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Behind the scenes at Cathay Pacific HQ: 10 cool things revealed

Entry to Cathay Pacific's sprawling HQ in Hong Kong (Chris McGinnis)

Entry to Cathay Pacific’s sprawling HQ in Hong Kong (Chris McGinnis)

Nothing is more fun than going behind the curtain at an airline, airport or hotel, to see how things really work. Luckily, travel writers get to do just that every now and then.

Recently Cathay Pacific invited me to tour the airline’s operations in Hong Kong along with a group of journalists from all over the world. That day, we saw Cathay’s flight operations, catering and cargo facilities and had an opportunity to talk with key executives, all at the airline’s headquarters.

Gazing from the windows of our group’s bus, I could see why the HQ megaplex is dubbed “Cathay City.” The large complex of many modern glass-and-steel office buildings is indeed a city unto itself. Cathay-logoed busses circulate everywhere and empty employees at office buildings’ front doors. In the center of it all in a small, grassy park, there’s a life-sized replica of Cathay’s second aircraft,  affectionately called Niki, positioned as if in perpetual take-off.

I learned a lot and saw some unusual sights. (Think: a giant “wok” of stir-fried rice big enough to serve 300, or a five-foot-long toy car wrapped in plastic for shipping.) And I experienced many “so that’s why” moments.

Here are 10 cool things I learned during my visit to Cathay City in Hong Kong.

1. A bit of history surprised me, given Cathay Pacific’s dominance in Asia and home base in Hong Kong. An American and an Australian, both ex-air force pilots, founded the airline following World War II. Even now, fewer than 20 percent of CX pilots are Hong Kong Chinese and the executives I met were mostly Brits. Cathay Pacific is the world’s 19th largest airline by operating revenue.

Cathay's super secret inflight testing lab-- who knows what lies beneath the sheets? (Photo: Nancy Branka)

Cathay’s super secret inflight testing lab– who knows what lies beneath the sheets? (Photo: Nancy Branka)

2. Shhh! We toured Cathay’s super-secret cabin lab, a mockup of an aircraft interior where new designs of everything from wall panels, seats, and carpet are tested. But most of what was in the lab had been covered with white bed sheets so our inquiring eyes couldn’t spot—and broadcast–the next big thing. When a new seat product is under development, everyone from frequent fliers to the Chairman tests it with overnight stays. (Seeing our looks of envy, our guide told us, “It’s not as much fun as you might think.”) My SFO-HKG-SFO flights were on Boeing 747s, outfitted with a walled business class seat in a 1-2-1 configuration. I call it the “introvert seat” because each seat’s high walls shield you from even making eye contact with another human. Others (extroverts, I suppose) describe it as “coffin-like.” In any case, I found the privacy to work even better than Ambien and slept like a baby. Cathay is in the process of replacing the 747 with the 777 to San Francisco, so passengers enjoy new seats with a little less privacy but more features.

3. Physiologically, we lose 30 percent of our capacity to taste at high altitude. Some airlines I’ve talked to bump up spices and salt to compensate. Cathay’s strategy is to avoid compensating with salt: Its effects on blood pressure aren’t diminished at altitude, they say, and frequent fliers in particular could experience health issues with over-salted meals, even if they tasted “normal.”

Omelets are made by hand in Cathay's massive, sterile kitchens (Photo: Nancy Branka)

Omelets are made by hand in Cathay’s massive, sterile kitchens (Photo: Nancy Branka)

4. All food created in an airline catering operation must be cooked, then cooled, then reheated onboard. Tricky. Some items, like beef, are initially cooked to medium rare, to allow for onboard heating. On my return flight I enjoyed an omelet that I may very well have watched being made (by hand) the day prior during our kitchen tour. At the time, I wondered why the eggs looked runny. Onboard, having been reheated, the omelet was the perfect consistency.

6. Every item offloaded from a plane that will be reused on a future flight must be sanitized. That means meal carts, headphones, soap bottles, on and on. These go through their cleaning in the inbound area of catering operations. For example, every emptied meal cart is run through the cart washer, cleaned with thermal sanitation, dried here and then returned for reuse. Makes sense: Your meal is only as sanitary as the cart from which it is served.

 Specially designed seatback nooks for mobile devices (Photo: Nancy Branka)

Specially designed seatback nooks for mobile devices (Photo: Nancy Branka)

5. Rapidly changing consumer technology can hamstring airlines, as they try and keep up. We sat in a cabin mockup of short-haul business class seats already in service. A niche is molded into the seatback to hold a phone. Nice touch. Trouble is, the niche was designed for iPhone-size smartphones. Now, many phones are larger and will not fit in the indentation. (You’re just going to have to rest your Samsung Galaxy S5 on your tray table.) Also, the seatback monitors were built with a dock for the iPhone. Then, Apple changed the pin-size of its dock connector. A good idea instantly became obsolete. 

Brand new Cathay Pacific 747-8 freighter and B777-300 at Boeing factory in Seattle (Chris McGinnis)

Brand new Cathay Pacific 747-8 freighter and B777-300 at Boeing factory in Seattle (Chris McGinnis)

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7. Cargo flies two ways: in the belly of passenger planes and in freighters (usually 747s). Since 2011, cargo demand has been weak, while supply of space has increased as airlines have expanded, especially internationally. That’s bad news for the cargo business. But I learned it’s just one more reason airlines love the 777 (besides its fuel efficiency): the 777 belly holds 20 tons of cargo, while the 747 (passenger version) holds only half that (10-12 tons). More and more of the cargo business has moved to bellies, to reduce costs. An indication of the lackluster cargo climate: Cathay Pacific currently has four freighters parked in the Arizona desert.

Everyone entering the kitchen must use a roller to remove errant hairs (Photo: Nancy Branka)

Everyone entering the kitchen must use a roller to remove errant hairs (Photo: Nancy Branka)

8. Ever found a hair in your airline meal? I didn’t think so. The standards of hygiene in airline catering are, by necessity, excessive. As visitors, not only were we required to wear a white coat, shower cap, and additional cap, but prior to entering the kitchen we used a roller to remove any stray hairs from the white coat and went through two rounds of hand washing and sanitizing. And we did not even get close to any food.

9. Cathay operates complete kitchens for kosher and halal meals, and each is separate from the general catering kitchen. Kosher meals are made according to Jewish guidelines based on the Old Testament. Halal meals are made according to Muslim guidelines based on the Koran. It was explained to us that regulations for halal meals are even more detailed than for kosher. The staffers who work in these kitchens must be trained by societies specializing in kosher and halal food preparation respectively. I did not order either of these meal types and would see no need to unless your religious beliefs required it, but I have no doubt they are excellent, as I saw the care with which they were made.

Cathay's secret weapon: Crystal! (Photo: Nancy Branka)

Cathay’s secret weapon: Crystal! (Photo: Nancy Branka)

10. Ever wonder how some airlines master superior soft service from flight attendants while others don’t? Well, I met one of Cathay Pacific’s secret weapons: Crystal. She is an inflight service manager, an über flight attendant who oversees the entire cabin crew on a flight. With us, she simulated a meeting she would lead with her crew before boarding. In the meeting, she consciously raises or lowers the energy level of the group. She also quizzes the crew on how certain safety situations are to be handled. But all with kindness and a smile. Listening to her felt a little like eavesdropping on a happy-flight-attendant cult. She must have used the airline’s tagline, “service straight from the heart,” a dozen times and clearly works hard to evoke this from her flight attendants. Sounds a little fakey, I know, but it sounded sincere enough that it hooked me. Crystal said if she died and came back for another life, she hoped she could work at Cathay Pacific again. You cringe. But the thing is, I believed her. By the way, lest you blame labor unions for U.S. legacy carriers’ inability to provide “service straight from the heart,” the CX flight crew union is said to be one of the most aggressive in Hong Kong.

--By TICKET contributor Nancy Branka

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CREDIT CARDS DESPERATE TO GIVE YOU $400. Last month  Time Magazine ran a story about how banks are battling for the biz of folks with good jobs, good credit and high spending. Sounds like the typical TICKET reader to me! The  best card with the biggest bonuses for business travelers: Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard. Why don’t you take the banks up on their offer? You’ll get $400 in award travel, and you’ll help out The TICKET when (and only when) you order up a new card from our links. So just do it!

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Feast your eyes on United’s new London lounges

United's big bright new Club at London Heathrow Terminal 2. CLICK ON PHOTO FOR SLIDESHOW

United’s big bright new Club at London Heathrow Terminal 2. CLICK ON PHOTO FOR SLIDESHOW

United Airlines invited a small group of media folks (including your TICKET editor!) to London Heathrow Airport this week for a preview of its two brand new lounges for premium customers – a United Global First Lounge and a United Club in  the airport’s new Terminal 2, The Queen’s Terminal. See slideshow

United will be the first airline to operate from Terminal 2 when it opens on June 4, finally bringing its 17 daily Heathrow flights – currently split between Terminals 1 and 4 – “under one roof.”  Later this year, the operations of United’s 22 Star Alliance partners at Heathrow will progressively move to Terminal 2, the alliance’s new home at the airport.

The airport is moving airlines in slowly at T2– it does not want a repeat of the fiasco that occurred when British Airways moved into the massive Terminal 5 overnight.

Conversation nook in United Club along with vintage photos (Chris McGinnis)

Conversation nook in United Club along with vintage photos (Chris McGinnis)

Together, the two lounges occupy 22,000 square feet of space near United’s gates in Terminal 2’s T2B satellite concourse. Both feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of runways, modern décor and walls adorned with vintage black and white photos from United’s archives. Like T5, the Queen’s Terminal is comprised of a main terminal (T2A) and a satellite (T2B) connected by an underground walkway.

Warm canapes from the elaborate United Club buffet (Chris McGinnis)

Warm canapes from the elaborate United Club buffet (Chris McGinnis)

Both the Club and the Lounge will offer elaborate meals (unlike anything you’ll see stateside), plenty of high end booze, wine and, of course speedy, free Wi-Fi.  It remains to be seen whether the quality and quantity of the spread laid out for the media will be the ongoing standard.

Nearly every seat in the joint is within a foot or two of a power outlet. And there are seven private “phone booths” set up with desks and glass doors for private conversations.  See slideshow

Global First Lounge

The United Global First Lounge is for United or Star Alliance customers traveling in first class. The centerpiece of the lounge is an oversized Big Ben-style clock in the tea lounge section.  Other features include a buffet area, an intimate dining room, private phone booths and a quiet zone with loungers and privacy drapes.

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United Club

The United Club is for United Club members, those traveling in business class and Star Alliance Gold members. It’s the first Club outside the U.S. to feature the new United Club design concept– which you’ll see spread throughout United Clubs over the next year as part of a $50 million upgrade.

The Club has a big bright and open layout with seating over 280 guests.  Against a backdrop of runways is a 25-seat full service bar, two buffet areas, a TV lounge and seven private phone booths. See slideshow

There are eight well-appointed and spacious shower suites

There are eight well-appointed and spacious shower suites

There are eight spacious shower suites with complimentary toiletries and valet service– put your suit in the valet door while showering, and an attendant will press it and have it ready by the time you dry off.

United operates 17 flights per day from Heathrow to six US cities: Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington, D.C./Dulles. See slideshow

How does United’s new look compare to Delta or other airport lounges you’ve visited lately? Please leave your comments below!

Chris McGinnis

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Faster arrivals at ATL + Meal vouchers vanishing + Delta’s new planes + Southwest devaluation + Delta-Alaska divorce

Arrival kiosks like these at Delta's new T4 at JFK are coming to Atlanta. Nice! (Photo: Delta)

Arrival kiosks like these at Delta’s new T4 at JFK are coming to Atlanta. Nice! (Photo: Delta)

ATL GETS IMMIGRATION KIOSKS…Following in the footsteps of JFK’s terminals one and four, Chicago O’Hare, Houston, and Seattle-Tacoma, Atlanta is finally getting automated immigration kiosks that speed up the arrivals process for international passengers. Those with Global Entry may be a bit miffed, however, that everyone is getting a speedier option for entering the United States as it only takes a swipe of your passport and a few screen clicks to print out a ticket. Travelers then present that ticket to an immigration officer before heading through customs and save almost half the time versus waiting in a traditional line. Still, it is not quite as fast (or exclusive) as Global Entry, but it is better than before. The system also means you no longer need to complete an immigration card/customs declaration card on arrival.

DELTA OVERWATER WI-FI ROLLOUT. FINALLY! This week Delta launched new satellite based Gogo wi-fi service on three B747s flying to Tokyo from Atlanta and Los Angeles-LAX. Delta says that the service should be on all its 16 747s by mid 2014, and its entire international fleet by the end of 2015. Rates start at $15 per hour and $25 per flight. Speaking of Gogo wifi, the onboard internet provider announced this week it will join forces with Samsung to offer a full year (up to 36 flights) of Gogo Inflight Internet access with the purchase of a new Samsung tablet. Accessing the free sessions is easy:  just launch your browser on any Gogo equipped flight and you will automatically be directed to a special landing page that will grant Internet access.

United's new 737-800s will be used on the ATL-SFO nonstop route (Photo: RedLegsFan21 / Flickr)

United’s newish 737-800s will be used on the ATL-SFO nonstop route (Photo: RedLegsFan21 / Flickr)

NEW UNITED NONSTOPS TO SFO. Starting April 1, United will use 737-800s to revive its nonstop service on ATL-SFO, a market already well served well by Delta, Southwest and AirTran. Outbound flights depart ATL at 6:55 am and 5:24 pm. Returns depart SFO at 8:54 am and 3:33 pm. A quick look at fares is showing the lowest coach roundtrips at $390. What do you think about United? Is it a good alternative to Delta? Please leave your comments below. 

DELTA-ALASKA AIR DIVORCE. The breakup between Delta and Alaska Airlines is becoming long and ugly. Earlier this month, Delta basically declared war on Alaska when a top executive stated its intentions to make Seattle, Alaska’s base of operations,  a Delta hub. This week both carriers announced that some of the reciprocal benefits their elite customers have enjoyed, such as waived baggage fees, access to priority security lines, discounts on premium economy,  are getting yanked starting May 1. Delta changes here. Alaska’s here. The best news here is for Seattle residents, who are getting wooed with bonus mile offers, status matches, free Uber rides to the airport and more as both carriers battle for their business.

DELTA MEAL VOUCHERS FADING…Been delayed on a Delta flight recently? Whether it is a mechanical issue, weather or total cancelation, don’t expect Delta to print out meal vouchers anymore. Instead, some gate agents have told The TICKET that it’s more likely that a cart will be rolled out with pretzels, snacks, water, and soda to tide you over. Five hour delay? Same cart. Agents stated that it is up to the station manager if they want to order in additional food for lengthy delays. Meal vouchers are printed at agent discretion, but apparently the new policy is that they are no longer part of irregular operations. Do you think airlines should provide vouchers to passengers when the delay is a mechanical and lasts several hours… is cart service at the gate okay by you? Leave your comments below. 

NEW RESTAURANTS AT DETROIT…Travelers passing through Delta’s Detroit hub will soon have new dining options when the airport completes a makeover of its food outlets. New choices will include PF Chang’s China Bistro, Chick-Fil-A, Gordon Biersch, Bruegger’s Bagels, Pinkberry, and Longhorn Steakhouse among others. What’s your favorite place to nosh at DTW or other Delta hubs?

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Could the Airbus A350 be Delta's next big plane? (Photo: Airbus)

Could the Airbus A350 be Delta’s next big plane? (Photo: Airbus)

DELTA PLANS REPLACEMENT FOR 747/767 PLANES…Delta is evaluating what aircraft type will replace the Boeing 747 and 767 planes (two of the oldest models in its fleet) in the coming years. According to AviationWeek, Delta has ruled out the Boeing 777X (an extended version of the current 777) although the B777-300 is being considered. Delta is also studying the Airbus A350-900/1000 model and the Dreamliner (B787). Delta already holds orders for the Dreamliner, which were placed by Northwest, and then deferred by Delta. Additional Airbus A330 aircraft are also in the running. Read this regarding the gradual disappearance of the “Queen of the Skies” at SFO. Will you miss Delta’s jumbo jet when the 747 retires? 

SFO-TOKYO ENDS. Delta will end its San Francisco-Tokyo nonstop flight, effective March 30. Delta spokesperson Anthony Black confirmed the move to The TICKET:  ”We are ending service between SFO and NRT with the last westbound service effective Friday, March 28, 2014, and final eastbound service effective Sunday, March 30, 2014. Delta is suspending its nonstop service due to an unstable revenue environment caused by yen devaluation.”

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UBER NOT EVERYWHERE. A growing number of TICKET readers are big on the new generation of ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft. (If not, sign up here and get $20 off your first ride!) While calling up an Uber car in San Francisco or New York is almost second nature, you might be surprised to learn such services are NOT available in: Austin, Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans, Portland, St. Louis. Low cost UberX is no longer available for rides to or from LAX, although its black cars are still permitted.

SOUTHWEST.COM ALLOWS INTERNATIONAL BOOKINGS…This has been the case for a couple of months, but few have noticed it. You can now book international travel on Southwest’s website. The flights, mostly to the Caribbean, are AirTran routes, but can now be booked directly through the Southwest portal. Ironically, not all destinations can be used as the origination points. It seems that only a few cities work consistently including Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Orlando, or Pittsburgh. If traveling from another city, a separate booking must be made, but the two can be combined upon check-in for the purpose of checking bags all the way through (although they will remain separate bookings).

Help us help you by getting a new credit card via links from The TICKET!
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CREDIT CARDS DESPERATE TO GIVE YOU $400. Last week  Time Magazine ran a story about how banks are battling for the biz of folks with good jobs, good credit and high spending. Sounds like the typical TICKET reader to me! The  best card with the biggest bonuses for business travelers: Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard. Why don’t you take the banks up on their offer? You’ll get $400 in award travel, and you’ll help out The TICKET when (and only when) you order up a new card from our links. So just do it!

SOUTHWEST DEVALUATION. So it’s not just Delta….If you’ve been hoarding your Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you might want to consider redeeming them before March 31. Wanna Get Away reward flight bookings made on or after March 31, 2014 will require 70 points per dollar, an increase from the 60 points per dollar that is currently required.

DELTA BOOSTS LAX AGAIN. Beginning this summer, Delta will add twice-daily nonstop service from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas aboard Boeing 717 and 737 planes. New daily service to Boise, Idaho will be added via Delta Connection, and a daily international link to San Salvador, El Salvador makes a comeback to the Delta network from LAX with 737 service each day. These moves in addition to a recent declaration that it intends to make Seattle a hub show Delta’s serious about building up its west coast presence.

DELTA PARTNERS WITH LINKEDIN. Delta has linked up with LinkedIn to offer business travelers the opportunity to fly with industry influencers on specific flights. Travelers that are intrigued with flying with a bigwig in their specific industry submit an application at Deltainnovationclass.com. Then, Delta will select and pair applicants with industry leaders. These pairings will be chosen throughout the year, and the winners will have the chance to fly side by side with their role model or industry icon giving them the chance to share ideas or discuss business topics along the way. Would you be up for some mentoring on a flight? If so, who would you most like to sit next to? 

Rooms like this one at the swank Cosmopolitan Las Vegas bump up from Marriott Rewards Tier 8 to Tier 9. (Photo: Cosmopolitan)

Rooms like this one at the swank Cosmopolitan Las Vegas bump up from Marriott Rewards Tier 8 to Tier 9. (Photo: Cosmopolitan) 

MARRIOTT REWARDS DOWNGRADES. It’s getting downright tiring to write about loyalty program downgrades. But I’ll carry on! Marriott has increased the number of points needed for free nights at a slew of properties around the world. Most of the properties that you’d really want to stay at are increasing from Category 8  to the newly created Category 9. Here’s the list. Read it and weep.

MUSICAL GATES AT DCA. If you fly Southwest, Virgin America or JetBlue into Washington Reagan National Airport, you need to read this about their plan to swap terminals. Virgin and JetBlue will move into more modern digs in Terminal B/C.  Southwest will expand at the older Terminal A, which is slated for a major re-do to be completed in late 2015.

Fabulous new "grand lodge" interiors at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe (Photo: Hyatt)
Fabulous new “grand lodge” interiors at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe (Photo: Hyatt)

WORTH CHECKING INTO. Last week I was able to snag a super nice room at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe for just $100 per night by bidding low on Priceline. (Probably has something to do with the lack of snow there!) Having stayed there about five years ago, I was surprised at the REALLY nice full re-do of the 398-room high rise lakeside property in Incline Village, NV. The style is “grand lodge” and there’s lots of stone, leather and timber. The renovation project wrapped up this past December, with each room getting a $45K makeover… the total tab was about $25 million and it shows! Check it out! Overall, I’ve been impressed with Hyatt re-dos all over the world… have you noticed?

Chris McGinnis & Ramsey Qubein

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Delta’s big hair + New biz class seat + Sky Club experiments + High value customers + Eastern Airlines?

A younger version of Deltalina (click to view video)

A younger version of Deltalina (click to view video)

DELTA’S BIG HAIR MOMENT…Have you seen the new 1980′s themed safety video airing aboard Delta flights? Now that the holiday-themed demo has been put away for the season, travelers have a new video to capture their attention. Highlights include a cameo by a younger Deltalina finger wagging the no-smoking gesture and plenty of big hair, leggings, and boom boxes hailing from decades ago. The video was shot on board a 777 aircraft in Detroit and took nearly 20 hours to produce. It includes the new update regarding FAA-approved mobile devices available for use at any time on board while in airplane mode. The idea for the 80s theme came from Delta’s first safety video ever, which launched during the 1980s on board its flights. It was, no doubt, a bit less humorous and entertaining back then. The YouTube version of the video has gone viral in the socialmediasphere–  already amassing 1.3 million views.

FinlandiaSKY CLUB AMENITIES GET AN UPGRADE…Taking some of the sting out of recent membership price increase and limits on guests, Delta Sky Clubs are experimenting with new upgrades. (Check out TICKET reader reaction to the changes here on our Facebook page.)In test market clubs between mid-February and April, a variety of new snacks and services will be offered along with surveys for members to complete. The most popular amenities based on this feedback will be implemented nationwide once the test is complete. The complimentary new items being tested include sandwiches, antipasto items, hot soups, evening desserts, smoothies, and larger breakfast bagels. Manicures, shoeshines, and massage chairs will also be available on a complimentary basis. Due to customer feedback, the well vodka is switching to the Finlandia brand. The test markets include the F and A-17 clubs in Atlanta, the A-38 club in Detroit, the D club at LaGuardia, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, and Seattle/Tacoma among others. 

INTERNATIONAL LOUNGE ACCESS GETS PARTIAL AXE…Not all Delta-related lounge news is positive though. Delta quietly pared down the list of overseas lounges that SkyTeam Elite Plus members can access when traveling in cities without a Delta club. Previously, numerous third-party lounges permitted access for SkyTeam Elite Plus members flying in economy from cities like Athens, Barcelona, Brussels, Nice, Quito, Stockholm, and Zurich. The term “third-party lounge” is being renamed “business lounge” meaning that only business class travelers will have access. Delta had to pay the lounges for access by its SkyTeam Elite Plus flyers traveling in economy, and this change is certainly a cost-cutting measure that comes at the expense of SkyTeam benefits for Elite Plus flyers. The change is effective on May 1, and it is best to check the drop-down menu on Delta.com to verify if you will have lounge access. Sky Club members have a separate list of clubs that they can access, and SkyTeam Elite Plus members can still access SkyTeam-branded or SkyTeam airline lounges no matter what class of service they are flying.

Air France's new biz class seat coming to its B777s starting this June

Air France’s new biz class seat coming to its B777s starting this June

AIR FRANCE UNVEILS NEW FLAT BED BUSINESS SEAT…Air France has finally joined the lie-flat crowd with a mod new business class seat that transitions to a completely flat bed in a cocoon shell with a new 16-inch video screen. Replacing those irritating angled lie flat seats is going to take about two years, so don’t expect to see them in Atlanta any time soon. First up for the new seats are Air France’s 44 Boeing 777s. After that, its Airbus A330s and A380s will get the new seats. However, Air France’s 747s (which fly to Atlanta during summer months) won’t get the new seats since the jumbos are being phased out of its fleet. Here’s an in-depth look at the new seat from our mates at Australian Business Traveler.

ARE YOU A DELTA HVC?  It’s not just miles that can get you extra special treatment at the airport from Delta… it’s also cold hard cash. According to a new report from Ideaworks, “high value customers” or HVC’s aren’t necessarily frequent travelers. Instead they possess enough disposable income to buy super-elite perks from airlines (like airport escorts, private security screening or Porsche rides across the airport ramp). According to IdeaWorks, Delta’s program is called “VIP Select Service” and is available at ATL, LAX, JFK and SFO. Fees for such services vary, but start at $125 for one passenger. Interested? The report includes this email address for queries: VIPselect@Delta.com

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DELTA POSTS ENORMOUS PROFIT… Delta President Ed Bastian attributes Delta’s recent spate of fat quarterly profits to reduced flying by airlines, which allows more profitable fares and fuller airplanes. If you note happier employees this month, it’s because Delta provides a profit sharing check when the airline does well. This is Delta’s fourth year of posting profits, which is no doubt one of the reasons that industry magazine Air Transport World recently named Delta Air Lines the “Airline of the Year” for 2012.

AMERICAN DROPS ATL-LAGUARDIA NONSTOPS…As part of the American-US Airways merger, AA has realigned its flying schedule from the New York market launching service to dozens of new airports across the country. However, to do so, it had to drop other routes, which includes its regional jet flying from Atlanta to LaGuardia. The new American can only operate a fixed number of departures from the airport due to the limited slots it holds at LGA. This leaves Delta and AirTran/Southwest as the only carriers in the busy ATL-LGA market.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 9.28.48 PMDEAL ON MOBILE OFFICE SPACE. Regus, the outfit that rents office space to business travelers and mobile workers in over 1,800 locations around the world, is offering a nice deal via Amazon Local. The $20 Mobile Worker Pack deal offers two hours usage of of a professional meeting room for up to four people, plus five visits to a Regus Business Lounge, refreshments, and access to administrative support. Retail value for this pack is $260, so The TICKET just saved you $240! Check it out here. 

MORE ROCKETMILES. Remember when The TICKET wrote about Rocketmiles when it launched last year? Rocketmiles is a hotel booking website that offers travelers gigantic frequent flyer mile bonuses (7,000 – 15,000 in many cases) for staying at its carefully curated list of upscale hotels. Well, it seems the business is working because Rocketmiles just secured $6.5 million more in funding from Silicon Valley VCs. Not bad! When you check out the site Rocketmiles from this link, both you and The TICKET earn 1,000 bonus miles, so check it out and help us out!

ATLANTA AIRPORT CONSIDERING FREE WIFI…The airport authority is seeking approval for a wireless infrastructure upgrade that could pave the way for free wi-fi airport-wide. A new system would need to support the high number of travelers that would no doubt take advantage of it. Projections are that nearly 15,000 people could log on at one time; the current pay system that was installed in 2005 can only handle 4,000 users simultaneously. The upgrade could cost as much as $6 million and may be in place as early as this spring. You may remember that plans were in place to offer free wi-fi by last fall, but the bidding process among potential providers was riddled with hiccups that delayed the overall process.

Eastern Airlines back in the day!

Eastern Airlines back in the day!

UNLIKELY BUT TRUE. An outfit in Florida has filed papers to resuscitate the Eastern Airlines brand. While there’s a LOT more to cranking up a new airline than filing papers, it’s interesting to see Atlanta’s one-time #2 carrier back in the news. A press release states, “Eastern Air Lines Group, Inc. was formed to re-launch Eastern Air Lines as a passenger airline using the Airbus A320 aircraft from its main base of operations at Miami International Airport (“MIA”).  Eastern’s headquarters is located in Building 5A at MIA. Eastern Air Lines Group, Inc. is not affiliated with the former Eastern Air Lines, which operated from 1928 to 1991 as one of the largest U.S. domestic air carriers.” Follow Eastern on Twitter.

LAGUARDIA AIRPORT GETS OVERALL IMPROVEMENTS…New York state will begin a $3.6 billion upgrade project for La Guardia that includes a new central terminal building with fancier food and shopping outlets and free wireless Internet. Delta does not operate from the central terminal building, and its terminals C and D are not as dilapidated as the rest of the airport facility. However, Southwest and AirTran do use the older central terminal. Common complaints include few escalators, limited full-service restaurants, low ceilings, and poor maintenance upkeep. Construction on the new facility, once plans are approved, could begin by the end of the year. 

WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET? With all the changes (and devaluations) coming to our cherished frequent flyer programs, it’s a good idea to starting focusing on other ways to earn free trips—such as credit card programs. Over the last year, the new Barclaycard World Arrivals card has shot to the top of a lot of comparison charts when it comes to rewards cards. That’s because it offers a value of $2 for every $100 spent, special bonuses for travel-related points redemptions, no irritating foreign transaction fees…and a nice 40,000 point sign-up bonus (that’s one free $400 ticket with no blackout dates).  The $89 annual fee is waived for the first year. When you get a Barclaycard World Arrivals card via links in The TICKET, we earn a small commission… so come on and help us out if you are in the market for a new card! Thanks. More info here.

Chris McGinnis  & Ramsey Qubein

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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.

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 1.18.27 PM

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.

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 

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SkyMiles upgrade (seriously) + Buying MQMs + Southwest shrinkage + Delta’s big bump + Southwest surprise

Delta's Tiffany bag tag

Delta’s Tiffany & Co bag tag

Yesterday, Delta announced some welcome changes for its top tier platinum and diamond medallion flyers. This is especially good news considering the series of downgrades to the program we’ve seen over the last year. Regrettably, the move targets only Delta’s super-elite…the SkyMiles world is still a relatively cold and lonely place for those carrying silver and gold. 

FREE INTERNATIONAL UPGRADES…Well, almost. Diamond Medallions will finally have international upgrade certificates they can use on any flight no matter what fare they paid. Beginning in March of next year, Diamond members can select 4 Global Upgrades as one of their Choice benefits. These are good on any fare (except for the most restricted, and rare, E class) and subject to availability (we’ve been unable to determine how easy or hard this might be since Delta blocked Expert Flyer from showing upgrade space). Previously, systemwide upgrades were only good on pricey Y, B, or M fares. This move puts Delta in line with American, which offers similar systemwide upgrades to its top tier on any fare and above United, which requires a certain fare class to use systemwide upgrades. The new Global upgrades will also work on certain higher fare classes on KLM for upgrades to business and on Air France for upgrades to Premium Economy. Regional upgrades are another Choice option made available for Platinum (four certificates) and Diamond Medallions (eight certificates) and are good on any economy fare (except for E class). They are available to use on any flight that traditionally offers complimentary upgrades and can be requested and confirmed in advance. If no space is available, these upgrade certificates will receive a higher priority than complimentary upgrades.

UPGRADE CHANGES…If you are Hawaii-bound, Delta is now following United’s footsteps to offer free Medallion upgrades on flights that depart from Western cities. Flights from Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle to Hawaii are now eligible for Medallion upgrades, but the Atlanta-Honolulu nonstop is not. Nor are any of Delta’s “direct” flights that stop over on the west coast on the way to Hawaii.  Delta giveth and taketh away though. Beginning March 1 of next year, those premium, flat-bedded, transcontinental flights between JFK and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle (which don’t touch ATL) will no longer be eligible for complimentary upgrades. This means that a Diamond Medallion would have to redeem a Global upgrade, redeem miles, or purchase a business class fare (currently in the $3,500 range) to sit up front on those plush transcons.

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MORE CHOICE BENEFITS…Platinum and Diamond Medallions that reach certain flying thresholds will also have more choices next year. In addition to the new regional and global upgrades, starting in March Delta will add Global Entry application fee waivers (Diamond Medallion members get two and Platinum Medallion members get one. Value: $100 each) and two Diamond Medallion luggage tags from  Tiffany & Co.

Here’s Delta’s announcement regarding the coming changes.

Please leave your comments about the changes below! 

Lookout for Delta's holiday carts

Lookout for Delta’s holiday carts

DELTA CHEER CARTS MAKE HOLIDAY APPEARANCE…Delta’s flight attendants and pilots will be rolling out “cheer carts”  at various locations in Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle throughout the month. On the carts will be a selection of drinks, snacks, and gifts offered to passersby to promote the holiday spirit. Coca-Cola products and Biscoff are expected giveaways, but other treats will include airline swag like wings, t-shirts, scarves, and water bottles. Look for the carts on city streets throughout the holiday season as part of the airline’s surprise and delight efforts. To find out where the nearest cart may appear, visit Delta’s Facebook and Twitter profiles for more details. To watch the holiday video that features the cheer carts in action, click here. 

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 4.17.55 PMGOT CASH?, BUY MQMS…If you are short of MQMs for the year, Delta is following repeating its annual year-end opportunity to buy access to elite status at ridiculously high prices. (The deal was a lot better in leaner times! Remember this? Or the time Delta offered up to 15,000 MQMs for those who donated to charities like AID Atlanta or Grady Hospital? Those were the days!) Anyway… for flyers who are still missing MQMs, buying them is rarely the answer unless time is of the essence. Delta knows that many customers will come up short at the end of the year and has traditionally cashed in on those that need that slight nudge to the next level. The rates vary depending upon your Medallion level, so hold your nose and at least go check this link.  We are already getting comments about this like this one from CL: “Have you seen this year’s version of “buy your way to Medallion?” What a rip. Prices have doubled. Remember a few years ago where making a couple of $500 donations could get you 10k, and then last year, $995 cash got you 10k? This year it is $1,995 – what are they thinking?”

HOLIDAY FAVOR? Hey TICKET readers, will you please do us a favor? Please copy and paste the link to this post, forward it to at least FIVE FRIENDS and encourage them to sign up for The TICKET! We need more readers and this would help out immeasurably! THANK YOU!!

SOUTHWEST DITCHES THREE CITIES…Bags will no longer fly free from three cities beginning next summer when Southwest ditches service to Branson, Missouri; Jackson Mississippi; and Key West, Florida. None was able to sustain the demand that Southwest needed to continue operations there. The cities will be dropped from the route map next summer.

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DELTA BUMPS ENTIRE FLIGHT…Delta received some unwanted press recently when a Delta Connection flight was canceled for maintenance reasons from Gainesville, Fla. to Atlanta. Passengers may not have been so upset if they had not noticed the University of Florida basketball team boarding their same aircraft. They later learned that their flight was canceled so that the team could make their scheduled game in Connecticut. While the gate agent was not entirely forthcoming to passengers as to why the flight was canceled, Delta was certainly within reason to cancel the flight. The basketball team is also a Delta customer (sports charters are big business for airlines), and canceling one flight to move aircraft to serve another flight for maintenance reasons is not uncommon. What do you think about what happened? Would you have upset if the gate agent had been more honest about the situation?

SOUTHWEST SURPRISES FLYERS WITH NINTENDO…In a nifty partnership with Nintendo, customers aboard Southwest flight 1883 from New Orleans to Dallas Love Field on Nov. 26 received a free Wii U console. Mario, of Super Mario Brothers, was awaiting customers in the terminal to hand out their new high-definition video game system. Lucky flyers!

ATLANTA AIRPORT MANAGER RETIRES…Hartsfield Jackson’s airport manager is planning to retire on Jan. 3 after spending 37 years in the aviation industry. He has worked at Atlanta’s airport since 2010. Louis Miller has helped boost the airport’s economic status in the community while also managing the successful opening of the Maynard H. Jackson international terminal. A new interim manager will step in until another airport chief is hired.

Chris McGinnis & Ramsey Qubein

 

AVOID HOLIDAY HASSLES WITH VALET PARKING AT ATL! Have you noticed the flurry of men and women in green blazers on the lower level passenger pick up areas at ATL? They are new parking valet attendants from GreenCoat Auto Concierge & Valet service. For $20 per day, you can now drive to the airport, leave your car with a GreenCoat at the terminal, and head off on your trip. The valet will drive your car to a secure, indoor, off-airport lot and park it. When you return, just call GreenCoat and let them know you’re coming, and an attendant will bring your car back to the airport terminal, hand it over to you, and you drive home. Nice! GreenCoat has just signed on as a sponsor of The TICKET so you’ll be hearing more about the service in coming months. Give it a try and let us know how it goes! NOTE: ADVANCE RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED. Special for TICKET readers: First timers get 1,000 Delta SkyMiles! 

In case you missed it:

Free booze + Airport roads + TSA tax + CNN @ATL + Delta #1

16 brand new must-see NYC hotels

Try the new Greencoat Valet Parking at ATL and earn 1,000 SkyMiles

Did I get it right about Atlanta? 

Southwest, but not AirTran, joins PreCheck

ATL ranks last + more Delta devaluations + 747 refurb complete + loaded guns

Holiday travel advice fit for a Queen

New rules about using electronics onboard

ATL Valet Parking + IHOP + SkyMiles downgrade + 717 delay + Double miles + Hot Nuts

8 things to like about Delta’s new California Shuttle

****

Subscribe to The TICKET via E-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis on Twitter!

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THE TICKET? Then follow us on Facebook! Join the thousands of TICKET readers who get a regular dose of fare deals, travel news, and advice via our Facebook page. Come on and join the fun…and stay informed.

 

Free booze + Airport roads + TSA tax + CNN @ATL + Delta #1

(Photo: jspatchwork / Flickr)

(Photo: jspatchwork / Flickr)

FREE BOOZE FOR EVERYONE…Earlier this month, Delta introduced a change that all international passengers are sure to like: free cocktails for all economy passengers on international flights that feature BusinessElite service. This means that transatlantic, transpacific, and deep South American flights will now offer complimentary wine, beer, and cocktails to all passengers on board. Until now, only BusinessElite and Economy Comfort passengers were enjoying the free stuff. This welcome change puts Delta in line with its joint venture partners including Air France and KLM.

ATL AIRPORT ROADWAY DETOURS/DELAYS…Drivers will soon notice detours and unexpected delays on roadways leading from I-85 to airport terminals, which began last Thursday (and in which your TICKET editor was stuck in unexpected traffic). The roadway improvement project will upgrade the roadway network between Interstate 85 and Camp Creek Parkway north of the airport, and Riverdale Road to the south. We’ll all have to be on the lookout for detours, rerouting, dust and dirt through the end of next year when the project should be complete.

AFA Airsick bagTSA FEES COULD DOUBLE…Airlines for America, a trade association that supports airlines and air travelers, is lobbying Congress to nix a proposed raise in the Sept. 11security fee, which funds the TSA. The hike would double the fee from $2.50 per flight segment to $5 per segment. Airlines argue it could affect ticket sales. The trade association is even distributing airsickness bags at airports with the slogan, “are high air taxes on travel making you sick?” Cuts from budget sequestration have prompted this scramble for additional revenue, but critics find it hard to believe that an bureaucratic organization like the TSA needs to have more funds thrown at it rather than improving its existing operation.

READER NOTE: This week we are experimenting with posting The TICKET more frequently…this week you’ll get 3-4 shorter-than-usual issues from us with various bits and pieces of travel news. Let us know what you think.

 

CNN's in depth behind the scenes look at ATL

CNN’s in depth behind the scenes look at ATL

CNN PROFILES ATLANTA AIRPORT…CNN recently profiled the full 24-hour operation of Atlanta’s airport in a fascinating article on its website. While much of it may not be a surprise to seasoned travelers, there are lots of interesting tidbits and photographs that give a behind-the-scenes look at the airport. For example, it was shocking to read about the number of homeless people that sleep at the airport and the amount of people that spend the night at the airport due to flight disruptions.

AMEX PLATINUM CARD DOWNGRADE… American Express Platinum credit card holders may be in for a surprise next year when the card’s airport lounge program drops access to American Admirals Clubs and US Airways Clubs on March 22, 2014. This means that the AMEX Plat card (we’re talking about the grey, non-Delta affiliated card) will now only provide access to Delta lounges domestically. For those who were using the card to access other airline lounges because they are already Sky Club members, maybe it’s time to reconsider the $450 annual fee.

Delta at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

Delta at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

DELTA TOPS BIZ TRAVEL SURVEY…Delta kept its top-place position for the third time in three years in the Business Travel News Annual Airline Survey. Voted on by travel agents and travel managers, the survey targets those with the best knowledge for capturing business travel data. The survey focuses on inflight amenities and overall service, but does place an emphasis on flyer programs—if it did, Delta surely would not have scored as high. Do you agree? Does the Delta’s captive audience in ATL really have it so bad compared to those in other airline hub cities? As much as we like to gripe about the big D, I think Atlantans are actually pretty lucky. Am I wrong? Please leave your comments below.

Chris McGinnis & Ramsey Qubein

 

AVOID HOLIDAY HASSLES WITH VALET PARKING AT ATL! Have you noticed the flurry of men and women in green blazers on the lower level passenger pick up areas at ATL? They are new parking valet attendants from GreenCoat Auto Concierge & Valet service. For $20 per day, you can now drive to the airport, leave your car with a GreenCoat at the terminal, and head off on your trip. The valet will drive your car to a secure, indoor, off-airport lot and park it. When you return, just call GreenCoat and let them know you’re coming, and an attendant will bring your car back to the airport terminal, hand it over to you, and you drive home. Nice! GreenCoat has just signed on as a sponsor of The TICKET so you’ll be hearing more about the service in coming months. Give it a try and let us know how it goes! NOTE: ADVANCE RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED. Special for TICKET readers: First timers get 1,000 Delta SkyMiles! 

In case you missed it:

16 brand new must-see NYC hotels

Try the new Greencoat Valet Parking at ATL and earn 1,000 SkyMiles

Did I get it right about Atlanta? 

Southwest, but not AirTran, joins PreCheck

ATL ranks last + more Delta devaluations + 747 refurb complete + loaded guns

Holiday travel advice fit for a Queen

New rules about using electronics onboard

ATL Valet Parking + IHOP + SkyMiles downgrade + 717 delay + Double miles + Hot Nuts

8 things to like about Delta’s new California Shuttle

****

Subscribe to The TICKET via E-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis on Twitter!

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THE TICKET? Then follow us on Facebook! Join the thousands of TICKET readers who get a regular dose of fare deals, travel news, and advice via our Facebook page. Come on and join the fun…and stay informed.

 

Strangers in the PreCheck line…

Just who are these new people in the PreCheck lane? (Photo: Jaxworld)

Just who are these new people in the PreCheck lane? (Photo: Jaxworld)

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? Have you ever been in the PreCheck line along with someone who has no idea why they are there? Ive noticed is a lot lately. And I’ve heard from TICKET readers who wonder the same thing.

How could someone in the PreCheck line NOT know what it is, or that they don’t have to remove shoes, belts or laptops when they go through?

Turns out it’s because the TSA has vetted them, allowing them to use the PreCheck lane to relieve the pressure on the regular lanes. Here’s what TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez told The TICKET:

“Currently, TSA’s Secure Flight system uses information provided when making a flight reservation – such as name, date of birth, and gender – to identify and prevent known or suspected terrorists or other individuals from gaining access to airplanes or secure areas of airports. TSA will now use that information to identify passengers who present a lower risk to aviation security and offer those passengers expedited screening. This initiative will occur on a flight-by-flight basis and will not require passengers to enroll in a DHS Trusted Traveler program. If a passenger is eligible for expedited screening for a particular flight, a TSA Pre✓™ indicator will be embedded in the barcode of the boarding pass so that when scanned at the checkpoint, the passenger may be referred to a TSA Pre✓™ lane….This process will allow TSA to maintain its high security standards and create greater efficiency while offering more travelers the benefit of expedited screening through TSA PreCheck lanes.”

What do you think? Have you noticed this? Please leave your comments or observations below.

Chris McGinnis 

AVOID HOLIDAY HASSLES WITH VALET PARKING AT ATL! Have you noticed the flurry of men and women in green blazers on the lower level passenger pick up areas at ATL? They are new parking valet attendants from GreenCoat Auto Concierge & Valet service. For $20 per day, you can now drive to the airport, leave your car with a GreenCoat at the terminal, and head off on your trip. The valet will drive your car to a secure, indoor, off-airport lot and park it. When you return, just call GreenCoat and let them know you’re coming, and an attendant will bring your car back to the airport terminal, hand it over to you, and you drive home. Nice! GreenCoat has just signed on as a sponsor of The TICKET so you’ll be hearing more about the service in coming months. Give it a try and let us know how it goes! NOTE: ADVANCE RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED. Special for TICKET readers: First timers get 1000 Delta SkyMiles! >>See ad…click on ad>>

In case you missed it:

Try the new Greencoat Valet Parking at ATL and earn 1,000 SkyMiles

Did I get it right about Atlanta? 

Southwest, but not AirTran, joins PreCheck

ATL ranks last + more Delta devaluations + 747 refurb complete + loaded guns

Holiday travel advice fit for a Queen

New rules about using electronics onboard

ATL Valet Parking + IHOP + SkyMiles downgrade + 717 delay + Double miles + Hot Nuts

8 things to like about Delta’s new California Shuttle

****

Subscribe to The TICKET via E-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis on Twitter!

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THE TICKET? Then follow us on Facebook! Join the thousands of TICKET readers who get a regular dose of fare deals, travel news, and advice via our Facebook page. Come on and join the fun…and stay informed.