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Puckinflight

An all things aviation blog

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Well after a month on the ground I am about to take to the air for another mileage run

This run takes shape around a mistake fare. It wasn’t a mistake fare in a traditional sense. the fare was Phoenix to Charlotte for 150.00 dollars one way. While this fare is not exceptional in any way it was made exceptional by the lack of routing rules. any fare can be exceptional with the right routing. This fare allowed people to bounce the routing through Hawaii or Alaska. So my routing is phx-iah-clt-ewr-hnl-phx.

Well, I am even looking to maximizing this by running though Cleveland and san Francisco.

the run starts out with me forgetting my camera, my drink chits, my boarding passes, and my throat spray. I must be excited. Oh well I can buy throat spray and reprint my boarding passes. Well I don’t have to drink and use my ipad camera to take pictures

Night one has me at the HGI PHX Airport south. I have stayed here before and I like the property. Also with the right discounts the price was right $56.00/night

The property used to be something else because the rooms are bigger than standard HGIs. Also as a gold they provide the standard bottles of water. In addition they provide a goodie bag of cookies, pretzels, snack mix, and candy.

What can I say I am sucker for these homey touches. I maybe one of the few people who like Hiltons and the Hilton Honors program. The treat me well and unlike Hyatt and SPG they have properties everywhere. If it’s a town it has a Hampton Inn.

Decide for yourself, here are some pictures of the hotel.

The next day dawned early. Apparently the only tree in PHX was outside my window and all of the birds in PHX were in that tree. 0515 saw the start of the largest clatter I have ever heard. So little sleep for me.

I went to the airport with a plan. I would get a standby seat on the CLE flight. I went to the United club all smiles, well the flight to CLE was F5 Y0, so I would need the smiles. I asked the agents in the club to set me up on the CLE flight and to my surprise they did. Gadfly showed up about 20 minutes before boarding and we went to the flight after a stay in the club, his shorter mine longer.

PHX-CLE started with a jerk. I got on the plane and found someone in my seat. Someone wanted to a seat swap and Gadfly also wanted to do a seat swap. I was too tired to deal with this and Gadfly sorted out. Had it had just been me, I would have evicted the person and been done with it. If someone wants to do a seat swap take your original seat and then do the deal.

The flight was uneventful.  By the time the FA got to us there was no choice of entree, just eat or don’t eat. The food was some sort of pizza wrap, it was tasty enough.

here are some pics

At CLE we got a text from Rob, our third travel partner, he had taken a bump and would not be going to CLE to meet us. Gadless quickly took Rob’s seat on the flight. I picked up a six of Great Lakes brew for the hotel. We boarded the ERJ to CLT. Gadless decided that I needed a traveling companion and had a pilot heading home seated next to me.

We got to CLT and picked up Gadless’ rental car. It was a small four door infinity sedan. We got it using one a free night with national. Nice ride. Apparently the previous user was French because the car’s settings were in french.

WE got the the Hilton CLT executive park a few minutes later. It was a nice hotel. Nicer than most airport hiltons. I got my first suite upgrade, but we had to turn it down to keep two beds. As Rob was going to be late, Gadless and I did the only reasonably thing, get BBQ. We went to a drive in called the BBQ King. It was in the ghetto of CLT. Cheap cars and section 8 housing decorated road on the way to the place. The cash only place was one of the best BBQ places I have ever been two. We got take out and headed back to the Hilton to eat. I forgot the keys to the room, I replaced it and got hit on by the desk clerk, she had braces…cute.

We ate, my food was on elementary school lunch tray, it had milk labeled on the place for the milk. We then went to the airport and collected rob. We got back to the hotel, finished the beer, set up Gadless’ bed using the chair and luggage stand. After some fitful sleep we awoke to 0700. Rob and I grabbed some bacon using the free breakfast coupon included with the room as a Hilton elite member.

Gadless’s bed

Morning after

We got to the airport and Gadless returned the rental car. Rob and I tried to leave Gadless at the rental car terminal, but alas he made the shuttle. He would have done the same. We got the terminal and Gadless continued his winning streak by finding us an agent to re-route us off US. TSA started to send people to the security check we were going to use. We sprinted to the security check, to avoid the rush. Security saw Gadless and Rob opting out in order to enjoy a security massage. I went to the gate, they had already boarded the flight and were waiting for the last passengers. I mentioned to the gate agents that I hat two friends going through security. The asked if I left them, “yup, and they would leave me in a second “top gear” rules.”

The flight CLT-EWR was mostly empty. We were delayed due to weather. Gadless looked like he was going to miss his global entry interview, and infact was 20 minutes late. But again continuing to win, the USCIS saw him. I grabbed a shower in the A UC. It was epically good.

Rob and I were in the boarding area for EWR-HNL. They called boarding and of course a bunch of people who decided that boarding order didn’t count. Thankfully the Gate Agents told them get lost. We boarded at the crew was friendly. It’s always nice to have a friendly crew. I was in 1D the “captain kirk” seat and I “fired my lasers” Over the midwest we had lunch which was the basic domestic first class service. Pasta and steak were the choices. The woman in 1L decided she did not want to put the shades down. Ice cream sundaes were served.

The pathetic lunch

Of course with Gadless having good luck and I was having bad luck. The right ear of my noise canceling headphones started cutting in and out. The flight was some ten hours long and well we’re bound to go stir crazy after awhile. The FA’s included. Ok especially the FAs.

One of the FAs, who was significantly older than me, started the flight by flirting with me. Well I am not immune to flattery; no wait flattery always works on me. Well Gadless, myself and the FA we chatting. Chatting about Israeli S&M clubs and various swinger bars.

wait what? S&M clubs….yup you read that right.  Midgets with whips and women acting like dogs on all fours. Well you can’t say pimp with out imp and what happens on TLV decidedly does not stay in TLV. Gadless is single and pulls down a number like a boss, or he lied to me like a boss. Could go either way on that one.

Personally I think everyone should own a pair of handcuffs. Pro-tip, use wide leather cuffs as metal cuffs chafe and could cut into wrists and ankles.

The pre-arrival meal was as marginal as the regular meal only smaller. It was a generic beef wrap that CO has been catering for awhile now. We landed and picked up Van ( a new runner I met on the flight) and headed to L&L bbq for a plate lunch.

The plate lunch was sex on a plate with bbq short ribs and chicken. Seriously, homer would write epic poetry about this food. It was served with macaroni salad and rice. we head back to the airport on and I pick up some macadamia nuts and kona coffee (31.00/bag eek)

In the United Club which is the old RCC, we hunker down a debrief. I discover my headphones are still under warranty (fist pump) and beers in had we settle down to await HNL-SFO on the 777. we get to the gate and check the departure screen to make sure we were in the right place. There were so many kids in the gate area I thought we were on a flight to orange county or Orlando (mickey world)

We all got upgraded but because of the late change, we were scattered through out the cabin. I passed right out after take off. I remember being offered the midnight snack and I passed. The crew was awesome, great service from start to finish on the flight. I just wished they left the IFE off for the flight, oh well I slept any way.

Arrival into SFO was at 0515 and Gadless had to run to his flight in order to make his PHX tee time (first world problems) Rob drove him to the US terminal. Van did something, and a new guy Tom forgot what day of the week it was and ended up on a flight Maui out of SFO. It was just yours truly on the final flight to PHX

The final flight was 5 hours after arrival into sfo, so I spent it snoozing in the United Club. Then it was delayed for 2hours. BOOOO. In order to keep my spirits up I indulged in dim sum and my all time favorite steamed pork buns. That was the only thing keeping me from cutting myself for self-amusement purposes while the delays got longer. Well that and composing poetry about travel on milepoint.

I finally made it back to PHX at around 1400 and then had a two hour drive back to my house in Sedona AZ. I saw the GA who helped me with the CLE connection and I waved at him as I left the gate area. Another mileage run and 8,000 miles in my account. Now for Tokyo in two days.

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This weekend in the U.S. is Memorial day. For that do not know this is where American’s are supposed to take moment and think about the men and women who have served their country through military service.

A lot of people will be taking to the roads and skies this weekend to celebrate the three-day weekend and the traditional start of summer. I will be one of them. However, it would be remiss of me not to take a moment to thank all those who have served and are serving in America’s armed forces.

Thank you!

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The Wall Street Journal published two critical pieces on the United Airlines merger. Both of the pieces focus on how United treats their elite status customers. (Full disclosure I am a United 100,000 mile elite member)

As I said in a previous post each airline focuses their program on different aspects on the customer experience. United was know for treating its elite members very well. This included providing hotel vouchers for top-tier elites during weather delays. This is something no airline is under obligation to do and most do not. Well the merger happened and United started to cut back the program.

Reaction was as expected, shock, horror and denial. The elites who commonly use the message boards Flyertalk.com and Milepoint.com are frankly disgusted with the changes. However, reaction to the changes has only enabled United to continue to cut benefits.

Let me explain.

United has made cuts both large and small, and both substantial and marginal. One of the largest cuts made has been the reduction in miles earned from 25% to 50%. This in my mind is the largest cut made by United to the Mileage Plus program. However, when you go on to Flyertalk and Milepoint, you will not read about this change. This is because they have become obsessed with the small changes.

United is working this situation to their advantage. United can take one of two routes to completely marginalize their entire elite population. They can ignore them and dismiss them as people who can not agree on anything. Second, United can give back on the small stuff an ignore the larger issues. Without surprise United has been doing both, and their stockholders couldn’t be happier.

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What is a loyalty program? This is a complicated question, especially where airlines are concerned. United Airline’s CFO got up on stage and stated that some of UA’s elite population was “entitled”. This is not surprising, United and Continental had two very different mentalities when it came to dealing with their respective frequent flyers. United Airlines treated their elites very well, especially their upper tier elites, 100,000 mile flyers and Global Services members extremely well. Opposite that Continental Airlines did not provide as many services to their elites at any level. Continental’s goal was to provide consistent service across the brand no matter what level the person had in their frequent flyer program.

Until recently airlines kind of had the same basic loyalty program, but that has changed. It started with Delta Airlines, they massively devalued the redemption side of SkyMiles, but they still have a huge number of members and even elites, why? Well, they upped the benefits on the front end. Elites are treated very well; their top-tier members may even get walked off the plane and on to a Porsche to make a connection. These programs are changing because the back end technology that the airlines use is allowing them to develop and data mine more information about the individual flyer.

United is taking this new information and using it to target high revenue low traffic customers. There is a famous delta power-point floating around the internet that defines each flyer on the airline. Basically there are 4 groups, high revenue high frequency, high revenue low frequency, low revenue high frequency, and low revenue low frequency flyers.

Until recently, they airlines could only tell the amount of miles that a person flew, not how much revenue they generated. Now that they can tell, airlines are competing to attract the high revenue flyers and ignoring how much they actually flew. On the far end of the scale you have JetBlue and Southwest who only award based on revenue. Delta, American, US Airways, and United all still use miles.

United hopes its program will drive loyalty to the airline. UA wants to use that loyalty to leverage higher fares. However, there is a cost to the benefits it provides. If UA has a loyalty program that doesn’t provide any benefits, there is no loyalty and thus UA can not justify higher fares. If the loyalty program is too generous, then the costs of the program outweigh any fare increases. United is trying to rebalance their program because they thought it was too generous and costing them money. Well, without surprise this has angered the pre-merger United elites.

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United airlines, Delta Airlines, U.S. Airways and American Airlines all have one thing in common, losses across the board. For United and Delta this is not really a problem. For U.S. it impacts their ability to sell AA’s creditor committee that they are able to assume control of AA and turn it to a profit making institution. If US’ loss is bad then AA’s is worse. Most companies are able to turn a profit in bankruptcy because their creditors can not collect on the debt. AA even bankruptcy can not turn a profit. Their creditors will see this. For those creditors on the fence about supporting US Airway’s bid this may push them over to US’ side.

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