Happy New Year 2016!

Happy New Year my fellow travel addicts!

2015 was a great year of travel for me and I have so many great adventures to look back on! I got to try many new airline products and added several new destinations to my travel journal. New countries this year for me included Hong Kong, Macau, (if you want to be technical, special regions of China) Taiwan, Monaco, Japan, and Indonesia. Some of this journey was solo for work, some of it with friends and family.

Airline firsts for me in 2016 included Air France, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Virgin America. I racked up 134,825 miles in 2015!

jet it up 2015 blopez
I covered a lot of airspace in 2015!

I am still planning to be AAdvantage and OneWorld loyal in 2016. While we saw lots of disappointing changes to American’s AAdvantage program in the last few months, I’m still content with American especially with their continued fleet renewal and pure convenience being based in Dallas.

2016 is already looking exciting with a few new destinations already on the agenda with Maui, Hawaii; Park City, Utah; and Budapest, Hungary to start! I’m also looking forward to my first British Airways flight and my first time back in Utah in over 10 years! If 2016 is half as fun as 2015, I have a lot to look forward to. I hope you’ll continue to follow me on Avion Addiction in 2016. I look forward to sharing my story as well as the ways you too can travel well for less!

You can always keep up with on Twitter (@benjaminj84/@avionaddiction) as well as Instagram (@benjaminj84/@avionaddiction).

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Hotel Review: Sofitel Montreal Golden Mile

We stayed at the Sofitel for my 30th birthday while staying in Montreal. We had just spent some time at Mont Tremblant and had a pleasant visit up there. I’m Platinum status with Sofitel’s loyalty program, Le Club Accor, so that certainly added some bonuses to our visit. I was very impressed with the level of customer service that was provided for elite guests. From the moment we stepped on property, we were greeted by everyone with a smile and a Bonjour.

Our room was on the Penthouse level which had excellent views of the city center. I’m sure my status helped us score a great room. Not sure if the rooms facing Mont Royal are better as the views are a tad obstructed. The property isn’t brand new but it’s very well maintained. The bathroom was my favorite feature with marble throughout, a large separate bath and shower, and Lanvin toiletries. The cozy robes and towels were nice as well. The room wasn’t huge but plenty spacious and extremely clean. Cleanliness is very important!

All of the staff was incredible and I appreciated the welcome champagne and dessert. The staff checked on use each evening to make sure we had plenty of coffee, bottled water, and towels. I also loved the Keurig coffee maker in the room.  Keurigs are popping up everywhere in mid-level and luxury hotels these days.

Location is very important to any hotel and this Sofitel property featured an excellent location. I’m all about public transit in any city to trim costs to splurge on other things. The 747 express bus to the airport has a stop about 3 blocks away. The nearest metro stop is only 1.5 blocks away.

My only dislike of the property was Renoir, the restaurant hotel and bar. The staff was not warm at all. Very cold and pouty. The bar experience was so poor that we didn’t return for a meal.

I definitely would return to the Sofitel for a stay in Montreal in the future. I appreciated the post-stay follow up from the management. I would definitely recommend this hotel property to anyone visiting Montreal.

Sunday Was My Proof for the Naysayers That Airline Status Matters

For a lot of travelers, the point of flying is to get from Point A to Point B as quickly and as cheaply as possible. But for those of us travel hackers/mile hoarders/road warriors,  it’s much more than that. While my friends and family don’t criticize my obsession with miles and airline status, I’m sure there are those who find the hobby a complete waste of time and money. But this last weekend on my return to Dallas from Florida via Orlando (on July 4th weekend) was a prime example of why airline status is worth the effort and bit of cash.

While I’m only the lowly Premier Silver with United Airlines, the basic perks of simply Silver will save you all kinds of headaches. I’m sure most of you have been to Orlando as it’s one of the top travel destinations int the world. If you’ve been, you also know that it’s a very congested city due to all the attractions. And while Orlando International (MCO) is very well designed, it still doesn’t mean short lines and short waits for the average traveler. Our flight was an early one on this Sunday morning and while expected a crowd, I thought our pre-dawn departure would spare us slightly. Well, I was clearly surprised.

We approached the United ticketing counters to check one of our large bags at 5:00 AM. There were a minimum of 150-200 folks in line for United ticketing. Guess how many were in line at Premier Access? Two. Our bag was promptly checked in 2 minutes and we were on our way to security. Our next perk wasn’t directly related to airline status but to our Global Entry enrollment with the additional perk of TSA Precheck. That previous line at ticketing almost seemed like a breeze when we approached the TSA lines. There must have been 400-500 people in line, routing through ONE main queue line! Orlando’s has one central terminal with an “A” and “B” ticketing side. The PreCheck side is closer to “A” but we approached from “B” and both sides use the same TSA lines. We hurried over to the PreCheck side and were delighted when we only found 3 people in line for PreCheck! We were on our way to the concourse tram in just a couple of minutes and we easily avoided spending 45 minutes+ in line for TSA.

We skirted off for a quick coffee and onto our gate. We had plenty of time to move at our leisure thanks to our previous perks. We would have been far more rushed had we not had those perks. And to top it all off, we were upgraded to First on our IAH bound flight!

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Of course, this journey was an example of things going very much in our favor due to Elite status. However, the day wasn’t perfect as United did leave my checked bag behind in IAH and it was delayed. However, they did deliver it to my house just a few hours later. There were a few factors that did help make our experience even easier:

  • We were departing early on a Sunday morning
  • Orlando on a weekend means very few business travelers
  • Orlando is not a United hub/focus city, equaling small number of Elite travelers
  • Low time and day for Elite travelers and TSA PreCheck travelers

So for those of you newbie or light travelers who think that Elite status is just a waste of time, re-think about inserting status into your travel and miles strategy. It’s saving a ton in baggage fees alone! And don’t forget to do you research on status matches, it doesn’t hurt to politely ask!

 

United Status Match Success!

With all the recent buzz about the negative changes to United’s Mileage Plus last week, I did get a glimmer of good news from United. I had recently gained elite status with Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan and decided to put it to good use with United. I’ve been a fairly loyal United customer over the last few years which is quite rare for a DFW based flyer.  United is currently advertising their status match program through July 31, 2014 at no cost on United.com. American Airlines also offers status match but they do charge a fee based on the status level you are requesting.

united status match

Email of course is the fastest and easiest way to send in your status match request. I simply sent in my personal details, Mileage Plus number, and a copy of my Alaska Airlines MVP card. The site says 7-14 days to process, but in less than 24 hours I logged into my United account and I was Premier Silver! Yes, for all you seasoned road warriors out there, I know Silver is quite amateur but it’s still pretty cool to me! Now you must achieve a certain number of United  premier qualifying miles in 90 days to maintain your new status for the remainder of the elite year. I should be set for this as I have enough United travel booked in the next 90 days to maintain my elite status.

With Premier Silver, of course I’m not expecting my flight experience to change dramatically with United. However, 10 minutes worth of work will now save me a couple hundred bucks in checked bag fees, upgrades to Economy Comfort, and who knows, perhaps First on a very empty flight!

My Latest Mileage Run: DFW-ATL-SFO-SEA-ATL-DFW

Mileage Run Dates: 5-10-2014 to 5-11-2014

Airlines: Delta, Alaska

Routing: DFW-ATL-SFO-SEA-ATL-DFW

This last weekend I recently completed another Mileage Run on Delta/Alaska in about 24 hours. I found myself at SFO for the 3rd time in about 6 weeks due to work and personal trips plus this mileage run.

I’ve opted to move my mileage strategy away United to Alaska as many other points addicts are doing. I’m sure all of you have been reading a lot in the blogs lately with favor towards Alaska’s Mileage Plan. Being that I live in Dallas, I often find myself the odd one out by avoiding American Airlines. American by far dominates the D/FW market although their fares are not mileage run friendly and their customer service is certainly lackluster. However, I am taking full advantage of banking both American and Delta flights to Alaska’s Mileage Plan to my advantage.

Delta seems to have some great transcontinental fares lately in both Economy and First. I’ve been traveling in a mixture of cabins depending on the cost per mile. While I don’t care much for ATL as an airport, for mileage runs, it’s a great way to accrue a lot more elite-qualifying miles when headed from D/FW to the West Coast. Plus, I love Delta’s customer service in general, even though SkyMiles has gone down the toilet. I also have been taking advantage of the “frenemy” situation in Seattle between Alaska and Delta. With all the bonus miles promotions, I am using these to bank up extra points.

I flew in mixed cabins on this mileage run, First on the first 2 segments and Economy on the last 3 segments. All of the flights except SFO to SEA were very full  and the segment from ATL-SFO was oversold. They asked for volunteers and of course I ran right up there for re-booking and compensation. They initially offered $400. Unfortunately due my connection onto Alaska, they wouldn’t allow me to volunteer. You know as a mileage runner, I felt quite defeated!

I connected onto Alaska which always has reliable, friendly service. It was a short flight to Seattle but I was seated in the first row of Economy (Seat 6A) which had decent leg room. There was nobody in the middle seat so I had lots of space to spread out. Upon arriving in Seattle, we were a bit delayed and it was a long walk from the Alaska gate to the Delta gate and I thought I was going to board late. However, the flight to ATL was slightly delayed. I find the 767 one of the more comfortable plans in economy for a redeye and I got some decent rest on the way to ATL. I managed this even with a flight full of teenage girls on a school trip. I made it onward to DFW to end a long loop around the country.

Overall, it was a fairly painless journey and a great mileage run with mixed cabins and a great double mileage bonus on Alaska. However, I still can’t get over missing that compensation for my overbooked flight. Oh well, you can’t win them all!

 

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The meal in First on Delta, SFO-ATL. Calzone with salad, cheese plate, and chocolate fondant cake.