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!

My First Air Canada Experience and The Bitter Taste of Bad Customer Service

I just wrapped up an incredibly fun trip to celebrate my 30th birthday in Quebec. We visited Mont Tremblant for some snowboarding and then spent some city time in Montreal. I’ve actually been quite lucky and had good travel karma for quite some time now so I guess I was due for a cancellation at some point. We were traveling on award tickets using United MileagePlus miles booked onto Air Canada. We were set to fly from Montreal (YUL) to (DFW) with a connection in Toronto (YYZ). I’ve been through YYZ multiple times without a problem. But I quickly learned that Canadians love to hate YYZ.

Our stress began 24 hours before departure when I tried to used Air Canada’s iPhone app to check in for our flights. There seemed to be all kinds of issues and then I realized that our seats had moved and they were no longer together. I had specifically selected an itinerary with the YYZ to YUL segment on an Airbus A330. Now we were on an A320. I called Air Canada’s customer service to get our seats back together which the phone representative told me was not possible. I asked him about the change in plane type. He assured me that this was not the case, there was no equipment swap. We headed to the airport the next day and arrived very early for check-in. Since we had brought our snowboards, we had 4 bags to check. I’m Premier Silver with United which makes me Star Alliance Silver. There are almost zero perks for Star Alliance Silver but on Air Canada, you are entitled to have the first checked bag free. You do not have access to the Priority baggage lanes. The self-serve kiosks wanted to charge for all four bags and when I asked an agent for help, she simply told me I was wrong. I pulled up Air Canada’s baggage rules on my phone and explained this to her very politely. She directed us to full-service check-in for assistance. The full-service agent was kind but was having a really hard time on figuring out how to charge us. She ended up charging us for 3 bags and somewhat odd amounts. The fees were not consistent. We should have been charged $25, $35, and $35 with one bag free. We were charged $50 and $35. I was done debating the issues and we moved on.

We headed through security and when I’m in Canada, I start to really miss TSA PreCheck. While we were waiting, I starting reviewing our itinerary and realized that we had been bumped to another flight by Air Canada with no notification. Our original flight, on the A330 was still scheduled but we had been bumped to a different flight on the A320 with seats no longer together involuntarily. I found this irritating and was going to ask the agent at our gate but he was the type that would say anything to get you away from the counter so I figured I’d take the issue up later. We boarded our flight to YYZ on time and settled in. Just as we were backing up from the gate, the captain came on and announced that due to air traffic control restrictions and fog, we were one of 50 flights cancelled into YYZ. Lovely!

Since we were near the back of the plane, I knew we’d be close to last in line for re-booking. I fired up Twitter and immediately reach out to Air Canada. I got the most unhelpful response below:

yyztweet

 

It’s so important for airlines, or any brand for that matter, to have useful, good social media presence. Twitter is a great way for airlines to help resolve customer issues in a quick manner. American, Delta, and Southwest have all assisted me with issues over Twitter to avoid lines and long waits on the phone. Since, Air Canada’s social media team doesn’t actually offer concrete assistance, I went ahead and called the customer service phone line. Meanwhile, all passengers were directed a line at our original gate. After 15 minutes (I’m still on hold on the phone), we were moved to a different gate about halfway down the terminal. When we arrived at this new gate, there were zero Air Canada employees waiting to assist. We stood around for another 15 minutes (still on hold on the phone) and one employee showed up to assist about 120 passengers. By this time, we are certain we aren’t going to make our connection in YYZ onto Dallas. The line at the gate isn’t moving at all and finally after 40 minutes on hold, someone picks up on the phone line.

The phone agent found several options to re-book but none of them get us home that day. I suggested putting us on a United flight connecting a in a different hub and perhaps we wouldn’t have to stay the night. He even wanted to put us on a two-connection flight and I wasn’t going for that at all. After on the phone with him for 10 minutes, he refused to re-book us and said the gate agent would re-book us. Really!? Meanwhile, back at our gate, another Air Canada flight, also bound for YYZ, pulled up to the gate. This was an A330 that was only half full and they unloaded all of those passengers. They were now going to combine both passenger loads onto this single, larger aircraft. It took them another 90 minutes to simply issue new boarding passes to flight #1 and passengers on flight #2 kept their original boarding passes.

Finally 3.5 hours late, we took off for YYZ. Our connection to Dallas was delayed as well but we still missed it. On arrival at YYZ, they directed us to different desks for re-booking. US-bound passengers to one gate and Canada-bound passengers to customer service. Well that was useless because they merged us all back to the customer service desk. We stood around for 20 minutes and they finally started calling names to pass out boarding passes for our re-booked flights and hotel vouchers. For a moment, I felt as if Air Canada had finally started getting organized. We were issued a hotel voucher, vouchers for dinner at the hotel, and vouchers for breakfast at the airport the next morning. We headed toward the baggage claim to retrieve our bags. Ideally, we wanted to grab two of our suitcases that were checked and not have to haul around our snowboard gear and re-check it. Each baggage representative told us a different story; one said we couldn’t have our bags at all, the other said we had to take all four. Well, we ended up with all four bags and having to haul them to the hotel.

We took the hotel shuttle to the Pearson Hotel & Conference Centre Toronto Airport. It was not the hotel I would have selected. You can read my lovely review about it on Yelp. To summarize, we weren’t pleased with the hotel. There was also no hotel restaurant to use our dinner vouchers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hotel tried to get reimbursement from Air Canada for the meals. The meal vouchers and hotel voucher were on the same card. We slept a couple hours and headed back to YYZ for our flight to Dallas which was scheduled for 8:45 AM. We arrived at YYZ at 6:15 AM which should have been plenty of time for checking bags and clearing US PreClearance. Or so we thought. We went to self-service baggage to re-tag our bags. The kiosk wanted to re-charge us for our bags which I wasn’t about to do. I tried to get quick assistance from a floating agent but she said no-way and we had to go back to full-service baggage. Along with hundreds of other people. We stood in line for 90 minutes plus while many people were pulled out of line for “expedited” service until only one agent was assisting the “regular” passengers and 6 agents were assisting the “expedited” folks. It was beyond asinine.  We finally got our bags checked and headed to Global Entry. A YYZ airport employee tried to stop us from using Global Entry, even with our cards until I had to get a supervisor to let us through.

Keep in mind, we had not eaten since 2 PM the prior day at YUL since our hotel had no restaurant and there was nothing nearby. We had about 20 minutes to grab a snack at YYZ before boarding. I’m surprised I was polite as I was with such an empty stomach.

I have a decent understanding of how these operations work and this was some of the worst I’ve seen. If you’ve made it this far through my rant, you’re patient. But there’s so many details to our experience, I just couldn’t leave them out. I always hate to hear people who have a bad experience and make off the-cuff remarks like “I’m never flying ABC Airline again!”. It’s usually over something stupid like gate-checking a bag. But this was a pretty abysmal operation all around. I’ll be sure to really think about my flight options when Air Canada pops up in my itinerary again.

 

Add Global Impact to your Next Vacation with Boomerang Communities

We all love to travel and many of often get caught up in the “game” of points and miles that sometimes forget there are ways that our hobby can help others. You could stick to the vanilla route and donate some airlines miles.  Or you can take your travel passion around the globe and have a direct impact helping others by joining organizations like Boomerang Communities.

A new Indiegogo campaign launched this week for Boomerang Communities, an organization that combines a passion for travel and helping communities around the globe. Boomerang Communities is to build local groups of members in cities to foster ideas and travel together on Vision Trips with 8-10 members. Vision Trips seek volunteers with skill sets that are well-suited for the tasks and projects of the volunteers projects. The trips are a few weeks in length so even as a busy working professional, the opportunity is palatable for your schedule.

Below is a description of the first Boomerang Communities first Vision trip of 2015.

VISION TRIP: YUCATAN PENINSULA, MEXICO

When: Saturday, February 21, 2015 – Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What: Support Hammock Boutique, a recently certified B-corp, and its non-profit arm, Cielo Foundation in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Both organizations are working to improve socio-economic development for Mayan families, who are mostly illiterate, and living in poor conditions. 

Welcome to Avion Addiction

 Welcome to Avion Addiction!

Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve been incredibly obsessed with air travel. I’d memorize timetables and beg my mother to take me to LAX to watch the planes take off. When I was 5, my dream job was to work for Southwest Airlines: first as a flight attendant and then work my way up to a pilot. We used to fly from Southern California to Lubbock and back then it was either American West or Southwest to Lubbock.

Now, as an adult, that fascination with air travel continues. It’s now become a very exciting game on maximizing every dollar and every mile. I love researching every segment, every rule, every promotion, and every airline. I love the game and the risk that comes with it but It’s also about seeing the globe and new experiences.

I’ve created Avion Addiction to share my passion and hobby with others. I know there are so many others out there just like me. Follow me to learn more about the air travel “game” and my own personal adventures.

Passionate About Traveling Well and Getting There for (Next To) Nothing.