Showing posts with label Trip Reports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trip Reports. Show all posts

July 2, 2017

Review: Kansai-Airport Express Haruka Green Car KIX to Kyoto Station

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Planning & Booking II
Star Alliance First & Business Class Lounge LAX
Asiana First Class A380 LAX to Seoul (ICN)
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul (ICN)
Asiana A330-300 Business Class Seoul (ICN) to Osaka (KIX)
Kansai-Airport Haruka Express Green Car Kansai Airport to Kyoto Station
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
JAL Sakura Business Class Lounge Osaka (KIX)
Cathay Pacific Business Class 777-300 Kyoto (KIX) to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER Hong Kong to San Francisco
Hyatt Regency SFO

After clearing immigration, we followed the signs (in English) to the Haruka Express train.  I had read a fair amount about taking the train from Kansai Airport to Kyoto but the ticket situation was somewhat baffling.  We didn't need a JR pass and while there were discount options, I couldn't figure out how to purchase a discounted green car (first class) ticket in advance.  We certainly didn't need the first class experience but figured it would be worth reviewing.

We made it to the train station and headed to one of the green automated ticket kiosks.  I've had a fair amount of experience purchasing train tickets in other countries but this was a whole new level.  I finally managed to figure it out with a lot of help from Emily and a return from the station entrance gate to the ticket kiosk to get another ticket.  You need the ticket as well as the "express" surcharge ticket.  I should note that you need a chip and PIN card to make a purchase at the kiosk.  I was able to use my Barclays Arrival card with no issues - it's the only chip and PIN (that I know of) enabled card in my fairly large portfolio.  I imagine you could make a purchase with cash or a credit card at the staffed ticket counter but that would certainly take a bit more time and be less fun.



June 25, 2017

Review: Asiana A330-300 Business Class Seoul to Osaka

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Planning & Booking II
Star Alliance First & Business Class Lounge LAX
Asiana First Class A380 LAX to Seoul (ICN)
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul (ICN)
Asiana A330-300 Business Class Seoul (ICN) to Osaka (KIX)
Kansai-Airport Express Haruka Green Car Kansai Airport to Kyoto Station
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
JAL Sakura Business Class Lounge Osaka (KIX)
Cathay Pacific Business Class 777-300 Kyoto (KIX) to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER Hong Kong to San Francisco
Hyatt Regency SFO

Asiana OZ 112
Seoul (ICN) to Kyoto (KIX)
May 22, 2017
Aircraft: A330-300
Seats: 2H/2K

Seoul to Osaka is a similar distance as San Diego to San Francisco yet we were boarding a wide body A330 for the 90 minute flight.  We flew Asiana business class in 2014 and the experience was relatively similar.  The seats on this aircraft are nothing special - fixed shell backs and angled lie-flight.  But they are perfectly comfortable for such a short flight.  Unfortunately that means no storage  under the seat for takeoff and landing.


June 18, 2017

Review: Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul (ICN)

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Planning & Booking II
Star Alliance First & Business Class Lounge LAX
Asiana First Class A380 LAX to Seoul (ICN)
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul (ICN)
Asiana A330 Business Class Seoul (ICN) to Kyoto (KIX)
Kansai-Airport Express Haruka Green Car Kansai Airport to Kyoto Station
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
JAL Sakura Business Class Lounge Osaka (KIX)
Cathay Pacific Business Class 777-300 Kyoto (KIX) to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER Hong Kong to San Francisco
Hyatt Regency SFO

After a great flight from LAX in Asiana First Class, we headed over to the first class lounge near gate 42.  At this point, it was around 6:15AM local time so we would only have an hour in the lounge before boarding commenced for our flight to Osaka.

We've both visited the lounge before so this visit was very utilitarian - drink water, shower, and catch up on work.  We were welcomed into the lounge which was basically empty at this hour.



June 17, 2017

Review: Asiana First Class A380 LAX to Seoul

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Planning & Booking II
Star Alliance First & Business Class Lounge LAX
Asiana First Class A380 LAX to Seoul (ICN)
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul (ICN)
Asiana A330 Business Class Seoul (ICN) to Kyoto (KIX)
Kansai-Airport Express Haruka Green Car Kansai Airport to Kyoto Station
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
JAL Sakura Business Class Lounge Osaka (KIX)
Cathay Pacific Business Class 777-300 Kyoto (KIX) to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER Hong Kong to San Francisco
Hyatt Regency SFO

Asiana Airlines OZ 203
Los Angeles (LAX) to Seoul (ICN)
May 21, 2017
Aircraft:  A380-800
Seats: 2K/3K

This would be my third time flying Asiana first class and the second time flying first on the A380 so I was looking forward to comparing how things had changed.  After a great couple hours in the Star Alliance lounge, we had made our way down to the concourse and to our gate.  Boarding was delayed a few minutes for now apparent reason and passengers had begun to line up.


June 3, 2017

Review: Star Alliance First & Business Class Lounge LAX

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Planning & Booking II
Star Alliance First & Business Class Lounge LAX
Asiana First Class A380 LAX to Seoul (ICN)
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul (ICN)
Asiana A330 Business Class Seoul (ICN) to Kyoto (KIX)
Kansai-Airport Express Haruka Green Car Kansai Airport to Kyoto Station
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
JAL Sakura Business Class Lounge Osaka (KIX)
Cathay Pacific Business Class 777-300 Kyoto (KIX) to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER Hong Kong to San Francisco
Hyatt Regency SFO

After an easy flight on United from Denver, we arrived at T7 and made our way through the mess of tunnels that is is LAX.

High above Breckenridge en route to LAX
We usually try to stick to carry-on bags for the outbound so we were traveling pretty light.  The connector to TBIT took us through essentially all of LAX's terminals but we made it from our gate at LAX to the Star Alliance lounge at TBIT in just under 30 minutes.  We didn't have to reclear security and other than the hotel maze in the basement, the entire experience was pretty seamless.  I have to say that the TBIT is stunning.  Easily the nicest terminal in the US.

TBIT LAX

May 14, 2017

Review: Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

Introduction
Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room LHR
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

Etihad Airways EY 171
Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Los Angeles (LAX)
November 27, 2016
Aircraft:  777-200LR
Seats:  2D/2G

We boarded the 777 for what would be the longest flight of our lives.  Clocking in at #6 on the longest flights in the world, the Abu Dhabi to LAX flight is blocked at 16h 30m and covers nearly 7,300 miles.  The Buffs had just beat Utah and were headed to the Pac 12 Championship so we were ready to celebrate.  We settled in for what would be a fantastic flight.

GO BUFFS!

May 7, 2017

April 23, 2017

A Week in Japan: Flight Milenomics

Last week, I published the Planning & Booking segment of the trip report for our upcoming trip to Japan and Hong Kong.  I included the mileage and cash cost of each flight segment and I've receive some questions around how to value the redemptions.  I figured I'd write a post around the flight valuations and can follow-up with hotels if interesting.

Valuing miles is definitely more art than science but I personally value the vast majority of airline miles between 1.5 and 2 cents a piece.  I wouldn't redeem unless I'm getting really close to 2 cents and one of the newest benchmarks is the ability to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points (with Amex Business Platinum) for 2 cents against airfare - which to me is essentially as good as cash.

Here's a recap on the miles redeemed (for 2) for our upcoming trip:
  • United Polaris Business Class DEN - KIX for 130,000 United MileagePlus miles
  • Cathay Pacific First Class HND - HKG for 55,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles
  • Singapore Airlines First Class HKG - SFO for 140,250 Singapore KrisFlyer miles
And the cash costs when I looked last week:
  • $9,276 for United to Osaka
  • $8,168 for Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong
  • $16,392 for Singapore Airlines to San Francisco
  • $212 for United home to Denver
  • $268 in taxes/fees

In total, that is 325,250 miles redeemed for $34,048 in flights.  Note that is the retail value and if you were going to purchase the flights, you could likely do somewhat better with discounts, credit card bonus categories, and mileage earning.  Let's assume that all in, that would amount to a 20% rebate (would vary wildly based on status and fare class but I think a fair assumption) valued as cash knocking the retail value down to $26,970 (including taxes/fees).

At that rate, the blended rate for each mile redeemed would be 8.3 cents.  Still amazing.  But how much would you actually pay for these flights?  That question is totally subjective but this is our fifth anniversary and I'd consider a splurge.  The best I could do to mimic the flights (combination of United and ANA) in economy priced out at $1,323 each.  No thanks.  

I think premium economy fares would be a fair comparison as I think a lot of you would be willing to pay a premium to be a bit more comfortable for a big trip like this for a special occasion.  How do those flights price out?  $3,238 each on Orbitz.  Since this is not a premium fare, booked from an OTA, and unlikely to earn as many miles, I'll discount the rebate to 15% which brings the fare to $5,505 for 2.  

See what I'm talking about in terms of the art?  That brings the redemption per mile to 1.7 cents - right in the middle of my valuations.  Another factor to consider is that I'm mileage rich and it's not that big of a deal to burn 325,250 miles on a balance of +1,000,000 miles.  It's a different story when considering paying $3,000 - $6,500 for two tickets.  I'd much prefer to spend the miles which require a bit of time and ingenuity to acquire and save the cash for other experiences.  In addition, there are both comfort and enjoyment factors that need to be considered.  We'll arrive rested (on both ends) and enjoy our vacation and make the transition back to work a lot easier.  We also love flying - especially on these carriers and wouldn't be able to do it without miles.

Overall, this is a great set of redemptions regardless of your valuation.  

April 16, 2017

Review: Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi

Introduction
Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room LHR
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

The ride from the Park Hyatt Dubai to the Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi took about 90 minutes.  We had expected to hit F1 traffic but never did.  The ride was somewhat boring (lots of desert) with one exception.  Our driver asked if he could stop at a gas station (we figured for gas) and of course we said yes.  Instead of pulling in to get gas, he pulled into a parking spot.  Maybe it was prayer time?  Nope.  Bathroom?  Not entirely convinced.  We never figured out what it was but 15 minutes later he returned to the car with a coffee for him and a couple of waters for us.

We chose the Hyatt Capital Gate because it was free and relatively close to the airport/F1 track.  There are lots of other great points options in Abu Dhabi but given the race, many of them were sold out.  We were lucky to find a free night available.

Check-in was relatively smooth and the front desk confirmed that they had our F1 tickets (Thanks Doug!) and would send them up in a few minutes.

April 1, 2017

A Week in Japan: Introduction

Introduction
Planning & Booking
United Polaris Business Class 787-8 San Francisco to Osaka (KIX)
Intercontinental Osaka
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Park Hyatt Tokyo
Cathay Pacific First Class 777-300ER Tokyo (HND) to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER Hong Kong to San Francisco
Hyatt Regency SFO

I'm still working on a couple of segments from our latest trip to Al Maha in November of last year.   I plan to finish those trip reports in April but given that our next trip is coming up next month, I wanted to get the introductory post on the blog.

We were in Tokyo last August and loved it.  We decided to go back on the flight home and started thinking about when and where.  We wanted to spend some additional time in Tokyo along with a visit to Kyoto.  We were able to snag flights on United's direct service from San Francisco to Osaka (closest international airport to Kyoto) and began planning from there.

I do want to give United's Polaris soft (hard product won't be installed on these planes for years) product so leaning towards keeping the direct flight.  For another 40,000 miles a piece we could fly Asiana first class through Seoul which would be more comfortable and more fun but take longer.

16,000+ miles of flying

March 26, 2017

Review: Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge IAD

We spent a long weekend in Washington, D.C. for my birthday.  On Sunday morning, we woke up early and headed out to Dulles.  We cleared security in a matter of minutes and took the airtrain to the B gates and located the lounge next to gate B43.



March 11, 2017

Review: Park Hyatt Dubai

Introduction
Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room LHR
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

We had booked a car through Al Maha and while the driver arrived a few minutes late, everything else was smooth.  Our ride took around an hour given traffic in Dubai.  The Park Hyatt is located in a great location - only about 10 minutes form the airport and situated on Dubai Creek with great views of the small marina and of the Dubai skyline.  Getting into Dubai from the hotel is easy - we made a couple of trips and the longest ride was about 20 minutes.

I had booked a cash rate and used 6,000 HGP per night to upgrade to a suite.  I emailed the hotel prior to see if we could be placed in a terrace suite but didn't have any expectations that they would honor that request.  Upon check-in, we were informed that they'd upgraded us to the terrace suite included complimentary breakfast and minibar - score!  No idea why they upgraded us - surely not due to my lowly Hyatt Platinum (prior to program changes) status or my world renown blog.  I think we just got lucky.

Our room wasn't ready yet so we had a complimentary cappuccino and caught up on email for 30 minutes and checked out the views of the Dubai Creek and skyline.




Review: Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa

Introduction
Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room LHR
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

We left the JW Marriott Dubai en route to Al Maha around 11AM.  Our driver was super friendly and explained a number of sites along the road as we exited the city and headed out into the desert.  30 minutes later we were pulling up to the first gate to enter the conservation reserve.

Welcome to DDCR
Al Maha!
Upon seeing the small footprint of Al Maha set against the desert, both of us were so excited to be back again.

Jump on the bed excited

February 18, 2017

Review: JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

Introduction
Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room LHR
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

After a great flight from London, we arrived around 11:30PM pretty tired and ready for a real bed.  We cleared immigration and headed out to grab a taxi.  While DXB is busy at this hour, there was no taxi queue and we were quickly on our way for the ~20 minute ride to the hotel.

The property is located in the "Business Bay" neighborhood of Dubai along the new Dubai Canal and across the canal from the brand new W, St. Regis, and Westin complex.  This is the tallest hotel and the world and while our stay would be short, we were both excited to check that one off our list.

Check-in formalities were processed and we were assigned a king room on a high floor (I think 57 but can't remember exactly).  The lobby was bananas at this hour.  In Dubai, hotels are hot spots given they have liquor licenses so locals and visitors alike head there to party.  We were both surprised at the dress code (really lack thereof) but were too tired to do anything other than head upstairs to sleep.

The room was actually really good size.  There was a king size bed, a couple of chairs, and a work desk.


January 22, 2017

Hyatt Regency Houston Galleria Needs Some Work

Last week, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Houston Galleria for a one night business trip.  The hotel is new, was close to my meeting, and was priced competitively so I decided to give it a try.

I landed at IAH around 6:30 and took an Uber to the hotel.  The Galleria is far out and the weather in Houston was terrible so it took nearly an hour.

I arrived at the hotel and was pleasantly surprised.  Check-in was smooth and I had my keys in a matter of minutes.  While the bar looked fun, I was tired and had some work to do so headed upstairs to order room service.  I ordered a Caesar Salad and a side of fries.  Simple enough or so I thought.  I was quoted 25 minutes which seemed fast - having served room service in two hotels in two different parts of the country, not sure why anyone would quote 25 minutes.  Strike one.

I got to work and 45 minutes later figured I'd call down to check on my order.  They said they were working on it and that it would be up shortly.  20 minutes later and no knock on the door so I called down again.  This time, I was told that the server was in the elevator.  This is a 14 story property and my room was on the 8th floor.  How long of an elevator ride could that be?

After 15 minutes, I called down again.  I was put on hold while they checked with the kitchen.  I was told that the server had 3 stops on his way up and I was last...the knock on the door should come soon.  By this time, it was nearly 9PM and I was hungry.  Finally, after more than 80 minutes my salad showed up (no fries).  The server was apologetic but I never saw those fries.

I had an early meeting and the weather was supposed to be bad again.  I filled out the door hangar for a 6:30 breakfast.  Same thing in the morning.  I had to call multiple times before my order showed up around 7:20.  I had to be out the door at 7:30.  Strike two

Hyatt's Twitter team (@Hyatt Concierge) was helpful during the process and I ended up with 5,000 HGP points for the inconvenience.  This is a new hotel so I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt.  But this is basic stuff - if you're going to be a business hotel, you have to help people get food, get it fast, and get it on time.  That's the whole point.  In the scheme of things, these are small details.  But in the moment, certainly a PITA and something I hope the hotel improves.


December 31, 2016

Review: British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai

Introduction
Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room LHR
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

British Airways BA 107
London (LHR) to Dubai
November 21, 2016
Aircraft:  747-400
Seats:  1A/1K

After a shower and breakfast in the Concorde Room, we headed over to the gate where boarding had already commenced.  We headed down the extremely long jetway and met the smiling crew as we stepped onboard the aircraft.  I knew immediately that this was going to be a great flight.  The crew happily showed us to row 1 and offered up the storage closet for our carryon bags so that we would have more room at our seats.  Lead cabin crew member Jenny introduced herself and insisted that she bring over the Champagne to kick our holiday off right.  The crew also offered Arabic Coffee prior to pushback.


Pajamas, amenity kits, and slippers were distributed prior to takeoff which I thought was a nice tough for a 6 hour dayflight.

December 30, 2016

Review: British Airways Concorde Room LHR (2016)

Introduction
Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room LHR
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi

We made our way from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5, cleared security, and used the "Millionaire's Door" to the Concorde Room.  All of that took about 45 minutes so we only had an hour and change until we needed to leave the lounge for our flight to Dubai.

LHR Millionaire's Door
The "Millionaire's Door" is off to the right after exiting security on the same level.  We missed it during our last visit and consequentially added another 15 minutes of walking/searching to our transit.

Review: British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London

Introduction
Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

British Airways BA 218
Denver to London (LHR)
November 20, 2016
Aircraft:  747-400
Seats:  5E/5F

In the fall/winter, the flight leaves at 5:45PM so we had a great day in Denver packing and getting ready our trip to Dubai.  We had lunch at Denver's Union Station before hopping on the RTD A-line train to the airport.

Train to DEN
We live about a mile from the station and it's such an improvement to be able to take the train vs. drive/park/Uber.  The train is relaxing in the way that a car ride isn't.  

We pulled into the airport station around 3:30PM and headed up to check-in for our flight.  We were carrying on so check-in took <5 minutes and we soon had boarding passes all the way to Dubai.

December 11, 2016

Review: ANA First Class 777-300ER Tokyo (NRT) to San Francisco

Introduction
Introduction Part Two
Planning & Booking
Sheraton JFK Airport
Lufthansa Business Class Lounge JFK
Turkish Airlines Business Class 777-300ER New York (JFK) to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Istanbul Arrivals Lounge
St. Regis Istanbul
Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class A330-300 Istanbul to Male
Transfer from Male to Conrad Maldives
Conrad Maldives Part One
Conrad Maldives Part Two
Transfer from Conrad Maldives to Male
Singapore Airlines Business Class 777-200ER Male to Singapore
Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Singapore
Singapore Airlines Business Class 777-300ER Singapore to Tokyo (HND)
Andaz Tokyo
ANA Suite Lounge Tokyo (NRT)
ANA First Class 777-300ER Tokyo (NRT) to San Francisco

ANA All Nippon Airways NH 8
Tokyo (NRT) to San Francisco (SFO)
August 27, 2016
Aircraft:  777-300ER
Seats:  2D/2G

We were among the first in line at gate 52 and bounded down the jetway for our first flight on ANA.  We were warmly welcomed aboard by the crew and shown to our seats (2D/2G).  There would be two flight attendants serving the cabin that went out with 4/8 seats occupied.  The other two occupants were business travelers and went to sleep after takeoff.  That left the two flight attendants to give us their full attention.

ANA First Class cabin