Mikeonbehind the curtain

Watch out Santa! Airlines given permission to fly over the North Pole!

Modern airliners, like the 777, have had a restriction in place for years that limits them to fly within 180 minutes of the nearest airport. Due to continued advancements in engine design and reliability this restriction, known as ETOPS, has been increased to 330 minutes for certain models of the 777 aircraft. This opens the possibilities for new routes that haven't been flown before such as London to Hawaii. 

In other Santa themed news you can track Santa's progress right now ...

American Airlines Worldwide Double Elite Qualifying Miles Promotion

It looks like the previously announced double elite qualifying miles promotion has been extended across American Airlines' network. This is a great opporunity for some people to get triple elite qualifying miles. In an email outgoing President of AAdvantage Maya Leibman writes:

As my last act as outgoing president of the AAdvantage® program, and as a great introduction to the new president - Suzanne Rubin, we decided to give you what you've been asking for (yes, I heard you ...

Discover the Airport Exhibit at Syracuse Airport


Many airports expect you to pass the time giving them more money by reorganizing themselves into mini shopping malls. It's sad that so few airports have viewing areas or other aviation related activities to help encourage future aviation careers.  Syracuse airport is one of the exceptions, as land side they have a "Discover the Airport" exhibit with a cockpit and cross section from a 727 aircraft, airport equipment, and audio and video lessons on airport operations. The exhibit is free ...

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American Airlines offers inflight streaming video


BYOWED - that's the new slogan you may soon see on American Airlines advertising. Bring You Own Wifi Enabled Device. Now, with American Airlines' new Inflight Streaming Video you can rent movies and TV shows on demand.  Prices are currently set at the introductory price of $3.99 for a movie and $0.99 for a TV show. This streaming service is currently available on any 767-200 aircraft. This service will be rolled out to other American Airlines wifi enabled aircraft over the coming months.

Don't finish the movie in time? Don't worry,  you can finish watching the movie on the same device in the next 24 hours. An introductory video is below:

Rumor: A New American Airlines Livery


The rumor mill is back in full force to answer one of my questions regarding American Airlines purchase of Airbus A320s, specifically how will they paint the aircraft. Since Airbus aircraft come with a bonded primer and do not use Alclad, you cannot get the polished metal look that has been a staple at American for decades starting with their DC-3s.

American has always stuck by their no-paint scheme including explanations in their American Way magazine

The unpainted ...

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American Airlines Orders 460 Narrow Body Airbus A320 and Boeing 737s


It's been rumored for weeks, but American Airlines finally made the announcement this morning that they have placed an order for 460 new narrow body single-aisle aircraft. Somewhat surprisingly, the all Boeing airline has split this order between Boeing and Airbus. Additionally, American is moving at a fast past (in airline terms) to update their fleet. Their order includes:


100 new 737NG aircraft (starting in 2013) in addition to the 737-800s that have already been ...
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Lunch and Dinner on the Amtrak Coast Starlight

IMG_1233Amtrak Lunch

After touring the Amtrak Coast Starlight I had worked up an appetite. Around 2pm I was called for lunch, although the reservation was for 1:30. I didn't mind, but I assume they generally run a little late with a full train like today. I was seated with two teenagers whose family was at the table across from us. Although both boys were very well mannered, it was a little hard striking up conversation. However, they were good sports and took photos of their meals for me. The menu ...

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Amtrak Superliner, Parlour Car and Observation Car


Once onboard the train at Los Angeles Union Station, I took a quick tour of the train to explore the different types of cars on the train. This Coast Starlight train had three Superliner Sleeper Cars. The sleeping arrangements in these cars consisted of:

10 Roomettes

5 Bedrooms

1 Family Bedroom

1 Accessible Room


Aft of the sleeping cars was the Parlour Car that only first class (sleeper) passengers are ...

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Amtrak Coast Starlight: Los Angeles Union Station


After booking my Coast Starlight train ticket I flew to Los Angeles for my event. At the end of my trip I made my way from the LAX car rental counter to the train via the FlyAway bus service from LAX to Union Station. When taking the FlyAway you enter Union Station in the back then proceed past all the train tracks back into the main hall.

Coach passengers check in and queue at the boarding areas in the middle of the terminal. While first class passengers (those traveling in ...

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Amtrak Coast Starlight: Booking My Ticket


Last year I had to travel from the bay area to Los Angeles. Although my airfare from SFO-LAX was relatively cheap ($85 one way) the return airfare options were a little high ($200 plus). I kept waiting in the hopes of a VX last minute discounted price.

I also checked out Amtrak's prices on the Coast Starlight (train 14) which travels from Los Angeles to San Jose (then continues all the way to Seattle). The fare was $103 for a coach seat and there was a $131 upcharge to a private ...

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Ever had the wrong day?


Last Friday, I arrived at the airport dragging my suitcase, golf clubs, and backpack for a two week trip to see family and clients on the other coast. I tried to use the United Airlines checkin kiosk but it simply stated 'See Agent'. After handing my ID to the checkin agent, she tapped on the computer, looked up at me, and said "I don't see your reservation" smiling broadly. Due to her grin, I think she's joking, I smiled back.

We both continued to smile at each other.

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Welcome to our new bloggers and a big thank you for your feedback

In the past two months we've expanded our team of bloggers and I am very excited to introduce:

Gabrielle - whom many of you know from the Hangar Flying podcast here on upgrd.com. As a private pilot and flight attendant Gabrielle has lots of stories from both sides of the cockpit door. Her first post A Day in the Life of a Flight Attendant is a great start for anyone wondering about the "glamour" of the job. Saul, from the Hangar Flying Podcast Flying in the ...

Northwest Orient Trip Report JFK, NRT, KUL (1986)

I spent the weekend digging through old photos and found some from a trip to Kuala Lumpur in 1986. The routing was SYR-JFK (on Piedmont shortly after their acquisition of Empire Airlines) then JFK-NRT-KUL on Northwest Orient. That's right. Orient. Seeing as this trip was 25 years ago - I don't remember much. We flew in coach on the way over, but paid for an upgrade on the way back. Here are some (low quality) photos from different parts of the trip:

The gate area ...

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Photos from the 2011 Frequent Traveler Awards

Robert Wuhl Hosting the Frequent Traveler Awards

On Thursday night, the Frequent Traveler Education Foundation awarded the best hotel and airline loyalty programs for their 2010 promotions. In attendance were a number of airline, hotel and other travel industry employees. The event was held at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. Below are some photos of the event:

The event was MC'd by Robert Wuhl

Fozz delivering an award

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Get your Corporate Speak on: Travel Executive Summit

At the Travel Executive Summit luncheon during the Frequent Traveler Education Foundation series, a number of loyalty program managers spoke including:

Maya Leibman, President of AAdvantage Program, at American Airlines Jeff Foland, President of United Mileage Plus Jeff Zidell, Vice President of Hyatt Gold Passport Jeff Robertson, Vice President of Loyalty Programs, Delta Air Lines Joshua Berwitz, Vice President Membership Rewards, American Express

Randy ...

Reader and Listener Survey - We need your input!

We can use your help. As we continue to grow upgrd.com we need to learn more about you - our readers and listeners - so that we can offer promotions and events with sponsors that match your travel habits. To get started, we want to know a little bit about you including your reading and listening habits. Please take a few minutes to complete the anonymous survey. And, as always, feel free to write me directly with any suggestions or comments at [email protected]

2011 Survey 

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Looking for a job? Apply now to be an Pilot-Astronaut at Virgin Galactic

Attention all pilots and Star Trek aficionados. Today is your big day to reach for the stars and apply at Virgin Galactic to test and develop the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo spaceflight system then move onto regular spaceline operations.

Virgin Galactic is only looking for team players. And there are some other job requirements, most of which I forget now, but I can't imagine it matters much as long as you are a team player. The requirements and more details on the position can be found here.

SFO T2 Grand Opening Photos

The grand opening of SFO T2 today gave the public a chance to see the new terminal. The first flights from this terminal are not schedule for another week.

Since this is a renovation - and not a new terminal - the reveal today was a little underwhelming. The ceilings are low due to the old design and like most of SFO is jam packed with overpriced eateries and retail stores. Thankfully the seating is upgraded and power plugs are easier to find.

The checkin ...

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Rumor: US Airways to Split

US Airways and America West merged in late 2005. It was just on the heels of America West coming out of a four year bankruptcy and US Airways, at the time, was in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings. It sounded like a match made in heaven – two bankrupt airlines merging to make one big bankrupt airline.

All joking aside, it's been over five years now and the flight attendants from the two pre-merger airlines still work under separate contracts. In fact, the National Mediation ...

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"Nobody wants us to die because everybody makes money off of us."

In remarks last Friday at the CERA Conference on energy, United CEO Jeff Smisek reiterated the high costs of fuel and government mandated taxes and fees that are a burden on the airline industry. Although the airlines have lost money for several years, which means their corporate tax obligations are negligible, the amount of government fees, taxes and surcharges on airline tickets can average 20% per ticket. Which brought Smisek to speak the title of this ...