The (mis)adventures of a 90 minute hotel stay…

I’ll admit it, I’m a mess sometimes. And instead of pretending like it didn’t happen I instead open up and share it with y’all so we can at least all get a laugh out of my stupidity.

I’m enroute home from the UAE, and my return itinerary was Abu Dhabi to New York on Etihad Airways, and New York to Vancouver on Cathay Pacific, both in first class. At 90,000 AAdvantage miles and no fuel surcharges it’s a pretty good value.

So why did I book New York to Vancouver? First of all, because you can’t beat the comfort of a Cathay Pacific 777 for a coast-to-coast flight, and I’ve wanted to try that service since moving to Seattle. Second of all, it’s the only place I could find award space to. Not surprisingly there was no saver award space from New York to Seattle just a few days before Christmas, while the Cathay Pacific flight had plenty of award space.

The issue was getting from Vancouver to Seattle. The Cathay Pacific flight gets into Vancouver at 1AM which means an overnight is required, though in theory it should be easy from there, given that you can fly, take a train, or take a bus. I really wanted to fly since I’m in a bit of a time crunch before the holidays, though not surprisingly there was no Alaska Airlines award space when I originally made the booking.

Award space did finally open up two days before departure, so I made a booking on that flight for just 4,500 British Airways Avios. I intentionally kept it on a separate record locator, since only the evening flight was available (for the night after I landed in Vancouver), and I was hoping to make a same day change for free given my Alaska Airlines MVP Gold status (and that’s easier to do when you’re booked on a separate record with just your Alaska frequent flyer number on the record). I booked the Sheraton Vancouver Airport on cash & points for the overnight, figuring it would be a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep.

Well, everything was going as planned. I had a pleasant flight on Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to New York.


Etihad Airways plane to New York

I had pre-flight supper in the British Airways lounge before my flight to Vancouver.


British Airways pre-flight supper

I had an awesome flight on Cathay Pacific from New York to Vancouver. The crew was Vancouver based, and the flight attendant working first class was extremely chipper. She was just so “westernized” (in the sense that it was like flying a US airline) compared to the formal and professional service I’m used to on Cathay Pacific, so I quite enjoyed it. It’s the first time I’ve been asked “ya want some Krug, hun?”


Not a bad way to fly coast-to-coast…


Comfortable Cathay Pacific bed

We landed in Vancouver right on time at around 1AM, and as usual Canadian customs/immigration was a joy, as I was questioned as if I were a drug, livestock, and child pornography dealer. Canada is the only country where I’ve been asked at customs what I was doing in my home country.

“Where are you coming from?”
“New York.”
“Well, what were you doing there, eh?”

Seriously?!

By the time my checked bag arrived, I cleared customs, and I made it to the hotel it was 2:30AM. No worries, the Sheraton was nice enough (at least the service and proactive room upgrade), and I quickly logged onto the internet to make a same day change for my Alaska Airlines flight. Alaska lets MVP Gold members make confirmed same day changes 10PM the night before departure, so that was my first opportunity given that I had been flying at 10PM.


Sheraton Vancouver Airport

I went to alaskaair.com and entered my record locator. I got an error message, saying my reservation had been canceled. Crap. I quickly pulled up my e-ticket receipt, only to see that it had been made for the previous night. I’m not sure if it was my error or the agent’s error, but I was a bit frustrated since there was nothing I could do to fix it, given that British Airways doesn’t have a 24/7 call center in the US.

I called up Alaska Airlines and explained that an error had been made and asked if there was anyway they could rebook me on the same flight the following day (as it also had award space). The agent said there was nothing she could do, and said I’d have to call British Airways. I called back and phrased it slightly differently: “I was booked on the last flight of the night from Vancouver to Seattle which I missed, and by the time I got there the counters were closed. Is there anything you could do to help?” She was extremely friendly and wanted to help, and held the space for me on the same flight the following night (which had award space), though explained I’d have to just call British Airways to have the ticket reissued. Okay, awesome!

At this point it was 3:30AM and I was wide awake. I had another look at loads and realized that the 6:15AM flight still had several seats for sale. Given that the flight I was booked on the night before was the last flight of the night and this was the first flight of the day, I figured I might just be best off going to the airport and handling things there, as they’ll almost always accommodate you on the next flight if you miss it.

I hopped in the shower and took the 4AM shuttle back to the airport. I got a look of utter confusion from the guy at the front desk that had checked me in, and explained I’d be back in a bit (just in case my standby option didn’t work).

So I showed up at the Alaska counter and sheepishly explained I missed my flight the night before and the counter was closed by the time I got there, and within a few minutes he printed me out a boarding pass.


Vancouver check-in hall

I cleared security and US customs, and made it airside by about 4:30AM. At 5AM the Plaza Premium Lounge opened, which I could use since it was a Priority Pass lounge.

Then at around 6AM I boarded my Alaska/Horizon flight to Seattle, which was an adventure. They turned the safety announcement into a Christmas poem, with such gems as “Twas the flight before Christmas…” and “Santa knows who’s nice and who’s naughty, up front is the only potty.”


Alaska Q400

I made it home before 8AM and was tired after being up for 40+ hours, so slept almost all day.

I woke up to 17 missed calls from my poor mother, who was convinced I was dead and had called the police to search for me. FML.

All is well that ends well… right? So, has anyone else had a shorter hotel stay than that?

Comments

  1. During a ONT-TPA (:P) run a few years back, the IAD-TPA flight was delayed and didn’t arrive until after 1am. For some reason I had checked a bag, and I originally thought it didn’t make it. After a lengthy wait with the baggage people, I find out that the bag made it there hours before (it decided to skip a few segments). There was also a wait for the hotel shuttle (super busy I guess at 2am ;)). I get into the room after 3am and was back on the shuttle at 4:30 for a 6am flight. So, we tie šŸ™‚

  2. @ Shane — Didn’t visit Canada much when I lived in Florida, but now that I live in Washington it’s on my list of things to do.

  3. What’s up with Canadian Border Police? I have been taken “into the back room” the last 2 times I have entered Canada (at Niagara Falls road entry and at YVR)…they took out all my dirty laundry, even forced me to start my computer…looked at my phone pictures, etc…I must look suspicious like you do, Lucky. šŸ™‚

    BTW: Is the Etihad partnership with AA going to continue for the foreseeable future?

  4. I had one that was an hour. Work called me just after check-in and told me that I was needed in a different city, though the new city was just a two hour drive away.

  5. @ theblakefish — For the foreseeable future yes, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see that change once Qatar joins OneWorld.

  6. Radisson mattress runs for 50K promo were shorter (non)stays

    Lucky – did you figure out if you accidentally booked the wrong date yourself? First time that happened to you?
    Now you’ll always wonder..and double/triple check for any future trips. I always had that fear regardless of how many times I check

  7. I once went to the Sheraton at Heathrow at 7:00 am after a reroute from Sri Lanka. The cancellation deadline had obviously passed, so I checked in, showered, and left for Terminal 4 about 30 minutes after check in.

  8. I hate that CX JFK-YVR flight. It gets in at such a weird time. If you’re coming from the East coast, that’s like 4 AM.

    BTW, I’ve also run into that treatment when flying into YVR.

    I hope you got your sleep schedule back on track.

  9. @ Jerry — I know I had been searching for space on the correct dates all along. The 20th had award space all along and I distinctly remember space opening up on the 21st. I may have said the wrong date when I called since it was the middle of the night in the UAE, though.

  10. Lucky – I haven’t flown Etihad or Qatar, but I assume you have…which one do you prefer and will us AA folks be better served by Qatar? I have a UA-ticketed flight PEK-DOH-IAH for next May and am curious…I hear the premium terminal at DOH leaves a lot to e desired…especially for those expecting an experience similar to LH FCT in FRA.. šŸ™

  11. Hi lucky,
    Do you know how much it costs to book a round trip in business class from Vancouver to JFK using American Airlines miles? I read your post about “Flying roundtrip on a one-way ticket”, which is pretty cool. Should I opt for that one and get off at Vancouver on the way back?

  12. @ Rick — It would cost 25,000 miles each way, or 50,000 miles roundtrip. You could definitely have it be a stopover if you wanted to, though you couldn’t do YVR-JFK-YVR-HKG-CMB on a one-way and actually get off in YVR the second time (as it has to be booked as the “direct” flight).

  13. As always, enjoyed this one again šŸ™‚

    Hope the cops did not knock your door based on report from your mom !

  14. u flew first class for all your long haul, and u need one full day to recover?? what is the point of flying long haul in F?

  15. @ alan — No, I didn’t need a day to recover from international first class, I needed a day to recover from landing at 1AM in international first class and staying up all night to make it down to Seattle rather than sleeping.

  16. @ CP@YOW — Hah, I was trying to be fair and not count them, since they’re not “really” hotel stays.

  17. Last year I dropped my bag off at the hotel and went across the street to our office in Orange County (I live in DC). Ended up working all evening, picked up my bag in the morning, and headed to the airport. So my bag enjoyed a comfortable evening.

  18. just did similar trip earlier this week. JFK-yvr-pdx.. Canada customs was very confused why we were routing through Vancouver. Pretty sure I would have been back roomed if travelling by myself but had wife and niece with me. They still wanted to see printed itinerary and told us not to leave airport.

  19. *I made it home before 8AM and was tired after being up for 40+ hours, so slept almost all day.* is what u wrote, and u said u were flying F on CX and EY before? so u couldnt sleep at all in all flights?
    u arrived YVR at 1am and arrived home at 8:30am, and that is only 7.5 hrs of tour last 40+ hours.

  20. @ alan — First of all, the flight from Abu Dhabi to New York was a daytime flight, so I tried to stay awake for as much as possible of it so I’d be able to adjust timezones upon my return. I slept for a few hours after takeoff and for a couple of hours from New York to Vancouver. In terms of adjusting to the new timezone I think that’s ideal, as it would allow me to get a good night of sleep in Seattle. Arriving well rested isn’t necessarily about getting as much sleep as you can, but rather planning it best you can.

    Second of all, I didn’t “need” to sleep all day. The fact is I work from home and have the ability to work any hour of the day/night that I want, so I have the luxury of being able to sleep when I’m tired, no matter which hour of the day it is.

    Hope that makes sense…

  21. I had an 10:00 pm arrival into EWR and a 5:30 a.m. departure. Between my arriving flight being several hours late and the extremely slow hotel shuttle, I ended up with just a short nap and shower. Probably right around 90 minutes or so. Maybe a bit longer.

  22. As a Canadian and Nexus cardholder, I could use Global Entry and now I am eligible for TSA Pre-Check. US Global Entry cardholders cannot even use the expedited entry into Canada and skipped those silly questions?? What’s up with that??

  23. As a Canadian, the part about customs was hilarious! They treat Canadians with often equal interrogation to what you experienced though. Anyway, quick thinking on your part on all accounts despite lack of sleep. It can the way things are phrased that can yield more ideal results. But your poor mother!

  24. @ panda — Yes, they will automatically check you out. I was going to call as a courtesy, but ended up being asleep at the time, unfortunately.

  25. Of course you still got charged I presume right? Even before checking in you were past the cancellation deadline but at least you got hom

  26. Just showed up at Four Points SFO with a airport parking rate. Checked in but told them I would not be using the room… Only the parking for up to 14 days. I’m flying a red-eye to the East Coast out of SFO in a few minutes. Plus it got me 1 night closer to 50 nights with SPG! šŸ™‚

  27. Hey Lucky,

    Anywhere you have outlined before how to score this award ticket from JFK-YVR on CX? I remember something vaguely but now can’t find the link!

    Thanks so much,
    Tom

  28. @ ThunderStorm — It can be booked most easily with either American miles or British Airways Avios. It’s just 25,000 one-way in business class through either program, or 32,500/37,500 in first class with American/British Airways, respectively.

  29. For some reason I can’t see any such CX flights from JFK-YVR on the AA Advantage Website, only American and Alaska are showing up.

  30. How does one book this award, Lucky? I have been searching many dates for the last two hours on AA.com but nothing related to CX is showing up on this route.

    Thanks

  31. @ ThunderStorm — The space doesn’t show up on aa.com, so you have to call to book. If you’re using BA points you can book online, as their website shows the space.

  32. OK Thanks! Will call AA… This too pricey on BA.

    In other similar news I’m finally taking that JFK-LAX Qantas 747 in F on my way to Australia (but hoping to switch to the A380 for Over-the-Water from LAX, and then coming back LAX-JFK in J on that same 747 flight. Why? Just to check the service on a little bit of Australia over the US! šŸ˜‰

  33. You should have stayed at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport. It is right upstairs from the Alaska checkin desk. You know who to contact. šŸ™‚

  34. @Ace – Fairmont website says 8am to 8pm only. I guess you got a sympathetic clerk?

    @Alan – What a weird thing to go on and on about…

  35. Hi Lucky,

    I am a new reader and a fan. I am wondering how you were able to book Alaska flight using BA miles. I am getting a message from the site when I try to book YVR to LAX and am getting the message that BA and it’s partners does not service this route.

    Thanks,

    James

  36. Thanks for your prompt response! Do you happen to know how many Avios points is required for a YVR-LAX RT?

  37. @ JamesYVR — For coach it’s 7,500 Avios per person per direction, so it’s 15,000 roundtrip.

  38. Thanks! This is one case Avios is actually a better deal than AA miles. I think AA charges 25K for YVR to LAX RT on AS.

  39. >I had pre-flight supper in the British Airways lounge before my flight to Vancouver.

    Did I miss something here? Isn’t pref-flight supper in BA JFK lounge only for BA passengers or that’s changed? I will fly CX F JFK to YVR next week. I wonder can I order pre-flight supper? Thanks.

  40. @ Shannon — It’s only for BA passengers and for Cathay Pacific passengers traveling in first class to Vancouver, but not business class.

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