Monthly Archives: May 2016

Easy Status Match to jetBlue Mosaic Status

Category : Uncategorized

[Disclosure: I may earn compensation if you click on any external links].

I rarely write about status matches or challenges because they’re usually unattainable for the average scheming joe, but in this case…

The cat’s out the bag.

jetBlue is running a promotion for frequent fliers with other airlines to match their current elite status to jetBlue’s top (and only) tier of status, Mosaic.

So why is this relevant?

If you have any of these other statuses you can request to be matched to Mosaic.

  • Virgin America: Elevate® Silver, Elevate® Gold
  • Alaska Airlines: Mileage Plan™; MVP® Gold or MVP® Gold 75k
  • American Airlines: AAdvantage Platinum® or Executive Platinum®
  • Delta: SkyMiles Medallion Gold, Platinum or Diamond
  • Southwest Airlines: Rapid Rewards A-List Preferred or Companion Pass
  • United®: MileagePlus Premier Gold, Platinum or Premier1K
  • Emirates: Emirates; Skywards‎ Silver, Gold or Platinum

Regular readers will already know the value of the Companion Pass (click the link to read about what it is in detail), but for those who don’t… The companion pass can be earned by:

  • Flying Southwest for 110,00 miles
  • OR, earning 110,000 miles via credit card sign-ups.

Though it is technically not supposed to work, credit card sign ups do work towards earning the companion pass. And right now both cards (the Premier and Preferred) are at 50,000 for $2,000 spend each. After opening up both cards and meeting the required spend, you’d have 104,000 Rapid Rewards points. With just another $6,000 in creative spending, you could be on your way to the Companion Pass.

And Mosaic status (if it lasts that long!).

What’s so special about Mosaic status?

I have not flown jetBlue in years, but as a holder of the Companion Pass with Southwest, I had nothing to lose. So I submitted my information (make sure you have a TrueBlue account before hand!) and was granted Mosaic status through the rest of 2016 within twelve hours of submission.

Until December 31, 2016 - Sweet

Until December 31, 2016 – Sweet

Mosaic Status entitles fliers to:

  • First and second checked bags free (jetBlue added check bag fees late last year);
  • Fee waiver on change and cancellation fees;
  • Redeem miles at a reduced rate for extra leg-room seats;
  • Expedited security screening lines;
  • Early boarding;
  • Complimentary alcoholic beverages onboard;
  • 3 extra TrueBlue points per dollar on top of the general 6 per dollar;

The ones in bold are most interesting to me.

I rarely check bags, but the ability to cancel and change without a fee is huge. And to check out those ‘Even More Space’ seats? Who knows.

TrueBlue points are a points currency similar to Southwest Rapid Rewards. They’re based off of the price of the ticket. Depending on the time of year and route, there are definitely some steals. So the best time to redeem would be if jetBlue has a sale.

jetBlue also has many nonstop from their hubs (FLL, JFK BOS) to the Caribbean.

You can transfer points from American Express or earn them from one of the three new jetBlue credit cards from Barclay’s.

Click here to sign up for the TrueBlue Status Match.

 

-The Miner


May the 4th Be With You: Fly the Star Wars Jet on Miles!

Category : Uncategorized

May the 4th be with you.

Today is  special day for Star Wars fans worldwide: today we celebrate everything Star Wars by cleverly changing the word “Force” (as in the Force in Star Wars… If you don’t know what that is, stop reading now. No. Really.) to “Fourth”–as in May 4th!

In a cross promotional effort with Disney (yes, they now own Lucasfilm), ANA partnered to bring some of the coolest looking airplane livery in the GALAXY. Sure it’s samples cross branding promotion, but it’s pretty sweet nonetheless.These beauties are still flying. There are three jets: R2-DR, BB-8 and a generic ‘Star Wars’ themed plane. Here’s what they look like:

 

3 star wars ana jets

ANA – Star Wars livery

Courtesy of Bloomberg - R2-D2 on the ground

Courtesy of Bloomberg – R2-D2 on the ground

And on the inside:

Yes - That's a Yoda puppet (in business class)

Yes – That’s a Yoda puppet (in business class)

ana rd2d inside

R2-D2 Headrest covers! – You can’t make this stuff up!

Using Miles

ANA is a Star Alliance partner. This means you can use ANA, United, Singapore or Air Canada’s Aeroplan miles to redeem for flights on ANA metal.

If you look closely, there are some good deals to be had. Most interestingly is that all ANA flights are roundtrip values  this could be helpful for you, but may not if you’re hitting multiple countries. On our recent trip to Japan we flew from Beijing to Tokyo-Haneda using the United award listed as 15,000. Had I looked closer, I may have used Singapore miles depending on final award taxes.

Light green represent best value redemptions

Light green represent best value redemptions

The roundtrip restriction has always tripped me up and prevented me from using ANA miles.

Redeeming United miles for Tokyo-Sydney in first class, even roundtrip, represents an incredible value. However, on North American based routes you’re better off using ANA miles. Hand over fist they’re always cheaper redemptions in each class of service.

I’ve omitted one route: Tokyo Narita – Singapore. Why? ANA’s new chart is in Japanese and I couldn’t identify the region Singapore is in. If I had to guess, It wouldn’t be much more than the Tokyo Haneda – Beijing (PEK) route.

Fuel Surcharges (YQ)

Ah, fuel surcharges. Pesky fuel taxes that airlines pass on to each other. United is one of those airlines that never passes them on so if you have United miles you can book any of these flights without YQ and only the airport and airline taxes.

  • United – Never passes on fuel surcharges from the partner carrier you’re flying on
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan) – Always passes on fuel surcharges; highest on Asia-Europe routes. Lowest on Asia-Asia (Singapore, China); moderate on Asia-U.S. and Asia-Oceania.
  • Singapore – Always passes on fuel surcharges; highest on Asia-Europe routes. Would/should roughly mimic Aeroplan’s fuel surcharges (in Singaporean dollars, not Canadian dollars).
  • ANA – Has recently lowered YQ; see more details here. Typically ranges between $40.00 (Japan-China) and $115.00 (Japan-Oceania); most expensive is Asia-Europe.

If you’re flying one way, your best bet is to use United miles on many routes. For roundtrips I’d probably go with ANA considering their significantly lower YQ.

Booking these routes and relevant rules:

You can book all of these online with the exception of Singapore, which must be called in to book partner awards. But, on these routes you’d be better off using other miles that are not Singapore. With ANA you may have an easier time calling it in, or you can create an account and search here.

  • United – Allows a stopover and open-jaw on roundtrip tickets; mixed partner awards allowed
  • Singapore – One stopover allowed on roundtrip tickets; three additional stopovers allowed at $100 per stop.
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan) – Two stopovers on roundtrip tickets; mixed partner awards allowed
  • ANA – One stopover allowed on award tickets, except those leaving from Japan (all are roundtrip); open-jaw allowed.

Back to Star Wars… And Award Availability

Here are the routes with flight numbers (NH is the airline code for ANA) and which livery is on each route. (Please note: I used United for all award searches because of the easy to use calendar. However, they may inconsistencies in award availability. Confirm space with checking Aeroplan.) For the sake of consistency, all routes have been searched roundtrip for two passengers in March 2017 (pretty far from now–so availability should be good, right? Right?!) as nonstop. They originate in Tokyo (HND or NRT) with the exception of the North American routes.

R2-D2

Haneda-Beijing (Flight NH961 & NH962) – Overall this route has pretty good available on ANA and other Star Alliance partners in both business and coach (no first is operated). But, I had trouble finding coach seats on NH 961.

There are only business class seats available on the Star Wars jet

There are only business class seats available on the Star Wars jet

Haneda-Paris (Flight NH215 & NH216) – As you can see from the calendar, there’s solid availability on this route, too. In both directions. There is no first class offered on this route.

HND - CDG, NH 215

HND – CDG, NH 215

CDG - HND, NH 216

CDG – HND, NH 216

Haneda-Sydney (Flight NH879 & NH880) – There is no first class on this route either. Finding availability was easier from HND to SYD, and a bit tricker on the way back.

The top is the selected Star Wars flight and the return is almost 3 weeks later--the last day in the calendar to see two seats on NH

The top is the selected Star Wars flight and the return is almost 3 weeks later–the last day in the calendar to see two seats on NH 880

BB-8

Narita-Chicago (Flight NH114 & NH113) – There are coach, business and first class seats on this route. Here’s a snapshot and the operating flight you want.

The box in red is what you want.

The box in red is what you want.

Narita-Houston (Flight NH174 & NH173) – Availability in all classes of services looks pretty great. First and business are lie flat.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 11.55.39 AM

Narita-New York (Flight NH104 & NH103) – Availability is also good far out in all classes of service.

Business and then first!

Business and then first!

Narita-Singapore (Flight NH801 & NH802) – Only the outbound is pictured (so you can see the calendar), but the trend as in other routes remains the same. And there’s a first class! Business on the return, NH 802, is harder to find. Could be the timing of the flight.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 12.00.09 PM
Narita-Washington DC (Flight NH2 & NH1) – For fun, I looked close-in and here’s what I found… Availability is scattered, but overall decent in all classes of service.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 12.24.10 PM

Of course flight award availability is hard to predict, but if you follow these steps and do your research you should be able to see some trends. And from what I’ve seen on these routes ANA has solid availability overall. Coupled with some great award redemptions ANA miles are a solid award currency to use for routes that are to, through or from, Japan.

You can keep up to date with the routes and flight numbers that operate the Star Wars plans on ANA’s dedicated Star Wars Jets page.

Obligatory Star Wars and Aviation References and Puns

“Do or do not, there is no fly” – Capt. Yoda

All Nippon Airways = ANA = ANAkin

Regarding the recent news that first class cabins induce air rage: “First leads to anger; business leads to hate; economy leads to suffering.”

“These Boeing and Airbus aircraft completed their transpolar-Kessel runs in 12 parsecs.”

“ANA landed first”

May the Force Be With You.

 

-The Miner

 


Get 1 Week or 1 Month of Free Hotel Nights With These Limited Time Credit Card Offers

Category : Uncategorized

There are currently four Hilton HHonors cards in circulation. Two of these cards are no fee, and two are with a fee. AMEX issues two and Citi issues two.

The Citi Hilton Reserve (annual fee) has not changed it’s bonus in forever–it’s quite good, at two weekend night certificates at any Hilton worldwide. The caveat is that they can only be used on the weekend which makes them a bit restrictive. But, many people have vacations that happen over the weekend so if you’re creative you can get a great use out of them.

Three of these cards have limited time offers and are the historic highs for each product. By limited I mean two of them are expiring tomorrow. And remember with AMEX these are once in a lifetime so get them while they’re at their highest.

Here’s a breakdown:

BankCard (link)Annual FeeSign-Up BonusSpend RequiredMinimum Base PointsSub-TotalsOffer Expires
AMEXHhonors None75,000$1,0003,00078,000TOMORROW
AMEXHhonors Surpass$75.00100,000$3,0009,000109,000TOMORROW
CitiHhonors None75,000$2,0002,00078,000Soon
CitiReserve$95.002 Weekend Nights$2,5007,5007,500Standing
Totals $8,500272,500

Notice–the first two card offers expire tomorrow! So get on this now!

You’ll notice that three of these four products will earn more than 1 point per dollar. Both AMEX and the Citi Reserve product earn a minimum of 3 points per dollar spent, so after hitting the minimum spend, you’ll have more than just the sign up bonus. You can see that in the sub-totals column.

If you opened all these cards, you’d have 90 days from approval to spend… With the exception of the Reserve card, which you’ll have 120 days to reach the spend requirement.

That’s a lot of spend, but it’s also a lot of nights.

Order of Applications

If you can reach the spend in 90 – 120 days…

Day 1:

  • AMEX Surpass
  • AMEX HHonors – No fee
  • Freeze Experian – Citi often times pull’s multiple credit bureaus. Then apply for the Citi HHonors – No fee as this is a limited time offer.

Day 9/10:

  • Citi requires 9 days from one application (denials are included) before you can apply for another
  • Your Experian will still be frozen – Apply for the Citi Reserve

If you cannot reach the spend in 90 – 120 days:

Go for the first three cards and then after that, apply for the Citi Reserve as that offer is always the same.

How many nights can you get?

Now that we got the churning stuff out of the way, what does 272,000 HHonors points and 2 free weekend nights get me?

HHonors has an inflated award chart, so their top tier property will be about 95,000 points; whereas Hyatt’s would be 30,000.

For reference, here’s Hilton’s chart:

The section in red is where you want to look--notice the variability.

The section in red is where you want to look–notice the variability.

Here’s my recommendation: spend $3,000 extra on any of the cards except the Citi HHonors – No fee card. $3,000*3 points = 9,000 points. 272,000 + 9,000 = 281,000. This would get you four nights at a 70,000 point per night property.

Why 70,000 for 4 nights and not almost 3 nights for 285,000 points at a 95,000 point per night?

Because…

Hilton also gives members  a 5th night free on 4 nights booking. 

So if you went above 70,000 points you’d get 3 nights and not unlock that free, 5th night.

So far you have 5 free nights. AND Two weekend Reserve nights. That’s seven free nights.

Of course you could always go at lower level properties, but if you want to get aspirational that’s a pretty sweet deal.

Best properties?

Unfortunately Hilton does not have a category list (because it changes so often) of their properties. Here are some resources (most are not updated) that are a good jumping off point:

It’s nearly impossible to look at every property, but for some context to help narrow your search:

  • The Hiltons in big cities will cost more points
  • Waldorfs and Conrads are usually the higher end properties, so they will usually also cost more cash and or points
  • Hilton points are valued at roughly $0.50 each. (Reminder on how to value and determine between cash and points.)
  • There are 4,661 Hilton properties Worldwide and on six continents. You can find one nearly everywhere.
  • You could definitely use these points at lower level properties (almost a month at category 2 hotels–not including free nights!)

Here are some solid redemptions that are 70,000 or less:

  • Hilton Seychelles – 70,000 points or $310 in off-season
  • Conrad Seoul – 60,000 a night or $285 a night
  • DoubleTree by Hilton London Hyde Park – 50,000 points or $310 a night
  • Hilton Moorea – 70,000 (or 80,000 a night) or  $574 a night.
  • Apparently the famous Grand Wailea (a Waldorf) can be found for 70,000 a night–I’ve had no such luck!

With the above methods you could get one week of free nights at a aspirational hotel or 28 days at a lower category Hilton. Either way, the time to apply is now.

-The Miner

 

 


Mobile Award Booking? There are apps for that!

Category : Uncategorized

With everything we do going increasingly mobile, I find myself checking in for flights, changing seats and searching award and cash tickets on my mobile apps quite often. As this is a blog about miles and points (!), I’ll be taking a more critical look at the best apps for searching and booking award tickets. These reviews are based on the most current iOS version of the applications.

Here’s the summary.

A: Exceeds Expectations

  • United
  • Aeroplan
  • Southwest

B: Good

  • Delta
  • Alaska Airlines

C: Needs Improvement

  • jetBlue

D: Failed – Take the Class Again

  • British Airways
  • American Airlines

United Airlines

This newer and cleaner version of the United app was released with the launch of the new website a few months Not only does it look slick, it’s functionality is fluid. In my experience, it shows the same award space as the website does.

Pros:

  • Calendar feature which is similar to website, showing saver and non-saver economy and business/first class award space
  • One-way, multi-city, and roundtrip functionality
  • Flag/save flights
  • View seat-maps

Cons:

  • Sign-on required for search and booking
  • Full miles required in full for booking; no complete speculative bookings
Yes; it's a calendar! Just like the website.

Yes; it’s a calendar! Just like the website.

Air Canada’s Aeroplan

This is actually a new app that I think Air Canada nailed with its development. Even if you don’t redeem miles on Star Alliance partners, just take a look… I think this is almost tied with the United app. (Their airplane flying over instead of a typical rotational buffering search is pretty neat).

Pros:

  • Though there is a search calendar, it is not as clear what days have availability like United’s does.
  • Clear that it is a mixed parter award or operates on one carrier
  • Clearly shows if it’s a mixed class award
    IMG_6860

    Star Alliance airline icons!

IMG_6858

Cool flyer over search functionality!

Cons:

  • This is a con with the mobile app and the website. You cannot search city co-pairs/co-terminals. So you would have to search EWR/LGA/JFK separately. This is particularly frustrating with Star Alliance partners when originating or returning to the East Coast, as those airports have flights for non-United flights. United is dubbed at Newark; Lufthansa flies to both Newark and JFK, for example.
  • Sign-in required to search

Southwest

Southwest really upped its game with the launch of this new version of their app. Not only is is modern and slick, it features a nice top rolling bar to quickly scan dates. Sure, it could use a calendar but the trend is not to. That being said, here are some pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Scrolling day search to easily change dates
  • Easy display of award prices
Notice the dates on top - that scrolls either direction to go up or down in dates.

Notice the dates on top – that scrolls either direction to go up or down in dates.

Cons:

  • None for award bookings!

Delta

Delta also has an great looking app, and loses to United because it’s lack of award calendar feature. It’s definitely my go-to for Skyteam award bookings. It has a lot of great features, so this is an excellent app, even without the calendar.

Pros:

  • No sign-on required for search
  • Easy day change search
  • Speculative award bookings
  • Swipe between coach and business/first
  • Shows in-flight features and amenities
  • Delta has dynamic award pricing; when clicking on flight details you can see the Delta fare class.
If this was a saver level flight the fare class would be (N); though you cannot see it, this flight would cost 47.5K Skymiles, as opposed to the saver price of 30K.

If this was a saver level flight the fare class would be (N); though you cannot see it, this flight would cost 47.5K Skymiles, as opposed to the saver price of 30K.

Cons:

  • No calendar

Alaska Airlines

The Alaska Airlines app also went through a refresh when Alaska had a brand refresh. It’s a sleek app that has all the basic requirements, but like the others, could tighten up its calendar search function. And though most people probably do not book multi-city award tickets via their mobile devices, it’s a fun feature to have when searching around and planning a trip. What I love above this app is something I love about Alaska: it shows the same award availability as it does online. Alaska is a non-alliance partners with many airlines, and it makes searching for American airlines flights easy (unlike the American app does not!)

Pros:

  • No sign-on required for search
  • Airport co-terminal reminder
  • ‘Change cabin for more options’ reminder
  • Easy display of award/fare rules and breakdown of price
One of the most unique of the in-app features I've seen.

One of the most unique of the in-app features I’ve seen.

Reminds you to change cabin for further award options.

Reminds you to change cabin for further award options.

Cons:

  • No multi city option
  • Clunky calendar search feature

jetBlue

It may be it ranks as “needs improvement” for me because I rarely fly jetBlue and rarely conduct award searches. But, in limited experience I was not overly impressed.

Pros:

  • Initial option to sign in or continue as guest
  • Ability to view and select seats
  • Shows options to buying up from basic economy fares to “blue plus”
Nice reminder!

Nice reminder!

Cons:

  • Often errors out when searching one-way itineraries that include a non-U.S. portion.
  • Calendar function similar to British Airways
  • Sign-in required to make speculative booking

British Airways

This app is in desperate need of a refresh. British Airways has long needed a functional calendar search, as opposed to day-by-day; this carries over to the app and hinders its functionality for the user. I’m not sure if there’s anything I actually like about the application, it’s just a necessary evil as no other application allows you to search OneWorld space effectively.

Cons:

  • Frustrating sign-on system; sign in required to proceed
  • No calendar; day-by-day search similar to BA website and slow to load each day (like the site).

American Airlines

The American Airlines app has lacked the ability to search award tickets. Their websites page is quite good, but this is shameful. For whatever reasons, even when booking revenue tickets, you’re sent to their mobile site (which is also clunky). Up your game, American.

Cons:

  • Cannot search award tickets. ‘Nuff said.
When booking a flight on their mobile app, you're redirected here. You cannot even do Award searches.

When booking a flight on their mobile app, you’re redirected here. You cannot even do Award searches.

I use them all, but my top choices for booking by alliance would be:

  • Star Alliance – United
  • SkyTeam – Delta (the only option to go with)
  • OneWorld – British, but when searching for American flights I use Alaska