Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quirky traditions make travel enchanting

I visit Holland every year for the 5th of December to enjoy the tradition of Sinterklaas with relatives. Then I get to celebrate Christmas on the 25th again in the USA.(I like to “double dip”). It is believed that the tradition of Santa (Father Christmas) originated in 340 A.C, when the Bishop of Myra gave sweets to children. The legend of the kindly Pope’s representative arriving is played out with much pageantry in Holland to this day. Sinterklaas arrives annually on a Saturday at the end of November. This event is broadcast on national Television, each year he arrives at a different city by boat.

Children watch the TV news every day in Holland, to hear about his voyage. This year the Sinterklaas Journal had lots of children in dismay because he almost landed, but his boat had to turn around because they forgot to bring his Staff, and had to turn around to go back for it. Luckily, we know from previous years, that no matter what sort of exploits happen, Sint arrives on time to deliver gifts on the 5th of December.
Sinterklaas
I traveled to Amsterdam with some friends from America and enjoyed their astonishment at seeing Santa’s helpers because he is always accompanied by 2 fake black moors! They are both named “zwarte Piet”( Translated is: “black Peter”). I have to admit, it is the strangest thing to see 2 grown men in tights with black makeup covering their faces! Well worth hopping on a KLM flight to cross the pond to experience a Dutch Christmas, if you can keep a straight face.               
Unfortunately, this year there is a small group of people that are asking United Nations to ban this
tradition of Black Piet because the historical character was a slave. I don’t think that they can change history and I don’t understand why they would try to stop children from being fond of Sniterklaas helpers. He’s a mischievous lad but Dutch children adore him.
Children place one of their shoes in front of the fireplace (or heater). Inside the shoe, they put a carrot (for his horse), and a list of desired gifts that they hope will appear on December 5. Did you notice that I said that in Holland St. Nic delivers the gifts on Dec 5th and not on Dec 25 as he does in other parts of the world and that he has a horse in the Netherlands whereas he needs reindeer to travel globally? ~~~~Visit a Christmas market and drink hot “gluwine” with traditional “Snert” {Pea soup) to really experience this wonderful season.
AirFrance has an offer for Premium Economy Sale -40% more space than regular Economy
New York - Paris $1,459. or to Amsterdam. If you are Elite there is a small chance that you will get upgraded to Premium Economy or to be sure you can latch on to this offer by booking your seat in Premium Economy to travel, à la Françoise.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Top Vegas Hotel

I have stayed at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong and found that, in Vegas, the chain has the Asian touches of serene service and Chinese art decor. The Mandarin Oriental is a well managed brand, pledging to provide everything for the traveler, and the Vegas property certainly delivers on that promise. Rooms are on the small side, though sumptuous styles relieve any claustrophobia you might have. The room desk comes with fittings to project a laptop screen on the television; a special "valet" closet near the door enables butlers to drop off dry cleaning safely without disturbing guests; and the flat iron is a wonderful amenity in the bathroom. Their Signature massage is 1 Hour and 50 min long and it costs $400 Fri to Sunday. Monday to Thu it is $340. The spa at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, is only open to hotel guests, so it’s never crowded with local Show girls. In addition to a Chinese foot spa, guests can experience a Hammam, a laconium, an ice fountain, and a ladies' Rhassoul (a treatment that revolves around special Moroccan mud). Some men like the face, shoulder, and scalp massage but I can’t get mine to join me at the Spa, …though he is happy to join me on the 23rd floor, the Mandarin Bar serves up great cocktails and views.
Mandarin Oriental
The list of global Top hotels by Travel + Leisure has listed this hotel in Las Vegas. The Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas is the only hotel on the list with a rate of $250 or less. In fact all hotels in Vegas are less than $150 average price because hotels make their money with conventions and gambling. If you book last minute rooms here you pay $325 but your 3rd night is free.I’ve stayed at The Venetian hotel for $150 but spent double that at their Spa. The Spa at the Venetian (Canyon Ranch) is worth it though.I have spent less than $150 a night at the Bellagio Hotel (famous for the fountains) and at the PH. It’s a convention factory and the Convention center is even bigger. They have conventions for everything imaginable! I could go to conventions every day of the year but it would not be very cost effective for my business. This economic slowdown is going to make us all think twice about excess overindulgence. Reservations can be made via email: [email protected]
Vitality Pool
It’s a true break to enjoy the beautiful, pristine, serene non smoking, non gambling oasis in the middle of Vegas. Everything was perfect, amenities, rooms, service, ..even fellow guests. We did rent a cabana for a relaxing day.. Staff seemed to circulate around the pool every few minutes. We were able to use the hotel car a couple of times, since we did not rent a car. The airport is a short Taxi ride..Breakfast at Mozen Restaurant is good.. A serene, quiet pool that is NOT: a "Day Club, almost Top-less", crowded with screaming children, and not litter strewn. It’s a great hideaway if you want to be quite close to the strip and then retreat from it at night. This luxury hotel is located at the entrance of the newest Vegas area – CityCenter.
The rooms are very sleek with frosted glass separating the room from the bathroom. They have deep tubs that I love with all the necessary amenities and more. Even a styling flat iron.The lights/air/TV is controlled by an iPad-like device which can be a little confusing in the middle of the night.I wish more hotels had night lights in the bathroom.
The pool is not like the average Vegas Spanish island “look alike” daytime pool-party scene in the Nevada desert. Las Vegas has been called the new Ibiza, with the same un-attractive drunkards in typical Vegas fashion, hotel casinos have taken the daytime electronic dance music scene and amplified it— and custom lasers, DJs. Thankfully the Mandarin is peaceful, but In the Summer don’t go to the pool around lunchtime, because there may be a wait for a lounger, perhaps this is to get you to pay for the Cabana. There is a pool reception but most people are not used to this so they find their own seats, while staff were away from the desk, they give additional guest passes to hotel guests and to residents of the building so it can get crowded later in the afternoon. I found this a good excuse to visit the nearby upscale shopping Mall and CVS to avoid the $7 for a small bottle of water in the room, though they do provide a free bottle with the evening turn down service, The view of all the neon signs at night makes you feel that you are in Vegas.
Great service from check-in to check-out. No check-in wait lines so we were in the room fast. The Lobby is on the 23rd floor for registration and a lounge. There is a Resort fee, as most Vegas hotels do slip in this fee. it includes internet. This is the place to stay if you want to enjoy a hotel in Vegas without the sounds of a Casino, or having to deal with intoxicated people with 32 ounce frozen drinks bumping into you in the elevator. The extra-Lux Spa facility, is worth a visit and enjoy and elegant high tea. There is a Kinesis Fitness System; the property's five restaurants and bars include Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, the Michelin-starred chef’s first U.S. venture.
If you like daytime drinking and dancing, try the Mandalay Bay, Bagatelle in Tropicana, Planet Hollywood and the expanded Wet Republic at MGM Grand can host up to 5,000 partiers. Also the Sunday bash at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, they started the trend with a “meat market”.
Vegas Swimming pools where kids are welcome, are the Premier Lounges at the Bellagio and at the J.W. Marriott.. A good way to see other places and take your kids is that you can gain entry to one of the Strip’s most rarefied pool areas by renting a Cabana, for a comparatively low rate.
The chain has a new partnership with VirginAmerica Airline to award Elevate members points with a The  Mandarin Oriental stay!

BA Executive Club members are entitled to 800 Avios per eligible stay at any participating Mandarin Oriental hotel.
Blue and Bronze Card Members get free Fruit and flowers
Complimentary newspaper and use of the hotel's health facilities
Express check-in & check-out
Silver, Gold and Premier Card Members get:
All blue card member benefits, plus
Special discounts on room rates at participating Mandarin Oriental hotels
Upgrade to the next room category (subject to availability)
Late check-out (subject to availability).
Air France/KLM Flying Blue members are entitled to 500 miles per eligible stay at any participating Mandarin Oriental hotel.














Friday, July 19, 2013

How to get FREE Live TV on FLIGHTS

  

clip_image002On my last flight with Southwest Airlines, two things got my attention. When I entered the plane, I noticed that there was a sticker, next to the entrance, it had the Wi-Fi symbol with the text “Wi-Fi onboard”. On opening the in-flight magazine there was an advertisement labeled: “Enjoy free live TV on this flight”. Normally I leave the Wi-Fi to others, because it’s slow and expensive. I can manage without email for a couple of hours. So as soon as the aircraft was above 10,000 feet there was the “ding” signal for the flight attendant to announce that the use of approved electronic devices is permitted.

I got my iPad and followed the instructions in the Southwest Magazine; first went to settings, clicked on Wi-Fi, the “Southwest WiFi” network showed up, so I selected that network. Within a few seconds, my iPad connected to this network. After that, I launched Safari and to my surprise, the portal website showed up quickly.

Choice of $8 Wi-Fi or Free Live TV?

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I had the choice of $8 Wi-Fi or Free Live TV, I choose the Live TV powered by Dish. Then I was offered this selection of TV stations:

  • Bravo
  • CNBC
  • FOX 5 New York (WNYW)
  • FOX Business Network
  • FOX News Channel
  • Golf Channel
  • MLB.com (Major League Baseball), when games are available
  • MSNBC
  • NBC 4 (WNBC)
  • NFL Network

In addition, there are lots of video on demand channels. I settled for Fox News, and clicked on the link for Fox news channel, within a few seconds the video streaming screen appeared on my iPad. I clicked on the Play Icon and Fox News started to stream to my iPad. The Quality was very good, in fact, it was as good as my home TV .

I also checked out the live flight tracker, which gives you a map with the aircraft, plotted at the location where you are presently flying. At the bottom, you can see the remaining distance, ground speed, altitude, weather conditions to arriving city and estimated arrival time.

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I liked watching TV on Southwest Airlines, (on my own iPad), and it was the best flight tracker that I have seen onboard an airplane. I hope my next flight has a sticker with “Wi-Fi on Board”!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Hertz now rents cars like Porsche and Tesla

I usually like to take advantage of a Hertz President's Circle Plus Rewards ELITE upgrade, but in this bad economy, I go for the cheapest car to rent. The best way to do this is to go to Expedia, where you can get a quote from all the car rental places in one place.

Expedia

There are many advantages to going to this link : You can BOOK NOW and pay later, NO FEES for cancellation before pick-up, the TOTAL price INCLUDES taxes and fees. I could see all the rental companies daily rates listed.. 84 Car Types Matched my Search For Economy Or Larger. Dollar Thrifty, was the cheapest then Enterprise and Alamo. All cars include automatic transmission, air conditioning and unlimited mileage. I must point out a tip that you should not expect cars to have air conditioning if you are renting out of the USA, and may even have to rent a stick shift car! So always CHECK if you are not renting in the USA.

Hertz Corporation

We rented a car at Baltimore, MD, AIRPORT (BWI-Baltimore Washington Intl. Thurgood Marshall) from Enterprise.

 

When I returned the car early in the morning at 5 a.m. There was nobody at the Enterprise desk but the National (sister company) person told me to leave the keys in the car. I did this, but did not get a receipt emailed to me . After a few days I sent an email to the manager and explained that I need a receipt for my records and my expense report. I got a reply to go to http://www.enterprise.com> at the bottom of the page you can print receipts but you have to put in your license information.

You can use your Preferred Corporate Loyalty Program At Enterprise and even enter your National Car Benefits Emerald Club ID on the EnterpriseRent-A-CarEnterprise website. There is really not much competition in the car rental business and I can understand why only the biggest companies survive. Most cities add on so many taxes that it is not a growth industry. The car companies are lucky that they have not been priced out because Amtrak and other Government run trains are still more expensive than renting a car.

Hertz and Dollar Thrifty Merged last year and now there are fewer car rental companies as there are now only four major Airlines in the USA controlling skies and that means prices go up when there is less competition.

Join Hertz Gold Plus Rewards to earn Points To Get Free Rentals and you don’t have to stop at any counters. Other advantages of membership are Speed rental and faster car return. They are the world's largest airport car rental brand, and have launched Hertz Dream Cars so if you want to rent an Aston Martin V8 or a Ferrari you are in luck!

Hertz operates its car rental business through the Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty brands from approximately 10,400 corporate, licensee and franchisee locations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and New Zealand. Hertz is the largest worldwide airport car rental brand. They promote the Hertz name a glamorous flagship brand. Hertz has renewed their Title Sponsorship Of The British Grand Prix MotoGP™ At Silverstone.

The Hertz Corp. has launched Hertz Dream Cars, a line of high-end performance vehicles that redefine the premium car rental experience. Shares of HTZ are up on news of the line of ultra-high-end performance vehicles that redefine the premium car rental experience.

The Dream cars are available on a dedicated micro site, www.HertzDreamCars.com and via 888.296.9124 the Hertz Dream Car Collection includes the following luxury cars:

Aston Martin V8 Vantage , Audi R8, Bentley Continental GT,Cadillac CTS-V,Ferrari (California, F430) Lamborghini Gallardo, Land Rover Range Rover Sport,Mercedes-Benz AMG (SLS, C63, E63),Mercedes-Benz SL550, S550 and G550, Porsche (911, Cayenne, Boxster, Panamera), SRT Viper, Tesla Model S,

Hertz is offering Dream Cars in 35 markets, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Las Vegas – expanding the availability for consumers around the country to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime luxury travel experience.

Hertz, recently earned top honors with three separate car rental industry influencers. For the second consecutive year, Hertz and its Gold Plus Rewards program swept the Flyer Awards and Trip Advisor’s garnering top honors for Best Rewards Program and Outstanding Benefits in the Americas, Europe/Africa and Middle East/Oceania; in Trip Advisor's first car rental survey, U.S.-based travelers chose Hertz as the favorite brand of car rental in the 2013 Travelers' Choice Awards for Travel Favorites. Hertz was also chosen as the number one best rental company in Elliott's list of six best rental companies of 2013 Zap Technology: Hertz's Gold enrollment and e-Return is the fastest way to get customers in their cars and when they return, back on their way home. Hertz will email the customer's receipt in a flash. .

Hertz has a Mobile App. to Book, modify and search car rental reservations, find locations, and browse special deals and offers all from the palm of your hand to on-the-go bookings to instant upgrades. Another app is Hertz NeverLost My Explore App: Users can plan their itinerary and navigate popular cities all on their smart phone and import it into a calendar or to the award-winning Hertz NeverLost® GPS.

Hertz on Demand is the Mobile App where Members have 24/7 access to a variety of vehicles when and where they need them with the ability to reserve a car or modify an existing reservation and view upcoming and previous reservations

American Airlines

Now through December 31, 2013, earn up to six times the American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and save up to 35% on your Hertz car rental. Simply rent a Hertz vehicle for one or more consecutive days in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, and Europe* use.CDP Number: 217692 to book with Hertz.

HERTZ

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Westin is a vibrant, Luxury hotel in Cape Town

I’ve stayed at Cape Town's most vibrant Luxury hotel, many times, and  I get there,- even if it means I have to take a 3 hour detour flight. Our Lufthansa flight took us to Johannesburg, but we made it to beautiful Cape Town. Last time we stayed at this hotel it was a Sheraton, but now it has been re-named the Westin Cape Town. The hotel that was previously called the Westin (in Hermanus) is now called the Arabella Hotel & Spa, which is managed by African Pride Hotels a Protea Hotel. It’s a bit confusing, but basically, I was able to earn points for the Cape Town hotel with Starwood, and the Hermanus Hotel earned points with Protea’s loyalty program . The Westin Cape Town has a beautiful pool on the 19th-floor and I love to stand in the pool and just enjoy the amazing view of the city and the Atlantic Ocean. The Arabella Spa at this hotel is just as wonderful as the Arabella Spa in Hermanus, so both have to be experienced.

I’m standing at the entrance to the Barnabas Bar at the Arabella Hotel & Spa. Hotel Bar named after Barnabas Shaw

Elite members can enjoy the Westin Executive Club and experience the panoramic views of the city, V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain. South Africa's whale-watching capital, is Hermanus, --- where the Arabella is located. It’s near the town of Kleinmond and Betty's Bay's penguins. At the Arabella Hotel & Spa, Elite members can enjoy the Westin Executive Club and experience the panoramic views of the city, V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain. The Protea Prokard (Elite) Gold or Silver card gets you free room upgrades and members-only privileges at more than 130 Hotels, Lodges and Country Houses in South Africa and Namibia, as well as selected properties across Africa.

On the way to the Arabella Hotel we stopped for lunch at a vineyard. Blaauwklippen, nestled on the slopes of the Stellenbosch Mountain, is one of the oldest wine farms in South Africa dating back to 1682 and is situated in the picturesque town of Stellenbosch. The name Blaauwklippen comes from the Dutch and Afrikaans word meaning “blue rocks”. The Blue Mountains give Stellenbosch a magical look, many of the mountains in the Cape look blue from a distance. Even Table Mountain, in Cape Town looks blue,  from some vantage points.

For over 300 years, the people of Blaauwklippen have combined traditional values with innovative ideas to create one of South Africa's top wine tourism destinations. Weddings, wine tours and the restaurant are popular venues for both locals and tourists.


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We experienced the true taste of South Africa in beautiful surroundings at Barouche Restaurant and enjoyed a glass of wine on the large outdoor Terrace.

The Rev. Barnabas Shaw who arrived in Cape Town in 1816, wrote several books published in England. He was sent to Africa as the founder of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. The first mission that he set up was at Lilyfontein, where he taught Hottentots to cultivate the soil. They had previously, never grown any type of food. Their only source of food was the cattle that they traveled South with, in search of pastures. When Barnabus first arrived in Cape Town, the British Governor did not want him to preach to the black people so he used his own money to buy wagons with 24 oxen and horses, for his wife Jane and his assistants to set up a mission outside the Governors jurisdiction. 

The Arabella Hotel & Spa is, in present times, is only 2 hours away from Cape Town, but at the time that Barnabus traveled there it took about 2 days to travel there. He traveled up the coast by ship once, and when the Captain put him ashore, he walked in the desert for days without finding water, until he found his destination. The farmer that he visited in the Cape lived in such a remote homestead that he had not had visitors for several years.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tips to beat the expected flight delays this summer

The weather has been so cold this year that the Tulips have not bloomed for the Keukenhof  parade this year, so many flowers were imported. Delta is offering $100 off flights to Amsterdam when you book by the 25th Now you can fly NY JFK to Amsterdam round trip for $867 - Book now & enjoy $100 off most U.S. ✈ Amsterdam flights

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On Tuesday, my American Airlines flight was delayed due to computer problems that led to the FAA grounding all the carrier's flights. Fortunately, it was fixed within a couple of hours. I was relieved to see a Tweet from ‏@AmericanAir “Our systems have been fully restored, however we expect continued delays & cancellations”

But, - let me prepare you with tips for lots of up-coming Flight delays:

In most instances, passengers are given little notice of delays but American Airlines and United have good Twitter teams, so check Twitter for information and then call your ELITE line or use their app. to rebook as fast as you can, since those who act quickest in response to a delay tend to get the best service from the airlines. You can do this while in line to speak to a gate agent, or can bypass the gate agent if you can sort it out before you get to the top of the queue. Elite members get ahead of other passengers in rebooking. Most airlines have issued waivers that let passengers alter flight plans with no fees, due to bad weather, but when you want to rescheduled travel, it definitely pays to be loyal and receive ELITE priority. I’m glad that American Airlines is emerging from bankruptcy and in April 2013, had their 1st profitable first quarter since 2007. clip_image001

The Federal Aviation Administration is warning that air traffic controller furloughs, due to the sequester will begin on Sunday the 21st April and will affect up to 7,000 flights daily .

Kudos To Nick Calio, the CEO of airlines for America and he says that the furloughs are illegal, irresponsible and damaging. Most of all they are totally unnecessary. There are plenty of other places the FAA could cut but they are playing Political games. The airline industry is suing FAA and DOT because of the Furlough. Seeking to stop furloughs in Federal court Wants controllers deemed “essential personnel” The TSA is not furloughing anyone but they should!

Lee Moak, president of airline pilots group, accused the Obama administration of using the issue as "political football" in its battle with congressional Republicans over the budget. Obama has made choices that appear designed to have the greatest possible impact on the traveling public," he said. Holding passengers ransom to allow the Democrats to continue spending more money that the Country has, is not honest.

Delta Airlines should also be able to protest to the Dept. of Transportation. Delta is investing more than $3 billion in airport facilities and global products, services and technology to enhance the customer experience in the air and on the ground.

clip_image002 Delta already offers more flat-bed seats with direct-aisle access than any other U.S. carrier. The new A330 BusinessElite seats, are approximately 78 inches in length and 20 inches wide. The seats will be arranged in an angled .Delta is beginning installation of Full Flat-Bed Seats on their remaining International Fleet Type, Airbus 330 Aircrafts. They are upgrading their Airbus A330 fleet – the final fleet type to receive the modification of the full flat-bed seats in the BusinessElite cabin and new "slim line" seats, which offer more personal space throughout the Economy cabin. The first modified A330 operated its first flight from Atlanta to Detroit and will also operate from Detroit to Amsterdam . There are 32 A330s in the Delta fleet.

BusinessElite”

Each A330 will have 34 BusinessElite full flat-bed seats providing direct-aisle access for every customer, electronic seat controls with adjustable lumbar support, a 110-volt universal power outlet, USB port and an adjustable personal LED reading lamp. Each seat offers a 15.4 inch widescreen video monitor with instant access to 350 films, 130 hours of television programming, nearly 100 hours of premium selections from HBO and Showtime, 27 games, more than 4,500 digital music tracks and a real-time flight tracker. On-demand streaming entertainment to personal laptops and tablets will also be available on board this summer. Full flat-bed seats will soon be offered throughout their international fleet.

Thirty-five Boeing 767-300ER aircraft with new full flat-bed BusinessElite seats are currently flying, with the entire fleet of 58 aircraft scheduled for completion by the end of 2013. The full international widebody fleet of more than 140 aircraft will be complete by mid-2014

If you are not upgraded to BusinessElite, the next best is “Economy Comfort”, which includes "slim line" seats offering more personal space, up to four additional inches of legroom for 35 inches of seat pitch and 50 percent more recline. Delta's A330 aircraft each have 32 Economy Comfort seats with six-way adjustable headrests, a 110-volt universal power outlet and USB port. The product is similar to the upgraded Economy services currently available on flights operated by Delta's joint venture partners Air France-KLM and Alitalia and is located in the first few rows of the Economy cabin on more than 160 Boeing 747, 757, 767, 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft. In addition to more legroom and recline, customers seated in Economy Comfort will enjoy priority boarding and complimentary spirits throughout the flight. These benefits are in addition to Delta's standard international Economy class amenities, including complimentary meals, beer, wine, entertainment, blankets and pillows.

As an Elite member, ECONOMY COMFORT is the upgrade from regular Economy, but Delta has also made changes to the Economy cabin to include more comfortable "slim line" seats,, providing customers with additional knee room. They call it knee room because you can’t seriously claim that there is room for you legs. I assume that this clears them legally. All Economy seats feature a headrest with adjustable wings, height and tilt, USB power and a nine-inch touch screen featuring personal on-demand entertainment and the same extensive library of entertainment choices as those offered in BusinessElite and Economy Comfort.

Installing full flat-bed seats on Delta's widebody international aircraft is a major component of Delta's $3 billion customer experience investment. This investment also includes Delta's new Terminal 4 at New York-JFK, opening this May, and Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal in Atlanta, which opened in April 2012. Delta is also spending more than $100 million to expand, renovate and consolidate terminals C and D at New York-LaGuardia Airport. Additionally, customers will see Delta's investment in its more than 50 Delta Sky Clubs throughout the system, power poles at dozens of airports, mobile apps which include features such as baggage tracking, and Wi-Fi on more than 800 aircraft.

Delta was named by Fortune magazine as the most admired airline worldwide in its 2013 World's Most Admired Companies airline industry list, topping the list for the second time in three years. With an industry-leading global network, Delta and the Delta Connection carriers offer service to 313 destinations in 57 countries on six continents. Headquartered in Atlanta where KLM is also as they have been working together since the Delta acquisition of Northwest Airlines in 2008. Delta is a founding member of the SkyTeam global alliance and participates in the industry's leading trans-Atlantic joint venture with Air France-KLM and Alitalia. I travel to their hub in Amsterdam often and will soon travel to Atlanta to work on a project with the KLM GM.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Funky SXSW Hotels, Film and Festivals in Texas

Traveling to Austin, TEXAS for SXSW? American Airlines is the Official Airline of the Music, Film and Interactive Festival (SXSW). Use promo code 6533EH for 10% off your AA flight.

I rediscovered the Renaissance Austin Hotel, I have not stayed there for a few years but thought I would give them a try again and was glad I did.

2013-02-27 11.13.11They have renovated the lobby and added Cowboy boots in the design (as seen in photo above) to show off the personality of the Lone Star State. I love the cool white boots but do not like the loo paper roll next to it. But Ok… the arty types get carried away sometimes, but it’s too funky for me.

The Hotel is located in the Arboretum shopping area, near the University of Texas, LBJ Library and Austin Bergstrom International Airport, and just 10 minutes from the State Capitol building. TX hotel provides a tranquil environment surrounded by trees in the Texas Hill Country. If you don’t valet park, you can self park for free. Previously, they had computers that you could rent in the outsourced business center but no WiFi. That has been resolved and wireless internet is now available in the Lobby and For a daily rate of $12.95 you get high speed internet, in your guest room, though it’s free if you are a Plat Elite Marriott Rewards member. The Arboretum Austin restaurant is a cybercafé with wireless service, gourmet coffees, specialty wines and beer, fresh-baked pastries, made-to-order pizzas and sandwiches.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I love the W Hotel in Austin but they don’t have a heated pool at the W  whereas the Renaissance has a heated Indoor pool and an Outdoor pool (Seasonal) plus a Whirlpool. They also have a really nice Concierge Lounge serving free food vs no lounge at the W. I’m grateful for the upgrade to the spacious renovated room and I hate to look a gift-horse in the mouth, but I’m not so keen on the Jetson style white chairs with plastic cushions. And the other minor peeve is that they forgot to put a bath tub in. They have the space because they could have put one instead of the bathroom cupboard, especially since the cupboard has no rail to hang clothing on. Anyway I hung my clothing in the ample room closet.

It was a great deal: My stay at the Renaissance for 1 Night, Category 4 Hotel costs me only 20,000 points. I earned the Platinum Elite 50% Elite Bonus above the base earnings, and got the Platinum Arrival Gift Bonus of 500 points

2013-02-27 11.31.12

SXSW Attendees are overwhelmed at all the locations for events. Events are not only at the Convention Center and surrounding venues but spread out all over the city. I will be at American Airlines on Sixth Street by the “NewAmerican”, Oasis having a massage. AA will have this Oasis with fresh juice, and you can print your Instagram shots from an interactive photo booth.

Its getting bigger every year and my invitations to Parties are arriving even from retail stores! As SXSW's t-shirt sponsor, Gap Stores will join the festivities with three multi-city, in-store events. Every year in March, creative’s of all stripes, gather in Austin to Party, share and inspire the visions that will galvanize the filmmakers and ideas of tomorrow. You'll also have access to Hotel shuttles, which run all day and into the wee hours of the morning, so I’ll stay in the tranquility of the Renaissance Arboretum, away from the maddening crowds.

CourtyardAtrium

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Air Fares you can LUV ♥ $59 one-way

I have been flying Southwest Airlines since United abandoned Texas for their Chicago HQ, given that United has become like the SW cattle carrier. United has even copied their boarding in groups, though it makes no sense for United to board in groups because they have seat numbers.

It seems like everyone is in the United first boarding group, I am glad that our brave Military get this recognition and understand that disabled, children, elderly, credit card holders and Elite members all want to get on first, but that does not leave anyone in the second group. United Airlines lets you board in the first group even if you are not in first class. All you have to do is pay as little as $9 or have a United credit card.

You can buy Premier Access to let you enjoy the convenience of dedicated airport check-in lines, exclusive security lanes at select airports and priority boarding, so you can get to the gate, your seat, and the overhead bin sooner. Prices, start at $9, are segment-based.

SPG Elite Hotel Platinum members now get elite benefits when traveling with Delta, such as priority check-in, Priority Boarding and first checked bag free.

You can be one of the first to board on Southwest Airlines with the best available boarding pass. If you earn their highest Elite status, with 100 qualifying flights to get this “Companion Status”. Whomever you choose, as your Companion can fly with you when you have Companion Pass status. Simply fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 Qualifying Points in one calendar year.

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SouthWest sale fares have to be booked by Monday, February 18 for travel February 18 through June 8, 2013. Travel is valid every day except Sunday and Blackout dates

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Sample Southwest Airlines fares From Austin:

o To Albuquerque starting at $190 one-way

o To Amarillo starting at $142 one-way

o To Atlanta starting at $111 one-way

o To Baltimore starting at $150 one-way

o To Chicago starting at $179 one-way

o To Cleveland starting at $221 one-way

o To Columbus starting at $236 one-way

o To Dallas starting at $84 one-way

o To Denver starting at $106 one-way

When you're a SW Rapid Rewards Member, you can earn free flights. fly 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points* in a calendar year. They have 3 elite Tiers A-list, A list preferred and Companion pass.

Southwest Airlines very first Valentine’s Day, in February 1973 was celebrated with Flight Attendants in hot Pants visiting media outlets to distribute candy.  The cover document proclaims the plan to be “Valentine’s at the Love Airline,” and it is subtitled “Kisses from ‘The Somebody Else Up There Who Loves You’.”  Note that the word “Love” and not “LUV” is used—a definite play on Love Field... Double Southwest Rapid Rewards Points at Carlson Hotels in The USA. Rapid Rewards Partnership with Carlson Rezidor Hotels, allows members to earn 1,200 points per eligible stay at participating Country Inns & Suites locations from January 18 through March 31, 2013.

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Club Carlson has a 50% off redemption promo for select properties in Europe, Middle East & Africa + 1 property in Beijing as well. This offer is valid until March 31, 2013.

SouthWest Airlines Rapid Rewards Members can earn double points. Register then earn thru May 15!

The number of points you earn is determined by the amount and type of fare you choose. More and more airlines are prohibiting those savvy, informed flyers from getting great deals and also getting miles, so why don’t they just reduce their prices and stop the loyalty programs.?

Customers get the first two pieces of checked luggage free for now but that may change soon. That leaves you with the nice leather seating in the cabins equipped with satellite-based WiFi connectivity. AirTran Airways, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southwest Airlines Co. now.

Flights from Grand Rapids to Baltimore/Washington, Denver, Orlando, and Saint Louis will begin Aug. 11, 2013. AirTran service in Grand Rapids will end the previous day, Aug. 10, 2013.

Luv in the Air' With These Low Southwest And AirTran Fares -- Starting At $49 One-Way To Select Nonstop Destinations Nationwide offer even lower fares for the spring and summer travel season by Southwest Airlines (LUV) famous for launching an era of unprecedented affordability in air travel

The double up offer on the new nonstop flights are one-way fares on the new service between $109 and $149 Fares are available only on southwest.com and can be purchased today, through Feb. 17, 2013,. Travel must take place between Aug. 11, 2013, and Sept. 27, 2013. Fares are valid for travel every day

UNITED AIRLINE DEALS: For a limited time, save up to 40% on the purchase of United MileagePlus miles you can use for award travel to more than 1,350 destinations, cabin upgrades, hotel stays and car rentals. This offer expires on February 18, 2013 and is only available through this link: Miles are available for purchase in 1,000-mile increments.

Purchase by: Friday – (click here to see more deals on United's official website) February 15th and depart on Friday or Saturday Return on Mon or Tuesday.eg: Dallas/Fort Worth, TX (DFW) to NYC or Washington, DC (IAD - Dulles) costs $321 or 22,500 Miles + $41

Houston to Dallas Love field airport costs Dallas, TX (DAL - Love Field) $160 or 17,500 Miles + $41

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Plane scares

I was really disappointed that my United 787 flight to New York was cancelled and replaced with an old aircraft.

The flight attendant said that they knew the night before that the 787 had been hit by lightning. United Airlines did not tell me that the 787 had been switched till I arrived at the airport. I had been checking every day and it still said that it was going to be the 787. I would have changed my flight if I had known a few hours earlier. A few years ago the airline allowed passengers to change their flights, without change fees, if it was on the same day of travel. Wish that they would re-instate this customer friendly waiver.

me onboard 787 I have heard that the carbon fiber composite is more susceptible to lightning strikes than the traditional aircrafts. I’m not sure if this is true or not because I’ve not seen official reports confirming this rumor. Phil LeBeau reported on CNBC, that, "Boeing says the fire in yesterday's JAL Dreamliner was traced to "the battery used to start the auxiliary power unit."

I’ve been a fan of the 787 Dreamliner since my first flight on the inaugural flight. Click here to see all the reasons I love this aircraft.

On the top of my list is the Dreamliner’s lower cabin pressure, improved air quality and optimal humidity. The pressure never bothered me before, but recently I just don’t get enough air if I’m not on a 787 flight.

Boeing shares are down today on an electrical fire on a 787 Japan airlines JAL flight with engine trouble at Boston's Logan airport. It was supposed to take off to fly to Tokyo's Narita airport, but had to return to the gate prior to take-off.

United Airlines is delaying putting the Boeing 787 Dreamliner service on the daily nonstop route from Houston to Lagos, Nigeria to improve the aircraft’s reliability, the Houston Chronicle reports

Today’s problem came just weeks after Boeing suffered several other electrical problems that briefly grounded 3 planes. The new 787 jet has also had an engine failure and fuel leaks in the 14 months it has been in service."I don't want to be an alarmist," said Carter Leake, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets in Virginia. "But onboard fires on airplanes are as bad as it gets. Even though it happened on the ground, rest assured the FAA is asking 'What if it happened in the air?'"

In December, another relatively new 787 operated by United Airlines was diverted safely to New Orleans after experiencing mechanical problems.

qatar787

A Qatar Air  787 was grounded in London on December the 9th, for a faulty Generator.

Elite status with Qatar Airways Privilege Club offers four membership tiers:- Privilege Club, Burgundy, Silver and Gold with great benefits.

I was thinking of flying Qatar Airways’ new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, they have developed superior seats for its Dreamliner fleet.Every seat is an aisle seat in Business class. The cabin configuration forms a unique diamond shape, allowing you more personal space The flat bed seat also features ample stowage options. Qatar has 3 classes and I’ve heard of the private rooms they have in First. Even Economy has 30” of personal space with a 31” seat pitch to stretch out.

There were 2 reasons I did not book a flight on Qatar, though I’m tempted:
The First Class flight RT to Brussels via Doha costs $34,000 and
the other reason is that they may pull the same switch that United pulled on me, and replace it with a different aircraft.

I would love to attend the Qatar Masters It only costs 1,000 Starpoints (one Sheraton hotel stay earned me 1,000 Starpoints) You can attend the 2013 Qatar Masters with St. Regis VIP Pavilion Access on Wednesday 23rd January. This is a special offer by” Moments”, an exclusive program for members of SPG® in which hard-earned Starpoints can be transformed into one-of-a-kind experiences. SPG is your ticket to the ultimate in music, sports and the arts, so check the site frequently for an ever-changing array of great events)

AAdvantage elites get Admirals Club for less

American Airlines is closer to merging with US Airways

I hope that American Airlines will prosper because prices of flights have gone up substantially since United Airlines took over Continental and moved to their Chicago HQ. Houston is now one of the most expensive cities to fly from, so Houstonians are getting the bad end of the deal. American is based in Dallas and a lot of Houstonians are flying via Dallas to get cheaper flights.

As American Airlines board meets next week, expectations are high that the airline's plans to merge with US Airways and AMR's creditors will come together. In a message to employees, Horton said there's no specific deadline for the evaluation to end, but the company expects to "bring this to a conclusion within a matter of weeks." The Pilots union for US Airways must still vote on how to integrate labor contracts, but the process got a boost late on Friday with a recommendation by the board of the US Airline Pilots Association. Other unions also are reviewing the details. American is the last of the three major U.S. airlines to restructure through bankruptcy.

American Airlines

US Airways( LCC) has key operations in Philadelphia and Charlotte, North Carolina. The East Coast operations could be structured in a way to make a combined American-US Airways more competitive against Delta Air Lines which operates out of Atlanta and New York. American faces more competition for corporate clients on the lucrative New York-to-London Heathrow route now that Delta is buying a stake in Virgin Atlantic and plans to apply for a joint venture that would allow revenue-sharing if they can integrate their workforce. This will give us travelers a better opportunity to earn Elite tier points, to propel you from Flying Club Red, to Silver, up to Gold. With Virgin Flying Club Gold (the top ELITE tier), . Gold members earn an extra 50% of base flown miles for every flight, access to Clubhouses, Upper Class Check in and enjoy so many more benefits.

Virgin Atlantic

American Airlines will give you automatic elite status if you prove that you hold it with another Airline. AA offers good benefits for AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum, and AAdvantage Gold members. elite status entitles you to receive exclusive recognition and earn automatic mileage bonuses like the National Car rental Emerald Club membership that alows me to bypass the counter and choose my own car. I earn 100 bonus miles per rental when renting from National Car.

AAdvantage elite members enjoy reduced mileage redemption rates for an Admirals Club lounge membership. As an AAdvantage elite member, you can save up to 55,000 miles when you redeem your AAdvantage miles for your annual membership compared to the mileage rate for a non-elite AAdvantage member.