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: Carry-on

Man walking through airport

Modern day air travel has taken a turn into restricting what we’re allowed to bring on the plane for free. Many years ago your luggage was no big deal, pack a big bag for that weekend trip to LAS and it was included, but now with soaring fuel prices and airport fees airlines have turned to luggage to bring in more money, meaning we now have to pay to get that bag on the plane separately for each way. Continue 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:

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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!

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

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…

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