Nate Silver says “Fly Early, Arrive On-Time”

Interesting post at FiveThirtyEight about how your flight departure time affects how long you spend delayed.  This is based on aggregate statistics across all flights, and doesn’t take into account traffic patterns in particular cities or airline scheduling and on-time performance, but the general premise does seem sensible with certain assumptions.  Flights later in the day will suffer from delays incurred earlier in the day, if the airline has not built this into their schedules.  All in all, the conclusion reached in the post doesn’t seem terribly insightful, except that hard data does seem to back up intuition in this case.

The best part about the US-AA merger so far…

There’s been all this great speculation about the new airline and the frequent flyer program, but I actually think the best part of the merger so far continues on One Mile at a Time’s recent posts regarding music (hold music specifically in his case).  Now, this isn’t hold music, but the music in this video, extolling the virtues of the combined airline, is pretty awesome, in my opinion.

 

I might have already spent a lot of time listening to this song on loop…

For that matter, I’m a sucker for catchy music, so I might’ve also spent a lot of times listening to all the good and awful songs Lucky posted as well…

Return of the blogger!

I haven’t posted in quite a while, but I’ve had some recent experiences that I felt I should share, or at least record for posterity.

First off, I had a great time a couple of weekends ago at the first ChampagneDO.  The lovely girls Jeanne and Keri of Heels First Travel planned this event, and  even reviewed and visually documented the event!  I certainly had a good time.

I also recently took a trip to Singapore, and met up with folks on the Flyertalk SIN DO while I was there.  I had a great time there, and it was my first time in Singapore, as well as flying in ANA and Singapore First class (including a trip in the Suites!).  I’ll post more about that soon.

The story I wanted to share today happened while I was flying to Puerto Rico on AA (in first class of course).  I’d asked for hot tea on the plane.  A few minutes later, the purser came by and began apologizing and explaining how they had forgotten to load ceramic glasses, and asked if it would be ok to serve it in a styrofoam cup.  Now, while having real glasses and mugs is nice, I certainly don’t need that, and wouldn’t turn down a drink just because it didn’t come in one…my main concern would be that it’s slightly less environmentally friendly, but not enough to worry me.

Anyway, I responded that it (hot tea in a styrofoam cup) was better than having it in a plastic or glass cup :)

40% Bonus for Membership Rewards to Avios transfers ending

AMEX has been offering a 40% bonus on transfers of Membership Rewards points to Avios, but that is ending tomorrow!

Avios transfer bonus

I’ve used Avios to book several trips recently, mostly exploiting how short haul award tickets are only 4500 Avios each way!  I’ve booked several tickets to Chicago for the fall from DC, but I also used Avios to book Cathay Business from YVR to JFK for my Xmas travel.  One Mile at a Time has a full rundown of these redemption options as well as a few others on Avios.  I am probably going to transfer a chunk of points to Avios before this ends, just to have them for future trips.

First time through TSA PreCheck

Apparently One Mile at a Time also just had his first PreCheck experience, but on my mileage run/mini vacation to Puerto Rico this weekend, I also got selected for PreCheck for my United flight out of DCA.  It’s kinda funny, because as I was handing my ID and scanning my mobile boarding pass, I was dreading at having to remove all the crap I needed to from my backpack (toiletries, laptop, iPad).  Since it was only a one day trip, I had decided to just take a backpack along.  But then, once the TSA agent was done looking at my documents, they directed me to the PreCheck line :-D.  It was amazing, not having to take off your shoes or belt, OR even removing anything from your bag.  I mentioned this on Facebook already, but it’s like 1999 security all over again!

And the kicker on top of that…The guy behind me in line got swabbed for explosives on the hands, so I even managed to avoid that.  In case that doesn’t make sense to everyone (because I’m not sure a lot of airports even do this), at DCA, they just randomly swab people’s hands in the security line while they are waiting to show their ID, and they run the swab through some machine which detects explosive residue.

The significance to me of seeing Australia

I started thinking about this as I was landing.  The first time I really saw much of anything about Australia was TV coverage of the 2000 Sydney Olympic games.  I remember watching the opening credits of the coverage and thinking that it seemed like a great place to visit.  I managed to dig up a video clip on YouTube of the opening credits (it cuts off some of the scenic landscape view that I remember, but you get the idea).

I forgot about visiting Australia after that, until a few years ago, I remembered it would be a great place to visit.  It became a bit of a long term goal that was just “out there” for me, and then it was amplified last year when one of my good friends ended up moving to Australia.  Ironically, I missed my friend during this trip since he wasn’t here at the moment.  Recalling all the memories of reasons that I wanted to come to Australia makes me appreciate the points and miles collecting even more.

I probably would’ve made this trip happen sooner or later, but it was certainly was much less costly and enjoyable being able to travel the way I did here.   While visiting Australia is by no means a major lifelong dream that has been the focus of my life, I do appreciate that it was an idea I had thought about several times in the past, and it’s cool to think that I’ve now had the opportunity to “check it off my list,” so to speak.  Some people may never have the opportunity to ever see the place they want to go for a variety of reasons, which makes me appreciate this experience even more.

A number of firsts

So believe it or not (or maybe it couldn’t have come soon enough), I’m on my first big miles redemption trip. I’m currently in Sydney, Australia. The trip here involved a number of firsts, some more exciting than others. It was my first time:

  • taking the train in SoCal, from San Diego to LA (then the bus to LAX)
  • flying out of LAX, as opposed to connecting through it
  • flying an A380
  • flying in business class, believe it or not (in an A380 no less)
  • going to Australia
  • staying at a Park Hyatt (Sydney)

The first part of that list isn’t terribly exciting, but mostly observations that I noticed. I spent the previous weekend in San Diego, attending Comic-Con 2012, which is why I had to get up to LA for my flight.

Anyway, when I arrived in LA, I had to run back and forth between the International Terminal and Terminal 4 a couple of times. My originally booked flight was LAX-BNE-SYD on QF (Qantas).  I believe I originally did this because LAX-SYD award space is basically impossible to find, whereas alternate routings are readily available.  I also remember something about BA trying to tell me this routing was illegal and trying to find something else, before giving up and just letting me have it, but I digress.

Upon arriving at the airport, I went straight to the Tom Bradley International Terminal.  This seemed pretty reasonable, since I was flying internationally.  However, apparently Qantas’ Brisbane flights are operated out of Terminal 4.  So I walked out the terminal and the few hundred feet to terminal 4.  I started checking in there, getting my visa for Australia, etc.  Then all of a sudden, a different ticketing agent gets off the phone and says they want to move me to the direct to SYD, probably since I’m flying there anyway.  While checking in, I’d learned that the BNE flight I was on was very full, and business was oversold by 10 seats (out of 50 or so I’m guessing, which is a pretty big deal).  My first thought was actually that I would gladly volunteer my seat in return for compensation, that I could live with delaying my vacation a day.  But alas, it was not meant to be.  However, instead, I got to fly on the A380 on the direct to SYD, and on the top deck :)  Here’s some pictures of the seats:


That was actually my first experience in business class, and it was quite comfortable and pleasant.  The flight was about 14 hours, which was actually not as long as I expected it to be.  The flight was uneventful, besides a couple of meals (pictures below) and watching a few movies…and sleeping for 6 hours.

 

Supper service
Breakfast service

Anyway, I made it to Sydney, and to my hotel, the Park Hyatt Sydney.  I booked this for the first 3 nights here.  The hotel is normally a $700/night hotel, but I booked it on Hyatt points.  The rate that way is 22k Hyatt Gold Passport / UR points (can be transferred to Hyatt), which is a great value.  And I’ve found the hotel impressive too.  I can’t wait to try some others in the future, like the Park Hyatt Tokyo and the Park Hyatt Paris :)  Anyway, I’ll hopefully have another post with more details about the hotel, but the picture of the view below says a lot.  But so far, things are going well :)

Virgin America financial results…not so good

Cranky Flier (quickly becoming my favorite read) has put out a post about Virgin America’s latest quarterly report.  Basically, they don’t sound like they’re doing that well.  Virgin American rolled out the red carpet for those of us that attended the KivaDo back in February (for which I have a draft post that still has never been completed…), and I think most people generally like the airline.  Unfortunately, their loyalty program leaves a lot to be desired.  And apparently, so does their financial performance.

Virgin attributes their losses to their rapid growth, but this contrasts with another recent CF article about Southwest Airlines, where SWA managed to grow rapidly and pay their staff well without hemorrhaging money.  Well, hopefully VX can turn it around.  They’re more innovative and edgy with their airplanes and business philosophy with other airlines, and it’s nice to see their influence in the market bringing down fares in certain markets/on certain routes.