Search Results for "ASIA".

Starwood’s Major Cash & Points Benefit Enhancement

I’ve give Starwood a hard time lately, because their points devaluation was a pretty big deal. But they’ve taken a step to give back a lot of value to members with changes to the Cash & Points program. One of the better features of the program over the years has been the ability to combine points and cash at a pretty favorable rate towards award nights. So instead of spending, for instance, 10,000 points on a category 4 hotel you could spend just 4,000 points + $60. This was a better option because you were basically ‘buying’ the difference in points at just 1 cent apiece. However, only some hotels would participate each quarter. Starwood would have to solicit them to do so, and most would opt out except for in their slowest seasons. As…

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An End to One of the Great Award Values

For years I’ve been a huge fan of Cathay Pacific’s AsiaMiles program. AsiaMiles could be used to upgrade flights on their partners, including American and some great upgrade options with British Airways. And there have been some real gems in the award chart, such as just 60,000 miles for a business class award under 5000 miles each way. So a British Airways award from the US East Coast to most of Europe was just 60,000 miles in business, compared to 100,000 miles in BA’s own program. Last year a colleague came to me, about to redeem 100,000 Delta miles for a ‘SkyChoice’ (no capacity control) award to Europe in coach. Instead I suggested he transfer 50,000 Starwood points to 60,000 AsiaMiles and redeem for the same award on British Airways in Business (where availability was…

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USAirways Quietly Devalues Award Chart

Mar 08 2007

USAirways seems to have updated their award chart with no notice whatsoever. The first item I’ve noticed is that flights between North America and “South and Central Asia” now run 80,000 miles for coach/120,000 for business/160,000 for first class — up from 60/90/120 thousand respectively.This really is a disappointment. I know that USAirways has had a much maligned program, and things have generally changed for the worse since America West took over things. But I was just starting to collect USAirways miles again over the past few months, racking up about 90,000. And now that doesn’t buy my favorite award any longer. Update: This was discussed briefly earlier in the week on Flyertalk. It surprises me that there’s less attention being paid to it than I would have expected. One summary of the changes to…

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Pushing for a Room at Checkin

Sometimes room upgrades require a little push at check-in. It would be nice if it wasn’t necessary, but sometimes it is. And sometimes, even though you’ve been upgraded, you can improve that upgrade — even beyond what you’re entitled to under the guidelines of the hotel chain’s loyalty program. Last month I completed my tour of disfavored Westin hotels (my earlier post on the Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach is here). I visited the Westin Rio Mar — generally disfavored because, though there are plenty of suites and it’s an oceanfront resort, the property needs some real renovation work and the beach is hardly the best in Puerto Rico. (In general, the ‘mega resort’ experience on Puerto Rico is superior at El Conquistador.) Still, I was in the area and wanted to see for myself,…

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Delta Clamps Down on Award Routings

Jan 18 2007

This is probably too inside baseball and technical for most frequent flyer program members, but Delta has implemented some nasty changes in the way they allow (or don’t allow!) you to book awards. There’s a current discussion of this on Flyertalk, naturally. As of this month, awards can only have two stops each way domestically and three internationally. If you live in, say, Montana and want to get somewhere on the East Coast you already have to make two stops (in Salt Lake City and Atlanta) most of the time. No extra stops in order to find an available award, and no extra stops to utilize your allowable stopover in a non-hub city.You can also only use ‘published routings’ when constructing your award itinerary. I have a United award flying DC-New York-San Francisco-Osaka-Bangkok-Phuket (with stops…

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Testing Award Redemption

This month’s Inside Flyer cover story is about award redemption. They tested several airline programs across several routes, both online booking engines and call centers, at various points in time to get real data on how programs rank in satisfying member needs. A key takeaway is that the USAirways website is terrible, always call. But more generally, just because the web doesn’t show availability with any program, try the phone. Very few websites check more than the most traditional flight routings, and even fewer offer good details on partner award availability.American’s program fares well as it always does. United didn’t do as good a job at redemption as its results two years ago, which is consistent with my own experience as well (though nothing beats Star Alliance awards for Asia). Despite the article reporting some…

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United Introduces Star Alliance Upgrades

Jul 19 2006

United has introduced Star Alliance upgrade awards — upgrades on most of their Star Alliance partners confirmed by redeeming miles. These has been available on other Star Alliance carriers for several months, United has just introduced them, but it’s notable that only Star Alliance offers this quite so broadly.United miles can be used for upgrades on ANA, Asiana, Austrian, LOT, Lufthansa, TAP Portugal and Thai Airways. (United miles could previously be used for upgrades on Lufthansa, but those were space available rather than confirmed.) Currently there are no upgrade options for other Star carriers such as Singapore, Air Canada, bmi, Swiss, Spanair, SAS, South African Airways, etc. Hopefully they’ll come in the future. Unfortunately you need to be buying nearly a full fare ticket in order to use this option. Y and B coach fares…

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Why do I let hotel rankings bother me so much?

Travel and Leisure has come out with its 2006 list of the world’s best hotels. Every year these lists come out, and even though I should know better I allow them to frustrate me. Why is it that people who know little about hotels get treated as experts? How could they make such monumental ranking blunders? Indulge me by allowing me to point out just a few absurdities: The Royal Orchid Sheraton in Bangkok — listed as the #36 hotel in Asia — isn’t even the best Sheraton in the city and certainly isn’t better than the Grand Hyatt Erawan (#42), whose bungalows vault the hotel into the same league as Bangkok’s Peninsula and Oriental properties. The Inn at Little Washington is nice, though more worthwhile for dinner than for lodging and more notable in…

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What Cathy Doesn’t Know, or Why Cartoon Characters Can’t Redeem Their Miles

Yesterday’s Cathy cartoon expressed a common frustration about using frequent flyer miles. I don’t mean to dismiss the idea because it is commonly held and people do have difficulty redeeming miles. But the conventional wisdom doesn’t match reality. If you take the miles and points game seriously, you should be able to do pretty well on the redemption side. Here are some basic tips. Build up miles in a single program until you have enough for the awards you want, and then diversify into other programs. That way when it comes time to redeem you’ll have more than one program to choose from. Sometimes United hasn’t had seats, but American does. Or Delta won’t, but United will. One good way to do this is to accumulate miles through partner activities (credit cards, mortgages, internet service,…

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One reporter’s view on how to book whatever award ticket you wish

John Ewoldt of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has nerves of steel and decides to book whatever award tickets are available and just shows up for travel on his preferred dates and times. Not a recommended strategy, and contrary to Ewoldt’s assertions this is not something that will work on all award tickets. Just try it with many carriers’ partner awards or with a good number of Asian or European carriers that don’t permit changes. But I still have to respect his effort!

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