Category: New York City

Used: 2002

I have flown my share of shady airlines. But probably the one I get the most weird looks about is Kuwait Airways. When I spent the semester at UMass, my sister was spending the semester in Florence, Italy and I wanted to take a week off and visit her. You know, since I was already half way there. The summer before the semester began, I planned the whole week, which included a dirt cheap flight from JFK to London. Seriously, the whole thing, with taxes came to $300 in mid October, which was easily $100 less then anything else. And it was on Kuwait Airways. When I told people I was flying them, they were like, do you think it’s going to be okay. I would respond with, when is the last time you heard of this airline having any issues? And everyone would come back with a “true”.

So I checked in and don’t remember having any issues. Nearly everyone checking in was wearing some sort of garb, weather it be middle eastern or indian and the only other white person as far as I could see what an older dude standing behind me in line. He started chatting with me and he said he had taken them over to the US (his accent ID him as British) and said they were fine. No alcholole on board, which is a non-issue for me. I was issued a window seat with no problems. I remember the terminal being super empty. I remember when they called certain row numbers to board, everyone stampeded the gate, which in one of my pet peves. I hate when people can’t follow rules like that. I board last, to avoid the crowd. I have the whole 3 seats in my aisle to myself. Someone sits on the asile seat but before we take off, they move, so I end up with all seats to myself. YES! In looking throughout the cabin, I see the middle seats are jammed and full, bu the edge seats are more empty. So weird, but good for me! For the first time ever, I sleep the entire flight. Helps that it’s a short flight too, you leave at 10pm and you arrive in London at 10am, which is perfect! I am used to leaving mid afternoon and arriving mid day and getting hardly any sleep. I don’t remember the food and I remember the entertainment, while everyone having their own screens, not being the best. I remember one channel on the tv having the option to see which way Mecca was, so you knew which way to pray, which is not normally an option on any flight I have ever been on before. So that was different. No issues on arrival and no issues at immigration or customs because of the flight. All in all, a totally regular, normal flight.

The way back was just as fine. Since there is only one flight a day, there is really no fear you are going to miss it if you get to the airport with enough time. I was in line behind a white family who was returning to the US and flew them for the same reason I did, dirt cheap! When I boarded, I had my whole row to myself again (window for me, of course) but once we took up, some guy sat on the aisle of my row, which I totally did not care about. I would prefer to have the middle empty anyway, as I like to pull that tray down for drinks and stuff as not to have to deal with mine. The center of the plane was again packed. And compared to what I am used to, another quick flight. You leave at 3pm local London time and are back in New York City just in time for dinner!

Moral: For that price, totally worth it. Not the best I have ever taken, but by far not the worst. The service was fine. And you can’t put a price on paying for a coach ticket and getting a whole row to yourself, especially on an overnight flight. We all hope for it, but it never happens. And I got to my destinations in one piece, which is the only thing you can really hope for when boarding a plane. Don’t knock certain airlines just because of their name and home country. I know I always think twice when I have to do this now.

Used: 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Virgin Airlines in its many forms. I have flown with three of their services. The first was with VirginAtlantic back in 2002, during my first trip to London. A friend of mine suggested them and told me they were awesome, so when it came to book my flight and they were on par with being as cheap as any airline, I picked them. Yeah, kind of a disappointment. The seats were super tiny and on my flight from LAX to LHR, none of the entertainment consoles worked. Granted it was the overnight flight and you were supposed to sleep anyway, but a total dissapointment! Luckily, they worked on the way back. Good things: I liked the little bag of goodies you got when you got to your seat. I loved the pen that came in the bag and used it for years. I just liked the way it wrote. Also, I did like the funkyness of it all, but would have gladly changed to blah to get the entertainment working. That was the biggest disappointment. Otherwise, don’t really remember much else about them. Haven’t flown with them since.

Funny enough, I totally forgot about flying on Pacific Blue until this week when I was reading about the change in name to Virgin Australia (from Virgin Blue, see below) to include Virgin’s services in the pacific, outside of Australia. This service started within New Zealand in 2007, when I was living in Auckland, and to promote the new services, the fares were dirt cheap, so I bought some for my family when they came and we had to fly from AKL to CHC. 4 one-way tickets for US$114! But you pay for what you get. They only flew back and forth from AKL, WLG and CHC on various routes a few times a day. It seemed they only had a two or three planes that flew back and forth, granted distances aren’t very far and you can get from AKL to CHC and back in less then 4 hours. But if one flight was delayed, the whole schedule for the day was thrown off. I booked the last flight of the day from AKL to CHC, just in case of any delay and by the time we left AKL, we were about 4 hours delayed and finally left AKL about an hour after we were supposed to land in CHC. It sucked, but it was supposed to be a rest day anyway. So we ended up “resting” in the airport instead of the hotel. Oh well. I was just looking at the PacBlue website and it appears that they do not fly within NZ anymore, just from NZ over to Australia. So I guess those routes didn’t last long the way they were booking them. Oy.

When I was in Australia, they have a low cost airline called VirginBlue. I flew with them from Brisbane up to Cairns. The airline was pleasent enough. At the time I flew with them (October 2008) they allowed one checked bag, so I sent my bag through and there was no problem. You had to pay for all entertainment (though ads screened non-stop on your personal screen for all those that didn’t pay, thankgod, no sound) and the worst part for me was no free drinks, not even water! I almost shat my pants when I heard that. The only water they had was bottled and you had to buy it. I was so mad. I depend on water when I fly and I stupidly forgot my bottle (hell, you can even bring FULL bottles through security when you fly domestically in Australia) but still. We might charge you for every little thing on American airlines, but I would hate to see the day when they won’t even give you water for free with no warning. That is the day, I’ll start to fight.

While I was away, Virgin America started up. One of there big routes that I have taken many times since being home in the LAX-SFO route. They are usually on par with Soutwest when it comes to everyday price, so for the most part, why fly SWA when you can fly Virgin? They are located in Terminal 3 at LAX and Terminal 2 at SFO (having moved recently from the International Terminal). My only recc for the LAX terminal is not to take the last flight of the day, as that is when ALL their flights leave, including some jumbo jets to Australia on VAustralia. The security line is forever (compared to other parts of the day) and it sucks. I have never really had a bad experience on VA. Some flights have been delayed for mechanical and weather issues, but I have always been kept up to date on delays. Since they know that everyone carrys on their luggage now, sometimes you’ll get a message on the overcome, asking people to check their luggage at the gate for free and I almost always do that. Unfortunatly, you have already come through security at that point, but still, it’s one less thing to carry about the terminal. And last time I did that, they let everyone with no luggage, no matter what row you were in to board early and get a jump on watching the tv that they provide on individual screens for everyone for free! That is the best part of Virgin is the entertainment and I always have a hard time choosing what to watch or listen to when I fly them. Their planes are clean and attendents are very nice. I always look forward to flying with them.

Moral: Virgin as an airline brand seems to be hit or miss. All the low cost carriers in Australia have different issues, so VirginBlue having issues is of no surprise. I just got a crap flight on VirginAtlantic. I don’t hold it against them, just everytime I have gone back, they haven’t been the cheapest, so I’ll pass. But I highly reccomend VirginAmerica for all those in the US, if they happen to be going your way.

NYC Sublet

Used: 2004

I know I talk a lot about my time overseas and while most of my adult traveling has been done outside the US, the summer of 2004 was spent in New York City. It was the summer before I finished school (December 2004) and I had blown about 3 years of savings on a 12 week trip to Europe the year before, so I had a lot less saved in 9 months. Plus I was finally buckling down in my last year of school and doing a bunch of internships. I wanted to get out of LA, but still do an internship and have wanted to live in NYC long term, so I decided to try it out for a summer.

My mom grew up in the city, so I had been there more times then I could count throughout my life, but this was going to be the summer I lived there. I arranged an internship at a tv production company (nothing I couldn’t have done in LA, but a change of scenery makes it even more exciting!) and everything was set. I knew a lot of people in the city and surrounding boroughs where I could stay for a short time, but nothing long term, so about a week before I was to leave, I started looking at sublets on Craigslist. It got quiet frustrating very fast as real estate in New York City can be. One place fell through before I left LA and I was devastated. One place dragged me a long for a long time and actually I don’t even remember what happened, I probably gave up. I arrived in Brooklyn and stayed with my sort-of aunt until I found a place. Arrived on Memorial Day and started my internship that Wednesday and looked for a place all that week, while working. I found a place I loved in Brooklyn and it fell through and I got so frustrated that I started crying on the street. I remember calling my mom and wanting to come home. Even though I had only been at my internship 1 day, I could tell I didn’t love it either. Throw it all in, plus the crappy humid weather, it was a hard week for me. I gave myself 2 weeks to find a decent place and if not, I would just leave it all and come home, no harm done. The first Saturday I lined up about 5 places to look at and found an awesome place around lunch time. With my checkbook in hand, ready to write a deposit right then and there, I think I was a little pushy for the student who was subletting her place, but I had learned my lesson during the previous 2 weeks. You gotta get in or it will be gone. They didn’t want to take the money then, so I left my number and went out to Queens to look at another place. On my way there, they called me and offered me the room and I said YES! I’ll be in later that day with the deposit. Since I was nearly at the next place, I went anyway and the guy subletting was fantastic and we hit it off really well, even though it was his room I would take. I felt sort of bad stringing him along, but I had learned my lesson. He had other people who were coming to see the room and I said fine and as soon as I paid my deposit at the place I loved, he actually called me to tell me, forget it, he wanted me to take the room and I felt a little bad that I had to say no. But such is the life of NYC reality!

When looking for a sublet, know what you want. Ideally I wanted to pay $700-800 a month and for it to include everything (remember, this is in 2004 dollars). I needed a bed (you’d be surprised how many sublets in NYC don’t come with it!), shared bathroom, tv and ideally A/C but a fan will do for the apartment. I needed it to be realistically walking distance from the subway. You should have seen what some people were trying to offload! $1000 (plus utilities!) for a room that only could fit the girls bed in the East Village. Just very weird people out there. I don’t remember what else I saw. I was shooting for Manhattan (of course) but totally open to Brooklyn and even Queens, but no Bronx, too far. I looked at a lot in Brooklyn but oddly, the place I ended up getting was not only in Manhattan, but in my favorite neighborhood, the Upper West Side!

I know people my age should hate the UWS, but I love it. It’s not as loud as downtown and I see being away from everything as a plus. The apartment was owned by Columbia University Grad School and the girl was an international student going back to Hong Kong for the summer, so I was definitely not legally supposed to be there. The other people in the unit were a Spanish girl, who unfortunately ended up going back to Spain and subletting her room to a Spanish guy who spoke no English and an Asian-American girl who grew up in Florida and was working at a law firm all summer and was hardly ever home. It was slightly more then I wanted to pay (they smartly priced it at $880/month) but it included everything as well as the most awesome cable tv package that I have ever seen! (I saw the bill and it was like $250/month!) This was the summer that on-demand started and I thought that was the most amazing feature ever! The room didn’t have A/C or a fan, so I just bought one and it worked fine. The room had simple dorm room furniture and it was perfect. The best thing about the room is that it was HUGE! It was by far the largest room I looked at and besides that and the neighborhood and the utilities included, I was sold.

Another tip is don’t bother looking more then a week or two in advance. Most sublet postings are looking to fill immediately so there is no point in getting stressed about it far in advance. If I hadn’t known anyone to crash with while I looked, another idea is to stay in a hostel for a few days while you find a long term place.

Moral: A great place to visit and even stay for a semester or summer while in college even when you are broke, but I wouldn’t want to live there now.