American Airlines & Air Canada Review

Hey guys, after a long wait I bring you guys my review for AC and AA, both reviews will be published under the airlines I’ve flown article in Aviation Station, I’m also gonna update my review for DL, you can find that and all the other reviews here. So lets get started!

new-american-logo-1024x707American Airlines (Code: AA) Continue reading

Next Stop: Delta Trip Report (Part 2)

Hey everyone! To follow up on the last trip report from AC, I bring you part 2 of my Canadian flight extravaganza! This was supposed to be an Air Canada report, which is now a Delta trip report! Let’s get started. Continue reading

Next Stop: Air Canada Trip Report (Part 1)

Hey everyone! Long time no blog huh? My schedule with school, work, and activities has been much more hectic than expected, so I’m so sorry I have not blogged in a while. Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, happy New Year, happy late everything! After much delay I bring you my Air Canada trip report! Note: Considering I got left behind on my second flight, this report will be good! I formatted some of the pictures as thumbnails now, let me know how everyone likes that, just click on each one to see it full size! Continue reading

AirBerlin MIA-DUS-VCE/BCN-DUS-MIA report

Hey everyone! Although later than I promised, I bring you my first trip report! There were two legs on my trip each of which consisted of 2 sections, bringing it up to 4 flights in total making AB the airline i’ve flown the most with. Now this is just a trip report with photo’s, however for a full review of the airline checkout my previous post of AirBelin Review. If you guys have any further questions, please let me know on any of my forms of contact listed in the contact tab! Ok here we go, enjoy!

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 1.19.45 PM

Well this trip begins at my home in a northern suburb heading to MIA (Miami International Airport). As every south Floridian knows, we hate our airports. While most of us fly out of MIA, we all highly prefer FLL since it is much easier and faster, although we like to avoid our airports overall. MIA in specific is so dated, the exterior facade looks like something out of a 60’s movie, and the interior soon follows.IMG_7633 Old humidity drenched carpets line the concourses, dirty windows, minimal lighting, bad food choices and dirty bathrooms soon follow. In fact when I flew out to London last year, everything in my concourse was closed except a PizzaHut to go booth. There is one brighter side, that is concourse J, the brand new south terminal which is splendid, although still lacks in things to do while you’re awaiting your flight. My flight departed MIA at 3:55PM, AB7001 departing from E concourse (OneWorld partners use this concourse). We arrived early at around 2pm to check in, after saying our goodbyes we crossed through the threshold of adventure, albeit not a very pretty one, but non the less the start of our vacation abroad. Upon arrival at MIA you are met with low ceilings, and well illuminated check in desks, as well as a small array of shops and restaurants (may I say, better selection pre-security than post.)IMG_7652 We reached the AB check in counter and began the process, we ran into a small issue with our documentation being that I booked my mom’s trip under her married name and not her maiden name which is on her passport (oops!). However our desk agent was more than happy to take care of the small issue quickly as my siblings and I had a friendly who has the lightest luggage contest. After we fixed the issue, we were checked in as well as received our tickets for this flight and our Venice connection at DUS.  Now it was off to the TSA! I’ve found that MIA TSA is quite friendly, last year the agent had a nice conversation with my friends and I about our trip, it made the fact that somewhere someone was seeing us naked less awkward! Although I’m a strong supporter of strict security measures, if it means I’ll be safe, I’m fine removing my shoes, walking through an x-ray and all. Once we moved past security, Me being the aviation fan boy I am, decided we needed to see the newly refurbished AA concourse, plus we still had over an hour till boarding and our concourse was nasty.IMG_7644 After a long walk, we reached the new area and it was quite nice! Still some work left but nevertheless it is a much needed upgrade from before. After grabbing some Chinese take out food like every good American we headed to our gate. Boarding was a bit messy considering they had 4 cramped gates for 4 wide-bodies including a 747-4 from BA. So at 3:50 a bit later than expected, they began boarding our A330. While waiting I got to see the fantastic ‘Queen of the Skies‘ a BA744 pull up to their gate. We began boarding a few minutes late (not that we minded considering our 6am arrival to Germany), something I found interesting was that there were 2 service dogs boarding into the main cabin like us, Let me tell you that they were the quietest passengers on board! When you reach the front of the bridge right before the plane, AB has a nice selection of reading materials in both German and English including newspapers and magazines, a nice touch normally saved for first class in US carriers and some EU as well. Upon entering through the main door you are greeted by a basket with small fruit flavored hard candies individually wrapped in AB wrappers and a warm greeting in either English or German by an FA.

Current leg: Orange, MIA-DUS-VCE

Current leg: Orange, MIA-DUS-VCE

They check your ticket and inform you to turn left into first class or right to one of the 2 economy cabins. We quickly entered and put our luggage up and took our seats. Sadly this was my one downfall on AB economy flights. since you’re not allowed to choose your seating until you reach the gate unless you pay (and our flight was full), my siblings and I got stuck in the last row before the mid class lavatories, hence our seats did not recline and we were stuck in between 4 bathrooms since we were in the middle row.IMG_7656 AB’s 330 has a 2-4-2 layout in economy yet I felt more spacious than Swiss’ same layout the previous year, still cramped though. On our seats awaited a blue soft blanket wrapped in plastic, a small pillow with the AB logo on it and my favorite, an Amenity Kit! I felt so special receiving one in economy, this is a luxury no one gives economy anymore! And it wasn’t cheap either (unlike my plane ticket!). Keep in mind AB gives Amenity kits on nighttime long haul flights, daytime flights only get the pillow and blanket. The kit includes: Travel size toothbrush with cap and toothpaste, nice warm plane socks, AB grey and and red sleeping mask, and earplugs, from seeing previous reports AB’s first class receives the same 4 items plus added bonuses, all this came packed in a nice cotton pouch labeled with the AB logo and a really cool engine fan blade graphic. IMG_7657While we finished boarding I snapped some pics of the kit for you guys! I kept everything in the kit (I didn’t use anything but the sleeping mask since I already brought nice socks myself in prep) for my next flight. Soon the plane was fully boarded and after a quick 5 more minutes we left the gate and made the trudge to the runway, sorry no pics of that, I got stuck with a middle aisle seat! As fast as we left the gate our engines started up and we lifted off the ground right after I sent my last text in the US for the next 16 days. After a few minutes we reached cruising altitude and the FA’s came around handing out headphones if you needed (AB used to charge $5 for this, however now are included) While not the nicest (are there any economy headphones that are actually good?) they were in-ears meaning a little more sound canceling than others so I was happy, but I brought my own. After playing with the IFE a bit and plugging my iphone in to the convenient on screen USB plug I was settled in and I began to smell food. Although I had breakfast at home and a quick snack at the airport I was hungry. Around an hour and a half into the flight the FA’s emerged with the food and drink carts, this was perhaps my highlight of the flight! While options were pretty standard (chicken or pasta) it’s everything around it that made me feel like I wasn’t in economy (while other carriers offer things like what I’m about to say, no of them offer it in a way as AB does that makes you feel like you’re in business class, that is until you try to move in your seat and you realize how small it is in economy!) IMG_7659The FA’s were very nice and made a couple of jokes with us and were a good mix of male and female FA’s, not too young but not old either, they were seasoned FA’s. Much like any airline merger you can always see remnants of the name that didn’t survive the merger, on AB you see it in some of the equipment and cart bins still labeled LTU. Our turn came and we were offered the options of, well… Chicken or pasta, I chose the chicken wanting to be full to fall asleep faster.  My meal was a nicely seasoned chicken and some non exciting over cooked rice (this was the downside). This was accompanied by an amazing German potato salad dish which I’ve tried in many German restaurants back home and is a personal favorite, garnished with some chives and followed by a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, a dinner roll with brie cheese and butter, and an AB red plastic mug for the later stuff. Let’s just say I kept the mug and am currently drinking some coffee from it as I write. The drink options were a definite highlight, so many non alcoholic drink options from soda, many juices (my brother got a tomato juice they serve it with salt and pepper on the side), and alcoholic drinks such as beer, wines (my parents enjoyed some with dinner, the option includes red and white wine) and other spirits, lets just say we found great drinks to compliment our meal. I finished my main meal and cleaned the bowl the salad came in, and the brie! It was Nice that the AB meal came in a hard plastic tray and the side items in hard plastic containers (comparing to UA and Swiss long-haul which came in flimsy plastic container). I kept my cake and spoon and my tray was cleared and the FA’s followed with a coffee and tea service, this is done on the serving carts but the FA’s have nice trays they extend to you and you place your mug, IMG_7661they fill it with your choice and extend it back to you, on the tray are nice containers which carry sugar and in another cream if you’d like to grab which I did for my tea. I finished off my cake with my tea and the FA’s cleared the cabin and did a run of complimentary water bottles for everyone to have during the ‘sleeping’ period of the flight. The lights were dimmed and I decided to do some solitaire while sipping on my tea to pass the time, after a couple of aggravating rounds of solitaire that I lost I gave up and dried my mug and saved it, I pulled out my sleeping mask after a quick bathroom stop, adjusted my headrest and put on my blanket and tried to sleep while listening to the many options on the IFE (from Beyonce to classical, you can add songs to your playlist and listen to that instead of whole albums and such which I thought was very nice). Due to the position of the seat by the bathroom sleeping was a failed effort and so I resorted to drawing to pass the time and it flew by (no pun intended)! Sure enough we were 2 hours prior to landing, and the lights came back on for breakfast. Breakfast as a meal wasn’t as exciting as dinner flavor wise.IMG_7662 Again the FA’s came around happily offering our meal. It wasn’t the best I’ve had but considering the 10:30pm time back home I was on, I wasn’t picky. the meal included of a deli dish which had some cheddar, turkey, and salami, wasn’t amazing but it went nicely with the butter and bread rolls on the side, it came garnished with a tiny pickle and tomato. Along side it were a nice fruit parfait which was refreshing with the blueberry muffin. I got myself orange juice to go with it, scarfed it down since I was hungry and was ready for another tea while I enjoyed some more drawing. I didn’t want tea when my FA went around but as the FA on the other row passed I changed my mind and she was happy to serve me some even though I wasn’t in her section. Quickly after breakfast was cleared the FA’s came around for a hot towel service, which was nice considering the look on my face from not sleeping, and I wouldn’t be for another 20 some hours, they passed them out and picked them up fast.

ORD being my favorite airport I was happy to see AA's new ORD-DUS flight here

ORD being my favorite airport I was happy to see AA’s new ORD-DUS flight here

Just like that we were on approach to Dusseldorf and quickly we landed and began our way to the gate. This was perhaps the most stable flight I’ve ever been on, no movement at all. We arrived at our gate, seatbelt signs turned off, we grabbed our bags, I grabbed 3 complimentary post cards on the way out and was waved goodbye and told ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ (goodbye in German) and entered the cold of Germany. Remember the dogs? I forgot about them too until we landed. We went through passport control, our bags would be transferred by AB to our next plane, and we entered DUS, what a beautiful airport!

Stunning airport, love the AA ORD ad

Stunning airport, love the AA ORD ad

As an aviation fanboy I was overjoyed by its model airplane shop, huge observation windows, observation deck and a lot of aviation touches. As a regular flyer I was thrilled with its cleanliness, wide spaces, great food, stores and ease of movement. As an architect student I was blown away by the structures of the main hall which is stunning and all the details in the concourses.

I love a 340 so this was a treat, I also believe this was heading to ORD

I love a 340 so this was a treat, I also believe this was heading to ORD

The airport really blew me away, far better than expected and I had my first authentic German food experience here as well, it was different. A couple of hours after landing, the stores opened up and I ran to the model shop, I was let down by their lack of 1:400 scale models, but happy to see some 1:200 in person and some 1:500. We did some more store hopping around the terminal after we left the security area and explored around a bit. Let me tell you how well Germans were dressed, and here I was as comfortable as I could get in public with basketball shorts and an Italy soccer jersey and sneakers (since warm Italy was our final stop). I threw on a sweater vest I had in my carry on to fancy up a bit but it wasn’t enough haha. The hours passed and it was time to head to our gate for our Venice flight, which was delayed 30 minutes overall, this was bad for us considering how short our time in Venice already was. We headed to security, I forgot to take my belt off and was escorted to a small side cubicle for a pat down and was let go. The concourses at DUS are wonderful, they have a warm homey feel and good shopping and eating.

Seems like DUS is over capacity

Seems like DUS is over capacity

We reached our gate and I sat watching the planes go by which for a fanatic like me having the view of a 340 and the main runway was thrilling. Perhaps the weirdest part of the Germany were the airport bathrooms for which I have no words for. To my surprise our plane was on a remote stand and we had to be bussed to it, I, never having boarded on the tarmac was as thrilled as a child going to Disney world.

I was freezing

I was freezing

That was until I put a foot outside in the 50 degree weather, I was shivering but luckily packed a jacket in my carry-on (always pack smart with stuff in your carry on! I’ll do that as a future article). We were again greeted by a nice FA and the same candies as before, sucking on them really helps you pop your ears as you climb. We boarded quickly and I took my window seat! The legroom in AB’s domestic fleet, for lack of a better word, is divine, so spacious and comfortable seats! Our ride to Venice was an Airbus 320-2 in a 3-3 configuration which was comfortable. We buckled in, saw a quick safety video on the overhead screens and we departed quickly as we were already late. Once in the air a snack service began, they offered soda and other non alcoholic options and a bag of chips or a twix bar as a snack, I opted for the chips.

More like wasabi to me

More like wasabi to me

I got a bag of German brand chips flavored as ‘American Cream/honey mustard’, I’m sorry Germans, but have you been to the states? Those chips were repulsive, it was like eating wasabi covered lays, no one finished the bag and I had to drown two cokes to remove the flavor. Thank goodness they’re limited edition, they should of never been an edition to begin with. As the flight went on I knocked out, with all that legroom it’s hard not to, I was spread out sleeping like a mad man. After some time we began our approach into Venice, I was missing my time on these seat already, but our captain made up most of our half hour delay, we arrived only 8 minutes behind schedule, upon exiting the plane we were handed AirBerlin chocolate hearts which were delightfully tasty and a nice touch as we walked on the tarmac into the busses to the terminal with an EK330 next to us, let’s just say the aviation fan in me was overwhelmed with so much awesome. As I said right after we landed an Emirates A330 landed which was awesome to see an Emirates bird in person while standing on the tarmac right next to the runway, definitely up there with watching my cruise sail away through Venice while standing on the top front of the ship during a thunderstorm at 1am, let’s just say when I vacation there is no time for resting, I can do that back home.

simply beautiful

simply beautiful

The approach into Venice is now one of my favorites, truly beautiful, I’d tell you what side to sit on to see the island, but I’ll let you guys figure that out with simple wind patterns and runway orientation. Just like that my long 20+ hour journey into Venice from Miami was done, on perhaps the most comfortable set of flights I’ve ever experienced. AB pilots were fantastic in handling their planes, very little turbulence, got us there on time, Flight attendants were good as well and a lot of little perks you normally don’t get in economy made it nice. Well that wraps up part I of this review, part II will be the return flight, which is coming now, so if you’re like me, go take a break, stretch out a bit, use the bathroom, re-fill your drink, pet your dog or other pet, text your mother, look out the window, shuffle your music a bit, re-heat left over pizza, look up a recipe for a cake in a mug, start planning your next trip, lay on the floor and ponder the universe, RECOMMEND THIS BLOG TO EVERYONE!… That’s all I did between writing the two parts. So now buckle up, here we go for Part two!!

PART II BCN-DUS-MIA

Current leg: PURPLE BCN-DUS-MIA

Current leg: PURPLE BCN-DUS-MIA

After a fantastic 2 and a half weeks exploring places like Istanbul, Athens, Naples and Barcelona it was time to head home sadly. When booking this flight I saw that all connection from BCN arrived too late to connect to MIA in time so I happily booked us with a 23 hour layover in Dusseldorf to give us an extra day in Europe and give us a day in Germany which we’ve always wanted to see! So June 4th came and we checked out of our hotel in Barcelona and grabbed a cab to El Prat.

check in area

check in area

Our flight was still a morning flight so we arrived early and checked in, unlike MIA or DUS, check in here was eternal! That’s what happens when your staff is hired by swissport and not the airline, so our check in staff did not speak German, yet were working for a German airline. Our check in girl was new and put our luggage to stay at the airport over night, even though we had a 23 hour layover, you go girl! Luckily we caught her mistake and told her, she fixed it and after almost an hour of checking in we went through security, people complain about US TSA, Barcelona’s act like they’re being forced to be there and tortured, we passed after some queuing and entered BCN.

nice interior with good shopping

nice interior with good shopping

Let me give you the Airport Ian Review rundown, or AIR, as an:

Aviation Enthusiast: This airport was nice, had big windows to see the runways and tarmac so it was nice, heavy activity can be seen, I saw an SQ 773 parked, some Iberia long-hauls and a lot of US bound traffic at one point the area looked like I was walking through ORD or ATL with 2DL and 1US wide-bodies parked and a UA wide-body taxiing to its gate.

BCN or ORD?

BCN or ORD?

Architect Student: While to me not as impressive as DUS, this airport was still impressive, I know T1 is new and thus very modern and striking with its large seemingly singular piece waving ceiling. Its big expansive floor, easy to navigate mall and concourse made it nice, yet it lacks a way to quickly reach the end of the ridiculously long concourse.

Air China 330 at DUS, my first chinese carrier sighting

Air China 330 at DUS, my first chinese carrier sighting

Frequent Flyer: BCN is kind of easy to navigate, there’s a few gates not on the main concourse that if you don’t read the signs you’ll miss. great dinning options, great modern look, good stores including a huge ZARA. Yet it’s staff was the not so good, cleaning staff were nice, but official airport staff (not including stores and/or restaurants) were kind of slow and sometimes rude.

love the diversity at DUS

love the diversity at DUS

Over all it wasn’t bad, I’d of liked more time to explore, but our check-in lady made sure we didn’t have that time. After running to our gate after a rushed McDonalds breakfast (you can tell where I’m from) we encountered the same girl from check-in at our gate! You can imagine we were over joyed especially since we were almost the last to board (one couple after us). Luckily the other gate agent scanned our tickets and we were off on our AB 321 for our short journey to DUS.

Istanbul 2020 a330

Istanbul 2020 a330

Much like our flight to VCE, the legroom on this was nice, AB has a 3-3 configuration on these babies and the staff was nice greeting us with hard candies again and light reading materials and telling us welcome aboard. After boarding finished and after a short delay during push-back we were off to the runway, after an Iberia bird landed we were next and soon enough we took off with beautiful views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean. BCN is awfully close to the center of Barcelona so getting there is fast and take offs fly close to the city. Shortly into our flight the meal service began, there was a drink round and again some soft drinks included, then an actual meal round.

my breakfast

my breakfast

The options were a salami or cheese sandwich, I went for salami, the sandwich was quite tasty and had a corn salsa type of cream on it to compliment the filling, not the best sandwich I’ve ever had but for a 1.5 hour flight domestically in Europe it was a much appreciated surprise. Especially compared to what I’ve received on domestic US flights of longer times (a bag of peanuts). This aircraft had aisle TV’s and headphones were distributed if you wanted, they had a good mix of music videos, and US comedy shows. Not too long after our trash was collected and we landed in Dusseldorf for a fantastic day in Germany, This time I came ready in nice warm clothing… It was one of their hottest days… We spent a great day in Dusseldorf filled with impressive shopping, amazing dinning, great views, history, it was just above and beyond my expectations, I want to return to Germany so bad now! After our amazing day in Germany we headed to the train station and got on a quick train to DUS from the city center, we arrived and I ran to buy my snow globe at one of the shops (I collect snow globes from where I go) and headed up to the check in area, we were greeted with nice smiles and funny chatter and were told our flight wasn’t very full so it was not worth it to choose seats, we could just get up and move around the cabin, they checked in our bags, made some comments about Miami we laughed at and wished us a safe trip and we were off. Security was alright, we had an agent angry that everyone was using her line and not the other open line, yet we came to her line because it was shorter… After that we did some duty free shopping, our last in EU for a bit and grabbed a quick bite to eat by our gate and headed to our plane. IMG_8406 We reached our gate and said our goodbyes to Germany and boarded our 330, again we were greeted with newspapers and magazines and that famous hard candy! I crossed the galley to my row, I had a stranger as a seat mate which is actually the first time it happens so I was kind of excited. I settled down, happy I had an aisle seat and wasn’t by that horrendous bathroom area and met my seat mate. On this flight our seats only had the blanket and pillow, no amenity kit since the flight was during the day, no worries I still had mines from before. Sadly I didn’t photograph the food this time, I was distracted talking with the lady next to me! She was very nice, had a son around my age but she was still young, she works for a company that makes stabilizers for yatchs and gets to travel a lot, we talked the whole time and shared pictures of our trips. But I was still well aware of everything around me thinking, “This has to go on my blog”. So an hour and a half into the flight again the meal service began, for this flight I’d say my FA wasn’t as attentive as the one before, it was an older male, who seem to not want to help as much as his counterparts. The meal service began, the same basic chicken or pasta choice, again I chose chicken, it wasn’t as good, but it wasn’t bad, they again had my potato salad which my seat mate said she didn’t like and I was baffled at such remarks! However dessert this time was a brownie, but no brie cheese for my roll (I like brie). My sister got the pasta option which I tried, it was surprisingly delicious in a cream and mushroom sauce. I finished my meal and my oh so happy attendant cleared it and his co-worker came around much happier offering tea and coffee again, the same alcoholic and non alcoholic drink choices were available on this flight as on the MIA-DUS flight. When I poured my cream and sugar into my tea my seat-mate was asking me why I did that, she was cool, but her taste in food was so bland! We enjoyed our drinks over some chatter and another water bottle round was done for us, and then the lights were dimmed after a last trash round. I kept chatting and eventually she went to take a nap to so I went to see some TV, and again, drew for a while. Attempting to sleep, I couldn’t with the brightness of the sun in the cabin. After a long time into our 10 hour flight pretty much we experienced some turbulence that quickly ended and the lunch/pre landing snack service began. It had a small part of a veggie and deli wrap, which was good in flavor but soggy from sitting on a plane, another yogurt parfait, a bread roll with some deli slices on the side, and a small cookie along with all the drink choices. Soon after finishing they cleared the trays as I watched a movie on the IFE, and did another tea and hot towel run before the final stretch. IMG_8409An hour after, we were preparing to land and buckled our belts, I said my goodbyes to my seat mate and then we touched down and hit the breaks and I turned my cell phone on to see I only missed a call and two texts in my time abroad. We parked at the same gate we departed and began de-boarding and we got our stuff and filed out into MIA, the humidity hits you a bit when you step down, parking at another terminal from where immigration is was a joy. We walked around a mile inside small corridors to reach the AA terminals upstair and the immigration hall, this was a mess. A huge amount of people overflowing from all OW flights and AA international flights, we arrived and soon after the BA flight (a 747) arrived and multiple caribbean AA flights, combined with the already existing lines and US residents get pushed with immigrants here and so the line was incredible.IMG_8410 Having flown into MIA on Swiss which uses the new terminal on concourse J, immigration there is so fast and as a resident I go into the citizen line, we cleared immigration there in 10 minutes, unlike our almost 2 hours this time. Our luggage was all set aside, since we took so long the carousel was no longer spinning. Once we got our stuff we cleared customs in 5 minutes and entered MIA and as soon as we exited the airport doors the heat and humidity hit us like a freight truck full of dried concrete. Then it started raining, it wouldn’t be the full Floridian greeting without rain! What we took away from this is that we definitely would fly AB again in a heart beat, in fact I’m looking into them for my Israel trip next year. That sums up the trip, thanks to all my readers, and if you read this whole 5,000 word plus post, I thank you so much! Check out the rest of my blog if this is your first time on, and visit frequently for more travel awesomeness, recommend this blog to everyone you know! I really want more readers and you guys can help me achieve that! Leave any question or comments below or send them to my e-mail listed on the contact tab. Check out my previous AirBerlin review post for more. See you guys soon! As always, adventure is out there!

Cheers,

Ian

PS: I leave you with some pics!

This is my travel map! the red and white are places I’ve met people from and I want to go to, the black is where i’ve been, my goal is to replace them all to black! Here’s the before and after my trip

IMG_8411 IMG_8412

And here are my snow globes!

IMG_8413

Thanks for reading!

AirBerlin review

Hey everyone! I’m back from Europe, well I’ve been back but I’ve had a huge busy schedule when I returned that included busy work hours. So after two days off and a nice morning off I decided to finally tell you all about my fantastic trip! Lets begin with my review:

airberlin-Logo

Air Berlin (Code: AB)

Type: EUC (European Carrier) and LC (Low Cost)

Routes offered: Domestic Europe, North America, Central America, Africa, Thailand, Middle East.

Rating: 9

Best route flown: Hard to say, they were all good! but I’d say MIA-DUS on the hard product, BCN-DUS based on all.

Class flown: Economy (What I’m flying), first is offered on long haul intl.

Freebies: Snacks on all flights, soft drinks and select alcohol, cold and/or warm meals on select domestic flights and on all international flights, amenity kits on all classes (even economy on select night flight! not as large as business or first).

Fantastic airline! That is all I can say, At first I was hesitant to book AirBerlin, with their low prices, and relatively bad reviews on some travel sites. My opinion is that people give reviews to these airlines expecting first class service while flying economy, I mean seriously! Comparing the service I received on this long haul economy to what I’ve received on Legacy carriers in both Europe (Swiss which is rated as one of the best) and America (Delta and United) it puts those three to shame! I got an amenity kit in economy on my overnight outbound flight, I have never heard of that even on the asian carriers! The food was plenty and good, better flavors than on others, the drink choice in economy far better than even Swiss including everything from Beer to multiple wines and spirits. They offered separate coffee and tea runs served in nice red plastic AirBerlin mugs, and as well as a complimentary water bottle service before they dim the lights for the in between meal service haul. On the afternoon domestic flights they offered chips or Twix as a snack and soft drinks and juices, My morning domestic flight offered a nice sandwich with a corn salsa type cream inside. Service wasn’t bad, one or two attendants were not very good and did bring me down a bit, but It happens on every flight. The AVOD system on the long haul flight was great, offered a great choice of everything and the TV episodes were consecutive, which most carriers don’t do, they just put random episodes. The games were working (unlike Swiss) and while the long haul legroom wasn’t very comfortable, but neither was United’s or Swiss’. How ever the domestic legroom was fantastic! Best domestic legroom I’ve ever experienced. Over all, AirBerlin’s product was so good, I’m thinking of sticking to them for my long haul flying, I even got 9.5 thousand reward miles for my flights and I have a plastic rewards cards! As for Dusseldorf International, It is seriously my favorite airport. With all this, I rate AirBerlin with the highest score ever, in fact with this experience, I re-rated my past airlines, check it our on the Airlines I’ve flown post under the Aviation Corner section. The less than $1000 price tag on 4 flights also gave AB a huge boost!

My First trip Report will be coming later this week, probably tomorrow night, it’ll be for all 4 AB flights. I haven’t forgotten about my Chicago City Guide, but for now I’m putting the city guide section on a as I finish I post terms, meaning the Chicago guide will probably take at least another month as I keep writing reviews on cities, tour companies and Norwegian. For all my Aviation enthusiast, I’ll be giving a short summary of the on going Paris Air show soon. If you need any tips or references, please e-mail me or comment below to let me know you’re all reading! I feel like no one is really reading, but as long as one person is, I’ll keep on writing, If you’re that one person let me know! I’ll write my trip report soon! Adventure is out there!

-Cheers, Ian

Bonus Miles and Calls

My first post back on regular posting schedule! Preparations for my Next Stop: Europe2013 trip begin as we enter the final countdown to my departure, 20 days as of today!airberlin-Oneworld With my departure date quickly approaching and the semester over I begin all my final preparations for my departure. As discussed before, I’m a big fan of collecting airline miles in the far distant hope that someday I’ll upgrade to first class or get a free flight, but as also previously stated I don’t let my reward cards (yes, cards, I have more than one) define what carrier I fly. I just received my Airberlin Top Bonus card in the mail, and it is fantastic!It is so rare to get a physical plastic card for airline rewards when it’s not a credit card or an elite membership, so it feels great to carry a physical card with my name on it, to show off my lower membership level to everyone! This is my first oneworld carrier and membership experience, as I’ve flown multiple StarAlliance and SkyTeam and non affiliated airline and am a rewards member of United. With AB I received more miles than my previous similar trips on other carriers which is a plus, and I even received enough to book a free domestic (Europe) economy class flight! not enough for an international upgrade however. The membership is free with a simple AB or affiliate airline (Etihad or NIKI) booking, the card arrives via mail a couple of weeks later, and you get 500 miles for signing up and if you stay with certain partner hotels, rent cars with partner companies, or fuel up at select gas brands, you can gain miles as well by simply showing your card (full details can be found on AB’s site or in the information pamphlet you’ll get with your card). I’am so happy with the reward system on AB that I might just switch to oneworld for all my bonus mile programs!

photoEnough about the reward points, I also did many long distance calls, thank goodness for my dad’s phone card, to my hotels in Barcelona and Germany as well as to the Port of Barcelona for disembarkation information, which they didn’t know much about, calling the cruise line is more help or simply googling the question! What I have found out is that no one really knows how the foreign immigration and customs process works, so from my research it takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on how busy the port is and how many things you have, there are easy disembarkations in which you may carry your luggage off by hand, call your cruise line to see if the option is available for you. Alas my tip is don’t spend the money on international call cards, the money isn’t worth it for things google might have the answer for and free. That constituted my first days of preparations, late this week I’ll go into excursions and how to pay half of the cruise line’s price for a better option, and stay tuned for my Next Stop:Chicago guide coming to you this week or the following. Thank you guys for reading and also to all my new followers, I was very excited to see the notifications, and feel free to e-mail any questions or comments to; nextstopeverywhereblog@gmail.com or comment them below! I reply ASAP and within the same day (Eastern Time zone).

Cheers,

Ian

PS: Why not like this post? or even go ahead and follow my blog? You won’t regret it as I take you through the in’s and out’s of the budget travel world and show you how I manage to get good deals and great trips on a mall job salary. Thanks for reading! and THANK YOU for my 200+ views in less than two months I’ve had the blog!

Airlines I’ve flown

With travels, one tends to fly many airlines, so far I’ve flown 4 separate carriers and a new one to come this summer. Tip 1 on budget travel (first tip ever on the blog!) fly what is cheapest, a lot of people might say stick to one airline and rack up miles (United, or as I refer to it UA, is my preferred carrier), or stick to one of the major alliances (the Star Alliance, SA, is my favorite, has the best top notch carriers) for us budget traveller’s who don’t jet around the globe 24/7, raking up air miles to get a ticket or a mere upgrade will take ages! So don’t drop major money to fly an alliance or carrier in specific, fly what ever is cheapest. I try to stick to Star Alliance carriers to earn miles eventually… but this summer on my trip, I’m flying AirBerlin (OneWorld, OW, member) because it was around 500USD cheaper than the following SA carrier, so I guess I’ll be earning OW miles. Hopefully one day I can jump on a first class ticket! But for now I listen to my pocket, and it wants the cramped seats and TV dinner filled economy (Coach) class ticket! But hey it doesn’t matter how you get there, it’s the destination that counts! Also don’t be afraid to compare fares, while I don’t like sites like Kayak that pop open a million windows, I like to compare each site on their own, I find that Cheapoair.com sometimes has a better deal (by a slim couple of dollars) than other sites, but to be honest, till this day, I’ve found that all websites cost the same… sometimes on the airline’s website itself they have crazy round trip deals only offered there, so check it out, and also check the standard price on there, if it’s the same as you find on travel sites; book it there. It a much more hassle free process to manage your trip through the website and service of the carrier itself, than through a third party. Groupon getaways sometime does offer great crazy deals, and don’t be afraid to grab your bags and go, sometimes you’ll find the best deals that way.. Anyways. Lets review those airlines, I’ll keep giving you tips later.

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Spirit Airlines (code: NK)

Type: ULCC (Ultra-Low Cost Carrier)

Routes offered: Domestic USA, Central & South America

Rating 1-10: 7 (Don’t argue! I’ll explain)

Best route flown: FLL-ORD

Class flown: 1 class available, all economy.

freebies: Absolutely nothing…

Reasoning: Well Spirit is the absolute ultra low of the low cost, and they’re known for that! I gave it a 7.5 because people rate it unfairly, I mean honestly you can expect to get the same product as American Airline or United when you’re paying the price of a bus ticket, get real people! I paid as low as 61USD for a one way to the other side of the country! I was surprised that I even got a bag of pretzels (which I now know is not common on their flights, also no free drinks at all). Yes they charge for bags (but a lot of carriers do now, but be aware! CHECK IN BAGS ONLINE! They’re 100USD in the airport) the plane was clean and seats were surprisingly bearable, so buy some food post security (I brought some McDonalds onboard) bring an ipad (no plugs on their planes so pre-charge!) and accept what you’re paying! Besides that, it feels like any other economy flight, service was nice, although they can be a bit snappy, but I mean they have a flight full of people expecting Legacy Carrier service for a low price… So be nice, and they’ll even maybe talk to you. They sell snacks onboard as well yet only take card, but as any carrier it’s not at face value of the snack, but instead hiked up prices. If you need a point A to point B and back carrier, Fly spirit, but know what they dish out, and what you pay. Currently they are expanding rapidly in the US and have their home Hub in FLL (Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport).

delta-air-lines-logoDelta Airlines (code: DL)

Type: LEC (Legacy Carrier)

Routes offered: Domestic USA, Central & South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, South Pacific.

Rating 1-10: 8.5 (Different rating scale than Spirit and other low cost)

Best route flown: YUL-ATL

Class flown: Economy (what I flew), business offered on all flights, first on long haul intl.

Freebies: Delta honey roasted nuts, select soft drinks.. Warm and cold meals on select international flights, amenity kits on business and first on intl flights.

Delta has really stepped up since the last time I flew them in 2010. What an upgrade the airline has done! The staff was absolutely fantastic, nicest people I’ve ran into while flying, from the gate agents to the FA’s and pilots! The service was very personal even on a big plane like the 757 is domestically, and on the RJ it was like first class (hear that AC?) They updated all the interiors of their mainline fleet, no longer do you watch communal aisle tv’s (hear that AA?) but instead enjoy seat back personal tv’s with games and multiple feature films. The DL connection planes are equipped with wifi and comfortable seats in Economy. Food was welcomed from a legacy carrier, only UA still serves a complimentary snack on their domestic hops, and DL served plenty of snacks on all flights along with Coke products (they are from ATL after all!) I highly recommend DL, they have been working hard to get their product to be the best and it shows. They have a caring staff and good equipment, good prices, and a lot of global connections on their metal and SkyTeam metal. I’m excited for the day I get to experience DL again, hopefully long haul soon, I did increase their rating passing UA! Wow! Delta is currently the world’s largest carrier by fleet size and total passenger count, and operate a humongous home hub at ATL (Atlanta-Hartsfield Jackson International Airport)

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United Airlines (Code: UA)

Type: LEC (Legacy Carrier)

Routes offered: Domestic USA, Central & South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, South Pacific.

Rating: 8

Best route flown: EWR-LHR

Class flown: Economy (what I flew), business offered on all flights, first on long haul intl.

Freebies: Bag of pretzels, select soft drinks (some alcoholic on long haul), warm and cold meals on select international flights, amenity kits on business and first on intl flights.

This rating is not just because UA is my favorite carrier, how do you think it got to that spot? In the US, they are by far the best Legacy carrier. I’ve flown their domestic 757 and international 757, magnificent planes, clean, and personal entertainment on each seat (AVOD) touch screen system. Domestic meal was pretzels and soda, but they sell moderately priced add ons, I got a bag of mini cinnamon rolls which were great and around vending machine prices, they also offer appetizing snack boxes for a good price (8USD the most). United offers great choices of programming to watch and music to listen to onboard. They also operated the first flight I’ve been on to have an all male crew, which were surprisingly nice! The landside staff were a bit more direct and stern, bringing it to a maybe 8, we were asked to move in a not so nice way at MIA during check-in, but they deal with a lot of non-english speaking passengers which would make me aggravated as well, (I am of spanish origin and speak spanish at home). The international product brought a classic mostly women staffed crew, the plane was again clean, each seat had a nice navy blue sheet/blanket that didn’t seem cheap, and a pillow which wasn’t bad. The meal was on average and it contained a main course, bread roll with butter, side salad, and small desert with a choice of beverage. Pilots on all the UA flights I’ve been on are magnificent, very sturdy flights almost no bumps. Breakfast was also good, a croissant and egg dish, fruit salad, and choice of drinks. Boarding process was good and organized, moves fast, and over all this is why UA is my favorite and rates highly, the onboard compared to other US carriers is great. Now I understand they are going through a MAJOR MERGER with Continental, so product across the fleet isn’t as uniform as it used to be, but United IS DOING THE BEST THEY CAN! Soon all product across the board will be uniform and as good as what I flew, keep in mind over 700 planes have to re-fitted, in time they will take their position as the top US carrier. United is the world’s leading carrier and are the world’s largest carrier in amount of yearly flights and are the first US carrier to fly the Boeing 787 (-8 variant) dreamliner. UA operates their central home hub at ORD (Chicago-O’hare International Airport) but their largest hub, by a mere 20 flights a day, at IAH (George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the ex Continental home hub) United is also a founding member of the Star Alliance.

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Swiss International Airlines (Code: LX)

Type: EUC (European Carrier)

Routes offered: Domestic Europe, North America, Brazil, Asia, Africa

Rating: 8

Best route flown: FCO-ZRH

Class flown: Economy (which I flew), business & first on long haul intl.

Freebies: Bag of pretzels, select soft drinks,some alcoholic on all flights, warm and/or cold meals on all flights, amenity kits on business and first on intl flights.

Why such a high rating? great onboard product and landside service, and Zurich airport is magnificent! I’ve flown on one of their A330’s and 320’s before. Their domestic product was incredible, being used to US carriers just offering snacks (chips and such), we got a croissant (plain with nothing else) and a piece of chocolate, with a selection of drinks. While unlike UA it had no entertainment at all on the domestic flights, it managed to not feel crowded or cramped like Swiss’ international flights. Service on Swiss flights is fantastic, they are so nice and attentive, bit more than US carriers (keep in mind they fly a quater of the US carriers at only around 90 planes in their fleet). On a 9+ hour international flight they were still smiling to the last minute. How ever connections in Zurich are tough, the international concourse requires a tram to connect to much like ATL, also there is a security check (documentation only) before boarding the tram and once again before entering your part of the international concourse, schedule enough transfer time here and account for delays due to other airports, as connecting at ZRH during rush hour could be a while if you’re not a EU citizen (luckily I am). I’ll tell you my almost deportation story soon. Either way we flew an A330, a lot of seats and a lot of people it was very crowded and felt like it, temperature control was a bit uncomfortable, too cold for no blanket on, yet too hot for a blanket on. Upon boarding all seats have a nice large brown patterned blanket and the same pillow found on UA. Attendants were magnificent, even managed to quite a baby during the flight! Entertainment was good, personal systems (AVOD) with a remote on the seat, no touch here, yet the games on the system (LX is known for playing games with people on other seats) weren’t working. The main meal was just as UA’s but different choices, same layout, the pre-landing snack was a nice personal pizza for an afternoon arrival time, and their signature chocolate. Over all amazing experience, good legroom, much better than US carriers, and besides the climate control which knocked it down a notch and the faulty games, it provides for a great flight. Like my close friend says, their FA’s are dipped in sugar! Which really pulled the rating up. I’d definitely fly them again in a heart beat, and their rates are nothing unreasonable. Swiss International Airlines was born from the now defunct Swissair, Swiss is the flag carrier and largest carrier of Switzerland, Swiss operates their main hub at ZRH (Zurich-Kloten International Airport) and a secondary hub in GVA (Geneva International Airport) Swiss is also a member of the Star Alliance.

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Air Berlin (Code: AB)

Type: EUC (European Carrier) and LC (Low Cost)

Routes offered: Domestic Europe, North America, Central America, Africa, Thailand, Middle East.

Rating: 9

Best route flown: Hard to say, they were all good! but I’d say MIA-DUS on the hard product, BCN-DUS based on all.

Class flown: Economy (What I’m flying), first is offered on long haul intl.

Freebies: Snacks on all flights, soft drinks and select alcohol, cold and/or warm meals on select domestic flights and on all international flights, amenity kits on all classes (even economy on select night flight! not as large as business or first).

Fantastic airline! That is all I can say, At first I was hesitant to book AirBerlin, with their low prices, and relatively bad reviews on some travel sites. My opinion is that people give reviews to these airlines expecting first class service while flying economy, I mean seriously! Comparing the service I received on this long haul economy to what I’ve received on Legacy carriers in both Europe (Swiss which is rated as one of the best) and America (Delta and United) it puts those three to shame! I got an amenity kit in economy on my overnight outbound flight, I have never heard of that even on the asian carriers! The food was plenty and good, better flavors than on others, the drink choice in economy far better than even Swiss including everything from Beer to multiple wines and spirits. They offered separate coffee and tea runs served in nice red plastic AirBerlin mugs, and as well as a complimentary water bottle service before they dim the lights for the in between meal service haul. On the afternoon domestic flights they offered chips or Twix as a snack and soft drinks and juices, My morning domestic flight offered a nice sandwich with a corn salsa type cream inside. Service wasn’t bad, one or two attendants were not very good and did bring me down a bit, but It happens on every flight. The AVOD system on the long haul flight was great, offered a great choice of everything and the TV episodes were consecutive, which most carriers don’t do, they just put random episodes. The games were working (unlike Swiss) and while the long haul legroom wasn’t very comfortable, but neither was United’s or Swiss’. How ever the domestic legroom was fantastic! Best domestic legroom I’ve ever experienced. Over all, AirBerlin’s product was so good, I’m thinking of sticking to them for my long haul flying, I even got 9.5 thousand reward miles for my flights and I have a plastic rewards cards! As for Dusseldorf International, It is seriously my favorite airport. With all this, I rate AirBerlin with the highest score ever, in fact with this experience, I re-rated my past airlines, check it our on the Airlines I’ve flown post under the Aviation Corner section. The less than $1000 price tag on 4 flights also gave AB a huge boost! AB is a long haul low cost carrier and one of the newest members of the OneWorld alliance, they operate their largest hub at DUS, and secondary hub at TXL (Berlin), they are Germany’s second largest carrier.

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Air Canada (Code: AC)

Type: CLC ( Canadian Legacy Carrier)

Routes offered: Domestic Canada, Americas, Europe, Asia, and Oceania (Africa via Star partners)

Rating: 5

Best route flown: FLL-YYZ

Class flown: Economy

Freebies: Soft drinks on all flights, select alcoholic beverages in economy long haul, cold and/or warm meals on all international flights, amenity kits, alcoholic beverages, and snacks in upper classes.

If you guys read my review on AC, you can probably determine where I got my score from, if not you can read it here:Part 1 and the DL/part 2. The AC staff leaves a lot to be desired, bad service, and rude employees bring the rating way down from what I expected. On board food was good, however all the options were cold, even the ones that are supposed to be served warm/hot. Parts of the plane were broken and the AVOD system faulty including the headphone jacks. YYZ is a good airport for a hub, high demand and very nicely designed, the staff there a bit more welcoming. The staff at YUL is horrendous and rude, not to mention they don’t really make an effort to please the customer. Since I only got to experience a single flight on the airline due to their blurry rules, I can only rate on what I did experience, and it was nothing like what I expected from a carrier who claims to be the best carrier in NA. I will be flying them again in August short and long haul this time, not that I’m thrilled about that at all, however they were the cheapest. I’ll update the review then, hopefully they’ll impress me then! Unless the price is right and time is plenty (or you can afford the upper classes of course) I don’t recommend AC. At least I got my miles on my United rewards. AC is Canada’s largest carrier and the highest rated airline operating long haul flights in North America by Skytrax. They operate their home hub at YYZ (Toronto) and secondary hubs at YUL (Montreal) and YVR (Vancouver), AC is a founding member of the Star Alliance.

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American Airlines (Code: AA)

Type: LEC (Legacy Carrier)

Routes offered: Domestic USA, Americas, Europe, and Asia (Africa and Oceania offered via OW partnership)

Rating: 7

Best route flown: ORD-FLL

Class flown: Economy

Freebies: Soft drinks on all flights, beer and wine in economy long haul, cold and/or warm meals on all international flights, amenity kits, alcoholic beverages, and snacks in upper classes.

I was a bit excited to fly AA, it was the last of the legacy carriers I had left to fly in the US, since US Airways is no more. I booked through Expedia which was pretty seamless, got point on my Expedia account and my AB top bonus program. The ticket was around $100 more than Sprit, however the time was more convenient, carry-on is free, and seat selection was included, so I guess I couldn’t complain as it probably would of also been cheaper had I not booked around 2 weeks in advanced only. Check-in was relatively easy on the self check-in machines, it was also easy to enter my AB account number and get my miles on there. Security was long at FLL, but we had time to spare, we got a newly painted 737 yet it was not retrofitted. The flights were smooth, drinks were plenty, I got a box of snacks and my friend a cheese plate which were all pretty good! My largest disappointment was the lack of personal tv’s or AVOD, being 2014 I expect more from a carrier like AA than aisle TV’s (however I knew this before I purchased my ticket so it came to me as no surprise) I was still disappointed never the less. The flights were comfortable and the FA’s nice, the pilots were funny and very informative throughout the flights and they were pretty smooth (as much as they can be when the FLL area was blanketed in storms.) Overall the flights weren’t that bad, Knowing some of their 757′s and 767′s have the same issue with entertainment, I cannot imagine being on a long 10 hour flight not having a ptv. But for a shorter domestic hop, with an iPhone loaded with music and games, It was fine and comfortable. I would recommend a domestic AA flight if the price is lower than its competitors, if long haul I’d be weary of the equipment on the flight before booking. AA recently merged with US to form the world’s largest airline with a home hub at DFW and multiple national hubs, they will be the fourth NA carrier to operate the 787 (UA, AM, AC), AA is a founding member of the OW alliance.

Coming Soon:

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August 2014… A380…

Aviation Corner

D-ABYA-Lufthansa-Boeing-747-8_PlanespottersNet_284752I’ll admit, I’m an aviation buff, love me some comercial aviation and big jumbo planes! so why not post about it? after all it affects all of our plans how things in this realm work. For up to date information while the blog is being created and growing, go to : Airliners.net and Airnation.net.

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