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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:

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.)

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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. ;)

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

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

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

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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.

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Waterfall into koi pond
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Pink flamingos

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

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Volleyball net, free balls are floating around
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Shot of the Ocean Tower from the Pool
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View of the Waterslide
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Basketball hoop

 

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Poolside
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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.

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Beach

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

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Molokai in the distance

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Helsinki to New York

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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.

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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?

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Last Monday, I flew from Medellin to Bogota to Buenos Aires in Avianca Business Class for 20,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles and $45. (How I booked the award.)

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.05.32 PM

The flights pleasantly surprised me. The main flight from Bogota to Buenos Aires was a six hour redeye, on which I wanted to sleep. The angled lie-flat bed was more comfortable than I expected.

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I couldn’t capture a great image of the bed. Image courtesy of http://www.the2milmoon.com/
  • How were the lounges, seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment?

Medellin

My trip started in Medellin. Unfortunately the bigger Medellin airport with almost all the flights to Bogota (Jose Maria Cordova) is 45 minutes out of town and 60,000 pesos ($30) in a taxi.

I arrived to the airport at 5 PM for my 8:10 PM flight, hoping to take an earlier flight if possible, and if not, to hang out in the lounge and work.

The agent put me on the next flight out at 5:50 PM at no extra charge, maintaining my seat in Business Class. That flight ended up being delayed about half an hour, so I had time to check out the Avianca lounge in Medellin. As a general rule, flying international Business Class pretty much always gets you lounge access at all airports along the way where the airline has an affiliated lounge.

The lounge in Medellin is quite basic, though it does feature alcohol, hot food, and internet.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.04.06 PM
Ice Cream, the Oreo flavor was delicious
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Club Colombia beer on tap and other drinks available also
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Peanuts and crackers to go
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Computers available
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Chicken wings, cheese balls, and a few other snacks
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View of my ride to Bogota from the lounge
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Seating areas of the Avianca Lounge in Medellin
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TV room

I headed down and caught my flight at about 6:15. It was just one hour to Bogota in seats reminiscent of domestic First Class in the United States. There was a drink service, and I spent the flight watching two episodes of Modern Family on the seat back TV.

Bogota

I landed in Bogota three hours before my next flight. I had to exit security and re-enter the international terminal, clearing immigration and security. After that, I headed straight to the LAN lounge, not the Avianca lounge, because my last trip through Bogota showed me that the LAN lounge is far superior. Click here for a full review of both lounges.

Three pleasant and productive hours in the LAN lounge passed too quickly, and I headed to the gate for my six hour flight to Buenos Aires. The boarding gate had an extremely long line, and it took a moment for me to see the dedicated line for Business Class passengers to the right of the main line. It was empty, so I skipped the queue and headed to my seat.

Avianca 87
Bogota (BOG) – Buenos Aires (EZE)
Depart: 10:17 PM on Monday, December 1
Arrive: 6:37 AM on Tuesday, December 2
Duration: 6hr 20min
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Seat: 5D (Business Class)

My seat was in the back row of Business Class, which is split into two mini-cabins. The boarding door was between the two mini-cabins, so it would have been quieter to have a seat in rows 1-3 during boarding.

http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Avianca/Avianca_Airbus_A330-200.php
From http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Avianca/Avianca_Airbus_A330-200.php

I chose a middle seat in the 2-2-2 layout because if you choose a window seat, you need to climb over your seatmate to get to the aisle, and if you choose an aisle on either side, the window seat needs to climb over you. A middle seat–D or G–offers you aisle access without blocking anyone else’s.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.05.32 PM
My seat–5D

The seat had a sealed package with a think blanket and a medium-sized pillow. The pillow was as thick as a pillow you might have on your bed, but was only as wide as the seat. I think it was the perfect size.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.05.41 PM
5D

In front of the seats were individual monitors and storage.

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There was ample leg room in the sitting position. I am 6’4″, and my feet did not reach the seat in front of me, even stretched out.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.06.07 PM

Before take off, we were offered champagne, water, or juice plus room-temperature mixed nuts. My seatmate and I both indulged, which led to a crowded arm rest. Nearly every Business Class seat was full, so there were probably a lot of crowded arm rests.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.06.24 PM

The flight attendants also brought around a small shoe sack. I’m not sure what my shoes needed to be protected from on the plane.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.06.32 PM

Also before take off, amenity kits and menus were distributed. The menu surprised me because only dinner was listed. Most redeyes also feature breakfast.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.08.25 PM

The amenity kit was Tumi-branded, though not the awesome mini-suitcase you get on Thai. The kit contained an eye shade, headphone covers, tissues, toothbrush and toothpaste, a pen, chapstick, hand lotion, and a sticker to put on your seat if you want to be woken for the next meal.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.09.38 PM

The sticker concept is cool because nothing is more annoying than being woken for a meal when you’d rather sleep, but as I noted this menu didn’t even feature a second meal.

Before take off, the entertainment system was use-able, and I have to really compliment Avianca on their selection of entertainment. It’s rare that I see such quality shows available, and I easily could have spent the entire six hours watching TV.

I planned to eat, and try to sleep immediately, so I started with an episode of Modern Family expecting meal service to be soon and quick.

Unfortunately an hour passed after take off before the meal service began. On only a six-hour flight, I think that is unacceptable. The meal service should start within 15-20 minutes, in my opinion, so that we can get some sleep.

The service began with a room-temperature wet towel.

I finished Modern Family and looked through the movie selection. Shawshank Redemption!? Well, I’ll just watch the beginning…

Dinner was served from a cart in one course. Between the chicken breast and cheese ravioli, I chose the former. It came with potatoes and carrots. There was also a salmon side salad and a bread basket, from which I selected a roll.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.06.43 PM

The chicken was absolutely delicious, and the carrots and potatoes tasted like carrots and potatoes.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.06.55 PM

Thirteen minutes after I had been served, my plate was cleared. At that point, my water glass was refilled, and a bottle of water was distributed to each passenger.

Oddly, no cheese or dessert–both listed on the menu–was offered. No explanation of their absence was offered either.

I ended up being so engrossed in the Shawshank redemption that I watched the whole thing in a reclined position, which I found very comfortable. For part of the movie, I activated the seat’s massage feature, which felt good.

At 1:35 AM, I put the seat into bed mode. This picture from The 2 Million Mile Honeymoon shows the bed position. It is not fully flat. (Check out their full trip report there.)

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.26.50 PM

In the past, I have really struggled to sleep on angled-flat beds. But this time I fell asleep quickly. Perhaps this example of an angled-flat bed was more comfortable or perhaps I was more tired. Certainly the bed was flatter than I expected, and the pillow was comfortable.

I awoke two-and-a-quarter hours later to the announcement that we’d be landing soon in Buenos Aires.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.07.13 PM

One extremely weird thing about take off and landing was that we were told over the PA system that we had to fold our blankets and not use them, a rule which the flight attendants did enforce.

I’ve been told many times that I had to buckle my seat belt over a blanket, so flight attendants could see it, but I have never been told not to use a blanket.

This strange rule made take off and landing much less comfortable.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.07.22 PM
View of the two row mini-cabin

We landed half an hour early, I took a 45 minute taxi into the city, got to my apartment, and slept for six more hours.

Bottom Line

Lounges: Avianca lounges have the bare essentials: snacks, booze, and internet. But they are not as good as many international business lounges. Use the LAN lounge in Bogota if you have Priority Pass.

Seat: The seat had plenty of leg room and comfortable positions for lounging.

Bed: For an angled lie-flat, the bed exceeded my expectations, but it is not as good as fully flat. The pillow was perfect, and the blanket was warm. If only I could have used the blanket during take off and landing.

Food: The main course was very good, but where was the dessert?

Service: On a six-hour redeye, the dinner service needs to start immediately not after one hour. Other than that, the flight attendants were friendly.

Entertainment: Fantastic quality and decent quantity especially since most of Avianca’s flights are medium-haul or shorter. Available from before take off to after landing. This could not be improved in any way.

Getting the Miles

Seven hours of flying in Business Class for 20,000 miles + $45 is a steal. The deal was so cheap because Singapore Airlines treats all of South America as one region with unusually cheap award prices.

Singapore miles are extremely easy to get because they are transfer partners of every transferable point. My favorite way to rack up Singapore miles is with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, which has a 50,000 point sign up bonus.

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

Full Menu Photos

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Back in April, I won two tickets to a Capital Cities concert in Buenos Aires that came with a chance to meet the band and a cocktail reception for only 6,000 SPG Starpoints through an SPG Moments auction.

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I went to the concert on Thursday and had a blast. #spglife did a good job putting the show on, Capital Cities were great performers, and I met some fun people.

IMG_20141204_193808

Play their hit song Safe & Sound while you read the rest of the post.

  • How was the concert?
  • How well was the experience run?
  • Why is Capital Cities wearing leis?
  • Are Moments a good use of Starpoints?
  • What current Moments offers catch my eye?

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This is pretty hilarious for anyone interested in currencies, McDonald’s, politics, Argentina, or The Economist. I happen to be interested in all five.

For years, press reports have suggested that the Argentine government has “leaned on Argentina’s McDonaldses to exercise restraint in their Big Mac pricing” because The Economist publishes a semi-tongue-in-cheek Big Mac Index that tracks purchasing power parity. See the full Slate article from 2012.

I snapped the picture above at a McDonald’s in Buenos Aires on December 3, 2014.

IMG_20141203_142037

What’s so funny? 

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My friend has a destination wedding in Roatan, Honduras over the July 4th weekend. He asked me to write a post explaining to his guests how they can get there with miles. This is the specific example I’ll use, but this post is broadly applicable when you need to plan airfare for any destination wedding. Follow the same three steps in this post.

Destination weddings don’t need to break the bank for attendees. Airfare can cost as little as the roundtrip aviation taxes to your destination ($29 to Honduras), and, worst case scenario, you can always get $500 off the cheapest fare to your destination.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 6.21.51 PM
Roatan, from infinitybay.com

There is a simple three-step process I would use to minimize the cost of airfare to a destination wedding.

For Roatan over July 4:

1. Search on united.com for award space from your home airport to Roatan.

2a. If there is space you want, open the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Meet its minimum spending requirement to unlock its bonus. Book the space you found on united.com.
2b. If there is not space you want, open the Arrival Plus.

3. If you open the Arrival Plus, set a Kayak Price Alert and purchase the ticket with your Arrival miles when the cash price dips.

For other destination weddings:

  1. Fill out a free credit card consultation form, and I will tell you what card(s) to open for the destination, time of year, and cabin of service you want.
  2. Meet the minimum spending requirements on those credit cards, and redeem your miles for the flights.

Let me go over these simple steps in detail at a beginners’ level, so anyone can follow along. No excuses for not showing up in Roatan!

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The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is now offering 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase and the payment of an $89 annual fee. This is the best offer I’ve ever seen on the card, and by far the easiest 50,000 point sign up bonus to earn.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.09.21 PM

Most Valuable Miles

I consider US Airways miles to be the most valuable airline miles because the US Airways award chart is so cheap, and the routing rules are so lax. From the post “Comparison of United, Delta, US Airways, and American Airlines Latest Award Charts,” here is a comparison of roundtrip Business Class award prices from the United States.

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 7.52.01 AM
One correction since I made the chart: US Airways now charges 110k miles roundtrip to North Asia

The consistent blue numbers in the US Airways column explain why I value the miles more highly than United, Delta, and American miles.

If you have a chance to use the US Airways miles in the next few months, you can take advantage of these amazing prices. If you don’t, US Airways miles will be converted to American Airlines miles on a 1:1 basis between April and June 2015.

Many people are getting The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® and the miles in anticipation of the miles becoming American Airlines miles, trying to create a large balance of American miles.

American Airlines has the second best chart in my opinion, behind only US Airways, and American Airlines has committed to NOT devaluing its chart in 2015 at the time of integration with US Airways miles.

Amazing Partners

US Airways miles can be used on any oneworld alliance member.

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My favorite uses would be for premium cabins on Cathay Pacific, Qatar, and Qantas.

IMG_0052
Lounging in Cathay Pacific First Class, bookable with US Airways miles

In addition, US Airways miles can be redeemed for flights on:

  • Aegean (Greece)
  • Air China
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Jet Airways (India)
  • Shenzhen Airlines (China)
  • South African Airways
  • TAP Portugal

Here are all the places you can go with the sign up bonus.

10% Back on Redeemed Miles and Other Benefits

The card comes with the following benefits now:

  • Receive one companion certificate for up to two guests to travel with you on US Airways operated flights at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • Take advantage of priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flights
  • Relax with a complimentary Club day pass
  • NEW! 25% in-flight savings on food, beverages & headset purchases on US Airways and American Airlines

In the Second Quarter 2015, the following benefits will be added, to match current benefits on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®:

  • $100 flight discount on your account anniversary each year when you spend $30,000 on purchases
  • Also receive 10% of your redeemed miles back, up to 10,000 annually.

That 10% of redeemed miles up to 10,000 miles back annually is a huge benefit that I take advantage of.

Unlike past versions of this card, I do not see anywhere mentioned that it comes with a 5,000 mile discount on awards entirely flown on US Airways planes. That’s a shame to lose, but the 10% of redeemed miles back is probably better.

Can You Get This Card?

This card is separate from, and even offered by a separate bank as, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

Whether you have an American Airlines card is irrelevant to whether you can get The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®. Many people have gotten both, even on the same day.

If you have had The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, you may be able to apply again and get the bonus again. My friend got three bonuses recently.

People tend to have more success if they don’t currently have a US Airways card open when they apply for a new one.

Share your application experiences in the comments.

Don’t Get This Card

Don’t get this card to go to Africa (unless South Africa AND you plan to book in the next few months.)

Oneworld alliance is very weak to Africa, but strong to Asia, Latin America, and Europe.

If you can use the miles in the next few months as US Airways miles, you can find space on South African Airways flights to Southern Africa, so that’s an exception to the general rule not to get these miles if you want to go to Africa.

What Will Happen to This Card Next Year?

When the US Airways Dividend Miles program ends and your miles become American Airlines miles, this card will begin to earn American Airlines miles.

Bottom Line

I’ve never seen such a large publicly available offer on The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®. Right now you can earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase!

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The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase and paying $89 annual fee

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