Travel

Impressions Of Dhaka, Bangladesh

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We’re slowly headed back to the U.S. from our incredible trip to Bhutan, and on the way back planned a one night stopover in Dhaka, Bangladesh. That was my first time visiting Bangladesh, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

A (non-Bangladeshi) friend recently told me that Bangladesh is his favorite country in the world. Not the city of Dhaka as such, but the countryside.

Meanwhile I’ve had others tell me that Dhaka is a horrible place. So I was curious to find out for myself. We were only there for a day, so we arranged for a five hour city tour. That doesn’t make me an expert on the place, but that won’t stop me from sharing my first impressions.

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Why I Love Flying In The “Developing World”

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Even though I’ve flown over four million miles and have taken thousands of flights, I’m always still in awe by aviation. It’s a miracle to me. I don’t care what time of day it is or how tired I am, my eyes are always glued to the window during takeoff and landing.

Understandably people in the U.S. are largely unfazed by flying, given how commonplace it is. So many people choose to leave their window blinds closed for takeoff, landing, and beautiful sunrises and sunsets, which I view as such a lost opportunity.

And that brings me to the past two flights I’ve taken, which remind me of how special aviation still is in other parts of the world — and that’s refreshing.

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Brazil Eliminates Their Ban On Airline Fuel Surcharges

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Fuel surcharges, or “carrier imposed surcharges,” as they’re now commonly referred to, are one of the peskiest fees in the airline industry. Airlines introduces these surcharges when fuel prices were high, but didn’t get rid of them when fuel prices plummeted. If booking revenue tickets, there’s not really a huge impact on consumers, since most of the fare will simply be the fuel surcharge. These charges don’t cause airfare to go up (given how competitive the industry is), but change how the fare is distributed.

For example, take the below British Airways flight between New York and London, where the base fare is $152, and the fuel surcharges are $250:

The greatest impact of these surcharges is on award tickets, since many airlines pass on the carrier imposed surcharges when redeeming miles. So if you redeemed miles on the above British Airways flight you’d still have to pay all those fees, including the $250 fuel surcharge. The only thing you wouldn’t have to pay is the $152 base fare.

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Why Bhutan’s Insanely High Tourist Fee Is A Good Thing

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I’ve spent the past several days in Bhutan, and can’t begin to say how magical I find this country to be. From the friendly people to the clean air to the incredible natural beauty to the peaceful vibe, it’s a unique place. I don’t necessarily want to claim it’s my favorite place ever, though it’s one-of-a-kind for sure. I’ve never been anywhere like Bhutan.

When I first considered booking a trip to Bhutan, I had second thoughts:

— Bhutan is difficult to get to, as there are only a couple of airlines that fly there, they don’t belong to alliances, and tickets are quite expensive (a roundtrip flight from Kathmandu to Paro costs about ~$400 roundtrip, even though the flight is just 45 minutes in each direction)
— Bhutan has an insanely high tourist tax, or visitor fee, or whatever you’d like to refer to it as

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3500+ Flights Cancelled Due To Winter Storms

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As the projected severity of the winter storm in the Northeast increases, most domestic airlines in the US have either cancelled flights, or issued waivers for travel over the next few days.

A bit of snow (much less a blizzard) can cause systemwide disruptions, so if you’re scheduled to travel in the coming days you’ll want to take precautions.

Delays are starting to pile up, and many airlines have preemptively canceled flights for tomorrow. At the time of this writing there are over 3,000 canceled flights, and many delayed flights between today and tomorrow. A few examples of pre-emptive cancelations for Tuesday:

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I’d Like To Visit Mongolia (I Think)

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A lot of my travel decisions are driven by airlines and hotels. I realize that’s a different motivation than most have when it comes to deciding what trips to take, though it has served me pretty well over the years, and I’ve visited some cool places thanks to that approach.

While departing Incheon Airport last week, I saw a 767 with a livery I was at first unfamiliar with. After taking a picture and zooming in, I saw that it was a MIAT Mongolian 767-300.

While I’m familiar with Mongolia, I can’t say it has ever been anywhere close to the top of my list of places to visit. While taking a city tour in Astana, Kazakhstan a few months ago, my guide told me that it was the second coldest capital city in the world, after Ulaanbaatar. That’s probably the last reference I’ve heard to the place.

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Bhutan. Is. Amazing.

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We arrived in Bhutan yesterday, after spending three nights in Kathmandu. Typically I’d wait until I’ve been at a destination for a few days before sharing my initial thoughts, but Bhutan is unlike any place I’ve ever been. I’m actually sort of in disbelief, as I feel like I’m on a different planet.

Not only is the scenery in Bhutan incredible, but the people are even more amazing. For those of you not familiar with Bhutan, it’s a one-of-a-kind place. It’s supposedly the only carbon negative country in the world. They supposedly don’t kill any animals (though they import meat from other places, including India). Many say that Bhutanese people are the happiest in the world. Simply put, this is the most unspoiled country I’ve been to; I feel so at peace and relaxed.

Bhutan has a ton of temples and other sights, as you’d expect.

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My Experience Landing At One Of The Most “Dangerous” Airports In The World

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Yesterday I flew from Kathmandu, Nepal, to Paro, Bhutan, on Drukair. As an aviation geek I was especially excited about landing at Paro Airport, which is supposedly one of the most dangerous airports in the world to land at. I’m not sure if “dangerous” is really the right word, but perhaps more accurately it’s one of the most challenging airports to land at, which is why only very few pilots are certified to land there.

Here’s a recent segment that PBS did on the approach into Paro Airport (thanks to reader Dave for pointing this out), which does a good job of explaining what’s so challenging about it:

As you can see, only visual landings are possible, and you’re constantly having to adjust your heading on approach as you fly through valleys in order to make it to the runway.

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Drukair A319 Business Class In 10 Pictures

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Hello from Bhutan! Earlier I flew Drukair business class from Kathmandu to Paro. For those of you not familiar, Drukair is the national airline of Bhutan, and one of the only airlines to serve Bhutan.

Paro Airport is consistently rated as one of the most dangerous airports in the world, based on the approach planes have to make. As a result, there are very few pilots who are trained to land at the airport.

The flight from Kathmandu to Paro is only about 250 miles, so you’d think there wouldn’t be much to write about, but…

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Thoughts On My Visit To Kathmandu, Nepal

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I’ve just wrapped up a three day visit to Kathmandu, Nepal. Kathmandu has long been on the list of places I want to see. I’m happy to have finally been, even if it was structured as a stopover.

That’s because the real destination was Bhutan. So we flew Korean Air from San Francisco to Seoul to Kathmandu, and then Drukair from Kathmandu to Paro.

So, what did I make of our three days in Kathmandu? The city itself was insane, the sights were incredible, and the people were friendly. I’m happy to have seen Kathmandu, would recommend visiting, but don’t need to return anytime soon. At some point I’d love to explore other parts of Nepal, as the landscape is among the most stunning in the world, and there’s great trekking.

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Tips For Traveling To Jordan

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Before I get into our flights home, I wanted to take some time to go over travel tips for Jordan. I really loved our trip to Jordan, and it’s a destination I’ve received many questions about.

While it takes some planning, I think Jordan is a pretty approachable country, with warm and welcoming people, so hopefully having extra details are helpful to some of you.

Jordan is a small country, with a rich and varied cultural landscape, that I think sometimes encourages overly-aggressive schedules. We packed as much as we could into our seven-day trip, but having another 3-4 days would have allowed us to break up the driving a bit more, have some down time, or see any of the other dozens of things we missed, like the Desert Castles, Jerash, and the Dead Sea.

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Priority Pass Now Gets You Access To Minute Suites At PHL Airport

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I’ve written extensively about Priority Pass, which is the world’s largest network of independent airport lounges, with over 1,000 participating lounges around the world. Some of these are airline lounges, some are contract lounges, and lately they’re even expanding a bit beyond that.

For example, last year the executive lounge at the Sofitel London Heathrow Terminal 5 was added to the Priority Pass network. This means you could use the hotel’s club lounge during a long layover. Or in my case, I even used it when staying at the hotel, as they didn’t actually verify that I was flying the same day.

Then just about a month ago they added a restaurant at London Gatwick Airport to the network. As a Priority Pass member you get a 15GBP credit to spend on food and drinks. Since many Priority Pass memberships allow guesting privileges, you could extend that credit to anyone traveling with you.

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Korean Air 777 Business Class In 10 Pictures

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Hello from Kathmandu, Nepal! Yesterday I flew Korean Air’s 777-200 business class from Seoul Incheon to Kathmandu. While I’ll have a full trip report soon, I figured I’d share my initial impressions of the experience.

The first thing that makes this flight unique is that it’s operated by a three cabin 777-200, though Korean Air doesn’t sell first class on this route. But it gets weirder than that.

The plane has eight first class seats and 28 business class seats. So they sell the eight first class seats and first 14 business class seats as business class, and then the other business class seats are sold as economy.

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All The International First Class Products I Haven’t Flown

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In the past I did everything in my power to fly international first class as much as possible. That’s because historically the number of miles needed for first class was only marginally more than the number of miles needed for business class, so it represented a good deal.

However, over time we’ve seen airlines devalue award charts, and in many cases the sweet spots are shifting towards business class redemptions. So lately I’ve been making an effort to review as many new business class products as possible. It goes beyond business class being a better value, though. I’ve really found it enjoyable to try new airlines and products, because flying the same first class products over and over can only be so fun.

However, as I was working on a couple of posts ranking first class products, I started to think about which international first class products I haven’t yet flown.

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