Monthly Archives: April 2014

Obviously You Want to Take Your Kid to Visit Colleges on a Private Jet

I received the following Press Release yesterday, and I thought it was absolutely beyond fantastic. I remember driving around New England with my father to visit colleges. Apparently I was a sucker.

I reprint here for your (and mostly my) enjoyment: (spoiler alert: “Education has always been a top priority for Magellan Jets.”)

Magellan Jets Announces a 10 Hour Jet Card Designed for College Tours
Leading Private Jet Charter Company Continues to Support Education by Alleviating the Stress of Finding the Right College Campus

BOSTON, MA – April 29, 2014 – Magellan Jets knows that this is a very hectic time of the year for clients with children deciding on which college to attend, as the best way to learn about a college is to visit the campus.

To help alleviate some of the stress of this process, through June 30, Magellan Jets is offering 10 Hour Jet Cards starting at $43,500 to help you and your child see their prospective campus before making their decision. Magellan Jets will take care of the headaches so you can concentrate on what is important…your child’s future.

When you purchase a 1o Hour Card for college tours through Magellan Jets, simply tell them the colleges you and your child would like to visit and their flight support team will help with the logistics. They will organize a seamless itinerary based on your schools and tour dates, and arrange all pick up and drop off car services.

Education has always been a top priority for Magellan Jets. In the past, they have offered an “Experience to Excel” trip which gives back to the local Boston community; providing a deserving family with a summer vacation that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. The Magellan Jets mission was to give the children the trip of a lifetime; the goal being to open their minds to the possibilities that come with success via education, hard work and integrity.

Magellan has annually donated a private jet experience for charity at The Beckett Bowl, a charity bowling event hosted by The Josh Beckett Foundation (where most of the proceeds go to Children’s Hospital). CEO of Magellan Jets, Joshua Hebert, is on the Board of Directors for Raising A Reader MA. This organization help families across Massachusetts develop the literacy routines that can change children’s lives.

Magellan Jets has also provided a Cultural Educational Charter Service in China, the only of its kind in the industry, which transported Chinese students to the U.S. for their higher education, and saw that all of their needs were tended to once they touched down. As the education of this child was extremely important to the family, Magellan Jets understood how important it was to aid the student in acclimating to their new environment and putting their families at ease.

To purchase a 10 Hour Jet Card for college tours, visit www.magellanjets.com/collegetour.

Lufthansa Credit Card Is Back to 50,000 Mile Bonus

The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More Mastercard is back to a total 50,000 mile bonus. Rather than rehash, I’ll just copy what I wrote back in October the last time they did this (damn I’m lazy!)

You may remember a few months back that you were hearing incessantly about the Lufthansa Mastercard offering a 50,000 mile bonus? It’s back. The highlights:

– 20,000 miles after first purchase

– 30,000 more miles after spending $5,000 in 3 months.

– $79 annual fee is not waived.

– Among the better uses of those miles are on United domestically (or to South America) , as there are no fuel surcharges on those. If you redeem on United to anywhere else they’re going to kill you with fuel surcharges.

– It’s a Barclays card, so if you’ve applied for one of their other cards (hello, Barclays Arrival or US Airways card) in the past 6 months, you may be rejected initially. They look kindly on people actually using the cards they issue so I always put some spend on my US Airways card specifically for this reason.

– Although I haven’t churned this card, the Barclays US Airways card IS certainly churnable. I’d still make sure there was 6 months since a Barclays application….

– Is it a good deal? It’s basically 2 domestic round trip tickets on United for $79. Hard to argue with that (unless, of course, you’ve recently gotten a Barclays card…

The 2 Most Worrisome Quotes to Come Out of the United Airlines Earning Call Last Week

United announced a Q1 loss last week and even the company said they were “extremely disappointed” in the results, especially in the face of profitable quarters from their competitors (you can read the whole transcript of the earnings call here).

The whole call was pretty rough, with management saying that their 4-pronged plan to improve revenues was solid — 1) Drive later higher-yield bookings; 2) Re-bank flights in Houston and Denver to maximize connections; 3) Sell more premium cabin seats at booking (bye bye upgrades); 4) Better match aircraft size to demand. They also had issues on the cost side, which seemed to receive less attention than the revenue side, though both were disappointing, with margins 500 basis points below competition.

I’m not sure I’d agree that the whole thing was a disaster, but it wasn’t good, and if you don’t believe in their overall plan, then you are likely a bit worried about what the next year looks like, relative to competitors.

I wanted to point out 2 interesting parts of the call:

1) It smells like we’ll be seeing a move to a Delta/Southwest/JetBlue/Virgin America-like revenue-based program. Not tomorrow, but some day. Check this out from Jeff Smisek:

Our frequent flyer program is evolving and as are others. And what we’re trying to do is better align the benefits that we deliver to our customers through the frequent flyer program with the benefits that the customers deliver to us from their flying, including the profitability of their flying. And I believe that you will see evolution of our program over time. We can’t talk about specifics at this point in time, but clearly, this is an evolving process. And frequent flyer — our frequent flyer program is becoming much more sophisticated and is better aligning the benefits bidirectionally.

I think I see where that’s going. Combine that with the focus on selling domestic upgrades at sale, and I think the United frequent flyer experience looks different in 18 months.

2) Analyst Jamie Baker asked an incredibly damning and probably spot-on question that gets to the heart of the matter:

Have you considered at any point that perhaps, not just perhaps, there is a more structural explanation as to why results are being held back? For example, we cited, and others have as well, that you face more competition in your hubs than American and Delta do? If I jump in a taxi in San Fran or Denver and say, “Take me to the airport.” the guy asks, “Who are you flying?” And that just doesn’t happen in Charlotte. You’ve pursued a 4-cabin strategy that should be generating a RASM premium, but currently isn’t. And I appreciate all the talk about winglets and Wi-Fi and the like, but I’m just not convinced that even if properly executed, even if properly mined, United has the same profit potential as your primary competitors.

In other words, whether we like the management team or not, is it possible that structurally United cannot thrive relative to competition? That’s a tough question, and the response by Smisek (long-winded, but basically we have performed poorly from an operations perspective and that’s driven away revenue, but we have a plan to fix that) probably did not inspire confidence in the airline’s frequent flyers, who have experienced those operational deficiencies.

The transcript is worth a read, because you can hear the frustration from the analyst community, one of whom prefaced a question with “One of the many excuses we heard last year…”

Ouch.

Frontier Lays Out Ultra Low Fare Strategy (Hint: Lower Fares and Higher Fees)

Frontier Airlines announced (to no one’s surprise) its policy changes to further shift to a Spirit-like Ultra Low Fare model. Frontier has no other choice than to go this route, and I applaud them for making the difficult decisions necessary to survive in today’s market. I think they have a long future ahead…

Frontier will now have just two fare classes, Economy and Classic Plus. Economy will be an unbundled product, where you pay for your bags and seat assignment. Carry-on bags are $25 in advance ($20 if you’re a member of their “Discount Den” club), $35 at the check-in kiosk, and $50 at the gate. They really don’t want you to check your bag at the gate. Unlike Spirit, 1 carry-on is free. (Oops, my bad)

Early Returns members will have “Discount Den” membership until June 30, 2015.

Seat assignments are $3 for regular seats, $5 for SELECT seats, and $15 & up for STRETCH seats when you buy those in advance; add another $5 if you book a regular seat at check-in, and another $10 if you book SELECT or STRETCH at that point.

Classic Plus fares include a fully refundable ticket, no change fees, extra leg room with STRETCH seating, one free-checked bag, and one free carry-on bag.

Frontier also said that with this move they have lowered their fares in Denver by an average of 12%.

Frontier basically had no other options than to go the low fare route, since they were squeezed by both United and Southwest at their Denver hub. They began transitioning to a new strategy last year, introducing new point-to-point service away from Denver, including a small but so-far-successful beachhead in Trenton, NJ (what Trenton makes, the world takes…)

As long as they can keep their customer service at a moderately acceptable level, they should be able to compete with Southwest while enjoying Spirit-like financials. As Spirit is showing with their continued expansion in Kansas City this week, there are plenty of cities where the 1-2/day service can work, even in markets that have traditionally been viewed as “business” markets rather than “leisure” markets. Frontier has lots of opportunity ahead of them…(I’m a fan…)

Some Randomness: New Business Class Airline to Paris, Virgin America Departs Philly, JetBlue Checked Bag Fee?

– The former CEO of L’Avion plans to launch all-business-class 757 service between Paris and Newark beginning sometime this summer. If that sounds familiar, it’s because L’Avion did the same thing before selling to OpenSkies. And it’s what Eos, MAXJet, and Silverjet all tried to do to London. Best of luck.

– Virgin America will drop its Philadelphia flights beginning October 6th, allowing them to move aircraft to their burgeoning Dallas Love operation.

– Did an Asiana 767 crew knowingly fly to Saipan with just one working engine?

– JetBlue could begin charging for first checked bag next year.

– Emirates will launch the world’s shortest A380 route with Dubai-Kuwait service in July. Flights are under 2 hours.

Korean Air Skypass Visa Now 30,000 Mile Bonus After First Purchase

Korean Air is offering a 30,000 mile bonus after the first purchase when you sign up for their US Bank Skypass Visa (application here). The normal offer is 15,000 miles. It’s worth viewing that link for the awesome Photoshop job on that page alone…

There’s also a business version of the card, also offering the same 30,000 miles after first purchase.

Personal version is $80 while the business version is $75.

Remember that you can also transfer miles into Korean Air from your Ultimate Rewards account, so this offer may make sense even if 60k miles won’t get you all of that 80,000 mile one-way First Class ticket between the US and Korea. Fuel surcharges on that flight are around ~$125 each way.

The card has no foreign transaction fee, and it comes with 2 lounge passes.

Uzbekistan Airways to Join Skyteam in 2014

Uzbekistan Airways will join Skyteam alliance in 2014, something I’m sure you were dying to know. You can fly them to Tashkent from New York (via Riga, Latvia), and continue on to lots of locales in Central Asia. Looking at their frequent flyer program, there don’t appear to be any gems.

I mostly bring this up because prominently displayed on their homepage is the question “Looking for the right aircraft? Uzbekistan Airways offers a number of aircraft for sale” – which is actually more prominently displayed than how to buy an actual ticket on Uzbekistan Airways.

If you DO want to buy an old A310, check out this page (and use Google Translate).

David Neeleman’s Brazilian Airline Azul Will Launch US Flights Next Year

Azul, the Brazilian lowfare carrier launched by JetBlue’s David Neeleman, will begin flights from Sao Paulo (Viracopos) to Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando in 2015, with flights to New York beginning sometime thereafter.

Azul serves more than 100 destinations in Brazil with a mix of Embraers and turboprops. The new service can launch when they take delivery of leased A330-200 aircraft.

The airline (perhaps not surprisingly) is in talks with JetBlue to codeshare on continuing flights from Ft Lauderdale and Orlando.

A Couple of Ideas about Planning a Trip to Europe Over the Summer Using Miles

We’re planning a trip to Europe for late August, and I wanted to pass along a couple of ideas about how you might be able to get your family across the Atlantic using miles and without paying ridiculous fuel surcharges. I’m really focused on 4 tickets (since there are 4 of us), and despite what you might think if you read the blogging world, some of us actually have children and travel with them (Mommy Points excluded, of course).

– If you have Delta miles you will probably not be going to Europe this summer, unless you want to pay their mid- or high- level rates. In August coach is nearly all high level (130,000 miles) while business class can be had for mid-level (200,000 miles). Remember that they do not charge fuel surcharges on flights to London on Virgin Atlantic, so that may help a bit, but as of today that doesn’t actually open up any low-level availability.

– American has sporadic coach availability on its metal, but tons of availability on British Airways. Unfortunately that means fuel surcharges, and I don’t pay those. Save your American miles for that Caribbean or South American trip this winter.

– Although everyone and their mother complains about United, their award availability isn’t bad in coach (and remember, they didn’t increase partner rates on coach redemptions). There are lots of coach seats and lots of flight options available to and from London from New York all throughout August. The easiest plan would be to book London flights using ANA miles, as they only charge 38,000 miles round trip using their mileage-based chart (transfer your Starwood or Amex points into ANA). And they don’t have fuel surcharges when redeeming on United metal. ANA allows up to 4 stopovers, provided you begin and end in the same city – add up the total miles flown and look at their award chart to see how many miles they require. You’ll likely be looking at only 43,000 miles for the round trip to Europe plus a couple of hops around. That said, you will face fuel surcharges on the intra-Europe legs.

– Because of that great London availability, one option is to fly there and use Ryanair or EasyJet to get to another city after a stopover in London. Then fly back to the US from a different city (ANA allows open jaws, but they do not allow one-ways). London flights have significant taxes (~$200) when you return from London, though there aren’t crazy charges when you fly TO London.

– In August Star Alliance carriers don’t seem to have a ton of availability back to New York when I look at the United tool. However, I’ve noticed that if you look at flights returning to Montreal or Toronto from Europe, it will show greater availability. United’s tool doesn’t like to display a routing like Paris – Frankfurt – Montreal – NYC. Now, you may not want to fly that. But it’s an option. If you’re not seeing flights that you like back to the US, check those Canadian cities (plus Ottawa) – if you’re willing to hop around a bit, more availability opens up.

– If you absolutely MUST fly business class (dude – get a grip. The flight to London is about as long as that flight to San Francisco), you’ll likely want to hold out for a bit. Availability isn’t great this far out (United has tightened up premium cabin award availability). That doesn’t mean it won’t show up, but I’m not seeing much right now. Get Economy Plus, bring an iPad and enjoy Europe with the other 11 billion people who will be there at the same time.

Sorry about the Spam Redirect

Hi – Because things go wrong at the worst times, those of you accessing the site at www.onlinetravelreview.com (rather than just onlinetravelreview.com) have been redirected to a spam site for the past day or so. That’s fixed now. Carry on…