Hamburg Trip Preview

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Yet another interruption in my Norway/Netherlands/Malta trip report series… Just six weeks after I returned, I’ll be heading back across the Atlantic for a bit of a wacky trip that includes mile earning and burning, and hopefully some relaxation if events beyond my control don’t get away. It also feels like the past month has been horrific in America and I am not above a little escapism.

Before I decided to change jobs, I was thinking of spending a week to 10 days in Europe around Labor Day.  The initial plan was to fly into Manchester (UK), spend a few days in Manchester for Manchester Pride, then head up to Scotland for a week, before ending in Sitges for a weekend.  I  had hotels booked, and was able to use AA miles to get back from Barcelona in business class.  But for months I had flight alerts set, and could not get Saver award in business  on any of American’s flights to Manchester or London.

As luck would have it, in April, there was a significant schedule change on my return home which allowed me to cancel that award for free, and the same week there was a great deal available on TAP Portugal flying from Oslo to New York, Boston, or Miami for about $400 in business class one way (which will accrue about 10000 Aeroplan miles).  But wait, I was already going to Oslo in July.  I didn’t need two Norway trips six weeks apart.  But in my mind, things were already gelling for a great vacation.

Earlier this year, I had gotten the Chase Fairmont Visa card. I’ve actually never stayed at a Fairmont hotel, and there aren’t a ton of them, but I knew the card was likely to go away soon because the chain had been acquired by Accor.  (Indeed, the card did go away in August.)  Also, it was one of the few Chase cards not subject to the “5/24” rule, and thus one of the few I could get.  The card had a good sign-up bonus of two free nights at any hotel, which could be combined with some of the elite benefits that also are given to cardholders, including a suite upgrade voucher and dining certificates.  I had planned to use them in May at the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, but I could stay with friends instead. At the same time, I had my annual Hyatt Visa category 1 through 4 free night which was expiring in September.  I was thinking about using it at the new Hyatt Regency in Amsterdam, but had plenty of other options there.

So the challenge was to find a place where I could spend a nice long weekend, where there was a Category 1 through 4 Hyatt and a Fairmont, that was an easy connection up to Oslo.  It really wasn’t much of a challenge, as Hamburg immediately jumped out, given that it has a category 4 Park Hyatt and a lovely Fairmont property, the Fairmont Vier Jahreszeiten, and is a 450-mile straight shot flight to Oslo. Unfortunately, despite 5 months of flight alerts, I wasn’t able to get a flight using AA miles into Hamburg on my chosen date, so I’ll be spending 4 nights in Hamburg, with the 4th night at the Crowne Plaza there, which will nicely get me a boatload of points with the next quarter’s IHG Accelerate promo.

As for how I’m getting to Hamburg, well, this may be interesting.  Using AA miles, you can connect through Madrid, Munich, Dusseldorf, or London.  (Unfortunately Finnair’s flights are not timed to connect.)  I initially was booked on Iberia to Madrid and onward.  Then a seat opened up on AA’s Madrid flight, which I switched to, as it saved me nearly $100 in fees.   I still had a pretty long – 5 hour – layover in Madrid, though, so when availability via Dusseldorf opened up, I switched to that.

You may be seeing the problem here.  My current routing has me on two legs on Airberlin – a carrier that filed for bankruptcy two weeks ago.  So it will be interesting to see what happens! Hopefully, they will continue operating as normal at least for the next week.  My routing is as follows:

DCA-BOS on American in coach (a short flight at least)
BOS-DUS on Airberlin in business
DUS-HAM on Airberlin in coach (super short flight with only 3 business seats)

In Hamburg, my upgrade to a Lakeview Suite at the Fairmont has already been confirmed — a room that goes for over 800 EUR a night, so that should be awesome.  After 4 nights there, I will be flying on SAS up to Oslo on a $65 ticket with 3.5 hours to connect onto my TAP flight to Lisbon.

TAP only flies once a day from Oslo to Lisbon, and it alternates between a mid-day flight and an evening flight.  It’s an evening flight on the day I wanted to head home, so I will have an overnight layover in Lisbon, which I’ll be passing at the Holiday Inn Lisbon.  My flight to New York doesn’t leave until 5pm the following day, so I plan on spending the morning in Sintra, which is the one place I didn’t get to go when I was in Lisbon five years ago.  Then I’ll get to New York that night, spend the night with my parents, before an AA revenue flight down to DC the next day.

So it should be a fun little trip.  I have only a vague idea of what I’ll do in Hamburg.  If I get bored, I may hit up Lubeck or Bremen for a daytrip. If you have suggestions, let me know. Hopefully all these flights will allow me to catch up on blogging.