Friday, August 17, 2007

Alaska delays, mis-information and indifference

This is a bit of a long rant...I will send Alaska a Letter, since they should really know how bad this flight was for the passengers. In any case, here was my lovely flight experience flying on Alaska this week.

August 16th - "8am" Flight 325 San Francisco (SFO) to Seattle (SEA) on a 737-400

There were so many bad issues with this flight I will just used bullet points:

- The flight was listed as "on-time" but the Board room agent said "oh no that flight will be delayed". Even as we boarded the plane, the flight was listed as "on time".

- We waited for the plane to be towed from where it stayed over night to the Gate. The Gate was open after the 7:00am flight departed, but the plane did not "arrive" until 7:50am.

- After the plane finally arrived, there was only one flight attendant ready to board the plane at the gate. She was on her cell phone, while the other flight attendants were MIA. (Note this was now 7:50am or so -- 10 mins before we were suppose to depart) . We all waited until the missing flight attendants showed up.

- While boarding the aft flight attendant says through the overhead speakers "We only have 1/4 a tank of water". Not a big deal, but this came off as kinda unprofessional. But even still, if the plane sat overnight, shouldn't of it been filled with water last night?

- At about 8:20am (20mins past departure time) the captain came on to say "oh we have a strong tailwind today so the flight time will be very short" -- ok this made me feel better, but then the delays continued

- After we finally boarded, the ground staff started to scamble to get an "airstart unit" to the plane. These are used when the aircrafts APU are not in working condition. Oddly, the airline knows this well in advance -- so there should be no scrambling around at the last minute if things are well planned. More delays. There was no overhead annoucement for about 10 more mins.

- The flight attendant (!!) comes on and says "oh we will push back in moments, we are just awaiting our take off "slot""-- Ok, now this was probably a lie. It was a clear day in SFO -- no ATC delays in SFO or SEA. The only reason we were still sitting there was they were disconnecting the Airstart hose from the Aircraft. PLUS is the Flight Attendant talking to the tower?

- After a long push back, the ground crew had trouble disconnecting the tow bar from the aircraft. You could feel them trying to jerk it off the nose gear.

-- At this point I have given up hope from any "on time" arrival -- or even close to it.

- The take off and flight were fine, BUT upon landing there was no "sorry we are late". The only comment was "if you have tight connections, check with the Gate agent " It had to be one of the most indifferent annoucements I have EVER heard on Alaska. It just came off as rude and an "I really dont care" attitude.

- Our Sea-tac our gate was not available upon landing, so we sat on the taxiway waiting for the traffic to clear from our gate.

- After finally getting to our gate, the captain comes on to say "Welcome to Seattle - thanks for flying Alaska" No mention of the delay, no mention of the issues caused by Alaska -- that caused our delay. Oh and all those folks connecting? Nothing said about them.

I really do think Alaska has a good product, but the service often suffers from lack of "hustle" on getting planes off the gate, INdifference toward passengers by "senior" flight attendants (ie United Airlines) , and that "you should feel lucky you are flying Alaska" ego.

RANT OVER -- phew!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hotel Review - San Francisco Hilton

Since my usual favorite place in SF was a bit pricey this week I decided to bid on a 4-star room on Priceline with the location of East or West Union Square for $90/night.

Priceline quickly came back with a confirmation at the San Francisco Hilton.

I had read some comments complaining about this hotel on, but hoped for the best.

I arrived at the hotel around 6pm, and was quickly given a nice room in Tower 3 (this is the large tower where most Priceline customers seem to stay). My room was clean, but on the small side -- but standard for SF. I was on the 18th floor which was above the street noise which can be a problem in most Downtown San Francisco hotels. I had an ok view looking toward the bay, but somewhat blocked by the Hotel Nikko across the street.

The bathroom was efficient (read small) but very nicely appointed. It was very clean - which is always a major plus in my book.

One weird thing was there were two places where the wallpaper was peeling from the wall. I called the front desk to let them know -- I really didnt need to move rooms, but it seemed a bit tacky for a 4-star hotel to have wallpaper peeling off the walls on a newly remodeled room.

The front desk said they would take care of it in the morning. Three days later -- they never repaired it. Not a big deal, just lack of follow-through is bad for a premier hotel like this.

Not a bad place to stay, its clearly a 4-star hotel -- but is also a HUGE hotel. There are three towers and it takes up a whole city block.

The Powell BART/MUNI Station is within a block of this hotel. There are also plenty of downtown/union square places to go eat and shop around this hotel.

Overall I am not a fan of Mega hotels, but this was very much worth a $90 bid on Priceline.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hotel Review - Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London UK

Park Lane Hotel (Sheraton)
London W1J 7BX

Hotel Review and Trip Report - Park Lane London

The Park Lane Hotel is a 4-star Sheraton hotel in London. The location is very good, its in Mayfair and across the street from Green Park. Piccadilly Circus is a very short walk away.

The hotel is one of those "historic" hotels in London. The entrance is off the back alley street, and the lobby is very small. There is no place to "hang out" except for the Palm Court bar/restaurant.

The staff was friendly and gave a me a room at 1pm. I booked on Priceline for $190 USD/night and was given a "classic" room -- room 203. The room was a good size for London. The bed was comfy and the bathroom was fairly decent.

While the room was a nice, there were elements that just didnt seem very "4-star". The rooms havent been remodeled for a while and the bathroom has some issue (nothing drastic, just small annoying things).

The view from the room was across a roof looking at the rooms in the other part of the building -- basically no view. BUT this made the room very quiet at night, especially for being located on Piccadilly.

Its a great location, but only an "ok" hotel -- and it seems more like a 3.5 star, rather than a true 4-star hotel.

Trip Report - ORD-LHR on United 777

My trip started in Seattle. After finding out my Seattle-Chicago flight was delayed (causing me to mis-connect on my London flight) I went to the Sea-Tac airport to try and standby for an earlier flight to ORD.

Upon getting to the First Class ticket counter, I was met by one of the most UNhelpful United Agents I have ever met. He was very un-sympathetic to my mis-connect issue. And told me I was unlikely to get out of Seattle early. Considering I am a Premier Exec, traveling on a Business Class ticket I was amazed at his poor attitude.

To make a long story short, I got the last seat from Seattle to Chicago on an earlier flight.

I arrived in Chicago to a sea of people, many who were standing in a VERY long line for Customer Service. I should have known not to fly via ORD during the summer -- on a Sunday.

In any case, I went to the Red Carpet Club on Concourse C. Its a pretty basic lounge, somewhat new furniture -- but it was a mess, with empty drinks and trash all over the place.

I found a good place to work -- they have converted the old Smoking Room into a "quiet room". It was very nice and only a few people even ventured into it -- even though the rest of the Club was fairly busy.

My London flight was right next door at C16. The flight was fairly busy and Business Class had only a couple seats open. Luckily there were a couple seats open, because THREE people had issues with their seats (ie. foot rest not working, audio not working, etc).

I was seated in 15A, which was nice since there was no one behind me -- only a bulkhead wall.

The seat was ok, but its very tight when everyone fully reclines and you are stuck on the window seat. My video screen, and seat adjustments worked fine.

The service on United was ok, but overall it was uninspired. The flight attendants were pleasant, but you had the feeling they were rushing through the service so they could take their break. In addition, my flight attendant referred to the wine choices as Chardonnay, The French "White" or one of the red ones.

The new business class seats can not come soon enough -- it will be a major upgrade to the dated business class experience on United today.

One tip for getting to London from LHR -- the Heathrow Express train now has a competing option if you are not in a hurry. The Heathrow Connect service is less than half the price (6.50 pounds) but it takes 30 mins and runs less frequently. The best part is it arrives at Paddington Station, right next to the Heathrow Express trains.