Review: American Business Class Dallas / Ft Worth to Hong Kong

I arrived in Los Angeles from my very nice trans-continental flight from New York on the new American A321T and hurried a few gates down where my flight to Dallas was already boarding.  I was the last first class passenger to board, so I took my seat and had a glass of water.  At that point, I was pretty exhausted, as it was about 1am Pacific time — early in the morning on my eastern time zone body clock.

I fell asleep before we even left LAX and didn’t wake up until we were landing in DFW — a short, sub-three hour redeye flight.  Pretty much the most miserable timing ever.  But I was okay with it.  I made my way to the D terminal at DFW and met a friend who had just come in from San Francisco at the American Express Centurion Lounge.  We had four hours to kill before we boarded our flight to Hong Kong.  I was able to access the lounge as his guest, as he has an AMEX Platinum card (I do not have one — shocking, I know).

For those who haven’t been, the AMEX Centurion Lounges are hands down the best domestic lounges in the country.  And DFW’s version is no exception.  I was dragging pretty significantly at this point, so I put my name on the list to take a shower and freshen up.  The shower was ready in no time, so I took a long shower and changed clothes.

Bam!  I was a new man.

Lunch selection at AMEX Centurion Lounge - DFW

Lunch selection at AMEX Centurion Lounge – DFW (from a previous visit)

Lunch selection at AMEX Centurion Lounge - DFW

Lunch selection at AMEX Centurion Lounge – DFW  (from a previous visit)

AMEX Centurion Lounge - DFW

AMEX Centurion Lounge – DFW

For the next few hours, we had some breakfast, a few drinks and I had a free massage in the while awaiting our flight.  My third friend joined us later that morning, so we naturally had some bon voyage drinks before making the short walk to our gate to board the longest flight that American Airlines flies:  Dallas to Hong Kong.

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United B787-9 International Routes Announced

It seems that Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) will become a haven for the new B787-9 Dreamliners!  United has revealed that a number of its new, B787-9s will be deployed to Houston to takeover existing routes currently flown by other equipment.

United 787-8 Dreamliner

The transition to the United B787-9 begins in the fall:

Airlineroute.net reports the following equipment  updates:

eff 18AUG15 Houston – Rio de Janeiro 787-9 replaces CO 777-200ER
eff 24SEP15 Houston – Frankfurt 787-9 replaces 787-8 and other aircraft types
eff 25OCT15 Houston – Buenos Aires 787-9 replaces UA 767-300ER
eff 17DEC15 Houston – Amsterdam 787-9 replaces UA 777-200ER
eff 05JAN16 Houston – Santiago de Chile 787-9 replaces UA 767-300ER
eff 03MAR16 Houston – Tokyo Narita 787-9 replaces CO 777-200ER

This announcement comes on the heels of United announcing a change in its overall fleet strategy by replacing some future B787 orders with larger B777-300ER aircraft.  Furthermore, the airline announced last month that it would be extending the life of its B767-300ER fleet, shifting some current B777-200s to domestic service, and substituting larger aircraft on many Transatlantic routes currently served by the B757-200.  This announcement makes it more clear as to where those larger aircraft will come from.

So it seems by next Spring, IAH will be a mini Dreamliner hub — great news for Houston, as the Dreamliner is one of the more comfortable airplanes out there.  I thoroughly enjoyed my United flights on the B787 Dreamliner though they were on the -8 variant instead of the larger 787-9.

My Dreamliner reviews can be found here:

H/T:  Airlineroute.net

Review: United Business First Dubai to Washington

After spending an enjoyable three days in Dubai, we arrived at Dubai International Airport where we went through check-in, immigration and security without a hitch.  We had about an hour or so to kill before we needed to go to the gate for another round of security, so we headed to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge for a bit.

This lounge isn’t the largest lounge in the world, but there were a few options of cold appetizers as well as beer, wine and soft drinks.  I had a drink and a quick bite to eat as my buddy and I relaxed a bit before our impending long haul back to Washington.

Lufthansa Senator Lounge - Dubai

Lufthansa Senator Lounge – Dubai

It was finally time to get to the gate, so we made the ten minute trek through the expansive Dubai Terminal 2.   Since this was a flight back to the United States from Dubai, there was an additional security screening at the gate.  They took business class passengers first, but that only meant that we were allowed into the holding pen first at the gate, as boarding had not yet started.  Finally, after about thirty minutes of sitting around, we boarded our United B777-200.

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Review: United Business First Washington to Dubai

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.

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

The chariot awaits — our B777-200 being prepped for the journey from Washington to Dubai

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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…

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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: ANA Suite Lounge – Tokyo-Narita

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

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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A Twenty-Two Hour Layover in Tokyo and the Hyatt Regency Tokyo

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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Review: Air China First Class Lounge – Shanghai Pudong

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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