Mileage Sweet Spots 3 – London to Madrid Club Europe 777 with Avios

Week three and another bargain Avios fare.

Each lunchtime British Airways operate a 777 between London and Madrid with its long haul business class seats available for purchase. I was quite excited to try these last year as I’d never flown backwards before. The flight leaves LHR around 1.20pm and arrives in Madrid with plenty of time to get into the city, checked in and out for dinner.

The full Avios fare is 12,750 and $40. As always and a great part of the program is you can pay more cash and less miles as you can see below. The cash price for this flight next month is £530 on the days I checked so this represents great value using your Avios.

The service onboard is really good and the T5 lounge in Heathrow, while big and busy does do a good choice of food and drinks and has some great runway views.

LHR is one of the best airports in the world for plane spotting. One downside was the plane was at a remote stand the week I took it but sometimes that’s kinda fun too as you get out on the tarmac.

This is a great way to travel between London and Madrid in a bed with lashings of wine for a very small price.

A slightly crazy idea of how to get back from Vietnam after your Cathay Error Fare jackpot win.

So it happened – the deal of a lifetime became a reality. I expect many people booked as quickly as possible without a whole lot of research into how the are going to get to Vietnam for the outward leg and home from Vietnam on the return. As I mentioned I didn’t participate in this one but it could have played nicely into one of my goals for this year which is the take the Singapore Airlines longest flight for no other reason than I’m an avgeek.

Here’s an idea for you which may just work if you’re US based and mad enough and want to spend a few days jetting around the world eating and drinking in first and business class cabins and great lounges.

This idea works on the second leg. So make sure to credit the miles to Alaska if you are in first class on the outbound, you will receive enough miles for a JAL award later in the year as you can see in the chart above.

One of the great Alaska redemptions is the ability to travel from South East Asia to India via Tokyo in JAL Dreamliner business class for just 25k, an absolute steal. In this scenario we want to get to India to pick up a great Singapore Airlines fare back to New York.

Randomly enough Singapore offers great cash fares from Ahmedabad in India via Singapore to Newark on the highly publicized worlds longest flight. Fares between Delhi and Ahmedabad are very cheap and will position you to start the trip back to NYC.

Singapore Airlines have various dates available throughout the schedule currently from $1499, these have dropped as low $1200 and tend to fluctuate a bit. For the length of the flight it’s good value in business class and allows you travel on the worlds longest flight. It involves an A330 to Singapore and a pretty long layover, but so be it, it’s all part of the mission.

Before you know it you’re back in Newark after some serious hours in the air but why not consider it?? Three days ago you could only dream about traveling Cathay First why not tie in the worlds longest flight.

Amusingly you can credit Singapore to Alaska too. So between your Cathay accrual back to Vietnam and the Singapore accrual to New York, you’ll have enough Alaska miles for a rewards ticket back to Vietnam on Cathay Pacific……

A Holiday Weekend with Southwest Airlines

I have always been interested in Southwest Airlines and how their vision created the low cost travel industry we are so used to today. But I have not travelled with them more than a couple of times up until this past Memorial Day.

Last year I signed up for the Chase Southwest Credit Card when it briefly offered 60,000 Miles for doing so. It was a good stash to have for a rainy day which inevitably come when you travel on a regular basis.

Currently based in Texas with work, I needed to travel to San Francisco for Memorial weekend and as with every Holiday in the US cash fares were very high if you wanted to maximize the weekend. It was time to dip into the stash and try out Southwest Airlines properly. My route was a little awkward but got me there Thursday night and back Monday night for for 23,000 Points. Not cheap but when cash fares were in the $800 range I felt it was a solid redemption. My route would take me from San Antonio – Dallas, Dallas – San Francisco and then San Jose – Denver, Denver – San Antonio.

Lesson One: San Antonio – Dallas

On arrival at the airport I already knew my second flight would be delayed getting me into SFO at 2am. Far from ideal. I went to the desk to see what they could do, as I could have routed via LAS and arrived much earlier. Unfortunately as my initial flight was on time there was nothing they could do other than charge a small fortune to re-route. Good to know.

I decided to get the early bird check in they offer for $15 and get into group A. Years spent travelling Europe on Ryanair justified that expense. Southwest open check-in 24 hours before your flight and it first come first served from that point. Group A will guarantee you either a window or aisle, what else do you want.

Boarding with Southwest is really slick as far as I’m concerned, they have trained their customers well… each group slid into their allocated numbers with minimum fuss. Very different to the mayhem that ensues in Europe and with the multiple boarding groups the legacy carriers have.

Once onboard what can I say? A 737 is a 737, the upper deck was not open that day. But the crew were particular jovial and light hearted which made a lovely change from most of the crews I’ve encountered this year. 45 minutes later touch down in Dallas Love Field. Herb Kellehers base!!!

Lesson Two: Dallas to San Francisco

Not really a lesson here, when your flight is delayed have patience. It happens! Enjoy a nice relaxing beverage and have a bite to eat. Dallas was a nice terminal to do this in too, it was nice and spacious and far from busy, but I guess it was around 9pm at this point.

We were delayed due to a crew issue so it was hard for the gate agents to put a time on it. We ended up departing about an hour behind schedule. Once again the crew onboard were particularly nice even after having their nights off cancelled and the flight was quiet, so after a couple of G+Ts i settled into my lie flat bed row 26 ABC.

Lesson Three: San Jose – Denver/Phoenix

The way home also had a bit of drama, I guess luckily this time my initial flight was delayed. Weather in Denver was causing issues and the next update would be in half an hour. My 45 minute connection didn’t sound too promising.

Back to the desk, where sadly I met my first unfriendly member of the Southwest staff. Either way she re-routed me via Phoenix instead of Denver. This cancelled my early bird check-in and left me in a not so nice boarding position of C59 aka the middle. She did try and sell me a position in A1-15 for $30 a leg which I declined. Which was a good move as group B was boarding when I got there. So my fate was 6E – beside a girl who had no interest in looking out the window and left the blind down until I asked to open for the approach into PHX.

Lesson Four: Phoenix to San Antonio

It was a quick connection in Phoenix, which is a surprisingly large airport. The lesson here is always double check the screens. I got into the wrong line and tried to head to Omaha only discovering the gate change at the last minute. Luckily the SAT gate was nearby so I wouldn’t miss the flight. The gate area was empty so I hoped the flight would be. No such luck, it was packed and the people in C and D seats were making themselves look as big and angry as possible…. deep breath 22E is home for the next two hours…… but I’m home earlier than planned. Well until my Lyft driver got lost but that’s another story.

There was a bit of drama along the way for sure but all in all there is a nice vibe on Southwest, it’s laid back and fun. People chat and that’s kind of what travelling is all about or was all about at least. Let’s see if there’s any drama next month when I head back to San Francisco via Phoenix maybe I’ll see Denver this time!!!!

My 5 best deals of 2017 and not a single error fare.

2017 was a good year for me on the travel front racking up around 45,000 miles in the air. Nearly all of it paying cash and involving lots of deal hunting. I really enjoy researching fares and coming up with random routes to get the best value for money. I had quite a bit of success last year and wanted to share my top 5 deals of the year.


Every year I am lucky enough to go on a family holiday to the Algarve in Portugal, but since moving to the US the cost of flights has increased substantially. For the week in July I needed TAP via Lisbon was pricing at about $1,300 Return in economy. Other options included Aerlingus via Dublin but even it was coming in around $1,000.

Then along came Norwegian and their 737 MAX flights from Stewart Airport. I picked up SWF – EDI and DUB – SWF for $99 dollars each the day then went on sale and then used Ryanair flights for the flights in Europe which totaled about $150. All in all the flights came in at under $350 which for July was pretty awesome.

2.) BOS – EWR (LGA) in August

I guess this is more of a stroke of luck but I was booked on a 6am Monday morning United flight from Boston to Newark. This was a basic economy fare that cost just $59. I needed to get to work but when they ask for volunteers to change flights, you have to ask what’s on offer. In this case it was a $500 voucher and a seat with American twenty minutes later. I actually got to work earlier than I would have with United.

3.) EWR-SDQ-EWR-SFO in April

I needed to get to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic for a wedding. Prices were steep at about $600 round trip which I felt was far too high. Playing around on the United website I discovered that by adding an extra leg to the reservation to price would come down.

Being close to Easter we decided to add a leg to San Francisco which in its own right was very high due to the holiday. When all was said and done the fare came to $480. In theory we could have not taken the SFO flight and still saved cash but went ahead and booked the return with American for 12.5K miles as $5.60. Job done.

4.) JFK-LAS-SFO-LAS-JFK in December

Christmas is far and away the most expensive time of the year to travel but this year wanted to be in San Francisco. I booked the return flight on Virgin America via Las Vegas for 12.5K Alaska and $5.60 on the 26th of December. I felt this was a great redemption, but still needed to get there.


Direct flights a few days before Christmas we’re pricing at between $450 and $500 again expensive for a route that is usually half that.

Meanwhile very few people go to Vegas the week before Christmas preferring the week after. Delta had a flight leaving at 8pm on Wednesday to LAS for $200 and a connection to SFO the following lunchtime was $59 with United. Hotels were empty so a king room at the Mandalay Bay was $90. Between the two of us it was a nice saving and a fun one. Who doesn’t enjoy the occasional night in Vegas.

5.) LGA -YUL June

A bachelor party bought me to Montreal in June. I decided to travel first thing on Saturday morning with Air Canada from LGA for $66. As per usual Sunday flights were steep so I started getting creative and decided on the train. A one way ticket on Sunday morning was $70 and it is a beautiful journey, sure it took a day, but the days after bachelor parties don’t tend to be too productive anyway, so why not stare out the window at things like Lake Champlain.

We’re now a week into 2018 and it’s almost time to get going again. My first trip will take me the whole way around the world in about 12 days. That kicks off next week and I am starting to get very excited.

Super value between NYC and Athens/Milan on Emirates

Emirates are back with their low fares from New York to Europe. Currently both their routes are on sale with wide open availability. Usually these offers are based on two people travelling, but this promotion allows individual bookings too which is a welcome change.

These flights are well worth considering if you are travelling to Greece or Italy. Milan also offers a lot of connections around Europe with the low cost airlines should you wish to use it as a gateway city.

From $445 you can take the flagship A380 from JFK to Milan. 

Or fly from Newark to Athens from only $392 which is an excellent fare on their 777.

Emirates economy is among the best in the world and has won countless awards. This is a great option to cross the pond in comfort with excellent service and entertainment options. Grab these fares while they are available. 

Lufthansa launch scheduled 747-400 services between Frankfurt and Berlin. 

Lots has been made in the last few weeks of the end of the 747 in the US with Delta and United retiring their fleets. It’s sad to see the end of the Queen of the Skies and just last night I posted a picture of two lining up for take off at Heathrow, a beautiful sight.

While the US carriers are cutting 747s several International airlines are still flying them, Lufthansa being one. In the wake of the Air Berlin fall out they have opted to run the queen on a domestic route between Frankfurt and Berlin Tegel based on increased demand.

The flights will start on November 1st and there are more than 60 available to book between the cities operated by a 747-400 with 67 Business Class and 304 premium and economy seats. Flight times seem to vary day to day with economy fares pretty low and business flex fares expectedly pretty high for a flight that’s takes a little under an hour.

But being able to choose these seats on a trip you might normally do by train is pretty exciting. I am no longer member of miles and more where there is likely much better awards value but I can confirm there is availability and United will charge 25,000 miles and $61 for the trip in business and 15k and $61 in economy.

It’s hard to know when your real last chance will be to fly on a 747 but the chances is are the 400s will begin to be phased out around the world sooner rather than later. If you are an avgeek at heart and want to sit upstairs once again this could be a great chance to do it at an affordable price. Hopefully it proves successful and they keep it running for the long term.

Margaritas and Plane Spotting on Rockaway Beach.

As long as I can remember I have loved all things aviation. When picking people up at the airport as a kid we would always drive around the back of the airport to watch the plane land and anything else that was coming in at the same time. 

If in London I would always trek out to Terminal 2 at Heathrow and watch the Concorde take off (on Saturdays you got two flights in the morning) not the normal way a 12 year old would spend their mornings on holiday in London. 

Plane spotting tends to be a bit of a solitary hobby. As it’s pretty hard to drag people out of bed to “watch the big ones come in at 7am” until now at least…..

JFK is one of the busiest airports in the world and one of the best places to see aircraft of all shapes and sizes arriving and departing to all corners of the world. The best bit is you can watch them from somewhere everyone loves…. the beach!! 

Rockaway beach is just beside JFK and on the days when the right runways are in use the views are second to none. There are a couple of ways to get there either by subway or the new NYC ferry which leaves from Wall Street. Sadly it has been pretty crowded the last couple of weeks but when you are on it the views are stunning.

There are various parts to Rockaway with lots of food and drink options along with the most important thing – great views of planes. Beach 98 is particularly good when flights are coming in off the sea to land. As you can see below they come in right over your head.

Flight Radar 24 is a great app to download so you can see what runways are in use and what planes are on the approach. Depending on the time off day you get arrivals from different parts of the world, early afternoon is perfect for all the wide bodies from Europe.

So the next time you are in NYC and someone suggests the beach. Mention the cool bars, the great boat trip and the views of Rockaway. Nobody even needs to know your favourite hobby is plane spotting!!!

Release your inner #Avgeek and visit the Boeing Factory near Seattle

One of my favourite cities in the World is Seattle. While the weather may be far from perfect the city ticks every other box for me and I love visiting.
However for anyone with even a passing interest in aviation the real action is 25 miles north at Everitt. The future of flight museum gives you a guided tour of the biggest building in the world which is Boeing’s main factory where they currently put together their long haul range. 
Unfortunately cameras are banned inside the factory. Apparently one snap happy visitor dropped his camera from a viewing point onto the wing of a 747 causing a million dollars worth a damage. True or not it was enough for me to place mine in the locker provided. 

After a short video you board a bus and they bring you over to the factory and show you the various production lines. It is really amazing to see the different stages of production and be so close to the planes as they get built. When I visited we got to see the 747, 777 and Dreamliner lines. The tour takes place on elevated platforms so you are looking down on the people working rather than swarming around them which works very well. Once the tour is done you get back on the bus and drive around the tarmac before heading back to the museum.

The museum is interesting in its own right and it seems they change some of exhibits on a regular basis. You can sit it a mock cockpit and get up close to the engines which once again are impressive by their sheer size. Something you don’t really grasp when travelling onboard these planes.

It was also pretty cool to see on of the four dreamlifters while there. At the time I had no idea how rare they were and would have got a better shot.

Finally there are good vantage points to see the runway where they test the new aircraft. This could be particular fun on a busy day. There is also a hotel onsite where there are surely some very interesting aviation chats at the bar into the early hours.

It really is a fascinating place and worth a visit if you have a day to spare when visiting Seattle.