Tag Archives: American Express Travel

Koh Samui

8 Jul

Escaping the rains of Phuket, we landed in paradise, otherwise known as Koh Samui. A couple years ago I read an article about Koh Samui and knew I had to go. Once we landed we were bused in open air shuttles that looked like they drove off the Disney lot to the main terminal. We took a shuttle bus to the hotel, Buri Rasa Village. I found this hotel using Trip Advisor and Amex travel. While of course there were some negative reviews, the key reasons I chose it was A) it was right on Chaweng beach and the main strip B) the same people had been going back for years C) it was described as peaceful and romantic with a good buffet breakfast and hotel prices that weren’t as overpriced as say the JW Marriott Phuket. Our expectations were fully met. The hotel staff brought us coconut water while they checked us in, showed us to our room and even helped us book our excursion for the following day. To top it off, every evening there was a local treat, such as flowers made from leaves, or homemade carmel candy waiting for us next to the bed.

Taxi cabs in Samui need to be negotiated in advance as they have no meter like the cabs in Bangkok (even though the taxis in Bangkok don’t want to use the meter). The hotel receptionist helped us to negotiate reasonable rates. Our first dinner in Samui was a place called the Larder. While pricy, the food did not disappoint, especially the peanut butter martini I got for desert.

Chaweng beach is full of many typical beach activities such as parasailing and jet skiing. However, there are also $12usd massages with tiger balm and vendors selling everything from bracelets to Japanese corn. Of course our trip would not be complete without a ride on an elephant. Lucky for us, we were the only people on our excursion at Island Safari. We rode an elephant, watched an elephant show, a monkey show, learned how to make papaya salad, had our feet cleaned in a fish spa and had a private jeep safari tour of the mummified monk and Na Muang waterfall. After our adventure we went to Fishermans village. On Fridays you can pick up a 50/60baht cocktail while browsing the vendors and restaurants on the water. (Yes once again we’re shopping!)

Our last order of business on the island was to get suits made. Many of the websites suggested a tailor near the Centara hotel, and said that anyone standing outside the store was probably a “fake”. The suit guy next to Centara got the job done in 4 hours. We walked in the store for measurements at 5pm and came back at 9pm for a fitting. Talk about professional! For our last dinner on Koh Samui we ate at our hotel, and once again, had the whole place to ourselves. Wow. The food was great and the atmosphere relaxing.

The following morning we made our way back to the open air airport that is Samui international. Once again we were shocked at how relaxed and easy it was to walk around to the shops, go through security and be treated to a Bangkok Airways “coffee bar” with free wifi. The only downside were the flies, the fact that we were leaving and the absolutely horrendous outfits some people wear to get on a plane. We were fed on the 50 minute flight to Bangkok and serviced by no less than 5 airline stewards (also did I mention that none of these flights were full?).

Samui is definitely some place I would go back to simply for the fantastic service, peaceful atmosphere and good shopping. Maybe next time I would stay on Koh pha ngan … Full moon party anyone?

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American Air and Holiday 2013

10 Mar

“Here’s your itinerary” … The wonderful words that start the email when you’ve booked a trip. Typically for me they come from American Express Traveler, for both work and personal, or from Delta. Today’s email was from the personal American Express Traveler for booking my annual American Airlines ticket to STT for Christmas and New Year’s with my parents.  This is the point where everyone jumps on me for booking my ticket ridiculously early. BUT, for any of you who have wanted to buy a last minute ticket at a holiday, you know I made the right decision. Flights to the Virgin Islands over the holidays can be upwards of $1300.

While I am relieved and excited to have my ticket taken care of, I get nervous every time I have to take an American Airlines flight. This is the main reason why:

In 1989 I became an American Airlines frequent traveler, with my own AA number. I was four. Since then my family has almost always preferred American over other airlines. So much so, that I had Gold status by my junior year of high school with 4 upgrades in my queue. (I had no idea how great I had it at the time, but I rolled with it.) My dad is an American Million Miler and my mom will most likely earn the status this year. I, obviously, lost my coveted Gold status in college, but once I joined the corporate world I quickly became obsessed with racking up points and miles. Four years ago I noticed a serious decline in American’s customer service in the form of massive delays, frequent schedule changes, and overall rudeness from airline personnel. Then one fateful weekend I flew from Minneapolis to Chicago to meet my parents and their friends for a 60th birthday party. I was so afraid to be late and miss my flight Saturday morning that I jammed most of my belongings in my rollerboard and high-tailed it to the MSP in record time. I paid the customary $25 to check my bag and waited to board. Once we landed we sat on the tarmac and waited for a gate, which had become the norm for American. My parents had somehow arrived early and were waiting for me at the Avis near O’Hare. Once we deplaned I waited for my luggage, which never came. Another woman from my flight was in the same boat and we both received baggage claim information. For the rest of the day and the following day I continued to call customer service and was given every answer in the book including the unforgettable “Ma’am we are not UPS”. Ummm….wow, talk about rude! I even asked about getting my $25 refunded, but was told that would be impossible. Hmm … okay, so I basically just paid you $25 to lose my luggage.  Awesome. On Sunday my flight was cancelled and American put me up in a Hilton Double Tree fairly close to the airport. But I had no clothes, make-up, underwear, etc. and I needed to return to Minneapolis for another week of work, sans suitcase. If American would have tracked the number of times I called customer service I’m sure I would have set some sort of record. The following day I was re-routed from Chicago to Memphis to Minneapolis because that makes sense. NOT. But I really had no other choice if I wanted to get to Minneapolis before 5pm on Monday. I’m sure I smelled like an absolute peach when I finally showed up to work at 2pm. Thankfully, Minneapolis has the Mall of America, along with no tax on necessities, ie. Clothes and shoes. My understanding coworkers took me to mall and helped me shop for a decent work wardrobe for the remainder of the week. When I went to leave Minneapolis, the maximum reimbursement the clerk could give me was $350. When a bra at Victoria’s Secret is $50, that money goes quickly. Fortunately, I had written down a lot of the clothes I had brought in my effort to put outfits together in a regular rollarboard for 14 straight days of work travel without wearing the same exact outfit twice. This made completing my baggage claim much easier. However, a couple weeks after sending in my claim I received my first rejection notice claiming that American was “not liable” for my lost luggage. What a shock that was. How can you not be liable when I have a claim ticket to evidence giving you my luggage? I also emailed customer service, of course, to complain about this whole situation. Their answer, “here’s 10,000 frequent flyer miles.” I don’t want frequent flyer miles, I want cash to cover the bag and the contents you lost, and the inconvenience of the entire situation. I told my tale of woe to whoever would listen. I was outraged that a company would treat such a long standing frequent traveler in such a rude and unfair manner. With the help of a client and friend, I drafted a letter to the CEO and sent it, along with all my prior claim history, to the CEO of American. What I got back was virtually the same rejection letter from R. Spraggins (no first name, address, or phone number) telling me they re-opened my case and came to the exact same conclusion. I was understandably heated and furious. I looked into small claims court, but flying to Dallas and paying legal fees would be almost as much as claim I was filing. I ultimately gave up. So now I must be satisfied that by telling my story to all my coworkers, and only flying American when absolutely necessary I will make some sort of  dent in their business. (Don’t worry I’m not that deluded  but a girl can wish right.)  I also only book flights with AA through American Express because I refuse to deal with any AA customer service representatives for any reason. Perhaps this merger will make them realize how badly some of their policies and procedures have hurt them in the past.

Ultimately, AA has the best schedule and price when flying to STT from NYC. So I’ll suck it up and take the flight, but always remember never to put my faith in one airline.