Free Stuff

Alaska Airlines expands its Wine Flies Free program

Here’s good news for wine lovers: Alaska Airlines has expanded its popular Wine Flies Free program, which allows the carrier’s Mileage Plan members to check a case of wine – 12 bottles – for free.

The program includes domestic flights on Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air and Skywest flights from the cities listed below, but does not include Virgin America flights until May 2018.

In Washington: Bellingham, Pasco, Pullman, Seattle, Spokane, Walla Walla, Wenatchee, and Yakima

In Oregon:  Eugene, Medford, Portland, and Redmond

In Idaho: Boise and Lewiston

And in California: Burbank, Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey, Oakland, Ontario, Orange County, Palm Springs, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Sonoma

In addition to allowing passengers to check a case of wine for free, Alaska’s Wine Flies Free program has another valuable perk: the wine-tasting fee charged by many wineries in Oregon and Washington will be waived for those who show their Alaska Airlines boarding pass.

Details on the Oregon Wines Fly Free are here. 

In Washington wine country, not only do many wineries offer free tastings to Alaska Airlines customers who show their boarding passes, under the Wine Flies Free program Hertz rental car will waive the drop off fee, so travelers can pick up a car in one city, travel through wine country tasting and buying wine, and then drop the car off in another city. Details are here.

So drink up!

 

 

How to get one of United’s Olympic athlete superhero action figures

Olympic figure skater Nathan Chen as United Airlines superhero action figure King Quad. Courtesy United

United Airlines is so excited about being the official airline of the United States Olympic Committee that it has made superhero action figures of six athletes competing in the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and another half dozen action figures of United employees who do the magic on the planes and behind the scenes to fly the athletes to the games.

The athletes portrayed as action figures are:

Air Raider: freeskier Gus Kenworth

Artic Angel: snowboarder Jamie Anderson

Ice Lightning: short track speed track skater J.R. Celski

The Rocket: luger Erin Hamlin

King Quad: figure skater Nathan Chen

The Fury: sled hockey player, Nikko Landerson

(“Ice  Lightening” and “Winged Wonder” action figures)

There are also six superhero action figures portraying United employees, including one named Storm Tamer, representing an airline operations expert and my favorite, Departicus, who represents a customer service agent.

Want an action figure of your own?

In celebration of the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, United is giving out athlete action figures to customers at its hubs on Friday.

Look for the life-sized mannequins of the sponsored Team USA athletes at these spots. At each airport, the airline will be giving out the 100 action figure corrosponding to the life-size mannequin on site.

Houston (IAH): North Terminal, past gate C3

Dulles (IAD):  IAD: Intersection in C Concourse, en route to the trains

Denver (DEN): Concourse B, central plaza

Los Angeles ( LAX): Second level, Terminal 7 just above security

San Francisco (SFO) Rotunda near the food court

Newark (EWR) C3 Concourse

Chicago (ORD): Gate B12

At each airport, the airline will be giving out the action figure corrosponding to the life-size mannequin on site.

The airline has also been giving out action to figures to travelers at Penn Station in New York City who take a photo by the Team USA wall and then share the photo on social media (#TeamUnited).

 

 

 

 

MSP Airport is ready for Super Bowl fans to arrive – and leave

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is ready for the Super Bowl 52 fans to arrive – and leave .

“For many Super Bowl attendees, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will be their first and last impression of Minnesota, and we want to ensure it’s a great one,” said Brian Ryks, executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which owns and operates MSP.

The airport has spruced up with a special Super Bowl info page on its website, an enhanced Wi-Fi system, new carpeting, new furniture, new shops and restaurants and has added lots of NFL signage and pop-up Super Bowl souvenir shops in the terminals.

Extra volunteers have been recruited to help travelers with airport wayfinding and extra space has been arranged for all the taxis, rental cars, limos and Uber and Lyft cars that will be supplementing public transportation options at the airport.

Weather contingency plans are in place. Airport police and fire crews have been working with city, county and federal law enforcement agencies on how to deal with various scenarios. And the Transportation Security Administration is bringing in extra officers and passenger screening canines to help process passengers heading home after the game.

“TSA operations at MSP following the Super Bowl will be an ‘all hands on deck’ operation,” said TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers, “From uniformed staff to plain-clothes administrative personnel, everyone will be working.”

TSA and MSP expect to set passenger records on the Monday and Tuesday after Super Bowl, but airport officials are confident their team is up for the challenge.

“We have a solid plan in place to keep everyone safe, the operation running smoothly, and travelers’ experience positive,” said MSP’s Ryks.

Safe and smooth is good, but MSP’s Super Bowl welcome team is also offering fans of the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots some fun extras.

A 10-day “Performing Arts Spectacular” is underway, with a lineup of events featuring everything from Bollywood, hip-hop and flamenco dancers to vocal and drum performances. The airport’s animal ambassadors will be out in full force. And giveaways in the terminals will include a series of Super Bowl/Winter-themed MSP buttons and foldable terminal maps with disposable hand warmers attached.

Several airlines, including Delta, Southwest, American and United, have added flights to MSP from Boston, Philadelphia and many other major hubs for Super Bowl ticket holders and last-minute planners heading to the Twin Cities to partake of Super Bowl festivities.

In addition to the extra flights, American Airlines, the official airline for the Philadelphia Eagles, is handing out Eagles rally towels to all passengers flying on from Philadelphia to Minneapolis-St. Paul through Sunday, February 4.

And on Saturday and Sunday, United Airlines is serving “football favorites,” including hot dogs and macaroni salad, to customers visiting the carriers’ lounges in its hub cities. United Club visitors in Boston, Philadelphia and Minneapolis will also find extra treats, including lobster roll and New England clam chowder in Boston; Tastykakes and a build-your-own hoagie bar in Philadelphia; and Captain Ken’s Wagon Trail Chili (a Minnesota favorite) in Minneapolis.

 

Airport Restaurant Week at O’Hare & Midway Airports

Airport Restaurant Week is underway again at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway Airports now through February 8.

The in-airport food fest brings a taste of the citywide Chicago Restaurant Week into the airport for ticketed passengers who will get to enjoy cooking demonstrations in the terminals, in-store-samplings, and a wide variety of giveaways and special offers in shops and restaurants.

Passengers who stick around after the cooking demos will get to taste the freshly-made dishes and take home free souvenirs, including an Airport Restaurant Week chip clip and a recipe book (while supplies last).

At O’Hare, cooking demos will take place each weekday between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The stages are in Terminal 2 near Gate E1, in Terminal 3 near Gate H3 and in Terminal 5 near Gate M7. At Midway, the cooking demos will occur at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each weekday in the main food court, just past the security checkpoint.

Check the schedule to get more details about the cooking demonstrations, free-sampling events – and recipes –for Airport Restaurant Week events on special webpages set up for Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and Chicago’s Midway Airport.

At O’Hare, check the schedule for Fannie May and Godiva chocolate sampling events taking place at Sarah’s Candies, popcorn sampling at Nuts on Clark, and other sampling events for smoothies, Chicago Hot Dogs, caramel apples and other treats. Many restaurants and shops will also be offering discounts and gift-with-purchase specials.

At Midway Airport, Airport Restaurant Week will not only offer in-store samplings and a full schedule of cooking demos, including beer, pizza, poke tacos, and more, but also a sneak peek at some of the new eateries being unveiled as part of a major concessions upgrade that includes BIG & little’s and the return of Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch.

Free things you can get at airports

Flying during the holiday season can be a stressful and expensive, once you add up ticket prices, baggage fees, parking and a meal with a drink (or two) in the terminal before your flight.

But from ping-pong and yoga to water and other top-notch entertainment, many airports in the U.S. and abroad offer a wide variety of amenities for free. Some are available year-round, while others may be tied to a certain season or event. Here are a Baker’s Dozen you can take advantage of now.

Free phone calls

At Denver International Airport and both Washington Dulles International and Reagan Washington National Airports, travelers can make free phone calls year-round.

In Dulles and Washington Reagan airports, local and long distance calls are free to anyplace within the 48 contiguous United States for the first five minutes from marked courtesy phones located both pre- and post-security in the main terminal and in each concourse.

Denver International Airport has ad-supported phones offering free domestic calls and 10 minutes of free long distance calling

Free yoga studios

A pop-up (pay) yoga studio is operating for a few months at Denver International Airport, but there are a handful of airports around the country, including San Francisco International, Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway, Miami International and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airports, where travelers can make use of yoga rooms for free. Most have complimentary loaner mats available as well.

Free shoe shines

A throwback to the days when people actually dressed up to fly on an airplane, at Los Angeles International Airport, Denver International Airport and Missouri’s Kansas City International Airport travelers can set their own price or just simply leave a tip when getting a complimentary shoe or boot shine at an airport shoe shine stand.

Free movies

Free movies by local filmmakers are offered to travelers in the post-security 17-seat Hollywood Theatre micro-cinema at Oregon’s Portland International Airport, the pre-security Video Arts room at San Francisco International Airport and in the post-security See 18 Film Screening Room (by Gate C18) at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Free first run films are offered at two 24-hour movie theaters at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Free personal shopper

Passengers traveling through London’s Heathrow Airport can book ahead to tap the complimentary services of the airport’s team of personal shoppers, who make no commission but make it their point to know the all the latest trends and the current stock available in all the shops. There is no minimum spend and consultations take place in a private lounge where free champagne is served.

Free art and history and games

 

SFO Museum Exhibition

San Francisco’s SFO Museum offers no fewer than 20 free exhibitions inside the airport at any one time, while airports in Miami, Albany, NY, Minneapolis, Portland, St. Louis and elsewhere offer a rotating schedule of free museum-quality art and history exhibits throughout the year.

Austin-Bergstrom International and Seattle-Tacoma International airports each present more than 20 free music performances each week and, at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport, passengers can play ping pong for free.

Free water: bring your own bottle

Buying a bottle of branded water can set a traveler back $5 in many post-security airport shops, but travelers who bring their own empty bottles can fill them up for free at complimentary water bottle refill stations now located in airports in San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago and many others cities.

Free city tours

Fliers with long layovers can take advantage of free city tours at some airports.

Passengers with layovers of two hours or more at Salt Lake City International Airport can get a free shuttle ride to and from Temple Square, where they can join in a free tour of the thirty-five acre historic site. Free city tours are also available to travelers with varying lengths of layovers at Singapore’s Changi Airport, South Korea’s Incheon Airport in Seoul, Tokyo’s Narita Airport, Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, Qatar’s Hamad International Airport in Doha (with Qatar Airways), and Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei.

Free ride to the city

Travelers who land at Boston Logan International can ride the Silver Line bus from the airport into the city for free. The bus picks up at every BOS terminal and offers free connections to the Red Line once in town. (Rides from the city back out to the airport, however, are not free.)

Free CPR training

At a growing list of airports, passengers can learn to save a life while waiting for their flight by taking a free course on an interactive hands-only CPR kiosk. A “how-to” video is followed by a practice session on a rubber manikin and a 30-second CPR test.

Airports with hands-only CPR training kiosks currently include: Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Indianapolis International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, Orlando International, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Harrisburg International in Pennsylvania and John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA.  In many cases there are multiple units at each airport.

Free trading cards

They look like sports trading cards, but at more than 60 airports throughout the country, passengers can stop by information booths and tourism booth to pick up a free, collectible, airport-themed trading cards featuring a photo of the airport on one side and geographic and historic tidbits about the airport on the other.

Animal encounters

To ease the stress of modern-day travel, dozens of airports now have specially-trained therapy animals regularly mingling with passengers in the terminals. Most airports have dogs on their pet-therapy teams, but San Francisco International Airport has a pig on its team, Denver International Airport has a cat, and miniature therapy horses visit the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport twice each month.

Free travel item

Customers of Google’s Project Fi can use their phone to get one free item a week from Project Fi vending machines located in airports in Baltimore, LaGuardia, Chicago Midway and O’Hare, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, Seattle and San Jose. Free items include bottled water, playing cards, fuzzy socks, eye masks and luggage tags. Travelers who aren’t Project Fi customers can also get free items by playing a trivia game on the machine.

Did I miss anything?

(My story about free things at airports first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different form.)