Changes to USA Visa Waiver Program for some Australians

If you’ve visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on or after 1 March 2011, then you’ll no longer be able to use the USA Visa Waiver Program.  You’ll need to apply for a visa through the regular process at a USA embassy or consulate.  And if you already have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTA), it will get revoked.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has recently updated the Smart Traveller Website which advises more about these changes.

If these changes impact you, you should read more on the US Customs and Border Protection Website.

 

British Airways Terraces Lounge: JFK Terminal 7

Qantas Club members, Qantas Gold and Platinum and those flying Qantas Business Class have access to the British Airways Terraces Lounge for their QF108 flight to Sydney.

The Terraces Lounge is situated right after security.

It’s quite a large shared lounge, with lots of seating and lounges.  The food is reasonable, tending to be more basic.  At 4:30pm there were some basic sandwiches, dips and vegetables, packets of chips and cookies, tea, coffee, soft drinks and a large self service bar area.

There’s free wi-fi, albeit pretty slow.

Self service bar area:

selfbar

 

Snack area:

snack

 

This photo shows about one-third of the seating area:

seating

 

Wi-Fi Speed Test result:

wifi

 

American Airlines Admirals Club Lounge at Laguardia Airport

Qantas Club members and Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold and Platinum members get complimentary access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges in the USA when flying on an American Airlines flight.

The Admirals Club at Laguardia airport is a fairly average lounge.  Free refreshments (tea, coffee, juice and soft drinks) and some very basic snacks (but no actual food offerings like the Qantas lounges in Australia).  The free wi-fi was fast.

The Admirals Club at Laguardia airport is located airside in Terminal D.

In-flight wi-fi in the USA

GoGo Inflight Internet provide onboard wi-fi on American Airlines, Delta, Virgin America, US Airways and United.  Unlike Australia where in-flight internet has never taken off (pardon the pun), in-flight internet in the USA is on almost all airlines, and reasonably priced too.

On my flight from New York to Chicago (from which I am blogging now!), I purchased a 90 minute pass for $9 (regular price was $12 but I tweeted to GoGo and got a discount code!).  Data usage isn’t capped, and speeds were quite reasonable for general web browsing/email.  You can start surfing the web about 5 minutes after take off.

If you’re doing a number of domestic USA flights, consider the the $39.95 monthly pass.

You can read more information at http://www.gogoair.com.

I’d recommend signing up for an account before you leave (you don’t have to buy anything at that point – it just makes it quicker to get online when you’re onboard the plane)  You can pre-purchase a pass to use, or just wait until you’re onboard and buy after connecting to the GoGo online portal in your web browser.

In relation to an onboard wi-fi offering by Qantas, they’ve trialled it but the take-up of it by customers was low (less than 5%) and they decide to abandon the idea and instead concentrate on upgrading wi-fi connectivity in Qantas terminals.  (Source: Qantas Media Response 3 December 2012).  I wonder whether this had anything to do with the extremely expensive pricing (I recall in their international trial it was about $20 for a measly 10MB or something like that – a single email could chew up that data allowance!)

Qantas Points Upgrade

I was successful in getting an upgrade to Business Class using my frequent flyer points.  The confirmation was received 23 hours prior to departure, meaning I was unable to book the hire car transfers (this must be booked no sooner than 24 hours prior to departure) but fortunately I live relatively close to the airport so it was only a $25 taxi fare.  Having a fully flat bed all the way to New York makes up for not getting the hire car transfer.

The higher your frequent flyer status and the earlier that you request an upgrade gives you priority over others.  More information about international points upgrades can be found here.

Qantas lets you pre-select your meal with “Select on Q-Eat”

Qantas has now rolled out its “Select on Q-Eat” across many of its international Business Class and Premium Economy flights, including Australia to LA and Australia to London.  You can read more on the Qantas website at: http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/select-inflight-meal/global/en

Select on Q-Eat is being extended to customers travelling internationally in Economy from late 2013 according to Qantas Corporate Communications Adviser Ms Courtney Treak.

You can pre-order from 7 days out.  It’s a very simple process as I experienced this week when ordering my meal for my flight from Sydney to Los Angeles.

Step 1 – log into your Frequent Flyer account and view your booking, and then select “View/Change/Check-In”.

Step 2 – next to “Customise your journey” click on “Book now”.  From here you can choose your meal and also book your airport limousine transfer if you’re travelling in Business Class.

selectmeal

 

Step 3 – choose your flight from drop down menu and then select “Pre-order your meal”.

choosemeal

 

Step 4 – make your selection from the options available.  You can choose a specific meal, choose to wait and select on the plane or skip the meal entirely.  I chose the grilled pork with almond and mint sauce and roasted chat potatoes.  Sounds quite tasty!

pork

 

Summary – on this flight I’m travelling to New York, and there wasn’t an option to choose my meal between LA and New York.