Routes: SFO, LAX, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Miami, Newark, JFK

United is boosting capacity on its new route from SFO to Auckland. (Image:

United is boosting capacity on its new route from SFO to Auckland. (Image: Aucklandnz.com)

In the latest international route news, United boosts capacity on a new transpacific route out of San Francisco but drops a transatlantic route; a Chinese carrier starts new flights to Los Angeles; Chicago O’Hare gets a new route to Taiwan; low-cost Icelandic carrier WOW adds another U.S. gateway; KLM revives Miami flights; and Delta resumes service to a Canadian destination.

United Airlines just started its San Francisco-Auckland service in early July (after a 13-year hiatus), but now the New Zealand Herald reports that the airline is increasing capacity on the route. It said United has boosted flight frequencies between SFO-Auckland from five a week to daily service, and has also switched out the 787-8 it was using on the route to a larger 777. SFO-AKL fares are currently in the $1,000 roundtrip range, but occasionally dip slightly below that.

Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, United plans to drop its current service linking Newark with Belfast, Northern Ireland effective January 9. Why? Because the subsidy paid to United over the last three years ran out. The cancellation has caused much consternation as it was the only nonstop link between Northern Ireland and the US.

At Los Angeles International, Chinese carrier Sichuan Airlines is due to start new service on December 6 to Jinan, with continuing same-plane service to Chengdu. The carrier will use an Airbus A330-200 for the service, which will operate twice a week, according to Routesonline.com. News of the new route comes just a couple of weeks after Sichuan Airlines, with little fanfare, kicked off its first U.S. route; in mid-October it started flying, also twice a week with an A330, from LAX to Hangzhou with continuing service to Chengdu.

EVA's "Hello Kitty" 777-300ER now flies between Houton and Taipei. (Image: EVA)

One of EVA’s  777-300ERs  has “Hello, Kitty” livery. (Image: EVA)

Taiwan’s EVA Air last week started flying between Taipei and Chicago O’Hare, operating four flights a week with a 777-300ER. EVA offers extensive connections beyond Taipei to other Asian destinations, including 27 cities in mainland China. EVA also flies to New York, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver.

Wow Air, Iceland’s fast-growing low-cost airline, will add yet another U.S. gateway on June 17, when it begins service from Pittsburgh International to its hub at Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport with an Airbus A321. The carrier will offer fares starting as low as $99 each way to Iceland, with connecting service starting at $149 each way to European destinations including Paris, London, Frankfurt and others – plus add-on ancillary fees, of course.

WOW Air

Wow Air will use a narrow-body for new Pittsburgh service. (Photo: WOW Air)

KLM, which dropped service to Miami in 2011, started it up again last week. The Dutch airline is offering three flights a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays) from Miami to Amsterdam Schiphol using an Airbus A330-200. The seasonal service will continue through June 2017.

Delta Air Lines will revive service from its New York JFK hub to Halifax, Nova Scotia, effective January 9. The carrier said it will use a 76-seat CRJ-900 on the route, offering first class, Comfort+ and regular economy seating.

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Best/worst days, airports & airlines for Thanksgiving

Turkey

Carving out some time for Thanksgiving travel this year? I’m not! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The crazy Thanksgiving peak travel week is almost upon us; it can be a great time for reuniting with family and friends back home, but it can also be a time of travel trauma when you’re actually trying to get there.

Overall, travelers, the airlines and airports seem to have gotten the Thanksgiving travel drill down in recent years. When everyone plays by the rules and the weather cooperates, everything goes pretty smoothly and there’s a collective sigh of relief and a “well that was not so bad after all” when it’s all over. Hopefully that will happen again this year.

Did you think Thanksgiving travel was crowded and hectic last year? Well, in 2016, according to the airline trade organization Airlines for America (A4A), you can expect to see 55,000 more passengers per day than you did during last year’s Thanksgiving holiday period. “Highly affordable air fare is driving that increase,” A4A said. Airlines have bumped up capacity to handle the extra loads.

U.S. airlines expect to carry an average of 2.27 million passengers a day during the Thanksgiving period, which A4A defines as the 12 days from Friday, November 18 through Tuesday, November 29. Thanksgiving is Thursday, November 24. The group said it expects the busiest travel days to be – in descending order – Sunday the 27th, Monday the 28th, and Wednesday the 23rd, with the lightest travel, as usual, on Thanksgiving Day itself.

But the travel search engine Skyscanner looked at its data and came to a different conclusion: It predicts the busiest day for air travel will be Saturday, November 19, “with travelers taking advantage of the short workweek to get away for a longer period of time,” said Randi Wolfson, the company’s communications chief for the Americas.

And where will it be the busiest on that day? Skyscanner predicts that passenger traffic will hit levels three times or more above average at New York LaGuardia; Washington Reagan National; and Orange County, California’s John Wayne Airport. Traffic is expected to be twice the usual level or more at both Chicago airports, all three Bay Area airports, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, New York JFK, Newark, Philadelphia, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles International and Burbank.

Chart: Milecards.com

Chart: Milecards.com

Another take on holiday travel trauma comes from Milecards.com, which conducted a study of airline cancellation rates over the holidays during the past six years at the nation’s 50 busiest airports.

Its main conclusion? “If you have only one holiday to choose for a flight home, make it Thanksgiving” instead of Christmas, Milecards said. Why? Because the flight cancellation rate around the late December holidays is five times greater than at Thanksgiving – 2.1 percent of all flights vs. 0.4 percent. The days when your flight is most likely to be canceled are December 26 and 27, the company said, while the best odds for avoiding a cancellation are on December 23 and 24.

Chart: Milecards.com

With a hub at New York’s JFK, which has been hit by snowstorms during recent holidays, JetBlue takes a hit. Chart: Milecards.com

The worst holiday-period cancellation rate is at Newark Liberty International – almost three times the national average, and it’s worse around Christmas than Thanksgiving, with a cancellation rate of almost 6 percent. Airports with the lowest cancellation rates around the holidays are Honolulu, Oakland and Seattle, while the lowest rates for major connecting hubs are at Salt Lake City and Denver.

Milescards found that cancellation rates are much higher for shorter flights, such as San Francisco-Sacramento, than for longer flights such as transcons.

You can see several charts here documenting the findings of Milecards.com’s holiday flight cancellation study.

I’m staying put in San Francisco for Thanksgiving this year, with our feast just a short drive away. What about you? Will you brave the skies this year? 

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Deal Alert: Transcon fares plummet in December

Smaller airlines are concerned that they can't gain access to New York's airports. (Image: Jim Glab)

Low fares but high hotel prices in NYC this December (Image: Jim Glab)

Looking for a nice, easy trip during one of the slowest travel periods of the year? Maybe you are taking a mileage run? Then take a look at these fares for transcontinental trips (East, West coasts & Florida) during the first two weeks of December. 

Starting on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Nov 29) and running up until the Christmas holiday peak, fares are just $267 round trip on all carriers flying between San Francisco and New York City.

Fares are slightly higher at around $285 round trip between Los Angeles LAX and New York City, too. Any time I see a California-New York nonstops drop below $300 I know I’ve got a great deal on my hands.

And it’s not just California– lowest fares are running at about $282 between Seattle and New York, too on Delta, Alaska and JetBlue.

Google flights for trips Dec 5-Dec 12

Google Flights for SFO-JFK trips Dec 5-Dec 12

Caveat: Early December may be a cheap time to fly to NYC, but it’s not a cheap time to stay in a hotel there… those first few weeks of December when the first flurries fall and 5th Avenue gets all decked out in holiday splendor are super expensive at hotels. On early December weekends it’s tough to find a decent hotel for less than $500 per night. But everyone has a friend with a sofa-bed in NYC to stay with, right? 🙂

And for New Yorkers headed west, December is a fabulous and festive time to be in Wine Country. And in LA and SoCal, you can still go to the beach.

Delta SkyClub

Fly California to Atlanta to see Delta’s new Sky Club on Concourse B for less than $300 round trip (Photo: Chris Rank, Rank Studios)

SFO-Atlanta is super cheap in December, too. I’m looking at just $248 round trip on United’s ATL-SFO nonstops. Delta’s are higher, but still a bargain at about $313. If you are willing to chance it with Frontier on ATL-SFO, you can go for $197 roundtrip, but you’ll pay dearly for extras like checked bags.

And hold on… are you ready for it? You can fly nonstop between LAX and Atlanta during December for just $192 roundtrip on American! Delta is slightly higher at around $260 round trip.

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-4-07-59-pm

Super low fares on ATL-LAX in December! Source: Google Flights

From LAX there’s even more! Check Google flights on LAX-Ft Lauderdale or LAX-Orlando and you’ll find roundtrip fares in the $200 (or less!) range. Vamos! 

NOTE: These fares are available on Google Flights Wednesday, Nov 2 and subject to change.

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British Airways adds yet another Bay Area nonstop

British Airways B777

British Airways will fly nonstop between Oakland and London-Gatwick using a Boeing 777-200ER (Photo: British Airways)

Brexit does not seem to be having much impact on British Airways’ plans for the burgeoning San Francisco Bay Area.

Today the airline announced that it will add a nonstop flight from Oakland to London-Gatwick on March 28, 2017. This is this is in addition to its recently deployed daily 787 Dreamliner nonstop between San Jose International and Heathrow, as well as its two dailies between SFO and Heathrow using an Airbus A380 or Boeing 777.

This means that you can now fly BA to London from all three Bay Area airports- no other carrier offers that. It also means that British Airways will be flying about 1,250 seats per day, each way, between the San Francisco Bay Area and London.

The new OAK-LGW flights will operate four days a week using a Boeing 777-200ER that seats 275 passengers: 203 in economy,  24 in premium economy and  48 in business class. (That’s a lot of room for upgrades or award flights!) The new flights will allow BA to tap into the populous and wealthy East Bay suburbs full of travelers who don’t (or won’t) cross the Bay for a flight out of congested SFO.

Gatwick Airport (LGW) is 28 miles south of central London but still convenient and even preferred by many travelers. Why? Because the easy 30-minute, approximately $25 Gatwick Express train can whisk you from the airport to Victoria Station in the heart of the city every 15 minutes. London’s Heathrow Express, while speedier, drops you off at Paddington Station, which may not be as convenient. On the flip side, those traveling into Oakland from London can now get to downtown San Francisco via a new BART spur that connects the the airport to the city in about 30 minutes for about $10 each way.

London's three primary airports. The Gatwick Express train connects the airport with Victoria Station (Image: Visit London)

London’s three primary airports. The Gatwick Express train connects the airport with Victoria Station (Image: Visit London)

This surprise move by BA comes on the heels of Norwegian Air’s introduction of Oakland-Gatwick nonstops last May.

To celebrate this announcement, British Airways has launched special fares for travel from March 28 to May 12 at about $600 roundtrip per person in economy and $1,115 in premium economy.  Business class fares run about $3,600. These fares include taxes, fees and charges.

These sale fares are higher than Norwegian Air base fares (which can run as low at $400 round trip), but keep in mind that Norwegian is a bit more fee-happy than British Airways. For example, you’ll pay $65 each way ($130 round trip) to check a bag on Norwegian Air for the flight to Gatwick– if you fly beyond Gatwick, you’ll pay a whopping $130 each way ($260 round trip) for that checked bag. British Airways does not charge a fee for the first checked bag for economy class passengers.  Both carriers charge fees for booking specific seats ahead of time. Norwegian Air flies a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route that has economy and premium economy seats, but no business class.

BA Club World (business class) travelers flying out of Oakland receive up to five days of free parking in OAK’s Premier Lot, an added value of $190. Also, an airport spokesperson told TravelSkills that British Airways and MAG, which manages Oakland’s new airport lounge, are working out an agreement to provide BA customers with complimentary access to a new Escape lounge located in Terminal 1 near BA gates. But at this time, no agreement has been reached. One-time passes to the lounge (opening in mid-November) go for $45.

Don’t miss! Trip Report: British Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner business class San Jose-London

British Airways B777-200ER

Seatguru layout of British Airways B777-200ER (Image: Seatguru)

 Don’t miss! Trip Report: Oakland to London on Norwegian Air (kinda)

British Airways is a member of the Oneworld alliance.

The year-round, 4x per week OAK-LGW flights will depart Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. BA will use Gatwick’s South Terminal where it moves into new digs in January– improvements include a brand new business class lounge, and upgraded check in area, and easier access to the Gatwick Express. (Currently, BA operates out of Gatwick’s North Terminal.)

BA seems to be on something of a roll recently. In addition to the new Oakland flight, British Airways has announced new nonstops to Ft Lauderdale and New Orleans from London in the last month.

Would you fly British Airways between Oakland and London? Why or why not? Why do you think BA is making this move? Please leave your comments below. 

–Chris McGinnis


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Routes: Delta, ANA, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, JetBlue, Alaska

Delta and ANA have shifted routes from Narita to Tokyo's close-in Haneda Airport. (Image: Haneda Airport)

Delta and ANA have shifted routes from Narita to Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport. (Image: Haneda Airport)

In international route news, Delta shifts a pair of Tokyo routes to a new airport and ANA does the same; Delta and Virgin Atlantic expand code-sharing to India with Jet Airways, and Delta drops a couple of Italy routes; British Airways adds a U.S. gateway – but not from Heathrow; JetBlue sets the launch dates for its new Havana service; and Alaska postpones the start of its new Cuba route.

New rights to fly to/from Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport took effect over the past weekend, resulting in some route changes at Delta and at Japan’s All Nippon Airways. Delta has started its new nonstops from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Tokyo Haneda, which replaces its MSP-Narita service; Delta also shifted its Los Angeles-Tokyo flights from Narita to Haneda (and earlier this month, Delta dropped its New York JFK-Narita route as well). Delta still flies to Narita from Seattle, Portland, Detroit and Atlanta.

ANA, meanwhile, has shifted its New York JFK and Chicago O’Hare routes from Tokyo Narita to Haneda.

Delta's code-sharing with India's Jet Airways is expanding to London and to Virgin Atlantic. (Image: delta)

Delta’s code-sharing with India’s Jet Airways is expanding to London and to Virgin Atlantic. (Image: Delta)

Across the Atlantic, Delta and partner Virgin Atlantic announced an expansion of Delta’s code-sharing partnership with India’s Jet Airways, which is currently available for connections to India via Paris and Amsterdam. Starting November 2, passengers on Delta and Virgin Atlantic flights into London Heathrow will be able to connect onto Delta code-shares operated by Jet Airways to Mumbai and Delhi, and beyond to 20 domestic destinations in India.

In other transatlantic news, for 2017 Delta will no longer offer summer seasonal service from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Rome or from New York JFK to Pisa; both routes had been planned to launch May 25. And to South America, Delta has just switched aircraft on its Atlanta-Buenos Aires route from a 767 to an A330-300, providing a 20 percent increase in the number of seats it flies.

British Airways next summer will add a new Florida route. The carrier said that starting July 6, it will fly to Ft. Lauderdale four days a week during summer and three days a week the rest of the year. But it will fly the route out of London Gatwick, not Heathrow. BA will use a 777-200 on the route, which will be its fourth into Florida.

Havana

Refrigerator magnets from a recent trip to Havana (Chris McGinnis)

JetBlue is the latest U.S. carrier to announce the starting dates for new service into Havana. JetBlue, which won rights for three routes into the Cuban capital, said it will begin daily roundtrips out of its New York JFK base on November 28; daily flights from Orlando on November 29; and daily service out of Ft. Lauderdale starting November 30 (increasing to twice a day December 1)

Alaska Airlines, meanwhile, has pushed back the start of its single new Havana route. The carrier had planned to start Los Angeles-Havana service on November 29, but now won’t begin flying the route until January 5.

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

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Most popular: Longest flight + California airlines + Best credit card + New lounge + Qantas

Chris McGinnis

Chris excited and looking fresh before this week’s 17-hour flight from SFO to Singapore- and back in just 4 days (Photo: Charles Schuler)

TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):

17 moments in 17 hours on Singapore Airlines Airbus A350Weekend Edition

Singapore Air opens up about longest nonstop

Routes: United at San Jose + Delta, JetBlue, American, Virgin America

Trip Report: The long flight home SIN-SFO

JetSuiteX

The JetSuiteX Terminal at Concord, CA, east of SF- a nice break from the craziness at OAK or SFO! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Big news at two small California airlines

First look: LAX’s fancy new Terminal 6 (photos)

9 key phrases every traveler should know

How to choose the best travel credit card

National pop up lounge

National is installing free popup lounges with wifi like this one at Washington Dulles (Photo: Jeff Pearce)

Airports: Screening upgrades, Oakland lounge, National Car pop-ups + more

10 A new look & feel for Qantas

What do flight attendants love most about SFO? A fun new promotional video from San Francisco International Airport, introduced by Tony Bennett, offers personal accounts from flight attendants representing a number of airlines about the interesting things to see and do at the airport. See video What do you love most about SFO? Leave your comments below.

Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:

US State Department orders departure of family members at Istanbul consulate

DOT: Average U.S. air fares down almost 10 percent year over year

Got 2.5 million SkyMiles to burn? You can fly Delta Private Jets

(Image: Delta News Hub)

Use your SkyMiles for a ride on a private jet? Yep. (Image: Delta News Hub)

Southwest eyes new fees, but not for bags or ticket changes

JetBlue introduces fancy new amenity kits for Mint cabin passengers

Air India re-routes its SFO-DEL nonstop

Air India's first flight from New Delhi arrived at SFO before dawn. (Image: Peter Biaggi)

Air India’s flight path has changed (Image: Peter Biaggi)

Lowest airfares since 2009

Latest on Alaska-Virgin deal: Close, but still, no cigar

Delta app enhancement lets users follow their checked bags

Want to find your Uber rating? Here’s how

United introduces improved earbuds for economy passengers

AA/BA partner Iberia will get on board with premium economy seating next year

U.K. government backs plan to build a third runway at London Heathrow

Austrian Airlines promises instant replies to customer queries via Facebook Messenger

14 new Boeing 747-8 aircraft ordered, but you’ll never get to fly on one

(Photo: Brandon Farris)

Does that flagged winglet look familiar? (Photo: Brandon Farris)

Alaska Airlines reveals new military inspired special livery

This week Alaska Airlines revealed a new paint job, or livery, on a new 737-900ER. At first glance, that American flag wingtip may look like a move to integrate Virgin America design elements (see its flagged winglet here)  into the look of Alaska Airlines, but it’s part of a new initiative called “Alaska Airlines Salutes,” to support and honor those who serve. The design features an Alaska Airlines Salutes medallion and a fallen soldier badge, with the Battlefield Cross to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The plane also features five rings surrounding the engine, representative of the five branches of the United States military, and American flag winglets.

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

Kicking support animals off planes | Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | Marriott-Starwood: Higher prices, better rewards | The 10,000 points question! | Eye-catching maps explain state of the world | Test your planespotting skills!

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Airports: Screening upgrades, Oakland lounge, National Car pop-ups + more

National pop up lounge

National is installing free popup lounges with wifi like this one at Washington Dulles (Photo: Jeff Pearce)

In airport news this week, new technology could soon be coming to TSA’s carry-on bag screenings; Oakland Airport gets its first premium lounge; National Car is opening “pop-up” airport lounges for Emerald Club members; San Jose introduces robots; and better Wi-Fi is coming to Boston Logan.

Starting next week, members of National Car Rental’s Emerald Club will have a new lounge option at five major airports. The rental firm said it will bring back free “pop-up” lounges for Emerald Club members at Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare, Sacramento, St. Louis and Washington Dulles. They’ll remain in place through April, then move to other airports for the summer, National said. All will be located post-security in one terminal per airport; they’ll be open 24 hours, but only staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Users will get free Wi-Fi, charging stations, and access to tablets and TVs for checking flight status, sports, news and weather information.

For years, the Transportation Security Administration has relied on traditional x-ray technology to see inside travelers’ carry-on bags – not always with great results. But those machines could be replaced soon with a more effective technology, according to a report from Bloomberg News. It said that the CT scanners currently in use behind the scenes to inspect passengers’ checked bags could be adapted to serve the same purpose for carry-on bag scans. “Instead of the two views of a bag generated by the current machines, CT scanners shoot hundreds of images with an X-ray camera spinning around the conveyor belt to provide screeners with three-dimensional views,” Bloomberg noted. Among the benefits of using that technology for carry-ons: Passengers would no longer have to remove liquids and laptops from their bags.

A new pay-per-use Escape Lounge opens at Oakland in November. (Image: MAG)

A new pay-per-use Escape Lounge opens at Oakland in November. (Image: MAG)

A mid-November opening is expected for the first premium passenger lounge at Oakland International. Operated by the U.S. division of Britain’s Manchester Airport Group (MAG), the Escape Lounge will be available to all travelers on a pay-per-use basis, for a fee of $45 on site or $40 if booked in advance. The 2,700 square foot facility can accommodate 50 travelers, and will have separate zones for relaxing, dining/drinking and work. Food will be supervised by Oakland chef Chris Pastena, whose restaurants include Calavera, Lungomare and Chop Bar. Admission fees cover food, drinks and Wi-Fi. MAG also operates an Escape Lounge at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, and it just opened one at Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport.

San Jose International's new robots Norma, Amelia, and Piper (Image: San Jose International)

San Jose International’s new robots Norma, Amelia, and Piper (Image: San Jose International)

Mineta San Jose International has rolled out – literally – a trio of friendly robots to help travelers find their way around the facility, giving directions to gates, shops and restaurants. Users can even take a selfie with the devices, which are equipped with 32-inch touch screens and were developed by a South Korean firm called Future Robot. You’ll find them at Gates 11, 21 and 25. Information can be displayed in six languages.

The board of directors at Massport, which oversees Boston Logan Airport, has voted to revise its contract with Boingo, the provider of the airport’s free Wi-Fi service. Massport said a new pilot program starting this month in Terminal E will increase the allowable free Wi-Fi session time limit from 45 minutes to four hours, and will also boost connection speeds. In addition, users will see a new single-click link to the Wi-Fi without ads. The pilot program will run through March. Massport said passengers at Logan currently make 24,000 Wi-Fi connections per day, with an average session time of 88 minutes.

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

Kicking support animals off planes | Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | Marriott-Starwood: Higher prices, better rewards | The 10,000 points question! | Eye-catching maps explain state of the world | Test your planespotting skills!

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Trip Report: The long flight home SIN-SFO

Singapore Airlines map

Photo of the inflight map of the northerly course of our SIN-SFO flight on Singapore Airlines (Chris McGinnis)

(INFLIGHT SIN>SFO) Well, that was a quick trip! If you’ve been following TravelSkills this week, you know that I jumped on Singapore Airlines’ new nonstop A350 flight from San Francisco to Singapore on Sunday. (Read part 1: Southbound SFO>SIN post)

Here it is on Thursday morning, and I’m northbound,somewhere out over the big dark Pacific Ocean, on the return flight (SQ 32). Our flight started out over the South China Sea, then passed between the Philippines and Taiwan, continuing up along the east coast of Japan. Then it was out over the Northern Pacific, where we skirted past the Aleutian Trench on course to arriving at SFO.

I love a good exotic flight board and the one a Singapore Changi does not disappoint! (Chris McGinnis)

I love a good exotic flight board and the one a Singapore Changi does not disappoint! (Chris McGinnis)

We departed Singapore at 9:25 am on Thursday, and we’ll arrive in San Francisco at 8:40 am on the same day– after flying for about 14 hours. Crazy to think that we’ll arrive before we left. Tailwinds have been kind to our flight, cutting about two hours off our flight time. The southbound journey on Sunday-Monday took 16 hours and 11 minutes, departing noon Sunday, and arriving at around 7 pm on Monday evening.

On this return flight, I was able to watch one movie– Captain Fantastic– highly recommended, a tear jerker but I’m always easily brought to tears on planes for some reason. You? I was also able to get some work done on the laptop, sleep for about four hours, enjoy two gorgeously presented meals (see below) and write this post.

Inflight wi-fi from Panasonic has been extremely fast and reliable on this flight (less so on the way down)– I’m amazed that I can upload photos and post this from the plane. Crazy! I purchased a 24-hour in-flight wi-fi pass for $22— very much worth it to me.

Hainanese pork chop with fried rice (Photo Chris McGinnis)

Hainanese pork chop with fried rice (Photo Chris McGinnis)

As usual, for meals, I tried to go native and order Asian/Singaporean dishes. For dinner, I chose the Hainanese pork chop with fried rice. It was good, but a little tough. Breakfast was far better- I opted for the oriental dim sum and loved every bite.

Four choices for breakfast in Singapore Airlines business class- I went native! (Chris McGinnis)

Four choices for breakfast in Singapore Airlines business class- I went native! (Chris McGinnis)

Breakfast onboard Singapore Airlines SQ32 somewhere over the northern Pacific (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Breakfast onboard Singapore Airlines SQ32 somewhere over the northern Pacific (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This has been a quick trip– just two quick days in Singapore and three very bumpy nights of not-enough-sleep. I’m surprised I have the will and wherewithal to write this! Hope you’ve enjoyed my reports.

I’ll close with one more unusual photo from this trip: A word of warning about some monkey business going on outside my window at the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort on Singapore’s southern coastline.

Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa

A warning about monkeys at the lovely beachside Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa resort (Chris McGinnis)

(Read part 1: Southbound SFO>SIN post)

–Chris McGinnis

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

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Routes: United at San Jose + Delta, JetBlue, American, Virgin America

United will fly E175s from San Jose to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Image: United)

United will fly E175s from San Jose to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Image: United)

In domestic route developments, United will offer special service out of San Jose for a big convention in January; Delta adds an Austin route and expands in the Twin Cities; JetBlue is about to jump into the fray on one of the northeast’s busiest routes; American exits three Philadelphia markets; and Virgin America will operate a pair of seasonal services out of New York City.

With a nod to the big temporary demand coming out of Silicon Valley, United Airlines plans to operate a virtual shuttle service for techies going to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next January. According to Airlineroute.net, United Express/SkyWest will offer seven daily roundtrips between SJC and Las Vegas from January 4 through January 9 only, using Embraer 175s. The temporary United service will offer an alternative to Southwest’s heavy schedule in the SJC-LAS market.

Austin Bergstrom Airport will get new Delta service to Raleigh-Durham. (Im,age: City of Austin)

Austin Bergstrom Airport will get new Delta service to Raleigh-Durham. (Image: City of Austin)

Delta has set a March 9 starting date for new daily service linking Austin, Texas with its growing Raleigh-Durham base. The carrier said Austin is the “largest unserved non-stop market” from RDU. The flights will be operated by Delta Connection/GoJet with a 76-seat, two-class CRJ-900.

Meanwhile, Delta also announced some additional service out of its Minneapolis-St. Paul hub next year. A key development for SkyMiles summer vacationers: Delta’s winter seasonal service from MSP to Honolulu, which begins on October 29, will now continue operating continuously through Labor Day 2017 instead of stopping in April as previously planned. Also coming from Delta at MSP next summer: The addition of a third daily flight to San Jose, a sixth to Phoenix, and a second to Richmond.

JetBlue will use E190s for its new LaGuardia_Boston flights. (Image: JetBlue)

JetBlue will use E190s for its new LaGuardia-Boston flights. (Image: JetBlue)

October 31 is the launch date for JetBlue’s entry into the busy New York LaGuardia-Boston market, which is dominated by the Delta and American shuttle operations. JetBlue plans to offer six daily roundtrips between LGA and BOS, using E190 aircraft with 100 seats, including 16 in JetBlue’s Even More Space section and 84 in regular economy. The entry into the LaGuardia market will make JetBlue the only airline serving Boston from all three New York-area airports. In another part of the country, JetBlue recently started daily service between New Orleans and Ft. Lauderdale, in competition with Southwest and Spirit.

As part of an ongoing rethinking of the Philadelphia hub it inherited from US Airways, American Airlines plans to end service next February in three regional markets. Getting the axe are AA’s three daily CRJ200 fights between PHL and Newark, along with its twice-daily service from Philadelphia to Binghamton., N.Y. and Elmira, N.Y.

Virgin America said this week it plans to bring back service next month in two seasonal markets out of New York JFK. On November 1, it will begin daily non-stops between JFK and Ft. Lauderdale, and on November 19, it will begin service between JFK and Palm Springs, California.

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Big news at two small California airlines

Interiors on JetSuite's Embraer 135 aircraft (Photo: JetSuite)

Interiors on JetSuite’s Embraer 135 aircraft (Photo: JetSuite)

There’s exciting news this week from two small but innovative California-based carriers that could put them on a strong growth track. JetSuite, a small-plane public charter operator in the California corridor and elsewhere, announced an equity partnership with a major U.S. airline; and Surf Air, which employs an all-you-can-fly pricing model, is talking about a major fleet expansion – and it said it will extend its operations to Europe starting next month.

JetSuite Inc. said that JetBlue Airways has taken a minority stake in the company, an investment that it said will help to “fuel its fast-growing JetSuiteX service.” JetSuiteX uses 30-passenger jets on a network that includes Burbank; San Jose; Las Vegas; Carlsbad, Calif.; Concord, Calif.; Mammoth, Calif.; and Bozeman, Mont. JetSuiteX promises “more destinations and flights coming soon,” and claims to be the fastest-growing public charter company in the country.

From the Bay Area, JetSuiteX offers nonstops between Concord (in the East Bay) and Burbank. (Its Concord-Las Vegas nonstops were cut in May). From San Jose (using the Atlantic Aviation terminal), it flies to Burbank and Carlsbad (near San Diego). Currently, fares are running as low as $79 on a handful of flights each week in November. In December, the lowest fares are at about $99 each way.

Jetsuite

JetSuite CEO Alex Wilcox at a kickoff event in Concord, CA earlier this year (Photo: Chris McGinnis

JetSuiteX markets its flights as “a private jet experience that is affordable and accessible to a broad audience.” JetSuite CEO Alex Wilcox said JetBlue will not be just a passive shareholder, but a “strategic partner” that will “allow us to accelerate our growth.”  JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes commented that acquiring a stake in JetSuite “makes sense as we continue to execute on our west coast plan and invest in innovative ideas that reflect the disruptive spirit of JetBlue.”

The two had already created a customer loyalty link, with TrueBlue members able to earn points on JetSuiteX flights. Among the points currently served by JetSuiteX, JetBlue flies to San Jose, Burbank and Las Vegas. JetBlue has been beefing up its west coast presence lately – for example, it said it will launch multiple daily flights between San Jose and Long Beach in January – as it positions itself for tough competition from a combined Alaska Airlines-Virgin America after those two companies complete their merger.

JetSuiteX

The JetSuiteX Terminal at Concorde- a nice break from the craziness at OAK or SFO! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Meanwhile, Santa Monica-based Surf Air – which operates even smaller planes and calls itself “an all-you-can-fly private air travel club” – is said to be in talks with Brazilian manufacturer Embraer for a major fleet expansion. Media reports from Brazil said Surf Air is looking to buy up to 50 small Phenom 300 executive jets, an order worth about $495 million.

SurfAir jet

Although it currently uses Pilatus turboprops for intra-California flights, Surf Air says it will use executive jets like this one for its new European division. (Image: Surf Air)

The Phenom 300, which can carry seven to nine passengers, is Embraer’s most popular business jet. The reports quoted Surf Air’s CEO as saying that the company is also talking to U.S. manufacturer Textron about its Cessna Citation CJ4 business jets.

Surf Air operates executive private aircraft on scheduled flights around an intrastate California network that includes airports in the Bay Area, metro Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Truckee/Tahoe, Napa, Monterey, Sacramento and Palm Springs, as well as Las Vegas.

Surf Air needs more planes in part to accommodate its planned expansion to intra-European markets, which is now planned to get under way at the end of November. Its monthly membership fees there will start at $2,400. It will begin with flights between London’s Luton Airport and Zurich, and then gradually expand to add flights to Geneva, Cannes, Paris, Dublin, Ibiza and Amsterdam.

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17 moments in 17 hours on Singapore Airlines Airbus A350

Singapore Airlines A350 SFO

Singapore Airlines’ newest jet, an Airbus A350 at San Francisco International (Photo: Peter Biaggi)

This week Singapore Airlines (SIA) inaugurated new nonstop flights between San Francisco and Singapore using a brand new Airbus A350. The 8,450 mile flight takes about 17 hours depending on winds.

SIA invited TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis to jump onboard to report on the experience. For more background on this historic flight be sure to see our previous post: Singapore Airlines opens up about its newest, longest nonstop flight.

Fares for November SFO-SIN roundtrips are currently about $800 round trip in economy, $1,800 in premium economy and $4,200 in business class. There are no first class seats on the A350. There are 42 business class seats, 24 premium economy seats, and 187 standard economy seats on this bird. United also flies nonstop between SFO and Singapore using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Good luck send off with a dragon lion dance at SFO Gate 93 (Photo Chris McGinnis)

Good luck send-off with a dragon lion dance at SFO Gate 93 (Photo Chris McGinnis)

At the gate, SIA and SFO teamed up to celebrate  the first SQ 31 flight with a gate event that included a noisy, good luck, send-off dragon dance with drums, plus food, drink and swag (luggage tags, model planes) for all passengers. It’s always super special and exciting to take an inaugural flight– every passenger boarded with a big smile.

Singapore Air Airbus A350

To easily spot an A350, look for curly wingtips and black, rounded cockpit windows (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Looking out of SFO gate 93 at the brand new A350, I was looking for its most distinguishing features so I could always remember how to spot it on runways. From now on, I’ll always notice the A350 by its unique curly wingtips (see ’em?) and the blacked out, round-edged cockpit windows. Currently, it’s the only A350 flying into SFO. 

Singapore Girls

Always helpful Singapore girls pose for a photo during early boarding (Photo: Robert Silk)

Thankfully Singapore Air arranged for me to get on the plane a few minutes early to take photos of each cabin before take off. When I got onboard, the Singapore girls were busy scurrying around getting the plane ready, but took the time for a quick photo.

Singapore Airlines A350 economy class

Economy class on Singapore Air’s new A350- best seats are bulkhead row 47 and window row 48 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Economy class seats are configured 3-3-3. To me, the best economy seats are in the bulkhead at rows 47 and 48 on either side. The two seats on either side (not center) of row 47 don’t have seats in front of them (only a door), and the window seats in row 48 have open space in front of them, too. These seats are near lavatories, which might be bothersome if trying to sleep (but who really is able to sleep in economy class anyway? Not me!).

See SeatGuru for a full layout of the plane here.

Singapore Airlines A350 premium economy

Singapore Airlines A350 Premium Economy is a good option for those who can’t bear the thought of 17 hours in economy (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Same goes for Premium economy seats– bulkhead is probably best. However, on our flight, an unlucky set of parents were seated in the bulkhead (typically where airlines place parents flying with babies) and their baby cried for nearly the entire flight. So you take your chances when choosing the bulkhead.

Bulkhead seat 19F: My business class playpen for the next 17 hours on SIA's Airbus A350 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Bulkhead seat 19F: My business class playpen for the next 17 hours on SIA’s Airbus A350 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

There are two sections in the 42-seat business class, separated by a galley. I was in seat 19F, on the bulkhead behind the galley. These bulkhead seats have nice “wraparound” ottomans that other seats don’t, so when the seat back folds down into a flat bed for sleeping, you have plenty of space to move around. The non-bulkhead seats are a bit cozier and feet must fit into a narrow space for sleeping. Not uncomfortable, but not as spacious as those bulkhead playpens. Note that the bulkheads in the center are larger than the bulkheads by the window, so given a choice, take the center. Downside to the bulkhead is proximity to the galley, which can be noisy and bright if you are trying to sleep.

Business class passengers get voucher for 30 MB free internet

Business class passengers get voucher for 30 MB free internet

When checking in at SFO, gate agents provided business class passengers with a voucher good for 30 MB of inflight Internet. That 30 MB ran out in about half an hour of browsing and email, so I bought a 24 hour pass for $22. The connection was fine for light browsing and email, but I was unable to upload photos to share on my Facebook or Twitter feeds as I’ve been able to do on other transoceanic flights. 

Singapore Airlines menu

Singapore Airlines 14-page menu for SFO-SIN flights (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Amazing: Singapore Airlines’ inflight menu is 14 pages long! The airline is experimenting with a new flexible dining option on the SFO-SIN flights, so you have about 10 choices for appetizers and main courses (one of which, oddly, is a barbecue pulled pork sandwich). There are two meal services on this flight, but you can also choose to eat whenever you want. I chose to enjoy the full dinner service, which began an hour or so into the flight and took about two hours to finish– no problem on a 17-hour flight, right? An elaborate meal helps pass the time!

There are all kinds of cool new things about the A350, but the one that really knocked my socks off? The automated trash bin the the lavatory! Watch the video above to see how its motion sensors open and close the the flap so you don’t have to touch it.  What a great idea since I’m always a little grossed out when I have to push my used towels into the bin.

Singapore Airlines silverware

Stunning 6 pieces of silverware with dinner service on Singapore Airlines plus a delicious starter of prawns and pickled cauliflower drizzled with a lovely lemony dressing (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Another amazing aspect of Singapore Airlines service… the six pieces of silverware you get to use for dinner!

Singapore Airlines wine

Six wines from which to choose on Singapore Airlines SFO-SIN (Chris McGinnis)

Some excellent wine choices, including Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve champagne pre-flight as well as a 2012 Chateau Belle-Vue Cru bordeaux.

Singapore Airlines meal

Lamb Biryani main course on on SFO-SIN in business class on Singapore Airlines (Chris McGinnis)

When I fly international carriers, I always try to go native and ask for whatever is the most local and exotic, so I was surprised to see so few Asian entrees on the new business class menu. When I asked my flight attendant about this, she recommended the lamb biryani– an Indian dish, but since Singaporean cuisine is such a melange of different Asian flavors, she said that this was my best bet if I wanted to go native. She was right! It was delicious and spicy. I want it again as I type this 24 hours later!

Singapore Airlines steak

Main course beef filet on Singapore Airlines business class SFO-SIN (Chris McGinnis)

The passenger across the aisle ordered “grilled US choice beef filet” and I was able to catch the flight attendant for a photo of this perfectly prepared and garnished dish before she served it.

Since this was a brand new plane for flight attendants, there were some timing issues and hiccups in the meal service– having flown Singapore Airlines several times before, I noticed the imperfections. However, on a new plane, just like at new hotels, I’m very forgiving, and once crews learn how to work on the new A350, service bumps will surely even out.

Singapore Airlines sleep

Snuggling in for sleep in business class with my Bucky eyemask and Mack’s earplugs (Photo: Robert Silk)

My RX for sleeping well on planes includes a Bucky eye mask, Mack’s silicone earplugs, and Nite-Time melatonin tabs. On this flight, I tucked in and slept well for about five and a half hours– until those poor parents with the screaming baby began pacing through the business class cabin and allowing the kid to wail in the nearby galley. Oy.

Singapore Air does not provide amenity kits on this flight. Slippers and eye masks are in seat side bins. Toothbrushes, razors, combs, mouthwash and lotion are available in lavatories. Unlike my recent trip to Sydney on Qantas (a 14 hour flight), Singapore does not provide pajamas for business class passengers, so I suggest you pack a t-shirt to sleep in and ask flight attendants to hang your shirt so it’s fresh when you get off the plane.

One key reason I was able to sleep well on this flight: Flight attendants kept the cabin blissfully cool. I’ve had other wonderful business class experiences that were marred by overheated cabins. Yuck!

Singapore Airlines tea

A soothing cup of green tea does the trick (Photo: Chris McGinnis

Once I woke up, flight attendants came by and asked to help convert my seat from bed back to upright seat. Singapore’s business class seats are unique in that the seatback folds forward to make a nice wide bed– on other airlines, the seat usually reclines fully into a flat bed. After I was situated and upright, I asked for a nice warm cup of green tea,  a perfect way to wake up as we flew over the Philippines.

Singapore Airlines soup

Egg noodles with chicken and mushrooms for breakfast (sort of ) (Chris McGinnis)

I slept through the second meal service, but I had pre-ordered a big bowl of noodles as my breakfast… or lunch? Not sure due to the time change. In any case, it was a nice way to wake up and greet the afternoon in Asia, even if the soup arrived lukewarm.

Singapore Air’s inflight entertainment system is arguably the best in the world— there are hundreds of movies, TV shows and games to choose from. But my favorite by far is the inflight map! This one offers all sort of viewing options that I could sit and watch for hours. The video above shows what we saw as we approached Singapore. Talk about exotic! Wow.

Our flight path took us out over the Pacific to the north of Hawaii, over the top of the Philippines and into the South China Sea, then straight into Singapore.

Singapore Changi flowers

One of many stunning gardens that greet arriving passengers at Singapore Changi Airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Singapore Changi airport is considered one of the very best in the world for a variety of reasons, including the gorgeous garden displays throughout the terminal. A perfect example is this beautiful bird set up to welcome passengers as we entered the customs and immigration halls– through which we passed in about 30 seconds.

Overall, I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about getting on a plane for 17 hours— even when I knew I would be sitting in a big business class seat on Singapore Airlines. I thought I’d reach a point where I’d be screaming to myself “get me outta this plane!” But it never happened. This flight, which ended up being 16 hours and 11 minutes due to calm headwinds, was no different than a 12 hour flight to Europe, or a 14 hour flight to Australia.

Don’t miss! The epilogue to this trip: Chris’s return flight SIN-SFO

What’s the longest flight you’ve ever flown? Tell us about it in the comments! 

Disclosure: Singapore Airlines covered the cost of airfare and hotels for this trip. TravelSkills paid for meals, transfers and incidentals. 

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First look: LAX’s fancy new Terminal 6 (photos)

The new Blu2o restaurant at LAX's Terminal 6. (Image: Westfield)

The new Blu2o restaurant with California cuisine at LAX’s Terminal 6. (Image: Westfield)

Following up on a redesign and overhaul of its Terminal 2 earlier this year, Los Angeles International Airport has now finished a similar redevelopment of Terminal 6. T6 is used by Alaska Airlines, American, Copa and Great Lakes Aviation. It is connected to Delta’s Terminal 5 by an underground pedestrian tunnel.

Image: LAWA

Image: LAWA

The $70 million, 20-month project – carried out in partnership with airport concessions and design specialist Westfield — brought 21 new retail and food & beverage concepts to the terminal, officials said, with an overall theme “inspired by L.A.’s iconic Sunset Boulevard.” Besides the shopping and dining options, the project also gave the terminal new bathrooms, floors and ceilings as well as new electrical and IT infrastructure.

T6's new Osteria Italian restaurant is from celebrity chef (Image: Westfield)

T6’s new Osteria Italian restaurant is from celebrity chef Fabio Viviani. (Image: Westfield)

New eating options in T6 include Osteria, an Italian restaurant run by “Top Chef” Fabio Viviani; a multifaceted Marketplace by Wolfgang Puck including The Kitchen, WPizza and The Wine Bar; a restaurant called Blu2o, with “L.A. beach-inspired cuisine;” The Habit Burger Grill; a venue called Earthbar, serving up healthy juices and salads; and a Wahoo’s Fish Taco outlet.

The bar at Wolfgang Puck's Marketplace. (Image: westfield)

The bar at Wolfgang Puck’s Marketplace. (Image: westfield)

Concessions also include a Peet’s Coffee & Tea; See’s Candies, with 100 kinds of candy and chocolate; a pair of Starbuck’s outlets; and Point the Way Café, specializing in craft beers. Retail shopping outlets include a Tumi luggage store; Belkin electronics accessories; M. Fredric  apparel; a MAC Cosmetics store; and several newsstands/sundries locations.

Healthy grab-and-go items at T6's new Earthbar. (Image: Westfield)

Healthy grab-and-go items at T6’s new Earthbar. (Image: Westfield)

“The new terminal experience is organized by interconnected neighborhoods that guide travelers on their journey,” Los Angeles World Airports said. “After passing through the TSA checkpoint, travelers initially encounter a Downtown L.A. vibe. This neighborhood feels like an urban street, complete with concrete walls and metal finishes.  The new ribbon ceiling and terrazzo floor guide travelers into Sunset Plaza, which has inviting, open spaces to eat, drink and people watch. Travelers then flow into the Sunset Strip and Garden Terrace zones, where high-end retail and local dining burst with the energy of West Hollywood.”

WPizza is part of Wolfgang Puck's Marketplace. (Image: Westfield)

WPizza is part of Wolfgang Puck’s Marketplace. (Image: Westfield)

 

LAX's Terminal 6 has a new Tumi store. (Image: Westfield)

LAX’s Terminal 6 has a new Tumi store. (Image: Westfield)

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Dive into Delta’s newest Sky Club

New Delta Sky Club at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Photo: Scott Hintz)

New Delta Sky Club at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Last week, Delta opened a new Sky Club lounge at its growing Seattle hub. And what a club it is. We had a chance to preview it before it opened last Friday and we were impressed.

This new club is located in the main terminal between Concourses A and B, near gate A1. It’s the second Sky Club at SEA, complementing the existing lounge in the South Satellite terminal near gates S9 and S10. But this new lounge is far larger, newer and nicer — and definitely worth going out of your way to visit if you have enough time, even if you are flying out of the satellite terminal.

Delta Sky Club

New Skyclub location between Concourses A and B at Sea-Tac airport

 

Entrance to new Skyclub near gate A1 at SEA

Entrance to new Skyclub near gate A1 at SEA

The new Seattle Sky Club is one of the largest in the Delta network at over 21,000 square feet and with enough space to seat over 400 visitors. (Compare that to the new Atlanta Sky Club with 25,000 square feet and room for 500.)  The design is modern and sleek, quite similar to the design of the also-new Delta lounge at SFO. It felt more like something you’d experience at a BA lounge at Heathrow or maybe a Cathay lounge in Hong Kong in terms of it being large, light and airy, and packed with a lot of amenities. Kudos to Delta for really upping its game here.

Speaking of amenities, here are the highlights: Comfortable seating and power ports galore. You have a choice of long, partitioned benches; individual club chairs; sleek modern curved benches that feel like they belong in the mod, vintage TWA terminal at JFK; dining table/chairs; connected seats with high walls for privacy; quad-seat cubes facing away from each other; desk workstations; private pods with work lighting and swivel table/desk; and many other varieties of club chairs. There is truly a comfortable seat for everyone in this lounge. And all seating had power outlets integrated or adjacent to the seat. Even the dining section had clever power-port “towers” so you can charge up while enjoying the food (more on that below).

Elegant and functional seating at the new SEA Sky Club (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Elegant and functional seating at the new SEA Sky Club (Photo: Scott Hintz)

 

Private workstations are one of the many seating options at the new SEA Sky Club (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Private workstations are one of the many seating options at the new SEA Sky Club (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Power ports are everywhere, including these “power towers” throughout the dining area (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Power ports are everywhere, including these “power towers” throughout the dining area (Photo: Scott Hintz)

A gorgeous two-story space with lots of natural light and great views of the tarmac and Mount Rainier off in the distance (or so we’re told — it was cloudy on the day we were there). Delta has incorporated local design elements throughout such as a glass wave design in room partitions, natural wood, and colors that evoke the Pacific Northwest. There’s also a beautiful mosaic-style mural of the famous Pike’s Place market sign made by the same artist who did the similar Golden Gate bridge mosaic in the SFO Skyclub. See our review of the SFO Sky Club! This will be a very comfortable place to kill time or get work done at SEA.

Beautiful two-story, 30-foot space with lots of artwork and nods to the Pacific Northwest (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Beautiful two-story, 30-foot space with lots of artwork and nods to the Pacific Northwest (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Pixelated mural of Pike Place Market by artist Craig Alan McMillan, the same artist who did the Golden Gate Bridge mural at the SFO Sky Club (Photo Scott Hintz)

Pixelated mural of Pike Place Market by artist Craig Alan McMillan, the same artist who did the Golden Gate Bridge mural at the SFO Sky Club (Photo Scott Hintz)

Views from the expansive 30-foot windows in the Skyclub. Mount Ranier is supposedly visible on clear days (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Views from the expansive 30-foot windows in the Skyclub. Mount Rainier is supposedly visible on clear days (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Six private shower rooms with Malin+Goetz toiletries. There are three “standard” size rooms and three larger ones that we’re told can accommodate families if you are traveling with kids; but even the smaller rooms were large and impressive. The room has a private toilet, sink, and of course, shower area. The design is very high end and just feels luxurious. Well done, Delta.

Private shower rooms includes shower, toilet, and sink with Malin+Goetz amenities (Scott Hintz)

Private shower rooms includes shower, toilet, and sink with Malin+Goetz amenities (Scott Hintz)

Delta’s first foray into a spa integrated into a Sky Club. It’s run by Asanda and offers chair massages and relaxation treatments, all for a fee. I tried a 10-minute sample chair massage and it was great (normal pricing is 20 minutes for $50 or 45 minutes for $100). I also tried samples of two of the relaxation treatments where you lie in a zero-gravity chair, but honestly, didn’t care for either of them. The first is called Nap26 and you basically listen to white noise on headphones to relax, but I could still hear outside sound and the white noise just felt a little annoying to me. The other one I tried is the Deepak Chopra Dream Weaver, where you listen to a little bit of Deepak himself speaking in a calm voice to guide you to a relaxing “other” world, then you wear glasses with embedded LEDs that blink in various colors and formations to create hypnotic visual images (you keep your eyes closed and just pick up light and patterns). The blinking LEDs sort of freaked me out and made me stressed and anxious, the opposite of the intended goal. Maybe others will like it, but I would urge caution.

Chair massage and relaxation chairs at the SEA Sky Club spa (Scott Hintz)

Chair massage and relaxation chairs at the SEA Sky Club spa (Scott Hintz)

 

Chair massage and relaxation chairs at the SEA Sky Club (Scott Hintz)

Chair massage and relaxation chairs at the SEA Sky Club (Scott Hintz)

Enhanced food and drink It seemed that there was more food on offer here than I’ve seen at other Sky Clubs, not quite the full buffet you might see at a foreign carrier’s lounge, but getting close. Delta says it’s partnering with chef Ethan Stowell to provide food that has a local flair to it, in addition to a mac and cheese dish from Beecher’s Cheese, which is a Seattle institution (and we can attest to it being delicious). As far as beverages, it was the standard Sky Club setup of free and premium offerings, but here Delta will have Washington State wines, as well as spirits and beers from local makers. THE BAR at Delta Sky Club offers a variety of premium and complimentary options including Washington wines such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, cocktails from local distilleries including Glass Vodka, Westland Distilleries and more, Georgetown Lucille IPA craft beer, and freshly brewed Starbucks coffee.

Mac and cheese and other hot food options at the SEA Sky Club (Scott Hintz)

Mac and cheese and other hot food options at the SEA Sky Club (Scott Hintz)

Salads, crudite, and other food options at the SEA Skyclub

Salads, crudites, and other food options at the SEA Skyclub

All in all, this Sky Club is a fantastic new space that will be welcomed by frequent travelers. It also ups the game considerably in terms of lounge experiences offered by U.S. carriers — so American, United, and Alaska should pay attention, but even foreign carriers are put on notice. It definitely shows how much effort Delta is putting into growing its Seattle hub.

For west coast flyers, Seattle is an increasingly viable option for international journeys. Delta flies nonstop to five cities in Asia from SEA (Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo/NRT, Seoul, and Hong Kong) and three cities in Europe (London/LHR, Amsterdam, and Paris), with most of those airports offering tons of connections on Delta partners to get you almost anywhere you want to go. And Seattle is a somewhat efficient routing, as most west coast flights go up the coast over the Seattle area anyway to get to Asia or Europe.

Sky Club members and certain American Express cardholders have unlimited access the club. Non-members can pay a one-time fee of $59.

What’s Next for Sky Clubs? A renovated Club in Raleigh-Durham is scheduled to open in late November and will offer additional seats, more accessible power and a new food and beverage area. A new Club expansion is coming to Newark in late 2016, including a redesigned bar and more food options.

This post was written by TravelSkills contributor Scott Hintz

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Most popular: Airport construction + Southwest fares + Singapore’s longest flight + United devalues

The view from the United Club at ATL (Chris McGinnis)

Watch out for construction hassles at ATL, SFO and elsewhere (Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):Weekend Edition

1 Construction zones and more: Airport news: San Francisco, Atlanta, Newark, Philadelphia

Is Southwest really a low fare carrier? Depends on…

3 Don’t accept the first offer! How to inspect your hotel room

4 Cool science An answer to filthy airplane drinking water?

SPG_AMEX_PHOTO_08.04.15

Big news for Marriott Starwood credit card holders; JetBlue, too

6 Finally nonstop to Berlin Airberlin’s new SFO & LAX nonstops to Berlin

United devalues; Delta throws a bone, Chairman resigns

Deal shopping? Go where business travelers don’t

Routes: SFO, LAX, DFW, New Orleans, Orange County, Miami, JFK, Houston

10 Singapore Airlines opens up about newest longest nonstop

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United Hangar

United installed a basketball court (!) inside its massive SFO hangar to celebrate a new sponsorship (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This week United announced a long-term sponsorship of the Bay Area’s Golden State Warriors basketball team. To celebrate, the carrier installed a temporary branded United-Warriors basketball court (complete with parquet floors and hoops) in United’s SFO Maintenance hangar where over 1,000 employees (and TravelSkills!) watched a dance team, drum corps and a handful of Warriors shoot hoops. As part of this agreement, United will soon have branding in Oakland’s Oracle Arena and, beginning in 2019, inside the new Chase Center, the team’s new arena on the San Francisco waterfront just south of downtown. MileagePlus customers will have the opportunity to use their miles for access to premium seats, suite tickets, VIP experiences and Warriors autographed items.

Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:

Delta mulling low-frills transatlantic product

United stock surges, but it’s time for airline to deliver

Virgin America’s crazy new first class shoes

San Francisco judge says he’ll block Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America

Earn double points for Enterprise car rentals this winter (reg required)

Washington Reagan National airport to get billion dollar makeover

Airlines testing virtual reality headsets for passengers

A proposed flying taxi- let's go! (Image: Airbus)

A proposed flying taxi- let’s go! (Image: Airbus)

Check out this super cool new “flying taxi” from Airbus (I want one!)

New study sees “sluggish” growth in business travel spending

Uber, Lyft now handle more than half of all ground transportation for biz travelers

Airlines’ on-time arrival rates could drop with inclusion of regional partners

U.S. wants airlines to refund bag fees for delayed returns

Low business class fares attract mileage junkies

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Singapore Air opens up about longest nonstop

Singapore Airlines business class

Guests at St Regis gala take a gander at Singapore Air’s newest business class seat (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This week in San Francisco, Singapore Airlines put on a posh gala at the St Regis to celebrate the launch of its newest, longest nonstop flight between San Francisco to Singapore.

SIA will deploy its newest aircraft, an Airbus A350, on the 17-or-so-hour flight, the first of which departs from SFO this Sunday. It’s the first time an Airbus A350 has touched down for commercial service at SFO. Fares for November flights are currently about $800 round trip in economy, $1,800 in premium economy and $4,200 in business class. There are no first class seats on the A350. (TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis will be on the inaugural flight, so stay tuned for his trip report!)

The city’s travel and diplomatic community gathered for a fancy fete where we dined on appetizers, meals and wine served in business and first class on Singapore Airlines flights. On the floor of the event space were two of Singapore’s latest generation business class seats– just like the ones on its new A350– along with a dozen or so “Singapore girls” to assist in transforming the plush leather seat into a nice wide bed for sleeping.

Don’t miss! Chris’s Trip Report from this historic inaugural flight

Singapore Airlines menu

Dinner menu included dishes served onboard Singapore Airlines flights (Chris McGinnis)

Prior to the event, I was able to sit down with Mr. Mak Swee Wah, Singapore Air’s Executive VP – Commercial, to talk about the new plane and the new nonstop flight, which will be the longest in the SIA network. Here are some highlights from our chat:

TravelSkills: What’s so great about the new A350? What will passengers notice about the plane as soon as they walk onboard? How does it differ from the current B777s used on the route? 

Mr Mak: This is the very latest generation twin jet in the market and is much more efficient than other planes. It is perfectly sized [253 passengers] for us to deploy on less dense routes. Singapore-Amsterdam was the first route for our A350s and San Francisco is the latest. The first thing passengers may notice when boarding is how spacious the cabin feels. The shape of the A350 fuselage is such that the side walls are nearly vertical, providing additional shoulder and head space for passengers seated at the windows.   When onboard, passengers will notice the latest generation of our seats in all classes- for example, in business class, they’ll enjoy the third iteration of our new business class seat. The carbon fiber used to construct the plane not only makes it lighter and more efficient, it also helps in pressurization and humidity, which makes flights feel more comfortable and helps prevent jet lag. It also makes inflight food taste better.  Hepa-filters keep cabin air as clean as in hospitals. Plus, the windows on the A350 are larger than on other Airbus planes- so better views, too.

TravelSkills: SIA is using SQ 31 and SQ 32 as the flight numbers for the SFO-SIN nonstop service. Did you all consider giving the new flight the iconic SQ 1 and SQ 2 designation that you now use on the SFO-Hong Kong-Singapore flights?

Mr Mak: There’s a logic to our flight numbers. For example, all the flights to/from the Americas have single or double digits. Since SQ1 and SQ2 were our first flights ever to the US, we want to preserve that history. Our flights to Singapore via Hong Kong are well established and popular, so we don’t want to change a good thing. When I see the numbers 31 and 32, though, it makes me think in Cantonese where numbers can have significant meaning. The number 3 signifies life and the number 1 is something like long-lasting or longevity. So flight #31 could be about long-lasting life. With 32, you have 3 meaning life, and 2 meaning easy or comfortable.  This is not how the company came up with those flight numbers, but it’s a nice way for me to explain them to you and your readers! [Read more about Chinese number superstitions here]

Singapore Airlines execs, Singapore's ambassador to the US, local media and Singapore girls on stage at the St Regis (Chris McGinnis)

Singapore Airlines execs, Singapore’s ambassador to the US, local media and Singapore girls on stage at the St Regis (Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills: What did Singapore Air learn about long distance flying when it ran A340s between Newark and Singapore- an 18-20 hour flight that was then the longest in the world? 

Mr Mak: We flew the Airbus A340 between Newark and Singapore from 2004-2013. It was an all business class flight with just 100 seats. On long flights like that, our service proposition really comes out and we take a three pronged approach offering good seats, good food and good entertainment. On the new A350, we’ll have the latest generation of our inflight entertainment system, which is arguably the best one in the world. We are currently working on expanding flexible dining options on ultra long haul flights so passengers can eat and sleep on their own cycle. [Later in the evening during a speech Mak said:] When we launch New York-Singapore nonstops in 2018 with the new A350ULR [“ultra long range”] we will reclaim the crown of the world’s longest commercial flight. And we’ll make business travelers in New York and Singapore very happy.

Singapore Air Silver Kris lounge at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Singapore Airines nondescript SilverKris lounge at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills: Are there any plans to upgrade or enhance the Singapore Air Silver Kris lounge at SFO? 

Mr Mak: We are looking at our options there. We are aware of the complaints from passengers about the facilities and are working on solutions to improve the lounge.

TravelSkills: United is sure to put its Polaris business class on its SFO-SIN nonstop soon. How will SIA compare or compete with that? How will you convince the many hardcore United Mileage Plus members to fly SIA instead? That’s 17,000 miles round trip!

Our schedules, our hard and soft product, our route network and our well-known inflight service all contribute to a very compelling value proposition. We are also a member of Star Alliance, so MileagePlus members can still earn miles when flying on SIA. [Here’s how you’ll earn United miles when flying Singapore Air]

TravelSkills: Will the A350 be able to fly full year-round or will there be weight or passenger limitations? 

Mr Mak: The aircraft can definitely perform on the SFO-SIN flight. However during winter months when winds shift, we will have to carry more fuel and less weight–  fewer passengers, less cargo or a little of both.

See Singapore Airlines A350 microsite for details and a tour of this new bird!

Singapore's long-range A350s will fly non-stop to Los Angeles and New York in 2018. (Image: Airbus)

Singapore’s long-range A350s will fly non-stop to Los Angeles and New York in 2018. (Image: Airbus)

Paul Edwards, the head of Design and Brand Management at Airbus made a speech at the St Regis gala about the new flight and the new plane– here are some interesting nuggets about the A350 that he shared:

>The current version of the plane is the Airbus A350XWB, which stands for Extra Wide Body. At 19.6 feet wide, it’s more spacious than the competing Boeing 787 Dreamliner at 18 feet, 11 inches. The longer range version is the A350ULR which stands for Ultra Long Range, and will be deployed on the New York and Los Angeles runs. [Interesting to note that SFO is closer to Singapore than LAX!]

>The A350 is 25% more efficient than other similar aircraft, which means it burns less fuel per passenger making it “the most environmentally friendly aircraft in the sky”

>The A350 has the largest overhead bins flying– so large that they don’t install them in the center of the plane– which makes it feel much more spacious.

>Cabin air on the A350 is changed every 2-3 minutes and is recirculated through hepa-filters which helps maintain a “fresh smelling” cabin

>There are 12 separate temperature zones on the A350, so rarely will you find hot or cold spots.

>The rate of change in cabin pressure is controlled by onboard computers and gradually increases or decreases during take off and landing, preventing ear-popping.

>Cabin pressure is the same as you’d find at about 6,000 feet on the ground [so about like Denver]. Other aircraft have cabin pressure at about 8,000 feet.

>The A350 is about six decibels quieter than other aircraft, which results in better sleep– and less need for noise canceling headsets.

>In economy class, those obnoxious underseat metal boxes that contain inflight entertainment systems have been removed to provide more legroom.

>New LED cabin lighting has thousands of variations, and they use a blue hue which supposedly helps counteract the effects of jet lag.

Have you flown Singapore Air? Do plan to? Please leave your comments below! 

Don’t miss! Chris’s Trip Report from this historic inaugural flight

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Huge changes at Washington Reagan National [VIDEO]

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis is in Washington DC this week-- flew nonstop SFO-Washington National on Virgin America

Big changes coming to Washington DC’s preferred airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Preliminary work is about to begin on a massive renovation project at Washington Reagan National Airport.

Airport officials this week released an animated video (below) of what the overall facility and its new security checkpoints will look like after all the work is finished, which won’t be for about four years. It will bring the biggest changes to DCA since its Terminals B and C opened almost 20 years ago.

Although the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority had always looked to Dulles International to handle the region’s long-term growth in air traffic, it seems that passengers continue to prefer the short trip to close-in Reagan National over a long journey out to IAD, so DCA’s passenger numbers have been setting records every year. Last year they topped 23 million, well above the airport’s capacity.

The primary goal of the big renovation is to reduce congestion in the terminals. One big piece of the project will be construction of a new concourse for commuter and regional flights on the north side of the airport. Once it opens, passengers will no longer have to use what the Washington Post has called the airport’s most “notorious choke point,” Gate 35X, where they board shuttle buses to get to their aircraft. That will require demolition of the airport’s executive offices and a couple of hangars.

 

National Hall, which offers dining and retail venues along a glass-enclosed walkway on the Terminal B and C concourse level, will also get a makeover, with security screening moved to the arrival level.

The plan also involves work on airport roadways and construction of a new parking garage. Much of the roadway work will be done at night to minimize inconvenience to passengers. The overall project is expected to cost about $1 billion.

Which DC area airport do you prefer? Why? 

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Routes: SFO, LAX, DFW, New Orleans, Orange County, Miami, JFK, Houston

An Etihad Boeing 777-3FX (Photo: Etihad)

Etihad will shrink its San Francisco schedule and increase DFW service. (Photo: Etihad)

In international route news, Etihad will trim its San Francisco schedule and grow at Dallas, but WOW Air will increase service at SFO and Los Angeles; British Airways adds a new U.S. gateway; Southwest drops a Mexico route out of southern California; and Mexico’s Volaris adds more U.S. service.

Two years ago, Etihad Airways added San Francisco to its route map with daily flights to its Abu Dhabi base using a Jet Airways B777 and prompting “Jetihad” snickers. Etihad finally deployed its own metal on the route earlier this year, but now Routesonline.com reports that Etihad plans to cut its schedule by more than half. Effective next February 1, Etihad is due to reduce SFO service from seven flights a week to just three – and that is expected to continue into next summer. Then on February 2, Etihad will boost its Dallas/Ft. Worth-Abu Dhabi schedule from the current three flights a week to daily service, noting that traffic on that two-year-old route has “exceeded expectations.”

Skúli Mogensen, the founder and CEO of WOW Air (Photo: WOW Air)

Skúli Mogensen, the founder and CEO of WOW Air (Photo: WOW Air)

While Etihad cuts back west coast service, ultra-low-cost Icelandic carrier WOW Air will grow. Last June, the company started operating five flights a week from San Francisco to Reykjavik, and four a week from Los Angeles. But on March 26, WOW will increase its schedule to daily flights from both west coast cities – with one-way fares starting as low as $99 (plus heavy-duty fees, of course). WOW operates single-class A330-300s, although it does offer some extra-legroom seats for an extra charge.

On March 26, British Airways will begin flying a transatlantic route that currently has no non-stop service: New Orleans to London Heathrow. BA will fly the route on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a three-class 787-8 and a 9:10 p.m. eastbound departure.  The carrier said roundtrip fares will start at $734 in economy and $2,145 in Club World business class (based on current exchange rates).

British Airways will use a Dreamliner on its new route to New Orleans. (Image: British Airways)

British Airways will use a Dreamliner on its new route to New Orleans. (Image: British Airways)

Southwest Airlines flyers in southern California’s Orange County will have to find another way to get to Mexico City after January 4. That’s the date when Southwest is due to discontinue its daily 737 flights between John Wayne Airport and the Mexican capital.

Mexico’s low-cost Volaris just keeps expanding its transborder network. According to Routesonline.com, the carrier has plans to bring on four new U.S. routes this winter. On February 1, Volaris will begin daily service between Miami and Mexico City, along with four flights a week linking Miami with Guadalajara. Then on March 1, it will add daily flights from Mexico City to New York JFK and four a week between Mexico City and Houston. Just this month it added nonstops between SFO and Mexico City.

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

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Airport news: San Francisco, Atlanta, Newark, Philadelphia

San Francisco's Terminal 1 overhaul is leading to some closures. (Image: San Francisco International Airport)

San Francisco’s Terminal 1 overhaul is leading to some closures. (Image: San Francisco International Airport)

In the latest airport developments, San Francisco warns travelers about some upcoming closures; Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson starts work on a major project; an international carrier opens a lounge at Newark Liberty International; and American will adjust its presence at its Philadelphia hub.

At San Francisco International, officials are advising travelers that due to ongoing renovation work in Terminal 1, some facilities and areas there will be closed in the days ahead, possibly resulting in some inconvenience or congestion. On Monday (October 24), the connecting walkway linking Terminal 1 and International Boarding Area A will be closed, so passengers will have to use AirTrain to transfer between those points. Also, the Southwest Airlines ticket counters will move to a new location closer to Delta and Frontier. On the arrivals level, October 21 is the starting date for closure of the traffic lane closest to Terminal 1 from Doors 1 through 10; and on the departures level, closure of the lane closest to Terminal 1 from Doors 1 through 5 starts October 28. Click here to see details and suggested tips for affected passengers. The airport has created a cool video simulation of the reconstruction process for T1. Worth a look but turn down the volume to avoid the Game of Thrones-like soundtrack 😉

Atlanta, ATL canopy

A dramatic new canopy and a new tunnel are part of Atlanta Airports $20 billion in improvements (Photo: ATL)

Preparatory work has begun at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson for the installation of those massive overhead glass canopies above the pickup and drop-off areas outside the domestic terminal. It’s one of the most visible parts of the airport’s ongoing $6 billion expansion and renovation project. The initial stage of the canopy project – construction of the foundations — has led to some lane closures in the area around the terminal. The closures started earlier this month for shuttle and commercial vehicle pick-ups and drop-offs in the outer lanes of Terminal North, and similar closures will begin October 30 at Terminal South.  Airport officials are advising travelers to build in extra time if they’re going into those areas.

Air Canada opened a Maple Leaf Lounge at Newark. (Image: Air Canada)

Air Canada opened a Maple Leaf Lounge at Newark. (Image: Air Canada)

At Newark Liberty International, Air Canada has opened a new Maple Leaf Lounge for premium passengers near its departure gates in Terminal A, beyond the security checkpoint. The facility offers free Wi-Fi, refreshments, and work areas that include free printing. Air Canada operates up to 23 flights a day from Newark (including United code-shares), serving Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. The airline said it will open a new Maple Leaf Lounge in Montreal next month, and an expanded facility in Vancouver next summer.

American Airlines inherited a hub at Philadelphia International from its merger with US Airways, and it is planning some changes to its operations there in the months ahead. On January 1, American will consolidate its arrival and departure banks – scheduled to maximize connections – from eight a day to six. This will mean rescheduling of flight times in many cases, so if you’re a regular PHL traveler, check AA’s schedules.  The airline also reportedly plans to reduce the number of flights it operates at Philadelphia, although in some cases it will switch from smaller to larger aircraft to minimize the impact on passenger capacity.

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

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Airberlin’s new SFO & LAX nonstops to Berlin

Airberlin will add Berlin service from San Francisco and Los Angeles. (Image: Airberlin)

Airberlin will add Berlin nonstops using A330-200 from San Francisco and Los Angeles next summer- at decent prices. (Image: Airberlin)

Germany’s second largest airline, Airberlin, will launch new nonstops between San Francisco and Los Angeles and Berlin-Tegel airport four days a week starting next May. This marks the first time for a nonstop to Berlin from the Bay Area. Flight time between SFO and TXL is about 11 hours.

A quick glance at airfares on Google Flights for June and July 2017 show round trips in the $1,300 range in economy– a good price for peak season transatlantic flights. Business class flights are about $3,400 round trip. Airberlin also offers upgrades to XL economy seats with 20% more legroom for about $100 each way. (LAX fares are similar)

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-10-45-01-am

AirBerlin also flies nonstop between San Francisco, LAX and Dusseldorf during summer months. Air Berlin is a member of the Oneworld Alliance and is 30% owned by Etihad Airways. Last month Airberlin announced a radical restructuring that will ultimately lead to more of a focus on business travelers- you can read all about that here: “The new airberlin; analyst presentation”

Airberlin will fly nonstop from eight US cities in summer 2017 to Dusseldorf and Berlin: San Francisco, New York (JFK), Boston, Chicago, Miami, Orlando (new), Fort Myers, and Los Angeles. The airberlin hubs in Berlin and Dusseldorf are conveniently connected with many airberlin destinations in Germany, Europe and beyond.

All Airbus A330-200 operating these flights are equipped with airberlin’s premium long-haul product: 19 seats in the exclusive full flat business class section (1-2-1 configuration) and 271 Economy Class seats, including 46 XL Seats, which offer around 20 per cent more legroom.

Read more about Airberlin’s new business class here.

Air Berlin

Air Berlin’s new lie-flat business class seat (Photo: Air Berlin)

Have you flown Airberlin? Would you? Please leave your comments below. 

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Most popular: United devalues + California + Lie-flat seat + Australia deal + Uber scam

TSA PreCheck

When the TSA PreCheck line at SFO looks like this on a Wednesday, I’m glad I renewed CLEAR- with the Delta discount! CLICK for details (Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):

1 Bad and good (ish): United devalues; Delta throws a bone, Chairman resigns (anyone know why?)

2 Cali is HOT! New California routes: Southwest, AA, Delta, JetSuiteX, Mokulele + moreWeekend Edition

3 An exotic new one: Love a lie-flat seat? You’ll love this…

4 Move in this week: SFO flips switch on shapely new control tower

5 Berlin from SFO! Routes: Airberlin to SFO, LAX; Emirates, Lufthansa, Etihad, Southwest

A new Jennifer Aniston ad from Emirates

7 Break out the khakis: What in the world does “business casual” really mean?

Don’t miss! Marriott’s new beta-test hotel in Charlotte

Need a new credit card? Scroll up to our “Credit Card Deals” tab at the top to shop around! It helps us help you! 

Access to the great outdoors and Sydney's "rock pools" make Australians smile (Chris McGinnis)

Access to the great outdoors and Sydney’s “rock pools” make Australians smile- go for <$1000 (Chris McGinnis)

Deal: Australia on sale! $914 round trip (still in effect- ends next Sunday)

9 Confiscation possible: Really bad news for Samsung smartphone owners

10 Routes: LOT at LAX, AA seats, KLM popup, 2 new US cities for Icelandair

Chris McGinnis

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis flew SFO-ATL-SFO this week. Paid $249 for an upgrade for the return leg. Worth it!

Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:

How to survive NY LaGuardia airport construction

Yet another simple way to earn 500 Virgin America Elevate points

Is Delta experimenting with SkyMiles partner award pricing?

Singapore Airlines picks up newest A350 in Toulouse

Work begins on Atlanta’s showy airport roadside canopies

Airbus to slow production of giant A380

As would be expected, flight attendants pass trays of Turkish delight candies during each flight (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

As would be expected, flight attendants pass trays of Turkish delight candies during each flight (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Political strife takes toll on Turkish Airlines’ rapid expansion

Hong Kong bids farewell to the Queen of the Skies

Airlines deploy fire containment bags for overheated devices

Live a little: Report lists NYC’s 10 most expensive hotel suites

New Star Alliance carrier (Photo: Star Alliance)

New Star Alliance carrier Juneyao (Photo: Star Alliance)

Chinese carrier will become a Star Alliance partner next year

Major airlines try to tackle low-fare transatlantic competition

Luggage series was designed with input from 100,000 frequent flyers

Watch out for fake Uber scam at LaGuardia and JFK

Chase Sapphire Reserve sole sponsor of new online travel publication, Meridian

Emirates adds daily Ft Lauderdale nonstop to tie in w partner

Colorado’s Famed Ski Train Is Back For Winter Vacation Fun

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Routes: Airberlin to SFO, LAX; Emirates, Lufthansa, Etihad, Southwest

Airberlin will add Berlin service from San Francisco and Los Angeles. (Image: Airberlin)

Airberlin will add Berlin service from San Francisco and Los Angeles. (Image: Airberlin)

In international route news, Airberlin plans a big increase in U.S. service for 2017, including new flights from Berlin to San Francisco and Los Angeles; Emirates adds another U.S. gateway starting in December; Lufthansa will add more capacity out of Denver; Etihad will more than double frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth; and Southwest sets the starting date for its new Havana service.

Airberlin, which started new routes this year from Dusseldorf to San Francisco and Boston, will increase frequencies in those markets for 2017 and will also add more new U.S. routes including San Francisco-Berlin, Los Angeles-Berlin and Orlando-Dusseldorf. The company said its current U.S. operation will have up to 50 percent more flights when its 2017 summer schedule kicks in during May.

Among the changes: San Francisco-Dusseldorf service will increase from the current five weekly flights to daily service, and so will the current four flights a week between Boston and Dusseldorf. New service to Berlin’s Tegel Airport will include four weekly flights from SFO and three a week from Los Angeles. The new Florida route will bring five flights a week between Orlando and Dusseldorf; the carrier already flies to Miami and Ft. Myers. Airberlin said it is getting three more A330-200s to handle its increased U.S. schedules.

Emirates will use a 777 on its new Ft. Lauderdale route. (Image: Emirates)

Emirates will use a 777 on its new Ft. Lauderdale route. (Image: Emirates)

Emirates has announced a December 15 start for service to its 11th U.S. destination. The carrier will begin daily flights from Ft. Lauderdale to its Dubai base using a three-class 777-200LR. Emirates already flies to Orlando, a route it launched last year. The new Ft. Lauderdale service will benefit from Emirates’ code-share partnership with JetBlue, which has a hub at that Florida airport.

Lufthansa sees room for growth on its Denver-Munich route, which began earlier this year, so the carrier said it will boost frequencies on March 26 from the current five flights a week to daily departures, using a 255-seat A330-300. “Preliminary data show that for the first summer of service, the number of people traveling between Denver and Munich has increased by nearly 50 percent,” a Denver Airport spokesperson said, adding that the top connecting markets for Denver-Munich passengers include Budapest, Prague, Krakow and Kiev. Lufthansa also flies from Denver to Frankfurt.

Etihad will boost frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth (Photo: Etihad)

Etihad will boost frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth (Photo: Etihad)

Finding more traffic than it initially expected on its almost two-year-old route between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways plans to boost service from the current three flights a week to seven effective February 2. The carrier will continue to use a 777-200LR on the route. Etihad offers connections to 100 destinations from its Abu Dhabi hub, and also offers American travelers pre-screening by U.S. Customs and Border protection at that airport.

Southwest is the latest U.S. carrier to announce a starting date for its new rights to serve Havana, Cuba. The company said that on December 12, subject to Cuban government approval, it will begin flying to Havana from both Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa. (Southwest also set a November 13 inaugural date for flights from Ft. Lauderdale to the Cuban beach resort of Varadero.) The carrier is offering introductory Havana fares starting at $59 each way for purchase through November 20. Southwest set up a web page at www.Southwest.com/Cuba with details of the requirements for travel to Cuba and its flight schedules.

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New California routes: Southwest, AA, Delta, JetSuiteX, Mokulele + more

Southwest will add two more California routes in March. (Image: jim Glab)

Southwest will add two more California routes in March. (Image: Jim Glab)

In domestic route news, much of the action is in California, including a pair of new Southwest routes, new American flights from northern California and LAX, a new Delta market from Los Angeles, and new intrastate service from JetSuite and a small Hawaiian carrier; meanwhile, Alaska upgrades its equipment on two California routes.

Southwest Airlines, which has focused much if its recent growth on California, plans to add another pair of routes there. The carrier said that beginning March 9, it will start new service to Salt Lake City from both Sacramento and Burbank. Southwest is offering introductory fares starting at $59 one-way for booking through October 20.

American will begin Phoenix flights from Santa Rosa's Charles M. Schultz Airport. (Image: Charles M. Schultz Airport)

American will begin Phoenix flights from Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schultz Airport. (Image: Charles M. Schultz Airport)

On February 16, American Eagle/SkyWest will kick off new daily non-stops between Sonoma County’s Charles M. Schulz Airport in Santa Rosa and AA’s Phoenix hub. The carrier will use a CRJ-700 on the route. Elsewhere in California, American plans to initiate summer seasonal service next year from Los Angeles International to Grand Junction, Colorado. The flights will operate from June 3 through August 19, also with an American Eagle/SkyWest CRJ-700.

Outside of California, American will begin new regional jet service on February 16 from Phoenix to Bullhead City, Arizona; and AA this month began American Eagle/Envoy Air flights twice a day from its Chicago O’Hare hub to Akron/Canton.

As we mentioned the other day in a post about the expansion of lie-flat premium seats on transcontinental routes, Delta plans to launch new service on April 24 between LAX and Washington D.C.’s close-in Reagan National Airport, using a 757-200 equipped with fully-flat seats in the front cabin. At the same time, Delta will drop one of its two daily Salt Lake City-DCA flights, replacing it with a Salt Lake-Washington Dulles service.

This Phenom 100 jet from JetSuite seats six (JetSuite)

A Phenom 100 jet from JetSuite (JetSuite)

JetSuiteX, which offers small-plane public charters within California, will begin new service October 17 between San Jose and McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. The company will use a four-seat Phenom 100 to fly the route four times a week, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On the same day, JetSuiteX will boost frequencies between San Jose and Burbank to two flights a day– and currently flights from both Concord and San Jose to Burbank are on sale for just $59 each way (for November trips) and that includes checked bags and wi-fi.

Following United’s recent decision to stop flying between San Francisco and Santa Maria, California, that town just got new service from an unlikely source: Hawaii-based Mokulele Airlines. The carrier is flying four times a day between Santa Maria and Terminal 6 at Los Angeles International Airport using nine-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan turboprops.

In nearby Santa Barbara, meanwhile, Alaska Airlines has started to use new 76-passenger Embraer 175s on its routes to Seattle and Portland, replacing 70-passenger CRJ-700s. The new planes have first class, Preferred Plus and regular coach seating, and are equipped with Wi-Fi service.

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LAX gets faster security screening lanes

The new lanes, like this one at Atlanta, let five travelers load bins at once. (Image: Delta)

The new lanes, like this one at Atlanta, let five travelers load bins at once. (Image: Delta)

The deployment of a new design for TSA security screening lanes takes another step forward this week as the faster processing comes to Los Angeles International Airport.

In a joint effort by United Airlines and TSA, the new “innovation lanes” are due to go into use this week in United’s Terminal 7 at LAX.  The new design permits up to five passengers at once to load their personal items into bins on conveyor belts, instead of doing so one at a time.

The lanes also feature “return” belts that bring empty bins back to the start of the process, sparing TSA workers the chore of doing that manually. And bags that are determined to need more detailed inspection after being x-rayed are shunted off the main conveyor so they don’t slow down the line.  The new lanes were first introduced earlier this year by Delta and TSA at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International.

The two United lanes in T7 are expected to be joined by at least nine more in other LAX terminals by the end of 2017. In Atlanta, use of the new lanes has reportedly reduced waiting times in security screening lines by 30 percent.

TSA said it has reduced long waiting lines to manageable levels. (Image: Jim Glab)

TSA said it has succeeded in reducing long waiting lines to manageable levels. (Image: Jim Glab)

United has said it is also bringing the new lane design to its hubs at Chicago O’Hare and Newark Liberty International. At the latter airport, United plans to combine four existing security checkpoints into one central facility with 17 lanes.

American Airlines is also on board with the new lanes, planning to bring them to its Phoenix Sky Harbor hub by the end of this year, followed by installations at Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, LAX and Miami.

TSA and the airlines put the “innovation lanes” on a fast track this year after the agency started facing extra-long wait times for security screening at the beginning of the busy summer travel season. The agency also budgeted more for overtime, urged more travelers to join its PreCheck program, and started hiring more screeners to deal with the problem, and officials said last month that it all worked. They said their efforts reduced waiting time to 30 minutes or less for 98 percent of travelers, and to 15 minutes or less for 92 percent. PreCheck members typically wait five minutes or less, TSA said.

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SFO flips switch on shapely new control tower

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 operational this week (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

After more than a year of preparation, air traffic controllers will be working in San Francisco International Airport’s gorgeous new control tower this weekend. 

Rising up in a graceful flare, the new tower is 221 feet tall.  The 650 square-foot controller work area gives air traffic controllers unobstructed 235-degree views of SFO’s runways and taxiways. It replaces the current tower on top of Terminal 2, which will be dismantled quickly beginning in January because it obstructs runway views from the new one.

To celebrate, let’s revisit the behind-the-scenes tour TravelSkills took in 2015 when the airport turned the tower over to the FAA, which spent the last year outfitting the voluptuous, flared cylinder with its systems, testing them and training controllers.

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

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

Part of the tower project was to create a bright new land side corridor (along the roadway) connecting Terminal 1 with Terminal 2. What’s amazing about the corridor is that it has a glass roof so you can stop and peer up at the new tower. Handrails are needed to keep folks from falling over as they crane their necks to view the beautiful new metallic cone. It’s gorgeous, almost hypnotic, and vertigo-inducing to look up at it as the clouds roll by.

The view looking up from the new glass-roofed corridor between 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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(NOTE: This video was shot last year before the FAA moved its equipment into the tower.)

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

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, which will soon disappear (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.

Take a 360 degree tour from inside the newly outfitted tower here:

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

-Chris McGinnis

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

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United devalues; Delta throws a bone, Chairman resigns

United 747 Chicago

Bloggers are squealing about United’s award booking changes. But United says it’s for the better (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Frequent travelers groaned and rolled their eyes again today as United unloaded another devaluation of its MileagePlus program. But Delta tossed its long oppressed silver medallion members a bone.

At United, as with other programs, devaluations feel like death by 1,000 cuts. Earlier this month, MileagePlus members had to swallow higher award travel change fees and accept fewer options for stopping over on award trips. Today, United restricted members’ ability to book multi-city trips, only allowing flight combinations that United creates for the trip and blocking the ability to manually build award itineraries.

At first, most miles & points bloggers thought this might be a mistake or glitch in the system. But in fact, it’s not and United released the following statement spinning the move as a positive:  “The new MileagePlus redemption award changes have been designed to make multi-city searches easier, give our customers greater flexibility, offer the Excursionist Perk, and provide efficient options that meet their travel needs. Selecting the multi-city option where United offers nonstop service will break up the search into two separate awards. We believe our multi-city pricing is consistent with the industry. Additionally, our customers have greater flexibility when booking multi-city travel. United.com offers ways to optimize searches – for example, you can select preferred connection cities, specific airports, etc.”

You’ll find more details on United’s move here. Matthew over at Upgrd.com offers some an in-depth look at ways to get around the draconian new restrictions.

Delta Atlanta

Graceful lineup of Delta tails at ATL (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Over at Delta, SkyMiles Silver Medallion members are “now eligible for unlimited complimentary first class upgrades on award trips 24 hours prior to departure.” That’s a nice gesture, but the reality is that SkyMiles members with more valuable metallic cards will almost always snag those seats before a silver medallion does. Especially when traveling to, from or between a Delta hub like Atlanta, Minneapolis, New York or Los Angeles. Even gold medallions find few upgrades on those hub-to-hub flights. Plus, Delta is now selling those first class upgrades, too, making the chances of a silver getting one even dimmer. But hey, you never know when a free big seat may pop up. So enjoy it if you get it!

In related Delta news, the carrier announced today that Richard Anderson, who became Delta’s chairman after stepping down as CEO in May, is retiring effective immediately. The suddenness of Anderson’s departure (at age 61) has tongues wagging and wondering and only time will tell what the real story is here. Any ideas?  

 

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

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Routes: LOT at LAX, AA seats, KLM popup, 2 new US cities for Icelandair

LOT Polish will use a 787 for new Los Angeles service in 2017. (Image: LOT Polish)

LOT Polish will use a 787 for new Los Angeles service in 2017. (Image: LOT Polish)

In international route news, LOT Polish Airlines will begin new service to Los Angeles and Newark; American Airlines officially launches its new international premium economy class in a few weeks; British Airways drops a Philadelphia flight but American adds one; KLM will fly to Minneapolis-St. Paul and offers San Franciscans a 787 sneak peek; and Icelandair plans to open up two more U.S. gateways.

LOT Polish Airlines will kick off the first non-stop service between the West Coast and Poland on April 3, 2017 when it begins service between Los Angeles International and Warsaw. LOT will fly the LAX route four times a week using a 787-8 Dreamliner. Also in April, the Polish carrier will resume service from Warsaw to Newark Liberty International, a hub for its Star Alliance partner United.  The Newark flights will begin April 28, initially operating three times a week with a leased 767-300ER, but switching to a 787 in August. With the addition of Newark flights, LOT will trim its 2017 summer schedule out of New York JFK from 12 flights a week to nine.

American's new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)

American’s new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)

When American Airlines puts its new 787-9s into international service next month, they’ll come equipped with the carrier’s new premium economy cabin – a first for U.S. airlines on international routes.  The first flights to offer the premium cabin will be from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Sao Paulo on November 3 and from DFW to Madrid on November 4. The premium economy service is in addition to (and priced higher than) the airline’s extra-legroom seating in the regular economy cabin. Premium economy seats have a 38-inch pitch, greater width than regular economy, adjustable headrests and footrests, larger video screens, noise-reducing headphones, free drinks and more.

British Airways’ longstanding Philadelphia schedule of two daily flights to London Heathrow will change in March 2017 when it drops one of them – the 10 p.m. departure. But joint venture partner American Airlines will pick up the slack, boosting its own PHL-LHR schedule from one flight a day to two.

Delta’s transatlantic joint venture partner KLM plans to kick off service on March 27 from Delta’s Minneapolis-St. Paul hub to Amsterdam using an Airbus A330 for three flights a week (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday). It hasn’t flown the MSP-Amsterdam route for 15 years, according to Airlineroute.com. Delta serves the route with two to three flights a day. Elsewhere, KLM is about to resume Miami service, as previously announced. October 30 is the launch date for the carrier’s three weekly flights from MIA to Amsterdam, which will continue through March 23 with a two-class A330.

KLM 787

Business class seats on KLM’s 787 Dreamliner (Photo: KLM)

In San Francisco, meanwhile, KLM is inviting travelers to visit a Pop-Up location that the carrier will open at Union Square (445A Sutter Street) October 14 to 22, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Pop-Up’s purpose is to promote KLM’s 787 Dreamliner, which it put onto its SFO route a few months ago. Visitors can experience the airline’s World Business Class and a virtual reality simulation of the 787, and will get a chance to win free tickets to Amsterdam.

Icelandair will expand its U.S. network in 2017 with the addition of two new gateways. The carrier will begin seasonal summer service to Reykjavik from Philadelphia four days a week beginning May 30, along with year-round flights from Tampa twice a week starting September 6. Also for the 2017 summer season, Icelandair will boost Denver-Reykjavik service from seven to nine weekly flights from June 1 through mid-September; and will increase its Portland schedule from three a week to four on May 20, adding a fifth weekly flight June 14 through August 31.

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

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Most popular: Fare sale + Card wars + Narrow seats + New biz class + more

Hilton San Francisco

The spectacular view from the brand new CityScape bar atop the Hilton San Francisco. Note the cranes on the new Salesforce Tower, soon to be the tallest building in town at 1,070 feet and 61 stories. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):

Deal Alert: Major domestic fall winter fare sale (Sale expired with all airlines matching)Weekend Edition

2 Amex spars with Chase, Citi Big news for big spenders as card wars erupt

3 Kicking “support animals” off the plane

Airport news: Newark, Seattle, Phoenix, Dulles, Boston

5 10-across is just not right Airlines increasingly narrow-minded about seat width

United Polaris

United’s new Polaris eyeshades are concave on the eye-side (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Deep Dive: United Polaris business class (Part 3 of 3) Bedding, Amenities, Service

7 Little rascals Another airline adds “kid-free” seating

Deep Dive: United Polaris business class (Part 1 of 3)

9 Comfy new way across Pacific Hawaiian’s classy new lie-flat seats now on sale

10 Kinda corny, but amassed over a million views in a week: A new Jennifer Aniston ad from Emirates

DONT MISS! The 100,000 points question!

ICYMI: Surprise winner for best hotel loyalty program

Airport Encounters now playing in LA (Photo: Larry Gene Fortin)

Airport Encounters now playing in LA (Photo: Larry Gene Fortin)

TravelSkills reader T.M. sent along a great recommendation for frequent flyers living or visiting LA: “People watching has always been a fun way to kill time between flights. Now, thanks to a cast of more than two dozen actors and eight writers, we can watch ten terminal vignettes in the new Los Angeles-based play, ‘Airport Encounters.’ Staged in the intimate 50-seat Lounge Theatre in Hollywood, the play is an entertaining take off on air travel and its passengers. Here’s the link to get tix: neoensembletheatre.org

Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:

American's new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)

American’s new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)

American Air to roll out “true” premium economy section in November

Free airport lounge wi-fi passwords for hundreds of airports around the world

Fares down under dip below $1,000 roundtrip on Air New Zealand

Hilton HHonors app

Book a stay on the Hilton HHonors app this fall to earn triple points

Samoans complain about weight discrimination on Hawaiian Airlines

What do Delta and Donald Trump have in common? 

SkyTeam launches online tool for retroactively claiming flight credits

Study: Headphones can make in-flight meals taste better

Austrian Airlines plans to add a premium economy section

Qatar Airways places huge order for Boeing widebodies

UN-affiliated aviation group agrees to set carbon emissions limits for airlines

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson will get hundreds of electric vehicle chargers

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Airport news: Newark, Seattle, Phoenix, Dulles, Boston

United's hub operation at Washington Dulles got a new lease on life. (Image: metropolitan Washington Airports Authority)

United’s hub operation at Washington Dulles got a new lease on life. (Image: metropolitan Washington Airports Authority)

In airport news this week, Seattle Tacoma International is giving a preview of what its new international arrivals facility will look like; Phoenix Sky Harbor will inform travelers about the waiting times for TSA lines; a unique restaurant concept is coming to Newark Liberty; United signs a new lease at Washington Dulles, and Turkish Airlines opens a lounge there; and Virgin America switches terminals at Boston Logan.

Those recurring rumors that United Airlines is about to get rid of its Washington Dulles hub have been put to rest by the news that United has signed an extension of its lease at IAD, guaranteeing it will keep a big presence there through 2025. There had been speculation that United might shift more of its East Coast connecting traffic and international flights to Newark. In other developments at Washington Dulles, Turkish Airlines has its first U.S. airport premium lounge there. The 5,000 square foot facility has showers, free Wi-Fi, a buffet, business area with six Cs, and a selection of newspapers and magazines.

The Port of Seattle has released renderings of the new international arrivals facility (IAF) to be built at Seattle-Tacoma International, due for completion in 2019. Citing a “dramatic increase” in the number of international flights at SEA’s South Satellite, the Port said the existing federal inspections area at the airport is already beyond peak capacity. The 450,000-square-foot IAF will be east of the current Concourse A, and will be linked to the South Satellite by a 900-foot elevated walkway across the top of Concourse A. “Creation of a secure international corridor on Concourse A will mean more gates for arriving international flights with a direct connection to the IAF,” the Port said. The facility will increase the number of international widebody-capable gates from 12 to 20; increase the number of Passport booths and kiosks from 30 to 80; increase bag carousels from four to seven; and reduce minimum connecting times from 90 to 75 minutes. Here’s a link to a gallery of images for the new IAF, and an animated fly-through video.

A rendering of the interior of Seattle's new international arrivals facility. (Image: Port of Seattle)

A rendering of the interior of Seattle’s new international arrivals facility. (Image: Port of Seattle)

Flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor? You can now see what the waiting times are for TSA security lines before you head to the airport, if you’re leaving from Terminal 2 or 4. The airport now posts security waiting times on its website (www.skyharbor.com), on flight information displays in the terminals and at PHX Sky Train stations, and on visual paging screens in the terminals. “This amenity will be especially helpful for customers traveling through Terminal 4, since passengers can use any of the four security checkpoints in that terminal to access any gate,” the airport noted, adding that T4 handles 80 percent of the airport’s customers. The service will add T3 data later this year. Note: The waiting times are for regular TSA lines, not PreCheck.

The new Daily restaurant at Newark's Terminal C. (Image: OTG)

The new Daily restaurant at Newark’s Terminal C. (Image: OTG)

The newest dining venue to open at United’s Newark Terminal C hub – part of the facility’s ongoing $120 million redevelopment — is called Daily, described by concessions partner OTG as “the world’s first airport restaurant where the entire menu changes every day.” Why? In order to present the freshest possible cuisine, the restaurant will base its menu on the produce, meats and fish currently available from nearby farmers’ markets. (Which has us a little concerned considering what’s near Newark Airport 😉 The centerpiece is a wood-burning grill for preparing meat and fish entrees. Other new venues recently opened at EWR Terminal C include Saison, a French bistro; Riviera, with French country dining; Little Purse, serving up dumpling and noodle dishes; and Tacquila, specializing in street tacos.

At Boston Logan, Virgin America has moved its operations from Terminal B to Terminal C, in order to be close to merger partner Alaska Airlines. Virgin flies from BOS to San Francisco and Los Angeles, while Alaska has flights to Seattle, Portland and San Diego. Spirit Airlines has also relocated at BOS to Gates B37-38 from another part of Terminal B.

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