...constantly searching to find the best travel deals and places to visit. A never-ending quest for adventure!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New San Diego route on American!

I've been a bit behind in posts this week, as I've been attending the CSUN conference downtown at the Hyatt.

But I wanted to highlight this story that crossed the wire earlier - American is adding a new nonstop route from San Diego, and now flies between all of its hubs to SAN.  From the release:

This flight will be operated with a Boeing 737-800 aircraft with 150 seats.  With the addition of this route, American and American Eagle will now serve San Diego from each of its five hubs, with a combined total of 25 daily flights.

The schedule for the new service between Miami and San Diego will be as follows:

Flight #
San Diego
6:50 PM
8:55 PM
San Diego
9:45 PM
5:40 AM
 next day

I like having more options of getting to the east coast, and this is another great option for connections on American from San Diego.  I don't forsee myself flying this route too often, but I'm happy to know its there for pricing purposes. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

United GPU success!

One of the perks of United's 1K status is the ability to acquire and use Global Premier Upgrades (GPU's).  These upgrades are different from the complimentary upgrades available when flying domestically, allowing you to upgrade international itineraries to the next cabin of service. 

Unfortunately, United does restrict the upgrades to certain ticket types (classes). From United's website:

Fare class structure for Global Premier Upgrades, in priority order, is: J, C, D, Z, P (for upgrades from United Business to United First® or United BusinessFirst to United Global FirstSM on three-cabin aircraft) and Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G, N (for upgrades from United Economy Plus® to the next class of service on all aircraft). Note that on some flights, Global Premier Upgrades are not available for fare classes Z, P, S, T, L, K, G and N.

In other words, economy tickets should be booked in Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, or W fare classes in order to make most upgrades work.

I've been planning to take my dad on a surprise trip for his 60th birthday this year (his first overseas), and as luck would have it, I was able to secure a W ticket for myself for the entire journey.  When I logged in to use the GPU's, I noticed that all but one flight had space available - so I clicked apply and said a prayer.  Happily, all of them went through!  We will be able to sit together the entire trip in Business class (also his first time), and I'm excited about trying United's business class product.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What more could you ask for...

...then a game night and Dominion!

Our Qatar connection is still going strong...and now we've introduced games to the fun.  I need to find me a copy of Prosperity...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Major Hilton Award Devaluation

I was quite surprised to see an email this morning from Hilton, outlining changes to its award program. 

Here are the particulars:
Reward Categories – We will be expanding to ten hotel reward categories to account for all of the new hotels and resorts that have opened in the past few years. With 3,900 hotels and resorts in 90 countries you are sure to find the perfect place for your next reward stay. 

Seasonal Hotel Reward Pricing – For most of our hotels and resorts, we will introduce seasonal pricing for reward stays. The amount of points needed for a Standard Room Reward and a Points & Money Reward will vary during certain times of the year. 

5th Night Free – Now members with Silver, Gold or Diamond elite status will get a free night* when they book a Standard Room Reward stay of five or more consecutive nights.

Unfortunately in some cases, the points to redeem go way up.  Top level properties in some cases now require an additional 90% in points to redeem. A property like the Hilton Chicago Airport could cost 10,000 more points per stay!

You can find a numbers breakdown here.

Overall, unless Hilton changes some things back, I'll probably not be staying with them anytime soon (or trying to accumulate major points with them).  This was definitely not a customer-enhanced decision, and the additional carrot of a 5th night free is a bit insulting.  Hilton, you need to do better!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Exec Plat Status Challenge complete!

A few months ago, I called American Airlines with the hope of getting a status challenge to their top tier flyer status (Executive Platinum).  I had a few trips lined up (including my brother's wedding), and figured I'd at least ask to see what the offer would be.  Most have had a variety of options when contacting AA to ask for a challenge, so I was prepared for the worst (meaning some huge amount of miles to have to fly).  I was able to ask for the top tier challenge due to my 1K status on United.

But...I was pleasantly surprised when I was offered a challenge of 25,000 miles in 3.5 months.  That didn't seem too outrageous to me.

And...I'm happy to report that I've successfully met the challenge!

If you're not familiar, Executive Platinum status on American has a whole host of benefits:

- 100% elite mileage bonus
- 8 systemwide upgrades (which can be used to upgrade from any fare in coach to the next cabin)
- Unlimited complimentary domestic upgrades
- Waived ticketing and service fees (including for award tickets)
- Complimentary food and drink in coach

Can't wait to use the upgrades - especially for overseas travel!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's official: AA and US Airways tie the knot

In what was highly anticipated and speculated on for months, today they made it official:  American Airlines and US Airways will merge.

You can read more about the story here.

It's anyone guess how everything will play out, although I find it ambitious that they want to close it in the 3rd quarter of this year.

If I were you and you haven't already, you might want to get in on the US Airways card through Barclays - one link has already expired, and I can only find one remaining for a lesser offer.  This would potentially give you some miles to "merge" when everything is figured out with the frequent flyer programs.

You can reach it at this link.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

British Airways Club World Sale: $2816 r/t!

I just received notification of a new British Airways promotion (not sure if it's targeted) that lists seats in Club World (their version of Business Class) for only $2816 round trip.  This price is noted as being from New York to London, but other cities are also available.

Here's the headline:  Shake off the winter with great deals on Club World (Business Class) fares to the UK and selected European destinations. Sale fares are available from all 20 US cities British Airways flies to from.
The sale ends midnight February 18 and is for travel March 22 through April 5, 2013.

Other cities include Milan, Rome, Vienna, and Madrid.

New York isn't always my favorite place to fly through, but choosing another east coast city like Boston keeps the price reasonable:

Considering these tickets are usually in the $6000+ range, it's a fairly good option (if you can stomach paying the taxes).

My new card is here!

Very happy to report that my new American Express Premier Rewards Gold card has arrived!  (next day service, I might add).

Here are the spend particulars (must do $2000 in 3 months):

Earn 3x points on airfare
Earn 2x points on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations
Earn 2x points at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets
Earn 1x points on other purchases.

Very doable!  I'm looking forward to using Membership Rewards points as a way to top off my other accounts for special travel.  Not only that, I now have access to Singapore and ANA for awards!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Best airlines are in the Middle East?

I promise I'm not biased at all with the heading of this post, given my research in Qatar and the fact I've taken a few trips to that area of the world...believe what you will.

A recent article discussed the expanding role that Middle Eastern airlines are having on flyers, with increased flight frequency and overall service.  New planes, new flight attendants, new hubs...what's not to like?

I personally have always found flying on a foreign carrier to be a much more enriching experience - and not just because you have easier access to certain amenities in the beverage department.  The flight attendants always seem to be more courteous, the seats better with more recline, and less cancellations/changes.  My favorites include Qatar Airways and British Airways, with Swiss coming in a close second. 

I will be curious to see how these companies expand service into the US, and whether or not flyers will respond by ditching the legacy US airlines.  That's the glory of Alliances, in my book - why not try something different and still get the same credit to your frequent flyer account?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Next churn: AE Gold

It's coming up to that time in the year where I start to evaluate all of my credit cards and whether or not I should keep them.  This typically occurs when most of my card anniversaries occur and the possibility of annual fees are levied.  Often times you can avoid the annual fee by calling up the number on the card and explaining to the agent that you're investigating your options and credit, and see what offers they might have available to help you avoid the fee.  Sometimes this works, sometimes not, but there's no harm in asking.

Before I would cancel any card, though, I'd have a strategy in place to have another card ready to take the place of the one I'd want to close (so my credit doesn't change too much).  Cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred I'll probably never close, since the points earned are so valuable.

My first card churn for 2013 though is the American Express Gold card, which also will open up the Membership Rewards arena for me:

While not as good as Ultimate Rewards through Chase, Membership Rewards has many more airline transfer options (and earns triple points when buying airfare).  Here are the card highlights:

  • Earn More: earn 25K Membership Rewards® points when you spend $2K during your first three months of Card membership; earn 15K points when you spend $30,000 within one calendar year
  • Earn Fast: Earn triple points on airfare, double points on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations, double points at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets and single points on other purchases
  • Points are earned only on eligible purchases
  • Redeem with Flexibility: use points for gift cards for dining, entertainment, and to shop over 300 of some of your favorite brands
  • Access to Protections: Baggage Insurance Plan* when you travel, and shop with confidence with Extended Warranty* and Return Protection.*Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175
And happily, I was instantly approved!  They also will be shipping it to me expedited mail in 1-3 days, so another bonus as well.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sapphire Preferred 7% bonus!

Has it already been a year?

One of the neat perks of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is the annual 7% points bonus you receive.  And what makes it neat is that it is for all points earned, including the special bonus you get when you sign up (usually 40,000). 

So...if you put most of your spend on the card each year, you'll have a really nice present to look forward to at your card anniversary.

And it just so happens that my card anniversary is this month, and my points just posted!

If you don't already have the card, I suggest you get it - it's still one of the best out there for earning.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

AA/US Airways merger soon?

Per the USA Today, it sounds as though a merger between American Airlines and US Airways may be close at hand - possibly even next week.

You can find the full story here.

Personally, I'm mixed about this.  It's definitely plausible that American has to do something to stop losing money.  However, US Airways has its own issues.  It still has not resolved contracts with its pilots and flight attendants since its merger with America West.  It's management team hasn't always been positive on new or updated flight options for travelers.  And it's frequent flyer program is awful - you can't redeem awards for Star Alliance partners, and for those you can, you have to call. There's no telling what a merger will do to American's AAdvantage program, but most people are guessing that it will be devalued and longtime perks will go away (such as the 8 free systemwide upgrades to any ticket). 

There's also little doubt in my mind that a combined airline will stay in the One World Alliance, meaning one less Star Alliance partner with United. 

Mergers take a long time - maybe even a year or two - so major changes wouldn't happen for a while. But I'm skeptical of what will remain from the AAdvantage program once its done. 

Better use those systemwide upgrades while you can.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hyatt Spring 2013 promo

Rumor has it that Hyatt will soon be unveiling a spring promotion for 2013 - this has recently been a hot topic of conversation among many of the points blogs since we're already into February and most chains (including Hilton) already have programs rolled out or on the way.

Some specifics of the deal:

- Valid for stays March 1 - May 31, 2013
- 3,000 bonus points for every third night at any Hyatt, up to a maximum of 45,000 bonus points 
- If you have the Hyatt credit card, you can earn an additional 20% bonus – up to 9,000 points

Registration opens February 15th and links will be sent out at that time.

I'm not terribly excited about this promo - the one in the last year that gave a free night after every 3rd stay is definitely missed. But an opportunity to score some bonus points along the way isn't all bad. If you already have some planned travel coming up, this may be a way to get your account topped off.

Monday, February 4, 2013

American/Alaska expand partnership

Per this news release today, American and Alaska are continuing to expand their partnership on mileage earning flights.

It seems as though the new codesharing routes will really help to expand the reach of options for frequent flyers and give some new mileage earning opportunities.

Of particular note from the release concerning San Diego:
  • The codeshare expansion will allow American to place its code on 22 new Alaska routes that provide Bay Area travelers with access to Hawaii and will increase the options for transcontinental flights for travelers in the Pacific Northwest and San Diego to Boston, Washington, D.C. and Orlando, Fla

Friday, February 1, 2013

want to go where Packers fans are?

I travel quite a bit, and during football season I often find myself trying to find where the nearest Packer bar and game will be seen.  Usually I can find this out on the web somewhere, but a recent article on deadspin highlighted where the highest concentrations of fans are located, based on their "likes" on Facebook.

I'll preface this by saying I don't believe a like should imply fandom, since some people are supportive because a team is just in their town.  But that being said, the map is pretty interested - look at where all those Packer fans are located in Idaho and Alaska!