ASIA

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Credit Cards I Don’t Use In Spite of 50% and 100% Everyday Bonuses On All Spending

I got an email over the weekend about the Virgin American co-branded American Express products from Bank of America. They’re tempting, to a certain degree. I blogged the cards when they were introduced in June. 1.5 miles per dollar on all spend is intriguing, but not all that desirable for me. (There are also some nice perks towards elite status as well, so this card may be indispensable for the regular Virgin flyer.) Their award charts are expensive, for awards beyond Heathrow in particular, and their fuel surcharges are noxious. Personally I prefer redeeming ANA miles for Virgin flights (transferred into ANA from American Express Membership Rewards): Washington-Dulles-Heathrow in Upper Class is 90,000 Virgin miles or 68,000 ANA miles, and ANA charges about half the taxes that Virgin does on the same ticket (so a…

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Virgin America Finally Offers Redemption

Virgin America’s eleVAte program has been rather vexxing, you earn points but since the airline’s inception you couldn’t do anything with them. In fact, you didn’t even know what you would eventually be able to do with them (ok, flights were a good guess!) or at what price. My understanding is that the delay here was related to IT problems. I guess they’ve finally started getting those worked out, as they’ve just added redemption to their website. It looks like you need to be logged into an account to see the details, but helpfully there is a Flyertalk thread laying them out. (Helpfully for me because I have yet to fly Virgin America and have no eleVAte account.) What I’m seeing so far doesn’t really excite me. There are no confirmed upgrades to first class…

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New Route Alert (These Are Frequently Award Redemption Opportunities): Los Angeles – Melbourne on United

United is starting seasonal service from Los Angeles to Melbourne (December 17 – February 1). Since it’s a brand new flight, just loaded into the system a few days ago, it’s also a great opportunity for award seats and upgrades. Australia is notoriously difficult to secure premium class awards, so this is as good an opportunity as any, and during the heaviest travel season.

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British Midland 10% Bonus on Purchased Miles

The only program I’ve ever been inclined to buy miles from is British Midland, because with their cash & points award chart and unfiltered access to Star Alliance first class awards those miles have an especially high value. Members can purchase up to 20,000 miles during a 12-month preiod, and until September 30th they’re offering a 10% bonus for doing so. The current signup bonus for new members of the program is 3,000 miles. So a new member maxing out on the purchase transaction with bonus will have 25,000 miles at a cost of ~ US$480, which along with a roughly US$340 co-pay, is enough for a one-way international three-cabin first trip between Japan, China, or South Korea and Hawaii. Add in 16 Hertz rentals at 3400 miles apiece and you can fly international first…

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Sheraton to Kick Out Loser Properties and Require Club Lounges

Sheraton is a hit or miss brand at best. In Asia many of their properties are truly outstanding. Some U.S. properties are quite nice. But especially in some of their U.S. locations outside major metropolitan areas the properties have gotten pretty run down. Outside of the Sweet Sleeper bed, which I’m quite happy with, the brand has become quite hit or miss. Apparently Starwood is doing something about that. They’re kicking out 38 hotels, requiring all Sheratons to have lounges with breakfast and afternoon snacks (great for Platinum members who are guaranteed lounge access…!) and introducing new restaurant standards to ramp up the food and beverage offerings as well. Sounds like progress on the horizon for what has been an inconsistent brand in North America.

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The award itinerary I have on hold

Haven’t decided whether to keep it, whether to change it, or whether to scrap it altogether and do something else later. But it’s an example of hwat you can do with 120,000 United miles (times two — the award is for two seats, which means two award seats were available on all flights). It features international 3-cabin first class on 5 different carriers, and 11 total flights. Washington, DC to Tokyo — All Nippon Airways first class Tokyo to Hong Kong — Air Japan regional 2-cabin business class Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City — United first class Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok — Lufthansa first class Bangkok to Chiang Rai — Thai Airways 2-cabin business class Chiang Rai to Bangkok — Thai Airways 2-cabin business class Bangkok to Hong Kong — Thai…

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Whose Miles are the Most Valuable?

Frugal Travel Guy outlines how he values the mileage in the various airline programs in which he participates. He’s dead-on that British Midland”s points are worth the most: Cash and points awards stretch the value of miles. Reasonable premiums for premium class awards. Business class is 50% more expensive than coach, first class is double. One-way awards at only half the price of roundtrip provide for amazing flexibility. Star Alliance membership means that the above features are leveraged across an amazing network of carriers, and unlike United they don’t filter out otherwise-available award seats. And the program is rewarding for it’s elites as well, with low qualification thresholds for top tier (Gold), heavy bonuses for paid premium class fares (a Gold who has already requalified earns 625% on paid first class fares!), and top tier elites…

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US Airways Mastercard Now 25,000 Miles for First Use

The US Airways Mastercard offer is currently up to 25,000 miles. The offer changes occasionally, this time no annual fee waiver (or 50% bonus on spend). But it’s as rich a first-use bonus as you get, and there’s no minimum spend requirement to get it. Plus the card comes with a club pass and $99 companion ticket that’s actually usable in my experience. Well worth the $79 annual fee in my view. And there are reports that it’s churnable. This on top of the 25,000 mile offer for the Bank of America Visa and 25,000 mile offer for the Juniper Bank US Airways Business Mastercard. Now, all come with fees, but that’s 75,000 miles for three credit cards none of which have a minimum spend requirement. And since you can churn Bank of America as…

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Alaska Increases Award Prices and Introduces Partner Fees

Following on recent minor cuts from the Alaska Airlines frequent flyer program (here and here, and admittedly most would find them minor..) Alaska has announced some pretty significant changes to their Mileage Plan program effective November 1. Here’s the bad news: Domestic coach awards will now cost 25,000 miles, even when booked online. The old award was 20,000 miles, which they recently limited to those awards booked online. Now at 25,000 miles they’re just like everyone else, no longer special. Unrestricted awards and first class awards get more expensive. Unrestricted coach is 55,000 miles! Unrestricted domestic first class is now 100,000 miles! Partner award fee. $25 to book on one of their many partners, they learned this trick from Delta. It stinks, but I can live with it, the Alaska partner desk really is helpful…

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Northwest’s Odd $44 Award Fuel Surcharge for Hong Kong Departures

A week and a half or so ago Northwest announced fees for award redemption. They call them fuel surcharges, but fuel surcharges are really part of the cost of a ticket. And with awards they aren’t even tied to the fuel surcharge imposed on paid ticket, they’re made up fees imposed based on the region of travel for your award. $25 for flights within North America, $50 transatlantic, $100 transpacific, $75 intra-Asia (unless travel originates in Hong Kong, in which case it’s $44), and $50 on all other itineraries. The $44 fee for award travel beginning in Hong Kong struck me as strange. My hunch was correct, it is a bit of an anomaly. Turns out that there’s a law in Hong Kong which prevents them from imposing fuel surcharges on award tickets that are…

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