Review: American B777-300ER Business Class Hong Kong to Dallas / Ft Worth

We spent about an hour in Cathay Pacific’s “The Bridge” Lounge at Hong Kong’s Chep Lap Kok International Airport after arriving from Singapore earlier that morning.  After a few drinks and a quick bite, it was time to head to the gate to board our flight on American Airlines’ new B777-300ER in business class.

But let’s back up for a second.

Unlike my outbound trip from Dallas to Hong Kong, I did not clear the eVIP Systemwide upgrade for this flight several days ahead of time.  In fact, we did not actually clear this upgrade until 25 hours prior to the flight.  This flight was extremely elite heavy, so there were quite a few (dozens, actually) of Executive Platinum customers on this flight who didn’t clear the upgrade.  We had the advantage since we were on a connecting flight from Singapore (up until late April, connecting passengers had priority on the AA upgrade standby list — that is not longer the case).  Luckily, the three of us appeared to receive three of the last six seats in business class.

We arrived at the gate to see one of the longest lines for the Executive Platinum boarding group that I’ve ever seen.  That group was seriously rolling 75 people deep.  The boarding line was delayed even more by security checking everyone’s carry on bags before boarding.  All water bottles were taken away – that’s always an annoyance when flying back to the States from Hong Kong.

Continue Reading →

Review: Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Singapore to Hong Kong

After a fun and delicious two nights in Singapore, it was time to turn around and head back home to the States.   We took an early cab to Changi airport and arrived in plenty of time.  Check-in was a breeze and we since security isn’t until the gate, we had a little bit of time to kill.  So we headed to the Sky View Lounge in Terminal 1 since it was the only lounge accessible to oneworld Emerald members at that hour in the morning (the Qantas and British Airways don’t open until later in the afternoon).

The lounge was quite comfortable with some decent hot and cold breakfast options.  I grabbed some noodles to go along with a Diet Coke and took a seat with my friends by the floor-to-ceiling glass windows just as the sun was coming up.  We checked e-mail and  surfed the Internet for a bit before it was time to head to the gate.

There was a very long line for security and boarding, but we were able to board with business class passengers despite being ticketed for an economy seat (59A).  After security, I went to have my boarding pass scanned by the gate agent, and it beeped a few times.  The friendly gate agent informs me, “Mr. Ryan, thank you for being a valued oneworld Emerald customer.  We have upgraded you to Premium Economy Class for this morning’s flight.”

Score!

Now, I’d heard of oneworld Emeralds being upgraded before by Cathay and other airlines like LAN, but I’d never experienced it before, so this was quite unexpected.  Sometimes, unexpected upgrades like this one are some of the best and most satisfying upgrades that there are.

She re-printed my new boarding passes, and I was on my was to board this A340-300 for Hong Kong!

Continue Reading →

Two Nights in Singapore at the Grand Hyatt Singapore

We arrived in Singapore from Hong Kong on a Cathay Pacific flight at around 8pm.  We easily made our way through immigration and Singapore’s beautiful Changi International Airport, out to the curb to hail a cab for our hotel.  We booked a room at the Grand Hyatt Singapore for this short stay.

The cab ride couldn’t have been any more than twenty minutes and I think it ran around 20 Singapore dollars.  When I booked the room a few months earlier, I used one of my last remaining  Hyatt Diamond Suite  upgrades for our two night stay, and we were upgraded to a Grand Duplex Suite.

And it sure was Grand…

Continue Reading →

A Layover in Hong Kong and a Quick Flight to Singapore

After spending over 18 hours on American Airlines’ longest flight from Dallas / Ft. Worth to Hong Kong, I was quite ready to stretch my legs and move around.  We got to Hong Kong immigration after about five minutes and had about a ten minute wait to clear immigration.

Outside of immigration, we went by the Hong Kong Airport Express and MTR kiosk where I purchased a round trip transfer from Hong Kong Airport to Kowloon Station for HKD 160 (about USD $30).  The Airport Express is a direct rail link between the airport, Kowloon and Central Hong Kong that runs every ten minutes.  It is very quick and very efficient, as is much of the public transportation in Hong Kong.

We intentionally worked in a long, 22-hour layover in Hong Kong into our itinerary because, frankly, we all wanted to spend a night in Hong Kong!

Continue Reading →

Review: American Business Class Dallas / Ft Worth to Hong Kong

I arrived in Los Angeles from my very nice trans-continental flight from New York on the new American A321T and hurried a few gates down where my flight to Dallas was already boarding.  I was the last first class passenger to board, so I took my seat and had a glass of water.  At that point, I was pretty exhausted, as it was about 1am Pacific time — early in the morning on my eastern time zone body clock.

I fell asleep before we even left LAX and didn’t wake up until we were landing in DFW — a short, sub-three hour redeye flight.  Pretty much the most miserable timing ever.  But I was okay with it.  I made my way to the D terminal at DFW and met a friend who had just come in from San Francisco at the American Express Centurion Lounge.  We had four hours to kill before we boarded our flight to Hong Kong.  I was able to access the lounge as his guest, as he has an AMEX Platinum card (I do not have one — shocking, I know).

For those who haven’t been, the AMEX Centurion Lounges are hands down the best domestic lounges in the country.  And DFW’s version is no exception.  I was dragging pretty significantly at this point, so I put my name on the list to take a shower and freshen up.  The shower was ready in no time, so I took a long shower and changed clothes.

Bam!  I was a new man.

Lunch selection at AMEX Centurion Lounge - DFW

Lunch selection at AMEX Centurion Lounge – DFW (from a previous visit)

Lunch selection at AMEX Centurion Lounge - DFW

Lunch selection at AMEX Centurion Lounge – DFW  (from a previous visit)

AMEX Centurion Lounge - DFW

AMEX Centurion Lounge – DFW

For the next few hours, we had some breakfast, a few drinks and I had a free massage in the while awaiting our flight.  My third friend joined us later that morning, so we naturally had some bon voyage drinks before making the short walk to our gate to board the longest flight that American Airlines flies:  Dallas to Hong Kong.

Continue Reading →

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 →

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 →

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)