2015 Combined AAdvantage Loyalty Program Announced

This morning, American Airlines announced its 2015 AAdvantage Loyalty Program for the combined American and US Airways.  As an American elite, the program remains largely un-changed, and that’s a great thing!  With that said, there are a few changes to the program that I’ll highlight in this post.  The theme of the whole deal is that the combined carrier will run one loyalty program (AAdvantage) for two separate airlines and reservations systems at American and US Airways.  This is a bit awkward, but if they make it work like it’s laid out here, it should be fine.

The Changes

Elite Qualification

  • From an initial scanning of the new program, the biggest change is an increase in the qualifying criteria for qualifying by segments.  The new program features an increase of Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) for Gold / Platinum / Executive Platinum from 25/50/100 to 30/60/120.  The qualification criteria on Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) remains the same, and that’s a HUGE sigh of relief.
2015 AA Elite Qualification Criteria

2015 AA Elite Qualification Criteria

Elite Benefits Flying on American

  • For Gold and Platinum elites, 500-mile certificates will still be needed to upgrade on flights over 500 miles, but upgrades continue to be unlimited for Executive Platinum members when flying American
    • Previous US Airways elites will receive 500-mile stickers based on their qualification history so they can upgrade on American flights

Elite Benefits Flying on US Airways

  • When flying US Airways, complimentary upgrades will be cleared automatically, based on status (up to 2 /3 /4 days for Gold / Platinum / Executive Platinum)
  • Integration of Auto-upgrades at US Airways (AA elites will be auto confirmed on US Airways instead of at check-in) — this is great!

General Elite Benefits and Notes

  • All AA elites are now eligible for unlimited complimentary upgrades on flights under 500 miles
  • Executive Platinum Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) can now be used on US Airways flights, too
  • Addition of free same-day changes for Executive Platinum Members!
  • Mileage balances, elite qualifying miles and  segments, and lifetime miles will be combined in early 2015

Mileage Earning

  • There are no changes to the mileage earning schemes other than:
    • The mileage earning bonus for business class tickets will increase from 25% to 50%.

You can read all the details on the changes here:  2015 AAdvantage Program

The Timeline

Here’s a high-level timeline on when benefits will be available to AAdvantage members:

Right now

January 2015

Second quarter of 2015 (when programs are combined)

More detail on the timeline can be found here:  2015 AAdvantage Integration Timeline

Initial Thoughts

I am very happy with the changes.  As an American Executive Platinum member, I view these changes to the 2015 AAdvantage Loyalty Program as all positive (other than the increase in segments needed for qualification).  Since I will likely qualify via EQM, this does not affect me.  The benefits also increase a bit for Gold and Platinum members, but the level of benefit for those members pales in comparison to what Executive Platinums get.

I was very worried about the addition of a revenue requirement, but that was not included…. for now.  We’ll see what happens after the two airlines are fully integrated.

Note:  I’ll continue to analyze some of these changes throughout the day and provide more commentary, as needed

Weekly Round-Up in the World of Points

Well, it’s been an insanely busy week for me, as I got back into the swing of things at work, and in life in general.  As such, I didn’t get to write as much as I wanted to, so here is a weekly round-up of some of the goings-ons in the World of travel, points and miles.  I’ll try to call out the top four or five stories on a weekly basis in the future.

Atlantis Resort becomes a Marriott Rewards Partner

This week, the uber-popular Atlantis Resort and Casino in the Bahamas officially joined the Marriott Rewards program.  The incredible resort is now bookable with Marriott Points at the following levels:

  • Beach Towers – 35,000 points per night (category 7)
  • Coral Towers – 35,000 points per night (category 7)
  • Royal Towers – 40,000 points per night (category 8)
  • The Cove – 45,000 points per night (category 9)

While a little steep, it is a great resort, and if you’re sitting on a stockpile of Marriott points, it’s a definite option for a Caribbean vacation.  The property is marketing each tower as a separate hotel.  While the Cove and maybe Royal Towers could be a deal, I don’t think the Beach and Coral Towers are particularly good values considering that a night here can routinely be had for les than $150 per night.

The fact sheet regarding points redemptions can be found here.  Keep in mind that with Marriott, when you redeem for four nights, you receive the fifth night free. Continue Reading →

Six Initial Thoughts on My Trip Around the World

After two weeks and just under 22,000 miles of travel around the world, I’m finally getting acclimated to the real world after arriving back in Washington from Tokyo last week.

DCA-ORD-MUC // MUC-BKK-PVG // PVG-HKG-PVG // PVG-NRT-IAD

DCA-ORD-MUC // MUC-BKK-PVG // PVG-HKG-PVG // PVG-NRT-IAD

I’d initially planned to publish trip reports as I went on this trip, but after a pretty intense first few days of Oktoberfest in Munich, that whole idea went out the window.  On this trip, I used my time in airports and on flights to relax and sleep instead of writing.  As a result, my trip reports will be published, post by post in the coming weeks.  I’ve got all sorts of goodies in this set, in addition to my flights in United, THAI, Air China and ANA First Class, including:

  • Le Meridien, Munich
  • Park Hyatt Shanghai
  • Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui
  • Grand Hyatt Shanghai
  • Hyatt Regency Tokyo
  • Sights of Munich and Oktoberfest
  • A Day in Bangkok
  • THAI Royal First Class Lounge and Spa, BKK
  • Sights of Shanghai
  • Air China Forbidden First Class Lounge, PVG
  • Sights of Hong Kong
  • A Nights in Tokyo

Continue Reading →

First Look: ANA First Class Tokyo to Washington

Last week, I finished up my around the World trip by flying from Tokyo-Narita to Washington-Dulles in ANA First Class in its new ANA First Square product.

How would I describe the experience in a word?

Spectacular.

The 12+ hour flight on this new, ANA B777-300ER will surely serve as the benchmark to which I compare any future flight.  The whole experience was outstanding, from start to finish.

The new First Square product provided a TON of very private space.  Though there was not a door, the dividers of the square were high, and I could not see into any other suite at any time.  The seat was very comfortable, with a huge LCD screen with a decent amount of entertainment selections.  It laid down into a bed where I would sleep soundly for about eight hours. Continue Reading →

First Look: Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class Shanghai to Tokyo

Earlier this week, I got to experience a relatively quick flight in Air China’s Forbidden Pavilion First Class on a flight between Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.   This 2.5 hour flight was booked as part of my around the world trip using US Airways miles.

Compared to my flight in THAI Royal First Class and ANA First Class, I was extremely underwhelmed with my experience with Air China.  I’d even prefer United’s GlobalFirst Class over this, simply because the hard product (the seat) just doesn’t compare.   Don’t get me wrong — any flight in an international first class cabin is a privilege, but I’m just comparing apples to apples here.

Boarding our Air China B747-400 from the ramp

Boarding our Air China B747-400 from the ramp

On this flight, we flew an aged B747-400 aircraft, and I was seated in seat 2A, as the only passenger in first class.
Interestingly enough, the first class cabin on this plane was not located in the nose of the 747, but instead was between the first and second sets of doors in an area typically designated for business class.  This first class cabin was incredibly dated, but it did feature a full lie-flat bed, and is very similar in design to the old first class seats on American’s international fleet.  Air China is eventually phasing these 747s out of their fleet, and that was pretty obvious, as the interior of this plane clearly hadn’t been refreshed in quite some time.

Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class - Seat 2A on a B747-400

Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class – Seat 2A on a B747-400

Though this was a short flight, I was offered a full, multi-course lunch service.  The food was actually pretty decent, and the entrée — though more of a business class-style meal — was actually quite good.  I ordered the steak and received a petite tenderloin that was cooked to a perfect medium — always a nice surprise onboard any flight.

Lunch in Air China First Class -- Beef Tenderloin, mashed potatoes and vegetables

Lunch in Air China First Class — Beef Tenderloin, mashed potatoes and vegetables

The in flight entertainment consisted of an old, flip-out screen, with very little programming.  It certainly wouldn’t be adequate for a longer flight, but on this short flight I kept the in-flight map up the whole time.  I passed time after the meal by snoozing and looking out the window as we flew parallel to the eastern coast of Japan on our approach to Narita.

I’ll post a full review of the flight later, but I did want to post my initial impressions of the flight.  Though I realize Air China is offering a newer product on its newest airplanes on routes to North America, this short sample of its Forbidden Pavilion First Class certainly did not leave me anxious to experience it on a longer, Trans-Pacific flight!

First Look: THAI Royal First Class Munich to Bangkok

Good Evening from THAI’s Royal First Class lounge in Bangkok.  I’m about to hop a redeye flight to Shanghai, but wanted to share a few initial impressions from my flight last night from Munich to Bangkok in THAI Royal First Class.

Overall, I was quite impressed.  With everything… and I’m not even including the THAI ground services in Bangkok, which are possibly the best in the industry.

We flew a B747-400 in seats 1A and 1K at the very front of the aircraft.  The seats featured the new THAI Royal First Class product, and were extremely comfortable and spacious.  Though they did not feature doors, these seats felt more like suites, as they were very private.  The product features plenty of room and I slept wonderfully in the lie-flat bed.

Seat 1A on the THAI B747-400

Seat 1A on the THAI B747-400

The catering.  Ohhh, the catering was outstanding.

The first course was the caviar, and it was presented beautifully.   I was given a huge serving along with all of the garnishes from an impressive tray of caviar.  I’m not usually a caviar person, but when offered onboard a plane?  Why not?

Caviar to start!

Caviar to start!

The appetizers were also good, but the entrée stole the show.  The beef curry was just delicious!  Easily one of the best entrees I’ve ever had onboard.  The meal ended with cheese, fruit and a desert — all of which were top quality.

Breakfast included eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, yogurt, and an assortment of breads.

Each and every course was presented with care and was set beautifully on the large table top by the absurdly attentive flight crew. The first class cabin was booked to 7 of 9 seats, and the service was impeccable.  During the dinner service, there were up to five flight crew servicing the cabin at one time.  The service was outstanding in all regards during the entirety of this 11-hour flight.

I’ll post a full review of the flight later, but I did want to post my initial impressions of the flight.  The THAI experience easily out-classed my United flight last week, but we’ll see how it compares to Air China and ANA First Class in the next week!

First Look: United Global First Class Chicago to Munich

Good afternoon from Munich!

After four days here in Munich, I’ve finally acquired some wifi good enough for a post at the Le Meridien Munich.  I put together some initial thoughts on the flight, but a full review is forthcoming.

I  arrived in Munich last Thursday on United flight 952 from Chicago on a three-class B777-200 in United Global First Class.  I did enjoy the flight – especially the seat – but it certainly had its shortcomings, as expected.

The seat was pretty fantastic, once again. I find it to have plenty of leg room and shoulder room, and it is really conducive to a comfortable night’s rest. I found myself awoken from maybe the deepest sleep I’ve had aboard an airplane.   This was the most important factor in the trip, since I wanted to arrive in Europe well rested and ready to take on Oktoberfest!IMG_8636

The service was good. Not great, not poor, but perfectly fine and good.  All requests were taken in a quick and friendly manner, though not overly personable or memorable.

The catering was not first-class caliber, but at least it was edible unlike my last two trips in United GlobalFirst, LAX-SYD and SYD-SFO.  The entree featured a beef tenderloin, which was okay.  The gnocchi was decent, but the asparagus was pretty bad.IMG_8671

At the end of the day, I didn’t go hungry, so the meal was enough for me, but it was of the quality of an international first class product.  Overall, I really enjoy flying from Chicago to Europe since the two extra hours allow for a much more relaxed flight with more time to get some rest after a leisurely dinner service. Flights from the east coast to Europe are typically way too short for my liking.

I got some decent rest, which is the name of the game for me when flying to Europe, so I was mostly happy with the flight, as it’s really hard to complain when traveling across the Atlantic in first class!

An Around the World Trip — Introduction

As I previously wrote, I will be embarking on a two-week journey around the World starting tonight.  While I’m meeting twelve other friends in Munich, two of them will be joining me for our exploits in Asia.

Though we all have somewhat different flights, we all did manage to get on the same THAI flight from Munich to Bangkok to Shanghai.  And we all managed to do it all with miles.

How exactly did we do it?

I’m so glad you asked…

Continue Reading →