New Ritz-Carlton Amenity – Vodka In A Water Bottle?

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This is one of those stories that is hard to believe. I have had quite a few funny experiences over the years at hotels (and handful of unpleasant ones), but I have never had vodka in a brand branded water bottle like my friend just did. I have come across some minibar items that are still inside the minibar, but which have been consumed i.e Pringles chips (empty tube).

ritz-carlton-phoenix-water-vodka

Friend of mine was staying at a west coast Ritz-Carlton property for business and had decided to make some decaf coffee using the in-room little coffee maker. After pouring part of the small Ritz-Carlton branded water bottles to the coffeemaker and having a sip of the rest, he realized that it was vodka and not water.

Emirates On Board Wireless Data Review

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Emirates has a wireless data and phone connectivity on its entire A380 fleet. The airline is expanding this to other aircrafts’ as well.

on-air-web-page

The service that Emirates and quite a few mainly Middle Eastern airlines use is from company called On Air (www.onair.aero), based in Switzerland, that was founded by Airbus and SITA.

Disabling Annoying Roomkey.com Pop Ups & Unders

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RoomKey is a hotel booking service backed and, at least partially, owned by Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Wyndham. The idea behind the service is to try get consumers to book more directly with the hotels own websites over OTA’s like Expedia and Booking.com.

room-key

You don’t see adverts for RoomKey anywhere, but if you access any of these hotel websites, you are likely going to see a pop ups and pop unders for the website. I don’t mind seeing it once, but especially with Marriott’s website it keeps opening RoomKey pop unders every time I am trying to make a booking or search for the price.

Why All Inclusive Fare Advertising is Required in Asia: Case Cebu Pacific

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As more and more airlines have majority of the air fare masked as fuel surcharge (you can read why airlines love fuel surcharges here), advertising of base fares has become meaningless. Brazil has banned fuel surcharges, United States and European Union require all advertised/quoted airfares to include ALL the charges.

cebu-pacific-plane

Cebu Pacific is starting to fly from Manila to Dubai on October 7, 2013, in all economy configured Airbus A330-300 aircraft with 400 seats (almost the absolute maximum). To celebrate the launch, the airline is advertising 888 PHP fares on the route.

Wired Piece About Airport Arrest For Refusing Nude-O-Scope

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This Wired piece about suing the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) & TSA (Transport Security Administration) among others, is a good read.

Wired Airport Arrest
Wired Airport Arrest

This suit is about Mr. Tobey refusing the Nude-O-Scope and dressing down for the pat down. The airport police had arrested Mr. Tobey for disorderly conduct, but the charges were dropped by the county prosecutor two weeks later. Then, Mr. Tobey sued the government.

FoundersCard’s Travel Benefits Worth The $295 Fee?

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Quite a few of my friends (myself as well) have received email invitations (last time from Trip It) to join the FoundersCard at $200 discount. The fee for joining would be $295 instead of the $495 that they have on the website.

founderscard

I tried to use Google to find some objective pieces written about this product but couldn’t find any. There were some, but they were mostly from FoundersCard members soliciting new members to sign up using their links.

Chris Elliott on “Stealing From An Airline” – Too Low Fares?

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Just came across Mr. Elliott’s latest essee about airline issues. Friend of mine had commented about this latest Huffington Post piece and posted a link to it on his Facebook. I have been contemplating about writing some of Mr. Elliott’s previous pieces because he often takes a contrarian view.

elliott-stealing-from-airlines

This time, however, I couldn’t disagree with him more. You can read his article on Huffington Post here.

More Boeing 787 Problems – All Planes Grounded

After the incident yesterday with the smoke on the ANA 787’s cockpit, the US authorities have decided to ground the 787 planes operated by United Airlines. European, Indian and Japanese authorities have all done the same decision. LAN has voluntarily grounded its three 787 planes.

boeing-787-grounded

It is interesting to see how long this grounding is going to last and if it will have an effect on future deliveries of 787 “Dreamliner” planes.

How Many Transfers Have Your Bag Made?

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Just went through some photos that I had taken over the years and came across this US Airways luggage tag for a return from Tampa to Ontario way back in 2009.

us-airways-luggage-tag

Apparently, the system that US Airways used was not able to produce a luggage that that had five connecting flight and they had to do a manual tag.

Hotel Room Shortage in Yangon Myanmar

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Myanmar is going through very fast growth due to country opening up and many countries like US withdrawing the trade sanctions. The downside is that everybody seems to be flocking to the country simultaneously and the tourism infrastructure cannot keep up.

myanmar-cover

I was just reading this Myanmar special that I picked up from my hotel in Bangkok. There is truly a shortage of hotel rooms in Yangon and nothing is going to happen in short notice. It is going to get only worse because there are going to be more international events scheduled for the city in 2013.

Are You Airline Amenity Kit & Pajama Hoarder?

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Back in the summer & early fall of 2012, I left couple (or actually three) of shopping bags full of airline amenity kits and pajamas to couple of hotels in Bangkok. I still remembered the hotels, but wasn’t sure what I had actually left behind. If I travel around in Asia, I often leave things behind in Bangkok, as hotels there are used to store bags for months at a time.

amenity-kits-pajamas-bags

As I was going to leave Bangkok Friday, I decided to pick up the bags, although I had long lost the storage tickets. While I was carrying the bags, I was thinking whether it makes any sense to actually take these from the flights as the novelty wears off very fast. I don’t wear pajamas and the amenity kits are rarely that good. My friends don’t normally don’t mind taking them though.

Relaxed Visa Rules for Beijing & Shanghai Starting January 1st – Up To 72 Hours Visa Free Transit

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There has been quite a bit of news lately about the relaxed transit visa rules for Beijing and Shanghai starting on January 1, 2013. Up until now, residents of certain 45 countries could have had 24 hours transit in Beijing and 48 hour transit in Shanghai without need to have a visa.

wsj-beijing

First, Beijing announced that visitors could stay in Beijing for up to 72 hours starting on January 1st when they are in transit to a third country.

cnn-shanghai

Then, Shanghai announced few days later that they are upping the transit time to 72 hours as well.

Thing to note here is that we are talking about TRANSIT. Neither Beijing or Shanghai should be your final destination. You must be en route to some other destinations and rather have a stopover of less than 72 hours at either of these two cities. You are not allowed to visit other Chinese cities during this visa free transit time.

The countries that are included in this 45 country list are:

Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Japan, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

You can always use the Star Alliance’s Timatic service to check the entry requirements. This is the same system that is used by airline employees to check the entry requirements. I wrote a piece about it earlier this year.

china-transit-visa-beijing

Make sure that you have a blank page on your passport for the visa free entry stamp. Here’s a stamp that I got in Beijing a week ago when I was just transiting.

Conclusion

This is a welcomed change for those that regularly visit China. You can spend up to 72 hours in either Shanghai or Beijing.  Requirement that you must be in transit to a third country is bit cumbersome, but can easily get around it.

What is The Best Hotel Rewards Program?

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That is quite a question, isn’t it? I have received quite a few emails this year asking this very same question and I totally understand why.

conrad-koh-samui-villa-219-work-area-for-the-day

Getting a status and maintaining it with any of the hotel programs (or number of) is laborious process and you may sometimes think that the grass is greener on the other side.

Here’s what I have decided to do.

For the next five days, I will write an article per day about the positives and negatives of each of the major five hotel programs; Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Priority Club/(Royal) Ambassador program.

Then, I will tell you what my personal preference is based on my stay and redemption patterns. You may or may not agree with me.

Conclusion

Check back tomorrow for my take on Hilton HHonors.

PointsHound 100 Free Miles Update: Seems to Be Posting Just Fine

On October 29, I wrote about a new hotel booking engine PointsHound that awards frequent flier miles for bookings. For getting new members to sign up, the site was (and still is) offering 100 free Delta, United, Hawaiian, or AeroMexico miles to sign up for their service (no purchase required).

pointshound-sign-up

I did the sign up on that date and the 100 free miles posted to my United account on September 4.

pointshound-united-credit

If you haven’t signed up for the service yet and would like to receive the free miles, it would probably be the right time.

This is an excellent way to extend the validity of the miles that is trickered by any account activity. Also, you never know when even a small amount like 100 miles can come handy.

Conclusion

Very easy way to collect 100 miles and doesn’t even require purchase. Just for registering to their website is enough. You may want to have a look at their hotel booking engine at the same time as well.

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