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 →

Pardon My Absence Over the Holidays

First of all, I want to apologize for not posting the last month.  The last 30 or so days, my life has been completely and utterly swamped with moving, as I moved into Washington, DC from Arlington, VA.  That, combined with the Holidays and work really left no time to blog in my spare time.  Since I moved in last week, we did not have Internet connected until last night, so I really couldn’t have blogged from home even if I wanted to!

Finally, today I have some free time to kill in a couple of airport lounges, so I figured I’d get some material written.  I’m currently in the Boston United Club on my way to Dubai, where I’m spending the weekend with some friends.  Why am I in Boston?  That’s a story for another time — but long-story-short?  It was about half the price to fly BOS-IAD-DXB than it was the simply IAD-DXB round trip, so I naturally booked a cheap flight up to BOS this morning from DCA on US Airways.

I’ll publish a detailed trip report of my travels to Dubai, as I’m headed there tonight in United BusinessFirst on my last itinerary as a United Premier 1K member — so it’s my swan song, so to speak with United.  After that, almost all of my flying for the next year with be with American or its oneworld partner airlines.  Be sure to check out the trip report from my last trip to Dubai in June 2013.

In addition to the upcoming trip report on this little weekend jaunt to Dubai, I’ll be finishing up a report of my failed trip to Iguazu Falls in November, as well as a few posts about the latest goings-ons in the world of travel, points and miles.

Oh, and a belated Happy New Year to everyone!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

 

 

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.

Continue Reading →

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.

Continue Reading →

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.

Continue Reading →

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

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 →