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.

Posted by glenn | No Comments

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

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

It shouldn’t be news to anyone that United is totally revamping a number of their clubs.  Some of them will be turned into elite Polaris Lounges, available only for those flying Polaris Business/ First, but all the United Clubs are sorely in need of renovation.  At some airports, like Newark, this has been painful as their really is no alternative, but to close the club during construction.  Fortunately, at SFO the beyond security area is large enough that United can create a temporary clubs to entertain the many of us who purchased a membership (through the CC), while construction of the main club is underway.

I used to fly out of SFO all the time, but since moving back east four years ago, not so much anymore.  I looked forward to seeing what they were doing with the major construction there.  Here are a couple of pictures of the Terminal 1 demo going on.SFO United Club 002

 

SFO United Club 003

The temporary club is now located at the corner of the United Pier and pretty easy to find, unlike the old club.

SFO United Club 004 SFO United Club 005

To lower your expectations, this club is not large.  It is way smaller than the old main United Club, however, it was not crowded when I was there for my late night flight (~1700 – 2100 hrs.).  IT has a nice main room with the bar all along one wall.

SFO United Club 006 SFO United Club 007

I did appreciate that there were plenty of power outlets and USB ports near every seat.  No hunting around the club for power like most United Clubs!  The anteroom adjoining the main room was half the size and contain more, probably quieter, seating and the food bar.

SFO United Club 008 SFO United Club 009

The food offerings weren’t spectacular, but definitely improved even over the improvements made a couple of years ago.  Waaay better than the food available for years in these clubs.  Two different soups and cheese-filled cold cuts.  Made me feel like I was eating breakfast in Germany.  “Fixings” for the soup and stone-ground mustard was a huge plus!

SFO United Club 010 SFO United Club 011

Not a bad dinner, better than an MRE which has been my choice many times in my life.

SFO United Club 012 SFO United Club 013

Look forward to visiting the full United Club when it is completed.

 

Posted by glenn | One Comment

Maybe I am naïve, but I expect that most people reading this blog or the others on BoardingArea.com are more savvy than the normal traveler.  That can be either r through your knowledge level to date and understanding that the “game” of frequent flyer miles is constantly changing and you need to stay ahead of it or you have seen or heard of the great benefits if you know the rules of the “game” and are seeking more in order to stay ahead of the average traveler.

Due to the unfortunately handled incident with Dr. Dao, things are going to get harder for you as the airlines adjust the rules of the game.  United has announced and most other airlines, even Southwest, are following suit to your determent.   Most airlines have announced that they will reduce overbooking of their flights, but use economics (i.e. a very high upper limit) to entice people to voluntarily give up their seat.

Someone who does not understand the frequent flyer game might be overjoyed to hear that they will raise the limits of Involuntary Denied Boarding to close to $10,000.  Let me be the first one to throw cold water on that fantasy.  As we have heard, the airlines are all going to cut back on overbooking, even though the Dr. Dao incident had nothing to do with overbooking.  That occurred because of crew priority which is a whole ‘nother thing and United promised to cut back on that.  However, the media grabbed hold of the term overbooking and now that is being cut back.  Overbooking was a great thing if you were savvy to the rules of this game and provided a great “bumpertunnity” to borrow a phrase from my fried Rene.  That is, it gave people who were savvy to this world of frequent flyer rules a great way to grab hundreds of dollars in value for very little sacrifice.  Overbooking opportunities were rare, only 0.62 out of 10,000 passengers were involuntarily bumped last year and now it will presumably be less than that.

Smart people knew to immediately sign up for an opportunity to bump due to overbooking, but then start negotiating for the compensation, which was not limited to a dollar value off of a future flight.  You get privately with the Gate Agent and you could ask for a hotel, food vouchers, First Class on the follow-on flight, etc. in addition to hundreds of dollars off a future flight.  Really astute players of the game could take a bump due to overbooking, wait for that flight, and then volunteer AGAIN for another opportunity to bump and collect even more.  I even knew guys who would purposely book on days like the day before Thanksgiving in order to collect all these Voluntary Denied Boarding (VDB) bumps and pay for a lot of their travel throughout the rest of the year.  434,425 people took VDBs last year, some more than once I am sure.

I am afraid that a lot of those stories, like many in the frequent flyer world, will now be a thing of the past.  If the airlines cut back on overbooking, that means less VDB opportunities.  It means really, really less IDBs will take place.  For those of you that were salivating at the $10,000 numbers that the media touted, those only apply to IDB , meaning they didn’t get enough VDB takers, and those will be almost unheard of if overbooking is reduced.

For you to get a $10,000 offer, everyone else on the plane would have to deny all previous offers.  Now that is not impossible, but it is a little bit like thinking that you can win an auction for $1.  Sure, if no one else bids, it is yours for a dollar, but what are the chances of that happening?  In the Dr. Dao case, United procedures made them stop at offering more than $800.  In other words, their internal policies of saving a few dollars got in the way of them offering a price that the market (the passengers) would bear.  If they kept raining their price to $1000, $1200, etc. eventually someone would have decided it was worth their time to give up their seat.  Great, so for you to collect the $10,000 limit now set by the airline, everyone else on the plane must refuse offers of $5,000, $6,000, etc.  What do you really think the chance of that happening is?  This is essentially an auction and you have to pull the trigger before others do.

To conclude, don’t get your hopes up of a big payout with this new policy.  You have to decide your personal pain point where you would accept an offer, but don’t hold out forever as you are in competition with everyone else on that plane.   Take the $400 or $800 offer and then negotiate for an upgrade on you next flight, better routing, etc.  Waiting until the super-lucrative offer is given means that someone else is very likely to take it instead of you.  The laws of economics are alive and well.

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Finally getting around to a cool story from one of our readers, Bob.  He found a great way to re-purpose one of the new Polaris amenities cases.  Let me share his note to us.

I recently flew United’s new Polaris Business Class product and took home my amenity kit. While most airlines collaborate with an established partner to “brand” their kits (i.e., Tumi with Delta, Cole Haan with AA., etc.) it appears United decided to go it alone. And while most cases can be repurposed after the flight to hold charging cables or toiletries, United’s zip-open clam-shell case is rigid with inside pockets that are misshapen for almost anything besides what is already in there… Unless you are a service member. I found that the case is perfect for safekeeping medals. It folds open so my large medals (3 rows) are on the right and mini-medals on the left if the case used upside down. I stick a piece of felt between each side when I close and zip. The medals are held in firmly and securely. The photos attached explains this better.

UA Polaris Medals Holder (1) UA Polaris Medals Holder (2) UA Polaris Medals Holder (3)

Thanks, Bob!  What a cool idea for the military traveler.  Anyone else out there have a good tip for military travelers?

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

So are you one of those people that always read about great offers, but the caveat is that they are targeted and you didn’t get the Golden Ticket email?  Me too.  Until today.

AA Status

AA Status 2

I just got an offer from AA for a no sweat-off-my-brow upgrade to Platinum status AND 20 500 mile upgrade certificates.  No fly x number of miles by a certain date or spend x dollars, just “here you go”.  There are a lot of other offers out there that are the more typical earn status for a reduced number of miles/ dollars.  See Miles-to-Memories or The Unaccompanied Flyer.  Note that in these offers, I would need to spend $2000 and fly 12,500 EQM to earn Platinum.

Although I do fly AA, I always try to credit my flights to Alaska since the status there is so much better.  I did earn about 7,000 EQM last year only because I got stuck on an Iberian Air flight coming back from Morocco and AA or BA was all I could credit it to.  Got plenty of hard to use BA miles, but can always use AA miles for flying my daughter around.

So I immediately signed up just in case they made an error on this gift from heaven.  Sure enough, Platinum already and those upgrade certificates are supposed to post within 20 days.  Kind of bizarre how they decided it was good for 3 1/2 months.  I guess the incentive is supposed to be to switch your flying to AA and get hooked on it so you want to keep flying the rest of the year and keep your status?

AA Status 3They’ll have to offer me more than this to make me switch from Alaska.  But I’ll fly and enjoy those upgrades and status while I can.

Better to be lucky than good I always say!

Anyone else out there get this fantastic offer?

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

I’ll be the first to admit that I much prefer to fly in First Class, but when that upgrade doesn’t come through I want my ride in economy to be the best it can be.  Usually, we get seats in the Exit Row and then hope for the upgrade.  However, Alaska has a new scheme to make the first 3-5 rows in economy a new class of service known as Premium Economy.  Alaska’s version (several airlines have started a similar class of service) comes with four more inches of legroom, a snack box and a free drink.  How did Alaska get all that extra legroom?  By eliminating the fourth row of First Class.  They also used this space to add four more inches to each First Class seat which I am not convinced they needed.

On our recent mileage run, my wife was upgraded on all seven legs and I almost did as well (six legs), but just missed the cut on our first leg, DCA-LAX, and got to try this new class of service.  I was very curious how it would turn out so wasn’t that disappointed on not getting upgraded – at least for one flight.  Here are photos showing the difference in leg room.  Keep in mind that I am six feet tall so extra legroom is always a good thing.

From these shots, I think how you can see the first  few rows are further apart.  The other shot shows the Premium Economy row across from me.  I think you can really see the extra legroom there.

Hawaii 2017 002 Hawaii 2017 003

Here is a comparison of legroom showing regular economy first, then Premium Economy and finally First Class.

Hawaii 2017 002Hawaii 2017 001Hawaii 2017 003

And if you think the legroom in First Class is huge you are absolutely right.  Frankly, more space than anyone needs.

Here is a shot of my wife in the first row.  She used to be able to reach the bulkhead with her feet, but not any more.

Hawaii 2017 056

What about that snack box and drink?  Well, as an MVPGold I have always had a benefit of a free drink, but I was looking forward to the snack box.  I was pretty surprised to receive what I am sure is the world’ smallest snack box.  I opened it up to show it had almonds, Craisins, and a square of dark chocolate.  OK, better than a poke in the eye, but really disappointing that this is all the snack box amounts to.

Hawaii 2017 004 Hawaii 2017 005

I was next on the list for an upgrade, so if Alaska still had four rows of First, I would have been sitting in a comfy seat with a decent meal instead of what you see above.  However, it looks like a good deal if you are the lowest tier elite and rarely make the cut off list for an upgrade.  This was you get some extra legroom and other benefits.  Let me know if you get a chance to experience this and what you think of airlines inventing this new class of service.

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Part of the addiction dedication to frequent flying is seeing those mileage counters roll over to zero on New Year’s Day and knowing you have to figure out a way to fly a bunch more flights so you can keep your status for the following year.  OF course, ideally you would get your employer to pay for all the flights needed or have those miles already paart of a family vacation.  However, that’s not always enough so you need to grab a bunch more to put you over the hump.

While some writers claim that the mileage run is dead, I am going to show you how to make one and get a great payout from it on Alaska.  More and more flyers should be looking at this program now with AS buying Virgin America which greatly expands their long haul routes.  AS’ Mileage Plan has really worked well for my wife and I ever since we moved to Anchorage in 2002 and discovered how great this program really is.  It is so great that we have continued with it despite living in D.C. for the last four years.  What makes it great?  Well, great service from the people, like the pilot who came out on our pre-flight today to brief the First Class passengers on the flight plan and answer any questions.  Always, always the great Flight Attendants.  Valuable miles that are a great currency to use domestically, but especially internationally on Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Iceland Air and several others.  Mileage earning is still based on distance flown, not price.  Lastly, the huge number of times we are upgraded to First Class.  My wife is a MVPGold75K and was upgraded 33 out of 36 flights in 2016.  I am merely an MVPGold and was upgraded 19 out of 20 flights last year.  Can’t match that experience on any other airline.  I am a Million Miler on UA and don’t get any where near that much love.

One of the best times to rack up cheap mileage run flights is from right after New Year’s to right before Spring Break – so basically mid-Jan. to mid-Mar.  By definition, you want as long a journey as possible.  So I look for as far away a spot from D.C. as possible and then try to find interesting side trips to get there.  ANC, any of the Hawaiian location, and Costa Rica are all great choices.  Of course, if you are West Coast based, you have a ton of East Coast destinations even without adding in those Virgin routes.  AS just keeps quietly expanding their offerings.  It would appear way too small on this screen, so here is a link to AS’ latest route map.

We usually pick one of the Hawaiian islands to visit every year and my wife chose Oahu for 2017.  With the end point settled, I started planning various stops or detours.  Also, I examined flights to those points that had wacky routings that added up the miles flown.  I’ll let you in on the main secret that makes mileage running viable with AS and that is the Companion Fare that come with their B of A credit card.  For only $99 (+$22 in taxes) more than a regular coach flight, I can fly my wife with me while she collects EQM and RDM also.  Other airlines with companion fares do not offer this so it makes mileage running very lucrative as I will illustrate below.

We broke up a week’s trip by making it two days in SAN, three days in HNL, and two days in SJC.  Purists will argue that this is not a true mileage run since we actually leave the airport and enjoy the town we visit.  OK, you win, but to me it is still a mileage run that we also turn into a vacation.  Here is what we finally ended up with:

DCA-LAX-PDX-SAN (two days) – HNL (three days) – SJC (two days) – SEA-DCA

Mileage Run 17

All for a fare of $859 including the companion fare cost.  So that essentially mean that we paid half that or $430 each to fly 12,132 miles.  That earns us that many EQMs each, but also much more RDM due to the bonuses for Gold and Gold 75K.  While I get a 100% bonus for being a Gold (used to get that as a Gold on UA, but now only 50% from them) and the wife gets an incredible 125% bonus for being a 75K.  She will also get a bonus 50,000 RDM once she re-qualifies for Gold75K, but let’s leave that part for later.  Lets do a quick calculation of the RDM earned and the value of those miles.  I will earn 24,264 RDM, so essentially a free ticket, and the wife will get 27,297 RDM meaning we get 51,561 RDM.  Most bloggers value AS miles at 2 cents each.  Doing the math, means that those miles are worth $1,031.22.  Pretty good return on investment there!  Get miles worth more than the flight cost and a good chunk of EQM to get to do it another year.  Not to mention flying most of that in First Class.  As I write this from Waikiki, my wife was upgraded on all four flights and myself on three so far.  First Class is a great way to earn this investment…

 

Posted by glenn | One Comment

A couple of winners from the previous contest came back and couldn’t use their upgrades from Michael and now reader Joe has volunteered a couple of more.  They expire and must be flown (not just booked) by 31 Jan.  More importantly, they can only be used on a W fare or higher.

MP_Upgrade2_120x120Photo courtesy United.com

There are also some other ways to use them, like on Lufthansa, so refer to United’s webpage on upgrades if you have specific questions. So any takers out there?  Reply with a comment to this post.

 

Posted by glenn | 6 Comments

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