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.
United Club – Boston Logan
Waiting for my gate-checked bag in freezing cold temperatures at Dulles
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
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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 →
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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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
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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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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We arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport after a quick, 35-minute commute from the Grand Hyatt Shanghai on the metro and the maglev. First Class check-in was painless and uneventful, as was the short trek through immigration and security. We made our way directly to the new Air China lounges, located near gate 71 in Shanghai-Pudong’s Terminal 2.
There is one large desk with a ton of Air China agents to direct you to either the First Class or Business Class lounges. Since I was booked in first class for our short flight to Tokyo-Narita, we had access to the First Class Lounge.
I really hadn’t read a whole lot about this lounge, so I was anxious to see what it was all about. I must say, my expectations were quite low for this lounge, but I was very pleasantly surprised.
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Throwback Thursday Series!
This is the first 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.
I arrived at Dulles airport with my buddy about three hours before the flight. He’d be flying in economy on this flight, while I was in Business class. This was our flight over to Germany for Oktoberfest 2013. We planned to fly into Frankfurt before heading to Munich for a few days for Oktoberfest, and then on to London and Edinburgh.
After clearing security, we first headed to Terminal B to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. As a Star Alliance Gold member, I am able to access the Lufthansa Senator Lounge prior to my flight on a Star Alliance carrier — even though it wasn’t Lufthansa! This is great, because the Senator Lounge at Dulles easily bests the United Clubs at the airport, and is one of my favorite lounges in the United States. We spent about an hour in the lounge where we relaxed, ate some dinner, and had several drinks.
Our United B777-200 being prepped for the flight to FRA
As boarding time drew closer, we made the trek over to the C/D concourse at Dulles and to seek refuge in one of the United Clubs right by our gate. After another drink, it was time to head to the gate for boarding.
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Since my first time to Hong Kong during grad school back in 2009, I’ve referred to Hong Kong as my favorite city in the World. After a third trip back, I still think it’s my favorite city anywhere. There’s just so much that this metropolis has to offer. From the markets to the vistas to the beaches to the food to the architecture, Hong Kong really has it all, and is a true urban metropolis.
Every time I go back to Hong Kong, I continue to be mesmerized by its iconic skyline that towers over Victoria Harbor. I’m still enthralled with the absurd variety and quality of foods. Hong Kong is basically Manhattan — with a better skyline. But on a beautiful harbor. With mountainous terrain. And great beaches on the other side of the mountains… basically, I think this city has it all.
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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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Things didn’t start well at the airport. Immigration and customs were both fine, but then it went downhill.
Yes, we were exhausted after over 30 hours of travel from Munich at that point, but we fell into a trap at the airport – a trap that I should know better not to fall for: we listened to an “airport guide” and got ripped off on our taxi ride to our hotel in Pudong.
Instead of waiting 30 minutes for the Maglev, and instead of braving the taxi queue on our own, we let ourselves get convinced by this official-looking “airport guide” dude that 600RMB was a fair price for a private driver (i.e. cab) from the airport to Pudong.
Yeah, we got ripped off.
As we found out later in the trip, a cab for this trip should cost no more than 160RMB, and the Maglev could be had for even less. Oh, well. You live and you learn, I guess.
We really did enjoy our two days in Shanghai, though we screwed up along the way and got ripped off a time or two. Rather than dwell on that, I’ll hit some highlights of the two and a half days we spent in Shanghai. To be honest, the absolute star of the show during our stay was our hotel – the Park Hyatt Shanghai. Continue Reading →