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All seats available for points on SAS? Mar 08

SAS_addMy feelings when it comes to SAS has gone  up and down over the years – I have been furious with them (like when I had to fly on economy from Asia to Europe even if I had a business class ticket – and I had to pay business class price as well) and I have been very happy with them when flying business class to Asia. I’m a pretty loyal StarAlliance and Eurobonus member and in 2010 I flew 43 SAS flights and in total I flew about 150.000 km (with various airlines) so I think I fly a bit more than the average passenger. The following is not meant as a whining note – just a feedback from a loyal StarAlliance member to SAS as I have mixed feelings with them.

I have been fortunate to fly to Asia on business with SAS a few times and for the price they are…well, not maybe a bargain but at least an affordable alternative when looking at companies like Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines. The business class service is quite good, the food is not bad at all at least you get a sort of flat bed (even if I can’t understand why it is not possible to get the bed completely horizontal). But their product is getting a bit outdated…the entertainment system is a bit of a joke these days compared to what you find on e.g. Singapore Airlines and Emirates both in terms of size of screen and selection of movies, games and music and the StarAlliance business lounges are not amazing. But I guess it is the lack of some sort of recognition that annoys me a bit. I’m not expecting to be carried on board the plane just because I I have been a Eurobonus gold card member for several years but it would be great to see that they appreciate that I’m loyal to them and StarAlliance.

When going from Stavanger to Geneva on vacation I asked at Stavanger airport if it was possible to upgrade from economy to business and how many points it would cost – after all the add says “All seats available for points”. The lady at the check in counter had no clue and she called the ticket office and they had no clue either. But she told me that she had put me on standby upgrade and I could check at the gate and they would provide me with all the info. When boarding from Stavanger to Copenhagen I asked at the gate and the guy was like “No, I don’t think that is possible and why would you?…you don’t get more legroom” So this is how the ground staff promotes one of the advantages of being a Eurobonus member (upgrading with points)? But he told me to check at the gate in Copenhagen when boarding for Geneva. When boarding in Geneva I asked again if it was possible with an upgrade and how much it would cost and finally I got a clear answer “No, it is not possible to upgrade from Economy to business”. I’m fine with that but wouldn’t it be great if the ground staff at Stavanger airport had this information and could have informed me from the very start? So I got onboard the flight to Geneva and was seated almost at the very back of the Airbus A321 and as far as I could tell there were still seats available on Economy Extra and business. There are more and more ways of earning Eurobonus points (SAS Mastercard, Trumf points etc) and yet it seems like there are more and more restrictions on how to use them.

On a two hours flight it is not a big deal where you sit in the plane and what kind of service that you get – but I just find it strange that SAS doesn’t do anything to reward loyal members. Wouldn’t it be great if they tried to put in a bit of extra effort for Eurobonus goldcard members? I would have been thrilled if they said “As you are a loyal member, have a gold card etc of course you can upgrade with the following amount of points” Today it just seems very random – like when I was upgraded without warning or asking on a short flight from Berlin to Copenhagen.
Over the last couple of years I have had a couple of long flights with Emirates and on my second trip I reached Silver status. On my next flight the flight attendant came to me and carefully tried to pronounce my name. I confirmed that it was me and I was wondering what I had done wrong but then he greeted me and said welcome back on Emirates….and that is “just” as a Silver member.

Well, maybe this just makes me sound like a spoiled brat and maybe I’m just expecting too much out of SAS these days. I’m honestly really happy with the perks of the Eurobonus gold card (the lounge access, the extra baggage etc) but sometimes I just get a bit frustrated as I feel like SAS is not really going out of their way to take good care of their loyal customers and the information that I get from SAS employees can be vague or even wrong. But rumor has it that even with a SAS Pandion card you don’t get that much recognition – maybe that kind of service is not a part of the Scandinavian culture. But the conclusion after this trip is…all seats are not available for points.

Regards
Gard
at the very back of SK617 bound for Geneva

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How to Travel Around the World for $418 Dec 19

I came over this story about a guy that wanted to travel around the world for as little money as possible. And how can that be done? Well, by earning air miles in various creative ways in the USA :-) It turns out that there are quite a few lucrative deals for earning miles by using credit cards in the USA, you just have to know about all the rules and deals out there. Check out this article on Gizmodo as it is quite interesting to read how he earned the points, how to use the points and how to afford traveling for a longer period of time and so on. There are also a few links to other pages that might be useful. Unfortunately we don’t have the same credit card deal in Norway so some of these advices are limited to readers in the USA. But it is still a fascinating story :-) If you want to read an even more creative way of earning air miles you should check out Tyler’s story “The day I bought $15,000“. Tyler bought 15.000 USD from US Mint and then went to the bank to sell them again to cover the credit card bill – quite brilliant ;-)

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Category: General, Travel  | Tags:  | 2 Comments
SAS to reinstate Oslo-New York route Dec 14

A bit of old news maybe – SAS will reinstate the Oslo-New York route in 2011 and it is brewing up to be quite a price-war as Norwegian has also announced that they will start flights to New York as well (and to Bangkok). So it seems like SAS and Norwegian is taking the battle scene from Norway to world now. Hopefully this will result in good prices for the consumers but it will be exciting to see how Norwegian will be able to handle long-haul flights. You can read more about the SAS news on businesstraveller.com and you can read more about the new planes that Norwegian is getting to fly their new routes on Flightglobal.com.

Internet is back on SAS and Lufthansa flights Dec 11

It finally looks like it will be possible once again to get online while flying. I had the pleasure of trying this back in 2006 when I flew Scandinavian airlines to Asia. In advance I had read that it was possible to surf on the plane so I pre-registered and it worked like a charm. But obviously there were issues with this as it was discontinued in 2007. But now it seems like both SAS and Lufthansa will introduce this service once again. On the Lufthansa pages it says: “FlyNet is back on board – faster, stronger, smarter. Lufthansa is now offering boundless broadband communications. With WLAN-enabled devices, you can surf the Internet and utilise mobile data services on many of our long-haul flights. FlyNet brings the entire spectrum of mobile data communications at fingertip to passengers above the clouds” . You can read more about the Lufthansa FlyNet solution is this article.

Regards
Gard
http://gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

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Thai Airways with a makeover Dec 09

Bangkok Post reports that Thai Airways are planning on spending “billions of dollars” on a makeover of their planes starting in 2012. The article in Bangkok Post will give you all the details but in general it seems like they are going to upgrade first class to be a light version of what you can find on Emirates A380 and the business class will also be upgraded to have a 180 degree full flat bed. I have had the pleasure of flying Thai first class (as you can see from the range of blog post here) and it was not bad at all but the problem is that the product varies from plane to plane and from route to route. Another confusing issue for me is that the photo of the new business class in the Bangkok Post article is identical to the Pearl Business Class on Etihad Airways. So is Bangkok Post just speculating or will they have identical products? Another thing that is worth noticing is that they will actually reduce the seat pitch on economy class. They have had about 34″ pitch before and now it will be 31-32″. Well, it will be exciting to see what the final products will be like when they are introduced.


Our hotel room at the Small hotel in Krabi, Thailand Dec 04

After a short stop in Bangkok, we moved to the Krabi area in the south of Thailand where we stayed at the Small hotel near Ao Nang beach outside Krabi. We had a moon deck suite and we did have high expectations but these were not met – maybe because we just came from a great hotel in Bangkok. But here is the review of the hotel as posted on Tripadvisor and below is a video of our room.

Category: Hotels, Travel, Video  | Tags: ,  | One Comment
Our room at Le Meridien in Bangkok Dec 01

We just had the pleasure of staying at Le Meridien in Bangkok. When we arrived we were upgraded to a suite and got a great room.

Le_meridien_bangkok_entranceI booked the hotel online on the Starwood Preferred Guest site and we chose this hotel as we wanted to try out a new hotel in Bangkok – from before we have tried hotels like Sheraton Sukhumvit, Westin Sukhumvit, Lebua, Plaza Athenee etc. The rate I got was 4590 THB (about 150 USD) including taxes but without breakfast. Le Meridien is located on Surawong road in the Silom area so getting to the hotel took a bit of time with a taxi in the Friday afternoon traffic of Bangkok – but we decided to use taxi as it is not very practically to drag around big suitcases on the airport express train and skytrain/subway. The taxi was about 500 Baht including the toll stations on the express way.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bedWhen checking in we were informed that the room we had booked (corner room) was not available and instead we had been upgraded to a corner suite – not the worst message one can get when checking in at a hotel ;-) We got our keys, vouchers for a free drink at Bamboo Chic and our suitcases were sent to our room. We got room 1124 and it was quite a room to say the least. When we walked in we were met by some sort of book shelf but behind this was a living room with two sofas with a table, a large flat screen TV, a work desk and even an espresso machine – we had the option of espresso, regular coffee (in a press mug) and there were even takeaway cups – how cool is that?.

Le_meridien_bangkok_living_roomThe room was tastefully decorated with books about Thailand in the bookshelf and with pieces of art scattered around in the room. The room was tiled with black tiles on the floor to start with but the rest of the room was with a yellowish carpet. The work desk had a large phone with a display that greeted us welcome – not that we used it much. From the living room there was a large window facing to Rama IV road leading to Hua Lamphong train station. The room also included a small fridge with various cold drinks and there were also proper glasses if you wanted to enjoy any of the drinks.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bed_room_TVFrom the living room there was a sliding door leading into the large bed room. In here there was a large bed of course which turned out to be very comfortable with one large duvet and 4 pillows. There was also a TV for the bedroom and in this room we also found the mini safe. There was also a chair by the windows with the same view as for the living room. The windows had electrical day and night blinds. A new sliding door took us into the bath room and it Le_meridien_bangkok_bed_room_bath_roomwas also possible to slide away most of the wall that was separating the bed room and the bath room. In the bath room there were black tiles on the floor and walls and we also had a bath tub, two sinks, lots of amenities ranging from shower caps, mouth wash, dental kit etc etc. A glass door led into the large shower with two separate shower parts…each part had a regular shower and a rain forest shower head option. The shower was all done in black tiles so it was a bit on the dark side – I would have loved to see lighter tiles here. The toilet was separated from the rest of the bath room with a door made with frosted glass – an excellent solution.

Le_meridien_bangkok_breakfastSome of the walls turned out to be not just walls in the bath room – some turned out to be the wardrobe with nice fluffy bathrobes and soft slippers and the other contained an iron. One even turned out to be a sliding door which opened up into the living room.
The breakfast was served at Last recipe on the 2 floor and as it was not included we had to pay. The full buffet was 650 Baht (22 USD) so there was no point in just going for continental breakfast as that was 550 Baht. Le_meridien_bangkok_breakfast2The breakfast selection was excellent as you would expect from a 5 star hotel – a good selection of bread, cereal, fruit etc. But there was also stations with staff that could make omelets, carve up meat, scoop up some frozen yogurt for you and there were also various selection of hot food. In some of the reviews on TripAdvisor the breakfast buffet has been described as the best in town so naturally we had high expectations but after having stayed at other nice 5 star hotels (like Sheraton on Sukhumvit and Plaza Athenee) I don’t think this was any better than what the others have to offer. Nikki was missing hard boiled eggs, she was not that impressed with the watermelon but she was impressed with the option of fresh waffles and that it was possible to get some funky smoothie blends. And it was nice twist with the Illy press filter coffee that was served at our table. We also stopped by Bamboo chic briefly to have an aperitif before going out one evening and it looked like a nice place.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bedroom_chairThe location of the hotel is not bad – located on Surawong road it is about a 10 minute walk from Sala Daeng BTS station and you can also walk a couple of more minutes to Silom subway station. But note that the most direct route leads you straight through Patpong – maybe one of the most famous red light districts in the world and certainly the most know red light area in Bangkok. Today there is also a night bazaar and if you walk in the middle of this and keep your eyes focused on this you might be able to avoid seeing all the neon lights. But trust me…you will get asked if you want to see ping pong shows or if you want to buy various movies.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bath_roomConclusion: well, it is hard to really give an accurate conclusion as we were upgraded to a corner suite and that turned out to be just an amazing room. I really think the layout of this room is one of the best layouts that I have seen in a hotel room and I loved the larger double shower. Special treats like a coffee machine, lots and lots of complimentary water etc made this into a very comfortable stay. But I can also mention a couple of things that I don’t like – I would have liked to see free internet in the room. We were actually informed when we called the first day that it was included but when it didn’t work the second day we got the opposite message. There was free internet in the lobby but it required a user name and password from the concierge and he seemed to only activate it upon request. Another thing that turned out to be a challenge was the air con – there was a separate air con in the living room and the bed room but we could never really figure it out and it was always freezing in the living room. But these are just details of course – all in all this was one of the best hotel rooms that I have ever stayed in. I have also uploaded a video showing the room by the way.

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Here is also a video that I took of the room…enjoy Winking smile

Testing the new Bangkok Airport train link – part 2 Nov 21

A while back I tested out the new Bangkok Airport train link (check out the first review on this page) and a few days ago I got to check it out once again. I decided to take it again as I had no luggage this time. Getting to the train station at Suvarnabhumi is easy as you just take the escalators down to the sub-level. But getting a ticket was not that easy – all the ticket machines were out of service so all people had to line up at the counter. The platform when boarding the train is not ideal – when there is lots of people on the train and lots of people on the platform waiting, the process of emptying and filling the train gets pretty messy ;-)

The train into Bangkok was pretty full and it looked like it was mainly locals without luggage taking the train so I assume people are just using it as a regular transportation method as it is so cheap (15 Baht). A few people got of at Makkasan but it seemed like most continued to Phaya Thai. In my last report I wrote about the troubles of getting of at Makkasan – this time we continued to Phaya Thai as we wanted to connect to the BTS (skytrain). Getting of a Phaya Thai took some time as there were lots of people waiting on the narrow platform and hence people exiting had to squeeze by people waiting on the outside. The link from the airport train platform and Phaya Thai BTS station is excellent – there is an elevated walkway leading directly to the BTS.

Going back to the airport was more or less the same deal – the platform was very crowded and the train was delayed due to technical problem. But we got to squeeze in eventually and we had to stand almost to the airport when most locals had gone of the train.

Conclusion this time: the link between the airport train and the Phaya Thai BTS station is a lot better than at Makkasan. But due to a very crowded train and plattform(s) it would have been a challenge if I was dragging along a huge Samsonite suitcase. The value is still great (only 15 Baht per way at the moment) but if you have a suitcase and want to go to a hotel I think a taxi is still the best option.

Regards
Gard
http://gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and photos

My trip report from Bologna in Italy Nov 02

Hi all

Nikki and I went to Bologna in Italy this summer. We first spent a few days in the city itself and stayed at Hotel Touring (see the hotel review here) in the city center. After that we changed hotel to Savhotel located just a bit out of the city center and we rented a car and we had some road trips to places like Ferrara, Ravenna and Modena. I have now posted the trip report with photos, videos, maps etc. on this page. I hope that it can be of some use to others that are going to Bologna and the surrounding area.

If you want to have an idea about eating out in Bologna you can also check out this section of the trip report . As you will see, there are lots of good restaurants and LOTS of good food to be eaten in this city. I have also made this interactive Bologna Google map that shows the location of the restaurants and attractions that we went to.
Well, there it is…hope that you guys will enjoy it. As always, let me know if you see something that needs to be corrected or fixed in the trip report. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Regards
Gard
http://gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Dancing Cebu Pacific crew Oct 05

I have never experienced something like this on a plane but I would probably pay close attention to the safety instruction if it was done in this way. Something for SAS to try out maybe?? ;-)