I was unaware, but MGM Resorts has a Veterans Employee Network Group.  They have developed a special program associated with the M Life Program called the Military & Veterans Program or MVP.  It is open to active military, veterans and their spouses.  All you need is a military ID to sign up at any MGM property.

How is this different from anyone else who just wants to sign up for M Life?  Here are the additional benefits for M Life’s MVP Program.

– Start at the second level of M Life known as Pearl (10% bonus on points)

– Complimentary self-parking at MGM properties

– 10% Discount on dining and merchandise

– 10% Discount on rooms at all their properties including the newest one in D.C., along with Detroit and Biloxi

Here is their official release:

The MGM Resorts Military & Veterans Program is available to all U.S. active duty, guard, reserve, retired military, veterans and spouses of eligible military personnel. Current M life Rewards members can sign up for the MVP card at any M life Rewards Desk at M life Rewards destinations: Bellagio, ARIA, Vdara, MGM Grand, The Signature at MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Delano Las Vegas, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor, and Excalibur in Las Vegas; Beau Rivage and Gold Strike in Mississippi; MGM Grand Detroit, MGM National Harbor in Maryland and Borgata in Atlantic City.

It was also great to see that MGM is a big supporter to their military employees, including full pay if they are deployed, along with their veteran hiring goals.

If you want to check it out on line, go here.

Let us know your experiences if you try out the program.

Posted by glenn | No Comments

I have the best daughter in the world.  Yes, I know some of you think the same thing, but I am confident that mine is the best.  She is in her fourth year at Med School, her big upcoming activity is flying around the U.S. this fall to interview for residency programs.  As such, I have been saving up plenty of miles and points to help her out.

She tells me that many of her fellow students with less points & miles  savvy parents and are on their own to fund these travels.  Being smart – they are future doctors after all – they are tuned in to the benefits of getting credit cards for the free points & miles.  I questioned her on how they could get qualified since they are full-time students with no time for a job to get qualifying income.

She said they had researched the rules for what qualified as income and found that student loans are considered income by most CC companies.  Kind of makes sense since the money is available to the student for whatever their needs are including rent, car loans, food, etc.  Several of her friends have successfully received cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  I thought this was a good tip to pass along in case you, or your kids, are in the same boat.

Posted by glenn | One Comment

Just got a sweet offer in my inbox for my AMEX Business Platinum card.  I just completed the initial spend quals to earn 100,000 MR points by the end of April.  Spend went to other things in the meantime, but they are enticing me back with this deal:

 

 

Not too confident to go for all 50,000 points for $10 grand, but certainly can spend $5,000 to get 40,000 MR points!  I am still grandfathered in where I will get 50% of my points back on my preferred airline or Business/ First on any airline.  I don’t even need to register.

 

Anyone else get this offer?

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

While it would be great to stay in the fictional Grand Budapest Hotel, I had to settle for a close second with a stay at the Boscolo Hotel in downtown Budapest.  This hotel is part of the Autograph Collection from Marriott.  The motto of the autograph Collection is that every property is unique (just like an autograph).  It has quite the imposing edifice.

Originally constructed in 1897 with a Baroque architecture, it was renovated in 2007.  Not sure why they renovated it since I always say “if it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it.”  Hey, that’s a Dad joke if I ever heard one and I’m a Dad so what do you want?

I had never stayed in any Autograph hotel, but I really enjoyed the old architecture.  Shown here is the original dedication plate for the hotel.

I rather liked the satyrs holding up the lamps, but it seemed a little strange given the typical meaning of a satyr.

The atrium of the building is wonderfully ornate.  My only issue is that it is not air conditioned.  That is fine on the first floor, but, since heat rises, by the time you get to the fifth floor, it was 90 degrees!  Another flaw was that the exercise room was in the alcove shown in the middle of the fifth floor photo.  You would have to work out in that 90 degree temp on their (admitted first class) machines.

The room itself was spectacular.  A foyer with a closet opened up into a large bedroom with a King bed and plenty of space.  I should note that I was upgraded since I am a Marriott Gold.  I kind of liked the classic mini-bar under the TV.  Haven’t seen one of those in a while.

The bathroom was very nice with both a shower and a tub.  Of course, it also had to have the obligatory thick fluffy bathrobe!

These photos are of where I had my complimentary breakfast (again for being a Gold).  I felt like I was in the Sistine Chapel!  Of course, there was a string quartet playing the whole time.  Now I know what it must have been like to visit the Austro-Hungarian Empire back in the day.

All-in-all, a great stay.  Believe it or not, this hotel was within Per Diem and booked on DTS.  So if you get a chance to go to Budapest, try it out for yourselves.

 

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So I get this promotion email from American.  Get EQM from hotel stays? – Cool!

Now I am all for a good promotion, but only 100 miles of EQM per stay?!  Really AA?  You are not even giving RDM so this costs you nothing.  You even cap it at 1,250 EQM.  What is the chance that I need 1250 EQM to get to the next status level?  Really weak.  If you are going to put something out there, why not make it worth going for?

Anyway, if you do happen to be a few hundred EQM short of your goal, take advantage of this promo.

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

Courtesy of reader Audrey, Delta has increased the allowed weight per bag to a whopping 100 pounds per bag.

Effective for travel on or after June 21, 2017, Delta is updating its baggage policy for active U.S. military members traveling on military orders on or after June 21, 2017, regardless of their ticketing date.

Key Changes Summary
Any active U.S. military member traveling on orders, on Delta-marketed/Delta-operated flights, on or after June 21, 2017, is entitled to five free bags up to 100 lbs. each. This applies to travel worldwide in any cabin of service (subject to any applicable embargoes or regional weight restrictions).

Previously, U.S. military traveling on orders were entitled to four free bags up to 70 lbs. each in Delta Comfort+®, Main Cabin or Basic Economy and five free bags up to 70 lbs. each in First Class, Delta Premium Select and Delta One® (subject to any applicable embargoes or regional weight restrictions). The policy for active U.S. military traveling on personal travel remains unchanged.

Personally, I think you are asking for an aching back by loading a single bag to 100 lbs.  I have deployed to Iraq twice and know how much we have to pack, but they typically give you four duffle bags or a box and a couple of bags.  Never had to load one to 100 lbs.  I am guessing that this move is a result of the highly publicized incident where a National Guard Soldier packed everything he had into one bag that came out to over 70 pounds and he was charged.  He can claim this on his Travel Voucher so wouldn’t be out and money, but he made a big social media deal out of it.  We’ll see if the other airlines follow suit with this, although I wouldn’t expect it to come up a lot.  Frankly, Delta increased dimension allowance from 62″ to 80″ overall means a lot more to me, as I have run into that problem when deploying with my box.

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Life is very strange and sometimes you just happen on the oddest things.  I walked up to my EWR-MUC United flight on Sunday and looked out the window to see this:

What are the odds that I would look out just as the pilot decides to remove that bug splatter from the last landing?  I found it pretty hilarious, but I do have a weird sense of humor.  This so much reminded me of the movie Airplane where the pilots are seated in the cockpit and the mechanic comes and raises the hood to check the oil.  Anyway, glad I could capture this moment for eternity.  How often do pilots have to do this anyway?

One more shot from this same flight.  Crossing over into Europe, I look out and am surprised to see another jet this close to us.

I estimated that to be less than a mile away and about 1000 feet lower.  I know FAA regs for trailing separation is one mile horizontally and 1000 feet vertically, but I don’t know what the rule is for two jets side by side.  They must have been going 10-20 miles faster since they eventually passed us after about a half hour.  Another unusual sight to share.

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

I received a survey from Alaska Airlines this week.  It was pretty in-depth in asking a lot of questions.  Most of the questions were directed at determining whether price, mileage earning, or upgrade chances had which priority.  Hopefully, this is not to gage whether people would go for the Basic Economy fares that the majors have adopted.  For me, the top priority was upgrade chance (and not to just Premium Economy!)

The more interesting part of the survey was the last part which asked about interest in a high value card at a high cost.  These have become pretty popular in the last few years and I have a few including the Citi Prestige (really miss not having AA lounge access now), AMEX Business Platinum, and waiting for 5/24 eligibility for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  Note that Bank of America is notably absent from those offerings and are the issuers of the Alaska Airlines card.  The current card is one of the best on the market and even exceeds the value of some of the other high value cards even though its annual fee is only $75.  My wife and I will fly a $1000 flight to Hawaii or Costa Rica and we get that second companion ticket for only about $200 so that’s a $800 value every year.  I know someone who has ten of these cards!  That’s not even counting the value of the miles you get as a sign up bonus.

What could they offer with a premium level card?  Assuming an annual fee of $450, I could see the following:

  1. Companion Certificate, maybe more than one use a year?  This is the thing that makes the current Alaska card one of the best deals out there even if you rarely fly Alaska.  Counting the annual fee of $75 and the cost of the companion fare plus taxes (~$121) you can get any economy fare for free.  This literally means any fare, so BOS-HNL? No problem.  Fly to Costa Rica from Anchorage? Sure.  AND you both get miles for status and redemption!
  2. Airline ticket credit?  Lesser value would be airline fee credit.  Other cards are in the $150-$200 range and this is one of the easiest ways to justify the high fee.
  3. Mileage rebate for flights.  Maybe 50% (or a little less) back on mileage redemptions for either all redemptions or just for Alaska flights.  I think the later is more likely as getting 50% back from my upcoming Emirates redemption would be over 50,000 miles back.  Well, one can dream right?
  4. Access tot he Alaska Lounges.  This already costs me $295/yr. and that’s with the Gold discount.  This would be a great way to offset the fee.  Alaska Lounge membership also includes access to all American lounges and some United.
  5. An alternative to the previous one would be Priority Pass membership.  This would give you access to all the Alaska Lounges and many others around the world.  The only drawback is that a number of lounges close access to PP holders if their capacity is full.  This includes Alaska Lounges very notably.
  6. A 10% discount on Alaska fares similar to what British Airways does with their credit card?  I would get $200-$300 value out of this in a year since it would include the tickets I buy for my wife and daughter.
  7. Grant Alaska MVP Gold status with a certain amount of spend?  This would be too good to be true as MVPGold status save me a ton of money since it allows free changes to any ticket at any time.  Not to mention that I have been upgraded over 85% of the time as a Gold.
  8. What do you think?

It will be exciting to see a B of A premium product on the market.  Hopefully they won’t wait too long to roll this out.

Posted by glenn | 8 Comments

Staying in Rotterdam might not be at the top of everyone’s list, but it worked for me when I had some business to do in The Hague.  Rotterdam is only 20 minutes from The Hague and about an hour from Amsterdam.  Of course, nothing in the Netherlands is very far away.  I don’t think you can drive two hours in any direction without exiting the country.

As with most full Marriott’s it is located in the center of the business district.  Plenty to see and do here during business hours, but fairly dead after that.

I parked at the underground next door since the hotel does not have parking of their own.  Charge parking to your room so you don’t have to visit the little booth at the exit.  I was surprised that you couldn’t pay at the card reader on the way out and it took me a while to realize that you need to visit the office to pay.

The hallway to the room on the Executive Floor gave me pause with the purple carpet and matching wall paper.  Sounded like this was going to be one of those famously outdated hotels.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

As you can see, it was a really modern décor with a full king bed.

There was a nice little coffee setup and a special welcome from the manager for being a Gold.  The certificate there was for a free drink at the lobby bar.  Nice.

There is an executive lounge as usual in a Marriott.  This one was unusual in that it was open from 0600 to 0000.  Accessible 18 hours was great as I could go there are work in a nice atmosphere pretty much whenever I wanted.

Lastly, I wanted to add a show from the Executive Lounge.  This is a shot of the main train station which makes this hotel a great spot if you are traveling Europe by train.  You can catch the train right at the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam (AMS) so a good option if you don’t want to drive.

All in all, this was a pretty good spot to stay for a couple of nights and very reasonably priced for a full Marriott.

 

Posted by glenn | One Comment

Getting out of town for the long weekend by going down to Williamsburg, Virginia.  The wife wanted steak for dinner and we saw an Outback restaurant that she wanted to go to.  Walking in to the establishment, I saw this poster.

Anything to do with the military has my attention.  I asked the waitress and she gave me some made-up answer.  However, to her credit, she asked the bartender who corrected her.  She came back to me and said she lied to me.  Sam Adams has created a deal with Outback for a pay-it-forward free beer deal.  Buy a $5.95 Same Adams and they will hand you a beer shaped card to write an inspirational message to the Soldier.  The card is then placed up on the bar and a fellow veteran can come along and cash in the card for a free beer.

Here is the card I bought.  Looks like the others have been cashed in.

So if you are headed to Outback, take advantage and look for a free beer.  Or if you are a leader like me, who appreciates everything military members do every day, pay $5.95 to buy them a well-deserved beer!

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

The controversy over President Trump’s decision to reveal the intel on laptop bombs that ISIS was planning on using to down an aircraft reveals that the threat of this is real, not some plot to boost up U.S. airlines at the expense of foreign ones.  This was a Machiavellian thought listed by more than a few bloggers.  Now that the European and U.S. authorities have gotten together and decided not to implement a large electronics ban for flights between Europe and the U.S., do you feel safe enough to fly?

 

Knowing where to draw a line on safety is one of the toughest things for government officials to do.  Believe it or not, there are still libertarians out there who object to the seatbelts-in-cars law as an unnecessary intrusion of the Government into their lives.  If they want to endanger their own lives why should the Government prevent them?  Laws are not passed without debate and society needs to accept change before a law can truly be enforced.  100 years ago local governments passed laws against spitting on sidewalks.  Why?  Because tuberculosis was a terrible, incurable disease that was spread by airborne spittle.  Society thought that those laws made sense and law enforcement acted on that law because they too felt the greater good of preventing infection.  Most of those laws are still on the books, but can you imagine most people’s reactions today if they told their friends they received a ticket for spitting in public? We don’t see TB as a threat, so don’t believe a law like that should be enforced.

So where does this lead us back to airline safety?  Where do we draw the line?  What would be your reaction if the President decided tomorrow to cancel the TSA and let anyone walk on a plane the way we did before 9/11?  Would you still fly?  Probably not, since society widely perceives there is still a significant threat that needs to be guarded against.  Remember that after the Shoe Bomber, we had to start taking off our shoes and put them through the x-ray machine?  Now, only boots where something large-ish could be concealed get that treatment.  There are a significant number of people out there that think there should be no liquids ban as they haven’t seen evidence of that being used.

No one objected to taking their shoes off, because they knew the Shoe Bomber actually tried it.  Some people object to the liquids ban because it is theoretical (bi-nary explosives are formed when two otherwise harmless chemicals are combined to form an explosive mixture), but can you imagine the outrage if the Government did nothing to safeguard against this threat and then it was successfully used by terrorists?

Photo courtesy of dailymail.co.uk

We have already seen one laptop-concealed explosive try to take down a plane flying out of Mogadishu, Somalia (see photo).  That failed mostly because of the ineptitude of the suicide bomber, but certainly could have succeeded with spectacular loss of life.  I think if that exact same incident had occurred in Akron, Ohio, people would be taking it a lot more seriously about banning laptops than they are now.  Public support for a ban needs to be solidified before it is enacted.  People will not simply trust their government to do the right thing.

So, do you still feel OK to fly to Europe knowing that there is a possibility of a laptop bomb being on board?  Personally, I have no problem accepting that risk.  However, I remain vigilant as I can (and I am trained to do), and will act if I see peculiar actions.  Frankly, the odds of me being killed by another driver on the highway are greater than the chance that I will die in a terrorist incident.  I better make sure I wear my seat belt.

 

Posted by glenn | One Comment

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