Monday Open Thread

What’s on your mind? Share it in the comments.

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. discuss the ‘fuel dumping’ fare tricks often secretly discussed on FT/MilePoint trick-it forums. i hate the secrecy there – can you shed some light?

  2. Being that many upgrade certs are expiring the end of Feb, I was wondering if anyone had any AA upgrade certs they aren’t planning on using.

    I’m taking my wife on a surprise valentines day trip to Paris from Feb 13- Feb 17th and getting upgraded would just be amazing. Please feel free to contact me at:

    valuefinder001 at gmail

    Thanks in advance!

  3. Don’t have status on US or UA and trying to figure out where I should credit to this year. Unsure if I will have enough miles for status. The biggest thing is redemption since I really like OW awards and UA is a partner with Chase, however, if US/AA hook up, that presumably means OW in that new program. AA does not serve my home airport…decisions, decisions.

  4. KLM denying my status match they gave me prior to changing the terms of the offer. I find it frustrating my mistakes with them cost me fees but they can just say sorry.

  5. If I have Turkish Airlines Gold Status (Star Alliance Gold), do I qualify for Economy Plus seating on United? Uniteds website won’t allow me to change seats without a fee even if I have my Turkish Airlines gold number in my profile.

  6. Great that you have this open forum, Gary, as there’s been a question I’ve been meaning to ask. Or should I say, some mystification I’ve been meaning to air. I’ve read multiple threads at Flyertalk and multiple posts at your and other bloggers’ sites discussing Vanilla Reloads, using debit and gift cards to indirectly accumulate miles and points (and/or meeting spending targets for bonuses), etc. But it all sounds very complicated and to involve multiple stages. I’m interested in learning how I can use these systems to accumulate miles or points to pay my mortgage and other uses where I can’t use my credit cards. Is there a site or a post you could direct me to that clearly, carefully explains these processes and assumes no prior knowledge or any of this stuff on the reader’s part? Thanks.

  7. brimming with excitement about the upcoming FTU in april… any news of when the agenda will be out?

  8. The 250 miles per purchase Avianca mileage thing is on my mind. They haven’t paid out any of the miles yet, and people are fighting them.

    Have you heard anything on your end?

  9. I wonder what will happen if many of the FF programs change… will we have to fly coach and pay for fares? I would hate that to happen… what if they change the game so much that we won’t be able to adapt?

  10. I have an upcoming trip to MLE on CX using AA award. I’m having a hard time getting excited as the HKG to CMB leg is in old school regional business class and arrives in CMB at 23:00. There is a 9 hour layover in CMB before the morning flight to MLE. What do you do in CMB with a 9 hour layover in CMB? I wish there was a better way to get to MLE.

  11. Mostly a warning: Foolishly I credited a UA trip to Aegean, not realizing only USAir’s cheapest fare flights credit 1:1 to Aegean. United only credits at 1/2 for the lowest bucket, plus for some reason only the outbound legs are showing credited. Pretty sure you covered that, but I missed it. Quite a hassle flying this one too as UA did not seem to permit two FF#s (one for benefits, one for credits). Probably that was my fault? As UA Silver, the result was that E+ bookable 24 hours in advance but only worked when I set FF# to UA and then set back to Aegean. Annoying, because those UA miles would otherwise have been bonus’d and are instead cut in half. Need to find some US ex-DCA flights — I want lounge access domestically!

  12. Value is an individual trait.

    While many in the points and miles hobby try to maximize value by spending points on Business and First class seats on international travel, there are other great options that may be more valuable on a family level.

    This weekend, our family secured two low-level (25k) Delta tickets on an Alaska Airline codeshare from Portland to Anaheim. While the cash ticket we bought was ~$250, that is $500 we didn’t need to spend out of pocket (providing an acceptable $0.01/mile rebate)!

    Maybe not a lot in comparison to many redemptions, but a solid WIN for our family, especially since 45k of those miles were from a sign-up bonus. Add to this the free night in the Orange County Hyatt Regency due to the Hyatt card signup bonus, and we have one happy wife, and when momma’s happy, everyone is happy.

    The important thing is the idea of personal value, where a free ticket to see grandma or to a long weekend destination is just as valuable as inspirational travel to Bora Bora. Sometimes, the small things matter most.

  13. Anyone know of any great point redemption opportunities in the Caribbean/Mexico area for a honeymoon? Looking to book a week or so in the first week of May. Would actually prefer all-inclusive, but willing to consider other options.

  14. My flight to BKK arrives at 1am in the morning. Is it worth checking in at a hotel at 2am or stay somewhere at the airport till morning instead of wasting one hotel night. I have three nights stay at Intercontinental without status with priority club points. We are a party of 3, myself, wife and a teenage daughter.

  15. Staying at Marriott In Heidelberg Germany. Category 5 hotel normally costs 25K points per night but during the winter season, rooms are only 18,750 points per night. Great views and food in the executive lounge.

  16. Being that many upgrade certs are expiring the end of Feb, I was wondering if anyone had any AA upgrade certs they aren’t planning on using.

    I’m taking my wife on a surprise valentines day trip to Paris from Feb 13- Feb 17th and getting upgraded would just be amazing. Please feel free to contact me at:

    valuefinder001 at gmail

    Thanks in advance!

  17. Whats on my mind? I still have no idea how to use my AMEX points to it’s fullest potential. It’s hard to book on Delta and none of the other airlines fly out of my home city.

  18. As for a question or future blog post: how does an airline decide which financial company they should form an alliance?

    If US and AA do merge, I’m curious which bank (Citi or Barclays) would win the relationship, how they would be involved in financing the merge, how the relationship affects both companies, and how it may effect the credit card offers.

    There is much chatter regarding the relationship between AMEX and Delta, and how much Delta receives from their co-branded credit card fees, miles, and services, and whether it is enough income to warrant the new Medallion Qualification Dollars requirement, or if AMEX just “asked” to be in on the deal.

    Also, the relationship between Chase and United Airlines seems to be locked solid, to the point where Chase has exclusive rights to all things United (such as credit card and lounge agreements). With the Chase Sapphire Preferred giving the same or more UA miles than UA’s co-branded cards, I wonder how much sway Chase holds over United, at least for these transactions.

    Some Bank-Airline relationships seem fairly superficial, while others are deeply woven. How do you see the relationship between airlines and financial institutions, how long will they last, and how might this play out with a potential merger of US/AA as well as effect the non-legacy airlines (like WN, B6, etc)?

  19. Wondering if we’ll get one more hotel bonus/gift miles churn out of US? Travel booked for the year, but with the right combo of bonuses, I’d be in for one more round…

  20. Why do the policies for purchasing Vanilla Reload Cards vary so much within a store chain? (CVS, Walgreens)

  21. With all of Delta’s remarketing cookie data being shown to us in the open last week, are you surprised they only focused on the “positive” aspects of their relationship with us? For example, I was surprised there wasn’t a variable about how often we complain about flights, our twitter handles, etc.

    I guess that this data is not really influential in their targeting us with offers, but I would be really curious to see what type of information they keep on each of us, and how readily accessible it is across the system.

  22. Anyone hit yet with the CC surcharge at a major chain as a direct result of yesterday’s law going into effect?

  23. Gary..I am a ELITE (gold *A member) with Turkish Airlines as well as Silver with Virgin Atlantic and Silver with Cathy Pacific. I would like to stick to one international airline program but cant decide which to keep. Of course TA program is 2 year and you can purchase 10K miles towards elite status. With VS, it is based on tier point but I do have the Black Amex VS credit card where I can achieve tier point. With CX, they are with One world which is also good like *Alliance. Can you guide me and let which is best for elite benefits and also for mileage award levels.

    I will await your reply.


  24. Want to go to Asia in May, from SF, but need to be in NYC the following weekend. Was trying to find some way to route via the Atlantic but was not looking promising so far.

  25. trying to find cheapest way to Tokyo in the next few months from Vancouver
    it’s actually cheaper to go to Fukuoka with a nice layover in Hawaii. but I really need to get to Tokyo because I have things in storage that need to be taken out
    how can I get there the cheapest because I don’t have sugficient miles right now

  26. I am contemplating going the mileage run route for status on Delta or United…I fly only domestic leisure abt 10 times a yr (once international),but
    I have the ability to accumulate a lot of miles thru CC spending(300K+) should I just bite the bullet and always just book 1st class? ( I missed the CO prez plat CC sign up and don’t want to spend $450 on the DL resv)

    I only true benefit I see from status is free cancel on booked award/pay flights and the better availability of saver awards on UA..thank you

  27. Are there any alternatives to VR cards for racking up points that your willing to share?

    Also if traveling to Asia on a United award ticket how do I route it so that I can do an open jaw/stopover in Hawaii?

  28. reply to bluecat…CC surcharge are not permitted in 10 states and any business doing business in those states and another state will be barred from surcharges, so I think the major chains will be unable to surcharge….

    also any merchant that also accepts Amex is not permitted to surcharges…it really will be a non-factor except for small mom and pops

  29. Ditto #12 Caveman – also arriving early AM in BKK. Just a party of one headed on to Laos in the late AM. Seems if you leave you get taxed and the nearby walk to hotel is pretty steep for a few hours nap.

  30. Trying to move from KC to a bigger city. Is living in a big city with reliable public transportation like Chicago, SF or New York? Worth it? Or would something like Miami, LA, Dallas or Phoenix be more realistic?

    Interested in stories from those that moved to bigger cities for jobs/opportunities.

  31. Wondering if you and the other FTU organizers would like a presentation on “wallet loyalty: using priceline to save on hotels”.

  32. I am considering a tour of Moracco leaving from Fez on October 4 and ending at Marrakech October 18 of this year. But finding flights to and from the tour is proving to be quite challenging. Stopovers in interesting places like Paris and/or Madrid would be nice.

    I can find no airline flying to Fez for which I can use miles to get a ticket. Frustrating, since I have a zillion miles in all alliances. I see Royal Air Maroc flights to Fez from Paris for over $200, but getting to Paris from San Francisco is challenging. Air France has a non stop, but apparently Delta won’t book in on miles, and Delta won’t allow one way tickets at half the miles.

    I see flights from Marrakech to Los Angeles via Madrid on Iberia, probably available on American miles, but American won’t allow a stopover in Madrid. Getting from LAX to SFO should be easy on American. I can Avios to Iberia from Membership Rewards points via British Air, but I don’t yet know if Iberia uses the same distance based award prices as does British Air.

    Currently I have just looked for flights. But I would also insist on Business Class or better on the longer flights. I have always been able to get what I want to anywhere I want to go, but this one may be my undoing.

    Anyway, getting an award seat can be frustrating, but I enjoy the challenge and the learning experience.

    That’s what’s on my mind today.

  33. Vinny V- I just moved from St. Louis to Chicago. I love it but I am a big city girl. The public transportation is so wonderful and convenient. The city is also more expensive and the crime rate is higher. I thought I would be flying UA out of O’Hare more often. Surprisingly, I have been on AA and SWA my 3 trips this year. Also, I don’t think Miami and Dallas (or Phoenix) really get to be on a list for reliable public transportation.

  34. So because of mechanical issues USAir bumps me from FC to coach on 3 out of 4 legs this past weekend. Tickets purchased with CITI Rewards, outbound to DCA canceled, prepaid hotel night lost, put on Saturday am flight, return from DCA delayed, missed connecting, put in last row against lavatory. What should I expect from them?

  35. @Gary United flies SFO-CDG direct. Ryan Air may not be your first choice but they seem to fly lots of places in Europe.

  36. Gary,

    Please use your business knowledge & your lucid prose to explain the economics of hotel chains. For example, how many hotels does Hilton own & how many are franchises? Are elite benefits more likely to be honored at Hilton-owned properties than at franchised ones?

    Thanks in advance.

  37. I’ve always been curious how partner airlines get reimbursed for their award seats. As in the recent Delta/Air France speculation where Air France award was not available to Delta because Delta had to pony up too much money for their seats, how does US Airways (also known as the consolidator of cheap *A business flights) get away with selling business class seats for 1.8 cents per mile?

  38. My new strategy with hotels may just be to do one Platinum level challenge after another (I know some of them have lifetime limits but there are ways around that). It always seems the place you want to travel next doesn’t have the property have you have status at, or the property you have status at is a dump compared to the one you want to stay at. Maintaining high level status in a few chains maximizes chances of actually benefiting from it. And it seems in general the smaller the chain the greater the benefit to having the status.

    Which got me thinking perhaps these companies should actually just be better at recognizing who their potentially better customers are anyway (even if they stay at competitors). Seems like most of them don’t really have much intelligence in this regard or much real social media savvy in general.

  39. Any idea or guess if/wnen we might see an AX Membership Rewards bonus for conversion to Delta SkyMiles. I am sitting on 120000, do not need anything instantly (I have over 1 million SkyMiles in my account) and just waiting

  40. What is the proper way to get cash conpensation for BA flight delays. UK Rule 241 explained on Wikipedia.

  41. I have a lot in my mind. After reading so many comments here…I am not going to add to your burden;-)

    By the way, I loved the simplicity of this post, giving readers the floor!

  42. Just got two first class tickets for friends from Charlotte to Vegas for 50k miles each on American. Probably not the best use of the miles, but economy was the same number of miles, so I went for it. Hopefully my friends will enjoy the first class and Vegas!

  43. Want to take a cruise out of Europe-several pot options wondering what airlines to use for booking, ie US Air, Taca, etc and which airlines for actual flight. Want 1st class, great experience. Thanks!

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