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You'll Never Walk Alone to a Semi-Final

You'll Never Walk Alone to a Semi-Final

Old May 1, 18, 9:13 am
  #1  
pjs
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You'll Never Walk Alone to a Semi-Final

Planning

After a great but exhausting trip to the UK and Slovenia in October following Liverpool FC into Europe (You'll Never Walk Alone to Slovenia), I hadnít expected to make another UK trip until next season. Our progress in the Champions League made me re-think that plan. As soon as the Egyptian King, Mohamed Salah, scored against Manchester City in the second leg of the quarter-final on April 10th and our progress was assured (and I had stopped running around the house singing Salahís song) I asked my wife if she would mind if I went to the semi-final home leg if I could get a ticket. ďWould you be able to do it using points?Ē she asked. ďOf courseĒ I replied, having no idea if I could pull it off.

A few days later, the draw was made and it was Roma with the first leg at home on April 24th. That gave me just 10 days to figure out how I was going to get to Liverpool and back and also to actually get there and back. Iím not usually a last minute planner, but this time I was going to make it work.

I remembered that I had speculatively transferred 40k SPG points to Asiana last fall with the hopes of flying LH first class one way. I ended up using a RT Korean award because of my complicated itinerary so I never used those Asiana miles. Hhaving a short booking window could now work in my favor.

I also looked at Virgin Atlantic due to the direct ATL-MAN and MAN-ATL flights. I only found one seat in Biz on one day during the time period, but it was the exact date I needed for my return so I transferred points from Amex and grabbed it. Fees were high, but I did follow the letter of my wifeís rules and booked using points. When I went to grab a seat, I noticed that the seat map was different than the usual Virgin A330. I realized that it was one of the the ex-Air Berlin A330-200s that were just leased by VS to cover for the 787s having engine issues. This explained the complete lack of PE seats available on these flights (as the planes donít have PE yet). This should be an interesting review and probably the first one on here for this aircraft since the switch to VS.

I also found my favorite points redemption hotel in Liverpool, the Aloft, available for 4k SPG points per night (vs a rate of £200 per night) for the night before and after the match. That redemption was a no brainer compared to the Marriott at 35k points per night.

Now it was just a case of stalking that Lufthansa first class space. I religiously checked UA and Aeroplan to ensure that any space I saw was really available. I realized that Boston or Chicago were probably going to be my best options as I could not find anything from EWR or JFK on the dates I needed (either the Saturday or Sunday before the match). Sunday morning April 14th I checked and found a Boston seat available for the 21st. I double checked with ExpertFlyer and it looked good. With the flight leaving at 5pm, that would give me time to enjoy a leisurely meal on board vs. the Chicago flight leaving at 10:35pm. There was also a connection to Manchester with a 7 hour layover, giving me time to enjoy the FCT in Frankfurt and take a nap during the layover.

I called Asiana when they opened at 9am that Sunday and the process could not have been easier (well, I suppose online booking would have been easier). The rep saw the same availability and made the reservation (with a $589 fee but itís LH F!) She assured me it would be ticketed the next morning when the ticketing office opened at 11:30am Eastern time. I then booked a one way DL ATL-BOS flight in economy arriving at 12:30pm that same day which would give me a decent cushion to catch the LH flight but not have me up at the crack of dawn.

Next morning, I received the email right after 11:30am and I was set. ATL-BOS-FRA-MAN, CL Semifinal and then MAN-ATL. Looking good. Letís hope the Reds donít let me down (Spoiler alert: they didnít).

Now I needed to check out the ticket market for the match. It was looking bleak on StubHub ($900+), but I stalked Twitter and Facebook anxiously looking for a lead. I found one on the Wednesday before the match. A guy was selling three tickets. I DMíd him and it turned out he had one left.

One thing you can never do in these situations is pay cash in advance. Itís either COD or PayPal for the credit card protection. This guy was willing to meet in person to turn over the memberís card that had the ticket loaded on it which was a risk, but once I have the card, I can turn him in to the club if the ticket isnít loaded and he would lose his membership forever. I offered to have one of my friends meet him in Liverpool or to meet him myself the day before the match. Problem Ė he was leaving on holiday the Friday before the match (the reason why he and his brothers were selling their tickets) and he could only meet in Manchester (where he lived) or Leeds (where he worked). Solution Ė my cousin lives and works in Leeds! I quickly reached out via Whatsapp. It turned out my cousin worked 5 minutes from where this guy worked and he could meet him on the Thursday. I sent my cousin the cash via Paypal and then waited for the transaction. It came off without a hitch. The ticket cost me £280, which was way below market. The best other option I found was £500.

Next problem: how to get the memberís card in my possession. Getting to Leeds on the day I arrived would be doable but a pain. My cousin came through again as his neighbor was headed to the match and would meet me before the match at one of the pubs near the ground. Everything was now sorted and I was ready to go.
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Old May 1, 18, 11:10 am
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You are a die-hard fan . Congratulations on a great season
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Old May 1, 18, 11:17 am
  #3  
pjs
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Originally Posted by r6vo View Post
You are a die-hard fan . Congratulations on a great season
Not yet...going to wait and post the rest after tomorrow
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Old May 2, 18, 1:57 am
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Originally Posted by pjs View Post
Not yet...going to wait and post the rest after tomorrow
I won't believe you if you say you haven't yet searched for flights to Kiev..
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Old May 2, 18, 6:16 am
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City!
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Old May 2, 18, 6:21 am
  #6  
pjs
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Originally Posted by thibderoc View Post
I won't believe you if you say you haven't yet searched for flights to Kiev..
Iíve been looking since the round of 16 and I tried for a ticket in the uefa lottery to no avail. I just donít think itís feasible with points and the ticket prices are insane. Will be watching (hopefully) with my local supporters club.
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Old May 2, 18, 9:59 am
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How many points on Asiana for TATL LH F?
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Old May 2, 18, 11:23 am
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pjs
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Originally Posted by GetSetJetSet View Post
How many points on Asiana for TATL LH F?
50k (so 40k SPG points)
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Old May 2, 18, 4:19 pm
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Now the final..... Madrid is not a real problem IF a) iyou are able to hit the goal at least ever 5th 100% chance or so b) your players donīt play the ball to their keeper when some Madrid-players around c) your Players donīt deliver the ball voluntary (as a gift) to the opponents d) your keeper is able to decide correctly to take the ball with the hand after a return pass (WRONG) or to play it with the feet.... e) your keeper is able to hit a simple ball and not to do a slapstick show f) the referee donīt think he must give Madrid some donations

Good luck, they are really beatable at the moment.
MY Team is only too stupid to do so.......
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Old May 2, 18, 4:45 pm
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Now the final..... Madrid is not a real problem IF a) iyou are able to hit the goal at least ever 5th 100% chance or so b) your players donīt play the ball to their keeper when some Madrid-players around c) your Players donīt deliver the ball voluntary (as a gift) to the opponents d) your keeper is able to decide correctly to take the ball with the hand after a return pass (WRONG) or to play it with the feet.... e) your keeper is able to hit a simple ball and not to do a slapstick show f) the referee donīt think he must give Madrid some donations

Good luck, they are really beatable at the moment.
MY Team is only too stupid to do so.......
Real is too deep. LFC, not so much. They wore out at the end of both matches. Real is just so good.
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Old May 2, 18, 5:48 pm
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Originally Posted by pjs View Post
50k (so 40k SPG points)
50k for TATL F!? Damn, I am going to have to find some Asiana points.
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Old May 2, 18, 7:26 pm
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pjs
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Now the final..... Madrid is not a real problem IF a) iyou are able to hit the goal at least ever 5th 100% chance or so b) your players donīt play the ball to their keeper when some Madrid-players around c) your Players donīt deliver the ball voluntary (as a gift) to the opponents d) your keeper is able to decide correctly to take the ball with the hand after a return pass (WRONG) or to play it with the feet.... e) your keeper is able to hit a simple ball and not to do a slapstick show f) the referee donīt think he must give Madrid some donations

Good luck, they are really beatable at the moment.
MY Team is only too stupid to do so.......
Just have to keep our starting-caliber 11 or 12 players healthy. You might see Clyne in the final as I think tonight showed Trent can be attacked. Now that the final has been reached, I will continue the trip report tomorrow
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Old May 2, 18, 7:41 pm
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pjs
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Originally Posted by GetSetJetSet View Post
50k for TATL F!? Damn, I am going to have to find some Asiana points.
I "found" them by opening an account and transferring SPG points in. Just have to allow a couple of days for the transfer which can mess with the FC availability.
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Old May 3, 18, 6:16 am
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You get an award for your sheer enthusiasm and determination

Great trip report so far

We same many stories of "I need X points so I did Z travelling via Y"...but this one is different and for a real purpose

Wish you good luck for the finals!
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Old May 3, 18, 8:58 am
  #15  
pjs
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4/21: The Long(ish) Way to Liverpool

I woke up with a plan. Get an Uber to arrive between 7:20-7:30 am so that I can watch the first half of the Liverpool vs West Brom match on my phone in the car on the way to the airport. Go through security at half time and watch the second half in the SkyClub.

Well, it worked even better than I expected (except the final score). My Uber driver arrived right at 7:28 (kickoff was 7:30) and he had an ipad with live TV mounted on his dash. Turned out he was a big Arsenal fan and had no problem putting the match on for me. I watched the first half and chatted with him. He was from Burkina Faso and this was of course his second job while he put his wife through medical school. This was one of the more enjoyable Uber rides I’ve had (also helped that $15 of it was wiped out from my Amex Plat credit).

We arrived at ATL Domestic terminal right at half-time. After saying goodbye to my new soccer buddy, I quickly went through the Pre-check line, took the train and arrived at the A17 SkyClub just as the second half kicked off. I had a bagel and cappuccino while I watched us take a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately, West Brom came back and tied up the match 2-2, which was frustrating, but ultimately, we didn’t get any new injuries so that was a good outcome. Around 9:30, I walked down to gate A1 and boarded the A321 taking me to Boston.

DL 2102 ATL-BOS 10:10-12:42 A321

I was in 16D, an aisle seat just behind the Comfort+ section and the legroom is pretty generous on these new birds.



It was a nice day for flying. Drink service was all we had in economy, but it did come with the usual Biscoff cookies. The unfortunate lady next to me was charged $2 for lousy earbuds though, which seemed kind of cheap for an airline that made billions last year. I passed the time by watching a couple of shows I had downloaded from my DVR to my iPad.

After a smooth flight, we hit a few bumps on approach due to the winds at lower levels. We had a nice view of Boston Harbor coming in and touched down at 12:26pm. I walked from the A satellite gates through the main A terminal, turned left and took the walkway through the parking deck, past the Hilton and on toward the E terminal where all the international flights depart.




Lufthansa check-in opens at 1pm and I arrived at 12:52pm. I waited in the FC line for exactly 8 minutes until check-in opened as they were of course punctual. The agent asked if I wanted an escort to the lounge and not being one to refuse special treatment on the odd occasion that I qualify for it, I said sure. She also told me we could board from the lounge so she would come get me when it was time and escort me on to the aircraft from the lounge.

I’m not sure that the escort added much as the line was non-existent at that hour, but I at least did not have to find the lounge as she walked me all the way there. I was the first one at the lounge as my 5pm flight was the first international Star Alliance flight of the day. There’s a later FRA flight on LH, a ZRH flight on LX and a IST flight on TK that use this lounge as well (as per the lounge attendant).

























Even though I was the first one there, they took me to the First Class section, which was a small room with 3 tables and some seating with a great view of one of the runways and back towards the other international gates.







I was definitely hungry as I had only eaten a SkyClub bagel so far that day. The buffet was pristine as it had just been set out. There was a nice selection of hot and cold sandwiches, salads and entrees. I didn’t want to overdo it as I was looking forward to the FC meal on board later:




I got the lounge attendant to put the FA Cup match on the TV in the FC section as I was the only person there. I enjoyed a Macallan and watched the match while chatting with the FC lounge staffer. He was apparently married to the lady who walked me through from check-in. They were Albanian and worked for a contractor so not technically Lufthansa employees (as they don’t like to have to give flight privileges to their US employees apparently). He had won the green card lottery a year earlier and moved to Boston where he had some family living already. While sitting there, the fire alarm went off, but it was apparently a test as they told me not to evacuate.




The restrooms in the lounge were standard with no showers, but I suppose most of the traffic is O&D here since folks probably aren’t connecting to United or any other domestic flights from BOS. The lounge got pretty busy starting around 3pm as the 747-8i has over 80 biz seats. I finally had some company in my first class section, with 3 more people joining me as I watched the NBA playoffs.

There was some great plane-spotting from the lounge:










What do Hainan, IcelandAir, Iberia, and TAP have in common? None of them fly to Atlanta.




My bird has arrived!


Last edited by pjs; May 3, 18 at 9:09 am Reason: Photo edits
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