Day 4: Travel to Richmond, VA

This is my first WordPress for BlackBerry post! I hope it works!

I redeemed 25,000 miles for my trip to Richmond so I wouldn’t have to drive 10 hours roundtrip for a 12-hour conference. The only available outbound was the last itinerary of the day, so I booked it with the intent of standing by for an earlier option. However, today nothing earlier was for sale. I arrived at TRI and discovered my outbound was already delayed. As I was coming down the escalator toward the gate, the agent invited passengers on my flight to take the delayed, earlier flight if no luggage was checked, so I took it. Although it departed an hour and 15 minutes late, it was a good decision, as I would have misconnected otherwise.

My connection ended up taking a delay because the crew was on another flight that was diverted due to the storms. However, Delta found another crew. We departed 49 minutes late and arrived only 17 minutes late. I was very lucky.


London-Heathrow to Basel, Switzerland on BMI 27 April to 1 May 2011 by Bruce

A huge thank you to my frequent traveler friend, Bruce, for contributing great trip reports from abroad!

Wed., April 27
BD161 dep LHR 07:15 arr BSL 09:50

Sun., May 1
BD168 dep BSL 20:30 arr LHR 21:05

A holiday was declared for the royal wedding, so I decided to take advantage of the long weekend. When BMI sent me an email offering fare sales, Basel was a good choice because a) it was cheap, b) there was a Marriott where I could use points, c) the Swiss have a culture of speaking English, and d) there was much to see in a city and country I’d never visited.

BMI’s purchase process is simple enough and I booked for an early Wednesday departure and a late Sunday return to maximize my time in Switzerland. My alarm woke me up at 04:15 and I was on the way, arriving at Heathrow at 05:45 for the 07:15 departure. Security was simple and I did not alert on the magnetometer. I did see a full-body imager off to the side that was not being used. (In the UK, if you’re selected you can either refuse or not fly. No pat-down option.)

BMI has two lounges in Terminal 1 – “The London Room” for domestic and Ireland destinations and “The Great British Lounge” for international departures. I was in the former for Dublin in January, this time I was in the latter. It’s a very large lounge with lots of seating and power outlets at every chair and table. Not much for food, a couple of pastries and a big cauldron of porridge available with golden syrup. Coffee was good. And as at most of the European lounges I’ve visited, self-serve alcohol and fridges full of assorted mixers. A great view of 9L, right at the taxiway where the aircraft finish decelerating and head to the gates. I kept hoping for a 380, but the 330s, 340s and 747s kept me entertained. I still think BA’s livery is top notch and the planes are always bright white with no peeling paint. *cough* US *cough*

I headed over to the gate at 06:30, where passports were checked again against photos and boarding was called for special assist and elites. It was a gate rush though 47 passengers left a lot of room on this A319 with a capacity of 130. I had 6A with the row to myself. Legroom was fair-to-good and seat width was reasonable. We pushed back at 07:20 and were wheels up at 07:27.

In flight, a sandwich (mushroom and cheese ciabatta) and a small cup of soda. I was pleased to see that Voyager (the BMI flight magazine) had a full article on Basel, so I took it with me for reference. We landed ten minutes early. Swiss immigration was easy as an EU citizen and I was off to explore the city. As with most of Europe, BSL has excellent public transport and Bus 50 goes into town for CHF4.00 (about $5). Basel is wonderful and five days was sufficient, including a day trip to Zurich for lunch with a colleague.

For the return, my tired and sore feet brought me to the airport at 17:30 for the 20:30 departure. BMI does not have their own counters or kiosks at BSL, they partner with LX. Swiss has a “Gold” Star Alliance line, so I was able to skip the queue of 20 people to get my boarding pass. Security was slow and could use some efficiency. The elite line was marked for F customers only. It took about 40 minutes for me to clear the magnetometers, as the security officers were “helping” and checking BP’s/passports on the land-side, which slowed the queue.

The Swiss Lounge was near my gate. Quite possibly the best designed lounge I have visited. Panoramic 360-degree view of the entire airfield and enough space for 200+ on three levels. Showers, quiet areas, computers, telephone cubicles and I was given a voucher to access the wi-fi. The self-service food, spirits and beer were okay.

I headed to the gate at 19:45 and cleared border control without issue. Boarding was again a gate rush despite directions in German, French and English. We pushed back five minutes late but landed 15 minutes early. In flight, a veggie sandwich and a cup of soda or juice. We disembarked onto a jetbridge and then were loaded onto a bus for the 10 minute drive to UK immigration. I had not checked my rollaboard in either direction, so there was no wait for luggage.

Summary: A great yield as BMI has low prices to introduce flights to this new destination. Excellent lounges. Comfortable seating, even in Y. The flight attendants and gate agents were friendly and otherwise unremarkable. On-time departures and arrivals. I’m pleased that there is still a free snack on board. Grade: A-. The only demerits were the boarding process (carrier controllable) and the bus to the international arrivals area (not carrier controllable). BMI is an excellent Star Alliance partner and I would be happy to fly them again.

Total Trip Cost: $ 139.20
Actual Airfare: $ 56.64
Actual Miles Flown: 896
Yield: $ 0.063 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 82.56, 59.31% of ticket price

– Even though the gate agents at both airports gave instructions in English and German (and French at Basel), the flight attendant safety instruction was only in English.
– UK taxes and fees are Out. Of. Control. £12 UK air passenger duty, £9.60 UK security and noise charge, £23.60 UK passenger service charge. I don’t see how BMI can make a profit (or even break even) on £35.40 for a 900-mile roundtrip.
– BSL (Basel EuroAirport) is in France and is operated jointly by the French and Swiss with separate border control depending on which way you’re headed.

TRI-DTW-RIC on Delta 30 March 2011

I arrived at TRI to find out my flight through Atlanta had just been cancelled. I approached the agent and Delta had already proactively rebooked me on the 12:10 pm flight to Detroit (DTW). Unfortunately I lost my upgrade, as both flights were regional jets operated by Comair and Pinnacle.

The TRI-DTW flight boarded promptly and quickly. We departed seven minutes early and arrived 55 minutes early. The flight is blocked at an hour 48 minutes, but it’s only an hour from takeoff to touchdown. I was seated in the exit row aisle with no seatmate. We had a full bev and snack service and the flight attendant addressed me by name.  She also passed through the cabin again with more snacks.

Because we arrived so early, I was able to catch my breath, recharge, and make myself a drink at the self-serve bar in the Delta Sky Club.

I had been assigned a window seat (my preference is an aisle), but when I inquired at the gate about row 1, which is usually blocked for special assist passengers, 1B aisle was available, so I took it. This flight also boarded promptly, but was a bit slow backing away from the gate and departing DTW. We departed about 20 minutes past scheduled departure and arrived in Richmond (RIC) about 10 minutes early. On this flight, I had an “Up in the Air” type seatmate (he even resembled George Clooney! Sigh…) and a full snack service. My seatmate and I had a good time discussing travel, Europe, and wine (of course)! Upon arrival, I deplaned, visited the ladies’ room, proceeded to baggage claim, and my bag was already going around the carousel.

Grade = A+.  Delta handled the cancellation well and the service on both flights and by the ground personnel was outstanding.

UA: LHR-IAD-DEN-XNA. Nope, it’s LGW-AMS-ORD-XNA! 24-Dec-2010

Contributed by my friend Bruce!

I bought the ticket with UA, so I’m putting this in the UA trip reports, even though the majority of the headache belongs with BA (British Airways) and BAA (British Airport Authority). It’s a long trip report because of that headache. I booked this ticket in October.

My typical practice is that as I get closer to the departure – even weeks or days in advance – I check the seat arrangements to try to snag a better seat. So imagine my surprise when on Monday, 48 hours prior to departure, I was unable to see my seat assignment. A call to UA determined the cause – the flight had been canceled due to weather. (Weather? It snowed the day before yesterday and hasn’t snowed since. They can’t clear the runways in two days? Apparently not and there are some inquiries going on. For starters, the chief of Heathrow isn’t getting his 2010 bonus.) The agent took about 40 minutes to rebook me on an alternative itinerary, but the soonest option she could find was two days later. Most of the 40 minutes was spent trying to reach someone at BA to get me to an airport where I could pick up an alternate UA flight. Instead of 22-Dec LHR-IAD-DEN-XNA, it’s now 24-Dec LHR-AMS-ORD-XNA, an arrival delay of around about 40 hours. And I continued trying to select better seats on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thursday morning, I went to the UA website to check in. It referred me to BA’s site to check in for that segment. The BA site said “please call” so I did. The agent said that in order to free up possible seats to handle the backlog, a process had canceled all seats that did not have a valid ticket. Uh, what? BA428 is now fully booked with a wait list. There’s a later flight, but I would misconnect for AMS-ORD. He said he would keep trying to get me on 428. I offered Gatwick and he was able to book me on BA8111 at 06:20 and said I was all set.

After we disconnected, I went back to the website to try to check-in. The website still says “please call” so again, I did. This second agent gave me a new PNR and said I could check in with that. I tried, it accepted my passport info. And then it says again, “please call” so again I did. This time, the agent says that that they still don’t have a UA ticket number and I should call UA. Another long call and they added the ticket number to the BA record. That generated an automated email from BA with the update. I went back to, still unable to check-in. Another 45 minute phone call – “you need to check in at the airport.”

It’s now 2pm. Rather than wait until morning and risk a last minute problem, I decided the best option was to just go to the airport. Now. A 90-minute train to Gatwick, a 5-minute shuttle from the South to the North terminal, an uncooperative kiosk and finally a very nice ticket agent with the thickest Irish brogue tried to get my boarding pass. She made a quick call, hit a few buttons on her computer, checked my passport and Shazam! A BP for my flight the next day. All of that adventure and I’m not even on the plane yet! It took four calls totaling 3 or more hours plus a visit to the airport.

I spent the night at the nearby Marriott Courtyard and woke to my alarm at 3:30, catching the 4:03 shuttle (£2.50) to the airport. Security was a breeze, no “random selection” this time. A few of the screeners were decked in holiday gear, so I complimented the BP checking guy on his Santa hat and the supervisor for his battery-powered light string that he had draped over himself.

The BP says “Club Europe” and I tried to access the club, but it wasn’t open at 04:30. Instead, I got a coffee at Caffe Nero.

Gatwick, like some airports, does not offer free wi-fi. Annoying. They also don’t post gates until 20 minutes before boarding, so everyone’s waiting and wandering in the main concourse. At 5:40 (for 6:20 scheduled boarding), off we go. My BP was again compared to my ID here to enter gate area. Boarding was a general call and gate rush, but I was prepared and was therefore 2nd on board. My seat was 9F on the 737-436. About 85% of the seats were filled though only 2 of 12 in F. I saw the flight attendant collect coats there and it seemed like all the luggage made it on board.

At the time the doors were due to close, the First Officer says that we’re still waiting on four passengers who hadn’t arrived yet and they had checked luggage. We waited until 10 minutes past departure before they arrived out of breath and hustled back to one of the last rows in the plane. Push back, taxi and we were wheels up at 6:48. Beverage service with awful coffee and a ham sandwich with a small tub of orange juice. Rubbish pick up. No IFE. We landed AMS about 25 minutes late.

I’ve been to Amsterdam Schiphol a couple of times now, but only to start or end a journey and never to transfer. It seemed to me rather neatly divided up and segregated by alliance. BA and OneWorld in terminal 1, Air France and Delta in the center areas and Continental/United with the Star Alliance folks in the third terminal. Let me tell you, it’s a major long walk from one end of the terminal to the other! I walked past a Santa Claus shouting “Ho-Ho-Ho” and giving gifts to kids. Finally at the “Transfer 9” desk, the agent prints me a new boarding pass, puts it in a Gold envelope and says that I’ve been upgraded, the lounge is number 43 and have a Merry Christmas! Hoo-ah!

At the Servisair contract lounge, I learned that my President’s Club membership wouldn’t have gotten me into the club, but my Business BP did. The typical European spread (though not as much as MUC). Self service spirits and mixers, puff pastries and some sweet things. For the holidays, AMS is offering free wi-fi, for 30 minutes twice. Nice touch. This was good, because even the club doesn’t offer free wi-fi.

With all the walking back and forth, I only have a half hour in the club before I head to my flight. Security at the gate area, where my luggage was xrayed. AMS has the millimeter wave scanners, but it’s still okay to opt-out as I saw one woman do it. So I stepped up and did the same. Oddly, the screeners were not wearing latex gloves. The patdown (after passing through the regular magnetometer) was somewhat thorough but not excessive. I did not feel violated at the guy did not “meet resistance” though the rest of my body was checked. I am confident that it would have been possible to get through security with “stuff” without going to extremes.

Into the gate area, they boarded F and Business before elites. I was on board with my luggage stowed and my first glass of sparkling wine in hand while the rest of the aircraft was boarding. When the doors closed, four business seats were unfilled. I was in 9H but 9G was empty. These two on the 767 is a rear-facing seat with a full 180 degree recline. I had no problem stretching all the way out, but I simply couldn’t sleep. Instead, about 50 on-demand movies, plus TV and other entertainment. (I think they were on a loop in coach.) I watched Takers, Expendables, Killers, some 30 Rock and finally I plugged in my laptop and cleaned up some mail that would sync later. The power outlet was US-only and I had to pull down my suitcase from the overhead to get my US power plug!

Food and service were excellent. Top notch. Full can with a large lime wedge and a bowl of warm nuts that was refilled twice. Salad (I chose the balsamic vinaigrette over the peppercorn), “sliced Bresaola beef, Milano salami, bocconcini and cucumber salad” to start. For the main, I chose the filet. Extremely tender and easy to cut with the knife and fork. Lyonnaise potatoes and glazed carrots. Yummy. I cleaned my plate. For dessert, the cheese plate was okay. Throughout, the flight attendant kept refilling my wine glass – a delicious rich 2007 Côtes du Rhône. I probably had most of the bottle. When I was sufficiently stuffed and rather drunk, I stopped the wine but the flight attendants continued refilling my water glass to a rather obsessive degree.

Landing at ORD was on time, into light snow/sleet. No trouble at immigration with an officer who seemed quite bored and only asked the rote questions before stamping my passport. No checked luggage, I took the AirTrain to F and found a closet-sized RCC. I used the free wi-fi pass for my iPhone, drank half a Bud Light (ick!) and ate some veggies and cubed cheese before heading to my gate.

RJ boarding without a jetbridge, we had to cross 100 yards of apron in the driving snow. Thankfully, I hadn’t packed my coat because the boarding door and the galley service door stayed open for a good 20 minutes. Freezing! A normal ERJ-145, up, across and down for an hour or so. Brief beverage service with a half can and we landed at XNA eight minutes late with dry ground and cold wind. A brief wait for the gate checked bags and hooray, home for Christmas!

Summary: I’m extremely displeased with Heathrow airport. They handled this snow extremely poorly and someone needs to be canned. They get an F minus and I’m glad that Gatwick gets credit for transporting me properly on this trip. I’m also very unhappy with BA’s handling of my ticketing situation. They get a C-. UA also acted poorly as I did not get a notification of my cancellation and they did not handle the BA segment correctly. If I had not taken action, I might not have gotten out in time to get home for Christmas Eve. I would also give them a C, but they score some extra credit for the unexpected upgrade and therefore finish with a B+.

XNA-DEN-IAD-LHR on United 8-Nov 2010 by Bruce

The purchase process was okay, but it could be improved. I don’t like having to click on each itinerary to see the price. I think US actually does this better. I was looking to maximize EQMs so I spent a few dollars more for a slight zig-zag itinerary, picking up an extra few over my usual XNA-IAH-LHR route. As expected, allows you to enter your OnePass number but I had to call in to get Economy Plus seats without the upcharge. With only a week until departure, seats were poor and I ended up in a middle seat for the DEN-IAD leg.

I arrived at XNA at 8:20 am for the 9:35 am departure. I had to see gate agent so that he could check my passport as the machine wouldn’t print a boarding pass. I wonder how this might have worked if I’d printed the boarding pass at home?

CRJ-200 from XNA to DEN. No seat on this piece of crap is any good, but 1A was particularly bad – a bulkhead with no cutout and the tray table in the armrest. We pushed back at 9:25 am, 10 minutes early. Drink service was cash only for beer and wine.

About 15 minutes into the flight, the plane made an unexpected ‘jig’ to the right which spilled my drink. Captain came on after and said it was a “mountain wave” which seemed particularly odd as we were over eastern Kansas. About as flat as it gets.

At Denver, I popped into the Red Carpet Club East. Nothing special, only cereal and milk at 9:30 am. I think the CO Presidents Clubs have better food options, even if they never change the choices. The club was right next to my IAD flight, so a short walk. Boarding was called on time and started with Zone 1. Since I was 33rd for the upgrade, I figured I was out of luck. Even still, the overhead bins were full from 1 to 12 so mine went over 13. When boarding was complete for a full aircraft, all bins were full and at least 10 passengers had to gate check. Our IFE on this 757 was overhead TV screens, showing an episode of The Office and then a strange movie, Flipped. I watched it anyway and then did the Channel 9 thing, which always interests me.

We arrived at IAD on time but taxi’ed for ten minutes. There was just enough time for me to hike from C to D, pop into the RCC to try my wi-fi (unsuccessfully!) and then arrive at the gate where 1K was being called. Then Zone 1 and I was on board.

A decent sized plane this time, a 777. I landed 20J, the aisle of the first bulkhead with excellent legroom. I could see into Business class which had cocoon seating, some of which was reversed. I’m not sure if I would like sitting backwards.

We pushed back on time and I tuned myself into the flip-out IFE. Only 6 movies available on the “free” options, which was disappointing. I still found two movies I hadn’t seen before – Salt and Inception – before an hour and a half of Channel 9. It was really interesting to hear the different carriers and their obvious accents. AF sounding very French and LH sounding German of course, but compared to those, I could really hear the Texas in the CO Captain and the Southern drawl from DL.

There was no food on the CRJ, just pretzels. The domestic flight was BOB – the Apple and Cheese plate was okay. On the International flight, I had chosen the kosher meal as I’ve heard those are usually fresher than the regular meals. It was Chicken and pasta, and compared to the small chicken breast my neighbor had, a good choice. Salad and a big chocolate brownie. For breakfast, the kosher meal was a well frozen bagel with cream cheese that had separated and a cup of OJ that was a single block of ice. A complimentary serving of wine was offered, which I accepted. Redwood Creek’s 2009 Cabernet. Decent, considering the plastic cup.

We landed on time in cold and wet London, where I almost get through Immigration! The Border Agent noticed that I’ve been coming over here for a year on my 6-month visa, but I fortunately had the letter from the Passport Agency with my appointment for my UK passport, as I am now a dual citizen. Whew!

Summary: B+. UA does a decent job and I don’t see a whole lot of difference between the domestic or the International flights compared to CO. The food was decent on the plane, though the President’s Club in Houston had better food choices than the Red Carpet Club East in Denver. The IFE is better on the CO International flights. I’d fly them again, I suppose.

Note: My UA tickets were “S” class, and I was pleased to see an unexpected 25% bonus EQMs in my OnePass account.

Total Trip Cost: $ 957.20
Actual Airfare: $ 781.20
Actual Miles Flown: 5745
Yield: $ 0.136 per mile (Decent, considering they were only 7 days out)
Taxes & Fees: $ 176.00, 18.39% of ticket price

DAB-ATL-TRI on Delta 7 August 2010

The return trip from DAB was interesting as well.  Thunderstorms were predicted for August 7 afternoon, so my boyfriend and I decided to try to get an earlier flight.  We pretended as if we were booking one-way tickets and the 11:48 am flight showed availability in first (A) class, I believe five or six seats, so we thought that there might be a chance we’d go standby and get upgraded, since we’re both Gold Medallion.  The 1:48 pm flight was a CRJ-200 showing only a seat or two open, so that was our other option.

We arrived DAB at 9:00 am, and no one was at check-in.  We used the kiosk to request earlier flights and picked itineraries with the 11:48 am departure.  My boyfriend’s kiosk printed a seat request card, but mine a.) told me our original 3:07 pm was overbooked and I could volunteer with a gate agent b.)  There was an issue with the 3:07 pm flight already and c.) to see an agent.  Finally two agents showed up and the male agent didn’t help at all, he just said they were booked all day and standby was all we could get.  The female agent looked at my record, printed the seat request card which said, “Flight Coupon Required” which kind of made me nervous as I had an e-ticket, then tagged and took the bag I was checking.

Once security opened at 9:45 am (LOL), we passed through.  We checked mobile and it never would show us the standby list, but it did tell us there was a problem with the 3:07 pm departure.  So my boyfriend called and the agent said it was delayed. mobile also told me I was going to misconnect again.  Boarding for the 11:48 am flight started and towards the end of the process, I was called up and given seat 17B and my boyfriend was called up and given 26A exit window. I was like, “WTH?” and like the gentleman he is, he gave me his seat and he took mine.

This plane departed five minutes late and arrived about 10 minutes early.  I went to one of the interrupted travel scanners and printed a slip that showed that I was on standby for the 4:00 pm and confirmed on the 6:05 pm. My boyfriend also wanted to make sure which flights he was listed and/or confirmed on, so he went to a kiosk, which didn’t show him standby listed on anything, and wouldn’t let him list himself on a 2:40 pm or a 3:40 pm, so we went to Concourse E where he saw an agent.  She said Delta was upgrading their kiosk and website, so it was glitchy, but printed for him a seat request for 2:40 pm and a confirmed exit row 26A on the 3:40 pm.

We had an hour or so to kill before his 2:40 pm flight, so we ate at One Flew South, the upscale restaurant at ATL.  It came highly recommended and it was excellent. It was a fantastic meal, service, and we were in there, ordered, ate, and out of there in about 40-45 minutes.  We had the breast of duck with portabella ravoli and white asparagus. I highly recommend the restaurant.

We went to my boyfriend’s gate and the flight was boarding. He had cleared standby, so we said goodbye.  I went to the C Concourse Sky Club to pass the next hour and a half.  While there, I tried to scan my interrupted travel slip at the kiosk to see if perhaps I was really on the 4:00 pm and it did not show me standby listed at all.  So I went to the website and it was equally screwed up.  It showed that my 6:05 pm flight was delayed until 10:05 pm, but with an arrival of 7:20 pm (LOL), and prompted me to select alternate flights.  In all reality, the 6:05 pm was not delayed.  Then I checked the standby list for the 4:00 pm and I was #3 of 4 with 11 seats remaining, so I figured I was good to go after all.  But Delta’s technology “upgrade” was definitely causing glitches like the agent said.

Another interesting note about the club: the man seated across from me in the cubicle section was watching porn on his laptop when I arrived! Thank goodness he had on a headset and he didn’t see the look of shock on my face as I walked by to sit at my cube!

The 4:00 pm standby flight was a little delayed, so I went to my gate around 3:50 pm and saw I was #2 with five seats remaining.  Finally the agent said we were all cleared and I boarded with seat assignment 5B.  The flight was fine. Service by request and the flight attendant actually came and asked each one of us if we wanted something.  We only landed about five minutes late.

I went to baggage claim and of course, my bag was not there.  It did arrive on my original 6:05 pm flight and was delivered to me about two hours after arrival.  When I took a look at the baggage tag, it said DL 1699, the 11:48 am, and DL 5183, my original 6:05 pm flight.  It was also marked Sky Priority and Standby, and apparently it was not redirected to the 4:00 pm as per my standby record, even though it arrived in ATL around 1:15 pm.

When Beth Effect strikes

Friends jokingly call my air travel challenges the “Beth Effect,” and when I have one of those, it’s usually a doozy.  This past weekend would definitely qualify.

Friday, June 25:
I was scheduled to fly TRI-CLT-LGA on US Airways to attend the Travel Blog Exchange conference. How ironic! The ticket was a Continental mileage award redemption.  The TRI-CLT flight was uneventful. However, the next flight was the beginning of the Beth Effect. We boarded, pushed back, and started to taxi, when the pilot noticed a problem with the hydraulic system readings. We returned to the gate and spent the next two hours on board while maintenance tried to fix the problem by replacing a computer and cleaning sensor contacts. Around 8:15 pm, we were told to deplane and see an agent, as their efforts had not been successful.  Many passengers formed a line to see the gate agent, while I proceeded to a nearly empty Special Services counter, where the agent rerouted both me and my bag to a 10:09 pm departure to JFK.  The flight to JFK was fine, but upon arrival, no bag. The JFK baggage agent checked and of course, my bag was never pulled and rerouted, but sitting at LGA, most likely having remained on the LGA flight which ended up flying after all.  She filed a claim and requested delivery to my hotel in Manhattan.

Saturday, June 26:
Although my bag was sitting at LaGuardia since the evening before, it did not arrive my hotel until almost 6:00 pm.  Because I had a conference to attend, my boyfriend in Westchester County had to drive to Manhattan to bring me clothes and toiletries so I could make the afternoon sessions.

Sunday, June 27:
I tried to do online check-in for my return flights and received an error message that my reservation was “out of sync” and I needed to call US Airways Web Support.  I did, and after being on hold for about 15 minutes, the agent came back and said I needed to see an agent at LGA on Monday.  Frustrated, I contacted a supervisor friend at US Airways who was able to fix the check-in problem.

Monday, June 28:
I arrived the airport very early, so I went to the US Airways Club.  The club agent saw how late my departure was and that thunderstorms were approaching, so she tried to change my itinerary to an earlier one.  No matter what she tried, the system would not let her change anything but my LGA-BWI leg.  After doing so and calling the US Airways Help Desk, a boarding pass would not print and she kept receiving an “invalid flight” error message. She sent me to the gate and the gate agents received the same message, so they sent me to Special Services.  The agent there called US Airways Help Desk again and I was finally able to obtain a boarding pass.

The new flight to BWI was delayed to a late inbound aircraft, but we quickly boarded by 2:30 pm.   However, due to storms in the BWI area, we were subjected to a two-hour ground stop aboard our US Airways Express Dash 8 with no air conditioning.  The flight attendant did serve drinks and brought a small bag of ice to a passenger who was evidently overheated.  Once we took off, it was another hour with little to no air conditioning.  Needless to say, I was suffering from heat exhaustion when I deplaned.  I went to the restroom and accidentally left my BlackBerry there in a cosmetic bag and when I rushed back to retrieve it, someone had already taken it.

The next flight to CLT was also delayed to a late inbound aircraft.  However, we did board quickly and departed around 8:30 pm, about 35 minutes late, and arrived CLT at 9:45 pm.  My last flight to TRI was on time and uneventful.

In retrospect, there is obviously something wrong with the baggage system and issues with certain types of tickets.  It’s unacceptable that my bag was not pulled from the LGA flight and put on the JFK flight, when there was nearly a two-hour time block to do so.  It’s also unacceptable that gate/club/special services agents have to call a help desk to complete simple transactions and that agents are not empowered by the system to proactively move customers to their final destination in the most expeditious manner.

DL 5052 and DL 1199 TRI-ATL-RIC 31 March 2010

This was a near perfect day of flying, with sunny spring skies at all three airports.  My first flight took off at 11:26 am and landed at 12:01 pm, 32 minutes early.  It was such a quick flight there was no beverage service.

In between flights, I visited the B-10 Delta Sky Club in Atlanta for a snack, drink, and a quick bit of Internet.

My second flight to Richmond was also a very good flight for the most part.  We departed the gate and were airborne 22 minutes later.  We landed on time.  It was my first ride on an MD-90 and I thought it was very comfortable and spacious in seat 3B, more so than in some of the other Delta mainline planes.  Since the flight was short, just a little over an hour, service included the snack basket and a full beverage service.  I ordered white wine and it was served in a highball glass, which was odd, but at least it was a glass!  The flight attendant refilled my wine three times.

The only thing that bothered me is that the Gogo Inflight Internet was not working properly.  I would reach the page where you either select a pass or sign in, but when I clicked either option, nothing would happen.  I kept trying for the first 35-40 minutes of the flight.  I tried to do Gogo chat for technical assistance, but it was not functional, either.  I finally got to the log in page after numerous attempts, but I kept receiving an error message every time I tried to log in, and I tried multiple IDs and I tried to create a new account.

I was also surprised that such a short flight costs $9.95.  I had a coupon code to redeem for 50% off, but that is still steep for essentially 45 minutes of Internet time, when Gogo is actually functioning. Gogo should consider pricing their passes based on flight miles, not flight times, because the actual flight time of ATL-RIC today was just over an hour from takeoff to touchdown, not an hour and 37 minutes as published by Delta.  Flights shorter than 1000 miles should not be $9.95.

Musings of a travel and wine geek

Yes, I know. It’s been a while since I posted and I apologize. It’s been a crazy winter of bad weather (one trip cancellation, two itinerary changes to alternate weekends) and new opportunities for me in the areas of travel management and wine social media that are keeping me busy, in addition to my community college teaching. I can’t believe it, but I believe I can officially be called a travel and a wine geek. I sense a turning point in my life and in this blog. Now if I can only keep up with it all.

I’ve participated in three Twitter Community wine tweet-ups the past few months: California Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, and last night’s Washington Merlot. April 1 is the next tweet-up, wine blends, and I can’t wait. After these four events, I will have tasted and tweeted about fantastic wines from Anderson’s Conn Valley, Columbia Crest, Foris, ONEHOPE, Parducci, and Paul Dolan.

As to travel, the last three itineraries on Delta went mostly well, so I really didn’t want to write another trip report about the standard fare of being on time, upgrades, drink/meal/snack offerings, etc.  I did experience two tarmac delays, one that was two and a half hours and another an hour and a half, both due to weather and Air Traffic Control, that made me think about the new three-hour tarmac rule. You know, both times I would have been very disappointed to have returned to the gate.  I really wanted to depart, even if we did have to wait a while.  Both flight crews were great during the waits. We were given drinks, lavatory access, and were allowed to use our portable electronic devices.  And since I can’t control the weather (although some of my friends now think I influence the weather with all of the bad luck I’ve had with it lately!) or Air Traffic Control, I patiently waited with my BlackBerry keeping me occupied.

I have a busy April of flying scheduled – to Richmond, VA; Chicago, IL; and New York, NY. My Chicago trip is the first ever pointless, “mileage run” trip I’ve ever taken. I’m flying there to help my Delta Together We Fly promotion team earn bonus miles. I selected Chicago because it was the least expensive from my home airport of TRI and I’ve never been there. So please post suggestions of how I should spend one April Saturday in Chicago, please!

This weekend, I’m off to redeem a gift certificate for a one-night’s stay and breakfast at the gorgeous Hotel Roanoke before it expires. I’m calling it a girl’s weekend out, but it’ll be just this girl. I will be spending Saturday night observing Earth Hour in The Regency Room, enjoying a candlelight dinner. It should be fantastic and I’ll make sure to share photos on Facebook and Twitter. And of course, expect me to do a little shopping at my favorite department store, Macy’s at the Valley View Mall.

So that’s what’s going on in my crazy busy world. I apologize again for being tardy to post. Stay tuned for posts on a wide variety of topics from me and my travel friends.

TRI-ATL-LGA on Delta Air Lines 21 Dec 2009

Mon 21 Dec 2009
DL 5570 TRI-ATL 12:45 pm – 1:58 pm CRJ Seat 8B Exit
DL 1784 ATL-LGA 2:40 pm – 5:06 pm MD-88 Seat 2C First Class

It’s been a while since I wrote a trip report, but that is because the service has been consistent and good.

On my flight from TRI-ATL, we departed on time, perhaps a bit early, and landed early in ATL.  There was no in-flight service and I had no seatmate. When we landed, I discovered my flight to LGA was delayed, but that was to be expected because it was the day after the blizzard in the Northeast.  I passed my time in the B10 Delta Sky Club, where I had the best Bloody Mary of my life, made with the mixer, vodka, three limes, and splashes of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and red wine.  Yes, red wine.  Who knew?

I arrived at my gate about 30 minutes before our rescheduled departure and boarded shortly thereafter.  We departed almost exactly an hour late. I was seated beside a very young serviceman returning home from six months of training and service.  He had been rerouted to LGA instead of EWR, after having been trying to get home since the Saturday before. He was thrilled to be finally on a plane headed home.  He was so tired, he slept nearly the whole way.

The flight had Gogo Inflight Internet service, so I spent most of the flight surfing.  On-board service included the snack basket and full beverage service.  We landed just a few minutes late of our originally scheduled arrival, but because of delayed departures from LGA, our gate was not available and we waited almost an hour on the tarmac before arriving at the gate.  Still, I considered myself lucky, given the weekend weather, cancellations, and delays.