Review: Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class Shanghai to Tokyo

We arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport a couple of hours before our scheduled departure for Toyko-Narita.  Check-in was quick and simple, and I was pointed towards the security line where I was able to skip the line since I was flying First.  I ended up clearing security and immigration only minimally quicker than my friend who was on the flight with me in economy.

After about a half an hour in the Air China First Class Lounge (review forthcoming), we made our way to the gate where we discovered that we would be boarding buses to take us to a remote stand.

Yup, we seriously were going to use a remote stand to board a B747-400.  This was a tad strange to say the least.  I was able to take the private van for first and business class passengers, and after about a ten minute ride, we arrived to our plane — which happened to be the furthest plane away from the terminal.

Boarding our Air China B747-400 from the ramp

Boarding our Air China B747-400 from the ramp

Continue Reading →

Review: THAI Royal Silk Business Class Bangkok to Shanghai

I was actually dreading this flight – 100%.   At a scheduled 4:15, this “red-eye” flight to Shanghai was too short for a decent night’s rest.  It was also in a slanted business class seat, which I was pretty worried about for sleeping.  I typically hate these short red-eye flights, but when booking the award back in February, this was the only flight with award space.

As it turns out, though – everything was fine – even though the flight was entirely too short!

We arrived at the gate about ten minutes prior to boarding and as usual, the gate area was utter chaos.  In my experience, THAI has never done a good job of successfully boarding business class separately from economy.  Usually, as soon as the gate agent heads over to open one of the glass doors for boarding, pretty much the entire crowd in the boarding lounge gets up and packs into a tightly compressed crowd, itching to get onboard. Continue Reading →

Review: THAI Royal First Lounge and Royal Orchid Spa – Bangkok

After a wonderful flight from Munich, we arrived well rested a little after 1pm at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi  Airport.  Upon deplaning, we were immediately met at the end of the jet way by a THAI representative who quickly whisked us away on a golf-cart to transfer security and immigration.  In less than five minutes, we were checking into the THAI First Class Lounge.  We had about twelve hours to kill before our redeye flight to Shanghai, so we planned to mix some time in the lounge with a day trip into Bangkok.

THAI Royal First Lounge

THAI Royal First Lounge

Continue Reading →

Review: THAI Royal First Class Munich to Bangkok

We arrived at Munich’s Franz Josef Strauss International Airport over three hours before our flight since we were just ready to relax a little bit before the flight.  There was already a queue formed when we arrived, but we were the first guests in line for Royal First Class.  On this flight was myself and two friends — one of who would be accompanying me in First Class, and the other who was holding down the fort in economy.  Once check-in opened, we were processed first and headed through security and immigration before heading to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge.  Unfortunately, Thai First Class passengers are not granted access at Lufthansa’s First Class Lounges, so the Senator Lounge had to do.  It, of course, was fine — as we primarily just used the space to relax with a light meal and a few drinks before our flight to Bangkok.

About 45 minutes prior to departure, we made the short walk to our gate and took a couple pictures of our B747-400 in the unique THAI livery.  As we were called for boarding, we entered the plane at door 1L and was greeted by the Purser.

Continue Reading →

Review: United Global First Class Chicago to Munich

I started out my around the world trip with a Transatlantic flight from Chicago to Munich in United Global First Class.  After a longer than usual flight from Washington-DCA to Chicago, I arrived at O’ Hare and met up with my good friend, who would be joining me for the entire trip to Europe and Asia.  IMG_8624We spent an hour or so at the United Global First Class Lounge in O’Hare, primarily finishing up some last-minute bill paying and calling loved ones before we departed.  Finally, it was time for boarding, so we ventured to the gate where boarding had just commenced.

Continue Reading →

2015 Combined AAdvantage Loyalty Program Announced

This morning, American Airlines announced its 2015 AAdvantage Loyalty Program for the combined American and US Airways.  As an American elite, the program remains largely un-changed, and that’s a great thing!  With that said, there are a few changes to the program that I’ll highlight in this post.  The theme of the whole deal is that the combined carrier will run one loyalty program (AAdvantage) for two separate airlines and reservations systems at American and US Airways.  This is a bit awkward, but if they make it work like it’s laid out here, it should be fine.

The Changes

Elite Qualification

  • From an initial scanning of the new program, the biggest change is an increase in the qualifying criteria for qualifying by segments.  The new program features an increase of Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) for Gold / Platinum / Executive Platinum from 25/50/100 to 30/60/120.  The qualification criteria on Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) remains the same, and that’s a HUGE sigh of relief.
2015 AA Elite Qualification Criteria

2015 AA Elite Qualification Criteria

Elite Benefits Flying on American

  • For Gold and Platinum elites, 500-mile certificates will still be needed to upgrade on flights over 500 miles, but upgrades continue to be unlimited for Executive Platinum members when flying American
    • Previous US Airways elites will receive 500-mile stickers based on their qualification history so they can upgrade on American flights

Elite Benefits Flying on US Airways

  • When flying US Airways, complimentary upgrades will be cleared automatically, based on status (up to 2 /3 /4 days for Gold / Platinum / Executive Platinum)
  • Integration of Auto-upgrades at US Airways (AA elites will be auto confirmed on US Airways instead of at check-in) — this is great!

General Elite Benefits and Notes

  • All AA elites are now eligible for unlimited complimentary upgrades on flights under 500 miles
  • Executive Platinum Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) can now be used on US Airways flights, too
  • Addition of free same-day changes for Executive Platinum Members!
  • Mileage balances, elite qualifying miles and  segments, and lifetime miles will be combined in early 2015

Mileage Earning

  • There are no changes to the mileage earning schemes other than:
    • The mileage earning bonus for business class tickets will increase from 25% to 50%.

You can read all the details on the changes here:  2015 AAdvantage Program

The Timeline

Here’s a high-level timeline on when benefits will be available to AAdvantage members:

Right now

January 2015

Second quarter of 2015 (when programs are combined)

More detail on the timeline can be found here:  2015 AAdvantage Integration Timeline

Initial Thoughts

I am very happy with the changes.  As an American Executive Platinum member, I view these changes to the 2015 AAdvantage Loyalty Program as all positive (other than the increase in segments needed for qualification).  Since I will likely qualify via EQM, this does not affect me.  The benefits also increase a bit for Gold and Platinum members, but the level of benefit for those members pales in comparison to what Executive Platinums get.

I was very worried about the addition of a revenue requirement, but that was not included…. for now.  We’ll see what happens after the two airlines are fully integrated.

Note:  I’ll continue to analyze some of these changes throughout the day and provide more commentary, as needed

Weekly Round-Up in the World of Points

Well, it’s been an insanely busy week for me, as I got back into the swing of things at work, and in life in general.  As such, I didn’t get to write as much as I wanted to, so here is a weekly round-up of some of the goings-ons in the World of travel, points and miles.  I’ll try to call out the top four or five stories on a weekly basis in the future.

Atlantis Resort becomes a Marriott Rewards Partner

This week, the uber-popular Atlantis Resort and Casino in the Bahamas officially joined the Marriott Rewards program.  The incredible resort is now bookable with Marriott Points at the following levels:

  • Beach Towers – 35,000 points per night (category 7)
  • Coral Towers – 35,000 points per night (category 7)
  • Royal Towers – 40,000 points per night (category 8)
  • The Cove – 45,000 points per night (category 9)

While a little steep, it is a great resort, and if you’re sitting on a stockpile of Marriott points, it’s a definite option for a Caribbean vacation.  The property is marketing each tower as a separate hotel.  While the Cove and maybe Royal Towers could be a deal, I don’t think the Beach and Coral Towers are particularly good values considering that a night here can routinely be had for les than $150 per night.

The fact sheet regarding points redemptions can be found here.  Keep in mind that with Marriott, when you redeem for four nights, you receive the fifth night free. Continue Reading →

Six Initial Thoughts on My Trip Around the World

After two weeks and just under 22,000 miles of travel around the world, I’m finally getting acclimated to the real world after arriving back in Washington from Tokyo last week.

DCA-ORD-MUC // MUC-BKK-PVG // PVG-HKG-PVG // PVG-NRT-IAD

DCA-ORD-MUC // MUC-BKK-PVG // PVG-HKG-PVG // PVG-NRT-IAD

I’d initially planned to publish trip reports as I went on this trip, but after a pretty intense first few days of Oktoberfest in Munich, that whole idea went out the window.  On this trip, I used my time in airports and on flights to relax and sleep instead of writing.  As a result, my trip reports will be published, post by post in the coming weeks.  I’ve got all sorts of goodies in this set, in addition to my flights in United, THAI, Air China and ANA First Class, including:

  • Le Meridien, Munich
  • Park Hyatt Shanghai
  • Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui
  • Grand Hyatt Shanghai
  • Hyatt Regency Tokyo
  • Sights of Munich and Oktoberfest
  • A Day in Bangkok
  • THAI Royal First Class Lounge and Spa, BKK
  • Sights of Shanghai
  • Air China Forbidden First Class Lounge, PVG
  • Sights of Hong Kong
  • A Nights in Tokyo

Continue Reading →

First Look: ANA First Class Tokyo to Washington

Last week, I finished up my around the World trip by flying from Tokyo-Narita to Washington-Dulles in ANA First Class in its new ANA First Square product.

How would I describe the experience in a word?

Spectacular.

The 12+ hour flight on this new, ANA B777-300ER will surely serve as the benchmark to which I compare any future flight.  The whole experience was outstanding, from start to finish.

The new First Square product provided a TON of very private space.  Though there was not a door, the dividers of the square were high, and I could not see into any other suite at any time.  The seat was very comfortable, with a huge LCD screen with a decent amount of entertainment selections.  It laid down into a bed where I would sleep soundly for about eight hours. Continue Reading →

First Look: THAI Royal First Class Munich to Bangkok

Good Evening from THAI’s Royal First Class lounge in Bangkok.  I’m about to hop a redeye flight to Shanghai, but wanted to share a few initial impressions from my flight last night from Munich to Bangkok in THAI Royal First Class.

Overall, I was quite impressed.  With everything… and I’m not even including the THAI ground services in Bangkok, which are possibly the best in the industry.

We flew a B747-400 in seats 1A and 1K at the very front of the aircraft.  The seats featured the new THAI Royal First Class product, and were extremely comfortable and spacious.  Though they did not feature doors, these seats felt more like suites, as they were very private.  The product features plenty of room and I slept wonderfully in the lie-flat bed.

Seat 1A on the THAI B747-400

Seat 1A on the THAI B747-400

The catering.  Ohhh, the catering was outstanding.

The first course was the caviar, and it was presented beautifully.   I was given a huge serving along with all of the garnishes from an impressive tray of caviar.  I’m not usually a caviar person, but when offered onboard a plane?  Why not?

Caviar to start!

Caviar to start!

The appetizers were also good, but the entrée stole the show.  The beef curry was just delicious!  Easily one of the best entrees I’ve ever had onboard.  The meal ended with cheese, fruit and a desert — all of which were top quality.

Breakfast included eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, yogurt, and an assortment of breads.

Each and every course was presented with care and was set beautifully on the large table top by the absurdly attentive flight crew. The first class cabin was booked to 7 of 9 seats, and the service was impeccable.  During the dinner service, there were up to five flight crew servicing the cabin at one time.  The service was outstanding in all regards during the entirety of this 11-hour flight.

I’ll post a full review of the flight later, but I did want to post my initial impressions of the flight.  The THAI experience easily out-classed my United flight last week, but we’ll see how it compares to Air China and ANA First Class in the next week!