All posts by freqflyercoll

Debating government airfares

Via View From the Wing, the Washington Post is trying to characterize Ron Paul as wasting tax payer dollars by flying first class.  To be fair, he is probably flying first class, due to elite upgrades, but he isn’t actually buying full fare first class tickets, as Gary points out.

The Congressman, being an employee of the Federal government, would generally travel on what’s known as a government class Y fare.  Class Y is typically the booking code for a fully refundable and changeable ticket (these are usually pretty expensive, several multiples higher than the typically lowest available fare, so you would probably never book one of these on your own dime).  The government Y fares are slightly different.  They’re not as abundant as regular class Y fares, but they are generally discounted from the regular class Y fares.  They allow flexibility if a traveler’s plans change due to work.

When it comes to how the airlines treats these fares, they work as regular class Y fares.  For example, with a class Y fare, elite bonus miles on a flight actually count as elite qualifying miles rather than just redeemable miles.  And if an airline gives preferential upgrades to a class Y fare, the government Y fare would qualify for these as well.

Anyway, back to the article.  As Gary points out, Ron Paul isn’t buying some outrageously expensive fare here, just what most government employees and Congressmen and Congresswomen purchase on official travel.  The first class would generally come as a no-cost upgrade due to his status with the airline (I assume he travels quite a bit as a Congressman, and has elite status).

Also, as Gary points out, there is a larger issue of whether or not government employees should be buying fully refundable and changeable tickets, or just buying economy tickets and paying change fees.  It makes sense, with his particular job and possible schedule changes, to pay a highly discounted rate for the changeable ticket upfront, even if he doesn’t end up needing to change anything most of the time.  The government also has contracts in place, and the fares would help with other situations, for example if there was a weather event.  While some might say the Congressman should have to go through the same ordeals as regular Americans, his current practices and ticket buying isn’t any different from other members of Congress or the millions of government employees out there.

Loyalty Traveler Hotel blog series

Loyalty Traveler is writing a series of blog post comparing various Hotel Loyalty programs.  The first post looks at the hotel counts by luxury level for Hilton, IHG, and Marriot.  It’s pretty interesting to see the hotel count breakdowns.  He also brings up a few good points, about considering what type of elite benefits you prefer, as well as geographic locations of properties, when deciding which hotel chain you want to give your loyalty to.

My take is that none of the chains in this post are the best choices for elite benefits or redemptions.  I’d prefer SPG, because you can earn points on the AMEX SPG, and generally get a decent return on your points (at least 3 cents each).  The points you earn in these programs are not as valuable, and elite status is generally not as worth while.  Hilton Gold status is practically given out to everyone for doing nothing, and Gold is all you need to get wifi and breakfast at their properties.  Marriot’s elite benefits are only worth it at the highest level, and that takes 75 stays.

I personally use Starwood’s program the post, and I’m considering starting on Hyatt’s program, if I stay at hotels enough.  Hyatt seems to have picked up a lot of popularity the past couple of years among frequent travelers.

Ultimately, one of the main factors in your choice should be, are there enough convenient locations in the places that you frequent most.

Credit Card deal alert – AMEX Premier Rewards Gold

The Points Guy posted yesterday (as well as some other blogs) that you can now sign up for the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card and earn a 25,000 bonus (of Membership Rewards points).  The catch is that you must have an existing cardholder refer you using this form (the person who refers you will also earn 10,000 MR points).  Otherwise, if you are not referred, you will only earn a 15k bonus for getting this card.

This card is a solid one to build your points strategy around.  It earns 3 points per dollar on airfare, and 2 points per dollar on gas and groceries.  You can earn an additional point on airfare and other travel if you book travel using the card through Amex travel.  The MR program has had it’s share of downs over the past year, but it’s still a solid program (with the number of transfer partners that it has).  This card is particularly good with the category bonuses, though personally I would still use a Chase Sapphire preferred for non-air traveling and other expenses (or an SPG AMEX for non-travel expenses).  This card does come with a $175 fee, but it is waived the first year, so you’ll have to decide if the benefits are worth it to you beyond the first year.

If you are interested in applying for this card, I would be happy to send you a referral.  Just email me (questions at frequentflyercollector dot com) your first and last name, and email address (if you’re not sending from the address where you want the referral).