Jun 272011

I suppose it’s time I wrap this thing up, mainly because the next adventure is about to start in a few days! Many years ago before I started flying United, I used to have a (somewhat irrational) loyalty to Northwest. Back in those days, Northwest and Continental were shacking up pretty close and there was really no comparing the two.

Looking back, my universe for comparison had been pretty small. Concepts such as international first class didn’t exist yet, so flying Business First on Continental was about as good as it got in my book! Now, almost ten years later with dozens of flights in Singapore First, Lufthansa First, etc, I was looking forward to seeing how business first on Continental stacked up. This would be my first Continental trip in nearly seven years…and it was on the 757 that IAD is sure to see much much more of unfortunately. Continue reading »

Jun 232011

Unfortunately for the day after a marathon our flight out was at oh-dark-thirty, otherwise known as 8am. There was another one-stop flight via Tromsø that departed around 2pm, but was sold out in lower classes and was over $200 more. For a party of four we value sleep, but not to the tune of $800+. Plus, this would offer a bit of time to relax in Oslo before the long trek home.

Hotel breakfast buffet didn’t open until 7am, but in recognition of all the people with early flights they had a nice light breakfast set out. Breads, cheeses, some meat and fish, etc. Rare that a hotel would go the extra mile like this!

Unfortunately, the SAS bus ran on a set schedule, with a pickup time of 6am for an 8am flight…at an airport with only one departure. We decided sleep was more important and had ordered a taxi. The bus was NOK 50 per person, and the taxi turned out to be about NOK 250…so about a $9 premium for four people to get an extra hour of sleep – well worth it! Continue reading »

Jun 212011

When I looked at the Travelers Century Club country list many years ago, there were several “countries” on it that I had no idea where they were. I was more interested in visiting “real” countries, but figured this was an interesting list from a geography geek point of view as well I was trying to figure out where in the world Spitsbergen was…and around the same time realised that there was also a marathon here….the northernmost on Earth. Perfect coincidence, and I knew I wanted to do it one day!

Fast forward a couple of years, and the June race date coincided perfectly with my work and other travelers, so one afternoon in Hawaii with Matt and family we decided we’d all head up there in June to see what it was all about.

Unfortunately, the week after the trip in Hawaii, I woke up one morning with a horrid shooting/stabbing pain in the arch of my right foot. After struggling with it for a week I headed in only to learn it was plantar fasciitis – basically a nasty inflammation of the tendon/fascia under the arch of the foot. Probably the result of spending way too much time wearing flip-flops lately, walking on the beach barefoot, etc.

My plans for finally running a sub-4 hour marathon quickly went out the window, and I was only concerned with getting well enough I could walk/finish this race. I went through two doctors and a variety of failed treatments, before seeing a doctor who was a legend in the local running community. A marathoner himself, he knew I wouldn’t take no for an answer, and would do anything he could to get me to the start line. Continue reading »

Jun 192011

So having arrived at LYR, we waited for 75% of the flight to pile onto the same bus into town. There are really only 4 or 5 options for places to stay, so the bus can easily make a loop to all of them. Nearly 45 minutes later, we were the last stop on the loop, and were pulling up to our hotel – the Spitsbergen Hotel aka the Funken Hotel.

The view from the front drive of our hotel – the area is pretty barren:

Continue reading »

Jun 162011

So the day had finally arrived….after a night in the land of the midnight sun, we were off to 78 degrees north – several hundred kilometers north of the arctic circle.

There were only about 20 people in the gate area, so we were expecting that the flight would be pretty empty. However, based on the online seat map (available until right before boarding) the flight was packed…what was going on? Soon we realised that the flight was a through flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen with a stop in Tromsø – so that explained it.

Soon the plane pulled up, and over 100 people began to slowly pile into the gate area after clearing immigration to exit the Schengen at Tromsø. I know I had looked into this option when booking, but I felt that a gradual trek north with the chance to spend a couple days each in a couple of other cities would make things more interesting – very glad we did! Continue reading »

Jun 152011

We spent a couple of days in Trondheim, and soon it was time to continue the trek north. One note on Trondheim I haven’t posted yet, and that relates to the sun. Sunset in Trondheim was officially around 11-something with sunrise around 4am, however, it really didn’t get dark before 12 or so, and was already pretty light around 230 or 3am. All darkness would disappear after the next segment, however!

Flight SAS 4556
Trondheim (TRD) to Bodø (BOO)
Boeing 737-400
Registration LN-BRI, manufactured 1990
Seats 12A, 12C, 12D, 12F

One of the things that I was excited about (and I only figured out after booking this flight) is that it was one-stop through an airport with a really cool code. Who wouldn’t want to fly to BOO! I’m also working on FUN and DAM… 😀 Plus BOO would enable me to add one more to my total number of airports visited in a lifetime.

So, once again we were in the exit row, hoping the middles would stay free. 12E did, however, 12B ended up occupied from TRD-BOO and then empty for the second segment. This is probably a good time to talk about SAS mobile check-in. All of the tickets for this trip had been purchased on the SAS website, and I had given them my mobile number. At flight time minus 22 hours I got a text, containing a link to a mobile checkin site – which worked like a charm. It enabled me to secure exits or bulkheads on every segment…got to love that! Finally a mobile check-in that works! Continue reading »

Jun 142011

So having donated a couple of internal organs to the economy of Oslo, it was time to start the slow and gradual trek northward towards our ultimate destination of Svalbard.

The trip back to OSL was very efficient thanks to the SAS Flybussen. I don’t know all the details, but this bus service operated in all the airports we flew into on this trip, and was a timely and affordable (all things being relative) option all over Norway. I’d highly recommend it, and based on the number of locals on the busses it’s the way to go.

Go to OSL, off to the Star Gold check-in which was quick, friendly, and efficient, and then off to security which was equally so. So far, this is a great economy experience!

Until…we got through security and learned two things about SAS domestic Norwegian flights: (1) there is no lounge…ever and (2) there is only economy on these flights…ever. Continue reading »

Jun 122011

So let’s see, where were we. Oh yes, due to customer service issues and dangerous cargo I was stranded at Frankfurt and transferred from my SAS flight to a Lufthansa flight meaning a delay of four hours. There’s only so much time a person can spend in the Senator lounge, plus I’d headed outside immigration and security to actually get booked by someone who cared, so I did what any bleary-eyed redeye survivor would do: camped out at Starbucks. One quad venti lowfat iced latte later, I was feeling nearly human. After about an hour of playing around on the iPhone (thank you AT&T unlimited international data) and fending off a group of cougars from Nebraska who were after my Splenda stash (understandable since they’d been in Europe for two weeks) I headed back through security to the Senator lounge, where I found…

…no würst!!! I mean, come on, that and the beer (ok, and the potato salad) is the only thing that makes the Senator lounges better than Red Carpet Clubs. So faced with that, I decided to take advantage of the only other thing that makes the Lufthansa Lounges nice after a redeye: the showers. Despite being overheated and humid (I’ll never understand the German fear of being chilly) the showers are always welcome, plus they offer one of the few places in Germany where someone whose German is as poor as mine can actually practice since the shower attendants rarely speak more than 2 or 3 phrases of English. Continue reading »

Jun 092011

One of my favourite things about the “New United” is the ability to book one-way awards. Beyond the obvious benefit of being able to book one-way segments, it’s also nice for round-trips. I’d rather book two one-ways than an open jaw…it’s just so much easier to maintain.

Originally, I had booked my outbound as IAD-MUC in Lufthansa First connecting MUC-HAM-OSL on an A321 and CRJ in business. However, when space opened up I did what many milage nerds would consider unthinkable: I chose United First over Lufthansa First. For three reasons: One, the 10pm departure instead of 7pm departure made for a full day at the office as well as more shrimp time in the United First lounge. Two, the single connection in Europe instead of the double connection would get me in about the same time. Most importantly to me was reason three: the aircraft temperature. I don’t know why, but Lufthansa and Swiss have this annoying habit on eastbound transatlantic flights of cranking the heat up to the point where I spend the whole flight sweaty and unable to sleep. This was a no-brainer.  The final route was to be:

After stopping off at the Sheraton Herndon for a Mattress Run (can’t beat their $60 rates with the summer resort promo) I made it to IAD just over two hours before the flight. The Dulles Diamond security was closed, but regular security had no queue at all, so I was right through and in the IFL within 15 minutes of arriving at IAD. Even a blind squirrel gets a nut once and a while! This left plenty of time for the IFL shrimp cocktails and a bottle of Veuve before heading to the flight. This feat is less impressive now that they have the 375ml bottles instead. Continue reading »