More United wi-fi + Buh-bye Delta 747s + Virgin’s newest plane + SFO is h-o-t + New Hyatt NYC

United's regional jets to get connected via Gogo (United)

United’s regional jets to get connected via Gogo (United)

This is Part 2 of this weekend’s Catching up on Travel News with TravelSkills. ICYMI here’s Part 1

United regional jets will get Wi-Fi. United said it will expand in-flight Wi-Fi service to more than 200 of its two-cabin United Express aircraft, including Embraer 170s and 175s, and CRJ700s. The service should be available on some planes before year’s end, with the whole job finished by next summer. “Early next year,” a spokesman said, “United expects to expand personal device entertainment to these aircraft, enabling customers to select from a wide range of movies and television shows to view on their Wi-Fi-enabled iOS and Android devices using United’s mobile app, as well as on laptop computers.” Some good news: Gogo’s wi-fi works very well on smaller aircraft where there are not too many passengers hogging bandwidth. While this installation announcement is great news, United still lags behind other major carriers when it comes to consistent inflight wi-fi.

Just in: Lufthansa’s pilots planning another strike this week. 

Delta’s 747s disappearing faster. Like other airlines, Delta is phasing out its 747 fleet– last summer we reported that it was unloading four 747s in the coming year. This week, the carrier announced that it is speeding up that process. Delta’s CEO said the airline’s 747s — used on Pacific routes — should all be gone by 2017. It is acquiring new Airbus A330s to replace the Boeing jumbos. How do you feel about this? Leave your comments below.

Inside San Francisco International's popular Terminal 2 (SFO)

Inside San Francisco International’s popular new Terminal 2 (SFO)

SFO is hot hot hot. The technology boom is playing out at SFO with airlines from around the world clamoring to get in, or expand their service there. Here’s a roundup of all the action:

Foreign carriers boost U.S. service. Subject to government approvals, Ethiopian Airlines plans to launch new 787 service next June between Addis Ababa and Los Angeles three times a week (via Dublin, Ireland, which means you can now fly to Ireland on Ethiopian Airlines) … Effective November 10, Delta’s Skyteam partner KLM will boost its Atlanta-Amsterdam schedule from seven flights a week to 12 … Air France will deploy an Airbus A380 super-jumbo on its Paris-Miami route from December 1 through March 28 … In March 2015, Philippine Airlines will begin new east coast service, flying from Manila to New York JFK via Vancouver four times a week, using a two-class A340-300.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 11.53.21 AMwe are in the final hours for this big, but limited time bonus….

Virgin Atlantic's newest plane, the 787-9, deployed on Boston-Heathrow. (Photo: Jim Ramsay)

Virgin Atlantic’s newest plane, the 787-9, deployed on Boston-Heathrow. (Photo: Jim Ramsay)

Virgin upgrades transatlantic fleet. Delta’s joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic has taken delivery of its first new 787-9 (the “stretch” version of the 787), and will put it into service October 28 between London Heathrow and Boston six times a week. Over the next few months, Virgin will deploy other new 787-9s from Heathrow to Dulles, Newark and JFK. The aircraft have 31 seats in Upper Class, 198 in economy and 35 in Premium Economy; the latter section has a new “Wander Wall” — “a social space where customers can stretch their legs and mingle with other passengers,” the company said.

London Bonus: Did you know that you can earn 7,500 to 35,000 MileagePlus bonus miles for United or Air Canada flights from the US or Canada to London this fall? To get the miles, register online and book between now and December 12 for trips through December 12.

HOTELS

Hilton’s new brand. What exactly is a “lifestyle brand” in the hotel industry? The definition is decidedly vague, but now Hilton is launching one of its own — Canopy Hotels. The company says the properties will provide “simple, guest-directed service, thoughtful local choices, and comfortable spaces, so guests simply feel better going forward.” (Isn’t that what all hotels do?) They’ll start opening in 2015; Hilton has letters of intent for Canopy properties in Portland,. London, Miami, Washington D.C., San Diego, Nashville, Savannah, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Oklahoma City and Ithaca, N.Y.

The aerie atop the new Hyatt Herald Square in NYC (Photo: Hyatt)

The aerie atop the new Hyatt Herald Square in NYC (Photo: Hyatt)

Another new Hyatt in NYC. Just two months after opening its posh Park Hyatt on West 57th Street, Hyatt has cut the ribbon on another new Manhattan property. The 122-room Hyatt Herald Square New York is on West 31st Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway– a still somewhat gritty area that is now packed with new, primarily “limited service” hotels. This full service Hyatt has three food and beverage outlets including a rooftop cocktail lounge with views of the Midtown skyline.

NOTE: This is Part 2 of this weekend’s Catching up on Travel News with TravelSkills. ICYMI here’s Part 1

Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

In Case You Missed It…

>The intersection of America’s obsession with food and travel. 

>Virgin America’s cutting-edge ad agency issued a mind-dulling six-hour online video about a fictional “BLAH Airlines” to show how boring its competitors are.

>Frequent travelers are getting some new perks and facilities at SFO.

>AT&T has a new plan for international calling.

>See Virgin America’s new facilities at Dallas Love Field.

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

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

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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 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

Ebola-mania + First class transcon fares soar? + Southwest: we’re sorry + Sidecar worth a look

Some good common sense advice about Ebola from the World Health Organization

Some good common sense advice about Ebola from the World Health Organization

All ebola, all the time. The relentless saturation news coverage of ebola may not bother veteran road warriors, but it is having an impact on the general public. In a new Reuters-Ipsos survey, almost half of the 1,577 respondents said they plan to avoid international air travel. Meanwhile, Frontier Airlines keeps re-cleaning that plane — now out of service — that an ebola victim flew on a week ago, and tracking down some 800 passengers who were on that flight or subsequent ones on that aircraft. The Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines to airlines about dealing with sick passengers and cleaning planes. And other parties are taking their own steps, from the Air Canada flight attendants who said they will start wearing plastic gloves in-flight to individual travelers who are donning everything from face masks to homemade hazmat suits. This in spite of the fact that experts say catching ebola on an aircraft is extremely unlikely.

ATL-California first class fares to soar?  Southwest told TravelSkills that the final two-class AirTran flight departs SFO as a redeye to Atlanta on Nov 1, 2014. After that it’s all Southwest-all-the-time with its one class of service for the four-hour flight. With only United and Delta offering first class seats on the route, you can bet those front-of-the-plane fares are going to swell. We’ll keep an eye on it. Right now, you can buy a first class, round trip seat on AirTran, Delta or on SFO-ATL or LAX-ATL for about $1,000-$1,200 round trip. Let’s see how long that lasts post-AirTran. Peering into January, Delta’s first class fares on ATL-SFO are already at about $1,500.

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A Southwest B737 outfitted in a State of California flag livery. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

A Southwest B737 outfitted in a State of California flag livery. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

AirTran/Southwest loyalty merger due soon. You don’t hear much about AirTran any more since Southwest has been relentlessly absorbing the routes of its subsidiary into its own system, but a significant date in the merge is coming up soon. On November 2, the two airlines’ frequent flyer programs — Rapid Rewards and A+ Rewards — will be fully combined. Here’s a handy guide to the things members should know about protecting all their program assets. A Southwest spokesperson told TravelSkills that the AirTran brand will be completely gone by December 28th– by that date all operations will be under the Southwest name and not a single AirTran liveried plane will remain in service.

Southwest says ‘We’re sorry.’ In an unusually frank letter to its best customers, Southwest Airlines has admitted it hasn’t been doing so well with on-time performance lately, and pledged to take steps that will improve the situation — from making sure its first flights of the day leave on schedule to lengthening turnaround times. TravelSkills reader DL received the note and sent us this comment via email:  Today I got a letter from Southwest’s “Senior Vice President, Customers.” It was a form letter that described Southwest’s recent troubles with on-time performance, which have stung me for much of 2014 and caused me to consider using other airlines when booking important flights. (I would say that half of my Southwest flights in 2014 were delayed by more than 30 minutes, sometimes by as much as 3 hours.) The letter explained that Southwest was spacing out the time between flights to boost its on-time performance. One wonders whether these new airfare deals [posted earlier this week] are designed to lure back customers who had drifted away. Regardless, I still like the airline and fly them a lot.”

Stay tuned…More important airline news coming TOMORROW in our second installment of Catching up on Travel News with TravelSkills!

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 11.53.21 AM

CARS

Sidecar

The Sidecar app

Ride-finding service wins SFO approval. While larger competitors Uber and Lyft still await an official nod to start operating at San Francisco International Airport, a smaller firm called Sidecar already has one, and will start airport rides within 30 days. Sidecar will pick up and drop off passengers in the departures area, and its drivers will use the cell phone lot to wait for requests. The firm agreed to pay the airport a per-ride fee similar to the ones regular taxis pay. Interesting: Sidecar drivers set their own prices for each ride and will inform you of the total price BEFORE the ride. Currently, Sidecar operates in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, Charlotte NC, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Have you used Sidecar? Would you use it if it were cheaper than Uber? Please leave your comments below. 

Flightcar in Seattle. Meanwhile, Flightcar (see our recent post: How to park free at the airport) — which lets business travelers rent out their cars to others while they’re away — has started operating at Seattle-Tacoma International; it already does business at SFO, ATL and BOS.

In Case You Missed It…

>The intersection of America’s obsession with food and travel. 

>Virgin America’s cutting-edge ad agency issued a mind-dulling six-hour online video about a fictional “BLAH Airlines” to show how boring its competitors are.

>Frequent travelers are getting some new perks and facilities at SFO.

>AT&T has a new plan for international calling.

>See Virgin America’s new facilities at Dallas Love Field.

 

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

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

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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 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

4 ways foodie culture impacts our trips

This hamburger served on a Delta ATL-SFO flight was really good! What's the best Delta meal you've ever had? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This hamburger served for lunch in first class on a Delta ATL-SFO flight was really good! What’s the best Delta meal you’ve ever had? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The newly fervent foodie culture has truly defined the last decade, primarily fueled by a big increase in coverage across all media. So it was inevitable that airlines would soon come around to using food experiences as a differentiator.

Following that trend, airlines have jumped on board in an effort to provide a culinary offering that at least attempts to match what travelers enjoy at home. Here are a few of the most recent rollouts of interest to any traveler interested in enhanced culinary experience. Hungry? Then read on.

Pop-ups at 35,000 feet

The popup concept has changed the way we eat by allowing chefs the creative license of a limited run in a temporary space.

There’s nothing more limited than a flight from point A to point B, and SWISS has laid claim to be one of the first airline pop-ups. The airline has hired Michelin-starred Swiss Chef Andreas Caminada, of Schauenstein Schloss, to create a meal for passengers traveling in SWISS first, business and even economy on November 21 from Zurich to New York.

One of Chef Caminada's creations (Photo: SWISS)

One of Chef Caminada’s creations ready for the oven (Photo: SWISS)

The Chef will bring his own crew from his restaurant to cook in the pop-up galley. This means that the kitchen staff will personally serve the one-off creation to the flight’s passengers. Providing this personalized culinary experience can also build demand for a specific routing – for example, a Chef could be brought in each week on one route to serve a temporary pop-up meal to travelers, creating a brand-new route differentiator for foodie-focused airlines.

Would you alter your travel plans to get a popup meal onboard a flight? Leave your comments below!

Delta’s farm-to-tray movement

If there’s one airline that is pursuing a pure path straight into the heart of foodie heaven, it’s Delta. Earlier this year Delta enlisted top Atlanta chef Linton Hopkins (Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch) to deliver on a “farm-to-tray” ecosystem, where each ingredient is sourced in the vicinity of the Atlanta airport from small purveyors.

The idea here is that airline food must also adhere to local, small-batch principles in order to support the surrounding vendors and farms. For flights originating outside of the Atlanta hub, chefs are encouraged to consider the local environment when designing menus.

For the fall, the first class menu on flights from Atlanta to Paris, London-Heathrow, Amsterdam and Frankfurt includes African squash soup, Sunburst Trout Farms smoked trout, and Gulf shrimp with heirloom white grits, among others. Certain flights will feature meals created by Chef Hopkins, while other routes headed south will come from Miami Chef Michelle Bernstein. On domestic flights in first class the fare is not as high falutin’, but still satisfying… like the burger pictured above.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had on Delta? Please let us know in the comments below.

Order your meal to carry onboard in one of these "hampers" from Heathrow (Photo: Gordon Ramsay)

Order your meal to carry onboard in one of these insulated “hampers” from Heathrow (Photo: Gordon Ramsay)

Or…a picnic, perhaps?

London’s Heathrow airport is experimenting with a way to boost business in-terminal by providing passengers an easy way to grab a meal to eat on-board. The initiative provides passengers with a veddy-British-sounding “bespoke hamper,” a non-disposable cooler bag containing a variety of meal items, which can be ordered from all 188 food vendors at the airport.

49 brands are participating in this foodie-forward service, meaning that transiting passengers now grab a wide selection of on-the-go food options. By providing a means to deliver a culinary experience on-board, the airport is slicing business away from on-board retailing and making food taste better.

To promote the new service, Heathrow has built a “pop-up park” in the brand new Terminal 2 (home to Star Alliance carriers) for travelers to sample the meals. So stop by and listen for the sound of birds and a enjoy a full-on faux park experience. :)

Bringing groceries home

In the “now-that’s-a-good-idea” department, some companies are now targeting homecoming travelers with empty fridges. Passengers arriving into Finland’s Helsinki airport can now pre-order groceries online that they pick up at the airport and to take home upon arrival. This ensures that a traveler is able to avoid the dreaded “empty fridge hunger” syndrome that plagues many business travelers, especially singles with no one home to buy the groceries.

Would you like to pick up groceries at the airport? Please leave your comments below!

–Nick Vivion

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Virgin America’s designs on Dallas Love (photos)

Virgin America's lounge for first class and elevate Gold members is a partitioned area in adjacent to its ticket counters (Virgin America)

Virgin America’s check in space for first class and elevate Gold members is a partitioned area adjacent to its ticket counters (Virgin America)

On Monday, Virgin America kicked off new flights at Love Field in Dallas and brought along its design sense for ticket counters and gate areas. 

Its new, private first class VIP check-in area is located adjacent to its new Love Field ticket counters, and will give first class passengers and Elevate Gold members a place to chill out while they check in for their flights with the help of a dedicated Virgin America VIP concierge.   

Virgin's first class lounge is located next to it's check in area at Dallas Love, picture here.

Virgin’s first class check in space is located next to it’s check in area at Dallas Love, pictured here. (Virgin America)

Virgin says the space extends its colorful cabin experience into the airport with design elements that include modern furniture pieces selected in collaboration with the Dallas-based design group Corgan – including Cassina Tre Pezzi lounge chairs, an Eames chair and ottoman and Foscaraini “Twiggy” floor lighting.  The check-in area is separated from the rest of the terminal by a billowy, LED-lit divider wall by Molo Design.

Note that the space is located pre-security next to ticket counters, not in the gate area, where it would likely be more useful. A Virgin spokesperson made it clear that this is not a lounge like its Loft at LAX, but instead a “dedicated space for First Class check-in.”  

Virgin America’s new gates also got the “Virgin” treatment, highlighting the carrier’s British roots with a classic red London phone booth and art photography from various moments in Virgin brand history – from Virgin Records to Virgin Galactic. 

Here's another image of Virgin's lounge at Dallas Love

Here’s another image of Virgin’s lounge at Dallas Love (Virgin America)

Interview: The Dallas Morning New offers an excellent interview w Virgin America CEO David Cush about its newest destination

Virgin America has added some Brit-pop touches to its gate area, like a replica of a London hotel booth

Virgin America has added some Brit-pop touches to its gate area, like a replica of a London hotel booth (Virgin America)

Related: A bright spot in LAX’s drab Terminal 3

The red and  white exterior of the modern new terminal at Dallas Love looks as if it was designed with Virgin America in mind...dontcha think?

The red and white exterior of the modern new terminal at Dallas Love looks as if it was designed with Virgin America in mind…don’tcha think? (Image: Virgin America)

-Chris McGinnis

 >>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

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Please join the 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

Raft of new perks for elite flyers at SFO

Walking in to United's exclusive new Global Services/First check in lounge at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Looking through the frosted glass at United’s exclusive new Global Services/First check in lounge at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Elite flyers at San Francisco International are in for a few new treats this month.

On Wednesday morning, United opens a new dedicated United Global Services/Global First check in lounge and Premier Check in area in near Door 5 at  Terminal 3. (Other such Global Services lounges are located at Chicago O’Hare and Newark Liberty)

At the same time, American Express is preparing for an early November reveal of its much anticipated Centurion Lounge, located on the mezzanine level at the far west end of Terminal 3 near the International Terminal. (Currently there are Centurion lounges in Dallas, Las Vegas and New York La Guardia airports.)

I took a stroll through Terminal 3 this week and here’s what I saw and heard.

First, starting Wednesday, all United Premier flyers will enter security through a new dedicated check in and security area located near Door 3 at the EASTERN end of Terminal 3. This is also the new PreCheck line. The Premier check in area at the west end of Terminal 3 is now for non-Premier passengers.

Here’s a photo of the new Premier check in area:

United's brand new Premier Check in area in SFO Terminal 3 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

United’s brand new Premier Check in area in SFO Terminal 3 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Now here’s a photo of the new Premier security entry point– note the frosted glass door where Global Services/Global First passengers enter from the corridor and exit into security.

United's new Premier Security line- see the Global Services lounge behind the frosted glass? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

United’s new Premier Security line- see the Global Services lounge behind the frosted glass? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Now, let’s take a 360 degree look at the new United Global Services check in lounge in the video below. This is where Global Services and Global First passengers will enter the security screening area via two sets of frosted glass doors.

First, they enter the lounge where there are five check in podiums flanked my a huge photo of downtown San Francisco, a twinkly chandelier, four mod chairs and a coffee table. They walk in the door, flash their ID and boarding pass, the continue on through another frosted glass door into the front of the line of the security screening area located adjacent to the lounge.

The door is positioned so these passengers will be able to break into the front of either the PreCheck and regular security lines. Now that’s exclusive!

Just behind the Global Services lounge (airside) is a dedicated passageway to the ramp below the terminal where United’s fleet of two brand new 2015 silver Mercedes GL 350 BlueTec SUVs can whisk passengers who are late for their flights. (The new 2015 models in go into service this week.)

New: Sign up for a new credit card and you could get a FREE trip home for the holidays… How about a limited time 70,000 point sign up bonus from Chase?

Now let’s move on to the new American Express Centurion Lounge, which has been shrouded in secrecy, but a few details are emerging (most  of which have not been confirmed by American Express).

The AMEX Centurion Lounge is above the T3 security checkpoint behind the glass (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The AMEX Centurion Lounge is above the T3 security checkpoint behind the glass (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

>The lounge is located on the mezzanine level above the (now old) Premier Check security lines on the western end of Terminal 3.

>It is expected to open the first week of November.

>Access to the lounge will be airside only, which means that it only makes sense for those departing United’s Terminal 3 or the adjacent Boarding Area G of the International Terminal.

>The lounge is open to American Express Platinum and Centurion card holders. American Express cardholders who do not have Platinum or Centurion cards can get in by paying a $50 fee, and admittance is subject to lounge capacity.

Amex Platinum

These are the only Platinum cards that will get you in the Centurion Lounge door for free. All other AMEX cards must pay a $50 fee.

>Access to the lounge will be via a glass elevator across from gates 74 and 75.

Expect to see a "living wall" like this one in Las Vegas at SFO's new Centurion Lounge (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Expect to see a “living wall” like this one in Las Vegas at SFO’s new Centurion Lounge opening in November(Photo: Chris McGinnis)

>The design of the SFO lounge will be similar to the lounge at Las Vegas, with a large “living wall,” rich wood paneling and modern furnishings. There will be a bar as well as different areas for working, socializing, and tranquility. There are restrooms and a shower room.

>Windows on either side of the lounge will look out into Terminal 3, not out onto the tarmac.

>The lounge will provide a hot buffet created by Christopher Kostow, the chef at Michelin Three Starred The Restaurant at Meadowood. 

That’s it for now! Are you one of the lucky ones who will get to enjoy these new perks, or perhaps has enjoyed them at other airports? Please leave your comments below.

-Chris McGinnis

 >>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

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Nationwide fare sale for winter trips

A Southwest Airlines 738 in new livery takes of from Midland, Texas (Photo: Felipe Garcia / Flickr)

A Southwest Airlines 737 in new livery takes of from Midland, Texas (Photo: Felipe Garcia / Flickr)

Today Southwest Airlines kicked off a significant sale for winter trips with some seriously good deals. As usual, we expect other carriers to begin matching this sale later today. (See below for updates.)

Round trip fares for trips in December, January and early February drop to as low as $99 round trip for short haul trips and then increase in four steps: $198, $248, and $298. (Peak holiday season is not included)

If you have winter travel plans, now’s the time to book…this sale lasts only three days: starting today, Tuesday, October 14 and running through Thursday, October 16, 11:59 p.m. for the respective time zone of the originating city.

This sale brings transcon (coast to coast) roundtrip fares below $300 for the first time we’ve seen in a while. For those in the Northeast, fares to Florida are below $200 round trip. Most intra-California roundtrips are $99. Fares from across the country to Denver are nice a cheap if you are interested in a winter ski vacation.

Some examples of the low roundtrip all-in fares on offer:

  • Atlanta- Washington National or New York LGA: $198
  • San Francisco-Atlanta: $298
  • Las Vegas-Oakland/San Francisco/LAX: $99
  • Baltimore/Washington – San Diego: $298
  • Oakland/San Francisco-Denver: $198
  • Chicago/New York: $198
  • Phoenix-Oakland/San Francisco $198
  • Seattle-San Diego: $198

For a full list of these special fares, visit www.southwest.com.

These low fares are good for flights December 3 through December 17, 2014 and then January 6 through February 11. They are good for travel every day of the week except Fridays and Sundays. As usual, there are only a few seats on each flight at the lowest fares. Early bird gets the worm!

This sale is good for flights during what’s known in the biz as the “dead weeks” when travel demand plummets to annual lows– this means that hotel and car rental costs are also at annual lows, so it’s a great time to take a cheap trip. It’s also a good time to get home and see the family if peak holiday season fares have priced you out of the market.

New: Sign up for a new credit card and you could get a FREE trip home for the holidays… How about a limited time 70,000 point sign up bonus from Chase?

For business travelers who have not been able to get out and see clients due to this year’s extraordinarily high fares, this is a great opportunity save by traveling when most folks are staying at home. You can take off for a quick visit just before Christmas or drop by during the cold dark months of January and February.

As usual, other airlines will likely match this Southwest sale, so keep an eye on their websites over the next 24 hours as fares are loaded. We’ll monitor fare matching over the next 48 hours and post results here on TravelSkills.

Updates:

>JetBlue is matching fares for November & December trips only

>United is now matching most of these fares

>American launched a sale good for flights through Mar 6, but fares are not as low

>Delta has matched some of these fares

--Chris McGinnis

Here’s the fine print from Southwest:

Purchase from Oct. 14-16, 201411:59 p.m. for the respective time zone of the originating city. Travel December 3 through December 17, 2014 and January 6 through February 11, 2015. Travel to/from San Juan, Puerto Rico valid Dec. 3-11, 2014 and Jan. 13 through Feb. 11, 2015. Travel valid every day except Fridays and Sundays. Travel to Florida or Nevada is valid Sunday through Wednesday only.  Additionally, travel from Florida or Nevada is valid Tuesday through Fridayonly. Travel between Nevada and Florida is valid on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only. Some flights operated by AirTran® Airways. Fares valid on nonstop service only. Displayed prices include all U.S. and international government taxes and fees. Seats are limited. Fares may vary by destination, flight, and day of week and won’t be available on some flights that operate during very busy travel times and holiday periods. Travel is available for one-way Wanna Get Away Fares. Fares may be combined with other Southwest Airlines combinable fares. If combining with other fares, the most restrictive fare’s rules apply. Sale fares may be available on other days of week, but not guaranteed. Fares are nonrefundable but may be applied toward future travel on Southwest Airlines, so long as you cancel your reservations at least ten minutes prior to the scheduled departure of your flight. Failure to cancel prior to departure will result in forfeiture of remaining funds on the reservation.  Any change in itinerary may result in an increase in fare. Standby travel requires an upgrade to the Anytime Fare. Fares are subject to change until ticketed.  Offer applies to published, scheduled service only.

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

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

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 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

New AT&T plan for international calling

Increasing competition is bringing international calling and data rates down (Photo: Bjorn Bechstein / Flickr)

Increasing competition is bringing international calling and data rates down (Photo: Bjorn Bechstein / Flickr)

Today AT&T rolled out a new plan for international calling today that should help frequent travelers avoid frustrating phone bill surprises when returning from overseas trips. It could also push other carriers to improve their offerings for international travelers.

What’s unique about AT&T’s new Passport plan is that it is offering three different one-time packages (for $30, $60 and $120) that you can choose instead of its recurring Global Packages– a nice alternative for the occasional international traveler.

The least expensive Passport bundle goes for $30 and with it you get 30 days of unlimited messaging (text, image or video), 120MB of data, and $1 per minute calling in 150 countries. That’s plenty for a most users, but if you are busy uploading photos or sending or watching videos, there are fatter plans: For $60 you get 300MB of data and calls at .50 per minute. And for $120, you get 800MB of data and .35 per minute calls.

You’ll pay for these packages in addition to your monthly AT&T bill and the deal expires after the 30 days are up… it’s not a recurring charge. Just be sure and sign up for a plan BEFORE you take your trip. (Details about Passport plans here)

Chart courtesy AT&T

AT&T’s new Passport bundles (Chart courtesy AT&T)

AT&T likely rolled out this plan to retain customers tempted by T-Mobile’s very popular, inexpensive and aggressively marketed Simple Choice plan, which offers unlimited data and texting and .20/minute calling in 120 countries (vs AT&T’s 150 countries) for $80 a month.  What’s nice about the T-Mobile plan is that you don’t have to “sign up” before each trip… the deal is included in your monthly rate whether or not you are traveling overseas. (Regrettably, T-Mobile’s coverage lags in many parts of the US and much of my home town of San Francisco, which is why I moved away from it two years ago after an 11 year run! But I’m going to give ‘em another try via its new, free “test drive” promo. Stay tuned for results…)

Currently, Verizon offers a $25 global data plan that provides 100MB of data overseas, but doesn’t offer free messaging or discounts on voice calls. Plus you have to sign up for it before each trip. Maybe AT&T’s new offer will push Verizon to offer a more streamlined and lucrative deal to retain its frequent traveling customers. Stay tuned….

What mobile carrier do you use? How would you rate its international coverage– and its pricing for international calls and data? 

>>Take a peek at what you may have missed on TravelSkills.com this week! <<

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

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

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 80,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

 

 

 

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!

Best,

Chris chris@travelskills.com

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. (chris@travelskills.com)

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!

Sincerely,

Chris McGinnis

Editor/Publisher

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: Kayak.com and Routehappy.com

·         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: Hotwire.com, 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)

LostWallet

 

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. 

Enjoy! 

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 http://bit.ly/Sang6P.” 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?

COMMENT>>

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.
*****

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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 BBC.com

One of the many hats I wear is that of business travel columnist for BBC.com. 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 BBC.com 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 Southwest.com—AirTran members will find links to the new conversion site from the AirTran.com 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

770-410-9883

www.alpinebakeryandtrattoria.com

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.

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