InterContinental Royal Ambassador Status

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InterContinental Royal Ambassador status is the highest “publicly” available status that one can have with the InterContinental hotels. Thing to note is that this only applies to InterContinental hotels and not to other hotels of the InterContinental Hotels Group like Holiday Inn or Crowne Plaza.

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Royal Ambassadors do get the Priority Club Platinum status and benefits that go with it apply to other hotels of the IHG.

How to get Royal Ambassador Status?

There are two ways. You need to join the Priority Club first and then buy the Ambassador membership that costs $200 or 32K Priority Club points. I wrote a piece last yet, if it is worth buying it.

Then you need to stay from 50 to 70 nights during your Ambassador year (this is NOT a calendar year) and to stay at least three different InterContinental hotels, to be upgraded to a Royal Ambassador status. InterContinental doesn’t publish the exact requirements of this status, but normally 50 nights is the minimum required. It is unclear, however, how many of those 50 to 70 nights are required to be at the InterContinental hotels, but my hunch is that more than half.

Other way to become a Royal Ambassador is to get a referral certificate from a Royal Ambassador member. When you qualify for the status, you will receive a package that contains a referral certificate. These can be often found on eBay for around $500.

Remember that you need to become an Ambassador first before your account can be upgraded to a Royal Ambassador.

Benefits of the Royal Ambassador Status

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Once you have got the number of required nights in or have bought the certificate from eBay, the fun part is about to start. You can then enjoy the perks that come with the RA. I have listed the main benefits that I have taken advantage off. There are others as well.

1. 8AM check in & 4PM check out

Both of these are guaranteed and not up to “availability”, although some properties might say so on their welcome letters

2. Complimentary minibar beverages

Note that the SNACKS are not included by default. Some properties do give out the entire contents of the minibar, but officially the guaranteed benefits are the drinks only including beer/wine/alcohol.

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3. Executive room or suite upgrade

There seems to be lot of confusion, when it comes to the room upgrade benefits for Royal Ambassadors. Regular Ambassadors are guaranteed one category upgrade from the booked category. Royal Ambassadors are entitled to an executive room or a suite. If you book a suite, the property is NOT required to upgrade you further.

Many of the properties have implemented a policy to upgrade RA’s two categories from the room/suite category they book. You do need, however, to confirm this with the property in question beforehand.

4. Free internet access

Royal Ambassadors get a complimentary internet access at all InterContinental properties. This doesn’t apply for regular Ambassador Members.

5. Ambassador Accelerator & Royal Ambassador Bonus

You will receive 20K Priority Club bonus points for every 20 nights spent at InterContinental hotels. You will receive an additional 1000 Priority Club bonus points for every InterContinental hotel stay.

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6. Free Weekend Night Voucher & 5000 Priority Club Bonus Points

These are the same that come with the Ambassador package as well. You will get a free weekend night voucher that you can use in conjunction with a paid stay. You basically need to pay the best flexible rate for the first night and the second night is free. Sometimes it is cheaper to book two nights using discounted rates, however.

The letter includes a code that you can use to deposit 5000 Priority Club points to your account.

Royal Ambassador Package

I took couple of photos of the package that I received. It comes with the membership card, luggage tag, booklet, referral certificate, free weekend night voucher and a letter.

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IHG had supposedly sent this package already at the end of last year, but it never arrived. I had to make couple of phone calls and the replacement one came in couple of weeks.

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Timing of Renewal

If you are planning to requalify for the status, it is important to get your hotel nights count. InterContinental starts looking at your previous 12 months activity 3 months before your Royal Ambassador status is about to expire. Not sure if they do this monthly until the expiry. Sometimes it makes sense to give them a call and ask them to review your account for RA renewal. They might tell you that you need more nights or they can just extend it. You never know.

Benefits consistency

Overall, I have been very satisfied with the benefits received as a Royal Ambassador. Most of the hotels do go above and beyond what is required by the program.

You have to bear in mind that neither breakfast nor club access is a benefit of the Royal Ambassador status. Quite a few hotels, however, let you choose between a suite upgrade and a club room.

Special Conditions for Award Nights

All the other hotel chains, that I am a member of and have redeemed free nights, don’t distinguish between a paid night or an award when it comes to benefits. The situation with the InterContinental is different, however.

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Quite a few InterContinental hotels do honor all or some of the excluded RA benefits on award stays. You need to clear this with the hotel. I have found out that often if you contact the property beforehand the answer might be different when you actually check in.

Point Earnings

Royal Ambassadors earn a fixed number of Priority Club points per stay (2000), Platinum bonus (1000) and the RA bonus (1000). IHG recently changed the number of points earned to based on the dollar spend on the America.

You need to sign up for all the other bonuses that IHG continuously offers and you will then earn much more. I compile a list of all active Priority Club promotions every month and publish it here.

I recently wrote a piece how many points I have been earning on average when all the promotions are factored if. You can read more about it here.

Conclusion

The InterContinental Royal Ambassador status is great, if the number of properties and where they are located fits your travel plans. This is also the only top tier status that you can buy, although not officially. In general I have been very satisfied with the treatment I have been received from InterContinental hotels as a Royal Ambassador.

The basic point earnings doesn’t look too great, but you need to factor in all the various promotions that IHG/Priority Club is constantly running. Also, there are Point Breaks hotels every few months, when you can redeem 5K PC points for a night at number of hotels.

Accor A|Club / Le Club Accorhotels Platinum Status for New Accounts

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Please note that the Accor has now retired this offer. Sign up for our blog updates by email-alerts to be notified when this offer is available again.

Accorhotels has run numerous promotions for a complimentary Platinum status in their Le Club-program. These offers are targeted, but if you sign up using the right offer, you will get the complimentary Platinum status as well.

Please note that this offer will probably be retired in the next few days. If you think that you might need the status in the next 12 months, it would be probably better to sign up now.

You can read about my Platinum experiences at Mercure Nadi in Fiji, Novotel Suva Lami Bay in Fiji, and Hotel Muse in Bangkok. Don’t forget to play their Facebook game for free 500 points + triple points for weekend stays or 1000 Delta or Air Canada miles for one night stay.

You can sign up for the Platinum status using the following link:

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If you get an error message that your session has expired, you just need to refresh/reload the webpage.

If you have an old A-Club account, you then need to make a decision whether opening a new account is worthwhile for you. Please note that you cannot use an existing email address that is on file with A-Club for signing up a new account. You may be able to merge your accounts, however.

Here is a quick look at the Le Club Accorhotels Platinum benefits:

Le Club Accorhotels Platinum status

With 60 nights or 25,000 Le Club points.

– 100% Le CLub points bonus for every stay
Exclusive benefits at Sofitel*, Pullman and MGallery hotels.
– Welcome drink and gift
– Room upgrade**
– Late check-out up to 4:00 pm**
– A room always available if you reserve at least 3 days before your arrival.
– A Thalassa sea & spa Institute beauty and treatment product when you stay at Sofitel Thalassa sea & spa
– A welcome gift for any stay of 10 nights or more at Adagio, plus late check-out**
– Dedicated customer service

* Except Thalassa sea & spa
** upon request, and subject to availability

Starwood Quietly Changing Award Categories Midyear

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Back in February Starwood announced the category changes for 2012 and made the list of hotels changing categories public. There were few hotels that were set to drop down in category that eventually did not, or did only for couple of weeks i.e. Le Meridien Chiang Mai.

Then there was the case with Sheraton Montreal that started this year being a category 4 property for award purposes. It went down to category 3, but then couple of weeks later was suddenly category 5. If you ask a question from SPG’s social media representatives, why these sudden changes, the answer is basically because they can do it.

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And for sure all these are covered in the terms and conditions.

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Now Starwood has quietly raised the categories at least handful of hotels, but without doing any announcements. This was reported by posters on FlyerTalk that had seen some of their favorite hotels gone up suddenly in award categories. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find out exactly what properties went up. I doubt that any property would have gone down.

Probably the reason for Starwood to do these changes midyear, is to lower the liability of the Starpoints that they carry on their balance sheet. By raising the categories of the properties they can lower the liability of these points on their books and basically book the difference as a profit.

Shame on Starwood for not giving heads up on these changes. It is one thing to change the categories and give a proper notice than just change them unannounced.

May Hotel Promotions Update: Accor Hotels, Best Western, Carlson Hotels, Choice Hotels, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood & Wyndham

Both Hyatt and Starwood had their new promotions starting at the beginning of May. Carlson Hotels, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton don’t currently have promotions going on. I will continue to patronize Hilton and InterContinental Hotels Group due to their current promos and will probably max out the Hyatt’s airline related promotions as well. Personally I am very underwhelmed about the SPG’s summer promotion of 2012.

Accorhotels – Le Club

Accorhotels is offering triple points for weekend stays until June 10th, but these need to be booked by May 10th, 2012. Also there is an offer for 500 Le Club Accorhotels points for playing a game on their Facebook page (no Facebook account needed).

Le Club Accorhotels 500 Points for Free & Triple Points For Stays Including Weekend Night

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There is another offer for 1000 Delta SkyMiles or Air Canada Aeroplan miles for a stay by May 31st, 2012. You can earn this only once.

Le Club Accorhotels Offer of 1000 Bonus Delta SkyMiles or Air Canada Aeroplan Miles

Best Western Rewards

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Best Western’s promotion for a $50 travel card started on April 15th and ends on June 3rd. You can also earn Air Canada AeroPlan bonus miles + bonus points for booking online and paying using Best Western MasterCard.

Best Western Rewards Spring Bonus Offer JUMP12 – $50 Travel Card for 3 Stays + Bonus Points & Miles

Carlson Hotels – Club Carlson

No promotions as of now.

You can get a Gold status with Club Carlson by being a Rezidor shareholder.

Club Carlson Gold Status for Rezidor Shareholders

Choice Hotels – Choice Privileges

You will earn 8000 Choice Privilege points for every two stays. Note that in lower quality Choice brand a stay is defined as two or more nights for this promotion. This promotion that started on March 8th runs until May 8th.

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Choice Hotels Promotion – Stay Two Separate Times & Earn One Free Night

Hilton HHonors

Hilton’s second quarter promotion is for double points or miles. You need to choose one or the other, and you cannot change your selection.

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Hilton HHnors 2nd Quarter 2012 Double Your Honors Promotion – Double Points or Miles

You should sign up for the two promos below. Even if you are Diamond with Hilton, you can still get 40K HH for four Hilton stays.

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?

Hyatt Gold Passport

Hyatt has teamed up with number of airlines; Air China, Air France-KLM, ANA, American Airlines, British Airways, China Eastern, Delta Air Lines, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qatar, Southwest, and United to offer up to five times the miles or points.

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Hyatt Gold Passport Summer 2012 Promotion for up to Five Times the Miles

InterContinental Hotels Group – Priority Club

As always, Priority Club has number of promotions that you should sign for.

This time Priority Club has two parallel promotions. One is based on nights and the other is based on stays. You can earn 5000, 10000, or 15000 depending how many nights/stays you have during the promotional period until June 30th, and to which promotion you sign up for.

Priority Club 2nd Quarter Stay/Night Bonuses

Currently there are six different one time Priority Club bonus points offer that you should sign up for.

Six Priority Club Promotions to Sign Up For (UPDATE)

Then IHG has teamed up with Visa to offer you 1000 Priority Club bonus points for registering your Visa card + an additional 5000 points for using the same card to pay for a stay by July 31st, 2012.

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Priority Club Rewards On the Go – 1000 Bonus Points for Signing up + 5000 Bonus Points After a Stay

You can earn 2000 Priority Club bonus points for just signing up for three different Priority Club programs (no purchase required).

Priority Club Shopping Bonus – Receive 1000 Priority Club Points for Signup Up & Registering Your Credit Card + 500 Points Dining Bonus + 500 Points Sailing Bonus

Priority Club is offering 5K/10K/15K bonus points for 3/5/6 nights at InterContinental hotels in the Americas and the Caribbean by the June 30th, 2012.

InterContinental Offer for 5K/10K/15K Bonus Priority Club Points for 3/5/6 Nights

Marriott Rewards

Marriott’s nest promotion starts on June 1st, 2012 and has the usual number of different variations.

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Marriott Summer Promotion of Free Night Certificates or Bonus Marriott Rewards Points

Starwood Preferred Guest

Starwood just launched their much anticipated SPG Nice Choice promotion that hasn’t gone down too well. You can read about the initial leak, my ability to confirm that the leaked information was real, and the strategy that you should take. Essentially, this is a double or triple Starpoints promotion that is very weak compared to free night promotions that SPG was running during 2010 and 2011.

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SPG Nice Choice Promotion Finally Launched

Starwood seems to be promoting their Sheraton brand hard these days. There are three different promotions for Sheraton stays going on.

There is a promotion of 1000 extra Starpoints for booking a Club accommodation at Sheraton hotels and paying using an American Express card.

1000 Bonus Starpoints for Sheraton Club Floor Bookings

Some renovated Sheraton hotels are also offering 1000 bonus Starpoints.

1000 Bonus Starpoints for Staying at a Newly Renovated Sheraton Hotels

You can get 1000 Delta SkyMiles or US Airways Dividend Miles for booking a special (expensive) rate plan.

1000 Bonus Delta SkyMiles or US Airways Dividend Miles for Sheraton Club Bookings

Wyndham Rewards

Wyndham has two promotions. One is for North America (US, Canada, and Mexico) and the other one is for rest of the world. In my opinion the rest of the world is better.

Wyndham Rewards Spring 2012 Promotion – Stay 2 Get 2 – Double Points or Miles + Up To 4 Movie Tickets

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Wyndham Rewards Spring 2012 Promotion (non-North America) 10000 Bonus Points Every Two Stays – Max 30000 Bonus Points

InterContinental Offer for 5K/10K/15K Bonus Priority Club Points for 3/5/6 Nights

Priority Club is offering three different promotions for stays at the InterContinental Hotels and Resorts in the Americas and the Caribbean. These offers are valid until June 30th, 2012. Please note that only stays at the InterContinental branded hotels count, and you can only sign up for one of these offers.

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As always with Priority Club promotions, there is no guarantee that you will be eligible for the bonus points or that you can sign up, unless you were targeted these offers in the first place.

I was unable to sign up my account, must have been a conflict with some other promotion that I had signed up for, but I was able to sign up another account. If you are going to have stays at InterContinental hotels in the areas where this promotion applies, it never hurts to sign up and be positively surprised, if the points post.

You can register for one of these promotions at priorityclub.com/register by inputting your Priority Club account number and the promotion code.

5000 Points for 3 Nights – Promotion 8990

Priority Club® Rewards invites you to take part in one of our best offers yet. Simply register and stay 3 nights at any InterContinental hotel or resort in the U.S. Canada, Mexico, Latin America or the Caribbean between 1 May and 31 July 2012, and earn 5,000 bonus points.

10000 Points for 5 Nights – Promotion 8991

Priority Club® Rewards invites you to take part in one of our best offers yet. Simply register and stay 5 nights at any InterContinental hotel or resort in the U.S. Canada, Mexico, Latin America or the Caribbean between 1 May and 31 July 2012, and earn 10,000 bonus points.

15000 Points for 6 Nights – Promotion 8992

Priority Club® Rewards invites you to take part in one of our best offers yet. Simply register and stay 6 nights at any InterContinental hotel or resort in the U.S. Canada, Mexico, Latin America or the Caribbean between 1 May and 31 July 2012, and earn 15,000 bonus points.

Air France-KLM Flying Blue Promo Awards (50% Discount) Are Out For May – June 2012

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It is always good time to burn miles when airlines temporarily lower the number of required miles. Air France and KLM’s Flying Blue program does this every couple of months. They just released the list for destination that they have at 50% for May and June 2012. The booking window started on April 28th, 2012

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Thing to note is that you can book these also as one way.  These are not only for originating from Europe as all the destinations are for both directions. The discounted awards within Europe, however, are only from the listed cities. Other awards allow the origin/destination in Europe to be in zones 1, 2, and 3, basically meaning that these awards are valid from/to anywhere in Europe.

Thing to remember is that Flying Blue charges rather hefty taxes and fees for award tickets. The fees are mainly fuel surcharges (YQ) that they collect. As a result, it rarely makes sense to redeem for an economy class ticket. Also, there are no changes or cancellations of any kind allowed on promo tickets. You either use it or lose it.

  • Reservations must be made exclusively on www.airfrance.com or www.klm.com (except for bookings for children, infants and minors, who are not authorised to book an award on the website).
  • In the event that a technical problem occurs when reserving the promotional fare or if the reservation cannot be finalised, the Flying Blue member must log on to the site and repeat the procedure.
  • This award ticket may only be used on connecting flights into or out of the Europe 1, Europe 2 and Europe 3 zones if the connections are to long-haul flights.
    For European flight promotions, connecting flights within Europe are not included.
  • These promotional Promo Award@ may not be modified, cancelled or refunded.
  • Promo Award@ are available for one-way tickets and round trips.
  • Discounts (SkyTeam scale applicable) apply to the award ticket price only (SkyTeam scale is valid). Applicable taxes and fees are paid by the Flying Blue member.
  • Flex Award are not included in the Promo Award@ offer.
  • Business Elite and Economy Elite bookings are available exclusively to Flying Blue Elite members (Platinum, Gold and Silver). These Elite travel classes provide extra award seats on routes to the United States, the Carribean and Indian Ocean, Africa and Asia.

You can sign up for the Flying Blue account and have a look at the availability. I would suggest first trying to find availability for the long haul flights and work the connecting fights, if needed, separately

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Priority Club Last Minute Reward Nights Out For May

Priority Club just released a list of last minute rewards nights for this coming weekend. You need to book them on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights.

These last minute rewards nights are offered at 50% discount of the usual number of points needed. This time they have 86 hotels on the list of which eight are InterContinental hotels.

I am actually really surprised to see InterContinental Moorea and Tel Aviv on the list, but then who can make their way to French Polynesia to take advantage of this offer? The InterContinental Tel Aviv tends to be rather expensive so this is very good use of Priority Club points.

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Six Priority Club Promotions to Sign Up For (UPDATE)

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This is a monthly update of Priority Club one time promotions that are valid. These are all combinable with other promotions as long as they are not conflicting. If the code doesn’t work for you, you have signed up for the same or variant of the same promotion previously.

These six promotions should work for all. The Elite member next stay bonus probably requires a Gold or higher status with Priority Club, however. Remember to sign up for the other on going Priority Club bonus points offers that you can find here.

You can register for these promotions at priorityclub.com/register

Anniversary Bonus Offer – 6102

This is most lucrative of the offers. You will get additional 1000 Priority Club points per stay for 90 days after your sign up.  Just enroll just before your first stay to maximize the earnings.

Elite Member Next Stay Bonus – 5221

This works for sure if you are a Platinum member, but could work for Gold’s as well. Doesn’t hurt to sign up, right? You will get 3000 bonus Priority Club points for your next stay. You will need to have the stay within 90 days after signing up. You can only earn this once.

Welcome Back Bonus – 2120

You will get 1500 Priority Club bonus points for one stay after signing up. You need do stay within 90 days.

New Member Bonus – 3107

This is a new member bonus, but works for existing members as well. You will get onetime 1500 Priority Club bonus points after signing up. You need do stay within 90 days after registration.

Next Stay Bonus – 5109

This should be open for elite and non-elite members. You will get onetime bonus of 1500Priority club points after a paid stay. The stay must be within 90 days after registration.

Weekend Stay Bonus – 3136

This should be open for all. You will get 5000 Priority Club bonus points for a two night weekend stay. Weekend is typically defined Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights. The stay must occur before the end of 2012. Please note that I have had two weekend stays at InterContinental hotels after registering for this promo, but I have not received these bonus points. They might post later.

SPG Nice Choice Promotion Finally Launched

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During the past two weeks, I have written about this promotion three times. First to post about the leaked choices, second to confirm them after having had a look  at an internal memo, and then yesterday to write about the strategy that you should take. You can register for this promotion here.

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Now, finally the SPG website devoted to this promotion is up and running. There is really nothing surprises beyond the fact that the terms and conditions of this promotion are 2707 words and the frequently asked questions 2992.

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The only worthwhile thing to remember is that the deadline for registering for this promo is June 30th, 2012. You don’t have to choose the earning period earlier even, if you would eventually want it to start on May 1st. My advice would be to take into account the characteristics of this promotion i.e. if you prefer getting 500 SPG points per night at when staying at Sheraton hotels, but not to sign up before the deadline. Then, at the end of June, you can have another look, what would be the best choice for you.

Here’s the simplest exhibit about this promotion. You can read my take about this promotion and what promotion you should sign up for, if any, here.

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Here are both the Terms and conditions & Frequently asked questions by SPQ:

SPG Nice Choice Terms and Conditions:

BMI Diamond Club Status Now Transferrable to British Airways Executive Club

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British Airways bought BMI back in April. The airline withdraw from the Star Alliance on that date, but the Star Alliance benefits i.e. lounge access and extra luggage allowance as well the ability to earn and redeem on Star Alliance except Lufthansa Group of airlines will continue until the end of May.

Now, you can transfer your BMI Diamond Club status Silver/Gold to British Airways Executive Club Silver/Gold status. BMI and BA haven’t publicized how long this offer will last, but I would expect it to go to the very end of BMI’s existence that is at least to the end of October.

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You need to fill out the form on BA’s website and include your BMI Diamond Club as well as your BA Executive Club numbers. BA will then confirm the status of your BMI account and match it to the Silver or Gold level.

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The BMI status transfer to BA is valid for 12 months. If you apply i.e. after 8th of May the status will be valid until the end of June the following year. You lose a month if you apply between the first of month and 8th. You need to qualify for the BA status on your own during the membership year period.

BA’s Silver is comparable to AA’s Platinum status (Oneworld Sapphire). It will give you access to business class check in desks and lounge access if you are ticketed in economy. BA Gold is comparable to AA Executive Platinum (Oneworld Emerald). You will get first class check in and first class lounge access regardless of the ticketed cabin.

Star Alliance doesn’t have equivalent status to Oneworld Emerald. Star Alliance Gold i.e. BMI Diamond Club Gold is closed to Oneworld Sapphire status than Emerald.

I am still crediting some Star Alliance flights to BMI’s program and expect to make it back to Gold before the end of the month. I will do the status transfer to BA’s Executive Club later in the year. I have lifetime Platinum status with AA that gives me the Oneworld Sapphire benefits.

Why I (Sometimes) Love United Mileage Plus

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I had a dilemma today earlier today. I was in Sharjah and needed to get to Bangkok for couple of nights, and then to Ho Chi Minh City until Friday next week. The weekend of 11th to 14th of May I was going to be in Hong Kong. I had already arranged an award using BMI Diamond Club miles to take me from Hong Kong to Manila via Bangkok and Singapore. This was bit out of the way, but decided to have a refresher on TG’s and SQ’s F products on HKG-BKK and SIN-MNL segments.

To make things worse I had to find a way out of Manila as well. Due to some regulations in Philippines most of the travel sites are not selling or issuing award tickets originating from Philippines. Filipinos are required to pay some sort of special departure tax that doesn’t apply for foreigners.

The beauty of United’s return awards are that they allow both a stopover and open jaws at both ends i.e. I can fly from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City and consider it a stopover on my way to Hong Kong. I can then return from Manila to Jakarta. These countries are all in the same zone.

But first, I needed to get to Bangkok. It didn’t make any sense to redeem out from UAE. Gulf Air had an excellent economy fare (yes – horrors). Booked it today around noon for flying out the same evening. Fare was only $308. This would also earn me around 4000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

So back to the United awards reservation, I plugged in the dates that didn’t have much flexibility; BKK-SGN, SGN-HKG and MNL-CGK.  I love the fact that you can mix and match flights from all Star Alliance carriers service Asia and United partner airlines as well.

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For the Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh sector I chose the Qatar Airways flight

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Ho Chi Ming to Hong Kong would have had a direct United flight available as well but only in economy. Decided to make a detour via Bangkok.

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The United is very good at suggesting routings that are somewhat out of the way. For the oneway from Manila to Jakarta I decided to go via Seoul and Bangkok. There would have been an option for taking this on Singapore Airlines F class as well, but decided that it wasn’t worth the extra miles United would have required. Also, there was lots of options for mixed cabin flights. The only problem is that United charges for the highest cabin.

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The best part of these awards is the taxes that United collects. There are no fuel surcharges or other funny extras to pay. This whole award was only 35K United miles + $49.40.

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My advice would be to consider return awards as well as they offer a stopover and two open jaws. Essentially you can create an itinerary that is close to three one ways for the price of one return award ticket.

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Unlike the formed United the new one takes couple of hours to email the eticket receipt. All was in order, however. I much prefer doing these online without human interaction.

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SPG Nice Choice Promotion Strategy

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Summary

Unless you know exactly how many nights you are going to stay during the promotional period that you choose, sign up for the double points. If you know FOR SURE that you are going to have at least 15 nights, sign up for the triple points. If your stays are ONLY at Sheraton hotels, sign up for the 500 extra Starpoints per night at Sheraton’s-offer.

There are other worthwhile options, but they only pay after certain number of stays and are capped.

Introduction

Last week, the details of the SPG Nice Choice summer promotion were leaked out on the internet. I think that it was inevitable that the different options of this promotion would come out before the official announcement on May 1st, 2012.

For me personally this promotion is a huge disappointment compared to what Starwood offered in 2010 and 2011. I was able to put the free weekend nights in 2010 and free resort nights in 2011 to good use. I do understand that some were dissatisfied with the number of properties that decided not to participate to these two promos, and these free weekend or resort nights awards were useless for those that weren’t willing or were unable to use them during the redemption period.

This new promotion is all about the choices, but the problem is that there are so many of them that it is borderline impossible to figure out the best one unless you already have hotels booked and can calculate the payout under various choices.

To get the most out of this forthcoming promotion you must decide:

1. Which of the earning periods would fit you best? You can only choose one of the options.

2. Then what you would like to earn; Starpoints, awards, merchandise discounts, or elite night credits. Each of these options contains multiple choices and you can only choose one.

Choose your own earning period (You can only choose one)

May- July
June- August
July- September

Choose one during which you have the highest number of nights with the Starwood. You won’t earn any bonuses outside of one of these three month periods during the five months they have this promotion running.

Choose whatever you want to earn during (You can only choose one)

Starpoints
Awards (Free Nights & Redemption discounts)
Merchandise discounts
Elite Credit

You need to choose what you would like to earn.

Starpoints Offers

Double Points beginning with 2nd stay. No limits.

This is probably the easiest choice. If you have more than one stay during the promotional period, you are guaranteed to get something out of this promotion. Note that the double points start from your SECOND stay. Probably the best idea to have a one night stay first to qualify for the double points for rest of your stays.

Every 6 nights, get 3k Starpoints (max of 9k)

You will get 500 extra Starpoints per night if you hit exactly 6, 12, or 18 nights during the promotional period. This is good option if your average nightly rates are LOW.

If your nightly rates are higher than $125 and you know that you will stay at least 15 nights, the triple Starpoints offer is better (extra 4 Starpoints per dollar spend).

The double points (extra 2 Starpoints per dollar spend) from your second stay is better too, if your nightly rates are higher than $250.

Earn 500 bonus Starpoints per night at Sheratons worldwide (no limits). Online-bookings ONLY

You will only earn bonus when staying at Sheraton hotels and booking online. Not sure if bookings made through corporate travel portals count as online ones. Probably not.

The triple points offer is better if you hit the 15 nights during the promotional period, your average rate (including all incidentals) is higher than $125, and the triple points offer is valid at ALL SPG hotels.

Stay 15 nights, get Triple Starpoints on all stays retroactively. No limits.

In my opinion this is the best offer, but it won’t pay out unless you have at least 15 nights during the promotion period. The 6/12/18 nights for 3K/3K/3K bonus Starpoints and the 500 bonus Starpoints for each Sheraton nights can be better, if your folio is less than $125 and you hit exactly the number of night requirement of the 6/12/18 night promotion .

Awards Offers

10 nights, get 1 Free Weekend Night (cat 1-5). Max of 2 Awards. Weekends are Thurs, Fri, Sat, and Sun.

In 2010 SPG run a promotion where you could get a Free Weekend Night award for every 3 stays and the number of awards earned was unlimited. In 2011 the promotion was for free resort nights at any day of the week. You could earn them at any SPG property. Three stays for one free weekend night. There were some properties that opted out from this promo and these awards were capped.

You will get a payout only if you hit exactly 10 nights and then again at 20 nights. There are no payouts in between.

The category 5 free night is “worth” 12000 Starpoints. By capping the use for only weekend nights when the hotel rates tend to be lower, the “dollar” payout is lower. Not sure about the expiry date of these free weekend night awards, but they probably expire within 4 to 6 months after earning.

This award option is inflexible. You can use Starpoints to redeem cash + points, transfer to airline miles, use to buy airline tickets etc.

Stay 20 nights, get 1 25% percent off redemption Award (cat 1-5). Max of 2 Awards

You already get a fifth night free when redeeming for category 3 and higher. I would assume that you can stack this discount with that as well. Five night redemption at category 5 hotel would normally cost 48000 Starpoints. The required number of Starpoints after the discount would be 36000 Starpoints.

Merchandise Awards

Stay 4 nights; get US$50 SPG Award Cert (max of 3)
Stay 4 nights; get $50 or EUR50 Westin @ home discount code (max of 3)
Stay 4 nights, get $50 or EUR50 Sheraton @ home discount code (max of 3)

Each of these three award options only pays at 4, 8, or 12 nights. The SPG $50 award certificate is not a bad option, but it will be mailed to you and you need to hand it in when checking out. It counts as a cash payment towards your folio.

If you value Starpoints at 2 cents, this option would give you 625 extra Starpoints per night in SPG hotel credit.

Elite status

Stay 5 nights, earn 1 bonus night toward elite status (max of 3 elite qualifying nights).
Stay 10 nights, earn 3 bonus nights toward elite status (max of 6 nights).

The thing to note here is that you are earning NIGHTS and not stays. You can qualify for SPG Platinum status by having 25 stays or 50 nights.

The payout in the first options is 1/2/3 cumulative elite qualifying nights after 5/10/15 nights. On the second one 3/6 cumulative nights after 10/20 nights.

Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Abu Dabi, UAE – Review of my Perfect Stay

Back in March, I was spending a day in UAE. I was flying in/out on Emirates in First and the service provides a complimentary transportation both ways within the United Arab Emirates. I have been to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi many times before. As a matter of fact, when I am writing this, I am on my way to Dubai yet again.

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The ride from Dubai to Abu Dhabi takes about two hours. If you take a regular taxi, the fare is about 200 dirhams or so. There is some kind of bus service between the cities as well, but I have not personally used it.

In all fairness, I am not claiming to be a Fairmont expert. I had only stayed at one other Fairmont property before the Fairmont Peace hotel in Shanghai, where I had equally fantastic stay. I have, however, stayed at a number of properties in Abu Dhabi including Park Hyatt, Hyatt Capital Gate, Sheraton Abu Dhabi Resort, Westin Golf Resort, Le Meridien, Le Royal Meridien, Sheraton Khalidiya, InterContinental Abu Dhabi, and few others.

Location

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The location of this hotel is somewhat out of the city center. It is halfway between the center and the airport. Approximately 8 miles from the city center of the Abu Dhabi.

Check In

I was using my yearly free night certificate and a suite upgrade certificate in top of that. The free night and the upgrade were both confirmed about a day before my stay.

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The check in was fairly smooth. There was confusion about something. The President’s Club guest relations manager was going to escort me to my suite. I learned that he had previously worked for IHG’s Priority Club in Mania.

Suite 953

The suite was absolutely fantastic. It had a rather large living room and one of the best chocolate and fruit amenities that I have ever come across on my hotel stays.

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The suite had a view of the hotel’s beach and the mosque on the other side of the creek.

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The living room had a guest toilet, Nespresso machine that even I knew how to use, and rather large tv.

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There was a spacious walk in closet with a vanity area between the living room and the bedroom.

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The work desk was on the bedroom.

Beach & Pool

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There was a large private beach with plenty of sun chairs on the sand and around the pool area.

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The day, when I was there, the weather was actually so cold that I had to wear a jacket. One of the pools was warmed, however, and there were handful of people in there.

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The beach & pool area was probably the nicest that I have seen in Abu Dhabi.

Fitness Center

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This was not the highlight of the hotel. I am not sure if the fitness center setup was temporarily. It is on the far end of the building and you need to access it from outside. They do have lockers there, but not sure if they even had showers etc. Certainly they didn’t have any saunas or Jacuzzis etc. that are very common in the fitness centers in the area.

Food & Beverage Outlets

My stay at the hotel was relatively quick overnight, and I had a car picking me up early in the morning. I didn’t have time to check out any of the numerous outlets.

Conclusion

This was a fantastic hotel and wouldn’t hesitate to visit again. I will most certainly do at some point when I am back in Abu Dhabi.

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The only possibly negative thing could be the location depending what is the purpose of your visit in Abu Dhabi. On one hand it is good to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but at the same time the location is inconvenient to just pop into the city center especially if you don’t have a car. The taxes are very affordable in UAE though.

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The architecture of the hotel was very interesting and obviously a lot of money had been spent on it. The beach and pool area of the hotel is excellent, and I could see that someone could just go there for a short getaway.

The service overall was very good. I didn’t experience any problems during my stay.

Hyatt Gold Passport Summer 2012 Promotion for up to Five Times the Miles

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Hyatt has teamed up with number of airlines; Air China, Air France-KLM, ANA, American Airlines, British Airways, China Eastern, Delta Air Lines, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qatar, Southwest, and United to offer up to five times the miles or points.

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This promotion starts on May 1st and end of August 30th, 2012. You will receive the normal number of miles or points for the first stay, triple bonus for stays 2 and 3, and quadruple miles or points for the stays 4 to 11.

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Please note that this promotion is NOT based on nights but rather on stays. You will receive the same number of miles or points regardless how many nights you stay. The promotion is capped at 11 stays.

The cumulative maximum number of points that you would earn by having 11 stays on Air China’s and China Eastern’s programs would be 39200. By crediting 11 stays to Southwest’s Rapid Rewards would earn you 29400 points. In all other programs the cumulative number of points after 11 stays would be the grand total of 24500 miles/points.

This promotion quite frankly works for me. Most of my stays are for one night. Getting 2500 miles for a one night stay is a rather good deal. Maybe I will finally set my foot to Hyatt property this year.

Air China – Phoenix Miles

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Air France-KLM Flying Blue

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ANA Mileage Club

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American Airlines AAdvantage

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British Airways Executive Club

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China Eastern

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Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

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Etihad Guest

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Lufthansa Miles & More

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Qatar Airways – Privilege Club

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Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards

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United Airlines – Mileage Plus

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Here are the promotional terms and conditions of the United offer, but they are basically identical for each of these airlines.

More stays means 5X more miles and even more rewards

ELIGIBILITY: To be eligible to participate in the Hyatt Summer Airline Promotion (“Promotion”), you must be a member of Hyatt Gold Passport and a member of United MileagePlus.

HOW TO REGISTER: Between April 1, 2012 and August 31, 2012 (“Promotion Period”), you can register for Promotion via hyatt.com/UNITEDSUM12A or by calling 1-800-228-3360 and requesting enrollment code UA12S. You must register in advance for stays to qualify. Stays completed before registration are not eligible. You only need to register once.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: After registering for the Promotion, complete two (2) or more stays at any participating Park Hyatt®, Andaz®, Grand Hyatt®, Hyatt Regency®, Hyatt®, Hyatt Place® , Hyatt House™ or Hyatt Residence Club™ hotel and resort worldwide between May 1, 2012 and August 31, 2012 (“Stay Period”) and request United MileagePlus miles for each Eligible Stay. You must provide your United MileagePlus member number at check-in for each Eligible Stay. For each Eligible Stay during the Stay Period, you will earn the award miles as summarized in the chart below. A Eligible Stay is a stay at a participating hotel during the Stay Period with at least one (1) Eligible Night during the stay and request United MileagePlus miles for each stay. For the purpose of this Promotion, an “Eligible Night” is defined as one (1) night at any participating hotel or resort at an Eligible Rate when choosing United MileagePlus miles as the method of loyalty reward upon check-in at a participating Hyatt property and paying an Eligible Rate (as defined below). Award nights do not constitute an Eligible Night. Hyatt Gold Passport members will only receive eligible night credit for the room they physically occupy, regardless of the number of paid rooms. Only stays that occur after registration for Promotion will be counted as Eligible Stays.

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