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Showing posts from 2015

What I learned doing the JetBlue Family Pooling

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(updated March 2017)

As I mentionedbefore, my husband and I both gave up on United and on chasing status with "the big 3" a couple years ago. Since he flies NYC-SFO a lot for work, he ended up settling into a pattern of flying JetBlue Mint since it's hands-down the best domestic Business Class and is often the cheapest (his employer requires him to fly on the lowest-priced flight within $100).



Since we both fly quite a bit, we decided to do take advantage of JetBlue's unique-in-the-US family point-pooling program. The big advantage of a Family Pool is that you can avoid the situation where, for example, two of you want to go somewhere and you need 30,000 miles each, but one of you has 45,000 miles and the other only has 15,000. (Most airlines won't let you transfer miles between accounts without a hefty fee).

Another big advantage of Family Pooling is that it's easier to redeem for a single ticket that includes multiple family members. During bad weather or …

New York City food

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Intro Lots of folks ask me for tips on food in my neighborhood and NYC in general so here's a few of my very Lower East Side-centric tips. There's tons of info online about the restaurant scene here – you don't need me to tell you that Per Se and Le Bernardin are great places to eat, but check out EaterNY or the Michelin Bib Gourmand list if you want to read up on some places for yourself.

A great watch on the plane ride here is The Sturgeon Queens – a documentary about the legendary Russ and Daughters appetizing shop. Lots of celebrity cameos including Ruth Bader Ginsberg!

FoodFood and drink in this neighborhood change very quickly. My favorite things right now are:
Raku on 6th Street in the East Village has fantastic Udon that's exactly like the stuff I ate in Japan. Cocoron is also great and they've got tons of cold noodle options, too.Tim Ho Wan has Michelin-starred dim sum and it's fantastic. Lines are shortest around 3 p.m. Mission Chinese's kung pao pas…

Korean Air First Class "Kosmo Suite 2.0"

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We flew First Class on Korean Airlines A380 from Seoul to New York City earlier this year (thanks largely to Chase Sapphire points) and loved it.

I noticed today that the already amazing seat is getting an upgrade - the Kosmo Suite 2.0 will have fully-closing doors that are apparently see-through only from inside the suite. It also looks like they raised the height of the partition for even more privacy. The partitions can be raised and lowered and yes, I had a lot of fun playing peek-a-boo / Bye Felicia! with Kelly during the trip :)


We have the big Japan trip coming up next spring, but we're doing ANA and JAL for that trip so we won't be able to check this out anytime soon.

Alaska - Iceland Air partnership is back!

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Alaska Airlines ended their partnership with Iceland Air a couple of years ago with little notice or fanfare. I've been to Iceland twice now, and took advantage of this partnership both times to credit my Iceland Air flight to my Alaska account.

I'm really glad to see it's back - it's a great option for affordable Business Class flights to the continent. They have 40" recliner seats, similar to most US carriers' domestic Business Class, but the food, drink, and service are better, plus it comes with access to their awesome First Class arrivals and departures lounge in Reykjavik as well as the BA Galleries lounge at JFK. They have an interesting setup where you land in Reykjavik from the US in the morning and you can then continue on to the continent immediately, or you can go into town or into the famous Blue Lagoon Spa for the day, and then continue on your way in the evening. I've done this before and I swear it's the reason I basically had zero jet …

$10 Amex statement credit at select NYC restaurants

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American Express is doing a promo in September where you get $10 if you spend $50 at a bunch of NYC Restaurants. Normally I wouldn't post about this type of thing but I searched my home address and nearly every single restaurant in the Lower East Side is there so it seemed like an easy $10...

Details are here. You have to register your card for the promo.




British Airways keeping their 747s

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British Airways has been irritating me as of late... Criminally-high fuel surcharges, worthless Travel Together certificates, slow and clunky website, and yet-another massive point devaluation all led me to get rid of my BA credit card this year.

That said, I still think my favorite place to fly is on the upper deck of a 747 and British Airways flies a bunch of them on the NYC – London routes. I've been in First and Business Class on various A380s, and I've also flown the polar opposite: BA's tiny all-Business Class A318. Still, for me, nothing can quite match the 747's and its double-whammy of "Glamour of my childhood" meets "Secret clubhouse in the attic".

I was happy to read this report that says BA will likely remodel their newer 747s (with 86 Business Class seats! a net increase of 16!) and keep them for another decade. Low fuel prices have to be part of their math on this... For most of the 2000s the trend has been to replace the bigger, 4-eng…

British Airways launching 787 service between San Jose and London

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As a former San Franciscan, I'm quite used to checking those two little "SFO" and "OAK" boxes in Kayak when searching for flights. Given that San Jose's airport 60 miles away with no decent transit link and a taxi/Uber/Super shuttle are all over $100 and have to grind thru crushing 101 traffic, it's almost never worth it to even look at flights from the ole' SJC.

But British Airways just announced that they're putting a brand-new 787-900 on the SJC - London Heathrow route starting 4 May 2016. Tickets just went on sale yesterday. The 787-9 is larger than the 787-8 and they're going to put 4-class service into this bird: 8 First Class seats, 42 Business, 39 Economy Plus, and 127 Economy.

SJC 8pm > LHR 2pm
LHR 3:15pm > SJC 6pm
All new plane smell geekery aside, I love the 787's quiet interior, higher cabin pressure, and higher humidity – food tastes better and you arrive feeling less fatigued from the dry air and droning engine noise.…

Ugh. Amtrak moving to a revenue-based redemption model

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Lucky points out today that Amtrak is moving to a revenue-based model for its points program. He's also reporting that they may leave as a Chase Sapphire transfer partner. Though I suppose if they do the former, I would never need to do the latter...

Like most of these programs (Virgin, JetBlue) the points will very likely end up being worth 1.3 - 1.8¢ each, far below some of the better rates you can get now. On Acela express, I've routinely redeemed in the 3 - 4¢ per point range, which is better than most domestic airline redemption rates. As Lucky points out, there are even better redemptions available on long distance sleeper cars.

I guess the one positive is that they'll hopefully get rid of those pesky blackout dates.

UPDATE: more info from Amtrak here. Analysis here.


Planning for Japan mega-trip

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We've been planning a big 3 month visit to Japan for a while now and even though it's 9 months away, it's time to start shopping for flights. If you want to fly on points you tend to have the best luck if you plan really far in advance or if you're super flexible and travel last-minute.

UPDATE! 6/2016 Trip Reports:
ANA First to NaritaJAL Business to JFK
We like to fly together on the same ticket so we're processed together if something goes wrong (e.g., mechanical or weather delay), but looking at our various mileage accounts, we're in the same boat as last time we went to Japan – we don't have enough points in one single account to book two round-trips. This means we'll likely end up doing two one-ways to Japan on one airline and two one-ways back on another. Furthermore, given that buying a one-way ticket to/from Asia with money usually costs as much or more than a round-trip does, we have to successfully book both legs of the trip with miles or it'…

Great news! JetBlue Mint is coming to Boston! Expanded JFK service!

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United recently announced that it was moving all of its PS (Premium Service) lie-flat First Class service to Newark. Seemingly in response to that news, today JetBlue announced that they would add several additional flights between JFK and LAX/SFO. I'm a big fan of Mint (my reviews here, and here) and I'm happy that expanded service means more flight times and more chances to snag the $599 seats. 
The other big news is that they've announced Mint service between Boston and SFO/LAX! Delta used to have their premium service planes on this and the JFK-SEA runs but both services have been discontinued. Hopefully they'll do $499 promo flights for the launch like they did with LA. Boston is a much smaller market than NYC but hopefully they can make it successful and spread it to other destinations (I'd love Mint on the JFK-SEA run!).

More information here.

Boracay planning!

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Good friends are getting married in Boracay December of 2016 and a bunch of us will be heading there from both coasts of the US. I use my blog as a notebook to keep track of the stuff I've learned while I'm looking for a good fare. This is what I've learned so far. Please email me or leave a comment if you have anything to add or have any questions. I'll keep adding and revising stuff as I find it.  (updated 29 Sept 2016) IntroHere's the Wikipedia entry for Boracay for openers. Wikitravel guide is here.Looking at their airport situation, there are two: KLO airport (90 minutes by car from Boracay ferries, several international flight options) and MPH (right next to the ferry, but only has flights to Manila and Cebu).Several of my frequent flier friends who've done this say that unless you want to spend some time sightseeing in Manila, arriving to KLO from another country is the way to go. Here are all the direct flights into KLO (keep in mind not all of these a…

some personal packing tips...

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I don't travel as much as some people, but often enough that I've definitely got my packing down to a planned routine. I keep a master packing checklist on my iPhone so I can run through it to make sure I don't forget anything. At the top of the list are things I need to do more than one day out ("do laundry!"), and as I reach the bottom, it's things like "wallet, keys, phone" that I'll grab right as I'm leaving.

My list isn't just about what to put in my bag, it's also life reminders for being gone (e.g., who's picking up the mail?, water the plants, take out the trash, clean out the fridge, put a good movie onto your phone, etc).


There are tons of great resources for packing out on the net, but here's a few of my own packing tips:

First off: Netflix now lets you download shows for offline viewing, so queue up some plane watching while you pack! Maybe also install Duolingo.

If you have to check a bag, only put clothes in th…

United leaving JFK, moves PS service to Newark!

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According to this link, United is leaving JFK in a slot-swap with Delta. While most of their operations are already at Newark, they've kept their signature Premium Service between SFO/LAX and JFK. I'm somewhat surprised because I figured they must be getting a good deal of people taking the West Coast – JFK flights solely for connecting to the huge number of international destinations available at JFK. Apparently not.

I'm not a huge fan of Newark Airport (more on why here), so this will make it even less likely that I'll fly United PS again. On the bright side, it's probably way more convenient for making domestic connections, but Virgin has SFO/LAX flights to both EWR and JFK and supposedly both routes are profitable. Hm.

Luckily JetBlue Mint, American Airlines Flagship, and Delta BusinessElite One all still offer lie-flat service between the two coasts, and Virgin America offers a 60" recliner that puts the rest of the transcon 38" seats to shame.

UPDATE…

And then Mosaic happened...

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As I said in the post yesterday, status is best earned when someone else is paying. Well, my hubby's most-recent work flight on JetBlue Mint posted this morning and he crossed the threshold into JetBlue "Mosaic" elite status. While he's United gold until Feb 2016, he left them for JetBlue at the start of 2015 (more information on why he left United here). The other big development driving his move is that his company changed their rules and started paying for Business Class for transcontinental red-eye flights. Since policy also requires him to pick a flight within $100 of the lowest fare offered, Mint is almost always going to be his only choice.
JetBlue's loyalty program is entirely revenue-based, so you earn status based mostly on how much you spend. Likewise you redeem points for a fixed amount of money (≈1.4¢ each). The Mosaic benefits are covered here, but I think the most exciting one is that you immediately get 15,000 bonus points (a $210 value) when you…

Spontaneously Seattle

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Our schedules have been crazy lately and we've been trying to save up vacation days for an epic 3-month Japan trip next year so we've not been doing much on the leisure travel front. Right on schedule (i.e., May), the summer Business Class fares to Europe happened and sadly we just couldn't make it happen this year.

We weren't going to have an entire summer with no vacation, though, so when we found out that the Monday after July 4th is a work holiday, we decided to do a 5 day weekend trip. It's been a while since we'd been to Seattle so we decided to head over there to see old friends and family and to be someplace with relatively mild weather.

I hopped on to Google flights to start pricing out the trip (sidenote: I usually use Kayak.com for this but I'm really liking how quickly you can look at different fares on Google flights... There's a great tutorial about it over on Lucky's site).


I was already fairly familiar with the available options (Jet…

Air vents!

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Obviously this isn't an expansive list, but I'm trying to keep a record for myself of which flights have personal air vents. While there are lots of cool new tools to track the various in-flight amenities, none of them that I've found track this. I have many friends who work in the industry and I realize that these vents (nicknamed "gaspers") actually impede well-engineered cabin airflow, none of the marvels of my friends' airflow engineering will help me when the cabin crew sets the thermostat to 28C. Some more background info here.




In general, narrow-body us dometic planes all seem to have them. I only just started keeping track, but here's my list so far. Feel free to add your own!

Cathay 777-300ER  no
AA     777       yep
AC     777       yep
B6 A321*     yep (mint)
KL A380*     no
ANA    777*       no
UNITED 777-200   yep
SK     A330       no
SK     A340       no
DL     A330      yep