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!!!
The best miles redemption I ever made was earlier in the year traveling from Hong Kong to Sydney via Bangkok in Thai First Class. I booked this last summer for just 40,000 United miles which was only part of the 70,000 I received for signing up to their credit card. While sitting in 1A and 1K in the nose of a jumbo jet was the absolute highlight. The for hour layover in Bangkok airport was almost as impressive.
There were just three First Class passengers on the first leg between Hong Kong and Bangkok. On arrival at BKK we were first the leave plane and were met by Thai staff. One passenger headed to his connection immediately while myself and another gentleman were whisked via cart to a private security zone. Within five minutes we were through and in the First Class Lounge.
On arrival in the lounge we were both given our own individual lounges with personalized waitress service. From there the champagne continued to flow, it must have been almost half an hour since the ten minute to land announcement onboard…. Each room was equipped with a TV, Apple Mac for working and a selection of seating. A waste really as I was on my own but compared to some of the “lounges” I’ve been in recently, what a luxury.
Thai First and Business are famed for the massage service they offer to passengers passing through BKK. On this occasion I did not take advantage choosing instead to relax and work my way through a bottle of 2006 Krug. It was my birthday after all.
First class is really about gluttony and realizing it was a few hours since I ate, I made my way to the separate dining room where local Thai dishes could be ordered via iPad. The beef while looking a little plain was outstanding.
After dinner it was back to my room for a little while before being collected and escorted down to the gate for part two in the air. The Thai staff all along were some of the most polite and courteous people you would ever meet.
The cash price of this ticket was about $3,000 and at 40,000 Points was one of the best redemptions you could ever make. United have since upped the price to 65,000 which is still a bargain in my mind.
If you fancy a extended stay in the lounge and a shorter flight you can always just do the BKK-HKG leg for around 30,000 United miles. Keep this in mind the next time you consider paying that to travel between New York and Boston last minute. Get the bus…. and save those points for something special.
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.
Great value in November with United Airlines between Shannon and Newark. Flights are starting at just €279 return. United operate 757s on this route which are full service with food, drinks and entertainment. They will also earn MileagePlus miles or can be credited to anyone in the Star Alliance. The flight times are also great for maximizing your time in New York.
It is very rare to see this route so cheap as it’s usually about €600 return. The impact of Norwegian is starting to show. These fares probably won’t last too long so get on them quick and visit NYC for some Christmas shopping. Booking is done via momondo.ie and eflights.
United Airlines have had a torrid time in the press of late. The over reaction of security in Chicago and a poor initial management response turned them into the airline that everyone loves to hate. Everyday it something new sadly a dog passing is the latest story this morning. However they still operate 4,500 flights a day and the vast majority of those customers are satisfied and most importantly safe.
The launch of Basic Economy has also been met with some angry social media attention , how dare they copy their competitors by offering a no frills ticket!!! Sure the pricing pretty much remained static and they increased the next level to try and squeeze some extra revenue but so did everybody else, it is a business after all. As was reported this week the vast majority of US customers look for price over everything else and are willing to sit in a middle seat to save a few dollars.
For me choosing basic or not depends on the route. I would pay the extra for anything over two hours as an international or transcon route would be miserable sandwiched between two strangers. However this week flying between Boston and Newark we snapped up the $65 fare and had no issue with 28B and 29B for the short hop. Having signed up for the United MileagePlus credit card previously meant we would still be in boarding group 2 so we could still use the overhead bins and the option of a free checked bag as part of the cards benefits.
Arriving at Logan to check in, the machines showed the flight as overbooked but work commitments meant getting to New York on time was a priority. However it can’t hurt to ask, so at the desk we checked what our options were. The two options were to leave 90 minutes later to EWR in a first class seat with a $500 voucher or surprisingly to leave 15 minutes later on American Airlines to LGA in economy also with a $500 voucher. Despite a little haggling there was no movement in the voucher value.
Needless to say we chose the latter, 28B/29B turned into 6D/6F and EWR turned into LGA. The commute to Manhattan was slightly quicker and we now have $500 each towards a trip in the future. That’s a big dent in a round trip to Asia. So all in all even though we didn’t actually end up flying United Basic Economy it was by far my best United experience yet.
Now this isn’t going to happen every time but the fare rules are clear, since Herb Kelleher launched Southwest airlines have been penny pinching and this is unlikely to ever change. Basic Economy fares are here to stay and it’s your choice weather or not you book it. If you do book it – don’t complain about it, who knows you might make some new friends in that middle seat.
More and more people are collecting airmiles than ever before, through a variety of means that mainly don’t even involve flying anymore. Airlines are making billions of dollars selling their miles to affiliate programs such as credit card companies, car rental agencies, hotel groups – you name it and there is probably a way to earn some miles there. This has led the airlines themselves to devalue their programs and make redeeming those miles more expensive. That’s nice of them eh.
The next to go is United who will change their awards system in October. No doubt some of the changes are already being applied reducing saver availability etc. What can be guaranteed is the amount of miles needed for what you want to do will no doubt be higher.
There is one great redemption that still remains out there and it’s one I have recently booked. By booking through United Mileage Plus you can fly from Asia to Australia/New Zealand for an extremely low 40,000 miles in Thai first class or 30,000 in business. To put that in perspective a first class seat for the hour hope between New York to Boston on a 737 can run you 50,000 miles on United.
I have always wanted to do a round the world trip on miles and deals and this was a redemption too good to turn down before the price almost doubles. So for 40,000 miles and $67 I will travel from Hong Kong via Bangkok to Sydney in January. Both legs will be in the nose of a 747-800 and there will be a layover of 3 hours to experience the first class lounge in Bangkok. The retail price is currently nudging $3,000 for the same flight.
This will no doubt be the highlight of the trip, airplane wise at least and the rest is still to be booked. But that’s half the fun, unfortunately I missed the crazy Qatar business fares earlier this week, but something will come up and you can read about it here when it does.
Online shopping portals are a great way of earning bonus airmiles on everyday purchases. All the major US airlines have a one and they link to hundreds of stores where you can buy pretty much anything you need. You simply click on the store from the portal and shop as you normally would.
Occasionally there are bonus offers such as earn 1000 miles if you spend $250 in June for example and the stores themselves also sometimes offer promotions where you get say 5 miles per dollar instead of the usual 1 miles.
Over Easter Apple offered 7 miles per dollar spent through the United portal. There was also an April bonus of 1000 for a minimum spend. That was enough for me to finally pick up an IPad which had been on my shopping list for a long time. The $400 I spent got me 2800 miles plus the bonus. So a total of 3800 miles for a purchase I was making anyway.
For the old fashioned amongst us myself included who like to buy things in actual shops, United also offer the MileagePlusX app. This is pretty similar to the online portal by the way of earnings as you can see above.
It works by allowing you to purchase gift cards in stores. So you can go to somewhere like GAP, shop as you normally would then essentially pay on the App and hand over the gift card to the cashier on the phone. So in this case spending $50 in GAP would net you 250 miles. The also offer a 25% bonus if you pay with your United Explorer credit card.
It takes a while to get used to shopping this way. But the awards can really add up, if you are planning on buying a pair of jeans or a 64 inch plasma TV have a look at the app or the sites and collect those miles.