Review: LAN Economy Class New York – JFK to Santiago on the B787

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 →

Review: Delta Business Elite Class Sao Paulo to New York-JFK

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…

Continue Reading →

2014 Year in Review

Another year has passed, and once again I was fortunate enough to travel a good bit.  Now, I didn’t fly nearly as much as I did in 2013, but my 2014 effort ain’t too shabby!  Nevertheless, my stats for this year were less than 2013 for a variety of reasons:

  • In 2014, I focused on burning the tons of miles that I accumulated from flying over 150,000 miles in 2013
  • In 2014, I took a few very long trips instead of a dozen quick trips and weekend getaways
  • In 2014, I did not take trips “just because” due to the new Premium Qualifying Dollar requirement instituted by United.  This reduced the incentive for me to look for and fly cheap tickets for random weekends to various places, since status is no longer calculated solely by the distance one flies — there’s a dollar spent aspect to it now.
  • By the time I status matched / challenged to American, pretty much my entire year of travel was already set, and since I’d qualified for Executive Platinum, there was no reason to take trips for the sake of status.

Despite a large reduction in distance traveled, I’ve still had an incredible year traveling in 2014, and I present my 2014 Year in Review… Continue Reading →

Review: Grand Hyatt Shanghai

Since I was scheduled to pick up my award ticket and start my journey back to Washington, DC via Tokyo on an Air China flight from Shanghai to Tokyo, I arranged to get back to Shanghai the prior day, leaving the two of us with one last afternoon and evening in Shanghai.  Since we were exhausted at this point of the trip, we decided to cancel our pre-existing reservation at the Andaz Shanghai, Xintiandi in favor of the Grand Hyatt, which is located in the Jing Mao Tower — directly across the street from the Park Hyatt, where we had stayed the previous week.

After arriving on a short hop from Hong Kong on China Eastern, we this time opted to take the Maglev to town, avoiding the ripoff that we experienced on our first stint in Shanghai a few days earlier.  The Maglev only cost 80RMB round trip and took only 12 minutes to get from Shanghai-Pudong Airport to the Longyang Road stop on the metro.  A twenty minute metro ride and five stops later had us a couple blocks from the Grand Hyatt.

Continue Reading →

Review: Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui

When planning where we would stay for our weekend in Hong Kong, I narrowed it down between the two main Hyatt properties in Hong Kong:  the Grand Hyatt and the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui.  I wrote off the Hyatt Regency Sha Tin due to its location relatively far from Central and Kowloon.  I booked a room at each property and attempted to use on of my Diamond Suite Upgrades at each property.  I was immediately able to confirm a Regency Suite at the Hyatt Regency, but was unable to confirm any sort of suite upgrade at the Grand Hyatt.

I was torn between the two properties — the Grand Hyatt is well-known for being the superior of the two properties, and one of the best Hyatt properties in Asia.  The Hyatt Regency, Tsim Sha Tsui, on the other hand, has a very nice location in Kowloon, right above the entrance to the Hong Kong MTR.

We wanted the space of a suite since three of us would be sharing the room, and ultimately that was the deciding factor — since my suite upgrade never cleared at the Grand Hyatt, we chose the Hyatt Regency for our stay.

After arriving on a short hop from Shanghai on China Eastern, we hopped the Airport Express to Kowloon MTR station.  Here, we took a cab to the Hyatt Regency (HKD $32).

Continue Reading →

#TBT: Review: United Business First Washington to Frankfurt – 2013

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

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.

Continue Reading →

US Airlines Continue to Cut Passenger Services, Please Investors

Snip, snip, snip….

This is apparently the week for US-based airlines to make all sorts of passenger un-friendly changes and cuts.  While ultimately screwing over the passengers, the cuts are largely going to please investors on Wall Street.

Just this week, Delta, United and JetBlue have announced some cuts that hurt the consumer, and in many cases, they’ve prettied-up their press releases to make it look consumer-friendly.  Tsk, tsk…

Some of the changes this week include:

  • JetBlue announces “refresh” of A320 cabins (read – less leg room)
  • JetBlue announces that free checked bags are no more!
  • United makes a number of “enhancements”
  • Delta announces new 2015 award chart
  • Delta eliminates stopovers and open jaws on award tickets

Continue Reading →

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

Continue Reading →

Two Days in Shanghai

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 →

Revisited: How to Book an Around the World Trip with US Airways miles

Due to a ton of comments, questions and general interest on my last few posts about my First Class award flights around the World, I’m going to re-post the below post from a couple months ago where I detailed how to book one of these de-fact around the World tickets using US Airways miles ( it’s really an award ticket from North America to North Asia with a stopover in Europe).  My round-the-world flight reviews from that ONE TICKET are here:

A couple of notes regarding this post:

  • US Airways miles can no longer be redeemed for flights on Star Alliance carriers like THAI, ANA and Air China.
  • US Airways miles can NOW be redeemed for flights on oneworld carriers like JAL, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, British Airways and American.
  • The US Airways award chart will go away during the 2nd Quarter of 2015 when the Dividend Miles program will be folded into the American Airlines AAdvantage program.  At that point, all US Airways miles will be converted into American miles, and the American Award Chart and Award rules will supersede that of US Airways.  It will be a sad day.

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 →