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.

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……

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.

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!!!!

My 5 best deals of 2017 and not a single error fare.

2017 was a good year for me on the travel front racking up around 45,000 miles in the air. Nearly all of it paying cash and involving lots of deal hunting. I really enjoy researching fares and coming up with random routes to get the best value for money. I had quite a bit of success last year and wanted to share my top 5 deals of the year.

1.) SWF-EDI-FAO-LTN-DUB-SWF in July.

Every year I am lucky enough to go on a family holiday to the Algarve in Portugal, but since moving to the US the cost of flights has increased substantially. For the week in July I needed TAP via Lisbon was pricing at about $1,300 Return in economy. Other options included Aerlingus via Dublin but even it was coming in around $1,000.

Then along came Norwegian and their 737 MAX flights from Stewart Airport. I picked up SWF – EDI and DUB – SWF for $99 dollars each the day then went on sale and then used Ryanair flights for the flights in Europe which totaled about $150. All in all the flights came in at under $350 which for July was pretty awesome.

2.) BOS – EWR (LGA) in August

I guess this is more of a stroke of luck but I was booked on a 6am Monday morning United flight from Boston to Newark. This was a basic economy fare that cost just $59. I needed to get to work but when they ask for volunteers to change flights, you have to ask what’s on offer. In this case it was a $500 voucher and a seat with American twenty minutes later. I actually got to work earlier than I would have with United.

3.) EWR-SDQ-EWR-SFO in April

I needed to get to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic for a wedding. Prices were steep at about $600 round trip which I felt was far too high. Playing around on the United website I discovered that by adding an extra leg to the reservation to price would come down.

Being close to Easter we decided to add a leg to San Francisco which in its own right was very high due to the holiday. When all was said and done the fare came to $480. In theory we could have not taken the SFO flight and still saved cash but went ahead and booked the return with American for 12.5K miles as $5.60. Job done.

4.) JFK-LAS-SFO-LAS-JFK in December

Christmas is far and away the most expensive time of the year to travel but this year wanted to be in San Francisco. I booked the return flight on Virgin America via Las Vegas for 12.5K Alaska and $5.60 on the 26th of December. I felt this was a great redemption, but still needed to get there.

Static-Horizontal

Direct flights a few days before Christmas we’re pricing at between $450 and $500 again expensive for a route that is usually half that.

Meanwhile very few people go to Vegas the week before Christmas preferring the week after. Delta had a flight leaving at 8pm on Wednesday to LAS for $200 and a connection to SFO the following lunchtime was $59 with United. Hotels were empty so a king room at the Mandalay Bay was $90. Between the two of us it was a nice saving and a fun one. Who doesn’t enjoy the occasional night in Vegas.

5.) LGA -YUL June

A bachelor party bought me to Montreal in June. I decided to travel first thing on Saturday morning with Air Canada from LGA for $66. As per usual Sunday flights were steep so I started getting creative and decided on the train. A one way ticket on Sunday morning was $70 and it is a beautiful journey, sure it took a day, but the days after bachelor parties don’t tend to be too productive anyway, so why not stare out the window at things like Lake Champlain.

We’re now a week into 2018 and it’s almost time to get going again. My first trip will take me the whole way around the world in about 12 days. That kicks off next week and I am starting to get very excited.

Fly the new American Dreamliner between ORD and DFW

As airlines take delivery of their new long haul aircraft they often put them into service on domestic routes on train pilots and crew. Americans fleet of 787-800s is slowly growing and in the new year you will have the opportunity to try one of them out between Dallas and Chicago before it goes into international service.

Flight times vary between January and March but it seems to be flying almost every day. If you happen to be traveling between the cities this is definitely the way to do it as the planes will be brand new and much more enjoyable than a 737.

These flights will have the international seat configurations so paying the extra for first/premium economy or using miles is definitely recommended.

The route is currently available for 15,000 Avios or 25,000 AA saver points if you want to use miles and travel up the front.

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. 

Static-Box

Earn Avios with Booking.com and Hotels.com

I have previously written about websites such as Kaligo, Pointshound and Rocketmiles which offer sometimes very generous miles bonuses on top of hotel stays. These websites allow you to credit to a wide range of airline partners and a single stay at a higher range hotel can even end up earning enough miles for a free flight across the Atlantic. Rocketmiles 


However these bonuses usually come with some opportunity cost as the rooms themselves usually (but not always) come in at a higher price than the more established websites such as hotels.com and booking.com. This means it is important to place a value on the miles and is these sites are not always the best value. 



However if you are an Avios collector (which you should be) there is a way around this as both hotels.com and booking.com have partnered with the Avios program and allow you earn 4 Avios per pound spend once you link through the Avios site. 

While the bonuses won’t be as valuable the hotel prices will be lower and you can still earn miles. Just a couple of thousand Avios can get you serious discounts in some Business Class cabins around the world. Best uses of Avios

As you can see above you need to click through the Avios website to receive the bonus miles. The top shot is off the normal website and the one below via the Avios site. The best bit is the price is exactly the same so you aren’t paying over the odds for the Avios. 

Hotels have become a better way of collecting miles than actually flying. It is always worth putting in a little extra research and comparing the prices. Sometimes the new sites will be worth while but with this trick you can earn miles on every booking.

International Business Class between London and Madrid using just 6,400 Avios. 


One of the better value Avios redemptions in Europe is between London Heathrow and Madrid in the Iberia A340 business class. Every day the wide body does one round trip between the two cities departing Madrid and 15.45 and returning from Heathow at 18.30. As it part of the international fleet it has lie flat beds and better entertainment options than the smaller aircraft used on this route. 

This is a great Avios redemption available at 12,750 Avios plus just $23. You can also spend less Avios and more money depending on your preference. The best availability for this route is via the Iberia website. 


While most people are more like to hold their Avios with BA it is very simple to make an instant transfer to your Iberia account via BA.com. The only thing is you need an Iberia account open with a points balance however small in it. This can be done via a small shopping purchase or crediting a short One World flight to it. 


Once both accounts are ready you log into BA and go to the executive club you will see an option to combine Avios on the left. From there you choose your Iberia Plus account and complete the transfer. Once done you receive a confirmation email from both airlines and the points will be available to use.



From there just find availability on the day you need. Make the booking and enjoy the trip. I opted to use 6,400 Avios and £73 as my balance was running low. The cost price of the flight on the day I will travel is currently €683 in business and €276 in economy. Making this a very good redemption whatever way you look at it. 

Don’t leave miles behind – Earn with Amazon, Groupon and Airbnb


Nowadays you can earn airmiles on pretty much everything you buy. All the major airlines have shopping portals, dining programs etc. along with the traditional affiliated hotel and car rentals programs which have been around for years. 


However consumer habits are changing as more and more shopping moves online and certain companies have not needed to advertise themselves up until recently by offering bonus airmiles. The companies I have listed below are ones you have probably used at some point or potentially on a regular basis and you may not know that you could be earning valuable miles with each purpose. 

JetBlue – Amazon 


By making your Amazon purchases through JetBlue you can earn 3 miles a dollar. Amazon is the go to place nowadays for many people to buy pretty much anything and the vast majority are not boosting their JetBlue balance with every dollar spent. 

Delta – Airbnb

Portugal Packages


When a trip is booked the first stop for many people is Airbnb to look for accommodation. Personally I believe the gap is closing between hotel prices and Airbnb but finally the ability to earn airmiles thanks to Delta (who look to have taken over Virgins partnership) may make it worthwhile to book with them.

Alaska – Groupon


Groupon is another hugely popular program which offers discounts on all sorts of things. This is a pretty sweet deal from Alaska offering a 1,000 mile bonus and 4 miles a dollar on spend. 


These are just three hugely popular websites where you can earn some extra miles. If you are planning a purchase don’t leave the miles on the table. 

Static-Box