Live From 34,000 Feet: Someone Keeps Smoking On My China Eastern Flight

China-Eastern-Business-Class

Hello, live from a China Eastern flight enroute from Los Angeles to Shanghai. I’ll have more thoughts on the flight once I land, given that the wifi is super slow. Suffice to say that China Eastern has a great (though very bland) reverse herringbone hard product, and a soft product that gives China Southern a run for their money.

Despite the slow wifi, I have to share the most bizarre aspect of this flight.

Before flying China Eastern I had heard rumors that their crews will smoke inflight, though I always assumed that wasn’t the case, or was perhaps an isolated incident.

Well, after over four million flown miles, this is a first for me — the smell of cigarette smoke has filled the cabin no fewer than a dozen times over the past five hours of my China Eastern flight.

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Here Goes One Of My Craziest Trips Yet!

Crazy-Trip

One of the main reasons I travel is to review new airlines, which is why many of my trips are quick and have crazy routings.

However, I think this might just be one of my craziest trips yet. Over the course of the next week I’ll be flying:

— China Eastern business class from Los Angeles to Shanghai to Colombo (70,000 Delta SkyMiles)
— Royal Air Maroc and Qatar Airways business class from Colombo to Doha to Casablanca and back (~$620 fare)
— Saudia business class from Colombo to Jeddah to Manchester (~$700)
— Pakistan business class from Manchester to New York (~$900)
— JetBlue Mint Class from New York to Los Angeles (~$600 fare)

That’s over 33,000 flown miles over the course of seven days.

So not only is this trip rather crazy in terms of the airlines I’m flying, but it’s also crazy in terms of the quantity of flying, especially since about half that trip is being done without spending a night in a hotel.

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Why It’s Worth Being Picked Up At The Airport In A Hotel Car

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For cities without good public transportation, one of my biggest frustrations is getting from the airport to the hotel. Maybe I just have horrible luck, but I seem to consistently have issues with this. From drivers nearly falling asleep on me, to drivers getting lost (even in a city with supposedly the most competent cabbies), to drivers claiming I damaged their car, to drivers refusing to take me to my desired destination, to drivers taking me the long way, it seems that more often than not getting from the airport to the hotel is an adventure.

While I generally have good luck using Uber to get from my hotel to the airport, I find it a bit tougher the other way around, since it’s often challenging to arrange an airport meeting point in a country where the driver doesn’t speak any English (and where I don’t speak their language). It’s easy if you enter a hotel as an origin, but not so easy when you enter an international airport with several arrivals areas.

With that in mind, lately I’ve started using hotel cars for getting from the airport to the hotel, at least in countries where most people don’t speak English. I’ve found it to be extremely worthwhile. Why?

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Rumor: Chase To Introduce Competitor To Amex Platinum & Citi Prestige

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In general the cards from three of the biggest US issuers — American Express, Chase, and Citi — match one another:

— Each has co-branded hotel and airline credit cards, which offer special perks
— Each has cards that accrue a transferrable points currency
— Each has cards that accrue bonus points in many categories and are among the best for everyday spend, with annual fees around ~$100

However, if you look at the card portfolios from issuers, you’ll notice there’s one area where Chase doesn’t compete.

There’s The Platinum CardĀ® from American Express and the Citi Prestige Card, both of which are “premium” cards issued by American Express, and Citi, respectively:

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Emirates Permanently Downgrades Dallas Route From A380 To 777

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Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the A380, with 81 A380s already in their fleet, and a total of 142 A380s ordered. As a result, they’re not especially selective with the routes on which they deploy the plane, since it makes up almost half of their fleet.

As far as their US destinations go, Emirates operates A380s to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles.

For a while they also operated A380s to Houston and Dallas Ft. Worth, though earlier in the year both of those routes were downgraded to Boeing 777-300ERs.

This doesn’t really come as a surprise, given that the two times I took the Dallas to Dubai route it was almost completely empty. On one flight there were more cabin crew than passengers on the upper deck. This is probably a function of the amount of competition from Gulf carriers in Texas, and also decreased activity in the oil industry.

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One MAJOR Change To American’s Newly Reconfigured 777s

American-Economy

Yesterday American quietly put a Boeing 777-200 into service with their newest business class product, featuring B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats. This caught me off guard, since I thought American’s Boeing 787-9 would be the first to feature American’s newest business class seats.

There are several things that I found strange about this:

— The 777-200 that American reconfigured with their newest business class seats was one that was only recently reconfigured withAmerican’s previous version of business class seats, rather than them reconfiguring a 777 with American’s oldest, angled business class seats
— American plans on installing premium economy on their 777s, so despite reconfiguring this 777, they didn’t add a premium economy cabin (that means it will have to be reconfigured yet again)

One of my biggest issues with American’s longhaul fleet is that there’s no consistency as there are so many varieties of their business class seat, and with this change there’s yet another configuration.

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American Adds More Checked Bag Fees On International Flights

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While free checked bags used to be the norm on domestic flights, that has changed over the past decade, and is now the exception rather than the norm. As a matter of fact, Southwest is the only major US carrier to not charge for checked bags anymore, and they market the hell out of it.

This has become a huge revenue opportunity for airlines for a variety of reasons. For one, the airlines want to keep their fares as low as possible at the time of ticketing as a way of getting people to book, as often people don’t factor checked bag fees in when they’re considering purchasing a ticket. Airlines even have an incentive to add checked bag fees rather than including them in the ticket cost, since they’re not subject to the typical federal excise tax that airfare is subject to.

While checked bag fees on international flights have also been added over the past several years, it has been a while since I’ve seen any changes on this front.

However, per the always awesome JonNYC, American is adding additional checked bag fees for travel to some destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America, including seasonal “surge pricing.” Here’s what JonNYC posted on FlyerTalk:

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Game Over: US Government Sides With Gulf Carriers In Open Skies Battle

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Since early last year there has been a huge battle between the “big three” US carriers (American, Delta, and United) and the “big three” Gulf carriers (Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar) regarding their Open Skies agreement.

Essentially the US carriers have argued that the Gulf carriers aren’t competing fairly, given that they’re government subsidized.

While I see where they’re coming from in theory, the argument has always struck me as being especially convenient. There are tons of government subsidized airlines out there, so why single out these three carriers? Furthermore, should US carriers really be the ones to call other airlines out for government subsidies, when they’ve benefited from billions of dollars worth of subsidies over the years?

Anyway, there has been a ton of politicking on both sides. US carriers have made the argument that the Gulf carriers are stealing American jobs. Meanwhile on the Gulf side, Qatar’s CEO has lashed out against the US carriers (and especially Delta) endlessly.

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Etihad Adding Second Daily A380 Flight To New York JFK

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Etihad has just announced that they’ll be launching a second daily A380 flight between New York JFK and Abu Dhabi as of June 1, 2017.

While Emirates ordered a total of 142 A380s, Etihad has only ordered 10, meaning the number of A380 destinations will be much more limited. So far Etihad is operating A380s to London Heathrow, New York JFK, Sydney, Melbourne, and Mumbai.

With two more A380s on order and scheduled to be delivered over the next year, I’ve been wondering where they’d send the plane next, and it seems we now have an answer.

Both of Etihad’s daily flights to New York JFK will be operated by A380s as of June 1, 2017.

The flight presently operated by an A380 has the following schedule:

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Awesome: EasyJet Hires A Teenage Pilot!

Easyjet-Pilot

When I was younger I always wanted to be an airline pilot. It was my biggest dream. Things change over time, and while that never materialized, I guess I can’t complain about my current situation too much. šŸ˜‰

Nonetheless I still believe that this office…

…is even better than this “office.”

In the back of my mind I do always wonder what life would be like if I pursued being an airline pilot, especially given that there are now plenty of people my age in the cockpits of “heavy” aircraft.

With that in mind, I couldn’t help but smile when I read the story of a 19 year old who is a commercial airline pilot. This made waves in the media a few weeks back, though somehow I missed it at the time.

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Earn Double Starpoints At Tribute Portfolio Hotels

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One of Starwood’s newest hotel brands is Tribute Portfolio, which is a collection of independent hotels. Hyatt copied the idea shortly after Starwood introduced it, with their Hyatt Unbound Collection.

I love the concept in theory. I love loyalty programs and points, but don’t necessarily love cookie cutter hotels. Why not allow more independent hotels to join major hotel chains, so you can get a local experience without forgoing points?

I had the chance to stay at Starwood’s first Tribute Portfolio hotel, the Royal Palm South Beach Miami.

Unfortunately there are a couple of problems with Tribute Portfolio. First of all, the brand isn’t growing very quickly — as of now they have just nine hotels, though that’s expected to grow over the coming years. Furthermore, in some issues it seems the hotels don’t quite meet peoples’ expectations. Tribute Portfolio is supposed to be a step down from Luxury Collection, and I think that’s something many people don’t understand.

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First Look: Etihad’s New LAX Lounge

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As I first wrote about late last month, Etihad Airways is opening a new lounge at Los Angeles International Airport this month.

This is Etihad’s third lounge in North America. Presently Etihad also operates a lounge at New York JFK and Washington Dulles.

The great news is that the Etihad Lounge LAX is now open daily from 1:30PM until 4:55PM. I was invited to attend the lounge’s opening earlier today, so figured I’d report back with my thoughts on the lounge.

Etihad’s new lounge in Los Angeles is located in Tom Bradley International Terminal. After you clear security, you’ll see the signage pointing right towards the Etihad Lounge.

Once you’re in the main part of the terminal, turn right and take the elevator up to the sixth floor, which is also where the Star Alliance Lounge is located.

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The Citi Prestige Card’s 4 Major Changes: Is The Card Still Worth It?

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Update: Citi has clarified that existing and new cardholders will receive all the current benefits of the Citi Prestige until 7/23/17. The post below has been updated to reflect this.

Over the past week the Citi Prestige Card has undergone some major changes, which we at least had a bit of advance notice about. I was sad to see that changes were coming to the card, given that I consider it to be the all around most lucrative card out there. Over the past several days we’ve slowly learned about the changes being made, and it seems like we now have full info as to what the changes are.

With that in mind, I figured I’d cover the four changes being made to the Citi Prestige Card. While the changes are mostly negative, the good news is that many of them don’t take effect until late July of 2017.

The Citi Prestige Card used to have a sign-up bonus of 50,000 ThankYou bonus points after spending $3,000 within three months, while the sign-up bonus is now 40,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 within three months.

Of course this change is bad news, though on the plus side at least the bonus didn’t drop to zero, as was the case with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card. That would be much more drastic.

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Surprise: American’s Newest Business Class Is Already Flying!

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This actually caught me off guard. As anyone who follows American’s premium cabin changes probably knows, American is planning on installing a new business class product throughout their 777-200, A350, and 787 fleet.

American initially installed a new type of business class product on these planes, though unfortunately they’ve had many issues with the seats, including both the production schedule as well as the quality of the seats, to the point that they discontinued their contract with Zodiac and found a new vendor.

In early May we learned that American would be installing the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat on their 777-200, A350, and 787 aircraft going forward. These are the same types of business class seats as on Air Canada, China Airlines, Qatar Airways, Virgin Australia, etc.

This is a type of reverse herringbone seat, and generally similar to the one American has on their 777-300ER aircraft.

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