6 end-of-summer travel deals. Act fast

(Graphic courtesy Hipmunk)

Early birds get the best seats on most convenient flights this year. (Graphic courtesy Hipmunk)

Thanksgiving already? If you are planning to travel over Thanksgiving, you may want to consider buying your ticket now… Hipmunk says that by doing so you could save 17% over waiting until October when most people make their Thanksgiving travel plans. For Christmas bookings, I’d say wait until about mid-October. And don’t expect many out-of-this-world bargains this year… a busy, expensive peak summer is usually an indicator of a busy expensive holiday travel season. This year the early birds won’t get huge discounts, but they will at least get the best seats on the most convenient holiday flights.

Fare Sale. Last week the airlines rolled out an across the board fare sale with some really good deals for fall and winter (no holiday) travel. As of today the fare sale is over, but there are still a few deals lingering out there…like this JetBlue fare between SFO and JFK for just $336 roundtrip. While there is no “official” sale going on right now, check fares anyway and you still might find some decent fares for fall/winter trips.

Source: US Energy Information Administration

Source: US Energy Information Administration

Gasoline! Some good news for drivers and flyers: Labor Day pump prices are at their lowest level in four years, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Prices are lowest on the Gulf Coast ($3.24/gal) and highest on the West Coast ($3.83/gal) as of August 25. Gulf Coast prices are often low compared with prices in other regions because of the Gulf Coast’s proximity to half the nation’s refining capacity. Oil is still trading at around $100/barrel which means less pressure on airlines to raise fares to cover fuel costs. But remember, all this could change as tensions flare in the Middle East. The EIA forecasts that the U.S. average retail price of gasoline will decline modestly through the end of the year, reaching a monthly average low of $3.30/gal in December.

Deadline looms for 50,000 Miles: This month, the United Explorer Card rolled out a limited-time, 50,000 mile bonus for those spending at least $2,000 within three months of signing up. Add an additional user who makes a purchase on the card in the same timeframe and you get an additional 5,000 United miles. That 55,000 bonus is almost 100% more than the card’s longstanding bonus offer of just 30,000 United miles. So if you’ve been sitting on the fence on this one, now’s the time to jump off. This bonus offer is only good through Tuesday, September 2. 50,000 miles is enough for one round trip domestic first class saver ticket or two coach tickets or enough to nicely top off your MileagePlus balance! More details here.

This week’s most popular TravelSkills post: What’s your favorite flight number? 

Holiday Business Class sales: Want to fly overseas for the holidays in style…and at a discount? Joe Brancatelli does a masterful job of keeping track of biz class discounts airlines offer when those seats otherwise fly empty over the holidays. These are not cheap fares by any means… but they are cheaper than standard business class. We’re talking $2,500 to $3,500 round trip to Europe from the US vs the normal $5,000-$8,000. Currently, SAS has the best deals…Christmas in Copenhagen anyone? Based on a recent study, Americans are not all that jazzed about overseas travel during the holidays anyway…which means that we’ll probably see even more bargains (relatively speaking) on overseas flights as holidays approach.

Ask for the special buy one, get one free deal at the gorgeous Cliffs at Princeville

Ask for the special buy one, get one free deal at the nice Cliffs at Princeville condos on Kauai

Hawaii on your mind? Fares from the mainland to Hawaii have also dropped as the fall “shoulder season” gets underway. Hawaiian Airlines has been dangling round trip coach fares of around $400 round trip from the West Coast lately, so use that as your gauge when trying to determine whether you are getting a “deal” or not. Due to high demand, fares to Hawaii as well as hotel rates have skyrocketed this year, so seeing fares around $400 is a relief. Hawaiian has a fare sale that ends Sept 2– but keep an eye out for future fall deals on all airlines. Dreaming of Kauai? TravelSkills readers can get a very special buy-one-get-one-free deal at the Cliffs at Princeville condo resort if you book this week. The deal applies to stays of any length, booked for any time. No strings attached. Rates start at $324 per night. But you have to commit by Sept 4. To get the deal call 808-367-8024 and mention “TravelSkills.” Check out what TripAdvisor says about The Cliffs here. 

Alaska Mileage Plan sale. Alaska Airlines is offering BIG discounts for award trips between now and Oct 31. For example, travelers in San Francisco can fly to Seattle, Portland or Salt Lake City for just 5,000 miles each way. Flights from many other mainland cities to Mexico are just 12,500 miles each way. Details here. 

That’s it for now! Have a great Labor Day weekend!

–Chris McGinnis

50,000 miles

Thank you, dear TravelSkills readers. As you may recall, we recently posted news about a new 50,000 mile bonus for those signing up for a United Explorer card. We are pleased to report that you all rallied around that offer (for which we earn a commission), and that definintely helps pay our bills this month! Thanks to all of you who signed up– if you did not, consider doing so before the bonus goes away on September 2!

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

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

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

Awesome Knee Defender animation VIDEO

Big fare sale + Fancy food on United + Uber raises fares + Cuts at Qantas + Better biz class on AA

What golden age of travel?

3 brand new hotels in Chicago

A spin around the new Airbus A350

Delta shuttle changes + Virgin beefs up Dallas + 747 quickly disappearing + Posh NYC hotel perch + DFW gets rapid rail

How to deal with Americans

10 little things some hotels get right

The 50,000 mile bonus is back

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

3 brand new hotels in Chicago

(Photo: MEBS09 / Flickr)

(Photo: MEBS09 / Flickr)

At TravelSkills, we love new hotels. They smell better, work better, feel better, and are usually bigger, brighter and hipper than others. But new can also have its downside: Construction noise, service issues, and/or locations in sketchy or “upcoming” neighborhoods. Some are so new that TripAdvisor reviews are scant compared to more established hotels. In an ongoing feature, TravelSkills reports on the newest hotels in the world’s most important cities. When we say “newest” we have certain criteria around that: The hotels have to be brand new or deeply renovated within the last few years, 3+ stars and appropriate venues for business travel.

Chicago is the business Mecca of the Midwest and the third largest city in the U.S., so understandably it’s a huge destination for business travelers. Like many cities, its face is changing with a number of new hotels coming on the scene and more in the pipeline. Here are three of the newest on Chi-town’s hotel scene.

Hotel Chicago Lobby

The vibe in Hotel Chicago Downtown’s lobby is pretty playful but very upscale. (Photo: Marriott)

ICONIC STAY. A beautiful new jewel in the crown of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, what was formerly Hotel Sax has been reborn as Hotel Chicago Downtown (opened Feb 2014). Its history lends it iconic status—part of the famous Marina City complex, designed by Bertrand Goldberg and the very first mixed use development in the U.S. You’ll recognize Marina City’s crazy cylindrical condo towers from any skyline photo of the city since 1963. The location (333 N. Dearborn) is super desirable, whether business takes you up Michigan Avenue or into the Loop, and you’re a short walk to many of the city’s best restaurants and attractions. In fact, speaking of iconic, you can stroll next door to landmark music venue House of Blues. Of course, the Hotel Chicago is very much of today, with the usual biz features: a well outfitted business center and meeting space that spans the entire fourth floor and includes a paneled board room and central rotunda for breaks. While the 354 rooms (from $280), have a hip, bohemian vibe, you’ll find all the more standard conveniences you’d expect from a Marriott property, including an onsite fitness center and room service.

Convenient access to the convention center is a huge plus for the new and improved Hyatt Regency. (Photo: Hyatt)

Convenient access to the convention center is a huge plus for the new and improved Hyatt Regency. (Photo: Hyatt)

CONVENTIONAL COMFORT. The huge renovation of the Hyatt Regency Chicago McCormick Place is particularly noteworthy if you’re one of the 2.3 million people a year who attend an event at McCormick Place, the nation’s largest convention center. In fact, meetings and events there generate 21 percent of all business traffic to the city. The Hyatt Regency underwent a $110 million expansion and renovation, completed last summer. Enclosed skybridges connect it to McCormick Place—a huge selling point (especially when icy winds blow). So while the location isn’t the best if you want easy access to downtown, it’s unparalleled if you’re attending a convention. With a new guest tower included as part of the expansion, it’s now a mega-hotel with 1,258 rooms, the fourth largest Hyatt in the world. The hotel offers all the amenities business travelers care about, including a FedEx Office Business Center, a 24-hour gym and an indoor lap pool with outdoor sundeck. Rooms ($150-$200) are standard Hyatt Regency fare, but technology is updated with “Jack Packs” with additional outlets and HDMI, iPod/iPhone, VGA, USB, video/audio and RCA connections. For those with a conscience, the hotel is now LEED gold certified.

The Langham Chicago executive lounge updates the Mies aesthetic. (Photo: Langham Hotels)

The Langham Chicago executive lounge updates the Mies aesthetic. (Photo: Langham Hotels)

EAST MEETS MIES. Asian elegance meets Chicago’s architectural history at The Langham, which opened in September 2013. The hotel comprises the first 13 stories of a 52-story landmark building designed by world-renowned local architect Mies van der Rohe. His style is a perfect match for the restrained elegance of Langham. The hotel’s 316 rooms (from $550) are luxurious but in a quiet, sophisticated way. Like the Hotel Chicago, it’s very well located just north of the Chicago River (330 N. Wabash), making the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park and the Loop easily walkable. There’s plenty of meeting and event space, with four board rooms. Then, let’s say you sign the deal you came for, use that as an excuse to visit the Chuan Spa, which includes a fitness studio and pool. And check out some innovative ways to unwind there: a salt stone sauna, aromatherapy shower and warming recliners.

Hip and cozy decor at the new Thompson  Chicago hotel (Photo: Commune Hotels)

Hip and cozy decor at the new Thompson Chicago hotel (Photo: Commune Hotels)

A couple of renovations are also worth mentioning: the W Chicago – Lakeshore (just completed a $38 million facelift) and the uber hip Thompson Chicago on the Gold Coast (formerly Sutton Place Hotel) Some exciting projects are still in the pipeline, too. Big buzz surrounds the first hotel in Richard Branson’s portfolio, the Virgin Hotel Chicago, scheduled to open in the fall. Coming in 2015 are a 400-room Loews Hotel on the north bank of the Chicago River and the Hyatt Chicago The Loop at Clark and Monroe. In late 2016 the 1200-room Marriott Marquis McCormick Place is slated to open, positioned as a convention headquarters (and offering those nifty skybridges to keep you out of the cold and heat).

What’s your favorite hotel in Chicago? Why? Share your review in the comments.

–Nancy Branka 

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

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

A spin around the new Airbus A350

Delta shuttle changes + Virgin beefs up Dallas + 747 quickly disappearing + Posh NYC hotel perch + DFW gets rapid rail

How to deal with Americans

10 little things some hotels get right

Better Sky Club snacks + New LaGuardia lounge + Marriott MegaBonus back + Nifty new ATL arrivals app

Month #3: A TravelSkills update from Chris

Airbnb for a business trip? Mixed results

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

Mergers that make sense

Serial stowaway finally gets her free flight

3 brand new Los Angeles hotels (& 3 facelifts)

Free inflight entertainment + Delta dumping 747s + United hub reshuffle + 50K United bonus + Uber for business

The 50,000 mile bonus is back

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Delta shuttle changes + Virgin beefs up Dallas + 747 quickly disappearing + Posh NYC hotel perch + DFW gets rapid rail

The art deco Marine Air Terminal at New York LaGuardia (Photo: Matt Green / Flickr)

The art deco Marine Air Terminal at New York LaGuardia (Photo: Matt Green / Flickr)

AIRLINES

Delta upgrades LGA-BOS Shuttle. On November 2, Delta will move its New York LaGuardia-Boston Logan Delta Shuttle from LGA’s remote (and cooly art-deco) Marine Air Terminal to Terminal C, and will upgrade its aircraft to 110-passenger Boeing 717s. (Those 717s used to belong to AirTran.)  Delta Shuttle’s LGA-Washington and LGA-Chicago flights will remain at the Marine Air Terminal and continue using Delta Connection/Shuttle America E-175s. Besides the larger planes (with three classes of seating, configured 2-3 in the back + wi-fi + power outlets), LGA-BOS Shuttle passengers will enjoy easier connections and a wider array of terminal services. (Any comments on the improvements Delta has made at LGA lately?)

Virgin expands DAL schedule. Virgin America beefed up is flight skeds from Dallas Love Field (DAL) not long after Southwest said it, too plans to start DAL-SFO/OAK flights. These higher daily frequencies are designed to make Virgin more appealing to business travelers. Virgin’s initial schedule at DAL starts in October, with three flights a day to SFO, LAX and DCA, and four to LGA. Now Virgin says it will add a fourth daily roundtrip to SFO, LAX and DCA starting April 29. (Unconfirmed reports suggest Virgin might end its SFO-Ft. Lauderdale route to free up aircraft for DAL; Virgin is also suspending SFO-PHL and LAX-PHL October 6.) It will also continue its twice-daily SFO-Austin service.

Legacy carriers cut routes… Delta and United are both eliminating some key business routes from their networks. At Memphis — once a Northwest hub — Delta plans to end service next month to Denver and to Austin, although it will add two more daily flights to its ATL hub. Meanwhile, United is due to end its daily non-stop Pittsburgh-Los Angeles flight on August 18, and its two daily Chicago O’Hare-Topeka flights on September 2, leaving that Kansas airport without scheduled passenger service.

…While low-cost airlines add them. Southwest Airlines last week kicked off six daily roundtrips between Chicago Midway and Washington Reagan National, plus three a day between DCA-Nashville and two from DCA to New Orleans. Southwest will add Cleveland-Phoenix service November 2, and just took over more Mexico routes from rapidly disappearing subsidiary AirTran … Spirit Airlines has started service from Kansas City to ORD, DFW, DTW, LAS and IAH, and announced new daily service linking Detroit-ATL and Detroit-New Orleans starting in November, as well as new once-daily service between ORD-ATL, ORD-MSY and ORD-BWI … Frontier said it will begin service on 10 new routes from northern cities to sun destinations this winter.

Alaska Airlines

An alert sent to TravelSkills by Alaska Airlines this week

Reminder: At SFO, all Alaska Airlines flights will move to the International Terminal, Boarding Area A, effective Wednesday, August 20. Details regarding lounge access for Board Room members are still up in the air, however. Stay tuned.

INTERNATIONAL

A fond farewell to Cathay's Queen of the Skies (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

A fond farewell to Cathay’s Queen of the Skies (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Cathay Pacific bids farewell to the B747. On August 31, the Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-400 will make its final departure from SFO, marking Cathay’s retirement of the graceful “Queen of the Skies” from long haul service. At a bittersweet farewell event at San Francisco International this week, Cathay’s Americas head Tom Owen said that Cathy is shedding itself of the B747 in “one of the fastest fleet replacements in history.” Why so fast? Owen said that while the company credits the 747 as the tool that made it a truly global carrier in the 1990s, “it was designed in an era when a barrel of oil cost $15-$20.” With oil currently hovering around the $100/bbl mark, Cathay is moving to the Boeing 777-300ER and the soon-to-be-released Airbus A350 (both of which are 25% more efficient than the 747) for its long haul flights. Cathay’s remaining 747s will be deployed on intra-Asia routes for the next two years, and will then disappear.

Related: Sad to see the graceful 747 fade away! 

Mockup of Aer Lingus' new true lie flat business class seat coming in 2015 (Aer Lingus)

Mockup of Aer Lingus’ new true lie flat business class seat coming in 2015 (Aer Lingus)

New biz classes at Aer Lingus, Finnair.  Aer Lingus has detailed its plans for a (much needed) revamped business class to debut in 2015, with fully-flat seats, free Wi-Fi, 16-inch hi-def touchscreens and Irish cuisine. Meanwhile, Finnair has unveiled the interior designs for its long-haul fleet of Airbus’ new A350 XWB (extra wide body) aircraft, which the Finnish carrier will start flying in 2015. The 297-seat A350s will have a 46-seat 1-2-1 business class with flat-bed seats, 16-inch touchscreens, Wi-Fi and more.  (TravelSkills contributor Ramsey Qubein recently flew to Helsinki for a first hand look at the first A350– stay tuned for his review later this week!)

Did you see our post on How to Deal With Americans? This is one of those cases where reader feedback is even better than the post! :) Check it out here.

Big bonus. Little time….What’s the best card for United flyers who don’t spend or fly enough to have Premier status? For a limited time, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card is offering an excellent 50,000 mile bonus for signing up and spending  just $2,000 in the first three months. The Explorer card also offers Premier perks like waived checked bag fees and lounge passes for those who don’t fly or spend enough to get status. Also, it offers double miles for United purchases. Act fast on this one because that 50K bonus is only good through September 2. Details here

AIRPORTS

New DART rapid rail connection at DFW

New DART rapid rail connection at DFW (Photo: Dallas Area Rapid Transit)

DFW gets a rail link. August 18 marks the opening of the DFW Airport Station, the terminus for a five-mile extension of Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s light rail. The station, part of DFW’s Terminal A, is opening four months ahead of schedule. The new Orange Line extension runs from the airport to Belt Line Station, with continuing service to Irving-Las Colinas, Dallas Market Center and downtown Dallas. It will make DFW the third-largest U.S. airport with a direct rail link to the city center.

HOTELS

A posh new perch in NYC

The striking new Park Hyatt: A posh new perch in NYC (Photo: Hyatt)

NYC Park Hyatt opens next week. An August 19 debut is slated for Hyatt’s new flagship property, the Park Hyatt New York, across from Carnegie Hall on West 57th Street. The posh property takes up the first 25 floors of a 90-story glass tower that reshapes the Midtown skyline; the floors above contain ultra-expensive condos. The Park Hyatt has 210 extra-large rooms (standard rooms average around 500 square feet), including lots of suite options; rates start at $700-$800 a night.

Rebranded Chicago-area hotels. There’s lots of hotel rebranding in and around Chicago this month. Downtown, the former Crowne Plaza at 160 E. Huron was remade into a dual-branded Hilton — the Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton Chicago Magnificent Mile … The former InterContinental Chicago O’Hare Hotel, a 556-room property across from the Donald Stephens Convention Center in suburban Rosemont, has been acquired by Loews Hotels and converted to the Loews brand … In the western suburb of Oak Brook, the former Renaissance has been converted by Starwood into Le Meridien Chicago-Oak Brook Center after a $25 million renovation; and the former Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center is now the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills.

In Case You Missed It…

>Ten little things that make a difference in a hotel stay.

>Hawaiian Airlines will start SFO-Maui A330 service four times a week November 20, increasing to daily December 17.

>TravelSkills contributor has mixed results with a recent Airbnb booking for a business trip

-Jim Glab & Chris McGinnis

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

 

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

How to deal with Americans

10 little things some hotels get right

Better Sky Club snacks + New LaGuardia lounge + Marriott MegaBonus back + Nifty new ATL arrivals app

Month #3: A TravelSkills update from Chris

Airbnb for a business trip? Mixed results

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

Mergers that make sense

Serial stowaway finally gets her free flight

3 brand new Los Angeles hotels (& 3 facelifts)

Free inflight entertainment + Delta dumping 747s + United hub reshuffle + 50K United bonus + Uber for business

The 50,000 mile bonus is back

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

10 little things some hotels get right

When it comes to the best hotel stays, it’s not plush spas, marble lobbies and striking architecture that really matter.

It’s the little things some hotels get right that really make a difference…and make us want to come back. Am I right?

Here are 10 little things I’ve noticed that always make me feel good about the hotel I’m staying in:

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Real cream (such as these “mini-moos”) provided with in-room coffee maker…and not those nasty packets “non-dairy creamer.”

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Real exhaust fans in the bathroom- not just some spooky looking “vent.” 

Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Photo: Chris McGinnis)

A clean TV remote… plus a TV that does not make me flip through menus and pay per view ads to get to CNN

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Light switches that do not require an engineering degree to operate. (Who needs “twilight” in a hotel room?)

In Copenhagen! I usually prefer a walk in shower, but this tub shower with a view was pretty nice! (Chris McGinnis)

In Copenhagen! (Chris McGinnis)

A shower with plenty of light a glass door and no filthy shower curtain. 

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!
(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Real hangers, please! 

This hotel in Bangkok only had a heavy curtain separating the bathroom from the guest room. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This hotel in Bangkok only had a heavy curtain separating the bathroom from the guest room. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

A real door that closes to the bathroom (not some sliding wall that does not block bathroom sound, light or odors)

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Windows that open to the outside– no hermetically sealed rooms, please. 

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

An easy to understand thermostat with AC that is not “motion controlled” and turns off in the middle of the night.

(Chris McGinnis)

(Chris McGinnis)

Plenty of knobs on which to hang towels, clothes or toilet kits in the bathroom.

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Glasses, cups or mugs that are wrapped in plastic so I know they are clean

One thing I have not yet seen, but would love to: A hotel that provides a mouse pad for use on glass-topped desks! Has anyone ever seen that? I usually have to use a menu or magazine to make my portable mouse work.

What are the “little things” that you notice when you stay at a great hotel? Please leave your comments below.

–Chris McGinnis

 

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

Big bonus. Little time….What’s the best card for United flyers who don’t spend or fly enough to have Premier status? For a limited time, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card is offering an excellent 50,000 mile bonus for signing up and spending  just $2,000 in the first three months. The Explorer card also offers Premier perks like waived checked bag fees and lounge passes for those who don’t fly or spend enough to get status. Also, it offers double miles for United purchases. Act fast on this one because that 50K bonus is only good through September 2. Details here

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

Better Sky Club snacks + New LaGuardia lounge + Marriott MegaBonus back + Nifty new ATL arrivals app

Month #3: A TravelSkills update from Chris

Airbnb for a business trip? Mixed results

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

Mergers that make sense

Serial stowaway finally gets her free flight

3 brand new Los Angeles hotels (& 3 facelifts)

Free inflight entertainment + Delta dumping 747s + United hub reshuffle + 50K United bonus + Uber for business

The 50,000 mile bonus is back

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

 

Better Sky Club snacks + New LaGuardia lounge + Marriott MegaBonus back + Nifty new ATL arrivals app

Entering the brand new American Express Centurion Lounge at New York LaGuardia (Photo: American Express)

Entering the brand new American Express Centurion Lounge at New York LaGuardia (Photo: American Express)

Summer’s not even over yet, but business travel news is coming at us from all directions, so we’re offering a double dose of news this week…

AIRLINES

Soup ‘n salad at Sky Clubs. Delta has updated and enhanced the menu offerings at its Sky Clubs, bringing aboard some healthier options like salads and soups that it has been experimenting with over the last year. You can see what’s new at this web page, and check out nutritional information for some selections. Meanwhile, in-flight duty-free shopping is no longer an option for travelers on Delta. The airline has terminated its relationship with the vendor it was using for the program, and reportedly has no plans to find a new one. So from now on, it’s the airport duty-free shop or nothing for Delta flyers. (Did you ever buy anything from inflight duty-free anyway– or see many others doing so?)

Airline cancellation rates vary greatly. According to the latest monthly government numbers, some airlines are much better than others at keeping their flights operating. Delta canceled just 19 departures in June, out of almost 70,000 flights operated. Other carriers with cancellation rates close to zero were Hawaiian, Frontier and Virgin America. By contrast, American’s regional subsidiary Envoy had a 6.5 percent cancellation rate.

Sunny skies for Virgin America. SF-based Virgin America posted a $37 million second quarter profit this week, up significantly compared to the same time last year when it lost $8.8 million. AP pegs the good results on increasing airfares, which are up 5% over the same time last year. We of course peg the results on Virgin’s recent sponsorship of the TravelSkills blog! :)

An 8-passenger SurfAir Pilatus. Have you or would subscribe?  (Photo: Chasen Richardson)

An 12-passenger SurfAir Pilatus. Have you or would subscribe? (Photo: Chasen Richardson)

All-you-can-fly airline expands. California-based Surf Air, a small new venture that lets customers fly as much as they want on its intrastate network for a membership fee starting at $1,599 a month, said it has seen “incredible demand from consumers” — so much that it plans a big expansion. The company has placed an order for up to 65 new Pilatus PC-12 eight-passenger turboprop aircraft, has raised another $73 million in capital, and plans to expand to more destinations. Surf Air claims 900 members already, with 350 more on hold awaiting more planes and routes. (Have you tried Surf Air or do you know anyone who has flown it? Please leave comments below.)

Frontier revamps elite levels. Frontier Airlines plans to replace its EarlyReturns Ascend and Summit elite levels effective February 15, 2015, with a single level called simply Frontier Elite. It’s open to members who accumulate 20,000 miles or 25 segments between January 1-December 31, 2014. Benefits include a free carry-on bag (the airline now charges a fee for them), but no more free checked bags. On October 31, 2014, the airline also plans to start imposing a fee (elites are exempted) for EarlyReturns redemptions booked less than 180 days in advance.

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

.

AIRPORTS

ATL tests international arrivals app. Those self-service Automated Passport Control kiosks — which speed up processing of international arrivals who are not part of the Global Entry program — are popping up everywhere this year, but now Customs and Border Protection is going a step further. CBP just started pilot-testing a free app at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson that lets arriving travelers input their passport data and Customs declaration on their mobile device, then gives them a scannable QR code to present to the CBP officer. Have you tried it yet?

Nice views from the new American Express Centurion Lounge at LGA (Photo: AMEX)

Nice views from the new American Express Centurion Lounge at LGA (Photo: AMEX)

AmEx adds an LGA lounge. American Express cut the ribbon on a 5,000-square-foot Centurion Lounge in New York LaGuardia’s Terminal B (third level, pre-security), offering work spaces with high-speed Wi-Fi and electrical outlets; cuisine from Cedric Vongerichten, executive chef at New York’s Perry St restaurant; and specialty cocktails and wine selections. Entry is free for AmEx Platinum Card and Centurion members; a one-day pass costs $50 for other AmEx cardholders. Other Centurion lounges are in Las Vegas McCarran and Dallas-Ft Worth with additional locations coming to SFO (construction now visible from inside Terminal 3 near the United Premier check in area) and MIA.

HOTELS

Marriott expands app check-in. Marriott unveiled a huge expansion of its new mobile check-in and check-out capability for Marriott Rewards members. Previously available at 500 properties in its Marriott Hotels brand, it’s being expanded to 11 more Marriott brands, from Ritz-Carlton to Marriott Executive Apartments. “With these latest additions, these services are immediately available at 1,200 properties worldwide, and will be live at more than 4,000 hotels worldwide by year-end,” the company said. The app is available for iOS and Android devices.  In other news, Marriott Rewards members can earn up to 25,000 bonus points for stays from September 15-January 15 with the group’s new Fall Megabonus promotion.

CARS

New planning app links with Hertz GPS. Hertz’ NeverLost GPS in-car navigation system has a new companion — a free trip planning app from Navigation Solutions for iOS and Android devices that serves up scads of information about local places and events. The app works in tandem with NeverLost via the cloud, and includes city guides for 40 U.S. cities, with additional data on many more. “The interactive app goes far beyond navigation, including events, local weather, Augmented Reality, social media sharing and much more,” Hertz said. Now that we all have Google maps and apps like Waze, does anyone still use NeverLost? Leave your comments below!)

In Case You Missed It…

>Here’s a progress report on the new TravelSkills after its first three months.

>Are Airbnb properties right for a business trip?

>A new Hilton promotion lets HHonors members earn triple points through October.

– Jim Glab & Chris McGinnis

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

Big bonus. Little time….What’s the best card for United flyers who don’t spend or fly enough to have Premier status? For a limited time, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card is offering an excellent 50,000 mile bonus for signing up and spending  just $2,000 in the first three months. The Explorer card also offers Premier perks like waived checked bag fees and lounge passes for those who don’t fly or spend enough to get status. Also, it offers double miles for United purchases. Act fast on this one because that 50K bonus is only good through September 2. Details here

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

Month #3: A TravelSkills update from Chris

Airbnb for a business trip? Mixed results

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

Mergers that make sense

Serial stowaway finally gets her free flight

3 brand new Los Angeles hotels (& 3 facelifts)

Free inflight entertainment + Delta dumping 747s + United hub reshuffle + 50K United bonus + Uber for business

The 50,000 mile bonus is back

How to get on earlier flight without paying fee

Trip Report: ANA’s 787 Dreamliner to Tokyo

20 different biz class seats in 1 room- PHOTOS

Southwest pads schedules + 70K Marriott points + New airline for SFO + Chris at GBTA + Salt Lake makeover 

Frequent travelers love Chick-fil-a

Kicked off flight for a tweet? Southwest responds

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

Airbnb for a business trip? Mixed results

Airbnb balcony view

The view from the balcony of my Airbnb accommodation (Photo: Airbnb)

During a recent business trip to Los Angeles, I stayed in an Airbnb apartment for the first time. When I made the booking, I was thrilled at the prospect of getting more for less—fabulous location, more space, free parking and (of course) free high-speed wi-fi. But as a first-timer, I also had a plenty of questions about using Airbnb for a business trip.

Regular TravelSkills readers may recall why I chose Airbnb for this trip…here’s a snippet from my previous post Are Uber, Airbnb or Lyft safe?

I booked an Airbnb condo in Los Angeles because all the convention hotels near my conference were sold out—except one property 10 miles away. The thought of a 10-mile slog in LA traffic was unbearable. Through Airbnb, I booked a one-bedroom condo in a brand-new building across the street from the convention center. Like most business travelers, cost was not my primary motivation, but it made me smile to be saving $84 a night. Hip décor and free use of the building’s gym and pool didn’t hurt either.

Recently, Airbnb has made a play specifically for the business travel market with a new, focused portal and by partnering with Concur on its TripLink product.

But does Airbnb really make sense for business travelers? Let’s see…

Airbnb living room 2

The unit’s living room was a lovely place to hang out at the end of the day. (Photo: Airbnb)

Here’s how my Airbnb stay played out:

Right off the bat, I have to say that I missed the familiarity of checking in in a hotel lobby. “Checking-in” at my Airbnb proved to be confusing and time-consuming. I was thrilled to have free parking for my rental car. So when I drove in from the airport, I followed the instructions the host provided. Entry required punching a code into a garage keypad, identifying myself and waiting for someone on the other end to open the gate. There were some miscues, and that process took about 10 minutes. The iron gate finally swung open.

The unit’s keys were to be in a lockbox on a pillar by the parking space. Thankfully, opening the lockbox went without a hitch. But then, it was not clear how to get from the parking garage into the locked building. At this point I was thinking fond and nostalgic thoughts about hotel front desks—I wanted one! After 10 more minutes, two phone calls and a few texts, I was in. Hours later I realized the fob for building entry was on the key ring. Dumb. Still, at a hotel, I would have been unpacked by then.

Bedroom in my Airbnb accommodations. What happens when you need to call "housekeeping?" (Photo: Airbnb)

Bedroom in my Airbnb accommodation. But what happens when you need to call “housekeeping” for an extra towel? (Photo: Airbnb)

Luckily, it got better once inside. The apartment was lovely and as clean as any hotel room. The view of the Convention Center, Staples Center and L.A. Live was just as the listing promised. There was complimentary coffee (Keurig!), tea, and water bottles, and snacks were provided free of charge. And of course, free wi-fi is always a welcome amenity.

The primary reason I chose this Airbnb apartment was its super-handy location. I was only a three minute walk from the front door of the LA Convention Center and reveled in the convenience– I was closer than all those other attendees at my convention who were paying significantly more up the street at the JW Marriott, or Ritz-Carlton.

Related:  Best new biz-class hotels in L.A.  | 20 business class seats in one room

In the morning, it felt a little weird waiting for the building’s elevator with some “real” (non-Airbnb) residents. And I wondered…as an Airbnb guest, was I a persona non grata? Maybe. I smiled and looked down. The following days I would conceal my convention badge.

One day while at the convention, I realized I needed my laptop, which I’d left back at the apartment. I dashed across the street and back in the span of five minutes. If I’d chosen a hotel, this would likely not have been such an easy option. Big score for Airbnb.

The front door to my Airbnb apartment near the LA Convention Center (Photo: Nancy Branka)

The front door to my Airbnb apartment near the LA Convention Center (Photo: Nancy Branka)

When the sun went down, though, I wasn’t feeling the love. I attended a convention-sponsored party at a nearby venue. Easy—just a short walk, right? When I walked over to the event in the evening light with lots of fellow conventioneers around, I felt happy about the sunset stroll.

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

However, when the event was over and I had to walk back to the apartment in the dark,  I wasn’t so sure about the neighborhood. There was no brightly lit and active hotel front door and lobby staffed by a doorman and a steady stream of cars, taxis and guests. And I wasn’t comfortable with the homeless man camped out by the building’s front door, something I’d less likely encounter at a business-class hotel.

Did my real-life Airbnb experience meet my expectations?  Overall, it was a very positive stay because of location, location, location. So I’m glad to have Airbnb in my arsenal of travel resources. Now that I’m no longer an Airbnb newbie, I would feel more comfortable about doing it again, especially for a longer stay. 

But on the other hand, there were some hassles that would make me think twice about using Airbnb again for a business trip. Every Airbnb unit, every host and each location is different– careful scrutiny of both is essential to a successful stay. Luckily, the Airbnb site is very helpful when it comes to this with plenty of safeguards, user reviews, verified photos, maps and information. But booking a brand name, business class hotel room doesn’t require such scrutiny.

Have you ever used Airbnb for business travel? Would you feel comfortable using it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

– Nancy Branka 

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

Big bonus. Little time….What’s the best card for United flyers who don’t spend or fly enough to have Premier status? For a limited time, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card is offering an excellent 50,000 mile bonus for signing up and spending  just $2,000 in the first three months. The Explorer card also offers Premier perks like waived checked bag fees and lounge passes for those who don’t fly or spend enough to get status. Also, it offers double miles for United purchases. Act fast on this one because that 50K bonus is only good through September 2. Details here

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

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

Mergers that make sense

Serial stowaway finally gets her free flight

3 brand new Los Angeles hotels (& 3 facelifts)

Free inflight entertainment + Delta dumping 747s + United hub reshuffle + 50K United bonus + Uber for business

The 50,000 mile bonus is back

How to get on earlier flight without paying fee

Trip Report: ANA’s 787 Dreamliner to Tokyo

20 different biz class seats in 1 room- PHOTOS

Southwest pads schedules + 70K Marriott points + New airline for SFO + Chris at GBTA + Salt Lake makeover 

Frequent travelers love Chick-fil-a

Kicked off flight for a tweet? Southwest responds

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Mergers that make sense

What are some travel industry marriages that might work? (Photo: Rosmary / Flickr)

What are some travel industry marriages that might work? (Photo: Rosmary / Flickr)

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed a wave of travel industry mergers that seemed implausible a decade ago.

Yet here we are today with four major airlines (American, Delta, Southwest and United) that control at least 80% of the domestic market. Similarly,  the hotel industry is dominated by four giant companies: InterContinental, Hilton, Marriott, Starwood. (Just this week, Hilton squealed about hitting the 700,000 rooms mark. Marriott recently opened its 4000th hotel.)

Nearly 100% of the airport rental car market is now controlled by just three companies: Enterprise (National, Alamo), Hertz (Dollar, Thrifty), and Avis (Budget, Payless, Zipcar).

Big brand names that we’ve all known and loved (or hated) have evaporated or been gobbled up by conglomerates.

Have we reached the end of merger mania in the travel biz? I don’t think so.

Let’s speculate on a few more mergers that might make sense:

Uber's clever bashing of rival Lyft would disappear if the companies merged. (Facebook screenshot)

Uber’s clever bashing of rival Lyft in social media would disappear if the companies merged- but fares could increase. (Facebook screenshot)

Uber + Lyft

Uber is sitting on a valuation of $19 billion and is the undisputed king of the brand new ridesharing industry with an excellent product and a very loyal customer base. With that kind of money and power, Uber must be thinking about buying out its closest competitor, Lyft (valued at around $700 million), right? I would if I were Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

The services offered by UberX and Lyft are nearly identical, so I could easily see Uber buying and folding in Lyft as part of its new carpooling initiative announced this week. And it’s curious that Lyft and Uber both came out with the same idea about carpooling almost simultaneously, no? Are the two companies already coordinating product launches?  Hmm.

The combo would probably make many buttoned up, Uber-loving business travelers a bit more comfortable with Lyft, which is known for its “citizen drivers,” fratty fist bumps and fuzzy pink moustaches. Those moustaches might be getting a makeover- Lyft recently hired a new design director to polish up its image. 

“Uber has been aggressive in its efforts to add both cities and capacity, and a merger could help it accomplish both,” said Henry Harteveldt of the Atmosphere Research Group. “A larger Uber would be more appealing to individual consumers and business travelers, and would have considerably more political clout.”  But he also warned that removing a competitor from the marketplace could lead to higher prices. 

What are the odds that these two will merge? Leave your comments below.

Virgin America and JetBlue jets in Los Angeles (Photo: InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr)

JetBlue and Virgin America jets in Los Angeles (Photo: InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr)

Virgin America + JetBlue

Virgin America and JetBlue are currently the darlings of commercial aviation in the US. Both are known for excellent service, new planes and positive consumer feedback.

But both are also in a bloodbath with financially healthy legacy carriers anxious to eat their lunch. It is increasingly difficult for these two upstarts to fight against the attraction of the major carriers’ robust frequent flier programs.

Wouldn’t it make sense for the two to combine forces to fight back?

Their route maps don’t overlap too much– JetBlue is primarily an east coast carrier and Virgin is big out west. JetBlue has a nice foothold in the huge New York City market. Virgin is adored in San Francisco and Los Angeles. JetBlue boasts the modern, convenient airport terminal (T5) at JFK. Virgin has the state of the art T2 at SFO. The two carriers could share the mod Virgin Loft at LAX since they both operate out of Terminal 3 there. Both carriers fly Airbus narrowbody jets.

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

“JetBlue would benefit greatly from having one less competitor on the highly competitive transcon routes.  For Virgin America, its owners would likely love the idea of a merger so they could recoup their investments. If the price is right, then it should make sense for them,” said Brett Snyder who runs the popular Cranky Flier blog. “But my guess is that it would be tough to find the right price.”

If the two carriers did merge, which brand would survive? Snyder thinks it would be JetBlue due to more national name recognition and the fact that they would not have to pay the Virgin Group any royalties to use the Virgin name.

Aviation analyst Robert Mann told TravelSkills, “Only partially in jest, the three most important questions in mergers are where will it be based, what will we call it, and who gets to run it?  M&A is all about egos, right?”

What are the odds that these two will merge and which brand would survive? Leave your comments below.

Some other likely combos? 

The fabulous, colorful lobby at Kimpton's Hotel Monaco in Portland. (Chris McGinnis)

The fabulous, colorful lobby at Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco in Portland. (Chris McGinnis)

There are numerous other merger possibilities that make sense in the travel space. I’m thinking Kimpton and Hyatt would make a good pair– both do a great job executing excellent upscale customer service, and Hyatt is likely eager to enlarge its relatively small footprint in the market.

Like Uber, Airbnb is sitting on a huge valuation ($10 billion) which it could use to buy out competitors… I wonder if Airbnb has its eyes on VRBO, which used to lead in this space, but now operates in the shadow of Airbnb?

Then there’s the notion that the major air carriers in each global alliance may one day merge to form truly global carriers. SkyTeam Air Lines? Oneworld Airways? Star Airlines? That’s probably years, if not decades away, but these global alliances are likely precursors. Sounds implausible, right? Well, maybe not!

What do you think are some likely merger possibilities in the travel space? Leave your comments below! 

–Chris McGinnis

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

Big bonus. Little time….What’s the best card for United flyers who don’t spend or fly enough to have Premier status? For a limited time, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card is offering an excellent 50,000 mile bonus for signing up and spending  just $2,000 in the first three months. The Explorer card also offers Premier perks like waived checked bag fees and lounge passes for those who don’t fly or spend enough to get status. Also, it offers double miles for United purchases. Act fast on this one because that 50K bonus is only good through September 2. Details here

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

Serial stowaway finally gets her free flight

3 brand new Los Angeles hotels (& 3 facelifts)

Free inflight entertainment + Delta dumping 747s + United hub reshuffle + 50K United bonus + Uber for business

The 50,000 mile bonus is back

How to get on earlier flight without paying fee

Trip Report: ANA’s 787 Dreamliner to Tokyo

20 different biz class seats in 1 room- PHOTOS

Southwest pads schedules + 70K Marriott points + New airline for SFO + Chris at GBTA + Salt Lake makeover 

Frequent travelers love Chick-fil-a

Kicked off flight for a tweet? Southwest responds

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

3 brand new Los Angeles hotels (& 3 facelifts)

Ahh. Hotel windows that open at Kimpton's Hotel Wilshire in LA (Chris McGinnis)

Ahh. Hotel windows that open at Kimpton’s Hotel Wilshire in LA (Chris McGinnis)

At TravelSkills, we love new hotels. They smell better, work better, feel better, and are usually bigger, brighter and hipper than others. But new can also have its downside: Construction noise, service issues, and/or locations in sketchy or “upcoming” neighborhoods. Some are so new that TripAdvisor reviews are scant compared to more established hotels. In an ongoing feature, TravelSkills reports on the newest hotels in the world’s most important cities. When we say “newest” we have certain criteria around that: The hotels have to be brand new or deeply renovated within the last few years, 3+ stars and appropriate venues for business travel.

On a recent quick buzz through LA for the Global Business Travel Association Convention, I stayed overnight at the Kimpton Hotel Wilshire near The Grove and LACMA on a somewhat lifeless stretch of Wilshire Boulevard. While the Hotel Wilshire is not brand new (opened in 2011), it sure felt like it. Clean as a whistle, a super cool rooftop pool/bar/restaurant (see my Instagram!), decent rates and windows that actually open. (Hermetically sealed hotel rooms are a pet peeve!) But I digress. I promised 3 brand new hotels, so here ya go…

Here are three newbies worth a look:

Cement walls and big views from the new Line Hotel in LA (Photo: The Line)

Cement walls and big views from the new Line Hotel in LA (Photo: The Line)

K-POP IS HOT. Now that all things Korean are hot (thanks in part to Psy’s Gangnam Style), so is LA’s Koreatown, a densely populated, 24-hour neighborhood between Hollywood and downtown. Smack in the middle of that (on Wilshire Blvd) is the brand new 388-room The Line hotel, which opened in January 2014. The hotel comes with plenty of hip pedigrees—for example it is owned by the same group that created the hip NoMad and Ace hotels in NYC and the Saguaro in Palm Springs; Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ Trucks fame is running the kitchen at the popular Pot restaurant (yes, they serve kim chi, but it’s the spicy pork bbq that’s most popular). The hotel is housed in a 12-story building that previously housed the Radisson Wilshire Plaza hotel, but there’s nothing remotely Radisson about The Line. Rooms are minimalist chic with exposed concrete walls, modern furnishings, pops of color, and expansive LA Basin views thru big floor- to-ceiling windows. Sadly, this is one of those hotels with windows that don’t open. Nice: There’s a metro stop across the street from the hotel, which makes it easy to go car-less if you have meetings downtown. Rates for late September are in the $200 per night range. There are also free wi-fi and free bikes for tooling around the neighborhood.

The ACE hotel is easy to spot due to this sign on its roof (Photo: Lauren Coleman)

The ACE hotel is easy to spot due to this sign on its roof (Photo: Lauren Coleman)

HIPSTER HEAVEN. The 182-room Ace Hotel Los Angeles opened in the downtown historic district in January 2014. It’s housed in the old United Artists Theatre building and attracts a hip and trendy crowd to its rooftop pool, bar and lounge. Rooms are industrial chic (exposed concrete, metal, marble). Bathrooms are (regrettably) the type that are open to the room—not the greatest set up for couples, but okay for single travelers. Thankfully, room windows open slightly. Wi-fi is free and fast for everyone—not just hotel guests. Enjoy curated mini-bar snacks (including local craft brews) and room service from the hotel restaurant LA Chapter (Most popular item is the Five Leaves Burger- grass fed beef patty, thin slices of beet and pineapple, topped with a fried egg. Try it you’ll like it!). The location is great if you are attending an event at the nearly LA Convention Center, Staples Center or LA Live. Lowest rates for late September are in the low $200 range. Having trouble finding it? Just look for the iconic (and ironic) JESUS SAVES beacon on the roof.

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!
Grab n go meals in the lobby of the combined Courtyard & Residence Inn at LA Live (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Grab n go meals in the lobby of the combined Courtyard & Residence Inn at LA Live (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

MORE MARRIOTT. Marriott has a huge presence in the fast growing (but still a bit gritty) area around LA Live. First, there’s a huge JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton that dominate the entertainment zone. Across the street Marriott just opened a massive and modern Residence Inn (218 rooms) and Courtyard (174 rooms) in the same building last month.The $172-million, 23-story high-rise hotel project is new-from-the-ground up which means there’s still that “new hotel smell” and modern amenities like fast, free wi-fi and windows that open to the great outdoors. There’s a complimentary breakfast buffet for Residence Inn guests; Courtyard guests get coffee only. Beware: Valet parking is $38 per day plus tip. (Advice: Self park in one of the many lots nearby.) Marriott’s not done with the area yet: A brand new Renaissance hotel will soon rise from a parking lot next to the hotel.

In LA, facelifts are popular so it’s important to mention these notable, recent lift and pull jobs! :)

Poolside at the recently revamped Sunset Marquis Hotel (Photo: Sara Emry)

Poolside at the recently revamped Sunset Marquis Hotel (Photo: Sara Emry)

>The popular Sunset Marquis hotel nestled into a quiet corner of West Hollywood has just opened the doors on a full renovation of its popular, big suites (averaging 529 square feet) with outside balconies or roomy patios. 

>Hyatt wants in on the action in downtown LA, too, so it has spent $25 million to update an this 420-room, ex-Marriott hotel and list it on the Hyatt website under the name The LA Hotel Downtown. The jury is still out on TripAdvisor on whether the hotel has reached Hyatt Regency standards.

>Last year Loews Hotels hung its name on the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel (next to the Dolby Theatre of Academy Award fame), renaming it The Loews Hollywood Hotel and has spent $26 million renovating the its 628 rooms– with windows that DO NOT open to the outside. 

What’s your favorite hotel in Los Angeles? Why? Please leave your recommendations below! 

–Chris McGinnis

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

Big bonus. Little time….What’s the best card for United flyers who don’t spend or fly enough to have Premier status? For a limited time, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card is offering an excellent 50,000 mile bonus for signing up and spending  just $2,000 in the first three months. The Explorer card also offers Premier perks like waived checked bag fees and lounge passes for those who don’t fly or spend enough to get status. Also, it offers double miles for United purchases. Act fast on this one because that 50K bonus is only good through September 2. Details here

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

Free inflight entertainment + Delta dumping 747s + United hub reshuffle + 50K United bonus + Uber for business

The 50,000 mile bonus is back

How to get on earlier flight without paying fee

Trip Report: ANA’s 787 Dreamliner to Tokyo

20 different biz class seats in 1 room- PHOTOS

Southwest pads schedules + 70K Marriott points + New airline for SFO + Chris at GBTA + Salt Lake makeover 

Frequent travelers love Chick-fil-a

Kicked off flight for a tweet? Southwest responds

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Free inflight entertainment + Delta dumping 747s + United hub reshuffle + 50K United bonus + Uber for business

Like many other airlines, Delta is starting to get rid of these graceful, gas guzzling old birds. (Photo: Delta)

A Delta 747-400. Like many other airlines, Delta is getting rid of four of these graceful, gas guzzling old birds. (Photo: Delta)

AIRLINES

Delta debuts free entertainment. Delta last week rolled out a big perk for passengers: Free in-flight entertainment options on all its domestic aircraft — including two-class regional jets — for flights longer than 90 minutes, and on all international flights as well. Called Delta Studio, the service lets customers in all classes access free movies, TV shows, music and games via seat-back screens or by streaming to personal electronic devices through onboard Wi-Fi … And Delta said it will now allow passengers on international flights as well as domestic to keep using their personal electronic devices from gate to gate.

Delta dumping four 747s. Delta announced changes in its Asia/Pacific network, including getting rid of four of its 16 Boeing 747s. This means that Atlanta and Los Angeles will lose Delta 747s currently deployed on nonstops to Tokyo on September 30. Detroit will lose the 747 on the nonstop to Nagoya, and the 747 on Tokyo-Hong Kong will fly away in October according to aviation writer Christine Negroni. The 747s will be replaced by smaller, more fuel efficient B777s and A330s. Several airlines around the world have sadly begun putting the graceful old 747 out to pasture. For example, later this month, Cathay Pacific will say goodbye to its last remaining 747 with a farewell luncheon at San Francisco International. In case you missed it, here’s a TravelSkills post from earlier this year about 747s flying away…

Here's part of the invite we received from Cathay Pacific to bid farewell to its last 747. Stay tuned to TravelSkills for a full report from the event!

Here’s part of the invite we received from Cathay Pacific to bid farewell to its last 747. Stay tuned to TravelSkills for a full report from the event!

United plans hub reshuffling. United reportedly plans to overhaul flight schedules at its Chicago O’Hare, Denver and Houston hubs, compressing arrivals and departures into periodic clusters, or “banks,” instead of spreading them evenly throughout the day, in an effort to boost profitability. (American earlier this year revealed plans to do the same.) The airline is also revising its regional fleet — as are other major carriers — to replace 50-seat jets with larger models, which will lead to the elimination of some smaller markets.

JetBlue eyes Boston for Mint service. JetBlue has high hopes that its new Mint business cabins on the JFK-LAX route — and starting this fall, on JFK-SFO — will produce so much extra revenue that it will be worth expanding to other transcon markets. And the airline has set its sights on Boston for the first round of expansion. Chief Executive David Barger said it’s “not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when” JetBlue will begin SFO-BOS and LAX-BOS flights with the new premium cabin — which the airline is pricing well below the business cabins of major competitors.

new cabin design

Mod new cabin design for Embraer from Priestman-Goode (Love those Embraer windows!)

A solution to carry-on space wars? In a project for aircraft manufacturer Embraer, a London-based design firm has come up with a new cabin configuration that guarantees every passenger will find a place to put his carry-on bag. The plan also seeks to humanize lavatories with elements like glass tiles, touchless faucets and soft-close doors.

United’s sly safety video. Some airlines have started competing to see who can come up with the most creative safety video shown to passengers after boarding, and the latest entry is from United. The clever new UA video puts flight attendants into exotic or unusual locations as they explain the safety procedures. Take a look, and tell us what you think of it.

Big bonus. Little time….What’s the best card for United flyers who don’t spend or fly enough to have Premier status? For a limited time, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card is offering an excellent 50,000 mile bonus for signing up and spending  just $2,000 in the first three months. The Explorer card also offers Premier perks like waived checked bag fees and lounge passes for those who don’t fly or spend enough to get status. Also, it offers double miles for United purchases. Act fast on this one because that 50K bonus is only good through September 2. Details here

HOTELS

hilton app

Hilton’s digital revolution. By the end of this year, members of Hilton’s HHonors program will be able to use a mobile app to check in, select a specific room, and check out at 4,000 hotels worldwide across 11 Hilton brands. The technology will also let HHonors guests use smartphones or tablets to buy room upgrades and request specific room amenities before arrival. And in 2015, Hilton said, “the company will begin to equip its hotel rooms with the technology for doors to be unlocked with guests’ smartphones, enabling them to go straight to their rooms upon arrival.”

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

.

How fast is your Wi-Fi? A crafty new online service called Hotelwifitest offers users an inside look at just how fast their in-room Wi-Fi really is. Users can test the connection speed themselves and then share it with the site, which compiles the data to calculate the most likely speed that guests can expect to find after they check in.

BUSINESS TRAVEL

Airbnb, Uber seek business travelers. Airbnb, the booking service for thousands of unique private accommodations, last week unveiled plans to broaden its market to road warriors: Starting this fall, it will integrate with Concur’s TripLink, which will automatically bring Airbnb booking data into corporate expense reporting. It also opened up a separate booking area for the new market called Business Travel on Airbnb. Meanwhile, ride-finding service Uber is also linking up with Concur, and Uber’s new corporate booking service will permit road warriors to pay for their rides with company accounts. (Try Uber for the first time and get a $30 discount by clicking here or on the ad to the right.)

In Case You Missed It…

>San Francisco-based Virgin America finally goes public. Would you invest in Virgin or any other airline? Why/not?

>The reincarnation of low-cost carrier PEOPLExpress has started service between Atlanta and Newport News/Williamsburg, Va. (Not much of a biz travel player, but newsy nonetheless…)

>Check out the latest and greatest business class seating options. (Chris’s photo slideshow from GBTA convention)

>Strategies: How to catch an earlier flight without paying a fee.

–Jim Glab & Chris McGinnis

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

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

The 50,000 mile bonus is back

How to get on earlier flight without paying fee

Trip Report: ANA’s 787 Dreamliner to Tokyo

20 different biz class seats in 1 room- PHOTOS

Southwest pads schedules + 70K Marriott points + New airline for SFO + Chris at GBTA + Salt Lake makeover 

Frequent travelers love Chick-fil-a

Kicked off flight for a tweet? Southwest responds

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Southwest pads schedules + 70K Marriott points + New airline for SFO + Chris at GBTA + Salt Lake makeover +

Turkish Airlines's exotic business class lounge at IST (Photo: Turkish Airlines)

Turkish Airlines’s exotic business class lounge at IST– soon to connect nonstop to SFO (Photo: Turkish Airlines)

AIRLINES

Southwest’s on-time strategy. Southwest Airlines has seen its on-time performance suffer in recent months, dropping from 83 percent to 70. So it will turn to a favorite airline strategy for dealing with the problem: Starting next month, it will revise its schedules to allow for longer travel times—i.e. it will “pad its schedule.”

Turkish comes to SFO. Rapidly expanding Turkish Airlines will start San Francisco-Istanbul non-stops on April 13, 2015. Introductory fares for the 16-hour flight are already on sale for $699 in economy. Business class is running $4,000-$6,000. Turkish Flight 80 will depart SFO at  6:10PM and arrive in Istanbul at 5:05PM the next day. Flight 79 departs IST at 1:15 PM and arrives SFO at 4:25 PM on the same day. Turkish will use a Boeing 777-300ER on the 13-hour flight with business class in a 2-3-2 configuration and coach in a 3-3-3 configuration and no first class. Turkish Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance. Do you think of Turkish Airlines as “exotic?” I do and that’s how I described it on SFgate last week- but many readers felt that description was wrong. What do you think? Leave your comments below! 

JetBlue weighs a bag fee. JetBlue and Southwest are the only two major airlines that don’t charge a fee for a passenger’s first checked bag (Southwest allows two checked bags free).  But JetBlue officials, concerned about all that lost revenue,  are hinting that they might reconsider their policy and start charging for that first bag. If they do, can Southwest holdout on its own?

US Airways shuffles partnerships. US Airways has started code-sharing with Finnair, a member of sister company American Airlines’ transatlantic joint venture. US Airways’ code goes onto Finnair flights to Helsinki and beyond, from JFK and Toronto, and members of the two carriers’ frequent flyer programs now have mutual benefits. Meanwhile, Dividend Miles will end its partnerships with Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines effective August 1. They were holdovers from US Airways’ former Star Alliance membership.

Briefs: Like British Airways, Swiss has started charging fees for advance seat reservations; on long-haul flights, fees are $32 for a “standard seat,” $54 for a “preferred-zone” seat, and $109 for an extra-legroom seat. Unreserved seats can be selected for free within 23 hours of departure … Virgin Australia will end its Los Angeles-Melbourne service in late October, but will boost LAX-Brisbane from four flights a week to daily (and in SF we still waiting for Virgin Australia to link with Virgin America and bring some much need competition on SFO-Australia routes)… Qantas will replace the 747 on its Dallas/Ft. Worth-Sydney route with an A380 in September.

GBTA CONVENTION:

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis is attending the big Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) convention in Los Angeles this week. The giant expo attracts about 7,000 travel industry professionals for educational sessions, speeches and panels with the likes of United’s Jeff Smisek or Delta’s Richard Anderson. It also offers an outstanding exposition where travel suppliers display and boast their latest, greatest products and services for business travelers– to me, the coolest part is the ability to check out about 20 business and first class seats in one place! Stay tuned to my Twitter feed to see what I’m seeing and hearing. Find me say HEY if you are there, too!

AIRPORTS

A mock up of the new terminal at Salt Lake City International

A mock up of SLC’s brand new terminal provided by Salt Lake City International

Salt Lake City starts massive reconstruction. Work started last week on a $1.8 billion, years-long overhaul of Salt Lake City International Airport that will replace its existing three terminals with a single extra-large one. One level of the three-story facility will be reserved for international travel and Customs. The existing airport opened 50 years ago — well before Delta started using it as a hub. The first half of the new SLC airport is due to open in 2019 and the second in 2022. Delta announced this week that it will add SLC-Amsterdam nonstops using a B767 starting next May.

CBP boosts staffing at five airports. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it has forged partnerships with five major airports that will mean increased CBP staffing for processing international arrivals, leading to reduced waiting time. The new pacts are with SFO, LAX, MCO, LAS and DEN. The agency said similar arrangements that it has in place with DFW, IAH and MIA — combined with the new Automated Passport Control kiosks — have reduced line time at those airports by 30 percent. Have you noticed?

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

Atlanta Airport gets another PreCheck center. The TSA has opened a second PreCheck application center at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, located pre-security in the main terminal so the general public can access it without having a boarding pass. The new TSA facility is in Terminal South near Delta’s ticket counters. (The earlier facility is at Gate A19.)

Possible LAX mess. This item appeared on TravelSkills two weeks ago, but it bears repeating: This weekend, July 25-28 in Los Angeles, is being dubbed the “Century Crunch”, when Century Blvd. — a main road into LAX, used by one-third of all passengers — will close for demolition of an old railroad bridge. Officials advise everyone to avoid the area. 

sfo cab

(photo: Alfonso Jimenez)

Taxi app starts airport bookings. An app called Flywheel — which lets users hail a cab electronically, track its position, and pay with a smartphone — has started taking advance bookings for taxi rides to San Francisco-area airports, including SFO, OAK and SJC. By the end of this month, the company said, the app will provide the same service in Seattle and Los Angeles, with more locations to be added “in the coming weeks.” Interesting to watch cab companies add technology to help them compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft (which by the way are two ride-sharing companies we’ve heard are feeling the urge to merge. Stay tuned to TravelSkills for more on that as we investigate!) Don’t forget that you get $30 off your first ride if you sign up for Uber via TravelSkills links. Just do it! 

TSA seeks queue tips. The TSA is shifting so many passengers to PreCheck lanes that it is getting concerned about how fast the lines move. So the agency has turned to Innocentive.com, a “global innovation marketplace,” to offer $15,000 in prizes to persons who can come up with the best ways to overhaul TSA’s airport lines. “The concept will be used to develop a model to be applied in decision analysis and to take in considerations of site specific requirements, peak and non-peak hours, flight schedules and TSA staffing schedules,” TSA said.

In Case You Missed It…

>Delta is building a new Sky Club at San Francisco International.

>New studies determine the best and worst airports and hotels for Wi-Fi.

>”I cringe when I hear people talk about the so-called golden age of travel.” Check this InsideFlyer Q&A with Chris about his career and the travel biz. A good read!

>A leading business hotel in London will join the Hilton family in September

>New report shows where business travelers spend money. Would you believe Chick-fil-a? (Check out the controversy this post elicited in the comments!)

–Jim Glab & Chris McGinnis


facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

Frequent travelers love Chick-fil-a

Kicked off flight for a tweet? Southwest responds

Conrad snags posh new London hotel

Best & worst hotels, airports for Wi-Fi

How I watched the #MH17 tragedy unfold

Unusual ways to earn hotel rewards points

Should I renew my CLEAR card?

New global carrier for SFO with an Indian twist

Bigger bins + Check-in not required + Beware LAX traffic mess + New low fare O’Hare flights + Big new build hotel LA Live +

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 50,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

Hilton’s Conrad snags posh new London hotel

A room at the Conrad London hotel (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

A room at the InterConti– soon-to-be Conrad London Westminster hotel (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Hilton’s Conrad brand announced today that it will take over the InterContinental Westminster, which just opened in December 2012. The new Hilton Conrad London Westminster will make its debut in September.

The hotel has a central London location, service, and style business travelers require. It also has a handsome restaurant and bar with a type of food you would not expect to find across the pond.

While in the UK over the holidays in 2013, I checked in at the hotel for two nights.

The hotel is located in a quiet corner of London near Buckingham Palace (Chris McGinnis)

The hotel is located in a quiet corner of London near Buckingham Palace (Chris McGinnis)

>The 256-room hotel opened as an InterContinental in early December 2012 in a quiet, yet very central area of London, in between Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. It’s next door to New Scotland Yard. It will become a Conrad this starting September 14 2014.

>The new hotel was built inside a group of 19th century buildings called the Queen Anne’s Chambers—so even though it looks traditional red-brick-London on the outside, everything inside is modern and brand new. As a matter of fact, when I was there, rooms on two floors of the hotel were still under construction.

>Room rates are currently pegged at about $450 per night in August, and since it will soon be part of Hilton,  you will be able to earn and burn HHonors points here.

The new InterContinental Westminster near Buckingham Palace. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The  InterContinental Westminster near Buckingham Palace will soon be the Hilton Conrad Westminster. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

>This is one of the few luxury hotels in London that offers free wi-fi—and since the hotel is new, it has fat, fast pipes for quick and easy downloading, streaming, etc. (No word yet on whether Conrad will offer free wi-fi.)

>Rooms are decorated in a pale palette of blondes, beige and gold, with classy wood, leather, marble and chrome finishes, which keeps the rooms bright—a good thing since most windows in the low-slung (6 story) building look out to other buildings across alleyways and streets or into light wells.

>Bathrooms are big, modern and bright with separate tubs and showers. However, I was not a fan of the large, heavy, sliding doors separating the bathroom from the sleeping room. They seem awkwardly heavy, and not very soundproof, which can be important when more than one person is in the room.

>Its fresh-faced, young, and professional staff is energetic, highly trained– delays in opening the hotel meant more training time for employees.

A lovely, quiet parlour off the main lobby area. (Chris McGinnis)

A lovely, quiet parlour off the main lobby area. (Chris McGinnis)

>Since the hotel hopes to attract London’s political set, the lobby and common areas are all connected, and designed to see and be seen. For example, when you walk in to the chic limestone, sky-lit lobby, you can look through to Emmeline’s, an elegant tea and champagne bar, then through that to Blue Boar Smokehouse, the hotel restaurant and bar. (No word yet on if or how Conrad will change the restaurants.)

>Art and interior design are inspired by the hotel’s location. For example, carpet in the corridors sports an unusual fingerprint design (for the spooks in Scotland Yard next door). Most of the paintings and sculpture include characters from London’s rich political scene, past and present—for example, there are busts are Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and London’s blustery mayor, Boris Johnson.

>There’s a gym and fitness center in the basement.

Umm. Pulled pork on a silver platter at Blue Boar Restaurant & Bar. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Umm. Pulled pork on a silver platter at Blue Boar Restaurant & Bar. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

>It felt a bit odd for me, someone who grew up in the BBQ-sauce-soaked South, to dine on smoke ribs, pulled pork, baked beans and cole slaw in London. But I did, and loved it! In typical British style, the, the BBQ at the hotel’s Blue Boar Smokehouse is served on (get this…) a silver platter. And in another hat tip to British tastes, the restaurant offers pulled lamb. Kudos to the chef Jon Ingram, who served up sweet, smoky and moist pulled pork, and spare ribs charred and spread with just the right amount of sauce. To finish, a classy finger bowl is provided to rinse sticky fingers.

>The Blue Boar Bar, with green leather love seats, plaid loungers, wooden floors and a full bar looked like it would be great fun with a crowd. But when we were there, parliamentarians were on Christmas break, so it was quiet.

>Overall, The InterContinental Westminster is a very nice, new hotel in a quiet corner of London. It will be interesting to watch how it transforms into a Conrad.

>The neighborhood around the hotel is a hotspot for new hotels… nearby you’ll find the St Ermin’s hotel and 41 Hotel both opened within the last year and both worth a look-see!

–Chris McGinnis

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

Best & worst hotels, airports for Wi-Fi

How I watched the #MH17 tragedy unfold

Unusual ways to earn hotel rewards points

Should I renew my CLEAR card?

New global carrier for SFO with an Indian twist

Bigger bins + Check-in not required + Beware LAX traffic mess + New low fare O’Hare flights + Big new build hotel LA Live +

World’s 5 most popular cities (and my comments)

Are frequent flyer programs designed to fail?

Are Uber, Airbnb or Lyft safe?

More TSA scrutiny on cell phones + Southwest overseas + United carry-on enforcement + SF hotel rates soar + More Silvercar

7 ways to avoid summer storm delays (TravelSkills on CNN)

Traveling with Carly Simon (reprise)

Free wi-fi NYC airports + New Star Alliance member + More food at ATL + Clear card in Vegas + UberX on sale

5 ways Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner still wows

How to save $$ on pricey inflight wi-fi

5 key questions to ask at hotel check in

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

Airline fees up 1,200% + Unusual new seat design + Wild Dreamliner ride + Secret Service warns about hotel PCs

Southwest Airlines turning its old leather seats into sneakers & soccer balls (Photo: Southwest Airlines)

Southwest Airlines is turning its old leather seats into sneakers & soccer balls (Photo: Southwest Airlines)

AIRLINES

‘Ancillary revenues’ skyrocket. In 2007, the world’s airlines took in $2.45 billion in “ancillary revenues” — those fees they charge for various amenities and services. By 2013, that figure had jumped to $31.5 billion — a 1,200 percent increase — according to the latest study by IdeaWorks Company. That’s $16 per passenger. United had the biggest haul, at $5.7 billion, followed by Delta ($2.5 billion) and American ($2 billion, not counting US Airways’ $1.1 billion). But the airline where ancillary revenues made up the biggest portion of total revenue was Spirit, at 38.4 percent. The bulk of ancillary revenue for all airlines (except Southwest) comes from those onerous $200 change fees and of course new checked baggage fees.

Recycle, recycle, recycle! The travel industry keeps finding ways to put things to good use. Southwest Airlines just started a project that will hire African youths to remake old leather seat covers into things like shoes and soccer balls for local communities. And in Atlanta, airport concessionaire HMSHost donates about a ton of unsold food from ATL each week to the Salvation Army to help feed the city’s hungry.

Boeing bares innovations. Visitors to the renowned Farnborough Air Show in the U.K. last week got to see some stunning aerobatics by Boeing’s 787-9, the newest version of its popular Dreamliner. Check out this video and be thankful (or jealous) you weren’t along for this wild demo ride. Meanwhile, Boeing also revealed some passenger-friendly design innovations for its upcoming 777X, like larger and higher windows, a wider cabin, next-generation LED lighting and improved humidity in the cabin air.

Alaska moves at SFO. Originally slated for June 25, Alaska Airlines now says that mid-August is the target date for its move from Terminal 1 to the International Terminal’s Boarding Area A at San Francisco International. The airline’s Board Room lounge has closed, but it plans to share lounge facilities with “one of our international Mileage Plan partners” at the new location once it makes the move, a spokesman said. In other news, TSA opened a PreCheck application office in SFO’s International Terminal, pre-security, G-side, near the BART station.

More cutbacks to Caracas. Delta and United are following the lead of American in reducing service to Venezuela, due to an unresolved dispute with the government about the airlines’ ability to take money out of the country. Delta on August 1 will cut its daily Atlanta-Caracas schedule to just one flight a week. And United’s daily Houston Intercontinental-Caracas operation will be pared from seven flights a week to four as of September 17.

newseat

Unusual new airline seat designed emerging. (source: Paper Clip Design, Hong Kong)

Seats of the future? How will airlines’ coach seating evolve in the years ahead? Airbus has filed a patent for short-haul “saddle seats” that look like glorified bicycle seats and are about as uncomfortable as they could get — although a lot more of them can be crammed into an aircraft. (The company notes that just because it filed for a patent doesn’t mean it intends to use them.) Meanwhile, a Hong Kong designer has come up with a long-haul economy seat concept that protects your knees during recline and even provides an easily-shared armrest.

I’m keeping my CLEAR card. Based on your reaction to Chris’s recent post asking whether or not to spend the $179 to renew his CLEAR card, he’s decided to keep it. Reader comments were mixed but leaned more toward keeping the card.

HOTELS

hotelbizcenter

Secret Service warning re hotel business center computers. (Photo: Hilton MSP)

Beware the Business Center computers. Do you use the computers in hotel business centers? Be careful what you do on them: The Secret Service sent a warning to hotels that scammers could be infecting their public computers with malware that logs users’ keystrokes and sends the data off to the bad guys by email. The agency especially warns against using the computers for personal business that requires you to input account information and passwords. Some scammers were arrested recently near Dallas for just this kind of crime.

Wi-Fi problems bug hotel guests. The biggest complaint by far from hotel guests is a slow or inconsistent Internet connection in their room, according to the just-released 2014 study of guest satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates. But the biggest negative impact on a guest’s satisfaction is a room that’s not clean. Among the eight hotel categories rated, Four Seasons took the number one spot for luxury hotels, Kimpton for Upper Upscale, and Hilton Garden Inn for Upscale.

Best Credit Cards

If you are in the market for a new card, please do so via the links here. Remember, when you get a new credit card via the links provided here, TravelSkills earns a commission. This is what keeps us in business cranking out meaningful content and practical advice.  THANK YOU! Best all around cards for business travelers (and what Chris carries in his wallet): Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Barclaycard Arrival Plus World MasterCard. Both offer nice 40,000 mile sign up bonuses (after spending $3,000 in first three months), and you can use miles on several airlines, hotels and other travel providers. Neither charges irritating foreign transaction fees. And the Barclaycard now has Chip & PIN for easier use overseas. That 40,000 mile bonus with Chase Sapphire is good for $500 in travel when booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Try it, you’ll like it!

In Case You Missed It…

>Kimpton Hotels rolls out a new rewards program with lots of unique ways to earn points.

>A major Middle Eastern carrier will start flying to SFO this fall.

>Chris offers some thoughts on the Malaysia Airlines tragedy.

–Jim Glab

+++

P.S. Facebook is taking its time merging our previous pages into the new TravelSkills Facebook page. If you like to stay in touch and get breaking news/deals updates that way, please visit the page and LIKE it. Thanks!

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

How I watched the #MH17 tragedy unfold

Unusual ways to earn hotel rewards points

Should I renew my CLEAR card?

New global carrier for SFO with an Indian twist

Bigger bins + Check-in not required + Beware LAX traffic mess + New low fare O’Hare flights + Big new build hotel LA Live +

World’s 5 most popular cities (and my comments)

Are frequent flyer programs designed to fail?

Are Uber, Airbnb or Lyft safe?

More TSA scrutiny on cell phones + Southwest overseas + United carry-on enforcement + SF hotel rates soar + More Silvercar

7 ways to avoid summer storm delays (TravelSkills on CNN)

Traveling with Carly Simon (reprise)

Free wi-fi NYC airports + New Star Alliance member + More food at ATL + Clear card in Vegas + UberX on sale

5 ways Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner still wows

How to save $$ on pricey inflight wi-fi

5 key questions to ask at hotel check in

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

Unusual ways to earn hotel rewards points

Rooftop pool at Kimpton's Hotel Wilshire in LA (Photo: Kimpton)

Rooftop pool at Kimpton’s Hotel Wilshire in LA (Photo: Kimpton)

This week the Kimpton Hotel Group, the rapidly expanding chain of 62 funky and functional boutique hotels across the US, rolled out a unique new frequent stay program.

To me, the most unusual feature of the new Kimpton Karma Rewards program is that travelers earn points not just for spending the night (and spending money), but for interacting with the chain on a variety of levels, and earning “karma points.”

For example, guests who attend the chain’s signature “wine hour” in the hotel lobby and engage with the GM might find a thank you and bunch of bonus points for showing up the next time they log on to their Karma Rewards account.  The same goes for guests who check out a free Kimpton bike for a ride around town, those who tweet, Facebook or Instagram about their stays, dine in the hotel restaurant, or hold an event at a Kimpton hotel. You can even earn extra points for booking your stay directly on the hotel’s website instead of using a third party.

Kimpton has 62 hotels in the US, including 4 in NYC and 8 in DC and is aiming to soon have 100.

Kimpton has 62 hotels in the US, including 4 in NYC and 8 in DC and is aiming to soon have 100.

These extra karma points are meant to surprise and delight guests who engage on a deeper level with the variety of experiences the hotels are known for.

“When we asked our members what they loved most about Kimpton and our old InTouch program, they did not gush about how easy it was to earn free nights. The said that they love and remember the unusual touches Kimpton provides, like yoga mats and leopard print robes in closets, the automatic $10 credit on the hotel bar or in-room mini bar, free wi-fi, or the nightly wine hour. So we decided to create a new program focused providing better experiences instead of focusing on free nights,” Kimpton’s Maggie Lang told TravelSkills.

Those extra karma points can help push members up through the four tiers of the program, which come with a raft personalized benefits. For example, those as the very top tiers get a free night at brand new Kimpton hotels, top tables and complimentary apps at hotel restaurants, spa credits and of course, room upgrades (which are only available at check in and don’t include suites, a bitter pill for fellow blogger Gary Leff). Also in the unpublished list of benefits are personalized surprises, like the one you see on this video:


Kimpton did not touch how members earn points – you still get one free night after seven visits or 20 nights. But as you can tell, the new program is not all about free nights…it’s about having a better time or richer experience during your stay.

I’ve stayed at just a handful of Kimpton hotels over the years- primarily on the West Coast… the Palomar in LA, the Solamar in San Diego and the Hotel Monaco in San Francisco come to mind. I’ve also checked into the Hotel Palomar in Atlanta while it was there (it recently switched to a Marriott brand). It has four hotels in NYC and eight in Washington, DC. Kimpton hotels definitely have an colorful, quirky, hip vibe, that I enjoy and I’ve always felt like they get “the little things” exactly right.

What are your thoughts on Kimpton hotels and the new Karma Rewards program? Please leave your comments below. 

Chris McGinnis

+++

P.S. Facebook is taking its time merging our previous pages into the new TravelSkills Facebook page. If you like to stay in touch and get breaking news/deals updates that way, please visit the page and LIKE it. Thanks!

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

Should I renew my CLEAR card?

New global carrier for SFO with an Indian twist

Bigger bins + Check-in not required + Beware LAX traffic mess + New low fare O’Hare flights + Big new build hotel LA Live +

World’s 5 most popular cities (and my comments)

Are frequent flyer programs designed to fail?

Are Uber, Airbnb or Lyft safe?

More TSA scrutiny on cell phones + Southwest overseas + United carry-on enforcement + SF hotel rates soar + More Silvercar

7 ways to avoid summer storm delays (TravelSkills on CNN)

Traveling with Carly Simon (reprise)

Free wi-fi NYC airports + New Star Alliance member + More food at ATL + Clear card in Vegas + UberX on sale

5 ways Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner still wows

How to save $$ on pricey inflight wi-fi

5 key questions to ask at hotel check in

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

 

 

 

Bigger bins + Check-in not required + Beware LAX traffic mess + New low fare O’Hare flights + Big new build hotel LA Live +

New Boeing bins allow Alaska Air travelers to pack em in sideways (Photo: Boeing)

New Boeing bins allow Alaska Air travelers to pack em in sideways (Photo: Boeing)

AIRLINES

Alaska gets ‘Space Bins.’ Alaska Airlines said it will be the first carrier to install new “Space Bins” from Boeing — a new generation of overhead bins that will hold 48 percent more bags than the Boeing Sky interior pivot bins currently on Alaska’s planes. On a 737-900ER, that’s room for 174 standard bags, vs. 117 today. The new bins will be on Next-Generation 737 and 737 MAX aircraft scheduled for delivery to Alaska starting next year. They can even fit “non-standard items” like guitars, a spokesman said. (No word yet on whether larger bins will lead to relaxation of the recent wave of enforcement on oversized carry ons…just sayin’…)

What’s the big deal? After all the hoo-ha about the TSA’s new security procedures requiring some travelers to turn on cell phones, we’ve heard very little from travelers faced with having to do so. We’ve also heard very little about this causing any major delays. Have you? Please leave comments below. 

jetblue

(Photo: Jim Glab)

Skip a step when checking in. JetBlue customers who book extra-legroom ‘Even More Space’ seats are the first beneficiaries of automatic check-in technology the company introduced last week. Instead of going online to check in, “eligible customers will receive an email 24 hours before their scheduled departure with a ready-to-print boarding pass, as well as the option to download a mobile boarding pass via JetBlue iOS or Android mobile apps,” the company said. The service will be expanded to other passenger categories in 2015.

Frontier nibbles at Chicago-O’Hare routes. In its never-ending quest to find profitable markets, Frontier Airlines now has its eye on some plum Chicago O’Hare (ORD) routes — even though it already serves Chicago Midway. Two months ago, Frontier announced it would begin ORD-Washington Dulles service as one of 14 routes it will launch at Dulles in August and September. And now Frontier says it will begin O’Hare-Denver flights October 1 and O’Hare-Atlanta service October 2, but with only five weekly flights on the former route and four on the latter– not much help for business travelers who value frequent flights. Nonetheless, the competition should help keep fares in check.

Security fees increase. In addition to higher fares from airlines this summer, the Transportation Security Administration will increase the Sept. 11 security fee to $5.60 each way on July 21. The fee currently is $2.50 for a nonstop flight and $5 on a trip with connections. Under the new fees, trips with lengthy stopovers — more than four hours between two domestic flights — will see larger increases.

TRAVELSKILLS QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Is inflight food on long haul flights getting better…. or worse? Comments below, please!

My first class breakfast on United SFO-BOS flight last week. Not too pretty, but tasted good. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

My first class breakfast on United SFO-BOS flight last week. Not too pretty, but tasted good. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

My Main Cabin Select protein plate BOS-SFO last week. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

My Virgin America Main Cabin Select protein plate BOS-SFO last week. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

BUSINESS TRAVEL

Group travel leads biz trip revival. In its latest analysis of U.S. business travel trends, the Global Business Travel Association notes that group travel — for meetings, conferences and the like — jumped a healthy 8.6 percent last year, much more than individual trips. This is “a significant indicator that the business travel industry is recovering from the Great Recession and increasing discretionary spending,” GBTA said. The number of individual business trips is forecast to grow by 2.3 percent this year, and spending by 5.6 percent, GBTA said. TravelSkills will be attending the big GBTA Annual Convention in Los Angeles later this month and will provide a full report of the news the trends we uncover! Stay tuned…

AIRPORTS

Travel advisories for ORD, LAX. Chicago O’Hare officials are notifying travelers that the airport’s internal people-mover system will partially close for the next three and a half months, starting July 15. Shuttle buses will be used instead of trains between Economy Parking Lots E/F and Terminals 1,2, 3 and 5. Inter-terminal trains will not be affected … July 25-28 in Los Angeles is being dubbed the “Century Crunch”, when Century Blvd. — a main road into LAX, used by one-third of all passengers — will close for demolition of an old railroad bridge. Officials advise everyone to avoid the area.

HOTELS

Marriott's newest megabuild near the LA Live complex downtown Los Angeles (Photo: Marriott)

Marriott’s newest megabuild near the LA Live complex downtown Los Angeles (Photo: Marriott)

Marriott adds LA twins; new Hilton in Miami. Marriott’s newest dual-branded property is the Courtyard and Residence Inn L.A. Live, now open at that big entertainment and dining complex in downtown Los Angeles … Hilton has cut the ribbon on the 231-room Hilton Cabana Miami Beach, at Collins Ave. and 62nd Street … Denver’s newest hotel is The Crawford at Union Station, part of the massive overhaul of downtown Denver‘s Amtrak station (which will soon feature light-rail service to DEN) … InterContinental Hotels Group opened its second wellness-oriented EVEN Hotel, this one in Rockville, Md.

The glamour of Glass. Are you a tech early adopter who can’t wait to try Google Glass? San Francisco’s Stanford Court Hotel has a new package made for you: It includes accommodations, breakfast, a couple of drinks and use of your own Google Glass device during your stay. Purchasers also get a tutorial and a handout that instructs overeager users on “how to not be a ‘glasshole,’” the hotel says.

In Case You Missed It…

>Have you been to all five of the world’s most popular cities?

>Virgin America’s new video tweaks frequent flyer programs.

>How safe are ‘sharing economy’ travel suppliers?

>Marriott Rewards’ new technology pushes geo-targeted offers to members’ mobile devices.

–Jim Glab & Chris McGinnis

 

+++

P.S. Facebook is taking its time merging our previous pages into the new TravelSkills Facebook page. If you like to stay in touch and get breaking news/deals updates that way, please visit the page and LIKE it. Thanks!

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

World’s 5 most popular cities (and my comments)

Are frequent flyer programs designed to fail?

Are Uber, Airbnb or Lyft safe?

More TSA scrutiny on cell phones + Southwest overseas + United carry-on enforcement + SF hotel rates soar + More Silvercar

7 ways to avoid summer storm delays (TravelSkills on CNN)

Traveling with Carly Simon (reprise)

Free wi-fi NYC airports + New Star Alliance member + More food at ATL + Clear card in Vegas + UberX on sale

5 ways Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner still wows

How to save $$ on pricey inflight wi-fi

5 key questions to ask at hotel check in

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals!

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

Are Uber, Airbnb or Lyft safe?

Lyft cars are easily identified by fuzzy pink moustaches (Photo: Raido / Flickr)

Lyft cars are easily identified by fuzzy pink moustaches (Photo: Raido / Flickr)

By Nancy Branka

Safety is a primary concern for most female business travelers, but it factors into travel decisions of both sexes. So, as I recently made my first-ever reservation on Airbnb.com for a business trip, I stopped and wondered, “Is this smart?”

New “sharing economy” travel suppliers such as Airbnb, Uber or Lyft can be exciting options for travelers– for their uniqueness, convenience and cost savings. But are the benefits of these services offset by safety risks?

I booked an Airbnb condo in Los Angeles because all the convention hotels near my conference were sold out—except one property 10 miles away . The thought of a 10-mile slog in LA traffic was unbearable. Through Airbnb, I booked a one-bedroom condo in a brand-new building that is literally across the street from the convention center. Like most business travelers, cost was not my primary motivation, but it made me smile to be saving $84 a night. Hip décor and free use of the building’s gym and pool didn’t hurt either.

This one bedroom apartment in the mid-Wilshire district of LA goes for about $139 per night (Photo from Airbnb website)

This one bedroom apartment in the mid-Wilshire district of LA goes for about $139 per night (Photo from Airbnb website)

Safety became top-of-mind when I began to set up my Airbnb profile. An elaborate system of matching your identity (including photo) with your public profiles (e.g. LinkedIn or Facebook) is in place. Hosts are also checked in this manner and a verified review system is a reality check to ensure they are reputable and dependable. I read these reviews carefully and chatted via text with the owner before making my decision. For women with safety concerns, I would highly recommend paying attention to reviews and getting to know the host pre-trip. My stay is at the end of this month, so I’m curious about how safe I will feel there. Yet, right now I couldn’t be happier with the booking experience.

Ground transportation is another realm of the sharing economy where safety may be in question for women travelers. We even questioned whether or not Uber is legal on a recent TravelSkills post. Last month Uber was in the news when a woman was allegedly kidnapped by an Uber driver. Turns out charges were not filed—it was not clear that an assault had occurred, and the driver may well have been trying to help the intoxicated passenger who could not remember her address.

Uber now operates in 35 countries and 100 cities. According to its website, drivers (for both ride-sharing and livery services) receive a three-step criminal background check that goes as far back as the law allows (seven years). After hiring, drivers’ records are checked on an ongoing basis. Uber also posits that not needing to hail a car is a safety benefit—you can stay in a safe spot until your car arrives. And you have a record of the driver’s name and vehicle information before you get in the car. A rating system means drivers are held accountable and are—theoretically—always working to do better and improve their ratings. (Uber offers detailed information about driver screening here.)

Lyft, another car-sharing service operating in 60 U.S. cities, has similar safety measures for passengers according to its website. Rideshare-startup Sidecar, also with these safety measures, operates in six U.S. cities.

Ride-sharing companies have been in the news as recently as last week, when they were given cease-and-desist orders in Pittsburgh. Municipalities and states continue to threaten these sharing economy services, usually under the mantle of public safety. However, because they threaten traditional and highly regulated taxi and chauffeur industries, the issue is also laden with political and tax revenue–related repercussions.

While it always pays to be particularly careful when traveling, I don’t see any reason to think these sharing services are less safe than the traditional. In my own travel planning, I will keep an eye on the news as regulations and companies evolve, but until I see proof that my safety is at risk, I will continue to use them.

Do you think sharing economy services like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb are risky? Why? Leave your insights and experiences in the comments!

Nancy Branka

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals! 

+++

P.S. Facebook is taking its time merging our previous pages into the new TravelSkills Facebook page. If you like to stay in touch and get breaking news/deals updates that way, please visit the page and LIKE it. Thanks!

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

More TSA scrutiny on cell phones + Southwest overseas + United carry-on enforcement + SF hotel rates soar + More Silvercar

7 ways to avoid summer storm delays (TravelSkills on CNN)

Traveling with Carly Simon (reprise)

Free wi-fi NYC airports + New Star Alliance member + More food at ATL + Clear card in Vegas + UberX on sale

5 ways Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner still wows

How to save $$ on pricey inflight wi-fi

Is Chengdu China’s Chicago?

Delta waffles on transcon upgrade policy

6 most irritating actions of infrequent flyers

Pay more for fewer hassles? + Delta’s big boast + United expands in Latin America + Lush new LAX lounge

Newer, lighter Emirates A380s coming to SFO, IAH

Trip Report: SAS business class SFO-Copenhagen (PHOTOS)

Is Uber illegal?

5 key questions to ask at hotel check in

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

More TSA scrutiny on cell phones + Southwest overseas + United carry-on enforcement + SF hotel rates soar + More Silvercar

Southwest Airlines 737's taking over many AirTran international routes (Photo: Jim Glab)

Southwest Airlines 737′s taking over many AirTran international routes (Photo: Jim Glab)

AIRLINES

Cell phone scrutiny. As part of newly enhanced security procedures, be sure your cell phone is charged up before going to the airport, especially when returning from the US from overseas. Sounds like the TSA has received credible information that electronics could be used in a terrorist act involving aviation. Here’s part of the new TSA Directive issued over the July 4 weekend: “As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers. During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”

Southwest goes international. Continuing to gobble up the network of its AirTran subsidiary, Southwest Airlines last week launched its first international flights, from Baltimore to Aruba, Jamaica and Nassau, Bahamas; from Atlanta to Aruba and Jamaica; and from Orlando to Jamaica. Southwest plans to add service in August from Orange County, Calif. to Los Cabos and from Milwaukee, ATL and Baltimore to Cancun. AirTran’s roomier business class cabin will surely be missed on these long flights! Southwest says that the AirTran will disappear completely by the end of this year.

Study: Passengers aren’t using devices more. The government earlier this year relaxed the rules so personal electronic devices can be used from gate to gate, but most passengers still aren’t using them much in-flight, according to a new study from DePaul University. “We expected the new policies to encourage more consumers to remain ‘powered up’ from gate to gate, but that simply didn’t happen,” said study co-author Joseph Schwieterman. Only about one-third of air travelers are using their devices at any given point, DePaul said. “Most passengers instead opted to devote their time to reading print material, eating, sleeping and relaxing.” How do you spend your in-flight time?

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 7.47.04 AM

Maybe you SHOULD be using your devices more. TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis will be flying around the U.S. on Virgin America during the month of July hoping to network with other flyers using the new Here on Biz app via the Gogo inflight network. I could probably come up with an better way to describe how Here on Biz works, but the easiest way to describe it: It’s sorta like Tinder or Grindr for business networking. Using geolocation, it finds and connects business people interested in networking and growing their enterprises.  Download the iOS app, find Chris on a Virgin flight this month and you might walk away with a surprise. First flight is TODAY BOS>SFO. Find me!

Virgin America is tops in T&L poll. San Francisco-based Virgin America Airlines captured the number one spot among domestic airlines in Travel + Leisure magazine’s annual “World’s Best” reader poll. JetBlue came in second, followed by Hawaiian and Southwest. Among international carriers, Singapore took the top spot, followed, in order, by Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic. The best U.S. airport was Portland, and the best overseas airport was Singapore Changi.

United’s carry-on pledge. United’s on-line check-in procedure now not only informs you about the specific maximum dimensions allowed for carry-on bags and personal items — it also requires you to acknowledge that you read and accepted the rules.

British Airways experimental blanket monitors passenger brainwaves

British Airways experimental blanket monitors passenger brainwaves (photo by Tim Maroney)

BA blanket tracks brain waves. British Airways started testing a high-tech wrap it calls the “happiness blanket” to measure passengers’ brain waves. It has neuro-sensors linked to fiber optics that change color to show the person’s state of agitation or relaxation. “The airline hopes monitoring a person’s sleep and relaxation patterns during a flight will inform decisions made to improve aspects of the in-flight service; from changing the timing of meals, what food is served and even the types of films shown,” a spokesman said.

AIRPORTS

US Airways moves at O’Hare. The latest step in the consolidation of merger partners American Airlines and US Airways comes at AA’s Chicago O’Hare hub, where US Airways has moved its flights from Terminal 2 to AA’s Terminal 3. For now, travelers who need to print US Airways boarding passes or check baggage must still do so at T2, clearing security there and walking to departure gates on T3′s H Concourse. Ticket counters should be relocated later this year.

HOTELS

Hotel rates are sky high in San Francisco these days. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Hotel rates are sky high in San Francisco these days. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

San Francisco hotel rates spike. Got business in San Francisco? Be prepared to spend about $200 a night for your accommodations. The city says that’s now the average cost of a one-night stay in the City by the Bay — a jump of 40 percent (from $123) since 2009.  The reason? High costs and lengthy timelines for new hotel development have prevented the city’s room count from keeping pace with burgeoning demand.

New Crowne Plaza in Atlanta, Hyatt in D.C. The 500-room Melia Atlanta at 590 W. Peachtree is being converted to InterContinental Hotel Group’s Crowne Plaza brand and undergoing a massive renovation that will change part of the property to a 102-room Staybridge Suites by 2016 … The newly opened Hyatt Place Washington D.C./U.S. Capitol is in the city’s NoMa district just north of the Capitol Building, close to the NoMa-Gallaudet U Metro station … Hilton officials cut the ribbon on the 293-unit Homewood Suites New York/Midtown Manhattan Times Square-South on West 37th St. off Eighth Ave.

GROUND

audi

Audi A4 (from Silvercar)

Silvercar adds two locations. Silvercar, which rents nothing but silver Audi A4s, has opened a new location at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and will start operating at Miami International on July 14. The company also has locations at DFW, SFO, LAX, DAL and AUS. Customers use the company’s smartphone app to book vehicles and even to unlock the car doors. Rental rates include GPS navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, in-car Wi-Fi and a toll tag.  Have you tried Silvercar? Would you? 

In Case You Missed It…

>Here’s an update on that runway construction project at San Francisco International.

>Ramsey shares some inside information about Delta after a visit with officials at its Atlanta headquarters.

>Worried about summer storm delays? Try following these tips Chris shared on CNN.

>American Airlines’ US Airways affiliate will add a second daily Charlotte-London Heathrow flight starting September 13.

–Jim Glab & Chris McGinnis

Are you in the market for a new credit card? Looking for a fat points or mileage bonus to sweeten your balance? Then check out our BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS and scoop up the deals! 

+++

P.S. Facebook is taking its time merging our previous pages into the new TravelSkills Facebook page. If you like to stay in touch and get breaking news/deals updates that way, please visit the page and LIKE it. Thanks!

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

7 ways to avoid summer storm delays (TravelSkills on CNN)

Traveling with Carly Simon (reprise)

Free wi-fi NYC airports + New Star Alliance member + More food at ATL + Clear card in Vegas + UberX on sale

5 ways Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner still wows

How to save $$ on pricey inflight wi-fi

Is Chengdu China’s Chicago?

Delta waffles on transcon upgrade policy

6 most irritating actions of infrequent flyers

Pay more for fewer hassles? + Delta’s big boast + United expands in Latin America + Lush new LAX lounge

Newer, lighter Emirates A380s coming to SFO, IAH

Trip Report: SAS business class SFO-Copenhagen (PHOTOS)

Is Uber illegal?

5 key questions to ask at hotel check in

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

Free wi-fi NYC airports + New Star Alliance member + More food at ATL + Clear card in Vegas + UberX on sale

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

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

AIRPORTS

Free Wi-Fi coming to NYC airports. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has renegotiated its contract with Boingo Wireless so passengers will be able to access limited free Wi-Fi starting this fall. Travelers at JFK, LaGuardia, Newark and Stewart airports will get 30 minutes of free access; after that, fees kick in. Currently, fees are $4.95 an hour or $7.95 a day.

CLEAR comes to LAS. CLEAR, the provider of biometric identity-based expedited access to airport security lanes, plans to add Las Vegas McCarran as its 10th location this summer. The $179-a-year service is already available at SFO, SJC, DFW, DEN, IAH, HOU, SAT, MCO and HPN. Do you use Clear? Is is still worth $179 per year? Leave comments below. 

Passport kiosks spreading fast. Those self-service Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks that reduce waiting time for U.S. international arrivals by up to 40 percent are proving so popular that airlines and airports can’t install them fast enough. Delta, which put APC kiosks into its JFK terminal last fall, said last week it recently installed 74 of them at ATL, 30 at DTW, 20 at BOS and 10 at LAX, and is adding 14 of them at SEA, as the busy summer travel season kicks in. United announced that it just put 20 APCs into the Terminal C customs hall at its Newark transatlantic hub; it already has them at ORD and IAH. MIA plans to double the number of APCs there to 72 by year’s end. At San Francisco International, officials hope to have them in place by April 2015. The kiosks are for travelers who are not members of Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program.

New concessions at ATL. Atlanta airport officials last week unveiled an overhauled Terminal D concessions area with more than a dozen new offerings, including locally renowned Grindhouse Killer Burgers; Wolfgang Puck Fresh Express sandwiches/salads; Harvest & Grounds bakery/cafe; Jay Z’s 40/40 Club bar; and The Food Network Kitchen, among others. Meanwhile, Minute Suites — which offers small sleeping units on ATL’s Concourse B by the hour or overnight — will bring that concept to international concourses E and F next year.

 GROUND

UberUberX on sale. For a limited time this summer, UberX has dropped prices by 25% in several big markets like Los Angeles, Denver, Minneapolis and Washington DC. Uber says these new rates are about 40% less than taxi fares. Some examples:

  • Los Angeles- West Hollywood to LAX: Current UberX-$19; Standard UberX-$26; Taxi-$37
  • Denver-  Downtown to Cherry Creek: Current UberX-$10; Standard UberX -$14; Taxi-$16
  • Orange County-  Disneyland to John Wayne Airport: Current UberX -$20; Standard UberX -$27; Taxi-$36

Uber says no promo code is necessary. You’ll see this promotion automatically applied on your uberX receipt. Sign up for Uber via TravelSkills and get $30 off your first ride!

INTERNATIONAL

An Air India Boeing 777 (Photo: Tom Turner)

An Air India Boeing 777 (Photo: Tom Turner)

Air India joins Star Alliance. The global Star Alliance — including United, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Singapore and others — has approved the addition of Air India to the group, effective July 11. That will add 400 flights a day and 35 new destinations to the alliance’s worldwide network, and will include reciprocal frequent flyer benefits with other Star carriers. With Air India’s less than stellar reputation…would you choose it? Have you flown it in the past? Please leave your comments below.

New routes to Qatar, Vienna, China. Qatar Airways, which just started Miami service, will add daily 777 flights between Doha and DFW July 1 … Austrian Airlines will supplement its Vienna-JFK flights with 767 service between Vienna and Newark starting July 2, offering five flights a week … China’s Hainan Airlines inaugurated service between Boston Logan and Beijing, with four 787 non-stops per week … July 1 is the launch date for new Air Canada daily 777 service from Toronto to Tokyo Haneda, switching to a 787 July 15.

HOTELS

Room with a view! A posh new Peninsula opens in Paris (Photo: Peninsula Hotels)

Room with a view! A posh new Peninsula opens in Paris (Photo: Peninsula Hotels)

Peninsula adds Paris location; IHG debuts EVEN. The old Hotel Majestic in central Paris — which opened in 1908 — has been reborn as the Peninsula Paris … The JW Marriott Hotel Beijing Central has opened in the heart of China’s capital … InterContinental Hotels Group debuted the first property in its EVEN Hotels brand, in Norwalk, Conn. EVEN, designed for “wellness-minded travelers to maintain their balance on the road,” will add a Rockville, Md., property shortly, followed by two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn … A former federal courthouse in Tampa has been reborn as Le Meridien Tampa … The new Hampton Inn Downtown Financial District has opened in Manhattan at Pearl and Moore streets … Starwood’s popular W Chicago-Lakeshore has finally finished a $38 million overhaul, renovating all 520 rooms and adding a signature restaurant.

Ritz-Carlton’s fast path to elite status. Members of the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program have a new benefit: double credit for each night’s stay during 2014 (including those already completed), offering them “an accelerated journey to maintaining their current elite status or achieving a higher level,” the company said.

In Case You Missed It…

>Want to save money on in-flight Wi-Fi? Here are some suggestions.

>Delta is luring Medallion members to its upgraded transcon flights with comp upgrades.

>Here are six ways that infrequent travelers can drive you nuts in-flight.

>Looks like Delta can’t get exclusive rights to “the world’s most trusted airline” after all.

– Jim Glab & Chris McGinnis

+++

P.S. Facebook is taking its time merging our previous pages into the new TravelSkills Facebook page. If you like to stay in touch and get breaking news/deals updates that way, please visit the page and LIKE it. Thanks!

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

5 ways Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner still wows

How to save $$ on pricey inflight wi-fi

Is Chengdu China’s Chicago?

Delta waffles on transcon upgrade policy

6 most irritating actions of infrequent flyers

Pay more for fewer hassles? + Delta’s big boast + United expands in Latin America + Lush new LAX lounge

Newer, lighter Emirates A380s coming to SFO, IAH

Trip Report: SAS business class SFO-Copenhagen (PHOTOS)

Is Uber illegal?

5 key questions to ask at hotel check in

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

 

 

Minty fresh transcons + AA US Upgrades + Salt Lake fight + United SFO consolidated + Amex/Uber tie up + Tokyo’s newest hotel

New JetBlue Mint class cranks up on LAX-JFK; coming to SFO in October (Photo: JetBlue)

New JetBlue Mint class cranks up on LAX-JFK; coming to SFO in October (Photo: JetBlue)

AIRLINES

JetBlue introduces transcon business class. This week JetBlue operated the first transcontinental A321 equipped with its new Mint business class, offering 16 lie-flat seats (including four privacy suites) and an array of special amenities and perks. It’s designed to compete with the recently upgraded premium cabins of its transcon legacy competitors, but at a much lower price (currently starting at $599 one way). For now, it’s only on one daily JFK-Los Angeles flight, but will expand as the airline takes on more of the 11 specially-equipped A321s. It will start on the JFK-SFO route on October 26.

AA, US Airways start reciprocal upgrades. American said last week that AAdvantage elites can now upgrade to first class on US Airways within 24 hours of departure on domestic flights (except Hawaii) and those to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda and Central America. And Preferred-level members of US Airways’ Dividend Miles can do the same on American. The size of carry-on bags on both was also standardized at 45 inches of combined dimensions. The programs are expected to merge fully in 2015, AA said.

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

Salt Lake City Airport (Photo: Jim Glab)

Salt Lake City Airport (Photo: Jim Glab)

Alaska invades SLC. Slapping back at Delta for encroaching on its Seattle base, Alaska Airlines last week and this week is laying on seven new routes from Delta’s Salt Lake City hub — Portland, Boise, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, plus a third daily SLC-SEA flight…Is American’s plan to put a two-class A321 onto the DFW-SFO route this fall a response to Virgin American’s new DAL-SFO service? … Since Delta failed to get the Love Field slots it wanted, it’s now planning four daily DFW-LAX flights instead, starting this fall.

More new international routes open up. Besides its new Dallas/Ft. Worth-Shanghai route, American also kicked off new daily service last week from DFW to Hong Kong with a three-class 777-300ER…Air China last week started flying from Washington Dulles to Beijing’s Capital International Airport four times a week, also with a 777-300ER … Qatar Airways has launched the only non-stops from Miami to the Mideast, flying a two-class 777-200 to Qatar’s new Hamad International Airport … AA’s US Airways unit began code-sharing with joint venture partner Iberia, putting the US code onto the latter’s flights to Madrid from JFK, MIA, BOS, ORD and LAX.

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

AIRPORTS

United consolidates at SFO. Just a reminder: Now that United has finished renovating its Boarding Area E in Terminal 3 and added a new United Club there, all of its domestic flights now operate from T3, eliminating the need for connecting travelers to take that awful shuttle under the airport to or from Terminal 1.

Dramatic skyline view from the newest Hyatt in Tokyo (Photo: Hyatt Hotels)

Dramatic skyline view from the newest Hyatt in Tokyo (Photo: Hyatt Hotels)

HOTELS

New luxury hotels in Tokyo, Taipei. Hyatt has added a Tokyo hotel to its upscale Andaz brand. The newly opened, 164-room Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills occupies the upper floors of a 52-story tower with sweeping views of the city. It’s between Tokyo Tower and Imperial Palace, not far from the Ginza district. Meanwhile, the Mandarin Oriental Taipei has opened in the heart of Taiwan’s capital near Taipei Shongshan Airport.

Which credit card is currently offering $500 in free travel (among many other bennies) when you sign up? Click here to find out about this “no-brainer” offer! 

Chevy's new Spark CARS

AmEx forges a tie-in with Uber. American Express has inked a partnership deal with the popular ride-finding app Uber, which operates in five dozen U.S. cities. Membership Rewards members who register their cards in the newest version of Uber’s iOS app can earn double program points, or they can use points to pay for rides.

Hertz’ new EVs get 119 MPG equivalent. Hertz has added the 2014 Chevrolet Sparto its fleets at Los Angeles International and San Francisco International airports. The company says the subcompact electric vehicles achieve the greatest fuel efficiency of any EV — the equivalent of 119 MPG combined city and highway driving. They’re also being rolled out at Hertz’ local rental outlets throughout California.

In Case You Missed It

>United’s new transition of MileagePlus to a spending-based program is pretty much a carbon copy of Delta’s.

>Have you tried out Marriott’s new M Club Lounge concept yet? Here’s some background.

>Virgin America has rolled out an innovative redesign of its website.

>Amtrak is taking bids for a project to boost capacity and increase speeds of on-board Wi-Fi for its Northeast Corridor trains.

-Jim Glab

+++

P.S. Facebook is taking its time merging our previous pages into the new TravelSkills Facebook page. If you like to stay in touch and get breaking news/deals updates that way, please visit the page and LIKE it. Thanks!

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts:

Mood lights on at new Virgin America site 

First look: The newest United Club (PHOTOS)

Beer price index helps gauge cost of trips abroad

United’s new copy & paste MileagePlus program

Marriott’s M Club lounge experiment

More transpac + Slim-line seats slammed + More A321s + New SFO club + ATL free wi-fi + New Hilton brand

Flying on a brand new United 787 Dreamliner

The sad state of summer airfares to Europe

Tip: What exactly is “high tea?”

Feast your eyes on United’s new London lounges (PHOTOS)

Economy comfort gets an upgrade (for some)

Late summer airfare sale starts TODAY

5 key questions to ask at hotel check in

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

Marriott’s M Club lounge experiment

M Club Lounge Marriott San Francisco Airport Waterfront (Photo: Marriott)

The M Club Lounge entrance at the Marriott San Francisco Airport Waterfront conveys its hip vibe. (Photo: Marriott)

Is there steak behind Marriott’s M Club Lounge sizzle? The giant hotel chain’s fans have been buzzing about its brand new club room concept, up-and-running now at four properties: San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront, New York Marriott East Side, Wichita Marriott, and Marriott Marquis Washington, DC.

Next in the queue is an M Club at the Miami Airport Marriott, set to open in July or August. Each of the four existing clubs is a little different—varying by hours, access policies, or food service, for example.

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

What’s the game-plan? Marriott’s John Wolf told TravelSkills the company is testing these lounges as they’re rolled out with a “proof of concept” approach. So, the answer is, “it depends.” It depends on what works in real-life for guests and for the brand. We’ll see if there was steak behind that sizzle of the roll-out rhetoric.

Cheerful seating at the New York Marriott East Side's M Club Lounge (Photo: Marriott)

Cheerful seating at the New York Marriott East Side’s M Club Lounge (Photo: Marriott)

The M Club Lounge concept is described by Marriott as “an exclusive space with premiere services where guests can work, enjoy a bite, recharge and connect.” The rooms provide a variety of seating options to relax or work, whether individually or in a small group. The brand-new Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC even has outdoor seating, an appealing option. Each lounge has a dedicated host, including a concierge, who can help with local recommendations and resources.

Which credit card is currently offering $500 in free travel (among many other bennies) when you sign up? Click here to find out about this “no-brainer” offer! 

Of particular note for business travelers is free high-speed Internet and wi-fi printing, data ports, tablets (loaded with newspapers and magazines) and charging stations. Business services, such as computers, phone, fax, scanner and copier, are also available.

A few of the lounges are open 24 hours, which is an interesting idea—especially for those with jet lag, an off-hours flight or plain old insomnia. But hours are determined by location and are being tested by the chain.

Evening appetizers at Wichita Marriott's M Club Lounge (Photo: Marriott)

Evening appetizers at Wichita Marriott’s M Club Lounge (Photo: Marriott)

For the food and beverage side of things—for which biz travelers have high standards—there’s the expected breakfast daily, evening bar service and free appetizers. Aside from the complimentary food, a menu offers food for purchase. There’s also access to snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, including a Starbucks Single Brew Coffee Machine. And it all aims for flexibility: The idea is to provide food for consuming within the lounge, as well as grab-and-go opportunities for those who don’t want to linger.

TravelSkills reader JS from St Petersburg, FL wrote, “We stayed at the Marriott Waterfront Airport near SFO on Sunday night…. they are testing a new concept there I thought you might be interested in. The concierge lounge is now called “M Club” and it was very fancy.  Gourmet food, full service waiter/bartender.  You have to pay for drinks but the food is complimentary and it was fantastic. We had both the appetizers and dessert at night and the breakfast in the morning, nothing like I’ve ever seen before in a Marriott concierge lounge, more like Ritz-Carlton.”

Gold/Platinum Marriott Rewards members receive complimentary access and may bring one guest. For at least one property, the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront, additional guest passes can be purchased for $20 each. Others hotel guests can purchase access (upgrade) to the M Club Lounge when making reservations or upon check-in.  Upgrade prices vary among properties.

Have you experienced an M Club Lounge? What did you think? Do other hotel chains offer something similar that you like? Please leave your comments below. 

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

–Nancy Branka

+++

P.S. Facebook is taking its sweet time merging our previous pages into the new TravelSkills Facebook page. If you like to stay in touch and get breaking news/deals updates that way, please visit the page and LIKE it. Thanks!

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts: 

Flying on a brand new United 787 Dreamliner

The sad state of summer airfares to Europe

Tip: What exactly is “high tea?”

Feast your eyes on United’s new London lounges (PHOTOS)

Economy comfort gets an upgrade (for some)

Late summer airfare sale starts TODAY

5 key questions to ask at hotel check in

JetBlue goes transpac? + Seattle battle + More 787s + Dirty planes + Centurion Lounge at MIA + New hotels for ATL SFO

Biz Trip: New York City

The most unusual Virgin breakfast

5 insider groups for ultra-connected travelers

An update on email frequency – note from Chris

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

More transpac + Slim-line seats slammed + More A321s + New SFO club + ATL free wi-fi + New Hilton brand

Seattle (pictured)  nabs two new nonstops to Asia (Photo: Jim Glab)

Seattle (pictured) nabs two new nonstops to Asia (Photo: Jim Glab)

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

AIRLINES

U.S. carriers launch new transpac routes. Transpacific travelers are getting several new options this month. Delta last week started daily non-stops from Seattle to Seoul, and on June 16 will add daily flights from SEA to Hong Kong. At San Francisco International, United plans a June 9 start for non-stop 787 service to Chengdu, China three times a week. (TravelSkills will be on the inaugural flight so stay tuned for our report!) And June 11 is the launch date for American’s new daily non-stops between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Shanghai Pudong. Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific last week added a fourth daily frequency to its LAX-Hong Kong route, and Etihad kicked off daily Los Angeles-Abu Dhabi transatlantic flights.

Survey slams slim-line seats. Those new slim-line seats that some airlines are installing in economy class aren’t a big hit with passengers, according to a new Tripadvisor survey of 4,300 flyers. Almost two-thirds said the slim-line seats are less comfortable than traditional seating. Uncomfortable seating remains air travelers’ top complaint (73 percent), followed by high fares and fees (66 percent), flight delays (45 percent), long waits at security (35 percent) and whiney kids (32 percent). Have you spent much time in slim-line seats yet? What did you think?

Delta's new A321s will be made in Mobile, Alabama (Airbus)

Delta’s new 195-seat Airbus A321s will be made in Mobile, Alabama (Airbus)

Airlines go for A321s. After years of adding Airbus A319 and A320 narrow-bodies to their fleets, U.S. carriers are now trending toward the larger A321. Delta just ordered 15 more (for a total of 45, starting in 2016); American selected specially-configured A321s for its new transcon fleet, and JetBlue will use them for its new premium-cabin (Mint) transcon service as well. What’s the attraction? They can carry many more passengers (e.g., 192 seats on Delta’s version, vs. 150 for its A320s) for almost the same amount of fuel burn.

Eagle getting new jets. American Airlines has taken delivery of the first of 30 new CRJ-900s that will fly under the American Eagle banner. They’ll have 12 first class, 32 Main Cabin Extra and 32 main cabin seats, and they’ll be equipped with Gogo Wi-Fi technology. No word yet on which routes get them first.

US Airways adds code-shares to Germany. American Airlines has long had code-sharing with oneworld partner airberlin, and now AA affiliate US Airways does too. US Airways’ code has gone onto airberlin flights from ORD, MIA and JFK to Berlin; and from MIA, JFK and Ft. Myers, Fla. to Dusseldorf.

2 most popular TravelSkills posts last week: 5 key questions to ask at hotel check in | Tip: What exactly is “high tea?”

AIRPORTS

Free Champers at the brand new United Club at SFO on opening day! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Free Champers at the brand new United Club at SFO on opening day! Stay tuned to TravelSkills for a slideshow! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

New UA Club at SFO. United recently opened a temporary 5,000-square-foot United Club at San Francisco International. It is located on the mezzanine level over the corridor connecting the new Boarding Area E with Boarding Area F. The temporary 100-seat club is expected to be open for only 16 months while a brand new United Club is being built nearby. It supplements existing Clubs in T3′s Boarding Area F Rotunda and the International Terminal. TravelSkills was there with a camera on opening day so stay tuned for a slideshow! 

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

ATL offers free Wi-Fi. Travelers at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson can now access the Web anywhere, for no charge, using a system operated by ATL itself. Previously, a $4.95 fee applied. “The lack of free Wi-Fi put our airport at a competitive disadvantage and it was the number one complaint we would receive from our customers,” a spokesman said. Have you had a chance to try it yet? Let us know about your experience in the comments below! 

HOTELS

Hilton adds a new brand. Like Marriott’s Autograph Collection, Hilton Worldwide has created a new brand of independently owned and operated hotels that will participate in Hilton’s reservations and marketing networks and its HHonors program. Initial members of the new Curio-A Collection by Hilton are the SLS Las Vegas; Sam Houston Hotel, Houston; Hotel Alex Johnson, Rapid City, S.D.; and Franklin Hotel, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Which credit card is currently offering $500 in free travel (among many other bennies) when you sign up? Click here to find out about this “no-brainer” offer! 

The brand new Park Hyatt  Vienna is open! (Photo: Hyatt)

The brand new Park Hyatt Vienna is open! (Photo: Hyatt)

New hotels from Hyatt, Loews. Hyatt has opened its first hotel in Austria. The Park Hyatt Vienna, on Am Hof Square, is a rebuild of a 100-year-old bank. Meanwhile, an early July closing is expected for Loews Hotels’ acquisition of the Graves 601 Hotel Wyndham Grand in downtown Minneapolis; and the Radisson Plaza Hotel Minneapolis will be rechristened the Radisson Blu July 7 after a massive renovation.

In Case You Missed It…

>There are five questions you should always ask when checking into a hotel.

 >Take a tour of United’s first and business class lounges at London Heathrow’s brand-new Terminal 2.

>Pricing your summer trip to Europe? Be prepared for sticker shock!

>June 30 is the launch date for the reincarnation of 1980s low-fare carrier PEOPLExpress, operating three routes out of Newport News, Va.

–Jim Glab 

+++

P.S. Facebook is taking its sweet time merging our previous pages into the new TravelSkills Facebook page. If you like to stay in touch and get breaking news/deals updates that way, please visit the page and LIKE it. Thanks!

facebook like

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

Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts: 

Flying on a brand new United 787 Dreamliner

The sad state of summer airfares to Europe

Tip: What exactly is “high tea?”

Feast your eyes on United’s new London lounges (PHOTOS)

Economy comfort gets an upgrade (for some)

Late summer airfare sale starts TODAY

5 key questions to ask at hotel check in

JetBlue goes transpac? + Seattle battle + More 787s + Dirty planes + Centurion Lounge at MIA + New hotels for ATL SFO

Biz Trip: New York City

The most unusual Virgin breakfast

5 insider groups for ultra-connected travelers

An update on email frequency – note from Chris

Please join the 25,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!
Editorial Disclaimer: This editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program. Responses in the comments section are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”