Answering the Frequent Flyer Questions That Are On Your Mind

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I recently asked for reader questions and I’m working through answering those.

Here I’ve decided to take 3 in a single post, rather than writing a standalone post for each.

  • What’s the greatest risk to United miles?
  • How do you book the best value award on Bora Bora?
  • Should you credit Etihad flights to American AAdvantage?

Read on for the answers…


Jason G. asks,

I will soon be flying on Etihad between [New York] JFK and [Mumbai], connecting in [Abu Dhabi] of course. This will be a paid ticket and I was wondering, in your opinion, is it best to accrue AA miles on this trip or is it better to accrue Etihad Guest miles?

AA miles cannot be accrued on legs between the US + [Abu Dhabi], so it would be for the shorter AUH-BOM leg, which isn’t very much.

Etihad Guest miles aren’t a mileage currency I use very much so I could use it in their “mall” to buy goods with point. Do you know if there is a better program to which I could accrue the miles from this trip? Or at least a better way to use Etihad Guest miles if I don’t travel with them a lot? Thank you for your insight.

I definitely consider American miles to be more valuable than Etihad’s (still quite good) currency. Fortunately you can now earn American miles on all Etihad flights. You aren’t limited between the US and Abu Dhabi to American codeshares anymore. This change went into effect three months ago.

susangol says,

My husband and I have enough points to fly business class to Tahiti and to stay in an overwater bungalow at [the Intercontinental] Thalasso [on Bora Bora]. My problem is that I never seem to be able to book the hotel – it is always busy (except, maybe, during hurricane season; haven’t tried that yet).

I just used your Book Your Award service, when I got frustrated booking our flights to Capetown and Zimbabwe (my first time using the award service, and it was flawless).

Is there any way to get someone to book our hotel?

While the Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora may be the best value aspirational hotel redemption in the world since the base room there is an overwater bungalow and the reward night price is that same as any other top tier Intercontinental, it’s become exceptionally hard to book.

My award booking service doesn’t really do hotels, there just aren’t as many tricks to employ there.

I’ve seen several reports of success getting a multi-night stay at the Intercontinental Thalasso is to book one night at a time as their booking calendar opens for each night. Book one night, wait until the next day, book the next night, rinse and repeat for the length of your stays. That’s because I find it’s usually available right when the schedule opens, and then it’s gone.

Bora Bora is a tough redemption for many reasons, not least of which because of how few flights there are to get to Tahiti (and then you have to buy a domestic flight). While the Intercontinental is a great value on points, it’s tough to get.

Much easier is the Intercontinental La Moana where the redemption room is a beach bungalow for the same 50,000 points.. still a fantastic value on a points per dollar basis.

Other hotels are far more points, though I’d say that even though the Hilton Bora Bora Nui has become nearly twice as many points since the big devaluation it’s still a reasonable value on points (and far more accessible than the Starwood hotels which charge double their top redemption level on Bora Bora).

MEOW asks,

Gary, what do you see as a big risk to UA’s program going forward? They’ve made many redemptions pricey compared to peers, and earning much harder now. Gracias.

While United has gone revenue-based for mileage-earning on flights, and they’ve increased the cost of premium cabin awards (though oddly they decreased some), their awards are only extortionate in international first class.

Business class awards, even on partners, remain reasonable compared to many other airlines and of course United doesn’t add fuel surcharges to any awards.

I’d say the biggest risk is their plan to introduce revenue-based redemptions.

Put another way, the risk with United is always that they’re managing by doing what Delta does. When asked about their plans along those lines, United’s spokesman said “We won’t comment on any such changes, planned or otherwise”.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. @susangol: Think a little outside the box (or onto the main island) and you’ll have a great time on Bora Bora. I experienced the same redemption blues and finally gave up. I then stumbled across The Black Pearl on vrbo.com (likely also on airbnb.com) where an overwater bungalow was a fraction of the cost of the “name brand” resorts.
    The Black Pearl is on the main island, not a motu (an offshore sandbar/reef) which is where you’ll find most of the overwater resorts.
    Being on the main island, and renting a car was a blast. And no need for the hotel water shuttles.
    Hope my advice is helpful.

  2. It absolutely drives me crazy when people refer to NON-STOP flights as DIRECT flights! I will often ask why are you taking a DIRECT flight when I know that the airline offers NON-STOP service. People just don’t get it! I know that Southwest still flies a lot of DIRECT flights. These are flights that make a stop between your boarding airport and your final destination. The flight number does not change and you are not required to get off the plane. However, the plane DOES make a STOP! A true NON-STOP flight does not make any stops from the time you get on the plan till you arrive at your destinations.
    It appears that some travel website are also using the term DIRECT Flight incorrectly. Am I the only one that thinks this is just wrong??

  3. I am Gold on American. On my last trip to Spain, they changed my itinerary which resulted in a few hundred miles less mileage. At this time, I only have one more trip planned till the end of the year and I figure I will be 145 miles short of Gold again. Can I purchase qualifying miles or must I take another flight and is it even worth it for Gold with American?

    Thanks in advance.

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