I Will Answer Your Travel Questions Here.

One of the things I really enjoy doing is responding to reader questions. Here’s your chance. I will my best to cover many of your questions. Some I may answer right away, others that I answer will take me a few weeks.

Please leave requests in the comments section.

As my boss once wrote making a similar request on his blog, “The only promise is that of weak monotonicity, namely that your mention won’t lower the chance of the topic being covered.” In other words, I won’t promise to cover everything, though I’ll read and ponder everything that’s written here in the comments.

I’d love to hear from you!

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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  1. As of the last few days for myself (or last few weeks per FlyerTalk Etihad Thread), when checking my flight here in a few weeks on Etihad EY20 Wed. 1/6 LHR > AUH OR EY11 AUH>LHR Tues. 1/12 on the A380 which I booked as a surprise for my wife and I, Expert Flyer is showing equipment changes and unable to display the seat map…As worried as I am, after searching flyer talk and finding people having the same issues on other Etihad’s A380 flights such as AUH > SYD, I am hoping it is just a glitch and representatives don’t seem to know what is going on.

    I know Etihad is notorious for changing aircrafts quite often but does anyone have any information on what is going on??? Also, if they change the aircraft how easy/how do I go about asking to have my wife and I switched to an A380 flight? (In regards to contacting Etihad and having them rebook us to a flight operated by an a380) We booked via AA miles and have some flexibility on days/times if need be. All I want is to fly first on the A380 :/ Any help and information would be greatly appreciated, thank you and happy holidays!


  2. @Levi if your aircraft gets swapped for operational reasons you are sort of stuck unless there’s award space on the flight you want to change to, you are not guaranteed a particular aircraft.

  3. A few countries have outlawed fuel surcharges. I’ve read that airlines are beginning to change the YQ definition to read “Carrier Surcharges” or some such. Are the renamed fuel surcharges still illegal?

  4. As a newbie to all this, I’ve accumulated enough points to travel and lodge in Europe and Asia. Traveling on a tour to foreign lands would probably be more preferable but traveling on points is a very low cost way to go. What I want to know is; are there day tours in Europe and Asia that are offered in the English language that are easy to find?

  5. Thanks for that general insight Gary… much appreciated. And thanks as well for your genuine enthusiasm – your blog is one of the few which doesn’t systematically make this reader feel suspicious of the writer’s intent.

    Happy New Year to you.

  6. how to keep ihg points from expiring

    in a country with no ihg — so can not stay.
    can not get an ihg credit caRD, BUT DO HAVE CREDIT CARDS

    would like to keep cost low, thanks

  7. Hi Gary. Thanks for the opportunity! I am planning to book Etihad flights with AA miles prior to the devaluation. If I call later (after the devaluation has happened) to change the dates (same routing), will AA have to reissue the tickets and charge more miles or will they be able to do the date change?
    Thank you and thanks for your great blog!

  8. Hi Gary. Thanks for the opportunity! I am planning to book Etihad flights with AA miles prior to the devaluation. If I call later (after the devaluation has happened) to change the dates (same routing), will AA have to reissue the tickets and charge more miles or will they be able to do the date change?
    Thank you and thanks for your great blog!

  9. Gary,
    First off thanks for the opportunity to ask questions.

    I have a question about Class Codes for Business flights. Would you explain or point me to some article that explains them?

    I want to book flights next year (2016) to Palau (United,Oceania). I am wanting comfortable seats for the long flights so I am assuming this means Business class. I have am building UR miles that I will probably combine with my United miles so that means United or Star Alliance.

    I am trying to understand the different Class Codes for Business enough to pick the flight. Sure I would love to have First Class service but I do not want to pay that many miles so I would be just happy with comfy seating and a real meal.
    Can you help me out with what codes I should be looking for to get the conformable seating but keeping the cost down?

    Thanks, Tom B.

  10. Besides your own (of course), are there any good travel and/or miles and points blogs that you recommend?

  11. @Thomas Buechner – Star Alliance business class awards book into “I” inventory but you’re just going to want to do your award searches online without need for understanding class codes, eg using the Aeroplan website.

  12. Hi Gary,

    With the great changes going on with American award availability and that of other airlines, I’d very much welcome your thoughts on the best first class award deals with partner airlines (in terms of quality of seats and service) that are still often available (especially with the devaluation looming). For instance, Cathay Pacific used to often be available in first, but there’s little or no availability these days. In my limited searching for Tokyo-San Francisco the same seems to apply to JAL first (except for the late night HND-SFO flights with their limited meal service). So:

    1. Primarily, any recommendations on what good value first class partner awards are still often available using AA miles?
    2. If you have time, same question for business class partner awards and awards in first and business on AA itself.
    3. If you have time, same question for United partner airlines in first and business class.
    4. If you really have lots of time, same question for Delta business class partners.

    Thanks for any help and happy holidays!

  13. Hi Gary,

    2 questions

    1. I am flying to and from YUL airport. I have Global Entry. I know Canada also had Nexus which I do not have. As only a Global Entry member, will I get to use a special kiosk for immigration when arriving and departing YUL? Do I also get to use YULs Nexus line at security? Or do I only get Global Entry when going through US Preclearence in YUL?

    2. I will be flying on an AA 767 in first class from MIA-LAS this spring. I know AA has their international business class seat as a hard product on their 767s standard. However will anything change about the soft product, meaning will I get the international pillow and blanket or just the standard domestic blanket? Will I get improved food service and the Samsung Galaxy Tablet? Or will it be the same soft product as the narrow bodies on that route with just the better hard product?

    Thank you in advanced for looking at these questions. I enjoy reading your blog!

  14. Is there any way to get into the Star alliance lounge at TBIT without special status? Will a United free day pass coupon work? Is there a particular credit card you’d recommend that will also give me entry status? I have a long layover at LAX before flying to New Zealand.

  15. @Steve – some Cathay space may be available when schedule opens, and it becomes available if unsold close to departure.

    JAL first class is a very good product.

    Etihad first class is very available and one of the world’s best products.

    Qantas first is tough but occasionally does open, I flew it a year ago Sydney – Los Angeles and have a booking for a few months from now DFW-SYD-DFW

    British Airways first isn’t fantastic, entails fuel surcharges, but is very available.

    With United miles you’ll find that Asiana awards in first can be done Los Angeles – Seoul and JFK – Seoul. ANA awards are easier than they once were. And Lufthansa awards open up within two weeks of travel. Thai first class between Europe and Bangkok is also quite doable.

    One of the most available first class awards is Korean, but even though they are Skyteam you can’t use Delta miles for first class.

    Business class is a whole different discussion…

  16. Hi Gary, I received your great news of Etihad releasing award 1st class from AUH–>JFK for AA redemption. It shows availability so I called AA to book the open seat under Guest First. The AA rep said there is no availability on any of the dates even though it comes up as there are. Is this phantom space showing up or is there a work-around some way? Thank you!

  17. @Casey you need to call the Australian number (though some people report success with UK) in order to book. American appears unable to see much Etihad first class award space, I believe there are ‘point of sale’ restrictions in place on Etihad’s side that block the US calls centers from booking.

  18. Hi Gary,
    I would like to take part on a inaugural flight in the future. What is the best way to look up inaugural flights which are being planned by airlines? Thank you

  19. @Flip – what kind of inaugural flight are you after?

    – a new route?
    – a new aircraft type?
    – a new aircraft type for a particular airline?

    Depending on what you’re looking for I can offer advice.

    Here are my reports from the American 787 inaugural:

    The American Airbus A321T (premium) inaugural:

    The launch party for EVA Air’s Houston inaugural:

    American’s Austin- Miami inaugural:

  20. @Gary

    In regards to what kind of inaugural flights I am interested in – most exciting would be the first commercial flight of a new aircraft type (e.g. B787 on All Nippon, A350 Qatar,…) followed by new aircraft type for the particular airline. Is any of those expected/planned in foreseeable future?
    Thank you

  21. @Filip well Singapore gets the first Boeing 787-10 in 2018. The 777X (777-8 and 777-9) starts rolling out in 2018 also based on current schedule, if memory serves Etihad is launch customer. I’m not as up on the schedules for Airbus.

  22. Prices to Hawaii are fixed high from LAX, but AK discounts them from San Diego with full mileage. So others will match or better AK from SAN by making you connect in LA, SFO or PHX. I’m willing to do this in one direction for an overnight layover in PHX, but want to throw away my return LAX-SAN. What’s the possibility this will cause my mileage or acct.to be penalized?

  23. What is your opinion regarding the current “purchase miles” promo from American/Advantage that expires 1/4/16? Value?

  24. @Kathy best price we’ve seen on the AAdvantage side, I’d only do it to top off an account or if i could hold an award for 5 days and then buy the miles

  25. Hello Gary,

    I’m interested in using Citi Thank You points to purchase an economy ticket to Australia. I know the TU points ticket looks like a revenue ticket to AA and earns points, but if I am EXP with American, can I use a systemwide upgrade to bump my economy ticket to a business class ticket?

    I wasn’t sure if there was some other qualifier that identify a TU point purchase as as ‘Award’ to AA, thus making it ineligible for systemwide upgrades.

    Thanks in Advance,

  26. Hi Gary,

    loyalty program of which airline from Star Alliance would you recommend to use for collecting miles/points? Thank you

  27. @Filip – do you mean which Star Alliance frequent flyer program is the best to accumulate points with? It depends. United and Avianca mean no fuel surcharges. I really like Asiana’s award chart. But need to know where you’re based, what your reward goals are, etc. as well as what you fly [e.g. Singapore currently gives 1 mile per mile flown on United regardless of fare] to offer a good opinion.

  28. I have a complicated routing coming up later this year, but have enough points. Do you have a booking service or can recommend one?

  29. The Big 3 US airlines consistently offer saver awards on partner metal at times they are not offering it on their own metal, e.g. BA or VS to London, TP to Lisbon. Are you able to explain why this is economically advantageous to the US carrier?

  30. @jerry rothstein saver awards on an airline’s own metal will be cheaper than buying saver awards on a partner.

    however saver awards on a partner are cheaper than extra miles awards on an airline’s own metal.

    generally the partner determines when saver award space is available, there are only a few cases where an airline blocks that space.

    and the frequent flyer program determines redemption levels and pays for redemptions but an airline’s revenue management decides what inventory to make available on a given flight.

    a redemption that trades off with a paid ticket is the most expensive indeed.

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