Lifetime Marriott Rewards Silver, Gold, and Platinum Elite Status Requirements

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Marriott has had their lifetime elite status program for quite some time. Hyatt introduced it couple of years ago and Starwood at the beginning of this month. The lifetime status can come handy, when your high level of travel drops i.e. change in jobs or retirement. I haven’t made any of the lifetime hotel statuses yet, but I am a lifetime Star Alliance Gold through United and Platinum with American Airlines.

marriott-rewards

Here are the requirements for Silver, Gold, and Platinum lifetime elite status with Marriott:

Silver

– Member of the program minimum of 12 years

– Number of Marriott Rewards points earned 1.2 million

– Number of Marriot nights 600

– Must have qualified as a Silver member at least once during the program membership

Gold

– Member of the program minimum of 12 years

– Number of Marriott Rewards points earned 1.6 million

– Number of Marriot nights 800

– Must have qualified as a Gold member at least once during the program membership

Platinum

– Member of the program minimum of 12 years

– Number of Marriott Rewards points earned 2 million

– Number of Marriot nights 1000

– Must have qualified as a Platinum member at least once during the program membership

Marriott actually lowered the requirements for the lifetime status few years back. The requirements for the Silver used to be 600 nights and 1.5 million points, 800 nights and 2 million points for the Gold, and 1000 nights and 3 million points for the Platinum.

The requirements for the lifetime Gold and Platinum statuses are quite difficult to achieve. You need to have spent lots of nights in Marriott family of hotels to have achieved both the number of points and nights required. What helps here, however, is that Marriott counts the points earned from ALL sources towards the lifetime requirement. You can earn Marriott points from various hotel promotions, credit cards spend, through their online mall etc. The Marriott branded credit card also gives you a 15 night credit every year.

You need to call the Marriott Rewards customer service to find out the number of points you have earned during your program membership. You can find the number of nights by logging into your Marriott Rewards account and have a look at Nights Earned. It will show the current and lifetime totals.

Now You Can Use Hilton HHonors Points for Gift Cards & Some Other Crap

Just received an email from Hilton earlier today advertising the ability to use Hilton HHonors points for some SeaWorld tickets.

hilton-hhonors-market-place-email

It seems that Hilton has partnered with Rewards Network, and offering gift cards at a very bad value. They also have some crappy items in exchange for Hilton HHonors points.

All the gift cards are for 50K Hilton HHonors points for a $100 gift cards. You can often buy restaurants gift cards at 20% discount of the face value. So if you are converting your Hilton HHonors points for gift cards, the value is one fifth of a cent – $0.002. I am sure that the value is even lower if you decided to “buy” any of the crappy items they have on their site.

hilton-hhonors-market-place

So my advice would be NOT to bother with this offer at all.

https://us.hiltonhhonorsshopping.com/internet/Custom/50506_HILTON/50506_default.htm

Radisson Blu Hotel Denarau, Nadi, Fiji – Review of my Stay

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This was my first stay at a Radisson Blu branded property. I had visited one of the Radisson Blu hotels in Helsinki few years back when it was branded as Radisson SAS. Club Carlson have been running quite a few attractive promotions lately, and I decided to check few of their properties in the coming months to see how they match to what competitors are offering.

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The price of the hotel is way too high considering what it has to offer. If you have a friend or relative working at a Carlson affiliated property, you probably should looking to use their friends and family rate that brings the price of the hotel to reasonable. That’s what I did.

Location

It is on the western side of the Denarau island/peninsula next to the Sheraton and Westin complex. On the other side is a Wyndham timeshare property. It is about 20 minute ride from the airport that should cost around 25 FJD using one of the official taxis.

Check in

The check in desk is immediately right when you get in to the hotel. There is a separate check out desk. They had first some trouble finding my reservation as I had done it only couple of hours earlier when I was at the Hilton’s property. Further complicating the check in was my request for 2PM check out. Apparently the regular check in time is 11AM that would not have worked on my case. This request required the lady to make a phone call to the front desk/rooms controller, but the late check out request was granted.

Room

This was the weakest link. Overall the room was rather unremarkable. The phone didn’t work well and there was something wrong with the radio/clock as well. The hotel didn’t have wireless and the internet cord was way too short. I really have to start bringing with me a wireless router and/or a long Ethernet cable. I used to carry these, but after not needing them for few months stopped the practice. The hotel was able to solve the wireless issue by bringing a wireless router that is normally used at their ballroom/conference area.

Beach & Pool

radisson-blu-denarau-fiji-beach

There is really no beach in the Denarau area where you would like to spend any time. The pools at this hotel were absolutely fantastic, however. I believe that these pools are the strongest selling point of this property. There are two/three pools that are connected via waterways. There is the usual pool bar where you can drink your day away while still being in the water.

radisson-blu-denarau-fiji-pool-area-bar

Fitness Center

It was rather small but had the usual equipment. The thread mill was broken and they didn’t have any sweat towels available. I let the front desk know. They need to update the equipment in not so distant future.

radisson-blu-denarau-fiji-fitness-center

Conclusion

After you have spent some time in Fiji you accept a service that is slow, but mostly done with a smile, although not always. This property is fine, but doesn’t live up to its being the first on Tripadvisor (as of February 2012) for Denarau. You should come here if you really like spend most of your time by the pool and the actual room/suite is not that important.

US Airways Dividend Miles Buy/Gift Offer For US Airways Credit Card Holders

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US Airways has been very actively selling miles for the past couple of years. They seem to have some sort of offer going on every couple of months. I have been contemplating whether to take advantage of the following promo or not. It is valid only for US Airways credit card holders, but you don’t have to pay using an US Airways branded credit card.

us-airways-buy-miles-february

You can buy miles at 50% discount. The maximum number of miles that can be bought or gifted is 50000. This offer is valid until February 29th. The cost of the miles after the discount is 1.88 cents each. This is not great, but not bad either. Depending how you would use the miles it can make sense. 50K miles are not enough for anything too interesting, but when you buy couple of times during different promos you can quickly get reasonable amount.

us-airways-buy-miles-february-confirmation

When I opened the credit card they, US Airways opened a new account for me. I haven’t taken the time yet to request them to merge these accounts. My old account is not eligible for the promotion, but the account where miles from credit card use have been deposited is. This offer is valid for gifting miles for the card holder or for buying. Not sure if you can do both.

Offer available for US Airways branded credit card holders only. The 50% discount offer is non transferable and applies only to purchases made between February 1 – 29, 2012, 23:59:59 PT. All purchases are non-refundable. Offer is subject to change. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Only purchases made online are eligible.

Miles are sold for $0.035 per mile plus a tax recovery charge of 7.5%. GST/HST will be charged to Canadian residents. Miles purchased through Buy, Share or Gift Miles do not count towards Dividend Miles Preferred status. All other Dividend Miles Terms and Conditions apply. Miles may be used based on award availability at the time of booking. Please note that Dividend Miles accounts less than 12 days old are not permitted to Buy, Share or Gift Miles. All purchases are non-refundable.

Emirates Offering Double Miles for Business & First Class Travel in May

Emirates has been very competitive on the promotional side lately. In early January they run a fantastic fare sale that almost broke my bank. Booked couple of first class tickets for March travel. Also, the airline is offering very large mileage accelerator bonuses for certain new routes. You may want to consider crediting Emirates flights to their latest partner Alaska. I wrote about a possible strategy of crediting some Emirates flights to Alaska’s program. They are also offering double miles on all Emirates flights from March 1st to May 31st.

emirates-double-miles

The following offer came in an February email update from Emirates. Now, they are running a new promotion for double miles in May for business and first class travel if ticketed between February 16th and February 29th. You need to register for this RCSFJ14FEB12 promotion here. Also, it is worth checking the small print that is rather long to make sure that you satisfy all the requirements.

It is easy to see exactly how many miles you would earn for you travel. Just log into your Skyward account and sign up for this promo. Then search for the flights. If you choose to see the mileage breakdown, it will show all the bonuses that you are eligible for.

Here is an example of flying from Milan to Bangkok on Emirates business class in May

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Note that you can choose between a business class saver and flex fare. The flex fare earns higher number of base and tier miles, but also costs close to 400 euros more.

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If you haven’t tried Emirates yet, you probably should during one of their fare sales and/or promotions. Their business class is often very competitively priced as the example above illustrates. Try to pick up flights with the A380 so that you can experience the business class bar.

BMI Diamond Club Award Ticket APW-AKL-PVG-BKK-CMB in Business on Air New Zealand & Thai Airways

My favorite program for complicated one way travel award in business or first class has always been the BMI’s Diamond Club. The program is somewhat difficult to understand, and the economy awards using BMI miles rarely make any sense at all. Lufthansa is in the process of selling BMI to British Airways’ parent IAG. Diamond Club wont be around for too long.

I am right now in Suva on my Continental Airlines issued award ticket that I wrote about two weeks ago. I am flying to Apia (APW) tomorrow on Air Pacific, and was going to issue an award ticket to take me all the way to Colombo, where my next Emirates tickets start, from Apia.

great-circle-award-success

As always, I do my homework in advance. Experflyer is very useful for checking the award availability on Air New Zealand. Getting out of Apia (APW) is borderline impossible using awards on any other day than Thursdays when Air New Zealand flies one of their 767’s there. Getting out of Auckland is somewhat tricky at times too. There are only Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways that are the only Star Alliance carriers serving the country.

My preference was not to have a stopover in Auckland but rather in Bangkok. There were no other redemptions flights available in business class out of Auckland on 23rd than to Narita and Shanghai on NZ.

My first attempt was to ticket APW-AKL-PVG-BKK on Air New Zealand and Thai and then ten days later continue to my final destination BKK-SIN-CMB on Singapore Airlines. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it ticketed at the mileage level I wanted as the Diamond Club was claiming that this wasn’t an allowable Star Alliance routing. I then moved my plan to get to the CMB couple of days earlier on a direct flight from Bangkok, but this still wasn’t an allowable routing according to the Diamond Desk.

At this time I have a longer conversation to see what is the system or tool they use to validate routings. It appeared to be Star Alliance’s website. And it appeared to check the routings to a stopover point.

At this point it was already like 2AM here in Suva and decided to give them a call few hours later when they have another shift working.

bmi-dc-apw-akl-pvg-bkk-cmb

In the morning, I made four alternate award plans that I would try to get ticketed. To my surprise just by changing the stopover point from Bangkok to Shanghai somehow made the same routing that I had tried to ticket the night before permissible.

The final routing was APW-AKL-PVG on Air New Zealand in business class and then after a ten day stopover PVG-BKK-CMB on Thai’s business class.

This is one of the better Diamond Club redemptions at 18750 miles + £127.50 (cash portion of the cash + miles) + £101.30 (actual taxes/YQ’s). Very good value if you ask me.

Starwood SPG Hotel Category Changes 2012 – Properties Moving Up & Down

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It is the time of the year again when Starwood adjusts its hotel award categories. The list of properties moving up and down was just announced earlier today. 13% are moving down and 17% are  moving up.

spg-requirement-per-category

Note that the award category only reflects the ADR (average daily rate) of the hotel and is not indicative of its quality. There are great category 1 properties that are far better and nicer than some category 5 or 6 ones.

The average decrease for all the of 141 properties that went down is 2900 Starpoints per night, and for the 180 properties that went up 3194 Starpoints. Please note that these were calculated using non-peak rewards and for a weeknight.

You can book using old rates until March 1st. If you have booked a property that is going down in category, just give SPG a call after the March 1st and they can adjust the redemption. For those desiring to book at old levels? Better get your reservations done rather sooner than later.

Here’s the breakdown of hotels moving down:

number-of-spg-properties-moving-down

There are total of 141 properties that have seen their award categories lowered. Categories 3 and 4 saw the largest number of properties going down. On the higher end only the Le Meridien Bora Bora, W Koh Samui, and St Regis Punta Mita saw their category drop from 7 to 6.

Probably due to the flooding in Thailand last year, there are number of very good redemption values currently in Thailand. Le Meridien Chiang Mai and Le Meridien Chiang Rai are now both category 1 hotels requiring only 3000 points during the week and 2000 points on Friday and Saturday. These are two fine hotels, although I prefer the one in Chiang Mai.

In Bangkok the Royal Orchid Sheraton drops to category 2 requiring 3000 points during the weekend and 4000 during the week. The newly opened Aloft is down to category 1 and justifiably so.

Here’s the breakdown of hotels moving up:

number-of-spg-properties-moving-up

There are 180 hotels moving up in award categories. Only three hotels move more than one category. Two goes from category 3 to 5 and one from 2 to 4.

More than half of the hotels that are going up are in the category 4. These will become award category 5 hotels. With category 5, 6, and 7 the point requirements are becoming ugly. Category 5 moving to category 6 will go up from 12-16K to 20K per night during the non-peak season.

Conclusion

It always pays carefully to check, whether paying using cash, points, cash + points, or staying entirely at a different chain/independent property makes sense.

Moving up from categories 1 to 3 by a notch up to category 4 is quite sensible point requirement wise. Personally, I don’t see a reason to redeem at category 6 or 7 where the point requirements per night are rather obscene.

You can download the PDF list of properties that are changing their categories at https://lacek.hs.llnwd.net/e1/starwood/2012categorychange/SPG_CategoryChanges2012.pdf.

Hilton Auckland Hotel, New Zealand – Review of My Stay

Auckland is often overlooked city. People tend to use it only for getting to other parts of New Zealand or to some of the pacific islands. I have visited Auckland few times on my travels. It is nice city to break your journey for couple of days. Previously, I have always stayed at the Hyatt property, but the property was recently reflagged as a Pullman part of the Accor chain.

I had never been to the Hilton hotel in Auckland besides having a drink at the bar. Decided to burn one of the free night certificates from the recent Hilton promo. The paid rates were rather high as they usually are for this property.

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Getting to the hotel from the airport

The best way if you have plenty of luggage and more than one person is probably take a cab. It should cost around 90 NZD. As I was just traveling with my carry on and I had never tried the very frequent airport bus before, decided that now it was the time. Bought a ticket to the bus using a credit card for 16 NZD. The schedule is very frequent – every ten minutes or so. The last stop, which is the ferry building, is less than a ten minute walk from the hotel. Not difficult at all. There are only about five six stops altogether.

Check in

The check in wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t perfect either. I was told that I had been upgraded to a some sort of sea view room. I inquired if a suite upgrade would be possible as I was only staying for the night and would leave rather early the following morning. The clerk told that they have only one suite available and offered it to me as a upsell. I asked if he was aware of the changes to the Hilton HHonors Diamond program on January 18th that would bring the suites also to the pool of possible Diamond upgrades. He went away to the backroom and came back with the positive news. He probably had a word with a rooms controller or manager on duty.

The Relaxation Suite 705

This was a beautiful corner suite on the 7th floor with a wide open view of the Auckland harbor. There was couple of sun chairs on the balcony where you could have relaxed a bit. The only problem with this suite was that there was very little privacy unless you closed the curtains. Also, somebody staying in the next door could have easily “jumped” to your balcony. There was really nothing preventing it.

hilton-auckland-suite-705-living-room

I think that the style of this suite was “fresh”. I could say almost Scandinavian. The furniture wasn’t heavy. The only think I didn’t like was the rather generic looking bathroom. I also think that they should have higher quality bathroom amenities in their suites.

hilton-auckland-suite-705-balcony-chairs

Fitness center & Pool

The pool itself is very tiny and in an urban atmosphere. Not sure how long and when you get sunlight there. There is a sundeck as well with some chairs around. This is not a right hotel if you like to spend time by the pool, however.

hilton-auckland-pool

Fitness center was rather compact but could well work for a hotel of this size. I had a nice workout there in the evening.

Breakfast

I was still in a very different time zone and went to breakfast only 10 to 15 minutes later after the restaurant had opened. They were still setting up the displays.

hilton-auckland-breakfast-eggs-station

The breakfast spread was one of the better ones that I have come across in the Hilton chain sans few properties in Thailand. You had an egg stations, cold cuts, fruits, hot items etc.

The breakfast was complimentary and I didn’t have to sign anything. I did the waiter my suite number. They probably have a list of guests that have complimentary breakfast included with their rooms.

Conclusion

hilton-auckland-suite-705-balcony-sea-view

This is a fine Hilton hotel and I loved the view from the balcony. Depending what you are going to do in Auckland the location may or may not work for you. For my purpose of spending there 0 hours to relax between flights it did work perfectly. If you are Diamond member and have not been upgraded prior to your checking in, it might be worthwhile to ask what they have available.

Strategy of Crediting Emirates Flights to Alaska’s Mileage Plan Instead of Skywards

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The Emirates and Alaska frequent flyer partnership will start on March 1st. As I have written couple of times earlier, I am not sure where I could credit my Emirates flights in F that I have coming up in next month.

There are no benefits for crediting flights where I am ticketed in the first class to Skywards besides mileage accelerator and getting the status bonus. Also, there are no EK Gold benefits for flying in business class so the only possible benefit is an upgrade to first class if business class cabin is oversold.

When flying in economy, however, it is very important to have a Skywards status. You can use business class check in desks, have higher luggage allowance, have lounge access, and most importantly have a good chance of getting an operational upgrade. Emirates often heavily oversell the economy cabin that then requires them to upgrade passengers. These upgrades are normally done in the order of Emirates Skywards status the passengers has

If someone flies a lot using Emirates, I would encourage crediting strategically to both Alaska’s Mileage Plan & Emirates’ Skywards.

Here’s my plan:

1. Credit enough flights to Skywards to qualify for the Gold status

2. Look for the mileage accelerator. Credit the flights where this makes a difference to EK’s Skywards

3. Even for the flights that you are planning to credit to Alaska’s Mileage Plan change the frequent flyer number only at the gate and then just for that specific segment. This way you ensure that if there are any op ups your EK status will come to play.

4. Try to credit to Alaska enough to make at least Mileage Plan MVP Gold status. At Gold level you will get 100% mileage bonus even for your Emirates flights. This would ensure that you would get 100% redeemable miles even when ticketed in the lowest coach fare buckets.

5. If you reach 90K EQM on Alaska from partner flights, you will receive 50000 bonus Mileage Plan redeemable miles.

Here’s an example from Johannesburg to Auckland via Dubai. The actual flown miles are 25588.

emirates-jnb-akl

Crediting to Emirates you would earn both 11000 elite and redeemable miles. Silver member would earn total of 13750 (25% bonus) and Gold members 16500 miles (50% bonus)

emirates-alaska

By crediting to Alaska at the base level this would yield 12794. Alaska is offering double miles on all Emirate routes from March 1st to May 31st. If your travel would be in that time frame, you would earn total of 25588 miles. As an Alaska Mileage Plan Gold you would earn the 100% bonus on the base miles.  You would  earn an additional 12794 miles for a total of 38372 miles for the roundtrip. At the Alaska Airlines MVP level you would earn 50% bonus in top of the flown miles.

Good news is that Alaska does status match. If you have status, let’s say with United, they can match you to a similar level with Alaska with all the status benefits. I am contemplating doing exactly this.

Alaska Airlines has number of partner airlines where one can earn both elite and redeemable miles across SkyTeam and Oneworld alliances. You can redeem your miles earned from Emirates flights on other partners like Air France. Also, getting an elite bonus on partner airlines is a huge positive. Some of these benefits vary by the partner so you should always check.

Emirates has a great network, but I am not a huge fan of the Skywards frequent flyer program, however. It is just not rewarding enough. Also the fact that you don’t get miles based on the actual flown miles but rather zones makes the program less rewarding. Alaska awards their frequent flyer miles based on the flown miles like most of the other airlines.

You can read more about the Alaska’s different status levels here and more about there partners here.

Pay, Use Starpoints, or Cash & Points When Booking With Starwood?

Starwood offers number of options to pay for a room. You can book a revenue stay, use points, or use cash & points option. I rarely book anything else than full revenue stays. Points and cash & points stays are not qualifying stays for any promotions that Starwood might be running. They do qualify for stay and night credit, however.

The other day I was faced with a dilemma. I could book the Sheraton Fiji resort for 342 FJD (including the taxes of 20%), pay 7000 Starpoints, or use cash & points for 45 USD + 2800 Starpoints.

sheraton-fiji-cash-points

I chose the 342 FJD that ($195) and why I should have chosen the Cash & Points option:

– I value Starpoints around 2 cents each. The pure points option would have been $140

– Using the same 2 cents per Starpoint the cash & points option would have cost $101

– The paid stays earns me maybe 500 points based on the revenue which is $10 but it would be a stay credit for the Asia-Pacific promotion of Two Days of Happy for a free night certificate after five nights and/or two after nine nights.

The credit towards the Two Days of Happy wouldn’t have justified of paying the pure cash rate. I made a mistake here and left maybe $60 to $70 on the table if I value the partial credit towards the free night certificate at $20.

Hilton HHonors With British Airways Offering 1500 Bonus Avios Per Stay Until March 31st, 2012.

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Hilton is running numerous airline related bonuses until the end of March. You can find the other airlines from my February hotel promotions master thread. Today British Airways included the following offer with their Executive Club February update. You can also combine this offer with other Hilton points based promotions.

hilton-hhonors-avios-campaign

To participate, you must register at http://www.hiltonhhonors.com/aviosba. Offer is valid for eligible stays completed after registration, at participating hotels between January 1 2012 and March 31 2012. HHonors members choosing Fixed miles award will earn 750 Avios per stay, plus 1,500 bonus Avios per stay. HHonors members choosing Variable Miles award, will earn one Avios per one USD spent, plus two bonus Avios per one USD spent. Customers must be an HHonors member to earn bonus miles. For Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites under fixed miles award, 200 bonus Avios will be offered per stay. For Home2 Suites under variable miles award, up to 100 Avios will be offered per stay. Hilton HHonors members must have their earning preference set to ‘Points & Miles’ and must have British Airways as the preferred airline partner. Avios accrued and awards issued are subject to BA Exec Club Terms and Conditions. Hilton HHonors membership, earning of Points & Miles, and redemption of points are subject to HHonors Terms and Conditions. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or promotion.

Not sure if Hilton has made a typo here. They are claiming to offer 750 Avios based points for fixed miles earners, but if you look at the earnings chart it is actually only 500 Avios points. I have requested clarification from Hilton for this. It seems to be clear, however, based on the Terms and conditions that the bonus amount is 1500 Avios points.

hilton-brand-fixed

hilton-brand-fixed-ba

Please note that for Hampton, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites the earnings structure is lower. The bonus is only 200 Avios per stay.

hilton-triple-aviosThis offer is valid for variable miles/points collectors as well. Hilton will triple the number of Avios earned for all other brands than the Home2 Suites. You need to register for this offer prior to your stay and choose the British Airways as your fixed/variable miles partner.

It might make more sense to credit stays longer than two days and/or lower earnings Hilton brands to BMI. You could get 1000 BMI Diamond Club miles per night up to three nights. British Airways is in the process of buying BMI, and Diamond Club will most likely merge with British Airways’ Executive Club turning BMI miles into Avios.

Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, UK – Review of My Worst Sheraton Stay.

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Starwood has used a lot of money in the past few years trying to bring the Sheraton hotels up to the brand standards or force them to leave the chain. Still the Sheraton brand is probably the most inconsistent of them all. You have Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit in Bangkok that is a wonderful Luxury Collection property, but yet Sheraton branded. Then you have this Sheraton hotel in Heathrow that should be Four Points.

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Getting to the hotel from the airport

Getting from the airport to the hotel you have really two choices; either use the Hotel Hoppa bus that cost 4.5 GBP per person and goes every 20 minutes or to take a taxi, which I took, that costs around 13 GBP.

Checking in

The hotel outside doesn’t look inviting at all. It looks like any generic, non-branded, and 2 to 3 star property. There were renovations going on in the lobby area. Couldn’t find a SPG Platinum/Gold member check in desk. There were some irregular operations in Heathrow that day and there was quite a few air crews checking out to make their flights. I asked one lady where their Platinum check in desk was (apparently they don’t have any) and she promised to help me next which she for sure did.

There is only one suite at this property. To my understanding all the other rooms are basically the same. I was put on the 3rd floor quite close to the club. There was something wrong with the fire doors as they were extremely heavy. It was difficult trying to carry your stuff and open these doors. Apparently they have some problems with the magnets (?).

Room 3351

Where should I start? It was fairly functional and ok for a night sleep. That’s about it. It was definitely in need of some sort of renovations. In the bathroom the shower head was coming off from the wall and the temperature panel was very loose as well. My TV suddenly turned itself on in the middle of the night. There was no wireless internet access but luckily the cable was just about long enough that I could use the internet from the bed.

Club Lounge

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Visited the lounge only during the evening cocktail hour. They had some white and red wine available. Didn’t see any beers but there might have been some in the fridge. They had couple of hot items and stuff that you could dip – not a very good spread.

Departure Experience

I had the same lady to check me out in the morning who had checked me in the night before. She was great. I told her about the problems I had and apparently she had forwarded my concerns as someone from the property emailed me the day after my stay.

The hotel is offering a private taxi to the airport for a flat free off 10 GBP that is cheaper than a taxi. I chose it over the hotel hoppa bus.

Conclusion

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It is an adequate hotel for an overnight stay. It should not, however, be branded as Sheraton on its current condition. It is more like a Four Points, if even that.

American Airlines FA Gailen David’s “Aluminum Lady” Parody Might Get Him Fired

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American Airlines has always been very sensitive about its employee’s participation in social media and frequent traveler websites. Now Gailen David, the American Airlines purser behind these videos, is being disciplined and possibly fired.

The management and employee relationship has never been too good at American Airlines. Now that the airline is going through the chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and dumping is defined benefits pension plan to government run pension benefit guaranty corporation, better known just as PBGC, the relationship is becoming even more tense. The employees are going to have to accept a haircut of the future benefits as the maximum benefits under the PBGC are capped.

But I found these videos to be quite entertaining to say the least:

You can read about the issue and the letter that was sent to Gailen David by American Airlines at WeWantOurMoneyBack-website.  The Gailen David’s own blog can be found at Dear Sky Steward-website.

Getting Secondary Immigration Inspection?

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If you travel a lot, you will eventually get a secondary or even a tertiary immigration inspection. This has happened to me three times over the years. I have had hundreds of international border crossings so the chance of getting one is low.

Normally some of the passengers are automatically flagged for a secondary due to information received from the airlines regarding the routings etc.

airport-picture

1. Getting a secondary & tertiary when entering Israel at Tel Aviv

Few years ago, I was entering Tel Aviv when Israel and the Hamas of Lebanon were exchanging some small missiles. All went good until the guy at the passport control saw that I have previously visited Lebanon using the same passport. I was referred to a secondary immigration.

They were very interested to know why I would be visiting Israel during the “war”. I just replied that I hadn’t seen any missiles hitting Tel Aviv on CNN. Questions like this went for a while and then another person joined the interrogation. They were interested who my father’s father is and what was his profession. I had no idea as he had died sometime in the 50’s. Nonsense questions like this went for a while.

Quite frankly I was really getting annoyed at that point. I really had no other reason to visit Tel Aviv than to see the city and had some fun time. Finally they deemed that I was no danger to Israel and was ok to admit. I requested them NOT to stamp my passport as I was going to visit some Arab countries later that you cannot enter using a passport that has a stamp from Israel. They stamped it nevertheless.

2. Secondary in Canada after entering the county third time in two weeks’ time

This was actually quite funny. I entered Canada three times in two weeks. Once from Havana on a direct Air Canada flight and twice from Cote D’Ivoire via Dubai on Emirates. I probably shouldn’t have commented the border agent that she was processing me a week ago as well.

The secondary was the fastest ever. Took my passport, asked couple of questions and off I went.

3. Secondary in Auckland due to very complicated itinerary

In this case I had been flagged due to complicated routing. They couldn’t understand why someone with a Finnish passport would travel from Colombo to Rarotonga via New Zealand and then to the US via Europe. The reason of course was a very good business class fare.

This was probably the most throughout inspection. Two guys went literary through everything that I had in my carry on and on the checked in bag while carrying a nice conversation. I was more amused what was happening on the nearby table where they had pulled some poor Chinese that gave all the wrong answers to the questions he was asked.

Conclusion

Only the secondary in Tel Aviv was uncomfortable due to the time it was taking and the questions asked that didn’t bear any meaning. The one in Canada and New Zealand were rather pleasant. If you get selected for one, just take it with a pride. It will be a nice story to tell, although might be bit unpleasant at first.

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