Trip Reports

Category Archives for Trip Reports.

Trip Report: Swiss A330-300 Business Class JFK-ZRH

I paid for this fare after seeing it pop up on The Flight Deal as a fare attack by Star Alliance on Skyteam hubs. It cost me $1,487 R/T for Business Class on Swiss and the routing was JFK-ZRH-VCE-ZHR-EWR.

Now, when I see fare deals like this, I’m always torn between being totally impulsive and trying to think it through. This deal was on a multitude of Star Alliance partners, so I wanted to pick one that A). I’d never flown before and 2.) that would credit well to United.

Why United? They have a non-stop flight from EWR-MEM (only one of two – the other is Delta from LGA-MEM) and those flights can be either dirt cheap or prohibitively expensive. I knew I wanted to go see my Mom in the near future, and thought I could use the miles I’d earn from this booking to book the most expensive leg of a round-trip ticket, which is exactly what ended up happening.

Screenshot 2015-01-25 10.46.05

I earned 12,493 miles from these flights – 7 miles short of a free domestic one-way

The flight to go see my Mom for Christmas was pricing out at around $450 each way on United – yes, over $900 round-trip.

I redeemed all the miles earned on these Swiss flights for a Christmas trip to visit my Mom on United and got a value of ~4 cents per mile, which is awesome. I also picked up a REDbird card while I was down there. And I got to go to Venice for my birthday – thanks to this fare.

Free flight to Memphis

Free flight to Memphis

Anyway, that’s the story behind the booking, back to Swiss business class.

The flight

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Review: Air France Lounge @ TXL

Quick note: both of the posts so far today (10/11/14) have poo-pooed various things. I do not like to focus on negativity, but want to be honest. There are lots of good things coming, I promise! 

Air France Lounge entrance @ TXL

Air France Lounge entrance @ TXL

As part of Eurotrip 2014, I had the opportunity to visit the Air France lounge following my unannounced schedule change to an Airberlin flight TXL-JFK.

I showed up two hours early, and was oddly directed to the Air France lounge even though there was a British Airways lounge on the floor beneath it (?). I don’t know what kind of crazy voodoo AB worked out with AF but whatever. I was early and was in need of coffee.

This lounge sucks. Read More

Trip Report: Lufthansa First Class YYZ-MUC

Way back in November 2013, United announced they were devaluing partner award redemptions. Shortly after, Lufthansa announced a new route from YYZ-MUC aaaand… First Class award availability was wide open for months out. How many months out? Nearly a whole year – which is a lot longer than the usual 15 days.

While the rest of the blogosphere was stuck on “Summer 2014” availability, I kept going through the rest of the months. Munich… October… OMG Oktoberfest! – was exactly my train of thought. I redeemed a one-way to Munich and left the rest to chance. Didn’t want to burn up too many of my Ultimate Rewards points. Plus, I wanted to keep the trip open-ended. I’m not one to plan months and months in advance, so this was quite a leap of faith for me.

The flight

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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

Trip Report: British Airways OpenSkies Club World Class EWR-ORY

As part of my recent trip to Paris, I got to fly from EWR to ORY on OpenSkies, a subsidiary of British Airways that flies exclusively from NYC-Paris. They have one flight that leaves from EWR and another from JFK. Due to award availability, I dragged myself over to EWR, but was really excited to take this flight.

This is a unique product for British Airways because it’s one of the few routes they fly that don’t involve a connection at LHR, which can add a lot of extra money in dreaded fuel surcharges. I did pay ~$450 + 40,000 Avios for the flight, but in my eyes, it was completely worth it. This flight often retails for over $7,000!

Click here to read about the award redemption for this flight in more detail.

The seat and flight

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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: Etihad Pearl Class MEL-AUH

I was beyond excited to get on this flight, for a number of reasons. It was the capstone to an amazing trip, afforded us a day in Abu Dhabi, and I had two Lufthansa flights (my first!) to look forward to after the day passed.

I hoped that somehow, some way, mayyybeeee, we’d get upgraded to Diamond Class. I knew the cabin was full when I booked, but stuff happens, and I had hope. I asked at checkin at AUH (which was smooth as silk and the agent was textbook perfect) about the upgrade, but there weren’t any. But I didn’t care. We were invited into the (name of lounge) and waited there until the flight left off at THREE A.M. This was the earliest/latest flight I’ve ever taken so I was curious about how they’d worked out the timing of the meals and what amenities would be offered. The lounge was fantastic, but by the time 2am rolled around, I was veritably nodding off.

First impressions

We boarded the flight and quickly found our seats. Walking through the Diamond Class cabin was rough, though. Those suites are gorgeous, opulent, spacious… everything that everyone says about them. The colors used on the plane are wonderful neutrals with black and white splashes here and there (i.e. the famous black and white striped pillows). As soon as I saw those pillows in the seat, I could already feel the comfort setting in. And it felt NICE.

Seat in Etihad Pearl Business Class

Seat 7F in Etihad Pearl Business Class

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Trip Report: LAN Premium Business Class MEX-LIM-EZE-SCL

After spending way too much for a mimosa at the underwhelming Amex Centurion Lounge, I made my way to the gate, amped to be back on LAN again for another big trip (the first was MIA-SCL-IPC-SCL-MIA in May).

I really like this airline and am glad they’re a part of Oneworld. After switching terminals at MEX, I was ready to set my bags down and relax. Boarding at MEX is always kind of a bleepshow, so I was really glad to be in business and sidestep most of that. Then finally, I was on the plane.

Before takeoff

Settling into the seat felt familiar, and the flight attendants were immediately welcoming and gracious. There was nothing at my seat, but I knew from flying them before that pillows and duvets were in the overhead compartment and that magazines and amenity kits were distributed after boarding. There was a menu in the seat back pocket, so I took a look at the options. Then the FAs came around to offer beverages and ahem, warm nuts, so I got a red wine, a water, and yes, the nuts. 🙂

Seat 4A

Seat 4A

Wine, water, and nuts

Wine, water, and nuts (and seat controls)

Ample leg room

Ample leg room

Shoes in the cubby

Shoes in the cubby 

Dinner options

Dinner menu cover

Dinner menu cover

Entrees and desserts

Entrees and desserts



After takeoff

Shortly after takeoff, the FAs came around with the amenity kits: brown or dark grey for men and cream/off-white for women.

Men's amenity kit

Men’s amenity kit

This kit contained socks, ear plugs, a pen, lip balm, lotion, and a disposable garment bag.

Amenity kit contents

Amenity kit contents

Right after I explored the contents of the kit, the purser came over to take dinner orders. I selected the grilled steak, curious to see if it would be any good. For dessert, I chose the caramel blancmange, which had the consistency of flan.

Grilled steak entree

Grilled steak entree

2013-11-23 17.01.14

And of course a Bailey’s :p

The steak was actually quite good. Not as tender as I would’ve liked, but still very flavorful. The sides were well-portioned, and I ended up eating everything on my tray, salad and dessert included. I also ordered another glass of wine, after which I was about ready to pass out as this was an overnight flight.


Right after the dinner service, the cabin was dimmed. I fell asleep and woke up when we were descending into LIM. After that, a short layover, then a short flight to EZE. I slept the ENTIRE TIME. Like, from the moment I entered the plane until it touched down. Didn’t order anything, just put the seat into the lie-flat position and slept for the 3.5 hour flight. It felt so nice.

The layover at EZE was only one hour. We kept the same plane, but I had to switch gates, which was “e-eze” enough. Then one more short flight into SCL.Again with seat 4A.

Cabin interior

Cabin interior

Shortly after a simple breakfast service, we descended over the Andes in SCL right after sunrise, which was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had on a plane. The business class cabin was mostly empty, and I was able to geek out while taking several pictures of the snow-capped mountains and high-altitude lakes.

Before landing

Above the Andes

Above the Andes

Beautiful high-altitude lake

Beautiful high-altitude lake

Right before, I realized I was dead tired. After all, I’d just had FIVE flights in a row (LGA-ORD, ORD-MEX, MEX-LIM, LIM-EZE, EZE-SCL). I had a day-long layover at SCL to look forward to and was praying that the Holiday Inn at the airport would let me check in early, as I’d be getting there around 10am after getting through customs.

How I felt:



I was ready to shower and sleep. I am glad the last three segments were on LAN, though. They took good care of me.

Bottom line

If you ever get the opportunity to fly LAN’s Premium Business product, it’s well worth it. They are a wonderful airline to have in Oneworld, and certainly make it easy to get to Central or South America. Their product is top-notch. Not opulent like others, but just the right amount of everything. I jump every time I get the chance to fly on LAN.

Thoughts on LAN Premium Business Class MEX-LIM-EZE-SCL-IPC-SCL-MEX

It was crazier than it looks
It was crazier than it looks

Did you read that crazy-ass routing up there? Yeah, I flew that. It’s not the craziest route anyone’s ever done, but I can tell ya this: I WAS TIRED. The flight times were pretty brutal, and the connections were hella tight. The SCL-MEX segment, por empleje, left at midnight and arrived at 6am. I don’t remember LIM-EZE at all. Why? Zzzzz.

However, I can say with confidence that I am familiar with the two iterations of LAN’s Premium Business class product. There’s an old one and a new one, and I’ve flown them both several times by now, esp after my trip to Easter Island in May on LAN. When I saw a cheap fare to Santiago that connected in Easter Island, all in biz, and under $1000, I had to jump. This trip easily net me 50,000 miles, which I value at around $1000 anyway, put the over the Platinum threshold for the year, and gave me a nice amount of upgrade “stickers” on AA. Worth it? Hell yes. AND I got to experience the beautiful city of Santiago. Much Espanol was heard, but very little was spoken.

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Trip Report: American Airlines Main Cabin Extra / Business Class LGA-ORD / ORD-MEX

Blue Jasmine
Now You See Me
Rear Window
(^^^ List of movies I watched on LAN) 
My trip reports lately have been less about tech specs and specific details and more about overall brand and culture, which is what I have been interested in lately. Especially with American, and especially with this merger a definite go.
I had a Saturday morning flight that took off at 6am. Whoops – I am so not a morning person.
I went out to an early dinner, had a pear-tini, and forced myself to pass out around 10pm (after slap dashing the packing). I woke up at 3:30am, fresh as a daisy, completely out of it. I was so tired I forgot to pack my hotel information. At another point, I wondered if I remembered to pack my toiletries in a little baggie (I did). There was no way I was going to brave the lovely bowels of the MTA to LGA at 4am, so I paid $50 for a car. It stung, but whatever.
The Pre-Check line at LGA was closed. “It doesn’t open until 5am,” the security guy told me. Which meant I was at LGA before 5am. I was just amazed I got it together enough to even anywhere before 5am.
The Admirals Club in Terminal D opened after I cleared security, and I downed a cup of coffee and a super sugary strudel. A few minutes later, it was boarding time. Read More

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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.

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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