Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - Year in Review

I flew 40% fewer miles in 2013 than 2012, a meager 84,686 miles in 76 segments, and will only be Platinum status next year.  I will miss 1K when it expires Jan 31 and will be sitting in coach much more frequently.  With award chart inflation and new rules for status in 2014, this might be the last year I play the miles game.  Luckily I have a new job with a large business travel component.
2013 flights - www.gcmap.com
Some highlights from 2013's adventures:
  • Nevada Nuclear Test Site Tour - An amazing tour and fascinating experience I will be talking about for years. 
  • EBACE Conference - I had a blast experiencing the private aviation trade show in Geneva.
  • Long Beach Airport - Cute little airport where US Airways will check bags 30 minutes before your flight.
  • 5 Mile Odometer - New low score in the rental car odometer game.
  • New Airports - Long Beach (LGB), Spokane (GEG), Raleigh (RDU), Geneva (GVA), Stockholm (ARN), Oslo (OSL), Harrisburg (MDT), and Akron (CAK).
  • New Aircraft - None flown, but I sat in a few new business jets.
Favorite Pictures of 2013
Landing at SAN
Delta Jets at LAS
Water Taxi in Geneva
United 737's at EWR
Cool Take Off Picture at LAS

Monday, December 30, 2013

Frontier Airlines 2014 Discount Code

Frontier Airlines will offer a 14% discount on domestic fares from Monday, December 30, 2013, through 11:59 p.m. Eastern time, Sunday, January 5, 2014. The discount will apply to regular and sale fares for domestic travel from January 6, 2014, through March 12, 2014. Blackout dates of January 31 to February 1, 2014; February 3, 2014; and February 13-17, 2014, apply.
Frontier Airbus Collection in Denver

Sunday, December 29, 2013

I Flew to Oslo For An Hour Yesterday

DEN-EWR-OSL-EWR-DEN in about 32 hours. This will most likely be my last mileage run because United is including a minimum spend requirement ($10,000 & 100,000 miles for 1K) in 2014.  Status will only come from work travel now.  Eventually I will make 1,000,000 miles on United and be lifetime Gold, but until then it will be rough going.   My quick trip to Oslo will pay dividends next year because I will be Platinum and have a small chance for upgrades and enjoy some fee waivers.  I'll share more details on the trip soon.
Departing EWR on UA38 to OSL

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and a happy holidays from Alaska Airlines too.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

5 Miles On The Rental Car

My Hertz rental car only had 5 miles on the odometer.  It's a new low score, previous best of 32, and one that will be almost impossible to best.
New Low Score - 5 Miles

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mileage Run Cancellation

I should be over Greenland right now returning from a 90 minute stop in Europe (I need the miles for status), however the snow storms in EWR yesterday cancelled my plans.  I wasn't able to rebook a flight this weekend due to the short notice, lack of seats, and United didn't think I could make a 1 hour connection in CPH from IAD (I was certain I could). United will not give me the miles and call it quits either; I need to fly to my destination in 2013 and they will give me my original routing credit. I was able to rebook in 2013, but if that flight is cancelled, I'm stuck at a lower status in 2014.  
Should Be My View Right Now

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

US Airways Leaves Star Alliance March 31

US Airways is leaving the Star Alliance to join oneworld March 31, 2014.  This all is happening very quickly.  Star Alliance miles can be used for flights after March 31 if the flights are booked before March 31; everything else goes away.  No lounge access, no earning miles, no free checked bags, no early boarding, no nothing after March 30 for Star Alliance members.  Also US Airways miles won’t work for Star Alliance flights booked after March 30
New Paint Coming Soon
I liked having US Airways around to inexpensively acquire United elite miles.  It was also nice to have because they served Long Beach, have a red eye Denver to Charlotte, and better served Savannah. US Airways used to be a miserable experience 8 years ago when they were racing to the bottom and charged even for water.  That strategy didn’t work and the airline improved their onboard experience to be comparable or slightly better to other major US carriers.  They also purchased dozens of new Airbus jets, further improving their product.  I’ll miss flying them.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A New Logo Fixes Everything

I was on the oneworld website today (they won a few more 'best alliance' awards) and spotted a tail icon I did not recognize.  
Finnair, ???, JAL, LAN
Unknown to me, Iberia rebranded.  I liked their old logo, so this is unwelcome news.  The airline won't work any different, but a new logo fixes all the structural problems facing legacy flag carriers. I included a video about the new logo if you are really interested.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

United Selling Elite Miles at Check In

Need some extra United elite miles, but don't want to spend a day or two flying around?  Well United is happy to sell you elite miles, five for a dollar.  Yes, 20 cents a mile.  That's a miserable rate.  I booked a mileage run for December at only 5 cents an elite mile, but that earns redeemable miles too.  The amounts they offered to sell me also don't get me across any particular mileage threshold either.  You also have to buy the same number of redeemable miles in the same transaction, further increasing the cost.  Sounds like a great idea ruined by a bad pricing model.
Miserable Value - United Trying to Sell Elite Miles

Monday, December 2, 2013

Frontier Airlines Discount Code December 2

Save 15% on your next Frontier Airlines flight with the coupon code CYBER15.
Frontier A319 at Denver
Frontier Airlines will offer a 15% discount on domestic fares on Monday, December 2, 2013. Tickets must be purchased by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on December 2, 2013. The discount will apply to regular and sale fares for domestic travel from January 6, 2014, through March 5, 2014, for flights operating Monday through Saturday. Blackout dates of February 13-17, 2014, as well as all fare rules will apply.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Long Way To Go In 2013

I need to fly 16,200 miles to reach my status goal before the end of the year.  Put another way, that's a round trip from EWR to HKG (a flight United has, but I have not booked).  To make this math worse, I am not flying this week.  I can make it though and have 90% of those miles booked.  I just need a work trip or some very good luck finding out of the way standby options. I'm not too worried, it is only a game after all.
A few trips on a 767 will help

Friday, November 29, 2013

US Airways Company Store Sale

US Airways' company store is offering free shipping on orders greater than $25 and 20% all items with coupon code HOLIDAY.  I've purchased from them before and they do a great job; it also might be one of the last opportunities to buy US Airways branded gear.
US Airways A320's at CLT

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Free Shipping at the Boeing Store

Free shipping plus discounts on orders over $50 through Sunday at the Boeing Store.  I like the 7#7 tee shirts and they have other fun trinkets and gifts for kids of all ages.
These Boeing Products Are On Sale Too
Update: Maybe not.  I just tried to order, but the shipping charge still appeared.  I sent an email to customer service, but nothing back yet.

Update 2: "Some technical glitch is asking for a code for the free shipping. So sorry about this! We spoke to the technicians and the freeship promo is being reset and will be in effect at 5pm PT."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

United Mileage Shopping 50% Sale

With United's pending award chart devaluation, 50% off in the mileage shopping mall is a deal worth considering.  Here's the link: http://www.mileageplusawards.com/ualoyrewards/channelAction?channelCode=CHN30
A319 Ready to Leave
UPDATE: It looks like the sale ends 12/2/13.  I purchased a Tumi Alpha Continental carry on bag for 23,100 miles; an outstanding deal and I don't need a new carry on bag at the moment either.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Keep Spending United Miles

Spend United miles while they still have value (before Feb. 1, 2014).  I'll be booking trips for my parents too.  Since a stopover at a Star Alliance hub is still free, I sent the following message to help me search for trip ideas.
An Unequal Partnership Starting Feb1
Rank the following cities, 1-N
Istanbul, Ankara, Ljubljana, Pristina, Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Rhodes, Corfu, Kos, Kalamata, Vienna, Brussels, Zagreb, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Munich, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Zurich, Lisbon, Porto

What are the top 10 European cities on these maps, not included on the list above?  (do not include codeshares or connections when searching)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Race to the Finish

There are only six weeks left in 2013 and I am sprinting across the status finish line (12,000+ EQMs in December).  I should wind up with 76 United miles more than I need for status.  2013 was a rough year for fare deals and 2014 will be worse because United will require distance and dollar minimums for status (not to mention massive points inflation).  This might be the last year of the mileage game.
I'll Miss Flying Lufthansa on Miles

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Never Hurts To Call

I finished a business trip early and headed to the airport to try to catch an earlier flight.  I was booked on an 8:30 direct flight, but arrived at the airport at 1:30.  The check in kiosk only gave me flight options for the following day, even though a wave of flights to EWR, ORD, CLE, IAH, and ORD again were leaving in the next two hours.  Any of those cities could get me to Denver faster and spare me having to kill 7 hours air side.  The agent at 800-UNITED-1 was amazing    She grabbed the last seat on the flight to EWR and then on to Denver.  Twice the miles (I'm borderline on status this year), an earlier arrival, and saved me untold hours of boredom.  Even if the self serve options say 'No,' it never hurts to call.
Self Service Isn't Complete

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Helsinki Airport Newsletter

The Helsinki Airport newsletter is very good.  Really, you should subscribe too.
Picture taken at BCN, but the A321 was just at HEL

Monday, November 11, 2013

Frontier Airlines Coupon Discount Code

Book a round trip flight on FlyFrontier.com with promo code SALUTE before 11/15 and get 20% off the fare.  This is the best discount code I've seen in a long time for any airline.
Frontier Airbus in Denver

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Spend United Miles Now

United is making the Venezuelan bolĂ­var look like a stable currency.  MileagePlus miles will be worth significantly less on February 1, 2014 if you intend to use them for anything other than coach flights in North America or to Europe.  You can still book flights at the current prices until February 1, but don't wait; availability will deteriorate every day as more and more flights are booked.
I like using United miles for Lufthansa travel

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Singapore Air Is Self Centered

Singapore Airlines announced an expansion of their partnership with SAS in their email newsletter today.  Partner announcements always have an image of the partner aircraft, see Qatar joining oneworld announcements last week for ample examples.  But Singapore Air does things differently and with a strong focus on Singapore Air, so no SAS picture in the announcement.  
Singapore & SAS

Monday, November 4, 2013

Frontier Business Bookings

Frontier doesn’t want anyone making a reservation outside of FlyFrontier.com.  To discourage third party bookings, they charge $25 for a carryon bag, don’t allow advanced seat selection, and award 25% for flown mileage.  All great motivations to book on FlyFrontier.com, but I have to use the corporate travel service at my new job, so my flight is booked through AMEX travel services.  I feel Frontier could refine this policy to not alienate business travelers that don’t have a choice in the booking method.  I can book Southwest flights through SWABIZ, I'd like Frontier to create a similar portal. 
Frontier A319's at Denver

Friday, November 1, 2013

My Postcard to Jeff Smisek


The greatest value of a points program is the aspirational aspect of the awards; the unattainable is now in reach.  The new MileagePlus pricing model moves the unattainable out of reach, destroying the value of the program. 

-Andrew Bussa
Protest Postcard
I feel this is an appropriate method to protest the new MileagePlus pricing model.  You too can write to Jeff Smisek, co/United Airlines, PO Box 66100, Chicago, IL, 60666.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rain But No Delays

Small to medium airports have their benefits, mainly they are more relaxed experiences.  This is especially true during bad weather because they can better handle problems with their excess runway capacity.  You can get a direct flight from SFO to almost anywhere, but a little fog cancels dozens of flights.  Interesting trade offs. 
US Airways E175 at IND

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Airbus Using Data To Bash Boeing

Airbus and Boeing have a very long debate going on who makes the better aircraft.  Mostly this debate focuses on fuel consumption per seat and aircraft cost.  Both of those items are surprisingly difficult to compare.  Airlines always bargain the purchase price down and then get deals on parts, service, or financing.  Fuel economy is a though one because it depends on configuration and different airlines rarely have a the same configuration.  Airbus is now trying to win on coach seat comfort.  Boeing seats are 17in wide and Airbus seats are 18in wide.  That extra inch makes all the difference or so says Airbus.  As a frequent traveler, I like the focus on the customer experience, but how far can airlines go without losing revenue?
17" Seats on a 737

Sunday, October 27, 2013

No Upgrade Chance

Usually when I fly, there is always a chance of an upgrade.  If I'm number 10 on the list and first class is full, I just need 10 people to miss their flight and I'm in.  Always the optimist, I still think that no matter what number I am, though its more silly than serious when I'm number 24.  There's only no hope on turbo props and 50 seat regional jets.  Frontier, Southwest, and Jet Blue have the same problem on every flight.  Complete lack of hope takes some of the fun out of being an elite member because the best benefits (upgrades, first class miles tickets, etc.) aren't guaranteed.  I'm flying with no upgrade hope today and it takes some of the fun out of the experience.
No Upgrades Ever

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lufthansa First Class: Experience true luxury from $5029

$5029 for a round trip in Lufthansa first class is a pretty good deal.  The fare is from Boston to Moscow; two city pairs I have no interest in, but it is still eye catching.  Business class fares start at $2000 round trip with tax too.  That might be worth it just for the elite mileage and bonuses.  It's a slow time of year for Lufthansa, so now is the time to jump on these fares because they should be twice as much.  That is if you are inclined to pay for premium cabin travel with money.  I've paid with miles and enjoyed the experience.
First Class Awaits

Monday, October 21, 2013

Meet Manfred

Meet Manfred.  He enjoys flying and puns and is a great companion for nervous flyers.  
Manfred The Bear

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nice Pun Delta

Delta.com is broken right now and their error message has a fun pun. Unfortunately the details of the error message seem inaccurate. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Physical Airline Membership Cards

United used to mail all members a MileagePlus membership card on joining the program.  Now they send an email.  Airlines will send cards to their elite members, but general members are left out of card collecting, unless you look abroad.  ANA mailed me a card quickly after joining, so did Qatar, British Airways, and Air Berlin.  I’m still signing up for programs here and there, but I haven’t seen anything in my mail box recently.
ANA 767 at NRT

Alliance Rankings

oneworld is boasting about being the best airline alliance as rated by Skytrax, Global Traveler, and World Travel Awards   Impressive right?  It isn’t because these surveys are horribly subjective and even if you tried, there’s no empirical way to determine the best airline alliance.  Ultimately the best alliance is the one you enjoy flying the most; so the best airline alliance as rated by FrequentFlyerGuy.com is the Star Alliance.  oneworld is good too, the bulk of my back up miles are with oneworld carriers.  Skyteam is just Delta and a few other off brand carriers, they’ll let anyone join if Delta approves and Star Alliance or oneworld passes.  Some of the best alliances are between carriers and not part of a larger branded agreement.  Alaska Airlines has an outstanding list of partners and reasonably priced awards; Alaska is also a great way to pool American and Delta flights if you don’t travel with either enough for elite status.  Etihad has 21 airline partners so they can provide an alliance style product while maintaining control of the process.  So what is an alliance and who’s is the best?  It depends (the #1 answer in grad school when there is no clear answer).
American Airlines MD

Monday, October 14, 2013

Southwest Promo Code

DSHH3DKQBT - Good for 10% off a Wanna Get Away round trip flight before Oct. 31.  One time use only, so if you use, please say so in the comments.
Early Morning Flight

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I Want To Fly to Moline

I want to fly to Moline, IL for vacation.  Seriously.  I'm going to see Bob Newhart on stage outside Iowa City and MLI is my best option.  I have spent a considerable amount of time at MLI because of a missed connection, but this time I'll leave the terminal.  MLI has direct flights from Denver too.  Except I don't want to fly direct.  I'm short on miles and need do go as circuitously as possible.  For an extra $45 over the direct fare, I was able to book via SAN, LAX, and ORD.
Sample Search For Unnecessary Connections

Friday, October 11, 2013

Frontier Animal Tales

Every wonder what the names of the Frontier tail animals are?  Me too. Luckily Frontier provides the answer.
Andre the Antelope
Penguin Pals

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

FedEx Boeing 767 time-lapse

I love these time lapse videos of aircraft assembly.  I wonder why FedEx didn't get winglets on their new 767.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Free Callaway Wedge From Embassy Suites

Register and stay one night at an Embassy Suites hotel and get a free Callaway wedge (full rules).  This is a sweet promotion that makes me want to spend a night at Embassy Suites on my next business trip, and I don't even golf.  Crowne Plaza was giving away Taylor Made clubs in 2008.  I could have earned a free $1,200 set, but decided to stock up on SPG points instead.  I stand by that decision.
I Mostly Take Airplane Photos

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Alaska Airlines Coach Food

Alaska Airlines is promoting their food in coach; it actually looks pretty good too. I had always been a fan of their premium beer options including Alaska Amber.  United flirted with premium beer and spirits briefly, the the days of Leinenkugel's and Maker's Mark on board have long passed.  The Alaska food offerings also look just and good and comparably priced to food in the airport, so next time I fly with them, I just might skip eating in the terminal and enjoy a buy on board meal instead.
Alaska 737

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fun Photo

Fun picture I snapped landing at SAN.  Did you know in the 40's SAN had sea plane facilities?  The ramps are still there, check out Google Maps.
757 Night Landing at SAN

Monday, September 23, 2013

Southwest Rapid Rewards Point Value Drop

Southwest Airlines is devaluing Rapid Rewards points.  The new value is 1.43 cents per point; the old value was 1.67 cents per point for Wanna Get Away fare.  0.24 cents per point adds up over time, 2,500 extra points for a $250 fare or removing about $120 in value from a 50,000 point balance.  Southwest is at the forefront of pricing awards based on the underlying ticket cost (dollar ticket price x points per dollar = award cost), not a flat rate region to region pricing (North America to Europe = 60,000 points regardless of ticket prices). United and Delta are likely to follow in the next few years, so I am intently interested in how the new program model works in real life.  It doesn’t seem to be working well.
Southwest 737 at GEG
Point inflation should be expected in flat rate region award chart models to reflect higher ticket prices over time.  Since point per dollar awards already account for rising ticket prices, points inflation should not be expected.  A point should have a fixed dollar exchange rate in these models.  Breaking that exchange rate peg will devalue the currency in the eyes of its holders and they will be less likely to hold large amounts in the future.  It’s just like monetary policy with real currencies.  This inflation hurts, but my balance is less than 30,000 points, so I’ll be ok.  I have a much larger United balance that I need to start burning through because any inflation there will bite much harder.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

United Airlines First Class Sundae Dessert

United changed from a cookie to a sundae bar for dessert on long flights in first class.  A generous helping of vanilla ice cream topped with your choice of chocolate, caramel, walnuts, strawberries, whip cream, and cherries. It was an amazing surprise.
My Sundae on IAD-SAN

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Good Travel Day

Good travel day so far.  Star Alliance Gold members can use the Lufthansa lounge at IAD or DTW even if they aren't flying Lufthansa.
Lufthansa Lounge IAD - LH Likes Roses

Friday, September 13, 2013

Overnight Mileage Run Checklist

I'm going on a mileage run trip this weekend and I'd like to share my checklist of what I need to pack.
  • Pillow – Couch pillows work for window seat types, neck pillows are best for middle and aisle seats.
  • Blanket – I sleep better with one on flights, but odds are your aircraft won’t have any on board.  I actually bought a few new Envoy blankets from US Airways, they travel well and are comfortable (and only $5).
  • Eye Mask – Helps me sleep no matter the time of day.
  • Ear Plugs – Much better option than sleeping with my clunky Bose headphones.  Bring a few pairs.
  • Power Strip – There are never enough outlets, so make your own.
  • Headphones – Great for tunes, in flight entertainment, and just blocking out ambient noise.  I like my QC15’s, but my old QC3’s may have been better for travelling.
  • iPhone Charging Cable – IT will run out of amps without a charge or two.
  • Laptop and Cord – Get some work done, watch a DVD, or wander the internet.  The iPhone screen gets tiring fast.
  • Backpack – Travel light, no need for a roller bag if you don’t plan to stay in a hotel.
  • Change of Underoos – Just because you don’t plan on staying in a hotel doesn’t mean you won’t.  Canceled flights, missed connections, and bumps happen (bumps rock because they can usually pay for the trip).
  • ID – It’s a short trip without one.
  • United Club Card – Always nice to have on hand, required if flying US Airways because they can’t look up your membership any other way.
  • Pills – Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, melatonin, and anything else you might need.
  • Water Bottle – Stay hydrated to feel better.
  • Charmin – Spending your next 36 hours or more in an airport or on an airplane, you’ll probably want something better than what’s provided.
  • Reading Material – I bring The Economist and a book, in flight magazines are good too, but get repetitive after a second reading.
United 737 at DEN