Life Outside The oneworld Bubble

Filed Under: Misc.

Posts from me are going to be a bit lighter over the next week as I travel to the Maldives. Some of you may remember my friend Nick, who reviewed JetBlue’s A321 Mint Class last August, along with his trip to South America. Nick is possibly the biggest Delta/SkyTeam apologist and funniest person I know, and I hope you find him interesting/amusing. 😉

Lie-flat? No.  Chic? Naturellement.
Lie-flat? No. Chic? Naturellement.

Hello!  By way of introduction, I’m a friend of Ben and a One Mile at a Time blog reader and I’m honored that he’s invited me to guest post now and then.

Unlike many points-and-miles bloggers, I rank fairly low on the totem pole as far as elite status and butt-in-seat miles are concerned.  I don’t travel often for my job, and were I to do mileage runs left and right and be on a plane for 36 hours a weekend, it would surely lead to impending divorce.

But, I love travel, I love airlines and hotels, and I love the challenge of accruing and redeeming points.  I have elite status with Delta and low-level elite status with Hyatt (through my Hyatt Chase Visa) and Starwood (through the AmEx Platinum card) and that’s about it, but I hope I can bring you guys my perspective of being a “casual traveler” who still enjoys the points-and-miles hobby in moderation.  I also like to think that I bring the perspective of not being in the oneworld “bubble.”

(Well, I realize that’s not entirely fair.  Lufthansa is in Star Alliance, after all, and what bigger Lufthansa fanboy is there than our adorably Teutonic Ben?  And, yes, Ben’ll fly Singapore now and then, but I’m convinced it’s only because they offer both Krug and Dom, and you know our resident champagne ho…)

oneworld is fantastic, as you surely know from this blog, but lots of us have loyalties, preferences or miles banked elsewhere.  So I hope my occasional posts can shed a bit of light on airlines Ben might not otherwise fly, or independent hotels unaffiliated with a loyalty program that still might be worth your while.

Don’t get me wrong — I love redeeming free nights and flying across an ocean with caviar service (heck, I won’t even complain if they don’t give me a mother-of-pearl spoon!), but a quirky independent hotel or resort, or an airline that is deeply rooted in a sense of place, holds a great deal of value for me because it rounds out my traveling experience.

So that’s why I’m here:  I love Ben’s blog, and I adore Ben as a person, but Ben would happily fly nothing but Etihad, Emirates, Lufthansa, Singapore and Cathay exclusively from here on out, staying at Hyatts and the occasional W.

I’ll take an angled-flat seat (hi, Air France! Bisous!) with a charming French flight attendant, a lively glass of grower champagne, a tasty meal and a transporting feeling of being in France the moment I set foot in the cabin, versus a lie-flat seat on an airline with brusque service and barely edible food (looking your direction, Dallas).  My goal is to bring you guys a bit of a different perspective, from an infrequent but passionate flyer who loves the experience of travel.

And yes, I’ll be doing a fair bit of SkyTeam apologia.  Someone has to!

In the coming few weeks, I’ve got a business class trip to Europe scheduled on KLM and Air France with a domestic leg in Delta’s so-called “DeltaOne” (née BusinessElite) cabin, and I’d love to report back to you all with a trip report (impartial, I swear).  I also have a fairly full-throated defense of Delta in the pipeline, all geared up for the next time Ben takes a potshot.

More usefully, I imagine I’m not the only infrequent traveler but frequent OMAAT reader out there, and I’d love to discuss how to leverage credit cards and points to get elite status anyway (or at least its perks). I’m honored that Ben has asked me to share my thoughts and experiences, and hope that I can entertain you guys in the process.

Are there any other topics you’d like to see a casual but experiential traveler like myself tackle?  Thanks for reading!

  1. Very interested in hearing your opinions on variations in Delta (Delta One) in-flight service depending on the airport of origin. For example, I recently did DL 008/007 from ATL-DXB-ATL and noticed a distinct lack of options when compared to DTW-ICN-DTW. In my experience it matters what domestic (or international, in this case NRT) hub you depart from. Is this something you’ve experienced/have an opinion on?

  2. @Max – Most of my flying on Delta this year has been domestic, but I’ve got a DeltaOne leg coming up next week out of JFK and will report back. Domestically, have had great crews ex- LAX and SLC and slightly less attentive crews out of ATL, but I’m not sure I have enough evidence to attribute that to departure cities. But it’s an interesting thought!

  3. @ Nick – as someone in the same boat as you, I really look forward to hearing about your experiences.

  4. Good to hear a different perspective. Something I’ve noticed with the blogs I follow (maybe I need to expand a bit more?) is that the writer’s experience is from the perspective of someone with a lot of paid travel. Which leads to a different experience than mine because of their elite status and abundance of points. Not to say I don’t benefit from their advice but it will be nice to hear from someone in a similar situation as myself.

  5. I’d actually be interested in your experiences on the availability of low-level/”saver” space for awards on domestic Delta and on transatlantic Flying Blue (KLM/Air France/Alitalia joint venture, I believe?).

  6. As a Delta flier all my life, I’m really looking forward to more posts on Delta and SkyTeam.

  7. Hey Nick!

    Great first post!
    As much as I love to read Ben’s posts about the attractive Qatar flight safety video & mother of pearl spoons

  8. Hi Nick, Can’t wait.
    Some readers, like me, are fairly new to the points (wish I wasn’t) and spend alot of time towards the back of the plane with a stale bag of something or other, and a plastic cup of soda. So insight into some domestic travel would be great.

  9. Just got back from London today flying United award flights. Survived it just fine in Economy Plus. It’s really about the schedule for us with kids and living in DC area. Love Ben’s posts, but look forward to other perspectives also!

  10. @MW – happy to post from time to time about my domestic travel, as well. If you’re new to the points game, one thing you may want to note is that even though all the mileage redemptions and upgrades appear “free,” they are an investment — between annual credit card fees, minimum spend, etc. you may find yourself pouring a bit of cash in pursuit of elite status. Depending on how often you travel domestically, you may find it’s worth searching for reasonably priced domestic First fares (and you can search FlyerTalk boards for good fares as they happen). If you spend $1,000+ a year to bolster your points game, it’s worth considering that that $1,000 could equal the price differential between paid economy and paid first on a couple of domestic roundtrips. You’ll find transcon nonstop premium fares for under $1,000 roundtrip in a lot of markets.

  11. @Kate – no shame in flying United out of IAD (not much alternative, either)! They’re an easy airline to criticize, but at the end of the day your enjoyment of the flight is going to come down to the people — and United does have some truly excellent FA’s in all classes, so I hope you experienced a bit of that on your trip to London!

  12. Looking fwd to hearing the lower on the totem pole perspective. If I’m lucky I’ll hit AA gold status level this year, but I’m not sure I’ll make it. From what I gather the accrual rates are higher when flying with status. So it would be nice to hear strategies for those of us who are status-challenged.

  13. “I’ll take an angled-flat seat (hi, Air France! Bisous!) with a charming French flight attendant…”

    That’s just it – have you ever flown AF in any class of service and encountered an AF FA who is actually charming?

  14. @TravelinWilly – every time I’ve flown AF transatlantic. I’ve found the male FAs more charming and warm than the female FAs on the balance, but even in economy the service I’ve received has always been gracious. I’ve had flights in economy where the champagne is more free-flowing and encouraged than it is in premium cabins on American carriers.

  15. Another individual here with limited points and would like to hear more about business class travel from the casual traveler, preferably Skyteam airlines and mid-range hotels along with high-end hotels from Marriott.

    Are you flying Air France’s old angled-flat business class or the new reverse-herringbone?

  16. @Euro, long story, but was originally angled flat, then I was able to switch the itinerary to new reverse-herringbone… and then the other week AF updated its rollout schedule and I’m back to angled flat.

  17. I agree with Daniel M
    Please more Star Alliance and United travel.
    Also please more Hilton hotels.
    Too late for me to go to Oneworld and I am now married toUnited (via one MM) and Hilton and Hyatt (via points, stays, preferred cities and credit cards)

  18. Great post! Perhaps I’m in the same shoe and really interested in dealing with elite status with inflequent travel (like I do with Hilton affiliated CC avec Gold status).

  19. Looking forward to your posts! I am kind of in the same boat as you: Experienced traveller if I could say, and I travel quite a bit compared to some, but not enough to get high elite status (I’m AA Gold this year just short of Plat because somehow all my longest flights last year randomly happened to be on AA and Qatar, but that’s it).

    I usually choose flights based on price first, then based on the alliance and the schedule, so I often fly on airlines that are not in the same alliance. And I’ll say it: in Asia, I fly Air Asia! I prefer really cheap flights instead of miles (I hope I won’t get banned from OMAAT for saying that).

    So yeah, I’m looking forward to posts from a casual traveller!

  20. Nick, curious what you could possibly bring to the hobby, that hasn’t been said a million times already? I know it’s filler content that takes a load off Lucky’s back (must get tiresome blogging everyday from some generic lounge in some generic time zone in some generic airport), but honestly, if we want another Delta apologist, why not read Rene over at Delta Points?

  21. Hi Nick

    Do you have links to refutting of the new business class for


    Do you have a link to which destinations have Delta fitted flat beds in J

    Many thanks


  22. Skyteam is not that bad, it just Delta’s bad. I believe one day Delta will create another alliance (basically similar to eithad preferred flyer) . Delta has partnership with Gol, Virgin, Aeromexico and others,yet cannot be friend with Korean air.
    I think what may end up happen is Skyteam become splitted. In the past, there was an aliance called Skyteam China ( China Eastern, China Southern, China, Xiamen) where they try to improve member benefits for their elite members because current Skyteam benefits sucks. Maybe one day there will be an Asian Skyteam like Korean, China, China Eastern, China Southern, Xiamen, Vitenam, Gaurdia, Saudia….

  23. @Ronster, Delta has flat beds in business class (or “DeltaOne”) on all long-haul international routes (i.e., other than Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and parts of Latin America) and on JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO. Delta often has at least a few other domestic flat beds a day ex- ATL, MSP, DTW and occasionally SLC.

  24. @Paul, I’m not beholden to any one airline but happy to share my travel experiences as they happen (which isn’t more than a handful of times a year), in products and on hotels not often written about on BoardingArea blogs. But I’m not going to be remotely offended if you choose to skip my posts!

  25. Thanks for that Nick

    Do you have any current up to date infirmation regarding how the role out of the new herringbone configeration ,with Air France is progressing?

    How about any info on how KLM is progressing, with retrofitting their full flat beds ?

    Do you have any specific links to specific information blogs regarding the above?



  26. Nick, I hope you enjoyed the (generally) warm welcome from Lucky’s OMAAT readers! I’m so glad you’ll be posting more and I really look forward to reading them! I’m in the same boat as you – infrequent traveler but frequent OMAAT reader. I’ve gotten really good though! Can’t wait to get better… I am kind of stuck in the oneworld bubble (can’t complain…)!

  27. I’m in your bag, too. I just eked out Plat on AA this year via segments, needing a last minute segment run in December. I can’t envision how I can possibly hit EXP. I’m Marriott Gold, but may be forced to switch to IHG for Holiday Inn Express in rural TX. I travel enough to easily maintain Gold, but almost never anything else.

  28. Nick, Welcome! As fun as it is to read (and dream) about traveling in F to far away places, reality says I’m back in domestic steerage more than I’d care to be. My job will pay for F/J only if it’s “reasonable” which usually translates to < ~1.5x more than Y, with some weighting to flight duration. It'll be interesting to see what's out there for us points newbies and peons.

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