kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
Although our flights back from Helsinki will be in IcelandAir Saga (business/first) class thanks to Alaska Airlines frequent-flyer miles, the outbound trip we purchased in Economy. IcelandAir has an offer where you get to "bid" on an upgraded Saga or Economy Comfort seat. (Economy Comfort is three seats for two people, with the middle seat blocked out.) A few days ago I put in bids and yesterday I learned the news: I hadn't bid enough for Saga, but both legs of the trip got upgrades to Economy Comfort. Now this roughly doubled the cost of the outbound trip, but it's still less than the E+ seats would have originally cost to purchase, so that seems to be a win to us. We pointed out to Kuma Bear that we more or less paid as much for his "seat" as for Lisa and me put together.

I called IcelandAir this afternoon to check on our seat assignments and to make sure that we were on the left side of the plane. (Because of Lisa's bad left ear, she prefers to sit with her left ear against the outside of the plane so she can hear me without having to turn her head.) I checked the assignments against what SeatGuru says the cabin arrangements are for our two flights (PDX-KEF and KEF-HAM), and I'm a bit puzzled, because according to those, we might actually be in Saga class seats. Not that I'd complain about that, of course. However, SeatGuru's maps may be out of date. Another nice thing sabout the EC seats is that they have power outlets, too.

The opening leg is SFO-PDX to get to the IcelandAir gateway, and that's a 737 that's showing packed, with me and Lisa in 30AB. That's not going to be fun, but I've done the flight a lot of times and I'll survive. Glad I've been continuing to lose weight.

Packing tonight. We're trying to not over-pack if we can avoid it, but it's a challenge, since we have to do things like fit the medium tripod in with my stuff, for instance. We'd like to leave room to carry things back. OTOH, since the return trip is in Saga class (with an extra checked bag each), if we must do so, we can buy some more luggage in Finland and carry the extras back that way. We did that on the Japan trip, and got a surprisingly good piece of luggage in a back street in Tokyo on the way to the Kato model train factory outlet store.

One more day at home. We leave tomorrow as soon after Noon as I can manage with the Day Jobbe.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
As I wrote a few days ago, I'm using Alaska Airlines frequent-flyer miles to fly back from Helsinki on IcelandAir (with connecting Alaska Airlines flights) in business class. The outbound trip is also on IcelandAir (in coach), but this I purchased from the IcelandAir web site, again with connecting partner airlines. Yesterday evening, Lisa and I were reviewing the outbound leg in order to start filling in other details when I realized to my horror that I'd booked the wrong day. We were flying one day later than we should be going.

I started looking around to see what I could do. It looked pretty much like I was going to end up paying a $400 change fee. But at Lisa's suggestion, I called IcelandAir. While waiting (it took quite a while to get through), I saw a glimmer of hope: flights booked through their web site from US origins more than 7 days before departure can, according to their conditions, be canceled within 24 hours without penalty. I couldn't figure exactly when I booked the outbound, but the date on the confirmation was one day earlier.

Eventually, I got through to an agent, who looked it up and found that I had made it with less than 20 minutes to spare. If there had been many more people waiting (the queue was ten deep when I first called), I wouldn't have made it.

Rather than cancel the ticket and make us start over, the agent simply changed it to the previous day so that we're actually flying on the days we needed to travel. There was no change fee or penalty. Everything worked out. Whew!

That's now two airlines on which we are traveling who have had excellent customer service agents who worked to make our trip to and from Finland work.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
This evening, after multiple hours of futzing around with web sites and telephone calls, I managed to book Lisa and my flights to and from Worldcon this year. Because too many of my friends appear to have had ideas similar to ours, the dates we initially wanted to travel were not available to use my frequent-flyer miles, so we made the most of a bad situation and bought flights outbound while using the points that initially were intended for round-trips to buy business-class travel on the return.

Because my miles were on Alaska Airlines, I had to contact them to buy the IcelandAir flights we want for the return from Helsinki. We're also going to do a stopover in Reykjavik. Unfortunately, after a great deal of trouble finding a set of flights that included business/first class travel most of the way back, and going all the way through the booking process up to the point of actually paying, the site dumped me out when I tried to pay, saying that the partner carrier (IcelandAir) couldn't confirm the flights. Argh!

At Lisa's suggestion, I called Alaska Airlines. I spoke to a wonderfully patient woman in Seattle who managed to track down the four flights we need (including not only the stopover in Iceland but also an overnight layover at Seattle; the routing is actually HEL-KEF-MSP-SEA-SFO), find the business/first class seats for all legs except the last one back to SFO, and she even waived the usual $15 fee for booking through an agent on account of their web site having dumped me out before I could actually pay the first time.

It's very easy to complain about customer service, and too many companies have gone to offshore phone banks staffed by people who don't speak very good English and don't know how to do anything other than what you could do yourself on the company's web site. Alaska Airlines gets high marks in our book by having people who know how to make the system work for us, and have made our return trip from Helsinki much better because we'll be flying up front in Saga class.

The best airfares for the outbound flights are also on IcelandAir, but in this case we had to go to their web site. (I'll still get Alaska miles for booking it, though.) This only works because unlike [edit: most other] legacy carriers like United, IcelandAir doesn't charge you so much for a one-way ticket that you might as well buy a round trip and throw away the return half.

The trip planning isn't complete yet, because I still need to book intermediate hotels, including where to stay in Iceland and also the overnight stay in Seattle (caused because our arrival is after the last flight of the night to SFO, so we'll spend the night and fly back mid-day the following day), but I have hopes that this won't be quite as much of a hassle as the airline flights were. If only IHG had hotels in Iceland!
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
If only getting to my hotel in San Jose from SFO had been as easy and quick as getting from my hotel in Toronto to the airport there was. While I hit the seat-assignment jackpot on the Air Canada flight (one of only two empty seats on the flight was the one next to me, making for a relatively relaxed flight) and we got to SFO pretty much on time (about 3 PM), driving back to San Jose was a nightmare, with traffic at a crawl pretty much the entire distance. That's a very bad time of the day to be driving, but the "bad time pretty much is anything between 2 and 8 PM; yes, the "rush hour" is six hours long.

In retrospect, I should probably have stayed at a hotel closer to SFO on the night before and after the trip and used one of the "stay/park/fly" offers, as it would have been likely no more expensive than parking at SFO was and would have been somewhat easier on me, albeit that I would have had to move in and out of hotels a couple of extra times.

Anyway, I'm back in San Jose through Friday night and will be trying to get to sleep as soon as I can. At least I won't have to pack again until Saturday morning.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
This morning I checked out of the hotel, and as I was traveling alone rather than meeting friends for a shared taxi ride, took the subway to the other subway line and then onto the 192 express bus to Toronto Airport. Everything went routinely, and I had enough time for Second Breakfast before going down to the gate, where I'm currently waiting for my flight to SFO on Air Canada that boards in about ten minutes. It's a nice day out there, clear and cold (but not as cold as it's been in Fernley, where Lisa and [ profile] travelswithkuma have been having a terrible time keeping warm), and I'm cautiously optimistic that it will be a nice uneventful flight back to the Bay Area.

I should be back in the office tomorrow, working there the rest of this week before heading home to work from there for the rest of the year through New Year's week.
kevin_standlee: (Kreegah Bundalo)
My flight from London to San Francisco was as comfortable as a ride in coach can be. I upgraded to Economy Plus for $137, and the seat next to me did not fill. The E+ cabin was lightly loaded. The plane left 15 minutes early. The armrests on the 777 seats fold up on the aisle. I had room to move around. That extra five inches of legroom meant that I could sit in my seat without my knees being folded under the seat in front of me. We got to SFO early, and the wait through Immigration wasn't too bad, and my luggage was coming off the belt as I cleared CBP. It's annoying to have to do the back-and-forth on BART to get to Caltrain, but I was still able to catch a limited express train, then the #10 shuttle to North First Street, where I walked to my hotel.

I decided that sleeping on the flight was a bad idea and would induce jetlag. That means I've been awake (as I write this) for 21 hours. I am now in my hotel in San Jose and as soon as I can do so, I have to get to sleep to be up at 5 AM tomorrow to get to work by light rail.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF Zone)
Yesterday, I booked my airline tickets to Toronto for SMOFcon 31. I was presented with a number of unwelcome choices. United is my airline of choice for frequent-flyer-mileage reasons. I'd rather fly direct SFO-YYZ, but UA doesn't fly that directly, only via O'Hare, and I'd rather not have to risk changing planes there in December. United does have a code-share agreement with Air Canada, who does fly there directly, albeit that the direct flights cost more. Furthermore, the return fares on the Monday after SMOFCon are so high that it's actually cheaper to spend another night in Toronto (another room-night for CanSMOF, the convention sponsor) and return on Tuesday. Of course, I can only do that because I'm sufficiently senior at work to get enough time off to do so. My supervisor approved the extra day off and I booked the ticket. Only after that did I realize that the free-first-checked-bag offer on my United credit card doesn't apply to code-shares, so the more-expensive ticket will cost an extra $50 for my luggage as well. All because I don't want to go through ORD and risk getting stuck. Oh, well, I'll have an extra day in Toronto to look around, and I won't have to worry about getting to bed early the final night of SMOFCon in order to catch an early-morning flight back to SFO. Maybe I'll go see things I couldn't see during Torcon 3 on account of being too busy with a Worldcon.
kevin_standlee: (High Speed Train)
I will say up front that in my opinion, all forms of transportation are subsidized by the government in one form or another. There is no such thing as a true libertarian market for transportation. If you disagree with this, you'll probably disagree with everything else I say here.

Oh, but if it's MY pet project, it's an 'investment,' not a subsidy )

I expect that we'd see companies like Alaska/Horizon and SeaPort Airlines complaining bitterly about "government subsidies" if we got a true high- or medium-speed rail system under construction in the Pacific Northwest. But they're happy to tuck in to government subsidies for air travel public investment in critical air transportation services. Because of course air and highway travel isn't subsidized, oh no, never. I wish I was allowed to redefine terms so easily.

Thanks to Lisa for pointing out the story to me.
kevin_standlee: (Default)
It turns out that while everyone did have to get off the plane at Sydney, we don't have to be re-screened, and that gave me maybe 30 minutes to get lunch in the Air New Zealand lounge (that's United's partner here). The lounge here is much bigger and well-appointed than Melbourne's, but I really don't have much time to appreciate it, as I see that the gate for the long leg of my flight (SYD-LAX) is now open. They have a direct SYD-SFO flight, but there was no availability for my frequent-flier miles, and thus I have to make a stop at LAX before getting back to SFO.

I have to admit that I hope that the couple with the crying baby in seats 1AK directly in front of me are on the SFO flight rather than being my companions across the Pacific. OTOH, I'm so tired that it might not make a difference.
kevin_standlee: (Default)
I made it to Melbourne without incident, other that missing a turn for the transfer to my Sydney-Melbourne flight and consequently going from first in line (I was the second person off the plane) to last — they rescreen all of the passengers in Sydney for the domestic leg.

It wasn't until I got here that I heard about the QANTAS flight out of SFO with the severe mechanical failure and the emergency return to SFO. That wasn't my flight! I was on United.

No time for travel stories now.
kevin_standlee: (Manga Kevin)
What with leaving for the train station early on account of being so antsy to get started, having to walk from the Coliseum Amtrak station over to the BART station, having to wait for the station agent to re-code my ticket so it would actually work after the balk last weekend, and having to change trains at Balboa Park, it took around 2 1/2 hours to get to SFO, but that's about what I expected.

My thanks to Lisa for suggesting that I should be able to couple my two large bags together. I could indeed do that. Having nearly a maximum train-wait at Coliseum, I took a picture of what the luggage train looked like.

Traveling heavy )

While the Airport BART station is not convenient to much of SFO, it's terribly convenient if you're flying United International, as their check-in counters are nearest the BART gates. As I approached, I got a little worried because the check-in signs were talking about flight to London and Frankfurt. I went down to the First Class line and wouldn't you know that it was the only place that was busy? It's apparently also where special groups are checked in, and there were a bunch of people there. Another agent came down and waved me to the Business Class check in counter, where there was nobody. I was way early for the flight, after all.

The agent confirmed that this was indeed where to check in for the Sydney flight, and when I pointed out what the signs over his head said, he said, "Oops, nobody changed them. I'll tell them after I check you in."

Checking my bags was routine, and there was no wait for me to enter the security area. It's a very quiet night at SFO. It took me quite a while to decompose myself for Security, what with carrying a laptop and a CPAP and also having the Magic Bag of Liquids. Worse, I couldn't seem to clear the metal detector, which must have been turned up to read-your-fillings levels. Eventually I managed to get through and put myself back together again.

By then I was starting to feel a little faded out and considered buying dinner at one of the places air-side, but decided to go ahead and go to the Lounge instead, given that it's probably the only time in my life that I'll ever be able to be here. This was the correct choice.

It's pretty nice )

I availed myself generously of the food, including noodles, sushi, shrimp, cheese, and fruit. Along with a couple of cups of coffee (since I need to stay awake for a couple of hours after we take off as part of the anti-jet-lag program), I felt much better.

I fiddled around with the wi-fi for a while, got my e-mail, and somehow managed to get the photos uploaded, slowly. Don't expect me to send lots of photos if my connectivity is like this the rest of the trip.

They're shutting down the food bar because my flight boards in maybe 20 minutes, so it's last orders here. Next stop: Sydney (briefly), then Melbourne. Thanks for the good wishes people have sent me.
kevin_standlee: (Default)
I've often said that Portland International Airport is the airport at wish I'd most wish to be if I must be stuck while flying. Well, I'm standing next to gate C9 with my American flight awaiting clearance from a "maintenance issue." They initially said "40 minute delay," but it's now 35 minutes after the initial departure time and no real sign that we're going to board other than the gate agent saying, in effect, "realsoonnow." Ah, well, at least there's a kiosk here where I can plug in my computer and the wi-fi is free. I shouldn't complain about free wi-fi, but I discovered the need to transfer a large file to my machine, and the wi-fi here just isn't fast enough to transport it quickly. I don't know whether to wish we'll be delayed longer or not.
kevin_standlee: (Kreegah Bundalo)
...although to be honest, an inch of accumulation on the ground here in Columbus isn't much to really write home about.

Rambling about cross-country flying )

As I have to be up at what amounts to 2:45 to my only-recently-readjusted body clock, I'd like to go to bed now, but I needed to do one load of laundry tonight. It's been a long day.
kevin_standlee: (Default)
I flew back from Chicago (ORD) to San Francisco today, on a fully-packed 777. The system offered me an Economy Plus upgrade for only $39, which I almost took, but the only seats were middles (2-5-2 seating), so I elected to stay with my left-2-aisle seat in the back of the plane.

The SFO Runaround )

I got home about 8:30 -- 10:30 PM CDT. A long day. And tomorrow I have to be up early and get work done from home before heading off a little after lunch to fly to Oregon, where I'll be all of next week.

Oh, and I'm still very sore from playing Whirlyball. It may take me several days to recover.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF Zone)
If you're planning to go to SMOFCon 27 in Austin this December and live somewhere served by Alaska Airlines, you may be able to take advantage of a one-day airfare sale Alaska is running today only (Monday, September 14). The discount code is EC8752 and it's good for a 30% discount to/from Austin during the time period that includes this year's SMOFCon. I booked my ticket from San Jose to Austin this morning and it cost only $70 each way before taxes and fees. Mind you, that's the "nerd bird" flight -- there's only one flight per day on that particular route, and the timing is not good for people who need to be at the con on Sunday afternoon but also need to be back in the Bay Area that night, as the departure from Austin is at 3 PM.

(They're also running a 30% off one-day sale between Oakland and Kona or Maui (same discount code as above) Unfortunately, I can't take advantage of fares as low as $165 each way before taxes as I have no time nor hotel money for it.)
kevin_standlee: (Default)
Horizon Airlines gates A5-12 all front onto a common departure lounge. A flight for Fresno is leaving shortly, and it's oversold. The gate agent took a slightly different approach to attracting volunteers, saying, "We have Very Special Offer right here good only for Fresno-bound passengers this afternoon. We have a two hundred dollar travel voucher that we'll give to the first person to come up here and agree to fly to Fresno just a little bit later this evening. This is a limited time offer, and you have to take it right now!" Essentially, he turned the normal spiel around and made it a promotion. I had this vision of an old K-Mart "Blue Light Special."

If they do the same thing on the Oakland flight, I'll take it and call David Clark and tell him I won't be there at OAK after all, so he should go to BASFA without me.
kevin_standlee: (Kreegah Bundalo)
...but not as bad as it could have been. I got out to O'Hare with plenty of time to spare, and tried to get standby on an earlier flight. In fact, they did call me up for the flight, but they offered me the middle seat in 2-5-2 seating, and the flight on which I would have flown had been so badly delayed that it seemed like I would be only be flying an hour later in order to keep my Economy Plus aisle seat, so I declined, making the people further down the standby list happy, and went to catch my original flight.

Which was itself delayed over an hour. And then there was a traffic jam on the taxiways to which I could listen on United's "From the Cockpit" channel. Apparently winds got so high that planes couldn't take off from the runways where they were queued. Pilots were complaining to the tower that they'd burned off all of their taxi fuel. At one point, ground control told everyone queued to go west (including us), "shut your engines off and park 'em; nobody's going anywhere." The pilot even told people that they could get up and use the lavatories, and the flight attendants came around giving out water. After another fifteen or twenty minutes, the winds abated and we got under way. I got back to SFO maybe two hours late, and then it was another two hours to get home to Fremont.

Now I am going to do a very minimal unpacking because I have to be up earlier than I would like in order to go to the SFSFC Board of Directors meeting in Felton.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
Our flight from Japan to Portland went smoothly. We were in what some consider the best seats in the whole plane -- 1AB on an A330 -- which gave us plenty of room to lay out our stuff during the flight without getting in anyone else's way. (But being bulkhead seats, there was no stowage in front of us, which is a pain because you have to keep getting up to get stuff out of the overhead compartments.) The main problem is that the power supplies on the seats are too weak. They're only good for 75 watts, and both our computers' power supplies draw more than that. So when we tried to plug in the power supplies and turn on our computers, the seats failed. The airline crews told us, "Oh, you have to take the batteries out of your computers in order for it to work." Well, not only does that mean that you end up with a hole in the bottom of your computer, but that the slightest glitch in the aircraft's power supply and your computer dies.

More details )

I note in passing that the instructions in the in-flight magazine say that NWA's 757s have 200-watt power supplies, which is more appropriate for the demands from our computers. I reckon the power supplies on the 747/A330 are okay for running smaller devices like iPods and such, but not for most modern laptop computers.
kevin_standlee: (Default)
Boarding for our flight begins in about fifteen minutes, so I will be shortly shutting down here. As we'll be going back to Mehama from PDX after we arrive Tuesday morning (it's Tuesday afternoon here in Japan as I type this), I may not get back on line until Wednesday morning Oregon time, the internet access being at my father-in-law's house across the property, and Lisa and I maybe feeling a little wrung-out by the time we get home.
kevin_standlee: (Manga Kevin)
As requested, we got over to the airport more than three hours early. Flying World Business Class means we get the priority check-in area, and only the minimum necessary wait time. Here at Narita, there are procedures that I'd never encountered before. To enter the airport complex, you must show your passport, whether coming by road (like in a shuttle bus) or by train. Good thing I realized that before storing my luggage containing my passport; I made sure to take it with me on our day trip to Chiba yesterday. At check-in, they do an initial x-ray screening of luggage before the check-in desk, as well as an additional one later.

After the usual formalities at check-in -- minor confusion due to the odd-looking list of flights on this reservation number that includes the three legs from which we were bumped and the new flight today -- we went to secondary screening. Being so early and coming at a time when there were no banks of flights immediately due, we had no big rush or pressure, which I appreciate greatly. Then it was downstairs to immigration, where Lisa turned in the slip for the one item of duty-free electronics we purchased. (Pity that Kato doesn't do duty-free sales; it would have saved a fair bit of yen.) Then Immigration processed our departure cards and we could put away our passports until Portland.

We briefly looked at the duty free shops full of stuff we would never want to buy, like liquor, cigarettes, and perfume. And for that matter, why are there luggage stores post-check-in, where they will do you no good at all? Instead, we fell victim to a gewgaw shop, where I bought yet more souvenirs, with the hope that I can get something for everyone, even if it's relatively minor. I bought a nice sake serving set for my VP in appreciation for him letting me take so much time off at once.

Then it was into the NWA WorldClub. As advertised, this is a pretty nice club, with lots of food -- and not just crackers and pretzels -- a lot of space, plenty of computer connections, and even showers if we needed them, which we did not because of the pleasant timing. We settled in for a while. Our flight is at 1520, and boarding apparently begins around an hour before the flight itself, with last call at 1450, so we have around another hour here on the ground at Narita before we leave.

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