Tag Archives: Airport

Upgrades

Time for something about flying.

Last year, I had a mileage balance with Star Alliance (as a Lufthansa frequent flyer) of 98,000 miles.  In economy.  This wasn’t all of the flying that I did, but just the flying with Star Alliance.  There were other flights which were with different airlines, which don’t count towards this.  It is a lot for economy.  Even within the sphere of frequent flyers, doing this sort of mileage in economy commands a little respect.

The 98,000 is relevant because for Lufthansa the tiers of status within their scheme are 35,000 miles and 100,000 miles.  The next tier would have meant increased chances at upgrades and better availability to spend all of these miles.  I wrote to Lufthansa to see if they would make a exception and grant me the status.  They turned me down.  Them’s the rules.  It seemed a little harsh to me, given that I had the flights booked to make up those miles within the first two weeks of January.  For this reason, I started to look around, and decided to concentrate of BA instead.

Right now, I am sat in 19G on a Boeing 747-400 on my way from LAX to LHR before flying on to MAN and home.  I started my journey at MRY – Monterey.

Shuttle service to LAX

MRY - this is it. Tiny. Here to serve golfers visiting 17 Mile Drive, as far as I could tell.

19G is Club World, with a fully reclining seat, which turns into a bed.  I have just slept for six hours.  Why am I in Club World (the business class product)?  Well, BA have four levels of service.  World Traveler (Economy), World Traveler Plus (Premium Economy), Club World (Business) and First.  The budget that my client gives me is enough for economy, so dipping into my own funds, I can fly in Premium Economy.  This is a good product on BA.  The seats are larger than economy, they have more recline, and there are fewer seats across the cabin.  I flew to Hong Kong recently in this cabin on one of BA’s newest aircraft, and was extremely impressed.  I arrived rested and relaxed – not really something that I get flying economy on such a long flight.  For me, this is worth the difference in price, but I am flying a fair amount so the whole airport experience becomes rather tiresome.  I am also quite tall.  However, I don’t think that for once a year flyers, off on holiday that anything other than economy is necessary (unless it is your honeymoon, or you have money to burn).

What is wonderful about this cabin though, is if there is availability you can use miles to upgrade to business class.  This is how I am now sat in Club World.  I managed it on the way out as well as on the return – which required a certain amount of effort.  The images are from the seat on the upper deck on the way out.  A daytime flight, I barely slept, so enjoyed the champagne hospitality perhaps a little too much!

The Seat

Image

With British Airways, I didn’t have any status, so was back at the bottom of the pile.  I am, however, now already at tier one (bronze) with tier two (silver) within grasp.  With that comes business class lounge access, even on economy tickets and premium economy tickets.  As it is likely that not all of my long haul flights will be upgraded, this makes the experience far more pleasant.  For example, today I came directly from a hot and dusty bike festival after a day in the sunshine, to Monterey airport, then flew to LA with a short 1.5 hour connection.  The TSA (security in the USA) were living up to their reputation as being extremely slow, so that when I got to the lounge, they were already calling the flight for boarding.  Thankfully, the British Airways representative there arranged for me to be brought to the head of the queue to have a shower (there are 8 private bathrooms for the lounge) so that I could be fresh for the flight.  In and out within 10 minutes.  It is for this kind of service that lounge access and status (or even a business class boarding pass) come into their own.

For the short haul, flying from Manchester to Germany mostly, there is a choice of Lufthansa into Frankfurt, or their low cost carrier GermanWings, into Cologne.  It is the latter option that I am taking – sure, there is no lounge access, but the money saved can be used to pay towards the long haul tickets, where any discomfort lasts so much longer.  The experience isn’t quite as pleasant as Lufthansa – and Cologne Airport’s facilities are less good, but it makes sense.

So far, I am really glad of the switch and have had a very positive experience with BA.

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Sunblock

As I look above my head, I can’t see a single cloud.  There are birds tweeting and chirping.  I don’t know if they are pets, or if they are wild.  They could be either.  The beautiful sky is a rich blue colour.  The sun is beating down on me, as I sit, with my computer in the back yard of a colleague’s house.

The day started with an alarm call at 7am.  I got up, packed my stuff and met with a couple of the other guys outside our hotel.  We hopped into the rental cars and drove up the famous ‘Route 1’, the coast road, from Monterey to San Francisco, passing through Santa Cruz along the way.  It was a bit of a pointless mission, of that we were all positive, however we still had to give it a go.  We checked with the United Airline’s website to see if our flights to London had been cancelled, but there was nothing to tell us if they had or not.

The drive itself is lovely.  Just so beautiful.  I have practically driven all of the coast road now between LA and San Fran, and if you have the opportunity and the time, this is the best way to move between these two cities.  It is a road, so photos don’t really do it justice, but I will post this one just to give you the idea.

Arriving at the airport, things didn’t look good as I spotted a British Airways 747 literally parked up away from the terminal.  Near it were a Lufthansa 747 and a 340-600.  All parked up and sleeping.  From the monorail (this word always has me thinking of the Simpsons!) there were Air France and a Virgin jumbos in view.  They were parked practically nose to nose – also obviously not going anywhere.

The departure board then confirmed what we already knew.  The flight was cancelled.  Let the queuing begin!  At this point I split from my colleagues.  They are heading to Germany, and I am heading to the UK, so asking what my options were, the agent told me that I would be standby for all London bound flights as of the next day, and that they would need to re-book me onto the next available departure to London.  At this time, unfortunately, this was on the 29th!

The previous day I had hatched a back-up plan.  Return to LA and stay with a colleague there, until it literally blows over.   My thinking was that I would be able to book a flight from SanFran to LA paying full fare, and therefore making it fully refundable.  This would then allow me to fly to his house and hopefully get re-scheduled to London from LA without any penalty.  I explained this to the agent, and asked the availability LAX to LHR.  The first open seat was then on the 27th.  That is progress, of sorts, so I asked her to reserve it, reticket and change the frequent flyer number (I am collecting on a different programme) to reflect my ‘one up from the great unwashed’ status, and give me a slight priority on the wait list.  With the charm turned up to ten, I then went about enquiring rather casually, how I would get to LA.  It worked a treat, and the agent gave me a free transfer, allowing me to cancel and claim the refund on the previous day’s ticket purchase.  What was even better was that at the gate, the gate agent spotted the ‘one up from the great unwashed’ card, and upgraded me to a better seat in the ‘economy plus cabin’ rather than right in the back.  The difference is mostly in the head of those having their ego’s stroked, but there is little wrong with that!

So here I am.  Back in LA and sitting in the sun.  The volcano is still erupting, and I am to check the flight status everyday to see if I get a standby seat on a different flight.  In the meantime, I will work from here.  In my job there is very little that changes because of my location.  As long as I have my pooter and email I can work.

Pass the sunblock.

Korea Impressions

So that’s that. My Asian tour is over. I fly tomorrow at 10.30 from Osaka back to Europe. Did I enjoy myself? Well yes, but I am ready to go back to Europe. Business wise, I think it has been a real success. I have found out where all of the World’s titanium production is heading (Korea) and I have had some wonderful food. I feel that I am stagnating though, allow me to explain.

Business travel means for one thing lots of meetings, it also means entertainment in the evenings. Good food, good wine, nice breakfasts, spending the days and evenings with the same people. There is then the catching up with emails when you get back to the hotel and finding the time (literally finding a mutually convenient time) to speak to The Pretty One, who is in London. I feel like I haven’t done anything different forever. Exercise is something alien to me (the swimming and the run being the exceptions).

I have some things that I would like to add about Seoul. The country itself seems quite isolated. Physically they are, but it reminded me of a former Eastern bloc country in some respects. I say this because all of the buildings were high rise (although they were all very new and clean) but more because of the vehicles. Everyone drove a Korean car. European or American, or even Japanese were rare vehicles. This is like being in a former communist country. I am not saying that it was like one of these though. Clearly the economy is a lot better, capitalism is clearly booming.

Japan and Korea were interesting countries. I am glad that I have been to them, but honestly I felt kind of cold having left them. They didn’t have the energy that other parts of Asia have that I have experienced, and although Japan is somewhere where I am sure that The Pretty One and I will visit (we like to do food holidays anyway!) In this respect Japan has a place in my heart, and I will return, but I definitely need to leave the cities. There is a fakeness in the built up areas, which is almost Vegas like. Plants, light, islands! All fake. I need to discover the real Japan.

Pictures are all from Seoul. The views from the hotel, and the worlds best stocked bike shop.

Like Disney, only smaller.

Like Disney, only smaller.

Away from work

Yesterday I took a day away from work (well, I had breakfast with the head of our US Ops, and talked about how the brand is progressing).  There is so much to do at the moment, and when traveling weekends and weekdays become so confused.  I wanted to take advantage of knowing someone non-cycle related in Taipei to give me an insight into what the city and life is really like.  She suggested that we went to the Yangmingshan national park mainly as it is the closest to the city.  I had expected to go for a good walk, but really it was more of a light stroll, owing to the high humidity at the 26 degree temperatures.  I experienced some local cuisine, with fried battered mushrooms (served with grated wasabi) from a street side seller.  This is a really none tourist area, and I think I was an attraction myself, being obviously different (I am pretty tall).  The waterfalls and the surroundings were really beautiful, and I will return.

Following this, I returned to Xiaolin’s district to meet with her sister and niece.  Neither of them spoke English, but the 8 year old niece gave it a go, and I am completely smitten.  She was so adorable.

Xiaolin and I then went to the night market (Shinlin) to eat the local delicacies before I returned for my final night in the United Hotel, Taipei, for this trip.

Right now, I am in Kansai International Airport having flown to Japan from Taiwan this morning.  I am currently waiting hours before continuing my trip on to South Korea this evening.  It is very windy and the island that the airport is, is being heavily battered on all sides by the ocean.  Flights aren’t suffering delays, but arrival was extremely bumpy.

Travelling FRA LHR

So the airport is pretty full…. my bags are on the way to the plane as I write this, from the lounge.  Came as a bit of a shock to have to queue to check in today too… I am not used to that.  The other BC and FTLs didn’t seem to be either!

Going home for Christmas!  Horrah… so looking forward to seeing The Pretty One in a couple of ours.  Unfortunately I will be bikeless for two weeks.  Running shoes are packed, so I need to expore the area aound the new flat to see if there is anywhere worth jogging…..  perhaps a gym membership is also in order.

Really tired today as a result of the banquet last night.  I am not going to write much about that, expect to post these pictures!

Meat, and... meat.

Meat, and... meat.