Best/worst days for holiday trips

(Photo: Bert Kaufmann)

(Photo: Bert Kaufmann)

Holiday travel season usually mimics the peak summer travel season, which this year was very busy and very expensive, so I expect the same for the upcoming holiday season.

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 9.26.07 AMWhen’s the best time to buy airline tickets? Due to high demand, there simply are not any real airfare “deals” on the peak days around Christmas and New Year’s this year. Travelers who want the most convenient flights on their preferred airlines should book as soon as possible to get seats on those flights…otherwise they will likely be stuck paying the same high price for “dog flights” that depart super early or late, they’ll have to sit in those dreaded middle seats, or make several stops en route to their destinations. My favorite sites for shopping for air travel this year: Kayak.com and Routehappy.com.

Should I drive or fly this year? I always stick to the five-hour rule: If you can drive to your destination in five hours or less, it’s likely smarter to hit the road instead of the skies during the holidays. This is especially true for families traveling together. Good news this year is that gasoline prices are at their lowest in many years. One of my favorite new smartphone apps for driving trips is Waze, a GPS-based mapping tool that uses information provided by other drivers to help you avoid traffic, road hazards…and speed traps.

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What are the best days for traveling this year? The good news about this year’s holiday season is that it is longer than usual with Christmas and New Year’s falling on Wednesdays– the full season will be over two weeks long, which means more wiggle room for travelers. (Compared to a season when Christmas and New Year’s both fall on say, Sunday, which makes for a much more compact, crowded and expensive season.) Smart travelers will depart on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and return on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day to avoid the biggest crowds and snag the lowest fares.

London in January? Why not? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

London in January? Why not? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Are there any alternatives or hidden secrets to getting good deals this year? If you have the flexibility to travel during the slowest times of year, the so called “dead weeks” of early December and early January, you can save 50%-70% on airfare or hotels. For example, airfares to Europe can be remarkably inexpensive during winter months. The best sites to shop for these dead week deals: Hotwire.com, Priceline.com and TravelZoo.com. It’s also a good idea to check out airline or hotel social media streams on sites like Twitter or Facebook to look for short term, last minute sales.

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred card now comes with an embedded microchip for easier use overseas

Is now a good time to redeem points or miles for trips? It’s nearly impossible to use airline frequent flyer awards during the blacked out, heavily restricted peak holiday season. Instead of dealing with those frustrations, focus on your credit card points! For example, the when redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you are not subject to blackouts or other restrictions. If a seat is available on any airline, you can get it!

What about airline baggage fees? If possible, avoid checking bags during the holidays– the risk of your bag getting lost and ruining your trip is just too high. Try to learn to live out of a carry on. If you have too much for a carry on, ship your bags ahead of time, but do so at the “ground” rate at UPS, FEDEX or the Postal Service. Shipping a 25 lb bag via next-day or two-day express is just too expensive.

What’s a good way to avoid holiday travel stress? Always try to book nonstop flights because you double your chances of a delay or cancellation with a one stop flight, even though you might save a few bucks. Another stress-busting move: Consider staying over in a hotel when visiting families during the holidays– rates at new hotels like a locally owned Best Western in or near suburban office parks hit annual lows during holidays (due to the lack of business travelers), and facilities are usually new and nice. Having your own space at a hotel is a big relief for both the traveler and the host during the stressy holidays.

Doesn't that look more appealing than a lumpy sofa bed? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Doesn’t that look more appealing than a lumpy sofa bed at the in-laws? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

‘Tis the season for Holiday Travel and I’m pleased to announce that I’ve teamed up with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card to produce a series of travel tips and advice for those heading over the river and through the woods this year. 

Chris McGinnis 

 

And just in case you missed it, here’s what else you need to know about Bay Area Travel over the last month:

New terminal at SFO: hard hat tour (photos)

16 brand new, must see NYC hotels

Update: United p.s. fleet SFO-JFK

Asia on sale + PreCheck newbies + United wi-fi + Free airport parking + Nancy Pelosi

Virgin first class sale + Hilton HHonors downgrade + Chase Sapphire w chip + United dumps ExpertFlyer

More A380s + Cathay discounts biz class + SJC courts Asia + Double Elevate pts

>Southwest FINALLY joins PreCheck

>United to allow handhelds below 10K feet

>Travel advice fit for a Queen (Latifah!)

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Big changes for United MileagePlus members

United's new spending thresholds for Premier status

United’s new spending thresholds for Premier status

United MileagePlus members will soon have to show their loyalty to United not only by how much they fly, but by how much they pay. Beginning with flights in 2014, Premier status for 2015 will be based miles flown and dollars spent each calendar year.

The same segment and Premier Qualifying Mile (PQM) requirements will remain in place. But starting next year, you will have meet a new PQD (Premier Qualifying Dollar) threshold.

To achieve Premier Silver, you must fly 25,000 miles and spend at least $2,500 on United. If both are not met, you will not earn status. For Premier Gold, the minimum spend is $5,000; for Platinum, it’s $7,500; and for 1K, you must spend at least $10,000.

PQDs are based on money spent on United-marketed flights only (taxes and fees excluded)—this does NOT include money spent on ancillary fees for bags, upgrades, in-flight food/bev, etc. However, it does include spending on fuel surcharges, which can be significant on international flights. Spending on United-marketed flights will include Star Alliance partner and code-share flights– but only those with ticket numbers beginning with United’s code 016. So, for example, dollars spent on a Lufthansa-operated flight will count– but only if your ticket is purchased from United.

United has not revealed how members will be able to track their PQDs yet.

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One way around the new rules: Spending at least $25,000 in a calendar year on any MileagePlus Chase co-branded credit card exempts you from the spending thresholds (but not the mileage/segment requirements). However, there is no PQD waiver for Premier 1K qualification- you must spend a minimum of $10,000 to earn 1K status.

Meeting or beating these new spending thresholds may be easy for some, but for others, not so much. For example, to attain or maintain Gold status (50K miles + $5K spend), you would have to buy an average of ten $500 United tickets over the course of a year. How easy or hard do you think this will be? Please vote in our poll!

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Like Delta, which announced a similar policy last winter, United is betting that this will weed out the flyers that “game the system” for status or simply buy the lowest fares. In the end, the new spending thresholds are going to hurt leisure travelers (who bring United the least revenue) most. Big spending business travelers might find that with fewer Premiers to compete with, it’s easier to board early and upgrade.

What do you think about United’s moves? Will this affect your loyalty to United? Please leave your comments below. 

Chris McGinnis

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New boarding procedure at SFO + Virgin PreCheck + CLEAR/PreCheck integration

United's new boarding area queues at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

United’s new boarding area queues at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

NEW BOARDING PROCEDURE AT SFO. United has installed new gate layouts at SFO and other US airports to help better manage the boarding process. Instead of waiting to board in bunches, each group is now divided into separate boarding lines in the following order:

  • Group 1 -  Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, first, biz class
  • Group 2 -  Premier Gold, Star Gold, Premier Alliance Silver, Star Alliance Silver, paid Premier Access, Chase Club Card and Chase Presidential Plus Card holders
  • Group 3 -  All Economy Plus and regular economy window seats (most likely to get overhead bin space)
  • Group 4 -  Regular economy middle seats
  • Group 5 –  Regular economy aisle seats (least likely to get overhead bin space)

I flew United to Boston last week and have to say that the new system seems to be working well, even if it does remind me of the frequently derided Southwest Airlines “cattle call.” United claims the new boarding process is 20% faster. What do you think? Have you been through the new boarding process? Please leave your comments below.

Precheck logo TMVIRGIN JOINS PRECHECK. No airline can claim to coddle business travelers unless they are part of the wildly popular PreCheck program, which offers member access to TSA’s “trusted traveler” fast lanes at 40+ airports across the US. Last week, Virgin America joined American, Delta, United and US Airways as the PreCheck’s fourth US airline. (Southwest Airlines says, “we are working on it.”) This means that  members of Virgin’s Elevate program who are part of Global Entry or similar trusted traveler programs offered by Customs and Border Protection can now pass through special security lanes that do not require the removal of shoes, belts or coats and laptops can stay inside carry-on bags for x-ray screening. If you are already a member of PreCheck through another airline, be sure to add your PASS ID to your Virgin America profile! IMPORTANT: Members of PreCheck are randomly chosen—while it’s likely you’ll hear those lovely “three beeps” when your boarding pass is scanned by agents, it’s not guaranteed like CLEAR. For more information on PreCheck, Clear and Global Entry, be sure to see our post, The No-Hassle Travel Trifecta.

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CLEAR, PRECHECK INTEGRATION AT SFO. Clear and PreCheck are integrating operatons at SFO. PreCheck is currently located in T3 (main United entrypoint) and T2 (American and Virgin America) at SFO. (Even though United operates flights out of T1, there is no PreCheck lane there.) As part of the integration, CLEAR  says that Screen shot 2013-06-05 at 12.47.21 PMwill soon add  a location adjacent to PreCheck United Premier/First/Business security entrypoint on the western end of T3. Once the integration is complete, CLEAR members who also qualify for PreCheck will enter security under the CLEAR cube, and then get an escort to the PreCheck lane. How will it work? CLEAR CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker told The BAT: “It is the exact same CLEAR process as today, but when we scan the boarding pass, we not only do a name match, but our system can read also the embedded barcode to determine whether a member is PreCheck eligible for that particular trip. If eligible, the member is guided to the PreCheck physical screening lane.”

ONE YEAR OF CLEAR AT SFO. Last week CLEAR celebrated one full year at SFO and provided The BAT with the following tidbits: There are now six CLEAR lanes at SFO (at least one at every terminal) and the company has created 50 jobs in the Bay Area. CLEAR members have passed through CLEAR lanes at SFO over a million times. Nearly 200 Bay Area companies offer corporate plans to help their frequent travelers steer clear of security lines. San Francisco is home to the largest number of active CLEAR members.

ROCKETMILES REMINDER. Remember when we recently wrote about the new mega-mileage bonuses offered by new sites like Rocketmiles and Pointshound? These sites curate upscale hotels in major cities and offer travelers huge airline mileage bonuses for bookings made through them. For today only, Rocketmiles is offering DOUBLE miles on hotel bookings– so if you have any trips coming up, today would be the day to make those bookings. Plus, since we signed on for referral bonuses from Rocketmiles, we earn 1000 miles for each booking you make from this link– and so do you!

Have you seen the new-style Global Entry kiosks at SFO? (Chris McGinnis)

Have you seen the new-style Global Entry kiosks at SFO? (Chris McGinnis)

LINES FOR GLOBAL ENTRY KIOSKS? Last month BAT reader D.I. wrote in stating: “Just arrived on UA 838 from Tokyo and the Global Entry Kiosk line stretched to the entry to the hall (where you turn left to go to the kiosks).   Average line size seems to be increasing, which diminishes the value of this perk.  Any news on whether more kiosks are coming?” Seemed surprising since nearly every time I’ve entered the US via Global Entry kiosk, the wait (if there was one at all) was more like one minute. So I asked DI for more details. He said, “There were at least 50 people in line and it took about ten minutes. Actually this was faster than two weeks ago when the line was shorter but two of the kiosks weren’t working and also there were a number of people who weren’t familiar with the machines. On the good side, there is now an agent there helping people work the machines and to make sure people don’t wait when there are open machines down the line.” Have you noticed back ups at Global Entry kiosks at SFO or elsewhere? Please leave your comments/experiences below.

Chris McGinnis

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Mileage Plus ranking + new 787 @ SFO + PreCheck + Airport standoff

In This Issue: New 787 Dreamliner flight at SFO, Mileage Plus ranks highly, Sour Milk, SFO Airport Tiff, Virgin America loss, Tito’s vodka, dream of a new Terminal 1 at SFO. Sorry for the recent lag in updates! Let’s catch up on Bay Area Travel news right now>>>

A Japan Airlines 787 Dreamliner at San Diego Int'l Airport.

A Japan Airlines 787 Dreamliner at San Diego Int’l Airport– soon at SFO!

MORE 787 DREAMLINERS.  Starting September 1, Japan Airlines will fly a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner between SFO and Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport, replacing the current B777 service. ANA will re-start Boeing 787 flights between San Jose and Tokyo-Narita on June 1. (Did you see the slideshow from my ANA flight from SJC to Tokyo?) Currently, United has no plans to fly Dreamliners from SFO.

UNITED EASIEST TO REDEEM. Among major legacy carriers, United ranks highest when it comes to redeeming awards online, according to a survey by Ideaworks. The report says that United had award seats available 80% of the time. By comparison, American had award seats available only 49% of the time. Delta and US Airways are the most parsimonious with awards, with seats available only 36% of the time. Only AirTran/Southwest and JetBlue ranked higher than United. Full report here.

VIRGIN AMERICA NARROWS LOSS. Our hometown carrier is still struggling to climb into the black, even as many of its competitors are showing relatively healthy and consistent profits (except United). In the first quarter of this year, Virgin America lost $46 million, which is not good. But it’s better than the loss of $76 million during the same period a year ago. It’s expanding, too, adding new flights between LAX and Las Vegas, and from SFO to Newark and Austin, and between San Jose and LAX. Based on that sorta good news, the carrier is flirting with the idea of an IPO. Would you invest in Virgin America if it manages to go public? Please leave your comments below.

Rendering of proposed Terminal 1 at SFO

Rendering of proposed Terminal 1 at SFO

DREAMING OF A NEW TERMINAL 1. Check out this interesting proposal for a massive re-do of SFO’s Terminal 1. It’s many years away, but it looks super cool. And tatty old T1 could use some help, that’s for sure.

PRECHECK NEWS. Have you noticed that United has started printing your PreCheck status on your boarding pass? Nice to know before you go whether or not you’ll get those glorious three beeps! Another good thing about PreCheck: It’s now available for those traveling on “select international flights.” Has anyone out there been able to use PreCheck internationally yet? SFO officials say that there are no PreCheck lanes at the international terminal yet—so is it smarter to use the PreCheck lanes at T3, and then walk to your international flight?  Please leave your comments below.

INFLIGHT WI-FI POLL. Last winter we visited Gogo headquarters in Itasca, Illinois and took a fun ride on their in-flight lab for a look-see at a new system called ATG-4 that is designed to improve Gogo’s connections and speed. That was six months ago and we are wondering… Have you noticed a difference? PLEASE ANSWER! (The “Vote” button might appear clear, but you must click it to VOTE and see the results)

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FlightCar

FLIGHTCAR UPDATE. By now you’ve likely heard of FlightCar, a new online service that offers air travelers free parking by SFO, plus the opportunity to earn some cash when they rent your car to other passengers arriving at SFO. Sounds like a good “sharing economy” deal, but the airport is not at all happy about these unlicensed interlopers (including other services like pink mustachioed Lyft).  Earlier this year, SFO issued a cease and desist order, forbidding these new companies from operating at the airport. To get around the C&D order, FlightCar hired a licensed black car service to shuttle its customers between the airport and their private parking lot. FlightCar’s Shri Ganeshram told The BAT: “We’re operating within the legal bounds of the system using independent licensed liveries to drop off and pick up passengers at the airport.” He says that FlightCar is now renting about 80 cars per week, despite the SFO cease and desist order. So we contacted SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel to find out if FlightCar is operating legally. He said, “As a public agency, we need to ensure a level playing field for all providers of ground transportation, and FlightCar must sign a permit and provide proof of insurance like every other off-airport rental car company.  This is a matter of basic fairness. FlightCar has yet to meet the obligations, including insurance, required for an SFO permit that would certify them for safe and legal operation at the airport. Their method of transportation to/from the offsite location does not change the fact that they are attempting to operate at SFO without a proper permit. It remains an issue of safety and fairness for us.” How do you think this will all shake out? Have you, or would you use FlightCar? Please leave your comments below!

6 MONTHS FREE AND CLEAR. Starting later this month, CLEAR card holders will be able to use their cards for expedited security screening at San Antonio International Airport. And starting this month, Visa Signature is working with CLEAR to bring the uninitiated a free 6-month CLEAR membership — and $60 off the annual rate of $179 when membership automatically renews. Do you have one of the many Visa Signature cards? Then check this out.

WE NEED YOUR HELP! Dearest Bay Area Travelers: The BAT needs more readers. Can you help us out? Please forward this link to frequent traveling friends, travel agents, travel managers, travel bloggers and tell them why you love The BAT and encourage them to sign up! THANKS!

CLOUDY MILK. The campaign to rename San Francisco International after Harvey Milk has come to a vague close with only a promise to name an as-yet unnamed terminal at SFO after him. I’m glad the whole contentious issue is (mostly) behind us. What about you? Please leave your comments below.

New 76-seat Embraer 175 from United

New 76-seat Embraer 175 from United

MORE BARBIE JETS. United will add 30 Embraer 175 regional jets to the United Express fleet starting next year. The 76-seaters will replace the less efficient 50-seat RJs currently in use. United says, “The aircraft will be configured with 12 United First, 16 Economy Plus and 48 United Economy seats. The design of the aircraft will result in more personal space for customers with wider seats and aisles than those on the 50-seat aircraft. The aircraft can accommodate standard carry-on bags, resulting in more convenience for customers.”

BETTER VODKA. Starting in June, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, made in Austin, TX, will replace Absolut vodka on all United flights. Did you know that vodka is the most-served spirit on US flights?

Join Chris McGinnis & JohnnyJet for the #travelskills chat on Friday mornings!

Join Chris McGinnis & JohnnyJet for the #travelskills Twitter chat on Friday mornings!

SEEKING SUMMER TRAVEL DEALS? Join in the #TravelSkills chat with @JohnnyJet and me this Friday at 9 am PDT. Our new chat has been trending in the US on Twitter on nearly every Friday, so stop by and join the fun. And learn something, or uncover a summer travel deal! See www.travelskills.com/chat

MORE MEXICO AT SFO. Aeromexico will add a second daily round trip to Mexico City on July 15. Check out BAT editor Chris McGinnis’ recent Business Trip: Mexico City for BBC!

San Francisco  Mexico City

Flight Number Departure Arrival Frequency
AM 0665 01:00 am 07:14 am Daily
AM 0669* 01:25 pm 07:53 pm Daily

Mexico City  San Francisco

Flight Number Departure Arrival Frequency
AM 0664 08:26 pm 11:25 pm Daily
AM 0668* 09:30 am 12:07 pm Daily

*New flights schedules available starting July 15th, all in local time and subject to change without notice.

SEEKING SASSY WHEELS in Dallas or Austin? High end Silvercar (which rents only silver Audi A4s) is offering four Virgin America Elevate reward points per $1 spent, 2,500 bonus points with your first rental, and another 2,500 points for your fourth rental through November 30. Have you tried Slivercar? What did you think?

Chris McGinnis

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New SFO flights + United fee hike + SFO Terminal video + 787

Catching up on Bay Area Travel news: New flights to France & China; United hikes fees; video inside new SFO Terminal; flirt on Virgin America flights from San Jose; 787 Dreamliner update, new Routehappy booking site; FlightCar is back.

China Eastern's A330-200 at SFO (Photo Peter Biaggi)

China Eastern’s A330-200 at SFO (Photo Peter Biaggi)

HUANYING AND BON VOYAGE. Last Friday (April 26) was a busy day at San Francisco International.

At 9:30 am, the first China Eastern A330-200 arrived from Shanghai to a water cannon salute and a welcome celebration at the airport. For now, here’s what we know: The Airbus A330 departs SFO at 11:30 am and arrives at Shanghai Pudong airport (PVG) the following day at 4 pm. On the return, the flight departs Shanghai at 1 pm and arrives at SFO at 9:30 am. Three days a week, the flight offers continuing service to Wuhan (pop 10 million), a central Chinese city many refer to as “the Chicago of China.” At the festive inaugural dinner at the Westin St Francis, I learned that China Eastern offers two types of business class seats on its Airbus A330-200—one type is the angled lie flight, the other is a true lie flat (180 degrees flat). China Eastern’s San Francisco manager Charlie Gu assured me that the San Francisco flight will always get the newer plane with the true lie-flat seats. It has to, if it plans on competing for business travelers with United since the deployment of its excellent new business class product on SFO-PVG nonstops. Every seat on China Eastern’s A330 (coach and business) has personal seatback entertainment systems and access to AC plugs. China Eastern is the second largest carrier in China (after Air China), and flies a relatively young fleet—with an average age of just seven years. SFO joins New York, Los Angeles and Honolulu as the fourth US city served by China Eastern—although, oddly, the airline does not have a US website. China Eastern is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, which offers Delta flyers a new way to earn and burn points on flights to burgeoning China. We’ll provide an in depth look at the new China Eastern flight to Shanghai in a future post.

Passengers on United's inaugural Paris flight greet by a 12-ft Eiffel Tower & free French inspired food & drink. (Photo: United)

Passengers on United’s inaugural Paris flight greeted by a 12-ft Eiffel Tower & free French inspired food & drink. (Photo: United)

On Friday afternoon, United recommenced nonstop service between SFO and Paris-CDG. (United discontinued SFO-CDG nonstops in Oct 2005.) Flight 990 departs San Francisco daily at 2:45 p.m. and arrives at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport at 10:45 a.m. the next day. For the return, flight 991 departs Paris at 10:05 a.m. and arrives in San Francisco at 1 p.m. the same day. United operates this new service with Boeing 767-300 aircraft, which offer 30 flat-bed business class seats, 49 seats in Economy Plus and 135 seats in standard economy. The BusinessFirst cabin (configured 2-1-2) includes 15.4-inch touchscreen monitors for personal on-demand entertainment, electrical and USB outlets, iPod jacks and five-course meals. Each seat in Economy features a 9-inch touchscreen with personal on-demand entertainment, and all rows (configured 2-3-2) include access to electrical outlets. Book and fly United to Paris by May 31, and you’ll earn some tidy Mileage Plus bonuses. Air France is currently the only other carrier offering nonstops between SFO and Paris. Paris-based XL Airways offers summer season SFO-CDG flights.

UNITED HIKES CHANGE FEE TO $200. In what appears to be a poorly timed slap in the face to customers just coming off a year a dismal performance by United, the carrier has increased its fee to make changes to nonrefundable tickets by a whopping $50. That means if you want to change a domestic ticket, you’ll now pay $200 (plus any change in fare) for the honor. Want to change an international ticket? That will now be $300, thank you. Shortly after United hiked its fees, US Airways matched, which likely means its future merger partner American will follow suit. That leaves Delta as the hold out, but it’s probably waiting a bit to hike fees after taking so much heat for changing its same-day change fee last week. As we all know, Southwest does not charge change fees at all, but passengers do have to pay any difference in fare if it has increased from the time of purchase. Alaska Airlines and Virgin America still charge a much more reasonable $100 change fee. Is the $200 fee enough to make you switch away from United? Please leave your comments below.

A LOOK AT TERMINAL 3 PROGRESS. SFO has produced a video providing a virtual hardhat tour of the new Boarding Area E at United’s Terminal 3, which is due to open earlier next year. Some interesting facts picked up in the video: The glassy new terminal should be as nice or nicer than SFO’s award winning Terminal 2 (home to Virgin America and American). Expect very wide corridors, high ceilings, giant picture windows with dramatic ramp views, a new “information terrace” at the entryway, environmentally sustainable design and local food vendors.

WE NEED YOUR HELP! Dearest Bay Area Travelers: The BAT needs more readers. Can you help us out? Please forward this link to frequent traveling friends, travel agents, travel managers, travel bloggers and tell them why you love The BAT and encourage them to sign up! THANKS!

MEGA-MILE BONUS SITES GET FUNDING. Remember when we wrote about mega-miles bonus sites Pointshound and RocketMiles last month? Seems like venture capitalists think the sites are on to something. This morning, The BAT received a note from RocketMiles announcing that the six-month old company raised $2 million in its first round of external financing.

GET FLIRTY ON VIRGIN AMERICA. You see that hottie in the boarding area and try to establish eye contact. Bingo! You got “the look” back! You get onboard and see the object of your desire a few rows ahead of you. Instead of posting a “missed connection”  on Craigslist (and hoping for the best), a new service from Virgin America allows you to send a drink to someone via its seatback entertainment and food ordering system. Locate that hottie on the seatmap, choose a cocktail, and then send it over to them, then follow up with a text message via the system’s seat-to-seat communications platform. (Have a few minutes? Then check out this hilarious Asian animation of the new Virgin service.)

SPEAKING OF VIRGIN AMERICA. South Bay and Peninsula dwellers should be happy to note that Virgin America’s new four-times-daily nonstops between San Jose International and LAX crank up on May 1. Why suffer on another carrier’s cramped RJ when you can jump on Virgin’s mod A320 and send the hottie across the aisle a cocktail? Virgin will be entering the very crowded San Jose-LAX run, which is already served by five carriers: Low fare leader Southwest , United (which dominates the Bay Area) as well as American, Delta and Alaska Airlines. Southwest flies a one-class 737 on the hour-or-so long route, Delta, United and American fly regional jets, and Alaska uses a turbo-prop. Virgin is offering a two-for-one sale on SJC-LAX flights through May 31.

STATUS OF SFO’s LONG TERM PARKING LOT? From BAT reader Damian: Chris, I love the BAT!  Have you written about the SFO Long Term Parking garageIt has had floor closures for a couple years and is now empty.  One parks outside or even gets a pass to go to short term parking at the same rate. Does the garage have structural problems?  Seems like it should be a scandal. Perhaps this is old news but in poking around on the Web I didn’t happen to find anything.” Having noticed the same thing…and wondered, we contacted SFO, and spokesperson Doug Yakel helped clear things up. He said, “The level closures in the Long-Term Garage are part of an ongoing, pre-planned schedule to accomplish routine maintenance. This includes pressure washing, restriping of ground markings and light bulb replacements. Only one floor is closed at a time for this work, and the work is scheduled to ensure all levels are open during peak demand periods such as the holiday travel season. We also monitor occupancy rates to ensure the appropriate match of supply and demand, and modify closure schedules if needed.”

ANA's expansive true lie-flat business class seat on its Boeing 787 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

ANA’s expansive true lie-flat business class seat on its Boeing 787 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

787 UPDATE. As you may recall, ANA’s important new nonstops from San Jose to Tokyo-NRT were waylaid by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner grounding, forcing all passengers to fly via SFO. While the FAA and Japanese authorities have given a conditional green light to new flights, ANA says it will begin by “replacing existing batteries with new batteries, changing to new battery chargers and installing new battery containment boxes and venting system. The improvements will require approximately one week per aircraft, with work on all seventeen aircraft scheduled to be completed by the end of May.” After that will be new crew training and a series of heavily monitored “proving flights.” This week, an ANA spokesperson told The BAT that it should have a firm date for the resumption of SJC-NRT by May 9. How would you feel about flying on a Dreamliner across the Pacific? Please leave your comments below.

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 9.41.54 AMARE YOU A HAPPY FLYER? Just fiddling around with the new Routehappy website makes us feel happy. Why? After a year of  researching, analyzing, and grading aircraft types and amenities, Routehappy applies “happiness factors” most business travelers care about such as seat pitch, width and layout, entertainment, Wi-Fi, in-seat power, plane quality, and trip duration to help you pick the option flight. In addition, it manually gathers complex information about flights from sources like the airline’s website, press releases, staff, industry analysts & influencers, blogs, forums, news stories and reviews from road warriors and “route experts.” It then applies a “happiness score” to each flight to help make the best decision. For example, I’ve always known that Delta’s roomy, jumbo B767 flights between SFO and Atlanta are much more comfortable than those long, narrow torture tubes known as Boeing 757’s. Routehappy exposes that. This sounded very similar to Hipmunk’s “Agony” index, which uses an algorithm to rank flights based on price, duration and stopovers. Routehappy seems to have taken flight ranking a step beyond that with more robust information that includes human input. Take a look at Routehappy and let us know what you think. Leave your comments below.

GET AROUND SFO CEASE & DESIST. The smart guys at FlightCar have found a way around the airport’s recent cease and desist order pushing it and other new-fangled airport transport options such as Lyft off airport property. Now, instead of dropping your car off with a FlightCar attendant at the airport, you drop your car at its off-airport lot, and then a licensed black car brings you to your terminal. When you land, you call FlightCar and the black car is sent to pick you up and brings you back to your car. Have you tried FlightCar? Should unlicensed transportation serviced be allowed at SFO? Leave your comments below. 

Chris McGinnis

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Q&A with SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson

SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson chats with crew in the galley. (Photo: SAS)

SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson chats with crew in the galley. (Photo: SAS)

Last week SAS inaugurated flights to San Francisco International Airport  from its main hub in Copenhagen.  A large Scandinavian contingent included SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson, who agreed to a lively Q&A with The Bay Area Traveler-The BAT!

Our warm spring weather was a big hit for the shivering Scandos, who have endured a longer-and-colder-than-normal winter. SFO welcomed the first SAS A340 with a water cannon salute on a bright warm Monday afternoon.

There was also an elegant dinner at the Asian Art Museum where former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown offered his frisky and fun perspective to a crowd of consular and international business types. Word at the dinner was that the active Gustafson (with his  teenage kids in tow) took several sweaty morning runs to soak up the sun and scenery.

The BAT: Why did SAS decide to come to San Francisco? What is it about our city that drew you here? 

Gustafson: SAS has for almost two years experienced increasing interest from our clients towards this destination. Thus, opening this route is obviously a response to the demand from our customers. Then, taking a closer look at the city and the possibilities of the region, we realized that this was a good opportunity to return to the West Coast. [SAS had previously flown to Seattle and Los Angeles, but no more.] When you look at topics like innovation, ambience and the spirit of this large – and somewhat small at the same time – West Coast city it’s clear that San Francisco has plenty to offer.

The BAT: Why should a business traveler from San Francisco choose SAS over United or Lufthansa when traveling to Europe– all are Star Alliance, so what’s the difference? 

Gustafson: There are many good reasons for flying with SAS. We offer a convenient and time saving solution with good connections in our Copenhagen hub. [SAS departs SFO at 5:35pm and arrives in Copenhagen-CPH at 1:15pm. At around 2-3 pm, a large bank of SAS flights departs CPH for major cities in Northern Europe] SAS is renowned for our high service level and also the authentic Scandinavian product and experience on board.

The BAT: Why did SAS choose SFO over the other gateways (like LAX or SEA)? Because it’s a big hub for Star Alliance partner United? Were incentives involved?

Gustafson: We chose SFO primarily due to good connections with United. Then it turns out that we have a really good time slot at SFO which makes both transfer and customs extremely smooth compared to what our customers can experience in other US airports. Avoiding two-hour lines in immigration is definitely a good selling point. Regarding incentives. SFO offered SAS the normal incentives such as marketing support and reduced landing fees.

Copenhagen Airport has gorgeous, functional stained wood flooring throughout. Nice! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Copenhagen Airport has gorgeous, functional stained wood flooring throughout. Nice! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The BAT: How is Copenhagen as a connecting hub? 

Gustafson: The airport offers fantastic connection times and close proximity from intercontinental gates to European gates. Furthermore, SAS has many connecting routes out of Copenhagen to Scandinavia and Europe making it seamless and easy for the traveler.

In business class, SAS offers an "angled lie flat" seat. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

In business class, SAS offers an “angled lie flat” seat. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The BAT: SAS currently has “angled lie flat” business class seats compared to other airlines like United with true lie-flat seats– are there any plans to change this? 

Gustafson: We are looking at new solutions for upgrading our cabin on long haul, but we can’t be more specific than that.

SAS economy extra offers larger coach seats with more legroom (Photo: SAS)

SAS economy extra offers larger coach seats with more legroom (Photo: SAS)

The BAT: Does SAS offer a premium economy product? How is that? How does it compare to business… and to regular economy? 

Gustafson: Yes on long haul we have economy extra, which will be renamed SAS Plus starting this June, where are changing our service concept completely on short haul flights. As a matter of fact our premium economy product was awarded as the best in 2012. On long haul we’ll rename our premium economy and regular economy to SAS Plus and SAS Go. With SAS Plus we offer better seats and legroom, an upgraded service concept and two meal servings. Passengers get access to SAS lounges and fast track immigration lines. In SAS Go we also offer two meal servings, free luggage and all our online check-in services. We say that SAS Go is for those who want much, and Plus is for those who want even more. [SAS adds that there are three meal services on longer hauls, such as CPH-SFO]

During business class meal service, flight attendants done chef uniforms, which adds to the flight's "hygge" (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

During business class meal service, flight attendants don chef uniforms, which adds to the flight’s “hygge” (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The BAT: What is inflight service like in business class on SAS? How does it differ from what a traveler would get on a US carrier? Is it Scandinavian-style service? What does that mean? 

Gustafson: Obviously, it’s an experience that one needs to acquire personally. We offer individual service with a warm, friendly and charming Scandinavian atmosphere. We serve modern Scandinavian food and our staff act sincere and true in their relation with the travelers onboard. [See “hygge” below]

The BAT: Is SAS owned or supported by Scandinavian governments? How does that work? 

Gustafson: SAS is listed on Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen stock exchanges. The Swedish government owns 24% of shares, the Danish government owns 14%, the Norwegians own 14%, and 7% is owned by the Knut och Alice Wallenberg Stiftelse Foundation. The other 41% is on the open market.

The BAT: If I have a three-day business trip to Copenhagen with a little free time on my hands, what are the TWO things I must do when I’m there? 

Gustafson: Experience the concept of Danish “hygge” (means have a good and cozy time) by visiting different town parts: Nyhavn, Tivoli, the Carlsberg grounds as well as parks and places around the town. And going to Copenhagen you must try many different restaurants – the city is known for premium food (new Nordic cuisine) with the world’s best restaurant Noma and several Michelin restaurants.

Chris McGinnis

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SAS arrival + Fight over Jersey + Taipei Delei + United woes

The first SAS A340 arrives at SFO to a water cannon salute (Photo: Joe D'Alessandro)

The first SAS A340 arrives at SFO to a water cannon salute (Photo: Joe D’Alessandro)

SKAL TO SAS. SAS touched down at SFO last Monday at around 2:30pm. While the BAT was unable to attend the airport arrival celebration, reader Joe D’Alessandro sent along the above photo of the first SAS A340-300 getting a water cannon salute. Within 10 minutes, we posted the photo on The BAT Facebook page and our sister column on SFgate. D’Alessandro is the head of San Francisco Travel, and was at SFO to give a welcome speech, during which he mentioned the quickly posted photo as an example of the power and reach of social media in the Bay Area! Cool! (The BAT’s onboard SAS this week bound for Copenhagen, so stay tuned for our review!)

Pete Cashmore (Mashable) and Richard Branson on the Virgin America Inaugural LAX-EWR flight.

Pete Cashmore (Mashable) and Richard Branson on the Virgin America Inaugural LAX-EWR flight.

VIRGIN AMERICA IN JERSEY. Another inaugural this week: Virgin America jets touched down in Newark, New Jersey, with Richard Branson and Mashable’s Pete Cashmore onboard in a Google+ Hangout, in which Branson shared that fares between California and Newark are down 40% since Virgin’s entry into the market. In later interviews, Branson talked about the possibility of filing an antitrust complaint against United for its overwhelming buildup of flights in response to Virgin’s entry into the market, which The BAT pointed out in early March.  United was quick to point out that its response was nothing more than business as usual. What do you think?

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TAIPEI DELEI. United has postponed the start of its nonstops between SFO and Taipei for a full YEAR– until March 2014. Originally, flights were to have started this month, but that was then pushed until June. Routes Online reports that the delay is due to “market seasonality and the availability of wide body aircraft as a result of the ongoing Boeing 787 delays…. Due to the 787 issue, the Boeing 777 that we would use on the SFO-TPE route is now needed to support other existing routes that we planned to transition to Boeing 787s.” Speaking of United’s 787’s, the currently grounded plane is now back on United’s schedule starting May 31, flying between Denver and Houston. However, the FAA has not yet given airline the green light to fly 787s, but it’s expected soon. (United’s new flights to Paris, announced at the same time as Taipei, crank up on April 26.)

United CEO Jeff Smisek

UNITED CEO PAY CUT. The Miami Herald reports that CEO of United Airlines saw his total 2012 compensation shrink 41 percent last year after stumbles in the airline’s merger with Continental. Compensation for Chairman and CEO Jeff Smisek was $7.9 million last year, down from $13.4 million after a cut in his incentive payments.

MEGA-MILEAGE BONUSES. Did you check out our post this week on two new sites offering big bonuses for hotel stays… how about 15,000 United Mileage Plus miles for a three night stay in NYC or Chicago? Not bad. But not for everyone. Read about it here.

Virgin America's newest A320's have sharklets on the wings. Seen em? (Photo: Virgin America)

Virgin America’s newest A320′s have sharklets on the wings. Seen em? (Photo: Virgin America)

BEST AND WORST OF TIMES. Interesting to note that the much-ballyhooed (but generally ignored by consumers) “2012 Airline Quality Rankings” came out this week with the Bay Area’s two largest airlines at opposite ends. Virgin America ranked #1… and United ranked dead last at #14. Virgins’ win was attributed to its smaller, more manageable size, newer planes, wi-fi, fun crews, etc. Most of the blame for United’s dismal showing was based on its computer switchover and consolidation with Continental woes. Do these survey results make you MORE likely to choose Virgin and LESS likely to fly United? Please leave your comments below.

Here’s how the airlines ranked in 2012, as well as their position the previous year.

1) Virgin America (new to the ranking this year*)
2) JetBlue (3)
3) AirTran (1)
4) Delta (6)
5) Hawaiian (2)
6) Alaska (5)
7) Frontier (4)
8) Southwest (7)
9) US Airways (8)
10) American (10)
11) American Eagle (15)
12) SkyWest (9)
13) ExpressJet (new to the ranking this year*)
14) United (12)
*In order to qualify for inclusion in the report, an airline must carry at least 1 percent of domestic passengers.

ELEGANT EVENING. On Tuesday, SAS threw an elegant dinner party for about 150 at the Asian Art Museum. Among the dignitaries on the dais,  SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson and ex-SF-mayor Willie Brown, who’s energetic and spot on speech brought the relatively buttoned up house down. What a show! Bay Area Traveler editor Chris McGinnis was honored to be among the attendees.

photo

Chris McGinnis

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Mega mileage earning bonuses proliferate

A room at the Andaz Wall Street in NYC nets 15K Mileage Plus miles (Photo: Andaz)

A room at the Andaz Wall Street in NYC nets 15K Mileage Plus miles (Photo: Andaz)

Word about two new travel websites, RocketMiles and PointsHound, which woo frequent travelers with massive mileage bonuses for hotel bookings, is starting to leak out.

A quick scan of RocketMiles today shows that it is currently offering 15,000 Mileage Plus miles for a three-night stay (@ $493/night) at the swank Andaz Wall Street in New York City in late April. On Pointshound, book three nights at the trendy James Chicago hotel at $254/night, and you earn 6,600 Virgin America Elevate points.

Sounds to good to be true, right?

Let’s take a look and see if they are right for you.

First off, these sites are likely appeal to the type of traveler who is more focused on earning miles than saving money. That’s because the rates they offer are close, but not always as low as those found on more conventional booking sites.

They are set up to appeal to so-called “rogue” or “unmanaged” travelers—those who are not required (or choose not) to book hotels through a central corporate travel department or agency.

Screenshot from RocketMiles

Screenshot from RocketMiles

Pointshound founder Peter Van Dorn told The BAT that a light bulb went off when research showed that 61% of all business travelers book hotels wherever they want, regardless of company policy (and without penalty). He added, “The other related data we found encouraging was the size of this  market: ~8 million elite-level frequent travelers in the US make 13 hotel bookings a year on average. At ~$300 per stay, this gets to a market size of $30 billion just in the US.”

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Earn 8,000 Mileage Plus miles at the Westin Michigan Ave in Chicago (Photo: Westin)

Earn 8,000 Mileage Plus miles at the Westin Michigan Ave in Chicago (Photo: Westin)

How do they do it? Generally, the sites buy distressed hotel room inventory (unsold rooms) at a discount, then mark the rate up to the average online travel agency price, and take that spread. Then, they buy miles from airline programs to provide members with the incentive to book through their sites.

“Every property is selected and screened by our staff of experienced business travelers. RocketMiles attracts the type of frequent travelers that our hotel providers are trying to reach, which is why they offer us rates with enough margin to bundle the rooms with incredible amounts of airline miles. It’s a win-win for everybody,” said RocketMiles founder Bjorn Larsen in an interview with The BAT from Chicago.

Both sites are free. And both offer the promise of big mileage bonuses, but there are some differences worth noting.

Pointshound, with offices in downtown San Francisco, was first to market with the concept (Oct 2012), and partners with more than 150,000 hotels around the world.  It offers mileage bonuses on three different tiers based on rate—the cheapest rates net the fewest bonus miles. Pay a bit more, and your bonus-earning blossoms, or you can pay a rate that allows you to earn both miles and hotel points. Members earn miles with United Mileage Plus, Virgin America Elevate, Delta SkyMiles, American AAdvantage among others.

RocketMiles is just coming off beta this month, and its hotel inventory is limited—on purpose. The site states, “We don’t want to bother you with unremarkable offers…We only offer a handful of hotels in cities and neighborhoods where our customers travel the most.” When you book via RocketMiles, you are unable to earn hotel program points. But the mileage bonuses it offers are tough to resist. RocketMiles works with United Mileage Plus, Delta, American, US Airways, and Hawaiian.

Sounds great, but not everyone is completely sold on the idea yet. Seth Miller, who writes the popular and pithy Wandering Aramean Boarding Area blog told The BAT,  “I’m not entirely convinced that either product is going to be universally better for travelers. There are so many booking portals now, each with their own hook trying to get a share of the booking market…In many ways the proliferation of these sites makes it harder for consumers to compare the total value proposition. That’s not to say that they’re bad; it just means a bit more work to truly maximize your travel dollar.”

Note: These sites have “refer a friend” offers which The BAT signed up for (and you can, too).  So if you make a booking from links posted here, we get 250-1000 miles. Come on and help us out! 

When it comes to hotels, are you a price shopper or a points shopper? Are the big bonuses worth shopping yet another travel site? Please leave your comments below.

Chris McGinnis

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United’s transition to “new” p.s. flights

United's new p.s business class seats on the SFO-JFK run. (Photo: United Airlines)

United’s new p.s business class seats on the SFO-JFK run. (Photo: United Airlines)

Do you jump on United Airlines p.s. service flights to New York much? If so, take a look at this document produced by United that clearly spells out how it plans to make the transition from the current “old” p.s. service to the “new” p.s. service that debuted last month (covered by The Bay Area Traveler- The BAT– right here.)

Some highlights and new information from the document:

>Prepare for “a mix of aircraft configurations” on the SFO-JFK route as aircraft are taken out of service for their revamps– these can include: two-class internationally configured 757, three-class “old p.s.” 757, or “new p.s.” two-class 757. For a while it is going to be tough to determine exactly which aircraft you’ll get (even on United’s website) until a few days before each flight.

>The transition will last through the end of this year, at which time all 13 Boeing 757 aircraft with new p.s. will be in service.

>New configuration will have a newer, faster version of Gogo inflight internet, and 110v power outlets in all seats (no adapter required).

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>In addition to new seats, these old 757′s are getting new lavatories, flooring, sidewalls, galleys, closets.

>Starting June 6, all flights will operate as 2-class cabins (business and economy), even if you fly on an “old p.s.” plane. Former United First seats in rows 1-3 of non-reconfigured aircraft will be sold as United Business.

>Who gets those first class seats at a business class price? The doc below says, “Seats will be available for advance assignment for the following Mileage Plus Premier members, confirmed in United Business: Global services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, Premier Gold at any time after booking.” Premier Silver members can ask for one at time of check in.

Here’s a PDF of the United document:

UnitedAirlinesNewPSclass

Have you flown on a newly configured p.s. 757 yet? How was it? If not, what do you think about the new configuration? How will it compare to Virgin, Delta, JetBlue and American? Which one do you prefer on the SFO-JFK run? Please leave your comments below. 

Chris McGinnis

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The dog ate my luggage

Lou Briasco at Michael Bruno luggage in San Francisco's Castro neighbhorhood

Lou Briasco at the Michael Bruno Luggage store in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

How good is the warranty on your luggage?

“My customer’s dog tore the zipper off a $300 carry-on bag he’d had for just two weeks,” said Lou Briasco, the owner of Michael Bruno Luggage on Market Street in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

“The bag was ruined, so he came back into the store to buy a replacement. Since he wasn’t traveling soon, I told him I would send it back to Briggs & Riley to see if they really stood behind their ‘no questions asked’ repair or replacement policy,” he added.

If there’s anyone in the Bay Area who knows luggage, it’s the gregarious, affable Briasco, who has been the sole proprietor at Michael Bruno since 1982. Even though the store does not have a web site, all you have to do is check the hundred or so stellar ratings on Yelp to know that Briasco knows his business…and his customers.

Michael Bruno Luggage is located at 2267 Market Street in SF. (Chris McGinnis)

Michael Bruno Luggage is located at 2267 Market Street in SF. (Chris McGinnis)

“Two weeks later, the bag shipped back with the zipper replaced at no charge,” he beamed. “That shows a company that truly stands behind its warranty. And now we both have a customer for life.”

After more than 30 years in the luggage business, Briasco says that the key feature frequent travelers should look for in a new bag is a strong manufacturer’s repair or replacement policy. For that reason, the two primary lines of luggage he carries are Briggs & Riley and Eagle Creek—both, he says, have solid, time-tested warranties.

Briggs & Riley’s warranty states: “If your Briggs & Riley bag is ever broken or damaged, even if it was caused by an airline, we will repair it free of charge – Simple as that!” The warranty is good for life and does not require receipts or any other evidence that you even bought the bag. All you have to do is pay to ship it to the repair center.

Eagle Creek luggage sells at a lower price point than Briggs & Riley, so its warranty is good for five years. Its website says that when customers ship back a damaged bag,  “If it is covered under our warranty, we will repair it or replace it with an available product of similar features and value. We will then send it back to you at no charge.”

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Briasco says that the high-end (and very popular) Tumi line has added too many exceptions to its warranty (such as proof of purchase requirements) in recent years, so he’s stopped carrying it in his store. For occasional travelers, he stocks less expensive Delsey bags, which he says are suitable for infrequent use. But you get what you pay for with its rather thin warranty that specifically rules out coverage for damage caused by airlines.

In addition to a good warranty, what should a frequent traveler look for when buying a bag?

Look for durable, but easily replaced wheels

Look for durable, but easily replaced wheels

DURABILITY: Since wheels often break, even on high quality bags, Briasco recommends looking for sturdy wheels that can easily be switched out if broken. For wheeled bags, Briasco said that external frame telescopic handles result in more room inside bags.

LEATHER OR NYLON? “While leather looks and smells good, for durability, weight, and protection from the elements, nylon is best,” he said. “Cordura nylon is the most durable, but you can only find it on the few bags manufactured in the US, such as the John Peters line of packs and messenger bags, made in New York.”

IMG_2693MADE IN USA? “When I started out in 1982, nearly all luggage was made in the USA. It was a sign of quality. Now, all bags are made in Asia—and that’s not all bad if the manufacturer has strict quality controls—not all of them do, and you can tell,” he said. Briasco is happy to show off features such as inverted, waterproof zippers, sturdy, low profile handles that don’t get snagged by baggage handling equipment, convenient exterior pockets, etc.

HOW MUCH? “Frequent travelers should spend a little bit more money on a higher quality bag that lasts a lot longer. In the long run, they will spend less than they would having to replace cheaper bags over and over again.” he advised. “Those who travel once per month should invest around $300 for good bag that won’t break when you really need it.” Briasco offers deep unadvertised discounts on all his merchandise. “It’s the only way I can stay in business and compete with the online retailers,” he smiled.

HARD-SIDED LUGGAGE? Shiny, colorful new hard-sided bags from manufacturers like Rimowa seem to be all the rage in airports and hotel lobbies these days. However, Briasco is not much of a fan. “Most do not have external pockets, which I think are critical. Also, for the hard sides to maintain their integrity, the bag has to be packed full. If not, the sides get a little wobbly,” he said.

FOUR WHEELS? New four wheeled bags, referred to as “spinners” are also very popular these days. But Briasco warns that those with small wheels are difficult to maneuver, especially on carpets. “So if you really want a spinner, check the wheels first, and try to roll it over some carpet,” he advised.

You won't find too many easily snatched black bags at Michael Bruno- check out the colors.

You won’t find too many easily snatched black bags at Michael Bruno- check out the colors.

COLOR? Think twice before you buy a black bag. “A thief will never steal a red bag at the airport—he’d be too easy to catch,” he warned. If you have a black bag, he suggests getting a very colorful luggage tag—as a matter of fact, Briasco throws in a free brightly colored tag with most high end bags he sells.

Individualize your bag with a bright luggage tag

Individualize your bag with a bright luggage tag

Need some luggage advice? Drop by Michael Bruno Luggage at 2267 Market Street and let Lou bend your ear. You’ll get more than a piece of luggage—you’ll get a piece of his mind!

The store is open Thurs-Tues between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. But if you drop by and the store is closed, call the phone number posted on the door and Lou (who lives three doors away) will come open the shop for you.

What type of luggage do you carry? Why? Do you have any good tips or advice regarding the bag you own? Please leave your comments below! 

–Chris McGinnis

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