Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight review, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
Relaxing in Cancun Report
Relaxing in Cancun Overview
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Washington Dulles Review
Delta 737-800 IAD-CUN Flight Review
Hyatt Zilara Cancun Review
During early 2019, I decided to escape the cold in Washington D.C. and head to Cancun, Mexico for my bachelor party. This was my second time in Mexico, after our amazing trip to Mexico City. I chose Cancun because I wanted a warm weather beach destination that I had never visited. I can confidently say it was one of the best vacation decisions I have ever made. On this trip I had the opportunity to try out an all-inclusive hotel, the Hyatt Zilara Cancun, for the first time. I left impressed by Mexico's beaches, with the Hyatt Zilara brand, and several of the airport lounges I tried on this trip.
One of the main reasons I chose Cancun, Mexico was because I had the opportunity to try an all-inclusive hotel for the first time. I wanted a vacation where I didn't have to worry about constantly pulling out the checkbook and my traveling companions would know the vast majority of the cost upfront. There are several all-inclusive options in the Cancun area but I chose the Hyatt Zilara because it was an adults-only all-inclusive and gave me the opportunity to earn points and use my Hyatt Discoverist status.
There are a several things to bear in mind when booking the Hyatt Zilara Cancun. First, as best as I can tell the standard rates are more for marketing purposes and tracking the rate for our January trip it never got close to the standard rate even a week before the trip. Second, the rates at this hotel vary significantly depending on what time of year you book and how far in advance you book. I booked about six months in advance and kept checking for a cheaper rate. Over time the rate fell from $448 per night for one person to $398 per night. Also, the hotel was definitely not full during our stay so I assume that my rate was on the low end for the resort. Third, the rate varies depending on the number of guests and the sweet spot is two guests in a room, however, I ended up having to book a room for one since there was a person who dropped our at the last minute. For example, my room was $398 for one person while a double room with two people came out to $276 per person. Fourth, while these rates may seem high for Mexico they include not just the room but all the food, all drinks including alcoholic drinks, and gratuity. When you consider this the cost per person per day is a good deal. Fifth, the all-inclusive does not include the cost of transportation to or from the airport. Because there were five of us traveling together we booked a car for $270 roundtrip. Since I booked the stay directly with Hyatt I ended up earning 3,392 base and 339 bonus World of Hyatt points.
Southwest, Spirit, United, and Delta all offer non-stop flights from Washington D.C. area to Cancun. At the time of booking I had elite status with American Airlines but because I was only going to spend three days in Cancun and the non-stop flights offered reasonable prices I decided not to book with American. While I did not have have status with Delta at the time I had positive experiences with the airline in the past so decided to book with Delta. I booked the non-stop Saturday-only Washington Dulles (IAD) flight to Cancun and came back to Washington Regan National (DCA) with a connection in Minneapolis (MSP). Since I flew this flight in January 2019 Delta moved its non-stop Saturday-only Cancun service for the D.C. area to Baltimore Washington International (BWI) airport. While I was nervous connecting in Minneapolis during winter I ended up not having any problems.
To top it all off I got the best deal I have gotten since our sub-$200 tickets to Mexico City. In the end this flight was $271 which was a steal for a non-basic economy fare to Cancun! Because of the high taxes and fees which amounted to 49% of the ticket cost and my lack of Delta elite status at the time I would have earned only 695 Delta SkyMiles. Instead I credited this flight to Delta's partner Virgin Atlantic where I earned 1,973 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.
Cancun was the perfect winter escape and left me with a great impression of the Mexican beaches, Hyatt's all-inclusive hotels, and several of the airport lounges. I look forward to sharing my experience and the many reasons why I enjoyed my travel experience to Cancun and my time in Cancun.
Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight reviews, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further while traveling in comfort.
I have been a member of American Airline's AAdvantage loyalty program since I was three years old and have fond memories of visiting the cockpit, getting wings from flight attendants, and flying between The Bahamas and Miami on turboprop airplanes. This loyalty extended into my adulthood, when I started traveling frequently for leisure my airline of choice continued to be American Airlines. Not only did I have a long history with the airline but it was the largest carrier at my hometown airport Washington Regan National (DCA). This meant more non-stop flights and plentiful options when a connection was required. As a result of this loyalty I attained Gold elite status with American Airlines which I have held for over two years. I have flown over 107,000 lifetime miles with American Airlines as of January 2020. As I sit here on the day my Gold status ended I have had enough of the flying experience with American Airlines and Christina and I are ready to say farewell, and here is why.
Admirals Club Food and Drinks
What I value most about having lounge access is complimentary food and drinks and on this front the offerings from the Admirals Clubs are sad. With the exception of the avocado toast I find the vast majority of Admirals Club food and drink options to be either uninspiring or tasteless. I have often found myself buying food before going to the Admirals Club to make sure I don't go hungry.
Flying from DCA when a non-stop is unavailable or unaffordable I often find myself connecting in American's big east coast connecting hubs Charlotte (CLT) and Philadelphia (PHL). These are both legacy U.S. Airlines hubs and I find connecting through these hubs to be an unpleasant experience. CLT is poorly laid out for connecting flights and does not have an airport train. Christina and I have often found ourselves running to make connections when changing terminals. I have found PHL to be in a constant state of disrepair from missing ceiling tiles to a water main break which left the bathrooms in disgusting shape and the Admirals Club closed. To make matters worse American Airlines also concentrates their older legacy US Airways planes in the CLT and PHL hubs which can lead to a poor experience on these planes and significant inconsistencies on the same aircraft across the airline's fleet.
Seat Back In-Flight Entertainment and Power
One area where American Airlines is sorely lacking is seat-back in-flight entertainment on narrow-body planes and in-seat power plugs. American's narrow body planes can be assigned to transcontinental flights some of which are six hours or more, however, many of these planes never offered seat-back in-flight entertainment. To make matters worse American has focused on removing seat back IFE from planes that have it and instead requires passengers to watch streaming entertainment on personal devices. With less space on American Airlines planes using a personal device further restricts space and increases the importance of functioning power plugs. However, this is another area where American is sorely lacking. On many planes American Airlines has no in-seat power plugs even in First Class. On other planes the power plugs exist but are so loose that they are barely functional. I believe these dual problems show that American Airlines rush to streaming IFE on narrow body planes is misplaced.
Our experience with American Airlines baggage handling has been very poor. At DCA we have waited up to 30 minutes for our bags at baggage claim and we have had similar experiences waiting around at multiple airports around the country. On one trip with American Christina's checked luggage was so beat up that it was barely usable and we had to file a claim. The airline eventually replaced the piece of luggage ending an annoying situation. On another trip we had a wait around the airport for two hours since Christina's luggage never made it onto the flight. Flying American Airlines with checked luggage requires waiting around the baggage claim and feels like a gamble as to whether your luggage will make it on-time or in one piece.
Business and First Class Food
Christina and I have had numerous opportunities over the past two years to fly in American Airlines First and Business Class. We came away from these experiences disappointed with the quality of the food. We found some of the meals tasteless while other meals were barely edible. The quality of food served on American Airlines domestic and Caribbean First Class flights is truly embarrassing and significantly detracts from the First Class experience and the value of First Class upgrades for elites.
The most important reason of all that we are leaving American Airlines is the terrible customer service. The experiences are too numerous to list in this post but I will share with you some of the lowlights. At our home airport DCA we rushed to Priority check-in area and ended up being one minute past the cut off for checked baggage. The check-in agent refused to check our bag and we ended up sitting in the airport lounge for hours until the next available flight. To make matters worse she tried to charge Christina for a checked bag when she was entitled to a free checked bag. The agent wasn't apologetic and stopped assisting us for several minutes at a time to chat with her co-workers. When American lost Christina's bag there was no apology or compensation and instead the baggage agent gave Christina attitude. On our flight to London the flight attendant told me off for using the Business Class bathroom despite being allowed to do so by American Airlines policy. These poor customer experiences also extended to Business and First Class. On numerous occasions we were not served a pre-departure beverage on our flights and we were offered no blankets. On one flight our dirty dishes and glasses sat uncleared for almost an hour while flight attendants chatted in the galley. While there are certainly good employees at American Airlines who provide strong customer service, including on our flight from BCN-JFK, too many of the employees we have interacted with do not have a customer centric attitude and make it seem as if flying with them is a privilege.
After decades of loyalty and two years of Gold Elite status with American Airlines it is time to say farewell. Because of American’s dominance at DCA we may not be able to avoid the airline completely but Christina and I plan to actively avoid American Airlines and purposefully did not re-qualify for elite status. The convience of flying out of DCA, and fairly regular First Class upgrades are outweighed by the many negatives including our terrible customer service experience. Christina and I would rather be treated well in economy than poorly in First Class and that is why it is time for us to say farewell to American Airlines.