The World’s Most Senior Flight Attendant Is Still Going Strong!

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In late 2014 I wrote about Bette Nash, the world’s most senior flight attendant. She had been flying for 57 years, and seemed like an absolute gem. At the time The Boston Globe created a video about her, highlighting the “lifetime of lessons” she learned from 30,000 feet:

My favorite part was what she found to universally be true:

“But Bette, as she approaches her birthday on New Year’s Eve, says she has found something that seems universal and true.

‘People want a little love. And I don’t mean a lot of hugging and everything, even though we might do that. But this is the big thing: People need attention. You can’t buy love. You can’t buy attention. But people need this.’

‘And it’s for free,’ Bette says. ‘You can give this to people for free.'”

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Virgin Atlantic Launching Flights Between Seattle And London

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Seattle has experienced an incredible amount of international growth the past several years, primarily from Delta, but also from several other international airlines.

Well, next year it looks like Virgin Atlantic will be launching daily flights between Seattle and London Heathrow. The new flight will be operated by a Boeing 787-9 as of May 1, 2017, with the following schedule:

VS105 London to Seattle departing 11:00AM arriving 1:20PM
VS106 Seattle to London departing 7:10PM arriving 1:00PM (+1 day)

The schedule for the flight has just been filed preliminarily, so the flight isn’t yet open for booking.

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Weekly Review: May 28, 2016

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I’ve spent the past week traveling back and forth to South Africa, so am excited to be on the ground this week without any plans to fly. I slept for about 10 hours last night, and hope to continue that pattern. I’ll spend the coming week continuing to publish the trip report for my recent trip.

I had an amazing time in South Africa, and am now plotting out my next big trip to review new airlines.

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Now Live: 30,000 Mile Sign-Up Bonus On Alaska Visa Card

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As I first wrote about in February, Alaska Airlines has been planning on increasing the sign-up bonus on their co-branded Bank of America credit card, from 25,000 miles to 30,000 miles. This was found in their 10-K SEC filing at the time, as they expected a higher bonus would bring them even more business.

Well, the increased sign-up bonus on the Alaska Airlines Visa Card is now live. Specifically, the card is offering a sign-up bonus of 30,000 Mileage Plan miles, plus a $121 companion certificate ($99, plus taxes and fees starting at $22), after spending $1,000 within 90 days. The card has an annual fee of $75, which isn’t waived the first year.

This definitely isn’t a mega sign-up bonus, but Alaska Mileage Plan miles are quite valuable, thanks to the wide array of international airline partners they have, and that they allow stopovers on one-way awards. Furthermore, if you live in a city served by Alaska Airlines, that companion certificate can be extremely valuable.

However, some might still prefer another version of the offer which is out there, offering 25,000 Mileage Plan miles upon account approval, plus a $100 statement credit after spending $1,000 within 90 days. That version of the offer also comes with an annual companion certificate.

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American Admirals Club Membership Fee Increasing

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As someone who is primarily an American flyer, I value Admirals Club access. Not because the lounges are amazing, or anything, but rather because I value having a (relatively) quiet place from which to work with free wifi. However, I’ve never directly purchased an Admirals Club membership.

For those of you who do pay for an Admirals Club membership, the cost will be increasing for memberships purchased or renewed as of July 25, 2016.

If you’re purchasing a membership in cash, the cost is increasing by $50 for an individual membership or $100 for a household membership:

Meanwhile if redeeming miles for a membership, the cost is increasing by 5,000 miles for a personal membership or 10,000 miles for a household membership (but please don’t redeem your miles for an Admirals Club membership, as it’s a horrible value):

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Norway Adds Nasty New Airport Tax

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The UK is notorious for their Air Passenger Duty, which is the highest passenger tax levied anywhere in the world. If you’re on a premium cabin ticket originating out of the UK, you’ll pay $200+ for that tax alone. It’s worth keeping in mind that this tax is separate from airport taxes, security taxes, etc.

Well, unfortunately it looks like another European country will be soon be adding a national tax on aviation.

For flights as of June 1, 2016, Norway will begin charging a new nationwide air passenger tax of NOK 80 (~$10) for passengers traveling out of any of their airports. The tax won’t be levied on passengers under two, and on transit and transfer passengers, so only the first flight will be taxable.

Now, in fairness this tax isn’t as horrible as what’s charged out of the UK, but it still has the potential to have a huge impact on passengers and airlines. Keep in mind that there are lots of low cost carriers operating out of Norway (most notably Norwegian Air Shuttle), and they often have extremely low fares. In some instances, this tax alone could be as much as the base fare airlines charge for certain flights.

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Watch Etihad’s Virtual Reality Film Starring Nicole Kidman

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A few weeks ago I shared the trailer for Etihad’s virtual reality film starring Nicole Kidman, which is the first time a Hollywood actor is featured in a such a film:

The trailer was intriguing, not just because it featured lots of pictures of Etihad’s gorgeous A380, but also because there seemed to be a mysterious plot to it.

Well, Etihad has now released the full five minute virtual reality film, which can be downloaded on a dedicated website. You can only watch it on a mobile device, like an iPhone or Android, and you need to download an app to watch it.

For those of you who were as unfamiliar with virtual reality film as I was, the reason you have to watch it on a mobile device is because you’ll be spinning your device throughout the film to get a 360 degree view of what’s going on. As the name suggests, you’re supposed to feel like you’re there.

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Review: Four Points By Sheraton Vancouver Airport

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I booked the Four Points by Sheraton Vancouver Airport both because it was the cheapest Starwood hotel near Vancouver Airport, and also because it would finally allow me to try a Four Points. While I’m an SPG loyalist, I’ve actually never stayed at a Four Points before. This would get me closer to staying at 11 Starwood brands this year, so that I earn 11,000 bonus Starpoints.

The rate for my one night stay was 160CAD (~123USD). This is a Category 3 SPG property, meaning a free night redemption would have cost 7,000 Starpoints. In this instance paying cash definitely seemed like the better option, given that I value Starpoints at 2.2 cents each.

My flight landed from Los Angeles a bit after 9PM, and the shuttle to the Four Points showed up within minutes, without me having to call. For what it’s worth, the shuttle departs the airport every 30 minutes on the hour, and departs the hotel every 30 minutes, at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour.

The Westin and Four Points share a shuttle. The driver was friendly, and provided lots of recommendations about things I should do in the area (even though I just had a quick overnight and knew I wouldn’t be leaving the hotel).

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Introduction: Star Alliance To South Africa

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Welcome to the trip report for the journey I just finished up, where I traveled on Air Canada and South African Airways, and stayed at three Starwood properties between Vancouver and Cape Town. On top of that, I got to visit a fantastic city for my first time as an adult (the last time I was in Cape Town was about 15 years ago).

The planning for this trip started in mid-April, when Star Alliance published some fantastic business class fares between Canada and South Africa. Thanks to the strength of the USD, it was among the best deals I’ve seen for travel to South Africa.

As many of you know, my goal this year is to review as many new business class products as possible, and this seemed like a pretty cool opportunity to check two more airlines off my list. I’ve really been wanting to fly Air Canada and South African Airways business class, and I could knock them both out on one trip with this itinerary.

I was excited about Air Canada because they have a new reverse herringbone business class product on their 777s and 787s, which looks top notch — after all, that’s one of my favorite business class hard products.

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Want To Set Money On Fire? Baltia Is Still Looking For Investors!

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In 2014 I first wrote about Baltia Air Lines, which is America’s oldest startup airline. They’ve been in “business” for 27 years, except they’ve never actually flown a commercial flight, despite having owned a 747-200 for over 20 years (which they finally dumped a couple of months go, after hiring a consultant who told them it might not be the ideal plane with which to launch an airline).

Their business plan was to initially fly between New York and St. Petersburg, Russia, with plans to later expand to other European capitals.

For years Baltia has been pretending that they’re actually going to start flying some day soon. If you go to Baltia’s Facebook page, you’ll see they post a minor update every few days about how they’re “one step closer” to flying. It’s quite entertaining to see how many people still believe the airline will actually begin operating commercial flights some day.

Possibly my favorite part of the airline’s website is that they have a flight status page, except the page is really only a GIF, so there’s nothing to click on. But I suppose the airline seems realer if it has a flight status page, eh?

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Earn 50 American Miles Per Dollar Spent On Magazines

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I’ve written in the past about shopping portals, which are a great opportunity to earn bonus points for purchases you’d make anyway.

Well, sometimes the bonuses through shopping portals are so good that it can make sense to buy something you don’t need just for the bonus miles.

That’s the case right now with the American AAdvantage eShopping Portal, which is offering 50 miles per dollar spent at magazines.com. This is basically an opportunity to purchase American miles for two cents each.

The bonus is supposed to be valid for purchases through tomorrow (Friday the 27th), and the terms on this offer are as follows:

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11 Features That Make Business Class Great — Or Not

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I feel like I should change my mailing address to “business class on your nearest flight,” based on the amount of time I’ve spent in business class lately. This is by design, as I’ve been doing what I can to review new business class products, given that I focused so heavily on first class in the past.

I’ve been disappointed by some airlines and pleasantly surprised by others, though they all have room for improvement. I’ve walked away from most of carriers basically saying “they’re a fine option if they operate the route you need to fly nonstop, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly them.” That’s a stark contrast to my favorite first class products in the world, which I’d go out of my way to fly.

So it got me thinking as to what I value most in business class. What makes for a great business class product?

Everyone has very different preferences, so this simply reflects what I care about. I figured I’d share the 11 top things for me, more or less ranked, starting with the most important. The order can vary based on the individual flight, since I have different priorities based on the type of flight.

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9 Thoughts On South African Airways Business Class

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In the past week I’ve taken four flights in South African Airways business class, from Frankfurt to Johannesburg to Cape Town to Johannesburg to London.

Having just gotten off the last sector, the flights are still fresh in my mind. While I’ll have a much more detailed report, I figured I’d share my “big picture” takeaway from having flown with SAA. In no particular order:

Thai Airways is notorious for equipment swaps (to the point that many of us use the term “getting TGed” to describe an aircraft swap). Well, I think SAA gives them a run for their money.

My London to Johannesburg flight was canceled, and the second daily flight had an aircraft swap.

On the return, the flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg was swapped from an A330-200 to an A340-600.

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