Friday, February 24, 2017

Around the World in 80 Hours Part 4: Hello Hong Kong, My Old Friend


On approach after a 15 hr flight
The story so far:
 
 
 
 
And now, the next chapter:
 
A 'short' 15 hour flight, 7 hours of sleep, some TV re-runs, 3 meals & great service by the flight crew later...We made it to Hong Kong! Since this flight touches down at 8am local time, and our onward flight to Kuala Lumpur doesn't leave for another 12 hours, we spent the day in the city (well about half of it.)  Luckily for us there’s a reasonably price luggage storage facility at the airport, and a fast train into town. 
 

Let me just take a moment here to say that it did take all 4 of us frequent flyers to collectively sort out where all we needed to go to take care of the luggage, get a shower, and catch the train.  Plus, we'd all been there before.  This is to say that HKG airport is big, and if you're not as familiar with the domestic terminal, its easy to get turned around.  First off, there’s no arrivals lounge available for Oneworld emeralds unless you’re on CX in Business or First.  However, there is a Priority Pass lounge past immigration between terminals one and two, in ‘the tunnel.’  It's a basic Plaza Premium lounge, not nearly up to par with Cathay's real lounges on the departures side, but for this brand of lounge it was sufficient for a quick stop.  It's also close…ish…to where the luggage storage is. 


Just so you know, if you’re looking for the storage place, follow signs for “left luggage.” Yes, this will be slightly hilarious to the jetlagged.  “Left luggage….not right luggage….get it??”  Come on, that’s funny…right?  The prices are pretty reasonable, about US $8 for our 5 hours for each bag, and the process was easy.  They take cards and you pay when you pick up your things.  Totally worth it not to have to drag a rollaboard each around the city.

Airport Express
Anyhow…. We did eventually make it to the airport express train.  I’ve said again and again in other posts how much I appreciate how accessible Hong Kong is from the airport.  It’s nearly impossible to get lost, and only takes 20 minutes.  We bought round trip tickets to Hong Kong (Central) station to save a few bucks.

Dim Sum Square
Upon landing, none of us exactly had a firm plan of what we wanted to get up to in the city, so we just played it by ear.  As tends to be the case with mileage running, leaving yourself open to new experiences and suggestions is the name of the game.  We had an impromptu meetup with yet another traveler doing a short trip to HKG.  On her good suggestion, we had lunch at Dim Sum Square, and a drink at Cottage off the Island Line MTR.  You always know you're in the right place when as you leave, there's a line out the door and down the street.
 
We'll take one of each.  Um, maybe two.
 
Dim Sum Square
 After that, and a little walking around the city on our way back to Central station, we headed back to HKG early to have some lounge time. This is about the point at which I’m willing to admit that this whole circling the world thing puts you in line for some punishing jet lag.  Since we didn’t get a day room at a hotel while we had our 12 hour layover, we essentially pulled an all-nighter as far as our internal clocks were concerned.

Hong Kong Central
I’ve often mentioned how it’s best to try to stay on your home timezone, more or less.  However, this run just isn’t making that entirely possible.  I’m anticipating some long naps on the upcoming flights as we circle back around through Sri Lanka and Doha.  Granted, probably not the best nap on the first flight, which is an economy award ticket on Malaysia, but I’m sure I’ll survive.  

If you’re going to travel around the world in a weekend, you might as well not sleep it away!
~CruisingAltitude

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Around the World in 80 Hours Parts 2 and 3: Over an ocean and past the Arctic...


Part 2: We're Off!  
 
First step- AA Priority Check in at LAX
Welcome to the first mileage run of 2017!  The good news: everyone I’m traveling with cleared their upgrades into business class!! This makes a huge difference, in case you weren’t aware.  In short, it’s the difference between sleeping sitting up in a dining room chair, or tucked into a bed.  You choose.  Really, go on, choose. 
 
Anyhow, here we are. All happy and headed to Hong Kong.  Which is good, because I just heard we’re in for the full 15 hr flight, so we must not have a fast tailwind tonight.  Still though, only taking 15 hours to cross the Pacific is pretty darn impressive.
Which brings me to an important point – possibly the most important point of the weekend.  This world is small, extremely so.  In the time it’s about to take me to get a good nights’ sleep and have breakfast, I’ll cross an ocean that once took travelers months.  And I’m doing it without much, if any effort, on account of the massive GE turbine engines powering this 777-300. 


Which is all to say, I love this crazy hobby.  I'm even managing to love this extra long taxi time at LAX courtesy of the massive overbooking of flights and gates that the AA/US merger has made us accustomed to.  (But don't even get me started on the painful arrival delays because there's never a gate when you need one) What it also has allowed though, is the passing out of pajamas and the taking of pre-orders for dinner.  This, I’m actually a fan of.  Give that it's now well past 1am here, anything that speeds up the meal service and gets us to sleep faster is good.  


What’s a new experience though, is that we’ve apparently become victim of a rare “wind shift” that’s added an extra 30 minutes of taxi time to our take off while we roll down to the other end of the runway for an eastward departure.  I suppose I should just call myself lucky that we’re getting to experience an over-city takeoff, right?  Right.  

Ground delay aside, this flight is showing promise.  They've stocked mattress pads in business class, and haven't gotten rid of the spicy Asian salad dressing on the first course.  So far, so good!

Wheels up (finally), lets' go!


Part 3: Halfway there....Somewhere over the Pacific.


So, 8 hours in, 7 to go.  I’ve gotten some decent sleep, but a few more hours wouldn’t hurt.  You know you mileage run a lot when you get excited about 3 new episodes of Big Bang Theory on the IFE.  Just so you know, there’s 3 new episodes! 

This is the first time I’ve taken this flight to Hong Kong that leaves around midnight, instead of the afternoon flight.  On the one hand it seems like it should make perfect sense and wipe out jetlag naturally- you leave late at night, and arrive in the morning.  Simple, right?  Well….not quite, as evidenced by the fact that I’m putting together this post smack in the middle of the flightpath.  Somehow…don’t ask me how, my body remembers that it’s actually 9am in Los Angeles.

Mattress pad, blankie, all tucked in for the 'night'.
No one ever said mileage running was easy on the body and mind, and I'm not about to start now.  Tylenol PM, a snack, and let’s see if I can get a nap before landing.  I’ve got to be as human as possible for our layover.  As I’ve hinted at in the past…many times, I love Hong Kong and I’m looking forward to a few hours in the city, as well as some time lounge hopping at the airport before heading down to KUL. 

I suppose I should back up for a minute and report that the international lounge scene at LAX was great as always.  Qantas’ lounge is still the best in town, especially since the Admiral’s Club is currently under renovation and so they lack much space.  Hopefully, if the JFK Flagship Lounge is anything to go by, the pain and crowding may eventually be worth it.

Current offerings at the Flagship Lounge (self-serve)
So anyhow, a good time was had, and it was a great meetup place to collect the mileage running party together.  This weekend we’ve got two of us from LAX, one from DCA, and one from PHX.  Yes, by the way, in this world you’re known by your airport code.  Because I said so...as of right now, 35,000 ft over Mongolia (or something).  

It looks like we've got a great group for this trip.  Some I've 'run with' and some not.  It seems like just about everyone who's anyone in the mileage running community is headed East this weekend or next, getting a jump on 2018's qualification & probably burning some of their last expiring Systemwide Upgrades in style. 
Pork belly salad at the Qantas First lounge.  As I'll talk about later, apparently this month is all about pork at QF.
Back to the Qantas lounge though, I had a new experience this visit- We closed the place down.  I learned they actually have last call, and then 20 minutes later turn the lights up to kick everyone out, club-style.  Rude.  However, we had a midnight flight to catch, so I suppose they're excused.  At least we made the most of the time....and the free food!

Next up: A day in Hong Kong.

~CruisingAltitude

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Around the World in Eighty Hours Part 1: In the Clear!


Note: I had fun on my last trip trying to keep posts going as the journey progressed, so I'm going to do my best to try that again, foreign internet issues notwithstanding.  I'm calling this trip "Around the World in 80 Hours" because...why not? I think it's going to take me closer to 94 hours to actually get all the way back home again, but that just lacks a certain ring.  Artistic license, right?

Part 1:

As it turns out, flying around the world takes a fair amount of planning.  Who knew?  All in all, the weekend is made up of six flights, on four separate itineraries, on 4 different Oneworld airlines.  Though technically this isn't the most flights I've packed into one mileage run - that award goes to 2015's Tokyo-Jakarta-Malaysia trip, this is definitely the most logistically complex because there are so many different itineraries to keep track of, as well as different mileage earnings and seating and upgrade rules. 

The good news is that my upgrade on AA to Hong Kong just cleared, so I only have two segments in the 'back of the bus,' one being a 4hr flight from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur on Cathay, and the other being a connecting award flight on Malaysian Air from Kuala Lumpur to Colombo.  I actually have had good experiences in coach with both of these airlines in the past, so I'm not dreading it too much.  They're both airlines that offer service that exceeds US standards, and okay yes, MH did loose a couple 777s awhile ago, but that could happen to anyone.  Forgive and forget, right?  As long as they give you lounge access.

As I said, the most important part of all that is that MY UPGRADE ALREADY CLEARED going to Hong Kong.  It's a 15 hour flight on one of AA's best planes, so I was really crossing fingers and doing the upgrade dance (patent pending) for this one. 

This is a big upgrade over the 'back' for 15 hours.
I'll probably do a brief guide to upgrades here, or at Altitude Consulting soon, but the short story about getting an upgrade on a long haul flight on AA is that you're most always waitlisted, sometimes for months and it goes right up to the moment you board before you really know if it'll work out.  There's a lot of strategy, and possibly voodoo, that goes into divining what's likely to clear, but really it's hard to predict with any kind of certainty. 

Luckily though, this flight is fairly new, whereas the DFW-HKG flight has been around much longer.  So the loads are still on the light side for this popular route, and there's more competition for paying business class customers with Cathay Pacific, who flies several flights out of LAX daily. 

This is all just a rambling set up to paint you a picture of just exactly how my Valentine's Day evening went.  I had an alert set from ExpertFlyer that would text me if upgrade space became available.  Doing this is hit and miss, since the program has a delay and whatnot, but it's generally worth giving a shot to try and confirm in advance.. 

So anyhow, Mrs. CruisingAltitude and I are enjoying a low key dinner at home, mostly just watching 12 month old BabyFlyer throw her food onto the ground tiny piece by tiny piece while laughing about it, when my phone pings.  Mrs. CrusingAltitude picks it up, looks confused, and hands it over.  Sure enough, it's THE alert.  So I leap up (seriously, I almost never move that fast) shouting that I have to call AA, and start tapping in the EXP line's number from memory.

Meanwhile, Mrs. CrusingAltitude, sensing the panic and feeling the need to assist, tries to help by pulling up my itinerary....and poor BabyFlyer just freezes midway through launching another steamed carrot off her plate to try and sort out what the heck is going on, and whether she should laugh or cry about it.

So, basically, just another night in the CruisingAltitude house. 

But, the upgrade cleared thanks to a great AAgent on the phone!  16c --> 12A, yes and thank you!  That's one more seat assignment I can stop worrying about.  This is a relief, because mileage runs under the 'new system' have plenty to worry about.

Flying an itinerary like this with so many foreign airlines, codeshares, and separate segments makes getting the finer details sorted out start to feel like one of those riddle-turned-math questions from the 6th grade: "If Jimmy uses Amex points at a 1200:1000 ratio to buy Avios with British Airways for a restricted economy Malaysian Air flight, can he get an advance seat assignment in the exit row, and who does he need to call for it?"

The answer there: 1- Yes, maybe.  2- Call everyone & pay 40 MYR for it, which is about $9.   These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night.  I know you're jealous.

The truth is, though, that mileage runners take a kind of perverse pleasure in just these complexities, and sorting out how to best utilize the airlines, alliances, and hotel rules to their advantage.  That, along with planning out exactly how many extra hours to devote to airport lounge time, what hotels have the best elite treatment, how many tiny bottles of Woodford Reserve SHOULD be catered to each flight, and much more. 

These are the kinds of details that make any sane traveler throw up their hands and proclaim the entire industry makes no sense, is out to get them, and charges too much while they're at it.  Maybe they're right, but my only point is.....

......my upgrade ALREADY CLEARED!!!

~CruisingAltitude

Up next: The final approach, what to bring, and 'live from LAX.'



Monday, February 13, 2017

The World Citizen's Dilemma....

Fair warning: This post is more of an opinion piece than is my usual style in this space, but it's becoming more apparent to me of late that 'not talking about' current events because not everyone agrees with you has its own consequences.  Therefore, I took a solemn oath to myself that I would try....sometimes....to do that a little less.  If you'd rather skip this, feel free.  The next post will be up shortly & have plenty of rambling thoughts about airplanes in it.

#Oneworld
I'm just shy of a week until my first international trip of the year.  As I wrote about HERE, I'm very excited about this one.  It's probably the most complex trip I've ever booked, and takes me completely around the world via Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Sri Lanka, and Doha.  It's arguably the piece de resistance of my mileage running career....thus far.


 
A preview of what will be my final descent on Monday- Approach into LAX

While I'm really looking forward to this adventure and have been planning the details and logistics of it for months, I have to admit I can't shake a sense of concern as I get packed.  It's not so much that I don't think that all will be fine, but there's a lingering disappointment with the current state of our reputation abroad. 

I've made my fare share of jokes about buying some Air Canada bag tags to avoid awkward conversations about politics abroad, or what choice phrases I'd now need to learn in a combination of Mandarin, Tamil, and standard Arabic, but joking aside, there are actual potential issues to be discussed.

Formally, this site is not an opinion piece unless we're talking about my long-winded opinions on airport lounge décor, or tray table etiquette.  It is however, at it's most basic level, a how-to guide on getting the most out of travel in any number of ways.  Like any good guide, it also needs to be honest and cover relevant topics, and I'm posting this commentary with that sentiment in mind.  


First stop of the upcoming run- HKG!
It's intrinsic in travel that as you roam around the world you'll encounter new places, people, and ways of thinking.  This is really the entire point of the journey, miles and points aside. In the past I've found myself having all manner of discussions with strangers turned short-term friends about their lives, their homes, their families....and much more. 

This all makes the current state of affairs in the US somewhat worrisome as I contemplate circumnavigating the Earth this weekend.  I'm heading to extremely foreign lands (if, in fact, we consider the term 'foreign' to be subject to gradation) and it can't be ignored that from the airport agents, to people you may encounter on a train or at a restaurant, when you're someplace you've never been before you are subject to, and on occasion at the mercy of, the understanding and acceptance of locals. 


No reason for this one, it's just a pretty distraction amidst all this serious talk.
This is really all prelude to saying that anyone who travels, whether they realize it or not, are dependent upon, and directly either helped, or encumbered by their society's image in the world.  Statements and actions by those with authority have consequences for you, whether you agree with them or not.  When you step off the jetbridge you are a representative of your country, your state, and your hometown and you should expect to be treated with the level of respect that your country extends to others.  It was already hard enough to be a 'perfect stranger' when hopping continents, and now it has potentially become even more so.

This is not to say that I'm really much more concerned for my physical safety or the logistics of my trip, per se.  Mileage running already requires a fair amount of thoughtful planning with an eye toward security, and the ability to navigate places safely that you've never been before.  What I am bemoaning at a basic level is a considerable step back from the sense of 'world citizenship' ......let alone the possibility of increased screening and suspicion at airports.

When viewed from above, this world is smaller than you realize, and other people and cultures are more intertwined and accessible than many will admit, if we choose to keep the freedom of travel and adventure as a basic human right as it has been through history, and still should be.   


TBIT Pavilion- LA's gateway to the World
Anyhow, now that I've said what's been rattling around in my mind I can look forward to this trip, which I really am thrilled about!  I'm traveling with some friends I've taken amazing adventures with in prior years, and am looking forward to making some new friends on the road.  As I've said many times, the people with whom I share this strange hobby have on many occasions turned out to be uniquely fun, adventurous, and independent travelers. 

In travel as in life, the people, as well as the destinations, make the journey worth taking.  This is something that I hope we all keep in mind each time we put our passport in our bag, and set off in search of new experiences.

Travel safely, travel well,

~CruisingAltitude

PS: I'm hoping to stay connected enough this weekend to do 'live updates' as we go 'around the world in 80 hours.'  I hope you'll follow along!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Fare Deal: LAX to Liberia, Costa Rica

Impromptu trip to Costa Rica?  You could do worse....
 
** Note: this fare deal is good as of the time this was published.  These generally only stay active for a limited time, especially for certain dates.  If you're interested in this deal, I encourage you to hold your tickets as soon as you can!**

I don't usually post specific flight deals on this site, unless I'm in the process of planning for or taking the trip.  However, I've gotten multiple requests to share some examples of trips I'd recommend.  Usually I feel like my itineraries aren't for the casual traveler, as they're aimed at maximizing my miles and perks.  However, sometimes a deal pops up that serves both purposes of earning some serious qualifying miles, and having a great and comfortable trip too. 

This week's Los Angeles - Liberia, Costa Rica deal is one of those rare ones.  For around $670 round trip, including all taxes, you can fly to Costa Rica.... In business class!  Aside from having a good destination to spend a weekend, this trip will be comfortable start to finish, and earn 13,770 elite qualifying miles.  That's a good chunk of the miles needed to reach AA's Gold and Platinum levels, and doesn't hurt in your quest for the higher status levels either.

How to book it:

Both the AA.com site, and Google Flights are showing plenty of availability currently. To search for this fare, put in LAX as the starting point, and LIR as the destination.

Google flights showing tons of availability !


AA.com as well!
For bonus points, once a day American flies their biggest, nicest, plane between LAX and MIA.  For the same price, you can choose these flights and have a very comfortable lie-flat bed for most of this trip.  Just look for the flights (see photo above) that show "777" or "77W" as the plane type. 

This trip is similar to last year's Panama City and Quito deals, but comes even cheaper, with only a couple fewer miles.  All in all, this one's a great option. 

Happy travels!

~CruisingAltitude

If you want to know more about miles and points, or get help with booking tips like these (or any other travel) I'm happy to help.  Check out altitudeconsulting.net for more info!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mileage Runing 2017 Season Opener Preview: Best Worst Decisions

"Somewhere Up There"
(I keep getting distracted by how beautiful the colors are in this picture, and it's making this post hard to write!)

2016's mileage runs ended with a satisfying requalifying run to Quito wherein all the highs and lows of mileage running were had.  There were some beautiful flights, very nice planes, even nicer lounges, and also a fare share of delays and missed connections.  It was also bittersweet, as it was the last year of 'good old fashioned' mileage running, before the new requirements kicked in. 

In case you missed it, starting in 2017 AA has made some fairly drastic changes to their elite program, including adding a qualification level, making the elite tiers 25k, 50k, 75k, and 100k, respectively, as well as adding "Elite Qualifying Dollars" to the mix.  Under the basic letter of the law, this means to qualify for elite status, you ALSO have to spend 3, 6, 9, or 12 thousand dollars to reach your target level. 

This, as I've written about [HERE] is only the basic letter of the law applied to flights on American itself, which makes flying partner airlines a good workaround to those new spend thresholds if you know where to look.  My plan for trying out this new system is to scour the Oneworld airlines for highly discounted fares in premium economy and business class.  Because many of these fares do not originate in the US at all, this requires a healthy (err...I use that term flexibly) sense of adventure.

Speaking of adventure, let me tell you about what I've got on tap for February this year:

It all started with a seemingly innocent tip-off from another mileage running friend about a pretty lucrative premium fare on Qatar Airways.  The basic itinerary was from Columbo, Sri Lanka (CMB) to Doha, Qatar (DOH) to Boston (BOS) and back.  A good long haul, available on weekend dates, mostly on Qatar's brand-spanking-new a350, and in business class on top of it all.  Can't go wrong with that!

Qatar's a350 business class.  Yes, please.

Yup, that's a walk-up bar in the business class cabin.
But....do you see the issue yet? 

Yup, I live in neither Boston, nor Sri Lanka.  However, the flight was available at the discounted price on a very limited basis, and for just a couple of days.  So I went for it and figured those pesky details (like where the flights actually come from, and where they go to) would most likely work themselves out.  You know, like geography has a tendency to do, right?

Best worst decisions, indeed.


Why hello, beautiful.  I'll be seeing you soon!
Once I booked the tickets, I set about the task of getting myself to Colombo, and home from Boston.  What's worth noting here, is that in February I'm only doing half of the CMB-BOS-CMB Qatar itinerary.  Since it would be entirely too much flying for my 'real life' schedule to do LAX to Colombo, to Boston, back to Colombo, and then all the way back to LAX in one go, I booked the outbound and the return on two separate weekends several months apart. 

So now I needed to "position" to CMB to get this thing started, and then just get home from Boston at the end.  Boston was simple enough, but CMB proved to be a little stickier.  The issue is that to get to CMB from LAX on one itinerary turned out to be too expensive for a mileage run.  However, because of Malaysia Air's Oneworld hub in Kuala Lumpur, there were some cheap fares to Malaysia, from which it was a short and cheap award ticket using some of my Amex Membership Rewards points to CMB.  Done and done.

What's even better, is that the flights allowed us to plan a full day (er..12 hours) in Hong Kong, and a full day and night in Kuala Lumpur. 

 
Oh Hong Kong, I'll see you again soon, my friend.
 
For the record, these are two of my absolute favorite mileage run destinations.  They have it all- good quality airlines, fantastic airport lounges, workable public transport, plenty of hotel options, reasonable public safety, and in the case of Malaysia a truly awesome currency exchange rate to the dollar!  It's stopovers like this that make an insane itinerary like trying to fly around the world in 4 days seem maybe a tiny bit more like a vacation.  Or, is that just me?  (Yeah, it's probably just me)

Le Meridien, KL Sentral- $68

Yasss, KL!  A night out at one of the top hot spots can run you as little as $25, all in.

What results from this kind of split ultra long haul booking is that you are able to fly COMPLETELY around the world with one continuous set of flights.  The trips is booked on four separate itineraries, so I'm keeping everything crossed that things go smoothly, at least as far as CMB.  After that, Qatar will have to get me to Boston somehow, and once I'm back in the US, AA will one way or another get me home. 

To protect against misconnects, most of the itinerary has very long stopovers so hopefully even a several hour delay shouldn't make the whole thing implode.  As much as I love travel, the idea of being stranded in Sri Lanka at 3am doesn't sound all that great.

I say again, Best Worst Decisions.

Long layovers also mean time to enjoy the airports and lounges- like the Golden Lounge in KUL
In any case, this is what my 'around the world' mileage run looks like:

Flight 1- LAX-HKG on American (cross the Pacific)
12 Hour stopover in Hong Kong

Flight 2- HKG-KUL on Cathay Pacific
22 hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur

Flight 3- KUL-CMB on Malaysian Air
4 hour stopover in Colombo

Flight 4- CMB-DOH on Qatar
2.5 hour stopover in Doha

Flight 5- DOH-BOS on Qatar (cross Europe and the Atlantic)
5 hour stopover in Boston

And finally, flight 6- BOS-LAX on American

Simple, right?

Plus, it only takes 4 days.  This is also the moment when I realize I just booked a 4 day trip, and only one hotel night.  Oh well, I never was good at math.  As crazy as it sounds, I'm actually really looking forward to this trip.  It's an even bigger challenge than I've done in the past, and at least half of the flights are guaranteed to be in business class.  Plus it puts me well on the way to requalifying for my EXP/Oneworld Emerald status for the next year.

Then in June...I do it all again, just backwards and in heels (so to speak.)  However, that's an (even more convoluted) story for another time.

Fly Well,

~CruisingAltitude

Thursday, December 22, 2016

And To All a Good Flight....


 
 
The end of the year is always a time for me to collect my thoughts, to reflect back on how far I've come and maybe where I'd like to go next.  The more I travel, even for very short trips, the more I've come to appreciate what these trips and destinations have taught me, and have tried to put them into words.  To close out 2016, I'm giving a shot to putting these mid-flight notes together with some of my favorite travel photos from the year.  So, at the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie, here we go....


Chicago O'Hare
 'If there is a universal language, it's travel.'


Panama City from the skies.
'The wonders of the world are not a thing of the past.' 
 
Cape Cod National Seashore
 'Sometimes solitude is necessary, and is not at all the same as loneliness.' 


View from The Wing, Hong Kong
 'Being able to find familiarity in the foreign is a gift.'

The Red Suite, HND 1st Class
 'Passion for an interest, no matter how unique, is never something that should be apologized for.'
 
Morning Trail, The Peak, HKG
 'The constant feeling that the thing you're searching for might be just ahead is nothing to be worried about.  In fact, it may be the way to keep moving forward.' 


TBIT Pavilion, LAX
 'You can learn something from everyone you meet.  Yes, everyone.'

Hong Kong Harbor
 'In transit, it's best to think of time as an illusion.  Bedtime, doubly so.' 



"The Bean," Chicago
 'There are so many places to go in this world....


Seattle, WA
 ....But don't forget to enjoy the beauty of coming home again.'

 
Best wishes to all, and to all a good flight,
 
~CruisingAltitude 

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Last Mileage Run of 2016- Epilouge: All's Well That Lands Safely

 

I won't lie, 2:30am is really late to finally get into bed after 24 hours of travel time.  Travel time well spent, but 24hrs nonetheless.  I'm well aware it's supremely cliché to show up late to work after a short night, with Starbucks.  Well I showed up late, with Starbucks. 

Temporary exhaustion aside, I've said I have yet to regret doing a mileage run and this one was definitely no exception. I saw a new city and country, and added to my knowledge of the region.  I endured, adjusted, and rolled with the delays and changes, and strengthened (and probably tested) a friendship.  There are few experiences that can condense both this much stress and euphoria into three days. 

To recap the journey in numbers:

Flights: 5
Plane types: 4
Delayed flights: 2
Airports: 4
Lounges: 5
Glasses of Tattinger: No comment.
Hotels: 2
S. American Sushi Bars: 1
Days: 3
Nights: 2

And 18,956 elite qualifying miles!

You know it's been a good trip when before you even reach the last jetbridge, you're already looking forward to the next adventure.  However, this flight marks my last mileage run of 2016, and all that's left for the year is a quick flight up to Seattle to visit family over the holidays.  The insanity will have to hold off for awhile.  Until February, anyway....

As they say, all's well that ends well.  Thanks for anyone who actually followed along!

Travel well,

~CruisingAltitude





Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Last Mileage Run of 2016 Part 9: Over St. Louis



If you're just tuning in:

Part 1- Famous Last Words

Part 2- So...Yeah...Um...

And now the conclusion....
Well friends another year, another 100,000 miles.  I'm pretty sure I've just about crossed over St. Louis, which by my calculations means I've gotten to my requalification for the year.  It's proved to have been a long day of flying, but that's pretty much what we're going for here.

When we last caught up, our brave mileage runners were landing in JFK, so let's back up a minute and talk about the new JFK Flagship Lounge.  It's only been open a few weeks at most, so I was excited to check it out.  We had about 3 hours, which as it turned out was still not quite enough time to use the lounge entirely.....but that's just how I feel about it.



The space is redone to make the seating more plentiful, and the décor more modern.  It feels like a real first class lounge.  Maybe not as opulent as JAL's Sakura or Qatar's Al Safwa lounges, but probably the best AA has to offer in the US.  It keeps up with BA's and MH's offerings, and beats some of the others, which is an improvement.

 
There's a certain feeling to getting ready to board the last mileage flight of the year.  Just one more jetbridge, one more seat, one more runway, one more takeoff.  You're finally heading home, and delays or no, it looks like you'll get there.  Of course, there's always room for a few more airplane hiccups.  This one was no exception. 

We boarded pretty much on time, even if we personally were a little late to the gate...possibly on account of a completely reasonable amount of free Tattinger on offer at the lounge.  We got safely to our seats, which by a stroke of good luck in routing, were the very comfortable business class on AA's 321-T. 

Then, just as they're finished boarding and preparing to push back...the lights went out.  I don't mean the quick off and on when the plane changes from ground power to regular...it went black, and for awhile.

Let me just illustrate with a real-time photo, shall I?

This is the actual photo I took.  Yes, I took a photo of this.
 
So...um...yeah.
 
This goes on for the better part of a few minutes, then the lights come back up, and the captain announces we have a mechanical issue.  Cue the collective sigh from the cabin.  We then proceed to wait at the gate for more than an hour getting the issue resolved and the sign offs done.  Honestly though, it didn't seem all that long given the rest of the trip.  They weren't seeming shifty about cancellation, so this plane was getting to LAX tonight, dammit. 
 
Update:  And, eventually, it did.  We touched down more than an hour behind schedule, putting us on the gate close to 1am.  Tired, but accomplished, it was finally time to get out of airports and head for home. 
 
In all honesty, if you set out to fly 5 flights to Quito and back in the course of 3 days, including the Northeast in the winter, and you arrive home safely and only one hour late, I think you can feel pretty successful. 
 
Thanks 2016, it's been a trip.  Literally. I've been the equivalent of around the world 4 times, visited new countries, cities, and of course airports.  I've even made some friends along the way.  Can't wait to see what 2017 has in store.  Spoiler alert- it involves more airplanes.
 
Fly Well & Land Safely,
 
~CruisingAltitude
 


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Last Mileage Run of 2016 Part 8: How Did We Get on the Zurich Flight???

Final Approach into MIA
We landed early into Miami, with time enough to hit the Centurion club (yes again, this is how it works) for a shower and massage, before heading out to the next plane to get up to JFK.  The next flight was just one of those flights that seems more entertaining than it should be.  First off, it was an aging 757, however, it was configured for international service, so the Frist cabin was set up with 16 angle-flat seats, rather than the usual 22 recliners.  This was good, however, the lack of an update was showing.  My IFE did this every 10 minutes, and nothing seemed to fix it:



Aside from the service and the destination, how you feel a bout a flight segment generally has to do with the people, or person, sitting next to you.  This one was a real winner.  "Mr. 3F" sat down and immediately started talking loudly on the phone, making sure each person he called knew that he was a- on a plane b- going to New York for some very important meeting, and c- would also be in LA later in the week, presumably for some even more important meetings.  He then took a breather from these calls to aggressively flag down a FA, and insist (twice) that they hang his coat that very instant.  It was at this point that I tried to think of the best way to signal that we weren't together...in any way, shape, or form.

Believe it or not, Mr. 3F wasn't even the most notable passenger in the cabin. 1E had a hair color and style that would have made Cruella DeVil jealous, whilst 3B seemed completely befuddled by the buttons to operate his seat.  He spent a full 15 minutes trying to figure out the 'seat forward' and 'seat back' functions.  Dude.... it's two buttons, and they're well labeled.

Since my IFE was conclusively broken, I pulled out my laptop, and watched some saved shows I have on iTunes.  Mr. 3F then spent the remainder of the flight watching my laptop over my shoulder while he ate his salad.  He didn't even try to hide it....I almost offered my headphone splitters to him...

It was about this time in the flight that I happened to notice that the airplane itself was even having an off night, judging by the monitors in the cabin which appeared to show our final destination as Zurich??


I checked and double checked my memory....but I was pretty sure I hadn't put together THAT good of a mileage running itinerary.  According to 'The Plane" we weren't even making a detour to let passengers off in JFK.

What's unsettling about this is either a- I boarded the wrong flight, or b- the computer system has no clue where we're headed.  The times, and remaining time in the flight screens were likewise completely incorrect.  Since I was in all honestly, reasonably sure the pilots had this in hand, my next thought was how disturbing it is that AA still considers the 757 to be an acceptable choice for TATL flights...

Anyhow, spoiler alert- we did, in fact, touch down in JFK on time, giving us ample time to check out the newly renovated Flagship Lounge (see next post).  Priorities, priorities.

~CruisingAltitude