Earlier I posted about emails forwarded to me from readers who claimed to have their Target Redcard accounts shut down. There’s also a thread on Flyertalk discussing this.

Frequent Miler wondered if it’s a hoax.

I certainly think the emails look strange — they’re quite specific about the activity that caused the shut down, mentioning specific dollar amounts. I wouldn’t expect an email letting a customer know their account is shut down to be so specific about the activity that caused it. It’s also interesting that the second version of the letter forwarded to me mentioned other amounts. It’s strange to see letters so customized.

So… is this fake? Some commenters say they’ve been shut down as well.

It’s more common than most realize to find misinformation posted in the comments on blogs, and on forums like Flyertalk — people writing about deals not working, about getting in trouble or losing money — to try to convince others not to take advantage of opportunities, to keep deals for themselves.

Here’s a couple of old-ish examples I have handy.

  • Here’s a Flyertalk post from 3 years ago where half the messages written in the first year of the posting were from people who actually were taking advantage of the US Airways mileage multiplier (buy tickets, buy points, cancel the ticket within 24 hours) in a pretty big way. Their posts were meant to make people think there wasn’t really a deal there to be had.

  • When Wyndham had a promotion that let you buy miles for 0.8 cents apiece there was a concerted effort in at least one of the ‘private’ forums to post misinformation (leaving comments saying the deal is risky, saying your account got closed). Rinse, repeat using different names to comment under and using proxies for posting to mask that it’s coming from the same person.

Ultimately I don’t think it matters whether this is ‘real of fake’.

I’m not sure it should change anyone’s behavior either way (although some will start making transactions in differing odd numbers – heh) — it simply serves as a good reminder that you should never ‘play’ with more money than you can afford to have withheld from you for a period of time.

Business Insider has a piece on the how the President’s plane can defend itself.

Air Force One — technically whatever plane the President is onboard but currently a Boeing 747-200 (and eventually a new 747-8) — costs over $200,000 an hour to operate. Speaking of ‘operate’ there’s an onboard operating room staffed by a doctor whenever the plane is inflight.

Etihad’s ‘The Residence’ has nothing on Air Force One, whose President’s quarters includes not just sleeping quarters and a shower but also a gym.

There’s 4000 square feet of interior space. The President has an office, there’s a ‘situation room’ and a staff quarters.

Air Force One has the following defense capabilities:

  • “Mirror-ball defense technology in the wings scramble infrared missile guidance systems”
  • “Electronic countermeasure defense systems…jam enemy radar”
  • “Flares hidden in the wings..to confuse enemy missiles”
  • “The body of the plane can withstand a nuclear blast on the ground”
  • Each exit has its own retractable staircase, to avoid risk of sabotage of whatever staircase would be provided on the ground
  • Windows are armored

When safety really matters, there’s no involvement by the TSA.

Reader J. who asked not to be further identified forwarded this email that he received, shutting down his Redcard account. (It’s often referred to colloquially as ‘Redbird’ rather than its proper Redcard name because of its similarities to the American Express Bluebird cards co-branded with Walmart.)

American Express apparently decided they didn’t like his loading the card at a Target register using a credit card (to earn miles and meet minimum spend requirements) and then immediately pulling the funds off the card.

Read More…

An astroturf group, Americans for Fair Skies, has been set up to make the case against Gulf carriers.

They’ve released a new YouTube video illustrating subsidies received by Emirates. I’m troubled by the continued use of ‘Sheikh’ in the video, at least 10 times in less than 4 minutes.

  • It’s a xenophobic ploy
  • The personalization isn’t necessary to the argument, the relationship between the airline and government aren’t driven by family ties. If anything it’s the other way around.
  • Naming individuals lets them use words like “Mohammed” and other foreign-sounding names over and over.

Nonetheless, having written US Airlines Should Shut Up About Having to Compete Against Gulf Carriers (and yesterday pointing out that American Airlines’ first large aircraft order was subsidized by the US government) I thought I should pass along the case being made by the other side.

Incidentally, the US airlines would like you to subsidize their lobbying efforts:

News and notes from around the interweb:

There a fascinating piece from Aerotime explaining the consequences of avoiding flights over Eastern Ukraine.

Following the MH-17 crash near Donetsk in July 2014, the Ukrainian and international aviation authorities promptly reviewed their safety recommendations and closed the airspace over Simferopol and Dnepropetrovsk FIRs. Though some airlines had started re-routing their flights several months before the official restrictions came into effect, the crash and the subsequent complete closure of the air over the Eastern parts of Ukraine have led to a significant drop in the overall number of flights over the Ukrainian territory.

This change is costly to airlines because of the increased fuel burn flying around the territory, and it’s a financial windfall for neighboring countries because airlines have to pay to overfly them.

The interesting part here isn’t the longer flight times which means more fuel and more cost.

The interesting thing — and this issue is outside my personal areas of expertise, which is also what makes it fascinating to me — is the unintended consequence of more money neighboring countries primarily Turkey and Russia but also even Iran. Iran issued 32% more overflight permits year-over-year.

But for the Ukrainian aviation authorities the existing restrictions translate into 140-160 million EUR losses in revenues, according to the Ukrainian State Air Traffic Services Enterprise (UkSATSE). The Ukrainian aviation agency states that in 2014 due to the closed Simferopol and Dnipropetrovsk FIRs its annual income might have dropped by 70-80% (compared to 2013).

…So where will the money go to? Bulgaria, Romania, Iran, Turkey and Russia. Actually, the latter two will grab the larger portion of the pie, since approx. half of the aircraft which used to fly over Ukraine are now daily re-routed via the North (Russia) or the South (Turkey), according to Eurocontrol data.

Russia apparently charges 83 euros per 100 kilometers flying through their airspace — an amount higher than what they were charging prior to the MH17 incident.

United previewed their new lounge food today for several folks (I was not invited), although apparently they’re not willing to comment until the official release tomorrow.

Nonetheless, from tweets of folks at the event we have the menu and photos of the food that we can expect.

Here’s @AirlineReport:

And the menu, Read More…

We’ve all long suspected it, now it’s become public that air marshal flight schedules get changed to accommodate affairs they’re having or cities they’d like to travel to for free.

“I think she put the offer out to quite a few (federal air marshals) and managers, literally acting like a travel agent,” retired air marshal Sonya Hightower told Reveal. “I think a lot of people were aware she was doing some of these things, but no one wants to comment on it. If everybody’s getting hooked up, nobody’s going to say anything.”

Now, more than 60 government employees are under investigation as officials find if at-risk flights were left without air marshals. …D’Antonio looked up “personnel files, identification photographs and flight schedules to pinpoint air marshals she was interested in meeting and possibly dating.”

This is being reported as a scandal because it ‘made air transportation less safe’ — assuming that air marshals needed to be on flights to protect those specific flights, and that they’d have been capable of protecting the flights if indeed it was necessary. Thus, by removing themselves from the important flights in favor of going where they wanted for personal reasons, travel was made less safe.

Reports don’t point out that:

  • No problems arose on the flights air marshals were re-scheduled off of
  • No air marshal has ever stopped a terrorist (since the service’s founding in 1962)
  • Although they did shoot and kill a US citizen in 2005 and have employed several convicted criminals.

One retired air marshal claims there’s insufficient training for them to be effective even if something did happen on a flight they were on.

Curious what they’d come up with, I asked online concierge site ‘FancyHands’ to find out what the best rewards credit card is and let me know — and explain why.

I’m actually impressed with the answer, though I don’t agree with it. They pointed out that the most rewarding card will depend on what you spend the most on (bonus categories).

Then they came back with what are essentially three cash back cards. And that’s a pretty reasonable strategy for most people who aren’t interested in travel, and certainly for people who aren’t interested in premium travel.

  • It’s better to straight-up buy tickets than use miles if you’re going to fly coach to Florida. You’ll probably get as much value for your points and don’t have to worry about award availability (plus you earn miles for the flights!)
  • Cash is better than an airline’s proprietary currency, all things equal.

I’m not inclined towards cash back, I do much better with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card which has a great signup bonus, some of the fastest points-earning (double points on travel and dining) and some of the most valuable points (since they transfer to several airline and hotel programs).

But they came up with a respectable list. Here are their suggestions, and what I think would be better.

From FancyHands:

  1. Chase Freedom: They called it “the best general rewards credit card” because of the rotating categories each quarter that earn 5 points per dollar. It’s a no fee card, and earns an ‘extra’ 24,000 points per year with the 5x feature. But it’s best as a companion to the Chase Sapphire Preferred in my view because you can transfer the points earned with Freedom to your Sapphire Preferred account and from there to airline miles.

  2. Blue Cash Preferred from American Express: Again they note category bonuses — 6% (capped) at supermarkets, 3% at US gas stations and department stores. The old uncapped grocery store version I’ll concede was better was than most miles cards for supermarket spend.

  3. Citi Double Cash Card: has no annual fee and gives you 1% cash back when you purchase and then another 1% cash back when you pay off the purchase. That’s the strongest cash back card in their list.

A pretty solid list for non-specialists in the field. I believe the Citi Double Cash Card to be the best overall cash back card — because it gives you value like the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express 2% cash back card without being an American Express (so offering greater acceptance).

The Barclaycard Arrival+ World MasterCard gets you a 10% better return if you redeem points for travel.

The Discover Miles Card actually is even stronger, since it gets you 3% back for your first year at places that take Discover.

Of course if you invest $100,000 with Bank of America you can get 2.6% on all spend with greater acceptance than discover.

If you’re willing to look beyond cash back, though, here are four cards that deliver superior value.

chase freedom credit cardEditorial 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. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.
chase freedom credit card

A couple of weeks ago I wrote US Airlines Should Shut Up About Having to Compete Against Gulf Carriers.

I thought that would be my last word on the dustup between US airlines and Gulf carriers, with US carriers complaining to the government that they have to face unfair competition and the Chairman of Delta (partner with Saudi Arabia’s national airline) resorting to associating Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airways with 9/11 terrorism.

But Alan H. pointed me to this New York Times piece which gives further coverage to the report by airline lobbyists (which they refuse to release publicly) that claims Gulf carriers have received $38 billion in subsidies. (All reports note that the report is 55 pages, though claim not to have seen it.)

When I read this claim:

Etihad alone received $17 billion in government subsidies in the last 10 years, they say. This includes $6 billion in interest-free loans from the government of Abu Dhabi to buy new planes from Boeing and Airbus, and $6.5 billion to cover operating losses.

I was reminded of a nugget in American Airlines, US Airways and the Creation of the World’s Largest Airline about the events leading up to the merger of American and US Airways. Read More…

News and notes from around the interweb:

  • How to put United award tickets on hold

  • French Polynesia’s tourism minister says Air Tahiti Nui will join oneworld. (HT: Jean T. for the article, in French) Already American AAdvantage frequent flyers can spend miles for Air Tahiti Nui flights. It used to be possible to earn AAdvantage miles on Air Tahiti Nui. Interestingly, joining the alliance would raise the airline’s costs allowing for mileage accrual in a variety of programs, though presumably it would help encourage passengers to fly them instead of Air France and Air New Zealand. Seven years ago the rumor was they’d be joining Skyteam.

  • British Airways ‘Hand baggage only’ fares (which don’t even allow elites to have free checked bags – an exception to alliance-wide benefits) will no longer allow advance seat assignments either, including for elites.

  • American’s MD80s will be gone by end of 2017. That’s sad, actually — five seats across (2 on the left side, 3 on the right) rather than six; a fantastic ratio of premium cabin seats; that it will be replaced in many markets by the Airbus A319 with half as many first class seats. The “Mad Dogs” are gas guzzlers which were the mainstay of the American fleet for years. They lack inflight entertainment but were a priority for internet when American first began rolling out Gogo’s product.

  • Hilton announced everyone would have to change their password by March 25, and would get bonus points for doing so by March 8. But their IT systems turned out not to be prepared for this. Readers keep asking for updates, two weeks later. I asked Hilton, and was told:

    Still no update unfortunately. I promise to share any further details once I have them. I do know that they are still working on resolving the issue.

  • Awards on Taipei-based China Airlines can now be searched at Delta.com. Delta adds fuel surcharges to these awards. (HT: MileValue)

  • Royal Air Maroc, which has launched New York JFK service, will codeshare with JetBlue. This gets JetBlue some Morocco-originating passengers, and possibly some JetBlue customers for Royal Air Maroc. What is does not do, however, is give JetBlue customers any new options to use their points. JetBlue’s partnership with Emirates doesn’t, either. If there was ever an airline ambivalent about the existence of a loyalty program, JetBlue has to be it.

Several airlines have settled a price fixing lawsuit and you may be entitled to a very small share of the settlement if you purchased a ticket to Asia or the South Pacific in the past 15 years. No doubt the class action share will be small, but it’s not much effort, and you will just be asked for trip details and won’t need to dig up any documents.

In 2009 a class action lawsuit was filed against Air New Zealand, Air France, and Continental for price fixing between the US and Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands. The case later expanded. And in August 2014 there was an agreement for a $30 million settlement with Air France, Japan Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Thai Airways, Malaysia Airlines, and Cathay Pacific.

In September Qantas and Singapore Airlines agreed to settle — the former for $550,000 and the latter for $9.2 million.

Air New Zealand, Philippine Airlines, Eva Airways Corp., China Airlines and ANA are still contesting the claims, and argue that they’re barred by having filed the fares either with the DOT, or with the Airline Tariff Publishing Company ‘which shares them with the DOT’. (‘Filed-rate doctrine.’) I suspect that’s a stretch because the DOT is not in fact setting or approving the fares.

Here’s how you can receive your payment…

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).

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®
US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®

Back in October we learned that Barclaycard would issue two American Airlines credit cards once the US Airways and American frequent flyer programs merge. It turns out that was – literally – only half right.

Barclays is losing the ability to issue new US Airways/American credit cards with the merger, and Citi will get that right exclusively in the U.S.

  • US Airways and American are merging frequent flyer programs.
  • The Barclays-issued US Airways card is becoming an American card.
  • You won’t be able to apply for it anymore once the programs merge.
  • This will happen during the second quarter of the year.

Up until now we knew about the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard, which current US Airways cards are supposed to become.

  • Double miles on American purchases
  • A 10% rebate on redeemed miles annually, up to 10k miles
  • First checked bag free (up to 4 traveling companions)

The key for me is that the Aviator Silver card will offer elite qualifying mileage earning at a lower price point than the Citi Executive card and it will also continue to offer a companion ticket benefit. That requires spend, which I’d meet anyway in order to earn elite qualifying miles.

Then there’s the $195 Aviator Silver card.

  • Triple miles on American purchases plus double miles on hotels and car rentals
  • A 10% rebate on redeemed miles annually, up to 10k miles .. this is just like the Citibank American Airlines offering.
  • First checked bag free (up to 8 traveling companions)
  • Companion certificate each year for two guests at $99+tax each with $30,000 in purchases by each anniversary date. The annual companion certificate was a fantastic benefit of the US Airways card, so I’m glad to see it continuing in some form.
  • 5,000 elite qualifying miles for each $20,000 in annual purchases (up to 10,000 per year). This is better than the Citi Executive card’s 10,000 after $40,000 spend at a higher annual fee price point.

But there are actually (4) cards.

  • There’s the no annual free (‘downgrade’) card, AAdvantage Aviator (no ‘color’ in the name) which earns 1 mile per $2 spent.
  • There’s the AAdvantage Aviator Blue which offers 1 mile per dollar (2 on American Airlines spend) but without the add-on benefits of other cards – I will be curious to see if this is the card issued to former US Airways Bank of America credit card holders (Barclays acquired the old BofA portfolio left over from before US Airways-America West merger).

So in addition to the personal Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® (currently offering 50,000 points after $3000 spend within 3 months as a signup bonus; my theory being that they need to compete with Barclays until the two frequent flyer programs merge) and the business card version CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® there will be four different Barclays AAdvantage products — although in order to have one of these you’ll need to be a Barclays US Airways cardholder before the Dividend Miles program goes away.

(HT: Chasing the Points)

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.

United is putting a ‘ps’ Boeing 757 onto one of its two daily Boston – Los Angeles flights this summer.

Between July 2 and August 17, United will fly:

    8:30am – 5:01pm, Los Angeles – Boston, UA528
    6:00pm – 9:11pm, Boston – Los Angeles, UA717

This move is interesting for several reasons:

  • United ran Boston – Los Angeles with this premium ‘international-style’ seating for several days in November.
  • When they have extra capacity with the aircraft to fly a roundtrip cross country flight, they seem to decide to put it on the Boston route.
  • It’s fully flat seating, but with the standard domestic product and upgrade rules. Elites can get complimentary upgrades on these flights.
  • Boston – Los Angeles is a high yield route compared to other cross country flights (aside from New York – Los Angeles and San Francisco which normally get these aircraft).
  • JetBlue has been considering using its similar ‘Mint’ product on the Boston – Los Angeles route.

    JetBlue’s “Mint” business class seat

While I expect that United’s decision to place the aircraft on Boston – Los Angeles is opportunistic as much as anything else, it serves as a test to see whether they can win business on this ultra-competitive route away Delta (2 flights), American (5 flights), Virgin America (3 flights), and JetBlue (3 flights).

    American’s premium cross country seat — very similar to United’s

Although I expect it will serve only as the most modest of tests, without the ramp up of service (catering) that comes with its premium products out of New York and without converting both of the airline’s flights to premium aircraft. They can’t easily market this with only one of their two flights, the message gets muddled and too many customers would be disappointed.

Sit-ins, refusing to leave the aircraft, are becoming a thing in Iran to protest poor operational performance of Iranian airlines.

Iranian news media have cited several recent incidents in which passengers enduring prolonged delays have refused to leave aircraft once their planes belatedly arrived at their destinations, sometimes as much as 22 hours late.

In some cases, the on-board sit-ins have lasted for several hours, according to media reports here.

When you’re frustrated that your airline isn’t getting you to your destination on time, what you want to do when you finally get there is get of the plane not prolong your flight by hours.

Passengers blame ‘top officials’ for chronic delays, though they are circumspect when doing so.

“People got very angry and exchanged insults with local officers and even started criticizing top officials for mismanagement,” said Farzane, 53, a passenger who asked that her family name not be used for privacy reasons. “Finally, with great hesitation we boarded and prayed for God to care for us. When we landed, we all breathed a deep breath of relief.”

For their part, Iran blames… the U.S. (Great Satan) for economic sanctions which make it difficult for them to buy new planes and parts for existing ones. Of course, government leaders are also circumspect when blaming the US as the official line is that the US has no power to influence Iran.

In last week’s Friday prayers in Tehran, Hassan Rahimpour Azghadi, a leading pro-government ideologue, praised the impromptu protests and condemned the epidemic of flight tardiness.

“We are disrespecting the rights of passengers,” declared Azghadi, a member of Iran’s Supreme Council for the Cultural Revolution, a powerful oversight body. “We are wasting their time and disregarding their dignity.”

Now we know that passengers shouldn’t protest delays by delaying themselves further. But what about an airline, what shouldn’t they do when their computer systems go down?

News and notes from around the interweb:

IHG Rewards came out with internet for everyone a year ago (though of course most of their hotels already gave it to everyone as a brand standard, only the upper-tier ones did not and in certain regions).

And Marriott announced this two months ago, with a restriction of having to book through Marriott channels.

Starwood launched announced free internet in December and started offering it a month ago. They require bookings to be made through a Starwood channel to be eligible.

Days later Hyatt announced free internet — no loyalty program membership or booking channel requirement whatsoever.

That left Hilton dangling out there as the only major US chain still charging the bulk of its guests for internet. That couldn’t be sustainable, and indeed they emailed this morning to say they’re going to offer free internet starting in August:

  • To Blue and Silver HHonors members (Gold and Diamond already get free internet). In other words, program membership is necessary, this will help them build their member file.
  • Who book through a Hilton channel or through corporate travel partners. This helps them reign in distribution costs, creating a reason for customers not tied to their points program to book direct instead of their paying commissions to Expedia, Orbitz, etc.

Diamond members will get unthrottled internet speeds starting in the second quarter. (Hyatt and Starwood give that all elites. Net net this is a minus for Hilton Golds who will have more guests competing for their same level of throttled bandwidth.)

Free internet will not apply at hotels with a resort fee. Apparently they don’t want to interfere with those hotels’ narrative for what the resort fee buys you. If members of the Hilton HHonors program who booked through a Hilton channel were entitled to free internet at these properties, there’s be a run of guests protesting that they shouldn’t have to pay the resort charges since they were already entitled to a key ‘benefit’ of these bogus charges.

I’ve asked for clarification on which corporate bookings that will be eligible for free internet.

Hyatt just updated its terms and conditions for Gold Passport. I cannot emphasize enough that loyalty programs should share with members when they do this, and explain the changes that they’re making, even when the changes are innocuous or consistent with other announced changes to a program that have been made.

Here’s what Hyatt has done. Read More…

The Marvel — and Tradeoff — of Inflight Internet

Inflight internet is one of the truly amazing advances that’s made a direct difference in life over the past few years.

Some people hate it, it makes them feel obligated to stay connected whereas flying was one of the few times where they could turn off their life. They couldn’t be reached. It was an opportunity to read a book, or even to nap during the business day. Cherished personal time.

In some ways inflight internet is one example of the trend towards eliminating the distinctions between work and personal time, although much (though certainly not all!) business travel is done during the work week.

For me, it’s not only made me more productive it’s generally reduced my overall stress level. I used to hate landing after a long flight during the business day to an avalanche of urgent emails requiring immediate attention. Even if none were truly urgent, having 30 or 50 messages that need at least cursory scanning, many needing at least a perfunctory reply, ate up time and caused immediate anxiety. After all, I’d have to go through all of them to know whether any crises happened.

Continue reading to see what will happen in the future for inflight internet…

The ethics of traveling to certain parts of the world — places where human rights aren’t respected, where a sex trade exists (perhaps illegal but unfettered) or where ‘guest workers’ have their passports taken on arrival and have little choice but to toil in unsafe conditions – can be complicated.

I think it’s difficult, and certainly uncomfortable, for a world traveler to ponder how their choices affect the people they meet. And it’s even tougher to ponder the signals their choices send — does visiting Turkmenistan endorse that regime? Does it provide hard currency that sustains the regime? Is your tourism in some way fostering terrible conditions that people live under?

Sometimes that might be the case, although rarely does one person’s decisions materially affect the situations of people on the ground and rarely would one person’s decisions prop up or undermine an abusive structure.

Still, don’t we have some obligation just not to participate or at least not to derive enjoyment from situations and places that generate misery for others?

Read More…

« previous home | top

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.

Advertiser Disclosure: Many (but not all) of the credit card offers on the site are from banks from which we receive compensation if you are approved. Compensation does not impact the placement of cards other than in banner advertising (we do not currently control the banner advertising on this blog). We don’t include all US credit card offers available on this site. Instead, I write primarily about cards which earn airline miles, hotel points, and some cash back (or have points that can be converted into the same).

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.