Ask Lucky

Have a travel related question? Post it here, and I’ll do my best to answer it as quickly as possible.
If you have questions about how to search for award space or how to redeem miles I’ve probably already answered it in a more detailed post, so check out the “Tips & Tutorials” page for some quick references.
This space is intended to be more of a community as well, so feel free to jump in and share tips!

Comments

  1. I’ll start. I’ve never done this “free confirmed changes” thing on UA for 1Ks before. If I want to get on an earlier ORD-LAX flight, can I do that with OLCI or do I need to call reservations 24 hours in advance? My upgrades have already cleared but I want to switch to an earlier flight that has intl 767 config, if possible.

  2. I have a question that’s been bothering me for a long time. I live in Chicago; consequently, I’m 1K @ UA, EXP @ AA. I travel a lot and have had status in these programs for a long time.

    My question has to do with: upgrades! As an EXP @ AA, the airline will upgrade me on domestic flights almost 100% of the time without payment (certs, miles, or otherwise). On the other hand, with UA, even as 1K, they require “payment” in the form of the ecerts or miles.

    Since most people seem to prefer status in order to secure upgrades, I don’t understand the economics supporting upgrades in United’s program. I understand that we get certs deposited in the account here and there based on mileage flown; but it still doesn’t seem to equal out so that one would have enough certs to fly up-front the same amount as they would be able to on AA (100% of the time, assuming domestic). Top it off with the fact that certs on United are more expensive than AA (I recall them being $50/ea vs AA where they were $30/ea…although I haven’t purchased any in a coons age).

    Regards,
    Ash

  3. @ Scholar in Training — You would be best off calling reservations three hours before the flight you want to take to confirm yourself on it. Before that there’s really no benefit to checking in or calling reservations. Since you’re upgraded, it’s also worth noting that you’d be confirmed into coach and would once again have to get on the upgrade waitlist to get into business class. If it’s not a busy business travel day you shouldn’t have too much trouble, though.

  4. @ Ashley — Great question, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer, but I’ll try. For one, the only way to sponsor an upgrade for a traveling companions (or anyone else except yourself, for that matter) on American would be to burn miles, eVIP’s, or to buy stickers. At United, on the other hand, you can use confirmed regional upgrades or the 500’ers we get for free to sponsor companions, which I like. At the same time, unless you have a perfectly balanced flying schedule (about 50% longhaul international, 50% domestic), you’re right, you’ll probably end up in coach sometimes. The benefit to others with this is that the lower tier elites actually stand a chance at upgrades, since 1K’s aren’t always getting upgraded.

    At the same time there are ways to get creative with upgrade instruments. United counts the distance from the origin to the destination (assuming the upgrade clears before check-in), so you can actually get more than 500 miles worth of flying upgraded with a 500 mile upgrade. Along the same lines, if you’re flying SFO-JFK-LAX-SFO for example, united.com will often upgrade SFO-JFK-LAX with one 500 miler, since that’s the distance between SFO and LAX.

    So while it doesn’t get you up front every time, I’m almost always in first class thanks to upgrades, and if not there’s Economy Plus, which is basically ghetto first class. Actually, with the new “choice” menu it might just be better than first class.

  5. Hmm. So if I have a confirmed F seat on the later flight maybe it makes more sense to just standby for C on the earlier flight? Because if I do a confirmed switch and am in Y and I don’t clear… then that would suck. I’d rather fly later on the 319 in F than earlier on the 767 in Y. See what I’m saying?

  6. @ Scholar in Training — If your flight is showing NC space when you want to make the switch, I would make a confirmed same day change and get the upgrade confirmed. If there are still quite a few business class seats showing, I would just risk it and make the change, given that you’ll be up there on the upgrade waitlist and there will be misconnects and no shows.

  7. @ Scholar in Training — You can make the change three hours prior to departure of the flight you want to take. So if you want to take an 8AM flight, you could make the change at 5AM.

  8. Hmmm interesting. This is actually the middle-leg of a three flight journey meaning I’ll be in the air on the first flight when the 3 hour window opens. And I’m guessing one can’t do this once one is already checked in, right?

    Tricky!

  9. @ Scholar in Training — No, unfortunately not. You never know, if you get a nice agent anything is possible, though.

  10. lucky? if you still have that power point file from the Ann Arbor DO, could you send it to me. Thanks

  11. Lucky & Ashley:

    It’s worth pointing out re upgrading companions: if you are an EXP at AA you have earned 40 stickers to hit (500 mile upgrades) that level. Now, you may have used many on your way thru the ranks but you’ll probably have some in your account.

    And buying that at 60% of the UA’s price ($30 v. $50) is a nice little benefit if you need to buy more.

    I do wish AA did the point-to-point distance thing…

  12. @ Vagabond Jim — True, although you’re not even able to upgrade 20% of your flights with the stickers you earn up until you make Executive Platinum, so I doubt most new Executive Platinum members will have more than a couple of stickers left unless they’re buying them. You’re right though, the price is much more reasonable to buy them at American.

  13. @ yzzatcqq — The one with the MCO-FRA issue? If so, I didn’t, because plans ended up changing, so it was for the better. I called back about the flight about a day later and they still weren’t showing it, so I don’t know what’s up with it.

  14. I know I e-mail / ask a lot of questions. Out of curiosity, on average how many questions do people ask you in a day?

  15. @ HunterSFO — Gosh, that’s something you probably don’t want to know. On a slow weekday I’d say I get 50 emails/PM’s/comments/calls with airline related questions. On a busy weekday I get closer to 100. Sometimes I sit at my computer almost nonstop morning to night as my inbox never empties out. Add that to my nasty habit of responding almost immediately, and this is becoming a full time “job.”

  16. @Scholar in Training – (sample personal ad for Lucky) “…enjoys long plane rides in international first class to fantastic exotic destinations…ISO dedicated mileage runner with elite status in many programs…non-smoker a plus” LOL!!!

  17. Hey Lucky,

    Seems like you have considerable experience on various OneWorld carriers (in First).

    Any experience on BA (F)?

    (Just contemplating some award redemption options. You sure have made CX look awfully tempting! 😉

  18. @ jb831 — I actually haven’t flown BA yet, but without sounding like too much of an armchair CEO, I do have a few thoughts. The seat itself is quite bad (better than most European airlines, save Swiss), the food will be ok (not as good as Lufthansa or Swiss…. the British are known for many things, but gourmet food isn’t among them), and the service will typically be quite good. Again, without having tried them I’d rate them below Swiss for sure (which I’d argue is the best European airline), and probably on par with Lufthansa, although I think Lufthansa will again take the lead when they unveil their new seats.

    Can anyone that has flown BA F chime in?

  19. the last time I flew BA F they still had the Hi-8 tape players in the arm rests. I would not give them a 2nd chance for premium travel unless they bring the Concorde back.

  20. Thanks for the input regarding BA F, gentlemen!

    I guess I’d only strongly consider a BA F redemption (over CX) if BA does another 50% off redemption promo this year.

  21. Here’s a question I’ slightly worried about lucky.
    I remember reading somehwere about a similar situation but can’t find it now.

    I’ve just booked an award with US Air all in F.
    I’ve just looked at my reservation and even though the correct amount of miles have gone out of my account for F, the reservation says coach on every flight.

    Am I missing something here or is it a bug on the website?

  22. @ Jamie — It’s certainly possible that there’s a glitch, but this is worth looking into. Are you viewing the reservation on usair.com or are you looking at the e-ticket they sent you? If you’re looking at the e-ticket, that might be a serious problem. If you’re looking at the website, it might just be a glitch. I would give US Airways a call and ask them about it to be on the safe side. Feel free to email me your record locator and last name and I could look into it as well, if you’d like.

    I’ve certainly had mistakes happen to itineraries of mine in the past, and it sucks. Better to spot potential problems early than when you get to the airport.

  23. Hey Lucky,

    I am planning a trip to Asia – specifically India and I have ~300,000 membership reward points that I would like to redeem for most value. Which airline should I put my bets on???
    Thanks,
    Zac

  24. @ Zac — In order to help, I’d need some more info. Where are you starting from? Are you traveling alone? Are you looking for a premium cabin (first/business class) redemption, or looking to get the best value from a coach award?

  25. You had travelled on so many F and C class on different airlines, do you just giveaway the amenity kits and PJ ? Or you sell it on ebay ?

    Ok, let me come to the point, I am actually an amenity kit collector, curious if you have any amenty kit that you don’t want about to give it away or sell it, I would be very interested, especially pacific carriers. let me know, as maybe able to meet next sunday with you in chicago.

  26. @ ORDnHKG — I typically wear the PJ’s I get and use the contents of the amenity kits. Shocker, I know, but in my case I don’t see much use in the contents getting old. I then use the kits as little travel cases to store power cords, etc. So I don’t really have any “unopened” amenity kits, sorry.

  27. Lucky,

    I’m flying from MIA to FRA on LH in a week. I booked reward travel for FC through Air Canada (Aeroplan) using Amex points. FRA is my final destination, then I fly back FRA to MIA a week or so later. Do I have access to the FCT in FRA when I arrive? Or when I depart? I am flying F on a LH flight, but am confused as to the access rules to the FCT. Thanks.

  28. @ David — The First Class Terminal in Frankfurt is not an arrivals lounge, so you could not use it upon arrival. That being said, you can use it on the way back. They keep changing the access rules, but right now as long as you have a same day Lufthansa first class boarding pass (even if you’re arriving from somewhere in first class and continuing within Europe), you get access. Regardless, you’ll have access as a departing first class passenger originating in Frankfurt.

    Enjoy the lounge!

  29. Hi Lucky- I have a SFO-LAX-JFK flight on Thanksgiving day all in F including the p.s. flight. Since I will already have my samde-day p.s. F boarding pass for the LAX-JFK leg when I get to SFO, will they let me use the IFL at SFO as well, or do I only get to use the one at LAX?

    Also, if I go with my family to HNL with everyone on the same PNR, does my 1K status allow everyone to use the 1K check-in line and priority security line, or do I have to *wait* for everone else on the PNR to go through the non-status check-in and security? This will be a SAN-SFO-HNL-LAX-SAN itinerary…

    Thanks!

  30. @ HunterSFO — You should be able to use both. The SFO IFL agents are among the least friendly out there, but lately they have gotten better. So I wouldn’t arrive too early to the airport just to use the IFL, but definitely check it out if you have time.

    As far as your second question goes, everyone should be able to go through security with you, use priority check-in, and board via the red carpet. As long as it’s family or only a few friends, I’ve never seen them have an issue.

  31. Hi Lucky,
    ANy information on an arrivals lounge at LAX? COming in on Asiana F and connecting up to SFO on UA. Never used an arrivals lounge so any information would be great. Will I be greeted upon arrival or is that soooo 1995?

  32. @ Patrick — Unfortunately there isn’t any arrivals lounge (as far as I know, at least) at LAX for Asiana passengers, and United doesn’t have one either. You’ll probably be able to use the United International First Class Lounge at LAX, though, which is quite nice.

  33. Just found out I’ll be traveling to Asia and Europe before the end of the year for business and looks like I’ll be just short of 1P on UA after these trips. You predict any DEQM type promotions before year’s end like earlier in the year? Maybe not exactly the same, but something to boots up my EQM. Hopefully I can get some small boots without resorting to mileage runs

  34. @ ooD — That’s a toughie. There is definitely going to be some kind of a promotion, given that it should be a pretty rough winter for the airlines. At the same time, I kind of expect some sort of promotion for RDM’s instead of EQM’s. A DEQM promotion is certainly possible, although I think it’s unlikely and if it happened I would expect it to be a promotion you have to pay for.

  35. Lucky,

    I heard on the most recent upgrd podcast that you really like Hong Kong. Can you go into a few reasons why you enjoy HK so much? I have never been, and it’s on my list of places to go. (I even know a Cantonese speaker who might be convinced to come along…)

  36. @ crammer — Great question. First of all, it was the first Asian city I ever visited, and at the time (when I was maybe 13) Asia was some far off place mystical place to me. So the fact that it’s the first place I visited has something to do with it.

    Beyond that, though, it’s just such an amazing, dynamic city, with the most amazing landscape. The two sides of the city are separated by Victoria Harbor, so the views are truly incomparable. Every night they have the “Symphony of Lights” show, whereby most of the major buildings light up as part of a laser show.

    There’s also so much to do and it’s a relatively easy city to navigate. What really makes Hong Kong great as an English speaker is that almost everything is written in English (thanks to the British influence), which makes it easy to get around. Most people speak English as well. Compare that to Japan, where getting around can be a real PITA as someone that doesn’t speak the language.

    It’s hard to exactly point my finger to it, but there’s something magical about the city. Their slogan is “Live it. Love it.” and I guess that’s very true. You really have to experience Hong Kong to get a real sense of what makes it great.

  37. Hi Lucky,

    When staying at IHG properties, do you ever book the “bonus point packages”? (ie: the rates where you pay slightly more than the Best Flexible Rate, to earn an additional 1,000 / 3,000 / 5,000 / etc. points?) Is it worth it, or should one just stick to Best Flexible Rates?

    Many thanks! 🙂

  38. @ jb831 — I never have, because it’s almost never worth it. InterContinental did recently have a separate promo where they offered 10,000 bonus points per stay at no additional cost, which I took advantage of. I value Priority Club points at about half a cent per point, and I haven’t seen them “beat” that ratio with the offer.

  39. Here’s my question…

    I live in a small town (CHO – Charlottesville, VA) and therefore my airline choices are fairly limited (largely US and DL through Atlanta and Delta, respectively) but I fly a pretty fair amount for work, 80-100 segments and just over 100k miles per year. This breaks down to about 35 segments on each of DL and US, giving me Silver status on both, and the other 1/3rd spread out among everyone else. Likewise, I end up with about 50k miles on US and DL per year and 50k spread elsewhere, including bonuses, etc.

    Is there anything I can do to concentrate my earnings and get more out of them – assigning miles to another program for example? It’s impractical for me to fly only DL or US because of work requirements, and I’m already using SPG Amex and/or AMEX Platinum to purchase the tickets for those miles.

    I welcome your thoughts – thanks.

  40. @ Alex — That’s a tough one. This would be easy if they were in the same alliance, but given that DL and US are in different alliances, there’s not a whole lot I can think of. Is CO an option? Once they join Star Alliance you could hopefully credit US and CO flights to one FFP, helping you to concentrate your miles.

  41. hey lucky, my girlfriend and I are planning to stay at the IC Bali for a week, your review of the hotel was fantasic. I’d just like to know your opinion on a few things. I Don’t think i can make it to RA in time. I am a Amb right now, and we’re planning to book the Club room, so is it worth it for me to try aquire a RA referal? Are the differences between RA and Amb very big at this hotel? Also, I’ve got enough points to fly to Bali on Both Skyteam and *A in Bussiness class, which airline would you say is the best for the job. Thanks

  42. @ Sam — I’m totally jealous of the trip, sounds like fun. At the InterContinental Bali the differences between Ambassador and Royal Ambassador aren’t big, especially when booking a club room. The minibar is pretty crappy, so you’re not losing out on much there. Either way you should get an upgrade to a duplex suite, which is VERY nice. As a Royal Ambassador you would probably have a better shot at a larger suite, although the duplex suite really is very nice. So I don’t think you’d be missing out on a whole lot.

    As far as airlines, that’s a toughie. Maybe ANA connecting to SQ? If SQ had any transpacific award availability I’d go with them, but they don’t right now. Who knows, that might change soon, though.

  43. Now you know how we felt when we saw your review, thanks for the advice on the Royal Ambassador, probably saved me a few SWUs. But do you still get the airport pickup and everything?

    I can’t get anything on *A, There are some availabily on the ANA tool, but no dice when i try to book then.

    I think i’m going to go with YYZ-EWR-PVG on CO and PVG-DPS on MU. and DPS-PVG on MU, PVG-DTW on DL and DTW-YXU on NW for the return. Never tried CO’s international services in bussiness class yet.

  44. @ Sam — Yes, the transfer and greeting service is available for all club guests, regardless of status. Skyteam sounds like a good option, especially with the longhaul CO flight. I’m actually looking forward to giving them a try when they join Star Alliance.

  45. Just looked at your trip report for ORD-NRT on NH last July. If given the choice of NH C versus UA C (on a 747) for that same flight, what would you choose?

  46. @ Iceman — Call me crazy, but assuming that this were in a few months when new business class is guaranteed, I’d go with United. The seat and entertainment are FAR superior. No matter how good the food and service are on ANA, it’s not going to make me any more comfortable or keep me any more entertained for 12 hours. Add that to the recent cutbacks in ANA premium cabins, and I’d go with United without thinking twice.

  47. Lucky,

    got a question about status match. I know you got a status match to BMI Gold before. I am a UA GS and would like to get a BMI Gold Card to for domestic red carpet club access. What is the best way to go about this? Is it even possible? I was thinking about status matching to NWA and from there to BMI if that is still possible. WOuld appreciate any advice.

    Chris

  48. @ Lucky: Thanks for the fast response. I think you’ve convinced me to go back to UA. :-O What did you think of the slanted lay flat on ANA and what were their premium cabins like before the cutbacks?

  49. @ Lucky: Sorry for a second response, but I found a good thread on FT talking about the cutbacks in premium cabins. Do they still have a kitchen counter type set-up where you can get food at your leisure?

  50. @ LAXNRT — You got it, that would be the best way. Match to some other carrier (NWA sounds good to me), and then fax in or email the elite card to Diamond Club, and you should be status matched. Enjoy!

  51. @ Iceman — I haven’t flown ANA in business for about a year, so I don’t know the details of the cutbacks. I’m sure the service and food is still far superior to United. However, maybe I’ve just become too spoiled, but a slanted flat seat is a killer. And I find ANA’s slanted flat to be among the worst, since it always seems to me like it’s at a pretty high angle. As far as the kitchen counter, they never really had that. They had a counter with cookies and chips and chocolate, but the flight attendants were always there to provide meals at your leisure.

  52. Hey Lucky. I need some advice planning a trip.

    I will be flying from SFO to MUC on UA, but plan to connect through ORD to be on the same flight as my friend, who will fly from ORD. I am 1P and she is 1K.

    Is there a way for me to get on her itinerary so that if she gets a free bump along the trip (for being 1k), I will too since we are flying together? The only thing I can think of is buying 1 RT SFO-ORD myself and haver her book my RT ORD-MUC with her, which is going to be more expensive than me getting 1 RT SFO-ORD-MUC.

    There has got to be a trick.

  53. @ ooD — Sadly to be on the same record you would both need to have the same exact itinerary and book it together. Frankly, I wouldn’t waste your time trying to get on the same itinerary for that reason alone, because a) if they’re op-upping 1K’s, there’s a decent chance they’re op-upping 1P’s too, b) if your friend would get upgraded and mentioned you were traveling together, there’s a decent chance you’d get upgraded as well, and c) there’s a chance they might just skip your friend on the list if there were two of you on the record and they only needed to move up one person.

    Keep in mind that United doesn’t just do free upgrades. They will only upgrade to business if they need to do so for operational reasons.

  54. Hey lucky, when are you leaving hongkong, I’ll be in hongkong next friday, staying at the IC hongkong, are you going to be around?

  55. @ sam — I’m only there for three days and will be leaving this Sunday. Guess I’ll miss you, unfortunately.

  56. @ sam — It is, but there’s something called the real world I have to get back to, unfortunately.

  57. @ imm2b — Interesting idea, but I don’t. There are so many different types of questions I get and similar questions dealing with different programs that it might be a real challenge. Feel free to ask away, though, if there’s anything I can help with. 🙂

  58. Ben, Welcome Back. Thanks for your help previusly on this itinerary. After 3.5 hours on the phone with a very helpful agent I got confirmed Business tickets for 4 to Europe but there are some issues. Of those 3.5 hours the flight selection process went quickly as I had done all the leg work. So 45 minutes for the flights and forever and a day for confirmation and fees. And they needed to make changes to get it to price correctly. Here’s the itinerary:
    6/19 ROC-LGA (US turbo-prop on a flight to be discontinued shortly)
    6/19 JFK-IST (TH on a 777 with the heringbone business class layout)
    23 hour layover in IST
    6/21 IST-ATH (TH in Y)
    6/23 ATH-MUC (LH in C)
    7/5 MUC-CLT (LH in C)
    7/5 CLT-PHL (US in Y)
    7/5 PHL-ROC (US — Y only commuter jet)
    80K miles and $95 taxes and probably a fee to book that they’ve neglected to tell me about.
    1. They refused to book us on a connecting US Shuttle flight (ROC-DCA-LGA) in F and no seats available in Y. So now we’re stuck on a turbo-prop that will soon be axed from the schedule with the slot exchange with Delta.
    2. They refused to book the non-stop CLT-ROC even though F is available. When they book in F the cost in miles goes to 120K.
    3. They gave me a hard time about the 23 hour layover calling it 2 stopovers but we worked through that issue.
    Do I accept the coach flights — really only the short CLT-PHL flight?
    Do I stick with the turbo-prop or request a UA connection through IAD that still leaves enough time to get to JFK?
    Is the TH flight aboard a 777 a good choice and worth the hassle to get to JFK?
    23 hours in IST?

  59. @ Rochester Rich — Holy cow, I hadn’t realized TK was flying their 77W’s to NY. That’s HUGE news, and a post about that will follow shortly. What you were told about first class domestically repricing the itin to a first class award price is BS. That sounds like a cast of “hang up and call again” to me. As far as changing to the UA flight goes, the issue is that you’ll be charged a fee if you try to make a change now, so I would leave it as is.

    The 77W in business class is probably the best transatlantic business class option. Watch for my Turkish trip report in the next week or so. It’s a fantastic product, though.

    23 hours in IST should be great. I just got back and really enjoyed the city. You should be able to see quite a bit in that amount of time. Stay tuned for the trip report on that too.

  60. Dear Lucky,

    Thanks for your great blog and your great generosity in sharing your wisdom. I am planning an award trip for my wife and myself SFO-CDG, LHR-SFO for September 2010. I have enough UA miles for two XF tix. I am considering trying for LH SFO-FRA-CDG (I know, Starnet blocking). Your review of the service and the FCT sounded great. For LHR-SFO I guess just old F on a UA 777- I do like the nonstop option.
    Any comments or suggestions on my itinerary? Thanks for your help.

  61. @ Dan — If you value a nonstop, then LHR-SFO is fine. If it were me, I’d go with either LHR-FRA-SFO on LH, or LHR-ZRH-ORD-SFO (or LHR-ZRH-JFK-SFO) on LX. It all comes down to personal preference.

  62. Lucky,
    I recently flew business class on AA to/from GIG. I was excited to experience their 777 with lie flat seating but was dissapointed when trying out the seats. They lie flat but at an angle! I hated having all the blood in my body draining to my feet. Please tell me that other carriers provide business class passengers with true bed-like seating…

  63. @Blankeeta – UA has true 180 degree lie-flat on all int’l 767s and 747s. Upgrade of the 777s is postponed till next year though 🙁

  64. @ Blankeeta — Slanted lie flat seating is a common complaint. Some consider it more comfortable than a recliner for sleeping (because it is flat, although at an angle), while others consider it less comfortable for the reasons you mention. Fortunately most airlines installing “new generation” business class seats have flat beds in business class.

    There are two general types — herringbone and normal seating configurations. Herringbone seats are what you’ll find on Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Virgin, etc., whereby the seats are facing sidewards and no one has a “formal” seatmate.

    Then there are airlines like Swiss, United (as HunterSFO mentioned, only on the 767 and 747), Singapore, etc., that have flat beds in business class. It really does make a huge difference, and as of late I refuse to cross an ocean in anything but a truly flat bed.

  65. How do you efficiently find award availability on Swiss? I have been experimenting with the ANA site to find availability for an upcoming award trip to Croatia/Turkey with United Miles, but Swiss availability isn’t shown there.

  66. I am a BMI Gold (and UA 1K). Given what’s going on with BMI, I am becoming wary of posting my premium *A cabin miles to Diamond Club (mostly C-class on LH, UA or SQ). AC Aeroplan looks like an interesting alternative… otherwise, I can keep posting to BD. Other options? Advice?

  67. @ BQ — There are two practical ways to find Swiss award availability. Either get a membership to ExpertFlyer, which will allow you to see their award availability, or get a Miles & More account and search using that. It’s worth noting that in order to search award availability with Miles & More you need some activity in your account, though, which often makes ExpertFlyer the easier option.

  68. @ Robertol — Assuming you’re not trying to hoard miles for way in the future, I would keep earning with bmi. Yes, there’s a bit of uncertainty, but I think we’ll have a good amount of notice before anything major changes. The beautiful thing about bmi is that you’re usually getting 200% for business class, and there’s simply no other program that can match that. With Aeroplan you’d typically be getting 125%. So I would say keep going with bmi for the time being, not only because of their great earning opportunities, but equally because of their amazing award redemption rates.

  69. I have a question about joining for frequent flyer programs.

    I just started working for a job that requires me to travel 50% to 75% every month. Most of my business travels are located domestically in the Western half of the US, with San Francisco and Sacramento as home bases. However, there are times when I have to travel to financial centers such as New York, London, Chicago, and Hong Kong.

    I thought about joining United’s Mileage Plus because of its San Francisco hub. But since United is a Star Alliance member, I could be stuck taking its alliance partners (Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa) over oneworld members (Cathay Pacific and British Airways, both my preferred airlines to Asia and Europe).

    Is it worthwhile to join United’s Mileage Plus over American’s AAdvantage? I want to join in a program where the airlines can fly mostly nonstop between financial centers around the world.

  70. @ Ross — First of all, I would suggest signing up for a frequent flyer account with any airline you fly. They’re free and it certainly can’t harm to have an account. That being said, if you’re based out of San Francisco, United is the obvious choice. They have nonstop service to London, Chicago, New York, and Hong Kong, along with a good frequent flyer program. If your company will only pay for coach, you should be able to rack up a good number of upgrades if you travel enough. If your company is paying for business or first, I would suggest flying some Star Alliance partner airlines, like Singapore Airlines from San Francisco to Hong Kong, for example, since they offer a better product. You could still credit the miles for that flight to United, since both airlines are in the Star Alliance.

    Hope that helps. 🙂

  71. @ lucky

    Thank you for your reply. I’ve been reading your entries about your flight experiences in CX and SQ. SQ has been a trendsetter in the industry, especially in ordering aircrafts. Too bad SQ decided to drop its aircraft titles (Megatop for 747, Jubilee for 777, LeaderShip for the Airbus 340-500, and so on). I want to see those names again. 🙂

    1. If you’re being offered the chance to travel for pleasure to East Asia and Southeast Asia from the US, which would you choose: CX or SQ?
    2. How about Asiana (OZ), which is also a member Star Alliance–do you have plans to take one of their flights in the near future?

  72. @ Ross — As far as your first question goes, what cabin are we talking about? Assuming it’s a premium cabin, you really can’t go wrong with either choice. I’d give slight preference to Cathay in first class (new product) and Singapore in business class (new product). As far as the second question goes, I’ve flown Asiana several times within Asia. They’re a solid airline, and I would definitely consider them assuming it was the new first or business class product. Their old product is rather ancient.

  73. hey lucky, i’m trying to book a award tic in biz to HKG. and none of the ORD-HKG flight in feb are showing XC availability at all. Do they usually release availability a little closer, or should i find another way there.

  74. @ Sam — That’s a toughie. ORD-HKG has always been one of the tougher flights to get an upgrade on, and that was back when there were over 70 seats in business class. With just 50 seats I’d say the chance of any more seats opening up, at least predictably so, is pretty low. Maybe we’ll see a seat or two, and maybe we’ll see some seats way closer to departure, like a week out, but I wouldn’t count on it. I would find another way there….

  75. in that case, what do you think my chances are of getting an upgrade (or two) after buying W bucket tickets and using SWUs.

  76. Also, i remember you mentioned SQ never releases any availability on trans-pacific flights in C or F. But do they ever release C or F seats on intra-Asia flights, say HKG-SIN? I apologize for all the questions, but being the undisputed expert on the subject comes with some responsibilities

  77. Question — Just made prem exec on UA and want to status match to gold on CO. UA is telling me 2-3 weeks to get the card (CO says they need a copy of the card). Any way to expedite this? I begged them to send me a digital copy, fedex, etc. — they weren’t helpful.

  78. @ sam — Chances of getting an upgrade? Generally decent, assuming you travel on an off peak day. This far out I would shoot for a confirmable upgrade if at all possible. SQ does release some intra-Asia awards last I checked, but the availability is very, very limited.

    @ Blake — Unfortunately there’s no way to expedite that, and Continental is one of the stricter airlines when it comes to the credentials they require to match. Sorry.

  79. Lucky,

    I posted the following on FT, but it was buried at the end of a thread and I didn’t get a response. Any insight?

    If I put a ticket on hold from one region to another (e.g., Europe to Africa), can I change the originating region–and obviously pay the additional miles–before the hold expires without losing the original segments? (I ask because I have enough miles for the EUR-AFR ticket now and will have the extra miles needed for USA-AFR in a few days). If United is going to have to cancel the EUR-AFR hold to setup USA-(EUR)-AFR then I won’t bother.

    Related question: could I do the above but actually ticket EUR-AFR and then change the origin region at a later date without jeopardizing my existing seats?

    FBKSan

  80. @ FBKSan — That’s a good question, and I’m actually not positive. I believe that would require a redeposit, so they might just have to start from scratch. The same goes for later changing the award. It’s easy when you’re talking about the same region, but I’m pretty sure you’d be out of luck in this case.

  81. Ben, I’m about to break into the ranks of 1K thanks mostly to United’s Fall DBEQM promotion. Now I’m wondering about those 4 e-500 mile instruments that you get at each 10K once a premium member. The 10K is counted on paid United and United Express flights. What about those that post as Y class. Do I count these miles as 1.5 or 1.0 times the actual flight miles? Thanks.

  82. @ RDimperio — Congrats on making it to 1K (almost)! As a 1K you’re not actually earning any extra 500 mile upgrades compared to Premier or Premier Executive members. You do earn up to two confirmed regional upgrades per quarter along with a minimum of six systemwide upgrades a year, though. 500 milers are based on “butt-in-seat” miles, so double EQM’s, premium flights, etc., don’t help you to accrue more of them.

  83. Lucky,

    I have a question about the Hyatt Faster Free Nights promo combined with the Fast Track. I signed up for the Fast Track promo and will secure Platinum status with a 5-night stay in Seattle that I was going to make for work anyway. I’m wondering if it’s worth going for Diamond locally doing a mattress run. I’ve never done a MR before and was wondering if 1) I actually have to stay at the hotel or if I can just check-in and pay and 2) how does the Faster Free Night promo work for me? I’ll be heading to Cologne, Germany next September and thought I could use the free nights to book my hotel, but alas the free nights have to be used by March. Is Gold Passport Diamond really worth the effort? Thanks.

  84. @ David — In general I’d say Hyatt Diamond is among the best top tier status levels, and that’s largely thanks to the recent changes they’ve made to the Gold Passport program. You’ll receive access to the club lounge, free internet (which is a Platinum perk as well), along with four electronic suite upgrades, which are especially nice. As far as whether or not it’s worth mattress running, that’s tough for me to answer without knowing your financial situation and your travel plans beyond Cologne. If you could conceivably maintain Diamond with your normal stays in the future, then I think it’s a great status level to maintain. It’s not necessarily worth always mattress running for, though, especially if you only have a few “real” stays.

    As far as the actual process of mattress running, you do have to check-in at the hotel, although you don’t actually have to stay there. Might want to go to the room, make the sheet covers a bit messy, and then leave. Your Faster Free Nights stays have to be completed by March of next year, so that wouldn’t really help your trip to Cologne next September.

  85. Thanks, Lucky. Do the free nights count towards status? If I have ten more nights to go towards Diamond, can I check in for two separate one night stays at a Hyatt Place (~$80/night), then use a resulting free night as an additional stay? Or, do all stays toward status have to be paid?

    And, how would you compare SPG to HGP? Would you aim to have all your stays at one or the other or mix them up?

  86. @ David — The free nights you redeem don’t count towards status. Only paid stays booked through hyatt.com qualify for points. Generally I think SPG over promises and under delivers, while Hyatt under promises and over delivers. At Hyatt properties you always know what you’re getting as a Diamond — free internet, free club lounge access (or breakfast), and if you requested it, a confirmed suite upgrade. As a Platinum with Starwood you get club lounge access (if they have a club, which often isn’t the case), and you might or might not get any sort of real upgrade. You might get a room with a view, or you might get a huge suite.

    So in general I’d say Hyatt has a more consistent program. Also, I think it makes more sense to have top tier status with one program rather than mid tier status with two programs. The benefits are better, assuming one chain has hotels in all the places you need to travel to.

  87. Hi Lucky,

    I may try for a bump on a SFO-LAX flight in about a week that currently is showing F7Y5 (it’s a 320). If it does zero out, does united.com provide an option to volunteer during online check-in, or can that only be done at the airport the day of departure? Thanks.

  88. @ Dan — They might or might not offer to add you to the volunteer list when you check-in online, but it really doesn’t matter because you can be added at the gate or at check-in by an agent. The list is sorted much like the upgrade list, so it’s by status first. A quick note about the SFO-LAX flights — they’re an interesting bunch, since there’s basically a flight every hour. That translates to lots of people standing by for earlier flights. So in my experience they don’t tend to be oversold by too much under normal circumstances, but when a flight is cancelled (which is common), it can be bump heaven.

  89. I know NWA/DL/Sky Team is not your primary area of expertise, but I’m hoping you can help me anyway. I’m Gold Elite in WorldPerks (for a few more days anyway). I’m trying to book an award ticket for a trip to London (from BOS) in December. My options are pretty limited due to availability and my mileage poverty. First of all, does it make sense to you that NWA is still offering award tickets on CO flights in December, even though CO won’t be in Sky Team by then? Is there risk in booking those? Should I be worried about not getting Sky Team Elite benefits? If not, would you recommend CO over NWA/KLM flights? I’m really only familiar with NWA/DL, but I’m curious about whether CO’s onboard amenities might be better for such a trip. Any advice you have would be much appreciated.

  90. @ Seth — I’ll certainly do my best to help. Yes, Continental is still offering SkyTeam awards as long as you book before they leave SkyTeam, even if it’s for a later travel date. Your booking will be safe, but keep in mind that if you want to make a change after they leave SkyTeam, flying Continental won’t be an option. You shouldn’t, however, get any elite benefits if you’re flying them when they’re in Star Alliance, so that’s a reason to avoid them.

    As far as onboard amenities go, I assume we’re talking about a coach award? If so, I’d say just try your best to get on a plane that has personal televisions. This means it makes sense to avoid DL’s 767-300’s and KLM’s 747’s, along with any 757’s (if there even are any into London from the US). Other than that, you really can’t go wrong. As far as I know CO has PTV’s in their longhaul fleet, DL has them on their fleet except for the 767, NW has them, and KLM has them on their A330’s.

  91. Thanks for the info. I will definitely be avoiding CO.

    So is it only the 767-300s that don’t have PTV? I’m getting a return LHR-DTW on a DL-operated (strange?) 767-400ER.

    Also, is it typical for award availability to constantly change, like from search to search within the span of a few minutes? I will do a search and 5 minutes later with the same search the availability is completely different. Can I attribute it to it being within a week of award searching via nwa.com going away?

  92. @ Seth — Correct, only 767-300s don’t have PTV’s. The -400 series does. Delta and Northwest are shuffling planes between their routes, so it’s common to see 767s out of DTW and 330s out of ATL.

    Award availability is fluid, although typically not to the point that it changes every few minutes. I doubt it has to do with the site going away. Probably just bad luck, or maybe good luck, depending on which way the availability is fluctuating.

  93. Can you please tell me witch one of your braches are opened on SUNDAYS for buisness, in the Baltimore, Maryland or surrounding areas.

  94. Lucky, here’s a novice question. I’ve booked a OneWorld award ticket taking me to multiple Middle East Desitations. My initial routing is: RDU-LGA-YYZ (AA), YYZ-LHR (BA) all on the same day. What is the luggage situation? Do I have to pick up my checked AA bags in YYZ and then re-check with BA in YYZ? Also, do you think AA will charge me for my heavy checked bags that are going internationally on their OneWorld Partner?

  95. @ Blankeeta — I believe you’ll have to pick up your luggage and re-check it in Toronto. At least I did when I flew DFW-YYZ and then YYZ-HKG earlier this year. American shouldn’t charge you for your heavier bag, assuming it’s within the weight limits of one of the partner airlines you’re flying. If they try to, simply show them your itinerary and explain the weight limits of the other airlines. Enjoy your trip!

  96. Hi Lucky,

    Is it true that after October 1st, Lufthansa will not allow arriving F pax into any FCLs at FRA? I was planning a trip for next year either arriving FRA in F as destination or possibly connecting to CDG or ZRH. Are there no options for showers either UA or LH arriving in F?
    Thanks so much.

  97. @ Dan — I just saw the 500+ post thread in the Lufthansa forum, although it seems to be much about nothing. As a first class passenger one could never use the FCL or FCT as an arrivals lounge. Lufthansa does have a new “arrivals lounge” you can use, though. If you’re connecting you should be able to use the FCL or FCT, at least as far as I can tell. Happy travels!

  98. Thanks Lucky, although on the LH website under “first class at the airport” it does seem to say the FCLs were available to F pax “departing from Frankfurt, changing flights there or arriving” whereas the FCT was available only for departures.

  99. Lucky, did you get in on the BOM deal last night? BA across the ocean but then could link up with *A carriers to BOM.

    I got in with Orbitz but they promptly canceled my reservation overnight. 🙁

  100. @ magiciansampras — I saw it but decided against booking. As much as I’d love to actually visit India, I couldn’t fit it in my schedule for the time being. From a mileage run perspective it just wasn’t good enough, in my opinion. I can get more miles than that more comfortably for less by other means. Besides, mistake fares can get pretty frustrating with the airlines trying to cancel reservations, as I guess you’re experiencing. Hope they honor it!

  101. Lucky,

    I know that you don’t check bags, but I am thinking you might have an answer. I am going to check because I have a multipurpose trip (business attire and outdoor gear) and I don’t feel like trying to make it work with Carry-Ons.

    So here goes: I am flying IAD –> JFK on United 7768 and JFK –> ZRH on LX 15. Should I check through to ZRH (assuming I can) or should I check my bag to JFK and recheck with Swiss. I should have enough time for the latter option since the RJ flight has been on time for the most part.

    What do you think?

    Thanks

  102. @ Kevin — With a trip like that you should be able to check the bag all the way through to ZRH. At check-in simply show them your itinerary and they’ll tag the bag all the way. Actually, in many cases “short checking” (not checking your bag to the final destination) is against the rules. Happy travels!

  103. If traveling from USA-NRT with miles in C, what would be your preferred *A airline? Assume that you can leave from any point in North America, but needs to be non-stop to NRT from there.

  104. @ Iceman — Assuming you can leave from any point in North America, I could go with Air Canada (777), followed by United (new configuration), followed by ANA. While ANA might have the best service, Air Canada and United’s seats and entertainment blow ANA out of the water.

  105. I loved my Business Class on ANA earlier in the year but have little to compare it to at this point.

    Ben, What to do in light of the recent changes? Upcoming trip to Hawaii in January for two. EWR-DEN-SFO-HNL on 319/320/767 returning HNL-SFO-EWR on 777(redeye)/319. Newly minted 1K. Just saw 2 CR-1s in my account. Have 13 e-500s.
    Would like to upgrade westbound and am indifferent about the eastbound.
    1. Use the CR1s on the westbound?
    2. Hold the CR1s for a rainy day and use miles (no cash)?
    3. Gamble with the e-500s westbound.
    4. Try to confirm the westbound and gamble with the eastbound flights with e-500s.

    Will I still acrue CR1s in 1Q2010?
    Thanks for your help, Rich

  106. @ Rich — ANA definitely has the best in-flight product, but the seats are slanted flat and the entertainment is somewhat limited. Other than that, ANA is fantastic. As far as the Hawaii trips, I’d use the two CR1’s for the westbound portion, unless you have a future use you’ll definitely need CR1’s for. Since you asked me, I don’t use miles to upgrade domestically, so if I really wanted to upgrade I would use CR1’s. I’m not quite sure whether or not we’ll continue to accrue CR1’s until this policy is fully in place (I haven’t been able to keep up with the 1,200+ post FlyerTalk thread, sadly), but I wouldn’t count on it.

    I would then try upgrading the other direction with 500’ers, if it’s something you’d be interested in. Enjoy your trip!

  107. Remember the Air New Zealand nothing to hide safety video. Southwest fan site on Facebook posted a video that Air New Zealand is challenging the Southwest crew to help make a body paint safety video musical.

    Funny that it will never show on Southwest planes due to the face they have no video equipment.

  108. @ ktpc2005 — Hah, very funny! Thanks for the heads up. Wonder how the Southwest people would get to New Zealand. :p

  109. Lucky, I’m wondering about the value of US elite status. I’m generally a Sky Team flier (accruing my miles on Northwest, now Delta), but I’ll be flying LAX–TLV and back on US over the holidays. The outbound falls within their fast track promotion, and since that one leg is over 7500 miles it would earn me silver status. I also have a mostly dormant United account with about 10,000 miles. So, do I go for silver on US, or build on my existing United miles?

    My wife and kids are also flying with me; they’ve been accruing their Sky Team miles on Continental, so they should be able to add the US flights to that (current balances are 36K, 27K, 20K; not enough status miles this year to earn any status). Do they go for silver on US, or build up Continental?

    I typically fly alone for business, and with the entire crew for pleasure. My wife seldom flies alone, my kids never. For me, silver on US could make some potential future flights more pleasant. As for the rest, is there even a remote possibility of getting 4 upgrades into a 12-seat front cabin?

  110. @ Ron — The value of status vs. the value of accruing more miles in a single account is always a tough question. As you know, status as such has zero value if you don’t take advantage of your status on that airline. Miles, on the other hand, can be earned continuously, and as long as there’s some activity every 18 months, they should eventually add up to a free ticket.

    Now, first let’s quickly discuss US Silver status. There are definitely some nice benefits for future flights, like free checked bags, first class check-in, and a decent chance at upgrades if you’re not flying on peak routes or during peak times. Unfortunately I think international upgrades aren’t even worth considering.

    So if you plan on taking at least a couple of trips with your US Silver status, I would say it’s worthwhile to credit to them. As far as your family goes, unless they plan on taking a couple of US trips next year, I would suggest they credit to Continental, since they already have decent balances.

    As a general rule, I like to stick to one program in each alliance and credit to that airline, even if I could get slightly more benefits by crediting to another airline.

  111. Ben… I consider you an expert on Intercontinental. Have you been to the IC in Budapest? I am considering a stay there this Dec (especially attractive F&F rate) and am wondering what your impressions are if you’ve stayed there.

    Thanks

  112. Lucky,

    Wife & I want to travel from Ft. Lauderdale to London non-stop using MR points. We were thinking about Virgin but you had mentioned ANA was better for the money. ANA does not flight from Ft. lauderdale or Miami. You also mentioned transferring points to ANA and then flight on Virgin. How can I transfer points to ANA and then flight on Virgin while not been hit hard on those other surcharges you are referring to? Pls advise and thanks!

  113. @ Simon — While there are no nonstop flights from Ft. Lauderdale to London, Virgin does fly from Miami. They are partners with ANA, so if you transfer miles to ANA and book an award through them (they typically have access to the same availability), you’ll only pay 68,000 miles and probably $200, vs. quite a bit a more through Virgin.

  114. Next week I need to fly a route serviced by UA/US/CO, both with a connections. Options are US through LGA/DCA/PHL on regional jets. Done this version a thousand times. UA the connection times through ORD/IAD are not desirable. Final option is to give CO a try through CLE now that they are part of *A. This would be on regional jets as well.

    So, should I stick with what I know (US) or give CO a try?

  115. @ Scholar in Training — Given the new relationship, I see no reason not to give CO a try. You might like them more, in which case you’ll fly them from now on. If not, you can go back to US. Of course if it were me I’d take UA regardless of the times OR whichever routing was worth the most miles.

    The only consideration is the 100% RDM bonus on US. I’m sure the same will be coming from CO, but I’m not sure how soon that will be implemented.

  116. Hi Lucky,

    I had a ticket today SFO-LAX on the 12:44 and this morning saw the previous flight at 11:20 was cancelled. I expected there would be bumps, but they didn’t need anybody. I wonder what happened to those passengers who were cancelled?

  117. @ Dan — Ah, the frequent cancellations of SFO-LAX/LAX-SFO flights have led to lots of bumps for me in the past, so sorry it wasn’t the same for you. Chances are United put some people on standby for later flights, and only confirmed passengers to the point that the flights wouldn’t be oversold in anticipation of this. Smart from their perspective but sucks for us.

  118. Hi Lucky – I just read through some of your older trip reports and noticed that when actually offered PDB of choice you have a tendency to STILL order orange juice. I have to give you a hard time about this because my logic says that if people order OJ or water when given PDB of choice then it sends a message to UA that just offering OJ or water and nothing else is what passengers want. This is the kind of behavior that contributes to UA framing their announcements about “enhancements” with things like “due to customer feedback….”

    Any way I can convince you to order ANYTHING except water or OJ when given a choice??? 🙂

  119. @ HunterSFO — Hah, the simple answer is NO! 😀

    I don’t usually drink alcohol, so that’s not an option. The last thing I need is more soda while on the ground. So unless it’s a morning flight, I really prefer still water. And I’m betting most people do, which is why those are the two “standard” options. Nonetheless airlines should at the very least accommodate special requests, and for the most part they do, in my experience.

  120. @HunterSFO — on my first Int’l F flight recently I picked water. Guess I sent the wrong message, too.

  121. Alright then, well I tried. But don’t go in to the RCC and request half eaten cookies from an 8 year old’s birthday party, okay?

  122. Ben,
    Quick question for you! I have an award ticket to HNL in December. My routing is ORD-SFO-HNL-ORD I have F from SFO-HNL and C on the 747 from HNL-ORD. My question is: there was no NC/NF space on the ORD-SFO segment….am I automatically put on the wait list since I have purchased a C/F award or do I have to do something to get on this wait list?

    Thanks!

  123. @ Brad — You’d actually have to manually request to be waitlisted in order to get a premium seat when space opens up. Ideally there will be NC/NF space before departure so you can already clear into it, but otherwise you’d have high priority at the gate for getting any open premium seats. Just call up United and ask to be waitlisted.

  124. Lucky,

    Been following your blog since it’s birth – awesome!! It’s a daily hit with me now.

    Anyhow, I’ve booked a trip in F (thanks to the US Airways 100% bonus miles on purchase), LHR-ZRH-PVG-BKK-LHR.

    My question is …..

    Is it possible to skip the LHR-ZRH and just board in ZRH?
    I’ve heard of problems on award tickets when people do this?

    Also, when I land in PVG, can I go to BKK a day earlier if I want to?
    Do I have tgo phone US Air to change the ticket? If so will there be a fee involved?

    3rd … and a question to everyone … I’m looking to take my GF (who lives in Bangkok) somewhere in Asia for 10/11 days.
    Hong Kong is first on the list, but where else?
    It has to be within 2 or 3 hours flying time of HKG.
    Any ideas? Singapore, Jakarta, Bali, etc etc?

  125. @ Jamie — Many thanks for reading!

    Unfortunately you won’t be able to stick the LHR-ZRH segment. If you did they would cancel the rest of your ticket, so it’s pretty risky. As far as going to BKK a day earlier, you would have to make that change with US Airways assuming there’s award availability. I don’t believe there’s a fee if you stick to the same route and airline.

    As far as where in Asia to go, that’s a toughie. It all depends what you’re looking for. I’d say Hong Kong is pretty unbeatable as far as cities go. Bali is beautiful, although 10 days might be a bit long unless you enjoy spending a ton of time around the pool or at the beach. Otherwise there are parts of Thailand that might be fun to explore, like Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, etc., so that would probably be the most practical trip to take if you were looking at moving around a bit. Singapore is a bit on the sterile side, and definitely not worth 10-11 days, in my opinion.

    Hope that helps!

  126. Hi Ben,

    I’ve been enjoying your London trip posts and can’t wait to hear your detailed thoughts on the BA all-C class experience.

    I have a question please. When calculating one’s EQM, can I include “Fare Bonus” and “Elite Bonus”?

    Also, if I am un LH metal in C and I get a “Fare Bonus” will that “Fare Bonus” count towards my EQM?

    Thanks very much.
    Despina

  127. @ Lucky

    Thanks for your reply ….

    One more thing… am I missing something here or not?

    I can buy 50,000 US Miles for approx $1200.
    I can then transfer 30,000 miles to my US account from various sources(PC, Amex etc).

    With my 80,000 miles I can then book a C ticket to Japan/China with a stop-over in South Asia. All for the $1200 outlay? Plus taxes of course.

    Routing is from Europe by the way.

    Can I really do that?

  128. @ Despina — Yes, the elite fare bonus counts towards elite status. For premium fares you often get a fare bonus which counts towards elite qualifying miles (for business class on United, for example, it’s 50%) and a fare bonus which counts towards redeemable miles (on United 25%). The same applies for Lufthansa metal flights.

    Hope that helps.

  129. @ Jamie — Sure, theoretically that’s possible. It was an even better deal when US was selling miles for close to a cent per mile. But you could still make a transfer for the other 30,000, most economically from Starwood. US isn’t a Membership Rewards partner, Priority Club won’t have a good conversion rate, etc.

    It’s that simple, though.

  130. Lucky, an update and a new question regarding my question from Oct 17 — remember, I’m flying LAX–TLV on US Airways in December, returning in January, and was debating whether to go for fast track silver on US, or add the miles to United, where I already have a small balance (which turns out to be closer to 12K).

    First the update: I got a status match to gold on bmi. This lowers the value of US silver, because bmi gold already gives me many of the benefits (premium check-in, no baggage fees, 25% RDM bonus); pretty much the only advantage left for US silver is domestic upgrades. On the other hand, I now have the option of crediting to bmi, which has some nice features: 25% RDM bonus for the current flight, counting both outbound and return legs towards status for 2011 (since status is based on my anniversary rather than a calendar year), and lower requirements for maintaining status (the 15.5K of the current flight brings me almost up to silver for 2011). Basically my options are as follows.

    Credit to US: 15.5K balance, silver for 2010, 7.5K towards 2011 status.
    Credit to bmi: 19.5K balance, 15.5K towards 2011 status (with a gold starting point).
    Credit to United: 27K balance, 7.5K towards 2011 status.

    Still no obvious winner, right?

    Now the question: bmi gold gives me lounge access on my upcoming flight, and the Envoy Lounge looks like a nice place to spend the 2-hour layover at PHL. I’m flying with my wife and 2 kids (under 6). Star and bmi rules say I’m allowed to bring 1 guest; US club rules say 2 guests or immediate family, and say nothing specific about Star gold using the US club. So, which rules apply? Do you think it matters whether bmi is also on my boarding pass?

  131. @ Ron — That’s a toughie. Let me keep it simple — assuming you can requalify for bmi Gold, that would be your best bet. bmi Gold status is the most valuable between the three options, especially with domestic lounge access. If you don’t think you can requalify, I would credit to US, probably.

    Either way you can use your bmi Gold card for lounge access, even if it’s not the frequent flyer number on your boarding pass. As far as the rules go, technically you can only take in one guest. Whether or not they let in the four of you is up to the agent. Many agents would allow it, while others wouldn’t. The immediate family rule only applies to members, as you point out.

    Good luck!

  132. Lucky — thanks for your advice! I’ll try to access all the lounges on my way, even if I can only enter with 1 child (can’t leave both kids to roam the terminal unattended, unfortunately). I’m fairly certain the 1-guest restriction will be enforced at TLV, where all non–El Al carriers share the same lounges (should be a deserted terminal on a Friday night, with no El Al flights and only 3 late night departures to North America). I’m hopeful for the US lounges — LAX Terminal 1 (incidentally, the only LAX terminal I haven’t been through yet), PHL Envoy Lounge on the way out, PHL on the way back.

  133. Lucky – Any clue why when I check Economy Class seat availability on United.com for a confirmed flight, it shows a ton of open seats, but when I check in and/or ask the gate agent if my row is still open they say “gosh no, we are sold out today”? Are there that many people with unassigned seats that don’t show up on the seating picture on united.com? Thanks

  134. @ Joe — It’s all a function of the route. On flights where lots of people book codeshares, like IAD-JFK (because people are connecting to all kinds of international airlines), there are often lots of unassigned seats even though the flight is sold out. But often it’s BS on the part of the gate agent. I hear “we’re completely full” all the time, yet the flight is only 75% full. Keep in mind that there’s often also a long standby list, so those passengers would fill the empty seats.

  135. hey lucky, following the advice given on upgrd a while back, i just got my BMI status match, and i was just checking out the program.

    from my understanding of the program rules. F class on UA earns 300% miles, add that to the 25% bonus. So you have 325% RDM and 325% EQM for a domestic F ticket.

    Plus since any EQMs after 55,000 are converted to RDMs, you’re effectively earning 750% on F tickets. Ive seen some $600 trancon in F, that’s 7000 miles would get you 52500 RDMs or 1.14 CPM.

    So did i mess up my calculations somewhere, if not, the i don’t understand why everyone isn’t crediting to BMI.

  136. @ sam — I believe it’s actually 625% on F tickets after 55,000 miles (325% RDM’s and 300% EQM’s), but it might be 650%. Either way, it is a stunningly good deal. You’re not missing anything. 🙂

  137. Hi Lucky,

    Thanks for your reply so quick.

    Just as I was about to buy 50K US miles, they came out with the 100% promo again, so I jumped in quick!

    I got LHR-FRA-PEK-BKK-LHR in F.

    Hope I made a wise choice.
    Anyhow, as I’ll be arriving into FRA at midday and the flight out is at 5pm, I’d love some advice on the First Class Terminal.

    Maybe you could do a report on it or something. I presume you have been to it?
    Or maybe we can get people to add to the report?

    BY the way, if your in NYC on Nov 21st, let me know. I’m meeting up with a FT’er for dinner, come join in!

  138. @ Jamie — Sounds like a fantastic award! I’m sure you’ll enjoy Lufthansa first class and Thai first class, especially the BKK lounge and spa (where you’re entitled to an hour long massage). Thanks to Mike for jumping in and providing the link. That’s the most recent review I have of the terminal. It really is quite nice, and five hours should pass in no time. Be sure not to eat too much in the lounge, as there’s plenty aboard as well! Enjoy your trip.

    Wish I were in NY then, but sadly I already know I’ll be down in FL that weekend. Hopefully next time.

  139. Staying at an IC for the first time in a while and had a quick question about the room types. What’s the typical difference between a junior executive suite and a junior suite? Is it possible to be in a suite and not have club level access?

  140. @ Iceman — What hotel are you staying at? Each hotel categorizes their rooms differently, and at some hotels it might mean a big difference, while not so much at other hotels. In general I would assume an “executive junior suite” means that it’s slightly larger. It is possible to be in a suite without club access at IC’s. It all depends on the policy of the property. Some hotels automatically give club access to guests that book suites, while others don’t.

  141. Lucky … not many people have been able to answer this (partly because no one REALLY knows), so I want your take on it …

    I want to buy 50K US miles while the 100% promo is still on, to travel to Japan in F (100K miles).
    Now … I can only travel after 1st Jan 2011.

    That means I won’t be able to book the award until at least February (due to awards only being released 330 days out).

    By then of course, the US “customer enhancement to their award chart” becomes effective. Although there’s no specific mention of *A being it I’m wary!

    So, I have 4 choices from what I can see ….

    1. Buy miles now and HOPE *A awards don’t increase in value and book in Feb if they don’t.

    2. Buy miles now. If they do increase the awards, transfer miles into it from somewhere.

    3. Book miles now and book award travel now for late 2010. Wait a few months, pay $250 change fee and book on my confirmed dates in 2011.

    4. Wait until Feb, and see what changes have been made. By then though I miss out on 100% bonus miles.

    No 3 seems ideal to me at the moment, however, if I do this AND the award miles increase for *A, will I not have to “get” the extra miles, even though I’m changing the award booking, and not “booking” it?

    Thanks for your time so much lucky.
    I’m just so tempted to get the miles now, as I can F to Japan, with a stopover for approx £800, which IMO is a complete steal.

  142. @Jamie In this case USAirways gave two months notice of award chart changes. Maybe you gamble, buy the miles (x2) now and keep watch. I’d save the $250 now and see what happens.

  143. @ Jamie — I would go with option one. Rumor has it Star Alliance award prices aren’t changing, which would be fantastic news. Option three wouldn’t really help you, because your ticket is only valid for one year. If you book now for travel late next year, you wouldn’t be able to change the ticket to the following year. You would essentially be paying the change fee to redeposit and then rebook, paying whatever the current prices are.

    Good luck, this is a steal….

  144. Hi Lucky – I just noticed this morning that 2 CR1’s just randomly showed up in my MP account today. Of course I’m not complaining, but I have NO IDEA why they put them in there. Any thoughts? While Hyatt has a tendency to do this kind of thing, UA typically doesn’t – usually UA tells you they are going to do stuff like that. Hyatt has stuck a free night and a free confirmed suite upgrade in my account that I still have no idea where they came from…

  145. @ HunterSFO — Are you sure they weren’t your third or fourth quarter CR1’s? They were supposed to post today, as it’s the second Saturday of the month. Mine posted today as well, so I’m betting that’s it.

  146. Hi Lucky – another question. I just opened my business account and CO debit card at chase for another 25,000 miles and 20 mileathon points. The terms and conditions state that $500 must be deposited within the first (30?) days but I’m wondering if that’s IN ADDITION to the opening deposit (was over $500) or if the opening deposit counts. What did you do?

  147. Hi Lucky,

    I have a question on the current Hyatt promotion. You have the choice of either a free night after each 2nd stay or 3000 bonus points on each stay. Which option do you think makes more sense?

    I’m assuming that the points don’t expire as long as the account is active, but I’d have to use the free nights by March 2010, and don’t have any specific plans. How does 6000 points compare to a free night? I have a fair amount of stays lined up in the next couple of weeks for business and would like to take the most advantage of the promo.

    Thanks.

  148. @ HunterSFO — The opening deposit counts. I only deposited a total of $500 into the account when I opened it, and that got me all the miles. Enjoy!

  149. @ David — In this case, assuming you could find the time to go somewhere, I would definitely go with the free nights. Upper end Hyatt hotels typically go for 18,000 points a night, so you’re getting quite a bit more value out of that than 6,000 points. Of course that assumes you can use it for a Grand/Park Hyatt. So I would definitely try and find some time to take a quick vacation and earn the free nights.

    Hope that helps.

  150. @David – I’d recommend you really look at your travel patterns. With Hyatt I’ve noticed that category 1 hotels are not bad for mileage runs and business trips. Typically they are as nice as the Hilton Category 3 hotels I’ve stayed at. A Category 1 Hyatt property is only 6,000 points per night. Most of the Hyatts in the US that are not Hyatt Place or Summerfield Suites fall in to Category 3 or 4 and are quite nice. there are very few Cateogry 5 Hyatts in the lower 48 states – Andaz WeHo, Park Hyatt DC and Chicago are the ones that come to mind. Also remember that you can redeem 6,000 points for a suite upgrade – so if you are the kind of person who will pay cash for the cheapest room and then want an upgrade to a “ballerfic suite” that might make the points option worth it. Also, points can be redeemed for suites or club rooms by paying a few more points, whereas the free nights only give you a standard room. Of course diamond members would get the free standard room upgraded to club in most cases and in some rare cases to a suite..,. I chose the points option simply because I have trips planned in april and june so the march expiration for the free nights would be a problem for me.

    @Lucky – hope i didn’t step on toes, but I wanted to provide an opposing viewpoint that could apply to some people…

  151. @Lucky and @HunterSFO

    I appreciate the advice. My concern is the March expiration date. I tend to be very busy and not able to get away when I want to. The upgrade option is nice and I suppose Gold Passport points can be converted into air miles as well. If I was planning a trip to NYC or Europe, the free nights would make more sense as the rates are much, much higher than the Cat 1 CONUS hotels. Hmmm.

    Well, my first run of stays is this Sunday, so I’ll have till then to think about it. Thanks again.

  152. Lucky –

    Debating whether to push for Delta Gold status this year. I fly a lot, but live in a small town (CHO) and end up splitting travel up typically by whatever airline makes the most sense schedule/cost-wise.

    This year I flew enough segments to make both Delta and US Silver on segments, plus a whole bunch of others, but with the Delta bonus MQMs I’m only 18k short of Gold on miles. I could probably push to get the rest (have a transcon flight to make in a week, could do it in 1st plus add the Reserve Card). Just wondering if it’s worth it?

    Let me add that for me, Delta are the most valuable FF miles – I know that’s strange, but it’s how it works out for me with my leisure flight patterns. That’s also mostly because US redemption is TERRIBLE for domestic.

    Anyway, the question remains is it worth it to push to Gold, and what’s the easiest way to pick up the 18k MQMs. Any thoughts appreciated.

    /A

  153. @ Alex — That’s a toughie. In general I’d say it’s worth it, but on the other hand 18K MQM’s is a lot, especially without a double elite qualifying miles promotion. Another factor playing in here is rollover miles. If your travel patterns for next year look decent, you can always start the year with some extra miles and then go back to Gold, but on the other hand you’d be losing out on the Gold mileage bonus.

    This is a toughie. Given how late in the year it is, the fact that Delta doesn’t have a double EQM’s promotion, and rollover miles, I would probably just sit tight and wait till next year to get back to Gold.

  154. Ben,
    I need 10,700 EQMs to make it to 175K this year. Would you pull the trigger and book a $270 MR to get to the 175K to get the 25K RDMs from Elite Choice or would you just let it go?

  155. @ Halothane — Absolutely go for it. You’ll be earning over 35,000 redeemable miles for $270, which is less than 0.8 cents per mile. Do it, do it, do it! 🙂

  156. Lucky,
    Hey! Need some ideas from you. I know you’re much more creative than I am. I’m looking to take my parents to Europe in C over the week of Thanksgiving in 2010. I’m going to be using US Airways miles to avoid *net blocking of UA.

    We will be going to LHR and then will probably do a stopover either in Switzerland or Germany…I’ve not decided yet. Do you have an creative ideas for routing options? I want to avoid UA if at all possible. I was thinking about AC YYZ-LHR and then possibly LH from FRA-ORD. I couldn’t come up with anything better.

    What are your thoughts?

    Halothane

  157. @ Halothane — Sounds like a fun trip! There are a couple of practical options. My number one choice would be Swiss, especially if you can get their new business class product, which is fantastic. The food, seat, service, and entertainment are among the best out there.

    In general I think Air Canada is a great choice, although there’s one reason to avoid them — from YYZ the flight is just too short in my opinion. I’d rather route through ORD and get a half decent nap instead of having a flight that’s most likely under six hours.

    As much as I love Lufthansa, I would avoid them on the eastbound flight. The seats just aren’t that comfortable for sleeping. For a redeye I’d actually take new United business over Lufthansa business.

    One other option which will no doubt sound crazy. The new Envoy Suites on US Airways look really good, almost like international first class seats. While I doubt I’d continue to fly them in the long run, I’d love to try out the product just to have experienced it. The seats look great, so I’d take that for the eastbound flight, although I’m betting the food and to a large extent service leaves quite a bit to be desired.

    Hope that helps!

  158. Lucky,

    I’ll be inaugurating my bmi gold card (status match) on a flight LAX–BOS–LAX on United next week. What lounges should I settle into? At LAX I believe I should be able to access the RCC in terminal 7 and the Presidents Club in terminal 6, as all the other Star lounges are in distant terminals without connection behind security. I’m less familiar with Logan (last time I passed through was in 1982), but from what I can tell, is it true that there’s no connection between the terminals behind security? So this means no Senator Lounge?

    Also, are there any arrival facilities at Logan? I’ll be stepping off a red-eye onto the T and straight to work, and would appreciate a chance to freshen up 🙂

  159. @ Ron — Enjoy bmi Gold! You’re correct, at LAX you should be able to use the Presidents Club or the Red Carpet Club. I haven’t been to BOS for years so really couldn’t tell you, but I’d stick to the Red Carpet Club. Sadly there’s not an arrivals facility, but in theory you could use a departure lounge but only if you had an outbound boarding pass, which it doesn’t sound like you would. Besides, lounges in the US rarely allow a chance to freshen up, so you’re not really missing out.

    Happy travels!

  160. Thanks, Lucky. No outbound boarding pass on arrival — I’ll be spending 2 nights in Boston. Oh well. At least I have a Starbuck’s gift certificate 🙂

  161. Hey Lucky, you should have told me that there are no bathrooms at the LAX Red Carpet Club! 🙂 I had to make a u-turn out as soon as I got in. Also, it turns out their free local calls don’t include area code 562 (Long Beach), which is a bit lame. At this point a hard-core traveler would probably ditch the place and go to the Presidents Club, but I didn’t feel like trekking over to terminal 6 and back. Other than the above two shortcomings, the club was nice — I sat there for close to an hour, drinking decaf and munching on snacks right in front of my departing plane from gate 70A.

  162. Lucky, do you have any ideas for ex-Europe to BKK routings? I have been trying to get into TG F but UA seems to be utilizing *net blocking. I’m on an F award to Asia via Europe for 145,000 miles. I’ve got the following segments

    MEM-ORD UA F
    ORD-ZRH LX F
    ZRH-FRA LH C
    FRA-BKK LH C

    I already have a TG F segment to HKG and on the return I have a LH F TATL and have a segment on TK F from HKG-IST. The only other thing I can think of is to try and get my FRA-BKK segment on LH F so that I can have access to the First Class Terminal in F.

    Do you have any creative routing ideas for ex-Europe to BKK?

    Thanks!
    Halothane

  163. Lucky, I’m confused about the upgrade order on United. On the way back from Boston I was flying with a colleague who is Premier Exec, and who tried to upgrade using miles. She was number 10 on the upgrade list with 9 open seats, so she ended up in economy plus. Aren’t mileage upgrades supposed to be processed ahead of the free instruments? Does it make sense that 9 people on a ~70% full 757 from BOS to LAX would try to upgrade with miles?

  164. @ Halothane — Wow, amazed you got that US to Asia via Europe for 145,000 miles in first class! Wasn’t aware that was allowed, or maybe it’s not and you just got a clueless agent. Looks great so far, though.

    Unfortunately all flights out of Europe are consistently blocked on Thai, so you’re out of luck there. Though if you’re flying them from BKK-HKG, that’s all you really need to fly on them to get the full first class experience. It’s all about the ground service, so be sure to enjoy the massage, lounge, and being escorted all around.

    As far as airlines and products go, you seem to have ’em all covered! My first choice would probably be LX followed by TK followed by LH. Swiss just has the best in-flight product, in my opinion, so if you can fly them even more I’d go for it. As long as you’re not in a rush I think Turkish is great, although they’re always late and the service really isn’t fantastic (though I love the food and hard product). Lufthansa is always predictable, on-time, and all around good.

    Other than that there aren’t really any options. OZ doesn’t have much Europe-Asia with three cabins, NH is nearly impossible in F, so that doesn’t leave very many options.

    Good luck!

  165. @ Ron — At the airport upgrades are sorted first by status, then by fare class, and then by time added to the waitlist, so the order she was processed in sounds right. Keep in mind that 500 milers aren’t really “free” upgrades. Some people purchase them. Along the same lines, some people use systemwide upgrades and confirmed regional upgrades. Before departure management the order is a bit different, as upgrades are sorted by the “priority A” and “priority B” waitlist.

  166. Thanks, Lucky. I wasn’t aware of the “priority A” and “priority B” waitlists, but now that I’ve read about them I see that the order is the opposite of what I would expect — upgrade instruments are processed before mileage upgrade awards! I would have thought that miles would be treated on par with cash, just like award tickets are considered to be revenue tickets. But if I understand the A/B priorities then I guess my thinking was wrong, and United does not want to encourage people to burn their miles on upgrades. (??)

  167. Lucky – although i know you’re not omniscient, i wanted to pick your brain about RA upgrades at the IC SF MH if an RA were to book a 1 Bd suite. It looks like there are a lot of suites above that. Would it be okay to email ahead and try requesting a specific suite if available?

  168. @ ET — Absolutely! Emailing the hotel in advance is always a great idea. Nothing wrong with mentioning what you plan on booking and asking what you would be upgraded to, or even doing a bit of old fashion negotiating. Also, if you’re celebrating something special with your stay it wouldn’t hurt to throw that in either. Hope you have a great stay!

  169. Lucky (or anyone else) – I am flying BA from US to UK and therefore can not credit to AA. Do you have a recommendation on another oneworld carrier that might be best to credit to (Finnair, Mexicana, etc) ? I am thinking of just crediting to BA and maybe using the miles intra-Europe sometime when back in London (which is not infrequent).

    Just want to make sure I am not missing some thing. I have SPG Amex, so I can always move miles somewhere to top off an account.

    Thanks.

  170. Hi Lucky – I’m currently trying to decide what my hotel strategy will be for 2010 as I am about to book my January business travel. I’ve heard you speak very highly of Intercontinental Royal Ambassador but I’d like to know more specifically why you chose that program over all the others. Here are some questions that dig into what I’m wondering about:

    1. Do you mostly stay at IC branded properties (for your required 50-60 nights/year for requalification) since the benefits don’t apply to other PC properties? How much does doing that usually cost? I typically spend $50-$90 / night on my average mileage runs. Won’t that limit me to HIX and the like?

    2. It seems like many of the benefits i’m interested in may not apply at all properties. I want to make sure I get club access or at least a hot breakfast on every stay – Hyatt guarantees that to me. What could I expect as a RA if staying at IC branded properties, and also would it be different at other PC properties as a PC platinum member?

    3. Is internet free?

    4. Upgrades seem to be very nebulous to me in the RA program. I guess ambassadors get “1 category” and as an “unwritten rule” RAs get “2 categories” but sometimes suites. What has your experience generally been with upgrades? I’ve been very happy with the upgrade aspect of Hyatt’s program – especially being able to confirm suite upgrades at time of booking either with points or diamond certificates. Also do you get upgrades on award stays? I also like being able to confirm a suite with points at time of booking on an award stay at Hyatt.

    5. Early Check-in/late check-out has been the one HUGE weak point with Hyatt. Usually they are very stingy with late checkout sometimes only offering 1pm. 2pm seems to be the most common. Early check-in is even tougher for me at Hyatt. Given the mileage running I do, it would be really nice to have. How has that experience been for you as a RA?

    6. how lucrative are the points promos? I hear that they are good but that doesn’t really give me a tangible idea. With 50-60 revenue nights/year and trying to take advantage of many promos in true flyertalk fashion, would I earn enough points to redeem for 5 nights at a property in the highest redemption category? More? Less?

    7. Service at Hyatt has ranged from “decent, absolutely no complaints” to “outstanding”. Minus the SNAFU with my suite upgrade at GH NY. This includes my $43/night stays at category 1 “hyatt place” properties. I know service is generally fantastic at IC hotels (is that consistent though?) How would you say service has been with PC once you are staying at lower end properties like HIX and Crowne plaza? With Hilton I’ve had absolutely abysmal service at some properties – to the point where I got a refund.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

  171. @ PWMFlyer19 — Great question, unfortunately without a great answer (at least not from me). US to UK on BA is definitely a tough spot to be in as far as crediting miles go. The only alternative I can think of would be crediting to Alaska Mileage Plan, although that only potentially makes sense if you’re on a full fare ticket. They’re partners with virtually every airline, so it’s great to dump “miscellaneous” miles there. Unfortunately they only provide 25% miles on non-full fare tickets, so it probably doesn’t make sense. British Airways isn’t *that* bad of a program to credit miles to given the circumstances. They’re also transfer partners with SPG, so if you keep building up miles with them you can always top off an account that way. I’d just go with that.

    Sorry for not having a better answer.

  172. @ HunterSFO — Wow, what a loaded question! Not even sure where to begin on that one. For what it’s worth, I find InterContinental Royal Ambassador to be the best top tier status level due to the value of the benefits that are guaranteed. That being said, a major challenge with InterContinental is the huge gap between InterContinental hotels and other Priority Club properties, not to mention the inconsistency in terms of benefits received at those hotels.

    At InterContinental hotels I’ve always found the service to be phenomenal. As a Royal Ambassador you usually get special check-in at the Ambassador desk, and always get a welcome gift, GUARANTEED 8AM check-in and 4PM late check-out (this is a huge benefit, in my opinion), free consumption of the drinks in the minibar, and a two level upgrade. Hotels are typically pretty consistent about the upgrades they give Royal Ambassadors, which is nice. I can email a hotel and they’ll tell me exactly what kind of upgrade I get. That doesn’t always translate to an upgrade to the club level or a suite, but it’s usually one or the other and often both. Because of this it’s easy to stick to the good properties and avoid the bad ones as far as treatment goes. Internet isn’t free at all InterContinental hotels, although is at a good number of them.

    When staying at IC hotels, though, I’ve always felt like a bit of a Global Services compared to status with other hotel chains. Overall they do a great job, in my opinion. The points earning opportunities are also great. While they don’t have anything quite as rewarding as Hyatt Faster Free Nights, racking up points through the various promotions is a piece of cake. With 50 or 60 nights you should easily earn enough for five or more nights at a top tier hotel. Sometimes IC even has top hotels available through “PointBreaks,” whereby hotels cost 5,000 points instead of 30,000-40,000.

    Now the problems — you won’t get the same consistent “basic” elite benefits you get at Hyatt hotels such as free internet and club access. If you value the consistency that comes with that, IC probably isn’t for you. Along the same lines, the locations are limited and at Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza properties you’re just treated as a “Platinum,” which doesn’t guarantee you anything. You’ll sometimes get a suite upgrade, sometimes free breakfast, or sometimes nothing, but it does vary hotel to hotel. Many of my stays are at Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels, although they’re typically only quick overnights so all I care about is a clean bed and earning lots of points. Sometimes they only recognize me as a Priority Club member, while other times they’ll roll out the red carpet. Otherwise I basically plan my travels around the locations of IC properties.

    Another frustration with Royal Ambassador is that the qualification criteria aren’t published. So you could be at 50 nights for the year and not be invited, which is frustrating when you’ve been working towards it for so long.

    Anyway, given that you just started with Hyatt I’d quite frankly stick with them for the time being. They have a great program and it’s a close second for me to InterContinental. Now that you have the status enjoy it, as working towards Royal Ambassador would be quite a bit of work. But it’s always something to keep in mind.

    Anyway, hope that helps and let me know if you have any more qustions.

  173. Lucky –

    You helped me book an award ticket (wonderfully, I might add) from IAD to HNL on DL through MSP in May ’10, to take advantage of the better configuration FC seats. I was wondering how you’d compare that flight/service to the new CLT-HNL non-stop service on US?

    That flight is a much more convenient connection for us (no long drive to IAD), and I’m taking advantage of the big US shopping promotion, as well as a Buy Up (company-funded) to either *P or CP on US this year.

    Curious if you think it’s a better option.

    Thanks!

  174. Hi Lucky – as a still-learning mileage runner, I’ve got two questions:

    First, a question about matching status. I’m currently 1P on UA, and pretty much think of it as my “primary” airline – I’d like to make a concentrated run at 1K in the next year or two. I’m also Gold on AA. I only occasionally fly AA (just enough to maintain Gold status, never enough to hit Platinum) and will be booking a big award ticket with them in the next year. I’d like to approach AA and ask for a status match, but I’m unsure of how to do this, how likely the chances are of success, and if there are any downsides to doing this. Getting a match to Platinum would be great, really might encourage me to fly them a little more, and would make the upcoming award travel a little more pleasant. Are there any downsides to status matching? Do I get penalized by UA in any way (I suspect not)? Is there an argument that this isn’t “worth it” and that I should just grab some extra AA flights next year to try and hop up to Platinum status? Should I wait until I reach 1K on United (likely another year or so) before trying for a status match? And, of course, what do I actually do/say/write to them to request such a thing? What do you typically get out of a successful “match”? Will AA even do this for UA status?

    Second, I earn a lot of my UA and AA miles by flying internationally for work, in coach. I’ve got a lot of 500-mile upgrades bopping around that are useless for upgrading these trips (currently I just stockpile them for use on frankly-not-worth-it upgrades to and from HNL – why aren’t there more three-class planes on the HNL routes??). Again, I’m pretty new at this, so I’m unsure: how does one get/earn systemwide upgrades that can be used on international travel? Are these something I can ask for as compensation during a bump? Do I just wait and work to earn them after becoming a 1K or equivalent? Are there any tricks of the trade that I’ve missed somehow regarding these?

    Thanks for the advice, and I love the blog!

  175. @ Alex — Great question! Up front I should say that I haven’t tried either product, but I think I’ve read enough about them to give a reasonable answer. They’re both great options. The NW A333 will be in better shape than the US B767, both in terms of “freshness” of the cabin, entertainment, and seats. Nonetheless US does offer their international business class product, which is solid for Hawaii. The service other than that should be quite similar as far as I can tell. In your shoes I’d go with whichever connection is more convenient or whichever award is cheaper, because you’ll arrive well rested either way. And now that I look at it, award availability is surprisingly good for CLT-HNL up front. Enjoy the trip!

  176. @ Puck — First let’s talk about status matching in general. It’s important to keep in mind that if an airline status matches, it’s “once in a lifetime,” so only do so if you have a good use for it. Typically you’ll want to write a letter to the airline stating how you want to shift some more business to the airline assuming you get status matched. You can give reasons such as a change in travel patterns, a new corporate policy, or being fed up with your old airline and having heard so many good things about the airline you’re matching to. There’s a thread in the “MilesBuzz!” forum on FlyerTalk which has all the addresses, fax numbers, etc., of airlines when it comes to status matching.

    That being said, American doesn’t status match. They’re the only legacy that consistently doesn’t, actually. They offer “challenges,” whereby you can fly a certain amount in 90 days and be offered either Gold or Platinum status. In your case, you’d need 10,000 points in 90 days to get a Platinum match. These used to be free, but unfortunately they charge for them now. In your shoes I’d actually focus on United for now. I’m not sure what you see as the benefit of Platinum status when it comes to booking an award, unless you plan on booking an international coach award ticket and want lounge access or something like that. Getting to top tier on United would be much more valuable, in my opinion.

    As far as international upgrades go, you earn six systemwide upgrades with United for making it to 1K, and then two more for every 50,000 elite qualifying miles beyond 1K. Other status levels don’t earn them. Through January you can upgrade all “H” class fares on United internationally with miles, but after that there will be co-pays in addition to miles, so it won’t be cheap to upgrade business trips. So for the time being focus on getting 1K so you can get systemwide upgrades and make your travels more comfortable.

    Hope that helps!

  177. Hi Ben,

    Just a quick “What Would Ben Do?” question. I made 1K last Friday when the final DEQM posted. I had a trip to STL on Sunday (AA) and returned Monday (UA). When I printed my boarding pass – it printed 1P. I thought we no longer had to call and have our new status reentered on upcoming itineraries??

    I have an award booking leaving 12/27 and I want to make sure my new status is included. Would you call and check? I’m flying RNO-SFO on UA and SFO-FRA & FRA- MAN on LH — in case that matters.

    Thanks for your help!

  178. @ Sara — Congrats on making 1K! Typically the status updates automatically. It might not have been quite enough given that there were only a few days between you making 1K and the trip, but I would assume it will print correctly for your trip next week. If it doesn’t when you check-in just have them re-enter the number, but it really should do so automatically.

  179. I have a question about taxes/fees for award redemption in premium cabins. All of my past award tickets have been in Y, for two reasons: (a) I didn’t have many miles to work with, and (b) I was always under the impression that C and F awards, in addition to requiring more miles, incurred substantially higher taxes/fees than Y awards. I’m about to start a new job that will require frequent travel and I’ve been reevaluating my earn and burn strategies. I read recently in an FT thread that for AA awards taxes/fees should be the same for all classes of awards, with flights to LHR as a notable exception. This causes me to question my assumption that premium travel redemption necessarily requires substantial supplemental taxes/fees (over and above what one for pay for a Y award). What’s the real story?

  180. @ Sean — I’m happy to report that for the most part, taxes and fees are the same for premium awards as they are for coach awards. Some places like the UK charge a “luxury tax,” but frankly even that is minimal compared to the added benefits of premium cabin awards. While a business class revenue ticket is often ten times the price of a coach ticket, it’s often less than double the miles. But for virtually every US frequent flier program you’re in luck, as you won’t pay a premium for a premium cabin award. Enjoy, as burning miles for travel up front is the way to go. 🙂

  181. …so I was just about to get VDB’d on 12/24 SFO-LAX. Then at the last second this lady that had been paging shows up. In front of me they ask her if she will voluntarily re-route through DEN instead of LAX (without compensation) and she says yes. Then they tell me “sorry we don’t need your seat.” First of all the lady should have said “no – not without compensation” but she was stupid (seating area 4) and agreed to do it for free. Second I had higher status as a 1K so shouldn’t I have gotten priority? They already had re-routed like 6 other people NOT to go through LAX. It made me so mad! None of them were on the departure management list for VDB and none asked for any compensation to give up their seats.

  182. @ HunterSFO — I’ve been in that situation once or twice before as well, and it can be frustrating. At the same time, I have to give the gate agents (and United) credit for doing this, as it’s a smart business decision. Why compensate someone that’s happy to reroute for free, especially when it might get them home earlier? It allows United to maximize revenue while not compensating passengers for something that genuinely doesn’t inconvenience them. While I hate it as a passenger looking for bumps, I think it does make sense. Since they’re not denying them boarding in exchange for compensation, you really wouldn’t get any priority as a 1K unless you wanted to reroute for free as well.

    Of course we can sort of fight back. One way would be to inform the passengers being rerouted that they would get a free ticket if they didn’t accept the reroute for free, as the flight is oversold. Of course this might tick off the gate agent and result in us not getting the bump out of anger on their part.

    Fortunately for us I haven’t seen this happen too often. At the end of the day getting bumped isn’t really a privilege, so it’s tough for me to get too angry about it….

  183. If you fly SFO-SYD-LAX then LAX-SFO and only stay in SYD for less than 12 hours, can you do SFO-SYD-LAX on only one SWU and then just use an e500 for LAX-SFO?

  184. @ HunterSFO — Yes, no, maybe so. I’ve heard of it working for a similar itinerary, but then sometimes it doesn’t. Really is a crapshoot, not nearly as reliable as it is with domestic itineraries.

  185. @Lucky – I should have clarified that once I knew I wouldn’t get VDB I tried to get them to re-route me on the flight she previously said I would be re-accomodated on to SD. I cancelled my drinks plans at LAX with a friend because the agent made it sound like I would get VDB’d. The non-stop to SAN would have gotten me in to SAN early enough to drive my disabled sister home (she was flying WN) rather than her having to wait in the wheelchair for a family member to come pick her up. The agent only wanted to re-route the other pax through DEN and NOT me non-stop to SAN.

    I also understand that it’s a good business practice on UA’s part. I think it makes a lot of their customers happy and shows that the GAs are actually proactively solving problems. I just would rather get VDB’d, so I didn’t like it. Technically they were VDB’ing those folks though – its just that if the PAX will arrive within a short enough time of their original planned arrival time (or earlier than originally planned) they legally don’t have to be compensated. I do think they should have had to go by status though. But I get that I wasn’t “entitled” to be VDB’d or else I would have complained to UA after the fact. I do think they should have given me the option to go non-stop to SAN rather than re-route the other lady through DEN though. I’m guessing her DEN flight had more empty seats than my SAN flight though.

  186. Hey lucky Ben

    Hi !

    Do you consider the miles you earn from all that flying on United worth it?
    I am contemplating a switch from another *A carrier, which does not do starnet block, and will pretty much book anything as long as there is inventory available.

    However – United works for the places I need to go very nicely. Which is why I am considering the switch. I don’t want to switch and find myself with a lot of miles, that are worthless.

    Also what do you consider most valuable from the 1K status? The 6 SWUs or the the perks that come with it?

  187. @ HunterSFO — In this case United wouldn’t even record those passengers as VDBs when it comes to their statistics. They would just record them as voluntary reroutes, much like someone being confirmed on a different routing by an agent. I agree they should have offered to put you on a different routing, though. I’m guessing since you were (rightfully) expecting compensation, they would have felt bad putting you on a different routing without doing anything else.

  188. @ Mike M — Great question. The lure of Mileage Plus used to be the amazing award chart back before Starnet blocking and the other recent “enhancements.” I remember back in the day I kept burning United miles because the deals were just too good. 90,000 miles for business class to Australia or Asia or 120,000 miles for first class to Australia or Asia was just incredible. Then they slowly inflated the award chart and added Starnet blocking, which makes it a somewhat unattractive program in that regard, at least compared to a few of the other options out there.

    That being said, I love everything else about United, Mileage Plus, and elite recognition/treatment. United does a good job of taking care of their elites, both at the airport (in terms of treatment) and after the fact (via customer service should there be an issue). The systemwides are great, the confirmed regional upgrades rock, and with those two confirmable instruments in place I’m quite happy about the unlimited domestic upgrades that are coming.

    Assuming you’re flying United metal I would definitely credit to Mileage Plus. If you’re flying a variety of Star Alliance airlines, I’d go with another program.

  189. Hey Lucky, we need to fly to CAI from BOS in May and we’re flexible on the timing. We were thinking of maybe doing a stopover in Europe for a couple of nights before heading to the Middle East. We want to be able to upgrade on United (I’m a 1K) and therefore fly UA metal as much as possible but also keep the costs down if possible.

    Any suggested routings we should look at? We thought about doing something like IAD-KWI-DXB-CAI but the IAD-Middle East routes are all on old config 777s. I think it would be better to transit through Europe on a new config, rest for a day or two, and then continue to CAI likely in coach.

  190. @ magiciansampras — Jealous of the visit to CAI, I really want to go! I agree with your conclusion, I’d go with the new config. Ideally I would suggest going through FRA or ZRH. Lufthansa flies three cabin planes out of FRA for the connection to CAI, as does Swiss out of ZRH. While you’d be in coach, you have a better shot at an op-up, and ultimately larger planes are more comfortable and the product is more “full service.” Of course the mileage slut in me also suggests connecting through ORD if possible to maximize mileage. 😉

    Enjoy the trip!

  191. @ Despina — Lufthansa will be unveiling new first class seats on the A380 when it starts service. As far as the reconfiguration of other planes goes, I’m not entirely sure. I believe they have a project in the works for updating the A330/340 first class cabins, but I’m not entirely sure about the 747. It might be tough for them to do anything there, given that the upper deck limits the type of seats that can be installed without wasting too much space.

    Their hard product definitely could use some improvement, though, so I’m anxiously waiting to see what they come up with. I’m a huge fan of Lufthansa, so they’d be in Singapore and Cathay’s league if they came out with something good, in my opinion.

  192. I have a seven day hotel reservation with Sheraton hotels that will occur in a couple weeks. I made the reservation back in July. I need to modify the reservation to shorten my stay by one day. Starwood’s website will only allow me to modify the reservation if I cancel the reservation first. If I do this, then I lose the discount rate that was available back in July. What are the ramifications of keeping the reservation and checking out one day early? Any penalty fees or other negatives to be aware of ?What is the best way to handle this? Thanks,

  193. Hey Lucky!

    So I am new to the whole “travel miles” and “travel points” thing and I am trying to travel to Thailand (I used to live there) this summer on limited funds. I can apply, at most, to two credit cards, I would think (I’m only nineteen and I have had a credit card only used for emergencies, all payments made on time and in full) because of my age/minimal credit. How can I maximize my mile points in any way possible to cover the airplane ticket cost for this trip, which I cannot afford? Do you have specific articles you have written or anyone else that would help me? What do you suggest I do at this point?

  194. Hi Ben,

    According to someone I know at United, they are going to start reconfiguring the 777’s this month. I know you don’t have a crystal ball, but you are my best source of information 🙂 so I am wondering when you think they will be done with the fleet. Just wondering as I need to decide whether to take LH or UA to FRA in August. UA 900/901 don’t work as well for us as UA926/927 and the LH flights to MUN.

    Enjoy SF!
    Despina

  195. @ rktoledo — Great question I’ve been mulling over for a few days, but sadly I don’t have a great answer. If it’s a pre-paid stay I’d say you’re out of luck in terms of getting your money back for the last night. Otherwise, what’s the cancellation policy of the reservation? If you can cancel up until the day of you *should* be able to just cancel the last day when you’re at the hotel. In your shoes I would give SPG a call and see if they can contact the hotel on your behalf and take care of your modification. Otherwise contact the hotel directly. Unless it’s pre-paid I don’t see this being much of an issue, frankly. Good luck!

  196. @ Anna — Sounds like a great trip! It should be possible to do this with a little bit of work and save quite a bit of money. In general I’d say American Citi cards are the way to go, but it would take slightly more than two new cards (which get you 60,000 miles) to get this to work, as it costs 70,000 miles in coach.

    The way to go would probably be Continental, as an award to Thailand will be 65,000 miles. With a little bit of work you should be able to earn those miles. First open a business and personal checking account, which will get you 50,000 miles for about $100 in fees. You can read all about that here:
    http://onemileatatime.com/2009/08/04/just-earned-25000-onepass-miles/

    Just open the business account as a sole proprietorship, with the name of the business being your name. This shouldn’t hit your credit, really, since they’re not credit cards. Then just apply for one credit card, like this one:
    http://www.continental.com/web/en-US/content/products/chase/continental.aspx?offer=WL35&mkid=6WLQ

    That should be enough to get you to Thailand with considerable savings. Hope it works out and let me know if you need any more information.

  197. @ Despina — I’m a realist and not a PR guy, so I’m going to say it’s rather unlikely. I would expect the project to take at *least* 18 months (I would guess longer), so not even a third of the 777 fleet will be reconfigured by then. Now Lufthansa business class isn’t exactly fantastic either in terms of seat comfort, so it *might* be worth a gamble.

    Good luck and sorry I’ll miss you this weekend!

  198. Lucky, I am coming to TPA for the first time ever (for 6 hours) (twice) on a MR this Monday! I should theoretically be getting in around midnight from IAD on Monday night/Tuesday AM, and leaving to sea for a quick one-day turn at 700am via ORD the next AM, Then, I come back that night, on the same IAD flight, and head off to DEN via ORD again the next morning at 0700 hours. Questions would be: should I (or even theoretically can I) spend the night/s in the airport, or are there any cheap, quality hotels near TPA that you’d reccomend? With theoretically 6.5 hours total lay-over time each night, I think an airport hotel would be worth it. What are your thoughts? Thanks!

  199. @ UAPremierGuy — If there’s an airport that’s tolerable for sleeping overnight, I’d say TPA is it. We have free wifi and you should be able to stay airside, I believe. The nice thing is that there’s a kids playing area right by the United gates which features long, cushioned benches, almost like a bed. Bring a pillow and blanket and you might actually find yourself getting a few hours of solid sleep.

    Personally I’d go for a hotel, though, to get some real sleep. Don’t have much experience with local hotels, but you should be able to priceline something for cheap. Published rates don’t seem to be all that low, unfortunately. I’ve had a similar length layover at many airports and the few hours of deep sleep kept me somewhat sane.

  200. Great, thanks so much for the quick reply. I think I’ll Priceline it day of and see what I can get, if I can’t get anything, I’ll be taking you up on the long, cushioned benches idea! Oh, the joys of MRing…

  201. Lucky,

    I took your advice and called SPG to modify my hotel reservation (not pre-paid). After some initial drama (the service rep made a mistake and locked me into a rate $100 more a night than I was paying), Starwood called the Hotel. The Hotel allowed SPG to modify my reservation to the dates I requested under the same rate and terms as the original. So a phone call to SPG was the solution. Thanks for your time on this.

  202. Hi Lucky –
    Another 1P n00b question. I took a VDB a while back on United and got a free ticket voucher. I just used that ticket voucher for a domestic rt ticket over the holidays. It looks like I didn’t get any mileage credit for that itinerary. I was under the impression that one DID earn miles for voucher tickets – am I crazy? The booking class was V (later upgraded to NF) and S for the tickets, not one of the “no credit” booking classes.

    Should I contact United and ask them to credit me those miles, or are they right for not giving them to me?
    ~Puck

  203. @ Puck — While the free tickets do book into revenue fare classes in theory, they aren’t eligible for mileage accrual. You’re not supposed to be able to upgrade either, so you got lucky. This is the reason I usually ask for travel credits instead of the “free ticket” when I bump — the travel credits can be used towards revenue tickets which are eligible for mileage accrual.

  204. Thanks! I was going to ask what I should go for instead of the “free” ticket – travel credits certainly do sound like a much better idea, so I’ll definitely be going with those from now on…

  205. Hey Lucky,

    I have a client going on Russian river cruise from Moscow. There are two non-stop flights from Dulles, one on Aeroflot 767-300 to Moscow-Sheremetyevo or one on United 767-300 to Moscow Domodedovo. I have flown United internationally, but not Aeroflot. The client is leaning toward Aeroflot because it leaves later at night.

    Any recommendations?

  206. @ Kevin — Sadly I don’t have anything good to go off of here other than my perception of the airlines, but I’d go with United. In this case it’s simply an evil I know vs. an evil I don’t know. 😉

    Wish I had better advice, sorry!

  207. Hi Lucky,

    I enjoy reading your blog and listening to UPGRD (which led me to this site).

    I think you also sit on a bunch of Accor vouchers from the 40 EUR/60 USD promotion.

    Here is a nice way to combine it with Gold status with Accor (giving free Club access in Sofitel and upgrade upon availability plus late checkout)

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/other-hotel-programs/1034475-free-accor-club-gold-membership.html

    Unfortunately someone contacted Accor about the promo code (!) and the accounts might be closed. However, it might still be worthwhile to setup a gold account under a secondary address and see what happens. I usually don’t stay w Accor so I will try to use the vouchers plus the Gold status (and spend a few extra bucks to generate incremental revenues for Accor). Maybe their properties convince me to stay there later again. No matter if my account w Gold status still exists…

    Thought I should let you know.

    Keep it up

    Ham

  208. Thanks for the help. Your answer is pretty much what I have got from most people. I am pushing United, but we’ll see what happens.

  209. You mentioned you just got a status match to Asiana, can i ask how you did it, was it through the HK residence promo, or was it something else.

  210. I have a Blue Card from Amex. It has 107,000 pints. I wanted to transfer to Virgin Atlantic for buying award tickets from NY to London, which they are giving out on promotion @ 29,500 miles + taxes per ticket. They are also giving 20% bonus miles on transfer. Delta is requiring 90,000 miles per ticket for the same dates. So, Virgin offer looks very good. However, Amex is telling me that since I have a Blue Card, which is free, I cannot transfer my points to Virgin miles. Any solution or comparable alternatives?

  211. Hi Ben,

    I was just clearing security at the Premier line at ORD. Who did I see walking from the IFC/GS checking, but our good pal Glen Tilton. I so much with I had one of your famous shirts with me….oh well.

  212. Ok, here’s my burning question. Despite being a college student, how are you able to miss so much class (I assume you do)?

    Next, what year of college are you in and have you figured out what you will do when you graduate? Are you concerned that you won’t be able to fly as much?

  213. @ BTA — I’m surprised he didn’t do OLCI so that he could avoid the common folk (aka employees and customers). Great stuff!

  214. @ Mark — Great questions. Believe it or not, I almost never miss class. Actually, next Thursday will be the first time I’ll miss a class in almost a year. I’m just pretty good at scheduling my classes. For the past several semesters I’ve had Tuesday/Thursday classes, meaning I can be on the go Fridays through Mondays. I’m hoping I can keep that up, as Monday through Friday classes would really put a damper on my travels, although might cause me a bit less hair loss in the long run (since my Tuesdays and Thursdays are hellish right now).

    I’m just finishing up my junior year so should graduate in Spring of 2011. What do I want to do? No shocker here, hopefully something involving airlines, hospitality, or travel. I used to have more specific plans, but not anymore. I’m just waiting to see where life takes me. I’m hoping I’ll still be able to fly as much. Ideally I’d have a job that requires a fair bit of travel, but otherwise I’d be happy to continue spending my weekends crossing the country for miles and hopefully having enough off time to visit some exciting destinations (although that could potentially be an issue).

    Gotta lock in million miler before I graduate!

  215. You’re only taking classes two days a week right now?? Are you loading those days up with tons of classes or are you just procrastinating graduation? Also, what are you majoring in?

  216. Hey Lucky,
    I just signed up for priority rewards and want to focus all my hotel stays at the IHG places. Do you think I should slowly work towards gold status or buy the Ambassador membership and have the gold status automatically? I will not be staying that much at Intercontinental for now, but might possibly in the future. I will most likely stay at the Holiday Inns and the express locations. Any hints on booking the cheapest hotel prices and still earning points and nights towards qualification? Thanks!

  217. Ben, Got 4 hours at LAS midday on an upcoming Saturday run. Flying US so looks like getting to the President’s Club is out of the question. Any must sees/dos?

  218. Hi Lucky,

    Is it your understanding or experience that XF pax starting with a domestic connection to TATL F no longer have access to IFL at original departure airport? My wife and I have award tix SFO-SEA connecting to SEA-FRA on LH F (first leg currently in Y, no XF availability.) Although I was told by a CSR two months ago I should be able to use the SFO IFL with a same-day TATL F ticket, yesterday at SFO an agent told me it only applies to the airport one is departing in international F from. This seems to jibe with the Star Alliance rules on their website. Has there been a change? Some flyertalk threads also seem to confirm this, but I like to check with a real expert!
    Thanks.

  219. @ Harry — Great question! In general Gold status won’t get you a lot at most Priority Club hotels. So I would say Ambassador isn’t worth it at such for the upgrades at hotels, but I think Ambassador *is* worth it even if you have just one InterContinental stay planned over a weekend. For example, you get the buy one get one free weekend night certificate which more than pays for the price of membership. It’s also worth noting that Gold is really easy to get, and can be achieved in as few as two or three stays. Be sure to check out the master promotion thread on FlyerTalk and enter all those promotion codes. You’ll be amazed by how many points you’ll rack up. You can find the link here:
    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/intercontinental-hotels-priority-club-inter-continental-ambassador/1031891-ic-master-promo-thread-2010-a.html

  220. @ RDimperio — Truth be told I’ve only been to LAS a couple of times, so don’t have great advice. I’d say that’s probably not enough time to go into the city (it probably is, actually, but between the cab fare roundtrip and the limited time, I wouldn’t), but the airport itself can be quite an adventure. If you like gambling the slot machines should keep you entertained for a while, or I do recall there being some decent dining options. If you really wanted to use the Presidents Club you could always book a refundable ticket on Continental and then cancel, although that’s morally objectionable (maybe).

  221. @ Dan — Wow, I’m flattered to be called a “real expert!” 😀

    Unfortunately the agent was *technically* right. The rules were recently changed to only apply to the gateway airport for lounge access. If your international first class segment were on United you would have still gotten access, as United’s rules haven’t changed, but the Star Alliance ones have. It’s also worth noting that many IFLs probably wouldn’t enforce this. I doubt the LAX or ORD ones do, for example. The SFO one will just always rule against the customer whenever possible. Sorry about that!

  222. LUCKY,

    You should do a PRIZE DRAWING once a month or a year, like giving free 25k miles or something…

    You should HOST a meeting together for our onemileatatime readers/fans!

    JOSH

  223. @Kevin: I flew IAD-DME-IAD in United Business last weekend and have also flown Aeroflot in longhau Business Class. I found the food and service to be superior on Aeroflot (8 course meal), but the lie-flat seat and IFE are superior on UA. I must admit, I enjoyed my Aeroflot flight much more than my United flights, but if your client wants a good night’s rest, the UA lie-flat seats are much better than the angled lie-flat seats in SU’s Presidents Class.

  224. LUCKY,

    Should I burn $35-45k (from parent trust fund) and buy UA expensive fare and get GLOBAL status? Please advise and help me making decision.

    JOSH

  225. I’ve been really procrastinating on this, but…Did you have a blog post at some point asking about the best compensation offers people had experienced on bumps? I searched pretty far back for that post but couldn’t find it. Did I see it on here, another blog, or FT?

  226. Hi Lucky – I’ve just flown in to TPA twice in the past two days and I noticed some really big UA birds in a hangar at the airport. There was a 747 and a 777 there – do they ferry those in empty or do they schedule them as revenue flights to get them here?

  227. LH or LX?

    The boyfriend and I just returned from DPS (we flew SQ). He is an EXP and was just blown away.

    We are looking to repeat this premium travel experience, our next trip will probably be Europe / Middle east. I am torn between LH or LX. Do you have an opinion?

    This will be in business, sadly I don’t think i have enough miles in F for the both of us.

    Thanks Lucky Ben.

  228. @ HunterSFO — Amazingly enough, despite flying in/out of TPA every week, I still haven’t seen ’em, although I’ve heard about them. My understanding is that they ferry them in empty, though. Sad, isn’t it?

  229. @ Mike — In first class it would be a close call, but in business class I’d say Swiss is substantially better. If at all possible. The seat is substantially more comfortable and I find the food and service to be better as well in business on Swiss. If at all possible get on one of their A330-300s, as they feature lie flat beds in business class. That’s a *really* nice ride.

    Happy travels!

  230. @lucky – I was coming back from LHR in December on NW781 to DTW. Air traffic throughout Europe, including LHR, was in rough shape because of the recent bad weather and Eurostar shutdown. The flight was oversold by 18. They were offering £500 (at the time almost 1,000 USD) in cash on the spot, in addition of course to lodging and food vouchers until they could get you on a flight. It doesn’t compare to the consecutive bump total of that guy coming back from Buenos Aires, but I thought it was quite generous.

    For a variety of reasons I didn’t jump on the offer, probably the best of which was that shortly after that announcement I was paged and got op(ed)-up to BE. It was a 767 with lie-flats so I was quite happy. It was an especially nice surprise since I was on an award ticket.

  231. Lucky, what is your take on CR-1s, and when to use them in light of “free” upgrades on UA domestic flights?

    Should I use them on any trans-con, especially 3-class flights?

  232. Lucky, awhile ago you were researching Egypt and Nile cruises. I’m doing the same now. Did you end up going on a cruise? What did you choose? Did you like it? General thoughts on the whole endeavor? Thanks!

  233. Lucky, how do you know the real # of air seats available in each class of service? What software do you use, and how can I get it? Is there a cost? Thanks.

  234. @ David — I’ll probably make a blog post about this once UDU kicks in, but for now I’d say that (in general) CR1’s are best off being used for 319/320 transcons, 757 transcons to/from SFO and BOS, PS flights, and on peak days for upgrades to business class on the 767. Of course depending on the day of the week it varies, but I’d say overall you have a good shot at the upgrade on three cabin planes, although the 767 can be tough at times because there aren’t all that many seats. And of course the upgrade is really, really worth it on that plane. Furthermore, I find that they release a bit too much “NC” space on the 767 before upgrade windows, so lots of times there are hardly any seats left by the time we’re within the upgrade window.

  235. @ magiciansampras — That was actually a trip for my brother and mom. They did end up taking a Nile cruise for five days (if I recall correctly) and they really enjoyed what they saw. They felt like there was no better way to get in all the sites, especially since there are usually guides on the boats that apparently do a great job. I’ll ask them for some more details and will do my best to share them here.

  236. @ Rick — There’s no “real” way to know unless you work for the airline and have access to the loads. You can, however, use websites like seatcounter.com, expertflyer.com, etc., to see how much inventory is left. In coach it often doesn’t reflect the number of seats available, as they often oversell, but in first class it’s usually a better reflection. For many airlines the maximum availability that shows in any “bucket” is 9, so if it’s less than that, chances are there aren’t many seats left. So for example, if a flight is “F3,” it’s relatively safe to assume that there are three seats remaining, and so on. Hope that makes sense.

  237. Ben, glad to hear that you are enjoying your trip thus far. Don’t laugh, but what do you think the odds of are the following scenarios/groups getting an upgrade on a Saturday outbound, Wednesday inbound SFO-KOA itinerary?

    1P member with a GM on his PNR.
    2P member travelling alone.
    3P member traveling alone.

    Thanks!
    Despina

  238. @ Despina — I wish I had a good answer, but with UDU not having started yet, it’s really, really tough to get an idea of how hard upgrades will be. I could give you a much better answer in a couple of weeks when there are firsthand reports of upgrades. In general I’d say the Premier Executive and companion have a good chance (let’s say 60%+), the Premier has a decent chance (40%+), and the Premier Associate isn’t eligible to be upgraded since that’s not a benefit.

    Hopefully UDU works out for all….

  239. Lucky,

    Something I’ve always wondered about: How do you (personally) retain Royal Ambassador status from year to year?

    I had sort of assumed that when you did mileage runs, you overnighted at a HI or CP for one night somewhere along the way and paid a cheap Sat. night rate (or something like that), but it seems that you also involve a lot of redeyes on your mileage runs, thereby precluding the need for a hotel room at all. But since you need approx 50 nights at PC properties to requalify for RA, where do you get these nights? Do you just book cheap rooms near where you live/work and never actually stay there? Thanks for indulging my curiosity…

  240. Ben,

    I noticed in recent posts about Hyatts you said you value hyatt points at 2cents a piece, can i ask how you came up with that?

    Do you also mind giving us a list of what you value other miles and points, i’ve always used acruw.com, for estimates, but they value DL miles more then UA (which is clearly wrong) I (and possible other who read your blog) would really like to know how you value your points and miles.

  241. I am booking a flight for my in-laws from BOS (Boston MA) to AGP (Malaga Spain) with a transfer in LHR and My wife and I will be doing the same trip a few days later. I am using my BA card to pay for the flights. My wife has a BA card as well, our executive club is not linked yet but I don’t think that matters unless we redeem miles. Should we pay on my wife’s card since she has a lot more miles? Are there any tricks to getting upgrades or cheaper flights? We have no tier points. My in-laws don’t want a BA credit card.

  242. Lucky,

    I am planning a trip to Barbados using the remaining leg on my OneWorld around the world ticket. I’d like to stay at the Barbados Hilton, but have reviewed Hilton related Flyertalk threads and have been so dissapointed (in comparison to Priority Club and SPG). My question to you is…why does Hilton suck so bad? Additionaly, why do people like Hilton? It doesn’t seem like their loyalty program is worth a damn. This Cat 7 property will cost me 50k a night…

  243. Lucky,

    Just got off the phone with US DM, attempting to book some reward travel from FLL/MIA to FRA in late Sept in F for my wife and I. No F available on the LH non-stop from MIA to FRA, either way. There was business available on the return, but then my wife would miss the FCT experience.

    Did find a FLL-EWR-FRA, with the domestic segment on CO in business and transatlantic on LH in F. Figure that will be fine.

    Unfortunately, we couldn’t seem to find any connections back to FLL at any reasonable hour non-stop from any USA arrival point. The agent checked EWR, JFK, IAD, PHL, CTL, HOU, ORD and BOS. So, we could get from FRA back to the US, but not back to FLL until midnight at best.

    So, what would you think of just going from FRA to JFK on LH, arriving 1:10PM and taking a 3:15PM flight on JetBlue to FLL? And paying the $100 per ticket extra to get home in more comfort?

    Are we insane for switching airlines/terminals at JFK with 2 hours for customs, transportation and bag recheck?

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks.

  244. @ sam — I’m working on a post right now about what I find points in various programs to be worth, which I’ll keep “active” as programs devalue, make changes, etc. Stay tuned. 🙂

  245. @ michael — It really doesn’t matter which card you use given that you can create a household account and combine your miles, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. As far as upgrades go, can you give me some info about what fare class they’re booked in? Could provide more help then….

  246. @ Bianca B — LMAO, love the comment. Hilton sucks, totally agree. They don’t value their loyal customers and their hotels aren’t that great. So why are people loyal to them? Well, they have a LOT of hotels, unlike Hyatt (one of my favorites), so lots of people find the Hampton Inns in smaller cities to meet their needs. Their redemption costs and elite benefits really are a few years behind the times, in my opinion. So you should be switching your business to a different chain, and maybe eventually they’ll catch on!

  247. @ David — I’ve done exactly that before, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s worth it for the FCT and the better in-flight experience, in my opinion. That being said, two hours is a bit on the tight side, especially if you need to re-check bags. If your flight is on-time you’ll probably be alright, but if you’re delayed even a little bit, you’re looking at a potential misconnect. If there’s a later flight, I’d go with it for peace of mind.

  248. Thanks for the advice, Lucky!

    There looks to be a flight from JFK to FLL 45 minutes later, so we’ll probably go ahead and book that.

    Any comments on lounges in EWR?

    Thanks again.

  249. Lucky, I am so dissapointed! I was hoping to take my little brother on an exciting tour of asia using a OneWorld award. I have enough AA miles for my business class ticket (150k AA miles). Now I am trying to top of my BA account to pay for his ticket, but when I checked out the BA site, my heart broke to find out that although the economy reward cost the same as AA (120k), the coparable business class ticket cost 90k more!!! Please tell me that i misunderstood?

    AA
    Distance Zone 7
    Total Trip Miles = 20,001 – 25,000
    Miles Required
    Economy Class 120,000
    Business Class 150,000
    First Class 230,000

    BA
    Miles in your journey BA Miles needed for economy flight
    Total Trip Miles = 20,001 – 25,000
    economy 120,000
    Business Class Awards x 2
    First Class Awards x 3

  250. @ David — The lounges at EWR for first class passengers on Lufthansa suck. There are two options (although they’re both inside the same entrance) — the Lufthansa Senator lounge and SAS lounge. The Senator lounge is TINY, and while you’ll be directed there, probably isn’t worth spending time in. The adjacent SAS lounge isn’t great either, though a bit more spacious and probably a bit less crowded. It should be quite easy to visit both. Save your appetite for the flight for sure!

  251. @ Bianca B — Unfortunately your understanding is correct. I find that US airlines charge a ridiculously small premium in terms of mileage for premium cabins despite the massive price difference, while foreign airlines do a better job (from their perspective) of charging an appropriate premium. Certainly quite frustrating when you’re trying to combine miles from various programs as there’s no way to circumvent the difference in premiums.

  252. Hi, so Im right now A Frequent Traveller with lufthansa which gives me certain benefits. But the thing is that I live in Mexico, right now in Switzerland but in some months no. It was kind of hard for me to get the 35,000 miles status and what I heard is for 30 k you can get the Star Alliance gold status with Air Canada. What should I do, because there is 20% that I get Senator.

    Another question if my father is name exactly the same and actually I never put my name and Jr. it’s possible to win miles with his ticket when flying the same flight?? (just asking)

    Thanks,

  253. First off, Happy Birthday! The story about the hotel clerk saying they celebrate your birthday every year was priceless. Second, is it just me or is CO’s mileage chart just substandard compared to US and UA. Thanks.

  254. @ oscar — That’s a toughie. In general I’d say you should enjoy status once you worked hard to earn it. There’s not much value in switching around frequently. Yes, with Air Canada you could get “Elite” status with 35,000 miles, but ultimately your benefits are probably better on Lufthansa if you have status with them. Assuming you always fly Lufthansa (or a Lufthansa family airline), I would stick to them. If you’re mixing travel between various Star Alliance airlines, by all means go for Air Canada. Be sure to look at the number of miles you earn in the fare classes you usually fly with a different program, though, as the totals can differ substantially.

    As far as the other question goes, it all depends on the airline. It was much, much easier before Secure Flight, since most airlines didn’t have a date of birth on file. Assuming there’s a date of birth in your profile that you can’t easily change, you’re in trouble. If your travel were mostly in the US you’d have a much easier time with that.

  255. @ ybjfk — Thanks! As far as Continental’s mileage chart goes, it’s actually VERY similar to United’s. Actually, it’s virtually identical. The benefits with Continental are that they don’t block partner award inventory (like United does through their Starnet blocking) and they allow a stopover AND an open jaw on longhaul awards (unlike United, which allows one or the other). US has a more generous award chart for sure, so in terms of the program itself, it’s very attractive. The $250 change fee on longhaul awards frustrates me, though.

  256. Have you ever done the UA SWU on LH dance with the printing out of the SWU and going standby for the upgrade at the gate? Any suggestions on how to best handle it? We’re flying IAD-FRA (UA) – CAI (LH). Do I try to get on the waitlist at IAD or do I have to wait until I show up at the gate in FRA to get on the list?

  257. @ Marcus — Typically they’ll just clear upgrades at the airport you’re departing from for the segment you’re trying to upgrade. When you get to FRA just see a Lufthansa representative anywhere and they’ll be able to add you to the list. Sometimes they’ll clear it immediately (depends how full it is, if they have the authority to do it, etc.), or sometimes they’ll wait till departure time comes at the gate. Good luck!

  258. Hi Lucky, thanks in advance for your help!
    I am looking into trading some Marriott Rewards Points into Hilton points on FT’s CC. What would you recommend to be a fair trade? I don’t know if it matters, but I want the Hilton points and will trade away the MR points.
    Thanks!

  259. LUCKY,

    Breaking news on UA and CO merger!

    Do you think they will change the rule on bump VDB when CO takeover UA? Because CO are not as generous when it come to BUMP. Which mean UA will not be so generous with $VDB when the merger complete and I think they will be no int’l F (only C and Y)……

    I don’t think we will be seeing much of the customer relation E-CERT anymore. Please fill me on this.

    JOSH

  260. Hey Lucky,

    I’m curious for you to put up a post about the new United/Continental merger. On many fronts it’s interesting (to say the least), although I do not like the loss of the United logo and famous tulip.

    More importantly, I’m anxious to know about what’s going to happen with CR1 upgrades and SWU in the future. I love the ability to sponsor other people right now, and it’s helped me out in the past too. Any thoughts on the future of all these perks MP members enjoy currently, once the two come together?

    thanks!

  261. Hi Lucky,

    Thanks as always for a great blog. I booked an award trip using Continental miles for a friend. The itinerary is OKC-ORD on United continuing ORD-ZRH on Swiss. The return is Swiss ZRH-CDG (stopover) and finally ZRH-CDG. Is there anything to be aware of in case of irrops or other problems regarding this itinerary since the trip is booked on CO miles (and not her own), but the metal flown is UA and LX? Should she just deal with the airline she’s booked on in case of any problem? Hopefully everything will be smooth, knock on wood, but I thought if anyone knew how to prepare for eventualities, it would be you. Thanks.

  262. @ buschoi — That’s a toughie. I’d say Marriott points are more valuable than Hilton points, but not by all that much. I’d say 1.25-1.5 Hilton points is worth 1 Marriott points, but that’s a very rough estimation.

  263. @ JOSH — Frankly, United hasn’t been overselling a whole lot lately, in my experience. I’ve been on probably a dozen zeroed out flights this year, but only got one bump. Even when zeroed out the actual loads just aren’t as high as they used to be. United’s getting a bit too conservative (inventory management wise) for my liking).

  264. @ Lyndon — I’ve been meaning to write a post about the merger for a while now, but keep getting sidetracked. This is a toughie. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some realigning of elite levels and that top tier elites retain SWUs and CR1s. I can’t imagine they’d change that, especially since there was just a fight over CR1s when unlimited domestic upgrades started. But whether that’s going to be at the 100K tier, or maybe a new 125K or 150K tier, is a different story. Hoping for the best!

  265. @ Dan — That’s always a toughie. My best advice with awards is to always plan long enough layovers to avoid irrops. You’re not totally screwed in the case of irrops, but when something goes wrong it’s not all that fun and turns into a blame game. In theory the operating airline should help accommodate you, but at the same time the airline that issued the ticket will often have to reissue the ticket. Beyond that, some agents may require that there’s award availability for you to be rebooked, while others won’t.

    So I’d say the best bet is to just keep asking if there’s an issue. One agent might refuse to help, while another is happy to. Case in point, my brother was flying JFK-FRA-LHR last year, but due to irrops that didn’t pan out. One agent said there was no award availability so he was out of luck, another offered to rebooked him via Munich (where that was a seat available but not an award seat, technically), and one offered to rebook him nonstop on British Airways, which isn’t even a partner.

  266. Thanks for the post, Lucky. Well as it turned out my friend did have irrops.
    The first leg of the trip, OKC-ORD was cancelled by UA for wx, and they told her to call CO because CO booked the ticket. CO said she couldn’t leave until the next award availability, which was five days later. So now she’s starting her trip, completely rebooked, 5 days late.
    Can this be right? Did UA or CO drop the ball?
    Oh, and on top of everything, the CO agent, after assuring us no extra miles would be deducted from my account to rebook, apparently did so and pulled 22,500 extra miles to change the return. After talking to two supervisors at CO, they say to send an e-mail to corporate customer support.
    Am I doing something wrong here? Any help is much appreciated!
    Thanks.

  267. Lucky,

    I am joining my friend on a same-day mileage run *to* Tampa. Do you have any suggestions on what to do for almost two hours in the Tampa airport? My friend has a membership to the RCC, but it looks like the “reciprocal” agreement with the US Airways Club only applies when flying on their metal.

    If you are interested, our route is SFO-ORD-TPA-IAD-SFO. SFO-ORD is a 747 (yay) but IAD-SFO is a 319 (ug). It will be interesting to see what our upgrade luck is a pair of 1Ks.

    This trip was an impulse run triggered by an expiring coupon from the “Fly More, Save More” promotion.

  268. Lucky…this is a bit outside your airlines of expertise, but perhaps you know. I am planning to book a flight on CO to Manila, but was hoping to go there via Guam->Yap->Palau->Manila. Do you know if they would allow this as a legal booking, and if so whether they would allow Palau as a stopover? Technically, it is the “port of entry” for South Asia on the reward chart!

    Thanks!

  269. I need to go from New York to Vegas on United but the P.S. service JFK-SFO/LAX is very expensive. Any other recommended routing? Are there any of the new config 767s or 777s running domestic routes? Perhaps LGA-IAD-LAX-LAS or something along those lines could work!

  270. Lucky, why is the Travelocity low fare alert function such garbage? I’ve had some success in the past finding good fares to random locations from RDU using Travelocity low fare alert lists. It is similar to the Flyertalk fares tool, but just another vehicle to find random deals. Unfortunately, as of late, every fantastic fare I come across travelocity is not able to deliver…like the current $104 roundtrip fare from RDU to bermuda??? I can’t seem to find this fare in ITA…what gives?

    Do you have any advice on how to make it work? I’ve flown decent fares from travelocity before, including a $350 RDU-FRA R/T last november. UGH!

  271. Hey Lucky-
    I’ve had consistently excellent service on my last 12 UA flights. Have I just been really fortunate or is this a trend you are seeing too? All 12 flights had PDB of choice – even the SFO-LAX ones. Some flights even had the folding cart setup and brought down the aisle for PDB.

    NONE of thse crews hid in the galley after meal service and they kept our drinks full the whole time – even up till the “FAs prepare for landing” announcement.

    I have been consistently addressed by name throughout the flight, not just while taking meal orders – sometimes even while deplaning.

    The crews have been smiling a lot.

    as a comparison, none of these things happened 12 times last year out of the 98 segments I flew.

    Have you experienced an uptick in service too? I can hardly believe its the same airline! Its even been quite a bit better than CO this year. Im wondering if maybe morale has gone up due to the merger announcement or something.

  272. Hey Lucky

    United or Cathay?

    I’ve been with United for the past 4 years, usually flying enough to get premier, but not enough to get 1P. My airport is SFO and I usually rack up miles through trips to Asia (TPE/PEK) rather than through domestic flights or flights to Europe.

    After reading your glowing reviews about Cathay, I’ve been thinking about migrating to their program from United. It means I’d have to start over, but I’m not loose that much. I’m not a 1K or anything. Cathay seem to offer a better product if your need is flying to and within Asia. Their ticket prices are also often less expensive.

    Member Ross asked you about this back in Sept 2009 on this “Ask Lucky” forum and you said being based in SFO, United is the obvious choice. I feel that because of all the recent cost cutting, United is just not an obvious choice anymore. What is your opinion?

    My only concerns about moving to Cathay is their Marco Polo program costs $50. I thought frequent flier programs are typically free? Also, I’m not familiar with Cathay since I’ve always flown exclusively United whereas I know United’s website, policies, lounge access, etc pretty well (partly thanks to you).

  273. @ Dan — Ouch, sorry to hear about your experience. No, they should have definitely done a better job handling the situation. The issue is that neither Continental or United dropped the ball, per se. They simply found it easier to blame each other. They want to make it seem as if an alliance equates to a seamless travel experience, but as you experienced it’s anything but. Technically there should be award availability when rebooking, but in cases of issues once at the airport I’ve found agents to usually be willing to book passengers in any available revenue seats. As I mentioned, sometimes you’ll even be offered a seat on a non-alliance carrier, as crazy expensive as it might be for the airline. In your friend’s case I would have gone to the airport and pushed it there.

    Hope everything works out!

  274. @ Eric P — Enjoy the 747! TPA isn’t all that exciting. While there is a US Airways Club, it is in a different terminal, so there’s no way to access it either way. Fortunately TPA has free wifi and the waiting area is generally tolerable, so I would suggest just surfing the web. Not a whole lot else to be done in two hours. If it were a longer layover I’d suggest going to the International Mall, which is right next door, but two hours would be cutting it tight.

    If you get completely bored and all else fails, you can always go through the security checkpoint over and over and see how often you get picked for the full body scanner. 😉

  275. @ kevincure — What airline are you looking to book with? Generally I’m going to guess that wouldn’t be possible, but it’s a function of the airline/program you’re trying to book through.

  276. @ Feran — Generally there are different fares out of LGA and EWR, so if you can fly out of those, I’d search those separately. If you’re willing to go a bit of a distance, HPN often has MUCH lower fares. There are some new config planes flying domestically. Between ORD and SFO there are actually both 767s and 747s running at the moment, which is a nice treat. Otherwise there’s the three cabin 777 running between IAD and LAX which will likely be old configuration, but it’s better than a two cabin plane, in my opinion. There are also several running between ORD and DEN, so it really shouldn’t be too tough to stick to three cabin planes most of the way.

  277. @ Bianca B — Wish I had some brilliant advice, but I don’t use Travelocity. Sorry! I’ve gotten so used to knowing which routings do/don’t work and what the fares out of my home airport that I haven’t had a use for it. Even in the past I never relied on low fare alerts of any sort. Sometimes you’ve just gotta search the same routes over and over to look for fare drops, sadly.

    Sorry I can’t be of more help…

  278. @ HunterSFO — Interesting observation, because I’ve noticed the same thing overall, though I have to attribute it to luck of the draw. There’s no doubt that the merger is improving morale somewhat, but at the end of the day it’s the same employees flying the same airline, so I can’t imagine their attitude changes that frequently. I am thinking that the general level of job satisfaction will increase slightly with the merger anticipation (perhaps a “grass is greener” syndrome of sorts), and that might be reflected a bit. But at the end of the day the same amazing employees have been out there for decades and the same bad apples are still flying the “friendly” skies.

    Let’s hope it’s an actual change with the company as opposed to just luck of the draw, though!

  279. @ Daniel — That’s a real toughie. If you’re looking for the best in-flight experience the answer is obvious — go with Cathay. For everything else, stick with United. Keep in mind you get Economy Plus on United, though unless you’re really tall that doesn’t make up for the substantially worse food, service, entertainment, and general cabin condition. But at the same time with United you’ll be earning 100% miles on all fare classes. You’ll be earning miles that you can redeem at a reasonable rate for award tickets.

    Some foreign carriers do charge to join frequent flier programs, and the Marco Polo program is one of them. Frankly in your shoes I’d shoot for Premier Executive — I know it doesn’t directly answer your question, but I’d mileage run for it. Then the answer will become more obvious. You’ll start earning a 100% mileage bonus, lounge access, and exit row seating, all of which is incredibly valuable, in my opinion. But if that’s not an option I’d still stick with United for the superior mileage program. But then again, I’m obsessed with miles and points.

  280. Hi Lucky,
    What a great site! I am a frequent traveler, but have points in many places. I am trying to book a 1-2 week trip with a +1 sometime in June/July.
    I can fly from IAH or SFO easily. For points, I have: 73,000 AMEX, 72K SPG, 83K Marriott, 16,5K Continental OnePass, 23K United Mileage.

    Is there a smart way to use these toward at least one of the roundtrip flights to South America (Argentina) or New Zealand? (would also consider Europe if that made more sense). Reading your past blogs, seems like I should transfer my AMEX points to one airline?

    thanks so much for your advice!

  281. oops! Ii forgot to mention that I also have about 50K Delta Skymiles.

    I’m not sure what would be the best transfer for my AMEX.

    thank you again!

  282. Tried to fly United PS again. Last year I opted out with a bump and got home 2 hours earlier. This time my CR upgrade to C on the ps flight was changed — first to a non-ps 757and then to a 767 3 class cabin. Ended up in a C rear-facing seat with an operating video. I suppose this is actually a better option than the ps flight but I’m kind of disappointed to miss out again. Now 0 for 2 on ps service. Is ps worth the extra trouble?

    Also snagged a CR C seat on a 747 from ORD to SFO. Figured I’d watch the one or two movies I missed the previous week flying to/from Bangkok. But no operating video — most of the upper deck was without the video/audio options though I did see a few folks watching movies towards the end of the flight. Got a card apologizing for the inconvenience though I haven’t had a chance to see what United has in mind for compensation.

    Champagne/sparkling wine is not available in C on domestic flights. Odd, I thought it would be.

  283. Assuming you got the p.s. meals and everything else – you got a solid net upgrade going from the p.s. 757 to the int’l 767. Consider yourself lucky. I’d take any new config C seat, even rear-facing, over my beloved p.s. row 9!

  284. Yes, I love the new configuration C Seats. I didn’t have a problem with the rear-facing seat as well. It was tough to watch the approach. With the big runway closed we landed on 22R and taxied pretty quickly to the gate. I think I’ll find it hard to ride in International coach again or the old C seats.

    Also had an odd approach to LGA — north over the Hudson followed by a left hand 450 degree turn that put us on runway 13. Very cool for those on the rigth side of the plane. The left side of the plane got a nice view of Newark and the Meadowlands.

  285. Assume I have around 200k IC/Priority Club points and I want to use them on a nice beach somewhere internationally. Where would you go? Timeframe is June/July of next year. Need to start planning!

  286. Lucky, what’s going on with the upgrd podcast? I haven’t seen a new episode on the website in sometime…

  287. @ utdana — If you transferred both your Amex points and SPG points to Aeroplan, you’d have enough for two business class tickets to South America (they cost 75,000 miles each). Sounds like that’s the best path for you to take.

  288. @ RDimperio — You definitely got the better deal if you got the new hard product with PS service. The plane as such is nothing special, though it does feel awfully spacious for a 757. Is PS worth the trouble? Not anymore, at least for me. When I could use 500 mile upgrades for PS I thought it was worth it all the time, but not anymore since I need to burn CR1s on PS. The food service is definitely pretty good, but you didn’t miss out at all with the aircraft. And on the 747 I’m gonna go ahead and guess you lucked out. $200-250 is better than some crap movie (I hope)!

  289. @ magiciansampras — Toughie. Not much of a beach dweller. In terms of maximizing the value of the points, I’d say Tahiti/Bora Bora is the obvious answer. Getting there is a bit of a pain, though, at least when trying to use miles/points or trying to stick to alliances. There’s no doubt that would be the best experience. Otherwise I’d really consider Bali, though the rates there are so low that using points doesn’t really make sense. Otherwise Mauritius or Fiji are probably worth considering. I’d try to combine the best hotel experience with the best flight experience, so I guess that’s all a function of where your miles can take you. And it’s also worth seeing which properties will best honor your status even on award stays.

  290. @ Blankeeta — We’re recording another one tomorrow. Seems like we took a couple of weeks off.

  291. Hi Lucky,

    I stumbled on your fascinating posts just by accident but was incredibly intrigued by all the impressive deal-searching and point travel you so excel in. Incredibly simple question, I know, but do you have an info source or article or post that you can point to as a good ‘starting point’ for someone interested in becoming more a more sophisticated mile award user? I have accounts with ANA, Virgin America, AA, and US Airways and a simple AA Mastercard, but I can’t escape the feeling that I’ve been stocking up miles far too piecemeal on these individual airlines and credit cards rather than pooling them all into the kind of amazing ANA-Virgin Atlantic-Singapore-etc. superdeals I read about you doing. Do you have a good primer or source for how to brush up? Thanks for the fun reads.

  292. Lucky,
    I got a large number of AA miles and want to redeem them for F award travel on CX next year. I enjoyed your last trip report on CX to Bali. Any tips for me on scoring an F seat? I will be flying DFW-LAX-HKG-LAX-DFW Thanks!

  293. If you aren’t using CR1s for PS flights where are you using them? Unless upgrades clear in advance are you better to pull the CR1 and hope for the UDU?

  294. Lucky,

    I’m an AA Plat out of ORD, but am considering switching to UA. Does it make sense to status match into CO, and credit flights to CO until the merger? I wouldn’t be flying much CO (mostly UA), so I guess I wouldn’t get any status benefits other than the mileage bonus until then.

    On a related note, when is the merger actually supposed to go through?

  295. Hi Lucky,

    My family of four is traveling to Europe next year, SFO-ZRH, VCE-SFO. I have enough miles for C for all of us but they’re from 3 different programs: UA., CO and US. Since LH often has good availability SFO-FRA in C, I’m hoping for that flight, or another gateway to FRA.
    Besides Starnet blocking on UA, how much of a potential problem is it to book award tix for the same itinerary using different programs? In case of irrops, am I setting myself up for trouble? (I’ve had that problem when CO miles were used for a cancelled UA flight.)
    As always, thanks for your experience and help.

  296. Lucky–longtime reader; quick q re hyatt and the dreaded phantom nights–let’s say I find myself in the IAD area this weekend and check in to four different hyatts, all on the same night–will I get four stay credits? I could think of a reason some more prolific individuals might need four rooms at four different hyatts and yet *stay* in each of them…
    thx

  297. @ MKG — Thanks for reading! I don’t think I have a single post that’s a good starting point. I think the best way to learn is to read FlyerTalk.com and follow along for a while on some miles and points blogs. I try to post as many deals as possible, so after a while you can hopefully decide which would be best for you and which you’re better off skipping on. I like the idea of a simple “starting” post, though, so will try to work on that in the coming weeks.

  298. @ Harry — Finding availability on Cathay Pacific shouldn’t actually be that tough, believe it or not. I would suggest using all tools available to you to look for availability first, like the British Airways tool. For what it’s worth, SFO to HKG typically has much more award availability than LAX to HKG, so I’d consider that when the time comes to book. Enjoy your trip in Cathay first, it’s one of my favorite products!

  299. @ RDimperio — I’ve actually been pooling them for a while now. All my UDUs have cleared so far (out of 40+ flights), so I plan on using them for family and friends. I’ve only used two since UDUs started, and they were on friends traveling with me but on separate records.

  300. @ Keith — Interesting idea, though I’m not sure what the benefit would be. As you say, you’d get the mileage bonus but not Economy Plus or upgrades. United offers a challenge, whereby they’ll match you to Premier Executive for 90 days and require you to fly 15,000 miles in that period to maintain the status. Have you considered that?

  301. @ Dan — Shouldn’t be an issue at all. In the case of irregular operations it might be a pain if you have to call each airline to rebook individually, but beyond that I don’t see it being much of an issue. I would do it in a heartbeat.

  302. @ Big Z — ROFL at the reason for using four hotel rooms in a night. Ouch! Actually I don’t think that will work, unfortunately. Hyatt’s T&Cs state you can only earn points for one room in a night, so that wouldn’t be allowed. The thought has crossed my mind before as well, though.

  303. Lucky, I am planning an oneworld award around the world fare to Asia. My Asian journey ends in NRT. I am based in RDU, and would like to fly from NRT to the east coast for ease of getting home. What Oneworld Business class product do you recommend from NRT to the east coast?

  304. @ Bianca — Assuming you can’t connect in HKG and fly Cathay Pacific, which I doubt would be possible, your only options are American or JAL. I’d say between those two it’s a no brainer — the service on JAL is going to be far superior, so I’d go with them.

  305. Hey Lucky

    Got a couple of questions…

    Are there any good frequent flyer programs that do not charge taxes for booking award tickets?

    I stay in Singapore. Prefer to travel Singapore Airlines/Cathay, but directly booking award flights using Krisflyer costs quite a bit in taxes. Is there any way I can book SQ flights thru a Star Alliance partner for flights originating in Singapore, and yet cut down on the taxes I pay per award ticket?

    Thanks in advance

  306. @ Arun — Virtually all frequent flier programs charge taxes, and the taxes are fairly consistent. I think what you’re referring to are the outrageous fuel surcharges that some airlines get away with charging. Most North American loyalty programs, including American, Continental, United, US Airways, and even Air Canada’s Aeroplan, don’t charge fuel surcharges on partner awards.

    Then again, you won’t have the same access to Singapore seats that you’ll have when booking directly through them. Assuming the fare classes you fly qualify for 100% mileage credit on partner airlines, you could credit some miles to other programs, but if you fly enough to earn elite status you won’t be getting the same benefits as a “native” elite of that loyalty program. So it’s a toughie…

  307. Warning: completely inane question…

    As a 1K, I am flying ORD-TPA (UA 786 A320 Fare Code: L) and TPA-DEN (UA 465 A 320 Fare Code T) later this month on a Thursday. Given that you know these routes well, what would you say my odds are for an upgrade?

  308. @ robertol — Hardly an insane question! If anything, this is where I can help. What’s your upgrade chance? I’d say virtually 100%. I’ve never seen a 1K not get an upgrade out of TPA, and I do 100+ segments to/from TPA every year. If you don’t clear, please do let me know.

  309. Lucky

    I have two big questions. The first one is that in two weeks Im going to Miami with Mexicana. They have this option of buying an upgrade if there are seats available you can buy it for 150 usd.
    The flight is about 3 hours, a bit more, and it departs at 7 am so should I buy the upgrade? Also Im travelling with two kids.
    The airplane is an A320 or an B737 and there is only business class seats. Buy it or not?

    The other, I know that is not about flights or hotels but you might answer this one: you probably know that Dollar and Thrifty are owned by the same company and they offer the same location,cars and price . I found the best price with both of them in Miami but I dont know in which one to rent? Thrifry or Dollars? Help?
    Oh last, have you stayed at the Hyatt grand cypress in Orlando? Any comments?

  310. Lucky,

    Been posting here and there but thanks for the great website once again.

    Just a few questions for someone wanting to get somewhere, but lives in Australia!

    1. Anything you could recommend for getting elite statuses being based in Australia?

    2. Up to now I’ve just been buying US Airways miles and redeeming them for first class inventory, which is a great idea. But I’d love to try some One world first class, and my aa miles are not piling up with cheap c/mile. Suggestions?

    3. You fly it seems nearly every weekend (!) How do you find time to study, work and fly too! Any tips? =P

    Thanks!

  311. What’s the best airline to fly from LA to Tampa, in first. and the best airport to layover.

  312. @ Oscar — Your first question is a toughie. That rate comes out to $50 per hour for an upgrade, which is right on the border of being worth it, in my opinion. I’d say it’s the “standard” price for an upgrade. So it’s tough to answer without knowing your financial situation. If you’re doing well, sure, you’re getting a good deal on the upgrade at that rate. If you’re on a budget, I’d say it’s not an astonishingly good deal.

    As far as Dollar vs. Thrifty, well, I never rent cars, but I have a more favorable attitude towards Dollar. Take it with a grain of salt, though.

    I have stayed at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. I really like the hotel, though it’s starting to show its age. Still a very, very nice hotel, in my opinion.

  313. @ Danny M — That’s a toughie. Assuming you’re not on much of a budget, I think it’s hard to beat three cabin first class from Los Angeles to Washington Dulles, and then first class down to Tampa on a two cabin aircraft. Of course that’s quite expensive. Otherwise I’d say Continental is pretty tough to beat, especially if you can find a way to get onto one of their 757s configured with international business class seats. Lastly, and this again assumes that cost isn’t an issue, it’s tough to beat American Flagship Service from Los Angeles to New York, and then New York to Tampa on American. And you could use the Flagship Lounge, which is pretty darn nice.

    As far as the best airport for a layover, that’s a toughie. The airports with the best amenities are generally also the worst when it comes to delays. In general I’d say DEN is a pretty good airport to connect in, especially in summer. It’s a nice enough terminal and my flights out of there are very rarely delayed during the summer.

    Hope that helps.

  314. @ George — That’s a real toughie. The miles and points game isn’t even nearly as lucrative as it is here in the States when it comes to maximizing. The frequent flyer programs can’t compare, and you don’t quite have as many generous credit card sign-up offers. Assuming you’re just trying to maximize the amount of international premium cabin travel you can do, I’d say stick to United. Assuming you’d be flying to the States anyway, they are likely your best option. If you fly enough you can get 1K status, which will get you lots of upgrades to the States, and the miles are worth quite a bit more than programs like Qantas, where you’re looking at several hundred thousand miles for an international premium cabin award.

    Buying US Airways miles is by far the best deal out there for getting premium cabin travel. It’s much tougher with OneWorld. American recently had that promotion for transfers from Starwood, but accumulating that many Starwood points can be tough too. But generally there aren’t all that many options for cheap OneWorld award travel. And even in Star, US Airways is the only airline that really has such cheap offers for miles.

    How do I find the time to study, work, and fly? I just don’t sleep and don’t have a waking minute of “free time.” But I love it, so I just look at it as a way to stay busy. I try to stay VERY focused during the week with school work, so I can dedicate the rest of my time to other work and flying.

  315. Hi, Lucky,
    Your blog is awesome! I have just finished reading your blog entries on Grand Hyatt Seattle and Hyatt @ Olive 8. I am wondering which one of those would you recommend for a kind of a romantic getaway trip with 4 couples? Please advise! Thanks

  316. @ viv — That’s a toughie. Do any of the couples have status with Hyatt? If so, I’d say the Grand Hyatt is a better option, given that they usually upgrade Diamond members to suites, even without using a suite upgrade. Also, the views from the hotel are phenomenal, especially on the higher floor, assuming you’re facing the direction of the bay. So I’d say it’s a better option in general.

    At the same time, the Olive 8 has a much more “chic” interior design, so you wouldn’t go wrong with that option either…

  317. Thanks for answering. And well although I still travelled about 6 times to Europe roundtrip in the last “year” I couldn’t make all my trips on business class. So I could pay the upgrade the only thing is that I have two kids, so what Im going to do is to ask the day before and check the options.

    Thanks for the rental car question and the hotel question. BTW when did you stayed I heard the Hyatt grand Cypress Orlando was renovated.

  318. Hi! thanks for the reply, Lucky! No, none of us have status with Hyatt, so we will be staying at just the standard room to save some money. I know it is a tough decision, especially after reading your opinions on them, both of them seem so great! One is more classic, one if more chic… so hard to decide!! By the way, I had the chances to stay at Park Hyatt Seoul twice with my girlfriends. I totally agree with everything you mentioned. It is absolutely one of my favorite hotels of all time! Love the contemporary design, and their customer service was also excellent! Your wonderful blog took me back to Seoul and those good memories! Thank you!

  319. Love your blog, Lucky. Is busienss class that much better than 1st?

    I have 120K US miles and was hoping to fly to Singapore next year, with maybe a stopover in Berlin. So I was eyeing SQ JFK-FRA-SIN and just get an internal flight or train in Germany. I have about just enough SPG points to get 160K US miles (thanks cc bonus!) for this trip. I was planning on transferring those to AA for some as yet undetermined trip, but could use them to make this trip in 1st rather than business.

    I don’t travel that much and don’t really play the miles and points game that much and think that US-Europe in Y is good enough for me. But if SQ in first is really significantly better than business, I might slurge. Do you have an opinion? I know you’re usually at the nose, though.

    I’m also not sure of my routing, so if you could comment on LX or LH or maybe even TK that’d be good too!

  320. @ viv — Happy to hear you had a great experience as well. Love the hotel as such, but even more so, they have customer service down, and that’s key for me.

  321. @ Ann — Ultimately there’s a bigger difference between coach and business than business in first class. The way I look at it, business class is a way to arrive at a destination feeling relatively well rested. The biggest difference for me between coach and business is the added space. Flying first class, on the other hand, you arrive feeling taken care of and relaxed, and with some airlines, even pampered. The meals are far superior, there’s much more personal space, but most importantly, there’s a level of personalized service that doesn’t exist in business class.

    As far as your redemption goes, I’d get Singapore Airlines out of your mind. Unfortunately they still don’t release any first class award space on SQ25/26, with is the flight you’re looking at. They never do, not even a few days out.

    But either way, if you have the miles for it, by all means splurge for first class, in my opinion. It’s worth it! Lots of other airlines are amazing in first class. Consider Swiss on one of their newly reconfigured A330-300s, which fly between JFK and ZRH and JFK and GVA. They have an amazing hard product and great service to boot. Or Lufthansa through FRA is amazing, since you’d have access to the First Class Terminal, where you’ll be driven to the plane in either a Porsche or Mercedes S500.

    Or Thai out of BKK is pretty amazing. As a first class passenger you get an hour-long full body massage and get escorted every step of the way, from check-in to boarding.

    Or Turkish is worth considering as well, if you can get on their 777-300ER in first class. They fly that plane on JFK-IST and often IST-HKG. If you stopover in IST, as a first class passenger you get a free transfer into the city in a BMW or Mercedes, so that’s quite a deal too.

    There are lots of options, you really can’t go wrong. Feel free to email me for some more thoughts or help.

  322. Hi Lucky,

    Which Star Alliance program provides the most value when come to redemption for award flight? I’m on Krisflyer program and find that the redemption on SIA is ridiculously expensive. I primarily fly with SIA and Thai Air. I fly at least 50000 miles annually between Australia and countries in Asia.

    Should I switch to another FFP? Perhaps UA Milage Plus or Thai Royal Orchid?

    Please Advise! Thanks.

    MrT

  323. @ MrT — Solely in terms of low redemption levels, I’d say Air Canada is the best. They have very reasonable redemption levels, especially to/from Australia and Asia, and you can even get their “Elite” middle tier status for 35,000 elite qualifying miles, which gets you Star Alliance Gold status. The thing to keep in mind is that not all fare classes accrue full mileage, so you’ll want to check if the fare classes you usually fly would earn full mileage through Air Canada’s Aeroplan.

    If you’d like to stick to a US frequent flyer program, I would recommend Continental over United, since they have mostly the same redemption levels, but Continental doesn’t block any partner award inventory, which United does.

  324. Great Blog. Thanks For the info so far.

    Do the United 757’s domestics (not PS) have foot rests in first class?

  325. Lucky,

    Thanks for the info so far. I will be flying into TPA next Thursday, for a conference at the Grand Hyatt.

    My first question is I arrive before everyone else the conference does not start until Friday night. Can you recommend somewhere decent for lunch on Friday, I don’t wanna travel to for from the hotel.

    Second: Any info on the Grand Hyatt

    Last: On the day out, I am leaving a lot later than everyone else, and my flight does not leave until 630, Where would be a good place to kill a few hours near the airport,

    Thanks

  326. Hey Lucky!

    I’m trying to get onto my first premium status on ANA (I use them a lot) and I need your advice on mileage run routes and/or any tips! From what I read NYC-NRT is the best and most cost efficient from NYC- but I was wondering if you know of any other route within US or to Europe.

    Thanks!

  327. Hi Lucky! I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months now, and I’d like to give a big thumbs-up, I really enjoy reading your posts! 🙂
    I have an assortment of FFP cards on various airlines, with Gold status on SQ and AF. I wonder if I could email you for some assistance about which ones to keep/trash, etc? My miles are literally all over the place now!
    In addition, I wonder if I’d have a chance to meet up with you IRL someday? I’d really love to meet someone who’s as fanatical about flying as you! I guess I’m “new to the club” but in only a few months I’ve flown a lot and grown to love what I’m doing.

  328. Lucky,
    Any advice on this award routing regarding other routings/products I should look into?

    MEM-ORD UA F
    ORD-ZRH LX F
    ZRH-BKK TG F
    BKK-HKG TG F
    HKG-IST TK F
    IST-MUC TK C
    MUC-FRA LH C
    FRA-ORD LH F
    ORD-MEM UA F

    Any ideas would be fantastic.

  329. @ Danny — Sorry, I might be a bit late here, but I’ll answer nonetheless. As far as places to grab lunch around the GH, that’s a toughie. If you want something more authentic (Cuban), head over to Ybor City, though that’s a bit of a hike. Otherwise the Westshore area has tons of decent chain restaurants, though not much more “authentic” than that.

    The Grand Hyatt in Tampa is fine. I stay there all the time. There’s nothing “grand” about it, but it’s a decent hotel nonetheless. Just don’t have high expectations or expect the same quality of some other GH properties, and you’ll be satisfied.

    The last day, I’d suggest killing a few hours at the International Plaza. It’s a very nice mall with all kinds of cool shops and restaurants. And it has great airport views no less!

  330. @ Ruby — That’s a toughie. Can you provide some more details. How many miles do you need? Any time/destination constraints?

  331. @ ellyse — Thanks for reading! Absolutely, feel free to email me any time. I’ll do my best to help out, time permitting. I’ve met up with hundreds of readers all around the world, so there are plenty of opportunities. I attend/host FlyerTalk dinners all over the place, and usually even post here when I’m “hosting” a dinner. So when paths cross, I’m all for meeting as many readers as possible. Sounds like you’re on the right track with your new hobby!

  332. @ Halothane — That looks like a fantastic itinerary to me. In your shoes I’d probably try to fit Asiana first class in between FRA and ICN. You could do something ORD-FRA-ICN-HKG-BKK-FRA-ZRH-ORD, or the other way around. There’s a lot to play with there, but Asiana is an airline that really shouldn’t be missed. Or actually, on second thought, you really should do Asiana on the return, so you can experience the FCT twice, though you can experience it either way with an outbound Swiss flight. Have fun!

  333. Hey Halothane, Just putting in 2c for your itinerary. You could try to do(depending on your dates the IST-LHR 77W might be gone):

    MEM-ORD UA F
    ORD-ZRH LX F
    ZRH-CDG LX C
    CDG-BKK TG F 77W
    BKK-HKG TG F

    HKG-IST TK F
    IST-LHR TK F 77W
    LHR-FRA LH C
    FRA-ORD LH F
    ORD-MEM UA F

    I put in the CDG-BKK on TG 77w suites, as well as changing the IST-MUC to a IST-LHR segment which has F in it instead. There have been varying reviews on TK so I would do OZ myself. You’ll get to see the 77w suite on TG too.

    Something else to keep in mind if you fly LX ZRH-HKG you get to go to The Wing lounge at HKIA =)

    Sorry to steal your panel Lucky!

  334. Hi Lucky thanks for the reply! I need about 10,000 at least…don’t have much time or destination constraints though. It just seems that I only get 70% on partner airlines…I’m curious to know how you manage so many different airlines at the same time. I would love to know how you got it started!

  335. Hey Lucky,
    I flew PEK-SFO-DFW on July 26th and only one of my bags made it to DFW. I received the other one today (2 days later). Can get some type of compensation for this? I do not have elite status with United but I did upgrade with miles for the PEK-SFO leg to C. Any idea on how to get some compensation for the inconvenience? Thanks!

  336. @ Ruby — The key for me is to stick to airlines that have affordable mileage run options and offer 100% miles on all the fare classes I usually fly. US airlines are much better about this than foreign carriers. In your case, assuming you live in the US and are just short of status with ANA, I’d suggest doing a few domestic mileage runs. You’ll get a better CPM (cent per mile ratio), but just make sure the fare classes you book qualify for full (or near full) mileage. Good luck!

  337. @ Harry — I would suggest contacting United through the “customer service” link on united.com. It will prompt you to enter flight information, dates, etc., and just leave a short note. Explain you were flying business class and disappointed that your bag arrived two days late, and it inconvenienced you greatly. They should send some miles or an electronic certificate your way.

  338. Thanks lucky! I emailed them and the auto generated response told me that it would take 10 days to get back a response. I’ll have to wait and see…

  339. Hey Lucky,
    I have 2 questions… first. I need to go to ORD to visit a friend. I bought a OW ticket from my home town to ORD-MKE since it was cheaper ($100) since they compete with Midwest in that market. If I don’t check bags, can I leave in ORD? I probably won’t get flight credit for the ORD-MKE portion.

    Also, I am CO Plat, any benefits for flying UA? I read about complimentary upgrades (after 1K, and 1P)… do you have any more details about how it works? I know that I have complimentary access to E+, but does my travel companion get it as well? They charged me $78 for it as additional charges but I believe that it is a mistake. Thanks!

  340. @sarah, to answer your first question, yes, as long as it’s a OW ticket you can leave at ORD with no problem. However, if it was a RT, the return segments would be canceled if you missed one of the outbound legs. As for the flight credit you won’t get the credit for ord-mke (unless United’s IT system royally goofs up).

  341. @ Sarah — @Miley C is totally right about point one. As of now the benefits for flying United has a Continental Plat are limited. You don’t even get Economy Plus for free just yet. But hopefully within the next few months there will be companion upgrades, etc. As of now you get priority boarding, security, and check-in, the same as any other Star Gold, but that’s about it.

  342. Hey Lucky,
    Reading your blog, I have been inspired to try my luck at bumping. I have two questions

    1. For getting bumped, it is better to inform the gate agent beforehand that I can take the next flight. Or should I wait until they call for volunteers.

    2. I am traveling on an award ticket with United. Will I get bump benefit, if I offer my seat?

    Thanks

  343. Hi Lucky,

    I’m currently Delta Plat and Hyatt Diamond and pretty much stick to those. I have flown a lot on UA in the past but have had bad experiences, and I worked at the airport in Nashville and although they were DGS employees, the way they are trained and how little they know about operation scares me. Anyway, I spent a good couple hours reading your recent award trip to Asia and having just come back yesterday from one myself on all DL operated flights, I realized its time to hire you to plan my next one. Problem….Delta has few international partners that serve the destinations I want to go, which are primarily Asia/Pacific Islands/Australia and then of course I always like a quick trip to Europe. I am going to stick with DL for domestics for now, but I want to get a new CC to earn miles primarily for awards. I have thought about your fave the SPG, but I am considering the AAdvantage card because although I typically charge 100k annually, I like the idea of getting the 75k miles right off the bat from AA now, and my understanding is that the dollars spent count toward EQM, which would be nice on the few AA flights that I do fly. I guess I’m wondering for my travel desires, spending habits, and future plans to have you plan a fantastic award trip for me (i’m thinking Qantas and Cathay would be nice), which card would you go with?

    Thanks!

  344. @ Angik Sarkar — If it looks like the flight might be oversold, get yourself added to the list as soon as possible. This can be done at check-in, the customer service counter, the Red Carpet Club, or the gate. The sooner you’re on the list, the better. And if you add yourself to the list before you get to the gate, be sure to mention to the gate agent that you’re on the list as soon as you get to the gate. Don’t be pushy at that point, but just say “in case you need me, I’ll be sitting over there, so call me whenever.”

    If you’re on an award ticket and bump you’d receive the same benefits as on a revenue ticket. There’s actually one huge advantage to being on an award ticket. They’re not allowed to involuntarily deny you boarding. So if you don’t want to be bumped, being on an award ticket is the best way to go. But usually they’ll still let you bump, if you want to.

    Hope that helps!

  345. @ Chad — Thanks for the question. The AA sign up offer sure is lucrative, though I don’t believe you earn EQMs for spend on American. Instead, I believe you earn two miles per dollar there when using the card. In your shoes I would sign up for both the AA card and the SPG card, assuming your credit score allows it (generally signing up for two cards at once doesn’t have much of a negative impact on your score).

    Then I’d use the AA card to get the initial sign up bonus of 75,000 miles and for all AA purchases, where you’ll earn two miles per dollar. Otherwise I would use the SPG card, where you’ll be earning one SPG point per dollar. Keep in mind that for every 20,000 SPG points you transfer, you receive a 5,000 point bonus. So you’d earn 25,000 AA miles for 20,000 SPG points, or essentially 1.25 miles per dollar. Then you could get a very nice award in CX F.

    Hope to be able to assist!

  346. Lucky, Thanks for the blog. I read your entry today re: waitlisting for award seats and searched on flyertalk for similar threads but i’m still a little confused. is this right?

    i want to fly C domestically on UA on a saver award (only have the fifty thousand miles). i can’t find the day i want, or at least some of the segments don’t have it, so i book an award trip in economy for the day i want, then call and ask to be waitlisted for C? and if it becomes available, will i pay in miles or cash? and it will still be only a saver award (fifty k rt)?

    Finally, it looks like when i view online at UA that if there is only first and economy and i want business, they put me in economy. is that right? (from clicking on ‘flight details’ there is the option of flying US airways but from what i’ve read their business product isn’t great.

    thanks for any help

  347. @ minda — For the most part you have it right. You need to be confirmed in business class for at least one segment in order for them to charge you the business class price, or else it doesn’t work. Either way, regardless of whether the waitlist clears or not, you pay the business class award rate. So it is somewhat risky, but you do have a very high priority. And yes, this is for saver awards.

    You are correct on your last point. On a business class award, if only coach or three cabin first class is available, you get confirmed in economy. You can be confirmed in domestic, two cabin first class on a business class award, though, as it’s basically the same level.

  348. Hi Lucky. I put this on another post, but I think it got buried since the original post is over a month old. Sorry for the double post. How do you value Asiana and Virgin Atlantic miles? When I ask about VS, I mean VS itself, not transferring MR points to ANA. The reason I ask about these two airlines is their respective Bank of America credit cards. Thanks, I love the blog.

  349. @ Brian — I think Asiana miles are substantially more valuable. First of all, using their credit card, you earn two miles per dollar, as opposed to one with most other cards. Asiana is great for travel to Europe, since the award chart is distance based and they allow several stopovers per itinerary.

    Frankly, I find Virgin miles to be limiting. They have high fuel surcharges and their partners are limited. You have lots more options when sticking to Star.

  350. Thanks for the response, Lucky. 2 more quick questions.

    1: In your knowledge/experience, how difficult is it to redeem miles on each of the two carriers? For OZ, I’d be redeeming on partners (probably United), for VS I’d most likely be redeeming on VS itself.

    2: Does the 5 year expiration rule affect your opinion on the value of OZ miles? I get most of my miles from credit card spending, and it looks like I’d be able to acquire enough miles for biz/1st to Europe within the 5 year limit, but it’d be close.

    Thanks.

  351. @ Brian — Redeeming Asiana miles is very easy. You have access to all Star Alliance carriers, which gives you a lot to work with. United availability isn’t great, though I’d avoid them in general anyway. As far as the expiration policy goes, it’s not something I factor in. I can accrue enough miles to be able to redeem within five years, though if you think it’s going to be close, it might not be worth the risk. Toughie.

  352. Which Frequent Flier progam should i join

    Lucky: Right now I had travelled a lot from Mexico to Europe with LH mostly in coach, right now Im just a Frequent Traveller (Star Silver) and still need 40 k miles to bet to the Senator Status. What Im really angry is that I just joined them because I travelled with them but now that I think with 50 k miles that I have fly this years I could already be Star Alliance Gold members even with UA or CO 🙁
    So next year I want to join a Star Alliance member Frequent Flyer Progam but which one? My top are United, Air Canada or Aegean that has the lowest criteria.
    United is the one that flies the more to MX and Air Canada just to two destinations.
    So in which airline should I become member???

  353. @ Oscar — In your case I’d probably go with United, if you’d fly them most between the US and Mexico. In general I’d say Continental miles are more valuable, but soon enough they’ll all be the same. So for the time being I’d go with United then, in your shoes.

  354. Thanks, and yes Ill go with United.
    BTW have you heard the story of our biggest airline, Mexicana? Well is disappearing and is a very valuable member of OW so what do you think more airlines will come to MX maybe UA will add more flights and also AC. I hope TAM also comes. Did you know although Mexico is a hub for Ow and ST there are more airlines from Star Alliance?

  355. Hi Lucky,

    Which credit card program do you think is better, redemption wise – Membership rewards amex or Starwood amex?

    Thanks

  356. @ Oscar — Yeah, looks like things aren’t going too well in Mexico, eh? Makes sense that there are more Star Alliance airlines, though I’m guessing there’s quite a few more OW and ST flights.

  357. @ Mike — I used to value an SPG points and Membership Rewards point about the same. While you have more options with SPG and earn 25% more miles, Membership Rewards points mostly transfer instantly, while SPG points don’t. But lately there have been so many transfer bonuses that make me value SPG points much more. Like the 35% American bonus or 50% US Airways bonus. With those kinds of earning rates you’re looking at close to two miles per dollar.

  358. Hey Lucky,
    I am trying to use US Airways miles for F award from DFW to PEK via FRA on the outbound and then ICN/SFO on the way back. DFW to FRA in F is available, but F on A380 from FRA to PEK is not. Is LH pretty stingy with F availability on the A380 routes? Also, is SQ or OZ F ICN-SFO availability pretty stingy as well? Thanks!

  359. @ Harry — Lufthansa doesn’t release any F award space on the A380. And Singapore doesn’t release any award space on their new first class product, which is what they fly on ICN-SFO. Asiana flies a two cabin product to SFO as well, so no first class. Sorry!

  360. Hi Lucky,
    I’ve a a VCE-IST and IST-JFK leg in F on October, I’d like to know who to call for the transportation car at IST airport.
    You didn’t mention in your trip review and I tried TK Us Office and Italian Office too but no answers on the phone.
    Thanks in advance
    Max

  361. @ Max — I just called the Turkish number in the US, and they were able to arrange it for me. It took some time as they didn’t know what I was talking about, but it worked in the end.

  362. Hello Lucky,
    I got status matched to 1P yesterday from AA EXP… I know that *G have access to US lounges (excluding UA RCC / CO PC/ US Club. Is there a list someone where of the *G lounges I can access when traveling only on a domestic UA/US/CO ticket? I know there’s a few LH & SQ lounges in the US we can access. It was mention on a UPGRD podcast once. Thanks!

  363. Hi Lucky

    I have a biz trip coming up soon… SIN-AMS on SQ biz class. SIN-AMS part of the itinerary cannot be changed with as I need to be in a meeting on the morning of landing in AMS (land at 7:00 and meeting at 10:00) and there is only 1 non-stop SIN-AMS flight everyday.

    But for the AMS-SIN trip, any possibilities of creative routing to increase the # of miles for around the same cost? fyi, Amex travel services handles the booking for my firm, and the round trip cost comes to around 6.2k SGD for biz class.

    Would be great if you could point to some software/websites that I could play with to “optimise a trip for miles”. Have tried ITA Matrix etc… but couldnt get it to spit out what I want 🙁

    Thanks

  364. @ Sarah — Not sure there’s a formal list anywhere. Off the top of my head, though, I can think of the Senator lounges at DTW and IAD, the Singapore lounge at SFO, and the Swiss lounge at JFK. Don’t think there are any others that are easily accessible.

  365. @ Arun — Unfortunately the websites you reference are the only ones I can think of for trying to extend the routing. Generally non-US airlines are going to have less generous routing rules than US airlines, at least when booking a roundtrip as opposed to a RTW or special regional fare.

  366. Hi lucky,

    I sent you an email about this a while ago but you probably didn’t receive it or something. My question was re Australia to US fares, there is a sudden jump from about $1100rt to around $2800rt in mid-June, for all four carriers. Is this normal?

    Thanks

  367. Hey Lucky,

    Just booked LAX–NRT r/t on united.com, and got to fill out an online survey. In answer to “how can we improve the web site” I put down the following.

    In order to login and use my profile I need to use my MileagePlus number. However, I prefer to associate the reservation with my BMI DiamondClub number, where I am Star Gold. It would be good to allow a person to be associated with multiple frequent flier accounts on the web site, so I could use my online profile at the same time as enjoying Star Gold benefits and crediting the flight to BMI.

    Any thoughts? Did I somehow miss functionality that already exists? I know that I am entitled to Star Gold benefits even without crediting to BMI, but I want to credit to them anyway (and it’s more convenient to have Star Gold status inside the reservation already). Ideally I’d like to be able to use my MileagePlus profile, be recognized as DiamondClub Gold, and possibly credit my flight to a third partner, all on united.com. I realize United is trying to push MileagePlus (and the web site is VERY pushy), but the flip side of this is making life more painful to other Star elites.

    Other question: Lounge recommendations for LAX/NRT? This will be my first time at NRT.

  368. @ Roland — Those kinds of crazy fluctuations are somewhat normal. It’s like a roller coaster. Expect it to come back down, assuming you’re a bit flexible.

  369. @ Ron — Unfortunately United’s not the only airline that doesn’t have the functionality for that. Since United is eons behind when it comes to web stuff, I wouldn’t expect them to make that possible anytime soon, unfortunately. They won’t see a whole lot of ROI there. Assuming you’re flying United, the RCC is the most practical option at LAX. In NRT, definitely use the ANA lounge, which is much nicer and you’re entitled to use.

  370. Hi lucky,

    For some reason you’re always not getting my emails- check your spam filter 😉 but my question was can you maintain status on one carrier while crediting your RDMs to another or is that not possible?

    Thanks

  371. Lucky, thanks for the recommendation about the ANA lounge (I’m writing from there right now). Free wi-fi + real food are indeed appreciated. I had no problems entering with my United boarding pass and BMI gold card. At LAX it was a different story — even though my United boarding pass said “Star G” and I had a valid BMI gold card, they weren’t able to check me into the RCC and ended up just waving me in. I feel the biggest benefit at LAX is the premium check-in at terminal 6 (I cleared security 30 minutes before colleagues who finished their non-premium check-in ahead of me), though the check-in process was a bit unprofessional — very nice and friendly, but they forgot to make sure I was carrying my Green Card 😉

  372. Ben – Are United regional upgrades useful for anything??? I am 1k so the UDU request is made at the time of any booking and I cannot even request the Regional upgrade to be applied if I am near the flight time and the UDU has not cleared. I cannot see any use for these. If there is one please let me know! It would be GREAT if UA would allow us to use these in OTHER regions that NA – I would love to use those to upgrade a SIN to NRT or BKK to NRT flight!

    Thanks! Jon

  373. @ Jon — It definitely does depend on your travel patters, though I do find them useful for three reasons. First of all, there are no UDUs on PS flights, so this is the best way to get an upgrade on those flights. Second, if booking far out, they’re great for securing first class upgrades on flights that are usually almost impossible upgrades (even as a 1K), like A319 hub-to-hub midcons and transcons. And lastly, keep in mind they can be used on family members and friends, even when they’re not traveling with you. That’s a huge benefit, in my opinion.

    But rarely do I use them for flights where I’d possibly be eligible for a UDU.

  374. Lucky, are you aware of any hotel loyalty programs that limit the length of award stays, ie award stays can’t exceed X nights?

    Thanks,
    Brian

  375. @ Brian — Hmm, how long term are we talking here? I mean, in theory all stays are limited in length to how far out the calendar allows one to book. I believe a few programs have a 30 or 60 day maximum stay policy. I’m intrigued, though. An award stay for that long? You’re going to make me lose sleep!

  376. Thanks for the answer Lucky. I’ve never stayed anywhere longer than a week and a half, and I thought that was a really long time (it was fun, though!).

    My thinking was a program might limit the length of an award stay and try to get you to buy additional nights. Say you wanted to stay somewhere for 7 or 8 nights, and the program limited you to 5 nights in an attempt to get you to buy the extra few nights to get more money out of you. I suppose I could be a little cynical, but for some reason that thought popped into my head.

    Brian

  377. Hi Lucky,

    I’m about to buy a ticket on an Alaska-operated flight that also carries a Delta code. The price is the same on both codes. I’m Delta Gold. Does it matter which carrier I buy it from? I’ve heard that operational problems may get resolved more easily when the ticketing and operating carrier are the same; then again, if I have problems with the mileage credit I may get better treatment from Delta (I plan on crediting to Delta either way). As far as I can tell, elite benefits are the same either way (100% bonus miles, no free bags, unclear on priority check-in, security etc.) — but then again I haven’t read the literature too carefully. Am I missing something? Does it matter who I buy from?

    Thanks, -Ron.

  378. Hi Lucky,

    Here I am answering my own question: I went to book the tickets and found out there’s a difference in change fees — $75 when booked on Alaska, $150 when booked on Delta. I don’t foresee needing to change this trip, and I generally follow a policy of ignoring change fees, on the theory that paying the occasional high fee is better in the long run than consistently paying higher fares. Still, if that’s the only difference, why not take the lower change fee just in case? So I booked on Alaska.

    There’s actually a promotion going on of 100% bonus miles for combining Delta and Alaska flights on a single ticket, and I could have done that and earned an extra 7000 skypesos by replacing a non-stop Alaska leg with a 3-segment routing on Delta metal, at the cost of an extra $20 in taxes and fees. But this routing is sufficiently inconvenient that I decided to give up the extra miles 🙁 Besides, the promotion language talks about combining a Delta marketed and operated segment with an Alaska marketed and operated segment; while general consensus on Flyertalk is that they probably just mean Delta-operated and Alaska-operated, nobody knows for sure (conveniently, bonus miles don’t post until after the promotion has ended), so that 7000-mile bonus needs to be discounted by a certain risk factor that it might not post.

    Anyway, while I’ve booked the ticket already, I’d still appreciate your thoughts in case I missed something. I can cancel without penalty for 24 hours…

    Thanks, -Ron.

  379. Hi–
    Long time reader, lots of good tips! two questions

    1: I’m about to take an expat assignment (3 years) in Australia, covering AU, NZ, South Africa and SEA (Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, etc.). I currently live in a Delta hub, with about 225K this year. No doubt on my 3-4 trips back to US I will keep my Diamond status with the rollover. The question is who should be pledge loyalty over my expat time? My plan right now is mostly Quantas and Singapore for all SEA. Anything I am not thinking about?

    2: Hotel rec for Tokyo? Nice hotel, well located…

    Thanks!

  380. Hey lucky, am I right in understanding that there is no way a 1K can upgrade a CO trans-atlantic flight? I’ve heard CO is giving some 1Ks upgrades for domestic legs, but I assume not on international?

  381. @ twokudu — I think it depends entirely on how often you’re flying and what you value most, and especially what class of service your company is paying for. You’re not going to get nearly as many benefits with a Singapore of Qantas frequent flyer account as you could with others. I would almost suggest crediting to a different program, but that’s only if you’re flying paid business class. Give me some more details and I can give you more ideas.

    As far as Tokyo goes, it’s tough to beat the Park Hyatt. Tokyo’s very spread out, though, so I don’t think there’s really a “central” hotel. Depends entirely on where you want to be. I also like the Conrad and InterContinentals (both ANA and Strings).

  382. @ magiciansampras — Aside from Star Alliance upgrades, which requires purchasing a full fare ticket, you’re correct.

  383. Lucky – what do you recommend for Hotels in San Francisco right now? I will be staying for 2 nights. I am looking at the Grand Hyatt and the Intercontinental (which i have heard from you is a fantastic hotel) but the Hilton or Marriott Marquis are also options in my price range. Is anyone currently offering a frequent stay/free nights promo that I should consider?

    Thanks!

    Jon

  384. Lucky,
    Is Lufthansa Miles and More a frequent flier program getting into. When I searched up a 20 hr flight for yyz to del in first, I was only able to get 46 miles while a child seat in coach is around 60 for the same flight. Is it worth the hassle? Is there any other ff programs that I should look into? Must have LH, 9W, AC, AIC, SIA and if possible KFR (not a must).

    Thanks
    Justin

  385. If you buy today’s groupon at cafe press you get 50$ for only 25$… Use it to buy a Chicago DO shirt or other paraphernalia 🙂

    http://www.groupon.com/r/uu1759834
    If you click on the link above I get credit for this find 🙂

    You can get your Chicago DO Seminar logo stuff here:
    http://www.cafepress.com/FTORD

    Can’t wait to meet everyone out at the seminar! I live in Chicago, but will be staying at the hotel Saturday night!

    This groupon will essentially negate the next day shipping charges, so anyone who wants to order still can do so at a cheaper price than even economy shipping….

  386. Hey Lucky,
    I always wonder, how do you get yourself on the volunteer list even before the gate attendant arrives? I normally go to the GA only after he/she asks for volunteers.

  387. Hi Lucky,

    As always, thanks for your help. I have SFO-LAX-OKC coming up. If SFO-LAX is delayed so that I miss LAX-OKC which is the last flight of the day (I’ve been monitoring and seeing this happen) how is it processed? Is it a VDB or something else? Assuming I can rebook at SFO if I see I’ll miss my connection will I get compensated?

    Thanks.

  388. Lucky,
    Any ideas on decent routings that will take me DPS on *A in F for two people? I currently have ORD-FRA-ICN-SIN-DPS but it takes forever to get there. Is there anything better that you can think of (even if across the pacific?)

    Thanks!

  389. Halothane, you could do ORD-FRA-SIN-DPS, to make it shorter; I would personally do ORD-ZRH-BKK-DPS, flying LX and TG to DPS. Or the other way, you could do ORD-LAX-ICN-SIN(or BKK)-DPS, but the only sector in F would be LAX-ICN. If you look to travel in March/April 2011, you could do ORD-NRT-BKK-SIN-DPS, using availability on ORD-NRT on NH F, and flying NRT-BKK in TG’s 77W F suites. Hope that helps!

  390. @ Jon — If you’re at all a Priority Club person, Priority Club currently has a “Sweet Dilemma” promotion offering either double base points or one free night after every two stays, and that’s in addition to the “Crack the Case” promotion, which is quite lucrative, if you’ve received that. I’d definitely go with the InterContinental in this case.

  391. @ Justin — Assuming you’re flying mostly in paid premium cabins, bmi has one of the best frequent flyer programs, offering double miles for business class and triple miles for paid first class. Soon enough they’ll be merged into Lufthansa, though, so they won’t be around much longer. But even so, you have nothing to lose by signing up for a frequent flyer program. In the case of Lufthansa, they should actually offer some nice premium class bonuses as well for flying more expensive fares.

  392. @ Angik — You can add yourself to the list either at check-in, at the Red Carpet Club, with a different gate agent at a different gate, etc. Almost anyone can add you to the volunteer list.

  393. @ Dan — Definitely not processed as a VDB, unfortunately. If it’s due to weather you’re due nothing (not even hotel), and if it’s a mechanical issue or within the airline’s control, you’ll likely get a free hotel and meal voucher. They won’t proactively offer you any compensation, but you can probably get a voucher worth something by emailing customer relations.

  394. @ Halothane — @George stole the words right out of my mouth. Besides, since when is a long routing a bad thing? 😉

  395. Lucky,
    I am an avid points and miles collector (AA Plat, SPG Gold, Hilton Diamond, Marriott Gold, etc.) but I am coming up short in one key area. I fly United regularly from ORD to short haul destinations for work (think single class RJ routes like OMA, LNK, CAK, MCI and other fun cities) along with some other occasional trips like LGA or PHL. These are good yields for UA (sometime .50/mile) and I have accumulated 30+ segments, but less than 30K status miles as a lowly Premier. It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to get to Premier Exec this year, either. I am considering leveraging a Pass Plus purchase to try and get Premier Exec or 1K. Short of that, can you suggest any ways I can help myself?Can it be done through credit card spend (I charge a good amount for business) ? Would status match with AA help, or would I lose it by not flying enough within a trial period? Or am I just a casualty of the elite tiering and segments? Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated.

  396. @ Avi — You can only earn 5,000 elite qualifying miles per year through United’s credit card, so there’s no way to really get ahead on the status front through credit cards. It seems you’re already an American Platinum, so I’m not exactly sure how you’d have a status trial on them. You could always do a challenge on United for Premier Executive, though that requires 15,000 elite qualifying miles within 90 days to maintain the status. The only real suggestion I can make is to try and pad segments whenever possible. If your fares are that high, you should be able to add segments on at least some of your itineraries, assuming you have the time. Sadly you’re a victim of US elite FFPs, which are more concerned about miles than revenue. Wish I had better ideas, sorry…

  397. Lucky,

    I am planning a trip to Frankfurt from the East Coast. Company policy dictates I fly United or Lufthansa if at all possible. Since I do not have status on either it comes down to which Business Class product is better. I believe both companies have been rolling out an improved Business Class offering. For Lufthansa I believe it is available on the 747-400 and A330 but not on the A340-600. United will likely be on a 777 and I am not sure how far the new product has been rolled out. Which would you recommend?

  398. @ EE –Since it’s going to be an overnight flight in one direction, I’d say United is a better option if and only if you can get onto a 767. All of the 767s have been converted, and feature fully flat beds. The entertainment and seat are much better on United than Lufthansa, but typically the food and service will be substantially better on Lufthansa.

    All the Lufthansa planes actually feature the same slanted flat beds in business class. But if it’s a United 777 vs. Lufthansa, I’d take Lufthansa, since on the 777 you could end up in a cradle seat or a flat bed.

  399. Lucky,

    My wife and I attended your presentation at the Chicago DO; we greatly appreciated your talk. We are not frequent flyers, but flying United on the way home my headphone jack was busted. As you suggested, I emailed United and just received a $100 e-cert 🙂

    My question for you — if I have 2 or more e-certs, can they be stacked on the same reservation? Please let me know — THANKS!

  400. Ok Lucky, with the impending introduction of one-way *A awards on UA miles, I’m getting ready to blow all 75k in one big swoop. Basically, it looks like it gets me first class most anywhere from the US. Based on your travels, what would you recommend? The Swiss first product looks great… I remember your Turkish flight looked awesome… Lufthansa’s FCT looks nice, but probably not worth blowing my miles just to visit it. I’ve always though SQ would be the pinnacle…?

    With keeping Starnet blocking in mind, what would be your pick of airline and route? This is my one time going big on Star Alliance in Int’l first…. it’s gotta be worth it! It doesn’t matter where, I’ll non-rev back. 🙂

    Thanks!

  401. @tima Technically Lucky is correct; however, in practice web support can do it. Granted worthwhile to consider the hassle of dealing with web support versus benefit. (Just recently booked a family trip – 4 on same PNR with 4 ecerts. E- was almost full, so purpose was both E+ for everyone as well adjacent seats. My entire phone call to web support lasted around 2 hours. Granted I was on hold for 90% of it. So if you want to, it can be done – just make sure you have a decent speakerphone and don’t mind the music.)

  402. @ DiscoPapa — I’d still say the best redemption out there is SQ F from LAX to SIN via NRT in first class. They typically only open up award space four days before departure, but they do so reliably. If you really want to maximize value, tag on a flight from JFK to LAX on PS.

    Other than that, TK F from JFK to IST is pretty unbeatable. I’d say if you haven’t experienced the FCT, LH F isn’t a bad option either, or LX if you can find the space with a stop in FRA, so you can experience the FCT.

    But in your shoes I’d still go with SQ F, and if you really want to spice it up, do SQ from LAX to NRT and TG from NRT to BKK on their leased 77W from Jet Airways.

  403. Hey Lucky,

    Would like some advice on an award booking I have! My partner and I are flying Australia – BKK-DEL – Europe in F. It seems that our BKK-DEL segment has been changed from TG F to TG C. I only realised this as I randomly went to airlineroute.net and saw the plane change. What would you do in my situation? Is it TG’s responsibility to contact me? If so, if I just turn up to the airport, since they probably won’t contact me, should they compensate me?

    Thanks so much!

  404. Lucky:

    The wife and I are planning a little bit of a Holiday. Now, I know it is your brother that enjoys the bubbly on the flights. My question is what non-Asian star alliance carrier has the good stuff (Dom, Krug, Le Dame, Chris, etc.) in F? Or do I have to fly Ana, or Sin to get the good stuff? Thanks!

  405. Lucky-

    I have a choice of flying TPAC business class on Cathay (connecting in HKG) or United (via SYD). Normally an easy choice, but here’s the rub: if I fly Cathay I will drop from PremEx to Premier on UA (though I’d earn AA Gold). Oh, and I’d also lose about 15k bonus miles on UA. What would you do? Is Cathay that good that it’s worth giving up 1P? To be honest I’m not sure how much I’ll miss the perks as I don’t fly UA domestic much and when I do it’s usually with kids which disqualifies me from exit rows and UDU.

  406. @ George — While Thai should contact you, I wouldn’t count on it. What kind of an aircraft was the flight downgraded to? What airline did you book the ticket through, and is it an award ticket?

  407. @ Ybjfk — That’s a great question. Let me ask my brother and see if he has any insight on the situation. 😉

  408. @ Boraxo — Believe it or not, I’d go with United. Cathay business class is good, but not that great. First class is exceptional, but business class isn’t that special compared to the competition. I actually think United’s hard product is just about as good. Food is a bit better on Cathay, but not much (again, talking about business class here). Service, of course, is much better, but that’s not worth 15,000 miles, in my opinion.

  409. Lucky,

    Thanks for the reply. It’s an award flight, from US DM. It is being downgraded from a 747-400 (albeit old style) to a 777-300. I’m not so fussed about the first class on board, but more about the lounge access on the ground!

  410. @ George — And you’re certain it’s not the three cabin 777 that Thai is leasing from Jet Airways, right? Because that would be a huge upgrade. Anyway, compensation is very much dependent upon whether you booked a paid ticket, award ticket, or upgraded.

  411. Yeah I’m sure it isn’t, since they’ve changed the availability of classes to only C and Y for that plane now. If they did, that would be a wonder surprise. It wouldn’t make sense either to place a 77W onto that route though…

    It’s an award ticket… so I’m not sure how much compensation they will give… will it hurt to ask at BKK airport? Do you think they’ll grant me F lounge access with my original itinerary which states I’m meant to be in F?

    Thanks again!

  412. Hey Lucky – You recently helped me with a trip – can’t wait – and I have a new issue with US Airways.

    They are running a promotion where you get a 100% match on miles purchased. I joined their dividend program, waited the 12 days the site requires, held a trip to Italy with reservations and then went to make my miles purchase – that’s when disaster struck.

    The website says 50,000 +50,000 bonus, but when I go to pay, it says 50,000 +10,000 bonus. I have been on the phone with them about 4 times. They agree there is a problem, but they keep shuttling me around the company!

    They said they would extend the hold on my reservation, bu I don’t believe them at this point. My traveling companion is having the same problem. We don’t know what to do!

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks!
    Xan

  413. @ George — Ouch, just the standard 777 is pretty painful for a flight of that length. Unfortunately since the EU isn’t involved here, chances are that the most compensation you’ll get is a percentage of your miles back (the difference between first class and business class) for the distance you were downgraded (proportionally, based on the length of your entire award).

    Have they reticketed your reservation (in other words, does your fare code now show “I” (business) instead of “O” (first)? If not, in your shoes I’d just wait till you get to the airport and raise a stink then, as that will be the best chance you have at actually having access to the first class lounge. Otherwise, the only other thing you can probably get out of this is a free reroute, if there were an alternative with first class, though I can’t think of any other three cabin products to Delhi off the top of my head from Asia that would work.

  414. @ xan — Sorry to hear about that. Very strange, sounds more like an IT issue than anything else. I’ve never heard of such a problem before. While they can easily hold the ticket if you’re flying on US, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to extend the hold if you’re flying on a partner airline, so I wouldn’t count on what they’re saying to be correct. Unfortunately, though, when dealing with a company like US Airways, you’re kind of at their mercy. Not a whole lot that can be done other than to wait and hope the space is ultimately still there. And maybe request a bit of compensation for the inconvenience.

  415. Lucky,

    Sorry I’m taking up three posts!

    ON the reservation it now shows ‘I’ instead of ‘O’, but the one I printed off still has ‘O’…

    Since I booked with US Dividend miles, I doubt they can refund miles… and if they reroute me, the only option would be BKK-SIN-DEL, and I doubt they will do that in SQ F for me!

    I will cause a stink at the airport anyway, and I’ll let you know how it goes? Any tips for causing a stink? =)

  416. @ George — Let me know! I would say just be polite but firm and persistent. That seems to work best all over the world, especially in Asia.

  417. Lucky I am using United miles to go 1st class to India. I have a choice of going on a United flt from ORD to FRA (777-200) or a Lufthansa flt from Houston to FRA (747-400). Which one should I choose?

    Also, if I am going from one Lufthansa flt (both long haul intercont. 1st class flts) to another in FRA with a long layover will they pick me up from the 1st flt and drop me off at the first class terminal in FRA?

    Thanks

  418. @ John — I would definitely go with Lufthansa. United will likely be the old configuration, which just isn’t a great experience. Unfortunately Lufthansa doesn’t do pick-ups unless you have a fight connection, so if you want to go to the First Class Terminal you’ll have to leave security and immigration and walk along the outside of the airport to the entrance of the terminal. They do basically anything they can to avoid connecting passengers from using it, unfortunately!

  419. Thanks Lucky, I’ll use Lufthansa. Regarding the pickup from the plane to the FCT you gave conflicting info. I would take the Lufthansa flt from Houston in 1st class and then have a 3 hr 40 min layover in FRA before my next flt to India in 1st class on another Lufthansa flt. In this case would they pick me up from the 1st flt and drop me off at the first class terminal in FRA?

    Thanks

  420. @ John — Sorry, I had a typo in my last post which caused the confusion. I meant to say “tight,” not “fight.” So they won’t pick you up.

  421. What’s up with using System Upgrades and Regional Upgrades on United. Have booked four trips recently trying to use regional and system upgrades both internationally and domestically. In all cases, I have been immediately put on a wait list when all seats have been booked. Is this what is coming with the merger with Continental? No more confirmed at booking seat available?

  422. @ David — The space definitely isn’t there as it used to be, but it has nothing to do with Continental. I’ve actually found that domestically, confirmable upgrade space is pretty decent. Internationally, not so much. Keep in mind that there has been a huge reduction in the number of premium seats thanks to the new business and first class seats, which are in large part to blame for the lack of upgrade space. The 747 has a third fewer business class seats than before, for example. No doubt it will get even worse with Continental, though.

  423. Lucky:

    My question is when are you going to do it REAL BIG and fly Emirates in F Class? You have done Cathay, ANA, LH, Swiss, SQ, Turk, but never Emirates? I think a trip to Dubai is in order…and I expect another one of your awesome trip reports!

    Cheers!

  424. Hey Ben, thanks for the advice. Currently, I’m thinking of burning my miles on LX ZRH-NRT… would like to have fly DL on the way over, and then DL NRT-xxx and make it a RTW. Anyways, I’m about 6k short on my UA miles. What’s the easiest way to earn 6k in the UA program? Upcoming IC hotel stays are already tied up with their current promo… UA would charge me $200+ to buy the 6k. Any thoughts?

    Also, if I had LX first starting out of FRA, I’d be able to access the FCT? So I could be on LX from FRA-ZRH-NRT, or does it have to be LH out of FRA?

    Thanks!

  425. @ DiscoPapa — Sounds like a pretty good plan to me. I’m not sure how soon you want to book the award, but I’d consider a UA credit card, signing up for Netflix through United, maybe take advantage of the 1,000 miles for your first qualifying dine through Mileage Plus dining, maybe something through the shopping mall, etc. Can’t think of anything other than that.

    You could indeed access the FCT either way, through to be on the safe side I would book Lufthansa on the first segment.

  426. Lucky – What is feasibility of getting 4 tix to LHR/LGW on Star Alliance either from PWM / MHT / BOS using US miles ? I am looking for family trip in June 2012 (before the olympics) and wondering whether this is even realistic. Since it would be with kids, would want fewest number of stops and would want to be in same cabin, though a split of 2/2 would be fine I guess.

    Just wondering if getting four seats even has a shot on LH or say UA. Was thinking of of routings like BOS-FRA-LHR or PWM-IAD-LHR. Is Y or C better for tix availability in this situation ?

    Thanks.

  427. @ Derek — Actually shouldn’t be too tough with a bit of flexibility. Coach would be a bit easier, but getting four business class tickets on Lufthansa through Frankfurt isn’t unusual at all. That would still take two stops, though. Chances are you won’t find four award seats on Continental, United, or US Airways nonstop to London, though. Shoot me an email if you need help planning.

  428. @Lucky – Thanks for the reply. Why two stops, are the BOS-FRA nonstop flights difficult to get tix on (2 flights a day) or are other gateways easier ?

    Trust me, if I have to drive from PWM to BOS to get 1 less flight with kids, I will do it :).

    Thanks.

  429. @ Derek — Sorry, totally missed BOS. Those flights usually aren’t too tough to get, so you could do it with one stop.

  430. Hey Lucky,
    I am flying on a LH F award with this routing: DFW-FRA-ICN. I really want to visit the famous Lufthansa First Class Terminal during my transit. My layover is about 8 hours in FRA so time will not be an issue. I know that I will not get picked up with the car service when I land. Do I need to clear customs and immigration first? And then walk to the FCT or is the option with going to F check-in and ask for a car to the FCT still available? I know that you did that a few years ago with your brother on a trip from TPA-ORD-EWR-FRA-MLA. Any tips on maximizing the FCT and LH F experience? I probably don’t have to worry about luggage since it will be checked all the way to ICN right? Thanks!

  431. @ Sarah — Sounds like a fantastic trip! Unfortunately there are no pick ups anymore for getting to the First Class Terminal — you have to walk there. You have to clear customs and immigration and then turn left and walk along the outside roadway until you see the First Class Terminal. It’s not too hard to enjoy the FCT. Be sure to have a nice meal there, but not right before your flight so that you ruin your hunger. Also be sure to grab a rubber ducky from one of the baths.

    By the way, as a first class passenger you are entitled to a free day-room at the Hotel Kempinski, with free transfers both ways, if you’d prefer. It’s something to consider given how long your layover is.

  432. @Lucky
    Thanks for the insight. What is the day-room at the Hotel Kempinski and free transfer? Just a place to sleep? I am looking forward to the trip in LH First on 2 legs. I will be transiting thru Frankfurt and get visit the FCT on my birthday as well.

  433. Lucky, I’m confused about how multi-pax PNR upgrades work and I’m looking for a good strategy. Currently I have a JFK-SFO leg where my wife (2P) and I (1K) are on the same PNR. I’ve applied two CR1s to the reservation and we’re both waitlisted. Is my understanding correct that the best chance we have to both be upgraded is to split the PNR in hopes that they clear one seat at a time? Or, alternately, is it best to keep us together so that when I clear she will too (assuming 2 seats open). I’m confused. Suggestions?

    I know when we get to the airport it is every man for himself.

  434. @ sarah — Yes, it would be a hotel room where you can sleep for a few hours. It’s a fairly nice hotel, so not a bad place to kill four hours, if you wanted a change of scenery.

  435. @ magiciansampras — If you want to ensure that you either both get upgraded or neither of you get upgraded, you’re best off staying on the same record. But if you want the best shot of both of you clearing, you’re ultimately best off on separate records. If United only opens up one “NC” (confirmable business class upgrade seat), you and your wife would be skipped over on the list, and they’d go to the next person. Then again, they typically release upgrade space in chunks, so hopefully that won’t be an issue either way. You should have a slightly better chance at the upgrade if splitting the record, but it might not be worth the headache/worry associated with it.

  436. Word, that confirmed what I thought. It seems like we might have a slightly better shot splitting up, but it’s probably a minimal difference and not worth the worry. Thanks, lucky!

  437. Lucky,

    My wife and I are currently booked (on an LH F award booked using UA miles) on DTW-FRA in LH F and FRA-MAA in LH C. Currently, there is only one F award seat available but the UA 1K agent I spoke to told me she would not be able to split the record (and getting the 1 confirmed F seat) without canceling the entire booking. Is she right or should I try calling UA again to check? Do these waitlists usually turn out okay?

    Thanks much.

  438. @ Quasiconvexity — Unfortunately the agent was correct. While you can split records that are entirely on United, you can’t usually split records on Star Alliance partners. There’s no way to waitlist on a Star Alliance partner, though Lufthansa is usually pretty good about opening up first class award space, so I wouldn’t necessarily be worried.

  439. Thanks Lucky. F space opened up today on LH exactly two weeks before departure. We have a one hour connection in FRA (arrive and depart LH F) – given how far apart the gates are, do you think LH will have us picked up in a van/car when we land and transported to the other terminal?

  440. @ quasiconvexity — Frankly, I doubt it. If you’re running late they might, but otherwise not, more than likely.

  441. @ Gabe — This one seemed to be particularly lame, if it was even a full update. Seems like there weren’t any InterCon properties on the list…

  442. Ben, what Hong Kong hotels would you recommend? Also, have you taken that UA flt (747-400) from Chicago to Hong Kong in 1st? If so, how would you rate that flt?

    Thanks

  443. @ John — Depends on your budget and if you have any hotel allegiance, but I think it’s pretty tough to beat the InterContinental or the Conrad, if you’re looking for a really nice hotel. As far as UA895, the flight from Chicago to Hong Kong goes, I love the views and it’s United’s longest flight, so I have always loved it. Hard product and entertainment is fine, food is mediocre, and service is hit or miss (I’ve had both extremes). Should be able to get a good bit of sleep, though!

  444. I’m doing a decent amount of traveling for interviews and have decided to stick to priority club hotels for my stays. I fly United and use Mileage Plus exclusively, do you think it would be better to credit my PC stays to MP or accumulate PC points?

  445. @ Helixcardinal — Definitely credit to Priority Club, in my opinion. The conversion rate to United miles for hotel stays with Priority Club isn’t good at all, in my opinion.

  446. Okay, cool. Do you consider redeeming PC points for non-point break stays to be a great value though?

  447. @ Helixcardinal — I think some of the really high end hotels are a good deal at 40,000 points, and frankly, it’s quite easy to earn Priority Club points, so I definitely consider it to be a good value.

  448. Lucky, Can I use US Airways miles@110k (according to US Airways Star Alliance award chart) Round trip in F from SIN to FRA via NRT and LAX?
    So it look something like this: SIN>NRT>LAX>FRA and then FRA>SIN
    Thanks Lucky.

  449. Lucky, I am planning trip like this so I can have a stop over in LAX atleast for a day or two. Thanks Lucky.

  450. @ UltraSnow — Sorry, it’s not legal to go from Asia to Europe via the US. That would be two separate awards…

  451. Lucky,

    My husband and I have 120,000 AM EX gold card miles. We would like to use the miles for an upgrade to business class to fly to Paris. We live in New Mexico.
    Do we have enough miles,and if so what do we need to do. Thank you
    FJG

  452. @ Fern Goodman — Rather than trying to upgrade, I would suggest going for an outright award ticket. Through Aeroplan, an American Express Membership Rewards partner, business class award tickets are 80,000 miles each. So for 160,000 miles you have two business class seats. The remaining 40,000 Membership Rewards points would cost you $1,000 to buy directly from American Express, which would be much, much cheaper than booking a revenue ticket and upgrading, not to mention much less risky. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at onemileatatime@hotmail.com.

  453. Lucky, I’ve got 2 quick questions.

    1. Does the recent difficulties with getting F awards on LH affect the value of US Dividend Miles in your view? Going to Europe in first class on Star, the only options from Washington DC are LH and UA. Business class isn’t anything to sneeze at, but if my goal is first class award tickets, do you think I’d be better off crediting my miles to another program? I’m not that heavily invested into DM (yet).

    2. In a somewhat related note, I’ve seen people knock UA’s first class. I’ve also seen the same thing regarding AF’s business class. Are UA first and AF business truly bad, or are they just not as good as similar offerings from other airlines? The only premium cabin I’ve ever flown in is Club World on BA, if that helps with comparison.

    Thanks,
    Brian

  454. @ Brian —

    1. Tough to say. As of now it’s still quite easy to get a “manual sell” out of US Airways. Since I’ve been able to get around it in every instance up until now, I can’t say that I consider the miles to be any less valuable… as of now. Long term it’s tough to say. Is their blocking just a temporary thing to see how it changes their award cost structure, or is it permanent? It’s tough to say, but it’s definitely not good news. I’d say US Airways is still a great program for buying miles for cheap, but the fact that they give away so many miles for cheap really makes me worried about the value of the miles for those that are earning them “the hard way.” So in general I’d avoid crediting stuff to them, unless it’s much more lucrative than the alternative.

    2. Great question. It’s all relative, but both products are still quite good. For United, the hard product and entertainment is quite excellent on their new product, the food is awful by international first class standards (though acceptable by “normal” standards), and the service is hit or miss, from awful to awesome. Some of my best flights have been in United international first class, along with some of my worst. Air France doesn’t have particularly comfortable seats, and the food is French (in my opinion, it doesn’t translate very well in the air). The service is French too… ’nuff said about that!

  455. Hi Lucky,

    Love your site! I have 450K Amex Reward Points and I”m looking for 4 first class tickets from NYC area to Madrid with a return leg of Nice to NYC. We are driving from Madrid to Nice. Any ideas if this could work?

    Thanks,

    Damon

  456. @ Damon Risucci — That should be possible with a bit of flexibility (generally four award seats on a single flight is tough, which is why flexibility is the key). But by transferring the points to Air Canada’s Aeroplan program, you have a good chance at getting first class space on Lufthansa through Frankfurt. If you need help planning the award, keep in mind I offer an award travel consulting service — pointspros.com.

  457. I just made gold status in 10 months, and am traveling weekly for my organization-sometimes with 1-day turnarounds. I can tell this much travel is taking a toll on my health. For the life of me I can’t find a policy statement from any organization or company that has tackled how much their employees should fly, and how many weekend/holiday they can miss, or anything other than reimbursement and frequent flyer HR statements. I’d love back up from someone else to help me with my conversation. ??? Help!

  458. @ hannafree — I don’t think any companies really address that. If you feel you’re traveling too much, I would suggest seeing if you can transfer to a more “stationary” position or find a new job.

  459. Lucky,
    I really enjoy your site. Tell me, whats the secret to getting 2 CX F awards on the same flight? Should I try to book 331 days out or wait until the last minute. Is this even possible from LAX? Would your booking service be able to do this?

  460. Lucky,

    Just a follow up to my question before. I turned up to BKK with my BKK-DEL in C, downgraded from F, connecting to DEL-ZRH in LX F. Feigned upset, conversed with the Royal First ladies for around an hour, and they wouldn’t budge, saying that it was the ticketing carrier’s fault, not theirs. I pushed for quite a while and in the end I was able to get FCL access, the 1 hour massage, but no compensation. The FCL was what I wanted anyway! Turned out ok! Thanks for the pointers.

    Wondering if you could help with something else. My family are looking at a celebration trip for 4 people, in F, from South Pacific to Canada. What routes can you recommend which are likely to have F4 available? I’ve found MUC-YUL, but I’d love them to try the FRA FCL, although I’ve never been to the MUC FCL myself. I’d imagine LX ZRH-YUL would never have 4 F seats!

    Thanks so much again

  461. Haha, very nice writeup on your saturday afternoon with the suntrust debit cards, i loved it. One quick question though. you had 2 business accounts, with 5 authorized users each to make 10 debit cards? Correct? Did you have to provide the ssn and birthdate of the additional users? Did you really use 10 people from your family? (i.e. brothers, sisters, mom, dad, grandma, dodg?)or did you just use various spelling of your own name?

  462. @ Dave — Cathay Pacific first class isn’t too tough to get at all. Instead of flying out of LAX, consider departing SFO or YYZ. There’s much better first class award availability out of those airports. And absolutely, this is where my award consulting service could be of some help, though frankly, even without a lot of advance notice, Cathay Pacific first class award space isn’t too tough to find.

  463. @ George — Thanks for the follow up. Sorry you didn’t get any comp, though at least you got F lounge access. Anything on a Lufthansa 747 would give you the best shot of four first class seats on a single flight, though with Lufthansa reducing the size of their premium cabins, even that is proving difficult.

  464. Hello Ben,
    I’ve been an avid reader of the blog for about a year now and, between it and flyertalk, I’ve learned a lot about frequent flier programs and award flights. However, I know next to nothing about hotel rewards programs–not even the most basic things. In fact, I don’t have an account with any of the major hotel groups.
    You’ve been mentioning these rewards more and more lately, but I find this piecemeal introduction a bit confusing. Is there a good summary or guide for newbies to hotel rewards somewhere on the web? I figure there must be, and I just haven’t found it yet.
    Thanks!

  465. Hi Lucky,

    You overnight frequently at LAX, right? Are you familiar with the following cluster of hotels in Culver City: Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Westside, Courtyard Los Angeles Westside, Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles Westside? At least the Radisson brands itself as an airport hotel (with a free shuttle).

    I’m looking at a 4-night stay (not for myself), basic room, and these three are the most convenient geographically. Points/miles/status don’t matter, price is not a major factor (they’re all in the same range, wifi included), nor are external amenities such as parking and shuttles. It’s the inside that matters to me — rooms, dining, gym/pool, and overall which would offer the most pleasant stay. If you have knowledge or experience with these hotels, I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    Thanks, -Ron.

  466. @ Emil — Thanks for the question. That’s a toughie. I think one useful post, if you haven’t read it yet, would be this one:
    http://onemileatatime.com/2010/07/12/is-hotel-loyalty-worth-it/

    I’d be happy to make a “newbie” guide, though I guess it all comes down to whether travel is for business or leisure, how much you’d usually stay otherwise, etc. Give me some more info about your travel patterns, and I’d be happy to provide you with some general ideas. I think the key is just understanding the promotions that are out there and being willing to “mattress run” when it makes sense.

  467. @ Ron — Wish I had some ideas, though unfortunately I haven’t stayed at any of those. I do stay near LAX a lot, though have always done the Westin or the Priority Club properties. Sorry!

  468. Lucky,
    While the term “Sky Pesos” when referring to Delta miles is pretty funny, it isn’t so amusing when trying to redeem them for premium flights! What do you think is the best use of Delta miles? Which SkyTeam premium cabins are best among the alliance?

    Is their a tool (compliant with Mac) to check for availability, so when you call Delta, you have already done your homework?

  469. @ Justin — Heh, well said. A few good contenders for award tickets using Delta miles, in my opinion:
    1) Delta flies their new business class product to London, and availability is very good off season. So if London is of interest, that’s a great use of miles.
    2) Delta partners with V Australia. They have an excellent business class product with surprisingly great award availability, so at 150,000 miles that’s a great deal.
    3) Korean Air is pretty good about award availability between the States and Asia.
    4) Air France has excellent award availability on the A380, even out of IAD next summer (which is their new A380 destination).

    Delta and AIr France availability can be searched on delta.com, airfrance.com, and expertflyer.com. For Korean Air availability you’ll need to call. Checking V Australia availability requires signing up for a Velocity Rewards account and searching directly on their website.

    Hope that helps!

  470. I know that you don’t actually stay on Marriotts but you might help me.
    I’m going to take a flight from El Paso, so I will be staying there one night before my flight.
    My flight leaves ELP at 6:35 a.m. and I’ll be arriving the day before at about 5:00 p.m. Right now I have points with Marriott and their 3 main properties ask for the same points. I could stay at the Marriott, 3 minutes from ELP, Courtyard 5 minutes from ELP or Residence Inn, 7 minutes from ELP. Marriott and Courtyard both offer me shuttle to the airport. The courtyard has 2 queen beds and the Marriott has 2 double beds, but their rooms are a bit small.
    The Residence Inn has the largest room but it only has one queen bed and one sofa-bed. BTW we are 2 adults and 2 kids. I can say that the plus of the Marriott is that they have room-service.
    Please tell me in which one should i stay.

  471. @ Oscar — I do my best to add value where I can, though not having stayed at any of those hotels or even being familiar with them, I don’t think I’d be qualified to suggest a hotel! I’d certainly say that with four people, two queen beds might be important, so I might make my decision based on that. But I think you analyzed the options pretty well, so decide which aspect of the stay is most important to you (big beds, close to airport, room service, etc.), and go with that option.

  472. Lucky,

    I’d love to get inside your head to see the anatomy of your reservation hunt from inception to confirmation code.

    We know where you like to stay and what airlines you like to fly, but what is the best way to book?

    For hotel stays, how do you make the majority of your reservations? Through the hotels website? Do you search a third party site like Expedia, or do you call up the hotel or the reservation line to try and broker a deal?

    For airlines, do you call up to see if they’ll over you a lower booking class that reservations can see but United’s .bomb cannot? Do you search to see if an affiliate airline (like US Airways) is selling the same flight for a lower price on a codeshare? Or do you check Travelosity for good measure.

    What are your secrets to all these $99 4 1/2 star stays?!
    Any tricks to use, such as AAA or discount clubs (do they actually ask to see a AAA card at check in?) And how can you get those rates to appear?

    Thanks,
    Justin

  473. Hi Lucky,

    Well, I don’t have near as much experience nor miles as everyone else, lol. I was wondering if you could suggest (maybe sans acronyms) a good card for me to invest in. I live in San Fran, and my boyfriend lives in the UK (near London). I have about 12K miles now, and I keep getting Virgin Atl. card offers in the mail. The latest one is for 45K miles. Eventually, I’ll be moving over there (but still traveling to the States and around Europe), but until then I’ll be racking up miles. I keep hearing about AMEX and that V.A. isn’t as good. What do you think for someone in my position (ie. little experience -but learning – with little miles, and looking to get more quickly!)

    Love your site. I’m reading the rest of your articles all day today! (hurray xmas vacation!)

    Thanks,

    Kassie
    PS. anyone else can answer as well if they have solid advice, too.

  474. @ Justin — I’ll probably make a longer post about this sometime soon, though my booking process is surprisingly simple. For hotels, I typically look at the Hyatt and Priority Club options directly on their website to see which hotels are in my consideration set. Then I’ll typically go to TripAdvisor to look at pictures and FlyerTalk to read reviews. I never use third party sites (and don’t even use BigCrumbs or the like, which I should), so then go back to the website and compare rates. I just select “AAA” from the menu, and then compare that to the normal rate, since those are the only ones I’m eligible for (I’ve never actually been asked for proof of AAA membership at check-in, though I do have a membership). Sometimes I’ll look at the “Friends & Family” rate, if I’m not desperate for points. The only other thing I look at for Priority Club is the bonus points package. If they offer points for less than half a cent each, I sometimes bite, depending on my mood.

    On the airline front my booking process is really simple. I almost never *have* to go anywhere, so I book entirely based on whether United has a reasonable fare or not. I’ll typically do “dummy” award bookings while logged into expert mode on united.com to see if the fare classes on the individual segments pan out, or if I could get a more favorable routing that way. I then just either book as a one way, roundtrip, or multi-city if the flights I want don’t come up.

    That’s it! Let me know if you have any other questions, please.

  475. @ Kassie — Generally I’m not a fan at all of anything Virgin Atlantic when it comes to award bookings, because their fuel surcharges and taxes are outrageous. An “award” ticket on them won’t feel like any sort of reward, trust me. In your shoes, I would try and maximize a few credit card bonuses right now. American is offering a 75,000 mile sign-up bonus on their Citi AAdvantage Visa and American Express credit cards, which is more than enough for a roundtrip to the UK in coach, or a one way in first or business class with miles to spare.

    But long term, assuming you’ll be in the UK, you’ll want a card without a foreign transaction fee. That leaves the British Airways Visa, which offers a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus right now. Otherwise you’re going to get hit with a 2-3% foreign transaction fee, which basically wipes out the reward, assuming you want to keep the card for the long run.

    All around, for US purchases, the American Express Starwood credit card is the best, since it’s by far the most flexible, allowing transfers to dozens of programs.

    Hope that helps!

  476. Thank you so much! It’s a place to start, which is exactly what I needed. Great website, too. I have it bookmarked and I’ll be returning frequently.

    Cheers!

  477. Lucky,
    We’ve all experienced a company’s failure to deliver their promise. Judging by your detailed TR’s, you speak up and voice your complaints. As a top tiered traveler I’m sure your service recovery rate is higher than that of someone status-less, but how far will you take it? What’s the most you’ve been compensated, (gratis service, points or monetarily) when you’ve complained? What advice would you lend if you’re faced with a stalemate?

    Thanks,
    Justin

  478. @ Justin — That’s a good topic for a post sometime. Generally speaking, though, I make two types of complaints. One type is pointing out a basic service failure that inconveniences me. The other type is complaining about an employee, which I only do when I have a really, really bad experience. The point there isn’t to get compensated, but rather to have action taken against said employee. So without going into too much detail, I fortunately usually have pretty easy access to people that are in a position to take action. Sounds vague, I know, though “action” has certainly been taken against an employee as a result of my complaint, even though I didn’t get any compensation (which I specifically requested).

    As far as general advice, I would say when writing a complain, stick to the core issue as much as possible. Anything else is just a distraction. Follow up quickly, and if it’s a serious issue, and someone else witnessed it, get their contact information. If the problem is serious enough, the complaint will usually escalate quickly enough.

  479. I don’t travel much but have built up about 55,000 United Miles and 170,000 points from American Express through my business accounts. I want to plan a trip for my wife and son to visit some relatives in Italy in mid to late June. What is the best way for me to use these miles for airfare? United miles I understand how to use. Amex points I don’t exactly. How do I go about using them to get the best deal on a flight? I realize that the points will likely not be enough to cover the trip. Thanks so much.

  480. Hey Lucky,

    I stumbled across something pretty interesting. To follow up on the discussion of reclining as a “right” or “privilege”, What are your thoughts on this device? Are they permissible, and what would you do if you encountered one on your seat back?

    http://www.kneedefender.com

    Justin

  481. @ Richard — With the number of miles you have, you could almost get three business class tickets to Europe; at the very least, you have enough miles for two business class roundtrips and one coach roundtrip. If you transfer the Membership Rewards points to Air Canada’s Aeroplan program, it would be 80,000 miles per person in business class, and you could fly any Star Alliance airline. If you need help with the actual booking process, you might find my award travel consulting service useful: pointspros.com. You can shoot me an email at onemileatatime@hotmail.com for more details or if you have any more questions.

  482. @ Justin — I’ve seen that before. Have never run across one, though if someone tried it on me (which they wouldn’t, since I don’t recline in coach on daytime flights) I would call the flight attendant and have them deal with the situation. Definitely not acceptable behavior, in my opinion.

  483. Discovered last week that ANA won’t ticket an award less than 24 hours before flight (ua miles, was about to snag the last f seat 22hours prior to dep, no dice unfortunately).
    Do you know if this is UA specific? Other airlines that won’t ticket last minute? Would be useful to know the future. Thanks.

  484. Hi Lucky,

    I did use UA $350 E-cert to pay for my SFO-BOS, the base fare was $298 and the E-cert cover the whole thing except I had to pay $21 for taxes.
    Booked in T fare and confirmed in NF (5 days out as 1K). Flight credit never posted to my account so I did call MP and was told that I was not eligible for any flight credit because it’s a free ticket and the base fare is $0. Please help.

    SPG

  485. @ Oleg — Many airlines have a policy of requiring awards to be ticketed several days in advance (bmi, for example, requires awards to be booked five business days before departure, and for Gold members it’s three working days before departure). United isn’t one of those, as far as I know. This seems to be a legitimate operating carrier restriction. I have booked awards on some of United’s other partners day of departure, so I assume it’s ANA specific. I believe the requirement is usually something like 2-4 hours before departure, though I might be wrong.

  486. @ SPG — The agent was completely wrong. Like the old phrase goes, “hang up and call again.” If you try a couple more times and still have problems, send me an email and I’d be happy to look into it for you.

  487. Lucky, how much are fuel surcharges and taxes on VS Upper Class awards, and how do they compare to the cost of a paid ticket? Are we talking about a few hundred dollars, or around a thousand, or more? I tried a few internet searches and couldn’t find anything.

    Thanks,
    Brian

  488. @ Brian — If you’re talking about booking directly through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program, they’re pretty steep, typically $400-600 for a transatlantic award. You can tell for sure by signing up for a Flying Blue account and doing a “dummy” award booking. If going through a different program, though, like Continental or ANA, the total will be much less.

  489. Hi Lucky,

    This morning I went on tour of the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles Westside in Culver City (one of the perks/duties of arranging accommodations for a large group of visitors). You may be interested to know that this is the crew hotel for Aeroflot, and at the front desk they have a model Aeroflot 767 (with one engine missing…).

    Anyway, on the tour we were shown a suite, which surprised me because suites are absent from the web site — they’re not there among the room descriptions nor are they available for booking. I asked the Group Sales Manager and he said that suites are mostly used for SPG elite upgrades and for special events; they are available by special request, but since they’re very expensive (more than double the price of a typical room) they don’t show up on ordinary booking channels.

    I understand that a hotel might give suites a very high price point in order to keep them exclusive, and as a consequence not sell many of them directly. But I don’t see how it makes sense to hide the very existence of suites. Have you encountered this practice before?

    -Ron.

  490. @ Ron — LMAO at the Aeroflot comment! Doubt it’s a coincidence that one engine was missing! To answer your question, that’s unheard of (and completely illogical) to me. There’s nothing wrong with having an expensive suite on the website, since one can always book a cheaper room. If anything, I would say it makes the property more exclusive — psychologically, I would feel like the hotel is nicer if the most expensive room is $599 as opposed to $129.

  491. If you were to spend a weekend in San Francisco using Big Dilemma nights at either the Mark Hopkins or the new Intercontinental SF, which would you choose? I’m PC Platinum, but not Royal Ambassador, so I’d be looking at a basic room with no club access.

    Also, does RA get you anything over and above PC Platinum at non-IC hotels?

  492. @ Corey — I would go with the newer InterContinental. I guess it comes down to personal preference, but it’s a modern hotel, compared to the Mark Hopkins, which is shabby chic at best. I also find the service at the IC to be excellent. You may very well get an upgrade.

    Technically RAs aren’t supposed to get additional benefits at non-IC hotels, though strangely enough at times my RA status is recognized at Holiday Inn hotels and I’m sometimes given a slightly better upgrade because of it.

  493. Have you had any experience with Diners Club points? Any suggestions as to their best use? Occasionally they have some bonuses on the transfers, currently the bonus is an extra 35% on transfers to Delta. I haven’t heard much good about their program.

    I have around 150K points on Diners. At some time in the near future I’d like to transfer them and cancel the card. Is my best bet to wait and hope for a bonus offer on transfers to AA or Air Canada? If it matters I’m CP on US Airways. I don’t have any miles with AA or Air Canada.

    Thanks.

  494. @ Rich — Really don’t know all that much about Diners Club, though I would say in general 1 AA or 1 Aeroplan mile > 1.35 Delta miles. So while I haven’t followed their transfer bonuses, I don’t think the 35% Delta transfer bonus is particularly compelling, unless you have a particular award in mind.

  495. I’m in the process of booking an award ticket one-way on BA from LHR to DFW, and the availability for my particular day that I HAVE to leave on is not very good, involving connecting flights and what not that I don’t really want to deal with. Forgive me if this has already been addressed, but my question is should one usually either book far in advance (in which case I’m too late) or a few days before the flight in order to get the best availability? I can book today, but part of me is wondering if I wait I might be able to get a non-stop…

    Thanks.

    -Ryan

  496. @ Ryan — Seats are typically released either way in advance or very close to departure, once the airlines realize they won’t sell the seats. So typically it’s not a bad idea to wait until close to departure to book an award, though it you *need* to travel on a specific date, that’s pretty risky. I would book whatever you can find for now, and if the nonstop opens up close to departure, switch to that.

  497. Hi Lucky – I attended the Chicago do where you presented on bumps and compensation. We usually travel United and have found much of your advice very useful. This past weekend we flew Air Canada and missed our connecting flight on the way back from Paris due to misplaced luggage (it was in the building, but they didn’t know where). The handling of the whole situation was awful, and when asking for ibd compensation we were looked at like it was unheard of. We ended up talking to a manager who was useless as well. Do you have any advice on the best way to approach contacting Air Canada for compensation possibilities? I appreciate your thoughts.

  498. @ Alice — IDB compensation is only issued if you’re denied boarding, which you weren’t, as far as I can tell. Instead, you misconnected. Therefore, even though it was within the airline’s control (it seems), you’re really at the mercy of the airline. I would suggest contacting Air Canada through their website to express your problems.

  499. hi
    I am new to the frequent flyer programs and have been reading the last 5 days on flyertalk about everything (statusmiles,awards,ticketpricing,..)
    And reading the trick it,negotiate it thread on ft, I cane across fuel dumping trick. well lets say i made it to page 42 of the 500 pages and counting 🙂
    after a short google : fuel dump : I came on this blog and others , saying the trick has been discovered and airline fixed the loop.
    Could you explain how the fuel dump trick then did work in the past? or a link to an explanation ?
    many thx and congratulations with your blog !

  500. @ Eric — The fuel dump is, for the most part, dead. I’m no expert on it, though the premise was that adding certain segments to an itinerary would somehow eliminate the fuel surcharge, which was often a big chunk of the ticket price. Then a big article was published about it, and the next day it was fixed…

  501. What are the best F seats on the Jet Airways 777-300ER leased to Turkish for 2 people traveling together? Window and aisle or two center aisles?

    Award availability was surprisingly open for 1 seat, then it just took checking the ANA tool twice a day for a month and a half to get the other.

  502. @ Mark — Assuming the other person is a spouse/partner/wife/significant other, I would most definitely go with the center two seats. When you close the doors you can either life the barrier between the two seats or not, so ultimately you can still talk to the other passenger, even when the doors are closed. The ottoman is also quite uncomfortable for sitting, so it’s the most practical way to dine together as well. Enjoy your flight!

  503. Lucky,

    I took my first bump on united not to long ago, I thought the $400 criedt was worth a 2 hour wait. I try to use it last week to book a flight only to find it can not be used online! I have to make the reservation over the phone, then send in the vouchers, or go to the airport and make it there. I ended up going to the airport and doing it. (I live in santa barbara, ca not sure if you ever been though there, but it is a really small muni airport, so it was easier then being on the phone) but what gives with the whole thing. Are all the vouchers that way, or is there an easier way to do it\?

  504. @ Danny — All of United’s denied boarding compensation comes in paper form. I’d say it’s quite intentional, since a lot less people will go through the hassle of redeeming the vouchers if they have to either go to the airport or mail them in, as opposed to just being able to do it online. Probably saves them quite a bit of money. Frustrating, no doubt, but if that keeps the redemption rate low enough so that they keep issuing fairly generous denied boarding compensation, I’m all for it!

  505. Just booked 2 CX F LAX-DPS Award tickets. Visa on arrival at DPS, should I hire a VIP VIsa company or is it not worth the money?

  506. Lucky,

    Can you explain about the different types of upgrades offered to elites on United, and with there regards when it comes to 2 class, and 3 class aircraft. IE. UDU, Regional, System Wide. Going from coach to business or coach to first? etc etc.

  507. What’s the baggage allowance for a non-TG *G flying SGN-BKK on TG?

    *A.com says Extra Baggage Allowance – an additional 20kg (44 pounds) or one additional piece of luggage which means you can check in three bags instead of two.

    My TG ticket with my *G number on it says baggage allowance 20k

    Does that mean my ticket had 0 baggage allowance and being *G got me 20kg? Or do I really get 2 pieces/40kg total?

  508. Lucky,

    I love your blog – although I should comment more….. 🙂

    I had a weird experience just now. I just made premier exec on united and had a flight tonight. I didn’t get upgraded, but I had booked a seat in the second exit row by the window. When I boarded (I used the mobile boarding pass), I discovered that my seat had been changed to row 19, in regular economy. Beyond the fact that I was disappointed that I had not been moved to economy plus, at least (and I paid the annual fee for that before I had status) I noticed that one of the FAs was talking to the couple who were sitting in the seat I previously had. She spent the whole flight talking with the couple, and gave the man a big hug and kiss when they got off. Because I was sitting right behind them, I could see them taking the whole flight – at one point, for 90 minutes straight.

    It seems likely that the FA had them moved to the exit row, bumping me back three rows. I know seats get changed, but it seems unlikely that random chance would result in the close friend of a FA bumping me out of one of the best seats on the plane.

    Have you ever heard of anything like this? If I’m right, is there any kind of compensation I can ask for? I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but this was seriously annoying. Thanks for any advice!

    Tor

  509. @ Danny — Well, to start, you can always only upgrade one cabin of service (so either from coach to business on a three cabin plane, business to first on a three cabin plane, or coach to first on a two cabin plane). You can use miles to upgrade on virtually all fares, though there is often a co-pay. See united.com for details on the co-pay for each fare class in each region.

    Then elites get unlimited domestic upgrades valid within region one which clear on a space available basis within their respective upgrade windows.

    Then 1Ks earn confirmed regional upgrades, which can be used to confirm an upgrade at the time of booking (or anytime after departure), assuming there is confirmable upgrade space.

    Then there are systemwide upgrades, which can be applied to any fare domestically, or a fare of at least “W” outside of region one. These can also be applied at the time of ticketing, assuming there is confirmable upgrade space. Otherwise they are waitlisted.

  510. @ Mark — I believe you should get two bags for free weighing 20kg each. The standard coach allowance is one 20kg bag, so you get an additional bag.

  511. @ Tor — That’s very strange, though I doubt the flight attendant had any influence there (trust me, they don’t have that much power, though that’s not to say there wasn’t some sort of funny business). I’m a bit confused, though. You say you used a mobile boarding pass, so which seat did the mobile boarding pass reflect? At what point did you realize your seat had changed?

  512. Have you ever stayed or do you plan to stay at the IC Willard in DC? You frequently rave about a number of ICs, but from what I’ve read, the Willard is one of the top in the U.S. and I haven’t seen any thoughts from you on the hotel or DC itself.

  513. Thanks Lucky.

    I didn’t look at the seat when I downloaded it, and I don’t know seats well enough yet that I would have noticed even if I had. I do know that when I checked a few days prior to the flight, I was in 16D, and when I was on the jetway, I looked and saw it was 19D. Obviously, I will be paying much closer attention in the future, but since I was #2 on the upgrade list, I was more focussed on that.

    I think I’m also more likely to get an upgrade out of BWI in the future, rather than driving all the was to IAD, which I used to do because there were more direct flights. Since I fly for work, I try and avoid missed connections, but flying out of BWI may get me more upgrades as well as increasing the milage of my flights. Thanks!

    Tor

  514. Hey Lucky!

    First, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge via your blog. I’ve found it to be extremely helpful. For the past couple of years, I’ve tried to get more and more travel savvy. My spouse and I recently participated in the SunTrust/Delta promotion and received 265k Skypasos total. I used these to book a trip to Paris in June for four people. I was fortunate to get the seats for 60k.

    Here’s my question: Due to the frustration of Delta’s site crashing and calling multiple times to get the itinerary I wanted, I neglected to see if I could get the International leg of my outbound flight in business class. (the international flight is on AirFrance out of IAD on the A380) The tickets are already paid for. Am I pretty much SOL at this point in getting biz class?

    Thanks!
    John

  515. @ Helixcardinal — I’m sure I will eventually, I just haven’t gotten around to it. I’m not a fan of DC, which is why I haven’t stayed at the Willard.

  516. @ Tor — It seems like the swap occurred long before the flight was under the gate agent’s control. In your shoes I would learn from the experience and pay closer attention next time to your seat assignment. Smart idea regarding BWI vs. IAD, upgrades should be quite a bit easier out of there.

  517. @ John — Without paying a change fee, you’re out of luck. Beyond that, the business class price is 100K, so it sounds like you’re a bit short for four people to be traveling in business. Congrats on the new mileage obsession!

  518. Have you ever used Aeroplan? I notice that their rewards seem less expensive than others. For example from the US to Europe1 (they split Europe into several categories) first class is only 100K miles compared to USAirways where it takes 125K miles. Also I believe business is 80K vs. 100K on US Airways.

    Are you aware of any extra fees Aeroplan charges or difficulties in redeeming award tickets for their star alliance partners (i.e., blocking of seats) ?

    I don’t currently have an account with them but I notice a couple of my credit card accounts can transfer to them on a 1-1 basis. Just pondering the best use of points/miles. I’m trying to cancel one credit card but I need to transfer the points first.

    Thanks.

  519. @ rich (arizona) — Yes, I redeem Aeroplan miles on a near daily basis for my clients. It’s one of the best mileage programs out there. No catches at all — no Starnet blocking, no fuel surcharges on Star Alliance awards (though there are fuel surcharges for travel on Air Canada), and two stopovers are allowed on awards between regions. It’s an unbeatable program.

  520. Lucky,

    I have read somewhere about united doing a qualifying miles challenge for elite status. Is that still and option? If so what are the details, and is then anything special I need to do?

  521. @ Danny — Only to those looking to status match, that can prove status with another airline. Not to others, sadly.

  522. I have been looking at the BA award chart for BA plus partner. Can you really redeem a BA + LAN award from NA to SA via Europe in business for only 50,000 one way?

    This seems like unbeatable value if possible.

  523. @ Jonathan — No, you can’t go via Europe, that would be two awards. It’s 40,000 miles one way in business class when you stick to just one airline, which is an amazing value, though you can’t route via Europe. The most BA metal you’re going to get on an award including British Airways and one partner would be flying BA between Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo.

  524. Just a suggestion. I’m not sure how much, if any, control you have over the formatting of this page, but it might be better to place the newest message at the top of the page instead of the bottom. While some of the older ones can be informative I’m not sure how often people want to read items from 2009.

  525. @ rich (arizona) — Good point, thanks for the suggestion. I’ll look into it and see if I can reverse the order. Sounds like it should be doable.

  526. Are there any showers in LAX for a passenger arriving UA tpac NC departing CO domestic?

    Can’t get to the *A lounge in TBIT or the NZ lounge in T2.

  527. Lucky,

    I’m a long time reader, first time “caller”!

    I’m flying ORD-LHR in late May on BA F, I’ve traveled BA J many times, however this will be my first trip in F, for the return I was planning on trying a a different airline.

    My first thought was VS J, so I can experience their Drive Through Check In and the Clubhouse, however the flight departs at 11am so I won’t be able to spend that many hours in the clubhouse and VS doesn’t introduce their new J product on the LHR-ORD route till July.

    Now I’m thinking of doing LHR-xxx-ORD, after all I’m not travelling with my Wife and kids so I don’ t mind connecting somewhere else.

    I don’t often get opportunities to sample different J products (mostly BA, I did travel TK and MS last year) so I am looking forward to trying something like LX, LH or maybe even UA or LOT. If you had this choice, whom would you try?

  528. Lucky,
    What is your opinion on the recent 80% bonus for MR-to-Delta points transfers?
    I normally transfer MR points to Aeroplan and am quite happy with Aeroplan’s redemption rates and their stopover/open jaw policy. That said, 80% seems like a really nice bonus, so I am tempted to get some Skypesos. How do you think 90k skypesos compare to 50k Aeroplan points?
    Thanks! Advice is appreciated.

  529. @ Curious George — If Swiss is operating the A330-300 on the route when you’re scheduled to fly, I’d consider going with them. They have a phenomenal business class product. Frankly, though, I would make every effort to try Virgin, though that’s just me. I haven’t flown with them before, and would really like to experience the Clubhouse. In your shoes I would just take the direct flight to Chicago, and get to the airport really early. Alternatively, maybe fly through JFK, IAD, or another airport operated by a 747 or A346? But I would say either Swiss or Virgin are the way to go.

  530. Lucky,

    Would like to ask you a Tampa question. I am planning a trip down to Tampa and Naples for Dec. We will have our 3 year old and 2 year old with us. So we are thinking of visiting Busch Garden. What would you recommend we stay in Tampa? We have points with PC and Hilton. So I am thinking of either Intercontinental or Hilton Clearwater. But neither is ideal in terms of location – IC not providing a true Tampa/FL experience and Clearwater being far away although it does have good reviews.

    As of Naples, I’m thinking about Edgewater. Any comments there? Any comments or recommendations in general?

    TIA

  531. Hi Ben,

    On the Loyalty Traveler Blog today, Ric posted info about a Cathy Pacific 80 Days of Unlimited Travel Contest. However, prize is limited to economy class.

    The link is:
    http://boardingarea.com/loyaltytraveler/2011/01/29/cathay-pacific-80-days-of-unlimited-economy-class-travel-contest/

    I was wondering. We all know you love to fly, but we also know you only like to fly in premium cabins, preferably first.

    What would you do if a prize like this landed in your lap — free unlimited travel on a great airline with many longhaul routes, but travel is restricted to coach — something which you hate.

    What would you do??? Let’s assume that you can’t upgrade or earn miles from this.

  532. @ Lance — I suppose if you have kids Busch Gardens might be fun, but other than that I don’t think Tampa is really worth visiting. In your shoes I would probably go with the InterContinental, though it’s a bit of a waste of points. The revenue AAA rate is often $70, so I would pay for the stay. If your goal is beach time, I’d say Clearwater or St. Petersburg is a better location. The Hilton isn’t particularly nice, though. The only really nice chain hotel in Clearwater is the new Hyatt Regency, though that probably doesn’t help you. Have only been to Naples once, though found it quite interesting. Think that might be more fun for a family.

  533. @ Craig — While it seems like a cool enough contest, the retail value of $35,000USD+ is enough to turn me off of it. Can’t imagine taking advantage of it just because of that. If there weren’t any taxes associated with the ticket, I would probably take advantage of it if I won, but even then, I’m not sure to what extent. I’ve been to most of the destinations that Cathay Pacific serves, and returning to them in coach just doesn’t sound like all that much fun when I have the miles to go in business or first class. But the ARV is a killer there, in my opinion…

  534. Hi Lucky

    Does Aeroplan allow you to book a premium class award ticket from Asia to US? If so, is it the same cost (in miles) as a US-Asia award?

    Thanks

  535. I see that you wrote a report about Swiss first class, however, i was wondering your opinion on business class. I have reserved 6 award business seats for my family on the new lie flat seats on A330-300 ( because it was the only *A airline after a few days of searching that i could find award space for everyone on the same flight) to Europe this summer and was wondering if you had any insight on new business class in Swiss. Thanks

  536. @ renee — While I haven’t flown Swiss business class, I will say that it looks absolutely top notch. The hard product is great, and Swiss food and service is always great. You made a good decision, especially having found space for six, which is a near miracle.

  537. Lucky, I have a question for you.

    For an upcoming trip the only booking agent I can find that will piece together the itinerary I want is vayama. I think that’s because the trip starts on CO metal and has a Cape Air and AA segment thrown in the middle. The trip ends on UA.

    Now, my concern is what happens should something go wrong? If the first leg is on CO will the whole ticket be CO stock, meaning I should call them? Or would I have to call Vayama? Would UA be able to help me since the trip ends with them? (I’m a 1K on UA).

    To be more specific this is my proposed itin: EWR-SJU-STX-SJU-IAD-EWR. The problem is that STX-SJU is on AA and leave a very short time to make my SJU-IAD (UA) connection. If I were to miss that SJU-IAD flight, who would be responsible for me at that point? UA?

    Thanks lucky!

  538. @ Scholar in Training — Frankly, what is technically correct is far from what’s practically correct in instances like this. Who’s at fault doesn’t matter, because they’ll play the blame game all day long, it’s about who’s willing to accept responsibility. That being said, you should generally go through your travel agent. That might not be so practical if you miss your flight and the next alternative flight is in 30 minutes, though. Generally the airline which cause you to misconnect should help you out, though at times the operating airline of the flight you missed is happy to help out as well. Just be ready for them to play the blame game.

  539. Hello,
    So I’ve read occasional reports about how generous Aeroplan is with US-Asia awards–in particular, that they allow you to fly across the Atlantic one way and across the Pacific the other way, and also that they allow two stopovers/an open jaw.

    Looking at their online award software, it seems the first part is correct. What about the second part? Will they allow both 2 stopovers and an open jaw, or a single stopover and an open jaw?
    And does one have to book such itineraries over the phone? Their online system keeps giving me error messages when I try to include 2 stopovers.

  540. Hello Lucky – long time fan here:
    I mentioned a few days ago on your SFO Lufthansa A380 post that I snagged a couple F awards for me and the future mrs. flyinryan back when that flight was operated by the 744.
    I’m wondering what our ground experience at FRA will be like – we are continuing on from FRA to CDG with about a 3 hour layover, and then the second part of the open-jaw is a return flight from FCO-FRA-LAX-SFO with the longhaul in 744 F.

    When we land at FRA from both SFO and FCO, will we get the whole shebang – met by a BMW, driven from the plane to the First Class Terminal, spoiled, pampered, etc? I am really looking forward to this trip, not only because it’s our honeymoon, but I really want to fly the A380, and to do it in LH F – wow. That’s a trip to remember 😀

    lucky, I read your blog all the time, and I can’t thank you enough for all the great finds and discussions. You are a total pro and a good friend.

  541. @ Emil — You’re allowed an open jaw and a stopover or two open jaws. For the more complex routings you need to call Aeroplan to book.

  542. @ Ryan — Congrats on the honeymoon and A380! Unfortunately Lufthansa’s ground services don’t include picking you up. You get driven to the plane, but they don’t usually pick you up at the plane. Getting to the FCT is actually a real PITA, as you need to exit the terminal and walk along the outside roadway of the airport to get there. Quite a pain, though worth the trek if you have a long enough layover. Enjoy!

  543. I’ll second the PITA comment regarding the walk to the FCT. We departed on Dec 14 2010 and the walk was worse since it had snowed several inches the previous night so the walk was slippery and cold. We also weren’t sure where we were going.

    We started outside on one level and there was construction going on blocking the walk. So we went back inside. Then another employee suggested going upstairs and walking from there. That was better but we both thought “This is the way they treat first class customers?”

    Obviously once inside the terminal they pamper you and it is great but getting there from the main terminal is a HUGE annoyance/disappointment (we crashed at the Sheraton the night before the flight).

    One employee suggested to take a cab and Lufthansa would reimburse you but I would have felt embarrassed taking a cab for 1/4 mile or less. If they can afford to drive you to the plane in a luxury car they sure could afford some kind of golf cart or car to take you to the terminal.

  544. Anybody know how I can earn frequent flier miles on my daughter’s college tuition payments? School doesn’t take debit or debiit cards, but I’m thinkin’ there has to be a way?

  545. @Kahty: There is a website that lets you pay rent with your credit card – try searching Flyertalk. Maybe you could just cut the check through them to the school instead of a landlord? I know they charge administrative fees, though.

    —-

    Lucky,

    Any way for a 1K to upgrade on a transatlantic AC flight? Thanks!

  546. @ Kahty — While there might be a way to pay with a credit card, they’ll charge at least a 2-3% fee, which negates the value of any rewards.

  547. Hello Lucky,

    I’ve been looking for an answer all over Continental’s website and your past posts here, but I haven’t found one yet, so I’m hoping you can help me.

    Does Continental allow US-Asia awards via the Atlantic? I’m hoping to book ORD-stopover in Europe-Seoul-ORD. (with the return possibly also via Europe, if they don’t allow mini ’round the world’ awards like Aeroplan)

    Thanks! Help is much appreciated.

  548. Hey Lucky –
    I was saving up US Air miles for an off peak business class ticket from PHL to somewhere in Italy or France this past Jan/Feb, but missed out and didn’t get to go… Rather than waiting for Jan/Feb of 2012, we would still like to go in spring or summer – what’s our best redemption using USair miles via either usair themselves or someone on the star alliance?

  549. @ kim — US Airways’ new Envoy product is actually quite good, if you can find availability on a route that is operated by it (it’s the A330-200). Right now to Europe it’s serving London, Paris, and Munich. Other than that Lufthansa is generally a pretty good option, and they do have a first class cabin out of Philadelphia, should you want to use miles for that. I also find Air Canada to have an excellent business class product, and they have pretty good availability out of Toronto (with easy connections out of Philadelphia).

  550. Hello Lucky,

    I was wondering if you think it is worth carrying another Amex card in addition to their platinum card, either a Starwood or Hilton Surpass?

  551. Lucky,

    I am currently an RCC member and renew every year using miles. I am also 1k and get a UDU about 95+% of the time. Can a non-RCC member access the club using a First Class boarding pass earned off a UDU? If so maybe I wont be renewing this year! Thanks!

  552. @ mitch — I think it all comes down to how much money you spend and what you want to redeem your points for. I find Membership Rewards points to be very valuable, and to cover most bases pretty well. I love the fact that they transfer instantly, unlike Starwood, and often have transfer bonuses. So assuming you’re looking for international premium cabin awards, I don’t think you’re missing out if you just have the American Express Platinum card. If you’re more interested in hotel rewards or rewards with other airlines, then the SPG card (or Hilton card on the hotel front) might be worth considering.

  553. @ LHF — It’s tough to say. I don’t think we’ll see it as frequently as in the past, though I do think we’ll see it return at least once in a while, or at least some similar offer.

  554. @ Jon — Domestic first class upgrades don’t entitle you to Red Carpet Club access. If you get an upgrade on a flight to Canada, Mexico, or another international destination, you do get access, though.

  555. Lucky,
    Any advice on noise canceling headphones? My wife and I fly 80-100K miles a year, mix of long haul J or F and short haul. Hesitent to go with the Bose as I need 2 pair. Worthwhile investment or any others you would recommend?

  556. @ JD — That’s a toughie. If you’re traveling mostly in international business and first class, you may already frequently be getting decent headphones aboard. The thing about Bose headphones (or any over-ear headphones, for that matter) is that it’s really tough to comfortably sleep with them on. You can’t really place your head sideways against a pillow (the ear cup will prevent that), so in that sense they’re not great. That being said, the noise cancellation is truly phenomenal. If you find yourself watching a lot of movies or listening to music, I would go with Bose headphones. If you’re mostly sleeping and get decent headphones aboard, I might consider a moderately priced pair of in-ear headphones. Lately I’ve actually found myself using my Bose in-ear phones more than the pair of QC15s I have. They’re much better for sleeping, have decent sound quality, and run about $100.

  557. Lucky – I hear (see) you talk about your “weekly massage” at TPA and was wondering if that’s because the AIT is primary (or I think you also mentioned at one point that the TSOs have it out for you)? I flew in yesterday but forgot to observe before leaving the secure area at which point you can’t really hang around inconspicuously. I’ll be leaving through Airside A on Thursday and am trying to find out if I can self-select for a WTMD or if I need to start preparing my opt out response.

  558. @ Amy — While the AIT isn’t primary, you don’t have a choice. They have a metal detector set up next to the AIT, and they “randomly” choose people to go through it. Can’t guarantee that’s the case at airside A, but it is the case at the other concourses that I frequently fly out of. I think they just have it out for me, which is why I frequently get selected. If you want to avoid the AIT or pat down, just observe when they pull someone in the AIT and hurry up then, as they rarely have people “line up” for it. There are two lines that feed into the same checkpoint, so it’s not too hard to avoid. Good luck!

  559. Lucky,

    Is it hard to find 3 F award seats? (Between Europe/Asia)
    To my knowledge it is merely impossible to redeem 3 seats together at once.
    Many thanks in advance.

  560. @ LHF — It depends on the airline. With British Airways it can be quite easy. With most other airlines, yes, it’s very difficult.

  561. Lucky,

    When you say a flight is ‘all 9s’, i.e. they are willing to sell at least 9 more seats, where do you find that information?

  562. Lucky – thanks! Just to report back, I managed to get myself selected and had to opt out, oh well. They were going to have me wait for the person already in the scanner (maybe they were almost done). A thread at FlyerTalk says only A and E have it – is that accurate? If C doesn’t, I can always try my luck flying Southwest.

  563. Dear Lucky:

    I’m an avid reader of your blog. You do a great job of posting interesting bits!

    I’m trying to book a round trip flight from SIN to LAX, got two questions hope you can help:

    1. Will I get Star Alliance miles if I book Air India? The flights are operated by SQ.

    2. How to book cheaper flights? I’m using major travel search engines, e.g. expedia, orbitz. Most of the flights are over 1500 USD. My trip will take place within a week, so I’m aware of the disadvantage. You’re a frequent traveler, is 1500+ from SIN to LAX normal?

    Thank you!

    JYA

  564. What do you set as your criteria for a worthy mileage run? I’m mulling an itinerary where I can get 6700+ EQM, 13400+ RDM for $190, about 2.8 cpm EQM and 1.4 cpm RDM. Worth booking?

  565. @ JYA — As far as whether you earn miles or not, it all depends on the airline you’re looking to credit to. Some airlines likely will, while others won’t. As far as the second question goes, I doubt you’ll do much better than that on short notice. That’s not a bad fare with a lot of advance notice, let alone in a week.

  566. @ Helixcardinal — Generally I’d say the threshold is 1.76 cents per RDM/3.5 cents per EQM. But there really are a lot of factors that go into determining when a mileage run is worthwhile, in my case. That being said, 2.8 cents per EQM is VERY good.

  567. Lucky: It’s United miles. Do you think flying Air India via SQ operated flights will give me United miles? Thank you very much.

    JYA

  568. I decided to book that MR and have a follow-up question. I know you’re tremendously successful at getting bumped on your MRs, and I’m hoping to the same on mine. However, in order to maximize my mileage, I have two connections each way, and I had to book the roundtrip as two one-ways. If I take a bump and get rerouted, have you had any issues getting original routing credit and how do I do that? Second, would I be able to reschedule my return one-way if I wanted to take a bump that would cause me to miss my return flights?

  569. Hi Lucky

    I am trying to compare USAir DM and BMI Diamond club…

    If I were to redeem miles from both programs for identical itinerries which are serviced fully by their partners, would the surcharges be the around same for both programs?

    Eg: (SIN-NRT on SQ/NRT-EWR on ANA/EWR-FRA on LH/FRA-EWR/EWR-HKG/HKG-SIN)

    I am talking about surcharges, and not airport taxes.

    I understand that USAir/UA etc do not charge surcharges on award tickets, but not sure if that is the case for redemption on partners.

    Also does surcharge include the fuel-YQ included by alot of carriers, or is that considered tax?

  570. Lucky

    Also, for USAir DM, if i am currently at 22k status miles, and I earn 10k qualifying miles from a new flight, I will reach Silver (25k) and have a total of 32k status miles.

    For US, there is 25% bonus for USAir and LH metal for silver preferred. Do I get 25% of (32k-25k)? Or is the bonus only applicable for the next flight onwards?

  571. @ JYA — I believe you wouldn’t earn miles. Furthermore, if the booking class is Q, V, G, N, T, or R, keep in mind you don’t earn miles for travel on Singapore through United anyway.

  572. @ Helixcardinal — As far as original routing credit goes, you’re not supposed to get it, though often Mileage Plus will give it to you anyway. As far as getting rebooked goes, it all comes down to the gate agent and how desperate they are. Could they rebook your other ticket? Sure. Will they want to? Probably not, unless there’s no one else willing to volunteer. Assuming you would arrive within three hours, I would just claim “flat tire rule” on the original ticket, and try to standby for the return. That assumes those flights aren’t all oversold.

  573. @ AJ — British Midland charges fuel surcharges for their Star Alliance partners (which is considered a surcharge/fee), while US Airways does not, so there would be a big difference in the taxes. As far as the elite bonus goes, you only start earning it for the first segment after which you reach the new elite tier. The bonus only applies to travel on US Airways, Continental, and Lufthansa.

  574. Hey Lucky. I want to take a trip to South America on OneWorld this summer using my AA miles and was wondering how one goes about checking for award availability on LAN. Is there anything I can do aside from calling AA?

  575. Lucky –

    I am planning to redeem some UA DM on *A partners.

    Are the following routings valid? Not sure if I give my stops and destination correctly whether it will be considered as shooting thru MPM
    HKG-EWR/JFK(stop)-CDG return.
    SIN-HKG-EWR/JFK(stop)-CDG return

    HKG to Europe is 80k miles and SIN-EUR is 90k if you know what I mean 🙂

  576. @ AJ — That’s not a legal routing. You can do most of Asia to North America via Europe, but not Asia to Europe via North America.

  577. Hi Lucky,

    I just booked a sort of mini RTW award on CO (ORD-FRA-ICN ICN-SFO-ORD). I thought flying over the Atlantic and the Pacific wasn’t possible on CO for the regular amount of miles. I’m just curious, is this a recent change in rules?

    Best,

  578. @ Emil — Frankly all the awards I’ve booked with Continental of that nature have been via Europe both ways, though I don’t believe what you did is necessarily prohibited. Certainly it shouldn’t be too tough to find an agent willing to do that, at the very least. Enjoy your trip!

  579. Any luck with this trip?
    MEX-LAX with United arriving at LAX at 7:50 a.m.
    LAX – LAS with SouthWest departing at 9:30 a.m.

    1hr 40 minutes to do all the changes? Migration, Bags, Change Terminal and then Check in. Do you find any possibility of doing the trip?

  580. @ Oscar — Should be fine if there’s not a delay, though I think it’s risky since you’re switching carriers. If you misconnect you may very well be hosed.

  581. What if I loose my connection?? What can I do if I miss my connection??
    So what % is that I can make my connection.
    PS: I’m checking bags.

  582. Hey Lucky,

    Just wanted to point out something that I noticed lately. I just got back from a vacation where I haven’t read emails or blog postings for the last 4 days. Since your blog is set up in my RSS feed, I’m able to just scroll through and catch all of your new blog posts since I last checked, which in the case of today is nine posts.

    This might sound odd, but your use of the word “insane” and “insanely” is distractingly overused. Do a word search on your blog for those two words so you can see how often you use them. It is quite distracting, and actually disingenuous, to see this term being used with such frequency.

    Just an fyi.

  583. @ Oscar — I wouldn’t do it. If you miss your connection between airlines it’ll be tough. And between customs, changing terminals, and rechecking bags, that’s likely.

  584. I guess I should first ask, “Do you have Hyatt’s credit card?”. If so is it easy to redeem the two free nights? I’m heading of to London in May and if I can get two free nights there it will save some $$$.

    Thanks.

  585. @ rich — I don’t yet, simply because of Chase’s “one card every six month” rule. It’s very easy to redeem the free nights, though. As long as a standard room is available, you can use your free night for the stay.

  586. If I get the Delta AMEX card you wrote about and I fly on another airline in a different terminal, will they let me in the Delta terminal in order to use the lounge that day?

  587. Any chance you have a current discount code for the Heathrow Express, the one you listed appears to be dead. Thanks (crzn)

  588. @ mike — The card I was talking about is the American Express Platinum card, which is not associated with Delta. To use a SkyClub, you would actually have to be flying Delta.

  589. Does UA charge a $7 fee to book online, using a discount certificate on a domestic reservation? I noticed that if you compare making a reserv. online vs. using a disc. cert. making that reserv., there’s a difference in “taxes & fees” around $7. They don’t admit to this, but is it built in? Have you noticed this before? I know they still charge a $25 fee for int’l. reserv.s (using mileage), when assisted with a res. agent.

  590. United reservations question…. have a united star award, with a confirmed O (award first) in LH and NY on UA domestic segment. The agent also placed me on the XF waitlist for the UA segment. Technically waitlisting on Star awards is against UA rules – I have no doubt it makes no difference to UA, but any risk from LH about it?

    (Noticed http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/15410543-post83.html – don’t want to get any accidental cancellations, and could rely on expertflyer for the pseudo-waitlisting anyways)

  591. @ Ken 747-400 Denver — I’ve never noticed that. Sometimes the website has glitches, so maybe that’s what it is. If you call web support, they can likely fix it.

  592. Thanks. I did try web support; it took 1 hr. for them to understand my point in India. Try searching SAN to SEA online for reg. reserv. & taxes/fees will come up as $42. As soon as you change it with a disc. cert., taxes/fees goes up to $49. Forgot, to mention that on orbitz.com, taxes/fees on same identical reserv. were only $39. Amazing. Wish there was some way of getting web support agent in Manila when calling them.

  593. Lucky, both of my frequent flyer accounts (AS & US) have my full name (First Middle Last) attached. I was considering signing up for an SPG AmEx card with the aim of transferring the points to miles in either program. However, when I look at the signup page for the SPG program, they only have a space for a middle initial. On the SPG site, it says that names have to be identical for transfers to go through. Is there a way to the program will allow me to input my middle name, or should I change my frequent flyer accounts to my middle initial? The TSA’s Secure Flight section of their web page says middle names/initials shouldn’t cause a problem at acreening, but I’m skeptical & don’t know if I should risk changing my frequent flyer accounts. Would it work if I put my first & middle names in the field for my first name in SPG?

    Thanks.

  594. Lucky,

    How are you using the Internet while in Doha? Free access from the hotel? Somewhere else? Also have you noticed anything being blocked?

  595. @ Brian — I haven’t found SPG to be that strict. I think as long as the name is just about the same, you’re fine. For example, on my Starwood account I have the name “Benjamin,” but on a frequ