Archive for February 20, 2017

Leaving Doha

Wrapping up my six country three week trip, I was leaving Doha with a sense of personal and professional accomplishment. I had spent a few days in Canada, a few days in London (Windsor), and then 8 days touring the Arabian peninsula through British Airways, Oman Air, and Qatar Airways. I have already provided several #travelhacks if you happen to be flying through this part of the world. I also covered some #layovertips through Bahrain Airport and Muscat Airport here. For this blog, I wanted to spend some time on leaving Doha, and the journey back to DEN.

My journey home consisted of 4 legs on three different PNRs (3 segments). I know, I know, everyone tells me I’m crazy. But trust me, I had to do it this way due to the combination of a business and a personal trip and to complete certain inbound journeys for Gulf carriers that are Point of Commencement and file fares more cost competitively as round-trips. Here’s the synopsis on leaving Doha:

  • 915PM DOH-BAH: Although the flight was a quick 30 minute puddle jump, the next few hours were hard.

    Qatar Airways flight

    Qatar Airways flight

  • BAH Airport layover: I decided the best option for dinner at BAH airport was to pay the 10 BAH ($25 USD) to gain access to the Marhaba club that had food, drink, comfortable seating, chargers, and strong Wi-Fi, since I had a 4 hour layover in Bahrain. At the check-in desk to the club, I met a Saudi national that clung to me for the next 4 hours and wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried to do work and ignore him, but he kept striking up conversation. He was drinking a little, and nobody else in the club approved of him or of us sitting together for that matter. He wasn’t threatening or disrespectful, just a nuisance and a little too nosy, urging me to have children with just a little too much fervor considering I’m not even married. When we said goodbye, he promised to send me a gift as soon as I had my first child (who does that!?). This happens to me nearly every time I travel alone though, so it’s no big surprise. It’s always hard to just relax.
    Leaving Doha - and arriving in to the Marhaba lounge at BAH

    Leaving Doha – and arriving in to the Marhaba lounge at BAH

    The flight departing BAH again (on Qatar Airways) proved a wonderful view leaving Muharraq.

    Coming back in to BAH

  • 150AM BAH-LHR: The short flight from BAH-LHR, back on British Airways now, was easy. Luckily there was a Wi-Fi USB charger in the seat that allowed for continuous charging operations.This layover in LHR was also 4 hours, but luckily I slept 5 hours on the plane so I didn’t feel too bad. I was able to do work and blog after a minor hiccup as security where my liquids somehow turned up a questionable chemical (it turned out to be a false positive). I easily found a charging area, had a Starbucks, and powered through. LHR was a better airport than I remembered and the airport authority clearly had put some serious capital investments in place to improve it.
  • 1120AM LHR-YYZ: On this flight, I had a near SNAFU. The British Airways gate agent insisted that I check my carry-on (that incidentally was fine fitting in the overhead bins on the 8 other flights I took up to this point on this trip, 2 of them on British Airways). I told her that if I checked it, I would miss my flight to Denver. That bought no sympathy, and she tagged it anyways. Well, as she got distracted with something, and I walked it on to the jet-bridge, did not leave it plane-side as instructed, hid the tag, and walked right on to the plane, finding a spot in the overhead bin easily. Disaster averted. I followed Brice’s tactic of claiming ignorance in case I was called out.
  • 420PM YYZ-DEN: I had a 2 hour layover in YYZ why luckily did leave me enough time to check with Air Canada as well as the airport lost and found for the book I lost on the DEN-YYZ trip, go through immigration and security, and buy a smoothie :). This final leg on Air Canada turned out to be the first time I was really able to sleep, and caught some good z’s on a flight that otherwise didn’t have a lot of amenities nor even food service. I arrived in DEN and had already cleared US immigration in Toronto prior to boarding, did not have to wait for any checked bags, and caught a Lyft out of there in no time at all.

This harrowing finally journey home after leaving Doha had so many elements that could go wrong and derail the entire trip. Miraculously, everything executed to plan. And, it was a small price to pay for the amazing three weeks of this epic adventure through the Gulf, ending with a sparkling day in Doha.

Valentine’s 2017 – HMHost airport celebrations

HMSHostLove Chalkboard - Valentine's 2017

HMSHostLove Chalkboard – Valentine’s 2017

Will you be at an airport for this year’s upcoming Valentine’s 2017 and have some time to kill? If so, this is a great #layovertip for you.

HMSHost is one of the industry leaders in airport passenger experience innovation, and for this Valentine’s 2017 the company does not disappoint. You may have remembered our coverage of various HMSHost holiday celebrations, airport restaurant month, and other fun events throughout the year, and this Valentine’s 2017 celebration is in the same vein.

The fun actually has already started ahead of Valentine’s 2017, coming this Tuesday. HMSHost has been traveling across five US airports, asking passengers about the meaning of love to them. Besides in-person traveler interviews, passengers have been encouraged to share their thoughts on giant chalkboard installations. Passengers have also been encouraged to tweet their thoughts using hashtag #HMSHostLove.

The goal of the in-person interviews is to compile a video montage around thoughts of love, from the perspective of airport travelers. The video released just after Valentine’s 2017 to highlight travelers coming together to define what loves means to them. Here’s the video:

Which airports can you find the 7-foot tall, giant chalkboard installations and Valentine’s 2017 decor?

  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
  • Nashville International Airport
  • Orlando International Airport
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

What can you get if you leave a message on the board?

HMSHost is offering a dark chocolate bar and Valentine’s 2017 card, as well as a 15% off coupon at participating HMSHost restaurants.

Even if you don’t leave a message, you can still get a freebie by visiting an HMSHost restaurant and making a minimum purchase.

And of course, if you’re no flying through one of these five airports during Valentine’s 2017, you can still participate on Twitter with the #HMSHostLove hashtag.

See the HMSHost press release for more details and let us know if you see these pop-up installations at an airport near you!

Bahrain Airport, Oman Air, and Muscat Airport

Waiting it out at Bahrain Airport

Waiting it out at Bahrain Airport

I woke up semi-early for my vacation inclination so that I could make it to Bahrain Airport and then to Oman in time for a decent Muscat day tour with my guide. My flight from BAH-MCT was scheduled for 955AM but boarded about 45 minutes late due to a gate change, so I spent a little more time than necessary hanging around in the Bahrain Airport and using the free Wi-Fi to play Candy Crush and literally numb my mind.

Here’s a view of the airport – several options for coffee, but not enough nice, quiet sit-down places to work. It is nice seeing that many of the Gulf Peninsula airports have free Wi-Fi. My other critique of Bahrain Airport is that the only shopping options were Bahrain Duty Free – it could have done with some local shopping options and less fancy, traditional items.

I boarded my very first Oman Air flight without the gate agent even making an announcement (boarding just magically started, so it was a good thing I noticed the gate change!). To be fair, I think the airport did make an announcement about the gate change.

The Oman Air flights wasn’t a very pleasant experience. Eveb though it was just a short 1 hour flight, two young boys without an adult were seating in the middle and aisle seat next to me. Their parents were sitting on the other aisle grappling with 2 other small children and paid no attention at all to my side of the aisle. As usually the woman was overwhelmed and the man was doing nothing, chilling by the window on the other side oblivious to the chaos. I basically had to instruct the boys to sit still and put their seat-belts on and “be the adult”. Hate that shit. They were actually fairly well behaved for being totally on their own, but still kids obviously that did kid things.

The food on-board was awful – granted I wasn’t expecting anything at all for such a short flight, but pretzels, packaged, dry bread-sticks, mango chutney, and a package of date sticks (this was the best part) were pretty useless for a lunch. Oman Air also handed out apple juice and water.

The best part of the flight and the experience at Bahrain Airport was the view when were were descending in to Oman (and possibly Saudi Arabia?). You could see the mountains clearly and the city of Muscat (with a large sprawl) eventually emerged. My tour guide later said that about 1 million people lived in the capital (4 million total in Oman).

Oman Air flight

Oman Air flight

Immigration was a little confusing because we had to stand in line at the currency exchange to get the visa (using a $20 bill, where a Visa was issued and some random Omani Reali change). Luckily I was nearly first in line getting off the bus that had to take us from the airplane to the airport (the new airport was still under construction), adding about 30 extra minutes of transfer to our arrival in Muscat.

While I was waiting in line, I checked out the free Wi-Fi I had previously heard about. Tip for travelers (#traveltip) – Muscat Airport Wi-Fi requires an active SMS account, so unfortunately I was thwarted there as I needed SMS to get Wi-Fi and had purposely been traveling on Wi-Fi only on my Samsung Galaxy 7 to avoid data and text charges.

So I did eventually figure out how to hack the SMS Wi-Fi coupling conundrum on my next visit to Muscat Airport while headed to Salalah – you can simply stop by the information desk located near Duty Free in the central terminal area and get a code from the desk for two hours of free internet. Still, a bit silly and cumbersome, and also the lady at the desk was pretty annoyed to have to do this continually.

After obtaining the visa, I easily made it through immigration. With no bags to wait for, I was able to walk right out after perfunctory luggage scan (that nobody even looked at) before exiting the International Arrivals hall. My guide, Sulemain, from Majan Views tour company, was waiting for me with a sign in hand and we were ready to go start our Muscat day tour.

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