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.

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.

A Holiday Weekend with Southwest Airlines

I have always been interested in Southwest Airlines and how their vision created the low cost travel industry we are so used to today. But I have not travelled with them more than a couple of times up until this past Memorial Day.

Last year I signed up for the Chase Southwest Credit Card when it briefly offered 60,000 Miles for doing so. It was a good stash to have for a rainy day which inevitably come when you travel on a regular basis.

Currently based in Texas with work, I needed to travel to San Francisco for Memorial weekend and as with every Holiday in the US cash fares were very high if you wanted to maximize the weekend. It was time to dip into the stash and try out Southwest Airlines properly. My route was a little awkward but got me there Thursday night and back Monday night for for 23,000 Points. Not cheap but when cash fares were in the $800 range I felt it was a solid redemption. My route would take me from San Antonio – Dallas, Dallas – San Francisco and then San Jose – Denver, Denver – San Antonio.

Lesson One: San Antonio – Dallas

On arrival at the airport I already knew my second flight would be delayed getting me into SFO at 2am. Far from ideal. I went to the desk to see what they could do, as I could have routed via LAS and arrived much earlier. Unfortunately as my initial flight was on time there was nothing they could do other than charge a small fortune to re-route. Good to know.

I decided to get the early bird check in they offer for $15 and get into group A. Years spent travelling Europe on Ryanair justified that expense. Southwest open check-in 24 hours before your flight and it first come first served from that point. Group A will guarantee you either a window or aisle, what else do you want.

Boarding with Southwest is really slick as far as I’m concerned, they have trained their customers well… each group slid into their allocated numbers with minimum fuss. Very different to the mayhem that ensues in Europe and with the multiple boarding groups the legacy carriers have.

Once onboard what can I say? A 737 is a 737, the upper deck was not open that day. But the crew were particular jovial and light hearted which made a lovely change from most of the crews I’ve encountered this year. 45 minutes later touch down in Dallas Love Field. Herb Kellehers base!!!

Lesson Two: Dallas to San Francisco

Not really a lesson here, when your flight is delayed have patience. It happens! Enjoy a nice relaxing beverage and have a bite to eat. Dallas was a nice terminal to do this in too, it was nice and spacious and far from busy, but I guess it was around 9pm at this point.

We were delayed due to a crew issue so it was hard for the gate agents to put a time on it. We ended up departing about an hour behind schedule. Once again the crew onboard were particularly nice even after having their nights off cancelled and the flight was quiet, so after a couple of G+Ts i settled into my lie flat bed row 26 ABC.

Lesson Three: San Jose – Denver/Phoenix

The way home also had a bit of drama, I guess luckily this time my initial flight was delayed. Weather in Denver was causing issues and the next update would be in half an hour. My 45 minute connection didn’t sound too promising.

Back to the desk, where sadly I met my first unfriendly member of the Southwest staff. Either way she re-routed me via Phoenix instead of Denver. This cancelled my early bird check-in and left me in a not so nice boarding position of C59 aka the middle. She did try and sell me a position in A1-15 for $30 a leg which I declined. Which was a good move as group B was boarding when I got there. So my fate was 6E – beside a girl who had no interest in looking out the window and left the blind down until I asked to open for the approach into PHX.

Lesson Four: Phoenix to San Antonio

It was a quick connection in Phoenix, which is a surprisingly large airport. The lesson here is always double check the screens. I got into the wrong line and tried to head to Omaha only discovering the gate change at the last minute. Luckily the SAT gate was nearby so I wouldn’t miss the flight. The gate area was empty so I hoped the flight would be. No such luck, it was packed and the people in C and D seats were making themselves look as big and angry as possible…. deep breath 22E is home for the next two hours…… but I’m home earlier than planned. Well until my Lyft driver got lost but that’s another story.

There was a bit of drama along the way for sure but all in all there is a nice vibe on Southwest, it’s laid back and fun. People chat and that’s kind of what travelling is all about or was all about at least. Let’s see if there’s any drama next month when I head back to San Francisco via Phoenix maybe I’ll see Denver this time!!!!

NYC – OAK from $69 in September and October with Alaska Airlines.

Great fares today between NYC and Oakland and vice versa with Alaska Airlines. Starting at $69 each way for many dates in September and October these are tough beat.

The flights do route via Seattle which isn’t ideal, but remember Alaska still credits airmiles based on distance flown rather than amount spent so you would accrue approx 3,000 miles each direction.

Of course if you only want to travel as far as Seattle you could always not take the connecting flight to Oakland and get a nice discount on that route too.

As you can see below the 4.15pm EWR-SEA is $198, but if you book the connection to OAK the price drops to $79. However you may forfeit your miles earnings doing that as the airlines frown upon that kind of thing.

These are super fares and you can still pick your seat and earn airmiles per mile flown. Compare that to the other airlines basic economy offerings and i would say it’s well worth a short or long stop in Seattle.

Who doesn’t like the Bay Area or NYC in September? Get involved!!!q

Airbnb now allows you split payments among friends

Airbnb has for the last few years been to place where groups of friends go to book accommodation. Bigger properties allow groups stay together and often pay significantly less than booking a series of hotel rooms when traveling.

As of today they have added a feature which will make this whole process much easier as you can now split the cost between up to 16 different people. This is great as previously one person would need to cover the whole charge and then get it back from each member of the group.

One thing also worth remembering with Airbnb is that you can collect Delta miles for every dollar spent. It’s easy to link your SkyMiles number to you account and go from there. Of course this may mean you want to pay the whole lot and get the miles however at least now you have a choice.


Get prepared for the Airline Holiday Sales

Airline fares are an interesting beast, as we enter one the most expensive weeks of the year to travel we should also expect to see some of the cheapest fares being released for the first few months of 2018.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are notoriously expensive times to travel as people are willing to pay whatever it costs to spend time with family wherever they are based. My own plans this year for Christmas involve spending a night in Las Vegas and connecting from there to San Francisco, saving a significant amount of cash in doing so rather than flying direct from NYC.

However from the airlines point of view the busiest and most profitable time of the year is quickly followed by the quietest in January and beyond, they always reduce fares to help fill seats. Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

So far only WOW have announced a Black Friday sale with 1500 $99 fares to Europe being released. But we can expect many of the others to do the same in the coming days and weeks. Last year Jetblue had their 12 days of Christmas sale which was a particularly good one offering transcontinental flights for under $200.

It’s well worth getting prepared and thinking about where you might like to go to escape those January blues. The best fares never last long so be prepared and have the conversations in advance this time so you don’t miss out and regret it.

Lufthansa launch scheduled 747-400 services between Frankfurt and Berlin. 

Lots has been made in the last few weeks of the end of the 747 in the US with Delta and United retiring their fleets. It’s sad to see the end of the Queen of the Skies and just last night I posted a picture of two lining up for take off at Heathrow, a beautiful sight.

While the US carriers are cutting 747s several International airlines are still flying them, Lufthansa being one. In the wake of the Air Berlin fall out they have opted to run the queen on a domestic route between Frankfurt and Berlin Tegel based on increased demand.

The flights will start on November 1st and there are more than 60 available to book between the cities operated by a 747-400 with 67 Business Class and 304 premium and economy seats. Flight times seem to vary day to day with economy fares pretty low and business flex fares expectedly pretty high for a flight that’s takes a little under an hour.

But being able to choose these seats on a trip you might normally do by train is pretty exciting. I am no longer member of miles and more where there is likely much better awards value but I can confirm there is availability and United will charge 25,000 miles and $61 for the trip in business and 15k and $61 in economy.

It’s hard to know when your real last chance will be to fly on a 747 but the chances is are the 400s will begin to be phased out around the world sooner rather than later. If you are an avgeek at heart and want to sit upstairs once again this could be a great chance to do it at an affordable price. Hopefully it proves successful and they keep it running for the long term.

Emirates – NYC to Athens $353 Round Trip

Emirates are back with a great deal between New York and Europe for 2 people.  They are currently offering return fares from Newark to Athens for $353 each round trip. Dates are available into the new year. This is a great way to get to Europe as they offer excellent service in Economy aboard their 777. 

Athens is a wonderful town to explore and of course there are numerous islands to visit in Greece. Fares are always much higher so if you have some annual leave to use before the end of the year, this could be the perfect deal to use them on. 


Amazing Business Class Fares between Australia and the US for under $1,000

Great fares in Air New Zealand business class between Australia and Los Angeles for $970 round trip. Looks like you can route from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and travel via Auckland.

Dates are wide open from January all the way to August. Considering Economy fares between Australia and the US are usually in excess of $1,000 this is a super deal if you are based in Australia and want to visit the US. These are unlikely to last long and available on skyscanner.