Jan 20

And Now, for Something Completely Different…

I have been thinking a lot about Aaron Sorkin ever since I read a few days ago that it is supposed to rain in Washington DC today. Sorkin often uses rain in his movies to indicate that “something bad” is about to happen, in much the same way that oranges in The Godfather indicated that somebody was about to be sleepin’ with the fishes.

Travel

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
We just don’t get quotable people like Mark Twain anymore. As far as I can tell, the closest thing we have is “I can see Alaska from my living room!,” which comes, of course, from Saturday Night Live.
Over the past century, the world has become a smaller place thanks, in large part, to the airplane, which has facilitated travel to those little corners of the earth that Twain mentioned. It’s no surprise that global growth, both economic and cultural, has been such a phenomenon.

Now What?

It was good while it lasted                                                                         Source: Pinterest

But the past year has managed to wipe out so many of those gains. Xenophobia, bigotry and institutions that make their livings by telling you who to be afraid of have conspired to generate short-term (perceived) psychic gains at the expense of the long-term development of civilization. Does that sound dramatic? Good. It’s supposed to.

So now what? Just how much are we willing to surrender by walling ourselves off from the rest of the world in the name of “safety” generated with models by people who are really bad at math? Because every time we stop communicating with others, we make the world more dangerous, not less.

I’m not here to claim that the world is not a dangerous place. There are bad people out there who want to do us harm, and we need to keep the country safe from them.  But there’s a better way to do it than violating the liberties of our citizens, scaring away potential immigrants and celebrating xenophobia, and it doesn’t involve building a wall. Convincing ourselves that there is an absolute “right” and “wrong,” is an easy solution, is a lazy answer and risks putting us in the position where the solution only exacerbates the problem.

Happy January 20th, everyone. I hope you brought your umbrellas.

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Jan 19

2,000 Free Points from Intercontinental

Intercontinental (IHG), the parent of the Intercontinental and Holiday Inn brands (among others), is offering 2,000 easy points.* They represent easy points and the survey points may keep your account from expiring if you don’t use it often.

Opinion Check-In

intercontinental

Surveys are the single easiest way to pick up points on the cheap. They can be somewhat boring, so I do them while also doing something else (e.g., watching TV). IHG is offering a pretty generous 1,000 points for signing up and completing your first survey. After that, it’s up to you whether you continue.

Birthday Bonus

One of these days, I’m going to do a list of birthday bonuses that you can get at various programs. Today isn’t that day. Tomorrow isn’t looking too good, either. But IHG seems to be giving people 1,000 points on their birthdays. That’s much better than all the spam emails from mailing lists that I get.

 


*I’ve seen these bonuses at a number of sources, but the first one appears to be from Award Wallet.

 

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Jan 18

American Airlines Adding Basic Economy

American Airlines issued a press release today announcing the introduction of its Basic Economy fares, matching the new fare class set out by Delta and United.

Basic Economy

basic economy

Soon to be renamed “cozy class.”                                                 Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Basic Economy (BE) is a class of service right below traditional economy and is meant to compete with the Spirit Airlines of the world. You’ll get a discount on the traditional economy fare but, in exchange, give up certain privileges. Sure, the in-flight experience will be mostly the same (same seats, free beverages, free entertainment), but that’s about it. In particular:

  • Your seat assignment comes at check-in. Want to choose your seat? You can pay to do so, 48 hours out.
  • No upgrades, regardless of elite status.
  • You’ll board last, which is okay, since you don’t get to put anything in the overhead (for free). Note: Elite members and credit card holders still get a bag and their regular boarding position.
  • Tickets are “use it or lose it.” No stand-by, no same-day changes.
  • You’ll get full redeemable miles, but only 1/2 the miles/segments toward elite status.

What Does It Mean?

To be clear, AA has no intention of reducing amenities for all of their passengers. The airline has spent too much time increasing benefits. But it cannot afford to offer its traditional product at the same price as the ultra-low cost carriers do. This pricing structure allows the airline to match the ULCCs, while maintaining a product advantage for traditional economy customers.

 

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Jan 16

American Airlines Just Destroyed Their Best Mileage Award

With all the sturm und drang of the past several weeks, American slipped a change through. It was not a particularly well-publicized move, but it was one that put severe restrictions on one of the most valuable aspects of the program. It’s going to get a bit wordy, but it’s one that matters.

Easy Upgrades

One of the best parts about American is how easy it is to upgrade domestic seats from economy to first class. You can pay 15,000 miles and $75 and boom, if available, the upgrade is yours. So if you’re flying from Boston to San Francisco and don’t feel like sitting in the back for the full 2,500 or so miles of travel. Now, that privilege is going to be much harder to obtain.

Every ticket comes with a “fare code,” a single letter that designates the nature of the ticket. For instance, on American, “F” means full-fare first class, while Y means full-fare economy. 24 other letters represent different options, ranging from deeply-discounted coach tickets to various award tickets. Recently, American made some changes to its fare codes which will affect those upgrades. It wasn’t done specifically for that reason, but that was one of the results. Here are the details:

Upgrade Changes

If you wanted to upgrade using miles and a $75 copay, you were rebooked into fare code A. In other words, American needed to have seats remaining in A. other words, American needed to have seats remaining in A. That was not normally a problem due to an idiosyncrasy in American’s system: Fare code A had multiple purposes. Not only was it a domestic upgrade code but it was also the code for discounted first-class tickets (among others). The airline always had a first-class seat that it was willing to sell; that’s where the big bucks are. Thus, it was rare that there wasn’t a seat available in the category and, therefore, you could always get an upgrade through miles and a copay.

Recently, though, American made a change. In order to get a domestic upgrade using miles and cash, you now need tickets available in fare code C. This code is the same one that American uses for certain categories of international upgrades (in particular, those that Executive Platinum elite status customers get for achieving status). Since international business class tickets are so expensive, though, they don’t make seats in category C easy to obtain. At any given time, there may be only one or two seats available, if that. Frequently, they hold those seats until the last minute, hoping that they can sell them, rather than give them away.

The 15,000 mile and $75 copay upgrade is not going away entirely. There are going to be seats available, particularly at the last minute, but booking one far in advance is likely going to be very, very difficult, unless they find a way to separate the types of upgrades with the fare category.

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Jan 14

Club Carlson Bonus: Up to 100,000 Points

Club Carlson, the little program that could (Carlson owns several brands, the best known of which is the Radisson.), is offering a promotion for up to 100,000 points. But it comes with a catch.

Earn Bigger Rewards

Club Carlson

Earn Bigger Rewards

The cleverly named “Earn Bigger Rewards” promotion offers you the opportunity to earn up to 100,000 points. But before registering for the promotion, you need to have an idea of how much traveling you are going to do because you have to choose your goal before registering. In other words, if you are going to go for the full 100,000, make sure that you are going to hit the full 20 nights that you need:

  • Stay 1 night, earn 5,000 bonus Gold Points
  • Stay 2 nights, earn 10,000 bonus Gold Points
  • Stay 4 nights, earn 20,000 bonus Gold Points
  • Stay 8 nights, earn 50,000 bonus Gold Points
  • Stay 20 or more nights, earn 100,000 bonus Gold Points

It’s a great deal for Club Carlson customers, so make sure that you take advantage of it. But that’s no surprise, because Club Carlson generally offers the best quarterly promotions in the industry.

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Jan 12

Alaska Airlines: Free 10,000 Miles Or $100 Credit

Rule #1 of collecting miles is simple: Always sign up for every free program, no matter how little you get for it. And normally, it’s not much. Most programs start you off with 500-1,000 points or miles, or something else worth a nominal amount.

A Big Freebie from Alaska Airlines

A big bonus for a few clicks. It should always be this easy.

Alaska Airlines, on the other hand, has gone the other direction, offering you either 10,000 miles or a $100 credit. It’s fighting a two-front war, with Delta having invaded Seattle a couple of years back, and the recent acquisition of Virgin America putting it on JetBlue’s radar. Originally, the freebie only went to people who had both Virgin America and Alaska Airlines active accounts, but it has since gone mainstream. You can access the offer through this link if you didn’t get it sent directly to your email already. If you don’t have an Alaska Airlines account already, it will help you set one up.

It’s A Great Deal

alaska airlines

The award chart

10,000 miles will actually get you something. One-way fares start at 5,000 miles for short trips, so it could be worth as much as a free round trip.

One Note: The west coast is experiencing some weather and hold times for the phone line are extremely busy. If you need Alaska’s help with the promotion, give it a couple of days so that those who are stuck somewhere have just a bit of an easier time getting to where they need to go.

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Jan 11

A Big Thank You to All Of My Readers

I want to thank all my readers, with a special thank you to those who ordered a credit card through my Credit Cards for Charity page. This year, the page generated $3,174 (and 15 cents) in commissions, all of which was donated to Cradles to Crayons, a four-star Charity Navigator organization.

Cradles to Crayons has three locations, in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, and provides essentials for children from birth to Age 12. I’ve had the privilege of sorting toys, folding clothes, etc. in their warehouse alongside a dedicated staff and volunteers from every age and demographic group.

If you are applying for a card, or know someone who is, I would encourage you to use the link above, which will take you to several banners. You are doing well by doing good.

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Jan 10

Possible 50,000 Miles Credit Card from United Airlines

Having just completed my first flight on United in about a decade, the airline decided that I was hot to trot for them (I’m not, although the flight wasn’t bad.).

50,000 Miles from United?

united

Don’t know who this D. Barrett guy is, but he should probably get his credit card off the internet.

In honor of my flight (I think.), the airline sent me a targeted offer, bumping up the usual 30,000 miles sign-up bonus to 50,000. Sometimes these offers work for the general public and sometimes they don’t. But it never hurts to put your frequent flyer number in and see what they are willing to give you. And if you do need a United credit card but don’t need one right away, you should wait for a 50,000 miles sign-up offer promotion. No use giving up the extra 20,000 miles.

The card has the typical airline perks. No annual fee first year, free first bag, priority boarding. One nice feature on this card is that it gives you two passes to the United Club each year. Not too shabby.

 

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Jan 08

airberlin: Triple Or Quadruple Miles from US to Europe

You may never have heard about airberlin, but they’re an airline worth opening an account with, even if you never intend to fly Germany’s second largest airline. They tend to give away a ton of free miles and, as a oneworld alliance member, their miles can be used on airlines around the world.

Big Bonus Miles

airberlin

A few days ago, I received an offer from airberlin offering either triple or quadruple miles for flights from the US to Europe. Best of all, I didn’t have to register. All I had to do was book it, no signup required. If you are traveling to Europe and would consider airberlin, it’s worth a call to the airline to verify that you can enroll.

Here’s the downside: I tried to access my airberlin account online and was told that, due to maintenance, the site is not available from the US. I have no idea when that will change, but a phone call may be in order.

 

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Jan 06

British Airways Gets Really, Really Creepy…

I don’t remember where I first heard this story, but I can’t believe that I’m the only person creeped out by it.

Blue Pill Or Red Pill

british airways pill

They know why you fly                                                       Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Airlines have been taking away amenities for the past several years and only recently begun to add some back. This amenity, however, is one that I don’t really want.

Last year, British Airways filed a patent for an ingestible sensor. Apparently, it sends a signal to the crew telling them just how you are feeling. It will measure your temperature, stomach acidity, etc. to tell if you are too hot, hungry or, maybe, if you really, really need to go to the bathroom. Yup, that’s right. You could have a flight attendant show up at your seat and say, “Our body sensors just told us that you are hungry. Would you like to purchase a snack?”

I see a lot of potential problems with this technology, aside from the icky feeling you would get just by knowing that it exists. For example, what happens if the sensor indicates that I’m too hot but the passenger next to me is too cold? Or what about if someone’s really angry? Could that get mistaken for hunger? And what else will they know about me? Will they know if I voted for Hillary or The Donald? Lefty or Righty? Innie or Outie?

Sometimes, new technology is just best left well enough alone.

 

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