Review: American New B767 Business Class Zurich to New York-JFK

It was quite the chaotic morning.  We awoke in Lucerne and headed to the train station for our scheduled 7:05am train ride from Lucern to the Zurich Airport.  I was going to be simple and easy… in theory.

That was until our train broke down.

We had spent the previous week taking trains all over central Europe without incident.  But there we were at 7:30am — stranded on a disabled train — somewhere in between Lucerne and Zurich.

Eventually, we backtracked to the closest station and had to hop the next train to Zurich hbf where we had to catch another train out to the airport.  Long story short, we arrived at ZRH at around 8:50am for a 10:00am flight.

As we approached the American ticket counters, they were about to shut down for the day, but we were able to successfully check in, proceed through immigration / security and take the train ride out to the satellite International terminal at ZRH.  By the time we got to the gate, boarding was underway.

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Review: Keepgo Global Data SIM card

It’s a challenge that most face whenever traveling internationally:  what about my data?

Traveling outside of the United States can be challenging from a communications standpoint — especially if international cell phone charges are on your own dime, and not paid-for by work.

After paying absurd global data charges with Verizon Wireless ($29 for 100MB of data), and moving to a solution of changing SIM cards in different countries, I started to look for other solutions that could work in multiple countries.  I wanted a solution that would allow me to use the same SIM card in multiple countries (particularly in Europe).

This past summer, I decided to give Keepgo a try, and I’ve been using now on my last five international trips.  I figured it was time to write-up my experience with the product.18

Keepgo Overview

Keepgo offers two main products:  a data SIM card and a mobile wifi hotspot.

Since I have an unlocked iPhone 6 (via Verizon), I went with the data SIM card.  The advertised features of this puppy are as follows: Continue Reading →

Review: American New 777 -200 Business Class New York to Rio de Janeiro

I had about 90 minutes to kill in the American FlAAgship First Class Lounge at JFK, and I spent that time catching up on e-mails, and downing some Glinlivet prior to by overnight flight on the American new 777 -200 Business Class from New York to Rio.

I do always enjoy spending time in this lounge, as there are plenty of nice food and beverage options, so my time spent here went by pretty quickly.  I headed to the gate at the published boarding time – 50 minutes prior to departure, and the plane had already been pretty much fully boarded.  As such, I was one of the last people to board the plane.

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Review: American 787 Business Class Tokyo to Chicago

After  leisurely three hours in the fantastic JAL First Class lounge at Narita Airport, my delayed departure time for my return trip back home had arrived.  I made the pretty long haul from the JAL First lounge all the way to the AA departure gate for ORD.  It was the very last gate in the main terminal.  As I got to the gate, it was apparent that there would be an additional delay, so I took a seat.

Thirty minutes or so later, the crew boarded.  Another thirty minutes later, it was time to board.  The queue lined up pretty long for Business Class and Priority Access — and the gate agent didn’t really do a great job in organizing the boarding process, but what else is new?  Anyway, after this somewhat lengthy delay, it was time to enjoy the brand new American 787 Business Class.

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Review: Lufthansa Business Class Washington-Dulles to Munich

We arrived at Dulles much later than previously planned due to some absolutely terribly weather in Washington, DC. What usually is about a 75-90 minute trip to Dulles via taxi and the 5A bus, turned into a 3:15 nightmare of a trip from our home in Dupont Circle out to Dulles Airport.

Luckily, we had planned on leaving plenty of cushion to get there, because we wanted to relax in the lounge prior to our flight. As it turned out, we only had about 30 minutes in the lounge before we boarded our A330-300 bound for Munich, directly from the Lufthansa lounge at Dulles.

I’d previously only been into the Senator Lounge at IAD, but we did not have access for this trip, as we were “only” business class passengers, and I no longer have Star Alliance Gold status.  The Lufthansa Business Lounge is figuratively and literally a few steps down from the Senator Lounge, as it’s located downstairs, below the Senator.  It lacks the tarmac views and hot entrees of the Senator Lounge, but was not nearly as crowded and was perfectly fine for a couple of pre-flight drinks.

Lufthansa Business Class Lounge at Washington-Dulles

Lufthansa Business Class Lounge at Washington-Dulles

Dining area at LH Business Class Lounge IAD

Dining area at LH Business Class Lounge IAD

Food selections at IAD Lufthansa Business Lounge

Food selections at IAD Lufthansa Business Lounge

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How to Book a Flight to Tahiti with American Miles

American AAdvantage miles are some of the easiest mileage currencies to accrue.  On the other hand, redeeming them can be challenging at times.  One of the places that may be pretty challenging to use AA miles for if you don’t know how is to get to one of the most beautiful places on Earth — the honeymoon and bucket list mecca of Bora Bora.

You’ve seen them.  The lavish resorts featuring elaborate overwater bungalows that are set on top of crystal clear water in a sheer tropical paradise.  Many of these properties are located in Bora Bora or Moorea — both Islands in the Society Islands of French Polynesia, along with Tahiti.  In order to get to these island paradises, one must first fly into Papeete (PPT) — the only international airport in Tahiti.

Getting to Papeete from North America is pretty straightforward when using American miles.  There are exactly two options:  Hawaiian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui — both partners with American, and both are great partners that allow you to fly to Tahiti with American miles. Continue Reading →

#TBT: Review: Korean Air A380 First Class Seoul to Los Angeles

Throwback Thursday Series!

This is the second in a series of “Throwback Thursday” #TBT posts that I will release.  These will feature flights and other elements of trip reports from the past.  For now, these will all be flights, hotels or cities that I’ve taken, stayed at, or been to over the last few years.   For all of these trips, I took notes and/or wrote a review, took pictures, but never published the entry on my blog… until now.


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Korean Air First Class Lounge – Seoul Incheon

I arrived with two friends at Seoul’s Incheon Airport on an Asiana flight from Bangkok.  We had previously planned on spending some time in the city during our layover in Seoul, but a five-hour delay on Asiana put a spike through the heart of those plans.  Instead of a nine-hour layover, we were left with about four hours until our flight to Los Angeles, so we headed to the Korean First Class Lounge.

But first, some background:

This flight was smack, dab in the middle of a five-day stretch during which I felt as sick as I have in my entire life.  I’d just finished up spending a week in Thailand, where I must have eaten something bad.  Because I was sick.  Let’s just leave it there — really, really sick.

The day prior to this, I was in Myanmar.

Now, of all countries in the world where you don’t want to be in the condition that I was, Myanmar has got to be near the top of the list.  I trudged through two flights from Yangon to Bangkok and then to Seoul – most of which time I spent in the lav (TMI, I know).

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Korean Air First Class Lounge at ICN

So as I arrived in Seoul, I was feeling absolutely awful.  My goal as I entered the Korean First Class Lounge was to shower and to just start feeling better.

Well, I accomplished the first goal with a nice shower.  Unfortunately, goal number two didn’t go as well. I rested a bit, and as a result really didn’t take too many notes on the lounge.  I do specifically remember it being quite unremarkable for a First Class Lounge.  I also remember the rows of blue Korean Air planes lined up in the driving snow.

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A snowy, December day in Seoul with two B777-200s, a B777-300ER and  B747-400

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How to Book a Flight on Ryanair and Avoid Hidden Fees

Flying on Ryanair is often one of the cheapest ways to fly point-to-point in Europe.  However, the major complaint people always have regarding Ryanair is their never-ending pursuit of ancillary revenue — they nickel and dime the passenger for seemingly everything.  After all, Ryanair is the airline that infamously once tried to charge for use of the toilet, and has floated the idea of standing room only seats on its aircraft, just to fit more passengers onboard.  Another major complaint about Ryanair is the somewhat predatory booking process on their website.    Though the website has a much friendlier user interface than it used to, the booking process can be downright cumbersome!

Ryanair B737-800 at Kerry, Ireland (KIR)

Ryanair B737-800 at Kerry, Ireland (KIR)

This post is meant to walk you through the booking procedure with Ryanair, so you can avoid accidentally paying for extra things that you don’t want!  Once you successfully do this, Ryanair can fly you for really, really cheap within Europe.  I had a decent flight with them last May from Venice-Treviso to Dublin, and again a few weeks ago from County Kerry, Ireland to London-Stansted.    Continue Reading →

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

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)