Info

badice.com ~ travel musings for the masses

Posts tagged Travel

If you have not listened to the podcast that Seth, Fozz, Rolando, and myself host, I would recommend listening to episode 42. We covered the Delta business class mistake fare, our travel and points strategy for 2014, manufactured credit card spending, and lastly, United’s “Flyer Friendly” ad campaign and following through with promises.

We enjoy recording the show and we hope that shows. We also hope that it provides useful information and some entertainment for our listeners. If you haven’t listened yet, give it a shot and let us know what you think. You can listen on PointsHoarder directly, subscribe to the podcast feed, or directly in iTunes.

Yesterday I noticed a lot of tweets and blogs sending their traffic to an article on Slate titled The Recline and Fall of Western Civilization. The article asserts that we as a society are broken because we recline our seats causing those behind us to suffer. It then takes the utilitarian view that reclining seats should be completely done away with. The first thing that came to my mind was, “are we really that bothered by seats reclining that Slate needs an article about it?”. Then I started thinking about the subtle “me, me, me” that was going on here cleverly disguised as “it’s for the greater good”.

Obviously, everyone on the plane would be better off if no one reclined; the minor gain in comfort when you tilt your seat back 5 degrees is certainly offset by the discomfort when the person in front of you does the same.

This quote in particular stood out. Unless you are a very tall person the amount of discomfort one receives from that same 5 degree seat recline is minimal as well. Sure, you may not be able to use your laptop on the tray table anymore, but the idea that you will be “uncomfortable” is a stretch. I am on an airplane a good chunk of every week and there are a lot of other things that are much more annoying and inconvenient than the guy in front of me reclining his seat.

Sure, I think it is annoying when a person reclines their seat right after take-off, or even better, the guy who does it on the ground after the flight attendants walk away, but I see some value in seat recline. I have had a few instances of back pain where I needed some recline to help relieve that pain and that 5 degrees made a difference. If we’re going to ban reclining seats then should ban all items that make trash (people litter), people who sit with their legs open on the subway (takes up my space), and so on.

Maybe what the author really wants to see is a seat like what ANA has installed on their Dreamliners, essentially a seat where the seat back is a shell, the bottom cushion slides forward, and the back cushion slides down. Such a seat gives a recline, but does not infringe on the space of the person behind.

I will say this. No matter how tall you are, products that keep the person in front of you from reclining, such as the Knee Defender, are not the answer. In the end air transportation is similar to a bus. If people want the experience of how nice commercial travel was in the 1960s then we’ll need to bring back regulation, make air travel unaffordable for a section of the population, and close a few airports… No? But it means a “better” travel experience for those traveling.

Update 1/15/2013

Air China has made an official announcement. The service will start on July 11, 2013, pending government approval.

Update 1/9/2013

The route was pulled from Air China’s systems not too long after I posted this. However, there are rumors that a private event at the Chinese Consulate in Houston January 15 will be centered around this service. Stay tuned to see what comes out of that event next week!
========================================

Though there has not been a formal announcement from the Houston Airport System nor from Air China, it is now clear from airline schedule information that Air China will begin Beijing-Houston non-stop service in July of 2013. The 4x weekly schedule currently has the flight leaving Beijing at 3pm and arriving in Houston at 3:40pm local time on the same day. The return flight will depart IAH at 1:30am and arrive in Beijing at 5am local time the next day.

Air China is a part of the Star Alliance so the new route will link up perfectly with United’s domestic network out of IAH. This is also a great way to connect to destinations in Asia. Air China serves a large number of Asian destinations out of Beijing and if connecting to another country, there is a 72-hour transit without visa option to get out and see Beijing.

The route will be served by Air China’s new Boeing 777-300ER, with three cabins of service, first, business, and economy. The first class seat is a suite like product configured in a 1-2-1 layout. From the photos it looks like quite the upgrade from what Air China used to offer. You can tour the cabin by watching the video below. The business class seat on the 777-300ER is pretty much identical to what United installed on their ex-Continental international aircraft, a lie-flat seat with a large entertainment screen. And lastly, economy class is configured in a 3-3-3 arrangement with a new inflight entertainment system and a footrest.

It is great to have another international carrier out of Houston and when added to Turkish’s new service starting April, Intercontinental will have thirteen foreign carriers providing flights.

My Monday mornings are rather mundane. I am up at 4:15am to make sure I get to the airport with plenty of time. Usually, I arrive too early (this has become more common with PreCheck) so I usually buy a cup of coffee and hang out at the gate. Today was just like any other Monday except for two things.

The first, was four women and a baby traveling together. It was, I’m guessing, the grandmother, the daughter, and the two granddaughters along with a great-grandchild. The grandmother had a walker and had trouble moving on her own. When they called for people with disabilities to board first, the grandmother stayed seated. The made the same announcement again, this time with the gate agent looking right at the older woman. Nothing. She sat there and waited. Near the end of boarding I see all four women walking down the jetway. They had waited until the end of boarding so not to hold anyone up. Very thoughtful of them, though I wish an agent would have approached them before boarding to ask if they’d like to get settled before they started regular boarding. Maybe an insignificant observation but I thought it was interesting.

The more random incident occurred about halfway through boarding. A woman walked on-board and stood at the front of the plane, looked at the first class cabin, then exclaimed, “this must be the man’s club”. Sure, every seat in the cabin was occupied by a man, but that had to be the most random thing I have experienced on an airplane in a while. I am not sure if she was joking or what, but the whole thing was odd. I have been seated next to plenty of women in first class so I don’t get the “man’s club” reference. Maybe she missed her upgrade, I don’t know. In any case, it made for an interesting Monday.

As of yesterday there were a number of really good fares to places like Istanbul, Doha, Dubai, and Kuwait City. The most attractive fare is Houston-Istanbul on Turkish Airlines’ new non-stop service starting in April. The fares are good from April through June and requires that return travel not start before the first Sunday after departure.

Want to search for these fares? Simply use your favorite booking website and search IAH and IST departing some time in April-June and returning no earlier than the first Sunday after you left. One note, Turkish’s non-stop service is only offered five times a week, but United has daily service via Newark.

Over the past several weeks work has been taking me to New York City, specifically, an office in downtown Brooklyn. There are a couple of decent hotels eight blocks away and they are quite nice. My issue is more with the surrounding area and finding somewhere to eat at 7pm. The options are not plentiful and I really do not want to take the subway into Manhattan every night to eat.

My co-workers all stay in lower Manhattan near the Bowling Green subway station. It is a quick train ride from the office (10 minutes) but has the same issue as the hotels in Brooklyn, there really are not a whole lot of dining options in lower Manhattan (unless you enjoy pub food every night).

Why is food so important you ask? For one, I’ve gotta eat, but more importantly, going out to dinner is a way for me to not think about the day’s work but instead focus on other conversation. Even better is if I am able to meet up with some of my friends and talk travel or planes or some other non-work topic.

The last hotel stay I had was at the Four Points in Chelsea. The location is perfect, tons of restaurants around and easy access to the subway. It does take an across the platform transfer to get to the office, but that is really no problem. The downside of this hotel and what keeps me searching for other options is that it is somewhat dingy and not well kept. I do not worry about bed bugs but the hotel has seen better days. The other options I am exploring are the Four Points in SoHo, the Sheraton in Tribeca, the W on Lexington, and the Four Points in Midtown. The last option I have already kind of written off though, I have no interest being near Times Square or dealing with the trains, crowds, etc. there.

But, I am open to suggestions. Any thoughts or experiences with hotels in Manhattan? My main requirements are close to a subway stop (preferably the 4/5 or the 2/3), in an area with a decent number of restaurants, and a hotel staff that likes to keep the property clean.

One of the perks of being a Platinum member of Starwood’s Preferred Guest program is the occasional upgrade to a better room, sometimes a suite. When I arrived at the Sheraton in Brooklyn I inquired about a possible upgrade and was told, “I have a suite available if you don’t mind being on a lower floor”. I have no preference on my room’s altitude but being in NY, I asked about noise levels. The gentleman checking me in assured me that it was quiet and noise wouldn’t be a problem.

I got to the room, unpacked and immediately noticed street noise. Again, being in NY, this is kind of expected and I figured the noise would go away as the night went on. By 10pm it was fairly quiet and I went to bed. Sometime around 3am there was all kinds of noise outside. Not people partying but what sounded like construction or trash pick-up. All I know is that it went on for what felt like eternity (but was probably really an hour).

To top all of this off, I went to get in the shower this morning and was smart enough to test the water before getting in. Am I glad I did. The temperature indicated by the faucet handle was lukewarm at best, but that certainly did not match what was coming out of the shower head. Not in the mood to burn myself or come out looking like a just boiled lobster, I opted to give myself a glorified spit bath.

All of this to say, sometimes, an upgrade is not an upgrade at all. The staff was helpful when I explained both issues to them and they offered to move me to another room, which I accepted. Since no other suites were available, I was downgraded back to the type of room I was originally booked in.