Runway closure at SFO could cause big delays

Are you planning to fly to/from SFO this weekend? Even if the fog stays away, you might be delayed. 

First it was Bay Area bridges… now it’s airport runways! Authorities announced today that San Francisco International Airport will temporarily close Runway 28L, one of its two primary arrival runways, from Friday, June 1, 2012, at 8:00 p.m. PDT to 8:00 a.m. PDT on Monday, June 4, 2012.  Runway 28R, as well as departure Runways 01L, and 01R will remain open and operational throughout the closure period.

The weekend closure will allow construction crews to modify lighting and distance remaining signs and also install infrastructure for the Airport’s new Runway Status Lights.

As a result, during the closure, the arrival rate at SFO will be reduced from 60 aircraft per hour to 30 aircraft per hour and delays, particularly for flights originating within two hours of SFO, are expected to occur during peak travel times.  Travelers are strongly encouraged to contact their respective carriers regarding any potential delays associated with this weekend’s construction work.

The construction is the first phase of the federally mandated Runway Safety Area project at SFO, which is expected to be completed in the Fall of 2014.


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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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Gorgeous optical illusion in Muni tunnel

Thinking about a Rocky Mountain getaway… or an extension of a business trip to Salt Lake City? Then check out this unusual “wrapped” tunnel at SF Muni’s Montgomery Street Station that depicts Utah’s gorgeous Delicate Arch. Or see the video above! Nice job! Does it make you wanna go? During summer, Delta frequently offers lots of very cheap last minute deals between SFO and its hub at SLC. So if this video has got you inspired, keep an eye out for them.

Brouhaha boils re: early boarding for babies

Here’s my opinion (via interview on CBS news last night) about that brouhaha brewing about United’s new policy not allowing families with kids to board early. Do you agree or disagree? Is the new policy fair to families? Or to frequent travelers?

My take: Airlines have lost control of the boarding process. There are so many people with “special” boarding privileges that the entire plane can fill up before general boarding (Zone 1) ever begins.

For example, United now offers special early boarding to those who have paid for its new Explorer credit card. They also offer early boarding to their best customers, such as Global Services or 1K members, or Star Alliance partners with status. Then there are those who’ve actually paid significantly more than everyone else on the plane for business or first class seats. United also offers early boarding to military in uniform and passengers using wheelchairs or crutches.

Until now, it’s allowed families with children to board early, too. Well, during summer travel season, families traveling with children can comprise half the passengers on the plane. (Flown to Orlando lately? You’ll see…)

So by the time “general boarding” starts, the plane is almost full- and nearly all the precious overhead bin space it taken. It’s crazy…and it irritates United’s best customers… those who have paid more for their tickets, or shown their loyalty as elite leve members of Mileage Plus.

So while it might appear that United’s policy change is an “anti-family” move, I think it brings some sanity back to the boarding process. And I also think that frequent travelers should be on the lookout for moms and dads boarding with them who need a little extra help when getting on the plane, and offer a hand getting settled.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below.


CLEAR security lanes return to SFO

CLEAR, which offers expedited access to airport security lines for $179/year, announced today it will launch its service at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) on May 23, just ahead of the Memorial Day weekend travel crush.

CLEAR lanes will be located at every terminal at SFO, allowing every passenger on any airline to use their biometrics to speed through security. “We are thrilled to bring CLEAR’s biometric platform to San Francisco, a city synonymous with innovation and efficiency. SFO joins CLEAR’s growing network of airport partners bringing much needed speed and predictability to the travel experience,” said CLEAR CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker.

CLEAR Lanes are now available only at Orlando and Denver. SFO will be the third airport to join since the company sprang back to life after a hasty retreat in 2009. Dallas-Ft Worth Airport is apparently next on the list, although no formal date has been announced.

CLEAR says it has a base of more than 200,000 members across the U.S., including about 40,000 in San Francisco. San Francisco International is introducing CLEAR says the launch means 85 new private sector jobs, enhanced security, and new revenue for the airport. For more info, see

Interested? Is predictability at airport security worth $179 per year? Please leave your comments below.

United moving flights to Terminal 1 at SFO

Terminal 1 at SFO

Just in time for the peak summer travel season….and with little warning… it appears that United Airlines will move many of its southern California (and Vegas) flights to Terminal 1 at SFO. Its “primary domestic operations” will remain in Terminal 3.

In an email, airport spokesperson Charles Schuler confirmed  ”that there is a plan for UA to start operations from T1 sometime in early June.” Schuler also said that United would be utilizing old Continental Airlines gates in Terminal 1 which were abandoned when flight operations were consolidated into Terminal 3 last year.

So far United has only confirmed that it is adding “new gates at SFO.” I have not been able to confirm that the slides below (sent to me by a reader) are from United.  I’ll post confirmations and dates here when I do.

So… this means that if you are flying from SFO to Las Vegas, Orange County (SNA), San Diego, Ontario, Burbank or Santa Barbara, you’ll catch your flight at Terminal 1 starting in June or July. Those poor souls arriving on a United flight at SFO’s Terminal 3 and then connecting on a United flight to one of these cities will have to take a bus across the ramp all the way around to Terminal 1. Below, United says buses will run every 5 minutes.

Another downer: There are no United Clubs in Terminal 1, so if you were planning on a Club visit to load up before your flight to Vegas, you’ll be sorely disappointed. In addition, there are no dedicated United GS/Premier security lines at Terminal 1- flyers with status will share special lanes with the other airlines operating in Terminal 1.

Please leave your thoughts and questions about this change below….

Video: Lufthansa shows off its new baby: Boeing 747-8I. Wow!

Wow! This week Lufthansa took delivery of its biggest new baby, the Boeing 747-8I. What a beautiful bird! Take a look at the excellent video above and keep in mind the following:

>Lufthansa is the first commercial airline to fly the 747-8I. The first 747-8i will fly between Washington-Dulles and Frankfurt. Lufthansa says that there are no current plans to bring it to San Francisco. However, it will soon be flying between Los Angeles LAX, Chicago ORD and Frankfurt. Lufthansa has 20 of these planes on order- five more will arrive this year.

Lufthansa's new business class seat is true lie-flat, but is angled inward. (Photo: Lufthansa)

>The 747-8I sports Lufthansa’s brand new true lie-flat business class product. (See video for a good close look.) What’s most unusual about the new biz class is how seats are angled slightly inward. (See video. I reserve judgement on this until I actually spend 10 hours on a plane, angled slightly toward a stranger…) This is great news since Lufthansa’s angled lie-flat seats (on the A380s, 747-400s and A340s it flies into SFO) get low marks for comfort. Eventually, all aircraft will be fitted with the newer business class, but it’s going to take 2-3 years.

>The economy class seat is identical to that found on Lufthansa’s A380. On the 747-8I, the layout in coach is 3-4-3 with 31 inches of pitch.

Serrated edges on the engines. Cool! (Photo: Lufthansa)

>Plane spotters will know that they are looking at a 747-8I when they see: engines with serrated edges (just like the new 787) and the lack of winglets that are found on the 747-400. (Boeing says the new wings have “raked wingtips.”)

>The new 747-8I flies more quietly, burns less fuel and therefore has fewer emissions that earlier versions.

>The fuselage on the 747-8i is 250 feet, 2 inches long- that’s 18 feet, four inches longer than the 747-400. It’s now the longest passenger aircraft in the world…about three feet longer than the Airbus A340-600.

>Lufthansa’s version of the 747-8I will have eight first class, 92 business class and 262 economy class seats.  First class is in the nose of the plane on the main deck. Business class is upstairs and downstairs.

>The list price for a Boeing 747-8I is about $300 million.

The first Lufthansa 747-8I takes off from the Boeing plant in Everett, WA bound for Frankfurt

Which US city is most expensive for travelers? Surprising answer

There are plenty of interesting nuggets in a new travel spending report from Concur, a company that provides travel expense management solutions for companies that spent a total of $50 billion last year for travel and entertainment.

A couple standouts from the infographic and Concur’s latest Spend Report:

>Our very own Santa Clara is the most expensive city for business travel in the US- beating out New York, San Francisco and Boston for the top honor. Why so spendy? Interestingly, the full report shows that ground transportation expenses are the culprit. According to the Concur report, expenses for rental cars and ground transportation run twice as much in this Silicon Valley city as they do in most other US cities. And who comes to the Valley without renting a car?

>Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world for business travel… but not a single US city ranks in the top 10 anymore. Bring a fat wallet if you are traveling to Australia or Scandinavia. Ouch!

Click on the graphic below for a better view:

What’s your advice for San Francisco-bound business travelers?

Click on the image to read the full column on

One of the many hats I wear is that of business travel columnist for This month, I wrote “Business Trip: San Francisco,” which offers advice to visiting business travelers. It typically includes top upscale hotels- both elegant and edgy, dining or entertainment suggestions, local color and local protocol or etiquette advice.

This is the twelfth in a series of destination focused business travel piece I’ve written for over the last year- other cities I’ve recently written about include: London, Seoul, Rio de Janeiro and Frankfurt.

Anyway, I thought writing about San Francisco, the city I know and love best, would be a breeze. But it was a lot tougher than I expected! The most difficult part was deciding what NOT to include. My instructions from BBC are to keep the stories short and sweet- a quick read for busy global business travelers from anywhere in the English-speaking world.

So Dear Reader, what advice would YOU offer a global business traveler visiting our fair city? What did I leave out? Please leave your comments, advice or suggestions below! And then send the link to this page to visitors headed our way!

Summer business class sale beckons bargain hunters

Lufthansa's A380 flying SFO-FRA has a whopping 98 business class seats

Economy class round trips between SFO and Europe during peak summer travel season (July/August) are now approaching $1,500 round trip- and will continue to creep up to near the $2,000 mark over the next few months.

However, airlines have a tough time selling those big business class seats on transatlantic flights because a lot of business travelers are on vacation during July and August. Due to the drop in demand for business class during summer, airlines are dropping prices- from the standard $6,000-$8,000 round trip to as little as $2,250 round trip.

For example, Lufthansa’s round-trip, all-in business class fares from SFO range from $2,250 to $3,500 depending on your final destination. (See chart below.) You must book your trip by May 31 for trips beginning June 29 and ending before September 1.

These fares are good on Lufthansa as well as its Star Alliance partners Air Canada, Swiss or United. United has matched Lufthansa’s business class sale. So have SkyTeam airlines such as Delta, KLM and Air France. Virgin Atlantic has joined in the fun. However British Airways does not appear to be joining in on the sale at this time.

Lufthansa fares from SFO:

With fares that low for business class…would you pay the premium for a big seat up front?

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