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.

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Review: American Business Class New York-JFK to Los Angeles

After an easy flight up to Toronto and a short hop in first class on an American CRJ-700, I found myself at New York’s JFK airport with three and half hours to kill before my evening flight across the country to Los Angeles.

This flight to LA was, of course en-route to Singapore.  Via Hong Kong.  Via Dallas.

Yes, I was flying from New York – to Los Angeles – to Dallas – to Hong Kong – and finally — to Singapore.  Just to spend two nights there and head back home the same way.

Why?  Because I wanted to maximize the miles from my routing.

Mission accomplished.

Anyways, I found myself at JFK in the American FlAAgship First Class Lounge where I had a light dinner and quite a few single malt scotches.  Eventually it was time to head to my gate to board my brand new A321-T for Los Angeles. 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.

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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…

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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

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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.

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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 →

Review: Delta Business Elite Class Sao Paulo to New York-JFK

Sometimes, you reach your breaking point.

My breaking point came in T2 at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport as I stared down the barrel of a ten-hour layover with no lounge access.  This was after a schedule change and seating change on my outbound flight from JFK to Santiago the night before in an attempt to make it to Iguazu Falls.

At this point, I’d been traveling for over 24 hours.

I hadn’t slept.

And I still had over 12 hours left to go, culminating in a border crossing between Brazil and Argentina at the un-Godly hour of 3am.

That was it — I’d had enough.  So, I decided to throw in the towel, cut my losses and head home.

I scoured the Internet from the domestic terminal at GRU looking for award flight availability back home, and found some viable options.  I was reluctant to blow miles on a trip home, but was resigned to do so until I had a Facebook chat conversation with a friend who works for Delta.  He graciously offered me a buddy pass to get me back to the States that evening.  The best part about it?

It was in business class.  And there was plenty of non-rev space available open that evening.  I took my friend up on his offer, paid some nominal fees and taxes, and I appeared on the stand-by list for DL 472 to JFK — a flight that would sent me right back to the airport I’d departed less than 24 hours before.

I arrived at the gate about an hour prior to departure and let the gate agent know I was there, per instructions from my friend.  After all revenue passengers had boarded, my name was called and the gate agent handed me a boarding ticket for seat 6B, in business class!  I was going home…

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Review: ANA Suite Lounge – Tokyo-Narita

We arrived at Narita Airport after about an hour and 45 minute bus ride from the Hyatt Regency Tokyo.  Since we were on different flights, my buddy and I split up at check-in and planned to meet up again at the lounge.

I proceeded to the ANA Suite Check-In, and WOW, it was nice.

ANA Suite Check-In at Tokyo-Narita

ANA Suite Check-In at Tokyo-Narita

At Narita, there’s a dedicated room where I was able to check-in with a personal check-in agent.  After that, I proceeded through a private security line, and on into immigration.  This entire process from check-in to immigration took less than three minutes… that’s pretty awesome by any standard.

Once immigration was cleared, I chose to head one of the two ANA Suite Lounges closest to my gate, by gate 47.

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A Twenty-Two Hour Layover in Tokyo and the Hyatt Regency Tokyo

For my return flights home to Washington, DC, I intentionally booked a twenty-two hour layover in Tokyo between my inbound flight on Air China from Shanghai and my final leg in ANA First Class to Washington-Dulles.  Why, you ask?

Because I freakin’ love Tokyo.  And my buddy had never been.

That, my friends is an opportunity to maximize my routing on this award.

I’d been to Tokyo before on a previous globetrotting adventure, so I was pretty familiar with certain areas in the city — mainly Shinjuku since I stayed at the Park Hyatt Toyko last time.  Since I knew Shinjuku well, I figured that would be the best place to stay this time around — we could hit some highlights and be done with it.  I was looking for a Hyatt property, and the Hyatt Regency Tokyo fit the bill nicely, as it is a few blocks from the Shinjuku Station and was reasonably priced.

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