Category Archives: Airlines

The best part about the US-AA merger so far…

There’s been all this great speculation about the new airline and the frequent flyer program, but I actually think the best part of the merger so far continues on One Mile at a Time’s recent posts regarding music (hold music specifically in his case).  Now, this isn’t hold music, but the music in this video, extolling the virtues of the combined airline, is pretty awesome, in my opinion.

 

I might have already spent a lot of time listening to this song on loop…

For that matter, I’m a sucker for catchy music, so I might’ve also spent a lot of times listening to all the good and awful songs Lucky posted as well…

40% Bonus for Membership Rewards to Avios transfers ending

AMEX has been offering a 40% bonus on transfers of Membership Rewards points to Avios, but that is ending tomorrow!

Avios transfer bonus

I’ve used Avios to book several trips recently, mostly exploiting how short haul award tickets are only 4500 Avios each way!  I’ve booked several tickets to Chicago for the fall from DC, but I also used Avios to book Cathay Business from YVR to JFK for my Xmas travel.  One Mile at a Time has a full rundown of these redemption options as well as a few others on Avios.  I am probably going to transfer a chunk of points to Avios before this ends, just to have them for future trips.

Flying Singapore First in January :)

Thanks to Lucky of One Mile at a Time, I managed to get in on the Singapore Airlines first class bonanza going on right now.  Singapore Airlines is apparently upgrading their reservation system, and first class availability has been left wide open during this upgrade.  While there’s some speculation these tickets might get cancelled out, it’s worth a try (and might end up with compensation).

I ended up booking a trip to Singapore in January, coinciding with the FlyerTalk SingaporeDo in January 2013 🙂  Two of the flights on the trip will be in SQ first (with a leg in ANA business and two US Air firsts), if my current itinerary stands.  I ended up doing this for 160k US Airways Dividend miles + $120, to pare down my large stash of US Airways miles.

Now, fingers crossed that these reservations are honored!

Pet travel on an airplane

I actually caught this on the radio, which is a bit rare since I generally listen to most of my NPR content via podcasts (Downcaster).  Anyway, there was a story on WAMU Animal House about traveling pets.  I do recommend listening to this show, since the text at that link doesn’t say much.  If you don’t want t hear Captain Paul Watson’s illegal fishing stories, you’ll want to skip to later in the podcast when they discuss United lifting it’s limited dog breed ban, and when they talk to dog safety expert Melanie Monteiro about sending your pets on a plane.

My cat, allowed me to tie a bandana on her after she made the transcon journey from California.

When I moved last year, I actually had my cat flown across the country on Continental/United.  I did have someone help me with all the logistics, because I figured it would be better to pay someone to make sure there were no snafus (like missing required documentation), then to add that stress onto everything else going on with a move.

Anyway, among the pet transport planners I talked to, the Continental PetSafe program (now United) was everyone’s favorite, and luckily they flew to DCA.  The most interesting tip that Melanie Monteiro shares is that you should bring a photo of your pet flying, and show the flight attendants, and have them bring the picture to the captain.  Apparently, even though the pet cargo hold is full pressurized, it can still get cold.  According to her, the captain has a switch that can direct additional warm air into the pet cargo hold, so the captain can make your pet’s journey a bit more enjoyable!  I didn’t know that (nor did I fly on the same flight as my cat), so I don’t know if my cat got the benefit of warm air, but at least she made it over ok!

Free Delta miles for signing up for Le Club Accorhotels

View from the Wing reports a promotion where you can get 500 free Delta Skymiles simply by signing up for an account with Le Club Accorhotels.  While Delta miles aren’t generally considered all that valuable  (link is to a post about a debate on Delta Sky Miles that happened at this year’s New York Frequent Traveler University), who can complain about miles that you get for taking a couple minutes to register an account?

United’s layoffs in Houston

I unfortunately didn’t get around to posting this earlier, but as has been reported in several places, United recent announced layoffs in the Houston area because the city approved allowing Southwest to build an international terminal at Houston’s Hobby airport, and being international service.  Now, for those of you who follow Southwest, their international destinations are likely going to be Mexico and the Caribbean.  They won’t be flying to Australia or Asia or any of that, most likely. However, United made this sound like the end of the world, and in addition to the layoffs, they even cancelled their proposed upcoming Houston-Auckland (New Zealand) service on 787s.

I agree with Cranky Flier on this one (who award United his “Cranky Jackass” award).  These were probably planned or needed layoffs, which are typical after a merger, and United is trying to win some points by blaming these layoffs on what the city of Houston has decided to do.  Sure they will face some more competition as a result of the vote, but I highly doubt thinks like Houston to Auckland would be affected by that (plus Southwest will not even be flying out of Hobby internationally for several years).  I think United overplayed their hand on this one…

AMR (AA parent company) to consider sale of company

After resisting sentiment from creditors, unions, and others to sell/merge the company before exiting bankruptcy, apparently AMR will now consider merger options.  It’s an interesting development, especially considering how many people have recently been getting shifting business to AA (myself included).  Somewhat related,  as View from the Wing wrote about Randy Petersen’s AAdvantage comments at the Frequent Traveler University a few weeks back, AA hasn’t mentioned much about the value of the AAdvantage program, which is potentially a huge asset (considering it is the oldest and largest frequent flyer program around).

P.S. My trusty Bloomberg iPad app actually alerted to me about this story yesterday morning 🙂  As i was waking up, I grabbed my iPad, and this article was showing on my lock screen 😛

Determining if an award is worth it

Frequent Miler made a couple of posts with a basic guide to determining whether a booking is worth it when you use your points.  His advice is pretty good, and presents good guidelines to figuring out if you should use points or not.  However, it is also important to keep your goals in mind.  If your goal is to minimize out of pocket expense of any kind, and you have earned your miles through signup bonuses (as opposed to regular credit card spending), then it’s perfectly acceptable to redeem awards that are “not worth it” by the guidelines presented.

Without further ado, here is Frequent Miler’s guide for determining if an airline award is worth it and for determining if a hotel award is worth it.

Lessons Learned for Mileage Runs

As I’ve posted on before, I spent a couple of weekends and a couple days doing “mileage runs,” flying with the sole purpose of earning miles. For my efforts, I managed to earn 94k EQM on AA in January.

AA EQM Jan 2012
The fruits of my labor...

I’ve never really done mileage runs before, much less 8 cross-country (or most of the country) trips within a month, so I though I’d share some of my thoughts and lessons learned from all this.

1) Stacked mileage runs/short turnaround times are pretty risky (obviously), and also extremely hard on the body.  I tried to plan at least two hour layovers when I was scheduling flights, but this proved not to be enough at times.  The first weekend where I spent the whole weekend flying, there was a big snowstorm in Chicago, and that delayed flights for about a day.  I was very fortunate in that only one of my flights was delayed past my next/return flight.  And since the return flight was the last plane out of SFO (the red eye back to ORD), they didn’t have equipment or crew to switch with, so they basically just delayed that flight until after we arrived from Chicago.

I did hear a few other stories where people had to cancel or reschedule some of their MRs because of this.  One thing I did learn (and that I’d heard previously) as that the AA Admiral Club agents are very helpful, and will do many things with your reservations that gate agents are either helpless or unwilling to do.  They really earn the affection label AAngels…

2) Not surprisingly, it’s a bit difficult on your body/psyche/sanity/orientation to take so many flights in a short period.  What I discovered was that I could do about two round trips each weekend and still not be sick of the whole deal, but the third trip between SFO and ORD is when I would start getting tired of it and just want to go home.  But overall, that amount of flying if fairly tolerable, if you can sleep on planes and make sure to get an amount of sleep approaching your normal amount.  I did have to do a few flights back-to-back, i.e. get off the plane and get back on within an hour, and those were rough, because it was essentially 8 straight hours of flying in domestic coach (though I met some people who did this for 12 straight hours by taking 3 back-to-back flights).

A couple of things that I brought along that I think helped a lot were a neck pillow and an inflatable lumbar support.  These help your posture a lot and make an uncomfortable airplane seat somewhat tolerable (for hours on end).

3) I implied this previously, but make sure you have lounge access.  I personally had the AMEX platinum card, and one of the benefits of the card is AA Admirals Club access (the link is to the business version, but both have lounge benefits).  It’s a nice place to relax, with comfortable seating, less noise, plenty of power plugs, and most importantly, showers (my fellow travelers probably appreciated me taking showers regularly too).  Although admittedly, SFO terminal 2 is already pretty nice, it’s still great to be able to go into the lounge.

View of inside of LAX AAdmirals Club
Looking out from LAX AA Admirals Club

The one drawback of the lounge is limited food options, so I’d recommend bringing in food that you want, or to eat before going in (I was told by AAdvantage Geek that the DFW AA Admirals Club is anal about not allowing outside food).  Also, if you want to people watch, you get a bit less variety in the lounge

4) Try and talk to other familiar face.  On a great deal like this one, believe it or not, you’re likely to find many other mileage runners doing this.  Not only that, but I had a veteran tell me that there were people she would run into over and over on different mileage run deals.  Even if you don’t live in the same place as those you might meet, it’s just good to get to know them and have more friends to visit in different places 🙂  Plus networking can take you all kinds of places.

5) If you’re doing many mileage runs in sets, especially with DEQM or TEQM promotions in play, try to strategize/plan so that you may have elite status on as many flights as possible.  I ended up doing most of my runs the last two weekends of January, so I only had status for maybe a fourth of my flights.  But if say, I’d been able to do a bunch the first weekend, and allow time for those flights and associated bonus miles to post, I could’ve done mileage runs two or three weeks later and had platinum status for all the flights then.  This actually can make this whole ordeal more lucrative, because as an AA platinum you earn 100% bonus RDM, which can be used for future trips.

That’s all I’ve got for now on this, though I’m sure I’ve forgotten to write some tidbit of knowledge that I picked up…but I’ll try to update this post if I remember anything else.

UPDATE: The promotional RDM have all posted (one of the DEQM promotions also included DRDM), and i ended up with about 75k total RDM earned for all those trips.  I spent about $2500 on airfare, and an estimated $3,000 total on these trips, including the cost of some upgrades and AA upgrade stickers, transit costs to from airport, food, etc.  So based on actual airfare, I ended up spending about 2.6 CPM per EQM and 3.6 CPM per RDM, and based on total cost, it was 3.1 CPM per EQM and 4.2 CPM per RDM