In the time since my return from Chile, I had not been idly lazing around New York. I was doing my best to fight any chance of falling into a routine. Two days after landing back in NYC, I was back at the airport, flying to Columbus, Ohio to see the Ohio State v. Cal football game.
Shortly after that jaunt, I was out in Utah attending the wedding of a childhood friend in Park City (Delta’s mid-con F product is not my favorite). While in Utah, I booked a long trip out to Los Angeles to visit other friends, and chase a girl. The planning for that L.A. trip really drove home how utterly useless Delta’s aptly lampooned “SkyPesos” are. When looking for a one-way transcon in Business, the mileage redemption rates (when there were seats to be had) were sky high, and there were heavy fees associated as well.
In the end I booked United J on a Boeing 757-200 with the int’l BusinessFirst flat bed seats for 25,000 miles and perhaps $2.50 in fees. On the return, I flew AA 3-class F LAX-JFK on a 767. The UA flight was a pleasure, and I have stated many times that I love the BusinessFirst seat. It was a 6am departure, and I slept the entire way to LAX.
The AA flight on the way back, was terrible. They have dirty, old planes, surly flight crews, and their 3-class F product was substantially inferior to the UA business class product.
This trip confirmed two things for me. I still dislike Los Angeles, and I still consider AA to be the worst of the remaining major carriers.
Back in NYC, I continued planning with N and E. We had been talking about going to Colombia for a long time, but there had never been a sufficient window of time. Finally, N found a way to sandwich this trip into the middle of his work schedule with a weekend, a day off and some creative routing. He also talked another of our fraternity brothers into joining, as well as a pal from Chicago and another from Indiana.
The dates were set, all that needed to be done was flight planning.
I originally booked a 1-way N.America to Northern S.America award with 35,000 United miles and left the return open ended. My initial plan was to take the Avianca (AV) direct from JFK to BOG. After some push back from 3rd parties who didn’t like the idea of a longhaul flight on Avianca, I swapped my US-Colombia segment to United EWR-BOG. The downsides to this were legion. The Avianca flight arrives in Bogota early enough to make a same day connection to Cartagena while the United flight arrives close to dinner time. Additionally, the AV flight is on an Airbus A330-300, a widebody aircraft with int’l business class caliber seats. The United flight is on a Boeing 737-800 that has the same seats you would fly on domestically from say NY to Miami.
United has way too many designations these days. There’s “United Economy,” “United First,” “United Business,” “United BusinessFirst,” “United Global First,” and god knows how many others. The EWR-BOG flight is classed as “United Business,” because it’s not domestic, so they can’t call it “United First,” and they certainly don’t offer the BusinessFirst product, so “United BusinessFirst” is also out. Basically, United created the “United Business” classification for international routes on which they fly domestically configured aircraft. They give you a beefed up meal service, there’s no amenity kit, and being in a domestic seat for a 5-6 hour flight is no walk in the park. In short…avoid anything you see advertised as “United Business.”
Anyway, the trip planning went further awry from here. I eventually purchased a CTG-BOG AV flight and a BOG-EWR return on United…then Hurricane Sandy decided to hit NYC the day my flight was due to land. That flight did not so much happen. I canceled my United ticket and re-routed CTG-BOG with an overnight, BOG-MIA the next morning with two nights in MIA. MIA-ORD with one night (Halloween) in Chicago and then ORD-CMH where I would join the Romney campaign through the election. Finally, after that unsuccessful bid, I returned CMH-NYC on UA thus concluding one of the longer “weekend” trips I have been on.
But in the beginning, there was Newark Airport…