Category Archives: Uncategorized

50 Free Award Wallet Upgrade Codes

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Enjoy one of these 50 free upgrade codes to six months of Award Wallet Plus. Award Wallet is the free way I track my 35 miles and points balances and store my login information for those programs.

Read more about Award Wallet.

Sign up for Award Wallet.

Click “Continue Reading” to see the codes. You may need to try a few before you find one that is unused.

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Can You Use Arrival Miles for Free Airbnb Stays

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Can you use Arrival miles to get free lodging from airbnb, the easiest way to rent someone else’s apartment while you travel?

I talked my brother into getting the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® earlier this year for the same reasons that I got one, the big sign up bonus and the two miles per dollar on all purchases. He quickly spent $3,000 in the first 3 months to unlock 40,000 bonus miles. That 46,000 miles–40,000 bonus plus 6,000 from spending–is worth $500 in free flights, hotels, car rentals, and more.

We are in Hong Kong now as part of two week trip through Asia. We’re using my cheapskate lodging techniques, avoiding hotels altogether with nights in airbnb, a hostel, and a Chinese farmer’s house.

He booked us five nights in Seoul through airbnb for $571. I told him to make sure that he booked the stay with his Arrival Plus, so we could test whether he could redeem Arrival miles (link) for an offsetting statement credit.

  • Were we able to redeem Arrival miles for a free airbnb stay?

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Basics of Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (ThankYou Transfer Partner)

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This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Citi recently announced that ThankYou Points now transfer to seven airlines and one hotel chain.

Since you can earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou points with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, I’ve been looking into those transfer partners to find the high value redemptions that maximize ThankYou points. I’ve harped on the sweet spots, luxury, and generous stopover rules of Singapore KrisFlyer miles already.

Today I want to show how to maximize Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for trips to Europe and South America.

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Asia Miles has two distance-based charts for travel on oneworld partners and non-oneworld partners like Alaska Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Aer Lingus. If you maximize your routings and fly partners without fuel surcharges, there are a lot of high value redemptions in the Asia Miles program.

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  • What airlines can be booked with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles?
  • How many stopovers and open jaws can an award have?
  • What fuel surcharges are imposed on awards, and how can you avoid them?

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Island Air Feat. Free Food, Massages, & Live Music at HNL

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Island Air, a tiny airline with flights between Oahu, Maui, Lanai, and Kauai, is offering free Hawaiian food, massages, and live music at the interisland terminal at Honolulu International Airport until the end of August.

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Island Air Routes

  • How can you get in on the free?

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Free Giveaway Friday: Pair of United Club Passes

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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.)

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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!



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Breaking: United Award Chart Devaluation Begins February 3rd

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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

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The 50k mile bonus offer is back on the Lufthansa card mentioned in this post until 6/30/14. Get it now!

  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchases or balance transfer
  • Earn an additional 30,000 award miles when you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Cardholders receive a companion ticket after first use of the account and annually after each account anniversary
  • No Foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance member airlines and on other partners
  • $79 Annual Fee. Please see Terms and Conditions for complete details

Application Link: The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard

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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.

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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!

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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?

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

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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.

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

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

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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?

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The Plot Thickens

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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?

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Spring Break 2013! A Proposed 26,000 Mile Journey

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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?

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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!

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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

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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

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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.