Food Review: Virgin Atlantic A330 Atlanta to London

Aboard my Virgin Atlantic flight from Atlanta to London, we sat waiting for everyone to board. Flight attendants made their way around the cabin offering pre-departure drinks for everyone in the business class cabin. I decided to try the campgne that was available. The campagne was middle of the road, nothing spectacular, definately didn't finish drinking it prior to takeoff.

Once in the air, service started for dinner. On this particular flight, I had ordered the VGML meal meaning that it was vegan. I make this warning to vegans out there, while I am currently vegetarian, I was a vegan for year, so I know what to look for when being served food. Many airlines will provide the main course as vegan, but snacks and other parts of the meal may not be as you specified. Making my case for me, the first thing brought over to me was a small bowl of chips (or crisps being that it was a London based airline). The chips were sour cream flavored... definitely not vegan, so keep an eye on what they are serving you. Since I am vegetarian, I tried the chips and wasn't impressed by the flavor, kind of bland.

Next up was the bread basket brought around by the flight attendants. Passengers were able to choose which type of bread they wanted, I decided to try the parmesan diamond, which was pretty good, but it's pretty hard to screw up bread.

Once all the bread was passed out, the meal began with everyone's starter. Since my meal was vegan, my starter was different from everyone else's. My starter consisted of some orange slices, lettuce and a lemon vinaigrette. Really the starter seemed odd, like the catering company just didn't know what to do. Settling on slicing some oranges, they added a vinaigrette... for some reason. The lemon vinaigrette didn't really go well with the oranges, the orange flavor ran over the lemon flavor of the dressing. At no point did I really understand this dish, but it was everything you'd expect from orange slices, they tasted like oranges. 

Following the starter came the main dish. When this dish arrived, I was a little skeptical because it was basically some sliced veggies in a tomato sauce. The dish just looked like little thought had been put into it. Presentation wise, the dish was well plated and the sliced vegetables reminded me of a ratatouille. When I took a bite of this, I was sold. This dish ranks up there amoung the top dishes I've ever been served on a plane, let alone vegan meals served on a plane. Virgin really knocked it out of the park.

The main dish was well seasoned, flavorful and cooked perfectly. Mixed in was a starch like a potato or something similar that gave the meal some weight and made it stick with you longer. I really enjoyed this meal. 

Once it was time for dessert, things were a bit confusing. Having ordered the vegan meal, I expected to get fruit for dessert, seems to be the only thing airlines think is vegan and sweet. Much to my surprise, I was told that they do not carry dessert for the VGML meal option... this seems like quite the oversight for a business class ticket. If paying full price for the ticket, I'm not sure I would have been all too happy with them on this one. 

Since a VGML option wasn't available, I chose to try the cheesecake. While it wasn't in line with the meal I had ordered, the cheesecake was quite good. Most cheesecake that I get is very heavy, but somehow this one didn't feel like that, it was more light and fluffy. Also inside the cake was cherries baked right in. In my opinion, I wish more cheesecake was made like this.

After dessert, we settled down for the remaining flight time to London.

Just before landing, the flight attendants woke me to have breakfast. Before the first meal out of Atlanta, we had filled out a breakfast card, once again no VGML meal was made available for breakfast... not exactly sure what is up with Virgin Atlantic but if I order a special meal, I really want that meal not some of a meal and a complete lack of breakfast. Either way, I tried some muesli for the first time and it was awful, just not my thing I guess, it was bland and tasted roughly like cardboard. 

Overall I found what meals they did offer to be decent. I was a little upset that after requesting a VGML meal option, they only carrier part of meals and missed some entirely. Virgin could stand to improve in this arena, more of their meal options need to be on the level that the dinner main course was.

My Experience - Is Driving Uber Worth It?

I've just started driving for Uber this week and it has quickly answered a few questions for me. Everyone always seems to be trying to determine what Uber pays to someone driving for them full time and if it is worth it. There is lots of back and forth on this issue. My opinion is somewhere in the middle, but it is far from a glowing experience.



My initial idea on driving with Uber was to make a decent amount of money until I can find a full-time job. At the same time I have taken a job that on the surface pays far less than Uber pays at only $10/hr... so why take the $10/hr job?

In order to answer that question, we need to look at how things have gone in my first 3 days driving with Uber. 

Earnings

  • Friday - $53.85
  • Saturday - $76.67
  • Sunday - $51.08

Looking at how much I earned is not the whole story. We also need to look at how long I spent driving. 

  • Friday - 4 hours
  • Saturday - 8 hours
  • Sunday - 3.5 hours

As you can see, how much you make driving for Uber can vary wildly depending on the day. Friday and Sunday I averaged around $15/hr. Saturday I was only able to average about $11/hr. So overall this seems pretty good right? We haven't begun to factor in the costs of driving for Uber, and boy are they extensive.



Taxes

When you drive for Uber, they list you as an independent contractor. Doing things this way is better for Uber and much much worse for the drivers. Being an independent contractor means all of the taxes need to be covered by the driver themselves. I have already made a decent amount from my previous job this year meaning I expect my Federal tax rate to be 25%, add that to South Carolina's incredibly high income tax rate of 7% and we're already looking at 32% of my income allocated to taxes. 

Wait that's still not everything, I am now required to pay Self Employment tax to cover Social Security, Medicare, and everything else under that category at a blistering 15.3%. Those of you keeping track, yes this means that 47.3% of everything I make is taxed almost cutting my earnings in half.

Gas

Aside from taxes, gas purchases are going to massively eat into your earnings. If I worked 8 hours a day, I'd need to fill my car up around 4-5 times a week at $25 per fill-up. In other words, I'm spending $100-$125 per week on gasoline.

Tax Incentives

Many of you may be aware of the ability to write off the mileage on your car. The current Federal mileage rate is $0.54 per mile. This is quite a lot of money to be able to write off. Now this will likely negate many of the taxes you owe to the government, but the write off only applies to your taxes at the end of the year. Until the tax season closes you will need to carry that money in case your taxes don't work out exactly as you plan, meaning that money is unusable until you file taxes.

Conclusion

Uber is the only one making out well in this deal, and even they seem to be struggling to turn a profit these days. Drivers bear all of the burden with taxes, wear on the car, mileage, and gas purchases. If you add in that Uber suggests buying water and candy for riders too, it just becomes unreasonable at some point. 

This is not to mention that you must carry your own health insurance that could easily wipe out a week's worth of earnings.

Keep in mind that I am forced to drive with UberX which has the worst rates out there. I drove a full hour with a passenger yesterday and earned $35. Keep in mind that it was another full hour back to Greenville to get near where there were more passengers for me to start picking up. 

So, should you drive for Uber?

If you need to do this for extra money, it will work for that. If you are considering doing this full time, turn around and run the other way fast! The math is just not in your favor.

American Airlines EQD Changes

American Airlines has completely moved to a revenue based system just like Delta and United, this is not a good thing for consumers, but we must now work within that system. Up until this week Delta had a significant advantage over American Airlines. Each airline requires a minimum spend limit on flights to get elite status. Delta had a way to spend money on their credit card and bypass the spending requirement for flights. Finally this week American Airlines has come out with their plan for Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD), and it's not good.



American Airlines almost completely mimics the Delta EQD requirements. 

  • Gold - $3000
  • Platinum - $6000
  • Platinum Pro - $9000
  • Executive Platinum - $12000

The way American plans to work this is that if you spend $25,000 on an AAdvantage credit card, you get $3000 toward your Elite Qualifying Dollar requirement. On certain credit cards, you can then make additional purchases to $25,000 to gain another $3000 toward your EQD requirement. That is a blistering $50,000 of spend to only make it half way to the Executive Platinum requirement. 

Compare this with Delta where you can spend $25,000 on any Delta Skymiles credit card and that will waive the MQD requirement. The requirements are identical to American Airlines except Diamond Medallion status is $15,000. The beauty here is you need to put half as much spend on your credit cards and receive more than twice the benefit toward qualifying dollars.

Once again, Delta comes out ahead here. I really want to like American Airlines again, but they keep shooting themselves in the foot.

Up to 1600 Free Marriott Points

Marriott is running some promotions for the holiday season. Starting today, if you make your way over to Marriott's promotion page, you can link Marriott to your social media accounts and grab points for doing so. 



Heading over to the Marriott promotion webpage, you'll see the current promotion is running through December 7th, 1 month from now.

As the promotion states, all you need to do is connect your accounts, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to Marriott in order to receive 1,500 free points. What the promotion does not say here is that if you follow Marriott Rewards on Facebook and Twitter through this signup, you'll get another 50 points per follow, for a grand total of 1,600 points.

I do tend to lock down my social media and avoid companies having access, so like me you may be weary to give Marriott access to these accounts. We've seen companies go a little too far with this access in the past and post on user's behalf, usually to the detriment of the company. Luckily, Marriott is almost immediately posting the points to your account, so I was able to see the points added within a few hours, some users even faster. This means you can then go disconnect Marriott from your social media accounts and lock them back out. 

1,600 points is a decent free offer, and they transfer to SPG points at a 3:1 ratio. These 1,600 points would land you a little more than 500 SPG points. Head over to the promotion page to grab your free points