Discover America Daily Getaways Announced for the 3rd Week April 23-27

2 Comments

On Monday, I wrote about the Discover America Daily Getaways for the first two weeks. There were three deals that caught my eye, but probably not good enough to make me to participate, however.

On the third week I probably have to make some purchases. Last year, I ended up buying both Hilton HHonors and Wyndham Rewards points. Wyndham points have been sitting on my account since that, but I have been using and earning Hilton HHonors points all the time.

discover-america-3rd-week

Wyndham Rewards Points Monday April 23rd

Wyndham has five different packages for sale. You can buy one each. The beauty of Wyndham Rewards points is the transferability to airline miles.  30K Wyndham Rewards points transfers to 12K miles or equivalent in kilometers in number of programs; Amtrak, Czech Airlines, Delta, Hainan, Frontier, US Airways, United, Airberlin, Aeroplan, AeroMexico, China Eastern, American Airlines & Air China.

Packages available

16000 Wyndham Rewards points for $55 = price per point 0.0034 = price per mile 0.0086

28000 Wyndham Rewards points for $76 = price per point 0.0027 = price per mile 0.0068

32000 Wyndham Rewards points for $110 = price per point 0.0034 = price per mile 0.0086

50000 Wyndham Rewards points for $143 = price per point 0.0029 = price per mile 0.0072

48000 Wyndham Rewards points for $165 = price per point 0.0034 = price per mile 0.0086

Above calculations do not take into account 10% discount when paying using an American Express branded credit card, and the figures are rounded. The price per mile number is calculated when transferring in the block of 30K Wyndham Rewards points to 12K airline miles.

When airlines sell miles in their respective programs, the prices tend to fluctuate between 1.8 to 2 cents per mile during the sales. You really cannot buy miles cheaper than first buying the Wyndham Rewards points during the Discover America sale, and then transferring them to airline miles. Of course you can use them for hotel stays as well.

Quick look at my Wyndham Rewards account shows that I was able to snag 146K worth of packages during the last year’s sale.

Hilton HHonors Points Wednesday April 25th

This is the only other purchase that I made last year.

Packages available

150000 Hilton HHonors points for $825

250000 Hilton HHonors points for $1375

100000 Hilton HHonors points for $550

I would steer away from buying Hilton HHonors points unless you are a Diamond member and/or know how to use them properly. You can “buy” a very good deal if you are able to use the points at a place like Conrad Koh Samui where rates are in excess of $600 per night.

Continental Award Ticket HEL-NAN Success On Lufthansa, Virgin, ANA, Thai & Air New Zealand

2 Comments

Every now and then, I am going to write about award reservations that I have booked for myself, and that I consider being of good value. Most of my award trips are complicated and some might consider them unorthodox. I hope that my examples might give ideas how to best use the miles for international premium class tickets.

gcm

I don’t normally book award trips months or sometimes even weeks in advance. For the past month I had been visiting family and friends in Finland, and decided that it was about the time for me to continue on my journey.

Last month Continental announced that they are ending the frequent flyer partnership with Virgin Atlantic. I haven’t tried Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class product so decided to piece something together as Continental allows one to mix their partner airlines and Star Alliance carriers on the same award tickets.

First, I was thinking of flying to Sydney. I have been to Sydney for couple of times before so it wouldn’t have been something new for me. The business class award from Europe to Australia/New Zealand is 65K CO miles. By throwing in another 10K I could make it all the way to Oceania. My award ticker to Colombo (CMB), Sri Lanka, where my next paid trip starts, would be using BMI miles that consider Australia/New Zealand/Oceania as the same zone.

air-new-zealand-pacific-route-map

I then decided to have a look at the Air New Zealand’s pacific coverage again. I have already visited Nuku Alofa (TBU) on my round the world United Airlines business class award ticket and Raratonga (RAR) on a “special” Al Italia business class fare.  Papeete (PPT) has always been on my radar, but I was thinking of going there later this year and then hop to South America via Easter Islands (IPC).

Quite a few of the islands no longer have business class service at all. Apparently Air New Zealand has gone the LCC route and eliminated the premium cabin from many of the routes. When I flew to the Rarotonga on NZ they still had business class even on the narrow body planes.

As I was going to the islands, I decided that it would be ok to visit two islands and just pay for a one-way revenue ticket in between them. I nailed down Fiji (NAN) and Apia (APW). Award tickets in business class were widely available to/from Apia on the weekly 763 service, but the award availability back from Fiji to Auckland was non-existent.

expertflyer

So using Expterflyer, paid service that has access to Air New Zealand award inventory, I could search week at a time for I (business class redemption bucket) class award availability to/from Fiji and Apia. You can also use Continental’s website for searching for NZ’s award availability. After I located the date for my AKL-APW flight, I had to start building the itinerary for other flights. For some dates Continental was even able to find award availability from Helsinki to Apia, but it wasn’t the routing that I was after.

Virgin Atlantic had quite good upper class award availability on their Asian routes. After I had found all the flights that I could live with; HEL-MUC-LHR on Lufthansa, LHR-NRT on Virgin, NRT-BKK-AKL on Thai, and the last leg AKL-APW on Air New Zealand, I placed a call with the Continental’s Platinum line. The agent was able to see and book all the flights. The taxes for this itinerary were $92.49. I tried to book the less complicated version of this at the Continental.com but never got past through the dreaded error messages.

Soon I realized that I had made a mistake. There was no way of me getting back from Fiji to Auckland using an award as there was absolutely no availability. I decided that it would be better for me to fly to Fiji and then buy one-way from Fiji to Apia, and have another redemption ticket starting from there.

The only problem was that I would need to partially build my itinerary again because the flight from Auckland to Fiji would be on 11th of February instead of 9th of February to Apia.

united-award-ticket

The solution for problems like this is to build long transfers (less than 24 hours) that are not considered stopovers somewhere along the itinerary.  Star Alliance is so well presented in Asia that “forcing” an unnecessary connection or two is rarely a problem. From Narita to Bangkok you could have natural connections point in cities like Manila, Taipei, Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Hanoi just to name a few. I decided to settle for Shanghai as I had one fee Fairmont suite night about to expire later this month and the Fairmont in Shanghai is supposed to be a good one.

So my final itinerary was:

HEL-MUC-LHR using Lufthansa on 5th – overnight in London on 5th

LHR-NRT on using Virgin Atlantic on 6th – overnight in Narita on 7th

NRT-PVG on ANA on 8th – overnight in Shanghai on 8th

PVG-BKK-AKL on Thai on 9th – overnight in Auckland on 10th

AKL-NAN on Air New Zealand on 11th

Continental didn’t have any problems amending the original itinerary and reissuing the electronic ticket. The taxes went up only by $27.61. The total number of miles was still the same 85K and the total taxes came to $120.10. The whole thing was booked bit more than 24 hours before the first flight.

I do understand that complicated itineraries like the one above are not for everyone. I don’t mind the overnight stays in London, Narita, Shanghai, and Auckland at all before reaching my destination in Fiji.

My tips:

1. It is an absolute myth that there is no award availability on short notice – quite the contrary. Often airlines dump unsold business and first class inventory to award buckets few days before of the scheduled flight.

2. Start with the bottleneck segment first. In my case it would be the Auckland to NAN/APW. Then work backwards.

3. Sometimes you need to build long transfers (less than 24 hours) to get awards work. Consider these as mini stopovers.

4. Have access to the right tools. Over the years I have found both KVS and ExpertFlyer to be invaluable. You can use airline websites like Air Canada’s Aeroplan, Continental.com, and ANA’s SkyWeb to search for Star Alliance award inventory.

5. Write down the flight numbers/times and feed them to the airline agent one by one.

6. Have patience. Some airlines are very strict when it comes to allowable routings i.e. AA when some others i.e. US Airways and Continental are more relaxed. Know the rules.

7. Be nice to the agent who tries to book your flights. Sometimes their systems might have limitations and not always the award inventory is the same across the alliance. It could be carrier or even the point of sale dependent.

8. Enjoy your trip!

Bloomberg Businessweek Article About United & Continental Merger

When I first saw the cover all I could say was wow! For sure it won’t let anybody cold. But, the actual article about the everyday things that these two merging airlines need to get right from the size of the coffee packet to combined flight management system is actually rather well written.

bloomberg-businessweek-united-continental

If you can get the cover out of your mind, I would suggest spending five to ten minutes of your time to read it online. The full article “Let’s Get It On” is available at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/united-continental-making-the-worlds-largest-airline-fly-02022012.html.

Marriott, Hilton, and Continental Email Customer Service Turnaround Times

1 Comment

Two days ago I wrote about my experience with Etihad and US Airways when it came to retrocrediting some flights that I had taken.  In the past month I have had a need to contact Marriott, Hilton, and Continental by email to fix few things.

If I don’t have an urgent thing to solve, I prefer sending an email. This way I have proof and the company can also better manage their workflows. Also, if the reply is by email and you have competent people replying to them, it doesn’t really matter where the function is located.

With Continental I had canceled one award flight, but the miles or the taxes/fees hadn’t been credited back to my account. I wrote an email/replied on their web form on December 20th to find what was going on.  The reply from Continental was received on January 26th. That is 37 days later after the inquiry was initiated. I happen to be a Platinum member with Continental. I was wondering how long it would take for a general member to get a reply out of this airline?

Please accept our apology for the delay in responding to your email; the busy travel season has led to an increase in the number of incoming e-mails and our response time is longer than average.

There had been few issues with Marriott.  Couple of properties that I had had problems with, and some points that hadn’t posted correctly. I try not to do a laundry list, but these issues were from the past seven months, and I hadn’t had time to fix them earlier. Sent an email with some attachment to Marriott Concierge on 21st and received a reply on 24th that they were looking what they could do. My email to them was sent on Saturday, and apparently the whole Marriott Rewards center is closed on Sunday so getting back on Tuesday was understandable.

But, I am still amazed how fast Hilton manages to reply to their Diamond members. I had a question regarding a promotion that they run with Emirates. I sent an email to Diamond desk at 11:57PM on 20th and the reply came on 21st at 3:25AM. The turnaround time was less than three and a half hours.

Continental should really look into how they manage the replies to email/web form inquiries. 37 days is nowhere near being acceptable. United has always been rather good at replying to complaints/comments sent to them as 1K. The reply is almost always received within a day or two. The Hilton example above is not an anomaly. Hilton has always been very good at replying to email inquiries and doing that fast. I am not as satisfied, however, with the quality of their Diamond phone line. It doesn’t really matter if the issues can be solved lightning fast by email. Marriott as a global hotel chain really should adopt better opening hours of their corporate customer care.

United & Continental Merger Update and the Last Chance to Buy EQM’s for 2011

Both United and Continental have been emailing in the past few days their merger update email. The new Mileage Plus program will start on March 3rd, 2012 and you can now check your combined EQM balance, if you have already linked your Continental OnePass and United Mileage Plus accounts.

united-airlines-merger-updates-com_

United and Continental had been using different methods to come up with the lifetime program miles figure. To come up with the measurable number, hopefully fair for both United and Continental members, United fliers got an onetime boost to include what Continental had been counting all along. This was calculated back to when you joined the program. My personal lifetime miles increased about 30%. The website now shows the combined lifetime activity once the programs are merged. Even without the 30% bump to my lifetime United figures, my combined balance would have been comfortably excess of 1 million lifetime miles, the thresh hold for lifetime Premier Gold status.

united-airlines-merger-personal-update

There is also a last chance offer to buy up to 15K EQM’s that you can apply to your 2011 activity. Your status after the EQM’s is eligible for CR1’s (confirmed regional upgrades) and SWU’s (systenwide upgrades), if you passed the required EQM thresholds.  I wasn’t offered this one, because I had passed the EQM requirement for 1K status. If you are close to Platinum or 1K, you should consider your individual situation, and whether it would make sense to buy the EQM’s or not. I probably wouldn’t for a Platinum, but if I would be less than a $2K away from 1K, then it would be entirely different matter. You would get six systemwide upgrades that are easily more valuable than $2K, if used correctly. At other times, it might make sense to follow my earlier instructions how to use the Elite Maximizer to buy EQM’s.

united-airlines-merger-eqms

Price of the EQM’s if bought through this offer applied to 2011 balance.

There is also lots of other useful information on this website for both United and Continental flyers. The date for the new combined program is March 3rd, and it probably would be useful to familiarize oneself to the new status levels and procedures that will take place on that date.

Continental Airlines & Virgin Atlantic Frequent Flyer/Codeshare Agreement Ending on February 13th

2 Comments

Now it is time to get the last Virgin Atlantic redemptions in using Continental miles. If you have United miles, you can link your accounts and transfer them to Continental. Virgin Atlantic hasn’t been United partner.

Effective February 13, 2012 we will discontinue our OnePass and codeshare partnership with Virgin Atlantic. Mileage accrual benefits are valid for travel through February 13, 2012. Please refer to the Mileage Credit Request Form for information regarding obtaining missing mileage credit. OnePass reward reservations for travel on Virgin Atlantic must be confirmed and ticketed by February 13, 2012, and they are valid one year from the date ticketed.

continental-airlines-virgin-atlantic

This info is already available on Continental’s website, but nothing on Virgin’s website as of today. The last day to earn miles on Virgin flights is February 13th. That is also the last day to ticket any award bookings on Virgin. Most likely any changes to award flights involving Virgin i.e. date changes are not possible after that date.  You only option at that point would be to cancel the ticket and have Continental to refund the miles and taxes/fees.

virgin-atlantic-continental

United Airlines Introduces Mileage Plus Gift Registry

Last week, I received an email from United regarding their latest Mileage Plus product – a gift registry. The idea is that you can celebrate your special event by getting people to either buy or donate miles to your Gift Registry/Mileage Plus account.

mileage-plus-gift-registry

In all schemes of things the price of the United mile at 3.5 cents per mile + tax is on the high side, and transferring miles costs 1.5 cents per mile, that is not really worth it either.

mileage-plus-gift-registry-prices

American is still selling their AAdvantage miles at 2.2 cents per mile, and US Airways is periodically selling their miles, that you can use on Star Alliance, for about 2 cents per mile or lower. Delta, whose miles I don’t value as high as United’s or AA’s, was selling them at 1.1 cents per mile just before Christmas.

The only worthwhile thing here that I can think of is to transfer small number of miles from a friend, if you are few thousand miles short of an expensive international business or first class award on Star Alliance partner airline. But then, it might make sense to just buy them outright without having to bother anyone.

United Airlines (and Continental too) Are Offering Up To 25% Discount on Economy Award to Europe and Africa – MPG012.

The time after New Year’s is typically slow time in transatlantic flying. The weather is cold in most parts of the Europe and tourists stay away. United just did an email blast offering 20% to 25% discount on return economy award trips to Africa and Europe that are entirely on United metal. This same offer MPG012 is valid on Continental as well.

united-mileage-plus-europe-africa-sale

The ticketing deadline is January 16th for travel between January 27th, 2012 and March 22nd, 2012. There is 21 day advance ticketing requirement. The discount is 25% for off-peak days (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) and 20% for peak days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).

Decided to do tests both on Continental.com and United.com to see how well these discounted awards show up.

Continental award search

The travel is valid from Anchorage originating as well. Decided to include an open jaw in Europe and search for Anchorage to Rome, and on return Barcelona to Anchorage.

The inventory was rather sparse in March but there was plenty of availability in February. I did the search logged in to my account and there are some segments that have availability only due to the status. These show as XN.

united-continental-anc-fco-bcn-anc

This itinerary would require 45K miles and $43.10. The price of buying this outright is only $1003 that would earn close to 16K elite/redeemable miles.   

Last Chance to Use The Continental Elite Maximizer to Get the Last United Airlines and Continental EQM’s in For the Year.

Two weeks ago I wrote about buying Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM’s) on Continental’s website using the Elite Maximizer. Today is the last day to use this program to ensure that the EQM’s are posted before the end of the year.

You can link your United MileagePlus and Continental OnePass accounts, and the EQM’s are then eventually merged to determine your status in 2012.

This is the way to go if you need some EQM’s at the very last moment. It is not cheap and you need to determine if the cash outlay is going to be worth the higher airline status.

Short on Elite Qualifying Miles on United or Continental? Here’s the solution – Elite Maximizer.

2 Comments

Last week I wrote about Delta’s offer of selling Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM’s) for ca$h. United doesn’t sell EQM’s but their Continental part does. It is called Elite Maximizer, but you cannot buy just EQM’s, you need to buy Reward Maximizer miles at the same time.

Here’s how it works. You need to have Continental ticketed itineraries on your My Bookings at Continental.com, if you don’t have any; I have some tips later for that. Then you just choose the View of the itinerary, and you presented the screen below:

Continental Buy Extra Miles

As you can see, the itinerary that you want to “Maximize” doesn’t even need to be on a Continental or United metal, or even a revenue ticket. You can use the “Elite Maximizer” on all Continental issued tickets.

Visiting United Airlines City Ticket Office (CTO) in Bangkok – Very Good Service

1 Comment

United City Ticket Office Bangkok AwardsOver the years I have visited the United’s Bangkok City Ticket Office (CTO) several times for various reasons. In the past, one had to sign a so called “bluey” when upgrading someone else using one of the Systemwide upgrade instruments.  Also, issuing an award ticket to someone who doesn’t share the same last name with you, used to require this very same process. I have always received very good service either over the phone or during the visit. They had just received some award from United for their 25 years of service.

United Airlines City Ticket Office Bangkok

The United’s CTO in Bangkok is not actually United at all, but rather their General Sales Agent (GSA) called Air Transport Service. They are, however, able to issue all kind of tickets and help with Mileage Plus related issues as well. You should be able to use paper vouchers there too, although I have never tried.  

United Airlines Mileage Plus Online Shopping Holiday Bonus – 1000 Bonus Miles for Combined Purchase of $250 or More.

1 Comment

United Airlines has pretty simple holiday online mall shopping bonus. You need to have cumulative spend of at least $250 between 11/18-12/31 to be eligible for 1000 bonus miles. This is in addition to the miles you earn from actual purchase(s). Apparently, there is even no need to register for this.

United Airlines Mileage Plus Online Shopping Holiday Bonus

You can visit United’s online shopping mall at https://www.mileageplusshopping.com/promo____.htm.

United Airlines Offering Double Elite Qualifying And redeemable Miles Between Los Angeles, Santa Ana, San Francisco-Chicago On Fare Classes W Or Higher – MPDB71.

Last week I wrote about the latest offer from American Airlines for Double Elite and Redeemable miles for flights between selected cities. As United Airlines has their hub at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, it was likely from the beginning that they would match the AA’s promotion to stay competitive.

United Airlines Double Elite Qualifying Air PromotionsThe other day when I was checking flight promotions on United.com it showed a new promotion offering double elite qualifying miles (DEQM) and double redeemable miles (DRDM) for flights between Chicaco’s O’Hare and San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Santa Ana. Unlike AA’s offer that didn’t have any fare class restrictions, United’s offer is valid only on fares booked to W or higher. Also, the United’s offer is valid only for travel until January 31st, 2012 when AA’s offer is valid until March 31st, 2012.

American Airlines Offering Double Elite Qualifying And Redeemable Miles!

American Airlines AAdvantage Double Elite Qualifying Miles EmailAmerican Airlines just announced that they are offering double elite qualifying and redeemable miles between Chicago (ORD) or Dallas (DFW) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO). This promotion is valid for AAdvantage members whose address on file with AA is in California, Illinois, or Texas. The promotion period is surprisingly long from yesterday until the end of March 2012.

Apparently AA is trying hard to fight against Virgin America that has started to operate somewhat schedule on these routes, although the main competitor remains to be United.

Trending Posts