Friday, September 04, 2009

In case you missed it

Airlines are desperate.

American announced a *second* DEQM (Double Elite Qualifying Miles) promotion from now till Dec 15th.

United immediately matched. 

No prior purchase required, just register. Given they already did that March-June, this basically means they've almost cut in half miles required for status.

Oh well...

Sent from my BlackBerry

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stupid American

I was routed MCO-LAX-SFO.  I was actually going to LAX for a reason!

So when their stupid system rebooked me on MCO-DFW-SFO (all on MD-80s, no "less" :( ) that doesn't really help me get to LAX.

At least being a connecting passenger I got rebooked at all. The LAX pax were sent outside security for who-knows-what-reason.  The plane we were on won't get the part it needs for two more hours and then they said it's four hours to make the repairs.  So chances are if they go on that plane they'll be getting in at midnight.  If they are lucky maybe they'll get rebooked on UA getting in at 10pm.

Oh well, at least I got a lunch voucher.  I was going to use it in DFW but apparently it's only good here.  All $7.50 of it. 

But wait!!!

There is more!

Because we just had some lightening, now *no* planes are arriving or departing MCO!  So I may have missed my last chance to get out of here!   My layover in DFW is only an hour so more excitement may be in store if this turns into a delay longer than the 20 minutes it already is...

Oh well

I'm glad AA is abiding by my tried and true "never fly with bad hydraulics" rule.

Unfortunately it means about a three hour delay over here :(


The door was closed, we were ready to go when suddenly there's a knock.

A woman in an orange vest comes in and heads up towards the closed cockpit door.

A few minutes later there's an announcement from the captain that we were all ready to go but maintenance found a possible problem with hydraulics. Hey, in my book that means we are *not* ready to go at all.

So we sit on the plane and wait to see if it's a big or small, fixable or not-fixable (immediately) problem.

As much as I hate long delays or worse canceled flights, I'm all in favor of flying only with fully functional hydraulic systems.

Those crack detectives at TSA

So I get to the X-Ray belt at MCO this afternoon and I can't find my freedom baggie (that's the one quart zip lock filled with 3.4 oz containers of liquids which are made magically safe by such packaging).

I have a huge backpack so either it's somewhere on the bottom of one of the compartments, or it's on the bathroom counter back at the hotel I checked out of a few hours ago.  It's uncrowded in security so as I push my crap through I tell the TSA guy my baggie of liquids might be in my pack still.  No problem, if it is they'll see it and I'll find it and pull it out separately.  (Because it's safer that way!)

Anyway, I'm sure you all guessed what happened next.  They saw no baggie with liquids, offered me a free empty baggie "courtesy of TSA" (I need the sunscreen, etc not a baggie!).  A few minutes later when putting away something else I come across my baggie right there in the middle compartment all the way on the bottom filled with a dozen or so little containers of who-knows-what).

I feel *so* safe now!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

More rental car annoyances

I land in Orlando tonight where I've been three or four times in the last few years and start looking for Hertz. I see every other major car rental company but them.

Turns out Hertz is off-airport here along with all the "no name" rent a wreck companies. Ugh!

Oh, and in the "it's better to upgrade than not" department, on my (luckily upgraded) DFW-MCO flight one of the coach lavs was out of service. So on a completely full flight I was pretty happy to be in F.

It certainly wasn't the food in F that made me happy!

Good day for a few more travel related rants...

I've got a few small rants for today, but Ben's got the big one. We left AUS around the same time today, me heading for MCO (Orlando) via DFW and him back to SFO via DEN.

Somehow his plane landed in PUB. Now, that's an airport code I was unfamiliar with, having never landed there, and that's because it's Pueblo Memorial Airport in Pueblo Colorado.

Check out his flight path!

Of course this means he misconnected to his DEN-SFO flight even though that one was over an hour late, but it looks like they got him onto 741 coming in right about now...

Is it always better to upgrade?

Since I've made 1K on UA a while ago for this year (thanks to DEQMs) I've been working on my AA status, and EXP is in sight (thanks to DEQMs!).

On UA 1Ks get the same e500s that all elites do for space available upgrades 1,3 or 4 days before the flight and we also get 8 confirmable (in advance) regional upgrades.

On AA EXPs get unlimited upgrades (no e500 earning or deducting) but no CR-1s.

As a less than EXP, it's more painful to fly domestically on AA than UA as I can't confirm my upgrades in advance and when they are available I'm always having to ration them (or buy more - at least they are 40% cheaper to purchase than UA's are!).

However, what happens when I make my EXP next month?  If I fly AA to maximize my free upgrade utilization, I'll end up letting my UA e500's expire unused and that's no good too!!!

I can take e500s out of equation since unlimited and more-that-I-can-use are roughly the same and stick to UA for upgradeable-in-advance transcons or none-elite-heavy routes (tough out of SF!).  Or I can use UA when traveling w/SO so he can maintain his status and AA otherwise (work trips).

International is another consideration. UA gives me 6 SWUs (plus 2 more for each 50KEQMs over 100K), AA gives 8 eVIPs which I gather are the same or similar to SWUs so I'd have to split the international flying to make sure and use both of them up!

All of this is on my mind as I wait for my delayed AA DFW-MCO flight and mulling over whether I should upgrade - there was no one on the list and seats available, and it's only 2 stickers for over 900 miles.  On the other hand I've only got 5 now so this will leave me short if my upgrade MCO-LAX on Friday clears.

Oh well, I went with the old FT mantra "F>Y, always" and give up my bulkhead emergency row seat for an aisle in F.

Now I hope we board soon so I can maximize my utilization of it!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Running out of car rental companies

Not car.


They are all retarted in unimaginable ways.  The latest is the beautiful idiocy of National/Alamo hybrid at Logan.

I had a confirmed reservation Monday night with National Emerald Aisle through our corporate discount number.  When I went through the booth somehow they managed to attach the car to Alamo at some absurd walk-up rate.

Of course the guy checking me out knows nothing, the counter lady can't fix it and at first the manager just tries to refund the difference back to the card.

Luckily he figures out that I'm not very happy with this and he's so puzzled that I didn't get matched up with my confirmed reservation and he's now fixing it right - zeroing out the wrong Alamo reservation and creating the new correct National rez for the right amount.

Only 20 minutes so far and since my flight is 30 minutes late it's no biggie.  But man would I be on tilt if I had to take care of this by e-mail!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Flight delays and gate postings

Here's a new one. I'm on AA194 today (SFO-BOS) which was supposed to leave at 1:15pm.

We start boarding 30 minutes before, even though Logan is a mess and everything is an hour or more late into it. Okay, no problem, maybe they expect that by 10pm it'll get better.

As people keep boarding, I'm settled in my exit row seat, the captain comes on the PA and tells us at the air traffic control gave us a 4pm wheels up time and we'll be going back into the terminal and reboarding around 3pm. He blamed our "wonderful" air traffic control system. Now, I know our ATC system is antiquated in many ways and has lots of limitations, but when Boston (and other airports like SFO or ORD) gets behind, there's not much that can be done because of the runway capacity limitations, right? All these planes which are late are competing with the planes which are scheduled to come in later, so the domino effect makes everything late for the rest of the day.

Now, we get off, and we notice that the board at the airport (and on changed the departure from 1:15 to 2:15. The GA announces we should ignore that and it's that way because they can only push it by an hour at a time. Huh? If they get 4pm wheels up and they announce that we should come back at 3pm for re-boarding, why in the world would there be any limitation to what they can post as the new departure time???

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Flight cancelation

So last week I flew to LHR from ORD after working there and Ben was supposed to fly to LHR from SFO the same evening to join me.

As I'm sitting in the ORD Admiral's Club gtalking to Ben who's at the RCC at SFO, he tells me that they announced his flight has gone mechanical and they'll announce at 7:10 an update.  Since that's when they were originally supposed to depart, that means he'll be late (he was originally scheduled to come in about 90 minutes after me with a 40 minute earlier departure).

At 7:10 when I'm supposed to go to my gate to board, he texts me that his flight was cancelled.  Now as I'm heading to the gate for my flight, I'm trying to text/gtalk/SMS/talk him through what he needs to do next.

UA non-stops the next day are both zeroed out (no surprise).  I tell him that he should insist that they push his ticket over to another airline to leave SFO tonight (rather than making him go home and come back for an 8am departure through IAD arriving more than 24 hours late as they auto-rebooked him on).  He has the typical experience calling - some agent isn't willing to do that and claims it's not possible as the system already rebooked him.

Following FT mantra (if you don't like the answer, call again) he called back armed with information about flights which were leaving that night connecting to LHR flights which would get him here the same day (but 7-9 hours later) and he got a helpful agent who pushed him onto the AC flights through YYZ (Toronto).  He got in at 9pm instead of 1pm the same day at least.

Now the big issue will be to make sure he gets the Double EQM he's supposed to for the original flight which requires requesting original routing mileage credit and hoping it gets in there before the DEQM posts so that it happens automagically.  Otherwise who knows if there will even be a way to fix this in UAs MP+ system...

Monday, April 13, 2009

More seat assignment woes

Today's prize of most idiotic software design or implementation goes to...

Rearden Personal Travel Assistant.

This is the new frontend that replaced Cliqbooks (which was pretty retarded in its own ways) to allow me to book travel with our corporate travel agency.

It has this cool "feature" that if you tell it you prefer, say, aisle seats, and then you book a flight that doesn't have aisles available, it keeps checking for you to see if your preference opens up. Unfortunately, somehow it can't see what seat I actually have once I change it on the airline's own website.

So, a couple of days ago, a fairly full flight from Boston to SFO on Wednesday suddenly showed an aisle seat in EXIT ROW open up. I immediately grabbed it.

8am sharp the next morning, the Rearden Assistant moved me to an available middle seat... because well, it couldn't see where I was, and I guess determined that it must be a non-aisle seat so it moved me to the only thing that was available ... a middle seat. Thanks!

This evening thinking I was crazy after moving myself to a different open aisle exit row seat that opened up earlier this evening (the one I was moved out of was gone now) I then called AA to ask them about this. They confirmed that my travel agent moved me out of 9D into 25B and she confirmed I was definitely showing as being in 9C now, and I'm willing to bet that tomorrow at 8am sharp the system will try to move me to my preferred aisle seat and probably force me back into 25E or some such...

Sadly, AA has no way to lock my "travel agent" out of my record. Sadly, there is no preference I can set in Rearden that says "I prefer you LEAVE MY GODDAMN SEAT ASSIGNMENT ALONE". :(

Sunday, April 12, 2009

airline idiocy

The biggest idiocy of our day and age are "direct" flights.

In case you don't know, a direct flight is not a non-stop flight, so you still have to land somewhere, gather your crap, go to another gate, get back on a plane, but it's called a "direct" instead of a connecting flight because you get the same flight number on the first and second legs.

In every other way it's different from a connecting flight in many ways the airline gets to screw you.

Like making you reserve the same seat on both legs (one not available or only middles seats happen to be available for both? Too bad - you only get one boarding pass). Like not clearing your upgrade unless both legs have availability at the same time. Like giving you mileage for the non-stop even if you happened to have flown more actual miles. Like not keeping the same plane, gate or even terminal and certainly not waiting for you if your incoming is late (you figured you couldn't miss the second leg of a one-stop, didn't you?).

Amazing how easily they can suddenly split your ticket into two when they want to give away your seat for the second leg!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Awesome answer!

I'm at Boston Logan airport waiting to meet someone.  His flight is running late.  I see people coming out of the terminal.  I ask one of them:

Which flight are you from?

She answers:


Uh - thanks?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A couple of firsts

Was listening to channel 9 on my SFO-BOS flight today.  First they say:

United xxx cleared for take-off ...
Then as we start rolling we get a
United xxx cancel take-off

Our pilot actually asked after aborting if he heard right - we were first cleared and then uncleared for take-off which ATC confirmed.  I guess they decided there wasn't enough room after all...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Heathrow to Sheraton

Good deal: go to central bus terminal and take 75, 76 or U3 bus for free (and take a five minute walk).

Good deal: arrange w/hotel for a car, £10 between hotel and terminals 1,2,3.
Not a good deal: Hotel Hoppa bus, £4 per person, takes as long as the free bus though gets you to the door of the hotel... Eventually.

Dutch trains not all that after all

Show up for my 12:02 train to Schipol from Eindhoven.  Due to hotel desk having their fire drill practice at 11:45 (when check-out is noon?) and the girl taking extra long on everything, train machines not taking CC (the same machines do at Schiphol) ATM machines giving only bills, train machines tajking only coins, line at ticket window, I miss the 12:02 by one minutes.

No problem, there's a 12:14 going non-stop to the airport arriving 13:46 giving me plenty of time for the 15:00 flight I'm already checked in for.

Except the train is not going past its first stop because it's ... something in Dutch.  So I change trains to Ultrich.  Where we arrive late, and one minute past the train to airport departing.  The next one is 15 minutes later and delivers me to Schiphol at 14:12.  No problem, except the kiosks that are supposed to reprint my BP aren't working and I have to go to a human who takes extra long for some reason (I should be used to that)

Security line is insanely long but UA 1K gold card comes in handy - I'm in the much shorter Premium line which is barely moving. So much for faster.

As I'm getting near the belt it's 2:28 and my flight is starting to board in a couple of minutes and two gentlemen are trying to push their way "excuse me, excuse me, our flight is leaving" I look at their BPs and it says 14:35 - your flight leaves in seven minutes?  No their flight starts boarding in seven minutes.  Well, wait in line along with everyone else, sheesh!

After I go through the metal detector, the dude working there looks at my BP and says "you're in the wrong area" even though I'm leaving from D18 and the signs here all say "All B, C, D gates".  Security guy insists this is only D thirty-something or higher.  The guy next to me is making "don't listen to him faces", I ask "can I get to my gate from here and the security guy says "yes".  So why is he wasting my time?

My careful planned time to check out AMS *A gold lounge and spend my remaining Euros is shot and I rush to the gate through passport control.  I get there 20 min before departure w/sign saying "gate closing" and *another* metal detector and a 10 minute line.

Oh well, no problem. Didn't have to run after all.

Monday, February 09, 2009

_not_ my favorite thing

Showing up to a hotel with a confirmed reservation and finding out the
reservation's been cancelled.

By the idiotic booking tool (or idiotic programmer who wrote it) that
thinks the proper way to handle a change in dates is send a
cancellation, send a rebooking, when the rebooking fails give a general
error, leave the live reservation in my record, send a cancellation on
to the hotel.


Don't ever use

Sunday, February 08, 2009


We're over two hour to Heathrow and they just paged for any medical personnel on my flight to ring their FA button.

Hope this doesn't turn out to be a serious emergency for someone, we're pretty much over nothing, middle of Northern Atlantic.

Flight Plan, Videos, Photos

The flight plan for the coolest flight ever:

The videos I took from the flight:

The pictures from the flight and the rest of the weekend DO:

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Coolest. Flight. Evah!

At the Continental DO this weekend in Houston. This morning were the tours. Flight simulator, baggage control center, training facility, catering operation, mystery tour. 

I couldn't remember which one I put in for, but I was hoping to get second shift (10am start instead of 7am). Got the mystery tour.  The late start. 

It turned out to be the "flight to nowhere". High performance take off sharper than from SNA. Low altitude fly-over Houston downtown.  Missed approach and low buzz over Hobby airport.  Flight over Galveston, Corpus Cristi, Austin and back to IAH.

Tour and pictures of the cockpit *in*flight*  majorly cool.  Will post pix and videos... somewhere...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hard to hate any scenario more...

You're sitting on your allegedly on-time ATL-CLT US flight, sweating your 39 min connection to IAH. If the ATL was late departing from ATL you could convince CSRs to push your ticket over to one of the non-stops on DL or CO. But you board early and the doors close and you push back slightly ahead of schedule.

As you wait for your turn to take off you hear the engines go off which is never a good thing and your captain announces that you just got a 30 minute hold from ATC.

Great, that gives you about 10 minutes to make your connection from the middle of one concourse to the very end of another. Thanks, Useless Air.

Sure enough, you arrive just with enough time to run to your gate and watch it be closed even though it's 5 min before departure, the monitor you just sprinted past has "Boarding" as the status of the flight and your helpful crew announced that "they knew you were coming".

One of those typical surly gate agents barks that no, she can't let you on the flight and the next one is in about 2.5 hours, which will mean another night of less than five hours of sleep for you. And no dinner voucher because it's not four hours or longer delay.

I can't wait till CO joins *A - later this year I'd be taking the non-stop tonight instead of this disaster.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oh my ears!

Having to wait on the station platform for an extra fifteen minutes while there are TVs screaming because the person who set the volume must have been deaf sucks the worst.

And really, it doesn't matter if I understand what the TV is hollering or not.  It's annoying as all hell.

Missed it by this much

Missing the train by 20 seconds and watching doors close as you're entering the station because you were stuck behind some slowpokes - sucks.

Missing the train by less than two seconds and having the doors close on top of your nose - sucks much much worse.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

There are still smoking sections in the world?

Only the most idiotic space planner would put a smoking section in a restaurant next to the buffet. 

The fact that there are still smoking sections in eating establishments somewhere in the world is a rant of its own.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The only thing I hate about China

Damn, those locals talk on their cellphones everywhere and they are *loud*!!!

Especially annoying: on a long distance train, and in a nice, otherwise quiet restaurant.

Wow, just wow

I've stayed at some very impressive hotels in the last ten years.  Le Royal Meridien Shanghai room I just checked into is by far the most impressive. 

I was practically speechless for a few minutes.  And if this is what Gold gets you, I can't even imagine the kind of room that Platinium would get.
Pictures will show up on flickr as soon as I gather my wits about.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Whoa, elevator!

In Nanjing Sheraton, you come to a central station in lobby and punch in the floor you want to go to.  It gives you the letter of the elevator to take.  You go to that elevator.  There are no controls inside.  It takes you to your floor. 


Monday, January 05, 2009

Getting a Chinese Visa

Seems simple enough - come in person to Chinese Consulate, drop off your application, pay, come up for pick-up 1, 3 or more days later, depending on how much you paid extra.

I get here at 1:25pm and take a number.  It's 306.  They are serving... 195.  But that's not too bad, there are five windows and most people are out of there in less than a minute.  So, 110 numbers, maybe half an hour, right?


First thing I notice is that three of the windows haven't taken a number in a while and in fact there is no one there.  After an hour, one of the two open windows also stops taking new numbers!  This will take hours!  After another half an hour one of the other windows gets a move-on, but still, it's been almost 80 minutes and they've gotten through 45 numbers.

And that's with many people being no-shows given how they look at their number and give up.


So why don't they accept this by mail???