A couple of weeks ago I revealed a bunch of Holiday Inn Express secrets – the things they tell their hotel owners, and what those hotels are required to do for guests and for the chain.

Simon L. points out to me that a similar document is available for Club Carlson as well (.pdf). It’s fascinating reading and explains how the loyalty program works from the perspective of a hotel and its requirements to the chain. That’s useful for a guest — to know what they’re entitled to — and a points strategist, to know the economics of the program.

The document spells out the details of upgrades, early and late check-in and out, and breakfast. It explains how much hotels get reimbursed on awards, and what they have to pay to award miles to members. And I read the very long document, to provide the juicy details to you! Read More…

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, and other banks are advertising partners of this site. I do not write about all credit cards that are available — instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

The great short-distance award redemption values that British Airways offers don’t just apply to flights on American, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines inside the United States.

Jerry R. writes about the great value he’s gotten from his British Airways Visa Signature® Card which is currently offering 50,000 points after $2000 in purchases within 3 months.

I’m going with my wife to Shanghai and Hong Kong in a few months with my business class fare paid for by my organization so I’m using the Amex Platinum 2-1 on Air Canada which, despite the high business class fares the program generally charges, will allow her to fly for virtually nothing without my charging the organization inappropriately.

I did however, have to book a separate Shanghai-Hong Kong ticket (the business is in Hong Kong) and was about to fork over $650 each to fly Cathay Pacific business class when I remembered your discussion of the value of Avios points for short hauls and, lo and behold, 15,000 miles each and $78 for the two of us bought us the seats.

Thank goodness those valuable short-haul redemptions seem to be sticking around!

British Airways points are highly useful for short distance non-stop flights. And they even useful for premium cabin travel, not just coach, when — outside of US domestic travel — the forward cabin is called business class rather than first.

That’s because British Airways charges double the economy price for business class, but triple for first. And US domestic first class is ‘first’ in this scheme making it 3x the cost of economy.

But where it’s business class — and that includes transborder flights (between the US and Canada or Mexico) — then you pay double the points price. For short trips, that can be a value.

  • It’s not just a more comfortable seat, cocktails, and maybe a meal.
  • It’s priority checkin and free checked bags.
  • And for travel beyond North America generally includes lounge access

In this case the difference between economy (7500 points per person one-way) and business class (15,000 points per person one-way) may be worthwhile.

I recently booked a similarly-priced trip between Tokyo and Shanghai using British Airways’ oneworld partner Japan Airlines.

British Airways even lets you book Japanese domestic awards far in advance which American believes is illegal for them to do (and some Japanese domestic awards have no taxes or fees at all).

The nice thing about Hong Kong flights — aside from the fact that British Airways is partners with Hong Kong mega-carrier Cathay Pacific and its sister regional airline Dragonair — is that Hong Kong is a low fuel surcharge market so flights tend not to be especially costly to book as awards, either, in terms of taxes and fees.

You can also transfer points to British Airways from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Ink Plus Business Credit Card, and the Amex Everyday Preferred Card (as well as other American Express Membership Rewards-earning cards).

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.

Evolve Money has been one of the easiest ways to earn miles at little cost.

It’s a bill pay service that at one time even took credit cards, but in general has been useful for using gift cards to pay big bills like mortgages.

In June they began limiting payments to a single vendor to four per month. That was still useful, though not quite as leveragable.

Now it seems they’re only allowing one payment per month per payee. Chandler W. tweeted me about this, Tom S. emailed. And I got the sad email as well.

Dear Evolve Money Customer,

Due to changes in our risk and regulatory compliance policies, Evolve Money will be implementing a limit of one payment per biller account per month. This change takes effect September 1, 2014. There are no limits on the number of cash payments made with a Reloadit pack or Evolve Pay Bucks.

We realize that some of our users have taken advantage of the multiple payments per month to pay off larger expenses such as mortgages. We are currently working on ways to improve the bill paying experience for you and expect to announce details soon.

The Bill Payment Transaction Limits section of our End User License Agreement has been updated to reflect this change. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please feel free to contact us at support@evolvemoney.com with any questions.

The Evolve Money Team

Ronald A. asks,

I’ve got an Aeroplan award ticket for two booked for next Spring on Turkish Airlines and Brussels Airlines (Istanbul-Brussels-Washnigton Dulles). The Brussels Airlines flight has had a huge schedule change which causes a misconnect in Brussels, so I’ll need to rebook.

It looks like there is nothing with saver availability in business class for my dates on Brussels Airlines for the transatlantic segment, so I’d imagine they’ll want to flip me over to Austrian, which has availability, but that has fuel surcharges on a normal booking.

Will I be charged the fuel charges for an involuntary rebooking like this due to a schedule change?

Also, given that it’s a huge schedule change, is there any chance they can contact revenue management at Star Alliance (or something to that effect) and request that Turkish open up two business seats on the nonstop Istanbul-Washington Dulles flight? What happens if I wait and call Aeroplan on a day where there is no saver award availability at all, meaning they have to open something up in order to accommodate me? Will that increase the likelihood of getting the nonstop on Turkish? (Or will Air Canada just open something up on their own metal?)

Find Out What to Expect When There’s a Major Schedule Change to Your Award Ticket

Australian Business Traveler carries the details on a new business class seat that British Airways has patented.

It offers clues into how BA is thinking about what comes next for business class. This may not be the actual or final seat they use, there could be more than one under consideration.

Here’s BA’s patent application (.pdf). It was filed May 19 and published August 13.

Here’s the ostensible seating configuration, gone would be the dorm-style 8 across seating. Currently I’d prefer flying joint venture partner American between the US and London for their 4-across seating on the 777-300ER. Here British Airways goes all-aisle access 4-across as well.

The patent application describes the challenges of seat weight (because weight means fuel burn) and safety (such as the ability “to survive deceleration of 16g in a takeoff/landing position”).

Plans are shown for use of the seat on Boeing 747, 777, and 787 aircraft – though it’s hard to imagine a retrofit of the 747s. They’re also shown for the Airbus A350 and A380.

The idea seems to be a couch, in herringbone layout. It appears the seats are wider than they are deep (greater width than pitch). And the seat does appear to offer better storage than the present BA business class seat.

Australian Business Traveller points out that the layout is similar to Virgin Atlantic, while the wide seat and high walls are similar to Singapore Airlines (albeit in this case it seems at more of an angle).

While seat pitch is in the 40s of inches, the bed length should extend to over 70 inches.

The entertainment system is built to allow continuous viewing during taxi, takeoff, and landing.

These are just drawings, they may not come to fruition, and if they do we’ll have to see them in action to really judge. On first impression the seat looks good, certainly an improvement over BA’s current offerings, though net-net I’m not convinced I’ll like this over Cathay Pacific’s (and thus American’s) design.

Half a dozen people have sent me articles about American’s flights no longer showing up on Orbitz. US Airways flights will be pulled from Orbitz on September 1.

American sent out a press release on this yesterday, but I didn’t write about it. It’s a temporary phenomenon, basically a contract dispute. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this, about four years ago American pulled its inventory from Orbitz. It’s about pricing and about selling ancillary products through online travel agencies.

Orbitz was started by a consortium of major airlines, but is no longer owned by them. The online travel agencies have considerable volume, Expedia is number one in the space. American can’t really afford to have their flights not appear as options in the major distribution sites where consumers buy tickets. But the agencies don’t want to have the world’s largest airline available through their portal when their competitors offer more comprehensive options. It’s a game of chicken over deal terms, one that will almost certainly be resolved.

And one in which I have absolutely no opinion on who is right or wrong here. I don’t like it but it’s not that big a deal.

I’ve long liked online travel agencies because of the possibility to earn miles or cash back through shopping portals, plus points in the online agency’s own program (before devalued theirs after devaluing theirs the very same year they launched it).

I still find them useful for:

  • Combining multiple airlines on a single ticket
  • Obtaining alternative pricing, since inventory may appear slightly differently in each computer reservation system
  • Fuel dumps

Booking through an online agency makes it easier to buy a ticket and then cancel within 24 hours, versus American’s policy of offering 24 hour holds prior to purchase.

On the other hand, it’s easier to add my Business ExtrAA number as part of the booking. I used to be able to add coupon/discount codes and save 5% – 7%, but American has pretty much gotten rid of that option.

Ultimately, I like competition. I like to be able to buy the same thing in lots of places. But there are still plenty of places to buy American tickets. I guess all that matters is knowing that if you go to Orbitz right now you aren’t seeing all of the options you used to.

That and, of course, if you have an Orbitz ticket for travel on American you’re going to need to work with American on any changes rather than going back to Orbitz — because Orbitz can’t book American’s inventory right now. Again, not a big deal — but good to know not to waste your time on hold waiting for an Orbitz agent only to find out you then need to wait on hold for an American one.

Earlier this month FlightFox put out their rankings of the best first class products in the air and along with those the best prices they’ve found to actually buy each ticket.

I expressed some disagreement with their rankings. For instance, I didn’t agree that Singapore Airlines has the best all-around first class. For instance, I don’t find their seat all that comfortable for lounging although it is good for sleeping, I don’t really find their ground services to be special (although they do a great job with food in The Private Room in Singapore), and they need to work on their snack menu.

The folks at FlightFox underscored though that they were only talking about Singapore’s A380 Suites. Fair enough.

I didn’t agree that Lufthansa has the 5th-best first class.

I’d take Qantas’ A380 First Class Suites (their #15) over Air France (#12) in a heartbeat — as well as over JAL (#11) and Qatar (#7).

They were kind enough to invite me to submit my own rankings, and they offered to publish them on their site. Click to See What The Best First Class Airlines Compare!

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, and other banks are advertising partners of this site. I do not write about all credit cards that are available — instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

Citibank emailed yesterday to share that they’ve added Air France KLM’s Flying Blue as a points transfer partner in their Thank You program.

Thank You Premier and Prestige cardmembers can now transfer points to:

  • Air France-KLM
  • Asia Miles
  • Etihad Airways Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Garuda Indonesia GarudaMiles
  • Hilton HHonorsTM
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus

Of these, Singapore Airlines has the broadest and best uses. You can now transfer points from Chase, Starwood, American Express, and Citi over to Singapore. And that’s a really great option.

Air France’s Flying Blue does come with some benefits as a transfer partner.

  • It’s also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so it’s another place you can combine both Amex and Citi points.
  • Air France award availability is really good, as long as you aren’t trying to book using Delta miles.
  • Air France regularly runs discounted promo awards.
  • They have most of their partner airlines online for award booking, though the website isn’t always perfectly functional.

On the other hand, they add fuel surcharges to awards. Their call centers are frustrating. And their award chart is no longer that cheap.

To me the best thing about this move is what it says about the Citi Thank You Points program — they aren’t done. They aren’t resting on their laurels. They are actively adding partners. And that’s a good thing, it suggests that the points may be getting more valuable rather than less. (And you can transfer the points to anyone you wish.)

The best current offer for a bunch of Thank You points as a signup bonus is for the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. Its 50,000 bonus points are as follows:

  • 20,000 points after $2000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • 30,000 points after another $3000 in purchases within the first 3 months of the second year as a cardmember
  • Earns 3 points per dollar on dining and entertainment and 2 points per dollar on airfare and hotels.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • First year annual fee waived, $125 after that

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, and other banks are advertising partners of this site. I do not write about all credit cards that are available — instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

There are two 50,000 point signup bonuses expiring soon. Both offers are much better than ‘normal’ for the cards, so if you’re open to a new Chase card (United) and a new American Express card (Delta) now could be the best time to act.

United Explorer has a 50,000 point signup bonus through September 2nd.

The spend requirement is just $2000 within 90 days, there’s no fee the first year ($95 thereafter) and the card comes with primary collision damage coverage for rental cars.

You even get an additional 5000 miles for adding an authorized user and making a purchase within the same 90 day period.

Some folks can even get the card with a $50 statement credit — it’s something that Chase is offering through the purchase process of United tickets.

Meanwhile, through September 8 Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express offers 50,000 bonus miles after $1,000 in purchases within 3 months and a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within that period as well. The annual fee is $0 the first year then $95.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express also offers 50,000 bonus miles (and 15,000 elite qualifying miles) after $1000 spend within 3 months. There’s also a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within that period. The card has a $195 annual fee.

While I’m not a fan of Delta miles generally, or their recent and pending award chart changes, 50,000 miles do have some good uses.

I earn most of my Delta miles via the Suntrust Delta debit card which still gives me 1 mile per dollar. And I recently booked a couple of business class award tickets to Australia (on their partner Virgin Australia when availability was out of this world good).

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.

Alaska Airlines is offering up to a 40% bonus on purchased miles through October 14.

This isn’t all that uncommon an offer. Sometimes it’s 30%, sometimes 35%, and sometimes 40% — as often as not Alaska offers some sort of bonus on purchased miles. But this is as good as I’ve seen it.

A purchase of 40,000 points earns 56,000 miles at a total cost of $1182.50 or ~ 2.1 cents per mile.

Key things to know: Read More…

I mistakenly saw possible signs of a British Airways pending devaluation. It wasn’t inevitable, and I didn’t think anyone should make speculative bookings, but it seemed worth not waiting to make planned bookings.

That was based on seeing astronomically high prices from BA’s sister program Iberia Plus (the two airlines have similar programs, both us points called ‘Avios’, and both are owned by the same company).

Iberia hadn’t changed its chart for partner redemptions, they just finally published it.

A few folks like Dan’s Deals and Matthew at Live and Let’s Fly were right not to be concerned, but in some cases for the wrong reasons.

One meme I’ve seen repeated over and over is that British Airways gave plenty of notice when they made big changes to their program in November 2011. That’s not a fair read at all, and we shouldn’t forget what they actually did. Rewriting history could make us complacent with them, and they don’t deserve it.

They did not share any details of the bulk of their award chart with members in advance.

I took a lot of heat at the time in frequent flyer forums by British Airways apologists saying that announcing changes are coming, sharing details of those changes with a few people under non-disclosure agreements, and refusing to share the new award chart until the day it went live was a pretty terrible thing to do to members. The argument made against me was that I didn’t know what the changes were going to be, so should presume to be alarmed. My issue is that any time there are going to be changes but the program keeps that secret it’s cause for real concern.

The changes were huge, and members saving their miles for premium cabin long haul award redemptions really had the rug pulled out from under them — without any advance warning, and actually with reassurances to the contrary, since they were promised that 98% of awards would stay the same or become cheaper.

They did not share that they were going to do distance-based pricing, or that they were going to price each flight segment separately.

You used to be able to make unlimited inline stopovers at no extra cost. For instance New York – Vancouver – Hong Kong – Bangkok – Singapore in business class used to be 50,000 miles one-way with allowable stopovers in Vancouver, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.

Premium cabin long-distance awards shot up dramatically. Short haul coach got less expensive. Many more awards from the US went up than went down.

BA simply said, “yeah but the 98% figure was true for our UK customers” and it would have been complicated to share the pricing tool in advance.

Their dramatic program changes were very much not given any advance notice — at least those members residing outside the UK.

They merely told us some changes would be coming. That doesn’t count as notice, and no one would ever want a program to do that to them in the future. So let’s not give them more credit than they deserve for a having a history of advance notice of changes.

Singapore Suites are one of the holy grails of frequent flyer redemptions. There was a time that Singapore charged about a million miles for Singapore – Los Angeles roundtrip.

They started making seats available to their own members for the A380 suites class at the saver level a couple of years ago.

A handful of routes started making two seats available to Singapore members only a year ago.

But did you know that there’s a route where availability is wide open — and not just using Singapore’s own miles, but seats that are bookable by their partner airlines, too?

This won’t be extremely useful to the vast majority of readers, I suppose, for a handful of you this will be an amazing tip.

Here’s a search using Aeroplan miles (so partner availability) for the Delhi – Singapore route over the next couple of weeks. And it’s a search for eight seats.

Eight seats at a time, of course, is all that Aeroplan will show. So it’s possible that there’s even more inventory available than that (the cabin accommodates 12 passengers).

Booking with Aeroplan isn’t the idea — it’s just an example to show partner availability. Aeroplan doesn’t allow one-way redemptions when not starting or ending in North America.

Using United miles you’ll have to call, since United decided to stop showing Singapore Airlines award space on its website. Lifemiles are also an option, of course.

Jeff Zidell of Hyatt Gold Passport took the ALS #IceBucketChallenge.

And since I filmed my own video at a Starwood hotel, and Randy Petersen issued his challenge to me from a Starwood property as well, I thought it appropriate to name SPG head Chris Holdren to take the challenge.

He did.

Good sports, all!

And no surprise here, he issues challenges out to executives at SPG partners — American Express, Delta, Caesars, and LiveNation.

Let’s see more loyalty executives take the challenge!

Scott Mayerowitz reports that a United flight was diverted today when a fight broke out onboard. One passenger was using the ‘knee defender’ to stop the passenger in front from reclining their seat.

The flight from Newark to Denver diverted to Chicago, where the TSA deemed it “a customer service issue.” The flight continued to Denver and arrived 98 minutes late.

The fight started when the male passenger, seated in a middle seat of row 12, used the Knee Defender to stop the woman in front of him from reclining while he was on his laptop…

A flight attendant asked him to remove the device and he refused. The woman then stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water at him, the official says. That’s when United decided to land in Chicago. The two passengers were not allowed to continue to Denver.

Is reclining your seat (in coach) is a right or a privilege? Click to find out!

Iberia published new, much more expensive award charts for travel on partner airlines recently.

That was pretty scary, not because Iberia points were worth less (nobody cares), but because of what it could mean for British Airways points. The two programs are structured similarly. The airlines are jointly owned. And points transfer between the two fairly freely.

Commenter Prospero offers some good insight into what’s going on.

The prevailing wisdom seems to be that Iberia published this partner award chart online, which they hadn’t done before, but the rates themselves aren’t actually new.

  • Iberia hadn’t posted the chart before
  • Few people booked partner awards with Iberia.
  • You couldn’t book most partner awards online with Iberia for a long time, and you can with British Airways.
  • The Iberia awards are non-refundable.

Non-refundable awards you’d have to call Iberia agents to book, few bothered, using British Airways Executive Club instead. In other words, there was little reason to mess with Iberia call centers to get less-desirable awards. So their crazy pricing wasn’t really noticed.

So they never updated their online award charts before. These are the old rates, but no one really knew it. I have an award booking business, and I haven’t had to use Iberia Plus Avios points.

I still believe the best values go away eventually. That’s always been true in miles and points, if an opportunity is several standard deviations better than the median program offering it won’t last. That’s the case with short-distance non-stop partner awards using British Airways points.

But the publication of the Iberia chart — odd they wouldn’t have done it in 3 years! — isn’t necessarily a sign of that.

Of course there may well be a reason for them to publish the chart now.

News and notes from around the interweb:

Last night I wrote that Iberia made major changes to its award chart.

They created a separate award chart for partner airlines, such as oneworld members (and joint venture partners) American and US Airways.

That’s a big deal because their program used to be more aligned with British Airways’, a way to buy cheap non-stop short haul flights. Iberia and British Airways are jointly owned by the same company (IAG).

You can even transfer points between British Airways and Iberia accounts, provided the accounts have been open 90 days and have both had points activity in them. That means if you don’t like one award chart, you can move points over to the other program.

And it led to speculation, could British Airways be poised to make similar moves? Here’s What We Know, and What You Should Do About It!

A month ago I wrote that the new Turkish Airlines San Francisco – Istanbul route was wide open with award space.

West Coast – Europe can be tough to get with miles, especially in premium cabins. But this new flight, operated 5 days a week, had business class award availability every day, in fact enough seats to take the whole family every day the flight operated.

A month later, here’s where you will find enough business class space nearly every day to take the whole family to Europe. Read on for the one best route right now for award redemption to Europe!

Milepoint’s tommy777, Tommy Danielsen, passed on my challenge to him over to Jeff Zidell of Hyatt Gold Passport.

And Jeff came through.

Jeff challenges Suzanne Rubin of American Airlines, David Oppenheim at United, and Lance Evans at MGM.

Can I read the tea leaves a bit here?

David Oppenheim, who manages United’s partnerships (including credit card co-brands), used to work at Boston Consulting Group where he did work for Jeff and Hyatt. Lance Evans makes sense, since Hyatt and MGM are partners.

But… Suzanne…

Have Hyatt and American been spending more time together lately?

  • Delta and Starwood are linked up now
  • United and Marrott have a tie-in as well.
  • That leaves American among the major airlines.

There’s not much reason for them to partner with IHG Rewards, since there’s no meaningful elite benefits to speak of to offer through the partnership.

Hilton makes the most sense for an American tie-in, among the chains that are left they have a global footprint while Hyatt is much smaller. Still, a Hilton-American partnership hasn’t happened. Hilton gives away their status like nothing as it is. And Hilton does still partner with Delta selectively, including occasional promotions that help in earning status miles with Skymiles through hotel stays.

Hyatt’s foot print seems too small, at about 500 hotels, for the world’s largest airline.

Still, it would be a really strong get for Jeff to put together a deal with American… where he did used to work…

Of course, it could just be that Tommy already challenged Jeff Foland and the person Jeff likely knows best there is David Oppenheim, there isn’t technically a Skymiles head at the moment (there’s a team approach on an interim basis), and that leaves Jeff’s counterpart at American.

Sometimes, too, an #icebucketchallenge is just an #icebucketchallenge. And there’s no use reading the ice cubes.

But there is use in watching, as Mommy Points gets wet. And so does Pizza in Motion.

When I first flew the new 737 back in December, this guy greeted you at your seat:

What was most striking was the spray tan.

I haven’t been onboard an American aircraft with the new system since January, so flying with them today was the first time I noticed that the spray tan starting you in the face is gone!

Don’t get me wrong. This gentleman may have had too many cocktails over the course of too many flights. And it’s a little bit disturbing to sit down and find his big mug looking directly at you.

But John Boehner, it seems, is no longer the greeting passengers for American Airlines.

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View from the Wing is a project of Miles and Points Consulting, LLC. This site is for entertainment purpose only. The owner of this site is not an investment advisor, financial planner, nor legal or tax professional and articles here are of an opinion and general nature and should not be relied upon for individual circumstances.

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Editorial Note: The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine and not provided by any bank including (but not limited to) American Express, Chase, Citibank, US Bank, Barclaycard or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say.