Mikeonbehind the curtain

Sigma 10-20mm Camera Lens for Airline Photography


All of the bloggers on UPGRD.com take a lot of photos. Some more successfully than others. ;)

Getting good first class and business class cabin photos is tough due to the tight space and proximity of other passengers and crew.  Typically aviation photographers choose a wide angle lens, often a fisheye lens. I dislike the look of fisheye photos as they are very distorted. I want to feel like I'm sitting in the in the seat shown and not at some mirror fun house at a carnival. So, ...

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Pan Am Timetable October 1989


With today's travel websites, apps and electronic overload sometimes it's nice to just thumb through an old paper timetable for a little nostalgia. Take a trip back to October 1989 with me, almost 25 years ago, as we plan a trip on Pan Am.

Now remember, by 1989 Pan Am was a shell of what it once was. It has sold its Pacific routes to United in 1985 and failed to merge with Northwest that very summer. So some routes are missing from this time table, but there is still a lot of ...

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AirNews: Seeing Red


This week's airline news from around the web:

A new policy at Turkish Airlines bans their flight attendants from wearing red lipstick, a move some Turks see as an Islamic move. While the airline states that this is a move to keep their appearance "artless and well-groomed with makeup in pastel tones", some think otherwise. Read more Passengers were seeing red two weeks ago when American Airlines' computer glitch caused hundreds of flights to be grounded. No word on the cause of ...

ITB Berlin


The reason for this award redemption was a last minute decision to attend ITB Berlin one of the largest travel shows in the world. For those of you that haven't attended, ITB is spread out over more than 20 buildings across the large Messe Berlin conference center campus. If you ever go, bring some comfortable shoes.

In attendance were most country and city tourism boards, airlines, hotels, travel operators, and every other company connected to travel. I visited a few of the airline ...

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Finnair A330 Business Class


After a pleasant but short stay in the Finnair Lounge in Helsinki I proceeded to the boarding area for my flight to New York. 

Boarding began 45 minutes before departure. There were four flight attendants in the business class cabin. They immediately took my coat and allowed me to take photos. They then passed pre-departure beverages (PDB) of either sparkling wine, orange juice or water. The crew quickly identified the passengers language and always spoke to each passenger in ...

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Finnair Lounge - Helsinki


After finishing at ITB I departed on Air Berlin for Helsinki. The all coach flight was on time and uneventful. I then proceeded through passport control and headed to the FinnAir lounge. 

The lounge for Non-Schengen flights is located near Gate 36 in Terminal 2. The lounge is contemporary and nicely appointed with comfortable chairs, dining tables and showers. The chairs by the windows (not shown) tilt back and feature an ottoman. I think you could easily ...

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Hyatt Place


In completing the Hyatt Diamond challenge, I've spent my share of nights at several different Hyatt Place properties. Hyatt Place, for those that haven't stayed there, is Hyatt's inexpensive franchise that feature the same building layout at each location. Almost all rooms feature a split studio design, with a large L-shaped couch, desk and wet bar with a fridge for your use. The other half of the room features one king size bed or two queen beds and a small bathroom. In some  markets ...

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Hyatt Crystal City (DCA) Review and Photos


In order to complete my Hyatt Diamond Challenge last year, I booked three nights at the Hyatt Crystal City near Washington DCA Airport.

If you are mileage running and trying to keep your costs down there are two cheap options available to get to the hotel. Firstly the hotel runs a free shuttle to the airport every 20 minutes. If you are already downtown or have taken the train or bus to Union Station, you can take the Metro service to Crystal City station. The hotel runs ...

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Air Berlin A330 New Business Class Seat


Air Berlin is rolling out lie flat business class seats similar to Etihad. I was invited to a press conference in March to highlight the new seat and get a first hand look.

The seats are comfortable and have plenty of length for tall travelers. While I'm average height I spoke with a few other attendees that were at least 6' 2" and they said the seat was very comfortable for them. The specs for the seat mention the length at 182cm (approximately 6') but both people reported ...

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ITA Matrix Airfare Search Advanced Routing Codes


Back in 2009 I wrote a quick post on using ITA to search for flights for an American Airlines Challenge by specifying some advanced options. ITA has a number of routing rules (or codes) that can be used to tailor your search requirement. Since I constantly have to remind myself of some of the codes I thought I'd make a quick "cheat sheet" here.

1) Search by month

For those of you new to ITA and searching for mileage runs your first stop should always be the calendar search function. ...

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New Bloggers, New Upcoming Site Features but Farewell to the Podcasts

As you may have noticed I haven't produced any of our three podcasts in a while. We had a limited audience for the podcasts and the scheduling, recording, editing and production were very time consuming. As such I've spent more of my time on the blogs, finding new bloggers and preparing some new features that we'll be launching this summer.

In the mean time Sara from The Crew Lounge has published her own e-book on surviving your first year as a flight attendant. It's a great read for ...

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PreCheck makes flying a breeze

Flying is fun again.

I flew from JFK to Washington D.C. (DCA) yesterday for the Freddie Awards and wrote some notes on how quick and enjoyable my airport experience was. Then, as I was sorting my files, I noticed another draft post from February entitled "Flying Is Fun". Ironically (or perhaps worrisome that I can't remember what I wrote two months ago) it's almost the exact same post. Yesterday, after arriving at the airport my experience was:

10:55am - Arrived at Terminal 8 ...

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Amtrak Acela Business Class New York to Washington


On a recent trip from New York City to Washington, D.C. I opted to take Amtrak's Acela service in business class. I tend to fly this route, as often American Eagle has ~$80 one way fares that are cheaper and faster than Amtrak. But since I had never taken Acela before, and had an expiring $100 credit on Amtrak I decided to "splurge" a little. Remember, "business class" on Acela is two by two leather seats which would normally be called Coach on other Amtrak trainsets. But in the Acela world, ...

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Air Berlin Business Class JFK-DUS


I redeemed a OneWorld Explorer award to go to Berlin for the ITB travel conference. After booking my ticket I contacted Air Berlin to ask about taking photos and they informed me of a press conference I could attend in Berlin, during ITB, for the new lie-flat seats they are installing. 

On departure day after checking in at the Air Berlin check-in counters in JFK Terminal 8 I made my way to security. Unfortunately, since I was on an international itinerary, I was unable ...

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American Airlines OneWorld Explorer Award


American Airlines Business class awards from the United States to Europe start at 100,000 miles. If you're based on the east coast you can save 20,000 miles by booking a OneWorld Explorer award. Many others have detailed using Explorer awards for elaborate round-the-world travel, but I simply needed to get from New York to the ITB Berlin travel show. 

The American Airlines One World Explorer Award chart  (at the time of this writing) lists business class award ...

National Air and Space Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center


The space shuttle isn't as big as you think.

But you shouldn't believe me. Plan you next flight with a long layover at IAD and see for yourself. As Brad mentioned in his visit to the Udvar Hazy Museum it's just a few minutes from Dulles.

Although admission is free, the mandatory parking is $15 per car.

Once inside, it's a large facility filled with a range of aircraft. Some notable aircraft include:

Boeing Dash 80 prototype Space Shuttle ...

Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class


Turkish Airlines flies their 777 nonstop from Istanbul to New York. I'll probably win the award for slowest trip report written, but this is the conclusion to my earlier report from 13 months ago. I've typed up a few of my notes, but I'll mostly let the pictures speak for themselves.

After my free tour of Istanbul I returned to the Istanbul airport. Security was quick and I made my way back to the Turkish Airlines Business Class lounge. With a few hours before my flight I decided to ...

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American Airlines' New Livery and New Look today at 9am Central


Update: 9:07 central: The American Airlines server is unresponsive showing parts of the video or error messages. but they just updated their twitter profile pic. I have no words right now.


Update 9:14 central, server sort of responding. Still no words. Facebook comments generally ask "Are you merging with Air France?"  Matthew has identified an even closer match.

Be sure to tune in at 9am Central today as American Airlines unveils ...

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Enjoy American's MD-80s While You Can


Hi, my name is Mike and I love flying on the MD80. There I said it.

Many other frequent flyers lament the MD80s lack of in-flight entertainment (IFE), smaller overhead bins, boring non sky-interior, and general age of the aircraft. But I enjoy the fact that 80% of the seats are windows or aisles, there are sixteen seats in first increasing the likelihood of an upgrade (unlike an A319 on United), flying up in first class is nearly silent and on the rare occasion when my upgrade doesn't ...

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Challenge Yourself to a Hyatt Diamond Status Trial

I've never been that excited about hotel status or hotel upgrades. It's just a room, and a suite is just a bigger room - sometimes an apartment. Generally when my travel includes a hotel stay I'm usually working at a client site, visiting friends, or seeing the city. However, sometimes it's nice to have the points available to redeem at some of the great properties around the world including the Park Hyatt Tokyo, Hyatt Regency London and Grand Hyatt Santiago. And for that, having top status ...

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