Lounges tagged posts

Polaris-ish? Underwhelmed on United Polaris Business Sao Paulo to Washington (GRU-IAD)

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United Airlines Flt. 860 Sao Paulo-Guarulhos to Washington-Dulles

This is the concluding post of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.  (Low-quality pictures in this post due to equipment issues, apologies.)

In June 2016, United made a huge deal out of announcing its “new” business class, rebranding it as “Polaris” effective December 1.  Their PR company did an amazing job, and blogs and news articles made it seem like United was going to finally bring its business class product into the 2000s – since it was the only of the American carriers that didn’t have direct aisle access on most long-hauls, and had a 2-4-2 configuration on many of its business class flights...

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Stelllaaaaaaa – Or getting stuck in Sao Paulo and the Sao Paulo Airport Marriott

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This is part 19 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

It may seem like this trip report series is taking forever, but (a) it was a long trip and (b) other things have been going on which I will blog about shortly.  This should have been my last post from my trip, but the travel gods intervened.

DC had very little snow this winter – indeed one day of accumulation total prior to my March trip.  Of course, that meant a storm was then predicted for the day I returned home. Winter Storm Stella was predicted to bring 2 to 6 inches in DC – but in Dulles, far west of the city, they were predicting 6 to 12 inches.  So, even taking off from Johannesburg, I was prepared for the possibility of a travel disruption.

Still on the SAA plane, I p...

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Trip Report: South African Airways New A333 Business Class Johannesburg to Sao Paulo, Sans Camera

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This is part 18 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

South African Airways Flt. 222 Johannesburg to Sao Paulo – Guarulhos
Sched. Dep. 11:15am              Sched. Arr. 4:00pm
Actual Dep. 11:07am                Actual Arr. 3:30pm
A330-300, Business Class

My trip back home was an unusual, but not that illogical, route using Aeroplan miles, flying South African Airways from Johannesburg to Sao Paolo, then United from Sao Paolo to Dulles.  It’s about the same length as a routing via Europe, and was available on the day I wanted to travel in business class.

You may no notice that I have pretty much no pictures of my trip from Johannesburg to Sao Paolo, for reasons that will be explained later...

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Air Namibia Cape Town to Windhoek:  Shenanigans, or the 2 Hour Flight That Became an All-Day Journey

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This is part 10 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Air Namibia Flt. 704  Cape Town to Windhoek (via Walvis Bay)

Sched. Dep. 11:30am    Actual Dep. 1:09pm
Sched. Arr.  1:20pm   Actual Arr. 4:30pm
A319, Coach

In the aftermath of Unitedgate, where everyone became an expert on the ins and outs of the airline industry, consumer protection law, the history of regulation in America, and police brutality, and became attuned to bumping of one guy as the great moral crisis of our time, someone told me I didn’t have any knowledge about the airline industry, as my blog is just about business class flights.  Now none of my last five blog posts had anything to do with flights at all, but this one will be – but don’t worry – it was in coach.  The only other thing I’ll say about what’s going on with United?  It reminds me of a famous saying: “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.”  Now onto Air Namibia….

I had two nonstop options to get from Cape Town to Windhoek: Air Namibia and SA Airlink. They both fly two flights a day.  Air Namibia has an 11:30am flight, and an evening flight; SA Airlink has a 6:30am flight and a 2:55pm flight.  Neither airline is known as phenomenal, but they’re not fly-by-night operations. (Air Namibia’s IATA code is SW, going back to the country’s days as South West Africa).  Air Namibia is a pretty small airline, fully owned by the Namibian government, with a fleet of only 10 planes – 4 A319s, 4 ERJ-135s, and 2 A330-200s.  The A332s are used for its one long-haul flight, to Frankfurt, whereas the A319s and Embraers fly out of Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International (WDH), Windhoek’s smaller domestic Eros Airport, and Walvis Bay.

I decided to go with the Air Namibia midday flight as it would allow me a few hours in the late afternoon to explore Windhoek, and paid a bit more than the 2:55pm Airlink flight. Alas, that was for naught.

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Trip Report: Air France Paris to Cape Town (CDG-CPT) Business Class

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This is part 4 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Air France Flt. 864 Paris- Charles de Gaulle to Cape Town
Sched. Dep. 10:10AM    Actual Dep. 10:45AM
Sched. Arr.  10:30PM      Actual Arr. 11:18PM
Boeing 777-200, Business Class

My flight from Dulles landed at the M concourse of Air France’s Terminal 2E compound.  It was a bit of a schlep to the K concourse, which is also the part of 2E where terminating passengers have to go for baggage/immigration/exit.  There was a walk from where the plane emptied out to the Navette (shuttle) train, but it is pretty well-marked, and clean and orderly.  It was then short two-stop ride on the Navette to the K concourse, where the Sky Priority security lane moved slowly, but not terribly.  Two people pushed themselves in front of me, which seemed to be common theme with lines at CDG.  There was no recombobulation area just through security which caused a bit of a bottleneck.  The Air France Salon was just past security, downstairs.

Air France Salon CDG 2E-K

Check-in was friendly.  There were sections of the lounge on either side of the desk, but I asked where the showers were, and was directed to one side that I stayed on. I went right for the shower, knowing there might be a wait, and sure enough there was.  But with seven showers, the line moved fairly quickly, despite there only being one cleaner.  The shower room was nice, modern, and clean, with a package of a fresh bath towel, hand towel, and bath mat.  There was also a small amenity kit with shaving and dental accoutrements, a comb, a deodorant wipe, and a L’Occitane body wash.  There was also liquid soap in a dispenser in the shower.  The only things I’d wished they had were tissues and some sort of moisturizing/hand/body lotion.  The shower felt good.

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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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New Zealand Conclusion:  LAX Admirals Club and LAX-DCA in American Main Cabin Extra

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This is the conclusion of my 16-part series about my November 2016 trip to New Zealand, booked off a $215 mistake fare.

I’ve actually never connected at LAX before.  Particularly if you have luggage, I don’t recommend an international connection there.  Landing at the Tom Bradley International Terminal itself wasn’t that bad, and there was no line to clear immigration at Global Entry.  A lot of people were trying to go through Global Entry when they didn’t have Global Entry, causing a bit of a backup at the desk where you leave the kiosk area.  (As with MIA, it slightly defeats the purpose of Global Entry to require interacting with a human on the way out of immigration itself.)

Bags had already started coming onto the belt when I got through, and mine came pretty quickly, eve...

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The Long Journey Home, Part 2: Sydney to Los Angeles (SYD-LAX), Qantas Economy A380

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This is part 15 in a series about my November 2016 trip to New Zealand, booked off a $215 mistake fare.

Sydney International Departures

I had a momentary panic upon landing at SYD, as the monitors showed the flight to LAX as canceled.  I soon realized, though, that it was the American flight that was canceled, not the Qantas one.  It was a long walk from where my AKL flight landed to the Qantas Business Lounge.  While the lounge is quite large, it was quite full.  (Still, I didn’t bother with any of the Priority Pass or AmEx options.).  The lounge staff actually made announcements asking people not to take seats up with luggage.   I had hoped to start to adjust my body to US time, where it was around 6pm, but unfortunately I had traveled back in time, so it was still a breakfast spread at the lounge.  The spread was basically a larger version of what I’d had on the plane and in the Qantas Club in Auckland, scrambled eggs, beans, tomatoes, sausage, hash browns – plus a bit wider variety of pastries.  There was a full self-serve liquor and soft drink display, a juice bar, and a coffee bar- which was the most notable difference from AKL.

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The Long Journey Home, Part 1:  Qantas Auckland to Sydney (AKL-SYD), Trans-Tasman Economy

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This is part 14 in a series about my November 2016 trip to New Zealand, booked off a $215 mistake fare.

Unfortunately, my great deal on my ticket to New Zealand required transiting through Sydney on the return, which added a significant amount of time to the journey – about five hours between the layover and three hour flight from Auckland to Sydney.  I decided against spending a day in L.A. on the return figuring I would just want to get home (not expecting that DC would be an entirely depressing place to be).  So that meant that if all went according to plan, I would have a travel time of 27 hours straight from my AKL departure to my arrival at DCA.

My flight out of Auckland was at 7:35am.  I had originally planned to take an Uber at 5:30, but I ended up leaving at 5, because when I tried to check in the day before I had gotten an error suggesting my US passport was not enough for me to enter back into the country.  Had the borders already tightened???  Was I blacklisted by America?   Upon arriving at AKL, there was a bit of a line at the Qantas counter, but the separate priority check-in wasn’t bad.  There was no problem checking me in, and the friendly agent explained where the Qantas lounge was, and gave me a sticker for Express Lane immigration and security as a Oneworld Emerald passenger.

There was a food court and shopping before immigration at the AKL International Terminal, but I decided to just go through. I didn’t actually use the express lane, because there was no line at the E-gates that U.S. passport holders can use.  That line led right into security, which had no real wait.  I then spent the last of my NZD on a gift, and headed to the Qantas Club.

Qantas Club AKL

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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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