Review- ALASKA LOUNGE SEATTLE, WELL NOT REALLY

I arrived to the airport about 90 minutes before my flight and was through security in less than 5 minutes. Having a Platinum AMEX card, there are a few different lounges I have access to so I thought I might try 2 or 3 of them. I find my first Alaskan Airways lounge and about walked in when I saw this sign.

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That really sucks. This is a Friday morning at about 11am. I know lounges have to control their capacity, but then they shouldn’t offer access to priority pass if they cant honor it. Shame on you Alaskan.

Well, off to the AMEX Centurion lounge next…

Don’t forget to get something back from your gifts this year

Do you know how easy it is to get additional miles or points back form shopping? Especially at this time of the year, there or so many bonuses and promotions for using an online portal that will take you to your favorite stores to earn 1 up to 25 miles/points per dollar. I know I am sometimes in a hurry and have few missed opportunities, but the past few days I have been reviewing the best points back sites before I hit buy.

This is my favorite website that will show you just about all the current vendors and what their rates are. Click here. Its pretty self explanatory to use.

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On most of these you will need to make sure you already have an account set up with Chase or AA shoping or whomever you use. Also, I typically go to the regular website (like Lowes, BestBuy, Wal-Mart or whomever), add items to my cart, and then close the window completely. Then click back through a portal to buy and my items are still saved in cart.

AA has a promotion that’s automatic when you spend $150 through AA shopping you get 500 bonus miles, $300 get $1500.  It takes a few days to be added to your account though. I have made several purchases in the past 3 days and they do not show up yet.

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Shopping portals are one of the easiest way to boss your miles and point balances. Since 2013 I have received over 67k AA miles alone. Its also an easy way to keep your miles from expiring.  For Example you buy some batteries from Lowes that comes with free shipping via the United shopping portal and now your United miles wont expire for an additional 18 months.

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REVIEW DELTAONE 767 LHR-DTW

After several days in Cambridge and London, I was glad to get on my way back home. Especially since on my way to the UK, I had the pleasure if spending 8 hours in economy. I enjoyed the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and I left about an hour before boarding to do a little duty free shopping and then get to Boarding about 40 minutes before take off.

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I have flown on the 767-300 several times before in DeltaOne. While I have never been anxious to do it, its a solid product that suffices. On this flight I had seat 6a which was a window seat that is staggered closer to the aisle. The seats fully recline into a flat bed. While I usually prefer a true window seat, this seat does allow you a little extra storage to throw item on the armrest storage next to ya.

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At my seat was a very plush pillow and blanket. Delta actually has very nice bedding in their DeltaOne class. While the seat doesn’t really have much storage for bags, I was able to put my backpack in the foot well and it was fine there for takeoff and landing.  Delta came around with pre-departure drinks, and I had a glass of wine which was served in a unique glass.

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Also waiting at my seat was the Tumi amenity Kit and Delta own headphones. This is my first time using this style of headphones. I have heard other people not like them, but they were comfortable and good sounding enough for me. The amenity kit had everything you need and expect including mouthwash and hand sanitizer.

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The Purser named Joey came around and handed out the menu’s and introduced himself. He appeared very young and i told him congratulations on being such a young Purser. He mentioned that 2 years ago he was the youngest at Delta. He actually ended up being the main person for our side of the aisle and he was great.

The menu is below and you can see what Delta has to offer.

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Shortly after take-off they came around with hot towels and then drinks and mixed nuts. I had their signature cocktail which is a Delta Sunrise. They even made it a double for me and then I remembered that I liked vodka more than I like gin….

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The appetizer was served all on one tray. It was good but not great.  The smoked duck breast was just ok, and the baby spinach salad was not that appealing. I don’t even know what parsnip is, but the parsnip soup was quite tasty. I am not a soup fan, but I don’t know why I like their pretzel bread and soup combinations. No matter what flight or what soup they serve, its always a good combination.

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For the main course I had the grilled tenderloin, and like most steaks on a plane, it was not that good.  I probably only ate half of it as it wasn’t worth wasting calories on it.

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Now since I didn’t eat the entire main course, I decided for 2 desserts. I didn’t know what a pecan sizzler was, but I ordered it. It resembled a brownie with pecans on the bottom. I also got a sundae. These two combined where a perfect combination.

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They came around several times with bottles throughout the flight as well.

I then made my bed flat and watched a few moves while dozing in and out. The bed in this position is ok, but not too comfortable. The foot wells are extremely small and narrow and you can’t really flip over without completely adjusting yourself. There are individual air nozzles which i turned on full blast to keep the temperature down.

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Sometime during the flight, Joey left personal thank you cards. This is a nice touch at 35k feet.

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I was able to get a little bit of work done. I used a GoGo pass from my AMEX card for the internet.

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With about 90 minutes left in the flight, they came around with lunch service. I got a chicken sandwich that was served with a fruit salad and a chocolate. While the chicken was just OK, the bread and cheese were delicious on it.

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We touched down on time, had a short taxi, and Global Entry was a breeze. I had just downloaded mobile passport to see how that compared, but DTW is not on board with that yet. I spent about 2 hours at the DTW Skylounge before going to my boarding to OKC and getting the plane delayed for 20 minutes, every 20 minutes…. We eventually made it about 2 hours later.

Overall I would take this flight again. The Purser was great, staff was good, seat was average, and food was well good enough as I didn’t go hungry. It was about what is expected from DeltaOne.

 

Review: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse LHR

After taking a taxi from St.. Ermins to LHR , I arrived about 2 hours before the flight. Got my boarding pass through a machine and went to an Elite line to get passport screened. Then saw the elevator for the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. This was what DeltaOne members have accessible for a lounge in LHR.IMG_20171117_065206IMG_20171117_083835

The clubhouse is probably the nicest business class lounge I have been to except for the Turkish Airlines lounge in IST. Its large, lots of different seating areas and things to do. There are nice showers, a kids room, buffet style food, a dining area with made to order food as well. There is also an extensive drink menu. They also have paid services such as a massage, shave, nails, and hair cuts.

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I had some eggs benedict, which were delicious and several different tastings of different champagnes drinks as well as specialty gin drinks.

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While the lounge had a lot of people in it, it never really felt crowded as there was always room.

Review: St. Ermin’s Hotel, London

After driving from Cambridge to LHR, dropping the car off, getting on the train to Paddington Station, and then taking a taxi, I finally arrived for one night at St Ermin’s at around 2:30 in the afternoon.

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The hotel entrance is a little hidden off of the main street, but its quite elegant.  Walked through the doors and was impressed by an intimate lounge and checkin area. I was a little before checkin and my room was not ready quite yet. I could checking into a regular room or wait an hour and get into the deluxe room they upgraded me for being a Marriott Gold member. I elected to wait and they stored my bags for me. I went for a walk and found several restaurants and main tourist attractions like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey all within a 10 minute walk.

I got back around 4 and they already had my luggage waiting for me in my deluxe 6th floor room. I got in the tiny elevator and went up. I am not sure what was deluxe about it, but it was a very small room as typical for London. Had a comfortable king size bed, desk with European and US power plugs, and a small wardrobe. In my room was some candy and bottled water. There was also a small minibar, hot water cup, and a coffee grinder.

The bathroom was very small as well. No place to set toiletries, but luckily I didn’t really have much. The shampoo and conditioner are large bottle on the shower wall as well.

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Went downstairs as they had a welcoming reception with free wine from 5-6. Then went over to the bar for a few drinks as it was a nice relaxed setting with a local musician playing.

The next morning I was looking forward to the breakfast that I received for free for being a gold member. After waiting for 10 minutes for the three people in front of me to get seated, I finally got my table. I first saw some bacon and eggs, and some continental style items and then walked around the restaurant thinking there must be more. I am not sure what the price was but if I was paying for this I would have wanted my money back.

While the food was good and well presented, it was not a large variety. There are numerous cafes close by where you can eat breakfast for under $5.

They also had some cheap to go items in the lobby if you were in a hurry.

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Overall, the location is great for seeing numerous London sites. It was also only a 5 minute walk for my business.  For the price, I was expecting a lil more though and will try to stay to one of the numerous other nearby hotels next time.

Review: Hilton Cambridge UK

Rented a car to get from LHR to Cambridge, and it was a pretty pleasant afternoon drive. The Hilton Cambridge was easy to find. I pulled up into a small valet area. A Hilton attendant came out who is the concierge/valet/bellhop all in one. No help from him on the bags and took the elevator to the second floor for check-in. There was also escalators that were out of service about 75% of the time. The check-in in area is a atrium style area with a bar and restaurant that are open off of it.

I asked if they had any Diamond upgrades and the clerk said that I have been upgraded to an executive room. I informed him that’s not an upgrade as I booked an executive room. (that was the only room type available.) He just kind of looked at me and didnt say anything. No explanation of benefits and he just handed my a key to my third floor room. I took the elevator up to my room walked in to find a not so impressive room with no outside window and interior atrium window only. I immediately went down to the front desk to ask for a new room.  He switched my room to a second floor exterior room. This room was about the same level of un-impressiveness with a disappointing view of the outside.

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I don’t know what makes this an executive room. It is not large, there was no view, and there was nothing special in the room. It only had access to the lounge, which I receive as a diamond member anyways. The bed was large and fairly comfortable and there was a pretty standard desk in the corner. The closet was small but sufficient. It had an ironing board but no iron and I had to call for one the next morning when getting ready.

The bathroom was small but sufficient with the normal Hilton toiletries. They provided 2 bottles of water each day, and then only had a hot water pot for instant coffee or tea.

The location is great as its right in the middle of the city, walking distance to restaurants, pubs, shopping, and too many colleges to count. With an outside view, you could hear people walking down the street at all times of the day and night. I have a noisemaker app on my phone that definitely helped out.

The executive lounge was nicely setup and probably the nicest part of the hotel. very small breakfast selection in the morning though and it was the exact same each morning. However diamond members could get the full buffet in the restaurant. This consisted of a pretty basic European buffet, plus the ability to order anything off the menu. Which I ordered eggs benedict. The lounge was never crowded though. This was very nice to meet some colleagues and have the ability to work from an empty lounge for a few hours. They lounge also provided a small selection of snacks throughout the day and water and soft drinks available all day.  The happy hour from 6-8 is always the best part. not a large selection of drinks, but red and white wines, a few beer including a local IPA, a few liquors and some additional snacks. It was nothing amazing, but the setting was very relaxing.

There was a nice gym located on the first floor. It was a paid membership facility with the hotel having access. I was imagining it being a full gym. However it was large for a hotel gym, but small for a regular gym.

The first night there I got hungry around 11 and went for a walk only to find no restaurants open, and the restaurant in the lounge just opened. They had a selective room service menu after 11 so I ordered some olives with bread and a ham sandwich with small salad. The bread was delicious. However my ham sandwich had been replaced by peppers instead. I didn’t feel like dealing with it that night as it was now after midnight, and I just forgot about it the next day.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of lodging options in the area which makes the rates from this hotel anywhere from about $300-$500 USD a night. It is not exactly a good deal and it is no luxurious. My business was less than 3 miles away and the drive took about 15 minutes to get there and 30 minutes to get back. So if you sat outside of the city a few miles, I can only imagine what the commute would be.

At the Hilton Cambridge, you are basically paying for the location. It is a perfectly acceptable hotel, but it is no frills. Next time I may research a few other local inns to see what else is out thereIMG_20171112_104920

REVIEW DELTAONE, wait I mean ECONOMY ATL-LHR 767

After flying into ATL from OKC, I decided to go to the Sky Club in Concourse E as that is where the flight was departing from. I have noticed that all the sky cubs have about the same food and drink offering.  This was my first time in Concourse E and I wish I would have gone to the one in F instead as it is much nicer. Concourse E Sky Club has pretty low ceilings and and lack of natural lighting.  It was adequate though as I only had about 45 minutes.

After getting a quick snack and drink I went to board. You can read about my interesting experience here.

So I settled into my regular economy seat 29 F for the next 8 hours. I knew I had seats 29E and 29F and by the time I got there, I am not sure what amenities were supposed to be there though. I had 1 pillow and 2 blankets and wrappers for headphone and earplugs. I didn’t really need any of that stuff, so it wasn’t a big deal. One of the flight attendants said they were sorry what happened and they would take care of me this flight. We immediately pushed back and takeoff was pretty normal.

The seat itself felt the same as just about every other Delta flight. No extra leg room on this 767-300 for the 8 hour flight. Since I had an open seat next to me I was able to cross my legs and be fairly comfortable. I was also able to work OK on my computer, but it would have been tight with a person next to me.

 

I started perusing the entertainment system which has plenty of new and classic movies. I start watching War of the Planet of the Apes. Then the purser comes on the loudspeaker informing everyone that they are having numerous difficulties with they systems and are going to do a mass reboot that will take about 15 minutes.

Shortly later they came around with wet naps and bottles of water. They also asked me what I would like for dinner and brought that to me first to make sure I got my choice. (While they had a cart and went row by row for the rest of economy.) I elected to go with the chicken kale salad. I thought this was going to be like chicken salad, but it was more chicken AND salad. The chicken wasn’t good, but the salad was OK. The fruit was good and the veggies with some type of avocado tip was pretty tasty. Then there was also packaged cheese and crackers. The best part was definitely the prepackaged brownie. They also passed around drinks with dinner and you had wine, beer, and alcohol selections. I just stayed with water as I knew the time wasn’t to go by too fast and needed water to feel rested upon landing.

By this time I selected to watch the new Transformers movie and started dozing off about 30 minutes into it.  I then woke up when it was ending so I got about 90 minutes of rest/sleep. I then started it over and worked for about the next 2 hours. At this point there was about 90 minutes left in the flight in which juice cups and breakfast boxes were distributed. These boxes were pretty disappointing. They had some decent yogurt, packaged cheese, and a cheese roll. I thought maybe it was a danish, but no, it was just like a pre-packaged cheese dinner roll. With about 30 minutes left in  the flight, they came around and picked up the trash.

I was surprised to see how often the flight attendants came around with water. This definitely helps getting you hydrated and refreshed upon landing.  This meant I had to go to the bathroom several times. The lines were never that long and they were always clean enough.

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Landing was smooth and had some nice views upon descent. I was also given a fast track through UK customs card. However when we landed customs lines weren’t that long.

 

Overall, it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated in economy. They had a pretty good entertainment system which can make the time go by quickly. The seats are small, so I wouldn’t forecast a lot of sleep on this plane. Fortunately it was pretty quit and peaceful on this flight, but so often that depends on the other passengers on the flight. For a short international flight like this 8 hour flight, its bearable. If the flight is over 10 hours, I definitely would not have negotiated with Delta and would have stayed in business.

 

I RECEIVED A $9K TRAVEL VOUCHER. DOWNGRADED ON A FULL FARE DELTAONE TICKET

I had a full fare DeltaOne ticket from ATL-LHR and I was downgraded due to a Delta error that upgraded an Elite member to my seat. They tried to move him but he wouldn’t budge and I agreed to $9K travel voucher compensation as I was embarrassed the plane was being held up.

It all started when I couldn’t check in online in OKC.  I noticed I had a normal reservation with seat numbers, and then a secondary reservation without seat numbers. I get to the airport and they give me a gate check ticket. IMG_20171111_144135.jpg

With this I am ineligible for precheck. Luckily I am in the OKC airport, so that means there are a whole 15 people in the security line. When I get to the gate, they have my OKC-ATL and ATL-LHR boarding passes with my seats I had reserved online.

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Move forward to using the Delta lounge in Atlanta and the agent scans my ATL-LHR boarding pass and says that’s weird, hits a bunch of buttons and a few minutes later I am all good. I still have my confirmed seat 3d boarding pass. Flight is delayed about an hour and I am about the 15th person in line when we start boarding. My boarding pass scans and beeps and they ask me to stand to the side. The gate agents are very nice saying they don’t have me in the system and they don’t know how I got the boarding pass. They inform me they are sold out in DeltaOne, but will get me on the flight as there are 3 open seats. I inform them I am only getting on the flight in seat 3d.  Well now, the plane has completely boarded and they don’t really know what to do. I remind them I am on a paid business class ticket and I am sure they have some elite upgrades that they can downgrade. They eventually say that is what they will do and they will downgrade a person in another seat. While I wanted 3d, I will be fine with whatever. They bring me down the jetway and they tell a passenger in row 1 that he is now moving. He says no way and he comes out to the jetway just a few feet from me. It was a very awkward situation. We talk a little bit about how messed up this is. This guy is dumbfounded like me and just keeps saying he is not giving up his seat and this is all Delta’s fault. Delta offers him a $2k voucher as well as a hotel and direct flight the next day in DeltaOne, or a flight on Air France to CDG then to LHR that was leaving in about an hour, or this flight in a middle DeltaComfort seat, or a a regular economy window seat with the aisle open right next to it. (we are on a 767 with a 2-3-2 configuration) He still will not budge. By this time we are approaching 2 hours past original departure time. The FA’s are all standing at the door just waiting for something to happen so they can close it. Eventually a few managers come and try to talk to him but this doesn’t go anywhere. we are now at 2 hours total delay, and about 45 minutes just figuring out the seat situation. I tell one of the agents that my voucher number is between $5k and $10k, and I will take one of the other seats. He informs me he only has authority to $5k. (Also, I believe since this is not a denied boarding situation, they cant offer cash.) Delta is really just focusing on moving this passenger and I am just standing there patiently.  It’s one of those situations that you know isn’t going to end good, but curious to see what the eventual resolution is. The pilot now comes out and says since we had a late evening flight that is now delayed by 2 hours, if we don’t leave soon we will have to take a longer route due to traffic coming to the US and will require more fuel. The upgraded passenger doesn’t care and still wont move. This goes on for a few more minutes with of us all just standing there. They eventually tell him to go back to his seat and they will de-board the plane and then he will physically be removed. He does not have a problem with that and goes back to his seat. A higher manager is now around and I remind them of what my number is. 30 seconds later they say deal and print off my $9k voucher while and I go back for 8 hours in seat 29F. It was embarrassing walking back to that row as it was like a walk of shame when when I still had my 3d ticket.

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What was paid for and where I should have been.

 

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Where I ended up sitting

Nobody really understood how this happened. I am not really sure how to prevent it either.  What would you have done?

Register to win- what would you do with 500k AA Miles

Just received a registration link to sign up to win 500k AA Miles.aa

Yes, by doing so you will probably get some junk email though. That would be worth half a million miles though

One of our favorite trips was flying Paris to Abu Dhabi, and then eventually to Washington DC on Etihad using AA miles. 2 people in first and 2 people in business class. Anytime you have a chef and nanny on board, is a good 15 hours in a plane.etihad1etihad2etihad3

While this has become a little more complicated than it was a year or two ago. Viewfromthewing points out how it can still be done.

What would you do with 500k AA Miles?