Jan 152013

Airport was a quick taxi ride, and check-in with Air Malta was very quick as well.  Perhaps the most unusual thing about the airport was the giant manger scene set up out front – at least one country still celebrates Christmas instead of all this overly-PC “Happy Holidays” stuff.


Through immigration and security in probably 10 minutes tops, and ended up with nearly two hours to kill in the lounge. The Air Malta lounge was nothing special, but had a decent selection of beverages (serve yourself) along with more of the same red wine. I’m pretty convinced there might only be one vineyard in Malta that supplies the entire country. Plenty of seats in the lounge, plenty of outlets, pretty much ticked all the boxes for “good for meeting your basic needs, but not worth getting to the airport early to experience.”

Air Malta flight 696
Malta (MLA) to Tripoli, Libya (TIP)
Depart 17:00, Arrive 18:00, Flight Time 1:00
Airbus A320, Registration 9H-AEQ, Manufactured 2007, Seat 5A Continue reading »

Jan 122013

So I landed in Malta just after noon, and decided to take the shared shuttle to the hotel. All in all not a bad deal – had to wait about 15 minutes for it, and it was 8 euros as opposed to the 22 euros I paid for a taxi back the next day. Only made a couple stops, so unless you have lots of baggage I’d recommend it as a good option. Got to the hotel around 2, and had enough time for a short walk around, dinner, and then another half day or so of exploring before a late afternoon flight the next day. My plan was to get a quick sense of the place the first afternoon, so I had a better idea what I wanted to see the next day.  Warning, this is going to be a very picture-intensive post!

Upgraded to a junior suite at the Le Meridian, and a couple great views of Balluta Bay from the balcony of my room:




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Jan 102013

When planning this trip, Malta was a pretty obvious starting point.  It was close to Libya, I hadn’t been, and it seemed most logical to combine it with Libya and Tunisia since flight schedules were good.  Plus, it would keep my award as a US to Europe award, instead of the extra miles required for a north Africa award.  Initially, I’d booked my award from home in DC, routing DCA-YYZ-FRA-MLA and I was excited to try Air Canada business class transatlantic for the first time.  Later on, MSP-ORD-YYZ opened up, and I was able to change the award to depart directly from Minneapolis after visiting family.  One thing I didn’t think of at the time…the departure from MSP was at 8am.  Ug.

Weather was also not looking good on the 24th.  There was a major storm headed towards the east coast, and it was unclear if it would be snow, ice, or some slushy nasty combo of the two.  I played around for two days, and eventually settled on a MSP-PHL-FRA-MLA routing on US Airways.  FRA-MLA had been sold out for over a month, so I was shocked how willing agents were to retain the segment and just change the start.  Plus, this left MSP at 11:00 which would allow a bit of a lay-in and time for breakfast before heading out.  Also, I’d never flown US transatlantic, so it would be a chance for a new experience…albeit with VERY low expectations.  I knew US had refreshed the seats on their A330s, but I figured service would still be more miss than hit.

Check-in was a piece of cake at MSP, and I had time to grab some unhealthy kibble at the Red Carpet Club in the MSP E Terminal before boarding.

US Airways flight 1834
Minneapolis/St Paul (MSP) to Philadelphia (PHL)
Depart 11:00, Arrive 14:31, Flight Time 2:31
Embraer ERJ-190, Registration N947UW, Manufactured 2007, Seat 1D

One thing I found unusual is that US Airways operations their ERJ 190s with mainline crew.  I’d taken the ERJ 175s several times which were operated by Republic, but with just a few more setas the 190s were mainline.  Flight itself was remarkably unremarkable.  Snack basket, drinks, and about 45 minutes of circling around PHL waiting to land due to storm-related congestion.  In the end, no real big deal…except for the fact I’d had a friend call United when I was in the air, and see about changing my routing to PHL-DTW-FRA in order to fly Lufthansa first…and it seems the United agent had booked it!

One problem…while I was in the air PHL-DTW canceled, leaving US to try and rebook me PHL-CLT-FRA instead.  What a mess!  Fortunately PHL-FRA wasn’t heavily booked, and it was easy to get it back.  Spent about 30 minutes in the lounge at PHL, where I got one coupon for a “premium drink” for flying business.  Premium drink?  Wines that they sell for $7 a glass are premium?  I shudder at what the free wines must be!  The bartender WAS nice enough to say “if you want another glass, just go ask for another coupon, they’re meaningless and you can get as many as you want.”  LOL.

US Airways flight 700
Philadelphia (PHL) to Frankfurt (FRA)
Depart 16:30, Arrive 06:15 + 1 Flight Time 7:45
Airbus A330-300, Registration N274AY, Manufactured 2000, Seat 6H

My first impression after boarding was just how IKEA the cabin looked.  Light woods, bright, and overall very pleasant feeling.  Initial impressions were pretty good!



A glass of champagne wass offered (they insisted it was Champagne, despite being some California bubbly thing), which was followed by a second.  So far so good – you can see just how gross it was outside, and the reason for the delays in PHL:



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Jan 082013

It all started back in 2009 – I decided I was bored with New Years in general, so decided to spice it up by taking a trip somewhere a little unusual….Iraq! It became a bit of an annual tradition, doing New Years 2011 in Afghanistan and Iran, and then last year 2012 visiting Somalia.

How to top that in 2013? Easy enough…Libya was soon planned, booked and I was ready to go. Of course, then that whole little Benghazi incident happened, and I was a little nervous about it, but still decided to go through with it. I guess this means it’s time to start searching for 2014 – Syria perhaps?

I’ll be breaking the trip report into roughly the following parts (subject to change as I get writing):

I. Minneapolis to Malta on US Airways and Lufthansa
II. Exploring Malta, and the Sheraton Malta
III. Malta to Tripoli, Libya on Air Malta, and Libya hotel
IV. Day 1 in Libya: Zawiyah and Sabrata
V. Day 2 in Libya: Tripoli and Garyan
VI. Day 3 in Libya: Leptis Magna
VII. Libya to Tunis on TunisAir, and Sheraton Tunis, Bardo Museum
VIII. Tunis to Yangon via Hong Kong on Lufthansa First + Thai A380 and the W Hong Kong
IX. Quick transit in Yangon…and why am I here?!
XII. Yangon to Washington DC via Singapore