Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Man pees on a plane, gets arrested for destruction of aircraft

Per http://www.wdrb.com/story/31820270/ky-man-accused-of-urinating-on-floor-of-american-airlines-flight-to-nc

A man was arrested for urinating on an American Airlines flight from San Francisco to Charlotte.  The article describes him as arching his back before urinating which is an interesting detail.  I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go.  Although not sure if the lavatories (why don't they just call them bathrooms) were full necessarily.

Quick thoughts 4/26/2016

Went down to Orange County for the weekend to spend some time with the family.

Flew Southwest roundtrip.  Mostly leisure flyers on Saturday afternoon and Monday evening flights.  Don't fly WN as often as I used to and today the seat pitch seemed a bit close but got used to it quickly.  On the way down, had the only (or one of the only) empty middle seats, also empty middle seat on the way back home.

Visited The Lounge at SJC for the first time, despite flying out of SJC numerous times.  Went in just as the ANA passengers were leaving, the food spread was cleared out mostly, was able to grab some of the breakfast items still there, things like bacon, eggs.  Good view of the planes from the lounge.  I ordered the miso soup and the tomato soup, which never came.

Crowne Plaza Costa Mesa - fine hotel, again mostly leisure travelers over the weekend, was upgraded to a suite on the 2nd night, an interesting suite set-up with a 2nd adjoining room that is closed off if the room is being used as a regular king room, and opened up with a room with a sofabed (and no bed) + desk, tv and its own bathroom (so 2 full bathrooms) if being used as a suite.  I had booked a cash+points stay so it shows up as an award booking.  Asked for late checkout without specifying a requested time and got a 2PM checkout (vs noon) but left around 12:45PM.  Got 2 drink vouchers at the bar when being upgraded to the suite.  The service from the bartender not very friendly.  All other staff very nice.  Couldn't hear any noise from other rooms, either next door or from above.  Not sure if this is due to good soundproofing or low occupancy.

Visited the United Club at SNA, didn't even take any pictures, very small, domestic lounge in an open space setup on the 2nd floor (you can hear sounds from below in the terminal).

Random thoughts: things to not say outside Flyertalk in real life:
1. "I don't want to fly there in economy." (speaking about going to New Zealand)
2. Currently debating whether I want to spend $200 or 28,800 IHG points (32k pts -10% rebate due to the IHG MasterCard) for Intercontinental Ambassador status.  May do a post on this soon.

Monday, April 18, 2016

My 8 week Round the World trip in First/Business Class (mostly) - Intro

The company I work at gives an 8 week sabbatical after 7 years.  You can combine it with your regular vacation.  Most people do some sort of travel + sitting around at home or doing stuff around the house or whatnot.  I actually know of 1 person who didn't do any traveling the entire 8 weeks.

Then there's me, my friends and coworkers are always asking me if I ever work since I'm always seemingly traveling even with my paltry 3 weeks of vacation per year.

There was a 4 month stretch where I went to Asia (Hong Kong, Vietnam), Europe (Czech Republic, Ireland, N. Ireland, France, Spain) and Hawaii.  I would also wonder the same thing if someone was doing that.

So when it came time for my sabbatical, I decided to travel the entire time and why not go around the world?

After much thinking and research, my final itinerary ended up being like this:

My trip, graphic courtesy of gcmap.com

Oct 1, 2015: SFO-PHL-BTV (Burlington, VT) on US Air domestic first class (on miles but there was only 1 first award seat, thus I flew my parents in the back, I felt a bit guilty but again they know I don't get sick up front and I think they enjoyed the east coast portion of the trip)  Ok, maybe I should have felt a lot guilty.

Then I'd drive around the Northeast, through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine chasing the fall colors and visiting Acadia National Park, Maine and stopping in NYC for a couple of days.  Parents would fly back home, while I'd fly onward to London in...

(From here on, I'll just list the previews and do the detailed posts later)
JFK-LHR on British Airways First Class (on miles)
23hr layover in London, including staying at the Earls Court Studios (I may be the only person in the history of mankind to go from a BA First flight into the Earls Court Studios (clean enough but tiny rooms even by London, Japan, Asia, whatever standards - I could not open the door to the bathroom without squeezing the door into my luggage every time)

LHR-CDG on British Airways luxurious European Business Class (on miles)
Travel by train and rental car through the Loire Valley, visit one of my favorite places on earth, Etretat.

ORY-OSL on BA Business Class (on miles, waste of miles in retrospect), delayed luggage for 2 days

Do the Norway in a Nutshell tour

OSL-EVE on Norwegian Economy class (Paid Ticket)

Drive around the Lofoten Islands, don't get to see any Northern Lights but still definitely worth the visit

EVE-OSL on Norwegian Economy class (Paid ticket)

OSL-ATH on Aegean Economy (Paid ticket)

Get scammed in Athens, run into rude people everywhere, get asked for directions by a Greek driver, take a train to Kalampaka, visit Meteora

ATH-DOH on Qatar Business Class (on miles)

Visit the amazing brand new, just opened First Class Lounge in Doha, Qatar.

DOH-BKK on Qatar First Class on A380 (on miles)

BKK-KKC (Khon Kaen) on Thai Smiles in Economy (paid)

Help with a non-profit in the villages

KKC-BKK-HKT in Thai Smiles in Economy Plus (paid), was the only passenger up front

Taking a private boat all by myself to Koh Yao Yai island

HKT-HKG in Dragonair Economy (paid)
Mom joins me via Asiana Business/First from LAX-ICN-HKG (80,000 United miles)

HKG-TPE on Hong Kong Airlines Business (paid)

Eat the most amazing thing in Hualien, cost = $1

TPE-NRT on Japan Airlines Business (miles)

NRT-ICN in Korean Air First Class (miles)
23 hour layover in Seoul

ICN-SFO in Korean Air First Class on the new 747-8i (miles)

This will take a while to all write up.

Why Airsick?

This really should have been the first post but I posted the other first post on my 11 year old dormant blogspot page and it keeps having all kinds of issues so I copy/pasted it here first.

Why the name Airsick?  I actually sometimes get airsick on longer flights.  Although my personal record is getting sick on a 1 hour flight between LA and SF after not having slept much the night before and being dead tired.  When I get sick, I throw up, so not fun.

But you know what's interesting is that when I fly up front, I don't get sick most of the time.  Apparently the motions of the airplane are more severe towards the back.  And thus began my fascination with flying in premium cabins, I mean the bigger seats are nice and all but being able to fly without getting sick is amazing.

I first flew international business class in 2003 on a business trip to China.  It was on an Asiana flight and while the details are hazy, it was either an angled flat bed or a flat bed.  Unfortunately I had to fly economy on the way back since that was their policy.  We landed in China (can't even remember which airport, I guess Tianjin or nearby, since our factory was in Tianjin) in the afternoon and went straight to the office for meetings.

I first flew on an airplane to Jeju Island (http://wikitravel.org/en/Jeju) from Seoul, then first flew internationally when I came to the US from Korea when I was 10 years old.

Anyway, I'm beginning to digress but that's why the name.

Status Runs worth it?

I had heard of mileage runs but always thought it was for those other crazy people.  There are people who will fly all the way to Singapore from the US the long way (Sacramento-Atlanta-New York-Europe-Singapore), so spending 35 hours to get there, only to turn right back and board the plane coming back to the US the same long way after spending only about 2-3 hours in the airport. http://www.minyanville.com/sectors/consumer/articles/inside-the-world-of-mileage-runners/3/5/2014/id/53724

I still think that is madness, simply because I can't fly that long continuously in Economy but for those who can and are willing to do that, more power to them.

But there is this variant called a status run.  The premise is that rather than focusing on earning miles to use for free flights, the aim is to earn elite status with airlines.  And the actual miles earned are just a bonus on top.

So I recently found a cheap business class fare to Panama on American Airlines and booked it over the Memorial Day weekend.  Then I also found there was a platinum status challenge with American, where you pay $200 then if you earn 12,500 EQM (elite qualifying miles), you get platinum status until ~Feb 2017.  Usually you need to earn 50,000 EQM to earn platinum status.

So with my trip to Panama for $850 + $200 I earn platinum status.  Now I am wondering of going on more status runs to continue my platinum status after Feb 2017 or even earning Executive Platinum status to earn SWUs (systemwide upgrades valid on almost any American airlines flight worldwide).

Benefits of elite status on American Airlines (source: aa.com)
I won't lie, I immensely enjoy status but my experiences with 'status' per se has been from mostly award flights in business and first class.  Or I have at times booked relatively cheap business class fares (such as the Panama fare above).  The point is you can get all the trappings of elite airline status (and then some) by booking premium flights directly.

By booking a premium flight, you board early, sometimes before the elites in economy, get lounge access, get more luggage allowance, supposedly priority luggage handling.  The only thing I can think of that elites flying in economy have that premium tickets don't have is access to the elite phone centers in case flights get disrupted, delayed or cancelled and they need to get rebooked on other flights.  But I feel in the lounges, you can still access that as a premium flyer.

So, let's do the math in my case and whether it makes sense to go on status runs.  Especially given that I don't particularly travel that much aside from award travel on vacation

To re-earn platinum for 2017

$850 for Panama roundtrip flight
$100 for 1 night in Panama
$60 for taxi to/from airport in Panama
Not including meals since I'll eat anyway
$1000 to have platinum status for another year.

Per this page: http://thepointsguy.com/2016/02/what-is-aa-elite-status-worth-2016/ it estimates platinum status at $2840 for someone who flies 60,000 eqm per year.  Since I mostly fly on award tickets in premium class, I feel like the value I'm getting from status is pretty close to zero actually.  The only benefit really comes when I fly in economy.  Things like priority check-in, boarding, access to main cabin extra seating, exit rows, free checked bags.  Also, the 500 mile upgrade certificates, those have some value.  But I find it hard to justify an extra $1000 for platinum status, when I'll have gold status anyway from my existing travel.

Now I do get a lot of enjoyment out of flying premium cabins so taking a flight in lie flat seat part of the way to Panama is giving me some enjoyment although it's hard to put a value on this but certainly not quite $1000.  And I'll be going to Panama in May, so going again in say July, I'm not so sure, I'd be maybe staying 1 night.  Although I may end up liking Panama and enjoy spending more time there.

Now then, if I'm going to go for status, I feel like I may want to go for Executive Platinum status, since I get 4 SWUs which I can use to fly 2 people on a roundtrip in business for the price of an economy ticket, it'd be great to use them to go to New Zealand, this would save perhaps something like $10,000.

However, if I conservatively estimate that I'll use them for travel to Asia or Europe, then a Y (economy) ticket may cost $1200 per person RT.  Whereas a J (business) ticket may cost $4500.  Being conservative on both ends, Y fares can go for $700 and J tickets can easily go for $5000+.  So if I save $3300 per person X 2, it's a savings of $6600.

To get to Exec Plat, I'd need to do 3 total extra Panama trips plus I'd still be short a few thousand EQM.

So I'm looking at $3000 to get the status and get $6600 in value.  This seems like a good deal.

What' interesting is that when I started writing this, I was convinced there was no point to earning status for status sake when I don't fly frequently but now I've convinced myself to go for Exec Plat status this year. -.-

Hmm....  so I'd go over July 4th, Labor Day, plus a random weekend, then need to get a few thousand more eqm from someplace.