Reader Joe asked,

I am US Chairman, and I have a trip to Alaska this fall (EWR-SEA-ANC). I would like to somehow get into First. I’m thinking I could do an Elite Match with AS to qualify for an upgrade. But I need the AA EQM’s to re-qualify for top AA status. Can I change the FF #’s after securing an upgrade?

This is an interesting challenge but one that has broader implications for members looking to use one airline status for benefits (perhaps they have status through a status match with a foreign airline and want waived checked bag fees and lounge access) while crediting miles to their main US program.

Why Airlines Status Match

Airlines will often give customers with elite status on one airline status on their carrier — or at least an expedited way to earn that status — to make it easier for the customer to switch allegiance and shift their business to the matching airline.

There’s a lot of both fraud (faked statements showing status) and folks looking to match for a single trip. As a result things have really tightened up and most US airlines will do temporary status (that may not be ‘full’ status) while you fly enough to keep the status, rather than just outright giving status.

Alaska’s Status Match Approach

Alaska Airlines though will not only provide matching status through the end of the calendar year (historically their “cut over” to where a match lasts through the following year is quite late, October or November). And they’ll even match top tier elites from American, Delta, and United to their top MVP Gold 75K level with an email request to elite.flyer@alaskaair.com.

Using Status From One Airline While Crediting Miles to Another

Here’s where things get tricky, and it’s not just limited to Alaska and American as in this question, or to using status for upgrades while earning miles with another airline.

Say you have elite status with airberlin or with Turkish — a oneworld and a Star Alliance airline that offer status matches. You use the status with those programs to: Read More…

Reader Ryan asked,

I’m interested in using Amex MR points on ANA to fly United, but I can’t seem to understand how that works, or if there is YQ on those flights. And everyone raves about using ANA’s website to search, but I can’t seem to make it work without putting miles in my account, but I don’t see an easy way to put a few miles in the account. Any ideas?

Using the ANA Program to Book Star Alliance Award Tickets

American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to ANA’s frequent flyer program. But the process is not instantaneous. That means if you find award space and then move the points, that space could disappear in the 36-48 hours or so it can take for the points to turn up in your account.

ANA has a really attractive award chart. In general they do add fuel surcharges onto award tickets, when fuel surcharges apply on paid tickets. However most of the past two years they stopped collecting those fees on some United routes (mostly transatlantic, while still adding them to transpacific).

Using the ANA Website — and Other Sites — to Search for Star Alliance Award Space

Most Star Alliance airline frequent flyer programs do not show Star Alliance partners’ award space on their websites.

The exceptions, largely, are Japan’s ANA, Air Canada’s Aeroplan, and United.

The United website is incredibly easy to use, there’s a helpful award calendar. So even if you are using miles in a different frequent flyer program, it can help to start out at the United website. They do not even require you to be a member of MileagePlus or login to use their site.

One caveat, however is that they do not show all Star Alliance airline partners on their site, so searching at United.com might not be comprehensive. Some Star Alliance partners come and go from showing up. United even intentionally removed your ability to see award space on Singapore Airlines from United.com.

The other two sites are actually better. Aeroplan’s site is easy to use, but it won’t find all combinations of flights if you just enter where you are starting from or going. Find the flights that are available, then call up your airline mileage program and request those flights where you have already found award availability.

For the most part award seats that are available to one member of the Star Alliance are available to all. Now, some airlines like Lufthansa and Singapore will give more space to their own frequent flyer program members. But if you’re searching Aeorplan’s site, and availability shows up, you should be able to book the space with miles from the Turkish frequent flyer program.

Aeroplan is also an American Express Membership Rewards points transfer partner. Here’s a detailed discussion of booking Star Alliance awards using Aeroplan miles without any fuel surcharges.

The ANA Site Is Most Reliable – But Toughest to Use

The very best, or shall I say most reliable, data source is the ANA Mileage Club website. It is almost always correct in what it tells you about award space. If a seat is available there you should be able to use your miles for it.

It comes up with very few creative routings, you always want to search specific non-stop flights — so if you want to fly from Washington DC to Brussels, consider searching not just DC – Brussels but entering a search for Newark – Brussels, or Washington DC – London and separately London – Brussels, Wahsington DC – Frankfurt and then Frankfurt – Brussels, and so on. Search every combination of flights separately.

Four years ago the ANA website started restricting searches for Star Alliance award space to members of their program who had at least 100 miles in an account. But there’s a simple workaround (although you can also just transfer 1000 miles from Amex).

You can automate this process and do power searches with a tool like Award Nexus, but it isn’t free.

Reader Craig asked,

I would like to start opening up credit cards for my wife, but don’t want to need to have two separate user names to track for each of the banks. Any way to combine to make tracking easier?

Managing myriad frequent flyer accounts, and credit card accounts, can get complicated.

In general you’re going to need to create a separate online account for each person with each bank (and sometimes more, my Chase business cards have a separate login from personal and the same is true for Citi and Bank of America).

One thing that can help though is adding your credit card accounts to Award Wallet so that your access is all in one place, single click login.

More generally though is — how do you manage what cards to use for which purposes, where you are on signup bonuses and what you want to use for different spend categories?

One of my favorite suggestions came from commenter Acker:

I thought about simplifying but love this game. I have so many darn cards – active and not. With the exception of the cards I’m working at any given time, I keep them semi-organized in a small zip lock (actually it’s a quart-sized bag).

I use a black sharpie and write right on the cards “2x gas” “50k w/ 10k spend” “cancel 1/2012″ etc. I can only imagine what waiters and clerks think, but who cares?

When I cancel a card, I write a cancel sign on the front of the card with the date cancelled. I even thought of making a Chicago Do Halloween costume out of the 50+ cards.

I won’t even guess how many elite hotel/airline cards I have. Why I keep the old cards, I don’t know.

Oh, I have a zip lock for my husband’s cards too. He has no interest in churning, so I do it for him. Of course I’m on top of our credit scores. He digs the perks and is game to switching cards whenever I need him to. I’ve got about 12 Amex cards (maybe more?)

I prefer an Excel spreadsheet myself…

Reader Dee asked,

I’d love to know more about how to transfer points from one airline to flying on a partner (example: AA to Cathay Pacific). Sites seem intentionally vague on how to do this and how many points it would cost. Am looking to fly ORD-PEK roundtrip as an example. THANK YOU

This is actually a very simple point but one that’s often misunderstood. You do not transfer points from one airline to another when you redeem points to travel on an airline partner.

When redeeming a partner award, the number of miles you need depends on where you’re going, and it depends on the frequent flyer program whose miles you are using.

For instance, a frequent flyer program like United has a zone-based award chart. That means you look up the region of the world you are starting from, and the region of the world you are traveling to, and that determines the number of miles you need. And that’s true regardless of the airline partner you’re flying.

You don’t go to the partner airline’s website to determine the number of miles you need, you don’t use the partner’s award routing rules. You use United’s in both of those cases.

Basic Principles:

Here are the three things to understand about your miles before we get started using them to travel the world using your miles on your airline’s partners.

  • You can use miles you have to book travel on any airline that is a partner of your frequent flyer program. You may have United miles, or Air Canada’s Aeroplan miles, or Asiana Club miles for instance or even miles in the EVA Airways Infinity MileageLands programs. And you can book travel with those miles on any airline that is a member of the Star Alliance, if the flight you want has award space available. You can use your AAdvantage miles to book travel on any oneworld airline, or any airline partner that isn’t a member of the oneworld alliance.
  • You cannot combine miles from different programs towards a single award ticket, at least in any reasonable way (that is, without paying to transfer miles through a service like points.com that’s almost never worth it). You can’t use some Aeroplan miles and some United miles to get one ticket (although you can book a one-way ticket using United miles, and book your return to the U.S. using Aeroplan miles).
  • How many miles your ticket will cost, and how you go about making the award reservation, will depend on the frequent flyer program you have miles with. You will also go to United (whether their website or over the phone) to use United miles, no matter whose planes you want to fly. You don’t call the airline you’re trying to fly to book the ticket. And you will pay the price that United charges for the travel you want. For instance, a roundtrip Chicago – Tokyo on All Nippon might cost 90,000 of ANA’s miles for business class. But if you are using United miles, you will book on United’s website or by calling United and you will pay United’s price of 150,000 miles roundtrip for those same All Nippon flights..

Booking Cathay Pacific With American Miles

To book Chicago – Beijing using American miles on Cathay Pacific, you need to:

  • Find available award space on the Cathay Pacific flights. The best places to look for this space are the British Airways and Qantas award search websites (since the AA.com site does not currently support Cathay Pacific searches) or just call American.
  • Then you need to deal with American AAdvantage over the phone to book the award tickets.
  • For Chicago – Beijing it will entail flying to Hong Kong and connecting onto a flight to Beijing, on Cathay Pacific or their sister airline Dragonair.

It’s really quite straightforward once you understand that you always talk to the program whose miles you have, regardless of whom you wish to travel.

Here I review Etihad’s new business class lounge (with temporary first class section) in Abu Dhabi International Airport’s terminal 3.

Previous installments:

  1. Introduction, overview, and costs
  2. Star Alliance first class and business class lounges, LAX
  3. Etihad First Class, Los Angles – Abu Dhabi.. the 3rd Longest Flight in the World!
  4. Premier Inn, Abu Dhabi International Airport

In the morning, after leaving the Premier Inn across the street from the airport, we found our way to the terminal via the outside rather than underground walkway.

It’s a bit quicker, you cross the street instead of winding around the underground passageways.

I was pleased to be leaving from the newer terminal 3 today (there’s a departures board outside the hotel lobby). Not only that I’d be having an aircraft with lie flat business class for the four hour journey to Male. And I’d be able to check out the new business class lounge in terminal 3 as well.

I walked into the premium check-in area. You come upon business class check-in with first class to the left.

I was already checked in, but this is also the location for premium passport control and security. There was no line to depart the UAE and then security is immediately thereafter, with only a short wait.

Immediately in front of security is the location of the old lounge that had separate first and business class sections. It is being converted into a first class lounge entirely, and had originally been expected to be complete in January but the last generate date range I was given was April. We’ll see.

In the meantime there is a new business class lounge further into the terminal, and there’s a temporary first class section there as well, so that’s where we headed.

Read More…

Rahm Emanuel now denies it.

The topic came up as the mayor fielded a question on why he quickly proposed, then abandoned efforts to name a new North Side high school after Obama and the South Side’s Stony Island Parkway after the late Arthur Brazier, a revered African-American civic leader who founded the Woodlawn Organization and was pastor of the Apostolic Church of God for 48 years.

…The mayor gave his answer in acknowledging he erred in seeking to name a North Side high school after the president, when Obama got his start in politics on the South Side.

“Look, I made a mistake, and I was quick to change it. I’m not perfect. When I make a mistake, I hear it and change it,” Emanuel said. “And I don’t have a problem saying that. But I won’t make an apology for the fact I think President Obama is a great president. I wanted to honor him. I wanted to be the city to have the first high school named after him. In my rush to do it, I clearly offended people, so I backed off of it. I will never back off of my love and affection for a great president. But I made a mistake.”

But here’s the question: why do we lionize politicians? Grover Norquist gave us Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. You can always tell a tourist or recent DC arrival by how they refer to the airport, ‘Reagan’ versus ‘National’. Mine isn’t an ideological objection per se but I’ve always called it National and that doesn’t change because local politicians tell me it should or because the signs change.

The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center is one of the more bloated federal real estate projects, either fitting or ironic depending on whom you ask.

I suppose I’d rather see a sponsorship deal, then there’d be revenue attached rather than mood affiliation gains for an in-group of supporters. That’s true regardless of President or Party.

Funds could be used to upgrade the decrepit conditions of O’Hare or Midway.

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).


I spoke with Forbes contributor Alexandra Talty recently about getting value from hotel loyalty programs.

Three basic principles:

  1. Smaller programs tend to be more rewarding. You have to choose to be loyal to Hyatt or Starwood, whereas you can pretty much show up in a hotel lobby anywhere and find it’s a Marriott or Hilton. Therefore small chains need to give you a reason to make that choice.
  2. If your travel patterns allow, choose a smaller program and a larger one. If you’re going to earn elite status in one program, try to make it Hyatt (best elite benefits) or Starwood (good benefits, less rewarding for in-hotel spend, some very nice properties) and then get a co-brand credit card from Hilton so that you have Gold status and are treated better for those times you can’t stay with your preferred chain.
  3. Redeem hotel points during true peak periods. Most hotel programs price awards in points based on average room rates, and don’t vary points prices substantially based on seasonality. (Exceptions: Starwood has high season rates for some categories, Hilton has point ranges for many award categories, and Accor’s redemption program is revenue-based.) The best strategy then is to use points during events that drive up price — the Computer Electronics Show, South By Southwest, the Superbowl. Book early when there are still standard rooms available.

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

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’s a new better offer available through April 30 for the no fee Hilton HHonors Visa Signature with 60,000 points after $1000 spend within 4 months.

The card earns 6 points per dollar with Hilton; 3 points per dollar at supermarkets, drug stores and gas stations; and 2 points on all other purchases.

And it comes with HHonors Silver status which is incrementally better than a hole in the head. (Fast track to Gold with four stays in 90 days, or after $20,000 spend in a year.)

Each year you spend $1000 on the card for Hilton stays you’ll earn a bonus 10,000 points.

I don’t think this card is nearly as attractive as the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card which gives you Gold status as long as you keep the card — which helps you with upgrades and complimentary breakfast (or lounge access if available).

That card has a $95 fee — it also comes with 2 free weekend nights at nearly any Hilton property, and an additional annual free weekend night each year you put $10,000 spend on the card.

And $40,000 spend on that card in a year earns top tier Hilton HHonors Diamond status.

(HT: Doctor of Credit)

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

Reader J. Clifton asked,

What is a good way for someone to get into award booking? After getting involved in this hobby, I’ve thought it might be a fun way to earn some extra money.

I’m a big fan of developing multiple income streams, don’t quit your day job but trading idle time for a side business can really make a difference at the margin.

And one way to know what skills you have that could be marketable is to ask what questions are people always asking you, or things they’re asking you for help with?

If one of those things is how to use their miles and points, you may have a market.

Do go in knowing though that:

  • It’s actually harder than you’d think with all the possible problems you can encounter
  • There’s a lot of competition in the space
  • It’s hard work and difficult to scale

And have a point of view on what you will do if: Read More…

My US Airways miles have been combined into my American AAdvantage account.

  • They started with Dividend Miles members who did not have an AAdvantage account
  • Then transitioned members who had matched their AAdvantage and Dividend Miles accounts.
  • They continue with those who may have had accounts in both programs but didn’t link their accounts.

The data combination will continue for a few days, with sweeps to ensure completion and some upgrades still to post.

With this progress made, bobbieddie asks,

Gary – I just received my summary from AA re: the transfer and for the first time saw that I have 997,516 in my million mile balance account. I’ve never paid attention to this or even thought about it. Can you give me the highlights of attaining 1M miles status, benefits going forward, and where I can read about it. Thanks.

Here’s how lifetime status works 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).


Reader Steve asked about how to get credit card bonus twice (or more),

You already provided a useful answer to me when I asked about Chase some time ago (thanks!), but I think it could prove useful more generally if for each of the major credit card-issuing companies (Chase, Citi and Amex) and if possible the smaller ones (Barclays and US Bank) you provided:

1. For each of these cc companies, how long one has to wait after getting a card affiliated with a given airline or hotel chain before having a good chance of repeating the initial sign-up/spending bonus of miles or points.

2. Whether one has to cancel the previous card in order to get the new bonus – and, if so, how long one should wait after cancellation before applying for the new card.

I think the idea from a bank’s perspective is that a past cardholder who for one reason or another gave up the card could be a valuable cardmember in the future.

In fact, someone who liked it before is a great target market for someone who will like the card now. Denying them the bonus being offered to everyone else is a turnoff.

There’s a balance between not just wanting to hand out bonuses over and over, and attracting good cardmembers who are among a card company’s most likely pool of customers to bring onboard for a product.

    Imagine a United Explorer cardmember who spends $30,000 a year on the card. She has an awful United flight, gets mad, and decides to cut up her card in protest, promising never to fly the airline again.

    She keeps that promise for awhile, but finally relents and flies United. And realizes she really liked the perks of the card (like early boarding and free checked bags) and values her miles.

    She sees an ad in United’s Hemispheres magazine and decides to sign up. She’s denied the bonus. Now she’s really mad. Why is a new cardmember, who never had a relationship with the card, more valuable than she is — when she’s proven herself a loyal cardmember for years?

Here are the current approaches each of the major card-issuing banks take, as I understand them.

Chase

Chase’s current policy for welcoming back past cardmembers is that they’ll generally give a bonus again to people that do not currently have the card they’re applying for, and who have not received a bonus for that card in 24 months.

If you meet these criteria, consider signing up again for:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 40,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months plus another 5000 points for adding an authorized user to the account and making a purchase within that time period. $0 fee the first year, then $95.
  • British Airways Visa Signature 50,000 points after $2000 spend within 3 months. $0 fee the first year, then $95.

Citibank

In general, and Citibank’s approach may vary by card product, you have to have had your card account closed for 18 months before they’ll give you a bonus if you sign up for the card again.

Last year’s Citi Executive card 100,000 mile bonus with folks signing up for several cards one after another days apart has passed.

You have to wait 8 days between Citibank applications, and can’t have more than 2 applications in a 68 day period.

If you meet these criteria, consider signing up again for:

Barclays

You can get the same card more than once .. at least if you’re instantly approved for it. Barclays is not easy to deal with in asking for reconsideration if you’re denied a card. And it’s not worth calling to ask to have your application expedited. You want to maximize your chances for instant approval so best to reduce the amount of credit that Barclays has extended to you before applying.

If you meet these criteria, consider signing up again for:

American Express

American Express limits you to one bonus per card product for personal cards.

Recently they were more generous, but they’ve returned to the policy that they had in force about a decade ago.

Business cards usually have more generous terms, such as allowing past cardmembers who have been without a card for 12 months to get a bonus again.

It’s always worth noting on an American Express card application whether there are additional restrictions, e.g. not allow Platinum cardholders to get a bonus on a Gold card.

Bank of America

Bank of America will give you the same card product multiple times. You can even have more than one of a card at the same time. For instance, you can have a personal and a business Alaska Airlines card and sign up for another personal and business Alaska Airlines card without cancelling the first ones.

What Bank of America seems to understand is that you may want to keep your expenses separate for easier tracking on different cards. And that it’s better for them if you have two of their same card, than if you had one of theirs and one of another bank’s.

The only thing is though that Bank of America may not want to continually extend you more credit. So keeping plenty of open cards could reduce your chance of future approvals.

I don’t know of any timeframe required between getting cards, there are plenty of people that have gotten more cards of the same kind in under 60 days from original application — though the particulars are something for which your mileage may vary.

If you meet these criteria, consider signing up again for:

Other Banks

US Bank can be tricky with approvals in the first place, I don’t know how likely they are to give a bonus a second time. Most of their cards have low bonuses. I’ve had the Korean Air Visa with a 40,000 mile bonus once before. If I were targeted with that offer again I’d probably be tempted to apply for the card and find out.

Capital One usually has low signup bonuses, and pulls credit reports from all three bureaus, making going back to them for a card a second time a rare proposition — although I’ve seen people report getting the Venture card more than once.

get credit card bonus twiceEditorial 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.
get credit card bonus twice

News and notes from around the interweb:

A few days ago I explained the wind down schedule for the US Airways credit card, with the Dividend Miles program being folded into American AAdvantage.

Barclays was only able to issue new cards for the Dividend Miles program. Existing cardmembers get to keep their cards and are transitioned into Barclays-issued American AAdvantage cards.

But new AAdvantage personal credit cards can only be issued by Citibank.

But just because Dividend Miles is over as a program, doesn’t mean that the US Airways credit card application links are gone. They’re only ‘mostly gone’.

Most US Airways links are dead.

In my earlier post I explained that ‘remind later’ feature on the application would generate a link that would still allow applications for 30 days.

This link still works at least as of this writing. I would expect it to remain valid for a few more weeks, but there are no guarantees.

American is making some changes to its upgrade processes along with the merging of Dividend Miles into AAdvantage for a single frequent flyer program.

  • Complimentary upgrades for all elites on flights of 500 miles or less (instead of requiring 500 mile upgrade certificates for all domestic upgrades, with complimentary upgrades only for top tier elites)
  • No more ‘grace’ of 51 miles for 500 mile upgrade certificates — a 501 mile flight requires (2) 500 mile upgrade certificates.
  • Auto-requesting of upgrades, the default it to auto-request an upgrade where it’s complimentary instead of having to proactively opt-in

Per Traveling Better there are some glitches to this process that are being worked on.

  1. Elite ‘AAirpass’ (prepaid travel) members traveling with a companion cannot have upgrades requested online, and have to contact American to make their upgrade request.
  2. Corporate travel bookings that utilize a corporate name field (this may not be common) aren’t having upgrades auto-requested, and have to contact American to make their upgrade request. American’s website may even incorrectly show that upgrades have been requested — if you’ve booked booked through a corporate travel portal or agency and want an upgrade it may be wise to ring American, even though your booking may very well not contain this glitch.
  3. Reservations that contain a lap infant won’t get an auto-request, and so the passenger will need to call to make the request.
  4. Flights to Guatemala City and St. Maarten are being displayed as ineligible for 500 mile upgrade requests, when of course they are eligible.

These are all minor issues, though of course it’s important for affected customers to be aware of them. I’d anticipate American will have fixes in place in the near-term for these.

Now that US Airways Dividend Miles is being combined into American AAdvantage, the American website login process requires you to enter your frequent flyer number and password.. and last name.

You can log into the American or US Airways sites with either your Dividend Miles or AAdvantage account number. If you were a Dividend Miles member and not an AAdvantage number you may not even know your new American Airlines frequent flyer number yet.

Here’s why they need to know your last name. Read More…

News and notes from around the interweb:

Reader WR asked for “[w]ays to maximize miles *without* use of credit cards.”

I’ll take the question to mean, what are the best ways to earn miles without signing up for credit cards, or using credit cards as the means of earning miles (through bonus categories, or heavy spend – manufactured or not). I’ll allow that credit cards can be used as a payment mechanism for activities you’d do otherwise.

There have been plenty of great opportunities over time. I’ll never forget earning 20,000 Delta miles for a Bosley hair restoration consultation (I had more hair back then). I used to benefit mightily from United’s GroceryMiles program with Safeway. And then there was dumpster diving.

But there are lots of ways to earn miles today: Read More…

Reader Justin asked,

Hi Gary – Do you have any recommendations for points or miles careers working out of Boston? Maybe working in the loyalty space or for a blog? I have a financial services consulting background and recently left my firm. I am an avid traveler and would love a career where I could pursue my passion. I have been reading your blog for over 6 years now and would love any advice you have to offer. Thank you so much!

Justin, the best advice I can offer is run. Run away. As far and as fast as you can.

The travel industry generally is a really tough place to make money. And while there are certainly large and enduring contracts — such as providing new CRM systems to loyalty programs, and even managing those programs for instance the Lacek Group has been providing services to Starwood for as long as I can remember — it’s hard to imagine too many places where consulting will make you less money overall.

Most travel in travel consulting is utterly pedantic, you fly to – say – Chicago or Houston or Atlanta or Dallas. For sure there are international conferences and potentially international clients. You may not indulge your love of travel by working for clients in travel.

I’d think though the first question I’d ask is, what is the unique skill or service I have to offer? If it’s financial-related, these aren’t usually the best clients, and it’s often big firms that provide those types of services for them anyway. Of course airlines buy financial services, and database services, and all manner of technology. There are loyalty consulting practices.

I imagine the worst thing you could do is to work for a blog, but perhaps I’m the wrong person to tell you that since I don’t have any employees and I don’t hire anyone to write posts. I’ve had some very modest tech consulting.

If it’s your passion by all means start your own blog, but don’t expect it to make money or make money quickly (I wrote for more than 2 years before there was even an ad on the site, and for over 6 years before the site generated $250 a month, although others of course have been more successful more quickly).

For sure, love what you do, and if you have unique skills to offer you can offer them in the loyalty space. I’ll just suggest that there are often more lucrative places to ply one’s trade.

Reader Andrew said,

Gary, would you tell us about your favorite Thai restaurants in NYC? Are any of them the same caliber as Elephant Jumps?

Bonus points for being run-down, hole-in-the-wall places.

If you want to eat Elephant Jumps’ food you’re going to have to go to Elephant Jumps. There’s unlikely to be a New York substitute.

For all of you New Yorkers that have your back up at that statement, I’ll happily concede that the Washington DC area can compete or outcompete New York in probably only one or two other areas — Vietnamese for sure, and I’m tempted to say Ethiopian although that cuisine has been in long-term decline in the District.

You’re going to get more hole in the wall places in Flushing than in Manhattan, and in Manhattan on the streets rather than the avenues, but while there are plenty of Asian options in New York there aren’t a whole lot of good Thai places.

I grew up in New York, and New Yorkers generally aren’t big on spice. When the well-known Vegas Thai place Lotus of Siam opened in New York they completely redid their cooking for a New York palate, of course they didn’t last.

New York is great in almost everything because of the concentration of people. There’s intense competition, and enough people with enough varied tastes that one can be an entrepreneur and successful by specializing.

I’m not sure if there aren’t enough consumers with a developed taste in authentic Thai (perhaps related to spice aversion) or if there aren’t enough Thai people to demand good food from their home country. But New York is simply not a mecca for Thai food.

That said, there are probably good Thai places although I’ve never eaten in any there. I haven’t been to Pure Thai, which many seem to love. So I can’t categorically say that none reach the heights of quality that I’m looking for — I haven’t tried them all. And I’ll certainly try more in the future.

In general though I’ve stopped exploring for Thai restaurants in New York because they’ve historically disappointed. Which leaves me potentially blind, of course, to changes in the culinary landscape.

With the merger of US Airways Dividend Miles into the American AAdvantage program, there’s no more separate US Airways program. There are no more US Airways miles or elite upgrades.

There’s only AAdvantage. US Airways members are now American AAdvantage members.

The two airlines remain separate and will continue to operate separately until late this year.


    American’s new domestic first class product

Until now, American miles could be used to upgrade American flights, and US Airways miles used to upgrade US Airways flights. Each airline’s top tier elite systemwide upgrades could only be used on the issuing-airline’s flights.


    American’s business class seat onboard the Boeing 777-300ER

That changes now.

  • American AAdvantage elite status is valid for complimentary upgrades on US Airways domestic flights.
  • American miles can be used (with cash co-pay) to upgrade US Airways flights.
  • American systemwide eVIP upgrades can be used to upgrade US Airways flights.

American has the most generous top tier elite upgrades — eight confirmed upgrades per year valid on any paid fare. Now US Airways Chairmans Preferred members, who are new Executive Platinums, get these as well.

And upgrades can be had on both American and US Airways flights.


    American’s business class onboard the A321 flying between New York and San Francisco/Los Angeles

The key to booking upgrades – in addition to upgrade space being available of course, ‘C’ for upgrades from coach to business and ‘A’ for upgrades to first class — is to avoid booking codeshare flights. You need to book a US Airways-coded US Airways-operated, or an American-coded American-operated, flight if you want to confirm an upgrade in advance.

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