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What’s your favorite flight number?

Have you ever boarded a plane with a flight number that made you pause and think, “Hmm, I wonder if they planned it that way?” Turns out that there are many iconic or unusual flight numbers based on airline history, superstition, luck– or plain old cleverness. For example, United’s new flight #500 from Indianapolis to San […]

Knee defender

Awesome Knee Defender animation VIDEO

The travel-social-media-sphere is buzzing about an incident earlier this week where two passengers brawled over reclining seats. Both were seated in United’s Economy Plus section. One traveler used a “knee defender” device to prevent the passenger in front of him from reclining her seat. Passenger in front ended up throwing a glass of water on […]

United upgrades first class fare with items like this caprese on Asiago baguette (Photo: United)

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

(TravelSkills is based in the Bay Area and yes, we felt the earthquake early Sunday morning! Thankfully no damage here at HQ. The rumble felt like riding along a dirt road in a Winnebago in the dark.) AIRLINES Big fare sale. As a busy summer comes to a close, all airlines have put fall and winter […]

The Ponape Lounge onboard a Continental 747 (Photo: 1950sUnlimited / Flickr)

What golden age of travel?

Was there really a “golden age of travel?” My favorite travel apps? Key advice for a newbie biz traveler? My most memorable trip? I’m on a mini-vacation this weekend, so I thought you all would like to read a recent Q&A with me that appeared in InsideFlyer magazine. InsideFlyer Do you feel that the “golden days” […]

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

3 brand new hotels in Chicago

At TravelSkills, we love new hotels. They smell better, work better, feel better, and are usually bigger, brighter and hipper than others. But new can also have its downside: Construction noise, service issues, and/or locations in sketchy or “upcoming” neighborhoods. Some are so new that TripAdvisor reviews are scant compared to more established hotels. In […]


A spin around the new Airbus A350

The world’s newest long-haul, wide body commercial jet, the Airbus A350-900, recently completed its route-proving mission in Helsinki and TravelSkills was invited along to take a look at the first of the “XWB” family of aircraft to debut. Finnair will be the first European carrier to get its hands on the new bird when it […]

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

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

AIRLINES Delta upgrades LGA-BOS Shuttle. On November 2, Delta will move its New York LaGuardia-Boston Logan Delta Shuttle from LGA’s remote (and cooly art-deco) Marine Air Terminal to Terminal C, and will upgrade its aircraft to 110-passenger Boeing 717s. (Those 717s used to belong to AirTran.)  Delta Shuttle’s LGA-Washington and LGA-Chicago flights will remain at […]

(Photo: Eric Rice / Flickr)

How to deal with Americans

Most American frequent travelers have at one time or another been “trained” on how to interact or behave when traveling in other countries. We are told to be punctual in Germany, to accept invitations to karaoke in Japan or Korea, to refrain from tipping in Australia, to present business cards with two hands in Asia, and dress up […]

In Copenhagen! (Chris McGinnis)

10 little things some hotels get right

When it comes to the best hotel stays, it’s not plush spas, marble lobbies and striking architecture that really matter. It’s the little things some hotels get right that really make a difference…and make us want to come back. Am I right? Here are 10 little things I’ve noticed that always make me feel good about the hotel I’m […]

Inside the posh new American Express Centurion lounge at New York LaGuardia (Photo: Amex)

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

Summer’s not even over yet, but business travel news is coming at us from all directions, so we’re offering a double dose of news this week… AIRLINES Soup ‘n salad at Sky Clubs. Delta has updated and enhanced the menu offerings at its Sky Clubs, bringing aboard some healthier options like salads and soups that it has […]

How do you like our new TravelSkills wallpaper? Yep, that's what we have on our walls!

Month #3: A TravelSkills update from Chris

Hello Dear Readers! This week we celebrate the three-month anniversary of the new TravelSkills blog and I’d like to provide an update of where we are and where we are going. First off, for those of you who have been following me for years, I’d like thank you very much for sticking around as we’ve broadened our content and expanded […]

Airbnb living room 2

Airbnb for a business trip? Mixed results

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

SFO's new EMAS runaway plane lane is finished! All 4 runways now open (Photo: SFO)

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

SFO runways reopen early. Good news for Bay Area travelers: San Francisco International goes from two operational runways to four effective today (August 10) as a major construction project wrapped up a month ahead of schedule. The two runways had been closed since May 17 to install federally-mandated Runway Safety Areas (designed to catch and […]

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

Mergers that make sense

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed a wave of travel industry mergers that seemed implausible a decade ago. Yet here we are today with four major airlines (American, Delta, Southwest and United) that control at least 80% of the domestic market. Similarly,  the hotel industry is dominated by four giant companies: InterContinental, Hilton, Marriott, Starwood. […]

Marilyn Jean Hartman, 62,  finally got on a plane.

Serial stowaway finally gets her free flight

UPDATE: THURSDAY AUG 7: After her arrest and incarceration in LA on Monday, Hartman went BACK TO THE AIRPORT on Thursday, and was arrested again. Full story here.  Original story here: After six thwarted attempts at stowing away on planes bound for Hawaii, San Francisco’s now famous Marilyn Jean Hartmann has finally done it. NBC Bay Area […]

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

3 brand new Los Angeles hotels (& 3 facelifts)

At TravelSkills, we love new hotels. They smell better, work better, feel better, and are usually bigger, brighter and hipper than others. But new can also have its downside: Construction noise, service issues, and/or locations in sketchy or “upcoming” neighborhoods. Some are so new that TripAdvisor reviews are scant compared to more established hotels. In […]

delta entertainment

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

AIRLINES Delta debuts free entertainment. Delta last week rolled out a big perk for passengers: Free in-flight entertainment options on all its domestic aircraft — including two-class regional jets — for flights longer than 90 minutes, and on all international flights as well. Called Delta Studio, the service lets customers in all classes access free […]

Early boarding is one of the perks you get when the United Explorer card.

The 50,000 mile bonus is back

It’s been a while since we’ve seen credit card sign up bonuses of 50,000 miles or more. They’re trickling out now, but you need to act fast.  For example, today the United Explorer Card rolled out a new 50,000 mile bonus for those spending at least $2,000 in the first three months. Add an additional user […]

ANA's gets its shiny new Boeing 787-9 (Photo: The Boeing Company)

Trip Report: ANA’s 787 Dreamliner to Tokyo

This week, Japan’s ANA (All Nippon Airways) announced that it will be the first airline to launch a new “stretch” version of the popular Boeing 787 Dreamliner on August 7.  The new 787-9 is “stretched” 20 feet longer than the original 787-8, allowing for up to 40 additional passengers.  With this delivery, ANA will have […]

(Photo: dykstranet / Flickr)

How to get on earlier flight without paying fee

Getting on an earlier flight can mean getting home in time to have dinner with your family, rather than a solo snack around midnight. If you are headed off on vacation, it means you might be able to make it to the beach in time to get some sun. During normal airline operations, changing to […]

Emirates did not have a seat on display, but had a mock up of its inflight lounge aboard its A380s. (Chris McGinnis)

20 different biz class seats in 1 room- PHOTOS

(Los Angeles) Every year at about this time, the business travel industry gathers for the Global Business Travel Association convention. This year it’s here in Los Angeles, with about 7,000 industry folks schmoozing, speaking, selling, learning, networking and having a lot of fun.  One of the best parts of this conference is the trade show […]

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

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

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


Frequent travelers love Chick-fil-a

Poring over millions of travel expense reports always reveals some interesting data gems. For example, business travelers have a new found love for Chick-fil-a. We are also ordering take out food to eat in our hotel rooms more frequently. That’s what we are hearing this week from Certify, a big expense management software company that […]

Boarding a Southwest Airlines flight (Judy Baxter / Flickr)

Kicked off flight for a tweet? Southwest responds

Everyone loves a good airline customer service drama during the hot, sweaty and tempestuous peak summer travel season. It’s the time of year when we all love to hate the airlines. That’s why the story about a Southwest Airlines passenger who claims that a negative tweet got him kicked off a plane spread like wildfire today. […]

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

Hilton’s Conrad snags posh new London hotel

Hilton’s Conrad brand announced today that it will take over the InterContinental Westminster, which just opened in December 2012. The new Hilton Conrad London Westminster will make its debut in September. The hotel has a central London location, service, and style business travelers require. It also has a handsome restaurant and bar with a type of food […]

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Best & worst hotels, airports for Wi-Fi

  Free wi-fi is great, but you usually end up getting what you pay for, right? Well, maybe not, according to an interesting study by a Wefi, a mobile network management company. According to the study, the hotel chains that offer the fastest wi-fi are in the budget and mid-priced category, with brands like Red […]

Delta's new post-security Sky Club rising in the shadow of SFO's new ATC Tower (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

New Delta Sky Club rising at SFO

Delta has confirmed to TravelSkills that it will open a brand new Sky Club at San Francisco International Airport in 2015. In the photo (above) that I snagged while boarding a Virgin America flight from a Terminal 2 jetway last week, it appears that the new club will be located on the upper level and will have […]

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

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

AIRLINES ‘Ancillary revenues’ skyrocket. In 2007, the world’s airlines took in $2.45 billion in “ancillary revenues” — those fees they charge for various amenities and services. By 2013, that figure had jumped to $31.5 billion — a 1,200 percent increase — according to the latest study by IdeaWorks Company. That’s $16 per passenger. United had […]

The sight of this just wrecks me. Imagine the tropical or romantic dreams of the traveler who packed this.

How I watched the #MH17 tragedy unfold

Every time a plane crashes, my adrenalin spikes, I fall into news gathering mode, and I begin to recall the air crashes that have occurred during my 25 year career as a travel writer, broadcaster and author. Most poignant of all to me was the ValuJet (now AirTran) flight 592 (Miami>Atlanta) crash into the everglades in May […]

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

Unusual ways to earn hotel rewards points

This week the Kimpton Hotel Group, the rapidly expanding chain of 62 funky and functional boutique hotels across the US, rolled out a unique new frequent stay program. To me, the most unusual feature of the new Kimpton Karma Rewards program is that travelers earn points not just for spending the night (and spending money), but for interacting […]

A CLEAR card entry point in SFO's Terminal 3 at about 8 pm last Monday (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Should I renew my CLEAR card?

Last week I received an email from CLEAR Card (see above) asking me to renew my $179 annual membership. In the past, renewal for CLEAR was an easy decision. I always thought that $179 was a small price to pay to have CLEAR come to my rescue when surprised by an unusually long line at airport security. […]

Etihad Logo

New global carrier for SFO with an Indian twist

Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways announced on Monday that it will fly to San Francisco International starting November 18. SFO will be the sixth U.S. city served by the rapidly expanding UAE carrier. Kinda…. This comes on the heals of Emirates Airline’s recent announcement that it will add double decker A380 flights at SFO starting […]

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

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

AIRLINES Alaska gets ‘Space Bins.’ Alaska Airlines said it will be the first carrier to install new “Space Bins” from Boeing — a new generation of overhead bins that will hold 48 percent more bags than the Boeing Sky interior pivot bins currently on Alaska’s planes. On a 737-900ER, that’s room for 174 standard bags, […]

The glittering view from a United 767 approaching London Heathrow (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

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

London is the most popular travel destination in the world. (I would agree with that!) The British capital reclaimed the most popular spot based on air travel arrivals and foreign visitor spending, besting last year’s most popular destination, Bangkok, by more than 2 million visitors according to MasterCard’s Global Destination Cities Index released this week. Where else are […]

Virgin America uses the "crane game" to depicts traveler frustration with frequent flyer programs (YouTube)

Are frequent flyer programs designed to fail?

This clever new 30-second video from Virgin America hits the nail on the head when it comes to traveler irritation with frequent flyer programs. The video uses the popular “crane game” to depict how travelers feel when trying to redeem miles for trips or perks. It arrives at a time when we’re more frustrated than normal due to […]

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

Are Uber, Airbnb or Lyft safe?

By Nancy Branka Safety is a primary concern for most female business travelers, but it factors into travel decisions of both sexes. So, as I recently made my first-ever reservation on for a business trip, I stopped and wondered, “Is this smart?” New “sharing economy” travel suppliers such as Airbnb, Uber or Lyft can be exciting options for […]

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

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

AIRLINES Cell phone scrutiny. As part of newly enhanced security procedures, be sure your cell phone is charged up before going to the airport, especially when returning from the US from overseas. Sounds like the TSA has received credible information that electronics could be used in a terrorist act involving aviation. Here’s part of the […]

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

Don’t let peak season storms like Arthur spoil your well-laid travel plans. Just follow TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis’s advice as shared on CNN! (Click on arrow to launch video) Watch the video to learn more about these seven tips: 1) Book the first flight of the day 2) Learn to live out of a carry on […]

Carly Simon looking and sounding great at 65 on the ferry between Martha's Vineyard and Woods Hole, Mass. (and me!)

Traveling with Carly Simon (reprise)

I’m still a little bit star struck. Last week, on the first leg of my journey home from my summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., I traveled with one of my all-time favorite singers and songwriters, Carly Simon. (Note: This is a reprise of a post from a previous Fourth of July weekend that I […]

New flight paths are about the biggest change fliers have felt during SFO runway shutdow (Courtesy SFO)

San Francisco airport runway construction update

You must see this mesmerizing video of fog rolling over SF from Simon Christen. On May 17, San Francisco International Airport shut down two of its four runways for federally mandated safety upgrades. Since then, summer fog and heavy air traffic have caused occasional minor back ups, but significant delays have been minimal. Over the last […]

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