Tomonsit in first

Happy 2013!

It is now 2013 everywhere in the world (stragglers in Hawaii made it, too!)!

2012 brought many highlights (and thankfully few lowlights) for my family - I hope the same for yours.

The year now ended was marked with some great points-funded travel.  Our family trip to Paris, anniversary weekend at the Plaza, dad+kids trip to FLL and a trip up to YYG were all largely funded via this points hobby.

We've just returned home from a wonderful and extremely memorable ...

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Heading East!

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After last year's great trip to Hualalai, we decided to try something different and head east this year for the holidays.  We're heading about 7,000 miles east...to the Persian Gulf!  

Whilst an unusual location for American holiday-makers, friends from nearly everywhere else in the world seem to end up visiting the Gulf.  And nearly all enjoy themselves.  I've been to the region on business before - I quite enjoyed my prior visits.

Now, it is time ...

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Why actually join an airline lounge?

There's been a bit of blog chatter lately about a special Alaska Airlines is running - offering a 5,000 miles bonus - to join the Alaska Board Room (their airport lounge club).  The basic membership costs $450 for a year, though could be as low as $295 if you have high status on the carrier.

American, Delta, United and US Air all have about the same rate card for joining their clubs.

I scratch my head as to why anyone would pay this sort of money to join a single lounge. ...

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Ritz Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach - A First Look!

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The first Ritz Carlton Reserve property in the Americas - at Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico - is now open.  A former Fairfield County resident and long-term FT'er, 747, was kind enough to share some photos with me from the opening day today.

While I had a very difficult time at the opening of the St Regis Bahia

in 2010 - giving me pause before I visit another new Caribbean hotel for a few years - many aspects of this property look quite promising.  With convenient ...

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AA Does the Right Thing for NYC Families - Fee Waiver for February

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Due to the week-long school closures from Hurricane Sandy earlier this year, many schools, including NYC Public Schools, have pre-emptively cancelled or shortened their planned February 2013 school breaks.

For families with kids planning to travel during this period - probably traveling on non-refundable economy tickets - this change in school schedule could cost them a fortune in change fees (imaging the fees from changing flights for parties of 5 or 6 people!).

American has ...

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Father-Son Weekend at the Ritz Carlton Palm Beach

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Ritz Carlton Palm Beach

Overview: Larger five-star resort property on the Atlantic, just south of Palm Beach
Strengths: Service, renovated club lounge, club lounge staff, kids’ club (under renovation)
Drawbacks: Beach (substantial lack thereof), size of hotel (large), dining

Background to the Trip

Last month, I took my son (9) down to Palm Beach for a bit of a father-son getaway.  We planned to play a round of golf, have dinner with ...

Amex and SPG points are far more valuable than Chase points for most!

While much of the attention in the travel blogosphere has been directed towards Chase Ultimate Rewards points this year, Air France’s announcement earlier this fall about their deepening relationship with Etihad piqued my attention to wonder if I was mentally under-valuing American Express Membership Rewards points and SPG Starpoints. 

While there are several nice benefits of Chase points and some attractive earning bonus opportunities, let me put forward that Amex and SPG ...

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A Royal Upgrade at Miami's Intercontinental Hotel

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Overview: A decent urban upper-mid-scale hotel
Strengths: Location (for downtown business), generous Platinum RA upgrade, cosmetic renovations
Drawbacks: Unadorned rooms, challenges with the Platinum RA program

Earlier this month, I spent a few nights at Miami's downtown Intercontinental Hotel.  I was attending an industry conference in Miami Beach, but due to my event and a large cardiologists' event, essentially every hotel in Miami was booked ...

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AA brings out its A-game at LGA!

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In the annals of business travel, few phrases are found less often than "I had a very pleasant experience at LaGuardia airport."

This might start to change with AA's new set up at LGA.  Though by regulation flights from the field are limited to 1,500 miles (other than DEN), AA recently has made some notable improvements to the experience of premium passengers at LGA.

Check-in for First Class, Executive Platinum, Platinum and Five Star passengers (and OneWorld Emerald and ...

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Helpful info from an AA agent regarding Pre-Check tonight

This evening, I flew from Miami back up to New York-LGA after attending a conference.  I checked in at the First Class check-in (I had golf clubs to check), and got my boarding pass from the agent.  There was no queue (unlike the snaking queue for economy pax), and everything was done within just a minute or two.

As we were wrapping up, the agent asked to see my boarding pass one more time. She typed for a few moments, then said, "I took care of Pre-Chek." I asked her what ...

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A Most Virtuous Connection at LAX

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Admit it.  How often have you done it?  You have a couple of hour connection between flights and all you end up doing is having a few drinks – and then some snacks – in the lounge. 

Regrettably, this ends up being the norm for me during longer connections.

A few times, however, I’ve really made the best of my connections – by planning a run in between flights.

After my flight on Eva Air coming home from Taipei, I had a 5 hour ...

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Qantas makes actual enhancements to long-haul business class!

Qantas has announced several bona fide improvements to its long-haul business class (and first class) offering:

Arrival and departure Chauffeur service Duvet service in business (already offered in first) SQ-style Book-the-Cook pre-ordering of meals

I've long thought QF's first and business class service punched well above its reputation.  Indeed, many Australians despise QF - until they connect ot American Airlines in Dallas!  ;)  I used to work for an ...

New York's Plaza Hotel

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Overview: Far improved versus its pre-renovation state, not at a luxury level, but not bad
Strengths: Location, room size, décor (depending on taste)
Drawbacks: Lots of non-guest traffic, staff are more “New York” than “Luxury Hotel,” limited participation in Fairmont loyalty program, no views from rooms

Located on the southeast corner of Central Park, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, to those not from here, perhaps no hotel ...

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Sherwood Hotel Taipei

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Overview: A solid near-luxury business hotel
Strengths: Decor, breakfast, service
Drawbacks: Beds 

This was my third visit to Taipei this year, and the third different hotel for me there.

Previously, I had stayed at the purportedly haunted Grand Hyatt (on our approved list) and the more contemporary W Hotel (not approved, but allowed when traveling with a customer).

The Sherwood was a new addition to our approved list, and was strongly ...

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Eva Air Business Class Taipei to Los Angeles - Better Than I Expected! (BR12)

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My fifth and final Asian business trip of the year concluded in Taiwan.  Taiwan’s two locally-based long-haul carriers are Skyteam-member China Airlines (IATA: CI) and Star Alliance member-elect Eva Air (IATA: BR).  Eva Air is often referred to in Asia as the “Hello Kitty” airline, as several airplanes in their fleet are decorated with characters from that cartoon.

Neither of these carriers is considered particularly strong in our frequent flyer ...

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2012 Round-the-World: Conclusion

What my 16 prior installments from this trip report didn’t show were the countless meetings I went to in each city.

While I get to sit in the front (or middle) of the plane, stay at the nicest hotels and have a driver at my disposal in each city, the bulk of this trip (like nearly all of my work trips) was spent in one-on-one meetings with investors – trying to convince them to invest with us.  Often, the meeting rooms are small and/or hot.  Sometimes, language ...

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Notable news today: Qatar/OneWorld, Delta/Alaska/Seattle, AirFranceKLM / Etihad

There has been some notable news today in the airline world!  While I generally don’t post on things like these, taken together, they represent a fairly significant set of developments in the global air network.

The most notable news is Qatar Airways will be joining OneWorld.  The Doha-based carrier, one of the “Big Three” premium carriers in the Gulf, is the first of its group to link up with an alliance.  There had been much speculation over the past ...

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American Airlines Flagship First Class – LAX-JFK (AA22) (RTW – Part 16)

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Upon exiting LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), I turned right, took the escalator up and headed towards American’s Terminal 4 at LAX.

Premium is not the Flagship checkin

Though I was booked in Business Class, I called AA from Hong Kong and arranged an upgrade to First Class on this segment using miles.  I was on a full fare business ticket, so the upgrade was 15,000 miles, and no co-pay.

You may recall that AA currently operates ...

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Singapore Airlines Business Class Tokyo to Los Angeles (SQ12) (RTW - Part 15)

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A casualty of the relatively new trans-Pacific service to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) was reduced service between Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and New York-Kennedy (JFK).  Whereas there used to be two departures after 6pm daily from NRT to JFK prior to the liberalization of HND service, now there are none.

To have a full day of business in Tokyo, if returning to New York, you now need to fly via Los Angeles, or spend the night in Tokyo and take a 6-something AM flight the following ...

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Korean Air A380 First Class New York to Seoul

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I arrived at JFK's T1 via private car at about 11:50am for my 2:00pm departure.  Korean Air (KE) offers a first class check-in area, staffed by two agents.  Both first class agents were assisting passengers (likely from the business class queue) when I arrived. One wrapped up quickly and immediately helped me.  I was on KE82, Korean’s daily A380 service from JFK to ICN.

As part of the check-in process, I had to sign a form for my upgrade to first ...

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