Friday, November 30, 2012

United Airlines 787 Dreamliner Spotted at Denver

I spotted United's new 787 Dreamliner at DEN last night. It looks slick and a little like a 767. The cockpit windows and nose section really stand out and there were quite a few people stopping to take a look.
United Airlines' New 787
United Airlines' 787 Wingspan Looks Huge

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time to Start Planning 2013 Adventures

Now that I made 1K for 2012, I am able to relax about status (SPG stays #24 and #25 are booked, so I’m safe).  It feels great not to worry.  The problem is 2013 is just around the corner and my business travel won’t get me close to 1K in 2013.  I’m looking for cheap United flights early in 2013 to get a status head start and maybe find some cheap deals to new places.
Sunset at Denver Airport on United 737
Denver isn’t the cheapest airport and there isn’t a close alternative (COS is 2 hours drive, but the fares aren’t great there either).  There are a few flights to Oslo or Stockholm for about 6.5c per mile flown.  Not bad, but not great.  I haven’t been to either city, so I’m tempted to book.  The price is a little high for just the miles and the fare has a two night stay required.  I wouldn’t mind a short vacation, but I’d rather go when it’s warm and there is sunlight.
US Airways Jet in New York
Domestic flights aren’t any cheaper from Denver; I’m looking at 8c a mile.  There are some cheap transcon flights (BOS-SNA for 4.5c / mi), but I’d need to reposition to a coast and that’s not cost effective unless I fly a few round trips.  There aren’t any cheap day trips out there, so very frustrating.  I guess I’ll go back to ITA Matrix and search some more.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

United Shop Discount Code

The United Shop is offering 10% off purchases November 26th with promo code UNITEDCYBER12.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

US Airways A320 First Class to PHX

Work let me book first class!  This was a first for me.  My corporate travel policy, like most, requires booking the lowest available fare.  For a last minute late night trip from DEN to IND, the discounted first class ticket (A fare class) was cheaper than the full fare coach ticket (Y fare class).  Flying first from DEN to PHX fit the policy.  I have never paid to fly first and was excited to see what US Airways had to offer.
US Airways Airbus First Class Seat - Does Not Recline
As it happens, all they offer on evening flights is Shock Top beer, Cape Cod chips, friendly service, and a seat that does not recline.  The broken seat isn’t a standard offering, but the cabin was full and I couldn’t change seats.  I emailed US Airways and they said they would alert maintenance.  No real (coupon, discount voucher, drink ticket, etc.) apology was offered.  Bummer.

US Airways first class meal review here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holiday Travel Tips

Thanksgiving and the holiday season is a popular travel time for infrequent travelers and families (amateurs), so things might not run as smoothly as normal.  Here are a few tips to help with holiday travel:
  • Allow Extra Time for Everything – It’s amateur hour.  People will be traveling heavy, with families, and with different mindsets.  Lines will be longer, people will be confused, walking slowly, and be totally absorbed with their situation and oblivious to those around them (this happens every day, but is worse around the holidays).  Strollers will be everywhere.  Give yourself extra time to deal with these impediments and they’ll bother you less.
  • Relax – Stay calm.  It’s possible the people in front of you in line haven’t flown since the TSA banned liquids/shoes/common sense at airports.  Becoming angry will not improve the situation.  See step #1.
  • Ear Plugs – They really work.  The plane and airport will be full of loud kids that are poorly supervised.  You can’t make children behave, but you can block out their loud antics.
  • Exit Rows are Kid Free – No one under 15 is allowed in an exit row.
  • Be Nice to Airline Staff – A smile goes a long way to making everyone’s travels better.
  • Try Flying at Off Peak Times – I doubt a family will book a red eye or flight before 8am if they can avoid it.  Flying on the holiday is usually less busy and cheaper than the days right around it too.  
Happy Travels!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Airbus A350XWB - Go Buy One

Airbus has a new website out promoting the A350 XWB.  The first one is being assembled and flight testing should start next year.  It looks like a great jet to fly and United has some early orders placed.  I'm excited.
A319 - A Smaller Sibling of the A350

Sunday, November 18, 2012

ANA 777-300 Business Class Flight Tokyo to LAX

After my amazing stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, it was time to return home.  The Narita Express was on time and check in was a breeze.  Narita airport (NRT) has some great duty free stores and I was excited to check them out.  Unfortunately, the strong Yen took all the fun out of duty shopping in Tokyo.  If it were 100:1, the prices would be great, but at 80:1 I didn’t find any deals.  I did spend my leftover money on some Hello Kitty stuff for my niece, she liked it.  
ANA 777-300 NRT-LAX
After shopping, I went lounge hopping.  First stop was the United Club.  The lounge is huge, bigger than any in the USA.  They had lots of yummy sushi (for a westerner) and a draught beer machine that pours a perfect pint.  Next up, thanks to Priority Pass form the Palladium Card, was the Korean Air lounge.  It was small and nicely decorated, good liquor, but limited food items.  Finally I visited the ANA business class lounge.  I might have been the only westerner in the place.  The lounge is large and had some good views of the field.  The snacks were more Japanese in focus, but I still enjoyed a few sushi rolls and beer.
ANA Business Class Lounge Tokyo - NRT
United Club Tokyo - NRT
I left the lounge in time to make it to the gate before boarding started.  I was really excited to fly the 777-300 (my first trip on the stretched model), fly with ANA (first time in their care), and experience a new business class (new to me and the world).  I was such an excited nerd; I even wore a Boeing t-shirt.  The seats are great.  They are in an offset staggered layout, so no one is next to you.  It feels very private and is exceptionally quiet.  The seat is a little narrow and maybe 5’10’’ long when flat.  I’m 5’10’’ so it felt a little cramped.  I was also the tallest person I saw, so I guess these were designed with the home market in mind.  The TV is large and had a good selection of movies, more than enough to keep me entertained over the Pacific.  ANA doesn’t hand out amenity kits, but has slippers waiting at your seat.  There is a basket of goodies at the small lounge in the rear of business class with eye masks, ear plugs, lotions, and a few other items.  A fun observation is the lavatories have a built in bidet system like on Japanese toilets (I didn’t try it out).  Every seat in business class was booked, but it didn't feel crowded.
ANA 777-300 Business Class Seat
ANA 777-300 business Class Flat Seat
Forward Business Class Cabin ANA 777-300
ANA 777 Business Class Leg Room
ANA Business Class Seat Storage Area
The meal and drink service started shortly after takeoff.  I opted for the western meal and a martini.  The meal was very good, but the steak was outstanding.   After the meal service ends, flight attendants won’t come by unless you ring the call button (a different method than US carriers), but they are quick to respond and friendly (again, different from US carriers).  There is a list of meals and snacks available any time on demand.  I went for a breakfast cheese burger instead of the omelet.  I also got a cheese plate to add some Roquefort cheese to the burger and try to replicate the best burger ever at The Spotted Pig in New York.  It still didn’t compare, but was still good.
ANA Business Class Western Appetizers
Delightful Steak Tender and Tasty 
Fun and Tasty Parfait Dessert 
Roquefort Cheese Snack - ANA Business Class
ANA Cheese Burger Snack, Add Some Roquefort
Once on the ground at LAX, it was a lengthy taxi to the gate, then a breeze through customs (the American citizen line was fast at least).  An earlier flight to Denver was boarding, so added my name to standby and grabbed a quick bourbon and Coke at the United Club.  I went back to the gate and waited.  I was the only standby to clear and got an exit row seat.  I was happy to trade first class for 3 fewer hours at LAX.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

ANA Boeing 777-300 First Class

Here is a picture of the new ANA first class suites on the 777-300.  They exist in real life, but not for miles redemption so this was the only view I had.  The seat looked huge and every one was booked too.
ANA 777-300 First Class Seat

Friday, November 16, 2012

Good Chase Credit Card Sign Up Bonus

I am NOT compensated by Chase for this post.  

I don't want to be one of those bloggers that pushes credit cards ad nauseum to try and make a buck.  I just thought this is a good deal worth sharing.  

I applied for the Chase Ink Bold card this week to grab the $500 bonus on the card after spending $3,000.  I have enough United miles for now and cash is still more versatile.  If you don't think you have a business, you're wrong.  Firstname Lastname Consulting (or Photography/Racing/etc.) is a Sole Proprietor business with your SSN as the tax ID.  No fee for the first year and no reason to keep it a second.
Happy Travel Daydreams

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Park Hyatt Tokyo Review and Tourist Views on Tokyo

As part of my new ‘travel without doing any actual research’ initiative, I’ve been basing my plans on tourist cards, with good success, and movies, with limited success.  I decided to base my trip to Tokyo on Lost In Translation, it’s a good movie (on Netflix) and a much better depiction of modern Tokyo than Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo or MacArthur.  I had done a little research in 2011 when I booked a $700 round trip on United.  The earthquake struck the morning I was scheduled to depart, so my plans were put on hold while my Yen appreciated. 
Room With A View, Room 4303
Many scenes in Lost In Translation are set at the Park Hyatt Tokyo so, with some help from my dad’s Hyatt points, I booked a room.  This turned out to be an excellent idea.  The Park Hyatt is one of the best hotels, if not the best, I’ve ever visited.  The rooms are large (huge by Japanese standards) and the service is impeccable.  There is standard twice daily housekeeping and they even fill up the ice bucket (with Scotch bar quality ice cubes too).  The staff was very courteous and the facilities top notch.  I asked for a room with a view facing the city and got a room on the 43rd floor so I could do my Lost In Translation picture.
Park Hyatt Tokyo Two Queen Bed Room
Park Hyatt Tokyo Bathroom Tub
My Toilet's Control Panel
Tokyo is like New York, just without a grid system.  It’s big, expensive, most people don’t speak English well, and disgustingly hot in the summer.  It has a great skyline, a few parks and temples, and the gardens at the Imperial Palace.   The gardens are my favorite place in Tokyo.  They are large, immaculately maintained, and free.  They are beautiful and relaxing.  I just sat on a bench for 20 minutes at one point and just watched the world go by.  I loved it.
Tsukiji Fish Market - Long Lines and High Prices
Imperial Palace Gardens Tokyo
Imperial Palace Gardens and Tokyo Skyline
Tokyo Skyline
It's best not to play 'guess what sound this made?' or 'what sea creature was this?' while eating in Japan.  I was a little adventurous on my flight to Tokyo and enjoyed the eel and other odd things served.  Once on the ground, I was much less daring.  I went to McDonald’s twice.  I did try some street food and it was good and looked like chicken.  I also went to the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.  I had one of my top three burgers (and by far most expensive) ever.  I got there before the band started and enjoyed the sun set.  
New York Bar Cheese Burger  ~$60
New York Bar - Park Hyatt Tokyo
Mega McMuffin - It's Amazing
I'm Not Sure What It Is, But It's Only Y500
I really liked the new buildings and unique modern architecture of Tokyo, so enjoy a few more pictures.
Park Hyatt Tokyo - Floors 39 to 52
Sun Rise in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fun Travel Brochures

I enjoy receiving mail, even what most people would consider junk mail, so this post might not be for everyone.  My favorite types of mail get me day dreaming about something, and nothing does it better than a travel brochure.  Here are some links to sign up for some great brochures: 
So Many Destinations, So Little Time
Yes, some of those tour companies are ridiculously expensive.  The point of reading their brochures is to inspire and create new ideas, not to plunk down $10K on a week long trip.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Clear Airport Security Line Promotion Sale Code

CLEAR is running a promotion for a 6 month membership for $29.  CLEAR is the airport security lane fast lane pass that works at DEN, SFO, DFW, and MCO.  I like it because I can count on it taking less than 2 minutes for the ID check.  DEN's TSA is especially bad, taking anywhere from 2 minutes to 20 minutes to check IDs and you can never plan on when the short times are, so I would have to show up expecting the full 20 minutes if I didn't use CLEAR.  The TSA experience is still slow, but this removes one touch point and 20 minutes of variability. 
CLEAR Promotion Details

Thursday, November 8, 2012

United Airlines First Class Meal Reviews - Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

I've been doing some flying and have been enjoying the finest food (and a gross Continental cheese burger) United Airlines has to offer domestic first class passengers.  Here are some reviews of United's food service.  Meals are served on flights 700 to 2,299 miles long (approximately 2 – 5 hours).  On shorter flights, flight attendants just pass around the snack basket with chips and Clif bars.

Egg McMuffin, fruit, and some yogurt on a 737 ride to Houston.  The Egg McMuffin creation is really good. A warm cinnamon bun or croissant follows after everyone is served.  The cinnamon bun is great, but really sticky, so keep a napkin handy.
United Airlines First Class Breakfast 737
Shrimp salad and soup!  Both rock.  This is United's most consistent meal and a favorite.  It is very flavorful and filling.  The soup option was a great seafood with spice creation.  I could have that soup every flight and not tire of it.  The cookie was oatmeal raisin, too healthy to be fun.
United Airlines Shrimp Salad Lunch First Class A320
The cream of mushroom soup doesn't look appealing, but it tastes great.  United's soup guy is on a roll. The warm wrap was a good south-west chicken thing, filling and comforting item.  United's warm meal options can be hit or miss. I also got a chocolate chip cookie, fun and yum.
United Airlines Dinner Chicken Wrap Meal & Soup

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

United Mileage Plus Merchandise Awards

There's no such thing as a bad award.  Well, as long as you are receiving more value from your miles than you expected.  Since the value of a mile different for each person (here’s my perspective on the value of a frequent flyer mile), there’s no global minimum value of a redemption for it to be good or bad.  Miles are like money and people won’t spend either on what they view as a bad value.  Some bloggers are adamant that merchandise awards are bad value and should be avoided.  They are less valuable than award flights in most cases, but that shouldn’t be taken as being a bad value. 
United Merchandise Awards Mailed Catalog
A colleague spent 50,000 United miles on a $400 watch and was pleased with the value he got from his miles.  Yes, he could have used 50,000 miles for two award tickets, each worth more than $400, but he would never buy just two tickets because he heads a family of 6 in Salt Lake.  Since his oldest kid is 6, he needs to fly direct to keep his sanity, so he flies Delta.  A nice watch sounded like a much better idea than a connection in Denver.  In absolute terms, not the best value, but in his mind it was an outstanding deal.

Update: United ran a sale on a Tumi carry on bag and I bought one.  I'm delighted with the bag and the value I received from my miles.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

United / Continental Airlines Cheese Burger Meal

When United merged with Continental, they got the 787 Dreamliner in 2012.  They also got the Continental cheese burger as a first class meal.  It's gross.  So gross that I couldn't eat it.  It's made of that lousy grade of ground beef that looks grey and tastes like something other than beef.  I had this on a flight from Chicago to Denver and it was the only option.  At least the mystery wraps are edible.  What I would have given for a shrimp salad though, those are always good.  I hope United does a menu upgrade soon and removes this awful option.  
United Airlines Cheese Burger First Class Meal

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Blog

Frequent Flyer Guy is 1 year old.  I've enjoyed writing the blog and I hope you enjoy reading it.  I can't wait to find what adventures next year holds.  Happy travels!
My Favorite Picture from the Past Year