Last week a man was found dead in Chicago O’Hare’s parking lot B.

AirportParkingReservations.com speculated on the cause, and offered travelers advice. Park with them. Email subject line: Can On-Airport Parking Kill?

Use their app. “Don’t be late and end up in a crate.” Mmmm-kay…

Except clearly, since the man was found in a car in an on-airport lot whatever his problems may have been (and speculation as to cause of death is suicide), those problems did not include an inability to find a space in lot B.

AirportParkingReservations.com has apologized. On the plus side, though, their original marketing email did include a $5 off coupon.

(HT: Mediaite)


Delta is offering its elites and co-brand credit card holders a discount on award redemptions booked through September 23.

Naturally, the more you dig in though the tougher this gets.

Here are the discounts:

So it’s 4000 miles off domestic roundtrip awards, though you get 8000 miles off if you’re booking at the more expensive medium “standard” (cough) price. Still, that means you can get decent availability for only a modest premium off of the ‘usual’ Delta domestic award pricing.

And 10,000 miles off a roundtrip to Southern South America, Europe and Asia.

Of course, this is for:

  • Delta flights only, no partners, not even 49%-owned Virgin Atlantic
  • Economy only
  • No discounts are available to “Hawaii; Alaska; Canada; Africa; the Middle East; Caracas, Venezuela; Cancun, Mexico; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; and Sydney, Australia.”
  • International tickets require 30 day advance purchase and 7 day minimum stay.
  • There are blackout dates (remember those?):
      November 20 through December 2, 2014, December 19 through December 24, 2014, December 26 through December 29, 2014, December 31, 2014, January 1 through January 5, 2015, January 16, 2015, January 19, 2015, February 13, 2015 and February 16, 2015.

Still, if you’re a Delta elite or credit card holder and you want to use miles to fly economy for travel between October 22 and February 28 and can stay a week or more and avoid the blackout dates then you will save miles.

Simply log into your account and the Delta website should price these awards inclusive of the discount.


Via Traveling Better:

Effective October 1, 2014, AA will no longer through check bags when the passenger presents separate tickets at the ticket counter except as noted below.

…Customers traveling on separate tickets will only be able to through check bags when the ticket is for travel on:

American Airlines and American Eagle
US Airways and US Express
oneworld partner airline

For all other carriers ticketed separately, bag will only be checked for the AA, US or oneworld partner flight. The customer will need to recheck their bags with the other carrier for the continuing travel.

Department of Transportation rules that went into effect in July 2012 mean that a customer pays one set of fees for their entire journey, and ultimately limits how much an airline is keeping of their own fees when checking interline baggage. Now that the folks from Tempe, Arizona are in charge at American that means the beginning of changes to capture revenue.

If you were to book an award using your American miles on their partner Etihad, but there was no award availability to get to Dallas so you bought that ticket from American, then American would check your bags through to Dallas only. You would have to collect your bags, and then re-check them in with Etihad. This is a huge hassle, and requires a whole lot of extra time for your connection. It also may screw up trips, if that first American flight gets delayed.

For instance, flying Austin – Dallas – Abu Dhabi – Chennai. Two tickets only because American wasn’t making any seats available for Austin – Dallas, so you give American more money. Etihad is a partner, but not a oneworld partner. You have separate tickets. American won’t check your bags onto Etihad (they would if it was all on a single ticket, such as if there had been award space available on the Austin – Dallas flight). A mechanical delay causes your connection in Dallas to be too short, you run for that Etihad flight (which begins in a couple of months). You have to choose between your bags being left behind in Dallas, or making it to India. Thanks, AA! They won’t even interline on separate tickets with their partner Alaska Airlines…

For me, separate tickets are common. Sometimes as well I’ll buy part of a trip, and ticket the rest later, especially with awards. Or there might be a good business class paid fare originating from a particular city, but you can’t price it with add-on segments from where you’re starting your journey so you have to ticket that separately.

It’s also something that the median traveler would have no idea to expect, a policy going into effect 9 days from now that hasn’t even been announced.

This isn’t as bad as the US Airways approach. When they first rolled out changes in mid-2012 they wouldn’t through check bags on two separate tickets to any partner at all. Here American will through check bags between American and any oneworld airline. Hopefully this isn’t just an interim change but as far as they’re going to go.


Barbara DeLollis notes that bringing on New York hotels is really, really hard not least of which because of labor negotiations.

The old 487-room Ramada Plaza hotel has been closed for 5 years. The property is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey which doesn’t help matters. And they haven’t been able to come to terms on a labor agreement.

Hotels in New York, and many Northeastern cities (and to a certain extent California) are faced with highly restrictive union agreements that play out in some interesting ways. A hotel may have to close down an entire service like a restaurant or room service in order to re-negotiate labor conditions or wages — lay off workers since the service is no longer offered and then bring the service back under new terms. Rather than continuing to employee people and offer guests the service in the meantime. In some cases this keeps wages high (the hotel doesn’t go through this very costly process) and in others means less employment and fewer services offered.

All complex, and not delving into a normative view on how all this plays out. Just interesting to see it getting in the way of making JFK — one of the very worst airports in American — incrementally better.

JFK could use more renovated hotels, to be sure, but that won’t solve its biggest problems.

Here’s how to choose an airport hotel.

Airport hotel preferences begin with (1) attached to the airport, and then (2) if there is no hotel attached to the airport the one most recently renovated.

Back in 2007 the best property was the Hilton Garden Inn. That was surpassed by the Sheraton, which wasn’t very good for a Sheraton but still better. And for the past few years the best has been the Hilton.

JFK is plagued with many, many problems. One of those is that in order to get a shuttle out of the airport you first have to schlepp your baggage on the airport train, to be taken out to where they allow pickups. After long international flights, where you often need an airport hotel, this is definitely unpleasant.

The train that takes you between terminals also has a stop for hotel shuttles. Hotel shuttles don’t pick you up at each terminal, you have to go to a single collection spot. That’s never fun with checked bags, to take them upstairs to a train in order to catch a van. But that’s JFK.

The wait for the train headed in my direction wasn’t long, and shortly we were leaving the terminal 7 station and enroute for the quick trip over to terminal 8 where American Airlines is housed.


When Aegean Airlines joined Star Alliance about four years ago it offered the easiest path towards top tier Gold status within the alliance.

Indeed, what they’ve been offering is lifetime Star Alliance Gold status.

They’d give you 1000 miles just for signing up. Then if you earned 19,000 more qualifying miles within the first year you’d earn Gold status. For life. With the only caveat being that you had to keep your account active by earning a qualifying mile every three years.

(There were occasionally signup bonuses that would do 2000 miles, which count towards status.)

Things got a little harder with US Airways leaving the Star Alliance. US Airways flights all earned 100% of flown miles when crediting to Aegean. Discount United miles only earned 50% credit. Still, for lifetime status many found it worth it.

Star Gold meant, for a United traveler:

  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • Free checked bag
  • Lounge access

Of course the caveat on lifetime status has always been:

  • Your life or theirs? The Greek airline wasn’t guaranteed to be around forever.
  • Until they changed the rules. Airtran status was lifetime, until it wasn’t, for instance.

Now Dan’s Deals reports that Aegean will be rolling out a change to elite qualification.

We’ll see with certainty what the details are when they notify members, but Dan suggests that next month they’ll be telling folks qualification is:

[F]rom now on you’ll need either 4 Aegean/Olympic flights+12,000 miles or 24,000 miles per year to earn gold status.

Earning 24,000 miles a year on United discounted fares means 48,000 flown miles — again, every year — and no longer a value. I expect that I may lose my Aegean Gold status (actually given to me through a comp of my old bmi Diamond Club gold status).

On the other hand, 8000 miles in paid first class at triple miles would suffice, so crediting a mistake fare like this one would still work. But you’d need such a mistake fare every year.

As I often say, any benefit that is several orders of magnitude better than the median offering isn’t going to last. You don’t know when it will change, so you need a pretty high discount rate. Enjoy it while you can.

This isn’t confirmed officially from the airline yet. Aegean changes its terms and conditions to reflect even the addition of a new mileage partner, and I have a change alert set for their terms. Nothing has been re-written at this time in terms of how status earning and expiration works. But it certainly looks plausible and I’ll be framing my own expectations as though it’s how things will happen.


There have been plenty of opportunities to generate lots of miles, ‘tricks’ if you will, over time — like buying savings bonus with a credit card from the federal government, buying travelers checks from AAA, and buying coins from the US mint (see among other posts here, here, and here).

But there have never been as many – or as complicated – tricks as you are today. People try to “buy money with money” and earn points in the process, which keeping costs as low as possible.

Thanks to the Durbin Amendment to Dodd-Frank financial reform, we’ve mostly seen the end of mileage-earning debit cards… but we’ve also seen:

  • The costs to a bank to offer traditional accounts rise (and offsetting profit opportunities on those accounts fall)
  • Which leaves more people outside of traditional banking
  • And more non-banking products rise up to meet the new demand
  • Especially ones which find a way around the price caps imposed by the Durbin amendment.

All a fascinating public policy process for those studying financial markets.

But with new products, and new complications, also come mileage opportunities. So lots of gift cards you buy, which you then turn into a negotiable financial instrument such as by purchasing money orders when those gift cards can be used as debit cards.

PointChaser runs down a list of places that you can buy money orders at using gift cards as debit cards.

As with all of these things, policies change and things are easy until they aren’t. It certainly looks squirrely when you are buying a money order with a gift card that doesn’t have your name on it. And another trend — along with lower debit card interchange fees — is financial fraud and the government’s crackdown on that. Stores are worried about gift cards purchased either with stolen credit cards or for money laundering. Eventually they look askance. Walmart has been popular because they’ve had machines that will sell you financial instruments, though not all stores have them and they don’t take all debit cards.

The one places I would caveat PointChaser’s advice is that the US Postal Service seems to code money orders as cash advance transactions. Some cards, like when I used to use MyVanilla Debit, would allow for the purchase of money orders as a cash advance (just as they allowed cash advances). But many cards will not permit this.

This get easy, then they get hard, the world gets more complicated and that creates opportunities for arbitrage — and for miles. And that’s what keeps things interesting!


News and notes from around the interweb:


The Samsung Galaxy S5 really does take good photos, even in low light and even with someone at the controls who cannot do more than point and shoot (and isn’t great at holding steady).

And Las Vegas is beautiful at night… from a distance.


    View from Mix at the Delano

Many thanks to Randy Petersen and his staff for hosting a great weekend conference on blogging.

Thanks to Lucky from One Mile at a Time, to Summer from Mommy Points, and Ed from Pizza in Motion for great conversations as always.

It was wonderful to re-connect with folks like Jetsetter’s Homestead and Chris McGinnis, and finally meet others like Head for Points and Travel is Free.

Congratulations to Heels First Travel for being added as ‘featured’ at BoardingArea.com.

The speakers — from Google, USA Today, Associated Press, Barclaycard, Delta Airlines and others were all first-rate.

The other thing about Vegas is that it is impossible not to be tired. Even before layering in a conference. For most people, you can guess the reason. For me because I was trying to ensure I’d keep getting up on East Coast time so I’d hit the ground running again Monday morning and because I tried to keep up with work (my busiest time of year) throughout the weekend. Oh well, I suppose most Vegas visitors just figure they’ll sleep when they’re dead…

I really do consider myself one of the truly lucky people. I’ve gotten to see and do more than I could ever have imagined growing up. And that leaves me much more excited each day for the next, to see what it will bring.


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’m a big fan of American Express Centurion lounges in US airports, which I get complimentary access to as a Platinum Card from American Express cardholder.

I was in Las Vegas the past couple of days, and I stopped off in the lounge on arrival for a quick bit to eat and freshen up, and on departure for a meal so that I wouldn’t have to rely on what US Airways would have on-board my flight.

Naturally, where there’s an American Express Centurion lounge it’s about the best place to be in the airport.

What Is An American Express Lounge?

American Express has begun operating their own network of “Centurion lounges,” which are a step above what travelers have become accustomed to from US airline-operated lounges.

I consider the American Express Centurion lounge in Dallas my favorite lounge in the U.S.. It’s one of the two I visit most often, along with my home American Airlines Admirals Club at Washington National airport.

Other contenders for best lounge would be the New York JFK Virgin Clubhouse, first class section of Lufthansa’s club, and British Airways Concorde Room.

There’s a Centurion lounge also at New York’s LaGuardia airport. And additional known lounges in the pipeline for San Francisco and Miami. Others will surely come.

Access:

  • Centurion and Platinum cardholders: Cardmember may bring in their spouse and children or two guests
  • Other American Express cardholders: $50 per adult (children complimentary when accompanied by paying adult)

I keep my Platinum Card from American Express largely for access to the Centurion lounges. Here’s a full review of the card that explains why the signup bonus and airline fee credit make the card a no-brainer to me. (American Express even added a couple additional benefits since I reviewed the card.

Come inside to see the design elements, food and beverage offers of the lounge..

News and notes from around the interweb:


In early July I wrote a post about the most useful and interesting developments in miles and points over the previous month>

It turns out, surprisingly, that the feature was really popular, at least judging by the emails I got — people that don’t read the blog every day really appeciated the recap and not having to dig through all of the posts to find the most enduring ones.

I didn’t do a similar feature in August, but I thought I’d revisit the 170 posts I wrote in August. I hope you were happy with some of the posts and got something out of them. These are some that were my favorites from August.

Saving money

Earning

Award redemption

Understanding the programs

Travel Knowledge

Travel News Stories


AutoSlash for Hotels Monitors Prices and Upgrades

Point Hacks writes about new pay service Stay Angel which will:

  • Keep checking your hotel reservations for price drops
  • Compare your bookings against better rates at online travel websites to identify opportunities for best rate guarantee claims (and submits the claims for you)
  • Identify when prices of suites drop to close to your room rate in case you want to buy up.

They monitor Hilton, Starwood, and Hyatt. And they also flag big price movements, letting you know when hotels that they track are at least 50% below their normal price. (See also How to Find Airline and Hotel Mistake Fares.)

There’s a free membership and a free trial for their premium service. The free account only tells you when your reservation has been upgraded, and alerts you to hotel promotions. They have two paid plans at $99 and $199 per year.

While they offer an affiliate program I am not including any affiliate links for their service. This offering sounds great, for frequent travelers who stay in hotels often and don’t want to spend the time managing all of this themselves it could be a great time and money saver. But I can’t yet endorse it through direct experience.

HotelUpgrade Gets You Perks for Reservations You’re Making Anyway

Meanwhile HotelUpgrade.com promises upgrades and amenities like free parking, drinks, and room service as throw-ins for hotel bookings.

Here’s the trick: you actually just book your reservations through the hotel chain’s website. Then you send them your confirmation number and they apply the perks each hotel has negotiated with them.

You can only see what perks are available through their iOS app [Android not presently available], although you can submit your confirmation numbers through the app or via email.

And since you book direct with the hotel chain, you still get points, elite status credit, and loyalty program benefits for the stay.

They start off with a limited number of hotels in a limited number of cities, and the official launch won’t come until later this month.


Companies use managed travel programs to get bulk discounts and limit the conflicts of interest inherent to having travelers make their own travel decisions. But many of those companies don’t do a very good job of it, and the tools provided to travelers are frequently not very good.

Skift interviews the CEO of Concur about the future of booking corporate travel.

Bottom line is that employees don’t do what they’re told, despite incentives and even threats if they don’t use corporate travel booking tools. Over 50% of hotels booked by business travelers in managed travel programs are booked outside of corporate policy.

Part of this is that employees get better deals outside their corporate booking channels. Travel managers protest that they have booking goals to get big rebates and travelers don’t understand how good a deal booking negotiated rates really is. But that’s often self-serving and only part true at best.

Most airfares are available through corporate tools. There are very few fares that can be had better outside of a standard global distribution system (because of the nature of their contracts which don’t permit it). But that’s not true for hotels or rental cars.

Concur has made a big bet on their TripLink initiative which is a way for business travelers whose companies have negotiated rates with – say – United – to book at United.com and still get their negotiated rates and use their standard corporate travel expense reporting tools. That in turn makes do-it-yourselfers no longer “rogue bookers.”

I think the overriding concept, and how we look at the world, is that you want to embrace the behavior of the individual. And you want to make it easier for them to do whatever it is they need to do. The patterns we are seeing in the world, the patterns we are seeing by cloud computing, by mobile computing, allow the individual to work in the model that they want to work. Embrace that behavior, capture the information that is necessary for them to get the results they are looking for. And then work behind the scenes to make sure you are meeting corporate objectives.

The bottom-line here is that business travelers in managed travel programs have a future to look forward ot in which they can… avail themselves of advanced technology like United.com.

Not very inspiring, but we’ll take what we can get!


News and notes from around the interweb:


This past week Lucky noted that the first Qatar Airways A380 was delivered. It’s been a bizarre, bumpy road getting there not least of which because of the Qatar Airways CEO’s truthiness problem.

Interestingly, Qatar doesn’t actually own their A380, it’s leased through a UK leasing company. And UK regulations required the aircraft to be in UK airspace when the transaction took place.

So from Thursday…

    Qatar Airways a380

The Qatar Airways A380 needs to be filed under: Things that make you go hmmm.

Last month I asked whether the Airbus A380 is a failure.


Not sure how I missed this story last week.

A passenger was detained on a Southwest plane at Seattle-Tacoma Airport after using ominous names for his Wi-Fi hot spot, sources said.

Passenger Alayna Keagle said people became concerned Thursday after noticing strange and disturbing hot spot names emerge, such as “Southwest – Bomb on Board.”

…“He changed it to ‘the bomb is on this seat,’ and then he changed it to something about the stewardess being hot,” Saldi said. “And so that’s why once we found all that stuff out we realized he was probably just goofing off.”

Apparently this happened on September 11th.

The plane’s pilot pulled off the active taxiway, police surrounded the plane and then boarded it. The man was detained.

All passengers were then pulled from the plane, and all bags re-screened with dogs, before passengers were allowed to make their journey to Denver.

It’s been only two months since armed gunmen stormed a Canadian plane bound for Panama.


I was recently engaged as an expert witness for a federal criminal trial. It’s a fascinating story that I plan to tell. But in order to explain how a program member got embroiled in what was seen as a conflict of interest, how this person came to be at odds with her employer, and how the federal government got involved we need to start at the beginning.

And that’s that loyalty programs are all about creating an incentive for individuals to choose their product over another — whether the choice comes at the best price, or in the case of purchases using an employer’s money whether or not the individual is acting in the best interests of their employer.
Read about the conflicts of interest that travel programs are trying to create, which led one miles and points junkie to the crosshairs of the federal government…

I checked into Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas yesterday. Quickly up to my room and there was a strong smell of chlorine. Back down to the check-in desk.

Now, it was noon (so not yet check-in time). The hotel was full. They had no rooms to offer.

I could have waited for a room, something was going to open up and they were still cleaning rooms. That would certainly have been a reasonable solution if they didn’t have a room to give me initially. But they gave me a room, it just wasn’t one that was habitable. So I thought it was reasonable for them to find me a solution right away.

Some of the Las Vegas hotels are mega-properties, and certainly Mandalay Bay is one of them since it’s a complex that also includes the Luxor (moving there wasn’t going to be – ceteris paribus — ok) and also the Delano (formerly THEhotel) and even the Four Seasons.

The solution we found was the Delano. It’s just been re-opened, it’s part of MGM M Life so I would still get my Hyatt credit, and it’s an improvement.

I’ve rarely gotten pushback when something is genuinely wrong with a room. The constraints are what’s available, which was true even in this case but they had ‘another hotel’ to put me in.

Sometimes though you do have to ‘push’ at the check-in counter. Although not an inferior room, I have to think way back to when when I arrived at the former Westin Rio Mar at 4pm for when I had to push and get an upgrade in order to have a room.

My pre-blocked junior suite wasn’t ready. They suggested I go have a drink or a late lunch and wait. I asked whether they were buying me lunch? Or if they’d like to find me a better room that was ready? The front office manager came over, typed a bit… did not even look up at me, and put me into a giant Atlantic Suite.


I’m liking the new Citi Double Cash product as the best cash rebate card but the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express currently has a $50 signup bonus.

I favor points over cash back. But I also recognized that if I’m doing any un-bonused spend, I’m effectively buying points at 2 cents apiece, since I could otherwise be earning two cents per dollar spent. I don’t want to do that with most points currencies. So as I’ve long said, a cash rebate like this may be the best option for spending that isn’t going to earn a bonus on a points and miles credit card.

Now, Bank of America can get you a 2.625% rebate but only if you put $100,000 on deposit with BofA.

For most, though, that’s going to be a bit out of reach so the Citibank card is my favorite because of the rebates plus not being an American Express, although Fidelity has long been the benchmark with 2% back into a Fidelity investment account but issued as an Amex. A signup bonus makes it a bit more attractive than usual.


The San Diego airport is requiring cab drivers not to smell bad. And the cab drivers are livid.

For years, inspectors with the San Diego Regional Airport Authority have run down their checklist for each cabbie — proof of insurance, functioning windshield wipers, adequate tire treads, good brakes. Drivers are graded pass, fail or needs fixing.

Anyone who flunks the smell test is told to change before picking up another customer.

The cab drivers say it’s racism and unfair. And indeed, cab drivers do tend to be immigrants.

A 2013 survey of 331 drivers by San Diego State University and Center on Policy Initiatives found 94 percent were immigrants and 65 percent were from East Africa.

Here’s the thing. Smell can be subjective. But smell can also be bad and if there’s an issue, and the government is in the business of licensing cabs and granting authority to operate (and until Uber and similar services, allowing little competition) then there ought to be minimum standards.

This objection from the cab drivers struck me as unpersuasive:

Others drivers question how inspectors distinguish between them and their cars. The checklist has a separate item for a vehicle’s “foul interior odors,” which Bloomfield says may include gasoline, vomit or mildew.

It’s unfair to assume they smell, when it really could be their cars — which would somehow be.. ok?

Now, I do feel for them being required to take any passenger willing to pay, since apparently another objection is that customers smell too. (The “I know you are, but what am I?” defense.)

I’m generally more concerned with the state of repair of taxis that pass inspection, they usually don’t have suspension systems in proper working order in my personal experience. And I’ve gotten into more than a few cabs late at night in my time where I’m convinced the driver has been drinking or the driver hasn’t slept in way too many hours to be driving.


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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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