Monthly Archives: December 2012

Targeted Offer: US Airways Offering 5X Bonus Miles on Groceries, Movies and Utilities

My wife received this targeted offer from US Airways for her US Airways credit card:

They’ll give her 5 bonus miles for every dollar spent at grocery stores, movie theaters, and utility payments for the period of January 1-March 31st. Those 5 bonus miles are on top of the regular 1 mile per dollar (ie, you’ll get 6 miles per dollar in those categories). You can earn a maximum of 5,000 bonus miles.

As I said, this is targeted (she received the offer, I did not), and you need to register by January 20th to be enrolled in the offer.

I already use my Amex Blue Cash Preferred for groceries because it earns 6% cash back, so I won’t use it for that. My movie theater spend is pretty negligible. I earn 5X on phone, cable and Internet already through the Ink Bold card. I guess I’ll switch my auto-payments on my gas/electric and take the points (assuming I can remember how I actually change the credit card on that auto-pay).

US Airways has been doing these targeted offers seemingly every quarter, and it has definitely influenced my spend (I’m currently putting all my restaurant spend on my US Airways card because of a 5X offer they had for this quarter). As credit card companies get smarter about customer data, I imagine we’ll see more of this.

(I would put in a screenshot of the mail they sent me but in my eagerness/frustration I ripped the self-mailer while trying to open it).

China Allows 72-Hour Visa-Free Stay; May Be Handy with Air China’s New Houston-Beijing Service

This may have been covered elsewhere, but it’s worth noting that China has introduced a 72-hour visa free stay policy for citizens of 45 countries (US included) who have a continuing airline ticket onto a 3rd country. In other words, you can stay in China for 3 days as long as you have a scheduled flight to another country.

This makes China a much easier stopover point for anyone traveling to Asia, which is great news for anyone looking to book an award ticket to Asia (more options is always a good thing).

Along these lines, beginning in July Air China is launching 4X weekly nonstop service between Houston and Beijing (every time I see the PEK airport code I almost write Peking, but that just shows how old I am). Combining this with the short visa-free stay, Star Alliance loyalists will be happy to see a whole bunch of new options not only to get to China (by connecting on United in Houston to the new Air China flight), but to continue on to Southeast Asia.

Schedule:

Air China 996 IAH 0130 – 0500+1 PEK 77W x246
Air China 995 PEK 1500 – 1540 IAH 77W x135

CORRECTION BELOW: Heads Up: One SWISS JFK-Zurich Daily Flight Will Switch to Edelweiss Aircraft

CORRECTION: AIRLINE ROUTE WAS INCORRECT — THE CREW WILL BE EDELWEISS, BUT THEY WILL BE FLYING ON A SWISS A330 EQUIPPED WITH FIRST AND BUSINESS CLASS. YOU CAN IGNORE BELOW (EXCEPT FOR THE MERRY CHRISTMAS – I STILL WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS) — THANKS TO HANS IN THE COMMENTS…

First of all, Merry Christmas everyone.

I thought I’d give a heads up: According to Airline Route, SWISS will switch one of their daily JFK-Zurich flights to an Edelweiss A330 aircraft (and Edelweiss crew) from a SWISS A330 aircraft beginning March 31st.

Why does this matter? SWISS (which I just flew last week) has a pretty fantastic business class product on their A330 — if you sit in one of the window seats that only has 1 seat (vs. 2 in some rows) it’ll feel like First Class. Edelweiss, which is the leisure carrier for SWISS, has old-school business class recliner seats (seen here). If you’re paying for the SWISS experience up front, please note that you’re not going to get that – even though SWISS is, as of now, charging the same amount (roughly $5k) regardless of which product you receive.

The schedule for these flights is slightly confusing. Every day except Thursday, the 6:10pm JFK departure and the 1pm Zurich departure will now be on the Edelweiss aircraft. On Thursdays, the 9pm JFK departure and the 9:50am Zurich departure will be on Edelweiss.

They may make this clearer going forward (or not), but for now you can tell which aircraft you’ll be getting by looking at the seatmap. The SWISS aircraft has a First Class, so Business Class starts in Row 4. On Edelweiss there is no First Class.

A Quick Note about Using Miles (or Not) to Get to The Bahamas’ Out Islands

When most people think of the Bahamas (assuming they ever think about the Bahamas) they likely think of Nassau and Freeport, 2 tourist-addled enclaves often overrun with sunburned waddlers vomited off the decks of the megaships that call on those ports.

But for people like me who prefer a quieter, more laid back experience, the so-called Out Islands of the Bahamas have lots to offer. My wife and I are planning a short trip to Harbour Island (Rock House, in case you care) and I’ve learned a couple of things that I thought I’d share for anyone considering a trip to the non-Nassau, non-Freeport Bahamas.

– We’re leaving from Ft. Lauderdale, but you basically have 3 departure options if you want to get to any of the Out Islands:

From Ft. Lauderdale, United (via Silver Airways, which some of you may remember from when it was called Gulfstream International Airlines) flies to these destinations: Treasure Cay, Marsh Harbour (Abaco), North Eleuthera (Harbour Island), Governors Harbour (Eleuthera), Cat Island, Bimini and George Town (Exuma). If you’re of a certain age (ie, mine) when you hear “Bimini” you probably think of Gary Hart.

From Miami, American Airlines flies to Marsh Harbour (Abaco), North Eleuthera (Harbour Island), and George Town (Exuma).

From Nassau, you can fly to pretty much any island you want via BahamasAir or a number of smaller carriers. HOWEVER, it is much, much easier to transfer at Miami or Ft. Lauderdale than to deal with transferring at Nassau.

– United Airlines charges 35,000 miles round trip for an award ticket to the Bahamas from Ft. Lauderdale, which you may remember from the classic OTR post looking at the worst mileage awards (Ft Lauderdale to Bimini is 60 miles each way and will cost 35,000 miles round trip). Our ticket to North Eleuthera costs $350. I hate to pay for airfare since I’m sitting on a bunch of miles. Rather than use United miles, I’m using Chase Ultimate Rewards to buy the ticket — remember that you get a 25% bonus when you use UR points to pay for travel. So the $350 ticket is costing me 28,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Is that the most optimized use of those points? No. But I look at it this way: I rarely stay at chain hotels on vacation, so I won’t be transferring them there. There are better uses of those points, especially if I transfer to Avios to use for short-haul flights. But you know what? I don’t want to spend the cash. Don’t let anyone tell you that a using miles is ever a bad idea. It’s your money – if you don’t want to spend the cash, use the miles. You deserve it.

If you did decide to use United miles, remember that you can add on a stopover and a later flight within the US for no extra charge. So you can fly Ft Lauderdale to the Bahamas, then back to Ft Lauderdale; then do a stopover for as long as you want (up to a year) and then do Ft Lauderdale to anywhere in the lower 48 + Alaska. You can tack on Hawaii for just 2,500 more miles. If you want to use United miles for the short Bahamas hop, DEFINITELY add on another leg after the stopover in Ft Lauderdale (check out my post about this trick).

– American Airlines is a much better option since you can use 9,000 Avios points for a roundtrip between Miami and the Bahamas. It’s a great use of those Avios points. Unfortunately, their availability isn’t as good as United.

Finally, it’s worth considering a charter flight. For many of us, this seems like a financially ridiculous decision. But it turns out, it’s not. Charter airline Watermakers Air charges $560 or so per person ROUND TRIP for a charter from Ft Lauderdale (Executive Airport, not FLL) to Andros (two great resorts are there – Tiamo and Kamalame Cay Resort). If you’re heading to the Bahamas from South Florida, it’s worth looking into the charter — especially for a short trip, since you can leave early in the morning rather than waiting for the midday flights typically offered by United and American.

Singapore Airlines Will Upgrade Its 777-200ER Cabins

Beginning in January and continuing through 2014, Singapore Airlines will upgrade its 777-200ER interiors.

Economy Class gets new seat covers and larger TV screens.

Business Class gets upraded from Spacebeds to the newer Business Class seats found on A380s, A340-500 and 777-300ER aircraft.

Flights between Singapore and Amsterdam will receive the newer interiors in January, and Mumbai will follow in March. Over the rest of the year these cities will see the new interiors: Auckland, Capetown/Johannesburg, Christchurch, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Rome and Sydney.

NOW DEAD JFK – Tel Aviv, $550 on Delta

(Thanks to reader XF for the heads up….)

(WOW, THAT WAS QUICK – THIS IS NOW DEAD. SORRY ABOUT THAT)

Delta is offering roundtrip tickets from JFK to Tel Aviv for $550 (tax included) for dates in January and February. That’s about half what they usually charge.

Not quite mileage run material, but it’s a great fare if you were looking to go to Israel.

Jetsetter Gift Cards Up to 30% Off

Jetsetter (use that link if you do not have a membership) is offering up to 30% off gift cards if you purchase before Christmas. They’re offering:

$25 off a $250 gift card
$75 off a $500 gift card
$200 off a $1000 gift card
$500 off a $2000 gift card
$1500 off a $5000 gift card

You can, of course, buy yourself a gift card, meaning that you can save up to 30% off everything on Jetsetter forever. Not too bad, considering that their flash sales are already round 30% off. Jetsetter also rents vacation homes and does hotel reservations on non-discounted hotels (though if you’ve got those gift cards, you’ll get a nice discount).

Thursday Roundup: JetBlue in Colombia; Turkish Airlines in Israel; You Could’ve Bought an Airline for 12 Cents

A few quick ones this morning:

– JetBlue adds Medellin as its 3rd city in Colombia (Bogota & Cartagena) when it launches daily nonstop service from Ft. Lauderdale beginning in June. Spirit already flies the route, though they depart FLL in the morning and JetBlue will leave in the afternoon.

– Besides El Al, which airline has the most flights to Israel? Turkish Airlines with 32 weekly from Istanbul. No idea why you need to know that.

– A Qantas passenger faces up to 10 years in jail for attempting to smoke on a flight, then punching and spitting on crew members. You’ll be shocked to learn he was drunk.

– Allegiant will purchase 9 used A320s (most recently used by Iberia) to complement the 19 A319s it recently purchased. The A320 is basically a larger version of the A319. They’ll squeeze 177 seats into the aircraft (JetBlue, for example, flies the same type with 150 seats in an all-coach configuration).

– Fastjet, the new Tanzania-based lowfare carrier backed by the founder of Easyjet, purchased the assets of defunct South African lowfare carrier 1time for the low, low price of 12 cents. The deal will allow Fastjet to quickly expand into South Africa, though initially flights will only be within South Africa.

December 19th only: New York – Berlin under $400 Round Trip on Air Berlin

Full credit goes to this Flyertalk post

Oneworld member Air Berlin is having a 1-day sale on Wednesday December 19th at airberlin.de and you can get roundtrip tickets from New York to Berlin and Dusseldorf for just under $400, taxes included. It seems to only be available at the German version of the Air Berlin site (though on the upper right hand corner you can switch to English). Flights are available in January and February.

And while I’m writing this Tuesday night, it’s already Wednesday in Germany so the sale is currently live.

Gold Delta Skymiles Amex – Now 45,000 Miles After $3,000 Spend (Personal and Business)

Apply before December 23rd and you can get 45,000 bonus miles with the Gold Delta Skymiles American Express card when you spend $3,000 in 3 months. The normal offer is for 30,000 miles with $500 spend. The deal is good on both the personal card and business card (both applications here).

You’re not eligible if you’ve had this card in the past 12 months or any Delta Amex within the last 90 days. First year is free, $95 thereafter.