JFK

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Review: Air France Lounge JFK @ Terminal 1

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Also see: 

Before I headed down to Martinique to stay at the Hotel La Pagerie (with the 4th night free!), I had to get to JFK to experience my first Norwegian flight, departing out of Terminal 1.

What lounges are there? The Air France Lounge and the KAL (Korean Air Lines) Business Class Lounge – Priority Pass gets you into both.

I’ve been to the KAL Lounge before and was underwhelmed. Plus, the Air France Lounge was literally right next to my departing gate (Gate 1). Perfect!

I got free admission for me and up to 2 guests thanks to the Priority Pass I got with Citi Prestige. But day passes are between $35 and $50, depending on time of day. I brought Jay with me, so I peg this visit for at least $70, and have updated the Citi Prestige by the Numbers page to reflect this visit.

The lounge

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Top 10 Out and Out Posts of 2014

Here we are: 2015. Another year of life and travel.

2014 was a big year for this little blog. I experimented a lot, and threw a lot up on the wall just to see what would stick. The readership from 2013 to 2014 quadrupled (!) and more readers started interacting via email and social media – which was awesome.

The posts that made the Top 10 were the ones that mined some little data point, were compilations of research, or simply anecdotes about an experience. A couple of them were written in 2013, but widely read in 2014. I find the data fascinating. The more I learn about what sticks with readers, the more I realize I can’t calculate what will be a “good post”  – a fact which drives me to keep evolving.

With that spirit, cheers to a new year of life and travel. I hope to keep growing the blog and writing more. Thank you for reading!


The Top 10

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Trip Report: British Airways Business Class ORY-LHR-JFK

Also see:

I won’t spend as much time on this one since I just outlined BA/OpenSkies biz class in the link above. That post talked about flying there EWR-ORY, but in this one, I want to talk about getting back.

It cost slightly more Avios points because we flew ORY-LHR-JFK instead of direct. Since it’s priced per segment, I spent 49,000 Avios + ~$400 on these flights, which would’ve retailed for over $6,000.

The differences

For the ORY-LHR segment, we got the usual intra-European “business class” which is just regular seats with the middle one blocked out. The flight was only an hour, and I wasn’t expecting much, if anything. To my surprise, we were served a course of afternoon tea.

BA tea service - SO CUTE!

BA tea service – SO CUTE!

The other big difference was that instead of a Boeing 757-200 like the flight over, we flew back on a 747-400 for LHR-JFK which had… Read More

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Trip Report: Delta First Class JFK-SLC-SEA and Business Class SEA-JFK

I was a bad boy for both flights and showed up at the airport in time to hop into the boarding lane and sit down at my seat. The events leading up to both points were harried. Teeth were knashed, hands were wrung, but I made it. I didn’t have time to make a visit to the new SkyClub at T4, though I was very close it. I’ve been there before and wasn’t overly impressed. If anything, I would’ve liked to’ve seen if the recent Amex Platinum Card changes have thinned the ranks somewhat, because last time was a crowded, near-hellish experience. And at SEA, I didn’t want to miss any of FTU so left as late as possible.

I do have to give it to Delta. They’ve got things figured out. Their operations are great, they’re profitable, and the flights I were on were damn near full. Good for them.

I wish Delta’s SkyMiles program was different. I wish they treated their partners like partners and not bastard stepchildren (American, by contrast, treats their partners very well). I wish they’d step off of this revenue kick they’ve been on lately and keep things like how they were before. But that’s all “wishful” thinking.

The flights

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Review: T4 Delta SkyClub at JFK

I had pretty high expectations of the new brand new SkyClub at the recently opened T4 extension at JFK, if only because of its newness and the fact that Delta is trying hard to expand its presence in NYC.

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For starters, the T4 extension is LONG. I was leaving out of gate B20. The SkyClub is located near gate 33ish. It sounds close, but involves numerous moving walkways, just FYI. It’s located in the center of the B concourse, which has over 50 gates. Get your walking shoes on!

But whatever, I don’t mind walking, and I was looking forward to seeing what ol’ Delta had up their sleeve. The exterior of the club is a blue glass sliding door, and a rep was stationed downstairs instructing people to… go up the stairs.

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First impression was that the space was light-filled and lovely. The design and layout is fantastic, and floor-to-ceiling windows afford great views on the tarmac and planes in nearly every direction.

After processing that little thought, I head to the bathroom. There was a line inside the bathroom for both the urinals and stalls. There were 2 stalls and 3 urinals – yes, that’s the extent of the men’s bathroom. The place is big enough to hold over 1,000 people and they skimped out on the bathrooms. Whatever, I didn’t have to pee that bad so I went to the bar to get a drink. Trying to get to the bar area was a project. The place was PACKED. While seating was ample, nearly every one was taken. The bar had a line. All the seats near outlets were taken, and the only open seats had tablets encouraging me to order a $15 chicken salad. “We’ll bring it to you,” the screen saver said in flashing letters.

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Among all the people, I saw the usual Delta stuff: the packaged cheese, the olives, and Bischoff wafer cookies, Dasani water, etc., etc. In that regard, this SkyClub was like every other SkyClub. There was nothing to signal that this was somehow a flagship location or expanded operation other than its size.

I found an open seat near a busy walkway with no outlets or table and balanced my beer on my knee. In the end, I practically chugged it just to be able to rid myself of the glass and get out of there.

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But the SkyDeck! That was a big selling point of this new SkyClub. It was fine. Nothing to write home about. A nice, small little area right outside. When I went today, I was alone out there, but imagine it could get packed during nice weather.

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After seeing that, I waited in line to pee, then left. On my way out, I chided myself for not going to the Wingtips Lounge instead since I was in T4 again after only a couple of weeks. Drat.

By the by, if you are the kind of person who would go to the Wingtips Lounge over the new Delta SkyClub, you get me and this blog is totally for you.

Oh! one more thing. While chugging the beer, I opened my Feedly and saw that Skymiles devalued AGAIN today. After a less-than-stellar visit to the new Skyclub, I was thankful Delta is no longer getting my MQDs. Please, for the love of god American, never change. Or, when you change, keep the program mostly intact. You’re the only good one left.

This lounge gets about a 3 on a 10 point scale. Nice try, Deltoid, but no dice.

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Trip Report: Economy on Virgin Atlantic JFK-LHR

The award redemption

On October 17, 2013, I headed over to London to see the new Tori Amos musical, The Light Princess, which I highly, highly recommend. I wanted to see the October 18th show because there was a Q&A with Tori, who wrote the lyrics, and Samuel Adamson, who wrote the book, before the show. Also, Tori watched the show with the audience after the Q&A. It was a special treat, and I wanted to make sure to be there on that day. Translation: my dates weren’t flexible, so that did limit my flight options.

I considered biting the bullet and buying a ticket on British Airways. It would earn me American EQMs toward my coveted Executive Platinum status and lots of RDMs. Ticket prices weren’t bad: about $800 R/T. Between the price of the tickets and hotel, and after buying a ticket to Santiago for late November, my finances were dry. Plus, I was done with Delta, and wanted to get rid of some SkyPesos.

Following their recent announcement of a partnership with Virgin Atlantic, I decided to take a look at award inventory. To my surprise, not only was there a flight every day in October, but I had the choice of multiple flights a day. I could even allow myself to get a little picky with flight times. Amazing. I settled on leaving late Thursday night and arriving early Friday morning. That would give me time to check into the Hilton London Bridge Tower early as a HHonors Gold member, take a nap, and get ready for the show at 8pm. Perfect.

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Review: Wingtips Lounge JFK @ Terminal 4

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Wingtips Lounge @ JFK: main seating area

Off to London on Virgin Atlantic

Last weekend, I popped over to London to see the first run of the new Tori Amos musical, The Light Princess. To get started for my first Virgin Atlantic flight to Heathrow from JFK, I decided to hit the Wingtips Lounge JFK, which I found on the Priority Pass iPhone app.

Virgin Atlantic also operates the famous Clubhouse at JFK, but I didn’t have a ticket in Upperclass, which would’ve permitted access, but rather just regular ol’ economy.

Why?

I took advantage of Delta’s recent partnership with VA to use Skymiles to book this itinerary. For one, I didn’t have enough Skymiles to book two tickets in Upperclass. And two, even if I did, wouldn’t have burned them that way. Skymiles are notoriously hard to use, but where they shine is on partner redemptions. So why not this one? I’ve had my eye on a biz class ticket on Virgin Australia for 150K Skymiles for.ev.er. And I WILL use them for that purpose one day (unless they devalue first, which is totally possible).

Never mind getting to LAX to adding a stopover or open jaw, although it IS possible to route through PPT and AKL on Air Tahiti Nui, but that’s for another post.

The reason I went for economy is to conserve for that future redemption and because I felt like it simply wasn’t worth it. It’s only 5-6 hours to LHR, short than flying to the west coast, and I’d rather redeem the bulk of my points and miles on long-haul business class products, although Upperclass did look really nice.

Anyway, the Wingtips Lounge.

The lounge

I wasn’t expecting much, as it’s the only other lounge in T4 at JFK. But wow.

The seating is ample, there is a self-serve bar, the snackies were plentiful and featured a hot and cold food buffet, the wifi was blazing fast, the seats were comfy, and the lounge afforded us nice views of our Virgin Atlantic plane on the tarmac.

And really, isn’t that all anyone can ever really ask for in a lounge?

I’ve read lots of reviews of other lounges at JFK/LGA/EWR, but have never even heard of the Wingtips Lounge. Because of this, I sorta assumed it was the bastard stepchild of lounges. You know what they say about assumptions… well, it’s especially true here.

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Great plane watching

Entrance was free thanks to the Priority Pass Select card through AMEX Platinum Card. After checking in, I grabbed a plate of snackies, a Bailey’s, a rum and coke, and a water.

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Cold buffet

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You know I love a self-serve open bar

Wifi was open, so I checked my email one last time before leaving the U.S.

The place was clean and the staff was nice as can be. I felt very welcomed and comfortable. As boarding time rolled around, I found myself so relaxed and content in the Wingtips Lounge, I almost didn’t want to leave. I took a sparkling water and a couple of packaged snacks for the ride across the pond in economy, and will most certainly come back to this lounge if I ever find myself in T4 again. You never know, right?

I’d definitely show up early just to hang out here for a little while.

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Plenty of open seats in the alternate seating area

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Looking back toward the entrance

Bottom line

If you find yourself in T4 at JFK, head to the Wingtips Lounge. It’s just beyond security, and features ample offerings. I LOVED this lounge. It’s everything an airport lounge should be.

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Trip Report: AA First Class AUS-JFK

Near the end of the trip to Alaska, we drove down to Seward for the day after checking out of the Sheraton, then headed to ANC. The airport is super nice, on the small side, but surprisingly stylish. The first trip was from ANC-DFW, and the second was DFW-AUS, both in AA Main Cabin ExtrAA.

For the leg home, AUS-JFK, I used six 500-mile upgrades to get me and Jay into first class. The upgrade cleared while I was on the DFW-AUS segment, and I got my new seat assignment: 6F. Yay!

We went to Admirals Club across from the gate to wait for boarding.

 

Rum 'n' coke at the Admirals Club in AUS

Rum ‘n’ coke at the Admirals Club in AUS

 

After a huge rum ‘n’ coke, I boarded with quite a nice little buzz and found seat 6F. Jay was next to me 6E.

 

Thanks, American!

Thanks, American!

 

Nice amount of legroom

Nice amount of legroom

 

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but the seat was nice with wide seats and ample legroom. It was the older first class on the 737 – hardly any recline, but a very roomy seat. I was exhausted after three flights and still managed to sleep. The plane had the old paint job and old logos. It seemed worn, but looked 1000% better than the old coach behind me.

The flight to JFK was a touch over three hours, and soon after ascending, the flight attendants brought around their famous hot nuts. I had mine with a Heineken.

 

HOT NUTS!

HOT NUTS!

 

The flight attendants on this flight were amazing. Very professional and a perfect level of attentiveness. I was so struck, I tweeted @AmericanAir afterward to let them know.

 

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I’m sort of in my honeymoon phase with American right now, so I think everything they do is just perfect. And, truly, the way they’ve chosen to restructure has been really wonderful. A part of me doesn’t want them to merge with US Airways. Banish the thought.

Shortly after the hot nuts, lunch was served. I had the option of BBQ chicken or beef salad. I chose the chicken. It was served with sides of broccoli and mac ‘n’ cheese, a cheese roll, small side salad, and a glass of white wine. It was actually pretty tasty, considering. I wouldn’t order it in a restaurant, but it got the job done.

 

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First Class cabin

First Class cabin

 

The first class cabin was full, and we sat in the last row. After lunch, I passed out until we landed at JFK. The flight landed on time, we taxied to the gate, then rushed home to pick up Fenwick. He was so happy to be with his pack again.

All-in-all, this was definitely worth using my “stickers” for. The reason I connected DFW-AUS was because I knew I’d have a better shot at an upgrade on the AUS-JFK route as opposed to the DFW-LGA route. That probably would’ve had a newer, better plane, but EXPs frequent that route and my chances to upgrade would’ve been pretty dismal. I’m happy I chose this routing. I got 1,000 miles for the 190-mile connecting flight (190 @ 500 min = 100% bonus) AND got upgraded on the flight home.

I love how on each flight I learn a little more about American’s company culture. And no, I really don’t miss the in-flight entertainment. I’d rather read and work on blog posts as I don’t have a TV at home anyway.

My next trip with American is in November to Santiago. It’s got a damn crazy itinerary of LGA-ORD-MEX-LIM-EZE-SCL-IPC-SCL-MEX-DFW-LGA – all in a week. But it’ll make me Platinum again next year, earn me around 40K RDMs, 30K EQPs, and it’s all in first/business. Goal for 2014: make EXP.

 

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Trip Report: AA Flight 1769 JFK-MIA First Class

Writing right now from the lovely America Club “J” (quotes not mine), near gate 5 in the J concourse of MIA. It’s basically a large open room with a lot of screaming babies AKA HELL. When I came in, I noticed there were two directions to go from the checkin desk. To the right was the catchall lounge. And to the left, the First Class and Business Class lounge (two separate rooms). I’m in the First Class lounge and it feels anything but. The food offerings are alright: finger sandwiches, soups, and cookies, and the drinks are behind the bar. They ain’t got power outlets for shit, though there is a lovely view of the skyline through the large windows. At least the wifi is fast. I suppose this is only marginally better than sitting at the gate, but not by much.

America Club "J"

America Club “J”

N-E-WAYZ

The flight down to this pit called Miami was wonderful. Very relaxing. As a “business” customer, it definitely did all the things that I wanted in a flight. For one, we landed over 40 minutes early, which was pretty sweet. The service was immediate and attentive, but never overbearing.

The flight started with pre-departure OJ and water. I downed an OJ and settled into my seat. I in 3J and was one of the last to board. We were supposed to board at 2:25pm. I left the Admirals Club at 2:27pm (which was next to the gate) and walked out to find they were already making last boarding calls. WTF? Has American somehow sped up their boarding process?

Anywho, I pre-ordered the Thai chicken wrap, which was brought to me right after the hot nuts were distributed. I was addressed by name, which was nice. The wrap itself was fine. The pita was a bit mushy, but overall OK.

Thai chicken wrap

Thai chicken wrap

 

Afterward, we were given dessert cookies and I had a glass of chardonnay. By that time, I typed on my computer for a few minutes and we were already descending. Incredible! Now, if Miami had been my final destination and I was flying American for business, I’d rate this flight 5 stars. Quick, easy, quiet, and early. Wonderful. However, I’m connecting in Miami and am thinking of switching over from Delta to American. Even still, this flight gave me everything I wanted. The food could’ve been a bit better, but the service was top-notch.

The seat laid back really far and was very comfortable. I had a lot of room to stretch out my long legs!

Seat 3J (sorry it's blurry)

Seat 3J (sorry it’s blurry)

All stretched out

All stretched out

 

This is not the “new” First Class product, but it was perfectly serviceable, especially for a flight only a bit over two hours.

I’m liking American. It could grow on me to feel as comfortable as Delta does now.

For reference, here are a few images of the Admirals Club at JFK:

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Right now, I’m letting my thoughts evolve about American, life, and the state of travel in general (god that sounds dramatic). My next two flights are on LAN, not American, but I figure it’s good to see what their partners are like. Looking forward to that lie-flat seat in Premium Business in a few hours. I’m sleepy!

Btw, here’s my view for the next hour or so:

Happy travels!

Happy travels!

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Trip Report: Madrid 2013

I went to Madrid February 1-4, 2013.

Booking Madrid

The ticket was only $281 R/T in economy thanks to an awesome deal described in this post from The Points Guy. I was actually in the middle of putting together The Points Game guide, so this was a real opportunity to put some of the things I’d learned from the blogs into practice.

The currency conversion came to $281

The currency conversion came to $281

I bought the ticket for a number of reasons:

  • As a Silver Medallion on Delta, I was entitled to a 25% RDM bonus
  • The itinerary was JFK-FCO-MAD-FCO-JFK – over 10K MQMs and nearly 13K RDMs
  • The end result was 2 cents/mile – a screaming deal

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Multiply this times two

Multiply this times two – I credited the flights to Delta’s SkyMiles program

 

I paid for the ticket with a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card (my Amex Platinum Card) since I had a credit with them after bitching for a solid week in September.

And I’d always wanted to visit Spain. You can’t beat a $281 R/T ticket that comes with ~13K RDMs. It would also be my first chance to utilize my Global Entry (coming back to JFK) that I got through the Amex Platinum Card.

Departure

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