Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An app to swap seats on a plane

There is an app called Seateroo http://seateroo.com/ that allows passengers on a plane to swap seats with each other for a fee.  And Seateroo takes 15% of the fee the 'buyer' pays to the 'seller' of the desired seat.  But if the transaction doesn't happen, they will refund the entire amount to the 'buyer.'

I like innovation and think this is a good idea but it needs the blessing of the airlines or the airlines could do this themselves.  Without enforcement this will never work.

A couple of scenarios:

1) If a buyer and seller agree to a price and they swap seats, then the buyer claims the transaction didn't take place once they land and have reception again, the buyer gets the money back and got to sit in the better seat for free. 

2) Or if the seller won't move after receiving payment, who is the buyer going to complain to?  The airline won't care and this may even be against the airline's rules to receive payment for swapping seats.

Also, you need internet connection to make this work, which means you need to do the swapping before the flight takes off, what's to stop the seller from initially swapping seats, then once in the air, goes to the flight attendant and says 'hey this person is in my seat' shows her/his boarding pass and gets the buyer kicked out.  Again, the airline isn't going to care about an app.

I suppose you could have an eBay type of rating system for rating buyers and sellers.

Perhaps the app builder is just looking to get acquired by an airline or someone else.  (like 500% of startups are)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Business Class sale from US/Canada to Europe

To go along with my very timely post from yesterday, here's such a deal where you can use the AARP discount on top of a sale to Europe.


If you pay with a Visa card and enter promo code "CARDOFFERU" you can save another 10%!  This is supposed to for British Airways Visa cardholders but I have successfully used this with a Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa card.

The fares are close to $3000 from the West Coast but with the 10% off, it's around $2270.  Which is a good (but not great) fare from the West Coast to Europe in business class.

Also in addition, there's currently a 25,000 bonus from American Airlines on flights to Europe through July.


So the way it works is, you can fly on BA but in the frequent flyer number field, you'd put in your American Airlines Aadvantage # to earn miles on American.  And if you register for this promo, you'd earn an additional 25,000 American miles on top of what you'd earn for the flight itself.

So for the flight itself, if you credit it to American, you'd earn around 16,101 miles.  Roundtrip distance is 10,734 miles, and for booking in discount business class you earn 1.5X actual miles so thus 10,734 * 1.5 = 16,101 miles.  Then when you add the 25k miles bonus, you'd earn a total of 41,101 miles.  You can fly roundtrip within the 48 US States for 25,000 miles, so you can also get a free trip within the US plus 16,000 miles left over.

I'm not booking this trip as I have booked up every single remaining vacation day for the rest of the year.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Why I'm an AARP member (no I'm not that old)

I am not yet retired and while it's debatable that I'm old, I'm still on the better (?) side of 40.  So why am I a member of AARP?  (American Association of Retired Persons)

I originally joined last year because on British Airways, you can take $400 off most any business or first class flight, including promo/sale fares.  Last December, there was a cheap fare from NYC-Paris on OpenSkies which was made better by taking another $400 off.  (I think it was around $1300-1400 roundtrip after the discount)  I booked the trip but ended up cancelling it (within 24 hours you can cancel flights on most airlines if booked in the US, some airlines allow holds for 24 hours instead) due to realizing it'd be a bit too much to travel again so soon after coming back from an 8 week trip, which included going to Paris/France.

Here's more details on the $400 off business/first class fares.



This would definitely make it worth the $16 annual fee to join AARP, even if you book an economy flight where you'd save $65.  Plus you get a magazine and discounts similar to what you might get with AAA.

Which brings me to something I didn't think of earlier.  While looking for a hotel to stay in in Panama, I had booked an overnight stay at a Crowne Plaza next to the airport for a quick overnight turnaround.  I had paid about $108 including taxes/fees for a corporate rate I get through my company (which is lower than even the non-cancellable rate) but I noticed that when I put in the 'senior rate' among the rate options, the rate dropped to $82 including all taxes/fees!  Even without booking a flight, I've already paid for my AARP membership fee.

Here's an example and where you can select the Senior Discount option:

Here you see the cheaper fully refundable Senior rate that's $21 cheaper than even my super duper corporate rate, which is lower than the lowest non-refundable rate.

You may notice that it says proof of eligibility required so if I click on the rate details:

You'll note that I artistically highlighted that you need to be really old (as in older than me) OR show the membership ID of a retired person organization.

Fortunately, AARP doesn't care how old you are, they are happy to take your money so even only semi-old people like me can join.

As such, I wholeheartedly recommend joining AARP mainly to be able to save on BA premium cabin fares but to be able to save at least on IHG hotels.  I have not yet tried this with other hotel chains but I suspect it should also be possible.

1 final note: since the really good flight sales may only last a few hours, you may want to sign up for AARP now before you actually need to book a flight, since by the time you sign up for AARP, the fare may have already disappeared.

------------------------------- switching subjects --------------------------------- (again so artistic)

As an update, I have went full speed ahead with booking my status runs.  I was able to find someone at my company's internal forums selling USAir's Take Flight Certificates for 10% off.  And he was selling 2 certificates worth $850 total.  I told him I'd take both for 20% off so I was able to also take off $170 in booking my status runs.  So far I'm going to Panama City 3 times.  Over each holiday weekend, Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.  On my Labor Day trip, I'm landing in Panama City and staying for 1 whole hour before going back to Miami on the same plane.  But I do spend 2 nights in Miami so I'm not just on flights the whole weekend.  I will still be about 24000 EQM short of Exec Platinum so I'll likely do 1 more Panama or Central America run + take a short domestic trip to make up the rest.

I get interesting reactions when I tell people what I'm doing.  I wonder if this is one of those things better to not just tell 'regular' (as in sane) folks.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Signs you might be traveling too much

1. You call an airline and the agent says 'wow, you have so many flights coming up!'

2. You're not sure when you'll have time to renew your passport because you'll be traveling internationally every 1-2 months the rest of the year.

I recently found out that as a US Citizen you can have 2 passports.  2 US passports.  Not 1 US and another country's passport.


These are the conditions for getting a 2nd US passport:

  • You have two upcoming international trips, with visas required for the second trip, or
  • You have Israel stamps in your passport and have travel planned to a country that may deny entry, such as Iran or Syria.

So it seems like I don't qualify since while I have about 6 international trips booked, none of them require a visa and I've never been to Israel.

For me personally, I think I should try to expedite getting one between early July and early September when I have about a 2 month gap between trips.  Actually now that I think about it, my September trip to Panama is actually more of a trip to Miami.  I land in Panama City then one hour later board the same plane back to Miami so I won't even need to go through immigration in Panama.

However, now that I think about it more, I'll need a passport on the US side to even get on the plane I think.  It's late and I'm tired, going to sleep.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Flight Report: Korean Air First Class aboard the 747-8i

Flight Report: Korean Air First Class aboard the 747-8i

Scheduled Departure: Nov 24, 2015 4:10PM KST from ICN (Seoul-Incheon)
Scheduled Arrival: Nov 24, 2015 9:35AM PST in SFO (San Francisco)
Flight duration: 10h 25m (scheduled)
Flight 23
Seat(s): 2A and 2J

This is cross-posted from Flyertalk.  http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-reports/1727312-korean-air-flight-23-new-747-8i-first.html

This was the last flight of an 8 week long vacation around the world where I had 19 flights.  Now I'm too lazy to type out the entire list of flights so I'll just say the F flights of interest vs this flight were the BA F flight from JFK-LHR and the F QR A380 flight from DOH-BKK (after sleeping in the new DOH 1st lounge)

Ground Experience

I learned that if you're flying on Asiana, Korean and Jeju air, you could check-in, drop off bags and go thru immigrations at the Seoul train station before taking the AREX express train to ICN.  I was nervous whether the bags would make it safely or if they'd be able to tag the luggage as priority but they did have a separate F/C check-in counter (but no separate F counter) and they were able to tag the luggage appropriately.  She offered to wrap our luggage which we accepted.  At NRT, they also wrapped our luggage on a NRT-ICN F flight.  At the least, it makes id'ing your bag on the carousel really easy.

In SFO, our bags were indeed #1 and ~#5 on the carousel, and it seemed like the Asian carriers (JL, HX) seemed to actually put out the priority bags first.  Whereas USAir and BA seemed to actually put them out last if at all.  :rolleyes:  (BA lost my bag once)

I had taken the regular (all stops) AREX train on the way in to Seoul and I would try to avoid it even if it's cheaper (we're talking 8000won vs 4x00won, so like ~$3 difference, also the 8000won gets discounted to 6900 if flying on KE, OZ, Jeju too I suppose) as the trains are subway style and you can only check in and drop off your bags if you're on the express train but they didn't check in our case.  Also, sometimes the schedule doesn't align and it may sometimes be faster to take the regular train in, which is what we did.

After getting to the airport and going straight to the nearest security checkpoint, we asked where the crew security lane was and was told it was over there but since the line here is short, it would be faster to just go through here.  Biggest mistake ever!  The agent (a different one later after the x-ray machine) would end up taking out every single little thing out of my backpack and there were lots of things in my backpack.  At least she offered to put them back in which I declined.

After that, we didn't have that much time in the lounge, I had read reviews of the KAL first class lounge so I knew about what to expect so wasn't surprised by anything, the food I thought was ok but agree that it's not really fitting of a first class lounge in the home airport of a major int'l carrier.  I ate the hot items which were ok but not good and had a shower while they made our luggage tags and also used the massage chair (they only have 2) before checking the time and got to the gate as they were just beginning to announce final call.

The lounge agents didn't announce boarding and they didn't tell me they wouldn't be announcing it.  I forgot to ask and it's not a big deal as I don't rely on it anyway but would have been nice to either be told to watch the time on my own or have it be announced.

The shower in the lounge, I just noticed the uneven triangular fold on the TP ;)
Shower room in the Korean Air First Class Lounge in ICN

Luggage tag
Luggage Tag from the First Class Lounge in ICN

On Board

Korean Air's First Class in the 747-8i is on the lower deck (the upper deck is entirely business class) in the very front.

Korean Air 747-8i seating chart (source: Korean Air)

Korean Air 747-8i First Class Cabin (source: https://thedesignair.net/2015/08/28/korean-airs-new-747-8i-offers-new-flagship-seating/)

Seat 2A which would be my home for the next 9h 42m.  I had 4.5 windows to myself, but it's a lot of work to close them all by hand.  ;)  QR and BA had automatic shades.

The cabin is laid out in a 1:1 3 row pattern on the pointy end on the lower deck so the seats in the 1st row are closer to each other and row 3 they are the farthest apart but there is also a protruding table/shelf between the seats on row 3 so it's not like you can do gymnastics like I was expecting to.

Also, the 2 bathrooms aft of 1st class are closed off to C, so the C lav on the lower deck has to be shared between 26 pax.  2 bathrooms (I don't know why they are called lavatories on planes) for 6 people, not bad... ;)  Our flight had 1 other person who looked like a middle-aged Asian businessman who I never really even knew was there aside from seeing him asleep while we were boarding.  So the load was 3 passengers out of 6 seats.  Although I'm sure I could have, I didn't bother to have an empty seat made into a bed and just had my own seat made into a bed when it came time to sleep as I intended to sleep the whole way after eating.  (which I was able to do)

The bathrooms are nothing spectacular, it's a bit bigger than a regular Y bathroom with a fold-down seat for changing.  But it's big enough where it doesn't feel cramped.  I think it's bigger than the BA F bathroom but much smaller than the gigantic QR A380 F bathroom.

My mom and I sat in 2A and 2J and when you're sitting, even with the door open, you can't see anyone else.  Even when you lean forward a lot, you just see the legs of the passenger on the other side.  It was on my bucket list to fly in a seat with a door but now I really don't see much point at least not the way it's on this plane.  You can still see the heads of the FAs as they walk by when you're sitting and you already can't see any of the other passengers anyway.  I do suppose when you're lying down it would maybe block the view of people walking by (but I was out shortly after lying down so I didn't really have a chance to tell).

On the BA and QR flights I think a door would have made more of a difference, but this is a testament to how private the seats are on this Korean plane.

the door closed
The suite doors closed, the lights were out, phone pic with flash

There are no overhead compartments, instead they have a spacious closet at each seat.  Actually I don't know if they have a separate area where they could store your carryons if you have a proper carryon.  The FAs always offered and did put all my clothes on the hangers, both my jacket at first as well as the bags and later after I changed into my pajamas, they hung my clothes on the hangers as well even when I said I can do it myself.

Here's the amenity kit with Davi branded products, pajamas and the Bose headphones

There are also slippers in a nice big bag (not pictured) which make it easy to put back in.

The amenity kit is nice but was missing earplugs and socks.  The pajamas are the best of the 3 between QR, BA and KE.  I got a BA small, a QR S/M (they only have a combined S/M size) and a KE medium.  They all fit well but the QR's felt a bit too slim-fit, and I'm a pretty slim guy, BA's fit well and had pockets in the pants while the other 2 didn't, but KE's had the best material feel and were the most comfortable.

Also, the flight itself wasn't noticeably hot.  I did wake up once where I was too warm but the comforter is pretty thick, so I just kicked off parts of the comforter to make myself cooler and slept without incident except for....

turbulence!  We were told before taking off that we'd have turbulence the whole flight but this was the strongest, most violent flight I've experienced.  Thankfully, I kept going back to sleep after being jolted awake a few times.

No seatbelt on the ottoman.  I asked if I could dine with my mom on the same table but they said the table would be too small to do so.  Later I'd see why this was, not because the table was small but the spread was pretty big with lots of banchan (side dishes.)

Seat Comfort

The seats on this flight were the most comfortable out of the 3 F flights.  With the most comfortable bed.  QR's bed was pretty close and the BA's bed frankly felt a bit angled to me and were the least comfortable but I was able to still sleep on all 3 flights without incident.

The seats between this and the QR flight are about the same in size both while sitting down and lying down while BA's is the least spacious but I don't think that's a surprise to anyone.  The seats themselves can move forward while dining, it didn't seem like the table itself moved.

I also didn't find the color scheme to be a bother, it's just pleasantly neutral where I didn't really notice it even after reading some FT'ers saying it looked like a hospital from the pictures.


The remote is responsive (I didn't try to see if the monitor itself was touch screen, it would be pointless as it's too far away anyway) and the cameras that look down and forward worked.  (they didn't work on the QR flight)

The movie/tv selection was somewhat limited but they had a good selection of recent hit movies.  There were Korean/Japanese/Chinese options as well.


Details of the Hansik Jeongchan which I had

There was a page with how the chicken was organically, humanely raised with organic caviar as its diet etc etc

Champagne list (all wasted on me since I don't drink)

Meal service

The seared scallop with black mushroom with spicy orange sauce, I think it was ok but I don't like mushrooms

I requested the caviar service, even though it doesn't come with the Korean Hansik option


I have no idea if this is good caviar or not :o

I did enjoy this caviar more than the one I had on the QR flight but I prefer the eggs and onions to be separate like it was on the QR flight.  There was no caviar on the BA flight.

wild sesame soup with stuffed bean curd, pretty good, I'm no food critic so that's about as descriptive as you're going to get.  :D

salad.  They make it by your seat, I asked for everything with the Korean soy-sauce based dressing, she said it's salty so she'd put a little in.  I didn't like the dressing but the salad was fresh.  I had already eaten before I remembered to take this pic.

side dishes (look at menu post above) + braised chicken stew + rice
the side dishes tasted fresh and carefully prepared, I especially liked the walnuts.  The chicken stew was very tender and good, looked like it had egg.

Spicy vegetable soup and spicy braised hairtail added, it was a little bit spicy and true to the 1 pepper rating on the menu.  Both were good and tasted authentically Korean but not sure if they'd agree with a typical Western palate.  If you like Korean food, you'll like it, if not, then maybe not but you should usually get the Asian option on an Asian carrier.  I had the salmon on the prior flight on KE and it was bland while my mom's bibimbap was good.  If you look at the menu carefully, I could have had bibimbap instead of the hairtail on this flight.

Fruit and cheese, fruit was fruit, I didn't like any of the cheeses but I'm not a big cheese guy

sweet potato balls in red bean paste, the balls were good, the red beans were ok but I hate red beans

Green tea (bag), you can see the effects of turbulence in the tea cup.


I was woken by my mom with about 45-50 mins left in the flight and served breakfast after they cleaned up my bed while I changed.

Omelette with bacon, it was fine, not memorable, bacon not crispy

Croissant with jam/olive oil


Overall, the dinner service took a while but it felt about the right pace, I think we were 3 hrs into the flight by the time everything was cleared.  Also, they weren't as careful about placing the utensils as I had read in other TRs. My tablecloth was upside down (the plane design was upside down) and my plates were consistently placed a bit to my left and not quite centered.  But these are truly first world problems and nothing that bothered me, just something I noticed.  I think QR and BA were both more careful.


Realized I didn't wrap everything up.  This was the flight I looked forward to the most on my trip and as a grand finale, it certainly did not disappoint.  Even with the violent turbulence, I had a great sleep and after landing at 9AM SFO time, had a good day where I felt drowsy in the afternoon (which normally happens anyway but not to this degree) but managed to stay awake until 9:30PM.  It was certainly the best flight out of the 19 flights.  The hard product is excellent.  The service is very good and attentive but not as polished as QR where the service was the best I've experienced.  The food was very good. Overall, a wonderful end to a wonderful trip.