rkkwan to try new stuff this Christmas

Oct 6th, 2006, 09:49 PM
  #1  
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rkkwan to try new stuff this Christmas

I was booking my trip to Italy this Christmas tonite. Instead of the usual CO/AF/KL combination through AMS or CDG, I'm trying something new this time. More specifically, I will be doing the following for the first time:

- Fly Ryanair. Already they annoy me by all the add-ons, like £3.5 per checked bags (£7 if do it at airport), and another £3.5 per person when using Visa/MC. And it's not like they're cheap. Only flying them because they have non-stop to Palermo on the day I want.

- Fly BA. Somehow, I've never flown BA before. Will try their NAP-LGW. Good one-way price, but will only earn 25% AAdvantage miles. Better than nothing.

- Even though I usually discourage people to do this, I will indeed try a London airport transfer. From LGW to STN, more specifically. Will have almost 7 hours between flights, so there will be enough time to take Southern Trains instead of Gatwick Express to Victoria, have a leisurely lunch around there, and then take the cheaper National Express coach to Stansted.

Reason doing this? Well, again, through London I can fly to PMO with just 2 flights, instead of 3. But more importantly, IAH-LGW flight leaves late, so I can get out of work then go to airport. Save me a day. Also, IAH-LGW fares for peak Christmas season is still only $700 all-in on CO. Compared to $1K+ to Italy.

This itinerary cost about $1K, compared to AF , AZ, KL, which are at $1,200 to go to Palermo and Naples.
rkkwan is offline  
Oct 6th, 2006, 10:43 PM
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Good for you for trying something new! People get stuck in their ruts and routines, it's good to try out another way sometimes.

I flew RyanAir for an Apple Vacations trip to Ixtapa, Mexico in 2000. At the time, I'd never heard of them and was apprehensive, but my friend and I were duly impressed by the great service onboard. Steaming face cloths in coach, and everything! Well, that was pre-9/11....

Anyways, good luck, and as always-- report back!
lynnejoel1015 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2006, 11:00 PM
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lynnejoel - I think you flew Ryan International Airlines, not Ryanair. Ryanair has not flown outside of Europe and Morocco.
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Oct 6th, 2006, 11:45 PM
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Instead of 3 flights, you'll be taking 2 flights plus 1 train and 1 bus to get to PMO. Sounds like fun, always good to try new stuff. Hope you have a great trip.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 03:43 AM
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mrwunrfl - I know! In fact, when I did a search on Gatwick-Stansted transfer, I found a 2-year old thread in which I personally recommeded someone against doing exactly that to save $200! How ironic.

But really, the main reason I'm doing this is that I can fly on 12/22 by going through London. Otherwise, I'll waste 3/4 of a day by going the next day through CDG/AMS, and then MXP/FCO; and would still cost more.
rkkwan is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 11:12 AM
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Ok, you get a bit more adventure this way in the same amount of time. Plus no chance of bags lost at connecting cities.
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Oct 7th, 2006, 12:58 PM
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I see, you get there sooner this way. Your probably on the nicely timed 6:55PM CO nonstop.
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Oct 9th, 2006, 08:31 AM
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Concerning BA, if you get a BA Credit Card, you get twice the miles for the price! Just think, book a $25,000 airline ticket, and that will be 50,000 miles--enough for a ticket from North America to Western Europe, but don't forget the $200+ in taxes and fees.

Don't forget to order a free glass of wine for me on your flight.
wally34949 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2006, 09:57 AM
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And don't forget to turn off your mobile.
wally34949 is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2006, 09:52 AM
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Pre-trip update:

- Going out tonite, but I'm quite worried about the fog situation in London. So, will get to IAH early to try standby for the earlier CO flight.

- Ryanair is pretty good in communications. 3 days before flight, I got 2 emails, one confirming my flight and reminding me of check-in procedure. Another about new British security requirement.

- For our LGW-STN trip, because of the fog, I think we'll do First Capital Connect to Farringdon, tube to Liverpool St, then Stansted Express. Expensive, but most weather-proof.
rkkwan is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2006, 12:53 PM
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Good luck!
Carrybean is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2006, 12:44 PM
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Could I ask why you have chosen to go to Palermo? Most travelers to Italy would go there only on a 3rd or 4th visit. Is there something special about that city that you might share with us? Buon viaggio!
easywalker is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 02:23 PM
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Hey guys... Writing from my nice hotel in Vico Equense near Sorrento!

So, this is what happened for our outbound.

- We got to IAH just after 1pm. Went straight into the nice President's Club at Terminal E. (None of us is a member, but we have some vouchers to get in). Went straight to the customer service rep there to put ourselves on the top of the waitlist for the earlier flight.

- During the wait, we got snacks, I took a shower, had a beer, etc...

- Then we headed down to the gate for the earlier 4pm flight. They finished boarding everybody by around 3:47. The lead GA said they had 2 seats for sure on this flight, but I told her the three of us wouldn't split up.

- She said, "We'll have to see". But within 30 seconds, she changed her mind and gave us BPs. My parents got a pair of seats together (A & B), I have another "A" seat further to the front. All in the elite section.

- There were 6 others on the waitlist. No idea how they fared.

- Onboard, the guy in the "B" seat next to me said his GF was in a middle seat "E" another row back, and pleaded with me to switch seat with her. Initially, I refused. But after settling - or I should say UNSETTLIING - in my seat, I changed my mind. I just hate being blocked in my two strangers.

- The guy was happy, the GF was happy. I was more happy than before. Even the lead FA was happy, with this issue solved. She treated me with a beer.

- Anyways, the flight was uneventful, and there was really no problem at Gatwick. With the extra few hours in London, we walked around town, and took all the cheapest transportation possible.

- Stansted was very busy. Had to squeeze through the crowd to get to our check-in desk, then waited around 30 minutes to clear security. And stand around for half an hour at the gate in order to have more decent seats.

- The seat pitch on Ryanair's 738 is tight, as expected. The crew was cheerful, and spent the whole flight selling stuff. Gosh, the really really sell stuff non-stop. They even gave away a roundtrip ticket onboard the flight with a lucky draw, among the shoppers.

---

Anyways, I'm really hating this Italian keyboard, so that's it for now.

easywalker - Our trip is to go around Sicily and then up to the Amalfi Coast. It makes more sense to start from Palermo then Catania. We've all been to Italy a few times, but think southern Italy and Sicily has better weather at this time of the year, and so far WE ARE RIGHT! It has been gorgeous.
rkkwan is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 02:53 PM
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You are a GOOD prson, rkkwan. I hope that couple appreciated your taking a middle seat.
Have a good time in Sicily. I lived there for 3 years.
JaneB is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 03:26 PM
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The thing is this. Other than my parents, I think I was the only passenger left on the plane that thought Houston-London is a "short-haul". I mean, the flying time was only about half Newark-Hong Kong.
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Jan 1st, 2007, 04:16 PM
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I'm back in Houston now to report the last two flights on my trip.

On 12/31, we flew British Airways from Naples to Gatwick. Since I had a computer to use in my hotel room in Sorrento, I checked in online the day before the flight.

Seat selection was opened at that time and I got ourselves 6DEF on the 734. It was the 2nd row in coach, and I believe I could have gotten us 5DEF at that time, which I should have done. That's because rows 1-5 were set up as 2-3 with wider armrests; on this flight only rows 1-4 were sold as Club Europe, with row 5 just regular EuroTraveler.

Anyways, I can understand why Wally likes BA. Even on a short NAP-LGW flight, we got an excellent prepackaged sandwich (half Chicken Tikka, half Mediterranean Tuna).

I don't know if I could have gotten the flights, but if I were to plan to trip again, we should have flown British Airways from Gatwick to Catania, instead of doing the crazy LGW-STN transfer and do Ryanair. BA was so much more civilized.

---

Speaking of civilized, our Continental experience at Gatwick back to Houston today was absolutely the most civilized way to come home from abroad in coach since the increased security measure in August. Here's why:

- Continental has a totally seperate check-in area for its BusinessFirst and Elite passengers. Not even on the same level as the "peasants". Totally quiet, no line. Really like a VIP.

- While there's a line for the regular security, it moves pretty well. We got through in about 15 minutes.

- The secondary screening is the best I've experienced since August. Passengers get to the gate area over time, go through the secondary screening leisurely, and then have lot of room to seat in a sequestered area. No line whatsoever, and the flight doesn't get delayed. It is 100x better than at CDG.

- The immigration, baggage claim, and customs procedure is as painless as I've ever got coming back to the US. Ever. Not even before 9/11. Our plane arrived at 1:54pm, and we were out of customs in 20 minutes, even with checked luggage. The contrast between IAH and EWR for arriving into the US on the same airline cannot be larger.

---

Anyways, all flights were great, as was the vacation itself. Another happy travel episode.
rkkwan is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 06:21 PM
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Welcome home and Happy New Year!!
JaneB is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 06:24 PM
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Good to hear that everything worked out well on your return. Welcome home.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2007, 03:41 AM
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RK writes: "Continental has a totally seperate check-in area for its BusinessFirst and Elite passengers. Not even on the same level as the "peasants"."

May I say, tith tongue firmly planted in cheek I might add, on behalf of peasants everywhere, we're happy for you nobles.
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Jan 2nd, 2007, 04:58 AM
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JN - I'm a peasant myself. I was only lucky enough to travel with some nobles this time.
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