A Weekend in Southeast Asia: Introduction

Last December, there was an interesting airfare to Singapore from Toronto with American Airlines.  The base fare was low enough to grab my attention, as it included the newish, long segments from Dallas / Ft. Worth (DFW) to Hong Kong on the new B777-300ER.  I had several newly acquired American eVIP, system wide upgrades burning a hole in my pocket, so I decided to see what I could do.

With an open weekend, I decided to try to put together the most convoluted routing possible to get me to Singapore.  The impressive part was that I was able to convince a couple of my travel junkie friends that this was a good idea, and they decided that a night in Hong Kong and a couple of nights in Singapore were completely reasonable for a weekend trip. Continue Reading →

United B787-9 International Routes Announced

It seems that Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) will become a haven for the new B787-9 Dreamliners!  United has revealed that a number of its new, B787-9s will be deployed to Houston to takeover existing routes currently flown by other equipment.

United 787-8 Dreamliner

The transition to the United B787-9 begins in the fall:

Airlineroute.net reports the following equipment  updates:

eff 18AUG15 Houston – Rio de Janeiro 787-9 replaces CO 777-200ER
eff 24SEP15 Houston – Frankfurt 787-9 replaces 787-8 and other aircraft types
eff 25OCT15 Houston – Buenos Aires 787-9 replaces UA 767-300ER
eff 17DEC15 Houston – Amsterdam 787-9 replaces UA 777-200ER
eff 05JAN16 Houston – Santiago de Chile 787-9 replaces UA 767-300ER
eff 03MAR16 Houston – Tokyo Narita 787-9 replaces CO 777-200ER

This announcement comes on the heels of United announcing a change in its overall fleet strategy by replacing some future B787 orders with larger B777-300ER aircraft.  Furthermore, the airline announced last month that it would be extending the life of its B767-300ER fleet, shifting some current B777-200s to domestic service, and substituting larger aircraft on many Transatlantic routes currently served by the B757-200.  This announcement makes it more clear as to where those larger aircraft will come from.

So it seems by next Spring, IAH will be a mini Dreamliner hub — great news for Houston, as the Dreamliner is one of the more comfortable airplanes out there.  I thoroughly enjoyed my United flights on the B787 Dreamliner though they were on the -8 variant instead of the larger 787-9.

My Dreamliner reviews can be found here:

H/T:  Airlineroute.net

Death of the Mistake Fare

The United States Department of Transportation quietly announced a ruling Friday that in essence kills the “mistake fare” as we know it.

The full. three-page document can be viewed here:  New DOT Enforcement Policy Regarding Mistaken Fares.

In April of 2011, the Department of Transportation issued a very consumer-frienly policy that prohibits airlines from increasing the price of air transportation after purchase (14 C.F.R. § 399.88).  This policy has since been enforced by the DOT on many occasions where the airline mistakenly sold mispriced airfare to the customer, the customer purchased the ticket and the airline was forced to honor the fare by the DOT.

In May 2014, the DOT published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that it was considering revising this post-purchase price provision (14 C.F.R. § 399.88) to better address mistaken fares.  The DOT specifically calls out “bad faith” purchases of mistaken fares and the fact that their existence are spread quickly through travel blogs and forums.

Since then, there have been a number of  mistaken fares filed in the last year that have benefited consumer and hurt airlines, and it seems the DOT  has finally had enough and released a temporary policy change that essentially renders 14 C.F.R. § 399.88 useless when it comes to mistaken fares.  The announcement can be summarized below (emphasis mine):

The Assistant General Counsel has decided not to enforce section 399.88 with respect to mistaken fares while the Department completes the aforementioned rulemaking process. As a matter of prosecutorial discretion, the Enforcement Office will not enforce the requirement of section 399.88 with regard to mistaken fares occurring on or after the date of this notice so long as the airline or seller of air transportation: (1) demonstrates that the fare was a mistaken fare; and (2) reimburses all consumers who purchased a mistaken fare ticket for any reasonable, actual, and verifiable out-of-pocket expenses that were made in reliance upon the ticket purchase, in addition to refunding the purchase price of the ticket. These expenses include, but are not limited to, non-refundable hotel reservations, destination tour packages or activities, cancellation fees for non-refundable connecting air travel and visa or other international travel fees.

So it appears that for now, you can kiss those mistake fares goodbye, as the airlines really don’t have to honor them anymore if they can prove it was a mistake.  The tables have turned:  the DOT has spoken and it is now protecting the airlines from the customer.

However, there remains a shred of hope for this not to be a permanent ruling, as this announces only a temporary policy:

The enforcement policy outlined in this notice is temporary and will remain in effect only until the Department issues a final rule that specifically addresses mistaken fares. If, based on comments received in the rulemaking process, the Department determines that section 399.88 should remain as written, airlines and other sellers of air transportation would be expected to comply and the Enforcement Office would enforce the requirement

Without the DOT honoring mistake fares, I never would have Flown this flight!  Korean Air A380 First Class

Without the DOT honoring mistake fares, I never would have Flown this flight! Korean Air A380 First Class

H/T:  PITgetawayflyer on FlyerTalk

Review: United Business First Dubai to Washington

After spending an enjoyable three days in Dubai, we arrived at Dubai International Airport where we went through check-in, immigration and security without a hitch.  We had about an hour or so to kill before we needed to go to the gate for another round of security, so we headed to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge for a bit.

This lounge isn’t the largest lounge in the world, but there were a few options of cold appetizers as well as beer, wine and soft drinks.  I had a drink and a quick bite to eat as my buddy and I relaxed a bit before our impending long haul back to Washington.

Lufthansa Senator Lounge - Dubai

Lufthansa Senator Lounge – Dubai

It was finally time to get to the gate, so we made the ten minute trek through the expansive Dubai Terminal 2.   Since this was a flight back to the United States from Dubai, there was an additional security screening at the gate.  They took business class passengers first, but that only meant that we were allowed into the holding pen first at the gate, as boarding had not yet started.  Finally, after about thirty minutes of sitting around, we boarded our United B777-200.

Continue Reading →

Three Days in Dubai – Ten Highlights

We arrived in Dubai at the interesting hour of around 8pm and quickly disembarked from my somewhat disappointing flight in United Business First from Washington-Dulles.  We were given express passes for immigration, but this didn’t seem to matter much.  The walk from the gate to immigration is pretty substantial, and by the time we reached the immigration hall, every line was massive — including the “express” line.  After about a twenty-minute wait time, our passports were stamped and we were admitted into the United Arab Emirates.  We breezed through customs and made our way outside to the curb where our friend picked us up for three amazing days in Dubai!

I’d been to Dubai before, but this time I was with two great friends from Grad School — and friends with whom I make my annual pilgrimage to Oktoberfest in Munich — so I knew this weekend might be somewhat aggressive.  We and a jam-packed weekend that featured some late nights, excessive meals, pricey cocktails, and sight-seeing.  Here are some highlights of my weekend in Dubai…

Continue Reading →

American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles Combine – What it means to you

On Tuesday, American Airlines announced that it would combine the legacy loyalty programs of American Airlines and US Airways on this coming Saturday, March 28.  Previously, American had stated that these two programs would be merging sometime in the second quarter 0f 2015, so this puts them a little ahead of schedule.  The newly combined program won’t be a huge change to those loyal to American Airlines, but it looks to be quite an adjustment for those US Airway Preferred members — and many of those adjustments are good!

So now that these programs are merging into one, what does that mean to the frequent flyer?

In general, passengers should know the following tidbits while this merger goes through this week:

  • Both websites will be functional this week as the programs combine
  • Some US Airways Dividend Miles functionalities will be unavailable until Saturday, March 28
  • The last day to book US Airways awards and to take advantage of its unique award chart is Wednesday, March 25.
  • If you’ve already linked your US Airways Dividend Miles and American AAdvantage accounts, they balances will be combined
  • If you haven’t linked your accounts, the airline will combine your accounts and issue a new American AAdvantage number to you that will show your combined airline activity

Continue Reading →

Review: United Business First Washington to Dubai

A good friend of mine and former roommate moved to Dubai from Washington a few years back, but I’d yet to successfully visit him out in the desert.  Two years ago, I tried to meet up with him while on a trip to Dubai, but engine problems on the Dreamliner and the resulting 24-hour delay forced me to miss meeting up in Dubai that time around.  For this trip, I planned to visit my friend with another good friend from grad school.  We booked the flights back in June with the intention to use my United Global Premier Upgrades to ride in business class of the long-haul weekend trip.

I ended up booking the trip to Dubai out of Boston.  Why?

Well, the price for an upgradeable economy class fare on United (W-fare) was substantially cheaper when departing from Boston — like $700-800 cheaper.

My itinerary would take me from Boston, back to Washington — and then non-stop from there to Dubai.  Luckily, the upgrades cleared in July and August, so we weren’t even close to sweating this one out — we were able to rest easy knowing that the long journey would be in relative comfort of United Business First.  Anyway, in order to position myself to Boston, I purchased a cheap US Airways flight from Washington-DCA up to Logan.

After a moderately lengthy layover at the recently refurbished United Club at Boston’s Logan International Airport, I took a quick hop down to Washington-Dulles where I met my friend in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge in Terminal B.  Since it was winter time, the lounge closed early and Lufthansa evicted us at 5:45pm.  We trudged to the United Club by gate D-5.  Though it was definite step down from the Lufthansa Senator Lounge, the United Club served as a perfectly comfortable setting to pass some time and drink some (very) cheap scotch.

The chariot awaits -- our B777-200 being prepped for the journey from Washington to Dubai

The chariot awaits — our B777-200 being prepped for the journey from Washington to Dubai

Continue Reading →

My Last Hurrah as a United Premier 1K: A Weekend in Dubai

With my United Premier 1K status set to end at the end of January 2015, I wanted to make the most of it before it expired.  That meant I had some Global Premier Upgrades to burn!  United 1K members receive six Global Premier Upgrades (and two regional premier upgrades) that are good for an upgrade from economy class to business class or business class to first class on any route that United flies.

The caveat to these Global Premier Upgrades is that the economy fare must be booked into a certain, minimum fare class in order to have the upgrade be valid.  On United flights, this booking class is known as a W class fare.  A W class fare is an economy fare that typically is sold for substantially more than the lowest, discount economy fare.

However, if you’re vigilant and know how to hunt for it, some good W class fares are out there.

I’d been itching to get back to Dubai for quite some time to see a good friend and former roommate of mine who moved to Dubai form Washington a few years ago.    Two years ago, I tried to meet up with him while on a trip to Dubai, but engine problems on the Dreamliner and the resulting 24-hour delay forced me to miss meeting up in Dubai that time around.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

The Flight Deal alerted me to some cheap fares to Dubai from Boston, so I figured I’d look into them to see how the W class fares looked.  Turns out, they looked quite good – only about $100 more than the cheapest economy fares!

Score!

Since the good fare was out of Boston with a connection in Washington-Dulles, that necessitated a positioning trip to Boston, from Washington.  Does that make any sense?

Considering it saved upwards of $800, I thought so.

Though there was no confirmable upgrade space immediately available, the seat maps for both the Washington to Dubai and Dubai to Washington flights were wide open.  So I booked the trip from Boston for myself and applied my Global Premier Upgrades.  My buddy booked his flights from Dallas and would meet me at Dulles for the long flight to Dubai — I also used my upgrades on his tickets.  To our delight, both of our upgrades cleared both ways by August!

To complete my itinerary, I purchased a cheap, $59 one-way flight from Washington-National to Boston.  I would plan to spend a few hours in Boston before hopping a flight to Dulles.

So essentially, I would be flying from Washington-National to Washington-Dulles VIA Boston.

Because that’s perfectly normal.

At $59, I guess it’s cheaper than a cab from DC out to Dulles…

My routing:  DCA-BOS-IAD-DXB-IAD-(BOS)

My routing: DCA-BOS-IAD-DXB-IAD-(BOS)

Review: LAN Economy Class Santiago to Sao Paulo on the B787

I was scheduled to have about an hour and twenty minutes on the ground in Santiago between my incoming flight from New York-JFK and my connecting flight to Sao Paulo.  After a quick trip to freshen up in the LAN Mistral VIP Salon, I made my way to the gate, passing Dreamliner after Dreamliner.  Santiago is truly a B787 Dreamliner paradise, as LAN has taken delivery to quite a number of the new aircraft.  During the mid-morning hours, the LAN B787 fleet all seems to be back in Santiago before dispersing to other locales around the globe.

IMG_9699

My LAN B787-8 awaiting departure for Sao Paulo

I boarded my flight to Sao Paulo with the first group.  My visa was then verified and I made my way to the sparkling new Dreamliner. Continue Reading →

Review: LAN Economy Class New York – JFK to Santiago on the B787

I recently attempted a weekend trip to Iguazu Falls, Argentina and failed miserably.  So many things went wrong that ultimately led me to ditching the itinerary in Sao Paulo and returning to New York.  But what let up to that point?

A comedy of errors on this itinerary resulted in me getting pretty much no sleep, which led to exhaustion and my eventual decision to fly home before making it to my intended destination.

It all started Thursday morning as I attempted to check-in for my flight with LAN.  The problem first arose when the LAN website indicated that my confirmation number was not valid.  As such, I called LAN to see what was wrong.  The agent with LAN told me that my SCL-GRU segment of my itinerary was showing a significant delay, and I would mis-connect in Sao Paulo for my flight to Foz do Iguazu.

He offered me two options — to overnight in Sao Paulo and get to Iguazu on Saturday afternoon.  I declined this option, as it would only leave me a day in Iguazu.  The second option was to take an earlier flight from JFK to Santiago and on to Sao Paulo on the LAN 787 Dreamliner, then have a ten-hour layover in Sao Paulo before continuing on to Iguazu on the same flight.  In order to do this, I had to leave work three hours earlier and confirm standby space on an earlier flight from DCA-JFK.  After speaking to American about changing my DCA-JFK flight, I decided on this option.

I figured that I could ultimately deal with this undesirable itinerary as long as I was able to sleep on my flight to Santiago.  I didn’t think this would be much of a problem since I’d been assured a bulkhead seat by the phone agent (I had a bulkhead seat on my original flight booked for six months).

Again, when he changed my flights, the LAN agent assured me that I had confirmed a bulkhead, window seat on the 787, seat 12L.  At 6’4″, an exit row or a bulkhead seat is a necessity for me traveling long-haul in economy — I just need the extra leg room, otherwise I’m miserable. Continue Reading →