Friday, January 31, 2014

Unrest in the Albaicin

The old Arab quarter of the city of Granada in Spain is called the Albaicin (or Albayzin) and is a romantic hillside district with narrow winding streets and medieval Moorish structures.  The area is very steep and when we were there it seemed somewhat deserted - probably only because it was high noon on a very hot summer day.

We enjoyed roaming the quiet sector with its expansive views of the Alhambra, but then came upon something disconcerting - banners hung from balconies and posted leaflets clearly expressing unrest and discontent:

We found an explanation in English.

According to the SOS Albaicin website, the residents are protesting measures by the mayor that suppress public transportation to the area and redirect traffic circulation on the main thoroughfare. Their interest is in preserving the historic quarter.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Frustration With Avios Points

I like to keep the blog posts positive, but I have, on occasion, ranted about things. Well, really only about booking airline tickets. So as my frustration with British Airlines rises, I feel compelled to share. WHAT THE *#!@%!!?? Are they living in the 21st century? Their website is ridiculous: recursive loops, frequent errors, and no capability to book open jaw flights with frequent flier miles. That means you have to call their customer service number to accomplish this and that is a frightening prospect given the many, many tweets, blogs, and online comments about how rude and unfriendly their sales agents are. Deciding to risk it, I called the number. Yesterday I was on hold for 53 minutes before deciding to hang up. But today, after a 48 minute hold, I reached a sales agent.

Surprise! He was quite friendly. Judging by his accent I had obviously reached the UK-based call center. But he was less than helpful as he transferred me to an Executive Club agent since I wanted to book with Avios points, and the EC agent said she had no idea why because she couldn't help me. So I was transferred back to a different sales agent and he happened to be cheerful and generous. He searched endlessly for a flight that would work for us, waived my phone booking service fees, and explained that British Airways's reputation for rude telephone agents arose after the Jacksonville, Florida, call center employees were told they were out of a job because the center was closing. (It is now closed.)

So did we book a flight on British Airways using our two free companion tickets and 240,000 Avios points? No.

Hubby and I were excited to sign up for the British Airways Chase Visa Signature Card when they offered a signup bonus of 100,000 airline miles, another bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 within 3 months, and a free companion ticket after spending $30,000 on the card within a calendar year. We fervently charged up the card the last two years in an effort to rack up enough airline miles (Avios points) to travel to Europe for free this summer, although I was aware of the extremely high taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges one still had to pay on British Airlines.

Did I say extremely high taxes, fees, and surcharges? I mean prohibitively high. Almost $3,000 for the four of us to fly to Germany on a complicated, circuitous route not in nor out of anywhere near our home airport. We chose to pass on that. Words from the wise (such as The Points Guy, BoardingArea, and Mommy Points) say that the best value in spending Avios points is to fly short domestic flights on British Air.

Not quite sure how we're going to get to Germany to visit the family this summer now.
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