Routes: SFO, LAX, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Miami, Newark, JFK

United is boosting capacity on its new route from SFO to Auckland. (Image:

United is boosting capacity on its new route from SFO to Auckland. (Image: Aucklandnz.com)

In the latest international route news, United boosts capacity on a new transpacific route out of San Francisco but drops a transatlantic route; a Chinese carrier starts new flights to Los Angeles; Chicago O’Hare gets a new route to Taiwan; low-cost Icelandic carrier WOW adds another U.S. gateway; KLM revives Miami flights; and Delta resumes service to a Canadian destination.

United Airlines just started its San Francisco-Auckland service in early July (after a 13-year hiatus), but now the New Zealand Herald reports that the airline is increasing capacity on the route. It said United has boosted flight frequencies between SFO-Auckland from five a week to daily service, and has also switched out the 787-8 it was using on the route to a larger 777. SFO-AKL fares are currently in the $1,000 roundtrip range, but occasionally dip slightly below that.

Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, United plans to drop its current service linking Newark with Belfast, Northern Ireland effective January 9. Why? Because the subsidy paid to United over the last three years ran out. The cancellation has caused much consternation as it was the only nonstop link between Northern Ireland and the US.

At Los Angeles International, Chinese carrier Sichuan Airlines is due to start new service on December 6 to Jinan, with continuing same-plane service to Chengdu. The carrier will use an Airbus A330-200 for the service, which will operate twice a week, according to Routesonline.com. News of the new route comes just a couple of weeks after Sichuan Airlines, with little fanfare, kicked off its first U.S. route; in mid-October it started flying, also twice a week with an A330, from LAX to Hangzhou with continuing service to Chengdu.

EVA's "Hello Kitty" 777-300ER now flies between Houton and Taipei. (Image: EVA)

One of EVA’s  777-300ERs  has “Hello, Kitty” livery. (Image: EVA)

Taiwan’s EVA Air last week started flying between Taipei and Chicago O’Hare, operating four flights a week with a 777-300ER. EVA offers extensive connections beyond Taipei to other Asian destinations, including 27 cities in mainland China. EVA also flies to New York, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver.

Wow Air, Iceland’s fast-growing low-cost airline, will add yet another U.S. gateway on June 17, when it begins service from Pittsburgh International to its hub at Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport with an Airbus A321. The carrier will offer fares starting as low as $99 each way to Iceland, with connecting service starting at $149 each way to European destinations including Paris, London, Frankfurt and others – plus add-on ancillary fees, of course.

WOW Air

Wow Air will use a narrow-body for new Pittsburgh service. (Photo: WOW Air)

KLM, which dropped service to Miami in 2011, started it up again last week. The Dutch airline is offering three flights a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays) from Miami to Amsterdam Schiphol using an Airbus A330-200. The seasonal service will continue through June 2017.

Delta Air Lines will revive service from its New York JFK hub to Halifax, Nova Scotia, effective January 9. The carrier said it will use a 76-seat CRJ-900 on the route, offering first class, Comfort+ and regular economy seating.

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

A guest room at the Radisson Red in Minneapolis. (Image: Radisson)

A guest room at the Radisson Red in Minneapolis. (Image: Radisson)

Recent U.S. business hotel openings include a pair of properties in Minneapolis, and another pair in Nashville; a dual-branded hotel in Chicago; big Bay Area/Silicon Valley hotel re-flags, and a new Marriott brand in Atlanta.

In Minneapolis, Radisson has set a November 16 opening for the first U.S. location of its new Radisson Red brand. The Radisson Red Minneapolis Downtown is a new build at 609 Third Street South, part of the Minneapolis Downtown East mixed-use development; it’s linked to the Wells Fargo Office Tower and the new U.S. Bank Stadium via the city’s skyway system. The hotel has 164 rooms (Radisson Red calls them studios) with free high-speed Wi-Fi. Its OUIBar + KTCHN focuses on locally sourced cuisine and craft beverages. And it offers a fitness center plus a 1,000 square foot “Events & Games Studio” for activities that can liven up meetings. Radisson is offering triple Gold Points for stays through February. Rates start at $139.

A King room at Marriott's new AC Hotel in Minneapolis. (Image: Marriott)

A King room at Marriott’s new AC Hotel in Minneapolis. (Image: Marriott)

Another newly built, newly opened property in Minneapolis is Marriott’s AC Hotel, part of a fast- growing new Marriott group with a style that reflects AC’s European origins. It’s located on Hennepin Avenue at S. Fourth Street, across from the city’s main library. The property is connected to the skyway system and to the Midtown Parking Garage. Its 245 rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and smart TVs that can stream Netflix, Hulu and other services; and the hotel has several conference rooms and a fitness room. There’s no full-service restaurant; the AC Kitchen serves breakfast only, and the AC Lounge offers drinks and tapas plates in the evening. Marriott Rewards advance purchase rates start at $149.

Accommodations at Hilton's new Hampton Inn in Chicago's West Loop. (Image: Hilton)

Accommodations at Hilton’s new Hampton Inn in Chicago’s West Loop. (Image: Hilton)

In downtown Chicago, Hilton has cut the ribbon on a dual-branded hotel in the West Loop neighborhood. With a combined total of 336 rooms, the Hampton Inn by Hilton Chicago Downtown West Loop and the Homewood Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown West Loop are at 116-118 N. Jefferson, between Randolph and Washington. That’s about halfway between the river and I-90, two blocks west of the Boeing headquarters. The Hampton Inn offers a daily hot breakfast, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour business center and a fitness center. The Homewood Suites has all-suite guest accommodations; each unit comes with a fully equipped kitchen and separate living and sleeping areas. There’s a hot breakfast buffet, evening social, free Wi-Fi and grocery shopping service. HHonors advance purchase rates start at $90 at both properties.

Lobby of the Pullman San Francisco Bay hotel (Image: Accor Hotels)

Lobby of the Pullman San Francisco Bay hotel (Image: Accor Hotels)

The big Sofitel located along Highway 101 and the shores on San Francisco Bay just south of the SFO near Redwood City is not new, but has a new name. It’s now the Pullman San Francisco Bay Hotel— still part of Accor, but likely a brand many Americans have not heard of. The only other Pullman hotel in the US is located in Miami. Have you stayed at a Pullman? What makes it different than a Sofitel? Its website states: “Today Pullman appeals to the new generation of professional travelers, the Pullman global nomads, and captures the significance of each moment and their pursuit of a work-life blend.” Rooms start at around $300 per night.

A room at the new Thompson Nashville. (Image: Thompson Hotels)

A room at the new Thompson Nashville. (Image: Thompson Hotels)

Thompson Hotels, known for its luxury boutique properties, has opened its newest U.S. location in Nashville. It’s at 401 11th Avenue South, in a trendy area called The Gulch where former industrial buildings have been transformed into commercial ventures. The hotel is on the same block as a popular music venue called The Station Inn. Dining options at The Thompson Nashville include a southern/seafood restaurant called The Marsh House; a bar and small-plate venue called L.A. Jackson; and Killebrew, serving coffee, breakfast sandwiches and grab-and-go lunch fare. The 12-story, 224-room Thompson ties into the local music culture with things like a classic jukebox in the lobby and vinyl records for sale in the minibars. Introductory rates start at $247.

The Westin Nashville is in the heart of downtown. (Image: Westin)

The Westin Nashville is in the heart of downtown. (Image: Westin)

Nashville’s other new hotel is the 27-story, 453-room Westin Nashville, at 807 Clark Place in the heart of the city, close to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium and other attractions. The hotel has a rooftop pool and bar called L27 with daily live entertainment; a spa with nine treatment rooms; a casual lobby eatery called Decker & Dyer and a fancier venue called Oak Steakhouse Nashville. The Westin also has a dozen meeting rooms. Guests can use the WestinWorkout fitness studio or take advantage of the hotel’s suggested three- and five-mile jogging routes. Rates begin at $279.

Marriott's new AC Hotel in Atlanta's Buckhead district. (Image: Marriott)

Marriott’s new AC Hotel in Atlanta’s Buckhead district. (Image: Marriott)

In addition to its new AC Hotel in Minneapolis, Marriott has also cut the ribbon on an AC in Atlanta. The 166-room AC Hotel Atlanta Buckhead at Phipps Plaza, located at 3600 Wieuca Road Northeast, is the first new hotel in the city’s Buckhead district in eight years. Like other ACs, it lacks a full-service restaurant, but offers the AC Kitchen for breakfast and the AC lounge for drinks and evening small plate dining. Plus there is plenty to eat at the nearby Phipps Plaza or Lenox Square malls. There’s also an AC Library and a 24-hour fitness center with a heated indoor whirlpool. Marriott Rewards advance purchase rates start at $211.

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Trip Report: The long flight home SIN-SFO

Singapore Airlines map

Photo of the inflight map of the northerly course of our SIN-SFO flight on Singapore Airlines (Chris McGinnis)

(INFLIGHT SIN>SFO) Well, that was a quick trip! If you’ve been following TravelSkills this week, you know that I jumped on Singapore Airlines’ new nonstop A350 flight from San Francisco to Singapore on Sunday. (Read part 1: Southbound SFO>SIN post)

Here it is on Thursday morning, and I’m northbound,somewhere out over the big dark Pacific Ocean, on the return flight (SQ 32). Our flight started out over the South China Sea, then passed between the Philippines and Taiwan, continuing up along the east coast of Japan. Then it was out over the Northern Pacific, where we skirted past the Aleutian Trench on course to arriving at SFO.

I love a good exotic flight board and the one a Singapore Changi does not disappoint! (Chris McGinnis)

I love a good exotic flight board and the one a Singapore Changi does not disappoint! (Chris McGinnis)

We departed Singapore at 9:25 am on Thursday, and we’ll arrive in San Francisco at 8:40 am on the same day– after flying for about 14 hours. Crazy to think that we’ll arrive before we left. Tailwinds have been kind to our flight, cutting about two hours off our flight time. The southbound journey on Sunday-Monday took 16 hours and 11 minutes, departing noon Sunday, and arriving at around 7 pm on Monday evening.

On this return flight, I was able to watch one movie– Captain Fantastic– highly recommended, a tear jerker but I’m always easily brought to tears on planes for some reason. You? I was also able to get some work done on the laptop, sleep for about four hours, enjoy two gorgeously presented meals (see below) and write this post.

Inflight wi-fi from Panasonic has been extremely fast and reliable on this flight (less so on the way down)– I’m amazed that I can upload photos and post this from the plane. Crazy! I purchased a 24-hour in-flight wi-fi pass for $22— very much worth it to me.

Hainanese pork chop with fried rice (Photo Chris McGinnis)

Hainanese pork chop with fried rice (Photo Chris McGinnis)

As usual, for meals, I tried to go native and order Asian/Singaporean dishes. For dinner, I chose the Hainanese pork chop with fried rice. It was good, but a little tough. Breakfast was far better- I opted for the oriental dim sum and loved every bite.

Four choices for breakfast in Singapore Airlines business class- I went native! (Chris McGinnis)

Four choices for breakfast in Singapore Airlines business class- I went native! (Chris McGinnis)

Breakfast onboard Singapore Airlines SQ32 somewhere over the northern Pacific (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Breakfast onboard Singapore Airlines SQ32 somewhere over the northern Pacific (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This has been a quick trip– just two quick days in Singapore and three very bumpy nights of not-enough-sleep. I’m surprised I have the will and wherewithal to write this! Hope you’ve enjoyed my reports.

I’ll close with one more unusual photo from this trip: A word of warning about some monkey business going on outside my window at the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort on Singapore’s southern coastline.

Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa

A warning about monkeys at the lovely beachside Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa resort (Chris McGinnis)

(Read part 1: Southbound SFO>SIN post)

–Chris McGinnis

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

An Etihad Boeing 777-3FX (Photo: Etihad)

Etihad will shrink its San Francisco schedule and increase DFW service. (Photo: Etihad)

In international route news, Etihad will trim its San Francisco schedule and grow at Dallas, but WOW Air will increase service at SFO and Los Angeles; British Airways adds a new U.S. gateway; Southwest drops a Mexico route out of southern California; and Mexico’s Volaris adds more U.S. service.

Two years ago, Etihad Airways added San Francisco to its route map with daily flights to its Abu Dhabi base using a Jet Airways B777 and prompting “Jetihad” snickers. Etihad finally deployed its own metal on the route earlier this year, but now Routesonline.com reports that Etihad plans to cut its schedule by more than half. Effective next February 1, Etihad is due to reduce SFO service from seven flights a week to just three – and that is expected to continue into next summer. Then on February 2, Etihad will boost its Dallas/Ft. Worth-Abu Dhabi schedule from the current three flights a week to daily service, noting that traffic on that two-year-old route has “exceeded expectations.”

Skúli Mogensen, the founder and CEO of WOW Air (Photo: WOW Air)

Skúli Mogensen, the founder and CEO of WOW Air (Photo: WOW Air)

While Etihad cuts back west coast service, ultra-low-cost Icelandic carrier WOW Air will grow. Last June, the company started operating five flights a week from San Francisco to Reykjavik, and four a week from Los Angeles. But on March 26, WOW will increase its schedule to daily flights from both west coast cities – with one-way fares starting as low as $99 (plus heavy-duty fees, of course). WOW operates single-class A330-300s, although it does offer some extra-legroom seats for an extra charge.

On March 26, British Airways will begin flying a transatlantic route that currently has no non-stop service: New Orleans to London Heathrow. BA will fly the route on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a three-class 787-8 and a 9:10 p.m. eastbound departure.  The carrier said roundtrip fares will start at $734 in economy and $2,145 in Club World business class (based on current exchange rates).

British Airways will use a Dreamliner on its new route to New Orleans. (Image: British Airways)

British Airways will use a Dreamliner on its new route to New Orleans. (Image: British Airways)

Southwest Airlines flyers in southern California’s Orange County will have to find another way to get to Mexico City after January 4. That’s the date when Southwest is due to discontinue its daily 737 flights between John Wayne Airport and the Mexican capital.

Mexico’s low-cost Volaris just keeps expanding its transborder network. According to Routesonline.com, the carrier has plans to bring on four new U.S. routes this winter. On February 1, Volaris will begin daily service between Miami and Mexico City, along with four flights a week linking Miami with Guadalajara. Then on March 1, it will add daily flights from Mexico City to New York JFK and four a week between Mexico City and Houston. Just this month it added nonstops between SFO and Mexico City.

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Airport news: San Francisco, Atlanta, Newark, Philadelphia

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

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

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

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

Atlanta, ATL canopy

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

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

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

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

At Newark Liberty International, Air Canada has opened a new Maple Leaf Lounge for premium passengers near its departure gates in Terminal A, beyond the security checkpoint. The facility offers free Wi-Fi, refreshments, and work areas that include free printing. Air Canada operates up to 23 flights a day from Newark (including United code-shares), serving Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. The airline said it will open a new Maple Leaf Lounge in Montreal next month, and an expanded facility in Vancouver next summer.

American Airlines inherited a hub at Philadelphia International from its merger with US Airways, and it is planning some changes to its operations there in the months ahead. On January 1, American will consolidate its arrival and departure banks – scheduled to maximize connections – from eight a day to six. This will mean rescheduling of flight times in many cases, so if you’re a regular PHL traveler, check AA’s schedules.  The airline also reportedly plans to reduce the number of flights it operates at Philadelphia, although in some cases it will switch from smaller to larger aircraft to minimize the impact on passenger capacity.

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Routes: Airberlin to SFO, LAX; Emirates, Lufthansa, Etihad, Southwest

Airberlin will add Berlin service from San Francisco and Los Angeles. (Image: Airberlin)

Airberlin will add Berlin service from San Francisco and Los Angeles. (Image: Airberlin)

In international route news, Airberlin plans a big increase in U.S. service for 2017, including new flights from Berlin to San Francisco and Los Angeles; Emirates adds another U.S. gateway starting in December; Lufthansa will add more capacity out of Denver; Etihad will more than double frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth; and Southwest sets the starting date for its new Havana service.

Airberlin, which started new routes this year from Dusseldorf to San Francisco and Boston, will increase frequencies in those markets for 2017 and will also add more new U.S. routes including San Francisco-Berlin, Los Angeles-Berlin and Orlando-Dusseldorf. The company said its current U.S. operation will have up to 50 percent more flights when its 2017 summer schedule kicks in during May.

Among the changes: San Francisco-Dusseldorf service will increase from the current five weekly flights to daily service, and so will the current four flights a week between Boston and Dusseldorf. New service to Berlin’s Tegel Airport will include four weekly flights from SFO and three a week from Los Angeles. The new Florida route will bring five flights a week between Orlando and Dusseldorf; the carrier already flies to Miami and Ft. Myers. Airberlin said it is getting three more A330-200s to handle its increased U.S. schedules.

Emirates will use a 777 on its new Ft. Lauderdale route. (Image: Emirates)

Emirates will use a 777 on its new Ft. Lauderdale route. (Image: Emirates)

Emirates has announced a December 15 start for service to its 11th U.S. destination. The carrier will begin daily flights from Ft. Lauderdale to its Dubai base using a three-class 777-200LR. Emirates already flies to Orlando, a route it launched last year. The new Ft. Lauderdale service will benefit from Emirates’ code-share partnership with JetBlue, which has a hub at that Florida airport.

Lufthansa sees room for growth on its Denver-Munich route, which began earlier this year, so the carrier said it will boost frequencies on March 26 from the current five flights a week to daily departures, using a 255-seat A330-300. “Preliminary data show that for the first summer of service, the number of people traveling between Denver and Munich has increased by nearly 50 percent,” a Denver Airport spokesperson said, adding that the top connecting markets for Denver-Munich passengers include Budapest, Prague, Krakow and Kiev. Lufthansa also flies from Denver to Frankfurt.

Etihad will boost frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth (Photo: Etihad)

Etihad will boost frequencies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth (Photo: Etihad)

Finding more traffic than it initially expected on its almost two-year-old route between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways plans to boost service from the current three flights a week to seven effective February 2. The carrier will continue to use a 777-200LR on the route. Etihad offers connections to 100 destinations from its Abu Dhabi hub, and also offers American travelers pre-screening by U.S. Customs and Border protection at that airport.

Southwest is the latest U.S. carrier to announce a starting date for its new rights to serve Havana, Cuba. The company said that on December 12, subject to Cuban government approval, it will begin flying to Havana from both Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa. (Southwest also set a November 13 inaugural date for flights from Ft. Lauderdale to the Cuban beach resort of Varadero.) The carrier is offering introductory Havana fares starting at $59 each way for purchase through November 20. Southwest set up a web page at www.Southwest.com/Cuba with details of the requirements for travel to Cuba and its flight schedules.

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Routes: LOT at LAX, AA seats, KLM popup, 2 new US cities for Icelandair

LOT Polish will use a 787 for new Los Angeles service in 2017. (Image: LOT Polish)

LOT Polish will use a 787 for new Los Angeles service in 2017. (Image: LOT Polish)

In international route news, LOT Polish Airlines will begin new service to Los Angeles and Newark; American Airlines officially launches its new international premium economy class in a few weeks; British Airways drops a Philadelphia flight but American adds one; KLM will fly to Minneapolis-St. Paul and offers San Franciscans a 787 sneak peek; and Icelandair plans to open up two more U.S. gateways.

LOT Polish Airlines will kick off the first non-stop service between the West Coast and Poland on April 3, 2017 when it begins service between Los Angeles International and Warsaw. LOT will fly the LAX route four times a week using a 787-8 Dreamliner. Also in April, the Polish carrier will resume service from Warsaw to Newark Liberty International, a hub for its Star Alliance partner United.  The Newark flights will begin April 28, initially operating three times a week with a leased 767-300ER, but switching to a 787 in August. With the addition of Newark flights, LOT will trim its 2017 summer schedule out of New York JFK from 12 flights a week to nine.

American's new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)

American’s new Premium Economy section will have leather seats in a 2-3-2 layout. (Image: American Airlines)

When American Airlines puts its new 787-9s into international service next month, they’ll come equipped with the carrier’s new premium economy cabin – a first for U.S. airlines on international routes.  The first flights to offer the premium cabin will be from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Sao Paulo on November 3 and from DFW to Madrid on November 4. The premium economy service is in addition to (and priced higher than) the airline’s extra-legroom seating in the regular economy cabin. Premium economy seats have a 38-inch pitch, greater width than regular economy, adjustable headrests and footrests, larger video screens, noise-reducing headphones, free drinks and more.

British Airways’ longstanding Philadelphia schedule of two daily flights to London Heathrow will change in March 2017 when it drops one of them – the 10 p.m. departure. But joint venture partner American Airlines will pick up the slack, boosting its own PHL-LHR schedule from one flight a day to two.

Delta’s transatlantic joint venture partner KLM plans to kick off service on March 27 from Delta’s Minneapolis-St. Paul hub to Amsterdam using an Airbus A330 for three flights a week (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday). It hasn’t flown the MSP-Amsterdam route for 15 years, according to Airlineroute.com. Delta serves the route with two to three flights a day. Elsewhere, KLM is about to resume Miami service, as previously announced. October 30 is the launch date for the carrier’s three weekly flights from MIA to Amsterdam, which will continue through March 23 with a two-class A330.

KLM 787

Business class seats on KLM’s 787 Dreamliner (Photo: KLM)

In San Francisco, meanwhile, KLM is inviting travelers to visit