How to Avoid Paying Fuel Surcharges on Star Alliance Awards and the New Qatar Business Class Suite

News and notes from around the interweb:

  • These are the flights US airlines are asking for permission to fly to Cuba according to the AP’s Scott Mayerowitz.

    The good news for airlines is they can only operate a limited number of Havana flights. That limits how much they’ll lose on what’s still primarily a leisure destination with limited leisure facilities, and that depends on traffic entirely from the US with almost no Cuba-originating traffic. It’s a good destination, it’s worth some flying there, but the level of enthusiasm isn’t yet justified by the opportunity.

    You can see from these requests which airlines are cautious towards Cuba and which want to go all-in.

  • Hotels may tell you they want to save the environment by not changing your sheets or towels and that may even be true but it conveniently coincides with cost savings. At least Starwood’s “Make a Green Choice” gives back some of the savings in the form of Starpoints. Likewise, via Scott Mayerowitz as well when a hotel says they’re offering more flexible spaces that drive you to the lobby because it’s what millenials want what they really mean is that it’s cheaper for them and brings incremental revenue potential. Stick that in the desk drawer your room no longer has.

    That’s one of the reasons Hilton’s Tru will cost about $84,000 a room to build, compared to $110,000 for its Hampton Inn brand. And Best Western just launched a new brand, Glo, which will cost $65,000 per room for construction.

    These rooms are also easier to clean meaning hotels can pare down their housekeeping staff.

    “This industry is starting to figure out what is efficient,” says Scott Berman, who looks at the hotel industry for consulting and accounting firm PwC. “It begins with labor.”

  • The Department of Transportation bans the use of e-cigarettes inflight. Of course airlines also ban their use, so this changes nothing. And it fails to recognize that there’s neither smoke nor fire involved with an e-cigarette, just water vapor (and no, I do not vape).

  • In April American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood transfer partner Aeroplan will being to allow you to spend miles to cover taxes and fuel surcharges. It’s unlikely to be a good deal. As Aeroplan’s Christa Poole tells me,

    The rate will vary and will move around based on a few factors such as member’s travel itinerary choice etc.

    A member will be informed by Aeroplan at time of booking of the mileage level required to cover the applicable taxes/fees/surcharges and the member will always have the option to choose the form of payment (Miles or cash) most convenient for him/her.

    Here’s how to book Star Alliance awards through Aeroplan without fuel surcharges.

  • The pilot of a Saudia Airbus A321 had a heart attack and died on arrival at Riyadh on Tuesday. Thoughts and wishes to his family.

  • Is Delta fudging its pension costs? A $10 billion shortfall and assumptions of a 9% long run rate of return despite investing less than half of pension assets in ‘growth-seeking assets’. (Of course the Pension Protection Act of 2006 allowed Delta to slow its pension contributions for 17 years, not foreseeing $10 billion in profits between 2014 and 2015.

  • Never believe anything that Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker says, but they’re planning to introduce a new business class in November with suite-style sliding doors and,

    at least the middle seats is a ‘double bed’, according to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, who promises it “will frankly be first class at a business class fare.”

  • The final engine shutdown for the prototype Boeing 727.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I am an Enrolled (pension) Actuary. None of my clients use a return assumption above 7.5%, and that is for a 70/30 portfolio. You would think that Delta would use all those ‘profits’ to de-risk their pension plan. I guess they are still relying on a PBGC bailout in the worst case scenario…

  2. Two good reasons not to allow vaping on planes:

    1. Potential fire/explosion hazard from the batteries. (

    2. The vapor often has a strong smell from added scents. I don’t want to sit next to someone who is emitting a nasty fake vanilla/watermlon/pumpkin/strawberry aroma, thanks very much.

  3. Delta’s pension portfolio must be invested in long-term put options on SkyMiles!

  4. Delta wants current share holders and management to make money at expense of tax payers and employees. Amazing how American workers take so much shit and don’t commit physical violence on the management. This is a concious decision to have train wreck and shortfall in pension. It’s not a sudden bad luck.

  5. “The DOT concluded that the aerosol emitted from e-cigarettes or exhaled by users contains heavy metals, particles that may damage the lungs and cancer-causing chemicals, according to the regulation.”

    E-cigarettes were developed by some Chinese entrepreneur without any kind of studies of their effects on both the user and those exposed to aerosols.

    There’s more than just water vapor in what they exhale. If all they inhaled was water vapor, people wouldn’t bother doing it in the first place.

  6. As a physician, I support the use of e-cigarettes for smokers because I think they are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco. That does not, however, mean they’re “safe”.

    Despite what proponents may claim, e-cigarettes produce all sorts of hazardous volatile organic compounds in addition to water vapour, not to mention the health risks associated with the nicotine itself for those using them as a replacement product. Suffice it to say, there are good reasons why non-smokers/non-vapers would want to avoid being trapped in a confined space with these things.

    E-cigarettes are a tool for harm reduction (much like condoms, safe injection sites, etc.), but you should not confuse that with harm elimination.

  7. Vaping is simply a means to keep people addicted to tobacco since there are more restrictions on smoking . I smoked 40+ years and quit 5 years ago . I’m so glad to be free of it .
    I’m in favor of almost any measure to reduce smoking ( hey , what are you doing with that cattle prod ? Why is this wet cloth covering my face ? ) Repeated corporal punishment for tobacco company execs wouldn’t bother me either .
    So , feel sorry for mistreated vapers ? Not even a little !

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