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Category: Airlines

Arrivederci Paris and Ciao Berlin

Arrivederci Paris and Ciao Berlin

I recently flew Air Berlin from Paris to  Berlin

 

Here is the Aeroplane

My German is not good but I don’t think this reads “Air Berlin”!

 

Surprise Surprise

Well yes I was surprised. When I booked I saw no suggestion the flight was to be operated by Alitalia

I wasn’t even aware of the partnership with Air Berlin when I booked.

Don’t get me wrong I have no real issue with this airline. It was over an hour late and was not very clean and was generally quite worn but that could be said of many airlines from budget to National carriers particularly when they are in a rush to turn a delayed flight around.

So weirdly I booked through Air Berlin, which has links to British Airways so received miles and tier points to fly an Italian plane.

 

Pot Luck?

I realise many companies codeshare and so you can fly a different carrier but I always thought this was announced on the booking site. Clearly not. Anyway it allows me to tick off the airlines I have flown!

 

Lounge Access – Take care who you book with

Lounge Access – Take care who you book with

The more I travel the more I learn. I realise a lot of my comments are obvious to seasoned travellers but I hope newbies gain some nuggets of useful information at times.

 

Recently I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. I booked with SilkAir. This is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. I booked the SilkAir flight rather than a Singapore Airlines flights as the timing was convenient. The flight was codeshared with both a SilkAir MI and a Singapore Airline SQ code.

Lounge Access – Denied

As I am a Star Alliance Gold Card holder I thought I would go to the Singapore Airlines lounge. Sadly this was not to be as I was not able to enter on an MI coded ticket. HAd I been on the same flight but with an SQ coded ticket then I could have had access. The same was true of the Thai Airways lounge.

Thankfully I also have a Priority Pass and so made use of the Plaza Premium Lounge.

 

But Why was I denied access?

So this is the obvious bit for the experienced. Even though SilkAir is completely owned by Singapore Airlines and is oft quoted as “the regional wing of Singapore Airlines” it is not a member of Star Alliance. It even says this on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=SilkAir&oldid=774389803). Hence there is no rights or privileges for Star Alliance status holders. Clever that and I suppose it saves Singapore Airlines some money.

 

Anyway I live and learn. The flight was good, quick and empty!

 

 

 

British Airways – Club Europe

British Airways – Club Europe

I recently flew to Barcelona with British Airways.

I was booked into economy class and out of interest i looked at the cost of upgrading. It was over £400 ONE WAY. I decided it wasn’t worth it.

I checked the website every so often and about 24 hours before check in there was an offer to me to upgrade to club for only £120. I went for this.

How much does it really cost the airline?

I suppose what I was confused about was if the ticket cost over £400 why offer me a cheap upgrade. Yes, i have already paid the economy class ticket so the £120 was in addition to this, Still it was cheaper than a business class ticket, Did I get this offer to make a space for another paying customer in economy? Had they overbooked economy and this was a way of encouraging some idiot to pay to be upgraded. I really do not follow the business cost model!!!

 

Was it worth it?

In a word, no. I should have know this as I have read many reviews from others.

I had the front seat – 1F. The seats are identical to economy with no extra legroom. The middle seat is blocked off so there feels to be a little extra sideways space.

 

I find the seats comfortable anyway but the service and sideways space was probably not worth it.

 

Food and drink

The champagne in a small bottle was not very nice. The wine was better but not spectacular.

The food was simply dreadful. A few small finger sandwiches dry around the edges, a very sweet cake and a warm scone with cream and jam,

 

Other benefits

I got fast track through security which was useful.

I had Lounge access but already had this to the No 1 Traveler lounge with Priority pass and I preferred this lounge to the BA Galleries Lounge.

 

Conclusion

I should have learnt from other reviewers that Short Haul Club Europe really is not worth it, no matter how cheap the deal.

I returned economy and ensured I took some water on board so as not to pay for expensive Marks and Spencer’s food and had a perfectly acceptable 2 ours 25 minutes journey.

 

I must remember next time not to pay for an upgrade!

Second Guessing Airline Offers

Second Guessing Airline Offers

When I flew to Australia last month I had booked my flight in September. I felt I had got a good deal as I booked with Thai Airways during a sale offer. I was pleased with the price I got.

Since I booked I noticed that other companies had a number of sales so it is possible I could have got a cheaper deal.

 

So when do you book?

How long is a piece of string?!

Many blogs I have read suggest booking almost as soon as the flight is released – is about 11 months before flying. I am not sure if this is for rewards flights – paid with airline points or for paid with cash  flights. However, I am really not convinced that this is the best strategy for paid with cash flights unless you are reserving a space with a ticket that can be cancelled. It seems to me that you need to take a punt and book in a sale. But which one and when?

 

Booking a sale price – and changing your mind

The problem with sale prices is that they have lock in clauses. Usually you are billed immediately on booking and cannot change the flight without cost. So in essence you are committed and cannot change your mind.

The exact timing of a sale and which airlines offer sales is variable. It seems they offer sale prices around the same time but never at exactly the same time so you cannot really compare, and book, one airline’s sale prices to another’s.

 

What about upgrade offers?

Once you have booked your tickets what then? I recently received a reduced points upgrade offer. It is on the airline’s website and is a shortlived offer for a few days only. I have no idea of the award availability so decided to snap up an upgrade to Emirates first simply because I had the points and like the offer. I should, perhaps, have looked at the costs and decided if spending my points had value. Interestingly because I had booked and paid for the original flights through a travel agent, again at a time of an offer, I was unable to upgrade the flight with cash on the airline’s website. It seemed OK, however, to upgrade with points with this offer. I thus had no way to compare upgrade costs. I went for it and am looking forward to Emirates First and a shower in the sky!

But again, the whole thing seems predicable and is pot luck.

Conclusion

As I commented about hotel booking,  a good airline deal is a lottery and a mug’s game. I suppose there are some predictable times when airlines have sales but it by no means certain and I can see no way of predicting if and when they are going to offer points upgrade deals.

So look out for a sale. Decide if the offer looks attractive on an airline you want to fly and book. Accept it and grimace when you see a better offer with another airline a few days/weeks later. Hey that’s the way of it.

But grab an upgrade (especially to first) if offered and you have the points.

That will be my policy anyway!

In flight – Hong Kong Bound

In flight – Hong Kong Bound

I am excited. I am en route to Hong Kong on Thai airways via Bangkok.

I know that this is the norm to those experienced travel bloggers but for me this is the first time I have connected to the internet from 35000 feet. I am quite impressed.

It was a very smooth check in and passage through security. I enjoyed Lufthansa Senator lounge in Heathrow terminal 2 main building and then Singapore First Lounge in the satellite. I noted one well known person awaiting the Singapore airways flight.

Slightly chaotic boarding of the flight. The signs announced boarding in the lounge but not at the gate. Then there was little indication of the  various entrances to the gate. It turned out first was deeper into the crowds than business so a bit of a scramble.

Yes, I am flying first. I was able to get a points upgrade.

Once onboard all very smooth. Dom Perignon flowed and far too much food eaten.

I am finishing off a glass as I write. I now post  this from 35000 feet. Sorry for any typos.

Trust the Travel Agent

Trust the Travel Agent

I have had an exciting few days planning my holidays for the next few months.

I had all the apps and websites open across my desktop and iPad. I have read many expert blogs espousing on the ease and efficiency of booking directly with the airline and online. Well, I am not so sure. I have already explained how I managed to do something wrong on the Thai Airways website such that the price of my flight increased and the variations in website capability when looking for an open jaw flight series.

 

So when I came to book the open jaw flights I thought I would call Trailfinders and see what they could do for me. Before I called I opened ITA matrix, Seatguru and a few airline websites. I identified prior to calling, the flights I thought I could get and had considered some pros and cons of various airlines (eg direct or indirect flights, how long the layover etc).

 

Despite ticking the boxes about  only showing flights with available seats etc it turned out not to be and certain websites suggested flights were available when they were not (I checked this on the airline’s own booking engine) and so  Trailfinders were really helpful. They identified truly available flights and I was able to discuss the issues of long layovers versus cost and they also identified that with Emirates I could get a discount if I also booked a hotel, something not flagged on the websites and something you need to check separately if you do it yourself. The agent spent over and hour with me and in the end I really feel I got a good deal, with some compromise, but also better than I could have done on my own and probably in less time.

Many experts seem to write off travel agents but if you are a beginner and do not have access to certain industry search tools I would wholeheartedly recommend taking the advice of a travel agent.