Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Extra United Miles From Marriott

Sign up for Marriott's bonus miles promotion here: http://www.marriott.com/rewards/promotion.mi?promotion=MM15.  Your profile needs to be set to earning miles rather than points to participate.  This deal is good enough to merit a switch in earning preferences.
Easier Miles Than Flying A Turbo Prop

Friday, January 16, 2015

Simpler Hotel Program

The Omni Select Guest program is now Discovery.  Simpler name and a simpler program.  The Discovery program covers several high end hotel chains around the world and is shift their focus from rebates to value adds.  Traditional loyalty programs give rebates in the form of rewards.  Discounting is easy and easy to mimic, so it doesn’t foster the strongest loyalty with customers.  Higher end chains eschew discounting and prefer to focus on creating powerful and memorable experiences as a path to loyalty.  This strategy is difficult and does not scale well, but can create very strong relationships that are hard for competitors to challenge. 
Better Customization On Long Trips
Airlines, NetJets excluded, have too large a scale and too few chances for customization, so they rely heavily on discounting, like free upgrades, fee waivers, and the miles currency to buy discounted services.  Airline discounting is being reduced as award programs change and try to increase margin.  It’s refreshing to see some programs are adding value even with reduced rebates.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Checking a Firearm on Southwest Airlines

Southwest is a great airline to fly if you need to travel with firearms because every ticket comes with two free checked bags.  Since firearms need to be checked, this saves a noticeable amount of money.  Firearms need to be in a hard sided case and that case needs to be locked (full details).  The case can then go into your suitcase if it fits.  You need to be able to open the case at the airport if asked, so keep the key or combination handy. When checking your bag, tell the agent you are checking a firearm.  They'll give you a Southwest Airlines Firearm(s) Declaration card to fill out and inform you of next steps.  These vary by airport, but, in general, the TSA will examine the bag and you will need to be available to open it if requested.  Plan on the process taking an extra 30 minutes.

Southwest Airlines Firearm(s) Declaration

I understand that the carriage of a loaded weapon is a violation of federal regulations. I therefore declare the following regarding the firearm(s) contained in my luggage: 
1. The firearm(s) chambers are free of a munition in the magazine clip has been removed (when applicable). 
2. Loaded magazines or clips are package to prevent accidental activation of the primer.
3. The unloaded firearm(s) is inside a hard – cited locked container and I alone am in possession of the key or combination.
4. My total allowance of checked luggage contains no more than 11 pounds of ammunition and it is securely packaged in an appropriate container.

I also understand that state laws vary regarding registration, possession, and carriage of weapons. I acknowledge that I am responsible for knowing and following the firearms laws of the states to and through which I will be traveling.
Southwest 737's in Vegas

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Few Things Not To Expect In 2015

There are a few things that I grew accustomed to in previous years of flying that I won' see in 2015.  AirTran Airlines is one.  I'll miss seeing their planes hopping around the county; they looked good and helped bring fare competition to places I travel.  Southwest bought them to take out a competitor rather than expand their service.  There are plenty of cheap 717's and 737's in storage so, for a modest investment, someone can recreate AirTran's business model of small (cheap) planes to small and medium destinations.
AirTran 717 at Chicago Midway
I also don't expect frequent flyer programs to stand still.  There have been many large changes in the past few years and I suspect there will be more to come.  The next target will probably be earning elite status.  I suspect is will change to a pure spend calculation with four or five tiers.  Award miles will be given based on spending amounts, so why not simplify and give status on the same metric.  I don't expect it to be too simple, airlines like complexity and partner flights will need to generate credit in some way.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Earn Miles While You Can

My miles earning ability will be severely curtailed this year.  My first problem is I will be dropping in United status from Platinum to Gold on February 1.  Gold members used to earn a 100%, but since the Continental merger, it now earns a paltry 50%.  Then on March 1, United will award miles based on fare price, not distance.  This will take the fun and value out of mileage runs (flying just to collect miles).  It will also remove value from cheap flights over long distances.  Lastly my credit card portfolio is weighted to cash back rewards. This can change, but I enjoy 2% back or more on my spending.

I do have two mileage run trips booked this month with about 21,000 miles flown.   This will be a great last hurrah.  It will also get me a good start on 2015 status and closer to my million miller goal.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Destroying an Airliner

Here is a sad video of an airliner being dismantled in less than five minutes (the process takes slightly longer due to time lapse video tricks).  
The Crush from Sii on Vimeo.  Original video from Stewart Industries.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Best Starwood Preferred Guest – SPG – Awards in New York City

The most popular SPG point award in 2014 was the Sheraton NewYork Times Square Hotel and I’m disappointed to hear that.  I stayed there once and did not care for it.  The hotel is huge, but the rooms are tiny. They were so small; I had to use the bed to get from one side of the room to the other.  The dresser and bed left space too narrow to roll my bag through.  The club lounge was closed when I visited and lines were everywhere.  I felt cramped everywhere I went.  I hate to think this hotel is the aspirational award most redeemed in the SPG program.
Delta Departing LGA
The Sheraton Times Square is 12,000 points per night.  The new Element New York Times Square West and newer The Westin New York Grand Central are both 12,000 points and much nicer properties.  New York is spread out and easy to get around, so there’s no need to stay close to Times Square.  The Sheraton Tribeca New York Hotel is another great 12,000 point option in a relaxed area.
United Departing LGA
It is good value to spend points rather than money in New York because the hotel rates, plus 15%ish tax, are exorbitant.  2 to 3 cents cash value per point is available at almost every hotel.  I’m sure the travelers spending points are seeing a good return at whatever hotel they select; I just hope next year they try to find a better hotel.