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The Higher Flyer

Author

Paul Colins

AAround the (one)world

It’s cliché to call the start of a new year bittersweet, but this typically trite sentiment should ring true for many higher flyers.  There’s nothing quite like the sting of seeing all zeroes when you check your airline and hotel accounts after New Year’s Day… but that doesn’t have to be all bad!  If you’ve been on a single loyalty hamster wheel treadmill for too long, there’s no better time than in January to start anew somewhere else.  The potential of elite status on American Airlines — in spite of all of the devaluing cuts to it — had long intrigued me.  When a series of attractive oneworld fares materialized later in the winter, I had to take, ahem, AAdvantage!

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New Years’ Resolutions for 2019 for Higher Flyers

There’s a direct correlation between how happy passengers are and how pleasant air travel is.  For that reason alone, it’s in everybody’s best interest to behave kindly and thoughtfully, and in turn prevent negative energy from spreading about.  But no matter how far or how frequently you fly, you’re still bound to bear witness to some pretty horrendous stuff in both airports and in the skies.  After more than 100,000 butt-in-seat miles in 2018, I experienced my fair share of moments that were uncomfortable at best, downright atrocious at worst.  With every unfortunate event, the same thought lingered in the back of my mind:  “This sure would be more pleasant if people weren’t like this.”  Inspired by those “encounters” from 2018, here are my 10 resolutions for the new year, shared for your consideration going in to 2019…

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Spirit Airlines Review

Ah, Spirit. The airline that travelers love to hate, yet somehow keeps convincing those who say “I’ll NEVER fly Spirit again” to give the ultra low cost carrier another go. There are a number of good reasons why Spirit has become as notorious as it has, but perhaps none are as infamous as its fee-driven business model. After flying on it a few times though, I’m convinced that Spirit is a viable option for higher flyers, albeit with a few conditions. You can’t go in expecting Emirates — this passenger experience will be much more akin to riding a public bus (that flies!) — but you can definitely count on a safe, affordable, and effective mean to your end. For those reasons alone, it’s worth your while to at least consider Spirit for accomplishing your travel goal(s).

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How To: Not get screwed by Spirit

Spirit offers a far from glamorous flying experience, but its no-frills service approach isn’t exactly the reason why the airline so reviled. Its flight crews and staff are helpful and competent and pretty kind, while the carrier’s operational reliability is just about in line with everyone else in the industry. Its fleet is even the youngest in North America! Spirit is fine — definitely no more awful than its legacy competitors like American, Delta, and United — and its fares are markedly cheaper. “How does the airline make money?” you might wonder. Easy: its notorious fees make profit margins skyrocket. You definitely wouldn’t be the first to scream “Spirit sucks!” as your expenses balloon and frustrations mount… but you don’t have to suffer this fate.

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(Dis)Spirited Away?

The key to happiness, some say, is to keep low expectations. You may agree with that sentiment, you may not, but when you’re planning a trip on Spirit, it definitely helps to have that frame of mind. Its tickets, which are (affectionately?) referred to as “bare fares,” are just that: means for you to get from point A to point B. You’ll have to pay extra for everything that you might possibly want on a plane — including drinking water — but if you know what you’re getting in to, you’ll tolerate Spirit at the minimum. If you can play its game and avoid making some far-too-common mistakes, you’ll easily save a lot more than what you would on a legacy carrier. Your fatter wallet alone can be worth those frustrating, tacked-on fees, and while the travel experience itself is far from perfect, who cares at prices like these? #FlyHigher indeed.

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AC Hotel Times Square, New York Review

For better or for worse, Marriott has spent the past few years expanding its footprint (independent of the Starwood merger) by increasing the presence of its eurocentric subsidiaries stateside. The AC Hotel brand for instance, whose original parent was headquartered in Spain (and established by a Spaniard named Antonio Catalan), expanded to New York’s Times Square at the end of April 2018. This marks AC’s first big splash in the North American market, and with physically stunning spaces and kind, responsive staff members, it’s a worthy addition to the Marriott portfolio.  Continue reading “AC Hotel Times Square, New York Review”

Air France Business Class Review

Despite owning a prestigious reputation, Air France’s premium cabins had been, until recently, objectively mediocre. For an airline that once battled British Airways to first feature beds on board, it lagged behind its competitors only a few short years after installing them. While fully flat became the new norm, angled flats, which just aren’t up to snuff anymore, remained the default in Paris until late-2014. Since then however, the carrier has revitalized its fleet and also its business class offering. New planes, like the 787 I flew on, are highlighted by a brand new top-of-the-line reverse herringbone seat. It’s been a return to grace — there aren’t many better ways to cross the pond nowadays — and I couldn’t have been more pleased with this leg of the trip.

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Air France Business Salon (Terminal 2E, Hall K) Paris Charles de Gaulle Review

Air France has long enjoyed a prestigious reputation, seen by many as a standard bearer for sky-high luxury. When the airline rolled out a completely redesigned business class in 2014, featuring a new hard product and improved ground services, it was intending to solidify its place at the top of the competitive premium transatlantic market. The onboard experience has done just that, garnering plenty of positive publicity in the years since its introduction. The recently renovated lounges have not attracted similar amounts of attention, although they probably should. Don’t read too far in to this coverage (or lack thereof), the Salon for Air France’s international business passengers is excellent through and through.

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L’Hermitage Gantois, Lille, France Review

After fulfilling my professional obligations in London, I hopped on a train and soon found myself in Lille, a French town located so far in the north of France that it’s practically Belgium. It’s often overlooked by international tourists, and with a population of around 200,000, many of whom are students, it’s not the most burgeoning hotel market either. There is an unsurprising amount of hostels (which is to say: “there are lots”), but the other end of the spectrum is lacking. If it’s luxury you seek, you’ll have better luck in Brussels, which is a short ride away… but if you must be in Lille, I’m pleased to report that the Marriott-affiliated L’Hermitage Gantois is worthy of your attention.

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