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Pre-clearance of US Immigration and Customs in Ireland has long been one of my favourite travel experiences. I have done it at Shannon several times as part of the BA flight from London City, which stops off there to re-fuel.

I wrote about this some months ago. You can read about this experience here.

However, I noticed recently that they have changed some of the area about in the latest video from the TSA explaining the process.

You can watch the video here.

The major change is that you go through the TSA-approved (Shoes off, laptops out) security before joining the US immigration lines. This is better as there are more staff to do the screening.

However, they have changed the location of the Global Entry line to the non-US residents side of the hall.

This is a disaster!

It means that people who clear through Global Entry have to join a line full of non-US residents giving their fingerprints, answering questions etc. It took 30 seconds to do the machine yesterday and about 20 minutes in line.

Plus the Immigration Inspector does all the normal questions, most of which you have already answered on the machine.

My experience yesterday was that the agent didn’t know that non-Green Card Holders could enroll in Global Entry – I had to spend 10 minutes explaining this process to him, how I managed to get enrolled, what the process was, the UK Police checks etc. All in all, the experience took longer than if I had been in the non-US residents queue.

So, Dublin pre-clearance, which was excellent is now a poor experience.

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 2 Comments

Radisson operates it’s frequent guest scheme – Club Carlson – in a way similar to IHG. Lot’s of promise and no delivery in my recent experience.

Two recent stays, both at airport hotels (JFK and Dublin) provided exactly ZERO benefits from being an elite member. No room upgrade, no breakfast, no thank you. Indeed the agent at Dublin Airport went out of his way to point out that I had not been upgraded.

To confess, I am a status match Gold Member so perhaps that’s why it counts for so little.

When I complained to JFK they said that the hotel was sold out. Odd, that simply checking their web site showed that not to be true. Then they promised a few extra points as an apology. They never came.

Dublin put me in the room I booked – fair enough – but with furniture like this:

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It’s at times like this I need a CSI-style lamp – heaven knows what the bed’s like. Ignorance is bliss. And by the way, no I didn’t sit in those chairs.

What’s your most useless elite status?

 

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 11 Comments

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As the referendum in Scotland approaches (Thursday for anyone who has missed it), people living in Scotland (only) will decide whether to leave the United Kingdom. As pro- and anti-campaigns rally their final supporters I wanted to think what might happen on Friday, if Scotland decides to go it alone.

Let me start by saying that my father is from Glasgow although he has not lived there for anything but the first 18 years of his life. The remaining 72 years he has resided in England. So, selfishly I might be able to secure a second passport, if Scotland leaves. I do understand the frustration of people in Scotland which has typically been more left wing than the rest of the UK. A colleague tells a story of going to Midnight Mass one Christmas and getting a lecture about the importance of voting for the Labour Party from the pulpit.

I know that frustrations with politicians is not confined to just Scotland, many people in the UK dislike what the current Government has done. Leaving the Union would be a one-off decision which is probably irreversible and would plunge both Scotland and England/Wales/N. Ireland in to a financial crisis which is likely to unpick much of the recovery we have seen. Living standards for the working- and middle-classes have not recovered anywhere in the UK, not just in Scotland. Scotland will have to establish all of the offices of state which it doesn’t currently have to provide – Embassies, Defence, Vehicle Licensing, Passports, Tax and Benefits offices, Pensions to name just a few.

What happens if the vote is very close at the end. That would mean the decision would fail to represent about half of Scotland – not good news. For England and Wales it might be a new start too – of course we’ll have a Conservative Government for the next 50 years, but that is perhaps the price we will have to pay. There will be extra controls on immigration to and from Scotland. Domestic UK flights will not longer be that – arriving in the Immigration Hall rather than domestically.

Of course, there are a lot of unknowns -

  • Will Scotland keep the pound (The Bank of England says ‘No’) ?
  • Will Scotland be in the EU (every other member country has to approve) ?
  • Will there be border controls on the line between Scotland and England (Labour says ‘Yes’) ?
  • Will Scotland have to use the Euro (New member countries to the EU are required to do this) ?

So, dear reader in Scotland, think carefully how you vote on Thursday, what you think you want you may not secure.

Just where will I be living on Friday?

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Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

Hyatt Logo

Seemingly unnoticed by many, Hyatt issued a press release that has me really excited. They announced that they are planning a 170 Bed Park Hyatt at Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil. To quote the press release:

Park Hyatt Foz do Iguaçu will offer the brand’s signature personalized services with 170 luxury rooms and suites, four restaurants and bars, a spa, a fitness center, an outdoor pool, and more than 16,146 square feet (1,500 square meters) of meeting and event space. The hotel is located 15 minutes from downtown Foz do Iguaçu and approximately six miles (10 kilometers) from Foz do Iguaçu National Park.

Opening in 2017, I am excited as I have always wanted to visit the falls.

Located in Patong, Phuket will boast a Hyatt Place:

Hyatt Place Phuket, Patong will feature 161 guestrooms with balconies, a swimming pool, a fitness center, a restaurant and bar, a business center, and more than 2,400 square feet (225 square meters) of flexible, high-tech meeting/function space

This one is expected to open in 2016.

For more information visit the Hyatt Press Release site.

 

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 4 Comments

TFL2

For several months now you have been able to pay using a Contactless Credit or Debit card on London’s buses. From tomorrow, contactless payments will be extended to Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London.

Check whether your debit/credit card supports this technology by looking for this symbol on the face of the card:

13-12-2012 07-37-26

Be aware that some pre-paid debit cards are now accepted, but most UK issued cards are usable. Internationally, this is a helpful guide produced by TfL:

15-09-2014 06-04-01

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | One Comment

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I cashed in some American Airlines miles as I needed a one-way from Paris to PHL recently. After a nice overnight stay at the Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle, I used one of the Hyatt Little Green Cars to take me to the US check-in area.

Check-In

Like many european stations for US carriers there is enhanced security even before you get to the check-in desk. I had this on my American Airlines flight to JFK from Paris earlier in the year and it was a vile experience. Ready as I was for a similar problem this time, I was pleasantly surprised that the security agent was civil and to the point. The big issue, as always, is that I am a single man on a one way ticket. Faced with the need to produce my return ticket all too often, I now print everything off and so could offer it to the agent.

About a 10 second chat with her supervisor produced the magic sticker and I was off to the check-in desk.

For some reason, the agents in France always ask what your final destination is, although they can clearly see it when my reservation is pulled up. With no bags to check I was off to security in about 2 minutes.

Security

US gives its premium passengers cards for the No1 lane which is effectively Fast Track. I usually use the passport reading machines for which you have to pre-register, but they were all off this morning. I was able to nip through passport control after about 10 minutes as despite there being a No1 there was only one French Immigration inspector on duty. Security also has a No1 lane (where they collect your card), but was moving fairly fast.

Lounge

In the terminal where US leaves there is both an American Airlines Admirals Club and a Cathay Pacific Lounge. You can read about them here. The Cathay lounge is much nicer.

Gate

CDG is a funny airport, well at least this part of it is. The gates are basically at the corridor where you walk to get to other gates, making queueing annoying for everyone.

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Boarding

Boarding started early. US has two flights out of CDG, one to Charlotte and the other to PHL. Unfortunately my PHL flight didn’t get the gate that morning and we had to be bussed to the plane. The Charlotte flight however, got all the at-gate security inspections and I was fairly quickly on the bus and off to the plane.

Strangely they parked the bus some distance from the plane, rather than at the bottom of the steps and so it was a decent walk to get on the stairs to the door.

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Seat

At some point I had selected 1A which is a single window seat at the front of this aircraft. I had never been able to change it for some reason and after the climb from the ground I was fairly quickly at my seat.

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There is no overhead bin at the window seats in row 1, so you have to stick your carry on above the middle seats.

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The foot well goes a long way on the cupboard in front. If you thrash your seats whilst you sleep I would not recommend this as you would get bruises!

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One great thing is that US give you a 1 litre bottle of water right in your chair’s arm.

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Taxi and Take-off

Fairly soon we were ready to leave, and although booked to go earlier, we followed the Charlotte flight to the runway. Lots of plane eye-candy on the way.

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Service

The crew were pretty friendly and did a pre-lunch round of drinks with warmed nuts.

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They distributed amenity kits and AA branded Bose Headsets for the entertainment.

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Amenity Kit contents:

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US doesn’t offer the AA option of pre-booking your entree, but they did not seem to have United’s problem of running out of choices as they only took one option per passenger.

Food

Appertiser:

Sliced grilled chicken with balsamic glaze and a goats cheese fritter – absolutely superb!
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Salad
Spinach salad with strawberries and walnuts – lime yoghurt or balsamic vinegar dressing.

Main Meal

Beef Tenderloin:

Marinated Chicken Breast
Sesame Crusted Cod
Seven Cheese Agnolotti

Dessert
Cannoli
Cheese Plate
Ben & Jerrys Vanilla Ice Cream with toppings

Seat Adjustment

I was able to get comfortable for a couple of hours sleep after lunch.

Pre Arrival Meal
I had heard things about the second meal – Turkey Burger Sliders or Large Salad and so picked the Sliders. They were a little disappointing in truth – a bit dry:

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Arrival
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We arrived on time (more about the delayed connection later), but ended up at a gate some distance from US Immigration. In addition we were at the opposite end of the immigration hall from the Global Entry machines. So after a 15 minute walk, and I was though in to the queue for TSA to make my connection. For whatever reason I did not get PreCheck and indeed am not sure it actually was available at the connecting point from international arrivals.

Hence a 15 minute wait at TSA was my lot.

Summary
I am not a frequent traveller with US, but was pleasantly surprised by this flight which I though was a good solid comfortable seat with some decent (airline) food served. The bussing is a PITA, but this can happen anywhere.

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 6 Comments

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle

Some months ago I wrote about an overnight stay at the Hyatt at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG). I recently did a quick return visit and found a few things had changed, so I am providing an update here.

1. The bus arrangements have changed
Rather than Hyatt having a small mini-bus just to itself, they now have a larger coach that they share with the Ibis etc. properties next door. If you board at T2 TGF station be careful as there are two signs for pick-ups for the Hyatt. One – the centre island – is for the Little Green Car (more later), whilst the side – overlooking the station – is for the coach. This is what the coach looks like:

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle shuttle

2. You can get a little green car for EUR10
For ten Euros you can get picked up or dropped off in a little green electric car. This is new, and a great deal. On the morning when I left the buses were packed so I got the car and was dropped off right by my check-in area. A good idea.

Hyatt Regency Charles De gaulle green cars

3. They are still offering breakfast in the restaurant at weekends.
One of the nice deals here is that they close the Regency Club at weekends and give you breakfast in the restaurant which has a great spread.

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle Breakfast

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle

4. You can ask for a coffee machine.
One of my irritations with the hotel is that there is no kettle or coffee maker in the rooms. After my last stay I emailed and asked if they could supply one.

Lo and behold:

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However, I had to ‘steal’ some milk from the Regency Club the previous evening in order to enjoy my morning coffee.

5. The Room are as comfy as always
Had a great nights sleep:

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle Room

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle Room

6.You still get the same lemony tart, rather than an option of 1000 points

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7. The lobby is as lovely as always

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle lobby

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle Reception

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle

Hyatt Regency Charles De Gaulle

Although it is a bus ride from the airport, you can get great rates, especially at weekends. The Sheraton which is a short walk from most of Terminal 2, has much higher rates which I guess is the price you pay for their location.

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Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 3 Comments

2013-03-23_06-24-06

The generous Hilton offering earning miles on Virgin Atlantic is back. The offer, for stays to 30 November is tiered as follows:

- 1st stay: 1,000 bonus miles
- 2nd stay: 2,000 bonus miles
- 3rd stay: 3,000 bonus miles
- 4th stay: 4,000 bonus miles
- 5th stay: 5,000 bonus miles

You must register here.

———————-

Full terms and conditions:

Terms and Conditions:
To be eligible for this offer, you must (1) be a member of Hilton HHonors; (2) select Virgin Atlantic Airways as your preferred Double Dip® Points & Miles™ Partner in your Hilton HHonors account profile, (3) select Points and Miles as your Double Dip Earning Style within your HHonors profile; (4) register online at www.HHonors.com/fcstaymore prior to completing your stay; and (5) complete an eligible stay at a participating hotel from the Hilton Portfolio from September 1, 2014 through November 30, 2014 (“Promotional Period”).

Bonus Flying Club miles: Members will earn 1,000 Flying Club bonus miles for each of the first through fifth stays at Hampton by Hilton, Homewood Suites and Home2Suites for a maximum of 5,000 Flying Club bonus miles. Members will also be awarded the following Flying Club bonus miles per each eligible stay at any other Hilton Portfolio hotel and resort:

•   1st stay: 1,000 bonus miles
•   2nd stay: 2,000 bonus miles
•   3rd stay: 3,000 bonus miles
•   4th stay: 4,000 bonus miles
•   5th stay: 5,000 bonus miles

 

Bonus miles will not be awarded under this offer for stays completed prior to registration for this offer. A “stay” is defined as the total number of consecutive nights spent at the same hotel, whether or not a guest checks out and checks back in again.È

Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
Stay
Brand
Bonus Miles
Brand
Bonus Miles
Brand
Bonus Miles
1st Stay
Hilton Hotels and Resorts
1,000
Hampton by Hilton
1,000
Hampton by Hilton
1,000
2nd Stay
Waldorf Astoria
2,000

Waldorf Astoria

2,000
Hampton by Hilton
1,000
3rd Stay
Hilton Hotels and Resorts
3,000
Homewood Suites
1,000
Hampton by Hilton
1,000
4th Stay
DoubleTree by Hilton
4,000
Hilton Hotels and Resorts
4,000
Hampton by Hilton
1,000
5th Stay
Conrad Hotels and Resorts
5,000
DoubleTree by Hilton
5,000
Hampton by Hilton
1,000
6th Stay or more
DoubleTree by Hilton
0
Waldorf Astoria
0
Hampton by Hilton
1,000
Total
15,000
13,000
5,000

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | One Comment

united logo 2

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At appears that United are passing their gates at LAX T6 to American from 27 October and  United is closing their United Club there on 27 October.

On 24 September their Premier check-in in T6 will be closing, and United will only operate from T7 and T8 at LAX from 27 October.

Their other move here is that the First Class Lounge will be re-branded as a United Club in October, presumably to accommodate those people who had been going to the T6 lounge. In my experience both current lounges are very busy and so this is a good move, especially as there are limited First Class international destinations from LAX these days.

UA’s Terminal 7 at LAX:

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Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

united logo 2

 

I travelled back to the US from Argentina yesterday and having secured TSA Precheck on the Boarding pass was hoping to breeze through at Houston.

The good news is that the Global Entry kiosks are right at the bottom of the escalators where you arrive in the Immigration Hall. The queues were pretty long as EZE gets in after Lagos, Rio and Sao Paulo flights.

However, if you follow the signs for connections you cannot access Precheck as there is no Boarding Pass check at this checkpoint. Rather you join the normal lines for connections, and this probably took 30 minutes.

I asked a Three Striper who advised following the exit next time and them coming back upstairs to the normal checkpoint as it has PreCheck.

So I learned something useful yesterday at Houston.

2014-09-02_17-13-54

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 3 Comments

2014-09-02_17-13-54

How much effort do you put in to get this little logo on your boarding passes?

My quandary yesterday was that my ticket for tomorrow with American Airlines was booked using British Airways Avios. BA has this habit of including your BA number on these Avios bookings and it’s jolly hard to change.

At check-in time I checked in using the AA Mobile App, and lo and behold no Pre logo on the mobile boarding pass.

Scratch head….

Let me interject here that I have sometimes had problems with getting PreCheck for AA flights when using my BA Executive Club number where the flight is wholly domestic. These trips don’t usually get TSAPre. However, the minute it’s an international flight and my passport is needed, TSAPre appears.

So I thought I would take a few minutes and see what I could do.

Step 1 – I looked up the booking at Qatar Airways web site and this site allowed me to change the frequent flyer number to my AA one. (The AA account holds my Global Entry number by which I get PreCheck).

Step 2- Waited an hour

Step 3 – Went back to the mobile app and looked up the Boarding Pass – again no PreCheck.

Step 4 – So back to the AA.com web site and generated new Boarding Passes which I emailed to myself. These had the all important logo on them. Success!

Step 5 – Deleted and recreated the Boarding Pass on the mobile app, still no PreCheck.

So, at least now I have a printed boarding pass with PreCheck on which I hope will work at Security.

Oh, one other thing, AA won’t let me check in for my connection from Chicago to London. But hey, I’ve got the TSA tick and am happy.

Is this too much work to get PreCheck?

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 3 Comments

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