Monthly Archives: November 2011

Don’t Listen to Those Articles: Airline Mergers Don’t Succeed or Fail Because of Aircraft or Route Maps

There’s a back-and-forth worth reading between Gary and Cranky (here) about the relative merits (or in Gary’s view – from the wing obviously – non merits) of a US Airways merger or purchase of American Airlines. In short, Gary thinks it makes no sense because of the union issues, non-overlapping route map, and airline mergers generally stink. Cranky is on the side that US Airways’ management team is the only group that can make American successful.

I side completely with Cranky on this. Why?

Articles that are written immediately after an airline merger always focus on whether the airlines’ route maps overlap; whether they fly the same aircraft; and, buried up paragraph number 11, issues with unions.

Let me throw this out there: airline mergers do not succeed or fail based on route maps or aircraft. An unsalvageable hub (TWA in St. Louis) is different than having route maps that may or may not seem compatible. Overlapping route maps can be a good thing: slots (especially at LGA or DCA) can be valuable whether they’re kept or sold; if routes overlap then eliminating one competitor can help drive prices up. In other industries, buying out a competitor in the same market is often considered a good move. I don’t know why with airlines it’s considered a negative.

We often hear about a merger being a good or bad idea because aircraft are the same or different. While it’s better to have fewer aircraft types than more aircraft types, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to introduce new planes into the mix. In fact, it may allow the combined carrier to eliminate less efficient aircraft from their current system. Or it may introduce a better premium product that they don’t currently offer. Yes, there is cost associated, but it’s hardly a dealbreaker.

Let’s take a look at the mergers from the past 20 or so years:

– Alaska acquired Horizon in 1986 and is still run as a separate business (as least for now). Alaska has long been a well-run airline and the merger of the two companies made sense, helping Alaska serve smaller cities in the northwest. I believe there is no aircraft overlap.

– AirTran bought ValuJet, which helped flesh out their presence in the southeast. AirTran was a well-run airline up until it was acquired by Southwest. Southwest’s purchase of AirTran will likely end up being a good move, despite the addition of new aircraft types, because Southwest has a great management team that understands labor and thought AirTran could help it build out an international presence and a stronghold in Atlanta.

– America West bought US Airways, which has been a pretty successful merger despite some labor hiccups. They continue to work those out, but even though the two airlines flew a wide array of aircraft on routes that were completely unrelated, the combination has worked, allowing US Airways to build a reasonable national presence. That merger has been successful despite the aircraft issue, almost despite the labor issue, and without an obviously complementary route structure. Why? Because those guys from America West really know how to run an airline. They’ve been extremely smart about pricing and although people complain about in-flight product, they have not invested money where it does not get paid back. It’s easy to be a follower in the airline world; it’s much more difficult to choose not to do what everyone else is doing because you think it makes more sense.

– American bought Reno Air, which was a ridiculous move from the start. Despite the fact that there were no labor issues, that they both flew MD-80s, and that Reno Air helped flesh out AA’s west coast strategy, it was a disaster. Once people stopped flying after 9/11, AA essentially shut down everything that was associated with Reno Air, from eliminating the San Jose hub to grounding Reno Air’s planes. On paper, the merger had everything. In reality, once the red-hot Silicon Valley economy slowed down, there was no reason for Reno Air to exist.

– American bought TWA. By the time American bought it, TWA was a shell of its former self. They were basically getting the St. Louis hub, which was pitched as a way to reduce congestion in Dallas and Chicago. That really made no sense (it was a connection point for smaller cities that were already connecting in Chicago, rather than an origin/destination location), and they dismantled that hub soon after the merger. That purchase didn’t fail because of overlapping route maps or aircraft, it failed because it didn’t reduce competition, lower costs, or gain new markets.

– Delta bought Pan Am’s European routes. Not a merger (well, it was going to be a merger, but Delta pretty much screwed Pan Am over at the last minute and just kept the European routes), but a purchase of assets. They also got the shuttle from Pan Am in that move. Although they don’t run Pan Am’s Frankfurt hub anymore, Delta’s strong European presence dates back to this; and they’re still flying the shuttle.

– Delta bought Northwest. People (me included) pooh-poohed this when it was announced because of the high concentration of hubs (Minneapolis, mini-hub in Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, mini-hub in Indianapolis, Memphis) and the non-overlapping aircraft. But they were able to right-size those hubs, shrinking Memphis and Cincinnati (though keeping fares high on remaining flights) and Delta gained a huge piece of the puzzle with Northwest’s Asian route structure. In hindsight, that merger was probably worth it for the Asian routes alone. Delta’s management was smart and deliberate about the merger, and it succeeded because they made smart business decisions quickly, reducing routes where it made sense.

– Song wasn’t really a merger, but I thought I’d point it out here because Delta’s strong in-flight entertainment options were borne out of Song.

– United/Continental. It’s early, but this looks like a success because the management team is strong, and both airlines were in a place of strength when the merger was announced (Continental stronger than United, but United was turning itself around at the time). This was a case where the route maps were complementary, and that certainly helped, but it could just as easily have been a disaster if the management teams weren’t so good.

So, what does this all mean for US Airways and American? Basically, I don’t care so much about the aircraft. The route maps aren’t particularly complementary, but US Airways would gain a great Latin American network. It remains to be seen how JAL/British Airways/Iberia plays out, but if it lives up to its promises, those deep integrations will give them an integrated presence in Europe and Asia. The US management team has shown in Vegas and Pittsburgh that they have no problem dismantling sacred cow hubs for the good of the company. I could imagine them shrinking operations in LA and San Juan. Perhaps they shrink Charlotte and focus on Miami and Philadelphia. Perhaps they have Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago, Miami and Philly. Eh, maybe 1 less. But you get the point – they’ll have a pretty strong national presence (minus the Northwest, which they cover with their codeshare with Alaska). Lower the costs, rationalize domestic routes, grow Latin America, improve the BA/JAL/IB situation, raise fares because of the reduced service in the market. It could work.

I don’t know much about the union situation, so I won’t say much about it here other than the US management team has probably learned a ton from the America West merger, and that US Airways’ low-ish paid pilots would probably be happy if their pay scales moved a bit toward the scales paid at American.

Airline mergers aren’t empirically bad ideas. Remember – US airlines were terribly run for quite a long time. The old model of high costs matched with ridiculous fares and network strategies borne out of hubris was ripe for disaster — no merger could salvage that. But the airline mergers that have risen from bankruptcies ashes – Delta/NW, UA/CO, US/HP – have actually been quite strong. I think it’s pretty clear we’ll see the fine folks in Phoenix pursue AA sooner rather than later.

Yes, American Finally Entered Bankruptcy

Not much time to write but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention American’s bankruptcy filing. Key points:

– They didn’t wait til the last minute where they were running out of cash, so this is not a panic move. It was pretty much their only option at this point.

– Everything will continue as normal (ie, your Aadvantage miles will be just fine).

– It isn’t quite so obvious where they’re going to cut routes (which will inevitably happen). They don’t really have an obviously weak hub like Northwest does/did at Memphis; Delta does/did at Cincinnati; and US Airways did at Pittsburgh. American eliminated St Louis when they merged with TWA, and around the same time shrunk operations at Nashville and Raleigh. Maybe Los Angeles shrinks. Maybe it’s not worth fighting with a much stronger United at Chicago. Maybe they give up some of San Juan as JetBlue has started staking a claim there.

– Employees will be most affected. There will be layoffs and new employees will be hired at lower salaries.

– US Airways may be salivating right now. Their stock is up 14%, possibly on the idea that they would be able to scoop up (or in some way merge with) a weakened American. That sound a bit crazy when I write it, but it’s really not. In fact, when you think about it, a US Airways/American/Alaska link-up would be a formidable competitor, assuming the British Airways/Iberia/JAL thing really grows the way they expect.

But don’t worry – your flight won’t be canceled and your Aadvantage miles are fine. No need to start spending them now (unless you want to, of course).

Curacao Trip Report, Part 2: Car Rental

(If you’re keeping track, which you’re not, Part 1 was my tale of nearly missing our flight save for the help of an amazing gate agent).

Anyone who travels domestically and belongs to one of the car rental companies’ frequent rental programs is, in a word, spoiled (or spoilt, as the British say. I think the British say that. It’s not important…) Strolling up to your car, bypassing all of the nonsense and paperwork, and simply driving out of Pittsburgh’s airport is a delight. What’s there to complain about?

One of the interesting aspects of Curacao’s airport is that all of the rental car companies located there (Avis, Hertz, Budget, etc all have outposts on the island) have decided to take everything they’ve learned about car rental operations in the US and throw it out the window. They have devised a system that, as far as I can tell, has been created in a vacuum, free from any knowledge of how rental car companies work in any of their other 19,000 locations worldwide.

How, you may (or may not) be asking yourself, does the system work?

Good question.

First, you arrive in the non-air conditioned car rental counter area. I’m going to be a bit hypocritical here: whenever I hear about a new terminal opening in a developing country, I get a bit of nostalgia for the old-style terminals that still exist out there. Each new gleaming, vaguely similar terminal I’ve passed through makes me long for the days of the terminal-as-outpost, rather than terminal-as-mall. I once got to see this transformation in real time during a trip I took to Lihue, Kauai, in 1987, as we flew into the old Lihue terminal and departed 4 days later from the then-sparkling-new terminal at Lihue. Curacao (at least the rental car portion) is that old type of terminal — slightly crumbling and, like Curacao itself, ramshackle in an endearing way. The hypocritical part is that when you’re standing in the heat and humidity, waiting for the rental car theater to play itself out, I really, really just want a nice terminal with air conditioning.

I was third in line at the Budget counter, and while I mention Budget here specifically, the last time I was there I rented with National and they employed the exact same system. Following a 40 minute wait in line for the 3 people in front of me, I approached the counter. I’ll spare you those details, but we have a conversation, I fill out the requisite paperwork, and 15 minutes after I stepped up to the counter, I’m told to stand outside, where it’s raining, and wait for the car to be pulled around.

The car is not pulled around. Several other people have their cars pulled around. I track down an employee. They take a look at my papers. They ask me where the car is parked. I respond with a question of my own. Namely, how the hell would I know where the car is parked. The employee goes and gets the keys to my car. He walks around the parking lot hitting the alarm button on the car until he hears the alarm go off. He pulls the car up. We walk around the car together, inspecting it. The car was recently returned, so I have no idea why they don’t just have that piece of paper with the inspection from the previous person who returned the car. We circle the myriad dents in my Toyota Yaris and note that the tank is 3/8 full. I’m told I should return it 3/8 full. I say that the car also appears to be 3/8 full of sand, as they have not cleaned the car prior to renting it to me. The Budget staff member does not laugh. I ask if I also need to return it with the garbage that is on the floor. Also no ha ha from staffer. 55 minutes after I arrive at the car rental counter, I am free to drive off with my car.

The joke, though, is on me as the car alarm goes off every time I turn on the car for the next 5 days. Also one of the back seats won’t unlock with the remote. But, again – joke on me, as which door will not unlock seemingly alternates between the right and left sides.

I do gain an incredible satisfaction, though, when I return the car and do something I’ve always wanted to do: I simply left it in the middle of the parking lot with the keys in it. I intended to put the car into a space in the rental car lot but, shocker, there were no spaces available. At 7:15 am. So I simply left it in the middle of the lot. I’ve often dreamed of just leaving a car sitting in the middle of a lot when I couldn’t find a space. And this morning I accomplished that dream. And from what I know about Curacao, there is a 2008 Toyota Yaris still sitting, 23 hours later, in the middle of the rental car parking lot at the airport. Uncleaned.

Where Should I Credit My Car Rental Points?

Car rental companies are a bit of a red-headed stepchild of the loyalty program world, in part because the programs run by those companies tend to be pretty miserable. Also miserable is the 50 miles often offered by car rental companies if you want to credit the rental to your favorite airline frequent flyer program.

But there are some better options out there, and I thought it was worth pointing those out.

HERTZ: Each rental earns 1,000 miles (1,100 miles if you’re a #1 Club Gold member) on Virgin Atlantic. Why would you credit miles to Virgin Atlantic? Primarily if you are planning a trip to Hawaii, as they only require 6,000 miles for a inter-island round trip on Hawaiian. Also, if you rent a few times a year, you may find yourself with the 40,000 miles necessary for a roundtrip ticket to London (plus annoying fuel surcharges, of course). If that holds no appeal to you whatsoever, feel free to credit the rental to Southwest Rapid Rewards, where you’ll earn 600 points per rental, roughly equal to $10 in airfare. Rent for 3+ days and you’ll get double points (details here).

AVIS: If you rent for 3 days or more, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal than the 3,000 bonus miles you’ll earn when you credit the rental to US Airways (details here). For shorter rentals, again that 600 points from Southwest Airlines (details here) is a good deal.

For rentals through December 31st, Carlson Hotels (that’s Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, Park Inn and others), is offering 5,000 points for a 2-day rental and 9,000 points for a 3+ day rental (details here). 9,000 points gets you a free night at a low-level hotel.

BUDGET: Ah, Southwest. 600 Rapid Rewards points for 1-2 day rentals, 1200 for 3-4 day, and 1800 points for 5+ day rentals. Details here. 1800 points is worth roughly $30 in airfare.

Through December 31st, Carlson is offering the same deal as they have with Avis: a 2-day rental gets you 5,000 points and 3-day rental gets you 9,000 points. Details here.

NATIONAL: Through December 31st, get 1,000 bonus miles with Continental/United when you book a 3-day rental (details here).

DOLLAR/THRIFTY: 600 Rapid Rewards points for a 1-2 day rental. Through December 15th, get double points for a 3+ day rental (details here). If you really don’t like Southwest, a 3-day rental will get you 1,000 bonus miles with Continental/United (details here).

Any I’ve missed?

Marriott Los Suenos Costa Rica – Cyber Monday Deal $129 (More Than Half Off!)

The Marriott Los Suenos Resort in Jaco, Costa Rica, is offering a Cyber Monday deal for just $129 per night (instead of $289) for nearly all of 2012. You must book today or tomorrow (November 27 or 28) and use promo code PR5 to take advantage of the offer (it says you must book tomorrow, the 28th, but it appears to be live right now).

Plus, you can save a bit more than that when you pay for the stay with Marriott gift cards. You can purchase the cards and get a bonus 10% (details here), knocking the effective price of the room down to about $117 or so – a big savings over the $289 they normally charge.

You must stay 2 nights, but you may cancel by December 27th for a full refund.

We stayed at the resort last February, and it was great, especially if you have kids. It’s a bit over an hour from San Jose (assuming the highway is open, which it wasn’t when we were there, making it a considerably longer hop from the airport), and 10-15 minutes from the town of Jaco, which is nothing special but there are a bunch of casual restaurants there (hello, Jaco Taco) to save you from Marriott’s $14 hot dog. If you’re a bit more adventurous on the eating front, there are a bunch of “sodas” or extremely casual Costa Rican rice-and-bean joints that will set you back just a couple of bucks.

The hotel is located in a large planned community, so don’t expect rustic Costa Rica (expect non-rustic Boca Raton). There’s golf if you’re into that, plus the usual spa, etc. Our kids spent some time at the kids club (meaning we got 2 ours to ourselves), and they spent a large chunk of time in the large pool. The resort is on a beach, but it’s not particularly good, and we (and most others) spent no time there. Ie, you’re not going there because of the beach.

It’s close to Manuel Antonio park, though we didn’t make it there because our kids were 4, but if you have older children, it’s a great trip that’s less than an hour from the hotel.

That said, for $129 (or $117) it’s a steal.

(On a side note: that rate does not include breakfast. They do offer a stay 3 nights, get 1 night free package at $327/night and a stay 5 nights, get 2 nights free package for $351/night. Those deals include breakfast. If you have 2 kids, the breakfasts get expensive, and the free night packages may actually make more sense for you. Just a thought…)

A Word of Thanks, Continental Airlines

I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM….NOW!!!!

It was right about then, at 705am on 58th Street and the West Side Highway, sitting in the front seat of our car service town car with my wife and the girls in the back seat, that I knew we were in a perilous position to make our 8:40am flight to Curacao yesterday.

Scarlett likes to drop the bathroom bomb on us with little warning, and when she announces her bathroomly intentions, she doesn’t mean that she has to go in a few minutes, she means that she requires a bathroom NOW.

We make our driver crazy and ask him to pull off and over to 10th Avenue and 50th Street where I’m pretty sure there’s a hotel that Scarlett, age 5, can use. We head over, she takes care of business, and we get back in the car.

It’s Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving, so there’s traffic heading out of the city. By the time we arrive at Newark Airport it’s 7:45, which is plenty of time, when I’m traveling alone, to stroll through security, have a cup of coffee and a peppermint at the Presidents Club, and mosey onto my flight.

But I’m not traveling alone, and I’m checking bags, and it’s less than an hour from departure. We head up to drop off our bags and we’re told by the check-in machine that the flight was closed an hour before departure. The check-in machine has no heart and cares not that if we miss Continental’s twice-weekly flight to Curacao we will have no vacation at all.

The gate agent, though, does have a heart, and overrides the machine (a triumph for man vs. computer, finally) and checks us in. Except that she doesn’t. The bag tag system is down, so she needs to manually tag the bags. It’s 8am, and our flight departs in 40 minutes.

She asks us to come with her to another check-in area where they have the manual bag tags and she can get us on our way. But, and I really should’ve seen this coming, Scarlett HAS TO GO TO THE BATHROOM NOW, which, as noted earlier, does not mean in 15 minutes. I tell the agent we have to stay here so the younger of the twins can go to the bathroom.

No problem, she says, and runs to get the tags and brings them back. 8:05, she returns, tags our bags, and says we have zero chance of making the flight if we go through security on our own. She takes the 4 of us pathetic creatures through employee security (“they’re with me…c’mon!”) and then onto a cart (“this is funnnn!!!!”) and we make it to the gate just in time to be the last one’s on. Susan actually hugs and kisses the agent agent, we tell her she’s a rock star, and we get on to the flight with no problem.

That’s the long way of saying Thank You, Catherine Pimentel, gate agent. You saved the vacation and showed that people just need to stop complaining that airlines always treat people like crap. You are a gem.

I’ll bore everyone with details when we’re back, but we used miles to get down here on Continental (no one thinks about going to Curacao as evidenced by the award seats available a few weeks ago for the day before Thanksgiving, and our flight was only 2/3rds full), and we’re going back on American (bought the tickets, but used credit from Capital One Venture deal a while back where you got $1,100 in travel credit).

We’re staying at the Baoase resort, and it is absolutely amazing. Used rest of Capital One credit plus Chase Sapphire Preferred credit to offset some of the cost (sometimes I just like to say in a non-chain hotel). I’ll post some photos when we’re back. I can’t recommend it enough – again, full report early next week.

Happy Thanksgiving from the OTR.

Looking for Quick Cash Back? Try the Bank of America BankAmericard Visa Signature Card

I know we all get excited about large point bonuses for credit card signups, but sometimes you may just want a quick cash injection. Here’s a good card for that:

Bank of America’s BankAmericard Visa Signature Card offers you $275 cash back when you spend $500 on the card in 3 months. You get $250 cash back on the first $500, then a 10% bonus if you sweep that money into a Bank of America checking or savings account, making it $275 cash back on $500. No annual fee. Not bad at all.

You’ll also earn 1% cash back on all purchases (not exciting), 2% on groceries (not bad), and 3% on gas (not bad either). There are better cards for all of those categories (see my chart here), but it’s an easy way to make a quick $275 cash back.

(I make no referral fee on the card – I just thought it was a pretty good deal for spending $500.)

An Open Letter to Joe Sharkey

(I really didn’t want to write about the New York Times’ airline coverage two days in a row, but they brought it on themselves)

Dear Joe,

I read your column It’s the Golden Age of Flying. (Just Don’t Forget the Gold) in the Times today, and I was sad to hear that a sticky-fingered child was sitting next to you on your recent flight to Tucson.

You had several complaints in the article about the state of air travel today. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought it would be good to help you overcome all of the difficulties you address in your piece. Let’s go through them one-by-one:

– You allude to yesterday’s ridiculous article about international business travel by noting that the “hoi polloi” will never get to enjoy that first class flight to London on British Airways because it costs $18,000. That’s true. But if you don’t want to spend $18,000, you could have opened 2 American Airlines credit cards and earned 150,000 miles (now 100,000 miles for 2 cards) — enough for that round trip first class ticket to London. And you didn’t even have to pay the annual fee. It’s your call — 2 credit cards or $18,000.

– I was saddened to hear about your lack of status on any airline and how that caused you to have a less-than-adequate trip between New York and Tucson. You’ve mentioned flying this route in other columns, so you must take it several times a year. You note how you had to board among the last groups, and had to sit in cramped quarters way in the back of the United flight you took through Denver. That is a bummer. But that is easily avoided — simply credit one of your roundtrip flights of 3,000 miles to Star Alliance partner Aegean Airlines and you’ll get Silver Status on Star Alliance, which will give you priority boarding and free checked bags. See, it’s not so hard to earn status and get those perks.

– You did offer a suggestion about how to have more comfort in coach: “Obviously, the best is buying a higher fare ticket and opting for the few miserable inches of extra legroom you get in premium economy sections.” I wouldn’t say that’s the best way. You can buy a cheap ticket on United and buy-up to Economy Plus if you have no status on United or Continental. That won’t cost you much on a cross-country flight, and you’ll get 4-5 additional inches of legroom. Or if you fly that route a few times a year, it may be worth the $425 option to buy Economy Plus for the year. That’s not for everyone, but it basically guarantees you a comfortable seat for a year. Or fly JetBlue (not to Tucson, they don’t go there, but to other airports, and their regular seats give you 3-4 additional inches of legroom compared to Continental for no added cost).

– You sort of brush aside the perks of airline credit cards, though you do quote an analyst saying that airlines see credit card customers as someone making an investment in the airline (to which you respond, “Well, let me think about that investment for a bit. Just how much is it worth to avoid the child with the sticky palms?”). The answer to your question is $0. The United Mileage Plus Explorer card is free the first year. You’ll get priority boarding benefits and your first bag is checked free. Sure, it’s $95/year after that – you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it for you. Frankly, I’d just keep crediting the 1 flight to Aegean and keeping the Silver Status on Star.

So, while it’s sad you had to sit in the back next to a sticky kid, there are lots of ways for you to avoid that situation with very little effort. After you take up this advice, you can give thanks for never boarding last again.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Online Travel Review

Oh NY Times, Please Stop Writing about Airlines

The NY Times offers an article this morning (on its front page, no less) that I suppose is supposed to be about how airlines have upped the amenities in international first class. It is, like many airline-related Times stories before it, a jumble of nonsense (save, of course, for the quotes from Cranky Flier). To wit:

The piece starts by saying how economy class travelers will pay for bad food and have cramped seats this holiday season. Very original. Then they contrast that with the massages, multi-course meals and limo rides that you get in international first class. But the suggestion that you are paying for food in coach while it’s “free” in first class is ludicrous. A coach seat from New York to, say, Sydney is $1600. A first class seat on Emirates is $27,000. That “free” massage, limo ride and meal will cost roughly the price of a Volkswagen Passat. So much for free.

Then comes the obligatory paean to the good-old-days: “Until the 1980s, first class was roomier than coach, but not all that fancy. The seats in the front offered more legroom but did not recline more than 40 degrees.” But according to this article, Philippines Airlines and JAL had flat beds in the early 1980s, if not sooner.

And of course memories of how great coach food was back then: “The food was better in first class too, though even the meals in coach were better than they are now.” How quickly we forget that airline food was a joke. And as I’ve written here before, it was so often a joke made by comics that eventually the joke was how often comics joked about airline food. It was not better then, and it’s not particularly good now.

And who is flying in first class? “Obviously the first-class passenger is a very senior person in his company, coming a long way around the world, and probably doing something very important for his business,” said John Slosar, the chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airways.” Or someone cashing in miles, of course.

“First class has also served as a lab for in-flight amenities that eventually trickled down to the rest of the plane. Individual screens are now found in the seatbacks in coach.” Because JetBlue installed them. In coach.

“Delta Air Lines and Qatar Airways, by contrast, do not have a first class, just business and coach.” Except Qatar Airways DOES have first class. It said it would remove first class from some aircraft that had yet to be delivered. But many current aircraft have first class.

And the piece wraps up with a frequent flyer saying how awesome first class was. Except he used miles to sit up there.

I’m really not even sure what the point of this piece was — while it is saying how airlines are upping their game in first class, as the same time it is saying how airlines are removing first class cabins (or shrinking the number of seats). Really, if there’s a story, it’s that business class has become what first class was. This idea is given a passing glance, but that’s a more interesting story than whatever this was.

And The November OTR Contest Winner Is…

Alexis L.

Thanks to everyone for adding their comments about the Chase Sapphire & the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card — I’ll summarize what everyone wrote in a post this week.