About Nick

Nick brings the perspective of the infrequent but savvy traveler who finds that getting there is actually less than half the fun, but you might as well fly business class on the way and get a good night's sleep. Despite a relatively sparse portfolio of flown miles and hotel stays per year that would never otherwise qualify for status, Nick manages to leverage credit cards, promotions and points to secure elite status and increase his chances for that sought-after upgrade.

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Is Delta The Best Brand In The Airline Industry?

Delta-SkyClub-San-Francisco - 7

Though generally I think Ben and Tiffany are in the tank for American Airlines, even they begrudgingly acknowledge that Delta is doing a lot of things right. Delta may have an inferior frequent flyer program from a consumer perspective, but — as I’ve argued on this blog before — it’s a superior airline in nearly every other respect.

It’s hard to empirically argue this, but to me Delta has a certain style and sleekness that American and United lack. Ben makes fun of me day and night for that argument (“What do you need style for? Can style get you two tickets in Cathay Pacific first class?”), but I legitimately feel that Delta nails it with providing as stylish an experience as you can get on a domestic air carrier. I’ve finally gotten Ben to admit that SkyClubs are legit better than Admirals Clubs, United Clubs or Board Rooms.

Sure, it’s marketing. But it’s terrific marketing.

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Review: Delta One 767 Tokyo Haneda to Los Angeles

Delta One 767 seat 4A

Since we had plenty of time to kill before our 12:30am flight, we took an “Airport Limousine” bus from the Park Hyatt to Haneda Airport leaving at 9:20pm, which was very reasonably priced at about $10 per person. It was a 25 minute drive to the airport through a just-opened tunneled expressway, which apparently is the second-longest road tunnel in the world.

Haneda’s International Terminal is huge, and seems brand spanking new (it was constructed in 2010). There are two beautiful shopping and dining areas pre-security — Edo Village, which is a meticulously constructed — and physically attractive — Japanese village of sorts containing shops and restaurants, and Tokyo Pop Town one level up, which celebrates the weirder, more design-forward aspects of Japanese culture. However, most of the pre-security shops close before 10pm, which isn’t much use for a 12:30am flight. (Post security shops and restaurants, of which there are plenty, are open quite late.)

Boarding proceeded quickly and rather quietly, and I took my seat, 4A, which was a window seat with the seat itself closer to the aisle and the console located between the window and the seat.

I actually much preferred this seat, which had more storage nooks by virtue of the console placement and thus a convenient place to, e.g., store shoes, as well as extra magazines (or other items) in a second pouch.

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Review: Park Hyatt Tokyo

Park Hyatt Tokyo entrance lobby

The Park Hyatt Tokyo is the most luxurious hotel of 1994. It hasn’t changed much since then.

There’s no denying that the 2003 Sofia Coppola film “Lost in Translation,” which is filmed largely, and lovingly, at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, made the hotel a star in its own right.

Indeed, the Park Hyatt Tokyo is legendary, and is considered one of the jewels in the crown of the Park Hyatt chain, one of just seven Hyatts worldwide to be a Category 7 in the Gold Passport program.

With room rates regularly above $650, the Park Hyatt Tokyo is indeed aspirational, and it’s a coveted redemption for those using their two Hyatt Chase Visa free nights, or otherwise using 30,000 Gold Passport points a night.

Needless to say, I was very excited to check it out, and my friend was excited to use his two free Hyatt credit card nights at the Park Hyatt.

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Review: Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills

Andaz AO Spa entryway

We took a taxi from Haneda Airport and, at 11:15pm on a Saturday night, it was a quick albeit expensive (with tolls, nearly $60) ride to the Andaz Tokyo, which is in a new shopping and office complex called Toranomon Hills.

The hotel is accessed through a porte-cochere and then an elevator ride to the 51st floor, where the lobby and the hotel’s main restaurant, Andaz Tavern, are located. Given that it was so late, the restaurant and its bar were closed and the lobby was quiet. There was a small check in area off the lobby where a host issued us keys very quickly. It appears that had we arrived during the day or evening, we’d have been offered a drink during check-in, though we were fairly tired and eager to get to our room anyway.

The lobby is near the top of Toranomon Hills tower, and the rooms are located in the floors below the lobby. Our room was on the 48th floor, and the host took us down and led us to the room.

The aesthetics of the hotel were immediately evident: it is, not to overstate things, exquisite. The elevator itself was stunning, even.

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Review: Delta One 767 Los Angeles To Tokyo Haneda

Seat 3A

Ben just recently reviewed Delta’s international 767 Delta One service on his London trip report, and I recently reviewed Delta One on the transcontinental 767, but I’d actually never flown Delta’s business class internationally before, so this was a bit exciting for me, even if it was still on a 767-300, which is one of Delta’s least exciting products.

Once again, I entered LAX through the Delta ONE Lounge at LAX, which is a generally nice (if somewhat meaningless) experience and has been reviewed recently both by Ben and by me, as has the Delta SkyClub, where I also spent time before boarding. Generally, my experiences with both the Lounge and the SkyClub were on par with expectations, which is to say very agreeable, though of course the SkyClub isn’t comparable to the nicer business class lounges in the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Although Delta’s flight to Haneda Airport is not its flagship route to Tokyo from Los Angeles (that honor goes to the Narita flight, where Delta operates a regional hub), and its timing is considered somewhat strange for an Asia-bound flight, it’s hard to beat the convenience of Haneda Airport (which is a twenty minute taxi ride or a train ride from central Tokyo — and indeed, is officially Tokyo International Airport) as opposed to Narita, which is extremely far from the city.

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An MQM Run To Tokyo: Introduction

Andaz Twin view during the day

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m aiming to hit Diamond Medallion status on Delta this year, and needed about ~10,000 flown MQMs in order to qualify for Diamond Medallion status (since I expect to get another 15,000 MQMs from my Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express). So when a (Diamond Medallion) friend pitched a four-day weekend in Tokyo and offered up two of his Global Upgrade certificates to me for the trip, I couldn’t pass it up — especially because I’d never been to Tokyo before and it was on my “bucket list.”

Booking the airlines tickets was actually fairly easy. Economy airfares from Los Angeles to Tokyo were around ~$850 on Delta, and we both called the Diamond line together to inquire about flight availability where we could instantly confirm our upgrades. As it turns out, we could confirm two business class seats on the outbound and return on our preferred dates, but only on the LAX to Haneda Airport route, on which Delta flies its 767-300, as opposed to the more popular route to Narita, on which Delta flies its 777 (with herringbone seats in Delta One).

My friend had two unredeemed free night certificates from signing up for the Chase Hyatt Visa, so we decided that for two of the nights in Tokyo we would stay at the fabled Park Hyatt Tokyo, which is a Category 7 Hyatt and one of its most exclusive properties. The other two nights, I decided to use a combination of cash and points (12,500 points plus $150 per night) to try out the brand-new Andaz Tokyo, which is a Category 6.

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Is This The Strangest Flight Schedule You’ve Seen?

United-UA-tails-2

Those of you familiar with transcontinental travel in North America are generally well aware that there’s really no ideal option for traveling from West to East.

There are essentially four schools of thought on flying West to East:

— I generally prefer to leave early in the morning, which usually means I’m deprived of sleep the night before, but at least arrive at my destination in the mid-afternoon. Most of the major airlines have a flight in the 6:00am hour leaving the West Coast, arriving to the East Coast before 3pm. You don’t get the whole day at your destination, but you at least get the late afternoon and you’re there in plenty of time to get ready for dinner, an evening out, etc.
— The bulk of West-to-East flights tend to leave mid-morning or so, arriving after 5pm East Coast time and often quite a bit later. I prefer these flights less because, while I’m getting a better sleep the night before, I’m essentially “missing” an entire day on the plane, and not even making it to my destination in time for a dinner reservation.

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When Flying While Transgender Becomes Problematic

Orlando International Airport

Flyer Shadi Petosky, who is transgender, was trying to fly from Orlando to Minneapolis yesterday afternoon but was detained at security by the TSA, who Shadi claims told her that they were holding her because of a body-related “anomaly.” Which is to say, that the TSA felt that a woman presenting as a woman but possessing a male body part was suspicious.

The whole debacle has been chronicled on Shadi’s Twitter account, among other sources, but it appears, per Vox, that:

— Shadi was trying to get to her American Airlines flight from Orlando to Minneapolis (presumably connecting somewhere in between)
— TSA detained her for a body-related “anomaly” and instructed her to go back through the machine “as a man”
— TSA then ordered her to stop using her phone to take photos, videos and live-Tweet
— 40 minutes later, Shadi was out of the security area but had missed her flight

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United, Alaska Planes Fall Down Go Boom At LAX

Oops! Road Sign with Dramatic Blue Sky.

It’s well-documented that Ben has a bit of a concern about “things that go bump in the night” in his hotel rooms. To the list of “things that go bump in the night,” we can now add… a United 757 and an Alaska Airlines 737.

As LAist reports, shortly before 8 p.m. last night, as United flight 1199 from Newark to Los Angeles was paused while taxiing to its gate in Terminal 7, Alaska flight 543 pushed back from its gate and directly into the path of the 757’s wingspan.

The wings of the two planes clipped, and passengers on each plane report hearing and feeling an enormous jolt, as would be expected. Evidently, the planes were “stuck together” for a short time, in what must be just the most awkward moment. Luckily, there were no injuries, and passengers were unloaded from each of the planes.

It seems the airplanes themselves suffered some injuries, however, with damage to the right stabilizer of the United plane and the left winglet of the Alaska 737.

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When We Say “Act Fast,” We Mean It…

Prague-drain-cover

Earlier this morning Ben posted about some amazing ~$1,800 business class airfares from the West Coast to Europe on oneworld carriers. Although Ben only has eyes for oneworld, in fact SkyTeam (and Virgin Atlantic) were actually offering similar — even cheaper! — fares to Europe from West Coast cities. (I try to tell him SkyTeam exists, I really do…)

Within minutes of his posting, the deal was gone. Donezo. I was actually just about to reserve a ticket on airfrance.com when the price changed on me all at once. And then like sands through my fingers, all of the fares disappeared. You could hear a collective deflated sigh on Flyertalk, I’m sure.

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Review: Delta One 767 New York JFK to Los Angeles

Delta One first course JFK-LAX

Given that I’d done some shopping in New York and my bags were substantially heavier than they were leaving Los Angeles, and given that I had to drop off my friend’s apartment keys at a location a few blocks away from where I was staying, I decided to ignore my own advice about the A train to the AirTrain to JFK, and so I instead took an Uber to the airport — which I figured would be easy enough on a Sunday afternoon.

As it turns out, of course, the Van Wyck Expressway is probably possessed by evil spirits, because it’s always congested, and Uber’s navigation system had my driver exit in Queens and drive on surface streets partway there, so in fact while I gave myself an hour to get to the airport, I used just about every minute of it.

I’ve mentioned before that Delta’s JFK Terminal 4 is gigantic, and indeed even though I was TSA PreCheck and I rushed from curbside to my gate, I still got to the gate well in the middle of boarding (I know people have their opinions about this, but I like to be among the first to board so I can settle in my seat).

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Getting Around New York… In 2015

AirTrain JFK

Once upon a time not too long ago, there were only a few ways to navigate around New York as a tourist:

— The subway (and bus system)
— Taxicabs
— Walking

What’s more, as recently as 11 years ago, your practical options getting to and from JFK Airport were really limited to taxis, since there was no possible way of getting to the terminals via train from the city. Since 2003, there’s now AirTrain, which connects JFK with the Jamaica and Howard Beach subway/train stations in Queens.

Though my past experiences in New York largely relied on the reliable subway/cab/walking paradigm, on this trip I ended up not only using AirTrain in conjunction with the subway to get from JFK to Manhattan, but also two much more recent game-changers for getting around the city: Uber and Citi Bike.

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Review: Delta One 767 Los Angeles to New York JFK

Delta One 767 cabin

Delta operates about eight nonstop flights each day out of Los Angeles to New York. Half of them are on its narrow-body 757s, which have been newly and specifically updated for Delta One transcontinental service, and the other half are on its widebody 767-300ERs, which are interchangeable with its international fleet.

With its 767s, Delta can advertise that every one of its business class seats between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco boast direct aisle access, which neither American nor United can claim.

At the same time, the 767 Delta One cabin is substantially larger than its 757 cabin, with 26 seats to the 757’s 16 seats.

I had arrived at the gate just in time for Delta One boarding, and in fact ended up being among the first in the cabin.

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Review: Delta ONE Lounge Los Angeles LAX

Delta1Seating

I went on a four-day jaunt to New York a couple of weeks ago, in part to visit friends and in part because, in my quest to qualify for Diamond Medallion status this year, I wanted to take advantage of relatively affordable roundtrip business class fares between Los Angeles and New York (under the $1,200 mark) which would net me a fair amount of Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) for my qualification bank.

I’d flown Delta One before between JFK and LAX on the 757, and in fact reviewed it here as part of a larger trip report. At the time, I was blown away by the hard and soft products that Delta offered on its signature transcontinental route.

This itinerary would be on a 767-300ER rather than on Delta’s transcon 757, so I was interested in comparing and contrasting the two products, since they are materially different. It would also let me enter the terminal through the Delta ONE Lounge at LAX in Terminal 5, which I’d seen before but hadn’t experienced as an incoming passenger.

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