Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 137,829
2013: 330,818

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United Takes Delivery of the 8,000th 737

United Latest 737-900ER taxiing at Boeing Field

United’s latest 737-900ER, taxiing at Boeing Field

On Wednesday April 16th, United took delivery of its latest 737, but this one was special.

A 737-900ER was delivered from Boeing Field, marking a special occasion for not only Boeing but also United.  The aircraft was the 8,000th 737 to roll out of the Renton factory, and became one of over 550 of the type to be delivered to United since its inception.

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Lufthansa Schools Us on How to Make A Better Inflight Meal

It is not very often that you see one of these parked on a street corner in Lower Manhattan.

It is not very often that you see one of these parked on a street corner in Lower Manhattan

Let’s face it, airline food doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation. For many people, it is thought of as bland, mushy, overcooked, or any one of a plethora of other unappetizing adjectives. Those who actually look forward to airline food are few and far between. While I have personally had some delicious food onboard (I’m looking at you, JetBlue and Virgin America), I have also been served things that rank highly on my list of the worst things I have ever eaten.

When it comes to long-haul flying on international airlines, your prospects for getting a quality meal may improve. Airlines such as Lufthansa consider themselves among the premier airlines in the world, and realize that providing a tasty and nutritious meal is an essential part of the passenger experience.

Recently, I had the chance to meet with a team from Lufthansa and its subsidiary LSG Sky Chefs in New York City to learn about what factors go into making a great onboard meal.

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Photo Tour: Hainan Flies 787 Dreamliner to Toronto for the First Time

- Photo: Philip Debski

Toronto welcomes Hainan’s 787 Dreamliner – Photo: Philip Debski

What looked to be the first true spring day here in Toronto, March 31, was the day Hainan Airlines finally inaugurated their 787 service to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). They started operating the route in 2010 with three ex-Cathay A340-600s (B-6508, B-6509, and B-6510, if anyone is interested).

Throughout the years the airline has had its ups and downs (such as varying frequency from 3x weekly to once per week) on the route. However, with the 787, Hainan will go daily this summer, a huge improvement to the Beijing-Toronto route. Hainan was also originally supposed to fly the 787 into YYZ starting May 1, but pushed it up to the earlier date in late February.

The Hainan Toronto crew were kind enough to arrange an exclusive tour for me on their big day of receiving the 787 at their base. Here is a rundown of what happened during that tour.

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What I’ve Learned as a Frequent Flyer: With the TSA, Expect the Unexpected

My razor head sans the handle along with a notice of inspection.

My razor head sans the handle, along with a notice of inspection, courtesy of the TSA                Photo: JL Johnson | AirlineReporter

For years I’ve been a self-described “semi-frequent flyer.” That is, someone who travels just enough to almost make status, but ultimately fall short. Certainly, individual definitions of frequent and semi-frequent will vary, but that’s not the point. Recently, due to a promotion at work, I’m more keen on labeling myself a bona-fide “frequent flyer” now, having low-level status with two airlines.

As I’m spending more time at the airport I’ve learned a simple rule regarding the TSA: With the TSA, expect the unexpected. I have my fair share of stories; the time in Phoenix when I was waved into the Pre-Check line as a non-pre-check, non-premium customer only to stand around and wait as both explosives detection machines were calibrated at the same time. Or, the story about how at 4:30 AM on a Saturday I snapped this terrible photo of a non-existent security line at Kansas City International only to have a First Line (In KC TSA is contracted out to a vendor: First Line) officer in my face, chests touching, ready to fight for “taking his picture.”

And to be clear, the TSA and their First Line contractors here in Kansas City, MO are all human. Mistakes are made, and that’s just the way things go. But these irregularities could never have prepared me for the most recent, almost comical incident I experienced on a trip from KC to San Antonio.
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BIG TRIP: 6 Flights; 24,000 Miles; 3 Continents; and an 8-Month-Old

Start 'em early! Author's son planespotting at SFO. Photo: David Delagarza

Start ‘em early! Author’s son planespotting at SFO. Photo: David Delagarza

“That’s insane.”  That seemed to be the reaction most people, many of whom were seasoned fliers, had to our plan.  My wife and I had schemed it up over a year ago while she was pregnant with our first child.  We had always enjoyed traveling, and I had gotten into collecting miles and points when we found out that we would be adding a baby to the mix.  We didn’t want to stop traveling once the baby was born, so we booked one of the most ambitious itineraries we could think of – flying to New Zealand, with stopovers in Japan and Australia. And, yes, we would be taking the baby with us.

11 months prior to the trip, we had the miles saved up. We had accumulated enough to book the trip in business class (at least prior to the recent United Airlines MileagePlus devaluation.)  After diligently researching and waiting for availability to open up, I finally found a business class route that would work – at least until I saw the infant fare. United charges 10% of the cabin fare for lap infants on international flights.  For economy cabins, this can add up to a couple hundred dollars.  However, for the premium cabins, we were looking at paying nearly $1,000 each way.  Although I did briefly consider footing that bill, we decided to go in economy and use the extra miles to put our son in his own seat (when we could find the award space) and stay in some nicer hotels along the way.

Routing - Image: GCMapper

Routing – Image: www.gcmap.com

Our outbound itinerary ended up beginning with Denver to Tokyo Narita on United’s 787 Dreamliner.  We had a 20-hour overnight stopover before continuing onto Singapore aboard Singapore Airlines’ A380.  The final leg took us from Singapore to Christchurch, New Zealand on Singapore’s 777-220ER.   50 hours, four countries, and 14,000 miles just to get there.

Our return trip was a bit easier – Christchurch to Sydney on an Air New Zealand A320, followed by a 23-hour stopover in Sydney before continuing onto San Francisco on a United 747-400, connecting to Denver on a United A319.  The only hitch was that I was unable to find any kind of routing that made sense for the return trip once my son was born, so he was going to fly home as a lap infant.  It was sure to be quite the adventure.

Continue reading BIG TRIP: 6 Flights; 24,000 Miles; 3 Continents; and an 8-Month-Old