Showing posts from April, 2016

JetBlue takes delivery of Airbus' first-ever US-built A321

There's lots of sports team-like rah-rah boosterism around products. It's always seemed a little unrealistic to me in the 21st century that you could actually "buy American" when so many things come from all over the globe. But yes, like BMW and Toyota, Airbus now manufactures planes in the USA. JetBlue is taking delivery of the first A321 off the assembly line. Details are over here.

AT&T adds Wi-Fi calling for newest-gen of iPhones

We're on our big Japan trip right now and got some good news yesterday: AT&T is adding Wi-Fi calling for customers with newer iPhones running the latest version of iOS. While we don't talk on the phone much even when we're in USA, this will definitely help keep the costs down when we do. While there have long been alternatives (Skype, FaceTime), I still have to receive work calls on a normal US mobile number and that means per-minute charges. This new feature will let me do that for free while I'm on Wi-Fi.

To enable Wi-Fi calling, go to Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling and turn it on. More information here and here.

My personal tips for reducing international roaming charges are here.

Denver Airport gets a rail link to downtown

Denver International Airport is joining the club of western airports with rail access. Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, Phoenix all have them, LA is building one (albeit with a hilariously New York schedule), and San Diego, well, I guess they're gonna just sit this crazy trend out.
It's a 23 mile trip that takes 37 minutes and costs $9. The $9 basically gets you an unlimited day pass for Denver's RTD transit system. This seems like a unique approach to a problem that often happens with these kinds of links: "how to we charge tourists a lot more money than airport workers for the same ride?"

The trains are Silverliner V EMU by Hyundai-Rotem. Each car holds 232 passengers, 91 of them seated, with two wheelchair spaces. The trains run 22 hours a day, every half hour off-peak, and every 15 minutes during peak hours (5am - 6:30pm). 

Some good news about my new JetBlue credit card

Using an American credit card in European ticket machine can be hell, just ask anyone who's been to Paris and I'm sure you'll get an earful. The big problem is that almost no American chip cards support the Chip + PIN standard. Barclays has a few cards that support Chip + PIN Backup, which enables the card to use a PIN in situations where a signature isn't possible, like automated ticket machines.  Right before we began our Tokyo sabbatical, my new JetBlue Barclay card showed up in the mail (I had the JetBlue Amex and they switched providers). I'm happy to report that my JetBlue PIN worked great in the Japan Railway's Shinkansen ticket machine, where my other American chip cards failed (Sapphire, Amex, Skypass). Not all JR machines require a PIN, but as you'll see from the pictures, a bunch of them do.  I learned this when I was in Nagoya for the day without my JetBlue card, and I couldn't find a single machine that didn't require a PIN. And the li…

Navigating from Narita Express Shibuya Station to Hachiko Statue

Here's another quick post for my friend doing his first big international trip: a guide to finding Hachiko from the Shibuya Narita Express (N'Ex) platform.

First off, look at the Shibuya Station map (click to enlarge). Narita Express arrives on track 3 or 4, down a long hallway from the rest of the station. If you look at the map, there are actually several ways to get to Hachiko, but they aren't labeled very well. If you look closely at this last frame of this first video, you'll see you're directed to go downstairs.

After that, you head downstairs, where you actually have to walk the entire length of another train platform to get to the desired exit. If you're using a Japan Rail pass, you have to go through the staffed exit and show your pass to the employee.

Once you pass the gate head outside and look for the crowd!

JetBlue is expanding Mint again!

UPDATE (Nov 2016):Delta announced that they'll also be adding lie-flat seats to their NYC – San Diego, and Boston – San Francisco routes! Hooray for competition! 
As I've said before, I'm a huge fan of JetBlue's "Mint" First Class product (trip reports here, here, and here) It's hands-down the best domestic seat, food, and service in First Class. I'd even go so far to say that Mint, except for its lack of lounge access, is actually superior to the Big 3's (United, Delta, American) international Business Class offerings.

After the big excitement last week where JetBlue and Alaska were bidding for Virgin America, I wasn't sure what to expect from them once it became clear Alaska was willing to pay any price (and did) to win.

Well, they announced some big news today – Mint is expanding to a bunch of new markets! I've mentioned before that they expanded beyond the traditional premium domestic market of LAX/SFO/JRK and added Boston, Aruba to th…

Navigation from Narita International Arrivals to the JR Narita Express platform

A friend is making his first big international trip and I made a couple of quick videos of the arrivals process at Tokyo's Narita Airport so he could get the lay of the land before his flight. I figured I'd post this publicly in case it's useful to others out there as well. 
Here's the English-language timetable for the Narita Express (N'Ex for short). Note the letter codes for trains that don't run every day. Narita has free Wi-Fi , as do most of the stations on the Yamanote line (including Shibuya and Shinjuku). Just remember that you might have to open Safari and attempt to visit a web page in order to prompt the Wi-Fi confirmation screen to appear (i.e., iPhone Apps can't usually display a Wi-Fi login screen). A list of JR Station maps is here.
First video shows international passengers arriving and navigating to the JR office where you can buy Narita Express tickets or exchange your voucher for a JR pass. When you redeem your pass, ask the agent to als…

Tips for minimizing cellular roaming charges on iPhone

updated March 2019

International roaming (using your home mobile phone on a foreign carrier's network while you're traveling) used to be insanely expensive. It's gotten a lot cheaper the past few years, but it takes a bit of planning to make sure that you can stay connected abroad without running up a big bill. Here's a few very American iPhone-centric tips.

PlanningKnow how much data you use at home. At home, I'm a fairly light user but I have Wi-Fi access most of the day and I usually use around 1.5GB a month (i.e., 1500 MB ÷ 30 = 50MB a day). Your cellular bill detail should show how much you use. Think about how you're going to be using your phone differently abroad and then:Get on a good plan. Don't go without getting on SOME kind of plan. Roaming is generally quite expensive without one. Plus, being on a plan usually means that any further usage beyond the plan is discounted well below the rate you'd pay without one. So if you have to make an unex…