Review: American Business Class New York-JFK to Los Angeles

After an easy flight up to Toronto and a short hop in first class on an American CRJ-700, I found myself at New York’s JFK airport with three and half hours to kill before my evening flight across the country to Los Angeles.

This flight to LA was, of course en-route to Singapore.  Via Hong Kong.  Via Dallas.

Yes, I was flying from New York – to Los Angeles – to Dallas – to Hong Kong – and finally — to Singapore.  Just to spend two nights there and head back home the same way.

Why?  Because I wanted to maximize the miles from my routing.

Mission accomplished.

Anyways, I found myself at JFK in the American FlAAgship First Class Lounge where I had a light dinner and quite a few single malt scotches.  Eventually it was time to head to my gate to board my brand new A321-T for Los Angeles. Continue Reading →

Three Days in Dubai – Ten Highlights

We arrived in Dubai at the interesting hour of around 8pm and quickly disembarked from my somewhat disappointing flight in United Business First from Washington-Dulles.  We were given express passes for immigration, but this didn’t seem to matter much.  The walk from the gate to immigration is pretty substantial, and by the time we reached the immigration hall, every line was massive — including the “express” line.  After about a twenty-minute wait time, our passports were stamped and we were admitted into the United Arab Emirates.  We breezed through customs and made our way outside to the curb where our friend picked us up for three amazing days in Dubai!

I’d been to Dubai before, but this time I was with two great friends from Grad School — and friends with whom I make my annual pilgrimage to Oktoberfest in Munich — so I knew this weekend might be somewhat aggressive.  We and a jam-packed weekend that featured some late nights, excessive meals, pricey cocktails, and sight-seeing.  Here are some highlights of my weekend in Dubai…

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.

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 →

A Weekend in Hong Kong – Ten Highlights

Since my first time to Hong Kong during grad school back in 2009, I’ve referred to Hong Kong as my favorite city in the World.  After a third trip back, I still think it’s my favorite city anywhere.  There’s just so much that this metropolis has to offer.   From the markets to the vistas to the beaches to the food to the architecture, Hong Kong really has it all, and is a true urban metropolis.
Every time I go back to Hong Kong, I continue to be mesmerized by its iconic skyline that towers over Victoria Harbor.  I’m still  enthralled with the absurd variety and quality of foods.  Hong Kong is basically Manhattan — with a better skyline.  But on a beautiful harbor.  With mountainous terrain.  And great beaches on the other side of the mountains… basically, I think this city has it all.

Continue Reading →

Review: China Eastern Economy Class Shanghai to Hong Kong to Shanghai

After our time in Shanghai, I wanted to get down to my favorite city in the World — Hong Kong!  This little jaunt south was not part of my award ticket, so I had to hop on the Interwebs to find a decent deal for a round trip from Shanghai to Hong Kong.  I heavily preferred flying Cathay Pacific, but they were pretty prohibitively priced.  The best deal with the best times for a weekend round trip to Hong Kong was with China Eastern.  I knew that China Eastern was certainly considered a major airline in China with a varied fleet.  At the end of the day, the price was right, so China Eastern would be our ticket down to the Kong!

Since these were simply economy flights, I won’t get into as much detail as I normally do with my flight reviews, but I do want to highlight the flights, since it was a new experience for me.  I’m also combining both of these flights since they don’t warrant separate posts, in my opinion.

We made our way from the Park Hyatt Shanghai to Pudong International Airport via cab, which cost about RMB 160.  After a brief check-in process, we filed through security and immigration before setting up shop in one of the business class lounges that we accessed with my buddy’s AMEX Platinum Card.  It was pretty bare bones, and I didn’t even bother taking a picture.  After about 45 minutes, we went to our downstairs gate and hopped a bus that took us to our A321, parked at a remote stand. 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 →

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.
Continue Reading →

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

Continue Reading →