The end of US Airways is coming near. American Airlines and US Airways have both sent out emails stating that the mileage programs of US Airways will be combined with that of American sometime in Q2 2015. This is just one step of the merger process, but it is a major one. The rebranding and re-fitting of aircraft is progressing and will probably take some time. Heck, there are still United planes with Tulips on them…

I have not ever been a fan of US Airways. And I am not alone – just look at all the comments posted by readers to my ‘US Airways Sucks?’ blog post. That remains one of the most read posts I have even written and is by far the one with the most active, and ever active for comments. While I appreciate the traffic, for all us travelers, I will be glad when we no longer have US Airways to complain about.

The ending of US Airways Dividend Miles Program does provide with an earning opportunity that only happens once in a while – the ability to get sign-up bonuses on two Credit Cards, knowing that the miles will be combined. In this case as soon as by June 2015! So, if you don’t have both the US Airways and American Airlines credit cards, apply for both and get these extra miles in your account.

A total of 100,000 miles in one account is way, way more valuable than 50,000 each spread over two accounts!

Here are the links for both cards, showing the best offers I have been able to find:

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On a recent flight back from UK to the US, there was a sudden hubbub on the flight as people started looking out the widows and taking pictures. (After a few seconds of panic) when I looked out the window I found that we had picked up a wingman. A Swiss Air aircraft was flying very close to us off our port wing. Pictures are attached. As we flew on, the plane fell back.

I am not sure how far off the wing the aircraft was. It seemed much closer than any other aircraft I had seen fly close by at 36,000+ feet.

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Barclaycard’s Arrival+ card is one of the most flexible when it comes to redeeming points for travel one has already spent money on. The redeeming process is BC2fairly straightforward. When one logs into the Barclaycards account and goes to the rewards page, one sees as one of the options – ‘Travel statement credits’. This option allows one to get statement credits for travel one has already booked. The redemption rate is $1 for every 100 points, or at $0.01/point.

BC1Once one clicks on the ‘Redeem now’ button, it brings up a list of travel charges from ones statement. I have found that this is not always a complete list. If one has a charge that does not get ‘tagged’ as travel related, one can always call their customer service department to have it fixed.

BA4The redemption process is then exceedingly simple. Select the charge(s) you want credit(s) against and the page will show the amount of points required. If one has the required points, hit confirm and you are good to go. A confirmation page shows the statement credit that will be applied.

One of the special promotions Barclaycard Arrival+ has is getting a 10% points back every time one does a redemption. So, in reality, the redemption rate become $1 for 90 points redeemed.

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Current offer for the Barclaycard Arrival+ card is 40,000 points after spending $3,000 within 90 days of getting the card.

Apply here: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

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I got a pleasant surprise on my last flight. I got a card from the Gate Agent. Apparently I have been flying United as a MileagePlus member for 20 years. Now I was ‘pleasantly’ surprised because I had no idea. Once I boarded the flight and looked at the card, I went – that’s it? A card? A GPU would have been nice (and useful, as I am all out for the year already).

Hopefully I will get something more significant at the 25 year mark. Can anyone who has hit the 25 year share if they got anything worth it?

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British Airways has been flying 787s to Austin (AUS) and Newark (EWR) for some time now. They have just added Washington Dulles (IAD) to their A380 destinations. The other US city to get the BA A380 is Los Angeles (LAX). IAD already has a A380. Air France has a flight in place. I fly a lot, but both the 787 and A380 has been elusive for me. I did get a close look at a BA A380 at Heathrow last week. Picture is attached (click for larger images).

Have you flown an A380 or a 787? Any reviews?

BA A380

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The Union Street Guest House, Hudson, NY:

I had never heard if this hotel before. And I hope I never get invited to an event there either. There is a negative review prevention policy hidden in the Union Street Guest House’s contract fine print for events:

If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.

Seriously?! In todays world of Social Media (think Yelp), this hotel really thinks they can control negative reviews by charging you a fine? Excuse me for hurting your reputation…

The Internet Strikes back:

And did it! If you are looking for some hilarious reading, go to the USGH Yelp page and see the reviews people have posted! The rating is down to 1 star (just because 0 stars is not an option). I could not stop laughing after reading the one about being limited to one poop per day to prevent being charged an ‘extra waste’ fee.

Have you stayed at this hotel? Share your negative review here for no fine at all.

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I fly in and out of Chicago O’Hare airport a lot. One of my favorite things to do is to look at planes landing from the National Car Rental lot. The lot is right at the end of the runway and the planes come in real low. This time I got a real treat. There was a massive Air India 777 that came in to land as I was getting my car. Here are some cool pictures! (Click on images to see full size versions).IMG_2627

 

 

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London EyeA couple of weeks ago I stayed at the DoubleTree Hotel, Westminster, in London. The hotel is beautiful. It is located very close to the UK parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and I am assuming 10 Downing Street. It’s also literally across the river from Jubilee Gardens, best known for the London Eye.

RoomThe hotel has good sized rooms. Which is always a surprise in London. The rooms were very modern. In fact, each room had an iMac. While that was great, the downside was that there was no TV! You had to watch TV on the iMac. It was really a small screen to be watching TV on when in bed. The bathroom was pretty small, but nice. I like how most hotels in Europe have good, modern showers (no tubs like older hotels in the US)

Big BenThe lounge was on the 1st floor. I stopped by in the evening after checking in for snacks and a drink (good selection), and again in the morning for breakfast. Again good selections of hot and cold selections for breakfast. There was also several staffers in the lounge at any given time to help out. The hotel has two restaurants, but other than a pizza place there is not much food around. The nearest fast food place was a Subway, that was around 1/2 a mile away. There is multiple food options in and around the Jubilee Gardens, across the river.

iMac in roomAs per transportation, the nearest Underground station was a 15-20 minute walk away – Pimlico Station (Victoria Line). I personally took the Heathrow Express to  Paddington and then took a taxi. It was a 20 minute ride. I also took a long 30 minute walk over to the Waterloo train station for a meeting. That was a great walk along the Thames. Walked by Big Ben and the London Eye. I enjoyed staying at this hotel. I was there for just a night, but it was a comfortable, relaxing stay, which is all that matters at the end of the day.

Other Hotel Reviews:

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At a recent air show in UK, this Turkish Air Force F-16 jet came in way too low for some spectators. Free haircuts anyone?

Like Airplanes?: Check out:

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I have visited my share of airline lounges. From the dump they call the Lufthansa lounge in Chennai (MAA) to the massive United lounge in Tokyo Narita (NRT). But my recent visit to the Turkish Airlines Lounge in Istanbul Ataturk (IST) Airport left me overwhelmed. I had over 2 hours to kill and I don’t think I sat down for more than 20 minutes. I was too busy exploring the lounge. And I found out after chatting with some folks on my flight that I did not find everything! I totally missed the massage therapists…

First of all the lounge is massive. Two floors, with a food or drinks station at every turn. That too different foods at every station – from freshly prepared pasta to an olive bar. From a Latte station where they hand craft your warm beverage, to a selection of at least two dozen desserts. Popcorn anyone, they have it. Turkish street food – yup. Pizza – got it. Nuts with your cold beverage – just walk around the corner.

The seating is comfortable and widely spread out. Different kids of sofas, couches and chairs all over. I saw at least one station with iMacs, another with TV screens with (I think) Playstations and a large kids play area. Heck, there is even virtual golf.

I took tens of pictures as I walked all over. There are so many, I created a gallery. Check it out.

Now, is this really the best lounge in the world? The best I have visited till date for sure. I am looking forward to seeing who can top this one (Emirates, how about a pass for your lounge next time I am in Dubai?)

What is your choice for the best lounge in the world? Leave a comment below. If you have any pictures to share, do leave a link.

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I have flown thru Frankfurt airport (FRA) tens of times. Living in the DC area, it is one of the best connected cities in Europe with 4 flights every day – 2 each by United and Lufthansa. (London’s Heathrow (LHR) has the best connectivity with 7 flights per day, thru three airlines – United, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic). Given it is a Star Alliance airlines’ hub (Lufthansa), Frankfurt is my 1st choice to transit thru to destinations in Europe and India. Every time I do get to Frankfurt, I use one of Lufthansa’s many lounges. This time however, as I walking to the Lufthansa lounge closest to my gate, I happened to notice the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge. Just for a change, I stepped in. I was glad I did.

First, it was not crowded at all. This was peak time in the early morning and the Lufthansa lounges are typically full to the brim. The Maple Lounge, not so much. The lounge had a vast selection of food. Having slept thru breakfast service on my incoming flight, I made my way to the food real fast.

The lounge was beautiful, with a ultra-modern decor that I loved.

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More importantly, it was spacious, comfortable, with a relaxed atmosphere and had good food and beverages. I am sure I will be stopping bye again on future flights that happen to leave from near the lounge.

Location: Frankfurt Airport, Terminal 1, Departure Area B.

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Other Airline Lounge reviews:

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