I will be flying the longest commercial flight in the world (sort of).

One of the major themes of this blog, beyond the exploration of the natural rights, will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip my wife and I will take in summer 2013.  I will blog much more about this trip in coming posts.

One of the segments we will be flying (luckily, in business class on points) will be Sydney, Australia, to Dallas, Texas.  This is Qantas Airlines flight # QF7.  According to wikipedia, it clocks in at an astounding 8,578 miles and over 15 hours in flight time.

Currently there are two other longer flights, #1 Newark to Singapore (9,535 miles) and Los Angeles to Singapore (8,770).  However they will both be phased out by the end of 2013.  Thus after November 23, 2013, I can say I flew on the longest commercial flight in the world.

 

Currently the 3rd longest flight in the world, soon to be the longest

Currently the 3rd longest flight in the world, soon to be the longest

Aspirational Air Award – Real Life Experience #1

Over the course of this blog, I will note aspirational air award tickets I have booked for my friends and I.  Last night I was able to get an amazing business class award ticket to Dubai and Croatia for my friend Chad and his wife using US Airways miles.

Chad has earned his US Airways miles the hard way, mostly butt-in-seat miles.  However, he rents an AVIS car each week for work, and AVIS continues to give 3,000 US Air Miles per 3 day rental.  He now had at least 240,000 US Airways miles which are what is required for 2 business class to the Middle East region.

US Airways has some very bizarre award routing rules, that can work to your advantage.  However, many of their agents are not well versed in the rules, nor geography, so creative routings can ensue.  In general, US Airways rules for international partner tickets include:

  • You get one stopover and destination, or an open-jaw.  Not both.
  • The stopover has to be in a Star Alliance hub city, or a US Airways international destination (and if not a Star Alliance hub city, but a US Airways international destination, you are supposed to arrive to that city on US Airways)
  • You cannot have more than 8 segments (although sometimes folks are able to get one-off exceptions)

Chad’s award was for about 3.5 months from now, and availability, especially to Europe was not that good.  I used a combination of United Airlines website to search for each segment in a one-way award search and this tool.  I have no idea who has created the tool, but it works really well for Star Alliance awards.  They are an awesome programmer, that is all I can say.  It is important to search segment by segment for your preferred routing to piece together a workable award, especially when availability is tight.

Here is what we ended up with for Chad:

Charlotte – Munich – Zagreb – Split

  • Split as a stopover on the way to Dubai.  Split is a Croatia Airlines hub city, which is part of the star alliance.  The first agent I called at US Airways to book this insisted Zagreb was the only Croatia Airlines hub.  She even pulled out some list, I have never heard of before, of allowable stopover cities by partner carrier.  Thessaloniki Greece was even on this list as part of Aegean Airways.  But not Splut.  I politely hung up and called back, and the next agent I spoke with was fine with Split as a stopover city.
  • Lufthansa on Charlotte to Munich has a pretty solid business class, although some don’t like that the seats aren’t horizontal lay flat, and rather angled lay flat.  It is still a very solid product.
  • Munich to Split was availabile direct, but would have required a 9 hour layover in Munich.  Thus we did the connection in Zagreb so they could get there much sooner.  Interestingly enough, Croatia airlines offers business class on a turboprob.  That should be interesting!
  • 5 day layover in Split to stay at a Starwood hotel, like Le Meridien Split.  You can do buy 4 nights, get 1 free on points which is an excellent value.  Chad earned the 40,000 Starwood points required for this hotel buy signing up for the SPG Credit Card for he and his wife.  This hotel does not suck.

Split – Vienna

  • Vienna has a 23 hour, 30 minute layover.  This is a well kept secret.  All connections less than 24 hours on US Airways international award tickets don’t count as a stopover, allowing you to have a quick day and a night at a city to get a feel for it.  Going Split to Dubai didn’t have great availability for the last day of their stay in Split, but there was a really good Vienna to Dubai direct flight on Austrian Airways (with new, awesome business class) so a 23 hour layover on Vienna was on order.

Vienna – Dubai

  • Dubai as the destination.  6 nights in Dubai.  They will probably stat the Ritz-Carlton through Marriott points earned from Marriott stays and opening up the Marriott credit card for Chad and his wife.

Dubai – Washington – Detroit

  • Detroit as another 23 hour layover so Chad and his wife could see some family in Michigan.  A direct Washington to Charlotte was available, so this one was tricky for an agent to go along with since it was a boondoggle.  However, with some polite pushing, the agent was willing to see if the computer and supervisors would accept it.  And they did!
  • The Dubai – Washington is a 14 hour monster flight on United Airlines.  The day they reserved, was the only day Dubai to Washington was available for 2 business class seats in a 2 month period!  They got lucky here as this is an awesome 777 lay flat seat, with some seats even facing in reverse!

Detroit – Charlotte

  • After 23 hours in Detroit, a quick domestic first class flight home.

Overall, this is 7 segments, a stopover in Split, a Destination in Dubai, and 2 23 hour+ layovers in Detroit and Vienna to see family and explore.  A real value at 120,000 US Airways points each in business class and $119 in taxes and fees each. Almost 16,000 nautical miles flown! US Airways charges WAY less taxes and fees than most carriers.  If this ticket was booked on ANA or British Air for example, it would be $1,000+ per ticket, just in taxes and fees!

What a routing!

What a routing!

 

 

 

 

 

W Atlanta Buckhead – Awesome Platinum Breakfast Amenity and a Bad Customer Experience

I am currently on a two night stay at the W Atlanta Buckhead for work.  Stay tuned for some pictures and a brief room report.

I opted for the Platinum breakfast amenity at check-in which is usually just a continental breakfast.  They gave me a certificate to present at their restaurant, Cook Hall, for continental breakfast for two.  When I checked in with the hostess this morning, I asked to what I was entitled to with the breakfast certificate.  She said $38 in spend at the restaurant.  I was shocked.  I asked again when I was seated by the server, and he confirmed $19 per person (I was alone) in breakfast.  So I ordered off the menu the chicken sausage, and fresh fruit plate.  With fresh squeezed orange juice and hot tea the total came to $19 before tip.  I probably wouldn’t opt for Cook Hall on my own dime, but when free it was an excellent and refreshing breakfast.

The downside was the service.  It took almost 30 minutes to have my food prepared.  I wasn’t given a napkin when seated, and when I asked for one the person I asked of forgot to bring one.  I had a hard time flagging down a server to refill my water.  I went over to the Manager on Duty as I left, and expressed my disappointment.  He sincerely regretted the service, and explained to me there is a Porsche dealers conference going on right now and the kitchen and staff are much busier than usual cooking their catered breakfast.  He gave me his card and offered me a free meal for me and a companion in the future to make it up to me.  I thought this was very generous and will take him up on the offer soon.

Natural Right to Travel – From a Thought Leader

My first post on this blog was about the Natural Rights, and specifically the Natural Right to Travel.  This blog’s goal is to help enhance that right and share insights to help folks travel to places they never would have been able to afford otherwise.

Incidentally, one of the greatest thought leaders of our time, Judge Andrew Napolitano (former New Jersey Superior Court Judge and currently a FoxNews contributor) published an article yesterday on the natural right to travel.  Here is a link.

He brings up many of the points I shared in my first post.  However, he is a much more elegant writer.  I like this except (emphasis mine):

This view of the natural law is sweet to the heart and pleasing to the ear when politicians praise it at patriotic events, but it is also a bane to them when it restrains their exercise of the coercive powers of the government. Thus, since the freedom of speech, the development of personality, the right to worship or not to worship, the right to use technologically contemporary means for self-defense, the right to be left alone, and the right to own and use property all stem from our humanity, the government simply is without authority to regulate human behavior in these areas, no matter what powers it purports to give to itself and no matter what crises may occur. Among the rights in this category is the freedom of movement, which today is called the right to travel.

The right to travel is an individual personal human right, long recognized under the natural law as immune from governmental interference. Of course, governments have been interfering with this right for millennia. The Romans restricted the travel of Jews; Parliament restricted the travel of serfs; Congress restricted the travel of slaves; and starting in the late 19th century, the federal government has restricted the travel of non-Americans who want to come here and even the travel of those already here. All of these abominable restrictions of the right to travel are based not on any culpability of individuals, but rather on membership in the groups to which persons have belonged from birth

Along with travel, one of my other favorite natural rights it the right to be left alone.  If I am minding my business, no agent of government has a right to stop me, question me, detain me, or hinder my travels.  Any such act (roadblock, papers checkpoint, TSA) is a violation of my natural rights, and akin to a schoolyard bully picking on his conquests at the playground.

While we are stuck with the reality of government interference in our travel, we shall make the best of it. What are your thoughts on the natural rights, and the natural right to travel?

.