Most popular: Cheap flights to London | Transcon sale | Free Vegas | Hilton promo | Best Credit Card

Washington DC

What a great week to be in Washington DC on the eve of an election for a Boarding Area conference (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

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

British Airways adds yet another Bay Area nonstop

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

Deal Alert: Transcon fares plummet in December

5 fabulously free things to do in Las Vegas

The view over the Venetian from my room at the Palazzo in Las Vegas (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Don’t miss our post about free things to do in Las Vegas.  (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

17 moments in 17 hours on Singapore Airlines Airbus A350

These two Virgins are splitting up

Delta details plush premium economy plans

How to choose the best travel credit card

New hotels: Minneapolis, Chicago, Silicon Valley, Nashville, Atlanta

10 New device offers drivers a heads-up, hands-free display

Don’t miss: More cheap flights across the Atlantic-KLM, AirFrance, BA

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Hilton HHonors members who book through the HHonors App (get it here) and pay with a Visa credit card for stays during November 2, 2016 – January 31, 2017 will earn an additional 5,000 Bonus Points.  How? Here are the details http://www.HHonors.com/VisaBonus.

hotel hall corridor

REDRUM! We checked out this gorgeous new hotel recently and will write about it this week. Any guesses? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

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

Post-takeover layoffs begin at Starwood

Marriott installs “like” buttons throughout hotel

A beautiful behind-the-scenes planespotting tour at SFO (Slideshow)

Airlines bump up capacity for bigger Thanksgiving travel crowds

Airlines: Profitable, but worried

Delta rolled out updates to its already awesome app last week. Details included in this short video:

New pet relief rooms in concourses at ATL include fire hydrants

Delta finished Wi-Fi installations on its long-haul aircraft

Study: Most companies’ travel policies don’t cover Uber/Lyft rides on international trips

Uber unveils a big redesign of its app

Hello Gorgeous! New spa for Delta employees at ATL

Judge refuses to throw out price-fixing suit against major U.S. airlines

Lufthansa retires its last 737

Survey: Business travelers are more concerned about maintaining a good work/life balance

ICYMI, see the 25 most recent TravelSkills posts right here

In the market for a new credit card? See our “Credit Card Deals” tab to shop around! It helps us help you! 

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

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

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

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

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

Is Southwest really a low fare carrier? Depends on…

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

4 Cool science An answer to filthy airplane drinking water?

SPG_AMEX_PHOTO_08.04.15

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

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

United devalues; Delta throws a bone, Chairman resigns

Deal shopping? Go where business travelers don’t

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

10 Singapore Airlines opens up about newest longest nonstop

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

United Hangar

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

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

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

Delta mulling low-frills transatlantic product

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

Virgin America’s crazy new first class shoes

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

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

Washington Reagan National airport to get billion dollar makeover

Airlines testing virtual reality headsets for passengers

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

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

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

New study sees “sluggish” growth in business travel spending

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

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

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

Low business class fares attract mileage junkies

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

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

In the market for a new credit card?

Wallet credit cards

Big news for big spenders as banks roll out new bonuses and perks (Image: Pixabay)

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Singapore Air opens up about longest nonstop

Singapore Airlines business class

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

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

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

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

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

Singapore Airlines menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

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

In the market for a new credit card?

Wallet credit cards

Big news for big spenders as banks roll out new bonuses and perks (Image: Pixabay)

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Airport news: San Francisco, Atlanta, Newark, Philadelphia

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

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

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

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

Atlanta, ATL canopy

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

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

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

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

At Newark Liberty International, Air Canada has opened a new Maple Leaf Lounge for premium passengers near its departure gates in Terminal A, beyond the security checkpoint. The facility offers free Wi-Fi, refreshments, and work areas that include free printing. Air Canada operates up to 23 flights a day from Newark (including United code-shares), serving Toronto, O