SFO

Virgin America adds 20th city

NYC skyline view from Newark Airport (Photo: Researching Media / Flickr)

Today Virgin America announced that it would begin nonstop service to Newark from both San Francisco International and and Los Angeles International on April 2.

Newark will be the carrier’s 20th destination. Introductory fares are running at about $150 each way, including taxes and fees. Virgin will operate three round trip flights per day from SFO and LAX. Flights from SFO will depart at 8 am, 3:15 pm and 9:15pm. Returns from Newark depart at 11:05 am, 2:05 pm and 9:05 pm.

Virgin says that the addition of Newark to its network means it will now serve eight of the top ten business markets from both SFO and LAX. Over the last year it seems that Virgin’s goal has been to blanket the “megalopolis” which extends from Washington DC to Boston with flights from the west coast- it now serves both Washington DC airports (Reagan and Dulles), Philadelphia, Newark, JFK and Boston.

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Given Virgin’s recently well publicized growing pains, I asked, “Why Newark?” since it already serves the NYC metro area with JFK flights. Plus, Philly is only a couple hours south by car.

Here’s how a spokesperson explained it to The BAT:

>”Newark is a high fare destination with very little competition on the long-haul routes from the West Coast that are Virgin America’s focus - that’s why we’ve persisted  for nearly five years in our efforts to serve Newark.”

>”Newark is also a massive market for business travelers.  For San Francisco business travelers, Newark is the second largest market behind New York’s JFK.  And from Los Angeles, Newark is just behind New York’s JFK and Washington DC and tied with Chicago’s O’Hare in terms of business travel demand.”

>”Our service will also be the only WiFi-enabled low-fare service from Newark to the largest airports on the West Coast.”

Currently, United offers seven round trips per day between SFO and EWR using a combination of A320, B757 and B737 aircraft. Looking at mid-January itineraries, its flights are priced at about $375 round trip today. United Mileage Plus members earn a fat 5,130 miles per round trip on this route.

So the big question here is: If you’ve been flying United to Newark, will you switch to Virgin America? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below! 

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Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!

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Sponsor:  

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.

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Want a private tour of Singapore’s A380 at SFO?

How would you like to see inside this big bird? (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

Do you like private tours? Would you like to get a true insider’s look at Singapore Airlines’ massive new double-decker Airbus A380 when it arrives in SFO later this winter?

Would you like to feel what it’s like to snuggle into Singapore Airlines’ signature double bed in first class (and of course take photos you can post on Facebook or Twitter)?

Peer into all the planes’ nooks and crannies, like the galleys where Singapore girls prepare in-flight meals? Run up and down the big ship’s secret spiral staircase?

Singapore’s signature first class double be on the A380

Maybe you’ve always wanted to check out the first class lavatories to see if they are any different than the ones in coach?

Wondered what it’s like to enjoy a pre-flight drink or meal at Singapore Airlines’ first and business class lounge at SFO? Meet BAT editor Chris McGinnis?

Now’s your chance to win that private tour in a fun drawing!

One lucky BAT reader (plus three guests of their choice) will get to check out Singapore Airlines’ big bird, from stem to stern, in a private pre-flight tour at SFO one evening in late January.

All you have to do is help The BAT grow by telling your frequent traveling friends about it.

Just follow these three easy steps:

1> Between now and January 5, 2013 compose an email (copy and paste the one we’ve prepared below—or modify it) and send it to at least THREE frequent traveling friends recommending that they sign up for The BAT.

2> Be sure to copy The BAT on the same email: contest@thebat-sf.com

3> You can only enter once, so be sure to include as many friends as possible on the first email. (NOTE: Emails will be used for this contest only—they will not be sold or traded or used by any other party for any other purpose.)

On January 5, The BAT will draw the winner from among the emails we’ve received. Once the winner is chosen, a date for the private tour (in late January) will be set on a mutually agreeable date. The winner can bring along three guests for the tour. (Allow about 90 minutes at the airport for the tour.) On the evening of the tour, we’ll meet in the International terminal at SFO, enter the terminal via security, visit the Singapore Airlines first/business class lounge for refreshments, and then tour the plane.

Does that sound like a fun evening or what? So come on and give it a go—and help The BAT grow!

Here’s the suggested email—copy and paste or modify to your liking:

Dear ____________:

Have you ever heard about The BAT blog for Bay Area frequent travelers? It’s a free travel blog that I subscribe to.

It’s full of helpful news and advice for frequent travelers who live in the Bay Area…just like us. For example, I first learned that PreCheck was coming to SFO, or that Virgin America was matching United Premier status from The BAT.

I think it’s definitely something you could use, and get this: If I can convince you to sign up, we’ll both be eligible to take a behind-the-scenes tour of a Singapore Airlines A380 at SFO one evening in January!

So please check out The BAT and sign up by January 5.  See “Subscribe” in the upper right margin of the blog, or just sign up right here.

Thanks!

*Your signature*

IMPORTANT! Do not forget to copy The BAT  (contest@thebat-sf.com) on the email you send! It’s the only way we’ll know that you are entering the contest!

Good luck! And Happy Holidays!

-Chris McGinnis

*****

Are YOU signed up for The BAT? If not, why not? Subscribe to The BAT via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!

*****

Sponsor:  

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.

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5 key ways to upgrade holiday trips

My mom’s famous marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole- a holiday staple! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The next big item on every frequent traveler’s calendar is Thanksgiving- and it’s early this year – just a week away on November 22.

Since an increasing number of Americans are now taking the whole week off, expect big crowds, and long, slow-moving security lines at the airport this starting this Friday, over the weekend and of course, next week. (Might be time to consider line-busting options like CLEAR or PreCheck!)

If you are hitting the roads or the skies next week or next month, here are five ways improve your chances of having a happy holiday trip:

1-Book nonstop flights

While the lower price of a one-stop flight might be tempting, you increase your chances of a delay or cancellation by 100% when you take two flights instead of one to get to your destination. Why take that chance, especially if you are headed home for just a few days, and a delayed or canceled flight could spoil the entire trip?

In many cases nonstop flights cost the same, or only $50 to $100 more. I think of that extra cost as an insurance policy against a hassle-filled trip. (If you don’t know the difference between a nonstop, direct or connecting flight, please read this!)

Another tip to ensure a delay-free trip: Book early morning flights, which are frequently parked at the airport overnight and not reliant on arriving from another airport.

(Are YOU signed up to get The BAT via email? Hop to it! Click here or enter your email in the pink form to the right, please!) 

2-Make high airfares pay you back.

Flying during the holidays means paying a premium of anywhere from 30% to 70% compared to other times of year—especially on long haul flights, according to FareCompare.com. Christmas/New Year’s holiday period airfares are running at an average $454 this year, up 5% from the same period last year when they were $434 according to Expedia.com. Average fares during the peak Thanksgiving period are only slightly less, averaging $442, which is also up 5% compared to last year.

So let’s face it, you’ll be breaking out the credit card—a lot—when traveling during the peak holiday season. You might as well be using a card that’s going to pay you back in points and other benefits. For example, I just signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which is currently offering a 40,000-point sign up bonus if I spend at least $3,000 in the first three months.

Since this is the holidays…and I have four trips booked between now and the end of the year… I’ll likely hit that threshold with ease. Which means I’ll end up with at least 50,000 points (bonus plus two points per dollar spent on travel) and that is enough for two no-blackout-date airline tickets, which I’ll likely use NEXT year to avoid paying through the nose to fly home for during the peak holiday season. (See below)

Right now, most major credit cards are offering similarly fat points and mileage bonuses to frequent travelers with good credit, so if you’ve been sitting on the fence about getting a new card, doing so during the heavy-spending holidays is smart strategic move.

3-Postpone peak season trips

If pricey holiday airfares will keep you grounded this year, celebrate with your family during “dead weeks” instead.  Dead weeks are travel industry lingo for the annual low points in travel demand, which ironically come in the middle of the peak holiday travel season. And when demand plummets, so do prices.

The catch is that you have to travel when everyone else is staying at home. Dead weeks typically occur right after the big Thanksgiving rush, and again right after the Christmas/New Years rush in early January. The good news this year is that with an early Thanksgiving (Nov 22) we have one extra dead week—the last week of November—and the deals are plentiful.

Here’s an extreme example: A transcontinental flight between San Francisco and Cleveland during the Thanksgiving or Christmas peak is currently a painful $1,460 (seriously!) round trip.

But when checking on dead week deals on Orbitz this week, I found that United is offering an astoundingly low fare of just $208 round trip on that route over the weekend of Nov 30-Dec 3. Now that’s dirt-cheap!

Dead week deals are not only a great opportunity for flexible travelers to save, but an easy way for frequent travelers to top off their mileage balances in order to keep or bump up their cherished elite level status. (That SFO>CLE round trip nets a whopping 4,300 elite qualifying miles.) If you are a Delta SkyMiles junkie, I found roundtrips between SFO and Atlanta for just $220 during dead weeks. Amazing!

Expedia has a helpful tool to find similar low fares.

(Are YOU signed up to get The BAT via email? Hop to it! Click here or enter your email in the pink form to the right, please!) 

4-Stay at a hotel

Why burden the in-laws with the hassle of houseguests during the already stressful holidays? Instead of bunking on that lumpy sofa bed or stuffy guest room, book a nearby hotel.

Due to lack of demand from business travelers, most hotels are dirt-cheap during the holidays, and offer the chance experience a five-star hotel at a two or three star price.

Example: I frequently travel back to Atlanta, my hometown, for the holidays. I’ve found rooms at the five star InterContinental Buckhead hotel for just $139 per night during Thanksgiving or Christmas, while at other times of year they go for $400+.

Rooms at comfortable suburban hotels like Best Western that may be closer to your relatives are likely starving for business during the holidays—so call the hotel directly to see if you can negotiate a great deal.

Or show off your travel-tech-savvy by pulling out your fancy new iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3 and using last minute hotel-deal apps like HotelTonight to score some amazing rates.

Like what you are reading? Then please tell 3 friends to SIGN UP for The BAT today! They will appreciate the heads up! Send them this link and a little encouragement: www.thebat-sf.com 

5-Splurge a little

While you can always pay a lot more to sit in first class, you can now pay a little bit more, and get a more comfortable coach seat. During the busy, crowded holidays, that’s money well spent.

While getting a few extra inches of room always helps, the real benefit of paying for a better economy seat is that you are usually allowed to board early—with elite level flyers. Early boarding means you get early access to scarce overhead bin space, and since these seats are located near the front of the plane, you’ll be among the first to exit when the plane lands.

These premium economy seats cost from $20 to $200 more, depending on the duration of the flight. For example, for a trip home for the holidays, you could pay Delta $70 extra for one of its Economy Comfort seats for the 4-5 hour nonstop between San Francisco and Atlanta. A cheaper option would be Southwest’s EarlyBird check in fee of just  $10 each way—which gets you to the front of the line for boarding.

Have a great trip and a very happy holiday!

-Chris McGinnis

*****

Are YOU signed up for The BAT? If not, why not? Subscribe to The BAT via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!

Disclosure: Some of the companies mentioned in this post have been or are current clients of my company, Travel Skills Group, Inc.

*****

Sponsor:  

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.

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PreCheck trusted traveler lanes arrive at SFO

Look for the PreCheck logo at SFO starting next Wednesday, Nov 14.

It’s official: Starting on Wednesday, November 14,  the TSA’s popular PreCheck trusted traveler security lanes make their long-awaited debut at San Francisco International Airport.

PreCheck offers certain high mileage frequent flyers access to special, faster lanes at airport security that do not require them to remove their shoes, belts or coats, or take their laptops out of their bags for screening. SFO is one of the last major airports in the US to get PreCheck.

Initially, there will be only two PreCheck lanes: One at United’s premium or elite level member checkpoint (“F3”) in Terminal 3; the other at the joint American/Virgin America checkpoint at Terminal 2. Both PreCheck lanes will be located on the far left side of the checkpoints with PreCheck directional signage.

There will be no PreCheck lanes at the international terminal checkpoints because PreCheck is for domestic passengers only.

Only specially selected passengers flying United or American can use PreCheck lanes when they open on Wednesday.

(Are YOU signed up to get The BAT via email? Hop to it! Click here or enter your email in the pink form to the right, please!) 

There is no definitive word yet on when or whether Alaska, Delta or US Airways passengers will see PreCheck lanes at Terminal 1.  A Delta spokeswoman told The BAT, “We will continue to keep an eye on the number of our customers [in the Bay Area] who participate in PreCheck.  As that number grows, a specially designated PreCheck line is possible in the future.”

For now, Virgin America passengers cannot use PreCheck lanes at T2 because the carrier is not yet part of PreCheck, which the TSA still considers a pilot program. Virgin spokesperson Jennifer Thomas said, “Carriers need a certain number of eligible participants in their frequent flyer programs for TSA to accept them into the testing and initial operation of the program. TSA recently expanded that pool, and as a result we are now working with them on this and hope to be in - in the near future.”

In order to be able to use PreCheck lanes at SFO, you must first opt in to an invitation from United or American or sign up here. You can request an invitation from United here (requires Mileage Plus sign in). American Airlines AAdvantage members can opt in here.

In addition all Global Entry, Nexus and other card-carrying trusted travelers that hold special clearance from US Customs and Border Protection are eligible for PreCheck.

PreCheck or CLEAR?

Starting next Wednesday security checkpoints at SFO will have THREE special fast lanes for frequent travelers: PreCheck,  CLEAR  and airline first class/elite lines. These three options are all slightly different.

CLEAR, which operates at SFO as well as airports in Dallas/Ft Worth, Denver and Orlando, provides guaranteed access to the front of the standard security lines for an annual fee of $179. Members still have to remove shoes, laptops, etc. There are CLEAR lanes at all entrances at all terminals, including international, at SFO.  CLEAR’s  biggest selling point is that it guarantees access to the front of the line—and this certainty about the airport experience is very valuable to time-pressed frequent travelers. (Click here for a free two-month trial of  CLEAR )

The most important thing to know about PreCheck is that selection is random—which means that even of you have obtained PreCheck status, you are NOT guaranteed access to the PreCheck lane. You will only know that you are selected for the PreCheck lane when you arrive at airport security and allow the agent to scan your boarding pass or smartphone. Three beeps from the scanner means that you can proceed to the PreCheck lane. One beep means that you must enter the (likely longer) non-PreCheck line for standard screening. For security reasons, the TSA will not reveal its selection criteria. PreCheck is a free program if you are one of the lucky few chosen by your airline for this status. If not, you can buy your way into PreCheck status by spending $100 to get Global Entry from Customs and Border Protection (which provides access to faster kiosks vs immigration lines when returning to the US from abroad).

For those who have CLEAR and PreCheck,  CLEAR just announced that it has been approved to integrate PreCheck eligible CLEAR members into the PreCheck screening lane after they verify with CLEAR. “We are working with the airports and local TSA to operationalize the integration, which will hopefully be done soon,” said CLEAR spokesperson Nora O’Malley.

(Are YOU signed up to get The BAT via email? Hop to it! Click here or add your email in the pink form to the right, please!) 

Finally, if you are flying in first or business class, or are an elite level member of an airline frequent flyer program, you will have access to a special, shorter (most of the time) security line. United recently discontinued its Premier Line option, which allowed non-elite members to pay a fee for access to faster elite security lines.

So which line makes the most sense for you? Will you opt-in for PreCheck? Spend $100 for Global Entry? Pay $179 for guaranteed CLEAR access? Or just stick with what you’ve got? Please leave your comments below!

*****

Are YOU signed up for The BAT? If not, why not? Subscribe to The BAT via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!

*****

Sponsor:  

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.

 

 

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:

*****

Are YOU signed up for The BAT? If not, why not? Subscribe to The BAT via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!

*****

Sponsor:  

 

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.

 

United fare sale for fall/winter trips

A United Airlines 777 at London Heathrow airport (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Today United Airlines quietly rolled out some rather remarkable deals for fall and winter travel.

As usual, the sale fares do not apply on the key peak travel days around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

But if you can travel in early to mid-December, or after New Years in January or February, you should check this out.

Currently, United is not showing an end date for booking this sale, but you can bet that seats on the most convenient flights will get scooped up fast. And the sale can be yanked at any moment…

(Are YOU signed up to get The BAT via email? Hop to it! Your email in the pink form to the right, please!) 

Here are some of the best roundtrip deals (all in) I’ve seen from SFO:

>Seattle: $210

>Houston: $231

>Denver: $238

>Ft Lauderdale or W Palm Beach: $260

>New Orleans: $284

>Miami: $299

>Puerto Vallarta: $361

>Beijing: $909

Here’s the link to the United sale fares from SFO

- by Chris McGinnis

*****

Are YOU signed up for The BAT? If not, why not? Subscribe to The BAT via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!

*****

Sponsor:  

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.

Why isn’t popular PreCheck at SFO?

Map of TSA PreCheck locations across the US. What’s missing from this picture?

By now every frequent traveler has heard about the TSA’s innovative and very popular PreCheck trusted traveler program.

In a nutshell, PreCheck offers certain high mileage frequent flyers access to special, faster lanes at airport security that do not require them to remove their shoes, belts or coats, or take their laptops out of their bags for screening. (When I was chosen to pass through a PreCheck line last summer in Atlanta, the process reminded me of pre-9/11 security… a breeze. I was through in less than a minute and walked away with a big smile on my face.)

The introduction of the speedy new PreCheck lanes has been one of the best things the TSA has ever done for frequent travelers. It has been a roaring success in terms of passenger satisfaction as well as PR for the frequently maligned agency. To date, 3 million travelers have passed through PreCheck lanes at 26 airports across the country- the most recent addition is United’s hub at Washington-Dulles. It’s also at United hubs in Newark (C3), Houston and  Chicago. Even LAX has it!

There’s only one problem: Not a single Bay Area airport has PreCheck yet.

Why not? Well, it’s been tough for me to get a good answer from the airport or the TSA… and I’ve been asking and asking ever since the program rolled out last year. I’ve been hearing from BAT readers, too wondering why we don’t have it at a major hub airport like SFO or even OAK or SJC.

Last week I got a hopeful response from SFO spokesperson Mike McCarron: “It is ultimately up to the airlines to work out the arrangement with the TSA.  From what we understand, PreCheck should start showing up with United and Delta about mid-November.” All the TSA will say is that it “will be in 35 airports by the end of 2012.”

Virgin America spokesperson Abby Lunardini told The BAT, “We’re in discussions with TSA and are supportive of program and hope we can offer to Virgin America’s T2 guests in the near future — but there is no definitive roll out date yet.”

So there you have it…. I guess we’ll just have to sit back and wait our turn. Stay tuned to The BAT for updates and a big announcement when PreCheck finally arrives- hopefully this November.

Have you enjoyed PreCheck at other airports? Have you used CLEAR lanes at SFO yet? Are you finding airport security a bit more manageable now that the summer crowds have gone home? Please leave your comments below. 

>Chris McGinnis

**DO YOU LIKE WHAT YOU ARE READING HERE? Help spread the word about The BAT! Forward this link to your frequent traveling colleagues, your travel agent, your corporate travel manager! We need new readers and will only get them from recommendations from readers like YOU! www.thebat-sf.com**

*****

Are YOU signed up for The BAT? If not, why not? Subscribe to The BAT via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!

*****

 

 

Cheapest time of year for Hawaii? (Infographic)

When is the cheapest time of year for trip to Hawaii? Right now! According to booking data from FlipKey, the average cost to book a vacation property in Hawaii is during September. October and November, when average rates plunge to just $135 per night. (There’s also a lull in late April/early May.)

Compare that to peak season in Hawaii (around Christmas or Valentine’s day) when average rates run closer to $400 per night. (FlipKey is an online booking site that connects home or apartment owners with those who would like to rent them- like Airbnb, Homeaway or VRBO.)

Airfare to Hawaii is currently at yearly lows, too. A quick scan on Kayak shows average roundtrip fares for trips in September, October and early November in the $300 range for one stop flights or about $350 for nonstops from all three Bay Area airports. In a few rare cases, you can find fares dipping below $300 at this time of year…but you have to be vigilant in checking almost daily and acting fast when fares drop.

Also, over the next few months United has plenty of 40,000 mile saver awards available for coach roundtrips between SFO and HNL and a handful of 100,000 mile saver awards for first class. (But with fares this low, I would suggest paying instead of redeeming.)

If you could jump on a plane to Hawaii in the next month or so, would you be more interested in renting an apartment or villa…or would you stick to the hotel routine? If you were traveling to Hawaii or elsewhere on a business trip, would you consider renting an house or apartment instead of a hotel? Why or why not? Leave your comments below. 

>Are you signed up for our Facebook page yet? We frequently break news on our Facebook page that eventually makes it into our weekly posts. So if you want travel news when it happens, come on and get social with the BAT on our Facebook page.  

FlipKey Travel Trends: Hawaii Infographic

FlipKey Travel Trends: Hawaii by vacation rentals site FlipKey.com

If you could jump on a plane to Hawaii in the next month or so, would you be more interested in renting an apartment or villa…or would you stick to the hotel routine? If you were traveling to Hawaii or elsewhere on a business trip, would you consider renting an house or apartment instead of a hotel? Why or why not? Leave your comments below. 

**DO YOU LIKE WHAT YOU ARE READING HERE? Help spread the word about The BAT! Forward this link to your frequent traveling colleagues, your travel agent, your corporate travel manager! We need new readers and will only get them from recommendations from readers like YOU! www.thebat-sf.com**

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Coming soon to a flight near you: video streaming

(Photo: Kingair4 / Flickr)

JetBlue announced this week that it will (finally) offer a new, faster satellite-based inflight wi-fi product starting in early 2013. (Currently, JetBlue does not offer inflight wi-fi at all.)

JetBlue (with flights between SFO and Oakland to destinations such as Long Beach, Austin, Ft Lauderdale, New York, Washington and Boston) says that the new service from Live TV and ViaSat (not Gogo) will be fast enough to allow streaming of movies in-flight.  On its blog, JetBlue is promising that every passenger on the plane will be able to log on and have an “at-home experience” in terms of speed. The carrier offered no firm date for the launch, only promising “early 2013.” In an unusual twist, it says it will offer the service for free until the first 30 planes get it. After that, it will offer a tiered product, with a free basic connection, but charges for more bandwidth.

Not to be outdone by JetBlue, Delta says that it, too will offer the option of streaming movies and TV shows using inflight wi-fi on all 800 of its domestic two-class aircraft “by the end of 2013.” Delta currently provides Gogo wi-fi on its entire domestic fleet.

In related news, Canadian regulators have given the greelight to Gogo to get started on extending its ground-based network north of the US border. Service should be available starting in 2013.

Have you ever read The BAT’s sister publication, The TICKET? You should check it out! 

With SF-based Virgin America offering wi-fi on 100% of its flights, plus Delta, United and American providing it on all SFO>JFK flights, Bay Area Travelers (BATS!) are pretty spoiled. Such ubiquity is not the case elsewhere, and in fact, only 31% of domestic flights (1,165 aircraft) in the US have it. At Southwest, 35% of planes have it; 22% of American Airlines planes have it, and at United, the largest carrier in the world (and at SFO), only 1% of its flights have it, according to Business Travel News.

What is surprising is that usage of inflight wi-fi on the planes that offer it is miniscule—just a scant 5.4% on average for the first half of 2012 according to Gogo. I think that number is low because most flights are so short that it does not make sense to log on in-flight. But anyone who flies across the country frequently has witnessed a much higher usage rate- on some of those SFO-JFK flights sometimes it seems that the whole plane is logged on… and speed suffers as a result.  So all these promises of faster products are heartening.

Whether it is land-based or satellite-based,  the availability of wi-fi is THE deciding factor when I’m chosing an airline for flights longer than three hours. What about you? How important is in-flight wi-fi in your airline decision? Will you fly JetBlue more often if it comes through on its promise of a superfast in-flight wi-fi experience? Do we really need to stream video in-flight? Please leave your comments below.

**DO YOU LIKE WHAT YOU ARE READING HERE? Help spread the word about The BAT! Forward this link to your frequent traveling colleagues, your travel agent, your corporate travel manager! We need new readers and will only get them from recommendations from readers like YOU! www.thebat-sf.com**

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Runway closure to cause delays at SFO

Runway Safety Areas Enhancements (Photo courtesy San Francisco International Airport)

If you are flying to from or through SFO on weekends during September, prepare for delays during peak hours (roughly 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.).

This just in from SFO:

San Francisco – September 12, 2012 - San Francisco International Airport will temporarily close Runway 28L, one of its two primary arrival runways, on three consecutive weekends beginning Friday, September 14, 2012, at 10:00 p.m. PDT, with the runway reopening on Monday, September 17, 2012, at 8:00 a.m. PDT.  The other closures are scheduled between Friday, September 21 at 10:00 p.m. and Monday, September 24 at 8:00 a.m., and again between Friday, September 28 at 10:00 p.m. and Monday, October 1 at 8:00 a.m.

These weekend closures will allow construction crews to restore Runway 28L/10R to its full length (10,704 feet) following the installation of Runway Status Lights, driving timber piles on the approach trestle light structure and commission the new taxiway called Taxiway Z1 (Zulu One).

During the closure, the arrival rate at SFO will be reduced from 60 aircraft per hour to 30 aircraft per hour. Delays for flights originating within a two-hour radius of SFO are expected to occur during peak travel times. Travelers are strongly encouraged to contact their respective carriers regarding any potential delays.

The construction is part of the federally mandated Runway Safety Area project for Runways 28L/10R and 28R/10L at SFO, which is expected to be completed in the fall of 2013.

The best news here is that SFO is making these improvements during September, a fair-weather month in the Bay Area, so hopefully delays will be kept to a minimum.

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