A Layover in Bangkok – Six Hours in the City

As previously noted, we spent the first part of our layover at the THAI Royal First Lounge, but with twelve hours between flights, I wanted to get into the city a bit just to experience a little of the utter chaos that is Bangkok.  We left the lounge and headed for Thailand immigration, where our passports were stamped.  From there, we headed towards the taxi cab queue, but decided to play things “safe” and talk to one of the “official” airport transport / tour agents.  This is a surefire way to pay more for transportation, but we didn’t really feel like dealing with language barriers and preferred to pre-pay for a driver for the day.  We ultimately arranged for a driver for six hours for about 3,000 Thai Baht (~USD$100)– though that’s relatively expensive, we were happy to pay it, as it was pretty simple and easy for us. Continue Reading →

Review: THAI Royal First Lounge and Royal Orchid Spa – Bangkok

After a wonderful flight from Munich, we arrived well rested a little after 1pm at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi  Airport.  Upon deplaning, we were immediately met at the end of the jet way by a THAI representative who quickly whisked us away on a golf-cart to transfer security and immigration.  In less than five minutes, we were checking into the THAI First Class Lounge.  We had about twelve hours to kill before our redeye flight to Shanghai, so we planned to mix some time in the lounge with a day trip into Bangkok.

THAI Royal First Lounge

THAI Royal First Lounge

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Oktoberfest… and Six Other Highlights of Munich

I’ve been pretty open about my love for Oktoberfest in Munich.  As the largest festival in the World, Oktoberfest attracts over 6 million visitors each year during the 17 day event.  The past five years, I’ve spent at least a couple days at the Wiesn, and I’ve always had a blast.  This year was no different.

See this post for ten tips to planning a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich.

Instead of going four consecutive days at Oktoberfest, we decided to mix things up a bit in order to conserve some of our energy later in the trip.  As a result, we decided to spend two of our five days in Munich at the Oktoberfest and use the other days explore Munich.  Continue Reading →

Review: United Global First Class Chicago to Munich

I started out my around the world trip with a Transatlantic flight from Chicago to Munich in United Global First Class.  After a longer than usual flight from Washington-DCA to Chicago, I arrived at O’ Hare and met up with my good friend, who would be joining me for the entire trip to Europe and Asia.  IMG_8624We spent an hour or so at the United Global First Class Lounge in O’Hare, primarily finishing up some last-minute bill paying and calling loved ones before we departed.  Finally, it was time for boarding, so we ventured to the gate where boarding had just commenced.

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2015 Combined AAdvantage Loyalty Program Announced

This morning, American Airlines announced its 2015 AAdvantage Loyalty Program for the combined American and US Airways.  As an American elite, the program remains largely un-changed, and that’s a great thing!  With that said, there are a few changes to the program that I’ll highlight in this post.  The theme of the whole deal is that the combined carrier will run one loyalty program (AAdvantage) for two separate airlines and reservations systems at American and US Airways.  This is a bit awkward, but if they make it work like it’s laid out here, it should be fine.

The Changes

Elite Qualification

  • From an initial scanning of the new program, the biggest change is an increase in the qualifying criteria for qualifying by segments.  The new program features an increase of Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) for Gold / Platinum / Executive Platinum from 25/50/100 to 30/60/120.  The qualification criteria on Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) remains the same, and that’s a HUGE sigh of relief.
2015 AA Elite Qualification Criteria

2015 AA Elite Qualification Criteria

Elite Benefits Flying on American

  • For Gold and Platinum elites, 500-mile certificates will still be needed to upgrade on flights over 500 miles, but upgrades continue to be unlimited for Executive Platinum members when flying American
    • Previous US Airways elites will receive 500-mile stickers based on their qualification history so they can upgrade on American flights

Elite Benefits Flying on US Airways

  • When flying US Airways, complimentary upgrades will be cleared automatically, based on status (up to 2 /3 /4 days for Gold / Platinum / Executive Platinum)
  • Integration of Auto-upgrades at US Airways (AA elites will be auto confirmed on US Airways instead of at check-in) — this is great!

General Elite Benefits and Notes

  • All AA elites are now eligible for unlimited complimentary upgrades on flights under 500 miles
  • Executive Platinum Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) can now be used on US Airways flights, too
  • Addition of free same-day changes for Executive Platinum Members!
  • Mileage balances, elite qualifying miles and  segments, and lifetime miles will be combined in early 2015

Mileage Earning

  • There are no changes to the mileage earning schemes other than:
    • The mileage earning bonus for business class tickets will increase from 25% to 50%.

You can read all the details on the changes here:  2015 AAdvantage Program

The Timeline

Here’s a high-level timeline on when benefits will be available to AAdvantage members:

Right now

January 2015

Second quarter of 2015 (when programs are combined)

More detail on the timeline can be found here:  2015 AAdvantage Integration Timeline

Initial Thoughts

I am very happy with the changes.  As an American Executive Platinum member, I view these changes to the 2015 AAdvantage Loyalty Program as all positive (other than the increase in segments needed for qualification).  Since I will likely qualify via EQM, this does not affect me.  The benefits also increase a bit for Gold and Platinum members, but the level of benefit for those members pales in comparison to what Executive Platinums get.

I was very worried about the addition of a revenue requirement, but that was not included…. for now.  We’ll see what happens after the two airlines are fully integrated.

Note:  I’ll continue to analyze some of these changes throughout the day and provide more commentary, as needed

Six Initial Thoughts on My Trip Around the World

After two weeks and just under 22,000 miles of travel around the world, I’m finally getting acclimated to the real world after arriving back in Washington from Tokyo last week.

DCA-ORD-MUC // MUC-BKK-PVG // PVG-HKG-PVG // PVG-NRT-IAD

DCA-ORD-MUC // MUC-BKK-PVG // PVG-HKG-PVG // PVG-NRT-IAD

I’d initially planned to publish trip reports as I went on this trip, but after a pretty intense first few days of Oktoberfest in Munich, that whole idea went out the window.  On this trip, I used my time in airports and on flights to relax and sleep instead of writing.  As a result, my trip reports will be published, post by post in the coming weeks.  I’ve got all sorts of goodies in this set, in addition to my flights in United, THAI, Air China and ANA First Class, including:

  • Le Meridien, Munich
  • Park Hyatt Shanghai
  • Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui
  • Grand Hyatt Shanghai
  • Hyatt Regency Tokyo
  • Sights of Munich and Oktoberfest
  • A Day in Bangkok
  • THAI Royal First Class Lounge and Spa, BKK
  • Sights of Shanghai
  • Air China Forbidden First Class Lounge, PVG
  • Sights of Hong Kong
  • A Nights in Tokyo

Continue Reading →

An Around the World Trip — Introduction

As I previously wrote, I will be embarking on a two-week journey around the World starting tonight.  While I’m meeting twelve other friends in Munich, two of them will be joining me for our exploits in Asia.

Though we all have somewhat different flights, we all did manage to get on the same THAI flight from Munich to Bangkok to Shanghai.  And we all managed to do it all with miles.

How exactly did we do it?

I’m so glad you asked…

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How to Book an Around the World Trip with US Airways Miles

US Airways Dividend Miles are some of the easiest miles out there to accrue, and at least for now, the airline has a very rewarding award chart with several awesome hot spots that one can exploit to derive maximum value from their miles.

Perhaps no award on the US Airways chart has more value than the business or first class award from North America to North Asia for 110,000 miles in business class or 120,000 miles in first class.   US Airways defines “North Asia” as China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.   US Airways’ liberal routing rules allow one to really exploit this award and turn it into a de-facto around the world ticket.

In this post, I will demonstrate:

  • The mechanics and details of a US Airways award ticket
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using American’s website
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using British Airways’ website
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using Qantas’s website
  • The proper way to call a US Airways and book this award

Continue Reading →

Ten Tips for Planning an Oktoberfest Trip to Munich

My favorite trip  of the year is always my annual pilgrimage to Munich for the World’s largest festival — Oktoberfest!

This will be the fifth year in a row that I’ve attended the Wiesn in Germany, so I’ve learned on the fly, but at this point,  I think I know what I’m doing pretty well.

Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival that runs every year,  from the late September to the first full weekend in October.  Plan these dates accordingly.

Planning a trip to this foreign festival can be a daunting task, but here are ten tips along with several guides and recommendations: Continue Reading →

Around the World with US Airways Miles

A week from today, I will be embarking on another around the world adventure — this time it will include a stop at one of my favorite places in the World — Munich during Oktoberfest.  The Oktoberfest trip is one that I’ve taken the past four years, so it was a no-brainer to book a fifth straight year at the Weisn.

I will be joining ten other friends in Munich for four days, and at least two days at the tents of Oktoberfest — the world’s largest festival.  We also plan to attend a Bayern Munich match, the famed Hofbrauhaus, and some other various sites in and around Munich.  Last year I was able to experience the closing of Oktoberfest, and it was definitely worth the effort to stay for it on Sunday night, so we will be enjoying the closing ceremonies once again from the Hacker Pschorr tent.

The 2013 Closing Ceremony at the Hacker-Pschorr Tent at Oktoberfest

The 2013 Closing Ceremony at the Hacker-Pschorr Tent at Oktoberfest

When planning this trip last year, I wanted to take advantage of a stash of US Airways miles that I had on hand, as I was uncertain of how the impending US Airways / American merger would affect the very favorable US Airways award chart.  As such, I decided to stretch the value of my miles as far as possible.  I also want to try several Star Alliance first class partners while I could, since one could no longer book US Airways on Star Alliance partners after March 31, 2014.

In order to squeeze that extra value out of my award, I decided to book a trip from the US to North Asia… yes, North Asia. Continue Reading →