We stopped by the new Alaska Airlines lounge in Terminal 2 at San Fransico International Airport (SFO) to see for ourselves what the space was like.
Sadly, the sourdough toast cart wasn’t open for business during our visit. Instead, we indulged in a made-for-us Americano and treats from the serve-yourself candy bar. There are jars filled with Ghirardelli chocolate, Jelly Belly beans, and fortune cookies from the Oakland Fortune Cookie Factory. We tried them all.
Besides the great airfield views, the best part of this lounge may be the San Francisco Giants-themed children’s play area. This space has adorable, kid-sized baseball-inspired furniture. There’s a wall of baseball bobbleheads. And an interactive display of different types of pitches.
A heatwave in the Pacific Northwest and some other parts of the country is adding another challenge to air travel as we head into a holiday weekend.
As a result, some airlines, including American Airlines and United Airlines, are offering fee-free travel waivers. And Alaska Airlines has put a ban on pets traveling as cargo to and from more than a dozen cities until at least after the July 4th weekend.
Here are some of the details, and useful links to policies as of Monday evening, June 28:
And while Alaska Airlines isn’t offering change fee waivers as of Monday evening, it is pre-canceling some flights.
“While we never want to let our guests down, only a small fraction of our flights have been pre-canceled and we are doing our best to re-accommodate those guests,” the airline said on its website, “
And, because of the heat, through July 7, Alaska Airlines is not accepting animals for travel in the baggage departments to or from most of the affected airports listed above. Ticketed pets are still permitted to travel in the cabin with their owners.
Waivers offered by American and United Airlines
American Airlines’ change fee waiver offer is in effect for ticketed travelers through June 29 for trips to, through, or from the cities below. The airlines’ website notes that this information was current as of June 25, 2021, so if record-breaking heat continues in these areas, the waiver could be updated or extended. Check the website for details.
We are totally loving Alaska Airline’s newly decorated Pride-inspired plane supporting the LGBTQ+ community. It’s the first of its kind in the United States and will be flying throughout the airline’s network for the next year.
“Of the 376 primary mainland airports in the country as defined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) only 32, including T. F. Green Airport, did not have the city, region or state in its name,” the airport explains in a statement. And adding the geographical identifier “will better position Rhode Island’s main airport to support the state’s economy and tourism sector.”
Las Vegas’ McCarran Int’l Airport renamed for Harry Reid
Since 1968, the airport in Las Vegas has been named for Nevada’s late U.S. senator, Pat McCarran. He helped get the airport built, but left a legacy of racism and anti-Semitism. But earlier this year, Clark County commissioners in Nevada voted to change the name of the airport to Harry Reid International Airport, to honor the man who served as a Democratic senator from Nevada from 1987 to 2017.
The name change isn’t quite official with the FAA just yet. But it looks like it is a pretty darn close because the name change is already being reflected on FAA charts.
New Art Gallery at Indianapolis International Airport
Called the KIND Gallery after the airport’s international airport code, the new gallery will feature rotating temporary art exhibits curated and coordinated in partnership with the Arts Council of Indianapolis.
The first gallery show is titled “Pareidolia.” The term refers to “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern” and each artist in the show used clouds as their prompt to set their creativity into motion.
We’re all for finding the odd in the world. So we’re pleased to see United Airlines adding a new “America, Who Knew?” filter to its Map Search program. Some of the tidbits you can learn from the map:
Zzyzx: Pronounced “Zye-Zacks” is a scenic desert oasis in the Mojave National Preserve with self-guided trails
Whynot: Situated on Highway 75, or the North Carolina Pottery Highway, this town is world-renowned for its ceramics. The town’s name comes from a debate with settlers where a frustrated farmer said, ‘Why not name it ‘Why Not’ and then we can go home?”
Devil’s Kettle: Minnesota’s Devil’s Kettle Falls has one side that tumbles down a two-step stone embankment and continues on like a normal waterfall. The other side vanishes into a deep hole and disappears — apparently forever.
Mooselookmeguntic Lake: Tied for being the longest place name in the United States with 17 letters. This Maine lake is framed by mountains and has great deep water trout and salmon fishing.
Save the earth? Alaska Airlines offering water in boxes
To reduce plastic waste on airplanes, Alaska Airlines is replacing e single-use plastic bottles with Boxed Water’s 92% plant-based cartons. This will help remove 7.2 million plastic bottles a year, the equivalent of approximately 98,000 lbs of plastic.
Boxed Water is already served on Alaska’s Horizon Air-operated flights and is expanding to all Alaska flights throughout the summer, beginning this week with First Class.
The airline is also resuming its program of recycling cans, bottles, and water bottles starting May 19. The program has been on hold for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline’s employees first started a recycling program more than 15 years ago.
MIA Airport rolls out wheelchair charging stations
Just in time for Mobility Awareness Month, Miami International Airport (MIA) is celebrating the installation of 10 new wheelchair charging stations. If you use a wheelchair or travel with someone who does, you will be pleased to know there are now 10 charging spots at MIA: eight post-security and two pre-security.
Starting May 10, MIA will also have an on-site COVID-19 vaccination site that will be accessible to travelers who live and work in Florida, as well as to airport employees and family and friends of airport employees.
Now you can reserve your time on the TSA line at SEA Airport
(This is a slightly different version of a story we wrote for USA TODAY)
The good news: air travel is picking up.
On Sunday May 2, TSA screened more than 1.6 million passengers, the most since March 12, 2020.
The bad news: long wait times at security checkpoints may be back coming back too.
At times during spring break, the lines to go through the security checkpoint stretched into the food court at Orlando International Airport (MCO). At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, lines snaked across the sky bridge and into the parking garage.
So too could a new pilot program that debuts Tuesday at SEA airport.
The program, called SEA Spot Saver, will attempt to streamline wait times by offering digital reservations, or “virtual queuing” for passengers to go through the screening process.
Here’s how it works
The program will operate daily through August 31, 2021, from 4 a.m. to noon (the airport’s peak travel period) at two checkpoints (2 and 5) and offer expedited screening to general screening passengers for free. No membership or account sign-up is required.
Expedited, non-reserved screening remains available to passengers enrolled in Trusted Traveler programs such as TSA PreCheck and CLEAR.
SEA Spot Saver will be testing two options.
Alaska Airlines passengers can sign up for a security checkpoint appointment online up to 24 hours before their scheduled departure time or once they are in the terminal.
The second option, operated by VHT, is for passengers flying on Delta Air Lines and all other carriers. This option allows passengers to begin booking a checkpoint appointment time by scanning a QR code once they are in the terminal. Passengers will show their emailed reservation appointment at checkpoint 2.
Both options give passengers a 15 minute window for their appointment times. The Alaska Airlines option lets you book up to 12 passengers in a group. The Delta/other airlines option lets you book a group of up to 10.
SEA will be the only airport in the United States currently testing a “virtual queuing” system as a solution for crowded general screening lines.
Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL) has offered screening reservations since 2014 through SecureXpress, but that program is currently on hold due to the pandemic.
“The pandemic has left very few passengers coming and going through YUL,” said YUL spokeswoman Anne-Sophie Hamel via email, “As such, there is no line-up to get through security, and the service is simply not useful right now.”
From October 2020 through April 30, 2021, Denver International Airport (DEN) piloted the VeriFLY app and program. Passengers could book a timed checkpoint appointment, but they also had to file health data information before arrival and get temperature checks on site.
Port of Seattle officials say that after the pilot program is completed late this summer, they will evaluate usage, customer feedback, and line efficiency and, if successful, launch a broader program.
“These are the innovations and ideas that we love to make our guest experiences more convenient and stress-free, especially as more people get back flying again,” said Charu Jain, Alaska’s senior vice president of merchandising and innovation. “With very little effort, guests can lean on technology to get them through the security process quicker.”