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: 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 →

Weekly Roundup – 12/12/2014

First of all, my apologies — I’ve been M.I.A. for the last couple weeks.  Frankly, life has gotten into the way, as I’ve been busy with work, finding a new place for when my lease expires next month, and of course spending time with my family over Thanksgiving.  Once everything settles down, I will start posting a little more, as I still have trip reports and how-to guides and all sorts of stuff I want to write about!

In the meantime, I’ll briefly touch on a few things going on in the World of travel, points and miles — a weekly roundup of sorts.  It’s been a relatively slow week, but there’s still stuff happening!

Me in Lufthansa B744 First Class, sans falcon

Me in Lufthansa B744 First Class, sans falcon

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Revisited: Booking a Transatlantic Flight on Aer Lingus with British Airways Avios

Updated January 29, 2015:  This particular award will no longer be available once the new British Airways award chart goes into effect for bookings made after April 28, 2015.  This award in business class will increase to 37,500 Avios, each way.


Last summer, I wrote a very popular post on how to book a Transatlantic flight on Aer Lingus with British Airways Avios.  I’m re-visiting that today since I have a bigger audience, and since it’s still relevant.  

Additionally, Aer Linugs recently announced an all-new business class product that it will be installing on its A330 fleet.  This new product will be very competitive in the Transatlantic market, and would make the below type of redemption even more valuable…

I recently reported on my experience flying Aer Lingus business class from Shannon to Boston last month to conclude my European vacation.  I did so with the use of one of the best valued awards that currently exist to get across the Atlantic — British Airways Avios for travel on Aer Lingus.  In the rest of this post, I will detail how one can easily fly from Boston to Ireland in business class for fewer miles than most airlines charge for a one-way in economy.  I’ll hit the following points in this post:

  • The Sweet Spot on British Airways’ Award Chart
  • Checking Award Availability
  • Calling British Airways to Book
  • Fly in Style for Cheap
  • How to get British Airways Avios…. if you don’t fly British Airways

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Vegas Baby! For BAcon!

I’m writing this post from about 35,000 feet on a US Airways flight somewhere in between Washington’s Reagan National Airport and Phoenix en route to Las Vegas!  I’m heading out to the desert with my girlfriend in tow for this weekend’s Boarding Area blogger Conference… better known as BAcon!    The primary reason for the trip is the conference, but it’s also the girlfriend’s first trip out to Vegas, so I can’t wait to show her around.Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 10.00.27 AM

This will be my first time attending the annual gathering of all Prior2Boarding and BoardingArea bloggers — some of them you’ve undoubtedly read before if you follow news about traveling, points and miles.  The three day conference is being held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort, and is hosted by M life and Hyatt.  Topics in the conference will range from writing improvement to Google Analytics to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and blogging best practices!  We will also get an overview of the Mlife / Caesars brand,  as they are our hosts at the Mandalay Bay.

There are already several special events planned for us over the next few days, and I can’t wait to see what surprises are in store!  I hope to learn a whole bunch of useful information that will allow me to improve my blog, and I look forward to meeting and networking with my fellow Prior2Boarding and BoardingArea bloggers!

Other than the conference, the immediate task at hand for tonight will be to find a proper viewing location to watch my beloved Auburn Tigers play Kansas State tonight for a highly anticipated non-conference, Thursday night college football matchup!  I may go to the local Auburn Alumni Club Bar, but if there’s a great sports bar that anyone can recommend, I’m all ears!

Anyway, I will keep some updates coming from BAcon, and I’ll definitely make some future posts on the highlights of this weekend’s conference!

Meeting the AA Executive Platinum Status Challenge… In One Month!

I previously wrote about the details of the Executive Platinum Status Challenge with American Airlines for which I recently signed up.  Well, I didn’t just blindly agree to the challenge — earning 25,000 elite qualifying points (EQP) in three months is no small feat, after all!

Before I even asked for the challenge, I carefully planned out the least expensive way for me to accomplish this challenge.  My two limiting factors in this endeavor were both time and money.  I had a very busy fall already with trips planned to Europe, Asia, and South America to go along with a wedding, a bachelor party, a weekend with the parents, a trip to Auburn for a football game, and a trip to Vegas for the BAcon Boarding Area blogger conference.  Adding to that, pretty much all of my vacation time has been either used or earmarked for the trips mentioned above.  This left me only three weekends between September and mid-November that I could use to hit this challenge. Continue Reading →

Review: Qantas Economy and Business Class Cairns to Sydney to Melbourne

Fifteen Days in Australia

A Trip to Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, and Diving the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea

After disembarking the Spirit of Freedom after four insanely great days of diving the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, we accompanied several of our fellow passengers to a bar in Cairns for lunch and a few drinks.  Many of the crew members of the boat met us there for a great summer afternoon.  When it was time to head to the airport, several of us split a cab for the short ride.  I’d booked my dad in business class for these two segments, while I bit the bullet and agreed to ride back in economy.  Upon check-in, the very nice Qantas check-in agent proactively changed my seat assignment to an exit-row aisle seat when she saw how tall I was – this was a very nice touch and a great way to start the trip down to Melbourne.

After passing through security, we spent some time in the Qantas Club before it was time to board for the flight.  Despite Cairns being a regional airport at best, the club was extremely well equipped and certainly much nicer than pretty much any other domestic lounge run by a carrier in the US.

Cairns to Melbourne via Sydney on Qantas

Cairns to Melbourne via Sydney on Qantas

Qantas (QF) 927
Cairns (CNS) – Sydney (SYD)
Aircraft:  Boeing 737-800
Seat:  14D (Economy Class)
Monday, January 6
4:15 PM – 8:15PM
Duration:  3:00

My dad took his seat in 1D in business class, and I kept going back to the second row of exit row seats.  The plane was a fairly new B737-800 with nice, leather seats and an in-seat IFE system.  Since I did have an exit row seat, I had tons of legroom — this was much appreciated, though even the standard seat pitch didn’t look all that bad.

Plenty of legroom in the Exit Row!

Plenty of legroom in the Exit Row!

Nice in-seat IFE on this Qantas B737-800

Nice in-seat IFE on this Qantas B737-800

Service on the flight was pretty fantastic.  We had a light snack on-board that consisted of a decent sandwich — the flight attendant from business class even brought me back some ice cream and a drink from business class at the request of my dad — a nice touch for sure.  I watched a movie on the IFE, and before I knew it, we were on final approach into Sydney.  This was one of the easier flights in economy that I’d experienced, and it was certainly a better experience than my flights on Virgin Australia a few days before.

We were scheduled to have a couple of hours in Sydney before our connecting flight departed for Melbourne, but it was delayed for about an hour.  No worries — we just headed to the Qantas Club in the domestic terminal to kill some time.  Once again, it was very well-appointed and provided a wonderful respite from the somewhat vacant domestic terminal at that hour.

Boarding for the short hop over to Melbourne began about 45 minutes behind schedule as the flight was awaiting a connecting crew.

Qantas (QF) 497
Sydney (SYD) – Melbourne (MEL)
Aircraft:  Boeing 767-300
Seat:  4E (Business Class)
Monday, January 6
10:05 PM – 11:40PM
Duration:  1:35

Since my dad enjoyed business class on the much longer between Cairns and Sydney, he offered  his seat in business class to me for the shorter flight to Melbourne.  I gladly accepted his offer, and was pretty thrilled to ride up front on this domestic version of the Qantas B767-300.   The domestic version of this aircraft is situated with 30 business class seats — five rows of six seats.  It’s a regional business class setup, with a larger, reclining seat.  It wasn’t up to the standards of the regional business class product I flew last year on Cathay Pacific, but the seat was certainly better than your typical domestic first class seat in the States.  Though I didn’t use it, the IFE on the B767-300 was via pre-loaded iPads.  Each of these IFE systems were loaded with a ton of entertainment — movies, TV shows, music, etc.  I do prefer in-seat IFE systems, but this system wasn’t that bad — especially considering there was a slot in the seat where you can hang the iPad, making it a de-facto seat-back IFE system.

The empty Business Class cabin on the Qantas B767-300

The empty Business Class cabin on the Qantas B767-300

The IFE system on the Qantas B767-300 -- an iPad

The IFE system on the Qantas B767-300 — an iPad

The business class cabin on this evening flight was practically empty.  In fact, there was only one other passenger in the business class cabin with me, and that person was seated up in row 1.   There were two flight attendants working the business class cabin, so it came as no surprise that the service on-board was pretty phenomenal.  The flight attendant was young and attractive, and actually sat with me for quite some time giving me some recommendations for things to do in Melbourne.

Thought the flight was listed as an hour and thirty-five minutes, in reality it was no more than a fifty-five minute flight, wheels-up to wheels-down.  Despite this short flight time, there was still a legit meal service.  The dish was a couscous salad with sliced,  chipotle pork, with lime.  It was very light, refreshing, and pretty delicious — a perfect snack for a short, late night flight.

Pork and couscous salad

Pork and couscous salad

The flight was over too quick, but after the end of a long day I was pretty good and ready to be in Melbourne.

This short little hop was a pretty ridiculously good flight, albeit a short one.  I was quite happy with the domestic business class service provided by Qantas — and the economy flight was pretty impressive too.

How I booked it…

Domestically in Australia, there are three major players:  Qantas, Virgin Australia, and JetStar.  This left me with several options.  Since Qantas is partners with both American and British Airways, I could easily redeem those miles for travel should the flight be expensive.  For short-haul flights, British Airways Avios would work best, as it features a distance-based award chart that can be very advantageous — especially on flights under 651 miles.  For the Cairns to Melbourne segment, I decided to use miles for a flight on Qantas.  At the time, I had very modest balances of both British Airways Avios and American Airlines miles.  I ultimately wanted to fly the both of us in business class, but unfortunately there was only one seat in business left on the Cairns to Sydney segment.   The cheapest way to do this flight in business was with American miles, as it only ran 17,500 miles for this one-way flight in business class.

17,500 miles for a one-way in business class "Wholly Within" Australia

17,500 miles for a one-way in business class “Wholly Within” Australia

Australia one of the "Wholly Within" listed countries

Australia one of the “Wholly Within” listed countries

I then used British Airways Avios for another ticket on the same flights, but in economy.  This came to 14,500 Avios due to the distance of Cairns – Sydney – Melbourne clocking in at two segments (10,000 + 4,500 avios).  See this post for a background in the distance-based British Airway Avios program.

Avios Redemption Chart Courtesy:  British Airways

Avios Redemption Chart
Courtesy: British Airways