Tag Archives: Flight

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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Gerard Butler

A travelling day today.  Up early and out of the door by 7.15am (I work from home, this is an early start!).  Off to Heathrow terminal 1.  Again I am reminded why I like T1 and Lufthansa’s setup there…. Within 5 minutes I was airside and off to the lounge for breakfast.  There I got to have a bacon sandwich while sat next to Hollywood a-list  (I had to ask the lounge employees who he was!).  He was quiet and well behaved, although his entourage were being a little LA and self important (which of course everyone is in the business class lounge, but he was being a bit DYKWIA.  Anyway, enough about Gerard Butler having breakfast sat next to me – I am now back in Germany for a week.  Home, Taxi, Plane, Train, Taxi, Office, Company Car, Hotel and to sleep.  Then up at 5.30am.

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.

Sea Otter and Volcanoes Continue

We went and picked up Team Rider Dave Weins yesterday from the airport.  Anyone who knows Dave will confirm that he is one of the nicest, gentlest and warmest people in the whole scene.  It is an honour to count him amongst my friends, and that his face genuinely lights up in friendship when he greets you.

He is leading a 100 mile ‘Grand Fondo’ today at the Otter.  It involved a 7am start for him.  I am sure that at the end of it, he will still be pretty fresh and joking around.

The show itself is pretty cool.  We were massively busy yesterday selling product and explaining it to people.  Fans of the brand were also out in force, willing to consume anything related to the brand at all.  They wanted plastic bags, jerseys, t-shirts, grips, whatever (we’re a grip company).  We didn’t have any t-shirts in the size they wanted, so I literally took the one off my back and sold it to them (it was fresh that morning, and brand new, so I didn’t feel that bad).  Funny though to to sell the shirt off my back.

The night before last we were at the premiere of ‘Ride the Divide’.  We sponsored this movie, and watching it at the IMAX was pretty good.  It sees riders taking on the great divide riding from Canada to Mexico, none stop.

On another note, I am facing up to the prospect of my flight being cancelled due to the volcano.  I am planning going to LA and staying in a hotel or at a colleagues house.  I presume that this is all a travel insurance thing, but need to check it out.  I think it may be defined as ‘an act of God’ – although given I don’t believe – I don’t know what that means for me!?

Helping out a fellow traveller

At the show over the past couple of days, I met and go to know the international sales managers for a couple of different brands.  One of whom I gave a lift to the airport today.  She is young – a lot younger than me.  Also a lot smarter.  At 22 she is in a similar position to me at 30.  Traveling from the States alone, it was her first time in England and on business, and only for a couple of days.  I know what this is like.  And I also have experienced the ‘just passing through’ feeling of visiting a place, and yet never having seen any of it, or nothing apart from ‘work’.  It is also difficult to know where to start, especially if you only have a few hours to spare.  The choice is crippling in my experience.  I had this feeling in Tokyo.  So, I took her to a few places.  A proper English pub for a quick beer, and then on to Eton and Windsor.  It was a whistle stop tour taking in Eton College, and Windsor Castle.  We did it in about two hours, and it was good fun.  I hope that it made her visit just a little more interesting.  It also made me think about how nice it actually is around here.  Sometimes it is easy to forget what you have on your doorstep.

Contrasts

I am extremely tired, and need to post about the last couple of days. I am now back in the UK, and yesterday I had a massive day. It started at 4am, and ended…. well it hasn’t ended yet. It involved a road race and a narrowly missed crash (will post about as soon as the images are made available), a 12 hour flight and now I am back in the UK sat at my desk. It is surreal at times that places are so near, and yet so far. The flight to Cape Town is only the aforementioned 12 hours, and that is nothing. It is so close, and at the same time, that is a massive distance.

In Cape Town yesterday it was 30 degrees in the afternoon. Landing at Heathrow, and returning to home brought reality to me.

On a side note, has anyone seen the film ‘Stay’? Can you explain it to me? Perhaps I was over tired, but was he in fact projecting everything onto other people? hmmm…..  Whatever, I didn’t really like it!