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A mesmerizing look at a Delta jet from a window of ATL's Concourse E (Photo: AP Gouge Photography)

Best photo + United meals + Bid for Virgin upgrades + Delta downgrade + New Asian nonstop for SJC

AIRLINES United improves front cabin meals. February 1 is United Airlines’ launch date for upgraded meal service in United First and United Business cabins on North American mainline flights of at least 800 miles. Transcontinental and Hawaii flights will get a new multi-course meal service with “heartier entrees,” United said, while flights of four hours […]

The SkyMall catalog was full of quirky, questionably  used items like this ball tosser (Photo: SkyMall)

SkyMall bankruptcy surprises few

SkyMall bankruptcy surprises few. If you see a SkyMall catalogue in the seatback on your next flight, you might want to save it — it could soon be a collector’s item. The venerable in-flight shopping diversion and its parent company have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with an eye toward selling off their assets. What […]

A Chinese high speed train at the West Beijing station (Photo: Fabio Achilli / Flickr)

Beijing Moscow train set to speed across Asia

This week China announced that it’s going to build a $250 billion Beijing-Moscow bullet train, which could be in service within 10 years. California’s $68 billion high-speed rail service between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which broke ground earlier this month near Fresno, will take at least 14 years to complete. And it already has a […]

(Photo: Jim Glab)

6 tips for better plane pics

If you’ve ever wished for a pastime that could make your hours at the airport or on the plane more endurable, how about aircraft photography? No matter how jaded you’ve become from your travels over the years, you might still think — as I do — that seeing a big commercial jet lift itself into […]

It's beach time in California this weekend! Temps could hit 80 degrees in Carmel, pictured here (Chris McGinnis)

7 last-minute fare deals worth a look!

Deal Alert! As usually happens at this cold dark time of year when we all feel like we’ve traveled enough, the industry responds with some pretty tantalizing “dead week” deals. The most alluring are those to warm weather destinations, but the best deals (and most seats) are to less balmy destinations. If you have a […]

Virgin Atlantic

Wait…I have to sit where?

TravelSkills reader S.G. is not at all happy about how Delta Medallion level flyers are treated when flying on new Virgin Atlantic codeshare flights– here’s his Reader Report! Dear Chris: I want to give you an update on my Delta/Virgin experience, which is my second experience, and not so great, nor was it for some Diamonds. […]


Delta at JFK + First Virgin Hotel opens + Cuba + Free parking at Oakland + Marriott backs down

AIRPORTS Delta expands at JFK. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Delta Air Lines have cut the ribbon on a $175 million expansion of Terminal 4 at New York JFK. The 11-gate, 75,000-square-foot extension of T4’s B Concourse allows Delta to move most of its regional Delta Connection flights there from […]

Cathay Pacific

United bonus miles + Delta to Shanghai + Beware mileage thieves + Chris speaks Russian

AIRLINES United offers bonus miles to elites. Matching a similar move by American Airlines, United has come out with its own offer of bonus miles for MileagePlus members who buy tickets in premium cabins. The longer the flight and the higher one’s elite status, the more bonus miles United piles on, up to 12,000 for […]

Did you know that there are two types of touch screens? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

How do touch screens work?

Can you count how many touch screens you encounter on a single trip? Frequent travelers probably use touch screens more than most — smartphones, airport check-in or Global Entry kiosks, seatback entertainment systems are just a few. Did you ever wonder how they work? The infographic below (from provides an interesting look at the two […]

The new terminal at Dallas Love Field feels a lot like SFO's Terminal 2- light, airy, modern with a broad selection of dining & shopping options. Were impressed! (Photo: Chris McGinnis(

New SFO competition + Delta fights for Love + United Wi-Fi + Air China’s 747-8s + Bag woes at Denver

AIRLINES New SFO routes for Southwest, JetBlue. Virgin America got some new competition on a couple of key routes last week as Southwest kicked off new daily service between San Francisco and Dallas Love Field, and JetBlue started two daily flights between SFO and Las Vegas. Southwest also added daily flights between Love Field and […]

Delta Connection flight for mileage item (Photo: Jim Glab)

Mileage switch begins + Etihad mess + Marriott’s Mi-Fi blocking policy + Free Wi-Fi at NYC airports

AIRLINES Big mileage switch starts. On January 1, Delta became the first of the Big Three U.S. legacy airlines to transform the basis of earnings in its loyalty plan from distance flown to money spent. Under the new regime, non-elite SkyMiles members will get five miles per dollar spent on air fare, Silver Medallions earn […]


AirTran is over + SkyTeam priority perks + Hotel wi-fi standards + AMEX lounge for SYD

AIRLINES AirTran’s legacy for Southwest. With Southwest subsidiary AirTran Airways due to fly off into the pages of aviation history this week as its last remnants are fully absorbed into its parent airline, Forbes takes a look at just what AirTran has brought to the larger carrier. Besides making Southwest the largest U.S. airline (in […]


Faster Virgin Wi-Fi + Hertz status for SkyMiles + Kimpton purchase + Free Internet at Starwood

 AIRLINES Virgin speeds up in-flight Wi-Fi. Flyers on Virgin America who use in-flight Wi-Fi should notice an improvement in download speeds now that the airline has completed the deployment of Gogo’s ATG-4 Wi-Fi service on all 53 of its Airbus A320s. With speeds topping out at 9.8 Mbps, the ATG-4 service is more than three […]

When you pay full price for a big seat up front on American, you could earn a 12K mile bonus (Photo: DearEdward / Flickr)

American ups the ante in fight for premium travelers

The latest salvo in the battle for front-cabin travelers comes from American, which unveiled a bonus promotion for 2015 that rewards extra miles — in some cases a lot of extra miles — to AAdvantage members who buy pricey premium seats. Although American calls it a “promotion,” it is unlike other mileage promotions in some […]

United's going big with the new iPhone 6 Plus. (Photo: United)

iPhones on United + Delta backtrack + Holiday first class sale + Uber issues + New hotel for NYC

AIRLINES UA flight attendants get iPhones. Passenger purchases on United flights will soon be processed through an iPhone 6 Plus. The airline said it plans to give the big new iPhones to 23,000 flight attendants in the second quarter of 2015, and they’ll be able to handle most in-flight retail transactions. In the months to […]

The Trivago Guy is finding the best hotel rates in our test (Photo: Trivago)

New breed of hotel discount sites

It’s hard to miss the Trivago commercials on TV these days – they seem to be everywhere, and were propelled to infamy by a blogosphere riveted by the slightly disheveled look of the spokesperson, the aptly named “Trivago guy.” So pushing past the hype, how does current crop of newly popular hotel-only search sites pan out […]

This smart traveler used points to get $150/night rate at this big pink hotel in Honolulu (Photo: Bret Robertson / Flickr)

Advice from a road warrior [sponsored post & contest]

I got my start in the travel industry teaching novice business travelers how to “learn the ropes” of the road through a training program. That’s why my company is called Travel Skills Group, Inc., a name that eventually morphed into the blog you are now reading. I would contract with HR departments at big […]

SFO Plan West

Tip: Stormy weather slowing you down? Here’s why…

Flight delays at San Francisco International Airport regularly exceed two hours when it’s rainy, windy or foggy, while airports in San Jose and Oakland report few if any delays. As I write this, the FAA is reporting delays averaging 3 hours 40 minutes at SFO. Here’s why: As most frequent travelers know, delays mount at SFO […]

It's hard not to smile when you share beautiful views of San Francisco, with candy canes and gingerbread men.

Is this the best flight of the year?

By Nancy Branka By the time December rolls around each year, the last thing I want to do is to get on a plane. I am, by now, a jaded, tired business traveler. I am just plain done with TSA agents, done with vying for position in boarding groups, done with heaving my carry-on over […]

New quilted seat covers for Delta's first class flyers (Photo: Delta)

Delta rebrands cabins, classes of service

SkyMiles members who are thoroughly versed in all of Delta’s cabin and seating options will have to do a little re-education following the airline’s announcement that it is “redefining” and rebranding its products into five categories. The new cabin/seating regime takes effect March 1, 2015, with the following designations: >What is currently BusinessElite becomes Delta […]


Virgin food award + Delta beer + New flights to Europe + 3 Miami hotels + First A350

AIRLINES Virgin takes top honors in food study. Charles Platkin, a nutritionist also known as the Diet Detective, has come out with his annual ratings of airline food in terms of its nutritional quality, and Virgin America has captured the top spot. “It’s great that Virgin America also provides ALL nutritional information, NOT just calories, […]

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis having fun with Emirates flight attendants during the A380 tour at SFO

How Emirates welcomes a new plane [Photos]

This week Emirates Airline deployed not just one, but TWO giant Airbus A380s between Dubai and the US. On Monday, the 489-passenger double-decker touched down at San Francisco International and on Wednesday another one landed at Houston Intercontinental. Luckily, TravelSkills was invited to tour the new plane and to attend two of Emirates celebratory events in San Francisco, […]

Feelin' like Fiji? Then check out Alaska Air! (Photo: KenC1983 / Flickr)

5 smart mileage redemption tips

Don’t let frequent flyer miles burn a hole in your pocket because they always lose value over time.   The longer they sit there, the more expensive the awards become. In the past year, we have seen three major airlines adjust their award charts downward, with United Airlines’ moves being the most drastic. United nearly doubled […]

Check out the knee room in economy class on Japan Airlines' new Sky Suite 777 (photo: Chris McGinnis)

4 comfortable classes on JAL’s Sky Suite 777

Japan Airlines is making a big push to win back the hearts and wallets of frequent travelers, and in the US it is deploying its slick new Sky Suite 777 to do so. Just this week, it added the newly configured aircraft to the busy San Francisco-Tokyo Haneda run, replacing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route. […]

One of Marriott's newest, largest hotels is on sale today only! Marriott Marquis Washington DC

Marriott’s Cyber Monday deals

It’s not just retailers jumping on the Cyber-Monday bandwagon. The travel industry is there, too, and Marriott is one of the first out of the gate with some great deals for winter trips. Today only, you’ll get 30% off rooms rates at over 180 Marriott hotels across multiple brands. To get the deal, you must […]


Uber out in Vegas + United changes routes + Delta in Philly + Virgin’s next moves? + New India visa

AIRLINES Alaska boosts mileage bonuses. Alaska Airlines has an early Christmas present for its Mileage Plan members: bigger earning bonuses for certain fare classes and for MVP Gold 75K elites starting January 1. The bonus for first class fares jumps from 50 to 75 percent, and for refundable coach (Y) fares from 25 to 50 […]

My most famous foot photo ever (Chris McGinnis)

6 most annoying actions of infrequent flyers

Over time, most frequent travelers adopt an unruffled, zen-like attitude when it comes to flying. But at times, especially during the peak holdiay travel season, infrequent flyers exhibit certain behaviors that get under their skin. Below are my top six irritants. What are yours? 1) Seatback tappers- You know,  the ones who repeatedly tap-tap-tap on the seatback […]

credit cards

Thanksgiving, Schmanksgiving!

Once your turkey coma has worn off, gather up the fam and start planning for the Christmas/New Years period, which you can bet is going to be one of the busiest in recent memory. How do we know this? Because the holiday travel season usually mimics the peak summer travel season, which this year was very […]

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 3.48.14 PM

22 fun facts about flying

For your holiday reading pleasure, here are 22 fun facts about flying that you may not know. An entertaining and enlightening read from the folks at Have a great Thanksgiving! –Chris   >>Take a peek at what you may have missed on this week! << . Extra Bonus! Here’s an easy way to top off your Chase Ultimate […]

Washington Dulles Airport's curves are sure lovely. Bu not its commute! (Photo: Joe Wolf / Flickr)

36 most/least frustrating airports

Just in time for the holiday crunch, Bloomberg/BusinessWeek has put together a spot-on ranking of the 36 largest airports in the US and Canada. What’s best about this ranking is that it is based on a survey of 3,000 frequent travelers who know a thing or two about airports, plus a full analysis of drive time […]

Which country boasts this gorgeous passport design? See below

New look for Newark + United goes Android + New Delta look at LAX + Fee at Hilton/Marriott

AIRLINES Just in time for the busy holidays, United has (finally) extended its new onboard streaming service to Android users. Apple iPhone and iPad users (as well as those on any laptop)  have been able to give the new service a try since last spring.  To use it, you must first download the United app […]

Delta & Alaska Air battle for Seattle (Photo: Jim Glab)

Delta push at Seattle + Seat pitch compared + Southwest “Swagger” + Delta’s newest jets +

AIRLINES Delta’s big(ger) Seattle plans. Last week Delta’s CEO told employees the company wants to expand from its current 11 gates to 30 gates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, making it “a huge international gateway.” With those gates, Delta could operate up to 240 flights a day. Delta has been steadily adding transpacific and domestic flights […]

Heathrow Train

Much needed upgrade in London

The City of London has released plans for a futuristic upgrade to The Tube, one of the world’s largest underground rail systems. But don’t hold your breath– the fleet of 250 new trains won’t hit the tracks until the mid-2020s, and are anticipated to remain in service for 40 years. The Piccadilly Line, well-used by business travelers […]

United revealed even more "updates" to MileagePlus this week (Photo: United)

Say what? Even more cuts to United MileagePlus

Just a few weeks ago, United matched Delta in boosting by 20 percent the amount of dollar spending required in 2015 for MileagePlus members to achieve elite status levels in 2016. And now United has made some more “updates” to its loyalty program starting early next year that will further chip away at the benefits […]


Google’s travel advice

Ninety percent of holiday travel is by CAR, not by plane. With that in mind, the smarties at Google took a deep dive into their data and came up with some helpful insight and advice for avoiding Thanksgiving traffic as well as top searches in Google Maps before, during, and after Thanksgiving. Traffic data was pulled from the Monday […]

The new scent globe a London Heathrow Terminal 2 (LHR Airports)

My 9 favorite travel smells

This week sees London-Heathrow’s brand new Terminal 2 “The Queen’s Terminal” operating at full capacity with all 26 airlines (primarily Star Alliance) now in their new home. Airport authorities planned for the transition to take place over the five months instead of in one fell swoop. Good thinking since the process seems to have gone without a […]

(Photo: Uber)

United changes rules + Radical plan for NYC airport + Centurion “Studio” + Uber’s friends in DC

AIRLINES.  Did you get the email from United last week? As expected (and as usual) the carrier mimicked Delta’s recent move to increase the amount of dollars members must spend to get (or maintain) Premier status. The 20% bump up applies to qualifying activity in 2015 for status in 2016. The 25K spend threshold on MileagePlus co-branded credit […]

A brilliant fall day in NYC from the top floor of the Parker Meridien hotel (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Virgin’s next moves? + NYC + New Lufthansa seat + Eastern Airlines + More A380s

AIRLINES Virgin shares soar in IPO. And the airline could, too. This is going to be really fun to watch. Virgin America shares hit the market on Friday morning at $23 each, and took off to reach $30 by the end of the day. That makes Virgin worth about $1.3 billion. Now, with about $220 […]

Flight attendants are eager to help take photos of folks like me crossing scenes like sitting in KAL's Celestial Lounge off the bucket list

Trip Report: Korean Air A380 Seoul-Atlanta (Part 2)

Last month I finally crossed this off my bucket list:  Flying from Seoul to Atlanta on a Korean Air A380. KAL’s big blue A380 is Atlanta’s one and only double decker and I’ve wanted to float into my old hometown on it since the service started in September 2013. The first leg of that journey started in […]

Here's a rendering of the new connector viewed from the ramp (Fentress Architects)

New options for Delta flyers at SFO

Delta flyers at SFO can now take a yoga break, partake of local organic food and wine or check out a cool museum space at SFO. That’s because there’s a brand new airside (behind security) connector between Terminal 1, Boarding Area C or “T1C” (used by Delta) and the world famous Terminal 2, designed by the San Francisco […]

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