Posts from the ‘Road Warrior’ Category
“Welcome back to the United States, Mister Lee.”
These are some of the best eight words to hear first thing in the morning.
When I lived in Chile, I made the Chile-U.S. trip with some regularity. In this example, I’m entering the United States after flying in from Santiago de Chile. Through passport control, and baggage claim and transfer, I’m off onto the next stage of my travel.
The folks at U.S. Customs and Border Protection are doing their jobs the best they can. I know most officers aren’t (deliberately) grumpy, in the same way = most travelers aren’t seeking trouble.
Instead of the ill-tempered tactic which is sure to fire off a crappy start to everyone’s day, I’ve often gone with another approach.
Frequent travel between Chile and the United States for me meant boarding an American Airlines Boeing-767 plane in Santiago, Chile. Ten hours later, the plane landed at either Miami or Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW). I always had ongoing flights, and both availability and transfer-times were better for me at DFW. Traveling frequently in and out of DFW, my colleagues at Gemini Observatory could tell you the where in the airport the best places are to shop, nap, eat, and have beer.
Customs form filled out? Front and back? Check.
Appearance? Not quite business-savvy, but not quite rolled out of a turnip truck, either.
Breath? Where’d I put my minty-fresh gum? That Freshmaker (c) would come in real handy right here …
As one of the first international flights to arrive at DFW, the queue at passport control isn’t long.
Two lines or queues are present: one for holders of American passports, and one line for everyone else. But I’ll sneak in sometimes into the line for American passport-holders.
So, I’m in-line with other people clutching to their dark-blue passports.
After some minutes in line, it’s my turn.
I approach the counter, and the first thing I do is smile, hand over my passport and completed customs-form, and say “good morning.”
More often than not, the officer will reply similarly in kind.
The officer asks simple direct questions.
I offer simple and direct answers, despite my fuzzy half-awake state.
The officer flips through my passport and sees a lot of US-entry stamps. They find an empty spot on a page, and presses a new entry-stamp into my Canadian passport.
“Welcome back to the United States, Mister Lee … and have a good time here in the U.S.”
I don’t ask for much, but that’s a good way to start the day.
Thanks to a conversation with LM which found its way onto digital life, this post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
At Australian airports, passengers on domestic flights are allowed to pass through security from “landside” to “airside” without a boarding pass in hand. Having become accustomed to travel in North American and European airports, Australia’s policy is both refreshing and startling.
And it saved my butt.
It’s 31 August 2012, and I check out at 10am from my apartment in Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD). With my Qantas flight to Sydney at 9pm, I’m looking forward to getting some work done in the airline’s lounge at the airport. I’ve maintained Platinum status with American Airlines, which is equivalent to Sapphire on oneworld. My present frequent-flyer status qualifies me to use their Qantas Club lounge in the domestic terminal.
I’m not in any rush, and I arrive just after 11am at Melbourne airport’s Terminal 1, thanks to Skybus‘ shuttle pickup from the CBD to Southern Cross train-station and their coach service from the train-station to the airport.
I’m unable to check-in to my flight at one of the many computerized check-in booths. A couple of customer service agents provide some help, and they tell me that my flight (scheduled to leave in 10 hours time) is not yet open to check my luggage. I’m not really surprised by this.
I want to use the lounge which can only be accessed airside (post-security), and I can’t walk on through airside, because I’ve a number of items which must go into checked luggage. Am I going to lug around my 20-kg (44-lb) piece of luggage for the next 10 hours? That would be a big fat NO.
So now I have two issues:
- Where can I store my luggage if I’m going airside to access the Qantas lounge?
- Will I be able to go through security without a boarding pass?
I ask around about storage, and I walk over to the arrivals level of the international terminal (T2) next door, where my luggage is put away into storage for up to 8 hours at a cost of $12 AUD. I can live with that.
I return to the T1 domestic terminal, and head on up to the security-screening area on the departures level. Within minutes, I’m airside. It’s important to note here that I still have NOT checked into my flight, and I don’t have a boarding pass, but I’m sitting in the Qantas Club lounge, where I start typing up this present article.
430pm rolls around, and I reverse the process.
I step back out landside (pre-security), fetch my luggage from storage, check-in successfully for my 9pm flight, retrieve my boarding pass, and my luggage is off on its merry way to the plane. I go back through airside, and return to the Qantas Club lounge.
My bag was stored from about 1130am to 430pm, which put the storage “rate” at $12 AUD by 5 hours, or $2.40 AUD/hour.
The seat in the Qantas Club lounge I vacated about an hour ago (to check-in to my flight) remains empty, as if it’s “waiting” for me. But this time, I’m going to have ham, cheese, salad, and soup for a light dinner, courtesy of the lounge.
Time comes around to board, it’s a short walk to the gate, and it’s an easy 1-hour-25-minute flight to Sydney, where CityRail awaits for the return trip to the place where I’m staying.
This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
Chep Lap Kok airport, otherwise known as Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), opened for service in 1998, replacing the smaller Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon. HKIA operates 24-hours, and is one of the busiest airports in the world by passenger numbers, aircraft movements, and cargo traffic.
As the airport is located over 30 kilometres (over 20 miles) from Hong Kong’s “Central” business district and city centre, transport options include taxis, buses, coaches for major hotels, or the MTR.
The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) Airport Express route is a reasonably quick and inexpensive choice with trains running every 10-12 minutes between the city of Hong Kong and the airport in a one-way trip lasting under 30 minutes. As of posting, the cost for one adult is HKD$100 (less than USD$13) for a single journey, same day return ticket, or with an Octopus card; additional information about fare-, ticket-, and travel-options with the MTR Airport Express can be accessed here.
Upon landing in Hong Kong, one of the first things I’d highly recommend is purchasing an Octopus card with which many retail transactions can occur, including fast food, cafés, shopping, and local public transport. The card can be recharged at one of many 7-Eleven or Circle-K convenience stores in Hong Kong or with an automated machine at any one of the MTR stations throughout the region.
Check-in the City
But now you’re leaving and flying out from Hong Kong airport, and you’ve got luggage to check for your flight. Is there any way you can check in before arriving at the airport?
The answer is “yes”!
Depending on the airline, there is In-Town Check-In service at the airline counters on the ground floor of MTR Hong Kong station. Check-in for flights can occur from 90-minutes to one full day before the scheduled flight.
For example, I flew Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and I checked into my flight at MTR Hong Kong station well before the scheduled departure time. I received my boarding pass; my luggage was checked, tagged, and on its way to the airport. It felt a little unusual not having my luggage with me on the train, and at the airport, I had to remind myself that not only did I have my boarding pass, but that my luggage was also on its way to the plane’s cargo hold and onwards to Saigon airport.
MTR stations: “Hong Kong”, “Central”
MTR Hong Kong station is located below the IFC Mall linking to 1IFC and 2IFC buildings. There are two MTR stations in the same vicinity: “Hong Kong” and “Central” which may be confusing to visitors.
MTR Central is a station on the Island train-line and the southern terminus station for the Tsuen Wan train-line. MTR Hong Kong station is the eastern terminus station for the Tung Chung and Airport Express train-lines; to avoid confusion, these two lines are accessed on two different floors in the station. An underground passageway links “Central” and “Hong Kong” stations, and the walk between stations is less than ten minutes. Location maps and physical layouts for each station are located here. The area also includes Exchange Square or Hong Kong Station Public Transport Interchange, providing connections to local and regional bus services; and Central Ferry Piers at the harbourfront, providing ferries to Kowloon and the outer islands in Hong Kong.
Even with a myriad of transport options, leaving Hong Kong for the airport doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult.
As the Airport Express line makes one of two intermediary stops at “Kowloon” station, the same check-in policy also applies at Kowloon station if you’re staying on the north or mainland side of Hong Kong harbour.
I made the photos above on 18 June 2012. Acknowledgements go to Amos Struck who recommended I write this post which naturally appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
I’ve been a member of American Airlines’ AAdvantage frequent-flyer loyalty program for over ten years. Despite recent financial troubles with the airline, it’s easy to forget American Airlines was one of the last U.S. legacy carriers to declare bankruptcy proceedings.
What I’d like to share with this post is a few tips about “we love you” status. My experience has primarily been with American Airlines, and while there are differences between airlines’ frequent-flyer programs, there are similarities with respect to tier, minimum mileage, status duration, and perks.
Upon enrollment into the AAdvantage program, earning sufficient miles can get traveler into one of the following elite-status tiers on American Airlines (AA): gold, platinum, or executive platinum. To reach these tiers, one must have accumulated/flown within one calendar year 25-thousand, 50-thousand, or 100-thousand qualifying-miles, respectively. As AA is one of the founding members of the oneworld alliance, the three AA status-tiers also correspond, respectively, to ruby, sapphire, and emerald status on oneworld.
I spent three years in AAdvantage’s executive-platinum tier. In my view, the best reward was the eight free one-way systemwide upgrades per year; a purchase of an economy-class fare was eligible for upgrade to the next fare-class. A real bonus for the upgrade was its “systemwide” nature. For example, if I flew AA Santiago to Dallas and AA Dallas to San Francisco on the same itinerary, I would call and request the upgrades. If I was upgraded to business-class on both flights, these counted as a single systemwide upgrade.
In the fourth-quarter of 2010, I surpassed one million miles flown on flights with AA and with oneworld alliance-partner airlines. I don’t have a credit card whose usage also collects miles. Apart from a couple of modest hotel and rental-car promotions, over 95 per cent of my miles total has been accumulated in the air. Surpassing one million miles on AA means I have “lifetime gold”, so long as the elite status program remains. A person attains “lifetime platinum” status when they reach a total two million miles flown. There is no “lifetime executive-platinum” status, however. As of writing, I’ve surpassed 1.2 million miles.
In late-August (2011), American Airlines announced their Million Miler program to recognize flyers with grand totals with the airline and to describe the perks with the achievement. The Points Guy summarized the million-mile programs by the various airlines.
There are of course two additional and larger alliances: Star Alliance, whose members include United Airlines, Deutsche Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines, and Skyteam whose members include Delta Airlines, Air France, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. I’ve been collecting miles with Lufthansa with an eye to diversifying airline status programs and access to lounges.
With reduced travel, I managed to retain platinum status for 2011 and 2012. Platinum (AA) or equivalent sapphire (oneworld) status allows:
- preferred check-in,
- no baggage fees,
- 1 or 2 pieces of free checked luggage (dependent upon partner airline),
- preferred boarding,
- entry into business lounge operated by a participating oneworld alliance partner (subject to capacity/restrictions).
During my RTW in 2012, the latter has played an important role in being able to use the lounges operated by other oneworld partner airlines. For example, I’m eligible to use American Airlines’ AAdmirals Lounge in Miami, Florida; Cathay Pacific’s lounge in Hong Kong; Qantas’ lounge in Sydney, Australia; the SLOW lounge (in partnership with British Airways) in Johannesburg, South Africa; and the British Airways lounge in London Heathrow.
This post is published originally on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (cmp.ly/0).
The call to Europe, indeed Germany, had been getting louder.
But I had to travel from Australia to Germany with a brief week-long stop in Cape Town, South Africa. In all, I would travel halfway around the planet in a span of two weeks.
Saturday, October 6, 2012.
I’m catching up with friends who’ve recently moved from the United States to Sydney, Australia. We go between Dee Why and Manly, two beach suburbs north of Sydney’s Central Business District.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012.
Sydney – Johannesburg – Cape Town.
Qantas flight 63 is a non-stop flight from Sydney, Australia to Johannesburg, South Africa. I realize the flight path (re. shortest distance between the two cities) skirts around Antarctica – that’s pretty cool, considering having lived in Chile for five years.
Saturday, October 13, 2012.
I’m standing on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s very windy on the summit, and while the predominant wind is southeasterly, moisture has not precipitated on the “table” to form the famous “tabletop” cloud- or fog-deck. The latter would form the following day.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012.
Cape Town – London Heathrow – Frankfurt am Main.
British Airways flight 58 is a non-stop flight between Cape Town, South Africa and London Heathrow. The flight path takes the plane directly over the Sahara desert.
Saturday, October 20, 2012.
It’s an unusually warm fall day, and I’m taking advantage of the weather with a walk around Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg in the German capital city of Berlin.
Twenty-three thousand kilometres.
I made the photos above with a 4th-generation iPod Touch and with a Canon EOS450D. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com