Category: Uncategorized

Review: Vistara A320 New Delhi to Mumbai (Economy)

I have been excited for Vistara since the day it was announced as a TATA-SIA combine airline. Like most avid flyers in the country, the sad demise of Kingfisher had left a gaping hole at the premium end of the market and Vistara promised to fill that and how.

Related: Is Vistara’s Premium Economy worth it?

I was eager to the inaugural flight on 9th of January, but my birthday on the same day would have made me miss the opportunity. So on 1st of January 2015 I finally decided to do the next best thing; Fly Vistara on its first full day of operations, on 10th January, and even fly a return segment on premium economy to understand the product differentiation from a passenger’s PoV better.

My Vistara Booking & Online Check-in Experience

In the first few hours of 2015, I decided to log in to Vistara’s booking engine and book a return ticket to Mumbai, on 10th January. The itinerary was:

DEL-BOM at 0725 hours, on UK943 in Economy, and

BOM-DEL at 1745 hours, on UK996 in Premium Economy

I was able to snag a super saver in the DEL-BOM segment, but after couple of mis-attempts, the seats got blocked and I decided to call the Vistara helpline for booking. The agent sounded eager to help but wasn’t able to un-block the super seats even after I explained him the entire situation. I decided to hang up and try again in the morning. The next morning, I went online and lo & behold, those super saver seats were back. Again, Vistara’s booking engine couldn’t process my transaction (my CC was working perfectly on other websites) so I decided to call the helpline again before the other remaining seat also got blocked or bought.

The agent was different this time but equally clueless. I understand that Vistara was just getting off the blocks but having untrained agents on the phone, who weren’t able to understand a simple situation, struck me as strange. After many minutes of back and forth, and couple of conversations with his colleagues, he finally booked the exact seats I wanted, in the fare class I was looking for. and I successfully used the same credit card on the IVR booking. Phew!!!

If my @airvistara experience will be anything like my booking experience, I’m going to be seriously underwhelmed. Poor initial impressions.

— Vishal Mehra (@SimpliVishal) January 1, 2015

 

Exactly 48 hours before my flight, accurate to the minute, I received an email for Vistara, telling me that the check-in for my flight was now open, and I’m welcome to select my seat and a special meal, if required. The airvistara.com link on that email strangely took me to a parked domain, airlinesite.com and not Vistara’s own site or check-in page.

Vistara check-in email, and the spammy link.

Vistara check-in email, and the spammy link.

Common sense would tell you that the person responsible for execution of such emails forgot to change the placeholder (thus airline site dot com). For a “premium” and yet-to-be-launched airline, in a crowded low-margin industry, this was a shocking and glaring error.

To say, I had a rocky start to my Vistara experience, would be quite appropriate. Not the “New Feeling” I was promised certainly.

Vistara 943

New Delhi IGI, Terminal 3 (DEL) – Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Terminal 2 (BOM)

Saturday, January 10th

Departure: 07:22 hours (3 minutes early)

Arrival: 09:25 hours (15 minutes early)

Aircraft: Airbus A320

Seat: 14A

Waking up at 5 am on cold Saturday morning, only so I could experience what Vistara had to offer, made me wonder if I was bordering on madness. Nonetheless, as I made my way to the airport, the first positive sign came from the skies. Delhi is infamous for fog disrupting aircraft movement in winters and this seemed like a clear day so far. I reached the airport at 0635 hours and proceeded to the empty check-in counters of Vistara. Everybody offered warm smiles and were quick to help out. There were newspapers on the desk, but no chocolates, unlike the opening day 🙂

Vistara check-in counters at Delhi T3

Vistara check-in counters at Delhi T3

Not many people fly on Saturday mornings and that was visible in the Security hold area as well. It took me just 5 minutes to clear it as I made my way to the gate. I was hungry and looking at flight boards, Vistara 943 had no “Last call” signs, so I made a quick hop to the American Express Platinum Lounge. After a round of early morning muffins and cakes, I made my way to the gate, and was there by 06:55 hours. Boarding was yet to start and passengers were hanging around the beautifully decorate gate area.

Vistara Gate - Delhi T3

Vistara Gate – Delhi T3

At exactly 0700 hours, boarding started with a call to Business class passengers, and those travelling with infants, young children. There was no special announcement for premium economy passengers and boarding was resumed with row-wise calls. As I made my way to the aero bridge, I spotted the aircraft connected to the bridge.

Vistara VT-TTB at Gate 37 Delhi T3

Vistara VT-TTB at Gate 37 Delhi T3

Passengers were welcomed by three flight attendants upon boarding. As I made my way to my cattle class seat, I was able to snag couple of pictures in the Business class section, where the seats looked comfortable with pillows and leg support in tow, and Premium Economy section, which looked like Economy, with additional seat pitch. I’ll be reviewing that in my return leg.

Vistara A320 Business class seats

Vistara A320 Business class seats

Vistara A320 Premium Economy seats

Vistara A320 Premium Economy seats

I was seated by the wing, on seat 14A . My first impressions of the seat were positive as it looked good, and despite being a slimline seat, looked sufficiently comfortable for a 2 hour flight. All Vistara seats are upholstered in leather.

Vistara Economy class seats

Vistara Economy class seats

As I settled down, the first observation was complete lack of any IFE (In-flight Entertainment) on the aircraft. Not just in economy, but also no IFE in Premium Economy or Business Class. For an airline, which has been built on the USP of a Premium product, offering above and beyond what other existing airlines are offering, with the tagline “Fly the New Feeling“, this seemed like a glaring absence.

Nobody knows if Vistara will offer streaming entertainment on PEDs later, but for now this is quite shocking to me at least. For the record, some of Air India’s A320s have personal seat back IFE, and as Jet Airways also deputes some of its A330s to domestic trunk routes, they also offer personal seat back entertainment.

Vistara Economy - No seat back IFE

Vistara Economy – No seat back IFE

The economy class offers 30 inches of seat pitch, like all other operators and I found the legroom sufficient. I also took a liking to the extra shiny chrome seat belt buckles, they were surely a new feeling as compared to other airlines, which offer them in matte finish 🙂

Vistara Economy Legroom

Vistara Economy Legroom

Vistara shiny chrome seat belts

Vistara’s shiny new seat belts

All the seats also offer a nifty coat hook tag, which I thought was a nice touch, and especially useful in winter months.

Vistara Economy - Personal seat coat hook

Vistara Economy – Personal seat coat hook

The cabin service for economy was started with a bottle of water. The captain soon came on the PA to welcome us aboard, informed us of the flight duration and the expected weather conditions in Mumbai. The seat back also had an english newspaper, safety card and a copy of Vistara magazine.

Vistara economy - Water bottle

Vistara economy – Water bottle

We started pushing back at 07:22 hours and the cabin manager, Shelly, welcomed all the passengers again.

Vistara - View over wing from seat 14a

Vistara – View over wing from seat 14A

As we were pushing back, I got curious and decided to check the flight loads. Looked pretty empty to me, with about 35% occupancy across the cabins. Probably the Saturday early morning effect I mentioned earlier.

Vistara Economy cabin - mostly empty

Vistara Economy cabin – mostly empty

Did I mention that the middle seat in my row was empty? In fact barring just one row, everybody in the aircraft seemed to have an empty middle seat. Oh the joys!

We took of at 07:36 hours and as we ascended above the foggy conditions of Delhi, the view above the clouds, with a bright sun made up for the lack of IFE.

Vistara 890 - Delhi take off views

Vistara 943 – Delhi take off views

Eight minutes into the flight, the attendants segregated the cabins and the meal service was started at exactly 07:59 hours, about 23 minutes in. We were offered two options between the Paneer Tikka/Uttapam (Vegetarian) combo and Masala akuri on an English muffin, with Chicken nuggets. I chose the latter.

The breakfast was served in a box,a long with fresh fruits, a bun, curd, butter, mixed jam and the choice of Main. Cutlery was plastic, and I must mention that at no point in the flight I was addressed with my name, as some passengers experienced on the inaugural flight. I don’t know if that was a limited practice, only to impress the first lot.

Vistara Economy Box Breakfast

Vistara Economy Breakfast Box

I personally feel that serving any fried food on a flight, on any flight, is always most tricky. It usually is never crisp, like it is intended to be, and most often gets soggy, like the way I got it. The Akuri was slightly confusing at first but after first few spoons, grew on to me. I liked the flavours. It had, what seemed to me, a mixture of scrambled eggs, pulses and fine tomatoes. The Flight attendants were unable to explain the dish to me. Overall, I appreciate the difference brought in to the usual staid catering in domestic flights.

However, if you have read my last reviews, especially of the Jet flight to Jammu, I always have serious reservations about the condiments offered in airline food. The butter offered to us was Amul and perfectly satisfactory. But the mixed jam, although FSSAI certified, wasn’t of a reputable brand, and I chose to completely avoid it.

Vistara Economy - Mixed jam

Vistara Economy – Mixed jam

Post meal, we were offered tea/coffee, but as usual I respectfully declined it. Unlike the inaugural flights, we weren’t offered any dessert/premium ice cream. By this time I decided to browse the magazine and found it well designed, with couple of interesting pieces about the history of Tata Group in Aviation, as well as how SIA got its wings.

Vistara Magazine

Vistara Magazine

I had about 15 minutes of shuteye, before our descent into Mumbai started at 08:45 hours. I found the crew professional and courteous. Sheena and Divya, who were serving my part of the cabin did a very good job. We touched down in Mumbai at 09:14 hours. The Captain came on PA to thank us again, and informed us about the sunny weather of Mumbai at 22 degrees. Because Vistara’s home at Mumbai is the brand new Terminal 2, it took us a while to reach the gate.

Mumbai Terminal 2 ATC

Mumbai Terminal 2 ATC

On the way to the gate, two of Vistara’s industry friends were remotely parked, and gave us an earful as we went past them 😉

Indigo and Jet Airways at Mumbai Airport

Indigo and Jet Airways at Mumbai Airport

We also taxied past the Cargo terminal and I was able to spot Etihad and FedEx aircraft.

Etihad Cargo and FedEx at Mumbai Cargo Terminal

Etihad Cargo and FedEx at Mumbai Cargo Terminal

Passengers were also told about their baggage on the conveyor belt #2 before de-boarding, which I thought was again a nice and helpful touch.

Vistara A320 at Mumbai T2 Gate

Vistara A320 at Mumbai T2 Gate

Mumbai T2 Arrival Hall - Baggage claim

Mumbai T2 Arrival Hall – Baggage claim

How would I rate my Vistara Economy experience? Frankly nothing too special to write home about, especially considering Jet Airways & Air India won’t let Vistara walk all over them in terms of passenger experience. If priced & scheduled right, I would definitely consider being on a Vistara flight again.

But hang on for the final word, as I write about my Vistara Premium Economy experience very soon.

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Heather Poole

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2 

Since this series is as much about Aviation, as it is about travel, Its only fitting that Heather Poole, one of the most recognized #AvGeek on twitter, makes an appearance. Besides being the first lady, she will also be the first airline employee of the series, giving us a first hand inside look into the industry from her perspective.

Heather Poole has been working for a major US airline for over 18 years as Cabin crew and is a regular globetrotter. Her list of accomplishments also include a NY Times bestseller called “Cruising Altitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 feet”. Apart from that she also writes regularly for Gadling.com with her column called “Galley Gossip” and runs a pretty interesting blog too.

Excerpts from our chat below:Heather Poole - GlobeTrotters on Twitter

  • First things first, what motivated you to travel, and become a flight attendant?

Heather – When I finally realised life was about amazing moments and new experiences, I knew what I wanted to do. I’ve been a flight attendant for almost 18 years now.

  • As a flight attendant you often have a first hand view of people traveling to and back from their trips. What has been some of your most memorable travel and flight experiences?

Heather – My favourite trips tend to be the ones that were totally unplanned. I’ll never forget deciding at the last minute to hit the road with a colleague from work on a Friday afternoon. This was almost twenty years ago when I worked a regular 9-5 job on the ground. We drove from McAllen, Texas to Monterrey, Mexico for the weekend. We ate goat (a first), listened to guitar music under the stars, spent the night in a cottage on a mountain, and woke up early the next morning in the clouds. As a flight attendant, the nicest and most memorable layovers for me have more to do more with the people I meet than anything else. Once we landed late Christmas Eve in Bermuda. The man who picked us up at the airport and drove us to the hotel every week invited the entire crew over to his house on Christmas day for dinner. It was such a nice thing to do. This after having spent many Christmas dinners stuck at an overpriced hotel buffet.

  • We know you work for a major American airline, do you have a favourite airline, if you’re allowed to answer this question 😉

Heather – Can I say my airline? I mean come on, they hired me! (After our competition didn’t.) I can’t tell you which carrier I work for because I’d like to keep my job, but it’s one of the big ones. And with that I’d like to thank all the frequent fliers who’ve helped me keep my secret. It’s got to be the worst best-kept secret in the world.

Also, I hear Cathay is pretty freakin nice. One day I’ll fly on them.

  • Any preferred airport? 

Heather – My favourite airport is Miami.  Not to be confused with my favourite route!  Because the NY-Miami is my least favourite route in the system. But as far as good food and people watching goes, you can’t beat Miami.

  • And what about your favourite aircraft type? I bet it will be a Boeing 😉

Heather – Yep, I’m going to be sad to see the 767 go.  I’ve worked that aircraft more than any of our other wide-body airplanes. I guess you could say I feel most at home on it.

  • And I have read in one of your other interviews, that you’re fond of 777s as well. In all your worldwide travels, which has been your favourite city to travel to?

Heather – Anywhere we have a long layover that’s not at an airport hotel.  All kidding aside, in the US I love spending time in San Francisco and Seattle. I’m based in NY, one of my favourite cities in the world and I live in LA, another pretty good place to be, so I’ve got those two cities covered.  Right now I mostly fly domestic trips. My son is still pretty young so I don’t like to be away from home for too long.

  • What advice would you give to budding travellers; those who are enamoured by it but still feel slightly befuddled with the idea of venturing into alien cultures.

Heather – My advice is to get out of your comfort zone, even if that means driving to a neighbouring city and checking out a new restaurant, park or museum.  It doesn’t matter how far you go, as long as you go.  You don’t have to jump on a plane and fly thousands of miles and spend a ton of money to experience something new.

  • How do you like to prepare for your travel? Do you have a guide that you always turn to?

    English: Part of Positano, Italy.

    Positano, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heather – Frommer’s might be my favourite travel guide.  But I spend WAY more time doing research online and getting advice from friends.  One of my best vacations was a trip to Italy. I met a flight attendant on our flight to Rome who drew me a map of all her favourite places to go after I mentioned we would be staying in Positano.  I visited every place she mentioned and it ended up being a spectacular trip.  So don’t be afraid to talk to the flight crew.  We like to talk.  Plus we’re like cops; we know all the best places – that are cheap and good.

  • What role do you think twitter has played in propagating travel at large?

Heather – I can’t imagine a world without twitter, and I mean that!  You’ve got breaking news, travel advice, travel deals, and millions of people who can answer a question at the last minute about pretty much anything.

  • And Finally, tell us couple of your must follow twitter accounts.

Heather – @PlaneBusiness for airline news

and, @FakeUnitedJeff for fun.

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Devesh Agarwal (Bangalore Aviation)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

When I asked Devesh what led him to start Bangalore Aviation, his answer was simply because his friends and family increasingly started coming to him for all aviation related advice and discussions, he noticed the absence of an India specific aviation blog, thus the idea of Bangalore Aviation was germinated. When your a global frequent flier with over 4 million miles against your name, all that is naturally supposed to happen.

Devesh posing Inside Boeing 787 Dreamliner Cockpit

Devesh posing inside Boeing 787 Dreamliner Cockpit

My personal view, knowing him for few years now, is that and more. I think it’s a cocktail of what he describes as well as what he doesn’t. You see Devesh loves to share his wealth of knowledge, and those who know him would describe him as a larger than life, social and jovial man who loves his food and flights. Through a blog he found just the right outlet to vent out. Other parts of the puzzle just fit in their places perfectly.

Bangalore Aviation is described by him as “By aviation enthusiasts, for aviation enthusiasts”, started on March 14, 2008, with the intent of being a “no-spin” zone of Indian aviation media.

Like many leading bloggers, managing Bangalore Aviation is not Devesh’s day job.  He is a technology product management expert and has been awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010.

Devesh also has been recognized as one of the must follow aviation pros on twitter in Mashable for good measure.

Enjoy this conversation:

  • Devesh, what has been your personal motivation to travel and to fly?  

Devesh – From childhood I have loved planes, the magic of flight, the physics of flying. I also have a pair of glider pilot wings, and I just love to fly. I still remember my first flight as an eight year old boarding Air India Boeing 747 Emperor Ashoka. It is fascinating that we can travel to countries on the other side of the earth in less than 24 hours, a feat that was fraught with danger less than 60 years ago. It is a pity that air travel over the years has become less glamorous and there are many airlines in the world today, which treat passengers as “self-loading cargo”, but thankfully there are also those that do not.

  • So your not a fan of Ryan Air, I’m actually yet to meet someone who is. I believe you would be the sorts to enjoy your plane ride. Any memorable experience?

    Air hostesses for Singapore Airlines. January ...

    Singapore Girls: Also known as Devesh’s perpetual saviours (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devesh –  I was on the inaugural Los Angeles-Singapore non-stop A340-500 Singapore Airline flight. The inbound flight from Singapore was four hours early due to favourable winds, which meant the winds would be against us while going back. The pilots decided to take an equatorial route, which was longer than the polar route but had less opposing winds and were nearer to major airports should we need to land to re-fuel.

During another of my SIA flights between Frankfurt and JFK. About 25% of the business class seats stopped working, two passengers fell ill midway, and one in fact died from a heart attack. All this while the crew was being audited and inspected by an in-flight quality control auditor. Hats off to that crew for their performance. They were on their feet for the full eight hours and running back and forth the entire length of the B744 and not skipping a beat on their very high service levels while still attending to the passenger emergencies and seat failures.

These are just two of my long list of experiences, by Indian newspaper standards I have had more “miraculous escapes” than the proverbial cat.

  • All that makes my next question redundant, I was going to ask your favourite airline…

Devesh – Yes, it’s Singapore Airlines. The service level is simply unmatched. On a Singapore to JFK flight, my nine year old son spilt a full glass of coke on himself. My wife had forgotten to pack a change of clothes for him. The crew brought a Givenchy pajama suit they give to first class passengers, and altered the pajamas by hand stitching to fit the young boy!!!!! I have never heard of such an experience on any other airline. To top this off, my wife and children were flying, without me, and on an award business class ticket. So no FFP or revenue influences.

English: Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 (9V...

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 (9V-SPP) in Star Alliance livery at Singapore Changi Airport. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • That actually sounds quite incredible, which would be your preferred airport?

Devesh – It’s Singapore Changi of course, due to their hyper-efficient immigration, baggage delivery, and customs. Even with checked baggage, you are out of the airport within 15 minutes.

  • All right Singapore fan boy (just kidding!!), tell me about your all time favourite aircraft.

Devesh – Without a doubt, Concorde. I was very sad to see her being retired. For the first time in history we went backward in technology as there is even till today no replacement aircraft for her, and none appears to be for the next 20 years.

(Vishal’s note: Read my flashback story on the Concorde, as well as Devesh’s great piece on it.)

  • Let’s get slightly more specific now; which airline according to you has the best economy, premium economy, business and first class products?

Devesh – Best Economy – Singapore Airlines

Best Premium Economy – Cathay Pacific

Best Business Class – 1-2-1 configured Singapore Airlines beats most first class. Also the Upper Class of Virgin Atlantic and their fantastic Club House, and those ladies in red.

Best First Class – The old Pan Am Boeing 747s with the upper deck lounge. Currently, I think Emirates A380 takes the crown. Their seats are narrow compared to other airlines, but any airline that has a shower spa on board and serves Hennessy Paradis cognac (about $850 a 750ml bottle) has to take the “Over the top” crown.

  • Lets come back to airports for a second, is there any particular addition that you would like airports to adopt? (Besides Wi-Fi)

Devesh – Restaurants serving real food, not the fast food fried or ready made nonsense. I think with growing travel, appreciation for good food, and airline’s cutting back, a fine dining restaurant at airports will do well.

  • You have a successful career and run a successful website, what advise would you give to those who want to travel the world without breaking their bank balance?

Devesh – The travel itself is not expensive. Depending on where you travel the boarding and lodging is. For most I would recommend using a tour package from one of the reputable companies.

  • Is there a go-to website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Devesh – Apart from BangaloreAviation.com? :), I go through Lonely Planet, Frommers, but my first choice is my business colleagues and friends in the destination country/city.

  • That was a clever plug Devesh 🙂, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Devesh – Social media has brought more world cultures to the attention of more people, and hence the desire to travel to what, ten years ago, would have been an unknown place for someone. Same goes with meeting people. Personally I have met some great people, initially online, but then also in person. You are one person where our virtual friendship has transformed in to a real one. Other friends include Shashank Nigam (Simpliflying), and others.

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 must follow twitter user accounts?

Devesh – @mashable for all things social media and gadgets

@avweekrupa, @apexmary, @simpliflying – people with great insight and thoughtful tweets

@breakingnews – global developments

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brian Kelly (The Points Guy)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Brian Kelly is a perfect case of perfection passion and popularity converting a Wall Street road warrior to a Miles and Points guy, more so as “The Points Guy”.Brian Kelly - The Points Guy

Before catching up with him, it was fascinating to read how a 13 year old Brian figured out to use his father’s points to take the whole family for a vacation to Grand Cayman. Equally fascinating was his transformation from a Wall Street HR Manager with a cushy job, to a Full time blogger after frequent hounding up by his family and friends first and later by the readers of his then part-time blog to help them out with their points. Boy, has that turned out well or what?

Brian’s website, ThePointsGuy turned full time in mid 2011 and now gets more than 4,00,000 unique visitors every month. Besides his own, Brian has also contributed to The New York Times, Conde’ Nast Traveler, The Los Angeles Times and The Independent. He is often invited for major travel conferences and consults regularly with top airline and hotel loyalty programs.

Excerpts from our chat:

  • Brian, what attracts you to travelling?

Brian – The main thing I love about travel is meeting new people, exploring new cities and trying different foods – all while accruing miles doing so.

  • Do you fancy airplanes or does the destination hold greater excitement for you?

Brian – For me travel is the destination, if I could teleport I absolutely would. That being said, because I’m able to fly a lot of great Business and First Class products I don’t dread getting on the plane but if I could avoid it I would. I’ve met a lot of good friends on planes including one of my best friends and business manager, and sat next to countless celebrities but the most interesting people I find are fellow frequent flyers.

  • I suspect catching up with Madonna would rank right up there for you. Which airline you fancy most for flying?

    Cathay Pacific First Class

    Cathay Pacific First Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brian – My favourite airline is Cathay Pacific because of their First class product, which has to be the most comfortable product I’ve ever flown. Emirates first is on my to do list and I hope to experience that within the next year or so.

  • And your preferred airport would be?

Brian – Most US airports are overcrowded and uninspired but I really like the new Sky Deck at JFK that is my favourite lounge to visit in US. Internationally I love the Concord lounge at Heathrow T5 because it’s perfect for plane watching.

  • If you could improve one area at airports what would it be? (Besides wifi)

Brian – More sky lounges for plane watchers! I would also love to see more pet relief areas within the terminal since most are outside in parking garages, which doesn’t help when connecting.

  • Which is your favourite aircraft to fly on? 

Brian – I’m old school – I love the Boeing 747, I’m an upper deck kind of guy and I like the enclosed quaint feel it has.

Flying Lufthansa First Class last summer with the lie flat bed and spacious seat was definitely a highlight for me. I still haven’t tried out the 747-8 but its on my to do list.

  • From a wall street  road warrior to a professional frequent flyer (if I may say so), what tips would you give to people at large who want to travel without spending too much?

Brian – Right off the bat you should sign up for point earning credit cards and charge every expense possible on them so you can maximise the points you earn. You should also get credit cards that have bonus categories for the things you spend the most on whether it be dining, travel, groceries, etc. I recommend signing up for the the Chase Sapphire Preferred which gives 2x points on travel and dining and there is a current sign up bonus of 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

  • All though most of your credit card tips are not applicable for the Indian market,  I still keep reading them for kicks and I remember your British Airways card tip, where 50000 miles was an upfront bonus and then you can cut up the card few months later. That was a pretty awesome offer.

            That reminds me; tell me your recommended economy, premium economy, business and first class products in the world?

Brian – Economy – I don’t know I’m 6’7 and don’t fly economy often enough to judge but I’ve heard that Emirates is pretty good

English: EVA Air 777 Elite Class cabin

EVA Air 777 Elite Class cabin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Premium Economy – I’ve only flown KLM Economy Comfort and really enjoyed it. Nice touch was that it was free for Delta Platinum/Diamond Medallions

Business Class – I would have to go with EVA airways because its comfortable and they serve Dom Perignon champagne

First Class – Emirates takes the cake for my First class choice. Besides the roomy seat that extends to a comfortable bed that I can actually fit in, you can take a shower on their A380.

  • Do you have a favorite city to travel?

Brian – Madrid is the place I visit the most since my best friend lives there. I love the energy, culture, food, and nightlife there – I can never get enough. I also studied abroad there in college, which is when my love for the city began.

  • Do you consult any website, guidebook etc. before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Brian – Whenever I’m taking a trip to an obscure destination I like to ask my readers for recommendations because they are well traveled and I trust their opinions. I also check FlyerTalk to see if there are any relevant threads.

  • You have a huge social media presence, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel, and specifically award travel?

Brian – Social media/Twitter has greatly increased airline’s customer service and allowed them to be more proactive and responsive to customer complaints. In the past, customers had to submit complaints and wait weeks for a response. Now you can tweet airlines while in the airport and get issues resolved as they are happening.

(Vishal’s note:  Read this quick piece on Delta’s fantastic social media customer service effort).

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 favourite twitter user accounts?

Brian – @skift – for travel industry news

@theflightdeal – for cheap flights

@NYCaviation – for breaking aviation news

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

If you’re a frequent flyer, fond of tracking your air miles and points and generally follow the aviation community closely, you know Gary and you know him well.

And if by some twist of fate you don’t, let me make it easier for you.

Gary Leff is the co-founder of Milepoint.com, a popular online community for frequent flyers. Gary also manages Freddie awards and blogs frequently at View From the Wing. In fact, Gary’s blog was the first to exclusively focus on frequent travel and loyalty programs and he’s been leading the way for over 11 years now.

Not just that, Gary has also served as a moderator of Flyertalk.com from 2003 till the beginning of 2011 and was the senior founding moderator of Flyertalk’s member-elected TalkBoard. He’s been cited and profiled in New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and Washington post among others.

And in his “real day job”, He is the chief numbers guy for university research centers. Phew!!

Reading about him prior to our chat I chanced upon this. Read this and you will know why he is so revered within the aviation/frequent flyer community.

“Gary Leff is so proficient at the frequent-travel game that in 2008 he redeemed enough miles to fly first class with his wife from Washington, D.C., to Spain for dinner at the famous three-Michelin-starred El Bulli restaurant near Barcelona. After the meal, they turned around and flew home.”   (Via Executive Travel)

13000 kilometers for a Dinner, eh?

13000 kilometers for a Dinner, eh?

Yes, he flew across the pond. For a dinner. Excerpts from our chat:

  • What makes you travel? And why you love getting on planes?

Gary – It would take a really narrow focus or a lot of hubris to believe that wherever one is at a given time is the single greatest place in the world to be.  There’s so much out there in terms of diversity of experiences, creativity and achievement, food and spectacle.  We’re on the earth for such a short time, and experiencing as much as possible seems just so fundamentally…. human.

And I’ve had the great fortune to connect with people, I get on planes to reduce the distance and maintain that connectedness.  And to try new things, broaden my horizons.   My life is so much richer, so much more fulfilled because of travel.  An early morning flight or a groping at security can’t begin to detract from that.

  • No problems with early morning flights or groping certainly means you enjoy flying, if I hadn’t figured that one out yet. What has been the most unforgettable flying experience for you?

Gary – The destination will always be more interesting than flying, though flight itself is a tremendous achievement of humankind over nature and it’s certainly possible to enjoy getting there alongside being there.

I suppose my most memorable flight experience was circling New York airspace before I was a teenager, when the landing gear just wouldn’t go down. Until it did.  Truly, though, in all of my flights few have really been that memorable which is to say that nearly all have been marvels of human achievement.

  • Safe to say all that circling over New York airports is not always so pleasant. Which is your favorite airport and which airline is most impressive in terms of their first class/business class product?

Gary – There’s no question that the Singapore airport impresses me most.  The amenities there are unrivaled.  I like the Seoul airport, and though far from a favorite I think Bangkok is undervalued.  I can’t think of any major airports in Europe that I like (though the first class terminal in Frankfurt is my favorite *terminal*). Dallas is a really good experience overall, and Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera almost redeems O’Hare.

My favorite international airline is Cathay Pacific.  I love their first class product, it’s solid all around and I sleep better in their seat than anyone else’s.  Their long haul business class seat is fantastic as well.  My favorite domestic airline is American — overall good service, excellent treatment as a top tier elite, wireless internet across the mainline fleet, pretty good food, and a great new business class seat.  Award redemption for international first class is unrivaled.

  • Talking about award redemption, which is your favorite city to travel to?

Gary – My favorite city has to be Singapore, because it’s at once far away and accessible, and probably better for food at both the high and low end than anywhere else.  Little matches sitting out at the beach in the evening at the East Coast Lagoon Village hawker center, open air, enjoying great food and a walk along the water.

  • What about airports? Wi-Fi is becoming all too common. As a frequent traveler which other amenity you would like to see them incorporate within their premises?

Gary – Starbucks or similar (or higher!) quality coffee airside.  There’s no excuse not to have decent coffee available near the gate in a world where the TSA continues to prosecute the War on Water.

  • Do you consult any specific website before and while your traveling?

Gary – Milepoint.com – frequent flyer community, a friendly group of experienced travelers that are happy to share their advice and experiences.

  • What counsel would you give to the average Joe? She/he wants to travel but is scared about incurring heavy expenses while doing so.

Gary – Though it’s possible to travel frugally, and to cover much of the cost of travel with points, it isn’t free.  There’s nothing wrong with – and indeed tremendous virtue in — traveling on a tight budget.  But if you’re in significant debt, well I’d strongly suggest paying off credit cards before making discretionary travel spend decisions.  Don’t finance your travel on a credit card.  That’s not only good advice; it’s also a way to travel much more in the future. Your travel experiences will pay dividends, but don’t incur interest to have them.

  • That’s very well explained Gary. In the end, as this series is “GlobeTrotters on Twitter“, please tell us your 3 must follow twitter accounts?

Gary –  @GlobeTrotScott for the latest airline news

@onemileatatime for witty commentary about the travel experience

@boardingarea updates from all the best travel blogs in one place

 

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