Most popular: Longest flight + California airlines + Best credit card + New lounge + Qantas

Chris McGinnis

Chris excited and looking fresh before this week’s 17-hour flight from SFO to Singapore- and back in just 4 days (Photo: Charles Schuler)

TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):

17 moments in 17 hours on Singapore Airlines Airbus A350Weekend Edition

Singapore Air opens up about longest nonstop

Routes: United at San Jose + Delta, JetBlue, American, Virgin America

Trip Report: The long flight home SIN-SFO

JetSuiteX

The JetSuiteX Terminal at Concord, CA, east of SF- a nice break from the craziness at OAK or SFO! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Big news at two small California airlines

First look: LAX’s fancy new Terminal 6 (photos)

9 key phrases every traveler should know

How to choose the best travel credit card

National pop up lounge

National is installing free popup lounges with wifi like this one at Washington Dulles (Photo: Jeff Pearce)

Airports: Screening upgrades, Oakland lounge, National Car pop-ups + more

10 A new look & feel for Qantas

What do flight attendants love most about SFO? A fun new promotional video from San Francisco International Airport, introduced by Tony Bennett, offers personal accounts from flight attendants representing a number of airlines about the interesting things to see and do at the airport. See video What do you love most about SFO? Leave your comments below.

Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:

US State Department orders departure of family members at Istanbul consulate

DOT: Average U.S. air fares down almost 10 percent year over year

Got 2.5 million SkyMiles to burn? You can fly Delta Private Jets

(Image: Delta News Hub)

Use your SkyMiles for a ride on a private jet? Yep. (Image: Delta News Hub)

Southwest eyes new fees, but not for bags or ticket changes

JetBlue introduces fancy new amenity kits for Mint cabin passengers

Air India re-routes its SFO-DEL nonstop

Air India's first flight from New Delhi arrived at SFO before dawn. (Image: Peter Biaggi)

Air India’s flight path has changed (Image: Peter Biaggi)

Lowest airfares since 2009

Latest on Alaska-Virgin deal: Close, but still, no cigar

Delta app enhancement lets users follow their checked bags

Want to find your Uber rating? Here’s how

United introduces improved earbuds for economy passengers

AA/BA partner Iberia will get on board with premium economy seating next year

U.K. government backs plan to build a third runway at London Heathrow

Austrian Airlines promises instant replies to customer queries via Facebook Messenger

14 new Boeing 747-8 aircraft ordered, but you’ll never get to fly on one

(Photo: Brandon Farris)

Does that flagged winglet look familiar? (Photo: Brandon Farris)

Alaska Airlines reveals new military inspired special livery

This week Alaska Airlines revealed a new paint job, or livery, on a new 737-900ER. At first glance, that American flag wingtip may look like a move to integrate Virgin America design elements (see its flagged winglet here)  into the look of Alaska Airlines, but it’s part of a new initiative called “Alaska Airlines Salutes,” to support and honor those who serve. The design features an Alaska Airlines Salutes medallion and a fallen soldier badge, with the Battlefield Cross to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The plane also features five rings surrounding the engine, representative of the five branches of the United States military, and American flag winglets.

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

Kicking support animals off planes | Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | Marriott-Starwood: Higher prices, better rewards | The 10,000 points question! | Eye-catching maps explain state of the world | Test your planespotting skills!

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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

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

Kicking support animals off planes | Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | Marriott-Starwood: Higher prices, better rewards | The 10,000 points question! | Eye-catching maps explain state of the world | Test your planespotting skills!

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17 moments in 17 hours on Singapore Airlines Airbus A350

Singapore Airlines A350 SFO

Singapore Airlines’ newest jet, an Airbus A350 at San Francisco International (Photo: Peter Biaggi)

In late 2016 Singapore Airlines (SIA) inaugurated new nonstop flights between San Francisco and Singapore using a brand new Airbus A350. The 8,450 mile flight takes about 17 hours depending on winds.

SIA invited TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis to jump onboard to report on the experience. For more background on this historic flight be sure to see our previous post: Singapore Airlines opens up about its newest, longest nonstop flight.

Fares for November SFO-SIN roundtrips are currently about $800 round trip in economy, $1,800 in premium economy and $4,200 in business class. There are no first class seats on the A350. There are 42 business class seats, 24 premium economy seats, and 187 standard economy seats on this bird. United also flies nonstop between SFO and Singapore using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Good luck send off with a dragon lion dance at SFO Gate 93 (Photo Chris McGinnis)

Good luck send-off with a dragon lion dance at SFO Gate 93 (Photo Chris McGinnis)

At the gate, SIA and SFO teamed up to celebrate  the first SQ 31 flight with a gate event that included a noisy, good luck, send-off dragon dance with drums, plus food, drink and swag (luggage tags, model planes) for all passengers. It’s always super special and exciting to take an inaugural flight– every passenger boarded with a big smile.

Singapore Air Airbus A350

To easily spot an A350, look for curly wingtips and black, rounded cockpit windows (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Looking out of SFO gate 93 at the brand new A350, I was looking for its most distinguishing features so I could always remember how to spot it on runways. From now on, I’ll always notice the A350 by its unique curly wingtips (see ’em?) and the blacked out, round-edged cockpit windows. Currently, it’s the only A350 flying into SFO. 

Singapore Girls

Always helpful Singapore girls pose for a photo during early boarding (Photo: Robert Silk)

Thankfully Singapore Air arranged for me to get on the plane a few minutes early to take photos of each cabin before take off. When I got onboard, the Singapore girls were busy scurrying around getting the plane ready, but took the time for a quick photo.

Singapore Airlines A350 economy class

Economy class on Singapore Air’s new A350- best seats are bulkhead row 47 and window row 48 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Economy class seats are configured 3-3-3. To me, the best economy seats are in the bulkhead at rows 47 and 48 on either side. The two seats on either side (not center) of row 47 don’t have seats in front of them (only a door), and the window seats in row 48 have open space in front of them, too. These seats are near lavatories, which might be bothersome if trying to sleep (but who really is able to sleep in economy class anyway? Not me!).

See SeatGuru for a full layout of the plane here.

Singapore Airlines A350 premium economy

Singapore Airlines A350 Premium Economy is a good option for those who can’t bear the thought of 17 hours in economy (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Same goes for Premium economy seats– bulkhead is probably best. However, on our flight, an unlucky set of parents were seated in the bulkhead (typically where airlines place parents flying with babies) and their baby cried for nearly the entire flight. So you take your chances when choosing the bulkhead.

Bulkhead seat 19F: My business class playpen for the next 17 hours on SIA's Airbus A350 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Bulkhead seat 19F: My business class playpen for the next 17 hours on SIA’s Airbus A350 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

There are two sections in the 42-seat business class, separated by a galley. I was in seat 19F, on the bulkhead behind the galley. These bulkhead seats have nice “wraparound” ottomans that other seats don’t, so when the seat back folds down into a flat bed for sleeping, you have plenty of space to move around. The non-bulkhead seats are a bit cozier and feet must fit into a narrow space for sleeping. Not uncomfortable, but not as spacious as those bulkhead playpens. Note that the bulkheads in the center are larger than the bulkheads by the window, so given a choice, take the center. Downside to the bulkhead is proximity to the galley, which can be noisy and bright if you are trying to sleep.

Business class passengers get voucher for 30 MB free internet

Business class passengers get voucher for 30 MB free internet

When checking in at SFO, gate agents provided business class passengers with a voucher good for 30 MB of inflight Internet. That 30 MB ran out in about half an hour of browsing and email, so I bought a 24 hour pass for $22. The connection was fine for light browsing and email, but I was unable to upload photos to share on my Facebook or Twitter feeds as I’ve been able to do on other transoceanic flights. 

Singapore Airlines menu

Singapore Airlines 14-page menu for SFO-SIN flights (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Amazing: Singapore Airlines’ inflight menu is 14 pages long! The airline is experimenting with a new flexible dining option on the SFO-SIN flights, so you have about 10 choices for appetizers and main courses (one of which, oddly, is a barbecue pulled pork sandwich). There are two meal services on this flight, but you can also choose to eat whenever you want. I chose to enjoy the full dinner service, which began an hour or so into the flight and took about two hours to finish– no problem on a 17-hour flight, right? An elaborate meal helps pass the time!

There are all kinds of cool new things about the A350, but the one that really knocked my socks off? The automated trash bin the the lavatory! Watch the video above to see how its motion sensors open and close the the flap so you don’t have to touch it.  What a great idea since I’m always a little grossed out when I have to push my used towels into the bin.

Singapore Airlines silverware

Stunning 6 pieces of silverware with dinner service on Singapore Airlines plus a delicious starter of prawns and pickled cauliflower drizzled with a lovely lemony dressing (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Another amazing aspect of Singapore Airlines service… the six pieces of silverware you get to use for dinner!

Singapore Airlines wine

Six wines from which to choose on Singapore Airlines SFO-SIN (Chris McGinnis)

Some excellent wine choices, including Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve champagne pre-flight as well as a 2012 Chateau Belle-Vue Cru bordeaux.

Singapore Airlines meal

Lamb Biryani main course on on SFO-SIN in business class on Singapore Airlines (Chris McGinnis)

When I fly international carriers, I always try to go native and ask for whatever is the most local and exotic, so I was surprised to see so few Asian entrees on the new business class menu. When I asked my flight attendant about this, she recommended the lamb biryani– an Indian dish, but since Singaporean cuisine is such a melange of different Asian flavors, she said that this was my best bet if I wanted to go native. She was right! It was delicious and spicy. I want it again as I type this 24 hours later!

Singapore Airlines steak

Main course beef filet on Singapore Airlines business class SFO-SIN (Chris McGinnis)

The passenger across the aisle ordered “grilled US choice beef filet” and I was able to catch the flight attendant for a photo of this perfectly prepared and garnished dish before she served it.

Since this was a brand new plane for flight attendants, there were some timing issues and hiccups in the meal service– having flown Singapore Airlines several times before, I noticed the imperfections. However, on a new plane, just like at new hotels, I’m very forgiving, and once crews learn how to work on the new A350, service bumps will surely even out.

Singapore Airlines sleep

Snuggling in for sleep in business class with my Bucky eyemask and Mack’s earplugs (Photo: Robert Silk)

My RX for sleeping well on planes includes a Bucky eye mask, Mack’s silicone earplugs, and Nite-Time melatonin tabs. On this flight, I tucked in and slept well for about five and a half hours– until those poor parents with the screaming baby began pacing through the business class cabin and allowing the kid to wail in the nearby galley. Oy.

Singapore Air does not provide amenity kits on this flight. Slippers and eye masks are in seat side bins. Toothbrushes, razors, combs, mouthwash and lotion are available in lavatories. Unlike my recent trip to Sydney on Qantas (a 14 hour flight), Singapore does not provide pajamas for business class passengers, so I suggest you pack a t-shirt to sleep in and ask flight attendants to hang your shirt so it’s fresh when you get off the plane.

One key reason I was able to sleep well on this flight: Flight attendants kept the cabin blissfully cool. I’ve had other wonderful business class experiences that were marred by overheated cabins. Yuck!

Singapore Airlines tea

A soothing cup of green tea does the trick (Photo: Chris McGinnis

Once I woke up, flight attendants came by and asked to help convert my seat from bed back to upright seat. Singapore’s business class seats are unique in that the seatback folds forward to make a nice wide bed– on other airlines, the seat usually reclines fully into a flat bed. After I was situated and upright, I asked for a nice warm cup of green tea,  a perfect way to wake up as we flew over the Philippines.

Singapore Airlines soup

Egg noodles with chicken and mushrooms for breakfast (sort of ) (Chris McGinnis)

I slept through the second meal service, but I had pre-ordered a big bowl of noodles as my breakfast… or lunch? Not sure due to the time change. In any case, it was a nice way to wake up and greet the afternoon in Asia, even if the soup arrived lukewarm.

Singapore Air’s inflight entertainment system is arguably the best in the world— there are hundreds of movies, TV shows and games to choose from. But my favorite by far is the inflight map! This one offers all sort of viewing options that I could sit and watch for hours. The video above shows what we saw as we approached Singapore. Talk about exotic! Wow.

Our flight path took us out over the Pacific to the north of Hawaii, over the top of the Philippines and into the South China Sea, then straight into Singapore.

Singapore Changi flowers

One of many stunning gardens that greet arriving passengers at Singapore Changi Airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Singapore Changi airport is considered one of the very best in the world for a variety of reasons, including the gorgeous garden displays throughout the terminal. A perfect example is this beautiful bird set up to welcome passengers as we entered the customs and immigration halls– through which we passed in about 30 seconds.

Overall, I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about getting on a plane for 17 hours— even when I knew I would be sitting in a big business class seat on Singapore Airlines. I thought I’d reach a point where I’d be screaming to myself “get me outta this plane!” But it never happened. This flight, which ended up being 16 hours and 11 minutes due to calm headwinds, was no different than a 12 hour flight to Europe, or a 14 hour flight to Australia.

Don’t miss! The epilogue to this trip: Chris’s return flight SIN-SFO

What’s the longest flight you’ve ever flown? Tell us about it in the comments! 

Disclosure: Singapore Airlines covered the cost of airfare and hotels for this trip. TravelSkills paid for meals, transfers and incidentals. 

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

Kicking support animals off planes | Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | Marriott-Starwood: Higher prices, better rewards | The 10,000 points question! | Eye-catching maps explain state of the world | Test your planespotting skills!

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Dive into Delta’s newest Sky Club

New Delta Sky Club at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Photo: Scott Hintz)

New Delta Sky Club at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Last week, Delta opened a new Sky Club lounge at its growing Seattle hub. And what a club it is. We had a chance to preview it before it opened last Friday and we were impressed.

This new club is located in the main terminal between Concourses A and B, near gate A1. It’s the second Sky Club at SEA, complementing the existing lounge in the South Satellite terminal near gates S9 and S10. But this new lounge is far larger, newer and nicer — and definitely worth going out of your way to visit if you have enough time, even if you are flying out of the satellite terminal.

Delta Sky Club

New Skyclub location between Concourses A and B at Sea-Tac airport

 

Entrance to new Skyclub near gate A1 at SEA

Entrance to new Skyclub near gate A1 at SEA

The new Seattle Sky Club is one of the largest in the Delta network at over 21,000 square feet and with enough space to seat over 400 visitors. (Compare that to the new Atlanta Sky Club with 25,000 square feet and room for 500.)  The design is modern and sleek, quite similar to the design of the also-new Delta lounge at SFO. It felt more like something you’d experience at a BA lounge at Heathrow or maybe a Cathay lounge in Hong Kong in terms of it being large, light and airy, and packed with a lot of amenities. Kudos to Delta for really upping its game here.

Speaking of amenities, here are the highlights: Comfortable seating and power ports galore. You have a choice of long, partitioned benches; individual club chairs; sleek modern curved benches that feel like they belong in the mod, vintage TWA terminal at JFK; dining table/chairs; connected seats with high walls for privacy; quad-seat cubes facing away from each other; desk workstations; private pods with work lighting and swivel table/desk; and many other varieties of club chairs. There is truly a comfortable seat for everyone in this lounge. And all seating had power outlets integrated or adjacent to the seat. Even the dining section had clever power-port “towers” so you can charge up while enjoying the food (more on that below).

Elegant and functional seating at the new SEA Sky Club (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Elegant and functional seating at the new SEA Sky Club (Photo: Scott Hintz)

 

Private workstations are one of the many seating options at the new SEA Sky Club (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Private workstations are one of the many seating options at the new SEA Sky Club (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Power ports are everywhere, including these “power towers” throughout the dining area (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Power ports are everywhere, including these “power towers” throughout the dining area (Photo: Scott Hintz)

A gorgeous two-story space with lots of natural light and great views of the tarmac and Mount Rainier off in the distance (or so we’re told — it was cloudy on the day we were there). Delta has incorporated local design elements throughout such as a glass wave design in room partitions, natural wood, and colors that evoke the Pacific Northwest. There’s also a beautiful mosaic-style mural of the famous Pike’s Place market sign made by the same artist who did the similar Golden Gate bridge mosaic in the SFO Skyclub. See our review of the SFO Sky Club! This will be a very comfortable place to kill time or get work done at SEA.

Beautiful two-story, 30-foot space with lots of artwork and nods to the Pacific Northwest (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Beautiful two-story, 30-foot space with lots of artwork and nods to the Pacific Northwest (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Pixelated mural of Pike Place Market by artist Craig Alan McMillan, the same artist who did the Golden Gate Bridge mural at the SFO Sky Club (Photo Scott Hintz)

Pixelated mural of Pike Place Market by artist Craig Alan McMillan, the same artist who did the Golden Gate Bridge mural at the SFO Sky Club (Photo Scott Hintz)

Views from the expansive 30-foot windows in the Skyclub. Mount Ranier is supposedly visible on clear days (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Views from the expansive 30-foot windows in the Skyclub. Mount Rainier is supposedly visible on clear days (Photo: Scott Hintz)

Six private shower rooms with Malin+Goetz toiletries. There are three “standard” size rooms and three larger ones that we’re told can accommodate families if you are traveling with kids; but even the smaller rooms were large and impressive. The room has a private toilet, sink, and of course, shower area. The design is very high end and just feels luxurious. Well done, Delta.

Private shower rooms includes shower, toilet, and sink with Malin+Goetz amenities (Scott Hintz)

Private shower rooms includes shower, toilet, and sink with Malin+Goetz amenities (Scott Hintz)

Delta’s first foray into a spa integrated into a Sky Club. It’s run by Asanda and offers chair massages and relaxation treatments, all for a fee. I tried a 10-minute sample chair massage and it was great (normal pricing is 20 minutes for $50 or 45 minutes for $100). I also tried samples of two of the relaxation treatments where you lie in a zero-gravity chair, but honestly, didn’t care for either of them. The first is called Nap26 and you basically listen to white noise on headphones to relax, but I could still hear outside sound and the white noise just felt a little annoying to me. The other one I tried is the Deepak Chopra Dream Weaver, where you listen to a little bit of Deepak himself speaking in a calm voice to guide you to a relaxing “other” world, then you wear glasses with embedded LEDs that blink in various colors and formations to create hypnotic visual images (you keep your eyes closed and just pick up light and patterns). The blinking LEDs sort of freaked me out and made me stressed and anxious, the opposite of the intended goal. Maybe others will like it, but I would urge caution.

Chair massage and relaxation chairs at the SEA Sky Club spa (Scott Hintz)

Chair massage and relaxation chairs at the SEA Sky Club spa (Scott Hintz)

 

Chair massage and relaxation chairs at the SEA Sky Club (Scott Hintz)

Chair massage and relaxation chairs at the SEA Sky Club (Scott Hintz)

Enhanced food and drink It seemed that there was more food on offer here than I’ve seen at other Sky Clubs, not quite the full buffet you might see at a foreign carrier’s lounge, but getting close. Delta says it’s partnering with chef Ethan Stowell to provide food that has a local flair to it, in addition to a mac and cheese dish from Beecher’s Cheese, which is a Seattle institution (and we can attest to it being delicious). As far as beverages, it was the standard Sky Club setup of free and premium offerings, but here Delta will have Washington State wines, as well as spirits and beers from local makers. THE BAR at Delta Sky Club offers a variety of premium and complimentary options including Washington wines such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, cocktails from local distilleries including Glass Vodka, Westland Distilleries and more, Georgetown Lucille IPA craft beer, and freshly brewed Starbucks coffee.

Mac and cheese and other hot food options at the SEA Sky Club (Scott Hintz)

Mac and cheese and other hot food options at the SEA Sky Club (Scott Hintz)

Salads, crudite, and other food options at the SEA Skyclub

Salads, crudites, and other food options at the SEA Skyclub

All in all, this Sky Club is a fantastic new space that will be welcomed by frequent travelers. It also ups the game considerably in terms of lounge experiences offered by U.S. carriers — so American, United, and Alaska should pay attention, but even foreign carriers are put on notice. It definitely shows how much effort Delta is putting into growing its Seattle hub.

For west coast flyers, Seattle is an increasingly viable option for international journeys. Delta flies nonstop to five cities in Asia from SEA (Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo/NRT, Seoul, and Hong Kong) and three cities in Europe (London/LHR, Amsterdam, and Paris), with most of those airports offering tons of connections on Delta partners to get you almost anywhere you want to go. And Seattle is a somewhat efficient routing, as most west coast flights go up the coast over the Seattle area anyway to get to Asia or Europe.

Sky Club members and certain American Express cardholders have unlimited access the club. Non-members can pay a one-time fee of $59.

What’s Next for Sky Clubs? A renovated Club in Raleigh-Durham is scheduled to open in late November and will offer additional seats, more accessible power and a new food and beverage area. A new Club expansion is coming to Newark in late 2016, including a redesigned bar and more food options.

This post was written by TravelSkills contributor Scott Hintz

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

Kicking support animals off planes | Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | Marriott-Starwood: Higher prices, better rewards | The 10,000 points question! | Eye-catching maps explain state of the world | Test your planespotting skills!

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SFO flips switch on shapely new control tower

SFO's new 221-foot air traffic control tower will open next summer (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

SFO’s new 221-foot air traffic control tower operational this week (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

After more than a year of preparation, air traffic controllers will be working in San Francisco International Airport’s gorgeous new control tower this weekend. 

Rising up in a graceful flare, the new tower is 221 feet tall.  The 650 square-foot controller work area gives air traffic controllers unobstructed 235-degree views of SFO’s runways and taxiways. It replaces the current tower on top of Terminal 2, which will be dismantled quickly beginning in January because it obstructs runway views from the new one.

To celebrate, let’s revisit the behind-the-scenes tour TravelSkills took in 2015 when the airport turned the tower over to the FAA, which spent the last year outfitting the voluptuous, flared cylinder with its systems, testing them and training controllers.

Ready to take a tour? Let’s start at the bottom and move to the top.

Inside the new corridor connecting SFO’s T1 and T2. View from T2 entry. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Part of the tower project was to create a bright new land side corridor (along the roadway) connecting Terminal 1 with Terminal 2. What’s amazing about the corridor is that it has a glass roof so you can stop and peer up at the new tower. Handrails are needed to keep folks from falling over as they crane their necks to view the beautiful new metallic cone. It’s gorgeous, almost hypnotic, and vertigo-inducing to look up at it as the clouds roll by.

The view looking up from the new glass-roofed corridor between SFO T1 and T2 (Chris McGinnis)

The view looking up from the new glass-roofed corridor between T1 and T2- note the waterfall of lights panels facing west (Chris McGinnis)

A new computer controlled display now lights up the tower in a variety of colors, which can be seen from miles away after dusk. Like the Empire State Building or San Francisco City Hall, the new “waterfall of lights” is used for special occasions– orange when the Giants win, or red and green for Christmas, etc.

Inch thick blast-proof glass across the front of the building under the tower (Chris McGinnis)

Inch-thick, blast-proof glass across the front of the building under the tower (Chris McGinnis)

The FAA has offices in a three-story building at the base of the tower, where the exterior and glass walls have been thickened and hardened to prevent damage from truck bombs on the nearby roadway.

The structure is built on “bay mud” according to project manager Tony Kingsman who said that the tower is supported in bedrock 140 below ground, and is designed to withstand an 8.0 earthquake and still be operational.

This is SFO’s fourth control tower. The current one was built in 1981 atop the current Terminal 2, deemed seismically unstable, so construction began on the new tower three years ago.

It cost about $120 million to build the tower, FAA office building and corridor. The FAA kicked in about 70 million of that– enough for a basic, utilitarian structure, but SFO wanted it to be an iconic, torch-like symbol of the gateway to the Pacific, so it contributed an additional $50 million for aesthetics, as well as additional airport space like the new corridor.

HNTB provided the conceptual design of the new structure and it was designed and built by Hensel Phelps and Fentress Architects.

With the new tower open, the old tower will be dismantled quickly so as not to obstruct runway views from the new one. There is talk of the airport adding a outdoor viewing platform, open the the public, in the old tower’s footprint atop T2, but for now, that’s just talk.

Okay then.  Let’s crawl up inside this spectacular structure! Watch this video and scroll through the images and video below.

(NOTE: This video was shot last year before the FAA moved its equipment into the tower.)

Aside from the stunning view, note that US Airways/American is now operating out of Delta's Boarding Area C (Chris McGinnis)

Aside from the stunning view, note that US Airways/American is now operating out of Delta’s Boarding Area C (Chris McGinnis)

First taking an elevator up about 10 floors and then walking up a spiral staircase, you enter a wonderland of planespotting— a full 270 degrees of unobstructed airport views through 24 giant panes of 1-1/2 inch-thick glass. On the western side of the 650-square-foot “cab” there are a few pillars that hold up the roof. I’ve never seen a view like this one.

Looking out from 221 feet over Terminal 2, home of Virgin America and American (Chris McGinnis)

Looking out from 221 feet over Terminal 2, home of Virgin America and American (Chris McGinnis)

 

The tower complex is covered in at least 100 lightening rods grounded by shiny metal cables. Look closely and you'll see them (Chris McGinnis)

The tower complex is covered in at least 100 lightning rods grounded by shiny woven metal cables. Look closely and you’ll see them (Chris McGinnis)

 

Looking out over T3 and the current control tower (Chris McGinnis)

Looking out at the United hangar and (oddly) looking down on the current control tower, which will soon disappear (Chris McGinnis)

 

Installation of air traffic controller stations- there is room for 13 up here, but usually only 6-8 on the job. (Chris McGinnis)

Installation of air traffic controller stations- there is room for 13 controllers up here, but usually only 6-8 on the job. (Chris McGinnis)

 

Looking out at one of two cranes used to clean and maintain the tower exterior (Chris McGinnis)

Looking out at one of two cranes used to clean and maintain the tower exterior (Chris McGinnis)

 

Looking over the parking lot and international terminal (Chris McGinnis)

Looking over the parking lot and international terminal (Chris McGinnis)

 

Air traffic controllers break room is one level below the cab- talk about a room with a view! (Chris McGinnis)

Air traffic controllers’ break room is one level below the cab- talk about a room with a view! (Chris McGinnis)

 

Here's the view from the air traffic controllers break room. Nice! (Chris McGinnis)

Here’s the view from the air traffic controllers break room. Nice! (Chris McGinnis)

 

Your excited TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis pondering a lightening rod on the top of SFO control tower (Doug Yakel)

Your excited TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis pondering a lightning rod on the top of SFO control tower (Doug Yakel)

Here’s a video watching an Air China 747-8 take off from outside the cab.

Take a 360 degree tour from inside the newly outfitted tower here:

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

-Chris McGinnis

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

Kicking support animals off planes | Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | Marriott-Starwood: Higher prices, better rewards | The 10,000 points question! | Eye-catching maps explain state of the world | Test your planespotting skills!

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Deal: Australia on sale! $914 round trip

Sydney Bondi Beach

Take off for Sydney this winter for less than $1,000 round trip on Air New Zealand- Bondi Beach pictured (Chris McGinnis)

Air New Zealand is offering fantastic fares for travelers hoping to go to Australia in 2017. This is a great opportunity to explore the country as these fares are good for travel to seven different Australian destinations: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide, Perth, and Gold Coast.

Roundtrip travel from SFO or LAX to any of these 7 cities starts at just $995 but you have to book by October 24 to get the discounted fare. This deal is good for travel between January 26 and May 31 (mid summer to fall down under!) so there’s plenty of time to get ready for your adventure. The only catch: You must make a stop in Auckland, New Zealand to get there.

Anytime you see fares drop below $1,000 to Australia, you know you’ve got a good deal on your hands.

Google flights showing SFO-Perth for just $914 in March and April

Google flights showing SFO-Perth for just $914 in March and April

When we checked fares on Google Flights, we were able to book sub $1,000 fares starting in February. The closer to May you get, the more likely you are to find the really low fares. We were even able to find fares as low as $914 round trip from LAX or SFO for flights (in March) as far away as Perth! (High on my bucket list!)

You can book online through www.airnewzealand.com. Looking for loyalty points? When you book this deal you can accrue points toward your Air New Zealand Airpoints or United Airlines MileagePlus account.

Summer in Australia doesn’t end until March so snag one of these deals if you’re looking for a sunny getaway during our cold and hopefully wet winter.

–Chris McGinnis

*Fare(s) available at time of publication and subject to change.

Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:

Kicking support animals off planes | Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | Marriott-Starwood: Higher prices, better rewards | The 10,000 points question! | Eye-catching maps explain state of the world | Test your planespotting skills!

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DEAL! US – Australia roundtrips under $900

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Take in a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a lot less! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Fares from some US cities to Australia have dropped just in time to book a year end getaway.  Nonstop flights from LAX – Sydney are down to $870 round trip for fall trips! These fares is available on Delta, United, and American so you can enjoy the discount and remain loyal to your alliance. Similar fares are available to Melbourne and Brisbane, too.

The cheapest one-stop round trip we found from SFO – SYD was on Delta: $828 with 1 stop at LAX. Round trip fares from ATL – SYD are also $828 on United with one stop at SFO. (Source: Google Flights)

(Image: Google Flights)

(Image: Google Flights)

Any time we see fares to Australia dip below $1,000, we know we have a really good deal on our hands.

According to Google Flights, all of these cheap fares are available for travel dates starting now through mid-December. Book now to make sure you get these good deals and take a last-minute summer trip or a fall vacation. As temperatures start to cool down in the US, it will be nice to escape to Australian springtime.

NOTE: Fares valid when posted at 1:15pm on Wednesday, July 20.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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UPDATED: Turkish Airlines: We’re back! (but…)

Turkish Airlines

Passengers board a Turkish Airlines B777 in Istanbul (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

UPDATE: Monday July 18 11:30 PDT: BREAKING: New official FAA Statement:
“The FAA lifted all restrictions on flights to and from Turkey at 1:45 p.m. EDT, July 18, 2016.” Flights to US are expected to resume on Tuesday, July 19. Read updated post on TravelSkills here. 

This alert from Turkish Airlines popped into our email box Saturday morning…at about the same time we started hearing that the FAA had banned flights from Turkey from flying into the US….

Turkish Airlines is the only carrier with nonstops between the U.S. and Turkey. Friday, Turkish Airlines Flight 80 departed SFO at 6:10 pm in the midst of the crisis, and has apparently landed safely according to FlightAware. 

Currently, all flights to/from the US show as canceled on the Turkish Airlines website flight cancellation page. 

The US Embassy in Turkey has stated that the FAA has banned flights from Turkey to the US, so the situation remains fluid. The US State Department tweets that it has “no updates on when flights to the US will resume.”

You can watch flight traffic over Istanbul here which shows flights from IST to other countries has resumed. This means that Americans should be able to get out of the country, then change planes at a European airport to get back to the U.S. For its part, Lufthansa/SWISS says that it will not alter schedules to Turkey, which provides a way for US citizens (and Star Alliance partners) a way to get in and out of the country. 

Update: 11 am PDT: Regarding FAA ban on Turkish Air in US, company spokesperson tells TravelSkills: “We are waiting on final statement from TK headquarters.”

Update 7 am PDT SUNDAY: Although we have not yet received any subsequent official statements from Turkish Airlines, this is the latest from the US State DepartmentExpect further disruptions in commercial and public transportation, and check with your transportation provider (e.g., airline, train operator, etc.).  Per the Federal Aviation Administration’s notice to airmen (NOTAM), U.S. airline carriers are prohibited from flying to or from Istanbul and Ankara airports.  All airline carriers, regardless of country of registry, are prohibited from flying into the United States from Turkey either directly or via a third country.  Further, although some airlines resumed service, travelers should be prepared for changes to flight schedules and paths.  Please contact your airline for the latest flight information and to confirm your travel plans.

UPDATE: Sunday 6 pm PDT. Turkish Air finally addresses US cancellations in a tweet:

 

OFFICIAL STATEMENT

Istanbul, 16th July 2016

Announcement from Turkish Airlines to our Valued Passengers and Dear Nation,

With the unflinching will of the people, Turkey has awakened to a new day with a much stronger sense of democracy and freedom.

Upon the call of our President H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan our operations at İstanbul Atatürk Airport are now back to normal and flights have begun.

As of the 16th of July by 14:30 (EEST) all our flight operations will resume as planned. Grateful to our Dear Nation, we extend our thanks to our passengers for their understanding for the inconvenience.

Due to this situation, for individual and group reservations, provided that:

  • Flights operated by Turkish Airlines ( including AnadoluJet trademark )
  • Departing/arriving to Turkey (including domestic flights) and/or transit flights via Turkey
  • Flights operated between 15 July 2016 – 17 July 2016 (inclusive)
  • Ticketed on/before 15 July 2016
  • Tickets are revalidated untıl 15 August 2016 (ınclusive)

And disregardıng of related fare rules:

1) All Rebooking/ReRouting will be made without any charge provided that new destination is same IATA region & same cabin class

2) Refund requests:

  1. a) Unused tickets: refund will be made without any charge; or
  2. b) For partially used tickets, when planned trip is not complete; the remaining flights will be refunded without any charge.

3) Extension of ticket validity:

Validity of ticket can be extended until 15 August 2016 (inclusive) without any fare difference or penalty.

Regards,

Turkish Airlines Inc. (Website here)

Turkish Airlines

Click for one of our favorite trip reports…ever! (Image: Chris McGinnis

Don’t miss this one from! Trip Report: Turkish Airlines business class SFO-IST (June 2016)

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Most popular: Southwest PreCheck | SFO secrets | New routes | China trip report | JetBlue to ATL?

SFO

An unusual perspective of SFO sent in by reader Monte Deignan who was inspired by our SFO secrets post this week!

TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):

Southwest’s interesting new PreCheck promotion

6 SFO secrets you should knowWeekend Edition

Routes: Alaska, American, JetBlue, Frontier, Allegiant

Trip Report: United BusinessFirst to Xi’an, China

The secret reason for new hotel loyalty discounts

Be the first to try American’s premium economy cabin

Surf Air: All-you-can-fly in Europe for $3,250

New tech speeds up airport security screening

6 highly annoying habits of infrequent fliers (Don’t miss the reader comments on this one!)

10 Lyft’s posh new option, but how much does it cost?

Virgin Atlantic SFO

Deep selection of bourbon & new nibblies at Virgin Clubhouse at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

We took a spin through the recently refurbished Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at SFO this week for a reveal of its new snack menu (from Whitechapel in SF) and a presentation by its talented mixologist Justin who’s been running the exquisite full service bar with his wife for 10 years. TIP: A Virgin spokesperson said that the club should have airside access by next fall (2017). Virgin Atlantic has two flights per day from SFO, the first one, which departs at 5:40 pm is still using the older Airbus A340; the 9:10 pm departure uses its new 787 Dreamliner. By October, both flights will be operated with a Dreamliner. Our advice: Book the 9:10 pm departure and arrive at the Clubhouse early for a few Manhattans or Old Fashioneds, then pour yourself onto the plane for a good night’s sleep! Don’t forget that the club is open to business class ticketholders and both Virgin and Delta Elites with same-day transatlantic nonstop flights to London.

Remember when a US Airways A320 took a dive into the Hudson River? Watch part of that drama unfold here on the official trailer of “Sully” (IMDB) starring Tom Hanks in theaters this September.

Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:

JetBlue to return to Atlanta in 2017

The REAL story behind TSA PreCheck enrollment mess

WIRED mag goes inside Delta’s “Mission Control” VIDEO

United’s board goes from worst to first in 3 short months- sign of turnaround?

TSA Horror Show has been fixed- for now at least

Maybe ATL is not so “international” after all

How much do Uber drivers really make? Not much!

KLM Beer Heineken

KLM to offer a first: Beer on tap inflight (Photo: KLM)

KLM will offer in-flight beer on tap

One major airport in the world hasn’t lost a bag in 20 years

Travel + Leisure names Virgin America best U.S. airline for ninth straight year

Boingo offers free airport Wi-Fi to Android users for six months

Singapore Airlines will introduce bidding system for seat upgrades

Hey have you given Lyft a try yet? We’ve recently been won over by friendlier drivers, ease in tipping, and rides in the front seat. Get $20 off your first ride when using our link!

Lyft Logo

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Trip Report: United BusinessFirst to Xi’an, China

Biking on the city wall (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Our lucky United/Xian contest winner Dan E. biking on the city wall (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Hi there! It’s Dan, the lucky guy who won the TravelSkills contest for two free round trip United BusinessFirst tickets to Xi’an, China. I just returned from the trip! This was my first time to China and first time in BusinessFirst on the 787 so I have a lot to share.

I traveled a few days after United’s new business class, Polaris, was announced so it was fun comparing and contrasting what they have planned versus what the reality is now. Here’s a quick summary of my observations about the trip:

  • This was my first time on United’s 787-8 and it was great! The large shade-less windows, quieter cabin, and higher humidity really does make a noticeable difference in both the flight and post-flight jet lag experience. I felt more rested once I arrived and didn’t deal with significant jet lag on either end of the trip.
  • The flight crew on our outbound SFO – XIY was probably the best I’ve had in my adult life. They made our trip so much fun and those 13 hours just zipped by.
  • Towards the end of our flight to Xi’an, I was surprised to see that the BusinessFirst lavatories weren’t cleaned/serviced at all throughout the flight. That said, this is about the only critical comment I could make about the overall service.
  • Lounge access in Xi’an leaves much to be desired and I was completely underwhelmed.
  • On the return leg, I found the ground staff in Xi’an to be very pleasant but there was a definite language barrier. Although ultimately successful, getting baggage checked through to Chicago took about 20 minutes and six desk agents.

[Currently, United fares between SFO and Xi’an are as low as $586 roundtrip in economy, and $2,960 in business class. On the Dreamliner flight, there were 36 BusinessFirst seats, 70 in Economy Plus and 113 in economy. See SeatGuru for United’s 787-8 Dreamliner]

United’s New Service to Xi’an: “Good morning sir, where are you traveling today…”

Although I was unable to fly on the first flight to Xi’an, United let me join in on the inaugural festivities at SFO on May 8.  There was palpable energy around the gate but I also couldn’t help but notice the dozens of both Chinese and western passengers who seemed unaware of what the hullabaloo was all about. Nonetheless, the food, music, and live Terracotta warriors were a nice touch.

United Xian

The inaugural crew & clever Terracotta Warriors on May 8, 2016 SFO>Xi’an (Photo: Dan Erwin)

I originally assumed United launched the route because of strong industry/business ties in Xi’an but learned it’s actually being tested for the leisure market. I found this interesting since most people I’ve encountered can’t place this city on a mapHere’s where it is! 

On my departure day in early June, I arrived at SFO a bit early to check out the new United Club in Terminal 3, Concourse E, which I had yet to visit. Despite several international departures leaving around the same time as Xi’an, check-in was smooth and seamless. When handing over my passport, the agent asked, “Good morning sir, where are you traveling today?” I said, “Hi there, I am going to Xi’an” and she responded, “oh wooooow” — like generally surprised. Maybe this was her first day working the Xi’an flight but I found it kind of funny. It took about 10 minutes to check-in and get through security and I was on my way to the United Club.

International Premium Check-in at SFO (Photo: Dan Erwin)

International Premium Check-in at SFO (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Since I won two tickets, I invited my best friend to go with me. She was flying in from Chicago, so we met up near the domestic gates and and headed to the United Club there for a celebratory drink. The desk agent was pleasant but quickly informed us that we also had access to the club in the international terminal. I said, “don’t worry, we’ll be going there too.”  

Cheers! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Cheers! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

The club was packed and almost every seat was taken. Nonetheless, I love the upgrades underway at various United Clubs (especially Heathrow’s) and appreciate the update at SFO.

The crowded United Club in Concourse E at SFO (Photo: Dan Erwin)

The crowded United Club in Terminal 3 Concourse E at SFO (Photo: Dan Erwin)

After our prosecco we made our way to the international terminal and grabbed some snacks and another glass of bubbles at the United Club there while we waited for boarding to begin.

(Photo: Dan Erwin)

View from our visit to the United Club at SFO’s International Terminal G (Photo: Dan Erwin)

UA853 to Xi’an (Photo: Dan Erwin)

UA853 to Xi’an (Photo: Dan Erwin)

At 12:45 pm we headed down to gate 96 and arrived just as priority boarding was being called. Agents scanned boarding passes checked our visas and we walked right on to 1A and 1B (I was in HOG HEAVEN since this was my first international flight being in 1A, which is usually Global First).

The 787! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Stepping aboard United’s 787 Dreamliner! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

 1A! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

My seat:  1A! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

I’ve flown BusinessFirst on the 747, 777, and the 757 p.s. configurations but this my first time on the 787. I found the seat to be basically the same as the P.S. configuration but the noticeable differences are in other cabin features. The windows are much larger than any other aircraft and have that awesome tinting feature. The overhead bin space is quite large as well. Overall, I loved the feel of the forward cabin because once you board it’s very mellow as no other passengers are coming through.

(Photo: Dan Erwin)

Peering out the 787’s huge tinted windows (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Forward cabin during boarding (Photo: Dan Erwin)

BusinessFirst cabin during boarding (Photo: Dan Erwin)

I can say without a doubt that on this flight we had the most energetic and pleasant group of flight attendants I’ve ever flown with. The service manager came by shortly after each passenger was settled and warmly welcomed each of us individually. He asked us why were were traveling to Xi’an and encouraged us to ask if he could make our trip more comfortable. The standard amenity kits were distributed shortly after that, which are nice to have on long flights but not anything to write home about.  

Standard Leather Amenity (Photo: Dan Erwin)

United’s standard leather amenity (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Once we got settled, my new favorite flight attendant of all time, Momo, greeted us with champagne. She really made our flight. It felt like we were close friends and she was having us over for drinks and dinner at her house. She was super attentive but not overwhelmingly so. About 45 minutes after takeoff I realized that my earbuds were stuck in the seat. I kid you not, she literally got on the floor in her dress and stuck half of her body under the seat as she fiddled to get them out.  The other FAs were friendly and personable as well. I learned from them that 787 crew are mostly former Continental FAs, which I thought was interesting. Many of my experiences in BusinessFirst with mainline United crew paled in comparison to this.

Overall, the service on the flight was efficient and pleasant! The main meal service was pretty standard and consistent with my other BusinessFirst experiences.

Main meal service appetizer (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Main meal service appetizer prosciutto and melon with garnishes (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Main meal service Salad (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Main meal service seasonal greens with parmesan cheese (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Main meal service entrée: Tenderloin of beef with gnocchi and asparagus (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Main meal service entrée: Tenderloin of beef with gnocchi and asparagus (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Main meal service cheese and port (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Main meal service cheese and port (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Dessert! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Dessert is United’s standard ice cream sundae (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Dinner service wrapped about two hours into the flight at which point I reclined and caught some shut-eye. I did notice how much quieter these planes seem to be than other United aircraft.

I slept for a bit and woke just in time for the mid-flight snack service, which was a nice way to break up the 13-hour journey.

Some people were NOT interested in sleeping and wanted to see the sun. (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Some people were NOT interested in sleeping and wanted to see the sun. (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Chinese Style Soup and Tea (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Mid-flight snack: Chinese Style Soup and Tea (Photo: Dan Erwin)

After a couple movies we were about 90 minutes from Xi’an and the final meal service began, which was pretty standard.

Pepper Jack Cheese Omelette (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Breakfast prior to landing: Pepper Jack Cheese Omelette (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Approaching Xi’an (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Approaching Xi’an- note the curved wingtip of the 787! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

We landed in Xian right on time and taxied straight to the gate. We said our goodbyes to the lovely crew and proceeded through immigration to baggage claim and out to ground transportation, all of which took about 15 minutes. The airport felt pretty deserted.  

Xi’an Airport (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Taxiing into Xi’an Airport (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

United’s ad in baggage claim (Photo: Dan Erwin)

United’s Chinese ad promoting San Francisco in baggage claim (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Xian as a Destination:

We spent a total of four full days in Xi’an, which felt like enough time. (We also spent a few days in Beijing.) You can definitely tell that Xian is not as popular for westerners/Americans as other Chinese cities might be because we were probably asked by at least 100 different locals to pose in photos with them. You don’t see many Americans cruising around town (I think we saw four the entire time) so I guess we were exotic. English was not widely spoken in our experience, which yielded some interesting communication barriers but made the trip more fun!

It seems like most tourists come in for one or two days just to see the Terracotta Warriors and although that was definitely an amazing site to see, there is much more to Xi’an.

Bell Tower of Xi’an (Photo: Dan Erwin)

The dramatic, and frequently photographed Bell Tower of Xi’an (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Some of the Terracotta Warriors (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Some of Xian’s famous Terracotta Warriors- about one hour outside of downtown (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

View of Xi’an from the city wall (Photo: Dan Erwin)

View of Xi’an from the city wall (Photo: Dan Erwin)

An acquaintance of ours owns the Xi’an Brewery, which along with Lost Plate Food Tours, was coincidentally featured in United’s Hemisphere magazine a few months ago in March. We checked out both and LOVED them.

RETURNING: XIY – SFO: “Your ear… I need to see your left ear… Turn to your right…”

The day of our departure we arrived at the airport nearly three hours early due to the post-traumatic stress I experienced the day before when we missed our flight from Beijing to Xi’an. I haven’t missed a flight in almost 10 years so the scar was REALLY fresh that day! ☺

Check-in at XIY (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Check-in at Xi’an Airport XIY (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Despite spending about 20 minutes getting my friend’s bagged checked through to Chicago, check-in was straightforward and only one person was in the premium line when we arrived.

Next stop, immigration… After standing in front of the immigration officer for a solid five minutes with nothing but silence, he asked me to turn to my right so he could “see my ear.” I thought I misunderstood him (again, the language barrier), and asked “pardon?” He responded with, “your ear. I need to see your left ear. Please turn to your right.” I complied and he stamped my documents waived me through. It was VERY odd but I didn’t ask questions and proceeded through security without any trouble.

My only real disappointment with the overall experience on our return is with the lounge in Xi’an. This is not a United lounge, but instead a SBC-VIP lounge that serves several different airlines. The airport is shiny and new but the lounge kind of feels like your grandma’s living room. There are oversized chairs and doilies everywhere. The food and beverage selection was poor and they were constantly running out of things.   

Lounge Entrance (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Lounge Entrance (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

First & Business Class Lounge in Xi’an (Photo: Dan Erwin)

First & Business Class Lounge in Xi’an (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

 

First & Business Class Lounge in Xi’an (Photo: Dan Erwin)

First & Business Class Lounge in Xi’an- Doily city! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

30 Xian Lounge Food-1

Food Options in the Xi’an First & Business Class Lounge- mostly flavorless steamed buns, hard boiled eggs, rolls, congee (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Food was sparse for the entire hour we were there (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Food was sparse and not replenished for the entire hour we were there (Photo: Dan Erwin)

We were told twice by the lounge agent that our flight was boarding at a different time than it was so we ended up showing up a bit late and missing Group 1.

The plane taking us home! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

The Dreamliner taking us home! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Despite boarding with Group 3, it all went fairly fast and we were through the second round of US security and in our seats, 1K and 1L, in no time. Although not the same as the outbound flight, we were warmly welcomed by the crew and the inflight service manager. Flight attendants distributed the new Team USA version amenity kits, which I thought was cute.

(Photo: Dan Erwin)

Seat 1K for the return flight (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Team USA amenity kits (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Team USA amenity kits (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Team USA Socks and Mask (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Team USA Socks and Mask (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Despite the updated amenity kits, the safety video was the old version rather than the new, Team USA version. I also noticed that the Hemispheres magazine was the May version even though we were well into June. Minor inconsistencies but inconsistencies nonetheless.

Overall, the service on this flight was professional and pleasant. I think we were spoiled by the crew on the outbound so although I felt disappointed at the time, I realize that it was still very nice.

Beef role with yam (Photo: Dan Erwin)

United XIY-SFO business first lunch: Beef roll with yam (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Nice serene lighting for a mid flight nap (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Nice serene lighting for a mid flight nap (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, and potatoes (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, mushrooms, and potatoes- tasted much better than it looks in this photo! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Almost home! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Almost home! (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Foggy arrival at SFO (Photo: Dan Erwin)

Foggy arrival at SFO (Photo: Dan Erwin)

We landed in SF about 10 minutes early, deplaned, and passed through immigration quickly. The whole process took about 20 minutes from the time we stepped off the plane until I walked out to grab my Uber. I expected immigration and baggage claim to be a mess given the multiple international arrivals coming in at the same time but it was surprisingly easy.

Overall, both flights were pretty seamless. The outbound experience was amazing because of our fantastic crew but the return flight was just fine. I am super excited for Polaris to launch so we can all see how United steps up their game.

(Photo: Dan Erwin)

One final look at United’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner at Xi’an (Photo: Dan Erwin)

 

Thanks, Dan, for an excellent Trip Report! And thanks United for providing this opportunity for one of our readers to experience what it’s like to attend an inaugural event and be one of the first passengers on a brand new flight to an exotic city. And thanks to all the readers who participated in this fun contest– check out some of the best entries in this post. 

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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6 SFO secrets you should know

Your excited TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis capturing a moment on the top of SFO control tower (Doug Yakel)

TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis capturing a moment on the top of SFO’s shapely new control tower (Image: Doug Yakel)

I fly a lot. And that means I have spent an inordinate amount of time at airports over the course of my frequent flying career. Luckily, most airports have improved immensely over the last few decades, but there are still some that I love a lot more than others.

Not surprisingly, one that sits at the top of my list is my hometown airport San Francisco International (SFO). So when National Car Rental asked me to write up a sponsored post about tips, advice and secrets about SFO, I jumped at the chance. So here we go:

SFO secret garden

SFO’s secret Garden Patio by Terminal 1 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

1>A SECRET GARDEN. Regrettably, SFO does not yet offer any outdoor terraces from which to view the tarmac, but that should change when a new Grand Hyatt opens on airport grounds (mid-2019) offering views from a rooftop bar. In the meantime, the SFO gardeners, who stay busy keeping the plants inside the airport thriving, recently created a gorgeous outdoor space for airport employees to take a break—but anyone, including passengers, can also enjoy the space surrounded by a verdant collection of drought-tolerant plants and succulents. It’s located outside Terminal 1. (More details) NOTE: New construction around Terminal 1 has encroached a bit on the Secret Garden, but it’s still a nice place to chill out!

New secret passage between Boarding Areas C and D (Image: SFO)

2>SECRET PASSAGE. One of SFO’s biggest achievements is the recent re-do of Terminal 2 (T2), now a standard bearer in airport design and amenities. The light and airy facility houses the operations of American and Virgin America and offers fresh, healthy food provided by local restaurants, mod hotel-style furnishings, awesome runway views, water bottle refill stations, and a constantly changing museum exhibition. It was one of the first airport terminals to receive LEED certification. Last year the marvels of T2 opened up to even more flyers when the airport completed a behind-security passageway connecting it to Delta’s more prosaic wing of Terminal 1 (T1). Unfortunately, a similar passageway does not connect T2 with United’s bustling and always-crowded Terminal 3. (SFO map here)

Don’t miss: Inside look at SFO’s shapely new control tower! (PHOTOS)

Food trucks at SFO on Thursdays! (Image: SFO)

3>FOOD TRUCKS. If you are stuck in a fog or rain delay at SFO (regrettably common) and have a hankering to hang with some locals, dine at a food truck! Every Thursday at lunchtime (11 am-2 pm), the airport allows local food trucks to line an unused portion of the upper deck (departures level) of Terminal 1. For a truly San Francisco experience, grab a mission-style burrito, easily the city’s most loved (and consumed) meal. After a meal like that, you’ll sleep well on the plane, I assure you.

SFO built one of the first centralized car rental centers (Image: SFO)

4>HITTING THE ROAD. Most folks flying into SFO and renting cars are headed to Silicon Valley (30 mins south), Wine Country (1-2 hours north), or Monterey, Big Sur or Carmel (2 hours south). Luckily SFO’s AirTrain (Blue line) connects all terminals to a nearby centralized car rental facility. In a hurry? National’s Emerald Club members get on the road faster than others because, once off the AirTrain, they bypass the counter and simply walk to the car of their choice (the keys are in it), load up and hit the road. No lengthy wait to check in, get keys or sign contracts. And if the sun is out, consider upgrading to a convertible on the spot! This is California after all, right?

Best spot for plane spotting at SFO in United’s Terminal 3 (Image: SFO)

5>A PLACE FOR AVGEEKS. Most frequent travelers like me are also aviation geeks. To us there’s not much better than a day of plane spotting, and no better airport than SFO to do so. As the Bay Area economy has bubbled over in recent years, airlines from all corners of the world are fighting to add nonstop service. As a result, tarmacs are full of beautiful and exotic birds from around the world. One of the best places to watch planes take off and land is in the newest section of United’s Terminal 3 called “T3E.” At the very end of this concourse (near gates 65 and 66) you’ll find floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking runways where giant jumbos take off, bound for Europe, Asia, the South Seas or the Middle East. The best daylight hours for plane spotting run from about 1 pm until 3 pm. If that is not enough to sate your interest, check out SFO’s Aviation Museum, tucked away in a corner of the international terminal. It’s chock full of constantly-changing, super-size model aircraft hanging from the ceiling, plus aviation exhibits (like collections of vintage flight attendant uniforms, or in-flight amenity kits). Entry to the museum is free of charge and open to the public.

6>RELAX! These days, SFO is a super busy, sometimes hectic place. So finding a spot to chill out, regroup or practice your downward facing dog is essential. Back when SFO opened its state-of-the-art Terminal 2, it opened a “yoga room.” While SFO’s yoga room is not that much different than the chapels or meditation rooms found in other airports (except for the yoga mats), the concept was a PR coup for the airport. It’s tough to find any story about SFO that does not include mention of. Yes, that is yoga “rooms” plural: Just last year, the airport opened a second yoga room in United’s Terminal 3.

Disclosure: Thank you for reading TravelSkills! We will periodically send out messages like this one from commercial partners about topics relevant to frequent travel.  Our sponsors’ support, and yours, help us keep TravelSkills a free publication. This post is sponsored by National Car Rental

 

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Most popular: SFO in 3D + Delta discounts CLEAR + Washing planes + Uber prices

Lake Burton

Happy Fourth from Lake Burton, GA! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):

1 San Francisco’s new airport terminal (See interactive 360 degree view below)

2 Delta’s deep discounts for CLEAR membership

3 Worst airports for customs/immigration linesWeekend Edition

4 How often do planes get washed?

5 Routes: San Francisco, LAX, Houston, San Jose, New York, Washington, Chicago

6 A chat with Qantas CEO re LAX, SFO, 787, lounges

7 Stunning changes at iconic NYC hotel

8 Airport news: Houston, Chicago, San Jose, Orange County

9 Uber scraps surge pricing – not!

10 6 highly annoying habits of infrequent fliers

Don’t miss! New Hotels in Honolulu, Washington DC, Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland

SFO Interim B

Click to see a cool 360 degree view of new SFO Interim Terminal B

Brexit won’t affect British Airways operations much

Delta plans special summer events at its Atlanta, JFK Sky Clubs

Interactive 360 degree view of SFO Interim Terminal B

Five years after merger, United flight attendant groups might finally get a single contract

EU gives antitrust clearance to merger of Starwood and Marriott

Airlines consider virtual reality headsets to replace traditional in-flight entertainment

Boeing said to consider a supersized 777 model to compete with the Airbus A380

Starwood plans to open a Four Points by Sheraton in Havana this month

Southwest’s new platform will enable easier booking

Starwood expands keyless entry guest room technology

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

twitter-floowmeDo you follow us on Twitter? It’s a great way to keep up with the latest news!

Please join the 125,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

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San Francisco’s new $2.5 billion airport terminal

SFO Terminal 1

Rendering of SFO Terminal 1 to be complete by 2024 (Image: SFO)

Today San Francisco International Airport officially launched the much needed, long anticipated renovation/replacement of its aging Terminal 1, from which Southwest Airlines currently operates.

Today also marked the last public appearance of long-time airport director John Martin who retires next month. In his remarks, Martin got a big chuckle from the crowd (including SF mayor Ed Lee) when he recalled his first ever trip to SFO for a job interview saying,  “I flew into Terminal 1 on World Airways, and while I was excited to be there, I thought the place looked like a bus terminal. I’m very pleased to see it go.”

To celebrate the kick off of the project, Martin, Lee and other dignitaries whacked at a Terminal 1 column with shiny new sledgehammers.

Instead of shovels, dignitaries used sledgehammers at SFO event. Interim terminal construction in background (Chris McGinnis)

Instead of shovels, dignitaries used sledgehammers at SFO event. Interim terminal construction in background (Chris McGinnis)

The $2.4 billion terminal will be completed in phases over the next eight years. The first phase will be to demolish much of what’s there while preserving a sliver of the current structure as the “Interim Boarding Area B” where Southwest will continue to operate from 9 temporary gates during the renewal. From what I could tell, the interim terminal layout it identical to the old, but will be updated with new carpet and mod egg chairs. (This is where the event was held today.) By 2019, there will be 17 new gates in operation.

Rendering of what Southwest's Interim Terminal B gates will look like (SFO)

Rendering of what Southwest’s Interim Terminal B gates will look like (SFO) CLICK for 360 degree view

SEE: 3D view of interim Terminal B 

SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel told TravelSkills: “In September, Southwest will shift from their existing gates to newly-developed gates 23-28. These gates will have all-new materials and finishes, in line with Terminal 2 or Terminal 3 East. This move allows work to begin on the permanent new Boarding Area B, which will be built around the gates Southwest is using right now.”

When it’s complete, the new Terminal 1 Boarding Area B will be bigger, brighter and designed to look and feel like the popular Terminal 2 (Virgin America & American) or United’s newest Terminal 3 Boarding Area E.

Don’t miss: 6 highly annoying habits of infrequent flyers

SFO Terminal 1

SFO’s new terminal 1 will connect to the International Terminal (to the left) and to Delta’s Boarding Area C (to the right). It will also accommodate overflow from international terminal.

Upon completion, Boarding Area B will feature a total of 24 gates, including six gates which can accommodate international arrivals by providing direct access to the U.S. Customs & Border Protections Federal Inspection Area.  Connecting walkways located post-security will provide easy access to International Boarding Area A and Boarding Area C (Delta), which has a new behind-security corridor to Terminal 2. Eventually, another behind-security corridor will connect T2 with United’s Terminal 3 although there’s no firm date for when that project will launch.

Save! How to shop for summer airfare “deals”

All good… but it is going to take a while! Here’s the phasing schedule:

September 2016:    Interim Boarding Area B opens with 9 gates

December 2018:     New Boarding Area B opens with 9 gates

June 2019:             New Boarding Area expands to 17 gates

September 2020:    New Boarding Area B reaches full capacity of 24 gates

Mid-2024:              Terminal 1 Center, refreshed Boarding Area C complete

For more information, please visit: www.flysfo.com/about-sfo/airport-development/t1

 –Chris McGinnis

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Delta’s deep discounts for CLEAR membership

The Clear trusted traveler program could soon be in more airports. (Image: Chris McGinnis)

The Clear trusted traveler program now available at discount from Delta. Will you join? (Image: Chris McGinnis)

More details emerged today regarding Delta’s partnership (and partial ownership) of CLEAR, the company that offers expedited airport security service at 13 airports.

Most important are the discounts for CLEAR membership now offered to Delta SkyMiles members, based on their status. Standard membership in CLEAR is $179 per year. Delta Diamond Medallion members get complimentary CLEAR enrollment, while Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members it for just $79. Even general members get a nice discount: annual membership for just $99.

Delta says that it will email members in coming weeks about the discounts. (More from the Delta News Hub here)

Our biggest question however, is if Delta is going to add CLEAR to all its key airports, most importantly, those in New York City, like La Guardia and Kennedy. We also expected to see CLEAR lanes in Delta’s recently reconfigured (and faster) security lanes at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta Airport’s south terminal entrypoint– but so far, they’ve not made an appearance. Delta has not confirmed any new CLEAR locations, and when we last asked, told TravelSkills: “We don’t have any additional location detail for today but hope to later this summer.”

Until CLEAR is available at your hometown airport, or one where you travel to frequently, we’d suggest holding off on paying for the service, even at a discount. This is especially true if you already enjoy PreCheck.

Don’t miss! Worst airports for customs/immigration lines this summer

CLEAR

Airports that currently have CLEAR lanes (Image: CLEAR)

CLEAR currently operates at San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth,Houston Bush, Houston Hobby, San Antonio, Austin, Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas, Baltimore-Washington, and Westchester County Airport in New York. Seattle-Tacoma is next up, but there’s not a firm launch date yet. Additionally, its biometric service can be found at Yankee Stadium in New York, Coors Field in Denver, Marlins Park in Miami and AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Interested? You can sign up with your Delta SkyMiles status here.

Since I live in San Francisco, and use SFO as my primary airport, and it has CLEAR, I have maintained my membership over the years. I don’t need to use it that often (and I hate the “walk of shame” to the front of the line. But the few times it has saved me from missing flights makes it worth the $179 fee. (When it comes time for renewal, I’ll take Delta up on the discount!)

What about you? Have you or do you plan to use CLEAR now that Delta is offering these discounts? Please leave your comments below. 

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

twitter-floowmeDo you follow us on Twitter? It’s a great way to keep up with the latest news!

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Trip Report: Turkish Airlines Business Class to Istanbul, Athens

Turkish Airlines

Checking in for a 6:10 p.m. departure from San Francisco to Istanbul (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

I’ve dreamed of jumping on Turkish Airlines ever since I first began seeing images of its unusual business class lounge in Istanbul and hearing about its over-the-top inflight service. Most people who have flown Turkish said, “Get to Istanbul airport early so you can enjoy the lounge for a few hours before your flight.” Or, “Don’t eat for a day before flying Turkish- you won’t believe how much food they serve on the plane!”

Those dreams came closer to reality when Turkish started nonstop service between San Francisco and Istanbul last year. My interest was heightened even more when it launched nonstops from Atlanta last month because many TravelSkills readers hail from there.

Regrettably, unrest in Turkey has resulted in a decline in visitors to the country. So when Turkish offered to fly me from SFO to Istanbul (IST) for a TravelSkills Trip Report, I asked if I could fly to Athens instead and report on the experience using IST as a connecting airport, which I thought would be a much more likely scenario for our readers. Currently, about 60 percent of its passengers are transiting IST instead of starting or stopping trips there, and that number could rise.

As would be expected, flight attendants pass trays of Turkish delight candies during each flight (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

As you might expect, flight attendants pass trays of Turkish delight candies during each flight (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Since neither SFO or ATL have nonstops to Athens, connecting to Greece via Istanbul (IST) is an easy and convenient option for those headed there or to the popular Greek Isles. (Plus, Turkish and other carriers have deeply discounted business class roundtrips a few times this year to as little as $1,500 round trip, so set up your fare alerts and grab one if you can!) For September trips, business class fares run about $4,000 round trip. Economy is about $1,100. There is no first class or premium economy “comfort” class on the SFO flights.

Turkish is a member of the Star Alliance, so United Mileage Plus members can redeem miles for Turkish Airlines trips.

My trip to Greece and back was quick…just four days on the ground there, plus two days flying. The flight from SFO to IST runs about 13 hours. From Istanbul to Athens is a short hop– only about 90 minutes. So the entire journey, including a quick 90-minute layover in IST was about 15 hours.

Highlights of this Trip Report include:

  • Diverse, delicious and copious inflight dining that dazzled my eyes and filled my belly
  • The best and worst seats on the plane
  • Unusual touches like candle-light dining (see the gif!), hot towels served on small plates
  • Overheated cabins
  • Young, energetic and professional crew
  • Issues around booze
  • Two different B777s on the route
  • That lounge. Oh, that lounge! (Included in Part 2 of this report)

Check in at SFO was smooth and easy at about 4:30 pm. There were only three people in the business class line and a very friendly, talkative agent wearing a hijab checked me in and told me to proceed to the United Club on International Concourse G.

Flight 81 departs SFO at 6:10 pm, so the club was very busy since several flights depart at around this time. Good news: United has upgraded the food station in the club, offering a broad selection of cheeses, sausages, vegetables, hot soup, bread, crackers and cookies. Plus the spread now has a nice view! Other than that, the United Club has not changed much since my last visit.

United Club food

Newly expanded food offerings with a view at SFO International Terminal G (Chris McGinnis)

When I’m flying to write up a TravelSkills Trip Report, I usually ask if I can board a few minutes early to get some good photos of the cabin before passengers board. Thankfully, Turkish obliged and I snagged some great shots of both business and economy class cabins. I was unable to get an good image of the plane (a Boeing 777-300ER) from the gate area, so I’ve used one from the inaugural arrival at SFO in April 2015. 

Turkish Airlines inaugural flight with San Francisco mural arrives at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

Turkish Airlines inaugural flight with San Francisco mural livery arrives at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

Business class seats are configured 2-3-2. Since you get outstanding views of North America and nearly the entire continent of Europe during this flight, a window seat is my recommendation. Plus it’s quieter and less likely to be disturbed by movement in the aisle if you are sleeping– and that’s the main upside to the dreaded “middle seat” seen below. Those are the “E” seats.

Turkish Airlines

Seats are comfortable and spacious, and the cabin is nice and open…but there are 7 middle seats that you’ll want to avoid if possible (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Business class is split into two sections on this plane. What you see above is the forward cabin, which has four rows. The aft cabin, behind the galley, has three rows.

What I really liked about this cabin is its open floorplan. Low seatbacks make it very social and fun compared to other layouts which cocoon passengers in their own little worlds. Plus, in this cabin style, I could watch flight crews as they went about rolling out the elaborate inflight meal service. If you are like me, and like to watch what is going on, book a seat near the rear of the cabin. If you want to sleep or work, go for one near the front.

Big bright seatback touch screens, leather ottomans, plenty of nooks for storage (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Big bright seatback touch screens, leather ottomans, plenty of nooks for storage (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

There are miles of legroom between the seat and seatback. It’s tough to use those nice leather ottomans as footrests due to the distance, but it’s a perfect place to sit and visit with friends or colleagues face to face. Note the storage space for shoes and other items underneath the ottoman. When the seat is in full recline, the ottoman becomes part of the lengthy bed.

Turkish Airlines

Nice: Each seat comes with a lumbar support pillow (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

Gigantic overhead bin space easily accommodated my carryon bag (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

Economy class on the Turkish B777 configured 3-3-3 with rainbow colored leather headrests (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Unlike other Turkish Airlines B777 flights, the planes on the SFO run do not have a premium economy or “comfort” section.

Turkish Airlines

32 inches of pitch between economy class rows (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

Economy class on the Turkish 777 is 3-3-3. Each seat has a large IFE screen plus USB power.

See: Turkish Airlines B777-300ER V2 on SeatGuru.com

Okay, let’s get back up front and take a look at the service and the seat in business class. First thing you should do before boarding a Turkish flight is learn how to say THANK YOU in Turkish. You would not believe the big, surprised smiles you get from the crew when you say Tesekkurler when they help stow your bag, offer you a juice or help make your seat into a bed. It’s pronounced something like Teh-shay-koo-lahrd. Here’s how to say it! Just do it!

Turkish Airlines

Fun, friendly flight attendants offer 3 types of juice or water while boarding. Want champagne? Ask for it (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

I’ve heard over the years that getting a cocktail on Turkish Airlines is complicated. That’s mostly due to the country’s (and current government’s) Muslim roots. For example, Turkish recently stopped offering alcohol on its domestic flights and on several international flights to other Muslim countries.

So for those who’d like to imbibe, here’s how it seems to work: During boarding, flight attendants pass through the business class aisles offering fruit juice and water from a silver tray, but no champagne, a common offering on most other airlines. If you ask for champagne, the flight attendant is more than happy to go get you a glass, but it’s not on the tray. I noticed the same thing during meal service, if you ask for wine with your meal, you’ll get it, albeit a relatively small pour. Flight attendants do not offer you more unless you ask for it– which is quite different from U.S. or European flights where flight attendants wander the aisles with bottles, looking for empty glasses 😉

Turkish Airlines

Business class recliner control (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Seats are comfortable, but I never really understood this recliner control. I still don’t know what the MR and M+ buttons do! Similar to what I experienced on Qantas (See our Qantas Trip Report), a flight attendant will make your seat into a bed at your request, covering the seat with a fitted quilt, offering a large pillow and a blanket. Turkish does not offer business class passengers pajamas for this 13-hour flight.

Turkish Airlines

Flight attendants make seats into cozy, quilt-covered beds at passenger request. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

One this B777 flight, there were 15 crew members, including three chefs and four flight attendants in business class.

Turkish Airlines

A small but very classy touch that I noticed: Hot towels are served on a china plate, not handed to you with tongs (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

Elaborate menus in English and Turkish are like menu origami– unfolding into beautiful shapes (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

3 chefs onboard our SFO>IST flight- this one is taking our dinner orders and explaining how each dish is served. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

On SAS, “Chefs” are really flight attendants who change clothes to serve meal. (See our SAS Trip Report) But on Turkish, these guys are dedicated to meal service throughout the flight– there were three onboard in both directions.

Turkish Airlines

A nut mixture that include pistachios, almonds, macadamias and hazelnuts– not a peanut in sight! Note the parsimonious pour of wine. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Prior to the full meal service, the chef and flight attendants wheel out a tiered cart full of all kinds of unusual and delicious appetizers– passengers can choose from about eight options that include: Prawns, smoked trout with horseradish cream, grilled crab cake with sweet chilis, avocado tomato salad, spiced chicken breast, beet & goat cheese salad, hummus, deep fried eggplant with green pepper and tomato sauce, romaine salad with cherry tomatoes and creamy tomato soup! (Sorry I don’t have good photos to share of this course.)

And that’s just the starters! After that, the main courses come. Thankfully, the beautifully orchestrated service takes a while, so it gives you time to assimilate all the food. And I can’t think of a better way to pass the time on a 13-hour flight that departs at dinner time. But I know that a lot of folks would rather just eat quickly and go to sleep and if that’s the case, you can order a open-faced salmon sandwich and cheese cake at any time.

Turkish Airlines

Even the bread plate is elaborate on Turkish Airlines (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

My experience on Turkish was replete with those “small things” that really make a big difference. For example, bread is served in a special cloth pouch to keep it warm and moist– have you ever noticed how fast bread dries out while flying? Not here. Also note that you get both butter and olive oil for your bread, and a small dish of Turkish spices in addition to real salt and pepper shakers. And get this…. they are magnetized so they stick to the plate!

Turkish Airlines

Magnetic salt and pepper shakers! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

By far the most noticeable small touch are the votive candles in tiny bags placed on each dining tray. While these are small electronic votives, they flicker just like the real thing, and add a warm and welcome ambience to the meal service. It’s quite a nice sight to see the entire cabin filled with these flickering lights. Good job!

Main dishes included grilled salmon with parsley butter and zucchini, filet of beef with arugula and roasted potatoes, or mushroom ravioli with leeks, tomatoes and parmesan.

Turkish Airlines

Mushroom ravioli on Turkish Airlines (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

Steak option on Turkish Airlines (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

After the main course, there is even more! A dessert and cheese cart including several baklava-type Turkish desserts plus apple pie, chocolate mousse and strawberry ice cream. Phew! I agree with the advice I’ve received from others: Do not eat at all before getting on the plane. You’ll regret it!

Turkish Airlines

Chef is back with the cart (for the fourth time) with a broad selection and explanation of tea blends and coffee (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Turks are really big on tea, and the tea selection was endless, including an anti-jet lag blend of melissa, camomille, sour cherry and lavender. For digestion, there’s a fennel, anise and caraway blend. And to help “resolve the edema, reduce the swelling,” there’s a blend of green tea, cherry stalk, cornsilk and close. For stomach relief, you get a cold blend of mint, fennel, lemon and date syrup. Seriously!

Turkish Airlines

When was the last time an airline served you tea like this? Talk about elaborate service! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

After a cuppa tea, it was time to start thinking about cooling off and bedding down for the rest of the flight. But the cooling down part was tough. Turkish, like most other European carriers, tends to keep cabins way too warm… to the point of feeling stuffy. Maybe it’s just an American thing, but to me, a cool cabin promotes sleep and is just more comfortable. I inquired about turning the temperature down a bit, but flight attendants pushed back, stating that they are instructed to keep the cabin at 23C – about 75F, and showed me the thermostat. But the cabin sure felt warmer than that, and as you can see below, fellow passengers slept in mostly uncovered. This is not the first time I’ve suffered through an overheated flight, and probably won’t be the last, but is it just me? Or do you feel like some airlines keep the heat up too high? Please leave your comments below.

Turkish Airlines

How do you know a cabin is too warm? When sleeping passengers don’t use their blankets! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Despite the warmth, I was able to get about six hours of sleep on this flight and woke up in late afternoon, Istanbul time, for a hearty breakfast that included a small greek-like salad, cold cuts, and eggs with potatoes and spinach, coffee. Then I took a walk through the plane cabin, and had some fun with the crew just before our 5 p.m. arrival.

Turkish Airlines

One of many small touches that impressed me: Fresh flowers in the galley corridor (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

Even breakfast included appetizers– a cheese and tomato salad and sliced turkey (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

Breakfast main: omelet with spinach, tomato and potatoes. Plus a smoothie, not pictured (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

The fun, young crew on this flight having some fun with me posing for a selfie (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

Inflight wi-fi was free for business class passengers... but the connection was relatively weak, allowing for texting, email and light surfing, but I was unable to upload photos, or access photo-dense websites.

Turkish Airlines

Seatback inflight maps and exterior cameras for views (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

 

Turkish Airlines

Istanbul Ataturk Airport has clearly outgrown its space. How do I know? Every Turkish Air flight I was on parked at a remote pad, and passengers were bussed to and from the terminal. After a 13-hour flight, a 15-minute bus ride to the terminal is unwelcome, but did not take too long. Due to the growth, Istanbul is now laying plans for one of the largest airports in the world, to be called Istanbul New Airport, the first phase of which is to open in 2018.

My connection from Istanbul to Athens was only about two hours, so I hightailed it to a place I’ve been waiting to see for years, the famous CIP Lounge. It turned out to be everything I’d dreamt of, and more… and my only regret is that I did not have enough time to really soak up all it had to offer! Like pool tables, olive bars, fresh pizza, a driving range, two grand pianos and more!

This post is already long enough, so stay tuned for Part 2, which will include a good look at the lounge and my trip from Greece back to San Francisco. Thanks for reading this far!

Have you flown Turkish Airlines before…or dreamt about it? Please leave your comments below. 

Turkish Airlines

Here’s a sneak peak at the stunning and unusual CIP lounge in Istanbul. Stay tuned for a full report about my experience there! (Photo: Chris McGinnis

–Chris McGinnis

Disclosure: Turkish Airlines covered the cost of Chris’s airfare to Athens. TravelSkills paid for hotels, transfers, meals and other incidentals related to this trip.  

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Most popular: New routes + Aer Lingus + Trains + new 16 hour nonstop+ Virgin America

Empire State Building New York

Chris flew United to NYC this week and stayed at the Best Western Herald Square, next to the Empire State Building (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):

New routes: LAX, SFO, Seattle, San Diego, Boston, New York, Atlanta

TSA PreCheck faces new strainsWeekend Edition

Trip Report: Aer Lingus, Economy class SFO-Dublin-Edinburgh

7 reasons to take the train instead of the plane

Singapore Airlines adds another nonstop from US

How to shop for summer airfare “deals”

This airline fee is fading fast

Airport briefs: LaGuardia, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Atlanta

Will Alaska preserve Virgin America’s brand?

10 What ‘Do Not Disturb’ really means at hotels

security SFO

Here’s the line at SFO’s busy Terminal 3 at 9 am last Tuesday. PreCheck took 3 minutes. Are TSA security delays overhyped? Leave your comments below.  (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:

Easy 500 Marriott Rewards points: Just follow ’em on Instagram (thru June 21 only)

Lengthy “pardon our dust” period at the world’s busiest airport

New security lanes at ATL 30% more efficient

Harvard Business School: Hidden benefits of business travel

Watergate Hotel

Rendering of “Top of the Gate” a new rooftop bar at the recently revamped Watergate Hotel (Image: Watergate Hotel)

Legendary Watergate hotel reopens in Washington DC

Uber/Lyft competitor Wingz files to serve Miami Airport

Alaska Airlines adds more bonus miles to its Visa card

Inside look at United’s San Francisco hub operation VIDEO (states that 500 Global Services members use SFO daily)

Europe clarifies its rules for airline passengers’ rights

New $4 million art installation debuts at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson

Hawaiian Airlines introduces bidding system for upgrades

Five years later, United’s flight attendant groups still haven’t merged

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare dealsOne airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers  | First class phase out coming soon

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Singapore Airlines adds another nonstop from US

Plenty of TravelSkills readers will soon soak in this view of the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TravelSkills readers will soon soak in this view of the Marina Bay Sands whether flying United or Singapore Airlines (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Just two weeks after United Airlines started flying non-stop from San Francisco to Singapore, Singapore Airlines confirmed to TravelSkills that it will do the same beginning this fall – and that it will boost Los Angeles service as well.

While United is using a 787-9 Dreamliner for the route, Singapore said it will rely on a new Airbus A350-900. The airline plans to start flying the non-stop San Francisco route, a trip of about 16 hours, on October 23. Singapore said that in addition to the new non-stops, it will continue to offer daily one-stop service between SFO and Singapore via Hong Kong, using a 777-300ER.

The daily SFO non-stops will replace the airline’s existing daily San Francisco-Seoul-Singapore service; that will be relocated to Los Angeles on October 23, increasing Singapore’s schedule there from one daily flight (LAX-Tokyo-Singapore) to two, with the second one operating via Seoul.

The LAX flights will both use 777-300ERs with first class, business class, premium economy and economy seating. The carrier currently uses an Airbus A380 on the LAX route, which will be phased out. See our Trip Report covering business class on the new 777-300ER.

All Singapore's west coast flights will feature its new business class. (Image: Singapore Airlines)

All Singapore’s west coast flights will feature its new business class. (Image: Singapore Airlines)

The company said the actual flying time for the San Francisco non-stops will range from 14 hours 35 minutes to 17 hours 45 minutes, depending on direction and time of year. It estimated the distance at 8,451 miles.

This new non-stop news is separate from Singapore’s announcement last fall that it will resume non-stop service to New York and Los Angeles in 2018 using a new, ultra-long-haul version of the A350 being developed by Airbus – designated the A350-900ULR — just for that purpose.

Related: Take a spin inside a brand new Airbus A350

Singapore's long-range A350s will fly non-stop to Los Angeles and New York in 2018. (Image: Airbus)

Singapore’s long-range A350s will fly non-stop to SFO starting Oct 23 (Image: Airbus)

Singapore Airlines is a big believer in the A350: It started to take delivery of the next-generation wide-body this year, and has ordered more than 60 of them. The airline first put the plane into service on the Singapore-Amsterdam route a few months ago, and more recently started flying it between Singapore and South Africa.

Related: First class phase out picks up steam

The Singapore Airlines A350-900 is configured with 253 seats – 42 in business class in a 1-2-1 layout; 24 in premium economy; and 187 in regular economy (No first class). A company representative said the aircraft will be equipped with an enhanced in-flight entertainment system that offers more than 1,000 on-demand options, as well as innovative technology designed to reduce jetlag via advancements in cabin climate, lighting and noise levels.”

About 16 hours each way between SFO and Singapore (TravelMath)

About 16 hours each way between SFO and Singapore (TravelMath)

Which airline would you prefer for the new SFO-SIN 16-hour odyssey? Why? Please leave your comments below. 

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights

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Trip Report: Aer Lingus, Economy class SFO-Dublin-Edinburgh

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

Taking off from SFO on Aer Lingus’ big green plane to Dublin (Photo: Kim Grimes)

Earlier this year, I decided to take a trip in April to visit a friend in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was working with a minimal budget and was excited to discover that one of the cheapest economy fares ($1,199 RT) from San Francisco to Edinburgh was offered by Aer Lingus.  I had never flown with Aer Lingus before and jumped on the opportunity since I’d heard so many positive things about their service.  When I told Chris about my upcoming trip, he mentioned that several readers enjoyed the Trip Report he wrote on Aer Lingus’ new business class, but we didn’t have a trip report on the economy experience. So, I decided to document my first trip on that big green plane!

(Note: For this Trip Report, we asked our amazing TravelSkills office manager Kimberly Grimes to write about her Aer Lingus flight to/from Scotland. Enjoy! –Chris)

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

Aer Lingus is even green(ish) on the inside (Photo: Kim Grimes)

As I boarded the Aer Lingus A330-200 at SFO, I was politely greeted by all of the crew members and directed to my seat above the wing. When I got there, a pillow, warm fleece blanket, and complimentary earbuds were waiting to help me enjoy the in-flight entertainment.

Economy class seats on Aer Lingus A330 are arranged 2-4-2 (Chris McGinnis)

Economy class seats on Aer Lingus A330 are arranged 2-4-2 (Chris McGinnis)

There was also a small envelope for donations to UNICEF, Aer Lingus’ charity partner for nearly 20 years, which came in handy for getting rid of spare coins on my flight back.

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

32 inches of pitch in economy class is plenty of space. (Photo: Kim Grimes)

Once settled into my window seat I found the 32” pitch to be more than enough for my 5’4” self and I was comfortable even with a larger person seated next to me. Before takeoff, I flipped through Aer Lingus’ magazine Cara (“Friend” in Irish Gaelic). I usually get through half of the in-flight magazine before putting it away to watch takeoff, but on my flight to Dublin I only had the chance to flip through some photos as we happily departed almost 10 minutes early. I’m impressed that Aer Lingus operated with such timeliness during my entire journey with them. On my flight home, we landed at SFO 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

Perfect pasta and a really nice salad on the dinner flight over the pond. (Photo: Kim Grimes)

Dinner was served about two hours into the flight with a choice of beef stew or creamy spinach pasta. I don’t eat beef so I went with the pasta, but my seatmate got the stew and enjoyed it. I don’t usually expect much from pasta on airplanes, but the sauce in the dish was delicious and the pasta was cooked perfectly.

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

The salad is a nice low-carb option (Photo: Kim Grimes)

My meal also came with a light salad of lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and a bit of feta which I enjoyed after my pasta. It was fresh, tasty, and delivered an extra bit of hydration that I really needed. The pasta had enough carbs for me so I didn’t eat the dinner roll, but I did save room for the dessert of berries and light whipped cream.

Related: Aer Lingus Business Class meals- the best ever? 

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

Plenty of good films, TV shows and music to keep me occupied (Photo: Kim Grimes)

I tried to doze off after dinner, but I spent most of the flight exploring the entertainment system. I was thoroughly distracted with the selection of over 50 films, a variety of TV shows, and an extensive list of music albums, podcasts, and radio stations to indulge in. Wi-fi was also available on the flight at the price of $9.95 for an hour or $18.95 for a full flight pass but the entertainment system was enough to keep me from boredom. When my eyes got too tired to watch any more movies, I browsed the music selection and made a playlist perfect for sleeping. I don’t think I actually slept much, but meditating to the RnB and soft rock sounds for a few hours was nice relaxation.

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

Good morning! Breakfast is served– with tea (Photo: Kim Grimes)

The cabin crew served morning snack boxes and warm beverages about an hour before we landed in Dublin. Inside was a ham and cheese croissant and a cup of strawberry yogurt. I wasn’t in the mood for yogurt, but I enjoyed the croissant. It was simple, yet comforting and I really appreciated the warm food and tea in the morning.

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

I’ve never been a fan of propellor planes, but this one changed my mind (Photo: Kim Grimes)

I was not at all excited about taking a propeller plane to connect from Dublin to Edinburgh. I’ve had an aversion to propeller planes since I rode on one as a kid flying over Alabama. It was like a loud, tumultuous rollercoaster that my parents couldn’t wait to get off of. My journey with Aer Lingus was nothing like that. The flight was operated by Irish regional airline Stobart Air (formerly Aer Arann) and had two Aer Lingus crew members on board. These crew members were exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable, reassuring some other nervous passengers and myself that we’d have a safe ride on the ATR 72-600.

I was particularly impressed with how one crew member successfully comforted a terrified, screaming child during the flight by assuring her that the noise and extra turbulence was just part of what makes propeller plane flight special. The entire experience was so stress-free that on the way back I felt no anxiety hopping on the propeller plane, even with someone obnoxiously joking that our plane was probably going down.

(Photo: Aer Lingus)

(Photo: Aer Lingus)

On my return flight from Dublin to SFO, I got a special treat for my in-flight meal. Before my trip, Chris told me about some upgraded meals that Aer Lingus offers to economy passengers and asked me to try out the service (which he generously paid for 🙂 ). These meals are part of Aer Lingus’ Bia Pre-Order service and have been created by their executive chef and Irish chef Clodagh McKenna.

Passengers who would like to enjoy these meals must pre-order them online at least 24 hours before the flight. Meal options include Roast Chicken with a Twist ($25), Melt-in-the-mouth Salmon ($25), and Succulent Steak ($28). The chicken and steak options are similar to entrees served in business class, but I was really curious about the salmon and decided to try that.

biapreordervoucher

Ordering my meal was as simple as choosing my seat through the “Manage Booking” section of Aer Lingus’ website. My credit card was charged immediately after ordering and a salmon meal voucher was promptly e-mailed to me. The e-mail provided instructions to print the voucher in full and bring it on board with me to submit to the cabin crew. It didn’t specify when I should submit the voucher, so I asked a crew member at the door as I boarded and she took it right away.

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

My special meal as presented by FA– mouthwatering salmon and wine (Photo: Kim Grimes)

I got settled in my seat and was really absorbed in watching a television show on my laptop when a crew member came by with some food on trays and asked if I ordered a special meal. I was really caught off-guard since the meal service hadn’t been announced yet, but he handed me a nice tray with my salmon meal on it and offered me some wine.

There was nobody sitting next to me on this flight, but I wonder how people would have reacted to my special meal service if the plane was more crowded. I was prepared for a few envious glares and questions about why I got such a fancy meal when others did not. As the distinct scent of salmon floated around my section, I looked around to see if anyone was really noticing.  The cabin was nearly empty and the few passengers near me were too caught up in their own experience to show much interest in what I was eating so I was able to enjoy my meal without judgement.

BIA salmonEDITED

The mouthwatering salmon was perfectly prepared- but I wondered what other passengers were thinking! (Photo: Kim Grimes)

I love salmon, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from salmon on an airplane. As I took my first bite, any negative preconceived notions I had about “airplane salmon” went away. It was delicious and the texture was perfect – not too dry or rubbery. It wasn’t extravagant with flavors, but it was well done and exceeded my expectations. The potatoes that accompanied the salmon were less impressive. They were very bland, but also too oily for my taste. I ate all of them, but they were definitely my least favorite part of the entire meal.

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

My favorite part of the meal (Photo: Kim Grimes)

Surprisingly, the real highlight of the meal for me was the salad of aubergine, roasted pepper, and sunblushed tomato with a harissa and lemon dressing. The dressing had the perfect kick and reminded me of homemade cocktail sauce.

(Photo: Kim Grimes)

Yogurt with fruity chunks! (Photo: Kim Grimes)

For dessert, I had a sweet mango and passionfruit yogurt (instead of the listed raspberry pannacotta) with real chunks of fruit in it. Delicious! Plus, a lovely chocolate truffle by Irish chocolatier Lily O’Brien. I couldn’t help but eat them both!

I was so full from my meal that I could barely even look at the farewell chocolate bar given to me by the crew right before landing at SFO. My Bia pre-ordered meal was a great way to have a bit of extra fun on my flight home and add a little luxury to my first trip with Aer Lingus.

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights

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Popular: Fading fee + Purple plane + 5 top jobs + Cuba flights + Free Gogo + Biz Quiz

Wow Air

What is this Barney-like apparition flying over SF? (Photo: SFO)

TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):

1 Some good news: This airline fee is fading fast

2 Do you have one of these? 5 top jobs for frequent travelers

3 This should help New: Global Entry enrollment office to open 24/7Weekend Edition

Routes: LAX, Denver, Paris, Minneapolis, NYC, Atlanta, Boston, Houston

5 Flying Barney Routes: Air China is back + WOW arrives with a purple plane + Lufthansa’s next month

Big summer/fall fare sale takes off (Expired, but stay tuned to TravelSkills for more sales)

7 AA joins the pack Big AAdvantage changes are coming soon

8 The big prize is missing What’s missing from DOT’s Cuba flights announcement?

9 Good news on the Left Coast California competition heats up

10 Where SkyMiles members are flying this summer

18 big business class seats upstairs on the QANTAS 747 (Chris McGinnis)

This Qantas seat was the most mis-identified on the Business Class Expert Quiz (Chris McGinnis)

Did you take our recent Business Class Quiz? Over 3,200 readers gave it a go and most did very well! Our readers really are business class experts (and they obviously read our famous Trip Reports very closely). Which seat was mid-identified most? It was the Qantas business class seat. Most players thought it was Turkish Airlines’ seat. The seat that nearly everyone got right? United’s BusinessFirst seat. Here’s a breakdown of scores:

TravelSkills readers are business class masters! Check out how you did!

TravelSkills readers are business class masters! Check out how well you did!

Links to stories from other sources that we thought you’d like to read:

One free hour of Gogo wi-fi for T-Mobile customers starts June 13

TSA PreCheck application numbers triple, causing processing delays

Russia tries to break into the global passenger aircraft market

Will individual passenger drones be the future of air travel?

Trump Hotel Toronto

A room at the Trump Toronto hotel (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Trump politics hurting its hotel biz? Depends on who you ask 

Fascinating stuff: How to Read a Pilot’s Map of the Sky

Did Newark “sell” rider safety to Uber for $10 million?

Drama: Qatar A380 landing in Atlanta VIDEO

Most Americans did not stay in hotels before WW2- they stayed in boarding houses

Watch Emirates flight attendants steal the show at a LA Dodgers game VIDEO

Airbnb now allows corporate employees to book accommodations for co-workers

Smart suitcase can climb stairs, charge phones

Radisson loyalists can exchange points for TSA PreCheck fee

Geneva’s airport tries out a bag-checking robot

Sausalito California

Chris’s most popular Instagram post this week: Sausalito, CA at sunset. Click on image to follow him!

NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights

twitter-floowmeDo you follow us on Twitter? It’s a great way to keep up with the latest news!

Please join the 125,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!

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