Jul 092016
 

So…I should preface this whole entry by saying that lots and lots of things on this trip didn’t go as planned. Actually, since I’m still in the middle of the trip, who knows what else will change. Originally, it was to be a trip to Turkmenistan to hit country #195 and then a stop in Crimea on the way home (because, hey, why not). Then things got weird. Really weird. But I think suffice to say I’ll just let it unfold segment by segment.

Originally, the plan was to fly DC to Dubai and then pick up a flight with FlyDubai to Ashgabad. Simple and straightforward. I had a booking DC-Zurich-Dubai on an award ticket in United First and Swiss business. Then, about 12 days before departure, Lufthansa first opened up…but not out of DC. Only out of Chicago. Ok, change of plans number one, I’m going to go DC-Chicago-Frankfurt-Dubai with the last two segments in Lufthansa First. I figure since this is my penultimate country trip, I should go big or go home and enjoy it…so Lufthansa First it was to be.

Then, three days before departure, LAX to Frankfurt opened up on the A380 in first. Sold! Of course, when I booked it, I hadn’t really thought about how I was going to get to LA. I could try flights the same morning, but that was a really risky connection. I could go the night before, but fares to LA were outrageous and there were no first class awards. Wait, what’s this…DC to Las Vegas (via Houston) for a really reasonable price? Sold! Ticketed!

Of course, I hadn’t thought about how to go Las Vegas to Los Angeles the next morning, but I figured American, United, Delta and Southwest all fly the route so something would work out.

So, off to the airport it was! It had been so long since I’d flown domestic that I forgot I couldn’t get into the United Club…but that’s what I save those Chase passes for…right? Unfortunately, turns out after handing it over that it had expired. When I asked if they might accept it this one time, her response was “does it LOOK like it’s 2015 to you?!” Uhh…thanks lounge dragon ūüôĀ You could have just said “sorry, I can’t do that even though I’d like to.” #Phrasing

Boarded right on time, and we’re off to Houston…maybe

United Express flight 6230, operated by Mesa Airlines
Washington DC, National (DCA) to Houston, Intercontinental (IAH)
Depart 15:35, Arrive 18:00, Flight Time: 3:25
Embraer ERJ-170, Registration N89313, Manufactured 2014, Seat 2A

Upon boarding was offered full open bar for pre-departures, so I went with a red wine and a water. When did United get these funky blue plastic glasses? Hint to United: doesn’t help them look any classier! I set my watch to Houston time and tried to get on vacation time.

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While sipping my 2016 Ch√Ęteau l’Oscar I looked out the window and saw this:

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Regulated garbage. A very fitting description for US airline catering these days! Then…the pilot came on. We’ve been given a slot time in one hour due to weather in Houston. Ugh. Oh well, flight attendant was great and offered refills on drinks until five minutes later when the pilot came on and informed us we now had a slot time THREE HOURS later due to weather. I called the 1K line instantly and got a very unhelpful agent who told me there was “nothing at all available.” Even when I asked about Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, LA, Dulles, nope, she said no seats anywhere.

Ugh. Since it was going to be three hours we were told to get off the plane, and I made a beeline for the gate where an amazing agent got me the one and only seat via Chicago. Despite all the pressure he was under he did an amazing job and took care of me. Sure, it was the two things I hate: window seats and bulkhead, but he got me out that day!

So, I headed to the bar to get a drink. Where I wondered, wow, how do I have over an hour until my flight to Chicago yet I still get in sooner. That’s when I realized I’d already set my watch to Houston time, and I was about to miss my flight! Ran to the gate where I was pretty much the last one on board, but I made it!

United flight 565
Washington, National (DCA) to Chicago, O’Hare (ORD)
Depart 16:45, Arrive 18:03, Flight Time: 2:18
Airbus A320, Registration N485UA, Manufactured 2001, Seat 1F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 104,066
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,293,591

Still had time for a glass of Ch√Ęteau l’Oscar while my seatmate proudly informed me he was on his third PDB beer. Good on you! You’re off to Vegas!

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Pilot announced we “have to shut the doors five minutes ago before we get hit by this line of storms and don’t get out of here!” Totally agree with him…

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After takeoff, there’s not too much to tell. The snack basket came around, and I was glad to see the caramello latte biscotti back in the rotation! Of course, my “water, no ice” wasn’t to be…

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Soon, we were on approach to Chicago. Best part of a window seat is the view:

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Landed a bit early in Chicago, and made the hike from Terminal C to Terminal B. Ran into a friend who’s a flight attendant for United, and by the time we were done chatting it was time to board the Ma and Pa Kettle Express to Vegas, where everyone thinks they’re in group one. Little hint, when they call Global Services for boarding, nobody actually bothers to check your boarding pass, so you can just waltz right on ūüėČ

United flight 599
Chicago, O’Hare (ORD) to Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS)
Depart 19:35, Arrive 21:36, Flight Time: 4:01
Boeing 737-900, Registration N62889, Manufactured 2015, Seat 1F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 104,968
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,295,105

Shortly after takeoff, the warm nuts were served. I applaud the new blend which includes pistachios and some other unidentified nut:

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Of course, this ramekin should never have been used. I nicely pointed it out to the FA so she could take it out of rotation, and got a “whatever, lots of them are like that.” Ugh, way to be classy United.

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The most boring and bland looking meal ever. On the positive side, the broccoli and chicken were perfectly cooked, and when combined with the salad made a relatively healthy meal. For once United wasn’t trying to put me in a carb coma. One of the better meals I’ve had in a while domestically, although that’s not saying a whole lot.

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Somewhere after eating this and a couple glasses of wine I passed out…and woke up nearly three hours later just as we were about to land in Vegas:

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Overall, it was a relatively uninteresting set of domestic flights. United’s catering has clearly gotten slightly better, but the grumpy attitudes of a few flight attendants are still detracting from their attempts to do better. Major kudos, however, to ground staff (not club staff) who really took an unfortunate weather situation and turned it around for me. In retrospect, they did the best they could in a bad situation and got me where I needed to be. So overall, a net win for United on this one!

Next up….now….how do I get to Los Angeles? Called an Uber who took me to the Westin Las Vegas, which I’ll review in the next post…

Oct 042014
 

Tame last night in Vegas, and after dinner ended up sitting around having a few drinks. Was watching some tv and texting on my phone and…

…and next thing I knew it was 5 minutes before I’d planned to leave the hotel in the morning. Ugh, I’d fallen asleep texting/watching tv…and my phone was completely dead so the alarm never went off. I’d never done that before. Quick shower, packing, and was out the door about 15 minutes later than planned. No big emergency, but incredibly lucky I woke up when I did. I guess all the time zone changing and tiredness finally caught up to me and the body just crashed.

Made it to the airport in plenty of time, there was no line at security, and soon I found the AmEx Centurion lounge. The agent asked me how I’d liked the LaGuardia Lounge (impressive CRM – and good database) and offered to show us around if we needed anything. I just wanted breakfast at this point.

Some tasty pancakes and fruit, along with a poached egg in tomato basil sauce which was delicious. Oh, and a glass of Veuve. Won’t want to go cold turkey and risk getting the shakes or something! One nice thing the Centurion lounges do for Centurion card holders is offer a special drink at each lounge. At both LaGuardia and Vegas it’s Veuve or a glass of Johnny Walker Blue. I figured 8a was ok for champagne, but later in the day it would be a hard choice….

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Originally, I had ticketed Vegas-Houston-Chicago-DCA because I was afraid I might be short on qualifying miles this year. But at this point, I was exhausted…and there was one seat on the Houston-DC nonstop in P class so I called United to try and make a same day confirmed change. After being on hold 15 minutes, the agent had no clue how to do it, and pulled the “it’s under airport control” excuse. Ugh.

United Airlines flight 1236
Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS) to Houston, Jorge Bush Intercontinental (IAH)
Depart 9:32, Arrive 14:34, Flight Time 3:02
Boeing 737-900, Registration N47414, Manufactured 2008, Seat 2E

Not terribly much to say on this flight. I wasn’t very hungry after the lounge, but took the breakfast for photo purposes. Ok, I actually ate the fruit and greek yogurt and a couple bites of the egg, but that was all. I’d had way way too much United food on this trip, and was rather over it. The other option was the usual cereal and banana, which today was raisin bran.

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Landed in Houston a few minutes ahead of schedule, checked ExpertFlyer, and there was still one P seat on the nonstop to DC, so I tried to use the app to change it…and it worked! Yes, United technology succeeded where an actual agent couldn’t…go figure! ¬†I’d get home nearly four hours sooner, which was sounding absolutely fantastic at this point!

I stopped at Le Grand Comptoir to wait for my flight, and had a couple of glasses of prosecco while waiting:

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Not only had I gotten on the earlier flight, but I had an aisle seat in row 2 – my preferred seat. Clearly it was my lucky day!

United Airlines flight 292
Houston, Jorge Bush Intercontinental (IAH) to Washington, DC, National (DCA)
Depart 16:37, Arrive 20:18, Flight Time 2:41
Airbus A319, Registration N846UA, Manufactured 2001, Seat 2E

One last class of Domaine Ste Jeff and one last bowl of discount warm nuts:

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Today’s lunch was some sort of sandwich on pretzel bread, bread on no plate, and scary halloween colored soup:

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Chatted with my seatmate a bit, who was a flyertalker coming back from Singapore (or was it Bangkok?) and was a fan of my trip reports. Made the flight fly by, and soon landed at DCA ahead of schedule. A very busy, very packed, very successful trip down in the books.

So, was it worth it? Absolutely! Although I would have liked to have more time in Paris, Barcelona, Andorra, and Hawaii, it was a great trip. I had lots of really cool experiences, saw lots of new things, managed to visit a new country, and had a great time driving through the mountains. The trip made for some fantastic stories, and I’d love to do something similar again…but not any time too soon!

Apr 052014
 

It was spread a bit too widely to be a mistake fare, and Air Canada, Lufthansa, and Brussels Airlines matched the fares too, so it seems this one was intentional.  However, it was odd.  Fares from a majority of US cities, excluding United hub cities of course, to a variety of cities in Europe for $500 roundtrip plus taxes and fuel surcharges.  Depending on the cities it came to roughtly $1400 to $1600 total.

Of course, when I saw Honolulu was in the mix, I had to jump on it!

Problem was, since United massively devalued miles earlier this year, I cashed in around 500,000 so my travel year is packed. ¬†And this deal would only be valid in July and August, when I already had some other commitments. ¬†Early July was out, since I was already going to St. Kitts for a long weekend. ¬†Late July/Early August also wouldn’t be good time-wise…and I was to go to Vegas the last weekend of August for a bachelor party. ¬†Wait. ¬†Vegas is on the way from Honolulu to DC…kind of. ¬†This got me thinking….

Getting to Honolulu is easy…and can be done in one day. ¬† I found a routing that would instantly confirm with a United regional upgrade as well. ¬†So far this is working well.

Now, Hawaii to Europe on the business class deal… settled on HNL-IAD-CDG since it has a 10 hour layover in DC, enough time for me to repack bag, run any errands I might need to…or just be silly since it’s a Sunday.

I’d have just over 48 hours in Paris. ¬†From what I remember Paris is rather dead in August, so I won’t likely stay there…but I might. ¬†I’m also looking at buying roundtrip flights down to Toulouse, renting a car, and driving to Andorra for the night…the last country I need to visit in Europe. ¬†Any thoughts on this? ¬† I arrive into CDG around 6am and depart two days later around 10am.

On the way back, I’m doing the ultra-long CDG-SFO-HNL…going to be a very long day…and a very short night in HNL, because at 6am the next day I fly HNL-LAX which confirmed instantly with a regional upgrade, and LAX-LAS which wouldn’t confirm, so ended up paying like $40 more for a P fare. ¬†Bargain of an upcharge!

Then, the only decision was how to get back from Vegas. ¬†Since I’m looking to be a bit shorter on qualifying dollars than qualifying miles, I decided to go with the United P fare routing LAS-IAH-ORD-DCA. ¬†Probably should have skipped the ORD, but it was the same price…and what’s one more flight at this point?

In the end, here’s what it looks like:

map

Total stats are:

27,128 butt-in-seat miles flown
11 days, 16 hours traveled
65,125 redeemable miles earned
37,542 elite qualifying miles earned
3,275 premier qualifying dollars earned

It should be an absolute crazy adventure…and I can’t wait!

Oct 132013
 

This is not going to be a photo-heavy post, mainly because there are so many reviews of United’s business/first class products out that that I think people are pretty tired of them. One thing I found lacking when planning this trip, however, were the ins and outs of Lagos airport. So, that’s where the focus will be.

First, a small note on the routing. When booking, Houston to DCA was not available for upgrade. Naturally, I started looking for options. That’s when I found out that (at least at the time) Lagos to San Francisco was LESS expensive than Lagos to DCA. Even when I added a one-way San Francisco to DC ticket onto it, it was only $100 more. I’m very close to Million Miler status with United, so the chance to add nearly 3,000 miles for only $100 sealed the day. Oh, and wait, Houston to San Francisco would be on an international 767 and San Francisco to Chicago would be on the 777 AND all upgrades will clear at time of booking. The $100 was a no brainer. Sure, it would mean an extra 12 hours en route home, but it was worth it!

LOS to DCA map

 

Plan was to get to the airport around 7pm for a 10:35pm flight, knowing the reputation Lagos has for being chaotic and things going wrong.  Well, that was the plan anyways.  We got a late start from the hotel, and then traffic was absolute hell.  One lesson learnt:  leaving Victoria Island during rush hour is a mess.  An absolute mess.  Took nearly two hours to get to the airport, and finally arrived around 8:30pm.  No big deal.  Said goodbye to John, and then it was into the madness that passed for check-in.

Found the queue for United Business/Star Gold, ¬†and the whole check-in area looked like a hurricane had hit it. ¬†Masses of people and bags everywhere, lines that weren’t really lines, and convincing the drone manning the area to let me into the business class line was work in and of itself. ¬†Finally up to the counter, and ready to check in. ¬†Agent was cold and unfriendly, but efficient, and check-in took maybe five minutes total. ¬†Then, it was back through the masses of people to immigration and security.

There was a separate immigration line for business/priority, and it took maybe 10-15 minutes to get to the front of the queue. ¬†Give the documents to one agent, he hands them to another agent, who directs you to a third agent, who finally wields the magical exit stamp. ¬†Slow, incredibly inefficient, but stamped out of Nigeria without a single question. ¬†Wow, that wasn’t bad at all.

Then, it was security. ¬†No line at all (immigration seems to have done the job sorting people) and put everything through the scanner. ¬†Walk through, and try and retrieve my bags. ¬†Would have been easy, if the guy manning the other end of the x-ray machine hadn’t decided to pick up my iPad and start looking at it. ¬†I asked him to give it back, to which his reply was “of course! ¬†perhaps you can help me have a happy weekend?” ¬†I was tired, hot, sweaty, and a bit cranky at this point, and just spat back at him “It’s MONDAY NIGHT. ¬†It’s FAR TOO EARLY to be thinking about the weekend!” and snatched the iPad out of his hands and put it back in my bag. ¬†It could have ended really badly, but fortunately he just gave a big laugh and said something like have a good trip.

Now, how to find the lounge. ¬†There were no signs at all, but asked a friendly airport staff member walking by, and she pointed me up a staircase. ¬†Finally found what passes for the United lounge, and…the air conditioning was broken. ¬†Seriously?! ¬†Next up, went down the hall to what I seem to remember was another Star Alliance labeled lounge, and they said no, no United flight allowed. ¬†Um, ok.

Pull up the priority pass app, and find the lounge that is handling the Delta flight (sorry, forget the name) is a Priority Pass lounge. ¬†Get there, and she tells me “no, no Priority Pass after 4pm.” ¬†Ug, Seriously? ¬†I must have made a really pathetic sweaty, tired, and cranky face at her, because she said “I will make an exception.” and let me in. ¬†Hooray! ¬†Finally things are looking up! ¬†Freshen up at the sink, enjoy the AC, few bottles of water and one last Star beer, and it was time to head to the gate to board.

The gate…well it was security theatre that would put even TSA to shame. ¬†Six or seven folks standing around checking boarding passes, checking bags by hand, and after I’d talked to three of them I’d had enough, and just sat down. ¬†It was pretty clear I was supposed to talk to others, but nobody said anything. ¬†It was a complete joke as far as security goes, since they had no orderly way of checking who’d they’d checked and who they hadn’t. ¬†It would concern me if everyone hadn’t gone through a security check earlier.

Boarded right on time, and the flight was booked full in all classes. ¬†Somehow, however, it seemed the ONE seat that would remain open was the one next to me. ¬†This has happened to me more times than I can count recently, and clearly I’ve banked some major travel karma. ¬†Several employees were also cleared into business at the last minute, so I’m guessing that lots of folks got stuck in the Victoria Island traffic mess and missed the flight. ¬†We ended up leaving about 30-40 minutes late due to some sort of maintenance issue, but it wasn’t a big deal. ¬†I had a long connection.

Across the aisle in row one, there were two women traveling together who were giving the purser an earful. ¬†Seems they had booked an award ticket with United, and the only routing available was Johannesburg to Lagos on South African, connecting to this United flight to the States. ¬†They were clearly not experienced international travelers, and transiting in Lagos was a recipe for disaster. ¬†I wouldn’t recommend it to even a moderately experienced traveler based on my experience. ¬†Anyways, seems they had been rounded up by some official types at the airport, told their transit without a visa was illegal, and there were going to be some very serious fines. ¬†One of the ladies was walking with a cane, and said that airport security had demanded her gold watch as payment of the fine, and she was going to sue United for doing this to her. ¬†She did eventually settle down after the purser brought her several glasses of Sprite (she was complaining she was going to go into a diabetic coma – maybe true, but she was being seriously dramatic) and was quiet the rest of the flight. ¬†Lesson here: ¬†don’t transit Lagos unless you have balls of steel!

United flight 143
Lagos, Nigeria (LOS) to Houston, George Bush (IAH)
Depart 22:35, Arrive 05:00 next day, Flight Time 12:25
Boeing 787-8, Registration N26906, Manufactured 2012, Seat 1D (aisle)

Not the friendliest crew I’ve ever had, but it was a solid flight. ¬†Once again, I managed nine full hours of uninterrupted sleep after the meal. ¬†I’m convinced now that there’s something about the 787 that makes sleeping so much easier. ¬†I’ll definitely go out of my way to fly it on redeyes again! ¬†One highlight from the crew, when I asked for hot fudge and “a couple cherries” on my sundae, this is what I ended up with:

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Can’t complain too much about that! ¬†Just like the flight to Lagos, I managed to eat, get nine hours of sleep, and still wake up in plenty of time for a small bite of breakfast. ¬†Some cereal, fruit, and a cinnamon bun, and soon we had arrived in Houston.

Carrying my wooden carving back, I was unsure if it was something I had to declare. ¬†Wood and things made out of wood are a bit of a grey area, so I decided to play it safe. ¬†Last thing I wanted was to screw something up, get caught, and lose my Global Entry. ¬†I went through the questions at the automated kiosk, and there was nothing to indicate I had to declare it. ¬†Got a clean receipt from the machine, which meant I could walk right out, but when I handed it to the agent at the exit, I made sure to ask him “I have a carving made from wood wrapped up in this bag, do I need to declare that?” ¬†He looked at me like I was from another planet, and just waved me through.

Off to the Terminal E United Club for a shower and several more glasses of water, and immediately felt great again.  Amazing what nine hours of solid sleep will do for you.  Off to Starbucks for some coffee, and soon it was time to board the connecting flight to San Francisco.

United flight 570
Houston, George Bush (IAH) to San Francisco, California (SFO)
Depart 9:35, Arrive 11:45, Flight Time 4:10
Boeing 767-300, Registration N669UA, Manufactured 1999, Seat 1D (aisle)

Two words: ¬†GATE LICE. ¬†I’ve never seen so many people crowding the priority boarding line looking to pounce the minute the agent opened the door. ¬†I had what I consider to be the best seat on the plane, so I was in no great rush. ¬†Boarded relatively early, and the lead flight attendant helped me find somewhere to store the carving safely after everyone had boarded.

One strange thing about this flight, the moving map on the monitor was clearly having issues: ¬†I don’t think we were moving around THAT badly!

IAH to SFO map

Great and helpful crew, decent breakfast on the flight, and after a few episodes of Breaking Bad it was time to land already.  Arrival into San Francisco was almost 30 minutes early!  We parked at the domestic gates, and I walked around the terminal for nearly an hour before settling into the United Club for some more water and snacks before the flight.

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Yes, I admit it, I have a mild addition to the Tillamook cheese they serve in the United Club. ¬†Especially the pepperjack which they were out of today, boo hiss! ¬†Don’t judge!

United flight 207
San Francisco, California (SFO) to Chicago, O’Hare (ORD)
Depart 13:30, Arrive 19:39, Flight Time 4:09
Boeing 777-200, Registration N219UA, Manufactured 2000, Seat 7B (backward-facing aisle)

Turned out most of the crew on this flight was the same as my Houston to San Francisco flight.  I had to explain to several of them why I was taking such a bizarre routing, but as soon as they understood it was for more miles in addition to being nearly the same fare they understood.  Seems crazies who do such things are becoming common enough that the crews know about them.

No clue why I decided this was picture-worthy, but decided to snap a picture of the new 777 seating just for those who might not have seen it. ¬†That goes to show just how interesting the little details of this flight weren’t! ¬†Note the alternating frontwards/backwards seats.

United 777

 

Decent little lunch/snack that isn’t worth writing about, although the cookie was pretty tasty…to the point I asked for a second one. ¬†Almost thirty minutes early into O’Hare, which gave me nearly an hour to kill in the United Club staying hydrated and trying to stay awake by this point.

United flight 1717
Chicago, O’Hare (ORD) to Washington DC, National (DCA)
Depart 21:05, Arrive 23:51, Flight Time 1:46
Boeing 737-800, Registration N11206, Manufactured 2000, Seat 2E (aisle)

The last of several un-noteworthy flights. ¬†The most noteworthy aspect of this flight is that I discovered BBQ Pop Chips in the snack basket. ¬†I’ve never had them before, but I have to admit, they go rather well with the pre-mixed margaritas United serves on board. ¬†I admit I had at least three bags, at which point I lost count.

Landed at DCA about 10 minutes late, and was home about 15 minutes later.  In the end, it was well worth doing it for the extra miles, especially since it was all in business class and almost all on widebodies which meant significantly more comfort.

I was home for just three days, before heading up to Provincetown, Mass. for my birthday and the long weekend, then home for two weeks before heading back to West Africa again….until the next post!

Oct 112013
 

So, yeah, this is a bit overdue, but things have been crazy with two trips to West Africa the last month, a trip to Provincetown, Mass. in between, and things being crazy at the office. Hopefully I’ll get these cranked out pretty quickly, since I have two trips to Hawaii and two more to San Jose, California coming up in the next month thanks to the United $10 mistake fare!

A couple of months ago, my good friend John (who’s written a guest blog here before on Air Canada) told me he’d be making two trips to West Africa for work in the coming months, and since I’d never been to any of the countries he was going to he suggested I come along. I didn’t have too much planned at the time, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get a bit of an inside view on the place, so I jumped at the chance. The first trip would be a long 5-day weekend trip to Lagos, Nigeria and the second trip would be Cotonou, Benin and Accra, Ghana for four days. I decided to extend the second trip while I was in the region, and planned stops in Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire as well. Soon, the time to go was near!

United flight 356
Washington DC, National (DCA) to Houston, George Bush (IAH)
Depart 15:17, Arrive 17:24, Flight Time 3:07
Boeing 757-200, Registration N523UA, Manufactured 1990, Seat 3E (aisle)

Not terribly much to say here – it was a standard domestic flight, a cheerful pre-merger United crew, despite the fact the aircraft was older than dirt. Arrived into Houston on time, and had a few hours to kill in the United Club. Boarding was delayed about 30 minutes for the flight to Lagos, but soon we were settled in and it was time to go.

United flight 142
Houston, George Bush (IAH) to Lagos, Nigeria (LOS)
Depart 20:15, Arrive 14:50 next day, Flight Time 12:35
Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, Registration N45905, Manufactured 2012, Seat 1D (aisle)

This was to be my first flight of any real length on the 787, and fortunately my three short 2-3 hour domestic flights had clued me in that row 1 was the place to be. ¬†All seats in business class have the same pitch/legroom, but the footwells in row 1 and row 4 have double the space for your feet due to the way the seats are staggered. ¬†It’s a good thing, because it was going to be a very long flight and I was planning to get lots of sleep. ¬†The planned flight path:

IAH to LOS flight path

Continue reading »

Jul 042013
 

Flight 2

United Airlines flight 32
From Chicago (ORD) to Houston (IAH)

Depart 11:31 Arrive 14;08, Scheduled Flight Time 2:37

Boeing 787-8, Registration N27901, Manufactured 2012, Seat 4A

Miles: 925
Total Miles Flown this trip: 1,737

Flight Time in Air: 2:05
Flight Level: 40,000 feet
Departure Runway: 14L
Arrival Runway: 26L

Time Elapsed since trip start at 07:00 Thursday July 4: 8 hours 22 minutes

Actual Departure Time: 11:35 – 4 minutes late
Actual Arrival Time: 14:22 – 14 minutes late

Departure Gate: B17
Arrival Gate: C14

DirectTV: no
Channel 9: no
WiFi: no

Pre-Departure Beverage: offered anything, chose Bloody Mary

Meal: “Shrimp salad or chicken sandwich with soup” – went with the chicken sandwich and soup…and some relatively drinkable red wine of course! It was more of a calzone/stuffed pizza thing, but it was pretty tasty!

Other Notes: I slept half the flight…I’m already exhausted from the early morning and this is only the 2nd of 15 flights. I’m gonna be dead! I don’t know if it was the turbulence or the plane, but the 787 seemed really bumpy in flight.

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Jun 252013
 

I was dropped on the head as a child, that’s pretty clear. I do things most sane people wouldn’t dream of doing. So, when I found out I had four days free over the upcoming holiday, I started looking for new countries to visit to add to my tally of 136 so far. Problem is, most of them are now too far away to consider for a four day weekend.

Backup plan…let’s see how many miles I can earn towards million miler. As a bonus, let’s see how many 787 segments I can theoretically fly now that it’s back in the air. ¬†A few days of planning, and insanity was born.

The final plan is:

Day 1:  Washington DC, National (DCA) to Chicago (ORD) to Houston (IAH) to San Francisco (SFO) to Los Angeles (LAX) with ORD-IAH on the 787

Day 2:  Redeye flight LAX back to Houston on the 787, continuing on the 787 to Chicago, then to Newark (EWR) and finally Panama (PTY) and sleep in a real bed

Day 3:  Morning flight from Panama to Washington, Dulles (IAD) then on to Houston on a 767, back to LAX, and finally ending up in San Francisco for a very short 6 hour night.

Day 4:  San Francisco to LAX early morning, then on to Houston on the 787, and finally home to DCA.

Final routing, assuming nothing goes wrong, and it almost certainly will:

DCA-ORD-IAH-SFO-LAX

LAX-IAH-ORD-EWR-PTY

PTY-IAD-IAH-LAX-SFO

SFO-LAX-IAH-DCA

mrmap

I’m pretty sure I’m not going to survive this. By the numbers:

1 redeye
2 countries
3 showers…hopefully
4 flights on the 787
5 widebodies
7 United Clubs (if I can figure out a way to access on domestic days)
8 airports
8 different aircraft types
15 segments
85 hours
16,624 miles flown

So far 14 of 15 segments confirmed in first/business class, with one pending what will hopefully be an easy 1K upgrade on a 757 on July 4th. Time will tell though.

I’ll definitely make a point to pack my Bro Tank in order to offend as many “properly” dressed FlyerTalkers as possible on this most ‘Merican of all holidays.

bro

Stay tuned…I’m pretty sure this adventure is going to have more twists and turns than gumby at a limbo convention!

Feb 072013
 

Was up early the next morning, and had the hotel arrange a taxi to Yangon airport. Driver easily agreed on $10 or 800 Kyat, which seemed to be the going rate. I’m sure I could have knocked a dollar or two off, but… check-in was quick and easy, and soon I was waiting for immigration. Took maybe five minutes total to clear immigration, and soon I was in the contract lounge that Thai uses in Yangon.

Now, here, I have to make a confession. I’d gotten going too early to get caffeine or breakfast, so I had to survive on what I found in the lounge. Hey, don’t judge, but sometimes a breakfast of Pringles and Diet Coke is just what you need. My mother would be mortified. WiFi in the lounge was just fast enough to do e-mail, but that’s honestly about it. Managed to kill the hour or so I had before the flight, and from there it was maybe a two minute walk to the gate.

Thai flight 304
Yangon, Myanmar (RGN) to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK)
Depart 9:50, Arrive 11:45, Flight Time 1:25
Airbus A330-300, Registration HS-TED, Manufactured 1994, Seat 24A

Flight was maybe 2/3 full in business, and I moved from my centre seat to the last row where the pair of seats next to the window was available. Space and a view! Nothing too remarkable about this flight – the typical friendly Thai service, a small snack that I just picked at (but way more than you’d see on a similar flight in North America) and we landed right on time.

I had a bit over an hour to kill before heading to the next flight, so headed to the Thai business lounge, where much Diet Coke was consumed, along with a fair amount of dim sim – especially BBQ pork buns – YUM! Internet was nice and speedy, and I managed to Skype several calls and get a few things sorted, so it was time will used.

Thai flight 407
Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) to Singapore (SIN)
Depart 13:50, Arrive 17:10, Flight Time 2:20
Airbus A330-300, Registration HS-TET, Manufactured 2010, Seat 15E

In contrast to the last two Thai A330 flights I’d been on to Myanmar, this one was the “new” configuration. Thai has multiple configurations for their A330s, and the other one had had business class seats that were definitely showing their age. Way more room than economy, but none of the modern bells and whistles one has come to expect in business class. This plane, in contrast, had personal tvs, power ports, and went much closer to flat. It may have actually gone flat, but being a daytime flight I didn’t test it.

The flight was completely full in business, and there was again a small meal (complete with menus) and the drink cart came through offering beer and wine several times. Fantastic for a regional flight!

IMG_4575

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Oct 112011
 

Ok, first off, I need to do a few mea culpas….after the first week or so of the trip we were cramming so much into every day that I just wasn’t able to keep up with the blog during the trip. Oh, and my laptop died…the hinge cracked, turning it into the world’s largest iPad. More on that below…

So it was up early to get to the airport in Panama. First, a bit of explanation on this random routing. We could have just flown Panama-Houston-Honolulu, but that would have just meant more time laying over in Houston…and via Newark was the same fare, roughly another 5,000 miles towards elite status, and more time in Business First. Easy choice! Check-in in Panama was completely uneventful, and soon we were hanging out in the Copa Airlines Presidents Club. Stomach was still less than thrilled from the earlier food poisoning, so I was keeping to coffee and water while we waited to board. Lounge was basic, but more than adequate with quick WiFi…and it was right above our gate, so we could wait until the very last minute to board.

Continental Airlines Flight 1022
Panama City, Panama to Newark, New Jersey
Depart 10:05, Arrive 16:17, Flight time 5:12
Boeing 737-900, Registration N78438, Delivered 2009
Seats 2E and 2F

Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to say about this flight. Service was adequate, not overly attentive, but after my years of flying United I’ve gotten pretty used to that on domestic and regional flights. A copy of the menu for the flight: ¬†(it’s important my ‘preferred cocktail or beverage’ was the famous Continental margarita)

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