Sunday, 31 January 2016

You will find it easier to read a tidied version of my first Tier Points Run in 2014, which reads from oldest post to newest post (and thus more logical to read as a story, here 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

mini-TP run Frankfurt-Madrid-Frankfurt with LAN

Not a Hawaii tier points run as such, but is relevant to anyone who's trying to get to the magic 1500 tier points for BA Gold, as unless you are very clever you'll need to top up any Hawaii run with a few more TPs.  Thanks to for pointing me at this one.

LAN Chile fly Boeing 787s Madrid to Frankfurt and return on a daily basis, the special offer fare being £117 return in business class which generates 40TP each way.  I booked on the LAN app.  

**update 26-July: Note that there is another offer currently active until 30-September-15, the fare being available nearly every day in September.  ITA shows a fare of £138, Expedia £148 and the LAN website £174.  So shop around!**

I was hoping to position to Madrid via the Iberia A340-600 using Avios in business, but availability was skinny so instead booked to start in Frankfurt with BA in economy for 3500 Avios plus £35 return.  


The lounge at Heathrow was fairly busy, I'd read about the bacon grabbers before, but was amused to see people taking the bacon out of the rolls in order to create a plate of bacon.  I guess that there is a chance that the now empty rolls can be refilled, rather than someone take several rolls away, remove the bacon and bin the rolls....

The trip to Frankfurt was uneventful, I'd forgotten how spacious the exit row seats on a 767 are.

I enjoyed the sunshine on the Terminal 2 terrace for a while then later repositioned to Terminal 1 to see if there was any lounge access for LAN passengers.  I wasn't hopeful, as T1 appeared to be a * Alliance stronghold.

Through security I tried my luck at an information desk, where a very nice lady said that she'd had this question before and wasn't sure what to do.  She spent a while on the phone to several different lounges and drew a blank; then suggested that I should have a lounge invitation issued at check in?  No, because I checked in online and had hand luggage.

I thought I'd try my luck with asking the same question at the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge, where I was told that I was in the right place, LAN pax are allowed in, but where is my invitation.  Anyway, I was in.


Nice views of the ramp and runway, catering not too bad.  Very quiet.

Boarded on time to be greeted by some absolutely charming and giggly crew to find I have the whole rear business cabin to myself.


Champagne, a pleasant meal, enjoyable wine

LAN seem to use the mood lighting to the max, it wasn't exactly subtle but I loved it.  I don't actually recall how BA use the lighting, perhaps because my only 787 trips have been in economy where one's preoccupation is with terribly narrow seats that are a claustrophobe's nightmare.  Or anyone who doesn't enjoy being heated by an adjacent passenger's body.  

I digress.  The LAN business class seats did seem a bit firm but as the crew gave out duvets once airborne, they served as padding and I have no complaints about the seats or the IFE.

We arrived in Madrid to find it 38C at 11pm and I retreated to the hotel.


Today was my first experience of Terminal 4 at Madrid (aside from yesterday when I arrived in something of a blur).  Very swish, but you really wouldn't want to cut it fine time-wise as the furthest gates are a long way from landside.

After yesterday's Frankfurt experience, I stopped at the LAN desk to collect a lounge invitation and after some exploration settled into the Iberia lounge which, despite having acres of glass, was cool.  

On this flight the business cabin was half full; I was in 3K which doesn't have a window.


On arrival at Frankfurt it seemed that the Oneworld lounge was landside; as I didn't have masses of time I went through security to find the BA flight home delayed.  Hey ho.

A normal, full, BA A319 economy trip home.  Whilst the crew did their service OK, sat in the last row, I found their audible loud-voiced chat (I had ipod on max volume) quite irritating.  But sort of alluring.  In the end I took the headphones off to listen to their BA management and colleague-slagging tales, issues of theft of watches from the trolley while they were doing food service, tales of nightstops past....  

All in all, a most enjoyable trip, with the objective of 80 BA tier points achieved at minimal cost.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

January 2015 TP Run: 44 hours in Honolulu

Pre-trip plan

This trip was a consequence of my work colleague  - well, ex-colleague as I don't have a job any more -  Kev's desire to get BA Silver from a quick run to Hawaii. He asked if I'd like to tag along.  Why not!  

The trip should generate 43000 Avios and 1120 Tier Points.  That equates to a Club return to the US (used with an Amex 2-4-1) for the Avios and two upgrades from the TPs.  So although the fare was around £1370, there's plenty of ways of arguing that the value created by the trip means the cost is half that if you value Avios at 1p each.

Kev sorted his flights and I managed to get on the same flights except for the Dallas to Honolulu sector where there's 3 B763s a day; Kev was on the first and I was on the second.

The itinerary looks like this


The weather was awful in the UK.  Kev had booked Club 'positioning' flights to/from Heathrow.  I booked a £37 flybe from Southampton to Dublin and had the bumpiest trip across the Irish Sea that I can recall.

We met at the airport Radisson Blu which has some rather swish rooms with views of the runway and of some rather perilous approaches.  The storm outside meant little sleep as the windows rattled; BA cancelled the last flight of the day and there were several diversions so we were pleased to be there.


Up early, through security in no time and off to the lounge.

BA's lounge is the DAA Executive Lounge.  It's ok.  No fry up in here though.

Nice lady on the desk suggested we watch the screens as BA were cancelling flights.  Just what we didn't want to hear!

Nothing to worry about, thankfully, as our E190 was ready for boarding.  Just Kev and I plus one other in Business Class; and a very nice breakfast.

The wind had died down by the time we approached London City.  There's no airside connection provision here, so we immigrated and emigrated, sat watching the goings on at the airport then trotted down to Gate 21 where the A318 departs from.

Here it became rapidly apparent that there were other mileage runners on the flight; we laid low and enjoyed the champagne.

BAW1 had 30 booked passengers for the 32 available seats, 29 turned up and we departed for Shannon on time.  Canary Wharf and Excel look quite close from the end of the runway!


West Ham's new - from 2016/17 - home, the Olympic Stadium.

It's having a roof fitted at the moment.

London City departures to the West and North weave around at low altitude, good for sightseeing!

The Captain came for a chat soon after take off as he'd had a 'rude' message from DaveM on the R/T at Swanwick.  It's a shame that the UK doesn't allow R/T on or I'd add it here.  We asked about flight crew duty day; the Captain was very happy that they just do the City-Shannon sector and get a night stop which suited him as he could go and see his Irish relatives.  He told us that the sister aircraft G-EUNA was tech at JFK with a dodgy engine that was burning way too much fuel; he'd been asked if he'd like to ferry it to Dallas for maintenance but wasn't too keen!

Given the 250kt eastbound jet stream, it took around 90min to reach Shannon, where we descended through bumps into a very wet airport.  I'd not been on BAW1 before, which pre-clears US immigration here (BAW3 does not) and was looking forward to see how I got on with my new Redress number.  

All was well and soon after we were back in 7JK waiting to taxi for JFK in the rain and a long flight (>8hours).  The two empty seats at the back were now occupied by flight crew who were, presumably, positioning to JFK to deal with the stranded A318.

The cabin crew 'did' the service the way most people would imagine it should be, much better and more consistent than my recent experiences of BA long haul, so credit to the three of them.  They're Gatwick crew and don't get night stops in Shannon as do the flight deck crew; the chatty female crewmember was interested in the mileage run malarky and appeared to be we pointed out that on this flight there were, to our knowledge, 5 of us on this flight doing a Tier Points/Mileage Run, 3 to Honolulu and 2 to Las Vegas.  We were amused to hear that she'd been chatted up by an ATC person in a bar in Southsea over Christmas.  It didn't take us long to figure out who that was!

The flight wasn't too bumpy after all and we arrived to find snow on the ground in New York.  As you arrive as a domestic passenger and given we were hand luggage only, it took minutes to end up landside and looking for the La Guardia NYC Airporter bus.

After a $13 trip that spent longer going around the JFK terminals than getting to LGA, we phoned the Courtyard by Marriott who advised that the courtesy bus would be with us soon.  Not soon enough for us, as our extremities had turned to ice....packing for Hawaii didn't include gloves, scarf and hat!

The Courtyard at La Guardia had an aeronautical technical college across the road.  I ventured out to take a few photos but it was dark and cold so didn't hang around.

By day it was apparent that the hotel is at the end of one of the runways so you'd make the hotel reception staff happy by asking for an airport view; every non-enthusiast type of guest presumably wants peace!

As we were initially given a room that hadn't been cleaned, it made me appreciate how tidy even I must seem to the poor chamber maids who have to clean up after guests.  Minatures thrown all over the place, it must have been a good party! 


Up around 0400 for the 0430 shuttle back to La Guardia.  The Admirals Club lounge had coffee and juice and was warm.  Eventually we trotted down to the gate to board the 0645 flight to Dallas.  

It was a relatively old B737-800 on this leg but the wifi worked fine.  It's worth pointing out that I bought 3x 1hour gogo wifi vouchers before I left home.  They're only valid for 30 days, but the in-flight price was significantly more (double?), so it makes sense to pre-load your account.

We arrived on time at Dallas and spent 20 mins taxying to the gate; it felt a bit like landing at Northolt and taxying to Terminal 4 at Heathrow.  Here, Kev and I parted as he was leaving on a flight 3 hours ahead of me.

I jumped on the inter-terminal monorail for a spot of airport sightseeing and ended up at the American Express Centurion lounge which advertised both food and alcohol as available, which they aren't in the Admirals Clubs.  It was OK, not a patch on BA, Malaysian etc lounges, but worth remembering as another Platinum card benefit when in the USA.  
After this, off to the Admiral's Club closest to the departure gate that's been showing on the app since yesterday.  Leaving the lounge for the gate about 4o mins prior to departure, the gate has been changed to one on the other side of the airport.  Great!  Off on the monorail again.

Boarding the 767-300 I was pleasantly surprised to find the Business Class seat is an angled/lie flat design, not just a big seat as per the 737 we'd flown on down from LGA.

The crew handed out Samsung devices that served as IFE and some nice noise cancelling headsets.

Our 8hr trip took us quite a way north, somewhere between San Francisco and Seattle

Being used to smaller portions I was amused to find the ice cream sundae was enormous, and rather yummy!  I washed it down with a few tinnys of Sam Adams and snoozed for an hour or two.

I'd deliberately chosen a left side window to get a good view of Pearl Harbor and the Hickam AFB ramp, which is at the western end of the airport



I'd seen the local buses on my previous visit so I wandered around a little in that bloke-ish 'I don't really want to ask anyone for help in case they try and sell me something' way, walked the whole length of the terminal before stumbling across a bus stop on the upper level.  A few minutes later a number 19 bus appeared and for $2.50 I was on my way to Waikiki.  Luckily the Pacific Beach Hotel was a stop on the route and before long Kev and I were in the bar having a celebratory Kona beer.

Kev had asked the concierge how much a day tour to Pearl Harbor would be.  $150 including lunch and entry to all the attractions.  Per person.  Seemed a little pricey, so we didn't book and resolved to have a go at DIY via public transport, especially as I'd bagged 2 free tickets for the Arizona from the national parks website while in the lounge at Dallas.


Awake at 0400, TheBus routes 20 and 42 go from the road 1 block away from the hotel to Pearl Harbor.  USS Arizona memorial is how it's signed to avoid the confusion between the tourist side and the active military base.  The bus fare is $2.50.

We were on a 0635 bus and arrived at the Visitor Center to find no queue whatsoever for security or tickets.  It took around 45-50 minutes to get there, with an interesting array of passengers, none of whom looked like Americans.  Apart from one family that we decided must be Canadian (why I have no idea), apart from the belief that US tourists don't 'do' public transport?

Despite worries that we would struggle to get tickets, there was no queue whatsoever so we made the 0800 Arizona memorial tour and bought tickets for the USS Missouri and the Ford Island aircraft musuem.

The Arizona memorial starts with a video in a theatre recapping the events of 1942.  It was rather well done, with requests to show respect thus no texting, phones, selfies while on the memorial. This involves a boat shuttle to the memorial; I can't help wondering if the sailors thought this what they were signing up for when they joined the US Navy.


 The ship lies underneath the structure above

There's a pungent smell of fuel around the memorial; diesel is still leaking out 70 years after the ship sunk.

Then on to the USS Missouri, where the Japanese surrender at the end of WW2 was signed


 Then over to the Pacific Aircraft Museum on Ford Island, a short bus drive away
This B-17 was recovered from a swamp in New Guinea

This a radar mounted on a rig that enables it to be towed by a ship 

After lunch we made our way back to the bus be told by a guide on a bike that the bus back to town stopped outside on the main road.  In the end we jumped in an enterprising cowboy taxi man's van.

We'd arranged to meet my friend John for beers and pizza; he's a Captain with Air Japan who are an All Nippon subsidiary.  He arrived from Tokyo at 0930, slept for a few hours then came to meet us for beer and pizza, early, as he was operating back to Tokyo at lunchtime the next day.


Waikiki Beach outside the Pacific Beach Hotel

We called our taxi man from yesterday for a $10 transfer to the airport, checked in and mooched around looking for a nice lounge.  We found a Qantas lounge but were told it was closed, so ended up in the main JAL/Oneworld lounge.

There's not great views from the lounge but plenty of noodles and soup.  Facing three consecutive 6 hour flights, we were fairly sensible.

The airport is largely open air and it's a nice touch to find a peaceful garden area with four themes.  Odd, to find peace in the area between the main terminal and the gates!

Perhaps even odder is the airside entertainment, very sweet!

Departing from the Ocean runway at HNL, nice view of Honolulu and Waikiki

Starting with an American 757 HNL-LAX, then an American 737-800 LAX-Boston


followed by a daylight flight back from Boston to Heathrow on a very empty BA 777.  Some nice views of Boston as we departed on a 5hr 15min sector