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TravelSkillsNews and Tips For Your TripsDecember 3, 2015 Only a select few see behind the frosted glass of United’s Global Services lounge (Chris McGinnis)In October, United moved its transcontinental p.s. flight operations from JFK to its hub at Newark Liberty International.Shortly after the switchover,  United invited TravelSkills on a quick turnaround trip (Thurs-Sat) to check out the new route, and experience what it’s like to fly p.s. BusinessFirst into Newark instead of our well-worn path to JFK.Checking fares on United.com today (Dec 3, 2015) for trips this coming January– we found them as low as $1,050 round trip in BusinessFirst, and as low as $247 round trip in economy class. January is typically one of the slowest months of the year for travel so these low fares will not last.C’mon and take a ride with us…United’s exclusive Global Services entrance in Terminal 3 (Chris McGinnis)Even though I’m Premier Gold with United, on this trip the airline set me up to travel as if I were Global Services, which meant access to the secret lounge behind the frosted glass next to SFO T3 Premier security lines, and a lot of personalized attention.Inside the Global Services check in area (Chris McGinnis)Global Services passengers enter TSA Security through a special door (center, above) that provides access to the front of the line– whether or not they have TSA PreCheck.Big new views from SFO’s Terminal 3 TSA security checkpoint now that construction walls are down. Eye catching blue hued glass doors at the entry to United’s brand new Club (Chris McGinnis)I arrived at the airport later than expected, so was unable to check in the new United Club at SFO… luckily I had seen it two days before for the grand opening.  You can see it, too, in this TravelSkills “first look” post.My ticket to ride up front in United’s p.s. BusinessFirst cabin (Chris McGinnis) This p.s. flight departed from gate 81 in the old part of Terminal 3 (Chris McGinnis)I was surprised that this p.s. flight departed out of the older Gate 81 at SFO- I thought United would consolidate its p.s. flights out of the much nicer new T3E boarding area. Nonetheless, there was a United agent at the gate waiting for me (due to my temporary GS status)- she thanked me for my business and made sure I got on board with no hassles. Since I was late for this flight, I was the last to board– which is why the gate area looks so deserted 🙂United uses only Boeing 757-200s on its p.s. flights from SFO and LAX to Newark. But there are two versions. The original United version has 28 BusinessFirst seats, the other (old international Continental 757) has just 16. See Seatguru for 24 seat p.s. version and 16 seat international version. The 28 seat version is equipped with Gogo inflight internet. The international version has United’s own Panasonic wi-fi, which is confusing.Always a welcome sign when boarding (Chris McGinnis)On this United flight, I forgot to follow my own advice about buying a $16 Gogo day pass to redeem once I got on board. That mistake ended up costing me $40 to get wi-fi on this five hour flight. If you don’t know about the $16 pre-pay option, read this TravelSkills post, How to Save $$ on inflight wi-fi!United B757-200 with 24 BusinessFirst seats- mine was 1E United p.s. BusinessFirst seats 1E & 1F (Chris McGinnis)Business first seats are big, wide. comfortable and clean with oversize video screens, and lie-flat functionality. I really like this seat, and to me its only fault is the awkward over-the-shoulder position of the power outlets. For those who want to sleep, flight attendants provide duvets, big fluffy pillows and eye masks.United breakfast menu for p.s. BusinessFirst cabin (Chris McGinnis)On the SFO>EWR flight, passengers chose from a printed menu. On the return EWR>SFO, no menus were provided.Hot towel service before meals (Chris McGinnis) Coffee, juice and mimosas on this early morning flight (Chris McGinnis) Map showing trip progress from SFO to EWR (Chris McGinnis)One of the best things about United’s BusinessFirst is the huge inflight entertainment screen and a broad range of good movies and TV shows to watch. Its colorful moving map is my primary entertainment option. I can watch it for hours 🙂The shiniest lav bowl ever on this United 757 (Chris McGinnis)In my experience, a quick trip to the lavatory always provides a glimpse into how an airline is run. In this case, I was greeted with the shiniest lav bowl I’ve ever seen. I asked a United PR contact if shiny lav bowls are a new “little thing” designed to surprise and delight customers. He was not sure. But I have to say I was pretty  impressed! Have you ever seen one this shiny? I could not help but snap a photo!New Cowshed inflight potions and lotions in business first lavatories (Chris McGinnis) The forward BusinessFirst cabin on United p.s. 757 (Chris McGinnis) Economy class on United p.s. 757 (Chris McGinnis) SkyMall is back- now part of United Hemispheres magazine (Chris McGinnis)Flipping through Hemispheres, I found that SkyMall is back! And now an insert at the back of the magazine.SkyMall is a special section in the back of Hemisheres mag (Chris McGinnis) Breakfast starters on United p.s. BusinessFirst (Chris McGinnis)Meal service started somewhere over Utah with fruit and yogurt. Not pictured are hot biscuits and jam or cinnamon rolls offered from a basket.Rustic quiche, sausage and potatoes on United p.s. (Chris McGinnis)I chose the rustic quiche for my main. As with most United business class meals I’ve had recently, it was very good, well-portioned and satisfying.Waffles with blueberries and whipped cream and ham on United p.s. SFO-EWR (Chris McGinnis)My seatmate ordered the waffles and allowed me to take a photo of his plate. (I’m sure the guy thought I was a freak since I was taking photos of everything…everything… on this flight.)Screenshot of Gogo sign on page (Chris McGinnis)As stated above, I forgot to pre-purchase a Gogo all day pass before we took off. What’s irritating here is that I was only provided with two pricing options. We were already two hours into the flight when I fired up the laptop, so I felt ripped off paying $40. I felt equally ripped when asked to pay $11 for a half hour. What happened to the option to buy just one hour? Who knows. In any case, the connection was nice and fast, so I can’t complain too much.Hot cookies on United p.s. SFO EWR (Chris McGinnis)A nice final touch to a very easy flight: Hot chocolate chip cookies that filled the plane with an amazing aroma. But that’s too much sugar for me, so I had to pass. A savory end-of-flight snack option would be a nice addition.United Global Services agents greet GS member as they get off the plane (Chris McGinnis)Remember how I said I was set up as a Global Services member for this flight? When I got off the plane at Terminal C in Newark, this agent was there to greet me and ask if I needed any assistance with bags or transportation or directions. I asked her how to get to the AirTrain and connect to the train to Manhattan/Penn Station. She provided concise and easy directions, and I was on my way with carryon wheeled bag and briefcase in tow.New dining and retail outlets under construction in EWR Terminal C (Chris McGinnis)United’s Terminal C at Newark is still a big construction zone, with the center of many corridors walled off to accommodate work on new dining and retail options which will soon open in areas once inhabited by moving sidewalks. (Stay tuned to TravelSkills for Part 2 of this Trip Report– we’ll take an in depth look at United’s facilities at EWR Terminal C)Newark’s intra-terminal rail system is called AirTrain (Chris McGinnis)The first step toward Manhattan is getting on the intra-terminal AirTrain for a slow ride over to the NJ Transit station to catch a train to Penn Station on 34th Street in Manhattan near Madison Square Garden. Train fare from Newark Airport to Penn Station is $12 each way, and you buy tickets from kiosks in the station.Inside a car on Newark’s AirTrain system (Chris McGinnis)Thankfully, United’s Terminal C is the last airport stop as the AirTran makes its way to the car rental center and finally, the Newark International Airport station where you change trains for the trip to Manhattan. (It’s quite a long ride to the station if you arrive at United’s Terminal A.)New Jersey Transit trains take passengers from Newark Airport to Penn Station in Manhattan (Chris McGinnis)While the journey from EWR Terminal C to Penn Station required a lot of walking, stairs, turnstiles and elevators, it was relatively painless and seemed much faster than the traffic clogged arrivals I’ve experienced when taking Uber from JFK. (I’ve yet to try the train option from JFK.)My flight from SFO arrived EWR at 4 p.m. on a rainy Thursday and I was in Manhattan’s Penn Station by 5 pm. That’s fast, considering it was rush hour…and raining. That rain messed with arrival at my final destination: the Parker Meridien hotel on 56th Street in midtown.When came up out of the station at 34th Street, getting a cab in the rain was impossible, so it was back down to the subway, then a wait in line to buy a fare card, then another wait in line for a train during rush hour, a packed ride to 59th St, and then a wet walk to the hotel. So total time from plane door to hotel room door ended up at about two hours.My return trip to EWR was much better. I got up on a sunny Saturday morning, grabbed an Uber to the airport, and made amazing time: From hotel curb on 56th Street to EWR United Club front door in just 35 minutes!Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Trip Report for a look at my ride from Manhattan to Newark, my United Club experience and the flight on United’s other version of p.s. on the EWR-SFO leg.–Chris McGinnisDisclosure: United covered the cost of Chris’s BusinessFirst flight to EWR; TravelSkills covered transfers, inflight wi-fi, hotels and meals on the two-day trip.NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: World’s largest passenger plane + Get on earlier flight without paying fee + New overseas plan from Verizon + Avoid surge pricingDo you follow us on Twitter? It’s a great way to keep up with the latest news!Please join the 100,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!Filed Under: Airlines, Airports, SFO, Trip Reports Tagged With: 757, 757-200, AirTran, businessfirst, Newark, P.S., San francisco, UnitedOctober 25, 2015 Starting today, you’ll fly like this on United p.s. to/from Newark, not JFK (Chris McGinnis)TravelSkills’ 10 most popular posts over the last week (descending order):1 Shorter lines, please! Global Entry gets more global2 Difficult times: United CEO drama continues3 Airline updates: More Aer Lingus + JetBlue’s Caribbean outreach + AA drops a route + United shuffles fleet4 Know your benefits: Best/worst hotel programs for rewards5 Once you lie flat, you never go back 🙂  Hawaiian Airlines goes flat6 This is rank: New York City’s rankest hotels7 With flying colors: American Airlines passes big merger test8 Sometimes we wonder: Is business travel worth it?9 Growing apart: Delta-Alaska Airlines ‘partnership’ getting colder10 Deal alert: British Airways 2-day biz class sale (expired)Big switcheroo: United moves all p.s. flights to Newark this weekend. Here’s why we think it makes sense. But not everyone agrees with us 🙂 See comments. Funny that United is not making any noise about this move at all…we’d expect fanfare, but nope. Thoughts?Can you guess where I grabbed this snap of a lovely airport day bed? Stay tuned!A few newsy nuggets from other sources that we missed on TravelSkills this week:Avis adds a number of new 2016 models to its rental fleet.Uber tests streaming live sports to backseat tablets in four cities.American will explore a no-frills fare option next year.Copa suspends status match programStudy finds U.S. cities with highest and lowest rental car rates.Four Seasons moves to free unlimited wi-fiFinally! ATL to get A380 gate at new International Concourse FLove geography? You’ll enjoy this cool quiz… Senegal & Laos stumped meUnited to move to single payment platform for all inflight wi-fi UberX, Lyft are STILL not operating at LAX. Why?Would you fly Jet Purple Airwayz? (We hope not)Double Marriott Rewards points when using MileagePlus credit cardPlans for a second Atlanta airport revealed: One airline interestedWhich airlines are best/worst for paying claims for operational mishaps? NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Global Entry gets more global + New York’s lowest ranked hotels +Best/worst hotel programs for awards + More flat seatsDo you follow us on Twitter? It’s a great way to keep up with the latest news!Please join the 100,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!Filed Under: Airlines, Airports, SFO, Weekend Edition Tagged With: Aer Lingus, business travel, CEO, Delta, Newark, P.S., UnitedOctober 14, 2015 United’s new flat-iron steak entree . (Image: United)In the latest refresh of its food service, United is introducing new menu options on North and Latin American flights in all classes of service.The changes start October 25 on Premium Service p.s. transcontinental flights, which on that date will begin operating out of United’s Newark hub, moving there from New York JFK.Premium cabin  customers on those flights will see new lunch and dinner offerings with appetizers like roasted duck with stone-ground mustard and figs, or peppered goat cheese with pumpernickel bread; new salads like granny smith apple with shaved fennel and beets, or butternut squash with haricots verts, pumpkin seeds, bleu cheese, cranberries and pickled onions. New entrees include flat-iron steak with broccolini, gigande beans and red chimichurri; duck confit ravioli, mushroom ragout, semi-dried tomatoes and sauteed asparagus; and lamb shoulder with sauteed gnocchi, eggplant confit and lamb jus. And desserts will still include made-to-order sundaes and cookies baked on board. New Napa salad with salmon. (Image: United)On November 1, United will bring changes to lunch and dinner service in United First and United Business cabins. For one thing, lunch service will be expanded to flights longer than three hours that depart between 1:30 p.m. and 3:59 p.m. Options include Napa salad with grilled salmon, goat cheese and fig; and an arugula salad with Milanese-style chicken. Late-night flights between Hawaii and Houston, Chicago, Newark and Washington will get full dinner service with new entrees like hoisin short ribs with wasabi grits and stir-fried vegetables.Sandwiches like a pretzel burger with bleu cheese dressing, arugula and pickled onions will be offered after takeoff on late-night, non-p.s. transcon flights; flights between Hawaii and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver; and other late-night flights of at least five hours and 20 minutes.For sale soon in economy: Southwestern bistro scramble. (Image: United)November 1 is also the date for changes to the food-for-purchase selections in United’s economy class Choice Menu Bistro, for flights of more than three and a half hours that depart before 8 p.m. A new breakfast selection is a Southwestern bistro scramble; new lunch/dinner options include a rustic Italian sandwich and a French country-style bowl with slow-cooked beef, roasted carrots, onions, parsnips and white rice.Do you think United’s food offerings have improved lately? What’s your favorite United dish? Please leave your comments below. NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: New Two brand new United Clubs + Jennifer Aniston needs a shower + Best Megahub? + Big Hilton/SkyMiles bonus Do you follow us on Twitter? It’s a great way to keep up with the latest news!Please join the 100,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!  Filed Under: Airlines, SFO Tagged With: first class, food service, in-flight, menus, P.S., UnitedNovember 21, 2013 [pb_slideshow group=”8″]Over the last year, United has been busy renovating the interior of its workhorse B757 p.s. fleet deployed on the busy SFO-JFK run.As we approach the end of the year, United tells TravelSkills that the revamp is nearly complete: Currently 14 of its 15 p.s. configured aircraft flying between SFO, LAX and New York JFK now have the new interiors. The remaining aircraft will get its facelift “soon” according to United.I recently flew on a newly configured flight between SFO and New York JFK in business class, but scrambled all over the plane with my camera– see the slideshow above for all my photos, and below for select photos.There are 28 of these true lie flat business class seats on each ps 757 (SEE SLIDESHOW AT TOP)>The fully refreshed interior offers 28 flat-bed business class seats, replacing the 12 angled lie-flat (first) and 26 recliners (business) in the previous version.Are YOU signed up for TravelSkills? If not, why not? Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail!>The new configuration also features 42 extra-legroom Economy Plus seats (with a roomy 36″ of pitch, up from the 34″ offered in the previous version) and 72 seats in regular economy (31″). In the older aircraft, all economy seats were Economy Plus– this means that coach travelers without status must now pony up cash or miles to get into the roomier seats.Standard economy seats get 9 inch screens and 31 inches of pitch>All economy seats feature United’s latest, greatest seatback entertainment system with big 9 inch screens. Business class screens are humongous at 15.4 inches.Row 20 is not Economy Plus because of that bulkhead and no recline>Unusual: Row 20, the first row in the economy section, is NOT Economy Plus. That’s because the row is located near the emergency exit (no recline) and behind a bulkhead closet, which means tighter legroom.>See a map of the reconfigured plane on SeatGuru.com >There are 7 rows of Economy Plus seats (21-27), and 12 rows of standard economy (Row 20, 28-38)Disappointing that overhead bin space is still quite tight…no change from the older version of p.s.>In addition to new seats, these old 757′s are getting new lavatories, flooring, sidewalls, galleys, closets, which makes it feel like you are on a new plane. However, I was disappointed to see that overhead bin space was not expanded.>The new planes have a newer, faster version of Gogo inflight internet, and 110v power outlets in all seats in business and economy classes. United says that there are no near -term plans to switch the p.s. fleet away from Gogo and over to its new satellite-based wi-fi option found on other aircraft.>Current fares for business class JFK-SFO range from around $2,500 to $4,000.  Economy fares for mid December trips are now at about  $450.>American Airlines says that its brand new Airbus A321 Transcontinental aircraft will be deployed on the SFO-JFK run in March– with lie flat seats. JetBlue’s new “Mint” premium product is due next year, too.Have you flown on a reconfigured p.s. flight yet? What did you think? Please leave your comments below.Are YOU signed up for TravelSkills? If not, why not? Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail!+++Disclosure: I purchased an economy class ticket for my trip to NYC; United upgraded me to business class—Chris McGinnis And just in case you missed it, here’s what else you need to know about Bay Area Travel over the last month:Asia on sale + PreCheck newbies + United wi-fi + Free airport parking + Nancy PelosiVirgin first class sale + Hilton HHonors downgrade + Chase Sapphire w chip + United dumps ExpertFlyerMore A380s + Cathay discounts biz class + SJC courts Asia + Double Elevate pts>Southwest FINALLY joins PreCheck>United to allow handhelds below 10K feet>Travel advice fit for a Queen (Latifah!)>New landing procedure at SFO should help w delays! Hallelujah!>Big, bad United MileagePlus surprise >Virgin’s new Safety Dance***Subscribe to TravelSkills-  via e-mail!Are YOU signed up for TravelSkills- TravelSkills? If not, why not? Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail! Filed Under: Airlines Tagged With: business class, business travelers, P.S., UnitedSeptember 18, 2013 Here’s part 2 of our catch-up on the most important travel news for TravelSkills Readers from the last couple months. We’re sending out a couple installments of TravelSkills this week. ICYMI, here’s Part 1 of this week’s catch up!Here’s the new hipster landing page you’ll see when logging on to SFO FREE WIFIBETTER WIFI AT SFO. Logging on the (thankfully free) wi-fi at SFO became a clutter free experience this summer with an upgrade to a newer, faster network. Instead of a greeting of irritating ads, you can now log on with one click accepting terms and conditions, and boom, you are good to go for up to two hours.  Look for “SFO FREE WIFI.” When the airport is busy, the connections tend to slow down a bit, but hey, you get what you pay for, right?The walls obscuring construction of SFO’s T3 Premium security checkpoint (Chris McGinnis)PREMIUM SECURITY EXPANSION AT SFO. Have you seen boarded up area adjacent to United’s Premium Security entry point (F-3) on the far western side of Terminal 3? Apparently, it’s hiding a significant expansion (six lanes, up from current four) of the frequently clogged security checkpoint, but we’ve not been able to squeeze any more details (such as opening dates) out of SFO yet. Stay tuned.BART OAKLAND CONNECTOR UPDATE. The project to add an elevated spur line from BART’s coliseum station to Oakland Airport is on time and should open this time next year. The 3.2-mile ride should take just eight minutes and while fares have not been finalized, they could range from the current bus shuttle fare of $3 to as high as $8. The San Francisco Business Times reports that the project was initially pegged at just $100 million, but the final tab will be closer to $500 million. Now if we could just get BART to circle the Bay with a stop at San Jose Airport, we’d be world class! Will you be more likely to use Oakland Airport with the addition of the rail link? Please leave your comments below.CHOOSE RENTAL CAR FROM PLANE? Yep. National Car Rental’s Emerald Club members will soon be able to fire up their phones when the plane touches down and using the new National smart phone app, choose among a real time display of available cars by make, model, even color. It’s sort of a virtual version of National’s popular Emerald Aisle where travelers who have reservations for a mid-sized or large car are allowed to choose any car on the lot. The new app will work at airports in Omaha, Richmond and Tulsa starting September 30 and National says it should be working at a total of 25 airports by the end of the year. Check out this video (above) of National’s Rob Connors explaining how it all works.Subscribe to TravelSkills-  via e-mail!(discoverlosangeles.com)NEW LAX TERMINAL OPENS. This week marks the long awaited opening of the new $1.9 billion Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. At 150,000 square feet, it’s half again as large as its dingy predecessor. The new curved-roof terminal we’ve all watched under construction in recent years is bathed in natural light, full of electronic art, mod furnishings, upscale dining and retail, new airline clubs and fantastic views of the tarmac and runways. (Sounds a lot like SFO’s Terminal 2, no?) The terminal is still a work in progress– it won’t be fully opened until 2015. To see more, check out this slideshow from the LA Times.SOUTHWEST NO-SHOW NOW IN EFFECT. On Sept 13, Southwest’s new no-show policy went into effect. Customers who cancel a Wanna Get Away or Ding fare before departure can reuse their funds toward future travel without a change fee as in the past. Customers with other higher priced fully refundable fares either request a refund or hold funds for future travel. HOWEVER, if the ticket is not changed or canceled within 10 minutes of departure (no show), travelers lose the entire value of the ticket.Inside San Diego’s snappy new Terminal 2 West- those wavy lights are actually an art installation (Chris McGinnis)SAN DIEGO MODERNIZES. Terminals at San Diego International’s 60s-vintage Lindberg Field are in dire need of repair or replacement. Flying Virgin America out of SFO’s state-of-the-art Terminal 2 last month and arriving at San Diego’s dingy old Terminal 2 East was a real eye opener. However, peering out from the old, dark eastern side of Terminal 2 I saw something bright and shiny and was pleased to be able to take a walk over to the new western wing of Terminal 2—and the difference was like night and day. In August, United opened a sparkling new 6,000 sq ft United Club in this new space. The United Club features spectacular views of the Point Loma seaside community, balcony lounge seating within the atrium and a centrally located buffet and bar. United is consolidating its operations at SAN, relocating all gates to Terminal 2 West and moving all its ticket counters there. No word yet on when much the much needed refurb of Terminal 1 (Southwest, Alaska) and Terminal 2 East (Virgin, others) will occur.p.s. HALFWAY THERE. United says that it now has reconfigured eight of its 15 p.s. service flights to/from JFK and SFO/LAX. All planes should be completed by the end of this year. Have you flown on the refurbed 757 yet? How was it? Please leave your comments below.Subscribe to TravelSkills-  via e-mail!MORE MONTREAL. Did you know that Air Canada offers nonstops between SFO and Montreal during summer months? Starting this November, the 5.5-hour flight will transition to year-round using an Airbus A319. The Air Canada flight departs SFO at 8:10 am and arrives Montreal at 4:30. On the way back it departs Montreal-Trudeau at 5:35 pm, arriving SFO at 9 pm.  TIP: Air Canada offers some very competitive transatlantic fares from SFO via Montreal… and since it’s a member of Star Alliance you’ll earn MileagePlus points.RENO-TAHOE. When Southwest pulled out of the Oakland-Reno market this year, Allegiant stepped in with fares as low at $40.00 each way on its Friday and Sunday (only) roundtrips. Allegiant also flies from Oakland to Bellingham WA, Eugene OR, Phoenix/Mesa AZ, Provo UT. Note that it only offers flights on certain days of the week—none daily.Fares falling for fall flights to Hawaii!MORE HAWAII. Beginning January 5, 2014, Hawaiian Airlines will offer daily wide-body 767 flights between Oakland and Honolulu, increasing its flights from four times a week. Daily service between Oakland and Kahului, Maui will continue as scheduled. In addition, Hawaiian Airlines will start new annual summer service between Oakland and Līhue, Kauai three times a week, and Oakland and Kona four times a week running from June 14 to August 15, 2014. We have started noticing the decline in Bay-to-Hawaii fares that comes during fall months… below $500 in some cases. When you seen anything near $300 roundtrip, you know you have a deal so grab that!.MORE ONTARIO. United is adding a fifth daily flight between SFO and Ontario (ONT) starting December 19th using a CRJ-200.ICYMI, here’s Part 1 of this week’s BAT news catch up!Like what you are reading? Then please PLEASE forward this link to at least three frequent travelers and tell them to sign up for the Bay Area Traveler! THANKS!—Chris McGinnis***Subscribe to TravelSkills-  via e-mail!Are YOU signed up for TravelSkills- TravelSkills? If not, why not? Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail!Filed Under: Airlines, Airports, Deals, Ground, Trends Tagged With: Hawaii, LAX, P.S., SFO, southwest, UnitedJuly 30, 2013 Sorry for the recent lag in updates! Let’s catch up on Bay Area Travel (BAT!) news right now! Due to the info overload, I’ve split this post into two parts… Part One today, Part Two arrives tomorrow!United has deployed two silver Mercedes at Houston IAH to shuttle arriving passengers. (Photo: United)UNITED PERKS INCLUDE MERCS. If you have Global Services status or fly in first class to or through Houston, United might pick you up in a new Mercedes sedan at the jet bridge when you land and then drive you to your next flight. The new service is similar to what Lufthansa offers first class passengers at its super elite first class terminal in Frankfurt. It’s also very similar to the Porsche rides Delta has been surprising its super elite with at Atlanta airport. Currently United is using silver S or GL class models “to surprise and delight our top customers who may be anxious about missing a connecting flight.” Right now it’s only in Houston, but United is saying that it could add it at “another United hub” in the future. Have you received this rock star treatment yet? What do you think? Please leave your comments below.Here’s my view of the Asiana 214 crash as I flew in from Atlanta on a Delta 767 on July 11. What a sight! (Chris McGinnis)ASIANA AFTERMATH. Asiana will re-number its daily flight between Seoul and SFO in light of the recent crash. What was Asiana flight 214 will become Asiana flight 212 from Seoul and flight 211 for the return SFO-Seoul flight according to the AirlineRoute.net website. It also reports that United has quietly canceled its code share agreement with Asiana on this route only due to the ongoing investigation of the accident. United has its own 747 deployed on the SFO-ICN route every day. In similar news, in light of the Asiana accident, the FAA will no longer allow foreign carriers to touch down side-by-side with other airlines as they sometimes do on clear days at SFO. Domestic carriers will still be able to touch down in tandem.IPAD OR KINDLE IN FLIGHT? Remember hearing that the FAA was convening a passel of experts to determine if it was okay for us to use our iPads or Kindles during take off, landing and taxi? The group was to have made their recommendations this week. But they didn’t. They’ve asked for an extension on a decision until Sept. 30. Bah!RelayRides come-on to SFO travelers– avoid airport parking fees, get a free car wash.ARRESTING DRIVERS AT SFO.  NBC Bay Area reports: “In the past month, San Francisco International Airport officials have been citing and arresting drivers from mobile-app enabled rideshare companies that pick up and drop off passengers. Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said there have been seven citizen arrests issued to various offenders since July 10.  The airport had issued cease and desist letters to several rideshare companies, including Lyft, Sidecar and Uber, in April. Since then, Yakel said airport officials, in conjunction with airport police, had been ‘admonishing’ drivers that came to the airport. Yakel said the companies are not permitted to offer their services at SFO and they are now being arrested for unlawful trespassing.” While the situation sounds increasingly bellicose, yet another company, Relay Rides has opened up shop down by the airport. Relay Rides (with services similar to FlightCar) is hoping to get around airport rules by operating out of the Aloft SFO airport hotel parking lots and having its customers use existing hotel shuttles to get to/from the airport. An SFO spokesperson told TravelSkills: “Relay Rides contacted us to request the information to get permitted to operate with SFO. They’re not permitted yet, but we have provided the information to them.” What do you think? Is it fair to let this new and disruptive breed of “sharing” services operate without paying its dues at the airport? Would you consider renting out your car parked at SFO to avoid $18/day parking fees? Please leave your comments below. VIRGIN AMERICA ALTERS UPGRADE FEES. Upgrades to Virgin’s Main Cabin Select up to 24 hours before flight time now range from $39 (short haul west coast flights) to $159 (transcons). Upgrade fees to first from Main Cabin Select are up significantly– now $50 to $240, up from the previous $39 to $169. Upgrades from standard coach to first class are now $89 to $299. While higher fees and fares are painful for travelers, they could spell salvation for our hometown carrier, which has struggled to post profits in its five years of existence. Stay tuned for Virgin’s financial reporting for summer quarter due out next week.PS FLIGHTS SFO-JFK UPDATE. United’s new TV spot for transcon p.s. flights seems a tad early considering there are only four of 15 refurbished p.s. flights flying between SFO, New York and LAX. It’s tough to tell, but I’m hearing that LAX is seeing more refurbished planes than SFO. Have you been on one? Thoughts or observations?  United’s 757-200 refurbished– the one to look for when booking SFO-JFK in biz classHOW TO BOOK A REFURBISHED 757? How to tell if the plane/flight you are booking is refurbished?  Go to united.com to book a flight. Before selecting a flight, click on the “View Seats” link and look for the 757 that has 28 business class seats. Keep in mind that United reserves the right to swap around planes, so you may not always get what you think.JETBLUE SUITES TO JFK? As the battle for the premium transcon passenger heats up, JetBlue is apparently considering adding four enclosed “mini-suites” on its transcon A321 aircraft. While JetBlue remains hush-hush on the topic, the blogosphere lit up last month when plans for the plush new seats were uncovered in a filing with the FAA and revealed by the APEX Editors Blog.Are YOU signed up for TravelSkills- TravelSkills? If not, why not? Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail!ALASKA AIR FEES UP. Starting October 30, the fee to change an Alaska Air ticket within 60 days of departure will cost $125, up from $75. Gold or 75K MVP members will continue to have the fee waived. Checked bag fees on Alaska are now $25 each for the first or second bag, and a steep $75 for the third. Elite level members of Mileage Plan, Delta SkyMiles and American AAdvantage get can check two bags for free.The world’s first “edgy” hotel: Radisson Blu Royal hotel in Copenhagen (Chris McGinnis)COPENHAGEN ON BIZ? Remember when I wrote a trip report about my flight to Copenhagen on the SAS inaugural SFO-CPH run last spring? Here’s part of the result of that trip, my BBC Business Trip: Copenhagen story. I think the Danish city might be one of the best in the world for business travelers. Check out the story (and slideshow!) and see if you agree.MORE CLEAR. Clear expedited security lines will open this fall at Houston’s Intercontinental and Hobby airports. The service also recently opened at San Antonio. Clear operates at every entry point at SFO. Do you use Clear? What do you think? How does it compare to PreCheck? Please leave your comments below.SILVERCAR RENTALS FOR FREE? Silvercar, the new rental car company with a fleet of silver Audi A4s (only) is giving away two free rental days in Dallas or Austin between now and August 15. Catch: you must fly Virgin America by Aug 15 and book by tomorrow, July 31! Details here.SINGAPORE AIR OVERHAUL. Singapore Airlines will overhaul eight of its Boeing 777-300ER jets starting this September. Those nice wide sofa-like biz class seats will get new 18-inch inflight entertainment screens and more stowage space. Best of all, the planes will get the newest version of Singapore’s excellent Krisworld in-flight entertainment, which will feature touch screen hand controllers. Economy class passengers will have access to the same content (1000+ movies, programs) on larger seatback screens. Plus, economy class seats get a revamp adding an extra inch of knee room and more cushioning. CNN asks if it could be the “world’s best economy class.” However, there is no firm date set for the arrival of Singapore’s overhauled 777s at SFO. Stay tuned.—Chris McGinnis***Are YOU signed up for TravelSkills- TravelSkills? If not, why not? Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail!Filed Under: Airlines, Airports, Ground, Hotels Tagged With: Alaska, CLEAR, Copenhagen, P.S., Relay Rides, SFO, Singapore Airlines, United, VirginApril 4, 2013 United’s new p.s business class seats on the SFO-JFK run. (Photo: United Airlines)Do you jump on United Airlines p.s. service flights to New York much? If so, take a look at this document produced by United that clearly spells out how it plans to make the transition from the current “old” p.s. service to the “new” p.s. service that debuted last month (covered by TravelSkills– right here.)Some highlights and new information from the document:>Prepare for “a mix of aircraft configurations” on the SFO-JFK route as aircraft are taken out of service for their revamps– these can include: two-class internationally configured 757, three-class “old p.s.” 757, or “new p.s.” two-class 757. For a while it is going to be tough to determine exactly which aircraft you’ll get (even on United’s website) until a few days before each flight.>The transition will last through the end of this year, at which time all 13 Boeing 757 aircraft with new p.s. will be in service.>New configuration will have a newer, faster version of Gogo inflight internet, and 110v power outlets in all seats (no adapter required).Are YOU signed up for TravelSkills? If not, why not? Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail!>In addition to new seats, these old 757’s are getting new lavatories, flooring, sidewalls, galleys, closets.>Starting June 6, all flights will operate as 2-class cabins (business and economy), even if you fly on an “old p.s.” plane. Former United First seats in rows 1-3 of non-reconfigured aircraft will be sold as United Business.>Who gets those first class seats at a business class price? The doc below says, “Seats will be available for advance assignment for the following Mileage Plus Premier members, confirmed in United Business: Global services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, Premier Gold at any time after booking.” Premier Silver members can ask for one at time of check in.Here’s a PDF of the United document:UnitedAirlinesNewPSclassHave you flown on a newly configured p.s. 757 yet? How was it? If not, what do you think about the new configuration? How will it compare to Virgin, Delta, JetBlue and American? Which one do you prefer on the SFO-JFK run? Please leave your comments below. —Chris McGinnis***Are YOU signed up for TravelSkills? If not, why not? Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail!Filed Under: Airlines Tagged With: 757, business class, first class, JFK, New York, P.S., PS, San francisco, SF, SFO, UnitedMarch 3, 2013 Big seat with a big smile from London to SFO in United Business Class last summer (Photo: Chris McGinnis)LIE-FLAT SEATS ON UAL. United said this week that 87% of its international fleet now has true lie-flat business class seating, and it should reach 100% lie-flat seats by the end of March—beating out competitors in the race to all-flat biz class. Hooray for that! I think United’s new business class seats are some of the best out there—comfortable, roomy, excellent entertainment, plenty of room (and power) to get work done. What do you think?IMPROVING ON-TIME PERFORMANCE. After a year of performance issues, United says that it’s improving, especially here by the Bay. As a matter of fact, employees received $100 bonuses when more than 80% of United flights (domestic and international) clocked in on time during February. Among United hubs, Cleveland performed best during February at 87%. SFO came in second at 83%. (So do you credit United… or Mother Nature? In February, we enjoyed record dry, non-foggy conditions in Northern California.)New configuration for United P.S. 757’s between SFO and JFK.NEW PS FLIGHTS COMING TO SFO-JFK. After many fits and starts, it now seems that United’s newly configured PS flights may take off from SFO starting in June (at least according to the UAL website—PR is not committing to a date yet). The newly configured 757s will have 28 lie flat business class seats, 48 Economy Plus seats and 66 standard coach seats. The currently shabby-yet-comfortable P.S. 757 fleet offers only Economy Plus seats, which will be a big loss for non-Elite level flyers who’ve enjoyed the extra space at no extra cost.DOUBLE POINTS ON SOUTHWEST. Sign up for Southwest’s double-tier-qualifying points promo and you’ll get 12 points (vs just six) on its cheapest fares, 20 points on its standard “anytime” fares and 24 points on business select fares. The promo is good for flights all the way through May 15! This is a no brainer, so get registered now.SAS Airbus A340 (Drewski2112)SAS COMING TO SFO. Scandinavian Star Alliance partner SAS kicks off new nonstops between SFO and its main hub at Copenhagen on April 8. The 11-hour-20-minute flight using an Airbus A340 will depart SFO six days a week (not on Tuesdays). It offers angled lie-flat biz class, premium economy and standard economy seats (see map). Current coach fares are as low as $813 round trip in April. To celebrate the arrival of a new carrier, San Francisco International is sponsoring a free ticket sweepstakes on Facebook. Have you flown SAS lately? How was it? Please leave your comments below. Amex “black” card.NEW AMEX “CENTURION” LOUNGE AT LAS. American Express told TravelSkills that it is “experimenting” with a new airport lounge concept for its super-spendy “black card” or Centurion cardmembers at Las Vegas McCarran Airport. The new Centurion Lounge is located in next to gate D4 in Concourse D (the one that floats between Terminals 1 and 3) used primarily by United, Delta and American. AMEX says that lounge guests enjoy dishes prepared by a celeb chef (like: polenta waffles with pumpkin compote,  or roast chicken with baby potatoes, shallots, and rosemary) and specialty cocktails prepared by a “mixologist.” Guests also enjoy free wi-fi and shower suites. While Centurion cardholders get in for free, any AMEX cardholder can pay a $50 fee to enter. Pay-to-play lounges are becoming de rigueur at McCarran—for example, if you are flying Virgin America (in the new Terminal 3) you can use Club at LAS for a daily fee of just $35. There’s also a Club at LAS in Terminal D.  Which one will you pick?AIRPORT LOUNGES AT SFO. Speaking of posh lounges, have you been inside the new Emirates or Cathay Pacific lounges at SFO? Your BAT editor Chris McGinnis recently convinced CNN to come out to SFO for an interview and a look inside. Take a watch! TravelSkills on CNN! How about that? See below!PLEASE, RECRUIT YOUR FRIENDS. If you like TravelSkills, would you please tell your friends and colleagues about it? The ONLY way we grow is via word of mouth from happy readers. Like every online publication, we need more eyeballs and appreciate your support.  Here’s something you can copy and paste into an email TODAY!Have you ever heard about TravelSkills—TravelSkills– for frequent travelers? It’s a free local travel blog that I subscribe to. It’s full of helpful news and advice for frequent travelers who live in the Bay Area…just like us. For example, I first learned that PreCheck was coming to SFO, or that Virgin America was matching United Premier status from TravelSkills. I think it’s definitely something you could use. See “Subscribe” in the upper right margin of the blog, or just sign up right here. Thanks! ADD: *Your signature*TSA PRECHECK EXPANDS: If you love PreCheck at Terminals 2 and 3 at SFO, you’ll be pleased to know that you can leave your shoes on when passing through security in five more airports: Austin, Memphis, Nashville and Raleigh-Durham. PreCheck is now available at 40 US airports—however, it’s not in every terminal, and it’s still a random selection—you cannot count on getting it.  What’s been your batting average with PreCheck? Please leave your comments below.–Chris McGinnisFiled Under: Airlines, Airports, Deals Tagged With: 757, business class, Centurion, CNN, Copenhagen, LAS, Las Vegas, P.S., PS, SAS, SFO, southwest, Unitedemail: chris@travelskills.comClick here to get $10 off your first Lyft ride! Click to get $20 off your first ride! Copyright © 2017 Travel Skills Group, Inc. - Privacy Policy





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