January 23, 2015

Our Bag Was Lost...Then Found

Lost bags happen.  It's a part of flying but I've been lucky.  I've flown over 270,000 miles in the past three years and haven't had any issues.  But given the drama surrounding our flight to Hong Kong, we  knew we'd be lucky to have our bag make the flight.

When we arrived in Hong Kong after an awesome flight aboard SQ001, a Singapore Airlines customer service representative was waiting for us at the end of the jet bridge.  We were escorted through immigration and shown to the baggage service desk.  We were told that our bag would arrive the following day on the same flight (SQ001).  So we had 24 hours to go with just a carry on.  We filled out a claim form with our contact information and we were handed 800HKD ($103 USD) which seemed reasonable for 24 hours.

Luckily, we always plan for this and Emily had a handful of items in my carry on.  The Grand Hyatt was extremely accommodating - providing toiletries and hair utensils for Emily at no charge.  We woke up the next morning and checked on the status of the bag - it had not arrived.  We contacted Singapore via email and they were still working to locate the bag.  Ruh-roh.

I had mentally begun taking stock of what was in the bag and losing it would really suck.  We had dinner that evening with a friend so needed to get some nicer clothes.  We went to mall and kept our receipts.

The aftermath

That evening, we still hadn't heard back from Singapore.  So we emailed.  And called.  And then tweeted.  Finally we got a response (actually from both Singapore and United) that our bag would arrive that evening on United's direct flight from San Francisco.  Hoorah!  We notified the concierge and asked that they bring the bag up when received.  The bag arrived around 11PM that evening - more than 40 hours since we landed in Hong Kong.

Upon arriving back in the states, we filed a claim with Singapore Airlines for the rest of our expenses.  I am still waiting for the check but sounds like it should be here in the next few weeks - I will keep all of you posted.

So lost bags definitely do happen.  And airlines are generally pretty good at finding them even if they are bad at keeping you in the loop on their progress.  We always anticipate this situation on long haul trips and pack a carry on with a variety of items - just in case.  Here's to another 270,000+ miles without another lost bag...

January 21, 2015

Ringing in 2015: W Taipei

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Singapore Airlines 777-300ER First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
The Bridge Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Taipei
W Taipei
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Business Class Taipei to Hong Kong
The Wing Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific 777-300 ER First Class Hong Kong to Los Angeles

The cab from TPE to the W took about 40 minutes and cost 1200 TWD (~$38USD).  Upon arrival we were greeted warmly by the bell staff.  The main lobby of the hotel is actually on the 11th floor. We had a ton of stuff so we gave the bellman our bags and headed up to 11 to check in.  There was a dedicated check-in desk for Gold and Platinum members and we were helped immediately.


W Taipei Lobby

W Taipei Exterior

January 18, 2015

Another Year, Another Successful Platinum Card Airline Credit

The American Express Platinum Card (all three versions) is one of the most generous cards on the market when it comes to benefits.  Read my full review for a recap.  That said, the card is not great for everyday spend unless you're driving towards the sign-up bonus.

That's because the card ONLY offers 1x Membership Rewards points.  There are not bonus categories, not spend thresholds to encourage more spend.  So while you may look cool at dinner with your Platinum card, you'd be WAY better off paying with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card earning 2x points on dining and 3x if it's the first Friday of the month.

We keep a Platinum card in our house ($450 annual fee) because of these three primary benefits:

1)  $200 annual airline incidental credit - this reduces the annual fee by nearly 50%


2)  Centurion lounge access - we have trips to New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas nearly every year - that is 3 lounge visits for 2 people.  Easily worth $50 a visit in my book.  That's $150 a year.

3)  Access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) rates - these can be super lucrative in terms of the benefits ($100 property credit, breakfast, late checkout, upgrades, free wifi) when you don't have status or stay at a non-chain hotel

In terms of the incidental credit, we select United each year and purchase four $50 e-gift cards.  We've never had any issue getting the credits reimbursed within a couple of days.  Our credits just posted for 2015 purchases (although the fourth transaction didn't go through for some reason).





This definitely softens the blow of the annual fee.  We're going to fly and we're going to fly United so the gift cards are basically a cash discount on the annual fee.  The process of purchasing the gift cards takes all of 10 minutes a year.  If you don't leverage any of the other benefits, it's probably not worth keeping the card.  But for the lounges, FHR access, and $200 annual credit, it's not that hard to get your money's worth.

Ringing in 2015: Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Taipei

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Singapore Airlines 777-300ER First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
The Bridge Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Taipei
W Taipei
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Business Class Taipei to Hong Kong
The Wing Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific 777-300 ER First Class Hong Kong to Los Angeles

After a bit of shopping and a few more selfies, we were on our way to Taipei.  Boarding was called on time and we bounded down the jetway for what would be the first of three Cathay Pacific flights on this trip.  


PDB Champagne

The distance between Hong Kong and Taipei is 505 miles.  That's essentially the same distance between San Diego and San Francisco.  On the latter route, you'll see all single aisle aircraft.  A319s, A320s, 737s, maybe a 757.  Between Hong Kong and Taipei, Cathay is flying a mix of wide body aircraft that include A330s, 777s, and 747s!


Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class

Ringing in 2015: The Bridge Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Singapore Airlines 777-300ER First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
The Bridge Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Taipei
W Taipei
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Business Class Taipei to Hong Kong
The Wing Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific 777-300 ER First Class Hong Kong to Los Angeles

We left the Grand Hyatt a bit on the early side to ensure plenty of time to explore HKG.  This was also our first time flying Cathay Pacific and we wanted to lounge hop a bit.  Our cab driver dropped us off and since Emily had done way too much sopping in Hong Kong, he grabbed us a cart and loaded all of our luggage for us.

We found the business class check in counters where there was actually a bit of a line.  We waited for maybe five minutes before our check in was processed.  We received our boarding passes and lounge invitations and we were on our way to security and immigration.  Unfortunately, Hong Kong stopped stamping passports in 2014 so there would be no "stamp collecting" this morning.  We took the train to the far end of the concourse and made our way down the escalator to "The Bridge" which is Cathay's newly remodeled business class lounge.


Entrance to The Bridge at HKG

January 17, 2015

Ringing in 2015: Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Singapore Airlines 777-300ER First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
The Bridge Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Taipei
W Taipei
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Business Class Taipei to Hong Kong
The Wing Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific 777-300 ER First Class Hong Kong to Los Angeles

Since we didn't have to wait for bags at baggage claim, once were were done filling out paperwork for Emily's lost bag, we were on our way into the city.  First, we hit the ATM to pickup some cash and purchase our train tickets.  The train is the best way to get to Hong Kong (either Central or Kowloon) in my opinion.  It's cheap, super clean, has wifi, and runs often.  We entered the train station connected to the terminal and the train was waiting.  24 minutes later we were headed out of the station on our way to the Grand Hyatt.


My tree is bigger than your tree

It was only 8AM on Saturday and since we only had one bag, we decided to walk.  Using Google maps to guide us, we were at the hotel by 8:30.  It was the 27th of December so the hotel was still decked out with three giant Christmas trees in the lobby.  

Paying Property Taxes With a Credit Card

Owning a home is cool.  Paying property tax is not.

Denver (and the state of Colorado) are making it a lot easier for residents to pay for city services and taxes with credit cards.  Last year, the city eliminated convenience fees (typically around 2.5% - 3.0%) on property taxes so using a credit card to make the payment is a no-brainer.  If your taxes are like mine, that's a cash savings of nearly $100 not to mention the "value" of the points earned by paying with a card vs. a check.


Doing so is a great cash flow management tool (make the payment on the due date, don't actually have to pay it for another month) and earn points while doing so!

Thanks to our great city for making it easier to earn miles and points to subsidize future travel!