Monthly Archives: July 2011

Great Deal: 2 Bedroom Villa in Phuket, $99; plus Vacationist.com Invitation Code

A number of flash sale sites have popped up over the past year (though that’s stopped recently, making me wonder a bit how many the market really needs), with Jetsetter as the best known. Vacationist.com (run by luxury vacation discount site LuxuryLink), is another of these private sale sites, and it, too, focuses on higher-end properties (if you need a Vacationist.com invitation click here).

I mention this here because I just saw that until noon Eastern on August 1st, they’re offering 2-bedroom villas at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort in Thailand for $99/night through the rest of this year (you’ll need to click through the Vacationist.com invite link to sign up and see the deal). Reviews of the place are great, and the 1500+ square foot villa comes with a butler. Yes, a butler. For $99/night.

Yes, I know, Phuket can be rough weather-wise during the next few months. But whatever. You don’t need to be a top-level elite member of a hotel program to enjoy a villa in Thailand for next to nothing (though that doesn’t exactly hurt), but for $99 you can see how the other half lives. Or how the other half spends September in torrential rainstorms in Phuket. Either way.

Nobody Asks: What’s the Award Ticket Will Cost You the Most Miles for the Shortest Distance?

I know that everyone is trying to get the best value for their frequent flyer miles, but I was wondering what was the absolute worst way to use your miles for a flight.

Before I answer, I realize that there are two ways of looking at this. One is saying what’s the most miles you could spend in lieu of spending the least amount of money. That’s less interesting to me because fares change all the time.

Instead, I wanted to know what’s the least distance you can travel for the most amount of points. I have no idea why I wanted to know this, but there ya go. Drumroll please:

For a business class award ticket using Delta Skymiles on SkyTeam partner Kenya Airways’ flight 550 from Brazzaville to Kinshasa, you’ll be using 100,000 miles for a 16 mile flight. A coach ticket will cost you 60,000 miles for an intra-Africa award on the 16 mile journey. Even for Skymiles, that’s impressive.

If you were looking for the worst value from the U.S., Continental Airlines’ Ft Lauderdale to Bimini flight will cost 35,000 miles in coach for a 61 mile, 30 minute trip. Solid.

(correction: an earlier version of this post said you could use Skymiles for high-level award tickets on partners. As Gary pointed out in the comments, you can only use Skymiles on low-level award tickets.)

Something You Don’t See Every Day: United Airlines Flight Forced to Divert to Havana

A United Airlines flight diverted to Havana, Cuba, on Sunday after the flight crew smelled something unusual on the plane. Pilots on United 831 from Dulles to Cancun chose to land in Havana because it was the closest location.

United does fly charters to Cuba (or at least Continental does on occasion), so this isn’t the first time the company has landed on Cuban soil. The airline is ferrying in another plane from Cancun to pick up the passengers, but as of now, they’ve been there for 8 hours. As they’re not permitted to spend U.S. dollars on the island, I don’t know if they’ve been served food.

Get a $100 Amex Gift Card When You Fly to London on Delta

Delta is offering a $100 American Express Gift Card when you fly in any class to London from JFK. You must purchase by September 1st and fly by September 15th. Not exactly mileage run material, but if you were going on Delta anyway…

Sign up here.

JetBlue Brings Back All You Can Jet, But Only In Boston and Long Beach, And Only As a 3-Month Pass

I guess that headline says it all, but JetBlue has re-launched its popular All You Can Jet program, but only if you depart from Boston or Long Beach. Also, the previously $499/$699 1-month program is now only available as a 3-month pass, good August 22-November 22. There are three versions of the program:

– $1,999 gets you unlimited travel from Boston to any JetBlue city for that 3-month period.
– $1,499 gets you unlimited travel from Boston to JFK, Newark, Baltimore, Buffalo, DC, Ricmond, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Charlotte, Chicago, Bermuda and Jacksonville.
– $1,299 gets you unlimited travel from Long Beach to Las Vegas, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle, Austin and Chicago.

International cities are included in the $1,999 version, but taxes are not included in that price. You do get last seat availability, though.

It’s not the program it once was, but for some business travelers it’s an incredible deal.

American Suspends Haneda Route for Nearly a Year

Remember last year when airlines were tripping over each other to gain access to Tokyo’s Haneda airport? Remember how amazing those routes would be for business travelers looking to land much closer to Tokyo and not have to deal with the long schlep into the city from Narita? How excited Hawaiian, Delta and American were when they received permission to fly there? Yeah, those were the days.

American just said they would again suspend JFK-Haneda service (after a short stoppage in April-May) beginning in early September and keep the route dormant until next June. Delta, which was approved to fly to Haneda from Los Angeles and Detroit, has already suspended Detroit service until next June as well.

Certainly the earthquake didn’t help matters, but I also have to wonder whether Haneda’s restrictive arrival and departure times for U.S. flights that contributed. Part of the open skies agreement between Japan and the United States to open up Haneda included a provision that flights could only depart and land between Midnight and 7am for flights to the continental U.S. and 10pm-7am for flights to Hawaii. For many, the prospect of getting into their Tokyo hotel at 1am or having to depart their hotel a 330am to catch a 6am flight was very unattractive (even though they probably got up at 4am at some point to go visit the sushi market). To this end American has recently requested that they be allowed to depart closer to 11pm, which would get flights in to JFK at around 11pm local time. An American spokesperson said the earlier departure (instead of a 6:40am departure from Haneda) would give the route a “substantially better chance of succeeding.”

IRS to Airlines: Refund Taxes on Tickets Already Purchased

The IRS is telling airlines that they should refund taxes to passengers who purchased tickets prior July 24th when government-mandated tariffs expired. One problem though: the airlines say that the IRS should refund the money, while the IRS says they have no way of knowing what taxes a passenger paid so they cannot refund the payments. The government agency does say, however, that they are developing a system for passengers to obtain refunds through them, rather than the airline, but there’s no timeline for getting that done.

If you purchased a ticket prior to July 24th for travel after that date, you should contact your airline and ask them to refund the taxes back to you (as they do when you purchased a refundable ticket and cancel that). You may get some pushback, but keep calling until you receive the money that is rightfully owed to you.

The Citi AA Churn Is Not Dead, It’s Just Resting…

The days of constantly churning 75,000 bonuses on Citi American Airlines credit cards are over. But that doesn’t mean it’s COMPLETELY dead…I’ve had more than my share of those cards, but after an 18 month break I just reapplied for the Citi AA Amex (apply here) and the Citi AA Visa (apply here), and I was approved for both with a 75,000 mile bonus for $1,500 in spend in 6 months for the Visa and $4,000 in spend in 6 months for the Amex. Fee is waived first year on both.

The landing page does not say that you’ll be getting 75,000 bonus miles, but every person who has applied has verified that it’s true. After applying, you can call 886-449-2484 for the Amex card and
888-766-2484 for the Visa card and speak to an agent to verify that you’ll be getting the bonus. (hat tip to Million Mile Secrets). Or, simply apply over the phone with a live agent at 800-408-4954 (hat tip to The Points Guy).

Most people apply for both at the same time using 2 different browsers. In other words, fill out the Visa application in Firefox and the Amex application in Internet Explorer and hit submit at the same time. Some people have said that if you apply from the same browser you’ll be denied on the second application. I don’t remember this to be true years ago, but no harm in using 2 different browsers to submit the applications.

Obviously for first-time applicants, it’s a great deal. But I’ve felt shut out of the AA churn for a while now. Nice to know it’s an option again.

So, the churn isn’t dead, you just have to wait longer than you used to (roughly 18 months from your last application).

Get 20% Off Coupon for Virgin America Good for Travel This Fall

Virgin America is offering a 20% off coupon for flights August 15 – October 27 when you visit their Facebook page for the Sunset Strip Music Festival and vote on your favorite photo. The 20% discount means you can get transcon tickets for about $230 round trip. Book your ticket by August 31st.

No Brain in Governing Body: Congress Whines That Airlines Raised Fares After Fees Were Expired

Members of Congress are now speaking out against airlines for raising fares instead of passing the savings from recently expired fees back to consumers. Two memebers, John D. Rockefeller IV, D-West Virginia; and Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, said:

Airlines should “put all of the profits that they are making” from the tax lapse into an escrow account so they can transfer it to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) when Congress reinstates the taxes. “If the industry is unwilling to protect the integrity of the AATF, at a minimum, it should pass the savings onto the consumers…”

Airlines are unwilling to protect the integrity of the AATF? Didn’t Congress let the fees (that benefited the AATF) expire? Why should the airlines pass savings on to consumers? Why is Congress telling the airlines how to run their business?

It’s not just Democrats. Rep. John Mica, R-Florida said airlines should “either [hold] the money for the trust fund or not [rip] off the consumer.”

Rip off the consumer? The consumer is charged the exact same amount. And what is ripping them off? And even if they did raise fares, how is that ripping off consumers? How pathetic is it that members of Congress can’t make any tough decision around the debt ceiling (or the FAA, for that matter), so they’re bashing airlines like some hack comedian. Please.