Category Archives: Star Alliance

US Airways to Have Oneworld and Star Alliance Partners Starting March 31, How to Take Advantage

American Airlines and US Airways have merged, and US Airways is joining the oneworld alliance on March 31, 2014 as part of the integration of the carriers into the new American Airlines.

Yesterday the Australian Business Traveler reported that when US Airways joins oneworld, it will not be ending all of its relationships with its former Star Alliance partners. US Airways miles will still be redeemable for award seats on the following Star Alliance carriers:

  • Aegean
  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand
  • Avianca
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • TAM
  • TAP
  • Turkish Airways

This is fantastic news and will give people with US Airways Dividend Miles the best combination of partners of any frequent flyer program. But questions remain.

Will the current US Airways award chart still be in effect on 3/31/14? Will the current US Airways routing rules still be in effect on 3/31/14? Will you be able to book one award with US Airways miles that combines oneworld and Star Alliance partner?

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Booking Awards While Avoiding Fuel Surcharges with Aeroplan Miles to Central/South America

Part I Europe
Part II Asia
Part III Africa/Middle East
Part IV Australia/New Zealand
Part V Central/South America

Air Canada Aeroplan miles are roughly line with other award charts for travel to Central and South America, though a bit better value than United miles for awards to Southern South America (e.g. Brazil and Argentina).

Air Canada charges 60,000 miles (30k oneway) for roundtrip business class awards to Central & Northern South America and 85,000 miles (42.5k oneway) for first class awards. Southern South America awards are 95,000 miles (47.5k oneway) in business and 135,000 miles in first class.

Aeroplan Award Pricing

Aeroplan Roundtrip Pricing ex-US

The Central and South American regions are broken down by Air Canada as follows:

Aeroplan Regions

Many European and Asian Star Alliance carriers must be avoided when booking Aeroplan awards, as their pricey fuel surcharges eat up any potential savings.

Luckily, there are relatively few instances of fuel surcharges when booking Aeroplan awards to Central and South America.

What are the Star Alliance carriers to avoid when booking with Aeroplan miles? Which are the best to get you to Central and South America? Are there any fifth-freedom flights you can take advantage of?

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LifeMiles Visa Signature Offers 40,000 Mile Signup Bonus

I received a great TACA/Avianca LifeMiles credit card offer in my email inbox late last week. The LifeMiles Visa Signature card is offering 40,000 LifeMiles after spending $3k in the first 90 days.

Credit Card

20k miles are awarded after making your first purchase and you receive an additional 20k miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. The actual email I received is pasted below.

LifeMiles CC Offer

Why is this such a good credit card offer? Should you take advantage? Why are LifeMiles so valuable, especially in today’s climate of devaluations? Are there any pitfalls associated with the LifeMiles program?

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Booking Awards While Avoiding Fuel Surcharges with Aeroplan Miles to Australia/New Zealand

Part I Europe
Part II Asia
Part III Africa/Middle East
Part IV Australia/New Zealand
Part V Central/South America

Air Canada Aeroplan miles were once a solid value for business class travel between the continental US/Canada and Oceania. They charged 135k/190k for roundtrip business/first class award seats prior to their infamous summer 2013 devaluation.

After United’s recent devaluation and Delta’s double devaluation, Air Canada Aeroplan miles are roughly equivalent to competitors for Oceanic travel.

US Airways is the absolute best bargain for travel to Oceania (110k miles roundtrip in business, 140k in first), and you can still use Dividend Miles for awards on Star Alliance carriers until March 30th.

American’s chart is also a solid value, as it only takes 62.5k/72.5k AAdvantage miles to reach the South Pacific one way in business/first class. I was luckily able to snag a rare first class seat on Qantas last month. Scott had issues with his seat in Qantas business class, though.

Delta’s 160k business class seats on partner Virgin Australia are expensive, but the amount of available seats to Australia is sometimes jaw-dropping.

See a Comparison Table of United, US Airways, Delta, and American Airlines Award Charts.

Air Canada now charges 160,000 Aeroplan miles roundtrip (80k oneway) for travel to the South Pacific region comprised of the countries below.

Oceanic Region

 

Aeroplan Oceania Award Chart

United miles are a better value for travel to Australia on United metal. A oneway award only costs 70k miles. First class on United should also be booked with United miles (80k oneway). Scott flew United’s GlobalFirst product from Los Angeles to Sydney and enjoyed the experience.

First class on Star Alliance partners is a better value with Aeroplan miles (110k vs. 130k), but there aren’t many bookable first class awards that fit the criteria.

As mentioned in previous posts, not all Star Alliance carriers are the same when redeeming Aeroplan miles. Air Canada collects fuel surcharges on its own flights and certain partners like Thai. Luckily, the few Star Alliance airlines that service Oceania don’t incur these fuel surcharges.

What are the Star Alliance carriers to avoid when booking with Aeroplan miles? Which are the best to get you to Australia and New Zealand? Is routing via Asia possible (or even worth it)?

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Booking Awards While Avoiding Fuel Surcharges with Aeroplan Miles to Africa/Middle East

Part I Europe
Part II Asia
Part III Africa/Middle East
Part IV Australia/New Zealand
Part V Central/South America

After Aeroplan’s summer 2013 devaluation, its award chart for travel to Africa and the Middle East (especially) became expensive relative to other carriers.

Aeroplan Roundtrip Award Chart from US/Canada

Aeroplan Roundtrip Award Chart from US/Canada

Sadly, United’s recent devaluation and Delta’s double devaluation brought Air Canada Aeroplan miles in line with the likes of United and Delta.

American’s chart is decently priced for business class travel to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent. In fact, I used 67.5k AAdvantage miles for my one way award from Washington D.C. to the Maldives in business class on Etihad. Their African award chart nearly mirrors Air Canada’s.

US Airways has by far the best pricing for premium cabin travel to Africa (110k miles roundtrip in business, 150k in first), and you can still use Dividend Miles for awards on Star Alliance carriers until March 30th.

See a Comparison Table of United, US Airways, Delta, and American Airlines Award Charts.

Air Canada charges 165,000 Aeroplan miles roundtrip (82.5k oneway) for travel to the Middle East and North Africa comprised of the countries below.

Middle East & North Africa

82,500 miles is slightly more expensive than United’s inflated Star Alliance partner award chart. United charges 70k miles oneway for awards flying United’s own BusinessFirst product and 80k miles on Star Alliance partners.

Air Canada’s second African award chart (East/West/South Africa) encompasses the rest of the continent. An Aeroplan business class award costs 150,000 miles (75k oneway) to the below countries.

EastWestSouthAfrica

This is a better region to use Aeroplan miles over United miles, as Aeroplan business class awards will cost 5k less miles (75k oneway) than using United’s Star Alliance award chart (80k oneway).

As mentioned in previous posts, not all Star Alliance carriers are the same when redeeming Aeroplan miles. Air Canada assesses fuel surcharges on their own flights and certain partners. Luckily, most Star Alliance airlines in the African region don’t incur these fuel surcharges.

What are the Star Alliance carriers to avoid when booking with Aeroplan miles? Which are the best to get you to Africa and the Middle East? Are there any fifth-freedom flights you can take advantage of?

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Booking Awards While Avoiding Fuel Surcharges with Aeroplan Miles to Asia

Part I Europe
Part II Asia
Part III Africa/Middle East
Part IV Australia/New Zealand
Part V Central/South America

Europe is an absolute award chart bargain compared to Aeroplan’s mileage requirement for Asian travel. After Aeroplan’s summer 2013 devaluation, its award chart for travel to Asia became very expensive relative to other carriers.

Sadly, United’s recent devaluation and Delta’s unprecedented double devaluation brought Air Canada Aeroplan miles in line with the likes of United and Delta. American and US Airways have by far the best pricing for premium cabin travel to Asia, but this post is meant for those lacking those two mileage currencies.

See a Comparison Table of United, US Airways, Delta, and American Airlines Award Charts.

Air Canada charges 150,000 Aeroplan miles roundtrip (75k oneway) for travel to Asia Zone 1 which represents quite a few countries, including Thailand and Vietnam that are normally grouped in a more expensive category with other frequent flyer programs.

Asia Zone 1

Seventy five thousand miles is comparable to United’s new inflated award chart. United charges 70k miles roundtrip for awards flying United’s own BusinessFirst product and 80k miles on Star Alliance partners. Delta begins charging 140k SkyMiles for business class awards to Asia for flights starting June 1, 2014.

Asia Zone 2 encompasses the rest of the continent. An Aeroplan award costs 155,000 miles (77.5k oneway) to the below countries.

Asia Zone 2

There are certain Star Alliance carriers that Air Canada assesses dreaded fuel surcharges. Choosing to fly certain partners could cost over $1,000 per person in addition to the miles!

What are the Star Alliance carriers to avoid when booking with Aeroplan miles? Which are the best to get you to Asia? Are there any fifth-freedom flights you can take advantage of?

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Route from the US to Europe via Canada for Better Award Space

There are a ton of Canada-to-Europe Star Alliance routes with better availability in economy and business class this summer than USA-to-Europe routes.

Connections from the US to Canada are easy to find, connecting in Canada generally leads to less flying than connecting in the US, and all airlines I can think of allow a connection in Canada between the US and Europe.

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 10.30.19 PM

Since direct flight paths from the US to Europe cross Canada, connecting in Canada saves distance compared to connecting in the US.

What are the routes with award space? What miles can book the space cheaper?

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Rare TAM First Class Space Now Bookable

One of the most impossible premium cabin awards to find is now bookable!

Star Alliance carrier TAM has released excellent first class award space between its hub in Sao Paulo, Brazil and New York-JFK & Miami. In all my experiences at our Award Booking Service, I’ve never seen a TAM first class award seat….ever.

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How to Request United to Manually Sell Award Seats

Here’s how I got United to “manually sell” me award seats for an itinerary. While this technique is not possible in most circumstances, in my case, it turned no award into my dream award!

I was in the midst of constructing a simple roundtrip itinerary from the US to Europe when I ran into some big trouble.

United’s online award calendar displayed Austrian award space on the only day I could return to the States. Unfortunately, when I clicked to select those flights, I was met with a message saying the seats were no longer available.

Rapid Partner Availability

I used other Star Alliance search tools to discover that the seats were actually available to all partners, but United agents simply couldn’t see them.

The only thing left to do was request that United ask Austrian for the seats directly, often called a manual sell. Agents are extremely hesitant to do this, and often cite the company rule book in declining to do so. It usually takes some serious convincing to pull it off, but if you are calm, confident, and polite, it can be done. It’s critical to know how to pull this off, especially if you think your preferred flights have award space while a phone agent insists they don’t.

After a lengthy call, I finally convinced a United agent to manually request the unavailable seats. By requesting the manual sell, the flight I wanted instantly became bookable with my United miles. The segment was added to my itinerary, and I got the perfect set of flights for a summer trip to Europe.

How did this problem occur? Is this a phantom award space issue, or something completely different? What is a “manual sell”? How do you get a United agent to manually sell partner award seats?

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United No Longer Displays Singapore Award Space. Here’s How to Find It

Per this thread on Flyertalk, United.com no longer displays Singapore Airlines award space. This abrupt announcement might seem like terrible news to award bookers, but it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else.

UA Insider Flyertalk

United.com is the easiest way to search for Star Alliance award space. It’s far from a perfect booking tool, however. The site displays phantom award space, doesn’t show partner availability on Brussels Airlines or LOT Polish Airlines, and will often spit out horrible itineraries with long layovers when better ones are available.

With Singapore award space being removed from United.com, the site becomes a slightly less useful tool in constructing Star Alliance awards.

What does the announcement mean? Can you still book Singapore award space with United miles? What’s the best way to search for Singapore award space now?

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TACA/Avianca LifeMiles 2 x 1 Sale Means 1.5 Cent Miles

TACA/Avianca LifeMiles are being sold for 1.5 cents until December 30, 2013. The normal price is 3 cents per mile, but LifeMiles is running one of its frequent 2 x 1 sales.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 9.28.46 PM Your LifeMiles account must have already been open on December 3, 2013 to enjoy this promotion. Since these sales happen every few months, sign up now to be eligible for the next sale if you aren’t eligible for this one.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 9.30.42 PM

What are TACA/Avianca LifeMiles? What are their best uses? Should you participate in this promo?

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How to Combine Miles from Many Star Alliance Partner Accounts to Book a Large Family an Award Trip to Europe

United, Lufthansa, US Airways, Air Canada, ANA, Singapore, and TACA/Avianca are all members of the Star Alliance.

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 2.22.52 AM

With few exceptions, all of their miles can be used with equal access to any Star Alliance carrier’s Saver award space.

You cannot transfer one type of miles to another. For instance, you cannot transfer your Lufthansa miles to your United account.

But you can combine the power of your miles by using miles from several different accounts to book awards on the same flight. For instance, if there are six economy Saver award seats on a roundtrip from Newark to Paris on a United flight, you can book one seat from each of your United, Lufthansa, US Airways, Air Canada, ANA, and Singapore accounts. (And you can select six seats together by calling the operating carrier of each flight.)

This ability to combine the power of partner miles is paramount for families or other large traveling groups. It’s fairly difficult to amass 360,000 United miles, the number you’d need for six roundtrip awards to Europe. But it’s not so hard to earn the number of miles you need for one roundtrip in each of several programs.

How do you plan a trip for six? What routes have good award space? How do you book many seats from many different accounts?

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United Has Better Access to Air Canada Award Space?

While booking a family of four to Australia through our popular Award Booking Service, I ran into a  vexing problem with Star Alliance award space.

On a certain Air Canada route, Air Canada’s own Aeroplan members  had access to more award seats than its Star Alliance partners. That’s not a surprising practice on the surface. Air New Zealand never releases transpacific space to Star Alliance partners. Swiss Airlines restricts first class cabin redemptions to its own members.

The anomaly here is that United also has access to Air Canada premium cabin award space that other Star Alliance partners don’t.

What is the route? How did I discover this? What does this discovery mean for award bookers?

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How to Save 70,000 Miles on US Airways Awards to Southeast Asia

By using the principles of free oneways and an incredible sweet spot on the US Airways award chart, you can save up to 70,000 miles on your next US Airways award booking to Asia.

I’m flying Turkish Airlines Business Class on My Next US Airways Award

US Airways charges ordinarily charges 120k miles roundtrip in business class to India or Thailand and 160k in first. We can cut that to 90k miles roundtrip in business class to South or Southeast Asia and 120k miles in first!

What is this awesome sweet spot on the US Airways chart? How do we take advantage of it? Can I really save up to 70,000 Dividend Miles per person by taking advantage?

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The Best Business Class Award Space to Asia This Summer

EVA Airlines, a Taiwanese carrier, joined the Star Alliance this week. EVA Airlines flies from Taiwan to six North American cities:

  • New York
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver

And from Taiwan, you can connect all over Asia. EVA joining the Star Alliance is huge news because EVA has an incredible business class bed on many of its planes and has incredible award space for summer 2013.

Summer is the peak travel period on many routes, including the US to Taiwan, so finding award space for summer to Asia generally needs to be done months in advance or in the last few days before travel as last-second award space opens.

EVA is offering a chance to book award space all summer with your favorite Star Alliance miles–United, US Airways, Lufthansa, TACA, Aeroplan, etc.

Which is the best miles to use to book the space? Where can you search for award space? How can you make sure you’re on a plane with the newest flat bed business class product?

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