Wednesday, January 24, 2018

2018-01-24 Beijing


6:30 PM AA2490 DFW-BDL #3 of 12 on upgrade list. Not a single person cleared. Seat 7C was aisle seat in first row of coach.  7B was middle seat and was empty for the most part until the very end.  Large woman came with one year old kid.  Yes, her right elbow and kid kicked me the entire three hour flight but she did quite well for being in middle seat with kid and diaper bag and everything.  I just leaned to the right to try to give them room.  And they were both sick, so I kept my muffler on my nose and eyes and tried to sleep.  I remember the old days so I knew to stay patient. It was fine.

Here is what was amazing.  As we approached landing, I went to the front restroom and as I approached it, the first class flight attendant was sitting and smiled (the other one also smiled) said "Hello Mr. Ahmed, is there anything I can get for you?"  I was in shock.  I am sitting in coach, not in first class.  I was still waking up and groggy.  I took my ear plugs out of my ears and she repeated what she said.  I said how do you know who I am?  She said "why you are an Executive Platinum and I appreciate your business and thank you for flying with us."  She said "I saw that you were sleeping the entire trip and I was going to offer you food and drink if you wanted anything."  I said that is amazing.  I said no one says my name, especially when I am sitting in coach class.  Even in first class, hardly anyone says my name.  She said "well they are supposed to.”  I said I know they are supposed to but they don't.

So I went to the restroom, came out and she was standing there with the other flight attendant.  She said "is there I can get for you Mr. Ahmed, water, juice, drink?"  So I said ok, water please. So I sat down in my 7C coach seat and she brought me water.  Now that is amazing.  Millions of miles traveled and this has never happened. So on the way out of the plane, I gave her one of my applause stickers.  Executive Platinum members get small pieces of paper we can give out to anyone who does an outstanding job and this helps with their job performance review and they get points.

That is truly outstanding.  That is true service.  That is how it should be.  That is what they are trained to say and to do but no one does it.  Everyone is trained to say that to each Executive Platinum.  She is the only one who did it to me.

10:30 PM landed on-time in Connecticut 
Took shuttle bus to hotel
Room was fine, I don't know why all the reviews are so bad.  What is strange is there was no clock in the room.  I did call downstairs and let them know so they would not think I stole the clock.  They didn't have an answer why there was no clock.  The comforter was too thin, should be thicker being that it was 15 degrees outside.  The pillows were more square-ish rather than rectangular and stiff, I like my pillows just a little bit softer.  Overall, the room still gets a 5 out of 5.

Slept at 11, woke at 4:00 AM EST, took 4:20 shuttle to airport 
Sat in Admiral’s Club and had bagel for breakfast and updated this blog and the Morocco blog. 

7:24 AM AA2269 flight from Connecticut to Chicago. 
Window seat in first row of first class. 737-800 with TV monitor on wall in front of me with remote control on left armrest.

We did get a pre-departure beverage. But she came by and said “sir, I see you pre-ordered the ..., did you still want that or something else?”  She knew my name but didn’t say my name. She is trained to say my name and to say thank you for being an Executive Platinum member and thank you for your business. Even later when she picked up the tray, she did not say my name. Once again, the airline disappoints. 

View of Connecticut and upstate New York.  The brown ground with white snow and in the distant the colors are purple and dark blue 

On approach to Chicago. 
All the ice has gone. A lot of smog around downtown. 

When I landed January 1st from Madrid on Iberia, lots of the water was frozen

Arrived in Chicago
9:17 AM CST was scheduled time but landed at 8:30 AM.

I am a member of the Admiral’s Club, which is on the 3rd floor
On the 2nd floor is an invitation-only FlagShip Lounge. Very exclusive. Brand new. I was here January 1st and they were still working on it. 

Poorly designed. People going to 2 get off at 2 and then people who are going to 3, the Admiral’s Club, are sheep and they follow. They don’t know there is a 3rd floor. So then there is discussion with the agent who is the guard and then they get turned away and have to wait for another elevator going up. Poor thinking. 

This is where I laid down to rest

Breakfast. Top left is pancakes in the shape of tiny muffins. Delicious. Had many. 

I don’t drink. Too bad. Free alcohol. 

I decided to check out the shower

The knob to turn shower on is confusing. There is a left knob and a right knob. The right knob is the temperature. The left knob push button in and hold it and turn (1) towards yourself to turn on handshower or (2) away from yourself to turn on rain head shower. There are no instructions, it took a while to figure it out.

Oh and after 10 minutes, the light sensor sensed no movement and it turned the light off. The sensor is on the wall right next to the shower but it can’t seem to sense movement beyond the shower glass. 

Time for lunch. I sampled so much food that I had stomach problems on the plane. 

Lamb chops

Potatoes and cheese 


Big salad bar

Beef tenderloin 

There is a lot more on the buffet but I didn’t take pictures. There are three security cameras above watching. 

I don’t drink but tried the sake. Drank about an eighth and got dizzy.  14% alcohol. Still dizzy. 

They are light on their dessert

Departed Chicago
3:50 PM CST

My flight to Beijing

My hotel room

Breakfast on Saturday

Saturday lunch and afternoon 

Saturday evening 

Saturday, December 16, 2017


2017-12-16 trip start

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Day 1
Started in the Admiral’s Club in DFW. With status, was able to get into FlagShip Dining 

Plus there was tomato soup, chicken noodle soup, a salad bar, vegetables bar, pastries etc.

Plus there was beef short ribs with white rice and green beans. I scarfed it down and then it was gone so I could not take a picture. It was yummy. More food comes back out at 4pm

Boarding at 4:00 PM
We all have our own seats in Business Class. It is a 2 cabin aircraft. One seat in Business Class fits three seats in coach class.  

Yes, we are fortunate and we appreciate it. 

Pre-Departure beverage


This is the brand new Casper bedding they just rolled out. We did not get mattress pad nor pajamas. We got the small pillow not the big one.


Got 8 bottles (two per person) of water from Admiral’s Club

We are on-time. This plane came in from Frankfurt late. It is 41 degrees F in Madrid.  It is 50 F in DFW. 

Intended route

Actual route

Meal started but they forgot to give me dressing. I pushed call button, no one came. I waited 4-5 min, turned it off and pushed it again, I saw it light up way up front, no one came. System worked but human did not pay attention. Also human never addressed me by name or thanked me for my business. 

I had pre-ordered all 4 meals. This enchilada dinner is not recommended. Ended up with stomach problems for a long time and there was no meat in this


Breakfast one hour before landing, not very good. There was runny water under the eggs. Sausage was awful. 

Sunrise over Portugal

Landed in Madrid
Went to transfer desk, had to put everything thru x-ray again. Went through security and had to go back out and take out any cords, any iPads, anything with wires and put it in its own bin and go through again. 

We first went to the Sala lounge right next to security, they wanted $ per person to get in. OneWorld Emerald does not work here. Went down one level and went through large duty free shop and found this one. 

They said only me plus one guest. So two of us went away. Then agent changed his mind. Oh, are all 4 if you Business Class?  Yes. Oh, then all 4 of you can enter. Sorry, I said but the other two already left and went to sit at the gate. Here is the lounge. Huge.

There is a dark room for resting and another shower area hallway. 

Many people have written that there is no hot food in this lounge.
Here you can see eggs and bacon that is hot.

So we had breakfast #2 here


Time to Board Iberia
Walked down to S gates and they already boarded - early. They changed aircraft to A319. Pilot and crew very polite and respectful and happy to see us. Had breakfast #3. Can we say I am stuffed?

Ok, here is when you can laugh. Really laugh out loud. FA came by and offered newspapers. I took the top one she was offering. It was not in English but it didn’t matter to me. I was just going to skim it so language doesn’t matter. 

Get ready to laugh 

Then she comes back and says would you rather have this one ?  She pointed to the words. They were in English. I said no I am fine with this even though I don’t speak or read Spanish. She said this is French. Then I looked at it and it was in French. 

She said this is French not Spanish. I never even looked to see what language it was in. 

Now you can laugh

See, I am happy to make fun of myself. 

She and the family had a big laugh and that is ok. 

SIM card for unlocked cell phone
I spent some time at the airport looking for a place to get a SIM card.  The place I read about had a line of three people that was moving very slowly, so we left and decided to find a place later in the city. 

Shuttle from Airport to Hotel
I had pre-arranged with the hotel to send a Mercedes Vito van for us. It is a 45 min ride. He was standing outside with a sign with my name on it and the name of the hotel. 

We arrived at the 5* hotel located right on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. 

While standing to register, a young man eagerly rushed towards us with a tray and poured each of us hot tea in a short glass and offered us biscuits. 

We got two lovely rooms on the very top floor. One with a king bed and an adjoining room with 2 full size beds. Beautiful hotel and rooms.   Large closets on right side

Separate room with a door for

Separate room with two sinks

Large shower

Large bathtub with two fluffy robes and tons of little amenities

A VERY comfy bed. The pillows were the best part. Different sizes and different firmness.

On the table was fresh fruit, pistachios, knife, fork and plates with a welcome letter

Door holding mini-bar

Look honey, I can see America from here. Do you get the joke here?

Ok, so we all collapsed for the afternoon

Went to dinner at Rick’s Cafe at 6:30 when they opened. He asked do we have reservations, I said no. The hotel didn’t say I needed reservations since it was Sunday night. He said they were full. I said really? As I looked, the entire restaurant was totally empty. He said we are full. But you can sit at the bar. I said ok. We ate and left at 7:30 and the restaurant was still empty. 

Look closely and you will see the center one is autographed

Crispy chicken 


Far left: small potatoes with some sort of cole slaw, amazing. Next one is celery cooked with beets. Then white basmati rice. Then lentils like I have never had. Then a small mixed vegetables.

Zoom in on the lentils and you can see them glistening


The taxi trip from Rick’s Cafe back to the hotel
This is where negotiation skills are essential 
I held up a 50 DH note. That is what the hotel said I should pay. That is what I paid to get to the restaurant. 
I told the driver the hotel name and held up the note. He said no no no. 100 DH. I said no no no
He takes his finger and points to the sky and says
this is Casablanca and it is dark and the price is 100 DH. 
As if to say the sky is falling. 
As if to say the gods are angry. 
As if to say it is totally out of his control. 
As if to say oh my goodness, the price is 100 because oh my gosh anything could happen at night in Casablanca. 

I could barely hold back my laughter
My incredulous look on my face 
Wow, this was very talented of him to come up with this exotic scenario

I said 50. He said 100

I said 50 then he said 80

I said 50 then he said 70

You should have heard him shrieking in Arabic and in French

Walking back and forth
Glaring at me

I said 50

He stopped pacing and took his hand and swooped down and snatched the 50 from my hand

Snatched I say, snatched.  Not took. Not grabbed. Snatched. 

I tried to open the back door but it was locked

I walked the left side and tried to open the back door and it was locked

He walked to the driver door

Was he going to leave without me and take my 50 ?

He got in and unlocked the right back door. Not the left back door where I was standing. Then he got out of his seat and walked 10 feet then came back. He opened the left rear door

We got in

He got out and walked back to the other taxi driver group and talked to them. We sat in the car wondering. 

Is this dangerous?  I pulled out my GPS to map where I am and where hotel is and the roads leading to the hotel. 

He got back in. Never said a word. He turned the radio up with lots of Arabic talk radio. Lots of swerving and weaving in and out of traffic. 

Drove for a bit and hit traffic and made a right and started taking side streets. I still knew where I was. Was starting to wonder if I should worry. I watched the GPS.  Heading in right direction. I had a sense of the main road and we were heading in the right direction. 

Finally swerved back on to the main road and I saw my hotel in the distance. Close. He swooped in at the last minute all the way from the left lane and did not enter the hotel driveway. Instead just stopped on the street. We opened the door and got out and he sped away.

Not a word was spoken. 

If I had sensed real danger, I would not have gotten in. I just kept verifying as we went along. You just have to do this gut check in these situations. He was just angry I got the better of him. 50 for a short 2 mile ride was the correct fare. And he knew that. It is not like the correct fare was 200 and I got away with only paying 50. 

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