Airlines

Chinese New Year at airports & on planes

Lunar New Year and Chinese New Year celebrations begin this weekend and airports and airlines are celebrating the Year of the Rooster with decorations, special meals, promotions and events.

Vancouver International Airport, a major trans-Pacific hub, has special decorations in the terminals and a wide variety of events planned for this Friday, including a traditional Lion Dance, retail specials and an appearance by the Fortune God who will hand out red envelopes to lucky passengers who will have a chance to win prizes.

At San Francisco International Airport, which boasts that it serves more cities in China than any other North American airport, look for special Lunar New Year graphics on signs, on the airport’s social media outlets and on its website.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will celebrate the Lunar New Year on Friday, Jan. 27 with traditional and modern Chinese music from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Asleep at the Wheel stage, located across from Gate 10.

Lunar New Year activities at Hong Kong International Airport include daily Lion Dance performances and multiple chances to meet and greet the God of Fortune.

At Singapore’s Changi Airport, which does everything in a big way, the terminals are decorated with festive decorations and plants, the popular Pokémon installation has receive a seasonally-appropriate makeover, and there will be an award-winning Lion Dance troupe performing in the terminals on multiple days. The Fortune God Mascot will also be on hand distributing fortune cookies.

To mark the Lunar New Year, Cathay Pacific will be serving two types of festive puddings (Red Dates Pudding and Turnip Pudding with Conpoy and Chinese ham) to travelers in first and business class cabins on many long haul flights.

Qatar Airways is also celebrating the Chinese New Year by serving a special Spring Festival-inspired menu on board flights to popular Asia destinations from January 28-30.

Deal-wise, United Airlines is offering promotional fares (through Feb 1) on its flights to Hangzhou, China from San Francisco and other cities and Plaza Premium Lounge is running a Chinese New Year ‘Buy 3 Get 2 Free’ offer on lounge gift cards that is valid through February 6.

And Eva Air is celebrating the year of the Rooster with a special Chinese New Year menu on flights outbound from Taipei to North America and Paris on January 27, 2017 and special Chinese New Year-themed service items on these same flights from January 27 to February 5, 2017.

Many service items on Eva Air’s Hello Kitty Jets have also been refreshed for the Chinese New Year, and some new characters – Gudetama and Bad Badtz-maru are featured on the themed paper napkins, headrest covers and the traditional red envelopes handed out to family members and loved ones  to wish them health and prosperity this time of year.

 

Worst days to fly this summer

 

Courtesy Chiago O'Hare Airport - busy day

My ‘At the Airport’ column this month for USA TODAY takes a look at the days airports traditionally see the highest traffic and the plans in place this year – given all the talk about longer-than-usual TSA lines – to smooth things out.

The good news is that airports and airlines, some of which have pitched in their own funds for extra staffing, are reporting improvements in passenger processing times. And for its part, TSA is working overtime to reassure travelers that its 10-point plan is having its intended impact.

Here’s what some airports have planned:

At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year. But Independence Day and Labor Day weekends are also heavy.

ATL expects the same peak days this summer, said ATL spokesman Andy Gobeil, and to prepare, “we communicate on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis with not only the TSA, but also with our airline partners.”

ATL is also where TSA partnered up with Delta Air Lines to install and test two “innovation lanes” at one security checkpoint to speed up the lines.

In 2015, the busiest travel day at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was Aug. 3 (92,497 originating passengers), with July 6 (90, 276 passengers) not far behind.

This year, the Chicago Department of Aviation expects a variety of high-traffic days at ORD during June, July and August and is working with the TSA and its airline partners “to explore every possible option” to help reduce TSA wait times, said CDA spokesman Gregg Cunningham.

Denver Airport planes

Denver International Airport usually sees its peak travel days in July and August and this year os expects the busiest traffic days during the July 4th holiday week.  To help out at the checkpoints this summer, DEN has hired seven contract security workers to assist with passenger divesting, bin management and line management.

July and August (peak season for cruises to Alaska) are traditionally the busiest months at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and Thursday and Fridays are the busiest traffic days and this summer SEA hired 90 full-time equivalent private workers to free up TSA personnel.

Peak days at San Francisco International Airport occur during summer, and this year should be no different and to prepare for peak travel days airport officials meet weekly with the TSA to review security checkpoints and other security topics, and have planning meetings with airlines, service providers and other organizations to make sure staffing is appropriate for peak demand periods.

LAX Susan Goldman - pink lightband

Elsewhere, Los Angeles International expects a record 24.5 million passengers to travel through the airport this summer, an increase of 7.3 percent over last summer’s record 22.8 million travelers.

The busiest week of the summer is expected to be July 18-24.

“Lines at the TSA passenger screening checkpoints at LAX are being managed,” the airport said in a statement, “but they are expected to grow longer as the summer progresses with more travelers.”

JFK Airport rededication

Based on three years of data, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey predicts the busiest day of summer at JFK International Airport will be August 11, July 28,  August 4, July 21 and July 14, in that order.

Each of JFK’s terminals are managed separately, but the company that manages Terminal 4 (JFKIAT) teamed up with its 32 airline partners to invest more than a quarter of a million dollars on increasing staff levels at the terminal’s TSA checkpoints through September 10, the weekend after Labor Day.

While March sees the busiest passenger traffic at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, PHX officials expect the July 4th weekend to be the peak travel time this summer.

“We prepare for peak days by meeting with all of our partners – airlines, TSA, concessionaires, law enforcement and others – in advance,” said airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriquez, and during peak times “airport staff who usually work in the office wear special customer service vests and go out into the terminals to assist passengers and answer questions.”

Miami International Airport also sees its highest travel days during the winter travel season. But for the busy summer season, MIA officials went to Washington, D.C. to meet with TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger and other high-ranking federal officials, and came away with a commitment for 60 additional screening officers.

DFW ART in Terminal D

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is one of the beneficiaries of the $4 million American Airlines is spending this summer to help ease checkpoint backups at a variety of airports and, on peak days, the airport reallocates its volunteers, ambassadors and other staff as needed.

Going forward, DFW will have one more tool to help manage checkpoint traffic: in June, the airport’s board of directors recently approved a $600,000 contract to have AT&T anonymously track passenger cellphones in the airport to gather real-time information on wait times.

 

Travel Waivers for Tropical Storm Colin

(Photo courtesy Keene Public Library, via Flickr)

(Photo courtesy Keene Public Library, via Flickr)

Tropical Storm Colin is bearing down on Florida and many airlines are offering travel waivers to passengers who want to stay clear of the area.

Here are links to travel waiver policies for

American Airlines: for travel to/through or from Fort Myers, FL (RSW), Gainesville, FL (GNV), Jacksonville, FL (JAX), Sarasota, FL (SRQ), Tallahassee, FL (TLH) and Tampa, FL (TPA). Travel waiver was for those with tickets to travel June 6, 2016, but policy posted was only current as of June 5, so check if you are traveling June 7 or later).

Delta Airlines:: for travel to/from or through: Brunswick, GA(BQK), Charleston, SC (CHS), Fort Myers, FL (RSW), Gainesville, FL (GNV), Jacksonville, FL (JAX), Key West, FL (EYW), Sarasota, FL (SRQ), Savannah, GA (SAV), Tallahassee, FL (TLH), Tampa, FL (TPA). Travel alert currently includes ticketed flights on June 7, for travel rebooked by June 11.

JetBlue : affected cities include Daytona Beach, FL (DAB), Charleston, SC (CHS), Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL), Fort Myers, FL (RSW), Jacksonville, FL (JAX), Orlando, FL (MCO), Sarasota, FL (SRQ), Savannah, GA (SAV), Tampa, FL (TPA), West Palm Beach, FL (PBI). Travel alerts includes trips booked through June 7, with rebooked no change fee travel dates offered through June 12.

Spirit Airlines and United Airlines also have travel alerts posted for Tropical Storm Colin and updates may be posted for all these airlines later today.

Pastry from Jet Blue’s inaugural Quito flight

JET BLUE ROSE (2)

Blue roses from the arrival party for Jet Blue’s inaugural flight to Quito, Ecuador from Fort Lauderdale

 

I was pleased to join Jet Blue as a guest on their inaugural flight from Fort Lauderdale to Quito, Ecuador on Thursday morning, Feb 25 and will be circling back around with a more details on why this route is especially meaningful for Jet Blue and for Ecuador – but it’s late here in Quito and what’s really important to share are these snaps of the pastry created for the send-off and arrival parties.

jet blue cake

 

jet blue cookies

I didn’t get to taste the cake (I was wondering what a passport might taste like) but ate two of those Jet Blue shortbread cookies for dinner.

More Valentine’s Day treats from airlines/airports

Valentine couple

Here’s an updated list of some of the treats airlines and airports have in store for travelers on Valentine’s Day.

Baked By Melissa(2)

Delta Air Lines customers flying in the main cabin between New York’s John F. Kennedy airport and San Francisco or Los Angeles will receive complimentary mini bottles of Veuve du Vernay Rosé sparkling wine and a three-pack of Baked by Melissa bite-size cupcakes. All Delta One customers will also get a glass of Veuve du Vernay Brut Rosé sparkling wine.

JETBLUE VALENTINE

On Valentine’s Day JetBlue will be adding Snyder’s Sweet & Salty Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels to the complimentary items in the snack baskets offered on board.

On the ground, JetBlue is also partnering with Dunkin’ Donuts to offer free morning heart-shaped donuts in JFK airport and at Boston Logan Airport on February 13 and 14.

Valentine’s Day is one of the holidays Southwest Airlines gives passengers a free alcoholic drink.

UA Red Velvet Cookie

And this year on Valentine’s Day United Airlines will be giving passengers some sweet treats.

Eli’s Belgian chocolate cheesecake tarts will be served on most domestic and international United flights departing the continental U.S. and on flights from Honolulu to the continental U.S. and Guam. Many United Express flights will offer red velvet bite-sized cookies.

And complimentary champagne and chocolate pairings will be served in the United Clubs at the carrier’s Continental U.S. hubs, while Prosecco and chocolate pairings will be offered at other domestic United Clubs.

Philadelphia International Airport team members hand out red carnations for Valentine’s Day 2015

As they have done many years in the past, Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport volunteers will be surprising at least 1000 passengers with red carnations on Valentine’s Day.

(Philadelphia International did the same on Friday, February 12.)

Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport is celebrating Valentine’s Day by giving travelers a chance to take their photo with an iconic Austin mural in baggage claim through February 14.

AUS Valentine

They’ve altered a replica of the “I Love You So Much” mural on South Congress Street to read “AUS Loves You So Much,” and anyone who shares their photos on Twitter (@AUStinAirport; use the hashtag “#LoveAUS”) will get entered in a drawing for a free box of chocolates.

Free small chocolates will also be distributed at the mural, at the Visitors Center in bag claim and on the concourse from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. through Valentine’s Day and 34 passengers waiting to depart at their gate will be randomly selected to receive a free box of chocolates.

And as usual – fresh, handmade, chocolate covered strawberries from local favorite Amy’s Ice Creams will be for sale at the airport for $18 per dozen/$10 half dozen on Friday and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday near bag carousel 3 in the lower level baggage claim and at Amy’s concourse location, which is past security checkpoints near Gate 12.

And through February 14 Miami International Airport will have a traveling kissing booth, a heart-shaped balloon mobile, live music and other Valentine’s Day activities in various spots throughout the airport.

PHL, Valentine Origami Demonstration