TRAVEL / FREQUENT FLYER TIPS
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Archive for the ‘Air’ Category
BA001 London City Airport to New York’s JFK flight review
A few years ago, British Airways resurrected the flight number previously reserved for the premier Concorde supersonic service for a twice daily all-business class flight between JFK and the tiny London City Airport in the Canary Wharf area of London (in the Financial District).
2 x 2 seat configuration (lie flat)
It’s intended for the business traveler popping into London or New York for a day or two. London City Airport (LCY) in London’s E16 postal code is just 10 minutes to Canary Wharf and not much further to Bank and beyond. Compare that to Heathrow which is about an hour (or more) by taxi to the Bank / Canary Wharf area by taxi and a bit more by Heathrow Express (HEX) to Paddington and onward travel by Tube. Beyond that, LCY’s small size (it’s the size of a small town airport) and serves only New York on this one flight beyond Europe means extremely quick check-in outbound from London and likewise on Customs and Immigration when arriving at London City. In fact, one must only
arrive 20 minutes before the flight even with checked bags! Compare that to suggested arrival times of 2 hours before departure at LHR. Someone with a meeting in London could arrive in the morning from the overnight JFK-LCY flight and be at the office quickly and rested – even catching an afternoon flight back to NY if needed.
Prices on the route are only about 10% higher than LHR flights so again, for a business traveler, it’s a reasonable option.
I, however, was not paying $5,000 ++ for my ticket. I was redeeming my American Airlines miles for the experience – mostly because it was the only flight available for miles on the date I needed. The one way flight set me back 50,000 miles and about $500 in BA’s somewhat extortionate “surcharges” on miles redemptions. Given that round trips in this market in summer run well over $1,000 in coach, I was still pleased to have the option.
Check-in at LCY was indeed easy. For a 9:45am departure I left my nearby aLoft Hotel eXcel (a great choice in the area with a DLR station) at 9am, paid all of 8 pounds for a taxi and arrived at the airport at 9:06. By 9:!5 I was checked in, by 9:25 I was through security and at 9:32 I was one of the last to board my flight after stopping at the departure gate for a quick (complimentary) pastry and coffee.
Wheels were up at about 9:47 (try getting that on an LHR departure!) and we made a quick ascent, necessary given LCY’s one short runway.
And it’s this short runway that is the rub on New York bound flights. After all the time gained with the LCY location and short checkin window, we’d have just a one hour flight (which has a drink and snack service) to Ireland’s Shannon airport for refueling and custom’s pre clearance. Now, I give you that the whole process was VERY efficient and simple. Land, depart with hand luggage, wait 10 mins in a penned area for word that all checked baggage had been screened by customs and OKed, and then through US Immigration. The whole process was about 45 minutes but the entire extra stop adds about 1.5 hours to the blocked flight time over an LHR departure. For many passengers, clearing customs in Ireland is great as queues in NY can be extensive. But if you are like me and travel frequently abroad (and are a US Citizen), you have really no excuse to not have Global Entry – which means no queue on landing at JFK regardless. Of course, this pre-clearance is a real benefit for non-US passengers who do not have this option – and therefore it’s close to a wash with customs clearance time.
Onto the plane. Which I’m on now, about 5 1/4 hours into total flight time.
The configuration of this Airbus 318 jet is 2 x 2, 16 rows, 32 total seats. A bit of a dated layout as you are definitely in close quarters with your neighbor and you will have to do some gymnastics to get over your sleeping neighbor, but overall very nice. I must note that the plane is amazingly clean – it looks brand new still.
Stuffed chicken entree
We have 3 cabin crew and service is flawless. Every member of the crew has been friendly and genuine in their attempts to keep everyone happy. Very personal and attentive. After reboarding at Shannon, meal service began with the entree (I had the stuffed chicken breast with carrots, potatoes, and leeks out of the 5 options offered) which was followed by cheese and biscuits or a fruit platter. The food was definitely a notch above standard airline fare and on par with premium class meals I’ve had on other long haul flights – although not quite up to the level of a Singapore or Cathay Pacific.
The provided entertainment is a 1st Generation iPad loaded with a fairly small selection of movies. Here, BA could do better. Why not more of a selection on a 9 hour flight?
Before landing, we’ll have high tea and then land at JFK as a domestic flight
Overall? I’m quite pleased despite my quibbles. The cabin is very spacious and relaxing – although I confess that with a few hours still to go, I’m ready to land….
Highlights of the agreement include:
- A fully integrated joint venture that will operate on a “metal neutral” basis with both airlines sharing the costs and revenues from all joint venture flights.
- A combined trans-Atlantic network between the United Kingdom and North America with 31 peak-day round-trip flights.
- Enhanced benefits for customers including cooperation on services between New York and London, with a combined total of nine daily round-trip flights from London- Heathrow to John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.
- Reciprocal frequent flyer benefits.
- Shared access to Delta Sky Club and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse airport lounges for elite passengers.
This means that your Delta SkyMiles should become a bit more valuable in the near future (well, unless this major devaluation comes to pass). Redemptions on Virgin Atlantic would be amazing, considering that many feel that the SkyTeam network doesn’t provide for the best partner redemption opportunities – especially in Business Class.
I’m currently seeing flights all winter long (excluding Xmas) from NYC and other North American cities to Tel Aviv, Israel from a mind-boggling low $348 all-in. Yes, all taxes and fees.
Link – Airfare Search
This one will be gone QUICK so get in there now if you need a flight to TLV!
**UPDATE – This fare is now gone. It lasted less than half a day**
Click here for the survey results
What do you think? I personally have the most experience using AA, United, Delta, and US Air and the survey mimics my own experience.
Sure, Delta lets you use miles at higher tiers, but availability at the “standard” level is routinely terrible in my experience. I can usually find between zero and a few days in a month that I can use “low” awards – which is my benchmark for a successful redemption. I’m not redeeming 325,000 miles for a business class seat NYC-London! Of the programs, I’ve had the most luck getting what I wanted (or near it) using my AA miles.
Good news and bad news.
1) In another step towards integration of AA and BA (within their joint venture), you can now book BA flights with AA miles on aa.com. This is great for avoiding a phone call to check for availability of same.
2) The bad news: the taxes/fees are outrageous. A direct flight from NY to London in business class come out to the standard 100,000 miles but with $967.40 in fees! I priced a similar trip to LHR on AA aircraft and got only $281.50.
What is in the water over at BA?! These fuel surcharges (or YQ as we call it) have gotten beyond out of hand. Charging nearly a grand in fees on an award ticket is just a wee bit too far in “cost recovery”. Shame on you, BA.
The answer is “probably” if you follow a recent post on FlyerTalk that’s gotten over 16,000 views in just one day.
The jist of it is that it would become a revenue-based program (as opposed to the miles-based programs that are the norm). To see an example of a revenue based FF program, you can check out the likes of Virgin America’s Elevate. You earn based on what you spend, not on how far you travel.
Why is this bad for all but the highest spending business travelers?
Because tying everything to spend just takes the “game” out of it. Right now, a Delta Platinum elite could fly one round trip New York to Tokyo and earn 28,000 miles. 4 such round trips would set that traveler up for a free business class trip to Europe or, with just a few more miles, a free business class trip to Asia or the Middle East. Let’s say each round trip to Tokyo in coach cost $1,500. So after $6,000 in spend, they now have a free round trip in Business Class probably valued at about $6,000.
This is just one reason the legacy carriers hate the miles based programs. Other reasons include “mileage runners” that seek low fares on long routes with multiple stops just to collect miles.
OK, so we see why the airlines might want to move to the RBP (revenue based program).
But what are some arguments against it?
Only the highest spenders will get any real reward from such a program. If you are a HVC (high value customer), you will probably be one of the few to like this as less people compete for ward travel. So while an airline definitely wants its HVCs happy, what about the collective of EVERYONE ELSE?
Will the customer that spends $5,000 to $10,000 a year that used to get maybe a free J class ticket a year and will now get basically nothing continue to stay loyal to any particular airline? Will these customers even bother with using a frequent flyer program at all? (thus depriving the airline of valuable marketing data). I think it’s fine for the small carriers like Virgin America with limited routes, but the mileage based program is the norm worldwide and all the airlines are in alliances where members can earn and redeem miles across the network. (The three alliances are OneWorld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance.)
It remains to be seen how Delta using a different method would mesh into its SkyTeam network – and if other US airlines would follow (essentially killing the great premium class redemptions we’ve all gotten used to aspiring to).
How do you feel about this potential change? How would it affect your flying habits? Would you just go for the cheapest carrier and forget about the frequent flyer programs altogether?
This morning I was greeting in my email inbox with a message from American Airlines notifying me of their Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Now, I fly AA a lot and have considerable AAdvantage miles banked. What was my initial reaction?
You see, the other US-based legacy carriers have all already done this. It will allow them to unburden themselves of unviable union contracts that have kept them from having the money to spend on things like new and refurbished planes needed to compete with European and Asian carriers that offer far superior business class products on long haul flights – and even to refurbish domestic planes with things like WiFi and In Seat Entertainment that people have started to expect with the likes of Jet Blue offering it on every flight.
FOX wrote a piece on this filing that sums it up pretty well: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2011/11/29/what-every-passenger-should-know-about-american-airlines-filing-for-bankruptcy/
What about your miles? They are *most likely* very safe. The AAdvantage program is what keeps high paying customers loyal to AA and even if the company were acquired, not honoring the miles would alienate the customers the buyer would covet most. In past takeovers (not that we know a takeover will happen here), miles and statuses have been safe. Like when American took over TWA a couple of decades ago and AA turned those miles into AAdvantage miles.
Sure, flying AA near term might be a bit less fun as employees will be hurt by the filing and morale will sink – but long term, this should be a positive thing for AA;s frequent (and infrequent) flyers.
As of Nov 2nd, we have the following offer:
- Earn 30,000 bonus miles when you spend $500 in your first 3 months of cardmembership
- No annual fee for your first year of Card membership; $95 thereafter
And if you use the HotelMagician.com link as indicated, you’ll also get a $20 Amazon.com gift certificate after you are approved.
Follow this link to get the offer: Delta Gold American Express card: 30,000 Bonus Miles
In honor of all those who serve, through Veterans Day, Nov. 11th, AAdvantage® members will be rewarded 15 miles instead of 10 for each dollar donated through American’s Miles In Support of All Who Serve campaign, which supports USO programs and services to support the morale, welfare, social and entertainment needs of troops and their families, free of charge.
If you’re trying to beat the Dec 1 change to the American Airlines Million Miler program, this would be a nice boost for a good cause.
If you haven’t been following, you have until December 1st for miles from all sources to count in attaining Million Miler status – AAdvantage Gold status for the life of the AAdvantage program.
Until Dec 1st, miles from all sources, including credit card spending, could towards the 1,000,000 lifetime miles needed to qualify. Any flying bonuses also count.
After Dec 1st, miles that could will be actual BIS (butt-in-seat) miles only – with the one exception of the Citi Executive AAdvantage Visa credit card. ($450 annual fee).
Are you close??