From Airbus To Megabus: A Trip Of Contrasts

Introduction
From Airbus To Megabus: A Trip Of Contrasts
Review: Six Senses Zighy Bay Villa
Review: Six Senses Zighy Bay Activities & Dining
Review: Al Maha Bedouin Suite
Review: Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Dining
Review: Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Activities
Review: Dubai International First Class Lounge DXB
Review: Qatar Airways First Class A320 Dubai To Doha
Review: Qatar Airways First Class A380 Doha To London
Review: British Airways First Class A380 London To Los Angeles
Review: British Airways A380 First Class Tasting Menu
Review: Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Airport LAX
Review: American Flagship Lounge Los Angeles LAX
Review: American First Class A321 Los Angeles To New York
Review: Hilton Austin Airport


In this first installment, my friend Andrew B will be sharing his experience on the trip. Yes, this is the same Andrew who won the trip to Helsinki several years back — we’ve been friends ever since. He flew to the Middle East for the weekend, redeeming miles for Etihad business class on the outbound, and returning on the mistake fare from Dubai to Austin. On top of that, he had a rather creative way to return home from Austin to DC. Below are his (hilarious) thoughts.

The hardest part of this trip was explaining to my friends why I was traveling from Dubai to Doha to London to LA to New York to Austin, Texas in the span of 3 days. The typical response was a look of horror and disgust, combined with a confused question, like, “why would you do that?”

My justification for this madness is threefold:

  1. I love airplanes and flying.
  2. I’ve never flown Qatar Airways or British Airways first class before, and I’ve been itching to try American’s first class service between LAX and JFK, so this is a great way to have new experiences while earning a bunch of miles.
  3. The fare was only about $1,700, or 90 percent less than it would normally be. To me, $1,700 is  a lot of money, but considering the usual price, it seems like an amazing deal. When I thought about it this way, how could I afford not to go?

For this trip, I had to meet Ben and Tiffany in Dubai. With Tiffany’s help, I booked an award ticket in Etihad’s business class on a 787-9 from Washington-Dulles to Abu Dhabi. As a business class passenger, I took advantage of Etihad’s complimentary chauffeur service from my home to Dulles, and from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.

Etihad’s business class cabin is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been (though as someone who grew up in Queens, New York, it doesn’t take a lot of beauty to impress me). Every detail was beautiful, and for a while after boarding I just sat and looked around in awe.

Etihad-787-Business-Class
Etihad 787

After sitting at the gate for a while, the captain announced that we were having some technical difficulties that would delay the flight. About 60 minutes after our scheduled departure time, he said that the navigational computer was not working properly, and that the only way to remedy this was to offload all the passengers and turn the plane off and on again.

It’s not very confidence-inspiring that the solution for troubleshooting one of the most sophisticated machines in the world is the same as for the $59 Lexmark printer I got at Best Buy.

Etihad-Meme

We waited in the lounge for them to reboot the plane, which took less than half an hour. Then we reboarded and were on our way.

I don’t have too much to say about the flight itself. Before departure, I was asked what I wanted to eat for dinner. I’d already eaten in the lounge, so I said I wasn’t going to eat anything until after we crossed the Atlantic. A couple hours before landing, I ordered a bowl of their finest Rice Krispies and some fresh chocolate chip cookies.

Rice-Krispies-Etihad
Snap, Crackle, Pop

I will say that the entertainment system was top-notch – any in-flight entertainment that lets me watch the Golden Girls is ok by me.

Etihad-Golden-Girls
Thank you for being a friend!

The service was cordial but a little robotic. Despite the beautiful cabin, the seat was not great for sleeping. It was too firm for me, even though I generally like very firm beds.

There was a minor medical incident about 90 minutes into the flight, when a woman who looked about 14 or 15 months pregnant with octuplets was having trouble breathing. Flight attendants asked if there were any doctors aboard, and two of them volunteered to help. It looks like they gave her oxygen and she felt better. Good response on the part of the crew, and kudos to the doctors for offering assistance.

Upon arrival at Abu Dhabi, I was issued a voucher for my chauffeur service. When I went outside, there were no signs or other indications of exactly where the drivers were. A man (not wearing a uniform or name tag) came up to me, took my voucher, and started making phone calls on his cell phone. I was worried that this was some sort of scam in which I’d wind up missing a kidney, though he nodded (unconvincingly) when I asked if he was affiliated with Etihad’s chauffeur service.

Eventually I surmised that he was having trouble finding someone willing to take me all the way to my hotel in Dubai (I’d made the chauffeur reservation online and had specified my destination in the reservation, so I guess I wasn’t expecting this to throw them off). Finally, an Audi pulled up with a very nice driver who took me on the 70-minute trip to my hotel.

Ben and Tiffany both chose to stay at the lovely Park Hyatt Dubai. I wanted to stay near them, but didn’t relish the thought of the hard credit pull that would be required to take out a second mortgage, so I decided to stay in a budget hotel. I also get genuine pleasure out of saving money: frugality is as much a part of my Jewish heritage as are latkes and dreidels.

The Ibis Deira City Centre was actually great. It was clean, comfortable, and quiet. The location was also really nice, as it was across the street from a metro station and large shopping center. Ben gave me a really hard time some good-natured ribbing for staying at a budget hotel, but two nights for $120, including taxes, is hard for me to argue with.

Ibis-Dubai
Ibis Deira City Centre

After two nights in Dubai, the first class adventure began. Our first flight, at 6 in the morning, was on a Qatar Airways A320 to Doha. It was a short 1-hour journey, but the aircraft seemed to be new and the seats were beautiful and comfortable. They were angled to be facing slightly away from the aisle, which made them feel a little more private.

Qatar-Airways-A320-First-Class
Qatar Airways A320

On arrival in Doha, we parked at a remote stand (a remote stand at a brand-new airport!?) and were able to skip the considerable security lines thanks to the fast-track cards that were handed out to first class passengers. We went to the Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge, which I thought was the most aesthetically pleasing lounge I’ve ever seen. I told Ben, “This place is so beautiful, I now believe in God.” Without skipping a beat, he said, “Well, perfect. The prayer room is down this hallway.”

That’s when the trouble started. Upon learning that I’d never tasted Krug (generally my experience with champagne is that it tastes like bubbly urine), Ben ordered some for me in the lounge. It was delicious. After two glasses, I had trouble walking in a straight line (yes, I’m a lightweight). I honestly have no memory of going from the lounge to the gate, but somehow I found myself aboard Qatar’s A380 bound for London.

Upon boarding, I was struck by how beautiful the cabin was. The light color scheme made everything feel spacious, almost like we were floating on a cloud. The boarding music consisted of nature sounds – primarily birds chirping. I kept checking my clothes to make sure one of them hadn’t used my shirt as a bathroom.

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class
Qatar Airways A380

The seats were ideally suited for both sitting and sleeping. Everything was immaculate, and the lavatories were enormous. I couldn’t have been happier with the seats or the cabin. The onboard bar was great as well, with a very friendly bartender.

Ben ordered us up another couple rounds of Krug, after which my liver threatened to strike if it did not receive some sort of overtime pay. I went back to my seat and slept for much of the rest of the flight, barely glancing at the large selection of in-flight entertainment options.

To their credit, the cabin crew in first class was always smiling. However, they were not exactly brimming with personality, and did not provide any service above or beyond what I would expect in business class on any airline (even American ones). When I asked what kind of cereal they had, the purser responded, “the one with the chicken.” At first that sounded disgusting, and then I realized she meant Corn Flakes, because there’s a rooster on the box.

When we arrived in London, I was tired, hung over, and a little cranky. After a 15-minute bus ride and a 20-minute wait in security, we were ready to enjoy the warm hospitality of British Airways’ Concorde Room. Unfortunately, no such hospitality was available, so instead we settled for forlorn staff, worn furniture and a generally grim atmosphere.

When I asked if I could take a shower, I was given an incredulous look and told that the wait was 150 minutes. So I went to the restroom (whose décor was reminiscent of a Khrushchev-era Soviet prison) to change and brush my teeth.

Our next flight to LAX was on a British Airways A380. Ben had been telling me for weeks that this leg would likely be operated by a “mixed fleet” crew of relatively newly-hired, very attractive young flight attendants. So you can imagine my surprise when upon boarding I noticed one flight attendant who looked like Judi Dench and another who resembled Angela Lansbury.

Initially I just guessed that maybe Ben’s tastes were different than I’d originally thought, but then he told me this was clearly not a mixed fleet crew. He asked one of the flight attendants, who said that this route hasn’t been operated by a mixed fleet crew for a couple months.

The experienced crew provided the best service of this whole trip. They were professional, efficient, and genuinely friendly. The food was also pretty good. Upon hearing us talk about the pastries that usually come with tea service, one of the flight attendants went and got Ben and me each a brownie. (I made Ben give me his, since when it comes to sweets I have very little self control.)

BA-A380-Picture

Shortly after dinner, I fell asleep before I’d had a chance to request turndown service. I got up to use the lavatory shortly thereafter, and returned to find my seat had been made into a bed in my brief absence. That was really nice.

The seat itself was nice and comfortable, though it seemed to have some wasted space, particularly a shelf that could have made room for much more sleeping surface had it been movable or retractable. Due to the location of the first class cabin on this aircraft (on the lower level toward the front), the lavatories were much smaller than those on the Qatar A380’s upper deck. The entertainment system had lots of options, though it did not work for the last hour or so of the flight.

British-Airways-A380-First-Class
British Airways A380

After a quick overnight at a hotel, the three of us met in the Flagship Lounge at LAX a little before 5 a.m. We boarded one of American’s new transcontinental A321s for our flight to JFK. This newer flight had a beautiful and pristine cabin. The seat was great for lounging and sleeping, and the entertainment system was also very good good. The purser had a warm personality, as did the flight attendant who was assisting him.

After a couple hours at JFK, we boarded a 737-800 for the final (and probably least luxurious) leg of our journey together, bound for Austin. Even this flight was nice: it was a newer aircraft with new first class seats and the Boeing Sky Interior, and the food was fit for human consumption.

Ben and Tiffany were going back to the West Coast at the end of the trip, and I was going back to DC. Deciding how to get home from Austin was a bit of a challenge for me. Flights from Austin to DC seemed to be very expensive (about $250), while flights out of Dallas were only about $100.

So, without consulting the two travel experts I was traveling with, I chose perhaps the most awful itinerary imaginable: I took a Megabus from Austin to Dallas. It was scheduled to leave at 10:05 pm and arrive at 1:40 am. It cost only $2.75, and since I was in a generous mood, I decided to splurge for the extra $1.00 fee to reserve a specific seat. Then, I booked a 5:15 am flight out of DFW.

This all seemed great in theory. I figured I’d sleep on the bus. Here’s how it actually went down:

I waited in a very dark, sketchy parking lot for my Megabus to arrive. It was an hour late. Around 11:15, we were finally underway. The seats were about as comfortable as those on a regional airliner, with slightly more leg room. The driver made an announcement welcoming us aboard, and warned us several times not to use profanity, lest we wanted to be kicked off the bus. She also asked people not to have long conversations on cell phones, since passengers were trying to sleep.

Megabus-Parking-Lot
Megabus Parking Lot of Sadness

Megabus-Line
My chariot awaits!

One woman near me did not hear this announcement, as she was having a profanity-laden phone conversation with a recently-released prison inmate. The conversation lasted for practically the duration of the trip, and covered a wide range of interesting topics. I may not have slept, but I sure learned a lot.

The bus stop in Dallas was a 20-minute drive from the airport. To my amazement, even though it was 3 in the morning, a Lyft driver was only a few minutes away. He dropped me off at the airport, where I had to wait before security until 4:30, which is when the checkpoint opened. At this point, I didn’t even care, as I’d lost all hope of ever feeling happiness again. I spent the duration of my flights back to DC sleeping, and then slept for 13 hours the following evening.

Lesson learned: even if it only costs $3.75 to take the bus, it may not be a great idea. On the plus side, though, I saved some money and I learned about the difficulties a recent ex-con was facing in during his transition into society.

This trip juxtaposed the luxurious with the not-so-luxurious. The bus ride at the end was a grim reminder of how travel used to be for me before I learned how to better leverage miles and points. Now I realize that the best thing that came out of my Megabus journey was the 8 Chase Ultimate Rewards points I earned for buying the ticket.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. Bravo! It’s not often I literally laugh out loud reading an article but this hit the spot – and thank you for sharing the wonders of the Parking Lot of Sadness 😉

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed–thanks for sharing.
    You got a genuine lol out of me regarding those 8 Ultimate Rewards points. Don’t spend em all in one place!

  3. As a fellow cheapskate, your hotel and bus choices seemed perfectly reasonable to me: despite the inevitable outcome with the bus.

    Love the self-depreciating humour. Great post!

  4. Thanks to your Judi Dench line, I now got coffee splattered all over my desk, monitors and wall. And thanks very much for reviewing a not-so-luxurious-but-still-great hotel on this blog 🙂

  5. Interesting! I had a navigation system issue while flying a KLM 787 yesterday too… At least we didn’t have to be offloaded, but they did turn off and turn on the plane too 😀

  6. Stereotypes are OK if made by people that get angry that stereotypes are made about them. Anybody else making them is cause for drama. Examples of hypocrites abound in life and politics.

  7. Loved the review, however, you left one big question unanswered; what was your total mileage haul off this $1,700 fare?

  8. Great report, Lucky should regularly use his multimillion miles savings to send you flying and write TRs back.

  9. I couldn’t help but L’ing very much OL – one of the funniest reports I’ve read. I wonder how you plan to redeem the 8 points earned from the Megabus ticket? I’m also curious to find out what you learned from the ex-con.

    I’ve noticed OMAAT aren’t a fan of the Concorde Room. As a UK-based regular at LHR T5 it would be good to get some recommendations for improving it. After all, it’s supposed to be the haven through Heathrow’s “millionaire door”.

  10. Your article was definitely entertaining! I’ve stayed at the Ibis Deira a few times in the past when I used to fly EK a lot just to collect enough miles for EK F (before EK was a partner of AS) and found it perfectly sufficient.
    As for your EY flight, I had the same exact experience when I flew AUH-BNE two weeks ago. we were delayed by 1.5 hours as a result.

  11. Andrew B lived up to his reputation as someone with hilarious observations. Bonus points for including a selfie. (Or was that just a random cute passenger?) 😉

  12. This was really good.

    It’s only $3.75 to get to Dallas from Austin? I didn’t know what a MegasBus was.

    Definitely would stay at this hotel, $60 per night is a steal.

  13. “It’s not very confidence-inspiring that the solution for troubleshooting one of the most sophisticated machines in the world is the same as for the $59 Lexmark printer I got at Best Buy.”

    That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read on this site. Actually, the entire trip report was brilliant – and a breath of fresh air, since, regrettably, Lucky’s observations are sounding increasingly jaded; the inevitable result of his sacrificing a *Real Life* for a nonstop, stultifying merry-go-round of first class airplane cabins, departure lounges and hotels.

  14. Loved the cereal with the chicken! But Megabus wouldn’t have seemed nearly so bad if you hadn’t taken those first class flights right before, and you can’t beat $4.

  15. Haha, great report. Tough to go from int. first class to the bus.
    I always try to put the “economy” part of the travel to the beginning of the journey and the comfortable part to the end.
    The situation where you have to explain this trip to your friends..haha…I think many people hear can relate to this.
    I would have also stayed at the IBIS 😉

  16. MORE ANDREW! What a great contributor! Witty & dry; a unique voice and great addition to OMAAT! (and thanks for including a photo to put the face behind the voice).

  17. Great article. Very entertaining! Thank you Tiffany and Ben for sharing new voices! I would love to take a trip with you both.

  18. Did you consider just getting off at JFK and taking the train/plane/bus down to DC from there (or did you not want to risk forfeiting miles for doing a hidden-city ticket)?

  19. Hilarious. And the shitty Megabus journeys keep you grounded so you can appreciate the A380 F rides. It’s all worth it in the end.

    More posts from Andrew!

  20. As someone who usee to happily take a combination of the train, bus and oneway rental cars in order to keep trip costs down, I appreciate this trip report for reminding me how I used to travel. Sadly, now the only bus that Mrs. Stannis will tolerate is a shuttle bus.

  21. Andrew’s original post wins my rarely given Best Post of the Week prize. Well done, indeed.

    Short shrift for the short hospitality at the Concorde Room — clever match of style and substance. Nice anti-review review of the food, too, in the form of the cereal picture. Also, very funny double somersault dismount at the end, the ex-con and then the points.

    If you really look at this thing, there’s a lot going on on several levels all at once.

    So, again, well done.

  22. Well done, Ben. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Krug and Megabus mentioned in that same post ever.

  23. Far better post than the crap Ford puts up.

    Also, why spend $1700 on a flight that you basically just slept through and was hung over through? Seems like a big waste to me – I like how you try and convince yourself it’s work the money at the start of the post though. You could have just used that money on a nice hotel room for three nights if you wanted to spend three days from home that badly

  24. @Tommy Trash: Good question. It actually took FOREVER for the Qatar segments to post to my AA account, so I couldn’t calculate my mileage total until a few weeks ago, even though I took this trip back in October. I think I earned about 43,649 miles, including my flights back from Dallas to DC. It also includes a 12,500-mile bonus for a promotion AA had for flying transatlantic in a premium cabin, as well as bonus miles for AA Gold status.

    @James: Not sure what I’ll do with the 8 Ultimate Rewards points! Maybe they’ll make Megabus a transfer partner and I can redeem for more bus tickets. 😉 The phone convo with the ex-con was actually a little sad, and I would’ve been more emotionally affected by the whole thing if I wasn’t trying to get some sleep. I think the thrust of what I learned was, stay in school and say no to drugs.

    @Ever: Megabus fares increase depending on how full the bus is, but tickets are as low as $1 one-way! One time I went round trip from DC to NYC over Thanksgiving weekend for $11. (By the way, don’t ever do that.)

    @eliteflyer: I really wanted to qualify for Executive Platinum this year, and so I needed to fly those segments from JFK-AUS and DFW-CLT-DCA. I barely qualified.

    @ Everyone else: Thanks for the awesome comments. You all made my day.

  25. I loved it. Reminded me of 25 year old me who took the bus from Amherst, MA to Austin, TX three days after getting to the US for the first time (because who wouldn’t ride the bus ~42 hours each way to see my brother for a couple of days :). On the plus side, I saw a ton of the country go past my windows and some interesting coversations.

  26. “I learned about the difficulties a recent ex-con was facing in during his transition into society.”

    Yes, ex-cons have a lot of trouble transiting into the new United crew.

  27. Can we all just step back from a minute and appreciate how gorgeous Andrew’s hands are?! Those are some well manicured digits too.

  28. The Ibis, huh?? You should at least get some Accor points for that, since everyone and their dog is an Accor Platinum elite 🙂

  29. Andrew, This is great stuff! You definitely have comedic chops. I was laughing out loud. I have taken Megabus tons of times on the DC-NYC route, as well as Vamoose, Bolt, Greyhound. You name it. They build character. 😉 Your trip sounds exhausting, exhilarating and expensive all at once. More posts, please.

  30. I don`t how I can read Lucky`s reviews again. This guy is much better. “Jon Stewart” of the milage run.

  31. Judi Dench and Angela Lansbury serving in first! Too funny. I’m now imagining Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith pushing a cart through economy.

    Great writing, Andrew. Very entertaining.

    @Al

    I, too, zoomed in on Andrew’s gorgeous hands.

  32. OMG – Loved reading this hilarious report, literally laughing out loud! Andrew, next time start with Megabus, don’t end a trip with it.

  33. We had tears rolling down our cheeks! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    BTW, what is a nice Jewish boy doing in Dubai?

  34. @Andrew B: Got a few weird looks at work for giggling to myself while reading this. We need some more second hand trip reports from you!

  35. I laughed out loud about the great conversation you got to hear on the bus. I also recognized many of my own travel choices to minimize expenses and get really creative, such as your choice to take the Megabus in the middle of the night.

    Speaking of which, actually my experiences with Megabus have been almost entirely very positive — much cleaner and more pleasant buses than Greyhound and usually on time.

  36. Andrew! Andrew! Andrew!

    I really wish you got the luck of reversed itinerary i.e. started with megabus and finished the chequered flag in Qatar first class. If only!

    By the time you finished the bus ride, you must be hating your life, the whole world, maybe even stopped believing in God.

    If you do not already have a career in comedy writing, I’d seriously urged you to consider. Really enjoy every bit in your article, man.

    Ben, instead of enjoying Judi Dench and Angela Lansbury (

  37. Great job Andrew!

    Looks like readers here know if the work is a gem or not easily.

    Keep it up, hope to have more reviews from you!

  38. Awesome post, Andrew! Good thing I can (barely) keep my laughter from trolling the office. You better go on trips and be a regular at OMAAT!

  39. I almost pee on my bed reading this article. I certainly woke up my husband who was sleeping beside me with my laughing. Thanks for the awesome reading!

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