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Some observations, good and bad, on a Australia - USA trip

Some observations, good and bad, on a Australia - USA trip

Old Feb 18th, 2010, 04:24 PM
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Some observations, good and bad, on a Australia - USA trip

Just back from a trip to the USA and Central America and although I know that this should be on the USA site I am putting it here because there are some issues which I think could help both Aussies going to USA as well as the other way around.
I flew Jetstar to Honolulu from Sydney - OK flight but nothing special worth mentioning except there were very few people on the flight and a sleep en route on 4 seats is my idea of heaven . From Honolulu to San Francisco, San Francisco - New Orleans, New Orleans to Chicago, Chicago to New York and New York to LAX was with American Airlines then Qantas from LA to Melbourne.

The one thing that struck me about American Airlines was the quality of the flight attendants - they were lovely. I could not fault any of them and I must say that their service ( apart from the fact that no food is served on AA domestically unless you purchase it and its pretty ordinery at that) was as good as if not better than Qantas service and helpfulness of staff. Overall I would rate AA above Qantas on this trip particularly as Qantas changed the airline we were supposed to fly in from a comfortable -ish A 380 to a old 747 Jumbo. I realize that sometimes a particular plane has to be used for whatever reason but this has happened to me 2 times out of 4 and that is just not good enough, especially when you book a particular day because of the aircraft flying and a particular seat because of that aircraft that you are expecting to be flying. I really feel that when a 747 is used when you have booked an A380 there should be quite a price difference. The noise factor in the 747 is only one of its drawbacks. So bouquets for American Airlines and brickbats for Qantas.

We stayed at Days Inn Airport Hotel in SFO - the hotel is OK but its elevator was out of action and so getting bags upstairs was a problem and no staff help - the shuttle only goes every hour which means sitting around for too long at the airport waiting and it ends up being quite a long drive to the hotel - won't stay there again.
New Orleans was just buzzing - it was Mardi Gras time when we arrive and so the place with awash with people out to have a great time. Stayed at the Courtyard Marriot Convention Centre Hotel which does not have its own Shuttle Service and so Taxi is the way to get there as when there are 2 of you its "theoretically" cheaper than the City Hotel Shuttle Service. You get a ticket for the cab outside of the airport. Be warned to have pretty much the right change as the price was $33 to the city and I gave the driver $40 whereupon he got in the cab and took off while I stood there waiting for change!
The Courtyard Marriot used to be a warehouse and the rooms are nice enough but there are no services in the hotel like coffee house or restaurant other than one for breakfast and you cannot sit there unless it is for breakfast.

From New Orleans we took a cruise to Central America but I won't report on that here.

Back in New Orleans a week later. We had booked into Wyndham Riverfront Hotel which was a nice hotel and well placed for all of the action in N.O BUT we were charged $28 for a cab from the cruise terminal to the hotel - a distance of only about 700 yards (mtrs) - yes we would have walked it if we had not had a disabled person with us and if we had known exactly where the hotel was from the terminal. Obviously New Orleans cab drivers think its great to rip people off so a BIG brickbat to them.
New Orleans made up for their cabbies though by winning the Superbowl on our night there and so it was mega party time in the old town, which is looking OK now that some time has passed since the hurricane.

From New Orleans - Chicago then to New York where we stayed at the Holiday Inn Midtown Manhattan. Here the staff need a complete boot up the backside - firstly putting rooms next to elevators which go up and down 24 hours per day is bad enough but customer relations is not on the agenda with this hotel's staff. A coffee maker which did not work took 3 hours to get changed for another which did not work and the manager suggested a voucher for coffee in the dining room but refused to send room service with coffee. Does it not occur to some people that patrons may want a coffee on waking before they get up and shower and dress for the day. I sure do. Very costly Internet at this hotel and internet is situated in a noisy area of the hotel near the bar with blaring music close by. So although this hotel is in a great area I would look for something else as it does not come up to par at all. Brickbats to it.

The heavens opened with the white stuff and our flights were cancelled to San Francisco from NY so I booked into the Holiday Inn Express Times Square and settled down to cancel hotels and flights and spend another 3 days in NY, which I might add was fun filled and enjoyable to the max. I greatly helped the US economy as they had sales going on everywhere.

The difference between these two Holiday Inn hotels was massive, the rooms in the Holiday Inn Express were quiet, Internet was free , staff were very pleasant and helpful and on top of that they provided quite good breakfast in the price. So bouquets for this hotel. Another plus is that its near the garment district which is always nice to browse in.

I had booked most of my flights and most of the hotels through Priceline.com and when all the flight cancellations came into effect it was a busy time for them and for travellers but I really think that as its now 7 days after the cancellations I would have heard back by now from them to see if I am getting a refund on various flights and or hotels. Not quite up to scratch really. One particular hotel, the SFO Crowne Plaza had a recorded message and by the time we were able to get hold of "Emily" who was in reservations and who then told us that she did not have the "training" to do a refund it had got to close to the cut off time for refunds and therefore that Hotel refused to refund me my money. A BIG FAT BRICKBAT to Crowne Plaza at San Francisco International Airport. Had Emily made herself available I could have relocated my booking to LAX without loss of money but hopefully my Insurance Company will look kindly on that for me. Because of being unable to get any assistance from Emily of Crowne Plaza at SFO I booked the Renaissance Hotel at Lax for our last night. It was Valentine's Day and they upgraded us to a suite and gave us an early check in and late check out. The staff, room, room service was supurb. The hotel was quiet and the bed was as good as mine at home. A BIG bouquet to the Renaissance Hotel LAX.

One thing that I did do on my trip was to do comparisons of meal prices seeing that there has been a bit of a discussion on that subject of late on this forum. I specifically tried to compare like with like and as far as I am concerned the cost of meals in Australia is about the same as the USA except that in Australia you can BYO wine and therefore that component is a lot less than the States. Also we do not tip which is a factor that has to be taken into account seeing that its now about 15% of the total bill. Quite a substantial amount I think. I compared places like Dennys with say RSL clubs in Australia and Dennys came out dearer. The lower end where you get takeaway food is probably cheaper in the US and there is more to choose from but if you compare the price of a pie in Australia with that its about equal. I suggest that one of the things that Americans should ask about is where to get good quality meals for a reasonable price in the various places in Australia. That way you will not be overcharged and will eat at the prices that Aussies do.
Wish you would get hold of the concept of BYO though.

One last comment is on beer - what a long way beer has come in the USA over the last 30 years. I think I drank some of the best beer in the World in the US this last trip. I particularly like the Amber beer which I found to be better than Newcastle Brown ( UK beer). I am not normally a beer drinker but because the cost of wine is so high in the US in restaurants I found that beer was a cheaper alternative.

Overall the US is a great place to holiday - you just have to make sure that if you go near winter make sure that you have sufficient warm clothes should you get stuck in NY city in a blizzard like I was, but then if the sales are on, who cares just buy what you want!.

Hope I have not bored the pants off you lot too much.
ivenotbeeneverywhere is offline  
Old Feb 18th, 2010, 06:58 PM
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I wish we would get hold of the concept of BYO too.

Interesting read, thanks for posting.
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Old Feb 18th, 2010, 07:46 PM
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Thanks, ivenotbeen...... sad that QF appears to be following Jetstar down the slippery slide of indifference & shoddy service. Good info and balance. No doubt about it, a good sale can make up for not packing the right gear, can't it? Gold plated excuse, too!
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Old Feb 20th, 2010, 05:00 AM
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ivenot...cabbies pretty much expect a tip in the USA.... re: the cabbie who drove away when you gave him $40... sorry that happened to you! If you had given him just the $33, he probably would have been pretty disgruntled about it. We do tipping a lot here.

AA is not my favorite airline in the USA, but I'm glad that you had a good experience with them. Positive reports are always appreciated. I know that our US airlines are always compared UNfavorably to, say, the Asain carriers.

Sounds like you learned a good lesson about winters here in the contiguous 48 states. I live in the midwest (about 3 hours from Chicago) and am always concerned when I have a trip planned that requires flying in/out of OHare during winter months! And that includes flights to SYD coming up in just two weeks from now.

Thanks for your report!
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Old Feb 20th, 2010, 01:27 PM
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simpsonc510, If and when we tip in Australia ( and we sometimes do but for good service ) we would still expect to get change from any money paid and then the tip would be taken from the change amount - similiar to most situations in the US. I did try to phone the Cab company but there was only a recorded message. I have lived and worked in North America and many years ago and I would never have assumed that someone was giving me a tip of that amount unless they said "keep the change".
The main point of my post really was to highlight the good and the bad and the fact that AA has improved out of sight in my dealings with it. My last flights with AA were through the US and in and out of South America and were quite dreadful so the improvement has been impressive. Qantas on the other hand has been my World wide preferred airline for years but I was not pleased with the flight last week at all and I think perhaps they need a bit of a "heads up" every so often because up until the last few weeks they have had great profits ( still do but very much reduced) and all has been well for the company. I think too that sometimes Qantas use older male stewards who forget that a smile goes a long, long way for long haul travellers or perhaps it was because I was in an area on the plane where there were many US students en route to Australia for studies and he thought he did not need to be nice..... dunno but not good enough, and neither was the change of aircraft. If you are flying to Australia on an A380 you will see what I mean - it certainly leaves the old 747 Jumbos, and anything of that vintage, for dead.
ivenotbeeneverywhere is offline  
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