The American AAdvantage program recently updated its terms and conditions. They added this sentence:

To the full extent allowed by law, these Terms and Conditions disclaim any duty of good faith and fair dealing as well as any implied contractual terms or obligations.

That’s pretty striking language — they have no “duty of good faith and fair dealing” — and my conclusion is that this means either nothing at all or at most only one thing: American doesn’t have very good lawyers.

Read More…

American Express is offering a 25% bonus on transfers of Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic through April 30.

Before the end of the year American Express was offering a 35% bonus on transfers to Virgin Atlantic. So 25% doesn’t impress.

Virgin Atlantic has one of the least valuable mileage currencies — my stretch for 8 good uses of the points shows how deep in the barrel I have to dig.

The program adds fuel surcharges to awards.

So while Virgin Atlantic itself has a decent business class product across the Pond, many prefer to book their awards through Delta SkyMiles (at a higher mileage cost) to avoid the fuel surcharges.

If you’re looking to bulk up on Virgin’s miles, consider their Bank of America-issued credit card.

American Express Membership Rewards points are too valuable, in my view, to be tempted to move them into Virgin Atlantic miles.

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).


American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass Card: Biggest Bonus We’ve Seen

The Hilton HHonorsTM Surpass® Card from American Express is offering 80,000 Hilton points after $3000 spend within 3 months of approval. This should be available through May 5.

The key benefit of this card is that you get Gold status in the Hilton HHonors program just for being a cardmember. That can mean modest upgrades and breakfast. $40,000 spend in a year gets you Diamond status. The card’s annual fee is $75.

Citi Reserve’s Signup Bonus Still Better

I actually prefer the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card ($95 annual fee) which also gives you Gold status for being a cardmember and lets you earn Diamond if you spend $40,000 on the card in a year.

That’s because its signup bonus is 2 free weekend nights at almost any Hilton property after $2500 spend within 4 months. In contrast, 80,000 points – while a big number – won’t get you a single free night at Hilton’s most expensive points properties.

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card also gets you an annual free night after $10,000 spend.

Still, the Amex Surpass card does earn 12 points per dollar on Hilton spend vs. 10 points per dollar with the Citi card.

The No Fee Hilton Amex Has a Limited-Time Bonus Too

The Hilton HHonors™ Card from American Express is offering 60,000 points after $1000 spend within 3 months.

This is very similar to the limited-time offer for the no fee Citibank-issued Hilton card.

If you’re looking to stock up on Hilton points, these are better than usual offers.

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

Here I review Etihad’s lie flat business class seat for a regional flight from Abu Dhabi to Male (Maldives).

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
  5. Etihad’s new business class lounge, Abu Dhabi

About 35 minutes prior to departure time we headed down to our gate. Now, even though we were departing from terminal 3 (an upgrade from several past regional flights) it was still going to be a bus gate.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to an airport where I have such a high proportion of bus gates — even departing long haul to destinations other than the U.S., and as I found out on this trip even arriving from the U.S.

After a few minutes it was time to board. They called business class and Etihad’s top elite frequent flyers (not those of partners) who had a designated bus. Of course any business class passengers boarding later wouldn’t be on the business class bus — not that it’s better than the economy bus, though perhaps a few less people meant it was less packed and so marginally more personal space (although there wasn’t much personal space).

After an extensive tour of the airport we found our way to our aircraft.

On entry into the cabin I was presented with Etihad’s international business class product. I had only really ever seen it up close when departing an Etihad flight through a door behind the first business class cabin.

Read More…

I returned to the country to a pileup of mail, including this from Chase:


    Someone has too many currently-open Ink cards.

Chase is removing the ‘Lounge Club’ benefit from their Ink products.

Lounge Club is the credit card version of Priority Pass, it’s a card that gets you lounge access though there are varying levels of membership. The basic free version just allows you to pay for entrance on each visit at participating lounges (American Express’ Hilton Surpass card gives you this.)

The major difference between Priority Pass and Lounge Club is that the former includes several United Club lounges while the latter does not, so it’s a product that several credit cards can offer without violating Chase’s exclusivity (the initial branding was Priority Pass Select, which I first saw offered by American Express Platinum).

The Chase Ink cards have come with Lounge Club which offers two club visits per year complimentary.

Here’s the key thing to know:

  • The benefit isn’t going away yet, it ends April 30, which means that is the last day to sign up and not the last day to use Lounge Club access.
  • You will have Lounge Club access for a year, i.e. until your annual benefit expires after April 30.
  • So if you have a Chase Ink card, and aren’t already registered, you can still do so and benefit from this perk for a year.

Enroll before April 30 using invitation code CHASEINK.

Many of the lounges that participate are international. In the US you’ll get access to various Air France/KLM lounges, The Club contract lounges, and Alaska Airlines lounges among others.


    Pancake machine at the Alaska Airlines Board Room Portland

A James Bond film crew is in the news for their bad inflight behavior.

Drunken film crew members involved in the latest James Bond movie triggered an international air alert by vomiting, urinating in the aisles and going on a drunken rampage during a flight to Mexico…

The behaviour is said to have included smoking cigarettes in flight and removing a pin securing one of the cabin doors while close to American airspace.

Apparently the crew in question were “[a]round 150 Spectre stunt men, camera crew and technical workers..on board the chartered Airbus A330 travelling from Stansted to Mexico City for the shooting of an ambitious opening scene based on the annual Day of the Dead festival.”

SPECTRE of course is Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, the criminal syndicate and terrorist organisation featured in Bond films, as well as the title of the upcoming Bond release.

So this could have just been a guerrilla marketing stunt gone wrong, or a SPECTRE plot gone right.

The Hi Fly aircraft charter only agreed to fly the crew back to the UK on the condition that no alcohol would be served inflight.

News and notes from around the interweb:

  • Discounted United awards to Hawaii

  • Bonus for points transfers into Aeroplan. Unfortunately Membership Rewards transfers aren’t eligible. Starwood transfers are, though — 80,000 Starpoints would yield 125,000 Aeroplan points instead of the usual 100,000.

  • How to make my heart stop: This came into my email inbox:

    Fortunately this isn’t word that my Suntrust Delta debit card will no longer earn miles for purchases. It’s just that they’re redesigning their online banking site. Which I could care less about since I only use my Suntrust account for debit purchases (and to deposit money into the account, to make more debit purchases).

  • Everyone checking into Marriott Courtyard hotels today get 1000 bonus points to celebrate the opening of the 1000th Courtyard property in Walla Walla, Washington. (HT: Paul B.) They expect 50,000 check-ins for 50 million bonus points total.

  • Speaking of renaming airports, here’s something I didn’t know: When the Baltimore airport convinced IATA to change its three-letter code from BAL to BWI (to better market itself as a DC-area airport, Baltimore Washington International) there was already a BWI and Bewani, Papua-New Guinea had to change its designator to BWP.

It seems like hotel programs have been incentivizing booking low end hotels — keeping those cheap, making the points cost even cheaper than before — while pricing top end awards astronomically. We’ve seen massive ‘category creep’ at Marriott. Two years ago Hilton increased the price of their top awards as much as 90%. Hyatt created a new category 7 with higher prices for their most expensive properties.

Wyndham is going the opposite direction. They are creating a single award chart price of 15,000 points per night. That’s an increase for the cheapest hotels, and a decrease for the most expensive hotels.


    Wyndham Grand Rio Mar, Puerto Rico

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The International Civil Aviation Organization has “significant safety concerns” about Thailand’s aviation regulator‘s standards (not about Thailand’s airlines).

ICAO, a UN agency, informed governments around the world about its designation of Thailand as a “significant safety concern” on March 20. ICAO’s designation came after it determined that the “corrective action plan” submitted by the Department of Civil Aviation on March 2 to address the issues raised by ICAO were “needing revision’, ACM Prajin said this weekend.

The designation is seen as a possible prelude to ICAO’s downgrading of the kingdom from the so-called Category 1 to Category 2 as result of its January audit, which reportedly showed that the DCA was able to meet only 21 out of 100 ICAO requisites.

The audit covered a broad range of areas relevant to aviation safety and airline operations, but was intended to assess the performance and expertise of the civil aviation authority and not of individual airlines. The last similar audit was in 2005.

Some of the key areas considered lacking are personnel licensing and training, airworthiness assessment and certification, accident investigation and airline operations oversight and licensing.

DCA was given a 90-day grace period, which has yet to expire, to comply with the ICAO’s standards.

Out of concern that Thailand’s government isn’t doing a proper job, several countries are now taking it upon themselves to impose their own inspections on Thai aircraft departing their airports.

At least three countries — Japan, China and Singapore — have now subjected aircraft operated by Thai airlines to exhaustive inspections at their airports, industry executives with knowledge of the matter.

Japan has banned new flights and also aircraft changes for existing flights.

Possible future action by US and European regulators could require the elimination of codeshares on Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways flights.

I have been flying Thai Airways for years and have flown Bangkok Airways. I’ve never had safety concerns. My confidence in Thai has been bolstered by the modern aircraft they fly, and their ability to meet Star Alliance operational standards. As I point out, these reports are not specifically about any airline. The concern is that the Thai government isn’t well-equipped to oversee the airlines. Towards that end I actually think the Japanese, Chinese, and Singaporean solution of inspecting aircraft themselves is a good, creative approach to concerns.

I continue to have confidence in Thai-registered airlines themselves, and would have no hesitation in flying them from countries that are stepping into the breach.

One imagines that the issues identified in the audit aren’t new (since the last audit was a decade ago) and there haven’t been significant consequences in the meantime. And I’m certainly hopeful that the deficiencies can be addressed in short order.

There’s a video going around of an incident yesterday in New York where a police officer unleashes a rant on an Uber driver (“How long have you been in this country? … The only reason you’re not in handcuffs and going to jail .. is because I have things to do.. because you’re not important enough.”).

Uber released a statement,

The behavior in the video is wrong and unacceptable and we appreciate the NYPD investigating the incident. We are in touch with our driver-partner who was subjected to this terrible experience and will continue to provide any support he needs.

From the video, posted to YouTube by a passenger in the vehicle at the time:

Police abuse of Uber driver in New York City. In an unmarked car, the policeman was allegedly attempting to park without using his blinker at a green light. (His reverse lights weren’t on. Likely double parked without hazards on.) The Uber driver pulled around and gestured that he should use his blinker, casually and non-offensively, and kept driving us. The policeman aggressively pulls up behind us and this is what happens.

(This occurred just before 2pm on the West side of Manhattan, in police precinct 6, on March 30th, 2015. The officer did not identify himself, but he had a New York license plate: GSS 8891)

Note: the police officer’s language in this video is very much ‘not safe for work’ so you may want to turn down the volume on your machine prior to hitting play.

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).


IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card

The Chase-issued IHG Rewards Club MasterCard has a limited-time signup bonus of 70,000 points after $1000 spend within 3 months.

This offer was supposed to end March 31 but has been extended to May 31. There’s a $0 fee the first year, and a $49 fee thereafter.

  • It’s a low spend requirement, and 70,000 points is enough for 2 nights at most IHG hotel properties (e.g. Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn)
  • $49 is worth keeping the card, since it also comes with an annual free night at any of their properties (and this includes even expensive Intercontinental hotels).
  • The card gives you Platinum status, no foreign transaction fees, and a 10% rebate on points redemptions.

Nonetheless, I don’t recommend this card often.

  • 70,000 points isn’t enough for 2 nights at any of their properties, their top Intercontinental properties cost 50,000 points per night.
  • Given how ‘inflated’ the numbers are with this currency, earn with the card is extremely weak. I’d take 2 points per dollar with the Chase Sapphire Preferred at IHG hotels over the 5 points this card offers. It earns 2 points at gas stations, grocery stores, and restuarants. And just 1 point per dollar elsewhere. You’ll have to spend $25,000 – $35,000 on unbonused spend with the card per award night at most of their hotels which is insane.
  • IHG Rewards Club doesn’t have especially meaningful elite benefits built into their program (no entitlement to suites, no entitlement to breakfast, no late checkout guarantee).
  • Most of the elite benefits that do exist aren’t required to be honored on reward nights.

The card has a decent bonus with a low spend requirement, which may entice. And once you have the card it’s worth keeping but not using.

I called this the card I don’t have – but that I’d never give up if I did. The reason I’m not signing up is because I don’t believe it is even one of the 5 best cards from Chase, or one of the 5 best hotel program cards. So I wouldn’t choose it over other products.

The Five Best Cards from Chase:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: 40,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months; 5000 more points for adding an authorized user and making a purchase within that time; double points on travel and dining, primary collision coverage on car rentals; no foreign currency transaction fees; $0 fee the first year then $95. Points transfer to a variety of airline and hotel programs.
  • Ink Plus Business Card: 50,000 points after $5000 spend within 3 months; 5x points at office supply stores and telecommunications providers plus 2x on hotels you pay directly and US gas stations; no foreign currency transaction fees; $0 fee the first year then $95. Points transfer to a variety of airline and hotel programs.
  • British Airways Visa Signature: 50,000 points after $2000 purchases within 3 months, $0 fee the first year then $95, Avios are fantastic for short-distance non-stop flights such as 4500 point one-way awards on American, US Airways, and Alaska.
  • United Explorer: Free checked bag, priority boarding, 2 club passes a year, primary collision damage when you rent cars, elites with the card are eligible for upgrades on domestic economy awards, holders of the card get additional standard award inventory.
  • Chase Freedom: This no annual fee card earns 5x in a variety of categories that rotate each quarter, and if you have a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus card those points can be combined and moved onto airline or hotel programs.

The Five Best Hotel Cards:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest American Express: Starwood points are the most valuable points currency. They transfer to the most airlines (with a built-in 5000 bonus miles when you transfer 20,000 miles into a program).
  • Club Carlson Visa. The killer app is that cardholders get second night free on award nights, so for 2-night award stays this means ‘buy one get one’ effectively doubling the value of points.
  • Citi Hilton Reserve: Hilton Gold just for having the card, and that’s a meaningful status level since it means upgrades, breakfast, and internet. Plus a signup bonus of 2 free weekend nights at nearly any Hilton property after $2500 spend within 4 months. $40,000 in spend lets you earn top tier Diamond.
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card: Gold status your first year (which is Marriott Gold) and then each year you spend $10,000 on the card, Platinum status for $75,000 in spend.
  • Hyatt Visa 2 free nights at any Hyatt and an annual free night and there are varying statement credit offers for signup.

Since this card isn’t as good as any of the cards above (or several others), I don’t consider it a priority. But the bonus is a big number, so is popular.

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.


British Airways reported that about a million of their accounts were hacked and they locked down those accounts.

Mine was among them, and I had to reset my password to regain access to my account. Once back in, I learned that they had temporarily removed all of my points. Yesterday those points were restored.

Then this morning I received another email, and I thought oh bloody @!#!@#, not again!

We have now locked down your online account to protect it from further access. As part of the lock-down process we have also changed your password and you will need to reset it before you are able to use your account.

Except… my account wasn’t locked and I have no problem accessing it. Perhaps their mass email database was hacked this time!

The Park Hyatt New York was one of the most anticipated hotel openings last year. A new luxury property in New York, you can expect to pay a minimum in the high $600s per night on prepaid rates when the hotel expects to be relatively empty.

It’s a Hyatt Gold Passport category 7 hotel, meaning 30,000 points per night. The problem has been that getting reward nights at that hotel has been a challenge. The hotel opened before all of its rooms were fully online, and there’s a limited number of ‘standard’ rooms there eligible for points redemptions.

In fact, only about 12% of the hotel’s rooms are considered ‘standard’ — a practice I consider to be quite dirty pool.

Fortunately award availability appears to be thawing there.

I’m finally finding free night awards available, and not just for one or two days booked about a year out.

There’s plenty of award nights both during the week and over weekends.

For two night Friday through Sunday stays, over the next five months I found:

  • Available this coming weekend
  • Available every weekend in May
  • Not available in June (one weekend has only Diamond guaranteed availability at over $1400 per night and is otherwise sold out)
  • Available weekends of July 11 and 18 except over July 4
  • The first 3 weekends in August are available

Interestingly one of the cheapest paid rates I found was over the last weekend in August, though that was for the ‘Park Deluxe King’ room type which isn’t the base level room — Park King rooms need to be available in order to use points.

Cash and points awards are available too, but I do not consider that a good value for category 7 properties (since you’re effectively buying back points at 2 cents apiece and I value them at 1.4 cents).

Personally I’m more than happy at the category 6 Andaz 5th Avenue, so I doubt I’ll be checking out the Park Hyatt soon.

(HT: Jenn T.)

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.

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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.

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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.

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