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A trip of Firsts: United 787 Business Class to Africa

United 787

My next trip is one I've been anticipating for quite a while and for a few reasons.  It is my first trip to the African continent, my first trip in a premium cabin on a 787, and the first time on a intercontinental flight in United's current (subsidiary Continental) BusinessFirst cabin.

United 787 Business Class (Photo from Rocky's 787 report)

 

A good friend is ...

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Exploring Liverpool

liverpool-royal-liver-building

The main reason for my trip to Europe was to attend a English Premier League match at Anfield, the home of Liverpool Football Club.  I've visited Liverpool before, but never attended a football match there.  I'm a fan of most sports, and love attending live events, but I've really started following Liverpool closely over the last few years, so a friend and I decided to make the pilgrimage to this historic city and stadium.

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Turkish Airlines 737 Business Class Istanbul to Manchester - True Business Class intra-Europe

turkish-business-class-to-manchester-view

After a nice flight from Houston, I had an overnight layover before my flight onward to Manchester.  Thanks to Turkish Airlines generous offer of a hotel during my layover, I stayed at the Renaissance Polat Hotel near the airport.  

My 737-900ER above the clouds somewhere over Europe

 

Unlike most airlines flying in Europe, Turkish still maintains a true Business Class cabin on many of ...

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New Destinations and New Perspectives

ireland-passport-stamp

I’ve spent the last week in Dublin for a work trip.  My employer is going through some transitions following a merger.  The merger has led to much uncertainty, but maybe things are becoming more clear at least for me personally.  It looks like my business travel patterns will be changing a bit, with likely much more international travel.  This is something that I used to do, but for the last several years, most of my work travel has been in North America.

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Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class from Houston to Istanbul

Turkish 777

The first leg that I will review from my winter trip to Europe is the flight from Houston to Istanbul in Business Class on the Turkish Airlines 777.  The eastbound flight is typically about 11 hours, which is an ideal length for my preferences; with enough time to enjoy a meal, work or watch some TV and then sleep.  After that, there is time for more eating, reading or resting before arrival.

 

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Booking an award trip Europe in Turkish Business Class with United Miles

With all of the devaluations of travel loyalty programs in the past year or so, I've tried to do a better job of burning miles, and not just growing my balances.  It was a change in my mindset, but I think the right choice.  I recently returned from another Star Alliance Business Class trip to Europe, burning more of my stash of United Mileage Plus miles.

 


This trip had a few fun components.  I got to explore Istanbul for a short time, and ...

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Easy surveys for free magazine subscriptions - RewardSurvey

Economist

How would you like free subscription to The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, or Forbes? RewardSurvey allows you to do just that.

Now that electronic devices can be used throughout flight, maybe travelers will read magazines and newspapers on airplanes less frequently, but I guess I'm old school in this way.  Then again, many airlines outside the US still provided free newspapers to their customers, so I'm sure I'm not alone.  

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Maintaining United lounge access in 2014 and beyond

United Club

I seeking advice on how to renew lounge access for my routine travels, primarily on United.  

United Club in Austin, photo thanks to Kevin

 


I have never directly paid for a United Club membership.  For the last 2 years, I had access thanks to my United Club Visa card.  The first year fee was waived as a promotion, that is still available on occasion.  Prior to that, I used my BMI Gold status to ...

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Austrian Airlines Business Class Vienna to Chicago - Star to Spain

austrian-business-class-sign

After a great trip to Spain, as an AvGeek, the last leg of the trip was one of my most anticipated segments, our ride home in Austrian Airlines Business Class.  

 In case you forget which airline you are flying, just check the bulkhead.  

 

Austrian recently completed a 90 Million Euro renovation to their entire longhaul fleet, currently consisting of 4 777-200ER and 6 767-300ER. ...

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NEXUS kiosks to be updated, plus additional member benefits

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I haven't flown to Canada in several months, and I haven't noticed any technical issues with NEXUS kiosks, but I am not surprised that this excellent program is popular.  I have a trip across the border next week, but hopefully there won't be any delays.  I never had to wait more than a minute to get to a NEXUS kiosk.

My occasional travel across the border made the NEXUS application very worthwhile, especially since it makes me eligible for PreCheck and Global ...

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The Le Meridien Vienna - Star to Spain

vienna-le-meridien-main-room

This trip was primarily intended to go Spain, but I was happy to explore some new places even for a short stay.  We ended up book ending this trip with some short overnights in some major capitals, Zurich, Madrid and now Vienna.

The sitting room in our Executive Suite at Le Meridien Vienna

We opted for a cash and points booking at Le Meridien Vienna.  As a category 5 property, it cost 6000 points plus $110.  That seemed the ...

Bad data in United app, operational delays and expired beer

united-express-e170

 

Yes, another blog post on United's poor operational performance.  As always, the experience flying with United is a mixed bag.  Being a United regular and 1K, I generally know how to handle these issues, but I always feel for the less frequent travelers who get such a poor impression of the airline due to it poorly managing so many aspects of their operation.

 

Of course, this trip was in February, so the weather didn't look anything like ...

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Skip the hotel reception desk - Aloft Hotels offer Smart Check-In

spg-smart-check-in

Starwood Preferred Guest continues to be innovative in their promotions and programs.  Recently, they offered a special program to allow guests to bypass the check in desk, by providing a reusable RFID card that could be used as a guest key at certain properties.  

My Smart Check-In card arrived 

As of right now, Smart Check-In is limited to a few Aloft hotels.  There are eight currently, and 4 more in the pipeline. ...

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AVE high speed train for a day in Madrid - Star to Spain

madrid-ave

Most of my trip reports are about airplane and hotel experiences, but for some variety, here is a quick review of the AVE high speed train that we took from Seville to Madrid.  Plus, a little bit from our brief time in Madrid.

AVE train at Seville Santa Justa station

 

Thanks to booking somewhat late due to some uncertainty of our plans, we had to pay a slight premium.  The cheapest ticket ...

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Lessening the sting of the Hyatt devaluation

park-hyatt-maldives-sunset

Now that the global economy is improving, it seems the most travel loyalty programs are going through devaluations.  United's major devaluation took effect in early February.  This is almost an annual process at some hotel chains.

 

The Park Hyatt Maldives, now 25,000 Gold Passport points per night

As of January 7, 2014, Hyatt has increased the cost to book many of their properties using ...

The Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville- Star to Spain

sevilla-hotel-alfonso-lobby

After our time in Málaga and Granada, our last stop on our trip in Andalusia was in Seville.  Here we let a hotel promotion help guide our destination planning to some extent.  I had some free SPG nights to use, so we tried to maximize this redemption.  Since this is an expensive Category 6 hotel (second highest for SPG, and the highest we could use for this particular deal), I think we got a great value for the Luxury Collection ...

Presidential Suite at the Sheraton San Diego Marina - Free Upgrade!

sheraton-san-diego-marina-presidential

Everyone likes surprises.  On a recent trip to San Diego, when I walked up to my hotel room after checking in, I was certainly surprised to see this:

An upgrade to the Presidential Suite, for free!

I have been quite fortunate with free upgrades in my Starwood stays through the years, but this was the first time I've received a Presidential Suite.  Unfortunately, my stay at was quite brief.  I was just ...

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AC Palacio de Santa Paula, Autograph Collection in Granada - Star to Spain

granada-alhambra-fountain

Our next stop on our tour of Southern Spain was in Granada, home of the famous Alhambra. While here we would stay in another AC hotel.  

  

Fountains on the grounds of the Generalife

Granada is at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, only an hour or so from the Mediterraean coast, but also near Alpine skiing areas.  We visited in late October, and the temperatures were comfortable for ...

The AC Hotel Málaga Palacio - Star to Spain

malaga-view

We finally were in one of the main destinations of our trip, and other than my wife's delayed bag, we were well rested and ready to explore Andalusia for the first time.

 

 Málaga, Spain

 

When booking hotels for leisure travel, I generally start by looking at my preferred programs; Starwood and Hyatt Gold Passport.  For visiting this part of ...

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Our layover in Brussels and Zurich - Star to Spain

BRU

Despite United's delay getting us to Dulles, ultimately we made it to Brussels on schedule.  We now had approximately 2 hours until our onward flight to Zürich.

 

Brussels Airport A pier, photo via creative commons

 

Once at the Schengen gates where we would take our flight to Zürich, we looked for a lounge to relax.  There are a few options, but despite arriving on ...

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