Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - Year In Review

My travel in 2014 did not go as planned.  I only flew 41,274 paid miles and was able to grab United Gold status.  The downgrade from Platinum will be rough, upgrades are uncertain for all but 1K's, soon I'll be surprised to see any.  I did keep SPG Platinum and get closer to lifetime Platinum status (500 nights AND 10 years as Platinum) and Hertz likes me too.  I'm still hurting from the points inflation in 2014 and hesitant to burn miles at what I think are exorbitant rates.  
2014 Paid Travel - gcmap.com
2014 Total Travel - gcmap.com
Here's some highlights from 2014:
T-6 Texan
O'Hare Airport
I Love the 757
Sunset in Portland

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Leaving Las Vegas Seat Suggestion

Grab a window seat on the left side of the aircraft for afternoon and evening departures from Las Vegas (LAS).  You'll be treated to a great view of The Strip on the way up and then great mountain views; maybe a lovely sunset too.
The Strip
Mountains on the Climb Out
Sunset Over the Clouds

Friday, December 26, 2014

New Southwest Airlines Look

It doesn't look so bad at this angle.  I still think they should have stuck with the original tan paint scheme, but I lost that battle a long time ago.
New Southwest Look 737

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Holiday Travel

Remember to leave extra time and be patient with the amateur travelers.
Hope You Are Going Somewhere Fun

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

IHG Pays $430M for Kimpton Hotels Brand

"Kimpton is a fully asset-light business that manages 62 hotels."  The $430M IHG paid for Kimpton is just for the brand and business process knowledge.  IHG said the Kimpton loyalty program will remain in place, but some of the brand prestige will be lost now that Kimpton is a fancy Holiday Inn (Aston Martin and Tata, Bugatti and VW, or Ferrari and Dodge all have similar problems).  My guess is IHG wants to mass produce boutique hotels and this is the best way to learn the process.  If they lose some Kimpton loyalists along the way, that's acceptable.
I Don't Have Many Ground Related Photos

Monday, December 15, 2014

Alaska Airlines Adds Streaming Entertainment

Alaska Airlines is jumping on the trend for airlines to provide streaming content over WiFi on board.  It's starting out free, but will cost something in the future. As a bonus over Southwest, Alaska is also adding power outlets. The bigger news story is Alaska adding larger overhead bins to speed boarding and reduce the risk of having a bag gate checked. Removing the stress of boarding is a larger benefit for me than having movies available for purchase.
Alaska Airlines 737's at LAX
It's great that airlines are adding to the in flight customer experience after removing so much in recent years. Off the top of my head, I still miss coach meals, leg room, seat padding, easy mileage earning, free checked bags, free seat assignment, United's channel 9, and pillows. Every little bit helps I suppose.

Friday, December 12, 2014

WestJet Partners With Delta

WestJet and Delta are now code share partners and will have reciprocal frequent flyer benefits.  I find it funny that any airline would enter into a partnership with Delta considering how poorly Delta treats their existing partners.  Delta is trying to turn Seattle into a hub and take business from Alaska Airlines, even though they were long time partners.  Delta also plays hardball with Sky Team alliance members. I hope WestJet is ready for Delta's poor partner treatment.  
Does Not Play Well With Others
CALGARY, Dec. 11, 2014 /CNW/ - WestJet today announced a reciprocal frequent flyer agreement with Delta Air Lines, a code-share partner with WestJet since 2012.

The agreement allows WestJet Rewards members to earn WestJet dollars on flights marketed and operated by Delta Air Lines, with access to Delta's extensive global network of more than 300 destinations on six continents.

"Our agreement with Delta Air Lines offers yet another great benefit to being a part of WestJet Rewards," said Marshall Wilmot, WestJet Vice-President, Product and Distribution. "The program is growing in scope and recognition with the recent introduction of Teal, Silver and Gold tiers and the success of the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard, recently voted Canada's top airline travel rewards card by Canadian consumers and MoneySense magazine for the second consecutive year. We will continue to look for ways to further expand the program to offer members even more benefits in the future."

In addition to the new accrual agreement, WestJet now also offers WestJet Rewards members the ability to use WestJet dollars on all code-share flights marketed by WestJet and operated by Delta. The two airlines will continue to work together to expand their relationship even further, including the introduction of full reciprocal redemption in the coming year that will allow members to redeem for destinations beyond WestJet's current network.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

United 757-300

The Boeing 757-300 is an extended version of the (increasingly less) common 757-200 model.  It 23 feet longer than the standard model and looks silly in person, almost like it's too stretched out to work.  It also may be the 757 type to stay in airline service the longest because it seats up to 280 in an all coach design and has no planned replacement.  Airlines are trading in their 757-200 models for 737-900ER's that are much more fuel efficient, though seat 10 fewer and have shorter range.  There is no easy replacement for the 757-300, there isn't a 737 planned that can match the extra 31 or more seats.  Just be careful next time you fly a 757-300, Delta squeezes 11 more seats on their airplanes than United.
United Airlines 757-300

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Not Flying This Weekend

I booked a trip to Oslo, Norway for this weekend to top off mile elite miles balance before the end of the year.  I didn't need the miles after all and moved the trip to next month, but all my flight alerts are still configured, so my phone has been buzzing with flight status messages.  It's funny to track how my weekend might have been unfolding while on the ground.  I also was able to attend a fun presentation on aviation photography at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum (one key is to know someone at the airport who can drive you around the tarmac).
Not Today

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Airline Galley Cart As A Home Bar

Lufthansa’s inflight shopping magazine has some great items because they have airport shops in Frankfurt and Munich, so they can sell many interesting pieces that don’t fit in the onboard duty free cart. They even sell refurbished galley carts for use as bars at home.  I loved the idea, but I cringed at the price of €1,000 or more.
My Very own Galley Cart
I started to search for these on my own.  I looked at eBay and emailed used aircraft part suppliers.  Stewart Industries sells used American Airlines carts with drawers for $300 plus shipping from Oklahoma.  eBay was my best bet for choice, there are tons of carts in different conditions and from different carriers ranging from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand.  Different ones pop up now and again, so wait a few weeks if one that fits your tastes isn’t available immediately.
Galley Cart as Bar
The galley cart I bought was made by Driessen (Zodiac Aerospace) in April 2012 and was used by Hawaiian Airlines on their 767’s.  The cart is in great shape, glides effortlessly, and the breaks and door closures function like new.  It just needed some light cleaning and it’s ready for action.  I also bought some lightly used British Midland drawers on eBay to hold a few bottles and glasses; accessories are varied and plentiful.
Large Volume for Storeage

Sunday, November 30, 2014

United Airlines Store Discount Code - 10% Off

The United Shop is running a modest sale for Cyber Monday. Great for people who were going to buy something anyway, but not worth making an unplanned purchase.  Use promo code HOLIDAYFRIENDLY for 10% off your order. Promo code is valid only on December 1, 2014 from 12:00 am EST to 11:59 pm EST.
United Express Taking Over Denver

Friday, November 28, 2014

Lost in Conversion

This doesn't seem like a very good deal to advertise.  Maybe Holiday Inn mixed up their currencies? The hotel is close to a metro stop and has a communist feel, but I doubt that justifies the price.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

United MileagePlus Merchandise Award Sale

The best value frequent flyer awards, usually international premium cabin travel, are never guaranteed.  I searched recently and couldn't find any business class award space for two to Munich for the summer.  Even domestic coach awards are not a sure thing.  Merchandise awards provide less value per mile, but are always in stock and now on sale.  A Tumi Alpha 2 Continental Expandable 4-Wheel Carry-On is on sale for 51,400 United miles.  50,000 miles can buy two round trip flights in North America, worth $800 or more, while the bag retails for $645.  1.2c per mile isn't the best value, but the added value is that the merchandise award is available.
Award Space Not Always Available

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Holiday Shopping Sale for Aviation Geeks

The Boeing Store is offering up to 25% orders.  This is similar to how Boeing sells airplanes, the more you buy, the lower the price.  No month long series of negotiations over maintenance and spares is needed for buying shirts, hats, and models; just order before the end of the month.  This is a great time to save $100 or more on a PacMin model.  Smaller orders might benefit from waiting for a free shipping promotion.
Beoing Is Not Selling These at a Discount
As a reminder, the US Airways Company Store still has the 75% off clearance sale, use coupon code: CLOSING. I’ve placed several orders from both the Boeing Store and US Airways store and had great experiences with both.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I Paid $90 to Move 13,000 Status Miles into 2015

I booked a mileage run trip two months ago because I did the math and I was running about 12,000 miles short on my status goal.  I bought a round trip to Oslo, with connections at SFO and EWR, for $850 and relaxed knowing I was one weekend of flying away from my 2014 status goal.
Major Airline in Oslo
The last two months did not go as expected and I collected 13,000 status miles.  Now my flight to Oslo looks like wasted money.  Taking the trip would put me 10,000 miles and $2,000 away from the next status level.  My initial idea was to plan on the flight being canceled because of snow at EWR; when it snows, United cancels the narrow body flights before the wide body flights.  This idea was too much of a gamble for me.
United Airlines Aircraft in Houston
I started looking for ways to move the trip, and miles, to 2015 so I can have a jump on status next year.  I searched for flights to Oslo in January because I’m dropping a peg in status and will earn more redeemable miles taking the trip before status downgrades February 1.  Also anything March or later was out, no matter how cheap, because United moves to earning award miles based on fare price rather than distance.  Flying on a $100 fare (and $750 in taxes and fees) would result in very few award miles and remove most of the value from the trip.  I luckily found cheap weekend flights in January, so cheap that the $300 change fee was offset by the $210 in fare savings.  I now have a head start on 2015 status for a mere $90.  There are still many cheap weekend trips in January and February, so happy hunting.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Coupons!!! - JetBlue and Frontier

In case you missed these in the flurry of pre-Back Friday deal emails, Jet Blue and Frontier Airlines sent out some good coupon codes this morning.  Discounts on fares only, extras are still extra.

JetBlue promo code: WINTER14
Save 20% off the base fare of a domestic one way or roundtrip JetBlue flight or 15% off the base fare of an international one way or roundtrip JetBlue flight (nonstop or connecting) originating from the United States (including Puerto Rico) to any JetBlue city between 12/2 - 12/18/14 and 1/6 - 2/11/15 (blackout dates 1/19/15). Excludes travel on Friday/Sunday. Code (case-sensitive) is valid only for flights purchased on jetblue.com/promo

Frontier promo code: FLIP12
Frontier will offer a 12% discount  until 11:59 pm Eastern time Nov. 19, 2014. The discount will apply to regular and sale fares for domestic travel. Tickets must be purchased online at FlyFrontier.com using the promo code FLIP12. 
I don't have a picture of Flip the dolphin, so here's the turtle

Monday, November 17, 2014

United Copies Delta's Mileage Program & Stock Performance

United Airlines copied another aspect of Delta's Skymiles program when United changed their minimum spend for status requirement from 10c per mile to 12c per mile flown (fare not including tax and partner airline spending don't count).  $25,000 in annual spend on the MileagePlus credit card or a foreign address will waive this requirement. Another unwelcome development in the new MileagePlus program, but not as traumatizing as charging more for partner awards.
Delta 757 and A320
This move was not unexpected, United has been copying Delta for a while now.  Even Wall Street has noticed and UAL now copies DAL.  Now if United could copy Delta's operational performance, this copy cat behavior won't be entirely negative.
One Year Performance of UAL & DAL, Google Finance

Saturday, November 15, 2014

50% Off US Airways Store

I feel like the US Airways Store closing isn't a surprise, the inventory has been decreasing for a few months. I looked through and couldn't find anything, but there are plenty of small jet models and other trinkets.  I did buy PacMin models and other trinkets on sale in the past and I'll miss this part of, now, airline history.


Take advantage of our 50% off sale and get your Christmas shopping done early. Starting November 15th we will be offering 50% off all qualifying merchandise.* 

Shop online or in-store, beginning November 15th and get an additional 50% off your entire order plus free shipping on all orders over $75.* Here's how:    
  • Enter discount code CLOSING after you add the first item to your cart
  • Your 50% discount will be taken off your order
US Airways A320 at CLT

Monday, November 10, 2014

40% Off at US Airways' Store

From the soon to close US Airways Company Store:
Get your hands on our remaining US Airways and American Airlines merchandise The 30% off sale was good, but now we're stepping it up to 40%. Starting November 8th we will be offering 40% off all qualifying merchandise.*  Shop online or in-store, beginning November 8th and get an additional 40% off your entire order plus free shipping on all orders over $75.* Here's how:    Enter discount code CLOSING after you add the first item to your cartYour 40% discount will be taken off your order

New Paint Needed

Friday, November 7, 2014

The End Of Mileage Runs on United & Delta

The end is coming March 1, 2015.  That’s when United MileagePlus switches to a revenue based program (Delta too) and all the fun of flying to collect miles is destroyed.  Under the current model, award miles are earned based on the distance flown with multiples for elite status and paying for premium cabins.  It’s an easy system to understand, fly 1,000 earn 1,000 miles plus any bonuses.  Under the new model, award miles are earned based on the fare paid with bonuses for elite status.  So flying 1,000 miles could earn everyone on board a different amount.  To add to the confusion, the fare paid isn’t your ticket price, but the base fare minus certain taxes.  Most flyers won’t know what they earn until it posts to their account.  This new model will be confusing to customers and remove some fun arbitrage opportunities for me.
United 737 at Denver
I enjoy flying commercial, even while in coach.  I’m strange like that, but being in air is fun for me.  I also value frequent flyer miles like a physical currency, each one is worth one to two cents.  This lead me to take flights to collect frequent flyer miles, often called a mileage run.  The destination of my journey didn’t matter and most times I didn’t leave the airport, often departing on the same aircraft that flew me in.  I could pay $300 for a 10,000 mile trip and earn 20,000 frequent flyer miles worth more to me than the $300 fare I paid.  Since I enjoy flying and was often upgraded, it was an enjoyable and profitable experience.  United benefited too because I was spending money on an empty seat and they value award miles much less than I do.  Everyone wins and I met some interesting people along the way, a few flight attendants remember me because I have a unique pronunciation of “Miller Lite please.”  
US Airways Express Embraer 175
The new mileage earning system removes all arbitrage opportunities for me.  I had enjoyed standing by for flights that add a connection to my travels too, flying via Cleveland rather than the direct flight I booked.  Earning miles for distance flown made this an easy way to pick up some extra points.  Under the new model my fare will be divided between the two flights, so flying direct earns the same as the connecting option.  
Delta & United at LGA
United's new program, like in other areas is following Delta’s lead, will drastically change my view of frequent flyer programs and the value they offer.  I suspect I’ll fly direct more, never fly just for miles, and earn the majority of my miles through partners on the ground.  I have one last mileage run booked in January, but it’s a domestic trip so I won’t be able to toast the end of an era with champagne, but a Miller Lite may work. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fun Photo

I have pictures from Lufthansa's 747-8i and other aircraft, but the story doesn't have an ending yet.  While I wait for an ending, enjoy a fun picture.
Delta & Virgin Australia at LAX

Saturday, November 1, 2014

US Airways Going Out Of Business Sale

Bad news, the US Airways Company Store is closing.  Even worse news, they are closing December 5th, long before the Christmas shopping season ends.  Good news is everything is 30% off.


As a result of US Airways and American Airlines continuing to merge into one airline, we regret to announce that the US Airways Company Store will be closing it's doors December 5, 2014. Starting November 1st we ill be offering 30% off all qualifying merchandise*. Act now to get your hands on our remaining US Airways or American Airlines merchandise.

Shop online or in-store, beginning November 1st and get an additional 30% off your entire order plus free shipping on all orders over $75.* Here's how:    
  • Enter discount code CLOSING after you add the first item to your cart
  • Your 30% discount will be taken off your order
Brands are Merging

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Should Fly Private

The allure of private aviation is picking your fellow travelers. I was flying this weekend for work and the experience was great, except for other travelers I encountered.  I had a connection at EWR and my flights in and out were pleasant and arrived early. The problems came from people not familiar with the Walk Left, Stand Right concept on escalators and moving walkways. Also one person next to me smelled like they boarded right after a long workout at a gym. The kids sitting behind me were also playing their iPads at full volume and their parent didn't care. I won't tolerate noise from an electronic device other then headphones.  I immediately got the parent to put a stop to it; if not I would have called a flight attendant (I've done that before to make a point that "turn it down" and "silent" are different).  Basic courtesies and manners would greatly improve everyone's flying experience; too bad they are harder to find than an early flight from Newark. 
Delivery Spots Available in 2018

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fun Photo From Portland

My flight from Portland was delayed two hours because of storms in Chicago.  I was able to explore the airport and shop without paying sales tax, then I was able to see this great sunset.  I didn't mind the extra time in Portland because it shortened my layover at SFO.
Cool Sunset on a United A319 at PDX

Monday, October 20, 2014

Denver to LA - What A View

Denver to LA is one of the prettiest flights in the world, but only for people on the left side of the aircraft.  I flew this route twice last month, both on clear mornings, and the views were spectacular.  Leaving DEN for the Rocky Mountains, there are great views of the rugged terrain of western Colorado.  The flight goes southwest down to northern Arizona and Monument Valley followed by the Grand Canyon.  Then the mountains of southern California rise and then give way to the LA area and the airport.  I was lucky and was also able to parallel landing traffic and enjoyed the long taxi around LAX with many foreign carriers to spot.
Monument Valley
LAX Landing Traffic

Saturday, October 18, 2014

United's Healthy-ish First Class Meals

The turkey and egg wrap was good and the soup superb, but there's no fun in eating grapes on a plane.  Next they'll be handing out oatmeal raisin cookies rather than chocolate chip (wait, that's happening already).
The Soup and Beer Were Fun

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Virgin Atlantic Doesn't Need Paint

Old news by now, but it is still funny for me to think how UK airlines can relax because Scotland voted NO and the Union Jack won't have to be repainted.
The Union Jack Will Stay

Friday, October 10, 2014

Kingman, AZ Airport - IGM

The Kingman, AZ airport is one of the scariest airports in the USA, for aircraft at least. It's one of several "bone yard" airports where aircraft are placed in long term storage or scrapped.  Most of the airliners parked there will never fly out. I flew by recently, at a safe distance from my aircraft's perspective, and felt like sharing.   
Kingman, AZ and Local Area

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Save 14% With Frontier This Week

Frontier will offer a 14% discount until 11:59 pm Eastern time Oct. 9, 2014. The discount will apply to regular and sale fares for domestic travel.  Tickets must be purchased online at FlyFrontier.com using the promo code PUMPKIN. 
Big Ole Jet Airliner

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Boeing 767 BBJ by Comlux Aviation

Are you a head of state on a budget?  Do you want your own state aircraft, but the treasury coffers aren't very deep?  Find the thought of flying yourself and entourage commercial or on two or more charters miserable?  Well Comlux Aviation can help with their 767-200 BBJ.  It's a 767-200 in an executive configuration with seating for 60 and a 14 hour range. I saw it parked at the private aviation ramp at IAD.
For Heads Of State On A Budget

Friday, October 3, 2014

I Ate Only Airline Food For Two Days

I'm running short on status miles again this year, so I took two trips to Puerto Rico last month and stayed in the airport for less than an hour each time.  As a fun game, I decided to eat only food served in flight for the whole two days of travel.  The results were mixed, ranging from a very good steak to a frozen banana and a small bag of crisps.
Breakfast Day 1
737-900 First Class Seat With Free DirecTV
United Airlines Classic Snack Box - $7.99
CRJ-200 Row 1 Seats
First Class Light Snack on ~500 Flight
United A319 First Class Row 1
Overnight Flight Cheeseburger Meal
757 Seat On Overnight Flight
Breakfast on Day 2
More Uncomfortable 737 Seats
Warm Nuts and Beer
Soup is Always Good
Another 737 Seat, This Time On The Right Side
Final Meal After Two Days Eating With United