Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Euro Spring 2015 - Economy Plus Plus? Or Busines Minus?

We're almost back.  We flew from Amsterdam to Chicago and we are going to spend the night here as part of an experiment on handling the long distance travel challenge. 

Living in Albuquerque means that you have a pretty long flight any time you travel internationally.  This is in part because we are just not that close to anything but also because of the deterioration of air travel service to smaller cities throughout the country.  With fewer flights from smaller cities to major hubs, the ability to schedule flights that are not overly long is difficult. 

In general there are two factors we're trying to manage:
  • Wear and tear
  • Cost
Let's deal with the wear and tear issue.  Flying from Albuquerque to Europe is a 17 to 20 hour journey.  ALL of the flights from the major hubs in the US to Europe are red eyes - they fly over night.  You leave Albuquerque some time in the morning usually, catch a flight from the hub in the early evening, and arrive at the European hub in the morning European time.  The ideal situation is to go business class with a lie flat seat because you can actually sleep and start getting yourself adjusted to the new time.  Whereas sitting up over that period of time leaves you totally wasted (at least it does Wife and I). 

Coming back is different.  The flights leave late morning from Europe and arrive at the US hubs in the early afternoon local time - the early evening your European body clock time.  If you lived in the hub, you'd be home and get adjusted fairly quickly.  However, if you go on to Albuquerque, you would need to change planes (a few hours at best), a 2 to 4 hour flight, another hour and a half to get luggage and get home, and then you need to get settled at home before you can try to sleep.  This adds another 8 hours to the process and puts your local European body clock time at 3 to 5 in the morning making it really tough to sleep.  Using the business class option is nice but it doesn't necessarily solve the body clock problem.

Buying a full fare business class ticket is way pricey.  Getting upgrades is a better option if you have the miles and status.  You can be selective on the legs you upgrade.  You do have to play a bit of gamesmanship as most of the time the upgrades are not available when you first make your reservation.  On this trip we bought a very low cost economy fare and used the upgrade on our flight out.  We decided to try breaking our flight home into two pieces.  We reasoned that since I get the Economy Plus seats as part of my status, and we were flying during the waking period, that would be sufficient.

As it turned out, there were a lot of open Economy Plus seats so Wife and I were able to get a row of three to ourselves.  They actually feed you on an international flight in coach and it wasn't all that bad (a Thai chicken curry), certainly not terribly worse that some of the meals we've had in business.  As we did not pay for that upgrade (not an inconsequential amount) we felt free to buy a couple of drinks each.  So assuming we can get the three person row in Economy Plus, we have a flight that really is not that difficult on the body.  I'm calling this new service Economy Plus + or maybe Business Class minus a bit.

We'll see how sleeping goes tonight, getting home tomorrow and getting adjusted


alexis said...

I would not recon on economy plus always being available. It totally depends on the season and school holidays. But if you can miss peak time for both of those it's a good way to go.

Bernice said...

Your posts are going to be so bland now. How can Albuquerque compare to your Europe trips?