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 →

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!

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#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

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 →

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 →

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 →

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

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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