Lounge Review: Alaska Airlines Board Room at LAX

This past weekend, I had a quite extended layover at LAX, made even longer thanks to a delay on American Airlines. I always find myself on the receiving end of flight delays when flying from either SFO or LAX to DFW!

While I was overwhelmingly impressed with their Seattle Board Room lounge, I really enjoy their LAX location. My main dislike with the Seattle Board Room is how crowded it gets. Located in Terminal 6 near Alaska Airlines, Delta, US Airways gates, you can reach the lounge without leaving security from Terminals 4, 5, and 6. You can either use the hidden tunnel network or ride the AA shuttle.

You enter the lounge via private elevator and access is permitted by purchasing a day pass, or for Board Room members, Priority Pass members, and The Club members. The lounge is warm and inviting with cozy leather chairs, spacious work desks, clean restrooms, and expansive views of the incoming planes. There are TONS of electrical outlets and the WiFi is blazing fast.

You can receive 3 house drinks like beer, wine, or well cocktails at no charge. There are basic snacks, coffee, tea, and soda available. Food is fairly standard for domestic lounges with just drinks and snacks. They do have their famous pancake machine here. For breakfast, they have bagels, toast, and yogurt. In the evening, they have soup and salad. For a charge, you can order a full meal like salmon or pizza but nothing seemed worth ordering to me.

Fancy some robot pancakes?
Fancy some robot pancakes?

This lounge is definitely a place of peace and relaxation amid the chaos of LAX. I have to say connecting at LAX is not my favorite thing but the Board Room makes it much less stressful. Stop by and have a craft beer while you watch the planes go by!

Good Morning from LAX: DFW-Las Vegas $96 on AA, June/July Flying Blue Promo Awards Ending Soon

Good morning, readers!

I’m writing you this morning from the Alaska Board Room lounge at LAX. I have to say I quite like this lounge. It’s nothing fancy but it’s quiet, nicely furnished, and comfortable. Plus you can’t go wrong with coffee options at the Alaska lounges.

For those of you who are D/FW based like me, be sure to take a peek at this cheap last minute deal on American to Las Vegas, courtesy of the folks at The Flight Deal. Only $96 R/T all in!

I’ve been quite busy this week finalizing my summer travel plans including spending some time in France and Germany. I’m looking forward to visiting a few regions that I haven’t visited quite yet. I made some final adjustments to my return journey by booking a Air France/KLM Promo Award on Air France in Business Class at 50% off! Now is the time to book promo awards for June and July travel to/from Europe. I snagged a one-way in Business from Frankfurt to Minneapolis for only 31,250 Flying Blue miles!

Promotion is available in either direction to/from Europe. As the Promo Award space sells out, some of the routes have disappeared. But here’s what still bookable through 4/30/2015 for North America:

  • Europe to/from Atlanta, Air France Business Class, 25% off
  • Europe to/from Edmonton, KLM World Business Class, 50% off
  • Europe to/from Miami, Air France Premium Economy, 25% off
  • Europe to/from Minneapolis, Air France Business Class, 50% off

Come May 1st, destinations for August/September travel will become available with new promotions.

As always, keep up to date by following me on Twitter and Facebook: @AvionAddiciton/Avion Addiction or on Twitter @BenjaminJ84

 

Cheap! DFW to Doha – British Airways #FlightDeal or #MileageRun – Jan 2015 – $701R/T – 4.3 CPM – #OneWorld

This is a very quick turnaround mileage run from Dallas to Doha, Qatar on British Airways. You can credit to Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan or American’s AAdvtange if you are U.S. based. You’re only on the ground in Doha for about 2 hours so a hotel stay is definitely not needed.

Sample Departure Date: Sat, Jam, 24. 2015

Sample Return Date: Sun, Jan 25, 2015 (arrives Mon, Jan 26)

Airline: British Airways

CPM:  4.3 CPM 

Total Base Mileage Earned: 15,982

Routing: DFW-LHR-BAH-DOH-BAH-LHR-DFW

Total Roundtrip Fare: $701

DFW to Doha, Mileage Run
First 250 bookers, Save an extra 25% on our best hotel deals with code TRICKORCHEAP. Offer valid: 10/27/14 – 11/02/14.

Preferred Seating on Delta for Alaska MVPs

Update 9-19-2014 : I booked a flight to Hong Kong this week on Delta and did not need to wait until the next day to access Preferred seating. Once I completed booking (with my Alaska Mileage Plan number added) I was able to immediately head over to Manage My Reservation and select Preferred Seating.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, I’m not a big fan of calling up Delta Airlines unless I must. I’m an Alaska Airlines MVP which gives me access to varied reciprocal benefits on Delta. While these benefits have reduced over time thanks to the strained friendship between Delta and Alaska, the perks are still better than no status at all.

While I automatically have access to Preferred seating on partner flights when booking through AlaskaAir.com, when booking on Delta.com, their site does not immediately recognize my MVP status during booking. On the seat selection page, you will find that standard and Economy Comfort seats are the only available option in Economy. Therefore, unless I pay for Economy Comfort or a paid upgrade to Business, I’m relegated to the standard, back-of-the-plane or middle seats. However, the trick is to return to your Delta reservation on Delta.com 24 hours later and you will suddenly find that the dark blue Preferred seats are now at your disposal at no cost.

Now, I’m standard MVP, not Gold or 75K MVP, so if you have higher status, your experience may be different.I was able to snag the aisle seat in an exit row for no additional cost. I booked a flight from TPA to DFW last week and 24 hours after my original  booking, I was able to snag the aisle seat in an exit row for no additional cost.

Calling into Delta is an alternate, immediate option after booking to request Preferred seats. But if you’re in no rush and your flight is only half full like mine was, calling into Delta wasn’t worth the trouble.

mvp-alaska-delta-seats

I was able to snag the aisle seat in an exit row for no additional cost. 

My Personal Rankings: Airline Phone Customer Service

As a young kid, I already had a fascination with air travel. When you’re 11 years old, it’s hard to get your parents to let you fly around the world on your own. I also didn’t have much more than a weekly allowance of $20 at that age. Therefore, my best outlets were to pester the local travel agent in our town (she was not fond of this, at all!) or to dial up airline customer service and chat up with a friendly phone reservation agent. I particularly liked to call Southwest (our family flew them regularly) or Northwest Airlines as I could usually find someone to look up complex, dream itineraries for me and chat up with me for an hour.

Whether they realized I was an 11 year old boy or a middle-aged woman (my voice had yet to deepen), that was a different time for airlines and their phone customer service. Of course with all the advancements in the internet, smartphones, and apps, far fewer people are contacting phone customer service unless they absolutely must. For those of us who are addicted to miles and award bookings, contacting an airline’s phone customer service is often required for complex bookings, partner award bookings, and ticket changes. Sometimes you can talk your way into waived fees with a few kind words over the phone. It’s hard to sweet talk an iPhone app into waiving change fees. But even though phone customer service departments for airlines have shrunk with demand and the quality of their service is quite mixed, some airlines have set a standard for excellent phone customer service, even in 2014.

Here’s a list of my favorites and not so favorite airlines when it comes to customer service via telephone. I’ve only included the airlines that I’ve had experience with over the phone:

The Winners

Alaska Airlines

It’s hard to find too many people out there that have disdain for Alaska Airlines. The hold times are  nearly always short and their reps are trained to be extremely courteous and knowledgeable.  They always thank me for being an elite flyer and I’ve never had a bad experience by phone.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest would have held the top sport for me a few years ago but as Southwest has grown, their phone service has changed. They used to answer the phone almost immediately but now there’s a long menu to sit through. Still, their reservation agents are friendly and helpful and you can’t beat the no-change-fee policy!

British Airways

Short hold times, those polite British accents, and knowledgeable reps. What’s there not to like? European carriers aren’t keen on advanced seat assignments but a friendly phone call and elite status with a OneWorld carrier or Alaska will plop you into preferred seats easily.

Swiss

The Swiss do everything so efficiently and the phone reps at Swiss International are no exception. I easily obtained advanced seat assignments without status at the time, even seats that are considered preferred for Miles & More members. Generally short wait times are a plus as well!

 

Mixed Bag

American Airlines

Just a few years ago, I would have stuck American well at the bottom of this list. Their reps were cranky and looked for any way to screw the average traveler. Well, a few things seemed to have changed at American whether it’s due to reputation or their merger with US Airways. The hold times vary but the reps are more likely to be helpful than not. Sometimes I have to remind them of their own policies but they tend to be flexible to work with with the right attitude. Their “Remember Me” phone feature is pretty neat too!

 

United Airlines

I contemplated sticking United in the Losers category but I have had them help me out in a pinch many times so I just can’t bring myself to it. Their hold times are one of the worst in the business and don’t bother calling the general line during peak hours. Their elite status line answers nearly right away but I’ve had a few cranky reps on the elite line lately. The main reason I’m not putting them lower on the list simply because I’ve encounters some great United reps and they have waived strict fees for me more than once.

 

The Losers

Delta

While I find Delta’s in flight service, especially in First Class, to be among the best, I don’t think much of their telephone service folks. The hold times aren’t terrible but I haven’t had much luck in regards to the friendliness of their phone reps. I’m always seeing blog comments about Delta’s IT and website woes and I’ve had to call in a few times for assistance with reservations. However, I don’t usually get much help on the other and and this usually leaves me feeling apprehensive about calling and asking for assistance.

Air Canada

Talk about ridiculous wait times! About equal to United in atrocious wait times (is this a Star Alliance habit?), Air Canada’s reps are about as boring as drywall.  By the time I get to a rep, I’m just ready to get what I need and get off the phone.

Aeromexico

Boy, do I regret the day I even joined Club Premier! The blogs are pretty quiet about this sleepy carrier but I found out the hard way why not many people are keen on Aeromexico. Their phone reps appear to be trained to be as unhelpful as possible. Every rep I’ve spoken with thinks of every excuse in the book to not help you with award bookings and forget about ever using their companion tickets! One day I will find a way to ditch these Club Premier kilometers I’m stuck with and bid goodbye to Aeromexico!

 

Earn 16 Miles per Dollar Spent on Bentgate.com through the Mileage Plan Shopping Portal

A few of you may have seen this promotion in your inbox this week but here’s a decent promotion for shopping on Bentgate through the Mileage Plan Shopping portal. You earn 4x the usual accrual for 16 miles per dollar spent. Not bad! Bentgate is a great site for outdoor clothing, climbing, and mountain gear. It’s great for all four seasons. Personally, I plan checking the site out for some clothes for an upcoming trip. Here’s the direct link to the promotion to earn your Alaska Airlines miles.

 

bentgate-mplan-promo

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!

1,000 Bonus Alaska Mileage Plan Miles with Budget Car Rental

For those of you who are fans of Alaska’ Mileage Plan, you may have noticed that there are rarely any decent bonus mile offerings for car rental partners. Untied and American seem to have them going on all the time. Well I received this one in my inbox this morning for 1,000 bonus miles when you book for 4 days+ on rentals that begin before Aug 30, 2014. You can book through this link. 

 

budget-alaska-promo

6.9 CPM – Alaska – #FlightDeal – SAN to MCO – Weekend – May 29 to May 30,31 – $298 R/T

Departure Date: May 29, 2014

Return Date: May 30 or 31, 2014

Airline: Alaska

CPM: 6.9 CPM

Total Base Mileage Earned: 4,286 miles

Routing: Nonstop, SAN-MCO-SAN

Total Roundtrip Fare: $298

 

 

may29san-mco

A great weekday transcontinental fare between two holiday destinations, San Diego and Orlando. Available in the reverse direction on Delta for $290, connecting through Atlanta in early June.

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.