Weekly Roundup – 12/12/2014

First of all, my apologies — I’ve been M.I.A. for the last couple weeks.  Frankly, life has gotten into the way, as I’ve been busy with work, finding a new place for when my lease expires next month, and of course spending time with my family over Thanksgiving.  Once everything settles down, I will start posting a little more, as I still have trip reports and how-to guides and all sorts of stuff I want to write about!

In the meantime, I’ll briefly touch on a few things going on in the World of travel, points and miles — a weekly roundup of sorts.  It’s been a relatively slow week, but there’s still stuff happening!

Me in Lufthansa B744 First Class, sans falcon

Me in Lufthansa B744 First Class, sans falcon

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#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.

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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

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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

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Review: ANA First Class Square Tokyo to Washington

After an extremely early morning bus ride from the Hyatt Regency Tokyo out to Narita, I proceeded to the very exclusive feeling ANA Suite Check-in facility.  Here, I was quickly checked in and whisked away to a private security line before I went on to clear immigration.  I relaxed for about an hour in the ANA Suite Lounge (review forthcoming) before making the short trip over to gate 42 to board my flight back home to Washington.  After about five minutes, a slew of gate agents finished swarming about and welcomed aboard First Class passengers.
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Review: Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class Shanghai to Tokyo

We arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport a couple of hours before our scheduled departure for Toyko-Narita.  Check-in was quick and simple, and I was pointed towards the security line where I was able to skip the line since I was flying First.  I ended up clearing security and immigration only minimally quicker than my friend who was on the flight with me in economy.

After about a half an hour in the Air China First Class Lounge (review forthcoming), we made our way to the gate where we discovered that we would be boarding buses to take us to a remote stand.

Yup, we seriously were going to use a remote stand to board a B747-400.  This was a tad strange to say the least.  I was able to take the private van for first and business class passengers, and after about a ten minute ride, we arrived to our plane — which happened to be the furthest plane away from the terminal.

Boarding our Air China B747-400 from the ramp

Boarding our Air China B747-400 from the ramp

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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 →

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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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.

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Review: Le Meridien Munich

For the first time in four years, I opted to stay at a hotel for Oktoberfest not named Four Points Sheraton Munich Central.  And the result?

A mixed bag, really.

The Le Meridien Munich is located pretty darned conveniently – especially for Oktoberfest.  The property is literally across the street from the south entrance of the Haufbahnhof Central Station, and an easy, fifteen minute walk to the center of the city, Marienplatz and the Glockenspiel.  Though it’s not nearly as close at the Four Points Munich Central, the Le Meridien is only about a ten minute walk (4-5 blocks) to the front gates of Oktoberfest at the Theresenwiese.

We attempted to check-in relatively early, due to our morning arrival from the States, but not surprisingly, we were informed that our room would not be ready until 2pm.  Okay, not a big deal.  We then were informed that a roll-away would cost us 60 euros extra PER day.  This was not what the details of our reservation said when I booked the room, and luckily I’d printed out all the confirmation details and had them with me.  The front desk staff member was extremely nice and agreed that our rate did, indeed state that there was no fee for a roll-away…. score! Continue Reading →