Category Archives: Air Canada

Gold Mine Award Space to Europe for Summer 2015

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United miles are the best to Europe, though the routes with gold mine award space for Summer 2015 might surprise you. For Summer 2014, I wrote Route from the US to Europe via Canada for Better Award Space, and I decided to check back in on some of our old favorite routes to see if they were again gold mines for 2015.

The answer is a resounding yes. For next summer, there are a number of Air Canada routes with award space for two people every day, often with 2 award seats in economy and 2 in business.

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Routing through Canada is actually a shorter trip than connecting in the United States because the direct flights from most of the United States to Canada pass over Canada. According to the Great Circle Mapper, routing through Calgary only adds about 100 miles and Toronto about 300 miles over the direct Los Angeles to London flight.

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Air Canada award space is searchable and bookable on united.com with no fuel surcharges. It is easy to connect to the space form the United States on Air Canada or United flights. Air Canada Business Class varies slightly by aircraft, but always features a fully flat bed at least 6’3″ long and always features at least some rows where all seats have direct aisle access.

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Air Canada Business Class

  • Which routes from Canada to Europe have award space for two passengers every day this summer?
  • How many United miles are required to book from the United States to Europe in economy and Business Class?
  • How can you book these awards (with one trick to make things easier if necessary)?

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Your United, US Airways, and Lufthansa Miles Options to Australia and New Zealand for the Next Year

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I wanted to take a look at the options to use Star Alliance miles to Australia and New Zealand during their next summer (December 2013 to March 2014.) I went overboard though and looked up the options for the next 11 months on the five direct Star Alliance routes from North America to the Antipodes:

  • Los Angeles to Sydney* (United, three-cabin 747)
  • San Francisco to Sydney* (United, three-cabin 747)
  • Vancouver to Sydney (Air Canada, two-cabin 777)
  • Los Angeles to Auckland (Air New Zealand, two-cabin 777)
  • San Francisco to Auckland (Air New Zealand, two-cabin 777)

*Continuing Service to Melbourne

What’s the award space picture?

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Forum Buzz: $734 Swiss First Class and United Miles for 1.4 cents

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The images in this post are showing up smaller than I’d like. I can’t solve it, but if you just click on them, they’ll go full screen.

Incredible Sub-$800 First Class Fare from Myanmar

Both FlyerTalk and MilePoint are absolutely buzzing about a Star Alliance premium cabin mistake fare departing from Yangon, Myanmar and ending in Montreal, Canada.

The trip routes through Tokyo, Zurich, and New York, and all legs are in premium cabins on great carriers such as Swiss and All Nippon Airways. This fare is tricky to book, so make sure to follow the step-by-step instructions below.

The key to finding the deal is locking in the first leg, All Nippon Airways Flight #914 from Yangon, Myanmar to Tokyo-Narita. ANA Flight #914 departs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

You should begin any booking with those dates. As an example, I began searching for this fare by departing on Wednesday, July 31st, 2013.

Log on to Travelocity and choose a multi-city search. It appears that while sites such as Orbitz will price the trip correctly, it is only bookable on Travelocity.

This will take you to the multi-city booking page. From there you will need to enter the cities and departures in a very particular way to get this fare to price correctly.

Study the above picture carefully. You will need to plug in each city pair separately. You will be traveling from RGN-NRT, NRT-ZRH, ZRH-JFK, and JFK-YUL.

As I mentioned before, the RGN-NRT leg must depart on a Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday. The NRT-ZRH leg must depart one day after the first leg. The final two legs must depart two days after the first leg. Also remember to select “Business” as your preferred cabin.

So, with my first leg leaving on Wednesday, July 31st, my second leg must depart on Thursday, August 1st. And my last two legs must depart on Friday, August 2nd. Once you have input everything, hit “Search Flights” to check for this great fare.

If there is availability for the days you entered, you will immediately see the deeply discounted All Nippon Airways flight. The entire itinerary should be pricing below $800. If it doesn’t, you will need to experiment with dates back at the multi-city screen.

If you are seeing a fare in the range of $730, then there is bookable space! Select that low fare to continue booking.

The second leg, from Tokyo to Zurich, will appear bookable in Swiss First Class. Swiss has an incredible first class product, so this represents an astronomical savings over the “sticker price” and a unique opportunity to fly a product that is near impossible to book with miles. Select the lowest fare to continue.

The third leg from Zurich to New York-JFK will present several options. As you can see above, you can choose between Delta Airlines business class or Swiss Airways first class. I would certainly pay the extra $11 and bump up to the Swiss first class seat! Select the flight that works best for you and continue.

The final leg from New York to Montreal will be on Air Canada and most likely include a connection. Again, choose the schedule that works best for you and continue to the final booking page.

If all went well in the flight selection, you should see a screen similar to the one below.

Again, these fares could be pulled at any moment, so you will need to act fast.  Follow the instructions, and you should have no troubles. The real question, though, is how you are getting to Myanmar to start your incredible trip? Miles, perhaps?

Here’s Yangon Airport’s wikipedia page, which shows it is served by several major carriers. Getting there with Star Alliance or SkyTeam miles wouldn’t be too tough.

And getting home from Montreal should cost you 12,500 miles or fewer if you live in the US.

It is also worth noting that Myanmar requires a visa to travel into the country, so you will need to secure such documentation before starting your business and first class journey.

I don’t always mention visa requirements here. Before booking any trips for myself, I head to travel.state.gov and read the country-specific info to learn about visa requirements and any other pertinent info.

United Miles for less than 1.4 cents

For a limited time, the online shopping portal MyPoints is offering 150 points per dollar on all purchases made at the OpenSky website. The promotion is capped at $500 in OpenSky purchases, so with this you can get up to 75,000 MyPoints.

Why are MyPoints so valuable? MyPoints can be exchanged for all sorts of travel rewards, including United Miles. 10,100 MyPoints can be converted into 5,000 United miles. With this promotion, every $68 in OpenSky purchases will net you the MyPoints you need to convert to 5,000 United miles. Essentially, you are purchasing United miles for a little under 1.4 cents/mile.

As you can see on my Mile Value Leaderboard, I value United Miles at 1.81 cents per mile.  Through this promotion, you would be receiving a considerable discount on the miles along with whatever value you place on your OpenSky purchases.

The wording at the bottom of the promotion is a bit odd and makes the deal seem like it is for OpenSky points, not MyPoints. However, those posting over on the thread at Slickdeals seem confident that the promotion awards MyPoints.

As you can see from the highlighted portions of the promo, all purchases at OpenSky must be made through the MyPoints shopping portal. This promotion runs until September 30th, and MyPoints will be credited within 30 days after purchasing items at OpenSky. As mentioned earlier, this offer is also capped at $500 per household.

Keep in mind that getting credit for purchases made through a shopping portal is not always a guarantee. It is best to take screen shots of all your steps and save your order confirmation, so that you will have proof of purchases in case your bonus points do not post properly.

To take advantage of this promotion, you will first need to log onto MyPoints and create a user profile. Once your MyPoints profile is created, you will need to verify your email address and log back into the site. Once there, you should see a large banner promoting the OpenSky deal. Click on it to gain access to the OpenSky web site.

Click on the OpenSky advertisement, and it should take you to the promotional detail page that was featured above. Click “Continue” to access OpenSky’s website.

After clicking “Continue,” you will be taken to OpenSky’s website. You will need to click “Join With Email” and create an OpenSky log-in with a first name, valid email, and password.

After filling in the form, click “Enter Now” to be taken directly to the OpenSky website.

At this point, you will need to make your OpenSky purchases in order to receive the desired MyPoints bonus points. Again, every $68 in OpenSky purchases equates to 5,000 United Miles. Unfortunately there do not appear to be many inexpensive or useful items.

Once you go through the OpenSky site and make your purchases, be vigilant in checking your MyPoints balance to ensure the points post properly. If not, you’ll need your screen shots, order confirmations, and email receipts as evidence.

Recap

Mistake fares like this sub-$800 flight from Myanmar to Montreal, Canada don’t come around very often. The fact that you are able to sample first class on Swiss Airways makes it an even sweeter proposition. Play around with dates that work for you and book quickly.

The online shopping portal MyPoints is awarding 150 MyPoints for every dollar spent at OpenSky. You can convert MyPoints into United miles at a rate that makes this promotion the equivalent of buying United miles at 1.38 cents each.

This is a solid deal on such a valuable currency as United miles, especially if you can get any value at all from the things you purchase. Just be sure to take screen shots in case the points don’t post properly.

Forum Buzz: End of Aeroplan, Hilton Points, and More

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Update: Oops, the normal Hilton card gives only Silver status. Thanks for the correction.

Here are some of the day’s hot topics being discussed on the message boards at FlyerTalk and milepoint.

50,000-60,000 HHonors Point Sign up Bonuses with American Express HHonors cards

A poster in this FlyerTalk thread has come across big-number sign up bonuses for the two different American Express Hilton credit cards. The standard Hilton American Express comes with no annual fee and a 50,000 point bonus after spending $750 in the first three months of card membership.

This is a low minimum spend given current trends, and the card also comes with complimentary Hilton Silver status for one year. Having elite status with Hilton allows access to the special GLON awards, which are discounted award bookings for all Hilton elites on stays of four nights or longer.

This card also gives access to AXON awards, which are available only to those with a Hilton co-branded American Express.

AXON awards are discounted stays of exactly four nights or multiples of four nights on category 5, 6, and 7 hotels. They must be booked by calling 800-920-5649. I made sense of this alphabet soup of discounted Hilton awards in my Anatomy of an Award post about my upcoming Hilton stay in Sydney. See Anatomy of an Award: Hilton AXON Award for Four Nights at the Sydney Hilton.

The other, very similar, AMEX Hilton card is the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass card. It has 40,000 point bonus after first purchase and 20,000 additional points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership.

With a $75 annual fee (not waived first year), the Surpass card also comes with Hilton Gold status for the first year and access to all Priority Pass lounges for $27/visit. The list of Priority Pass lounges can be found here, and also includes access to Alaska Airlines board rooms.

Lounge access is great, but paying $27/visit for the privilege makes this benefit nothing more than a throw in. You can get free lounge access with the American Express Platinum Card or by booking an international premium class award.

Both cards feature spending bonuses in several categories. The Surpass card gives 9X points for every dollar spent at Hilton family hotels, making it a great card for travelers with heavy Hilton spend. The Surpass also offers 6X points when used on gas, groceries, and cable, internet, wireless, and satellite TV purchases.

The standard Hilton card gives 6X points for spending at Hilton hotels and the same 6X bonus on gas, groceries, and internet, phone, and wireless providers. All other eligible spending on both cards earns 3 HHonors points per dollar.

Despite the big point bonuses, the best way to get Hilton points is…neither of these cards.

Both Hawaiian Miles and Virgin Atlantic miles transfer at a 1 mile to 2 Hilton points ratio, and I’ve described both processes in other posts. See Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to Hilton Points and Transferring Hawaiian Miles to Hilton points.

Though both Hilton cards offer access to the potentially useful AXON and GLON awards, don’t be fooled by the large sign up bonuses! I estimate the value of a HHonor point at 0.4 cents. HHonors points are easy to acquire, and rooms at premium Hilton branded properties require a large amount of points per night–50k for Category 7.

Take a look at my post on the two ways to calculate and compare credit card sign up bonuses. By using my 0.4 cents, valuation, I calculate the absolute value of the standard Hilton card and Surpass card at $200 and $165, respectively.

A brief glance at my Best Current Credit Card Offers reveals that these two Hilton cards don’t even come close to cracking the list. The sub-$400 value pales in comparison to the other cards, including the Bank of Hawaii card which offers 35,000 Hawaiian miles–miles that can be converted into 70,000 HHonors points!

I would certainly favor the Bank of America cards over either Hilton card, especially if you are in need of HHonors points quickly.  As always, don’t be fooled by big sign up bonuses until you crunch the numbers to see if they stack up with other cards on the market.

If you’re really in the market for Hilton points, it is worth noting that these application links will expire on October 31st.

Air Canada announces  changes to its elite program, rebranding

There has been a lot of discussion on the Air Canada forum about recent changes to their elite program.

Rebranded as Air Canada Altitude, the program will introduce two new elite tiers as well as a host of other changes.  One of the adjustments getting the most buzz is the loss of Maple Leaf lounge access for 35K flyers located in international zones (e.g. London Heathrow and Paris).

The number of eUpgrade credits needed will also decrease on flights under 500 miles.  The post notes that the number of eUpgrade credits needed for flights of 11,000 miles or more will increase, though the exact number has not yet been specified.

All changes will begin with the 2013 benefit year beginning on March 1, 2013.  More details about the upcoming changes can be found at Air Canada’s Altitude website here.

Southwest Flight Attendants Approve Over Water Flights, Hawaii Next?

Speculation about whether Southwest will start flights to Hawaii is of special interest to me, since most of my family lives there, so I’ve been following with interest any buzz related to Southwest entering the market.

The downward pressure Southwest’s entry would put on fares, the ability to check a golf bag for free, and the possible ability to go to Hawaii for 19,200 points roundtrip all have me intrigued.

Via this Flyertalk thread, Southwest announced on Friday that their flight attendants have approved contract language permitting the Dallas-based carrier to launch over water flights.

AirTran, Southwest’s recent purchase, already serves some international destinations in the Caribbean. However, this decision is seen as paving the way for Southwest to begin routing to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and other markets not currently served by either Southwest or AirTran.

I will definitely be keeping an eye on this story for personal and blogging reasons, and I’ll be ready to add Southwest to my list of the Cheapest Ways to Get to Hawaii should it announce service.

I’ve been seeing great fares to Hawaii all year–I jumped on a $360 fare from LAX last month for December–possibly because of increased competition from this year’s new entrant–Allegiant Air. Southwest’s entry could only help sun, sand, golf, plate lunch, and Pidgin lovers further.

Recap

Don’t get the Hilton cards unless you are desperate for Hilton points and already have the Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Cards. 50k points doesn’t equal 50k points doesn’t equal 50k points. HHonors points are among the least valuable currency around.

Aeroplan is rebranding. There are positive and negative changes, so whether it benefits you depends on your circumstances.

Southwest is inching closer and closer to Hawaii. That’s good news for everyone except the legacy carriers!