Tuesday, September 30, 2008

San Francisco to Austin $68 Each Way

Southwest released a new set of DING! fares today, including a hot fare from SFO-Austin for $68 each way. Valid for Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday travel between October 21 - October 29, and Tuesday and Saturday travel November 1 - November 19. This special fare ends at 3:30 PM Today, and must be purchased using Southwest's DING! Program.

Fares for this route usually run over $200 round trip.

$50 Bucks Back From Northwest and Paypal

Similar to a promotion the two companies ran last March, Northwest Airlines and Paypal will credit you $50 when you purchase your next Northwest flight at nwa.com and use Paypal as your method of payment. Minimum ticket purchase is $250, and you must purchase tickets by Midnight on October 13th for travel between November 15, 2008 and January 31, 2009. 

Leading Hotels of the World $19.28 Promotion - Tomorrow

Celebrating their 80th anniversary, Leading Hotels of the World will be offering $19.28 rooms at select properties worldwide. Choose from a grand selection of luxurious properties throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America, The Caribbean, and right here in North America. A little work is required however, in order to secure a $19 hotel room that would otherwise sell for over $400-$500.
Here's what you do: Set your alarm clock for...early; 5am Pacific time, October 1, 2008, room inventory will open up at the discounted price for a total of 80 minutes only. Be ready to input the city, country and date(s) of stay. Promotional stays are valid November 1-December 15 only, and you are allowed a maximum of two nights at participating properties. Complete information and pre-registration here.

As with other short-spanned hotel promotions lately, space is limited - and participating hotels are not looking to fill every room at the discounted rates. So, mark your calendars now, wake up early and give it your best shot. Last month, Affinia Hotels was offering a similar limited-time only promotion, and I was able to secure a wonderful hotel in midtown for Manhattan for $88 bucks - normally priced at $325.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Register for AAdvantage To Earn 1000 Miles

American Airlines has brought back the new member sign up bonus to AAdvantage, their frequent flier program. If you don't already have an account, now is the time. Earn 1000 points just for registering! Even if you never fly American, you can still redeem 1000 AA miles for a wide selection of magazines, including Conde Nast, Fast Company, and Men's Vogue.
Click here to sign up.  (corrected link)

Obstacles Still Preventing HIV-Positive Visitors Into U.S

Although President Bush signed a bill that would end the ban on HIV-positive travelers and immigrants coming to the U.S., the Health and Human Services Department, responsible for writing new rules allowing positive travelers into the country, has yet to move on the issue.

“We’re working hard to revise the regulation, and it’s our goal to have it completed during this administration,” said Health and Human Services spokeswoman Holly Babin.

The United States, normally regarded as a country leading the fight for equality and fairness, instead finds itself on the sidelines with a dozen or so repressive countries such as Libya, Sudan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, by banning travel and immigration for people with HIV. All other countries in the world have no such ban.

Several house Democrats submitted a letter to Bush demanding swift action to remove the HIV travel and immigration ban. “Congress has sent a clear signal that we can’t fight discrimination and stigma aboard until we end it at home,” said Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Quality. “Congress has done its part – it’s time for HHS to act.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

SFO Airport Workers Vote To Authorize Strike

About 500 airline service workers unanimously voted Thursday to authorize a strike at San Francisco Airport. According to union leaders, they are negotiating for better wages and health care. The workers, whose jobs include service skycaps, baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, security personnel and airplane cabin cleaners, want improved training, higher wages and access to family health care, according to a spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union. No word when the workers might, if at all, proceed with a strike.

Bay Area Airports and Airline Trivia (Friday Fun)

    Time to put to your local commercial aviation knowledge to the test. Here are 15 trivia questions, all relating to airports and airlines familiar to the Bay Area. Answers can be found at the bottom of the post. Have fun!

  1. Which airline will begin flying nonstop between San Francisco and Long Beach starting in mid-October?

  2. Which airline used the popular slogans, "We know why you fly" and "Something special in the air?"

  3. Which two airlines, both of which fly from the Bay Area, utilize the "mile high city" as a hub or base?

  4. Which airline was the first to fly the Airbus A380 in regular commercial air service?

  5. If you want to fly non-stop to Amsterdam from the Bay Area, what airline would you be flying?

  6. In January 2000, a plane enroute to San Francisco from Puerto Vallarta was involved in a crash off the coast of Los Angeles. Which airline did the plane belong to?

  7. Which four airlines fly non-stop between San Francisco and Seoul?

  8. True or False: Cal-Train offers direct service to San Francisco Airport?

  9. What is the name of the AC Transit bus that shuttles passengers between Oakland airport and the Oakland Coliseum?

  10. Which airline currently operates regular commercial airline service from Santa Rosa (STS) airport?

  11. Who is San Jose's airport named after?

  12. Multiple choice: Which route is not currently operating for regular commercial flights? a. SFO-Sacramento b. SFO-Santa Rosa c. SFO-Monterey d. All these routes are available

  13. Multiple choice: As of August 15, 2008, how many cities does Southwest fly non-stop out of Oakland? a. 0-10 b. 11-20 c. 21-30 d. more than 3o cities.

  14. What is the name of the Airport Lounge for Alaska Airlines?
  15. Which airline, which operates from the Bay Area, announced plans to add a special class of service on flights called, "Main Cabin Select?"
1. JetBlue 2. American 3. United, Frontier 4. Singapore 5. KLM 6. Alaska 7. United, Korean, Asiana, Singapore 8. False; BART does however. 9. AirBART 10. Horizon Airlines/Alaska 11. Norman Y Mineta, former San Jose Mayor. 12. B. 13. C. 14. Board Room. 15. Virgin America

Thursday, September 25, 2008

First Boeing 787 'Dreamliner' To Arrive August 2009

Japan's All Nippon Airways said it has agreed to Boeing's anticipated delays in delivering the first Boeing 787 'Dreamliner' aircraft. According to Boeing, the first plane is now expected to arrive to ANA in August 2009, more than a year behind schedule. Supply chain glitches, and a strike at Boeing halting production, is blamed for the delays.

Tokyo-based All Nippon Airlines is scheduled to be the first customer of the 787.

United Drops SFO-Nagoya Next Month

United Airlines will discontinue nonstop flights between San Francisco and Nagoya, Japan effective October 25, 2008. The cut is part of the airlines' plan to reduce international flights by 7%. Passengers can still reach Nagoya on United by connecting though Toyko/Narita airport.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wild Wonders Sweepstakes Offers Trips To Four Continents

Register for the Wild Wonders Sweepstakes for a chance to win five trips to four continents. Walk among millions of King penguins, safari on the Serengeti, swim with sea lions, get up-close-and-personal with polar bears and experience the wonders of the Amazon and Machu Picchu. The winner will embark a new journey each year, all taking place within a five year window.

Natural Habitat Adventures, rated a 2008 World's Best Tour Operator by Travel+Leisure magazine, will be leading each expedition.
"They change their climate, not their soul, who rush across the sea."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Even As Your Cash Flows, Luxury Hotel's Shower Might Not

By Mike Grasso

Travelers accustomed to being pampered at four and five star properties are familiar with the luxurious amenities and impeccable customer service often absent from two or three star hotels. But too many high-tech and high-cost ammenities are bound to leave some guests a little unhappy.

This past Sunday in the SF Chronicle, Executive editor John Flinn wrote about how the higher end hotels often confuse needless complexity with sophistication. In his article, "Even as your cash flows, luxury hotel's shower might not," He uses several in-room examples such as lighting and the shower head to explain how overengineered room technology can lead to an irritating and tiresome experience for the guest. He concludes the article by describing the back-to-the-basics, uncomplicated amenities budget hotels offer, such as free Internet and free local calls, as a sort of reality check for the big name hotels.

I personally believe that while luxury hotels are constantly finding ways to improve the guest experience, they risk alienating a segment of the population with the means to choose between budget and luxury hotels. The race to offer the latest and greatest in technological advancements, and their associated cost to the hotel, means elaborate restaurants - but no free breakfast, WiFi throughout the property, for a steep fee, and, my personal favorite, sensored "honor bars" where as soon as you remove a beverage from the small in-room refrigerator, you are automatically charged - regardless if you put the drink back.

So while the four and five star hotels overall offer a wonderful experience to guests, sometimes the quest to deliver that perfect experience can go a little overboard. Adding steep price tags to advanced and sometimes complicated technology are bound to turn away some guests who seek a property offering good amenities at fair prices. Even luxury travelers don't want to be ripped off.

Continental Reverses '500 Mile Minimum' Accrual Policy

Earlier this month Continental Airlines announced program changes to its frequent flier program, eliminating the 500 mile minimum travelers accrued in their account for flying short-haul flights effective November 15th. This meant a short flight of a few hundred miles would earn the actual miles flown, rather than the 500 mile minimum. Now, Continental has backed off from earlier announced changes, and is exempting its elite passengers from the policy change. This means Continental elite fliers will continue to receive a minimum of 500 miles for each flight, regardless the distance.

United and U.S Airways who also eliminated the 500 mile minimum recently, have yet to react to Continental's move.

Discover Open Road

Monday, September 22, 2008

United Express To Drop San Francisco to Palmdale

United Express will terminate flights between San Francisco and Palmdale in early December, according to Los Angeles airport officials. Over the years, Palmdale regional airport was sought after to help absorb some of the air traffic flying into nearby congested Los Angeles International.

In this most recent attempt, the federal government pumped in financial incentives to United during the first year of operations. The airline initially operated two daily flights on regional jets, then expanded to four daily flights using smaller aircraft. Unfortunately, the airline saw no significant improvement in flight loads, averaging a mere 30-40% of capacity. With federal incentives slashed, and the cost of jet fuel up, United's move to withdraw from Palmdale was probably an easy decision.
Service between the cities officially ends December 7, 2008.

Disney Offers Free Admission On Your Birthday

Starting next year, Disneyland and Walt Disney World will honor guests celebrating their birthday with free admission into the parks. According to Disney, the idea is to embrace "celebration vacations," a trend whereby leisure travelers are frequently on vacation to mark a special occasion, such as a birthday. Starting today, Disney will begin running TV ads with a new marketing slogan: "What will you celebrate?"

Friday, September 19, 2008

Renovation Plans For SFO Released

Initial plans for the currently vacant terminal 2 at SFO have been released, and things are looking up. According to SF Gate, the 2 1/2 year project, expected to cost $383 million will include 50,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, with a Main Street feel. Planners are also reportedly taking steps to minimize the hassle and discomfort of the security checkpoint area, including a "passenger recomposure" area post-security, allowing travelers to collect themselves after security.

Videos: Airport Announcement and Safe Sex Airline (Friday Fun)

Here are a couple of fun travel-related videos that should bring some laughs to your Friday at the office. The first is a small prank against Virgin Atlantic, the second a commercial on safe sex, as directed by a flight attendent. TGIF. Enjoy!

Airport Announcement
(Appropriate for work)

Safe Sex Airline
(Slightly less appropriate for work)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

JetBlue Starts SFO-Long Beach Flights Next Month

JetBlue airlines will begin operating flights between San Francisco (SFO) and it's West Coast hub, Long Beach on October 18th. Initially two daily flights will be offered, a third to be added in November. Introductory prices from $49 each way are currently available at www.jetblue.com.
To maximize your savings, be sure to check out other JetBlue news and promotions here.

Dubai Takes Construction Sky High; World's Largest Tower

Despite being incomplete, the Burj Dubai or Dubai Tower, is now the tallest man made structure in the world standing currently at 2,257 ft with 160 floors. Budgeted at US$4.1billion, the tower is part of an overall revitalization of downtown Dubai.

With an interior designed by Giorgio Armani, the Burj Dubai will also have the first of four Armani Hotels which will occupy 37 floors of the structure.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Finding "Green" Rental Cars Made Easy

The demand for fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly rental cars continues to rise, just as the price of gas continues to pinch consumers wallets. The larger car rental companies such as Avis, Hertz and Enterprise all offer "green" vehicles, but availability can vary from city-to-city, as traditional cars make up a larger portion of the overall rental fleet in most cities.

Not the case with EV Rental Cars. Established in 1998, EV Rental Cars was the first company to offer a fleet of all-environmental hybrid-electric vehicles. These cars often get more than 55 miles per gallon, compared to traditional rental cars which average 15-25 mpg. Now drivers have the ability to reduce air pollution while saving money at the pump. As an added bonus, Hybrid vehicles are permitted to drive in the Carpool lane throughout California.

Visit www.evrental.com for more information and to book your next car rental.
"Traveling is not just seeing the new; it is also leaving behind. Not just opening doors; also closing them behind you, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes."
-Myrdal, Jan

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Double Amtrak Guest Rewards Points Offer

Ride the Rails of Amtrak this Fall and receive double points.

If you have traveled by air or car any great distance lately, you realize how the cost of fuel has taken a toll on the pocketbook. More than ever, consumers are paying more to fill up the car, and paying extra fees so the airlines can fill up their gas tanks as well.

Have you considered the rail alternative? Although Amtrak offers extensive East Coast routes, some of the most scenic routes in the country are here on the West Coast. Click here for a .pdf route map. Plus, they operate a high frequency commuter route between the Bay Area and the State Capitol. More importantly, you escape the fuel surcharge.

If you haven't taken a ride on the rail, now may be a great time. Currently Amtrak Guest Rewards is offering system wide double points for travel between September 15 and December 12, 2008. Members of Amtrak's frequent travel program can register for the promotion by clicking here.

So forget about airport check-in, security lines, delays, luggage fees, fuel surcharges - consider Amtrak for some of your future travels.

New Starwood Promotion - Choose from 12 rewards

The much anticipated Q4 Starwood promotion was just announced and the *wood blog cheers it, "the best SPG promotion in history." Any SPG member can register, and the reward payout begins after just 2 registered stays or 4 nights between October 1 and December 31, 2008. For example, after 2 stays you could choose 2,000 bonus Starpoints.

But what makes this promotion so unique though is the variety of rewards you can choose from; bonus Starpoints, free night stays, double stay credits, gift certificates and more, depending on the number of visits to Starwood hotels you anticipate staying at during the promotion period.

Click here to read more and register for this exciting promotion.

Emirates Reduction In Flight Schedule at SFO

Due to the Boeing machinist strike, Emirates Airlines, which has already delayed the San Francisco to Dubai launch, will limit frequency to 3 days a week between the two cities, rather than the previously scheduled daily service. According to airline route updates blog, the route will be operated by a 777-200LR.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Travel Tips For A Relaxing Flight

By Mike Grasso
It seems much of the travel news lately has been dominated by service cutbacks and added fees. We've heard everything from airlines slashing routes, cutting out in-flight entertainment, utilizing fewer flight attendants, and now even an increase in the cost to purchase alcohol; so much for drinking away the aches of air travel. But there are steps you can take to improve your next flight experience, even in the wake of industry changes negatively impacting travelers.

-Bring your own _____ (fill in the blank). Pillow, food, toiletries, hand sanitizer, baby wipes (for those foul tray tables). Do not let the poor quality or lack of these items on your flight be the cause of a bad experience. Bring your own goodies. Chances are, the food you bring on the plane will be an improvement over anything the airline is serving up.

-Carry water on board. TSA permits empty water bottles to be carried through security check points. You can fill these up at water fountains, or at food vendors inside the airport terminal before boarding your plane. We all know staying hydrated is important for health, but it is particularly necessary during flight when the air is quite dry.

-Create your own entertainment. As fun as watching passengers try to cram oversize luggage into the small overhead compartments is, at some point the plane must leave and you will be forced to find other forms of entertainment. Consider bringing along a variety of books, magazines, digital music player, laptop, diary or camera. Conversation with a fellow traveler can be pleasing, at times, too. The idea is to have a reserve of options available to you.

-Pick your seat in advance, then again at check-in. That is, pick your seat once you buy your ticket, then look again during check-in. Sometimes a better seat opens up, or an aircraft swap (for a larger or smaller one) means your original seat assignment changed.

JetBlue's San Jose-Boston Nonstop Ends Today

After today, JetBlue will discontinue nonstop service between San Jose and Boston. The carrier will continue to operate flights between San Jose and Long Beach and New York's JFK.
The carrier had stated that flying this coast-to-coast route, one of its longest flights, is not profitable due to the high costs of fuel and existing competition.

Earlier in the month, JetBlue cancelled San Francisco to Boston route, citing similar reasons.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Russian Airliner Crashes, Killing 88

An Aeroflot plane crashed in the Russian city of Perm early Sunday, reportedly killing all 88 passengers and crew on board. Witnesses reported seeing the plane hit the ground sharply, perhaps at a 30 or 40 degree angle.

Investigators suspect technical failure was the cause of the crash, and reports from the ground indicate the plane's engines were on fire before the crash. One witness said it look like a burning comet racing toward the earth, followed by a massive explosion. Those killed include 21 foreigners, including one resident of the United States.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rhett and Link's BBQ Song (Friday Fun)

(Thanks Tommy)
Nothing like taking a trip to the great South and munching away on gool ol' BBQ. But not all BBQ's are created equal. So help educate us on the finer points in BBQ, Rhett and Link came up with this catchy, but not spicy, BBQ Song. Sing along!
(This video is suitable for work)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Horizon Adds Sacramento to Santa Barbara Route

Flights down to wonderful Santa Barbara Airport resume.

Nonstop service between Sacramento and Santa Barbara returns beginning November 9th - thanks to Horizon Airlines. The route was recently discontinued by regional airline ExpressJet.

Two daily flights, one in the morning, one in the evening, operated by a 70-seat Bombardier region jet will be available during the week, and one daily flight on weekends. 14-day advance tickets are available for just $79 each way. Click here for more information.

Santa Barbara airport (pictured above) is one of my favorite airports to fly through. The charming little airport resting near the mighty Pacific is a preferred alternative to the hustle and bustle of LAX to the south. For example, upstairs at the Overlook Cafe, there is an observation deck to watch the small commercial planes come and go. Downstairs, the inviting back patio, complete with lawn and wooden benches, provides the perfect opportunity for waiting passengers a last minute chance to soak up the warm Southern California Sun.

Hurricane Ike Expected To Cause Travel Disruptions

Even if you are not planning travel through the projected path of Hurricane Ike, you may be in for travel delays the next few days.

The 10am CDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center brings Ike onshore, west of Houston somewhere between a category 2 and category 4 Hurricane. Strong winds, heavy rainfall and isolated tornadoes are expected. Ike has a particularly large wind field, and regardless the actual landfall, areas up to 275 miles from the eye of the Hurricane may experience sustained tropical storm force winds.

Several flights have already been cancelled. As a result, airlines are offering alternative arrangements for passengers flying in or through the risk areas. Even if you are not traveling through Ike's path, your particular plane might have been scheduled to earlier in the day, thereby resulting in your flight to be delayed or cancelled. It is highly recommended that you check the flight status of your departing flight before heading for the airport.

Major airline hubs in the affected area:
Houston - Continental Airlines
Dallas/FW - American Airlines

(Image courtesy of National Weather Service Fort Worth)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Now Arriving: Airport Code Travel Bags

Why simply travel through airports when you can take a piece of them home with you? Well, sort of.

From Solarek studios comes Air Wear travel bags and accessories. Whether it be San Francisco - SFO, Sydney - SYD, or Paris - CDG, you can now tote those airport codes with you around town with your very own airport travel bag.

Airport-coded coffee mugs, journals and clothing items are also available. Choose a design from popular airports around the globe.

Visit Air Wear to take an airport home with you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

inFLIGHTout Head South Airfares

The cool winter months are quickly approaching, making it a good time to start planning a trip to the warmer South. Here's a roundup of round trip airfares - hand picked and verified available.
Prices valid as of 9:00 AM Tuesday, include taxes and fees, and valid for at least the early winter months unless specified otherwise.

-San Francisco to....
Puerto Vallarta $319 (Mexicana)
Cancun $298 (Mexicana)
San Juan $291 (US Air)
Jacksonville $195 (United)
Palm Springs $140 (Alaska) October 6-19th only
Long Beach $119* (JetBlue)
*Before $50 travel credit promo - see earlier post

-Sacramento to...
Ft.Lauderdale $210 (American)
Jacksonville $210 (United)

Visit Travelocity to search availability and combine these great airfares with discounted hotels.
If you are searching for airfare only, use the "flexible dates" option for the best results.

JetBlue 'Jet Now and Later' Promotion

Receive a $50 voucher for booking (and flying) a round trip ticket on jetblue.com between now and September 21st, for travel between October 15 and November 15, 2008. After you complete your trip, the voucher will be emailed to you, which can be applied to future travel between January 8 and February 9, 2009. Click here to register.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Leading Hotels of the World $19.28 Promotion

(Thanks to Kaz @ Flyertalk)

Celebrating their 80th anniversary, Leading Hotels of the World will be offering $19.28 rooms at select properties worldwide. Choose from a grand selection of luxurious properties throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America, The Caribbean, and right here in North America. A little work is required however, in order to secure a $19 hotel room that would otherwise sell for over $400-$500.

Here's what you do: Set your alarm clock for...early; 5am Pacific time, October 1, 2008, room inventory will open up at the discounted price for a total of 80 minutes only. Be ready to input the city, country and date(s) of stay. Promotional stays are valid November 1-December 15 only, and you are allowed a maximum of two nights at participating properties. Complete information and pre-registration here.

As with other short-spanned hotel promotions lately, space is limited - and participating hotels are not looking to fill every room at the discounted rates. So, mark your calendars now, wake up early and give it your best shot. Last month, Affinia Hotels was offering a similar limited-time only promotion, and I was able to secure a wonderful hotel in midtown for Manhattan for $88 bucks - normally priced at $325.

Entourage Air! Live It Sweepstakes

Enter to win four First class tickets on Virgin America, two nights of luxury accommodations and the Palm Casino - Las Vegas, and $5,000 bucks, in the Entourage Air! Live It Sweepstakes.
25 other winning entries will receive gifts from Kiehl's and Godiva. Sweeps close October 1, 2008. Click here to enter and read t&c's.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Continental OnePass Program Changes

In an announcement this week, Continental Airlines announced two key changes to OnePass, it's frequent flyer program.

First, the elimination of 500-mile minimum on short-haul flights for tickets purchased on or after November 15, 2008, for travel on or after January 1, 2009. Previously the airline awarded a minimum 500 frequent flyer miles for short trips - destinations less than 500 air miles. This change matches a similar move by United and U.S Airways earlier this summer.

Second, a change that affects Continental elite members. Starting March 1, 2009, Platinum elite members receive a 100% (down from 125%) bonus miles on each flight, while Silver elite members receive a 25% bonus (down from 50%). Gold elites will continue to receive a 50% bonus. Although this comes as a sting to many Continental elite flyers, the miles adjustment matches current bonuses awarded by other airlines.

Friday, September 5, 2008

250 Starwood Points For SPG Flights Feedback

This past Tuesday Starwood Hotels & Resorts launched SPG Flights, an exciting and valuable option for using points to book airline tickets. Now the company is offering 250 Starpoints for providing feedback to this new enhancement. Click here to complete the easy online survey.
Hotels.com B&B

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mexicana Adds San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta Route

Beginning December 3, 2008, Mexicana Airlines will begin flights between San Francisco and the beautiful coastal city of Puerto Vallarta. The airline will operate flights 4 times a week on an Airbus-320 aircraft. Introductory fares are available from $315 round-trip, including taxes and fees at www.mexicana.com.

In addition to Mexicana, both Alaska and United (Ted) currently serve this route.

Advantages to Online Check-In

By Mike Grasso

Online check-in (OLCI) has advantages for both you and the airline. In the past of course, you had to haul yourself to the airport, wait in those dreaded lines, and introduce yourself as a passenger ready to fly. You were then asked those generic security questions, "did you pack your own bags?" and "have you been in possession of your bags since you packed them?" Only then were then granted boarding passes to fly.

Today, the airlines are pushing folks to check-in online, or at the very least, to utilize airport self-service kiosks. The obvious advantage to the airline is fewer staff needed to assist customers.

There is yet another, more subtle benefit to the airlines when you opt to check-in online. By doing so, you are reconfirming with the airline you intent to fly. This provides the airline with valuable data, that when combined with everyone else on a particular flight, allows the airline to calculate how many passengers may not show up for a flight, thereby allowing them to sell a few more of those high-priced last-minute tickets. It's far from an exact science, but as a higher percentage of folks opt to go online to print boarding passes, the advantage to the airline increases.

For the passenger, OLCI has streamlined the process, allowing folks to print boarding passes at home or work up to 24 hours in advance of a flight. By checking-in online, you are telling the airline you are ready-set-go for your flight. They are expecting you, and with open arms, looking forward to your arrival. Should you not board the plane in time, the gate agent will probably have you paged throughout the airport. If you are still a no-show, then the airline may deny you boarding. In other words, unless you are running really late (everyone else has boarded), you will probably be fine, thanks to OLCI.

Similarly, if you are running late, but not excessively late, and without checked-luggage, you can proceed directly to the security line once arriving at the airport. Nobody at the airline really knows you're late (I won't tell). If luck is on your side, and the security line is running quick and efficiently, you can still catch your flight. In contrast, airport kiosks have a cutoff time, often 30-45 minutes before departure, regardless of how many people are in the security line. If you arrive very late, and have not checked in on-line, you will have a tough time convincing airport staff to issue you a boarding pass.

OLCI is particularly helpful when you are traveling. Online check-in does not mean you need to print boarding pass actually; you are simply confirming your travel plans. So if you are away from a printer, you can check-in for your flight, and then later print boarding passes at the airport. The key is to check-in for flights in advance.

Another added benefit of OLCI for passengers is the option for advance notice of irregular operations or special circumstances. If you flight has been delayed or even cancelled, online check-in should inform you of this information. Perhaps the airline is selling some last minute upgrades, online check-in allows you to purchase these before they are offered to other passengers.

Finally, the seats. Doesn't it always come down to the seats? With many carriers, checking in online gives you a last chance opportunity to appraise the seating arrangements, and whether you want to stay put, or move elsewhere on the plane. Online check-in allows you to visually see what seats are available, should you decide to change your seat.

Overall, OLCI benefits everyone. It provides the airline with useful information on potential flight loads, and gives greater flexibility to the traveler.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

San Francisco to Los Angeles $39 Each Way

Southwest dropped fares between San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX) today to $39 each way. The total roundtrip cost is $99 bucks - including taxes and fees. Fare is valid on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays through November 19th. Visit www.iflyswa.com to book.

When A Superior Room Just Isn't Enough

Stains on the carpet and smells in the air, both good reasons for complaining to hotel staff about less than satisfactory accommodations. Finding yourself in a smaller corner room or next to the elevator though are less than legitimate reasons for complaint. Still, some will.

In this New York Times story last weekend, reporter Geraldine Fabrikant uncovers the many techniques guests use to complain about a room and ultimately land an upgrade. Some do so with complete honesty and sincerity, notifying the hotel of a legitimate problem. Others capitalize on discretionary power of hotel staff, allowing them to check-in and check-up to a higher value room than paid for.

Northwest Airlines 'Mountains of Miles' Promotion

Northwest Airlines is again running a promotion that awards bonus miles for a variety of activities, such as renting a car, shopping online, and of course...flying Northwest. Click here to register for Mountains of Miles, and view all the different mileage earning activities available. Qualifying activities through January 31, 2009 are eligible for the bonus.

Also, Northwest is offering double WorldPerks bonus miles for each Super Shuttle reservation through the end of September. The promotion is also valid for ExecuCar reservations, should you need a private ride to/from the airport.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Starwood Preferred Guest Introduces SPG Flights

Starwood Hotels and Resorts and its award winning hotel loyalty program Starwood Preferred Guest launched yet another enhancement to an already generous program.

Since 1999, SPG members have been able to redeem Starpoints with a no blackout date policy, and not subjected to a policy that limits the number of rooms set aside for redemption. Now, you can use Starpoints for flights, with any carrier, and still no blackout dates. Therefore, you can utilize Starpoints for both your airline reservation and hotel stay. And best of all, in most cases you can still collect frequent flier miles with the airline.

Examples of Starpoints to airline ticket conversion:
10,000 Starpoints allows up to a $150 airline ticket
15,000 Starpoints allows up to a $215 airline ticket
20,000 Starpoints allows up to a $280 airline ticket
25,000 Starpoints allows up to a $345 airline ticket
(there are several higher tiers available as well)

Starwood continues to offer a points-to-miles deal which allows members to convert 20,000 Starpoints to 25,000 frequent flier miles with many airlines (Starwood chips in the extra 5,000). But with capacity controls in place, the airlines have tightened up the number of seats released for award redemption, and simply having enough miles to redeem doesn't guarantee a "free" seat will be offered by the airline. Plus, unlike this new Star Flights program, you don't earn miles when you redeem airline miles.

Therefore, using this new SPG Flights program with Starwood Hotels and Resorts receives 2 thumbs up from inFLIGHTout. This is truly one of the best loyalty programs in the travel industry.

American Express

How do you earn some quick Starpoints? The Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express earns you 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase, with an option to earn an additional 15,000 points for spending $15,000 during the first six months. Plus you earn 1 point for each dollar purchased on the card.

Southwest Begins SF-Denver Flights Today

Southwest will launch three daily nonstops between San Francisco and Denver later today. The added SFO route is in addition to existing nonstops options from Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento to the mile-high city. 14-day advance tickets are still available from $79+ each way at www.southwest.com.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Allegiant Air $29 bucks to Vegas Deal

For our friends in the far South Bay, Allegiant Airlines is offering tickets to/from Monterey and Las Vegas for $29 bucks each way. The fare is valid during the month of September only.

Allegiant has $29 fares to Vegas to/from Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Stockton and Fresno as well. Visit Allegiant Airlines to plan your trip.