Kudos for Both US Airways and Etihad for Crediting Retro-credits Expediently


This past fall I had quite a few flights on SriLankan and Qatar, but wasn’t quite sure where I would credit them. For me it just didn’t make sense to credit SriLankan flights to their own frequent flyer program, but I wasn’t as sure what I would do with the Qatar flights. I would have come to very close qualifying to a Gold status with Qatar’s Privilege Club due to double elite qualifying miles offer they had during some of my flights.


At the end I decided to credit the Qatar flights to US Airways’ Dividend Miles, and the SriLankan flights to Etihad’s Guest frequent flyer program. US Airways required the boarding passes and the receipt to be mailed to their address in Arizona. Etihad was happy enough to credit the miles if I would just email the copy of the receipt and all the boarding passes I had. I thought that this process would take weeks and several phone calls before getting these retro credits processed.

To my surprise the miles from SriLankan flights were on my Etihad account in less than a week. Unfortunately I don’t know exactly how long it took for them to credit as I never received any email communication from them.


US Airways and the postal system worked very well as well. I mailed the boarding passes and the accompanied letter by register mail from Finland on Friday. The following Thursday I received an email from US Airways Dividend Miles service center that they had processed the mileage credit for the Qatar flights that I took.

Have to thank both airlines to have have procedures in place to get these processed so fast. As I posted above, I really thought that this process would take several weeks.

Confirmed Changes to Hilton HHonors Benefits at Hilton, DoubleTree, Conrad, and Waldorf-Astoria Properties

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Last week, I wrote about the possible positive changes coming to the Hilton HHonors program. Hilton still hasn’t announced them, but they have now changed the Terms and conditions of the Diamond benefits on the website.


The changes are pretty much what I wrote earlier:

1. The language now also includes suites when they describe possible upgrades for Diamond members, although not as strongly as I would have preferred:

Diamond HHonors guests will receive upgrades to preferred rooms, based on availability for the entire stay at the time of check-in. Upgrades for Diamond HHonors guests may include the next-best available room from the room type booked. Upgrades may also be rooms with desirable views, corner rooms, rooms on high floors, rooms with special amenities, rooms on Executive Floors**, or suites, as identified by each property. Some exclusions based on rate and room type may apply.

Then it continues:

Upgrades exclude executive suites, villas and specialty accommodations, subject to the discretion of the hotel.

2. You no longer have to choose between upgrades/breakfast or 1000 bonus points. You will receive the 1000 bonus points nonetheless.  On Waldorf-Astoria’s you can choose between two options out of three of which one is the bonus points. The breakfast is still not complimentary at Waldorf-Astoria locations, however.

Overall, these are definitely positive enhancements to the program. We’ll see how adding the suites to the pool of possible upgrades for Diamond members will play out at the end. If you have trouble falling in sleep, may I suggest that you read the terms and conditions of the Hilton HHonors program? http://hhonors1.hilton.com/en_US/hh/terms.do

Southwest Airlines Offering Double Points and Double Tier Qualifying Points on All Flights to/from California/Denver/Atlanta – TQP 2012JAN

Southwest just sent an email blast regarding their latest double promotion TQP 2012JAN. Until the end of March, you can earn double points and double tier qualifying points on all Southwest flights to/from California (Burbank, Los Angeles, Oakland, Ontario, Orange County, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose), Denver, and Atlanta. Note that the Atlanta service starts on February 12th.


From January 23 through March 31, 2012, you can earn double points and double Tier Qualifying Points each time you travel into or out of any Southwest Airlines’ nine California destinations and the Mile High City of Denver!  Also, beginning February 12 through March 31, 2012, you can earn double points and double Tier Qualifying Points on every flight into or out of our newest Southwest destination, Atlanta!

What you will get:

Business Select Fares – additional 12 points and 12 tier qualifying points per dollar spent

Anytime Fares – additional 10 points and 10 tier qualifying points per dollar spent

Wanna Get Away Fares – additional 6 points and 6 tier qualifying points per dollar spent

Please note that you need to register for this promotion before buying the ticket(s) to get the bonuses.

To take advantage of this offer, simply follow these steps:

Step 1:  Register for this promotion between January 23, 2012 and March 31, 2012.

Step 2:  Book a Southwest flight for yourself between January 23, 2012 and March 31, 2012 for travel into or out of any Southwest Airlines’ California destination, Denver, or Atlanta.

Step 3:  Complete your California and Denver travels between January 23, 2012 and March 31, 2012, and your Atlanta travels between February 12, 2012 and March 31, 2012.  (Southwest Atlanta service begins February 12, 2012)

Here are the fill Terms and conditions:

Groupon & Airfasttickets.ch Flight Deal in Europe – Return Flight for 35 CHF + Taxes/Fees


Couple of months ago a friend of mine living in Finland was telling me about this Groupon deal.  For a set fee you would fly for “free”, and only have to pay for the taxes/fee associated with the ticket. At that time, I didn’t pay too much attention to the offer, because I was outside of Europe and the deal only applied to flights within Europe. The deal resurfaced again the other night, and I decided to have a look at it.


Please note that the offer page is in German, but the deal is open for anyone. If your German is less than perfect, you can always use Google Translate to translate the page to your preferred language. The deal is that you only pay 35 CHF ($38) and you can fly to/from Zurich to the following destinations; Budapest, Dusseldorf, Nice, Venice, Hamburg, Munich, Bucharest, Brussels, Frankfurt, Paris, Edinburgh, Helsinki, and Florence. But, the voucher is not valid just between these cities. It appears to work on most routes within Europe.

The key is that you need to book the ticker at least 7 days in advance. The major drawback is that not only you need to pay the real taxes but also the “fake” fuel surcharges that most of the airlines file with the tax component marked as YQ/YR.

If you are planning to buy one or more of these coupons, do yourself a favor and check the flight availability and pricing using http://www.airfasttickets.ch/groupon.ch/. Remember to compare with sites like Expedia.com.

Quick verdict after going through numerous possible itineraries:

– Most of the time there wasn’t a deal to be had using these Groupon coupons

– Often the flight times were bad and you might need an overnight accommodation in key cities when connecting

– They only choose fares that have VERY low base and VERY high YQ/YR fuel surcharges

– If they cannot find low base, the engine won’t return any choices

– Some of the booked fare classes would be non-earning ones in frequent flyer programs, but that is not unexpected for relatively inexpensive flights within Europe

– They try to skew lot of bookings to Air France-KLM probably because of the way they publish most fares i.e. low base but high YQ/YR

– You need to use lot of time, if you are planning to score a deal using these Grouopn vouchers and then you probably won’t find one

Here are five actual examples I did.

New InterContinental Hotels Groug Priority Club Points Breaks Are Out Until March 31st


InterContinental Hotels Group’s Priority Club just launched their first quarter 2012 Points Break list. These hotels are great way to use Priority Club points at deep discount as all these hotels are only 5000 Priority Club points per night.


My favorite hotels of this group are the InterContinental ones. The Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Crowne Plaza hotels are way too inconsistent for my taste. I am sure that there are brilliant Holiday Inn hotels, but you never know before you are actually at the property. If you are only planning to sleep at the hotel, I am sure that all these will do as well.

There are only nine InterContinental hotels on the Points Break list. The most interesting one is probably the property in Tahiti, and I am actually quite surprised to see it on the list, although you can usually find rates for less than $200 there.  The one in Phnom Penh is quite nice. I have stayed there couple of times. Normally the rates there are around $100 per night.

The problem that I have, when I am redeeming “free” nights at InterContinental properties, is that officially the main Royal Ambassador benefits like upgrades, 8AM check in and complimentary minibar do not apply. Other problem is that, if you consider qualifying for the Royal Ambassador status that requires around 50 nights at IHG hotels, there is opportunity cost as well. Let’s consider the following points:

– On average, I have earned 7K Priority Club points per paid stay (1 night) at IC’s considering Royal Ambassador, Platinum, Ambassador Accelerator, quarterly stay, and three times a year global bonuses

– Value of confirmed Royal Ambassador benefits – maybe $20 per stay

– Value of qualifying stay for IC RA renewal – maybe $10 per stay

– Possibility of getting cash back for a paid booking – have varied from 5% to 13%

So in my opinion, it doesn’t really make a sense to use a Points Break night unless the InterContinental hotel is at least $150 considering the points that I made above.

Earn Elite Qualifying and Double Redeemable Miles on Alaska Airlines’ Latest Partner Emirates


Alaska Airlines and Emirates have reached frequent flyer agreement. Members of Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan can start earning on March 1st both redeemable and elite qualifying miles on all Emirates operated miles. At this point, it is still unclear if the Members of Emirates’ Skywards members can start earning miles on Alaska operated flights on that date as well.


This is good news as Emirates is starting the service to Seattle, the main hub of Alaska Airlines, on March 1st. It is quite likely that Emirates would have preferred to start serving Vancouver, but UAE carriers have only right for six frequencies per week to Canada and those are used to serve Toronto. There has been quite a bit ill will between the governments of Canada and the United Arab Emirates regarding this issue.  Emirates would prefer more frequencies, but essentially the government of Canada is protecting Air Canada from more competition.

Alaska is also running a promotion for double redeemable miles on Emirates flights from March 1st to May 31st. You need to register for this promotion before taking the Emirates flights.


I have quite a few Emirates flights coming in first class starting from beginning of March. These flights would requalify me for Skywards Gold status, and with the mileage accelerator would earn me close to 100K redeemable miles. If I would credit them for Alaska’s Mileage Plan, the earned miles would be about the same during the double miles promotion period. As the miles from Emirates would be elite qualifying miles, these would earn me almost a Gold status with Alaska.

The beauty of Alaska’s Mileage Plan is the number of partner airlines from Oneworld and SkyTeam alliances. You can earn for example earn elite qualifying miles and redeem on Air France, American Airlines, Delta, Emirates, KLM and LAN. There are more partners that you can earn and burn but not earn EQM’s. You can redeem on most partners as well, but redeeming on Emirates operated flights will come later


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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UPDATE: Please note that Hilton confirmed that both the ANA and Emirates offers are valid at all Hilton family of hotels. There are no restrictions.

Hilton is slowly releasing all airline related bonus promotions for the first quarter. I have already written about the promotion with Delta for 2012 bonus SkyMiles for stays or two days or longer. The beauty of this promotion with Delta is that all the Hilton family of hotels are participating. Also, I wrote last week about triple miles with US Airways Dividend miles, and double miles with Air Canada’s Aeroplan, American’s AAdvantage and Lufthansa’s Miles & More.


Now, there is also a promotion with Emirates for double Skywards miles for your stays until March 31st. But, I would actually call this triple miles offer, as you will get 1000 bonus Skywards miles per stay in addition to the 500 base miles.  There is a small print that this would only be valid at participating properties, but no properties listed.  I have requested further clarification from Hilton, and will update this post once I have heard back from them. Please note that you need to register for this promotion prior to your stay at http://www.hiltonhhonors.com/doubleskywards.

To participate, you must register at http://www.hiltonhhonors.com/doubleskywards. Offer is valid for eligible stays completed after registration, at participating hotels between January 1 2012 and March 31 2012 HHonors members choosing Fixed miles award will earn 500 Skywards miles per stay, plus 1,000 bonus Skywards miles per stay. HHonors members choosing Variable Miles award, will earn one Skywards mile per one USD spent, plus two bonus Skywards miles per one USD spent. Customers must be an HHonors member to earn bonus miles. For Homewood Suites hotels under fixed miles award, 200 bonus Skywards miles will be offered per stay. For Home2 Suites under fixed miles award, 100 bonus Skywards miles will be offered per stay. Under Variable miles award, 1 mile per $1 up to 100 miles will be offered per stay. Hilton HHonors members must have their earning preference set to ‘Points & Miles’ and must have Skywards (Emirates) as the preferred airline partner. Skywards miles accrued and awards issued are subject to Skywards Terms and Conditions. Hilton HHonors membership, earning of Points & Miles, and redemption of points are subject to HHonors Terms and Conditions. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or promotion.


Then there is a triple miles offer for ANA Mileage Club members. Again, this offer is valid at participating properties, but Hilton has not provided a list. Also, not sure how they calculate the triple miles. If they would follow the Emirates example above, it would be 1500 ANA Mileage Club miles in addition to the 500 base miles. I doubt that this is the case, however. You will most likely receive the base miles (500) and the “triple” miles (1000) to triple the total earning per stay to 1500. Please note that you earnings are dependent of the Hilton brand. The full service brands will receive the above miles, but the lower end ones will not. You can check the earnings from the following Hilton web page. Please note that you need to register for this promotions prior to your stay at HHonors.com/ANATripleMiles.

Offer valid for stays completed at participating properties between January 16 and March 31, 2012 (“Promotion Period”). Must be a member of both Hilton HHonors™ and ANA Mileage Club to participate in this promotion. Members must first register at HHonors.com/ANATripleMiles prior to check-in of your stay within the Promotion Period. You must have HHonors Points and Fixed Miles selected as your earning style and ANA as your preferred airline in your HHonors profile in order to earn Triple miles in conjunction with this offer. Please allow six to eight weeks from completion of the Promotion Period for miles to appear in your HHonors account. All ANA Mileage Club program rules apply. To review the rules, please visit ANA.co.jp/memberguide. For details on the eligibility of your stay to earn miles, please click here. Offer is not transferable and is not valid for groups.

There are three other ongoing promotions that you can combine with these. The other promotions are Resort Escapes for free night certificatesMore Points for extra points, and Visa Infinite promotion for instant Gold status and 40K HH after four stays.

Both of these are good offers if you are collecting ANA or Emirates miles. My favorite still is BMI’s Diamond Club, however. You will receive 1000 miles per night up to three nights regardless of the Hilton brand stayed at. This is valid year around. Lufthansa is in the process of selling BMI to AIG, the parent of British Airways, and the deal is expected to close late in the first quarter.

Now Hyatt Gold Passport is Selling Points With 30% Bonus

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It appears, if all the major airlines and hotels are suddenly in the points selling business, based on the number of offers in the past few weeks. Now, it is Hyatt’s turn to offer 30% bonus for buying Gold Passport points.


Offer available for purchases made between January 18 and March 15, 2012 inclusive. Bonus points will be awarded upon completion of individual transactions. Offer only available when points are purchased for the purchaser’s account. Offer not valid for transactions gifting points. Offer may be withdrawn or changed without notice. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Only purchases made online are eligible for the promotion.

You can buy maximum 40000 points per year not including the 30% transfer bonus in this case. The points purchase is handled by Points.com, but it really doesn’t make a difference. You would receive 52000 points for $960. The price of a point would be 1.85 cents.


park-hyatt-sydney-pointsNow, does it make sense to buy these points? In most cases, I would say no. If you don’t have enough Gold Passport points and planning to stay at the soon to be opened Park Hyatt Sydney, quite likely the answer is yes.  The Park Hyatt Sydney doesn’t yet participate to Hyatt Stay Certificates, and the daily rates are rather high to say the least, but only 22000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night.

Two nights for 855 AUD each comes to $1779. You buy the points for $960 and will have 8000 points to spare after the stay. Of course, you have to bear in mind that the paid stay would earn you more than 10000 points, if you are a Diamond member + all other promotional points that Hyatt might be offering during your stay.


List of InterContinental Hotels that Moved Up or Down in Award Categories in 2012


InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced on January 3rd that on January 18th 25% of the hotels are going up and 20% of the hotels are going down in the number or Priority Club points needed for a free night. Unlike other hotel companies, IHG refused to provide a comprehensive list of properties, which will change, stating that not releasing a list is a competitive advantage. In my opinion it is just being foolish. Anyone could combine a list of category changes, as I have done for InterContinental hotels.


IHG also stated that all the hotels would be bookable at old levels over the phone until March 18th. It is somewhat confusing, how someone would know whether the hotel has moved up or down, if a list of hotels is not provided. Also, the customers that have made award reservations before hotel going down in number of points needed are required to call to get the difference in points credited back to their account.


Unfortunately, I don’t have time to go through all the 4500 hotels of the IHG. I have today, however, gone through all the 187 InterContinental Hotels that are listed on www.intercontinental.com website. Please note that not all of these hotels are operational at the moment. Some will be opened later this year or next year.


Twenty InterContinental hotels are going down in number of points (10000) required for an award night (from 40K to 30K). 26 are going up 10K points per night, and one property, Perth IC, is going up from 30K to 50K Priority Club points per night. Nine went from 30K to 40K per night and 17 from 40K to 50K per night.


When I was going through these at www.priorityclub.com, I also noted what would be the nightly rate for May 15th, 2012. This is the figure that is immediate to the right of the arrow. The bolded number of most right is the value of Priority Club point in dollars for that night. It is rarely more than a cent.


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


Ritz-Carlton Rewards program is intertwined with the Marriott Rewards. Marriott tries to keep them separate i.e. you are not supposed to be a member of both. You can switch between your Marriott Rewards, and the elite level, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards and vice versa by just phoning the rewards customer service. You can do this as many times during the calendar year as you wish.


Last month, I wrote about the Marriott’s promotions for this coming spring (MegaMiles and MegaBonus). Now Ritz-Carlton has also revealed their promotion for the first part of this year. Ritz-Carlton’s offer is a free night certificate (category 1-3) for every two stays and up to two certificates. This promotion starts February 1st and ends on April 15th. There are few properties that do not participate to Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and you cannot earn or burn certificates at them. You can register for this promotion at www.RitzCarltonRewards.com/Twice. Certificates are valid for 12 months after issuance.

Terms and Conditions: Registration is required. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® members who register for this promotion by March 1, 2012 will earn one certificate for a complimentary night at a Tier 1-3 hotel after the completion of two paid stays between February 1 and April 15, 2012, up to a maximum of two complimentary night certificates. An earned complimentary night award will be added to the member’s account within 3-5 business days after the second qualifying stay. Awards are not transferable and may not be given as a gift. Certificates will expire one year from date of issuance and other restrictions apply. A stay is defined as consecutive nights spent at the same hotel, regardless of check-in/check-out activity. Only one room per hotel per stay is counted toward earning for this promotion. Promotion excludes The Ritz-Carlton Millennia, Singapore, The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal, Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club®, The Ritz-Carlton Residences, and Partner Hotels. Members of The Ritz-Carlton Rewards program as of January 13, 2012 and new members who were not previously members of the Marriott Rewards® program are eligible to receive this offer. Offer is non-transferable, subject to availability, does not apply to groups, and cannot be combined with any other offer. All Ritz-Carlton Reward

This promotion is very interesting. You can maximize it by having just short one night stays. Especially, if you can pick and choose the least expensive Ritz-Carlton’s and use the rewards at the most expensive category 3 properties.

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


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

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


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


Complimentary Booze is Back on International Economy Class on Select American Airlines Flights

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American Airlines is bringing back complimentary booze, although beer and wine only, on American Airlines flights to Asia, Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. This is an interesting development. With the US airlines, it has been recently like how we can unbundle more services that we can sell. Of course the booze used to be free on all flights, but that was gradually withdrawn.


Not sure what made American to take this move. The booze, and not just beer and wine, has been on the complimentary basis with most European and Asian carriers. Anyway, on your next international flight on American, if you happen to be seated on coach, make sure to request your complimentary beer or wine.

Complimentary Beer and Wine Service is available in international main cabins onboard international flights between the U.S. and Europe, the U.S. and Asia and select flights between the U.S. and Latin America, including: Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil (CNF); Brasilia, Distrito Federal, Brazil (BSB); Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE); Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (GIG); Sao Paulo, Brazil (GRU); Santiago, Chile (SCL); Montevideo, Uruguay (MVD); Salvador, Bahia, Brazil (SSA); and Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil (REC). Beer and wine offerings will vary by flight.

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