Update -  UA’s website is now displaying the switch from the B777 to the A380 suites on the SQ 1 (SFO-HKG-SIN) and SQ 2 (SIN-HKG-SFO) routes.  You should now see this when logging into and viewing your itineraries:

Don’t worry about the Business class designation, R class is indicative of Suite Class in Singapore’s system but UA uses that same designation for upgraded Business. Who else is excited for their suite??  *Unfortunately the equipment change to the A380 is scheduled only until March 24, 2012 for both HKG and NRT, MEL is permanent.*

Remember to Book the Cook at least 24 hours prior to departure.

World-class meals you can count on. Revel in our celebrated Book the Cook service that enables you to order your main course before you fly. Simply select from our list of premium Book the Cook dishes and make your request through our reservations office or your travel agent at least 24 hours before flight departure. You may also make your Book the Cook meal request when purchasing your tickets online through our website. Book the Cook main courses are specially prepared just for you.  Meal selections vary by location but include at least 10 options when departing from San Francisco and over 30 options when departing from Singapore.

Pan-Seared Chilean Seabass in Bouillabaisse Broth – An adaptation from its Marseillaise original, its broth is flavoured with saffron, white wine and a splash of Pernod. Served with slow-cooked capsicum confit and zucchini pasta.
Boston Lobster Thermidor – Lobster tail sauteed in butter, flambeed in brandy, sprinkled with cheese, and served with creamy mushroom sauce, garlic and spicy mustard, and buttered asparagus
U.S. 8 oz. Rib-Eye Steak -U.S. beef steak with creamy green peppercorn sauce, roasted vegetables and garlic-mashed potatoes
Seared Lamb Loin – Lamb loin with salsa verde, Lyonnaise onion, aioli and bacon. Designed by Singapore Airlines International Culinary Panel Chef Matthew Moran

Original Post

Great news for those of you who took advantage of the Singapore First Class award booking extravaganza a few weeks ago, Singapore will be putting the A380 on the SFO-HKG-SIN route with twice daily service and will be adding a second A380 on the SIN-NRT route! This is in addition to the additional A380 added on the SQ217 route from SIN-MEL last week. The updates are effective December 28, 2012. The addition comes at the expense of one of the JFK-FRA-SIN routes which will go back to a B777-300ER. If you booked an award on any of these previous B777 routes get ready to be excited, you should now have a Suite Class award on the A380! I had hedged my bet on a change like this by placing a reservation to MEL, hoping that the B777 would get the swap and I’d get to experience Suite Class! United’s website shows that there has been a change to my reservation, though it indicates Business (R):

However, when checking on Singapore’s website I can see that I’ve been assigned a seat in Suite Class on the A380:

I know quite a few others had First reservations on at least one of these routes! Note that UA and Singapore have not yet updated their websites with the SFO-HKG and NRT-SIN swaps so you will only see updates on the SIN-MEL route displayed online. Now we just need a swap on IAH-DME-SIN and I think the majority of readers will have a First Class A380 award. Why does Suite Class seem so amazing? Check out this link for full video and pictures. Each individual cabin features sliding doors and window blinds, offering you the freedom to decide on the level of privacy you prefer. While the leather and wood finishes, created in soothing natural hues, enhance the sense of serenity. For the first time ever in air travel, experience the pleasure of sleeping on a distinctively designed, standalone bed; not one converted from a seat. Our signature turndown service, with fine linen and plush, full-sized pillows, ensures a restful slumber. The bed is separate for your seat and whether in our largest seat or on our most comfortable bed, you have countless ways to enjoy this unique, personal space.

Posted by Adam | 18 Comments

We chose to stay at the Le Meridien during our Coldplay Meet & Greet SPG experience down in Philly.  When looking for hotels I focused on SPG properties, wanting to hit a few additional nights in order to qualify for triple points during the Nice Choice promotion.  As I waited until last minute to pick the hotel, I first searched for the non-refundable rates and then reviewed my corporate rate for each property. There were no cash & points options available and with rates just barely above $100, I was not going to be using any SPG points…plus I had just spent an insane amount on the SPG Moment!

Westin- Non-Refundable $179 / Corporate Rate $159
Sheraton – Non-Refundable $124 / Corporate Rate $108
Le Meridien – Non-Refundable $150 / Corporate Rate $122

Based on price I narrowed it down to the Sheraton and the Le Meridien, but went with the LM due to my recent stays in Bangkok and Nice.

Upon arriving my nose was already picking up the LM smell that I’ve become obsessed with and it got only stronger as two doormen opened the doors for us into the lobby. The lobby was trendy and modern like most updated LMs and we were informed by the doorman that the building was actually an old YMCA.  Very cool!

There was a short line for check in and we were offered a standard room immediately (2pm) or we could wait until 3pm and have an upgraded suite.  We choose to wait and were even offered a changing room to get ready or shower. As the hotel encompasses the old YMCA you feel as if you are outside when you exit the elevator to head to your room, though the adjoining brick building is actually inside the hotel.

After a quick hour of sightseeing we returned to the hotel and headed up to the suite.

Pros

  • Nice size suite for a city hotel, did not have to request the upgrade as a Platinum member
  • Modern / updated decor and colors
  • Amazing cloud bed, literally one of the best beds I’ve slept on…though not as good as the LM Bangkok
  • Great A/C (it was over 100F every day during our trip in Philly)
  • Very good shower
  • Our room actually didn’t have an outdoor view, instead looking into the atrium.  While this would normally be a negative, we loved how dark the room was once we closed the curtains and how there was no street noise at all
  • Clean, spacious, and quiet room.

Cons

  • While the suite was a good size, the normal rooms seemed pretty small
  • The minibar was completely cost prohibitive…as most are
  • No SPG amenity was offered at first though upon asking I was given the usual choice and selected the 500 points.  there were no additional amenities provided in the room other than the free Wifi (no waters).

The front-desk staff, concierge, and bellmen at the hotel were exceptional in terms of service, directions, and information, though a big thanks is also due to the blog readers for some excellent restaurant recommendations.  Everyone we came into contact with at the hotel was extremely friendly. The location of the hotel was also very central and Reading Market, City Hall, and Rittenhouse Square are all easily walkable.

I would definitely return to this hotel if I’m ever back in Philly.

Posted by Adam | 6 Comments

It appears that AA has extended their Executive Platinum matching for UA 1K’s to Delta Diamond members. Forum poster MachOne is reporting that after being turned down a few months ago during the start of the UA 1K matches, he’s received an updated response from American:

“At the time that our original reply was sent, the message that you received was accurate. However, we continuously reevaluate our exception making guidelines, in order to make fair and sound business decisions. That said, we have made some changes and would like to revisit your request to match your Delta Diamond Medallion status to our AAdvantage Executive Platinum(r) status.”

He has since sent a copy of his Delta credentials to AA and has been granted Executive Platinum status through 2/28/13.  He was also given an offer to maintain his status through 2/28/14 by flying 45k additional miles by 12/31/12. One other member is also reporting success in matching Delta Diamond to AA Exec Plat.  Similar to the UA match, there has been no official announcement by AA on the offer nor is their any word on whether matched members will receive the 8 SWUs that come standard with EXP status and that were originally granted for the UA 1K matches. There is also no indication as to whether other elite levels are being matched at this time. In any case, I figure it’s worth a shot emailing AA here to inquire about the match and potentially receive up to 8 systemwide upgrades and Executive Platinum status through the end of February.

Has anyone else been approached or successfully matched from Delta?

Update 8/13 – Reader Paul was rejected for this offer and presented with a challenge instead.  Refer to the comments section. 

Posted by Adam | 21 Comments

Welcome to another Saturday edition of Overheard on the Plane.

If you haven’t yet, check out Say What? Overheard on the Plane Editions 1-14 and of course keep sending in your stories for future posts to adam@pointmetotheplane.com. Remember to include the carrier and route as well as any other pertinent details and sources.

Remember, there is an on-going contest for any Overheard reader submissions with a mileage prize awarded for any entries submitted June 16 – August 1 (extended until August 30th).

Submitted by Gregory P

Southwest flight from Oakland (OAK) to Las Vegas (LAS)
Flight Attendant: In the event of a sudden cabin depressurization, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead console. Please put yours on first before deciding whether or not to put one on your child traveling with you.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Submitted by Susan H in Hershey, PA

United flight from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AVP) to Newark (EWR) – My four year old daughter said the following to me upon walking off our commuter flight to Newark, Ewww mommy, it smells so bad. I responded: I know, honey we are back in New York.  This is why we are back here to pack our things and move permanently to Pennsylvania.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Submitted by Michael in Santa Monica, CA

US Airways flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Las Vegas (LAS)
I got upgraded to first class and this arrogant guy sitting across from me smiles and turns to me when his wife gets up to go the bathroom: – I’ve been cheating on her for 15 years, the least I can do is take her to Vegas.  I think he was shocked when instead of high-fiving him I told him he was pathetic.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Submitted by Heather in Carlsbad, CA – Courtesy of OHEverywhere

Frontier Flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Denver (DEN)
Flight attendant: Please turn all unapproved portable electronic devices such as laptops, iPods, cell phones, blackberries, coconuts, peaches, grapes, kiwis, or whatever the hell else y’all call them things. Also, if your child comes with a vibrate setting, set them to that mode now so if they go off during the flight the rest of your fellow passengers will not be annoyed.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Submitted by Chelsea in Hot Springs, Arkansas
AA Flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to JFK
As we were passing through security I heard the following conversation between 2 TSA agents:
Agent 1 – How are you liking the job? Not bad right?
Agent 2- The early morning shifts can be killer but it’s definitely a step up from IHOP.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Submitted by Aaron in Boulder, CO

UA Flight from Denver (DEN) to Jackson Hole (JAC)
Pilot (standing at the front of the plane on the intercom): Before we get going, I always ask, is there anyone here from JFK HS – Denver, CO class of 1973? NO RESPONSE. Alright, I’ll continue looking, hoping to find my old HS girlfriend.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Submitted by Lex in London, UK

BA Flight from London (LHR) to JFK
Studious looking (nice way to put it) Passenger: …but those are my cheese knives!
Security (rolls their eyes and tosses his cheese knives)

Posted by Adam | 2 Comments

If you haven’t seen this story on Tecca or in Forbes, Tecca reporter Fox Van Allen writes:

Between jewelry, passports, laptops, and even tablets, a lot of us carry some very expensive things when we travel. And we expect the hotel we’re staying at to do all they reasonably can to keep us and our belongings safe. But according to a Forbes report, hotel doors with keycard entry offer virtually no security at all — they can be easily hacked with as little as $50 worth of equipment.

According to 24-year old security expert Cody Brocious, if your hotel room door’s keycard lock has a DC power port, it can be broken in to with inexpensive software and other hacking tools. And to prove it, Brocious has created a device capable of breaking into as many as 5,000,000 hotel rooms worldwide. The device works by spoofing the all-access cards used by hotel staff. According to Brocious, while every locked hotel room door requires its own access code to open, that access code is programmed into the door itself. The hacking tool can read the code, and then use it moments later to unlock the door.

Brocious was presenting his hacking tool (and, more broadly, hotel room security) at the Black Hat USA security conference on July 24.

 

Posted by Adam | 8 Comments

Not exactly mileage related but a good deal if you have any upcoming Best Buy spend, good through 9/16. I’ll be using my SPG AMEX card for a new digital camera.  Follow this link for full details.

Posted by Adam | One Comment

Just a quick reminder, we have four on-going contests with the opportunity to earn some very easy AA Miles:

  • There is currently an Overheard on the Plane contest awarding 500 AA miles for the 5 best Overheard on the Plane submissions through August 1st.  Each individual can have up to 3 winning entries for a total of 1500 AA miles.  All entries should be sent to adam@pointmetotheplane.com.
  • Follow Point me to the Plane on our new Twitter account @PointMe2Plane and then send me an email letting me know at adam@pointmetotheplane.com. Two new followers will be selected to receive 500 AA miles! Winners chosen via random.org.
  • Like Point me to the Plane on our new Facebook page and then send me an email letting me know at adam@pointmetotheplane.com. Two new followers will be selected to receive 500 AA miles! Winners chosen via random.org.
  • Sign up for new post notifications via email (scroll to the bottom of this post and select “Notify me of new posts by email”).  Then send me an email letting me know that you’ve signed up.  Three individuals will be selected to receive 500 AA miles! Winners chosen via random.org.

Good Luck!

 

Posted by Adam | 12 Comments

As I was finalizing my flight plans for the London 2012 Olympics (miraculously two Delta LOW seats on the direct flights to/from JFK), I came across a Yahoo! story on the sad state of the venues from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I just so happened to be working in Asia during the 2008 Summer Games and the excitement and pride within China surrounding the games and the amazing Bird’s Nest and Water Cube was incredible. Being a part of the Olympics in Beijing, while attending events at these venues, is still one of my fondest travel memories. The city and the people had an enthusiasm that I have not witnessed again in any of my more recent trips back.  Currently, the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube are used for large events, though several of the other venues lay deserted or demolished.

(Article by Erick Galindo, pictures courtesy of Jason Lee/Reuters):

Bird’s Nest – BEFORE

Bird’s Nest – AFTER – Workers clean garbage from the lake

Water Cube – BEFORE – “The product of design and engineering harmony, and a rising power’s desire to announce itself to the world”

Water Cube – AFTER 

Baseball – BEFORE

Baseball – AFTER

Baseball – AFTER

Rowing-Canoeing Venue -BEFORE

Rowing-Canoeing Venue -AFTER

Rowing-Canoeing Venue -AFTER

BMX – BEFORE

BMX – AFTER

Volleyball – AFTER

Posted by Adam | 11 Comments

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was on my way down to Philly for a meet & greet with Coldplay courtesy of SPG Moments. I teased everyone in that original post, not mentioning the number of points I used to win the experience.  Perhaps I did so to create a buzz for this future post, but more likely unconsciously saving myself some ridicule from the frequent flyer community!

For those of you unfamiliar with the program, “Moments is an exclusive program for members of SPG in which hard-earned Starpoints can be transformed into one-of-a-kind experiences.”  They run both regular and fixed price auctions, though the meet and greets tend to have no set price.

My girlfriend is a huge Coldplay fan and I figured what could be better than two seats in the first few rows and a chance to meet the band.  I followed the auction closely and as expected the price rose quickly into the 50-65k range. Unfortunately, the description for a “meet & greet” was not all that clear on the website and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a handshake and a quick photo.  I was also curious as to whether anything else was included with the backstage access.  Luckily, there’s a chat function on the SPG Moments website and I was able to ask these exact questions.  The responses I got were semi-consistent, but not all that definite:

Rep 1 – There is not a set amount of time on how long you will be with the band.  I would assume it would be more than a 2 second hi and bye and picture, but I do not have an exact description on how the interaction will take place.  From past testimonials and reviews that I have heard from guests it is not just a hi and bye meeting. 
Rep 2 - It’s a meet and greet meaning you meet them and will have a chance to mingle.

With these responses in hand, I decided that I would set my maximum bid to 100,000 SPG points.  Yes, it was shocking and uncomfortable for me as well!  As you know from my previous posts, I value SPG points more than any other point currency and just thinking about the number of nights I could have redeemed with these points was painful.  Thinking of the number of nights, including the Fifth Night Free benefit, was even more painful. Here’s how I rationalized it.  I generally redeem my points for category 6 (20-25K per night) or category 7 (30-35k per night) properties in exotic locals or expensive destinations.  So we are talking about a little less than a week at a category 6 property.  A week is definitely nothing to sneeze about, but I balanced this with the fact that my remaining Starpoints balance would still provide me over a month of free stays (not including my other hotel points).  I submitted my bid and waited for the auction to end, heading off to the gym to ensure I wasn’t tempted to increase my offer.  Unfortunately, the auction wasn’t ending as scheduled! As per the T&Cs “if a bid is placed during the last 5 minutes of an auction, the auction will be extended automatically for an additional 5 minutes from the time of the latest bid. The auction will close once all bidding activity has stopped for a period of 5 minutes.” Checking on my iPhone I saw that the bidding surpassed my 100k maximum and I upped my bid to 125k, eventually winning the auction. There were definitely some mixed emotions upon winning and I was happy to be at the gym.  I immediately received a congratulatory email from SPG noting that I would be contacted by a Moments representative within the next 48 hours and letting me know that I could rebuild my balance by applying for the SPG AMEX card!

Sure enough, I was emailed within 48 hours by my Moments liaison and she was fantastic. She mapped out all the logistical details for us and remained in contact over the next few weeks as times and locations were finalized. In the meantime, we were thinking up things to talk about with the band and booked the Le Meridien Philadelphia (full review in a future post, but we loved the hotel). About two days prior to the show our liaison reached out one final time with the full details:

We arrived in Philly early.  We checked into our upgraded suite at the Le Meridien, did some sightseeing, and then made our way to the venue to meet Allison, our on-site contact.  Constant communication is definitely one of the strong points of the SPG Moments program and it continued with our on-site contact.  Allison called me twice during the day to confirm our meeting times and then called and text messaged me again to ensure we made it inside the venue.  She then picked us up at our seats and escorted us backstage.

Allison works for LiveNation and coordinates several of the SPG Moments jointly with Starwood.  Upon entering backstage we were greeted by the Coldplay tour manager, who Allison introduced us to.  We were told it was going to be about 15 minutes until the band was ready to meet us and that we could just hang out.  Backstage looked like a high school hallway with plain white walls and not much else.  We spent our time chatting with Allison who ended up growing up near both of us.  At one point I asked where all of the action was as well as how much time we’d have with the band.  The response was that backstage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that this was it, however we would be taking pictures with the band and get to shake their hands.  I was pretty surprised and commented on the responses of the SPG Moments reps but was told that the information we were given was definitely inaccurate.  For the time being I put that all behind me as this was still an awesome experience and we were standing backstage being told that Coldplay would be right out to meet us.  Allison came equipped with a legit Nikon D3000 SLR camera and took some test shots of us against the wall so that she was prepared for when the band came out.

The four band members soon appeared and made their way towards us.  They were extremely friendly and we got to shake each of their hands and say a few words.  Lucky for us, Chris Martin disappeared for a few moments leaving us with some additional time with the rest of the band.  When he came back we took two pictures, shook their hands again, and then watched as they walked out onto the stage.  Allison then escorted us back to our third row seats and told us she would either email the photos to us that weekend or send them via UPS overnight.  The “meet and greet” was over, and though it was not exactly as promised, we had a great time…until the concert was interrupted for us.

A person in front of us had put up an illegal microphone and became extremely agitated when asked to take it down.  At the same time, a fight erupted in front of us  (yes, who would have thought at a Coldplay concert) as two individuals claimed their seats were occupied by two people in the wrong seats.  A medical issue soon occurred as a consequence of the mayhem in our area and the concert was ruined after only 30 minutes in our 3rd row seats.

I emailed our on-site LiveNation contact that next morning regarding the situation and asked if she could help us obtain tickets for the second night of the concert.  She could not have been more apologetic and after consulting with the tour manager she was able to secure us two seats.  I then extended our hotel reservation another night and updated our travel plans.  We made use of the time by exploring Philly one more day and visiting the Liberty Bell, which I hadn’t seen since elementary school.  Upon arriving at the box office our tickets were waiting for us as were two VIP passes, again entitling us to access to the “Friends & Family area” backstage.  Although our seats the second night were not on the floor, they were actually even closer to the stage and the band than those the night before. We had an amazing time and were happily informed by the stage crew that the setlist was identical to the previous night.  In fact, the only change was that one of our favorite songs was swapped in due to a malfunctioning keyboard. Coldplay put on an amazing show and the performance included awesome visual effects.

About a week later I wrote an email to the SPG Moments liaison letting her know all that had transpired at the concert that first night as well as the inaccurate description of the “meet & greet” that was previously provided to us.  She too was extremely sympathetic… “Please let me start by apologizing for what was supposed to be an awesome night, turning horribly bad!“, and though the occurrences at the concert were no fault of SPG, she was extremely sorry.  She then explained that the online chat functionality was new and that further training was in the works.  She told me that agents are supposed to refer members with specific event questions to an email address where one of the SPG Moments liaison members can answer Moment specific questions.  At the end of the email she notified me that she would be refunding half the points back to my SPG account, a very generous and appreciated offer! I was also happy to know that meet and greet descriptions going forward will be handled by the appropriate representatives.

Would I have spent 125k SPG points on third row seats and a photo and hand-shake with Coldplay…probably not.  However, I’m actually glad that I had some incorrect information going into this.  We had a great time, saw a great concert (on try #2), and have some amazing pictures with one of our favorite bands.  Besides the inaccurate information provided by the online chat feature, everything about the SPG Moments experience was top-notch.  Pre-concert, day of, and post-concert communication was excellent and they truly made us feel very well taken care of at all times .  Thanks to SPGMoments for a great experience!

Posted by Adam | 11 Comments

Virgin America is offering 20% off any coach purchase from now through August 15, 2012 at 11:59pm CDT. This offer is valid for nonstop or connecting travel and is not available for any multi–city itineraries. All destinations are included. Travel must occur between August 22, 2012 and November 14, 2012. Blackout dates are August 31, 2012 and September 3, 2012. Full details and sign-up can be found here.

Also, remember that there is currently an Overheard on the Plane contest awarding 500 AA miles for the 5 best Overheard on the Plane submissions through August 1st.  Each individual can have up to 3 winning entries for a total of 1500 AA miles.  All entries should be sent to adam@pointmetotheplane.com

Posted by Adam | 2 Comments

Great news for those of you who took advantage of the Singapore First Class award booking extravaganza a few weeks ago, Singapore will be putting the A380 on the SFO-HKG-SIN route with twice daily service and will be adding a second A380 on the SIN-NRT route! This is in addition to the additional A380 added on the SQ217 route from SIN-MEL last week. The updates are effective December 28, 2012. The addition comes at the expense of one of the JFK-FRA-SIN routes which will go back to a B777-300ER. If you booked an award on any of these previous B777 routes get ready to be excited, you should now have a Suite Class award on the A380! I had hedged my bet on a change like this by placing a reservation to MEL, hoping that the B777 would get the swap and I’d get to experience Suite Class! United’s website shows that there has been a change to my reservation, though it indicates Business (R):

However, when checking on Singapore’s website I can see that I’ve been assigned a seat in Suite Class on the A380:

I know quite a few others had First reservations on at least one of these routes! Note that UA and Singapore have not yet updated their websites with the SFO-HKG and NRT-SIN swaps so you will only see updates on the SIN-MEL route displayed online. Now we just need a swap on IAH-DME-SIN and I think the majority of readers will have a First Class A380 award. Why does Suite Class seem so amazing? Check out this link for full video and pictures. Each individual cabin features sliding doors and window blinds, offering you the freedom to decide on the level of privacy you prefer. While the leather and wood finishes, created in soothing natural hues, enhance the sense of serenity. For the first time ever in air travel, experience the pleasure of sleeping on a distinctively designed, standalone bed; not one converted from a seat. Our signature turndown service, with fine linen and plush, full-sized pillows, ensures a restful slumber. The bed is separate for your seat and whether in our largest seat or on our most comfortable bed, you have countless ways to enjoy this unique, personal space.

Posted by Adam | 26 Comments

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