Archive for the Miles Category

Shortcut to Elite Status benefits, incl. waived checked baggage fees

Posted in Aegean Airlines, Airlines, Deals, Miles, Travel Tips with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2011 by getgowing

For most people, the act of flying (airports, checked baggage fees, TSA screenings, and middle seats) can be a painful experience.  When you fly enough with an airline to attain elite status, many of those painful experiences go away.  Elite passengers don’t pay for bags, have expedited check-in and security lanes, access to more coveted seats (bulkhead, exit row, window & aisle seats towards the front of economy), and even get to board earlier so it almost guarantees them overhead space, at the very least.

Unfortunately, most of us leisure travelers don’t attain any status with an airline because we only fly a few times a year.  Well I have recently stumbled across a solution to remedy this.

The three main airline alliances: Star Alliance, One World, and Sky Team represent the majority of the airlines around the world.  And within those alliances if you have elite status on a member airline, there are reciprocal benefits for all the other airlines in the alliance.  When you become elite on a Star Alliance airline, you also become that airline’s elite member, as well as a Star Alliance Silver or Star Alliance Gold elite, depending on what level you achieved on that individual airline.  In regards to United States based airlines, US Airways and United/Continental are members of the Star Alliance.  Using United as an example, their entry level Premier gets Star Alliance Silver, while their Premier Executive and 1K elites get Star Alliance Gold.

United MileagePlus partial elite benefits chart

Usually, you would need to fly 25,000 miles in one calendar year to attain status on either of those airlines to achieve their entry level Elite status.  And then you would need to fly another 25,000 miles in the next calendar year to re-qualify as an elite for the following year.  Well, also in the Star Alliance is Aegean Airlines.  Aegean holds the key to the elite status door that so many of us usually can’t open.

When you fly one airline in the Star Alliance, most of the time you can credit those miles to another member airline within the alliance.  (Same goes for One World or the Sky Team Alliances)  For example, if you took a flight on United, you could “bank” those miles to Aegean Airlines’ Miles&Bonus frequent flyer program instead of to United’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program.  The key to Star Alliance Silver or Gold is the mileage levels needed to attain status on Aegean Airlines.

ONLY 4,000 miles for entry level status!

Only 16,000 more miles for one full year (not calendar year) after you attain Miles&Bonus Blue status, for a total of 20,000 miles for TOP TIER alliance status!

As you can see, qualifying for Aegean Airlines’ elite status is astoundingly much easier than any other airline I’ve ever seen.  And an Aegean Airlines’ Blue member is a Star Alliance Silver gets certain benefits when flying United, such as:

  • 1st checked bag free
  • Priority check-in area
  • Priority boarding
  • If you’re nice, you may even be able to get Priority Baggage Handling just by asking the agent when checking your bag (meaning your bags are supposed to be the first ones that come out at baggage claim)
  • Better customer service treatment when things go awry, like when weather affects things, or when a flight is oversold.

What being a Star Alliance Silver does not do is make you a United Airlines Premier member.  By looking at the chart above, Premier members would also get complimentary first-class upgrades when available.  By being an Aegean Airlines elite, you are only privy to the benefits granted to Star Alliance Silvers.  A slight difference.  Even the baggage fees alone make it a worthwhile deal.  If you took two domestic roundtrips and checked one bag, that would be $100 in baggage fees.  The waived baggage fees is a big benefit, though for me not waiting in line for anything is one of the biggest benefits of being an elite.  When I first became an elite, I was accustomed to showing up around 2 hours early for a flight, allowing 20-30 minutes for checking-in, and another 20-30 for security.  Now, its rare that I spend 20 minutes total doing all of the above.

If you flew one transcontinental round trip (NYC to Los Angeles), that is already 4950 miles.  For the price of one roundtrip, you could already be an elite.  HOWEVER, there is a catch.  (Of course it couldn’t be just that easy)  Not all tickets earn the same amount of miles.  The deepest discounted tickets that leisure flyers purchase (on United/Continental or US Air) may only earn 50% mileage instead of 100% mileage, so it would take about two NYC-LAX roundtrips to qualify.  So if you wanted a ticket that earns 100% mileage on the same flight, you would have to spend a little more.  If you know you will be taking this flight again in the next year, and the ticket only costs $40 more, you would still be saving $10 in baggage fees next year. ($25 fee each way, $50 total for a roundtrip)

Here is the chart describing what each fare earns on Star Alliance partner airlines when banking the miles to Aegean.

To determine how many miles your ticket will earn, check either the fare basis code, the fare class, or the booking class of the ticket.  It is a single letter, sometimes in parenthesis…or if it is a fare basis code of several letters and numbers, it is the first letter in that code.  Go to the chart from the above link, find the corresponding airline that ticketed your itinerary, and see where that fare class is.

Sign up for a new Aegean Airlines Miles&Bonus account here, and if you want to try this method for elite status, assign your Miles&Bonus number to your next flight instead of banking it to the operating airlines’ program.  New signups to Miles&Bonus also get a 1000 mile bonus for enrollment (not used for elite qualifying purposes, only for redeeming for awards).

If you have multiple accounts over various airlines, hotels, car rentals, etc., read my previous post regarding Award Wallet.  It will simply your life….never have to remember another password again….and show you your mileage/point balances as well as expiration dates….All in One Place!

This can be a complicated topic for the uninitiated.  Feel free to ask me any questions via
email
, Facebook, or the comments below.

CHEAP fare (sub $350) to Warsaw, Poland!

Posted in Deals, Miles, Promotion with tags , , , , , on August 28, 2011 by getgowing

If you are interested in going to Warsaw for short vacation, or even just a long weekend, there are rock bottom fares originating from New York JFK airport.  You may be able to depart from other US cities, but it may be a little more.

Fare is available through Orbitz or Delta.com, but you must use the multi-city tool to get these fares to show up.  Is available for many dates from the end of October 2011 to the end of March 2012.  The main requirement is that these fares require a Sunday night stay.  Obviously, book now and think about it later, as this fare will probably disappear soon, as with any other cheap or mistake fares.

Mistake Fare CARDINAL RULE

DO NOT CALL THE AIRLINE TO BOOK THESE TICKETS

You also must route through Montreal (YUL).  There are rumblings that you can route through Toronto (YYZ) but they seem to come up a little more.  Here is a sample of mine going during Martin Luther King weekend in January 2012.

Delta.com Multicity tool search

Not the greatest in terms of connection times, but if you're willing to spend a little more ($360), you can route through YYZ (Toronto) on the way home and get home Monday night.

And for those that care, this is a very good fare for a mileage run.  You are paying 3.66 cents per mile (EQM), for a total of 9232 Elite Qualifying Miles, and if you have Elite status, 11542/18464/20774 miles if you are Silver/Gold or Platinum/Diamond Medallion.  The corresponding cents per mile for the redeemable miles are 2.93/1.83/1.63.  Get in on it while it lasts.  Probably going to disappear very soon!  Book now, think later.  Remember, if you book through delta.com, you can fully refund any ticket if returned by 23:59 the next day after booking!

100 possible FREE Continental OnePass Miles / United Mileage Plus

Posted in Airlines, Continental, Miles, Promotion, United with tags , , , , , on July 6, 2011 by getgowing

Continental has a promotion supposedly targeted to their branded credit cards, giving away 100 Continental OnePass Miles, but it never hurts to try even if you aren’t targeted.  Every mile counts towards that free business class trip to an exotic destination!  Here is the promotion registration link.  Registration ends August 30, 2011.  As a data point, I don’t own any Continental credit cards and I was able to successfully register.

If you do get these miles, don’t forget that right now you can freely transfer your miles between Continental and United until they officially merge the two frequent flyer programs, so these essentially could be 100 United Mileage Plus miles as well.  Continental OnePass will officially end at 2011 year’s end.

If you are not a Continental OnePass member yet, sign-up here.

Free 1,000 Delta Skymiles for mobile check-in

Posted in Airlines, Delta, Miles, Promotion with tags , , , on July 3, 2011 by getgowing

All you need is a smartphone and a Delta flight, and you’re pretty much set.  Just register for this promotion here, and have a flight scheduled between June 30 – September 7.  Use the Delta mobile-app to check-in to you flight, and you should be ready to go with an extra 1,000 bonus miles!  Here are the official terms & conditions from the registration site:

Terms & Conditions

Eligibility: To participate in this offer, SkyMiles members must register online between June 30 and September 7, 2011. To earn bonus miles, promotional registration is required for each qualified SkyMiles member. Members must register for this offer before checking in through the Fly Delta app for a Delta marketed and operated flight between June 30 and September 7, 2011.

Bonus Offer: Check in through the Fly Delta app for a Delta marketed and operated flight between June 30 and September 7, 2011, and earn 1,000 miles. One bonus per member. Must enroll in this promotion prior to check-in. Codeshare flights operated by carriers other than Delta are excluded from this offer.

Travel Period: Check in for travel must be between June 30 and September 7, 2011.

Promotional Reference Code: Please refer Delta customer service representative to 97061724.

Award Travel: Taxes and fees for Award Travel are the responsibility of the passenger and must be paid at the time the ticket is booked. Award Travel seats are limited and may not be available on all flights or in all markets.

 

If you are not comfortable with using just a electronic boarding pass, or you airport is not equipped with eboarding pass scanners, you can still use this method to check in, then use your regular computer to print out your boarding passes, or get another copy at a kiosk at the airport.  Every mile counts!

(I know some of you probably already know about this….I’ve been a little busy.  Sorry!)

Calling Delta Customer Service

Posted in Delta, Miles, Travel Tips, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 24, 2011 by getgowing

Sorry I haven’t been updating any trip reports (since I now have two Asia trips pending).  I am here in Japan to rehearse with the Tenrikyo Aimachi Marching Band.  We are performing in exhibition at the Basel Tattoo in Basel, Switzerland, in mid-July.  I’ve been busy catching up learning my positions and music.  But once those are learned, be assured I’ll be putting up all my pending posts!

Part of my itinerary coming to Japan was FRA-SVO-NRT (Frankfurt-Moscow-Tokyo Narita) on Aeroflot, a SkyTeam partner with Delta.  Now when I purchased the tickets, I made sure to purchase a high enough fare class so that I would earn 100% MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles – miles solely for gaining status with the airline) instead of 75% or 25% with cheaper fares.  Well apparently in the past week or so, Delta changed the earnings so that my fare classes would only earn 75% instead of the full 100%.  I wrote an email (through their comments/complaints section on their website) stating my disapproval of this, and their response was that I was given 100% MQMs, though the amount definitely wasn’t 100%.  SVO-NRT is about 4675 miles, and I was only given 3,600 miles.  Clearly not 100%.  After two phone calls to Delta, and one email complaint about this, I was given full credit of these miles.

Anyway, the point I was going to make is that if you are calling Delta, or perhaps any other phone customer service that is 24 hours, you may have better luck with agents that are more cooperative and helpful late at night, rather than during normal calling hours.  Many seem to not worry as much about their call handling time and are just helpful.  However, I think these are the times where there are also a handful of agents that are still new to the job, so they don’t encounter as much volume in their training process.  But at least late at night, your wait times will be considerably less.  Your mileage may vary.

China Southern Airlines Seoul-Incheon (ICN) to Guangzhou (CAN), China Southern Airlines Guangzhou business class lounge, China Southern Airlines Guangzhou (CAN) to Bangkok (BKK), April 2011

Posted in Airline Lounge, Airlines, China Southern, Miles, Trip Report with tags , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by getgowing

The previous posts of this two and a half week quasi-‘Round the World adventure:

 
China Southern Airlines
Flight #340
Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Guangzhou (CAN)
April 15, 2011
Departure: 09:40 (scheduled 09:40)
Arrival:  12:25 (scheduled 12:40)
Duration: 3’45”
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Seat: 2A (Window, Business class)
Miles flown including this flight: 15,289

I haven’t had any prior experience with China Southern, and not being very famous, I wasn’t expecting much.  None of my friends nor the main blogs/forums that I read have taken any China Southern flights.  It felt a little like flying into the Bermuda triangle.

Check-in

Bags were already checked through all the way to Bangkok, and I already had this boarding pass in hand from JFK.

Lounge

See my previous post HERE.

Boarding

Curiously, my boarding pass said boarding was to start 08:40, one hour before departure.  Shocked me a little bit, as this wasn’t a large plane.  Nonetheless, it was fairly straightforward boarding, or so I thought.  There was one scanner, one side of it was for general boarding, the other side for priority boarding.  When I got there, there was a line of about 6 people waiting to board.  After I entered the first door, this lead to an escalator down to a large staging area where there was another security checkpoint.  And here was about 50 people all waiting to have their carry-ons inspected.  Luckily there were about 10 stations set up, so the wait was not that long to get on the plane.

There were only 2 cabins, economy and business class, and business only had 2 rows, 8 seats total.  I had 2B all to myself, 2C had a VERY large westerner (European, shockingly not American), and there was a couple sitting in 1C+1D.  Half full cabin, so service would be very attentive.

Small plane, only one jetway

Saw this as we were taxiing. Never heard of them before. But apparently they're big enough to own a B777.

Seat

It was a short haul flight, so I wasn’t expecting much.  It was comparable to a Delta domestic First Class seat.  Though the shared armrest had some more space than Delta’s A320 first class.  On the side, there was a small table that swung out for your beverage.  There was no plug-in power (110V or USB), and their in-flight entertainment was a first for me.

Doesn't look like it, but it reclined enough to still be comfortable for a nap.

Personal in-flight entertainment and free headphones.

As usual, at least with Asian carriers, the complimentary slippers.

Bigger than normal pillows, with a really comfy blanket. Too bad I passed out before I remembered to use them.

I went through the entire personal media player, and anything they had in English was really old, or something obscure I’d never heard of.  The games weren’t too amusing either.  Didn’t really matter….up to now, I just went from Amsterdam – New York – Seoul in about 2.5 days, my body was all screwed up.  And I stayed awake the whole time in the lounge so after about 20 minutes after takeoff, I passed out.

Service

The one good thing about a smaller plane is that the only two galleys are at the front or back of the plane.  So even though we had a dedicated flight attendant, even the ones in economy would make sure all our needs were met.  For my preflight beverage, I chose OJ.  It was awful.  It was closer to orange drink (think Tang-like) than orange juice.  This paled in comparison to the OJ that Korean Air offers.  (I’m really picky with OJ.  As close to fresh squeezed as possible.  I LOVE it with pulp.)  I still drank it because I hate wasting food though.  A hot towel accompanied it.

……aaaaand two hours later, I wake up in a jet lagged haze.  Immediately, the stewardess asks if I would like to eat.  There was a choice of beef or something else, but I don’t remember what the other one was.  Still half asleep, I say yes to the beef.  I almost never say no to food!  I check the time, and realize there’s only about 30 minutes left in the flight.  A couple years ago, I used to be a waiter.  I know what it feels like when customers walk in 20 minutes before closing time.  IT SUCKS.  And now, I was that customer.

What time is it again? Lunch? Breakfast? Brunch? Either way, it was delicious even though I scarfed it down quickly.

I’m assuming if I didn’t sleep through when the normal meal service was, everything wouldn’t have been crammed onto the tray.  The pilot announced we were on final approach as I finished up the fruit and dessert.

Deplaning

I didn’t know this at the time, but Guangzhou is one of the most air polluted cities in the world.  There was a thick yellow-orange haze hovering over the land as we flew into it.  Gross.  After exiting the plane we were herded to immigration.  Its a fairly small area (at least compared to what I see in the US) with about 15 booths for immigration.  Travel Tip:

If you are only connecting in Guangzhou (CAN) and continuing your travel, you need to visit the transit desk along the left wall.

I didn’t have a boarding pass yet for the Guangzhou (CAN) – Bangkok (BKK) leg, and this was the only place I could go to get it.  After a couple minutes of typing away at the computer, the agent at the China Southern desk handed me my next boarding pass and lounge invitation card.  Another Travel Tip:

When flying internationally, if you know/think you should have lounge access, always ask for an invitation card to the lounge when checking in.  The worst they can say is you don’t need it, or you’re not eligible.  Keep up with the benefits of your airline if you fly enough to have status.  Its an awful experience when you walk up to the lounge, and can’t get in because you don’t have the invitation card that you can only get pre-security.

I got to wait in a much shorter line than everybody else because I was on transiting there.  After I showed immigration all my documents, I thought I would be on my way.  For some reason, they needed to hold on to my passport and boarding pass.  They just told me to wait off by the side until they came to me.  There were about 25-30 other people waiting in the area around me.  I had no idea what they needed to do.  AND, just in case, I still had a valid multiple entry Chinese Visa.  The thought did cross my mind that I was about to be stuck in China forever, and become a slave or something.  Thankfully 10 minutes later, an immigration officer came by with a stack of passports returning them to the passengers around me.  Whew.

Now to find the China Southern lounge…..

View from the hall just outside the lounge.

Here it is!

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport China Southern lounge
April 15, 2011

The lounge is situated in the center of the building, so there are no windows, no views.  😦  But it has three medium-sized rooms all interconnected.  The outer two rooms each had entrances like above.  The furnishings were kinda old, and it looks like the rooms haven’t been updated in 25 years, but there was a TON of food selections.  Oh Happy Day!  Each of the three rooms had their own food & beverage selection, and surprisingly they were all mostly different.  Even though it felt like I’ve been eating for 14 hours straight, I’m not going to turn down the opportunity to eat Chinese food in China.

There was wireless internet available, but I couldn’t get it to connect on my computer.  I tried using the computers at the terminals, and it seemed like identity theft central.  So many popups, and sketchy sign in screens.  Oh well, internet will have to wait.  I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.  Sorry for the abundance of food pictures.  I’m not sure if you can tell yet, but I really like eating.

Food in Room 3

 

Food in Room 3

Food in Room 3

Room 3. Loose leaf teas, though I didn't partake. Definitely in China now.

Room 3, entrance to the right

Room 2, from the side closer to Room 3

Food in Room 2

Food in Room 2

Food in Room 2

Drinks in Room 2

There were 2 massage chairs, located between Room 2 and Room 1

Room 2, from the side closer to Room 1 and the massage chairs

Room 1

Room 1's spread

Make your own cappuccino, and more crappy OJ.

Pumpkin soup

Some beef stew type dish and rice. It was pretty tasty.

More stews. The chocolate balls were decent, though there was a weird taste in them that I couldn't place.

LOL. I am Man.

China Southern Airlines
Flight #363
Guangzhou (CAN) – Bangkok (BKK)
April 15, 2011
Departure: 16:30 (scheduled 16:00)
Arrival:  15:59 (scheduled 15:55)
Duration: 2’29”
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Seat: 2A (Window, Business class)
Miles flown including this flight: 16,348
 

Lounge

See Above.

Boarding

Nothing noteworthy.  There was again, a westerner in seat 2C, though this time, he was from Salt Lake City, and much more healthily proportioned.  Though the larger guy seemed nice when I asked him to take this picture of me.  Only 5 out of 8 seats taken in business class.

Seat

Same seat as prior flight.

Service

Again great service.  I couldn’t exactly tell, but this time, I was awake with excitement as I was finally getting to my next destination.

Page 1

Page 2

Some chardonnay, nuts, and a wet towelette to start

Various breads. I chose pieces of 2 garlic bread.

The meal. Chose the fish, I think. Unfortunately, for the most part, tasted as good as it looks. 😦 And gelatinous thing with the orange specs was not good. At all.

I had a linen with a hole like this on the Korean Air flight too. I just then realized that its supposed to go on your collar button to hold it up as you eat. Geniuses.

Dessert

The Chardonnay

After I finished eating my meal, the stewardess would hawk my wine glass to see if I needed a refill.  I think after my fourth refill, I was thinking I should probably stop.  Then she came by and asked, “Would you like some more, sir?”  Ah what the hell.  I’m on vacation.  Of course I’ll have another.  (In my defense, those wine glasses were maybe 1/3 the size of a normal wine glass.  I probably only went through 2 or 3 normal glasses of wine)

They asked the other American what he wanted to drink, and he asked for vodka.  Then they gave him a weird look, as if they didn’t know what it was.  “Do you know, whiskey?  It is like clear whiskey……can you just bring the bottles of what you have, and I will see….”

After the stewardess went to look, I replied,”I’d laugh if they bring you back a glass of tequila.”

I can’t remember the guy’s name, but we ended up talking for a good bit for the last 20 minutes of the flight, and in the airport after getting off the plane.  For ease of writing about him for the rest of this post, I will refer to him as “John.”

Deplaning

Flying in to Bangkok, Thailand

More livery I don't usually see

The remainder of the flight went off without a hitch.  The lines for immigration looked long, and on our way there, it seems a few large planes arrived at the same time.  The scene made me think of the mad rush at an electronics store opening on Black Friday.  John’s been to Bangkok several times, and we talked about where I should go, what I should see, etc.  Eventually, we both get through immigration, and its time for me to find my contact in Thailand, Junt.

Now usually when I am meeting somebody in a strange place, I will try and do as much research as I can online to find a good meeting point.  I had done none of this.  I just assumed it was like any other major international airport arrival areas where arriving passengers spill out into either a large room, or walk by long railings with people behind them holding signs with names on them.  When I finally walk out into the non-security, real world area for the first time in 30 hours I don’t see Junt.  We unloaded at the end of the terminal, so we walk to the right down the long hallway.  About 30 yards down, there is another arrivals area.  Great, he’s probably here.  NOPE.  Again we walk to the right and there is a sign that says “Meeting Point.”  Well duh.  Of course he’s there.  Another 40 yards later, and we’re at the meeting point, except no Junt.  This is now the other end of the terminal.

At this point, I’m starting to worry a little bit.  Good thing John said he would wait with me until I find my friend.  I decide to walk again to the other end, and you can guess what didn’t happen.  Still no Junt.  I’m now freaking out on the inside, since I had no phone, no nearby internet access, and I hadn’t done much research of Bangkok since I knew I would be picked up and I could just ask Junt.  I had no idea of what public transportation is like, no idea how the city is laid out, NO idea how to say anything in Thai.  One of the first times I was scared.  I request to walk down the terminal again.  THANKFULLY, about halfway down the terminal, I run into Junt and a couple of his friends.  Introductions happen, then I thank John for sticking it out with me.  What a way to start my visit in Thailand.

Wrap-up

These were my only flights on China Southern.  I was really pleasantly surprised about the service I received.  Depending on the seat available for a long haul flight, I would consider taking them over Korean Air.  Unfortunately, their website isn’t very helpful, and no pictures or much description is given about their long-haul business class product.

Addendum to the previous post about the US Airways promotion bonus

Posted in Airlines, Deals, Miles, Promotion, US Airways with tags , , , , , on June 6, 2011 by getgowing

Before you read this post, read “Flying international business class for a little more than economy prices first.

To see even more of the world, it MAY be possible to go to Southeast Asia via Europe….meaning fly from the Bahamas to Zurich, stop and stay awhile, then continue on to Singapore.  Obviously the possibilities are enormous since both Europe and Southeast Asia have a large concentration of big cities close by to each other.

Also, award tickets are generally good for up to year.  So you don’t need to do this jaunt almost around the world all in one trip.  Here are your two tickets, Home-Caribbean & Caribbean-Southeast Asia, broken down into individual legs:

  • Home-Caribbean (A)
  • Caribbean-Home (B)
  • Caribbean-Home (C)
  • Home-Bangkok (D)
  • Bangkok-London (E)
  • London-Home (F)
  • Home-Caribbean (G)
You could make your Home, a stopover on your award ticket.  So between now and next June, you could take:
  • June 25 – Flight A
  • June 30 – Flight C
  • Stay home for a few months, teach summer school…whatever you want to do.
  • December 20 – Flight D
  • December 28 – Flight E
  • January 3 – Flight F
  • Stay home for a few months again, teach school, go to work,…whatever you want to do.
  • April 15 – Flight G
  • April 20 – Flight B
Through this sample, you went to:
  1. The Caribbean in late June 2011
  2. Thailand for Christmas
  3. London for New Year’s
  4. The Caribbean again for Spring Break
Don’t think just because you have a ticket does it mean that it all has to be used at once.  The great thing about award tickets is that their price doesn’t change and can be used over a long period of time.  Granted, an itinerary exactly like this may be impossible with blackout dates/lack of availability and require hours of planning, but it would definitely be worth it.  Think outside the box.  A necessity to travel hack.
What are you waiting for,  Get Gowing!
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