Voluptuous tower + Delta experiment + World’s largest hotel + United’s most popular plane?

Gazing up at SFO's new control tower is vertigo-inducing! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Gazing up at SFO’s new control tower is vertigo-inducing! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills’ 12 most popular posts over the last week… plus a few newsy nuggets we missed. 

1. A TravelSkills exclusive and oh, what a view! First look: Inside SFO’s brand new control tower (photos)

2. Have you smelled it? Delta experiments with boarding & aromatherapy

Weekend Edition3. Unless you are Muslim: The largest hotel you’ll likely never stay in

4. Special tags for right-size bags: Another carry-on crackdown coming?

5. Bay to ATL Southwest adds Oakland-Atlanta, other nonstops

6. Holdover from last week: Ugly Chinese worse than ugly Americans?

7. Bad news after huge build up at ATL, elsewhere: Frontier’s CEO dismissed as complaints soar

8. The dancing baby is back! Selected highlights of Delta’s clever new safety video

9. Get group discounts without being part of the group: Trip Report: A new kind of travel package

10. Airlines keep adding new flights: New routes: JetBlue + United + Delta + SAS + Air Canada + Southwest

11. Will all these new flights lead to lower fares? Don’t hold your breath Airfare war in the wings?

12. More evidence that there’s no single site that’s best for airfare shopping: Delta accused of blocking key data

TWO new 50,000 mile bonuses: United and Southwest. Click here or scroll down for details.

Update: Delta Sky Club at SFO + Miami Centurion lounge opens in June

Singapore Airlines premium economy coming...but not for a while (Chris McGinnis)

Singapore Airlines premium economy coming…but not for a while (Chris McGinnis)

Juicy nuggets of news from other sources that we missed on TravelSkills this week:

Singapore Airlines’ new premium economy seat- Coming Dec 15 at JFK. LAX & SFO in 2016

First new flights for Eastern Airlines from Miami to…

Except for Dreamliners, United’s remodeled 767s are its most popular widebody.

Roundup of Uber acceptance at airports

Nice gig if you’re a “people person”

Which airlines fare worst in on Twitter?

Supersonic business jet goes on sale. Cost? $120 million.

Oakland Airport offers free parking for travelers flying on new routes.

Best view of the week: Big bright and beautiful Barcelona El Prat airport. Wow! 

Barcelona El Prat (Chris McGinnis(

Barcelona El Prat (Chris McGinnis).

.

TWO 50,000 mile bonus offers to consider if you are in the market for a new credit card:

bonus BEST FOR UNITED FLYERS  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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.

bonusBEST for travelers who love Southwest‘s no frills approach to travel: The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card offers 50,000 points (enough for TWO roundtrip flights) after spending just $2,000 in first three months, plus a 6,000 point bump every year on your cardmember anniversary. In addition, it does not charge foreign transaction fees, and offers two points per dollar spent on Southwest flights as well as its hotel and car rental partners. What’s nice about this offer is that the 50K bonus points get you almost half way toward Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass status, which requires 110,000 points. Details


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Delta Sky Club SFO + Amex Centurion Lounge MIA

Delta's Sky Club at SFO during week of May 18 (Image: Chris McGinnis)

Delta’s Sky Club at SFO’s Terminal 1 boarding area C during week of May 18 (Image: Chris McGinnis)

It sounds like progress toward completion of Delta’s new Sky Club at SFO has stalled.

When the project began, Delta expected the new airside club would open in May, but this week the carrier revealed to TravelSkills that it “won’t open before August.”

From the inside of Delta’s Boarding Area C in Terminal 1, you can’t miss the big construction wall hiding the entrance to the new Sky Club as you enter the terminal just after security.

Since the club will be located one floor above the gate area, I assume we’ll access it by an elevator or escalator.

The current Delta Sky Club at SFO (see its mixed Yelp reviews) is inconveniently located outside the T1 Boarding Area C checkpoint, a location that has long been a sore point among Sky Club members.

Entrance to SFO's Centurion Lounge in Terminal 3 (Chris McGinnis)

Entrance to SFO’s Centurion Lounge in Terminal 3 (Chris McGinnis)

In related news, American Express is poised to open its new Centurion Lounge at Miami International Airport’s North Terminal in early June. Stay tuned for full coverage and updates from a media preview TravelSkills will attend on June 2!

As it has done at other Centurion lounges, Amex chose Miami celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein (of Delta fame) to inspire the food at the 8,000 square foot lounge. Here’s a blurb about that from the Miami Herald:

Bernstein’s buttermilk-brined fried chicken and Greek-style local watermelon salad will be available at MIA’s Centurion, located in the North Terminal that services American Airlines and Qatar Airways. She said she leaned toward lighter items, like a green goddess salad and a vanilla panna cotta dessert, to “make sure people are comfortable as they board their flights.”

If the lounge is anything like Amex’s most recent addition at SFO T3, frequent flyers will be wowed with fab locally inspired design, food and drink.

Next up on the list of airports getting the new Centurion lounge: Seattle!

About the only downside to these lounges is their popularity– crowding can sometimes be an issue.

So who gets in the Centurion Lounge? Here’s a link that explains who gets in— basically, 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.

Have you been to one yet? Leave your comments below!

–Chris McGinnis

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Largest hotel you’ll likely never visit + Delta accused + Starwood Hotels’ new tech touches + Southwest adds Oakland-Atlanta service

TWO 50,000 mile bonus offers to consider if you are in the market for a new credit card:

bonus BEST FOR UNITED FLYERS  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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.

bonusBEST for travelers who love Southwest‘s no frills approach to travel: The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card offers 50,000 points (enough for TWO roundtrip flights) after spending just $2,000 in first three months, plus a 6,000 point bump every year on your cardmember anniversary. In addition, it does not charge foreign transaction fees, and offers two points per dollar spent on Southwest flights as well as its hotel and car rental partners. What’s nice about this offer is that the 50K bonus points get you almost half way toward Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass status, which requires 110,000 points. Details

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Another carry-on crackdown coming?

Busted by United's baggage police at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

Busted by United’s baggage police at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

U.S. airlines don’t always follow the lead of their foreign counterparts, but if they decide to adopt a newly announced policy from Air Canada, it could spell trouble for passengers who rely on overstuffed carry-ons to avoid checked baggage fees.

The Canadian carrier said on its website this week that it plans to start using what amounts to carry-on bag police, putting employees at airport check-in areas and security checkpoints to eyeball passengers’ bags and make sure they don’t exceed the proper size dimensions.

Carry-ons on Air Canada will need an "approved" tag to make it on board. (Image: Air Canada)

Carry-ons on Air Canada will need an “approved” tag to make it on board. (Image: Air Canada)

And they’ll tag appropriate bags with a red “approved” tag. “This will make it easier and safer to stow your personal items on board, may help reduce wait times at security, and will help avoid flight delays caused by larger bags being checked at the gate,” Air Canada said. If not, the bag will have to be checked.

If you make it to the security checkpoint with an oversized carry-on and get caught there, “We’ll give you a special card that will get you quickly back to a check-in agent, and then on to your departure gate,” the airline noted.

The new policy will start on May 25 at Toronto Pearson and gradually be rolled out to other airports during June.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Delta accused + Starwood Hotels’ new tech touches + Virgin Atlantic’s new LAX lounge + Southwest adds Oakland-Atlanta service


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

First look: Inside SFO’s brand new control tower (photos)

SFO's new 221-foot air traffic control tower will open next summer (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

SFO’s new 221-foot air traffic control tower will open next summer (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This week San Francisco International Airport turns over its fabulous new control tower to the Federal Aviation Administration.

But before doing so, the airport gave TravelSkills an exclusive early tour.

The FAA will spend a year outfitting the voluptuous, flared cylinder with its systems, testing them and then training controllers. The new tower is expected to be operational by next summer.

Ready to take a tour? Let’s start at the bottom and move to the top.

Inside the new corridor connecting SFO’s T1 and T2. View from T2 entry. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

In late June, a bright new land side corridor (along the roadway) connecting Terminal 1 with Terminal 2 will open to the public. What’s amazing about the corridor is that it has a glass roof so you can stop and peer up at the new tower. I think they’ll need to install handrails to keep folks from falling over as they crane their necks to view the beautiful new metallic cone. It’s gorgeous, almost hypnotic, and vertigo-inducing to look up at it as the clouds roll by.

The view looking up from the new glass-roofed corridor between SFO T1 and T2 (Chris McGinnis)

The view looking up from the new glass-roofed corridor between T1 and T2- note the waterfall of lights panels facing west (Chris McGinnis)

Also in June, a new computer controlled display will light up the tower in a variety of colors, which will be seen from miles away after dusk. Like the Empire State Building or San Francisco City Hall, the new “waterfall of lights” will signify special occasions– orange when the Giants win, or red and green for Christmas, etc.

Inch thick blast-proof glass across the front of the building under the tower (Chris McGinnis)

Inch-thick, blast-proof glass across the front of the building under the tower (Chris McGinnis)

The FAA will have offices in a three-story building at the base of the tower, where the exterior and glass walls have been thickened and hardened to prevent damage from truck bombs on the nearby roadway.

The structure is built on “bay mud” according to project manager Tony Kingsman who said that the tower is supported in bedrock 140 below ground, and is designed to withstand an 8.0 earthquake and still be operational.

This is SFO’s fourth control tower. The current one was built in 1981 atop the current Terminal 2, deemed seismically unstable, so construction began on the new tower three years ago.

It cost about $120 million to build the tower, FAA office building and corridor. The FAA kicked in about 70 million of that– enough for a basic, utilitarian structure, but SFO wanted it to be an iconic, torch-like symbol of the gateway to the Pacific, so it contributed an additional $50 million for aesthetics, as well as additional airport space like the new corridor.

HNTB provided the conceptual design of the new structure and it was designed and built by Hensel Phelps and Fentress Architects.

The new tower should open in July 2016 at which time the old tower will be dismantled quickly so as not to obstruct runway views from the new one. There is talk of the airport adding a outdoor viewing platform, open the the public, in the old tower’s footprint atop T2, but for now, that’s just talk.

Okay then.  Let’s crawl up inside this spectacular structure! Watch this video and scroll through the images and video below.

Aside from the stunning view, note that US Airways/American is now operating out of Delta's Boarding Area C (Chris McGinnis)

Aside from the stunning view, note that US Airways/American is now operating out of Delta’s Boarding Area C (Chris McGinnis)

First taking an elevator up about 10 floors and then walking up a spiral staircase, you enter a wonderland of planespotting— a full 270 degrees of unobstructed airport views through 24 giant panes of 1-1/2 inch-thick glass. On the western side of the 650-square-foot “cab” there are a few pillars that hold up the roof. I’ve never seen a view like this one.

Looking out from 221 feet over Terminal 2, home of Virgin America and American (Chris McGinnis)

Looking out from 221 feet over Terminal 2, home of Virgin America and American (Chris McGinnis)

 

The tower complex is covered in at least 100 lightening rods grounded by shiny metal cables. Look closely and you'll see them (Chris McGinnis)

The tower complex is covered in at least 100 lightning rods grounded by shiny woven metal cables. Look closely and you’ll see them (Chris McGinnis)

 

Looking out over T3 and the current control tower (Chris McGinnis)

Looking out at the United hangar and (oddly) looking down on the current control tower (Chris McGinnis)

 

Installation of air traffic controller stations- there is room for 13 up here, but usually only 6-8 on the job. (Chris McGinnis)

Installation of air traffic controller stations- there is room for 13 controllers up here, but usually only 6-8 on the job. (Chris McGinnis)

 

Looking out at one of two cranes used to clean and maintain the tower exterior (Chris McGinnis)

Looking out at one of two cranes used to clean and maintain the tower exterior (Chris McGinnis)

 

Looking over the parking lot and international terminal (Chris McGinnis)

Looking over the parking lot and international terminal (Chris McGinnis)

 

Air traffic controllers break room is one level below the cab- talk about a room with a view! (Chris McGinnis)

Air traffic controllers’ break room is one level below the cab- talk about a room with a view! (Chris McGinnis)

 

Here's the view from the air traffic controllers break room. Nice! (Chris McGinnis)

Here’s the view from the air traffic controllers break room. Nice! (Chris McGinnis)

 

Your excited TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis pondering a lightening rod on the top of SFO control tower (Doug Yakel)

Your excited TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis pondering a lightning rod on the top of SFO control tower (Doug Yakel)

Here’s a video watching an Air China 747-8 take off from outside the cab.

-Chris McGinnis

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Delta’s experiments  + Southwest adds Oakland-Atlanta nonstop + More power in your pocket at Marriott + Airline CEO dismissed + Delta’s first class summer sale

TWO 50,000 mile bonus offers to consider if you are in the market for a new credit card:

bonus BEST FOR UNITED FLYERS  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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.

bonusBEST for travelers who love Southwest‘s no frills approach to travel: The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card offers 50,000 points (enough for TWO roundtrip flights) after spending just $2,000 in first three months, plus a 6,000 point bump every year on your cardmember anniversary. In addition, it does not charge foreign transaction fees, and offers two points per dollar spent on Southwest flights as well as its hotel and car rental partners. What’s nice about this offer is that the 50K bonus points get you almost half way toward Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass status, which requires 110,000 points. Details


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Delta experiments with boarding & aromatherapy

Delta's boarding experiment at ATL (Photo: GH)

Delta’s boarding experiment at ATL (Photo: GH)

Delta is experimenting with a new boarding process in Atlanta that looks a lot like the process United implemented a few years ago. It’s also apparently adding an olfactory element to the jetway. 

While pundits joke that United execs wear WWDD wristbands when it comes to decision making (“What Would Delta Do”) it now seems that Delta might be taking some cues from United… or Southwest when it comes to boarding.

20150518_184508

Delta’s experimental boarding area lanes (Photo: G.H.)

While Delta has not confirmed this to TravelSkills, we’ve heard from readers about an experimental boarding process that has Medallion (elite) level members line up for boarding in labeled lanes. It appears very similar to Southwest’s infamous “cattle call” that’s equally loved and derided. And even more similar to United’s new boarding process- see image below and compare it to what you see above.

United's new boarding area queues at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

United’s new boarding area queues at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

Here’s what TravelSkills reader GH said in an email:

“Have you seen this?   I had a flight to DFW on Monday night but they had these lanes set up for Premium,  Sky and Zone 1 at gates B7 and B8 at ATL. As Zone 1 boards they change the signs to Zone 2, etc.  I was like ‘is this Southwest’?   If it’s to get traffic out of the main spine walkway I kind of agree with it but ended up standing in my ‘lane’  for hour and a half due to a weather related delay.  As we boarded they told us they were test gates and to provide survey feedback. Interesting…” 

GH also send us an image of a Delta sign asking for feedback by going to this URL: www.delta.com/B7

There we found a survey that asked a lot of questions about the experimental boarding process, but the questions that stuck out were those about a new scent:

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.14.19 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.14.34 PM

Both are referring to the scent in the jet bridge. G.H. told us: “Now that I think of it there was some kind of smell.   Almost like it was a brand new jet way.   The jetway also seemed a little narrower than usual.” 

Which means that Delta is probably pumping in some sort of olfactory sensation designed to calm us down or make us feel better.

Have you boarded a Delta flight at ATL’s B7? What do you think of the idea of airlines copying the now standard hotel industry practice of using aromatherapy in public spaces? Please leave your comments below. 

-Chris McGinnis

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: A new type of travel package + Southwest adds Oakland-Atlanta nonstop + More power in your pocket at Marriott + Airline CEO dismissed + Delta’s first class summer sale

TWO 50,000 mile bonus offers to consider if you are in the market for a new credit card:

bonus BEST FOR UNITED FLYERS  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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.

bonusBEST for travelers who love Southwest‘s no frills approach to travel: The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card offers 50,000 points (enough for TWO roundtrip flights) after spending just $2,000 in first three months, plus a 6,000 point bump every year on your cardmember anniversary. In addition, it does not charge foreign transaction fees, and offers two points per dollar spent on Southwest flights as well as its hotel and car rental partners. What’s nice about this offer is that the 50K bonus points get you almost half way toward Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass status, which requires 110,000 points. Details


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Virgin Atlantic’s playful LAX lounge (more photos)

Virgin

The new lounge is 4,000 square feet, but doesn’t “overlook the Hollywood Hills” as Virgin says. Please. (Image: Virgin Atlantic)

This week Virgin Atlantic revealed more photos of it’s brand new $2.5 million Clubhouse at Los Angeles International Airport Terminal 2.

Here’s a closer look at the fun space that seems to us like a cross between a lounge and a colorful kiddie playroom. What do you think? Please leave your comments below.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 9.39.55 AM

Virgin says: “The centerpiece of the lounge is a copper lined bar, showcasing natural Californian produce and plants as well as our famous bar service featuring fabulous cocktails. Working with The Juicery, we’ve created healthy juice options infused with seeds and spices.” (Photo: Virgin Atlantic)

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 9.39.39 AM

Not sure we can see the Hollywood Hills from here, but it’s a nice view anyway! (Photo: Virgin Atlantic)

Related: Virgin America’s bright spot at LAX’s drab Terminal 3

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 9.40.26 AM

The Clubhouse’s quiet corner (Photo: Virgin Atlantic)

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 9.40.07 AM

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 9.40.17 AM

Tapas like these are inspired by LA’s popular Hinoki & The Bird restaurant. (Photo: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin says, “Los Angeles is a key route for us and we’re always thinking about what our customers need when they’re flying transatlantic. The investment in LAX will also include a refreshed check in area as well as the introduction of a meet-and-greet chauffeur drop-off service. Furthermore our brand new 787’s will be on the route from May, and together with the increased connectivity as part of our joint venture with Delta, we’re able to offer our customers the best possible experience when flying between London and Los Angeles.”

Entry into the Clubhouse is complimentary for Upper Class passengers travelling between Los Angeles and London Heathrow. Return Upper Class fares start from $5265.00 per person including tax.

See Virgin’s blog post here. 

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: A new type of travel package + Southwest adds Oakland-Atlanta nonstop + More power in your pocket at Marriott + Airline CEO dismissed + Delta’s first class summer sale

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Ugly Chinese + Delta first class sale + United fleet + Hackers on planes + Big summer ahead

Gorgeous light thru new stained glass inside the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Gorgeous colored light flows thru new stained glass inside the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills’ 12 most popular posts over the last week… plus a few newsy nuggets we missed. 

1. The tone of reader comments here is surprising: Ugly Chinese worse than ugly Americans?

2. One of two first class sales from Delta: First class airfare sale for summer

3. At long last, a public beta: Big changes at United.com

4. Is the attraction to Airbnb generational? Airbnb just won’t quit

Weekend Edition5. More new car smell: Hertz’s big new fleet: 235,000 cool cars

6. Most are headed south: Where will United fly its 787 Dreamliners?

7. Delta shows its true colors: You don’t have to be gay to fly first class

8. Hacking flight plans from seatback entertainment systems: United offers one million miles to hackers

9. United’s big spend in IAH making Chicago jealous: United’s shiny new terminal in Houston

10. Most engaging headline this week :) FAT FUK & FAR: Decoding airport codes

11. The ugly Chinese at it again: World’s biggest boondoggle?

12. Don’t overlook this option this summer! Premium economy at economy prices this summer on Lufthansa

TWO new 50,000 mile bonuses: United and Southwest. Scroll down for details.

Our favorite reader comment this week:

Regarding the post Ugly Chinese worse than ugly Americans? “They probably don’t know any better or that they are considered rude. So yes, if the Chinese government steps in to educate their outgoing residents on how not to be the Ugly Chinese – that would be a plus for all of us.” -Susan

Taking off on vacation or business this summer? Check out TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis new video to find out what to expect. CLICK image to launch video.

Click image to watch TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis talk about saving money on summer travel

Click image to watch TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis talk about saving money on summer travel

Juicy nuggets of news from other sources that we missed on TravelSkills this week: 

Hacker actually did control plane?

Is United two timing Chicago?

Delta does not like FAA plan for NYC airports

Update on Virgin America’s Viability

It’s confirmed: Alaska’s new preferred seating now for sale

SurfAir in Wine Country

Free wi-fi at all Spanish Airports by end of year

Hertz raises summer prices

Delta-Southwest spat over gates at Dallas Love won’t be resolved by July 6 deadline

All-Audi Silvercar opens up in Ft. Lauderdale this week; Also has MIA and PHX on sale this month for $39 a day.

Oakland Airport starts Terminal 1 improvement project

Airbus patents wide-aisle aircraft design

DOT: Airlines don’t have to honor mistake fares

Air New Zealand cranks out another eye-catching safety video- with lots of skin

Breaking news: Cheese slices at United Club at SFO are back to full thickness…but they are not Tillamook. Did you notice?

FullSizeRender 2

 

TWO 50,000 mile bonus offers to consider if you are in the market for a new credit card:

bonus BEST FOR UNITED FLYERS  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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.

bonusBEST for travelers who love Southwest‘s no frills approach to travel: The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card offers 50,000 points (enough for TWO roundtrip flights) after spending just $2,000 in first three months, plus a 6,000 point bump every year on your cardmember anniversary. In addition, it does not charge foreign transaction fees, and offers two points per dollar spent on Southwest flights as well as its hotel and car rental partners. What’s nice about this offer is that the 50K bonus points get you almost half way toward Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass status, which requires 110,000 points. Details


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Biggest summer travel season ever?

Click image to watch TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis talk about saving money on summer travel

CLICK image to watch TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis talk about saving money on summer travel

Planning on hitting the roads or skies this summer for business or vacation trips? It could be the busiest summer ever according to TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis. 

Take a look at this video produced by TravelSkills partner Best Western for a look inside Chris’s office in San Francisco, and also inside his crystal ball when it comes to the upcoming summer travel season.

In a nutshell, Chris thinks that three factors could push travel demand into the stratosphere this summer:

1) Pent up demand due to the recent cold snowy winter combined with positive economic indicators

2) Low gas prices

3) The strength of the US dollar

What does this mean for TravelSkills readers? Well, if you are traveling on business this summer, prepare for surprises like extra long lines at US airports on weekends during July and August— some of which are higher volume days that the days before or after Thanksgiving.

Be especially wary of long check in and security lines at foreign airports for flights headed back to the US, especially in August. (Might be smart to cash in some of those frequent flyer miles for upgrades to business class, which can help ease airport and inflight stress during peak summer months.)

The cheapest times to fly during peak season will be the first two weeks of June, and then the last week or so of August. As a matter of fact, most airline fares drop precipitously after about August 25 this year. And Labor Day is late– Monday September 7.

Cities like New York and San Francisco will be full of Americans, but you might find fewer Europeans this year, scared away by the strong US dollar. Macy’s is already taking a hit due to this. It could also help temper high hotel prices…but not by much since demand is so high. Best Western reports that advance bookings for this summer are already up 6% compared to last summer– and if you recall, last summer was a whopper, too.

Here’s Chris’s full report from TravelSkills HQ! Please tune in for a look-see :)


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

United’s big plans for LAX (Photos)

Rendering of the terrace at the new United Club atop LAX's Terminal 7. (Image: United)

Rendering of the terrace at the new United Club atop LAX’s Terminal 7. (Image: United)

As part of an ongoing systemwide overhaul of United Airlines’ airport facilities, company executives hosted Los Angeles city officials this week to outline their plans for a $573 million renovation of the carrier’s public spaces at Los Angeles International Airport.

The two-year project will take in everything from a new ticketing lobby with new self-tagging baggage kiosks to an enhanced security screening area to redesigned gate areas to a new and expanded United Club on top of Terminal 7.

“United’s new-look terminals and gate areas will feature a modern design with relaxed and inviting spaces, including a variety of comfortable seating options and abundant charging stations for customers’ electronic devices,” a spokesman said.

United offered some renderings of what the finished product will look like.

Entrance to United's new security screening area at LAX. (Image: United)

Entrance to United’s new security screening area at LAX. (Image: United)

United's planned overhaul of its ticketing area. (Image: United)

United’s planned overhaul of its ticketing area. (Image: United)

New United bag claim area at LAX after renovations. (Image: United)

New United bag claim area at LAX after renovations. (Image: United)

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s brand new website breaks out + Chinese tourists on notice + Fast trains in Spain + United’s 787 Dreamliner plans + New Oneworld lounge at LAX +

.

bonusThe 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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

FAT FUK & FAR: Decoding airport codes

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: New United website + Premium economy on Lufthansa + Chinese tourists on notice + Fast trains in Spain + United’s 787 Dreamliner plans + New Oneworld lounge at LAX + 

Site explains three-letter codes (Image: Airport Codes)

Site explains three-letter codes (Image: Airport Codes)

Why is Chicago O’Hare’s three-letter airport code ORD? Why isn’t it OHA or OHR or OHE? What about FAT and FUK?

The worldwide system of airport coding, as sanctioned by the International Air Transport Association, tries to keep things simple, generally using letters that are in the airport’s city name. But there are plenty of anomalies.

A new website now tries to take the mystery out of the process by listing the back story on hundreds of airports and their three-letter codes worldwide. Visitors to the Airport Codes website (http://airportcod.es/#) can simply scroll down to the three-letter code that interests them and click on it to see where it came from.

Some of my favorites from the top of the lengthy list?

BAT in Barretos, Brazil because it reminds me of a previous incarnation of TravelSkills called The BAT (Bay Area Traveler).

BFF: Scottsbluff, Nebraska

BOB: Bora Bora

CUZ: Cuzco

DAD: Da Nang, Vietnam

DOH: (!) Doha (Simpsons…)

FAR: Fargo

FAT: Fresno

FUK: Fukuoka, Japan (Reminds me of how the polite PR person at Delta had to disclose the code)

See more here– lot’s of fun scrolling through….

Pundits often have fun with some of the weirder codes, and the site gives opportunities in that area too. For instance, the airport for the Brazilian city of Pocos de Caldas has the unfortunate three-letter code POO.

A U.S. Army facility in Sembach, Germany called Sembach Kaserne used to be called Sembach Annex, which gave it the three-letter airport code SEX. And many flyers probably know that the three-letter code for Sioux City, Iowa — which officials unsuccessfully tried to have changed — is SUX, so the airport embraced it with a promotional slogan “Fly SUX.”

As for O’Hare, before it was renamed in 1949 for Medal of Honor recipient Edward O’Hare, it was originally a small airfield called Orchard Field — thus the ORD.

What’s your favorite airport code? Why? Leave your comments below.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: New United website + Premium economy on Lufthansa + Chinese tourists on notice + Fast trains in Spain + United’s 787 Dreamliner plans + New Oneworld lounge at LAX + 

.

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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

United’s shiny new terminal in Houston

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s brand new website breaks out + Chinese tourists on notice + Fast trains in Spain + United’s 787 Dreamliner plans + New Oneworld lounge at LAX + Global Entry at Oakland 

Rendering of United's new Terminal C North at Houston Bush Intercontinental. (Image: United)

Rendering of United’s new Terminal C North at Houston Bush Intercontinental. (Image: United)

A groundbreaking ceremony was held this week at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport for a new Terminal C North concourse, part of United’s hub operations there.

United has teamed up with the Houston Airport System for the $244 million project, which will have 11 boarding gates and will total 265,000 square feet — more than 100,000 square feet larger than the existing C North concourse.

That existing concourse will be torn down after this project is finished in early 2017, clearing space for the later reconstruction of Terminal D, the airport’s international terminal.

United said the expansion and redevelopment of the international terminal is “critical” to accommodating more connecting traffic at IAH, “particularly for those customers connecting between United flights and flights operated by United’s international airline partners.” Those partnership links keep growing; e.g., United’s Star Alliance partner All Nippon Airways will begin Houston-Tokyo Narita service next month, and Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand will start flying between Houston and Auckland in December.

United’s new C North concourse will feature 20 new dining and retail options, larger gate areas, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s brand new website breaks out + Chinese tourists on notice + Fast trains in Spain + United’s 787 Dreamliner plans + New Oneworld lounge at LAX + Global Entry at Oakland 

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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Speeding across the plains of Spain on a train

Madrid's exotic Atocha Station (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Madrid’s exotic Atocha Station (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This week TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis is in Spain and will be posting various dispatches from the trip in addition to our regular news and tips. First up: Riding Spain’s high-speed AVE train between Madrid and Barcelona.

The three-hour trip from Madrid to Barcelona begins at Madrid’s Atocha Station and ends at Barcelona-Sants station. Both are centrally located and inexpensive, plentiful cabs can connect you to meetings or hotels. (No Uber in Spain)

Spain's Renfe AVE high speed train preparing to depart Madrid Atocha (Chris McGinnis)

Spain’s Renfe AVE high speed train preparing to depart Madrid Atocha (Chris McGinnis)

Madrid’s Atocha is a gorgeous, bright and airy space where older trains once arrived and departed. But since high speed trains now use an adjacent platform, the original station space has been transformed into an unusually lush tropical garden lobby. (see above) That’s a nice way to start a trip!

One-way walk up train fares are in the the $135 range for tourist class and $225 for first class. (But advance purchase round trips and discounts are all over the map, so investigate before buying.)

First class seats on Spain's Renfe AVE trains (Chris McGinnis)

First class seats on Spain’s Renfe AVE trains (Chris McGinnis)

Advance purchase round trip airfares start as low as about $160, but you have to factor in the time and cost of airport transfers. Plus discounts and deals vary a lot, so investigate.

Trains depart Madrid roughly every half hour between 7:30 am and 9:00pm for the three-hour trip.

Tourist class seats on AVE trains are 4 abreast. (Chris McGinnis)

Tourist class seats on AVE trains are 4 abreast. (Chris McGinnis)

Trains are remarkably clean, quiet and comfortable in tourist or first class. There is plenty of room for luggage and lavatories in every car.

First class seats are slightly larger and three abreast, tourist class are four abreast.

Meals are served via by attendants via a trolley in first class and there’s a bar/cafe car where tourist class passengers can purchase food or drink.

The Zaragoza station is impressively modern and has a hotel (Chris McGinnis)

The Zaragoza station is impressively modern and has a hotel (Chris McGinnis)

Our train made three quick stops along the way. The station in Zaragoza was impressively contemporary and bright and even houses a new hotel.

Spain’s rail systems is called Renfe, an acronym for Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Espanoles, which means National Network of Spanish Locomotives.

Checking out the countryside on Spain's Renfe AVE trains (Chris McGinnis)

Checking out the countryside on Spain’s Renfe AVE trains (Chris McGinnis)

Top speeds are in the 190 mph range and the plains of Spain looked very much like New Mexico or Arizona to me. The countryside was much drier near Madrid, but greened up substantially as we approached coastal Barcelona and Catalonia.  

First class passengers get hot meals served by attendants on Spain's AVE trains (Chris McGinnis)

First class passengers get hot meals served by attendants on Spain’s AVE trains (Chris McGinnis)

Regrettably, there is no wi-fi on the these AVE trains, which is disappointing for business travelers. However, there are several channels of music, radio and a movie (Spanish only) which you can access via a headphone jack in your seat.

French TGV train on left meets up with our AVE train in Barcelona (Chris McGinnis)

French TGV train on left meets up with our AVE train in Barcelona (Chris McGinnis)

When our train arrived in Barcelona, a French TGV train was on the same platform, which meant I could have jumped off the train from Madrid and taken off for Paris in a matter of minutes. Why can’t we have a system like this in the US?

Before the train departed Atocha station, I took a sneak-peek at the conductor’s cabin at the rear of the train. Very cool! Take a look at me taking a seat in the conductor’s chair on the TravelSkills Facebook page.

-Chris McGinnis

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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Factory flight + Drenched flight attendant talks + Star Alliance fast lanes + Best coach food + Frequent flyers fed up + more

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis flew SWISS to Madrid this week! Stay tuned for several reports (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis flew SWISS from SFO to Madrid this week! Stay tuned for several reports (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills’ 12 most popular posts over the last week… plus a few newsy nuggets we missed. 

1> Not many flyers get to experience this: From factory to Hong Kong on a brand new B777

2> Yuck. Just yuck: Drenched in raw sewage at the airport- twice Flight attendant Tina Brock (the one who was drenched) emailed us with this comment– we have not verified its authenticity, but assume it is legit:

Dear Chris – I  personally would like to thank you for writing your report – I  would like the media to know that I only asked for an apology and my medical bills to be covered – after 2 years – no one did so – They wanted to shove it under the rug – Other reports mention that I sued due to lack of sex with my husband – these people are very sick who twist things around – you did not do so and I  appreciate you as a wonderful human – The media can be very cruel – My insurance company says that workers comp should pay my medical bills – workers comp refuses to pay  – I  have had to pay all of my medical bills out of pocket for almost 3 years – The real reason for my personal lawsuit was due to no apology and not covering my medical bills – I  want to  save and fight for others who get abused by the system – People blog such horrible things – These people have no clue what we are going through and have no respect for other humans – I  strongly believe in Karma – Thank you for telling the real story without trying to hurt the ones that hurt most – I  admire and appreciate you – Tina Brock.

3> Special treatment for Stars: Star Alliance adds fast lanes

4> What’s notably missing? Airlines with best economy class food

Weekend Edition5> Why do we keep going back for more? More frustration with frequent flyer miles

6> Now that’s a long flight: Boston to Hong Kong now 16 hours nonstop

7> Can’t beat this bonus- won’t last: United’s 50,000-mile bonus is back

8> We all love more room, right? Roomier widebodies on domestic flights? We hope so

9> Nice new additions New routes: Aer Lingus, SWISS, Air France-KLM, Air China, Turkish

10> Two new Hyatts plus more: 5 shiny new hotels in Washington, DC

11> Hotel size suite on a plane: The most outrageous luxury suites in the sky

12> American gets a big new plane: A big news day for American Airlines

Our favorite reader comment this week:

Note the double arm rests between seats in Cathay's premium economy (Cathay Pacific)

Note the double arm rests between seats in Cathay’s premium economy (Cathay Pacific)

From reader C.C. regarding Cathay Pacific’s premium economy section: “Did you notice the nice double armrests in premium economy? Delta PLEASE give us those on the long hauls!!!”

Juicy nuggets of news from other sources that we missed on TravelSkills this week: 

These airports make arriving a pleasure

Air Canada adds PreCheck

Hawaii’s Island Air sputtering

Profile: How does TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis like to travel? 

New Godzilla themed rooms in Tokyo 

SF taxi driver video: What it’s like to compete with Uber

United sued for not disclosing wi-fi limitations

New York Times special business travel section

–Chris McGinnis

bonusThe 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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Bigger, better Oneworld lounge at LAX (photos)

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Economy class meals rated + New rules for travel to Cuba + Star Alliance adds fast lanes to security + New international air routes + Gogo speeds up Wi-Fi + Trip Report: Cathay Pacific 777

Seating has been increased by 50 percent at the LAX Oneworld Business Lounge. (Image: Qantas)

Seating has been increased by 50 percent at the LAX Oneworld Business Lounge. (Image: Qantas)

Qantas, Cathay Pacific and British Airways have finished a substantial expansion of the Oneworld Business Lounge in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. The lounge is managed by Qantas.

The project increased seating capacity in the lounge from 400 to 600; tripled its total floor space; increased the number of shower suites from nine to 16; added six workstations equipped with iMacs; installed a dedicated dining area, a new cocktail bar and a Californian food cart; and put in a second buffet line with a make-your-own juice bar, hot dishes, salads, snacks and desserts.

Bar at the expanded Oneworld Business Lounge at LAX. (Image: Qantas)

Bar at the expanded Oneworld Business Lounge at LAX. (Image: Qantas)

The Business Lounge is available to Qantas, Cathay and British Airwats passengers booked in  business class; Qantas Gold frequent flyer members, Cathay’s Marco Polo Gold members and BA Executive Club Silver members; Oneworld Sapphire-level members; and Qantas Club members.

New buffet line at the LAX Oneworld Business Lounge. (Image: Qantas)

New buffet line at the LAX Oneworld Business Lounge. (Image: Qantas)

The Business Lounge expansion follows the opening of the adjacent “remarkably stylish” Qantas First Class lounge that was finished last winter.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Economy class meals rated + New rules for travel to Cuba + Star Alliance adds fast lanes to security + New international air routes + Gogo speeds up Wi-Fi + Trip Report: Cathay Pacific 777

.

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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Global Entry comes to Oakland

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Economy class meals rated + New rules for travel to Cuba + Star Alliance adds fast lanes to security + New international air routes + Gogo speeds up Wi-Fi + Trip Report: Cathay Pacific 777

Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry kiosks speed up the arrivals process. (Image: CBP)

Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry kiosks speed up the arrivals process. (Image: CBP)

Oakland International Airport is the latest to add Customs & Border Protection’s Global Entry option for participating travelers.

The airport has installed two Global Entry kiosks in the international arrivals area.

Members of the CBP trusted traveler program can bypass the usual inspection lines and use a kiosk to complete the re-entry process, scanning their passport and fingerprints and answering Customs declaration questions. The kiosk prints out a receipt for presentation to a CBP officer and a quick exit from the area.

Port of Oakland officials said Global Entry has become increasingly important for the airport , which now handles up to 28 international flights a week– primarily from Mexico, but also including a Norwegian Air 787 nonstop that’s helped keep transatlantic fares from the Bay Area in check over the last year.

Global Entry members are also eligible for TSA‘s PreCheck program.

Do you have Global Entry? Is it the smartest $100 you’ve ever spent, or what? :)

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Economy class meals rated + New rules for travel to Cuba + Star Alliance adds fast lanes to security + New international air routes + Gogo speeds up Wi-Fi + Trip Report: Cathay Pacific 777

.

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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Star Alliance adds fast lanes

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Frustration with Frequent Flyer miles tar + Wars invade DEN +  Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights + United’s new 50,000 mile bonus! 

Star Alliance's Gold Track lanes to security checkpoints are now at 21 airports. (Image: Star Alliance)

Star Alliance’s Gold Track lanes to security checkpoints are now at 21 airports. (Image: Star Alliance)

Following the deployment of a similar project by rival SkyTeam, the Star Alliance has started to add priority lanes to the security checkpoint for its elite members and premium passengers.

Identified with signs labeled Gold Track and showing the Star logo, the expedited security access lanes are currently available at 21 airports worldwide and will soon be launched “at airports across our network,” Star said.

In the U.S., they’re already installed at Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Los Angeles, New York JFK, Newark, Seattle and Washington Dulles.

They can be used by Star Alliance Gold Status holders no matter which class of service they’re flying in, and by first class and business class ticket holders on any Star airline.

The Star Alliance includes United, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Swiss, Singapore Airlines, ANA, SAS and several others.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Frustration with Frequent Flyer miles tar + Wars invade DEN +  Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights + United’s new 50,000 mile bonus! 

.

bonusThe 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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Trip Report: Factory to Hong Kong on a new Cathay Pacific 777

(Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

(Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

Do you ever wonder how an airplane makes its way from the factory to the airport? Well, we found out recently when Cathay Pacific invited TravelSkills aboard the “delivery flight” of its fiftieth Boeing 777-300ER aircraft flying from the factory in Seattle to Hong Kong.

The sneak peek flight was a special experience for invited media, travel agents, and top Cathay customers to sample the carrier’s products while also witnessing an important milestone for both Cathay Pacific and Boeing.

With the largest fleet of 777s among Asian carriers (67 in total), and the second largest in the world (behind Emirates), Cathay Pacific is an important Boeing customer. In fact, Cathay Pacific launched its newest route from Hong Kong to Boston on the day after the delivery flight.

Related: Boston to Hong Kong in 16 hours

The ceremonial handing over of keys from Boeing to Cathay (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

The ceremonial handing over of keys from Boeing to Cathay (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

All airlines handle their delivery flights differently, and Cathay wanted to make this a special occasion given this was their fiftieth 777-300ER. Also parked nearby during the ceremony was a Lufthansa Boeing 747-800 aircraft and a Turkish Airlines Boeing 777-300ER. Both planes were making their own delivery flights that day, but with decidedly less fanfare.

It was especially interesting to learn that new aircraft are delivered to airline customers almost daily, sometimes two or three per day. That’s why Boeing built this special Boeing Delivery Center building with two jet bridges, numerous meeting and banquet spaces, and a Boeing collectibles shop. The space is often the location for celebratory events, and full catering facilities are in place.

Before boarding, a Boeing executive thanked Cathay Pacific for a strong partnership over the years and spoke briefly to the crowd waiting to board the plane. With the giant Boeing 777-300ER in the background, Boeing gave Cathay executives a ceremonial key. More like a car or house key, the symbolic gesture signals the official ownership by the airline.

Economy class on Cathay Pacific's  new B777 (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

Economy class on Cathay Pacific’s new B777 (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

On the tarmac, all those that were traveling aboard the flight gathered around for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Most unique was that all received boarding passes with the city name “Boeing Paine Field” to Hong Kong.

With only about 50 passengers on board a plane designed for 330 people, the delivery flight was like having your own personal plane. Following a tarmac tour of the plane and plenty of photo opportunities, passengers went through a security check.

The Boeing Delivery Center is equipped with two short jet bridges making the experience similar to an airport, but far more festive.

Related: Sadly, 747s are flying away

Business class on a brand new Boeing 777-300ER- with that "new plane" smell (Photo: Ramsey Qubein(

Business class on a brand new Boeing 777-300ER- with that “new plane” smell (Photo: Ramsey Qubein(

All of us were seated in the herringbone-style business class cabin, which features enormous entertainment screens and flat-bed seating. The back of the plane was empty, almost eerie to see, but everyone was free to wander around the aircraft at any time.

Cathay has had strong success with its new premium economy cabin, and after testing it out, it is clear why. The recline is almost double that of the standard economy seat, and since it is situated in its own mini cabin behind business class, it seems quieter and more intimate.

Cathay's premium economy seats are located in a small, intimate section behind business class (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

Cathay’s premium economy seats are located in a small, intimate section behind business class (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

Other than the free reign that travelers had on board, everything else was standard procedure. The safety video played as the aircraft taxied to the runway with Boeing employees standing on either side of the taxiway to wave goodbye.

Cabin crew, specially selected to work this important flight, were as gracious and hospitable as can be. And that is not easy on a flight like this one where passengers spend hours wandering up and down the aisles, enjoying cocktails and wine while chatting with other passengers, and poking around all parts of the plane in exploration.

Many passengers donned Cathay’s pajamas distributed prior to take off, which was a special treat since they are typically reserved only for first class passengers.

Cocktail service from two tiered cart (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

Cocktail service from two tiered cart (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

Cathay began the first meal service with cocktails delivered from a two-tier cart and warm cashews. This is followed with an appetizer and salad tray. The main course is served from the same two-tier cart with all of the options on display. This is a really nice way to allow passengers to choose their meal since they can see what everything looks like before ordering. A cheese and fruit course follows with cordials and chocolates.

Business class meal on Cathay Pacific delivery flight (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

Business class meal on Cathay Pacific delivery flight (Photo: Ramsey Qubein)

Throughout the flight, snacks were available from the menu, and two hours before landing another hot meal was served. Many passengers enjoyed themselves so much that the 13-hour flight passed too quickly– with only a few frequent naps and snacks in between.

Since this was a special experience, Cathay allowed us into the cockpit during flight to chat with the pilots and get a birds-eye view of the Pacific Ocean on this mostly daytime flight. Photos were not allowed, but on landing, passengers were permitted to snap photos of the crew bunks. They are located in the back of the plane up a steep climb of stairs. Having to duck down to pass through the narrow corridor, there are nearly a dozen bunks with curtains for privacy.

Cathay's crew rest area located over economy seats at the rear of the B777 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Cathay’s crew rest area located over economy seats at the rear of the B777 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Upon arrival in Hong Kong our shiny new 777 pulled up to a standard gate on arrival, and passengers deplaned like any commercial flight.

Cathay Pacific really impressed us with the detail they took to make this iconic delivery a special experience for everyone involved.

–Ramsey Qubein

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Star Wars invade DEN + United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + Big new carrier for ATL+ Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 

.

bonusThe 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 50,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details in our TravelSkills post about the card here.


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Drenched in raw sewage at the airport- twice

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Star Wars invade DEN + United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + Big new carrier for ATL + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 

Ceiling pipes (Photo: Michael Coghlan / Flickr)

Ceiling pipes at airports in London and Atlanta break and spew raw sewage (Photo: Michael Coghlan / Flickr)

I remember reporting on a nasty incident at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 in 2012 where a sewage pipe broke in the ceiling of the baggage claim, contaminating a few hundred suitcases in the Terminal 5.

“The smell was absolutely foul, as was the mood of the passengers who had to leave without their bags,” one passenger told The Sun.

The airport had to send the bags out for professional cleaning before returning them to passengers.

Passengers with bags damaged or soiled beyond repair were paid up to $1600 per bag. Yuck! Imagine getting off a plane after a 12 hour journey and ready for a big meeting only to be told that you would not be getting your bag because it had been sprayed with sewage? Yikes!

That was in 2012.

This week yet another airport sewage-spewing incident emerged in a lawsuit.. this time it took place underneath the A Concourse at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport… at about the same time in 2012. 

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports:

Delta Air Lines flight attendant Tina Brock was dozing in a sleep room in the flight attendants’ layover lounge at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport one morning when she and her colleagues heard a loud gushing sound and saw a cascade of liquid suddenly pouring through the ceiling tiles onto the floor.

As Brock got out of a recliner and scrambled to move her suitcase and other personal items from the area she realized it wasn’t water that was flowing down.

It was raw sewage, Brock says in a new lawsuit — urine and feces — and it wasn’t just soaking her things; it was getting all over her, too, splashing on her hair, face and mouth, and then completely dousing her.

Yikes! But it gets even worse…. The AJC reports that the flight attendants were stuck in the room where the sewage soon became about a foot deep. They reportedly hid in a closet where they began to gag and vomit due to the stench. They escaped by wrapping themselves in plastic bags.

Brock is now suing Atlanta Airlines Terminal Corporation, the body responsible for airport maintenance, for damages from the incident. In the days following the incident, the AJC reports that she became depressed and had the feeling of “bugs eating away at her skin” and is claiming severe psychological damage, PTSD and fear of crowded spaces at airports.

–Chris McGinnis

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Star Wars invade DEN + United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + Big new carrier for ATL + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Boston to Hong Kong now 16 hours nonstop

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Star Wars invade DEN + United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + Big new carrier for ATL + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 

Cathay Pacific will use a 777-300ER like this one for its new Boston-Hong Kong non-stops. (Image: Cathay Pacific)

Cathay Pacific will use a 777-300ER like this one for its new Boston-Hong Kong non-stops. (Image: Cathay Pacific)

Cathay Pacific now has six U.S. gateways following the launch this week of new Boston-Hong Kong non-stop service with a Boeing 777-300ER.

The flight will operate four days a week — westbound on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday; and eastbound on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Just how long does that flight take? According to the Cathay Pacific website, flights from Boston to Hong Kong take a whopping 15 hours and 50 minutes. Flying back takes 15 hours, 30 minutes. Cathay’s New York JFK flights are slightly shorter at 15 hours 45 mins according to its website. A spokesperson said that while there is some internal debate about which flight is longer, it’s safe to say the these two flights are the two longest ones in the Cathay Pacific network.)

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis leaning back in Cathay's premium economy seat (Photo: David McIntyre)

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis leaning back in Cathay’s premium economy seat on a new 777 (Photo: David McIntyre)

Cathay’s 777-300ER will include the airline’s new Premium Economy seating option as well as first, business, and regular economy. Passengers on the BOS-HKG flights will be able to connect to 23 cities in mainland China as well as key business centers in southeast Asia like Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi.

Cathay said that until its service started this week, Boston was the largest U.S.-Hong Kong air travel market with no non-stop service, amounting to 53,000 passengers in 2013.

The airline’s other U.S. gateways are Chicago, New York JFK, Newark, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It also flies to Toronto and Vancouver. Economy fares on the new Boston route start at $1,648 roundtrip this month. Business class costs around $5,000 roundtrip.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Star Wars invade DEN + United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + Big new carrier for ATL+ Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

UberX okay in LA by summer?

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Star Wars invade DEN + United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + Big new carrier for ATL+ Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 

(Photo: Jason Tester Guerilla / Flickr)

(Photo: Jason Tester Guerilla / Flickr)

Most Uber- or Lyft- loving frequent travelers know the silly drill when arriving at LAX: You get off the plane hoping to summon an UberX or Lyft ride, and you get a message stating “no cars available.”

At that point, you sigh and decide to pay the premium for UberBlack or SUV. Or pay a taxi $50 for a ride into town vs UberX or Lyft fares of about $30.

Or, like others, you jump on a hotel, rental car or parking lot shuttle, take a ride off airport grounds, and have your UberX pick you up there for your ride into town.

Deal: Get $20 off your first Uber ride!

The practice has become so common that companies providing shuttle services are now asking for proof that you have a reservation and are not freeloading.

All that may be coming to an end soon, though. Thankfully. Here’s what the LA Times is reporting today:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 8.15.17 AM

Luckily in San Francisco, Portland and many other cities, airport officials have worked out a deal allowing UberX and Lyft to pick up passengers at at the airport. The deals require drivers to pay the airport a fee of around $4 for each pick up.

The hope is that LA can reproduce that- and soon. Let’s hope so!

Deal: Get $20 off your first Uber ride!

–Chris McGinnis

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Star Wars invade DEN + United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + Big new carrier for ATL+ Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Star Wars invades Denver International Airport

Denver

Star Wars storm troopers awaiting a man in black at Denver International Airport for Star Wars Day (Photo: DIA)

Did you know that today is “Star Wars Day?” It’s May the fourth. So it’s May the Fourth be With You.

The fun folks at Denver International Airport went all out deploying storm troopers throughout the facility, and then posting the shots on their social media channels.

Darth arrives at DIA

Darth arrives (Photo: Denver International Airport / Twitter)

At DIA, we’re all about happy reunions. “I have you now!” #StarWarsDay #avgeek pic.twitter.com/q2iXS5Luqe

— Denver Int’l Airport (@DENAirport) May 4, 2015

 

 

Darth block! Photo: Denver International Airport

Darth block! Photo: Denver International Airport


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Air New Zealand coming to Texas

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + The most outrageous luxury suites in the sky + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 

Air New Zealand will use a 777-200 to Houston. (Image: Guillaume Besnard/Flickr)

Air New Zealand will use a 777-200 to Houston. (Image: Guillaume Besnard/Flickr)

Air New Zealand is targeting a December start for service to Houston, which would be its third gateway in the mainland U.S., along with San Francisco and Los Angeles. (The carrier also flies to Honolulu and Vancouver.)

Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH) is a hub for Air New Zealand’s Star Alliance partner United; ANZ plans to fly the new route up to five times a week, and to code-share on several United routes into IAH. United’s code will also go onto the IAH-Auckland flight. Tickets will go on sale starting this month.

The company said a connection to its new Houston route will be the fastest way for business travelers from key business markets like New York and Chicago to get to Auckland.    

Air New Zealand will use a 777-200 on the route, one with premium economy seating as well as the carrier’s newly refurbished business class cabin. The plane will have 26 Business Premier seats, 40 in Premium Economy and 246 in regular economy.

Air New Zealand also offers the unique “Economy Sky Couch” option: Pay $1500 extra and you get three economy class seats with a cushion that’s about 3′ x 5′ for sleeping.

Last December, Air New Zealand moved its LAX operations into the Tom Bradley International Terminal, where it also manages a new Star Alliance lounge. The carrier plans to increase Auckland-LAX service this summer from 14 weekly flights to 17.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + The most outrageous luxury suites in the sky + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Qatar Airways eyes Atlanta, Boston, LAX routes

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + The most outrageous luxury suites in the sky + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 

Qatar Airways plans to bring the new Airbus A350 XWB to Boston and New York. (Image: Qatar Airways)

Qatar Airways plans to bring the new Airbus A350 XWB to Boston and New York. (Image: Qatar Airways)

As U.S. airlines continue lobbying the U.S. government to rein in the ambitious expansion of the Big Three Mideast carriers, one of them — Qatar Airways — just announced plans to add three more U.S. gateways in 2016, giving it a total of 10.

Qatar said it intends to begin daily flights from Doha to Los Angeles on January 1, using a two-class Boeing 777; daily flights to Boston on March 16, operating a two-class A350 XWB (Airbus’s new widebody); and daily service to Atlanta starting July 1, also with a 777.

Qatar also said it will double its service between Doha and New York JFK effective March 1, adding a second daily flight with an A350 XWB; the existing JFK-Doha flight uses a 777.

Qatar is a member of the Oneworld Alliance–while Emirates and Etihad have shied away from alliances.

The three Mideast airlines — Dubai’s Emirates, United Arab Emirates’ Etihad and Qatar — have dismissed allegations by the U.S. carriers that they are competing unfairly thanks to billions of dollars in subsidies from their governments. If the U.S. airlines’ share of the market is slipping, they say, it’s because the Mideast airlines offer superior comfort and service.

Still, Qatar’s announcement of such an ambitious expansion of capacity is certain to draw even more howls of outrage from the big U.S. airlines. It remains to be seen whether Congress and/or the Obama Administration will let the U.S. carriers get what they want — although historically, they usually do.  Qatar’s early announcement could be an effort to nail down as much U.S. access as possible before the government slams the door to more.

Besides JFK, Qatar currently flies to Washington Dulles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Miami and Dallas/Ft. Worth.

Have you flown on Qatar Airways or any of the other UAE carriers (Emirates, Etihad)? Would you? Why or why not…

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + The most outrageous luxury suites in the sky + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

United bonus + Outrageous sky suites + Faster airports + $99 to Europe + Name the coyote + more!

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + The most outrageous luxury suites in the sky + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 

View from my hotel room in Los Angeles last month. Can you name the hotel? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

View from my hotel room in Los Angeles last month. Can you name the hotel? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills’ 12 most popular posts over the last week… plus a few newsy blurbs we missed. 

1- Ready for a free trip to Hawaii? United’s 50,000-mile bonus is back

2- Dream away: The most outrageous luxury suites in the sky

3- New tech solving age old airport delay issue: Atlanta airport getting faster, bigger. SFO, too

Weekend Edition4- Loss leader: Wow Air’s $99 cheap seats to Europe. Would you?

5- What did we miss? 13 air travel experiences to have before you die

6- Great deals for flexible travelers: Nationwide airfare sale for early/late summer

7- Which airline is the most generous? 5 key findings from Consumer Report on frequent flyer programs

8- This should bouy your mood: These countries make me smile

9- Can it be? Eastern Airlines back in the sky (Earned most Facebook LIKES)

10- What a whopper of a loyalty program this would create! Starwood-InterContinental merger in the works?

11- Bummer- Fewer 787 Dreamliners. Nice- more domestic widebodies United revamps fleet- for the better?

12- Nonstops from SEA to the South: Alaska Airlines invades The South. Watch out, Delta

(Photo: Visions Photographiques / Flickr)

(Photo: Visions Photographiques / Flickr)

Best reader comment this week re our post on World’s happiest countries: “I am struck by the correlation between language and happiness. Of the Top 10 happy countries, nine speak Germanic languages. (Three-quarters of Swiss citizens speak German, and three-quarters of Canadians speak English.) The only non-Germanic language in the Top 10 is Finnish. Of the Top 25 happy countries, twenty speak Indo-European languages. Correlation does not imply causation, but it’s interesting nevertheless!”- DL

Juicy nuggets of news from other sources that we missed on TravelSkills this week: 

Which US airline CEO makes more than the others? 

Mural of kids at the top of ATL arrivals escalator removed

Virgin America revenue down almost 20% in Dallas. Ouch. 

Alaska Air ads flights to Costa Rica

Sheraton is a tired brand

Virgin America’s Q1 profit beats forecast

World’s 10 most expensive airline tickets

Help name our TravelSkills mascot; win United Club pass! (Click on image for details)

Help name the TravelSkills mascot and you could win a United Club day pass! CLICK for details

Help name the TravelSkills mascot and you could win a United Club day pass! CLICK for details

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + The most outrageous luxury suites in the sky + Roomier widebodies on domestic flights! 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Frontier expands, slashes fares in Atlanta, Cincinnati

With its ultra-low-cost formula, Frontier is growing fast.

With its ultra-low-cost formula, Frontier is growing fast. (Image: Jim Glab)

Ultra-low-cost airline Frontier continued on its growth streak last week, adding new routes and flights at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson and Cincinnati.

At ATL, Frontier launched nonstop service to New York LaGuardia, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Minneapolis and Cincinnati.

The carrier now flies to 16 cities non-stop from Atlanta, and officials told local media that they see room for even more new routes there. Rival Spirit Airlines has also been adding Atlanta markets in recent months, making the busy airport a new battleground between ultra-low-cost carriers and the dominant Delta and Southwest.

Atlanta-area travelers can benefit from ultra-low fares on the upstart companies — Frontier was promoting one-way fares of $19 to $99 on its new routes — if they’re willing to pay all the ancillary fees.

Besides new Cincinnati-Atlanta service, meanwhile, Frontier also started flying last week between Cincinnati-Ft. Myers, and boosted schedules on other Cincinnati routes, increasing Ft. Lauderdale service from three flights a week to seven, Orlando from four a week to seven, and Las Vegas from one a day to two.

Have you flown Frontier? Would you? 

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s new 50,000 mile bonus + Secret stash of hidden hotel deals + The most outrageous luxury suites in the sky +Virgin’s new LAX Clubhouse! 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

New, free arrivals app speeds up customs

Customs and Border Protection's new arrivals app will reduce waiting time.

Customs and Border Protection’s new arrivals app will reduce waiting time (Image: CBP).

International travelers returning to the U.S. through Chicago O’Hare — a major entry point for United MileagePlus and American AAdvantage members — can now take advantage of a handy smartphone app to speed up Customs and Border Protection processing.

The Mobile Passport Control (MPC) app, available from Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, serves a function like those automated passport control kiosks that are springing up in various airports.

The app is currently only available to U.S. and Canadian passport holders.

Passengers use the app to submit their passport data and customs declaration form before arrival, and they’ll get back a receipt with an encrypted QR code that a customs officer will scan.

Customs and Border Protection first deployed the app last summer for travelers flying into Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson. Since then, the app has become available for travelers returning to the U.S. through Miami International and Seattle-Tacoma International.

New: United’s sweet 50,000-mile bonus is back

“MPC is expected to expand to more airports later this spring and CBP has committed to expand the program to the 20 airports with the highest volumes of international travelers by the end of 2016,” CBP said.

Of course, O’Hare has offered the automated passport control kiosks for more than a year. “In the first full year of operation for APC kiosks, average wait times at O’Hare were cut in half to just 15 minutes,” the agency said.

Have you tried this new app… or used a kiosk to re-enter the US yet? How’d that go for you? Please leave your comments below. 

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Nationwide summer fare sale + Outrageous luxury suites in the sky +Virgin’s new LAX Clubhouse! 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Virgin opens swish LAX Clubhouse

The reception area for Virgin Atlantic's new LAX Clubhouse (Image: Virgin Atlantic)

The reception area for Virgin Atlantic’s new LAX Clubhouse (Image: Virgin Atlantic)

As its schedule between Los Angeles and London Heathrow has grown to three flights a day (in cooperation with joint venture partner Delta), Virgin Atlantic Airways has cut the ribbon on a new Clubhouse in LAX’s Terminal 2 this week. 

The 4,000-square-foot lounge is open to Virgin’s Upper Class and Flying Club Gold members as well as Delta passengers in Upper Class, and SkyMiles Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members traveling on a Virgin-operated flight.

Related: Bright spot at LAX’s drab Terminal 3

Virgin's new LAX Clubhouse has views of the runway and the Hollywood Hills.

Virgin’s new LAX Clubhouse has views of the runway and the Hollywood Hills. (Image: Virgin Atlantic)

The Clubhouse is centered around an “apothecary-inspired bar” that offers cocktails and healthy juice drinks. The space is Wi-Fi enabled, and Virgin teamed up with the hot LA restaurant Hinoki & the Bird to create a full-service food and beverage menu.

Prior to the opening of the new lounge, Virgin Atlantic passengers could use the Air Canada lounge in Terminal 2 or  could walk to Terminal 3 to visit the Virgin America loft lounge.

On May 5, Virgin deploys its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner on one of its three daily flights between LAX and London.

More: From the Virgin Atlantic blog 

 

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Nationwide summer fare sale + Eastern Airlines back in the sky + New Ritz-Carlton in Chicago (kinda) +Admirals Clubs Updates!

New: United’s sweet 50,000-mile bonus is back

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

American Admirals Clubs get consistent new look, feel

American's Admiral's Club at SFO has unusual bonsai type trees (Image Chris McGinnis)

American’s Admiral’s Club at SFO has unusual bonsai type trees (Image Chris McGinnis)

American Airlines says that is will soon begin “the most expansive lounge makeover in the airline’s history.”

First up for the facelift: The Admirals Club lounges at Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) and Sao Paulo International (GRU) airports, both of which are currently closed.

It sounds like American is taking a page from the Delta Sky Club playbook by standardizing its lounge offering worldwide– “When our customers see an Admirals Club sign anywhere in the world, they’ll know they’ll find a reliable, modern space where they can charge their devices, grab a bite to eat, get caught up on work or unplug from the world around them,” said American’s VP Global Marketing, Fernand Fernandez.

What will the new Admirals Clubs look like? American says that entryways “will feature the American Airlines logo on sleek, white glass…Lounge areas will receive a contemporary style overhaul with a mix of tan and gray tones and accents of rich red, along with lighting and other elements that blend in white oak wood and stainless steel.”

Related: Feast your eyes on United’s new Clubs in London

American says that the redesigned clubs will feature a variety of custom-made furniture pieces – from communal tables to high-backed chairs outfitted with power outlets and USB ports, making it easier to charge personal devices and stay connected. Restrooms will also be given a modern treatment, with new countertops and tile throughout.

Here's a rendering of the Admirals Club "new look" coming to PHX (American Airlines)

Here’s a rendering of the Admirals Club “new look” coming to PHX (American Airlines)

The revamp could help with overcrowding, too– The renovation process will expand some clubs, such as the PHX Terminal A club.

American will start construction on clubs in Miami, New York (JFK), Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles this year, with clubs in ChicagoLondon and other key cities entering the renovation phase in the coming years. AA says that the makeover will ultimately touch all of its lounges.

Related: First look at United’s newest United Club at SFO

American is also upgrading its food and refreshments. Like Delta and United, American’s Admirals Clubs rolled out a selection of complimentary offerings such as Greek yogurt, oatmeal, hearty soups and sweet and savory snacks, and it promises “more food enhancements this summer.”

It costs $400-$500 to join the Admirals Club (depending on your elite status). Day passes are $50. You can also get membership by getting the new Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite credit card. (Details here.)

What do you think of Admirals Clubs? How do they compare with other clubs you’ve visited? What’s your favorite Admirals Club? 

–Chris McGinnis

Take a look at what you may have missed on TravelSkills this week! Here’s the full rundown of posts

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Uber’s back in Portland

Portland gets Uber back (Image: Uber)

Portland gets Uber back (Image: Uber) CLICK to get $20 off your first ride

Portland OKs Uber — for now. The Portland, Oregon City Council has agreed to let Uber and Lyft operate in the city for the next four months, subject to certain conditions.

Currently, UberX is the only option in town and airport to city runs cost $30-$40 each way.

Get $20 off your first Uber ride! Click here.

Opposition from the city had caused Uber to stop operating there shortly after it started in December.

The council said drivers for ride-sharing services must have liability insurance, get background checks, obtain business licenses and have their cars inspected.

At the same time, the council voted to deregulate the city’s traditional taxi industry, removing restrictions on hiring and fares. The council will review the situation after the four-month test period.

Unfortunately, Uber’s still having a tough time cracking back into Nevada— it’s especially painful not to have Uber in Las Vegas. Hey, did you check out our post on the latest, greatest, hottest hits in Vegas, baby? Here it is.

Weekend Edition

::

>>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

Atlanta airport getting faster, bigger. SFO, too

NextGen technology is speeding things up at Atlanta's busy Hartsfield Jackson

NextGen technology is speeding things up at Atlanta’s busy Hartsfield Jackson

If flight operations in and out of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson seem to be running more smoothly these days, that’s because air traffic control improvements resulting from the FAA’s new NextGen technology are allowing more flights to take off and land at the busy airport.

The new procedures let aircraft fly closer together on approach, and opened up an additional parallel flight path for departures.

This means shorter taxi times, and even shorter flights, which saves airlines big buck on fuel costs– for example, Delta is expecting to save $13-18 million due to the improvements. See video (It’s really good!)

The airport can now handle 112 to 134 departures per hour during periods of peak activity, up from 96 to 130 previously.

The same technology will soon be deployed to help delay-plagued San Francisco International Airport according to the FAA. See FAA video. 

Have you noticed? 

Flying upstairs in biz on the only A380 jumbo now calling on Atlanta- Korean Air (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Flying upstairs in biz on the only A380 jumbo now calling on Atlanta- Korean Air (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Meanwhile, ATL is taking bids on a a plan to modify Gate F3 in the new international terminal’s F Concourse so it can accommodate super-jumbos like the Airbus A380.

Currently, only two E Concourse gates can do so.

And right now, only one A380 calls on ATL, Korean Air’s daily nonstop from Seoul. 

Related: Trip Report- Seoul-Atlanta on Korean Air’s A380

ATTENTION READERS: Be sure to click on the TravelSkills homepage to see all the posts we’ve created for you this weekend. TRAVELSKILLS DAILY EMAIL READERS: These posts are also included in your daily email, so please be sure and scroll through entire email (don’t stop at the first item) so you won’t miss out!!

Weekend Edition

::

>>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

Rail link & hotel at Denver airport just around the corner

Denver's new rail line will link the airport with Union Station.

Denver’s new rail line will link the airport with Union Station. (Map: Denver RTD)

The long-planned rail link between Denver International Airport and Union Station in downtown Denver passed a milestone last week when rail cars pulled into the airport station for the first time.

The Regional Transportation District’s electric-powered East Rail Line will now undergo an extended series of tests before the trains start carrying passengers in 2016.

Inbound passengers who take the train downtown will be able to connect at the newly refurbished Union Station to local light-rail lines, Amtrak trains and regional bus lines.

That’s not the only big project at Denver’s airport.

Rendering of the new Westin hotel at Denver International Airport (Starwood)

Rendering of the new Westin hotel at Denver International Airport (Starwood)

Anyone who’s passed through lately might have noticed a big new building that looks like a giant moustache at one end of the main terminal.

That’s a new 519-room Westin hotel, due to open in November 2015.

Weekend Edition

::

>>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 airports lag on free Wi-Fi; Sea-Tac sizzles

Seattle-Tacoma airport is due for a big upgrade on wi-fi speed (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Seattle-Tacoma airport is due for a big upgrade on wi-fi speed (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Several months ago, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey promised it would make 30-minute free Wi-Fi sessions available at all three of its major airports — Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark — by fall of 2014.

Some progress has been made, but the promise is still unfulfilled; According to USA Today’s Harriet Baskas, only six terminals at the three airports currently offer the free no-advertising 30 minutes. You can see a list here.

Meanwhile, Seattle-Tacoma International — the home airport for high-tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon — is spending $10 million to upgrade its Wi-Fi service for passengers.

The goal is to increase Wi-Fi bandwidth at the airport from the current 5 megabits per second to 35 or 40 MBPS.

Weekend Edition

::

>>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

Easier than ever to fly private (Part 2)

Surfair

In contrast to the private jet operators mentioned in Part 1 of this series, California-based Surf Air (www.surfair.com) is not a flight booking service — it’s an actual airline, but a members-only one that offers all-you-can-fly service to and from several airports — mainly between southern California and Silicon Valley — for rates starting at $1,750 a month.

Two-year-old Surf Air, which calls itself “the nation’s first private air travel club,” doesn’t use jets but instead relies on a fleet of Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprops. It currently claims some 1,400 members, with another 600 on a waiting list, and has plans to add service to more cities in California, including Sacramento, Santa Rosa and Palm Springs. Its fleet is expected to grow from eight to 15 planes by year’s end.

Surf Air already inspired an imitator: Two months ago, three of Surf Air’s co-founders announced plans to launch a similar venture called Beacon (www.flybeacon.com) in the northeastern U.S. It is poised to launch this summer, initially with service between New York and Boston — as well as Nantucket and the Hamptons on Long Island — with all-you-can-fly memberships starting at $2,000 a month. No word yet on aircraft types, but the company said it will offer travel on “mid-sized executive aircraft.”

App_Features_03-266x560

The JetSmarter app

 

Want more? Similar to Ubair (mentioned in Part 1) JetSmarter (https://jetsmarter.com) is an app that lets users quickly find private jet transportation by tapping their origin and destination cities and travel dates into their smartphones to see a list of what planes are available for charter and at what prices, from a variety of operators. The company also helps users save money by showing “empty leg” options — planes that are flying empty between assignments and will take on passengers to bring in some extra revenue.

“Our application democratizes the private jet market by decreasing the entry price for consumers and helping air carriers gain more market exposure,” JetSmarter says.

A European private aircraft charter service called Victor (www.flyvictor.com) just got $8 million in funding to expand its business to these shores, noting that the U.S. accounts for 49.7 percent of the world market for private aviation.

Like its rivals, Victor has come out with an iOS mobile app that it says will provide “unprecedented customer access to real-time charter pricing, aircraft and crew specifics, side-by-side available jet comparisons, instant booking, travel itineraries and trip management.” Victor said it can give customers access to 7,000 business jets worldwide through its various partnerships with operators.

In case you missed it, here’s Part 1 of our two-part series on flying private.

|||

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.**

Did you miss our TravelSkills’ Weekend Editions? Not to worry! Here they are:

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

Delta cutting back + Virgin shines + Southwest seats + Cool coach seat design + Star Wars jet

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

It’s getting easier to fly private (Part 1)

A JetSuite Phenom 100 easily accommodates a family of four (JetSuite)

A JetSuite Phenom 100 easily accommodates a family of four (JetSuite)

After going into a big slump during the Great Recession, business travel by private aircraft is making a strong comeback. Bombardier, a major manufacturer of business jets, predicts that the worldwide fleet will grow from 15,200 in 2013 to 22,650 by 2023. And some new companies have been springing up to broaden the market of potential passengers for all those planes, mostly by making private air travel easier to book and/or more affordable.

Some have introduced new flat-rate, membership-based pricing schemes, while others are creating slick new apps for finding and booking book business jets — whether you’re looking for an entire plane or just an empty seat. They’re providing new alternatives to the earlier modes of private air travel, which have traditionally included whole-plane purchases, fractional aircraft purchases (a sort of time-share concept), “jet cards” that allow a set number of hours in the air, and whole-plane charters.

The benefits of private air travel are considerable. Planes leave from separate terminals with no crowds or hassles; there’s no intrusive security screening; and travelers have access to hundreds of airports that aren’t served by commercial airlines, bringing them closer to their ultimate destinations.

Recent: Turkish Airlines pings Silicon Valley

Ubair

Just last week, a new Massachusetts-based company called Ubair (where do you suppose they came up with that name?) unveiled an app for private jet travel that it says will allow users to find and book “fixed, nationwide, one-way rates and availability that were previously only accessible through jet card and fractional programs.” (It’s currently available for iOS devices only, through the App Store.) The company is at www.ubair.com.

Ubair’s app pulls together price comparisons for six various private aircraft types and gives users the ability to decide what kinds of services and amenities they want for their flight. (And for those who need more than just an occasional flight, the company also has an ownership program called UbairOwners for acquisition of all or part of an aircraft in the Ubair network.) For example, looking at booking a jet from San Francisco to Gunnison, Colorado, next week, Ubair offered several options starting at $10,600 (one way) for a 6 passenger jet to $28,100 for a 12 passenger jet.

The co-founder of Ubair is David Tait. If that name rings a bell, it’s because he worked with Sir Richard Branson to put together the original business plan for Virgin Atlantic Airways.

This Phenom 100 jet from JetSuite seats six (JetSuite)

This Phenom 100 jet from JetSuite seats four passengers (JetSuite)

Established operators are coming up with new pricing options as the competition heats up. For example, JetSuite, a major private jet charter operator, introduced “SuiteDeals,” which can put an entire plane at your disposal for as little as $536 each way. These are last-minute deals designed to keep idle aircraft flying, and availability varies from day to day, so flexibility is key if you want to take advantage of its relatively low price point.

It’s fun to check out (and dream about) the last minute flights available. For example, as I write this, there’s an entire 4-person Phenom jet in West Palm Beach flying to Houston tomorrow- if I could round up four friends or colleagues, we could jump onboard for just $1074– that’s just $269 per person.

Sign up to get email alerts about Suite Deals available at your home airport here. You never know what might pop up!

An image from Blackjet's website

An image from Blackjet’s website

Another player is BlackJet, which claims to be “the world’s largest private jet seat booking service.” This company works with private jet charter operators to help fill up unused seats on flights in key domestic business markets. The company says that its business model allows it to offer prices for private jet flights that are about the same as first-class seats on major commercial airlines.

We looked up a San Francisco-to-Dallas flight in late April on BlackJet’s website and got a price of $3,121 one-way, including taxes. SFO-Vegas is $1,616. New York City to Chicago in May runs $2369 each way. BlackJet charges an annual membership fee of $5,000.

Started by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, BlackJet went through a sort of reboot in 2013 but has been gaining ground since then. A couple of months ago, it added Los Angeles-San Francisco flights starting at $1,500 per seat; and last month, it tripled the number of private jet flights between New York and South Florida, with seat prices of around $2,500 one-way. BlackJet (www.BlackJet.com) lets members book through an iOS app or a toll-free phone line.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our private jet series when we’ll take a look at unusual innovators like Surf Air, Beacon, JetSmarter and Victor. 

|||

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.**

Did you miss our TravelSkills’ Weekend Editions? Not to worry! Here they are:

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

Delta cutting back + Virgin shines + Southwest seats + Cool coach seat design + Star Wars jet

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

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.**

International passengers arriving at SFO can now use faster kiosks at customs (Photo: SFO)

International passengers arriving at SFO can now use faster kiosks at customs (Photo: SFO)

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).

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