South African Airways Delay Costs Us Our First Night In Namibia

After a relaxing morning at the Intercontinental Lusaka, it was time to go to the airport.  About noon, I got an email that the flight was delayed 30 minutes.  At this point I wasn’t worried as we would have still made our connection in JNB to WDH.  We used the free shuttle and went straight to South African Airways check in where we learned the delay was now an hour.  This was cutting it way too close so we went to the Priority Pass Lounge and I got on Twitter and tried to arrange a fast track to make the flight.  The Twitter was very unresponsive but when we arrived in JNB I saw that someone had finally replied asking for my phone # so they could call.  Too late and I didn’t have a working SIM card, I was just using wifi.

The lounge in Lusaka is very small with a few snacks and drinks available.  Normally we wouldn’t have bothered but I needed the wifi and I still had one pass left so I used it.

There are several souvenir shops like this one in Lusaka’s airport.

The departure was pushed back again, now we would be arriving with 20 minutes to run and make the connection.

I was desperate to make it as we had a very nice hotel booked called the Etango Ranch Guest Farm that had bird baths attracting many species so the plan was to spend the morning and then pick up the car and drive to Etosha.

I tried really hard.  The minute we boarded, I was asking the FA’s to radio JNB and have people waiting to transfer us to the other plane.  They just said to check with the ground crew.  Very unhelpful!  We weren’t the only ones, there were several people connecting to various places in Europe.  Some were as worried as I was, some didn’t care as they were only headed home and didn’t mind a free layover at SA’s expense.

It didn’t help that the plane landed on the tarmac, not at a gate so we had to wait for buses to transfer us to the terminal.  I noticed a few planes right next to us, one of these was probably our WDH flight.  In retrospect, I should have tried to sneak over, we already had boarding passes and no checked bags.

We ended up having to go through a transit passport control, security and RUN to the gate.  The WDH flight was still there!  We are not in great physical shape so were breathless and exhausted, almost ready to pass out from the run.  In spite of all my attempts to connect to SA staff and have the plane held, the ground staff had no idea we were coming.  The gate had barely been closed.  I begged them to radio the pilot or FA’s and ask them to let us run out there and board.  It would have taken 5 minutes, we had our backpacks and boarding passes.  The gate agent did try but the captain (or someone) refused to even give us those 5 minutes.  Even though it was the airline’s fault we were late!  It was the last flight of the day and there were no connections leaving WDH so no one else would have been inconvenienced by a 5 minute wait.

After being refused the chance to board, we were sent to the transfer desk and waited in a long line of people waiting for re-accommodation.  The agent was in a foul mood maybe because there were a lot of people who missed their flights.  She rebooked us on the first SA flight which was around 9am.  I tried for the 7am Air Namibia flight but she refused and said we were lucky to get the morning flight as we got the last 2 seats, otherwise we would have to wait for the evening flight.  She gave us a choice of the airport Protea Hotel or a hotel outside the terminal.  Since it was only an overnight, we had no desire to pass through formalities and wait in more lines so took the Protea.

As far as in-airport hotels go, the Protea is actually pretty nice and any other time we would have been happy to have an overnight here.  It just didn’t compare to the lodge we already had booked, certainly there were no bird baths!  There were showers for humans which we made good use of (after all that running, we needed it) and the bed was comfy.  They gave 30 min free internet, time enough to email the Etango Ranch and tell them not to come to the airport to pick us up.  They still got to keep the money from our pre-paid room.

We also got vouchers for dinner and breakfast at Mugg & Bean which turned out to have really good food!  It was hard to spend the whole dinner voucher as we couldn’t use it for alcohol and the menu was very reasonable.  The breakfast one was a bit tighter, I would have preferred to swap them around as we weren’t real hungry that night.

We did get a good sleep after all that frustration and rushing around, we were just exhausted!  The flight the next morning was on time and we made it to WDH in time to pick up the rental car since I had allowed for a leisurely breakfast and walk around Etango Ranch.

 

Skytrax Top 100 Airlines, My Experience

Skytrax has an annual award ceremony in Paris to name the world’s top airlines as voted by their members.  I was looking through the list to see how many I have personally flown.  In the list below, I have weeded out airlines I have flown throughout my traveling life which began in the early 80’s and bolded the ones I have flown in business class and they are shown in the order in which Skytrax has ranked them with airlines I haven’t flown omitted.

Many of these trips and certainly all the business class ones would never have been possible without the use of miles and points!  The full list including rankings and scores can be found here.

Qatar Airways
Singapore Airlines
Emirates (J coming soon)
Cathay Pacific
EVA Air
Etihad Airways
Garuda Indonesia
Thai Airways
Turkish Airlines
Virgin Australia
Swiss Int’l Air Lines
Qantas Airways
Air France
Air New Zealand
Asiana Airlines
Bangkok Airways
KLM
Finnair
AirAsia
Air Canada
Aeroflot
Malaysia Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Korean Air
China Airlines
Alaska Airlines
British Airways
easyJet
Iberia
Jetstar Airways
Ethiopian Airlines
South African Airways
Avianca
Saudi Arabian Airlines
Azul Brazilian
Southwest Airlines
SilkAir
Indigo
LATAM
Alitalia
Philippine Airlines
Copa Airlines
Jet Airways
American Airlines
Fiji Airways
Air Mauritius
United Airlines
LOT Polish
Air Seychelles
SriLankan Airlines
Icelandair
Gulf Air
Hawaiian Airlines
American Eagle Airlines
Vueling
Kenya Airways
Royal Brunei Airlines
Air Malta
Royal Air Maroc
Air China
Aeromexico

IMPORTANT NOTE
The Survey covered more than 320 airlines, but Skytrax do not publish more than this Top 100 Airlines.  Looking back at my personal list, I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have had these experiences!  I am pleased to see Asian, Australian & New Zealand carriers rated so highly as these will form the bulk of my travel from 2019 onwards as I deplete my miles stash and start flying more short haul flights.  Even our low-cost carrier, Jetstar outranked American and United!

Flight Review: Dubai-Entebbe On Kenya Airways

Kenya Airways is one of the most interesting airlines of Sky Team for its vast African network.  I used 20,000 Flying Blue miles each for our routes Dubai-Nairobi-Entebbe in economy.

Since we would have a full day of activities in Dubai, I figured we would be exhausted enough to get some sleep on the Dubai-Nairobi leg and I was right.  LOL, I’m a ghost of myself in this shot as we waited to board!

A few quick snaps of business class as we walked to our seats which were in the 3rd row of economy.

I wasn’t hungry but my husband ate the meal.  I was asleep pretty quickly.

I woke as we made final approach to Nairobi.

We had a few hours to kill so I walked around the shops but didn’t buy anything as I knew I would get better deals in the markets. 

My husband snagged an amenity kit as we disembarked and was now showing it off.  These are more his colours than mine so I let him keep it.  The socks are cute, maybe I’ll confiscate those!

Time to board the next flight to Entebbe.  This was a short flight, around an hour or so and the economy seat was fine.  I wouldn’t use miles on business unless it was long haul and a lie-flat seat.

Arriving in Entebbe, we had our visas printed out and $50 each ready to go, everything went smoothly.  I was pleased to see they take conservation seriously in Uganda!

Proudly displaying the national bird of Uganda, the Crested Crane in the arrival hall.

A little Weaverbird was the first bird to welcome us to Uganda. And now let the Godmother of All African Adventures begin!

50 Percent Discount On KrisFlyer Miles For Silk Air Flights

From 12 June to 11 July 2017, enjoy a 50% discount when you redeem your KrisFlyer miles online for a SilkAir flight* on singaporeair.com. Choose from a list of 53 destinations across the SilkAir network, including popular destinations in Southeast Asia like Bali, Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur and Phuket, and travel from 1 July to 31 October 2017.

MI PROMO

To redeem, please complete the following:
1) Log in to your KrisFlyer account with your KrisFlyer membership number and PIN at the top right corner of this page.
2) Select ‘Book a Flight’ on your dashboard
3) Click ‘Redeem flights’ and select your travel details

 

 

* Please refer to detailed Terms and Conditions

EXAMPLES OF SILK AIR FLIGHTS – AUSTRALIA

Economy Class – Southwest Pacific

 

FROM FLIGHT NO. MILES REQUIRED FOR ECONOMY CLASS
SINGAPORE TO CAIRNS
CAIRNS TO SINGAPORE
MI813
MI814
14000
14000
SINGAPORE TO DARWIN
DARWIN TO SINGAPORE
MI801/MI803/MI822
MI802/MI804/MI822
10000
10000

EXAMPLES OF SILK AIR FLIGHTS – SOUTH-EAST ASIA

(For full list of routes, please see their website)

SINGAPORE TO MAKASSAR
MAKASSAR TO SINGAPORE
MI142/MI144
MI141/MI143
3750
3750
SINGAPORE TO MANADO
MANADO TO SINGAPORE
MI274
MI273
3750
3750

This is a great opportunity if you are able to travel within July-October!

Flight Review: Etihad Business Class, Perth – Abu Dhabi

Not only Hummingbirds can fly backwards, you can too if you fly on Etihad’s Dreamliner service from Perth to Abu Dhabi.  The business class configuration has some seats facing backwards and others facing forwards.  I normally dislike facing backwards on a bus or train but I still wanted to try it out in the air.  We didn’t have enough Velocity points to go all the way from BNE-AUH so I booked the cheaper PER-AUH flight (thankfully before the huge surcharges were added) using Velocity and added a BNE-PER segment using 10k AA miles each.  At time of posting, this flight costs 78k Velocity points + $358 in surcharges.  I only paid $105 in taxes.

At PER, we had access to the Qantas lounge.  They had a nice selection of food and drink and it was a nice lounge.

Soon enough it was time to board.  Although I heard rumours of some cool boarding music we didn’t get any. 

Now you can see the layout with some seats facing forwards and some facing backwards.

Here’s my seat, very comfortable as one may expect. 

The top of my husband’s head in a forward facing seat.

Of course I chose the champagne!

The amenity kits have the usual amenities and are themed by some of Etihad’s destinations.  I got Melbourne (blue one) and my husband got New York (black & yellow).  I later asked for the Abu Dhabi one and was told they were out but they brought me a Bangkok one as consolation.

I always take the opportunity to watch Bollywood or Arabic films with English subtitles as I can get English feature films any time.

The FA’s came around frequently with the champagne.

I kept the party going at dinner time and went with the Arabic mezze and lamb biryani.

Sunset

Time to sleep!

Almost there!

Midnight arrival at AUH.  Passport and customs were a breeze with dedicated express lane and no visa required for Aussies.

Of course we had to try out the Arrivals Lounge so my husband could get a shave!  Unfortunately no perks for ladies, a facial would have been nice.

We were lucky to have the free chauffeur-driven car benefit as they did away with this little goodie for award tickets shortly after I booked our seats.  I gave them the address of the Holiday Inn in Dubai and off we went!

The Jetstar Experience

I’ve mentioned that Jetstar has some amazing sales throughout the year so it’s always worth looking at these before redeeming miles on Qantas or Virgin.

I took these screenshots a couple days ago and they are pretty much what I had bought the year before at around this time for travel in September.

Jetstar1

Typical of the low-cost carriers, they will try to upsell you to various bundles.  I knew that we would have already had dinner by this time and just want to sleep on this flight, plus I also knew we would have carry-on backpacks only.  So I just kept the original fare with no added extras.Jetstar2

Jetstar will still try to upsell you features one by one.  This time I went for the pre-booked seat, as far forward as possible but still in the $7 zone.

Jetstar3

Jetstar flies an Airbus A320 on this sector all economy in a 3 x 3 configuration.  Nothing to get excited about but it’s always nice to get on and off as quickly as possible.

I did the online check-in and we took our carry-on backpacks to the gate.  Much to my surprise (this being my first flight on Jetstar), the ground crew were weighing the carry-ons!  Even the small ones like ours which were well under the maximum measurements but we did have the camera gear and the Pizzey-Knight field guide.  They have scales at the kiosks where you can check in if you haven’t done so online and they were strictly enforcing the 7kg weight limit.  Thankfully they weren’t familiar with Scottevests and Ina and I quickly shoved some books and a camera in our pockets, then presented the backpacks for weighing.  They passed and were tagged as carry-ons.

The weight thing is probably the most frustrating thing to birders as it’s fairly easy to pack light but the camera gear, especially those 400mm lenses can weigh 2kg all by themselves!  I didn’t bring the Canon gear for this trip but even the Nikon P900 was still heavy compared to a normal tourist camera.

The other shocker is that sometimes they don’t even give you water on the plane!  This time they did in small plastic cups which was enough to survive the flight.  One way around this would be to bring a small empty water bottle and refill it after security.  We were prepared for the return trip and did this.

Anyway, Jetstar has its place as a cheap way to get from A to B with no frills.  Be prepared and keep your eye on the prize – the birds that await at the end of the journey!

Falcon Frequent Flyers

I’ve traveled around the Middle East several times and I have seen falcons on planes before but not quite THIS many!  According to quoted news sources, a Saudi prince bought 80 seats in economy (a prince couldn’t afford 1st class?) for his beloved falcons.

falcon1

HT:  View From The Wing

I did some hunting around for more pics of falcons on planes and the various means of accommodating them.

Sometimes they have their own stands.

falcon2

Sometimes they ride on their owner’s lap.falcon3

Or even the tray table!

falcon5

It is not yet clear whether each bird has his own frequent flyer account and earns miles, how they amuse themselves when they can’t see the movie because of the hood and what do they eat?

If you do find yourself seated next to a feathered frequent flyer, don’t worry.  Falcons do not make noise when they travel, they don’t smell, they don’t kick the seat nor do they recline their seats–so enjoy the flight and be grateful they aren’t snakes!

Wrapping Up An Amazing Trip & Southwest Observations

After our brief visit to El Yunque, cut short due to car mishap, it was time to return the car and get to the airport for our Southwest flight to Orlando.  I am really glad that Puerto Rico is part of the USA and has the full CDW with no excess, otherwise I don’t know what would have happened with the ding on the hubcap.

DSCN4593

San Juan’s airport is modern and easy to navigate.  The rental car return area is well-signed and thanks to the full CDW package there were no dramas on returning the car.DSCN4598

San Juan to Orlando is a domestic USA flight so there was only security to get through (no dramas or delays) and then we were free to explore the gift shops.DSCN4601

My husband watching my backpack while I shop.DSCN4599 DSCN4600

We are new to Southwest so a few observations that are probably nothing new to those who fly them often.

  1.  Do online check-in at exactly T-24.  Since these were award tickets booked with transferred Ultimate Rewards points, we each had our own record locator.  I had my ticket open in Firefox and hubby’s ticket in Chrome and was refreshing from 3 minutes beforehand until it allowed us to check in and get boarding positions.  We got A46 & A48, not bad for beginners!
  2.  Despite all this manoeuvering, there were at least 20+ wheelchairs queued up for preboarding.  A few regular pax tried to sneak ahead of us in the A line claiming not to understand (in Spanish) but I had enough Spanish skills to point them to where they were supposed to be and make it clear I wasn’t going to allow line cutters.
  3.  When we got on board, the first section of the plane was completely filled with the preboarded wheelchair pax, their companions and then the people ahead of us in line.  Despite all this, we could have had exit row except the FA wasn’t happy with my husband’s command of the English language (his first language is Maori) and chased us off.  We got aisles across from each other a few rows behind.  The flight was full.
  4.  I don’t know what they put in the water on Southwest but miraculously, there were only about 5 or 6 wheelchairs waiting for the disembarking pax to clear so they could disembark their assigned pax.

Here’s the gate area at SJU for Southwest.  We were there fairly early.

DSCN4602

Anyway, we live in Australia and not likely to fly Southwest again so I am not going to dwell on it, but I wouldn’t have chosen this airline in the first place if there had been award seats available on AA or UA (there weren’t) so we did the best we could.

Well that wraps up the epic adventure to Ecuador, Colombia & the Caribbean.  In the end, we saw some truly amazing birds.  Many at a distance, but still they were there flying freely in all their glory!