Category Archives: Frequent Flyer

Greetings from Hong Kong – Back in Town after 12 years

Hong Kong

My family and I spent some time in Hong Kong back in the fall of 2004.  Since then I have transited through Hong Kong on numerous occasions while traveling to Shenzhen, but in all cases I did not spent any time in the city.   So now that we are living in Shanghai, a long weekend trip here seemed the next best thing to do, plus get the opportunity to revisit some of the sites and enjoy this dynamic city.

Well, so we hopped on Spring Airlines flight from Shanghai (I will post a separate article on the airline — as it was memorable – for its utterly uncomfortable seats!) and came for a 3-day weekend.

Getting from Hong Kong airport to the harbor was very easy – we used the Airport Express – the second stop was in Kowloon.   The ticket cost is HK$150 for a group of 2.   Yes, if you are traveling at least 2 of you – you can purchase a group ticket which saves you some bucks… But you can get only one way group ticket…. Strange but oh, well, it is fine

From the Airport Express stop in Kowloon we went to the area with Free Shuttle Buses — and found one that stops nearby our hotel (as our hotel – the Intercontinental Hong Kong – did not have its own stop).   The stop at the Sheraton (in Kowloon) was just 5-8min walk to the hotel we were staying in….

Getting around – the MTR

Well, this has become quite the experience!   Hong Kong is overcrowed!  No question!   Why so many exclamation points ?   Well see the photo below and you will be able to tell and judge for yourself.  

China, Hong Kong, MTR

It is an incredible situation and very difficult to navigate.  The MTR is very low cost but has become very busy and appears well under capacity to handle the huge influx of people in the city.    That was not the case in 2004…

You can download MTR map with stations etc from the Apple Apps Store.. There are multiple apps that are free.

Now, off to explore in the city – so more writing later.

 

 

United Airlines SFO – Shanghai PVG bad experience

United Airlines

Yesterday I took for may be 10th time the United Airlines flight from SFO to Shanghai Pudong. The flight has been serviced via a very aging Boeing 747 which is was old a year ago already.

The flight yesterday was rather disappointing. Here is why I say that: – the seats on the plane were obviously tired and rather uncomfortable
– since the plane does not have in-seat entertainment screens, you would have to either watch the TVs that are for all to share or watch on your own phone or tablet – there are two problems with that approach

A) the audio jack on my seat was busted…so no way to watch the shared programs unless you want to make up your own stories as you watch the "silent" movie…

B) the WiFi service was very intermittent-I tried to watch Game of Thrones….but the games ended up very choppy 🙂 The streaming kept pausing and starting- until I finally gave up

So why are we being kidded that there is a "convenient" service to select your own entertainment …? Yes you can do that by downloading your own movies from Netflix or Amazon Prime Video

So, to top this I had also a mishap with the butter during the breakfast service As you probably know – the trays get served
Hot with some meal – as a result the butter in the small container had melted and when I tried to open it, the content – liquid butter – poured all over my shirt! I was pretty unhappy!

Now – why would you put the butter on a hot tray? How can you possibly use that butter?

All this point to is sloppy service – I do not see another explanation…

So bad service, no entertainment, great way to spend 13 hours on the plane….!

Oh, oh, and to top this our flight was delayed by 1 hour… the plane just came late into SFO so we left at 3pm rather than 1:30 pm and even though the pilot tried we were still late…. why a long haul flight had a plane that was late to come in for its flight is a mystery to me…. bad planning ?

Don't know, but the net result was frustrating experience

One of the flight attendants told me this plane was being decommissioned in one month – for sure that is a positive step. Hope the hot trays and melted butter goes away too 🙂

By the way, I fly quite a bit on American as well – you can see my review of their business class to Europe, from a flight this summer…Hm…

American Airlines International Business Class – Disappointment

American Airlines International Business Class

Do you have any experience with American Airlines International Business Class?

I have been a loyal AA and OneWorld frequent flyer since 1998!  You can imagine the miles I have accumulated over that time.  Let me put it this way – I have been at Executive Platinum for the last 10 years or so, and have a life time Platinum due to the number of miles flown.

So, when my family decided to take a vacation to Europe this summer, I decided that we will fly on American  – of course – and use some of my system wide upgrades to have us in international business class across the Atlantic between the US and Heathrow.

All of us were excited…Lie-flat seats, Entertainment, Premium dining….!

This is what we expected:  

American Airlines International Business Class
This is what American Airlines advertises on their Web page

Well, turns out our experience was less than great.  On the flight to Heathrow, our meals were inedible!  I kid you not. I had a wedge salad and roast beer.   Please see the pictures below and you will know what I am about to say:

American Airlines Premium Dining International Business Class
Premium Dining? Really?
American Airlines Premium Dining International Business Class
Would you consider this Premium Dining..? I do not
American Airlines Premium Dining International Business Class
How does one cut this Wedge salad with a butter knife? I could not

The wedge salad was impassible to eat – it was a hunk of lettuce which I had to slide with a butter knife… .How?!?!  Others on the plane could not either….

Then, the main course – Beef sounds exciting — well, it was NOT!   It was shoe leather like, no taste, and please see the dish with sauce – it was spilled all over the place.

All in all – the dishes went back to where they came from.  I barely touched them…

The flight attendant noticed (I think others were in the same boat) – and asked me with an apology – “Should I bring you something else?”   I thanked her and did not take her up on the offer… I could not imagine the rest was any better.   

Our flight back from Heathrow, 9 days later, was not much better.  There was no wedge salad.. Thanks for small mercy!

The entertainment system was another story – on the flight from Heathrow to DFW, most of the business class passengers had the same experience – the system was not working properly… Oh, well – it is a premium experience 🙂

Needless to say – American, your service has SLIPPED big time!  I would not call our experience – all of my family flew business – anything to write home about!

 

Air Travel – Not Great These Days

Air Travel 

Optical effect of high speedI believe over the last few years all of us, no matter whether frequent or leisure flyers have experienced progressive troubles with Air Travel.  Gone are the days (I think I never saw or experienced them) when traveling by plane was supposedly glamorous.  Today, while accessible to larger and larger percentage of the world’s population, flying has become tedious and borderline uncomfortable.

Personal experiences and those of others described in multiple articles are uncovering tons of issues that the traveling public experience while taking flights, especially in the US.  

Why is the number being so large these days?  What drives this apparent increase in frequency of occurrence?   

I do believe the issues have existed all along – but previously, the boiling point had not been reached.  Now we have tons of actions being taken by the airlines

  • Reducing seat pitch – i.e. the between seats distance.  American Airlines is reportedly cutting the space from a spot in the seat to the same spot on the seat in front of it (otherwise known as seat pitch) from 31-inches to 29-inches.    This is a big deal!  For most traveling people – this will hugely impact comfort — i.e. forget about comfort…Period!  (these changes are apparently only on American’s Boeing 737 – so most likely only on US flights – but still – you could be on a plane with that seat pitch across the continent – i.e. 5+ hours!  Ouch!   
  • Then you have United with multiple issues:  They completely misdirected a passenger – sending her to San Francisco instead of the ticketed – Paris – destination.   Beats me!  How can that happen – with all the security checking and intrusion in your time at the airport – to send a passenger on a completely wrong plane!  Incredible…
  • Ready for a fight?  Literally…!  As per American Airlines’ certain employees, that is how problems can be resolved!  In the case described in multiple articles and YouTube posted video, it is seen how aggressive some employees could be.  




The list can be continued, but I think at this point in time you get the picture.  There were certainly mess ups before.  I have encountered on multiple occasions when the airline personnel was not aware of their own airline rules and would hold on tight to their belief and be pretty snotty all the way up to the point in time where I would have a supervisor from the call-in center speak with a supervisor at the airport to correct things….!  This has happened to me (and I am a frequent flyer with multiple airlines) – American Airlines in Chicago – the situation was pretty tense – I decided to hold my ground and eventually had a supervisor from the exec platinum desk on the phone with a Chicago airport supervisor to correct the view of a gate agent!!!  So I can fully believe the situations we just read about and saw in publications – links above….

High-Above-AsiaWhat I am very curious about is why so fewer issues with air travel on Asian airlines.  I certainly fly frequently with Air China, JAL, China Southern, China Air (Taiwan), EVA and some times with Singapore Airlines and JET Air….Rarely had the experiences listed above.

Do you think there are similar issues there?  Comment on this article….

In the mean time, try to be patient and hopefully things will improve now that there is so much pressure on the airlines to get their customer service in order….Let’s hope!

 

Gifts for the Traveller

Gifts for the Traveller

The holidays are coming fast.  Just two days from now is Black Friday and eventhough it has lost some cache as the one day for major deals, it still serves as a reminder – have you bought gifts for the traveller – the friend or relative in your life that is either a road warrior or travels just for fun.

With that objective in mind, I am putting together this posting – hopefully as a useful guide to help you find the gifts you need.  Have I tried all the items on this list ?  Well, no, some of them are too new, as well as, I have had enough experience with these and similar products in my travels to be able to assess their potential.

While today’s planes (especially those bound on international flights) offer power outlets with increasing frequency, some of the items on the list below are intended to help you arrive with charged mobile devices and ready to roll.

The list below is no particular order – it is truly reflective of my own experience of traveling 200K miles on planes this year (and in previous years)…Hence the recommendations:

  1. Noise canceling headphones.   I like the ones which are IN EAR – why?  The over the ear ones cause physical discomfort after pressing on my ears for 8 hours (or 16 hours on a flights like Dallas to Hong Kong)… As a result I like the Bose headphones shown here           
  2. Charging power banks:  I am sure you have arrived at your destination only to start searching immediately for power outlet to charge your phone so you can make that call to find your car, or colleagues.  The need is even greater when you arrive at a foreign airport and the person who was supposed to be waiting for you is not there….or your plane was late… The portable power bank becomes invaluable in those situations.   Which one to buy?  I have used multiple – Mophie, Sony, Anker… I usually look for the one with at least 15K mAh capacity so you can charge several devices at least once each.     if you prefer a very slim one with the power to charge one to two mobile devices once, then the Mophie is a good one.  I have used it for over one year and am happy with it.      
  3.  Portable Keyboard – it is a great tool for you while traveling.  If you are going on a leisure trip you most likely do not want to lug around big laptops (no matter how small they have become these days).   A mobile device (tablet or a smart phone) plus a keyboard like the one reviewed here is the way to go.  

I will pause here and let you think if any of these work for your plans.  The next installment will come out in a day or so.   In the mean time – please give me feedback…!

Japan

 

Sleeping On Planes – Best Tips and Tricks

Sleeping on Planes

Brussels-Hannover-plane Plane rides could be long and tiring.  On top of that, once you make it to your destination no matter whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, you want to be on top of your game, and not fall a victim of the dreaded jet lag.

As a result you must learn the tricks of the (frequent flyer) trade….Sleeping on planes….an art, a skill, and overall something which could pay great dividends, not matter if you travel frequently or not!

What are those tricks you may ask….?  Here is a list – probably a partial one, as many things that work for some, may not be as effective for others.  Nevertheless, let’s review at least some of them.

Noise Cancelling Headphones

If there is one big item and a VERY important item that you must always bring with you on a plane, that will be your favorite noise cancelling headphones.  There are tons of reasons why this is SO VERY important…..Do you need me to list those?   Oh, all right, let’s itemize some, and you will quickly remember all those other ones you have encountered and experienced by yourself:

  • Infant or small child traveling on a seat near you…
  • The drone of the jet turbines…After all, you are traveling at a very fast speed….Why would you think that will be noiseless?  The plane engines are pretty loud!
  • Intense talkers sitting near by and not understanding that NOT everyone is interested in the story of their aunt Betsy, or how their latest vacation included going to strange restaurants where they did not have (gasp…) even Coca Cola….
  • …and on and on….and on

Therefore, yes, please remember, pack those noise canceling headphones and before packing them – do check the batteries….or Else…!!!

Here are some good (in my opinion) headphones to have:

         

Ignore the Drinks

Do not partake in heavy drinking on the plane.   Those that tell you “get a couple of drinks to tie you over…” have no clue what they are talking about.   Tie you over to what??? Relax you how???

The reality is that while you are on the plane there is very little you or your friends could do or say to further improve your comfort.  You are best off to sleep on the plane…have some cool water, may be some juice and get ready for snoozing off.

The Aisle or the Window Seat

This all depends on what kind of sleeper are you ? If you are a light sleeper – you need to take extra precaution of our arrangement.   Take the aisle seat if you are easily bothered by people getting up and going to the rest room.  If you (like me) prefer the aisle seat and can handle interrupts from fellow passengers – then jump in and leverage the goodness of the seat….!

Want more tips and tricks – drop me a line via this Web site and we can figure it out together

So, all in all, if you want to get a few more pointers – please drop me a line.

Otherwise, please keep in mind – travelers need to be nimble and as such always be ready with your original itinerary….so you can show what drives hin,

     

Happy Travels!!!   And just close your eyes, put on your noise cancelling headphones, lower a shade over your eyes and just drift to your happy place…..

Here are also some interesting photos from places around the world…!  With more to come…

Entertainment in the Air on Planes

Entertainment in the Air

I have often been surprised how restrictive the US air travel is when it comes to many aspects of the creature comforts up in the air.   Let’s see – how do we compare flights in many countries of Asia and in the US?  Let’s list the services (besides getting from point A to point B) offered:

  • In-flight food:  On all US flights, food is unheard of – unless you are one of the few traveling in First / Business class of the plane.  At the same time, in China, and other Asia countries as well as in Europe, the crew serves warm food to everyone on the plane.  No matter wheter you are taking an in-country flight on Air China, or Shenzhen Airlines (to name a couple), you are going to get your boxed lunch consisting of a stir fry over rice.
  • Entertainment:  The intra-China flights or intra-India flights are usually operated with bare bones planes which do not have the right equipment to show much in the form of entertainment.  Having said that, it is likely to get entertainment if you happen to be on a newer plane…. Now lets compare that to te US – until recently, the usage of entertainment was fee only based –> now both American Airlines and Delta are starting to offer free entaiment following Delta’s first mover act.
  • Why is free entertainment important?  Here why:
    • Makes time go by faster
    • It creates a lot more relaxed crowd on the plane
    • It should help reduce the booz drinking on the flight
    • Finally, it will make for a much happier flyers and potentially return business for the airlines.
  • I would like to hear from the readers of this blog… Don’t hesitate – share your experiences and what you think makes sense on board an airship….
    • How would you like to pass your time?
    • Is getting food on-board the plane important to you?
    • What do you consider best in class services when traveling by plane?

Happy Travels

Strange Advice from Conde Nast Traveler

Conde Nast Traveler: Strange and Inaccurate Advice

Airplane-Engine-SunsetI have over 3M miles flown on multiple global airlines across N.America, Asia and Europe.  When I saw the article below in the on-line magazine, my first reaction was, “I need to write a posting directly on their site.   I was surprised to see that there was no provision for leaving comments.  Well, that is one way to have your opinion stand unchallenged 🙂

The reality is that the advice from Conde Nast is NOT always close to being correct.   This time around – same story.  Read the story below – and judge for yourself.  How many times have you flown internationally with less than 3 hour connection time…?  For me – most of my 3M miles… I regularly fly with 1 hour connection between a domestic and International flight to Japan, China, UK….

Here is the link and the text of the advice given by the travel site to a couple with an issue:

Yes, even if you have plenty of time to make your connection.

Q: My husband and I booked flights from Dallas to Fiji, connecting in Los Angeles, through Orbitz. The itinerary left us 95 minutes in L.A., but at check-in, an American Airlines agent told us the “minimum connection time” for our international flight was two hours—and denied us boarding! We lost our vacation plus the $3,744.12 we spent on the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa. Doesn’t Orbitz owe us a refund? Jenny S., Carrollton, Tex.

A: Unfortunately for travelers, airlines don’t make it easy to verify the minimum connection times they demand. Fliers have to rely instead on online travel agencies like Orbitz to track those intricate rules, and the booking site says that the itinerary it sold was kosher. American stepped up, however, refunding the $3,175.60 cost of the airfare as a goodwill gesture, but the takeaway is simple: Always allow plenty of time when connecting—ideally three hours

 

At any rate, all you have to do is make sure you have called the airline ahead of time (if you are concerned — I do not do even that) in case you need some assistance – they will more than oblige.

In today’s market, the competition among airlines is so great that you will get a lot of services, but you need to ask.

At any rate, enjoy your travels and do not stress too much.   The other aspect is – travel as light as possible so you can be flexible and able to manage flight changes with greater ease.

Coming and Going – Air Travel in Images…

Air Travel in Images

Travel, whether on business or leisure, is something my family and I do a lot of.  I have traveled over 2M miles on one of the major US carriers and then there are the numerous flights on a large number of other airlines – United, Eva, Air China, China Air, Korean, Air India, Thai, Malaysia Airlines, Dragon Air, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, SAS, Norwegian, … the list can continue a bit longer.

Even after all this, I am always amazed at the beautiful views one can get while on the plane – views of the airports, other aircraft, the sky…

So, I decided to put together some of those views in a series of photo postings…Here we go with the first

JAL-at-Beijing-International Beijing-Airport

Over-Beijing  Over-Beijing-Polluted-Sky  Over-Beijing  High-Above-Asia

United-Leaving-Beijing AA-docked-in-DFW At Dallas DFW-Planes