Saturday, December 22, 2007

New Year Bonus Points/Mile Offers

Its that time of the year when Hotels and Airlines offer bonus miles/points for post-Holiday travel.

Here are a couple recent bonus offers:

Hyatt Hotels:
Hyatt Gold Passport Elite Status Comes Twice as Fast
All your stays at any Hyatt worldwide between January 1 and March 31, 2008, can count double toward achieving elite Platinum and Diamond status. REGISTER HERE

Intercontinental Hotels:
$50 Visa Card for Friday/Saturday Night Stay
Now even the briefest of trips spent at InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts can leave you with a delightful travel reminder — a $50 Visa® gift card to use as you please.
Simply register for this promotion, book your reservation and pay with your Visa card at any InterContinental hotel or resort in the United States and Puerto Rico. Stay with us over a Friday or Saturday night between November 1, 2007, and March 31, 2008, and receive a $50 Visa gift card after completing your travel. REGISTER HERE

Hilton/Delta:
Quadruple Miles, Quadruple Smiles
This winter, go global and earn four times the miles!
Between December 1, 2007 and February 29, 2008, stay at participating Hilton Family hotels worldwide and earn quadruple miles with Delta Air Lines®. Just pick a global destination - you have six continents to choose from! Remember, wherever you go, there'll be a Hilton Family hotel nearby. INFO HERE

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Trip Report - Delta Seattle to Providence (via JFK)

Delta Airlines Flight 30 - Seattle (SEA) to New York (JFK)
757-200, ex-Song aircraft
7am Departure

The first class cabin was showing about half full when I checked online, but it was full at departure time with lots of non-revenue passengers. This aircraft was an updated ex-Song 757 aircraft. It had the "new" first class cabin with 26 seats/7 rows and seatback video screens (PTVs as Delta calls them).

There was also a "for the long haul" paper package for each first class passenger. Nice touch.

On this flight the PTV's were working with only a couple Dish-TV channels not available. Here is the view from my seat at 5B:


Before the meal was served, the flight attendant came by and asked only a couple people for their choice. (Delta only stocks a limited amount of hot meals for first class). The choice was a hot egg omlete or a "cold plate" (meaning ceral and fruit).

Oddly, the Flight Attendant asked the "non-rev" Delta employee next to me for their choice first. The employee answered "Hot please". Not a big deal, but you would think the airline would want to provide -paying- passengers with a choice before their employees...but I guess not in this case.

Anyway, the meal was so-so...I have had better Delta meals on morning flights.


The flight attendants were professional and service was just fine for Domestic First Class. One major bonus: Delta serves Coke Zero (my current favorite soda).

Upon arriving in JFK, I was wondering if I had to switch terminals since Delta operates from Terminal 2 and 3. Luckily, there is a post-security walkway built between the two terminals. No need to re-clear security when connecting between Delta flights at JFK. Terminal 3 is still a bit dated, dark and under repair...while Terminal 2 has been updated, unfortunately the only JFK Crown Room is in Terminal 3 -- and is hidden way back by Gate 10.


I had a long layover at JFK which proved to be somewhat annoying. I was there during the big afternoon bank of flights. The overheads announcements where nonstop for about 2 hours. Here is a sample of the sounds from JFK near Gate 25:

Not a bad Delta flight experience, but I probably would not do another 2+ hour layover at JFK again.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hotel review - Hyatt San Francisco (Embarcadero)

Hyatt Regency San Francisco
5 Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, California, USA
94111

I have stayed at this Hyatt before so I kind of knew what I was in at this hotel. The best thing about this hotel is the location -- its located above the Embarcadero BART/Muni station and near the Ferry Building. Its one of the best locations of any 4/5-star hotel in San Francisco (less rift-raft, and better proximity to transit and things to do).

I checked in at close to 7pm on a Thursday -- the check-in was ok, the clerk said that they were pretty full (me thinking upgrade!)...but she then said "all I have is a room on the second floor". Oddly the woman before me was given a room on the Regency Club floor.

The clerk said it was on the quite side, and I was only staying for one night -- so it was acceptable.

However when I arrived at the room, it was clearly the "priceline" room. It was above the lobby-level restaurant (which you could hear through the floor), had a handicap bathroom -- with no tub, and was a bit "worn".

I found a nice stain on the floor and called the front desk -- she said there were other rooms available - but still only on the second floor. I passed on that and just decided to stay the night.

Here are some pictures of Room 238



Fairly large room with a decent desk and outlets for doing work. Regular TV -- nothing special.


I did have a balcony off the room with a view of the Ferry building, and it was on the "quiet" side facing the alley between the hotel and the Embarcadero Center.

The bathroom was a disappointment. The bathroom was huge, but there was only a very skinny shelf to put my stuff. Plus the shower had a low showerhead, as found in most handicap bathrooms.


Overall, its a nice hotel and is still 4-star in my book. However, I was NOT on a Priceline rate and I felt they really gave me a sub-standard room type. Plus they should have told me it was a handicap room prior to giving me the keys. The room was fairly clean, but the stain should have been cleaned prior to my arrival.

Great Location, good room.

Gay & Lesbian Travel Deals

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hotel Review - Hampton Inn Providence Airport (PVD)

Hampton Inn & Suites Providence/Warwick-Airport
2100 Post Road, Warwick, Rhode Island, USA 02886

I had a flight at 6am the next morning, so I wanted to find a hotel next to the Providence Airport. This Hampton Inn is RIGHT NEXT to the airport. There are a couple other options including a dumpy looking Sheraton "Inn" that I saw, but this was one of the best options being newer and very friendly.

The shuttle Van is run "on demand"-- meaning, it comes when you call -- no having to wait for scheduled pick-ups. The Van ride is all of 2 minutes to the hotel from PVD airport.

The staff was very friendly and the hotel was very clean and comfortable. Although I did find the sign at the front desk that said "Local Police have reported several break-ins in airport hotel parking lots..." a bit worrisome. In fact, the area around the airport is a bit sketchy...but this hotel is well lit and seems to be secure.

The bed was comfy having a new mattress and I was given a handicap bathroom (but it was fine). Plus it had free wi-fi that worked well!

Here are some pictures of Room 310 at the Hampton Inn at the Providence airport:



After seeing some of the other hotels around the area, I would stay here again if I had to be by the airport. The free breakfast was decent and there is a nightly happy hour. One drawback - there is no restaurant at this hotel -- but there is a nice looking seafood place across the street. The Van driver told me -twice- he would take me anywhere within a 4 mile area if needed.

Overall this Hampton Inn is a decent 2/3-star airport hotel, very clean, and very friendly.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hotel Review - Stanford Court Hotel (San Francisco)

The Stanford Court, A Renaissance Hotel
905 California Street-Nob Hill
San Francisco, California 94108 USA

I got this hotel room after bidding $70 a night on Priceline. I selected the Union Square East and Union Square West areas and was a bit surprised to receive this hotel that is atop Nob Hill -- not anywhere near Union Square.

The hotel is next to the Grand hotels on Nob Hill so its in a good area, but there is not much nearby. Nob Hill is a very steep hill and is difficult walk to downtown or Union Square, luckily the hotel does offer a sedan service (for free) to areas around the city.

The hotel staff at the check-in desk were a bit stiff. I got my room key quickly but wound up with a "priceline room" -- room 221. Its a corner room, BUT its on ground level and is above the employee entrance to the hotel.


The bed was fine but the room was a bit dated and I found a lovely stain on one of the chairs. I called and they sent someone to clean it within minutes. He was very nice and apologized multiple times.


The bathroom was dated as well, with 1970's fixtures and hardware -- but it was clean and there was plenty of room.

There was a nice view of California Street and the Cable Car line. But it did make me feel a bit exposed to the street.

Overall not a bad hotel, the location is the major negative -- but the sedan service was a very nice benefit. Also, the room service was VERY quick - even at 6pm.

Gay & Lesbian Travel Deals

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Hotel Review - Club Quarters San Francisco

I have stayed at this hotel a couple of times over the past two years. Its listed on many booking sites as a 4-star hotel, but its really about a 3.5 star. Its in a great location (corner of Battery and Clay ) near the Embarcadero center downtown. There are a couple great restaurants nearby including MacAuthur Park. The rooms are extremely clean and the front desk staff is pleasant and efficient -- and its usually the cheapest option in San Francisco when most hotels are sold out.

So whats wrong with it?

Well -- for one the rooms are TINY. Not just San Francisco/London/New York City "small" -- no, these rooms are -super- small. The bathrooms dont have tubs (which is ok by me). The hotel chain is really a "club" for solo business travelers and the rooms reflect that with the size and amenities.


On some reviews of this hotels, families complain about the size of the room and how the beds are doubles (not queens or kings). Well this hotel is NOT for families -- let alone two people traveling together.

The rooms barely fit the double beds and the desk (which is nice) also houses the small fridge and TV (hanging from the wall). There is free wireless, but it has always been extremely weak and only worked well late at night.


The bathrooms are very clean and updated -- but again, its tiny and really only made for one person. There is no bath, but it does have a big walk-in shower.

My main problem with the Club Quarters is that the walls are VERY thin -- you hear your neighbors late at night. Its almost like they are in the same room while you are trying to sleep.
If you are a heavy sleeper -- this might be an ok hotel, but if you are a light sleeper be warned!

Other good points: Starbucks on the corner, Nice city Park and Safeway nearby, clean laundry machines, and near perfect location.

I would stay at this hotel more often if the walls werent so thin.

Gay & Lesbian Travel Deals

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Big PINK Flight for Sydney Mardi Gras


Air New Zealand will have a Pink Flight from SFO to celebrate Sydney's Mardi Gras. Now talk about supporting the GLBT community and creating a great marketing event!

The flight and fares are available here

Here is more information...

A special flight all the way to Oz, just for us.

We’re not in Kansas anymore, my pretties! The Pink Flight is a special Air New Zealand flight, open to anyone who wants to get an early start on the revelry at the 2008 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival in the best company imaginable. Conde Nast listed Sydney Mardi Gras among the 10 most spectacular costume events, right up there with Venice and Rio. The flight will depart on 26 February at 11:30pm from San Francisco, arrive in Sydney on 28 February at 9:30am, and the parade is on 1 March.

Party your way to Oz, detox in 100% pure New Zealand.

After all that revelry, who wouldn’t need a bit of pampering? And what better place to spoil yourself than in gorgeous New Zealand. Your return travel dates are flexible, on scheduled flights through Auckland, New Zealand. Fly Business Premier and the lie-flat bed will let you get your beauty rest, or swoon in conspicuous luxury. Enjoy our award-winning food and wine, as well as outrageous one-time Pink Flight frills and activities. For details on schedules, airfares and connecting fares from other North American cities, use the booking engine to the right. For full terms & conditions, click here.

The Party before the Party that takes you to the Party.

Show up early so you don’t miss a second of the Gate Pre-Party at San Francisco Airport, complete with entertainment, goodie bags and rampant merriment. Air New Zealand will be giving away spaces on our very own float in the Mardi Gras parade. The plane leaves at 11pm and there will be helpful staff on hand to scoop you up and guide you gently into the plane. Please come back to this site for future updates about the party and the flight.


Saturday, September 1, 2007

Trip Report - Seattle (via SFO) to Sydney on United

After a quick London trip on United, it was another trip to Sydney to finish out the month. I have done this trip on United about six times in two years. I prefer to travel via Honolulu on Air Canada, but it was more expensive routing for some reason -- so I booked the cheaper non-stops.

I was starting to dread another trip in coach on this 14 hour flight, but got a surprise upgrade at the Seattle Airport. I was able to get SFOSYD business class confirmed at the ticket counter for the normal 30k miles -- plus she even gave me a choice of window or aisle seating. I quickly chose the aisle and got 8G.


Now 8G is an "ok" business class seat. Its in the shorter cabin behind first class. It CLEARLY has much less legroom than the business class rows in the 20's. The other major downside is the flight attendants put their bags behind these seats. On the plus side, I like the smaller cabin and you have access to a bathroom forward and aft. The bathroom aft is far enough back where you are not bothered by it.


Above is the view of this mini-business class cabin from seat 8G. As you might be able to see I spotted a handwritten sticker on the bathroom on the other side of the cabin. This looked a bit "tacky" to be in business class -- but kind of typical for United these days.

I couldnt quite read what it said, but I think it says "Lav Out" and something else. Anyway - I wasnt sure what was wrong with the the lav, but for a 14-hour flight you would think Untied would try and fix a premium cabin bathroom or at least put a more official looking sticker on it.


We were delayed for two hours due to a cargo warning "light" not working. There were only two announcements made during our 2 hour wait -- first by the captain, and second (nearly 2 hours later) by a random flight attendant. I was very disappointed the captain did not make more updates, it doesnt cost her or the airline anything to keep us informed.

The business class service was fairly poor on this flight. Since we had a two hour delay before leaving the gate, it seemed like the flight attendants tried to rush the service so they could take their breaks. While the United Menu had FOUR white wine choices, the flight attendant said he only had "a White or Red...or a Riesling". I am just amazed that the Flight Attendants feel like the can be so casual about the service. Even Qantas has some "class" when it comes to premium cabin service.

Not once did I get addressed by Last Name and it was rare if they asked if there was anything else I needed -- it was all about put out trays, cleaning up the trays and taking things away.

The audio didnt work on a couple channels of the video, but I had seen Shrek 3 a couple times already, and it gave me a chance to watch Hot Fuzz -- which is great.

The service on my return flight (SYDSFO) in Economy Plus was better. The flight attendants were more visible and seemed much happier.

In any case, I can't wait until United upgrades the audio/video equipment on those old 747-400s. Having a pull down movie screen for all of coach is just plain embarrassing!

Business Class SFO-SYD: B- (the food was ok and I liked the mini business class cabin)
Economy Plus SYD-SFO: C+ (extra credit for open seat next to me)

Mini Trip Report - London-IAD in Business Class on United

I flew back from London to Seattle via Washington Dulles on United. It was a bit of an odd routing, but I liked it since it provided a decent layover time at IAD -- so I knew I could make my connection.

I went to the Red Carpet Room in London before my flight. This is one of the better clubs, its got a great view and the room is clean and spacious. There is also tmobile WIFI (but at a surcharge).
The bar is well stocked (better than the SYD or US clubs I have been to thus far).


My flight was on a 767-300ER aircraft with business class seating. I had pre-selected 5C (bulkhead seat) to experience the extra legroom. The Business Class seats on the 767-300 are narrower than the 777 or 747 seats. It does seem like much, but they are a bit more snug and the space between the seats is much smaller.

A couple with an active infant sat in the 5AB seats -- urgh. Since the child did not have a seat, I could tell this was going to not be the best flight. Luckily there were open seats and a very aware flight attendant moved me to 7B ( and 7A was open) so it turned out to be a great flight.


Since this was a day flight, the service was relaxed and not "rushed" like a red-eye. The flight attendants were London-based and very nice and cheerful.



Above is the 767-300 business class seat on United. Notice the center armrest doesnt provide much space between you and your seatmate.

I really enjoyed this flight: Open seats in Business Class, relaxed and professional inflight service, video/audio equipment worked and departing London at noon was much easier than the early morning rush.

United Business Class LHR-IAD: A-

Couple quick notes on United at IAD:

United uses these International 767-300 aircraft to fly select transcon flights at night, so I was on a similar aircraft in Business Class from IAD to Seattle.

Connecting passengers clear customs/immigration at United's mid-field concourse, while Local Washington DC passengers are bussed to the main terminal to clear there.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Alaska delays, mis-information and indifference

This is a bit of a long rant...I will send Alaska a Letter, since they should really know how bad this flight was for the passengers. In any case, here was my lovely flight experience flying on Alaska this week.

August 16th - "8am" Flight 325 San Francisco (SFO) to Seattle (SEA) on a 737-400

There were so many bad issues with this flight I will just used bullet points:

- The flight was listed as "on-time" but the Board room agent said "oh no that flight will be delayed". Even as we boarded the plane, the flight was listed as "on time".

- We waited for the plane to be towed from where it stayed over night to the Gate. The Gate was open after the 7:00am flight departed, but the plane did not "arrive" until 7:50am.

- After the plane finally arrived, there was only one flight attendant ready to board the plane at the gate. She was on her cell phone, while the other flight attendants were MIA. (Note this was now 7:50am or so -- 10 mins before we were suppose to depart) . We all waited until the missing flight attendants showed up.

- While boarding the aft flight attendant says through the overhead speakers "We only have 1/4 a tank of water". Not a big deal, but this came off as kinda unprofessional. But even still, if the plane sat overnight, shouldn't of it been filled with water last night?

- At about 8:20am (20mins past departure time) the captain came on to say "oh we have a strong tailwind today so the flight time will be very short" -- ok this made me feel better, but then the delays continued

- After we finally boarded, the ground staff started to scamble to get an "airstart unit" to the plane. These are used when the aircrafts APU are not in working condition. Oddly, the airline knows this well in advance -- so there should be no scrambling around at the last minute if things are well planned. More delays. There was no overhead annoucement for about 10 more mins.

- The flight attendant (!!) comes on and says "oh we will push back in moments, we are just awaiting our take off "slot""-- Ok, now this was probably a lie. It was a clear day in SFO -- no ATC delays in SFO or SEA. The only reason we were still sitting there was they were disconnecting the Airstart hose from the Aircraft. PLUS is the Flight Attendant talking to the tower?

- After a long push back, the ground crew had trouble disconnecting the tow bar from the aircraft. You could feel them trying to jerk it off the nose gear.

-- At this point I have given up hope from any "on time" arrival -- or even close to it.

- The take off and flight were fine, BUT upon landing there was no "sorry we are late". The only comment was "if you have tight connections, check with the Gate agent " It had to be one of the most indifferent annoucements I have EVER heard on Alaska. It just came off as rude and an "I really dont care" attitude.

- Our Sea-tac our gate was not available upon landing, so we sat on the taxiway waiting for the traffic to clear from our gate.

- After finally getting to our gate, the captain comes on to say "Welcome to Seattle - thanks for flying Alaska" No mention of the delay, no mention of the issues caused by Alaska -- that caused our delay. Oh and all those folks connecting? Nothing said about them.

I really do think Alaska has a good product, but the service often suffers from lack of "hustle" on getting planes off the gate, INdifference toward passengers by "senior" flight attendants (ie United Airlines) , and that "you should feel lucky you are flying Alaska" ego.

RANT OVER -- phew!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hotel Review - San Francisco Hilton

Since my usual favorite place in SF was a bit pricey this week I decided to bid on a 4-star room on Priceline with the location of East or West Union Square for $90/night.

Priceline quickly came back with a confirmation at the San Francisco Hilton.

I had read some comments complaining about this hotel on biddingfortravel.com, but hoped for the best.

I arrived at the hotel around 6pm, and was quickly given a nice room in Tower 3 (this is the large tower where most Priceline customers seem to stay). My room was clean, but on the small side -- but standard for SF. I was on the 18th floor which was above the street noise which can be a problem in most Downtown San Francisco hotels. I had an ok view looking toward the bay, but somewhat blocked by the Hotel Nikko across the street.


The bathroom was efficient (read small) but very nicely appointed. It was very clean - which is always a major plus in my book.


One weird thing was there were two places where the wallpaper was peeling from the wall. I called the front desk to let them know -- I really didnt need to move rooms, but it seemed a bit tacky for a 4-star hotel to have wallpaper peeling off the walls on a newly remodeled room.

The front desk said they would take care of it in the morning. Three days later -- they never repaired it. Not a big deal, just lack of follow-through is bad for a premier hotel like this.

Not a bad place to stay, its clearly a 4-star hotel -- but is also a HUGE hotel. There are three towers and it takes up a whole city block.

The Powell BART/MUNI Station is within a block of this hotel. There are also plenty of downtown/union square places to go eat and shop around this hotel.

Overall I am not a fan of Mega hotels, but this was very much worth a $90 bid on Priceline.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hotel Review - Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London UK

Park Lane Hotel (Sheraton)
Piccadilly
London W1J 7BX

Hotel Review and Trip Report - Park Lane London

The Park Lane Hotel is a 4-star Sheraton hotel in London. The location is very good, its in Mayfair and across the street from Green Park. Piccadilly Circus is a very short walk away.

The hotel is one of those "historic" hotels in London. The entrance is off the back alley street, and the lobby is very small. There is no place to "hang out" except for the Palm Court bar/restaurant.

The staff was friendly and gave a me a room at 1pm. I booked on Priceline for $190 USD/night and was given a "classic" room -- room 203. The room was a good size for London. The bed was comfy and the bathroom was fairly decent.



While the room was a nice, there were elements that just didnt seem very "4-star". The rooms havent been remodeled for a while and the bathroom has some issue (nothing drastic, just small annoying things).


The view from the room was across a roof looking at the rooms in the other part of the building -- basically no view. BUT this made the room very quiet at night, especially for being located on Piccadilly.

Its a great location, but only an "ok" hotel -- and it seems more like a 3.5 star, rather than a true 4-star hotel.

Trip Report - ORD-LHR on United 777

My trip started in Seattle. After finding out my Seattle-Chicago flight was delayed (causing me to mis-connect on my London flight) I went to the Sea-Tac airport to try and standby for an earlier flight to ORD.

Upon getting to the First Class ticket counter, I was met by one of the most UNhelpful United Agents I have ever met. He was very un-sympathetic to my mis-connect issue. And told me I was unlikely to get out of Seattle early. Considering I am a Premier Exec, traveling on a Business Class ticket I was amazed at his poor attitude.

To make a long story short, I got the last seat from Seattle to Chicago on an earlier flight.

I arrived in Chicago to a sea of people, many who were standing in a VERY long line for Customer Service. I should have known not to fly via ORD during the summer -- on a Sunday.

In any case, I went to the Red Carpet Club on Concourse C. Its a pretty basic lounge, somewhat new furniture -- but it was a mess, with empty drinks and trash all over the place.

I found a good place to work -- they have converted the old Smoking Room into a "quiet room". It was very nice and only a few people even ventured into it -- even though the rest of the Club was fairly busy.




My London flight was right next door at C16. The flight was fairly busy and Business Class had only a couple seats open. Luckily there were a couple seats open, because THREE people had issues with their seats (ie. foot rest not working, audio not working, etc).

I was seated in 15A, which was nice since there was no one behind me -- only a bulkhead wall.

The seat was ok, but its very tight when everyone fully reclines and you are stuck on the window seat. My video screen, and seat adjustments worked fine.

The service on United was ok, but overall it was uninspired. The flight attendants were pleasant, but you had the feeling they were rushing through the service so they could take their break. In addition, my flight attendant referred to the wine choices as Chardonnay, The French "White" or one of the red ones.

The new business class seats can not come soon enough -- it will be a major upgrade to the dated business class experience on United today.

One tip for getting to London from LHR -- the Heathrow Express train now has a competing option if you are not in a hurry. The Heathrow Connect service is less than half the price (6.50 pounds) but it takes 30 mins and runs less frequently. The best part is it arrives at Paddington Station, right next to the Heathrow Express trains.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Finally -- New United Business Class seats/suites

I got this today from United...two quick comments:

1- United should be spending money on improvements to their product, rather than this fancy Flash movie-- which is WAY too long btw
2- Are they going to do anything about the Economy Class cabin on the 747-400 like they promised in Hemispheres magazine in 2006? The Movie Screens are getting really old, and are frankly just embarrassing.

Check it out the new suites at suitedreams.united.com if you are bored.


Dear OutFlyer,

As one of our valued customers, you should be among the first to know. We are pleased to announce new international United Business with true flat-bed seats.

This fall, United's international premium cabins will begin a remarkable transformation, featuring the first 180 degree, lie-flat Business Class seat to be offered by a U.S. carrier.

When completely implemented, your flight experience will include personal 15" video screens, Apple iPod docks, cuisine by world-famous chef Charlie Trotter, and a wine list by Master Sommelier and Master of Wine, Doug Frost.

The airline you've long depended upon is becoming the airline you've dreamed of.

To view pictures, videos and learn more details about the United Business and United First experience, follow the journey at suitedreams.united.com.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Virgin America Launches Ticket Sales

UPDATE 1pm PT - Rough take-off ! It looks like the VirginAmerica.com site has crashed.






Virgin America Opens for Business

Tickets, starting from just $44* one way, are now on sale for travel to San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Las Vegas

Burlingame, Calif. (July 19, 2007) — Virgin America, the new U.S. start-up airline based in San Francisco, will begin selling tickets from its website at www.virginamerica.com and new toll-free phone number, 1-877-FLY-VIRGIN (877 359-8474) from 3:00am (PST) today. The airline will sell more than one million seats for travel from August 8 through February 12, 2008.

Virgin America will inaugurate service on August 8 with two daily flights between San Francisco International Airport and New York?s John F Kennedy International Airport and five daily flights between San Francisco and Los Angeles International. A third San Francisco-New York flight will be added on August 19 and a fourth on September 9.

On August 29, Virgin America will commence service between New York and Los Angeles with two daily roundtrip flights, adding a third on September 16.

Twice daily service between San Francisco and Washington Dulles International Airport will commence on September 26; between San Francisco and Las Vegas on October 10 with three daily flights; and between Los Angeles and Washington, DC on October 24 with two daily flights. All flights are nonstop, however connections are available beginning October 10 between Las Vegas and both New York and Washington, DC.

"Today is a great day for our team members, for the State of California and for consumers everywhere," said Fred Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin America. "As the only California-based airline, our goal is to provide topnotch service at low fares. We can?t wait to welcome guests on August 8th."

Virgin America will offer last-minute Main Cabin fares for business travelers that are up to 60 percent off existing last-minute coach fares and First Class fares up to 50 percent below what most legacy carriers charge for coach. A simplified fare structure promises transparency with one-way fares, and no Saturday night stay requirements. Fares between San Francisco and both Los Angeles and Las Vegas start at $44 in the Main Cabin and $149 in First Class, each way. For service between Washington, DC and both Los Angeles and San Francisco, fares start from $129 and $389 each way in the Main Cabin and First Class, respectively. For service between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco, fares start from $139 and $389 each way in the Main Cabin and First Class, respectively.

The inaugural flights will include live entertainment at 35,000 feet and a host of celebrities, friends and supporters, hosted by Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin America Chief Executive Officer Fred Reid. The airline will auction tickets for the star-studded inaugural flights to support KIPP ? the Knowledge Is Power Program, a network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools that serve underserved communities throughout the United States. Details of this initiative will be announced shortly.

Virgin America is a ?next generation? carrier, with airplanes that include innovative guest features such as custom-designed leather seats, mood-lighting throughout the cabin and the most advanced personal in-flight entertainment system in the domestic airline market -- with on-demand movies and TV, games, music and online chat rooms cabins. In First Class, massage chairs offer 55 inches of seat pitch and 165-degree recline.

Guests can start earning points on eleVAte, the airline?s loyalty program, from their very first flight and will be able to start redeeming points in the near future.

Virgin America expects to serve as many as 10 cities within a year of operation and up to 30 cities within five years of service. The airline has previously confirmed service to San Diego which will be announced at a later date.

Additional cities under Virgin America?s consideration include: Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Hartford, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, Newark, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Providence, Portland, Ore., Raleigh-Durham, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Jose, Calif., Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa and West Palm Beach.

The airline currently has more than 400 team members, and aims to create more than 1,000 new U.S. jobs in its first year and up to 5,000 within five years. In addition to this direct job creation, by its fifth year Virgin America will be responsible for indirectly supporting approximately 50,000 new U.S. jobs in total.

  • Main cabin fares must be purchased by August 8, 2007. Travel must commence on or after August 9, 2007 and before November 14, 2007. First Class fares must be purchased by August 8, 2007. Travel must commence on or after August 9, 2007 and before November 14, 2007. Seats are limited, subject to availability, and may not be available on all flights. Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable. Fares do not include Passenger Facility Charges of up to $9 each way, September 11th Security Fees of up to $5 each way and a Federal Segment Tax of $3.40 per domestic segment. A segment is a takeoff and landing.Tickets purchased from Virgin America through our reservation call centers will be charged a $5 fee per itinerary. Changes or cancellations can be made without a fee in First Class and for $40 in the Main Cabin, as well as any increase in fare.

Virgin America does not currently have authority from the Department of Transportation to operate the services for which your ticket is being issued. You may, upon request, cancel your ticket and obtain a full refund at any time before we start operations. If we have not started operations by the date of your ticketed travel, we will make reasonable efforts to arrange substitute air transportation for you, at a cost of up to 200% of your Virgin America ticket. If we cannot arrange substitute transportation for you, we will refund to you 200% of the price paid for your Virgin America ticket.

About Virgin America:
As San Francisco?s hometown airline, Virgin America will serve as many as 10 cities within a year of operation, and up to 30 cities within five years. Virgin America?s brand-new planes will offer guests interactive in-flight entertainment systems, plugs for laptops and other portable electronic devices, the ability to order food or chat with other guests from their own video-screen and a host of other features aimed at bringing a little fun back to flying. To learn more about Virgin America visit: www.virginamerica.com.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Trip Report - Delta SEA-CVG 737-800

I had to fly from Seattle to Newark recently, normally I would select Alaska Airlines -- but their transcons are usually very full and for last minute bookings -- First Class is booked up already and the only open seats are middles. So I decided to book Delta Airlines, since DL flights count as Elite Miles/Segments for Alaska's Mileage Plan.

After seeing the full Gate area, I asked the Gate agent if First Class on the Seattle-CVG flight was full. He said he had one seat open -- if I switched out my Alaska MVP Gold number for my Silver SkyMiles number. So minutes later I got my First Class seat assignment in Row 4 on the new-ish 737-800.

Seat 4F is not a bad seat, its the last row in first class and their is a decent divider between First Class and Coach. There is overhead video and inflight phones in the center armrest.



To my surprise there was a FULL breakfast in First Class -- the tray was overflowing with a Bagel, fruit, and a combo of Cheese Omalette, Ham and Potatoes. There was no choice of meal offered, but otherwise the inflight service was VERY good. The flight attendant frequently came around checking on passengers. This service was MUCH better than recent Alaska or United first class service experiences.

Upon landing in Cincinnati, I went to the Delta Crown Room above B14. Well, first I went all the way to the A concourse to discover the Crown Room near A7 was not open on the weekends.


I asked the Crown Room agent to switch out my SkyMiles number for my Alaska Airlines MVPG number for the connecting flight. She said that was not allowed -- urgh!

Minutes later I found I had 5 voicemails all from Delta Airlines requesting that I call them about my flight. I found it odd that the Crown Room agent did not say anything -- since she had been in my reservation prior. In any case, she seemed a bit confused and said it probably was my Continental connecting flight had been delayed or canceled.

I had booked my SEA-CVG-EWR intinerary on Delta.com, but every DL agent I talked had no information on the CO leg from CVG to EWR. It was very fustrating, you would have thought these two airlines would have better integration, but I guess they do not.

I am not totally clear what happened to my CVG-EWR flight, but the Crown Room agent rebooked my from CVG to Atlanta connecting to a Delta Flight from ATL to Newark. It was a long trip on Delta.

Delta Agents and Flight Attendants seem to be in a better mood these days. Atlanta is still a mess and seems like semi-managed chaos every time I pass through.

Good: Delta Inflight Service, Customer Communications on the Plasma Screens in the Gate Area
Bad: Atlanta, irregular operations for Continental Codeshare flights

Trip Report - Alaska SFOSEA 737-700

This was the 8am flight from San Francisco to Seattle on a Saturday. Since it was early on a Saturday morning the Alaska Airlines Board Room was empty. This Board Room is the smallest (I think) of all BRs, but it is very well located and well used. It also overlooks the ramp area for the Alaska Gates, so you can see your plane arriving. Not a bad place, it could be bigger -- but there really isnt any room to expand.


The flight was on a 737-700, the smallest mainline plane Alaska has in its fleet.


I have mixed feelings on the 737-700:
- The overhead bin space in First Class is somewhat tight since the curve of the plane impacts the first bins on either side, making them not deep enough to store your bag length-wise.
- The seats are generally the new Alaska thin seats, which are comfortable and not as beat up as the 737-400 seats usually are.
- There is no wall between First and Coach -- only a fabric curtain. Which provides almost no sound-proofing from Coach passengers.

The best seats in First Class for the Alaska 737-700 are located in row 2.



Alaska serivce is usually pretty good. The flight attendants are a bit more professional that the normal United variety. The "breakfest" consists of a danish and some fruit. This meal has not been updated in years, but its not bad and better than nothing.


Alaska is my current favorite airline, mainly since I have Gold status and upgrades are fairly easy and I live in Seattle. I always thought Alaska is good -- but not great. But at the very least they are consisitant with their website, airport and inflight service -- which is a good thing.