Starwood Offering 1000 Bonus Starpoints for Sheraton Club Floor Bookings

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Starwood started their Sheraton club initiative about a year ago that required all the Sheraton’s to have a club lounge that is open 7 days a week. They (Starwood) have had a mixed success getting hotels to sign up/comply with the brand requirements, however.

spg-1000-bonus-points-sheraton-club

Now, Starwood is offering extra 1000 Starpoints per stay booked using American Express for Sheraton Club accommodations for stays until May 31st, 2012. You need to make the booking using the following link or book either using DAILYFS or SICLUB rate codes.

Expect to pay the full Club rate in order to get the 1000 extra Starwood Starpoints. If you are a Platinum member, there is really no need to pay and book a Club rate in order to have the “club” access. Domestic clubs in the United States are rarely if ever worth the price premium they command. Internationally club access can make sense depending of the price and how much of the club you are planning to take advantage off. For the most part, I call rate promotions like this “screw your employer” one.

Here’s one example from Sheraton Garden Grove. Their lowest public rate is $111.

sheraton-garden-grove-aaa-rate

The AAA club rate is $143.

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And the Club rate that is eligible for this promotion $152.

sheraton-garden-grove-club-rate

Here are the Terms and conditions of this offer that you can also find at here:

Hyatt February Edition of the 48 Hour Sale – C12FEB or C48FEB

Hyatt is having their monthly 48 hour sale where you can save 15% to 30% off of best available rates (BAR). Sometimes you can save quite a bit of money and sometimes you cannot. These rates are valid at US, Canada, and Caribbean hotels.

hyatt-48-february-2012

Sometimes it is actually better to book an AAA rate that might include some extras like a complimentary breakfast. AAA rates are also normally not prepaid and cancelable. Here’s the link for the Hyatt’s web page for this promotions: http://www.hyatt.com/hyatt/specials/corpofferslist.jsp?offerId=39730828.

Fiji Beach Resort & Spa Managed by Hilton, Denarau Island, Nadi, Fiji – Review of My Stay

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This was going to be my first accommodation in Fiji. The day before arrival I was looking at various rates for this hotel and found a points + money rate that was good deal. I had originally planned to use a free night certificate from a promotion.

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This is some sort of timeshare or partially owner owned property. They have owners lounge, although not a Hilton club lounge. The unit that I had was quite residential as it had a washer & dryer, refrigerator, dish washer, hot plates, and a grill on the outside patio.

Location

The hotel is on the Denarau Island where most of the other international hotels are located. I also stayed at the Radisson Blu and Sheraton hotels during my stay. Hilton was most definitely best of these three options. There is also a Sofitel that many consider to be the best of all, however.

There is a Denarau harbor where many of the restaurants, some shops, and a Hard Rock Café is located. You can also catch a ferry or boat and do an island excursion. There is a shuttle bus for a daily flat fee that takes you from any of the resorts to the harbor.

Getting to the hotel from the airport

There are quite a few airport taxis at the arrivals area. Local taxis would be probably cheaper but getting one would be a challenge. I tried but gave up after ten minutes. The airport taxis are not that expensive. It took around 20 minutes in pouring rain to get to the Hilton. The fare was 20 FJD.

Check in

hilton-fiji-beach-resort-spa-lobby-area

The check in area is immediately to the left when you arrive to the hotel. They had all the paperwork ready. Some of the units are quite a faraway from the check in desk. I had a buggy taking me to the 2801 with my bags.

Accommodations

I was assigned a ground floor “suite”. It was basically just a large open space that had been divided by couple of doors.

hilton-fiji-beach-resort-spa-suite-2801-vew-of-the-suite

The bathroom was very well stocked. You could do your own laundry using the washing machine and the dryer. The bath tub looked nice, although I didn’t use it.

hilton-fiji-beach-resort-spa-suite-2801-bathroom-general-view

They had the new Peter Thomas Roth line of amenities, but for some reason had the old La Source pump bottles in the shower.

hilton-fiji-beach-resort-spa-suite-2801-view-of-the-bedroom-from-living-room

The resort doesn’t have wireless access and the Ethernet cable that they had was very short. I requested them to bring me a wireless router so that I could use both my PC and MacBook Air laptops. For some reason the wireless router they brought didn’t work, but the longer Ethernet cable was enough for my need.

Pool, Beach & Fitness center

There are two pools that are divided by a restaurant. These are fairly large sized and had sun chairs all around them. The weather was terrible for the day I was in the resort. It was mainly raining non-stop, but when there was a bit of sun there were immediately few people on the pool area.

hilton-fiji-beach-resort-spa-pool-area-2

The beach itself is unremarkable, but this is the case with all the hotels in the Denarau area. You cannot really spend any time in the beach itself, but that’s why there are pools.

The fitness center was in the opposite corner of the resort from my suite. It was quite small but had the equipment that I needed for a quick workout.

hilton-fiji-beach-resort-spa-villas-fitness-center-5

Breakfast

My tip would be to eat inside. I took a table outside and when I went to pick up something there was immediately number of birds picking up on my plate. I quickly decided to re-seat myself inside. The breakfast selection was quite nice and what you would expect from a resort. The service was slow but that is not unexpected in Fiji.

hilton-fiji-beach-resort-spa-villas-breakfast-6

Conclusion

This was a fine resort, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my brief stay. It could have been due to being in Denarau that is an isolated tourist area where there is nothing else around. You can always take a taxi to the Queens road where there are bars and restaurants which the locals go.

My tip would be to get a room/suite that is closer located to the central area of the resort. If you are “housed” in the very west or very east in the resort, it will be quite a hike to anywhere. I did saw quite a few people using the buggies to get around. You can probably get one by calling the operator.

Not sure if this resort offers any kind of Diamond amenity. At least there was nothing in my suite that would have indicated that I had received one. I always find it helpful when hotels have a welcome letter that is customized to your status. Not sure exactly what are the Diamond benefits at this resort beyond the upgrade and the complimentary breakfast.

Hilton February Flash Sale for Europe, Middle East, and Africa

Please note that there was a problem with the earlier link. The correct one is http://hilton.co.uk/flashsale. Please copy paste this to your browser.

Hilton is having a new flash sale across Europe, Middle East, and Africa. You need to book these rates by February 22nd and the rates are valid only for weekend stays. The flash sale requires a prepayment, is non-cancellable and non-refundable. You should only book these rates if your travel plans are FIRM.

hilton-flash-sale-february-2012

Most of the Hilton family of hotels are business ones and thus can discount their weekend rates. The discount is 33% off of a BAR (best available rate) at Waldorf-Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, DoubleTree and Hilton Garden Inns. The discount is 20% off at Hampton Inn hotels.

Terms & Conditions
Save 33% on Best Available Rate and Best Available Bed and Breakfast rate at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, and 20% off Best Available Rate at Hampton by Hilton properties when you book between February 20 and February 22, 2012 to stay during weekends in 2012. Offer is subject to availability at participating hotels. Prices shown are per room per night based on two adults sharing. Rates are non-refundable and full prepayment required at time of booking. Booking cannot be changed. Blackout dates may apply. Unless otherwise stated, rates include VAT but exclude local taxes, gratuities and incidental charges. Before booking please click here to see full offer terms and conditions.

Note that you can combine this rate promotion with numerous other Hilton promotions that fall under your stay dates. You can choose one airline and as many others that your stay date qualifies:

Register Your Visa and Get 1000 Hilton HHonors Points + 4000 Bonus for Spending $100

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

Hilton HHonors 1st Quarter 2012 “More Points” Promotion

‘Resort Escapes’ Promotion – Free Night Certificate After Five Nights and Two After Ten Nights

Maybe all of the above and one of the following airline specific ones:

Triple ANA and Double Emirates Miles for Hilton Stays Until March 31st

Airline Promotions for Air Canada Aeroplan, US Airways Dividend Miles, Lufthansa Miles & More and American Airlines AAdvantage

Earn 2012 Bonus Delta SkyMiles per Two Night Hilton Stay

Hilton HHonors With British Airways Offering 1500 Bonus Avios Per Stay Until March 31st, 2012

InterContinental Hotels Priority Club Award Category 2012 Excel List

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Last month InterContinental Hotel’s Group changed the award categories of many of its hotels. They refused, however, to produce a list of properties that went up, down, or stayed the same. I went through the entire list of InterContinental hotels and posted my findings back then.

Some people contacted me and expressed their interest to have the entire list. I previously posted only the hotels that had changed their categories. I decided that I could do it.

Please find the entire list of InterContinental hotels as an excel sheet. Please note that the information was correct as of January 19th, 2012. If there are any corrections, please don’t hesitate to email me at john@loyaltylobby.com.

The (I) is for the nightly rate for the hotel in USD for May 15th and the (J) us the “value” of Priority Club points (price/number of points required).

This Excel sheet is released for personal non-commercial use only. Any publication or commercial use must be cleared beforehand.

InterContinental Hotels Categories 2012 – Copy

Lifetime Marriott Rewards Silver, Gold, and Platinum Elite Status Requirements

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Marriott has had their lifetime elite status program for quite some time. Hyatt introduced it couple of years ago and Starwood at the beginning of this month. The lifetime status can come handy, when your high level of travel drops i.e. change in jobs or retirement. I haven’t made any of the lifetime hotel statuses yet, but I am a lifetime Star Alliance Gold through United and Platinum with American Airlines.

marriott-rewards

Here are the requirements for Silver, Gold, and Platinum lifetime elite status with Marriott:

Silver

– Member of the program minimum of 12 years

– Number of Marriott Rewards points earned 1.2 million

– Number of Marriot nights 600

– Must have qualified as a Silver member at least once during the program membership

Gold

– Member of the program minimum of 12 years

– Number of Marriott Rewards points earned 1.6 million

– Number of Marriot nights 800

– Must have qualified as a Gold member at least once during the program membership

Platinum

– Member of the program minimum of 12 years

– Number of Marriott Rewards points earned 2 million

– Number of Marriot nights 1000

– Must have qualified as a Platinum member at least once during the program membership

Marriott actually lowered the requirements for the lifetime status few years back. The requirements for the Silver used to be 600 nights and 1.5 million points, 800 nights and 2 million points for the Gold, and 1000 nights and 3 million points for the Platinum.

The requirements for the lifetime Gold and Platinum statuses are quite difficult to achieve. You need to have spent lots of nights in Marriott family of hotels to have achieved both the number of points and nights required. What helps here, however, is that Marriott counts the points earned from ALL sources towards the lifetime requirement. You can earn Marriott points from various hotel promotions, credit cards spend, through their online mall etc. The Marriott branded credit card also gives you a 15 night credit every year.

You need to call the Marriott Rewards customer service to find out the number of points you have earned during your program membership. You can find the number of nights by logging into your Marriott Rewards account and have a look at Nights Earned. It will show the current and lifetime totals.

Now You Can Use Hilton HHonors Points for Gift Cards & Some Other Crap

Just received an email from Hilton earlier today advertising the ability to use Hilton HHonors points for some SeaWorld tickets.

hilton-hhonors-market-place-email

It seems that Hilton has partnered with Rewards Network, and offering gift cards at a very bad value. They also have some crappy items in exchange for Hilton HHonors points.

All the gift cards are for 50K Hilton HHonors points for a $100 gift cards. You can often buy restaurants gift cards at 20% discount of the face value. So if you are converting your Hilton HHonors points for gift cards, the value is one fifth of a cent – $0.002. I am sure that the value is even lower if you decided to “buy” any of the crappy items they have on their site.

hilton-hhonors-market-place

So my advice would be NOT to bother with this offer at all.

https://us.hiltonhhonorsshopping.com/internet/Custom/50506_HILTON/50506_default.htm

Radisson Blu Hotel Denarau, Nadi, Fiji – Review of my Stay

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This was my first stay at a Radisson Blu branded property. I had visited one of the Radisson Blu hotels in Helsinki few years back when it was branded as Radisson SAS. Club Carlson have been running quite a few attractive promotions lately, and I decided to check few of their properties in the coming months to see how they match to what competitors are offering.

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The price of the hotel is way too high considering what it has to offer. If you have a friend or relative working at a Carlson affiliated property, you probably should looking to use their friends and family rate that brings the price of the hotel to reasonable. That’s what I did.

Location

It is on the western side of the Denarau island/peninsula next to the Sheraton and Westin complex. On the other side is a Wyndham timeshare property. It is about 20 minute ride from the airport that should cost around 25 FJD using one of the official taxis.

Check in

The check in desk is immediately right when you get in to the hotel. There is a separate check out desk. They had first some trouble finding my reservation as I had done it only couple of hours earlier when I was at the Hilton’s property. Further complicating the check in was my request for 2PM check out. Apparently the regular check in time is 11AM that would not have worked on my case. This request required the lady to make a phone call to the front desk/rooms controller, but the late check out request was granted.

Room

This was the weakest link. Overall the room was rather unremarkable. The phone didn’t work well and there was something wrong with the radio/clock as well. The hotel didn’t have wireless and the internet cord was way too short. I really have to start bringing with me a wireless router and/or a long Ethernet cable. I used to carry these, but after not needing them for few months stopped the practice. The hotel was able to solve the wireless issue by bringing a wireless router that is normally used at their ballroom/conference area.

Beach & Pool

radisson-blu-denarau-fiji-beach

There is really no beach in the Denarau area where you would like to spend any time. The pools at this hotel were absolutely fantastic, however. I believe that these pools are the strongest selling point of this property. There are two/three pools that are connected via waterways. There is the usual pool bar where you can drink your day away while still being in the water.

radisson-blu-denarau-fiji-pool-area-bar

Fitness Center

It was rather small but had the usual equipment. The thread mill was broken and they didn’t have any sweat towels available. I let the front desk know. They need to update the equipment in not so distant future.

radisson-blu-denarau-fiji-fitness-center

Conclusion

After you have spent some time in Fiji you accept a service that is slow, but mostly done with a smile, although not always. This property is fine, but doesn’t live up to its being the first on Tripadvisor (as of February 2012) for Denarau. You should come here if you really like spend most of your time by the pool and the actual room/suite is not that important.

US Airways Dividend Miles Buy/Gift Offer For US Airways Credit Card Holders

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US Airways has been very actively selling miles for the past couple of years. They seem to have some sort of offer going on every couple of months. I have been contemplating whether to take advantage of the following promo or not. It is valid only for US Airways credit card holders, but you don’t have to pay using an US Airways branded credit card.

us-airways-buy-miles-february

You can buy miles at 50% discount. The maximum number of miles that can be bought or gifted is 50000. This offer is valid until February 29th. The cost of the miles after the discount is 1.88 cents each. This is not great, but not bad either. Depending how you would use the miles it can make sense. 50K miles are not enough for anything too interesting, but when you buy couple of times during different promos you can quickly get reasonable amount.

us-airways-buy-miles-february-confirmation

When I opened the credit card they, US Airways opened a new account for me. I haven’t taken the time yet to request them to merge these accounts. My old account is not eligible for the promotion, but the account where miles from credit card use have been deposited is. This offer is valid for gifting miles for the card holder or for buying. Not sure if you can do both.

Offer available for US Airways branded credit card holders only. The 50% discount offer is non transferable and applies only to purchases made between February 1 – 29, 2012, 23:59:59 PT. All purchases are non-refundable. Offer is subject to change. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Only purchases made online are eligible.

Miles are sold for $0.035 per mile plus a tax recovery charge of 7.5%. GST/HST will be charged to Canadian residents. Miles purchased through Buy, Share or Gift Miles do not count towards Dividend Miles Preferred status. All other Dividend Miles Terms and Conditions apply. Miles may be used based on award availability at the time of booking. Please note that Dividend Miles accounts less than 12 days old are not permitted to Buy, Share or Gift Miles. All purchases are non-refundable.

Emirates Offering Double Miles for Business & First Class Travel in May

Emirates has been very competitive on the promotional side lately. In early January they run a fantastic fare sale that almost broke my bank. Booked couple of first class tickets for March travel. Also, the airline is offering very large mileage accelerator bonuses for certain new routes. You may want to consider crediting Emirates flights to their latest partner Alaska. I wrote about a possible strategy of crediting some Emirates flights to Alaska’s program. They are also offering double miles on all Emirates flights from March 1st to May 31st.

emirates-double-miles

The following offer came in an February email update from Emirates. Now, they are running a new promotion for double miles in May for business and first class travel if ticketed between February 16th and February 29th. You need to register for this RCSFJ14FEB12 promotion here. Also, it is worth checking the small print that is rather long to make sure that you satisfy all the requirements.

It is easy to see exactly how many miles you would earn for you travel. Just log into your Skyward account and sign up for this promo. Then search for the flights. If you choose to see the mileage breakdown, it will show all the bonuses that you are eligible for.

Here is an example of flying from Milan to Bangkok on Emirates business class in May

ek-mxp-bkk-non-flex

Note that you can choose between a business class saver and flex fare. The flex fare earns higher number of base and tier miles, but also costs close to 400 euros more.

ek-mxp-bkk-flex

If you haven’t tried Emirates yet, you probably should during one of their fare sales and/or promotions. Their business class is often very competitively priced as the example above illustrates. Try to pick up flights with the A380 so that you can experience the business class bar.

BMI Diamond Club Award Ticket APW-AKL-PVG-BKK-CMB in Business on Air New Zealand & Thai Airways

My favorite program for complicated one way travel award in business or first class has always been the BMI’s Diamond Club. The program is somewhat difficult to understand, and the economy awards using BMI miles rarely make any sense at all. Lufthansa is in the process of selling BMI to British Airways’ parent IAG. Diamond Club wont be around for too long.

I am right now in Suva on my Continental Airlines issued award ticket that I wrote about two weeks ago. I am flying to Apia (APW) tomorrow on Air Pacific, and was going to issue an award ticket to take me all the way to Colombo, where my next Emirates tickets start, from Apia.

great-circle-award-success

As always, I do my homework in advance. Experflyer is very useful for checking the award availability on Air New Zealand. Getting out of Apia (APW) is borderline impossible using awards on any other day than Thursdays when Air New Zealand flies one of their 767’s there. Getting out of Auckland is somewhat tricky at times too. There are only Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways that are the only Star Alliance carriers serving the country.

My preference was not to have a stopover in Auckland but rather in Bangkok. There were no other redemptions flights available in business class out of Auckland on 23rd than to Narita and Shanghai on NZ.

My first attempt was to ticket APW-AKL-PVG-BKK on Air New Zealand and Thai and then ten days later continue to my final destination BKK-SIN-CMB on Singapore Airlines. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it ticketed at the mileage level I wanted as the Diamond Club was claiming that this wasn’t an allowable Star Alliance routing. I then moved my plan to get to the CMB couple of days earlier on a direct flight from Bangkok, but this still wasn’t an allowable routing according to the Diamond Desk.

At this time I have a longer conversation to see what is the system or tool they use to validate routings. It appeared to be Star Alliance’s website. And it appeared to check the routings to a stopover point.

At this point it was already like 2AM here in Suva and decided to give them a call few hours later when they have another shift working.

bmi-dc-apw-akl-pvg-bkk-cmb

In the morning, I made four alternate award plans that I would try to get ticketed. To my surprise just by changing the stopover point from Bangkok to Shanghai somehow made the same routing that I had tried to ticket the night before permissible.

The final routing was APW-AKL-PVG on Air New Zealand in business class and then after a ten day stopover PVG-BKK-CMB on Thai’s business class.

This is one of the better Diamond Club redemptions at 18750 miles + £127.50 (cash portion of the cash + miles) + £101.30 (actual taxes/YQ’s). Very good value if you ask me.

Starwood SPG Hotel Category Changes 2012 – Properties Moving Up & Down

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It is the time of the year again when Starwood adjusts its hotel award categories. The list of properties moving up and down was just announced earlier today. 13% are moving down and 17% are  moving up.

spg-requirement-per-category

Note that the award category only reflects the ADR (average daily rate) of the hotel and is not indicative of its quality. There are great category 1 properties that are far better and nicer than some category 5 or 6 ones.

The average decrease for all the of 141 properties that went down is 2900 Starpoints per night, and for the 180 properties that went up 3194 Starpoints. Please note that these were calculated using non-peak rewards and for a weeknight.

You can book using old rates until March 1st. If you have booked a property that is going down in category, just give SPG a call after the March 1st and they can adjust the redemption. For those desiring to book at old levels? Better get your reservations done rather sooner than later.

Here’s the breakdown of hotels moving down:

number-of-spg-properties-moving-down

There are total of 141 properties that have seen their award categories lowered. Categories 3 and 4 saw the largest number of properties going down. On the higher end only the Le Meridien Bora Bora, W Koh Samui, and St Regis Punta Mita saw their category drop from 7 to 6.

Probably due to the flooding in Thailand last year, there are number of very good redemption values currently in Thailand. Le Meridien Chiang Mai and Le Meridien Chiang Rai are now both category 1 hotels requiring only 3000 points during the week and 2000 points on Friday and Saturday. These are two fine hotels, although I prefer the one in Chiang Mai.

In Bangkok the Royal Orchid Sheraton drops to category 2 requiring 3000 points during the weekend and 4000 during the week. The newly opened Aloft is down to category 1 and justifiably so.

Here’s the breakdown of hotels moving up:

number-of-spg-properties-moving-up

There are 180 hotels moving up in award categories. Only three hotels move more than one category. Two goes from category 3 to 5 and one from 2 to 4.

More than half of the hotels that are going up are in the category 4. These will become award category 5 hotels. With category 5, 6, and 7 the point requirements are becoming ugly. Category 5 moving to category 6 will go up from 12-16K to 20K per night during the non-peak season.

Conclusion

It always pays carefully to check, whether paying using cash, points, cash + points, or staying entirely at a different chain/independent property makes sense.

Moving up from categories 1 to 3 by a notch up to category 4 is quite sensible point requirement wise. Personally, I don’t see a reason to redeem at category 6 or 7 where the point requirements per night are rather obscene.

You can download the PDF list of properties that are changing their categories at https://lacek.hs.llnwd.net/e1/starwood/2012categorychange/SPG_CategoryChanges2012.pdf.

Hilton Auckland Hotel, New Zealand – Review of My Stay

Auckland is often overlooked city. People tend to use it only for getting to other parts of New Zealand or to some of the pacific islands. I have visited Auckland few times on my travels. It is nice city to break your journey for couple of days. Previously, I have always stayed at the Hyatt property, but the property was recently reflagged as a Pullman part of the Accor chain.

I had never been to the Hilton hotel in Auckland besides having a drink at the bar. Decided to burn one of the free night certificates from the recent Hilton promo. The paid rates were rather high as they usually are for this property.

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Getting to the hotel from the airport

The best way if you have plenty of luggage and more than one person is probably take a cab. It should cost around 90 NZD. As I was just traveling with my carry on and I had never tried the very frequent airport bus before, decided that now it was the time. Bought a ticket to the bus using a credit card for 16 NZD. The schedule is very frequent – every ten minutes or so. The last stop, which is the ferry building, is less than a ten minute walk from the hotel. Not difficult at all. There are only about five six stops altogether.

Check in

The check in wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t perfect either. I was told that I had been upgraded to a some sort of sea view room. I inquired if a suite upgrade would be possible as I was only staying for the night and would leave rather early the following morning. The clerk told that they have only one suite available and offered it to me as a upsell. I asked if he was aware of the changes to the Hilton HHonors Diamond program on January 18th that would bring the suites also to the pool of possible Diamond upgrades. He went away to the backroom and came back with the positive news. He probably had a word with a rooms controller or manager on duty.

The Relaxation Suite 705

This was a beautiful corner suite on the 7th floor with a wide open view of the Auckland harbor. There was couple of sun chairs on the balcony where you could have relaxed a bit. The only problem with this suite was that there was very little privacy unless you closed the curtains. Also, somebody staying in the next door could have easily “jumped” to your balcony. There was really nothing preventing it.

hilton-auckland-suite-705-living-room

I think that the style of this suite was “fresh”. I could say almost Scandinavian. The furniture wasn’t heavy. The only think I didn’t like was the rather generic looking bathroom. I also think that they should have higher quality bathroom amenities in their suites.

hilton-auckland-suite-705-balcony-chairs

Fitness center & Pool

The pool itself is very tiny and in an urban atmosphere. Not sure how long and when you get sunlight there. There is a sundeck as well with some chairs around. This is not a right hotel if you like to spend time by the pool, however.

hilton-auckland-pool

Fitness center was rather compact but could well work for a hotel of this size. I had a nice workout there in the evening.

Breakfast

I was still in a very different time zone and went to breakfast only 10 to 15 minutes later after the restaurant had opened. They were still setting up the displays.

hilton-auckland-breakfast-eggs-station

The breakfast spread was one of the better ones that I have come across in the Hilton chain sans few properties in Thailand. You had an egg stations, cold cuts, fruits, hot items etc.

The breakfast was complimentary and I didn’t have to sign anything. I did the waiter my suite number. They probably have a list of guests that have complimentary breakfast included with their rooms.

Conclusion

hilton-auckland-suite-705-balcony-sea-view

This is a fine Hilton hotel and I loved the view from the balcony. Depending what you are going to do in Auckland the location may or may not work for you. For my purpose of spending there 0 hours to relax between flights it did work perfectly. If you are Diamond member and have not been upgraded prior to your checking in, it might be worthwhile to ask what they have available.

Strategy of Crediting Emirates Flights to Alaska’s Mileage Plan Instead of Skywards

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The Emirates and Alaska frequent flyer partnership will start on March 1st. As I have written couple of times earlier, I am not sure where I could credit my Emirates flights in F that I have coming up in next month.

There are no benefits for crediting flights where I am ticketed in the first class to Skywards besides mileage accelerator and getting the status bonus. Also, there are no EK Gold benefits for flying in business class so the only possible benefit is an upgrade to first class if business class cabin is oversold.

When flying in economy, however, it is very important to have a Skywards status. You can use business class check in desks, have higher luggage allowance, have lounge access, and most importantly have a good chance of getting an operational upgrade. Emirates often heavily oversell the economy cabin that then requires them to upgrade passengers. These upgrades are normally done in the order of Emirates Skywards status the passengers has

If someone flies a lot using Emirates, I would encourage crediting strategically to both Alaska’s Mileage Plan & Emirates’ Skywards.

Here’s my plan:

1. Credit enough flights to Skywards to qualify for the Gold status

2. Look for the mileage accelerator. Credit the flights where this makes a difference to EK’s Skywards

3. Even for the flights that you are planning to credit to Alaska’s Mileage Plan change the frequent flyer number only at the gate and then just for that specific segment. This way you ensure that if there are any op ups your EK status will come to play.

4. Try to credit to Alaska enough to make at least Mileage Plan MVP Gold status. At Gold level you will get 100% mileage bonus even for your Emirates flights. This would ensure that you would get 100% redeemable miles even when ticketed in the lowest coach fare buckets.

5. If you reach 90K EQM on Alaska from partner flights, you will receive 50000 bonus Mileage Plan redeemable miles.

Here’s an example from Johannesburg to Auckland via Dubai. The actual flown miles are 25588.

emirates-jnb-akl

Crediting to Emirates you would earn both 11000 elite and redeemable miles. Silver member would earn total of 13750 (25% bonus) and Gold members 16500 miles (50% bonus)

emirates-alaska

By crediting to Alaska at the base level this would yield 12794. Alaska is offering double miles on all Emirate routes from March 1st to May 31st. If your travel would be in that time frame, you would earn total of 25588 miles. As an Alaska Mileage Plan Gold you would earn the 100% bonus on the base miles.  You would  earn an additional 12794 miles for a total of 38372 miles for the roundtrip. At the Alaska Airlines MVP level you would earn 50% bonus in top of the flown miles.

Good news is that Alaska does status match. If you have status, let’s say with United, they can match you to a similar level with Alaska with all the status benefits. I am contemplating doing exactly this.

Alaska Airlines has number of partner airlines where one can earn both elite and redeemable miles across SkyTeam and Oneworld alliances. You can redeem your miles earned from Emirates flights on other partners like Air France. Also, getting an elite bonus on partner airlines is a huge positive. Some of these benefits vary by the partner so you should always check.

Emirates has a great network, but I am not a huge fan of the Skywards frequent flyer program, however. It is just not rewarding enough. Also the fact that you don’t get miles based on the actual flown miles but rather zones makes the program less rewarding. Alaska awards their frequent flyer miles based on the flown miles like most of the other airlines.

You can read more about the Alaska’s different status levels here and more about there partners here.

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