Patrick Smith is a pilot with a major US carrier, but he’s also become a journalist with his informative web site, “Ask the Pilot.” He’s regularly outraged when he reads articles such as ones that purport modern aircraft can “fly themselves.”
I need to add New York Times writer Joyce Wadler to the pile.
Late last month she wrote a wickedly funny column about how impossible it was to get an award ticket to Europe this summer. The headline said it all: “How Many Miles Do I Need to Murder the Head of the Airline?”
Joyce couldn’t find an award ticket because she didn’t know how to look. It’s that simple and that complicated. Regular listeners to my Travel Minute know that snaring award tickets is a science that takes study. Which is why I’ve recommended ThePointsGuy.com and MileValue.com as two web sites worth noting.
And I have twice used with great success Scott Grimmer of MileValue.com to obtain award tickets for me this past summer—one to France, another to Qatar. He charges about $100 but he can save you thousands of dollars AND miles.
Too bad Joyce didn’t know that.
Admittedly, checking into the Four Seasons on the Papagayo Peninsula is not a bad way to begin. The resort is carved carefully out of a jungle surrounded on three sides by water. Howler monkeys and white-faced monkeys live in that jungle along with deer, fat lizards, dozens of varieties of birds, and other critters that sometime saunter across the fairway of the dramatic topography of the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course.
With 14 of 18 holes offering views of the Pacific Ocean, I was almost tempted to take up golf.
Four Seasons service is famous worldwide, but the welcoming nature of the locals set this country above the norm. From maintenance guys at the airport to hotel staff, the level of warmth a visitor feels is quite extraordinary.
There are two seasons in Costa Rica: The high season from December to Easter called the “dry” or “gold season,” and the rainy, or “green” season from August through November. No hurricanes touch the peninsula, and room rates are about $400 a night during low season, $600 during high.
It’s a great family or romantic getaway destination.
Well, I finally set that right.
About two weeks ago I did a remote broadcast of my weekend show from the Four Seasons Costa Rica located in the northeastern part of the country on the Pacific Ocean, about an hour’s drive south of the border of Nicaragua.
The country’s main airport is in its capital of San Jose in the central part of Costa Rica, but I flew into the airport near the town of Liberia. Interestingly, part of the airport was built by the US during the Reagan years so Oliver North could send secret shipments of Iran/Contra weapons to Nicaragua. Today American, Delta, United, JetBlue and other airlines fly there.
As nice as the terminal is, you might not want to tarry for a meal. Three of us had lunch there: two orders of fish tacos, one beer, and two bottles of water cost $90. A small bag of nuts in the gift shop sold for $9.50, a buck less than a bag of “semi-precious stones” in another shop.
Tomorrow: The good news about Costa Rica.
Etihad Airlines, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, recently announced that its long-haul flights will feature a flight attendant in a distinctive, bright orange apron whose only job is to assist parents traveling with children, from the boarding gate until the end of the flight.
The airline calls this person a “flying nanny,” and she’s been specially trained at Norland College, a training academy for childcare specialists based in England. Etihad’s flying nanny has kids’ games and activities and can watch a child while the parents catch a snooze, dine, or watch a movie.
They aren’t babysitters, per se, especially since there’s likely to be more than one family aboard a flight. But they’re there to warm a bottle or help a child find appropriate entertainment on the plane’s in-flight television system.
I’ve seen individual flight attendants go out of their way to help parents with kids. But it’s the exception on most US airlines, not the rule. And that’s too bad.
Yesterday I offered a dramatic example of how the airline you choose to obtain an award ticket can make a big difference in how “free” that ticket is. I priced a late October award ticket between Minneapolis and London on British Airways and American Airlines. While both required about the same number of miles or points, British Air wanted to charge me $700 in fees while American wanted $500 less.
Here are a couple more tips.
If you have an airline-branded credit card, find out if you get a break on award tickets. If you carry a US Airways Premier World Mastercard, you’ll get an award ticket on US Airways for 5,000 miles less than someone who doesn’t.
Citi’s credit cards branded with American offer 5,000 or 7,500 miles off mile redemptions on selected—and always changing–destinations posted at aa.com/rma.
Got a Chase Sapphire credit card? You’ll get 20% off airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises when you redeem your Chase points. So a $500 flight requires 40,000 points instead of 50,000.
Be sure to check with your credit card if it earns mileage of guest points before you book awards.