Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

I Saved $250 in 12 Hours


I’m getting ready to take a trip to New Jersey again.  When I looked at airfare last night, it was $450.  But thanks to Bing Travel I knew to wait.  When you give them a route/date combo, it gives you pricing but also tells you whether to buy now or wait.  They said to wait, saying they were 80% sure the fare would go down by $150+ in the next week.   There were plenty of seats available on the flights I was looking at, so I gambled and decided to wait.  Thanks to a spectacular FareCompare iPhone app, I got a push notification this afternoon that the low fare for my selected dates was $199.   The only possible catch is that my particular timing needs might not match-up with the lowest fare.  But in this case, every combination I found was $199!!!  They say knowledge is power, and in this case knowledge is also cash in hand!

When I look at Bing now, it says to buy…with a 92% confidence that the rate will rise by $270-363 in the next 7 days.  Having made this same trip countless times, I know that $199 is the best I can possibly hope for, so I booked with confidence that I did the best I could.

Give this a try with your next trip.  You stand to save a lot of hard earned dough!

Farecast is a great tool that was acquired by Bing Travel

Delta Diamond Royal Treatment


I recently crossed the 125,000 mile threshold for the year, putting me into Delta’s highest “elite” category, Diamond Medallion.  Before they created this status (just this year), I had been a Platinum Medallion for three years.  As the top tier at the time, I have to admit that I still didn’t feel like I was treated all that specially.  Yes, I could get a Delta representative on the phone in under two rings almost any time of day or night.  That’s really quite excellent as much as I travel.  But aside from that, Platinum felt an awful lot like the lower statuses except that I had a better chance of being upgraded domestically.  Given the business-heavy routs I fly, I still only got upgraded occasionally (less than 20%).

But after reaching Diamond status, I feel like I’ve stepped into a whole new world.  The Delta reps are now eager to do anything they can to make me happy.  Case in point, they just switched an international flight for me, at no cost, when it was arguably my fault!

I’m on my way home from Israel at the moment.  This trip came about on short notice, so I literally bought the ticket only 5 hours before leaving my house.  My usual MO is to check upgrade availability online (thank you Expert Flyer!), book my ticket online, then call Delta to book the upgrade.  In this case, there was no time.  I called Delta to check on upgrade availability (I could fly direct , or through JFK, or through AMS), then just told him to book the flights.  I told him I needed to come home on Thursday night.  Well, he complied in the literal sense.  He booked me on a flight at 00:30 Thursday.  Yes, that’s at night, and yes it’s on Thursday.  But I think most of us would call that a “Wednesday night” flight , especially since you have to be at the airport at 22:30 on Wednesday night to check-in.  I didn’t notice the error when I got the confirmation e-mail, as I was frantically packing and trying to spend a few minutes of my Sunday with my kids.  Instead I noticed this when I looked at my iPhone on Wednesday night to verify the flight time for the next day.  I noticed that my flight was leaving in two hours.  DOH!!!!!

You see, the part that really threw me off is that I took this EXACT flight last week.  I flew TLV-JFK at 23:30 on Thursday night.  Well for whatever reason, Delta pushed the flights back an hour this week…so the same flight (Delta 269) leaves at 00:30 this week instead of 23:30.

So I called Delta and explained what happened.  I just laid it all out there.  I acknowledged that I hadn’t looked carefully enough at my itinerary, but given that I had just taken the flight 3 days before…it simply didn’t occur to me.

If you’ve read this boring story this far, thanks.  :)  We’re close, I promise!

So here’s the truly amazing part.  The Delta agent was kind enough to re-book my flight for the next night, and was even able to get me an upgraded seat on the direct flight instead of the connection through JFK.  To top it all off, they waived the change fee.  SWEET!!!!

Thank you, Delta!!!  This is precisely the kind of service that creates customer loyalty!   Thank you!

Where Am I?


I got to the airport quite a bit early for my flight today from Beijing to Seoul, and didn’t yet have a boarding pass.  I stopped at the ticket counter to check-in and the guy asked me where I was going.   I answered “Beijing” and he looked at me like I had three heads!  After a short pause I said “Sorry, that was yesterday.  How about Seoul?”  LOL   I’m looking forward to staying in the same place for three whole nights!

Asia Trip – July 2010


I’m getting ready for a very hectic week in Asia, and have decided that I need a day at the start to recover a bit from jet lag before adding sleep deprivation.  So on Friday I’ll fly from Atlanta to Wuhan, China, via Detroit and Shanghai.  I’ll get to the hotel late on Saturday evening and will have Sunday to explore Wuhan.  I’ve never been there before, so that should be fun.  Wuhan is the largest city in central China (10M+ people).  It’s also known as one of the “Three Ovens” of China, so it’ll be nice and toasty in late July!

I’ll have meetings in Wuhan on Monday, then fly out to Beijing that evening.  After meetings in Beijing on Tuesday, I’ll fly out to Seoul that evening.  Finally after two days of meetings in Seoul, I’ll fly home on Friday, via Portland.  That’s 7 flights in 8 days, covering 16,861 miles.  Please put your seat back and tray table in their fully upright and locked positions.  And remember, smoking is…not allowed…on any Delta flight.


Ze Plane! Ze Plane!


Good timing!  This is the plane I’d be flying out on later in the evening; Delta 152, ATL-TLV.  The photo was taken at 17:30, as I was waling along the beach finishing-up my adventure for the day.  I had watched dozens of planes landing that afternoon, but had never anticipated seeing MY plane!

Ze Plane! Ze Plane!!!

Delta Travel Treats


On a recent flight I decided to try one of Delta’s two snack packs.  The Travel Treats are a bit heartier.  Delta says “This tasty selection of snack items contains an assortment of chips, Jack Link’s beef nuggets, crackers, cheese, dried fruit, cookies, and candy.”  The other choice is the Flight Delights (which I haven’t tried yet) which are a bit higher on the hog; “A deliciously healthy and high-energy collection of bagel chips, Asiago cheese spread, olives, pomegranate-vanilla glazed cashews, dried cranberries & pineapple, and Swiss chocolate”.

Delta "Travel Treats" snack pack. Not a bad way to spend $5.


3 Hour Rule


In late April, the FAA instituted a new rule, affectionately known as the “3 Hour Rule”.  There have been some bad situations where passengers were stranded on planes for long periods of time, sometimes without being given food or water, sometimes without working bathrooms, etc.  There are clearly some horror stories, but they are exceedingly rare.  Unfortunately our government hates to waste an opportunity to regulate our lives.  So in an attempt to prevent a few rough flights, they’ve instituted a 3 hour rule that basically says the airline has to go back to the gate and allow people to leave the flight if they can’t get off the ground in 3 hours.

I got hosed by the new rule Thursday night.  There were storms in the northeast, which means flights out of Newark were a disaster.  First they delayed the flight from 4:50 to 6:10, but gave me a few hours notice of that…so no biggie.  They were still late for the 6:10 schedule, but we backed away from the gate at 6:35.  They immediately parked us on the tarmac.  We were not in a taxiway line; just sitting in a holding area.  We waited for over two hours as the storms rolled through and the airport was completely closed during much of that time.  I think they should have just waited; not let the flight board.  I mean, if you know the weather’s bad and you can’t leave, why put the people on the plane and make them sit there?  The reality is there are at least two reasons.  1) The airlines have to report their on-time performance, so they don’t want to be any more late leaving the gate than they have to, and 2) Delta only has a few gates in Newark, so they may have needed that same gate for another aircraft.

When things opened-up, we were something like #15 in line.  But then at 9:00 they said we were going back to the gate.  Apparently the 3-hour clock starts ticking when cabin doors close, and they have to be back at the gate with the door open before the 3 hour mark.  We were in the taxi line, and were probably only about 15 minutes from the runway.  But Delta wasn’t confident that we would be off the ground before we’d hit the 3 hour mark, and they weren’t going to risk getting hit with fees of “up to” $27,500 per passenger under the new rule.

So back to the gate we went. We lost our spot in line.  They decided to refuel.  Some people chose to leave the flight, which meant digging their bag out from the belly.  We sat there for an hour without a clue when we’d be able to leave.  They said we could get off the plane if we wanted to, but they wouldn’t wait for anybody once they got clearance to leave…so most folks stayed.  A few folks joined the flight and were given a good natured ribbing about needing to be properly initiated before joining the flight.  :)  At 10:10 we finally backed away again, and went airborne at 10:30 (four hours after initial push-back).  I was back on the ground at 00:20, 5 hours behind schedule.

This new rule, which is supposed to prevent passengers from being “held hostage” on delayed flights ended-up costing me an extra hour and a half.  It cost the nice couple next to me a night in a hotel, since they missed their connection, which they would have made if we hadn’t gone back to the gate.

To be fair, the cabin crew was spectacular.  They were very quick to roam the aisles with water, and they opened bags of snacks in the galley.   The captain kept us as well informed as he could.  No complaints with Delta at all.  The FAA, on the other hand…needs to provide some flexibility.  This 3-hour rule is about as ridiculous as “zero tolerance” policies.   When you’re as close to take-off as we were, it’s stupid to have to turn around.

Tel Aviv – Day 0


I left on Sunday evening, headed to Tel Aviv, Israel. I’ll be here for a few days on business, and will have most of Friday to play before heading back late Friday night.

The flight over was uneventful.   I flew direct on Delta, and was able to upgrade to Business Class.   Maybe I’m just becoming jaded….but it was a pretty disappointing experience.   We had two meals, and the food for both was way over cooked.    No photos of food this time.  The flight was bumpy almost the whole way, so the shots are horrible.  I watched Hurt Locker, which won 6 Oscars.  I thought it was fairly well done, but wasn’t nearly as impressed as The Academy.  What always strikes me about movies like this is just how dedicated our soldiers are.  While they may or not be quite as animated as they’re portrayed, I feel certain that they’re that dedicated to the mission.

I sat next to a Delta 777 pilot (that’s the plane we were on, too) that was on vacation.  As we were beginning our descent, he asked me how well I slept, and that got us talking about what the “crew rest” area is like on the plane.  After we landed, he was kind enough to show me the space.  It was very cool!  Up near the galley there’s a door that swings open to reveal a very tight set of stairs; almost a ladder, really.  You climb up this into an area above the Business Class over-head luggage bins.  There were two business class type seats, and two full beds situated behind the seats.  There was a sink, but no toilet.   Apparently the cabin crew has a similar space, but it has only beds, no seats.  While it’s not exactly luxurious, it seemed rather adequite.  And it’s quiet up there; no cabin announcements, no passengers talking, no toilets flushing, etc.

Here’s a shot of the seats.  I’m linking this from Boeing.  You can see the floor just below the phone in the center; it’s not very tall.  This was shot from the stairs, so you’re seeing all there is.

777 Crew Rest

Our sales rep picked me up at the airport and drove the 30 minutes from Ben Gurion airport to my hotel on the coast, just north of Tel Aviv.   After freshening up a bit, we headed to dinner at a cafe on the beach at sunset.  The location and weather were perfect, but alas the food…well, I’ll be more specific in my request tomorrow.  :)   The whole menu was in Hebrew.  My rep asked if I wanted chicken or beef.  I asked for the chicken, and it turned-out to be fried chicken fingers, with french fries.  Ugh.  Tomorrow I’ll eat better, and have pictures.


Spelling Will Help


I try not to laugh at other people in public.  It’s really not polite.  But yesterday I couldn’t help myself.


Expert Flyer


Have I mentioned how much I love Expert Flyer (EF)?  Probably not recently enough.  EF is a service that allows users to view airline ticket/fare inventory.  Yea, that sounds boring.  But the EXCITING part is that such information allows you to greatly improve your flight experience.