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About joeaf

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  1. True, Qatar was voted the best overall and Biz class airline in the 2017 SKYTRAX rating, but Etihad was the top rated airline for First class. While the overall rating results provide one view of the “Best” airline, I look at the SKYTRAX awards based on the class I am flying, then look at the rating for the categories within the class, i.e. for First and Biz, Overall, Lounge, Lounge dining, Seat, Catering, and Amenities. For Economy, SKYTRAX awards rates the airline for only 3 categories, i.e. Overall, Seat, and Catering. Qatar was not rated in the top 10 for the Economy awards in any of the 3 categories.
  2. joeaf

    Anyone got upgraded?

    I have been upgraded twice from Biz to First on Korean (KE) ICN-HKT even when the KE Biz ticket was obtained using Delta FF miles. Once, the FA asked me to change seats so a couple could sit together, then FA moved me to First. The second time, I was given a different seat at check-in and when I said that was not my pre-assigned seat, the agent said it was a better seat, then I realized the seat was in First and I quickly shut up and said thank you. Free upgrades are harder to come by today because airlines are trying sell these perks and boost their bottom line rather than giving it away for free. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/16/business/flight-upgrades-much-harder-to-secure-even-for-elite-travelers.html?_r=0
  3. joeaf

    Bell bus BKK to Patts

    I don’t blame Bell or Thais for the pay in advance change, but blame no-show passengers. In Oct 2012, I took the Bell bus service from Don Muang to Pattaya when it was pay as you go. I arrived at Don Muang and was met by the Bell bus representative, but we had to wait for 2 more passengers. We waited about 1.5 hours for these 2 no-show passengers. Eventually, Bell stopped service from Don Muang, but no-shows may have led to its pay in advance system.
  4. joeaf

    Non-stop flight Vs Direct flight !

    Direct flights have the same flight #, you do not change planes, but can include a stop. For example, flight #001 can be both a direct and non-stop flight going from points A-B-C. Between points A-B, flight #001 is a non-stop, but between points A-B-C, flight #001 is a direct flight with a stop at point B, but no change of planes. Both flight # are the same. Some FF airline promotions can be based on # of flight segments you fly. Direct flights (points A-B-C) count as one segment even though they include a stop.
  5. joeaf

    Economy vs Business class

    For me, Business class (BC) is the only way to travel from USA to Thailand The 24+ travel time, comfort level, lounges, booze, extra room, and relaxing conditions makes BC travel a treat to look forward to. I fly BC using AA FF miles which cost only 2x coach. Prior to March 2016, AA miles for a RT USA-Thailand was 110K for BC and 60K for coach. Now, using AA miles, its 140K and 70k for the same trip in BC and coach. The extra FF miles is well spent and I look forward to starting and ending my vacation in BC, and it was the worst part of my vacation when flying in coach which I dreaded. I would not vacation in Thailand if I had to fly coach.
  6. joeaf

    Upgraded to Windows 10

    Win 10 upgrade I finally upgraded my laptop and my desktop from Win7 to Win10, but both upgrades were not without problems. My laptop had the least problems, but I had to install/reinstall Win10 twice because my fingerprint recognition software conflicted w/Win10 causing the password login screen to flicker and making it impossible to enter my password. Another minor Win10 problem was Win10 sometimes would not completely shut down, but remained on and drained my battery. My desktop was more problematic. Even though my old CPU was an AMD Athlon 64 x2 4800, Win10 said my CPU did not support the CompareExchange128 and the CMPXCHG16b instructions, so I rebuilt my desktop with a new MB, CPU, and RAM. After I upgraded to Win10, I had these problems with Win10 which I finally resolved. NumLock key would be off on boot up. CPU fans would not turn off in sleep mode. all files on HD made read only. Win10 would randomly freeze resulting in a hard reboot. This turned out to be a NVIDIA driver issue and I had to use the Wagnard Display Driver Uninstaller to completely wipe out all old NVIDIA drivers, then install the latest driver. I decided to upgrade to Win10 because it was free upgrade except for my new hardware parts which cost me less than $500. Previously, in 2005, I spent about $3,000 on this new desktop with some expensive parts and I wanted to reuse as many parts as possible. But this time I bought cheap replacement parts because I had an end of life issue with drivers for my old expensive video card. The Win7 extended life support will end on 14Jan 2020 or in about 3.5 yrs, and the Win10 extended life support will end on 14Oct 2025 or in about 9.25 yrs. I am glad I got through this painful process and for others who are thinking about the upgrade, the Win10 free upgrade ends 29Jul 2016.
  7. joeaf

    Safe money....

    Since 1999-2013, I also brought AMX travelers checks (TC) to Thailand, but in Dec 2013 AMX closed their two travel offices in the DC area and I lost my free AMX TC source. I searched the DC area for $500 denomination TC, but I only found one money exchange place in DC that carried the $500 denomination TC, but it was not economical because their fee to purchase the TC and the Thailand fee to cash the TC was too costly. I did find many other places that carried the $100 denomination TC, but then the Thailand fees to cash the $100 TC made this option too costly In 2014, I gave up on TC and switched to the Schwab debit card based on the many favorable comments it received and it has satisfactorily replaced the TC. I also bring a backup PenFed debit card just in case.
  8. Arrived 23:00 (11:00 PM) on 11Oct 2015, but I waited 1hr to clear immigrations after midnight because I wanted my passport stamped as entering Thailand on 12Oct 2015. At 12:05 AM, no immigrations que, and I had my choice of desks to pick from.
  9. joeaf

    Bringing "food" home (UK) ??

    Once I tried to bring back to the USA some sealed packaged dried beef jerky snack from MBK or Jatujak, and it was confiscated due to possible mad cow disease.
  10. joeaf

    Dallas has a new flight option

    The JL return trip is a problem since you cannot make the convenient same day BKK-NRT-DFW connection on JL. This problem resulted from the 2014 JL change when it used to operate two flights between NRT and BKK, but switched the evening flight to BKK-HND. (I had a 2014 booking on the BKK-NRT-ORD-DCA evening flight and had to change my travel plans.) Now there is only one JL flight BKK-NRT departing in the morning, arriving NRT in the afternoon and most of the JL NRT-USA flights have departed (except JFK, LAX, HNL). Your option is to overnight it at NRT or take the AA partner flight NRT-DFW in the evening, but this does not meet your single carrier preference. Alternatively, you could take the evening JL BKK-HND flight then switch airports HND-NRT, but I would rather switch carriers (JL-AA) than switch airports (HND-NRT) in Japan. In 2015, JL won the Skytrax award for the best economy class seat, but was not in the top 10 for the best economy class airline or catering. Qatar appears to be a better choice since it was in the top 10 in all 3 economy class categories, while Emirates was only in the top 10 in one of the economy class categories. http://www.worldairlineawards.com/Awards/best_economy_class_airlines.html
  11. joeaf

    US citizens can bypass customs

    I applied for the Global Entry program in 2014 only because the airline changed my return flight from BKK leaving me a 2:05 hr connection at Chicago to clear Immigrations/Customs and change terminals to make my connecting flight. So far, I used the Global Entry twice returning to the USA through Toronto and Chicago. Both times I had problems with the fingerprinting because I was not pressing hard enough on kiosk glass to verify my fingerprints against my passport so the kiosk message said go through the normal Immigrations/Customs line. But I was persistent and it finally accepted my fingerprints after several tries, then I breezed through immigrations/customs. I am still learning the rules with the GE program and when returning to the USA from BKK, my boarding pass did not have the required TSA Pre✓indicator so in Chicago, I had to remove my shoes, belt, computer, and go through the body scanners. Based upon my 2 experiences, I am satisfied with the GE program since it does save time and can sometimes avoid the security checkpoint hassles in the USA.
  12. joeaf

    2014 Resolution - Delta status

    I don’t think Delta (DL) is pulling a fast one since DL has restricted international First Class (FC) awards on all partner airlines for several years. I know that the Korean (KE) FC restriction became effective on 1/1/2006 because I tried booking a FC award trip USA-BKK on 12/31/2005, but my award booking failed because the agent imputed the wrong connecting Korean airport (SEL vs ICN). It’s not easy keeping up with the airline award rule changes and findings ways to earn miles. After the 2006 rule change, you must use KE miles (not DL miles) or transfer Chase Sapphire Ultimate Rewards points to KE miles for FC award travel on KE. I usually fly USA-BKK in Business class (BC), and few times in FC and Economy. BC is good enough, and FC is extravagant. I have flown 6 BC trips on KE and my only complaint with KE is their thimble size wine glasses. KE got me back to the USA on 11/20/2009 when the protesters shut down both Bangkok airports, and KE flew me from U-Tapao airport in BC on an award ticket and I arrived back in the USA only 12 hrs later than my scheduled arrival time.
  13. joeaf

    2014 Resolution - Delta status

    Why not switch to AA/Oneworld since DFW is AA’s main hub? With AA/Oneworld miles, you could fly on Qatar via DFW-DOH-BKK for 135k miles (BC) or 180k miles (FC). Alternatively, Cathay, another AA/Oneworld partner requires 110k miles (BC) or 135k miles (FC), but you would have to connect through Hong Kong and LAX, SFO, ORD, JFK, or BOS. AA will probably raise their BC/FC miles required in the future to match Star Alliance and Skyteam award mileage requirements, but right now the 110k miles for BC on Cathay is a good deal. For BC from US-BKK, Star Alliance now requires 160k miles and Sky team requires 140k miles.
  14. joeaf

    2014 Resolution - Delta status

    In my opinion, the added benefits of FC are better: seat, lounge, booze, food, and luggage/other, and FC is not worth it if I am paying $$$, but if paying w/miles, yes it worth it (at old FC mileage rate), but FC is not necessary. Business class (BC) has improved significantly in recent years with competition forcing airlines to add fully lie flat (180 degrees) BC seats for long haul flights. Seat- FC has bigger fully lie flat seats (180 degrees), whereas most BC seats are moving toward fully lie-flat seats, but some still have angle lie flat seats (170 degrees) where you can slide down the seat while sleeping. FC adds an extra padding to the seat/bed to make it more comfortable for sleeping, whereas BC has no extra padding but perfectly acceptable. Lounge-The best airport lounge belongs to the largest airline of that airport, e.g. for BKK it is Thai, for Narita it will be JL or NH, for for Frankfurt it will be Lufthansa, so try to fly that airline when departing (not arriving) that airport to get the most out of the FC lounge. Leaving BKK on Star Alliance FC entitles you use the Thai Royal FC lounge, but to get the 1 hour free massage in the Royal Orchid Spa you must be flying Thai FC. Flying on Thai BC gets you 30 min free massage in the Royal Orchid Spa. No massage if flying FC or BC on Star Alliance partner. FC allows you to guest 1 person to the lounge (not the Spa), while BC has no guest privileges, but Star Alliance Gold can guest 1 person to BC lounge. If you look on flyertalk.com under any airline, there is a usually a “Lounge Meet Thread” where people will post the date and time they will be at the FC or BC lounge and offer to guest someone into the lounge. So even if you are flying in the back of the bus w/o lounge access, you can get lucky and gain access to a FC or BC lounge and sample the luxuries.The link below is the Thai “Lounge Meet Thread” for Thailand. http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/thai-airways-royal-orchid-plus/1081767-bkk-other-thailand-lounge-meet-thread-18.html Food-FC serves food on demand whenever you want to eat, whereas BC serves on a scheduled feeding time for all BC passengers. In FC, you’ll never be hungry since there are so many entrees, snacks and desserts to choose. Booze- FC gets you Krug champagne ($175/bottle) and caviar on Cathay and ANA on long haul flights and Dom Perignon on Thai, and some lesser quality champagne in BC. For scotch drinkers, FC on KE has JW Blue label on board and ANA FC has Suntory Hibiki 21 yrs and Ballantine’s Limited on board. Thai Royal FC lounge has 21 yr Royal Salute. The BA FC lounge at JFK has Glenlivet 18 yr scotch and the BC lounge has Glenlivet 15 yr scotch. Luggage/Other-FC entitles you to check more bags, e.g. ANA FC allows 3 bags 70lb each, BC 2 bags 70lb each, and economy 1 bag at 50 lb. In both FC and BC, your bags are tagged with priority labels, so when you arrive at your destination they are first on the luggage carousel. Also, in both FC and BC when arriving/leaving BKK, there is a priority immigration where the lines are shorter and wait times minimal. In FC, you’re first on/off the plane, and when returning to the US, and provided no other flight arrived before yours, you will be first in line at customs. In both FC and BC, I had minimal wait times to get my luggage and to clear immigration/customs when arriving/departing Thailand and returning to the US thanks to this priority feature.
  15. joeaf

    2014 Resolution - Delta status

    The April 2013 FTU in DC that I attended sold out months in advance with the largest attendance of 600 people so they plan to cap the Seattle FTU at 400 people to better able to get to know people, build relationships, share tips with other attendees. If you’re planning to attend, be sure to include the Friday evening which is not an actual seminar but a cocktail hour and get to know people. I had a conflict on Fri, so I attended only the formal Sat & Sun sessions. A buffet sandwich lunch was included with the fee on Sat & Sun to ensure the sessions run on time. The DC seminar had a variety of sessions, general sessions for all attendees and concurrent breakout sessions where you pick the session. Also, they have a raffle where you buy tickets, then on Sun afternoon they give away a tons FF prizes for charity, some junk and some worthwhile stuff, i.e. FC amenity kits, FC PJs, Hyatt Diamond membership, airline System Wide upgrades, Airline Club passes, etc. I was not aware of the raffle, so I missed out on a chance to win a prize. I learned a lot and I am better able to use my miles for my trips to Thailand. Yes, I agree that it is hard to initially find dates with saver awards, but not impossible and it takes some effort to get a good itinerary. For example, I booked a FC one-way saver award using 70,000 UA miles and got a BC/FC ticket on ANA/UA BKK-NRT-ORD-DCA. Not exactly what I wanted, but I got FC on the long haul portion (NRT-ORD) of my trip. BKK-NRT (ANA) was in BC since ANA does not have FC on this route, NRT-ORD (ANA) was in the new FC suite, and ORD-DCA (UA) in domestic FC. After this initial booking, I switched BKK-NRT from ANA to Thai in BC, then I switched Thai BC to FC on Thai A380. Then, I switched NRT-ORD-DCA (ANA/UA) to the ANA old style FC on the direct NRT-IAD flight. It required some effort and took several months of checking the UA website, but when Thai and ANA released the FC seat I wanted, I snagged it. I flew FC BKK-NRT-IAD on Dec 17-18, 2013, and the flights, FC lounge, seats, food, booze, and service were great. With hindsight, I was able to book FC myself using 70,000 miles, whereas after 2/1/2014 it would cost me 130,000 UA miles to fly FC one-way on these partner airlines. I believe the FF gurus at FTU who know the rules can get you a decent itinerary but they charge a fee ($150 I think) for this service. But like Rinzler, I have dreamed of flying FC and I have been successful 2 times between US-Thailand. Its getting harder and costing more to fly FC, but that is one reason I went to FTU.