Friday, February 29, 2008

Cigarette Smokers Face $250 fine At Some Hotels

Lighting up at smoke-free properties could result in a $250 hotel-accessed fine.
By Mike Grasso

As reported last week on inFLIGHTout, Sheraton & Four Points Hotels announced a new policy of going smoke free at properties throughout the United States & Canada. The change matches a move previously made by Sheraton and other hotels, and while probably not the intended purpose, aligns with a larger structural effort nationwide to get people to stop smoking. Those who must smoke at smoke-free properties are designated small areas, away from the masses, to do their thing.

But, what if you're non-compliant with hotel policy? Say, you light up on your balcony, enjoy the couple minutes of pure pleasure the cig-stick affords - without incident, then carry on the rest of your day. All seems fine; smoke detector didn't ring, sprinklers didn't flood the room, nobody saw your sinning and deviant act. Until housekeeping arrives...

Turns out, evidence of your smoking may be collected and used against you when it's time to checkout. The Denver Post recently ran a story of a Courtyard by Marriott property slapping a guest with an additional $250 on their bill for cigarette butts found in his hotel room. Walt Disney World Resort Hotels will fine up to $500. Swisshotel in Chicago even awards their housekeepers $10 bucks for each smoker they catch. Think your credit card will save you? A Quality Inn owner from the Mid-west says physical evidence is sometimes needed when upset customers unsuccessfully plea with card issuers to reverse the fees.

So as more hotels swap "designated smoking room" signs with "no smoking," it seems smokers themselves will need to abstain from lighting up, otherwise they'll pay up.

Earn up to 7,500-mile Enrollment Bonus.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

San Francisco to Atlanta $168 roundtrip, tax included

SFO-ATL $168RT w/taxes on Delta Airlines. Available March 10-April 17th, mostly weekday flights. Fare Basis:RGATSJ6I.

Security Breach At San Jose Airport

Breaking News - 9:30AM. A security breach at San Jose Mineta occurred this morning. According to officials, a bullet was found near a passengers seat onboard a United Airlines flight. This has triggered a re-screen of passengers.
inFLIGHTout Travel Tip
Save a few bucks on your next Passport and/or Visa photo. Your neighborhood Costco store offers Passport photos (set of two) for only $4.99. Other companies may charge $10 or more for the photos. Click here for more information and participating Bay Area locations.

inFLIGHTout now part of 'Boarding Area'

Randy Petersen, the founder of FlyerTalk recently created "BoardingArea," a collection of websites and blogs that appeal to business travelers. The concept is simple, but the content is rich. Randy hand-picked writers who have a passion for travel and are committed to helping the fellow traveler with in-depth news and commentary relating to the industry. I'm happy to report I've been included in the line-up. In the coming weeks you will notice some minor site changes, but the address and content will remain the same. In the meantime, head on over to the Boarding Area where you will find my blog and a potpourri of other travel guru's writings.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

U.S Airways to charge for 2nd checked bag

If you think this sounds familiar, you're right!

In a press release Tuesday, U.S Airways announced the introduction of a $25 fee for most passengers checking-in more than one bag. The change takes effect May 5th and is expected to generate $75 million in cost savings (fuel, manual labor) and new revenue to the airline. The fee will not apply to passengers with the highest elite status in the U.S Air Dividend miles program.

Earlier this month United Airlines announced it would begin charging $25 for additional bags as well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Air New Zealand 'Pink Flight' Ready for Takeoff

Air New Zealand's 'Pink Flight' departs San Francisco at 11:30pm heading to Sydney to celebrate the annual Sydney Mardi Gras. Pre-party celebrations are going on at the gate all evening. Here's a picture that was sent to me showing the plane temporarily decorated with pink eyelashes. Have fun everyone!
More on the pink flight

Video from KPIX- San Francisco

U.S Airways Adds Two Transcontinental Routes from Sacramento

Great News for travelers to and from Sacramento!
On Monday U.S Airways announced three new cross country flights beginning this summer. Of these, two are non-stop flights from Sacramento to U.S Air hubs in Philadelphia and Charlotte. This compliments existing service into hubs in Phoenix and Las Vegas, acquired from the America West merger.

“We are thrilled with the addition of these two great cities to our non-stop service here in Sacramento,” said G. Hardy Acree, director of airports for the Sacramento County Airport System. “We have a great working partnership with US Airways and we are confident that our travelers will embrace these two new flight opportunities.”

The new routes begin June 3rd, and will be operated by Airbus 320 aircraft.
Sacramento to Philadelphia - Departs 8:30am, arrives 4:31pm
Sacramento to Charlotte - Departs 10:30pm, arrives 6:10am

Monday, February 25, 2008

Virgin Atlantic makes history flying first bio-fuel plane

Virgin Atlantic Airways made the news yesterday by reportedly flying the world's first airplane to fly on renewable fuel. The Boeing 747 aircraft flew from London's Heathrow Airport to Amsterdam using a biofuel composed of babassu oil and coconut oil. No modifications were made to either the aircraft or its engines to enable the flight to take place.

Commenting just before the flight, Sir Richard Branson, the President of Virgin Atlantic said:
"Today marks a biofuel breakthrough for the whole airline industry. Virgin Atlantic, and its partners, are proving that you can find an alternative to traditional jet fuel and fly a plane on new technology, such as sustainable biofuel. This pioneering flight will enable those of us who are serious about reducing our carbon emissions to go on developing the fuels of the future, fuels which will power our aircraft in the years ahead through sustainable next-generation oils, such as algae."

Story from the Associated Press:

It's important to note that this historic flight however was in fact fueled by 80% conventional fuel and only 20% biofuel. Also, the critics are lined up questioning just how much benefit these fuel alternatives help the planet. Nevertheless, this should be seen as an advancement toward reducing emissions (and saving on the cost of regular jetfuel) and harm to the environment. Let further experiements and research continue. Way to go Virgin Atlantic and partners.

JetBlue announces new San Francisco - Austin flight

'The Live Music Capital of the World' is about to become more accessible to Bay Area travelers.

JetBlue continues to expand its West Coast business; the airline announced it will begin a daily non-stop service from San Francisco to Austin, Texas beginning May 1st. Flights will be operated by their brand-new 100-seat Embraer-190 aircraft. Direct TV, XM Radio, Leather seats and free munchies are complimentary, as with most JetBlue flights.

JetBlue will be competing with United Airlines which currently operates a daily non-stop, and Southwest Airlines, which announced they begin flying a daily non-stop Oakland to Austin on May 10th.

Introductory fares of $99 each way are available for purchase through February 29th by visiting

Airline Disputes cousin's take of in-flight death

NEW YORK - American Airlines on Monday insisted it tried to help a passenger who died after complaining she could not breathe, and disputed the account of a relative who said that she was denied oxygen and that medical devices failed. Click for More from MSNBC & Associated Press

Saturday, February 23, 2008

British Airways & Virgin Atlantic Passenger Refunds

Approximately 5.5 Million people who flew British Airways and Virgin Atlantic may qualify for a refund as part of a class action lawsuit settlement. The lawsuit claims the airlines unlawfully conspired to fix prices for the "fuel surcharge" that was added to base ticket prices. Customers who purchased a roundtrip ticket on either airline between August 11, 2004 and March 23, 2006 are entitled to a refund of the fuel surcharge they paid, approximately $40 U.S dollars.

The airlines are expected to release records of passengers flying during the time period in order to arrange for refunds, but have also set up an official website whereby potential claimants can provide their current contact information:

Friday, February 22, 2008

Storm Watch - Coast to Coast

East Coast: A major winter storm has hit the Northeast, causing more than 1100 flight cancellations through Friday evening. As much as 10 inches of snow has blanketed New York City. The snow is expected to taper off Sunday. More from NewsDay

West Coast: A potent storm will begin affecting the San Francisco Bay Region on Saturday. The National Weather Service has issued alerts for rain and strong, potentially damaging winds throughout the region.

Plan on airport delays & some cancellations throughout the region.

Tune in for more information.

Plane carrying 46 reported missing in Venezuela

08:00 am update: Plane wreckage found, no survivors.
A twin engine commercial airliner which departed from Western Venezuela Thursday has been reported missing. The twin engine ATR-42-300, operated by Santa Barbara airlines which was carrying 43 passengers and 3 crew never made contact with air traffic control after departure. The area where it disappeared was about 400 miles Southwest of Caracas.
More from MSNBC

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Relax Inside Airport Lounges of the World

By Mike Grasso

Airport lounges are typically complimentary to travelers flying in Business or First Class, those who pay an annual club fee of $250-$500, or in some cases being an elite member of an airline. Depending on the airline and location of the lounge, anything from finger foods right on up to full world-class fine dining is offered. Some lounges include made to order drinks, hot showers (great for those long international flights) and full body massage. Probably the biggest benefit though is the escape from the masses of the airport, relaxing in quiet comfortable seating, and soaking up the pampering of services offered.

I've personally visited lounges around the world, and am particularly fond of international airlines' offerings. Malaysia and Singapore Airlines, especially in their home cities, provide top-notch food and amenities to lounge guests.

One of the best kept secrets in the airline industry is using frequent flier miles for business class tickets (often a better deal point-for-dollar than redeeming for a domestic airline ticket) usually scores you complimentary lounge access for the entire trip. So if you're flying from San Francisco to Shanghai, you can treat yourself to lounges in San Francisco, Shanghai and any other connection city.

Be sure to check out Travel and Leisure magazine's, "Most amazing airport lounges from around the world" collection of photo show. Click here to see the show.

Air Canada to increase San Francisco to Montreal service

Beginning this summer, Air Canada will add a second daily non-stop flight from SFO into Montreal. The new red-eye flight will allow passengers easy International connections from its Canada hub. Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance network.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

San Francisco to New York (JFK) $205 RT/taxes included

Northwest Airlines and SkyTeam partners are offering this great deal to NYC.
Pretty decent availability even through the Summer months. Fare Basis: K7RX6N
Visit or (choose "flexible dates" option) or

Read More: Fare Basis Code: Unscramble to reveal the mystery behind your fare

JetBlue adding San Jose to Long Beach flights

JetBlue said Tuesday that as part of expanding operations on the West Coast, it will begin non-stop flights from San Jose to its Long Beach hub. The 3X daily service will begin May 21st.

Departure times are scheduled at 8:55am, 3:40pm and 7:45pm out of San Jose. Introductory prices begin at $39 each way.

Sheraton Hotels going smoke-free by year-end

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and Four Points by Sheraton will ban smoking at more than 300 properties throughout the U.S and Canada.

This policy matches that of Westin Hotels and Resorts which became smoke-free in 2006. Both Westin and Sheraton are owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

Some 8,000 rooms at the hotels will be cleaned, including treatments for air conditioning, walls, rugs, upholstery and hard surfaces.Smoking will also be banned in public areas in the hotels, but there will be a designated outdoor area at each property for guests who smoke.

Both hotel brands expect to be completely free in the U.S and Canada by December 31st.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

San Francisco to Victoria, BC - nonstop, begins in June

United Airlines announced new non-stop service from San Francisco to Victoria, British Columbia beginning June 5th. Operated by a 66-seat CRJ-700 aircraft, the route will host a single daily flight. Customers flying this route will benefit from United's explus service featuring economy-plus seating throughout the cabin and premium onboard amenities. No other airline offers non-stop service from the Bay to Victoria.

See Also: WikiTravel - Victoria, BC

Hot Hot DING fares

It's been a while since we've seen some good Southwest Airlines Ding! fares, but now they're back! You must download the DING! program (free) onto your PC or MAC in order to see DING! fares. Purchase by 3pm Central Time Wednesday, for travel during certain days in March and April. Prices below are one way, before tax. Example fares:

Oakland-Los Angeles or Reno $38
Oakland-Spokane $51
Oakland-Austin $71
Sacramento-Seattle or Spokane $51
Sacramento-Las Vegas $55

More information on DING! can be found here.

U.S Airways toughens Dividend Miles accrual

Beginning May 1, 2008, U.S. Airways will change the company's Dividend Miles program to award the actual number of miles flown rather than a minimum number of miles flown for each segment. The airline said the changes are necessary to offset record fuel prices and rising airline-related expenses.

The present policy of the Dividend Program, and many other airline programs, allows members to receive a minimum 500 miles for each flight segment flown, a benefit for those who travel on short-haul flights under 500 miles in distance. With the changes, passengers will earn only what they fly.

Consider a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles: 337 flight miles rounds up and presently would earn you 500 miles. But, come May 1st you earn just 337 miles. For business travelers who frequent these short distance flights, the shrinkage in miles will definitely be felt.

Here's how the policy will be rolled out:
Accrual Tickets purchased on/after March 1, 2008, for travel on US Airways on/after May 1, 2008 will earn the actual number of miles flown and will no longer earn a minimum of 500 miles per segment. Tickets flown on partner airlines after May 1, 2008, will earn the actual number of miles flown. Tickets purchased prior to March 1, 2008, will continue to earn the 500-mile minimum for travel after May 1, 2008. Accrual on flight segments greater than 500 miles in length are not impacted by this change.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Coming to You Live From the Cockpit

(Wall Street Journal, 2/12/08)

Listening to air-traffic control communications while flying across the country on United Airlines, Hugh Coppen heard the flight's captain receive a warning of turbulence ahead. A seasoned traveler, Mr. Coppen acted quickly before the captain alerted passengers. "I knew to run to the bathroom, because you may not be able to go for the next hour," he said.

Mr. Coppen's inside knowledge came from "Channel 9," the audio feed of communications between the cockpit and air-traffic controllers available on United aircraft. Unique among U.S. airlines, Channel 9 is very popular with aviation buffs and road warriors. United says Channel 9 tends to be the most listened to channel on its entertainment system during takeoffs and landings...but allowing passengers to listen in on the cockpit is controversial....

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Site Update: The inFLIGHTout team will be on vacation the next couple days. It's time for us to take advantage of those travel deals we share with you each week. =) Expect few, if any, updates through Monday. Have a great weekend, and thanks for your continued support.

The "Best of the Best" Travel Credit Cards

Reader mail from Tony:
"Do you have any insight on which credit card on the market is the best for travel redemption in your expertise?"

Thanks for your email Tony. While many reward programs pay 1 point/mile for each dollar you spend, the introductory bonus of each card varies. I've created a handy list (with links) below of my personal favorites, which all offer generous points/miles after initial usage of the card.

A few things to keep in mind:
-Be aware of the Annual Percentage Rate. If you plan on rolling a balance on a credit card, you should consider searching for cards with a low A.P.R. Not all reward cards have this.
-Input your frequent traveler number at the time of the application; adding it after you receive the card is at the very least a hassle.
-Read the terms and conditions of these applications before applying. Read the fine print.

10,000 points with your first purchase, fee free the first year.
-You earn a 1-3 free night stays after first purchase. No blackout dates with Starwood!
-Earn 1 point for most regular purchases, bonuses when staying at Starwood properties.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards SignatureCard from Chase *inflightout recommended*
16 Rapid Rewards Credits after first purchase. $59 annual fee.
-You earn a free round-trip ticket after 1st purchase and payment of annual fee!
-$59 bucks for a free ticket, grreat deal. You also receive free drink certificates when you redeem free flight credits.
10,000 ThankYou points after your first purchase, fee free.
-Redeemable for a $100 gift card, or flight credits.
-Earn 1 point for each dollar spent, and 1 flight point for every three miles flown!
-Applies to flights you purchase for others as well.
25,000 miles after you spend $750 within the first four months of account opening.
-This is enough miles for a free round-trip ticket in the continental U.S. Fee free the first year.
-A great deal if would typically spend this amount of money in a short period of time.
-Earn 1 mile for each dollar spent.
21,000 miles after you spend $250 on the card. Fee free the first year.
-Almost enough for a free round-trip ticket in the lower 48 states.
-Miles can be redeemed on partner airlines. A few other card perks as well.
-Earn 1 point for each dollar spent.
15,000 miles after first purchase, $49 annual fee.
-On Frontier Airlines, 15,000 miles is enough for a free ticket within the U.S & Canada.
-Limited redemption options since San Francisco Airport operations have slimed down, fewer flights available to redeem miles on.
-Earn 1 mile for each purchase dollar spent.
15,000 miles with your first purchase, fee free the first year.
-25,000 miles needed for a free ticket. This is a pretty good offer as well.
-Earn a mile for each dollar spent.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Virgin America takes to the streets of San Francisco

To celebrate Valentines Day and show their love for SF, Virgin America Team will be on the streets of San Francisco Thursday passing out T-shirts and travel discounts. Find them between 1130am-130pm at Union Square, Washington Square Park, Justin Herman Plaza, the Ferry Building, Embarcadero BART Station, Civic Center, and on Market Street at the intersections of Montgomery, 4th, and Castro Streets.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pacific Coast or Baja California Cruise $199+ per person

Sure...sure... you will be tucked away in a 180 square foot windowless room, but you do get complimentary room service down there!

Travelocity is advertising some pretty good cruise deals this week. The 3-night Norwegian Pacific Coast cruise runs roundtrip from L.A to Vancouver, while the 4-night Carnival Baja trip runs roundtrip Long Beach to Catalina to Ensenada. There are some inexpensive Bahamas and Gulf of Mexico cruises to be had as well. Many of these offer a $25 onboard ship credit when using your Mastercard for payment. Still some good sail dates left in late Spring and early Summer. Book soon.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Major airline shakeup brewing

(San Jose Mercury News)
Four major U.S. carriers, including United Airlines, appear closer to consummating deals that would radically remake the airline industry, people close to the airlines say. Chicago-based United is in merger talks with Continental Airlines and is poised to seal its deal if Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines combine first, sources say. The deals could be announced in rapid succession as early as this month, if carriers can resolve a host of issues, ranging from fights over how to share the executive suite to offering concessions to labor. Read More

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Oakland/San Jose - Istanbul, Turkey $533 rt/taxes included

Pretty good deal into Istanbul. Promotional Fare on Northwest Airlines/KLM. Valid thru March. Booking class "V" and available at Flights from Oakland include segments on Alaska Airlines.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

500 Delta SkyMiles for switching to online statements

Delta Airlines is offering 500 bonus SkyMiles for members who switch from paper to online statements. Visit to sign up.

Friday, February 8, 2008

United flight from SF to NY makes emergency landing

A United Airlines Boeing 757 plane made an emergency landing earlier today in Omaha, Nebraska. Cockpit instruments from the San Francisco to New York-bound plane indicated a fire in the cargo hold. No one was hurt, and no fire was found. The 63 passengers on board were rerouted on other planes.

San Francisco - Mexico for $299 round-trip w/tax

Choose from Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Mazatlan, Ixtapa or Cabo.
Fare available for most of 2008 on US Airways & Mexicana Airlines. Visit to see availability

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Northwest, Delta close to joining, source says

(Associated Press)
ATLANTA - Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines are inching closer to a combination that would create the nation's largest carrier, and if a deal is reached it could be announced next week, a person briefed on the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Read more here.

Skybus to leave San Francisco Bay Area

By Mike Grasso
After months of speculation, Skybus has decided to drop some of their longer-haul flights, including to the San Francisco Bay Area. Known for offering seats for as low as $10 on all flights, the airline is having difficulty operating certain routes in the midst of skyrocketing jet fuel prices.
From Oakland, the carrier operates a daily flight to its Columbus, Ohio hub.

"The decision to discontinue service to Oakland was a difficult one for us, but it was brought on by a situation that was beyond our control and needed to be addressed,"an airline spokesperson told inFLIGHTout. It was not immediately known what other cities were impacted by the decision.

Service to Oakland began last June and will end May 31st.

See more articles on Skybus here

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Demolition of San Jose's Terminal C begins

Demolition of the north end of Terminal C at Mineta San José International Airport began last night in order to clear the site for the start of construction of the airport's new Terminal B.

Over the next month, construction crews will work nights from about 10:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. to take down the structural frame of the building,remove debris, and prepare the site for new construction.

The work is part of the airport's comprehensive $1.3 billion program to replace and renovate all the terminal facilities, roadways, and parking over the next two and a half years. When Terminal B is placed in service in mid-2010, the remainder of Terminal C will be removed so that the final section of the new terminal roadway can be completed.

More information about the airport improvements can be found here.

250 bonus Priority Club points for a quick survey

Priority Club members can receive 250 bonus points for completing a quick survey about the loyalty program. About a dozen questions, takes under two minutes. Go for it! =)


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Virgin America 5-day Pre-Valentines Sale in progress
(example fares)
San Francisco - San Diego $39+ each way
San Francisco - New York $134+ each way
San Francisco - Washington (IAD) $124+ each way
San Francisco - Seattle $77+ each way
Book by February 9th, complete travel by May 9th. Click here for more information.

United to charge for 2nd checked bag

As of February 4, 2008, United has a new checked baggage policy. Non-elite Mileage Plus® members and non-members traveling on non-refundable Economy tickets within the United States, Canada and U.S. territories, may check one bag for free and a second for a $25 fee. The new policy applies to tickets purchased beginning February 4, 2008 for travel on or after May 5, 2008.

For status holders, the number of bags you are allowed to check at no charge will continue to be in accordance with your Mileage Plus status and/or class of service flown.

United has also simplified many of the other fees charged to check items that require special handling because they are large, overweight or fragile. For further details on these policies visit

United isn't alone in making new changes to their checked bags policy. Click here to see recent inFLIGHTout posts.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Free Wi-Fi at airports throughout the world

Like most travelers, business travelers want a no hassle airport experience. Delays and cancellations are not only time consuming and bad for business, but also cause restlessness and frustration of the traveler. The introduction of Wi-Fi in airports meant travelers can remain fairly connected to the world and limit problems associated with travel related delays. But from the very introduction of Wi-Fi came a cost for the service.

Airports are wise to the needs of travelers and began offering wireless service to meet the needs of travelers. A 24-hour pass typically runs around $10, a small cost for a business that desires productive travelers. But there's a little known secret that many airports offer free Wi-Fi for travelers flying to/from or through. Although most of these free Wi-Fi spots in the United States are small and middle sized markets such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, Charlotte, Orlando and Sacramento, several mega cities throughout the world also offer the service at no charge.

A complete listing of cities offering free Wi-Fi cane be found at

We've also tagged this site as a favorite and can be found on the left column of this site.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Heavenly Bed Sweepstakes

If you've ever slept on a Westin Heavenly Bed, you'll know this Starwood sweepstakes promotion is worth clicking on. Actually, the W Signature Bed is also part of the promotion, and is right up there with the Westin Heavenly in terms of comfort.

Imagine sinking into the Westin "Cloud" as I like to call it every night in the comfort and familiarity of your own bedroom. The lucky contestant will win a bedroom makeover with prizes including:

1) Your choice of a
- W Signature Bed
- Westin Heavenly Bed
- Sheraton Sweet Sleeper
- Four Points Comfort Bed

2) $1,800 Best Buy gift card

3) $2,000 Crate & Barrel gift card

Friday, February 1, 2008

AirTran to add San Francisco - Milwaukee service

Atlanta-based AirTran Airways says they will add seasonal service between San Francisco and Milwaukee on May 6th. In addition to SFO, the airline will introduce 4 other cities non-stop into Milwaukee, putting pressure on Midwest Airlines which has been the dominant carrier in Milwaukee to date.

AirTran will reintroduce seasonal SFO-Indianapolis service later in May as well.
Hotel: 4-star hotels, 2-star prices (468x60 v2)