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Old Jun 20, 09, 7:12 am
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: San Francisco, CA
Programs: Primary: AA & Hilton HHonors; Also United Premier, *wood
Posts: 312

(This trip report will be updated periodically over the next two weeks)

With my new role at my new company, one of the great things that I once again get to do is travel. The difference between this company and previous company is that my travel is mostly to DFW (as opposed to NYC), but I’m also afforded opportunities a few times per year to head to Europe (mostly BRU) and Asia (mostly SNG).

This trip report is for my first trip to Europe on behalf of the company. On this trip I’ll be flying the following schedule:
06-20-09 SFO --> DFW on AA1348.
06-20-10 DFW --> FRA on AA70
06-24-09 FRA --> IST on TK1590
06-28-09 IST --> BRU on TK1937
07-01-09 BRU --> JFK on AA171
07-01-10 JFK --> SFO on AA85

With the exception of AA1348 and AA85, everything is in business class (various codes). AA1348 and AA85 are first class due to configuration of the planes (738 and 763, respectively)

Saturday, June 20, 2009: SFO to DFW, AA1348, Seat 5B
My morning started with a car service picking me up at 5:30am. I did one last check to ensure I had my laptop, power cord, passport, toothbrush, deodorant and a few other critical items, and I walked outside to meet the driver for the 20 minute ride to SFO. I decided to take a car service due to the fact I’m in a remote part of town in San Francisco, and cabs have a difficult time finding the place, even with specific directions. This car service had no issues following instructions and they were right on time. The ride was uneventful and I arrived at SFO at 6:40.

Since it’s an international flight, I went inside and checked my bag with the desk agent in the First Class line. I confirmed that I had complimentary use of the Admirals Club and I proceeded quickly from the counter, boarding passes in hand, to the security line. I was met by a friendly fellow who checked my passport and ticket and less than 2 minutes later I was through the security line.

This first update is done sitting inside the SFO Admirals Club. The wireless connection is down, but I’m a prepared executive: I bring my own via Sprint. Boarding time for AA1348 is 6:55 for a scheduled 7:25am takeoff. I’ll file the next update from DFW in a few hours.

Last edited by 206013671; Jun 28, 09 at 6:56 am Reason: Fix punctuation
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Old Jun 20, 09, 12:48 pm
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I arrived at Gate 64A about 6:50, knowing we’re scheduled to board at 6:55am. An announcement over the PA indicated the flight was oversold and they were looking for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for $300 vouchers. No thanks.

6:55 came and went, and so did 7am. At 7:04, the GA announced they were still waiting for two flight attendants to arrive and we’d be boarding shortly. About 3 minutes later the FA’s arrived and we started boarding at 7:09. I was the first person on the plane, taking my seat in First Class: 5B. As I boarded, I noticed that Homeland Security is once again randomly screening baggage right at the door. Luckily I didn’t win the lottery and get selected.

I took my seat and watched everyone else board. It was interesting to see a lady board with her two little girls – both of whom couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. They took seats 4E&F, and the mother took 3B. I’ll never understand why somebody would put their kids that young in first class. It seems like a waste of $$ and/or stickers. I had seen her checking bags earlier and she was desperately shoving a large, oversized bag into the overhead on this 737-800. It wasn’t fitting, so she gate-checked it. She was telling a man earlier that she already had checked 7 other bags and she was in the process of moving out of the country to Mexico.

Our scheduled departure was 7:25 and all through the boarding process the FA’s continued to make announcements to “please hurry up so we can make an on-time departure”. I love how airlines (mostly American, since that’s mostly all I fly) try and put their on-time departure pressure on the passengers. If they wanted to get out of here on-time, then get the FA’s to the gate earlier so we can board on time!

The door closed at 7:31 and we started backing away at 7:32. 15 minutes later – at 7:47, we went wheels-up and were quickly turned over San Francisco Bay towards Oakland, headed for Dallas.

The takeoff and flight were exceptionally smooth as we left California. One of the FA’s started the drink service. I just had a coffee. My seatmate had a Bloody Mary. Maybe I should have done that too!

Breakfast was served on today’s flight. We had an option of Chex cereal with a banana, a bowl of strawberries and a bread, or a cheese omelet with potatoes, a side of fruit and the same bread option. I chose the omelet, with a biscuit. The omelet was quite tasty. It was stuffed with some sort of herb cream cheese, and there were peppers and onions mixed in with the potatoes. I was hungry this morning so I gobbled it all up. The service was good. The FA asked for the correct pronunciation of my last name and she served with a smile. She was prompt in refilling my coffee mug and in taking the tray away when I was done.

Towards the end of the flight, the FA’s made their way to each passenger to determine which connections each passenger was making, and whether they wanted to enjoy a mint. I learned that I’d be going to D23, and I passed on the mint.

The remainder of the flight was uneventful as I did some work and jammed out to a variety of songs via iTunes. We touched down in DFW at 12:55 CDT. We taxied to gate C23, and I was off to the D terminal for the next part of my adventure.

I've checked into the Admirals Club after buying some Euros at a horrible rate. But I need a few in my pocket.

The woman at the front desk at the AC told me I wasn't eligible for an upgrade due to the class of service (I). I think for all the travel my company paid about $7k in total. So I wonder what you have to pay to become eligible for an upgrade.

BTW... something I should point out is that I'm doing a Platinum Challenge on this trip. I'll come within 100 EQP's with this next 9+ hour flight to FRA. I'll complete the challenge when I leave BRU next week en route to JFK. I estimate I'll make PLAT within about 20 minutes of leaving BRU.

More from Frankfurt!
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Old Jun 21, 09, 1:16 am
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Saturday, June 20, 2009: DFW --> FRA, AA70, Seat 10H

After a short stint in the AC, I made my way down to Gate D23 to catch my flight. Boarding time was supposed to be 2pm, but we ended up boarding a bit later. I was in the Business Class wave of folks to board the plane and I found my way quickly to Seat 10H, an aisle on the right side of the aircraft. I found a duvet and pillow awaiting me, along with a menu. The amenity kit was also waiting on the seat. I made myself at home, tucking my shoes here, my bag there, etc. My seat mate arrived quickly and made himself at home.

The FA came through and offered to take my sweatshirt, but I declined. He then offered juice, champagne and water. Again I declined. He said he’d be back shortly to take my dinner order, so I decided to checkout the menu.

The flight was scheduled to leave at 2:45. The doors closed at 3:01 and at 3:14 the wheels went up. Expected flying time is 8:58, on a path that takes us north towards Detroit, over Canada and then out over the Atlantic before descending over Ireland, the UK and Belgium before landing in Frankfurt.

Unlike some passengers, I won’t transcribe the entire menu, but the options tonight are beef, chicken, salmon or pasta. Warm nuts are first, followed by an appetizer of Mojito Shrimp with pineapple and spiced coconut. A salad is next followed by the main course. Desserts are offered: Breyers Dulce de leche ice cream topped with a turtle brownie and raspberry sauce, or caciotta and cheddar cheese accompanied by seasonal grapes and dried apricots. To finish, they offered Ghiaradelli chocolates.

I selected the Beef Fillet which was featured with a mango chili demi-glace, blue cheese potatoes and glazed carrots. The warm nuts were served and I chose to start my afternoon right with a gin and tonic. It was Beefeater gin, which is not my favorite. But the drink was strong and tasty, and on a long flight I knew this would help me get drowsy in the next couple hours so I could get a few hours of shut-eye.

The food was just OK. The salad was good, the shrimp were so-so, and the beef was a bit dry. The sauce was excellent, the blue cheese potatoes were just lukewarm, and the carrots were good. I also had a glass of Arrowood Cabernet and that helped the steak a bit.

The IFE on this flight was fairly good. I chose to watch The International during dinner service. I took a brief nap for an hour or so, and then woke up to play a few games and watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop. There’s an hour plus of my life that I’ll never get back!

About an hour before landing, the FA’s came through the cabin and offered an “express breakfast”. It looked like a full breakfast to me. I had a choice of an omelet or cereal. Since I had an AA omelet just a few hours before from SFO – DFW, I chose the cereal. Special K with a side of fruit, a croissant, orange juice and coffee.

We landed at 7:21 local time – four minutes early – and taxi’d to the gate. Since I was up front, getting through passport control was a breeze, but then began the hour-long wait for bags. Mine was one of the last off the plane. Interestingly enough, the last bags out were all the ones tagged premium. I guess AA’s definition of premium is leaving them for the end?

At any rate, I collected my bag, and I had nothing to declare at Customs, so I raced through to get a taxi and head to my hotel, which is where I'm posting this.

I'm going to grab a shower and head out for some sightseeing on this Sunday morning, since it's just before midnight back in San Francisco and I'm starting to feel the jetlag already and it's only about 9am here in Frankfurt.

More later in the week.
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Old Jun 28, 09, 6:58 am
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Frankfurt – 6/20/09 – 6/24/09: 25 Hours Hotel

For my stay in Frankfurt, we lodged at the 25 Hours Hotel, near the Red Light District, which is just steps from the main train station. Leading up to the trip I was a bit nervous due to the location near the station and red light district, noting that both were in a sketchy area.

I arrived on Sunday morning around 8:30am local time. My taxi driver had little trouble finding the neighborhood and street, but had a bear of a time finding 58 NiddastraBe street.

I entered the hotel and I was welcomed by name. (My assistant had notified that I’d be checking in early). The clerk asked me to sign a few forms, but didn’t require a credit card or ID for me to check in. I made my way up to the 3rd floor and found my way to room 304. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to turn on lights and the TV. I realized my room card, which was a proximity-based system for the door, was also the “key” to everything else in the room. I plugged the key into the slot and the room came to life. I set the air conditioner to what I think was a comfortable temperature, and got out some fresh clothes so I could shower. I figured this would be the key to me staying awake for the next several hours.

The room was very comfortable, the shower was great with hot water and great pressure. My room had a refrigerator in it as well that was stocked with a few beverages. Wireless internet was free and largely dependable. Breakfast was downstairs in the lobby and was a typical European breakfast. All things considered, the hotel is nearly a year old and is very comfortable and affordable (70 Euros per night for my company’s rate).

I’ll skip the details of the next few days since it was all business.
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Old Jun 28, 09, 6:59 am
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009: FRA --> IST, TK1509, Seat 1A

My co-workers and I made our way to the Frankfurt Airport at 3pm for our 6pm flight. We’re all unfamiliar with the airport and we heard traffic can be quite nasty in the afternoon around Frankfurt, so we decided to get there early.

We entered and quickly found the Turkish Airlines counter. There was no line for the business class check in, so I went first. The nice agent checked my passport and issued my boarding card. I was assigned seat 1A at this point. They wouldn’t issue the seating until time of check in. The agent had told us we’d be in the B gates but wasn’t quite sure what gate. My co-workers checked in and we made our way down to security in the B gates section of Terminal 1.

Security was easy. No removal of shoes or belt required.

We were traveling business class, so we were able to make use of the Lufthansa Business Class lounge. We found some seats and made ourselves comfortable for the next hour or so. We then ventured to our gate (B22 at this point) at boarding time: 5:10. We waited around B22 for about 30 minutes and I finally walked up to see if our flight would be late due to the fact boarding time had long come and gone. The agent said there would be a 15-20 minute delay as the plane had just landed. No sooner had I gotten back to my seat, she announced that the gate was being changed to B 41 – nearly all the way on the other side of the airport. So everyone made a mad dash for the new gate.

Once we arrived, it was essentially mass chaos as they checked everyone’s ticket to get into a holding area, and then 20 minutes later they announced boarding for business class only. That didn’t stop everyone from converging on the entry to the plane, and boarding was underway. Much, much less controlled than you’d find in the USA.

We found our seats and the business class seats on this 737-800 were just regular coach seats, with the middle seat blocked. There wasn’t any extended recline. Fairly disappointing as I had previously read that many of the Turkish Airlines flights had exceptional business class seats. I’ll have to evaluate the seats on the flight on Sunday morning to Brussels, which is scheduled to be on a Airbus 321.

At any rate, the flight attendants were attentive and offered pre-take-off drinks of orange juice or water. My executive assistant had warned against drinking water in Turkey to be on the safe side, and my co-worker sitting in 1C warned me to heed this advice. Still… we were still in Germany and I was fairly comfortable with the water at this point, so I drank that. He didn’t remember to warn me until after he had grabbed the water. He looked at me with a scared look on his face and essentially gave it back to the FA.

We were issued menus, and the landing documents, which was a public health passenger locator card. Dinner tonight was a chicken, smoked salmon and stuffed wine leaf as an appetizer, a choice of beef with baked potatoes and carrots, mushroom lasagna or poached salmon, a side of fig and cheeses, a tomato and cucumber salad and some peach marble cake. The food was excellent. I ate the entire plate (my entrée was the beef). Tea, coffee or liquors were offered after the meal service, however I passed.

The flight itself was just OK. I recall the pilot taking most of the runway at FRA to get off the ground. Not sure why the extended taxi! In the air it was fairly bumpy, but the entire crew was competent and professional.
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Old Jun 28, 09, 7:30 am
Join Date: May 2004
Location: SJO/MGA
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Posts: 330
Nice report

Looking forward to your return travels.
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Old Jun 28, 09, 12:03 pm
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Istanbul, Turkey, Radisson SAS Hotel

Wow. Traffic in Istanbul is an absolutely nightmare! Even at 11:30 at night when we finally cleared customs and collected our baggage, the transportation situation was crazy. It took nearly an hour to get to our hotel, which wasn’t close to the airport. Still, it was surprising to see that much traffic late at night.

I learned the next day that Istanbul is a city of 15 million people. A truly massive city.

We stayed at the Radisson SAS Hotel, nearly at the base of the Bosphorus Bridge on the European side (the bridge connects the European continent to Asia). The hotel is immediately on the water. Check in was easy, though we learned our reservations gave us the last rooms in the hotel that evening. We didn’t even drop our bags at the room, but instead went to the patio just out the back door of the bar. Wow… what a great patio, overlooking multiple night clubs, the river, a phenomenal mosque and the great Bosphorus Bridge, which was built in 1973.

After a few cocktails, at approximately 2am, we finally headed to our rooms. I found two double beds in my room, an adequate shower, a refrigerator and plenty of air conditioning to battle the heat that Istanbul has this time of year (though the weather outside at 11am reminds me of Los Angeles…. A bit cool and no humidity at all. In other words, perfect!)

It’s been a long time since I slept in a double bed, and it’s smaller than I remember. But how much room do I really need? Not much, so it was fine. Corporate cost for the room, per night, was 180 Euros. Not sure what it was per night in Turkish Lira. Breakfast was included and wireless internet was also included, though a bit spotty in my connection. Even wired internet was spotty.

We did our business and enjoyed Istanbul quite a bit. We were staying in Europe over the weekend, so we had a guided tour of the old city (Constantinople) and we had a chance to enjoy the Bazaar, billed as the oldest shopping mall on Earth. Lots of great deals to be had if you bargained successfully, though there were a lot of illegitimate knockoff products (i.e. Rolex watch for 120 TL, or about 60 Euros before bargaining). I bought a few trinkets but skipped on any purchases of gold, electronics and carpets. There’s no shortage of pushy people though!

Our trip ended Sunday morning with a quick trip to the airport. No traffic this morning when we left, so getting to the airport at 6am for a 7:50 flight to Brussels was a breeze.
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Old Jun 28, 09, 12:07 pm
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Sunday, June 28, 2009, IST à BRU, TK1937, Seat 3D
We arrived at the airport and immediately you pass through a security check. Shoes remained on, but laptop had to come out and belt had to come off. This was even before we got to check in. I’m told this is to prevent any illicit materials from even entering the check in areas.

We proceeded to Turkish Airlines Business Class check in area, in section G of the airport. After a short line, we obtained our boarding passes and entry into the lounge. We were there with little time, so we passed on the lounge. We proceeded directly to the passport check area and the man validated our entry documents and then promptly let us exit the country, happy with what he saw.

We grabbed a Starbucks coffee and then headed to the gate, where we found yet ANOTHER xray /metal detector. Passport and ticket checked; laptop out once again and I went through without issue. Boarding started within 2 minutes of my clearing the security checkpoint. The gate agent opened the door and made an announcement for general boarding. On I went and my group was first on the plane this morning.

We boarded the Airbus 320-232 and found some very nice business class seats. I was in 3D, so I took out my laptop and Bose headphones and stored the bag for the remainder of the flight. Very nice flight attendants gave us options of orange juice, champagne or water. Today’s flight was only about half full, and business class was less than half full. I had the row to myself.

After takeoff, the FA came by to take more drink orders and hand out menus. Breakfast today was a tray with fruit salad, yogurt with honey, beef ham and herbed chicken and assorted cheeses. I’ve never heard of beef ham, since ham comes from a pig, not a cow. So I passed on that. The yogurt wasn’t my cup of tea either. Everything else was quite tasty and the variety of cheeses was a nice start to the morning. The main course for me this morning was scrambled eggs with cheese toast with turkey ham. A grilled tomato and green pepper accompanied. It was quite tasty. Some more coffee, which was quite good, and my meal was completed and I could do some work and get this trip report down.

The seats were comfortable and each seat had a personal IFE unit, however there wasn’t any IFE to be enjoyed, so I worked instead.

We started descending around 9:45am for a 10:15am landing. The landing was typical, as a colleague told me: Very fast and with a loud thump. We taxi'd to our gate and as we left the jetway were immediately greeted by several people from Belgian Passport control, who checked every passport. We discussed and thought they must be looking for somebody who was on the plane. A wanted man, possibly?!

We proceeded to the real passport control and even though the man checking the passports had a little trouble scanning my passport, I was on my way within 2 minutes and onto luggage. No issues in collecting my luggage, though one of the zippers on my 5-year-old bag was now missing. The zipper itself worked fine, but the zipper handle was missing. I didn't notice this until I got to my hotel

On the whole, Turkish Airlines wasn't bad. Not sure I would call them a top performer, but we got where we were going safely and my bags made it. So success!
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