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 to five hours and 19 minutes will offer three entree options instead of two. Meal flights of less than four hours will provide breakfast options like French toast souffle or steel-cut oatmeal with yogurt and fruit, and dinner choices like tandoori chicken instead of sandwiches. Also new on all meal flights: Cookies baked fresh on board. Starting in March, United said, United Express premium-cabin travelers on flights of at least 800 miles will get fresh meals served on china instead of snack boxes; international long-haul economy flyers will see a new multi-course meal service; and new premium cabin menu choices will be introduced on p.s. transcontinental flights.
Best Photo! Thanks to TravelSkills reader Tony Gouge who responded to the request for plane photos in our recent 6 Tips for Better Plane Pics post– one of our most popular “how to” stories so far this year. Tony said that he used a technique called HDR on this (High Dynamic Range) to get the effect you see in the photo at the top.
Just in: Bomb threat leads to evacuation of Delta and Southwest jets at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta Airport. Developing story.
Bidding for upgrades on Virgin America. Over the last few months, Virgin America has been quietly rolling out a new program inviting certain Elevate members to bid for upgrades to unsold Main Cabin Select and first class seats about a week before departure. We have learned that Virgin is experimenting with a service called Plusgrade that several other carriers have utilized. Here’s a quick video showing how it works on Air New Zealand. Sounds like a nice idea, but don’t sit around waiting for that email asking for a bid. A Virgin spokesperson told TravelSkills that the program is available in some markets for select flyers only and, “We are testing to see how travelers react to it first before instituting a broader program.” At present there is no way to get on the email list. Have you been asked to bid on an upgrade on Virgin America? Did you make a winning bid? Leave your comments below.
Double points on Virgin. Members of Virgin America’s Elevate loyalty program who register online will earn double points — or 10 per $1 spent — for travel from January 20 through March 31.
Aer Lingus enhances SFO service. Bay area travelers will be the first to experience Aer Lingus’ new business class service starting January 28 on the carrier’s A330 non-stops to Dublin. The new cabins are coming this year to all of Aer Lingus’ A330 U.S. routes, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Orlando. You can check it out in this Youtube video. Meanwhile, the Irish carrier plans to boost SFO-Dublin service to daily frequencies (from the current five a week) on May 1, and to launch new Washington Dulles-Dublin flights four times a week on the same date.
American Airlines’ new baby. On Friday, American Airlines flew its first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (N800AN) from the factory in Everett, Washington to Dallas/Ft Worth. As part of a massive (and much needed) fleet renewal program, AA has firm orders for 42 more of the efficient widebody. American expects its first 787 to enter revenue service in the second quarter, flying domestically between American’s hubs for several weeks before being launched on international flights.
The cards I carry: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card. Both offer a nice 40,000 point sign up bonus (after spending $3,000 in first three months for the Barclaycard or $4,000 for Chase Sapphire), and you can use points on several airlines, hotels and other travel providers. Neither card assesses irritating and expensive foreign transaction fees. That 40,000 point bonus with Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is good for $500 in travel when booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards, plus it now offers primary rental car collision coverage (most cards provide secondary coverage). With the Barclaycard, you simply use your points to pay off travel related charges on your bill– so the 40K sign up bonus alone pays for a $400 airline ticket or hotel bill. (Remember, when you get a new credit card via the links provided here, TravelSkills earns a commission. This is what keeps us in business cranking out meaningful content and practical advice. If you are in the market for a new card, please do so via links posted above. Thank you!)
Delta downgrade? A blogger who specializes in scrutinizing Delta’s SkyMiles program says that Platinum elites are no longer eligible to request upgrades on the airline’s JFK-Los Angeles and JFK-San Francisco routes. The unannounced change would mean that only Diamond-level members can ask for upgrades on those plum routes. Anyone else encountered this new downgrade? Please leave your comments below.
United eyes new aircraft type. United Airlines is reportedly considering switching some of its existing orders with Boeing to an aircraft type not currently in its fleet: the 777-300ER. The carrier is said to be thinking about adding 10 of the planes — Boeing’s largest twin-engine model — possibly in place of some 787s currently on order. United was the launch customer for the original Boeing 777 back in 1995; the company already has dozens of Airbus A350 widebodies on order. What’s your favorite long-haul aircraft type? Why? Post comments below.
20 different biz class seats in 1 room- PHOTOS
New China service from San Jose, Dallas. Silicon Valley workers might not have to go to San Francisco International to get a non-stop to China starting in June. That’s when Hainan Airlines plans to begin non-stop San Jose-Beijing 787 flights five days a week, subject to government approval. The airline already flies to the Chinese capital from Boston, Chicago and Seattle. Meanwhile, the trade journal Travel Weekly reports that Hainan has also filed for U.S. approval to begin non-stop service to Shanghai from Seattle and Boston … American Airlines has received Transportation Department approval for its planned Dallas/Ft. Worth-Beijing service, which will start May 7. AA will use a 777-200 for the daily non-stops. (Meanwhile, American is offering double miles for flights to Asia on AA and its partner Japan Airlines, for travel from now through March 20. Online registration is required.) Related: Did you see our story on the new high speed rail line between Beijing and Moscow?
And finally… we bet you’ve never seen a 747 that looks like this one! Take a peek and let us know what you think!
Back tomorrow with more of TravelSkills Weekend Edition!
What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!
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!
Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.