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October 21, 2009

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    NBTA San Diego

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Greetings from San Diego, California! This past week, I spoke on three panels about social media and the main thing I learned is that web writing has to be short – so I’m attempting it this week. So let’s get right to it, shall we? This week, we check in at the world’s largest business travel conference, the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), where all the airlines are strutting their new seats. They featured a slew of amazing gimmicks and speakers (including President Bill Clinton and Captain Sully) to entice. We’ll also see a couple of new hotels and restaurants that are hot and affordable. We broke up the stories to make for quick reading, so scroll down to see what interests you and then click. In addition, this week my sister Georgie Jet takes us to Yellowstone National Park and Marcela Swenson tours us around Thailand.

The 120-mile ride from Los Angeles to San Diego takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. To avoid rush hour traffic, it’s best to leave early in the morning, late in the evening or between 10am and 1pm.

Ah San Diego … its slogan is “America's Finest City” as it has sunny weather year-round. If I couldn’t live in Los Angeles, San Diego would be my second choice. It’s the ninth largest city in U.S. with a population of 1.6 million (three million in SD County) and 20 beautiful beaches. The new ballpark really revitalized downtown and the convention center is huge.

DID YOU KNOW? Charles Lindberg’s plane was built in San Diego. Well, now you do!

The main reason I went to San Diego was to attend an NBTA conference. NBTA is the world’s premier business travel and corporate meetings organization where they collectively manage and direct more than $200 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually on behalf of more than 10 million business travelers within their organizations.

Due to the down economy, I had anticipated that the place would be a ghost town but boy was I wrong. This year, more than 5,400 travel professionals attended, which was the conference’s third highest attendance ever. For more information about NBTA, visit

I love going to NBTA to network with old and new friends, attend some crazy fun parties but most of all, to walk the showroom floor. This is a chance to see lots of new products and it’s a real kick to observe all the creative ways they try to lure buyers in.

Pretty much every airline had demos of their seats and real flight attendants working them: American Airlines, Avianca, Qatar, Etihad, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic (although I heard these girls were models), Singapore Airlines – way too many to list. The only ones I think didn’t have flight attendants were China Airlines, Eva Air, JAL, Jet Airways and Midwest Airlines but they had their famous chocolate chip cookies (though they were a tad stale).

At the jetBlue booth, the flight attendants passed out in-flight snacks. V Australia’s FAs poured champagne, Delta Airlines had flavored oxygen, which they offer in their Heathrow Lounge. AirTran had a paper airplane throwing contest, British Airways had brownies, cappuccinos and the best marketing plan; they were offering 10 round-trip business class tickets to anywhere in the world to 100 small businesses to increase their face-to-face meetings and exponentially grow their businesses. For more information, log on to

Some of the booths were huge but large or small, the ones that got my interest were: GoGo Inflight because they had free passes to try their Wi-Fi service the next time you fly. Avia: I don’t even know what they do but they had $1 million in cold hard cash (with two armed guards) and attendees could try and crack the code to win. I thought for sure I was going home rich but I didn’t nor did anyone else. At least I went home with a mini bag filled of my favorite treats growing up thanks to World Hotels’ mini candy shop. IHR had a Vegas-style wheel where everyone won something – for the sake of full disclosure to the FTC, I won $1. Leros (no clue what they do, either) had a Plinko game. A limo company had a zoo and Geoff & Drew’s Cookies had the richest treats of them all – samples of their corporate gifts. The cleverest was Wyndham Hotels as they gave out odometers at registration and the person who walked the most won a prize. I walked over 21,000 steps in 2.5 days but the winner did over 90,000.

Fox News San Diego was looking for a travel expert to interview alongside Chris McGinnis and lucky me, I was it! They edited most of it out but here’s a quick snippet.

NBTA sure didn’t skimp on speakers. They had a high profile keynote speaker each day. The first night was Captain Sully (Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III). He’s a true American hero – but unfortunately I found his speech kind of boring (he’s a bit monotone in his speaking) and my buddy Chris McGinnis pegged it when he said, “Sully gave a good Grandpa speech.” Some useful information I took away:

1. “Commercial aviation is the safest way to travel.”
2. “All frequent fliers’ duty is to read the safety manual. Count rows to exit and thank your flight attendant and pilots.”
3. “The best job in the world is to do the one you love and would do for free.”

However, Sully was anything but boring during the Q&A. The funniest thing he said was when he answered a question about what he would have done differently if he had to ditch into the water again. "I'd do it in July!" he said.

Other keynotes included Olympic Champion Dara Torres and comedian Jay Leno, who was hilarious for an hour straight. BTW: You can watch him pretty much every Sunday at the Comedy Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California.

At lunch, 8 out of the 10 people at my table were on their Blackberry or iPhone … including me. This is increasingly becoming the norm and the jury is still out on whether this is a good or bad thing …

By far, the best keynote speaker was President Bill Clinton. He brought up the importance of business travel and talked about his recent “business trip” to North Korea. He also pushed for more investment in solving healthcare here in the US and third world countries like Haiti and places in Africa where AIDS and malaria run rampant. My two favorite quotes from his one-hour speech were: “The most important thing is for parents to make their kids feel they are the most important person and they can do anything.” And: "Pessimism is a copout."

There was the annual airline CEO panel with Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly and Continental’s CEO Larry Kellner (he’s about to leave the company). It was moderated by the slim Peter Greenberg and the main thing I took away from this was that Southwest said they weren’t going to impose any baggage fees in 2009 but Gary alluded to the fact that they could add a second checked bag fee in 2010. He didn’t say this but that was my impression. Kudos to Gary as he was kind enough to sit down privately with a few of us bloggers. You can get the play-by-play from the CrankyFlier here.

To avoid the San Diego Convention Center’s high-priced Wi-Fi access ($20), rent a wireless card from You don’t have to sign a two-year contract and can get them for as little as $6 a day.

Next year’s convention is in Houston in early August (what were they thinking?) For details, visit

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Copyright 2009 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Drive To San Diego


Famous San Diego Sign


Who Doesn't?


S.D. Convention CTR




Capt. Sully


Sully Close-up


Kate, JJ, Chris, Brett


Radio Interview


Flavored Oxygen


AA Flight Crew


Qatar Airways


Qatar's Seats


Etihad FAs


Etihad FA


JAL 1st Class


JAL's New Seats


Continental's New Seat


Midwest Cookies


Singapore Airlines


The New San Diego


Bloggers w/ Gary Kelly


Win 1M$




Virgin Atlantic


V Australia


Bill Clinton



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