrs. Claus were landing their sleigh on top of the plane. And what do you know? The rosy-cheeked pair emerged down the stairs from the upper deck, to the delight of the kids. Ingenious. (I was amused earlier in the flight when I visited the upper deck and found it to be a rather surreal Green Room for the cast of characters and their children. In fact, the pilots’ grandchildren were on the flight and scrambled onto their laps in the cockpit after we landed.)

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!
SFPD Airport Bureau bomb-sniffing dogs like Big and his handler, Sgt. Michael Andraychak, were just along for the fun of it.

SFPD Airport Bureau bomb-sniffing dogs like Big and his handler, Sgt. Michael Andraychak, were just along for the fun of it.

How do you keep a planeload of sick kids safe and still have fun?

Five paramedics from the South San Francisco fire department were on board the flight with their gear in case of medical emergency, donating their time. They told me later that they had a blast, and, happily, their services were not needed. In addition, the traditional safety demonstration by flight attendants had been rewritten to the cadence of “The Night Before Christmas.” I chuckled at, “In the unlikely event of a dip in the bay, put on your life vest and you’ll be OK.” Some other guests helped me appreciate what a special flight this was.

Two San Francisco police officers and their bomb-sniffing dogs were on board, small packs of children petting the dogs in the galleys. I have to say, there’s something relaxing and wonderful about seeing Black Labs roam the aisles of a 747.

Even the pilots were into it!

I was actually sad to have this flight end. Certainly, the day brought a special joy to the very deserving families for whom it was arranged. I was just along for the ride. But maybe it was the ultimate Christmas miracle for me, too, to embrace the fact that even airlines have big hearts this time of year. Air travel really is a wonder.

This time of year do you get travel burnout, or do you enjoy the ride? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! 

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Virgin food award + Delta beer + New flights to Europe + 3 Miami hotels + First A350

VirginAmericasobanoodles

Virgin America soba noodles serving (Photo: Virgin America)

AIRLINES

Virgin takes top honors in food study. Charles Platkin, a nutritionist also known as the Diet Detective, has come out with his annual ratings of airline food in terms of its nutritional quality, and Virgin America has captured the top spot. “It’s great that Virgin America also provides ALL nutritional information, NOT just calories, and it’s on their website, too.  Virgin America also has on-demand eating – you simply select the food you want, when you want it right at your seat,” he wrote.  Platkin rated Delta’s in-flight food as most improved this year, thanks to a new partnership with healthy food company Luvo. Do you care about the nutritional value of in-flight food?  What’s the best meal you’ve had this year? Please leave your comments below. 

Delta broadens beer selections. The craze for regional craft beers is getting a boost from Delta, which said it is introducing seven varieties to the beverage carts on a number of its most popular business travel routes. The providers of the new brews range from New York’s Brooklyn Brewery to San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing.

Qatar Airways A350 (PHOTO: Qatar Airways)

Qatar Airways A350 (Photo: Qatar Airways)

Qatar debuts world’s newest airliner. Qatar Airways, the global launch customer for the new Airbus A350 XWB, said it will take delivery of the first aircraft on December 13, and plans to put it into commercial service between Doha and Frankfurt in January. Qatar, a member of the Oneworld global alliance, has expressed its confidence in the new Airbus model by ordering 80 of them. The A350 is a wide-body, mid-sized aircraft designed as Airbus’ answer to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, to be used on medium to long-haul international routes. Like the Boeing plane, the A350 relies on composite materials and aluminum alloys to reduce its weight and increase fuel efficiency. The XWB stands for extra-wide body — its cabin is a few inches wider than the 787’s. TravelSkills got an advance look at the A350 a few months ago; here’s our report.

Oneworld expands benefits. Frequent flyers who have achieved Sapphire status in the Oneworld alliance (American, British Airways, et al.) are getting an additional baggage benefit. In economy class on member airlines using a weight-based system, they’ll get an extra 15 kg. over the usual economy class allowance; and on those using a piece system, they’ll get a second checked bag (when the allowance is one) of up to 23 kg. Allowances were also increased for first and business class customers. In addition, Sapphire and Emerald-level elites will get priority baggage delivery.

International routes: Etihad, United, Lufthansa, Azul. Etihad Airways last week kicked off new non-stop service between Abu Dhabi and Dallas/Ft. Worth, using a three-class 777-200LR; its initial three flights a week will increase to daily next April … United on Sunday (December 7) begins daily non-stops between Houston Bush Intercontinental and Santiago, Chile, with a 767-300 … Lufthansa last week resumed seasonal Miami-Munich service five times a week, with a three-class A330-300 … Brazilian carrier Azul — run by JetBlue founder David Neeleman — has started its first service to the U.S. with a daily Ft. Lauderdale-Sao Paulo flight; it will add Orlando-Sao Paulo on December 15.

Delta sets seasonal Europe service. Delta last week unveiled plans for its 2015 seasonal transatlantic schedule additions. March 29 is the launch date for New York JFK-Nice service, using a 767-400 and operating five times a week, increasing to daily on May 2. Also on May 2, Delta will kick off daily JFK-Shannon, Ireland non-stops with a 757-200. On June 2, the airline will begin daily JFK-Prague non-stops, using a 767-300, and daily Atlanta-Barcelona service with an A330-300.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!
TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis is in Washington DC this week-- flew nonstop SFO-Washington National on Virgin America

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis is in Washington DC this week– flew nonstop SFO-Washington National on Virgin America

AIRPORTS

Clear Card in Vegas. CLEAR, the provider of biometric identity-based expedited access to airport security lanes, has finally added Las Vegas McCarran as its 10th location. The $179-a-year service is already available at SFO, SJC, DFW, DEN, IAH, HOU, SAT, MCO and HPN. Miami International MIA is next on the list for Clear although there is no firm start date. Do you use Clear? Is is still worth $179 per year? Leave comments below. 

Washington D.C.’s airports dilemma. The nation’s capital has expected Dulles International Airport to handle the region’s long-term traffic growth, but a report by the Washington Post notes that growth at IAD has stalled as more passengers and airlines are flocking to close-in Reagan National Airport. Part of the blame goes to Congress, which has opened up DCA to more long-haul flights, but part of it is due to Dulles’ remote location.

CARS

Uber, Lyft OKd in Denver. Ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber have both won approval from Denver International Airport officials to pick up and drop off passengers at the passenger terminals. Have you used Uber or Lyft for airport transportation? How would you describe the difference between the two?

HOTELS

marriott-edition-hotel

Miami Beach Edition Room (Photo: Marriott)

South Florida gets three new properties. The newest product of Marriott’s partnership with hotelier Ian Schrager has opened its doors — the Miami Beach EDITION. The 298-room EDITION — a remaking of the old Seville Hotel at 2901 Collins Avenue — was designed as an “urban resort” to appeal to business travelers who want to work and play in Miami Beach … Down the road at 4041 Collins Avenue, Thompson Hotels has cut the ribbon on the 380-room Thompson Miami Beach in an historic Art Deco building; it has 47,000 square feet of meeting space and a gourmet restaurant called Seagrape from local celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein … And in Palm Beach, Kimpton Hotels has added a new oceanfront property, taking over the former Omphoy Ocean Resort and rebranding it last week as the Tideline Ocean Resort & Spa after making a number of enhancements.

JW Marriott Houston Downtown room (PHOTO: Marriott)

JW Marriott Houston Downtown room (Photo: Marriott)

Openings: Houston, Brussels, Johannesburg. The century-old Samuel F. Carter building at 806 Main Street in downtown Houston has been remade into the newly opened, 328-room JW Marriott Houston Downtown. Each room has a 55-inch TV, Nespresso machine, touch-screen room controls, and an iPad for ordering hotel services … A landmark building in the heart of Brussels, close to the Grand Place and the Square Brussels Meeting Center, has been transformed into the new Hilton Brussels Grand Place, with 123 rooms and suites … The renowned Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, has undergone an 18-month, $56 million renovation and reopened as The Four Seasons Hotel-The Westcliff Johannesburg. All 117 rooms were renovated, and the hotel has new contemporary restaurants, lounges and a spa …In Australia, luxury operator Langham Hotels has finished a $25 million renovation of The Langham Sydney (formerly the Observatory Hotel).

In Case You Missed It…

.

.

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Uber out in Vegas + United changes routes + Delta in Philly + Virgin’s next moves? + New India visa

alaska

Alaska Airlines is sticking to a miles-based program unlike most other carriers (Photo: Jim Glab)

AIRLINES

Alaska boosts mileage bonuses. Alaska Airlines has an early Christmas present for its Mileage Plan members: bigger earning bonuses for certain fare classes and for MVP Gold 75K elites starting January 1. The bonus for first class fares jumps from 50 to 75 percent, and for refundable coach (Y) fares from 25 to 50 percent. Some nonrefundable fare classes will start offering 50 percent (S class) or 25 percent (M and B) bonuses. And MVP Gold 75K elites will see their bonus rise from 100 to 125 percent. An Alaska official said airlines that have moved to revenue-based loyalty programs “have the potential of diluting the rewards earned for the average passenger,” and said Alaska will stick with a generous mileage-based plan. (Take that, Delta!)

United draws heat for Sacramento suspension. United Airlines will suspend its non-stop service between Sacramento and Washington Dulles for the winter season (January 6-April 6), drawing criticism from local politicians and members of Congress, who will have to make the trip via a connection during that period. United said the suspension is due to weak seasonal demand. California has 53 members of the house of representatives and two senators.

JetBlue debuts free Wi-Fi content. JetBlue last week went live with its new “Fly-Fi Hub,” a collection of free content that passengers can view on their personal devices aboard aircraft equipped with JetBlue’s Fly-Fi service. Content available both online and off-line includes Fox TV shows; e-book excerpts from 20 HarperCollins best-sellers; National Geographic programs; and educational videos including courses from Wharton Business School. Users also will have the option to buy Time Inc. magazines. Coming early next year is PBS programming for kids, as well as full access to the Wall Street Journal.

Popular! 6 most annoying actions of infrequent flyers

virgin-route-map

Virgin America routes as of November 2014 (Source: Virgin America)

Virgin America: Ready for takeoff? With its initial public offering successfully completed, its balance sheet in the black and fuel prices remaining low, Virgin America appears to be poised for a new period of growth and expansion, according to a newly released analysis by the CAPA Centre for Aviation. With new funds and 10 new aircraft joining its fleet in the next two years, it is expected to achieve capacity growth of 10-15 percent in 2015, and to focus on attracting an increasing number of higher-yielding business travelers. There’s room to grow, since Virgin only serves 15 of the top 50 U.S. markets, the report notes. Where would you like to see Virgin America fly next? On our wish list: Atlanta, New Orleans, Phoenix. What about you? Please leave your comments below. 

Route news: United, Alaska, Delta. United plans to add a pair of new seasonal routes to Europe on June 4 and double its service on another: Daily Newark-Venice service operates through September 23 with a 767-400ER; daily Chicago-Dublin service through August 17 with a 757-200; and a second daily Washington Dulles-Paris CDG flight through August 17 with a 757-200 … This week, United adds two Latin American routes: Denver-Panama City starting December 3, and Houston-Santiago December 7 … On July 1, Alaska Airlines will add three routes operated by partner SkyWest’s Embraer 175s: Seattle-Milwaukee, Seattle-Oklahoma City and Portland-St. Louis, each with one daily flight … Delta plans to drop even more routes from Memphis on January 5, including Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Dallas/Ft. Worth; in April, it will end MEM-Washington Reagan National service.

MileagePlus tests new shopping app. United recently revealed plans to let MileagePlus members use miles to pay for meals and drinks via iPads at Newark’s Terminal C once renovations are finished, and now it is expanding its app-based shopping technology. The airline said it has started testing with a select group of members what it calls the MileagePlus X mobile app, which lets members with iOS and Android phones instantly earn up to 24 miles per dollar spent at participating retailers, including Lowe’s, Sears, the Gap and AMC Theaters. “The airline plans to expand MileagePlus X to all members and offer more retailers soon,” a spokesman said. “United is continuing to improve MileagePlus X and plans to launch additional features, including the ability to redeem miles for in-store purchases.”

Philadelphia

Philadelphia (Photo: Murray Hedley, Flickr)

AA, Delta battle for PHL-London. When Delta recently began its own non-stop Los Angeles-London Heathrow service, American responded with plans to double its service on the route to two flights a day starting next spring — and now the same thing is happening on the Philadelphia-London Heathrow route. Delta said it will launch daily 757-200 flights between PHL and LHR on April 8 as part of its partnership with Virgin Atlantic. And American said it will add a second daily PHL-LHR flight starting March 29, operated by a US Airways 757-200, with a 9:55 a.m. departure time. That will give the AA-British Airways joint venture four daily PHL-LHR flights.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!

CARS

Uber suspends Nevada service — for now. Ride-sharing app Uber’s presence in one of its newest big markets — Las Vegas — has been suspended after a Nevada judge issued a temporary restraining order against the service. It’s apparently the first time that Uber has failed to overcome the many legal and regulatory challenges to its business model, which generally involve whether or not the firm should have to follow the same rules as taxi operators.


Gas prices plunge. As air fares keep going up, gas prices keep going down. Late last week, the price of a barrel of oil plunged to a low of about $66. If this trend continues, it could lead some business travelers to consider adding more road trips to their schedules in place of shorter flights. Last week, average U.S. gas prices hit $2.82 a gallon, down 47 cents from last year at this time and at their lowest late-November level in five years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Are you planning to drive more now that fuel prices are lower… but airfares are not? Please leave your comments below. 

International

Easier entry to India. The notoriously difficult Indian visa application process is now apparently a thing of the past according to QuartzThe Narendra Modi government on Thursday launched a “tourist visa on arrival” scheme for nationals of 43 countries (including the US and Cananda) traveling to India for 30 days or less—and only for “recreation, sightseeing, short duration medical treatment, casual business visit, casual visit to meet friends or relatives.” Applications must now be made online (instead of the previously required visit to a consulate) at least four days prior to arrival and cost $60.

In Case You Missed It…

+++

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

22 fun facts about flying

For your holiday reading pleasure, here are 22 fun facts about flying that you may not know. An entertaining and enlightening read from the folks at FlightRight.com.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

–Chris

22 fun facts

 

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

36 most/least frustrating airports

Did you know that there's a five star hotel (with a great bar) inside Vancouver Airport? Photo: Chris McGinnis

Did you know that there’s a five star hotel (with a great bar) inside Vancouver Airport? Photo: Chris McGinnis

Just in time for the holiday crunch, Bloomberg/BusinessWeek has put together a spot-on ranking of the 36 largest airports in the US and Canada.

What’s best about this ranking is that it is based on a survey of 3,000 frequent travelers who know a thing or two about airports, plus a full analysis of drive time to/from airports, and airport on-time data.

Let’s start on a positive note and look at the those that come out at the top of the list for being LEAST frustrating overall:

#1 Vancouver YVR

#2 Portland PDX

#3 Austin AUS

#4 Calgary YYC

#5 Phoenix PHX

Every one of these top five airports puts a smile on my face. I love Vancouver for its indoor creek and 5-star hotel on the premises. I’m in awe of Portland’s glassy rain canopy that connects the airport to parking lots. Austin has live music, rocking chairs and BBQ!

Portland's glass canopy and great public transport  give it high marks (Port of Portland)

Portland’s glass canopy and great public transport give it high marks (Port of Portland)

One thing that jumped out at me about this study was that Canadian airports rank so high. In addition to Vancouver and Calgary, Ottawa ranked #8 overall. However, Toronto Pearson (YYZ), Canada’s busiest, ranked near the bottom of the pack at #30– just ahead of the reviled LAX and JFK. I can relate– nearly every time I fly to or from Toronto or pass through Pearson, I get lost. The first step Toronto could take toward a better airport would be better directional signage.

The bottom of the list should be familiar territory to all TravelSkills readers…these airport laggards nearly always fall at the bottom of every list, so there are few surprises here:

#32 New York Kennedy JFK

#33 Chicago O’Hare ORD

#34 Washington Dulles IAD

#35 Newark Liberty EWR

#36 New York LaGuardia LGA

Here's how Bloomberg described LaGuardia airport

Here’s how BusinessWeek described LaGuardia airport

Why the disdain for NYC area airports? Probably because they are dinosaurs– and most are too busy to make way for many improvements. Although I think it’s fair to say that there have been some improvements in New York. And there are more on the way… but it’s going to take a while…

For example, Delta’s new Terminal 4 operation at JFK is a dramatic improvement over its old digs at the long gone PanAm Worldport. The biggest downside are the unusually long walks required to get to gates at the far end of the concourse. I was just in JetBlue’s big, bright and happy JFK Terminal 5 last week and was impressed. And United’s operations at Newark are slated for improvements as we reported on TravelSkills this week.

Washington Dulles Airport's curves are sure lovely. Bu not its commute! (Photo: Joe Wolf / Flickr)

Washington Dulles Airport’s curves are sure lovely. Bu not its commute! (Photo: Joe Wolf / Flickr)

Another thread among the most frustrating airports is drive time. Washington Dulles is the most dramatic example of this… there is little worse than a five-hour transcon flight to Dulles, then another hour or two fighting traffic to get into downtown DC. Thankfully we have Washington National, which came in at #13. The top three airports in terms of drive time to/from during rush hour are: Boston BOS, Atlanta ATL and San Francisco SFO.

What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses! 

Some other interesting notes from the study: Delta’s big hubs at Detroit and Atlanta came in at #11 and #12 respectively- well into the top half. While both are big and always busy, they work well. When I lived in Atlanta, people would say, “Atlanta Airport is about as pretty as a Xerox machine. But it works like one, too,” referring to the overall efficiency of the world’s busiest airport.

My hometown airport San Francisco International ranked #17– firmly middle of the pack. While SFO has some award winning terminals, organic food and excellent runway views, I’m sure its poor on-time performance in rain and fog likely pushed it down in the rankings.

Bloomberg airports

Click to see the full report!

Take a look at this fascinating report!  and leave your comments about it below. Were there any surprises in it? 
 
>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

New look for Newark + United goes Android + New Delta look at LAX + Fee at Hilton/Marriott

Which country boasts this gorgeous passport design? See below

Which country boasts this gorgeous design on passport pages including the North Star, Moon and Northern Lights? Scroll to bottom for full story!

AIRLINES

Just in time for the busy holidays, United has (finally) extended its new onboard streaming service to Android users. Apple iPhone and iPad users (as well as those on any laptop)  have been able to give the new service a try since last spring.  To use it, you must first download the United app from the Google Play or Apple App store in order to watch a variety free TV shows and movies while in flight on nearly 200 United aircraft, including its entire Airbus A319, Airbus A320 and Boeing 747 fleets and its Boeing 777 flying between the mainland and Hawaii. For the full story on inflight streaming, see this recent TravelSkills post: BYOD Entertainment on Planes. Have you tried United’s inflight streaming product yet? How did that go for you? 

You are reading Part 2 of this week’s Catch Up in Travel News from TravelSkills. Here’s Part 1

AIRPORTS

NEW RAIL LINK UP & RUNNING.  BART’s new Oakland airport service got off to a wet start last Saturday — with crews forced to squeegee off rain that had blown in and flooded the airport station platform — but nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of its jubilant first-day riders, according to SFgate.com “It was great, it was wonderful, it was easy, quick and cheap,” said one rider. New automated trains will transport riders from BART’s Coliseum station to the new Oakland Airport station every five minutes during peak hours; the ride takes eight minutes. The ride from the Coliseum station to/from downtown SF takes about 25 minutes. BART fares between the new Oakland Airport station and downtown San Francisco are $10.05.  More… 

A rendering of the future look for United's Concourse C in Newark (Image: OTG)

A rendering of the future look for United’s Concourse C in Newark (Image: OTG)

Big-name chefs coming to EWR. United Airlines and development partner OTG Management have revealed more plans for the ongoing overhaul of Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport. Not only is the revamped facility bringing in new restaurants from a number of high-visibility chefs, but travelers will be able to use their MileagePlus miles to pay for food and drinks through some of the 6,000 iPads that will be deployed in the terminal’s restaurants, bars and gate areas. The headliner restaurant will be chef Alaine Ducasse’s Saison, a French bistro; others include a French country eatery from Alex Guarnaschelli; an Italian steakhouse from Mario Carbone, and a surf bar and sushi outlet from Josh Capon.

Taxi turmoil at SFO. Organized taxi drivers clogged up the roadways outside passenger terminals at San Francisco International one night last week to protest the airport’s recent decisions to let app-based ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft operate there. And members of the Taxi Workers Alliance are threatening to repeat the curbside chaos at SFO “again and again” unless the airport changes its policy. Meanwhile, a top Uber executive stirred up a mini-scandal after word leaked out that he had threatened to start digging up dirt on journalists who write negative stories about the company. Would negative publicity about Uber make you less likely to use their service? Put your comments below.

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!
Delta's Sky Prority lobby at LAX efore (above) and after (below)

Delta’s Sky Prority lobby at LAX efore (above) and after (below)

Lobby remake at LAX. Delta has finished the renovation of its Sky Priority lobby at Los Angeles International’s Terminal 5. Take a look at the before and after photos.

HOTELS

New fees coming at Hilton, Marriott. Effective January 1, Hilton and Marriott will impose a new standard cancellation fee — a single night’s room rate — on no-show guests unless they have cancelled their bookings at least the day before scheduled arrival. If individual hotels within the groups already have more restrictive cancellation policies, those will remain in effect. Not all chains are adopting a uniform policy; e.g., things are unchanged at Best Western, a spokesperson said, where cancellation policies vary by the rate booked and the individual hotel’s policy; policies are listed under each rate bookable on bw.com.

This is what Norway's passport pages look like in normal light. (Image: Neue)

This is what Norway’s passport pages look like in normal light. (Image: Neue)

This is what the pages of Norway’s new passport look like in normal light. The darker image above (scroll to top), which reveals the north star and northern lights, is only visible under UV light. Beautiful! (Full story from CNN here)

You are reading Part 2 of this week’s Catch Up in Travel News from TravelSkills. Here’s Part 1

-Jim Glab & Chris McGinnis

In Case You Missed It…

  • Olefactory stimulants: Chris lists his favorite travel smells. What are yours?
>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Delta push at Seattle + Seat pitch compared + Southwest “Swagger” + Delta’s newest jets +

Delta & Alaska Air battle for Seattle (Photo: Jim Glab)

Delta & Alaska Air battle for Seattle (Photo: Jim Glab)

AIRLINES

Delta’s big(ger) Seattle plans. Last week Delta’s CEO told employees the company wants to expand from its current 11 gates to 30 gates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, making it “a huge international gateway.” With those gates, Delta could operate up to 240 flights a day. Delta has been steadily adding transpacific and domestic flights at SEA, to the dismay of its erstwhile partner Alaska Airlines, which is following its own growth plan at its hub airport. Alaska currently controls about 40 percent of SEA’s traffic. Meanwhile, Delta announced another round of expansion at SEA next May and June, adding Delta Connection service to Denver (five flights a day), Sacramento (four a day) and Boise (four a day), plus seasonal service to Ketchikan and Sitka, Alaska.

Even with the cuts, JetBlue has a chart showing that it's legroom will still be better than others. (Image: JetBlue)

Even with the cuts, JetBlue has a chart showing that its standard legroom will still beat other carriers. (Image: JetBlue)

JetBlue overhauls fares, seating. Only two major U.S. airlines let all passengers check a bag for free — JetBlue and Southwest (Southwest allows two free bags) — but that will fall to just one in the first half of 2015. That’s when JetBlue will revamp its pricing into three “branded fare bundle options.” The lowest fares will be for “customers who do not plan to check a bag,” JetBlue said; the others will include one and two checked bags respectively, plus other perks. The airline also will “refresh” its A320s by installing “lighter, more comfortable seats” that will let it increase the number of seats per plane — and reduce its current (very generous) standard seat pitch, although it will still exceed pitch on major competitors according to the chart above (supplied by JetBlue). The airline pledged that its Wi-Fi will still be offered for free (at least through 2015). Meanwhile, a JetBlue exec said in an interview the airline is likely to expand its Mint premium seating product to transcon flights from Boston in the future.

Within days of JetBlue’s announcement, wily Southwest Airlines launched a retro-hipster, captivating new TV ad campaign focusing on its free checked bag option. This 30-second spot, called “Swagger” is worth a watch and listen! See below.

Delta places big widebody order. In a blow to Boeing, Delta said it will turn to Airbus for the next big phase of its fleet renewal program, placing an order for 50 twin-engine widebody jets to replace its aging 747s and 767s. The company has ordered 25 of Airbus’ next-generation A350-900s, to be delivered starting in 2017; and 25 A330-900neo aircraft, to arrive starting in 2019. The A350s will be used on transpacific routes, and the A330s will go onto medium-haul transatlantic routes and some west coast-to-Asia routes. Earlier this year, TravelSkills got an inside look at the A350, which claims to be the widest of widebodies. Check out our report and PHOTOS of the new A350.

Cheaper upgrades. Delta is offering winter travelers the opportunity to upgrade at a discount for flights now through February. A nice way to avoid some holiday travel hassles, yes, but (as usual) there are some important points in the fine print: The markets NYC to/from LAX / SFO / SEA will be excluded from this offer.  This promotion does not include any fares purchased in Delta’s cheapest E, V, or Y class.

Popular: Did you hear about the latest wave of downgrades at United MileagePlus? Read this! 

Watch those Wi-Fi charges. When you sign up for in-flight Wi-Fi, do you keep a close watch on how much data your device is eating up? One transpacific traveler found himself unexpectedly facing a bill for almost $1,200 from Singapore Airlines, and web site Skift examined just what went wrong for him– providing an object lesson for others. (P.S. Sounds like the guy’s not getting his money back…)

KLM's new economy seat (Image KLM)

KLM’s new economy seat (Image KLM)

KLM overhauls 777-200s. Delta’s SkyTeam partner KLM has started renovating the passenger cabins of its 777-200 fleet, following up on a similar overhaul of its 747s. The new World Business Class is getting fully-flat seats with more personal space for passengers and new 16-inch seatback monitors with upgraded entertainment options. In the 777-200 economy class, new seats will provide extra legroom, ergonomic headrests, power outlets and a new entertainment system with hundreds of programming options.

Route news: Alaska, JetBlue, Frontier, Spirit. Alaska Airlines said it will introduce daily Seattle-Washington Dulles service on March 11 … JetBlue last week started daily non-stops between Salt Lake City and Orlando … Spirit Airlines has big expansion plans at Houston Bush Intercontinental, where it will add 10 new routes next spring, including Tampa, Baltimore/Washington and Oakland as well as three points in Mexico and four in Central America … Frontier Airlines told employees that it plans to slash 15 flights a day at its Denver home base next year due to rising taxes and fees at that airport.

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

Bottled cocktails on VX.  A new cucumber vodka mojito from Austin Cocktails, a line of bottled, craft cocktails, is now available fleetwide onboard Virgin America. The new pre-mixed drink is made with vodka, natural flavors and sweetened with organic agave and priced at $8.25. Culturemap Austin says this about the Mojito:  “For anyone watching her girlish figure, what may be most noteworthy is that all the drinks ring in at less than 100 calories a serving….and has a refreshing, lime-heavy flavor that gets better with subsequent sips. With its hint of cucumber, it reminds us of the cucumber-infused water you get at a spa.”

STAY TUNED! Part 2 of Catching Up on the week’s most important travel news comes tomorrow!

In Case You Missed It…

  • Olefactory stimulants: Chris lists his favorite travel smells. What are yours?
>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

.

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

.

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Much needed upgrade in London

Heathrow Train

New cars for the London Tube (Photo: Transport for London)

The City of London has released plans for a futuristic upgrade to The Tube, one of the world’s largest underground rail systems. But don’t hold your breath– the fleet of 250 new trains won’t hit the tracks until the mid-2020s, and are anticipated to remain in service for 40 years. The Piccadilly Line, well-used by business travelers in central London, will be the first to get the new cars.

The cars were designed by UK-based PreistmanGoode, a design firm that specializes in transportation and has made its mark on many travel environments that touch us daily, such as seats on United, interiors of Qatar Airways’ new A380 or Heathrow’s Terminal 5. (Cool website!)

Simply called “the New Tube,” the trains will feature a few firsts.  They will be comprised of one contiguous walk-through barrel, rather than many interconnected cars. This stretched look means that more passengers can be transported on the same track, increasing capacity on the system overall. (You may have seen trains like this if you’ve taken the MTR subways in Hong Kong.)

Related: Chris’s column Business Trip: London

 

The new trains will bring a welcome reduction in crowding….the new layout increases capacity up to 60%, providing a significant boost for Tube travelers for the useful life of the new trains – pegged at 40 years or more. Slideshow here

Another welcome tech feature comes from the air-cooling of the cars. It’s not always possible to move air-conditioning at certain depths in the existing Tube system, and so this will bring cooler, fresher air to increase passenger comfort. (And could help eliminate that well known “Tube smell”– see our post about that here)

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

The initial rollout will still have drivers in each car; eventually, the New Tube can run on its own without human guidance. As some viewers have pointed out on YouTube, this full automation has the added advantage of reducing, and eventually eliminating, chaotic Tube strikes.

London Travel Tip: During peak travel season, when tourists, business travelers and locals fill the city, do not depend on the ability of London’s current aging transportation infrastructure to get you to your meetings on time. Black cabs creep slowly through the traffic of central London. The London Underground, or Tube, is notoriously unreliable and susceptible to delays, forcing users onto lengthy alternate routes. To avoid being late in a city that appreciates promptness, always schedule your meetings with a very large cushion of time in between.

Popular: Did you hear about the latest wave of downgrades at United MileagePlus? Read this! 

 –

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

.

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Google’s travel advice

Google travel

Ninety percent of holiday travel is by CAR, not by plane. With that in mind, the smarties at Google took a deep dive into their data and came up with some helpful insight and advice for avoiding Thanksgiving traffic as well as top searches in Google Maps before, during, and after Thanksgiving.

Traffic data was pulled from the Monday before Thanksgiving to the Sunday after Thanksgiving during 2012 and 2013, and Google Maps search trends are based on information from 2013.

According to Google’s data, Wednesday is the worst Thanksgiving traffic day for most cities, with Saturday the worst day to return. (This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that Sunday is the worst day to return.)

Google travel

  • Worst day to travel: For most cities, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the worst traffic day — but in San Francisco the worst day is Saturday. Other exceptions include of Boston (Tuesday), Honolulu (Saturday), Providence (Saturday).
  • Skip the rush: The worst time for Thanksgiving traffic falls between 3:00pm and 5:00pm the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Better to leave before 2:00pm or after 7:00pm on Wednesday if you want to beat the rush.
  • Second worst traffic day: Saturday and Tuesday vie for the second and third heaviest traffic days overall — Black Friday doesn’t draw huge road traffic.
  • Thanksgiving Day traffic: Thanksgiving Day traffic is a breeze — it usually has the least traffic of the entire week; for those looking to beat even the lightest traffic day, make sure you stay off the road between 12:00pm and 2:00pm on Thanksgiving Day.
  • When to drive back home: Traffic patterns show that you’re better off driving home from the holiday weekend on Sunday rather than Saturday — traffic can be up to 40% worse on Saturday.
  • Changes in holiday traffic: In six cities, Thanksgiving traffic has actually decreased slightly between 2012 and 2013 (Boston,Dallas, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Providence).

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

Food and drink top Google Maps searches the day before Thanksgiving, and Detroit football fans looked for directions to the stadium.

  • Last minute prep: The top three trending searches on Google Maps the day before Thanksgiving were ham shop, pie shop, and liquor store, as Americans do last minute errands just before Turkey Day.  I get liquor story, but ham shop? Really? :)
  • Gearing up for Black Friday: “Outlet mall” is the #1 trending Google Maps search term on Thanksgiving Day. Meanwhile, “outlet mall” is only the #3 trending search term on Black Friday itself.
  • Ready for Christmas: The top two Google Maps search trends on Black Friday had nothing to do with shopping — instead, people were already on to Christmas. The top two terms were: “Christmas tree farm” and “festival.”
  • Thanksgiving football: Lions fans plan ahead. The day before Thanksgiving football, Detroit fans searched for directions to the stadium (#1) and parking garages (#2). In comparison, in Dallas, stadium is the #9 search trend the day before Thanksgiving.

Google Travel

–Chris McGinnis

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

My 9 favorite travel smells

The new scent globe a London Heathrow Terminal 2 (LHR Airports)

The new scent globe a London Heathrow Terminal 2 (LHR Airports)

This week sees London-Heathrow’s brand new Terminal 2 “The Queen’s Terminal” operating at full capacity with all 26 airlines (primarily Star Alliance) now in their new home. Airport authorities planned for the transition to take place over the five months instead of in one fell swoop. Good thinking since the process seems to have gone without a hitch, and the new terminal is a far cry from the old cramped quarters of Terminal 1 & 2.

TravelSkills got an early sneak peek at the shiny new terminal and United’s nice new business and first class lounges last spring. But regrettably, we missed out on the terminal’s new, one-of-a-kind “scent globe” which the airport says “will immerse the curious in the aromas of Thailand; South Africa; Japan; China and Brazil.”

The scents emitted from the globe come from key ingredients associated with the designated country and “are designed to transport passengers to far flung destinations.” South Africa smells of tribal incense, wild grass and musk. Brazil’s scent is rich in rainforest fauna with a palette of coffee, tobacco and jasmine. Japan smells cool, oceanic with a mix of seaweed and shell extracts, green tea and Ambergris. Thailand is mix of lemongrass, ginger and coconut.

This of course got me on a train of thought about distinct travel smells… there are many and some so strong and memorable that I could be blindfolded, yet know exactly where I am due to the olfactory sensation. 

For example, there’s what I call “the Marriott smell.” Have you ever noticed that Marriotts (all brands) smell like band-aids? I’m not certain, but I assume that the lodging giant centrally sources an iodine-based antibacterial cleaning compound that emits the smell. It’s not a bad smell… it’s a clean, reassuring smell. But it’s there. Am I crazy or does anyone else notice this?

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

Speaking of travel smells… here are nine of my favorites (in no particular order)… what are yours?

Chestnuts Roasting NYC IMG_1703

Chestnuts roasting in Manhattan (Steven Depolo / Flickr)

  1. The smell of coffee brewing on a plane as a long overnight flight is coming to an end. And the smell of jet fuel as you walk off the plane and onto the jetway.
  2. The acrid, sour, but memorable smell of chestnuts roasting on a dry, cold New York City night.
  3. Getting into a rental car, noticing the “new car smell” and looking down at the odometer reading 000016 miles.
  4. The smell of rain & tropical flowers when stepping off the plane at almost any airport in Hawaii
  5. The minty-soapy-lotiony-cologne-y smell of my toilet kit- it means the road is calling.
  6. The leathery, carpet-y “new plane” smell on a brand new or refurbished aircraft.
  7. I love it when you walk into a hotel with a spa… and you can smell it. Usually eucalyptus. On the other hand, I hate it when you walk into a hotel with an indoor pool and you can smell the chlorine.
  8. The smell of cookies baking on a plane (even if they are only served in first class).
  9. A Cinnabon at the airport. A Lush boutique somewhere overseas. And yes, even a McDonald’s when I’ve been away from the US for too long.

To me, Seattle and San Francisco smell like dark roast coffee. Los Angeles and Phoenix smell like orange blossoms. Houston smells like refineries. Tampa and Orlando smell like hot summer afternoon thunderstorms. Paris like bread. London smells metallic, and rubbery, like the Tube.  Mumbai like sewerage and sandalwood. Boston smells like fish or the ocean. Denver like wood smoke. I could go on and on.

What about you? Please leave your comments and favorite (or least favorite) travel smells below.

–Chris McGinnis

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

United changes rules + Radical plan for NYC airport + Centurion “Studio” + Uber’s friends in DC

United

Somewhere over Greenland up in the bubble on a United B747 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

AIRLINES. 

Did you get the email from United last week? As expected (and as usual) the carrier mimicked Delta’s recent move to increase the amount of dollars members must spend to get (or maintain) Premier status. The 20% bump up applies to qualifying activity in 2015 for status in 2016. The 25K spend threshold on MileagePlus co-branded credit cards  for status is not affected by this. Details here. So far, American is still sitting back, watching and remaining vague about any plans it has for the move toward a revenue based program. So what do you think? Last time we wrote about airlines’ new revenue requirements, the general reaction from TravelSkills readers was, “Mmmeh, I’ll easily meet those spending requirements.” And some even lauded Delta and United for weeding out the gamers who don’t pay much but have figured out wily ways to snag awards and upgrades. Please leave your comments below. 

AIRPORTS

New Amex Centurion “Studio.” American Express can’t always find a airport space large enough for its super popular Centurion Lounges, like the brand new on in San Francisco. Such is the case in Seattle (SEA), where Amex announced that will open a smaller Centurion Studio instead. Amex says: “The Centurion Studio will be a retreat for Card Members but in a smaller space, featuring some of the amenities Card Members say are most essential: comfortable seating, charging stations, fast and free WiFi, and complimentary healthy snacks and beverages.” Amex told TravelSkills that it will be located “right off the Main terminal towards concourse B, post-security and easily accessible to all terminals.” It will be interesting to see how the smaller studio handles crowds…we’ve heard from several TravelSkills readers already about overcrowded conditions at the SFO lounge and elsewhere….

A grand re-imagining of New York's LaGuardia Airport- enter on Riker's Island & take a train to your plane (ReThink NYC)

A grand re-imagining of New York’s LaGuardia Airport- enter on Riker’s Island & take a train to your plane (ReThink NYC)

Visionary plan for LaGuardia. The New York Times reports that one local resident who thinks big has a grand plan for remaking LaGuardia Airport. His concept would move airport access much closer to Manhattan and expand the airport from two runways to four, and have as many as 160 passenger gates. How could this be? The airport would take over nearby Rikers Island — currently home to a big city jail — and put all the passenger gates there, freeing up space at the existing airport for more runways; a transportation terminal at the southern tip of The Bronx would bring in passengers from subways and Amtrak trains; and the whole thing would be linked with underground trains. Talk about outta-the-box thinking!

Big improvements planned at DCA. Airlines at Washington Reagan National have come to terms with the airport authority on a plan to invest $1 billion in facility improvements over the next 10 years. The plan calls for construction of a regional airline concourse linked to the north pier; connecting the three B/C piers inside security by moving TSA checkpoints from level 2 to level 3, making for easier connections between American Airlines flights; adding a new parking garage; and overhauling Terminal A.

Bonus Offers: How about a round trip to Hawaii or Mexico for less than $100 on US Airways? Or enough points for two roundtrips and a big jump on coveted Companion Status on Southwest? More…

CARS

(Photo: Uber)

(Photo: Uber)

Uber gaining Capitol friends. A new report finds that ride-sharing service Uber is making big inroads among Congress people and their staffs. Specifically, their use of Uber for local transportation increased from a zero percent market share in the 2010 election campaign to 61 percent this year. “Uber has overtaken taxis in both number of rides and amount spent,” the researchers said.

SFO adds another private ride provider. San Francisco International Airport, which in recent weeks reached agreements allowing UberX, Lyft and Sidecar to operate there, has issued a pilot permit to another operator — Wingz (www.wingz.me). Unlike the others, Wingz specializes only in airport transportation, offering a $35 flat rate to SFO for a private ride with “an awesome trained and background-checked driver.” Service should begin within 30 days.

Note: This is part 2 of our weekly “Catch Up” — have you read Part 1? 

Study tracks rental processing time. How effective are car rental firms’ express service programs for business travelers? The latest rental customer satisfaction study from J.D. Power finds that the vehicle pick-up and return process for business renters averages 41.5 minutes (including the shuttle ride) — only about three minutes less than the process takes for leisure renters. Overall customer satisfaction dropped slightly this year after rising steadily since 2009. Enterprise, National and Alamo topped the J.D. Power list this year. Hertz ranked #4.

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

HOTELS

Hackers said to steal business travelers’ data at hotels. Internet security giant Kaspersky is warning business travelers about a corporate espionage campaign it calls “Darkhotel” that targets senior executives staying at luxury hotels — especially U.S. executives doing business in the Asia/Pacific region. The hackers “trick the person into downloading and installing a backdoor that pretends to be an update for legitimate software, such as Google Toolbar, Adobe Flash or Windows Messenger,” Kaspersky said, and can then hunt for stored passwords and logins as well as business data. The firm said travelers should be “suspicious” of suggested software updates when they are abroad, and should use a VPN provider. Has this ever happened to you– or anyone you know? Do you take any precautions when using a Wi-Fi connection in your hotel? Please leave your comments below. 

In Case You Missed It…

Note: This is part 2 of our weekly “Catch Up” — have you read Part 1? 

 

New extra bonus offer: Get a whopping 50,000 Rapid Rewards points by signing up for Southwest’s Premier card – that’s enough for TWO free tickets. 

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Virgin’s next moves? + NYC + New Lufthansa seat + Eastern Airlines + More A380s

A brilliant fall day in NYC from the top floor of the Parker Meridien hotel (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Greetings from New York City on a beautiful fall day peering out from the Parker Meridien hotel (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

AIRLINES

Virgin shares soar in IPO. And the airline could, too. This is going to be really fun to watch. Virgin America shares hit the market Virgin Americaon Friday morning at $23 each, and took off to reach $30 by the end of the day. That makes Virgin worth about $1.3 billion. Now, with about $220 million in net proceeds, Virgin is going to add new planes, new routes and hopefully more frequencies in key business markets. CEO David Cush said that Virgin will add five new planes in 2015 and another five in 2016. He also said the SF-based carrier has a few other “tricks up its sleeve.” Talk of new flights to Hawaii has re-emerged. With Southwest taking AirTran’s business class seats out of the SFO-ATL market, I’d love to see two-class Virgin dive in. Where would YOU like to see Virgin America (see current destinations) expand? And would you be willing to give up your legacy carrier frequent flyer miles to try it? Please leave your comments below. 

Lufthansa’s premium economy starts this week. That new Premium Economy Class at Lufthansa is opening up nine days sooner than expected. The carrier said that starting November 22, the new section will be available on all of its 747-8 routes, including Frankfurt to Chicago, LAX and Washington Dulles. Besides the extra in-flight comforts, passengers will get twice the free checked bag allowance of regular economy, and for a 25 euro fee ($31), Premium Economy passengers can access the business class lounge before departure. Currently, United does not allow redemption of MileagePlus miles for Lufthansa (or any Star Alliance) premium economy. Lufthansa is offering a 15 percent discount on Premium Economy bookings until December 9. Take a look at Lufthansa’s new seat in this TravelSkills post: 20 different business class seats in one room

etihadTheResidenceFclass

One of three rooms in the Etihad First Class “Residence” onboard its A380s (Etihad)

$20,000 first class suites going fast. Would you pay $20,000 one way to fly in a private first class suite the size of some Manhattan apartments? Etihad Airways says these super-premium accommodations on its A380s — called The Residence — are selling out, in spite of the stratospheric price tag. Each one has a private shower, living area, bedroom — and the services of a butler. Meanwhile, other leading international carriers have upgraded their own front cabins to meet strong demand from global business moguls.

I captured this image of the Asiana B777 wreckage when my Delta flight from Atlanta landed the day after the crash (Chris McGinnis)

I captured this image of the Asiana B777 wreckage when my Delta flight from Atlanta landed  at SFO the day after the crash (Chris McGinnis)

Asiana SFO flights suspended. The South Korean government has ordered Asiana Airlines to halt its daily service to San Francisco from Seoul Incheon for 45 days as a penalty for the airline’s crash of a 777 during its landing at SFO in July 2013, in which three passengers died and scores were injured. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board blamed the crash on errors by one of the pilots, who was unfamiliar with all the automated systems on the 777. Asiana said it will appeal the suspension, which could delay implementation of the order.

Related: Korean Air Trip Reports- SFO-Seoul on a B777  &  Seoul-Atlanta on an A380 

International route news: Etihad Airways, which begins daily San Francisco-Abu Dhabi non-stops November 18, said its upcoming Dallas/Ft. Worth route, beginning with three flights a week on December 3, will increase to daily on April 16; Etihad is a code-share partner with American …

>Emirates will put a fourth daily flight, using an A380, onto its Dubai-New York JFK route on March 8, timed to maximize connections with partner JetBlue. The carrier also said it intends to put the A380 super-jumbo onto more U.S. routes; it introduced the plane on its DFW route last month, and will do the same in December with San Francisco and Houston. Emirates will have 68 A380s in operation by the end of 2015 compared with 55 today according to Bloomberg …

>British Airways will replace the 777 on its Denver-London route with a four-class 747 starting in March (including its new 14-suite first class design) …

>El Al will introduce Boston-Tel Aviv service three times a week starting in June 2015 …

>On May 1, Aer Lingus will begin new seasonal service from Washington Dulles to Dublin four times a week …

>Lufthansa will add Tampa to its route network in September 2015, using an A340-300 for flights to Frankfurt.

Popular: 20+ TravelSkills readers have signed up for these oddball credit card offers that reap big rewards. Have you? 

The new Eastern Airlines has painted its first jet. Brings back memories, no?

The new Eastern Airlines has painted its first jet, a 737-800. Brings back memories, no?

Something old, something new: PEOPLExpress, Eastern. The new incarnation of PEOPLExpress Airlines appears to be in trouble: Media reports indicate officials at Virginia’s Newport News/Williamsburg Airport are trying to evict the carrier from its home base, citing $100,000 in unpaid bills … The old Eastern Airlines name is also being revived in Miami. The “new” Eastern has started recruiting flight attendants, although it doesn’t yet have FAA certification. The company said it plans to operate 737-800s, but will initially serve only as a charter airline.

United’s holiday shopper lounges. Chase and United Airlines will soon open special VIP lounges for holiday shoppers in San Francisco and New Jersey. Available to Chase United cardholders, they’ll offer gift wrapping, refreshments, TVs, Wi-Fi and more, with locations at the Westfield San Francisco Centre (November 24-December 24) and The Mall at Short Hills (November 22-December 24).

Lake Tahoe at sunset (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Lake Tahoe at sunset (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Love Lake Tahoe? Then come chat about it! TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis will be talking about his favorite place to get away from it all MONDAY at 3 pm ET. Take a cool virtual tour here and come chat with us and FlipKey today! On Twitter, look for the #TakeMeThereTahoe hashtag at 3 pm ET, Noon PT today!

In Case You Missed It…

Stay tuned! Part 2 of this weekly “Catch Up” will post tomorrow morning…

 

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Trip Report: Korean Air A380 Seoul-Atlanta (Part 2)

Flight attendants are eager to help take photos of folks like me crossing scenes like sitting in KAL's Celestial Lounge off the bucket list

KAL flight attendants are eager to help take photos of folks like me eager to cross a scene like this off the ole bucket list. (Chris McGinnis)

It takes three jetways to load up an A380 here at Seoul's Incheon Airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

It takes three (clear glass) jetways to load up an A380 here at Seoul’s Incheon Airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Last month I finally crossed this off my bucket list:  Flying from Seoul to Atlanta on a Korean Air A380. KAL’s big blue A380 is Atlanta’s one and only double decker and I’ve wanted to float into my old hometown on it since the service started in September 2013.

The first leg of that journey started in San Francisco where I boarded a KAL B777 for the trip to Seoul. I was a guest of Korean Air and wrote about that part of the trip here.

In the first post, I concluded that there was not much difference between business class on the two planes once you are in your seat. But the differences do become evident when you walk around and explore the enormity of the big A380 bird.

See Part 1

Upstairs in business class on KAL's A380 feels big, bright and spacious (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Upstairs in business class on KAL’s A380 feels big, bright and spacious (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

There are 94 lie flat business class seats on the upper deck of KAL's A380 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

There are 94 lie flat business class seats on the upper deck of KAL’s A380 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The key feature of Korean Air’s A380 is its dearth of seats. I know that sounds crazy, but did you know that there are fewer seats, just 407, on a KAL A380 than on any other commercial A380? On most other carriers, the number is closer to 500, or well over it in some cases. (Lufthansa, for example, squeezes in 526 seats on its A380.) This means that there is a lot more room for passengers…for onboard lounges (two of them)…for two staircases….and even for a duty free store.

Ninety-four (94) lie-flat business class seats configured 2-2-2 fill the entire upper deck of this bird. On the main deck there are 12 first class “suites” up front configured 1-2-1, and 301 economy class seats configured 3-4-3 with a generous pitch of 33-34 inches. Korean Air does not offer a premium economy section. See the KAL A380 on SeatGuru.

Nice big storage bins reserved for window-seat flyers (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Nice big storage bins reserved for window-seat flyers on the A380 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

To me, the best business class seats on the A380 are window seats. That’s mostly because I really like looking out the window. But it’s also because of storage space. Due to the curvature of the plane, there is room for a good sized storage bin between the seat and the window. The bin is big enough to hold the contents of a briefcase, and that really comes in handy on a long flight (in this case about 14.5 hours). These bins are not available on the B777. The downside of the window seat is that you have to skirt around your neighbor to get to the aisle. Not a big deal to me but I know some folks don’t like that. All the other business class seats offer direct aisle access.

Roundtrip business class fares between Atlanta and Seoul run about $4,800. Economy class is about $2,100 in mid December. First class round trips? $18,000.

If you redeem Delta SkyMiles for the ATL-ICN roundtrip, you’ll pay a minimum of 70,000 in economy and 190,000 in business class. KAL first class is not available to SkyMiles members redeeming miles. (Based on a search for nonstops in mid January.)

Mood lighting in business class onboard KAL A380 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Mood lighting in business class onboard KAL A380 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Another feature that I noticed on Korean Air was the mood lighting which varied in brightness and color throughout the trip. I think flight attendants were trying to re-create morning and evening with the lights. Regrettably, I was on a different schedule and every time I opened my window shade for a peak out at the view, I was asked by flight attendants to close it. Nice: When window shades are up, business class seats enjoy quite a show out of two or three windows for each row.

Related Trip Report:  British Airways A380 on the “Red Carpet Route”

Korean Air

KAL’s Celestial Lounge at the rear of the upper deck business class section (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This is the lounge at the front of the business class section adjacent to the staircase to the main deck (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This is the lounge at the front of the business class section adjacent to the staircase to the main deck (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Here’s a look at the “Celestial Lounge” at the rear of the upper deck business class cabin. There is room to sit down and strap in if it gets turbulent. Those high cushions you see are for leaning if it gets a little bumpy. On my flight, business class was only half full, so the lounge never attracted a big convivial crowd…on my two trips back there I smiled through my bleary eyes at a few other bleary-eyed travelers checking out the space like I was. Flight attendants were eager to take photos of passengers saddled up to the bar or on the sofa. There’s another smaller lounge with similar catering at the front of the business class section.

Korean Air

Here’s part of the spread offered in the Celestial Lounge. Korean Air has partnered with Absolut, so there’s a icy well full of various flavors of vodka, wine and Champagne (Perrier Jouet). Snacks (which few passengers ate) consisted of a plate of nice canapes, some nuts, a big bowl of kettle fried potato chips and these colorful Korean-style dessert lollipops or gosibol– fermented cookies made of sweet rice and various freeze-dried fruits and grains. Since this flight departed Seoul at around 9 a.m. and arrived in ATL at about 9 am, it felt like morning to me throughout the (mostly sleepless) 14.5-hour flight, so I never partook of the boozy bevs.

Korean Air

Here’s a view down the rear staircase– this one is spiral while the one up front is not. Both staircases were roped off during the flight to prevent mixing of the classes. But I noticed several other curious travelers (like me) ignoring the ropes and taking self-guided tours of the plane.

Korean Air

A spacious and cushy first class “Kosmo Suite” on the main deck of KAL’s A380 (Chris McGinnis)

Korean Air's first class cabin flew empty from ICN to ATL (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Korean Air’s first class cabin flew empty from ICN to ATL (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

When I snuck downstairs to check out the first class section, I was surprised to find the the entire cabin empty. All that beautiful real estate just sitting there so lonely. Does this have something to do with Delta not allowing SkyMiles members to redeem miles for KAL first class? Probably. Especially on this route. But it made it much easier for me to take photos– which is usually something that first class passengers don’t appreciate. Korean Air calls its big seats “Kosmo Suites” and they are super spacious (79 inches long by 27 inches wide) and plush. Unlike a lot of carriers that wall off first class passengers into compartments, the KAL A380 open plan would be a lot more convivial if there had been more passengers. Korean Air is one of the few carriers that still serve caviar in first class.

Related Trip Report: Lufthansa’s inaugural A380 flight

Economy class on the A380 is configured 3-4-3 and seats have a generous 33"-34" of pitch and oversized seatback screens (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Economy class on the A380 is configured 3-4-3 and seats have a generous 33″-34″ of pitch and oversized seatback screens (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Korean Air

Korean Air flight attendant serving the first course of one of two meal services on the 14.5 hour flight from Seoul to Atlanta (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

KAL serves two meals (both lunch or dinnerish…no breakfast) on this 14-hour flight that departs Seoul at around 9 a.m. and arrives in Atlanta at about 9 a.m. on the same day. My jetlag counselor Bill Ashton (www.stopjetlag.com) suggests getting as much sleep as possible as early as possible in the flight, I postponed my first meal until later into the flight. Flight attendants were happy to oblige.

Korean Air

Roasted red snapper with paprika sauce served with squid ink spaghetti and braised zucchini (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

"Chinese style bean curd with minced beef and xo fried rice" (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

“Chinese style bean curd with minced beef and xo fried rice” in business class (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Korean Air

Korean Air’s duty free store is located at the rear of the economy class section near the circular staircase up to business class. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Americans are typically not big fans of duty free shopping. That’s because our government does not impose heavy excise taxes on luxury goods like booze, watches, cosmetics or cologne. But duty free is HUGE business in Asia. This is made very clear when you see the queue to get into the duty-free Louis Vuitton boutique at Seoul-Incheon airport. Korean extends similar discounts in its well stocked onboard duty-free store located at the rear of the main deck economy class section. From what I saw, Americans were there to gawk and pass the time….but the Asians were buying.

Related: 20 different business class seats in one room

Even the lavatories felt more spacious on KAL's A380- note the counter space (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Even the lavatories felt more spacious on KAL’s A380- note the wide counter space (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Korean Air

See Part 1 of this trip… my KAL flight from SFO to Seoul on a Boeing 777.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Korean Air on this trip

–Chris McGinnis

New extra bonus offer: Get a whopping 50,000 Rapid Rewards points by signing up for Southwest’s Premier card – that’s enough for TWO free tickets. 

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

New options for Delta flyers at SFO

Delta flyers can now enjoy the mod design and amenities of SFO's Terminal 2 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Delta flyers can now enjoy the mod design and amenities of SFO’s Terminal 2 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Delta flyers at SFO can now take a yoga break, partake of local organic food and wine or check out a cool museum space at SFO.

That’s because there’s a brand new airside (behind security) connector between Terminal 1, Boarding Area C or “T1C” (used by Delta) and the world famous Terminal 2, designed by the San Francisco design firm Gensler, where Virgin America and American are located. Starting in January, US Airways flyers can join the fun when its SFO operations move alongside Delta’s in T1C.

So next time you are stuck at SFO’s rather prosaic Terminal 1 due to fog…or maybe if you arrive a bit early, take a 10-minute stroll through this new 500-foot, glassed-in, “sterile connector” to Terminal 2 and you can enjoy what many people think is the best airport terminal in America.

Here's a rendering of the new connector viewed from the ramp (Fentress Architects)

Here’s a rendering of the new connector viewed from the ramp with T1 to the left and T2 to the right (Fentress Architects)

(See airport map here to get your bearings)

What’s so cool about it? Well, for one, there’s a new yoga room. I’m not sure how many travelers actually use it for yoga (the original one has been empty every time I’ve peered in) but it can also be used for naps, prayers or quiet time. To make room for the new connector entrance, SFO relocated the original yoga room from T2 to the connector.

Scroll to the bottom for a photo from INSIDE the connector.

SFO's famous yoga room has moved to the new corridor.  (Photo: SFO)

SFO’s famous yoga room has moved to the new corridor. (Photo: SFO)

What else is great about T2? Well, the food! About the only decent place to get a meal in Delta’s T1C space is Perry’s, a sit down restaurant. In T2, options multiply- there are 11 outlets and the food is outstanding… there are Burritos (Andale), Tapas & cocktails (Cat Cora), sushi & noodles (Wakaba), fresh healthy soups, salads and sandwiches (Pinkberry/The Plant), a wine bar (Vino Volo) and even rotisserie chicken (Napa Farms) or steak/seafood (Lark Creek). There’s a Kiehl’s store, too.

On of my favorite stops at T2 is the excellent maps exhibit. Endlessly fascinating to see maps old and new depicting the growth of San Francisco over the last 150 or so years. In addition, T2 is one of the best perches at the airport for plane spotting. Just go sit a big red egg chair facing out to the runways and gaze. T1 does not offer views like these!

Popular: Oddball card offers reap big rewards

T1 redevelopment

Some other important points about what’s going on at SFO:

>Frontier Airlines, which used to operate out of T1C, has moved into Boarding Area B in T1, which does not have access to the new sterile connector.

>Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said that plans for a similar sterile connector between T2 and T3 (United) are in discussion, but “no schedule has been established for this as of yet.”

>Alaska Airlines has moved from T1 to the International Terminal Boarding Area A. Lucky Alaska Boardroom members now get to use Cathay Pacific’s outstanding business/first class lounge nearby.

>SFO’s iconic new 220-foot control tower, which is rising between T1 and T2 should be completed by mid-2015. The new tower is built to withstand an 8.0 earthquake with 215 piers embedded in bedrock 140 feet deep and anchored by 2,700 cubic yards of concrete, according the Fentress Architects which designed the tower and the new connector.

>A complete re-do of SFO’s Terminal 1 is already in the works and should be complete by 2024.

Here's a look down the new sterile corridor connecting T1 and T2 (Fentress Architects)

Here’s a look down the new sterile corridor connecting T1 and T2 (Fentress Architects)

–Chris McGinnis

New extra bonus offer: Get a whopping 50,000 Rapid Rewards points by signing up for Southwest’s Premier card – that’s enough for TWO free tickets. 

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Trip Report: Korean Air B777 & A380 (Part 1)

Korean Air

Business class seats on Korean Air’s B777 are nearly identical to those on its A380 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Ever since Korean Air launched its Airbus A380 service between Seoul and Atlanta in September 2013, I’ve longed to take a seat on that 14.5-hour whopper of a flight.

Last month, I finally got my chance when Korean Air invited me over to Seoul for a look at the fast-growing, modern-yet-quirky South Korean capital.

The first leg of my journey was an 11.5-hour Boeing 777 flight from San Francisco to Seoul. I was in Seoul for three busy days, then boarded an A380 for the trip to Atlanta.

I was especially excited to be able to compare the business class experience on two different planes in a single trip. What did I discover? Well, it’s that business class on Korean Air is very consistent across these two planes. Except for the unbelievable business class lounges onboard KAL’s A380 (tune in to my next post for details/photos), nearly everything else was identical. There’s no need to be too disappointed if you can’t ride on an A380 because once you are in your seat, there’s very little difference– the seats, service, food, inflight entertainment, lavs… it’s all pretty much the same. And in both directions, the planes were squeaky clean– even down to the floor of the lavatories (see below).

Today, let’s take a look at that B777 flight from San Francisco to Seoul. Tomorrow I’ll post about my experience on KAL’s big A380 to Atlanta and we’ll explore the slight differences between the experiences.

At SFO, Korean Air uses British Airways Terraces lounge for first and business class flyers (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

At SFO, Korean Air uses British Airways’ Terraces lounge for first and business class flyers (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

At SFO, Korean Air new uses British Airways Terraces lounge for first and business class passengers. Luckily the KAL flight and the BA flights are timed well apart from each other so the lounge did not feel overcrowded.

Direct access to the plane from the lounge (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Direct access to the plane from the lounge (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Nice touch: When boarding KAL’s B777 from the Terraces lounge, business and first class passengers walk directly onto the plane from the lounge… the jetway is just beyond the door in the photo above.

Now, let’s jump onboard.

Korean Air

Carpet in the lavs on Korean Air’s B777 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

On the B777 flight from SFO to Seoul, I noticed something I’ve never seen on any aircraft: Carpet in the business class lavatories! My first thought was “eeuuww, what if this gets wet?” But upon closer inspection, I noticed that the carpet was actually a rug that was velcroed to the floor. If it gets wet, it’s removed and replaced with another. Based on how many times I noticed the hard working KAL flight attendants enter the lavs for cleaning during the flight, I was certain that it would get switched out if needed. But in any case, I have to say that it added a cozy or homey feel to the lav– much better than the black rubber floor I’m used to. It’s one of those “little things” but I noticed and appreciated it.

Korean Air

Buttonholes in the napkins on Korean Air (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Another one of the “little things” I noticed on this flight…. napkins with button holes. I’ve seen this on a handful of other carriers and always appreciate it… especially when I’m wearing a light colored shirt and eating things that easily spill… like soup or salad dressing. It shows that someone has really thought through inflight dining… a good sign. (And a shirt saver!)

Popular: Oddball card offers reap big rewards

Korean Air

The dinner starter on SFO>Seoul: Seared tuna (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Meal service on the flight from San Francisco (which departed at 2 pm) started with seared tuna– accompanied of course by the ever present Korean chili paste gochujang and a two servings of kimchee-like pickles with an unusual rubbery crunch.

Korean Air

KAL’s famous bibimbap (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Next up for dinner was the popular Korean specialty bibimbap. Korean Air is famous for this… and even serves it from a truck at promotional events like its recent launch in Houston… it even offers it the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. It’s delicious and healthy. To eat it, you squirt that tube of chili paste over the top and then mix all the ingredients together. Yum!

Economy class on Korean Air B777 offers 33-34 inches of pitch (Chris McGinnis)

Economy class on Korean Air B777 offers 33-34 inches of pitch (Chris McGinnis)

Economy class on Korean Air’s B777s offers a roomy 33-34 inches of seat pitch– that’s very generous compared to other carriers (United, for example, only offers 31 inches on its B777). Seats are configured 3-3-3. Korean Air does not offer a premium economy seat.

Stay tuned! My next post will be about my 14.5 hour journey on KAL’s A380 to Atlanta! Here’s a teaser photo… explanations coming soon! 

Korean Air

–Chris McGinnis

Disclosure: I was a guest of Korean Air on this flight

New extra bonus offer: Get a whopping 50,000 Rapid Rewards points by signing up for Southwest’s Premier card – that’s enough for TWO free tickets. 

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Delta bumps bennies + BART-Oakland sets date + LAX airlines move + Hilton HHonors hacked + W in Beijing

Delta has expanded its popular Porsche pick up service to three more airports (Photo: Delta)

AIRLINES

Delta expands Porsche transfers, expedites at Heathrow. Delta continues to lead the way when it comes to adding new services for its best customers. For example, last week it announced an expansion of its Porsche tarmac transfer program to three more airports — New York LaGuardia, Seattle-Tacoma and Detroit Metro. The program offers gate-to-gate rides in Porsche vehicles for select SkyMiles Diamond Medallion members who have tight connecting times. It’s already offered at Atlanta, New York JFK, Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul. (Here’s a video showing how it works.) At London Heathrow’s Terminal 3, meanwhile, Delta BusinessElite passengers arriving by private car service can now take advantage of an expedited greeting service in which Virgin Atlantic concierge staffers will meet them curbside with boarding passes, take their luggage, and speed them through security to the Virgin Clubhouse. Delta says, “On arrival at London Heathrow Terminal 3, Delta Air Lines BusinessElite customers can now enjoy a seamless and stress-free transfer from car to lounge in less than 10 minutes via the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing.” Keep in mind that many of Delta’s flights at Heathrow (including those to/from Detroit and Minneapolis) use Terminal 4 where this service is not available. Delta’s Atlanta-London flights switched to Terminal 3 from Terminal 4 on October 26.

The AirBART station is located at the front door of Oakland International

The AirBART station is located at the front door of Oakland International

BART-Oakland Airport sets date. Bay Area Rapid Transit officials have finally announced an opening date for the new BART rail link to Oakland International Airport. On Saturday, November 22 the new automated trains will transport riders from BART’s Coliseum station to the new Oakland Airport station every five minutes during peak hours; the ride takes eight minutes. The ride from the Coliseum station to/from downtown SF takes about 25 minutes. BART fares between the new Oakland Airport station and downtown San Francisco will be $10.05. That’s a nice break from cab fares which run as high as $75-$80. Are you more likely to use Oakland Airport now? Leave your comments below. 

Virgin America posts another profit. After dipping back into the red in the first quarter of 2014, Virgin America was solidly profitable in the third quarter, reporting net income of $41.6 million and a healthy operating margin of 12.9 percent. After years of operating in the red since its founding in 2007, Virgin has been profitable now for five of the last six quarters, putting it in a good position for its upcoming initial public offering. Virgin said in an SEC filing last week that its IPO shares will be priced at $21 to $24, valuing the company at up to $1 billion. The anticipated $320 million from the share sale should allow Virgin to move ahead with an ambitious expansion plan to buy new planes and add new routes.

Sneeze alarm. With all the concern about disease lately, especially as it affects travelers, you might get a little paranoid when a fellow passenger on your flight sneezes. Did you ever wonder just how far that sneeze can travel? Check out this video — if you dare.

American adds Europe routes. American Airlines has unveiled plans to add a pair of new routes to Europe next spring. On May 7, AA will inaugurate new daily narrowbody 757 flights from New York JFK to Birmingham, England. And on May 14, the company will kick off daily 767-300 flights from its Miami hub to Frankfurt.

AIRPORTS

The nice new Star Alliance lounge at LAX's new Tom Bradley International Terminal (Air New Zealand)

The nice new Star Alliance lounge at LAX’s new Tom Bradley International Terminal (Air New Zealand)

Air New Zealand, US Airways move at LAX. Effective December 3, Air New Zealand will set up shop in Los Angeles International’s refurbished Tom Bradley International Terminal 3, moving out of Terminal 2. That will give premium customers easy access to the new Star Alliance Lounge at LAX, which Air New Zealand manages. The carrier operates twice-daily service to Auckland (to be increased next summer to 17 a week) and one flight a day to London from LAX. Meanwhile, American Airlines affiliate US Airways last week moved from Terminal 3 to Terminal 6, gates 60-63, “with convenient access to connections on flights operated by American Airlines at Terminal 4 through an underground connector,” American said. “Shuttle service is also available to Terminal 4 and the Remote Terminal for American Eagle flights.”

Featured: Our latest credit card bonus offers

New airside connector at SFO. We’ve heard (but not confirmed) that the new airside connection between SFO’s fabulously famous Terminal 2 (Virgin America & American) and the more prosaic Terminal 1C (Delta’s boarding area) has opened. This means that Delta flyers socked in by delays now have some exciting new dining and retail options once they are behind security.

Outdoor spaces are the craze these days. Here's what JetBlue's will soon look like at JFK (Image: JetBlue)

Outdoor spaces are the craze these days. Here’s what JetBlue’s will soon look like at JFK (Image: JetBlue)

JetBlue’s JFK terminal grows. On Wednesday (November 12), JetBlue will open a $200 million extension of its home base, Terminal 5 at New York JFK, to be used for international flights. (The airline’s international arrivals currently use leased gates at Terminal 4.) The new six-gate expansion offers full federal inspection facilities in an arrivals hall and 40 automated passport readers. JetBlue plans to develop a public outdoor area on the new facility’s rooftop, akin to the popular High Line park in Manhattan. Meanwhile, Air France has finished a complete renovation of its two-level lounge at JFK’s Terminal 1.

Popular: Oddball credit card offers reap big rewards

HOTELS

Hackers hitting HHonors accounts. How safe are your points in Hilton’s HHonors loyalty program? Recent online reports indicate that hackers have been raiding some accounts, not only stealing points — and in some cases selling them — but also gaining access to members’ credit card information.

Related: Hilton’s newest hotel in Honolulu

Hotels roll out keyless entry apps. Starwood and Hilton last week both announced new app functionality that will allow guests to open their room doors with smartphones. The Starwood Preferred Guest app’s new SPG Keyless feature is available now at 10 select Aloft, W, and Element hotels, with more to come in the months ahead; it allows SPG members who book directly with the company to bypass the front desk and go directly to their preassigned room, where a tap of their Bluetooth-enabled phone will unlock the door. Hilton said keyless entry will be available through its HHonors mobile app starting in 2015 at its Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and Canopy brands, and at all 11 of its brands in 2016. The app will also work with other locked areas in Hilton’s hotels such as executive floors, fitness centers and garages.

A room at the new W Beijing located near the Forbidden City (Photo: Starwood)

A room at the new W Beijing located near the Forbidden City (Photo: Starwood)

Openings in Beijing, Sydney, Paris. The newest hotel in China’s capital city is Starwood’s 349-room W Beijing-Chang’an, located close to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Each room is equipped with a digital tablet that controls its lighting, 48-inch TV and Bluetooth sound system… InterContinental Hotels Corp. has cut the ribbon on the InterContinental Sydney Double Bay Hotel a few miles from that city’s central business district; the 140-room property is a luxury remaking of the former Double Bay Hotel … Hilton scheduled a January opening for the 268-room Hilton Paris Opera in the heart of the French capital; the company spent $50 million restoring and improving the 125-year-old building, formerly the Concorde Paris Opera.

In Case You Missed It…

>Check out these two airline credit cards for bonus benefits.

>American Express has opened a Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International.

>Two airlines offer free in-flight Wi-Fi.

>Here are six tips for securing the best air fare.

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

First look: Centurion Lounge at SFO [photos]

Centurion Lounge

SFO’s new American Express Centurion Lounge is located on the far west end of Terminal 3, behind security (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The new American Express Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 3 opens on Thursday, November 6.

It joins three other Centurion lounges at New York LaGuardia, Dallas Ft Worth and Las Vegas McCarran airports.  A spokesperson told TravelSkills that the next Centurion Lounge will open at Miami International in the first half of 2015. She also said that Amex is working on securing space at several other airports.

The SFO Centurion Lounge is located in Terminal 3 (United) behind security. This means that it is easily accessible for travelers in Terminal 3 or the International Terminal Boarding Area G. But it is going to be inconvenient for passengers flying in or out of the airport’s other terminals because getting there requires an extra trip through the T3 security gauntlet. At SFO, Terminal 3 is not connected on the airside to Terminal 2 (American, Virgin America) or Terminal 1 (Delta, US Airways, Southwest).

American Express invited TravelSkills in for a sneak-peek at the lounge which included a sit down dinner prepared by Chef Christopher Kostow, who will oversee the lounge’s full kitchen. The menu items he prepared for this special meal were similar to those that will be on offer at the lounge. (see photos below.) All Centurion lounges offer a full hot buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. SEE MENU

What’s unique about the San Francisco lounge is its wine wall. Members get a paper chit with a bar code when they check in. This chit entitles them to five small pours of wine from an automated dispenser (See photos below.) Wave the chit under a reader, push a button, and get your pour. Very cool! There’s also a full complimentary bar stocked with call brand booze and beer. There’s a single shower, a quiet nook with chaise lounges for napping, a small business center that pays homage to Bay Arean Steve Jobs and a big bright & colorful living room space. Thankfully, there’s a glassed in “family room” for kids.

And before we get started with photos, here’s a link that explains who gets in Centurion lounges. (It’s free for Amex Platinum and Centurion card holders only- this does not include Delta/Amex Platinum card holders. Anyone else with any type of Amex Card gets in for $50.) See the screen grab at the bottom of this post for more details.

Free Rides to SFO! To celebrate the opening of The Centurion Lounge at SFO, American Express is working with Uber to give Amex card holders a complimentary Black Car ride to the airport. On November 6 Amex cardhholders who have any Amex card as their selected method of payment can enter the promo code CENTURIONSFO in the Uber app to receive a complimentary Black Car ride from San Francisco to SFO.

Now let’s take a look! Leave your comments below, please… 

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

Centurion Lounge

All Centurion Lounges sport a “living wall” (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Centurion Lounge

Check in here to enter. Only Platinum and Centurion cardmembers get in free. All others pay $50 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Centurion Lounge

A big bright “living room: area with windows that overlook Terminal 3. Sorry, no views out to runways. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Centurion Lounge

The SFO lounge’s most distinguishing feature is this wine wall. Each member gets 5 free pours (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

IMG_0038

 

IMG_0069

Wave this chit under a reader and then choose your pour. Very cool! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

IMG_0071

Wine expert Anthony Giglio shows how to pick your pour. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Centurion Lounge

An all Mac business center pays homage to Steve Jobs. Nice touch! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

IMG_0024

The glassed in family room for kiddies (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

IMG_0025

 

IMG_0036

A full kitchen staffed by chefs serving hot meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

IMG_0043

Eat your hot meal or sip on your wine here. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

IMG_0047

Full bar with plenty of nice call brands and beer (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

IMG_0049

A nook for napping (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

IMG_0057

Plenty of color pops…and room to sit down (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Centurion Lounge

Looking down from the lounge which is located on the mezzanine level– accessible by this staircase or a glass elevator. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

IMG_0075

A nice sit down dinner for special guests included menu items likely to be served (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

IMG_0077

 

IMG_0082

“Slow roasted pork shoulder apple lees vinegar” paired nicely with a big fat Somerston Estate red blend from Napa (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

IMG_0084

Chestnut pudding with roasted chocolate for dessert (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Centurion Lounge

–Chris McGinnis

Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance with 20,000 points!

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and  LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it! 

facebook like

Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. 

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Delta hubs suffer + Shuttle moves at LGA + Oakland BART connection + Double Hilton points

The long awaited BART link to Oakland airport expected to open this month (Photo: BART)

The long awaited BART link to Oakland airport expected to open this month (Photo: BART)

AIRLINES

Demand keeps driving fares upward. When the price of oil goes up, air fares go up. So when oil prices fall as much as they have in recent months, air fares go down, right? Not in a period of strong demand for air travel. Jet fuel prices are down 22 percent this year, but an ongoing series of small increases has kept air fares above 2013 levels. According to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ latest report (for the second quarter of 2014), the average U.S. air fare rose 2.5 percent year-over-year to $396. Delta is a big beneficiary of the higher fares; Its Cincinnati hub once again had the highest average domestic fare at $523, and its Atlanta hub recorded the biggest average fare increase of any major airport — up 11.3 percent to $435. Have you noticed? Please leave your comments below– what’s the most painfully high fare you’ve paid this year? 

Delta Shuttle moves at LGA. A reminder to frequent flyers in the Northeast Corridor: Sunday (November 2) is moving day for Delta’s New York-Boston Shuttle flights at LaGuardia. The hourly LGA-BOS flights will move from LGA’s remote Marine Air Terminal to Delta’s recently-renovated Terminal C. The airline has also switched the flights to two-class 717 aircraft with 12 First Class, 15 Economy Comfort and 83 economy seats. Delta’s Chicago and Washington Reagan National Shuttle flights continue to use LGA’s Marine Air Terminal with Delta Connection/Shuttle America E-175s.

Southwest quickly absorbing last remnants of AirTran. This just in from Southwest: “As of today, all flights previously flown by AirTran between seven international destinations and nine domestic gateway cities are now flown exclusively by Southwest. Additionally, Southwest is proud to announce that we have finalized the integration of Southwest.com and AirTran.com. Effective today, Customers attempting to access AirTran.com will be routed to an informational page on Southwest.com where they can book travel, view integration-related FAQs, and find loyalty program information.”

Air Canada changes loyalty plan. Air Canada is the latest major carrier tighten up the rules of its frequent flyer program. For 2015, the minimum flight requirement to reach Altitude status levels is increasing and the minimum 500-mile earning per flight will end. On March 15, the number of eUpgrade credits to upgrade to business class will rise, but members will also be able to use those credits to upgrade to Premium Economy.