I was on a B737-900 from United today that WiFi, Direct TV and at-seat power. The Trifecta for United.

It was interesting to note that the new system comes in two formats – full browsing at $2 per hour and reduced service (email and mobile apps only) at $1 per hour. You can buy your connection in one hour blocks to ensure you don’t spend more than you need.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Free access to the united.com web site is available, as well as access to the moving map.

Perhaps United is getting better!

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 7 Comments

Shortly after this post drops my flight to Houston and then Los Angeles should take off from Buenos Aires. It means that on Wednesday I will be back in LA, the place I started from last Saturday. Since then I have been to Cabo, New York (Twice) and Argentina. Trip Reports to come of course.

However, the way home is going to be interesting and has been constructed to use the good fares on Cathay Pacific from Male to the USA. This gives you an idea of the routing back to London:

great-circle-map

It features some repeated experiences – London to Amman with BA. Some new experiences – a short side trip to avoid the UK taxes to somewhere I have never been before – Luxembourg and a Qatar Airways A320 plane for 4 hours from Doha to Male. I have a nice long stopover in Hong Kong in order to enjoy their lounges before a 15 hour trip to New York and then 7 hours to London, and home after 2 weeks away. 2 miles shy of 26,000 miles.

Everything is on OneWorld – American, British Airways, Royal Jordanian, Qatar, Cathay Pacific! Using a mixture of Avios, American Miles and the odd revenue ticket.

Keep your eyes posted for the mad Englishman!

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | One Comment

2014-09-01_14-14-38

You may have an email in your mail box from airberlin offering extra bonus miles if you use more than 2 of their partners between 1st September and 31st October 2014. You must click on the link to register before you can earn.

  • 2 partner services – 2,000 extra award miles
  • 3 partner services – 3,000 extra award miles
  • 4 partner services – 4,000 extra award miles
  • 5 partner services – 5,000 extra award miles

The promo email specifically says - 120 partners on the ground  – which leads me to believe that flying will not score the bonus.

There are plenty of hotels on offer, including Hilton where you can ‘double dip’ and so keep your HHonors earnings.

Heinmann Duty Free at German airports also works if you set up their account and choose airberlin rather than Lufthansa.

2014-09-01_14-14-23

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

On the way home from Berlin I used an award ticket from my United miles to travel Business Class on Austrian Airlines. This was rather an odd routing as effectively I spent time going in the wrong direction.

Having visited the Lufthansa Senator Lounge I ambled down to the gate that Austrian was using for this flight – 15. This is in the main part of Tegel which means that Security happens at the gate. As the flight was within Schengen there was no passport control.

We boarded on time with Business class asked to board first. Make sure you take your newspaper from the trolley just outside the plane.

austrian-arilines-newspaper-trolley

We boarded on time and I took my seat in 2D.

Austrian has the painfully thin seats that airlines seem to favour these days. Their gesture to Business Class is that the middle seat is left empty.

austrian-airlines-seats

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

The legroom was fine as there was no one in the row in front and so there were no reclining issues.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Shortly after take off the crew began the service, from the trolley, offering a wide range of drinks and a hot meal:

austrian-airlines-meal

I cannot praise this beef and gnocchi combination too highly. Tasty and full of flavour it make a huge change from the intra-Europe meals I am used to with British Airways. These (BA’s) are almost always cold.

The crew finished with a round of tea and coffee.

We arrived at the new pier in Vienna but had to walk back in to the terminal to get to the non-Schengen part of the airport where my flight from London would leave.

I popped in to the non-Schengen lounge, after passport control, for a few minutes. They had a good selection of hot and cold food items:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

The lounge has plenty of seating, free WiFi and its own bathrooms. Divided in to Business and Senator lounges, I was allowed in the Senator lounge as a Star Alliance Gold Member.

I left in plenty of time to get to my gate, although you could see my plane from the lounge. In fact it appeared that my outbound plane was the same aircraft as the inbound.

vienna-airport

Oddly, at the gate we were told that we would be bussed to the gate.

As is typical with UK flights there is a passport check before you start boarding. However, this has been set up at the gate with the staff initially the boarding passes of those they had seen. As I had an electronic boarding pass on my phone this posed a problem, so I went and collected a paper one from the agent which was then dutifully initialled by the agent.

At boarding time, using the Automatic Gates, the boarding passes had to be checked again to see if they had the magic mark from the earlier check.

We proceeded down two stories of the terminal and boarded the same plane that had brought me from Berlin. Even the same flight attendants!

The meal this time was not as nice. The cabin was full and we had a little shift round to allow a last-minute upgrade to sit with his kid. The meal was a salad with a hot chicken skewer:

austrian-airlines-seats

It was tasty but I would happily have settled for the gnocchi.

Arrival at Heathrow Terminal 1 was on time and we had the long walk to Immigration which was not busy – at least partly due to a number of airlines moving from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2. Austrian is due to go on 1 October 2014.

Overall
Two perfectly good flights where the food was the highlight. How often do you get to say that?

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 6 Comments

senator-lounge-berlin-tegel

I was pretty early for my flight so had a pleasurable hour in this lounge at Tegel. Located on the mezzanine level it at the opposite end of the main terminal from the BA lounge. As the A gates at TXL are located in a horseshoe shape, they are accessible from both lounges.

Access was granted on the basis of my United 1K card which gives Star Alliance Gold status. There were only a few passengers there when I arrived.

There are a large number of different seating areas in the lounge.

senator-lounge-berlin-tegel

senator-lounge-berlin-tegel

There is a wide selection of cold food items and breakfast included a fridge with yoghurt in around the corner from the main food options. Rolls, meat, cheese, yoghurt, fruit, cereals etc.

snacks-at-senator-lounge-berlin-tegel

snacks-at-senator-lounge-berlin-tegel

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

A selection of self-service hot and cold drinks were also available.

The departure board is visible from parts of the lounge so you can keep your eye on when you flight is going.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Summary
A perfectly good lounge with plenty of seating and the standard selection of LH snacks.

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 3 Comments

waldorf-astoria-berlin

Arrival I arrived pretty late at the hotel. I had a late flight which was delayed by the ‘loo crisis’ that I wrote about a few days ago. The property is located directly across from Zoo station and had I not hopped a cab, it would have been a two minute walk from where the buses from Tegel terminate – so easy to find.

zoo-station-berlin

The doorman was still out the front but I needed no help with my one bag. The inner lobby doors open automatically which was a little disconcerting at first. Reception is across the spacious lobby on the left.

. Waldorf-Astoria-Berlin-Lobby

Check-In

There were two members of staff on duty when I arrived and they confirmed my room rate, that it included breakfast and they had given me a room with a view. There are a huge number of room types at this upscale property and it is worth checking the price difference between what you plan to book and the next category up. I did book the “KING DELUXE ROOM WITH VIEW” which was about EUR20 more than the non-view version and well worth it. I paid EUR179 in the Hilton Summer Sale. Nothing was mentioned about any upgrade as a Gold and I was a bit sleepy so I didn’t push it. However, in my review on TripAdvisor I did mention this and got an email from the property saying that they were sold out of better rooms. Of course, not true based on their web site as I had checked before I left the UK at around 5pm the day I arrived. So either there was a rush, or they don’t upgrade Gold HHonors members. I had set my preferences to a Room Upgrade and 1,000 points in my profile well in advance of the stay.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

They did give me a bundle of vouchers though as a Gold:

2 * Continental Breakfast in the restaurant or EUR10 off another meal

1 * Free movie certificate

1 * Free welcome drink

waldorf-astoria-coupons-berlin

Of course the Continental Breakfast should would not be in included as a Gold, but the free movie and free drink were unexpected. Later the hotel indicated that these were a way to make up for not giving me an upgrade. At check-in the agent indicated that they were a new feature – without it seems explaining that they meant I wasn’t getting a nicer room. The elevators are across from Reception, and as everything is here, very stylish. They require you to use your card to touch the block block at the bottom of the floors and then to hold your finger over the floor you require. No buttons here – just not stylish enough.

waldorf-astoria-lifts

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

My Room

My room was just down from the lift and the corridors ‘magically’ turned on as I walked towards it.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Opening the door produced a view of a short corridor, with a door to the bathroom on the right and then the main bedroom area opening right in front of me.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

The bed was large and the TV was attached to the wall opposite the bed, with the desk just under it. The large, floor-to-ceiling window offered a nighttime view Berlin. I slept well in the bed and woke next morning refreshed and dying to try the huge bath. The room layout reminded me of the Hyatt in Berlin, which is of course much older than the WA.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

waldorf-astoria-room-berlin

The bathroom had a separate shower room and toilet. The bath was huge with a vanity unit on the other side of the bathroom area. It was bright and there was plenty of hot water.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

waldorf-astoria-bathroom-berlin

The bed was about as far away from the door as possible mitigating the effect of any corridor noise.

waldorf-astoria-bed-berlin

The daytime views were pretty nice, although not wonderful. You can see the trains coming and going from Zoo station as well as the main shopping area locally.

waldorf-astoria-room-view

waldorf-astoria-room-berlin-view

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

You can black out the room using the external blinds as well as the thick curtains. Great if you need to sleep in the day ready for the next nights nightlife.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

The room had a Nespresso machine with a variety of capsules. I happened to be in when the mini-bar was refreshed and the helpful employee offered me a choice of which colour I would like him to refresh with. As I love the Purple ones he left 4 of those. Good Service.

The WiFi was free as a HHonors Gold and I used my Movie Certificate – which turned out to be worth EUR24.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Breakfast

The inclusive breakfast was provided in the French Restaurant on the first floor, just behind the elegant staircase. I was there early and only one other table was occupied. The staff were attentive, bringing me new cups of coffee as soon as I finished. Breakfast was a large buffet which featured hot and cold items. Eggs were available to order from the staff. Everything was great tasting and fresh with a wide range of super pastries for those with a sweet tooth, alongside fish, cheeses, cold meats, cereals. There is a juice bar with a large number of juices ready prepared. This is a great touch and something I had not seen before.

waldorf-astoria-restaurant

waldorf-astoria-breakfast-buffet

waldorf-astoria-breakfast-buffet

waldorf-astoria-breakfast-buffet

waldorf-astoria-breakfast-buffet

waldorf-astoria-breakfast-buffet

The Public Areas

The public areas are very well designed and pretty stylish. This spiral staircase goes between Reception and the Restaurants:

waldorf-astoria-lobby

Room Service

I did feel lazy and have Room Service on my last night – a burger, fries and creme brulee (with strawberries). All tasty and fresh and in my room in about 20 minutes.

waldorf-astoria-room-service

waldorf-astoria-room-service

The Local Area

Located so centrally it is a short walk to many of shopping areas of Berlin. The is a U-bahn station just outside the front door making connections to other parts of the city very simple. Taxi’s are cheap and plentiful in Berlin and so provide another transport option. However, one of the pleasures is walking in Berlin where unexpected buildings and monuments abound.

My favourite shop KaDeWe is a ten minute walk away from the hotel. A bastion of luxury goods during the Cold War era when Berlin was divided between the Axis powers, you could buy Marmite there. A judge of any shop for me. They do have a good range of items spread over 7 floors.

Berlin-KaDeWe

The hotel is right next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Zoo station across the road:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Check-Out

I left after breakfast the next morning. Check-out was friendly and efficient and the bill was correct. After a few days my HHonors points posted correctly to my account:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Summary

The hotel is in a great location and has a great team of staff. Every interaction was polite, helpful and informative. They were a delight to deal with. The restaurant breakfast was one of my favourites anywhere in the world and I slept pretty well. The only negative is the lack of an upgrade for an HHonors Gold, with the flimsy excuse of ‘sold out’ when they were still selling higher grade rooms at check-in. The rate is relatively expensive for Berlin – you could have booked a basic room at the Intercontinental for EUR90 that weekend. But, a lot of HHonors points earned through various promos and a hotel I have never been to before.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 9 Comments

Before I actually get on to my post I wanted to direct anyone interested in the ‘Recline/Not Recline’ argument to read this article at the New York Times. Written by a friend of mine, it takes the cost of travel to a new level.

However, I wanted to pass on some other dilemmas that I have faced in the past few weeks. Interesting to see how you might handle them:

1. Feeding the Baby?
Nursing mothers feeding babies has been hitting the headlines for several months with a huge backlash against those removing them from cafes/coffee shops when they breast feed in public.
So this week, was it OK for a nursing mother to feed her baby in the back row of First Class on my flight?

2. Bare Feet
This seems to bring out as strong emotions as the reclining argument does – without of course any air marshals being called as far as I can ascertain. Sticking your bare feet up on the seat in front or the cabin wall seems to be a no-no to me.
However, when I sleep, in a flat-bed on a plane I know I sleep better with bare feet.
Vile you say?
Well I only do it when I can hide my feet in the footstool provided and I do bring slippers so I’m not wading through wee in my bare feet in the loos when I need to use them.
As soon as I wake up back go on the socks.
Vile or virtuous?

3. Seat Grabbing
This one does drive me mad. Usually what happens is that you have a couple seated in the row behind you and rather than disturb their partner, the window passenger grabs your seat (and often your hair) to climb over their partner.
This drives me mad – there is the shock of your chair suddenly going backwards and the pain of having your hair pulled.
The guilty party usually gets my evil eye, set to a ’10′ for this one.

4. Storing under your seat and not the seat in front
The leg room under the row in front is part of my seat area in my view. The bulkhead passenger in front usually thinks that it’s his/hers for whatever they didn’t bother to put above their seat.
Wrong!
This doesn’t seem to happen as much as it used to, but just this week the guy in row 1 was about to steal all the legroom from the person in row 2, when the flight attendant intervened and found some space in the overheads.
God was he sulky.

 

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

5. VOIP in the Lounge
‘Darling I’m in the BA First Class Lounge at the airport’, he shouts. He had to shout when using Skype or VOIP on his laptop without a headset as the microphone is a good 3m away from his mouth. Personally I am glad he clarified that as I am sure his wife feels much safer now. Honestly, there should be a rule along with the ‘No seats on the chairs’ rule which is the ‘No shouting at your PC when in the lounge’.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

6. Are you going to ….?
‘Can you tell me if you are going to the Marriott. The clue is that it says ‘Hilton’ the side of the bus in 2m high letters but this had escaped this passenger. Indeed he proceeds to flag down every shuttle – car rental (whoever heard of the Hertz hotel?) – Parking (Yes, the ParkQik hotel) and other hotels until he finds the Marriott bus. (Oddly with 2m high letters M-A-R-R-I-O-T-T on the front.)
He must have delayed dozens of passengers by stopping their shuttles, getting on and showing the driver the paper they printed off from hotels.com
If I am not sure what your hotels shuttle looks like I like to call the hotel and ask them to describe it. With GPS they can often even tell you where it is at the moment you call.

7. Whose space is it anyway?
So towards the end of boarding a guy gets on with a huge ‘carry-on’ bag. I think that United has given up on trying to enforce anything these days. He then goes through all the BusinessFirst bins until he finds and empty one, stuffs in his bag and then proceeds to Economy.
Five minutes later he’s back having found space near his seat, to decamp the bag to nearer his seat.
Is all overhead space available to everyone on an ‘as needed’ basis I wonder?

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

8. This is a hotel corridor, and all those doors – behind them people are trying to sleep
Sleeping in a strange room, a strange bed, a strange time zone can all conspire to cause less than perfect sleep. (My tip is to take a pillow case from home – makes you feel more at home.) Noisy guests in the corridor can be enough to wake me. So can we have a deal, as soon as you leave the lift you stop talking at anything more than a whisper? In exchange, when I check out at 5am, I won’t bang my door and wake you up?

Oh, and on the recline issue – I don’t do it. Unless the person in front does and then I always pop it back up for the meal service or if the person behind needs/wants to get out. Of the flights I’ve taken this week, I haven’t reclined at all. And no one paid me either! (Damn!)

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 2 Comments

My flights gate number showed up early on the screen at Terminal 5. This usually means that you have to decamp from the lounge and head to one of the other areas of the terminal, the B and C gates. For my flight C65 was shown and this was my first time in the C gates. German flight usually leave from the main terminal A gates in my experience.

Faced with a late evening flight after a long day, I took the train. You can now choose to walk after Heathrow opened the previously closed walkways.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

The train was not full and I followed the uniformed crew to the front of the train for a fast exit to the lifts. Tip: At T5 99% of the time it is faster to take the lifts than go on the escalators.

After about 15 minutes I arrived at the C gate:

There were great views of the airport from here, with its floor to ceiling windows. Plane spotting amused me until it was time to board.

Qantas A380:

BA 744:

And my tiny plane:

We boarded on time and despite being full, the A320 was ready to go on time. And then we had the loo crisis!

None of the loos would flush. CRISIS is not an understatement.

Heads were scratched, engineers were called and eventually the Captain got out the manual. I knew things were bad then!

It turns out that there is some special switch at the back of the plane – that’s just not the most obvious place to put it – which turns the flush on and off. Once changed, we were off. Not too late.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

The crew were friendly, served the typical cold salad on this flight:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

It was pretty tasty. Drinks were refreshed and we arrived a little late.

Tegel as always performs admirably, 5 minutes from getting to the gate to being in the taxi. (No checked bags of course, that can add 30 minutes to the escape).

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

Earlier in the week I flew American Airlines from LAX to Los Cabos in Mexico. The pre-booking of meals on AA is one of my favourite features but when I tried to book for this flight there was only one choice ‘Continental Breakfast – Cereal’. So I didn’t think about it too much until I got on the plane and was presented with this:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Yes, indeed, this was Americans idea of a ‘meal’! Perhaps it should have been thought of as just the starter, in which case the image below shows the entree:

Now it’s a 2:20 flight leaving around 9am so big deal, but have the courage just to say that there won’t be anything rather than the above. (No cereal in sight by the way)

May be it’s not actually the worst, but perhaps the smallest might be fairer.

 

 

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 2 Comments

You know you’re paying ‘Airport Prices’ when a pack of 10 paper hankies costs $1.49 plus tax.

(LAX today)

Pack of paper hankies bought at LAX

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

The flight attendant call buttons are blue on the A318

The flight attendant call button was not needed !

I had a short hop to Paris last Friday, starting my rather long and involved Birthday based holiday.

The first flight was a 55 minute hop from London to Paris with British Airways, and in particular a flight attendant called Linus.

I mention this only because he showed what could be done in such a short time. There were 12 people in Club Europe and Linus managed a drinks round from the trolley,  a separate meal service, warmed scones and tea and coffee for everyone in the time available. He was through the cabin for almost every minute of the flight seeing if people wanted anything else.

As we came in for our approach he provided plastic cups for the two people in row 3 still enjoying their Champagne.

It was so good that I gave out my first Golden Ticket. The scheme is provided by BA to allow Gold Card Holders to recognise exceptional service, and honestly I’d never given one out before. But Linus deserved it – every minute of those 55 minutes we took for the flight made me feel good about being with British Airways.

2014-08-26_07-53-32

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

« previous home top