Unrelated observations

I’m sitting here in one of my absolute favorite hotels, the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida. I reviewed it extensively with photos this past September, so I’ll spare most of the details.

This isn’t the highest-end property in South Florida — it’s not the Mandarin Oriental Miami or the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, for instance — though it’s more than nice and at a much better price point.

What sets it apart is that there is no better property in the world for elite recognition. They upgrade platinums to suites consistently, and have even been known to let Platinum members know in advance when a suite upgrade might not be forthcoming. And those suites are large, with nice bathrooms, and wraparound balconies overlooking the ocean. It’s a very large hotel with nearly 1000 rooms but they still manage to execute service well. Housekeeping isn’t flawless but a phone call takes care of things quickly. Most hotels of this size have significant issues with valet parking, but I’ve never been made to wait here. Even when my trips have me needing to be 30 miles away I still find an excuse to stay here.

A real kudos to a wonderful staff that always smile and go out of the way to help. I just feel comfortable here.

I’ve gotten some email questions about Avis status levels recently, and I thought I’d relay a story about Chairman’s Club. I rented at the Miami airport yesterday (I fly in there so I can swing by my favorite Cuban restaurant — Las Culebrinas — for lunch when I land). Reservation was for a mid-size car. I was put into a Cadillac, and what I especially liked was the cooling seats. After lunch, heading up on the freeway to the Diplomat, I noticed a screaching noise on acceleration. Got to the hotel and rang up the Avis Chairman’s Club number. Within minutes I had a call from the Miami location. They were sending someone immediately with a replacement car, they would do the switch at my hotel (which isn’t even in Miami). They waived the day’s rental charge and also gave me (3) combinable $25 rental certificates. An hour later I was in another Cadillac. And as usual the airport location offers priority dropoff, they’ll drive me to the terminal in the rental car instead of having me unload luggage and take the Avis bus. Not bad for a $22/day rental.

Two recent email correspondents were looking for help with award travel.

As I’ve mentioned before the best place to search for Star Alliance availability is on the ANA website, though Air Canada works well too. Sign up for accounts with both, start with the most difficult (transatlantic or transpacific) legs of your trip using all possible gateways one at a time, and construct an itinerary that you’ll know to ask for when calling up to make a reservation through your program of choice. Award availability isn’t always a perfect match across programs, but it’s generally close. One correspondent even found two first class seats on Singapore, an admittedly difficult task (don’t try this at home, kids).

Another correspondent was looking for award seats to Tahiti. In my past experience seats on Air Tahiti Nui were incredibly easy to come by. Looks like things have tightened up significantly. Every flight used to begin with 2 out of 6 first class seats available for award redemption (availability in the A bucket). Now I generally see only 1. And business class seats are also tighter. From memory (and if this matters, please check this or email me and ask me to) business awards used to come from the Z fare bucket and now they’re out of I inventory, and I seems few and far between. A real disappointment. I enjoyed my trip to Tahiti and Auckland in their first class last summer.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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