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A busy 2012, and looking forward to 2013

December 28, 2012 6 comments

In case you missed the last post, I’ve begun blogging with Scottrick at HackMyTrip, blogging about the points world there. Hack My Trip is a great repository of information, so it’s an honor to add whatever I know to Scottrick’s library of unique posts. Ardent readers of my blog (the few of you awesome people there are) will see some repeat posts at first with only a dash of updated information (such as my updated posts on fifth freedom routes today). Fear not, as I have some new posts in the pipeline, but need to lay a “base of information” down in order to write about more advanced points topics.

I thought I’d make one last post on this blog to round out 2012. It has been a busy year for me travel-wise – it’s the first calendar year in which I flew over 100,000 miles! Although the foursquare and FlightMemory nerd in me is proud that I hit JetSetter badge Level 9, as well as 100 lifetime flights in/out of LAX.

100,585 miles to be exact!

100,585 miles to be exact!

In February, I flew to South America on LAN, taking advantage of the “pre-Avios” British Airways award chart to book New York – Lima (stopover) – Easter Island (stopover) – Santiago for 40,000 British Airways miles one-way in business. I booked Lima-Cuzco roundtrip for 9,000 Avios after the “re”-valuation of the currency, as well as Santiago – Lima one-way in business for 20,000 Avios. I then used 30,000 American Airlines miles to fly Lima – New York (stop) – Los Angeles in LAN Business and American Transcontinental Business.

An early morning arrival at Mataveri International Airport on Isla Pascua, the most remote commercial airport in the world.

It’s tough to top that trip, since I got to visit two new countries (Peru and Chile), hike Machu and Huayna Picchu, fly to the most remote inhabited island in the world to see spectacular moai statues and sunsets, and hang out with a friend in her new Chilean city.

But then, somehow, I topped it with my first trip to India. The ensuing trip report has garnered over 46,000 views on Flyertalk, putting it somewhere in the top 40 all-time on that site. I’ve been contacted by people all over the world asking me about that trip. Hell, it’s what convinced me to start this blog, and has led to meeting a lot of amazing travel junkies from all over.

I parlayed the 184,000 miles I earned in the US Airways Grand Slam last year into a few tickets, the main one being a 120,000-mile redemption from LAX to Hong Kong via Europe. I got a seat on SWISS First Class before they shut down partner award availability, and used a connection in Frankfurt to gain access to the First Class Terminal. I returned via Bangkok, Frankfurt, and London, visiting the Thai First Class Lounge and Spa and hitting a bit of luck when my Bangkok-Frankfurt flight was subbed in a few weeks prior with their 777-300ER Suites product.

After first landing in Hong Kong from my SWISS First flight, I seamlessly connected to a flight to Bangkok on Emirates’ A380 First Class product, which was amazing and the crème de la crème of an otherwise Star Alliance-laden itinerary. A few people have told me that that trip report section convinced them to find a fifth freedom route to fly that product on. Finally, I also inserted a 30,000-mile redemption intra-South Asia on Singapore Airlines, to visit Singapore for 16 hours, get to my eventual destination of India, and open-jaw to Vietnam with my sister to see Ha Long Bay.

EK A380 F shower

I don’t know what it says about me that a major highlight of my year was taking a shower on an A380 at 40,000 feet …. twice.

I had to make a second trip to India about 8 weeks later, and opted for a paid ticket on Singapore Airlines, where I earned Aegean Star Gold status in one go (while having my matched Turkish status to make the trip a bit easier). While it was tough to come down from hopping around the world in business and first to kicking it in coach, Singapore Airlines greatly impressed me with their coach service.

The latter half of the year was mainly domestic trips, which I flew primarily on Delta due to my elite status with them. The last few months have been focused more on earning than burning for me … most of the fun occurred with the famous Vanilla Reloads, and I owe much of my 7-figure mileage balance to these cards. Bluebird really changed the game, and when the cards were pulled from Office Depot, a lot of us overreacted (though thank goodness CVS has saved us). I overreacted as well, though I ended up just making a video (that most people seemed to like when I met them at FTU LAX, phew):

My last journey of the year was New York to LA, via Houston and San Francisco. While it seems out of the way, it was in order to catch the 787 Dreamliner on United! Although it did take some hair pulling when they canceled my original Dreamliner segments, I eventually hit 100,000 miles somewhere above Lake Tahoe ensconced in Dreamliner Seat 4A on the Houston-San Francisco leg.

Those windows are a dream for a window-seat geek like me.

Those windows are a dream for a window-seat geek like me.

—–

So that was my year in miles and points. Not too shabby. Miles and points have been good to me.

As for next year …. to be honest, I actually don’t have any plans set out for travel in 2013, since I’m really busy for most of the year and will probably end up booking trips with short notice to burn through my miles. Some of my goals are to fly Lufthansa First Class proper (and not just visit the First Class Terminal), Cathay Pacific First, and Singapore Airlines A380 Suites (now that you can book them at the saver level with Singapore Airlines miles). I don’t know where exactly I’ll go yet, but those are the products I want to try. I loved my first foray into Southeast Asia this year … perhaps I’ll go there.

On the revenue side, I ended the year with 49,976 MQMs on Delta, so come March 1, I will be a Silver Medallion until at least February 2015 (since I’m rolling over close to 25,000). I should easily hit Gold in the first half of the year with my yet-to-be-booked domestic trips, though. I don’t know what the future with Delta is, but the optimist in me hopes they don’t switch to a revenue program. As long as they don’t switch, my goal is to hit Platinum Medallion with them (for free award changes), then match out to another program if one seems dandy. I was thinking United, but I’ve been having problems with them with the way their system has messed up my award tickets and their lack of quick customer service that Delta has always provided me. American is too up in the air with a possible US Airways merger, plus I don’t know if I could do 100,000 revenue miles to hit Executive Platinum, since I don’t think mid-tier status with American is that great. We’ll see what 2013 brings!

Categories: Travel

Knowing Your Flyer Rights: European Regulation 261/2004 on an Award Ticket

August 7, 2012 3 comments

Delays and cancellations can really throw a wrench into travel plans. Often times, passengers are at the mercy of airlines to help with rebookings and alternative plans. There are plenty of regulations that provide guidelines on what should be expected from air carriers. There is one rule I want to point out, and it deals with traveling on a carrier based in the European Union, or when traveling on a flight departing the European Union.

In April, my folks flew from India to Los Angeles on Lufthansa and United in coach. This was an award ticket and one of the flights was United 927 from Frankfurt to San Francisco, continuing to Los Angeles on a different aircraft. During their flight from India to Frankfurt, I received an email stating that their Frankfurt-SF flight was delayed. Shortly before they arrived, I received another email stating that United 927 was cancelled.

By the time I could get in touch with United, my parents had landed in Frankfurt and learned of the situation a few hours before their connecting flight. I searched ExpertFlyer for possible reroutings, but since my parents were low on the priority list (non-status at the time, traveling on a coach award ticket), the best option they had involved staying overnight in Frankfurt and flying to L.A. via Newark the next day. All in all, they would reach L.A. about 18 hours late and miss a full workday.

One of the first things to do was to check the wording of EU 261/2004, and see if my parents’ situation applied. While this pdf has the full laws, the Wikipedia page does a great job summarizing it:

The regulation applies to any passenger:

  • departing from an airport located in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies;

The protection accorded to passengers departing from OR to an airport located in a Member State should be extended to those leaving an airport located in a third country for one situated in a Member State, when a Community carrier operates the flight and where a community carrier is defined as any carrier licensed to operate within that community.

  • departing from an EU member state, or
  • travelling to an EU member state on an airline based in an EU member state

if that person has:

  • a confirmed reservation on the flight, and
  • arrived in time for check-in as indicated on the ticket or communication from the airline, or, if no time is so indicated, no less than 45 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time of the flight

or

  • have been transferred from the flight for which he/she held a reservation to some other flight

unless

  • the passenger is traveling on a free or discounted ticket not available to the general public, other than a ticket obtained from a frequent flyer programme.

The bolded parts are how my parents qualified for this rule  – they were departing a flight from a city within the European Union (Frankfurt), even though they were flying United, a company based in the United States. It’s important to note that had this been a cancellation going from San Francisco to Frankfurt, it would not have applied since it wasn’t departing from a European Union city. However, if one were flying San Francisco to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, which is an airline based in Germany, a member state of the European Union, then it would apply, since the flight is on a member country’s airline bound for the European Union. Confused yet? :p

Anyway. They also had a confirmed reservation. They had been checked in for the United flight in India at the Lufthansa check-in desk, and had arrived in Frankfurt 4 hours before their connecting flight to India. Lastly, while they were on a “free ticket,” it was an award ticket obtained via a frequent flyer program (my guess is that this clause is meant to exclude those traveling on buddy passes or non-revenue passengers).

So yes, they qualified. EU 261/2004 has different rules regarding delays, cancellations, and denied boarding. For cancellations, the rules say:

If a flight is cancelled, passengers are automatically entitled to their choice of

(a.) re-routing to the same destination at the earliest opportunity (under comparable conditions)

(b.) later rerouting, at the passenger’s convenience, to the same destination under comparable conditions (subject to seat availability)

(c.) a refund of the ticket as well as a return flight to the point of first departure, when relevant. Any ticket refund is the price paid for the flight(s) not used, plus the cost of flights already flown in cases where the cancellation has made those flights of no purpose.

Where applicable, passengers are also entitled to refreshments, communication and accommodation as described below. Where re-routing is to another airport serving the same destination, the airline must pay for onward transport to the original airport or to a close-by destination agreed with the passenger. These choices, and the entitlement to refreshments, etc., apply to all cancellations, regardless of whether the circumstances are extraordinary or not.

To me, clause (a.) likely applies to most passengers, who would like to get where they are going as soon as possible. Clauses (b.) and (c.) are likely for those doing quick turn-arounds and would be making trips in vain if they were to take a later flight.

As for cancellations, there are other rules that are on the airlines’ side if they provide enough notice.

The airline is also required to pay cash compensation as described below, unless one of the following conditions applies:

  • the airline notifies the passengers at least two weeks prior to departure
  • the airline notifies the passengers between one and two weeks prior to departure, and re-routes passengers so that they can:
    • depart no more than two hours earlier than scheduled, and
    • arrive no more than four hours later than scheduled
  • the airline notifies the passengers less than one week prior to departure, and re-routes passengers so that they can:
    • depart no more than one hour earlier than scheduled, and
    • arrive no more than two hours later than scheduled
  • the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided by any reasonable measure.

I bolded that last clause since “Acts of God” are not grounds for compensation. If another volcano erupts over Iceland, that’s an “extraordinary circumstance that could not have been avoided by reasonable measure.”

However, in my parents situation, they were notified just a few hours beforehand. This had all the signs of a mechanical failure and inability for United to provide an aircraft able to fly from Frankfurt to San Francisco, and did not seem to be caused by a force majeure.

The most immediate thing that the airlines must provide are refreshments and accommodation. If a passenger qualifies under these rules, they must have the rules explained to them and be offered:

  • Meals and refreshments in proportion to the waiting time
  • Two telephone calls, fax or telex messages, or emails
  • Hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the hotel, if a stay of one or more nights, or a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary

Whoever staffs for United at FRA knew these rules, as my parents were provided a hotel for their overnight stay as well as taxi vouchers to the hotel and food vouchers to use at FRA airport and in the city. Good on United for following the rules here.

However, the cash compensation was what I was most interested in. The rules for compensation are divided into 3 types of flights: short-haul (< 1500 km), medium-haul (> 1500 km and within EU, or >1500km but <3500km), and long-haul (not within EU and > 3500km). If a flight is cancelled or a passenger denied boarding, they must be compensated either €250 for short-haul, €400 for medium-haul, or €600 for long-haul. If the new flight provided arrives at the destination within 2 hours for short-haul, 3 hours for medium-haul, or 4 hours for long-haul, then that compensation is halved.

A week after the flight, I sent an email to United. A few weeks later, I had a response offering 30,000 miles or a $1000 voucher for each passenger. While I’d rather have 600€ (>$700) instead of 30,000 miles, the $1000 vouchers piqued my interest. I asked for the terms & conditions of the voucher; one clause basically said these could be applied to one ticket each. Since my family rarely buys tickets >$700, and if so, rarely on United, these seemed like a bad value. So I said “no” to the funny money and pushed for cash compensation under EU 261/2004.

A few days after that e-mail, I got a letter from United in the mail that included claims forms to fill out and send to an office in the U.K. That has since been mailed to an office (which is somewhere near London-Gatwick, according to Google Maps). The checks (cheques?) should be coming any day soon. Now we just have to wait for the Euro to strengthen, since I’m guessing that’s the currency on the checks …

That’s my experience with United. It took some pushing to get them to acknowledge it, but we fought the good fight. There are several websites that help with these cases, but from a brief survey, it seems that they take a big chunk of the compensation for themselves, sometimes as much as 200€. That might be worth it to some people, but since this claim had multiple passengers, I thought doing the work myself was worth the 400€.

For one thing, British Airways allows flyers to file claims online rather easily. Since British Airways is based in the UK, almost every flight it operates falls under these guidelines; the two major exceptions I can think of are the Sydney-Singapore and the ComAir flights based out of South Africa.

I think this regulation is a great one to be familiar with if your travels include the European continent, especially if you are traveling on a carrier that’s not based in the EU and may not have to deal with these regulations for the majority of flights.

Categories: Travel Tags: , ,

Wrapping up Star Gold with one trip on Singapore Airlines

July 22, 2012 3 comments

I posted about the outbound, but thought I’d also post the return trip. After a couple weeks in India for a family event, it was time to head back home, again on Singapore Airlines flying Mumbai to Los Angeles via Singapore and Tokyo-Narita. I usually travel by myself but since my schedule was similar to my mother’s, we traveled together on this trip.

Since my miles from the outbound had already posted, both mom and I were already an Aegean Airlines Star Silver (A3*S, as denoted on my boarding pass). However, I had been matched to Turkish Airlines Star Gold (TK*G) – as I explained in my earlier post, this was a great way to enjoy Star Gold benefits on this trip, but Aegean provided a better program to keep Star Gold long term. Read below for a short trip report. I’ll follow this post with a summary of the perks of foreign Star Gold status.

Read more…

Asia 2012 Trip Report: How I Booked It

June 7, 2012 10 comments

Part 1: Introduction (with index to the rest of the trip)

—————————————-

The sole miles I used for this trip were US Airways Dividend Miles. I’ve actually never flown US Airways (except when they were called America West), nor did I fly them on this trip.

US Airways is a member of the Star Alliance, which includes some of the world’s best airlines, like Air New Zealand, ANA (Japan), Asiana (S Korea), Lufthansa (Germany), SAS (Scandinavian), Singapore Airlines, SWISS, Thai Airways, and Turkish Airlines. What are great about US Airways and United Airlines miles is being able to earn them easily through credit cards and promotions here in the U.S., then use them on international carriers.

It’s not all roses and petals – Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and SWISS tend to block a lot of their premium cabin (First/Business) space out of North America to partners, so getting a flight on those carriers can be difficult for popular routes.

Still, with some flexibility and route research, it’s not too hard to find space on flights to get where you’re going.

How I Earned The Miles:

I opened a US Airways account in August 2011 and had 184,000 miles in it by December. How? By something called the US Airways Grand Slam. Basically, it was a promotion that ran from mid-September until mid-November where you were awarded “hits” for each partner activity you did with US Airways. Partner activities meant everything from buying miles from US Airways, transferring hotel points to US Airways, buying flowers and crediting the miles to US Airways, etc etc. Every 4 hits, you’d get bonus miles. After 4 hits, you’d get 3,000 miles. After 8 hits, 10,000 miles. After 12 hits, 15,000 miles. Once you hit 36, you earned 100,000 bonus miles, on top of the miles you earned from the activities. That was my goal.

My breakdown of 184K miles:

Read more…

Asia 2012 Trip Report: Lufthansa European Business Class, Frankfurt to London (plus a day in London)

June 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: United Airlines LAX-SFO, United International First Class Lounges at LAX/SFO

Part 3: United Airlines Global First Class, San Francisco to Frankfurt

Part 4: Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt

Part 5: Lufthansa FRA-ZRH, SWISS First Class Lounge at Zürich

Part 6: SWISS First Class, Zürich to Hong Kong

Part 7: Emirates A380 First Class Suites, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Part 8: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Bangkok to Singapore

Part 9: Exploring Singapore

Part 10: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Singapore to Mumbai

Part 11: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Mumbai to Singapore

Part 12: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Singapore to Hanoi

Part 13: Hanoi / Ha Long Bay

Part 14: Qatar Airways Economy Class, Hanoi to Bangkok

Part 15: Bangkok / Park Plaza Soi 18

Part 16: Emirates A380 First Class Suites, Bangkok to Hong Kong

Part 17: A weekend in Hong Kong

Part 18: Thai Airways/United First Class Lounges at HKG, Thai Airways First Class, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Part 19: Thai Airways Royal First Lounge and Royal Orchid Spa at Bangkok

Part 20: Thai Airways Royal First Class 77W Suites, Bangkok to Frankfurt

Part 21: Lufthansa European Business Class, Frankfurt to London (plus a day in London)

—————————————-

As soon as my I disembarked my Thai Airways flight, the “fun factor” of this trip went way down. I’d have to overnight in Frankfurt, hop on a short flight to Heathrow, spend a (planned) 23 hours and 45 minutes in London, then get on a United flight to Los Angeles.

From the Holiday Inn Express Messe, there’s a bus stop just in front that goes to the main train station, and from there, a train to FRA. One thing that always confuses me about Europe is where and when I pay for public transportation tickets. I spent probably 20 minutes online trying to figure out the fare from hotel to airport, and even got exact change in Euros. At the bus stop, I got on with two locals who promptly sat down – no payment, no validation of monthly pass, no nein nada. Does anyone here pay for transport??

Once at the train station, I fought with the ticket machine only to realize it wouldn’t take my chip card. I ended up buying a ticket with the few coins I had, and I’m glad I did, because I would later find a tall, thick German lady barking at me on the train for my fahrkarte. Though once I figured out what she was saying, I got a polite “dankeschön” out of her.

Check-in was relatively easy at FRA, given the number of Lufthansa (LH) business class passengers flying out of there (hint: it’s a lot). I wish I’d gotten my First Class Terminal Personal Assistant’s number last month, if only I could call him up and sneak in today …

Anyway, after a long security line that would make LAX on Memorial Day blush, I went through to the LH Business Lounge. With no Star Alliance Gold status at the time, the Senator Lounge was off-limits, though I found it funny that the line to enter stretched 15-deep when I passed by, only to get into the lower level business lounge unhindered.

Questionable lounge food

Never too early for one of these …

A bit of luck placed my gate right below the business lounge and I headed on down shortly before boarding to find the boarding line – the boarding line which didn’t exist. It was a mad free-for-all at the gate. Gate lice were being trampled. Elite members were foaming at the mouth.

I made it through. Unscathed. But only to find the largest business cabin I’ve seen on an Airbus A321, “business” being economy without a middle seat. It went back all the way to the exit row door. I guess the 10am run to LHR is mighty popular.

Lufthansa 904, FRA-LHR
10:00am – 10:25am, 1h25m
Airbus A321
Seat 4F, European Business Class

The sole highlight of the flight was catching a momentary glimpse of ANA’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner parked at its gate, a bit too brief and distant for a good picture though.

Well, that wasn’t really part of the flight, it was just part of the taxi. So I guess the highlight of the flight was breakfast, only because it was a short flight.

Canary Wharf

Just my luck, the most interesting parts of the city are tiny and covered by clouds

After disembarkation, I made it to yet another long line, this time for UK immigration. I finally understand the horror stories of Heathrow immigration. It took about 30 minutes on this try, cutting down on the time I had in London. As I snaked my way to the front, I could hear immigration officers grilling everyone with a funny looking passport about their purpose of visit, address in the UK, who they were meeting, how many goats they owned at home. Maybe not the last one. So I walked forward with a bit of trepidation, and placed my blue passport down.

Immigration officer, looking at my arrivals card: “Just here for a day?”
Me: “Yeah. Continuing to the U.S. tomorrow.”
Imm off: “Oh, right then. Have a good day in London.”

A part of me wishes that immigration would give me a tough time now and then, but c’est la vie. I made my way to baggage claim and to the Heathrow Express, which I had gotten a coupon for that made it not that much more than the slower Heathrow Connect. A quick trip to Paddington Station and a walk around the corner to the Quality Crown Hyde Park, just 8000 Choice Points (or a transfer of a few thousand American Express points during a bonus period to top off my account) to save the £170/$260 every other hotel in London wanted. A decent steal for the number of points, and it’s just behind the Hotel Indigo that many love for its location.

The rest of the day was spent in a city I hadn’t visited since I first got to know it almost a decade ago. The <24h connection rule really is amazing. A few pics …

Air New Zealand flight from Auckland via Hong Kong … a long way from home. They also fly Auckland to London via L.A., so you could theoretically fly Air NZ around the world: LAX-AKL-HKG-LHR-LAX

The flag and the flag carrier

Asia 2012 Trip Report: Thai Airways Royal First Lounge and Royal Orchid Spa at Bangkok

June 3, 2012 2 comments

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: United Airlines LAX-SFO, United International First Class Lounges at LAX/SFO

Part 3: United Airlines Global First Class, San Francisco to Frankfurt

Part 4: Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt

Part 5: Lufthansa FRA-ZRH, SWISS First Class Lounge at Zürich

Part 6: SWISS First Class, Zürich to Hong Kong

Part 7: Emirates A380 First Class Suites, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Part 8: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Bangkok to Singapore

Part 9: Exploring Singapore

Part 10: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Singapore to Mumbai

Part 11: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Mumbai to Singapore

Part 12: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Singapore to Hanoi

Part 13: Hanoi / Ha Long Bay

Part 14: Qatar Airways Economy Class, Hanoi to Bangkok

Part 15: Bangkok / Park Plaza Soi 18

Part 16: Emirates A380 First Class Suites, Bangkok to Hong Kong

Part 17: A weekend in Hong Kong

Part 18: Thai Airways/United First Class Lounges at HKG, Thai Airways First Class, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Part 19: Thai Airways Royal First Lounge and Royal Orchid Spa at Bangkok

—————————————-

My overnight stay was nothing spectacular – just a cheap place near the airport to crash after a late flight and a jumping-off point to go visit the airport early. While my flight wasn’t until 12:45pm, I wanted to be at the airport by 8am to enjoy the lounge (which would likely be much better than my airport hotel).

I asked my ride to drop me off at the 1st door at Suvarnabhumi Airport’s terminal, reserved for Royal First and Royal Silk (business) passengers. As soon as I exited the car, I had a Thai Airways (TG) employee ask me which cabin I was in. Once I responded First, he placed my bag on a cart and escorted me to the separate First check-in area. Once there, two agents guarding the entrance welcomed me with a couple of “Sawadees,” while another requested my passport and asked me to have a seat. Another employee presented me a cold towel and welcome lemongrass drink while I waited. Not a minute in the airport and already the most personalized service of the trip – wow!

Royal First/Royal Silk Entrance

Royal First Class check-in area

Welcome drink + cold towel

This sounds excessive but it’s all done with a warm sense of welcome. Though I like the blurb from Thai’s website describing the various cabin classes:

Quote:
“Royal First Class represents the ultimate in flying luxury, awarding privileged recognition to those who have achieved the pinnacle of social or professional status.”

Please note that I don’t have a real career yet nor can I rent a car in several states. If this is my pinnacle, I’ve peaked too early, like a child star in Hollywood.

Read more…

Asia 2012 Trip Report: Thai/United First Class Lounges at HKG; Thai First Class, Hong Kong to Bangkok

June 3, 2012 1 comment

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: United Airlines LAX-SFO, United International First Class Lounges at LAX/SFO

Part 3: United Airlines Global First Class, San Francisco to Frankfurt

Part 4: Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt

Part 5: Lufthansa FRA-ZRH, SWISS First Class Lounge at Zürich

Part 6: SWISS First Class, Zürich to Hong Kong

Part 7: Emirates A380 First Class Suites, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Part 8: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Bangkok to Singapore

Part 9: Exploring Singapore

Part 10: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Singapore to Mumbai

Part 11: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Mumbai to Singapore

Part 12: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Singapore to Hanoi

Part 13: Hanoi / Ha Long Bay

Part 14: Qatar Airways Economy Class, Hanoi to Bangkok

Part 15: Bangkok / Park Plaza Soi 18

Part 16: Emirates A380 First Class Suites, Bangkok to Hong Kong

Part 17: A weekend in Hong Kong

Part 18: Thai/United First Class Lounges at HKG; Thai First Class, Hong Kong to Bangkok

—————————————-

After an amazing weekend in Hong Kong, it was time to finally head home. Though while most people flying between Hong Kong and Los Angeles would just cross the Pacific Ocean, I’d go the Atlantic route, via Bangkok, Frankfurt, and London. The reason had everything to do with the airline I’d be flying from Hong Kong to Frankfurt.

While the outbound segment centered around SWISS First Class and the Lufthansa Frankfurt First Class Terminal, the return segment of my 120K US Airways miles award was built solely around trying out Thai Airways’s (TG) First Class product, especially the ground services at their Bangkok hub. I had quite a pleasant surprise when two weeks before the trip, I saw that the 747 I had booked from Bangkok-Frankfurt was scheduled as a 777-300ER, with the Jet Airways suites. Of course, TG is known for switching out aircraft, so I held my breath. Since this was a US Airways award, I couldn’t change any flights once I flew my first segment …

Anyway. A winding red cab ride down the hills of the Mid-Levels brought me to the Hong Kong Airport Express station. After a month of traveling, I had a suitcase overflowing with goodies to bring home (mostly things given by relatives on one continent to get to other relatives on other continents … I tend to be a family courier when I travel due to free bags via status or premium cabins). Luckily, the Airport Express allows one to check-in bags at Hong Kong Station. What a concept!

Unfortunately, I got “TG’d” on my first TG flight. The seat map the day prior showed the newer 747 configuration, with seats similar to those on the Swiss A340 I flew from Zurich to Hong Kong. However, Thai subbed in an older 747 for this flight. This is a frequent occurrence with Thai Airways, and so frequent flyers call it getting “TG’d.”

Due to a light load in First, the desk agent said each set of 2 seats would have 1 blocked. In addition to boarding pass, I was also given a Lounge Pass to the Royal First Lounge and a “voucher” for a golf cart ride from airport check-in counters to lounge (though I never figured out how to use it … plus after a weekend of delicious Hong Kong food, I sorely needed to walk around their massive airport).

I hung around the Hong Kong Airport Express station to hang out with my cousin who I was visiting. That’s one thing I love about HK … many of the big shopping/food centers are built around MTR stations. Everything is so accessible. It really is ingenious.

Once at the airport, I bee-lined for the Thai Airways lounge. It’s a large space with a separation between Business and First Class passengers. Upon entering, I was shown to the right, to the First space, and asked by a staff member if I’d like a drink and/or snacks. The sole difference between the First and Business space is pretty much the amount of people in each … it looks to be the same amenities, just with a partial wall in between.

Entrance to the HKG Royal Orchid Lounge

First Class area

Pretty limited food/drink selection

Not much of a division between the First and Business sides, either. Same massage chair as well.

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