Showing posts from September, 2014

Paying for domestic First Class

"First Class" flights within North America sorta deserve the quotes I just put around them. While there are a few exceptions1, the majority of these flights feature recliner-style seats with 38" of pitch (remember, economy has 32"), 20-ish inches wide, no lounge access, limited alcoholic beverage selections, and if there's food at all it's likely to remind you of a high school cafeteria - overboiled mystery meat (or gluey pasta) served with a side of surliness. Let's just call this "Crappy First Class™"

Meanwhile many of these same airlines have upgraded the seats in their long-haul international planes to be fully lie-flat beds with 60+ inches of pitch while simultaneously re-branding them as Business Class seats! Delta had the sense to name their crappy First Class product "Business Class", whereas United stuck with the First Class moniker (except when the planes fly to Mexico — all of a sudden that same cabin is now called Busines…

and some days the bear gets you...

As I've mentioned before, chasing points is generally for people with more time than money. Yes, I frequently get lucky and manage to snag a great redemption entirely via the web with minimal planning and zero time on the phones.

And then there's yesterday...

So I'm trying to get to Puerto Vallarta for a wedding 4 months from now. Since I know there's no direct service on the day I need to fly, I'm opting for a touch of glamour by flying through Mexico City on Aeromexico's new 787 and then connecting after a 2.5 hour layover.

I don't have Aeromexico (AM) points but I do have American Express Premier Rewards points that I can transfer. For most of their Airline partners, those transfers happen instantly. But Aeromexico transfers take up to two weeks. One way First Class is 30,000 points1 plus $125 in fuel surcharges and taxes. Not too bad for a flight that prices out at US$1000 (meaning i earn 2.75¢ per point).

By the time my points showed up in my AM account…

Trip report: American Airlines' new Flagship First JFK > SFO

My friend George shared this report about his recent flight in American Airlines' new transcontinental Flagship First from New York to San Francisco. 
My husband and I were able to use our miles to book American's new transcontinental First Class product from JFK - SFO over Labor Day weekend. I was very excited to get to experience this as I had read about the service from a few other sources.
We arrived at JFK and proceeded through security. One does have the option of using Flagship check-in, but as we didn't have any checked baggage and use our phones as boarding passes, we wanted to just spend more time relaxing in the Admirals Club.
Speaking of which, as a Transcon First Class traveler, one is escorted into the Flagship lounge part of the Admirals Club. This separate section has an open self-serve bar and decent nibbles. Two Negronis later we boarded the flight, which actually left on time and took off about 20 minutes after leaving the gate (that *never* happens at …

Tips and gotchas when using American Express' travel portal

American Express offers 3 points per dollar when you purchase plane tickets with their Premiere Rewards card. They offer an additional bonus point when you purchase through their online travel portal. 
As I've previously advised, make sure you comparison shop on and make sure that their prices are competitive before you book. I've found that they're usually more expensive by a few dollars, but I do the math to make sure I'm not overpaying for my extra bonus point.

Their site has improved in recent years, but buying through their travel portal is almost always slower and less convenient than booking directly through the airline's own site. For example:

It doesn't remember your passport numberIt doesn't remember any frequent companion information, only yours. It doesn't have a way to enter Known Traveler numbers for Global Entry/TSAPre, so you have to call the airline to add it after you bookIt doesn't let you enter a partner airline frequen…

Warsaw to JFK on the 787

The layout engine here on feels a little clunky and 1998... Honestly why have 400 themes when you can't get a blank template right?

*Le Sigh*

Since so few people fly through Poland, I had a friend ask me to write up a trip report for our 2013 trip on LOT Poland's new 787. I decided to put it on since it looks so much nicer and the editing process is so much less clunky. Check it out :)

Getting to Puerto Vallarta

I wanted to post a few quick tips for people flying to Puerto Vallarta (Airport code PVR). My city guide is here.

Last update Jan 2019

This chart on Wikipedia lists every direct flight destination to/from Puerto Vallarta. Some are seasonal (i.e., only in winter). This is a good reference point if you're confused about why you're not finding a flight you wanted. Many of the flights aren't 7 days a week!United sometimes stocks margarita mix and tequila on flights to/from Mexico but they run out fast so order early :)American citizens need to have a passport to go to Mexicofrom NYC United offers direct service from Newark 2 days a week on Saturdays (2 flights: one leaving JFK at 8am and the other leaving at 5pm) and Sundays (one flight at 8am). It's a 6 hour flight. Delta no longer offers direct service from the New York area.It's nearly impossible to leave NYC early enough to fly via SFO or LAX. Though due to 2016's big blizzard, I can now say with first-hand exper…

Aeromexico 787 trip report

NOTE: An updated version of this trip report is here.
As a food-loving aviation nerd with bad sinuses, I've been really excited about the 787 ever since I first heard about its groundbreaking cabin humidity and air pressure levels. We've made a bit of extra effort to get flights on the 787 whenever (reasonably) possible and I definitely find myself less fatigued from the journey and the food does seem to taste a bit better.

For our annual flight NYC – Puerto Vallarta last year, we decided to route via Mexico City to try out Aeromexico's new 787s. (My PV guide is here). We celebrate both our birthdays, our anniversary, and Valentines in one big annual blowout trip but sadly the First Class options to Mexico don't offer much opportunity for glamour: all direct service has 38" domestic First recliner seats with limited food and alcohol choices. (Nearly all of the PS/Mint/Flagship routings via LAX or SFO require an overnight stay).

We needed to come back on a direct f…

The ever-shrinking airline seat

In recent years everyone's been talking about "seat pitch" – the distance between each row of seats. As materials have gotten stronger and lighter, seats have been getting thinner and thus an apples-to-apples comparison of seat pitch from decades ago (when we always seem to imagine things being better) with today isn't really possible.

With most modern planes today, airlines have standardized on 29-31" of seat pitch in economy, 34-38" in economy plus (and most American domestic "First" Class), and 58" or more in long-haul Business and First Class. There's not a lot changing on this front until we get to the standing/saddle configuration that we keep getting rumors of.

But the urge to cram more people into the plane is never-ending and next frontier is seat width. The trend has been to try and put another seat into each row: as much as 11 across in the A380 Emirates wants, and 10-across in the 777. To do that, seats and aisles have to be n…