Monday, March 31, 2008

A sad day in the skies

Aloha Airlines announced its shutting down on Tuesday.

I am sad to see Aloha go -- it was a very unique airline that will be missed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Earn SkyMile Elite miles to Sydney...kinda

As a frequent traveler to Down Under, I was excited to see the press release announcing Delta's new deal with Hawaiian Airlines.

Basically the deal announced for SkyMile members means the opportunity to earn miles on inter-island flights on Hawaiian -- plus flights between Honolulu and Sydney and future international flights from HNL. The real bonus is the ability to earn ELITE miles from the US to Sydney. For Skymile members its very hard to earn elite miles to SYD, unless you want to travel via Seoul.

Normally I fly United to Sydney, but their 747-400s are really showing their age and while Economy Plus is GREAT, I still dont like being on a plane for 14hours-plus in a 3-4-3 seating configuration. To avoid the 747/United flights I used to fly SEA-HNL on United connecting to Air Canada's HNL-SYD route, but thats no longer available due to Air Canada's new 777s which can fly YVR-SYD non-stop year-round.

So having the optional ability to stopover in HNL and being on a 767 with its 2-3-2 configuration -- plus earning Skymile Elite status seems like a great flight to me! But I knew the devil would be in the details of this HA-DL partnership.

The Delta Press Release seems to indicate its a very straight forward deal...

“With Delta’s service to Honolulu, Kona, Lihue*, and Maui, and Hawaiian’s routes within Hawaii and to the South Pacific, SkyMiles members will have more opportunities to reach their island paradise of choice and beyond to other popular global destinations.”

Delta SkyMiles members will earn base miles, class of service and elite tier bonuses on eligible fares of flights operated by Hawaiian. "

Oh...but wait, there is that pesky "eligible fares" disclaimer language! To make matters worse, on its not easy to find an eligible fare.

Its not until the final purchase screen when can you see the actual class of service booked AND which fare classes don't qualify for miles. In this case, H, K, and O classes dont qualify for any miles -- and presumably any elite SkyMiles.

While I can understand the reason to exclude super low fares, its seems unbelievable that Hawaiian doesnt allow you to "upgrade" to a eligible fare class or at least search by eligible fares. At a time when airlines are searching for ways to improve fares and "extra" revenue -- this search ability seems like a no-brainer.

Would I pay an extra $100 to earn Elite Skymiles on SYD-HNL roundtrip? -- you bet! Would I pay $500? maybe not...but Hawaiian doesnt even give me any choices. Well there is a nice $3385 one-way first class fare option...but I dont think that is going to happen for me:

I am happy to see a real SkyMile option to Sydney, but Hawaiian needs to provide some way to book the Skymile-eligible fares online. I checked on and entering "SYD" generates an error message:

SYD is an invalid city code or cannot be booked through this web site. Please check the spelling of SYD or use the appropriate city code."

Hopefully someone will fine tune this relationship -- soon.

Trip Report - Alaska Airlines Seattle-SFO

I got lucky and snagged a first class upgrade this week on the Alaska Airlines 6:15am Seattle-San Francisco non-stop (737-400 aircraft). After SFO, the flight continues to Los Cabos (SJD), which means the flight is half full of sleepy business folks and half excited folks in shorts. Its actually a pretty smart routing for Alaska since the Mexico-bound folks fill up the Seattle-SFO leg and I am not sure SFO could solely support a SFO-SJD flight, without the continuing folks from Seattle.

Anyway, I was really interested to see if Alaska has really improved their food in First Class as they have promoted recently in advance of Virgin America's arrival on the SEA-SFO route. Much to my dismay, the flight was located in the North Satellite -- far away from the Board Room. I know Alaska has run out of gates in the D and C concourses, but the N-gates are just
not user-friendly by any means.

We boarded early (5:40 am), had no late runners onboard, but still waited around until a couple mins after departure time. Urgh - Alaska seems to never leave early on this flight-- which can delay things down the line during often-foggy, ATC-delayed SFO.

The flight attendants were cheerful and helpful to the first class customers -- usual Alaska service (a slight bit above any other domestic carrier). I wasnt able to get an aisle seat, so I choose 3A to get the good views of SF upon decent into the Bay Area.

The main first class flight attendant was nice enough, but didnt address any customers by name. She said she had "fruit and a danish" if we wanted it...hmmm, it didnt seem there was any improved first class meal on this flight yet. I usually pass on first class meal on this flight, since its often a boring scone and bits of fruit.

The meal took a while, but it arrived on a tray (new) and larger portions of fruit and danish (actually a bear claw). I think some eggs or even just adding yogart to this meal would have been a real upgrade. Otherwise it just seems like a regular first class meal on any airline.

This flight usually flies right over the Golden Gate Bridge upon arrival and has some great views if you sit on the ABC side of the plane. It was a bit cloudy and hazy this morning, but still it provided cool views of Marin, Golden Gate bridge and the City.

This flight (along with the early PDX-SFO flight) arrives at the International Terminal at SFO -- usually at Gates 2 or 4. Sometimes the flight attendants mention this fact to help folks realize they need to trek over to the Domestic terminal to get their luggage. But on this flight there was no announcement. I am not sure if its not in their flight notes, but it should be.