Delta tagged posts

Turkish Airlines Washington-Dulles Lounge and Air France Business Class Washington-Dulles to Paris  (IAD-CDG)

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This is part 3 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Air France Flt. 55  Washington-Dulles to Paris
B777-300ER, Business Class
Sched. Dep. 6:35PM   Actual Dep. 6:29PM
Sched. Arr.  8:00AM +1    Actual Arr.  7:38AM +1

It’s been awhile since I’ve flown out of Dulles.  But this experience reminded that Dulles isn’t a terrible airport to fly out of… once you get there.  I decided to take the 5A Metrobus over the rail; though they take about the same length of time, the bus takes you straight to the terminal in one shot, as opposed to a long metro ride transferring to a bus.  (The Metrobus option is also significantly cheaper.)  I left my office at 3pm, and Uber-ed to the bus stop at L’Enfant Plaza.  Despite traffic, the ride took only a little over an hour, and everyone on the bus had a seat.

As a reminder, I was flying Air France from DC to Cape Town via Paris, in business class, on a Delta Skymiles redemption.  When I got to the Air France/KLM/Korean Air counter at around 4:35, there was no line on either the Sky Priority or regular line.  The agent wasn’t particularly friendly, but was fine as she took my bag and printed my boarding passes.  Air France doesn’t participate in Precheck, but there was basically no line at regular security, on either the “premium” or regular lane.  I was through quickly and on the train to the A concourse.

Air France/KLM/Korean Air check-in at Dulles

I had forgotten that I actually wanted to go to the B concourse, though my flight was leaving out of A.  The two are just different sides of one of the midfield terminals (one straight line with gates on each sides), which is Dulles’s nicest terminal, and home to pretty much all airlines but United and a few other randos (Frontier, Air Canada, and even some United Express flights).  The terminal is modern, with lots of food options, and with increasingly fancy shopping over the years.

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South Africa & Namibia Preview #1: Booking Award Travel to South Africa

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In a few weeks I’ll be traveling to South Africa and Namibia, which will be my first trip to the mainland of Africa.  (Back in 2014, I went to the Seychelles with layovers in Ethiopia.)  At this point, South Africa, China, India, and Japan are pretty much the only major global destinations I haven’t been, and South Africa seemed like the best to travel to alone – particularly in light of the favorable exchange rate.

I booked this trip back in August.  I had miles I could use on any number of programs, but getting to South Africa on miles basically comes down to the following options:

(1) Nonstop to Africa:   Two carriers fly to South Africa from the US – Delta from Atlanta and South African from JFK and Washington-Dulles.  The South African flight to and from Dulles, though, stops in either Dakar, Senegal or Accra, Ghana both ways.  Ethiopian also flies from Dulles (via Dublin on the return), Newark (via Lome), LAX (via Dublin), and Toronto (via Dublin on the return), but Addis Ababa isn’t really on the way, as you can see from the map below. (Delta also flies to Lagos, Accra, and Dakar, but it doesn’t have a partner to carry you onward to South Africa.)   Of these options,  the Delta flights had no business availability (they rarely do at reasonable rates), and the Ethiopian travel times were long.  South African had availability on the day before I wanted to return to JFK – but since United left JFK, getting back to DC is would be annoying – and then on the day after I wanted to return to Dulles via Dakar.  From reading reports online, it seems the Dulles flight is pretty unpleasant.  Its operated using SAA’s A340 with older-style lie flat seats in business class, and the one hour stop in Dakar is halfway through the flight in the middle of the night.  No thanks.

Mileage Options for flying directly from the US to Southern Africa

(2) Connecting in Europe:  Most award programs allow r...

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2016 Index and Year in Review

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I won’t belabor the point, but 2016 was pretty terrible.  My travels were pretty good,though.  I still owe you all a few posts from my November New Zealand adventure, but as we say goodbye to the dumpster-fire of 2016, here’s a look back at my year in travel.  For previous years’ retrospectives, check out 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

2016, yeah!

I’ve kept the blog as a travelogue, continuing to blog less and less about things other than my personal travel given how crowded the space is for “hacking” and “free” points.  Going into 2017, I’ve requalified for American elite status (Platinum), and let my hotel status’ drop down to be those I have via credit card (Hyatt Platinum/Discoverist, Marriott/SPG Gold, Hilton Gold, IHG Platinum) and Intercontinental Ambassador.

So, what were my tra...

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2015 Index and YWW Year in Review

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It’s a bit late, but here is my 2015 travel year in review post.  It was a huge travel year for me, as I hit 5 continents and did more long-haul flying than I’d ever done before. It was a lot of mileage redemptions, and low on the mileage earning front.  I re-qualified for American Airlines Gold status. I thought about going for Platinum but it was a busy enough fall and winter that the marginal utility was not enough to outweigh the financial and other costs.

As for the blog, I have kept it as a personal travel diary rather than changing to something else, but hopefully folks find it enjoyable, useful, or both.   My philosophy is the same today as it was in my 2013 year in review post: “I will never stop loving travel, but business class and nice hotels isn’t the point of life.”

So, what were my travel patterns and accomplishments of 2015? I’ve put indices of the places, planes, and hotels I’ve reviewed at the bottom of this post, and have some statistics as well. It was a heavy year of international travel, with only one domestic purely leisure trip.
6
Total continents visited: 5
New continents: 1 (Australia)
Total countries (excluding U.S.): 10
New countries: 5 (Australia, United Arab Emirates, Korea, Taiwan, Brazil)
New states: 1 (Missouri)

New airlines: 7 (Qantas, Etihad, Asiana, TAM, Virgin Australia, Germanwings)

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Escape to the Land Down Under, Part 1: Intro, Using AA miles to Australia, and Positioning– DCA SkyClub and DCA to New York on Delta

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Last weekend, I got back from a fantastic two week trip to Australia, booked mainly on AA miles. Due to some reasons you’ll read, blogging got a bit delayed. But here’s the first in what I imagine will be a series of 6-8 posts, giving a brief overview of the trip and my positioning flight.

In October, I decided I wanted to go to Australia. I didn’t have any particular reason other than I’ve never been before, and I have (well, now, had) a lot of miles. I started looking at award tickets for the winter, and then remembered that it was Sydney Gay Mardi Gras in late February and early March – when there was availability. Gangbusters!

As a preview, the intended plan was as follows:
Delta DCA to JFK (Coach, revenue ticket)
Qantas JFK to LAX to SYD (Business, AA miles)
4 nights Sydney: Radisson Blu Plaza Sydney, Intercontinental Sydney
Virgin Australia SYD to CNS (Cairns) (Coach, revenue ticket)
2 nights Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef: Hilton Cairns
Qantas CNS to MEL (Melbourne) (Business, AA miles)
3 nights Melbourne: The Grand Hotel, Park Hyatt Melbourne, Grand Hyatt Melbourne
Qantas MEL to SYD, Hawaiian SYD to HNL (Business, AA miles)
Honolulu Layover – Pacific Marina Inn
Hawaiian HNL to LAS, US Airways LAS to DCA (Business, AA miles)

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Trip Report: Heading home on Aeroflot’s New Business Class, TLL-SVO-JFK: a Decent Airline and a Terrible Government

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Finally, the last post from our June trip.  Whoops.

Our trip home had us flying from Tallinn to Moscow, and Moscow to JFK on Aeroflot. As a Skymiles business class redemption, it was pretty much the only option out of Tallinn.  Though Estonian Air codeshares with both KLM and Air France on flights to Paris and Amsterdam, there doesn’t seem to be any award availability on those flights for Delta burners.  The biggest plus was that Aeroflot has a brand new business class on their Moscow to JFK flights, which is, as described below, a very solid product.  The downside is that the taxes and surcharges on the award are huge; the fees on the Aeroflot legs of our trip made up the lion’s share of the $300 per ticket we paid on top of 100,000 miles.

I have written before that I have reservations about visiting destinations that are major human rights violators, and that, to me, applies to Russia based on its terrible treatment of LGBT people and of dissenters and critics of the Government.  I thought this before the recent passage of the anti-“propaganda” bill which effectively bars LGBT people from being open about their sexuality.  That bill has led to an idiotic “campaign” to “dump Stoli” vodka, because if gay Americans don’t drink Stolichnaya vodka, the Russian power structure will see the error of its ways.  (There have been other Olympic-related movements as well, irrelevant to my point here.)   I’m not boycotting all Russian vodkas myself (putting aside the lack of clarity as to whether Stoli is actually Russian), just like I don’t boycott all products made in states that have atrocious policies on race, sexual orientation, and criminal justice (e.g., North Carolina).  Moreover, the Russian government may actually dig in its heels more if it feels Western pressure. Which brings me to Aeroflot.

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Trip Report: Our European Journey Begins: Agent Roulette, JFK T4, and JFK-AMS-VIE on Delta and KLM Business

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Our European Journey Begins: Agent Roulette, JFK T4, and JFK-AMS-VIE on Delta and KLM

Delta Flt. 70, New York-JFK to Amsterdam, B767, BusinessElite
Dep. 8:12pm, Arr. 10:15am
KLM Flt. 1845, Amsterdam to Vienna, B737, Europe Business
Dep. 11:40am, Arr. 1:30pm

As mentioned in my preview post, we were scheduled to fly from Newark to Paris on Delta in business class, and then connecting onto an Austrian Airlines flight to Vienna as part of a Skymiles redemption. But a few days before we departed, when I was booking another trip, I saw a “France Travel Advisory” on Delta.com. Upon further investigation, it appeared that the French Air Traffic Controllers were going on strike, for a three day period including our trip, and accordingly, approximately half of the flights in and out of Charles DeGaulle Airport would likely be canceled. Fun.

Delta was offering an opportunity to make changes to travel involving France, with the ability to re-route or reschedule, though. I didn’t want us to get stuck in France, so I pulled up other options on Skyteam carriers that would get us to Vienna. Many left too early for us to do due to work commitments, but there was a late Delta flight out of JFK to Amsterdam, connecting on to Vienna on KLM. Although there were plenty of business class seats available, I didn’t even bother to look at award availability, as I assumed there was none. But I figured I’d call Delta and see what happened.

The agent I got was by far the rudest Delta agent I’ve ever spoken to, out of a fairly large sample size. When I told her what the issue was – including wanting to look at flight alternatives, I was met with silence – the kind of silence that is so long and silent you think you must have been disconnected. So after about 30 seconds, I said, “Hello?” The response, a snippy: “I’m reading, there are a lot of flights here.”

She then told me that she wasn’t seeing anything about any strike activity and my flight was canceled. I told her that I was looking at Delta.com which had all the information, and showed fairly standard language for travel exception policies. She then read it aloud to me and told me it only applied where your flight was canceled (really? Delta would have a special policy to allow a flight change where your flight is canceled?), and otherwise all it was was waiving the change fee, and I’d have to pay any fare difference. (Had she noted in all her “reading” that it was an award ticket?). I said, “Well, I understand the flight hasn’t been canceled yet, but the entire point of the exception policy seems to be proactively re-booking.” Her response: “Well, that’s not an answer. I don’t understand what you want.” My response was a calm but blunt: “It seems you’re not really interested in helping me today. So I’m going to go now. Thanks” And I hung up.

I re-read the travel advisory, and concluded (after asking folks on Flyertalk to confirm my reading), that my initial reading was correct and Delta was allowing fee-free, fare-difference free changes (though it didn’t explicitly apply to award tickets). So a few hours later, I called and received a more typical, super-friendly and helpful agent. I told her the issue, said there was an alternative from JFK through Amsterdam, and she placed me on a brief hold, coming back to apologize that it was taking so long but confirming the flights and that she and another agent were processing it. All told, it took about 25 minutes, but she was courteous, friendly, and helpful, so I have no complaints. And we were re-booked without having to be worried about the Paris situation.

Our new flights were, on the whole, fairly comparable to our original flights. Our initial flights were out of Newark, but we ended up with more convenient JFK flights, leaving an hour and a half later, and arriving in Vienna an hour later. There’s no meaningful distinction between Delta’s EWR-CDG and JFK-AMS flights in terms of product on-board, and AMS is a bit easier to connect through in my experience. The one disappointment was it meant giving up a flight on Austrian Airlines, which I’ve heard has a good business soft product even on short hauls, in exchange for a KLM short-haul flight – one of three scheduled on the trip. But a small price to pay to avoid agita.

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Alaska Trip Report Conclusion: Of Early Morning Fire Drills: The Sheraton Anchorage Review and Delta ANC-SLC-JFK

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Alaska Trip Report Conclusion:  Of Early Morning Fire Drills:  The Sheraton Anchorage and Delta ANC-SLC-JFK

I arrived in downtown Anchorage at around 5pm, and headed right to my hotel.  Hotels in downtown Anchorage weren’t particularly expensive, and there was a Marriott, a Hilton, and a Sheraton all downtown.  I went with the Sheraton based on price and my positive experiences as an SPG Gold member.  I hadn’t realized, though, that the hotel is the farthest from the actual downtown.  In colder weather, it would have been a rough walk, but it was fine for me in May.

Sheraton Anchorage

Sheraton Anchorage

The hotel kind of stands out as the only tall building in its area, but I was a little confused as to what to do when I pulled up.  There is a small driveway, with no signs or clerks, so I just left my car and went in to check in.  I was asked if a “mountain view” room was okay, and said yes, though I didn’t realize that there were two views  – “mountain”, which was really a view of an industrial area, and a view of downtown and the water.  Parking wasn’t explained to me, but there was both a small indoor garage and two larger outdoor lots.  I didn’t receive any welcome amenity or an upgrade, and my corner room actually appeared smaller than a standard room based on the schematic of the hotel, though on a “SPG Guest” floor – whatever that means.  Upon arrival, I noticed a dirty room service tray that would stay there until I checked out.

Lobby, Sheraton Anchorage

Lobby, Sheraton Anchorage

The r...

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Alaska Adventure Trip Report Part 1: Intro and JFK-SLC-ANC on Delta

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Alaska Adventure Trip Report Part 1:  Intro and JFK-SLC-ANC on Delta

Delta Flt. 1773  JFK to SLC, Boeing 737, Domestic First, 5h 31m
Delta Flt. 2312 SLC to ANC, Boeing 757, Domestic First, 4h 48m

For a while, there have been periodic sales on a variety of airlines for flights from the East Coast to Alaska.  I had a few vacation days to play around with, and thought this would be a good opportunity to explore a new state and earn a healthy amount of Delta MQMs, so I booked a trip for early May for about $300.  The one thing I didn’t realize when I booked, though, was that I was traveling literally days before the “season” begins for Alaska tourism, so a lot of tours and parks would not be open.  Whoops.  Nonetheless, I had an enjoyable few days.  Alaska was a fascinating place, unlike any other place I’ve ever been, and the scenery was gorgeous.

It’s a long flight to Alaska, no matter how you slice it.  On Delta, your options are via Minneapolis or Salt Lake City, or via Portland or Seattle connecting on Alaska Airlines.  (Delta has seasonal service starting in the next few weeks from Atlanta and Los Angeles; and year-round service starting from Seattle.)  I went with Salt Lake, as it not only breaks up the trip into two equal segments, which I like for a daytime flight, but also gets the most miles.  (To my surprise, the flight from JFK to SLC is longer than the flight from SLC to ANC.)

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The Anatomy of a Summer Vacation: Austria and Finland, Skymiles Burning, and a Lot of Radissons

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As I mentioned yesterday, I am getting ready for my big summer vacation to Europe in a week and a half.   I figured I’d give a bit of a preview, explaining how I came up with the routing/itinerary, and asking for any tips readers may have.

There are two main legs of the journey, Austria and Finland, which may seem like an odd couple.  The genesis is a bit romantic, though.  In January, I decided it was time to plan my summer Skymiles redemption – something I’ve done each of the previous two summers with a fair amount of luck, getting business class seats at the low redemption rates, on or around dates I wanted, maximizing stopovers and open jaw rules.  This time, though, my boyfriend was coming along with me.  In discussing where we might want to go in Europe, his major consideration was that it be a place neither of us had been, so we could truly explore it together.   Finding actual destinations that meet those criteria was pretty hard, though, as I’ve traveled a fair bit myself, and he lived in France for several years, so had done many a long weekend trips throughout Western Europe.  We realized two countries stood out as untouched:  Austria and Finland.

Booking about 5 months in advance, I was able to get us 2 business class seats on a pretty decent itinerary.  On the outbound, we’ll be flying on Delta in business class from Newark to Paris, connecting to an Austrian Airlines-operated, Air France codeshare flight to Vienna.  A tip on this – I find Newark to often be a forgotten Skyteam originating point for Skymiles redemptions, thus leading to better availability than JFK.  In fact, of my three summer redemptions, all have departed from Newark.   If you’re not NYC-based, of course, this is less useful due to fewer domestic connections into Newark, but its worth a shot. Currently, Delta has flights to Amsterdam and Paris,  Alas, Alitalia has stopped its EWR-FCO service.  But it will be interesting to see what happens with London given Virgin Atlantic’s LHR flights and the new relationship between Delta and Virgin.

Some folks have told me that I should not have b...

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