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.

 

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

 

Austin to LAX – Delta- #FlightDeal or #MileageRun – Nov 2014 – $216 R/T – 3.9 CPM – #SkyTeam

Interested in a quick redeye mileage run on a Friday evening after work? There seems to be a flurry of MRs for Texas folks on Delta this week. Not many dates available with the lowest fare by other dates and/or trip lengths can be had for a bit more. This is a follow up to my Houston to LAX post yesterday.

Sample Departure Date: Fri, Nov 14, 2014

Sample Return Date: Sat, Nov 15, 2014 (redeye, no hotel stay needed)

Airline: Delta

CPM:  3.9 CPM 

Total Base Mileage Earned: 5,504 CPM

Routing: AUS-ATL-LAX-ATL-AUS

Total Roundtrip Fare: $216

 

aus-atl-lax-mr-1114-15

 

Houston to LAX – Delta- #FlightDeal or #MileageRun – Nov 2014 – $202 R/T – 3.8 CPM – #SkyTeam

This is a quick turnaround mileage run from Houston to LAX via Atlanta in Delta Economy on a Friday afternoon with a red-eye return in less than 24 hours. Not many dates available with the lowest fare by other dates and/or trip lengths can be had for a bit more.

Sample Departure Date: Fri, Nov 14, 2014

Sample Return Date: Fri, Nov 14, 2014 (arrive Nov 15)

Airline: Delta

CPM:  3.8 CPM 

Total Base Mileage Earned: 5,256 CPM

Routing: IAH-ATL-LAX-ATL-IAH

Total Roundtrip Fare: $202

 

iah-lax-mrun-11152014

 

LAX to Madrid $680, Athens $735 – Aeroflot – #FlightDeal or #MileageRun – Nov/Dec 2014, As low as 4.1 CPM

Don’t mind connecting in Moscow to get to Europe? Here’s a great opportunity to accrue lots of extra Sky Team miles when heading to Europe. Lots of available dates in Nov/Dec 2014, primarily around Thanksgiving. Sample deals are below to Athens and Madrid.

 

**Be sure to review Russian transit visa rules for your Moscow layover**

 

 

LAX to MAD

Sample Departure Date: Mon, Nov 24, 2014

Sample Return Date: Fri, Dec 5, 2014

Airline: Aeroflot

CPM:   4.1 CPM 

Total Base Mileage Earned: 16,414 Base Miles

Routing:LAX-SVO-MAD-SVO-LAX

Total Roundtrip Fare: $680

aeroflot-lax-mad

 

LAX to ATH

Sample Departure Date: Mon, Nov 24, 2014

Sample Return Date: Fri, Dec 5, 2014

Airline: Aeroflot

CPM:   4.9 CPM 

Total Base Mileage Earned: 14,944 Base Miles

Routing:LAX-SVO-MAD-SVO-LAX

Total Roundtrip Fare: $735

aeroflot-lax-ath

 

Need a hotel in Madrid or Athens?

Cheap of the Week – Save an extra 20% on hotels with code: JETSET. Offer valid 6/9 – 6/15/14.

LAX to Amsterdam over Thanksgiving – Aeroflot – #FlightDeal or #MileageRun – Nov 2014 – $787 R/T – #SkyTeam

Don’t mind connecting in Moscow to get to Europe? Here’s a great opportunity to accrue lots of extra Sky Team miles when heading to Europe.

**Be sure to review Russian transit visa rules for your Moscow layover**

Sample Departure Date: Wed, Nov 26, 2014

Sample Return Date: Wed, Dec 3, 2014

Airline: Aeroflot

CPM:  5.3 CPM 

Total Base Mileage Earned: 14,782 Base Miles

Routing:LAX-SVO-AMS-SVO-LAX

Total Roundtrip Fare: $787

aeroflot-lax-ams

 

Need a hotel in Amsterdam?

Cheap of the Week – Save an extra 20% on hotels with code: JETSET. Offer valid 6/9 – 6/15/14.

Global Entry Approved….Finally!

I’d been contemplating registering for Global Entry on and off for a few months and finally decided it was worth the $100 bite for five years or enrollment. I travel internationally somewhat regularly but the added bonus of TSA Precheck was the perk that won me over. There’s a lot of info out there with folks sharing their various experiences with the Global Entry application process. But the average American probably doesn’t know what Global Entry is or how to sign up. Most frequent travelers love this since they despise the thought of too many folks getting in the TSA PreCheck lines. But who can blame them as the whole point of TSA PreCheck is to save time and longer lines will only defeat that.

Fortunately for myself, I’m not based out of LGA or another overcrowded airport with a half million other frequent travelers enrolled in a Trusted Traveler program. The security lines at my main airport, Dallas-Fort Worth, has very short security lines most of the time. I also use Dallas Love Field frequently which can have some heavy peak TSA lines but still nothing like LAX or LGA.

The process of applying for Global Entry does require a bit of patience. I’ve heard varying timelines of both the application and scheduling of the interview. Depending on where you live and how many Global Entry centers are nearby plays into how quickly you can get your interview. If you are applying for Global Entry, you will begin by registering in the Homeland Security GOES web portal and submitting an application for Global Entry. You can also apply for TSA PreCheck and Nexus through GOES. However, you must be near the Canadian border for your Nexus interview as Nexus centers are only in Canada and the Northern border states. If you do live near a Nexus center, it is a better value than Global Value at only $50 vs. $100 for five years.

Once you’ve submitted your application through the GOES system, the application will head off to Homeland Security for review. I’ve heard applications take as long as a couple weeks to as short as a couple days. Mine was the latter at just about 2 days to receive preliminary approval. As long as you don’t have a history of breaking the law or violating customs rules, I wouldn’t sweat being approved. The GOES system will notify you by email when there are changes to your application status. Once you receive you pre-approval electronically through the GOES system, you have 30 days to schedule your interview at a Global Entry center. DFW Airport is the only Global Entry center in the Dallas area. DFW currently has a very full schedule through the summer. I checked other airports around the country and airports like SFO, JFK, and DEN had availability for interviews much sooner. I got pre-approval in early April and the next available slot was at the end of June. After that, the next slot wasn’t until August. Not too efficient, eh?

All the travel blogs will tell you to check daily for cancellations and earlier slots to open up. I recommend this as well but it took a long time for an earlier slot to open up. A couple weeks ago, a slot opened up on June 7th. Of course, I took it. For all the waiting weeks or months for your interview, the actual interview only took me about 10 minutes of waiting in the lobby and 3 minutes for the interview. They take a quick picture and take your fingerprints. Other than long wait to schedule an interview, it’s very painless.

You’ll receive your Trusted Traveler ID number on your pre-approval letter but it won’t be any good until after your interview. Homeland Security tells you it takes 48 hours to receive the final approval email but I got mine about 2 hours later. Of course, as soon as I got home I entered my Trusted Traveler ID into all of my existing reservations and my frequent flyer profiles. I should receive my Global Entry card in about 2 weeks. I hope my picture looks nice!

Here’s to looking forward to lots of TSA PreCheck selection and painless, short U.S. re-entry!

Share your own experience with Global Entry in the comments below.

 

 

The Love Field Fare Wars Begin……

With yesterday’s announcement from Southwest Airlines for new service from Dallas Love Field once the Wright Amendment is full repealed,  I figured it was only a matter of time before other airlines starting match Southwest’s $99 each way fares.  Virgin America introduced $79 one way fares out of Love Field to LGA,SFO, DCA, and LAX a few weeks ago when they announced service from Love Field.

I’ve been expecting American Airlines, if not others to start matching Southwest’s $99 Fares to destinations like LAX,LGA,DCA, and SFO from Dallas area airports. Well sure enough, I checked out the ITA Matrix this morning and American has starting matching fares ($198 R/T) to LAX. Of course, these are departing out of DFW instead of DAL as American does not serve Love Field.

I’m sure these won’t last long so if you’re planning a October or November visit to Southern California, book now. However, I do think this signals a long term decrease in fares from Dallas with the exit of the Wright Amendment restrictions and compounded by the entry of Virgin America into Love Field.

 

dal-lax oct 2014

4.1 CPM+ – American/Delta – #MileageRun – SJC to BOS (and Reverse) – Early September 2014 – $244 to $269 R/T

Great transcontiential fares in September 2014 between San Jose and Boston. Limited availability originating in Boston. Calendar is more open originating in San Jose. Both weekend and weekday dates available.

San Jose to Boston:

Sample Departure Date: Sep 13, 2014

Sample Return Date: Sep 15, 2014

Airline: Delta

CPM: 4.1 CPM

Total Base Mileage Earned: 5,822 miles

Routing: Nonstop, SJC-LAX-BOS-LAX-SJC

Total Roundtrip Fare: $244

sjcbossep-13

 

Boston to San Jose:

Sample Departure Date: Sep 7 , 2014

Sample Return Date: Sep 9, 2014

Airline: American

CPM: 5.0 CPM

Total Base Mileage Earned: 5,376 miles

Routing: Nonstop, BOS-ORD-SJC-ORD-BOS

Total Roundtrip Fare: $269

 

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