News and notes from around the interweb:

Be careful how you express yourself on board an aircraft.

A 25-year-old Canadian man is in custody after two U.S. fighter jets escorted a Panama-bound flight back to Toronto on Friday.

The passenger complained how much he hated Canada due to the high cost of cigarettes. (Canada increased cigarette taxes more than 20% this year, and applied the tax even to ‘duty free’ purchases.) He ended hyperbolically, “I just want to bomb Canada.”

CTV news has video of law enforcement boarding the plane in the form of an armed assault.

While officers stormed the plane, they yelled orders at passengers “heads down! Hands up! Show me all your hands.. Keep your hands up!”

The man has been charged with “mischief to property, mischief interfering with lawful enjoyment of property, uttering threats and endangering the safety of an aircraft.”

Basically the whole thing went down like this:

(HT: Reason Hit & Run)

Citibank made Thank You points useful again, at least if yo have a Citi Thank You Premier, Prestige, or Citi Chairmans card.

That’s because they now allow points transfers to airline miles.

If you don’t currently have Citi Thank You points, the quickest boost to that balance is here.

I really like transfers to Singapore Airlines. They have a good award chart for US domestic flights (including Hawaii) on United, and they offer much much better award availability using Singapore miles for flying on Singapore Airlines in premium cabins than they’ve ever offered to their partners. You can actually book Singapore Airlines first class awards with Singapore miles (I have Singapore Suites reserved for a trip in the near future myself).

You can now transfer points from American Express, Chase, Starwood, and Citibank into Singapore Airlines. Singapore’s program is also a good place to credit the occasional United Airlines flight once United goes revenue-based for earning next year.

And Frequent Miler offers this good reminder about Thank You points:

And, I love the fact that Citi allows people to share ThankYou points with others. While other transferable points programs only allow sharing within the immediate household, Citi allows anyone to share with anyone.

Two important caveats:

  1. Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles expire three years after they are earned. Validity can be extended for 6 months for a fee (12 months if you have status with Singapore Airlines).
  2. Citibank points transferred to someone else expire if they aren’t redeemed within 95 days.

Don’t transfer Citibank points into someone’s else account until they are ready to move those points to miles.

And don’t transfer points into Singapore Airlines unless there’s a clear use in the near or medium-term, because those points could expire.

Nonetheless, the combination of points transfers to anyone you wish that also has Citibank Thank You Points, and then the ability to transfer points to miles (especially Singapore Airlines) is really useful indeed. And makes me want some.

News and notes from around the interweb:

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. 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).

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

I’ve been recommending the Marriott Rewards co-brand Visa signup bonus when it hits 70,000 points for years such as here back in November and here from 2011. For those who care about such things, in both of those cases it was not a referral link, and I received no credit for it.

70,000 points plus a free night (up to category 4) is now the standard public offer for a limited-time, and for avoidance of doubt it does now offer referral credit. It’s being much discussed across blogs, so it’s worth repeating what this card is good for (and isn’t good for), the advice I’ve been offering for some time.

  • The signup bonus is 70,000 points and after $2000 spend within three months, and a free night at a hotel up to category four.
  • There is a $0 annual fee the first year and $85 thereafter
  • The card has no foreign transaction fees.
  • You also get 15 nights’ credit towards elite status each year, and an additional elite night credit for each $3000 spend on the card.

For a Marriott person, it’s worth keeping the card for help towards elite status and the annual free night in a hotel up to category 5 is worth the annual fee.

But I wouldn’t otherwise put spending on the card — earning 1 Marriott point is worth less than earning an airline mile with most carriers, and certainly worth less than earning a Chase Ultimate Rewards point or Starwood Starpoint (and worth less than earning on a 2% cash back card, since a Marriott point isn’t close to being worth 2 cents).

But the signup bonus can go farther than with many other hotel cards:

  • It’s worth two nights in a category 7 hotel plus a night in a category 4. Or 4 nights in a category 4 with 10,000 points leftover (you can convert those to miles, or save them – Marriott points do not expire in practice even though the rules say they will).
  • Or it is 1 to 2 nights in a Ritz-Carlton plus a category 4 night.
  • And you can also, of course, top off a Marriott account with Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfers. That’s not generally the best use of Chase points but if you’re close to an award it can make sense.

Get the card for the bonus. Keep the card for the annual free night.

But put your spend on higher value cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

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.

If you have an Iberia frequent flyer account, if it’s three months old, and if you have earned any miles in that account then you can save on fuel surcharges — because you can transfer British Airways points over to Iberia, and then redeem the points for travel on Iberia. Fuel surcharges are miniscule compared to what British Airways would charge for the same thing.

Here’s why fuel surcharges are a big deal, and how having an Iberia account can save you.

You need an Iberia account, and you need that account to have miles in it. Here are free Iberia points to make that happen. Read More…

Last night I wrote that business class award space on the new Turkish San Francisco flight was wide open.

And even so, at the time I wrote the post I didn’t even realize just how wide open it was.

I showed that there were at least 4 business class seats available on every flight that Turkish would run on the route in April.

They’ll begin San Francisco – Istanbul service April 13, 2015 — initially 5 days weekly.

Here’s what availability looks like on those flights for seven business class seats:

In other words, every single flight they’ve loaded has at least 7 business class seats available during that first month in which they’re operating.

Remember, this is a business class cabin aboard the Boeing 777-300ER that only has 28 business class seats. This will not last. Book those Star Alliance awards to Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Africa now.

Chris McGinnis writes that Turkish Airlines is launching San Francisco – Istanbul service on April 13, 2015.

Flights will initially be 5 times weekly, and then going daily May 11th.

The Turkish 777-300ER has just 28 business class seats, so you’d expect business class awards to be difficult to get.

Although right now — and this cannot last — business class award space is wide open. Read More…

Malaysia Airlines tweeted out a message about flight MH17 yesterday and it’s taken me a day to decide whether to say anything about it or not.

When I saw the tweet I hid myself away, because I don’t do tears, and I cried.

I don’t have any direct connection to the flight, I’ve flown Malaysia Airlines before of course and I feel a certain bond with travelers as such, and much more so in the airport and on planes. in a way that I can’t really describe.

But I have no special right to cry over this. I was shocked by what happened as the whole world was. And when I saw this simple message I Just. Broke. Down.

I decided I should share it as well, in case it touches anyone else out there too that hadn’t yet seen it.

Somehow the image of these flight attendants holding hands through all of this affected me in a way I can’t even describe, thinking not just about the passengers and their families but the airline’s staff going through another tragedy before even getting through the last one.

I hadn’t cried for MH17 before. I don’t like to admit when I do. But now I have, and I guess I’ve told the world that now too.

Southwest Rapid Rewards is offering a 40% bonus on purchased miles through the end of the month.

The price of to buy points with this offer is 1.96 cents apiece. At most Rapid Rewards points are worth 1.42 cents (plus some option value in that Southwest award tickets are cancellable without penalty).

Don’t buy speculatively, even revenue-based programs can devalue.

The only reason to take up this offer would be if you had a very specific award you needed a small number of points to redeem for. Even then recognize the more you buy, the less value you’re getting for your redemption since every mile purchased loses over half a cent. processes Southwest points purchases so they do not earn airline purchase bonuses that your credit card may offer.

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. 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).

Chase Ink Plus Business Card Card

  • 50,000 points after $5000 spend within 3 months
  • $0 annual fee the first year, $95 thereafter

A 70,000 Point Offer Reported for Chase Ink Plus

Doctor of Credit wrote last night that he found that by going into a Chase branch he could sign up for a limited-time offer of 70,000 points after $5000 spend within 3 months. The annual fee applies even during the first year with this higher bonus offer so this offer is $95 more expensive than my link offers. He guesses this opportunity might last “approximately a week” based on when something similar was done inside of Chase branches before.

This means an incremental 20,000 points for an extra $95, which will appeal to some. I would consider it worth it but for the time and effort to get to a Chase branch — there’s no Chase branch within 100 miles of where I live (although I could seek one out during my travels over the coming week).

If you are near a Chase branch and want to make the effort to go in, that may be the best route. And Chase has been getting more and more aggressive lately in promoting their new signup offers, their limited-time offers, and the Ink cards especially. So I would be surprised if this was the last shot at something like this!

The Best Credit Card Value Out There From Ink Plus

This is one of the very best business cards, and indeed one of the very best all-around credit cards.

It offers 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services. It has no foreign transaction fees.

Points transfer one-to-one into:

  • Airlines: United Airlines, British Airways, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest Airlines, Singapore Airlines
  • Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, IHG Rewards Club
  • Ground: Amtrak

For more background, see:

Chase Ink Plus Business Card Card

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.

Via Lucky, Japan Airlines is swapping out a Boeing 787 (angled business class, no first class) for a Boeing 777-300ER on their San Francisco – Tokyo Haneda route effective December 1.

  • The Boeing 777-300ER has first class suites and true flat business class on this aircraft.

  • And first class award availability is wide open from the time they make this switch through the end of the schedule. Read More…

Last month I wrote the Ultimate Guide to Constructing an International Award Ticket Using American AAdvantage Miles.

It already needs to be revised! Read More…

Via TravelingBetter I learned about an interesting consumer complaint to the Department of Transportation against American Airlines and an even more interesting response.

It strikes me that there’s a ton of disingenuousness on the part of lawyers for a major air carrier but also some interesting insight into how their systems work at the same time. So I thought it was worthwhile unpacking.

  • American accused the consumer of “creat[ing] fictitious block premium seats for the sole purpose of obtaining AAdvantage upgrades.”

  • American took 60,000 miles as a penalty. Read More…

Not from the Onion.

Spirit Airlines has moved away from humans performing customer service on Twitter (they weren’t really very responsive to begin with) to an auto-responder instaad.

[A] big social media team costs money, so we put our feed on Autopilot to save you cents on every ticket.

Other travel providers are concerned with defending their brand online, or want to create customer evangelists.

Customer service, to Spirit, is a cost center. They believe having customers who think you’re bad is a good thing. So why employ a twitter team?

Of course they don’t want to invest in a frequent flyer program that can do more than get you magazine subscriptions free anyway.

Citi Thank You points just got a whole lot more valuable.

Anyone who still has big points balances with the program is certainly rejoicing.

Holders of Citi Thank You Premier, Prestige, and Chairman cards can transfer their points now to:

  • Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Hilton HHonors

In a followup on the specific transfer partners, I noted the best Thank You signup bonus currently. I’ll highlight it here.

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card currently has a 50,000 point signup bonus:

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

This is the best current offer that I know, and a source of transferable points-to-miles from an issuer that didn’t already have those.

As such, one interesting option is transferring points to Singapore Airlines. You can get cards from American Express (Starwood Preferred Guest, Membership Rewards) and Chase (Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, Ink Bold) whose points transfer to Singapore. And now you can build up Singapore miles with points from another issuer.

And those points are really useful for Singapore Airlines flights (much better availability with their miles) and also for US domestic travel (with no fuel surcharges).

Editorial note: I do receive compensation if you apply for cards in this post. 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.

News and notes from around the interweb:

Historically Virgin Australia has had amazing business class award availability to Australia. That’s been probably the best overall use of Delta Skymiles — searchable online, and without fuel surcharges — since Australia awards and especially during high season are one of the holy grails of mileage redemption.

Space has been cyclical — 4 seats every day, then nothing, then wide open again. But will the space come back?

Virgin Australia is cancelling their Los Angeles – Melbourne flight effective right as United starts up theirs.

The North America – Australia and New Zealand route is served without a stopover in Tahiti or Fiji and without transiting Asia by:

  • United
  • Qantas
  • Delta
  • Virgin Australia
  • Air Canada
  • Air New Zealand

New Zealand awards are harder than Australia awards. Air New Zealand used to open up business class space 60 days out quite reliably. Now you will not get Air New Zealand business class awards. Pretty much ever.

Qantas used to fly to New Zealand. They used to fly from San Francisco. They’ve cut back on capacity, even as they’ve added Airbus A380 equipment out of Los Angeles and are adding it to their Dallas route.

Air Canada award space has existed from Vancouver to be sure but it’s not generous. And United is hit or miss, mostly miss.

As tough as it is to get award seats, and with a flight long enough that premium seats do sell, I’d expect that there’s not enough capacity in the market rather than too much despite having all of these competitors.

Still, Virgin Australia is a fast-growing entity in Australia but the least well known in the US market (despite a partnership with Delta, and competing with Delta to Sydney at the same time). Serving three routes from Los Angeles made them a large player.

Sydney is a bread and butter route. Brisbane is a shorter flight, and better for many connections as a result. Melbourne is too far south for most connections, and now facing competition from bigger players in the Los Angeles market Qantas and United.

It makes sense. The sheer number of award seats on Virgin Australia suggests they aren’t selling enough of their seats, some retrenchment was probably inevitable.

But with fewer seats, there could be fewer awards in our future. And the single best way to get from the US to Australia on points without transiting Asia could become far less reliable.

PointsHound now lets you choose to earn points or rebates for the hotel bookings you make for yourself or others in 18 different currencies.

You can do bitcoin if you wish, basically just earning in a foreign currency.

Or you can earn miles with a bunch of different programs. The newest options are Cathay Pacific’s AsiaMiles and JetBlue’s TrueBlue.

I find the best rates of return to be Alaska miles and American miles (I generally choose to accrue with Alaska).

You can sign up without a bonus, or the standard offer for being referred by an existing PointsHound user is 250 points each with your first booking.

My referral link, though, ups that bonus to 1000 miles.

My favorite things about PointsHound have been:

  • That you earn miles when booking for someone else
  • That they have ‘DoubleUp’ rates that earn miles through them, hotel points through the chain you’re staying with, and credit towards elite status.

However technical problems have paused the availability of these DoubleUp rates.

Nonetheless, I’ve tended to find PointsHound more personally useful than their major competitor Rocketmiles.

Rocketmiles has offered more miles much of the time (and I used to think it was an advantage that Rocketmiles let you earn United miles, but I no longer do). But Rocketmiles has far fewer hotels to choose from. And worth noting that PointsHound earning has increased.

Always check rates on the mileage rebate sites with the best rates you can get elsewhere. It’s often the same, sometimes more, and I’ve even seen hotels for much less with PointsHound. So your mileage may vary and know that the prices can deviate.

Still, booking hotels especially for others who aren’t concerned with loyalty programs, I love being rebates points for doing the favor..

I know, I know, it’s a good idea to refill the gas tank before returning the vehicle.

  • But what if you have a 6am flight? You didn’t fill up the night before, aren’t sure whether gas stations will be open and you overslept anyway…
  • And sometimes it isn’t worth refilling on your own anyway. Gas stations around the airport may be priced exorbitantly high, and rental companies may charge less than you realize to refill for you.

I find that National Car Rental usually wants about $5.65 a gallon or so from me to top off a tank if I don’t do it myself. That’s not cheap, but when I’m cutting it close and I haven’t driven a lot I can justify that.

But it’s a mistake to assume all rental car companies are the same. As I just learned.

Take that 6am flight and the car rental company is Budget. I got a receipt from them and learn that I was charged $77.01 to refill a tank on a Ford Fusion that was returned more than half full. Surely that was a mistake. So I contacted them.

Here’s their reply (emphasis mine):

Dear Mr. Leff,

Thank you for contacting the E-mail Customer Service team.

I am very sorry you were not advised of the cost associated with refueling our vehicle if not done prior to check in. Any time a customer returns the vehicle with less fuel than when it was rented, a refueling service charge is imposed; this service charge does not necessarily reflect current retail gas prices. This fee compensates Budget for the refueling service performed by Budget personnel in preparing the vehicle for the next rental.

The Ford Fusion holds 16.5 gallons and you were charged for 7.866GALS at $9.79 per gallon.

Our records show you were charged correctly, therefore, no adjustment is warranted.

Wow. $9.79 a gallon. That’s 73% more than I’m used. Not that I like the price I’m used to seeing, but in this case it was definitely worth it.

That’ll teach me to decide to rent from Budget when I think they’re cheaper, since for this particular trip they absolutely weren’t.

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

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