Star Alliance

All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Date: October 24, 2017
Flight: NH 174 NRT-IAH
Seat: 2A (ANA Suites)
Aircraft: B777-300
Depart: 11:15 AM

We departed from gate 56, which was a 3-minute walk from my seat in the ANA Suites lounge. It was just a brief escalator ride down one level and a very short walk to the gate.

Boarding was scheduled to begin at 10:45 AM so I left the lounge at 10:30 AM just to have a look around the gate area. We had a nice nose-on view of our aircraft but for some reason the photo I tried to take didn’t work.

About 10:40 AM an announcement was made indicating that boarding would begin soon. I loved how civilized it was, with separate boarding lanes for First (and Star Alliance Gold), Business Class (and Star Alliance Silver) and Economy. There were about 5-6 (really young looking!) agents in the area working the flight and monitors overhead let everyone know they needed not only their boarding passes, but also their passports open to the photo page.

Once pre-boarding of one wheelchair and one family with small children was complete, precisely at 10:45, those of us in First Class were allowed to board. I was a bit amused that after passing the gate agents, we turned a corner to reach the jet bridge and there were another half-dozen gate agents – and even some ramp/maintenance workers – and they all bowed to us as we walked through. Once on the jet bridge, two doors were being used for boarding – 1L for First and 2L for everyone else. It was one time I didn’t mind turning right after boarding!

I was promptly greeted and escorted to my seat, 2A. The Flight Attendant, Mami, was just lovely and informed me that since only 3 of the 8 First Class seats were occupied, she would make my bed across the aisle in 2D. Wow, two suites just for me! Neither 1A nor 1D were occupied so I had the whole left side of the plane to myself.

ANA First Class Suite

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ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Since Narita Airport is so far from downtown Tokyo (over an hour’s drive on a good day) and traffic is always a question mark, Viking arranged for me to leave the hotel at 6:30 AM for my 11:15 AM flight. As it turned out, traffic was light and we made very good time. Another couple from our cruise was in the same van but they were flying KLM so there were two Viking assistants there to meet us at the airport. One took the KLM couple to the south check-in point while mine loaded my bags on a cart and guided me to the north check-in.

As I was in ANA First, we walked back to the Z check-in area which is a private area for ANA, United and other airlines. There were about 4 ANA reps inside and I was the only passenger at that point so it felt a little strange (but nice!) to be doted on so much. Check-in was very efficient and I was directed to the dedicated security lane, the one that can only be accessed directly from the First Class check-in area. Naturally that process was speedy as well.

Then it was down the escalator to Immigration, where, of course, I picked the line that didn’t move. But I had plenty of time and once the one person holding up the line finally got through, our line moved efficiently as well.

I turned left and walked past a number of shops and one gate before coming to the escalator leading to the airline lounges.

ANA Suites Lounge Narita Lounge Entrance

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Categories: Airline Clubs, ANA, Asia, Japan, Star Alliance | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Earn United Miles for Gasoline Purchases with BP

Most of us have or are aware of credit cards that earn bonus miles/points for purchases at gas stations.  For example, during this first quarter of 2018, the Chase Freedom card  has gas stations as one of its bonus categories and you can earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent.  The IHG card will earn 2 points per dollar.  The Hilton card will give you 5 points per dollar.  And now you can double up those bonuses when you link your card to your BP Driver Rewards account.

You can sign up at this website or if you’re like me and already have a BP Driver Reward account, just log into your account, click on the BP Driver Rewards tab at the top and scroll down just a little until you see the photo of the United Airlines plane.

When you click on the Learn More button you see that you can earn 1, 2 or 3 miles per gallon:

Even better, you’ll earn 200 bonus miles for your first purchase after linking a debit or credit card to your BP Driver Rewards account and paying with that card.

The downside to this is that you can’t earn both cash back and airline miles for the same purchase. If you already have a BPDR account and you want to earn miles, you’ll need to log into your account to change your rewards type.  You can do that on the My Account tab.

NOTE: This promotion is not available to California residents.

If you don’t have other ways of earning United miles, this is a great way to extend the life of the miles you do have, since every addition of miles extends the life of your entire pool of miles for 18 months.

What if BP gas is not the cheapest in your area?  United miles are worth approximately 1.4-1.5 cents apiece.  So if BP gas is more than about 2 cents per gallon more expensive than your usual gas station it might not be worth more than an occasional visit to help extend your UA miles.  I’ve recently stocked up on Kroger fuel points thanks to a 4x fuel points on gift cards promotion this weekend so it may be a month or two before I take advantage of this BP promotion.

But for those of you who spend a lot at the pump, this could be a nice way to bump up your UA stash of points.

 

HT: Pizza In Motion

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Earn Miles for Donating to California Wildfire Relief

From now through the end of the year you can earn bonus United MileagePlus miles for donating to their partners for disaster relief due to the California wildfires.  United is partnering with the American Red Cross and the San Diego Humane Society.  If you’re a MileagePlus member you’ve probably already received an email to this effect and you can click on the link in your email or you can click here to to be taken to the donation page.

United will give bonus miles based on a tiered structure:

  • Donations of $50-99 will receive 250 bonus miles
  • Donations of $100-249 will receive 500 bonus miles
  • Donations of $250 or more will receive 1,000 bonus miles

United will award up to 3,000,000 bonus miles in total and will match the first $100,000 donated.

Note that the donations are handled by CrowdRise so they will not count as an airline charge for points-earning purposes.

It’s never a bad time to help those in need and doing so over the next couple of weeks will earn you bonus miles for doing so.

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United Miles Mystery Sale

From now through November 20th, United is offering targeted, tiered discounts on purchased miles. To see what your personal offer is, log into your account on United.com and hover over MileagePlus.

From there click on Buy, Transfer or Give Miles and you’ll be taken to this screen.

Click on the Reveal Now button, which will bring up a pop-up window for you to enter your MileagePlus number (again) and your last name. Enter that info and the next screen will show you your targeted bonus.

Mine will allow a bonus of up to 100% if I buy 30K-75K miles. United allows up to 150K miles to be purchased in a calendar year.

The drop-down menu shows the base cost of each increment of 1000 miles from 1000 to 75,000. Selecting one of the entries will then cause the calculator on the right side of the page to display the full purchase price including the taxes.

Buying 75K miles has a base purchase price of $2625. So getting 150K points for that price brings the price-per-point down to 1.75 cents each before tax. Since taxes are almost $197, that raises the price to 1.88 cents apiece.

Is it worth it?

It all depends on your needs, of course. If you’re looking to top off your miles to reach a specific award, then it might indeed be worth it. But if you’re looking to buy miles speculatively, then no, it’s probably not worth it. As noted above, the best-case scenario is about 1.88 cents apiece. Ben at One Mile At A Time values United miles at 1.4 cents each while Brian, the Points Guy, says they’re worth 1.5 cents apiece.

So I’ll be sitting this one out since I don’t have an immediate need.

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Multiple 100K Mile Giveaways

Three different airlines are offering a chance at 100,000 miles + $2500 cash when you register through their shopping portals.  If you choose to do additional shopping through these portals you can earn more entries into the contest. Continue reading

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Review: United Polaris Business Class ORD-LHR-ORD

On my last trip across the Atlantic, I flew over on a United 777 prior to their rollout of their Polaris product in December. While the aircraft on this trip had not been retrofitted with the new hard product I was interested to see how the new soft product would differ. This report will cover both the outbound trip to London and the return to Chicago.

UA 938
Depart ORD: 21:20
Arrive LHR: 11:20+1
Duration: 8h 10m
Boeing 767-300
Seat 9A (Business Class)

After leaving the Polaris lounge, our gate was just a few steps away. By the time we arrived, orderly lines had already formed for zones 1 & 2 so we took our place at the end of zone 1. It wasn’t too much longer before boarding began. Everyone entered through door 2L so we turned right down the first aisle to our seats, which were the last two business class seats on the right and faced forward.

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Review: United Polaris Club, Chicago O’Hare Airport

I had arrived in Chicago in the morning and spent the day with friends before returning to the airport that evening. My friend dropped me off at O’Hare around 6:15 PM in advance of my 9:10 PM flight. I was excited to be able to spend some time in the relatively new Polaris lounge before my flight.

The lounge entrance is just to the left of the escalators when entering Concourse C from Concourse B/Terminal 1 check-in. There is a first checkpoint where it is verified that you’re entitled to enter the lounge. Then walk through these double doors followed by a left turn into the lounge.

Polaris Club Main Entrance

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Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

My return flight left Budapest at 6:30 AM.  I had booked this leg of the trip using my Miles & More points, hoping that shortly before I left Budapest, Lufthansa would open up space and I’d be able to fly first class via Frankfurt.  But the space never opened up so I had to “settle” for business class.  Poor me.

My friend and I shared a taxi to the airport even though she was returning on Turkish Airlines and her flight was nearly three hours later.  Sure enough, when we arrived she couldn’t even check her bags as no one was at the Turkish counter that early.  So we said our goodbyes and I headed through security to the lounge.

The lounge I was directed to was very small and nearly full.  It did have free wi-fi but didn’t even have its own restrooms.  It was a contract lounge, not a Lufthansa lounge and while it was better than sitting the terminal and had some free beverages, I was completely under-whelmed.

Eventually though we boarded our flight for the relatively short flight to Frankfurt, which was very uneventful.  Like many intra-Europe flights, business class was simply economy with blocked middle seats and nice service.  We did get an edible, if unremarkable breakfast.  Before long we were in Frankfurt where I was able to enjoy the lounge for  a couple of hours.

When I got to the gate, I admit I was surprised.  Where was the German efficiency I so appreciate?  With Frankfurt being a Lufthansa hub, there are naturally a lot of people with elite status who are not flying in First or Business class.  So they hover around, waiting for priority boarding to be called instead of queuing up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen priority boarding be so chaotic, though my experience is not that widespread.  At any rate, eventually I boarded through door 1L and found my seat.

LH 430
Frankfurt (FRA) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Depart 10:40 AM
Arrive  2:10 PM
Duration: 9h 30m
Boeing 747-8
Seat 6D (Business Class)

As I was traveling solo for this leg I selected a seat in the middle section so I wouldn’t have to worry about climbing over anyone or being climbed over.  Waiting for me at my seat was a blanket and this pillow.  I loved the color scheme.

LH 430 Business Class Seat

LH 430 Business Class Seat

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Categories: Award Travel, Lufthansa, Star Alliance | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

I took an early morning flight from Memphis to Chicago where I met up with my travel partner for the next two weeks.  She lives in the area so she picked me up and we had lunch with a mutual friend before returning to the airport for our evening flight.

Our visit to the United Club was the last day before one of the other clubs in a different concourse reopened after remodeling, so the club that was right across from our gate was absolutely packed.  It was so full that there was actually a line outside the club and people had to leave the club before they’d allow others in! We had some soft drinks but nothing to eat (not that there was a lot on offer) knowing that we’d be fed on our flight.  We couldn’t even fully enjoy the free wi-fi as the signal kept getting used by all the people in the club.

When it came time to board we only had to step across the hall to our gate, which was nice.  I was actually very impressed by all the lanes United had set up to separate the boarding groups and the boarding process proceeded in a relatively orderly fashion.

UA 972
ORD-BRU
Boeing 777
Seats 6J & 6K (BusinessFirst)

We entered via door 1L and proceeded through the galley to the far aisle before turning right through First Class and into Business Class.  United uses a 2-4-2 seating configuration in Business Class. I guess that middle section can actually be good if you’re traveling with several people but would be odd with strangers.  In addition, every other rows faces the opposite way.  So our seats faced forward but those in the middle beside us faced backward.  It was just weird. Our seats were the first row of BusinessFirst on the far aisle as we boarded.  In our seats were a blanket, a pillow and a set of headphones.

ua-972-seat

UA 972 BusinessFirst Seat 6J

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Categories: Award Travel, Star Alliance, United | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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