Monthly Archives: January 2014

Adorable Pittsburgh Airport Wants Emirates to Fly There

This article about Pittsburgh Airport executives wooing Emirates to try to get them to fly A380s to Pittsburgh is just the absolute cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

The article says that an Allegheny County executive is going to Dubai to talk to “an airline known as Emirates” (never heard of them!) to convince them “how this market is perfect for a hub.”

Absolutely perfect!

The executive says his “antenna immediately went up” when he read about Emirates buying 50 A380s. And why wouldn’t Emirates want to make a hub at the 46th busiest airport in the US?

OHHHHH, I know why. As the article notes, it’s illegal. Emirates can’t pick up passengers in Pittsburgh and fly them anywhere in the US.

But isn’t that just the cutest?

The executive says “his high hope is that Pittsburgh can serve as a hub for Emirates airline, increasing the number of domestic flights leaving Pittsburgh and flying to places such as Nashville and Los Angeles.” Why not!

Sure, the article quotes naysayers who note “that is against the law” and “that is completely impossible,” but they are just poopyheads.

Good luck, Pittsburgh! You’re the cutest!

cat

(Thanks, TL)

If You Haven’t Yet Received a Decision about Your Citi AA Executive Application…

My wife was immediately approved for the 100k offer for the Citi AA Executive card, but I was told my application was pending. I found that odd because I managed to ruin my wife’s credit when I forgot to pay a $6 bill on a Bank of Hawaii card 2 years ago (sorry, hon!).

I called the number Citi gives you to find out more information and each of 3 times that I called, I was told they couldn’t help me and I had to wait 7-10 days for the decision.

But the OTR waits for no decision, so I was thrilled when reader JC emailed me to tell me he was in the same situation and called this number: 888-201-4523. They gave him a (positive) decision immediately.

I called and it turns out I had to move some credit around to get approved. I did, and I was.

If you’re a heavy churner it’s very possible you have 4 Citi cards (at least) open already (2 AA cards, an AA business card, and a Hilton card). That may be the issue – call 888-201-4523 and they’ll be able to help. And unlike other banks I’ve dealt with (Barclays) they aren’t annoyed when you ask them to move credit around.

Good luck!

I Have 2 United GPUs Expiring Today – They’re Yours If You Can Use Them

I’m not exactly sure how this is possible, but United is showing that I have 2 GPUs that expire today (I was 99.8% sure I had used them all). Assuming they’re really there, they’re yours if you can use them.

If you’re flying on an upgrade-eligible flight today email me at jared (at) onlinetravelreview.com and I’ll upgrade you (again, assuming these are actually in my account).

100,000 Mile Signup for Citi Executive Credit Card ($450 Annual Fee)

Everyone has beaten me to it, but I thought I’d mention it too:

There is an offer for a 100,000 mile bonus with the Citi Executive Credit Card. Here’s the deal:

– It’s $450 for the year, not waived.

– You need to spend $10,000 in 3 months to earn the bonus.

– If you have other Citi AA cards, you CAN still get this.

– However, you cannot get this deal if you have applied for any Citi card in the last 8 days, or 2 in the last 65 days (that’s true of any Citi card).

– You’ll get a $200 credit after you’ve spent $200 on the card.

– Admirals Club membership.

So it’s basically going to cost you $250 for the card. Plus if you use a cashback card normally you’ll be forgoing another $200 in cash back. Or you’ll have to purchase $10k worth of Vanilla Reloads, which will cost you $79. So this card really “costs” between $340 and $450, which is a good deal for 100,000 miles, but not necessarily a slam dunk, especially if you have trouble finding VRs to purchase.

How to Get Free Lounge Access for a Year

This was clever:

A man managed to get 300 days of free lounge access from China Eastern Airlines by buying a first class ticket on the carrier, and then changing it every day for 300 days. He would then use the ticket to get into the lounge at Xi’an Airport, where he would partake in the free food and drinks. It took nearly a year, but airline officials finally caught on. The man got his refund and all is, once again, right with the world.

More here.

(Thanks, HB!)

One Weird Little Trick to Make Your Spirit Airlines Flight More Pleasant

…Buy shares of Spirit Airlines stock so when you’re spending $3 on a bottle of water, you’re really paying yourself…

This has been ONE WEIRD LITTLE TRICK, sponsored by The Internet. The Internet, bringing you One Weird Little Trick since 2011.

Spirit Airlines Survival Guide Update: 2014 Edition

One of the most popular posts in the history of the OTR (at least judging by the 100+ comments) was my Spirit Airlines Survival Guide, which recommended, among other things, just cutting everybody at the check-in line and pretending that you were there first. Yeah, I’m a classy guy.

We flew Spirit down to Florida again this weekend and a few things have changed since then, so I thought it would be useful to update the Spirit Airlines Survival Guide for 2014.

First – forget everything you know and expect about commercial airline travel. Have zero expectations going in. Pretend you’re from a planet where there is no air travel. Wipe clean all memories of flying before. You need to have your mind clear. Clear like Tom Cruise. Level 7 Thetan clear.

Spirit operates on a different, er, plane than all other airlines – their processes and how they charge you are completely different from all other airlines. If you think about your past experiences you will just be annoyed. Clear your mind. Clear.

Good.

If you are going to check a bag, buy it when you purchase your ticket. You can buy it later – but you’re going to forget. And if you have to do it at the airport they charge you more. If you have to do it at the gate because you forgot to pay the fee for that carry-on bag they charge you for, they will charge you $100, as they did the person in front of me today. You will be unhappy about that.

Please note that, unbelievably, Spirit does NOT charge you to check a car seat.

When you pre-purchase the bags you will have the opportunity to drop your bags off at the Fast Bag Drop. Or, in truth, “fast” bag drop. There will be a line there, and it will not be particularly fast. But it is faster than the non-fast lie. If you are leaving from LaGuardia, they will apparently allow you 50 lbs of bag for no additional charge over the initial baggage charge. But when we got to Ft Lauderdale, they were charging people extra whose bags weighed more than 40 lbs. I don’t know why the weight cutoffs were different in each airport. Spirit likes to keep you on your toes.

The bag drop, however, does eliminate much of the “give us your huddled masses yearning to be free” situation I have found in the past, with a tower-of-babbel-like mishmash of languages being spoken as people drag their life’s belongings through the never-ending check-in line. If you’ve checked in online and pre-purchased your bags, this part of your trip has gone much smoother.

You’ll find out about the Fast Bag Drop when you print your boarding pass at home, which you should do because they will charge you at the airport. They do not offer a mobile boarding pass option, because, well, I don’t know why. But they don’t.

Security will take longer than you expect. Spirit does not participate in TSA Pre, and they do not have Elite members, so everyone is on the same line. That means that you will wait in line, and, if you have status on some other airline, you will wait longer than you have waited for a while. Also, everyone in front of you will either be in a wheelchair or have a stroller. I don’t know why.

When you purchase your ticket they will offer to sell you your seat assignment. Whether this is a good deal is really up to you – you can buy the “big front seat” which is like a domestic business class seat (no other amenities) for roughly $50 (price varies a bit). Exit rows are $25. They’ll charge you $10 for a regular seat in the back.

Keep in mind, though, that they will also just assign you a seat for free when you check in. If you are with a family, you are risking it, of course, that you won’t be able to sit with your family. That may be a blessing. If it is not a blessing, you can try switching with people, but, I’ve seen a few times, the cabin staff aren’t thrilled about that because it slows down the boarding process, and they claim to board an A320 with 170+ seats in it in 20 minutes. Yeah, that’s right.

Speaking of seats, on the A320 on which I am sitting, there is 28” pitch. It sounds worse than it is because the top of the seat in front of me is right under my nose, but the bottom of the seat in front of me is angled away from me, leaving me with the legroom of a 30-31” seat. The seats do not recline, which is a good thing, because the person in front of you would be staring up at your nostrils.

One positive outcome of the controversial fee to carry on bags is that there will be overhead bin space for your coat, which was a pleasant change. Also there will not be people trying to shove their bags into those overhead bins, clogging up the aisles. When you experience this it will occur to you that charging for carry on bags is not completely insane (I didn’t say you’d like it, I’m just saying you’ll understand the decision).

I have found an interesting split among Spirit Airlines staff. Many of the employees I have encountered at check-in and at the gate have a certain surliness to them that I think of as the Spirit Ground Staff attitude. They are clearly not happy to see you, and they are not there to help. I’ve thought a lot about why this might be, and I think the answer is that they are under an enormous amount of pressure to turn their planes around very quickly and that they see their jobs as getting people on the aircraft as quickly as possible. Given that, think of the ground staff as expeditors, not as customer service people.

Cabin staff, on the other hand, have to-a-person been wonderful. They are kind, helpful, funny and casual. We had trainees on the flight down here, and at the end of the flight the lead flight attendant came on the PA and announced that the trainees had completed their training and they were now officially flight attendants, and the plane burst into applause. The lead FA kept asking people to clap louder and louder – it was actually a genuine and very sweet moment.

(On a side note – I was once on a United flight where they announced that it was a flight attendant’s first flight ever – she was working the 1255am departure from LAX to Houston, which I assumed was considered the worst flight in the network).

Spirit sells food and drink on board. Nothing is free. Nothing. That bottle of water is $3. Deal with it. That’s another reason why I say forget your expectations – they charge for food and water. There’s no reason to complain, because they are going to charge you anyway.

There are no power plugs on board, even though the A320 I’m on is less than a year old. There is no video, overhead nor seatback. There is no wi-fi. The traytable is so close to you that you cannot open a laptop on it.

There will be a crapload of children. There will be old people. 75% of the people have appeared never to have flown before, judging by how they went through security. 62% of people will complain about one of the policies I mentioned above (especially if they are charged $100 for a gate-checked bag).

People will complain, loooooord will they complain. They complained about how long it took to pull away from the gate and how long it took to get to the gate when we landed. They complained about how long the luggage took, and the attitude of the flight attendants. They complained about the $3 water. They complained about no video. Complain complain complain. There’s a lyric by a group called Sloan that I love: “It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.” That’s how I feel about Spirit – it’s not the airline I hate, it’s the passengers.

I guess what I’m saying is this: if you know what you’re getting into before you fly them, Spirit can be a spectacular bargain. The things people complain about are ALL things they could have known beforehand. They are free to choose another airline – if they fly JetBlue, I certainly don’t blame them. But their rules are their rules, and if you don’t compare them to what every other airline does, it actually starts to make sense – why wouldn’t they charge for the services that you use, and not charge you for what you don’t use? Doesn’t THAT make the most sense? (Answer: maybe).

Oh – they were offering to bump people from this flight and giving 2 free roundtrip tickets PLUS $100. PER PERSON. That’s a helluva deal. I’m not sure if they would charge you to accept that offer.

Adventures in TSA Ridiculousness

We’re flying down to Florida right now (on Spirit! And it isn’t awful!) and just had two purely delightful interactions with the TSA.

1) I take my iPad out of my bag to put it through the scanner. TSA guy comes over and shoves it back in my bag – “don’t that your iPad out! Did I tell you to take it out?” Me: “half the time they tell me to take it out. Half the time they tell me not to.” TSA guy: “don’t listen to them.” Perfect.

2) my wife has had a little metal self defense stick attached to her keychain that she has carried around for 5 years or so. Which means on probably 150 flights. TSA today said it wasn’t allowed on the plane. I explained that she has taken them on 150 flights. They said they didn’t care. They said “we can call port authority police down here and they can clear it or they will give you a summons.” Me: “is that a threat?” TSA: “no. You can take that chance.” Me: “if it’s not allowed, why don’t YOU give me a summons?” TSA: “I’m not saying it isn’t allowed.” Me: “shouldn’t I be concerned that we’ve flown 100 times through THIS airport with a supposedly illegal weapon?” TSA: “yes.”

Keeping us safe, one lie at a time.

You Can Use Your Barclays Arrival Cash Back to Pay Off Your Subway Charges (New Yorkers)

The Barclays Arrival (as has been written a billion times) allows you to use your cash back to pay for travel that you’ve booked. They define travel as “Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies.”

I’ve been burned by this before, oddly enough, when I booked a bus trip (bus trip?) and it turns out I couldn’t use my points to pay for it. Oops.

Anyway, you New Yorkers may be interested to know that I have been able to pay for Metrocards with Barclays points – that’s a nice little benefit that I wasn’t aware of.

Targeted Delta Offer: Gold Status & Sky Club Membership

I received a mailer (in the actual mail) from Delta this week offering me 60 days of Gold Medallion status and 60 days of free Sky Club Membership – from what I could tell on the signup page, this was targeted to people in New York (go to delta.com/Gold50 to see if you’re eligible). I couldn’t get that link to work on one of my browsers, so try a couple if you live in NYC.

If you book a BusinessElite ticket within 60 days of signing up for this promo, they’ll extend your Gold status through February 2015, give you a full 12 months of Sky Club membership, and give you 50,000 bonus miles. That’s a helluva deal (if I had any Amsterdam trips coming up I’d definitely fly Delta rather than United….pause…pause…pause…nah, I probably wouldn’t. I’ll be starring in Her 2, where a man falls in love with his frequent flyer program).

Anyway – check out the link to see if you’re eligible.