United Redeems themselves!

This sunset shot taken en route from LAX to Pittsburgh.

This was my 53rd United Airlines flight and my 60th flight at LAX!.

This was a superb flight...pretty much 5 out of 5!
Friendly staff, clean plane.

Thanks Rob and team!

This flight was in huge is contrast with yesterday's abysmal United Airlines flight from Syd to Los Angeles (check out review).

12.5 weeks in the air

Flew my 222nd Qantas flight today -- from Melbourne to Sydney.
Also my 53rd (horrible) United Airlines flight from Sydney to Los Angeles (see separate blog article)

 Altogether 673 air flights totalling 2091:51 hours of flying (12.5 weeks sitting inside tubes of metal)!!

In Miles938,092
In Kilometer1,509,714
Check out my flight memory.com with travel maps, airlines flown etc.

My favourite airlines are listed here.
My least favourite airlines are here.

Thats it United!

Dear United Airlines

Not flying with you between Australia and the USA again (I still have to fly home with you!) because:
  • your 747 is so old and so tatty, it looks like no one cares. So much so the woman next to me was nervous that the maintenance was being done in the same slip shod fashion.
  • your staff were very unfriendly They didn't care and resented the passengers being there. The Cabin crew chatted through the safety briefing. They gossiped loudly in the galley when people were trying to sleep. They visibly read magazines when on duty (some airlines are a little more subtle). They served the meals resentfully (although in fairness the meals were so bad, it was probably resentment at having to serve them to humans)
  • the meals served in the  Economy cabin are miserly. Compare your meals with Qantas and Air New Zealand on the same sector. eg United's breakfast offering was only fruit or scrambled eggs and a small croissant compared to Qantas who provide scrambled egg or omelet, Cereal, jam for the croissant/muffin and yoghurt. In addition both Qantas and Air New Zealand have a snacking arrangement through the flight eg Qantas hands out a snack pack to every passenger.
  • The standard of the aforementioned United breakfast. It was the worst I have ever been served on that sector. Why bother serving it? Despite hunger I and the passenger next to me left it almost untouched. Tasteless eggs served in an unappealing lump with a stale croissant and butter
  • you are still giving Economy passengers one video screen in each section with no choice of shows for 13.5 hours? For crying out loud! Real airlines now have individual entertainment units. For example, while you have 12 music channels, Air NZ has SIX PAGES of radio and CD choices
Your staff and management need to fly as passengers on a real airline like Qantas, Air NZ or V Australia on that sector and see how it can be done so much better.

To add insult to injury was the video telling me I was on one of the world's great airlines. Having just flown Emirates, that made me laugh! Emirates are definitely one of the world's great airlines. Not United!

Today's Trip gets 2 out of 5, bringing my overall United Airlines rating to 3.4 (Same sector competitors: Air New Zealand 4.9 Qantas 4.8).

See my previous reviews of travel with United for Melbourne-Sydney-Los Angeles -Chicago:

Finally, check out how to do it properly: This is my review of Emirates Auckland to Sydney on the Airbus A380  

Legitimate online travel agencies

Following my last post, I have compiled a list of legitimate agents. Feel free to add to the list:





Almost had $1200 stolen

I am internet savvy. I am very cautious about online transactions
I am someone others contact when they are checking on spam or online rip offs....
and I almost got stung for $1200!

What stopped me? Some red flags that I think through before booking on-line. I recommend that everyone needs to consider these red flags.

Recently, while on my Facebook, up popped the advertisement shown here on the right. Its Facebook so its got to be safe. Right?
I clicked the link and got the website of Cheaper-Flights.net.au (see below)

Red Flag #1 Unknown Supplier

I have never heard of Cheaper-Flights but this is not unusual on the internet so I took it as an orange flag.

I was interested in a good fare to Hong Kong and curious to see what they could do so I completed their on-line booking form.  I got an immediate response which impressed me. They then quoted a fare of $1199 for Premium Economy to Hong Kong in peak season.

Red Flag #2 Deal Too Good to Be True
 If the deal is too good to be true, it will be. Compare any deal you are offered with 2 or 3 other agencies. An agent offering over 50% off an international flight is way beyond the realm of possibility. In this case, the fare while Cheaper flights quoted me $1199 for Premium Economy from Melbourne to Hong Kong, everyone else was around $4000 with some making it $2700. So I was now very suspicious.

Red Flag #3 Agent Sells Without Your Permission 

The next thing I knew was that I receieved confirmation of my booking, an E-ticket and a Travel insurance Policy in my name for the flight with a cheery email asking me to book again in the future. I had not authorised a booking.

When I checked with Qantas, the booking confirmation number was genuine.  Qantas advised me the fare had been booked in my name and paid for by Credit Card not through a travel agency. It was not my Credit Card!

Red Flag #4: Seller wants less money than ticket worth

The fare on the ticket was $2700 but Cheaper-Flights wanted me to pay only $1199 by bank transfer to an online bank account. Sometimes the ticket price will be different to what you pay but again not by that much! So now, I knew this was very likely to be a potential scam.  The ticket will probably have been paid for by a stolen credit card. Once the transaction is reported, the ticket will be cancelled and a luckless traveller will find out days or hours before or worse at the check in counter, that they have a false ticket.  This is why I never buy tickets second hand on Craigs List, Gumtree or E-Bay.

Red Flag #5: No Real World Details
Looking at the confirmation email, there was no address or phone number. A legitimate company would have them. Interestingly on the actual booking at Qantas was a phone number. I rang the number and it was not connected. Now I knew the booking was false. To be sure, I emailed Cheaper-Tickets complimenting them on their swift service and asking for their Company Registration Numbers. They quickly replied.

Red Flag #6 No official Registration

Cheaper-Flights was using the Company registration of another Travel Agency. Plus they were not registered with the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA). Always check to see if your Travel Agency is registered: 
  • Canada: The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA)
  • Singapore: National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS)
  • South Africa: Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA)
  • Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ)
  • UK: Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA
  • USA:   American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA)

Red Flag #7: Website "Faulty"

Now I knew Cheaper Flights.net,au was a scam. I had a closer look at their website:
  • The website was not complete
  • 75% of the links did not go anywhere 
  • the company name was different in different places (you would think they would get that right)
  • there were no testimonies from customers
  • the name of Jetstar, a major Australian airline was misspelt
  • there were strange phrasings. eg This is a predominantly new business measure, but one which offers a secure customer peace of mind.  
  • the actual agent's name on the website was different to that of the agent on the emails
  • there was no ownership structure or information on the site
  • there was no phone number or address
At this point, I contacted Qantas, the Travel Agents Association, the Scamwatch authority in my country and the travel agency that was being falsely linked to this company through the Company Registration Number that was being used. It seems a lot of people have been dealing with cheaper-flights. I didn't lose any money but how many will have?  Imagine rocking up to the airport and finding your business or holiday trip is not going to happen because your tickets do not exist. Don't let it be you. Bookmark my red flags!

Check out Legitimate online travel agencies here. Please add your comments below!

A Difficult Decision..Your advice please

Which flight will I choose from Pittsburgh to the New York area?

Airports of the World: Reykjavik

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland is the Northern most capital city in the world. The city was founded in 1786 as an official trading town. Today, Reykjavik is home to just over 200 000 people. Located at 64°07′48″N - only 2 degrees south of the Arctic Circle, the city has 20 hour days in summer and  four hour days in the depth of winter. (By contrast Boston is at 42° 21′ 28″ N,  Montreal is at 45° 30' 0 N,  and Edinburgh is 55° 56′ 58.4″ N)
Two airports serve the Capital:

The first is Reykjavíkurflugvöllur (Reykjavik airport) IATA Code: RKV. The airport is located 2km from downtown.  Originally this airport was built by the British military during World War II, In 1946, the British handed the airport operation over to the Icelandic government.
Churches,  offices, houses and shops are close by the runways and planes seem to brush the rooftops as they come in.
Downtown Reykjavik

The airport serves mostly domestic flights  plus flights to nearby Greenland (run by Flugfelag Islands). Pictured below is my mate Paul heading off to the town of Akureyri The capital of north Iceland located at 64.33°N.

I have a video which will prove I AM  a complete geek. It is of an icelandair 757 taking off from Reykjavik Airport  for an airshow. The runway is 1,567metres  (5,141feet) long so takeoff is tight which makes it exciting!

The other airport is Keflavík International Airport (IATA: KEF) which was built by the by the United States military in 1942 for heavy bombers. The airport maintained a military designation until the 1980s as a key part of US Cold war readiness. Passengers from the 1950s to the 1980s actually had to go through a military base to get to flights! This airport is 50km from downtown.
Travel between Keflavik and Reykjavik

The main airlines are Iceland Air and Iceland Express. with flights connecting the USA and Europe to Keflavík.

A handy flight bus connects to to the (small) main bus terminal in Reykjavik  from where connecting mini buses will take you to your hotel.

Iceland is an amazing wonderful unique place! My holiday there in August, 2009 was one of the best in my life.  There are some great stopover packages between the two and with the Icelandic currency so low, now is a great time to go.

I recommend the hotel Room with a View.

Website: "I Hate Ryanair" to close!

Ryanair is the discount airline that everyone loves to hate.  Overall, they are the 8th largest in the world by total passneger numbers but Ryanair is the largest airline in the world in terms of international passenger numbers carrying 66 million passengers  annually. They fly more international passengers than Lufthansa. Staggeringly they carry more international passengers than British Airways  and Air France combined. They operate   250 Boeing 737-800 aircraft on over 1,100 routes across Europe. 

On my Ranking of my most disliked airlines, Ryanair is Eighth). However, Tripadviser earlier in 2010 declared Ryanair to be the worst for amenities (4th year in a row). Reasons why Ryanair is disliked:
  1. Ryanair charge very low fares and then add extras like luggage and credit card fees (see my article: Discount Airline Ripoffs). Holiday Which?, said Ryanair is the "worst offender" for charging for optional extras. Check out this very very funny spoof of Ryanair's practices by Fascinating Aida (NB naughty language!). 
  2. Many of the airports they claim to fly to are nowhere near their destinations e.g. "Hamburg Lübeck", Germany is an hour by bus from Hamburg. Their Paris airport is Beauvais-Tillé, 85 km from Paris.
  3. They have been fined by Advertising Authorities several times 
  4. They have been accused of abandoning passengers at the wrong airports
  5. Covalence's 2010 annual ranking of the overall ethical performance of multinational corporations put Ryanair at the bottom 12
  6. Passengers arriving at an airport without a pre-printed online check-in have to pay €40 for their boarding pass to be re-issued
  7. Customer complaints can only be made via a premium rate phone line, by fax or by post
One passenger (Robert Tyler) who disliked them immensely set up ihateryanair.co.uk in February 2007. The site has acted as a place for passengers to share horror stories. In January 2010, Mr Tyler began accepting ads on the site which earnt him 365 pounds. 

Ryanair then took Mr Tyler to a domain name tribunal complaining "that the site took unfair advantage of the Ryanair name for commercial gain." The adjudicator agreed saying: It cannot be fair to take advantage of the reputation attached to another party’s trade mark in this manner, whether it be good or bad.” and has demanded that the doman naem "ihateryanair.co.uk" be handed over to the airline. 
Mr Tyler has simply moved the content to http://www.ihateryanair.org! Check out these other anti Ryanair websites

  • http://davefaq.com/Opinions/RyanAir-Sucks/
  •  http://www.ryanaircampaign.org/ 
  • Ryanair be fair (employee complaints). 

How an airline with four websites against them can continue to survive and grow makes you wonder!


I just flew my 666th flight. Wondered if I should have been superstitious? It was a stock standard flight from SYDney, Australia  to MELbourne, Australia.

Bad Luck:  I tried to get onto an earlier flight to find they were all full. A combination of school holidays and a check in meltdown at competitor Virgin Blue meant there was no capacity on any earlier flight.
Good Luck: Qantas upgraded me to business class.
Bad Luck:  the plane was severely delayed as it had been hit by lightning between Perth and Sydney. Technicians took a few hours to look over the plane.
Good Luck: They finally declared it safe
Bad Luck:  but we were very, very late.
Good Luck: I was in the Qantas Club so food and drink and wireless internet were all free!
Bad Luck:  Upon boarding, I found the plane was an Airbus 330 which is actually one of my least favourite planes!
Good Luck:  The plane was called Clare Valley, one of my fave wine growing areas in Australia
Bad Luck:  SYD has a curfew of 11pm. Boarding started at 1040pm and the plane was completely full so we were not on board until 1105pm
Good Luck:  the powers that be granted Qantas a dispensation (which is very, very rare) and we took off at 1120pm.
First time I have broken curfew!
Good Luck: Flight was great and the (late) dinner meal in business class was very nice!

I am not actually superstitious. I am aware instead that I am very blessed to have traveled and seen what  I have seen and remained safe for my travels around the globe  37 times to 174 airports in in 34 countries using 69 airlines.

NB One airline, Qantas represents one third of the flights. Another seven airlines have been my carriers for a third of my flights and the remaining third is divided between the other 61 airlines!  16 of those airlines do not exist any more and two have changed their names.

565 of the flights have been for business! and most of my trips have been in the last decade! And only 35 in Business and 12 in First!

From Iceland in the North to New Zealand in the South. Samoa in the East to Fiji in  the West, I have seen and enjoyed so much!

Now for my 777th flight......an interesting challenge would be to fly a 717 on my 717th flight and a 737 on my 737th flight etc!!

United Unites

Readers of Martin J's Travel Life will know I have very low regard for United Airlines. They are not my worst airline but close. See my last devastating review of United.

I have just flown United 13 times in March and they were scarily impressive. I was wondering how much of this is because of the United Continental merger?

United Airlines and Continetal are merging to form the world's biggest airline. The merged airline will be called United. In other words adios Continental name but the planes post merger will carry the Continental colours and logo (see picture from the merger website). A number of my planes were in this logo format on my last trips.

United and Continental are continuing to fly separately but clearly lots of "back room" integration is going on.

When merged, the airline will serve 371 destinations in 59 countries (although 223 are in the USA). 5811 flights depart daily on the two airlines and 144 million people a year fly UnitedContinental.

Let me declare, I really like Continental. In July, they were my sixth favourite airline. I wonder which culture will survive the merger. Praying its Continental. The management of the new merged entity are praying they will survive at all in the tough world of aviation. Merging may mean any name survives for a little longer as they compete against the other mega giants. Delta flies 161million passengers a year, Southwest who are taking over AirTran101 million and American 85 million.

The question is who will American merge with? USAir? (51million) Alaska- 15m? JetBlue22m? British 32m?