The Height of Hospitality: A Review of the Four Seasons Seoul

The Height of Hospitality: A Review of the Four Seasons Seoul

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Toronto-based luxury hotel chain Four Seasons joined Seoul’s hotel scene in late 2015 in the city’s Jongno-gu District, a central area with plenty of government and corporate offices. It also happened to be the location of several work meetings I had on a recent trip to the South Korean capital — the Four Seasons was ideally located, so I decided to check it out.

In This Post

Booking

For years, I have heard rumors that Four Seasons was thinking about launching a loyalty program. To date, I am only aware of an invitation-only guest recognition program for high-value repeat customers.

Having not received such an invitation (yet!), I decided to see if Four Seasons Seoul was part of the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program. The program offers the following benefits for all hotels in the portfolio: a room upgrade upon arrival, subject to availability (Centurion cardholders can get an upgrade confirmed at time of booking; daily breakfast for two people; guaranteed 4pm late checkout; noon check-in, when available; complimentary Wi-Fi; and a unique property amenity (typically a food-and-beverage or spa credit).

Thankfully, Four Seasons Seoul was part of the portfolio, with rates starting at 370,000 won (approximately $330) per night. For the unique property amenity, Four Seasons Seoul offered a $100 food-and-beverage credit (which was explained as a 110,000-won credit at check-in).

I booked a corner premier king room for 420,000 won (approximately $375). Though the Four Seasons website usually offers a prepaid rate around 10 to 15% cheaper than the regular rate, the regular rates generally match the availability presented on the Fine Hotels & Resorts portal. Since the benefits above were important to me, I stuck with booking through FHR. I booked my stay before Amex upped the earnings for those who book FHR stays online with The Platinum Card® from American Express, so I only earned 1 Membership Rewards points per dollar. Soon, however, you should be able to earn 5x points for your stay when you book through FHR online.

Location

While Jongno-gu may not have the high-end retail of the Gangnam District (home to the city’s Park Hyatt and Le Meridien properties) or the culinary diversity or nightlife of Itaewon (home of the Grand Hyatt), Jongno-gu has plenty of history, including Gyeongbokgung Palace, a collection of hundreds of buildings dating back to the 14th century spread over nearly 100 acres. The hotel was about a 45-minute cab ride from Incheon Airport (ICN).

Check-in

Like much of Jongno-gu, the hotel’s exterior felt very business-like.

The interior, however, was gorgeous. That said, the first thing I noticed about the interior was an aroma: I couldn’t quite place it, but it was spicy and earthy. I loved entering the hotel every time. The lobby was sleek and warm, though a bit dark.

To the right of the entrance was a comfortable seating area surrounding an indoor fire pit.

Beyond check-in was a two-level atrium, which had beautiful flower arrangements each day. Perhaps not coincidentally, the opposite side of the lobby housed, among other things, a flower shop.

The employees handling check-in were supremely polite, professional and polished. They proactively went through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits with me and told me that I’d been upgraded from an already generous 603 square feet to a studio suite (807 square feet).

Room

My room, 2222, was on the 22nd floor, as you might imagine.

The hotel’s studio suites occupied a specific single line in the hotel from the 18th through the 29th floors. These rooms had a fairly unique shape to them: The main trunk of the hotel was L-shaped, and the studio suites were in the crook of the L, facing northwest.

The room was long and large.

Immediately to the right was a walk-in closet the size of many hotel bathrooms.

A small bathroom with commode sat between the hallway and the bathroom, which had a shower with rainfall shower head that would definitely pass the TPG shower test, tub and double sinks.

Past the bathroom was the bedroom and large adjacent sitting area with a great desk. The desk area had its own TV.

Next to the desk was a tray with commonly needed office supplies and helpful local information, including a jogging map.

A welcome note from the hotel’s general manager, along with pastries, a plate of fresh fruit and a bottle of raspberry tea, were waiting for me when I arrived.

I enjoyed the view. Being on a higher floor helped.

At the end of the hallway was a Nespresso machine, a minibar and a sink. I loved the simplicity of the cups and plates. The minibar was well-stocked.

At the end of the hotel’s hallway, looking north, was a great view of Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Food and Beverage

The Four Seasons Seoul had seven main dining options: Yu Yuan, a one-Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant featuring impressive Peking duck; Boccalino (Italian); Kioku, a stunning sushi spot with large atrium; Maru, which offered bit of everything, on the lobby level; Confections, a cafe with coffee, tea and sweets on the lobby level; Market Kitchen, a large space one floor below the lobby, featuring a buffet (this is also where the Fine Hotels & Resorts free breakfast credit was applied); and Charles H., a hidden speakeasy one floor below the lobby (if you can’t find it, staff will gladly point you in the right direction!), with cocktails organized by different parts of the world.

During my stay, I visited Yu Yuan, Maru, Confections, Charles H. and the Market Kitchen. Yu Yuan was good, but after sampling my fair share of Peking duck in Manhattan’s Chinatown over the past 15 years or so, I left wondering whether it really deserved a Michelin star. Charles H. was a lot of fun, and the cocktails were excellent. The head bartender, Lorenzo Antinori, from Rome, walked around on a busy night asking how patrons were enjoying their drinks.

Maru and Confections were on the lobby level on either side of the south entrance to the hotel. There were a couple of mornings when I had a coffee at Maru after breakfast downstairs, since Maru had natural light, making it a nice spot to catch up on news. It also had the feel of a library.

I did not actually eat anything from Confections (I did try the La Colombe coffee), but the offerings were tempting. When I took these pictures early in the morning, none of the pastries were out for the day.

I started every morning during my work trip in the Market Kitchen, since that’s where the breakfast buffet was. The entrance was just around the corner from the check-in desks.

At the bottom of the stairs, the room opened up to a small wine shop and a raised seating area that was never in use while I was there.

To the left was the main dining room, circled by maybe the most extensive buffet I’ve seen in a hotel, including fresh fruit, pastries, yogurt and granola cups, salads, dim sum, sushi, your typical Western options (including an omelette station, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, etc.) and — my favorite! — a DIY bibimbap area.

Perhaps my favorite part about the Market Kitchen was what was underneath the floor. My understanding, based on what hotel staff explained to me, is that during construction of the hotel, workers uncovered ancient Korean ruins, so the hotel put glass floors in so that visitors could see. Certain artifacts were also on display.

Amenities

While I did not have ample time to check out all of the Four Seasons Seoul’s amenities, I did have time to check out the gym, pool and an indoor golf simulator called the Golf Experience. In the warmer months, there is also Garden Terrace on the hotel’s 15th floor, where they serve burgers and drinks, but it was not yet open during my stay.

The gym, pool and spa were spread across three floors of the hotel. The gym and pools were on the ninth floor. The gym was massive — nearly 9,000 square feet — and open 24 hours a day.

At the entrance of the gym were fresh oranges and lemon water.

Between the gym area and the pool area was a small cafe/juice bar, which was not yet open when I was there around 5am.

Beyond the cafe/juice bar was an entrance to the pools and sauna. The main pool was a three-lane lap pool. There was a separate vitality pool and a plunge pool for kids.

There was also a “panoramic sauna.” I’m not really a sauna guy, so I’m assuming this was just a clear-walled sauna with views of the pool and ninth-floor windows.

I also took a few photos of the waiting area for the Golf Experience on the 10th floor, though the patrons seemed to be taking their practice time in the simulator fairly seriously, so I did not snap any photos in the actual simulator itself.

Overall Impression

The Four Seasons Seoul was a special treat. I could easily heap plenty of praise on the rooms, dining and amenities, but the service is what stood out to me. Staff were always warm and welcome, and seemed eager to make my stay as good as it could be. If I called the front desk with a specific need, like additional adapters for my electronics, someone came within two minutes. The evening I arrived, they were also kind enough to expedite pressing of a suit I needed the next day. So the staff at the Four Seasons Seoul deserves significant credit for making the hotel feel as much like home as it could for my stay there.

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November 18, 2018 at 12:16AM

New Evidence Emerges of Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica’s Role in Brexit

New Evidence Emerges of Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica’s Role in Brexit

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For two years, observers have speculated that the June, 2016, Brexit campaign in the U.K. served as a petri dish for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign in the United States. Now there is new evidence that it did. Newly surfaced e-mails show that the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Cambridge Analytica, the Big Data company that he worked for at the time, were simultaneously incubating both nationalist political movements in 2015.

Emma Briant, an academic expert on disinformation at George Washington University, has unearthed new e-mails that appear to reveal the earliest documented role played by Bannon in Brexit. The e-mails, which date back to October of 2015, show that Bannon, who was then the vice-president of Cambridge Analytica, an American firm largely owned by the U.S. hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, was in the loop on discussions taking place at the time between his company and the leaders of Leave.EU, a far-right nationalist organization. The following month, Leave.EU publicly launched a campaign aimed at convincing British voters to support a referendum in favor of exiting the European Union. The U.K. narrowly voted for the so-called Brexit in June, 2016. The tumultuous fallout has roiled the U.K. ever since, threatening the government of the Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May.

Bannon did not respond to requests for comment. But his name and private e-mail address appear on the chain of three e-mails in October, 2015, between Brittany Kaiser, the director of program development at Cambridge Analytica, and Arron Banks, who headed the Leave.EU campaign and referred to himself in the title of his memoir as one of “The Bad Boys of Brexit.” Banks could not be reached for comment regarding the e-mails, which were first published Saturday by the British Web site openDemocracy.

The precise role played by foreign entities in promoting and possibly funding Brexit has been clouded in mystery and controversy. British law forbids foreign contributions to its political campaigns—just as U.S. law bars foreign campaign contributions. The laws are designed to prevent international manipulation of domestic affairs. Executives working for Cambridge Analytica, which filed for bankruptcy this spring, have categorically denied that the firm was paid to do any work for the Leave.EU campaign. The new e-mails do not contradict that, but show that, even if the firm was not paid for its services, it laid some of the early groundwork for the Leave.EU campaign. The e-mails show that Banks and others in the Leave.EU leadership met with Cambridge Analytica executives in 2015, and discussed what Banks called a “two-stage process” that would “get CA”—Cambridge Analytica—“on the team.”

In an e-mail dated October 24, 2015, Banks also discussed tasking Cambridge Analytica with helping him raise funds through the U.S. for the Leave.EU campaign. In a note to the Cambridge Analytica executives with whom he had met, Banks wrote, “It’s clear that major donors are sitting on the fence, but we aim to do something about that.” Banks returns to the topic later in the note, adding, “We would like CA to come up with a strategy for fund raising in the states and engaging companies and special interest groups that might be affected by TTIP”—the pending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Banks did not address the potential illegality of direct foreign donations, but suggested a strategy that might circumvent the letter of the campaign-finance laws, if not their intent. Banks suggested enlisting Cambridge Analytica’s help in reaching out to Americans “with family ties to the UK.” Evidently, by targeting Americans with British relatives, the hope was that they could avoid campaign-finance-law violations. He suggested that Cambridge Analytica, which boasted of having access to two hundred and thirty million Americans’ voter-registration data, as well as other personal information, could be solicited “to raise money and create SM [social media] activity.”

The following day, a Cambridge Analytica staffer sent an e-mail back to Banks, again with Bannon included on the chain, suggesting that the firm was on board with the idea of developing a proposal that would include “US-based fundraising strategies.”

Whether foreign funds secretly supported the Brexit movement has become the focus of intense speculation and investigation in the U.K. The British probes, in many respects, are parallel to the Robert Mueller investigation of possible Russian support for Trump’s 2016 campaign. Banks has drawn particular scrutiny because his business spent some nine million pounds supporting the Brexit campaign, making him the country’s single largest political-campaign donor by far, despite questions about whether he had the personal wealth to contribute that much on his own. Banks has insisted that his contributions were legal, and that foreign sources, including Russia, contributed no funds. But multiple British agencies have launched inquiries, including a criminal investigation into Banks’s role by the National Crime Agency, the U.K.’s equivalent to the F.B.I.

Brittany Kaiser, the former executive at Cambridge Analytica whose name appears on the new e-mails, has since become something of a whistle-blower, exposing the company’s role in the Brexit campaign to the press. Reached through a spokeswoman, she declined to comment.

While the e-mail chain includes Bannon, there is no evidence that he read or commented on the exchange between the Leave.EU leaders and the Cambridge Analytica executives. In the fall of 2015, Bannon was busy setting up a new office for Cambridge Analytica in Alexandria, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and pitching the firm’s services to Republican candidates, including Donald Trump. The firm initially worked for Ted Cruz’s Presidential campaign. But, when Trump won the Republican nomination, the Mercer family, which had financially supported Trump’s Presidential bid, insisted that Trump put Bannon in charge of the campaign and bring in Cambridge Analytica, in which the family was heavily invested, as well.

Executives at Cambridge Analytica claimed that they had access to unprecedented quantities of advanced “psychographic” data that enabled the Trump campaign to micro-target its pitch to voters. But, this past May, the company filed for bankruptcy in the wake of allegations—denied by Cambridge Analytica executives—that it had improperly obtained millions of people’s personal data from Facebook, without the users’ permission, in violation of the company’s regulations.

The possibility that both Brexit and the Trump campaign simultaneously relied upon the same social-media company and its transgressive tactics, as well as some of the same advisers, to further far-right nationalist campaigns, set off alarm bells on both sides of the Atlantic. Damian Collins, a member of Parliament, and chair of its Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which held an inquiry into fake news, told the Observer, which has broken much of the news about Cambridge Analytica in the U.K., that the new e-mails “suggest that the role of Bannon and Mercer is far deeper and more complex than we realised. There’s a big question about whether Mercer’s money was used in the Brexit campaign and it absolutely underscores why Britain needs a proper Mueller-style investigation. There are direct links between the political movements behind Brexit and Trump. We’ve got to recognise the bigger picture here. This is being coordinated across national borders by very wealthy people in a way we haven’t seen before.”

The American investigations into foreign interference in Trump’s election, and British probes into Brexit, have increasingly become interwoven. The role of the Russian Ambassador to the U.K., Alexander Yakovenko, has reportedly been the subject of interest both to Mueller’s investigators and to those in the U.K., who have examined his relationship to Banks. The role of Nigel Farage, the former leader of the far-right, Euroskeptic U.K. Independence Party, who has been an ally of Bannon and Trump, has also reportedly stirred the interest of investigators in both countries, especially after he was spotted in 2017 leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, in which Julian Assange has taken refuge. Assange’s media platform, WikiLeaks, published many of the e-mails stolen by Russia from the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 election season.

How and whether all of these pieces fit together is the subject of Mueller’s investigation, but the lack of a similar single, overarching investigation in the U.K. has led critics to call for one. Emma Briant, for instance, who has submitted the new e-mails to the British government for further investigation, told openDemocracy that “this evidence shows that Banks was seeking foreign funding for Brexit from the very beginning.” She argued that the U.K. inquiry, like the U.S. one, needed to follow the money and the potential manipulation of public opinion as nationalist policies rose on both sides of the Atlantic.

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November 18, 2018 at 12:15AM

What You Need to Know — and Do — Before New Chase Business Card Features Roll Out

What You Need to Know — and Do — Before New Chase Business Card Features Roll Out

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Chase sent out a Secure Message to business cardholders this week announcing new features coming to Chase business cards on December 9, 2018. While many of these changes are incremental improvements, Chase business cardholders that have been keeping track of expenses through Chase’s website will need to act before the change goes into effect in order to save their data.

The most notable improvement is that Chase business cardholders will soon be able to “clearly see purchases associated with specific cards on your account.” This is an overdue improvement which should help businesses with multiple authorized users more easily keep track of expenses.

In addition, Chase will allow memos up to 200 characters long and will be adding new expense categories “that are more aligned to businesses.” Indeed, the current list of categories on my Chase business card includes categories like “Family Expense,” “Home Repair” and “Pet Care,” which aren’t typical business expense categories.

For example, here’s a selection of the current expense options on my Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card:

Here’s the full list of announced improvements:

  • Ability to view pending transaction status.
  • Ability to clearly see purchases associated with specific cards on your account (last 4 digits of card shown on each transaction).
  • Ability to choose from expense categories that are more aligned to businesses.
  • Ability to add a longer memo to your transaction details (up to 200 characters).
  • Option to filter and view transactions for the last 24 months of statements.
  • Ability to download Quarterly Reports with the new expense categories.
  • Ability to use the new Spend Report that features year-end summary and year-to-date filters with expense categories.

Here’s the full secure message that I received this week, which, strangely, Chase seems to be sending to personal cards account logins instead of business card account logins:

The one piece of action that business cardholders need to complete in the next three weeks is downloading current “memos and expense categories” before the changes take effect on December 9, 2018. It’s unclear how this change will be handled, but it seems possible that all existing memos and expense categories may be wiped. This would be especially problematic for business cardholders that have dutifully been keeping track of expenses through their online account.

Katie and I received this enhancement notification for our Ink Business Cash and Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business credit cards. However, it’s likely that all Chase business cards are going to be transitioned — including popular cards like the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit CardInk Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card and co-branded cards such as the United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card.

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November 17, 2018 at 11:31PM

Inside Paine Field’s New Passenger Terminal North of Seattle

Inside Paine Field’s New Passenger Terminal North of Seattle

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Paine Field-Snohomish County Airport (PAE) in Everett, Washington, is the longtime home of Boeing’s Everett Factory – the largest building in the world – but lacked commercial passenger service north of Seattle even though many of the world’s airlines fly to and from the airport for maintenance and deliveries.


That is about to change now as Propeller Airports reached an agreement with Snohomish County to build a two-gate passenger terminal though a Public Private Partnership (P3). On Thursday, Alaska Airlines announced that tickets are on sale for 18 daily nonstop flights between Paine Field-Snohomish County Airport (PAE) in Everett, Washington, and eight West Coast cities.


Alaska’s service is scheduled to start Feb. 11, 2019, subject to government approval, between Everett’s Paine Field and Las Vegas (LAS). Flights to other destinations will roll out not long thereafter: Los Angeles (LAX), Orange County (SNA), Phoenix (PHX), Portland (PDX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO) and San Jose (SJC). With six gate slots, United Airlines is also planning to operate flights from PAE to San Francisco (SFO) and Denver (DEN).

I got a tour of the new $40-million dollar airport terminal on Thursday morning for The Points Guy with Propeller Airport’s chief executive officer Brett Smith. Smith wants to create a great passenger experience and “bring civility back” to flying. From an easier check-in experience to not having to drive down to Sea-Tac the night before for fear of missing an important flight due to Seattle’s traffic, passengers can spend less time waiting around the airport.


The airport is located 20 miles north of the Space Needle in downtown Seattle. Parking will cost $40/day for valet, while premium self-parking will be $30/day and $20/day for economy self-parking. (For comparison, self-parking at Sea-Tac is currently $37 for up to 24 hours of “Terminal Direct” parking and $30 for 24 hours of general parking.) There will also be options for concierge services and Propeller Airports is looking at using technology such as an RFID tag or license plate readers to make the process even more seamless for frequent travelers as they arrive and depart.

For budget-conscious passengers and employees the Swift Green Line powered by Community Transit will offer a public transit option with rapid bus service between Canyon Park/Bothell and Boeing/Paine Field every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes at night and on weekends.

For those looking to use rideshare services, Uber and Lyft will be supported as well. Details are in the works with major rental car providers for rental car options.

The terminal was designed by Fentress Architects – known for Denver International and Seoul Incheon – with an attention to detail found in materials such as glass imported from Germany and an acoustic ceiling in the check-in area from Switzerland. Smith is attentive to such details — down to the level of gloss for the polished concrete floor — so agents will be able to communicate easily with passengers.

The exact placement and layouts of check-in kiosks will be analyzed with airlines to make sure passengers and baggage can flow smoothly.

The airline counters will feature countertops to be installed soon with marble sourced from Italy.

The main flight display board was still being installed when I visited. It will be programmed to resemble the classic split-flap Solari boards.


Security will feature TSA Pre-Check, but not CLEAR. With only 60 feet from the valet to security it doesn’t seem like such a service would even be necessary.


Walking up the stairs or the accessible ramp from security you are welcomed into the main terminal “living room” space with views of the tarmac. On either side of this main space are each of the two gates along with additional seating in front of those gates.

This space reminded me of an international business class lounge, with comfortable seating and fireplaces.

Dividers will be installed along the couch to give passengers more personal space.

The display cases will be filled with more memorabilia from the airport’s history but already feature photographs from the WWII era of soldiers at the airport.

A model featuring the first Boeing 747 livery, which took flight from Paine Field on February 9, 1969.

So while there won’t be any “lounges” for credit card holders or airline clubs, I can see this being a better overall environment where essentially the entire terminal feels like a lounge. Hopefully this would be better than my experience Thursday afternoon at Sea-Tac, where I found people waiting outside to enter a crowded Amex Centurion Lounge and was told I’d have to wait 3 hours prior to departure (and then told to wait another 15 minutes after returning) before entering. Likewise, with an airport such as this people won’t be waiting for long layovers for connecting flights. Those departing should be able to arrive just minutes and not hours before a departing flight, further reducing congestion.

The display cases will be filled with more memorabilia from the history of the airport originally built in 1936 as part of the Works Project Administration (WPA).

Opposite the main window of the air field will be the Upper Case wine bar that will be installed, left, as well as table seating.

Orchids stood on some of the tables along with reading material. Additional small tables may be installed in some seating areas to give passengers a place for beverages or laptops.

The materials of these low chairs felt soft to the touch, with power ports hidden alongside the tables. I could easily see myself relaxing in one for a while, watching a variety of aircraft visit Boeing.

Closer to the gates is more traditional style seating with a total of 325 seats available for passengers – all available with power outlets. I found these seats comfortable and not too stiff.

The power options even include USB-C power ports at these seats with TUF USB Type A+C ports to enable fast charging.


While much of the terminal looks finished food and beverage facilities including a bar and restaurant are still being installed.

Seattle based Beecher’s will provide food and beverage, with a Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Cafe serving grilled-to-order sandwiches, hot soups and Beecher’s “World’s Best” mac & cheese.

Another view of the tarmac from the A1 gate seating area.

Propeller Airports’ CEO Brett Smith talked about the decision to use jet bridges with windows, in favor of their design as well as being less stressful and confining to wait in when boarding the aircraft – even though they cost more.

While much of the terminal is complete there is still work to be finished before flights start. And if you look very carefully you can see the Boeing Dreamlifter on the horizon!

Looking across from one jet bridge to another.

Above will be the Upper Case wine bar, which will feature local Pacific Northwest wines, a variety of cocktails and the ability to order food from Beecher’s cafe.

Smith plans to keep little touches like flowers on the countertops – not just for media preview days.


As requested from my post in the TPG Lounge there are indeed refillable water bottle stations.


Bathrooms are all individual rooms rather than traditional stalls, with ADA compliant facilities.

Automated security exit gates.

When you disembark your flight the goal is to have you from the plane to your car in less than five minutes.

In the baggage claim area you can check in with the concierge while valet parked cars will be angle-parked, waiting for passenger’s return. Smith envisions the ability to have your groceries waiting for you at the airport via an online grocery service, rather than coming home to an empty refrigerator. In the meantime, Cafe Vita will also have grab-and-go options for food, coffee and hand pulled espresso drinks in the arrival area.

Smith, above, talked about how he believes success for this project means making the experience the best it possibly can be for passengers and is open to hearing feedback and suggestions. We even talked about how the credit card advertisements from airlines onboard can at times reach an absurd level. And while he has no control over what happens on board the aircraft, he is aware that any sort of advertising inside the terminal has to be done carefully as to not stress passengers out and visually assault them. While food and beverage options are under construction, I asked if he had looked into offering a restaurant dining credit program via Priority Pass, Amex or other premium membership cards and Smith sounded interested in exploring what could be done there.

While saving time in traffic will be the most important factor for many, perhaps the greatest draw for some #AVGeeks will be the chance to see aircraft under construction like this USAF KC-46 refueling tanker sitting on the tarmac – while a Cessna 172N passes by.

Do you live north of Seattle and look forward to flying from Paine Field? Let us know what questions you might have and your impressions of the terminal in the comments below.

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November 17, 2018 at 11:02PM

See If You’re Targeted to Get 20% Cashback on Upcoming Hyatt Stays

See If You’re Targeted to Get 20% Cashback on Upcoming Hyatt Stays

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Just this week, Chase rolled out a new program called Chase Offers, giving Chase cardholders the ability to earn statement credits for spending with certain merchants. So far, many of the offers aren’t that exciting, such as getting 10% back at ProFlowers.

However, a tempting offer popped up today offering targeted cardholders the chance to score 20% cashback on upcoming Hyatt purchases:


Image posted to Twitter by user @Z6CG4dF8idG9EL

While 20% cashback sounds great, there are quite a few limitations to this deal that should be kept in mind:

  • Must book through Hyatt.com; not valid on third-party purchases
  • Only valid on stays paid for and completed between registration and Dec. 16, 2018, meaning you have less than a month to use it
  • The cashback is capped at $51
  • You must spend at least $100 on qualifying purchases to earn any credit

Unlike the longer validity periods of Amex Offers, the limitations mean the promo isn’t likely to be useful for many cardholders — unless you already have a stay booked directly with Hyatt for the next month or have flexible travel plans.

The Chase cardholder who posted about this offer on Twitter notes that it was available on his World of Hyatt Credit Card, which means that he’ll be able to earn 4x Hyatt points from the purchase in addition to getting 20% cashback through this offer.

Here are the full terms of the offer:

Stay at a Hyatt hotel in the US and earn 20% back on your purchase when you spend between $100 and $255, with a $51.00 back maximum! Offer expires 12/16/2018. Payment for your completed stay must be made directly to Hyatt on or before offer expiration date. Offer not valid at Hyatt Oasis properties. Offer valid one time only on bookings made through hyatt.com. Offer not valid on third-party purchases.

Chase Offers are only showing up for certain users and on certain cards. For example, TPG contributor Katie Genter is targeted for offers on her IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, but not her Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or United MileagePlus Card. Meanwhile, Chase Offers still isn’t available in my Chase app.

To see if you’re targeted for this or other Chase Offers, open your Chase app and log into your account. Scroll to the bottom of the homepage past all of your cards, “Credit score” and “Open an account” options. If your account is eligible, a “Chase Offers” widget will appear just before the disclosures section. Click the “See all offers” button to load the Chase Offers page.

H/T: Miles to Memories

Featured image courtesy of Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall

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November 17, 2018 at 10:41PM

News: World Ski Awards winners revealed at glittering gala ceremony in Kitzbühel, Austria

News: World Ski Awards winners revealed at glittering gala ceremony in Kitzbühel, Austria

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The world’s finest ski tourism brands have been unveiled at a red-carpet gala ceremony in Kitzbühel, Austria.

The leading figureheads, decision-makers and innovators of the ski industry gathered at the five-star A-ROSA Kitzbühel for the World Ski Awards 2018 to find out who among them had been crowned the finest in their fields.

Winners at the gala ceremony included Europe’s highest resort, Val Thorens, voted World’s Best Ski Resort thanks to its vast network of snowsure slopes.

The perfect balance of contemporary design and Swiss tradition led to W Verbier collecting the trophy for World’s Best Ski Hotel, while Chalet Les Anges in Zermatt was named World’s Best Ski Chalet.

In the newcomer categories, understated luxury and home-from-home comforts helped Fahrenheit Seven Courchevel scoop World Best New Ski Hotel, while the unrivalled ski-in ski-out convenience of Chalet des Cascades (Les Arcs) led to it winning World’s Best New Ski Chalet.

In a special category to acknowledge his pioneering work revolutionising the Argentine ski resort of Chapelco, Juan Cruz Adrogué was awarded the trophy for Outstanding Contribution to Ski Tourism.

Taking place at A-ROSA Kitzbühel for the sixth consecutive year, World Ski Awards 2018 brought together representatives from ski nations across Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Australasia.

The prize-giving ceremony marked the climax of a three-day itinerary that included exclusive networking events, gourmet dinners, site-seeing tours and alpine activities.

World Ski Awards is globally recognised as the leading programme in the global ski sector. Votes are cast by industry professionals and the public in a range of categories, including best resorts, hotels, chalets and tour operators.

Sion Rapson, managing director, World Ski Awards, said: “Kitzbühel, the home of legends, has proven a world-class host on what has been a magnificent evening of triumph for the winter sports hospitality industry.

“We have had the privilege of recognising the leading organisations from across the world and my congratulations to each of them.”

For more information about the World Ski Awards, visit the official website

World Ski Awards

World Ski Awards – the only global initiative to recognise, reward and celebrate excellence in the ski hospitality industry – is the sister organisation of World Travel Awards currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Launched in 2013, World Ski Awards aims to drive up standards within the ski tourism industry by rewarding the organisations that are leaders in their field.

Votes are cast by professionals working within the ski industry – senior executives, travel buyers, tour operators, agents and media – and by the public (ski tourism consumers).

Votes are submitted online at the World Ski Awards website.

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November 17, 2018 at 10:09PM

Another American Citizen Killed While Visiting Mexico

Another American Citizen Killed While Visiting Mexico

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Patrick Braxton-Andrew, a North Carolina native, was confirmed to have been killed by a Mexican cartel member while in a remote part of the country last month. The news comes weeks after Braxton-Andrew went missing while visiting the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Braxton-Andrew was traveling to visit his brother in Mexico City after a short trip to a popular point of interest, Copper Canyon, in Chihuahua. Mexican officials believe that it was in the remote area surrounding Copper Canyon that Braxton-Andrew was murdered. Braxton-Andrew’s death is part of a startling trend in increased violence against tourists visiting Mexico.

Braxton-Andrew was a Spanish teacher living in North Carolina. Fluent in both English and Spanish, Braxton-Andrew loved to travel. In a statement on Facebook, Braxton-Andrew’s family said the following, “Patrick died doing what he loved — traveling and meeting people. Join us in celebrating his life as he would want us to do. We will always remember Patrick and his joy for life. We love you PBA.”


Patrick Braxton-Andrew (via Facebook)

Braxton-Andrew was first reported missing by his family when he did not show up in Mexico City to connect with his brother. Mexican officials searched for weeks for the missing US citizen and determined that he had been executed by cartel narcotrafficker José Noriel Portilo Gil, aka “El Chueco”, a prominent member of the Sinaloa cartel, which is based in the state  of Sinaloa just south of Copper Canyon. Now, the family has stated that they will continue to search for the body of their loved one.

While the governor of Chihuahua issued a statement saying, “not only are we going to find Patrick’s body, but we are going to do him justice and deliver exemplary punishment to this delinquent and his gang”, Braxton-Andrew death is just one of 75 confirmed annual homicides involving US citizens. Many of these murders have gone unsolved.

Map of Homicides Involving US Citizens in Mexico (Image from The Houston Chronicle)
Map of homicides involving US citizens in Mexico (Image from The Houston Chronicle)

This year, a series of grisly slayings in the popular resort town of Cancun promoted renewed travel advisories urging US citizens to take extreme caution while traveling in Mexico, regardless of what state they plan to visit. Just days ago, a local CBS affiliate confirmed that a Hermosa Beach resident vacationing in Playa del Carmen, near Cancun, was killed over “shoes, wallet, and some pocket change”.

The US Department of State has issued a travel advisory instructing American’s traveling to Mexico to “exercise increased caution.” The Department of State has even increased the advisory level to “Do Not Travel” for 5 especially dangerous Mexican states.

H/T: The Washington Post

Featured image via STR/AFP/Getty Images.

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November 17, 2018 at 10:01PM

These Are the Chase Cards Going Contactless First

These Are the Chase Cards Going Contactless First

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In case you missed it, Chase announced in early November that it would start issuing contactless credit cards starting later this year. While this card technology has become commonplace internationally, Chase is one of the first major US credit card issuers to embrace the technology. And it’s doing so in a big way by transitioning all credit cards to finally have the ability to make contactless payments.

Shortly after the announcement, cardholders reported that Chase customer service representatives said that customers would be able to request contactless cards starting November 15. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I called Chase on a few of my cards to request a new contactless credit card, and I received a universal response: there’s no way to request a contactless card. Instead, the roll out is being done automatically and gradually by card type.

That said, it seems that November 15 was still a significant date, as that was when the first batch of cards were processed. I received an email on Thursday to “watch your mail this holiday season for your new contactless Iberia Visa Signature card!”

According to the Chase representative I spoke with about my Iberia Plus Credit Card, this is one of the first card types to be transitioned — although the agent could only say that the new contactless card will arrive “sometime in the fourth quarter.”

According to the Chase Contactless personal credit card website, the following cards will be transitioned in “December 2018”:

The Chase Sapphire Reserve customer service representative who I spoke with said that all Sapphire cards wouldn’t be transitioned until sometime in 2019. And the representative confirmed that there’s no way of requesting a contactless card before then. Any new cards sent before the transition will not be contactless-enabled.

Same Account Number, Different Card Details: According to the Chase customer service representatives I spoke with, the new contactless cards will have the same account number, but the new card will have a different expiration date and a different three-digit CVV code. This means that cardholders with reoccurring bill payments will need to update their information with merchants.

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November 17, 2018 at 09:35PM

Virgin Is Lending Its Name to a High-Speed Train Line in Florida

Virgin Is Lending Its Name to a High-Speed Train Line in Florida

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Richard Branson, the British billionaire who wants to transform air travel with supersonic jets, has put his sights on something decidedly more down to Earth: a passenger railroad.

Branson has agreed to make a small investment and lend the Virgin brand to Fortress Investment Group’s Florida railroad, the first privately-funded intercity passenger train to be built in the U.S. in more than a century.

The private-equity company’s Brightline, which currently operates high-speed service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, will rename itself Virgin Trains USA this month and use the brand and Virgin’s “marketing expertise” for existing and future developments, the company said Friday in a statement provided to Bloomberg News.

Branson met with Brightline chairman and Fortress co-founder Wes Edens at the company’s new station in Miami late last year to discuss Edens’ vision for a nationwide expansion, people familiar with the deal told Bloomberg News.

The Fortress project marks a major bet that train travel can be profitably revived in the U.S., where the federally subsidized Amtrak service has long held a nationwide monopoly.

Brightline currently plans to expand to Orlando and Tampa and will begin construction next year on a line linking Las Vegas to Southern California once it closes the planned acquisition of XpressWest and receives needed federal approval. Edens said in a May interview that the company sees Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte and St. Louis as potential cities that it could target with its railroad service.

The Virgin Group will make a small investment in Brightline, which will continue to be managed and operated by the company’s executive team and affiliates of Fortress. The investment would give Virgin a few percent stake in the company and will be similar to other deals it has struck in the U.S., the people familiar with the deal said.

“We transformed domestic air travel with Virgin America,” Branson said in the statement. “Tens of millions of Americans travel on the railways every day, and we have tried for over a decade to find an opportunity to provide them with that same excellent service experience.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Nathan Crooks from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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November 17, 2018 at 09:35PM

How to Travel Through the Airport with Thanksgiving Dinner

How to Travel Through the Airport with Thanksgiving Dinner

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Brace yourselves, Thanksgiving travelers: This turkey season promises to be one of the busiest yet. “We expect to be breaking into some top ten travel days in the history of TSA,” Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tells TPG, adding that she believes the booming economy and the preponderance of budget airlines are to thank. For the busy folk of the TSA, that means more people than ever may try to smuggle the contents of their Thanksgiving dinner in their carry-on this year.

“People bring turkeys—big turkeys,” Farbstein says. “At Christmastime, people bring ham. People bring fish.” Basically, she’s seen it all, and the TSA has rules for every single morsel.

Curious about what will and won’t clear security? Here’s everything you need to know.

Thumbs up: Pies and cakes

You can breathe a sigh of relief, because your signature pumpkin pie will pass muster with airport security. There’s no special packaging required — even your baking pie tin is good to go. “We do consider cakes and pies to be solids,” says Farbstein. Keep in mind, though, that your goodies may be subject to extra scrutiny from security. “We’ll do extra testing, probably. They’ll swab the box that the pie came in,” checking for explosive residue.

Thumbs down: Whipped cream canisters

Sorry, these babies will have to go in your checked baggage. Just make sure to secure the nozzles with a cap to prevent whipped cream eruptions during a cabin pressure change. Keep in mind, though, that you can only bring so many of them: TSA limits non-flammable aerosols to 68 fluid ounces per person, with each container not exceeding 17 fluid ounces. (More on those restrictions here.)

Thumbs up: Raw vegetables

The good news is that you can tote along all the potatoes your heart desires, so long as you don’t exceed your airline’s weight restrictions. The bad news is…

Thumbs down: Mashed potatoes

…once you do anything to those taters, they cease to be a solid by TSA standards. They’ll have to go in your checked luggage. There is one way to get around this rule, however….

Thumbs up: Things that are frozen

…and that’s to freeze them solid. This exception also applies to normally non-solid foodstuffs like cranberry sauce, gravy, chicken soup, creamy spreads and so on. But freeze at your own peril. “By the time you drive to the airport, find a place to park, go to the restroom and stand in the checkpoint line, it could melt,” Farbstein warns. Then you’d be out of luck, even if the meltage is minimal. “Soup is probably best in your checked bag,” she adds.

Thumbs down: Cast-iron skillets

We’re not sure why you would want to carry this super-heavy piece of kitchen hardware in the first place, but it doesn’t matter, because they’re definitely not allowed in your carry-on. If you’re serious about lugging this thing around, throw it in your checked suitcase.

Thumbs up: Vegetable peelers

If you need to peel a stack of apples IMMEDIATELY upon landing and only your favorite peeler will do, you’re in luck, because they’re allowed in your carry-on.

Thumbs down: Olives, tuna fish, or anything else packed in water

That little bit of water means your goods are totally-100-percent-absolutely-for-sure not a solid, which also means they’re subject to the same TSA rules that apply to other liquids. If you’re dead set on bringing these things in your carry-on, they’ll have to be packaged in containers 3.4 ounces or less and fit inside a single quart-sized bag.

Thumbs up: A whole turkey

Raw or frozen, there’s no restriction. Seriously, though, major respect to the brave soul willing to haul a Thanksgiving turkey around in their carry-on. Think about it this way: If a frozen turkey takes five hours to defrost, and you have a five-hour flight, then it’ll be ready to cook on arrival! Best life hack ever or best life hack ever? Just keep in mind that more unusual items, like Thanksgiving turkeys, may be subject to additional screening. “The whole idea is that we don’t want people to conceal things [in the cavity] that don’t belong there,” Farbstein says.

Thumbs down: Your heirloom carving knife

This one should be obvious: You can’t bring knives on planes in 2018. But! Your grandma’s vintage silver pie server is permissible, assuming it doesn’t have any sharp or serrated edges.

Thumbs up: Casseroles & stuffing

Green bean casseroles and big containers of cornbread stuffing — they’re both considered solids and cleared for takeoff. But Farbstein recommends that you pack them extra carefully, if only to make your own life easier. “It’s a good idea to put it in a plastic tub, and I’ve seen people throw some duct tape over it,” she says. After all, there’s no faster way to ruin your Thanksgiving (and your seatmate’s Thanksgiving, for that matter) than by spilling a whole pan of mac-and-cheese in your aisle.

If you’re still not sure about what will and what won’t pass muster with TSA, not to worry: Farbstein sent along this handy dandy cheat sheet. And if you still have questions? You can also download the free MyTSA app or use the “What can I bring?” tool on TSA’s website. If all else fails, tweet your query to the @AskTSA account, which is manned by a team of 11 people who will turn around an answer to you in less than an hour.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Food Item Carry-on or Checked Bag Checked Bag Only (If 3.4 ounces
or less)
Turkey, chicken, fish, meat, ham                                   ✔
Gravy                                    ✔
Cranberry sauce                                    ✔
Casseroles                                  ✔
Wine and other beverages                                     ✔
Creamy dips and spreads                                     ✔
Cookies, brownies                                  ✔
Cakes and pies                                 ✔
Stuffing                                 ✔
Breads/rolls                                 ✔
Mashed potatoes/sweet potatoes                                    ✔
Flour, sugar and other dry ingredients                                 ✔
Whipped cream                                    ✔
Canned vegetables or fruit with liquid (yams, green beans, corn, crushed pineapple, etc.)                                    ✔
Raw vegetables or fruit (carrots, beets,
potatoes, green beans, apples, pears, etc.)
                                ✔
Nuts                                 ✔
Salad dressing                                    ✔
Jams, jellies, preserves                                    ✔
Egg nog                                    ✔
Maple syrup                                    ✔
Candy                                  ✔
Soup                                    ✔
Jell-O molds                                    ✔

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November 17, 2018 at 09:01PM