We took the long way to Europe…The really long way. We were on planes for over 30 hours before we even got there. Was it too much?
Booking this was a pain.
Lufthansa (“LH”) only releases first class award space to partners (like United) within 14 days of the flight date. And then it is a crap shoot as to when space is actually released – especially two seats.
This is made worse by the fact that the United site is notoriously bad at showing “phantom award space.” What does that mean? United’s site will show seats as available, but – after you go through the process of filling out all of your information and basically booking the ticket – it will result in an error. That means the seat is not actually available.
One solution to phantom availability it to use ANA’s award site, but it takes longer and is much less user friendly in general. But it is accurate. The problem with ANA’s site is that it doesn’t show award space within 4 days (or 3 – I don’t remember), so once you reach that point (when 2 seats are most likely to be released on the most popular routes) it is useless.
The above factors combined with trying to search for these at night after a day of walking around/eating/drinking/etc. made it a pain. I won’t even mention the unusable internet at the Hyatt Regency Churchill in London and how it nearly caused me to jump off the roof out of frustration while attempting to look for flights.
All that said, I put up with it because I really wanted to make sure we got to fly Lufthansa first class this flight. United’s award chart was destroyed for Star Alliance first class flights as of February 1st, so doing this in the future would be far more expensive. For example, this particular flight cost us 67,500 miles per person. Now, it is 110,000 miles per person; that is a 63% increase. Or put another way, both of our flights only cost 25,000 miles more than what one flight will cost going forward.
Anyway, I secured two flights for us on one of Lufthansa’s new 747 planes, specifically the 748i, about 2 or 3 days before we departed Paris. I had other flights on hold should Lufthansa not open up, so we were guaranteed to get home one way or the other. The exact routing was:
CDG-FRA on a LH A319
FRA-IAD on a LH 748i
IAD-MSY on a UA A320
Paris – the City of Light.
After a nice time in London, I wasn’t sure what to really expect in Paris. I was fairly confident the food would be more to our liking, but I wasn’t positive at this point. My confidence was a little shaken.
I could tell that public transportation was much more reasonably priced than London (1.3 Euros for a one way trip) and would get us to just about everywhere we wanted to go. I was relieved to know that going in to it. No more $70 US cab rides just to get to/from dinner 15 minutes from the hotel.
We spent 5 nights in Paris, and I took a lot of pictures. Probably the most in one city. I edited them down to a manageable number, though I still ended up with twice as much edited pictures as I did for London. Either way, I think we got some good ones. See the link/selected pictures below:
Europe. Here at last. While Europe seems to be the most common site for international travel – as well as most peoples’ first intercontinental destination, we seemingly traversed the rest of the globe before making it to Europe. Alyce had really been wanting to go to Europe, and I was excited about it too. Our first stop – London.
London…Easy to figure this one out. It’s the capital of the country England. But wait, what about the United Kingdom? Or Great Britain – where does that factor in?
With the nasty weather in London, I didn’t bring my big camera out with us everyday. Also, with the ridiculously expensive public transportation (combined with the weather), I didn’t spend any nights out exploring with my tripod (cf. Paris). So everything we took in London was just hand held, walking around. It still gives you a pretty good idea of what we saw.
See the link below for all the pictures, and scroll down for some selected shots:
Hong Kong/Cathay Pacific
The start of our second trip around the world – albeit a much quicker trip than the last one. Alyce was pretty anxious heading in to the last trip, and I couldn’t really blame her. We were going to be away from everything that we knew and was familiar to us for nearly 3 months.
This time, she was much more relaxed (relatively speaking, of course). We would only be gone for 12 nights. And although neither of us were particularly happy about having to board Moose at the vet for that time, we knew he’d be taken care of. Our parents watched the pain in the butt – aka Chunk.
We spent the night before we left in New Orleans, making things easier for the following morning. Our flight to Chicago left New Orleans at about 7:30 a.m. It was on an American Airlines Embraer E175 regional jet and we were in business class. As with most domestic flights, it was pretty standard. Though, I will say that the plane was actually pretty nice. Many regional jets can be cramped/not good to fly on, but we liked this one. And it was clearly a pretty new plane…I think it even had a new plane smell.
Upon arriving in Chicago, the cold air took our breath away on the brief walk up the gate bridge (I think it was 6 degrees F). We followed the signs to the international terminal, and recleared security then waited for the lounge to open.
It was a little past noon, and the Swiss lounge was still pretty dead looking. I finally found someone there and asked when they’d be opening, at which point I was informed that Cathay Pacific no longer uses the Swiss Lounge. Oops. I should have checked on that.
Now, Cathay uses the BA First lounge. It is a bigger, much more spacious lounge compared to the Swiss Lounge. That said, the food and drink selections were without a doubt superior in the Swiss Lounge. It was not a big deal, and the extra space was nice. Plus, you get your fill of food on the plane.
Alyce came up with the name “The Asian Detour” to describe…well, our detour to Asia on the way to Europe. I like it, so I’m sticking with it. Even though we weren’t in any one place for long, we still managed to get some shots along the way. Here is the link to the pictures below, as well as some selected shots in this post: