The Points Guy http://thepointsguy.com Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:30:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Thursday Giveaway: Win 1 of 5 iPad Minis http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/thursday-giveaway-five-ipad-minis-courtesy-of-barclaycard-arrival/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/thursday-giveaway-five-ipad-minis-courtesy-of-barclaycard-arrival/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:30:56 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96846

This was a big week for us at The Points Guy as on Tuesday we launched our new app TPG To Go. After over a year of hard work and planning, we finally saw the app come to life and I couldn’t be prouder. The app is very easy to use, and it’s filled with robust features that will truly help you maximize your credit card spends and earn more points and miles faster! Definitely give the app a whirl, and download it now!

Five lucky readers will win an iPad Mini courtesy Barclaycard Arrival+!

Five lucky readers will win an iPad Mini courtesy Barclaycard Arrival+!

In honor of the launch, the team at Barclaycard Arrival+ (one of my personal favorite cards) has generously supplied us with five iPad Mini’s for this week’s giveaway! To enter to win, visit our Facebook Page, Remember, when you share it on your wall, tweet it out or send an invite, every time one of your friends enters, you get an extra entry

Last Week’s Winner:

With the holiday shopping season coming up fast and furious, last week I wanted to give one lucky reader a chance to win a $500 Visa gift card to help jumpstart their shopping. Congrats to TPG Reader Eric V. on winning!

Congrats to TPG reader Eric V. on winning the $500 giftcard!!

Congrats to TPG reader Eric V. on winning the $500 giftcard!!

Congrats to our winner, and stay tuned for more great giveaways here on the blog and on TPG TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Safe travels!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/thursday-giveaway-five-ipad-minis-courtesy-of-barclaycard-arrival/feed/ 6
Comparison of Airline Elite Status – Which Program Is Best? http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/comparison-of-airline-elite-status-which-program-is-best/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/comparison-of-airline-elite-status-which-program-is-best/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:15:05 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96764

It has been a long time since we compared the elite status programs of US airlines. But with news on the combined elite status program of American Airlines and US Airways, we asked TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen to give us a snapshot of the various airlines’ elite programs as they stand and which ones stand out for what.

American Airlines Saver level awards *should* show up in US Airways' system - but sometimes they don't.

The big news this week was that American and US Airways will merge elite status programs next year.

News broke Tuesday about how the new combined elite status program of American Airlines and US Airways will look as the merger progresses – just another step in a long process, but one that has thankfully answered some flyers’ most pressing questions. With all that in mind, let’s look at the programs of the following airlines:

  • American Airlines/US Airways (starting in 2015)
  • Delta
  • United
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest
  • Virgin America

Taking into consideration the following factors:

  • Flying qualification requirements
  • Spending qualification requirements
  • Mileage bonuses
  • Upgrade benefits
  • Other benefits

We have done detailed series in the past on the elite status programs of each of these airlines, so if you are looking for in-depth explanations of each benefit, I would encourage you to look at those instead:

However, this is just a big-picture overview with simple benefits listings to give you a snapshot of each program and how it compares to the rest.

Benefits can vary greatly not only from airline to airline, but also among each individual airline’s status tiers, so it pays to know what you are entitled to if you hit one of these levels, and which program’s benefits might be the best fit for you.

Here is a quick overview table, then read on below to see the specifics on each airline.

  Number of Tiers Spending Requirements Complimentary Upgrades Fee Waivers Standout Benefit
American/US Airways 3 No Yes Yes Systemwide upgrades, fee waivers
Delta 4 Yes Yes Mostly discounts Choice Benefits
United 4 Yes Yes Mostly discounts Checked bags
JetBlue 1 Yes No Yes Slightly roomier economy seats
Southwest 2 No No No, but no fees to begin with Free WiFi
Virgin America 2 Yes Limited Yes Main Cabin Select upgrades
American and US Airways will be combining elite programs next year.

American and US Airways will be combining elite programs next year.

AMERICAN AIRLINES / US AIRWAYS

As I mentioned, the big news this week in the airline world was American Airlines’ and US Airways’ announcement about what their combined elite status program would look like moving forward – estimated to be in place by the second quarter of 2015.

I wont’ get into all the details because you can find them in our post about it, but here is what it is important to know:

“For customers who have an account in both programs and have matched their accounts early in the year, American will move their current Dividend Miles elite-qualifying activity and award mileage into their existing AAdvantage account in the second quarter of 2015. Elite status for 2015 will then be based on a member’s combined elite-qualifying activity from 2014. The same will be true for 2016 elite status, which will be based on combined elite-qualifying activity from 2015. If you’re a current Dividend Miles members who doesn’t have an AAdvantage account, one will automatically be created in the second quarter of 2015.”

The program will keep American’s current three-tier system. Here are the rest of the details about qualification and benefits.

American and US's new elite status qualification requirements.

American and US’s new elite status qualification requirements.

AAdvantage Gold

  • Flying Requirements: 25,000 miles or points, or 30 segments
  • Spending Requirements: None
  • Mileage Bonus: 25%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Unlimited complimentary on flights under 500 miles, 500-mile upgrades on others, along with one companion. Clear 24 hours in advance on American. On US Airways, unlimited complimentary upgrades clear up to 2 days before departure.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary preferred seats, 50% off Main Cabin Extra (complimentary within 24 hours), waived award processing fee within 21 days of departure, 500-mile minimum, priority screening and boarding, one free checked bag, discounted Admirals Club membership, complimentary same-day standby

AAdvantage Platinum

  • Flying Requirements: 50,000 miles or points, or 60 segments
  • Spending Requirements: None
  • Mileage Bonus: 100%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Unlimited complimentary on flights under 500 miles, 500-mile upgrades on others, along with one companion. Clear up to 72 hours in advance on American. On US Airways, unlimited complimentary upgrades clear up to 3 days before departure.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary preferred seats and Main Cabin Extra, waived award processing fee within 21 days of departure, 500-mile minimum, priority screening and boarding, two free checked bags, discounted Admirals Club membership, complimentary same-day standby.

AAdvantage Executive Platinum

  • Flying Requirements: 100,000 miles or points, or 120 segments
  • Spending Requirements: None
  • Mileage Bonus: 100%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Unlimited complimentary auto-requested upgrades clear up to 100 hours in advance on American or 4 days on US Airways, along with one companion. 8 systemwide upgrades good on basically any paid, published fare.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary preferred seats and Main Cabin Extra, waived award processing fee within 21 days of departure, 500-mile minimum, priority screening and boarding, three free checked bags, discounted Admirals Club membership. Complimentary same-day standby and same-day flight change on American. Waived ticketing service charge, guaranteed economy availability, waitlist priority for purchased first or business class. Expanded award seat availability on American, AAdvantage award change and reinstatement charge waived.

Standout features: This program has some of the best things going for it including the fact that there are no spending requirements, it has not devalued or changed its award chart significantly, and mid-tier elites stand to get more upgrades once these changes go through. The 8 systemwide upgrades are also a unique and potentially very valuable benefit. All in all, American/US Airways looks to be leading the bunch…for now.

Delta recently raised its spending requirements for elite status.

Delta recently raised its spending requirements for elite status.

DELTA

Along with massive mileage program changes and award devaluations, Delta has also changed its elite benefits significantly this year. Some of the biggest changes include increasing Medallion spending requirements, instituting new upgrade policies, and changing its same-day confirm policy. Here’s how you qualify now and what you can expect benefits-wise.

Note: The MQDs requirement for the qualification year will be waived if you make $25,000 or more in eligible purchases in that year with your Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express. That spending is tracked everywhere you see your MQDs.

Silver Medallion

  • Flying Requirements: 25,000 MQM’s or 30 segments
  • Spending Requirements: $3,000
  • Mileage Bonus: 25%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Unlimited complimentary on Y fares at time of booking, other fares (excluding E class) up to 1 day in advance, along with companion.
  • Other Benefits: Unlimited complimentary on Y fares at time of booking, other fares (excluding E class) up to 1 day in advance, along with companion.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary preferred seats, discounted Economy Comfort seats and priority waitlisting. Priority check-in and boarding. One waived bag fee for Silver Medallion and up to 8 companions on same reservation.

Gold Medallion

  • Flying Requirements: 50,000 MQM’s or 60 segments
  • Spending Requirements: $6,000
  • Mileage Bonus: 100%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Unlimited complimentary on Y fares at time of booking, other fares (excluding E class) up to 3 days in advance, along with companion. Unlimited complimentary upgrades on award and pay-with-miles tickets.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary preferred seats and Economy Comfort within US. Discounted Economy Comfort for international travel. Priority waitlist. Two free checked bags for Medallion and up to 8 companions on same reservation. Waived same-day confirmed fees (with a lot of conditions), waived same-day standby fees and direct ticketing charges. Discounted SkyClub membership, SkyTeam lounge access. Priority check-in, security and Sky Priority boarding.

Platinum Medallion

  • Flying Requirements: 75,000 MQM’s or 100 segments
  • Spending Requirements: $9,000
  • Mileage Bonus: 100%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Unlimited complimentary on Y fares at time of booking, other fares (excluding E class) up to 5 days in advance, along with companion. Unlimited complimentary upgrades on award and pay-with-miles tickets. Choice of 4 Regional Upgrade certificates (details here) excluding BusinessElite with Choice Benefits.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary preferred seats and Economy Comfort seats. Priority waitlist. Two free checked bags for Medallion and up to 8 companions on same reservation. Waived same-day confirmed fees (with a lot of conditions), same-day standby, and direct ticketing charges. Waived award redeposit/reissue fees. Discounted SkyClub membership, SkyTeam lounge access. Priority check-in, screening and Sky Priority boarding.

Diamond Medallion

  • Flying Requirements: 125,000 MQM’s or 140 segments
  • Spending Requirements: $15,000
  • Mileage Bonus: 125%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Unlimited complimentary on Y fares at time of booking, other fares (excluding E class) up to 5 days in advance, along with companion, with priority. Unlimited complimentary upgrades on award and pay-with-miles tickets. Choice of 4 Global Upgrade or 8 Regional Upgrade certificates (details here) with Choice Benefits.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary preferred seats and Economy Comfort. Priority waitlist. Three free checked bags for Medallion and up to 8 companions on same reservation. Waived same-day confirmed fees (with a lot of conditions), waived same-day standby fees. Waived award redeposit/reissue fees. Complimentary SkyClub membership, SkyTeam lounge access. Priority check-in, screening and boarding with Sky Priority.

Standout features: Two of the more interesting features of Delta’s Medallion program are that you can rollover from year to year any MQM’s above and beyond the qualification threshold of your status if you do not reach the next. That makes requalification a lot easier for some folks. The other interesting element are Choice Benefits where Platinum and Diamond Medallion get their choice of gifts like bonus miles, upgrade certificates or gifting elite status to a friend.

United has both flying and spending requirements for elite status.

United has both flying and spending requirements for elite status.

UNITED

Like Delta, United instituted a massive award chart devaluation, will convert its frequent flyer program into a revenue-based system next year, and instituted spending requirements for elite status. Here is what you need to qualify and what you get when you do at each level. Note: the PQD requirement is waived for Premier Silver, Premier Gold and Premier Platinum (not 1K) qualification if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You spend at least $25,000 in Net Purchases in 2014 on a MileagePlus co-branded credit card issued by Chase Bank USA, N.A.
    OR
  • You hold a United MileagePlus Presidential Plus℠ Card

Premier Silver

  • Flying Requirements: 25,000 miles or 30 segments
  • Spending Requirements: $2,500
  • Mileage Bonus: 25%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Complimentary upgrades for Premier and companion as early as day of departure. Instant upgrades on Y or B full-fare economy.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary access to Economy Plus at check-in. 500-mile minimum, priority check-in, screening, boarding. 1 free checked bag, discounted United Club membership. Priority award waitlisting, standby for international awards, better award availability, discounted close-in booking and change fees, waived award change fee more than 21 days in advance. Discounted award redeposit fee. Star Alliance Silver status.

Premier Gold

  • Flying Requirements: 50,000 miles or 60 segments
  • Spending Requirements: $5,000
  • Mileage Bonus: 50%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Complimentary upgrades for Premier and companion as early as 48 hours before departure. Instant upgrades on Y or B full-fare economy.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary access to Economy Plus at booking. 500-mile minimum, priority check-in, screening, boarding. 3 free checked bags, discounted United Club membership. Priority award waitlisting, discounted same-day flight changes, standby for international awards, better award availability, discounted close-in booking and change fees, waived award change fee more than 21 days in advance. Discounted award redeposit fee. Star Alliance Gold status (and lounge access when traveling internationally).

Premier Platinum

  • Flying Requirements: 75,000 miles or 90 segments
  • Spending Requirements: $7,500
  • Mileage Bonus: 75%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Complimentary upgrades for Premier and companion as early as 72 hours before departure. Instant upgrades on Y or B full-fare economy. Regional Premier Upgrade eligible.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary access to Economy Plus at booking. 500-mile minimum, priority check-in, screening, boarding. 3 free checked bags, discounted United Club membership. Priority award waitlisting, discounted same-day flight changes, standby for international awards, better award availability in premium cabins, discounted close-in booking and change fees, waived award change fee more than 21 days in advance. Discounted award redeposit fee. Star Alliance Gold status (and lounge access when traveling internationally). Global Entry application fee reimbursement.

Premier 1K

  • Flying Requirements: 100,000 miles or 120 segments
  • Spending Requirements: $10,000
  • Mileage Bonus: 100%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Complimentary upgrades for Premier and companion as early as 96 hours before departure. Instant upgrades on Y or B full-fare economy. Regional Premier and Global Premier Upgrade eligible.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary access to Economy Plus at booking. 500-mile minimum, priority check-in, screening, boarding. 3 free checked bags, discounted United Club membership. Priority award waitlisting, discounted same-day flight changes, standby for international awards, better award availability in premium cabins. Waived fees for close-in booking and changes, award change and cancellation fees, telephone award booking fees. Star Alliance Gold status (and lounge access when traveling internationally). Global Entry application fee reimbursement. $60 statement credit for MileagePlus Chase credit cardmembers.

Standout features: United has gotten pretty stingy with elite upgrades, and even those at the middle and higher tiers don’t get full fee waivers on things like same-day changes or award changes.

JetBlue introduced Mosaic back in 2012.

JetBlue introduced Mosaic back in 2012.

JETBLUE

JetBlue launched its elite Mosaic program back in July of 2012. Here are the details.

Mosaic

  • Flying Requirements: 30 segments plus 12,000 base flight points, or 15,000 base flight points
  • Spending Requirements: $4,000-$5,000
  • Mileage Bonus: 3 bonus points per $1
  • Upgrade Benefits: Ability to redeem TrueBlue points for Even More Spaceseats, andsix free Even More Space seat upgrades(seats
  • Other Benefits: Free second checked bag for everyone flying on the member’s reservation, free Even More Speed expedited security screening. Early boarding.

Standout features: To be honest, this is a pretty barebones program, but that’s in keeping with JetBlue’s proletariat aesthetic. What would make Mosaic more interesting are some perks that will get you into the airline’s new Mint business class.

Southwest has two elite tiers.

Southwest has two elite tiers.

SOUTHWEST

Southwest has a simple elite program called A-List. Here are the details.

A-List

  • Flight requirements: 25 one-way flights or 35,000 tier-qualifying points (this is really a spending requirement)
  • Spending requirements: Between $2,917-$5,834 depending on the fares you buy.
  • Mileage Bonus: 35%
  • Upgrade Benefits:
  • Other Benefits: Priority boarding, standby priority, priority check-in and security

A-List Preferred

  • Flight requirements: 50 one-way flight or 70,000 tier-qualifying points (this is really a spending requirement)
  • Spending requirements: Between $5,834-$11,667 depending on the fares you purchase.
  • Mileage Bonus: 100%
  • Upgrade Benefits: None.
  • Other Benefits: Priority boarding, standby priority, priority check-in and security, free in-flight WiFi.

Standout features: Nothing too fancy here, just like the airline, though free WiFi for A-List Preferred members is a nice perk.

You have to spend at least $4,000 to earn Virgin's basic elite status.

You have to spend at least $4,000 to earn Virgin’s basic elite status.

VIRGIN AMERICA

Virgin America launched its two-tier elite status program in July 2012 as well. Here is what it takes to earn Silver and Gold, and what flyers benefit from at each level.

Elevate Silver

  • Flying Requirements: 20,000 status points
  • Spending Requirements: $4,000
  • Mileage Bonus: 25%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Complimentary space-available upgrades to Main Cabin Select 12 hours in advance. Expanded 12-hour advance-purchase upgrade window for First Class.
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary access to preferred seating within Main Cabin, enhanced digital/social media rewards (such as bonus points for checking in online), 15% discount on Main Cabin tickets once per year. 1 free checked bag.

Elevate Gold

  • Flying Requirements: 50,000 status points
  • Spending Requirements: $10,000
  • Mileage Bonus: 100%
  • Upgrade Benefits: Complimentary space-available upgrades to Main Cabin Select 24 hours in advance. Expanded 24-hour advance-purchase upgrade window for First Class
  • Other Benefits: Complimentary access to preferred seating within Main Cabin, enhanced digital/social media rewards (such as bonus points for checking in online), 15% discount on Main Cabin tickets twice per year. Waived Elevate points redeposit fee. 3 free checked bags.

Standout features: Another relatively barebones, but also easy-to-understand, elite system. The best features are those points-earning bonuses that can add up to award flights much faster, and Main Cabin Select advanced access since those seats can be hundreds of dollars more expensive than regular Main Cabin seats.

So Which Program Is Best?

Which of these elite programs is best really depends on your flying and spending habits, and what you hope to get out of an airline. One of the simpler programs like Southwest’s or Virgin America’s might be the right choice for you if you stick to those airline’s more limited routes, want just a few easy-to-use perks, and put those bonus points you earn to use.

When it comes to the legacies, things get a bit tougher to gauge. If you fly a ton and spend a lot on airfare each year and would not have trouble reaching United and especially Delta’s high spending requirements, you might find that you are actually earning more miles with their new revenue-based programs starting next year and enjoying the rarefied upper echelons of their elite status programs. That said, United has been getting stingier with upgrades, even for top-tier elites, and Delta keeps making changes to elite benefits without warning, so that is something to consider.

For now, it looks like the clear winner is probably American Airlines and US Airways’ soon-to-be-merged program. The flying requirements are in line with the industry, they have not instituted any spending requirements, and when you reach the upper tiers, you get some great benefits like complimentary upgrades, super valuable systemwide upgrades, decent mileage-earning bonuses even at the middle tier and more. That said, combining two frequent flyer programs is bound to present some headaches next year. It will likely mean that elites are competing with a lot more flyers for upgrades, and those priority check-in, screening and boarding lines are bound to get a lot longer. Still, for actually rewarding flying without imposing huge spending requirements and actually waiving many pesky fees as well as giving flyers upgrades they can actually put to use fairly easily, American looks to be the top all-round pick for the moment.

What is your elite status program of choice and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/comparison-of-airline-elite-status-which-program-is-best/feed/ 11
JetBlue Mosaic Improvements: The Weekly Wish http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/jetblue-mosaic-improvements-the-weekly-wish/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/jetblue-mosaic-improvements-the-weekly-wish/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:08:00 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96616

Today TPG Contributor Nick Ewen continues his series The Weekly Wish, looking at flaws, shortcomings, and room for improvement in the world of travel and loyalty programs. Today’s wish: step up the benefits in JetBlue Mosaic to make it more useful to frequent flyers.

I love elite status and all the perks that come with it. Whether I’m skipping a long airport check-in line or walking into a huge upgraded room, elite benefits really augment the travel experience for me. Unfortunately, not all airlines and hotels are up to snuff when it comes to elite status, and today’s post calls out one such offender. My Weekly Wish is for JetBlue to modify their Mosaic program so that it truly rewards their most loyal customers.

JetBlue Plane

JetBlue offers a comfortable ride, but the Mosaic program could use a facelift.

Before I get into this, it’s important to note that JetBlue didn’t offer any recognition of their most loyal customers until a couple of years ago; Mosaic was officially launched in the fall of 2012. TPG highlighted how JetBlue didn’t refer to Mosaic as an “elite” status level, but it’s the closest thing they have to it! He also wasn’t impressed with the benefits:

  • Redeem points for Even More Space seats
  • Access Even More Speed security checkpoints at designated airports
  • Board early to get first access to overhead bins
  • Check your second bag free (along with any companions on the same reservation)
  • Earn three additional TrueBlue points per dollar spent
  • Use a dedicated customer service line

Since the initial rollout, the program has added two new benefits:

  1. Change/cancellation fee waivers: As a Mosaic member, you can change or cancel reservations without a fee. This includes your ticket along with the tickets of anyone else on the reservation. For non-members these fees start at $75 per person on tickets under $100, but go as high as $150 per person. As a result, a family of four on the same reservation could save as much as $600.
  2. Bonus qualification points: If you earn Mosaic status this year (which will be valid for the rest of the year and all of 2015), you will immediately earn 15,000 bonus TrueBlue points. These points are worth anywhere from $150 – $240 depending on the flight you choose to redeem them.

To qualify for Mosaic, you would normally need to fly 30 segments and earn at least 12,000 base points ($4,000 in airfare) or earn 15,000 base points ($5,000). However, earlier this year JetBlue was offering status matches and challenges to poach customers from other airlines. Since I had a couple of JetBlue flights planned, I used my Delta Platinum Medallion status and matched to Mosaic for status valid through the end of 2014. While I enjoy flying Delta (despite all of the recent devaluations), JetBlue is a very pleasant experience, with free DirecTV and unlimited complimentary snacks & drinks. I also live halfway between Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, giving me access to 35 nonstop destinations.

However, after a couple of flights, I have not been impressed, and I think Mosaic needs a bit more firepower to make it worth striving for. Here are some of the ways that JetBlue could improve the program:

Upgrading Mosaic members to Even More Space seats would be a great addition to the TrueBlue program.

Upgrades for Mosaic members to Even More Space seats would be a great addition to the TrueBlue program.

Offer complimentary upgrades to Even More Space seats.

Free upgrades to first/business class (or even just free access to preferred seats) are hallmarks of airline elite status programs. Even the legacy carriers offer upgrades to their lowest tier elite flyers when space is available. However, to really compare apples to apples, compare Mosaic to Virgin America’s Elevate program (which interestingly enough were announced within days of each other back in July, 2012). Both offer revenue-based earning and redemption, and their elite status levels are also based on how much you spend.

Elevate Silver is earned with 20,000 base points ($4,000 in flight purchases), so it’s comparable to Mosaic. However, Silver members can upgrade to Main Cabin Select seats within 12 hours of departure. This product is very similar to the Even More Space seats on JetBlue; both offer 38″ of pitch, and according to SeatGuru.com, the Virgin America seats are just 0.1″ narrower than those on JetBlue.

You can purchase Even More Space seats when booking a flight; Mosaic members will also see a point redemption option.

You can purchase Even More Space seats when booking a flight; Mosaic members will also see a point redemption option.

As it stands, JetBlue Mosaic members can access Even More Space seats in two ways: by purchasing them, or by redeeming points for them. The cost varies depending on how long the flight is. Here are some sample prices I found for one-way flights:

Route

Cost in $

Cost in Points

Value

DCA-BOS

$30

2,400

1.25 cents/point

JFK-SJU

$45

3,500

1.29 cents/point

FLL-LAS

$65

5,000

1.3 cents/point

BOS-SFO

$95

7,400

1.28 cents/point

These rates aren’t terrible, but they don’t get close to the 1.6 cents/point that you see with some redemptions on JetBlue.

I’m not asking for JetBlue to process upgrades days in advance (like most of the legacy carriers do). After all, these ancillary fees can be quite profitable to airlines, and JetBlue should be able to sell the seats if they can. However, if someone hasn’t purchased those seats by the day of the flight (or even within an hour or two of departure), they should be made available to Mosaic members.

Earn Mosaic credits for spending on the JetBlue American Express.

JetBlue could take another page out of Virgin America’s book by offering credits toward Mosaic qualification for hitting certain spending thresholds in a calendar year on the co-branded American Express card. As I discussed in this post, the Virgin America Premium Visa Signature card gives you 5,000 status points for every $10,000 you spend (up to 15,000 status points per year). The annual fee of $149 is much higher than the $40 fee on the JetBlue Amex, so the earning rates would be much lower (unless they added a premium card option). I envision something like:

“Earn 1,000 points toward Mosaic status for every $10,000 in spending, up to 5,000 qualification points per calendar year.”

My review of the JetBlue Amex last week wasn’t exactly glowing, and a benefit like this would be a nice addition.

JetBlue Mint seats laid with handwritten notes and plush duvet sets

Upgrades to JetBlue Mint could be a great way to reward high spenders in a new elite status tier.

Add a true elite status tier above Mosaic.

If JetBlue wants to compete with the legacy carriers like American, Delta, and United in terms of elite status, they should institute a new tier with more substantial benefits. JetBlue is presently the only major domestic carrier with just one tier of status; even Southwest has two with A-List and A-List Preferred. The new tier would be for truly high-revenue flyers; the qualification threshold should be at least 60,000 base points ($20,000 in spending). Here are some benefits I would include with the new status level:

  • Standard Mosaic benefits: no change/cancellation fees, priority check-in/security/boarding
  • Six extra points per $ spent (100% bonus)
  • Complimentary Even More Space seats 24 hours before departure
  • Ability to use points to upgrade to Mint
  • Two one-way upgrade certificates for Mint each year
  • 2nd and 3rd free checked bags
  • Elite benefits when traveling on airline partners, including lounge access, priority check-in/boarding, and preferred seat selection

I don’t mean to kick a gift horse in the mouth, as I certainly appreciated JetBlue offering me a status match earlier in the year. However, the airline has clearly shown a desire to compete with the heavyweights, illustrated perfectly by the introduction of Mint on the premium transcontinental routes (JFK-LAX/SFO). JetBlue should put its loyalty program where its mouth is and consider some significant upgrades to Mosaic.

What do you think of the Mosaic program? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/jetblue-mosaic-improvements-the-weekly-wish/feed/ 3
Flight Review: JetBlue Mint New York (JFK)- Los Angeles http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/flight-review-jetblue-mint-new-york-los-angeles/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/flight-review-jetblue-mint-new-york-los-angeles/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 19:50:48 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96369

This June JetBlue officially launched their premium transcontinental business class product: Mint on the lucrative JFK-LAX route. These retrofitted A321s started with a single daily flight between New York’s JFK and Los Angeles’ LAX. It’s already been so popular that they plan to expand to seven routes between these two hubs by year’s end, and this past Sunday, the carrier rolled out its first New York JFK-San Francisco (SFO) route.

Last week, I tried Mint myself for the first time, flying from JFK to LAX, and was really impressed. I missed out on a seat in one of the carrier’s private, close-door Mint suites in rows 2 and 4, but after several hours stretched out on their 6’8″-long, non-enclosed lie-flat seat, I arrived rested, relaxed and well fed. If JetBlue ever offers a wider route network (and more partners for international award redemptions), Mint might even become my first choice for transcon travel. Until then, it’s not enough to pull me away from American Airlines Executive Platinum status.

The 80-inch-long lie-flat seats on JetBlue's Mint business class are the longest in the industry

The 80-inch-long lie-flat seats on JetBlue’s Mint business class are the longest in the industry

Each way, seats in Mint are available at three rates, in cash or TrueBlue points:

$599 (restricted, refundable) or 35,000 points
$809  (unrestricted, refundable) or 61,700 points
$1,209 (refundable) or 110,600 points

I booked last-minute, so my flight was $999, but several TPG members flew Mint on the 6am flight to the TPG To Go app launch party and paid only $599.

Upgrading
Be aware that elite Mosaic status in the revenue-based TrueBlue rewards program doesn’t allow upgrades to Mint class, so you’ll always have to redeem for these seats or purchase them outright. Interestingly enough, the seat next to me was empty, but right before takeoff the flight attendant brought up a passenger from coach to sit next to me. I asked him and he said he saw the amazing cabin and asked about upgrading and they offered it for $350, which they processed at the gate. I bet that was the fare difference between what he paid and Mint, but JetBlue may be testing an on-board upgrade.

If you need points for a JetBlue Mint award, you could also transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to JetBlue at a ratio of 5:4. For example, you could trade 87,500 MR points for 70,000 TrueBlue points and redeem for a discounted round-trip fare in Mint. This gives you a value of about 1.37 cents per Membership Rewards point, which is neither great nor terrible.

Dramatic skies for my early morning flight out of JFK on JetBlue's A321

Dramatic skies for my early morning flight out of JFK on JetBlue’s A321

At the Airport

Unlike the legacy carriers, JetBlue does not offer complimentary lounge access for Mint passengers. I arrived to JFK Terminal 5 with about an hour to go before departure, so I hung in the gate area with a coffee, observing the scene to see if they’d be trying to sell upgrades or if they’d make sure Mint boarding was orderly. The gate area was orderly, but a large crowd started to crowd as boarding approached. The gate agents announced Mint and Mosaic boarding and policed it- telling those with Extra Leg Room seats to wait until they were called.

My open suite (1D) in JetBlue's Mint

My open suite (1D) in JetBlue’s Mint

The Seats and the Cabin

In the new five-row Mint cabin, there are 16 fully lie-flat seats that extend up to 80 inches, which means that even at 6’7″, I can actually stretch all the way out with an inch of leg room to spare. Twelve of the seats are open, 20.5 inches wide, and arranged in 2 x 2 configuration in rows 1, 3 and 5, and four others are 22-inch-wide, private, closed-door suites arranged 1 x 1 in rows 2 and 4.

JetBlue Mint seat map courtesy of seatguru.com

JetBlue Mint seat map courtesy of seatguru.com

Surprisingly, JetBlue charges the same price for both types of Mint seats. The only catch is that the closed-door suites are first-come, first-serve, so it’s just up to chance if you manage to book one – I wasn’t so lucky! Seated in one of the 2 x 2 seats in the first row (1D), I was struck with a bad case of seat envy, and kept sneaking glances at the closed-door suite behind me in the second row. Ah, well…maybe next time. Seatguru.com states that row 1 has more legroom, but I barely fit and I’m 6’7″, so I doubt that. Being in the aisle seat meant I was exposed and row 1 is right behind the galley, which was bright and a little noisy. I’d recommend rows 3 or 5 if you can’t get a suite.

Overall the seat was a little slim and my neighbor had to do acrobatics to get over me when I was reclined, so I wouldn’t say this product is more superior to what Delta/American/United offer, but the suites looked great- with privacy, direct aisle access and more room to store things. I really recommend booking the suites, though the normal seats are comfortable enough- though narrow. I’m broad shouldered and fit squarely in the seat when in lie-flat mode. I imagine larger folks would have an issue with fitting comfortably.

I shot this video to give you a sense of the Mint cabin’s seats, spaces and layout:

When I first got to my Mint seat, I found a friendly, hand-signed note from the cabin crew placed on top of a big pillow and a soft, grey duvet-style blanket with mint green trim, and felt immediately welcome. Then I discovered the seat’s brilliant, built-in massage function, and switched it on even before the flight even got going. Soon after I was offered a complimentary “RefreshMint,” a cocktail with honey-infused limeade, fresh mint and vodka - which several people recommended and I just had to try. It was pretty delicious!

Mint's IFE has a 15-inch (non-touch) flat-screen and a remote imbedded in the armrest

Mint’s IFE has a 15-inch (non-touch) flat-screen and a remote imbedded in the armrest.

Entertainment Options & Technology

Mint’s in-seat IFE system features a 15-inch flat-screen, although not an industry-standard touchscreen; to access any of the system’s 100 channels of DirectTV and the Sirius XM radio, I had to use the remote imbedded in my seat’s armrest. And rather than a traditional headset, Mint lends you iGrado wrap-around headphones. There are no pre-loaded movies, so you’ll have to hope that DirectTV has programming that you like during your flight. the JetBlue app allows you to check programming before your flight.

You’re given complimentary access to Fly-Fi, JetBlue’s in-flight Wi-Fi, and there are two power outlets (110V and USB) at every Mint seat. In addition to the seat’s massage and angle-adjustment functions, there’s a clever “Wake Me For Service” button at each seat to let a steward know you’d like to be woken for meal service. Having missed a few premium-class meals in the past when I simply couldn’t stay awake - only to wake up groggy, hungry and out of luck - I think this button is a really cool feature.

Mint's amenity kits include products curated by Birchbox.

Mint’s amenity kits include products curated by Birchbox.

Amenity Kit

Mint amenity kits are customized separately for men and women, with always-changing products curated by Birchbox, an online service that provides its subscribers a rotating monthly selection of beauty and grooming samples. The amenity kits, which feature drawstring bags tucked inside slim, recyclable cardboard boxes, may include items like hair styling products, hand lotion, face-washes and moisturizers, deodorant, shaving cream and lip balm from Jack Black, Ernest Supplies, LAB Series and more. The products and brands will change every month, so it’s unlikely you’ll be given the same amenity kit twice.

Choose three out of five tapas-style entrees to customize your in-flight meal in Mint.

Choose three out of five tapas-style entrees to customize your in-flight meal in Mint.

Meal Service

Mint’s food service and selections were my favorite part of my flight. On most airlines, the food at 35,000 feet is no picnic, but Mint gets it just right.  NOURISHMINT, allows you to customize your main meal by choosing three items from a list of five tapas-style dishes curated by New York City restaurant Saxon + Parole.

JetBlue Mint's October menu

JetBlue Mint’s October menu

Mint’s in-flight menu changes every month, offering seasonal produce and recipes. From the menu pictured above, I chose the charred lobster mac-and-cheese, the roasted artichoke and the ribeye, and all three were delicious. (And no, I don’t have any idea why there were pictures of a horse and pony next to the green goddess salad!)

After my lunch, I decided to rest instead of caffeinating from the onboard cappuccino machine, the first kind purposely built for an US airline. I enjoyed my only semi-guilt-inducing dessert of Blue Marble peppermint ice cream and some fresh pineapple, mango and watermelon, but especially appreciated the brownie gift from NYC-based Mah-ze-Dahr Bakery that I was given before deplaning. This is to-go treat packed in a ribboned box is a sweet touch from JetBlue, and quite literally left me with a good taste in my mouth about their service.

JetBlue Mint seats laid with handwritten notes and plush duvet sets

JetBlue Mint seats laid with handwritten notes and plush duvet sets

Was This Flight a “Mint” Experience? 

Overall, I enjoyed my five-hour flight, and was really impressed with the Mint cabin’s swanky design and surprisingly delicious food. The lack of privacy and non-direct aisle access make the regular seats far less disable than the suites in my opinion. I’d like to try out the suites next time to see if the experience is different- but I could tell looking at those in the suites they seemed to be even extra smug!

Have you flown JetBlue’s Mint yet? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/flight-review-jetblue-mint-new-york-los-angeles/feed/ 9
One Year of Amazon Prime with Amex Everyday Cards http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/free-year-of-amazon-prime-with-amex-everyday-cards/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/free-year-of-amazon-prime-with-amex-everyday-cards/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 19:06:59 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96843

Earlier this year American Express launched two new cards which were the American Express EveryDay Credit Card and the American Express EveryDay Preferred Credit Card. What’s great about both of these cards is that they earn full Membership Rewards points and have the potential to earn 20-50% bonuses on everyday purchases (hence the name) if you used them on a certain amount of transactions per month. In addition to the high points earning, these cards now both come with one year of Amazon Prime.

The Amex Everyday cards now come with a first year of Amazon Prime for free.

The Amex Everyday cards now come with one year of Amazon Prime.

Here are the details on each card:.

EveryDay Credit Card (No Annual Fee)

  • Get One Year of Amazon Prime plus 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months.
  • Earn 20% more points: Make 20 or more purchases with your Card in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits. Terms and limitations apply.
  • 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • You can use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points to pay for all or part of your flight, hotel booked and paid in advance (prepaid hotel), on the American Express Travel site.
  • No annual fee. Plus, 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 12.99% to 21.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and limitations apply.

EveryDay Preferred Credit Card ($95 annual fee)

  • Get One Year of Amazon Prime plus 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months.
  • Earn 50% more points: Make 30 or more purchases with your Card in a billing period and earn 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits. Terms and limitations apply.
  • 3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 2x points at US gas stations; 1x points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • You can use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points to pay for all or part of your flight, hotel booked and paid in advance (prepaid hotel), on the American Express Travel site.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 12.99% to 21.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
Both of these cards earn points in the Membership Rewards program.

Both of these cards earn points in the Membership Rewards program.

What’s great is that these are the first two consumer credit cards from Amex that earn full Membership Rewards points – meaning they’re the kind like you earn with the Premier Rewards Gold or Platinum cards that you can transfer to the program’s travel partners rather than just Membership Rewards Express points which you can just redeem for merchandise and cash back. The other cards that earn full MR points are all charge cards, meaning you have to pay them off in full each month or incur huge fees, while these new cards are traditional credit cards, meaning you have the flexibility to pay off over time if needed with fewer fees.

The Amex Everyday basic version has no annual fee, which is a first for a full Membership Rewards earning card, and the preferred version is $95, which is more in line with competitors like Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95, waived the first year) and Barclaycard Arrival ($89, waived the first year).

Where these cards really get interesting, though is in their transaction threshold bonuses. With the basic card, you earn 20% bonus points on all purchases when you make 20 or more transactions in a billing period and with the EveryDay Preferred, you get a 50% bonus when you make 30+ transactions in a billing period. That could equate to some serious earning potential.

value Amex Membership Rewards points at about 2 cents apiece thanks to being able to transfer them to dozens of partners as well as using Pay With Points to book travel – so on the basic card, you’re earning between 1-2.4x points per $1 on purchases (so a 2-4.8% return on spending for me) while with the Preferred card, you’re earning between 1-4.5x points per $1, so you’re getting 2-9% return on spending in my opinion. If you were thinking of getting either of these cards, the added bonus of the first year of Amazon Prime could be a great reason to either now.

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/free-year-of-amazon-prime-with-amex-everyday-cards/feed/ 19
Using Miles to Fly China Airlines’ New 777-300ER http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/using-miles-to-fly-china-airlines-new-777-300er/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/using-miles-to-fly-china-airlines-new-777-300er/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:29:29 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96244

Last week I wrote about China Airlines’ new 777-300ERs, which feature all-new service classes, including a beautiful Premium Business class cabin. The planes will be put into service on the airline’s routes from Taipei to Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in the coming months. Today TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen explains how you can use miles to try them yourself.

China Airlines is getting all-new 777-300ER's.

China Airlines is getting all-new 777-300ERs.

These days award travelers have a lot of airlines to choose from when flying to and around Asia. Oneworld flyers can try out carriers like JAL and Cathay Pacific, while options for Star Alliance flyers include ANA, Air China, Singapore and Thai. SkyTeam also has an ever-growing presence in Asia thanks to members like China Southern and China Eastern.

One airport that’s becoming a major hub (both as a destination and a transit point) is Taipei. Until now, EVA has been the most interesting carrier there, since it updated its fleet with a large order of 777-300ERs and a top-notch business class service called Royal Laurel (Dom Perignon included!). Its main competitor based out of Taiwan is China Airlines, which until now has fielded a comparatively lackluster fleet and route map.

However, China Airlines recently took delivery of the first of ten 777-300ERs from Boeing, with the rest set to roll off the line in the coming months. The airline is currently flying its new birds from Taipei to Hong Kong and Bangkok, but starting in December, US flyers should see them in the skies. That gives SkyTeam flyers a great new option for getting to/from Asia with miles.

The Sky Lounge in Premium Business

The Sky Lounge in Premium Business aboard China Airlines’ new plane

The Planes

What makes these planes so interesting? The short answer is an all-new business class cabin and economy “Family Couches.”

The new planes will have 358 seats: 256 in economy, 62 in premium economy and 40 in business class. The interior was designed by Taiwanese architect Ray Chen, and features elements like persimmon-wood paneling, mood lighting and velvet-upholstered chairs in business class.

You can find all the details in last week’s post, but for the quick version…

China Airlines' Premium Business Class aboard their new 777-300ERs

China Airlines’ Premium Business Class aboard their new 777-300ERs

The new Premium Business class is laid out in a reverse herringbone 1 x 2 x 1 configuration with 78-inch lie-flat seats, 18-inch IFE screens and Bulgari amenity kits. Passengers also have access to the “Sky Lounge” galley bar with a tea-tasting area, a coffee area, and a bar with spirits and tapas.

China Airlines' newly created Premium Economy

China Airlines’ newly created Premium Economy

The 62 premium economy seats are in a 2 x 4 x 2 configuration with fixed-back hard shells and 39 inches of pitch, plus 12-inch IFE screens. The economy cabin seats are laid out in a 3 x 4 x 3 configuration and have 32 inches in pitch, reclining up to 116 degrees. The first 10 rows of economy have “Family Couches” (like Air New Zealand’s Sky Couch) in the 3-seat sections, which convert into lie-flat couches like a mini-bed.

The new three-seat Family Couch reclines to a lie-flat 180 degrees

The new three-seat Family Couch reclines to a lie-flat 180 degrees.

The Routes

According to Airlineroute.net, China Airlines plans to launch 777-300ER service to/from the US on the following routes and schedules:

Taipei-Los Angeles: Service beginning December 1, 2014

  • CI006 depart TPE 17:10 – arrive LAX 12:45 daily
  • CI008 depart TPE 23:50 – arrive LAX 19:25 daily
  • CI005 depart LAX 14:30 – arrive TPE 21:10+1 daily
  • CI007 depart LAX 23:25 – arrive 05:50+2 daily
The new LAX-TPE route is already in the system and ready to go starting in December.

The new LAX-TPE route is already in the system and ready to go starting in December.

Taipei-New York JFK: Service beginning February 2, 2015

  • CI012 depart TPE 17:05 – arrive JFK 19:50 Monday, Thursday, and Saturday
  • CI011 depart JFK 00:55 – arrive TPE 06:00+1 Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday

China Airlines has also said it will begin using 777-300ERs on its route to San Francisco later in 2015, but as of now the plane doesn’t seem to be on the roster through the end of next August.

Mileage Strategies

China Airlines is a member of SkyTeam, which means there are a lot of options to use your miles for award tickets. There are a few obstacles as well, though.

First, searching for award space can be difficult for folks who don’t have a lot of time to spare. ExpertFlyer displays award space in economy (specifically, in X class), but not in business class. Also, ExpertFlyer isn’t always reliable. For instance, here are flights departing LAX-TPE on December 1 and returning December 8.

ExpertFlyer's award space might be off.

ExpertFlyer’s award space might be off.

According to ExpertFlyer, there’s just one outbound economy seat available, and 7 on each of the return flights, but that differs from what I was told by the individual airline agents I spoke to. So even if you see award space on ExpertFlyer, know that availability may not be what you expect when you call your airline.

Delta.com does not display any China Airlines award space, and Flying Blue is reputed to do so only sporadically, though I searched for months at a time and couldn’t pull up a single flight for CI (China Airlines’ abbreviation). Your best bet will be to call the frequent flyer desk of the airline whose miles you want to use, and hope that they’re somewhat competent at pulling up award space through their systems.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, like its SkyTeam partner Korean Air, China Airlines has blackout dates for awards. You can find the full list here. However, the reps I spoke with at both Delta and Flying Blue were able to find award availability even within several of these blackout periods (notably December and June), so I’m not sure how stringently those dates are enforced.

China Airlines also imposes blackout dates.

China Airlines also imposes blackout dates.

Delta SkyMiles

Though Delta devalued the SkyMiles program back in 2013, the miles required to get to/from North Asia, which includes Taiwan, are as follows:

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles North Asia Redemption Chart Economy

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles North Asia Redemption Chart Business

So redemptions start at 70,000 miles round-trip in Economy, and 140,000 miles round-trip in Business Class (there’s no First Class cabin on these flights).

You cannot search Delta.com to pull up award space online, so you’re stuck calling the award desk. However, I was able to get through quickly, and the agents were efficient at finding award space on sample dates in December and January. In fact, they said that there was at least 1 award seat in each class on many dates in each month, including both Los Angeles flights on the December 1 launch date.

I asked them to price out sample awards for me departing Los Angeles on December 1 and returning December 8. Economy priced out at 70,000 miles and $52 in taxes and fees. The agent told me that award space opened up a lot more in January and was more sporadic in December, though I had lucked out.

When I called back to price out a business class ticket, the agent was able to find seats on both flights in each direction on those dates, and priced out the itinerary at 140,000 miles and $355 in carrier-imposed surcharges and fees.

The Delta agents I spoke to were courteous and competent, and familiar with searching for China Airlines space, so the calls were quick. One agent even commented that she had seen pictures of the airline’s new 777-300s and wouldn’t mind flying them herself!

If you do want to use your Delta miles, you might have some trial-and-error work on your hands, and you’ll have to spend some time on the phone with their agents, but at least they seem to know what they’re doing in this instance.

Delta is a 1:1 instant transfer partner of American Express, so if you have a card like the Platinum, Premier Rewards Gold or EveryDay Preferred, that might be a good option for you. However, keep in mind that starting in 2015, Delta will limit partner transfers into the SkyMiles program to 250,000 miles per calendar year. So if you’re planning to book two business class tickets, for example, you may want to transfer before that new rule goes into effect.

Flying Blue

Flying Blue is the mileage program of Air France and KLM (and Air Europa). Their award search engine is typically good at pulling partner award availability, but when it comes to Taiwan and China Airlines, Flying Blue’s website seems to route flyers through Europe on AF or KLM instead, tacking on huge surcharges in the process.

All that award space - and none of it is on China Airlines.

All that award space – and none of it is on China Airlines.

However, I was able to call Flying Blue’s New York City office and get an agent to help me search for award space. I initially asked about the same dates I had been able to nail down with Delta, but the Flying Blue agent was only able to find economy seats for me. He said he wasn’t seeing any of the business class dates that I had found with the Delta agents.

I asked him to price it out anyway, and he said that a round-trip economy award from LAX-TPE on December 1-8 would be 80,000 miles and $334 in taxes and fees on the same flights Delta had displayed.

For Premium Business award space, I asked him to search for the whole month, and he was able to pull an award itinerary from December 23-28 (right in the middle of those blackout dates, mind you). The total came to 200,000 miles and a whopping $1,052 in taxes and fees. Even the agent seemed surprised at how high they were!

Flying Blue will try to route you through Europe instead.

Flying Blue will try to route you through Europe instead.

In both instances, you’re better off using your Delta miles, especially if you were considering transferring Amex points to one program or the other (Flying Blue is a Membership Rewards transfer partner as well). Flying Blue is also one of Citi ThankYou Rewards’ new transfer partners, so that’s another option.

Korean Air lets you use miles for SkyTeam awards.

Korean Air lets you use miles for SkyTeam awards.

Korean Air SKYPASS

Korean Air has a separate award chart for SkyTeam awards. Taiwan counts as Asia 2, so flights should price out at 90,000 miles for Economy, or 155,000 for Business round-trip.

Korean's SkyTeam award levels from North America.

Korean’s SkyTeam award levels from North America.

That economy award level is pretty high, so I would recommend against it. However, the business class redemption level is 15,000 higher than Delta and 45,000 miles lower than Flying Blue, so if you happen to have some SkyPass miles sitting around from past Ultimate Rewards transfers, this is a viable option.

As with simply booking Korean Air awards, trying to book a SkyTeam partner award with Korean miles is a rigamarole. I recommend calling their customer service office in your specific city, which you can find here. They will take down your flight information including preferred carrier, flexibility of dates, and frequent flyer number, and have someone on their SkyTeam desk call you back within 24 hours, though usually much sooner (in my case it was about 2.5 hours).

The person who called was very professional and polite, and had pulled up a few flight options for me on the January dates I had suggested. However, he said that dates before January 4 were blackout dates (apparently China Airlines enforces them with Korean!). After that, though, there was plenty of economy availability in January and February.

The award for a roundtrip economy ticket from January 4-12 priced out at 90,000 miles and $329 in taxes and fees.

The agent then checked business class award availability and found absolutely nothing from December-August for LAX-TPE, and the same starting in February for JFK-TPE. No seats. Zip. I’m not sure why there’s such discrepancy in award inventory between Korean, Delta, and Flying Blue, but I wouldn’t bet on this program if you want this particular award. According to the agent, taxes and fees should be within $100-$200 of an economy award ticket on this route and with this partner.

The funny thing is, if you search for flights between New York or Los Angeles and Taipei, the Korean Air website will pull up Korean’s own flights, but also connections on China Airlines from Incheon to Taipei. However, it won’t pull up China Airlines flights directly to/from the US, so you’re stuck waiting for that call.

Korean prices out roughly the same charges on its own awards.

Korean prices out roughly the same charges on its own awards.

I also noticed that the mileage amounts and taxes/fees were roughly the same on the Korean/China awards as they were on the China Airlines awards that I got from the Korean Air Skyteam award rep. So if you want to find out what you’ll likely be paying, you can always do a quick search on Korean’s site.

Korean Air is a 1:1 instant transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus. But frankly the byzantine booking process, higher redemption levels, and availability discrepancies make it a wild card.

Aeromexico

You can find Aeromexico’s SkyTeam award chart here. According to the chart, you would need the following number of miles (though they’re called kilometros with this program) to get from the US to Taiwan on an award ticket:

  • Economy: 96,000 km
  • Business: 144,000 km
Aeromexico's business class awards from North America to Asia.

Aeromexico’s business class awards from North America to Asia.

Economy redemptions are the worst of the bunch, and I would definitely avoid them. However, business class redemptions could be worthwhile if you stocked up on Aeromexico miles for some reason in the past and only need to top up your account with a transfer from Amex Membership Rewards.

That said, for ease of redemption and pricing value, I think Delta is the top choice. If you can tolerate the archaic Korean Air back-and-forth phone booking process for SkyTeam partner awards, saving 15,000 miles on a business class redemption might be worth the extra time and effort to you.

If you get a chance to fly China Airlines’ new 777-300ER in the coming months, please report back on your experience in the comments below!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/using-miles-to-fly-china-airlines-new-777-300er/feed/ 2
Which Citi ThankYou Rewards Card Offers the Most Value? http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/which-citi-thankyou-rewards-card-offers-the-most-value/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/which-citi-thankyou-rewards-card-offers-the-most-value/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:59:17 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96591

Citi has made impressive strides this year with the addition of nine new airline transfer partners, and while ThankYou Rewards finished last in our transferable points programs showdown earlier this week, there’s still a lot of value to be found there. Today TPG Contributor Nick Ewen explores credit card options for earning Citi ThankYou points, and explains the differences between them.

October 19 has come and gone, which means that the Citi Prestige card now comes with a number of new benefits. In earlier posts I shared my thoughts on this card in relation to two other premium credit cards, and I did an in-depth analysis of the Citi ThankYou Premier card. In this post I’ll see how these two cards stack up against each other and Citi’s fee-free option in the ThankYou Rewards program, the Citi ThankYou Preferred. These cards all have their strengths and weaknesses; read on to see which one suits you best.

Citi ThankYou Rewards banner

These cards allow you to accrue ThankYou points that can be redeemed for a variety of rewards.

Let’s begin with a chart that highlights the key benefits of each card:

 

Citi ThankYou Preferred

Citi ThankYou Premier

Citi Prestige

Sign-up Bonus

20,000 points after spending $1,500 in first 3 months

20,000 points after spending $2,000 in first 3 months; additional 30,000 points after spending $3,000 in first 3 months of year two

30,000 points after spending $2,000 in first 3 months

Bonus Categories

2x points on dining & entertainment purchases

3x points on dining & entertainment; 2x points on airfare, hotel, & travel agency purchases

3x points on airfare, hotel, & travel agency purchases; 2x points on dining & entertainment

Points Transfer

Only if you also have a Premier or Prestige card

Yes

Yes

Redemption Discount

None

20% for airfare

60% for airfare on US/AA; 33% for all other airlines

Lounge Access

None

None

Admirals Club and Priority Pass (with guest privileges)

Fee Credits

None

None

$250 air travel; $100 Global Entry

Hotel Benefits

None

None

Free 4th night

Annual Fee

None

$125 (waived for the first year)

$450

Foreign Transaction Fees?

Yes

No

No

This chart should make it clear why the annual fees are progressively higher as you move from left to right. You get substantially more benefits on the Premier and Prestige cards, so they (naturally) will set you back more each year.

Make sure you know what rental car insurance your credit card offers.

Car rental insurance is just one of the protections you’ll receive on any of these cards.

The same holds true when it comes to the various purchase and travel protections offered on each card.

Citi ThankYou Preferred comes with:

  • Citi Private Pass
  • Personal Concierge Services
  • $0 liability for unauthorized charges
  • Citi Price Rewind
  • Extended Warranty
  • Retail Purchase Protection
  • Auto Rental Insurance
  • Trip Cancellation / Interruption Coverage
  • Travel Accident Insurance

Citi ThankYou Premier comes with all of the above, plus:

  • Lost Luggage Coverage
  • Emergency Assistance Services

Citi Prestige comes with all of the above, plus:

  • Citi Private Pass Beyond
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement
  • Baggage Delay Reimbursement
  • Emergency Evacuation Coverage

These benefits also improve as you move up the premium card ladder, again quantified with the increasing annual fees on the Premier and Prestige cards, respectively.

Credit Cards shutterstock image

Which of these cards is right for you? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

So which card is best for you? Here’s a quick rundown of the types of spending and/or travel patterns that best fit each one:

Go for the Citi ThankYou Preferred card if:

  1. You’re new to the points & miles game;
  2. You need a fee-free card to improve the average age of accounts on your credit score (which can make up close to 15% of your overall credit score);
  3. You rarely (if ever) redeem points for airfare;
  4. Travel only a few times per year.
  5. You currently hold a Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card

For cards without an annual fee, the Citi ThankYou Preferred card is a pretty solid product (it made TPG’s Top 9 List earlier this year). It can be a good starter card, and no-annual-fee cards are good for improving the average account age component of your FICO score. It also offers a decent sign-up bonus, and it offers an uncommon category bonus for entertainment purchases, meaning that tickets to movies, concerts, sporting events, amusement parks, and tourist attractions can earn you 2 points per dollar.

The ThankYou points you earn on this card can be redeemed for travel and gift cards at 1 cent per point, meaning that the sign-up bonus is worth up to $200. You can also earn double points when dining out, but this is also true of other no-fee cards, and since cards like the Barclaycard Arrival give you this bonus and a 10% rebate when redeeming points for travel, that offers a better overall return on restaurant purchases. That makes ThankYou Preferred a good option for those who typically use points for non-travel redemptions and wouldn’t utilize the more generous benefits when actually traveling.

This card is also useful is if you currently hold either the Premier or Prestige card. Since Citi ThankYou points can be pooled among your different accounts, you can open this card, earn the sign-up bonus, and use your points for more valuable transfers or travel redemptions.

Adding American to go from 8 to 9 transfer partners would make Citi ThankYou points a MUCH more valuable currency!

You’ll get even more value out of a ThankYou Preferred card if you already have the Prestige or Premier.

This summer, the ThankYou Rewards program got a much needed jolt of benefits when it added 9 new airline transfer partners. While it doesn’t offer the variety of partners of Membership Rewards, nor the “mainstream” partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards, the program did become significantly more valuable. In fact, TPG upped the value of ThankYou Rewards from 1.1 to 1.5 cents apiece (and later to 1.6) in response. Thus, this enhancement added approximately 50% to the program’s value. Even though points you earn from the ThankYou Preferred don’t ordinarily transfer to partners, they will if you also have either the Premier or Prestige card.

The ThankYou Premier offers several bonus spending categories.

The ThankYou Premier offers you several bonus spending categories.

Go for the Citi ThankYou Premier card if:

  1. You typically spend more than $20,833.33 per year on dining, entertainment, and on purchases with airlines, hotels, and travel agencies;
  2. You not sure whether you plan to keep the card long-term;
  3. You typically redeem points for airfare (thus earning elite-qualifying miles); or
  4. You plan to transfer points to redeem them on a ThankYou Rewards transfer partner.

There are two main benefits you get on this card that you don’t get on the Preferred card: higher category bonuses for everyday purchases, and more lucrative redemption options (both for airfare and transfer partners). According to TPG’s most recent points and miles valuations, ThankYou points earned on the Premier card are worth 1.6 cents apiece, so you’re getting 0.6 cents more in value for each point with this card compared to the Preferred card. Since you earn one additional ThankYou point on dining and entertainment (3 per $ instead of 2 per $) and one additional point with airlines, hotels, and travel agencies (2 per $ instead of 1 per $), you’ll need to spend about $20,833 in those categories annually to cover the $125 annual fee and make the premium card worthwhile (since $125 / 0.6 cents = $20,833.33).

Of course, this only applies to the card in a typical year, since the annual fee is waived in year 1, and the extra 30,000 bonus points you would earn in year two more than cover the annual fee.

On the other hand, if you’re just planning to try this card for the first year or two, then it’s a much better option than the Preferred card. You earn the same 20,000 points as a sign-up bonus in year one (though you’ll need to spend $500 more in the first 3 months), but the bonus categories are much better.

Citi ThankYou flights

This flight would only set you back 13,708 points if you hold the Citi Premier card.

The other benefit of the Premier card is that it gives you access to improved redemption options. You’ll need 20% fewer points when you redeem for airfare, so a $500 ticket only costs 40,000 points. At 1.25 cents/point, this is significantly less than the 1.6 cents/point that TPG offered in his recent valuations. However, it’s still a better rate than you get with the Preferred card. If this is the only way you redeem (or plan to redeem) ThankYou points, you would need to spend $50,000 a year in the bonus spending categories to cover the annual fee ($125 / 0.25 cents = 50,000).

Again, though, this evaluation is based on year three and beyond; if you’re eyeing the sign-up bonuses earned in the first two years and plan to redeem those points for airfare, this card is a great option. The 20,000 points earned in year one are worth $250 (compared to just $200 on the Preferred card), and the 30,000 additional points you earn in the 2nd year are worth $375 for airfare, easily covering the annual fee.

Citi prestige benefits

The Citi Prestige is a great option for frequent travelers, especially if you enjoy lounge access!

Go for the Citi Prestige if:

  1. In a typical year, you spend at least $4,687.50 more on airfare/hotels/travel agency purchases than you do on dining and entertainment;
  2. You travel frequently for business or pleasure; or
  3. American and US Airways are your primary airlines.

The Prestige card is interesting in that the bonus categories for everyday purchases are flipped with those on the Premier: you only earn 2 points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment (3 per $ on the Premier), but you earn 3 points per dollar spent on airlines, hotels, and travel agencies (compared to just 2 per $ on the Premier). If airfare/hotel/travel agency purchases – dining/entertainment purchases = at least $4,687.50, Prestige is the better option.

Let’s say (for example) that you spend $10,000 a year on dining & entertainment and $14,687.50 a year with airlines, hotels, and travel agencies. Here are your points earnings on each card:

  • Citi Premier: ($10,000 x 3) + ($14,687.50 x 2) = 30,000 + 29,375 = 59,375 points
  • Citi Prestige: ($10,000 x 2) + ($14,687.50 x 3) = 20,000 + 44,063 = 64,063 points
  • DIFFERENCE = 4,688 points

Here are the effective annual fees:

  • Citi Premier Annual Fee: $125
  • Citi Prestige Annual Fee: $450 – $250 airfare credit = $200

At 1.6 cents/point, those additional 4,688 points earned on the Prestige card will (almost) exactly cover the $75 of additional annual fee on the card (here I’m assuming that you will make use of the $250 air travel credit on Prestige, which effectively lowers the annual fee to $200). If the difference in yearly spending is greater, you’ll come out ahead when using the Citi Prestige card.

The Prestige now lets you redeem points at 1.6 cents each for AA/US flights.

As a Citi Prestige cardholder, your redemption rates for flights are higher than those of the Preferred or Premier card. They go even higher for American or US Airways redemptions!

Remember that these calculations only apply to the cards in a typical year with no sign-up bonus (and no Global Entry fee reimbursement, which is available once every 5 years on the Citi Prestige). This is also based on TPG’s valuation of 1.6 cents/point; if you don’t transfer them to partners to squeeze the most value out of them, or if you redeem points for travel on an airline other than American or US Airways (at 1.33 cents/point), your yearly difference in spending categories needs to be at least $5,639.10 to cover the $75 difference in annual fees.

The other big benefits of the card apply when traveling. As of October 19, the Citi Prestige includes complimentary Priority Pass membership, which allows you and your immediate family (or two guests) to enjoy over 700 lounges when traveling. In addition, you can access Admirals Clubs when traveling on American (again with your immediate family or up to two guests). With the lounge access and the increased value when redeeming points on AA/US, this card is an ideal product for those who primarily fly one or both of those carriers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As I mentioned above, having both the Citi ThankYou Preferred and either the Premier or Prestige card can be a powerful combination, as you can transform your static ThankYou points earned on the Preferred card into the transferable points earned on the Premier/Prestige. The Preferred card by itself won’t offer as much of a return, but it’s a solid option for beginners.

If you’re just looking for one card, I would recommend the Prestige over the Premier so long as you can take full advantage of benefits like the annual $250 airline travel credit, lounge access, and 4th night free at hotels. Despite the higher annual fee, those benefits make Prestige the best value.

Which of these three cards do you prefer? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/which-citi-thankyou-rewards-card-offers-the-most-value/feed/ 7
Domestic Airport Updates to Get Excited About! http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/airport-changes-to-get-excited-about/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/airport-changes-to-get-excited-about/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:08:15 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95722

Just like the planes that serve them, some airports are in better shape than others. Today, TPG Contributor Jason Steele shows us some U.S. airports that are undergoing improvements, and a few more that should be.

America gets a lot of criticism for having outdated airports. Certainly not every city offers the equivalent of Singapore’s Changi Airport (which has won dozens of awards for being the best airport in the world), but some of our airports are now undergoing dramatic renovations and expansions that will allow them to handle additional passengers with greater convenience and better amenities than ever before.

Here are four American airports that are leading the way:

1. Denver International Airport
Denver International, or DIA as the locals call it, already boasts many superlatives. Having opened in 1995, it’s the newest major American airport, the largest American airport in terms of land mass, and it has the longest public use runway in the United States. Yet arriving passengers often remark that the airport appears to be in the middle of nowhere, and the nearest hotels are at least seven miles away.

Over the past three years, the City of Denver has been hard at work correcting these oversights in an otherwise state-of-the-art facility. A fast commuter rail line is mostly complete that will speed visitors between the terminal and downtown Denver’s newly renovated Union Station in under 35 minutes. Above the airport’s train station, a new 519-room Westin hotel will offer soaring views of the Rocky Mountains, the eastern plains of Colorado, and the airfield itself.

Where construction currently stands on the new Westin Denver International.

Where construction currently stands on the new Westin Denver International.

I recently had the opportunity to tour the construction site with the city’s Program Manager Stu Williams. The overall impression I got was that this project encompasses far more than just a new airport hotel and train station. The hotel contains a convention center large enough to accommodate up to 2,000 people, and there will be a public outdoor plaza between the terminal and hotel that’s larger than a football field.

What the new Westin hotel and transit center will look like when it is completed in November of 2015.

What the new Westin hotel and transit center will look like when it’s completed in November of 2015.

The plaza has been designed to accommodate events such as concerts, classic car shows, and even food trucks. The idea is that Denver residents will actually want to visit the airport, even when they’re not traveling. By Denver law, 1% of the project’s budget must go to fund public art, and three very large installations are planned by prominent artists.

In fact, even the rooms in the Westin hotel will feature works by Colorado artists, rather than the stock posters that are typically used. However, I’m not sure guests will notice the art first, as the entire hotel is enclosed by what architects call a “curtain wall” of glass, meaning that every exterior surface is a window, and the views are stunning.

I visited a room under construction, with an amazing view of the train station with the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the background.

I visited a room under construction, with an amazing view of the train station with the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the background.

In addition, the train station will be configured to offer passengers the fastest and most convenient possible access to the terminal in order to speed them to their gates. Train passengers will be able to check their bags on the arrival platform before hopping onto a single escalator that will take them directly to the nearest TSA security checkpoint. By my estimation, this process will be significantly faster for train passengers than for those being dropped off by car. The hotel, convention center, and public plaza are scheduled to be completed by November of 2015, while the train service is will launch in the spring or summer of 2016.

This is the hotel pool under construction with a heck of a view!

This is the hotel pool under construction, with a heck of a view!

2. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
For decades, the Miami airport served as the primary international gateway to South Florida, while the Ft. Lauderdale airport was seen as a less convenient alternative at best. Those days are no longer, as Ft. Lauderdale has seen its service increase dramatically, especially among low-cost carriers.

To accommodate all of these new passengers, the airport has begun a 2.3 billion dollar expansion. First, it constructed a new $791 million, 8,000-foot south runway, which opened on September 18 of this year. (That’s nearly $100,000 a foot, but who’s counting?) Part of this new runway is actually a six story high bridge over train tracks and Federal Highway U.S. 1. Next up, Terminals 1, 2, and 3 will be modernized, while Terminal 4 (which handles international service) is being completely rebuilt.

All of these projects are set to be completed by 2017, yet Broward County still hopes to keep costs low. It expects to maintain its low-cost carriers by charging airlines just $6.51 per person in 2017, while nearby Miami currently charges $20.33.

3. Chicago O’Hare
Chicago once enjoyed the status of the busiest airport in the world, but it lost that title back in 1998, and has since fallen to number five on the list. With its ad-hoc terminal expansions and its seemingly random array of runways, the once great airport just couldn’t keep up with its more modern competitors, but you’d be mistaken if you thought that The City of Broad Shoulders would recede into the backwaters of aviation.

The 8.7 Billion Dollar O’Hare Modernization Program is now in its second decade, and is starting to pay off. O’hare can now operate four parallel runways simultaneously, up from just two previously. The next stage is for six parallel runways and two diagonal to the rest.

Here is how Chicago O'hare is reconfiguring its runways.

Chicago O’hare is reconfiguring its runways, which seemed to have been originally designed by a kid playing Pickup Sticks.

This next stage of runway configuration, appropriately called Completion Phase 2B, depends on additional funding if it is to be, or not 2B (insert comedy drum fill here). Another terminal on the west side of the field has also been planned for the next decade.

4. Honolulu International Airport
Perhaps the most unique thing about this island airport is that its terminals are open air facilities, so you can feel the ocean breezes and smell the jet fuel. What Honolulu International has in common with so many other airports is its need to expand to accommodate demand. To do so, two new concourses are now under construction.

First, the Diamond Head Commuter Terminal is being added on to the existing Diamond Head Concourse. It will replace the old Commuter Terminal that used to host inter-island flights. Next, a new Concourse called Mauka is being built where the old Commuter Terminal once stood. When it opens in 2017, this facility will be able to accommodate an additional six wide-body or 11 narrow-body airliners. A consolidated rental car facility is also planned, but unlike so many other airports, it will be walking distance from the terminal, not miles away.

Some airports changes that need to happen!
Unfortunately, not every airport is keeping pace with the times. Here are some facilities that need to take a hint and start moving towards the future:

1. Las Vegas
McCarran Airport isn’t that bad, but it squanders its great location by making it incredibly hard to get in or out of. The consolidated rental car facility is a long shuttle ride across the runways from the terminal. The city also has an expensive monorail system on The Vegas Strip, but it stops short of the airport! Plans to connect it have been stalled for years, and waits for a taxi often exceed the length of the ride.

2. New York – La Guardia
This is the airport that everyone loves to hate. You can cite its lack of subway service, its narrow concourse, or its leaking roofs, but there’s nearly unanimous agreement that it needs to be replaced. Thankfully, there is now at least a plan to rebuild it that looks good. That said, I’ll probably make even greater efforts to avoid it during the seven years it will take to rebuild.

Here is what the new La Guardia should look like, seven years after construction begins.

Here is what the new La Guardia should look like, seven years after construction begins.

3. Washington Dulles
Where to start? The cramped “temporary” concourse built decades ago? The people mover system that dumps you off where the future “permanent” concourse may be built some day? Perpetually long waits at security and immigration? How about the Metro train to the airport that always seems to be opening about five years from now? There seems to be very little focus on passengers at this much derided facility.

What airport changes are you looking forward to? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/airport-changes-to-get-excited-about/feed/ 42
Earn Up To 25,000 Bonus Aeroplan Miles With Partners http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/earn-up-to-25000-bonus-aeroplan-miles-with-partners/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/earn-up-to-25000-bonus-aeroplan-miles-with-partners/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 21:29:15 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96727

Every so often, Aeroplan (the loyalty program of Air Canada) offers bonuses when you convert points from the program’s partners into Aeroplan miles, and now through November 24, when you transfer points from select partners, you can earn up to 25,000 bonus miles. As with past promotions, the bonus is tiered based on how many points you convert. Here is the promo page where you can find all the details.

Aeroplan 25k bonus

So when you convert enough points to create the following amount of Aeroplan miles, here are the bonuses you score:

5,000 miles – 1,000 bonus
10,000 miles – 2,000 bonus
20,000 miles – 4,000 bonus
50,000 miles – 10,000 bonus
100,000 miles – 25,000 bonus

Participating transfer partners include:

  • ClubRewards
  • SPG Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Hilton HHonors
  • Club Carlson
  • Best Western Rewards
  • Wyndham Rewards
  • Accor AClub
  • Choice Privileges
  • Coast Rewards
  • Golden Circle Award (Shangri-La Hotels)
  • Hertz
  • Points.com (note that only exchanges are eligible for the bonus but not points trades with other members)
Before you start strategizing, though, note that American Express Membership Rewards – the points program of cards like the Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold – transfers are not eligible for bonuses. Also note that while Air Canada is a Star Alliance carrier and you can use your Aeroplan miles for awards on its partner carriers, they sometimes levy huge fees on many partner awards. For more information on fees on each Star Alliance carrier, check out our recent series.
You can earn up to 25,000 bonus miles with this transfer bonus.

You can earn up to 25,000 bonus miles with this transfer bonus.

Transfer Scenarios

Although these bonuses do not seem too compelling for the most part, there are two potentially decent transfer scenarios you might want to consider.

The first is using your Starwood Preferred Guest points. Normally if you transferred 20,000 SPG points to Aeroplan, you would end up with 25,000 Aeroplan miles (including the 5,000 miles SPG will give you for the transfer bonus). With this promo, you’d earn an additional 4,000 bonus miles for a total of 29,000 miles. That ends up being a 45% bonus. You can probably still get more value out of Starpoints instead of converting them to Aeroplan miles, especially because of the sometimes hefty fuel surcharges and taxes Aeroplan charges on award tickets (hundreds of dollars in many cases). However, if you were thinking of converting some SPG points to Aeroplan anyway, this could be a good option to double dip on your bonus points.

Marriott's Hotel + Air Packages might be worth considering.

Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages might be worth considering.

Marriott’s Air + Hotel packages are another option to consider. With them, you bundle your Marriott points and a miles conversion into one big transaction that equates your Marriott points to 1 mile each. As you can see in the table above, which includes Aeroplan as an airline partner, conversions start at 200,000 Marriott points. For that, you get 7 nights in a Category 1-5 hotel and 50,000 miles. Depending how many points you bundle, you can bank as many as 120,000 miles. So if you had enough Marriott points for one of these, let’s say converting 200,000 points into a 5-night stay at a Category 1-5 hotel + 50,000 miles, you’d actually get 60,000 miles instead, a nice 20% bonus. If you had the 250,000 necessary for a Category 1-5 bundle, you’d end up with 100,000 Aeroplan miles plus the full 25,000-mile bonus for 25% more miles than you would ordinarily earn.

So while there are options out there, just keep in mind that Aeroplan devalued its award chart last January, with redemption levels increasing by about 20% (up to 40,000 miles in some cases!) on flights from Canada and the continental US to Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific. If you decide you want to transfer to Aeroplan despite the devaluation, below are all the full terms and conditions of the latest promotion, or click here.

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/earn-up-to-25000-bonus-aeroplan-miles-with-partners/feed/ 3
Best Airlines To Fly Coach Domestically http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/best-us-airlines-to-fly-coach-domestically/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/best-us-airlines-to-fly-coach-domestically/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 19:01:03 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96619

Though most people would rather fly business or first class given the chance, it’s not always possible to snag a seat at the front of the plane. So we asked TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen to give us a quick rundown and ranking of the economy seats you’ll likely be flying domestically these days including which are roomy, which are cramped, and what other amenities will affect your coach flying experience.

757-200_Pantallas_Tactiles_Delta

Sometimes you can’t escape coach, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer.

My friends joke all the time that I must have forgotten what it is like flying coach given that I have been able to use my miles to fly around the world (literally) in business and first class. What they don’t seem to realize is that I actually fly economy more than anything else – especially on short-haul domestic flights.

That does not mean I’m not interested in being comfortable on those flights, though. When deciding which routes to fly on which airlines, I always look at the aircraft operating them, the airline policies on things like checked bags, and what the entertainment and WiFi options are. So when my elite upgrades or award tickets and I’m stuck turning right, at least I know I’ll be as comfortable as possible.

With that in mind, I took a look at the current economy seating products on domestic short-haul routes with the help of this handy Seat Guru guide and Gogo’s participating airline information. Looking at metrics like average seat size and entertainment options, as well as the policies of each airline, I have created a quick ranking of the best products out there.

Keep in mind, many of the major airlines including American, Delta and United operate a huge range of aircraft, and even many of the same aircraft vary in age, so when booking it is always worth looking at the legend icons that describe a flight’s amenities. However, criteria like seat size and entertainment options are fairly easy to generalize here.

If you have elite status with a particular airline, pay full-fare economy, live in a hub city, or find that you mostly fly on a set of routes where flying a single carrier makes sense, the calculus will be different for you. But for a benchmark that does not take elite status or specific hubs into account, I hope that these are useful standard.

Have your own rankings? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

The Quick Rankings

Here they are – and no surprise, the airlines that concentrate most on their economy offerings and less on their business or first class cabins have come out on top, while some of the legacies could learn a thing or two about connectivity and entertainment options and little perks.

1. JetBlue: Among the most spacious seats, a variety of free snacks and drinks, and free high-speed WiFi.

2. Southwest: Decent seats, no hidden fees, ability to change/cancel reservations without penalty, free checked bags.

3. Virgin America: Innovative entertainment system and meal/beverage service.

4. Delta: New Studio streaming entertainment system and fleetwide WiFi.

5. Air Canada: Free entertainment, need we say more?

6. American: Upping their game with huge new aircraft orders.

7. Alaska: This is the little airline that could, with decent seats, WiFi and meal options.

8. Hawaiian: Their offerings are limited, but they make those Hawaii flights comfortable with larger-than-usual seats.

9. United: Time to get a handle on entertainment and WiFi, United!

10. US Airways: No in-flight entertainment. What’s the deal with that? Still, WiFi is widely available.

11. Frontier: Not too impressive a product and lots of hidden fees.

12. Spirit: Tiny seats and they still nickel-and-dime you for everything.

Domestic Economy Comparison Table

Seat Pitch Seat Width WiFi Availability Entertainment Meals/Beverage Checked Bag
Air Canada 29-32 17-18 On A319’s Free on-demand seatback For purchase $25
Alaska 32 17 On most 737’s For purchase For purchase $25
American 30-31 17.2-18 Rapidly expanding Good on new planes For purchase $25
Delta 30-31 17.2-18.25 All domestic flights New Studio streaming system For purchase $25
Frontier 30-31 17-18 No Seatback TV For purchase $20-$25
Hawaiian 31-32 18 No For purchase Some free $25
JetBlue 30-33 17.8-18.25 Free FlyFi on select flights Free live TV, movies for purchase Some free $0
Southwest 31-33 17-17.75 Widely available Free live TV, movies for purchase For purchase $0
Spirit 28 17.75 No None For purchase $21-$31
United 30-32 17-18.2 Spotty Varies widely, free live TV on new system For purchase $25
US Airways 31-32 17-18 Most planes None For purchase $25
Virgin America 32 17.7 All planes Free live TV, shows and movies for purchase For purchase $25

The Airlines

Here is the detailed information on each airline.

Air Canada's in-flight entertainment is top-notch.

Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment is top-notch.

Air Canada

Seat Pitch: 29-32 inches
Seat Width: 17-18 inches
Entertainment: Free on-demand TV and movies on A319, A320, A321 and most Embraers. Varies on others.
WiFi: On A319’s, coming to A320, A321 and E-190.
Checked bags: CAD$25 each for first and second bags on Canadian flights, $25 for first bag and $35 for second on flights to/from the US.
Food/Beverage:
Best aircraft to fly: A319 or E-190
Standout quality: Free entertainment

Alaska Airlines' economy seats on their new 737-900s

Economy seats on Alaska’s 737-900′s.

Alaska

Seat Pitch: Almost all 32 inches
Seat Width: 17 inches
Entertainment: Handheld tablets with movies/TV/games for $8-$10 per flight. The airline is also adding streaming content via Gogo to its 737’s.
WiFi: Available for purchase over land on all the airline’s B737-400 (except 4), 700, 800 and 900 aircraft
Checked bags: $25 each for first and second checked bags.
Food/Beverage: Free non-alcoholic beverages, snacks/meals available for purchase onboard.
Best aircraft to fly: 737-900
Standout quality: Seat size on newer planes.

Inside the American Airlines A321.

American’s new coach seats – like these aboard the A321 transcontinental aircraft are a dramatic improvement on its older models.

American

Seat Pitch: 30-31 inches
Seat Width: 17.2-18
Entertainment: Seatback On-Demand on A319, A321, some 737’s. Overhead on others. None on Embraers and Bombardiers.
WiFi: Available for purchase on A321, A320, A319, B737-800, MD80, E190, E170 some 757’s
Checked bags: $25 for first checked bag, $35 for second.
Food/Beverage: Free non-alcoholic beverage. Snacks and meals available for purchase.
Best aircraft to fly: A321, A319 new B737-800’s.
Standout quality: New connectivity and entertainment on newer planes.

One of Delta's major selling points? Fleetwide WiFi.

One of Delta’s major selling points? Fleetwide WiFi.

Delta

Seat Pitch: 30-31 inches
Seat Width: 17.2-18.25 inches
Entertainment: Varies widely. Seatback On-Demand on 737’s, 767’s. Overhead on 757’s. None on Bombardiers, Embraers and MD’s. Delta has introduced it’s “Studio” system of free on-demand streaming entertainment for passengers to play on personal devices. It will also install seatback monitors on over 140 domestic aircraft and has plans to install it on 56 757-200’s, 43 737-800’s and 57 A319’s by the ned of 2016.
WiFi: Available for pay on almost every single domestic flight.
Checked bags: $25 for first bag, $35 for second.
Food/Beverage: Small complimentary snack like nuts or pretzels and non-alcoholic beverages. Flights longer than 900 miles snacks/meals available for purchase.
Best aircraft to fly: Embraers, MD’s and 767-300.
Standout quality: Availbility of WiFi and free streaming entertainment via Delta Studio.

The animals on the tail of Frontier planes are a big hit with kids.

Better pay for those checked bags ahead of time on Frontier!

Frontier

Seat Pitch: 30-31
Seat Width: 17-18
Entertainment: Seatback TV on A319, A320. None on other aircraft.
WiFi: No.
Checked bags: $20 for first bag at online check-in, $25 at airport. $30 for second bag.
Food/Beverage: Drinks (including non-alcoholic beverages) available for purchase starting at $2. Snacks from $3.
Best aircraft to fly: A319 or A320.
Standout feature: Newer aircraft.

hawaiian-airlines-osaka

Hawaiian gets high marks for decent-size seats and meal service on longer flights.

Hawaiian Airlines

Seat Pitch: 31-32 inches
Seat Width: 18 inches
Entertainment: Seatback On-Demand on A330’s, overhead on 767’s, none on 717’s, movies for $7.99 each on A330’s. Tablets for rent from $15-$17 on 767’s.
WiFi: No.
Checked bags: $25 first bag, $35 second bag.
Food/Beverage: Meal service and complimentary non-alcoholic drinks on flights to/from North America.
Best aircraft to fly: A330.
Standout feature: Spacious seats on A330’s.

Economy on jetBlue's A321.

Economy on jetBlue’s A321.

 

JetBlue

Seat Pitch: 30-33 inches
Seat Width: 17.8-18.25 inches
Entertainment: On-demand seatback TV’s on all flights.
WiFi: Free broadband Fly-Fi on 72 A320’s, 10 A321’s. Find daily schedule here.
Checked bags: First bag free, $50 second bag.
Food/Beverage: Complimentary chips, cookies and crackers as well as non-alcoholic beverages. Snack boxes and meals available for purchase for $4-12.
Best aircraft to fly: A320 for the free Fly-Fi.
Standout feature: Free Fly-Fi, comparatively spacious seats.

Southwest boasts some of the roomiest seats.

Southwest boasts some of the roomiest seats.

Southwest

Seat Pitch: 31-33 inches.
Seat Width: 17-17.75 inches
Entertainment: Free live TV from Dish on your own device, $5 per movie.
WiFi: Row44 satellite WiFi available on 430 planes. All-day access for $8 per device.
Checked bags: Two free checked bags.
Food/Beverage: Complimentary peanuts or pretzels and non-alcoholic beverages.
Best aircraft to fly: 737-300.
Standout feature: Free checked bags.

Spirit will charge you for everything from carry-on bags to water.

Spirit will charge you for everything from carry-on bags to water.

Spirit

Seat Pitch: 28 inches.
Seat Width: 17.75 inches
Entertainment:
WiFi: No
Checked bags: $21 for first bag during booking, $31 for second. $31/$41 at airport. $26-$36 for carry on bags.
Food/Beverage: For pay starting at $1-15
Best aircraft to fly: Factors are same.
Standout feature: Ancillary fees – in a bad way!

The main cabin of United's A320.

The main cabin of United’s A320.

United

Seat Pitch: 30-32 inches.
Seat Width: 17-18.2 inches.
Entertainment: Varies widely. Overhead TV’s on many A319 and A320’s and some 757-200 and 757-300’s and 737-800’s. On-Demand seatback entertainment on some 737-800’s and 757-200’s. None on Bombardiers and Embraers. Live TV, On-Demand and/or looped options available for $5.99-$7.99 depending on length of flight.
WiFi: Varies greatly, but check updates here. Available on all A319 and A320’s, some 757’s and 737=800’s.
Checked bags: $25 first bag, $35 second bag.
Food/Beverage: Free small snack like pretzels and complimentary non-alcoholic beverage. Snacks/meals available for purchase.
Best aircraft to fly: 757-200 p.s. because of premium entertainment and WiFi access.
Standout feature: None.

Want to eat on US Airways? Prepare to pay.

Want to eat on US Airways? Prepare to pay.

US Airways

Seat Pitch: 31-32 inches.
Seat Width: 17-18 inches.
Entertainment: No entertainment on domestic flights.
WiFi: WiFi available on almost whole domestic fleet including A321, A320, A318, B737-800, MD80, E-190, E170.
Checked bags: $25 first bag, $25 second bag.
Food/Beverage: Free non-alcoholic beverages and small snack. Meals and snacks available for purchase.
Best aircraft to fly: A320 or A321 for largest seats.
Standout feature: Wide availability of WiFi.

If you frequently enjoy the mood lighting onboard Virgin America, one of these cards absolutely should be in your wallet.

Virgin America gets high marks for its cool cabins and great entertainment system.

Virgin America

Seat Pitch: 32 inches.
Seat Width: 17.7 inches.
Entertainment: Seatback On-Demand RED system with live TV for free and premium TV and movies for purchase.
WiFi: Yes on all flights.
Checked bags: $25 each for first and second checked bag.
Food/Beverage: On-demand ordering. Complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. Snacks and meals available for purchase.
Best aircraft to fly: There are only two – the A319 and A320 with no differences.
Standout feature: Great entertainment system, on-demand ordering keeps aisles free.

What’s your favorite airline when it comes to flying coach domestically? Feel free to share below.

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/best-us-airlines-to-fly-coach-domestically/feed/ 23