Monthly Archives: September 2013 - Page 2

Thursday Roundup: JetBlue to Trinidad; Aer Lingus Flat Beds?; Virgin America Safety Video Fine, and More

Been a bit of a crazy week here at OTR HQ (work trip, sick child, first week of school, etc) so let’s boil the news down into some tasty bits:

– TSA is planning to adopt a 3-tiered screening system for passengers and baggage, assigning you and your bags to either an “expedited, standard or enhanced” security system at the airport. If you’re signed up for Pre-Check, you’ll go through the expedited process. TSA is opening Pre-Check to the general public this fall, which would allow everyone to go through a 1-time initial background check and, for $85, gain access to the incredibly wonderful Pre-Check lines at airports nationwide.

– How congested is LaGuardia? I flew US Airways 4121 from LaGuardia to Philadelphia (on my way to Cincinnati) on Monday and the flight was scheduled for 1 hour and 18 minutes. Amtrak’s “slow” Keystone Service train from New York Penn Station to Philadelphia’s 30th Street station is scheduled for, ahem, 1 hour and 18 minutes.

– Because Virgin America did not want to put captions for the hearing impaired over its beautiful in-flight safety videos, the DoT has fined the airline $150,000.

– Wyndham will begin an overhaul of its Howard Johnson properties next year which will involve eliminating the Howard Johnson Inn, Express Inn, and Plaza brands.

– JetBlue will launch service to Port of Spain, Trinidad, (likely from JFK) beginning summer of 2014.

– Aer Lingus will roll out lie-flat business class seats for its long-haul (or really medium-haul) aircraft beginning in 2015. That 50,000 Avios point award from Boston to Dublin in Business Class will really seem like a bargain at that point.

– Frontier Airlines canceled service from Wilmington (DE) to Houston, and then made passengers pay the fare difference when they re-routed them through Denver. Even Spirit Airlines wouldn’t have pulled that (as far as I’m aware).

September 2013 Top Unadvertised Credit Card Bonuses

We generally hear about the same credit card offers over and over again, but there are a number of offers available that are better than the bonuses that are widely advertised by different travel companies and card issuers. I thought it would be useful to pull together a list of the unadvertised offers that are available (these are not the targeted offers that are only good to the individuals who receive them via email or in regular mail – people have been approved for these regardless of whether they received an invitation.

Marriott Premier Rewards Visa usually offers 50,000 points after $1,000 spend in 3 months, but if you use this link, you can earn 70,000 points after $1,000 spend in 3 months. Plus you’ll get a free night stay at a category 1-4 hotel, and a free night stay at a category 1-5 hotel after you’ve had the card for 1 year. First year free, $85 after.

IHG Rewards Club Select Visa usually offers 60,000 points after $1,000 in 3 months. Using this link you’ll get 80,000 points after $1,000 in 3 months, plus a free night certificate. First year free, $49 after.

Citi Hilton Honors Visa Signature advertises 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in 4 months. This link gives you 50,000 points after $1,000 spend in 4 months.


US Airways Premier World Mastercard offer 30,000 miles after first purchase, $89 fee not waived. But there are 2 other options that may be better for you. This link offers 40,000 miles after first purchase, $89 fee not waived. This link gets you 35,000 miles after first purchase, with the first year fee waived. You’re basically paying $89 for the extra 5,000 miles.

American Airlines Citi Platinum Select Mastercard usually offers 30,000 miles after $3,000 spend. Through this link you’ll get 50,000 miles after $3,000 spend in 3 months with the $95 annual fee waived the first year.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature generally offers a 25,000 mile bonus after approval with a $75 annual fee. Through this link you’ll get 30,000 miles after approval with a $75 annual fee. This card is extremely churnable so you can basically buy 30,000 miles for $75 all day long.

Mercedes-Benz Platinum American Express. The regular Platinum Amex generally offer 25,000 Membership Rewards points after $2,000 spend, with a $475 annual fee. The Mercedes-Benz version through this link offers 50,000 points after $3,000 spend in 3 months with the $475 annual fee.

Blue Cash Preferred from American Express. This is a great card that I use – 6% cash back on groceries and 3% cash back on gas (up to $6,000/year on groceries – so you max out at $360 in cash back from grocery stores). $75 fee is not waived.

Any others I’m forgetting?

Tuesday Roundup: Icelandair Hearts Canada; 787 Routes; LAN Leaves Its Heart in SFO (and Takes Its Flights With It)…

– Interested in what routes airlines are flying with their 787s? You can see all the 787 routes here.

– Icelandair was a sleepy budget(ish) carrier for years and years with little movement on its route network. Then a couple of years ago it seems to have decided enough is enough and that it would have to expand to be able to compete. They’ve broadened their US network (Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, Anchorage) and have now begun focusing on Canada. They recently announced new twice weekly summer service to Vancouver and 4x weekly service to Edmonton, to join their flights to Toronto and Halifax.

– Hawaiian Airlines is now offering iPad Minis stocked with 100 hours of entertainment on its 767-300 flights. The devices are free in business class, $15 if reserved in advance for coach passengers and $17 if purchased on the airplane. Hawaiian Airlines currently operates 767-300 aircraft between Honolulu and Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Seattle, Phoenix in the U.S.; Fukuoka and Sendai, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; Brisbane, Australia; Papeete, Tahiti; and Pago Pago, American Samoa. In addition, Hawaiian Airlines 767 routes also include service between Kahului, Maui and San Jose, Oakland and Seattle.

– LAN will cease flying to San Francisco in April 2014.

– People Express has laid off 6 employees and has stopped paying 5 of its Vice Presidents as it tries to secure additional funding.

– And perhaps I should have put this in its own post, but here goes: Am I crazy or did United Airlines used to (once upon a time) serve Mai Tais mid-flight on their Hawaiian service? On my flights last week they served regular domestic meal service (plus ice cream sundae), but deep in the recesses of my mind I seem to remember that they served cocktails on the way to Hawaii. Am I making that up?

Earn Up to 1,000 Delta Skymiles for Using Their Shopping Portal

I just received an email from Delta saying that they’re offering 150 Skymiles for joining SkyMiles Shopping and another 850 Skymiles when you purchase $75 worth of anything through their portal. You have til September 9th to sign up.


Here are the T&Cs:
*Now through September 9, 2013 11:59 PM EDT receive a one-time bonus of 150 miles when you register for the SkyMiles Shopping program. Plus, receive an additional one-time bonus of 850 miles when you spend a cumulative amount of $75 or more. Returns, shipping, taxes, gift card purchases, and certain products are not eligible for bonus; please see site for details on any coupon code details or usage restrictions. Please allow 8-10 weeks for bonus miles to post to your account. Void where prohibited by law.

In Which I Take a Second Look at the Underrated Barclay Arrival Card


Since everyone is talking about the last day of the SPG deal, I thought I’d use the opportunity to say that if you are, in fact, applying for the last day of the SPG that you may want to also consider the Barclay Arrival Card if you have not already gotten it.

(My 2 seconds on the SPG: It’s a solid card, and the extra 5,000 points is great and all, but I wouldn’t apply outside of my normal churn schedule to get it. If you are considering it within your churn schedule, yes – you can get both the personal and business; and yes you can get the bonus if you’ve had the cards before as long as it’s been 12 months since you canceled; and yes you should log out of your Amex account before clicking through the application. My links are over on the right-hand part of the page if you’d like to support the OTR. The links are on every bloggers page if you’d like to support someone (or no one) else.)

Back to the Barclay Arrival card. You may remember the headlines: $440 in free travel after $3,000 spend in 3 months, with the first year free – you’ll get 40,000 points, which are redeemable for $400 in travel (and only for travel), plus when you redeem you get 10% points back, which is why everyone says it’s $440 in free travel.

I know none of this is new, but I recently got the card and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think it’s a great choice for an everyday card for lots of people. A little Q&A to help:

Q: What’s the main benefit of this card?
A: Aside from the signup bonus, you are essentially getting 2.2% cash back on every purchase, though you’re only really earning that if you redeem it for travel. Though most people DO spend some money on travel each year, so I think most people benefit from it.

Q: But it has an annual fee, right? Doesn’t that affect the math?
A: Yes – there’s an $89 annual fee after the first year. I’ve long pushed the value of the Amex Fidelity card because it earns 2% cash back with no annual fee. If you spend $40,000 or more each year, you’re better off getting this card rather than the Amex Fidelity card.

Q: $40,000 is a lot of money – I’ll never hit that.
A: Yes, it’s a significant amount of money. However, you can actually print money with this card.

Q: What do you mean print money?
A: I mean you can print money. If you put $5,000 worth of Vanilla Reloads on this card each month (that’s the max you can transfer into Bluebird) that will cost you $39.50 each month. You will also earn $110.86 in cash back. Do that each month and you will net $856 each year.

Q: Huh?
A: Yes. If you max out on VRs (assuming you live somewhere where you can buy them on your credit card) you will pay yourself $856 before you put any real spend on it.

Q: That’s pretty cool.
A: Yes, though you should also consider yourself lucky if you live near a CVS where you can buy that many VRs each month (though plenty of people can).

Q: But I like earning points instead of cash back.
A: Here’s something to consider: If you typically use your points for international premium class travel, then earning points is a good idea. If you have chosen to earn Starwood points either for international premium class travel or for certain hotel redemptions, that can be a good idea. But for everyone else you are probably better off taking the cash.

Q: Really?
A: Yes, really. Let’s use round numbers: If you spend $50,000 a year, you’ll earn $1100 cash back or 50,000 points. There are very few 50,000 point airline redemptions worth $1100. There are some, certainly. But in most cases you are better off with the cash. Plus, the cash can be used for car rentals (ie, there’s a lot more flexibility in how you spend that money on travel).

Q: Am I going to get approved? I’ve had a bunch of apps this year.
A: You generally should wait 6 months between Barclays apps, though I recently got approved for 2 Barclays cards 3 months apart. Absolutely call if you are denied to get them to reconsider. Also, put spend on your other Barclays card – they do seem to look at whether you’re actually using the other Barclays card to determine whether they’ll give you a card.

A Quick Question about Switching Seats

We just boarded our flight home from LAX on United and because we changed flights at the last minute (yes, the flight we wanted opened up yesterday because, as I keep saying here, you need to check if award seats open at the last minute), our family was seated in 4 different rows in Business.

We switched with someone before we boarded so we just needed one more seat so we could all sit together. We got on the plane and my wife asked a man if he would mind switching seats, and he agreed and could not have been nicer about it.

Immediately after, a flight attendant pulled him aside and said, “I wanted to make sure you were ok with switching seats” which made him (and us) feel as if we had done something wrong (we spoke with him after).

I don’t know if the passenger was GS, so that may be why the flight attendant was asking. Or maybe the flight attendant was being overly protective? I can’t imagine he was going to force a 7 year old to sit alone. Did the flight attendant think he should have handled the arrangements rather than us asking ourselves? I guess my question is, how do you handle it when you want to switch seats for family reasons? Should we have asked the flight attendant to handle? Or were we ok handling ourselves?

Curious what everyone thinks.