[philiptellis] Walking the world in search of interestingness

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cheap way from HK airport to the city

If you plan to visit Hong Kong from the airport, and return within 24 hours, you have two options. The first is the fastest. You take the airport express from the airport right into the city and take it back. If you return on the same day, it costs just HK$100. If you're returning on the next day, it's a little more. You'll also need to pay for local transport within the city, but for the most part you can just walk around.

Now, if you're willing to take a little longer, but want the cheap way, then what you should do is get the S1 bus from the airport to Tung Chung station. Ticket price: HK$3.60. Note, don't take the S64 because that takes you on a tour of rather uninteresting places. Once at Tung Chung, buy a tourist day pass, valid for 24 hours from first use. Price: HK$55. You can use this day pass to get in to the city, and all around on the the MTR and light rail. The ticket comes with a small subway map that you can use to navigate. You'll take the Orange (Tung Chung) Line in to the city, and get off wherever you want to. To go around the island, get off at Hong Kong and then walk to Central and take the Blue (Island) line from there.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A $730 flight ticket for $150

Between the months of October and March, airports like Washington DC and Denver are frequently closed due to snow storms. If you happen to have booked a flight through one of these airports, the airline will cancel it and possibly rebook you on an alternate flight. This may not always be the flight you want.

A couple of weeks ago, this happened to me. I was to fly from San Jose, CA to Boston, MA via Denver. San Jose is fairly close to where I live, so it's the most convenient airport for me. Unfortunately, very few airlines fly directly from San Jose to Boston, hence the stopover in Denver. Early on the morning of the flight, I received a voicemail from United saying that my flight had been cancelled due to bad weather. I called back a little later to check on alternatives.

The call centre agent suggested a flight out of San Francisco that was to leave in 2 hours, but there was no way I could make it to SFO by then. He then suggested a flight the following day, but that was too late for me. He then offered to re-book me on American Airlines out of San Jose around the same time that my original flight was supposed to leave. I found this rather suspicious. While he was searching for alternatives, I did the same online, and found that there were still seats available for the night flight from SFO to Boston. I'd have enough time to reach SFO and would make it early the next morning instead of late that night, which was fine.

I pointed out this flight to the agent, and he reluctantly confirmed that there was, in fact, one seat left on that flight. When I checked online, I found that this ticket was worth $734. I'd paid about $150 or $170 for my original ticket, so he was naturally reluctant to get me that seat. It would actually have been cheaper for them to rebook me on American, except that I wouldn't get any miles for that. All the same, there wasn't much more he could do except warn me that any further changes would come at a price.

The flight was packed, and quite a few people were bumped up to first class. I wasn't, but my seat was assigned at the gate. I got a middle exit row seat, with plenty of leg room.

When I checked my mileage account later, I'd been credited over 4000 miles for the flight instead of the 1200 that I usually get for this leg.