US Airways tagged posts

Barcelona Bound:  AA Business Class DCA-PHL-BCN

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This is part two in my trip report series from my July 2016 trip to Spain.  For an introduction, visit this post.

I was scheduled to fly from DCA to JFK on a Tuesday evening, then on Wednesday evening fly JFK to Madrid on American, followed by Madrid to Barcelona on Iberia.  Not an ideal route, but not terrible for an award.  I had set an alert on Expertflyer, though, for AA’s JFK-BCN, CLT-BCN and PHL-BCN flights, and sure enough, on Monday availability opened up on all three.  DCA-PHL-BCN all on Wednesday was a no-brainer to switch to; it wouldn’t be on AA’s newest business class product, but the pre-merger US Airways Envoy A332 seating is perfectly fine, as I had flown it last summer on PHL-ATH and MUC-PHL.

Arriving at DCA was frustrating.  I was checking a bag, so appropriately went on the First Class line.  Unfortunately, it was not moving at all after 7 minutes, as there was one agent and one customer who seemed to have a complicated problem.  The for-some-reason-separate Priority line was moving at a normal pace, though, with two agents, and only 3 customers in line, so I switched to that queue.  Although she hadn’t approached anyone else, an agent came over to me and said “Can I see your record locator?”  How friendly.  I had checked in on my phone so pulled up my boarding pass, and she said “Come with me,” and then just pointed me to the self-service kiosk.

If I had wanted to use the self-service kiosk, of course, I would have.  But I didn’t.  And there’s no reason an agent should have forced me to do so (it wasn’t like it was a long line on the Priority queue).  Moreover, I was the only one she pulled out, and she was rude in doing so.  Had she said “If you’d like to save some time, you’re welcome to use the self-serve kiosk,” that would have been totally fine.  I asked “Why do I have to use the kiosk?”  “That’s the first step in the process.”  Incorrect.  It is the first step in a process, but not the only first step and one I was entitled not to use.

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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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The thirst is real: US Airways/AA Munich to Philadelphia in Envoy Class

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US Airways Flt. 717 Munich to Philadelphia
A330, Envoy (Business) Class
Sched. Dep. MUC 12:15PM   Actual Dep. 12:05PM
Sched. Arr. PHL 3:20PM Actual Arr. 2:45PM

US Airways A330 in New AA livery

I retraced my trip back to the airport via train, which runs every 20 minutes. Flying out of Terminal 1 at Munich, as opposed to Terminal 2 or Frankfurt, means there are very few facilities past security. Terminal 1 has 5 “modules,” kind of like wings, connected via a central shopping area, also where the train station is.   Check-in, security, and immigration are separate for each module.

Once I got to the airport, it took a whopping 45 minutes to get from the train through immigration and security, the vast majority of time which was spent on a super-long immigration line.   There were only two customs officials processing non-EU passport holders, which was inadequate for the literally hundreds of people on line.

Huge check-in line at the US/AA counter at MUC

Flying US Airways business class, I had access to the British Airways Galleries Lounge, which was not on-par with the BA Lounges in other cities. It was filthy, with dishes not cleared and stained upholstery. Bathrooms were in the hallway outside the lounge. At 11am, they had already switched over to a lunch buffet, which had sausages, mini pizzas, salad, sandwiches, and ice cream.   Due to the acoustical layout of the lounge, I couldn’t avoid listening to a group of very loud Americans talking in detail about their time in Salzburg. It was so obnoxious and loud that I didn’t stay very long, and headed to the gate.

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Off I Go: US Airways Envoy Class Washington to Philadelphia to Athens

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US Airways is one of only two carriers with nonstop service to Greece from the U.S. (along with Delta from JFK), with a seasonal 5x/week service from Philadelphia. This means you can get into Greece in the morning rather than in the afternoon. Unfortunately, Oneworld service to the Greek Islands is terrible, with only Niki service out of Vienna and British Airways service out of both Gatwick and Heathrow. I tried to book an award that got me all the way to Mykonos, but there was no way without an overnight in Vienna or London, which would defeat any cost savings. So I booked a separate ticket from Athens to Mykonos on Olympic Airways, to be discussed later.

US Airways A330

US Airways A330

To get to Philly, I had a short hop from DCA up to Philly on US Airways Express. It’s a super-short flight that I’ve done a few times before. After I booked, there was an equipment change to a plane without First Class, which for some reason led AA to rebook me on an earlier flight . . . which also didn’t have First Class. So I had to call to be put back on my original flight, as the 2 hour connection in provided in Philly was probably long enough, and would allow me to work in the morning.

As usual, the tri...

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Finally: LAS-DCA on US Airways First, and the AmEx Centurion Lounge at LAS

Category: AirlinesTrip Reports Comments: 2 comments

We’ve finally reached the last post about my 2 week trip to Australia, only 3.5 months after I returned. I’ve had a busy few months in between, with lots of domestic travel for family, work, and other commitments. But in 10 days I’ll be leaving the country again, heading to Mykonos in Greece, which is great timing. I’ll try and post a preview post shortly…

US Airways Flt. 478  Las Vegas to Washington-National
Dep. LAS 10:30am  Arr. DCA 5:50pm
Domestic First, A321

When I landed from Honolulu at Las Vegas, I was surprised to discover that most of the First Class cabin was actually connecting onto other flights. There aren’t that many destinations served out of Las Vegas by Hawaiian’s partners, and most are served directly from Honolulu on Hawaiian or its partners.

On the ground at LAS

On the ground at LAS

Though Vegas seemed like a weird connection point for me, there were two pluses compared to some other routings (beyond the fact there was award availability). First, LAS has an American Express Centurion Lounge – better than an Admirals Club or an Alaska Board Room where any other connection would put me. Second, LAS has nonstop flights to DCA, whereas other connecting points only had flights in Dulles  or BWI.

Centurion Lounge LAS

Centurion Lounge LAS

My Haw...

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Heathrow T3 Galleries First Lounge and LHR-PHL-DCA on US Airways

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US Airways Flt. 729 London-Heathrow to Philadelphia
Dep. 12:05pm  Arr. 3:35pm
A330, Economy
US Airways Flt. 854 Philadelphia to Washington-Reagan National
Dep. 5:30pm Arr. 6:24pm
A319, Economy

After about 16 hours, it was time to head back on the tube to Heathrow. My train changed destinations midroute, so it took a little longer than the trip into the city. It was a long walk from the departure gates at T3 from the underground. I had printed out a boarding pass at the hotel, and it was a good thing, because there was a long line for check in at the small US Airways counter, even at the elite/business class line.

A friend and fellow traveler who lives in L.A. Happened to be in London for the long weekend as well, and we had gone out in London the night before. He happens to be an American Executive Platinum, flying on the nonstop American Heathrow to LAX flight leaving five minutes before my US Airways flight to Philadelphia. That meant that he had access to the British Airways Galleries First Lounge, as opposed to my meager access to the adjoining Galleries Club, and was able to guest me in.

LHR T3 Galleries First Lounge Champagne

LHR T3 Galleries First Lounge Champagne

20150120_103327

LHR T3 Galleries First Lounge Seating

LHR T3 Galleries First Lounge Seating

I met him at the lounge and it was fairly empty. The Galleries First Lounge is pretty large, with several different rooms, including a dining room with sit-down eating only for First Class passengers at dinner time. At 10:30 in the morning, the food spread wasn’t that different than I imagine the regular Galleries Club, as it just had some hot breakfast basics, including black sausage and scrambled eggs, and pastries. You could also order some breakfast from a menu, but wait staff wasn’t particularly attentive and inviting. The Bellinger champagne was delicious though!20150120_103034 20150120_103036

Breakfast buffet at LHR T3 Galleries First Lounge

Breakfast ...

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British Airways Budapest to London, or How AA, BA, and US all blamed each other for screwing up my ticket

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British Airways Flt. 869 Budapest to London-Heathrow
Dep. LHR 1:50pm
Arr. BUD 5:15pm
A320, Coach

The first leg of my return journey started off as poorly as my outbound. As a recap, I was unable to successfully check in for my outbound flights online and had to call US Airways to “sync” my ticket. I had to talk to multiple agents to get my LHR-BUD ticket sorted out after my missed connection. So I wasn’t surprised there was a ticketing problem with my return flight — but it was the most inconvenient of all. I went to checkin online for my BUD-LHR flight the afternoon before my departure, and the system kicked back that there was an error with my ticket and I had to call British Airways. Great.

So using wifi, I tried to call British Airways, and spent literally two hours trying to talk to different agents to figure out what was going on. They scolded me that the connection wasn’t good and that there was an echo, but I explained that I was calling over wifi and that’s all I could do. The first agent said there was a problem with the ticket, but I had to talk to American since it was an American ticket. So I tweeted with the American social media team, who told me they looked up the ticket and that there was nothing wrong with it. So I called BA back, and spent another 20 minutes on the phone, where they insisted that AA had to fix the ticket. More tweeting with the AA team who insisted there was nothing wrong and that I should tell BA to call AA. One final shot at dealing with a BA agent who said that she couldn’t check me in, but whatever problem I had could be dealt with at the airport if I got there early.  So all told, I spent more than two hours on my already shortened vacation dealing with two different airlines and got no resolution.

My final saviors

My final saviors

So I made sure to get to the airport nice and early. Alas, at 3 hours prior to departure, the gate wasn’t open. I found the BA ticketing agent office, where I repeated the whole shpiel. Her response? “Well we can’t do anything because its an American Airlines ticket. I’ll call the BA supervisor here, but we’re probably going to have to call the AA agent in London…” Surprisingly, when the BA supervisor came over, she was able to fix it – but said I would have to go to the check-in desk for a boarding pass. I have no idea who messed up here – my guess is either US Airways or British Airways since they were the only people who had touched the ticket. But no matter what, if the British Airways supervisor was able to fix it, one of the many British Airways agents I spoke to on the phone should have been able to help me.

From there, the rest of the trip over to London was fairly ...

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My 15 Hour Arduous Journey on US Airways from DC to London: Trip Report DCA-CLT-LHR

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US Airways Flt. 2041, Washington to Charlotte
A319 Economy
Sched. Dep. DCA 3:30pm Actual Dep. 3:27pm
Sched. Arr. DCA 5:02pm Actual Arr. 4:50pm
US Airways Flt. 730, Charlotte to London-Heathrow
A330 Economy
Sched. Dep. CLT 6:05pm Actual Dep. 11:05pm
Sched. Arr. CLT 7:05am Actual Arr. 11:00am
US Airways A330 Coach

US Airways A330 Coach

Back in the late spring, I seized on a good airfare deal to Budapest for Martin Luther King Day weekend. Budapest was one of the first cities I ever visited abroad as a “grown-up,” back in 2010 on my first business class mileage redemption, using Delta miles to see Istanbul, Budapest and Prague. I had really enjoyed Budapest and figured it was time to go back.

Booked on an American ticket, the flights were actually all on US Airways and British Airways. Out of DCA, I’d fly to Charlotte, then to Heathrow on US, and then onto Budapest on BA. On the way back, I’d have a 21 hour layover in London, and connect via Philadelphia on US. Although it is a little out of the way, I figured Charlotte would be a better place to connect in winter than Philly, right?

My reservation was a bit of a mess, as US Airways had renumbered and moved my flights multiple times in the intervening eight months since booking. So when I went to check in online the day before my flight, I got an error message telling me I needed to call US Airways and tell an agent my reservation was “out of sync.” That call didn’t take too long, and I was then able to check in online.

The process for u...

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A Bad Travel Day Gets Worse: Almost Stranded by AA and the Sainthood of My Parents

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We left off with my arrival in New York after barely making it on to my Air Berlin flight due to the overzealous chemical screening at Tegel. The flight had calmed me down a bit, but I was still looking forward to going home. Alas home was many hours away. The only award availability from JFK down to DCA was on the 9:45pm flight, the last of the day. I figured it wouldn’t be a terrible layover, as six hours allowed me enough time to meet my family on Long Island for dinner, and then head back to the airport, before getting home, getting to sleep, and heading to my 9am meeting at the not-colored residence. Man plans, American Airlines laughs.

We landed in JFK about 45 minutes late, but I zipped through Global Entry and began to wait for my bags. And then I waited some more. My bag did not come out with the first batch of priority bags, nor the second, and then the carousel just stopped. 10 minutes later, an agent radioed asking what was going on, and then a full hour after I had deplaned, my bag rolled onto the carousel. Gotta love AA’s JFK ground service. My parents had been waiting for me at the cell waiting lot this whole time, so I rushed through customs, and redropped my bag off for its connecting flight.

I was supposed to land at about 3:45pm, but after the delay and baggage debacle, it was then 5:30 on a Tuesday, and we were heading Eastbound on the Belt and Southern State Parkways. For those not familiar with New York, trust me, that’s not good. The 20 minute drive to my sister’s place took a full hour, leaving me about 90 minutes with the family.

But by the time I got t...

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Anatomy of an Award: Labor Day in Berlin on Short Notice in Premium Cabins

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A few weeks ago, I decided I really needed to get away for a long Labor Day.  Preferably to a city where I could explore nightlife if I wanted, but also could lose myself walking or sitting at a cafe.  Oh, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, I didn’t want to repeat a city I’d been to recently, and I wanted to be able to get there relatively quickly from DC.

Berlin seemed like a great choice, as I’ve only been once — in 2004 with my study abroad program on a “study tour.”  10 years older, and for leisure travel, it would be a completely different city.  Berlin is also a very reasonably priced city, and would serve as a place to use my expiring free Hyatt night that I get as a Hyatt Visa cardholder, as the Grand Hyatt Berlin is somehow only a category 4 hotel.

But late July is not the best  time to be looking for premium transatlantic availability for Labor Day,  particularly to a city like Berlin that has almost no direct transatlantic service  — just Newark to Berlin on United, and Chicago and JFK to Berlin on Air Berlin.  So I wasn’t surprised to see there was nothing available on the days I could travel.  So I watched  both Star Alliance and One World availability on all transatlantic flights like a hawk for a few days, and when a flight from Venice to Philadelphia on US Airways in Business class opened up, I grabbed that for 50,000 American miles  (which ends up as 45,000 miles since I’m an AA credit card holder).  Unfortunately, there was no Air Berlin connection into Venice that would get in that time, so I figured I’d fly in the day before and have 22 hours in Venice.  I hadn’t realized how expensive Venice hotels were though, and 22 hrs is kind of a rush through a city like Venice.  So I figured I’d keep my eyes open, as AA has a free change policy on award tickets so long as the origin and destination are staying the same.

I wasn’t that concerned about an outbound flight, because I...

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