Thursday, December 31, 2009

New United Q1 Promo: Fly Often, Earn up to 20,000 Bonus Miles

Check your email for a new United promotion awarding you up to 20,000 Mileage Plus miles when you book and fly roundtrips before March 31, 2010. This is a targeted offer, and registration is required prior to travel. Also, and this is a biggie, it appears only the higher fare buckets "H" and higher qualify. Therefore, inexpensive seats such as K/L/T/S/W booking classes likely won't qualify (check your specific offer to be sure however).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Travel Tool for Star Alliance Members Booking Award Travel

By Mike Grasso
If you accrue miles with a Star Alliance carrier such as United or U.S. Airways, you probably have a goal at some point to cash in those miles. Today I'd like to recommend an amazing resource (hat off to the Flyertalk forums) I've used for quite some time enabling a quick and easy search for award seats.

First, a good reminder that you are not limited to redeeming with the airline you bank your miles with. Generally you can redeem with others within the alliance. For example, you have a mountain of miles with United Airlines which can be used on Singapore, Lufthansa, and Continental, to name a few. But how do you know award availability on these partner airlines? Often, your "sponsoring" carrier may have website limitations showing award availability of Star Alliance partners. So here's the workaround (other than just calling the airline):

-Join ANA's Mileage Club (free).
-Visit the award availability page.
-After logging in, select the "Use Star Alliance Members" button

From here, you can search award availability for most Star Alliance members worldwide. This is particularly useful when trying to build a complicated itinerary, or one in which you desire some creative routing's. This tool is good preparation, homework if you will, before contacting the airline directly to book your award ticket. Too often phone reps don't take the time to search all possible options (ie: something as simple as routing from Oakland, if no seats are available from San Francisco).

A word of caution though: Although results showing availability are generally accurate, there may be a few instances when they are not bookable. For an interesting, long discussion on this problem, read this Flyertalk forum on StarNet blocking. In sum, use the ANA award availability page as a tool in your award search, but realize occasionally availability and bookability may be slightly off from each other.

Full URL for award availability tool linked above:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Security Measures for Some Flights Into the U.S.

In response to the attempted terrorist attack of a U.S. Airliner Friday, word comes of added security measures for certain international flights bound for the United States. This includes prohibiting passengers from getting up out of their seat or carrying any personal items in their lap during the last hour of a flight and tighter restrictions on carry-on bags. Some sources are reporting a complete ban of electronics on flights, including on-board entertainment.
But these new measures are not being applied consistently and some travelers have reported little, if any noticeable changes in security. In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, "These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere." This story is still developing. Visit Reuters for the latest.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Terrorist Attack Foiled on Detroit-Bound Flight

Breaking News: A Nigerian Man attempted to light a powder aboard a Detroit-bound plane Friday before it made an emergency landing at Detroit International Airport, in what the White House is now calling an attempted terrorist attack. The man had “some kind of incendiary device he tried to ignite” in a bag strapped to his body a U.S. official told NBC news. Two passengers witnesses the attempted attack, and a third jumped and restrained the man. More details from CNN.

Note: The plane includes Delta insignia, but operated by Northwest Airlines.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Orbitz 10% Off Hotel Promotion Code

Orbitz has released a 10% off promo code valid for hotel stays thru February 28, 2010.
Click here and enter promo code: ORBITZHOTEL10 during checkout. Book by December 31st to take advantage of this offer.

Bird Strikes Damage Four Planes at Sac Airport

Sacramento International Airport ranked second in the country for the number of serious bird strikes since 1990.
Four planes were damaged within a 14-hour period last weekend in separate bird strike incidents. The latest occurred with a Southwest Airlines was hit during final approach from Portland. The plane made a normal, on-time landing, but needed repairs before returning to flight.

1,553 bird strikes were reported at Sacramento Airport from 1990-June 2009, most with little or no damage to the plane.

LGA Reading Material

Reading material while at New York's LaGuardia Airport (LGA).

Photo and caption credit:
Joe.My.God (one of my favorite non-travel blogs)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Save on airfare, hotels, car rentals, and more!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WestJet Adds Additional San Francisco Routes

Canada-based WestJet unveiled its Summer 2010 flight schedule, including new routes from San Francisco to Edmonton and Vancouver. The 3-times weekly Edmonton flights begin May 8, 2010, while once-daily Vancouver flights commence June 28th. Both routes are considered Seasonal additions. Click here for more information.

WestJet currently serves San Francisco airport with flights to its Calgary hub.

Monday, December 21, 2009

TSA's Secure Flight Takes Off

TSA's latest security measure - Secure Flight, began rolling out to the airlines earlier this year. Although most of the legwork in behind the scenes between the airlines and TSA, some work is required by passengers - in advance, to avoid possible inconveniences at the airport.
How it works: Airlines collect additional information for each passenger and pass this information on to the government. Once received, names are reviewed to ensure those on government no fly lists don't make it on board, and to determine which travelers who for enhanced airport screening. This information is then transmitted back to the airlines.

Information you will need to provide the airline: Full name, as it appears on government-issued I.D when traveling; Date of Birth; Gender; Redress number (if applicable).

Secure Flight is currently being phased in with each of the airlines - not all airlines require it yet. But if you have upcoming reservations it's a good idea to check those itineraries and provide any requested information in advance.

Here's a 90 second clip from TSA with more information on the program.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

San Francisco to Lima $332 RT "all in"

American Airlines offering SFO-Lima, Peru for just $332 roundtrip, including all taxes and fees. Valid for travel thru May 2010. Search using travel tools along the left column.

Friday, December 18, 2009

San Francisco to Madrid $605 Roundtrip w/tax

Fly San Francisco to Madrid, Spain for just $605 roundtrip, including all taxes & fees. Valid for outbound travel through most of March on both Delta and Continental. Click here and search by "flexible dates."

Note - other airlines have lower base fares, but Delta and Continental price out lowest (at time of posting) when adding in taxes & fees.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Boeing 787 'Dreamliner' Takes First Flight

After more than two years of delays, Boeing officially took its 787 'Dreamliner' into the skies today. Today's four hour flight around the Washington state area will allow a two member crew to perform basic tests and system checks of the aircraft. Japan's All Nippon Airlines is expected to take delivery of the first Boeing 787 later next year. Complete coverage from MSNBC.

Monday, December 14, 2009

30,000 Feet: Frequent Flyer - Join the Club

Check out this short PBS documentary on -really- frequent flyers who do it for the love of flying, the love of miles, and occasionally the love of the cities they visit - even if for 30-minutes. Filmmaker Gabriel Leigh (Cal-Grad!)does marvelous work here discussing how to maximize earning potential and the resulting payouts, such as first class seating and lounge access.

Meanwhile, Randy Peterson, founder Flyertalk, a popular online community of frequent flyer enthusiasts, describes how people who take the time can learn the tricks to reap the most benefits, often with minimum ongoing financial investment. Sounds like some of the spam messages I get in my inbox everyday! But - Randy is absolutely right! My own experience as a "mileage runner" and member of Flyertalk have taught me the tricks of the trade, how to cash-in on obvious and not so obvious travel opportunities, and how to help others do the same. OK, OK, - I'll save my story for another day. On with the show!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

BART Board Approves People-Mover to Oakland Airport

BART directors approved a measure today that would provide a driverless train system for passengers traveling between Oakland Airport and BART. Construction on the $440 million contract will begin next Summer, with full operation of the people-mover by 2013. Currently AirBART provides shuttle bus service between Oakland's MacArthur Station and Oakland Airport.

JetBlue Sale

The "Cooling Off" Period When Purchasing Airline Tickets

By Mike Grasso

Sale airfares come and go within a few days, while unadvertised drops in fares usually last just a matter of hours. Take some relatively recent examples such as Los Angeles to Fiji for a few hundred bucks, and San Francisco to upstate New York for $2 bucks. One minute you see them, next minute - poof, fare be gone. You're craving a vacation and the "deal of the century" is right before your eyes, but you're not sure how your significant other & work will feel about you taking more time away. How do you break free of your ambivalence to book?

While I don't have the perfect answer to that question, but perhaps more time to think it over will help! Most airlines offer some form of a "cooling off" period. They don't officially call it that, but essentially it allows you to purchase a ticket on their website and then later decide (usually within 24 hours) to cancel and receive a full refund, giving you plenty of time to chat up the S.O and Boss. This policy can can also be helpful if, for example, after booking you realized you selected the wrong date of departure, giving you an opportunity to make the correction at no charge.

A variation to the refund scenario is a 24-hour hold policy, whereby after you build a reservation on the airline website, you can place it on hold for up to 24-hours. Airlines offer a refund or hold - not both. Below I've outlined and linked the policies of major U.S. carriers. These policies are subject to change, and may not apply to every specific scenario, but do provide a general rule to follow when booking with the different airlines.

Southwest Airlines: (no link) 24 hour cancellation policy. Beyond 24 hours, Southwest does not charge a change fee, allowing you to hold as travel credit up to a year from date of purchase.

Continental Airlines: 24-hour cancellation policy

U.S Airways: 24-hour HOLD & cancellation policy

Virgin America: 24-hour cancellation policy

Delta Airlines: Cancellation until midnight the next day.

United Airlines: 24-hour cancellation policy

American Airlines: 24-hour HOLD policy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Redeem 5,000 Delta Miles for a $50 Gift Card

-See updates below-
The most obvious way of redeeming air miles is to use them for "free" award flights. But, if you can't find award availability, or you just don't have the minimum required for a flight, Delta has a new option: Redeem them for gift cards.

You can select a $50 gift card for every 5,000 miles redeemed. That's a 1:1 ratio, a fairly good value for the consumer. Select from a variety of familiar brands, such as Macy's, Barnes and Noble and Old Navy. Visit for more information and to redeem.

Update- Got a few emails on this; the system was down for "maintenance" Tuesday evening, and it's now back up. Surprise: Seems they also upped the redemption's to 8,000 miles for a $50 gift card. Unsure if the discount was temporary, or if they became overwhelmed with redemption's since the deal was posted on sites such as fatwallet and ebates. This is definitely not as good of an offer as before.

Monday, December 7, 2009

$20 Rooms at Select Howard Johnson Hotels

(Update: Rates gone as of 4:55 PM)

HOT! A price mistake, or just a great deal?

$20 rooms are available at for select properties throughout the U.S. Many cities do not have HoJo hotels, and/or not included in the $20/night results.

Here are a few of the cities we have found @ the $20 rate.
San Francisco Airport, Orange County, Torrance, Washington D.C., Clearwater, Florida, Anchorage, Alaska, and my favorite so far: Howard Johnson Inn Plaza de Armas in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Complimentary WiFi and/or breakfast are available at many hotels.

HoJo properties vary in quality! Some are rather amazing, others...not so much. Check TripAdvisor reviews before making your purchase.

To maximize this deal, link thru click on ebates and earn 1.5% cash back. Hurry, these prices won't last long.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Save 10% on American Airlines Flights

This deal requires about five minutes of work (playing a game) in order to claim the discount coupon. Basically, play an online soccer game for three minutes, then you get sent a 10% systemwide American Airlines discount code, valid for travel through February 28, 2010. There are a few blackout dates around the holidays, otherwise it's a pretty solid coupon that can save you a good amount of money.

Step 1: Visit
Step 2: Register, and play the short game
Step 3: Upon completing the game, click on the promotion code tab
Step 4: A password will be emailed to you, enter the PW at the designated location
Step 5: An American 10% off e-cert will be immediately sent to you.
Step 6: Book & Fly

I went through these steps and the 10% discount code worked just fine. Enjoy!

Snow Likely in on the Valley Floor Monday

The National Weather Service continues to predict snow in parts of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley's, including in Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto. The snow is expected to begin early Monday morning and last through early afternoon, with total accumulations of 1-3 inches possible. Those of you familiar with the area know, snow is a rare in the Sacramento area.

Not all models are in agreement for this snow event, but if it does pan out, could be a record - as the most significant snowstorm hit Sacramento back way back in 1888, where 2.5 inches of snow fell.

Travelers through Sacramento (SMF) should stay tuned for changing weather conditions.
Elsewhere, snow levels around the Bay Area are expected to drop to 1,000 feet Monday, locally lower in any heavy downpours.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Swiss Airlines to Launch Flights Between San Francisco and Zurich

Swiss Airlines confirmed this week they plan to launch flight between San Francisco and Zurich, Switzerland beginning June 2, 2010. The flight will operate 6 days a week on a 3-cabin Airbus 340 aircraft.

The schedule is as follows:
SFO - ZRH Departs 7:25 PM, arrives 3:40 PM the next day.
ZRH -SFO Departs 1:15 PM, arrives 4:30 PM the same day.

Swiss is a member of the Star Alliance network.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Discounted Parking at Bay Area Airports

How about a few bucks savings (per day!) for airport parking this holiday season? lists some of the private parking facilities around Bay Area airports (and beyond) offering discounted parking deals. If you already use any of these facilities, this is a no brainer: clip the coupon and go. If you plan on parking for an extended period of time, consider Park & Fly options at participating airport hotels, where paying for a 1-night hotel stay can net you several days of free parking.
In addition to the offers above, also consider Park SFO, one of my favorites, located just a few minutes from the airport with frequent shuttle runs and friendly staff. Park SFO coupons.