Hyatt Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi, UAE – Review of My Stay at Suite 2212

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Last week, I was scheduled to fly out from Abu Dhabi. The opening date of the Hyatt Capital Gate had been brought forward by couple of weeks. Previously, it was not bookable before the beginning of 2012. Decided to spend the night there and just take a cab to the airport the following morning. The location of the hotel is about half way from both the city center of Abu Dhabi and the airport. My stay there ended up being on the opening day.

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The Capital Gate building is an iconic one already due to being the largest man-made tilted structure. The hotel part of the building begins from the 18th floor. The lower floors are reserved for office space. You can read more about the building itself at www.capitalgate.ae.

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Instant Hilton HHonors Gold Status for Visa Infinite Card Holders + 40K HHonors Points After Four Stays (For All?).

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Please note that as of March 4th this offer is still working. You may need to change your address to Australia for the registration to go trough successfully. Use Google Image search to find out the first six digits of  various Visa Infinite cards and keep plugging them in until one works.

Hilton has been courting travelers and giving out Hilton HHonors Gold status for almost just signing up. Their usual MVP offer of Gold status for just four stays has been going on for several years. Now, Hilton HHonors has even better offer for Visa Infinite card holders. You can get instant Gold status until 2013 and 40,000 Hilton HHonors bonus points after just four stays. The link to register for this offer is http://www.hhonors.com/VisaInfinite.

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This promotion is intended to the following regions:

Who is eligible to participate in this promotion?

This offer is open to selected Visa Infinite cardholders residing within Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa and who are enrolled in Hilton HHonors and register for the promotion.

*Asia Pacific denotes Australia, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Philippines

Starwood Preferred Guest 1st Quarter 2012 “Better by the Night”–promotion.

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Please note that the registration links won’t work before January 9th, 2012. They are all valid but Starwood has decided to take them down temporarily.

Starwood just announced their first quarter 2012 “Better by the Night”-promotion. The promotion runs from January 9th to April 8th, 2012. There are more than 750 participating properties in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Please note that Asia Pacific properties do not participate. There is currently promotion going on that is only valid at Asia Pacific properties for free nights.

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Better by the Night promo is for double Starpoints for stays of two nights or triple Starpoints for stays of three nights or longer. There are no bonus points for one night stays. You need to register for this promo by March 15th midnight Eastern Time.  The link for registration is SPG.com/bythenight.

Stays of one night = 2 Starpoints per dollar (no promotion)

Stays of two nights = 4 Starpoints per dollar (double points)

Stays of three nights or longer = 6 Starpoints per dollar (triple points)

Now You Can Use Marriott Rewards Points To Book Flights + Car Rentals. Not a Great Deal Points Wise.

Marriott Rewards just launched the ability to use Marriott Rewards points to book revenue flights and car rentals. This is outsourced to ezRez Software. I think that is always good to have more options to use points, although one Marriott point under this program is only valued at around $0.005 dollars. Marriott has a dedicated website for this: www.marriottrewardsairandcar.com.

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Even Marriott fully discloses that using points for hotel rewards continues to be the best redemption option of Marriott points. I have always used my points for travel packages, however.

Southwest Airlines Launches Double Tier Qualifying Points Promotion 225dojup.

I have a confession to make. I really don’t fly Southwest that often, maybe once a year or once every two years or so. They are, however, very good airline, but just doesn’t fit my travel patterns that well. I have been their Rapid Rewards members since early 2000.

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Where Southwest excels are those short and medium haul flights. As they don’t belong to any alliance, there is no way to use Raid Rewards for award travel in international premium class cabins on quality carriers, that is my favorite way of burning earned miles/points.

Apparently, Southwest feels that they need to react based on the AA’s recent offer of Double Elite Qualifying Miles on all routes until the end of January.

How Do I Decide The Hotel Where I am Staying At?

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First of all, I don’t believe that there is a right or wrong way. I kinda have my rule of thumb. Since 2004, I have had more than 300 hotel stays early. Normally, I choose a hotel from Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott, or Starwood collections due to the fact that I have the top tier status with all of them.

Last night I was researching hotels in Kiev, where I was supposed to be later today. I will write about my experience with PS (Ukraine International Airlines) at some later date that made me change my plans at the very last minute.

Ukraine, where Kiev is the capital, is one of those interesting former eastern bloc countries that still have relatively low standard of living, but where hotels are very expensive. The city is hosting a football tournament next year and quite a few new hotels are coming online, including Fairmont, Hilton, and Sheraton.  Hopefully this will bring the prices down.

So, last night when I was looking at the hotels I had to make a choice between a Hyatt Regency Kiev and the InterContinental hotels. The Hyatt had a best available rate of 330 euros and InterContinental 295 euros per night. Both hotels had award inventory available as well. Hyatt at 18000 Gold Passport points and InterContinental at 30000 Priority Club points per night.

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Lufthansa Has Reached an Agreement to Sell BMI to IAG (The Parent of British Airways and Iberia).

bd-baFor the years, I have parked all my premium fares, flown on Star Alliance carriers, to BMI’s Diamond Club program due to generous multipliers for such fares.  Although the program has been devalued somewhat over the years, it has still been my number one for redeeming in international business class flights.

The British Midland International (BMI) has been, however, a loss making operation for years. Lufthansa was forced to buy the carrier back in 2009 when the owners exercised their option to sell.

According to the Financial Times article on this issue, the parties are expected the regulatory approval of this deal on the first quarter of 2012. It is not sure, however, how fast BMI is then forced to leave Star Alliance.

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Time to get the last redemptions in using Diamond Club miles in before they turn into Avios.

Hyatt December Sale Up To 30% Off – Rate Code C48H12

Hyatt apparently loves these short term sales every couple of months. This time they are offering up to 30% off of 108 properties in United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. These are prepaid, non-refundable, and non-cancelable. Diamond members can use their suite upgrades on these rates, subject to availability of course. These rates need to be booked by midnight on 21st of December.

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The following Hyatt web page has the list of all the 108 participating properties and the terms of this offer.

Sometimes these rates “work” and sometimes they don’t. You get a lower price but you give up the flexibility. I would only book the sale rate if my plans were absolutely set in stone.

Kingfisher Airlines Set To Join Oneworld On February 10th, 2012.

kingfisher-airlinesKingfisher, which has been mentored by British Airways, is set to join Oneworld on February 10th, 2012. The airline was invited to join Oneworld back in June, 2010. Recently, Star Alliance turned down the Air India’s application to join alliance at the last minute.

Kingfisher has been in the financial turmoil lately as is the case with most Indian carriers. Some of their planes are apparently grounded due to inability to pay for the maintenance. Some routes have been cut and others have seen decrease in frequency.

Here’s the route map that shows the already canceled routes as well:

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Overall, Kingfisher would be a good addition to the Oneworld family and would open up lots of destinations in India. They do, however, need to get their financial house in order first.

Marriott Rewards Gift Cheques Discontinued as of December 31st, 2011.

Update. The general gift cheques were discontinued. Marriott Elite members can still continue redeeming gift cheques at discounted prices.

Exchanging Marriott Rewards points to Marriott Gift Cheques is discontinued as of December 31st of this year. It has been a good option to use Marriott Rewards points for incidentals using award stays or even pay for the stays.

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The current offer is 135000 Marriott Rewards points to $1000 in gift cheques. Starting next year you need 190000 for $1000 in Marriott gift cards. The current award values Marriott rewards points at $.0073/point and the new one at $0.0053. This is a rather significant change that Marriott has tried to just bury on their website. You need 41% more Marriott Reward points to issue the same award in gift cards instead of gift cheques. Spa and dining certificates are being discontinued as well.

This year Marriott has unannouncedly cancelled their Elite Executive Offer (EEO) for a free weekend night when paid for one night, and their all inclusive awards at some Caribbean resorts.

Hilton Worldwide Rate Promotion “Save 25% with the Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale”-Book By January 31st for Stays Until December 30th, 2012

Last year during the “Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale” there was some deals to be had in the Hilton Hotels in the EMEA region. Some rates were discounted up to 50% off:

Europe, Middle East and Africa: Participating hotels are offering up to a 50% discount. Participating Hilton, Conrad, Waldorf Astoria, Doubletree and Hilton Garden Inn hotels will relate the discount to the Best Available Bed and Breakfast Rate. Participating Hampton Inn hotels will relate the discount to the Best Available Rate.

This year the discount is 33%:

Europe, Middle East and Africa region: Participating Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Garden Inn™ and Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts properties are offering a 33% discount on Best Available Rate and Bed & Breakfast Rate. Participating Hampton by Hilton™ properties are offering a 20% discount on Best Available Rate only.

Hilton properties in the United States can be had for about the same price or lower during weekends using either AAA or MVP rates, that are normally fully cancelable and not prepaid.

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Starwood’s Latest Thailand Rate Offer – Unbeatable Thailand.

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During the flooding in Thailand, I was in and out of the capitol city three times and never saw anything unusual besides everything being really quiet. When I was there last time ten days ago, the city was already back to business as usual. None of the Starwood properties were affected.

Starwood has now launched a Thailand sale that will last until the end of January for stays from January 4th until 31st of March. The rates offered are up to 50% off the Best Available Rate.

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These are the rates listed as up to 50% off the Best Available Rate. Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit came at the offered price for weekends in January. For the dates I checked, the lowest rate I could find for the Le Meridien Bangkok was 3300 THB. The sale rate for the St Regis Bangkok was about 1000 THB lower than the 6900 THB rate listed.

Conrad Koh Samui Resort & Spa, Koh Samui, Thailand – Review of My Stay at Villa 219

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Overall this is a very nice hotel and definitely worthy addition to the Hilton’s Conrad brand. There was only couple of small service issues that can probably be attributed to the hotel having been open for bit over a month when I was there. I had visited the island couple of time previously and both times stayed at the Renaissance hotel which is closer to the Lamai beach. This time I stayed also one night at the Le Meridien hotel.

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I was going to be around Bangkok in late November, and realized that I could take advantage of Hilton Points Stretcher deal, that had the Conrad Koh Samui at 40% discount off of the regular point rates.  Considering that the regular rates at this all villa property are normally in excess of 16K THB + tax/service charge (around $600 per night) even the 50K/night is a reasonable deal.

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If you stay for four nights (probably my ideal stay at this property), the best award would be AXON7  that would require 145K points averaging 36250 HH/night. For stays of six nights or longer (except 8/12/16 etc. nights) the VIP/GLON award is the best bang for the buck at 37500 HH/night.

Start Earning and Burning Miles on the Latest Star Alliance Member Ethiopian.

As I wrote a week ago, the Ethiopian was to officially join the Star Alliance on December 13th and they did just that. Ethiopian is a good choice for Star. It opens up new connection options and destinations in the horn of Africa. Ethiopian complements the two other African based Star Alliance carriers, South African Airways and Egypt Air, very well.

Ethiopian Star Alliance

You can already redeem on Ethiopian using other Star Alliance carriers programs, as the award inventory is loaded in to the system. Sometimes it is bit of a struggle first because not always the front line employees making the award reservations are aware of the newest members.

Had a quick look and United, US Airways, and Lufthansa had a chart for Ethiopian fare classes eligible for mileage credit. BMI, which if my favorite program to credit business class flights, haven’t published a chart yet. The elite qualifying miles earned on United for paid business class flights on Ethiopian looked rather low. You only earn 100% (125% redeemable miles though) when business class normally earns, depending on the program, up to 200%.

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