Friday, December 24, 2010

ARN-SEA Flight Report: Update 4: Finally back to SEA!*

The last flight to SEA was delayed by an hour, but then we were off. An extremely uneventful flight. No movie and no meal, just sleep and Angry Birds on my ipod touch. Economy plus is always nice on UA flights. It was past dark, which made photos difficult, but as we got close to Seattle, it started clearing up and you could see everything underneath.

ARN-SEA Flight Report: Update 3: McRib!*

The layover at ORD was pretty good. With my huge backpack (which fits in the same space as a roll on on the plane!), I had the screeners after me trying to tag it and check it, but I snuck through with it through a different checkpoint and by claiming my Christmas presents were candy (which was half true).

Off to the lounge and a double check on my return flights: Sure enough they had been canceled, and another "quick" call (this time only 20 minutes on hold) was needed to get the return flights reinstated with the right seats. The wait was a couple of hours and soon I found out why I was sent to Chicago: The McRib.

Over at the McDonald's, it was waiting for me. The cult classic of MickeyD's sandwiches, which is exactly how it tastes if you have never tried one: Tangy, quirky, not the best you've ever seen, but it grows on you whenever you see it again.

ARN-SEA Flight Report: Update 2: ARN-ORD on SK and ORD layover

With a little luck, I managed to get on the flight and ended up in an aisle seat, to my great surprise. I was the last one to board the plane and soon we were on our way. ARN-ORD is a route that I very rarely, in fact the last time that I flew it either way was nearly 20 years ago!

The flight was perfectly fine. The movie selection wasn't fantastic, but there was at least Salt, one more random movie, and then I started watching a bollywood comedy called 3 Idiots. Unfortunately we landed about 3/4 of the way through the movie, which leaves me to look forward to seeing the rest later. This is the third time that there has been an excellent bollywood or Japanese movie on my transatlantic flights and I hope that they will continue offering these.

The meal was pretty good, but unfortunately my camera battery was dead and I was unable to snag photos. Because of the unplanned reschedule, I did not get my kosher meal, but the SK meal was a curry chicken with lightly seasoned rice and a tasty chocolate/caramel dessert. Overall, pretty nice. The other option was some sort of fish, but I don't trust that.

Arriving in Chicago, I had no idea what was going to happen from there. Through the boarder control (a guy that had lived in Stockholm, and was wondered if I had been to the SpyBar), and off to the UA desk to plead my case. They looked at my ticket, shook their heads and a few minutes later they put me on a seat to SEA at 3:50pm. I would end up getting home 5 hours early!

ARN-SEA Flight Report: Update 1: Escape from Europe!

As mentioned in my previous post, getting out of Europe over the last few days has been extremely difficult. There have been major problems with snow and ice in Heathrow (LHR) and Frankfurt (FRA), which has stranded thousands of passengers and made getting to flights, even if they are running but at a different airport basically impossible. In my case, it was a true escape from Europe situation and I am very lucky to not be stuck back in Stockholm! Here's my flight report, plus what happened to make the report possible.

I was originally supposed to be flying in to FRA, but my flight was canceled the night before. After a "quick" call on skype to Continental (CO) and the Lufthansa(LH), I was rebooked on a flight at 6a with LH. I was not looking forward to the 3:30a bus that I would need to catch to get to Arlanda (ARN), but at least I had a seat. The next day after a night bus and train to the airport, I was checked in (no baggage) and sitting down in the lounge when my flight's status went to the dreaded "Inställd" status. The flight was canceled.

There was one shot left to get to FRA, which was a SAS (SK) flight at 9am but nothing was certain at this point. If that flight flew and if I was on it, I would be able to make the connecting flight, since flights were still leaving from FRA, but nothing was landing due to ice on the runway. An even "quicker" (50 minutes on hold) call to CO later, I wasn't really any better than I started. They weren't able to get me on any flights until Friday and didn't even see that I was booked on a LH flight that morning! They canceled the segment that was on my ticket to FRA so I could check in if I got to FRA, but that was it.

I manage to get put on the SK flight to FRA, but that too soon went from "On Time" to "Nytt besked 0900", which means "New information at 0900". When that shows up, it's never good. That flight wasn't leaving anytime soon (and didn't leave until 3pm that day!).

At this point, I'm looking for options. There was a CO flight to Newark (EWR), but I couldn't get standby on that. There was a flight later in the day to Istanbul (IST), which then put me in Chicago (ORD) the next day. And finally, there was a SK flight to ORD that left in 45 minutes. The very nice agent in the lounge put me on standby for that, but had to help other people to get on the same flight so couldn't get me a spot to SEA right then. I would have to get to ORD and then figure out how to get to SEA in the end.

A dash to the gate and through border control, and now it was a waiting game. Would I get on? Continued in the next post...

Monday, December 20, 2010

ARN-SEA Flight Report: Update 0: Rut-Roh!

Well, tomorrow I am to fly ARN-FRA-IAH-SEA, but due to the weather the ARN-FRA part of that flight has been cancelled. The one before it and the one after it are still set to go (we'll see how long that lasts!), but my flight has been cancelled. This will be an interesting flight back home.

My options at the moment, if I am unable to get on the earlier two flight is to wait for another day, haggle, or to buy a different ticket. I could get on the 6:05am flight for the low low price of 8061sek ($1,175).


Right now I'm on hold on to get a hold of Continental, but this will be interesting getting home.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What’s it like in a lounge? Continental President’s Club, London Heathrow*

Ever wonder what it’s like in an airport lounge, the land behind those non-descript doors with the receptionist? Well, let me show you one from my travels:
Continental President’s Club, London Heathrow:

This is very early morning in the lounge, which is why no one is here. On the left is the snack bar, which hasn’t been stocked quite yet. Every lounge is slightly different, but this one had some warm pastries and even some eggs to eat.

This time in the distance on the right you’ll see the newspaper rack while the glowing blue near the center column is actually a video game console for the kids.

Here is a shot towards the self-serve bar.

And here is the self-serve refreshments: On the left, orange juice, pineapple juice, and cranberry (I think). Below in the coolers is an assortment of colas, mixers, beer and mineral water.

This lounge also featured a green wall with plant life. I nice touch and something that helps the air quality

Please note: I took these before I thought about starting this blog, so in the future there will be more and better photos when I get to the lounges again!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Heading back to Seattle (and then to Milwaukee)

My time here in Stockholm is almost up for this time around, and soon I'll be headed back to Seattle with Continental (lots o' miles, yes!), and then in Milwaukee the day afterward on AirTran for Christmas (no miles, boo!). It's going to be a white Christmas, although it'll also be that here in Stockholm.

I've got crazy routing again to reach the midrange elite status for 2011 on United, with a detour down to Houston both ways. With it, I will come in with just over 50,000 miles, which will renew my 1P status for one more year.

Also, I will be continuing my experiments with inflight meals with another Kosher meal on the way there and then a hindu meal on the return flights. My soggy sandwich as part of my last hindu experience left me wondering if that is a standard item for Continental or whether that was a ARN catering peculiarity, but I'll find out this time around. More pictures will, of course, follow.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Eating right, in flight: Getting edible food on your flights

Everyone gets hungry but more and more airlines are taking out food service altogether or replacing it with expensive snack boxes that still leave you hungry. Even meals that are left on long distance flights instill a certain level of dread when they are being trotted out, usually with a choice between overly dry chicken or some soggy beef or pork. At best, they’re passable; at worst they leave you feeling nauseous either by sight, smell, or disagreements with your stomach. After some trial and error, I’ve come up with a few tips that make meals on planes better:
  1. If there is no free food, then make food with what’s free. A cup of instant noodles (available in a mind boggling array at Uwajimaya’s in Seattle) can be made on board with hot water from the galley. It’s instant, hot, and actually feels like you've had a proper meal after you’re done. 
  2. If you dislike the food roulette, then order something predictable ahead of time. The dietary needs meals are options which people often overlook, but they are free to you and limit the types of ingredients that can be included and generally limit the preparation style. Hindu meals, for example, are my current favorite: So far every meal has been a vegetarian curry (chickpeas, spinach) with saffron rice, the usual salad, bread, and some fresh fruit. Breakfast was a vegetarian box with fruit, cheese, and crackers. On my next few flights, I will be exploring more styles, but I could survive with hindu meals on all flights from here on out just fine. The best thing of all is that the food is actually good!
Hindu Meal on Continental
Vegetarian Hindu Meal on Continental
Kosher Meal on Continental

Another example of a Kosher meal on Continental can be found in my flight report here.