Not flying? You can still shop at PIT’s AIRMALL

PIT AIRMALL CUPCAKES

Remember the days when the amenities at most airports consisted of generic news and gift stands offering magazines and snacks, such as hotdogs rotating under a heat lamp, at outrageous prices?

Those days are gone – for a long list of reasons – but thanks in no small part to the AIRMALL at Pittsburgh International Airport, which introduced the concept of an eclectic mix of shops right in the terminal and the promise of regular mall pricing – way back in 1992.

PIT’s AIRMALL recently got a $10 million overhaul and the central core of the terminal now has 25 restaurants and bars, 35 specialty retail shops – including luxury brands such as Armani and Hugo Boss – and 10 news and gift stores.

Here’s a full list

The shops and restaurants are all post-security and usually you have be flying somewhere to gain access. But on Saturday, December 6, PIT airport is inviting everyone to come by and to shop and eat and hang out from noon until 6 p.m. – whether they’re flying or not.

There will be discounts and special offers, free parking, entertainment and, of course, Santa.

What’s the catch? If you plan on going, you’ll need to register ahead of time so you can get through security.

Click here to learn more and to register

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Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving postcard turkey

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Travel deals for Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Home shopping but dreaming of travel? Here are some of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals that might get you going.

suitcase

AIRLINES

Air Canada has a long list of Black Friday fare specials available now through November 30.

Cathay Pacific kicks off its Black Friday fare sale on Friday at midnight EST, promising deals from all its US gateways (SFO, LAX, ORD, EWR, JFK, BOS) to Asia – plus a sweepstakes.

Alaska Airlines‘ most popular fare sale is Cyber Monday, and they’ll probably offer a preview a day before.

From now through December 2, 2014 Airberlin is offering $499 roundtrip flights (including taxes) starting from Chicago, New York and Miami to many cities in Europe for travel January 12 to March 22, 2015.

LAN and TAM have something planned for Cyber Monday and it’s likely other airlines will jump in with offers as well, so check around.

HOTELS

HotelTonight, which recently expanded its offering from day-of bookings to 7-day-in-advance deals, is offering $7 hotel rooms on Black Friday starting at 7 a.m. local time, till the available inventory sells out, which should be pretty quickly.

On Black Friday Expedia.com is offering 90% off a limited quantity of select hotels in New York, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Cancun and San Francisco. The offer will be avaiable from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. PST. Expedia will also be offering a $50 coupon off Expedia rate hotels throughout Friday, as well as some Cyber Monday deals.

Many individual hotels, as well as chains large and small, will be offering Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as well, so if you’ve got a destination in mind, be sure to poke around for lodging deals in that city or region.

Provenance Hotels, with a portfolio of 7 highly individual properties in Portland, Seattle and Nashville, for example, is giving each hotel’s Facebook and newsletter fans 25 percent off the best available rates through March 31, 2015 as part of a Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion. (Sign up before Friday to make sure you get the mailing.

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Storm coming: airlines cancel flights /waive change fees

Don’t defrost the turkey just yet, because it looks like Winter Storm Cato is going to ruin Thanksgiving for a lot of travelers.

Snowstorm

Starting Tuesday afternoon, airlines began cancelling flights and issuing fee waivers for travelers who want to cancel or rebook their trips.

As of Tuesday evening, pretty much every North American airline has a travel advisory posted on its site. International airlines with flights to and from the U.S. are likely alerting their customers to cancellations as well.

Below are links to the travel alerts, coverage dates and fee waiver policies as of Tuesday evening, November 25th for many major airlines. If you’ve got a trip planned, be sure to check the airline’s website, Facebook page or Twitter feed – and those of your airport – for the latest news.

Air Canada
Alaska Airlines
American Airlines
Dela Air Lines
Frontier
JetBlue
Spirit
Southwest Airlines
US Airways
United Airlines
Virgin America
WestJet

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Travel tune-up: hotel loyalty program & policy changes

10_GLobe Trotter bespoke luggage - free with hotel room

Changes in hotel frequent stay program rules, member amenities and alliances, your own travel patterns and rising room prices makes the holiday season the right time to take inventory of potential bonuses and rewards.

A recent lodging outlook from PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) predicts that in 2015 industry-wide occupancy levels are expected to reach 64.9 percent, the highest since 1984.

That may give hotel operators more confidence to hike prices. And it may also be the trigger behind some recently announced policy changes for 2015 — most notably the decision by Hilton Worldwide to adopt a stricter cancellation policy.

Effective Jan. 1, 2015, “penalty-free cancellations” at the hotel’s properties “must be made by 11:59 p.m. local hotel time the day prior to arrival,” and not by 6 p.m. local time the day of arrival, currently the standard at most hotels.

The change is “designed to make more rooms available for travelers needing last minute accommodations,” said Jim Holthouser, Executive Vice President, Global Brands, Hilton Worldwide.

Still, the policy, which is reportedly also being adopted by Marriott International next year “is a decided negative for travelers,” said Tim Winship, editor and publisher of FrequentFlier.com. This could have implications for business travelers who often make last minute changes in their plans.

Winship and others expect other hotel companies to follow suit, so be sure to check the policy wording when you make 2015 reservations.

Beginning Jan. 15, 2015, Marriott Rewards members will get free Wi-Fi at close to 4,000 properties in the company’s portfolio. There is a catch, though: Travelers will only get the perk by making a direct booking on the hotel’s website, through its mobile app, 800-number or directly with a hotel.

This doesn’t sit well with travel agents who stand to lose customers and commissions. However, some direct-booking partnerships, like those offered through Concur’s TripLink solution, may offer a way to get the Marriott’s Wi-Fi perk while staying within corporate booking requirements.

Some hotel chains have recently added useful program perks, many of them technology-driven, with more planned for 2015:

Kimpton won’t talk yet about the changes it has in store to its loyalty program for 2015, but it did recently introduce Kimpton Karma Rewards. The program offers members perks ranging from free Wi-Fi and $10 credit for in-room snacks, to welcome amenities and complimentary upgrades.

In July, Marriott began using beacon technology to send geographically-targeted offers for food and beverage, golf, spa deals and more to Rewards members at several hotels. The LocalPerks program should be at work in a dozen Marriott properties by the end of this year, so keep an eye on your mobile devices as you wander through participating hotels.

Many hotels are now coming into the 21st century by using smartphone applications to lure in tech-savvy travelers.

Hilton announced recently that by the end of this year, guests will be able to use their mobile devices, tablets and computers to check-in, choose a room and order items delivered to their room at more than 4,000 properties worldwide.

Starting in 2015, Hilton HHonors members will be able to access their hotel rooms via mobile-key technology at all U.S. properties across four of the company’s brands, said Geraldine Calpin, senior vice president and global head of digital at Hilton Worldwide.

The HHonors app will also unlock other rooms that typically require room keys such as the fitness center, executive floors, elevators and parking facilities.

And earlier this month Starwood Hotels and Resorts rolled out SPG Keyless, at the first 10 hotels that will allow Starwood Preferred Guests to use the SPG app on their phone as a hotel room key.

Additionally, hotel loyalty programs are also expanding their partnerships with airlines.

Starwood recently announced a strategic partnership with Emirates that gives members added benefits and earnings when they stay Starwood and fly Emirates. “Other loyalty programs, like Delta/Starwood and United/Marriott have linked up as well,” says travel writer Ramsey Qubein.

“Just be sure to link you accounts via the hotel programs websites and always monitor your account to make sure stays post properly,” he added.

At the end of the travel day, “If you feel like the loyalty is going both ways then you should stick with that program,” said Brian Kelly of ThePointsGuy.com. “Many programs under-promise and over-deliver, but some programs do the opposite.”

(My story about 2015 changes in hotel loyalty programs first appeared on CNBC)

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