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 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 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.

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

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.

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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.