Flying On Paid First Class On Emirates? Check If You Have Been Downgrade To Business.


Not sure what is going on with the Emirates at the moment. I have two tickets bought from them during the January fare sale for first class travel in the next 30 days. The last time I checked the reservations, about two weeks ago, everything seemed normal. Yesterday I decided to check the flights using Expertflyer and was rather surprised to see that the flight I am taking tomorrow didn’t have first class at all.



Apparently Emirates has been doing quite a bit of plane juggling lately. When I then checked the second ticket, two of my four segments have also been downgraded from first to business.

Emirates has also changed the eticket receipts to reflect the downgrade for business class. Luckily I have the original eticket receipt saved as well as the mileage accelerators offered for these flights.

Not sure why Emirates doesn’t have better procedures in place for aircraft swaps. I don’t think that it would be too much asked for them to contact the passengers that they are being downgraded, and at the same time offer alternate solutions i.e. rerouting on other carriers (EY/QR/SQ) and/or compensation.

Taxi Scams Around The World


The other Friday the taxi driver that took me from the Maglev station here in Shanghai to the Park Hyatt hotel, tried to “take me to a ride”. I have used taxis high hundreds if not thousands of times, but can recall being trying to be ripped off only handful of times.

Here are examples from Lima, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Mexico City & Shanghai.

Lima (Peru) – Completely Wrong Foreign Exchange Rates

On my Lan Peru flight from Los Angeles to Lima I had asked one of the flight attendants what is the typical taxi fare from the airport to the JW Hotel in Miraflores. Cannot remember the exact figure anymore but it was something that sounded reasonable.

In Lima the taxis don’t have meters so you always need to negotiate the fare beforehand. If you are foreigner, your fare is typically higher than if you are local. Try always getting a local to negotiate the fare in your behalf.

I and the taxi driver agreed about the fare to the JW hotel in pesos. Some guy hopped to the taxi on our way to the hotel, and requested that I pay in USD’s using the (completely) wrong exchange rate sheet that he was showing to me. I declined several times and told that I will pay the agreed amount in the currency we (driver & me) had agreed. BTW the exchange rate was off 10 to 15 times. It would have been VERY expensive ride to the hotel. Finally they must have come to a conclusion that I wouldn’t fall on their tricks and we continued the ride to the hotel. The taxi driver told me that the guy was his “boss”.

Buenos Aires (Argentina) – Exchange Given In Self Printed Money

OK. This one I didn’t catch. I had a waiter running after me from a restaurant where I had paid using pesos. Some of the notes that I had left were fake. Basically a taxi driver had given me some fake notes as a change. Late at night when it was dark and this is probably quite easy to execute.

Sao Paulo (Brazil) – Taxi Using a Fake Meter

In this case I had to get the airport police to intervene on the fake meter issue. All the normal taxis in Brazil have the same meter. The fare by distance/time is exactly the same regardless what taxi company you are using.

The taxi fare from the Renaissance hotel to the airport was about twice what it should have been. I called the taxi driver about the issue but he was not giving up. I had to get the airport police to intervene on this issue because I flatly refused to pay the inflated rate. Probably most of the people taking the taxi to the airport are in a hurry, and I am most of the time too, but this time I had time to play this game.

With the help of the police we were able to come up with the figure that was agreeable.

Mexico City (Mexico) – Claimed That I Gave Smaller Notes

Getting a cab in Mexico City can be sometimes bit difficult if you happen to stay in Polanco. There are plenty of more expensive taxis, but not that many of the cheaper ones.

I was taking a taxi from the W to the Zona Rosa. I had just withdrawn money from the ATM and all of the notes were in the same denomination. After paying for the cab and waiting for the change the driver insisted that I had given him a small note. His English was actually quite good and he eventually gave me back the correct change.

Shanghai (China) – Another Fake Meter

Apparently the Maglev station has become a new place for all the “creative” taxi drivers in Shanghai. I was suspecting something when the first taxi didn’t want to take the Chinese group, but would rather help me when I was second in the line.

The driver managed to miss the Park Hyatt entrance and was leaving me close to the entrance but on the sidewalk. The fare on the meter was 201 RMB. This was somewhere between 6 to 8 times more than it should have been. Two weeks prior the fare from the Fairmont Peace hotel to the airport was less than 200 RMB, and from the Maglev station to the hotel about 40.

The taxi driver tried to insist that I pay the 201 RMB, but I wasn’t taking any of it. Gave him the 40 RMB and told him to get lost.


It is always good to have an idea how much the taxi fare should be. Ask the hotel, flight attendant, airport information center etc. if you are in a country where you haven’t been before.

1. Avoid everybody that offers you a taxi in a general arrivals hall. Use the normal taxi stand.

2. In some countries taxis that linger around the hotels/places of interest used by westerners try to rip you off.

3. Try to catch a cab on the street

4. Ask them to use the meter – and make sure that they use a correct rate. In some countries they have different rates for day/night.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask the taxi to stop and get out if meter is not used or you feel uncomfortable with the driver. I have had drivers turning on meters only after I have asked them to stop for me to get our

6. Local currency in small notes and try to give as close to the amount as possible.

Most of the taxi drivers are honest and hardworking. There are always few that try to take advantage of tourists and non-locals. Using common sense when taking a cab is always a good idea.

Lifetime Starwood Preferred Guest SPG Platinum & Gold Status


Last month Starwood announced enhancements to the SPG program. Additional benefits were added to Platinum members starting with 50+ nights, and new program features for Gold members as well. Starwood also launched a way to earn both lifetime Gold and Platinum status. Both Hyatt and Marriott programs had had the lifetime option already for a while.


Starwood just rolled out a new website function that not only shows the number of nights you have had since joining the program, but also the number of years you have had  an elite status with them. It does not, however, show the number of years you have had a Platinum status with Starwood.

Requirements for lifetime SPG Gold status

– 250 qualifying nights

– 5 years of elite status (Gold or Platinum)

Requirements for lifetime SPG Platinum status

– 500 qualifying nights

– 10 years of Platinum status

During my four years as a SPG member, I have earned close to 400 nights. I should be lifetime Gold sometime next year. I will probably have the required 500 nights before the end of this year, but need another 5 years of Platinum status to meet the number of years as a Platinum member requirement.

The number of nights required is on the low side, but the requirement of having had the actual Platinum status for 10 years makes it more difficult. Last year Starwood started to count award nights as qualifying too, so basically all the nights count.

US Airways Dividend Miles Share Miles Offer – Get 50% Bonus

There is yet another offer from US Airways for essentially buying US Dividend Miles. US Airways had an offer for their credit card holders for buying & gifting miles that just expired on 29th.


This time you can transfer up to 50000 Dividend Miles and get a 25000 mile bonus. You would need to pay $567.50 (2.27 cents per mile gained) for this privilege. I can see this being a good way to consolidate accounts, and paying 2.27 cents per mile is not horrible if they are used for international business and first class tickets.


This offer is valid for transfers/purchases made from March 1st to March 14th. You need to the this link to access this offer.

March Hotel Promotions Update: Choise, Carlson, Hyatt, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott/Ritz-Carlton & Starwood

It is time for a March hotel promotions update. This is the first time I will include the Choice Privileges in this update as well. In the future you will most likely see Accor and Best Western promotions as well. There are so many different promotions going on that there is, for sure, something for everyone.

I am working on the Two Days of Happy Starwood promotion that is about to end. Will probably have quite a few InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton stays next. Both have very good promotions going on.

Carlson Hotels – Club Carlson

Club Carlson is offering triple points for all stays. This promotion is valid until March 16th, 2012. Note that you will receive 2000 bonus points for online bookings.


Club Carlson “Triple Points – Faster Nights” Promotion – Triple Gold Points Worldwide

Choice Hotels – Choice Privileges

Choice has a promotion starting on March 8th for 8000 points for every two stays. On some brands you need two nights for a stay.


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

Hilton HHonors

Hilton has the most promotions running that you can combine together. 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?

You can choose one of these airline promotions as your double dip earnings partner. My personal favorite still is BMI that would earn 1k per night and up to three nights regardless of the Hilton brand. Please note that all these airline related bonuses are scheduled to end on March 31st.


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

The British Airways promotion shows 1500 bonus Avios, but what has been posting to members is 1000. If you don’t get the correct amount,  I would suggest that you write to Hilton and reference their own promotional page for this offer.


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

These are the two main promotions for the time. More Points promotion for extra points for each nights and more for weekend stays, and free night certificates for longer resort stays.

Hilton HHonors 1st Quarter 2012 “More Points” Promotion

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

Hyatt Gold Passport

You can earn up to 44K extra points for 16 stays during the promotional period. That is extra 2750 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night.


Hyatt Announced Spring 2012 Promo – Earn up to 44000 Bonus Points

InterContinental Hotels Group – Priority Club

The first promotion for double points starting from your second stay and the 5/7/15 stays for 5K/10K/15K bonus points are combinable. The first one runs until the end of April and the second until the end of March. Note that you need to choose the bonus after 5, 7, or 15 stays. If you don’t meet the threshold, you won’t get the associate bonus.

Priority Club 1st Quarter 2012 Promotion Announced – Double Points or Miles – 2X More

Priority Club Bonus Points Promo for 1st Quarter 2012

Marriott Rewards / Ritz-Carton Rewards

Remember that you can have only Marriott or Ritz-Carlton Rewards account. You cannot have both. You can, however, switch between accounts as often as you wish just by calling the rewards customer service.


Ritz-Carlton Rewards – Earn Free Night Certificate After Two Stays Promotion

Note that you can only register for the MegaBonus or MegaMiles promotion. There are number of different MegaBonus thresholds. Pick up the ones that fits you best, and call the Marriott Rewards customer service if you need to switch your targeted promotion to something else.

Marriott Rewards Spring 2012 MegaBonus Announced – Few Variations of the Offer

Earn Up To 50000 Virgin America Elevate Bonus Points During Marriott’s MegaMiles Promotion

Marriott Rewards MegaMiles Promotion – Earn Up to 50K Bonus Miles

Starwood Preferred Guest

Starwood has two different promotions that are both exclusive. The Better By the Night is valid in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. The list of non-participating properties is rather long. Note that this is NOT valid in the Asia-Pacific region that has their own promotion. The Two Days of Happy end of March 15th.

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

‘Two Days of Happy’ – Stay 5 Nights Get One Free Night Certificate – Stay 9 Nights Get Two Free Night Certificates – 4MCFN

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


Starwood Offering 1000 Bonus Starpoints for Sheraton Club Floor Bookings

American Airlines to Launch Main Cabin Extra – Roomier Economy Product


American Airlines announced that they will start rolling Main Cabin Extra to all of their aircrafts starting this spring. American used to feature a product called “More Room Throughout The Coach” but dismissed this as it wasn’t bringing in enough revenue to offset the lower number of seats available for sale. This time this product is only available in part of the aircraft.


You will get 4 to 6 inches more legroom compared to regular coach. This doesn’t sound a lot, but it does make a noticeable difference, however. I don’t have a problem sitting in United’s Economy Plus and even open a laptop, but trying to do that comfortably in AA’s coach is very difficult.

United has had their Economy Plus service for years. Delta started their Economy Comfort product in the summer of 2011 and is rolling it in all of their domestic fleet including two class regional jets. Virgin America has had their Main Cabin Select that sounds a lot like AA’s Main Cabin Extra. Jet Blue has more room in all of their aircrafts, and even more in back of the plane.

Initially this Main Cabin Extra product is available free of charge for all American Airlines elite members. Gold members will lose complimentary access on December 31st, 2013. Platinum and Executive Platinum members will continue having free access past that date.

AA will up sell this product to those that are not eligible for the complimentary access. United and Delta are also doing this. Also, it wouldn’t surprise me that if they would start marketing a Main Cabin Extra annual pass once they have got all of their aircraft fitted with this roomier configuration.

It is interesting to see how long it takes AA to roll it fleet wide. American was really fast adding additional seats when they decided to ditch the More Room Throughout the Coach-product. Making this Main Cabin Extra should take even less time because they are essentially just removing couple of rows and redistributing the rest.

You can read more about this product at AA’s website

My First Day as Delta SkyMiles Silver (from Diamond) and American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum (from Executive Platinum)


This is the first day for many of us that didn’t hit the requalification requirements last year, and thus were dropped a notch or two (or three on my Delta case) in frequent flyer programs. Last year and 2010 were quite exceptional for me flying wise. I was at some point United 1K, Continental Platinum, BMI Gold, American Airlines Executive Platinum, Delta Diamond, and Emirates Gold. All these were earned in actual flying and none of them were comped.


In 2011, I moved out from the United States, and as a result my flying on US carriers was down dramatically. I was very close requalifying to 1K and decided to make my way to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo from Asia the long way and earn the EQM’s needed. I am not planning to requalify for the United top tier status this year.

I am in a somewhat lucky situation. I am a 2.6 million miler (not a coiner) with American Airlines, and thus have a lifetime Platinum status with American that translates to Oneworld Sapphire status. That guarantees a business class check in and lounge access if I find myself in economy.

With Star Alliance I am covered through United. After United and Continental merge their frequent flyer accounts, I am somewhere around 1.5 million lifetime flown miles. This will guarantee me lifetime Gold level status in United’s program, and more importantly with Star Alliance. Like with Oneworld this will give me a business class check in and lounge access if ticketed in economy.

SkyTeam? Forget about it. I think that Delta is a fine domestic US airline and I did enjoy flying within the United States, but the alliance is second/third rate. It is way behind both Star Alliance and Oneworld when it comes to quality of the airlines and implementation of the alliance wide benefits. To be frank, it would be nice to have some sort of status with SkyTeam as well, but I think that I have to learn to live without it.

Overall, I think that I will survive.

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


Choice Hotels is about to launch their spring promotion. For every two stays you will receive 8000 Choice Privileges points that are enough for a free night at the lowest Choice redemption category hotel. There are more than 1500 Choice hotels that are at 8000 Choice Privileges points per night. This promotion runs from March 8th to May 8th, 2012 and requires a registration.


There’s bit of a small print attached to this offer. For promotional purposes a stay is defined at least 2 consecutive nights at the following brands: Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, and MainStay Suites. For all other Choice brands (Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites or Ascend Collection) a stay can be 1 night and qualify for this promotion.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of these motel style hotels and haven’t stayed at one for quite some time. I am sure, however, that I could survive a night here and there, if the points earned are high enough. You can redeem Choice Privileges points for Preferred Chain properties as well.

  • Register now to earn unlimited free nights during the promotion
  • Book at or 800.4CHOICE and after your second stay with arrival between March 8 and May 8, 2012 you’ll receive enough Choice Privileges® points to redeem for a FREE night at over 1,500 hotels
  • Elite Diamond and Elite Platinum members can book through any channel

How You Should NOT Behave on an American Airlines Flight – YouTube Video From Flight AA 50

Friend sent me an interesting link to a YouTube video today. This was shot on an American Airlines flight AA50 from Dallas to London. Apparently someone got really intoxicated and had to be constrained. Police came to pick him up upon landing to London Heathrow.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Priority Club Last Minute Reward Nights Out For March

IHG just released a list of last minute rewards nights for this coming weekend. These last minute rewards nights are offered at 50% discount of the usual number of points needed. This time they have 84 hotels of which 11 are InterContinental hotels.


You can use the following link to book these.

InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa Hotel, Natadola Bay, Fiji – Review of My Stay


Last week I had had enough of Denarau Island and Nadi, and decided to make my way to the city of Suva, the capital of Fiji. Of the three hotels that I visited in Denarau the Hilton was by far the best. I wasn’t very satisfied with either Sheraton or Radisson Blu hotels. I also had a quick overnight at the Mercure hotel. This hotel is bit on the pricey side and thus it is very good value using Priority Club points/Points and Money rewards as I pointed out.

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This InterContinental is located in Natadola Bay, which is about an hour drive from Nadi International airport. The actual distance is only 40 kilometers, but the road itself is in terrible condition. There are numerous villages that you pass by and very deep potholes.


I am sure that the hotel can arrange a transport from the airport to the resort. Whether you need a rental car is entirely dependent what you are planning to do. If your main focus is relax in the resort and only fly in/out, I wouldn’t rent a car. If you are planning to get around and maybe visit the Suva, renting a car is basically essential. I got a pretty good deal from Europcar for the days I needed one. There are quite a few car rental agencies at the airport. You might be able to negotiate something on the spot, but I made the reservation over the website, however.

There are few signs on the main road, but they are easy to miss if you are driving in the dark. I would suggest that you try to get to the resort during the day light hours. Also, the GPS in my phone was not able to work properly on the Pacific. I did get an approximate location based on the cell phone towers, but not the exact one.

Check in

The check in could have been better. For some reason their system showed me as a Gold member even when the correct InterContinental status is Royal Ambassador. I didn’t have the card with me so I had to log in to the Priority Club website to show them that I was indeed RA.


Not sure what is the usual Royal Ambassador upgrade here but the entire Club section of the hotel was closed due to low occupancy during the southern summer. You can see the club buildings on the attached map. They are further away from the main pool and beach. I would rather be on the buildings that are next to the beach.


They hadn’t prepared a suite for me as they had the wrong status on their system. I was told that it would take 10 to 15 minutes for them to prepare a suite for me. I went to the bar by the pool and had a margarita while waiting.

Suite 2112

This was a beautiful ground floor suite with an outside terrace that had a nice bath tub. You could walk on the grass to the beach or just relax on the couch outside.


The living room had a really long sofa, work desk, entertainment system, a hair, and the access to the patio.


Bedroom was anything you would expect from a modern hotel. There was obviously another TV and wired internet connection. The hotel didn’t have wireless internet access in the rooms.


Bathroom had a shower and a toilet, but as I noted above the bath rub was actually on the outside patio.

Royal Ambassador Amenities


This hotel honored all the Royal Ambassador benefits even on an award stay. Per the program they don’t have to extend them beyond paid stays. It is always nice, however, when they do. I had a nice white wine amenity and a fruit display brought to the suite. Late checkout 4PM was granted and the minibar was complimentary as well, although I didn’t have time to take extensive use of it.


There are two main pools around the property. According to the map there might be one in the club area as well, but that was closed as I noted earlier due to low occupancy. The main pool is by the beach and is infinity style. There are plenty of sun chairs and loungers around. You can watch the pool while eating or drinking in the pool bar/restaurant.


The other pool is closer to the buildings. There are quite a few loungers and sun chairs in this area as well. I think that this pool is a lot swallower than the infinity one.


The beach here is much better than in the Denarau area, but I would still probably spend most of my time by the pool or in the private patio. There is also a small island on the other side, that you can access during the low tide by just crawling. During the evening you can see quite a few local people crawling in the water and doing some fishing.



There are two/three restaurants on the property, and as one might expect this being a resort they are all on the high side when it comes to the price. There aren’t any local other options around. I only had a snack on the restaurant in the evening as I had arrived rather late. In the late morning I had a lunch of fried calamari and fries. Both were fine.


Fitness Center

They had a modern fitness center that was housed in one of the buildings. It had all the modern equipment that one has come to expect.



This property surprised me very positively after subpar Hilton, Starwood, and Carlson properties in the Denarau area. This was truly made for international InterContinental standards and the target audience is definitely more upscale clientele than those of the above mentioned other hotels. The pool and beach area is basically fantastic. Employees were mainly Fijian but the GM and one lady working in the guest relations were from Australia/New Zealand.


I am glad that I decided to stay here for a night on my way from Nadi to Suva. Could have easily spent few days, but unfortunately it wasn’t possible on this trip.

Complimentary Accor A|Club Platinum Status Just For Signing Up – CITIBANKPLAT2011


Please note that this offer is not currently valid. Sign up for our free email alerts so that you won’t miss when this is available next time.

Accor has run number of promotion with various banks for giving Platinum Status for their customers. Apparently now it is Citibank’s turn. This promotion is supposed to run to May 31st, 2012 but these tend to end earlier. Last time Accor run similar promotion with HSBC.


The terms and conditions indicate that you would need to reside in the United Arab Emirates to be eligible for this offer. I just signed up my brother, who lives in Finland, and all went through just fine.


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


Marriott Properties that Are Moving Up & Down in Award Categories in March 15th, 2012


Marriott just released a list of hotels that are moving up and down in award categories in 2012. According to the release 100 hotels are moving down (I counted 97) and 526 are moving up (I counted 516). In percentage terms 3% are moving down and 14% are moving up. The rest are staying at the current category level. Marriott also has four Ritz-Carlton moving from Ritz-Carlton Category 4 to 3, two moving from category 2 to 3, and another two from 3 to 4.


Starwood released their category changes on February 16th. They had 13% moving down and 17% moving up. InterContinental Hotels Group announced on January 3rd that 25% of their hotels are moving up and 20% are moving down. They didn’t, however, provide a list of actual hotels moving in categories due to “competitive” reasons.


The vast majority of Marriott Rewards hotels are still in categories 1 – 4. I would argue, however, that the hotels that me and you would actually like to stay at are in categories 5 and higher.


You have until March 15th to book the hotels that are moving up in categories at the old point levels. You can download the PDF file that Marriott made public about the changes here.

American Airlines “Enjoy Your Global Elite Privileges Now!” Email & 1000 Bonus AAdvantage Miles For Playing a Game

American Airlines sent an email few hours ago regarding global elite level benefits. They invite you to play a game and to earn 1000 AAdvantage bonus miles after finishing it. According to the email I received, the bonus AAdvantage miles are only for the first 20000 participants. It already had more than 35000 participants when I just played it, so getting the bonus miles at this point are unlikely.


It never hurts to try, however, and you will be eligible for a chance to win a two Oneworld Explorer 3-continent tickets.


This seems to be a Flash-based game so it will take some time to load on slower connection. I am here in Shanghai right now, and I had to refresh it couple of times before it started correctly.


Good luck!

Gold Level Room


Platinum Level Room


Executive Platinum Level Room


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