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Posts by HappyFlier
American Airlines launched its true iPad app today, including a free in-app trivia game called “Know It All” that can be played on Wi-Fi-equipped flights or on the ground.
AA is also running a promo: Today through Dec. 31, 2012, fans who “like” American’s Facebook page can register for a chance to win a weekly drawing for 100,000 AAdvantage bonus miles. Also, the Know It All player with the top score of the week will receive an extra entry for the 100,000 bonus miles.
The app also features:
- Flight information at a glance
- A more in-depth AAdvantage section that allows users to see total mileage balance and available upgrades
- An interactive globe that features all American Airlines destinations
This YouTube video tells you more, and I have to admit, I like it — definite sense of humor in the production. You go Granny!
Disclaimer: I own stock in both AMR Corporation and Apple.
- Austin to Bali, Cathay Pacific Business Class
- The Bali Hyatt Hotel
- Walking around Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
Forty hours after we left our home in Texas we finally arrived at our destination, the beautiful Bali Hyatt Hotel at Sanur, Bali, Indonesia.
The Bali Hyatt is an exceptional property for two reasons: its outstanding location among acres of beautifully landscaped trees and shrubs, and the very high level of customer service that the staff provides. You’ll see photos of the property in this article, but first, I want to talk about the service at the hotel.
I have never been to a hotel where every employee, and I mean every employee, from the manager to the gardeners and the man who swept the stairway in the morning, greeted me with a smile whenever he saw me. Along with that I got a cheerful “Good morning sir!” or if my wife was with me, a bow and “Good day, madame.” And as I said, this happened every time we saw an employee.
On our second day at the hotel I called the front desk to let them know that the sliding door to our balcony would not close properly. In less than 15 minutes two engineers came to our room and made the repair. Later that afternoon, when we returned from the pool I found a note from the hotel assistant manager.
He apologized for the problem we had with the door, said he had called our room several times during the day to verify that the repair had been made to our satisfaction, and asked that I call immediately to let him know if it had been taken care of. I called and explained that the repair was 90% complete — I could close and lock the door but my wife could not.
Just a few moments later engineers were back in our room and they fixed the door so that it closed properly. I thought that was the end of the story until later on that evening when there was a knock at our door. I opened it and was greeted by a bellman who presented me with another letter from the assistant manager, who apologized that the door had not been fixed properly the first time, thanked us for being so cooperative with them, and as a sign of their gratitude towards us as guests, asked that we enjoy the complimentary bottle of wine that the bellman left in our room.
That is exceptional customer service and is an example of the wonderful service you can expect when you are a guest at this property. The staff of the Bali Hyatt will truly make you feel welcome during your visit to the Island of the Gods.
When we arrived at the Bali Hyatt, our van pulled up to the property entrance where we had to stop for a quick security check: all doors of the vehicle were opened, the trunk was opened, and one guard used a mirror on the end of a pole to look beneath the chassis of the vehicle. It was a quick inspection and a necessary precaution followed by all properties after the 2002 terrorist attacks.
We pulled up the driveway to the hotel entrance and got our first view of the beautiful landscaping at the property. It’s hard to see that there is actually a hotel entrance behind these trees.
As we got out of the van we were greeted by several members of the hotel staff: two men who took our luggage, and two ladies who put leis around our necks, then escorted us into the hotel lobby.
I thought we would go to the front desk to check in, but instead we were seated at a comfortable sofa across from it. As the desk clerks got our paperwork. we were presented with cold Balinese beverages that were greatly appreciated. We were also starting to get an idea of the level of customer service at the property.
A clerk came over and explained my bill, what charges there would be, confirmed my reservations, etc, and graciously presented me with the room cards. There have been so many times when I have checked into a hotel and the clerk has either dropped the cards on the counter or handed them to me with a “Here you go” attitude. That is not what I got this day, this clerk truly made us feel like welcome guests.
A bellman already had our luggage loaded on a cart and escorted us to our room. The hotel consists of four buildings, each four stories tall with an open courtyard. Our room was in the second building on the top floor, facing the landscaped area towards the SPA.
The view from our balcony was spectacular.
The balcony view was not unique, the property is full of stunning views. I hope you enjoy these photos of the hotel grounds.
I highly recommend the Bali Hyatt hotel for singles, couples, and families. it is a beautiful hotel with wonderful customer service, and is also quite a good value. At the time we were there, a king-room was less than $120 per night or 5,000 Hyatt points. That is quite a good deal for such an outstanding property. Visit the Bali Hyatt, you will enjoy it!
After doing more American Airlines mileage runs earlier this year than I care to count, I had built up enough miles for my wife and I to take a special trip. I put my miles and hotel points to good use, booking a two-week vacation to Bali, Indonesia. The trip report follows:
- Austin to Bali, Cathay Pacific Business Class
- The Bali Hyatt Hotel
- Walking around Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
We had reservations on American Airlines, First Class, from Austin to Los Angeles (LAX), then Cathay Pacific Business Class to Hong Kong (HKG) and then on to Bali (DPS).
We arrived at Austin Bergstrom-Inernational Airport and checked in with plenty of time to spare for our 7:05 p.m. non-stop flight to Los Angeles. We spent some time in the Admirals Club then went to our gate. We’d fly an MD-80 to LAX, with seats in First Class.
The flight was uneventful, other than leaving 10 minutes late due to the extra time needed to seat an elderly passenger who was in a wheelchair. This was not a problem for us since we had a 5½ hour layover at LAX — 10 to 15 minutes would not make much of a difference to us.
We arrived at LAX and had to leave the secure area to walk to from Terminal 4 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal for our flight to Hong Kong. We went to the Cathay Pacific counter to check in as we had done when we made our last trip to HKG; four years ago Cathay issued us new boarding passes and a ticket to get into their premium lounge, but that did not happen this time. The agent told us we could use the boarding passes that American Airlines gave us in Austin, and those passes would also get us into the oneworld First Class Lounge located on the terminal’s fifth floor.
I expected the oneworld lounge to be as nice as the Cathay premium lounge was a few years ago: spacious, quiet, with a wide selection of food from which we could choose, I could not have been more disappointed.
The oneworld First Class Lounge was long, narrow, crowded, and very loud. It was so crowded that I didn’t think my wife and I would be able to find a place to sit together, but we walked the length of the club and were fortunate to find two seats together. We were not impressed. But ten minutes later an announcement was made that a Qantas flight to Australia was leaving and with that the club quickly emptied.
We spent a few hours in the lounge then made the very long walk across the terminal to get our Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 1:30 a.m. Shortly before 1:00 they began the boarding process, taking the passengers in wheelchairs to the jetway. My wife and I were among the first people on the line for Business Class seating. At 1:15 I noticed the wheelchair passengers were still at the end of the jetway, and no one else had been called to board. Could they load the plane in just 15 minutes?
No, they could not. At 1:20, ten minutes before departure, they announced the flight would be delayed because it did not have a Second Officer: new departure time was 3:30. An audible groan went up from the hundreds of people waiting to board the plane. I found it to be odd: was it 10 minutes before departure when they finally realized they had no Second Officer?
My wife and I talked about returning to the oneworld lounge, but it was such a long walk back that we decided to stay in the gate area. Cathay did the best it could to make the situation better. There were frequent announcements updating the situation. They offered free refreshments: cookies, chips, water, warm soda. The passengers greeted those refreshments as if they were part of an emergency food mission to a country full of starving people — they made such a commotion trying to get at the refreshments that we decided to pass on them.
At 2:15 I suggested to the gate agent that he allow First Class and Business passengers to board so that we could at least get some sleep at our seats. He did not think that was as good an idea as I did. He did announce that a Second Officer was coming in from San Diego, and as soon as he called and said he was 45 minutes away from the airport, they would begin the boarding process. Just a few moments later that call came through, we started to board, and took off at 3:00 a.m., 1½ hours late.
Cathay Pacific Business Class is wonderful! We each had our own individual mini-compartment with a seat that would lie-flat to give us a chance to sleep. The flight attendants are personable, always smiling, anxious to help, and always addressed me by name.
There are two Business Class sections on the 777-300ER. One section is near the center of the aircraft, 12 rows with 4 seats in each row for a total of 48 passengers. The other section is directly behind First Class and has only two rows of seats, for a total of eight passengers. This is where my wife and I were seated, almost in our own private world, with only six other passengers in our area.
My wife fell asleep shortly after we took off, but I stayed up to eat dinner, then took advantage of the lie-flat seat, pillow, and down comforter, to sleep for 4-5 hours. When I woke up I had time to read from my Kindle, listen to some podcasts and music on my iPhone, and then eat breakfast.
We landed at Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific has a camera beneath the fuselage of their aircraft, passengers can watch it at their seat. This is our landing at Hong Kong.
I had hoped to spend some time at the Cathay Pacific First Class lounge in HKG, but we were so late on our arrival that we could only go to our departure gate. We came in at gate 21, I looked at the departure screen — it said we were leaving from gate 33, so we started to walk towards that gate. I soon noticed something odd: we were the ONLY people walking in that direction and the two moving sidewalks were both going in the opposite direction from us. I figured out the problem when I read a sign under the departure screen; we were in the arrival terminal and had to get to the departure terminal.
Now the only flights that HKG has are international flights, no local ones. But no difference. We still had to take a train to the other side of the airport and then clear security again. By the time we got to our gate we had barely 10 minutes to spare before our departure.
We boarded our flight and saw how much less upscale our flight was. We had gone from international business class, 4 seats across, to regional business class with 7 seats across. Seats reclined but did not go flat, and instead of sharing a cabin with 6 others, we had more than 60 people in the cabin with us.
The flight went smoothly except for the air conditioning. When we were an hour out of HKG many people in our area were using their magazines to fan themselves. We complained to the flight attendant who said she would do what she could to lower the temperature. She was able to get it a little bit cooler, but it never become comfortable.
We landed at the Ngurah Rai International Airport at Denpasar, Bali, and immediately realized we had arrived in a third-world nation. The arrivals area is old, run down, with no air conditioning.
The fist thing we had to do was wait on a very long line to buy our entrance visa, $25 per person. Then we went to the immigration line which was even longer than the line for the visa. All this in a crowded terminal without air conditioning.
The Shakedown, Part I
As we were waiting on this intolerably long line for immigration, an airport security person, in uniform, came up to me and said he could take us to the front of the line. Great, what a friendly gesture! But then he added we would have to pay him an extra $40 per person for him to do this. Again, this was a government official in uniform asking me for the bribe! I told him no. Can you imagine what would happen if a TSA agent asked for a bribe like that? Interestingly, a friend flew in the following day and agreed to pay the bribe, but he was only charged $20. I might have said yes at that price.
We eventually got through the immigration line then had to get our bags and go through the customs line. Several attendants grabbed our bags from the luggage carousel and headed off with them. They get us through security (yes, we had to have our bags scanned and go through a metal-detector to get INTO the country.) When we were done, I had to tip the guys to get our bags back.
When we finally left the terminal, the ride to the hotel was waiting for us: they met us with cold bottles of water, and drove us to the hotel. We may have been tired after the long flight, but the ride to the hotel certainly woke us up! I could never drive here. They drive on what we Americans would call the wrong side of the road (like I did without trouble in Ireland a few years ago) but it seems that almost everyone here rides motorcycles. They pass on the left. They pass on the right. I saw them go on the sidewalk to get past traffic congestion! They cut us off countless times, I had no idea how we were not in an accident. The driver of our van put it very well when he said the motorcycle drivers did not follow the traffic laws, which meant it took “great instinct and imagination to drive here.”
Watch this video: we’re on a two lane street, and our van is in one of the lanes — look at how many other lanes the cars and motorcycles create, and note that the motorcycles go on the sidewalk to get past the congestion,.
After a 25-minute ride we arrived at our hotel, the beautiful Bali Hyatt in Sanur. More about that in the next post.
Finally, some positive news for American Airlines! It was announced yesterday that Qatar Airways will be joining the oneworld® alliance — it will take 12 to 18 months for the process to be completed. You can get the full details here.
I’m excited by this because it will give me, as an AAdvantage member, access to one of the top airlines in the world. Qatar was named Airline of the Year for the past two years by the Skytrax independent airline quality rating agency. Its premium service ranks it as one of the top three or four airlines in the world. It also has a very modern fleet.
According to their press release, “Fifteen of its destinations and three countries – Iran, Rwanda and the Seychelles – will be new to the oneworld map.” Three new countries for me!
- Iran – let’s go visit their nuclear plants! Actually, let’s not.
- Rwanda – no, not on my bucket list
- Seychelles – Starwood and Hilton have some beautiful properties on these islands located north of Madagascar, east of Kenya and Somalia. I ignored them in the past since none of the oneworld airlines served the Seychelles. Now, I may look at it as a future vacation destination.
Qatar Airway’s home base is Doha: I had a short 36-hour layover in Doha a few years ago and would not mind going back for a longer stay. My wife has suggested many times that it might be a good mileage run for me, particularly if I can bring back some more jewelry for her, the prices were that good!
I welcome Qatar Airways to oneworld, and look forward to flying with them in the future.
Here is more information from the press release.
About Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways was launched in 1997 and quickly established itself as one of the world’s fastest growing and highest quality airlines.
Besides being named Skytrax’s Airline of the Year for the past two years, it is also the organisation’s Best Middle East Airline for the seventh year running and has retained Skytrax’s Five Star ranking since 2004. Other recent awards won include Business Traveler USA’s Best Airline for International Travel and Aviation Business’ Airline of the Year 2011.
It boarded 15 million passengers in 2011, generating group revenues of US$ 6.4 billion.
Qatar Airways, which uses the two-letter code QR, has one of the world’s youngest fleets. It currently operates 111 aircraft, with an average age of four years, including 26 Boeing 777s, four Airbus A340-600s, 29 Airbus A330s and 44 Airbus A320 family types. It has orders and options for more than 250 more aircraft, worth more than US$ 50 billion, for delivery over the next few years. These include 13 Airbus A380-800s, 80 Airbus A350s, 60 Boeing 787s and 80 Airbus A320neos.
Qatar Airways is 50 per cent owned by the State of Qatar and 50 per cent by private shareholders.
Travel is good. Free travel is better. Free travel on one of the world’s finest airlines with air and hotel included is just about as good as it gets.
Cathay Pacific is marking one year of service from Chicago to Hong Kong with the Walking on Air sweepstakes.
The Grand Prize Winner will receive a premium vacation package for two (2) to Hong Kong. Vacation package includes:
- Two (2) Roundtrip Economy Class tickets from any of Cathay’s US Gateways (San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago) or Canadian Gateways (Toronto and Vancouver) to Hong Kong.
- Five (5) nights stay at J Plus Boutique Hotel, courtesy of Tablet
- A private, guided tour to our museum at Cathay City to see the fashion featured on our Walking On Air runway show.
- Two (2) $150 vouchers for a dream jetsetter wardrobe for two, provided by Rent The Runway.
- One month subscription to Birchbox.
I’ve entered, you should too! Visit their site to enter the sweepstakes. Good Luck!
We’re two-thirds of the way through 2012, and I must say it has been a pretty good AAdvantage year for me.
I’ve earned Executive Platinum status through February 2014.
I’ve used many of those miles to purchase a trip for later in the year when my wife and I will visit Bali, Indonesia. We’ll fly First Class on American Airlines from Austin to Los Angeles, then Business Class on a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER to Hong Kong. Then we’ll again fly Business Class on Cathay to Bali. This flight was originally on a 747-400 and we were seated upstairs. But Cathay, like many other airlines, is starting to ground the 747-400 to reduce costs. So now we are on a “regional” 777-200.
The difference between this plane and our LAX-HKG plane is that the 777-300ER is a three-class aircraft (First, Business, and Economy), and business class seating is only four seats across per aisle; it is Cathay’s most luxurious aircraft. We’ll be in a forward section of the plane that only has two rows for a total of eight passengers.
The 777-200 is a two-class aircraft (Business and Economy), and business class is seven seats across per aisle. In other words, while it will be nice, it will not be as luxurious as the 777-300ER is or the 747-400 would have been. I’m sorry that we won’t be on the 747 for that flight, it may have been our last opportunity to fly on one of the most iconic aircraft of the 20th century. Japan Airlines, British Air, and Cathay Pacific are just some of the airlines that are grounding the 747-400 in place of more fuel efficient aircraft. Boeing has launched the 747-800, but so far only Lufthansa has ordered the aircraft for passenger service (several companies have ordered it as a freighter). Since Lufthansa is not a Oneworld partner with American Airlines, the chance of me flying with them is very small.
And that’s it for me for the rest of the year. I don’t have any other trips planned, no mileage runs on the calendar. What a difference from earlier in the year when I was flying so much!
I’ve looked for some 2012 mileage runs, but have not found many good deals. With that I have decided it make more sense for me to put my into flying and re-qualifying for elite status next year. I’ve seen some January-February R/Ts to Seattle for $235 which is good, but certainly not great. I may book some of those as we get later in the year if I can’t find anything better. I’ve looked at Flyertalk.com and seen some interesting deals (Honolulu to Chicago to Helsinki, Finland and back) but not found any that I can get to work from Austin.
I’ll keep looking, something is bound to show up. However, I think AA is probably holding off on any special deals until it emerges from bankruptcy and possibly merges with another airlines.
Disclaimer: I own stock in AMR Corp, the parent of American Airlines. The total value of my holdings is less than $90.