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17 Comments

RoomKey is a hotel booking service backed and, at least partially, owned by Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Wyndham. The idea behind the service is to try get consumers to book more directly with the hotels own websites over OTA’s like Expedia and Booking.com.

room-key

You don’t see adverts for RoomKey anywhere, but if you access any of these hotel websites, you are likely going to see a pop ups and pop unders for the website. I don’t mind seeing it once, but especially with Marriott’s website it keeps opening RoomKey pop unders every time I am trying to make a booking or search for the price. [click to continue…]

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6 Comments

As more and more airlines have majority of the air fare masked as fuel surcharge (you can read why airlines love fuel surcharges here), advertising of base fares has become meaningless. Brazil has banned fuel surcharges, United States and European Union require all advertised/quoted airfares to include ALL the charges.

cebu-pacific-plane

Cebu Pacific is starting to fly from Manila to Dubai on October 7, 2013, in all economy configured Airbus A330-300 aircraft with 400 seats (almost the absolute maximum). To celebrate the launch, the airline is advertising 888 PHP fares on the route. [click to continue…]

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2 Comments

This Wired piece about suing the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) & TSA (Transport Security Administration) among others, is a good read.

Wired Airport Arrest
Wired Airport Arrest

This suit is about Mr. Tobey refusing the Nude-O-Scope and dressing down for the pat down. The airport police had arrested Mr. Tobey for disorderly conduct, but the charges were dropped by the county prosecutor two weeks later. Then, Mr. Tobey sued the government. [click to continue…]

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14 Comments

Quite a few of my friends (myself as well) have received email invitations (last time from Trip It) to join the FoundersCard at $200 discount. The fee for joining would be $295 instead of the $495 that they have on the website.

founderscard

I tried to use Google to find some objective pieces written about this product but couldn’t find any. There were some, but they were mostly from FoundersCard members soliciting new members to sign up using their links. [click to continue…]

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9 Comments

Just came across Mr. Elliott’s latest essee about airline issues. Friend of mine had commented about this latest Huffington Post piece and posted a link to it on his Facebook. I have been contemplating about writing some of Mr. Elliott’s previous pieces because he often takes a contrarian view.

elliott-stealing-from-airlines

This time, however, I couldn’t disagree with him more. You can read his article on Huffington Post here. [click to continue…]

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After the incident yesterday with the smoke on the ANA 787’s cockpit, the US authorities have decided to ground the 787 planes operated by United Airlines. European, Indian and Japanese authorities have all done the same decision. LAN has voluntarily grounded its three 787 planes.

boeing-787-grounded

It is interesting to see how long this grounding is going to last and if it will have an effect on future deliveries of 787 “Dreamliner” planes. [click to continue…]

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1 Comments

Just went through some photos that I had taken over the years and came across this US Airways luggage tag for a return from Tampa to Ontario way back in 2009.

us-airways-luggage-tag

Apparently, the system that US Airways used was not able to produce a luggage that that had five connecting flight and they had to do a manual tag. [click to continue…]

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2 Comments

Myanmar is going through very fast growth due to country opening up and many countries like US withdrawing the trade sanctions. The downside is that everybody seems to be flocking to the country simultaneously and the tourism infrastructure cannot keep up.

myanmar-cover

I was just reading this Myanmar special that I picked up from my hotel in Bangkok. There is truly a shortage of hotel rooms in Yangon and nothing is going to happen in short notice. It is going to get only worse because there are going to be more international events scheduled for the city in 2013. [click to continue…]

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5 Comments

Back in the summer & early fall of 2012, I left couple (or actually three) of shopping bags full of airline amenity kits and pajamas to couple of hotels in Bangkok. I still remembered the hotels, but wasn’t sure what I had actually left behind. If I travel around in Asia, I often leave things behind in Bangkok, as hotels there are used to store bags for months at a time.

amenity-kits-pajamas-bags

As I was going to leave Bangkok Friday, I decided to pick up the bags, although I had long lost the storage tickets. While I was carrying the bags, I was thinking whether it makes any sense to actually take these from the flights as the novelty wears off very fast. I don’t wear pajamas and the amenity kits are rarely that good. My friends don’t normally don’t mind taking them though. [click to continue…]

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5 Comments

There has been quite a bit of news lately about the relaxed transit visa rules for Beijing and Shanghai starting on January 1, 2013. Up until now, residents of certain 45 countries could have had 24 hours transit in Beijing and 48 hour transit in Shanghai without need to have a visa.

wsj-beijing

First, Beijing announced that visitors could stay in Beijing for up to 72 hours starting on January 1st when they are in transit to a third country.

cnn-shanghai

Then, Shanghai announced few days later that they are upping the transit time to 72 hours as well.

Thing to note here is that we are talking about TRANSIT. Neither Beijing or Shanghai should be your final destination. You must be en route to some other destinations and rather have a stopover of less than 72 hours at either of these two cities. You are not allowed to visit other Chinese cities during this visa free transit time.

The countries that are included in this 45 country list are:

Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Japan, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

You can always use the Star Alliance’s Timatic service to check the entry requirements. This is the same system that is used by airline employees to check the entry requirements. I wrote a piece about it earlier this year.

china-transit-visa-beijing

Make sure that you have a blank page on your passport for the visa free entry stamp. Here’s a stamp that I got in Beijing a week ago when I was just transiting.

Conclusion

This is a welcomed change for those that regularly visit China. You can spend up to 72 hours in either Shanghai or Beijing.  Requirement that you must be in transit to a third country is bit cumbersome, but can easily get around it.

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8 Comments

That is quite a question, isn’t it? I have received quite a few emails this year asking this very same question and I totally understand why.

conrad-koh-samui-villa-219-work-area-for-the-day

Getting a status and maintaining it with any of the hotel programs (or number of) is laborious process and you may sometimes think that the grass is greener on the other side.

Here’s what I have decided to do.

For the next five days, I will write an article per day about the positives and negatives of each of the major five hotel programs; Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Priority Club/(Royal) Ambassador program.

Then, I will tell you what my personal preference is based on my stay and redemption patterns. You may or may not agree with me.

Conclusion

Check back tomorrow for my take on Hilton HHonors.

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On October 29, I wrote about a new hotel booking engine PointsHound that awards frequent flier miles for bookings. For getting new members to sign up, the site was (and still is) offering 100 free Delta, United, Hawaiian, or AeroMexico miles to sign up for their service (no purchase required).

pointshound-sign-up

I did the sign up on that date and the 100 free miles posted to my United account on September 4.

pointshound-united-credit

If you haven’t signed up for the service yet and would like to receive the free miles, it would probably be the right time.

This is an excellent way to extend the validity of the miles that is trickered by any account activity. Also, you never know when even a small amount like 100 miles can come handy.

Conclusion

Very easy way to collect 100 miles and doesn’t even require purchase. Just for registering to their website is enough. You may want to have a look at their hotel booking engine at the same time as well.

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18 Comments

Last week, I wrote a piece about Last Minute Travel Club (LMTC) that appeared to offer very nice discounts on chain hotels. The only drawback was that it requires you to join their club that normally sells for $49.99, but you can get it for free most of the time. They have another promotion for a free membership going on again.

lmtc-teaser

Their pricing really intrigues  me as it is so low at times compared to branded websites that it borderline makes no sense.

Here are examples from Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott & Starwood

Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood are for one night arriving on November 16. The Marriott property is for arriving on 20th for one night.

Hilton New Orleans Riverside $72.64 VS $224

lmtc-hilton-new-orleans

lmtc-hilton-new-orleans-hilton

Hyatt Regency New Orleans $72.96 VS $146.30

lmtc-hyatt-regency

lmtc-hyatt-regency-hyatt

W New Orleans $164.08 VS $219

lmtc-w

lmtc-w-spg

Ritz-Carlton New Orleans $128.79 VS $249

lmtc-ritz

lmtc-ritz-marriott

LMTC also has a “conventional” non-members website LastMinuteTravel.com. They do have some of these deals there as well, but they cannot display the name of the hotel and the price is bit higher. The hotels that they name are about the same price that you can find on other websites.

last-minute-travel

For the hotels that they cannot show the name, they give the above explanation.

They must have access to opaque prices for these hotels, but they are not allowed to display the name of the hotel.  It seems that they can get around this limitation by advertising their own club that requires a membership fee, but is essentially free to join. Once you have joined the club, they can display the lower prices and names of the hotels.

If you look at the prices for the hotels above and compare what they are going for on Priceline (betterbidding and biddingfortravel), LMTC is very close to the Priceline pricing. But why would you go the Priceline route if you can get the same price and confirmation about the hotel instantaneously?

Why hotels offer “opaque” pricing?

Hotels want to maximize the revenue they get in. It is difficult to offer much differentiated pricing on the branded website i.e. Hilton.com. If you have a higher price first and then start lowering it a lot, people who booked and maybe prepaid may get dissatisfied.

Also, if you would see Ritz-Carlton on Marriott.com for $129 it might “cheapen” the brand. People would expect to get it at the same price in the future.

Hotels can dump excess inventory and at the same time not lower their headline pricing by going the Priceline/Hotwire route.

Conclusion

The Last Minute Travel Club appears to work best in the markets that have excess inventory at times like New Orleans. I have always had very good luck with Priceline for booking hotels in the city even when the prices are “high”. Now, I can also check the prices on LMTC and be sure about the hotel that I will get as you can get instant confirmation.

Note that LMTC has some hotels that are on request i.e. the opaque inventory has been exhausted/not available, but they can send a request to the hotel.

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20 Comments

There are lots of options for booking hotels online. Most of the travel sites are selling the same inventory and prices are quite uniform. Sometimes opaque sites likes Hotwire and Priceline can offer significant savings, but you cannot be sure about the property.

lmtc

Last Minute Travel Club requires you to become their member in order to search for prices. Luckily, they have continuous promotions for free membership that would otherwise cost $49.99. You can access the current free sign up offer here.

Some of the prices that the Last Minute Travel Club (LMTC) offers are truly low. On the Burbank Marriott example below, their price is about half of the AAA rate that you can find on Marriott.com and third of the best flexible rate on the same site.

Note that some of the prices are “on request” meaning that they are not able to confirm your reservation online. According to the information on LMTC, they will get back to you in 48 hours during which the hotel should have either accepted or rejected the reservation.

lmtc-ic-bali

All their prices are prepaid and you cannot access them unless you become a member. Some of these prices would have offered a great BRG opportunity (Best Rate Guarantee) with hotel chains, but you cannot use LMTC for that purpose as you need to become a member first.

Here are three examples about their pricing.

Burbank Marriott

burbank-marriott

The lowest price on Marriott.com is AAA rate of $169.

lmtc-burbank-marriott

The price on LMTC is $101.24

InterContinental Bali

ic-bali

The price with breakfast is $267 on brand website.

lmtc-ic-bali-screen

LMTC “On Request” price is $224.40.

W Montreal

w-montreal

The price on spg.com is 359 CAD.

lmtc-montreal

LMTC has an instant confirmation price of $221.63.

Conclusion

Some of the prices on LMTC are really low. I am not sure what inventory they have access to that would enable them to offer some of the hotels at such a low prices.

Lot of the inventory that is displayed are Travelodges etc. but there are quite a few Marriott, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Starwood properties as well.

I can see myself checking out the prices on LMTC once in a while when I don’t otherwise have access to an acceptable price. Some of the chains do honor the elite benefits even on third party stays like the ones booked through LMTC.  It is unfortunate that you cannot price match to LMTC due to their “membership” set up.