Alright, so I am trying a few more of the discounts.  Let’s see how they do with rental cars.  I need a rental car for about a week when I go to my daughter’s graduation from Johns-Hopkins in May.  I need full week because I’ve got to help her buy a car and move to her new job  location.  What can I say, I try to be a good Dad.

So I normally check on Travelocity to find the rates for all the car companies and then go to individual sites to shop with discount codes.  I got rates for Alamo, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, and Hertz and then applied the Veterans’ Advantage discount at each of their websites to compare.  Here are the results:

Company             Traveocity           Veterans Advantage

Alamo                   $376                       $403

Dollar                    $205                       $195

Thrifty                   $205                       $222

Enterprise             $214                       Couldn’t make it work

Hertz                      $440                       $344

I tried the Enterprise site, but it wanted a corporate code in addition to the published discount code.  I probably could have called the Veterans Advantage number for help, but decided to skip it in this case.  Too bad as I expected a good military discount since Enterprise was founded by a carrier pilot – hence the name!

So the only result that was less was Dollar, but that was good enough for me.  I saved $10.  That almost pays for the gas I use to get to the gas station to fill up the car.


Here are some other discounts advertised that I have not taken advantage of:

Verizon – 15% discount on your monthly bill if you have a plan costing $35+ with a data plan of $25+.  Pretty good since that is a savings for every month.  Unfortunately, I’ve got AT&T, but let me know if any of you take advantage of this one.

Wendy’s – Dave Thomas (Wendy’s founder) was an Army cook who made the rank of Staff Sergeant.  They have a special program that you sign up for and then they e-mail you discounts for different things and for special holidays like Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day.  Probably a good deal for a lot of people, but it wouldn’t help my waistline to go there too often!

I’ll keep working it and let you know what else I find out.  Savings to date: $48

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

To read the latest on the Veterans Advantage Card, please go here.

I have to admit that I am one of those guys who follows the old rule “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.  So when I came across the Veterans Advantage Card on the Deals & Offers tab on the new website I was skeptical.  The main draw was a 5% discount on all United flights, but there were a host of other discounts including pretty much every rental car company, AMTRAK, Greyhound, and a bunch of stores.  The catch was that to join you needed to pay $60 plus a $4.95 handling fee.  Hmmm.  Let’s do the math, hey I’m an engineer, I like math.  So to recoup $64.95, I divide it by 0.05 and get $1299.  I would need to buy $1299 worth of United tickets to make this worthwhile.  I probably spend about $3000 on United per year, so that part works out.

I decided to investigate more.  The UA website link brings up a page giving some details of the program and touting the ability to get a free 30-day membership, but it didn’t really provide the detail I want before making a committment.  Going to the website gave me the answers that I needed.  It lists the many programs involved, plus if you go to the Plan Options tab and then the Special Offers tab on the left side you will find two mutually exclusive options.  One allows you to get a 15% discount on the membership price ($51) and the other gives you a free companion ticket.

OK, so not much to risk, but I was still a little concerned that I would find that the 5% discount on United would only apply to a high fare class or be somehow limited.  I decided to take the plunge for the sake of my readers – what the heck it’s only $65.  The first thing after signing up and getting my member numbr and code for United was to take it for a spin.  Plugging the code into the Offer Code space on the search screen, I tried out an upcoming itinerary to attend my daughter’s graduation.  They said a blue star would appear on each fare to let you know the discount was being applied and sure enough it appeared on every single flight listed.  I was really surprised as I have had other United discount codes that only applied to a few flights when I tried them out.

OK, so the fare I wanted for a normal price of $762 was now only $724.  A modest savings of $38, but heck, that’s equal to a free dinner, I’ll take it.  So the ROI (return on investment) so far is already paying off as I just made back 58% of the money I put into this thing and I still haven’t got my rental car or hotel.

I’ll continue to report on my successes with this card over the coming year, but so far it seems like a good investment.  Check it out yourselves and let me know if you have any questions that I can try to answer.  Savings so far: $38.

Posted by glenn | 110 Comments

There was a lot of press lately about the FAA, under pressure from Congress, raising the nuber of hours pilots must be allowed to rest between flights.  For years, the rule was eight hours of rest before flying and, starting Dec 2013, it will be raised to ten.  This was a result of several crashes where tired pilots seem to have contributed to the accident through fatigue dulling their flying and mental capacity.

Lesser publicized is that the cargo airlines received an exception to these rules and get to keep flying their pilots with only eight hours rest.  News article here.  So theoretically, a pilot could be required to fly from midnight to 0800, rest until 1600 and then fly another eight hours.  I am not a pilot, but have worked long hours like these, and admit that I am not at my best when doing so.  The reason the cargo airlines were exempted was that they cited that they are not hauling hundreds of passengers around therefore they are risking less lives.  Wow, really makes life as a cargo pilot sound like you are expendable!

I thought I would check these standards against the military standards (since this is a military related blog) and was surprised at the results.  I used USAF standards for reference and found that they  mandate 12 hours of crew rest!  Although that can be reduced to ten for certain reasons.  Admittedly, USAF is not trying to turn a profit, but I expect there is quite a bit of science behind their standards and wonder why commercial aviation thinks their pilots are tougher or can operate safer.

Of course, “rest” is a relative term.  While the airlines mandate an eight or ten hours rest period, there is no enforcement that this consist of restful sleep.  I remember seeing a whitle blower video of commecial pilots “resting” and it looked a lot like trying to sleep in an airport lounge which I know from personal expereince does not really regenerate your body’s energy.  Of course, I can say that when I was younger I would run into fellow lieutenants who had flown thier fighters across the country for “training” but really used the time to party all weekend in a nice location.  I heard storied from them about waking each other up when they were flying back because they were exhausted.

I would be interested in what you all thought about this subject including any personal expereinces you have had with tired pilots either civilain or military.  Personally, I would sleep better on the flight knowing that my pilot is fully rested.

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

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