Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rescheduled flights due to Airport closures

Travelers spent Christmas Eve on the floor at airports in Frankfurt, Paris and Brussels. Heathrow even had tents outside for passengers due to airport closures.
The CEO of BAA Colin Matthews (my ex- boss) said that he will forgo his bonus this year because there was so much anger about the Heathrow airport closing. Matthews said that, “the intensity of the snow was higher than ever before, they have to assume that it could happen again. It’s clear that they will have to buy new equipment to clear the snow.” Amsterdam is experiencing delays but is operating normally because they have heated runways.
I’m glad that I did not travel to Europe for the 25th, I am lucky that I can spend Christmas with family members in Holland, before winter sets in because St Nick (Sinterklaas) gives out gifts on the 5th of Dec, whereas the rest of the world gets their gifts on the 25th.– It’s the best time to visit The Netherlands! - All the shops have decorations depicting St. Nicolaas and his 2 black assistants. Click here to see a photo of them. The picture above is a fish monger, where we stopped to eat delicious herring and piping, hot cod fish.
After 6 days of snow, Charles de Gaulle Airport is low on de-icing equipment, so severe delays continue. 300 beds and 3000 blankets were handed out at CDG airport in Paris. Orly was allowed to stay open all night to catch up with the delayed flights.
Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport also experienced delays. The last time there was snow on Christmas Day at ATL was more than a century ago. In addition to the weather, there are delays due to the U.S. Homeland Security alert to airlines to a potential terror tactic involving insulated beverage containers like thermo flasks.
Most airlines have issued waivers that let passengers alter flight plans with no fees. Delta allows for the snow on Dec. 25 and 26 for Atlanta but tickets must be reissued and travel must start by Dec. 29.
-Continental Airlines allow changes in Dec. 25-27th for rescheduled travel starts by Jan. 3, 2011, change fees and fare differences will be waived; for all other changes, the change fee will be waived, but a difference in fare may apply. This is when elite status gives you an advantage because the airlines look after their best customers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Flying over the holiday Season is stressful

AAA reported that more people are driving this holiday season. This is not surprising considering that flights are more expensive and more unpleasant than in previous years.
The media has been reporting horror stories about the invasive pat downs by the TSA. A man with bladder cancer was roughed up so badly that, according to AOL, his urine tube was broken and wet him. A woman with a post cancer breast says she was required to remove the prosthetic from her bra and show It to the agent, reported by CBS News. U.S. Marshals in a Florida Federal courthouse saved 35,000 images from their full-body scanners -- images that have been leaked to tech news site Gizmodo and are very clear pictures, shown side by side of the dressed version of the passenger.
US pilots found it too stressful so they are now exempt from the invasive x-ray screening and pat-downs that have sparked outrage across the country but the United Continental pilots will still picket in Newark and Houston on Nov. 22 and 23rd.
Texas congressman Judge Ted Poe said on Fox 26 News that the body scanners are a violation of the 4th amendment. “They are un lawful searches, not based on probable cause
There are no last minute airfare sales this year. Decreased capacity and more people mean full flights at high prices. You can check your flight fare with Bing Travel’s Farecast alert. Travelocity, reported that Thanksgiving airfare is up 10 percent compared to last year.
Peak travel surcharges are costing up to $30 per flight by American, United/Continental, Delta, and US Airways.
the most expensive flights are on Thanksgiving, December 23, and a few days after Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, but there are lots of low fare seats available on Xmas & New Year’s day.
Someone commented on the Houston Chronicle that, "Before going to the airport, eat some broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and a big ole bowl of beans. When TSA goes to rub your butt, let out the loudest, juiciest, eye watering, nose burning, ear ringing fart possible.”If we all did this I am sure TSA workers would DEMAND a new search method “ another person suggested that the only way to avoid the pat is to line up behind the best looking woman.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Radisson Bat package in the US or fireworks in the UK

Last year I celebrated Dia De Los Muertos (day of the dead) in Mexico where children enjoy eating sugar forms of sculls and everyone goes to picnic at graveyards to honor their departed.
I did not grow up going trick-or treating on Halloween night, so I don’t have the memories that compel my American friends to enjoy being scared but I have enjoyed some great Halloween costume, parties. I remember the excitement of fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night. Since 1605, November the 5th is the night that British families gather round bonfires.
If you want to experience it, Virgin Atlantic have flights from Boston to London for $249 and from Los Angeles for $312 each way, based on a round trip ticket purchased in Economy. Buy by Nov. 3 for travel till - Dec 19, 2010. If you are flying the other way across the pond, from the U.K. to LAX, you will pay a total midweek fare of GBP 318.27 per adult one way and £333.27 is the weekend fare. 3,458 miles + 4 tier points will be earned on this flight, to be used for future rewards and towards elite status. Virgin has a REWARD SEAT SALE going on. If you are a Virgin FLYING CLUB MEMBER, you can use a combination of miles and money to fly to London with as little as 2000 miles + money to get up to a further 20% off these fares.
This year I am celebrating Halloween a truly emblematic way for a scary Halloween. Austin's, Congress Avenue Bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. The colony is estimated at 1.5 million Mexican Free-Tail bats. Each night from mid-March to November, the bats emerge at dusk to blanket the sky as they forage for food. Unfortunately they are making their appearance later this year, perhaps they are shy of the growing crowd. The event has become one of the most spectacular and unusual local tourist attractions in Texas. I got a room with a view of the bridge. The Radisson hotel is the best location to watch the bats from. The Hyatt hotel is located on the other side of the bridge, so it is also a good place to watch the swarm of bats fly out.
The Radisson Bat Package includes:
  • Accommodations in a guest room or suite featuring a Sleep Number Bed for about $229
  • $25 food and beverage credit (per paid room night) valid in our T.G.I. Friday's, Starbucks Coffee Store, or room service)
  • Complimentary overnight self-parking (a $15 value)
  • Bat cookie welcome amenity
I also like to stay at the Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol! After undergoing a multi-million dollar overhaul, it is a spectacular hotel. The Club Lounge, offers Platinum elite guests, complimentary breakfast, evening hors d’oeuvres and a variety of beverages. It’s the perfect environment to relax and grab a quick bite then step out to enjoy Sixth Street at Austin - Live Music Capital !

Monday, September 27, 2010

Southwest Airlines will acquire AirTran in a sequel to Airline Merger Mania

The airline industry is becoming smaller and smaller by forming bigger airlines. Even the low cost rivals are merging now. How will it affect us, the punters that they stuff into the seats that are becoming smaller and smaller?
Well, obviously less choice for us means higher ticket prices. They rationalize less capacity as creating a less fragmented service. I’ve never had trouble sending myself and my bags around the world despite the fragmented service,

BUT WHAT intrigues ME IS THAT I am curious to know if they will keep the business class seats on AirTran? SouthWest is obtaining international markets like Cancun and they are happy that they will now have access to Hartsfield Atlanta, (ATL) Airport. Will moving into bigger airports mean more service for LUV?

Now that antitrust concerns have been overcome, and the merger between United and Continental, can go ahead, I may start to fly Southwest from Houston, because the new Mega airline based in Chicago, will only look after the Platinum and higher frequent flyers.
Gary Kelly, CEO Southwest said that it will give them a “Competitive advantage and instant growth”. From my perspective, I would rather see airlines grow due to passenger satisfaction, but that’s just me….
Airlines are obtaining growth through mergers and acquisitions rather than organic growth. SW has bought companies and integrated them well before. This will be made easy because both carriers fly similar 737 aircraft.
I’m going to take advantage of Southwest's double mileage offer on Denver flights and I survived a flight to Chicago Midway airport last week. I don’t enjoy having to stand between the poles to board, like kids lined up at school, and I miss the chance of being upgraded to first class. Never the less, Southwest remains a Texas airline, as Continental moves to Chicago. I was able to fly to Chicago for less than $200 round trip, whereas Continental charge 4x that price. The result of large carriers and their policies growing is that low cost carriers are thriving.
This expands Luv's presence in key markets, like New York LaGuardia, Boston Logan, and Baltimore/Washington, as well as enables them to serve Washington D.C. via Ronald Reagan National Airport. Also, it presents the opportunity to provide access to key international leisure markets in the Caribbean and Mexico,
When the deal closes, Southwest will integrate AirTran into the Southwest Airlines brand and will combine the carriers' frequent flyer programs
Continental will have to lease gates at Newark to Southwest, so things are looking up for Southwest. With an entry to Newark, and if you look at the 2 route maps, you will notice that the only state that SWA does not have a presence at, is Georgia. Now they will have gates at the world’s busiest airport William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, GA (ATL) and (KCLT) Airport at Charlotte.
There is not too much overlapping of routes, so it will work out well. There is some overlap in Baltimore and in some cities in Florida, but the ATL acquisition is worth this small inconvenience.
The only cloud in the story is their dark past of the 1996 ValuJet crash that prompted FAA shakeup, when the DC9 Flight 592 crashed in Florida and forced ValuJet it to merge with AirTran Airways

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ritz-Carlton Hotels are launching a Loyalty Program in rank with Marriott Rewards

Finally, they will be in line with the other benefits expected at Marriott brands and I won't have to remember that they are the exception.
When I stayed at The Ritz-Carlton Dallas, I booked an Advance Purchase rate, on the spur of the moment. If I had thought about it I would have remembered that the Ritz do not give Marriott points like all the other brands. I seldom prepay for rooms because non-refundable bookings always turn out to be a problem. Changes are part of any road warrior’s lot in life and Marriott brands are usually the best hotels to book a room with a 6 p.m. hold. This is the reason that I go to Marriott first to make a reservation, the moment that I suspect I will be travelling. I love ♥ Marriott because I can rely on them before I commit to buying an air ticket. They get a lot more business due to this phenomenon. I have never actually taken one look at a room and decided that it was way over priced, but I would like to feel that I have that option to leave the hotel if it is really a rip-off. I did not feel that the Ritz Carlton Dallas was value for money. It's a new, comfortable hotel but not particularly luxurious, and I was not a happy camper, paying $300 for a small room. The Spa is nice and it must be wonderful to own a condo in the high-rise hotel. The focus of the Ritz Dallas is residential, so the hotel part is small and they don’t offer any benefits for elite M R members. We don’t get upgrades or access to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level or Club Lounge on the 7th floor, but it is not always open anyway. It’s open some weekends if the hotel is at full occupancy, but if they have a conference, they usually upgrade conference organizers and not M R elites. Whether this will change when they conform to the other brands in the MR portfolio, is still to be seen …? The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas is located in the chic, enclave of Up-down-town Dallas on the Trolley Line, near the spacious, Rosewood Crescent Hotel and many other luxury choices like the W Hotel Victory and the The Joule SPG hotel. (see my previous post on the W)
There are fewer than a hundred Ritz-Carlton hotel and resort locations worldwide, including 8 in Europe. The Ritz- Piccadilly, London is my favorite.
The Ritz in London is near the luxury stores on Bond Street and it is the place to go for tea, even if you don't stay at the hotel, but if there are gentelmen in your party, they need a tie and jacket.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards will partner with the Marriott Rewards programme, whose members will now be able to earn Marriott Rewards points at The Ritz-Carlton hotels. It was not previously possible to earn points at this brand of the MAR portfolio. Elite Marriott Rewards members will also receive special benefits when staying at The Ritz-Carlton's properties in accordance with other MR brands, benefits. You can enroll at;
Beginning September 15, 2010, The Ritz-Carlton Hotels will conform by introducing this highly-anticipated luxury frequent guest stay program and Starting January 7, 2011, Marriott Rewards will also expand free internet access worldwide as a benefit for Gold and Platinum Elite members who stay at all JW Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Renaissance Hotels and The new, Autograph Collection. Last May, they began offering Gold and Platinum Elite members free high-speed internet access at hotels throughout America.
Now its going to be global, not just the U.S. and Canada. See my March post on Starwood’s free internet benefit. Starwood was the first to introduce the complementary service to elite members. They only require 50 nights to attain Platinum, whereas Marriott members have to stay 75 nights to enjoy platinum benefits. M R members reach Gold Elite status by staying 50 nights a year and Platinum Elite status by staying 75 nights a year. Elite members receive benefits depending on their elite level, including bonus points, elite-only offers, room upgrades, club lounge access, 48-hour availability and an exclusive phone line.

I have already enjoyed free internet at the Starwood, Sheraton Pretoria, South Africa plus at some European and other international destinations.

Friday, September 10, 2010

United / Continental Airlines offer double miles at Hawaiian Hotels

Continental Airlines has announced some offers today to earn double miles between Houston and some cities in Mexico through Oct. 31, 2010. You must register to get the double miles but due to the Narco-drug related violence, many people are choosing to have a truly stress free vacation in Hawaii. If you do, you can earn double miles when you stay four nights at one of the seven Hilton Worldwide hotels and resorts in Hawaii. Double miles at Hilton in Hawaii can be earned at OnePass Star Alliance member, through Dec. 31, 2010, You must book Plan Code H9 (Hilton, Hilton Grand Vacations and The Waldorf Astoria Collection) or HH9 (Embassy Suites and Doubletree) to receive this special offer. Continental will soon merge with United and many of their offers are parallel. The only difference is Uniteds Mileage Plus at Hilton is that till the end of this month, you get one complimentary bathrobe to keep, but I would not have room in my suitcase anyway. Rates start from $119 (using the same H9 code)
When I lived in China, I always tried to stop off for a few days of R & R in Hawaii and have always had a wonderful, tranquil time. Sometimes, the hassles encountered in developing countries wears one down and it is nice to be comfortable in a place where everything works the way it should. I feel safe at any time of the day or night walking along the Waikiki beach past all the ocean front hotels or in the 22 acres of the lushes, green garden vegetation of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa .
The ongoing offer to earn Star Alliance points at Hilton is the Hilton HHonors Double Dip. You can choose to earn from 2 Options letting you customize the way you earn both HHonors points and OnePass miles so that you maximize your mileage earnings for each stay. Choose from either of the following earning options:
    • 10 Hilton HHonors Points per U.S. Dollar spent + 1 OnePass mile per U.S. Dollar spent; or
    • 10 Hilton HHonors Points per U.S. Dollar spent + 500 OnePass miles per stay (100 OnePass miles per stay at Hampton Inn & Suites, and Homewood Suites). Details can be found on Hiltons Web site:

When you stay at participating Preferred Hotel Group properties you can earn double Mileage Plus miles. The Kahalu Hotel in Honolulu and Turtle bay are good choices. I am a dreadful golfer but I enjoy walking on the championship greens of Turtle Bay Resort Oahu at the northernmost point of the island. This premier Oahu luxury resort is the host for PGA and LPGA tournaments. Guests can always earn 500 miles for any night stay, but will earn 1000 till the end of December.
Earn quadruple miles when you stay at any Barceló Hotel and Resort property through Sept. 30, 2010. Plus earn an extra 3,000 miles when you book your stay at An extra opportunity is to get 250 bonus one pass miles when you use your MasterCard credit or debit card to purchase a ticket at continentals website..
In addition to the Preferred, Barcelo and Hilton offers, you can also choose to earn miles or hotel points with Marriott, Starwood, Wyndham Rewards program, Hyatt, Radisson, HIG and most other hotel chains directly.
I usually advise to choose points with the hotel chain of your choice, rather than earning airline miles from stays because it is a better deal, but if you don’t stick to one hotel and you do have to stick to the airline that has a hub in your city, it is best to have only one frequent flyer account doubling as a hotel point accumulator. You won’t reach Elite status with a hotel but the flip side is that you will be free to stay at any hotel.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

W Hotels roof top pool is the best Summer place

Often hotel chains like to retain their infrequent stayers because they don’t have to offer special services that the elite frequent stayers get but savvy travelers serve their bottom line the best.
Marriott Rewards have sent out email offers to Silver elite members whom have not stayed with them for more than a year. It states: “Dear Valued Marriott Rewards® Member, earn a free night by staying. 2 times at a Marriott® brand hotel between July 1 and September 30, 2010. This offer is by invitation only.
I registered for a similar offer, open to everyone, by Starwood. It’s the SPG Free Weekends promotion. For every three stays at SPG properties. I can now use my Free Weekend Night stays through December 2010. I used one free night last weekend at the W-Dallas and thoroughly enjoyed the fun inducing hotel. The best use of the free night is to stay at a highly rated Hotel. The W is an SPG Category 5 (this is the highest Category in Texas) . I think that this is a great way to try a new hotel because I hate to shell out a few hundred $ a night and feel cheated. This way I will look forward to returning to the W fully prepared to pay for the hotel that I enjoyed staying at last weekend. A free night at a Cat 5 hotel (5 star) needs 12,000 - 16,000 points, and remember that you can redeem five nights and your fifth night is free at category 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 hotels.
W Dallas Victory has a milder funky W style than some of the W-hotels. I do hope that the Austin W, currently in construction will have a similar sophisticated style. I really enjoyed de-stressing in the menthol steam room at Bliss spa then ordered a DVD movie, a hamburger and Sushi delivered to my room courtesy of the Whatever/Whenever concierge button. A glass sided rooftop pool and bar on the 16th floor draws the beautiful people that also hang out at the W-Ghostbar on the 33rd floor.
The other glass sided pool up in the Dallas sky, is at The Joule SPG hotel. It also has a panoramic view of the city and a trendy recently opened urban oasis, pool bar. The roof top pool is suspended beyond the building’s edge! I’m a bit afraid of heights but it’s a thrill.
12,000 points at SPG is a good deal! To get an idea of point costs at other chains:- Starting at 10,000 points, you can receive a Reward Night at Holiday Inns where, you can choose from more than 4,400 hotels worldwide to Use your Priority Club® points to reserve a free night. IHG InterContinental 5 star hotels start at 30,000 points for a free night with no blackout dates.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pay Toilets & standing flights?

Ryanair's plans to get rid of seats and introduce pay toilets are idiotic! European safety regulators have ruled out changing regulations for at least two years that would have allowed Ryanair to introduce standing room on its aircraft, so Ryanair’s claims that they are pushing ahead with packing people in vertically, are nothing more than an attempt to seek publicity. They should know that all publicity is not good publicity, from the bad press they had in February, when more than 100 tourists on a Ryanair flight to Lanzarote were abandoned on the wrong Canary Island.
The carrier continues to try to add-on sneaky charges and has raised its prices by increasing the price of check-in luggage, from £15 to £20.
- Ryanair put me off discount airlines. (See my posting on - Ryanair “installing a coin slot on the toilet door”.
A reporter for the Daily Mail took me up on my threat to resort to dressing in layers as a human equivalent of a Russian stacking doll, due to the trend towards charging for bags. Graff brought 11.8 kg in his jacket on to the plane. This was above the 10kg limit allowed for hand luggage. The Telegraph 1 published the story about Graff packing his luggage into his hunting jacket pockets.
Thankfully, Ryanair has lost the latest round in its ongoing battle to acquire rival Irish carrier Aer Lingus. The Gold Circle Club is the Aer Lingus Frequent Flyer Programme. It entitles members to earn points and offers upgrades plus Lounge access for Aer Lingus scheduled flights for all three tier levels of the program. The three tiers are; Gold Circle, Gold Circle Prestige, and Gold Circle Elite

Ryanair’s CEO Michael O'Leary, now wants to get the flight attendant to do the co-pilot job too since they don't provide service anyway. He thinks that he can cut costs with only one pilot per flight.
Another low cost airline. EasyJet, the UK’s largest and best value airline, is expanding. They are launching eight new routes for winter 2010.
The rise of discount airlines may mean that passengers will fly leaning against a flat padded backboard and need a padded room on arrival.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

SOCCER excitement starts at JNB airport

South Africa came up with a great idea to welcome visitors and get them to feel the excitement of the World Cup by putting stadium seats for people to sit in while waiting for arriving passengers. This is a brilliant idea to keep the exit clear so that the arrivals don’t have to push through the crowd at Johannesburg International airport. It’s so overwhelmingly disagreeable at some airports when the masses don’t allow one to get through.

If you are traveling to South Africa for the soccer World Cup, pack carefully. Its winter in S.A. now but you can still enjoy the sun. I bought an adaptor plug at Fry’s in the US, but it turned out to be the wrong size for S.A. even though the box stated that it was specifically for S.A.’s 3 prong wall outlets that use 220 electrical voltage. If you have a device that does not use 230 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. Most hotels can lend you one but I eventually bought one at a hardware store.
I stayed at the Radisson Port Elizabeth. It’s one of the new hotels, built for the World Cup. Though none of the soccer teams are staying here, there are lots of FIFA officials. It is the best hotel in P.E. Other top beach hotels are The Paxton, The Beach Hotel, Garden Court, Protea Marine Hotel and the Courtyard Hotel (no relation to the Marriott Ct. Yards) are situated at the Boardwalk Beach near the Casino and Resort complex. The best views of Algoa Bay ,are from the Southern Sun, Garden Court on Kings Beach. I enjoyed the view of the Indian ocean while at the pool of the The Radisson Blu SAS Hotel P.E. but the pool is not heated so swimming is best in summer. The flotation pool at the Spa can be indulged in year round and has unique salts like I experienced in the Dead Sea, Jordan. It is truly amazing how easy it is to float in the thick salt! I forgot to rinse my bikini swim suit and found it was as hard as rock the next day. If the warm salt does not tempt you, you can enjoy a massage or the steam room. I loved the Super Breakfast buffet at The Radisson Blu and the free Internet access. Nearby attractions consists of a Casino complex with restaurants and a few blocks away on the beachfront is the Oceanarium, a museum, and a snake park.

You can earn a free night after two stays at over 1,000 Radisson®, Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM, Park Inn® and Park Plaza® hotels worldwide, before August 31, 2010
There are two Radisson hotels in Sandton, Johannesburg. The new Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel isa 7 floor hi-rise, situated in the heart of Sandton. They also serve a Super big Breakfast Buffet, much appreciated when you arrive from the USA and are hungry early due to the time change. The city is easily accessible, as are all major tourist attractions. It is 1 km from the premier Sandton City Shopping mall where I bought a gold Kruger Rand coin. The other Sandton Radisson is a stylish new 5* Hotel, situated close to the business and financial districts of the city.

The 32 nation World Cup tournament consists of 64 matches in stadiums around the country. I'm standing in front of the new stadium in Port Elizabeth. The "Mundial" excitement is contagious. The only downside is the 21 hour flight to get here. Click here to see my tips on surviving the long flight. Also The Telegraph.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Delta Airlines is ending award fees. Last minute trips here we come!

Delta Airlines is eliminating the last-minute booking fee for frequent-flier award tickets, which was as high as $150 per ticket. This break applies to SkyMile members who redeem award tickets within 20 days of travel.
Delta has charged members this $150 fee to book an award ticket within three days of travel, $100 within seven days of travel and the lowest is $50 within 20 days of travel.
A new study showed Southwest and Alaska Airlines were the most generous with frequent-flier award seats, while US Airways and Delta were the most miserly. The top airline offering award availability was Southwest Airlines. They have a very simple program. If you fly eight roundtrips with SW Rapid Rewards, in 24 consecutive months, you get one free.
I redeemed a RewardOne ER81 Certificate, valid for travel in the 48 US states, Mexico, Alaska, Canada and I had to pay $271 per person in taxes to use the “FREE” flight. I could have waited to find a flight for that price! RewardOne is a business program designed to reward companies for business travel on Continental Airlines, whereas OnePass is the program for individuals to earn travel on Continental.

If you've reached Medallion elite status with Delta SkyMiles, you get benefits like:
Priority seats & priority waitlist, unlimited Complimentary Companion Upgrades and 50% First/Business Class Mileage & MQM extra Bonus miles.
You need 125,000 miles in a year, to qualify for the highest elite status, as seen in the chart below:

Monday, May 3, 2010

After a 21 hour flight on South African Airlines, I was at the mercy of UAL’s Star Alliance

Continental and United are already thought to be generating revenue synergies because they are both Star Alliance Network partners but I can only deduct that they are already collaborating to defraud their passengers because I flew on a CAL airlines first class ticket last week and they made me fly economy on the United Airlines portion from IAD to IAH. It was a ticket I booked several months in advance and was sure that there were plenty of available seats in first but it turned out that United released them to their own frequent flyer passengers and not to me, even though I should have been on the top of the wait list because I was holding an international first class ticket. I did not appreciate that there was no wait-list when I arrived after flying 21 hours from Johannesburg and then was squashed into economy for another 4 hours! United upgraded their elite frequent flyer members that had not paid for first class tickets, instead of my first class ticket. So if they don’t know how to play fair now, I don’t see the merger helping the passengers.
They are calling the deal a "merger", but United shareholders will hold a majority stake, the airline will be based in United's hometown of Chicago and it will be called United. The Chicago Tribune newspaper headline claimed it will give Chicago a lift. Houstonians will loose jobs and a lot of money has gone into Intercontinental airport pandering to Continental Airlines.
United and Continental will displace Delta as the World's Largest Airline.
LESS COMPETITION MEANS HIGHTER PRICES.- There are now only 3 major players:

South African Airways fly direct flights from the USA to South Africa without stopping to refuel but on the return flight they have to stop in Dakar, Senegal because it’s takes more fuel to fly into the head-wind against the direction of the jet stream. They only served us a coin sized quiche in first class during that 9 hour flight from North Africa apart from the breakfast served one hour before landing. Most airlines have candy and snacks available to both first and economy class passengers but I did appreciate the bottles of water that are readily available on SAA. I try not to drink water on Continental airlines because they always decanter the water in first class and serve it in those dubious looking steel jugs. I don’t trust any water that I can’t see coming out of a sealed bottle. I’ve learnt this the hard way. I once spent a few days, in a hotel bathroom in Dakar Senegal! The Continental flight attendants know this travel tip so they all clutch a large bottle of sealed water as they disembark for their lay over breaks. Forget the duty free, I would pay big bucks for those bottles!

Continental Airlines said that traffic in April fell 2.6% and capacity decreased 3.2% compared with the same month a year ago, but most airlines are seeing an increase so book your flight before prices go up.
I wonder if the new carrier will change the Continental planes to United's spacious Economy Plus seating. United does not provide meals but Continental has also been fazing them out on short flights.
It turned out to be a pleasant flight on United because the Economy Plus seats offer more space than first class in Europe on many airlines. Susie, the United flight attendant with a great sense of humor also made me feel that the merger may not be a bad idea.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bogota Hotels

Three of my favorite hotels in Bogota are the Sheraton Bogota Hotel, The Radisson and the new Marriott.
The Sheraton Bogota Hotel, was previously a Fourpoints SPG hotel and is presently a Category 3 SPG hotel, so you don’t need many points to redeem a free night and it is one of the few cat 3 hotels with a Club Lounge. Guests have access to the Club Lounge to relax and enjoy the view. ~ The Lounge offers complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres and a variety of beverage options. ~A few blocks away, is the Salitre Plaza and the Gran Estacion commercial centers mall, the El Dorado International airport, and the Industrial Zone where major businesses have established their headquarters.
The new Marriott Hotel is next door to the Sheraton and in July there will be a new JW Marriott opening in the center of the city.
If you have time to explore Bogota, you should visit the Gold Museum and the XVII-century Monserrate monastery is found atop the eastern mountain rage, reachable by a Swiss cable car. Once there, you will be able to enjoy the city view.
It is remarkable how Colombia has lowered crime over the past 10 years. I feel safer in Bogota Colombia than in Mexico. In fact, many of the drug cartels have relocated to Mexico.Bogota has one of the best transportation methods. It works like the subway in New York but is above ground. This is wonderful for me because I am claustrophobic. I lived in Mexico City for many years but never entered the subway in fear of earthquakes.
The third hotel that I like to stay at is the Radisson. It is closer to all the good restaurants in the Zona Rosa or Zona T Mall.
At Radisson to earn their top tier, Gold Elite

status, you need at least 35 nights or 20 stays.
Marriott require 75 nights to obtain their top tier called Platinum. SPG needs 25stays or 50 nights but SPG Platinum Member will only need 15 stays during 2010 to re-qualify for 2011.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lots of bonus Hotel points & Airline miles to be had

Now through May 15, 2010, earn triple miles for qualifying stays at any La Quinta Inns & Suites location. Guest must be a member in both La Quinta Returns and Continental Airlines OnePass program to receive OnePass miles per stay and must pay a room rate that is eligible to receive airline miles to receive airline miles per stay is in lieu of Returns points.
Continental Airlines Mileathon is returning soon and with CO you can earn double miles on qualifying flights from Orange County or Los Angeles to Hawaii when you register and fly through May 15, 2010.
You can earn more points from your stay at Radisson Hotels if you book the Double Gold Points Rate at participating Carlson Hotels in the Americas. This offer from Carlson is to earn double points for your stays at Radisson, Park Plaza, Country Inns and Regent Hotels.

Introduce your friends to Virgins Flying Club and you could add up to 10,000 miles to your account as soon as they take their maiden flight. Your friends win too, they’ll earn a bonus for joining Flying Club.

American Express Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for travel rewards from Virgin Atlantic Airways at a 15% bonus when you transfer your Membership Rewards® points to your Virgin Flying Club account before April 30, 2010.

Choice hotels make it easy, they give you a free night if you stay 2 separate times. (1+1= free) Most of their brands give you free breakfast and free internet.

Stay 3 nights between March 23, 2010 and May 23, 2010 at Renaissance & Marriott hotels and receive 3,000 bonus points. I’m glad that Marriott Rewards has followed Starwood! :-Starting May 7, will offer free Internet access for all Gold and Platinum Elite members at nearly 450 hotels across the U.S. and Canada. See my previous post for Starwood’s free internet benefit. Starwood took the lead by offering Platinum members the complementary service. They only require 50 nights to attain Platinum, whereas Marriott members have to stay 75 nights to enjoy platinum benefits.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Exciting Starwood news! - Newest SPG Platinum benefit

Great news from Starwood today! They announced that SPG Preferred Guest Platinum members will get complimentary in-room internet access. This is big!, because guests often prefer to stay at the lower end hotels like the FourPoints, aLoft , Courtyard, Springhill Suites, Holiday Inn Express or Choice hotels. The free internet offered at these budget hotels, often entices pundits adverse to nickel and diming, away from the Luxury hotels. SPG are indeed showing how much they value us.
The $9 to $20 can add up when you have to pay connection fee for all your devices, like your iPod, iPhone and laptops. I travel with a regular Notebook, a MacBook and my Asus Netbook. All this can add up to double the room rate.
Please note that in-hotel Platinum benefits, including complimentary Internet access, do not apply when the reservation is pre-paid or booked through a third party.
I stayed at the Raddison in Dallas last week and felt like the cat that got the cream when I enjoyed the free internet in the room and in their business center.
Traveling with my husband, adds another 4 internet charges to the room of a full service hotel. I forgo luxury because full service hotels don’t have much comfort anymore. Previously, luxury was being pampered with the extra treats like : Welcome fruit, newspapers and other amenities. I’d sooner pay for soap and towels than for internet. Don’t scoff at me ! That’s the way airlines are going . – charging for pillows, blankets and water.

Friday, February 12, 2010


As the world descends on Vancouver, YVR airport is warning passengers to arrive for flights 4 hours prior to departure, to navigate the check-in and security process. Hopefully this will give you time to relax in a lounge near your gate, but I have spent an hour in line at YVR, at a time that there was not heavy traffic, so I wish the athletes luck! Fortunately, they have had endurance training that will give them the fortitude to stand in line for hours. At this time, being able to escape the airport stress by relaxing in a lounge with refreshment is a must! Passengers travelling in a qualifying class of service are entitled to Maple Leaf Lounge access. The other way to enter the lounge is with elite status along with a same-day confirmed travel on a departing Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, Star Alliance or an Air Canada Codeshare flight. You can even redeem Aeroplan® Miles for Maple Leaf™ Club memberships and Lounge passes

The opening ceremony at the Richmond Olympic oval stadium presenting 4,500 performers and a parade of nations is impressive. We can’t all be there but we will want to visit Vancouver at some time because it is one of the beautiful cities that should be on your “bucket” list to visit. There is so much to do and see:

You can take a city tour on a cute trolley or a trip to see whales. An aquabus docks at the foot of Howe Street. It takes you to Granville Islands public market and the Granville island ferry docks at Sunset beach below the Burrard Street Bridge every 8 minutes. Vancouver's Art museum displays collections of art by native Inuit Indians to European masters.

The water front restaurants are wonderful. You can eat curry in the Indian Punjabi Market, in the southern part of the city or shop in the China Town district, primarily concentrated along Hastings, Pender to Gore streets. On the subject of food; -après skiers, or après ski watchers enjoy Araxi Restaurant, located in the center of Whistler Village. +The Fairmont Hotel Whistler. Whistler is a visually stunning 2 hour drive from Vancouver.

Combining the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, the majesty of the Coastal Mountains, and a mild climate makes Vancouver one of the most live-able, fun cities in the world. It is an outdoor city and public transportation is so comprehensive that you don’t even have to rent a car. The Skytrain and Seabus Pass is C$9.00 adult. BC transit’ accommodates cyclists on the Sky Train and buses.

Hotels that I like are:
  • The FAIRMONT Hotel Vancouver has great views of the harbor, sumptuous surroundings and an opulent spa and health club.
  • The RENAISSANCE Vancouver Hotel has a mesmerizing view of the harbor side. I sat on the balcony for a couple of hours watching the float planes, (see the 2 photos above) Ask for a room with breathtaking mountain and city views facing Coal Harbour.The Renaissance Vancouver Hotel Harbourside has an offer to see Vancouver on a replica, turn-of-the-century, San Francisco Style trolley. Visit the city's most spectacular attractions, parks, gardesn, galleries, and restaurants. Your trolley ticket is included in the Rate of $279 CAD, Valid Through: December 31, 2010
  • On a subsequent visit I stayed at the Vancouver MARRIOTT Pinnacle Downtown Hotel. It is across the road from the Renaissance. Try to get one of the larger unusually shaped round-sided rooms. Stay 2 nights and your 3rd night is free. Book a long weekend across great cities throughout Canada. For every 2 nights you reserve, receive your 3rd night free.
  • Nestled in the Fraser Valley, the SHERATON Vancouver Guildford Hotel has recently undergone a complete transformation and is ready to welcome Olympians.
  • I like staying at the HYATT Regency, because it is truly downtown, with a concentration of shopping, restaurants and business hi-rises on Burrard Street. Incidentally, HYATT GOLD PASSPORT members have an offer to receive $25 credit when you stay at Hyatts, through March 17th and receive a hotel credit.
  • THE WESTIN GRAND on Robson street is an all-suites hotel located at the crossroads of trendy Yaletown and Robson streets in beautiful downtown Vancouver
  • My favourite hotel is the SHERATON VANCOUVER WALL CENTER on Burrard Street. It has a really nice club concierge lounge with a spectacular Pacific Ocean view. The hotel is within walking distance of Vancouver's best restaurants, the comedy club and top galleries.
I like to watch the ice dancing but Curling is like watching paint drying. Curling is a Kind of shuffleboard on ice, it originated in Scotland and it is the most boring sport to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing the Texan Chad Hedrick speed skating on the 23rd of February, the flying tomato on a snowboard and another snowboarder, Gretchen Bleiler.

Now, you can start planning a trip to the U.K. because they have been chosen to host the 2012 London Olympics.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fly to/From London and back for just 35,000 miles

I remember the good old days when I could fly to London with only 40,000 OnePass miles. Unfortunately, it has become too difficult to book flights using miles, now that Continental has switched to StarAlliance, because their partners make so few seats available for award travel. Star Alliance is the biggest network, but sometimes it is easier to deal with a smaller network. Now a reward using SaverPass Rewards can be obtained using 55,000 miles on OnePass airline partners but are capacity-controlled and may not be available on certain flights where demand is high, so you will need to pay 100,000 miles for a free EasyPass seat. You can get a free flight from New York to London with a DELTA - SkyMiles award travel, from 90,000 round trip + $ 205.30 Taxes/Fees.
VIRGINS Flying Club has lowered the Economy seat redemption fares. Now you can fly in Economy from Orlando to London and back for just 35,000 miles. Take advantage of this redemption sale fare while it lasts. With Virgins global network of airline partners like BMI & Air New Zealand, you can reach hundreds of destinations around the world. If you fly from England to USA with VIRGIN Atlantic Airline and Book by 09 February 2010, you can fly economy from £299, Premium Economy from £542 and first, Upper class for USA from £1,487 and you’ll earn Flying Club miles, which you can spend on great rewards.

I'm at Buckingham Palace in this photo.

For $398 you can fly with BRITISH AIRWAYS Spring Fare Sale to Europe (R/T) advertised on Travelocity, but you won’t get miles for the flight. CONTINENTAL, will increase its schedule of flights between its New York hub at Newark Liberty International Airport and London/Heathrow, during 2010 They will have flat bed seats that I love. . It's so difficult to sleep while holding on to the tilted slide seat!
I also, love. , to shop at Bond Street designer shops. Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior and Burberry are a few to name. The lower end stores are also fun on Oxford Street where you’ll find Selfridge’s department store and then hop on a short bus or tube ride to Harrods. London is an enormous city but try to see the famous landmarks:- Big Ben, The Gherkin, St Paul’s , The Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.

Crowne Plaza St James London BUCKINGHAM GATE has rooms from £157.00 & your earn Priority club points with their present offer to earn an additional 1,000 bonus points or 200 bonus miles every qualifying night you stay - up to 20,000 points or 4,000 miles till April 2010. The nicest hotel to earn Priority Club points is the InterContinental LONDON PARK LANE, with rates from £200 .00. It was, once the site of a royal residence, conveniently located between Mayfair and Knightsbridge in view of Buckingham Palace, the hotel is not far from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

An hour away from central London is Hampton Court Palace on the banks of the river Thames. It was the home of King Henry VIII, one of his wives, Catherine Howard, who was beheaded for treason / adultery, roams the hall as a ghost. Hampton has the most famous maze in the world. Entrance to the Castle is only £3.50.
The London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square, is also within the West End, Mayfair. Deals are:
  • Save 30% When you stay for breakfast in London this winter
  • Exclusive London Fashion Week packages
  • London Theatre Breaks with Marriott

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Get away to a romantic island for Valentine's day?

Want to get away to a very romantic island with Air New Zealand for Valentine’s day?

Rarotonga is the main island of the Cook Islands and is dominated by high mountain peaks and a palm-fringed shore. It’s summer now, while we are suffering through winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

The island is almost completely encircled by a reef, which provides lagoon of clear turquoise water and many inviting white sand beaches. Just past the reef, the indigo blue of the ocean provides a vibrant contrast and an overflowing supply of fish.


Flights + 5 nights from $1,775* per person double occ. ex Los Angeles


Crown Beach Resort


Early check in and late check


14 Feb - 27 Mar 10 by 31st Jan 2010

To receive the advertised price you will need to enterUSRAR3 into the promo code box.
Airpoints is New Zealand's frequent flyer programme. With Airpoints Dollars™currency, it's easy to earn and redeem rewards on Star Alliance member carriers. And now with Status Points, it's easier to reach Silver, Gold or Gold Elite status and start enjoying elite frequent flyer privileges. Status Points count towards your Airpoints tier status.

Or fly a slightly shorter flight to Sydney with Delta Airlines, from Los Angeles, from $935 round trip and earn a ton of Skyteam, Skymiles. The Delta 2010 new best-in-class SkyMiles Medallion program offers Medallion benefits like the new top-tier Diamond Medallion elite status, Rollover Medallion Qualification Miles, Choice Benefits, and more.

Virgin has great offers too!