Saturday, June 30, 2012

Emirates First Class Overload: Losing my A380 Virginity - KUL - DXB


I arrived in Kuala Lumpur straight after our Seychelles trip way early at noon for my evening flight to Dubai. The Emirates counter was opened for the earlier flight to Melbourne. There were no lines in first class counter where I managed to check-in and drop off my luggage for both my Kuala Lumpur to Dubai and subsequent Dubai to Melbourne via Kuala Lumpur flight.

Instead of heading straight airside and to the lounge, I decided to have some lunch landside for some Malaysian food. I was missing Malaysian food after being on the road for the last couple of weeks. Once I did get to the lounge, I tried to get a quick nap on the one available massage chair. I think I did snooze off for a couple of minutes but couldn’t really fall asleep. I eventually gave up, took a shower and caught up on some work.

The lounge stayed relatively empty the entire I was there which was not a surprise considering how large the lounge was. It was furnished similarly to other Emirates lounges.

View from the lounge
There was a wide selection of food with made to order satay. Being a satay fan, I had to sample Emirates’ satay but I’m sad to say that it was severely disappointing. The meat was dry and the peanut sauce resembled peanut butter.

Emirates First Class Overload: Introduction


This would be my second mistake fare on Emirates – the first being the CMB-MLE mistake for our "second honeymoon". Emirates had a global sale with first class tickets form Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne going for about 7500 ringgit or ~$2500 USD. The mistake in the fare was that instead of a direct Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, I was able to route the flight via Dubai for the same price. This routing itself would give me Gold status on Emirates.

The Long Way to Melbourne

The best part was that Kuala Lumpur was scheduled to be operated by the Airbus A380. Being a “partial plane geek”, it was somewhat embarrassing that I have yet to fly on the A380 despite the A380 being operated already for a number of years. This would be an over the top way for my first A380 flight!

The original plan just was to do a “mileage run” and just fly the all the segments over a long weekend. A couple of weeks before the scheduled departure, the A380 was pulled off the Dubai to Kuala Lumpur route due to A380 wing cracks incident. I did however, manage to get my flights changed without any charges to a month later where the A380 was back on the route. Better still, I actually had to fly to Melbourne for a friend’s wedding and made me less guilty for the splurge.

The price of $2500 USD for the flights itself wasn’t cheap and not something I would splurge on usually. I just couldn’t give up the opportunity to lose my A380 virginity with a flight and shower on Emirates first class. Furthermore, the flights itself would give me enough miles for Gold status on Emirates Skywards that might come in handy in the future.

Hope you guys enjoy this trip report but it's going to be pretty much Emirates, Emirates and more Emirates first class, not that is such a a bad thing.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Doubletree by Hilton SFO

Long overdue report so I'll keep it short.

Stayed here a couple of months ago over a weekend and I was in the bay area for a work trip. Check in was prompt with the customary Doubletree chocolate chip cookies provided. I was also provided coupons for breakfast and codes to the complimentary wireless internet as a Gold Hilton Honors member.

Room was also on the small side with what looked like a renovated rooms.

My favorite part of the hotel was the great view of the bay across SFO. There's also a trail outside the hotel that's good for a run.

As with bay area hotels, parking is not free and the Doubletree charged $18 for an overnight multiple entry parking fee which was charged to the room. They also provide a free shuttle service to and from SFO.

Overall, the hotel was nothing outstanding but I would return if needing a hotel if on transit/stopover in San Francisco.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Embassy Suites Austin Townlake Embassador Suite

The Embassy Suites Townlake is my go to hotel when I visit Austin for work though I probably won't be staying here all that often anymore since I'm a local to Austin now. I did have to stay here for a couple of days while waiting for my apartment move in date. I was surprised to be upgraded to an Embassador Suite during this stay as this has never happened to me before during my previous stays.

All rooms at this hotels are actually suites with the Embassador Suites located on the top 9th floor of the hotel. Access to the floor is limited to guest staying and the Embassador Suites which might be important for those who value some more privacy. I couldn't notice anything different with the Embassador Suites versus the regular suites. For pictures from my previous stay click here. There's complimentary soft drinks and water in the minibar and they leave out coffee, Tazo teas, fruit and pastries through out the day near by the elevators.

The Embassador Suites cost an additional $30 more and I don't think I would personally pay the extra for the upgrade.

Friday, June 8, 2012

United Airlines Status Match

With demise of BMI and my Star Gold Status locked in until 2015 thanks to Asiana, I was looking for a secondary frequent flyer program to bank to. Instead of flying solely on Star Alliance, I was strongly considering to switch some of my travel to Oneworld. Additionally, I was also tempted by possible new experiences like redeeming First on Cathay, British and Qantas and the fact that Malaysian Airlines would be joining Oneworld at the end of the year which allowed for possibly better redemptions to/from home in Malaysia.

I was about to sign up for a Status Challenge to Platinum on American Airlines where it would cost $180 and you need to do 10,000 points in a 3 month period to fast track to Platinum. Soon after, I got an email from United that they were matching my Emirates Gold to Premier Gold Status. I had sent the email weeks ago but didn't hear back from them and I didn't follow up thinking I'll just go the Oneworld path.

Looks like I'll be sticking to Star Alliance for now until when I have a trip back to Malaysia where I could easily do the Status Challenge and possibly make the switch to Oneworld then. Hopefully by then, Malaysian Airlines would have joined Oneworld.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Last BMI Hoorah: Conclusion


Overall, we were happy with the trip. Tried a new airline, stepped on a new continent and ticked off Seychelles and India of the places we've visited.

It's sad to see BMI go and I wished I had started banking miles into them way earlier in my "traveling life". At least, we had one last hoorah from it. I'm left with ~3000+ miles that are probably going to be useless in Avios. With Asiana being my primary Star Alliance program for *A Gold status, I'm still looking for a secondary program to bank my Star Alliance miles to maximize flight redemptions. I'm looking at United but I'll leave that rant for another day.

On the trip itself, I wished we had spent more in Seychelles especially to visit some of the nearby islands. The Hilton was absolutely stunning and wished we could have spent a couple more days on the other resort in Labriz. I loved that Seychelles was *almost* as pretty as the Maldives but the ability to go around and not being held hostage by the expensive sea planes made up for it. Seychelles - we'll be back!

It was an experience to try Ethiophian Airlines but we wouldn't be rushing to fly them again. A 4-5 hour trip on a 737 without AVOD was not fun, the service was inconsistent and the layover in Addis Ababa left much too be desired. I'll stick to SQ or TG any day..

One of the things I *used* to like to do was maximize routing on redemptions by adding as many layovers as possible to try out new airlines, aircraft, cabins hotels, and destinations. After this trip, I'm sick and tired of the mid-range 4-6 hour flights where there isn't enough time to really sleep. We'll probably be sticking to the more conservative direct routings from now and actually spending more time at the actual destination from now onwards.

Last BMI Hoorah: Dubai to back home on Thai


After completing the quick check-in, security and immigration formalities, we were off to the lounges. Thai uses the Marhaba Lounge in Dubai but we decided to head over to the Lufthansa lounge first which was located across from the Marhaba Lounge. The Lufthansa lounge was tiny but furnished similarly to their other lounges around the world. Since we were still full from the early dinner, we just snacked on some pretzels and the obligatory German beer.

We were comfortable and didn't need to move but figured for the blog/trip report, we headed over to the Marhaba Lounge about 30 minutes before boarding. What a bad idea! We didn't like this lounge at all. It was dingy and there weren't any good food or drinks. Should have just stayed in the Lufthansa lounge.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Last BMI Hoorah: Hilton Dubai Jumeriah Residences


Entrance to the Residences

The Residences are located across the street from the actual Hilton Dubai Jumeriah Beach with it's own lobby. Arriving at the hotel at 3.30 in the morning, I was glad check-in was quick. We were also granted late checkout till 4pm which allowed us to sleep in a bit more the next day before our flight back to Malaysia. As Gold members, we were upgraded to a 2 bedroom apartments which was insanely bigger than anything we needed especially just for one night layover in Dubai.

Master Bedroom

Second Bedroom

Friday, June 1, 2012

Back to regular programming...

I know, it's been a while. My apologies for not updating the blog but things have been crazy this last couple of weeks. First up was the move from Penang to Austin. Had to pack up, sell the cars and took care of a bunch of errands like cancelling the internet, etc. Pain the butt but happy it's all over now but I do miss our condo in Penang especially the view.

Next up was a scare back home in Kuching with my grandma when she had to be admitted to the hospital. I rushed back for a couple of days before I flew to Austin to spend some time with her. Hope she gets better.

I'm finally now in Austin but there's still much settling in to do. Most importantly, Lydia only gets here in a couple of weeks and I'm missing her like crazy. The place work rented for us is close by work but it's not too nice so we're moving to another unit at the same property in a couple of weeks. I'm still leaving out of suitcases with our shipment of stuff not scheduled to arrive for a couple of weeks. There's still bank and phone accounts to open.

But no fret, I'll try to complete the Seychelles trip by this weekend and have some pretty exciting trip reports coming up. This includes the Emirates F trip report with the shower on the A380 followed by a  SQ A380 business class trip report. I also have a couple of work trips domestically in the US coming up but I'm already itching on some more fun trips towards to end of the year.

Hope you guys continue to enjoy this blog...