Monday, January 29, 2018

The Flagship We've All Been Waiting For

You see this view??  This used to be my view each and every stop through LAX.  Now, NOT SO MUCH!
You know what?  I'm mad.  Do you want to know why I'm mad?  I know you don't really, but this is my blog and so I'm going to tell you anyway.  Prepare to be humble bragged within an inch of your life!

Yes, you're seeing this.  There's bacon.

The new Flagship Lounge at LAX's Terminal 4 is too nice.  Yes, dammit, you heard me. There is good food, and not just in the exclusive 'flagship dining' area, but on offer to everyone else as well.  There's an impressive self serve bar with Grey Goose, Hangar 1, Black Label, Woodford, Bombay, and all manner of fun options, as well as a bloody mary station, and non-alcoholic beverages including cold brew and an espresso maker.  Plus this week- custom, made to order Pho.  In case anyone was wondering- they had me at NOODLES.

D├ęcor like JFK, food much better.

It's quite a bit better than the location at JFK, and that's saying something because JFK isn't at all shabby.

Frikkin' pho station.  For serious.


....And more food.
And here's why that makes me mad.  I'm mad because I've been carefully cultivating my disgruntlement with the new renovations to the terminal 4 Admiral's club for months.  MONTHS, I tell you.  Despite opening a new location in terminal 5, the loss of square footage in terminal 4 has been severely detrimental to the customer experience, and that's putting it lightly.  It's overcrowded, overrun, and not relaxing at all. 

You could go down to terminal 5, sure, but that's a decent hike, and even that has been crowded of late.  Instead, I've been taking the new connector over to TBIT and hitting up the KAL lounge on my priority pass.  This is no hardship, as I'm addicted to the (free) $1.99 spicy noodles there.  However, access there isn't open until 12pm, and Mrs. CruisingAltitude isn't a fan of the food offerings. 

This is all to say that now I'm left in a frustrating, angry-ifying quandary- the new lounge is legitimately wonderful, not quite beating out the Qantas lounge, but definitely trying to.  However, I'm only allowed in a few times a year, when I'm flying internationally since I'm perpetually buying double-deep-discount tickets to everywhere.

Livid, I am.  So.... I angry-scarfed down my custom made pho, maliciously drank (a couple) glasses of Bollinger champagne, and finally belligerently swiped a few bottled beverages from the self serve fridge, and eventually wandered out to face up to the Qantas lounge dragons at TBIT.

My diamond shoes are definitely a little tight, and I fully admit this is all ridiculous, but so is flying to Hong Kong for 48 hours, so what do you want from me?

More on all of that soon....


Friday, January 26, 2018

Then Go East....Far East....

Welcome to 2018, we're glad you're here! Before we get in the air, we'd like to go over some important features of 2017.**

It was a year full of new adventures, and not just a few miles flown.  As per usual, I went considerably out of my way to get my American/Oneworld status done, racking up those 100,000 miles.  It was a year for circling the world (quite literally), exploring foreign countries that are not so far off, plenty that actually are, and sharing travel experiences with family. 
If you're interested, you can check out some of the adventures here:

Whenever I'm questioning my plans, or debating which itineraries I might actually sort out, I put in the 'pro' column if I'll get to add a country to my 'visited' map I keep in my head.  Since I'm usually at the mercy of the major Oneworld deals and routes, I tend to wind up in the same places repeatedly- Hong Kong, Doha, Tokyo, etc.  So it can be exciting when there's someplace brand new.  

This year I added Cuba, Jordan (airport, it was quick), Finland, Estonia (check these out on Baby Flyer Blog), and Sri Lanka.  Not bad at all.
Sometimes, however, it's nice to play the hits.  That's why when I saw an impressive deal back to one of my favorites, and on the last weekend before last year's upgrades expired, I jumped on it.  36 hours in Hong Kong, here I come.  I'm even really taking this one 'old school,' and back-tracking to Dallas to catch the longest flight in American's network direct to HKG. 
I'm currently sitting in the lovely Qantas 1st class lounge in LAX before my flight, enjoying some Hamachi crudo and minute steak.  Life could be worse.  As an aside, I stopped by the NEW LAX Flagship Lounge as well.  Review of this soon!
As per usual, I'm playing the upgrade waitlist game for the outbound, but for a nice treat I was able to book the return via Tokyo Narita right into business class on my SWU upgrade!  So no matter what, I'll arrive back home in good shape.
So, what's a girl to do with two nights and a day in this fine city?  A few options come to mind...
I'm staying (again) at the Sheraton Kowloon, which has a top floor restaurant bar and lounge with a great view.  For what it's worth, people are always looking down on the Sheraton because in a strict sense it's outclassed by some of the other major chain offerings in Hong Kong- the Ritz, the JW Marriott, Conrad, and so on.  However, it keeps being my go-to for a few night's stay for a few reasons.  First- it's right on the Metro at Tim Sha Tsui, and has a shuttle from the Airport Express station at Kowloon.  Second- Even though it's sold as two hotels (the towers and regular rooms) you can usually use points to cheaply upgrade into a Towers room that comes with a high floor lounge with a very nice evening reception.  Third- There is a rooftop pool and spas that are great even in the rain.  Lastly- it's generally CHEAPER than the competition.  That alone puts it right up there. 
My suite at the Sheraton last time around.
This is all to say that setting up shop in Kowloon gives me some easy options before even going outside.  However, I fully intend to go outside.  I usually try to get out and take a hike or jog thought one of the parks each time I'm here.  In the past, I've done a morning jog around The Peak.  This time I may branch out....who knows. 
 And then there's the food...oh, the food....  This time, I'm in the market for some dim sum (of course), and want to find some traditional congee as well.  I think I've located a place that's near the hotel, and open until 2am.  This seems like a strange criteria, but here's the thing- flying to Hong Kong from the US essentially makes you nocturnal on arrival.  Your internal clock 'wakes up' around midnight, and if you're not looking to adjust, places open until 2 am are key.  Plus, Hong Kong is one of those "never sleeps" places.
So.... the bars are open until 2 or 3, congee until 2, and I think I found a dim sum place that opens for the day at 4.  Done and done.  A bit of day sleeping, some time in the pool, and it'll be time to head on out.
Thank various deities for international Uber.
As it turns out, I'm also not the only frequent flyer to think that this weekend is a great time to be in Hong Kong, so I'm looking forward to some meetups with other travelers and acquaintances.  All in all, it promises to be a good time....once I survive the 17 hour flight, of course.  Fingers crossed for the upgrade!!
Travel well,
**Kudos to you if you get this reference.