Oneworld RTW Trip: UK/Japan/Sri Lanka/Singapore/Australia on AA/CX/KA/QF in F & J

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  1. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Many children have a favorite toy while growing up. A moth eaten teddy bear, or perhaps a set legos or Lincoln logs. For me, it was a map. I could sit for hours and hours on end just staring at the dark black lines carving through bright colored sploches of land. My mother would tuck me into bed at night be quizzing me on world capitals. I'd often tell her before she switched off the light that one day I'd make a trip around the world.....

    and it looks like that day has finally come! :)

    MY STORY

    Despite a childhood spent dreaming of far away lands, the early years of my adult life didn't really start me down the path of a world traveler. I spent most of my days plucking away at my keyboard and answering phone calls like any other American officer worker. I'd spend a lunch hour searching for itineraries on Expedia every few days, but not once did I ever take the leap and actually buy a ticket. That all changed the spring of 2008. I stumbled across a direct flight from my home base of ORD to NRT for approximately $450 R/T. I blinked a few times, refreshed the page, and started to sweat.

    After much debate, I ended up booking two tickets for me and my SO for May. That sealed the deal, and started me on the path toward being a FFer and enjoying MP so much. I enjoyed the trip immensely, and even had the foresight to register with AA's AAdvantage program. To the naive version of myself in 2008, the 12,500 miles I received after the trip seemed like a treasure trove of possibilities. I quickly discovered there wasn't much I could do with so few miles, and that led me online into the world of credit card bonuses, mile runs, and elite status.

    Skip forward 3 years and I'm going to be able to fulfill a childhood dream: circle the world.

    THE TRIP

    The original plan was to make stops in Africa and Australia via Europe and Asia respectively. That itinerary ended up being scrapped for two big reasons: the civil unrest in Egypt (planned stop #1) and the fuel surcharges slapped onto award tickets by BA (the only OW carrier with seats open to CPT/JNB when for my time period). So it was back to the drawing board....

    I ended up booking the following itinerary:

    [​IMG]

    This award ended up costing me 280,000 AA miles and a total of $440 USD in taxes and fees. Not bad if you ask me!

    I attempted to write another trip report for a smaller trip I took in February, but I ended up stalling out in the middle of that one. I'm hoping that I can stick with this trip report more solidly and perhaps even get the motivation to go back and finish my maligned first attempt.

    WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE

    So without wasting anymore of your precious time, here are the planned installments of the trip report:

    ORD-LHR in F on AA
    Touring in London, UK
    Hilton London Heathrow
    Marriott Heathrow Windsor
    LHR-HKG in F on CX, HKG-FUK in J on KA
    Touring in Fukuoka, Japan
    Chisun Hotel Hakata
    FUK-TPE-HKG-SIN-CMB on CX in J
    Touring in Colombo, Bentota, and Galle, Sri Lanka
    Taj Samudra Hotel
    Waterside Bentota Guesthouse
    CMB-SIN on CX in J
    Crowne Plaza Changi Airport
    SIN-SYD in F on QF on the A380
    Touring in Sydney
    VIBE Hotel Sydney
    SYD-LAX in F on QF on the A380, LAX-ORD in F on AA

    I hope that I keep up with this, but more importantly, I hope you enjoy reading!
     
  2. mynameismud
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    mynameismud Gold Member

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    Great introduction DD !!!
    Waiting for the next installment
     
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  3. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    I'm in Singapore now, so with the strong internet connections I think I can start posting sometime in the next day or two!
     
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  4. calvinoeh
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    calvinoeh Milepoint Guide

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    Can't wait!!
     
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  5. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Before we get started.....

    As with all things in life, I think it's vital to set some expectations between you, the reader, and me, the writer. Many of you might come into this thread with preconceived notions about what a trip report should contain and feature. For better or worse, my report will differ slightly from the traditional offering. To give you fair warning, please note the following:
    • I am a non-drinker. Yes, shocking, but we do exist. This means that there will not be any photos of bubbling glasses of champagne, or educated opinions on wine list offerings. If you're a fan of a good cup of tea, you might find something here to read though!
    • Travel has always been, and will always be, a method for me to experience the world and take in all it has to offer. With this in mind, there were times during this trip that I made a choice to skip meals or refrain from taking photos. While I know trip reports fans love a great photo of a ham sandwich, I hope that you'll understand sometimes I just needed to sleep, or kick back and enjoy the experience. ;)
    • You may notice that the quality of some of these pictures are not the best. This is because I used only my iPhone when taking photos while in the airport and on the plane. While out touring I utilized my nicer camera (though I admittedly don't know much about using it, so even those photos are a bit sketchy at times!). While in the lounges I developed fairly severe cases of "OMG PEOPLE THINK I'M CRAZY WITH MY PICTURES" and thus came away with relatively few shots within the lounges. Over time perhaps I won't care so much. :confused:
    • With regards to the iPhone photos, sometimes I took photos using an application that "filters" the colors in the photo. This will account for some of the odd "antiquing" or "color enhancements" you'll see on some shots.
    • This was my first trip in international first class, so I do make a few rookie mistakes. Take them for what they are and please feel free to laugh with me, but not at me. ;)
    With that being said, I hope you enjoy what I have to show you. Let's raise the curtain on this show.....
     
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  6. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    American Airlines ORD Flagship Lounge

    You know that feeling you get in your stomach right before something major happens? The butterflies are fluttering and it feels like at any moment your insides might just announce that they can't take the anticipation any longer and they're going to pack their bags and march right out your rear end?

    I didn't have any of those when I arrived at ORD on the day of my big around the world journey.

    Maybe it was the fact that after a relatively long cold spell, Chicago's weather had finally started to cooperate with the summer vibe and was showcasing some spectacular sunshine that day. Or maybe it was the fact that I had made one of the previously mentioned rookie mistakes and booked what I anticipated would be a lackluster flight on AA for my first introduction to international first class. Either way, when I arrived at Terminal 3 in ORD and sauntered up to the first class check in, it still felt like just another travel day.

    The TA was polite enough at first. He gave me a wary eye when I handed over my passport and informed him that I was headed to LHR. After 3 years of flying with AA, I've gotten used to that side long glance. While I'll be turning 30 in just 3 short days, I'm often mistaken for someone much younger. Definitely not something that I'd ever complain about, but the age issue does seem to pop up from time to time when flying domestic first class or trying to utilize my EXP benefits. Regardless, his disposition changed a bit once he'd typed a few key strokes into his computer and confirmed that I was in fact the holder of a first class ticket on AA86 to LHR.

    It was all smiles from there. He checked in my one piece of luggage and handed me a boarding card for seat 2J on the 777. Wishing me a pleasant flight, he directed me to the Priority AAccess/First class security check point directly to the left of AA's premium check in at ORD. No hassles today, and despite it being a Friday afternoon I was through security in less than 5 minutes and trekking down the long hallway toward the Flagship Lounge at the end of the K concourse.

    Being ORD based, this certainly wasn't my first time in the Flagship Lounge. As I've mentioned in another (half finished :() trip report, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this establishment. I'm not a particularly fancy flier, so the fact that I have a relatively nice area to nestle down while enjoying all some light snacks and free drinks before a flight is A+ in my book. With that in mind, I think there are some clear issues with the Flagship Lounge in ORD. For example, if the lounge is so small and cramped that I can discern the exact brand of deodorant of the person seated next to me, there just might be a space issue. In my 3 years of flying out of ORD with AA, I have never NOT struggled to find a seat that didn't require me to hire a Nepalese sherpa to guide me through a mine field of carry on luggage and business men screaming into their cell phones. Maybe it's bad luck, but my gut instinct tells me that AA should consider relocating or adding space to this lounge in its long term strategy.

    But that's just the opinion of someone who looks like he's 12, travels in first class wearing jeans, and doesn't have the good sense to drink all the free champagne he can when it's offered. ;)

    That being said, it's still a pretty good place to relax before jumping on a plane over an ocean.

    Food offerings today included: samosas, grilled sausages, cheese cubes, mixed greens, mini-pizzas, beef and chicken kebabs, shrimp cocktail, and some sliced fresh fruit. If the menus for the manager's reception at the Embassy Suites and a sleep over for 10 year old boys had a love child, it would be the AA Flagship Lounge food offering. While perhaps not as refined as one might hope for, the food is comforting and inviting, and I certainly helped myself to some of it.

    [​IMG]
    The open bar offering which I did not sample.

    [​IMG]
    A sample plate of the food offerings and my version of a "cocktail" - ginger ale.

    After I'd taken a few minutes to snap those photos and to check my email, a flurry of boarding announcements were made by the lounge staff, triggering a mass exodus of about 1/2 of the lounge inhabitants. I took that opportunity to snap some quick photos of the lounge on my way out the door.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    While the food might remind you of a stoner's wish list and the space available resembles a NYC studio apartment, the one thing I have always really enjoyed about the Flagship Lounge in ORD is the staff. The AAngels staffing the entrance are always very pleasant and accommodating, but I'm really talking about the wait staff who go about their days bussing tables, restocking the food, and generally keeping the lounge running smoothly. This group of women (I've yet to see a man....) are always visible, darting to and fro asking you if you'd like to have your plate cleared or offering to bring you a bottle of water. They're very hard working and very friendly if you take the time to smile and engage with them. Very few people do though.

    That about sums up my short time in the AA Flagship Lounge at ORD. I exited through the back door by the food and pretty much marched right onto the plane. I did pause for a few seconds to snap a quick picture of the AA 777 that would be taking me to LHR and subsequently taking my international first class virginity. You always remember your first time.....

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Jimgotkp
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    Jimgotkp Gold Member

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    Very nice! Looking forward to the rest of the TR! Have fun!
     
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  8. kiwi
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    kiwi Gold Member

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    Nice start. I'm looking forward to the rest of the report.
     
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  9. nldogbert

    nldogbert Silver Member

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    I have the same feelings about the ORD Flagship lounge. It can be packed, but when it is not, it can be quite a nice place to spend the time. Locationwise, I do find it so far and quite terrible to have it all the way at the end of the K-finger.
    I think I understand which group of ladies you speak about in the FL. I know one particular lady there which is very sweet and seems to enjoy her work at the lounge. Since I cac't mention names here, I would just call her the "water bottle lady" since she loves to make sure guests are well equipped with a bottle of water.
    Great report so far and wishing you happy travels! You will enjoy the places you will be visiting!
    Cheers!
     
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  10. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    So contrary to what many might believe, I did not die or get sent to prison. Sadly I just got caught up with some inconvienent things in my life (moving into a new house actually) and had to put this on the side for a bit. I hope to start regularly updating this trip report going forward. Wish me luck, because I've only been in the place 5 days so there is still lots of work to do in addition to my 9-5 job, posting here on MP, and of course traveling! ;)
     
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  11. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    First Time In First......

    Flight: AA86
    Carrier: American Airlines (AA)
    Aircraft: Boeing 777
    Departure: 6:05 PM
    Arrival: 7:50 AM
    Routing: Chicago O'Hare (ORD) – London Heathrow (LHR)
    Class: First
    Seat: 2J

    Perhaps it's a little deceptive to say this was my first time in First class. As an EXP on AA, I've been on quite a few trips domestically at the front of the plane. In fact, this wasn't even my first time in First on AA's 777, as I'd done it a few times when they were flying once a day between ORD and DFW. Flying internationally in First is a completely different story though, and I was very much looking forward to finally crossing that threshold as a traveler. So here it goes:

    As I headed down the jetbridge I took a few deep breaths to prepare myself. Sure, I was going to be taking a flight in First class, but I'd been warned that the experience on AA was downright awful. I wanted to have faith in AA though. I've been a loyal customer for several years now and I can only count one time when they have genuinely disappointed me. Experience vs hope. Which one was going to win today?

    As I stepped on the the 777 I was greated pleasantly by an FA at the door. I flashed my boarding pass and a smile in her direction and she directed me across the J galley toward my seat.

    [​IMG]

    The seat was just as I remembered it - much more spacious than AA's J offering and moderately comfortable. AA's F seat is a bit sturdy, which I suppose is good for longevity but I find the cushioning and positioning of the seats a bit uncomfortable. In the upright seated position, I almost felt like I was being pushed forward beyond a 90 degree angle. Never the less it's a solid seat and is a nice change from AA's J offering.

    Leg room was fantastic from my point of view, but admittedly I'm a fairly short man so even in economy I often times don't find that I'm struggling too much with moving my legs around. In the picture below I'm actually slouched in my seat on the very edge and extending my legs as far out as I can possibly get them.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The cabin remained fairly empty for the first half of the boarding process, but soon it became apparently that we were going to have a full F cabin into LHR. Of the top of my head the people who stood out the most to me were a married couple and their two children who were flying to LHR on award tickets and SWU upgraded J seats. Lots of squeals of delight and picture taking from the kids, which many would find annoying but I found cute (and to be quite honest, I'm not a fan of children in general so the fact that I wasn't annoyed is surprising). There were also two raucous business men who had obviously been enjoying the complimentary adult beverages in the lounge prior to boarding. As soon as they walked down the aisle the air was filled with the pungent odor of beer. They bantered loudly back and forth about all the amazing work they were going to do in London and how many big deals they planned on landing. One was seated directly across the aisle from me, and the other was seated directly in front of me. Wanting to be seated near one another, they made the executive decision to have the gentleman seated across from me poach the seat in front of him. Toward the end of boarding the woman who rightfully owned the seat arrived and appeared a bit flustered, but with the doors closing up she just shrugged it off and plopped down in the seat across from me.

    Lesson learned: Seat poaching happens in all classes!

    The FAs made their rounds offering a pre-departure beverage. Being new to the experience, I asked for a diet coke and was told that unfortunately they could only offer what was already poured for us: sparkling wine, water, or orange juice. I'm not a drinker of liquor, but since this was my inaugural flight in international F class I decided I should have a glass of sparkling wine.

    [​IMG]

    This was a bad idea on my part, because I took one sip, remembered that I am not a fan of liquor, and that was the end of it. Oh well, bon voyage!

    The amenity kit that was offered had been placed at the seat along with a pillow and duvet. I cracked opened the amenity kit while the captain was making his typical "Welcome Aboard!" speech. As expected, it was the exact same items I'd always received on my J class trips in the past. Eye mask, ear plugs, toothbrush and toothpaste, some Bert's Bees lipbalm and lotion, socks, and some breath mints. Better than a stick in the eye.

    We left the terminal on time as far as I can tell (I'm not a traveler who keeps track of those types of things, I've never understood the compulsion to do so either), and before I knew it we were rocketing down the runway and taking off into the now misty skies over Chicago.

    [​IMG]

    As I gazed out the window and thought about the amazing trip I had before me, I noticed the FA stop just to my left and turned to her with a smile. Looks like it was time to experience some food.....
     
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  12. calvinoeh
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    calvinoeh Milepoint Guide

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    Good start!
     
  13. ssedha

    ssedha Silver Member

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    Excellent start. I'm very much looking forward to reading about Sri Lanka... When do we get to see it???
     
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