Sunday, September 15, 2019

Trip Report: Virgin Atlantic, London Heathrow to Atlanta (August 2019)

Trip Report: Virgin Atlantic, London Heathrow to Atlanta
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

I was traveling from London Heathrow back to Atlanta.  I had booked the ticked through Delta with the outbound sector being operated by Delta (check out that review here) while the return was being operated by Virgin Atlantic.  Once the ticket was booked, I was able to go onto Virgin's website and/or app and manage my booking which included preselecting my seat, adding special meal requests as well as adding other special requests.  Delta and Virgin Atlantic have a joint venture in which they share and market flights between the U.S. and Europe.  This joint venture was indicative throughout our return as the flight was marketed as a Delta flight number that was being operated by Virgin Atlantic (even the Virgin Atlantic boarding pass indicated this).  24-hours prior to my flight I was able to check-in and receive my boarding passes (mobile boarding passes only though, I was never able to receive an electronic copy of my boarding pass - neither through the website nor the app).  As part of the joint venture, they have a separate Sky Priority lane at the Virgin check-in desks in London so that is where we went to drop off our luggage.  Check-in process was fairly quick and we then proceeded to to the gate for our flight.  In the check-in area, Virgin was offering complimentary ice cream for its passengers, which a nice gesture as it was hot outside but generally it was a bit extra customer service.  

When we went to the gate, the plane was there and the screen had the Virgin Atlantic sign but the flight number was the Delta flight number (I still found this odd, that I had to search for the Virgin flight number).  The operating aircraft was an Airbus A330 in a 2-4-2 configuration.  The red distinct color of Virgin was prevalent throughout the cabin, but the plane did look a bit dated.  The seat also looked a bit dated, especially with the red fabric.  The seat itself was decent, not too narrow but not too wide either and the seat pitch was decent enough for the flight time.  The seatback contained a small PTV with a remote next to it, a USB port, a tray table, and a pocket which contained the safety card and airline magazine.  Each seat also contained a wrapped blanket, a pillow as well as complimentary headset.  Once boarding was completed and the doors closed, a safety video was shown and we took off for Atlanta with a scheduled flight time of 9hr 15min.  Even though Delta provided an amenity kit, no amenity kit was provided on Virgin's flight.

Once we reached cruising altitude, the attendants came back to hand out menu cards.  There were many announcements throughout the flight of Virgin trying to go green, so instead of passing out menu cards why not just put the menu on the PTV as other airlines do?  While the menu cards were a nice gesture, they seemed to be a waste of paper (in my opinion).  The first service was drinks only and a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were served along with pretzels, in Virgin's distinct color glasses.  The second service was the main meal service, with special meals served alongside regular meals.  Virgin's claims its meals to be healthier and incorporate better ingredients than its competitors, but the portion was small.  I ordered a vegetarian meal and that came with a small main dish, a salad, and dressing (the main meals did not come with much more).  While it was nice and healthy, it was neither flavorful nor substantial at all.  Water and drinks were available in the back cabin throughout the flight, but there were not as many snacks available on Virgin as were available on Delta.  About 2 hours prior to landing, an English Tea Service was provided which was a small sandwich, a dessert, as well as coffee or tea.  The Tea Service was definitely tastier than the meal service, but again it was small in portion size.  

In between the meal service, passengers could do what they wanted to occupy the time.  As it was a day time flight - the flight departed London at 10:10am and arrive into Atlanta at 2:40pm - most passengers were up and occupied their time with the entertainment system.  There was a nice variety of movies and TV shows and it was enough to cover the 9hr flight time.  The flight attendants were also always present throughout the flight, either walking down the aisles, talking to passengers, or relaxing in the back. 

Overall, it was an average flight with Virgin Atlantic.  Based on their reputation and branding, I expected to be wowed but I was not.  Positives were good customer service, friendly FA's and decent entertainment system.  Average were seat pitch and seat comfort, while negatives included small food portions and no amenity kit.  The ultimate decision maker is whether I would fly them again - and the answer while I would not avoid Virgin, they wouldn't be my first choice either.  Both them and Delta were nice, but it was an expensive ticket so what was paid for and the reputation I expected something great and what I received was a bit above average.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Stay Report: Grand Hyatt Bogota (Bogota, Colombia - August 2019)

Stay Report: Grand Hyatt Bogota
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

A friend of mine was traveling to Colombia for work so I decided to join them.  Their work had put them up at the Grand Hyatt Bogota so that is also where I stayed.  Even though the hotel was booked through work, it was very easy to manage the reservation through the Hyatt app and website.  My friend also received a welcome email from the Manager prior to arrival and we could also contact the hotel regarding any preferences, and they were quick to respond.  That was a good sign to start the trip with.

The hotel is newly built, less than 1 year old, and is very tall so stands out amongst the skyline in the suburbs of Bogota.  The hotel is within walking distance of La Gran Estacion Mall, in walking distance of restaurants near Tryp hotel, and is about a 15 minute drive to the airport (without traffic).  As you enter into the hotel, the check-in desks are to the left against one wall with the concierge stand across from them.  In the middle are couches and a nice sitting area as well as a table/library nook in which you can have a small meeting.  To the right are the elevators and beyond that is the restaurant and some stores.  Overall, the lobby is grand but feels comfortable.  My friend had already checked in so I just picked up the key and went directly to the room (hint: English was not as widely spoken and understood by the concierge desk; it was easier and quicker to communicate in Spanish).

The room was located on the 6th floor and the hotel is layed out like an 8, with two round sides on either side and the elevator in the middle.  The rooms are located on the edge of the rounds with a large open atrium in the middle - while it looks aesthetically pleasing, it seems like a lot of wasted space (in my opinion).  You entered the room into a hallway that leads to the main part of the room.  As soon as you enter the hallway, on the left is a small ledge to put your key card.  Next, still on the left side, is a little nook that leads into the bathroom.  In the nook is the closet on the right - with an iron and ironing board - and on the left are drawers on the bottom and a space to put your luggage on top.  This is also where the complimentary slippers were provided as well as the safe.  The nook leads you to the bathroom, which was quite large.  In the bathroom, there is a jacuzzi tub on the right and individual stalls for the toilet and stand shower.  There was a double sink in the middle with lots of bathroom toiletries such as soap, lotion, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and complimentary bottles of water.  The bathroom was large and spacious and the toiletries smelled nice, the only issue was the water temperature which varied throughout the day.

The room itself was also large and spacious.  Against the left wall were the two double beds with a night stand on either side of the bed as well as a night stand in the middle of the beds.  There were plugs and outlets on either side of the bed as well.  The beds were comfortable, spacious, and provided a good nights sleep.  In front of each bed was a little ottaman on which you could either sit or lay your suitcase on.  On the right side of the wall was the TV, mounted on the wall, and further down was the desk.  The desk was large and it faced the room with the large window looking out at the city behind you.  The window was large and let in lots of natural light, but these could be closed for privacy.  The bedroom was spacious and the beds were comfortable, but when the window was closed there wasn't much lighting so the room was a little dark.

There were tons of amenities at the hotel for the guests to enjoy including a restaurant, a spa, a fitness center, pool, sauna, wifi, amongst others.  As I spent most of my day outside, I only got to experience the complimentary breakfast and the complimentary wifi.  The wifi was complimentary and it was fast and stable enough to stream videos, check email, and do basically whatever you needed to do.  The complimentary breakfast was an expansive breakfast buffet with lots of options for fruit, hot dishes, cold dishes, bread, cheese, etc.  Water, juices, tea, and/or coffee were also provided complimentary and there were plenty of wait staff to assist you.  I did not get to experience the sauna/spa/fitness center but I was told it was very large with lots of machines and areas for guests to enjoy.  

Overall, it was a nice and relaxing stay at the Grand Hyatt Bogota.  It is a full-service hotel and you get to feel the entirety of the full-service aspect with your stay.  The largeness of the hotel allows for the spacious bathroom and bedroom, both of which are appreciated.  Also appreciated is the hard separation between these two areas, as with some Hyatts they seem to like the 'open concept' where the bathroom and bedroom are all one room.  A nice stay in spacious rooms with lots of amenities for the guests to enjoy.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Trip Report: Spirit Airlines, New Orleans to Bogota (August 2019)

Trip Report: Spirit Airlines, New Orleans to Bogota
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

I was traveling from New Orleans to Bogota and during the research a couple of options came up: Spirit Airlines, Copa, and jetBlue.  My first inclination was to go with Copa as it flies direct from New Orleans, the seats are generally comfortable, you get a meal plus usually a PTV, and the connection time in Panama was short.  It took some time to confirm my trip, so by the time I looked again the price for Copa went extremely high and the connection time in Panama became longer.  I then looked at jetblue but it had me overnight in Fort Lauderdale so I decided to go with Spirit.  

I was initially hesitant with Spirit since, as a LCC, there is nothing complimentary and everything needs to be paid for thus adding to the overall ticket costs.  When I have previously looked at tickets, by the time I added checked bags or other additional services the price between Spirit and others was not enough to justify flying a LCC; however, this time it was different.  The base price with Spirit was almost $200 lower than Copa, and by the time I added the bags and other services, I was still saving almost $175 - so it is because of these significant cost savings that I choose to fly with Spirit.  I have previously flown with Spirit (check out the review here) so I generally knew what to expect, but my previous flights had always been on short flights of about an hour or less so this was going to be my longest flights yet with Spirit.  

The booking process with Spirit was very easy and transparent - you are able to select your seats and they take you through all the additional services and extras that you can choose to select at the time of booking and see the complete total price before purchasing the ticket.  In addition to the base price, I added a checked bag for both the outbound and return so this added an additional $70.  While Spirit does allow a complimentary carry-on bag, this must fit underneath the seat in front of you.  Carry-on bags that need to be placed in the overhead bin incur a $30 charge each way, so instead of paying about the same price and getting less weight I decided to go with the checked baggage.  NOTE: while the traditional checked baggage allowance is 23kg or 50lbs, most LCC's - including Spirit - have reduced that to 18kg or 40lbs.  

Since nothing is complimentary, you also have to pay for your seats - I have four flights total: New Orleans to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale to Bogota, Bogota to Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Lauderdale to New Orleans.  The New Orleans to Fort Lauderdale is a little over an hour so I decided not to pay for seats on that flight, but the flight to Bogota is over 3 hours so I did pay for seats on those flight as I did not want to get stuck in the middle seat.  You could select your seat and pay for extras either during the booking process, afterwards while managing your booking, or when checking in - and Spirit will send you email reminders to do so.  I was able to check-in 24hours prior to my flight, but I did not receive a seat assignment and thus I could not receive a boarding pass - I do not know why Spirit does this as previously when I flew them it did the same thing and so I could only receive my boarding pass after going to the kiosk in the airport - to me that is such a waste of time.  At the airport, I went to the computer screens, followed the prompts, scanned my passport, received my official boarding passes, dropped my luggage off at the baggage drop, went through security and proceeded to my gate.

I had two short-haul flights - New Orleans to Fort Lauderdale and return at about 1hr45m each way - as well as two long-haul flights - Fort Lauderdale to Bogota and return at about 3h35min each way.  Each of the sectors generally operated about the same way so I will provide overall descriptions of the flights.  Each one of my flights was operated by an Airbus A320 and each was laid out in the same way.  The aircraft was in a 3-3 seat configuration with a couple of 'big seats' in the front - with only just extra legroom - and the rest in standard economy seating.  The seat on Spirit is different than a standard economy seat: the seat is a slimline seat, the armrest are narrow to allow for a wider seat width, the seat is already in a prerecline which allows for more legroom space but also means you cannot recline it forward or backward; the seat is not padded well but the padding is standard and it is generally comfortable for the short or longhaul flights; there is no standard tray table that you can pull out but rather a small tray that just folds out; and no standard pocket but a small minimal pocket below the seat.  While it is not a standard seat you would find on most airlines, the seat pitch, comfort, and width are generally better on Spirit than I would find on some mainline carriers.  Also, in the seat pocket were not a lot of materials but just two items - the safety card and the onboard menu which also doubled as the route map and advertisement for the airline credit card (each seat had the menu on the long-haul flights but on the short-haul flights only a couple of seats had the menu). 

The service on each sector of the flight was also the same as well - Spirit does not offer anything complimentary, everything is buy-on-board including water (after a lot of backlash, Spirit started offering a cup of ice complimentary but still no free water).  For the short-haul flights, the service would depend on the time of day as early morning flights the attendants just came around with the menu and asked passengers if they wanted to purchase anything while in the afternoon and evening they came around with the full trolley asking passengers if they wanted to buy anything on board.  For the long-haul flights, the FA's did a passthrough at the beginning of the flight and then again closer to landing offering passengers the option to buy on board.  On both flights, the FA's were always in the cabin either doing their service or coming through collecting trash or quickly responding to calls.  

The service onboard Spirit was very good and actually A LOT better than some of the mainline carriers I have flown with.  The FAs were courteous, they were pleasant, they were visible throughout the cabin, and generally overall provided good customer service.  The planes were also very clean and generally in good and nice shape - again better than some of the mainline carriers I have been on.  Something new that I noticed on Spirit - on both of the short-haul flights, there was a lot of interaction between the crew and the passengers and they had a contest to promote their reward program as well as their credit card.  It was a selling opportunity but the way Spirit did it was interactive and very smart and creative as it provided another way for the airline to interact with passengers in a nice and friendly way; also the give away was a nice touch and provided good pr for Spirit.  

Another item unique to Spirit is their boarding process - they board in groups which is the general standard but they start early and board very quickly so that most passengers are boarded, seated, and ready to go well before the scheduled departure time; however, even though we were all ready to go the boarding doors were not closed until the scheduled departure time.  I do not know if the early boarding is to ensure Spirit has an on-time departure - all of my flights departed on time and arrived early at the gate - but having passengers sit on the plane upto 15-20 minutes waiting to pushback seems like a lot of wasted time.

In the end, it was a standard and good experience with Spirit.  As I had flown with them, I knew what to expect flying a LCC carrier - slimline seats and minimal onboard service; and Spirit delivered on both fronts.  Spirit is also a LCC in that they usually only have one flight a day to that destination and have minimal customer service agents so if something goes wrong, then there is a problem.  Despite all that, Spirit exceeded my expectations with the friendly and courteous crew, clean planes, ontime departure, and generally overall pleasant experience.  I knew what to expect and had prepared myself for the experience (purchased food at the airport and downloaded movies to have something to watch) so I was happy with my experience.  Would Spirit be my first choice - probably not but if the price was significantly different and the flight timings were good then yes, I would choose them again.

Stay Report: ibis Medellin (Medellin, Colombia - August 2019)

Trip Report: ibis Medellin
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

I was going to be in Medellin for one night and basically needed a clean place to just rest for the night.  I looked and found the ibis Medellin - I have stayed at ibis' before (see review here) and know that they provide a basic room at a low cost but usually in locations that are convenient and close to where I want to be - so given that I decided to book the hotel.  It was very easy to book the hotel through the website and manage the reservation through the app.  The hotel is located about a 20-30 minute walk to the city center and about a 45-minute car ride from the airport.  In most locations, ibis' do not provide hotel shuttle but sometimes partner with airport transportation - in this you chose your own method to get to and from the airport.  24-hours prior to my arrival, I received an email indicating I could 'check-in online to save time' and so I went through the process and checked in but nothing happened and I had to check-in again at the hotel.  
The lobby of the hotel was compact, as are most ibis' lobby's.  As you entered the door, in front were the elevators while to the left were the check-in desks and then the restaurant/bar.  In front of the check-in desks was a small waiting area as well as trolleys to help in transporting your luggage.  Check-in at the hotel was very quick and convenient - I was given my key as well as an explanation of the hotel amenities which included complimentary wifi, no room service but a bar and a kitchen in the lobby, and breakfast also available in the lobby.  Most of these are standard amenities in ibis hotels so I was familiar with them and proceeded to the room.  The elevators are located in the middle with rooms on either side - my room was 817 all way down the end of the right hallway.

The room itself was a basic and standard ibis room - small but comfortable.  As you opened the door, there was a wall to the right and an entryway the led into the room.  As you stepped into the room, the bed was against the left hand wall and along the right wall was the TV and below that a little space for the restaurant menu and do not disturb sign.  On other side of the bed were mini-nightstands, and the nightstand on the right side of the bed continued into a mini-seating area/storage area.  This ran into the wall and above it, against the wall, was another counter that faced the window - this counter contained additional storage space as well as the telephone.  The storage space connected to the open closet and in front of the closet were open shelves - on the top shelf was a safe.  The room was compact but you had enough room to move around and overall it was comfortable for one or two nights.  The bed was also a standard ibis bed with minimal sheets and a duvet - again it was comfortable for one or two nights and comfortable given the price you are paying, but it would not be my choice for a long term stay.

The bathroom was also a standard ibis bathroom - compact and contained the basics.  There was a sink, a toilet, a walk-in shower, and towels.  I will say this bathroom and specifically the shower was more spacious than some of the other ibis I have stayed at - and the shower was more of a rain shower so that was a nice touch.  Bathroom amenities include hand washing dispenser next to the sink and a body wash/hair wash dispenser in the shower, two towels (not the highest thread count but workable), a shower cap, and two plastic cups.  Again, it was a standard and compact ibis bathroom but it contained the basics and served its purpose.  I would say I prefer the body wash they provide in Europe as it seems to be of higher quality and it has a better smell.

The best part of the ibis experience is the complimentary wifi.  The wifi speeds are strong, you can connect many devices, and you can stream youtube videos as well as check email and social media.  The free and fast wifi is one the best reasons to choose ibis.  Overall, it was a standard stay at the ibis.  If you are expecting a 5-star experience than the ibis hotel/brand is not for you but if you are expecting a decent and clean room and free/fast wifi at a low price than you will be satisfied at the ibis. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Trip Report: LATAM Colombia Airlines, Bogota to Medellin (August 2019)

Trip Report: LATAM Airlines, Bogota to Medellin
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

I was traveling from Bogota to Medellin and there are a couple of options for intra-Colombia flights: LATAM Colombia, Avianca Colombia, and Viva Air.  LATAM and Avianca are more legacy carriers while Viva is a low-cost carrier.  I was looking to fly in the evening and was flying without any luggage so when comparing everything, LATAM and Viva tended to be the better options in terms of price.  I choose to fly with LATAM because I wanted to try the airline and also LATAM is a member of Oneworld Alliance so I would receive points for this flight. 

It was very easy to book the flight through LATAM's webiste and through the app I was able to manage my booking.  LATAM has a couple of options in terms booking ranging from basic economy with no checked luggage to full business class.  As I said, I was traveling with no checked baggage so I could book the basic economy seat - this meant a complimentary carry-on but no complimentary checked baggage and no complimentary seat selection; both of these could have been done for a fee but given the flight is 1hr I decided not to purchase any of these extras.

48hours prior to my departure I received a notification and an email stating that check-in was now open for my flight.  Usually airlines only allow 24-hours prior check-in, especially for domestic flights, so receiving the notice 48hours in advance made me check and recheck my flight time and dates to ensure I had everything correct.  I was correct and 48hours prior to my flight I had checked-in and received my mobile boarding pass.  I was assigned a seat at check-in but if I wanted to change it then the same seat charges during the booking process applied during the check-in process.  Even though I had no luggage to check and I already had my boarding pass, due to traffic in Bogota I arrived at the airport about 2 hours prior to my scheduled departure time.  At the airport, there were two sections of the check-in desks; one for international departures and one for domestic departures.  I bypassed everything since I already had my mobile boarding pass and proceeded thru security to the departure gate.  

According to the boarding pass, my flight was scheduled to board at Bogota at 6:46pm, doors closing at 7:21pm, departure at 7:36pm, and arrive into Medellin at 8:32pm.  When I first got the airport around 5:30pm, I checked the departure screens and everything said 'on time'.  Around 6pm, the screen changed and my new departure time would now be at 8:35pm with an estimated arrival time of 9:31pm.  Around 7:20pm, LATAM sent an email stating that since they had delayed my flight I now had the following options available at no cost - I could change the time/date of my flight, change the destination of my flight, or request a total refund.  While these options are nice, they would have been better more than 10 minutes before the scheduled departure and an hour before the revised departure time.  Finally around 8:15pm they started the boarding process - the airlines boards by groups and I was in the last group.  Despite the late departure, the passengers were boarded and seated by 8:35pm and we pushed backed generally around that time.  

The operating aircraft was an Airbus A320 with a 3-3 seat configuration.  I was initially assigned 27C but when I went to the gate agent, she allowed me to change my seat for no charge and assigned me 8J.  From the outside, the airplane still had the old LAN livery and the old age of the plane continued inside; the plane looked old but still in decent shape.  The seats were cushioned well but they were older seats and usually these are comfortable but these seats were very uncomfortable, there was no leg room, and the seat width was also very tight; overall, it was an uncomfortable place to sit.  The seat itself was also basic - there was a magazine storage at the top, followed by a tray table, and then a small pocket for your personal belongings below; no PTV screens and no USB ports.  After manual safety demonstrations, we pushed back and took off to Medellin.

The flight was very basic and uneventful - I am not sure if LATAM is a full service airline, a low-cost carrier, or a hybrid of the two.  The service I experience onboard LATAM was more akin to that of a LCC because nothing is complimentary and everything is now a 'buy on-board' (this was a domestic flight so I am not sure if this applies to their international flights).  In fact, the FA's did not even come down with a service cart but rather one FA came quickly down the aisle with the buy on-board menu and if a passenger wanted anything, they needed to stop the FA and request something; again, it was very basic and LCC.  LATAM supposedly does offer wifi and LATAM Play which is their on-demand entertainment options but I could not get the wifi to work and thus the LATAM Play would not work either - the FA's did not seem to be in the mood to help or provide any more service than that which was required of them.  After about 45 minutes, we landed in Medellin and deplaned.

Overall, I was disappointed with my experience with LATAM.  I had heard good things about the airline and was excited to try their product.  I have previously flown with LAN from Buenos Aires to Santiago and enjoyed their service so I was expecting a great full-service airline.  What I got was a low-cost airline service and poor service from the FAs.  LATAM has two main competition in Colombia: Avianca, a full-service airline (see review here), and VivaAir, a traditional low-cost carrier.  Reputation wise, they are normally in competition with Avianca but price wise on this sector they were in competition with VivaAir.  Being in competition with both a full-service and a LCC at the same seems to have made LATAM lose their own identity.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Trip Report: Delta Airlines, Atlanta to London Heathrow

Trip Report: Delta Airlines, Atlanta to London Heathrow
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

I was traveling from Atlanta to London Heathrow and since Atlanta is Delta's hub, the most flight options and availability was through Delta Airlines.  It was very easy to book the flight on Delta's website, and both through the website and app I was able to manage the booking which included preselecting my seat, my meals as well as other special requests.  For my flight sector, the outbound was being operated by Delta while the return was being operated by Virgin Atlantic (check out that review here).  On transatlantic flights, the ticket on Delta includes complimentary meal as well as one checked bag at 23kg.  I had never flown Delta internationally so I was excited to try their product.

I was able to check-in 24hours before my flight and receive my mobile boarding passes; however, because it was an international flight and we had bags to check we proceeded to the check-in counter.  As part of our group had 'Sky Priority' this meant that we could check-in at the Sky Priority counter and could board with Sky Priority.  We arrived at the airport about 2 hours prior to the flight and there was no one at the check-in counters so it was very easy and quick to check our bags and confirm our boarding passes; the agent who assisted us did his job but he was not overly customer friendly.  We went through security and proceeded to our gate - our flight was scheduled to board at 9:05p with a departure of 9:55pm.  The flight seemed very full and there were lots of people crowded near the gate, especially as the boarding time came and went without any announcement.  They finally announced that the boarding time would be delayed as the cleaning crew was delayed so that meant every process was delayed.  We finally started boarding at 9:30pm.

The operating aircraft was an Airbus A330-200 in a 2-4-2 configuration.  The condition of the plane was decent as the plane did not look brand new but also did not look really old.  The interior and the seats had been updated but you could tell the age of the plane with the overhead and the AC vents.  The seat itself was generally comfortable with decent seat padding and the legroom was also decent - I am 6'1 and while my knees were not hitting the seat pocket, they definitely were not stretching out either.  The seat width was also comfortable in that you had enough room to move without hitting your neighbor.  On the seat was a pillow and blanket and the seatback had a PTV with a USB and headphone jack on the bottom, and underneath the PTV was the tray table plus the seatpocket which contained the airline magazine, safety card, and sickness bag.  A plug was also available on the bottom of the next to the underseat storage, but there was one plug so it had to be shared between seatmates.  The boarding was complete, the front doors closed, and we finally took off about 30 minutes behind schedule.

The PTV was not operational as soon as we boarded, but it was switched on after the safety video was shown.  The PTV had a good movie selection and an average TV selection, in my opinion their movie selection was better than their TV selection as the movie selection had a wider range to select from - and there was definitely enough to keep you occupied for the 8hr 10min flight (although not sure if the selection was good for a significantly longer flight).  During taxi, the FAs came around and handed out full-botter water, menu cards, plastic earbuds, and a packet with socks, eyeshades, and earplugs.  I appreciated both the water - as its important to stay hydrated during the flight - and the menu card - as it is a nice touch (some airlines provide the menu in the PTV to be more environmentally friendly and I would prefer that) and the pouch and earbuds were also nice - especially since many Western (American and European) carriers have stopped providing these. 

An hour into takeoff the inflight service started.  Drinks plus pretzels were provided followed by the main meal plus drinks, then coffee and tea, as well as water - full bottles of water were available throughout the flight and that was a nice aspect.  The meals were decent in terms of size and flavor - I have been on airlines that serve more and have been on airlines that serve way less so this was in the middle.  Once the meal trays had been cleared, passengers were left to get some sleep on this overnight flight.  In the back gallery, drinks, biscoff cookies, cheese crackers, and water were available and FAs were available if you needed something but I did not see them passing through the aisle.  About 2 hours prior to landing, the lights came back up as a light snack/breakfast was being served.  The breakfast came in a little pouch that had a bagel, cream cheese, juice and butter.  It was not a substantial breakfast but a small snack to tide you over until the arrival.  Even though we left late, strong tailwinds helped us make up that time plus gain more so we landed a bit early but it took a while to taxi and deplane.  

Overall, it was a decent flight with Delta.  My previous international experience with American carriers had not been pleasant (with United and American) and generally American carriers don't have the greatest reputation for international service - so given all this my expectations were low.  Despite that, Delta offered a nice seat with decent amenities, nice PTV selection, and good customer service.  Generally, Delta's ticket prices are a bit higher than its competitors but with a higher fee comes higher expectations and Delta delivers on that.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Stay Report: Moxy London Heathrow Airport (London - August 2019)

Stay Report: Moxy London Heathrow Airport
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

There are many options available if you are looking to overnight near Heathrow Airport.  The hotels are spread across the various terminals so it depends on how close or how far you want to be away from your Terminal.  My selection criteria was a little different as we were three people traveling together so I needed a room that could fit all of us in one room; that narrowed the options greatly.  I found the Moxy hotel had a family room in which there is a large bed plus a sofa bed that can sleep 3 adults - this was perfect for my travels and I wanted to try this Marriott brand.  It was very easy to book the hotel through the Marriott website and very easy to manage the booking through the app - Marriott does not provide email addresses for their hotel so when I had a question I messaged them through Facebook Messenger and they were responsive.

Moxy hotels were designed for Marriott's Millennial clientele so their layout and design are a bit different than standard hotels.  This hotel is near Terminal 3 and the hotel does not provide a shuttle, but the hotel is on the Heathrow Airport bus route (which has a charge for transportation to the airport).  It is very easy to spot the hotel as it is large and there is a huge MOXY in pink letters that makes it unique.  The pink theme continues inside as the lobby walls were also painted in the pink color.  As you enter the lobby, its a huge space that incorporates many things - waiting area, lounges, check-in area, bar, restaurant, business center, and just relaxing area.  The check-in area was on one side of the bar which made it somewhat loud (depending on the time of day you are checking-in). Checking-in was quite easy, I received my key, and proceeded to the elevators.  Considering this is mostly a transit hotel with lots of airline guests, and the hotel is very large, you would think they would have large elevators/lifts to accommodate guests + luggage but instead the hotel had three small elevators, one of which was broken and the other two were struggling to handle the load and capacity of guests plus luggage.  Complimentary luggage carts were available so this made transporting the luggage easier.  

As we entered the room, there was a large entrance-way that in which on the left side had large wall to floor closets.  There were three doors of the closets, two with hanging areas and one with shelves - there was LOTS of closet space - and in the closet was the safe.  Across from the closets on the wall was a mirror, hooks to hang your jackets, and a place to hold your keys.  The main part of the room was divided into two sections - one with the bed and one with the sofa/tv.  One would think the sofa/tv area would come first and the bed near the bathroom, but it was opposite in this room.  The first part of the room was the large queen bed which sat against the wall.  There were nightstands on either side of the bed - with USB ports and plugs next to the bed -, in front of the bed on the wall was a TV, there was a large window and a chair in front of the window  - there was not a lot of room, either width wise or length wise for anything else and it was somewhat of a tight squeeze to get past bed to the bathroom or the main entrance.  The TV wall was the sharing wall which led into the other room which contained a sofa - which turned into a sofa bed - a desk and a chair.  There was definitely more room in this area so it allowed for more movement.  On the desk contained the coffee maker and on the wall were more plugs and USB ports.  There was also another table and chair against the wall between the desk and the window - the window faced a large parking lot.  The bathroom entrance was next to the desk and it was very spacious with a sink, a toilet, and a walk-in shower (again, a lot of was constructed and devised for those with a disability).  There were toiletries available, but these were in refillable bottles with a shampoo and body wash in the shower and a soap next to the sink.  Overall, the bathroom and the entrance-way were quite spacious as well as the sofa area, the sofa bed had already been made and fitted prior to our arrival.  The only negatives on the room were the lack of lighting (it was very dark) and the tightness of the bedroom area.  The main bed was comfortable and the sofa bed was decent, not great but decent enough for one-night.  As I said we had booked a family room which is supposed to hold 3 adults so this description may not be comparable to a standard room at the hotel - this room was also built as a handicap room.

As this hotel is targeted to a different clientele, their amenities also catered to them.  There were no phones in the room as to contact staff you were just supposed to email them.  For this, wifi was provided and it was free, fast, and there was no limit to the number of devices that you could connect.  There was a restaurant, a bar, and a business center with a computer and printer all downstairs in the grand lobby.  Parking was available for fee and while the hotel did not provide shuttles to the airport, the hotel was a stop on the Heathrow Airport Shuttle which was also available for a fee.  There is also a fitness center, but as we were there for about 12hours I did not get a chance to use it.

Overall, it was a nice experience at the Moxy.  The hotel is comparable to Aloft by Sheraton as both were targeting millennial and both gave off the 'new-age, funky' vibe.  The free and fast wifi was a plus as were the nice toiletries in the bathroom.  The spacious room did exceed my expectations as I was preparing for a small and narrow room, but this room was spacious and provided a nice and comfortable bed.