Monday, March 30, 2015

American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles Account Merged

My US Airways and American Airlines mileage accounts correctly merged this weekend. The combined balance will help me spend my American balance on fun international flights with oneworld partner carriers (business or first preferred).  I don't want to pay a fortune in taxes and fees, so I'll need to fly airlines other than British Airways.  Good luck on your account merger, if it happened.  If not, there will be a process to merge duplicate accounts sometime soon.
Award Space Is Great - Carrier Fees Are Miserable

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cockpit Displays - Flat Panel LCD vs. Analog

The new flat screens look super cool, but some of the analog charm of flying is lost.
Smaller Business Plane
Business Jet
New Business Jet
Now Retired United 757 Display

Friday, March 27, 2015

Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) Interior

Not my style, but someone thought the idea of two long couches perpendicular to the direction of travel was a good one.
BBJ Interior Lounge

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sleeping on a Business Jet - Gulfstream G550 Edition

The first class seats on long haul airliners make better beds than seats on business jets.  Airliners have heavy mechanical seats that convert into beds.  Business jets need to save weight, so they fold flat and then have a mattress pad added (the flight attendant should make your bed in either case). Also one bed takes up two seats, so overnight flights run at reduced capacity. Not every aspect of private aviation is better than flying commercial.
G550 Bed Set Up
Lufthansa A380 First Class Bed

Monday, March 23, 2015

US Airways Envoy (Business Class) to Europe

I was excited to fly US Airway's Envoy business class to Madrid.  However US Airways didn't share my excitement and oversold business class. I tried to board and on scanning my boarding pass, the agent said I didn't have a seat anymore and directed me to the gate podium to discuss my options. This was shocking because I had a boarding pass with seat assignment issued five hours earlier in Denver. Flabbergasted, I walked to an agent to discuss my options.
US Airways A330 in Philadelphia 
The gate agents were awful.  I spent a long time discussing why there were more business class passengers than seats and why I was selected to be denied boarding. I was told I lost my seat because business class was oversold, the aircraft was changed, I was not checked in, general reservations issues, I upgraded with miles, US Airways and United weren’t partners anymore, the reservation wasn’t valid, and 016 tickets aren’t valid on US Airways.  I was able to refute these implausible (or factually wrong) explanations and demanded I be accommodated on another flight in business class. No other business class options were available or the agents only looked for coach seats. Also no refund or compensation was offered because the reservation was booked with United Airlines miles and the gate agents said they weren’t responsible for United Airlines tickets.  The agents refused to look for business class options on other carriers and generally wasted time talking with themselves while other flights to Europe left and limited my options.  They repeatedly provided false information, like United had refunded the ticket or it was never valid. 
Better Than US Airways' Business Class
The best US Airways would offer was a coach flight to London, then coach to Madrid.  They also tossed in $20 in food vouchers.  This was unacceptable.  I called United and the phone agent had some choice words for the US Airways staff.  She also found a late departing Lufthansa flight from Chicago with business class award space (old style business class like on the A340-600).  Even better, there were flights from PHL to ORD and FRA to MAD with award space too.  She changed the reservation and I raced to the other end of the airport to get a boarding pass and board my new flight.  My time in Philadelphia was absolutely miserable and now I'm boycotting US Airways and American Airlines.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

US Airways A321 First Class Review

I wanted to use my United miles for a trip to Europe before United changed their prices.  I also wanted to try the US Airways business class product before they switched from Star Alliance to oneworld.  Luckily US Airways had great availability to Europe.  I was able to book a flight from Denver to Madrid with a 90 minute connection in Philadelphia.  The trip was booked about four months in advance and included a free stopover in Brussels and an easy trip back to Denver with a direct on Lufthansa from FRA.
US Airways A321 First Class Seat
The flight from DEN to PHL was in a newer US Airways A321.  US Airways, soon to be American Airlines, has a basic first class offering on domestic flights.  There is no in flight entertainment, but WiFi is available to purchase.  The seat is acceptable, but feels a little cheap, under padded, and I was not able to take a nap.  
US Airways Airbus First Class Seat - Full Recline
The meal service on the three hour flight was much better than expected.  The first class cabin flight attendant provided attentive and friendly service.  He was so good, I filled out a US Airways online complement form for him before the aircraft parked at to gate so I wouldn't forget.  US Airways offers Dos Equis, a great option to break up the Budweiser / Miller Lite routine.  The steak was tasty and tender and everything was flavorful.  The red velvet cake was moist and springy too, a great end to a great meal (and what turns out to be the only in flight entertainment).  My dinning review is helped by never having an empty beer glass.  
Beer and Mixed Nuts Starter
Steak and Sides
Red Velvet Cake
I had a great experience with US Airways on my flight to PHL and was excited to hop onto the A330-200 to MAD and settle into the Envoy flat bed seat and experience US Airways' international business class offering.

Whatever, USA is Back

Bud Light's Whatever, USA promotion is back.  I wasn't invited last year, but I did see their large charter operation in action at Denver.
Up For Whatever?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Airbus Group Photography Contest

Airbus is running a contest for photographers to win a tour of an Airbus facility and have their picture included in the Airbus Group annual report.  I'll be entering a few snaps, find out more here.
Maybe a winner?
Not a winner.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Paperwork Makes Aircraft Fly

I'm still surprised at how much paperwork is required for each aircraft movement.  Airlines are trying to move to iPads for flight planning and charts, but fuel information, passenger manifests, maintenance receipts, and other items are still generated on paper and flown every trip.
Pre-flight Paperwork Preperations

Monday, March 16, 2015

Delta's Silly Award Pricing

Anytime awards let customers use miles when standard award space is not available.  It's reasonable to expect a mark up, but Delta charges almost three times the basic award rate to Australia.  Luckily Virgin Australia has decent award space, so cheap award tickets can be found.  Though as shown below, Delta is happy to take many more miles from you to fly in their inferior business class.
Silly Delta, I'd Rather Not Pay 135,000 More Miles

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Get the US Airways Credit Card While You Can

I am NOT paid for this post

Sign up for the US Airways credit card this month because it will soon be gone.  50,000 miles after your first purchase and paying the $89 annual fee.  That's a great deal and the miles will transfer into your American Airlines account.  50,000 miles is enough for a one way trip to Europe in business class.  AA lets you book one way mileage awards, so you can use a different program's miles on the way home.
You Don't Have to Fly American with the Miles You Earn

Friday, March 13, 2015

New SFO Control Tower

I got a glimpse of the new control tower at SFO recently. I like that it's styled rather than the cookie cutter tower that went up at US airports for the last 15 years.  I don't like that they replaced the old one from Dirty Harry and Bullitt. 
New Construction at SFO

Thursday, March 12, 2015

It's the Rolls Royce of Jet Engines

Rolls Royce jet engines are made by Rolls Royce, a British company.  Rolls Royce cars are made by BWM, a German company. Boeing and Airbus jets are powered by Rolls, while Rolls Royce cars are powered by BMW. Confusing? You bet, they use the same logo too.  
This Roll Royce Doesn't Make Cars

Monday, March 9, 2015

Treat Someone Flying KLM

Surprise someone flying KLM with a special something delivered in flight.  KLM has a broad set of offerings including meals, jewelry, toys, and more.  I'd like the hat, MD-11 model, or the beach bag.
KLM MD-11 - Now Retired

Sunday, March 8, 2015

United Airlines First Class Morning Flight

I was upgraded on a 6am United Airlines flight and couldn't sleep.  The flight had free DirecTV, but it was too early for anything good.  Breakfast was served and, despite the appearance, was tasty.  I was able to have a few drinks and enjoy the view out the window.  Not a bad flight, but I wish I could sleep better on airplanes. 
United Airlines 737-800 First Class Seat
First Class Breakfast

Friday, March 6, 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Flying from JFK to LGA

Bad weather around New York forced some flights to divert from LGA to JFK.  Not a bad option if passengers are permitted to deplane.  It does create a silly situation of flights from JFK to LGA.  There were at least 8 earlier this week.  If I were diverted and not in a rush, I'd try to take that flight, just to say I flew from JFK to LaGuardia once.  Besides, it's only a 16 minute flight (11 miles direct, 65 miles flown for UA 682). 
UA 682 - JFK to LGA, from FlightAware.com

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Dilemma of Fuel Surcharges with British Airways’ Miles

I’d like to fly to London or Paris this spring for vacation and since I have a six figure British Airways Avios miles balance, I naturally thought I could use them to fly direct to London from Denver.  I’m most excited about flying British Airways’ premium economy class; even though they have a newer business class and I have the miles for it.  I’ve never flown premium economy on any carrier (extra leg room seats on domestic airlines are not premium economy) and I think this product will take up more space on aircraft in the future.
British Airways 787 in Austin, Texas
Premium economy class has different seats than economy class, but aren’t as good as business class.  Usually they are wider, 7 across rather than 9, and have more legroom and better recline.  Only Air New Zealand has flat beds in premium economy, other carriers offer recliners with a foot rest.  The catering up upgraded too and larger luggage allowances are provided.
Lufthansa is Adding Premium Economy Seats Too
The problem is the taxes and fees on the reservation.  The fare is 75,000 miles for the round trip then British Airways adds $805 in taxes and fees, including carrier fuel surcharges.  To pay with cash, the premium economy fare is $2,500, so 75,000 miles save me $1,700.  That’s about 2.27 cents per mile; not bad value, but not great either.  I then searched for economy fares and I can fly round trip in coach, with a stop each way, for only $860.  $55 more in cash, no miles spent, miles earned (credited to Delta unfortunately), and I still visit London.  I think I’ll just pay cash and go coach.
Delta Only Has Business and Coach