Tag Archives: United

How I Just Blew Rudy Maxa’s Mind

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I just appeared on the Rudy Maxa radio show to talk about United making it harder to achieve elite status by adding a separate spending requirement on United tickets in addition to miles flown, a requirement which came into effect this year and is increasing next year.

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Rudy asked how folks should adapt to this change, and I don’t think he expected such an easy answer.

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Comparison of Four Major Airline Credit Cards

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American Airlines, United, Delta, and US Airways all release several co-branded credit cards with various benefits, bonuses, and fees.

I have attempted to summarize the following cards on one table for easy comparison:

I consider these to be the “basic” personal card for each of the four legacy carriers in the United States. Each airline also has a lower-tier cards which earn miles at a lower rate and come with no sign up bonus. And several of the airlines have higher tier cards that come with gigantic annual fees and even better benefits. But these are the four basic cards.

  • Which cards have the best sign up bonus?
  • Which have the best benefits?

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Two Tricks I Used on My Last Award Booking

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As you read this, I’m 35,000 feet up on my way to Medellin, Colombia.

I was in Tucson over the weekend for a tennis tournament, and I didn’t have any exit flight booked. I really wanted to return to Colombia because I had enjoyed Bogota so much and heard even better things about Medellin, but award space didn’t appear to be available for a Monday departure from Tucson to Medellin.

I used two tricks and a little bit of creativity to come up with a Saver award, save myself $75 in fees, and give myself a chance to hang out with a buddy I haven’t seen in a few years.

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  • What were my two tricks?
  • How did I save $75?

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Award Space on United 787-9 Dreamliner to Melbourne Australia

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United flies from Los Angeles to Melbourne directly with its newest plane the 787-9 Dreamliner.

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15 hours 45 minutes

Award space on United’s Dreamliners in Business Class has been abysmal, but I wanted to check in and see if anything was different on this route.

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We want to get into these flat beds up front

The good news is that there is award space on the route in both directions for two people in Business Class.

  • What is the award space picture? 
  • How many miles does the flight to Australia cost?

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United Offering 20% Discount on Awards to Europe

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United is offering a 20% discount on economy awards to Europe flown this winter.

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Instead of the normal 60,000 miles roundtrip, Saver awards to nine airports in Europe will cost only 48,000 miles roundtrip.

This is a good deal if you were already planning to use United miles to fly to Europe this winter, but there are better deals for winter travel to Europe.

  • How does the deal work? (One ways?)
  • What are the better off peak awards to Europe?

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Take Your Whole Family to Europe This Summer

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Aer Lingus, a partner of United MileagePlus and British Airways Avios, debuts a Washington-Dulles to Dublin route on May 1, 2015. It has 4 economy seats and 4 business class seats available for awards on nearly every flight through October 2015 at the moment.

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This is in addition to the gold mine award routes to Europe for next summer that I discussed Tuesday.

  • What days will Aer Lingus operate Washington to Dublin?
  • What is the award space picture?
  • What is the cheapest way to book the flight with miles?

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Gold Mine Award Space to Europe for Summer 2015

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

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

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

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

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Air Canada Business Class

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

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Master Thread: Off Peak Awards

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Off peak awards allow us to stretch our miles further by booking discounted awards to select regions during certain pre-determined dates. Off peak awards are offered by several airlines, and this post will put all the off peak awards I know of in one place.

While off peak awards are often less desirable dates, there are some off peak dates that are actually my favorite times to visit a country. For instance, March is a fantastic month in Argentina, and you can book an award to Buenos Aires or Bariloche every March for 10,000 fewer American Airlines miles than if you travel in July, a worse time to visit in my opinion.

Bariloche, Lake District of Patagonia, in March

American and US Airways have set off peak awards every year to select regions. Air France Flying Blue and Lufthansa Miles & More have discounted awards that are kind of like off peak awards. United and Delta occasionally have award sales that are like off peak awards, but are not as regular as American and US Airways’ off peak awards.

  • What are the off peak awards offered by American, US Airways, Delta, United, Lufthansa, and Air France?
  • What dates are they offered?
  • Do you have to fly the airline offering the deal or can you fly a partner?

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New Dreamliner Flight LAX to Europe with Tons of Award Space

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Update 10/23/14: Commenter Jeremy finds the award space now on aeroplan.com, and I can confirm that the space on these Ethiopian flights is now bookable and is still excellent! (None of the rest of the post has been updated to reflect this information.)

Ethiopian Airlines will begin flying Los Angeles to Dublin to Addis Ababa in June 2015 with a 787 Dreamliner. Ethiopian will have fifth freedom rights, meaning you will be able to fly any single segment of the flight, including Los Angeles to Dublin.

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This is an exciting addition to the Star Alliance’s transatlantic routes, especially if the route has awesome award space, since direct award space from the West Coast to Europe is tough to find. (Solution: route via Canada.)

The flight will be bookable with United miles and any other Star Alliance airline’s miles. Crucially, with United miles, you can connect Los Angeles to Dublin with the rest of Europe by using United’s non-alliance partner Aer Lingus.

Right now, Los Angeles to Dublin is showing 4 economy seats and 2 business class seats in both directions from June 2015 and beyond. But there’s a problem…

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  • What are the flight times?
  • How is Ethiopian Business Class?
  • Where does Aer Lingus fly within Europe?
  • What is the problem with the award space on united.com?

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Australia over Christmas and New Years on Miles

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

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

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

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

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

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Five Underpriced Countries for Your Next Award

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Sometimes you can go really far for not very miles by finding underpriced countries on your favorite award chart.

Award charts, by their nature, group several countries together for a single price. The countries at the extremes of each group are often underpriced relative to the rest of the group, leaving you the chance to get a great deal with your miles.

Here are five examples of underpriced countries on the American Airlines, United, Delta, US Airways, and British Airways award charts.

1. Peru, by American, United, and Delta

Peru is the farthest south country in Northern South America on the American Airlines, United, and Delta charts. I’ve previously called Peru the Best Destination for Lie Flat Seats because it is the only country in its region with lie flat seats offered by United, Delta, and American’s partner LAN.

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The most distant country in Northern South America is Peru

You can book a one way award from the United States to Peru for as little as 15,000 American Airlines miles each way in economy on these dates: between January 16 – June 14 and September 7 – November 14. That’s only 2,500 miles more than a one way award within the continental United States and cheaper than an award to Hawaii despite Peru being farther award from the continental United States than Hawaii.

You can fly flat beds to Peru for:

  • 30,000 American Airlines miles each way (LAN)
  • 35,000 United miles each way (United)
  • 90,000 Delta miles roundtrip (Delta) [45,000 miles each way starting 1/1/15]

That’s cheaper than flat beds to Hawaii, despite Peru being farther away from the continental United States. Those prices are also a huge discount on the prices to Chile, Brazil, and Argentina which are just a few hours more of flying.

Peru also happens to be my favorite country to visit. Here’s my Top Ten Things to Do, Eat, and See in Peru.

  • What are the other four underpriced countries?

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You Can Still Get the 50,000 Mile United Offer

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Earlier this month, the 50,000 mile bonus offer on the United Explorer Card publicly ended. Reader Solomon sent along two places you can still get the card with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months.

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Where You Can Get the United 50k Offer, photo from Solomon

Chase issues the United Explorer card and usually lets folks who have applied for a lower offer match to a better public offer. That means that the 50k mile United card offer might be available to everyone.

  • Where can you get the United 50,000 mile offer?
  • How can anyone possibly be matched to the 50,000 mile offer?

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The Cheapest Ways to Get to Hawaii

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Update on 9/23/14 to Remove Reference to American Airlines award stopovers and free one ways, which are no longer possible.

Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to visit, and judging by the number of inquiries I get about booking awards to Hawaii, it’s clear that many people agree. There are a number of cheap ways to get there that I’ll list in order.

1. Allegiant Air $358+ roundtrip- Allegiant Air is a super-low cost carrier that announced flights to Hawaii that will start in November. Flights to Honolulu from Bellingham, Eugene, Fresno, Las Vegas, Monterey, Santa Maria, and Stockton; and flights to Kahului from Bellingham begin in November. The flights are as cheap as $308 roundtrip, but a carryon will cost $50 roundtrip and a checked bag is $70 roundtrip. Additionally if you want to select your seat or board early, you have to pay extra.

But if you live in one of the cities serviced by Allegiant, don’t mind a middle seat for five hours, and can travel with only one bag, $358 roundtrip to Hawaii is the best deal in my opinion.

One key caveat is that Allegiant flights don’t earn any frequent flier miles or credit of any kind. Since normally flying from the west coast to Hawaii earns about 5,000 miles, and I value 5,000 miles at around $85 depending on the carrier, Allegiant flights must be $85 or more cheaper than the legacy carriers for this to be a good deal. Since the legacy carriers want $600+ from the west coast to Hawaii right now, Allegiant easily meets the criterion.

You can always pay for your Allegiant flights, bag fees, seat fees, and food with a Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®. Then you can redeem Arrival miles to remove those purchases from your statement. You could even use your Arrival miles for an airbnb stay in Hawaii or interisland flights.

2. Avios Award 25,000+ Avios and $11+ roundtrip- I love that Avios is a distance-based award chart. Flights like the west coast to Hawaii cost only 12,500 Avios each way plus taxes. For 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly on AA planes from LAX to the four major Hawaiian airports.

Alaska Airlines has way more gateways on the mainland to the four major Hawaiian airports. For 25,000 Avios and $36, you can fly from Anchorage, Bellingham, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle to Hawaii. The extra $25 on Avios awards comes from the fact that awards on Alaska Airlines can’t be booked on ba.com, and calling BA incurs a $25 phone fee.

Avios is also the best option for anyone who lives close to one of the airports mentioned in this section, since a short hop flight only adds 4,500 Avios and $2.50 to the price each way. That means Tuscon to Los Angeles to Lihue roundtrip would be 34,000 Avios and $16.

Avios can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, it’s still a good idea to go oneway for 12,500 Avios and use another oneway deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from Honolulu to LAX with Avios.

3. Hawaiian Airlines Award 35,000 miles and $11- Hawaiian Airlines awards start at 35,000 miles for Hawaiian Airlines branded card holders. The normal price is 40,000 miles. While this price is no cheaper than an American Airlines off peak award to Hawaii, I think it’s a better deal because Hawaiian Airlines miles are worth less than most programs’ miles. (The reason Hawaiian miles are worth less is their lack of partners, junk long haul first class product, and lack of destinations.)

Hawaiian also has the only direct flight from Honolulu to JFK, which at 35,000 miles and $5 is a fantastic value in terms of low cost and getting a direct flight. The other flights Hawaiian operates from Honolulu to the mainland go to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle.

Hawaiian miles can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, this can be combined with a oneway Avios deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from LAX to Honolulu with Hawaiian miles. The post also includes information on the very useful mile pooling allowed by Hawaiian.

4. Star Alliance options from as little as 35,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 60,000 miles in First.

See this post.

 

The Cheapest Awards within One Region

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If you THINK BIG, and take an amazing multi-destination trip, you’ll need to book several tickets to hop between destinations.

In the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia, flights are fairly cheap because of the many competing airlines, including low cost carriers. In other regions, like Africa and South America, short flights can be exorbitantly expensive as a lack of competition drives up prices.

When ticket prices are expensive, that’s the time to use miles. I’ve already laid out the cheapest intra-region bargain awards with American Airlines and United miles. There are also some excellent deals within a single region on the American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways award charts.

Hop Around My Favorite Continent for 12,500 of Which Miles? (from google.com)

Hop Around My Favorite Continent for 12,500 of Which Miles? (from google.com)

The key to finding great miles uses within a single region is finding award charts with big regions.

For instance, Singapore Airlines categorizes all of South America as one region and charges only 12,500 miles each way in economy within the region. One route I’m looking at for a big trip in December is from Medellin, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The ticket would cost $755 or 12,500 Singapore miles + $75. That’s over 5 cents of value per mile on an economy ticket!

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With the demise of American Airlines Explorer Awards, big trips will require many awards. Choosing the right miles for each of the small awards will really add up, so make sure you know the top intra-region awards.

  • What are the top intra-region awards with American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways miles?
  • What about British Airways Avios?

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More United Options to Brazil, Azul Adds Flights to USA

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United partner Azul, a Brazilian low cost carrier, is adding flies to the United States in December 2014.Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 6.20.17 PM

  • December 1, 2014: Viracopos-Campinas (VCP) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • December 15, 2014: Viracopos-Campinas (VCP) to Orlando (MCO)

Note that Viracopos-Campinas is often called a Sao Paulo airport. It is about 50 miles from the city center and farther away than Sao Paulo’s other international airport (GRU.)

These new American destinations are in addition to the 100+ destinations served in Brazil.

You can book Azul flight with United miles. Azul’s planes are in an all-economy configuration, and United charges 30,000 miles each way between the United States and Brazil.

  • How is the Azul experience?
  • How can you book Azul flights with United miles?
  • Where does Azul fly to from Viracopos airport?

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