Mileage Sweet Spots 3 – London to Madrid Club Europe 777 with Avios

Week three and another bargain Avios fare.

Each lunchtime British Airways operate a 777 between London and Madrid with its long haul business class seats available for purchase. I was quite excited to try these last year as I’d never flown backwards before. The flight leaves LHR around 1.20pm and arrives in Madrid with plenty of time to get into the city, checked in and out for dinner.

The full Avios fare is 12,750 and $40. As always and a great part of the program is you can pay more cash and less miles as you can see below. The cash price for this flight next month is £530 on the days I checked so this represents great value using your Avios.

The service onboard is really good and the T5 lounge in Heathrow, while big and busy does do a good choice of food and drinks and has some great runway views.

LHR is one of the best airports in the world for plane spotting. One downside was the plane was at a remote stand the week I took it but sometimes that’s kinda fun too as you get out on the tarmac.

This is a great way to travel between London and Madrid in a bed with lashings of wine for a very small price.

Mileage Program Sweet Spots 2 – Qantas A330 Business Class with Avios

Another great option this time using Avios is within Australia. Qantas fly their A330s on a daily basis between Sydney and Melbourne. It’s important to check you’re on the correct plane as this route is usually operated by a 737 which is pretty standard. This can be booked using as few as 5,000 BA Avios and fees.

While it’s not long in the sky it’s a great way to travel between these two must visit cities. The lounge in Sydney is also great as it has a great selection of wines along with a toasted sandwich maker which was a great novelty. So arrive early, the evening I flew this route the food ran out onboard so maybe sit towards the front if you want the full experience.

Mileage Program Sweet Spots 1 – JAL Business Class

It’s easy to read the hundreds of articles out there where the authors are reviewing the First and Business Class cabins they have booked on miles from their credit cards. This is all well and good but most people don’t like having multiple credit cards and the $5,000 minimum spend to unlock the bonuses is a lot of money. What isn’t in these people’s interest is to advertise the fact there are lots of great experiences out there in the pointy end of the plane that don’t cost 80,000 miles which you can unlock thanks to the link below.

There are sweet spots across the various programs that can be picked up for relatively low amounts of miles and I personally love trying them if I find myself in a position to. All the shopping, dining and hotel bonuses add up. You name it and you can probably earn a few extra miles on it, if you know how and are bothered to click a few extra buttons while making a purchase.

A super redemption out there is flights in Asia with JAL. They have a fleet of modern Dreamliners with a new business class and great service. If you have 25K Alaska miles this is a great way to spend them. You can start in South East Asia connect in Tokyo (where you can spend some time if you like) before heading to India all in a bed on a brand new plane.

Lots of people still have the 10k they received from the merger last year sitting there doing nothing. If you do maybe start collecting some points through the shopping portal before you know it you could be close to a very nice experience without signing up to a credit card you don’t want or need.

A New Year – what’s in store?

2018 has been and gone and was for me the busiest year I’ve had from a travel perspective. Between business and personal travel I ended up taking 61 flights on 17 airlines, traveling 96,000 miles through 33 different airports. I ended up the year with Delta Gold status and IHG Spire from flights and hotels which I’m looking forward to taking advantage of this year.

Most of the flights were in economy but I strategically used miles to travel in Thai First, Virgin Upper, Qantas and Cathay Business and thanks to Iberia’s promotion travelled up the front with them and BA. It was also interesting to try out Virgin’s and BA’s premium economy offerings across the Atlantic. As soon that will be the new business and business the new first for many business travelers.

While my intention was to travel less in 2019 the next six weeks show no sign of slowing down. A business trip to Tennessee will be followed by a long weekend in Europe spending a night Berlin and a couple in Dublin. I’ve been dying to fly on the Singapore A380 so used 30k United miles for JFK-FRA-TXL with the connection on Lufthansa and 13k Avios back from DUB – JFK with minimal charges.

Then February brings the years first “big trip” finally using the Hong Kong Airlines Error fare between LAX and PVG. I’ll be heading out to LA on the new United Dreamliner in Polaris on the way out and their new premium economy on the way back. The HKA legs will hopefully be on their newest A350s and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to sit in the queens nose once again, if only for an hour between BKK and HKT. The other flights will mainly be on 330s, which are still a nice change from the majority of my 2018 aircraft.

So by the end of February 35k miles and 17 flights will be flown. Further out, a weekend to visit to Boneyard in Tucson is planned and a week in Portugal booked for a very nice 44k SkyMiles in the height of summer.

I always find it nice to have a couple of trips booked in Jan/Feb to start the year off right and have something to look forward to in the New Year. That along with the fact that fares are cheaper and destinations less crowded make it the perfect time to travel. Wherever 2019 takes you enjoy it!!!

A slightly crazy idea of how to get back from Vietnam after your Cathay Error Fare jackpot win.

So it happened – the deal of a lifetime became a reality. I expect many people booked as quickly as possible without a whole lot of research into how the are going to get to Vietnam for the outward leg and home from Vietnam on the return. As I mentioned I didn’t participate in this one but it could have played nicely into one of my goals for this year which is the take the Singapore Airlines longest flight for no other reason than I’m an avgeek.

Here’s an idea for you which may just work if you’re US based and mad enough and want to spend a few days jetting around the world eating and drinking in first and business class cabins and great lounges.

This idea works on the second leg. So make sure to credit the miles to Alaska if you are in first class on the outbound, you will receive enough miles for a JAL award later in the year as you can see in the chart above.

One of the great Alaska redemptions is the ability to travel from South East Asia to India via Tokyo in JAL Dreamliner business class for just 25k, an absolute steal. In this scenario we want to get to India to pick up a great Singapore Airlines fare back to New York.

Randomly enough Singapore offers great cash fares from Ahmedabad in India via Singapore to Newark on the highly publicized worlds longest flight. Fares between Delhi and Ahmedabad are very cheap and will position you to start the trip back to NYC.

Singapore Airlines have various dates available throughout the schedule currently from $1499, these have dropped as low $1200 and tend to fluctuate a bit. For the length of the flight it’s good value in business class and allows you travel on the worlds longest flight. It involves an A330 to Singapore and a pretty long layover, but so be it, it’s all part of the mission.

Before you know it you’re back in Newark after some serious hours in the air but why not consider it?? Three days ago you could only dream about traveling Cathay First why not tie in the worlds longest flight.

Amusingly you can credit Singapore to Alaska too. So between your Cathay accrual back to Vietnam and the Singapore accrual to New York, you’ll have enough Alaska miles for a rewards ticket back to Vietnam on Cathay Pacific……

Cathay Pacific take it on the chin.

As was widely reported on NYE Cathay Pacific released thousands of Business and First Class seats from Vietnam to the US round trip for prices between $650 and $1,000. As soon as the fares went dead speculation started around whether the fares would be honored or not by the airline. There was radio silence throughout New Year’s Day from the airline as presumably they were figuring out how many tickets were sold and what the damage was. The story was picked up by the local Hong Kong press which added extra pressure their decision.

Then it arrived the airline tweeted their intention to honor the fares and welcome the people who bought them onboard. This is a great New Years gift for those who purchased the fares. I had a great flight in Business between Vancouver and New York last summer but decided not to jump in this time, which I now regret quite a bit. If you booked have a great time and make sure to credit the fares to Alaska as they have great bonuses for higher class travel. Enjoy.

One Last Deal of 2018 – Cathay Pacific Business and First Class for under $1,000 roundtrip from Asia to the USA

New Years Eve 2018 and around 5pm EST Twitter bursts into life with another mistake fare, this time it was Cathay Pacific and they were offering both first and business class fares from Vietnam to the US starting at around $650. It doesn’t come much better than that as First Class round trip fares can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

What was even more interesting this time was the fares stayed live for hours and almost every day of the schedule was available, allowing people the opportunity to actually plan and make dates work rather than jumping in and planning later. Eventually about midnight Cathay pulled all first and business inventory to solve the problem and prices later returned to normal.

For once I didn’t get on this one although it took a lot of self control to stay on the sidelines. In a few weeks I will be setting off to Asia thanks to the Hong Kong Airlines error fare. It almost made sense to only use the outbound and return with Cathay based on the price of a positioning flight I need to book to get back to Shanghai. However potential no show fees put me off that idea seeing as HKA have not budged an inch on any of my requests to amend the itinerary. Ultimately making three trips to Asia next year just for the sake of if, I decided against and $900 is still a fair chuck of change at the end of the holidays.

What happens next will as always be interesting. The airline can cancel all their fares and put it down as a mistake and I think they likely will. Cathay Pacific is the business carrier of choice to Hong Kong from the US and bad press from a lot of travel bloggers and deal hunters will probably be a better option than telling their frequent flyers there are only economy seats left because someone made a mistake last New Years and they have no seats left up the front. That could lead to them losing customers to competitors which in this day and age nobody wants.

But hopefully they will honor as their counterparts did. Should they decide to do so not only will those who book have a great experience in the sky and on the ground with the famous product but by crediting the miles earned to American or even better Alaska they will be able to enjoy a lot of redeemable miles to spend on future trips.

2018 gave us three big deals in my opinion. The Iberia 90K Avios came good. Lots of people have already enjoyed the Hong Kong Airlines error and I can’t wait to do so myself in a few weeks. But if honored this Cathay mistake will be the pick of the bunch. Good luck to those who booked I look forward to the first set of photos although maybe not 27 sets.

Here’s to some great deal hunting in 2019!!!!!

Free Spire Status Trial from IHG – What do you actually get?

IHG are running a pretty cool promotion this week which is gifting 90 days of Spire Status for free to members and non-members alike. This is particularly generous as there are three levels below which offer varying perks. But what does it actually mean in the real world?

After a busy year of business travel last night was my 31st in an IHG property. That was an experience in itself. The great, the good, the bad and the very ugly were stayed in around the world. The long and short of that meant I earned Spire Status the hard way and had a nice chunk of points to go with it.

So what do you get? We have spent the last four nights at the Holiday Inn resort in Aruba and I was excited to see what my new status would bring, after getting exactly nothing other than a glass of house wine at the Intercontinental Madrid last month. It turned out to be well worth it in Aruba.

After a nice welcome we were upgraded to a “partial sea view” room. Points redemptions get you a car park eh I mean city view so that was a nice perk. The room was ready and waiting for us at 1pm and a late check out was offered. A welcome drink and points. There was a discount of 15% in all their bars and restaurants and your own Palapa on the beach for you whole stay. (Non-Spires are made line up each day to reserve the following day) so to have your own spot each day is great and you get new neighbors every day!!!

I think that is a particularly good haul of benefits and the hotel is actually very nice, the others on the strip seem much larger in comparison as in turn much busier.

So if I were you I’d sign up for this promotion, throw any remaining travel this year IHGs way and see what you get. For every dodgy Holiday Inn Express on the side of a motorway there is a nice Intercontinental or Kimpton in a major city just waiting to welcome you for being a loyal Spire member, even if you just signed up…. Enjoy.

Get ready to book!!! The Holiday Sales start now.

Travel planning is different for everybody some plan months if not years ahead, others are notorious for booking last minute often at higher prices and then you have the impulse buyers who can’t ignore a good fare and like a bit of adventure. Regardless of where you fall in those wildly different categorizations you need to pay attention to airfares over the next couple of months.

As the two main holidays of the year approach people tend to concentrate on both of them and allocate their travel funds accordingly. This is exactly why the airlines offer their best fares at the same time. Outside of Thanksgiving and Christmas/New year the lowest fares of the year are available all the way to May and even into the summer of 2019.

So if you are planning a trip to Europe or Asia next year now is the time to both look and book. If you follow sites such as Secret Flying you will see their findings coming in all day every day. If you have a destination in mind use Google Flights searches and see what days are cheap, you will be surprised. Another useful tool is the price tracker on Google Flights, this will give you email alerts when prices change on routes you like regardless of airline.

In the last week Frontier, Southwest and Alaska have been aggressively dropping fares in the US, while Virgin Atlantic and TAP are starting the show in Europe. We’ll likely see some sort of promotion from everybody in the run up to Christmas.

The morale of the story is whether you like booking way out or up close set your bucket list now and give the gift of travel this holiday season.

The Growth of Airbnb – Don’t forget the miles!!!

Over the past few years Airbnb has grown from strength to strength, never far from the news the company is now a legitimate competitor to both independent hotels and chains. They have changed the market so much that they are now the first thing people think of when they need a place to stay not an after thought.

As the site has grown two things have happened. 1.) it has gradually got more expensive and 2.) Hotels have become cheaper. Meaning nowadays the prices in major cities are pretty closely aligned. So what do you do?

I personally prefer hotels, I collect the points and enjoy the perks that come with them. Airbnb hosts on the other hand seems to have applied the Ryanair model of upselling and anytime I look, the add on charges after the advertised rates seem to be getting higher and higher. I don’t believe $150 cleaning charges for a two night stay in a studio and you shouldn’t either.

Meanwhile the website itself is becoming more and more crammed with “experiences” and is often hard to load and actually find a place to stay. On the flip side if you are travelling in a group it gives you options hotels simply can’t provide which can lead to a much better travel experience. The split payment option is also pretty cool.

Whatever your thoughts are, if you end up booking an Airbnb you should be collecting airmiles for doing so and many people don’t. As with the hotels you can now collect miles with some of the major Airlines for each dollar you spend with Airbnb.

Right now Delta are offering 50% extra miles bonus with all their partners so it’s well worth linking your accounts and taking advantage. Book through deltaairbnb.com. Just please don’t rent the tent in someone’s back garden in Seattle for $150 a night…. even if the cleaning fee is only $50 a stay.