My Three Airline Ticket Mistakes in 2011

Although I have traveled more than 3 million miles, I do make occasional mistakes when it comes to airline tickets, and hotels, and car rentals, and…. Last year I had three airlines related ones of which two resulted me foregoing the airfare paid and just ticketing something else. One was a booking for economy on China Southern that was the most uncomfortable flight that I have ever taken.

1. Booked a TAM (JJ) flight for a wrong day.

I had Air Canada ticket booked from Seoul to Sao Paulo but wanted to spend some time in Rio de Janeiro as well. Booking a through ticket from Air Canada didn’t make any sense as the fare upped a lot. When booking tickets for intra-Brazil travel, it makes sense to try to get them ticketed on Brazilian local websites.

Fares that Gol and Tam publishes for ticketing outside of the Brazil are often double or triple the fares found on websites intended for Brazil . Apparently lot of the cheaper fares have SITI (Sold Inside – Ticketed Inside) sales restrictions.  As a side note, fares for travel without advance purchase requirements are often cheaper to ticket outside of Brazil than inside. So, it always pays to check.

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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 5000 Bonus Points Offer for Finland and Denmark – IKP50.

Yesterday, I was browsing the PriorityClub website when a banner of 5000 bonus points for stays in Finland and Denmark came up. The terms and conditions also didn’t indicate that one would need to pay for any “inflated” price to get the points, as is often the case. I decided to look into this, because I was going to be in Helsinki next week.

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IHG has been revamping their websites recently and often the links are broken. When you try to click any of the hotel specific links, you only get 404 error:

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Le Meridien Koh Samui Resort and Spa, Koh Samui, Thailand -review

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le-meridien-koh-samui-airport-to-resortOn my last trip to Koh Samui in late November, I checked out the brand new Conrad Koh Samui Resort, and decided to spend a night at the newly reflagged Le Meridien as well. This property was first introduced as Langham Place and then reflagged by the owner to Gurich. After a year, they decided to brand it under the Le Meridien.  So, don’t get confused, if some still refer this hotel as Langham or Gurich, as it has changed names three times in just two years!

 

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The location of the hotel is in Lamai beach. It is about 20 to 30 minutes from the airport by a car depending on the traffic. Most of the flights in and out of the island are on Bangkok Airways as they own the airport. There are two daily flights from Bangkok on Thai Airways. There is a direct flight from Singapore on SilkAir. Bangkok Airways also operates some international routes from Koh Samui (USM). You can get a resort to pick you up from the airport or arrange a taxi on the spot. Taxis on Koh Samui should theoretically use meters but they don’t. You need to negotiate a fare with the driver beforehand. Oneway from the airport to the resort should cost 500 to 1000 THB depending on your negotiation skills.

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Friend of mine, who works on the island, picked me up from the Conrad and dropped me off at the Le Meridien.  If you are driving yourself, you just need to pay some attention or the entrance to the hotel is easy to miss from the road. You need to leave your car outside, and then you will be taken to the entrance by a cart or you can just walk.

Last Chance to Use The Continental Elite Maximizer to Get the Last United Airlines and Continental EQM’s in For the Year.

Two weeks ago I wrote about buying Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM’s) on Continental’s website using the Elite Maximizer. Today is the last day to use this program to ensure that the EQM’s are posted before the end of the year.

You can link your United MileagePlus and Continental OnePass accounts, and the EQM’s are then eventually merged to determine your status in 2012.

This is the way to go if you need some EQM’s at the very last moment. It is not cheap and you need to determine if the cash outlay is going to be worth the higher airline status.

My Experiences With STPC “Stopover Paid By Carrier” When There Is No Immediate Connection.

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This is one of those acronyms you come across infrequently. STPC stands for “Stopover Paid By Carrier”. I have used this facility only twice and have flown over 3 million miles. You are not using STPC when an airline just put you to a hotel due to delay, misconnect, cancellation etc. Those are just regular accommodations during irregular operations.

The irony is that these “stopovers”, less than 24 hours, are not actual stopovers but rather transfers. If the transfer is more than 24 hours, it is then considered to be a stopover that might affect the ticket price and the airport taxes.

How to know if you are eligible for STPC? This is a tricky part. It is borderline impossible if you are using one of the online booking sites. Only competent travel agent can probably tell you when this service is available, and if there is a fee for it. The STPC is not usually listed on the fare rules either. Normally, the required connection must be at least 6 to 8 hours when there are no other flight options available between the origin and destination. It is not always offered for economy passengers when it is for business or first class ones, or there may be a charge for economy passengers and free for business first. I have seen this only to apply for revenue tickets i.e. award tickets in business or first are not usually eligible.

Depending of the airline you may need to request this service at the time of ticketing, few days before departure through the airlines office, or sometime upon arrival to the connecting airport.

My two STPG (Stopover Paid By Carrier) Examples:

Czech Airlines Business Class Damascus to Helsinki via Prague

Hilton HHonors 1st Quarter 2012 “More Points” Promotion.

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Now Hilton joins Starwoord, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Marriott (both miles and points based) by announcing their promotion for the first quarter of 2012. Hyatt’s promotion is still unclear at this point but would expect an announcement in the next ten days.

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The promotion is called “More Points”. You will get 1000 bonus points per night during the promotional period from January 1st to March 31st, 2012. For two nights weekend stays you will receive an additional 5000 bonus Hilton HHonors points. Based on the terms and conditions that Hilton has published on their website, it appears that the weekend nights are defined as Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Sunday appears to be excluded from the 5000 Hilton HHonors bonus points promotion. I hope to be wrong, however.

You need to register for this promo before your stay at HHonors.com/MorePoints. It makes sense to check that the property you are intending to stay at is not on the non-participating hotels list. You can find these non-participating hotels at http://hhonors1.hilton.com/en_US/hh/landing/excluded_hotels_q1/index.do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This promotion is intended to the following regions:

Who is eligible to participate in this promotion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southwest Airlines Launches Double Tier Qualifying Points Promotion 225dojup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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