American Airlines

UPDATE: United cancels East Coast flights; others waiting it out

Due to the threat of Hurricane Sandy hitting the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, a cascade of United cancellations from SFO to affected areas began this morning. (See chart below)

Here’s a link to United’s current waivers/exceptions policies for flights back east.

It appears that the last United flights out to the east coast departed this morning (Sunday) before 8 am. After that, all United nonstops to cities from Washington Dulles to Boston Logan have been scrubbed according to FlightStats. Many American Airlines flights to JFK are showing up as cancelled, too. Flights to other cities are not affected.

On the other hand, as of 9 am on Sunday, Virgin America flights from SFO to Washington, New York, Philly and Boston still are still showing active departure times. Delta and JetBlue  departures from SFO to New York still show active departure times all day today.

Everything is fluid right now…so if you have a flight back east over the next 3-4 days, keep an eye on FlightStats and your airline website.

Flight status for SFO-JFK flights as of 9:30 am Sunday:

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For a limited period, San Francisco passengers will have the opportunity to experience spacious luxury onboard the world’s largest commercial aircraft, the Airbus A380 on flights to Asia.  Between December 28, 2012 and March 24, 2013, Singapore Airlines will pop into town with daily “Pop-Up” A380 flights between San Francisco and Singapore via Hong Kong.  Flip through this slideshow to see its famous Suites and the widest Business Class seats in the sky.

SQ1 departs SFO at 10:50 pm and arrives in Hong Kong at 5:50 am two days later. Flight time is about 13 hours to Hong Kong, and with another 3.5 hours to Singapore, you’ll have plenty of time to soak up the luxury and explore the 1000+ onboard entertainment options.  SQ2 arrives daily in SFO at 7:45 pm on the same day it departs from Singapore and Hong Kong.

 

Summer fare sale shockers

 

American's fare "sale?"

Have you checked out the latest round of summer fare “sales?”

I’m shocked! Not because fares are so low…but because the so-called fare “sale” rates are so…sky high.

Blame it on the high cost of fuel, declining capacity or increasing demand, but these fares hurt!

If you are planning to fly this summer, you better start saving now. Or start mapping out a summer road trip, which is looking more and more appealing with the price of gasoline declining.

A few examples of roundtrips from a “fare sale” trumpeted by American Airlines today:

  • SFO>St Louis: $538
  • SFO>Houston: $512
  • SFO>Ft Lauderdale: $480
  • SFO>Los Angeles (LAX): $186

Also today Virgin America trotted out a special introductory fare on flights to its newest airport, Washington National: $400 round trip! Ouch! And that’s only if you can fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday after August 14th. Those flying on other days will pay about $550 round trip. United, which just started flying nonstop between SFO and Washington National this month, is currently asking for a whopping $674 round trip for travel in late June. Double ouch!

Thinking about a July trip to Hawaii? Right now, you can’t find a seat on a nonstop for less than about $728 roundtrip between SFO, Oakland or San Jose and Honolulu.

Got some business to take care of in NYC? Get ready to pay up! Even in this hypercompetitive market, the lowest fares for nonstops from SFO in mid July are now in the $400-$500 range.

Thinking about Europe but you have not bought your ticket yet? Air France will fly you round trip between SFO and Paris nonstop for a mere $1,679 in July or August. Nonstops on United or Lufthansa to Frankfurt are now about $1500 round trip. How about SFO-London for a little pre-Olympics action in July? British Airways, United and Virgin Atlantic will get you there for about $1,400 round trip.  If you would like to fly in for the Games, fares are $2,000+ for economy class round trips.

My best advice for those on a budget is to try and schedule your trips before about June 15, or after about August 24—a cheaper period outside the peak of the peak summer travel season. If your schedule can handle it, choose one-stop flights or red-eyes, which tend to be cheaper. Most times, you’ll find cheaper fares on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays.

Have you searched summer fares yet? Please provide any highs or lows (or onerous restrictions) you’ve found in the comments boxes below. 

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American Air Bankruptcy: No impact at SFO for now

An American Airlines B737 loads up at SFO (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

American Airlines is filing for bankruptcy protection as they try to cut costs and unload massive debt built up by years of high fuel prices and labor struggles according to AP. The company says that there will no impact on travelers for now. American said it would operate normally while it reorganizes in bankruptcy, but hinted at future flight and staffing cuts. The airline said it would continue to operate flights, honor tickets and take reservations. It said the AAdvantage frequent-flier program would not be affected.

Important: American is NOT shutting down. It’s filed for Chapter 11 protection, which means it will continue to operate while it reorganizes. Chapter 11 protection is a well-worn path taken by nearly every major US carrier at some point in the last 20 years. (Southwest Airlines is the exception.)

American and its Oneworld alliance partners have had a dwindling presence at SFO for a couple years now. AA exited SFO-Honolulu in September and left SFO-Boston last year. Partner QANTAS left SFO-Sydney last year. The carrier walked away from Oakland in 2008. It stopped flying its famous “nerd bird” flights between San Jose and Austin in 2009.

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From SFO, American flies nonstop to only its hubs at New York-JFK, Chicago-O’Hare, Dallas-Ft Worth, Miami and Los Angeles– and in all those markets faces stiff fare competition from low fare carriers like Virgin America, Southwest and JetBlue.

Last year, American inaugurated new service and a posh new Admiral’s Club at  SFO’s swank Terminal 2, which it shares with Virgin America. While that presence won’t be affected in the short run, if the carrier continues to shrink at SFO over time, it will be interesting to watch what happens at T2.

How do you feel about American’s bankruptcy? Will it affect your decision to fly American?

American Airlines eliminates SFO-Honolulu

American Airlines jet departing SFO. (Credit: Jun Seita / Flickr)
American Airlines jet departing SFO. (Credit: Jun Seita / Flickr)

Despite its fancy new digs at SFO’s Terminal 2, American Airlines continues to reduce the number of cities it serves from San Francisco.

On September 7, the Texas-based carrier will eliminate its nonstop flights between San Francisco and Honolulu. This follows a decision to cut out nonstops between SFO and Boston last November.

After Sept 7, American will have 31 daily round trips into and out of SFO: 11 to Dallas/Ft Worth; six to Chicago O’Hare; five (four on off-peak days) to New York-JFK; three to Miami; and six to LAX.

American spokesman Tim Smith said that the move is not directly related to any particular issue in San Francisco. “It remains a key city for us or we obviously would not have become involved in the new terminal and built a new, state-of-the-art Admirals Club that just opened. 31 flights a day makes it an important destination/departure city in terms of being a non-hub.”

The move is a result of American’s 2009 decision to concentrate domestic flying at what it calls its hub or “cornerstone cities:” Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Nearly all its domestic now flying touches those cities in some way.

“As to the SFO-HNL flight itself, since it is a point-to-point flight between two non-hub cities, there is generally not enough traffic on both ends to fully support the flight,” said Smith. “That means we have had to find ways to feed traffic bound for Honolulu into SFO. Under the cornerstone plan it is much more efficient and cost effective to feed traffic to HNL from our cornerstone hubs where we have lots of daily feed [from other cities]. So, as of Sept. 7, we will fly from HNL  3x daily from LAX; 2x daily from DFW; and 1 from ORD (but not every day – it will be 4 times per week). This gives us either 5 or 6 round trips per day to and from HNL from the U.S. mainland.” he said.

What’s happening with American’s flights at SFO is happening throughout the airline industry as airlines grapple with higher fuel costs. “We’re past the point of airlines flying routes out of a sense of vanity or pride. If a route doesn’t make money, it shouldn’t be flown,” said San Francisco-based Forrester Research analyst Henry Harteveldt.

Some of Alaska Air's Eskimos now wear leis. (Credit: as737700 / Flickr

Despite the loss of American, Bay area residents won’t have much difficulty finding flights from here to Hawaii. Alaska Airlines has added a slew of new Boeing 737 non-stops from Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento to several Hawaiian cities over the last year.

And there are still plenty of seats to Honolulu from SFO. “While disappointed by American’s decision, the airport recognizes that our partner airlines need to make tough economic decisions on where to deploy their aircraft. After September 7 the non-stop SFO-Honolulu market will be served by United, Hawaiian, and Delta; collectively offering over 9,000 seats a week,” said airport spokesman Charles Schuler. (Fares for October SFO-HNL flights are currently in the $400-$500 range, but dip closer to $350 during periodic sales.)

American’s partnership with Hawaiian on its nonstops between SFO and HNL helps ease the pain a little for AAdvantage members. Currently, they can still redeem AAdvantage miles for Hawaiian flights between SFO and HNL. However, they can only earn AAdvantage miles on Hawaiian’s inter-island flights.

Does the loss of American flights provide an opening for Virgin America to enter the market? “It doesn’t really impact our immediate plans,” said Virgin’s Abby Lunardini. “That said, Hawaii remains on our prospective destination list [but] our ability to fly there in the short-term is dependent on our aircraft, as we need the extended range capability of our new on-order A320s to fly those routes.”

Will you miss having American fly between SFO and Honolulu? Please leave your comments below.

New AA Admirals Club at SFO T2 revealed

American Airlines seems be getting drowned out and left out of a lot of the media coverage regarding the opening of SFO’s new Terminal 2, which it shares with Virgin America. Of huge interest to frequent travelers is the opening of a fantastic new Admirals Club, with touches I’ve rarely or never seen before in an airport lounge….like a fireplace and pine trees! Be sure to scroll through the photos below.

T2 is so high-end that the entire terminal feels like one giant airport club, so AA had to pull out all the stops to make this club even nicer than the rest of the terminal…and I think they succeeded.

You don’t necessarily have to be an Admirals Club member to enjoy this club- day passes are available for $50 and access is a member benefit for American Express Platinum Card holders which, in addition to access to American, Delta and US Airways clubs in the US, now offers free membership in Priority Pass for lounge access overseas. Details.)

The new T2 Admirals Club is almost 10,000 sq feet- double the size of the old club in Terminal 3. There’s room for 165, a business center with HP PC’s, free Wi-Fi, tons of electrical outlets, several flat panel TV’s and “spa-like” showers. It’s also American’s first and only LEED certified lounge in the world.

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Now for the show!>>>

Entry from the "recomposure area" on the sterile side of security

Check in

Warm welcome from a fireplace!

Bonsai pine trees a nice touch around a circular central area

Looking toward bar area

Super cozy soft leather seating throughout. Smells like a new car. Electrical outlets by every seat.

HP workstations. That's a vintage American DC3 at SFO for T2 Opening festivities

The all-important bar area

So, what do you think? Please leave comments below.

Sneak-peek: SFO’s new Terminal 2

Today I was invited on a hard-hat tour of SFO’s Terminal 2, which will open officially on April 14 housing the operations of American and Virgin America. Below are a few photos of the gleaming new terminal and some information provided by the airport. Enjoy!

From the roadway: The art starts as soon as you see Terminal 2

From the roadway: The art starts as soon as you see Terminal 2

Future American Airlines ticketing area with faux wood ceilings

Future American Airlines ticketing area with faux wood ceilings

This is the big bright and airy main atrium area. American Airlines occupies the left side; Virgin America occupies the right.

This is the big bright and airy main atrium area. American Airlines occupies the left side; Virgin America occupies the right.

These faucets in the atrium area are for filling water bottles only. No hand washing!

These faucets in the atrium area are for filling water bottles only. No hand washing!

Airport officials say that bathrooms in the terminal have

Airport officials say that bathrooms in the terminal have “five star hotel finishes” such as glass tile and granite counter tops.

Gadget freaks rejoice! There are electrical outlets everywhere in Terminal 2. Find them on multiple=

Gadget freaks rejoice! There are electrical outlets everywhere in Terminal 2. Find them on multiple table top work areas like this, as well as on granite topped tables between seats. Nice!

There are two dedicated kiddie play areas. Notice the SFO

There are two dedicated kiddie play areas. Notice the SFO “crawlable” letters? Fun with the help of the Exploratorium.

This is the

This is the “recomposure area” where you put yourself back together after security screening. When complete, there will be benches, tables and some big cloud-like nets hanging from ceiling.

Members or travelers walking by the sliding glass doors of American's new Admirals Club will be able to see the airport's only working fireplace! (See the cut out on the wall to the right?)

Members or travelers walking by the sliding glass doors of American’s new Admirals Club will be able to see the airport’s only working fireplace! (See the cut out on the wall to the right?)

Here’s a press release issued by the airport with details about the new terminal:

SAN FRANCISCO — Officials from San Francisco International Airport led a hard-hat tour today to announce that it is nearing the completion of a $383 million renovation of Terminal 2 (T2), one of the most sustainable and modern airport terminals in the United States. The new home for American Airlines and Virgin America, T2 will open to the public for a community open house on Saturday, April 9, 2011, with the first flights commencing on Thursday, April 14, 2011.

“Once again, San Francisco has led by example,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “The completion of Terminal 2 at SFO is noteworthy on many levels — it is the most modern terminal in the country, it is uniquely sustainable, and it has been designed specifically for how we travel today.”

Originally constructed in 1954 and renovated in 1984, the 640,000 square ft Terminal 2 housed the Airport’s international flights until December 2000, when it was replaced by the current International Terminal. Built through a design-build partnership between Gensler and Turner Construction, the renovated T2 will offer 14 gates serving Virgin America and American Airlines.

“T2 demonstrates how we can achieve sustainability in a way that enhances the traveler experience,” said John L. Martin, Airport Director. “T2 is modern, comfortable, intuitive and better suited to meet the needs of today’s travelers. From the early design and construction practices to paperless ticketing — we have provided this experience using sustainable methods at every step along the way.”

The design of T2 is a notable departure from traditional airport terminals — most of which were built decades ago. T2 is customized for today and tomorrow’s modern travelers with features designed to elevate the travel experience.

“In T2, our goal is to reset traveler expectations. We’re striving to de-stress the travel experience, offer passengers a healthful, sustainable environment, and even delight people with fun things to do,” said Steve Weindel, Principal Gensler, the project’s architect.

Key design features include:

Better Seating — Club-like seating in the dining and waiting areas that allows views of all the gates.

Relax After Security — A unique “recomposure” area past the security screening area that allows passengers a quiet and unhurried place to re-assemble their clothing and carry-on items.

Food Marketplace — The country’s first airport food marketplace and retail street featuring local, organic vendors and producers, including restaurants from noted chefs Cat Cora and Tyler Florence.

Computer Connections — Work-oriented counter seating with outlets and free Wi-Fi.

Hydration Stations — Special tap-water hydration stations for filling re-usable water bottles.

Place for Kids — A children’s play area with original artwork and play pieces.

T2 is the first airport terminal in the United States that is LEED Gold-Registered. The terminal was built with multiple progressive sustainable features that aimed at reducing carbon emissions while also creating a more healthful environment for travelers and staff. These features include:

Natural Light — Skylights and clerestories bring daylight into the ticketing lobby and retail areas, providing a healthier working environment while significantly reducing electricity requirements during daylight hours.

Cleaner Air — An innovative displacement ventilation system that uses filtered air to improve indoor air quality, while using 20 percent less energy.

Car-Free Connection — T2 connects to BART via SFO’s AirTrain people mover system, so that employees and travelers alike can easily go from Airport to City on mass transit.

Zero Waste Stations — Waste stations replace traditional garbage cans with easy-to-use compartments for composting, recyclables and trash.

Locally Grown — Local-organic food vendors, offering wholesome food grown and prepared in a healthful manner.

Water Conservation — A dual plumbing system that allows for reclaimed water from SFO’s water treatment facility to be used for toilets and other uses throughout the Airport. Moreover, T2′s plumbing fixtures use 40 percent less water than typical fixtures.

Paperless Ticketing — A paperless ticketing system throughout the terminal increases efficiency and saves trees.

Energy Efficiency — Energy efficient lighting and machinery will drastically reduce energy use.

Sustainable Building Materials — Sustainable building materials include terrazzo flooring with recycled glass chips, recycled-content carpet and innovative and efficient use of structural steel.

The travelers’ experience will be further augmented by SFO’s world-renowned signature public art program featuring dozens of art works by local and international artists. “The San Francisco Arts Commission’s Public Art Program has assembled a world-class art collection for Terminal 2, including dramatic, new commissions by artists of national and international acclaim,” said San Francisco Arts Commission President P.J. Johnston. “From the moment they step off the plane, travelers will experience the unique spirit of San Francisco, which is a city that is committed to enriching the lives of its residents and visitors through the arts.”

Virgin America’s messin’ with Texas

A Texas-style greeting for Virgin America's inaugural flight to DFW today.

A Texas-style greeting for Virgin America’s inaugural flight to DFW today.

First it was the San Francisco-based Giants. Now it’s San Francisco-based Virgin America tearing into Texas and hoping to tan some hide.

Virgin America is throwing a big hoedown in Dallas today to celebrate its arrival at Dallas-Ft Worth International Airport, the primary hub and headquarters of American Airlines. (American also happens to be the former employer of Virgin CEO David Cush.)

Dallas is also home to Virgin archrival Southwest Airlines, so it is time to pull out all the stops.

Those lucky enough to be on Virgin’s first flight (from LAX…SFO service starts Dec. 6) were treated to a catered Texas-style barbecue lunch on the tarmac upon arrival. Mayors of both Dallas and Ft. Worth along with small herd of Texas longhorn steers were there to greet them (see photo above).

Tonight, there’s a big party benefiting cancer research at the Dallas Opera House that will include a performance by Willie Nelson and an appearance by Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson (natch).

American Airlines is not about to take a whoopin’ from a San Francisco-based outsider like Virgin, especially when it comes to the lucrative business travel market. To fight back, it’s pulled out its most powerful (and expensive) marketing gun: double elite qualifying miles on all flights between DFW, SFO and LAX from now through February 28. (To get the bonus miles, AAdvantage members must register prior to travel.)

From SFO, Virgin will operate just two flights per day compared to American’s nine. Its arrival in the market has brought down fares, with the lowest promotional ones now running about $260 round trip- matched, of course, by American and United. (Like Virgin, United offers only two SFO-DFW roundtrips per day and so far has not matched American’s double mileage promo.)

How will Virgin’s fleet of brand new planes equipped with seatback TV, Wi-Fi, signature cocktails and mood lighting stand up to American’s more conservative offering? Wrangling business travelers could be a tough for Virgin according to San Francisco resident Henry Harteveldt, principal travel analyst at Forrester Research. He said,

“It’ll be tough for Virgin America to get many business travelers with its limited schedule. Still, American’s actions show that it takes Virgin America seriously as a competitor, as they should. American will have to work hard to defend its market share. Virgin’s product and experience are tangibly better than what American offers. If Virgin adds more flights between Dallas and LAX/SFO, or adds other cities from DFW, they will give American a run for its money.”

In addition to some tough competition from American, Virgin is going to have to fend off nonstop competition between SFO and Dallas Love Field from Southwest starting in 2014. That’s when the Wright Amendment fizzles out, allowing Southwest to offer nonstop flights from SFO, OAK, SJC to Dallas Love. (Currently, it’s only allowed to offer one stop or connecting flights.)

AAdvantage miles on BA’s SFO-London flights

BA 747 at SFO (Photo: AngeloAngelo / Flickr)

We inquired with American Airlines’ spokesperson Tim Smith about new opportunities for Bay Area travelers to earn AAdvantage miles on British Airways flights to London as a result of the new British Airways+American Airlines+Iberia alliance. Here’s what he said:

Previous to the joint business with AA-BA-IB being launched, our AAdvantage members would not have earned miles on a British Airways flight between SFO and London.  We did not codeshare on those flights so there was no provision to earn miles.

Now, under our joint business relationship, all three airlines’ flights between North America and Europe are now linked by that agreement, so our AAdvantage members will earn miles regardless of which airline – American, British Airways or Iberia — is actually flying their flight.

So, since it is 5,368 miles from SFO to London-Heathrow, a round trip in the coach cabin would earn the AAdvantage member 10,736 miles. Round trip in the business cabin would earn 13,420 miles (Business cabin earns 125 percent of the base miles).

POSTED ON OCT 11>> MORE DETAILS!

REDEMPTION:

·         AAdvantage members may redeem miles for travel on all BA flights, including trans-Atlantic flights between the U.S. and the U.K.

·         AAdvantage members may redeem their miles for an upgrade on AA, BA or IB, including on Codeshare flights both marketed and operated by AA, BA or IB

EARNING:

  • All BA flights, including trans-Atlantic flights between the U.S. and the U.K., are eligible for AAdvantage mileage accrual
  • British Airways flights flown in discount economy class will earn 100% of base miles flown
  • These miles count as Elite Qualifying miles
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum members and AAdvantage Platinum members will earn elite status bonus miles for BA flights (Note – AAdvantage Gold members will not earn elite status bonus miles on BA.)

17 Things Travelers Need To Know This Month

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of my Bay Area travel news round ups. Here are 17 things frequent travelers need to know this month:

(Photo: Ed Yourdon / Flickr)

(Photo: Ed Yourdon / Flickr)

>SIGH OF RELIEF. Ah, fall! If the madding crowds of tourists have knocked you around this summer, relief is on the way. Over the next few weeks, packed planes, sold out hotels, lines at the breakfast bar and shrieks and squeals in the hotel pool area should subside. Airlines and hotels are already rolling out the fall deals and discounts, which is a signal to me that they’re a little skittish about declining demand. That means lower prices, more deals and some welcome breathing room for travelers.

>FREE WI-FI AT SFO. San Francisco International has finally joined Oakland and San Jose airports offering FREE Wi-Fi throughout the airport. Log on and look for the “sfo free wifi” network. I’ve not used it yet. If you have, please let us know how it works below in comments.

>IHG HOTELS PAY BAG FEES. Here’s a deal that should be music to the ears of non-elite air travelers forced to pay those dastardly new fees for checked bags. IHG Hotels (which include Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites, Indigo among others) is offering to rebate $50 to travelers who book two or more weekend nights now through Dec 30. Must use Visa card to pay for your stay. Details.

>A NICE PAIRING. Two very popular brands among Bay Area frequent travelers have hooked up their loyalty programs: Southwest Rapid Rewards & Starwood Preferred Guest. Details.

>JETBLUE PASS SOLD OUT. It only took about three days for JetBlue to sell out of its unique one-month all-you-can-fly pass. The pass is a great idea for someone with a lot of time and flexibility on their hands. . .like the retired or unemployed. Not really something that a frequent traveler would be able to use…but still a fun concept! (Not to mention great PR for the airline.)

Delta's soon-to-be-demolished Worldport at JFK (photo: Mokolabs)

Delta’s soon-to-be-demolished Worldport at JFK (photo: Mokolabs)

>DELTA TO DEMOLISH JFK WORLDPORT. I love Delta’s Business Elite service between SFO and JFK. But I hate using Delta’s dilapidated, ex-Pan Am Worldport facility there. Good news: it will soon be demolished and Delta will move international flights to an updated Terminal 4. Not so good news: Delta’s holding on to its mediocre Terminal 2 for domestic flights.

>VIRGIN AMERICA EXPANDS. Earlier this summer, SFO-based Virgin America bought a bunch of new planes. . . Now they’ve got to find more places to fly them. In coming months, Virgin will add flights from SFO to: Orlando, Dallas, Cabo San Lucas, and Cancun. I’m still hoping that they’ll get into Chicago O’Hare one day soon, but I suspect entrenched legacy carriers American and United are successfully blocking that for now. We’ll see.

>NEW NERD BIRD. Southwest jumps into the Bay Area to Austin, TX fray with new Nerd Bird nonstops from San Jose starting Nov 7. (Looks like Southwest is trying to beat Virgin to the punch…it’s recently been hinting about its own SFO-Austin flights.)

>BUY ELITE SEATS. No longer an elite level on American Airlines? Now you can buy many elite privileges per flight with it’s new “Express Seats” plan. Example: Pay $39 extra when you check in for SFO-JFK and you’ll get a coach seat near the front and early boarding. Details. Worth it?

>AMERICAN SLIMMING DOWN AT SFO. American Airlines is eliminating its non-stop flights to Boston later this year, which seems strange given its big investment and pending move into Terminal 2 at SFO. Did you know that it’s putting in a 10,000 square foot Admirals club, complete with a real FIREPLACE? I learned that little tidbit last week while attending the NBTA convention in Houston.

Na Pali Coast, Kauai (Photo: Jeff Kubina / Flickr)

Na Pali Coast, Kauai (Photo: Jeff Kubina / Flickr)

>KEEP AN EYE ON HAWAII FARES. Mahalo very much! Periodically over the last month, SFO-HNL fares to Honolulu have fallen to just $257 round trip on Delta. If you are interested in getting out from under all this fog, set up a fare alert on routes to Hawaii and then jump when you see a fare of less than $300. Here’s evidence of just how low those fares can go.

>MORE AIRPORT PERKS FOR AMEX PLATS. If you fork over $450 per year for your American Express Platinum card, your benefits just got better- cardholders now get access to US Airways airport clubs, as well as those from American, Delta and Continental airlines.

>SF-BASED PARTNERSHIP. Virgin America Elevate members can now earn one point per dollar spent at participating Joie de Vivre Hotels. To qualify, you must also be enrolled in Joie de Vivre’s loyalty program, Joy of Life Club. In addition to your Elevate points, you’ll also earn Joy of Life Club points for each stay through Dec 31, 2010.

>iPHONE TO THE RESCUE. There’s a very helpful new iPhone application from the TSA that allows users to check airport security wait times and flight delays in real time.

>FREAKISH FEES? The smart folks over at TripAdvisor have fashioned a very helpful “fees estimator” to its search engine- allowing users to enter the number of bags they plan to check as well as their frequent flyer program affiliation and status. Then the site calculates the TOTAL fee you’d pay and presents it for comparison on a matrix. Nice! See www.tripadvisor.com/flights and try it yourself.

Lie-flat business class seat on SAA A340

Lie-flat business class seat on SAA A340

>EASIER SEAT SEARCHES. I’m a big fan of Seatguru.com when trying to pick the perfect seat for a long international or transcon flight. In the past it was tough because there are so many different airplane configurations flying around out there. Seatguru’s solved that by letting you enter your actual airline flight NUMBER first, which means you’ll always see the exact layout of your plane. (I just used it to check out the nice business class seat I’ll have on my South African Airways flight to Cape Town next week. Stay tuned for more on that trip.)

>WATCH THOSE VALUABLES. A 47-year-old Air France flight attendant is facing 10 years in jail after pleading guilty to stealing from business class passengers sleeping on long haul flights. She said that she targeted passengers who would fall asleep after a big meal with lots of alcohol.

American Airlines zaps San Francisco-Boston nonstops

A neon American Airlines logo at Boston-Logan International Airport (photo: chaostheory)

American Airlines has confirmed to The BAT that it will eliminate its nonstop flights between San Francisco International and Boston-Logan on November 17.

Despite American’s departure from the route, frequent travelers can still jump on a nonstop between here and Beantown on Virgin America, JetBlue or United. In fact, the preponderance of other carriers on the route is part of the reason American is bowing out.

Nonetheless, the move seemed odd to me, given the fact that American is clearly making a significant investment in SFO’s Terminal 2, which includes a new 10,000 square foot Admirals Club. (See my recent report and hardhat tour video of SFO’s Terminal 2.)

But there are larger forces at work. “We are realigning our domestic network and concentrating on flights to, from or between what we are calling our ‘cornerstone’ or hub cities- Chicago, Dallas, New York, Miami and Los Angeles. You’ll see a lot less point-to-point flying between non-hub cities,” said American spokesman Tim Smith.

That of course forced me to ask the question…What about American’s nonstops between San Francisco and Honolulu, both non-hub cities? Are those in jeopardy?

“The San Francisco-Honolulu market is a specialty market for us with lots of traffic and I don’t see American taking any actions on that route. Plus, it’s a huge market for our frequent flyers,” said Smith.

To dig in a little deeper, I called on my friend Henry Harteveldt, a San Francisco-based travel industry analyst with Forrester Research. Here’s his take:

“It’s possible that some of American’s decision-making, both here and in Boston, may reflect the loss of some corporate account business. In the Bay Area, American’s utility has steadily declined — it closed Oakland after the 2008 fuel price spike, and has not added any new routes from SFO. The airline also dropped its San Jose, CA-Austin “nerd bird” route . . . . Since American has decided it’s not going to ‘fight’ for business at OAK, SJC, or SFO, it’s possible that corporate travel managers at Bay Area companies shifted business to other airlines. Hence, a route like SFO-Boston is no longer financially viable for AA.”

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