Friday, December 9, 2016

Route Debuts 2016 (International)

2016 is almost over and I've decided that instead of the usual year-end routes flown map, I'll do what I call "Route Debuts" with two versions, one domestic and one international. These are routes that I've flown for the first time, ever!



FCO-WAW on Alitalia
WAW-PRG on Czech (airline debut!)
PRG-ICN on Korean
ICN-HKG on Korean
ICN-ORD on Korean

PHL-AUA on American
AUA-ATL on Delta

AUA-JFK on Delta

Have a safe and prosperous New Year full of travel and exploration!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Recap: Routes Flown With Friends

With Matt en route to Atlanta on Delta...first class, baby!

Since 2007, I've had the pleasure of sharing the skies with friends. Travel with friends makes both the journey and destination even more fun, plus stories to share forever. Here are the who's, what's and where's...


LAS-LAX on US Airways with Dan


DEN-LGA on Frontier with Fernando
PHL-DEN on Southwest with Fernando


MSP-LHR on Delta with Gil
LGW-AMS on British with Gil
FCO-VCE on EasyJet with Gil
FCO-LIS-MAD on EasyJet with Gil
MAD-ATL on Delta with Gil


ICT-ATL-LGA-MSP-ICT on Delta with Matt
ICT-ATL-LAS on Delta with Matt
LAX-HNL on American with Fernando
HNL-OAK on Alaska with Fernando


LAX-HNL on American with Walter
DFW-OMA on American with Jennifer

Getting ready for Omaha-Chicago with Tara and Leigh


DTW-OMA on Delta with Jane
OMA-ORD on American with Leigh and Tara
ATL-AUA-JFK-ATL-SLC on Delta with Kailash

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Take Back Your Status! Strategy For AAdvantage Members

With American Airlines' frequent flyer program going revenue-based in granting mileage earning and status attainment to their AAdvantage members, the big 3 of US airlines are now all in the same league of um, unapologetic greed. It's no longer distance flown, but rather the fare you paid, that determines how many miles you'll be allowed to earn. In addition, there is a dollar threshold to reaching elite status.

But fear not, disAAdvantaged flyers - I have just the solution for you to retain your alliance-wide status on oneworld and keep enjoying your elite benefits therein! I've compiled a list of all of American Airlines' oneworld partners and their frequent flyer programs' elite status requirements in terms of flight segments or tier points (a special points calculation formula that varies from program to program based on distance flown, fare paid and cabin of service ticketed).

Information valid as of August 2016

Even as a US flyer, you're free to join these other ones! Membership is free, except in the case of Cathay Pacific. I've also noted how on some frequent flyer programs there are minimum flight segments required on their native airline. You can skip these. Also, some programs have a reduced renewal requirement chart. Please check each individual airline's program for details by going on the oneworld portal website link below.

As you can see, Air Berlin Topbonus, Finnair Plus, Iberia Plus Avios and Malaysia Enrich are standouts when it comes to being easy potential replacement programs against your current AAdvantage membership. They have relatively low thresholds and no native airline minimums - just keep flying American!

Want to migrate out of AA? The answer may just be staring at you from the window.

Besides the usual elite-level benefits, withint the USA if you're at Sapphire or Emerald level on any of the above oneworld partners, you have access to all Admiral's Clubs as long as you have an AA (or other oneworld) boarding pass departing from that airport, regardless of destination. So even if you're just flying from O'Hare to Milwaukee on American Eagle, you can access both Admiral's Clubs at Concourse H/K and G.

So there you are, you can work around this new age of frequent flying. Enjoy!


Monday, July 18, 2016

Train Review: Amtrak Lincoln Service

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I scheduled myself for the first run (07:00) of the Lincoln Service, Amtrak's semi-frequent service between Chicago and St. Louis, and I was coming from Chicago to see my old friend Nicholas, who lives on the Illinois side of the St. Louis area. Nothing spectacular to write about this 5-hour ride, except I heard from frequent riders that it's sometimes prone to delays due to track-sharing with freight lines, etc. And this isn't my first time in St. Louis either, although the first time via train.

Crossing the Mississippi toward the Missouri side...and there's St. Louis!

As luck would have it, my train was delayed almost an hour! The good news is fares on the Lincoln can go for as low as $27 one-way in coach class, which is only $2 more than it costs on the shorter Hiawatha line between Chicago and Milwaukee. The cars are single-deck, two classes and includes a café and dining car, in addition to the usual lavatories, drinking water faucets and luggage racks by the inter-car doors. I don't remember if this train came with an observation dome car - I doubt it. As with all Amtrak trains, there are power outlets by the window seats.

All in all, it was a pretty smooth ride, so smooth that I caught myself sleeping part of the way.

More information:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Train Review: Amtrak California Zephyr

Chicago-Omaha, part of the much longer Amtrak California Zephyr route

The final component of my very first round-the-world journey was a 9-hour train ride aboard Amtrak's California Zephyr. The Zephyr is an iconic long-distance rail service between San Francisco and Chicago, and I took it from Chicago to Omaha.

O'Hare easily connects to Union Station in downtown Chicago via the CTA Blue Line train, stepping off at Clinton Station and walking just a couple of blocks north. Union Station is a beauty! It has a lofty main hall, traveler services and a variety of restaurants in its food court upstairs.

The Great Hall of Chicago's Union Station

The Zephyr route is full service. There are options for family sleeper cars and showers. As always available for all riders, there is a café, dining car and lavatories. One standout feature of this train is the sightseeing glass dome car. It's a popular place to talk to other riders, or to just be alone with your thoughts while taking in the views outside. The route ran from 2:00 pm to just after 9:00 pm when we pulled into Omaha's Burlington Station.

Coincidentally, this long ride added enough points on my Amtrak Rewards balance to get me a free ticket on the same service! So a couple of weeks later, I booked my free ride going the opposite direction, Omaha to Chicago, to supplement the incredibly inexpensive United Airlines airfare from Chicago to Los Angeles.

More Information:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Round the World! North America to Europe to Asia and Back

I finally had enough miles on my KLM and Korean Air frequent flyer accounts to fulfill my lifelong dream - in fact, any traveler's lifelong dream - of going on a round-the-world flight. At least, enough miles to lay the foundation with long-haul award flights and just supplement them with inexpensive, short feeder flights. Technically, this is Chicago to Chicago eastward.


Here is the breakdown, by airline:
IST-ATH-FCO on Aegean
FCO-WAW on Alitalia
WAW-PRG on Czech

Finally made it to hot and humid Hong Kong!

Istanbul (2)
Athens (1)
Rome (1)
Prague (1)

Feeder Segments:
OMA-ORD on American
ORD-OMA on Amtrak...more on that here.

That's it!


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Istanbul: Crossroads Of Intercontinental Transit

What's a round-the-world trip without stopping over at the Crossroads of the World, right? After thousands of years, Istanbul (Constantinople) straddles both Europe and Asia, and continues to intrigue, fascinate and take breaths away with its layers upon layers of history and drama.

It's a large metropolitan area, so I will break it down by district and their corresponding lines of service. You're welcome to purchase the official touchless card Istanbulkart at any station vending machine to make your fare payment more convenient.

Golden Horn (Old City):
Sultanahment Square, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace (Tram Stations at Cemberlitas, Sultanahmet or Gulhane)
Grand Bazaar, University (Tram Stations at Beyazit Kapalicarsi or Laleli Universite)
Valens Aqueduct Bozdogan Kemeri (Metro Station at Vezneciler or Tram Station at Laleli Universite)
Theodosian Walls (Metro Station at Topkapi Ulubatli or Tram Stations at Pazartekke, Topkapi or Edirnekapi)

The Grand Bazaar, in the Old City

Taksim Square (Metro Stations at Taksim or Nostalgic Tram Station at Taksim)
Galata Tower, Mevlevi Lodge (Tunnel Tram Station at Karakoy or Tunel or Nostalgic Tram Station at Tunel or Metro Station at Sishane)

Between Airport and City:
Metro Stations Ataturk International Ataturk Havalimani (IST) and Aksaray

Between Continents (European and Asian Sides):
Ferries from Tram Stations Sirkeci, Karakoy and Kabatas (Europe) to the Ferry Stations at Uskudar, Harem, Haydarpasa or Kadikoy (Asia)
Marmaray Rail between Stations Sirkeci (Europe) and Acibadem (Asia)
Bus between Stations Zincirlikuyu (Europe) and Bogazici Koprusu (Asia)

More Information: