American Airlines Flagship Dining Experience on the oneworld megado

By Nick – Random Segments

I’m exhausted from the oneworld megado, however I figured I would share with you our dining experience.  When we boarded the aircraft, we discovered the menus attached to our tray tables.


Now, I decided to go with the steak, because you don’t eat the fish on a plane.  Here it is:


It was a nice meal, though a little disappointing that the roll was cold, but they were trying to serve us an international premium cabin meal in a domestic 757, so I can forgive that.  However, the nice surprise (and I know many on here know about the quest for a better inflight steak) was when I cut the steak open.


Yes, that is actual color on the meat 😉

And for those curious about what the fish meal was:


Overall a great dining experience.


Park Suite at Park Hyatt Toronto

By Nick – Random Segments

For the New Years holiday, I decided to visit Toronto since it had been a little while for me.  Given the special offer from the oneworld MegaDO, I decided to book at the Park Hyatt Toronto and redeem one of my suite upgrades.  I have stayed at this property previously, in just a regular room.


Check-in was fairly smooth, but I actually found it lacking.  I was promptly checked in, and asked which welcome amenity I wanted, but the agent did not mention anything about how the breakfast benefit works.  He also made a big point of highlighting how I received a double room category upgrade, which annoyed me.  If I had not applied a suite upgrade, it would not have been a problem, but redeeming a suite upgrade, it really makes a guest feel like they are waisting one of the benefits of diamond.

The Room

The room was nice enough, and certainly much more modern than my previous stays here, and it is obvious that there has been some investment in the North Tower.  I was placed in a suite on the 11th floor, and here is a view of the suite itself.




The bedroom itself is quite small to make up for squeezing in a living room.

And the view from the rooms of the north tower are actually quite uninspiring, as it is off the main street.


And that pool that you see in the corner is the ancient Four Seasons Toronto that is about to shut down.  And despite being a bit off Bloor, I was still able to clearly hear the protest going on right in front of the Royal Ontario Museum, which is directly accross the street from the South Tower.

The bathroom is fairly standard, and fortunately they have replaced the soaps since my last stay.  My previous stays included Davies Gate soaps, and the exact same formulation that was carried in a Courtyard.  Now, they carry extremely high end soaps from Le Labo.



For this stay, I decided to go for the welcome amenity instead of the points (the lengths I go to to provide complete reviews for everyone). 


And here is the local wine that comes with it.


Other Facilities

This is a property that has its own spa, and the fitness center is a part of the spa.  In addition, all guests have access to the Stillwater Spa locker rooms, which includes access to showers, whirlpool, sauna, steam room, and relaxation areas.  It is real nice to be able to relax in the hotel.


I did take advantage of breakfast in the hotel resturaunt, and this is a property that does not place a cap on the Diamond breakfast.  Instead I was told to order anything off the menu.  I decided to go for the pancakes, with bacon, and banana.


It also came with hot maple syrup, and was a reasonable breakfast. The bacon was wonderful, not too thick, but still cooked to be crispy. I will say the powdered sugar did make the pancakes too sweet when combined with the syrup.  But overall, a decent breakfast for free, but I would never pay the menu price for it ($22 CDN).

It really depends on what you want to do in Toronto.  If you want to do the traditional tourist thing, the hotel is not well located.  It is in the Bloor Shopping district, with the only real tourist attraction being the Royal Ontario Museum.  It is about a block away from 3 separate TTC stations, though it is a little bit of a ride still to get to the downtown locations.  

Other Notes

While the room was nice, I still saw some pieces of age around the hotel, including one elevator where the marble was chipped.  Also, the entrance doors are extremely slow, and don’t always have someone at them to speed them open when you are wanting to come out of the cold.  I know these are minor things, but this is a hotel that is going to be competing with a new Four Seasons, the new Ritz Carlton, and other luxury hotels that are opening up in the city after years of higher scale neglect.  


A decent property, though lacking in some places that make it a true wow property.  Personally, I’m probably going to return to the Intercontinental Toronto Centre for my next trip to Toronto.


Irregular Operations Leads to First Taste of Alaska Airlines

By Nick – Random Segments

I write this inflight on a Delta redeye from SNA to ATL, as today’s flights turned into complete chaos when a surprise snow storm hit Seattle Sunday afternoon while Daniel and I were taking our mileage run.  We pulled out from the gate and then as we were about to taxi to the runway, they closed the runway because the conditions had deteriorated to the point where the runways were dangerous, and needed to be plowed.  So we returned to the gate, the delay grew until the point where departure time would cause a missed connection.  Thus we got off the plane and worked with the agent to rebook.  The advantage of being in a hub is that Alaska was able to get us to any city, and the challenge was finding a city with available seats on the redeye.  That led to the connection in SNA, with an option of a 2 hour connection or a 28 minute connection.  Given the weather, we decided to go with the 2 hour connection.

After we were ticketed, it was the run across the airport because seats were not assigned, and we did not want to risk waiting until the last minute and ending up with the last row of the plane.  So off to the S Satellite in SEA, using my new Sky Club membership (I had some SkyBonus points that were getting ready to expire) to get everything lined up for the Delta flight, then over to the Alaska Board Room to get that flight taken care of.

I like the board room, as they offer real food, and the drink selection is decent.  I’ll leave Daniel to do the full review since he was going around with the camera on this trip.  We were instructed to go ahead and grab a seat, while the agent worked to get us some good seats on the flight to SNA.  We ended up with the front exit row on a 73W, so no recline but slightly more legroom.  For that flight, I could deal with it.  

The Alaska Experience

The flight attendants were extremely friendly, and really went above and beyond the standard economy service offered on most American carriers.  They also really showed personality, starting with praising all the passengers on the flight for getting on the plane and seated quickly so the door could be closed 5 minutes early.  Of course with the de-icing, we did not depart on time, but we were not terribly late upon arriving.  The other part of the service which is surprising compared to most US carriers was a second drink service on a 2 hour flight.  Instead of the second service being coffee or water, it was a full second service with all drink options being offered.  Its rare to see such a minor thing carried out in the US, for economy passengers.

The seat was reasonable for what it was, nothing special.  Daniel and I were both lamenting the buy on board menu, as it listed all of the meal options, but only one of the hot meal options was going to be available.  Not encouraging since we both lost confirmed upgrades on American because of the weather.  But what did now wow from the hard product, the soft product is much better than the standard economy product I’ve become conditioned to from the legacies that have good service on the east coast.  I actually want to try Alaska Airlines again, when I’m not trying to do a crazy mileage run gone wrong.

Overall, today has been exhausting, with 5,200 miles being flown in a 24 hour period, with irregular operations.  And just for a visual representation:


And SEA-SNA-ATL was done all in economy (though at least full fare).


American Airlines Status Challenge Trip to London: Intercontinental Park Lane

By Nick – Random Segments

The hotel choice for this trip was easy.  As I’m sure anybody who has priced hotels in London knows, the rates are insane.  Thus I was going to make it an award stay, and since the Intercontinental Park Lane honors Royal Ambassador benefits on award stays, might as well stay there and get one last night in as a Royal Ambassador.


I arrived in the hotel about noon, and was checked in quickly.  Service was friendly, and they confirmed at the front desk that all Royal Ambassador benefits would be honored.  It was obvious that the hotel was busy.  Fortunately the service was acceptable, though nothing that blew me out of the water.

The Room

I was upgraded to an executive room.  All this means is a larger room, with a good view of Hyde Park.  I was on a higher level, though the room was nothing spectacular.  Of particular note is below the desk, the power outlets along the wall are of differing varieties for the power requirements of various countries.  Thus, if you happen to be short on adaptors, you have at least one outlet that requires no conversion or adaptor.  With the proper charger (I have a dual usb charger), you do not have to worry about not being able to charge your phone and your iPad after the long international flight.

I ended up wanting to take a nap immediately after getting in.  However, while I was napping, my ambassador amenity and gift was delivered.  I did not notice it until I went over to the table by the door to see this:


And for those of you wondering, those shortbread cookies are the Royal Ambassador gift.  An extremely underwhelming amenity, especially when you compare it to what other hotels of a similar class offer.  

The bathroom is nice and spacious, with the standard high class soaps, this time from elemis.


And that little box has the standard personal care items.


The View

I had a room on the Hyde Park side, so I had a wonderful view of the park, and its winter festivities.



If you want to experience the high end, this hotel is wonderfully located, just one Tube station down from Harrods, and other high end shopping.  As an additional bonus, it is located on the Piccadilly line, so no hassle transferring trains, or paying the inflated prices of the Heathrow Express, and then navigating to where you want to go in the Tube network.  The Tube station is right accross the street from the hotel, however it is quite a maze to get to the hotel, as the you have to exit the station, and then go into another underground pathway to get on the right side of the hotel.  Also, even though the hotel is on Park Lane, you have to go down one block on Piccadilly and enter on Hamilton Place.


A decent hotel, but not worth the inflated UK prices.  A great use of points though.  The location and easy access give it a leg up on many other high end hotels, especially if you are trying to do London somewhat on a budget (remember, the exchange rate from the US is $1.5-$1.75 US Dollars per Pound).


Wonderful Customer Service from the AAngel at the Admirals Club in Toronto

By Nick – Random Segments

One of the exciting things about traveling on the last day of a holiday is the various issues that can pop up.  I actually encountered one today when I wanted to get a 30 day Admirals Club pass when I entered the club in Toronto (With the amount of travel I have in the next month, a 30 day membership is a reasonable fee to pay).  The computer network decided to crash just as I arrived.  Fortunately, the agent was wonderful.  At first he told me to head on in, and relax while he would wait for the computer to come back up.  

Unfortunately, as anyone who has dealt with computer issues on a holiday knows, things never come back as usual.  Now, the agent could have easily just let me finish my visit, and instruct me to get my membership in my connecting city.  However, he went above and beyond, by actually writing up an entry letter to give me access for the next week until everything is fixed within the system.

And while the letter may not seem that special, it is a little touch that tries to make the travel experience as seamless as possible, even when there are serious computer issues.  So tonight, I get to enjoy the Admirals Club here in Toronto (Review Coming), as well as the one in Chicago, and Headquarters will sort it alll out in the morning.  Not a bad way to finish the holiday.

Ralph Hoffman, this is a shout out to you. Thank you for going above and beyond in delivering excellent customer service.


Meet Up With Other Flyers Doing Mileage Runs for Double and Triple Elite Qualifying Miles on American Airlines

By Nick – Random Segments

Now that the calendar has turned to January, the focus has shifted from getting status for 2012 to getting status for 2013.  With the Double Elite Qualifying Miles promos from American Airlines, there are people trying to figure out how to get there as quickly as possible.  Thanks to confirmation from American, those able to take advantage of the promo for flights between LAX/SFO and ORD or DFW can stack the offers, so they can actually earn Triple Elite Qualifying Miles.  And since the period for the all member double elite qualifying miles period runs through the end of January, the hardcore travelers are doing mileage runs like crazy.

To that end, there are different threads tracking where people are going.  For the mileage run meetup thread on Flyertalk, they are focusing on those who are taking advantage of TEQM, to gather statistics on anybody going from zero to elite, as well as tracking upgrade percentages.  Over on milepoint, the meetups are a little more general.  In addition, I have created a google doc where anybody can add their information, and sort through it as they wish.  

So if you are taking advantage of the offer and want to meet up with other fliers doing the DEQM or TEQM mileage runs, you know where to find them.