Ouch! US Airways shows what’s coming with my favorite use of miles

In a previous post, I mentioned that my favorite use of miles is a domestic upgrade for 15,000 miles and $75.  US Airways has a similar program, but the distance of the flight affects the copay.  At US, for example, that transcon flight costs fewer miles (10,000) but a lot more cash ($150 vs. $75).  Passengers with the highest elite status used to be able to waive that fee.  Not anymore.

Based on what we saw with the bigger changes in my previous post, I see no reason to believe that those fees won’t carry over.  Sure, it makes that Boston-Chicago upgrade that much cheaper, but I think we’ll be saying goodbye to the $75 upgrade fee for the long flights.

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And we’re back! American makes changes to Aadvantage program…

It’s never good when a program makes announcements without changes.  It’s also never good when they try as hard as AA did to hide the changes.  Overall?  It’s just not good.

Change comes at different rates.  Some airlines make wholesale changes to their programs all at once, like Delta.  Others, like AA, do what I call “death by 2,000 cuts.”  It takes twice as long and is just as painful.

Indeed, AA made a number of small cuts, none of which is terrible in and of itself, but overall, will generate a number of fees.  They’ve changed a number of award redemption levels, most larger, one or two smaller.  They made adjustments to the amount of bags you can carry for free on international flights.  And they pulled the free checked bags for people traveling on frequent flyer tickets.  For those who liked the longer flights, goodbye to stopovers.  And if you want to speak to an agent, it will now cost you an extra $10, up to $35.

These fees, part of the continued “nickel and diming” in the industry, is likely to continue and bolster American’s bottom line while not really changing consumer behavior.  But good luck finding any mention of the changes on AA’s website.  They tend to send out an email and then “forget” about it.  AA was always at war with eastasia.

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Living Social bonus at Delta

I don’t tend to post every shopping offer that I get, since it would take up 99% of my time, but I did think that today’s offer from Delta stood out.  For those who use Living Social, similar to Groupon, Delta is offering six miles per dollar plus a today-only deal of 15% off, making your LS even cheaper.  You can check it out here.

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US Airways: Up to 25,000 miles bonus to fly a bunch of airlines

With US Airways’s move into the oneworld alliance, they are playing nice with their partners by announcing a deal: Fly with a certain number of partners and get miles.  The more partners you fly with, the more miles you get.  You can register here (and you must register to be eligible) and have until June 30 to complete your flying.  Here’s a list of what you can earn:

Number of partners

Bonus miles

1 0
2 500
3 2,500
4 5,000
5 15,000
6+ 25,000

Note: only partners listed in the offer count, so be careful who you fly if you are going to take advantage of this offer.

Frankly, I don’t see it being worthwhile.  Unless you are already flying abroad, the cost per mile is prohibitively expensive and would likely force you to find a routing that would drive your travel department (or yourself) crazy.  Still, there is some value in driving a travel department crazy.

It’s doable, but for at least $5,000.  Heading from the East Coast, I chose May 21 as my departure date.

Flight 1) AA 106, departs JFK at 7:20 pm and arrives LHR (London) at 7:45 am 5/22/14.  I get an AA segment.

Flight 2) Finnair 832, departs LHR at 10:20 am, arrives HEL (Helsinki) at 3:15 pm.  Finnair segment.

Flight 3) Air Berlin 8313, departs HEL at 6:40 pm, arrives TXL (Berlin) at 7:35 pm.  Air Berlin segment.

Overnight in Berlin.  Sorry.  Find a comfy chair or a nearby hotel.

Flight 4) This flight is TXL-MAD (Madrid), but involves a connection.  TXL-LHR is on British Airways, which gets you a BA segment, and connects to LHR-MAD on IB (Iberia), getting you the Iberia segment.  Note that the flight departs TXL at 7 am and only gives you 1h10 to connect in LHR, so you’ll need to move fast.

Flight 5) Final flight on this itinerary.  Madrid-YVR (Vancouver) on any number of carriers.  There’s a flight out of MAD that leaves at 2:40 pm, connects in LHR and arrives in YVR at 6:40 pm, and that’s a good option.

I’m not going to strand you in Vancouver, though.  Cathay Pacific flies from Hong Kong to JFK and makes a stopover in Vancouver.  You can, however, book the one-way YVR-JFK portion independently.  It leaves at 10:50 pm and gets you into JFK the next morning.  Cathay Pacific is your sixth, and final, segment.

Congratulations!  You just spent $5,000 for 25,000 bonus miles (not to mention all the flight miles you have earned, which I haven’t even calculated but are around 15,000), plus a story that you can tell at parties for the rest of your life.

And at this point, I don’t even have the energy to do the west coast version.  I’ll leave that up to somebody else!

 

 

 

 

 

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US Airways moves to oneworld alliance: Let the status matches begin!

Congratulations, US Airways, you’ve taken another step toward the merger’s culmination by switching alliances, in particular, moving from Star to oneworld.  Now, US Airways members will have a completely different list of carriers on which they can use their miles.

One of the big benefits of alliance changes is that previous alliance members start offering status matches.  In other words, you may have had Star Alliance status previously through US Airways, but now your have oneworld.  But Star, or at least certain carriers within Star, don’t want to lose your business, so they offer status matches.  How does that work?  Glad you asked, since it works very easily.

In this case, Air Canada is throwing the first grenade.  Send them a scan of your US Airways card before April 30 and fly at least one flight on them before May 31 and you’ll earn the equivalent status on Air Canada through the end of February 2015.  Check out all the details here.

Why does it matter?  Well, you might like your Star Alliance status.  And besides, having status in two alliances is better than one.  But most importantly, there is a little-known rule regarding lounge access: Members who have Star Gold status (in this case, the equivalent of US Airways Gold or Altitude Elite on AC) on an airline from outside the United States get lounge privileges when flying Star Alliance carriers that day.  No membership card necessary, just show them your boarding pass with the appropriate status.  This access does not apply to members who earned their status on US Airways or United, so having that Air Canada status will get you into any Star Gold lounge.  For those who have never been in a lounge, while they’re not quite the quiet oasis that they once were, they are a much nicer place to wait for your flight and have agents who can work miracles.

Bottom line: One cheap flight will get you a nice status match.  If your US Airways status is high enough, it’s worth it.

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Cleaning up errors

You may be getting an error message if you click on a post from a previous page and try to continue reading.  I am working on the error and hope to have it sorted out shortly.

Thank you for your patience.

Note: We appear to be fixed for now.  Thanks again.

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My favorite use of miles on American Airlines (domestic)

Here’s why small amounts of miles can add up.  My favorite use of miles is domestic upgrades.  A one-way upgrade from coach to first on a two-class plane costs only 15,000 miles and $75.  15,000 miles may seem like a lot, but considering that they will give you as many as 100,000 for signing up for a credit card (albeit one with a high annual fee), it’s not a level that is truly hard to attain.

Let me assure you that if you are flying a six-hour transcon flight, that first class seat makes all the difference.  You deserve it, treat yourself!

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American Airlines: 1,050 free miles (free and easy)

GIMME ALERT!

American Airlines is giving you 1,050 miles for a few clicks.  You do need a Facebook account (Read here if you hate FB and don’t want to give up your personal info.) to play, but you simply answer a few trivia questions and earn your points.  It goes through May and can be found here.

Note: If you have any questions about the answers, pick the ones that make American Airlines look good.

Frankly, 1,000 miles is not a lot.  One might even ask why bother?  Two reasons:

First, every mile counts.  As few as 15,000 miles can get you an upgrade on AA anywhere in the US.

Second, any activity keeps your account from expiring.  Go too long without any activity in your account and it goes dormant, causing you to lose your miles.

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Delta changes may shift buying patterns

A few weeks ago, I discussed the changes that Delta is making to its frequent flyer program, which will emphasize dollars spent over distance.  I hypothesized that travelers, particularly those who have someone else paying for their ticket, would look to spend more money.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal had an article on just that subject.  If it actually happens, corporate travel managers are going to be much busier.

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Elite Status Challenge on JetBlue

Elite Status on an airline is a pretty powerful loyalty program.  The benefits from status often save you annoying fees and bump you to the front of the line for boarding, security, etc.  It’s normally earned by flying a large number of miles, spending a large number of dollars, or both, on a single airline/partnership in a single year.

Every once in a while, airlines will offer a “challenge” to earn or maintain elite status.  This challenge usually consists of earning a certain number of elite points in a particular time frame and is meant to draw new members into the loyalty program or cement the loyalty of those already there.

JetBlue just jumped into the pool with an offer for existing elite (Mosaic) members.  Sign up by April 18 and you’ll have 90 days to earn 3,750 base points, which equates to $1,250 in spend on JetBlue (JB doesn’t measure miles for elite status purposes.).  Do so and you’ll extend your elite status through Decenber 31, 2015.  It’s a great deal, particularly if you were already planning on flying during that period.  Click here for the details.

It gets better.  Even if you don’t have elite status with JetBlue, if you do with another airline, click the above link and JetBlue will give you status until the end of the year.  And if you complete the challenge, you’ll also get it until December 31, 2015.

Pretty sweet, any way you look at it.

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