Saturday, September 28, 2013

Alaska Airlines Coach Food

Alaska Airlines is promoting their food in coach; it actually looks pretty good too. I had always been a fan of their premium beer options including Alaska Amber.  United flirted with premium beer and spirits briefly, the the days of Leinenkugel's and Maker's Mark on board have long passed.  The Alaska food offerings also look just and good and comparably priced to food in the airport, so next time I fly with them, I just might skip eating in the terminal and enjoy a buy on board meal instead.
Alaska 737

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fun Photo

Fun picture I snapped landing at SAN.  Did you know in the 40's SAN had sea plane facilities?  The ramps are still there, check out Google Maps.
757 Night Landing at SAN

Monday, September 23, 2013

Southwest Rapid Rewards Point Value Drop

Southwest Airlines is devaluing Rapid Rewards points.  The new value is 1.43 cents per point; the old value was 1.67 cents per point for Wanna Get Away fare.  0.24 cents per point adds up over time, 2,500 extra points for a $250 fare or removing about $120 in value from a 50,000 point balance.  Southwest is at the forefront of pricing awards based on the underlying ticket cost (dollar ticket price x points per dollar = award cost), not a flat rate region to region pricing (North America to Europe = 60,000 points regardless of ticket prices). United and Delta are likely to follow in the next few years, so I am intently interested in how the new program model works in real life.  It doesn’t seem to be working well.
Southwest 737 at GEG
Point inflation should be expected in flat rate region award chart models to reflect higher ticket prices over time.  Since point per dollar awards already account for rising ticket prices, points inflation should not be expected.  A point should have a fixed dollar exchange rate in these models.  Breaking that exchange rate peg will devalue the currency in the eyes of its holders and they will be less likely to hold large amounts in the future.  It’s just like monetary policy with real currencies.  This inflation hurts, but my balance is less than 30,000 points, so I’ll be ok.  I have a much larger United balance that I need to start burning through because any inflation there will bite much harder.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

United Airlines First Class Sundae Dessert

United changed from a cookie to a sundae bar for dessert on long flights in first class.  A generous helping of vanilla ice cream topped with your choice of chocolate, caramel, walnuts, strawberries, whip cream, and cherries. It was an amazing surprise.
My Sundae on IAD-SAN

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Good Travel Day

Good travel day so far.  Star Alliance Gold members can use the Lufthansa lounge at IAD or DTW even if they aren't flying Lufthansa.
Lufthansa Lounge IAD - LH Likes Roses

Friday, September 13, 2013

Overnight Mileage Run Checklist

I'm going on a mileage run trip this weekend and I'd like to share my checklist of what I need to pack.
  • Pillow – Couch pillows work for window seat types, neck pillows are best for middle and aisle seats.
  • Blanket – I sleep better with one on flights, but odds are your aircraft won’t have any on board.  I actually bought a few new Envoy blankets from US Airways, they travel well and are comfortable (and only $5).
  • Eye Mask – Helps me sleep no matter the time of day.
  • Ear Plugs – Much better option than sleeping with my clunky Bose headphones.  Bring a few pairs.
  • Power Strip – There are never enough outlets, so make your own.
  • Headphones – Great for tunes, in flight entertainment, and just blocking out ambient noise.  I like my QC15’s, but my old QC3’s may have been better for travelling.
  • iPhone Charging Cable – IT will run out of amps without a charge or two.
  • Laptop and Cord – Get some work done, watch a DVD, or wander the internet.  The iPhone screen gets tiring fast.
  • Backpack – Travel light, no need for a roller bag if you don’t plan to stay in a hotel.
  • Change of Underoos – Just because you don’t plan on staying in a hotel doesn’t mean you won’t.  Canceled flights, missed connections, and bumps happen (bumps rock because they can usually pay for the trip).
  • ID – It’s a short trip without one.
  • United Club Card – Always nice to have on hand, required if flying US Airways because they can’t look up your membership any other way.
  • Pills – Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, melatonin, and anything else you might need.
  • Water Bottle – Stay hydrated to feel better.
  • Charmin – Spending your next 36 hours or more in an airport or on an airplane, you’ll probably want something better than what’s provided.
  • Reading Material – I bring The Economist and a book, in flight magazines are good too, but get repetitive after a second reading.
United 737 at DEN

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Elite Upgrade Notification

I love the Elite Upgrade Notification emails United sends because a good trip is coming soon (this weekend I hope).
United 757 First Class Section

Monday, September 9, 2013

Qatar Airways Joins oneworld Alliance Oct. 30

The first big Gulf carrier will join an alliance soon.  This is a large departure from previous standard operating procedure.  Gulf super carriers have preferred to go it alone or make tactical airline to airline partnerships (Qatar and United were partners for a while).  With Qatar joining oneworld, there will be a lot more award opportunities available to member airlines and it should boost revenues all around.  I doubt Etihad or Emerites will follow soon though.  Those airlines like their strong positions and fly to enough airports in Europe and Asia to not need the feeder traffic a global alliance provides.  Qatar is also the smallest, though still large, of the big three and is looking for new growth.  Doha is just a connection point while Dubai is becoming a destination on its own. 
Qatar A330 at FRA
I like this because my American and British Airways miles are worth more with the new redemption options.  I don’t expect Star Alliance or Delta/KLM (also called Sky Team) to pick up a major Gulf airline soon.  That’s ok for now, SPG points and single airline partnerships can get me on those carriers if needed.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Aloft Smart Check In Card

My Aloft Smart Check-In card came in the mail!  It's a smart card that acts as my room key at Aloft hotels, so I'll get a text with my room number and I can skip the front desk.  I don't have any Aloft stays booked at the moment, but I'll book one next time I have an excuse just to try it out.  It would be very cool if SPG could roll this feature out across their brands, but the Smart Check-In program needs to make it out of the pilot testing phase first. 
Aloft Smart Check In Card

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Delta Purchased 40 Airbus Aircraft

The slow retirement of the 757 continues.  Delta announced an order for 30 A321 NEO (New Engine Option) aircraft and 10 A330’s.  The A330 is a solid performer, a little bit better than the 767 while also being cheaper and faster to acquire than the 787.  Nothing earth shattering with this A330 order.  The A321’s are news.  Delta inherited an Airbus fleet (A319, A320, A330) when they purchased Northwest a few years ago; previously Delta was an Boeing (McDonald Douglas included) operation.  It looks like the narrow body fleet might be transitioning to Airbus for longer routes.
Delta MD at Denver
Delta is a strange airline.  Most carriers focus on having a single manufacturer and fuel burn when buying aircraft.  A single manufacturer, at least for narrow body and wide body fleets simplifies maintenance, pilot training, and operational complexities.  Fuel burn is usually an airlines largest expense and fuel prices fluctuate making it difficult to estimate future costs.  Delta likes cheap airframes because they are buying 717’s and MD-80 series jets on the used market for next to scrap value.  These jets burn more fuel and take more maintenance per flight hour, but the math works out because you can buy 8 or more 717’s for less than on new 737 (educated guess, purchase prices are not disclosed).  Delta seems to be doing fine managing their hodgepodge fleet, so 30 new A321’s (same cockpit in all the A320 series jets and 90%+ parts commonality).
Airbus Engine Detail
I also suspect that the A321’s will replace the 757 jets running all but the longest range flights.  The 757 is a 1970’s design (one of the best decades for commercial airlines, see Concorde), but works great today.  The plane is large (182 seats), has a tremendous range (4,705 miles), and has no direct replacement.  Boeings 737-900ER has a 1,835 mile shorter range and 10 fewer seats.  The A321 seats 183 and has a 1,250 mile shorter range.  The A321 NEO though still seats 183, but the range is boosted to only a 750 mile shortfall.  The fuel burn is also significantly less.  This makes the A321 NEO close enough to the 757 to cover the same routes (transatlantic crossings excluded) and a significantly reduces cost per seat mile (cost to fly one seat one mile).  Hawaiian Airlines announced a big A321 NEO order that will open up lighter density routes from the west coast.  US Airways isn’t announcing A321 NEO service from PHX yet, the 757 is still best for that route.
757 Profile
I like the 757, it has a cool look, comfortable feel, and the highest ratio of first class seats to coach seats for narrow body jets (best upgrade chances).  I also enjoy boarding through the second door and turning left for first class, but the 757’s days are numbered.  United plans on replacing it with the 737-900ER on all but PS, transatlantic, and 757-300 (stretched 216 seat version) routes.  I enjoy flying the 757 and I’ll enjoy it a little bit more next time I fly it.