Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dream On Dreamliner

United messed up my mileage run! What originally had been SMF-IAH-DEN-DSM-DEN-IAH-SMF got turned into SMF-ORD-DSM-ORD-SMF for a net loss of 1558 miles. When this little surprise of a new itinerary first showed up in my inbox, I didn't quite know what to do with it, so I turned to my friends over at milepoint for help. Do I call? I don't typically like to draw attention to myself when I mileage run. It's not like I'm doing anything wrong really, but look at a map...flying via Houston to get to Denver from the west coast is bound to raise a few eyebrows. Do I fly this new itinerary and try to hit MileagePlus up for the difference later? Risky. I called.

At first it took me a while to find new flights, especially with all the changes going on at United right now. It also didn't help that I was searching the wrong month when trying to recreate my journey (if you read the milepoint thread you'll get a better idea of what an idiot it am!). Anyway, once I got that straightened out, I came up with SMF-IAH-ORD-DSM-ORD-LAX-SMF, which is only about 400 miles shorter than the original. Not bad. Also not bad, the IAH-ORD segment was scheduled to be on the new Dreamliner 787. A quick phone call to my dad who agreed to donate a systemwide upgrade to the cause and I scored myself a BusinessFirst seat on United's newest and greatest aircraft! I was pretty excited...for like a day.

Haha. Just kidding!

The bad news- it turns out that delivery of 2 of the new 787 Dreamliners is being delayed so they won't be ready for this trip coming up in just a few short weeks. United made the announcement via Unitedhub.com (United 787 Dreamliner to temporarily fly domestic routes), milepoint, Facebook, and I assume FlyerTalk as well. The good news- I'm now flying on a 767-200! And yes, I'm being sarcastic. The real good news is they are allowing people to rebook, which I think is pretty cool. They also said they'd be contacting affected customers shortly and giving out a special 1-800 number. I'm still waiting on that one.

I was never even supposed to fly on the new United 787 Dreamliner, then I was, and now I'm not. So what do I do now? If I settle for Platinum status this year, which is looking like a definite possibility unless I want to spend every weekend between now and the end of the year on a plane, I don't actually need those miles right now. Do I dare call the dissappointed-Dreamliner-avgeek hotline and try to postpone this trip until January? You know I would! Unfortunately, it's not that simple. It turns out there are more schedule changes at United other than those affecting the 787 meaning and I would need to come up with a whole new mileage run, again. In other news there's a hurricane on the east coast so trying to call any airline at the moment seems like a really not-fun and altogether bad idea. It looks like if I want a ride on a brand new Boeing jet I'm might be out of luck this time. Maybe I'll just take the 767 flight and we can all pretend it's 1982.

My trip on the new 787 Dreamliner didn't even last long enough to get a screenshot.






Friday, October 26, 2012

Plane Spotting: Special Liveries of Aloha

For today's Flashback Friday, I wanted to dedicate a post to one of my favorite airlines of all time, Aloha (1946-2008). If you never got a chance to fly with them, you missed out. Their staff was among the friendliest to be found anywhere. If you did fly with them, then you'll probably understand why they were one of my favorites. The photos below are my own (I know some of them aren't great) and all of the planes were spotted at OGG between 2006 and 2008. For such a small airline, they did have quite a few special liveries, which made plane spotting in the islands, and even sometimes here on the mainland tons of fun.

Aloha Funbird N823AL at OGG
N748AL Kaholalele on a rainy day at OGG


N823AL The Aloha "Funbird" - One of my all time favorite liveries and a true classic! This was actually a throwback livery that Aloha used in the 1970's and brought back in the mid-2000's. Although the 737-200 looks old enough to be a true "retrojet", the plane was actually built in 1985. 




"The Super Happy Green Smiley Plane"



N748AL Kaholalele aka "The Wyland Whale"- This 737-700 got a special makeover thanks to the famous marine artist Robert Wyland. The plane typically flew between OGG and SAN (who knows maybe because of Seaworld), but we were lucky enough to catch a ride on it going OGG-SMF.







PH-HZO Makali'i - This 737-800 is not so much a special livery, but rather a lease from European carrier Transavia (notice the registration is not a usual N-number). Aloha more or less kept the paint job, slapped their name on the side and was good to go. The best part of this plane was definitely on the inside though. My family and I nicknamed it the "Super Happy Green Smiley Plane". It's hard not to be happy when you're sipping a Guava Juice Mai Tai or Passion-Orange Ocean Vodka at 36,000 feet inside a jet that's decked out in a lime-green emoticon theme.




Aloha N252TR
N252TR formerly of Hooter's Airlines - One of the few times in my life when I've been afraid of flying was on this plane. Again, not so much a special livery, but the Aloha name painted across a jet they picked up from the failed Hooter's Airlines. We were supposed to "fly" on this plane from Kahului to Honolulu, but it never quite made it off the ground...actually the plane never really accelerated past what would be considered a fast taxi speed. After an aborted takeoff we headed back to the gate. The pilots then conducted a few "tests" which involved spooling the engines up to full throttle and holding the brakes while pointed at the terminal building. The plane shook hard enough that a few overhead bins opened up and spilled their contents all over the plane full of now terrified passengers. A piece of wire running from the fuselage to the top of the vertical stabilizer, which I initially thought was an ADF antenna, might very well have been holding the tail on. We escaped as soon as they'd let us and gladly took another later flight.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Learning to Fly: Guest Post on The Skeptical Traveler

As some of you may already know I got my private pilots license back in 2009. A few weeks ago I was contacted by The Skeptical Traveler, one of the bloggers over at Boarding Area asking if I wanted to share my story with their readers. If you were ever wondering what it's like to learn how to fly or how to get started, head on over to The Skeptical Traveler on Boarding Area and check out my guest post: Learning to Fly

My License

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Bump: Earning Miles and Money VDB Style

Booking a mileage run SMF-LAX-SEA-PDX-SEA-LAX-SMF would definitely fall under the category of "what the **** was I thinking?". If that routing wasn't bad enough, the trip I had planned was to be flown all on regional jets except for SEA-PDX-SEA portion which was serviced by the even less-spacious EMB-120 Brasilia. Luckily, I got out of it, well, part of it at least.

My Tuesday started early, with SMF-LAX on a CRJ-700. If you have to fly on an CRJ, the -700 is the way to go. There is a small first class, which I didn't get upgraded to, as well as E+ seating, which I did get to enjoy, and it turned out that no one was next to me, so even better. LAX-SEA was on another CRJ-700, which blows my mind considering they are both pretty big cities both with a lot of United customers. That upgrade was hopeless. I was like 15 on the list for a first class cabin of 6 seats, but luckily, the guy next to me for the relatively short 2 hour flight was nice and had decided to shower that day, so we got along just fine.

This was my first time to SEA since I was a kid, and I have to say for my second- first impression, I wasn't too excited about the N gate area where United is. About all I can say it has going for it is a nice view of the runways. My short layover there gave me just enough time for a joyride on the north loop train before boarding for Portland.

SEA-PDX was one of the most fun flights of my life! I'm not kidding. I just recently found out about what happens when you try to take a picture of a propeller with an iPhone, and with iPhone handy, I managed to keep myself very entertained for the short half hour flight. It also turned out Portland has a nice airport, actually a REALLY nice airport. I don't know why I thought it wouldn't considering I'd never even been there, but it's always nice when things turn out to be a pleasant surprise like that. I had about 3 hours to kill there so I visited the Rogue Ales Publish House and tried their Dead Guy Ale- not bad.

http://instagram.com/p/Q25mh8LuH4/

PDX-SEA was delayed, as United Express flights often are. After waiting for about 45 minutes in the dirty basement that is gate E6, it occurred to me that I was only halfway through my day and I would essentially be backtracking my way home from here on out. My buzz was wearing off and I was ready to go home now. My mood improved slightly after a nice little catnap stretched out in exit row 9 of the Brasilia and then when I got back to Seattle, it turned out the flight to LA was oversold. I think I volunteered before the gate agent finished making the announcement. What? You want to pay me $250 to take a direct flight home to Sacramento, not on a regional jet, and get there 2 hours early? ...OK! I gladly got bumped.

The gate agent printed out my voucher, $250 e-cert, had me sign some paperwork, and I made my way over to Alaska Airlines to redeem my little piece of paper for a ticket home on a 737. I also gave them my Mileage Plan number.

Normally getting bumped or VDB (Voluntary Denied Boarding) is no fun. They pay you because normally allowing yourself to get kicked off your flight is somewhat of an inconvenience. I did it earlier in the year out of Houston and had to wait 3 hours for the next flight home. I got $300 out of it, so I guess of you think of it as getting paid $100 an hour to sit in an airport, it's not bad, but it was after an overnight mileage run, I was tired, and it was really boring there.

This time my bump experience couldn't have been better. I enjoyed the nice view of the sunset as I watched planes take off and land. The Seattle airport redeemed itself by offering some of the best plane spotting around. As Alaska's hub, it's a great place to catch some of their special liveries; I spotted at least a half dozen of them there, in addition to some impressive international heavies. I also got to catch some of the presidential debate. Things were just getting heated when I left. I've already voted (absentee), didn't really care at this point, and luckily had the excuse of a plane to catch to avoid watching the end of it.

Alaska Airlines Genie/ Make A Wish N707AS at SEA

After another nice nap and a very pleasant flight with Alaska (they're a nice airline), I arrived home at SMF's new terminal B, another first for me, wrapping up my little adventure up north, and an altogether fun day. I also got time to read the free Lonely Planet chapter I downloaded about Rarotonga on the Cook Islands, and now I really want to go there. It'll be a nice use of my United miles to take partner airline Air New Zealand down there someday!

Sacramento's New Terminal B

So for those of you wondering about the miles, because after all this was a mileage run...I lost about 1500 (1454 actually) by not taking United home, but I'm going to try and contact Mileage Plus and ask for my "miles as ticketed". I figure the worst that can happen is they say no, in which case I'm still good to make Platinum for the year. If I do go forward with my plan to make 1K, 1500 is not a huge amount to make up. I'm still waiting to see if 606 miles show up in my Alaska Mileage Plan account for SEA-SMF. Normally $250 for a VDB isn't that great, but there were a lot of other people who wanted it, and it turned out I was greatly convenienced by the turn of events. Plus, I only paid a $200 e-cert for the trip to begin with. I came away with 2454 United miles at a $50 profit.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Enter to Win: Ultimate Travel Library + Freebies

Kayak and Lonely Planet have teamed up to offer you a chance to win the Ultimate Travel Library: over 55 books from LP valued at over $800! You also get to download a free chapter of your choice from any of Lonely Planet's many travel guides just for entering and signing up for their newsletter (you can unsubscribe later). For more details, to enter and get your free chapter go to http://www.lonelyplanet.com/competitions/kayak/. You can also get 20% off any purchases by entering the code LIBRARY20. I got the Rarotnga and Cook Island Chapter from their South Pacific guide and transferred it to my new kindle fire HD in time for tomorrow's flight and my husband got a chapter on Bali for our trip there next year. What free chapter will you be downloading?

Contest and promo ends 10/29

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Plane Spotting: Maho Beach, St. Maarten (SXM)

US Airways 757 landing at SXM

Perhaps the best place in the world to plane spot and my personal favorite is Maho Beach on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten. The end of the short 7,500 ft. runway is right by the beach, separated only by a small 2 lane road and a chain link fence. The water is pristine and warm for swimming, and just when you thought it couldn't get any better, there's even a bar!

Plane Spotting in Paradise, Maho Beach

My husband and I visited in 2010 as part of an Eastern Caribbean cruise, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit a huge part of even going on the cruise in the first place was so that we could stop here. To get to Maho Beach, the obvious choice would be to fly, but it is also just a short 15 minute cab ride from the port in Phillipsburg.

While there be sure to grab a cold beer at Sunset bar and watch the dumb people who try to "surf the fence." SXM is the 2nd busiest airport in the Caribbean, so the spotting is always good, but some of the larger planes like KLM and Corsair's 747's don't visit daily (The biggest we got to see was an Air France A-340). To find out who's going to be there and on what day, be sure to check out the arrivals schedule on flightstats.com

Here's a video of an A-340 that I uploaded on youtube (there are more). It gets really good at about 40 seconds ;) Enjoy!


Felix Baumgartner Breaks The Sound Barrier During Jump From Outer Space

In today's news:
Felix Baumgartner breaks the sound barrier during skydive from a record 24 miles up

Would you do this?

Too cool! So this guy broke a few records including one for being the first person to break the sound barrier outside of an aircraft and another for the highest manned balloon flight. Today also marks the 65th anniversary of when Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in his X-1A aircraft. Two others have survived jumps from similar altitudes, and one of them, Joseph Kittinger, was on hand to help mentor Baumgartner in reaching his goal. It turns out a lot of time and research went into making today's jump a success- just a bit more than what it took to send this Lego Man to Space.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Flashback Friday: French Polynesia

Maybe it's the weather (today actual feels like fall, or maybe even winter after a hotter-than-usual past month), but today I've been craving some serious beach time. It's kind of cold and grey out. It kind of sucks. Anyway, it's typically days like these when I find myself daydreaming about places I'd rather be, warm places.
Bora Bora from the air

Last May, my husband and I took the trip of a lifetime and visited French Polynesia. It was in celebration on our 5th anniversary, but to be honest, we didn't really need an excuse to go there, that place had been at the top of the bucket list since I was about 7 and didn't even know what a bucket list was. It all started when my family was having lunch at a local restaurant on the north shore over on Maui. There was a small aerial picture of Bora Bora hanging in a bamboo frame on the wall near the bathrooms. It was beautiful and I'd never seen anything like it (and this is coming from a kid who spent a lot of time growing up in Hawaii); I wanted to go there.

I made a photographic trip report that I posted on milepoint shortly after we got back. I wanted to let the pictures to do most of the talking, so the text is brief, but I hope it still gives the sense of what an incredible place it is. I'm going to make this post brief as well, as my kid is napping right now, and it is a short matter of time before he wakes up, but do check out the trip report and here are a few pictures if you're like me and seriously dreaming of being somewhere else right now. Enjoy!


Cook's Bay, Moorea
Infinity Pool at the Intercontinental Resort Tahiti


Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa
The Motu
Sunset time in paradise
Mt. Otemanu, Bora Bora


Enter to Win: Star MegaDO

Contest! United is giving you the chance to go to this year's Star MegaDO. All you have to do is make a 30 second video explaining why you are an #avegeek (or aviation enthusiast) and if you win, they'll be paying your way to go to the frequent flier event of the year and crediting your account with 5000 PQM's (those could come in handy this time of year)! You'll get to visit United's hubs in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago and get a once-in-a-lifetime peek at what goes on behind the scenes at one of the world's largest airlines. To find out more and to enter go to https://hub.united.com/en-us/News/Company-Operations/Pages/geeks-united-video-contest.aspx. Good luck! Contest ends October 19th. So what makes you an #avgeek?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Enter to Win and Get 20% Off with Virgin America

Virgin America and Waldorf Astoria have teamed up on facebook to offer you a chance to win a weekend getaway. The prize consists of 2 tickets to a Virgin America destination and four nights at any Waldorf Astoria property, but maybe the best part of this contest is that you can get a 20% off code for Virgin America just for trying. As with most facebook promotions, Virgin wants you to like them if you don't already, but you can opt of out the part where you spam your friends about the actual contest. Enter here and get your code by Nov 8th. Good luck! If you win, where would you go?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Plane Spotting: United Friend Ship A320

Back in 2011, in celebration of their 85th anniversary, United unveiled this Airbus A320 (N475UA) painted in their 1970's "friend ship" livery. I was lucky enough to spot the plane in Cleveland last week! A little fun history about the "friend ship" legacy at United- In 1988 United Airlines' 747SP "Friendship One" (N147UA) set a round-the-world speed record in order to raise money for charity.

 
http://instagram.com/p/QSmNGbruGT/
Have you ever spotted a plane with a special livery before? Which one was your favorite?




Nothing Interesting Really Happened

I know it's been a while since I've had a chance to post, so I wanted to catch up and share where I've been and what I've been up to- namely I completed two mileage runs to MCO and MCI during which, amazingly, all went according to plans and nothing interesting really happened.

I went to Orlando and back with United on September 26th. It had been a while since I'd been to Denver, where this trip took me, so that was fun. SMF-DEN was on a newer Boeing 737-900 with fancy mood lighting, and my bulkhead seat in coach actually had a place to put my bag in front of my seat rather than in the overhead bin, so I thought that was pretty cool. I spent DEN-MCO in first, and again got upgraded on the way home MCO-LAX. Orlando's airport was nice, but I really wanted to leave it and go exploring; I'm thinking next time I head down there I'll schedule a long enough layover to drive out to the coast and visit the Kennedy Space Center which is something I've always wanted to do. I'm also sure someday we'll take the baby to Disneyworld. This time however, the highlight of my layover there was riding the little train around that connects the terminals. I was lucky- No delays, no drama, and surprisingly for United nowadays my planes were virtually empty. Trip cost $57.72 (after certs). 5172 miles.

http://instagr.am/p/QC0_HRruHL/

Last week I flew SMF-LAX-CLE-MCI-CLE-SFO-SMF which is when I really discovered I don't like regional jets. On the flight to LA, the woman next to me was spilling over her seat and into mine and she smelled really bad...like cheap perfume and peanut butter maybe? Anyway, Ewwww. Luckily it was only a short 1 hour flight. No one sat next to me in first class on the red eye to Cleveland. I spent about 3 and a half long hours there before flying to Kansas City and back on a regional jet. I don't care if I ever do that again, or if I go back to MCI. The airport there is small, old, and it kind of sucks. The regional jet I spent 4 hours on was small, old and kind of sucked too. When I got back to Cleveland, after now 5 hours spent on CRJ's I decided to start drinking; If you're ever in the Cleveland airport, I highly recommend checking out Great Lakes Brewing Company. I tried The Wright Pils, which at $5 for 12 oz. made mileage running instantly fun again! I got a last minute upgrade on CLE-SFO, last minute meaning- I had been 8th on the list for 7 seats so after there was a no-show the gate agent actually boarded the plane, pulled me of my row 9 economy plus seat and gave me a new boarding pass, while the rest of the cabin gave me dirty looks. For the first time, maybe ever, I actually wanted to stay in coach where I had the whole row to myself and a window, but I was hungry, and they fed me up front, so I moved. I also got to watch a movie (Battleship) and read a magazine, which are two things that I don't get to do at home very often. I met and talked to Virgin America pilot who was jump-seating on the flight. I always enjoy meeting other pilots. The highlight of this trip was definitely NOT having to spend the night in the San Francisco Airport. My interaction with a Customer Service agent in CLE was a close second; I had to go there to retrieve some boarding passes and the look of confusion on her face even after I explained it to her three times is not something I will soon forget. Trip cost $89.55. 6604 miles.

http://instagr.am/p/QR8FQSLuLn/

Next up- Regional Jet Hell, when I fly SMF-LAX-SEA-PDX-SEA-LAX-SMF next week all onboard United Express. Follow me on twitter, and if I find anything interesting to photograph I'll be sure to share on Instagram (hulagrrl210). In other news, United messed up on the posting of my JFK-SFO segment from a few weeks back. When I changed my flight it looks like the agent rebooked my in Y class, meaning I got an extra 50% EQM bonus which puts me about 1500 miles closer to possibly making 1K for the first time this year. Oooops. :)

Hawaiian Airlines' Newest Inflight Cocktail Needs a Name

It's not quite a Mai Tai, but Hawaiian Airlines' newest inflight beverage offering still looks pretty good. This new pink concoction is a mixture of POG (Passion Orange Guava) juice and Kaloa Rum. The only thing missing is a name. Head over to the Hawaiian Airlines facebook page to submit your name for their new drink and you could win 20,000 Hawaiian Miles and be featured in their menu. It's nice to see Hawaiian Airlines doing something to make their flights to Hawaii something special. This really takes me back to the days when United actually had good Mai Tai's and Aloha served Passion-Orange and Ocean Vodka on their planes.

Name this drink and you could win 20,000 Hawaiian Miles. Hurry, Contest ends October 10th.