...constantly searching to find the best travel deals and places to visit. A never-ending quest for adventure!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

LAX-AKL: Pleasant experience in AA 787 Business Class

Movies, food, drink... couldn't have asked for a better or smoother flight to Auckland.  We boarded LAX early and found our seats in row 2.  After a short taxi we were airborne and dinner was served. I opted to try the steak with potato and salad which was flavorful and not tough in the least.  Sleep soon followed and the 13.5 hours flew by before breakfast and landing preparations were underway.

After a short line to confirm we weren't bringing anything bad into NZ, we exited the airport to track down our rental car. For only $90 I hoped the deal lived up to the hype.

Gratefully, the Holiday Auto person was quick to arrive and pick us up - after a short orientation we were off to find our Airbnb hosts!  Driving on the left side of the road came back to me quickly and the views were awesome as we drove through the city and out into the country. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

PHL-LAX: Drama to start

Nothing like a little drama to start the trip. Thankfully, it was nothing directly having to do with me (though it did occur in my row).

 As we prepared for departure, the gentlemen in my exit row (10A) decided to make a fuss about something you should never joke about on the plane: the safety briefing. As the flight attendant started it as normal, about halfway through she started to cry and did everything possible to keep it together.  The reason for crying was unknown. As she tried to get the attention of Mr. 10A to pay attention, he blew her off at the start and then grudgingly said yes at the end before she went up to the front of the plane. A few minutes after, another flight attendant came and apologized, asking if we were ok after our briefing acknowledgment.  Mr. 10A said no - he wasn't and wanted the full briefing. She started in again and he insisted on having it complete or else he would complain.  She made all of us actually hold a briefing card and went through the entire info. When compete he also insisted that he know the reason for the crying before he would acknowledge the process.  The attendant asked if he was going to be a problem and he said no.  Apparently that wasn't good enough. The captain came on, telling us we would be delayed a few minutes for a 'customer service issue' and would be putting the jet bridge back.  The CSR agent came on and asked Mr. 10A to deplane with her. He said nothing, grabbed his things, and left the plane. A short time after the door was closed and we departed for runway 27.  Later I found out there had been a problem on the jetbridge with the same person and it supposedly carried over. Not sure what tripped him off but he was a jerk and deserved to get kicked off for how he was treating the FA's. They apologized profusely though everyone in our row was supportive.  Coincidently I overheard him on the phone as we boarded talking about how he had just flown in from Italy and picked this specific flight so he wouldn't have to drive in LA traffic when we landed.   Weird.

 Otherwise an uneventful and smooth flight.  That is until the lead flight attendant figured out our itinerary and came back to offer me some prosecco in celebration of the trip. Prozt!  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Introduction: How far can you go on miles and points? Round the world!

T-Minus 8 days!  I must admit that this was one of the more fun (and complicated) bookings I've ever done.  And I'm proud about how much value we could realize!

In planning a possible RTW excursion, I knew that miles and points would figure prominently into our plan (would never be able to afford this kind of trip otherwise).  Would it be enough to go to one location or could I maximize the available points options?

In the end I feel as though I made the most of what we had available for the best value.  The general outline for the trip is listed below - the mileage value is tremendous:

11/19 - depart for Auckland
PHL-LAX-AKL on AA (points plus miles, low OW fare)

11/21-24 - New Zealand (AirBNB in the jungle! $370)

11/24 - depart for Male, Maldives
AKL-SYD on Emirates ($350)
SYD-AUH-MLE on Etihad A380 Business Class: 90,000 AA miles (pre-devaluation)

11/25-29 - @ Park Hyatt Maldives (100,000 Hyatt points)

11/29-30 - depart for JFK
MLE-AUH-JFK on Etihad A380 Business class: 135,000 AA miles (pre-devaluation)

The biggest challenge in the end was finalizing the initial connection to NZ, since there are not as many options available to connect directly.

Using AA miles on Etihad was also fun to arrange - the US Call Center for American does not always see availability from the Etihad website.  For this booking, I had to call via Skype the Australia/NZ AA call center and those agents were able to see and reserve the proper mileage flights.  When looking for availability on Etihad.com, if you see Guest Economy/Business/First available you can use AA miles:

Round the world we go!  More trip reports to come from along the paths once we are underway.

Monday, November 7, 2016

New Hyatt Program "World of Hyatt" starting March 2017

If you haven't seen the news, Hyatt is making substantial changes to its awards program as of March 2017.  Different tiers, earning structures, and point accruals make many of these changes terrible for leisure travelers and somewhat lucrative for business travelers.  I'm not a fan of the changes upcoming.

The following letter was recently sent - take part to share your feedback if you can:

I hope you are as excited as I am about World of Hyatt – your new loyalty program launching March 1, 2017. What makes this loyalty program so special is that it’s an extension of Hyatt’s purpose – to care for you so you can be your best. More specifically, the program is the result of listening and understanding what is meaningful to you. While we have some time before World of Hyatt officially launches, we are eager to highlight five things that stand out about World of Hyatt: 
• There are even more opportunities for rewards, benefits and new experiences
• Now, Base Points from stays, dining and spa count toward earning elite status
• Members may earn a free night award at a category 1-4 Hyatt hotel after staying at 5 different brands starting March 1, 2017
• Preferred rooms and upgrades when available for all elite members
• Seamless transition into World of Hyatt, retaining all information and activity to date

These are just a few highlights. There's a lot more at HYATT.COM/WORLD. Be sure to check it out to see all of the details and benefit descriptions. 

I will also be hosting a special Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on November 16 at 12 noon CST to personally answer your questions. An email invite will go out next week with instructions on how to participate. I look forward to connecting with you then. 

Thank you for your loyalty. You are the heart of our community and the inspiration for World of Hyatt.

All my best,
Jeff Zidell
Senior Vice President
World of Hyatt