Thirteen Etihad Airways team members have just completed their training and are now set to become the world’s first flying butlers this December. The specially designed training course took place at London’s Savoy Hotel, led by its Head Butler, Sean Davoren. The butlers were all former in-flight chefs or food and beverage managers aboard Etihad’s long-haul 777 flights. In addition to their on the job training at the Savoy, the butlers also participated in training at the London School of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of West London.

Savoy Etihad Cabin Crewcredit – Harry Page Images

Their new position will have them looking after passengers in Etihad’s new “Residence” aboard the A380s. Etihad expects to deploy its first A380 on the Abu Dhabi to London route on December 27th. Additional A380s will then be added on routes to Sydney followed by JFK.  The cost is estimated to be about $21,000 from Abu Dhabi to London…one way in the Residence!

From the PR:

A series of master classes focused on etiquette and protocol, valet skills and concierge services, to boost the cabin crew’s existing high level customer service experience. The five-star hotel’s head butler Sean Davoren says: ‘They all now possess the skills required to provide the highest standard of hospitality for the airline’s premium customers, by blending the discretion of a traditional English butler with the efficiency of a 21st century personal assistant.’ Newly-trained butler Georgina Henderson, 28, said she was ‘thrilled’ to have the chance of working on the enormous Airbus A380 aircraft. ‘The thought of being the world’s first flying butler is amazing and obviously all of us who qualified would love to have that honour. ‘But if it’s not to be on the inaugural flight I won’t be disappointed as my time will come soon enough and I really believe that I’m going to be playing a part in aviation history.’ Aubrey Tiedt, Etihad Airways’ Vice President Guest Services said: ‘I am extremely proud of the team’s achievements and they all qualified with flying colours to become the world’s first ever butlers in the sky. ‘They are really enthusiastic and cannot wait to board the A380 aircraft and put into practice all that they have learned.

Sean Davoren, the Savoy’s Head Butler, added: ‘The Etihad Airways trainees have been an absolute joy to work with and they all now possess the skills required to provide the highest standard of hospitality for the airline’s premium customers, by blending the discretion of a traditional English butler with the efficiency of a 21st century personal assistant.’

“The Residence” will be available on new A380s in a 125-square-foot cabin on the forward upper-deck. Available for single or double occupancy, each Residence will have Ferrari-quality leather, table marquetry, custom carpets, a two-seat reclining sofa and an 82-inch-long double bed. A living room, private shower and double bedroom are all part of the exclusive residency.

You really need to take a look at the videos and pics to see just how cool these cabins are going to be…

Videos

Residence (1)

Residence (2)

A few pics, check out more here

Residence 1 Etihad 2  Etihad 4

Of course, currently American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for Etihad First and Business class awards with generally decent availability (even better in the last few weeks as Etihad now publishes fares between many more US cities…a requirement for booking an AA award). The new Residence is not restricted, though the price is outrageous! The only availability I’ve heard of anyone finding is for 2,332,728 Etihad Guest Miles from Abu Dhabi AUH to London LHR, or 2,356,343 Etihad Guest Miles from London to Abu Dhabi. Hopefully, like restrictions place on other carrier’s new ultra luxury cabins, these preventative measures are removed over the next couple of years.

Need help booking a regular First or Business award flight on Etihad? Consider Juicy Miles for all your award booking needs.

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…and the winners of the 2014 Culinary Travel Awards are Emirates, Delta, Etihad, Singapore, and Oman air. Emirates took home the “Experts’ Choice” award, Oman received the “Readers’ Choice” award, and Delta, Etihad, and Singapore received the “Outstanding” awards. From the press release:

Emirates – Experts’ Chocie

For the second year in a row, we have been dazzled by the quality of food and service enjoyed on Emirates. It’s always a pleasure starting and ending a trip with an airline that’s dedicated to making a journey’s dining painless, memorable, and relaxing. Seven-course meals are served on Royal Doulton fine bone china, alongside an extensive range of vintage wines. Award-winning chefs have created menus that are not only exquisite but also healthy, placing a huge emphasis on dishes that are low in fat, salt, and added sugar. During a long trip, there is nothing better than freshening up with a shower (there are two onboard) before enjoying delicacies such as wild Iranian caviar with sour cream and blinis or lamb noisette with roasted seasonal vegetables and creamy mashed potatoes, while sipping champagne in a spacious and private first-class suite. Our expert panel loves being able to stretch their legs and socialize in the business and first-class lounges with a traditional Arabic meze and cocktails, or relax and find comfort with a fresh espresso and craquelin—an airy and light hazelnut cake covered with rich chocolate ganache. Dining in this kind of impeccable luxury is comparable to dining in any gourmet restaurant or five-star hotel we’ve encountered the world over. We can’t help but appreciate the attention to detail on every aspect of a flight with Emirates, making the travel just as memorable as the destination itself.

Oman Air – Readers’ Choice

The traditional Arabic greeting of dates and coffee is just the beginning of a dining service that focuses on the essential details that make a difference at 40,000 feet. It certainly set the right mood for our readers, who selected Oman Air’s first and business class dining as their favorite in 2014. Consider the cabins: small and intimate, making meal service feel more like a private catered affair. Bespoke full-size china and glassware, elegant cutlery, and a focus on seasonal ingredients turn the meal into something so much more than airline fare. Oman plans the lavishness of its meals based on the length of the flights, making the daily trip from London to Muscat a particular favorite among our readers: A substantial dinner menu is one of the rewards, starting with a caviar and champagne service (Dom Pérignon) followed by several canapés, appetizers such as a winter pumpkin-and-apple soup, and entrées along the lines of poached fillet of beef, Loch Fyne salmon, pan-fried sea bass with cherry tomato, herb, and olive salsa, and saffron risotto with grilled asparagus. Diners also have the option of a wonderful Arabic meze with traditional kibbeh, tabbouleh, spinach fatayer, olives, and labneh with fresh mint, followed by the reader favorite, “Arabian Festival Combination Dish”—king prawn kebab, steamed chickpea rice with pine nuts, and seasoned okra. After dessert (chocolate mousse gâteau or baklava), guests indulge in a cheese plate served with Croft vintage port. If all this delicious decadence is not enough, look forward to waking up well-rested to the scent of freshly brewed coffee and a bowl of Bircher muesli, yogurt, and fresh fruit—a light repast before landing.

Check out the full list of 2014 Culinary Travel Award winners here.

Related

Emirates A380 First Class Shower06

Want a flight on Emirates? Consider Juicy Miles for all your award booking needs.

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I rarely book travel more than a few weeks out (generally the best time for premium airline award availability), but I’ve just locked in the Santa Marina Luxury Collection in Mykonos for next August! It was not an easy process but everyone was very helpful. When I first started looking at the hotel a few weeks ago, the calendar was not fully loaded, instead all rooms were coming up as EUR 100,000 per night! A bit pricey with no award availability.

Santa Marina Rates

The SPG platinum desk confirmed that the hotel had not yet loaded their 2015 calendar and told me to call back once they did. Two weeks later, pricing was “normal” at EUR 820 per night, still with no SPG award availability.

Santa Marina Mykonos

I called the platinum desk back and was informed that although the schedule was loaded there was no SPG award availability until late October. I then emailed the hotel directly and had an interesting conversation with one of the reservations agents – we went from no SPG availability to a selection of dates!

On 9/9/14, 7:02 AM, Santa Marina Resort & Villas, Mykonos Greece wrote:
Dear Mr. Adam,

We would like to thank you for your interest at Santa Marina Resort & Villas.

Kindly note that the room category on which the Starpoints rate is applied is fully booked at this point.

In case that we might have any cancellations we will know in due time.

Kindly note that your Starpoints can be claimed and reinstated in contact with Starwood.

We hope that we will have the chance to welcoming you in the near future and offer you a special stay.

Best regards
xxxxxx
Reservations Associate

From: Adam
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2014 2:59 PM
To: Santa Marina Resort & Villas, Mykonos Greece
Subject: Re: In-House Reservations – Guest Booking June 2015

Dear Ms. xxx,

Thank you for your response!

Can you please confirm that the hotel is actually fully booked for those dates? Starwood has indicated that the hotel simply has not loaded those dates into the system.

Thanks,

Adam

From: “Santa Marina Resort & Villas, Mykonos Greece” <theodosia.psarra@santa-marina.gr>
To: Adam
Sent: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 12:24 PM
Subject: RE: In-House Reservations – Guest Booking June 2015

Dear Mr. Adam,

In general it is correct that sales have not started for next season but kindly note that even when sales open up we already have committed all available inventory of the specific category to contractual commitments therefore it will not be available.

In case that you might be interested in booking in our best available rates kindly find attached our official 2015 rates and Rooms and Suites description.

We remain always at your full service and disposal for anything further you might need.

Best regards
xxxx
Reservations Associate

From: Adam
Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 5:44 PM
To: Santa Marina Resort & Villas, Mykonos Greece
Subject: Re: In-House Reservations – Guest Booking June 2015

Hi Ms. xxx,

Thank you once more for your response. I understand the below.

If my travel dates were flexible for the ENTIRE 2015 summer season (June – August), will you have any inventory for the SPG reward specific category for 5 nights any time throughout the summer?

THANKS SO MUCH again!

Adam

Dear Mr. Adam,

We would like to inform you that we could offer availability for the Room category on which the Starpoints rate apply from May 20th to June 15th or else from August 25th and onwards.

In case that you are flexible in travelling during the specific period we would be very happy to offer you availability under the SPG points.

We remain at your full service and disposal for anything further you might need.

Best regards
xxxxx
Reservations Associate

I then had to get back in contact with the SPG desk to book the award, and they then had to call the hotel directly as this award space was actually being opened up for me. Since this was a category 7 hotel, I was told that the 5 nights (5th night free) would cost 120,00 SPG points.  Neither the agent or I realized that “peak dates” were in place during August 2015 and that the rate should have been 35K per night. The hotel did and asked for the full amount to be deducted…but the awesome agent then refunded my account with the difference. I’m pretty psyched for my 120K redemption, the hotel would have been EURO 820 per night ($1047) or $5235 for the 5 nights…a pretty solid redemption I think. If the trip is even half as good as my stay at the amazing Mystique (see – My Favorite Hotel of All Time? Mystique, SPG Luxury Collection in Santorini, Greece Trip Report), then I’ll be satisfied.

Santa Marina Reservpng

I continue to build my SPG balances with the SPG AMEX sign-up bonuses, especially the business card which I’ve gotten for different businesses.

SPG AMEX Personal (Partner Offer)

SPG AMEX Business

Related – Trip Reports – Starwood

Mykonos Luxury Collection

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When boarding a flight, passengers rarely think about the pilot being anything less than professional and skilled. After all, people are putting their lives in the pilot’s hands. But there are plenty of kooky pilots out there.

Pilots continue spilling their secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Pilot” written this week by CaptainRon. This the 3rd entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Tuesday.

1. The Neat Freak Pilot

Most pilots meet each other for the first time just before a flight (and then end up spending two or three days together — it’s as awkward as it sounds). So for this particular flight, the first thing I noticed about my copilot was that he was extremely well groomed. There wasn’t a hair out of place, and it looked as if his uniform hadn’t been worn before, it was so well pressed. After he went through his flight checklist he pulled out rubber latex gloves. He then opened up a Cheetos bag and started to eat, all the cheesiness staying on the gloves and turning them bright orange. When he was done snacking he whipped off the gloves in triumph and showed me his spotless hands. After takeoff, never mind flying the plane — the Neat Freak Pilot pulled out a toolkit with precision cleaning supplies and proceeded to give the cockpit a thorough scrubbing.

2. The Smelly Pilot

This guy is infamous — and everyone in the industry is afraid to fly with him. Because of a stomach issue, he has terrible flatulence. Stuck in the tiny cockpit with almost no ventilation, some of his copilots have actually gotten ill. When I first flew with him, the smelly pilot let one fly, so to speak, within the first few minutes. I knew I couldn’t take this odor for the entire flight, so I grabbed my oxygen mask and ended up wearing it until touchdown, Navy pilot style.

3. The Paranoid Pilot

When this pilot sat down in the cockpit, he pulled out a baseball cap — and proceeded to cover it in aluminum foil, which he had handy in his bag. He then donned this silver headpiece with pride. When I asked him why he encased his perfectly adequate hat in Reynolds Wrap, he replied, “Radiation protection.”

4. The Narcoleptic Pilot

Right after takeoff this guy dozed off, and he snored through the rest of the flight. (Good thing there were two of us flying the plane.) The Narcoleptic Pilot woke up during the final approach, seconds from landing. He cried out, “Wait, why are we so low?,” gave the plane a burst of power and then handed the controls back to me to finish landing.

5. The Speed Demon Pilot

There have been some legends when it comes to inappropriate pilot behavior. One such captain was the Speed Demon Pilot. (In the industry he was known as “Boss Hogg,” because he looked like the ’80s TV character from “Dukes of Hazzard.”) It was pre-9/11, and this pilot flew fast. All the time. Pretty much as fast as he could without incurring any structural damage to the plane. He also never wrote a takeoff checklist. Clearly he had buddies in important positions at the airline to keep his job secure.

Related –

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Earlier this week, we found out that Delta was shadily planning on eliminating round-the-world (RTW) award redemptions without any real communication to their members. It’s a shame as RTW awards can be considered one of the best tools in a frequent flier’s arsenal..if you know how to use them properly and maximize their value.

At Juicy Miles, we receive round-the-world requests most often for redemptions using American, Delta, and United miles. Chris, one of our Juicy Miles bookers and resident SkyMiles expert, shares his guide to booking those final RTW awards.

Even with the devaluation of low level business class to Asia, Europe, and Australia for travel after June 1st, 2014, the price of the RTW award in business class remains unchanged at 280,000 SkyMiles (coach is 180,000 SkyMiles). You can find Delta’s official page for RTW awards here. We consider this one of the remaining sweet spots (for a few weeks anyway) in Delta’s award portfolio.

Destination Planning & Routing

  • You are allowed between 3-6 stopovers/open jaws on your award. Any less than 3 or more than 6 is considered an invalid award. At most, 3 stops are allowed on any one continent.
  • You must cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
  • All destinations must be in longitudinal order traveling in one direction; East or West. Delta calculates a valid award by taking the longitude reading of each stopover city and then ensures they are all in one direction. For example, if traveling east and you want to travel to London, Rome, and Amsterdam, you would have to fly to them in this order: London, Amsterdam, Rome. If you stopped in Rome before Amsterdam, that would be backtracking. For those who enjoy the flying experience, a lot of value can be extracted since there is no restriction on how far North or South the order of cities must be. Starting in Santiago to London to Johannesburg to Moscow to Singapore to Tokyo to Sydney would be valid, and all would require long-haul 9+ hours of flying between each.
  • For an open jaw, the starting and ending points must be in the direction of travel. For example, traveling east, if you wanted an open jaw between London and Amsterdam, you must fly into London and out of Amsterdam. The reverse would not be allowed on an eastward itinerary.

Once you have your list of destinations in the right order, its time to start figuring out your routing. Delta has a list of available partners on their website for regular awards.

Unfortunately, RTW awards cannot use all Delta partners; those that are not allowed as of this entry (October 15, 2013 – UPDATED 5/7/14) have been crossed out in our list below (Star Alliance / OneWorld it is not ;-)).

Delta Air Lines
Aeroflot
Aerolineas Argentinas
Aeromexico
AirEuropa
Air France
Air Tahiti Nui
Alaska Airlines
Alitalia
China Airlines
China Eastern
China Southern
Czech Airlines
GOL
Garuda Indonesia* added
Hawaiian Airlines
Kenya Airways
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Korean Air
Malaysia Airlines
Middle East Airlines
Saudia Airlines
Tarom Airlines
Vietnam Airlines
Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Australia
Xiamen Airlines
*Thai AirAsia
*Jetstar
*Skymark Airlines

One might say the biggest loss from the non allowable list is Virgin Australia, drastically limiting options to the Australia/New Zealand. If you wanted to visit Australia outside of the major cities (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth), you would have to use cash or other miles (Avios are a good option). It’s possible that at some point Virgin Atlantic will join the allowable list given their new relationship with Delta.

  • “The most direct routing applies.” This is a very loose term. You cannot fly from London to Johannesburg via Atlanta. There are many more direct options via Europe/Africa. IF there is no availability on the dates you want to fly via CDG, AMS, SVO, NBO AND LHR-ATL-JNB is the only thing available, you will be able to get an agent to ticket it. Now, since Virgin Australia and Malaysia can’t be used, agents have no problem flying you from Sydney to Auckland via Seoul on Korean Air. What would normally be a 3.5 hour flight turns into two 11 hour flights. This can work to your advantage (or disadvantage if you’re strapped for time) for some of the more obscure destinations. In the example below, two of the client’s destinations were Colombo, Sri Lanka followed by Antananarivo, Madagascar. Two destinations that don’t have daily service. That was the hardest part of building his award. Moving along by taking somewhat circuitous routings…
  • There is no maximum permitted mileage. If your award has you flying 25K, 30K, or 50K miles, its all the same price. This is not the same with traditional revenue RTW tickets.
  • You are allowed 16 flight coupons. A flight coupon can generally be thought of as one flight segment, one takeoff and landing. There are two exceptions:
    • “Direct Flights” with stops. Direct flights are a confusing airline marketing term. Delta flight #49 is a direct flight from Mumbai (BOM) to Minneapolis (MSP), however the flight stops in Amsterdam (AMS) for 3 hours. If you booked this flight with the same flight number, DL49 from BOM-MSP, that would only count as one flight coupon even though it is actually two flights.
    • Open Jaws. While you can really maximize the number of cities you visit by making every destination an open jaw instead of a stopover, each open jaw counts as one flight coupon. The client in our example below wanted an open jaw between Auckland (AKL) and Sydney (SYD). However, in the system the open jaw segment (AKL-SYD) shows as ARNK (arrival unknown) to keep the itinerary’s cities in sequential order, and thus needs to use one of the flight coupons. This exception also has its own exception. If there is an open jaw between your origin and destination (traveling east, say you start your trip in New York and terminate in Chicago) this counts against one of your 6 stopovers/open jaws, but does not count against your 16 flight coupons.
  • Only Delta low level availability can be booked for RTW. For partner awards, whatever is available for a standard award is available for a RTW award.

Of course, finding availability can be the most frustrating part. You can use delta.com, airfrance.us, expertflyer.com, or the KVS tool to find availability.

Once you have your itinerary and flights, its time to call Delta to get your itinerary booked. Here are a few interesting facts regarding contacting the DL RTW award desk:

  • You have to call Delta and ask to be transferred to the “Around the World award desk”, there is no direct number.
  • Their hours are from 9am to 8pm Eastern Time every day.
  • Unlike many agents, they will work with you until you are satisfied. If that takes 10 minutes or 3 hours, they will stay with you.
  • These are some of the most knowledgeable agents from Delta reservations. They also do double duty as the Rates Desk, among other jobs. Hence, wait times to get an agent can sometimes take several minutes.

Other information regarding RTW award tickets:

  • All tickets are manually ticketed, not processed automatically by the system.
  • Standard award change fees apply. For general members, Silver Medallion, and Gold Medallion: $150 per ticket. For Platinum and Diamond Medallions: fee is waived.
  • Taxes are manually calculated. If you make a change to the beginning of a ticket, the taxes for the entire ticket are recalculated at current exchange rates. If you are only adding on to the end of a ticket, only the new segments’ taxes are calculated.

Hopefully this has been helpful and feel free to comment with any award booking questions or reach out to us directly at Juicy Miles for all your award booking needs…or if you’d just prefer for us to take care of it all for you!

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Virgin Atlantic announced this morning that Little Red, its domestic airline, will officially be closing next year. The statement noted that “Little Red has not been able to make a positive contribution” to the company. The airline just recently launched in March 2013.  Virgin stated that they will instead be focusing on their transatlantic routes in partnership with Delta and confirmed their expectation of turning a profit for the current year.  From Reuters:

Virgin Atlantic said the decision on Little Red followed a review of its network which has put a new emphasis on its transatlantic routes. The Little Red service did not provide enough feeder traffic onto Virgin’s transatlantic and other international routes, the airline said on Monday. Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive Craig Kreeger blamed the “inadequate” number of runway slots made available by regulators for Little Red’s failure. “While this challenged environment meant Little Red ultimately did not deliver the results we had hoped, this certainly will not dampen our enthusiasm to try new things in the future,” he said. Little Red will stop flying between Heathrow and Manchester in March next year with its Heathrow to Edinburgh and Aberdeen flights ceasing six months after that.

VA Little REd

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We fly blind. if you were allowed to visit the cockpit during a westbound flight late in the afternoon, you probably would see much of the windshield covered

Pilots continue spilling their secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Pilot” written this week by Captain Tom Bunn. Captain Tom is a former commercial airline pilot, who after retirement in the 90’s, went back to school to become a licensed therapist. Since then, he has counseled thousands of people across the globe who have a fear of flying through his program, SOAR. This the 2nd entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Tuesday.

1. We fly blind. if you were allowed to visit the cockpit during a westbound flight late in the afternoon, you probably would see much of the windshield covered. Pilots use whatever is at hand — papers, maps, or even tray liners — to block the sun. It just doesn’t make sense to sit there for hours staring at the sun.   Although it may be terrifying to see that the pilots are flying “blind,” rest assured that all planes are equipped with TCAS, which stands for Traffic Collision Avoidance System. Pilots can see all nearby airborne flights much better — and farther— on the TCAS radar screen than with the naked eye.

2. We take naps.  It’s not legal, but legal or not, naps are a necessity. On long night flights, the best way to make sure both pilots don’t fall asleep at the same time is for pilots to take turns taking a fifteen minute nap in order to shake their sleepiness. Though illegal for U.S. pilots, controlled naps are allowed in the United Kingdom. As aviation consultant Mark Weiss puts it, “I would rather have somebody take a nap during a cruise part of a flight so that pilot would be at peak performance during a high-traffic situation or a landing.”

3. We can’t dodge turbulence. When the plane starts to shake, do you ever wonder why your pilot doesn’t simply steer around it? Although your pilot will always try to give you the smoothest ride possible, clear air turbulence (CAT) can’t be predicted accurately enough for flights to be planned around it. The only reliable CAT advance notice comes from pilots ahead of you on the same route. If a pilot ahead reports CAT, your pilot will try to avoid it. It doesn’t help to go left or right. Circumnavigating CAT doesn’t work because it would mean flying a great distance off course. Sometimes, there just aren’t any smooth altitudes.

Storm clouds that cause turbulence are called cumulonimbus clouds, or CBs for short. CBs can be circumnavigated during cruise. But it becomes harder to do so when landing. As the plane gets closer to the airport, your pilot has less latitude about going off course. The plane has to be lined up with the runway when five miles from landing. Turns off course are not possible during the last five miles, so if a CB is in the way, landings are temporarily halted to allow the CB to drift away.

In any case, turbulence is not a problem for the plane. It is a problem, however, for anxious fliers. Even if you know it is safe, turbulence can still cause fear. When the plane drops, a part of the brain called the amygdala releases stress hormones. The amygdala reacts to feelings of falling and that’s a good. Think about it: If you are on a ladder painting the ceiling and start to fall, the amygdala is going to zap you with stress hormones. The hormones hijack your awareness. They force you to forget about the ceiling and look where you are headed —the floor.

When the plane drops again and again, the amygdala bombards you with one shot of stress hormones after another. It’s hard to stay convinced that you are safe. My free app at http://www.fearofflying.com/app helps. It measures the turbulence and proves that you are safe. And proof that you are safe can help.

Remember: Your pilot cannot get the cockpit on the ground without getting the cabin — where you are — on the ground. You care about self-preservation. So does your pilot. Your pilot’s self-preservation pretty much guarantees yours. It’s a much better deal that you get from our doctor or lawyer or used car salesperson. They are not in the same boat as you are.

4. Flight schedules are based on outdated pseudo-science.  Prior to 1978, each airline worked out schedules with its pilots to accommodate the routes the airline flew while protecting the pilots from undue fatigue. But after 1978’s deregulation, all that changed. Competition between airlines became so fierce that pilots were forced to fly more hours with less rest. Fatigue led to accidents. At the beginning of this year, new rules established by the FAA and supposedly based on scientific study, went into effect which gave pilots a reasonable amount of uninterrupted rest between days of flying, but increased the number of hours a two-pilot crew could fly per day from eight to nine hours!

Under these new pseudo-scientific rules, a pilot who reports for duty at 7 a.m. can be on duty for fourteen hours. That may sound reasonable until you consider that being at work at 7 a.m.  may mean getting up at 3 a.m., leaving home at 4 a.m., and driving two hours to the airport. That allows only twenty minutes for traffic and forty minutes to catch the bus from crew parking to the terminal. Your pilot can be forced to work until 9 p.m., eighteen hours after waking up — if lucky — from five to six hours of sleep.

According to research done in Australia, a person who has driven more than eight hours has the same ability to function as a person with a blood alcohol level of .05. The research also showed a person who has been awake for eighteen hours function like a person with a blood alcohol of .05. What does that say about your pilot who is landing the plane after flying nine hours or being up eighteen hours?

Pilots are stuck with the new rules, and no matter how fatigued a pilot may be, refusing to fly means big trouble. As a pilot, you don’t fly fatigued, you can’t keep your job. Don¹t expect things to get better. So, if you want a pilot who is fully awake after a full night’s sleep, don’t fly earlier than 10 a.m.. If you want to be sure your pilot’s performance
is better than a drunk driver, steer clear of short flights after 7 p.m. Longer domestic flights and international flights that depart after 7 p.m. are not a problem in this regard because on such flights pilots are usually beginning their work day.

Related –

Posted by Adam | One Comment

“Our caring room attendants enjoyed making your stay warm and comfortable. Please feel free to leave a gratuity to express your appreciation for their efforts.” That’s the message that appears on Marriott’s new in-room envelopes that launched this week as part of their “Envelope Please” campaign. The envelopes will appear in 160,000 rooms in the U.S. and Canada across the major Marriott brands including Marriott, Courtyard, JW, and Ritz Carlton. Each envelope will include the name of the housekeeper responsible for cleaning your room.

The program is actually being launched with Maria Shriver as part of her efforts to empower women. “There’s a huge education of the traveler that needs to occur,” she said. “If you tell them, they ask, ‘How do I do that?'” She said envelopes make it easy for guests to leave cash for the right person in a secure way.

The AP reports that Marriott’s CEO is even offering up advice on the appropriate amount to tip and that Marriott housekeepers are quite happy with the initiative:

CEO Arne Sorenson says $1 to $5 per night, depending on room rate, with more for a high-priced suite is recommended. Sorenson noted that housekeepers “are less frequently tipped” than other hotel workers because they do an “invisible task.” In contrast, workers who carry bags, hail cabs and park cars tend to get tipped because they “make a personal connection” with guests, he said. Rosario Rodriguez, who works as a housekeeper at Marriott’s Times Square hotel, says many guests don’t tip and she welcomes the envelope campaign as “a good idea. Jessica Lynn Strosky of DuBois, Pennsylvania, who earns $7.75 an hour cleaning rooms at a hotel that’s not a Marriott, says only 1 in 15 or 20 guests leaves a tip. When they do, it’s a dollar or two; she’s lucky to get $20 a week in tips. “I’ve talked to lots of people who say they don’t know they are supposed to tip,” she said. Unlike waitresses who earn less than minimum wage because tips are expected to raise their earnings, hotel housekeepers are paid minimum wage, and in expensive markets, substantially more. In Washington D.C., Sorenson said, Marriott housekeepers start in the mid-teens per hour.

Related -

Marriott - Tip Please

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I have two AMEX business cards for which the annual fee was just billed – the Business Gold Rewards card and the SPG card. I signed up for the Business Gold Rewards card during a 75K promotion last year. At the same time, I snapped up a new SPG card which was still churnable at the time (the business edition still is).  I had an SPG Business card at the time, but why not sign up? This was during one of the increased sign-up offers, I had not had a personal edition in the prior 12 months, I was eligible for the annual fee waiver, credits towards elite status, and of course the SPG sign-up points.

Anyway, once I hit the spend on each card, I moved most of my spend (which tends to focus on food and travel) back to my Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I also had two Citi Executive AAdvantage cards for which I had to hit minimum spend on. In the end, while I did place my SPG spend on my SPG card, there wasn’t much else on there. As such, I wasn’t surprised that when I called to cancel last week, I was offered no retention offers on either card. Here are my experiences for each, again the responses aren’t shocking as I had little spend on both cards and therefore was not a valued cardmember worth “saving” for these specific products..though it does highlight a change in AMEX retention offers:

  1. I consulted this flyteralk thread which lists recent offered retention bonuses for AMEX cards (click the link within to the separate SPG thread).
  2. Some of the more recent Business Gold offers – 10K Membership Rewards, $225 or 12.5K Membership Rewards, 10K Membership Rewards or $75, 10K Membership Rewards or $100
  3. Some of the more recent SPG offers – 7K SPG points (seems to be most common)1K points and 500 points after spending $1,000 in 60 days, $50 loyalty credit, 7K SPG points (seems to be most common), 3K SPG points
  4. For the Business Gold card, total spend outside of the required spend was only $7,200. On my first call I wasn’t even transferred to the retention department. I was thanked for my business and told that they were happy that I would still have several other AMEX cards. The representative was ready to cancel the card until I cut him off and said I would call back. I did call back and was able to get a different representative to transfer me to the retention department.  Besides highlighting the current benefits, no offer could be made – points or loyalty credit. One more shot…for the blog. Same exact response, the “system was not allowing them to offer anything”.
  5. SPG card – same situation, total spend of only $3800 post required minimum spend. The initial customer service representatives wanted to cancel the card on the spot as per my request. No retention department connection until I specifically requested it. Three calls, no offers during any of them. They were happy that I still had an SPG Business card though and would continue earning valuable SPG points ;-)

Wow, what a difference from years past when I was offered fee waivers or at least 5K-7K SPG points on cards where I spent 1K or less in the year.  I guess they are actually properly valuing those retention offers now…

What has been your experience?

Posted by Adam | 4 Comments

This is part seven of a thirteen part trip report from my third and most recent trip back to Thailand and includes what I think might be my favorite hotel in Thailand – the Sand Sea Resort located in beautiful Railay Beach.

This is a non-chain hotel, though I did earn Hotels.com Welcome Rewards points. There are no major hotels located on the peninsula (accessed via boat from Krabi) and the rate was reasonable enough ($76 per night..though this can be considered expensive for the island if you are comfortable staying at a property that is more like a motel).

Arriving at night via water to the beach in front of the hotel was amazing. All we could see where these huge limestone cliffs above us and lanterns floating in the air. Pretty magical. 

Check-in was easy and they took us in golf carts to our rooms.

Yes, the room doesn’t exactly compare to the W Retreat Koh Samui, but for the location this is extremely luxurious…plus you should be outside most of your time in Railay Beach anyway.  There was strong wifi, a flat-screen, a great shower, and a balcony.

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The bathroom…

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The beach in front of the hotel by night…

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Waking up in the morning we got to explore the property in daylight, starting with the free buffet breakfast. Omelette and smoothie stations…

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But how could you sit at breakfast when this was right down the steps…

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Several TripAdvisor reviewers complain of the noise from the long-tail boats. While I surely would have loved the location even more without the distraction, we didn’t find it that bothersome (look at those views).  The water is calm and warm and if you need some shade you can hop in the hotel pool located right beyond the beach (this was key).

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The balcony off the room in daylight:

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One of the more interesting things when visiting in Feb-March is that the water completely disappears around 3:30pm. From too deep to stand to not a drop of water in just a few hours. It’s a bit of a disappointment when you aren’t aware ahead of time and don’t properly plan your day (we would have gotten in the water a lot earlier that first day). Anyway, we headed back to the pool and the hotel staff informed us that the water usually returned around 6pm (we found it to be more like 7:30-8pm).  Lesson learned, we got outside earlier the next few days. You’ll also want to remember this if you need to take a boat back to Krabi for your flight.

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Overall I really loved the hotel for the following reasons:

  • Location (doesn’t get any better) and I’d guess no matter where you stay you’ll love Railay Beach.
  • For a tiny peninsula, I found the room to be more than comfortable, I’d say it was even modern (especially compared to the other hotels in the area). More importantly, the room was extremely clean.
  • The staff at the hotel were friendly and helpful. There’s an on-site restaurant and convenience store. Note that alcohol is not served at either but there are plenty of restaurants and shops where you can find drinks.
  • The pool is fantastic and great for shade or to cool down (even from the sea water).

Regionally Related -

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With the metal tongs we use to serve bread we moved the exposed body part back into his pants! He didn’t feel a thing.

Betty continues spilling her secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Fed-Up Flight Attendant” written by “Betty”.  Below is the 13th entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Monday.

Things We Just Can’t Do for You – One flight I was on had a particularly robust passenger. So robust, in fact, that he purchased three seats. He was nice enough and the flight went along smoothly, until he got up to use the restroom. Airplane bathrooms are small for average-sized people. If you are a person who needs three seats, that airplane bathroom will not be OK for you.  He managed to get in and shut the door. Five minutes later, the flight attendant call bell from inside the bathroom rang. A petite flight attendant responded to the call bell and asked if the passenger was OK. He opened the door a bit and said he needed help wiping because he couldn’t reach. This attendant frantically waved her hand in front of her mouth and said, “Oh, no, sir: We only do food and beverage …  only food and beverage!”

The Mouse Is Out of the House – On flights to Las Vegas, passengers get incredibly excited for the debauchery that lies ahead. This usually makes them drink too much. This one drunk guy went to the back of the airplane to use the restroom.  In his drunken state, he didn’t lock the door.  While he was in the restroom, he passed out, fell backward, and ended up lying flat on the galley floor. The flight attendants heard a thud and rushed to see what happened.  Because of what he was attempting to do in the bathroom, his fly was still down and his privates were exposed. The two flight attendants stood over him, discussing what to to. “Let him sleep it off,” one said.  “We can’t leave him exposed,” said another. “I’m not going to touch it!” said a third.  This went on for some time. They really needed to get back to the beverage service. They finally decided to get the long metal tongs that we use to serve bread in first class to  move the exposed body part back into his pants! He didn’t feel a thing.

An Unreasonable Solution – One day as I was walking down the aisle checking passengers, I noticed a very large woman traveling with her pet Chihuahua. The dog was out of the carrier and sitting on her lap. Rules are rules, so I told her that animals have to stay in their carriers. Without saying a word, she looked at me, then she looked at the dog, and then she picked up the Chihuahua and tucked the tiny dog into her very ample bosom. The dog fit there very nicely and seemed comfortable. So I looked at her and looked at the dog and said, “Well, I guess technically … that would qualify as a carrier.”

Related –

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