Review: THAI Royal Silk Business Class Bangkok to Shanghai

I was actually dreading this flight – 100%.   At a scheduled 4:15, this “red-eye” flight to Shanghai was too short for a decent night’s rest.  It was also in a slanted business class seat, which I was pretty worried about for sleeping.  I typically hate these short red-eye flights, but when booking the award back in February, this was the only flight with award space.

As it turns out, though – everything was fine – even though the flight was entirely too short!

We arrived at the gate about ten minutes prior to boarding and as usual, the gate area was utter chaos.  In my experience, THAI has never done a good job of successfully boarding business class separately from economy.  Usually, as soon as the gate agent heads over to open one of the glass doors for boarding, pretty much the entire crowd in the boarding lounge gets up and packs into a tightly compressed crowd, itching to get onboard. Continue Reading →

GIVEAWAY: 2 United Club Passes!

After going through my things, I’ve come up on a pair  of one-time United Club Passes (expiration 2/28/15).  They’re each valid for a one-time entry for one person at any United Club.  I’ll be giving BOTH passes away to ONE winner.

United 787-8 Dreamliner

United’s 787-8 Dreamliner

How to EnterPPP Subscribe

For this giveaway, there are THREE ways to enter:

  • Subscribe to my blog posts on the side column of the blog
  • Follow me on Twitter (@seanAU4882)
  • Re-tweet my post with contest link on Twitter (include the #PPPUCPass hash-tag)

Terms

  • Enter up to three (3) times with the method(s) above
  • Enter at any time between the time of this post and Monday (17 Nov 2014) at 3am EDT / 12am PDT
  • The winner will be selected using random.org
  • I’ll contact the winner via e-mail or Twitter DM
  • The winner should have a valid US or Canada mailing address (so I can mail the passes!)

Good luck!

 

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

Continue Reading →

Review: THAI Royal First Class Munich to Bangkok

We arrived at Munich’s Franz Josef Strauss International Airport over three hours before our flight since we were just ready to relax a little bit before the flight.  There was already a queue formed when we arrived, but we were the first guests in line for Royal First Class.  On this flight was myself and two friends — one of who would be accompanying me in First Class, and the other who was holding down the fort in economy.  Once check-in opened, we were processed first and headed through security and immigration before heading to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge.  Unfortunately, Thai First Class passengers are not granted access at Lufthansa’s First Class Lounges, so the Senator Lounge had to do.  It, of course, was fine — as we primarily just used the space to relax with a light meal and a few drinks before our flight to Bangkok.

About 45 minutes prior to departure, we made the short walk to our gate and took a couple pictures of our B747-400 in the unique THAI livery.  As we were called for boarding, we entered the plane at door 1L and was greeted by the Purser.

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.

Continue Reading →

A 36-hour Trip to Nowhere: An Iguazu Fail

I write this post on Saturday morning — not from Iguazu Falls as planned, but from New York – JFK, Terminal 2.

That’s right.  I never made it to Iguazu Falls.

There were a ton of little things that went wrong with my trip, and they all caught up with me Friday afternoon in Sao Paulo.

Red:  Planned Flights Blue:  Actual Flights Purple:  Planned = Actual

Red: Originally Planned Flights
Blue: Actual Flights
Purple: Planned = Actual

Basically, I was both physically and mentally exhausted.  Confronting me was a ten-hour layover in Sao Paulo before a late night flight to Iguazu Falls.  Considering how exhausted and out of it I felt at 4pm, I couldn’t imagine dealing with negotiating with a Brazilian cab driver, crossing the Brazil / Argentina border, and locating a small hostel in Puerto Iguassu, Argentina twelve hours later.

But what exactly happened to get to that point?

Continue Reading →

A Long Weekend in Iguazu Falls

After much internal debate, I’ve finally decided to go through with my trip this coming long weekend to Iguazu Falls via pretty much every major airport in South America.

Am I insane?

Probably.

Back this Spring, LAN offered a very, very cheap rate from New York to Iguazu Falls on both LAN and TAM metal.  Naturally, I made a game of finding the most absurd routing possible to get to Iguazu Falls.  That seemed like a fun thing at the time.  It was also one of the cheapest routings, to boot.

And Now?

Yeah, I’m pretty much dreading the flights.  Over 32 hours of flying in coach, on FIVE flights to get from DC to freakin’ Foz do Iguazu, Brazil at 1am, only to have to taxi into Puerto Iguassu, Argentina in the wee hours of the morning.

Five flights?  Four transfers?  A late-night border crossing between Brazil and Argentina?

What possibly could go wrong?

In the end, I’ve decided that an opportunity to see one of the Natural Wonders of the World – Iguazu Falls – is just too good to miss, despite the absolute absurdity that I’m putting myself through to get there.  Oh yeah – I’ve also already put too much of a financial investment in this trip to just see it go to waste.

During my time there this weekend, I plan on seeing the Falls from both the Argentina and Brazil sides, as well as spending some time in Puerto Iguazu.  Since I’m rockin’ this trip solo, I’ll be staying at a hostel in order to keep costs down.  So I’ll for sure get to Brazil and Argentina on this trip.  If I play my cards right, I may be able to get into neighboring Paraguay for a bit, but we’ll see how that goes when I get down there.  Mix in the quality time I’ll get to spend during my layovers in Lima, Peru, and that’s possibly four countries in one weekend (though I hesitate to count Peru if I don’t leave the Lima Airport).

 The Routing

Yeah… it looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 7.07.41 PM Yup.  That’s:

  • DCA-JFK on AA (my upgrade to First Class cleared!)
  • JFK-(LIM)-SCL on LAN in economy (stopover in Lima)
  • SCL-GRU on TAM in economy
  • GRU-IGU on TAM in economy

Return

  • IGU-LIM on LAN in economy
  • LIM-JFK on LAN in economy
  • JFK-DCA on AA in economy

So, over 13,000 miles of flying in a weekend.   Not bad.  Slightly insane, but not your typical weekend.  Whatever happens, it’ll be an adventure.  And for that, I’m thankful.  Now, about streaming the Auburn vs. Texas A&M game…


 Update:  This trip did NOT go as planned… the trip report is linked below:

A 36-hour Trip to Nowhere:  An Iguazu Fail

 

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

Weekly Round-Up in the World of Points

Well, it’s been an insanely busy week for me, as I got back into the swing of things at work, and in life in general.  As such, I didn’t get to write as much as I wanted to, so here is a weekly round-up of some of the goings-ons in the World of travel, points and miles.  I’ll try to call out the top four or five stories on a weekly basis in the future.

Atlantis Resort becomes a Marriott Rewards Partner

This week, the uber-popular Atlantis Resort and Casino in the Bahamas officially joined the Marriott Rewards program.  The incredible resort is now bookable with Marriott Points at the following levels:

  • Beach Towers – 35,000 points per night (category 7)
  • Coral Towers – 35,000 points per night (category 7)
  • Royal Towers – 40,000 points per night (category 8)
  • The Cove – 45,000 points per night (category 9)

While a little steep, it is a great resort, and if you’re sitting on a stockpile of Marriott points, it’s a definite option for a Caribbean vacation.  The property is marketing each tower as a separate hotel.  While the Cove and maybe Royal Towers could be a deal, I don’t think the Beach and Coral Towers are particularly good values considering that a night here can routinely be had for les than $150 per night.

The fact sheet regarding points redemptions can be found here.  Keep in mind that with Marriott, when you redeem for four nights, you receive the fifth night free. Continue Reading →

First Look: ANA First Class Tokyo to Washington

Last week, I finished up my around the World trip by flying from Tokyo-Narita to Washington-Dulles in ANA First Class in its new ANA First Square product.

How would I describe the experience in a word?

Spectacular.

The 12+ hour flight on this new, ANA B777-300ER will surely serve as the benchmark to which I compare any future flight.  The whole experience was outstanding, from start to finish.

The new First Square product provided a TON of very private space.  Though there was not a door, the dividers of the square were high, and I could not see into any other suite at any time.  The seat was very comfortable, with a huge LCD screen with a decent amount of entertainment selections.  It laid down into a bed where I would sleep soundly for about eight hours. Continue Reading →