Category Archives: Uncategorized

Free Giveaway Friday: Pair of United Club Passes

A generous attendee of the MileValue meetup in New York City donated a pair of United Club passes that expire March 31, 2014 to one MileValue reader. I’ll be able to send them out to the winner next week, so these passes are only valuable to you if you have flights between March 18 and March 31, 2014.

Here are the United Club locations to check whether you’ll be able to use a pass on your next trip.

If you can use the passes between March 18 and 31, 2014, there are two ways to enter to win them!

  1. Comment on this post. (Are you one of the people who receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts? Click the post title in the email and comment on the blog instead of replying to the email.)
  2. Retweet this tweet:

http://twitter.com/MileValue/status/441927622038421504

You can enter both ways.

I’ll pick a winner next week, email the winner, and send the passes out to the winner.

If you don’t win, you can always get lounge access worldwide with The Platinum Card® from American Express. Terms & Conditions Apply. (For more info on the lounge-access benefit, the potential $500 in statement credits in the first 12 months, and the card’s other benefits, see Get the Most out of Your American Express Platinum Card.)

—————————————————————————————————–

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook for more chances to win. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!



Powered By Credit Karma

Breaking: United Award Chart Devaluation Begins February 3rd

Update: UA Insider on FlyerTalk confirms the delay in this post

The much-dreaded United award chart devaluation looks to be temporarily postponed until February 3rd.

Back in late October, United announced that they would be increasing the mileage costs of many awards, especially those flow in premium cabins.

United would also be splitting their award chart on February 1, 2014. Business and first class itineraries containing segments on Star Alliance partners would increase drastically in price in many regions, especially to areas like Europe and Central Asia.

Though February 1st was trumpeted as the first day of this new and more expensive award chart, it appears February 3rd is the new day these increases will take place. Both the new United and Star Alliance award charts have been changed to reflect the new date. The screenshots are below:

 

United New

 

Star Alliance New

 Bottom line, this is great news for frequent flyers!

Hat tip to reader Andy for this welcome reprieve!

Trip Report: Lufthansa Business Class Frankfurt to Washington DC on the 747-8

This review is a continuation of my huge US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Swiss Business Class: Boston to ZurichThai First Class: Paris to Bangkok on an A380, the Thai Royal Orchid Spa in Bangkok, and Asiana First Class: Seoul to Frankfurt already.

What aircraft is newer than the 787 Dreamliner and A380?

The all new 747-8I, which Lufthansa has only been flying for a year and a half.

This technological marvel retains the look and beauty of a 747 while integrating modern fuel efficiency and onboard technology. I was very excited to fly one from Frankfurt to Washington DC recently in Lufthansa Business Class.

I had an overnight layover in Frankfurt after coming in from Seoul. My initial plan was to hit the ground running and explore Frankfurt to maximize my 19 hours in the city. Unfortunately, delays in Seoul and poor weather in Frankfurt scuttled my plan, and I ended up booking a quick night at the Hilton Garden Inn using 40,000 HHonors points. This property is adjacent to the Hilton Frankfurt Airport and is located close to the actual terminal and the high-speed train station via an enclosed pedestrian walkway.

The room itself was small, but the hotel had everything that suited my needs: walkable to the terminal, comfortable bed, extensive breakfast spread, fast wi-fi, and decent views of inbound aircraft.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to get on the upper deck of a 747-8 for the first time in my life!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment Lufthansa’s recently updated Business Class? How does the new seat stack up against its competitors?

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

How to Get to Europe for 25k Points Roundtrip Through March 31, 2014

Flying Blue–the loyalty program of Air France/KLM, Air Europa, Kenya Airways, and TAROM–has released its newest Promo Awards that let you fly from several US cities to anywhere in Europe for as little as 12,500 miles each way with only modest fuel surcharges.

Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards and Starpoints.

Through March 31, 2014, you can fly from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and several other US cities to Europe for only 25k Membership Rewards or 20k Starpoints + $281 out of pocket.

What cities are these Promo Awards good for? How do you book a Promo Award? How do these awards compare to awards with lower fuel surcharges? How can you eliminate the out of pocket cost of the award?

Continue reading

The Plot Thickens

Wednesday, I wrote about a Delta award I want to book to enjoy a cheap one way trip. I want to price LAX to Sao Paulo roundtrip with a prior oneway from Seoul to LAX, all in business class, all on direct Korean Air flights for 130k SkyMiles.

Delta wants to charge 220k miles.

I’ve been tinkering some more. What have I found?

Continue reading

Spring Break 2013! A Proposed 26,000 Mile Journey

As many of you may know, I am a college student by day and the amusing, yet mystical, Bengali Miles Guru by night. After traveling almost 100,000 miles since January, I knew that my upcoming spring break trip would have to be amazing. It would also have to help me attain my 12 months, 12 countries goal.

After giving it some thought, the best idea was to include my friends into the crazy trip I’m about to embark on.

Introduction:

I didn’t know where to go but naturally, I thought that maybe it should be Europe since I just flew to Asia a month ago. I set my sights on a Eurotrip themed adventure! I knew that it would have to be awesome and that my friends would have to be amused as well. I finally settled on this proposed route plan:

Los Angeles-Frankfurt

1 night in Frankfurt (Hotwire a Hotel)

Drive to Amsterdam

2 nights in Amsterdam (Radisson Blu Amsterdam)

Drive to Paris

2 nights in Paris (Radisson Blu Champs Elysees & Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel)

Drive back to Frankfurt and visit cities a long the way.

Frankfurt- Los Angeles

Last time I drove in Germany, we somehow got this car:

The hotels alone were an absolute wonder to book. In Frankfurt & Amsterdam, I resorted to Hotwire and was able to get great rates that were sub $100 per night! The best feeling was going to hotels.com and seeing that the Radisson Blu Amsterdam was $296 on the nights I wanted to go. I got the same hotel on Hotwire for $86 plus tax!

In Paris, I elected to use my Club Carlson points to book two nights at two different hotels since we have a lot of people going. I was able to use the free bonus night stay that comes with the Club Carlson card and for 100,000 points, I got 2 rooms in Paris for 2 nights each (4 nights total for the price of 2)

In Paris, the hotel prices were about 330-430 Euros/Night depending on the hotels so I think I got great value from those points! (2.1 Cents)

It proved to be a stellar trip but I yearned for more, and that’s exactly what I got.

After booking my friends on a LAX-ATL-FRA-ORD-LAX flight (in Business Class because, you know, college students need to travel in style) for 100,000 miles, I looked into my own flights. Sure, I was going to all these cool places with my friends but I also wanted to make a great Trip Report out of it. I also wanted to get the most value out of my mile. ;) 

I sat down and thought about other routes till I could think no more. I came up with this masterpiece:

Los Angeles-Frankfurt in Lufthansa Business Class (A330) Part of US Airways 90K US-Europe-Asia

My parents modeling the Lufthansa Business Class seats

Paris-Kuala Lumpur  in Malaysian First Class (A380) 105,000 Amex-British Air Points

Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok in Lufthansa First Class (Yes, it’s not wrong) United 70K First Class Award. Picture could change based on flight availability.

Bangkok-Hong Kong in Thai First Class (A380) United 70K First Class Award

Hong Kong-Frankfurt (Lufthansa 747-8i 70K United Award)

Frankfurt-Los Angeles (Lufthansa First Class 70K Award)

My Proposed Trip

To make things more complicated, I used a 90k US Airways redemption to go US-Europe-Asia. I scheduled Europe-Asia as a later trip in September so technically, I end in Europe for now. I then transferred some Membership Rewards to get myself on the Malaysian Airlines A380 from Paris-KUL. I was never supposed to come back to Europe from Malaysia but I realized my flight wouldn’t make it in time to take a free ticket I had from Singapore-Los Angeles. That’s when I dipped into my United Miles to book a return from Asia-Los Angeles.

The Total Costs:

90,000 US Airways miles & $200 in Taxes

105,000 American Express Membership Rewards & $1,000 in Taxes

70,000 United miles & 100 in Taxes

The best part of this trip is that I get to test out a bunch of new products and hopefully report them back to you guys!

Some interesting tidbits about this trip include:

Kuala Lumpur – Bangkok is actually operated by Lufthansa. It is part of their Bangkok – Frankfurt flight so it goes KUL-BKK-FRA.

Overall, this trip should be fun for me and terrifying for my mom who will probably be worrying a little too much.

By flying this route, I’ll be at 4 different A380 First Class cabins in less than 3 months of each other! I’ve already flown Lufthansa & Singapore! Adding Malaysian & Thai to the mix will only leave me with Emirates, Korean Air, Air France, China Southern, & Qantas. I am most interested in flying Emirates and China Southern’ A380s in the future!

If you don’t see me on one of these flights in the upcoming days, you’ll surely see me at FTU DC in a few weeks! Hope to meet you all! You can also follow this trip on Instagram with the hashtag #flywithbmg.

Also, if you like what you see, use our Award Booking Service to build a trip like this! We’ve helped tons of people book trips of a lifetime!

Can One Person Earn Enough Miles for Two?

I get a lot of emails from people who want to travel with a companion, but their companion can’t open credit cards. Maybe the companion doesn’t have a social security number or just has bad credit. Whatever the reason: can one person get enough miles for two people to take a vacation in style?

Here’s a typical email from Dan:

I am interested in using you for award booking for a European vacation for Summer 2014 in business class.

I am also interested in having you help me determine a strategy for which cards to get in order to execute this trip.

Let me tell you my situation:

My wife can open credit cards for herself and a business, but I can’t. We dipped our toe into the awards card world by signing up for 3 cards over 3 months:

  • Delta Gold Amex, 12/12
  • SPG Amex, 1/13
  • Barclays US Air, 2/13

The more I read, the more I realize that going with Delta was probably a mistake.

I’m coming to you for advice as we plan our first app-o-rama. For the trip we want, should we stick with Delta? Or do we have time to focus on another carrier?

Our current balances are:

  • Delta 31k
  • SPG 30k
  • US Airways 40k

Not only can Dan and his wife get to Europe in business class, they are only one three cards away.

The Plan

US Airways and United are partners, both members of the Star Alliance. That means US Airways miles can be used on

  • US Airways flights
  • United flights
  • Star Alliance flights
  • or any combination thereof.

United miles can be used on those same

  • US Airways flights
  • United flights
  • Star Alliance flights
  • or any combination thereof.

Both US Airways and United charge 100k miles roundtrip to Europe, so if you get 100k of each type of miles, two people are all set to fly roundtrip in business class on the same flights.

Dan’s current balances are very helpful, so his wife just needs to get three cards to fill the gaps.

  1. US Airways Premier World MasterCard with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred with 40,000 Ultimate Rewards after $3,000 in spending in the first 3 months
  3. Chase Ink Bold with 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after $5,000 in spending in the first 3 months

Dan already has one US Airways MasterCard, but in pretty much everyone’s experience, you can get two. See Easily Earn 110k US Airways Miles. (And by the way, be on the lookout for the targeted 15k offers in the mail for continued spending on the card.)

There isn’t much to say about the Sapphire Preferred. It has been the “it” card for the last 18 months in the frequent flyer world. Dan would be better off getting the Chase United Explorer card if he can find it with a 50,000 mile bonus offer, but if not, then he should get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Chase Ink Bold is a business card.

Get those cards and meet the minimum spends, and your new balances will be

  • Delta 31k
  • US Airways 70k
  • SPG 30k
  • Ultimate Rewards 98k

Dan will probably have over 100k Ultimate Rewards since the Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points on dining and travel, and the Ink Bold offers 5x points at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, land line, internet, and cable TV services (on the first $50k of spending annually.) Worst case scenario: he buys the last 2k Ultimate Rewards for $50.

Remember that his goal is to have 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles. Here’s how to get there.

Transfer 100k Ultimate Rewards to United. Now he has 100k United miles.

Transfer 25k SPG to US Airways. This will show up as 30k US Airways miles with the automatic transfer bonus. Added on to his balance of 70k US Airways miles, he will have 100k US Airways miles.

Dan has now met his goal of having 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles.

That’s enough to get two seats on the same flights on a roundtrip in business class to Europe.
Dan’s QuestionsDo I combine the United and US Airways miles?

No. You use the United miles to book one award on united.com or by calling United at 800-UNITED-1. You use the US Airways miles to book one award by calling US Airways at 800-622-1015. You just make sure each award has the same flights, so you’ll be on the same planes with each other.

We are booking through different carriers, I assume we will attempt to book seats together, and that the only differences will be what counter we go to for check-in?

The way to choose seats is to call the operating carrier and request seats. So if your flights are on Lufthansa, you call Lufthansa.

You check in at the operating carrier of the first flight, so you check in at the same counter at the airport.

Recap

One person can earn enough miles for two people to travel in style to Europe. The key is to earn 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles. The miles can’t be combined, but they can be used to each book one seat on the same flights, so the two companions can travel together.

Happy New Year From Istanbul!

In a few minutes, i’ll be on a boat in the middle of the Bosphorus River to celebrate New Years. If many of you don’t know, the Bosphorus is the river that separates connects Asia & Europe! Turkey puts on an amazing Fireworks display on the Bosphorus bridge and I cant wait to see it!

I’ve taken a few moments to reflect on what i’ve been able to do this year and thought i’d share.

In January, I celebrated New Years on the Singapore Flyer. It was an amazing experience that i’ll never forget. I remember seeing fireworks as far as Malaysia from 42 stories in the air!

In March, I took an amazing trip to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi with my family. That too was a great trip because we got all got to fly in Cathay First & Business Class!

In August, I took a trip with my best friend to Hawaii and although i’ve been there before, I remembered nothing because I was so little! Hawaii was so lush and tropical and I couldn’t get enough of it!

In September, I started my blog and it was AWESOME! People from all over the world would email me and ask me random questions! I started doing award bookings for free and then slowly started charging for them. Eventually, I decided to merge with Scott here at MileValue. It was a great idea and has beamed into an amazing partnership.

In November, I became one of the first people to fly the United Airlines Boeing 787! It was a truly jaw-dropping experience as I had never flown a plane so quiet or technologically advanced.

In December, I started my trip around the world, which had me going to 6 different countries and traveling over 25,000 miles! I’m currently on my 6th country (Turkey) and I cant wait to keep writing these reports.

I’ve been honing my award booking skills into helping readers and people all over. It’s given me such a good feeling to hear people be so excited about a trip they never thought could happen. For me, there is nothing more than hearing a person on the phone tell me how happy they are that their dream trip has come true. It means the world to me!

I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone for reading my posts and asking me questions. I would be nothing without you guys.

I wish everyone a Happy & Prosperous New Year.

-Bengalimilesguru (Tahsir Ahsan)

The Amazing Race: Denver Departure Services

Tahsir’s Itinerary Around the World in First Class is too long for one post. Here’s the first installment.

Lufthansa First: Denver to Frankfurt

Lufthansa First Class Terminal

Lufthansa First on an A380: Frankfurt to Tokyo

As a child, I was (and still am) fascinated with the idea of going around the world. I used to look at the TV and tell myself that one day, I too would be able to do what those contestants were doing on The Amazing Race. Today, I’m fulfilling one of my dreams and crossing something off my bucket list. I’m going around the world in First Class!

Many of you will agree that it takes a lot of work to get enough points to travel comfortably. As the son of an airline employee, I would travel in economy and wonder when I could get to the front of the plane. Although I was never ashamed or even sad to travel in economy, I always wanted to experience what it was like to travel in “style.”

A few days ago, I wrote about how to book an aspirational trip. In that post, I wrote about how I was going on 3 different First Class products; United, All Nippon Airways, and Thai. A few things changed 2-3 days out and my itinerary was switched to reflect something else: Lufthansa First & Thai First. There was some space that opened up on the routes I wanted to take and I decided to bring my sister along with me.

Today, I was going to fly the somewhat new Lufthansa 747-400 in First Class. This plane is special because the First Class product has a separate seat and bed. I’ve been talking to my friends about this for days, but it’s really something you have to experience for yourself. Lufthansa has done an excellent job with their entire premium cabin, and I was eager to try it.

I flew into Denver the night before this flight because the 747-400 currently flies from Denver, Chicago, New York, and Boston. Note: Denver runs the new 747-400 on a 50% capacity so you have to check the seat map on that particular day to see if it’s the new First Class.

In the days prior to this flight, I noticed that Boston and Denver opened the most award space. It can be tricky to get to Denver with United because they don’t have that many flights into Denver before the 2PM departure of this Lufthansa flight. In addition, the flights I wanted into Denver didn’t release any premium cabin seats. This was an issue for me because my family had a ridiculous amount of suitcases to take to our final destination (Dhaka) and we needed three bags per person.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need excess baggage with Star Alliance, you should try to book your originating flight with United. The reason behind this is that United allows you to check in 3 bags that can weigh up to 70 pounds for free if you fly in Business or First. In theory, that means you can get three free bags all the way to your destination even if you fly in business, which usually allows two bags on all other airlines. I found out the hard way that this isn’t the case.

There are two regulations with check-in baggage that airlines must follow, but they both contradict each other. One states that the original marketing carrier’s baggage rules should apply to the entire itinerary. This means that your FIRST flight’s baggage should apply to your entire reservation. The other rule states that the baggage rules of the flight that flies you over the ocean should be the one to follow. In Los Angeles, United checked three bags each for our family of four. However, they couldn’t check it all the way to our final destination because United and Lufthansa have an interline agreement that only applies for 13 hours. The next day, we got to the Denver airport and picked up our baggage from the lost and found area of United.

TIP: A United agent told us not to touch our bags and let them stay in the carousel so that United can take them and put them in lost and found. This is super helpful if you have a 23 hour layover and want to check out the city for the day. In essence, you don’t have to take out your checked bags until after you try to check in for your next flight. Many of you might wonder why this matters if you can check a bag through to your final destination. As I stated, our bags were past the 13 hour interline agreement and so they had to be separately checked in the next day. It might not be a big deal to people who check in one or two bags but we had 12 checked bags plus carry-ons.

Once we retrieved our bags, we went up to the Lufthansa counter. It’s important to note that Lufthansa shares its counters daily with AeroMexico and Icelandair. We approached the counter and were greeted by what seemed to be an AeroMexico/Lufthansa agent. Before even looking at our itinerary, she stated we wouldn’t be able to check in three bags. After calling the supervisor, this agent kept coming up to our counter and saying things to the supervisor like “I was right, right?” She even started helping a Business Class passenger and left them to come to our counter and listen in. It was really unprofessional and at one point, I saw her point us out to someone else with a disgusted look. After reading more on the Denver check-in, I’ve actually seen that this agent has come up multiple times in complaints. I’m not naming names but if someone without a Lufthansa emblem calls you to check in, respectfully decline and wait for someone else.

The supervisor and another agent were really helpful, and they actually helped us get everything sorted out. In the end, all our bag fees were waived and we finally checked them into our final destination! We even got some First Class Jackets for my parents who were traveling in Business. Don’t worry about my parents “stuck” in Business while I’m in First and vise versa, we’re taking turns. In March, I was in Cathay’s Business while they were in Cathay’s First Class.

The lounge situation in Denver is quite grim. The only lounge you can access as a Lufthansa First & Business passenger is the United Club. To make matters worse, Lufthansa departs from Concourse A and the Club is located in Concourse B. The United Club is nothing to rave about as it is a regular domestic lounge. The food offerings are cookies and crackers with the occasional bag of carrots. Other than that, there’s nothing to report. Let’s move on.

The flight was scheduled to leave at around 2:55PM but from past history on flightaware, the on-time departure was a measly 1.5/5. We got to the gate about 10 minutes before boarding. Boarding was called at about 2:30. We actually left the gate around 3PM so kudos to Lufthansa for boarding a 747 in 30 minutes!

Stick around for my next installment!

Forum Buzz: Under $650 Roundtrip to Israel

Chicago to Tel Aviv for under $650

According to this thread in the Mileage Run Forum of FlyerTalk, Delta Airlines is offering fares under $650 for roundtrip flights from Chicago to Tel Aviv, connecting at New York-JFK.

It’s important to note that these low fares require a connection in JFK. Trying to book only the JFK <-> Tel Aviv roundtrip would be about $280 more expensive!

I’m seeing good availability in January and February. It appears that 3-8 night itineraries are where people are finding the low ~$641 fares.

What’s the best way to hunt for eligible dates?

The ITA Matrix is the way to go. It’s one of the most useful tools to check for available dates and airlines.

First go to matrix.itasoftware.com. Google, ITA’s owner, seems to want to hide the Matrix, so go directly to its URL. Type in “ORD”  as your home airport and “TLV” as your destination.

I prefer to search certain length trips one month at a time for the lowest fares, so use that section of the form by selecting “See calendar of lowest fares.” I’ve asked it to search for 3-8 night itineraries leaving in the month of February.

After you click “Search”, you should be taken to a calendar listing the cheapest flights departing on each date. When I searched, I was able to find a bunch of $640 fares.

Clicking on a particular date will bring up all available flight options on the next page. To see some sample itineraries, check out the screenshot below.

Keep in mind the ITA Matrix is only for finding airfares. You don’t have the ability to book through this site. Write down the dates, flight numbers, and prices that work for you and book directly at Delta.com.

I don’t live in Chicago. Why is this of value to me?

You certainly don’t have to live in the origin airport city to turn this into a vacation. There are many ways to connect you to both Chicago airports. If your schedule permits, you could even spend some vacation time in both Chicago and Tel Aviv.

If you need to fly to Chicago, you should leave several hours (or even more) between your flight to/from Chicago and the Chicago <-> Tel Aviv roundtrip. If there is bad weather or a mechanical issue with your flight to Chicago, Delta isn’t obligated to accommodate you.

There are tons of domestic options to get you to the Windy City. Both American Airlines and United Airlines offer frequent nonstop flights to O’Hare airport from around the country. Even Southwest Airlines has a large presence at Midway, the city’s southern airport.

If you have some Rapid Rewards points to spare, check out Scott’s post on booking a Southwest Award, Anatomy of an Award: How to Book an Award on Southwest.

If you are planning on turning in frequent flyer miles to get to Chicago, don’t forget British Airways Avios. Avios are redeemable on American Airlines, their oneworld partner, and the award chart is distance based. Flights to Chicago that are under 650 miles are only 4,500 Avios. For more information on booking American Airlines flights with Avios, see out Scott’s post, Free First Class Next Month: Using BA.com for oneworld Awards.

Will this deal last into next week? I need to do some travel planning first!

This appears to be one of those lightning deals that could disappear at any time. This isn’t known by most casual travelers, but Delta (and most domestic carriers) have a 24-hour cancellation policy. My strong advice is to book now to lock in the great fare. If you wait around, the $640 fares will most likely be gone.

Last year, Delta advertised some low fares to Hawaii from Washington D.C. for $400. That price was ridiculously low, so I immediately booked for a time when I could burn some vacation days. When I went home to search for more convenient options, the fares rose to over $1,100! Booking the heavily discounted price quickly was critical.

If you book tonight and find out the dates don’t work, simply call Delta or cancel online tomorrow. Just make sure you do so before the 24-hour cancellation window passes. Otherwise, you will have to pay cancellation or change fees.

Why is this deal in the Mileage Run Forum? What exactly is that?

Mileage runs are airline tickets purchased with the sole goal of earning frequent flyer miles. Many FlyerTalkers are able to maintain their elite status by purchasing heavily discounted tickets (such as the fare above). The goal is to requalify for elite status for the least amount of money out of pocket. Elite status with an airline usually brings perks like priority boarding, free checked bags, complimentary upgrades to first class, and a whole host of other benefits. For more info, check out Scott’s post, Free First Class Next Month: Using FlyerTalk’s Mileage Run Forum.

Does it make sense for someone to purchase this ticket simply to earn miles?

No for several reasons. The first is that this low fare is unlocked when spending 3-8 nights in Israel. No one I know has that much free time handy! This deal makes sense as a “regular” vacation.

In the mileage running community, everyone has a different valuation of what makes a good mileage run “deal.” Some schools of thought say the airfare should earn miles at 4 cents or less. Most of the flights I found on the ITA Matrix were between 4.3 and 4.9 cents per mile. That’s great for a vacation, but poor for just a mileage run.  Those valuations also don’t even factor in how much you value your free time!

Recap

Low fares like this don’t come around often, especially to Israel from the United States. When they are published, the fares  don’t last more than a day or two (if that). Remember to lock this is now before the $641 tickets disappear.

If you don’t live in Chicago but still want to participate, book the Chicago <-> Tel Aviv portion of your trip first and worry about getting to/from Chicago after. Buying a cheap ticket or using frequent flyer miles to get to Chicago can easily be planned once you snag the Chicago <-> Tel Aviv. This fare could be pulled at anytime.

5% Off American Airlines Flights

This deal is dead. But wouldn’t you rather save 90% on your American Airlines flights? See here.

Via the Flight Deal, American Airlines is offering 5% off all flights using promotional code 9612DD. The coupon code is meant for City County (Fort Lauderdale/Broward County) Credit Union members, but it appears that anyone can use the code to knock 5% off their American Airlines airfare!

Details of the promotion are below. Note that travel must be booked by December 31st. Also note that this coupon code is only valid online for American and American Eagle flights.

The terms and conditions below help shed some more light on this deal. Multi-city itineraries must be booked via phone, where a $20 fee is charged that will likely negate any benefits of the 5% off coupon. Unless you are booking a $400 fare or higher, you would be losing money by calling. Note that several deeply discounted fare classes are also excluded from the deal.

To avoid the phone reservations fee for multicity itineraries, you might be better off booking separate oneway tickets online. Be careful to note that if there is a mechanical or weather related issue with your original flights, American will not be obligated to accommodate you.

How do I book using this code?

Simply go to AA.com and plug in your desired city pairs and travel dates.  Instead of clicking “Find Flights”, choose the small print option “More Flight Search Options” in light blue font.

Once you have clicked, you will be taken to the advanced booking page for American. Your city pairs and travel dates should already be inputted from the previous screen. Simply scroll to the bottom and enter the 9612DD promo code into Box #9 labeled “Promotion Code”. Then click the red Go button to see all available flights.

You will be taken to the standard booking page where you select the individual legs for your flights. You should see all eligible flight prices slashed through (in black) with the discounted fares displayed immediately below in green font.

Select the legs of your journey and pay as normal. There is no need to input the code again. The price you pay reflects the discount applied to your fare. You are all set.

5% off doesn’t seem like much, why is this a big deal?

Several reasons, actually. The first is that Thanksgiving and Christmas flights are filling up quickly, and airlines are adjusting by quickly raising fares. This 5% off coupon should help ease the sting for those of you who waited or need to make last minute holiday/vacation bookings on American.

The other important point to remember is that American Airlines recently launched a double elite qualifying miles promotion for travel booked from November 1st-December 31st. Registration for that promo is required and can be found here. With the 5% off coupon, you can combine both deals when traveling on American or American Eagle. The Double EQM promotion is eligible on all purchased & published fare tickets that are also eligible for mileage accrual. Fares booked using the 5% off promo satisfy both stipulations.

Hopefully this will help lower the cost of your mileage runs and bring you closer to coveted elite status with American. For Scott’s take on the Double EQM promo, make sure to check out his post, How Much is the American Airlines Double Miles Promo Worth?

What are some of the best uses for this code?

It might seem obvious, but the two best times to use this are for destinations that American has a firm stranglehold. Direct flights to/from Dallas and Miami, traditional American Airlines hubs, are just two examples.

Another good use is for visits to places like Chicago-O’Hare, where American and United  often price fares extremely closely together. The 5% off coupon, especially if you don’t hold status with either airline, could make your decision to fly American an easy one.

Can I use this 5% off on codeshare flights?

Yes, but there are some rules and restrictions.

Per the terms and conditions, flights marketed by American Airlines but flown by a codeshare partner (such as British Airways or Qantas) must be booked via telephone to apply the 5% off code. To confirm this, I tried an online dummy booking to Madrid from Tampa in December. Only American operated flights had the discount applied. The flights with a codeshare leg on Iberia were excluded.

When calling to book a codeshare, you need to be mindful of this stipulation taken from the 5% off terms: “flights will require that at least one segment of the itinerary be on AA aircraft.”

For example, if I called American and wanted to book their roundtrip codeshare from Miami to Madrid direct on Iberia, I would not be able to unless I added a leg that was also operated on American. However, a Tampa<->Madrid roundtrip with Tampa-Miami on American and Miami-Madrid on Iberia would be considered an eligible fare.

What else should I know about this coupon code?

The code was clearly intended for the small number of members of the City County Credit Union in Florida. I highly doubt they anticipated it being spread around the frequent flyer community at large. The code could be pulled at any time, so I suggest you book as soon as possible if you have upcoming plans on American.

Recap

If you have have holiday or vacation plans flying on American Airlines, this 5% off coupon is a great bonus, especially coupled with the double elite qualifying miles promo.

Though not a huge difference, anything that decreases the cents per mile earned on a mileage run is great news.

To properly apply the 5% off code, multicity itineraries and codeshare flights must be booked via telephone and incur a $20 fee, along with the codeshare restriction listed above. The fee negates any value derived from the  code unless your fare is over $400. The fact that one leg of the codeshare rountrip must be on AA metal is even more restrictive.

Also, more people calling and using the code could alert American that the discount is being abused. I suggest you stick to eligible online bookings for this until the deal is finally pulled.

United Airlines 787 Trip Report

November 4th, 2012. It’s a day just like any other but today was a little bit different. Today was the inaugural flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The plane, known for its fuel efficiency, technology, and beauty was starting to fly after months of delays. United Airlines was to be the first North American carrier to fly the 787. Today, it delivered and boy did it do a damn good job.

United 787 on its first revenue flight!

United flew its first 787 from Houston to Chicago today and the flight landed to a water cannon salute at Chicago ORD. I was there to experience all of this because I scheduled myself to be on 2 segments. (Chicago-Houston & Houston to Los Angeles)

Water Cannon Salute

After the plane got to the gate, the passengers received a warm round of applause while walking out. Of the passengers, the CEO of United Airlines and fellow blogger Mommy Points were onboard. The celebration turned into an impromptu press conference at the gate. I was able to meet some pretty cool people including the CEO & Thomas Lee

CEO of United Airlines, Jeff Smisek & The Bengali Miles Guru

Thomas Lee, the man who flew the first 747, A380 & 787

After the festivities, it was time to board! I was the first passenger through the gates and onto the plane. I was able to snap some shots of the layout of the plane. The 787 is a 2 cabin plane configured with Economy, Economy Plus and Lie-Flat BusinessFirst Seats.

Economy Plus on the 787

United BusinessFirst on The 787

After boarding, we sat for a while and talked to other passengers. Everyone was pretty excited except the lady who booked a ticket on this flight and didn’t know what was going on. Eventually, we left the gate and took off. Let me say that the 787 is quiet. Too quiet. It is so quiet, that it’s weird. During takeoff, the engines only spooled up to 70% thrust and it sounded like nothing was happening. While in the air, the noise got even quieter. I was able to whisper to my friend and he still heard me. The 787 makes it very easy to talk to your seat mate and even easier to sleep. The economy plus portion of the 787 has a configuration of 3-3-3. It is actually very generous in the leg room area. I didn’t test it out but from what I heard, it was pretty good. I sat in 6E from Chicago-Houston and 1E from Houston-Los Angeles. Try to get the front cabin because the footrest area is a lot bigger at 1E. My seat mate pointed out that this was the old continental style BusinessFirst and that not much had changed. I still saw a few changes in the plane like the windows, LED lighting, sound, and overall pressurization. My ears didn’t pop and I didn’t feel dry.

United BusinessFirst Seat Configuration

For the inaugurals, United brought in their international Houston & Chicago based crew staff. I am assuming they did this to train the crew for their upcoming LAX-Tokyo flight on January 3rd.

The International Flight Attendants Assigned To The 787

The seat is actually pretty comfortable. It is a Lie-Flat seat that has the basic controls. The controls are actually in two places which makes it easier to turn the lights on when laying down. In addition, the blankets were pretty comfortable and the pillow was really nice! I took one.  There are power outlets at every business class seat and it includes a selection of Ipod connection, headphone jack and USB outlet. The side of the seat goes down if you want it to kind of like the new Cathay Pacific business class.

Seat Controls

In Seat Remote Control

The T.V is really big. It looks HD but I’m not sure if it is. It is super clear and very vivid. The map is 3-D ish and widescreen. The best part is that United actually has a good selection of movies and shows. The controller for the t.v is in the lower middle console however, the t.v is touchscreen so you rarely need the remote.

United 787 T.V Screen

The Map

The lighting in this plane is fantastic. It is powered by bright LED’s all the way to the reading light. The mood lighting changes as you cruise, land, take-off, and eat.

The Entrance of The 787

LED Mood Lighting

The windows were also really cool. They are auto-dimming shades that dim with the push of a button. This feature proved to be super useful on our flight as we were taking off facing the sun .The blue shades helped make the plane look a lot cooler. The windows on this plane are actually a lot bigger than most planes because the 787 uses new material as its fuselage. United wouldn’t stop ranting about how the carbon fiber body reduces weight and enables them to do more things they normally couldn’t like fly at 40,000 feet.

Auto/Push Button Dimming Windows

View From 40,000 Feet

The ride was super smooth and the turns were just amazing. At one point, I couldn’t even tell I was flying.

View From The Wing ;)

For the IAH-LAX flight, I slept for most of the time because I didn’t the night before. It was nice to have that Flat-Bed option for a small domestic flight.

180 Degree Flat Bed

The food on the flights was pretty good although I have no idea what I ate. Initially, the crew from ORD-IAH told me I would get a soup and salad but I honestly don’t know what it was. I do know that it was really good though! The Chicken offering on the second flight was also very good for domestic travel.

Soup and Mystery Sandwich

After landing at LAX, I was shown the cockpit, which is by far the coolest part of the plane. The entire cockpit is digital and has Heads-up displays for the pilot along with one single LCD screen to control all of the flight diagnostics.

Cockpit

All in all, I am so glad that I was able to fly the 787 on the first day. It’s a different feeling altogether and it was nice meeting with some frequent flyers and aviation buffs. It was a good day for me and a good day for United. High Five!

BusinessFirst Cabin

Thanks For Reading!

Forum Buzz: Alitalia’s 25% sale and goodbye Alitalia Japan, Hello Alitalia Russia?

For the past 24 hours, this thread on FlyerTalk has been buzzing with excitement about Alitalia’s most recent discount code that gave a flat $315.30 discount off any flight booked up until 10/26/12 on Alitalia’s Japanese website.

For several days, the US, Italian, German, British, Canadian, and Spanish Alitalia websites have been running a promotion that gives a 25% discount on flights booked using the e-Coupon code SPECIAL:

This was a nice upgrade from the 15% off promotion that Alitalia offered in September–covered in Mile Value’s first Forum Buzz post.

More enticingly, the version of the promotion offered on Alitalia’s Japanese website featured a flat discount of 25,000 Yen ($315.30 USD) on Alitalia flights purchased through the site when the e-Coupon code PROMOJP was used:

As you can imagine, a $315.30 discount on a cheap fare results in a very cheap ticket. There were multiple reports of $0.00 (yes, free) intra-Europe flights booked and ticketed successfully using this code!

It’s only been about 24 hours, so I can still jump on this right?

Nope, it’s dead. If you navigate to the Japanese Alitalia page and try to book any flight, you will be faced with this:

 Do I have any options apart from banging my head against the wall?

Yes. Console your self with this game: type promo.alitalia.com into your browser. It will automatically redirect to promo.alitalia.com/italy. Delete Italy and start plugging in some countries and see if you come up with something interesting, like this:

It’s another Alitalia flat-rate discount–on its Russian website. At 4,000 Rubles off–$129.38 USD–it is not nearly as lucrative as the Japan deal, but for flights that are $500 or less, this Russian discount is still a better deal than a 25% discount. The discount is valid for travel between 11/5/12 and 3/7/13 with blackout dates of 12/20/12 to 1/6/13.

How do I get in on this?

Use the Google Chrome or Safari browsers as they both have translation functions. Navigate to alitalia.com and change your country to Russia:

 On the next screen, direct your browser to translate the website:

You will then have a somewhat normal-appearing Alitalia website, with some quirky translations here and there. Click on Advanced Search to give yourself more flexibility with your flight search options:

Click Find Bargains–to see the cheapest days to fly–then enter your desired flight information. In this example, I want to go from Milan, Italy to Istanbul, Turkey. The airport code FCO–Rome– entered in the “from” box was changed to MXP, for Milan:

If your flight is not bookable–for example, a US domestic flight–you will get this error message:

Keep trying! You may have to get creative with dates and routing.  Once you have successfully chosen your preferred segments, you will see this page, which shows 3 weeks of flight availability from the date you chose:

After you select the date that you want to start your trip, you will then be able to select specific flights:

After choosing both flights, you will be presented with a page that confirms the details and price of your reservations. In this example, the pre-discount price is 6644 Rubles– $214.90. Enter the e-Coupon code PROMORU where prompted, and click Recalculate:

Your 4,000 Ruble discount will be subtracted from your ticket price:

This is a pretty sweet deal – I am getting a round trip ticket between Rome and Istanbul for 2644 Rubles–$85.52! On the next page, you will be prompted to enter the passenger details:

You will then be shown the payment screen. If you booked a flight that cost 4,000 Rubles or less and your total after the discount is $0.00 you can enter your contact information, sit back, and smile smugly. If you have to pay for your ticket, be sure to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees:

After paying (or not), you will end on a confirmation screen with your e-ticket number (beginning with 055) and a six-character alpha-numeric reservation code:

How can I confirm that my $0.00 flight was ticketed?

First, check your email:

It should have a copy of the e-ticket.  But, like any canny cheapskate, you want more proof. If you navigate to Alitalia’s site to check your booking you may get an error message. I had the same problem when I tried to confirm my booking on checkmytrip.com.

However, according to this FlyerTalker, you can get confirmation that your flight was ticketed by going to saudiaairlines.com (a SkyTeam partner). Select Manage My Bookings then enter your e-ticket number and name where prompted:

You will see your e-ticket confirmation–as well as the itinerary, and the pre-coupon price of your ticket:

Can I fly anywhere on any SkyTeam airline?

No. Unlike the September 15% off promotion, the only flights available for both the 25% and 4,000 Rubles off promotions have been on Alitalia, not other Sky Team partners like Delta, Air France, or KLM.

So am I guaranteed a seat on that ridiculously cheap flight I just booked?

It seems very unlikely that Alitalia will honor the $0.00 fares, particularly those that originate outside of the US.  Even if flights originating in the US are not honored, there is no guarantee that the Department of Transportation will rule in our favor–remember how the United mistake fare of 4 Mileage Plus miles and $43 to Hong Kong turned out?  It seems reasonable to expect that they might honor tickets that weren’t too obviously underpriced–bookings for which there was an actual financial transaction.  However, there is at least one report of a cancellation from Alitalia because a flight booked from the Japanese website did not originate in Japan.

If I am actually able to check into my $0.00 flight, when should I start requesting upgrades, special meals, and lounge access because of my Delta status?

Just get on the plane. Don’t do anything that could result in unwanted scrutiny of your ticket.

Which deal is better – 25% off or $129.38 off?

Both deals start to match each other for value when the ticket price approaches $500. A $500 ticket will cost $375.00 after a 25% discount and $370.62 after the $129.38 discount. So, for tickets cheaper than $500, book through the Russian website for the flat rate discount as you will get a better deal.

Anything else I should know?

If you plan to make multiple purchases, consider calling your credit card company to let them know that there may be multiple charges from Russia on your card so that the card is not frozen for fear of fraud.

Clear your cookies and cache from your browser after searches if the Alitalia website gets buggy.

Most importantly–don’t do this if you can’t afford to lose the money that you spend to buy these tickets, as there are no guarantees about how refunds will be managed if the tickets are cancelled.

Recap

Alitalia is running a worldwide promotion that offers 25% off all Alitalia-operated flights booked on its US website. This strong promotion was overshadowed by the more sensational offer of a flat 25,00 Yen or $315.30 discount once available on Alitalia’s Japanese website. This offer has been pulled.

However, there is a less-publicized discount of $129.38 on Alitalia’s Russian website which makes it possible to fly on Alitalia for free or very cheaply on lower cost routes. The PROMORU discount is a better deal than the 25% discount for fares $500 or less. Both the 25% and $129.38 discounts are available for use until 10/26/12, and are valid for travel dates between 11/5/12 and 3/7/13. The blackout dates are from 12/20/12 to 1/6/12.

Los Angeles Meet Up for MileValue Readers

To everyone in LA:

Long-time reader Mark proposed dinner on Friday, September 7 at 8:00 PM, and I accepted.

I suggested an authentic Mexican restaurant in the 90006 zip code. It has chicken mole (read this word in Spanish, not English) and mezcal margaritas to die for.

Contact me if you want to join us, and I’ll give you the name and address of the restaurant. This way I can give them a head’s up of our party’s size.