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Alaska Airlines has just announced a double redeemable mile promotion for flights on Emirates between March 1 and May 31. Now, given that most deeply discounted fares on Emirates only earn 50% miles, it’s not really worth mileage running for. However, given that Emirates have some insane sales and discounted fares (especially fifth freedom flights such as Sydney-Auckland and Singapore-Colombo in first class – which incidentally would have earned 300% RDM’s), this opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of flying Emirates, and still crediting your miles to a worthwhile program.
We’re all waiting for the announcement on Emirates mileage redemptions, but in the meantime, other Alaska Airlines partners such as Cathay Pacific and Qantas still offer good opportunities to fly international first class at reasonable rates- though no inflight showers!Read More
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Here’s an interesting piece of news that has come about lately- as Emirates begins their services to Sea-Tac, they have also announced a partnership with Alaska Airlines to begin on the same day. One can earn EQMs and RDMs on Alaska starting from March 1, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the ability to redeem miles will be coming later in the year.
The ability to earn miles flying Emirates is a nice perk, but probably not the main focus here- though it’s nice to know that when carriers of your preferred alliance are more expensive then flying Emirates, your miles aren’t wasted.
Probably the best news here is the ability to redeem miles on Emirates later in the year. One of Alaska’s many quirks is the lack of ability to mix and match partners, and the addition of Emirates will essentially allow redemption to so many more places in the world, especially in Asia and the subcontinent.
This is an interesting development- watch this space.Read More
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In my humble expert opinion, the Starwood Preferred Guest point is the most valuable point/mile out there, hands down (regardless of what other bloggers think ), so I’d like to dedicate a series of articles on how to maximise the usage of these points. Let’s first talk about the Starwoood program in general, and how to earn Starwood points (including the Starwood American Express card).
Starwood Preferred Guest
So lets back up a bit here, and talk about Starwood in general. Starwood is a hotel chain consisting of certain brands, such as Sheraton, Westin, W, Four Points and a few lesser-known brands. Starwood Preferred Guest is their loyalty program, often abbreviated SPG. As hotel points, generally speaking, are worth less than airline miles, SPG is the exception to this rule. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- SPG points can be used for cash+points redemptions which offer great value (and Starwood counts award nights toward elite qualification requirements)
- They offer a 25% bonus when transferring to airline programs
- They transfer to a wide variety of airline programs from across the globe.
I’ll cover the ways to spend them in the next few posts, but for this one we’re going to focus on the ways to earn points, because you can’t spend them without earning them!
Earning Starwood Points by Staying at Starwood Properties
Of course, the “conventional” way of earning points is to stay at Starwood properties. General members get 2 SPG points per dollar spent, while elites get 3 points per dollar spent. While this isn’t as generous as other chains such which offer up to 10 points per dollar spent, it’s still fairly decent when you factor in the higher value of SPG vs. say Priority Club points.
Earning Starwood Points by Spending on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express
There’s a reason that I say SPG points are for everyone, not only for Starwood guests, and it’s the Starwood Amex. Sure, if Starwood is your primary hotel chain, then you could get some extra SPG points, but even if you prefer say Priority Club/InterContinental as your main hotel chain, the SPG Amex should still form a part of your wallet.
What does the SPG Amex offer its cardholders? You earn 1 SPG point per dollar spent, and 2 points per dollar at SPG properties. So while that’s another benefit of staying at SPG properties in addition to using the card, just one point per dollar should be enough to make this the go-to card for most people.
Now just 1 point per dollar seems unimpressive, but as I said, the value of SPG points is as lot higher than those of airline miles. Most non-SPG guests would be interested in earning SPG points to convert into airline miles, or using them for cash+points stays at SPG properties (which also count towards elite status). Now, for every 20,000 SPG points converted to airline miles, a 5,000 mile bonus is awarded- therefore the transfer rate is essentially 1:1.25. There are two notable exceptions, firstly United/Continental miles are only transfered at half the rate, which makes it uncompetitive for UA transfers (though other partners such as US Airways allow for easy Star Alliance awards). The second fact is that points to LAN transfer at a 1:2 ratio (or 2:5 including the bonus), and this is one of the real gems of the program which I will discuss in more detail in the next posts.
While the SPG Amex is a great card, there are certain situations that probably means that it would be better to put the spend on another card, most notable card that offer bonus points for certain types of spending, such as airfare or dining (the SPG Amex offers no bonuses outside of 2x points for SPG spend). I’ll break down the recommended cards for each type of spending.
Alternative Credit Cards to the Starwood Amex
- The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card- Offers 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare. Despite Membership Rewards points being massively devalued, they still be can transferred to Delta, Air Canada and ANA among others. A 15,000 point bonus applies for $30,000 spend, which is probably too steep for most people- though 3 points per dollar spent is still a great deal, and despite charging fuel surcharges, both ANA and Aeroplan offer very reasonable mileage charges for international business class awards. Membership Rewards points can also be transferred to SPG at a 1:3 ratio, so for only one SPG point per dollar spent on airfare, it really isn’t worth it.
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa Card- Offers 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining, and one point on all other spend, as well as a 50,000 sign up bonus. They also offer a 7% points dividend on all points earned, including the sign up bonus, resulting in an actual sign up bonus of 53500 points and 2.14 points per dollar spent on dining and travel. Chase UR points transfer primarily to United/Continental, as well as other programs such as Hyatt or British Airways. This is a good card for all travel (non-airfare), including non-SPG hotel stays, as well as all dining spend.
- All spend at SPG properties (including cash components of cash+points redemptions), and all other non-travel, non-dining spend should go on the SPG American Express.
One of the major “rules of thumb” that applies to all points with transfer partners is that one should never transfer their points unless you are planning to redeem an award in the immediate future. One of the main benefits of SPG (and Chase UR and Amex MR) is that the large number of transfer partners, and this flexibility is lost when one transfers to another program.
So there you have it… the comprehensive guide to earning Starwood points. In the next few posts, I’ll cover the best ways to make the most of these points.Read More
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Brussels Airlines is starting flights to New York JFK from June 1 2012. They are a member of Star Alliance and part of the Lufthansa group of airlines. While they are not as well known as Swiss or Lufthansa, they do offer a great business class product- and a smaller airline can often mean a more personal touch. There’s a great trip report by A.netter Abrelosojos here.
But wait, there’s more! Looking at the Continental web site, there is at least eight award seats in both economy and business class, for every flight, until end of schedule. That’s right! Brussels Airlines on Twitter also suggests that’s not a glitch- but one has to wonder whether award space will always remain this generous. Nevertheless, this remains a great deal, and a genuine option for those looking to redeem for flights to Europe and Africa.Read More
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This is the final installment in the three-part series on finding award tickets to Australia. I’ve lumped American and Alaska together here, because they largely have the same partner networks and award strategies. Generally speaking, I’d put them on par with Delta in terms of Australia/South Pacific award space. Delta used to be superior, but then award availability on Virgin Australia has started to dry up somewhat, and fuel surcharges are increasing too. This makes American and Alaska miles great options for a trip down under.
Using American/Alaska Miles to Fly on Qantas to Australia
This will probably be the main way that most award tickets to Australia on AAdvantage and Alaska Mileage Plan are redeemed- indeed the other options should only be used as a last resort. Qantas has a significant route network to North America, including:
- Sydney- Los Angeles- Sydney (Airbus 380, Boeing 747)
- Melbourne- Los Angeles- Melbourne (Airbus 380, Boeing 747)
- Brisbane- Los Angeles- Brisbane (Boeing 747)
- Sydney- Dallas- Brisbane- Sydney (Boeing 747)
- Sydney- Auckland- Los Angeles- New York- Los Angeles- Auckland- Sydney (Airbus 330)
- Sydney- Honolulu- Sydney (Boeing 767)
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Most people regard Delta SkyMiles as “SkyPesos”, and that’s partially true- it is a fact that Delta miles are harder to use than Star Alliance or Oneworld miles. Most of the complaints that arise from using Delta miles are in regards to low availability on domestic travel, and that is very true. Often the situation is that you have the international long haul flights all figured out, but then trying to get from Charleston to Atlanta becomes the final hurdle. But once you have the domestic segments tacked on, they can be one of the best miles to travel to Australia, and the South Pacific in general. Let’s find out why.
Using Delta Miles to Fly on Delta to Australia
Delta does fly its own aircraft to Australia, a once daily Boeing 777-200LR service from Los Angeles to Sydney. From LA they have built up kind of a focus city, in conjuction with their partner Alaska, so you can fly one-stop from most cities in the US to Australia. Their hard product is decent, being their flagship BusinessElite product featuring herringbone seats that recline flat.
The thing is, Delta is pretty famous for being extremely stingy when it comes to BusinessElite award space (with a couple of exceptions, such as Atlanta-Munich and Memphis-Amsterdam), and the Sydney route is no exception. Let’s take a look at the award calendar to see what I mean.
Do you see any green? No? Me neither. And the other months aren’t much better. So unless you’re prepared to fork out 240K miles instead of 150K (and the answer is, you shouldn’t), this is probably not a good idea.
But if you want to go with this idea (and miraculously do find low award space), the best way of booking it is simply using Delta.com. It is clumsy, but once you find the award space, should be pretty functional. They also allow two-day holds, so if you’re indecisive it’s best to hold the award first, then un-hold it if necessary, seeing how rare low price awards are.Read More
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Thanks to @airlineroute on Twitter
Transpacific award availability on Star Alliance can be tricky at times- there are some tried and tested routes such as Haneda to Los Angeles and Seoul to San Francisco with good availability, but here’s another good option starting mid-next year. Air China generally have very good award space and their Boeing 777-300ER product is one of the best transatlantic featuring fully flat seats in business class, while ANA has angled lie flat seats on their Haneda to LA route, and United’s seats are 8-abreast in business class. Look out for this great redemption option set to hit our Star Alliance skies shortly.Read More