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Heading to the USA

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Azanker

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Hi Guys,

Have just booked flights to the USA for the new year.. Flying with VA to LA, venturing to San Fran, NY, DC, and a few other places while flying delta.

First trip over to the states so not sure what to expect from Airlines, Airports and so on... Does anybody have an advice on what to expect...

Im VA gold, so not sure how the priorty boarding, luggage, lounges and all of that kinda stuff will work.
 

samh004

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I have no experience in the US, nor with VA, but from what I've read my advice would be to make sure you have printed a copy of what benefits you're entitled to incase you end up in a port with staff that haven't seen your membership card before ;)
 

Zerosignal

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I didn't run in to any problems with lounges even at the smaller airports - that said your experience might be different.
 

RooFlyer

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This could fill a small book, and others experiences could be different.

You haven't said what class you are flying - J helps :). VA gold might get you priority & lounge access - you need to check on VA/Delta web site.

Arrival in LAX better than it used to be, with automatic kiosks rather than the interminable queuing, but there are reports of additional security measures causing delays again. Usually the rule is to allow at least 3 hrs for transit at LAX, but if the new system is working, then 2 hours should be OK.

Domestic check-in at US airports - they generally direct you to self check-in kiosk; my experience with these is bad - there's usually some glitch with passport or credit card used - and I have to go to counter anyway. Get there early to check in.

In general, the large US airports are quite crowded, and most were built before modern security measures, so make time for lots of queuing. Unless you get "TSA Pre-check" on your boarding pass (with Gold on VA I doubt you would get this), security will be a pain. Shoes off, coats off, belts off, computers out, LAGs out, everything on the x ray belt. If you get body scanned, everything out of pockets. Half hour queuing is common for the great unwashed.

Priority boarding usually works well, but there may be a lot of status pax, so if its a small aircraft, make sure you are at boarding early to be near the front of the priority boarding - else the overhead bins may go!

Most US domestic airlines charge for all baggage - $25 is common. Pay at check-in. This results in people trying to take everything on as carry-on. Its often a fiasco. Again, try to board as early as possible, either via front of priority boarding, or as early as the boarding arrangement allows.

Lounges are less well appointed than here in Oz and you usually have to pay for any of the better quality drinks. Lounge food can be 'buy it, or do you like pretzels'; again, don't know about Delta in particular. As samh004 says, print out and carry your lounge entitlements with you. Many lounge attendants will not have heard of Virgin Australia and its alliance with Delta. But also check their rules. Some airlines can be very restrictive - ie you have to have status on their airline; even if you are J, too bad unless you have status with them. Don't know a bout Delta in this regard.

Check weather the day before, then the morning of flight etc!! Winter delays are common; good to be able to anticipate it. (I use accuweather but there are probably better applications)
 

samh004

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Just thought of something else... get to the gate early, don't wait around in the lounge for a boarding call or to cut it fine, as I'm told it's a completely different operation than in Australia.

Enjoy the trip! :)
 
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RooFlyer

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Just thought of something else... get to the gate early, don't wait around in the lounge for a boarding call or to cut it fine, as I'm told it's a completely different operation than in Australia.

Enjoy the trip! :)
... especially as there are no boarding calls in the lounges :)
 

ashleyn

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Take your passport everywhere. In security lanes, remove your shoes and belt. Have TSA locks. Just go with the flow.
 

dajop

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Headin to the USA

One alternative view to advice re boarding early - it depends on how much hand luggage you have. If it is minimal or non rigid (such as small backpack) there is no need to stress about boarding early as usually there will be some space to squeeze it into such as on top of the kitchen sinks that people take on board or at worst under the seat. If you have wheelaboard hand luggage either board really early as indicated to guarantee locker space - or really late so it can be gate checked. :)

Also if on short flights (not sure what it is on DL , but on AA it is less than 150 mins) , or any length flights after 8pm, eat at the airport as food offerings inflight will be limited - probably irrespective of class of travel.
 

williamsf1

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Hi Guys,

Have just booked flights to the USA for the new year.. Flying with VA to LA, venturing to San Fran, NY, DC, and a few other places while flying delta.

First trip over to the states so not sure what to expect from Airlines, Airports and so on... Does anybody have an advice on what to expect...

Im VA gold, so not sure how the priorty boarding, luggage, lounges and all of that kinda stuff will work.
What airlines are you flying internal USA ?
 

Azanker

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Hi Guys, Some great feedback there...

Im flying delta for all of the flights within the USA... they are just simple economy... Flying premium with VA there and back

From what i can see from the delta and virgin sites is that VA Gold = Gold Medallions SkyTeam® Elite Plus, which should cover 2 bags at 32kg per trip and should also help with boarding and checkin.
 

notzac

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If your Velocity card is one of the Global Wallet cards, you may run in to difficulties getting lounge access (the card doesn't have the Virgin Australia logo on it). Ask them nicely to look up the access rules, and if that doesn't work jump on Twitter and send a message to @DeltaAssist, who are pretty good at getting stuff worked out quickly.
 

WLG

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You would be eligible for a 25% discount on Delta Comfort seats. I bought these to get from LAX to IAD via MSP a couple of months ago, mostly to get a seat at the front of the plane so I could be on my way quicker at the other end - I had started in MEL, so it was a verrrry long day :)
 
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Denali

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I use my luggage tag for lounges because it has the Virgin logo on it and found it helps.

Def get the EC seats. I didn't see much comfort in them but they were better than those behind us.

When we last flew LAX>NY, I preordered/prepaid a meal (only available on select flights) and I was impressed with the quality and size. Premium Economy Dining

Do you have your seats for your SYD>LAX flights yet?

Im a fan of having a shower and massage and chilling, so check out the terminal maps and see if they have a spa kiosk nearby.

Im also a fan of walking from one terminal to the next at LAX, time permitting. Its not that big and its nice to stretch the legs.
 

rioter

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If your Velocity card is one of the Global Wallet cards, you may run in to difficulties getting lounge access (the card doesn't have the Virgin Australia logo on it). Ask them nicely to look up the access rules, and if that doesn't work jump on Twitter and send a message to @DeltaAssist, who are pretty good at getting stuff worked out quickly.
Make sure they are looking up virgin and velocity. I have had them listed on their access rules as both. So if they are struggling to find them ask what access rules they are looking up and direct them to the opposite.
 

russ

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Most airlines offer an express security queue for premium/first class or whatever that airline calls it. It can make a huge time difference.

Get some shoes that are easy to take off and put on again

Avoid LAX if you can
 

Jack3193

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Unless you get "TSA Pre-check" on your boarding pass (with Gold on VA I doubt you would get this), security will be a pain.
I don't think TSA pre check comes automatically with any FF status. My understanding is that US based FFPs can invite members with Elite status to participate in the TSA pre check program, but those members still have to opt in, which in effect means they have to apply to be cleared for it (I think that's how it works anyway).

In any case, I can say based on recent experience that I did not qualify for this while travelling on UA as *A (KF) Gold, on DL as Velocity Platinum or on AA as QFF Gold. So you're almost certainly right that the OP won't qualify. And yes, security can be a real pain without it.
 

Quickstatus

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Hi Guys,

Have just booked flights to the USA for the new year.. Flying with VA to LA, venturing to San Fran, NY, DC, and a few other places while flying delta.

First trip over to the states so not sure what to expect from Airlines, Airports and so on... Does anybody have an advice on what to expect...

Im VA gold, so not sure how the priorty boarding, luggage, lounges and all of that kinda stuff will work.

Jack,

Im attempting to summarise your question. the full answers are in the many posts in AFF.
Here goes:

VA: no online checkin for international flights - have to check in at counter.

You must pick up your luggage in LAX irrespective of your final destination. If your final dest is not LAX and your bags are tagged to final destination take bags and drop off at the Bag drop off area before you exit tom Bradley terminal.
Be aware some checkin staff in Australia will say you only have to pick up luggage in final destination - they have NFI!;)

VA will only check your bags thru on VA, DL, AS, UA, QX, AM :Other airline partners | Virgin Australia

Keep all boarding passes until you are sure points and SC are credited to your VA account.

LAX - allow minimum 3 hours (some say 4 hours) to connect to next flight - because you have to enter the US go thru border protection, pick up bags go thru minimal quarantine and bag inspection (they never do) then bag drop, then street then next terminal.

At LAX arrivals customs hall you can now use self service passport kiosks - so no need to fill out any immigration forms on airplane. Much quicker than usual border protection
http://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-m...unveils-new-automated-passport-control-kiosks
When you have done bag drop at LAX and then say you went to DL to your next flight. You can print out boarding pass at the self service kiosk. It will ask you how many bags to check in. Just put in Zero because your bags are already in the system.

At airport security - Will have to take jacket, shoes off unless you are over 70 or similar. Liquids, aerosols, and gels (LAG got to conform to TSA instructions/ requirements)
Anything you can do to expedite this the better - non lace shoes, no belt Dont wait to your turn to take off shoes. So take off shoes, jacket, belt and take out LAG, laptop when you enter the queue and get a xray tray. Dont be a Ning-Nong and forget to take stuff out of your pocket. Think ahead.

In the airline industry The word "enhanced" can only be bad for passengers (ahem Red Roo and Qantas) You dont want to do anything that will subject you to "enhanced screening"
TSA precheck is not based on your Gold status though Gold and higher may have better chance of TSA precheck

Consult VA for lounge access in the US and other benefits of status. You will not get complimentary upgrade in the US based on your VA status. Dont rely on DL for accurate description of lounge access eligibility. You are VA FF not DL FF.
Take a printout of lounge access eligibility to the lounges you think you are eligible for and are planning to visit in case you have problems in the US.
Lounges are basically crap except for Star Alliance lounge which VA pax with Gold/Plat status or business class seats can access. Premium economy must be at least Gold to access Star Alliance lounge. Silver no access unless travelling in business. This lounge is only available if departing from LAX. Star alliance first class lounge is an annexe of the lounge - smaller but i think the business class lounge is better for the food. SA first class for platinum pax who are travelling business. VA pax cannot use any other Star alliance lounges in the US.

US first class is cheaper than business class in OZ and is a great way to earn status credits - especially if bought in advance. Often its cheaper to pay for a first class fare (with complimentary 3x32kg bags) than economy with luggage fees.
A lot of US airlines including DL will sell one stop of multiple stop flights which have tight connections less than 60 min. So long as the 2nd flight/subsequent flights is/are sold on the same booking as the first then you are OK. But I will make sure the connecting flight/s is not the last flight of the day because if it gets cancelled you have to wait until the next day.

The northern states especially the north eastern states can be hit by severe storms in winter causing major airport disruptions, so factor this into your flight plans especially say your US dom flights in US are on DL and on separate booking to your return flight from LAX to SYD on VA. Threfore maybe stay a night in LAX before your return flight to SYD.

A lot of US flights are on the CRJ-xxx airplane. On these flights you have to gate check your larger carry on. Only smaller bags like the ones you can fit under your seat will be allowed in the overhead compartment. These are the only aircraft I will try to board last. Gate checked bags are last on first off.

Otherwise be at gate early as try to in front of the queue when your zone is called, as there will be an almighty rush for overhead storage. Unless you are in F.

On DL I will try to get economy comfort seats mainly because you get to board first behind the status pax in economy and grab available overhead space. - Gold pax will get them at 25% discount.
https://www.velocityfrequentflyer.com/content/Status/GoldStatus/index.htm


Transportation to/from airport generally very efficient with a variety of options. Dont really have to prebook unless you want to prepay.

Car rental - i always book through Hertz or Avis via their .com.au website because this will give you the price inclusive of LDW. No Australian travel insurance will cover you for car rental LDW. LDW is not rental excess. If you decline LDW in the US you can be up for the full price of the vehicle if you write it off. Other US based car rental will allow you to opt in to LDW but its more expensive and sometimes more expensive that the daily rate of the car. The flipside is to not buy travel insurance to the US and then add car rental excess.

The US is built for cars so rent a car. Drive a convertible on the highway:p

Tipping in the US is now about 20% but only tip the pre tax amount.

Credit cards/ travel cards: Citibank Plus - no fees

Foreign Cash: Australia post you can get cash in mint condition (and therefore not tainted with cocaine:cool: and very good value (better than travelex)

I use local sim cards. ATT prepaid sim will work on iphone without any problem. $60 per month - unlimited US calls and sms, mms, unlimited sms to australia, 2.5gig data at at least 3g maybe 4g. Do international roaming until you get the sim there. better than vodafone $5 per day if you are staying more than 12 days and so long as your included allowance in Australia will cover all your calls,txt, data. No 4g access in USA. Its much easier for US companies to contact you in case of issues especially airlines - do it for this reason if not for any other reason. Just update your US number in all your bookings once you get the number.

As of today cheaper to buy apple products in Australia and claim GST here at airport than buying same stuff in the US.

The US is an efficient place - one wishes that we can be just as efficient, but OZ still better place to live.
 
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RooFlyer

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I don't think TSA pre check comes automatically with any FF status. My understanding is that US based FFPs can invite members with Elite status to participate in the TSA pre check program, but those members still have to opt in, which in effect means they have to apply to be cleared for it (I think that's how it works anyway).

In any case, I can say based on recent experience that I did not qualify for this while travelling on UA as *A (KF) Gold, on DL as Velocity Platinum or on AA as QFF Gold. So you're almost certainly right that the OP won't qualify. And yes, security can be a real pain without it.
Not certain how it operates; but for non 'official' pre-check pax though I suspect one's FF status goes into the mix; the time of day / busy-ness of the security station and other factors may also contribute to whether you get Pre-check or not. As a Qantas FF plat, I nearly always get TSA pre-check on my American Airline BP, even if travelling economy. As a Star Alliance Gold (Air Canada scheme) I get it maybe half the time I'm flying on United or Air Canada.

It can be a little embarrassing. In Nth America I often travel with client bosses, who don't travel enough to get status. I get Pre Check and breeze through; they don't and have to wait in the zoo for half an hour (and of course I have to wait for them). Bloody cuts into my Lounge time ;) :shock:
 
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peakhour

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Jack
Forget TSA pre-check. As VA platinum I get Sky Priority woth DL and most often I beat my pre-checked US colleagues through security. Too many DYKWIA's who still cant get it right. VA will through check you to your final destination so no need to check in again at lax, just collect the bags on arrival and drop them at domestic bag transfer and as another poster said, turn right at exit and walk the 5 minutes to T5. After security the delta lounge is on the right near gate 57 or so. Its upstairs where i am sitting right now. FYI this morning it took 50 minutes from disembarking to sit down in the lounge via immigration, bag collection, customs, walk to T5 and security with the new customs kiosk. But this is my 6th trip this year so I know the drill. Without kiosk allow 2 hours to reach the lounge or gate in case of big lines. Dont forget to put your name down for a shower in the lounge when you enter as it can take a half hour to become available. Happy Travels.
 

straitman

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We were given TSA Pre-check in LAX this week and we certainly did nothing toward the process.
We did travel QF First and we are OWE & OWS respectively.
 
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