To and from Santiago Chile, my favorite Diamond upgrade ever, and a weird Centurion Lounge lost and found policy

On October 8th, my wife and I were discussing options for Thanksgiving week travel.  She and my son would be free from work and school as of Monday afternoon before Thanksgiving.  Maybe we should visit our friend in Santiago?  I said that I would check award availability.

About a half hour later, my phone chirped.  Shawn had published a Quick Deal: “Wide Open AA Premium Cabin Award Availability to South America & Europe.”  Saver level first class award flights between the US and Santiago Chile were wide open for 62,500 AA miles each way.  I jumped online and booked our flights as two separate one-way awards for all three of us.  The first was Detroit to Santiago, via Dallas.  First class.  The second was Santiago to Dallas, first class.  Flights from Dallas to Detroit weren’t available.  For that final leg, I booked Delta economy awards as a backup, and setup an alert in Expert Flyer to let me know if/when saver awards opened up from Dallas to Detroit.  A day before our trip began, I received the alert email.  Thanks to my AA Executive Platinum status I was able to modify the return award to include the final leg, with no change fee.  And, thanks to my Delta Platinum status, I was able to cancel the Delta award without penalty.

4 hours in the Centurion Lounge

We flew to Dallas Monday afternoon and made our way from the C concourse to D, on foot rather than taking the Skylink train.  It was a pretty long walk, but we appreciated the opportunity to get some exercise before the long overnight flight.  We could have spent our time in the AA Admirals Club Lounge, but chose to go to the Amex Centurion Lounge instead.  Thanks to my Amex Platinum Business card, we were permitted in free of charge.  We enjoyed dinner and drinks, then my wife and I took advantage of the lounge’s free massages.

I didn’t take any photos of the lounge, so here’s a stock photo from their website instead:

DFW_Lounge_1200x600

The missing phone charger

After leaving the lounge and boarding our flight, my son realized that he had left his iPhone lightning cable and wall adapter in the lounge.  It was too late to run back to get it so I searched online for a direct number for the lounge.  I was racing the clock because I knew that the flight crew would soon demand that phones be turned off or put into flight mode.  I failed to find a number to call and decided to reach out to Amex instead.  I tweeted @AskAmex and also emailed the Platinum Concierge (platinumrequests@concierge.americanexpress.com).  I asked them to let the Centurion Lounge people know that we would be back on Saturday to retrieve the charger.  It wouldn’t be a big deal to simply buy a new charger, but it would be nice to get it back.  The next day, @AskAmex unhelpfully replied “Pls call 972-973-4420 which is the lost and found in DFW. Hopefully, they have it for you.”  The Platinum Concierge was a bit more helpful: “I have reached out to the Centurion Lounge and they have let me know that they unfortunately have not located the IPhone charger as of it. They have let me know that if they do locate the charger that they will hold on to it for Saturday when you are back at the airport.”

The outbound flight

The flight was comfortable and uneventful.  We passed up dinner service in order to get to sleep earlier.  Even though the flight boasts extremely old seats with cigarette lighter adapters for power, the seats were big and comfortable and reclined fully for sleep.  We asked to be woken for breakfast since we planned to go sightseeing immediately upon arrival.  For the record, my breakfast quiche was awful.

The following photo is from my trip to China, but it’s the same exact layout as the one we flew to Santiago:

2015-05-26 16.50.22

The hotel upgrade

We had booked three nights at the Grand Hyatt Santiago.  Rooms were available for only 8,000 points per night.  That was so cheap that we actually booked two rooms and requested that they be next to each other.  When we arrived, I was disappointed to learn that our rooms were on the 3rd floor.  I had read that rooms on higher floors at Grand Hyatt had fantastic views of the Andes mountains.  For the first time ever, I pulled the “elite card”.  I pointed out that I have Diamond elite status and that I usually get an upgrade, at least to a higher floor.  Unfortunately, the hotel was fully booked and there were no other options for two rooms close to each other.  The desk manager, though, came up with a great solution.  There was a suite available on a high floor.  We traded in our two basic rooms for a single suite and a roll-away bed.  It wasn’t until we were finished checking in that the manager revealed the really great part: the suite was a Diplomatic Suite on the top floorOnly their Presidential suite is bigger or better.

Grand Hyatt Diplomatic Suite Dining Room Santiago Chile

Grand Hyatt Diplomatic Suite Living Room Santiago Chile

Pictures don’t do justice to how awesome this suite was.  Our jaws dropped as we entered through the suite’s double doors to find an enormous room with dramatically high ceilings and panoramic views of the Andes.  Our bedroom had a similar view and boasted an enormous jacuzzi tub.  We absolutely loved the suite and didn’t want to leave at the end of our trip!

Grand Hyatt Diplomatic Suite Bedroom Santiago Chile

Grand Hyatt Diplomatic Suite Tub Santiago Chile

Evening view from the living room:

Grand Hyatt Diplomatic Suite Greg in Window Santiago Chile

Grand Hyatt View from Living Room Santiago Chile

The visit

In our four days in Santiago, we visited the coastal city Valparaiso; we explored a bit of downtown Santiago; we ate lots of great local foods; and we hiked the Andes.  I’ll write up details in a future post.

yerba loca Santiago Chile

Leaving Santiago

Thanks to my Hyatt Diamond status, we secured a 4pm late checkout on Friday.  This gave us plenty of time to tour downtown Santiago and the Bellavista neighborhood before returning to the hotel to get our bags.  We Ubered to the airport and arrived too early.  We wanted to check bags, but the AA counter didn’t open until 6:20pm.  We waited at a café for an hour and nursed our drinks while consuming their free wi-fi.  Finally, after checking bags, we used the LATAM priority check-in area to clear security.  We breezed through passport control and the x-ray machines and found that the new LATAM lounge entrance was just past security.

LATAM VIP Lounge

In order to get into OneWorld lounges you need OneWorld Sapphire or Emerald status or a OneWorld business or first class ticket.  We were good on both fronts, so we were readily admitted.  The two story lounge is modern, bright, and stylish.  Thanks to having read this Points Summary review, we immediately headed upstairs where we found a nearly empty dining area with plenty of excellent food and beautiful views of the distant mountains (not nearly as beautiful as our Grand Hyatt 19th floor views, but still…).  Overall, we thought the lounge was terrific.

LATAM Lounge SCL Food Santiago Chile

LATAM Lounge SCL Dining Area Santiago Chile

Admiral’s Club Lounge

Since the LATAM lounge wouldn’t announce AA flight boardings, we moved to the Admiral’s Club Lounge about half an hour before we expected to board.  There were snacks and sandwiches and drinks available, but we didn’t try any since we had our fill in the previous lounge.  Overall, I thought the lounge was desperately in need of a refresh.  It’s best feature was that it was located right next to our departure gate.

Admirals Club Lounge SCL Santiago Chile

The return flight

This flight departed late due to a sick passenger.  Once we finally got rolling, I decided to try the evening dinner service and I was surprised that my chicken dish was very good.  My wife said that her shrimp dish was good too.  Morning coffee, on the other hand, was almost undrinkable.

The return to the Centurion Lounge and a weird interaction

When we landed in Dallas, we breezed past customs and immigration thanks to Global Entry.  As is usual with international arrivals, we had to pickup our checked bags and bring them to an area for transiting passengers to re-check them.  We then had two hours available before our next flight, so we returned to the Centurion Lounge to get drinkable coffee and to hopefully find our son’s phone charger.

After checking in at the Centurion Lounge, I asked the desk agent if a phone charger had been found.  She said no.  Another agent, though, asked for details about it.  My son described it as a black iPhone charging cable with a white cube shaped wall adapter.  The first agent then asked if it had any special markings on it to prove it was ours.  Um… no.  The second agent disappeared into a back closet and reappeared with my son’s stuff.  Yay!  Before handing it over, though, the first agent gave him a short lecture about making sure that his stuff has unique markings on it because, “as a policy,” they don’t return found items unless they can be proven to be yours.

We were happy to have the charger back, but we found the desk interaction to be weird and not at all customer friendly.  If a guest is missing a charger and one had been found, why not just give it to them regardless of whether its really theirs?  Do they really think that thieves are going to frequent the Centurion Lounge to steal from their lost and found?  And why did they pretend at first that no chargers had been found at all?  I don’t get it.

The late bag

We arrived in Detroit without incident and one of our two checked bags did too.  The other bag decided for some reason to wait until a later flight from Dallas.  I left my phone number and address with the AA baggage office, and the bag was delivered to our house by around 11pm that night.

Great trip

Overall, our trip spanned five nights (two in the air), and four days in and around Santiago.  To many, that will sound like too short of a time to be “worth” traveling so far.  Sure, we would have liked to have stayed longer, but we had limited time available and we had a great trip.  And, as I’ve proven before, you do not need as much time as you may think to enjoy long distance travel (see: One day in Beijing. Fewer words, more photos).  I’ll go into detail about our time in and around Santiago in a future post.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. Chargers are the new black umbrellas. Everyone knows that if you ever need an umbrella walk into any biz where people sit down (restaurants, professional waiting rooms, etc.) and tell them you left your umbrella there and it was black. They we I’ll produce a large box full of them. (I discovered this when I actually left my umbrella at a restaurant. When I told people about the big box, everyone I told already knew about it. )

  2. Love the pictures of the trip! The hotel looks super classy. Very cool upgrade, oh, and the view isn’t too shabby either. What a nice gift to give to your family. Only in this hobby such a fancy trip would be possible for so little out-of-pocket cost. Thanks for sharing!

  3. That wasn’t so much as airlines policy as it was Texas self righteous training so you can be perfect like she is. I grew up there and had to deal with her type every day. Best solution is just snicker and walk away.

  4. Aw, I was just at the LAN lounge at SCL last night. Wish I had known of the secret ice cream availability. 🙂 It’s certainly a mega lounge, but I didn’t find it to be particularly “fun.” First, there’s no real bar, so you can’t get someone to make you a last pisco sour. There is plenty of wine available, but it’s mid-grade: what you can buy in Chile for about 5 bucks at a grocery store (wine is VERY cheap in Chile, though, so $5 does get you something drinkable). The food is OK, but by no means gourmet — the prosciutto was probably the best thing I ate. Worlds better than a typical USA airport lounge, but a step below a Centurion lounge.

    BTW, Chile is a fantastic tourist destination, but I don’t think Santiago is worth the haul (visiting friends excluded, of course). The best place to visit is the Lake District — which should actually be called the Volcano District. Patagonia is also a world-class destination. Lake District is a bit like our Pacific Northwest. Patagonia is like Alaska.

  5. Greg, nice article, glad you had a good time. This trip was one of two our family picked for 2016 so very helpful. Thanks Madison (Chicago Seminars)

  6. Are there any lockers available to house baggage in that airport? I have a seven hour wait for my flight to the US on Jan 2 and want to do a quick tour of the city.

    • There is left luggage and it’s inexpensive for a day (it’s monitored, not a locker). It’s downstairs (arrivals). Instead of exiting the terminal, turn left and you’ll find it on the way toward the domestic terminal.

  7. What I want to know is: how do you access the dfw centurion lounge when arriving internationally if you do NOT have an onward connection until next day? Can you go through transit line and just not recheck bags (since you do not have them)? Anyone tried this? I have this quandry often when coming in to dfw and want to find a solution.

    • @M – I own a business in Dallas, so go relatively often. I’ve jumped off my early morning flight and grabbed brunch in the Centurion Lounge before going to get my rental car and head to the office. It is my understanding that you need a same-day boarding pass and the appropriate Amex card for admission.

      @Greg – great post. I’m going to mark all of my chargers. Pretty exciting to get such a great suite. We got upgraded to a sweet suite in Beijing, even though I was only Platinum at the time. This is a FUN hobby.

      • @Dee- yes I do this like you, but that’s on domestic arrivals- no problem. If I have checked bags, I just leave them and pick them up later from the locked lockers where they are placed if you don’t claim them immediately. But my question is specifically for INT’L arrivals- how to access the lounge since you MUST go thru customs. The only way would be to go thru the transit line, but can you if you are not taking an onward connecting flight that day?

  8. FYI to readers – that amazing view can be seen from the lounge as well. So, if you don’t have diamond status this may be a hotel where you’d consider buying up to a club room either with points or cash. The food spread is good and there are alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available.

    • Thanks for the reminder. I should have written about the lounge. Even though my room was only 3 floors higher, I thought the view was significantly better from my room, but it was still great from the lounge.

  9. Re: the charger. – ’cause what if it wasn’t actually yours and the real owner showed up later? Agents were trying to make sure it got back to the rightful owner. Sounds like they could have been more pleasant as customer service, but it is a good idea to put some type of mark on your stuff – a sticker or some Wite-Out.

    • I agree that a sticker or something is a good idea. If it wasn’t actually ours and the real owner showed up later, they wouldn’t have been allowed to have it either (with the policy they claimed to have) since it had no unique markings. My point is that if there’s nothing on the device to prove who owns it, they might as well give it away to the first person who asks.

  10. Oh man – I was there Thurs-Monday on the Amex FHR Mistake ($11 / 4nights). We’ve met once or twice before at a smaller gathering. Too bad I didn’t see you in the lounge on 16. I was a little disappointed that my suite upgrade was on the 1st floor, but was ecstatic when I saw that I got a terrace (shrubs, place to sunbathe). Now that I missed out on the presidential suite, I might be a tad disappointed again. Saturday night there was a huge wedding party, they offered to put me in another room… maybe I should have taken them up on that, huh?

  11. So sounds like it’s still possible to get upgraded to a suite when paid on points, even though Hyatt’s Diamond benefits description specifically says “Enjoy the best room available upon arrival, excluding suites” and a suite upgrade is only available for eligible paid nights? Do you know if this a rare case or is it common? Thanks.

    • It *sounds* like Greg paid 16k points (for two rooms), and was not entitled to a suite without booking one for the higher point cost. Still, it sounds like the hotel made that deal because it freed up a room (the place was full) and it made him happy.

    • As ed said, this was a special exception due to the circumstances, not an automatic Diamond room upgrade. I think its pretty rare to get a suite upgrade like this without actually booking a suite

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