inFLIGHTout (the daily blog) served the needs of Bay Area travelers from 2006-2010. The site remains up to provide a comprehensive listing of travel tools and resources. Please continue to follow me on Twitter. Happy and safe travels. -Mike
Monday, December 31, 2007
Thanks to all for your ongoing support and feedback.
From Travelpod comes a fun little IQ challenge for travelers, or anyone who thinks they're a geography smartie pants. This is the same application seen on Facebook and other related sites. Have fun! Traveler IQ Challenge
Behavior detection officers are on active duty at dozens of airports throughout the U.S according to SeattlePI; they're looking for unusual behaviors, facial expressions or questionable emotions and reactions during brief interactions with passengers during the standard screening process.
Screening Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT) was designed by the TSA to stop terrorist activity. Carl Maccario who helped design the program said, "We're looking for behavior indicators that show a certain level of stress, fear or anxiety above and beyond that shown by an anxious member of the traveling public."
Since January 06' the program has identified 70,000 people for the secondary screening, and made 600-700 arrests for a variety of charges.
According to the Chicago Tribune, United has canceled over 600 flights in the past 3 days due to weather and staffing problems; this has left thousands of people delayed or stranded throughout the country. Initially caused by the severe winter weather across the Midwest, a backlog of delays and cancellations resulted in flight crews being unable to report to other scheduled flights on time. While other airlines have been impacted this week, none to the degree of United's problems.
The outdated, empty, and unused Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport will soon get some much needed tender loving care.
Formerly known as the old International Terminal, Terminal 2 has been closed since 2000, which is when the impressive and grand International Terminal debuted. Then with the drop in air travel around and after 9/11, considerations for reopening the terminal seemed pointless.
Now, business at SFO is up, but available space is not. International travel is up 8% year-to-date versus last year, and domestic up 2%. The airport simply needs more gates than currently available.
So, Airport commissioners voted last week to solicit bids for contractors for the renovation of the terminal. Once the bidding and design process are completed, it will take about 30 months of constructions before flights would begin again from Terminal 2. 14 new gates are expected once the renovation is finished.
The time of giving is upon us, and frequent-flier miles make a perfect gift. Perhaps you have too few miles for a free ticket? Consider donating your miles to charity. Or, if you tend to donate to charity already, you can earn miles for your generosity. From the Daily Mitzvah is a listing of many airlines offering this miles & charity exchange. Happy giving and/or receiving.
As reported earlier this week on INflightOUT, American Airlines, following the lead of other airlines, began requiring timely activity to member frequent-flier accounts. Failure to comply means fliers risk loosing everything they accrued in their pot-0-miles.
Airlines no longer want to keep "old" miles on the books. If you flew to Europe in 1999 and earned no other frequent-flier miles in your account since, the airline wants to drop your account off its books. Those unredeemed frequent-flier miles represent a debt to the airline, much like an undeposited check. The miles and check both go "stale" after a while.
"Stale" miles equate to zero value nowadays. Depending on the airline, miles are forfeited for inactivity of 12-36 months. Don't let the miles go stale!
Any qualifying activity usually keeps those miles fresh. Back in the day, airlines required you to FLY to earn frequent-flier miles - ha, long-passed are those days. Today, you don't even have to visit an airport to earn airline miles. For example, you can earn miles for grocery shopping, video rentals, dry-cleaning, credit cards, school tuition, and car rentals, to name a few. Visit your airline's frequent-flier page, then click on the section detailing how to earn miles from other than flying.
Purchase a $100 Southwest Airlines gift card (for friends, family, or...yourself) and earn 1 Rapid Reward Credit to your account. Limit $500/5 credits. This promotion is great for folks just a few credits shy of a free ticket. Must use your Southwest Airlines credit card and purchase by December 31st to qualify for this offer. T&C and details here.
(Thanks JR) From Liveleak.com comes this hidden camera story about how some Hotels aren't cleaning the drinking glasses in rooms, cleaning them with glass cleaner, or using gloves they used to cleaned the toilet with! The suspects in this video: 1 Sheraton Suites property, a Embassy Suites, and a Holiday Inn. Lesson learned: Do some cleaning of your hotel room after housekeeping leaves.
Effective today, American Airlines AAdvantage accounts must have a qualifying activity at least every 18 months, otherwise the miles will cease to exist.From the AA website: "AAdvantage members now must have mileage earning or redemption activity once every eighteen (18) months in order to remain active and retain their miles. Effective December 15, 2007, mileage balances will expire from AAdvantage accounts that have not had miles either earned or redeemed within the previous eighteen (18) month period. If the last activity in your AAdvantage account was prior to June 15, 2006, all miles subject to expiration will expire on December 15, 2007."
Continental Airlines began testing of paperless boarding passes last week at Houston Airport. If all goes well, you'll be paperless for an upcoming flight as well. How does this technology work? Passengers can use cellular phones or PDA’s as boarding passes using encrypted bar codes. It cuts out all of the needless paper usage AND in totally in sync with the way technology is developing today. The barcodes are received by the passenger as an SMS text message. Passengers will receive their boarding passes electronically, then present the barcode to be scanned by the TSA at the security checkpoint. The idea is to provide additional security, as the barcodes are not as easily reproduced as counterfeit boarding passes. Read the rest of the story at BusinessTravelLogue
Virgin America announced today that flights will commence from San Francisco to Seattle beginning March 18, 2008. This will mark the 7th city Virgin America provides air service, including San Diego which begins in February. 3 daily departures are currently scheduled.
Do you have money owed to you? A settlement has been reached and court certified, in a class-action lawsuit certain to make International Travelers of the past 10 years at least $25 bucks richer.
Plaintiff's allege major credit card companies such as Visa, MasterCard and Diners club employed shady tactics for disclosing (or rather hiding) fees customers would be charged for using their credit card overseas.
Customers who used a qualifying card Internationally between February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006 are eligible. 3 options are given for collecting, with the most basic being to accept a $25.00 payment, and the most generous up to 3% of estimated annual foreign transactions.
Lonely Planet 40% off coupon code + free shipping. What a deal! Lonely Planet offers high quality, in-depth information about destinations around the globe. Visit Lonely Planet thruthis link: Coupon Code: LP40. Expires December 19th. Hint: They are giving away a free bag with most orders, you need to change the quantity of that bag to "0" at checkout, then the 40% discount + free shipping is activated. (or you can keep the bag and pay full price for the books). Stock up goodies for next year's vacation!
Need some travel ideas? Winter and Spring 08' Airfare Deals available now from United & Lufthansa Airlines All fares verified to be $500 or less, roundtrip, taxes included. Travel thru most of March 08' San Francisco - Madrid, Cologne, Basel, Berlin, Barcelona, Geneva, Zurich, Manchester, Frankfurt. Visit: http://www.travelocity.com/ or www.farecompare.com
Megabus, the discount bus line, is offering 100,000 free trips to "promote public transportation as a way of curbing carbon emissions." The trips must be taken between Jan. 16 and March 11. There is a .50 cent ticketing fee per reservation. Use Promotion Code: WIN2008 at http://www.megabus.com/
For example, on a red-eye ride, you leave SF Cal-Train Station 1130pm (Megabus pickup point) and arrive L.A Union Station at 615am.
Might be an interesting alternative to a flight down to LAX
By Don Teague, NBC News Correspondent I sat straight up in bed, unsure why, but knowing deep down something was terribly wrong. "Why am I awake?" I thought to myself. I looked at the clock: 3:10 a.m. The sudden movement woke my wife. "What are you doing?" she asked." I heard something," I said. Before she could ask what, we both heard it again. DING-DONG. Read the rest of the rude awakening here.
The race for Wi-Fi on board a U.S based airline is really heating up. Many airlines have talked about it, some even seriously. But JetBlue plans to test it live on December 11th. On a JFK-San Francisco route, 1 aircraft will be configured with BetaBlue, a wireless system allowing passengers to text and email messages with their own Wi-Fi enabled devices. The service will reportably be free.
This test run is expected to last several months and will not be available on most aircraft during the testing phase.
Free travel book for Rick Steves fans: "Followers of Rick Steves, whose guides to Europe are packed in many a bag of globe-trotting Americans, will like this offer. Rick is giving away free copies of his 63-page, summer 2007 personal European travel journal. It's an inside look at where he goes, how he travels and what he's thinking as he trots from Rome, to Spain, to Croatia, among other places.
Included are memorable hotel stays, including one at a former convent in Florence. The Loggiato dei Serviti sounds Old-World wonderful. Beamed ceilings, parquet floors, heavy curtains with tasseled sashes, views over an ancient square. In winter, you can book a double for about $140, which is a very good price in these days of the doleful dollar. To request a copy of Rick's journal, click here on his Blog Gone Europe blog." (USA Today) Click here
Hardly matching the grand appearance Virgin America flaunted to the people of San Francisco, Southern Sky Airlines will quietly commence flights from Oakland and Sacramento in the next couple months. The charter airline, established by Aviation Advantage, is currently selling tickets from Oakland-Las Vegas ($69/each way) for flights beginning March 11th. Flights direct from Sacramento to PuertoVallarta and Acapulco will be offered as well.
Airlines Cut Costs to Offset Fuel Prices (Associated Press) The airline industry has been laying out plans to offset rising fuel prices and a possible economic slowdown. These plans include halting the expansion of domestic routes, merging of companies, and selling off freqeuntflyer programs. Full Story
According to federal statistics, airplanes are more crowded now than ever before. On average, most U.S flights operate above 80% of capacity; that empty middle seat is more likely than not to be filled. To compare, back in 1990 planes averaged 62% of capacity.
This means more people crowding the boarding gates, cramming in carry-on bags, and elevated stress levels from passengers and airline crew.
With such high aircraft loads, winter storms than cause flight cancellations make it much more difficult to rebook passengers on later flights, further irritating flyers. Read more: Here is a recent story from the Washington Post discussing the cause of higher flight loads, and other affects on travelers; "Less free to move about the cabin."
HOT DEAL! OAK-Munich or Frankfurt $392 RT w/taxes on United Airlines. Connecting service through Denver, Chicago or Washington-Dulles. Fare available through most of March 2008. Frankfurt is a good city to connect to visit other areas of Europe, by air or rail. Fare Basis: SLXSNY1E. Visit travelocity.com
Google Checkout is again offering discounts and frequent flyer miles for making purchases at certain online retailers. Click herefor a listing of participating stores. Some of the coupons give you $5-$50 bucks off your order and/or frequent flyer miles with Alaska, United, Continental, Northwest, Delta and other airlines.