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3 hot mess airports to avoid this spring/summer

A storm brews in the skies over Newark International (Photo: Jim Larrison / Flickr)

A storm brews in the skies over Newark International (Photo: Jim Larrison / Flickr)

To avoid the chances of running into flight delays during the peak spring/summer travel months ahead, there are three airports you should temporarily avoid:

EWR. There are a couple things to look out for in coming months at United’s big hub at Newark International Airport. The airport is currently repaving runways adding new “high speed taxiways” that allow aircraft to exit runways faster. While this will eventually help delay-plagued EWR reduce delays, it’s going to slow things down this summer. One of the airport’s three runways closed on April 1 and won’t fully open again until June 15. The runway will be closed again from September 20-30. This could pose big problems for United flyers connecting to late afternoon departures to Europe, especially when afternoon storms loom. In addition to runway construction, the convenient AirTrain monorail connecting terminals to the car rental center and New Jersey Transit trains to Manhattan will shut down for repairs from May 1 through July 15. This means you’ll have to board buses ($16) or take cabs ($50+) for the traffic clogged journey to Manhattan. Uber is $85 from EWR to Manhattan (click here for $20 off your first ride). It also means taking a shuttle to the car rental lot. 25,000-30,000 passengers a day will be dumped onto airport roadways, so avoid EWR if you can by using JFK, PHL or La Guardia.

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SFO. One of San Francisco International’s two runways will be closed from May 17th until mid-September for federally mandated runway safety upgrades. While scheduling this work during peak summer travel season sounds insane, airport officials say that they can get the work done fastest during summer months,  the Bay Area’s driest season of the year. However, while it may not be raining, the fog still blows in from the Pacific, and travelers can expect delays during the airport’s peak hours of 10 am – 2 pm.  SFO says that new flight procedures implemented last year to allow more planes to land during foggy conditions should help, but that remains to be seen. Smart summer travelers should book SFO flights departing in the early morning or late evening– or consider alternate airports such as Oakland or San Jose that rarely face weather related delays.

(Photo: Mi Ami / Flickr)

(Photo: Mi Ami / Flickr)

MIA: During June and July, Miami International Airport is expected to see an additional 25,000 Brazil-bound travelers headed to the hugely popular FIFA World Cup, June 12-July 13. In June alone, there will be 578 departures from Miami to Brazilian cities, up from 437 last year, according to the Miami Herald. MIA is not only a crossroads for US-based travelers; it’s also a key connecting point for Europeans, Asians and Canadians headed to the games. Miami already has a dismal reputation for customs and immigration, so you can only imagine what it’s going to be like flying through there in June or July. (Hello, Global Entry!) Also factor in south Florida’s famous late afternoon thunderstorms. Talk about a hot mess! Domestic passengers should consider alternate airports such as Ft Lauderdale or West Palm Beach. Those flying to South America or the Caribbean in June or July may consider connecting in Dallas, Houston or Atlanta instead. 

--Chris McGinnis

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A long, hot and expensive summer ahead

A record number of foreign visitors expected in US this summer (Photo: Prayitno / Flickr)

A record number of foreign visitors expected in US this summer. Yosemite Valley. (Photo: Prayitno / Flickr)

A long, cold winter in much of the U.S., combined with an improving economy and increasing consumer confidence mean that the upcoming summer travel season will be busy, crowded and more expensive than last summer.

Here’s some evidence of a strong season ahead: The number of advance bookings for summer stays at Best Western’s 2,200+ hotels in the US are already up 9.5% compared to this time last year. Plus, business travelers have come back in droves–the Global Business Travel Association recently had to increase its spending growth forecast for 2014 last week to 7.1% this year, compared to its previous prediction of 6.6%. The Airlines Reporting Corporation says that summer airfares are already up 4% compared to last summer– and don’t forget that last summer’s airfares were painfully high.
Nonetheless, summer is the best time of year to get out and see the world, visit family and friends, or just get away from the grind to relax and renew. And with the economy percolating along, business travel is as important as ever.
So here’s my advice on making the best of the coming summer season.

HIGH PRICES. High demand is going to mean high prices, especially for those planning to visit popular destinations along the coasts, near national parks and amusement parks in the U.S. Remember, you will not only be competing with fellow Americans for those airplane seats, restaurant tables and hotel rooms–the U.S. Department of Commerce expects a record 72.2 million tourists from other countries in 2014. Perennially popular European destinations such as London, Paris and Rome will remain stubbornly expensive for summer visitors.

July 4 is on a Friday this year. Cavallo Point in Marin County, CA (Photo Chris McGinnis)

July 4 is on a Friday this year. Cavallo Point in Marin County, CA (Photo Chris McGinnis)

WHEN TO BOOK? Make air and hotel reservations now if you plan to travel on or around the summer’s long weekends (Memorial Day, July 4 or Labor Day) and just about any time during the “peak of the peak” weeks of July and early August. If you don’t make reservations early on, you’ll not only be shut out of any price breaks, but you’ll likely to have to settle for less desirable middle seats on the plane, or “garden views” instead of water or skyline views at hotels. You might also not be able to find the right size rental car for you or your family.

CALENDAR CHECK. Memorial Day is Monday May 26th this year. The 4th of July falls on a Friday this year, making for a compact, very busy, crowded weekend. And Labor Day is Monday, September 1.

FLEXIBILITY COUNTS. While summer is the most expensive time of year to travel with “deals” few and far between, those who can travel in early June or late August are most likely to pay the lowest rates. For those with schedules not dictated by school calendars, the “shoulder seasons” of May and September offer the very best rates due to lower demand. Generally speaking, summer airfares are least expensive for trips on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

US DOLLAR. Canada has become newly affordable due to a recent 10% decline in the value of its dollar compared to the US dollar. (Currently, a Canadian dollar goes for about .90 US cents) As a result, demand for vacations in Canada is up– for example, Best Western reports that advance bookings for summer stays at its hotels in Canada are up 17.7% compared to this time last year.

EUROPE. Despite economic doldrums in Europe, the euro and British pound have held up relatively well. For example, right now you need nearly 1.70 US dollars to buy a British pound or $1.40 for a euro. Airfares from the US to Europe are up 7% over last year, according to the Airlines Reporting Corporation. You can avoid high costs and still enjoy a European adventure by heading to eastern European countries that don’t use the euro such as Poland, Hungary, Turkey or Croatia. Among western European countries, the least expensive are the “PIGS”–Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain.

Editor Chris McGinnis hitting the road

Editor Chris McGinnis hitting the road

HIT THE ROAD. It doesn’t cost a cent to check your bag in the trunk of your car! If high airfares and increasing fees could keep you grounded this summer, take a road trip instead. The average price per gallon across the US should run about $3.57 this summer, a penny less than last summer. While we’ll likely see the typical early summer bump up in gasoline prices, the overall trend is down. According to the US Energy Information Agency, the average price of a gallon of gas in the US fell from $3.63 in 2012 to an average of $3.51/gal in 2013. This year, the agency expects the average price to continue to fall to $3.45 and even lower–to $3.37 per gallon in 2015.

THE BIG THREE. When shopping around for the best hotel rates, be sure you are comparing apples to apples. This means you always need to know what’s included in the rate…and what’s not. You’ll find the most value at hotels that include the “big three” amenities in their rates: wi-fi, breakfast and parking. If you can’t tell what’s included in the rate from a hotel’s website, always call to find out before you click the “buy” button! A family of four can start off the day saving about $40 by staying at a hotel that includes breakfast in the rate. And you could end up paying $50+ for parking at some downtown hotels.

--Chris McGinnis

(Chris McGinnis is Best Western’s travel trends expert and business travel blogger on youmustbetrippin.com where this post originally appeared)


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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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Back on the SkyMiles merry-go-round

Delta 757-200 in St Maartin (Photo: Matt Hintsa / Flickr)

Delta 757-200 in St Maarten (Photo: Matt Hintsa / Flickr)

I’ve watched Delta make “historic” or “major” changes to its SkyMiles program since long before it was called SkyMiles. It’s funny how the same scenario plays out time after time when Delta (or any other major airline) makes changes to loyalty programs. (Link to Delta’s changes which go into effect next year.)

Here’s the playbook:

For months, or even years, Delta tempts us with leaks and rumors about “upcoming changes” which keep its best customers on pins and needles, and an army of pundits pondering.

When it comes time to announce the change, Delta shares the news exclusively and under strict embargo with a handful of its friends in major media outlets. Those media typically don’t trash the changes, but only report on them.

For editorializing, Delta’s media friends go to a handful of pundits who come out either for or against the changes.  Many times these pundits or consultants are also in on the embargo, which makes you wonder who is buttering their bread?

Then, boom! At the anointed hour the embargo is lifted, the pre-arranged stories hit the web, TV or newspapers and hysteria mounts! Reactions to these stories in blogs and social media run along the lines of… “Oh my GAWD! Delta is gutting the program! This is historic! How can Delta do this to us! A massive devaluation! How dare Delta offend its very best customers? This spells the end of frequent flyer programs as we know them! Let’s launch a petition or a website to convince Delta to reverse its decision! I’ll never fly Delta again!”

On the other side of the story, you hear, “Delta is a business and can do whatever it wants with SkyMiles…What’s wrong with paying attention to the 20% of flyers who produce 80% of revenue? …This change will actually benefit frequent flyers in the long run. …You can always switch to another carrier until it makes the same moves.” Delta executives state, “Our best customers asked us to do this. We even conducted focus groups!”

Eventually, other airlines mimic Delta’s moves and their customers rise up in protest.

Then the hysteria dies down and we all get back to work. Of course, we still grumble about the changes with fellow travelers on blog comment trails, at cocktail parties or across airplane aisles, but we accept them as inevitable and move on.

After what appear to be such mammoth changes, we assume for a while that the airlines just can’t cut back or restructure the programs any more…until they do. And then the cycle repeats itself again. And again and again.

What’s your take on Delta’s moves this week? The TICKET’s Facebook page is full of good comments, so take a read and leave your thoughts below… or on Facebook.

PS: Can anyone remember what Delta’s program was called before it became SkyMiles in in 1995? Leave your guesses below…

Chris McGinnis  

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Southwest Air faces Blackfish backlash

A Southwest Airlines painted in the Shamu livery. Grin or grimace? (Photo: Midland Airport)

A Southwest Airlines painted in the Shamu livery. Does it make you grin or grimace? (Photo: Midland Airport)

By now you’ve likely seen or heard about “Blackfish,” the controversial documentary movie about how the capture and treatment of SeaWorld’s Orca whales results in poor health, boredom, and in some cases, whales attacking their handlers.  The film has resulted in a growing outcry in support of the whales and against the mighty SeaWorld franchise, which operates popular parks in San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando. It’s now in the running to be nominated for for “Best Documentary” by the Academy Awards this week.

Defending itself in a statement last summer, the company said that the film is,  “shamefully dishonest, deliberately misleading, and scientifically inaccurate.” Despite the brouhaha, SeaWorld claimed this week that its attendance numbers set records in Q4 2013.

(SeeBlackfish  movie trailer here, it recently aired on CNN and is now available on NetFlix.)

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Amid the controversy, many of the smiles generated by the sight of Southwest’s “Shamu” themed jets (which you’ve likely seen diving into ATL) may have turned to grimaces. Last week protesters lined up in front of Southwest HQ in Dallas demanding an end to the carrier’s relationship with SeaWorld. Last week, Southwest made the following statement on its blog.

Over the past few weeks we’ve observed a number of Customers and community members reach out to Southwest Airlines regarding our partnership with SeaWorld.  We want our Customers to know that we’ve heard your concerns and we do not take them lightly.  I felt it was necessary to share our position on the partnership and hopefully address any concerns. We have a longstanding relationship with SeaWorld that is based on travel and bringing families together. We are engaged with SeaWorld related to the recent concerns being raised.   We are in a listening and education mode with the goal of upholding our commitments as a good corporate citizen.  As a responsible member of the community, we support several organizations and events that are devoted to maintaining the natural world. At this time, our partnership with SeaWorld will continue.

What’s even more interesting than the blog post are the comments it’s engendered, some of which request that Southwest perform its own investigation into SeaWorld’s practices and reconsider the partnership. Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt of Hudson Crossing echoed those comments, telling The BAT, “Southwest is doing exactly what it should do: listening and learning. Southwest can’t, and shouldn’t, make any decision without objective facts . . . I believe it would be beneficial for it to obtain independent, objective insight into SeaWorld’s treatment of the various animals in its care. ”

According to Blackfish, whales with flaccid dorsal fins are rarely seen in the wild, but nearly alway present on captives (Photo: Dogwoof Films)

According to Blackfish, whales with flaccid dorsal fins are rarely seen in the wild, but the bent fins are nearly always present on captives (Photo: Dogwoof Films)

Hmmm. When I see the words “at this time” in a corporate statement it makes me think that Southwest is probably considering backing out of this relationship, but can’t get out of its contracts fast enough. What do you think? Have you seen Blackfish? Does Southwest’s partnership with SeaWorld affect your airline decision? Please leave your comments below.

Chris McGinnis  

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Delta’s slimline seats + Mistake fares + Boarding process + MQMs + more

Delta's workhorse 757-200 slated for an upgrade (Photo: Andrew Cohen / Flickr)

Delta’s workhorse 757-200 slated for an upgrade (Photo: Andrew Cohen / Flickr)

BREAKING FRIDAY JAN 10: Delta significantly increases Sky Club membership fees — $695 for you and guest, $450 for you only. $29 fee for Amex Platinums. More in the next issue of The TICKET. See reactions on our Facebook Page.

DELTA FLEET UPGRADE. This week, Delta announced that it will spend $770 million over the next two years to refresh interiors of some its older workhorse jets, the Boeing 757-200, 737-800, and the Airbus A319 and A320. Best news: those toaster-oven-size overhead bins will be replaced with larger ones (with a 50% bump in capacity), making irritating gate checks and fights for overhead space largely a thing of the past. There will be power plugs at every seat, although, improving battery life on our portable electronics is making that less of an issue. Cabin lighting will switch over to longer lasting and mood altering color LEDs. All but the A320s will get new inflight entertainment screens with live TV on seatbacks. The planes will also get newer (albeit smaller) lavatories. The not-so-good news (if you are over 6 feet tall) is that the planes are slated for the new “slimline” coach seats, which passengers either love or hate. (Regrettably, no images of Delta’s updated slimline seat are available. Here’s the current one.) While the seat and cushion are thinner, the seat width (shoulder space) will be slightly wider: 18” up from 17.2”. A bit more good news: the planes will have more Economy Comfort seats (with 34” pitch compared to the standard 31”), which should be pleasing to your knees. Have you sat in a new slimline seat yet (the are on Delta’s brand new 737-900s)? What did you think? Please leave your questions below. 

website-mistakesDELTA MISTAKE FARES…Did you get in on the ultra-bargain deals due to a Delta fare error a couple of days after Christmas? Tickets were priced as low as $1 plus tax for nearly an hour, and many people scored multiple tickets for under $100 (often in first class) to Hawaii, Alaska, the Caribbean, and other cities across the U.S. As Delta struggled to fix the mistake, it shut down the booking engine on Delta.com for a short period, but many of the tickets were still available for sale via third-party sites like Priceline and Orbitz. According to Department of Transportation rules, Delta had to honor the tickets, but it went one step above and beyond honoring many tickets that were still not fully issued with a ticket number (even though they did not have to). Essentially, if the reservation was made, Delta honored it. Kudos to Delta for standing behind their mistake. Did you get in on the crazy good deals? (We were on vacation in the Caribbean and missed out.) Where are you going and for how much?

NEW BOARDING PROCESS…Delta has slightly modified the pre-boarding process for flights. Families with kids will be disappointed to learn that they are no longer permitted to board before everyone else unless traveling with an infant in a car seat (strollers don’t count). Wheelchair/disabled passengers still board first.

HONORING THE TICKET! Check this out: This month, TripIt named The TICKET as one of its “must read” travel blogs for 2014! As a matter of fact, The TICKET came out at the very top of the list! We very pleased and proud of the good old TICKET, which will turn a ripe old 21 years old in March. How many of you have been with us since 1993? Please leave your comments below. 

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MQM ROLLOVER COMING SOON…If you glanced at your SkyMiles account this month, you may have been alarmed not to see rollover miles left over from 2013. But, don’t worry, they are coming. Once all MQMs have posted from 2013 (many partner airlines take longer), the rollover points will appear…probably in late January. MQM and MQD levels will also be easily visible on the Delta app as well since both will be an important part of qualifying for Medallion status this year.

Is Delta trying to take over Alaska Airlines? (Photo: Atlanta Airport)

Is Delta trying to take over Alaska Airlines? (Photo: Atlanta Airport)

ALASKA FIGHTS BACK…Alaska and Delta have been trying to one-up each other with different mileage promotions and new routes over the past few months. As Delta strengthens its Seattle gateway, Alaska has decided not to give in without putting up a fight. Before Christmas, Alaska offered free Uber rides up to $50 to Seattle airport, and is launching new flights from Delta’s Salt Lake City hub to Boise, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Why is Delta doing this to its longtime partner? Some insiders say that Delta’s strategy is to weaken Alaska’s position in its Seattle hub, which will drive down its stock price, making it easier for Delta to swoop in a buy the carrier. A takeover would sure would round out Delta route map out west! What do you think?

DELTA AND VIRGIN ATLANTIC LINK SCHEDULES…As we reported late last year, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have launched a joint venture, which officially started on Jan. 1. It includes all flights between the U.S. and the U.K. including nine daily flights from the New York area to Heathrow. Benefits for travelers include access to Virgin’s impressive lounge network and earning and redeeming mileage on either carrier. Think the Delta flat-bed seats are nice? Wait until you see Virgin’s lounge menu and inflight bar.

A Delta DC9-32 from back in the day! (Photo: Aero Icarus / Flickr)

A Delta DC9-32 from back in the day! (Photo: Aero Icarus / Flickr)

DC-9 ERA ENDS…Delta retired the DC-9 (its oldest aircraft, which were inherited from Northwest) on Jan. 6. The last two flights were given flight numbers 1964 (Detroit to Minneapolis/St. Paul) and 2014 (Minneapolis/St.Paul to Atlanta), indicating the years the aircraft began and ended its commercial service with the company. This will be the last commercial flight of the aircraft by a U.S. carrier. Ironically, Delta was the launch customer for the original version of the DC-9 in 1965, using it to replace propeller aircraft. Delta retired its own DC-9 aircraft in 1993, but it came back following the Northwest merger. Delta has removed more than 350 aircraft from its fleet since 2008 including 50-seat CRJ-200s; Saab 340s and DC-9s.

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IPAD ORDERING COMES TO ATLANTA…Like what you have seen in Minneapolis, LaGuardia, and JFK? Well, those snazzy iPads located at restaurants and seating areas in the airport terminals are starting to make an appearance in Atlanta. In concourse B, the Sam Adams Atlanta and Dos Equis Explorer Lounge will feature the Apple devices allowing customers to order food and drinks without speaking to a server. Let’s hope the concept spreads to even more restaurants throughout the airport.

SOUTHWEST COMES IN LAST, AGAIN…For the second month in a row, Southwest has come in for last place in the Department of Transportation on-time rankings. Tightly scheduled flights and more aircraft on the ground in congested airports like LaGuardia are partly to blame. Have you noticed more flight delays with Southwest flights lately?

Chris McGinnis & Ramsey Qubein 

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Track MQMs + Coach upgrade + Economy Comfort MQDs + Delta’s secret 360 club + More

2014 MEDALLION TRACKER NOW ONLINE…No need to worry about Delta keeping tabs on your status for the New Year. A new tracker is now available on Delta.com under the My Delta section of your SkyMiles profile. It keeps check of your Medallion qualification metrics: MQMs (miles), MDQs (dollars), and MQS’ (segments)… it will also keep track of your Delta American Express credit card spend (as you remember, spending $25,000 in 2014 will provide a waiver for meeting Medallion Qualification Dollar spend next year). Effective Jan. 1, the tracker will also appear on the Delta app. Happy flying (and spending) in the New Year!

MORE ECONOMY CLASS COMFORT…Delta has boosted its international economy class with some nice recent enhancements. Delta offered many of these benefits nearly a decade ago, but cut back in economic hard times. The goodies are back for travelers though. In addition to recently announced free cocktails for economy passengers, now everyone will receive a large bottle of water and small amenity kit with eyeshades and socks among other travel items on long-haul flights. Delta is the only North American airline to offer these added benefits to coach passengers.

DELTA SEAT PURCHASES QUALIFY FOR MQD SPENDING…Purchasing Economy Comfort or a preferred exit row/bulkhead seat on your next flight in 2014? Well, you have more incentive now. That purchase will count toward your MQD spend. Previously, Economy Comfort brought more than added legroom; on international flights, it also brought free cocktails. This new MQD perk sweetens the pot, especially if you are getting close to hitting a threshold.

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DELTA CEO SAYS NO TO LOUD TALKERS…In a sigh of relief for most airline passengers and crew, Delta CEO Richard Anderson has publicly stated that there will be no in-flight cell phone calls permitted aboard Delta aircraft, even if other airlines decide to allow it. Other airlines, including Southwest, have also come forward saying they would not allow it on their flights. (Texting during flight? Bring it on, airlines. But please keep it cheap.)

LESS BUSINESS, MORE ECONOMY SEATING…Delta is pulling BusinessElite seats from several of its 777 and 767 aircraft in the coming year to make room for extra rows of Economy. Certain routes stimulate more demand in the back of the aircraft, and this will give Delta more flexibility to maximize revenue in certain markets. Certain 767s will lose 14 seats up front and gain 20 in Economy while 777s will lose 7 seats up front and gain 24 in Economy. There is already a subset of 767s in the Delta system that has fewer BusinessElite seats.

Delta 360 members are likely the ones getting views like this (from a Porsche on the tarmac) (Photo: Delta)

Delta 360 members are likely the ones getting views like this (from a Porsche on the tarmac) (Photo: Delta)

DELTA 360 TESTED FOR TOP ATLANTA FLYERS…Delta has been quietly sending out invitations to Delta 360, its high-revenue, elite offering (similar to United Global Services and American Concierge Key). There is no published revenue amount to qualify, and invitations were only sent to a subset of customers mostly in the Atlanta area. If it goes well, Delta hopes to expand the program, which comes with a dedicated reservations line and special monitoring of flights on the day of travel to proactively assist with connections and rebooking, if necessary. It seems to be a super-secret trial program right now reserved for Delta’s highest mileage, biggest spenders.  Surprised TICKET reader (and 2 million miler) LR provided us with a heads up on the program last month. He wrote: “Did I miss the article on Delta’s new 360 Priority program? I got an invite to 360 about a month ago, and when I called the Diamond line last night I was routed to a very competent 360 operator.  Pretty interesting.” Have you received an invitation? Noticed anything different when you travel so far? Please leave your comments below. 

MORE SEATTLE FLIGHTS…New Delta flights from Seattle bound for Juneau, Alaska and San Jose, California will keep flyers on the go. Also planned is an extra Seattle-Anchorage flight to leading to three daily nonstops in the peak summer season. This furthers the battle between Delta and hometown carrier Alaska Airlines. This Delta/Alaska tussle has re-kindled talk of an eventual Delta takeover of Alaska Air… what do you think?

Green Coat Airport ValetAVOID 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! 

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HOLLYWOOD SNEAK PEEK…During December passengers aboard Delta flights are enjoying a sneak peek at the new movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Lucky TICKET contributor Ramsey Qubein chatted with one of the movie co-stars, Kristen Wiig, in Seattle as she returned from filming in Iceland earlier this year. Visitors to Delta’s Facebook page between Dec. 4-27 have the chance to win up to 50,000 SkyMiles through the Mitty-inspired “Stop Dreaming and Start Doing” sweepstakes.

Delta's newest jet, the Boeing 737-900 (Photo: Drewski / Flickr)

Delta’s newest jet, the Boeing 737-900 (Photo: Drewski / Flickr)

NEW SPIRIT OF SEATTLE PLANE…Delta has dubbed one of its newest Boeing B737-900 aircraft, the “Spirit of Seattle,” in honor of local customers and employees. The plane features a special livery and promotes its recent expansion at Sea-Tac. Flight attendants are also wearing pins commemorating the Spirit of Seattle. Expanded service from Seattle includes new flights to Fairbanks, Alaska and Vancouver, Canada, both of which will begin next summer. Have you flown on the 737-900, Delta’s newest aircraft? What do you think? By the end of the year, Delta will have a dozen of the shiny new jets in operation.

TICKET NEWS HITS FACEBOOK FIRST. When there’s news you need to know, The TICKET frequently posts it on our Facebook page first (and eventually it makes its way into a The TICKET.) So if you want to be among the first to know, 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.

GERMANY GOES ALL LIE-FLAT…If you are traveling between the U.S. and Germany on Delta, all business class seats now feature the latest flat-bed product with staggered single seats by the windows and two seats in the center section. Delta flies to Germany from Atlanta, Detroit, and JFK. From Atlanta, Delta flies to Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, and Stuttgart.

KLM New business class

FLAT-BED SEATS COMING TO KLM’s ATL FLIGHTS…Eventually. SkyTeam partner KLM is rolling out new flat-bed business class seats on its aircraft beginning with the Boeing 747 fleet of aircraft. Five aircraft feature the new seating and are appearing on routes like San Francisco and JFK to Amsterdam. The new seats extend to sleeping cocoons with larger entertainment screens than business class on Lufthansa and British Airways. By late spring 2014, the entire fleet of jumbo jets will be retrofitted guaranteeing flat-bed seats up front on 747 flights from Houston, San Francisco, Chicago, and JFK to Amsterdam among other international destinations in the KLM route network. Next up for the new seating will be the B777-200 fleet. Plans are in place to have flat-bed seating on all KLM long-haul aircraft in the coming years. For now, KLM flies the Airbus A330 to Atlanta, which still has the angled flat seats, but these will be updated over time as well.

DELTA TO BOOST DALLAS FLIGHTS…Delta is planning to expand its operation at Dallas Love Field should it get the green light from the U.S. Department of Justice. It has to bid on the gates, which are being made available thanks to the merger between American and US Airways. The new flights would include nonstop service to Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and New York LaGuardia. Additional frequencies on the existing route to Atlanta would also be added.

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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Did I get it right about Atlanta?

Have you been inside the mode new Hyatt Atlanta Midtown hotel at 10th & Peachtree yet? (Chris McGinnis)

Have you been inside the mod new Hyatt Atlanta Midtown hotel at 10th & Peachtree yet? (Chris McGinnis)

As many TICKET readers may know, I wear a lot of hats in the travel biz… one of my roles is Business Travel Columnist for BBC… I write the monthly “BBC Business Trip” column which features what’s new, exciting, helpful or interesting about major business travel destinations around the world.

This month, I wrote about our home town, Atlanta and I’d like to hear what you all think… did I get it right? What did I leave out? What sort of advice would you give a business traveler headed to Atlanta for a few days? 

Here’s the introduction to my story… click on the links provided to read the whole thing. 

Business Trip Atlanta BBCLike its official symbol, the phoenix, Atlanta is rising from the ashes of the recent recession, maintaining its position as the commercial capital of the fast-growing southeastern US.

Over the last five years Atlanta has added a $1.4 billion international airport terminal, opened or renovated a slew of hotels, attracted additional national and regional business headquarters, and spurred development of once decaying downtown neighbourhoods with multimillion dollar mixed-use developments and parks.

Evidence of Atlanta’s comeback: overnight visitation was up 9% in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the city’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. In October 2013, Korean Air added daily 407-seat Airbus A380 nonstop flights between Atlanta and Seoul. The city ranked fourth in the US for meetings and conventions in 2012, after Orlando, Chicago and Las Vegas. Its surprisingly sophisticated and dynamic dining scene continues to enthuse visitors and locals alike – Atlantans dine out more often than New York or Chicago residents, and enjoy restaurant prices well below the national average, according to Zagat.

Most business travellers arriving in Atlanta will meet, eat and sleep somewhere along the north-south corridor, which starts in the city’s central core (downtown) and moves north to MidtownBuckhead and the sprawling Perimeter Centre/Dunwoody area, which has more office space than downtown. Stick close to this spine and you can get around easily by taxi or MARTA (the city’s rapid rail system).  But if business takes you into the tech-heavy northern suburbs such as Marietta, Alpharetta or Gwinnett County, a rental car is necessary to traverse the sprawl.

I wrote about the new mod new Hyatt in Midtown (a down to the studs revamp), the chic Le Meridien out by Perimeter Mall, the classy Mandarin Oriental near Lenox and the popular St Regis, Buckhead. For dining, I suggested The Optimist, King + Duke, KR Steakbar and the unusual new Gunshow. I suggested a walk or ride along the new Eastside Trail and Beltline, and talked a bit about southern manners.

Please take a read and let me know what I may have missed! What would YOU suggest to an international business traveler coming to ATL? (Leave your comments below) And use this as a resource to send out to colleagues coming into town.

Chris McGinnis 

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Best/worst cities to lose your wallet (Infographic)

LostWallet

 

If you lose your wallet in Helsinki or Mumbai, it’s likely to be returned. But you better hang on tightly to your wallet in Madrid, Lisbon or Prague, the least likely places your wallet will be returned, according to Reader’s Digest.

In an interesting experiment, researchers “dropped” 12 wallets in 16 different cities to see what would happen. Each wallet included a name with a cellphone number, a family photo, coupons, and business cards, plus the equivalent of $50.  They were left  in parks, near shopping malls, and on sidewalks. Unfortunately, Atlanta was not included in the study… but if it had been, where do you think it would have ranked?

Have you ever lost your wallet in another country? Or found a wallet and tried to return it? Please leave your comments below! 

HOW TO GET A $400 AIRLINE TICKET FOR $89: Want to snag an easy 40,000 bonus miles? Earn 2x miles on all purchases? Avoid obnoxious foreign transaction fees? Get TripIt Pro for free? Check out the new Barclaycard promo here or at the bottom of this post. Easy peasy! Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – $89 Annual Fee Card

Chris McGinnis

*****

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