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Puckinflight

An all things aviation blog

Tag Archives: Hilton

It is time to make a run for platinum status. I need to re-qualify for real status, IE United Platinum or 1k. Since I travel mostly for leisure this means making mileage runs. This involves traveling just for the elite qualifying miles. For this trip I selected Milwaukee. I booked this ticket as two one-ways, for the most part fares in the US can be booked as round-trip or two one-ways for the same price. The benefit of booking two one ways is the United Travel Club. The club gives me a $5.00 travel credit for each ticket I book though United.com. Essentially, I get the commission that would have otherwise gone to the travel agent. With two one-ways I get $10.00 instead of $5.00. The downside of course is that if I have to change my plans I have to pay double change fees.

Anyways, I booked PHX-SFO-CLE-MKE on Saturday, September 15, 2012 and MKE-IAH-PHX on Sunday, September 16, 2012. Seeing as I live in Sedona, AZ two hours away from the PHX airport, if I have a flight before 10am I stay the night before at an airport hotel. My flight to SFO was at 0600, so I stayed at the Airport Hilton. Now I have previously stayed at the Airport Hilton and I was very disappointed. Kayla back me up on this.

This time around I didn’t have those problems. The room was clean and above all cheap, my rate was $56.00/night. I got a lot for that $56.00. Let’s break the rate down:

Free dinner in restaurant: $10.00

1000 bmi points: $30.00

2512 Hilton points: $12.56

Free Soda and water: $2.00

Free Parking for the run: $12.00

Total: $66.56 in value, before the value of the room is factored in. So far it’s a win. The room was pretty standard. There was no diamond suite upgrade, that’s pretty disappointing. However, this room was ok. I also included some pictures of the executive lounge.

Well wake was at 0405, and I made it down in plenty of time to catch the 0430 shuttle to the PHX airport. Normally, I do not have problems with PHX security today I did. I presented my PIV card. This card is issued, as far as I know, to all government employees and contractors. It is accepted a valid id at TSA stations, except this morning. The TSA people were in a tussle that the ID doesn’t fluoresce under their UV lights. They demanded a second piece of ID, which I reluctantly provided. They gave me the “do you want to travel today,” despite the fact that the TSA website clearly states that no one needs ID to travel. Oh well, after taking down the supervisor’s name, I cleared security. I went to the PHX United Club, where my membership somehow still works.

I had a couple of Diet Cokes, walked off my annoyance with the TSA and walked to the gate. There I boarded my flight to SFO on a SkyWest CRJ-700. Seven of my last ten flights have been on the lovely CR7. Thankfully, I got to switch to the sexy ERJ-145 a couple of times later on during the trip. The flight to SFO was short, and we actually got in about 20 minutes early. I headed to my normal snack shack in SFO.

Bao…How I love thee let me count the ways…

Bao is Chinese Dim Sum dish. Think of Tapas, small plates, which are served for brunch. My personal favorite is bao, steamed Chinese BBQ pork buns. I can’t begin to describe the glory that is bao, other than if you haven’t had it, you need to get yourself to the local dim sum place at once.

United flight 1154, SFO-CLE, started out the same way as the flight to SFO started, with me dying #1 on the upgrade list. That’s two in a row, also the last because I cleared my upgrades for Sunday. It would however get worse. I had a POS, person of size, occupy the seat next to me. I am not sure what the gate agent was thinking when she boarded him into 21B as clearly there were going to be problems. I was effectively evicted from 21C (the reclining exit-row) and what I consider to be the best seat in coach. I hung out in the back galley chatting with the FA, who was there when all of this went down, and she opened the bar cart for me for the entire flight. Eventually, using the mobile app, we found that 20B, window on the 737-700 was open and she phoned up the front FA who informed the gate agent to reseat me there. She also opened the bar cart for me, which was ironic as I actually remembered my drink chits for this flight. I am guessing 20C got upgraded (there was one open F seat) and I then had row 20 to myself.

I don’t know what would have happened if the flight was full, I assume skippy or me would have been de-boarded. I would have claimed I was involuntarily denied boarding. My real concern was what was the gate agent thinking when she boarded him into the exit row. I don’t think he can move with the requisite speed to open the door and haul butt out the exit. Be that as it may, it was not my call. Anyways, I settled into 20B, had a row to myself, and evaluated paying 8.00 for direct-TV. I took one look at the college football games on (Florida State versus Wake Forest and similar) and passed. Well I was reading Clancy’s “Cardinal of the Kremlin” and that would be my IFE for the flight.

The CLE flight leaves at 0910 and arrives in CLE at 1645, effectively skipping lunch, I was interested to know what the catering would be. As you can see from above it was a breakfast. I got basically a sausage McMuffin with Egg and side of fruit (four pineapple and four melon cubes) was $6.00, a little bit more than I would pay for the same meal at McDonalds and with the fruit instead of hash-browns a little healthier. Since it was “breakfast” I went with double Baliey’s and coffee. I am not really a vodka drinker, so bloody Mary’s were out. The flight was about what one would expect for a coach flight. I took some shots inside and outside the plane before landing, here you have Detroit MI followed by CLE airport

Cleveland, besides being home to my former employer is known in Continental circles as the other hub. As such when I landed and saw a 757 parked next to me, I just had to grab a picture as they are pretty rare there these days. My layover was short, so I didn’t have time to grab beer from Great Lakes Brewing. I just made my way over to the regional concourse D.

With drama on my previous flights I wondered if I would get another dose on my Cleveland to Milwaukee flight. Well, I did. As I was boarding in my zone, a gentleman in a yellow skull cap came up with his roller bag and asked if could board first so the flight attendant could store his bag. It was obvious that it would not fit in the overhead compartment, so it had had to be gate checked or stored at the FA’s discretion. Well when the gate agent told him it was not possible and he would have to board with his zone number he became loud and upset. I walked down the jet bridge to the sounds of him demanding to know why he couldn’t board first. I got on to the ERJ-145 took the following picture of the carpet at my feet. It has seen better days.

We landed at Milwaukee airport on time and it was time to find some food. But before I even made it to baggage claim, I noticed something was going on. Apparently there was a “honor flight” a group had chartered a plane to fly a group of WWII veterans to Washington D.C. to see the WWII memorial. I got in at a little after 6pm local time and the crowds you see in the photos were from around that time. Anyways I mentioned food. Well I checked Urbanspoon, my go to app for local grub, and It suggested a burger and custard place that was in the central landside concourse. Well I went there had a cheeseburger, cheese fries, cheese curds, and a diet soda. From the pictures the fries look pretty bland, but they were some of the best cheese fries I have ever had.

To walk off the light meal I had, I decided to walk it off. The airport is a pretty cool place, there is an aviation museum, a ping pong table, and a well-stocked used bookstore, where I avoided spending money. The aviation museum had a model of the Space Shuttle the model was originally of Discovery but at some point someone had relabeled it Columbia. Whether this was in honor of the Columbia deaths or not, it was poor done on the model. The old airport beacon is now on top of the concourse elevator, and there is a replica of a Curtis plane in the concourse.

After walking around I got the shuttle to the Hampton inn that is shared with the Hilton Garden Inn. We dropped off at the HGI first where the shuttle picked up a bunch of people who were at a wedding party and loaded down with Coors Light and red solo cups. They were looking to party. I got dropped off at the Hampton where I scheduled a pick-up for 0415 to go to the airport. I took some pictures of the hotel and room seen below. Note the Justin Bieber VIP party that was going on down the hall from my room. They were quiet and I was able to sleep. At 0400 I got up and made my way downstairs. This Hampton was spotlessly clean and they even had the continental breakfast out for those with early flights. I helped myself to some POG juice and waited for the shuttle.

I got to the airport and United check-in was a zoo. Thankfully I was able to quickly print my boarding pass and make my way through the empty security checkpoint I don’t like mobile boarding passes because there is no physical record of the flight. I have had to send in copies to get flight credit too many times to be sold on the technology. When I checked the UA app a random MKE-PHK direct segment on US appeared in my record. It turns out the flight was oversold and UA was proactively protecting passengers on flights that got to their destination sooner. Also apparently, something had happened when the inbound plane landed and they had to switch jet bridges. The flight was now going out of a gate that did not have a podium. Instead of computers there were trashcans. You can imagine the scene at the gate, the gate agent with no computer trying to manage an oversold flight. I volunteered of course, and I hung out around the “podium” and answered a few questions to help the gate agent. A couple and I volunteered to be bumped. It looked like they were going to need three seats, so it was going to work out. They gave my first class seat to a gentleman who was otherwise going to be sitting in 15B.He boarded into my F seat as I waited at the gate for the last passenger to show up. That passenger had checked three bags and then no-showed the flight, putting me back in F and having to kick the guy in my seat out. The guy in my seat was good natured about it at least. I didn’t find out what happened to the guy with bags who no-showed but I have an idea. United in MKE is still in split concourses with separate security checkpoints. When a person comes up from check-in all they see is a sign that points them to the gates where the ORD and DEN flights leave from, so I assume that the person went there.

The flight to Houston was your normal early morning flight. The guys next to me were intent on getting hammered and had three or four vodkas each. Food was the normal A.M. snack box which is pathetic at best. It contains a dole fruit cup, plain Rondele cheese, bagel chips, and a mini Cliff bar. The pack is not only unhealthy but is generally not very tasty. We got to Houston on time, and I looked over at the drinkers one was quite drunk, impressive as it was 8:30 in the morning. I went to terminal C, and I hung out briefly in the United Club and then went to my gate for the PHX flight. The Phoenix flight was mostly empty and I had an empty seat next to me but a person moved from the first row to my row and that was that. The plane was so empty that while we were getting ready to depart the flight attendants were moving people around in coach for weight and balance issues. We took and off and lunch was served it was a little better than my last lunch on this flight but still pathetic. It was a chicken hot pocket, soup, and fruit. Finally before landing a oatmeal cookie was given out. I watched Prometheus on the plane, it was ok but not as good as I had hoped. When we landed the trip for me was finally over and I could go home, but not before I forgot my Bose headphones in the seat pocket, but I managed to get the gate agent to get them, lucky again.

Until next time

Go forth and conquer

Colpuck

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Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott and all the other Hotel brands are just that, Hotel brands known in the business as “flags.” (see the company flag on the pole outside hotel, get it) Flagged hotels operate under a franchise agreement with the brand. For example, the Hilton you stayed at last night isn’t owned by Hilton, but by a developer who pays Hilton to use the Hilton flag. Hotels are moved into and out of flags by both the property owners and the brand for a variety of reasons. Today the Paris Arc De Triomphe Hilton abruptly deflagged themselves. Essentially, there was court battle in France between the hotel and Hilton over the Hotel. Now I am not privy to the details, but it appears to be over the fact that the Hotel thought itself better than the Hilton brand and more in line with luxury brands such as Waldorf=Astoria and Conrad (the luxury Hilton brands). Hilton lost the court battle and the end result of which talks between the hotel and Hilton broke down and the hotel abruptly deflagged this morning. The hotel has decided to not honor award stays and that has left some guests in the lurch as the other Hilton property is well outside the center of the city. The guests are mad at Hilton when they should be made at the Hotel, here’s why.

The fundamental difference between a hotel award and a travel (plane) award is a reservation versus a ticket. If an airline cancels a flight, the ticketing carrier still has an obligation to get you to the destination. With hotels there is no ticket just a reservation that can be canceled by either property. When the hotel deflags they are no longer obligated to honor that reservation as they no longer have an agreement with the flag. They can choose to accept the money that the flag would pay them or not. As the payments from the Flag to the Hotel can be exceedingly low, there is little incentive for the hotel to honor the reservations. Unfortunately there is little the guest can do when that happens. Generally, the flag will arrange for the guest at another location but like this case it isn’t always enough.

It would be better for the hotel flags to require that hotels, even when they deflag, to honor the reservations already made and to put that requirement in the franchise agreement. However, as it seems universal across brands it is unlikely that this will happen.

Go forth and conquer,

Colpuck

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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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For those of you that are not familiar with Hotel programs here’s how they work. One earns points for how much they spend. Hotel Chains break their properties down into discrete groups. Each group has their own points per/night cost.

Well Hilton published their list of “point breaks” this is the list of properties that change categories.

Hilton has 7 categories Cat 1-7, from 7,500 pts per night to 50,000 pts per night.

My friend said it best,

Looks like the judge finally signed the order finalizing Hilton’s divorce from reality.
Let me disclose, I am mid-tier in Hilton and they are the only Hotel program I am apart of. They do not pay me and I doubt they will start after this article.
Frankly the list speaks for itself, but I will highlight some of the changes.
All London Hiltons move to Cat 7. No doubt for the olympics.
However,
Hilton Galveston Island
The Embassy Suites Destin, FL
Hilton Boston Logan Airport
and the Saratoga Hilton
All join the Cat 7 list that includes the Paris Hilton and the Hilton Bora Bora, I don’t see the Hilton Galveston Island measuring up.
Cat 6 is just as bad.
I just have one thing to say about this,
The Embassy Suites Lubbock, TX
Whys is this the way it is. Well for that you have to look at how the Hilton program is run and how programs operate generally. First, the hotels which are not owned or operated by the flag company, (Hilton is a flag) buy points from Hilton. When people redeem those points, Hilton pays the hotel for the room. Hilton decides on the point breaks primarily based on how much the hotel charges them for a room.
Hilton makes serious bank selling points and they in-fact give them away. A top tier member with the top credit card can earn up 29pts/dollar on a hotel stay before bonuses. This has resulted in a serious number of points being issued and redeemed. Hilton to avoid losing money has to inflate either the tier levels or move properties up the list. Which is what they have done. The result is this.
If anyone redeems 50k points at the Hilton Galveston Island, let me know I want to talk to you.

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A sharp knock on the door and 3 serious looking CID police asking to speak to us. I invited them in and they asked us a bunch of questions. It became clear that they were told that we were running a prostitution ring or something like that. They quickly could see that we weren’t running a brothel or doing anything illegal. They took down our passport details and apologized. When I asked how could they possibly have chosen our room to raid, they said the hotel strongly believed I was running prostitutes and trafficking women.

From FT member Stimpy, full post here.

I am curious how one appears to run a brothel from one’s hotel room. I feel there is more to the story as hotels do not just randomly tip police off to a brothel. It is all very odd.

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