Author Archives: Scott Grimmer

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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Get Virgin Australia Status and Miles by Flying Delta Award Ticket?

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I met the author of Don’t Call the Airline (great blog name, right?), a Canadian frequent flyer miles blog, at the Chicago Seminars.

He came up to me and told me about how he had earned 20,000+ Virgin Australia Velocity miles and status by flying a Delta AWARD ticket.

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  • What did DCTA do to “earn” the miles?
  • Is the process repeatable?

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Don’t Pay the $75 Close In Fee on United (Trick!)

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As I led a session at the Chicago Seminars this weekend on “Special Awards,” someone chimed in with an intriguing tip:

There is a simple method to avoid the $75 “close in ticketing fee” on United awards that is triggered when you try to book a ticket within 21 days of departure.

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I tested out the proposed method yesterday, and I have some input on how it works. (The trick does work!)

  • How can you save $75 per ticket on your next last minute United award?
  • What number do you need to call?

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Three Ways to Save Money on Airbnb

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I’ve booked myself several stays on airbnb, a website that lets you rent rooms, apartment, and houses from locals around the world. And using the three tips in this post, I’ve saved over $3,000 on airbnb.

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I prefer airbnb to hotels because it is almost always cheaper, you have more options for neighborhood on airbnb, and apartments have more space and amenities than hotels (like kitchens.)

My brother and I loved our airbnb apartments in Hong Kong and Seoul last month. We averaged about $100 per night to stay in two of the most happening neighborhoods, far away from the sterile locations of the business hotels. Plus we had our own bedrooms, and the use of kitchens.

For people into the miles game, you can redeem Barclaycard Arrival miles for free airbnb stays. My brother knocked $500 off the price of our airbnb stay with his Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®.

  • What three tips have saved me over $3,000 on airbnb?

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My Schedule for the Chicago Seminars

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The Chicago Seminars start today, just outside O’Hare. I got in yesterday morning, and I’ve been putting the final touches on my two presentations.

If you’re around, please say hello!

As a quick PSA: first timers sometimes think these events are a bit clique-y. Those “cliques” you think you see, though, are mainly made up of people who met at this very event or at a previous one, and they are very welcoming. Just say hello. This goes doubly for all the speakers and bloggers, who are uniformly very approachable.

Here’s my schedule for the weekend:

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7,500 Free American Airlines Miles for 10 Min Cadillac Test Drive

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You can get 7,500 American Airlines miles for test driving any new Cadillac, and you might not even have to do the 10 minute test drive.

From the promo page:

Right now, AAdvantage® members can earn 7,500 AAdvantage miles when you test drive any Cadillac* vehicle, including the striking 2015 CTS sedan with available adaptive cruise control and available OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi®**. The available Wi-Fi® hotspot works inside your CTS and up to 50 feet away as long as your vehicle is on, while the 4G LTE allows you to use your laptop or tablet as a mobile office with a reliable connection.

Contact a Cadillac Concierge today at 844-469-2234 to schedule an appointment and participate in this exclusive limited time offer. Please allow 4-6 weeks to receive your AAdvantage miles.

*At participating dealers only.  Must have an AAdvantage account and be 21 years or older with a valid U.S. driver’s license.  Employees of General Motors are not eligible. Retail value: $221.00. Test drive lasts approximately 10 minutes.  Offer valid while supplies last.  Limit one test drive per person.  Allow 4-6 weeks for miles to be awarded after confirmation that test drive has been completed.  Offer is nontransferable, nonnegotiable and not redeemable for cash.

I value 7,500 American Airlines miles at about $133. If the test drive takes “10 minutes” and registering and driving to/from the dealer adds up to an hour total, that’s quite a return on my time.

  • How can you avoid the test drive and high pressured sales pitch and still get the miles?
  • What is this “Retail value: $221″ nonsense? Are you going to get taxes on the miles?
  • Why should you NOT call to sign up for this promotion right now?

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Amazing Off Peak Awards to the Caribbean with AA/US Miles

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You can get from anywhere in the United States to tons of destinations in the Caribbean for 20,000 US Airways miles roundtrip or 25,000 American Airlines miles.

The Caribbean from Google Maps

The Caribbean from Google Maps

Both deals rely on the airlines’ off peak award charts. US Airways’ off peak dates are September 1 – 30. American Airlines’ off peak dates are September 7 – November 14.

Both airlines, as well as Delta and United, normally charge 35,000 miles roundtrip in economy to the Caribbean. During off peak dates, both US Airways and American Airlines charge 25,000 miles. In addition, US Airways offers folks who have a US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® a 5,000 mile discount on all US Airways awards flown exclusively on US Airways planes. US Airways off peak awards have the same requirement, so cardholders get a 5,000 mile discount on all US Airways off peak awards, bringing the all in price to 20,000 miles roundtrip to the Carribean.

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, some time in early 2015. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. That’s enough miles for two roundtrips to the Caribbean during September. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

  • What is an even better deal than off peak awards if you live in Charlotte, Philadelphia, Miami, New York, or Dallas?
  • How do American Airlines and US Airways off peak awards work?

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Virgin Atlantic 35% Transfer Bonus from American Express

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American Express Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin Atlantic miles will come with an automatic 35% transfer bonus from now through November 30, 2014. We last saw a 30% bonus in May 2014.

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This transfer bonus allows you to fly:

  • One way from the US to London for only 13k Membership Rewards and $131.
  • One way from the US to London in Premium Economy for 21k Membership Rewards + $231.
  • Roundtrip from the US to Buenos Aires (or anywhere else in South America) for 34k Membership Rewards and $77.
  • Tons of other great routes for low mileage, taxes, and fees.

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based longhaul carrier best known for its Upper Class cabins and Clubhouse lounges. (Do not confuse it with Virgin America or Virgin Australia, which are all independent airlines.) It is not part of any alliance, so its dozen airline partners span the globe and all the alliances.

  • Should you transfer Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic?
  • What are the key features of Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club?
  • How can you get to Europe for 13k Membership Rewards and to South America roundtrip for 34k Membership Rewards?
  • How can you get Membership Rewards?

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Australia over Christmas and New Years on Miles

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I get a ton of requests at my Award Booking Service for people who want to fly from the United States to Australia or New Zealand over Christmas and New Year’s with their frequent flyer miles. Usually the request is to fly in Business or First Class.

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I want to dissuade you from this goal because it is one of the toughest awards to book.

Last month I wrote “The Easiest Places to Get with Miles.” Miles are awesome and can get you almost anywhere in the world cheaper and more luxuriously than most people realize. But some awards are easier to book than others. Focusing on easier awards, especially at first, can get you some award-ticket “wins” that will hook you and lead to more successful bookings in the future.

Trying to book two people from the United States to Australia in Business Class from December 21 to January 3 is very hard to turn into one of those wins. It will mainly lead to frustration.

  • What is the award space picture to Australia this holiday season with American, US Airways, United, and Delta miles?
  • What is the most likely strategy to find award space?
  • What other times of year does Australia have better award space?

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Top Ten Credit Cards for Travel, October 2014

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There are a lot of reasons to collect miles and points.

  • For free luxury hotel stays and first class flights
  • To travel to more countries than you could otherwise afford
  • To take your family on vacation
  • To visit home for the holidays
  • To earn big rewards for everyday spending

Whatever your reason for being here, there is a rewards card or cards that suit your needs.

Want Bed Head at 35k Feet? There's a Card for That

Want Bed Head at 35k Feet? There’s a Card for That

Since the start of last year, I’ve been to 30 countries, travel that would have been completely impossible without miles and points earned from credit cards. This has been my life thanks to miles:

  • Hiking the Great Wall of China with my brother
  • Straddling the line between North and South Korea
  • Watching dragons dance at the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong
  • Eating more steak than anyone should in Brazil and Argentina
  • Cliff jumping in Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Leading an “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” cheer in Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia
  • Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Eating Thai-hot Thai curry in Thailand at Thai prices
  • Biking in the Lake District of Patagonia in Bariloche, Argentina
  • Spending three days at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
  • Seeing Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Getting some home cooking from my mom who lives 5,000 miles away
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2013 Flights

If you don’t have the money to take your dream trips, the good news is that you don’t need much money. By maximizing the sign up bonuses on rewards cards, anyone with good credit can take a dream trip anywhere in the world.

  • How can you earn rewards for the trips of your dreams?
  • What are the best credit card offers for September 2014?
  • Which of the cards on the list expire in the next few days?

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Alaska Airlines Mile Sale 40% Bonus

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Today (10/14/14) is the last day you can buy up to 56,000 Alaska Airlines miles for as little as 2.11 cents each.

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The sale is structured as a bonus on the normal number of miles you’d receive. The bonus is tiered, so the biggest 40% bonus comes from purchasing 35,000 to 40,000 miles at the normal price of about 2.96 cents each after tax.

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To buy 49,000 miles (35,000 + 14,000 bonus) during this sale costs $1,034.69, which is 2.11 cents per mile.

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I don’t think Alaska miles are worth 2.11 cents each, but they are worth close to that, and if you have a specific redemption in mind, it isn’t hard to get more than 2.11 cents of value per mile.

  • What are the best redemptions for Alaska miles?
  • Does this miles purchase count as airfare or travel spending for category bonuses?

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