After our Delta One flight landed at London Heathrow, we disembarked, passed through immigration, and collected our luggage to proceed to LHR Terminal 2. This is the terminal were Austrian Airlines flies in and out of (as well as the majority of Star Alliance airlines). Within Europe we would be taking three flights before returning to the U.S. – Austrian Airlines London to Vienna and then Vienna to Copenhagen, and SAS Airlines Copenhagen to Frankfurt. The SAS flight was a part of our United/Lufthansa redemption coming home. The Austrian Airlines LHR-VIE-CPH segments worked best for our itinerary, and they were all paid coach. I’ve had a United Club membership for years and decided to use it to visit the United Club at London Heathrow Terminal 2. Check in with Austrian was smooth and after a little bit of walking we found ourselves at the entrance to the United Club.
The integration between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America has been going on since December of last year. That was when the Department of Justice approved the deal and the purchase of Virgin America closed. Alaska started the combining process with surprising swiftness, offering customers on both airlines cross benefits days after the announcement. On December 19th, 2016 members of both Virgin America Elevate and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan started receiving reciprocal benefits such as earning mileage credit and priority check-in and boarding on each other’s flights.
After landing in Seattle, we exited security and made our way to collect our bags at the Alaska belt. Alaska has a 20-minute guarantee on receiving checked baggage, and I’ve found them to be consistently quick at getting your luggage out. Through a mix-up on our initial Alaska flight, we needed to collect our bags and re-check-in for the international Delta segment. Our layover was 4 hours and we had more than enough time for this exercise.
After spending sometime at Anthony’s restaurant in the central terminal, we walked over to the America Express Centurion Studio Lounge in the shallow part of the B gates. There were 4 of us and American Express only allows 2 visitors per card at a time; fortunately, Susan and I have our own cards and so the 4 of us could enter the lounge.
My oldest daughter was accepted into a study abroad program with her college. She was excited and Susan and I encouraged her to take advantage of the opportunity to go. She, in response requested that the family travel together before the program on a family trip to Europe. Susan jumped on the proposal and said “that’s a great idea.” Before I could say anything, the decision was made, and we were going to Europe for ten days as a family of four.
I recently had a meeting in the San Diego area, and needed a hotel room for one evening’s stay. After searching, the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina came up with a rate of $143.00 per night for Lania King (standard room). I hadn’t stayed at this property before and decided with such a good rate, it would be a chance to see and review the resort.
Since we were only going to be gone for one evening, Susan was able to get away and join me. She took advantage of our Southwest Airlines Companion Pass to fly down for $5.60 in taxes. Say what you will about Southwest, but the Companion Pass we qualified for last year has been a much enjoyed benefit.
It’s an curious thing to watch one airline acquire another. Here in the United States we’ve watched eight large airlines combine into four over the last ten years. Delta with Northwest, United with Continental, Southwest with AirTran and finally American with US Air. All of them were different in nature, and all four of these combinations created four modern behemoth carriers.
Earlier this year Alaska Airlines announced the wind down process for the Virgin America brand, as well as their loyalty program called Elevate. One of the items that was clearly communicated in this announcement was the actual end date for the Elevate program, December 31st, 2017. At that time Elevate would be ended, and all existing Elevate members would be converted into the Alaska Airlines Mileage Program.
Today Virgin America operated the first revenue inaugural flight of the Airbus A321neo aircraft. Flight VX1 took off from San Francisco at 8:00am PDT and landed five hours later at Washington D.C.’s Regan Airport. The occasion was celebrated by both Airbus and Virgin America with cake and balloons at the gate, and commemorative pins and key chains handed out during the flight. The A321neo is Airbus’s newest version of their popular A320 family of aircraft. Virgin America was the worldwide launch airline carrier for the new aircraft produced by Airbus.