Author Archives: Scott Grimmer

Solid Delta Award Sale for Winter Travel

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Delta has an award sale for economy awards booked by November 3, 2014 and flown between December 3, 2014 and February 18, 2015 within the United States, Caribbean, and Americas.

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The discounts are nice, especially to Southern South America (Chile, Argentina, Brazil):

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There are a ton of restrictions:

  • Blackout dates: December 19 through December 24, 2014, December 26, 2014 through January 5, 2015, January 16, 2015, January 19, 2015, February 13, 2015 and February 16, 2015
  • Blackout cities: Caracas, Venezuela; Cancun, Mexico; and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
  • Minimum Stay: Tickets to/from Brazil, Argentina, and Chile require a 7-day minimum stay.

Notably I don’t see a restriction that you must fly Delta metal, so the same deal may be available on awards on Alaska Airlines, AeroMexico, and Aerolineas Argentinas, the three key Delta partners in these regions.

  • What are the best deals?
  • What about stopovers and free one ways?
  • Where can you search the relevant Delta partners?
  • What is the award space picture on Delta flights?
  • Why would I consider flying a Standard (ie not a Saver) award during this sale?

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Super Cheap, Super Luxury Award on Qatar A380

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Qatar Airways has begun flying its A380s from Doha to London and will begin service to Paris and Bangkok soon.

There are a lot of luxury options between the Middle East and Europe, so I want to focus on the route between Doha and Bangkok that begins December 1.

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from gcmap.com

Award space is wide open on the Qatar A380 between Doha and Bangkok for two people in Business Class. Best of all, the award costs only 30,000 American Airlines miles one way!

Business Class passengers have fully their own fully flat beds and access to an onboard lounge that looks like it’s the nicest in the sky.

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Onboard bar for First and Business Class passengers

  • How is Qatar First Class on the A380?
  • How is Qatar Business Class on the A380?
  • What is the award space picture on the plane?
  • How can you book the award space?
  • How can you make Doha to Bangkok part of a larger trip?

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Delta.com No Longer Displaying Alaska and Virgin Australia Award Space

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Delta.com is no longer displaying award space on Alaska Airlines or Virgin Australia. You can search for award space on both airlines on other websites and book it by phone with Delta.

Virgin Australia Business Class

Delta.com is pretty terrible. It shows very few Delta partners, requiring me to search for award space for clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service on airfrance.us, Expert Flyer, or by phone.

Even the partners Delta.com does show usually don’t show up on the calendar of results, so it looks like the month only has Standard and Peak award space when partner space exists that always prices at the Saver level. (What am I talking about? Read this post, and thank me later.)

In the last few days, Delta.com has stopped displaying Virgin Australia and Alaska Airlines award space. This is a big blow for the average member of SkyMiles.

  • Virgin Australia has the best award space of any airline to Australia in Business Class. It is bookable for 160,000 Delta miles roundtrip.
  • Alaska Airlines has solid award space to Hawaii and Mexico (not great uses of SkyMiles) and to West Coast gateway cities for international award flights.

The silver lining of making award space harder to search is that it becomes more plentiful for those of us who know where to search for it. You can join that group right now.

  • Where can you search Alaska Airlines award space?
  • Where can you search Virgin Australia award space?
  • How do you book the award space you find?

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How to Earn and Spend 93,000 American Airlines Miles

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American Airlines and US Airways are currently offering huge sign up bonuses on their co-branded credit cards. While the miles will temporarily go to separate accounts, everyone’s American Airlines and US Airways miles will be combined in early 2015 as part of the airlines’ merger, so that you can earn enough miles for a round-the-world trip just from opening two credit cards.

Getting both cards and meeting their combined minimum spending requirement of $3,001 will earn you 93,000 American Airlines miles when your US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer accounts combine in the second quarter of 2015.

What Can You Do with 93,000 American Airlines Miles?

1. Take a Round-the-World Trip

a. For 87,500 miles, you can take a round-the-world trip with stops in Tokyo, Mumbai, and Paris.

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b. For 95,000 miles ($2k more spending on either card), you can take a trip to Chile, Australia, and back.

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2. Take Your Friend Somewhere

  • 2 roundtrips to Europe (80,000 miles from Oct 15 – May 15 each year)
  • 3 roundtrip to South America (90,000 miles to Peru and north most of the year)
  • almost 2 roundtrips to Japan or Korea (100,000 miles Oct 1 – Apr 30 each year)
  • 2.5 roundtrips to Hawaii (87,500 miles half the year)
  • almost 4 roundtrips to the Caribbean or Alaska (100,000 miles to Alaska year round or Caribbean Sep 7 – Nov 14 each year)

South America is as little as 30k miles roundtrip, Europe 40k roundtrip, Asia 50k roundtrip, Africa and Australia 75k roundtrip, and the Middle East and India 90k roundtrip. For the full chart, see here.

Sunset over Waikiki

3. Treat yourself to the world’s nicest First Class

  • 67,500 miles is enough to fly one way from the United States to anywhere in East Asia in First Class on Cathay Pacific, which is my second best flight ever.
  • 90,000 miles is enough for one way in First Class from the United States to the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, or Maldives in Etihad First Class
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Stretching out in Cathay Pacific First Class

4. Head to the South Pacific

American partners with Fiji Airways, Air Tahiti Nui, and Qantas, so it has the best miles for the South Pacific. American charges only 37,500 miles each way in economy, 62,500 miles each way in business class, and 72,500 miles each way in First Class. (Qantas First Class looks unreal.)

Overwater bungalows in the South Pacific

 

5. Machu Picchu in a Bed

60,000 miles is enough for a roundtrip from the United States to Northern South America in business class. That means you can fly to anywhere in Peru–like Machu Picchu–with both directions in fully flat beds on a 787 Dreamliner on American Airlines-partner LAN Airlines.

I talked more about this award in depth here. The only drawback with this award is that once you experience flying in a fully flat bed, you might not ever want to go back to economy!

American has the biggest route network from the United States to Latin America and partners with LAN and TAM, the biggest airlines in South America, so American has the most and best award space to South America

Wow! Machu Picchu

6. Europe in Business Class

100,000 miles ($7,000 more in spending on either card) is enough for a roundtrip from the United States to Europe in business class. Several American Airlines partners fly to Europe with fully flat beds. I wrote about American’s Los Angeles to London route featuring flat beds in business class here. The newest planes feature an on-board bar in business class, pictured below.

How Exactly Do You Get the 93,000 Miles?

You apply for one American Airlines personal card and one US Airways card.

You make a single purchase on the US Airways card and receive 40,000 bonus miles after your first statement closes. You spend $3,000 in the first 3 months on the American Airlines card and earn 50,000 bonus miles.

The bonus miles plus the spending add up to 53,000 American Airlines miles and 40,000 US Airways miles.

You cannot combine these miles, but…

Your American Airlines and US Airways frequent flyer accounts will be automatically combined in early 2015 as part of the merger between the two airlines. At that point, you’ll have 93,000+ American Airlines miles.

Other Benefits Besides the Sign Up Bonus

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with two Admirals Club airport lounge passes after meeting the minimum spending requirement.

It also comes with my favorite feature by far of any airline credit card. While you’re a cardholder you’ll get a 10% miles rebate on all your American Airlines award redemptions up to 10,000 miles rebated per calendar year.

That means that if you booked a roundtrip award ticket to Tahiti with your American Airlines miles while you were a cardholder for 75k miles, you’d get 7,500 miles back for a total cost of only 67,500 miles roundtrip!

With these cards, you can mentally take a 10% discount on all award prices. Now Europe is only 18k miles each way, a business class bed to Machu Picchu is 27k miles each way, and Cathay Pacific First Class is 60,750 miles each way.

If you redeem the 93,000 miles next year, that’s another 9,300 miles rebated because of this benefit.

The benefit is automatic, no enrollment necessary. Here’s my experience with the rebate.

I value the 10,000 extra miles a year at about $180, so this is a huge ongoing benefit to me and one reason that I hold a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®.

The 10% rebate on awards is in addition to a free checked bag for you and four companions when flying American Airlines, Group 1 boarding to get that overhead bin space, a 25% discount on in-flight purchases, and double miles on American Airlines purchases.

The The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® comes with a free checked bag for you and four companions when flying US Airways, Zone 2 boarding to get that overhead bin space, and double miles on US Airways purchases.

Full Offers Rundown

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and 2 Admirals Club® Passes after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Your first eligible checked bag is free*
  • Group 1 boarding and 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases*
  • Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount every cardmembership year with qualifying purchases and cardmembership renewal*
  • Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back – up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*

Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase and paying $89 annual fee

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee*
  • First checked bag FREE on eligible bags for you and up to four companions on domestic US Airways operated flights
  • One companion certificate good for up to 2 guests to travel with you on a US Airways operated flight at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • Priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flights
  • Redeem miles for award travel on US Airways and American Airlines booked through usairways.com or US Airways Reservations
  • Earn miles on every purchase with 2 miles for every $1 you spend on US Airways and American Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 on purchases everywhere else
  • NEW! Receive a 25% savings on eligible US Airways and American Airlines in-flight purchases
  • Please see terms and conditions for complete details

Application Link: The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®

Recap

You can earn 93,000 American Airlines miles in the next few weeks by:

  1. Applying for the American Airlines and US Airways cards.
  2. Meeting the $3k minimum spending requirement on the American Airlines card and making a purchase on the US Airways card
  3. Waiting until early 2015 for your American Airlines and US Airways miles’ balances to be combined.

Once you have the cards, you can enjoy the 10% rebate on the miles needed for AAdvantage awards up to 10k miles per calendar year and other benefits like a free checked bag and priority boarding on both airlines.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months

The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase and paying $89 annual fee

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Lufthansa First Class Award Space This Spring for Two People

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Lufthansa First Class is one of the nicest ways to travel between the United States and Europe. Plus if you fly out of Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class, you get to access the First Class Terminal, one of the nicest lounges in the world.

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Lufthansa First Class Terminal from Outside

The problem is that for a few years you have usually only been able to book Lufthansa First Class award space up to 15 days before departure with partner airline miles like United miles.

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Inside the Cigar Lounge of the FCT

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule though. Lufthansa is phasing out First Class on its Denver to Frankfurt route in early April 2015. In anticipation of that move, it has released 2+ First Class award seats to partners on many of its flights between now and then in both directions.

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Lufthansa First Class Bed on the 747-8

Unfortunately since February 2014, United has charged a ridiculous 110,000 miles one way in Lufthansa First Class between the United States and Europe. Luckily some Lufthansa partners charge much more reasonable prices to book Lufthansa First Class.

  • Which First Class is on the Denver to Frankfurt route? (It’s awesome!)
  • What is the award space picture?
  • What if you don’t live in Denver or don’t want to visit Frankfurt?
  • Which miles book this space cheapest?

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Something Fishy is Going on with Delta Stopovers

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One Mile at a Time reports that Delta has stealthily eliminated stopovers on awards.

That’s not quite correct, but something very fishy is going on. Here’s how I know it is not true.

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Above is a roundtrip award from Washington DC to Los Angeles. On the outbound, there is a one week stopover in Minneapolis. The award prices at 25,000 miles + $16.80, which is the same miles as it would cost without the stopover in Minneapolis–hence a free stopover. (This is $5.60 extra in taxes than if you didn’t stop in MSP.)

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But he does a larger point that many awards are not pricing with a free stopover when they should.

  • A look at the evidence
  • Delta’s explanation
  • What’s the deal?

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Integration Announcement of AAdvantage and Dividend Miles

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As I predicted five days ago, we got out our American Airlines AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles integration announcement today.

The announcement is fantastic news, honestly much better than I expected.

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As a reminder, the parent companies of the airlines legally merged in December 2013, but the two airlines still have separate operating certificates and loyalty programs.

Now we know that Dividend Miles and AAdvantage will integrate into one program (still called AAdvantage) between April and June 2015. American Airlines hopes to operate under one operating certificate (eliminate the US Airways brand) within six months of that.

The combination of the frequent flyer programs has ramifications for elites to do with status benefits, upgrades, and earning levels. I’ll save those for another post.

This post will deal with the ramifications for those of us who want to earn and  redeem American Airlines and US Airways miles.

  • What will the new award chart be?
  • Will miles be freely convertible before the combination?
  • When will the US Airways card disappear?

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Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard with 50,000 Bonus Miles

This blog contains links to our affiliates. Below are credit card products that we recommend from our advertising partners.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® is currently offering 50,000 bonus miles and two Admirals Club day passes after spending $3,000 on the card in the first 3 months of account opening. This is enough miles for two roundtrips within the mainland United States, Canada, and Alaska or one roundtrip to Europe, South America, or Asia.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 12.47.36 PMI ranked the card #2 on my top ten list of the best cards for free travel this month because of

  • the massive sign up bonus
  • American Airlines’ cheap award chart
  • the fact that cardholders get a 10% rebate on the miles used to book American Airlines award tickets
  • the $95 annual fee being waived the first 12 months

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Beyond the benefits when award booking, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® also makes traveling American Airlines less stressful.

  • Cardholders are entitled to a free checked bag for themselves and up to four companions on the same ticket. That’s up to a $250 value per roundtrip.
  • Cardholders get Group 1 boarding, so they’ll never have to gate check bags after the overhead bin space fills up.
  • Cardholders get a 25% discount on purchases onboard (I recommend the pastrami sandwich!)
  • Cardholders get two Admirals Club passes on completion of the minimum spending requirement. That means free wifi, alcohol, snacks, and access to better agents in case of delayed and cancelled flights.

The American Airlines card is one of the best airline cards, but it is not right for everyone.

  • What types of people should get the American Airlines credit card and what types shouldn’t?
  • What are the best uses of American Airlines miles?
  • What about the American Airlines/US Airways merger?

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China Airlines 777-300ER Business Class Improvement

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China Airlines has just taken delivery of its 777-300ERs. The new plane looks beautiful with a top-of-the-line flat bed business class, a quality premium economy, and economy that offers the chance to combine three seats into one family “couch.”

Note that China Airlines is based in Taiwan and is a member of SkyTeam. Don’t confuse it with Air China, based in Beijing, and a member of Star Alliance.

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China Airlines 777-300ER

The new 777-300ERs will be flying between the United States and Taipei starting in December 2014. The first route will be Los Angeles to Taiwan, followed by San Francisco and New York to Taiwan in 2015.

China Airlines flights are bookable with Delta SkyMiles, and convenient connections are available from Taipei throughout Asia.

  • What does Business Class look like?
  • What does Premium Economy look like?
  • What does Economy look like?
  • How can you book the family couches, billed as an affordable alternative to Business Class?
  • Where can you search and book award space on China Airlines flights?

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My Experience: Cadillac Test Drive for 7,500 Miles

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Saturday I went to a Cadillac dealership in La Quinta, California to test drive a Cadillac to earn 7,500 American Airlines miles.

Unfortunately the deal is now dead as View from the Wing reported (and no, I don’t have any idea whether your scheduled or completed test drive will earn the miles.)

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I’ll post my experience anyway because these test drive promos in which you can earn something like miles or a prepaid gift card are common enough.

  • What was the process?
  • How long did it take?
  • Did I have to take the test drive?

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Giveaway: Pair of United Club Passes that Expire 11/30/14

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Generous reader Bill is donating two United Club passes that expire 11/30/14, about a month from now, to one lucky winner. If you are can use the passes between the 5th and 30th of next month (to account for the delay in sending them), there are two ways to win: a comment or a retweet.

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Amazing Drone Footage of Mexico City Airport

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How this only has 3,000 views is beyond me!

A drone was allowed by Mexico City airport authorities and airline pilots to fly over the airport and film taxis, take offs, and landings from a perspective I’ve never seen before. It’s a fascinating three minutes.

American Airlines US Airways Combined Program Imminent?

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US Airways and American Airlines legally merged in December 2013, but the two airlines maintain separate frequent flyer programs that will be combined at some point.

That’s all we know.

Chatter is heating up on the FlyerTalk thread for speculation about that future combined program that the combined program could be announced “probably in the next 2 weeks or so.” The predicted date for the combination of the two programs is March 1, 2015!

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We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase could disappear in just over four months. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

  • Why do I consider this most recent speculation very reliable?
  • What is the speculation for what the new program looks like?
  • What do I hope the combined program looks like?
  • What is the optimal strategy for the US Airways MasterCard?

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Brand New Flat Bed Business Class Option Between United States and Australia

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Qantas is refurbishing its A330s with “fully flat beds in business class.” Right now the A330s serve the following routes.

  • Sydney-Melbourne
  • Sydney-Brisbane
  • Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane to Perth
  • Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane to Singapore
  • Melbourne/Brisbane to Hong Kong
  • Sydney-Bangkok
  • Sydney-Jakarta
  • Sydney-Manila
  • Sydney-Honolulu
  • Sydney-Shanghai

I have medium hopes for the new beds, which will roll out starting in December 2014. The reason I am not more excited is that the picture accompanying the press release looks to me like an angled lie flat beds, not fully flat beds.

A330-Business-Suite-Fully-Flat-1024x756This jives with my experience in business class on the Qantas A380. I was expecting fully flat, but I got a small and uncomfortable angle.

Still these new beds can be great news for anyone flying between Hawaii and Australia, Asia and Australia, or within Australia.

  • More info about the new beds
  • Which miles to book the new beds
  • The award space picture

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New Dreamliner Flight LAX to Europe with Tons of Award Space

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Update 10/23/14: Commenter Jeremy finds the award space now on aeroplan.com, and I can confirm that the space on these Ethiopian flights is now bookable and is still excellent! (None of the rest of the post has been updated to reflect this information.)

Ethiopian Airlines will begin flying Los Angeles to Dublin to Addis Ababa in June 2015 with a 787 Dreamliner. Ethiopian will have fifth freedom rights, meaning you will be able to fly any single segment of the flight, including Los Angeles to Dublin.

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This is an exciting addition to the Star Alliance’s transatlantic routes, especially if the route has awesome award space, since direct award space from the West Coast to Europe is tough to find. (Solution: route via Canada.)

The flight will be bookable with United miles and any other Star Alliance airline’s miles. Crucially, with United miles, you can connect Los Angeles to Dublin with the rest of Europe by using United’s non-alliance partner Aer Lingus.

Right now, Los Angeles to Dublin is showing 4 economy seats and 2 business class seats in both directions from June 2015 and beyond. But there’s a problem…

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  • What are the flight times?
  • How is Ethiopian Business Class?
  • Where does Aer Lingus fly within Europe?
  • What is the problem with the award space on united.com?

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