International Travel


Lest this be obvious, the goal of this blog is to be both informational and, at the same time, upbeat.  Life is too short to be relentlessly “doom-and-gloom,” and plenty of others provide the news of the day with all of life’s inherent challenges.
The next somewhat obvious point is what a privilege it is to travel the globe.  The hubby and I try very hard to remember that point.  We go when we choose, where we choose, and enjoy it to the fullest.
All that said, I can’t stand British Airways!  Why take on the “gateway to Europe?” (Not sure if that’s an actual reference or I made it up.)  Oh, let me count the ways:  ridiculous taxes for flying through Heathrow, ridiculous charges to pre-book seats, and that front/back seat configuration!  Ugh.
The seating configuration at left requires being a bit of a contortionist
if one is in the window seat and needs to get up.
Think about this:  you’re flying solo on an overnight flight.  There’s no way to cleanly step over the person in the aisle seat if it’s fully extended.  Who thought this was a good idea?
When it comes to utilizing my accumulated OneWorld miles (acquired mostly through AA Citi Mastercard, but also transferred through Starwood), I prefer online searches.  When all else fails, I’ll engage AAdvantage customer service.  Online booking seems to rarely list flights with partner airlines where Europe is concerned; it’s all about the BA flights unless one calls the airline directly.  Persistence can payoff — case in point is our April flights to Helsinki with AA miles:  first to Paris via Air Tahiti Nui, then to Helsinki via Finnair — I’m very proud of that one!
The most recent travail was finding an acceptable way to return from Athens this October.  I damn-near burnt out my computer with endless searches.  Not willing to spend 135K miles PER PERSON/ONE-WAY(!) to get home, I finally opted for 57.5K each to fly business class from Athens-Heathrow with an overnight, and then Heathrow-LAX the next morning.  A reasonable amount of miles but $773 in taxes!!  FYI, taxes for most similar flights on AA are less than $50 — even to Hong Kong.

After several unsuccessful calls to AAdvantage, requesting (but not finding) any other OneWorld partners to get us home — nothing through Barcelona, Madrid, Paris or even Doha(!) — I capitulated and secured the seats for the Heathrow route.  When it came time to finalize the transaction, the lovely AA person asked for my credit card to charge me the sum of $853.  Wait; what?  Why the higher total?  “That is for the service fee ($40 per person) charged for engaging a live person instead of booking online.” Hold the phone! Your website told me I could NOT complete the transaction online; I had to contact AAdvantage to finalize. So you’re forcing me to contact you directly, and then charging me for that privilege??!! “Let me speak to your supervisor.”  Pause ….  “Mrs. Bialosky, your corrected total is $773.”  Why, thank you kindly.
The final coup de grâce?? Seat selection is unavailable until 24 hours before departure, unless you pay up.  I could have lived with taking our chances for the relatively-shorter flight from Athens to London, but opted to pre-reserve anyway.  Anything other than pre-reserving for the 11+ hours from London to LAX was unthinkable.  Cost for two pre-reserved seats for two flights:  $340.  And now you know why BA makes it so very hard to find a positive spin …  On the upside, Heathrow has great food and shopping.  So there’s that.