Saturday, October 31, 2009

Historic Cathedral Hill Hotel Says Farewell

The 44-year old, 400-room, 12-story tall Cathedral Hill Hotel at the corner of Geary and Van Ness served its last guest Friday. The building will be demolished and rebuilt for California Pacific Medical Center, with a move in date of 2015. Read more from SF Gate.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Double Points for Amtrak Travel Thru December 19

Amtrak, included the Capitol Corridor between the Bay Area and Sacramento, continues to offer double points for all travel thru December 19, 2009. Click here to register.
A reminder to set clocks back 1 Hour before bed Saturday Night--daylight savings time ends November 1 at 2 A.M.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Southwest Airlines $25/$50/$75/$100 4th Quarter Sale

Similar to a sale they offered earlier this year, Southwest has again discounted airfares to as low as $25 each way, depending on the total distance of the flight. Here's what you pay:

-Flights under 375 miles cost $25
-375-549 miles cost $50
-550-999 miles cost $75
-1000 miles+ cost $100

Travel permitted December 2-December 16, 2009 and January 5-February 10, 2010.
Purchase tickets by Midnight October 29, 2009 to take advantage of this sale.

Also - later this morning, other airlines may start matching the Southwest fare, click here to search other airlines.

Accor Hotels' 3-Day Super Sale Begins Today

Starting today and lasting just 72 hours, Accor Hotels is discounting hotel rates throughout Asia/Pacific region. Rates start at just $51/night, and valid for bookings between December 1, 2009 and February 28, 2010. Accor properties include Mercure, Novotel, and Pullman Hotels.

Monday, October 26, 2009

United Discounts Award Travel to Europe and Middle East

United Mileage Plus members can now save 20% off award travel redemptions for flights between the United States and Canada to Europe and the Middle East. The discount applies to economy class tickets on United Airlines flights booked by October 31st, for travel between January 10 and March 15, 2010. For example: A roundtrip flight between San Francisco and Rome which normally requires 55,000 miles, can be had for just 44,000 miles.

Friday, October 23, 2009

United Picks Up San Francisco - St.Louis Route

United Airlines announced Thursday it will pick up operations between San Francisco and St. Louis (STL). The new once-daily flight begins February 11, 2010, operated by an Airbus 319 aircraft.

Last month, American announced huge forthcoming cuts at STL to destinations across the country, including to SFO. The AA timetable no longer shows nonstop service between SFO and STL beyond April 5, 2010.

Expedia Holiday Kickback

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Air Force One Under the Sun

"The press pool gathers under the wing of Air Force One, prior to President Barack Obama's departure from George Bush Intercontinental Airport, in Houston, Texas, Oct. 16, 2009."

Official White House photo by Pete Souza, accessed from the White House Flickr photo stream

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ideas on Redeeming Low Balance Frequent Flyer Accounts

By Mike Grasso

I'm often asked what to do with a few thousand miles stored in a frequent flier account. Since most airlines require 25,000 miles for a free domestic award redemption, it may take quite some time to bump that mileage balance high enough for a free flight. One idea is to redeem miles for a magazine or newspaper subscription, which require as little as 400 miles.

Here are some examples:

Magazine subscriptions
-12 issues of Conde Nast Traveler for 600 miles AAdvantage miles
-12 issues of Wired for 400 SkyMiles
-50 issues of Business Week for 1600 AAdvantage miles

Newspaper subscriptions (mileage may vary by market)
-8 weeks of the San Francisco Chronicle (7X weekly) for 1534 SkyMiles, 1840 AAdvantage miles or 2300 MileagePlus miles.
-39 weeks of the Wall Street Journal (6X weekly) for 2626 AAdvantage miles or 3282 MileagePlus miles.

Many airlines also allow you to redeem miles for dining certificates and airport lounge access. You can even donate small sums of miles to charity. To take advantage of these and other offers visit your airline's frequent flyer page to view all redemption opportunities.

Access 600 airport lounges

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

JetBlue No-Trick All-Treat $31 Sale for Halloween

Today only, make a reservation to fly on October 31, 2009 and your ticket costs just $31 each way. Just checked a flight from SFO to Boston... Yupp, just $31. This is the JetBlue No-Trick All-Treat Halloween promotion. Of course, if you arn't traveling on on October 31st, such as your return trip, you pay standard pricing - which on the Boston route meant a mere $99. Not bad! $31 seats are limited and valid on nonstop flights only, so book today by 11:59 PM mountain time.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Remote-Controlled Airbus 330 Evening Exhibition Show

Now this truly looks like hours...err, days of nonstop fun. In this video a remote-controlled Airbus 330 performing a touch-and-go, then later in the movie performs another landing and slowly proceeds back to the crowds for a photo shoot. The careful attention to detail, such as the lighting and engine sounds are incredible and bring life to the plane. Other videos around YouTube include RC Airbus 380, A340 and other popular "birds." Enjoy - and thanks Jason for forwarding this.

Free Wi-Fi on Virgin America Flights for a Limited Time

Google and Virgin America have partnered up to offer a holiday treat to upcoming flyers. Between November 10 and January 15, 2010, enjoy complimentary web surfing on all Virgin America flights throughout the country. Details here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Save 20% on United Frequent Flyer Award Redemptions

Monday is the final day to redeem miles at a 20% discount.

For the second time this year, United Airlines is offering customers a 20% discount off award certain award redemptions. This time around, United flights wholly within the continental U.S and between the U.S and Canada are eligible for the discount. For example, a flight between San Francisco and Boston which normally runs 25,000 miles, is available for 20,000 miles during this offer.

Ticketing period runs through October 19th for travel between January 10 and April 30, 2010.

Hurricane Rick - 2pm Advisory

From the National Hurricane Center
2pm PDT Sunday, October 18, 2009

--Position: 450 miles South of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
--Movement: WNW 14 MPH
--Maximum sustained winds: 160 MPH (Category 5 Hurricane)

A general decrease in intensity is forecast over the next 48 hours, however Rick expected to make landfall as a dangerous Hurricane later this week.

United Airlines and American Airlines travel waiver for customers flying through Los Cabos

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Second Strongest Hurricane On Record In Eastern Pacific Aims for Cabo

Officials at the National Hurricane Center are now calling Hurricane Rick the second strongest hurricane on record in the Eastern Pacific. As of 8pm Pacific time, Rick was located 295 miles South-Southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, moving West-Northwest near 14 mph. The storm is expected to make a turn to the North by Monday. Maximum sustained winds are now up to 180 mph, with stronger gusts -making Rick an extremely dangerous Category Five Hurricane. Additional strengthening is possible overnight, before a slow gradual weakening commences.
Most forecast models show a weakened version of Hurricane Rick hitting southern tip of Baja by the middle part of next week. Anyone planning travel to this region should keep turned to changing weather conditions, and possible air travel disruptions.

Pictured above: Infrared image of Hurricane Rick with a most impressive stadium-like eye wall surrounding a beautiful 10-nautical mile wide eye.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

HOT!! JetBlue 1-Day Sale, Fares From $24 Each Way

Book TODAY, for travel October 22-December 16, 2009. Best fares valid on non-peak travel days (ie: mid-week).

BAY AREA- New York/Boston/Washington $79 each way
BAY AREA- Long Beach $24-$29 each way

JetBlue Sale

Friday, October 9, 2009

Virgin America Introduces Additional Fare Options

San Francisco based Virgin America announced announced Wednesday additional fare options to provide flexibility to its passengers. In addition to Main Cabin and First Class fares, customers can now purchase fully refundable fares in the Main Cabin and Main Cabin Select. The fares allow one to make changes to flights and check a bag in at no additional charge. For those who desire to ride up in the front, the airline also offers Instant Upgrades to to Main Cabin Select; a premium seat at discounted rates. Visit

Continental and Mexicana Join New Alliances Soon

Continental Airlines joins Star Alliance (United, U.S Air,et al. ) effective October 27, 2009.
Mexicana Airlines joins OneWorld (American Airlines, et al.) eff November 10, 2009.

If you have flights planned with either of these carriers, be sure you are receiving proper mileage credit in the corresponding airline/alliance program.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why I Hate Airplane Bathrooms :-)

Frequent those dreaded airplane lavatories will enjoy this witty reflection piece written by Amanda McKinley which I originally ran in March. Inside she gives a play-by-play account of the forces driving her to use those repulsive airplane restrooms in the first place, then humorously describes what it's like "doing time" in those port-a-potties of the sky.

As many of you know, I’m no stranger to the plane. However, despite my affinity for travel and the number of hours I’ve logged standing in security lines, I almost never use the restrooms on planes. Why is this even notable, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

The art of “holding it” is rarely seen as just that—an art—and my husband’s pea-sized bladder and sweet heart can’t stand for me to stave off peeing any longer than necessary. “I know I’ve had a coffee, two waters, and an orange juice—but I think I can make it to Newark! Really!” This was my defense during our last flight. Then, citing my potential, and surely inevitable, kidney problems ruining his trip, I am successfully guilted into shifting my iPod, water bottle, granola bar, and pile-o-travel-junk onto his tray and beginning the walk of shame back to the lavatory.

You know, I’m not jealous of the first class passengers for their headrest T.V.’s or complimentary mimosas, but rather the Private Restroom that’s only a jaunt away from their large, cushy seats. As I step into the aisle, only a few feet away from the mesh curtain separating me from the people who have paid extra to excrete in peace, I am overwhelmed by a sense of self awareness. The aisle on a plane is like a cat-walk lined with groggy children and grumpy old men, whose sole form of entertainment for the next three hours is to watch passengers stammer stupidly down the aisle grabbing at seat backs and trying to keep their rumps out of people’s noses as the drink cart wheels past… I can feel their searing eyes judging me: “Do you think that girl really has to pee, or is she just showing off? Do you think she’s having stomach troubles? What IS she wearing?! I wanted to go to the bathroom next… The nerve of this girl—she probably really doesn’t have to pee anyway!” I can practically hear the annoyed murmurs fill the cabin as I waddle past, shoving my derriere extraordinaire in some kid’s face as he reaches to pick up the game he’s dropped in the aisle.

This is only part of the reason why I allow my bladder to fill to the point of combustion before I give in—the other is the restroom itself. “Restroom” is such an ill-devised term, because as anyone who has ever used the BR on a plane has learned, you will find absolutely no rest here, whatsoever. The small, closet-like space could make even the calmest individual claustrophobic, and sanitation seems to have been sucked out into the pale, chilly atmosphere with the last “whoosh” of the toilet’s blue water.

Inevitably, as it were on this particular trip, I manage to make it to the lavatory door just in time to intermingle with the creme de la creme of my flight’s crop—the individual wearing the theoretical “scarlet badge” of gastrointestinal issues. “Oh my! I guess that coffee really did a number on my tummy!” The white-haired woman airily states as she flips the lock to read “VACANT”. “Oh, yes?” I want to say to her. “Your rancid stench seems to have accompanied you out the door, but since you smiled and said ‘tummy’ it’s perfectly OK!” Instead I return her smile with a nod of faux understanding, lower my head and enter the freshly christened poo-pantry.

Inside it never gets any better! The juicy ghosts of asses past rear their ugly heads from the toilet seat, and my attempt at hovering is nearly thwarted as the plane lurches through what the pilot calls “a little turbulence” and my nose lands squarely on the back of the door. If there was room for me to whip around a vomit, I probably would, but as things stand with my pants around my ankles and my butt in the air, I decide to hold myself together and just go. Honestly, can anyone hold their balance well enough to make it entirely into le toilette? I’m doubting it, but whether or not I dribbled on the floor is completely irrelevant, because the necessity to flush is still looming ahead, and that’s all I can focus on. Oh, Lord, the flushing… the loud rush of my Business being swept into the atmosphere scares me every time! And what is that swift blast of cold air that fills the lavatory mid-flush? Absolutely, heart-stoppingly gross, that’s what it is! So, using the only ballet technique I ever mastered, I delicately tap my perfectly pointed foot onto the Flush button—bracing myself for the blast-o-nasty I’m about to endure. Afterwards, when I feel it’s safe to catch my breath, I try to calm my thumping heart and turn two degrees to the left to wash my hands.

Well, hand-washing is a losing battle, too, and I nearly laugh out loud when I see the sign above the sink that suggests, “you may want to use your towel to dry off the sink after washing.” OR, I may not, as the last train wreck who visited this particular sink had either showered or washed a small, hyper dog—it would take a minimum of 20 hand-washing and counter wiping sessions to clean up the pool of hair and water flooding the basin. In all honesty, washing your hands in an airplane bathroom has to be the most unsanitary oxymoron ever devised in the history of mankind. Paper towels? Out. Mini trash can? Full (and overflowing). Soap dispenser? Covered in slime, which I’m assuming is from the people who can’t get the suds washed off because you have to hold down those stubborn little hot/cold buttons to make any water flow. Sink? So small that if you lather, your hands just rub the sides of the sink and splash around in the water leftover from Grandma Stinky Pants. Then, to finish off the charade, you have to hold down the drain button to send your water whooshing off to the same place as your pee-pee. No one (NO ONE ) ever does that last step, hence the standing water sloshing around the basin. Can I blame them? No, it’s disgusting. And after having to dry off using facial tissues, the thought of spreading the white, leprous flakes caked to your hands all over the fixtures seems less than appealing.

At this point I’m so irked that my brain is barely functioning, so I try to pry open those weird doors and escape… Are you supposed to push? Pull? I always get it wrong and end up shaking and jerking them in a state of panic—I’m certain the commotion has people thinking a giant hamster has crawled out of the loo and is morphing into a people-eating monster of the skies. Alas, it’s just little ol’ me, and I don’t want to eat anyone, I just want out of the airplane bathroom—Forever!

Finally, as I push (or pull?) my way into freedom I see the long line that has accumulated down the aisle. Passengers act perturbed as they make a theatrical production out of letting me pass. They grunt, they squirm, they bend… they give me the same smiles of faux understanding I gave to Grandma Stinky Pants, but this time, I don’t care. I just slide back into my seat, and begin digging fervently for hand sanitizer. I shoot a bitter glance towards the first class curtain that barred me from peeing in peace, and turned to Andy with rage in my eyes as he said, “Now, don’t you feel better?”

Amanda McKinley's Weblog here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things - air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it. -Cesare Pavese

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Win 2 Tickets to See Pam Ann Live in San Francisco

World famous comedian Pam Ann launches her 2009 USA tour in October, including two performances right here in San Francisco. Nothing is off limits in her flamboyant performances known for poking fun at the many quirks in the airline industry. If you work in the airline industry or are a frequent traveler, this glamorous and fun show is just for you! Click here for ticket information.

San Francisco shows: October 17 & 18th

Win tickets to see her live. I have a pair of tickets up for grabs for one lucky reader. Ticket giveaway will happen later this week, so keep checking back for more details on how to win. And for real time updates visit

Inside Secret for SFO Travelers Flying United Airlines

If you travel domestic routes on United Airlines (Terminal 3) through San Francisco Airport, did you know you can access International security lines (G gates), instead of the long and congested ones in the domestic terminal? It's true! This is particularly beneficial for those riding BART to SFO or getting dropped off - without bags to check, because it means you can immediately clear security upon arriving at the airport. Plus, the international terminal is just an enjoyable, peaceful place to relax, with improved dining options, compared to terminal 3. If you have bags to check you still need to complete that at the domestic terminal, and therefore using international security checkpoint will probably not be beneficial.

A new walkway opened at SFO last December allows passengers to freely walk between International Terminal G to Domestic Terminal 3 - post security.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Classic Southwest Airlines Commercial From the 70's

Here's another oldie-but-goodie airline commercial from decades past. This one from Southwest Airlines dating back in the early 70's, when the airline was still in its infancy years.

Walt Disney World Resort Sale!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Earn 150 American Airlines Miles Watching a Short Bose Demo

Watch a two-minute video on the new Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones and earn a quick and easy 150 AAdvantage miles. See the in-store demonstration of the slick headphones by October 14th and earn 350 miles. Purchase them by November 14th and earn 1,500 miles. Full details.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Preview: Sheraton Check-In On Us Giveaway

In celebration of their 86 newly renovated properties throughout North America, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts is giving away single night stays at each property. According to their website, the contest begins October 6th. Click here for a preview and more details of the giveaway.