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The Sky’s the Limit for Married Delta Pilots

We might have mentioned before but Amanda and I met at work. The chance to work with your spouse can involve some occasional challenges but it was great for us. We loved the chance to see each other every day.
That chance, unfortunately, took almost 20 years for one married couple. A few weeks before Valentine’s Day a pair of married Delta Airlines pilots based in Minneapolis-St. Paul got the chance to fly together for the first time in their 18-year-long careers.
Captain Kelly S. and First Officer Susan S. finally made their dream a reality 31 years after they first met when he was fresh out of first officer training and she was still working as a gate agent. 

“This flight was the highlight of our career,” said Kelly. “To have the opportunity to pick up a brand new jet from Airbus, observe the title transfer, and the process involved was amazing. We split the takeoff and landing. Susan did the takeoff with an authorized ‘farewell’ wing rock and I did the landing.”

The 21 years of marriage made them a perfect team flying in the sky.

“We are so incredibly grateful for our Delta family, especially for our Lead Program pilot Pat H. for making this trip happen,” said Susan. “And while we are so appreciative to fly for Delta each and every day, the journey is always that much more special when you get to fly with family.”

I miss working with Amanda. I know that special time probably won’t happen again as our careers have gone in different directions but envy anyone that gets the chance to spend more time with their spouse.

Courtesy Delta Airlines

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Restoring the Luxury to Rail Travel

The Jet Age is often considered to have begun in 1958 with the use of Boeing 707s for domestic service. It heralded the end of the end of long cross country luxury train travel. It was only a few years later — in 1963 — that the original Pennsylvania Station in New York City was demolished. In many ways that symbolized the end of train travel being viewed as a luxury method of transportation.

The Moynihan Train Hall, a massive project under construction in NYC, seeks to bring some of that elegance back. The 1913 James A. Farley Post Office, located across from the current Pennsylvania Station, is being renovated to create a public space that offers a tangible link to New York’s grand history while adding much-needed capacity to the region’s rail system. The facility will also increase the concourse space of the current rail station and relieve platform congestion, all while raising the level of the rail experience for hundreds of thousands of travelers.

The Moynihan Train Hall will offer enhanced passenger facili­ties for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) and long-distance travelers, including more spacious boarding conditions, dedicated customer waiting for areas with private restrooms, complimentary Wi-Fi in all customer spaces, a dedicated lactation lounge for nursing mothers and a combined ticketing and baggage area. A big part of this renovation is a massive light-filled atrium in the center of the building that used to house the mail sorting facility. A second glass-vaulted atrium will enclose a central corridor extending from 31st Street to 33rd Street and offer additional access to the hall as well as retail and dining space.

As part of the renovation, Amtrak is offering a new club lounge dubbed the Metropolitan Lounge to provide the club level experience that many elite air travelers enjoy at modern airports.

 “Our customers are going to love the new, modern amenities in the Moynihan Train Hall, and we expect these renderings to continue to build their excitement for the Train Hall’s opening in 2021,” said Amtrak EVP and Chief Commercial Officer Stephen Gardner.

The Metropolitan Lounge at Moynihan Train Hall will also include priority boarding, dedicated customer service agents, comfortable seating and tables with access to electrical outlets and USB ports, a dedicated family seating area, expanded food and beverage offerings and a 20-foot tall balcony overlooking the Train Hall.

We love seeing new life breathed into historic buildings and think this is a marvelous idea. We can’t wait until the project is complete at the end of next year.

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AA & A- American Airlines and Apple

American Airlines customers will have access to Apple Music to stream more than 50 million songs, playlists and music videos on any domestic fight equipped with Wi-Fi starting in February. American is the first commercial airline to provide exclusive access to Apple Music. The catch is you have to have an Apple Music subscription. If you don’t already have a subscription you will be able to connect to Wi-Fi at no cost, sign up onboard and receive free access for three months.

American Airlines currently has more than 570 aircraft with high-speed Wi-fi and hopes to complete that project by mid-2019. You will also see free streaming live television on more of their aircraft in the future. The airline currently has live access on more than 400 domestic and 155 international aircraft.  AA also understands you’ll want to be stay charged up if you’re using your mobile device for streaming so they will continue to install more power outlets for seats on all their mainline aircraft.

“Our customers want to make the most of their time when flying with us. That’s why we’re investing in high-speed Wi-Fi, the newest movies, live TV and now Apple Music,” said Janelle Anderson, Vice President of Global Marketing at American. “Providing customers with more ways to stay connected throughout each fight is one way to show we value their business and the time they spend with us.”

American Airlines has also helped curate unique city-themed playlists for their destinations as part of some exclusive content.


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Smile and Say Thank You

You read this travel blog because you travel. And you probably often travel by air. If you travel by air you have experiences, some good some bad, with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The TSA is often maligned and makes many of us frustrated as they are a barrier to where we want to go.

I too have problems with the way we do airport security. Amanda is often telling me to keep my annoyances to myself as we stand in the security line. But that is not what this post is about.

We need to make sure to give these federal workers a break. The people in the blue shirts that are standing at the end of that line looking at their thousandth passport or boarding pass of the day have spent the past month deciding to show up to work regardless of the fact they weren’t receiving a paycheck. We may think they are an inconvenience but just imagine the inconvenience of not getting a paycheck regardless of showing up to do your job. I’m not asking you to go out of your way, and they’re not allowed to accept outright gifts, but greet them with a smile and say thank you. Carry that extra measure of respect forward, even as the government reopens and their paychecks come in. It’ll make air travel a little better for everyone involved.

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We all have heard about Virgin Group’s dedication to the stewardship of the planet. The company plans to continue that tradition of environmentally friendly policies with its new venture: Virgin Voyages.

“At Virgin Voyages, we are committed to having one of the cleanest fleets at sea,” says Tom McAlpin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Voyages. “Which is why we are committed to creating the right partnerships to help make our ships as ocean-friendly as possible.”

A partnership with the Swedish company Climeon has Virgin Voyages designing a system that will convert the ships’ carbon dioxide into electricity. The average share of CO2 per cruise ship passenger is .83 tons, the same share per person for an economy ticket from London to Tokyo.

The Climeon modification units can convert enough CO2 to power 250 average US households. Virgin Voyages plans on putting six on each ship, giving them the ability to power 1500 households, letting them provide power for the cabins, suites, restaurants, and casinos without burning fuel in a separate powerplant.

“This is the biggest energy innovation in the last 100 years,” according to the Swedish Energy Agency. This is not because the technology is so advanced, according to Christopher Engman CRO/CMO for Climeon, but because the potential for its use across all industries is so large.

The ships are also planning on reducing organic waste by using a technology called microwave assisted pyrolysis (MAP) to convert organic waste to clean energy.

“We are thrilled with the prospect of working with Virgin Voyages,” says Henrik Badin, CEO of Scanship. “Their vision for environmental sustainability fits well with our ambitions to convert waste to clean energy and to eliminate pollution to sea.”

Today’s cruise ships can produce 300 tons of disposable plastic per year. Virgin Voyages has a goal of reducing plastic waste by 50%. A big part of this reduction will come from the elimination of single-use plastic products like plastic straws, water bottles, stirrers, and other food packaging.

Virgin Group, led by founder Richard Branson, is taking the next step in customer service by not only finding a way to cater and care for you but also champion the causes we care for as well, like good stewardship of our home.

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My Big Fat Greek Family Vacation, Part 2

Well, here we go again. My father made an announcement at Thanksgiving that the family would be going to Greece in 2020.  He would provide the accommodations, the rest of us just need to get there. We will be visiting the island of Andros, the same island my great grandmother was born on and the island we spent nearly a month on back in the summer of 2004.

The actual arrangements were left to me as the family travel agent. I was able to get in contact with our old friend and realtor, Yannis, who has apartments to rent on the beach in Batsi. The small apartment is four rooms: a kitchen, a small living room, a bathroom, and two small bedrooms. I think the total area was around 600-700 square feet. We managed to squeeze about 10 people in there that summer. The best part of Villa Zoe is its location. You are right across from the “Exemplarily Beach at Batsi.”

"The Exemplary Beach at Batsi"

“The Exemplary Beach at Batsi” – Andros Island, Greece

I did convince my father to book one of Yannis’ studio apartments directly above Villa Zoe as a space for overflow and the chance of some privacy.

The most important part about the trip is my father has offered to pay for all of his grandkids to make the trip and stay with them. I’m excited for them. The trip to Greece to experience our roots with my brother is one of the most defining experiences in my life. The photos that I took there were the first ones that ever wowed anyone and gave me confidence as a photographer.

I’ve been to Greece several times and the trip in ’04 was equally important. I took my girlfriend Amanda and we sat at the panorama café on Santorini and made calendars on napkins as we tried to decide when to get married. We hadn’t talked about marriage before, we just both knew deep down that was the natural course of our relationship. We each had found the one person in our lives we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with. She had also managed to live with my family in very close quarters and not run away screaming.

I don’t expect anything so profound to happen to my nephews but Greece can be a magical place. After all, it is home to Aphrodite.

I will keep everyone updated on the planning of this big trip. I am sure that my entire family will rely on me to book everything. I’m sure you can look forward to some funny stories in the future about me being the travel agent for yet another big fat Greek family vacation.

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The New GEM of Cairo

I’ve always said that one of the most amazing experiences of my life was standing under the Great Pyramid in the burial chamber and contemplating the mass sitting over my head. The trip we took to Egypt is simply one of my proudest travel moments. The Pyramids were great but the treasures were long since moved to the Egyptian Museum located in downtown Cairo on Tahrir Square. The neoclassical building was built in 1901 and has long held the great treasures of the 7000-year-old civilization.

The museum is everything you’d imagine the Egyptian museum to be but along with the glass cases and large statues, the building is showing its age. The government has done its best to retrofit the exhibits with new technology to help preserve the fragile past, but they can only do so much. The 1.5 million tourists that visit the museum each year have taken a toll on the building and it’s been decided that one of the greatest historical collections in the world needs a new home in order to preserve it for the generations to come.

The Egyptian Museum, Cairo
Attribution- CC BY 3.0

The new museum called “The Grand Egyptian Museum” (GEM) will be the new home for the 120,000 artifacts featuring state-of-the-art climate-controlled housings for the collection. The new museum will no longer be located in congested Cairo, but outside the city at Giza near the Great Pyramids. And you don’t have to worry about a gaudy structure marring up the skyline near one of the most photographed locations on the planet. The Grand Egyptian Museum has a low profile and is designed to blend into the terrain.

The GEM Construction SIte
Attribution – CC BY-SA 4.0

The site chosen for the Grand Egyptian Museum is less than a mile from the Great Pyramids, and according to the 3-D renderings, it will provide amazing views of the Giza UNESCO site. Nested between the ancient Great Pyramids and the modern city of Cairo, at the junction between the dry desert and the fertile floodplain, the Grand Museum is a portal to the past. The museum complex will be built on a plot of land measuring approximately 117 feddans, about 480,000 square meters. A feddan is 4,200 square meters or 1.038 acres, making the site around 121 acres.  The modern museum will not only be the repository for ancient artifacts but it will also contain interactive experiences for visitors to help them immerse themselves in the grand past of Egypt and its Pharos. The estimated cost of the project is $550 million.

I’m not always happy about modern architecture and truly love the classic look, but I know changes are necessary now and then in order to preserve our past. The Greeks did that with the new museum of the Acropolis with great success so we look forward to walking down the hall of the Grand Egyptian Museum one day. The GEM is slated to open in 2020.