8

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Yesterday I reviewed the improved offer on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, which now offers 30,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

There’s another hotel card with a temporarily increased sign up bonus. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card is offering 75,000 bonus Hilton points after $2,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening My review of the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card explains how the sign up bonus is worth 18 free nights at Category 1 hotels

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 2.12.34 PM

So which limited time offer is better?

This comparison will be useful for anyone considering getting a hotel card. I’ll break down the comparison by:

  • value of points
  • sign-up bonus
  • category bonuses
  • status
  • annual fee

Value of Points

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns 1+ Starpoint per dollar, which I value at 2.5 cents each. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card earns 2+ HHonors points per dollar, which I value at 0.4 cents each.

Starpoints can be used to book free nights at SPG properties for 2,000 to 35,000 points per night or can be transferred to 30 airlines, and most partners offer a 25% transfer bonus.

HHonors points can be used to book free nights at Hilton properties for 5,000 to 95,000 points per night.

Sign Up Bonus

Multiply the points by your value of the points to figure out which offers you the more valuable sign up bonus. The bonus on the Starwood card is worth $750 after spending $3,000 to me. The sign up bonus on the Hilton card is worth $300 after spending $2,000 to me.

Your point values could be vastly different based on how you plan to use the points. If you use Hilton properties exclusively at Category 1 and 2 properties and take advantage of the 5th night free on awards, you could get 1 or even 2 cents of value per point. That would bump the bonus to being more valuable than the SPG bonus. Do the match based on your likely redemptions.

Category Bonuses

After hitting the minimum spending requirement on the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card, it doesn’t offer an attractive proposition to continue spending on the card. Even its 6x category bonus on Hilton stays isn’t as good as putting the same purchase on a Starwood card for 1x according to my point valuations.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, on the other hand, is one of three cards you should consider for non-bonused spending, along with the Arrival Plus and United Club card.

Status

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card offers Hilton Silver status for as long as you hold the card. Silver members get a 15% points bonus on Hilton stays, late checkout, and free access to fitness centers. Plus only folks with Hilton status get the 5th night free on award stays.

Better yet, if you complete four Hilton stays in the first 90 days of card membership, you get bumped up to Hilton Gold status, which earns a 25% points bonus on Hilton stays and maybe a little better treatment at the front desk.

The Starwood card does not give you automatic status. The cards confer 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward elite status, leaving you 8 stays or 20 nights short of Gold Status.

Gold Status entitles you to free internet and a 4 PM checkout.

Annual Fee

Which Card is Better?

For most people, the SPG card is better, which is an important lesson in looking past the number of points to the value of those points.

However the Hilton card could be better for you if you use it optimally, for Category 1 and 2 Hilton stays. The card offers a strong value proposition for a card with no annual fee ever.

The good news is that this is not really an either/or decision. You can get both the Starwood and Hilton cards to rack up both bonuses and to use each type of points in situations that offer maximum value.

Application Links:

————————————————————————————————————
If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

4

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Follow @MileValueAlerts on Twitter and follow these directions to get a text message every time I tweet from that account. I’ve tweeted from @MileValueAlerts only once this month, for this deal, because it is designed to be used only for the best and most limited-time deals–like mistake fares–so that you aren’t bombarded by text messages.

Share your experience trying to search and book in the comments.

Contents:

  1. Pay In Norwegian Krone
  2. Cheap Fares
  3. Optional Extra Fees
  4. Why Oslo in Winter
  5. Best Way to Buy the Ticket

Pay In Krone

Start on the Norwegian version of Norwegian.com because prices are lower in Norwegian Krone than US Dollars. Use Google Chrome to translate the page to English. Pay with a card with no foreign transaction fees.

$277 Roundtrip from New York to Oslo

Sample Dates: January 22 – February 5 on Norwegian

Search and book on Norwegian.com with their low fare calendar by selecting “Show budget calendar” on the search screen.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 6.41.18 PM

You’ll get a calendar like this for a month at a time. The cheapest outbounds cost 871 DKK and are on January 22, 28, and 29 and February 4 and 5. The cheapest returns cost 966 DKK and are on February 2, 4, and 5 and March 1.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 6.41.58 PM

The cheapest total of 1,837 DKK is $277.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 6.45.15 PM

 

Other Cheap Dates

There are plenty of other dates for around $300 or $330 in winter 2016. Here’s a nine day trip during which you’d only need five vacation days for $290.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 6.42.34 PM

 

Extra Fees

All the cheapest fares are in the “Lowfare” bucket. That comes with one carry on that weighs up to 10 kg (22 lbs.) Check out my post on one bag travel.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 10.57.47 AM

Everything else costs extra.

Your first checked bag is 240 DKK ($36) each way. Your second is 270 DKK ($41.) Check the city pair chart and see that New York to Oslo is zone F, then read the zone F direct flight checked baggage price off this chart. Similarly a seat reservation is $36 each way.

The eat on board menu is limited, but you can preorder from a bigger selection.

All the add ons are expensive, so I suggest traveling with just one carry on, eating before take off on the outbound, packing a meal for the return, and taking whatever seat they give you for free. Then you can’t beat a $277 roundtrip to Norway.

Why Norway in Winter

You can see the Northern Lights from September to March with the best chance in February and March.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.09.43 PM
Source: http://www.visitnorway.com/en/what-to-do/attractions-culture/nature-attractions-in-norway/the-northern-lights/when–where-to-find-northern-lights/

 

You can stay in an igloo hotel sleeping under reindeer skin.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.11.24 PM
Source: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g226916-d1179315-Reviews-Sorrisniva_Igloo_Hotel-Alta_Alta_Municipality_Finnmark_Northern_Norway.html#photos

 

Oslo is a lovely waterfront town though it will be freezing cold.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.10.47 PM
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oslo

 

Best Way to Buy the Ticket

Buy with the Citi Prestige® Card. It has no foreign transaction fees, so you will get the interbank rate on the conversion from krone to dollars. The first $250 in flights per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. This includes fees like the checked bag fee, seat reservation, or meals that you purchase at the time of ticketing or later. After the statement credit, your roundtrip ticket will cost $27 plus any optional fees.

If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes. The Citi Prestige® Card also comes with a 50,000 ThankYou Point sign up bonus.

 

Hat Tip Secretly Flying

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

 

36

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Chase is now denying applications for the Sapphire Preferred, Slate, Freedom, Ink Plus, and Ink Cash if you have five or more new credit card accounts total from any banks in the last two years.

This change does not affect your ability to be approved for other Chase cards that are co-branded with banks and hotels like the United, Marriott, Southwest, or British Airways cards.

  • What do we know about Chase’s new churning rules?
  • How do we know it?
  • What’s the new best strategy to open Chase cards?

Starting last month, Chase began to deny applications for its proprietary cards–the best of which are the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, and Freedom–by people who have recently opened too many credit card accounts. Presumably Chase is doing this because if you open a card for its bonus and then cancel the card without becoming a multi-year customer, you are an unprofitable customer. If you have opened several cards recently, you’re obviously more likely to be a person who just gets a bonus and then closes a card.

We know this because there are dozens of reports of denied applications for this stated reason since May on FlyerTalk, reddit, and a Doctor of Credit thread. Based on those reports, I’ll sketch out the rules as best as we can tell them, since Chase doesn’t post these rules anywhere. I’ll also suggest your new optimal credit card strategy based on whether you’re new to the frequent flyer milesphere or whether you’ve been around for a while.

New Rules to Be Approved for a Chase Credit Card

If you are applying for a Chase branded credit card (ie Sapphire Preferred, Freedom, Slate, Ink Plus, Ink Cash), and you have 5+ new card accounts in the last two years, you will be denied. I’m using the more widely accepted 5+ number even though at least one person reports being denied with only 4 new accounts in the last two years.

If you are applying for a co-branded airline or hotel card from Chase (ie United, Southwest, Amtrak, British Airways), old rules for approval apply. A Chase rep told one redditor about this distinction explicitly.

  • There is no maximum number of new accounts you can have open and still be approved.
  • If you get a “pending” response to your application and call reconsideration, the agent may say you have too much credit from Chase or too many cards open in which case you can get the new card approved by moving credit lines or closing an old card.

You can only get the bonus on the same Chase card once every 24 months. This 24 month clock starts when you got the last bonus (which may be several months after you got the card). Do not apply for the new card again until 24 months from your last bonus on that card. Also, if you still have your old card, you are ineligible for the bonus, so cancel it before re-applying.

New Best Practices

Chase now has the strictest approval policy for some of its best cards.

Everyone should have a Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus for their big sign up bonuses, generous category bonuses, and transferability to top programs like United, Hyatt, British Airways, Southwest, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, Korean, and more. If you’re new to earning frequent flyer miles, these should be the first cards you get even though they are not at the top of my Top Ten List because if you don’t get them early in your card-opening lifetime, you’ll never be able to get them.

But what if you’ve been in the miles world for a while?

I’ve gotten more than 20 cards in the last two years. I was planning on getting a Sapphire Preferred again soon because it has been long enough since I closed my last one that I could get the bonus again. But with the new rule, I’d be rejected, so I won’t apply. In fact, I won’t apply for a new Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus again because I can’t imagine a two-year period in which I have fewer than five new accounts. There are just way too many good card offers out there.

Since I can’t get new ones, I’ll hold onto my Freedom and Ink Plus. My Freedom has no annual fee, and I occasionally use it for its 5x categories. My Ink Plus has a $95 annual fee, but I occasionally use it for its 5x categories. Furthermore Freedom points are only worth a penny without an Ink Plus or Sapphire Preferred; with one, though, you can transfer Freedom’s points to the Ink Plus or Sapphire Preferred and from there to airline miles or hotel points.

I can and will continue to open co-branded cards offered by Chase. I just opened a United personal and business card for 50k miles each a few months ago. In the future, I’ll look at British Airways and Southwest cards.

Bottom Line

Terrible news from Chase: you will be denied for a new Chase card like the Freedom, Sapphire Preferred, Slate, Ink Plus, or Ink Cash if you have 5+ other new credit card accounts in the last two years.

This change doesn’t affect Chase co-branded airlines and hotel cards like the United or Marriott cards.

This would be truly catastrophic if it spread to Chase co-branded cards or other banks.

Full Chase application rules (FlyerTalk wiki)

Hat Tip Doctor of Credit

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Yesterday I reported that some Delta domestic awards cost only 5,000 SkyMiles one way, a 60% discount on the prevailing 12,500 mile rate we expect from legacy carriers. Other routes cost 10,000 SkyMiles one way. From playing around on delta.com, I’ve discovered a few more things.

  • So far, there are no known 5k segments that can be combined onto one award, so we don’t know how that would price.
  • Combine a 5k segment and a 10k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 5k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • Combine a 10k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • City pairs do not have a price. Segments have a price. (Explained below.)
  • All 5k and 10k awards are only bookable for flights through December 31, 2015.

Segments Have a Price, Not City Pairs

  • A “city pair” is your departing and arrival city no matter how many stops you have in between.
  • A “segment” is one wheels up and wheels down of an airplane.

The 5k and 10k prices we’ve uncovered on delta.com are for segments, not for city pairs. How do I know? Portland/San Francisco as a city pair doesn’t have just one price. The direct flight costs 12,500 miles. The routing via Seattle costs 10,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.50.21 PM

Why is that? Because Delta has clearly assigned prices to each segment.

  • The Portland-to-San-Francisco segment costs 12,500 SkyMiles as we can see above.
  • The Portland-to-Seattle segment costs 5,000 miles.
  • The Seattle-to-San-Francisco segment costs 10,000 miles.

Proof SEA-SFO segment is 10k:

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.51.31 PM

Proof SEA-PDX is 5k:Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.51.58 PM

When you fly a connecting domestic Delta award itinerary in which one segment prices at one price and the other at another, you just pay the higher segment price.

That’s why PDX-SFO is 12,500 miles and PDX-SEA-SFO is 10,000 miles.

You can see this rule over and over if you try to combine a 5k and 10k segment, a 5k and 12.5k segment, or a 10k and 12.5k segment.

For instance, San Diego to Sacramento prices at 10,000 miles via Los Angeles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.23.46 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.23.52 PM

That’s because the San Diego-to-Los-Angeles segment costs 10,000 miles, the Los-Angeles-to-Sacramento segment costs 5,000 miles, and delta.com goes with the higher price on connecting itineraries.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.24.52 PM

This logic implies that combining two 5k segments would cost just 5,000 total miles. Unfortunately we can’t test that because no two current 5k segments can be combined into a legal route.

I tried to combine the Sacramento-to-Los-Angeles and Los-Angeles-to-San-Jose 5k segments, but that’s not a legal routing, so I got this error.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.47.10 PM

All the 5k and 10k segments disappear after December 31

When Delta first made some SkyMiles awards 10,000 miles in March, they put out a press release and said that the discount was for awards flown by December 31, 2015 only. That rule appears to still be in place for both the 5k and 10k awards.

San Diego to Los Angeles only offers 10k awards until December 31, and the best price after that is 12,500 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.27 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.34 PM

Similarly, Seattle to Portland jumps to 12,500 miles from 5,000 miles after December 31.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.55.26 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.55.33 PM

That’s everything my digging has uncovered:

  • So far, there are no known 5k segments that can be combined onto one award, so we don’t know how that would price.
  • Combine a 5k segment and a 10k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 5k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • Combine a 10k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • City pairs do not have a price. Segments have a price.
  • All 5k and 10k awards are only bookable for flights through December 31, 2015.

Do you have any questions? Have you uncovered anything else?

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

I just spent a completely legal week in Cuba, split between Havana and Viñales. An American in Cuba in 2015 is a six part series on the trip. This post will focus on how Americans can book flights to Cuba.

Other Posts

Coming soon posts on money, internet, nightlife, lodging, transportation, Havana, and Viñales.

Ways to Get to Cuba

This post will focus on those last two ways because those ways can use frequent flyer miles and are going to be more convenient for people who don’t live in Florida.

One Ticket to Cuba

Copa Airlines, based in Panama, will sell you a roundtrip ticket from the United States to Cuba, but it can cost over $800.

You can also book Copa Airlines award space from the United States to Havana, Cuba via Mexico with several types of miles including:

  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • Singapore KrisFlyer miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • maybe other types of Star Alliance miles

You cannot book these awards with United miles because United is afraid, as an American company, to book you a flight to Cuba.

Copa flies to 10 American destination and adds New Orleans on June 24, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.32.47 PM
Source: gcmap.com

If you don’t live in one of these cities, you can add United flights to one of these destinations or to Panama City for no extra charge to your Lufthansa, Singapore, or Avianca award.

You may also be able to fly via San Salvador, El Salvador on TACA/Avianca flights, but I haven’t found that award space.

Getting Lufthansa, Singapore, or Avianca miles

  • You need 35,000 miles roundtrip for a Lufthansa award from the United States to Cuba. You can get 50,000 bonus Lufthansa miles from the Miles & More credit card after spending $5,000 in the first three months and paying a $79 annual fee. Or you can transfer SPG points to Lufthansa miles.
  • You need 70,000 Singapore miles roundtrip from the United States to Cuba. Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and SPG points all transfer to Singapore miles.
  • You need 35,000 Avianca miles roundtrip from the United States to Cuba. The only reasonable way to get them is to buy. You can buy them for less than 1.65 cents each until May 29. This means you could basically buy a roundtrip to Cuba for about $600 roundtrip including taxes by buying enough Avianca miles to book the award.

Searching and Booking the Awards

Searching for Award Space

To search for the Copa flights to Cuba on lifemiles.com, click on Air Tickets under the Enjoy tab.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.51.59 AM

You may need to log in to a LifeMiles account to search. Sign up for a free account here.

On the search screen, next to “Preferred carrier,” select the carrier that serves the route you’re searching. Not specifying an airline will cause the search engine to miss results.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.28.22 PM

If You Live in One of the 11 Cities Served by Copa

Here are sample results for economy awards from Washington to Havana.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.28.55 PM

All of the options go from Washington to Panama City to Havana on Copa with varying layovers in Panama City. If award space shows up on the days you search, note the dates, cabins, and flight numbers for the booking step below.

If You Don’t Live in One of the 11 Cities Served by Copa

You should search your home airport to Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), and Washington (IAD) and then hook up that award space to award space from those cities to Cuba on Copa. This is just segment-by-segment searching.

Booking the Award Space

If you’re booking with Avianca LifeMiles an award you can book online, book it on lifemiles.com.

If you’re booking with Lufthansa, Singapore, or another type of miles, call a foreign call center of the airline whose miles you’re using. The American call centers won’t book trips to Cuba, so pick a foreign call center in an English speaking country that is open to help you. Consider England, Canada, and Australia.

Feed the agent the dates, flights numbers, and cabins of each flight that you found award space for on lifemiles.com. You can pay the taxes with any credit card, so I of course suggest the Citi Prestige® Card, since it has an annual $250 Air Travel Credit that can refund your award taxes, and you will earn 3x-4x on the taxes paid.

I used these methods to fly from Washington DC to Havana, Cuba with Lufthansa miles on Copa flights.

Two Tickets to Cuba

You can book two awards or cash tickets to get from the United States to Cuba. Since you can get to Cuba with one ticket, the only reasons you’d want to use two tickets are if you wanted to see another country on your way or you didn’t have any Star Alliance miles to fly those Copa award flights mentioned above.

I booked my return from Cuba on two tickets because I wanted to stop in Bogota on the way.

The two ticket options include flying cash tickets or awards from the Caribbean or Mexico to Havana. These flights tend to be expensive in miles and in cash. I paid 17,500 Asiana miles from Havana to Bogota, Colombia.

Flying Blue Awards

Air France’s loyalty program Flying Blue is the best way to book AeroMexico flights from Mexico City to Havana.

Flying Blue charges 15,000 miles one way in economy and 30,000 in Business Class.

Award space was far better in Business Class (29/35 days) than economy (3/35 days) this spring when I searched last month.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.35.46 PM

Mexico City is quite out of the way from the East Coast, but pretty much on the way from the West Coast.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.30.56 PM
Source: gcmap.com

If you search from the United States to Havana on flyingblue.com, you will get an error message, so these awards are only to get from Mexico to Havana as part of a two award solution.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.37.40 PM

Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards and ThankYou Points. ThankYou Points transfers take about 36 hours as long as you know how to correctly input your Flying Blue account number–it is not intuitive.

My favorite two cards to get ThankYou Points are the:

Cash Flights

Here are all the airlines and destinations that serve Havana. Here are the other airports in Cuba.

I searched on Kayak for many of the destinations and on Cubana’s and Aerogaviota’s sites for their fares. Flights to and from Cuba are shockingly expensive. For instance, I considered entering Cuba from Bogota to visit friends in Colombia first, and the 3.5 hour flight was around $500 one way. Even one hour hops in the Caribbean are almost always over $200.

Here are the cheapest fares I found to and from Cuba when I searched last month:

$158 from Havana to Nassau on April 25, 27, and 29

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 1.46.34 PM

$209 from Havana to Grand Cayman on April 26 and 30

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 1.46.15 PM

$214 from Havana to Mexico City on April 28

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 1.45.11 PM

If you find cheaper fares, put them in the comments. (Include airline, route, and date please.)

Bottom Line

Two ticket trips to Cuba is that it isn’t cheap in miles or cash. You are better off using just one roundtrip award, and I really recommend using 35,000 Lufthansa miles to fly Copa roundtrip, unless you want to stop in another country on the same trip.

US airlines won’t let you use their miles to Cuba or even search their sites for awards to Cuba, but foreign Star Alliance airlines will let you book Copa flights to Cuba by calling their non-US call centers.

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

0

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Via The Points Guy, Delta has posted blackout dates for award travel on the following three partners online:

  • China Airlines (hub: Taipei)
  • China Southern (hub: Guangzhou)
  • Korean Airlines (hub: Seoul)

The blackout dates announced for 2015 and 2016 are as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 2.38.28 AM

Don’t shoot the messenger, me or Delta. These have always been the enforced blackout dates for trying to use Delta miles to fly these partners. The only news is that Delta has taken the transparent step of posting the blackout dates online.

That’s a bit surprising that Delta has taken the opaque step of removing its award chart from delta.com, but it is good news.

The MileValue Award Booking Service can still get you to Asia during these blackout dates with your Delta miles. Hire us for as little as $125 per person.

Also see: Basics of Redeeming Delta SkyMiles

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

34

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Right now the Citi Prestige® Card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Beyond the sign up bonus, the card competes with the American Express Platinum card by offering a host of travel benefits like:

  • $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year
  • $100 credit for applying for Global Entry
  • 3x points on Airlines and Hotels, 2x on Dining and Entertainment
  • American Airlines lounge access
  • Priority Pass Select Lounge Access

It is these two lounge accesses that are the focus of this post.

American Airlines Admirals Club Access

Citi Prestige offers American Airlines lounge access on any day you are flying American Airlines or US Airways flights.

  • You must present your Citi Prestige and a boarding pass on American Airlines or US Airways for a flight that takes off in the next 12 hours (or landed in the last 12 hours.)
  • You can bring in your spouse and all your children under 18 for free, or you can bring in any two guests for free.
  • Only the primary cardholder of a Citi Prestige account receives the Admirals Club lounge access benefit. Authorized users on the same account do not.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 6.30.43 PM

Full Admirals Club membership, which costs $500, allows lounge access even when you aren’t flying American Airlines. This Prestige’s lounge access is a little less valuable since you need to be flying American Airlines to access the lounge.

Admirals Clubs feature free:

*only at select Clubs

My favorite Admirals Club is at Honolulu Airport with lots of food and overlooking the gardens. There are more than 50 Admirals Clubs worldwide.

Priority Pass Select Membership

Within a week of your Citi Prestige arriving, you should get a Priority Pass Select card in the mail.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 2.02.16 AM

You can use your Priority Pass Select membership for free access at over 700 lounges worldwide. Download the Priority Pass app to your phone or search for lounges here.

Just like with American Airlines lounge access, you get free access for your spouse and all children under 18 or free access for any two guests. Normally Priority Pass access costs $399 per year, and doesn’t allow for any free guests.

Priority Pass Select membership is available to the main cardholder on a Citi Prestige account and all authorized users.

When accessing a Priority Pass lounge, it doesn’t matter what airline you’re flying. For instance, yesterday I accessed the LAN lounge in Bogota while flying American Airlines.

Bottom Line

The Citi Prestige doesn’t just offer a huge sign up bonus and amazing statement credits, it also offers worldwide airport lounge access.

American Airlines lounge access is available to Citi Prestige account holders and their guests when flying American Airlines or US Airways. Priority Pass lounge access is available to Citi Prestige account holders and authorized users and their guests all the time.

The sticker price of such lounge access is about $800 per year. If you fly a lot, the lounge access swamps the $450 annual fee.

—————————————————

Citi Prestige® Card with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open

My review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

 

  • $250 Air Travel Credit each year
  • Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay
  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
  • Points are redeemable for an $800 flight on American Airlines or US Airways®, a $665 flight on any other airline or $500 in gift cards.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
  • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

13

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

My friend and I stayed two nights at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa Ka’anapali last weekend that cost me 12,000 SPG Starpoints and $31.25 per night. I really enjoyed my stay and recommend the Westin Maui and Ka’anapali area generally.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 3.08.22 AM

The hotel is on the beautiful, wide, miles-long Ka’anapali white sand beach just a few miles north of Lahaina on the west coast of Maui with perfect views of sunset over the ocean.

My friend and I spent three nights on Maui (and three on Oahu), and our plan was to camp the first night and stay at a nice hotel the next two nights. I wanted to use Starpoints, and both the Westin and Sheraton on the same beach should cost 12,000 points per night during most of the year. (During peak dates, they go for 16,000 points a night.)

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 3.10.48 AM

Unfortunately on our dates, the base room at the Sheraton was unavailable, so I was offered a better view for 13,500 points per night. I figured I’d get an ocean view for my 12,000 points at the Westin, so I picked the hotel that cost me fewer points.

I would summarize this FlyerTalk thread comparing the Sheraton and Westin as saying that some people prefer each one. On our travel dates, the Westin was more expensive with cash, but that isn’t always the case, and you can get it for a $269 base rate next month.
Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 3.09.09 AM

Check In & Parking

We arrived at the hotel at 2:45 PM in our rental car and pulled to the valet stand to ask about self-parking. The valet had to check that we were actually hotel guests, which took about 2-3 minutes before opening the self-parking gate for us. This system is in place because once you are in the self-parking area, exit is free. Waiting around to park was not a great first impression.

Self-parking is included in the $31.25 (including tax) resort fee. We were given a second card for free at check in for our friends to use when visiting us. That’s not actually necessary, as we could have swiped the one card we got at check in to let our friends in, and they could have exited freely. The self-parking lot is right near the entrance, so it is convenient enough.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.54.55 PM

When we checked in, we had to wait a few minutes in the Gold/Platinum line. While we waited, someone came out to give us cowrie shell leis. The hotel often had someone right at the main entrance doing this. We were given a fourth floor “Ocean View” room in the Ocean Tower, two towel cards, and two parking cards at check in. I accepted the “make a green choice offer,” which turned down some cleaning service for 500 points per night. That was a nice 1,000 points back.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.53.46 PM

Room

Our room was nice enough, although Ocean View was a bit of a stretch for the 4th Floor. It was mainly tree view with a little ocean peaking out.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.58.54 PM

We got two queen beds, which were very spacious and comfortable.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.57.26 PM

The room had a flat screen TV and a mini-fridge to store the Kona Brewing Company beer we had picked up at Walmart in Kahului. Unfortunately the room had a corkscrew, but no beer bottle opener. Luckily YouTube has a great video on opening one bottle with another. 😉

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.57.20 PM

The sink and mirror were outside the bathroom, which made it easy to chat while one of us got ready.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.57.16 PM

The bathroom was standard. The hot water and water pressure in the shower were on point.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.57.12 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.58.49 PM

The little balcony was perfect for two people to hang out with a drink.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.57.41 PM

Resort Fee

Resort fees are a scam in my opinion. This $31.25 per night scam included:

  • High Speed Internet Access in your guestroom and public areas (basically a lie since everyone already gets free internet at SPG properties just for booking through an SPG platform)
  • Local and toll free calls up to 60 minutes
  • Two (2) bottles of water replenished daily as needed
  • Self-Parking
  • Shuttle service to Kapalua West Maui Airport, upon availability (this is not the airport that serves the mainland)
  • Shuttle service to Lahaina and to our three Starwood resorts
  • Logo souvenir eco bag
  • Outdoor portrait sitting and free 4 by 6 color photograph through Reflections Photography

We thought the 4″ by 6″ portrait sounded like a funny perk, so we took advantage. This service is only available Monday through Saturday with 3:40 PM Saturday the last slot. You sign up in the lobby, and the pictures took us just a few minutes. They’re hoping to sell you a more expensive package, and they hold the images hostage to entice you to buy.

They won’t email you the pictures. They will just print one out and put it on their table for you the next business day. Unfortunately we took our picture on a Saturday, so that meant we’d be checking out on Sunday before the picture was ready on Monday. The photographer said she could mail us the one photo for $16.

Service

All the employees I encountered were friendly, and two went above and beyond.

The front desk check in agent offered me a second self-parking access key when I asked where our friends could park when they came to visit.

A manager picked up our 4″ x 6″ portrait and mailed it to us for free. We were walking through the lobby, and she asked how our stay was going. We had just taken our portrait, and we mentioned we were bummed we would not actually receive the final product. She took my friend’s address, and the photo was there when he got home.

I’ll also give good marks for how quickly extra cups were brought to our room and how quickly my to-go burgers from Relish were ready.

Facilities

The only area I checked out were the swimming pool and ponds between the hotel and beach, which are the star of the resort.

The ponds have waterfalls, koi fish, and flamingos.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.54.50 PM
Waterfall into koi pond
Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.54.45 PM
Pink flamingos

The all-ages pool has a volleyball net, waterfall, basketball net, balls floating around, a water slide, and turns blue at night.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.54.24 PM
Volleyball net, free balls are floating around
Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.54.18 PM
Shot of the Ocean Tower from the Pool
Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.54.12 PM
View of the Waterslide
Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.54.07 PM
Basketball hoop

 

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.53.54 PM
Poolside
Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.57.31 PM
Blue pool at night

 

Above the main pool is an adults-only pool and hot tub open until 10 PM. I never spent more than half an hour at a time in the pool area, but I really enjoyed it because I like pool games like basketball and volleyball.

The free poolside chairs, some of which had some shade, filled up very quickly. Renting a gazebo or caban is ludicrously expensive.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 4.14.33 AM

Beach

Ka’anapali Beach is stunning and has views of Molokai and Lanai.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.55.07 PM
Molokai in the distance

 

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.54.01 PM
Lanai in the distance

Two chairs and an umbrella is $45 per day. I’d recommend a towel instead.

My favorite part of the beach is at the very end in front of the Sheraton, a rocky outcropping called Blackrock. Every day dozens of people ignore the “Don’t Walk Past This Sign” signs and jump from the 20 foot rock. Every day at a sunset, a local guy paid by the Sheraton comes out and does a swan dive. Some days he even does other tricks like flips and handstand jumps.

The snorkeling especially near Blackrock must be pretty good as there is a steady stream of people out there. I saw several turtles from the rock and one dolphin.

Food

I got burgers to go both nights from Relish. At about $20 after tip, they were fine. Next door is Whaler’s Village, which has a food court including pizza, Mexican, plate lunch, and Subway. There are several beach front dining options, but they were out of my price range.

Location

Here’s a map I made for my review of the Andaz Maui at Wailea. Ka’anapali is just north of the underlined Lahaina on the northwest coast.

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 12.56.41 PM

The Westin Maui is 39 minutes from Kahului Airport and 8 minutes from West Maui Airport. I consider Ka’anapali’s location a little better than Wailea’s. Both are about the same distance from the airport, Haleakala, and start of the Road to Hana.

Ka’anapali is right next to Lahaina, which is a nice little town on Maui, so I give it a slight edge.

Overall

I definitely am happy with my 12,000 points per night redemption to stay at the Westin Maui.

Ka’anapali Beach, the pools, and the service were highlights.

I would have liked to have stayed on a higher floor and gotten out of that resort charge, but I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Having just wrapped up three months in Buenos Aires (on top of the six months I spent there in 2013), I’m publishing three posts: The Five Best Restaurants in Buenos Aires, What to Do Every Night of the Week in Buenos Aires, and What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Buenos Aires.

When I get to a new city, I always google “Best Place to Go Out [city] [day of week].” When you’re new, it’s hard to know where to go. In my three months in Buenos Aires, I found favorites for every night of the week. Also check out the end of the post for my monthly and yearly favorites and other resources for recommendations that differ from mine.

Buenos Aires has the best nightlife of anywhere I’ve ever visited. There’s something to do every night of the week, entrance and drink prices are cheap, and the people are beautiful.

Unfortunately the general motto seems to be “If you have to ask how late it starts, you’re not going to be staying up late enough.” Bars don’t get going on the weekends until midnight, and boliches (night clubs) don’t get started until 2 AM. They rage until at least 6 AM, though I can’t really tell you how late, since I’ve never made it that late.

To stay sane in Buenos Aires, I try to find fun things happening a bit earlier in the night. Based almost exclusively on places that draw a fun crowd–I don’t care about the music or drinks on offer much–here are my top picks:

Sunday

Makena in Palermo is the place to be. They play a mix of rock, soul, and funk on Sunday nights starting at 11 PM. Free entry until 11:30 PM, though if you don’t show up on time, cover is less than $2.

Who can go out on a Sunday night until the wee hours of the morning? Mostly students, foreigners, and foreign students.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 4.13.07 PM

This is the second least fun event on the list, but it’s the best I can tell you on a Sunday night.

Monday

Bomba del Tiempo is a fantastically fun weekly drum performance. More than 3 million people have watched and danced to the two-hour drum show from a huge ensemble cast.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 4.27.21 PM

I like to arrive at 7 PM with a beer to drink while I wait in line to buy my ticket ($7) to get in early. The huge courtyard is a great place to chat with friends or make new ones. Last time I was there, they had even set up ping pong tables before the show.

At 8 PM, the show starts, and at 10 PM sharp, it ends. Hang out near the sides or back for a little more dancing space, and easier entry and exit to refresh your drink at the bar.

As you leave, people will be handing out flyers for after parties at bars within walking distance, but I’ve never had too much fun at one of these. I prefer to head out for a late dinner afterwards.

Tuesday

Cafe San Bernardo, in Villa Crespo, is a large, dingy bar with pool tables up front and ping pong tables in the back. The ping pong tables normally cost about $5 per hour to rent, but Tuesday nights after 10 PM, they’re free. This is the big night for groups of friends to come for pizzas, beers, and an occasional game.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/dec/11/top-10-bars-buenos-aires-argentina
Source: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/dec/11/top-10-bars-buenos-aires-argentina

Other than the ping pong, the atmosphere is similar to most Argentina pizzeria/resto/bars throughout the city. The same Quilmes beer is sold in the same liter bottles, and the same terrible pizza is dished out.

Only come with your friends if you’re good at ping pong on Tuesdays because winner stays on each table. If you’re not so good and just want to play more recreationally, come a different night and rent a table.

Also every Tuesday night for 7+ years, Hype (name of party) at Kika (name of boliche) in Palermo has raged from 2 to 6 AM. This is definitely my least favorite event in this post, and I didn’t even go this year, but how can you leave off such an iconic party on an otherwise rather dead night?

Head to Magdalena’s Party, a bar a few blocks away, earlier in the night to get a free wristband for Hype and have a few drinks before facing the 18 year olds at Kika.

Wednesday

Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, Mundo Lingo organizes language exchanges at bars in Buenos Aires for people trying to learn a new language or just trying to meet new people. The best one is Wednesdays at a bar I really like, Soria, in Palermo.

Show up from 9 PM to midnight and get sticker flags at check in to represent the languages you speak or are learning. After much pestering, I got them to start carrying Hawaiian flags. Mahalo!

Most people come alone or in pairs, so don’t worry about jumping into any conversation you see between people with the flag stickers. They just met and would love to meet you.

Thursday

My favorite weekly event is Thursday’s After Office at Rosebar in Palermo. An “After Office” is kind of like an American Happy Hour event but later in the night and with more dancing.

The night kicks off at 7 PM, and I think there is food at that time to attract people to come early. If you make it onto the list and arrive my 9 PM, you can get in free. Arrive after 9 PM, and you pay about $8 to get in. The place starts to fill up at 9 PM and shuts down at 2 AM. Men must wear a collared shirt and shoes that aren’t sneakers.

The crowd is a bit older than at Rosebar on the weekend, with lots of folks coming from work who are in their mid-20s to mid-30s.

Friday

Office workers in groups of 2 to 20 spill onto the streets outside a string of identical bars with happy hour specials on Reconquista Street at Alvear Street from 6 PM on. (If you stop in for a drink, you’re just a few blocks from one of The Five Best Restaurants in Buenos Aires.)

Source: Google Maps
Source: Google Maps

Later in the night, I like to go to my favorite bar in Buenos Aires–Festival in Palermo. On weekends, there is a DJ, and occasionally you can head upstairs to see an art exhibit. There’s nothing exceptional about the place, but I think it strikes the right balance.

It’s mostly outdoors, so you can enjoy a perfect Summer night. The bouncer starts a one-in-one-out policy before the place is too full, so there are always plenty of people to meet without being overcrowded. There’s a great mix of seating and standing area, the latter a rarity in Buenos Aires, where almost every bar features people seated with their friends all night.

Try to arrive by 12:30 to avoid the line. If you come later, you’ll probably just wait for 5-10 minutes. There’s no cover, and everybody waits equally in the line.

Saturday

Go back to Festival. It’s my favorite bar by a longshot.

Or if you’re up for a one-of-a-kind bar, try Jobs in Recoleta. This two-story warehouse has every game from pool to ping pong to oversized Jenga to board games, but the star of the place is archery.

You can shoot six arrows for under $3, and if you hit a bullseye you get a free beer.

Cover is about $5, and it includes a liter of beer or other drink or food options. Jobs mostly draws a very young crowd. I go with friends to see who has the best archery aim, drink some beer, and play Monopoly. I’ve never seen a bar with quite so many games.

Or if you want to spend $10+ per drink and hang out with some of the richest and best looking people in the city, head to Isabel in Palermo from 11 PM to 3 AM. This seems more like a place to take someone to impress them than a place to actually enjoy yourself.

The Best Rarer Events

Polo After Parties: Four in November/December

My favorite party ever in Buenos Aires was the after party for a polo match. Every November/December, for four consecutive Saturdays, there is a polo match at the Polo Grounds in Palermo. After the game, the parties take up the rest of the afternoon. They center on tents set up on the grounds by alcohol companies.

Some tents are public, and some are private.

Show up after the game, grab a ticket from someone leaving the grounds to show to the ushers to get on the grounds, and head to a public tent. Everyone’s dressed up a bit and having a ball.

Social Tattersall: Monthly After Office

My second favorite party ever was an After Office put on by a promotions company called Social at a venue called Tattersall. Check their Facebook page for their monthly event, but skip it if it’s not at Tattersall, which is near Palermo.

Sometimes their After Offices are held out on Punta Carrasco, near the Aeroparque (local airport), and those don’t draw nearly as big of a crowd.

Come Wine with Us

A once monthly wine-tasting-ish event with tapas in the Las Cañitas neighborhood. Check this page for announcements of when the monthly event is. This draws mostly a 30-something crowd from 7 PM to midnight.

Further Sources

Vuenos Airez is an online event guide with tons of parties and events listed.

The Guardian put out a Top Ten bar list for Buenos Aires. It’s how I found out about Cafe San Bernardo, and I obviously agree with Festival being on the list. I also really like Ferona.

Some of the others–namely The Harrison Speakeasy and Floreria Atlantico–are fake speakeasies, which are all the rage in Buenos Aires. I don’t like the whole fake speakeasy concept, but if you like that and mixology-type bars, check those out and Victoria Brown Bar in Palermo. Fake speakeasies are all the rage in Buenos Aires.

Bottom Line

Bars come and go, but over the last 11 years of international travel and 55 countries, Buenos Aires has had the best nightlife in the world in my opinion. I don’t think that will ever change.

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Earn up to 20 free hotel nights after meeting spending $2,500 in the first 90 days on the Club Carlson Visa.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.34.07 AM

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Wandering Aramean got “part of an internal memo describing [United’s] plans for the coming year.” It says:

Deliver first phase of united.com 2.0 by 2q 2015, including bundled ancillary offerings;

Some time in this quarter (by June 30), United plans to roll out a new website with new bundled fare options, which sounds like what American Airlines offers. Not that interesting. Moving on…

begin introducing dynamic award pricing.

Uh-oh!

“Dynamic award pricing” would mean that award prices change, presumably based on the cash price of the underlying ticket. The question is: is this a huge deal or no big deal?

No Big Deal

Dynamic award pricing is no big deal if it just means that United gives us a chance to buy any cash ticket on United (and possibly its joint venture partners) with miles at a fixed rate, almost certainly 1 cent per mile.

If we get the option to buy $400 flights for 40,000 miles, and nothing else changes, it’s no big deal.

In this scenario, we can still use our United miles for higher value uses on the award chart like 40,000 miles one way in First Class between Australia and Southeast Asia.

Let’s call this scenario: adding dynamic award pricing. It’s no big deal.

Huge Deal

Dynamic award pricing is a huge deal if it supplants the award chart. If every United and Star Alliance flight is only available by paying 1 mile per cent, awards would go way up in price, especially premium cabin awards.

Let’s call this scenario: replacing the award chart with dynamic award pricing. It’s a huge deal.

My Guess

My guess is that United’s plan for this quarter is the first scenario, adding the option to buy United and maybe a few partner flights for 1 mile per cent while not touching the award chart.

That’s my guess because I don’t think United wants to be the first among United, American, and Delta to go to revenue-based award redemptions. It would crush the value of the program of MileagePlus, and United prefers to copy Delta, which has not gone revenue-based on redemption.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled

We don’t have much to go on, just a snippet of one memo. Keep your eyes peeled to see what form dynamic award pricing takes. Be at the ready to burn United miles if it is an apocalyptic scenario in which the whole MileagePlus program goes revenue-based.

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Earn up to 20 free hotel nights after meeting spending $2,500 in the first 90 days on the Club Carlson Visa.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.34.07 AM

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Delta got rid of its award chart two weeks ago. For awards starting and ending in the United States, I still know what Saver awards cost from memory and from these saved charts.

But now that Delta allows one way award bookings, I’d occasionally like to know the price of awards from Australia to Southeast Asia, Europe to Africa, or the Middle East to India. I don’t have those memorized, and I don’t have every set of Delta award charts for departures from every region saved anywhere. (Do you? Let me know in the comments.)

In fact, yesterday I was working on a booking for a client, and I wanted to know how many Delta miles a one way Business Class award from Beijing to Sydney would be. (By the way, the answer is apparently 65,000 miles based on the China Eastern award space online.)

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 12.46.26 PM

The Problem

When you want to know how many miles a trip costs, but there is no award chart and the partner that flies the route isn’t online, how do you find out the number of miles you need? I asked @DeltaAssist.

Delta’s Answer

I didn’t quite understand the response.

Maybe “CA” means that I can price the ticket by going through the initial steps of a purchase. Since the only way to purchase a China Southern award flight with Delta miles is to call Delta, I guess that’s what he’s suggesting.

I followed up to clarify, but I didn’t get a response.

If Delta Assist really is suggesting that you call Delta to figure out these award prices, that’s very strange. In every other context, airlines discourage you from calling them–going so far as to impose fees of up to $40 for calling instead of handling a task online. When you call Delta, that costs Delta money in staffing costs, so it’s a bit perplexing that Delta wants you to call and run up its costs. The only way that makes business sense is if removing the award chart from the internet is somehow more profitable than those phone staffing costs are costly.

Not Much of a Solution

I don’t care about Delta’s perspective as much as I care about ours. For us, it stinks to have to call Delta to get the price of these awards. I’ll have to find award space, wait on hold, deal with a (possibly) incompetent agent, and finally get the price of the award. Then I’ll have to hang up, compare that price to the price on the American and United award charts (and possibly many other airlines’ charts.) Then I’ll either have to decide to book the Delta award and call back or decide to book another airline’s award and go through that process.

The true solution of course is for Delta to put its award chart back online. That seems very unlikely, but I would have said it was impossible that an airline would pull its award chart off the internet in the first place, so stranger things have happened.

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

21

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Update: Deal is dead. United doesn’t plan to honor the mistake fares. But that seems to violate DOT rules, and I know that some people will make DOT complaints. (I wouldn’t. I missed out on the deal, so I can’t anyway.) We’ll see how it all shakes out.

Right now there are ~$100 First Class tickets from London to the United States. Hurry and book now. These deals will be gone in minutes.

Go to united.com and select Denmark as your country in the top right.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.13.00 AM

Perform a search for First Class roundtrips from London to the United States. Newark, Honolulu, and Houston work. Many others probably do too.

I did a multiple destinations search to force the outbound through Frankfurt to fly Lufthansa First Class. Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.16.58 AM

The trip priced at 744 DKK, $113.Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.18.49 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.19.00 AMBook now. Worry about everything else later. You have free cancellation for 24 hours.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Ryanair’s CEO has mentioned standing-only tickets before, though that was probably a publicity stunt. Now Spring Airlines–a low-cost carrier hubbed in Shanghai with service throughout China and East Asia–has requested regulatory approval for standing sections in its cabins.

That’s a real first step toward a far-less glamorous future for air transportation.

Up to this point, making the customer experience worse while making the base fare lower has been a good strategy.

  • Spirit is down to 28″ of pitch (the space between seats) on its planes, which is 3-4″ less than legacy carriers. That 3-4″ difference is enormous at my height and I’m sure very noticeable for people of almost all heights. And yet Spirit is expanding its route network rapidly and has doubled its passenger emplanements in the last four years.
  • Frontier charges $2 for soda or water. Frontier hasn’t been doing as well, but I expect that its fortunes will turn around as it transitions to an ultra-low-cost-carrier model since being purchased by a private equity firm.
  • Everyone except Southwest has eliminated free checked bags and more airlines are even charging for carry on bags. I haven’t seen any backlash.

So will be people stand for having to stand?

This article claims that standing will allow for 40% more passengers compared to sitting. If the number of passengers in economy rose by 40%, the airline could charge each one 29% less and have the same revenue. Of course, more passengers would mean more weight and more employees needed to service the extra passengers, so in reality, I think we’d see cuts of less than 29% in airfares.

Would I stand to save 29% on my flight? For a cross-country roundtrip that costs $400, that would be about $100 off. I’d much rather have a seat for 10 hours than stand and save $100.

But how about a $150 one-hour flight? I’d probably take $40 to stand for an hour.

I can’t see any future in which all seats are removed from an airplane, so even if standing flights become a possibility, I imagine you’ll always have the choice of paying a bit more to sit. For this reason, I hope standing flights become a reality. More options should make us better off.

What Would Standing Look Like?

By the way, according to this Telegraph article, “standing” is a bit of a misnomer. Both designs look a lot more like stools than actually standing.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 2.57.03 PM
Source: Telegraph.co.uk

Bottom Line

A Chinese airline actually wants regulators to approve standing sections on the cabin. I hope regulators do approve, and we get to see what standing flights look like in practice.

How much would you have to save to stand on a flight?

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Arrival Plus give you about $500 worth of free flights on any airline with no blackouts, sitting or standing.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

12

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Reader Judy emailed to ask:

I’ve got a ton of American Airlines miles, and I want to go to Europe in Business Class. What is my best option?

A lot of people have a lot of American Airlines miles at the moment because the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, and the business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles and two Admirals Club lounge passes after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months.

That’s 106,000 American Airlines miles just for getting two cards and meeting the minimum spending requirements.

American Airlines miles also happen to be the most valuable miles because Delta and United jacked up the prices needed for Business and First Class awards last year, but American’s chart has been steady for years. At this point, the one way award prices to Europe in Business Class are:

  • 50,000 American Airlines miles
  • 57,500 United miles in United Business
  • 62,500 Delta miles
  • 70,000 United miles in Business Class on United’s partners

To other regions, the disparity is similar or larger.

But all miles are stronger to certain regions in certain cabins, and Business Class to Europe is a huge weakness for American Airlines miles. The problems:

  1. American Airlines releases almost no Business Class MileSAAver award space on its own flights to Europe.
  2. British Airways releases a fair amount of Business Class award space, but American Airlines collects fuel surcharges on British Airways award space. You’ll pay $1,000+ out of pocket for a roundtrip in addition to 100,000 American Airlines miles to fly British Airways Business Class.
  3. Other partners don’t release much award space, with Finnair releasing the most space.

Bad Space American Airlines Own Flights

American Airlines is revamping its Business Class offerings one aircraft at a time, so that it will feature all fully flat beds in Business Class in the coming years. That’s nice.

What’s less nice is that Business Class award space is almost non-existent on its flights. That includes off peak times. That includes the last few weeks before departure. American Airlines just doesn’t want to release a seat in Business Class to Europe for 50,000 miles to you.

British Airways Fuel Surcharges

Many of American Airlines’ partners impose fuel surcharges on their flights, but American only passes along the surcharges from British Airways and Iberia. British Airways’ fuel surcharges are punitive, which is a shame, because they do release the most award space to Europe of any American Airlines partner.

A roundtrip from JFK to London in British Airways Business Class costs 100,000 American Airlines miles + $1,160.50, which includes $828 in fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.37.57 PM

The Best of the Rest

American Airlines’ other partners to Europe are:

  • US Airways
  • airberlin
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • S7 Airlines (Moscow-based but doesn’t fly to USA)

US Airways offers very little award space on its European routes, even obscure ones like Philadelphia to Manchester that you imagine can’t have many business travelers.

Iberia award space can be searched on ba.com, and the airline flies to Boston, New York, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles without much Business Class award space.

Airberlin used to be a fount of award space, but now the Business Class space is very rare on its several American flights.

That leaves Finnair, which doesn’t release much award space, but sadly it’s the best option.

Finnair flies between New York and Helsinki, with connections throughout Europe. It will begin a 3x weekly summer service to Chicago on June 15, but I don’t see any award space on that flight yet.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 10.47.19 PM
Finnair flights from Helsinki, via Wikipedia

On the New York route, there is award space 23 days out of the next 330 from New York to Helsinki. There is a lot more award space from Helsinki to New York, call it about two days a week on average, although it’s really more like four days a week in the off season and two days a month during the summer.

New York to Helsinki

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.19.39 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.19.55 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.21.17 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.21.35 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.21.51 PM

Helsinki to New York

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.16.32 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.17.00 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.17.51 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.19.06 PM

You can connect to/from New York on American Airlines or US Airways flights for no extra miles and connect throughout Europe on Finnair flights for no extra miles.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are not good to Europe in Business Class. There just isn’t a lot of award space. Other than surcharge-laden British Airways, Finnair offers the most award space, and for whatever reason offers a lot more westbound than eastbound.

If you’re creative–and flexible–you can use American Airlines miles to fly in Business Class to Europe, but I would argue that that’s almost like fighting American Airlines miles good uses. Use your United and Delta–yes, Delta–miles to fly to Europe in Business Class and use your American Airlines miles for its strong suits.

Update January 7, 2015: Here are the strong suits of American Airlines miles.

Key Links

Each card offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

7

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

The purchase of American Airlines miles is now processed by American Airlines itself, meaning that you can use your Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® to purchase American Airlines miles and redeem Arrival miles to eliminate the purchase price.

Or you can use a card that earns bonus miles on American Airlines purchases like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, or Sapphire Preferred, which all earn 2x miles on American Airlines purchases.

Previously purchases of American Airlines miles were handled by points.com, so you couldn’t redeem Arrival miles to offset a purchase, nor would you earn bonus miles for purchases of American Airlines miles because no card offers bonus miles for purchases from points.com.

  • What is the proof that AA processes the miles purchases now?
  • How can you currently buy 125,000 AA miles?
  • Which other airlines and hotels process their own miles/points sales and which don’t?

Follow Me