An update on email frequency – note from Chris

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 3.18.18 PM Hi Folks!

We are through week #1 of the new TravelSkills blog and we hope you like what you see so far!

If you are happy with what you’re seeing and reading, ignore the rest of this note and just click on this link to read our latest post:

Bigger, better RJs + Virgin website + More premium economy + ATL roadways + SFO on-airport hotel

New Weekly Option:

Several of you have asked for the option to get a weekly update from us (instead of the current daily updates).

If weekly is what you want, we’re here to deliver!

To switch to weekly, just click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly. Your frequency will switch to weekly and you’ll get one email from us each Thursday with links to that week’s posts.

Keep in mind you could miss out on time sensitive news and deals by switching to weekly.

Do nothing and you’ll continue to get one TravelSkills Daily email each evening.

As we were working through these technical issues yesterday, we skipped sending out a post, so if you missed it, here’s the link!

Bigger, better RJs + Virgin website + More premium economy + ATL roadways + SFO on-airport hotel

Thanks again for your patience as we work to make TravelSkills your favorite travel blog!



P.S. Facebook is taking their 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!

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Check out these popular recent TravelSkills posts: 

Bigger, better RJs + Virgin website + More premium economy + ATL roadways + SFO on-airport hotel

Huge hotel mash-up in the works?

Marriott’s 4,000th hotel opens

Unusual collection: Airline amenity kits (photos)

Surviving “tourist season” at the airport: Chris on CNN

5 new business class hotels in Boston

Virgin Atlantic to fly to Atlanta!

4 warning signs of a long hot summer

Which airlines are most generous with miles?

Runway closure at SFO to impact summer travel


Taking off with TravelSkills! A letter from Chris

Chris on The Tube in London (Photo: Johnny Jet)

Chris McGinnis on The Tube in London (Photo: Johnny Jet)

Hi Folks:

If you are reading this it means you’ve safely made the transition to TravelSkills. Thanks for coming along with me on this journey!

Here’s what you need to know about the new blog:

WHO: My voice will continue to dominate everything here on TravelSkills and in our social media streams like Facebook and Twitter, but as before, I’ll use contributors to help keep our content fresh and topped off. (About Me)

WHAT: The TravelSkills blog is written by business travelers for business travelers, featuring news, advice and analysis of trends affecting our trips. We have added some exciting additional features that I think you’ll like such as Wake Up Call, a compendium of the week’s most important business travel news; 5 New Hotels, an update on the newest business class hotels in major cities; and Biz Trip, my latest, greatest BBC business travel guides for about 25 cities around the world.

WHEN: On days that we post new stories, you’ll get an email in the late afternoon or evening with a link to them. For breaking news and tips, I suggest you follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Or via a reader using our RSS feed.

WHERE: I’ll frequently cover topics germane to travelers who live in my hometowns of Atlanta and San Francisco. If that’s the only type of information you want, see the ATL and SFO tabs at the top of the page. I’ve built those just for you. Also, speaking of WHERE, we are very excited to announce that TravelSkills becomes part of the popular Boarding Area network of blogs this week!

WHY: I created the TravelSkills blog to be the central source of my business travel content, which has been spread across various blogs, websites, magazines and TV stations over the last 25 years. The new blog will make it easier for you to follow along with what I’m saying, writing or broadcasting. Plus, by focusing on a single outlet, I’ll be able to provide you with better information.

HOW: I love the work I do on the blog, and hope to be compensated for it via advertising and sponsored content. You can help us out by clicking on ads and supporting our sponsors with your business. In the market for a new credit card? Then please get one via our links. Buying a plane ticket? Buy it via our links. You can also help by interacting with our posts via social media: Read a post that you like, then LIKE it on Facebook, share it on Twitter, or post it to your LinkedIn page! Social media stats are a great measure of our success, so please PLEASE interact.

Despite slaving over the new site over the past few weeks, I’m sure that there are still many bugs to fix. If you find something that seems off, or an important link that does not work, or any other weirdness, please email me and we’ll take care of it. (

Please stick with us through the transition…we are open to suggestions and will be making plenty of changes based on your feedback.

Now, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!


Chris McGinnis


PS: While we wait for Facebook to merge our pages, please go ahead and LIKE the TravelSkills Facebook page right now!

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Holiday travel advice fit for a Queen

Holiday travel season usually mimics the peak summer travel season, which this year was VERY busy and VERY expensive, so I expect the same for the upcoming holiday season. Here’s some of the advice I offered viewers in a segment on  The Queen Latifah Show (seriously!) this week. See below for details about the appearance…

·         Best time to buy tickets- Due to high demand, there simply are not any “deals” on the peak days around Christmas and New Years this year. This year, travelers who want the most convenient flights on their preferred airlines need to book by Nov 10 to get seats on those flights…otherwise they will likely be stuck paying the same high price for “dog flights” that depart super early or late, middle seats, or multiple stops on non-preferred airlines. My favorite sites for booking air: and

·         Alternative travel options that people don’t think about- If you have the flexibility to travel during the slowest times of year, the so called “dead weeks” of early December and early January, you can save 50-70% on airfare. Best sites for deadweek deals:, TravelZoo. Another alternative is to consider staying over in a hotel when visiting families during the holidays– rates at new hotels in or near suburban office parks are at annual lows during holidays, and facilities are nice. Having your own space at a hotel is a big relief for both the traveler and the host during the stressy holidays.

Subscribe to The TICKET via E-mail!

·         Best days/times for traveling- Good news about this year’s holiday season is that it is LONGER than usual with Christmas and New Years falling on Wednesdays– the full season will be over two weeks long, which means more wiggle room for travelers. (Compared to a season when Xmas and New Years both fall on say, Sunday, which makes for a much more compact season)

·         Luggage issues– Do not check bags during the holidays. If you have too much for a carry on, ship ahead of time, but do so at the “ground” rate at UPS or FEDEX. Shipping overnight or two-day is too expensive.

·         Rewards. It’s nearly impossible to use airline frequent flyer awards during blacked out peak holiday season, so this is the time of year to focus on using credit card rewards such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards which do not have blackout dates. Also, hotel programs like Best Western Rewards offer non travel awards such as gift cards to big stores like Sears or Target that are perfect gifts

·         How to make holiday travel less stressful– see above– stay at a hotel instead of on the lumpy sofa bed of your relatives. Rates are dirt cheap during holiday season. Also, always try to book nonstop flights because you double your chances of a delay or cancellation with a one stop flight, even though you might save a few bucks.


AVOID HOLIDAY HASSLES WITH VALET PARKING AT ATL! Have you noticed the flurry of men and women in green blazers on the lower level passenger pick up areas at ATL? They are new parking valet attendants from GreenCoat Auto Concierge & Valet service. For $20 per day, you can now drive to the airport, leave your car with a GreenCoat at the terminal, and head off on your trip. The valet will drive your car to a secure, indoor, off-airport lot and park it. When you return, just call GreenCoat and let them know you’re coming, and an attendant will bring your car back to the airport terminal, hand it over to you, and you drive home. Nice! GreenCoat has just signed on as a sponsor of The TICKET so you’ll be hearing more about the service in coming months. Give it a try and let us know how it goes! NOTE: ADVANCE RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED. Special for TICKET readers: First timers get 1000 Delta SkyMiles! >>See ad…click on ad>>

Okay, so here’s how the whole Queen Latifah thing happened:

Last week, Queen Latifah called for holiday travel advice last week and Chris delivered!

Show producers flew TICKET editor Chris McGinnis to LAX, met him at the airport with Mercedes SUV transfers, and put him up at the Hotel Palomar in Westwood for one night.

Chris McGinnis and Queen Latifah on the Queen Latifah Show set in Los Angeles

Chris McGinnis and Queen Latifah on the Queen Latifah Show set in Los Angeles

On show day, more limo transfers to the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City for the taping of the seven-minute segment. The Queen provided my own private green room, with a small sofa, desk, snacks, bathroom. Other guests that day included Cloris Leachman and the Irish band Kodaline.

We taped the segment in front of a live audience from two first class airline seats in the middle of the set! the Queen was warm, personable and a LOT of fun (I expected no less!). Did you know that Queen Latifah’s real name is Dana Owens? That’s what everyone behind stage was calling her. (I just called her “your Majesty!)

Then a rush to LAX (thankfully the day before the incident at Terminal 3) and back home.

What a fun day!

Chris McGinnis 


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CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THE TICKET? Then follow us on Facebook! Join the thousands of TICKET readers who get a regular dose of fare deals, travel news, and advice via our Facebook page. Come on and join the fun…and stay informed.



Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – $89 Annual Fee Card     Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard - $89 Annual Fee Card

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. 40,000 bonus miles equates to $400 off your next travel redemption!
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months after account opening. After that, variable APR, currently 14.99% or 18.99%, based upon your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • No mileage caps or foreign transaction fees
  • Get 10% miles back when you redeem for travel statement credits (i.e. redeem 25,000 miles for travel and get 2,500 miles back)
  • Use your card to book through any airline, hotel or discount travel engine with no blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Easily redeem your miles for statement credits towards all or a portion of your travel purchases within the last 90 days
  • Complimentary online FICO® Score access for Arrival cardmembers

Best/worst cities to lose your wallet (Infographic)



If you lose your wallet in Helsinki or Mumbai, it’s likely to be returned. But you better hang on tightly to your wallet in Madrid, Lisbon or Prague, the least likely places your wallet will be returned, according to Reader’s Digest.

In an interesting experiment, researchers “dropped” 12 wallets in 16 different cities to see what would happen. Each wallet included a name with a cellphone number, a family photo, coupons, and business cards, plus the equivalent of $50.  They were left  in parks, near shopping malls, and on sidewalks. Unfortunately, Atlanta was not included in the study… but if it had been, where do you think it would have ranked?

Have you ever lost your wallet in another country? Or found a wallet and tried to return it? Please leave your comments below! 

HOW TO GET A $400 AIRLINE TICKET FOR $89: Want to snag an easy 40,000 bonus miles? Earn 2x miles on all purchases? Avoid obnoxious foreign transaction fees? Get TripIt Pro for free? Check out the new Barclaycard promo here or at the bottom of this post. Easy peasy! Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – $89 Annual Fee Card

Chris McGinnis


Subscribe to The TICKET via E-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis on Twitter!

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THE TICKET? Then follow us on Facebook! Join the thousands of TICKET readers who get a regular dose of fare deals, travel news, and advice via our Facebook page. Come on and join the fun…and stay informed.


Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – $89 Annual Fee Card     Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard - $89 Annual Fee Card

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. 40,000 bonus miles equates to $400 off your next travel redemption!
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months after account opening. After that, variable APR, currently 14.99% or 18.99%, based upon your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • No mileage caps or foreign transaction fees
  • Get 10% miles back when you redeem for travel statement credits (i.e. redeem 25,000 miles for travel and get 2,500 miles back)
  • Use your card to book through any airline, hotel or discount travel engine with no blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Easily redeem your miles for statement credits towards all or a portion of your travel purchases within the last 90 days
  • Complimentary online FICO® Score access for Arrival cardmembers


Apologies for server meltdown (resending)

(Credit: Jon Watson)

(Credit: Jon Watson)

Dear Readers: We apologize for a temporary server meltdown on Thursday…. it happened (of course) shortly after we posted the current issue of The TICKET. Thanks for all the kind emails alerting us to the issue!

In case you missed it, here’s the link. 


Chris McGinnis


The Top of The TICKET

The Top of The TICKET is a periodic review, commentary and curation of our recent posts. Come on and hear what folks are saying!

Tip: When flying between ATL and SFO, try to book Delta’s 767 flights like this one departing SF at 7:30 am– much more comfortable and spacious than the cramped 757. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

>First off, welcome back to many of our long lost readers! Over the course of the last year as we switched over to Feedburner, we lost many of you. But using super-duper spreadsheet skills, our techie types recently hauled in many of you who never made the switch. So welcome back to The TICKET! PLEASE tell all your friends and family about it! We need more readers in order to attract more advertisers, which of course keeps The TICKET free for readers.

>Are you signed up for our Facebook page yet? We frequently break news on our Facebook page that eventually makes it into our monthly roundups. So if you want news when it happens, come on and get on our Facebook page. Our most popular recent post showed a photo of USA Today’s new format, which most of our Facebook friends panned. T. Sullivan said, “No, just no!” J Clark said, “Not the USA Today we recognize.” And E Mackle, always at ready with an acerbic comment wrote, “Garbage in, garbage out.” We also got some insightful reader comments about Economy Comfort. So come on, get social with The TICKET on our Facebook Page!

>Our latest Airline/Airport update,Problems w PreCheck, Faster wi-fi, Delta devalues miles, fall season outlook” was a huge draw. On the day it was published, The TICKET nabbed nearly 4,000 views. It was a blockbuster end-of-summer issue with lots of newsy tips, fun photos, a video of your esteemed editor on national news, and some ugly bare feet. More important was the introduction of our newest sponsor, Peachy Airport Parking, which has made a private offer of 500 SkyMiles and three miles per dollar spent to all TICKET readers. If you’ve not had a look at all the bells and whistles you get with Peachy, PLEASE check them out here, print the page and get your SkyMiles!

>Our lead item about problems with PreCheck pulled in the greatest number of comments—mostly complaints—about the “random” nature of the speedier security lines. M. Daugherty wrote: “I have Global Entry, Nexus, and pre-flight. I am Diamond and a four million miler. Nevertheless I have cleared through precheck only twice out of the last SIXTEEN flights. I hate that ‘too bad so sad’ look on the face of the TSA person.” B Grossman wrote: “When the Pre-Check program was initiated in Atlanta, I was clearing it roughly 80% of my flights during the first month. Since then, I have not been cleared a single time and I have flown more than 45 flights.” But G Schultz said, “I am also enrolled in the Global Entry program and am Diamond (only a 1 million miler, though!). I’ve gotten the TSA pre-check lane almost every time I’ve gone out in the past year. The only time I haven’t been given the pre-check lane was as I was leaving for an international flight.” Do you read comments? Sometimes, some of our best tips come from readers, so please join in!

>We also posted a photo of some feet curled around the video screen on the bulkhead row of a Delta 767. C Walker said, “The feet on the bulkhead position has always bothered me, whether those feet are clothed in shoes, the ubiquitous flip flops, socks, sandals, stockings or just bare. I often wonder if those people who do this disgusting act in public also put their feet on the walls of their homes?”

>Do you follow TICKET editor Chris McGinnis on Twitter? Every day I sift through all the business travel news out there and tweet items that I think would interest my readers most. The tweet that got the most attention this week—I guess you could call it my “Tweet of the Week” Did you know: “The TSA now allows travelers aged 75+ to pass through airport security screening with jackets and shoes on.” Another more recent tweet about a job available with Delta: “Interesting job posting from Delta for “Senior Project Manager-SkyMiles” Come on! Follow me!


Subscribe to The TICKET via E-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis


The best of The BAT

Oooo-la-la! What a view from the bathtub in the penthouse suite at the new Shangri-La, Paris– which goes for $23,000 per night. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Hello BATmen and BATwomen! Here’s a round up of our top posts for August…and a selection of our favorite comments. Enjoy your Labor Day!

SFO gets United Boeing 787 Dreamliner after all

>>This was by far our most popular post this month– with nearly 10K views!

Overreaction to United’s network outage?

COMMENT>>I think passengers and the media DO tend to over react in these situations. It’s become a sport to complain about the airlines, the IRS, and a few other industries. I travel A LOT with United and overall I’ve been happy and satisfied. The problem they have now is that the merger HAS created a lot of problems so every little problem gets amplified when it happens.

United reveals routes for new Boeing 787 Dreamliner

COMMENT>>Lets not forget, the 787 is made for long thin routes to secondary cities. The only route I could see the 787 on from SFO is the upcoming SFO-CDG route. All other routes to Asia/S.Pacific/Europe require the 744/777. SFO, unlike SJC, can fill the larger aircraft.

United revamps popular PS flights to New York

COMMENT>>Now, as a Silver Premier, I’ll have to buy up to EP. United has made ther message loud and clear to their “middle class” frequent travellers ( people who fly between 25k to 49k per year), “we just don’t care about you anymore, now that we have absorbed Continental’s upper tier members). After 13 years of golden handcuffs with United I now try to avoid them at all costs.Virgin American is by far a better experience – on any of ther flights.

Another Airbus A380 arriving at SFO

COMMENT>>It’s a bummer they will only have the A380 for three months! Too bad they do not have the non-stop service to Singapore like the one flying from LAX (without stopping in Hongkong)

Whenever I flew to Asia, I only want to fly either SQ or Cathay, even when redeeming my United Mileage. Flew with United once, will never do that again. SQ and Cathay both set your standard pretty high (and I am only flying coach), they make United and other American and European airlines look like they do not know how to run an airline service (from aircraft/technology/luggage limitation/customer service/in-flight service/meals). Why is so hard for the american carriers’ flight attendants not to utter swear words while on duty or just to smile and be polite?

Two exotic new hotels in Paris (Slideshow)

COMMENT>>The George V is still my spot . . . although I will stop into the Shangri La to check it out. The W rooms are too small.

Apple vs Visa vs United Olympic ads: Who wins?


Bronze – Apple. I just didn’t see the tie in to the Olympics
Silver – United. Can’t stand the Polo logo, but that’s not their fault. I’m also glad that Rhapsody in Blue as background music survived the merger.
Gold – Visa for creatively illustrating how hard our athletes work to get there!

London hotel rates crash, flights half full…

>>Hate to say we told you so, be our predictions were right on about this one! Most travel suppliers in London made squat during the Olympics. But what a great games, anyway!



Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail– and tell your friends about it, too!


Google purchases Frommer’s travel guides

News broke this morning that Google has purchased the famous Frommer’s travel guide brand for an undisclosed sum. The purchase comes on the heels of Google’s 2011 purchase of Zagat guides, and is a clear signal that the search giant intends to get into the travel content business in a big way. I’m thinking that Google is prepping for a battle with Apple when it finally unwraps its mostly secretive, recently patented iTravel app sometime in the next year.

Frommer’s has a small editorial staff based in San Francisco that manages its website and online content.

The travel world is abuzz with comments on Google’s latest acquisition. What do you think?

Wall Street Journal: “In Frommer’s, Google sees an opportunity to broaden its consumer offerings outside of restaurant reviews. That Frommer’s provides information about hotels and destinations globally made the acquisition that much more attractive. The deal is expected to close shortly. Google hasn’t yet decided whether the Frommer’s guidebooks will continue to be published in print or whether they will eventually migrate entirely to online. It is also possible that the Frommer’s brand could be melded into the Zagat brand.”

CNET:  “It’s not all that surprising that Google has jumped in to swipe Frommer’s. The company has been making a significant travel push over the last couple of years with its acquisitions of travel software provider ITA and restaurant reviewer Zagat. Presumably Frommer’s is a natural extension of the Zagat purchase. ‘The Frommer’s team and the quality and scope of their content will be a great addition to the Zagat team,’ a Google spokesperson told CNET in an e-mailed statement. ‘We can’t wait to start working with them on our goal to provide a review for every relevant place in the world.’”

TechCrunch: “Although not confirmed at this point, it’s probable that Google is only interested in the travel content Frommer’s has amassed, and the book publishing portion of Frommer’s business will cease. As for what Google saw in Frommer’s, that’s not quite as clear. Although its brand is still well-known, the quality of its content can be a little shaky – its reviews, for example, are often outdated. Perhaps the selling price just made the deal worthwhile?… We’re also now hearing that the Frommer’s team will be joining the Zagat team, and indeed the acquisition is related to improvements related to the local search experience across Google. Initially, the Frommer’s content will come to Google under its own brand and will be further integrated with Zagat over time. No definitive decision has been made on the Frommer’s printed guides, but the deal is supposed to enable users discover reviews across Google, which means online.”

Fast Company: “One of Google’s major priorities has been the transformation of Google Maps and the Zagat-powered Google+ Local into a Yelp and Facebook killer. Frommer’s databases are also used by Kayak to help fuel hotel searches. Although the last few years have been rough for print travel guides as the internet ate away at their past dominance, Frommer’s has extensive brand recognition and a large network of contacts throughout the travel and hospitality industries.”

 What do YOU think? When was the last time you used a Frommer’s guide? Do you think Google can make travel content better? Please leave your comments below.

Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail– and tell your friends about it, too!




Which US city is most expensive for travelers? Surprising answer

There are plenty of interesting nuggets in a new travel spending report from Concur, a company that provides travel expense management solutions for companies that spent a total of $50 billion last year for travel and entertainment.

A couple standouts from the infographic and Concur’s latest Spend Report:

>Our very own Santa Clara is the most expensive city for business travel in the US– beating out New York, San Francisco and Boston for the top honor. Why so spendy? Interestingly, the full report shows that ground transportation expenses are the culprit. According to the Concur report, expenses for rental cars and ground transportation run twice as much in this Silicon Valley city as they do in most other US cities. And who comes to the Valley without renting a car?

>Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world for business travel… but not a single US city ranks in the top 10 anymore. Bring a fat wallet if you are traveling to Australia or Scandinavia. Ouch!

Click on the graphic below for a better view:

What’s your advice for San Francisco-bound business travelers?

Click on the image to read the full column on

One of the many hats I wear is that of business travel columnist for This month, I wrote “Business Trip: San Francisco,” which offers advice to visiting business travelers. It typically includes top upscale hotels– both elegant and edgy, dining or entertainment suggestions, local color and local protocol or etiquette advice.

This is the twelfth in a series of destination focused business travel piece I’ve written for over the last year– other cities I’ve recently written about include: London, Seoul, Rio de Janeiro and Frankfurt.

Anyway, I thought writing about San Francisco, the city I know and love best, would be a breeze. But it was a lot tougher than I expected! The most difficult part was deciding what NOT to include. My instructions from BBC are to keep the stories short and sweet– a quick read for busy global business travelers from anywhere in the English-speaking world.

So Dear Reader, what advice would YOU offer a global business traveler visiting our fair city? What did I leave out? Please leave your comments, advice or suggestions below! And then send the link to this page to visitors headed our way!

How new AirTran – Southwest point conversion will affect you

Current Southwest Airlines Route Map

Today Southwest Airlines announced that members of AirTran A+ Rewards and Southwest Rapid Rewards can now transfer points between the two programs.

Key points to remember:

>Members of both programs now have access to a total of 97 destinations in the two airlines’ combined networks. (See above for all Southwest destinations. Click here for AirTran route map.)

>The two programs remain separate for now—today’s announcement is about point conversion between the two programs. It’s not about a merger of the two programs. Eventually, the AirTran program will disappear, but Southwest would not commit to any specific date for this. (Last we heard, AirTran will be around until at least 2015!)

>In order for the conversion to work, you’ve got to be a member of Southwest Rapid Rewards—if you’ve not joined yet, here’s how.

>Southwest says that the new conversion site is similar to online banking sites where users can transfer money between multiple accounts online and in real time.

>Unfortunately, transferring AirTran points to the Southwest program won’t extend their life. Southwest says, “When transferring A+ Rewards Credits into Rapid Rewards Credits, the expiration date of the newly created Rapid Rewards credits will remain the same as the original expiration date of the A+ Rewards Credits converted.”

>Points transfers will not count toward elite status in either program. Points or credits earned by qualifying flight or partner activity will count toward elite status in the program in which they were earned.

>While Southwest would not reveal specific membership numbers, it’s safe to say that the Rapid Rewards membership base is exponentially larger than AirTran’s. All those Southwest Rapid Rewards members will (for the first time ever) be able to redeem points for international flights—meaning AirTran flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. With that in mind, AirTran members with plans to redeem A+ points for trips to these destinations should act fast—there is going to be a run on award flights by the zillions of members of Rapid Rewards, and the award seats are capacity controlled.

>Along the same lines as the above blurb, the zillions of Southwest Rapid Rewards members will now have access to those nice AirTran business class seats using their converted points for upgrades or awards…so it’s going to get tougher to sit up front on the dwindling number of AirTran business class seats out there…

>The points conversion site will live on—AirTran members will find links to the new conversion site from the A+ Rewards page.

>One A+ Rewards credit will convert into one Southwest Rewards credit, which means it will take 16 AirTran A+ Reward credits to equal one standard roundtrip award on Southwest.

>In the Southwest program, once your account reaches 16 credits, one standard roundtrip award credit is automatically generated, which expires in one year. So if you transfer 16 A+ Rewards into Southwest credits, a standard roundtrip award is automatically generated, which is valid for one year. (Note: Southwest’s Standard Award can be split into two in order to use for two separate one-way flights.  But you cannot generate a one-way award with only eight credits, as you can now do on AirTran.)

Got questions? Comments? Please leave them below and we’ll do our best to get them answered!  

TASTE of The TICKET: Alpine Bakery &Trattoria

Alpine Bakery & Trattoria

12315 Crabapple Road

Alpharetta, GA 30004


I never thought I’d say this, but Alpine Bakery & Trattoria is the kind of restaurant that makes you hope for at least a short wait for your table because it is impossible not to be immediately drawn to the bakery upon entering. You simply cannot ignore the huge selection of sweets that are presented so beautifully in perfectly lit display cases on the right side of the space. It’s the perfect way to kill time and trust me, you will want to get a head start on the dessert decision and find out how much room you should save for sweets. I had to be dragged away when it was time to be seated. Luckily, my dining companion and I were escorted to a plush booth that made leaving the bakery less painful.

We sat down and were immediately greeted by a friendly server who helped guide us toward a glass of sparkling wine to start off our meal. As we sipped our Gruet Blanc de Blanc ($10/glass, $20/half bottle), he guided us through the expansive menu. We decided to split the house antipasto platter ($15) as our appetizer. The plate of meats, cheeses, olives, tomatoes and a white bean spread is great for sharing and is more than enough for two people. And with a bakery adjacent to the restaurant, you can count on good bread.

After finishing our glasses of Gruet, we began perusing the rest of the wine list and I was really impressed with the selections. I noticed so many of my favorites on the list, ranging from pinot noirs to Italian blends to malbecs, that I had a hard time choosing. We settled on the 2008 Belle Glos “Clark & Telephone” Pinot Noir ($60/bottle), which was very smooth with bright red fruit flavors.

For my entrée, I ordered the linguini with clam sauce ($17) and my friend ordered the chicken piccata ($16). The linguini was beautifully presented and chock full of Little Neck clams. Anthony, the restaurant’s manager, later told us that it was one of his favorites and also a very popular dish among patrons. My friend’s moist chicken was topped with capers and a lemon, butter and white wine sauce served with asparagus and a risotto cake on the side. The sauce was light and provided just enough flavor, and I couldn’t stop stealing nibbles of the crunchy risotto cake. It added a nice hearty element to an otherwise lighter dish.

I had plenty of linguini and clams to take home with me for lunch the next day, but after my pre-dinner peek at the bakery, we both managed to find room in our stomachs to sample dessert. Choosing from the massive selection of sweets is no easy task, but we finally decided on a slice of the Million Dollar Cake ($6.95/slice) and the baklava ($4.25 for a jumbo piece). As the name implies, the Million Dollar Cake certainly has enough to go around. It’s comprised of three thick layers – flourless chocolate cake on the bottom, NY cheesecake in the middle and rich chocolate mousse on the top. It is the ideal way to indulge, especially if you have a hard time deciding what will cure your sweet tooth.

The baklava was equally impressive in both size and flavor. The flaky layers balance out the honey and nut filling so it’s not cloyingly sweet, and according to Anthony, it’s the addition of pistachios that makes this one so good. The bakery also makes sfogliatelli, an Italian pastry that I grew up on and have a very hard time finding in Georgia. Alpine is a place where you really feel at home, even if you aren’t Italian.


SFO gets new nonstops to Washington DC Reagan National Airport

Reagan Washington National Airport is so close to DC that you can see the city's monuments from runways. (Photo: MWAA)

Starting May 14, United Airlines will (finally) offer nonstop Boeing 737-700 flights between San Francisco (SFO) and the close-in, convenient Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

Since Washington National is slot controlled, United is only able offer a single daily flight departing SFO at 12:30 pm and arriving Washington at 8:45 pm. On the return, the flight will depart DC at 8:00 am and arrive at SFO at 11:10am.

Because the service is still subject to government approval, a United Airlines spokesperson declined to offer more details until the flights are loaded in its reservation system and for sale.

For those with business in downtown DC, the new flight will eliminate the lengthy, frustrating 45-60 minute ride from Dulles International into the city. Currently, United and Virgin America fly nonstop between SFO and Dulles.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is located across the Potomac from the Capitol, and the drive into the city takes about 15 minutes—by cab or by the convenient METRO rail system with a stop inside the airport.

SFO is finally getting these flights as a result of new FAA legislation signed into law by President Obama on February 14. The legislation grants a total of 16 exemptions to old “perimeter rules” that forbid nonstops into Reagan National from airports located more than 1,250 miles away.

Eight of those slots will be awarded to legacy carriers such as United, Delta, US Airways or American—and another eight will be awarded to new entrant carriers such as SF-based Virgin America. However, Virgin America has confirmed that the low-fare carrier must apply for the right to offer nonstops between SFO and DCA – as there is a different process for legacy airlines versus smaller carriers.

“As the only airline headquartered in San Francisco, it is absolutely our hope to serve SFO-DCA since the Bay Area has essentially been shut out of nonstop DCA service until now. Any move to increase service is a good thing for consumers and we hope that we will be able to bring low-fare competition to the route—when more airlines compete, consumers win,” said Virgin America spokesperson Abby Lunardini.

Will you fly into Reagan National instead of Washington-Dulles? What are your thoughts on this new option? Please leave your comments below.

TICKET readers: Who knew this about you?

(Photo: FatMandy / Flickr)

Dear TICKET Readers:

Happy New Year and thanks very much for taking the time to respond to our recent survey, which revealed some interesting traits when it comes to you and your travel habits.

Thanks also for all the unsolicited kudos that came through in your comments… Awww shucks…. we were surprised and heartened by all the warm fuzzies. Thank you.

When we decided to create this survey, we thought we’d be lucky to get 100 responses… but a whopping 620 of you took the time to participate, which means we spent hours happily pouring through and tabulating all the responses.

Here’s a round up of the results:

How long have you been reading The TICKET?

Whoa! Check out the number of loyal readers who’ve stuck with us over the eons. Many of you harkened back to the days in the 90’s when subscribers happily paid $39 a year for a monthly newsletter sent via US Mail!

  • 48% have been reading for one to five years (we appreciate the biz!)
  • 40% have stuck with us for more than five years! (Gee tanks, folks!)
  • 12% discovered The TICKET less than one year ago (welcome, newbies!)

Who decides which travel suppliers you use?

TICKET readers are clearly an independent group—83% said that they decide for themselves which suppliers to use while just 10% said that their boss or corporate travel department told them what to do. Many also said that their buying decisions are frequently influenced by ads and editorial in The TICKET.

How much do you fly?

The big surprise here was that 17% of you take more than four round trips per month—or 40 trips per year. That’s a lot of time on a plane! The average TICKET reader takes around two trips per month, or 24 in a year.

Where do you sleep?

Two thirds of TICKET readers spend the night at hotels between one and six nights per month. But get this, nearly 20% spend more than 10 nights per month in hotels—that’s 120 nights per year!

What type of metallic status do you have?

Nearly everyone said that they hold medallion status on Delta– no surprise there!

  • 23% are platinum
  • 21% are gold
  • 17% are long suffering silvers
  • 15% are diamonds (and get all the upgrades!)

Some of our long time readers are now retired, which means that 23% no longer have any status at all—or they spread their biz around among several carriers.

Where do you cheat on The TICKET?

TICKET readers are a well-read bunch, but when they don’t get what they want from us, they most often turn to: Joe Brancatelli, Chris Elliott, The Points Guy, FlyerTalk, Milepoint, USA Today, AJC and Clark Howard.

Do you fly much over water?

Two-thirds of TICKET readers jet off to international destinations one to three times per year. 11% go overseas four to six times per year and 5% go beyond borders seven or more times per year. 26% stick closer to home with no international hops.

No surprise here: TICKET readers are big spenders!

  • 33% shell out between $20,000 and $50,000 per year on travel
  • 14% spend between $50,000 and $100,000 per year
  • 6% spend more than $100K per year

Another interesting stat: TICKET readers collectively spent nearly $60,000 year last year on Delta tickets purchased via links from the site. THANK YOU!

TICKET readers’ households are very comfortable financially.

  • 18% earn between $100,000 and $150,000 per year
  • 17% earn more than $250,000 per year
  • 14% earn from $150,000 to $200,000 per year
  • 9% earn between $200,000 and $250,000 per year

You all are also very discreet—26% chose not to disclose their annual household income—which leads us to believe that there are many more in the top income brackets.

How old are you?

We knew that many of our readers were “mature” but we were surprised how few of them are very young—only 1% are less than 30 years old.

  • 32% are from 30-50
  • 31% are from 51-60
  • 27% range from 61-70
  • 5% are older than 70

Any suggestions on how we can pull in some of those young bucks?

Are you a media socialite?

When it comes to social media, TICKET readers are mixed—about 40% of you are very active, checking in on Facebook, Twitter or Linked In once or more per day, and another 40% check in a few times per month. But a surprisingly large contingent—23%– say that they never check in on social media sites. (If you are not following us on Twitter or Facebook, COME ON and join the fun. By following us, you are likely to get more money saving travel news faster…)

Do you have any more feedback, comments or suggestions for about The TICKET? Any ideas on potential advertisers or other sources of funding? Please leave your comments below, or email Chris!


>>>Have you signed up for The TICKET via Feedburner yet? If not, do it right now! Email in the pink box to the right, please!>>>

HELP US HELP YOU!  Fwd our URL to friends or share The TICKET via social networking! Tell all your friends to sign up for The TICKET.



408 South Atlanta Street

Roswell, GA 30075


After years of living in Atlanta and dining out in the city, I’m discovering what a pleasant change it can be to drive out of my comfort zone and explore restaurants outside of the perimeter. On a Friday night, my friend and I decided to do just that and made a reservation at Sugo in Roswell. A little background on Sugo – it’s a part of the Castellucci Hospitality Group of restaurants, which includes Double Zero Napoletana in Sandy Springs and The Iberian Pig in Decatur.

When we arrived for our 8 p.m. seating, the restaurant was full of couples having intimate dinners as well as groups celebrating special occasions. The dining room was dimly lit creating a cozy atmosphere in the open space. Sugo seemed to be a popular place to celebrate milestone events that night, and I suspect one particular employee may have something to do with that. While candles are waiting to be blown out, a member of the kitchen serenades lucky guests with his impressive operatic version of “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Anniversary.”

To start off our dinner, we each chose a glass of wine. I had a glass of the Frescobaldi Castiglioni Chianti Sangiovese ($9) after hearing it was the owner’s favorite. My guest ordered the Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon ($12). The wine list was extensive and I appreciated the various price ranges offered, “Easy & Enjoyable,” “No Expense Account Required” and “The Good Stuff.”

Sugo’s menu is a mix of Greek and Italian food. For starters, we chose the baked stuffed calamari ($6) and the Parma flatbread ($14). The calamari was stuffed with sautéed onions, spinach and artisan cheeses in a tomato basil sauce. This was definitely not the fried calamari I’m used to seeing at restaurants. The cheese and tomato sauce were the stars of the dish, and it almost made me forget I was eating squid. The Parma flatbread was topped with prosciutto, provolone, asparagus, roasted red peppers, poached egg and black truffles, which had a fresh taste. It’s important to note that it’s a Sardinian flatbread, which is thin and more cracker than bread. I enjoyed the flatbread a little more than my dining partner who was expecting a pizza-like flatbread.

Any slight disappointment my companion might have experienced with the flatbread disappeared completely during our entrée course. I ordered the Capesante ($28), a scallop dish served atop fresh basil pasta, tomato, red pepper pesto and grilled asparagus. While my diver scallops were cooked perfectly, I have to say my fork kept hovering over my friend’s Pork Shank Milanese ($25). The pork shank was our server’s recommendation and we both did a double-take when she brought it to the table. The menu describes it as a slow braised pound of pork shank, but even our server had to admit that was a definite underestimation. The shank looked like it would have been right at home with the Flintstones in Bedrock. Also worthy of a mention was the rich and creamy parsnip puree that accompanied the shank.

While we could have stopped there and gone home dessert-less, we decided to challenge our waistbands and sample the Spartan Cheesecake ($7) and the Zucchini Cake ($7). The Spartan Cheesecake was the ultimate fusion of Greek and Italian with a baklava crust filled with Italian crème cheesecake. I had no complaints about the delicious Zucchini Cake either, which was similar to a carrot cake.


The TICKET reader 2-minute survey. Please help!

Dear TICKET readers:

As the year draws to a close, we’d like to thank you for your support and attention!  The TICKET has been getting bigger and better all year, adding helpful new content and also bringing on a load of new readers.

Looking into 2012, it’s time for us to approach potential advertisers. As you know, The TICKET is supported by advertisers, and we need to be able to show them just who TICKET readers are.

The link below will take you to a very brief online survey about you and your travel habits. It’s just 12 quick questions that you can answer with the click of  your mouse. It should take no more than two minutes to complete.

PLEASE help us by participating in this survey. The more readers that respond, the better the data we’ll get to present to potential advertisers.

Important: This is an anonymous survey… the information you provide is not associated with your name. It will not be used for anything other than to create a report on our reader demographics– which we are happy to share with you upon request.

Thanks again for your time and your support. Happy holidays!

Click here to access the reader survey


Chris McGinnis, editor and publisher, The TICKET

PS: This survey will close at the end of the day, Weds, Dec 14.


Taste of The TICKET: Briza

Calamari Salad at Briza in Midtown

Briza Restaurant

866 West Peachtree Street NW (inside the Renaissance Midtown Hotel)

Atlanta, Georgia 30308


I had wanted to visit Briza for a while, and as a huge Top Chef fan, as soon as I heard the executive chef (Janine Falvo) was going to be on the show I knew the time had come to finally check it out.  I brought along my sister and we made our way to Briza on a particularly dreary Tuesday evening.  It was cold and rainy, but the minute we ducked inside out of the rain we felt warm and cozy.  The rich colors and soft glow of the overhead silver globes set a very cool and chic mood and I was immediately excited for the meal ahead!  All the seats feel tucked away, like you’re in your own little nook.  We were seated in a circular booth, which despite being in the center of the restaurant, felt very private and exclusive.

We decided the atmosphere called for drinks, and we started browsing the drink menu.  I settled on the Passion Royale with prosecco, grand mariner, and passion fruit ($12) and my sister went with the Nectar Margarita ($11) featuring cuervo traditional reposado tequila, fresh lime, and agave nectar.  Our drinks quickly arrived and after our first sips, the strong (but not overpowering) drinks were exactly what we needed to start warming up on that cold night. [Read more...]

Taste of the TICKET: Chicken & the Egg (Marietta)

Chicken and the Egg

800 Whitlock Avenue
Marietta, GA 30064

Being from a small town, I know that the “farm to table” culture that has permeated the urban areas is only just beginning to trickle down to the entire population.   Now that trickle down is evident in the embrace of local food culture at Marietta’s newest restaurant Chicken and the Egg, just a quick skip up the interstate from Atlanta.

Having dined before at Chef and Owner Marc Taft’s previous restaurant Pacci, I was really intrigued to hear he was starting a farmstead style spot in his own neighborhood.  I met up with a friend recently and we ventured out to get a taste. [Read more...]

Using American Express points on Virgin America

Good news for folks with big stashes of American Express Membership Rewards who like to fly Virgin America: You can now convert Membership Rewards points into Virgin Elevate points to redeem online for any unsold seat on any Virgin flight, without blackouts or restrictions. Bad news is the conversion rate: 200 Membership Rewards points convert to just 100 Elevate points. 

Virgin’s Elevate program is based on a “points per dollar” system, so the number of points needed to redeem for award travel vary based on price and seat availability. Virgin provided the following example in its news release:  “…a flyer booking a roundtrip ticket from New York to L.A. with Virgin America at a cost of about $320, could redeem that flight for 15,399 Elevate points, equivalent to 30,798 Membership Rewards points, which is comparable to other airline programs that would require up to 50,000 miles.”

To be fair, I should point out that most other airline programs offer domestic award roundtrips for as few as 25,000 miles– but it’s getting increasingly difficult to find awards at that level.

Nonetheless, the new partnership is getting panned by bloggers who cover the points and miles game:

The Points Guy posted:

“…unfortunately the ratio is 100 Elevate = 200 Amex, so a disappointing 2:1 ratio. This is not a great deal because Elevate is a fixed value loyalty program, which mean you can redeem points for any flight and they are worth between 1.6 and 2.1 cents each towards airfare. So if you transfer Amex to Virgin America, you are valuing your Amex points at .8 and 1.05 cents a piece, which is very low. I conservatively value mine at 2 cents a piece and you can purchase points directly from Amex for 2.5 cents.”

Wandering Aramean said:

“The only slightly reasonable explanation for why one would transfer AmEx points into Elevate at these rates is if you’ve got almost enough for a reasonably high-value award already and you just need to top off the account. Otherwise it is quite a bad deal.”

However, Virgin America’s Patricia Condon begs to differ:

“We actually think this is a very rich reward program – given that Elevate points provide a much higher value than miles on a typical legacy airline program.  You aren’t comparing apples to apples – as Elevate rewards apply in every cabin and fare class – with no blackout dates or restrictions.  The value of our points are consistently worth twice as much (and sometimes more) than many legacy frequent flyer programs, given the reality of legacy airline redemption restrictions.” She also provided the following chart to help explain:

So what do you think, folks? Would you convert your Amex points into Virgin Elevate points…or not?

Taste of the TICKET: Double Zero Napoletana

Insalate di Mare

Double Zero Napoletana (Sandy Springs)

5825 Roswell Road

Atlanta, GA 30328


Located in Sandy Springs, Double Zero Napoletana is a hop, skip and jump from Interstate 285 on Roswell Road. The restaurant offers complimentary valet service and limited self-parking spots near the front.

An out-of-town guest joined me for a midweek meal and we were welcomed by the sight of the pastry display and bar as we made our way through the dining area. The dining room was substantial but divided into three sections by warm, earth toned curtains. The curtains created a much more intimate atmosphere and also helped to dampen the sound of the room.

Once seated, we were greeted by our server who was kind enough to provide us with beverage recommendations and the cocktail of the week. I started my evening with a Barrel Aged Negroni ($15) and my guest had the highlighted cocktail of the week, Moscow Mule ($10). While not a connoisseur of cocktails, I did not leave one drop of the barrel aged cocktail could be found after I was done. Variations of classic cocktails are also offered, such as the Whiskey Old Fashioned ($9). Wine and beer lovers will enjoy the substantial selections, including Double Zero’s 100 plus list of Italian wines and one of the most comprehensive Italian microbrew selections too.

We began with a pair of antipasti dishes, Pork Belly Polenta ($12) and Mozzarella al Forno ($10, $5 more for buffalo mozzarella).  The crispy pork belly countered the smooth, creamy texture of the polenta and was a highlight for my guest and me. The tomato sauce of the mozzarella al forno had us coming back with more of the grilled rustic bread for dipping. The mozzarella seemed to get lost in the flavors of the tomato sauce at times, but I would easily order the dish again.

Our next step in our Italian journey started when I ordered the Double Zero Napoletana ($16) as my entrée. The featured pizza and namesake of the restaurant refers to the type of flour, Double Zero, used to make Neapolitan pizza. The highlight of the pizza was the freshness and flavors in its ingredients: arugula, garlic, mozzarella di bufala campana DOP and prosciutto di Parma. Because the portion is large enough to be shared by two, the crust of my last slices became moist due to how long it took me to finish. By the time I was on these last slices, my guest had already finished her Rapini e Salsicce ($16). She confirmed that the egg fettuccine dish was filling and tasty with its assortment of Italian sausage, broccoli rapini and Calabrian chiles.

The memory of the pastry bar as we walked into the restaurant revisited us when our server asked us if we saved room for dessert.  As stuffed as we were, we went with the caveat of “When in Rome.” My guest ordered the Pesche ($8) and I went with the light and refreshing Strawberry Balsamic Sorbet ($4 medium, $6 large). The pesche’s presentation was worthy of photography and the poached peaches, chiffon cake and basil gelato were fit for Julius Caesar himself.

Relatively new to Sandy Springs, Double Zero Napoletana’s tastes and flavors brought an experience of what dining in southern Italy could be. The warmth and ambience will keep you coming back, but the food and cocktails will make you feel like you’re on vacation in Italy.


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