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).

My Whirlwind November to Asia: Comparing OneWorld In-Flight Products

Well I’ve been a bit terrible about posting much lately but I’ve had quite the busy travel schedule lately. I traveled to Asia twice in 2 weeks this past month so I feel as if my body is just now back to normal sleep.

I traveled to Jakarta for work for 9 days, returning just before Thanksgiving and then after only 4 days at home, traveled to Tokyo for a short 6 day vacation in the Tokyo area. I actually passed through Tokyo Narita 4 times plus an extra fifth visit due to flight schedule changes.

In total traveling to Asia, I experience the following OneWorld long-haul products:

  • Japan Airlines Premium Economy
  • Japan Airlines Economy
  • American Airlines Business Class
  • American Airlines Economy

Aircraft Flown:

  • AA A321
  • AA MD-80
  • AA 777-200
  • JAL 767-300
  • JAL 777-300ER
JAL 777-300ER Parked at Narita Airport
JAL 777-300ER Parked at Narita Airport

 

Outbound Journey #1: DFW-LAX-NRT-CGK

I flew AA Economy (Main Cabin Extra) from my home at DFW to LAX, connected to JAL Premium Economy (Bulkhead) LAX to NRT, followed by JAL Economy (Bulkhead) NRT to CGK. Premium Economy was not offered on my final leg to Jakarta as it was operated on an older 767.

Return Journey #1: CGK-NRT-ORD-DFW

Returning from Jakarta I flew JAL Economy CGK to NRT, JAL Premium Economy (Bulkhead) NRT to ORD, and finally AA Economy (Main Cabin Extra) ORD to DFW. Premium Economy was offered on my leg from Jakarta to Tokyo, however, it was completely booked when I booked my trip.

Outbound Journey #2: DFW-NRT

This was a nonstop itinerary from DFW to NRT in AA Economy (Main Cabin Extra/Bulkhead) on an older 777-200.

Return Journey #2: NRT-DFW

While this itinerary was changed multiple times due to flight mechanical issues, ultimately, the itinerary was nonstop from NRT to DFW in AA Business Class.

Smile for Global Entry!
Narita Admiral Club – Very traditional but great service!

 

Smile for Global Entry!
Smile for Global Entry!

 

Comparing Products

Your gut reaction of course is to automatically assume that the JAL operated flights were exceptionally better than American Airlines. While in most areas this was true, there were a few ways that American Airlines came out ahead.

Overall on service, JAL was more welcoming but there tends to be a bit of a language barrier for English-speaking passengers. One notable exception was a super sweet flight attendant in Premium Economy on JAL NRT-ORD. The staff in AA Business Class was very chatty and inviting but in Economy, forget it! They would rather not speak to you unfortunately. JAL Economy far exceeds AA Economy for long-haul flights.

In terms of food, JAL was overall better but the AA Business Class breakfast NRT-DFW was a surprise favorite meal. The only thing that I ate truly horrendous was the mid-flight snack on AA in Economy DFW-NRT. It looked like wet cat food on bread!

And in terms of seating, there’s no fair comparison between Business and Economy. But I really loved the JAL Premium Economy Seats. They were an affordable compromise when paying cash for a seat. I sat next to a very large man NRT-ORD on JAL and the Premium Economy seat gave plenty of extra room that I didn’t notice at all. In a standard economy seat, we would have elbow wars the whole flight! I love the foot rest that extends out to be half as good as an angle lie-flat seat.

Here’s a few highlights in “airline gastronomy”:

 

JAL Premium Economy “Udon de Sky” Mid-Flight Snack

 

JAL Premium Economy Ice Cream

 

JAL Premium Economy Lunch LAX-NRT

 

AA’s Disappointing Mid-Flight Snack in Economy DFW-NRT. Or as I remember as the “wet cat food sandwich”

 

AA Business Class Pre-Arrival Breakfast NRT-DFW

 

JAL Premium Economy Pre-Arrival “Brunch” NRT-ORD

 

AA Business Class Starter NRT-DFW

 

AA Business Class Lunch NRT-DFW

 

AA Business Class Ice Cream Sundae NRT to DFW - A Classic!
AA Business Class Ice Cream Sundae NRT to DFW – A Classic!

I had a great couple of trips, even if they left me totally exhausted. I got to experience many different products in a very short time so it was pretty cool!

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Or on Twitter @BenjaminJ84 and @AvionAddiction.

 

Around the World from DFW – Jan/Feb 2016 for only $1456!

Around the world for only $1288 + $168? Leaving from D/FW on Jan 20, 2016 in the sample below, you can visit Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Frankfurt for one great price! Operated by a mixture of Untied and Lufthansa flights. NOTE: You will need to purchase a positioning flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong as I cannot get it to price that segment for anywhere close to the same price. I found the sample below for only $168.

So all in your’re looking at $1456 to travel all the way around the globe. Not bad!

I know it’s a lot of economy miles flown but Lufthansa economy isn’t exactly torture. Dates are somewhat flexible in Jan/Feb 2016. Play around in Google Flights to find the best itinerary to suit your own dates.

RTW DFW-PVG-HKG-FRA-DFW

RTW PVG HKG Positioning

Happy Sunday from (Delayed) SMF…..Thanks to Mass DFW Cancellations!

Happy Sunday, folks!

I’m writing with a glass of wine in hand as I take in a long wait at the Sacramento (SMF) Airport. My Dad and I were supposed to travel together SMF to DFW after spending the weekend with my grandmother in Northern California. Unfortunately, due to the tumultuous weather in Texas, American Airlines decided to cancel hundreds of flights in and out of DFW. I ultimately re-booked my Dad onto Southwest when I learned there was no way he was going to get home today. His ultimate destination was Lubbock which doesn’t have many flight options

I’m quite disappointed that we aren’t flying together since I really enjoy spending time with my Dad. I couldn’t get myself onto a Southwest flight without shelling out $600 which wasn’t worth it to me. So I’m re-booked on a quirky overnight itinerary on US Airways. American had auto re-booked me on a itineary that required an extra night stay in Sacramento and didn’t get me home until 2 PM tomorrow. Not desirable at all. I worked with the AA agent to find my quirky SMF-PHX-DEN-DFW itinerary so that I can arrive home by 8 AM tomorrow. Normally working remote is feasible but I really need to be in the office tomorrow!

Fingers crossed that none of my 3 segments are delayed or cancelled!

One Day Adventures: Philadelphia & Eastern State Penitentiary

Like many of you fellow travel geeks, I enjoy traveling as much as I can squeeze into my wild schedule. Some of my friends call me crazy but I enjoy little one day trips. They aren’t quite mileage runs because I do actually have plans when I arrive rather than just hopping around airports. I’m starting a new post series called “One Day Adventures” documenting these little one-day getaways. My latest One Day Adventure was a Saturday visit to Philadelphia.

Getting around Philadelphia is pretty easy; it’s a very walkable city. For my One Day Adventure, the Independence Pass is the best option at $12. It includes unlimited rides on the SEPTA rail, subway, trolley, and bus system. This includes the regional rail to/from the airport and the PHLASH tourist attraction bus.  The weather was quite cool but pleasant as the day warmed up. Living in Dallas, I’m used to the weather being quite warm already by April.

Eastern State Penitentiary was the primary destination during our short visit. We had lunch at Marathon in Rittenhouse Square and then hopped on the Phlash bus. I’d seen all the cool photos online and you might remember the seeing the dilapidated prison in the film 12 Monkeys. The eerinees of Eastern State is not exaggerated. It’s a fascinating look at prison technology for days past. I was intriguqed to learn that the prison operated from 1829 all the way to 1971. At $14 per adult, it’s a visit well spent. You can easily spend hours here wandering the eerie hallways, listening to the audio tour and chatting with the floating guide staff.

 

 

 

As required by all tourists in Philadelphia, we had to stop by the LOVE parking across from City Hall near Suburban Station. As the weather had warmed up, it was quite a popular place to be.

   Philadelphia City Hall is a a massive building at the heart of the city center. It’s a magnificent beauty! This was my first time in Philly and I was incredibly impressed with the architectural beauty of the city.

Before we knew it, our short day was over. We hopped on the SEPTA rail back the airport and hung around the terminals at PHL for a bit of planespotting. I love early evening departures as there are so many international departures. Planespotting in Terminal A is great this time of day.

I constantly tell people I hate the term “staycation”. Staying home is boring. I can do that when I come home from a long day at work! All in all, we earned a decent chunk of AAdvantage miles and got to spend a whole day in a new city. Our roundtrip tickets on US Airways were only $100 from DFW to PHL. All in, we spent about $275 for the whole trip. Not bad in my book at all!

Do these type of adventures sound fun to you? Or just crazy? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Or on Twitter @BenjaminJ84 and @AvionAddiction.

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

 

Quick Tips and Thoughts on DART Orange Line to D/FW Airport

With the nation’s longest light rail network and a new Orange Line extension, D/FW travelers have a new great option for getting to and from D/FW Airport. With a location far outside the city center, D/FW has long has the disadvantage of being less convenient than Love Field for central city dwellers and visitors in Dallas. While the Orange Line extensions hasn’t physically relocated D/FW closer to Downtown Dallas, new rail access directly to Terminal A has sure made it a lot easier. Love Field also has a rail station along the Orange and Green Line but unfortunately, the line was routed around the airport to save money and there is no direct terminal access. Rail riders must take the 524 DART bus from Love Field Station to the terminal and the bus frequency is about on average about every 15 minutes.

I’ve had a chance to ride the Orange Line to D/FW a few times now and it’s a breeze, even if you’re not used to riding the rail. Here are a couple of observations I’ve made and a few tips to make your trip to D/FW a tad bit stressful.

Check the route of your train depending on the time and day of the week. The Orange Line runs during peak hours from D/FW Airport to Downtown and then follows the same path as the Red Line all the way to Parker Road station. During non-peak hours, the trains terminate at LBJ/Central station.

Give yourself an extra 30 minutes to an hour for travel. The journey from Downtown Dallas to D/FW airport is about 50 minutes. I usually try and target a train that puts me at D/FW Airport station a minimum of 1.5 hours before my departure time. That way, if I miss a bus or train connection or the Skylink is delayed, I have some cushion time.

D/FW Station is directly adjacent to Terminal A. Take the Skylink post-security to reach your terminal/gate. Sometimes I luck out and my flight (American) departs from Terminal A and I’m already where I need to be. But even if you aren’t flying American, you can still clear TSA in Terminal A and then take the Skylink to the other terminals. It’s much quicker than the inter-terminal bus which is delayed much more frequently the Skylink and you still have to clear TSA when you reach your terminal.

For TSA PreCheck flyers, keep in mind that there is rarely a dedicated PreCheck line in Terminal A. There is still TSA PreCheck option, but unfortunately, there is almost never a dedicated line, even during peak hours. They will hand you a PreCheck card so you can keep your shoes on and your bag intact. Terminal C has more a efficient PreCheck system with a dedicated entry.

I’m thrilled to have a new transit option at D/FW. I think it’s incredibly convenient to air travelers but also a boost for the D/FW economy. Express service from Downtown Dallas to the airport isn’t available yet but there are rumors that it’s a possibility in the near future.