Looking on the Bright Side

Online Travel Review has a Christmas message for travelers: complaints aside, the world looks pretty good.

We can travel basically anywhere in the world on a whim. Average roundtrip airfares between New York and London were about $6500 (in today’s dollars) back in the 1950s. I could fly there for $500 in 2 weeks. Despite rising fixed costs, airfares continue (for the most part) to be incredibly affordable in ways that most other countries can only dream about. It’s changed the way we keep in touch with friends, go on vacation, and do business. We’re all better off because we can fly off to Michigan to visit friends for $150, when driving the same route would cost about $180 in gas.

Frequent flyer programs and the growing airline alliances have allowed us to visit roughly anywhere in the world for free — and it is truly free for many of us, as we accumulate those miles on our companies’ dime. 20 years ago Albania was closed off to the rest of the world. This summer, I called Continental, used 50,000 miles (thanks to work trips to Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta, mostly), and 10 days later was on a plane to Tirana on a Skyteam partner. If we can stop complaining for a moment, think about how insane that is. The world has become accessible in a way it never has before.

I wholeheartedly endorse all of the above — except the advisability of flying to Albania in coach. Egads.

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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  1. Outsourcing your frequent flyer miles??!! rev dec 14

    For MORE mileage award ticket availability for FEWER miles to redeem for overseas travel (especially Israel),
    join an overseas frequent flyer program!

    US-based airline programs all have foreign partners, which are also provided their own award
    allocations from US to Israel. But since foreign program members are typically based in their
    own countries, these programs has far less demand for mileage award seats from their
    US to Israel allocation….translating into less competition for US- to Israel award seats for you!

    US-based programs pigeonhole Israel in the ‘Middle East’ region, while most foreign programs
    consider Israel part of the ‘Europe’ region, which requires less mileage for an award. In some
    instances, a Business Class award using a foreign program would be close to equivalent of
    redeeming an Economy award from a US-based program. Foreign program award levels are simply lower
    …translating into far more efficient redemption for both Economy and Business Class awards.

    Foreign mileage programs allow for earning of miles and status by flying their US partners. So,
    there is no need to change your flying patterns, just join the foreign partner program that
    is in the same airline alliance as the airline you primarily fly. You simply input your foreign membership
    account number into your reservation….translating into your ability to fly locally and earn miles

    Joining small foreign airline programs can even further magnify the benefits above. Such small
    programs are hungrier for additional members, so they are motivated to offer more generous
    mileage earning and redemption levels,. Yet since they are aligned with the larger US-based and
    foreign mileage programs, there are the assurances that the small program is reliable and
    accounable, plus there is award access to all of the larger airline routes.

    Credit card junkies might normally be discouraged with foreign airline program affinity crdeit cards,
    because they are tough, if not impossible to qualify for. The Starwood (home of Sheraton, Westin, etc,)
    American Express card earns ‘Starpoints’ that have two significant advantages. First, these ‘Starpoints’
    can be converted into miles from over 30 airline programs, including most of the desireable foreign programs.
    Secondly, for every 20,000 ‘Starpoints’ converted to airline miles, the Starwood Amex card adds a 5,000
    point bonus; 25% more miles for free! Starpoints are different and far more valuable than ‘Membership
    Rewards’ points that are generated by other generic American Express cards…translating into
    maximizing the flexibility and quantity of your credit card miles.

    Some foreign programs also have unique benefits not typically available with US-based programs.
    * allow one-way awards, which can preserve mileage balances.
    * allow family members to pool mileage into one account for faster mileage redemption.
    * offer periodic award discounts of 25-50% off regular award levels.
    (I’m flying Washington DC-Tel Aviv for only 25,000; an Air France promo Nov 1-Dec 15)
    * provide more generous mileage earning bonuses for having elite status or flying in Business or First Class
    * offer lower thresholds of miles or segments flown to achieve elite status

    Just like foreign currencies have eclipsed the value of a dollar, so to have the foreign airline programs
    bested US-based airline programs’ ‘currency’- the frequent flyer mile!!

    LOWEST REDEMPTION MILEAGE AWARDS TO ISRAEL mileage redemption required for
    US-Israel award ticket
    IF you fly SKYTEAM airlines Economy Business First
    (Continental, Delta, Northwest, Air France
    KLM, Korean, Alitalia, Aeroflot, Alitalia) Alitalia Millemiglia 50,000 80,000
    THEN, join and earn miles with: Air France/KLM Flying Blue 50,000 90,000 100,000
    US-Israel routing options: * Continental via Newark * Delta via Atlanta
    * Air France via Paris * KLM via Amsterdam
    * Alitalia via Milan/Rome * Czech via Prague
    IF you fly ONE WORLD airlines
    (American, British Air, Cathay Pacific, Lan Chile LANPass* 47,500 70,000 95,000
    Iberia, LAN Chile, FinnAir, MALEV) British Airways Executive Club 45,000
    THEN, join and earn miles with: plus $300
    Japan Air Lines Miles Club 50-60,000 80-90,000
    US-Israel routing options: * British Airways via London FROM Detroit,Toronto,
    Montreal, Boston, New York, Philly, Wash DC
    * Iberia via Madrid * Malev via Budapest
    * Royal Jordanian via Amman
    IF you fly STAR ALLIANCE airlines
    (United, US Air, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Austrian, British Midland (bmi) Diamond Club 40,000 60,000 80,000
    Swiss, LOT Plish, TAP Portugal, Scandinavian, bmi plus $540 plus $820 plus $1080
    South African, Thai, Singapore, Asiana, All Nippon) All Nippon Mileage Club 60,000 90,000
    THEN, join and earn miles with: US-Israel routing options: * United, Lufthansa, Air Canada via Frankfurt
    * Austrian via Vienna * LOT Polish via Warsaw
    * Air Canada via Toronto * * Swiss, Air Canada via Zurich

    DON’T USE US Airline Programs 75-80,000 100-135,000 160-175,000


    IF you earn your miles by credit card,
    THEN join and earn with: Starwood American Express “Starpoints” points required to convert
    to miles for US-Israel award
    Economy Business First
    THEN convert your ‘Starpoints’
    to miles in any of these programs; * Alitalia Millemiglia 40,000 65,000
    for each 20,000 ‘Starpoints converted * Air France/KLM Flying Blue 40,000 75,000 80,000
    to most airline programs, receive a * Lan Chile LANPass* 40,000 60,000 80,000
    5,000 mile bonus: * All Nippon Mileage Club 50,000 75,000

    Visa/MC points required to convert to
    miles for US-Israel award
    Economy Business First
    Airline Affinity Visa/Mastercard for: US Airlines 70-80,000 100,-120,000 135-160,000

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