Ranking the Different American Airlines Business Class Seats

Product consistency?  Who wants product consistency?

Certainly that’s not the goal at the new American…. at least not as far as Business Class seats are concerned!  Due to its merger with US Airways, an aging international fleet and seat supplier issues, American now features no less than nine (9) different international business class products.

Nine.

Of those, seven (7) are on wide body planes used for the vast majority of international routes to Europe, South America and Asia.  Over the past year or so, I’ve been able to fly on each wide body business class cabin in the American fleet, so I figured it was time to decipher the differences and rank them — all in one post!

But first?  The candidates (along with my past and future reviews of these flights) – many of these flights were in the last few weeks or months, so are in my queue to either write and/or edit and publish reviews:

  • A330-200 and A330-300 “Envoy” Suite
  • B767-300 “old” configuration
    • MIA-MXP (upcoming)
  • B767-300 “new” configuration
    • ZRH-JFK (upcoming)
  • B777-200 “old” configuration
    • MIA-EZE (upcoming)
    • SCL-MIA (upcoming)
  • B777-200 “new” configuration
  • B777-300ER
  • B787-8 Dreamliner

Let’s go ahead and profile each of these types of Business Class seats!

A330-200 and A330-300 “Envoy” Suite

Envoy Suites class on US Airways A330-200

Envoy Suites class on US Airways A330-200

Continue Reading →

Ten Tips for Planning an Oktoberfest Trip to Munich

My favorite trip  of the year is always my annual pilgrimage to Munich for the World’s largest festival — Oktoberfest!

This coming year will be the sixth year in a row that I’ve attended the Wiesn in Germany, so I’ve learned on the fly, but at this point,  I think I know what I’m doing pretty well.

Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival that runs every year,  from the late September to the first full weekend in October.  Plan these dates accordingly.

Planning a trip to this foreign festival can be a daunting task, but here are ten tips along with several guides and recommendations: Continue Reading →

American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles Combine – What it means to you

On Tuesday, American Airlines announced that it would combine the legacy loyalty programs of American Airlines and US Airways on this coming Saturday, March 28.  Previously, American had stated that these two programs would be merging sometime in the second quarter 0f 2015, so this puts them a little ahead of schedule.  The newly combined program won’t be a huge change to those loyal to American Airlines, but it looks to be quite an adjustment for those US Airway Preferred members — and many of those adjustments are good!

So now that these programs are merging into one, what does that mean to the frequent flyer?

In general, passengers should know the following tidbits while this merger goes through this week:

  • Both websites will be functional this week as the programs combine
  • Some US Airways Dividend Miles functionalities will be unavailable until Saturday, March 28
  • The last day to book US Airways awards and to take advantage of its unique award chart is Wednesday, March 25.
  • If you’ve already linked your US Airways Dividend Miles and American AAdvantage accounts, they balances will be combined
  • If you haven’t linked your accounts, the airline will combine your accounts and issue a new American AAdvantage number to you that will show your combined airline activity

Continue Reading →

My Last Hurrah as a United Premier 1K: A Weekend in Dubai

With my United Premier 1K status set to end at the end of January 2015, I wanted to make the most of it before it expired.  That meant I had some Global Premier Upgrades to burn!  United 1K members receive six Global Premier Upgrades (and two regional premier upgrades) that are good for an upgrade from economy class to business class or business class to first class on any route that United flies.

The caveat to these Global Premier Upgrades is that the economy fare must be booked into a certain, minimum fare class in order to have the upgrade be valid.  On United flights, this booking class is known as a W class fare.  A W class fare is an economy fare that typically is sold for substantially more than the lowest, discount economy fare.

However, if you’re vigilant and know how to hunt for it, some good W class fares are out there.

I’d been itching to get back to Dubai for quite some time to see a good friend and former roommate of mine who moved to Dubai form Washington a few years ago.    Two years ago, I tried to meet up with him while on a trip to Dubai, but engine problems on the Dreamliner and the resulting 24-hour delay forced me to miss meeting up in Dubai that time around.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

The Flight Deal alerted me to some cheap fares to Dubai from Boston, so I figured I’d look into them to see how the W class fares looked.  Turns out, they looked quite good – only about $100 more than the cheapest economy fares!

Score!

Since the good fare was out of Boston with a connection in Washington-Dulles, that necessitated a positioning trip to Boston, from Washington.  Does that make any sense?

Considering it saved upwards of $800, I thought so.

Though there was no confirmable upgrade space immediately available, the seat maps for both the Washington to Dubai and Dubai to Washington flights were wide open.  So I booked the trip from Boston for myself and applied my Global Premier Upgrades.  My buddy booked his flights from Dallas and would meet me at Dulles for the long flight to Dubai — I also used my upgrades on his tickets.  To our delight, both of our upgrades cleared both ways by August!

To complete my itinerary, I purchased a cheap, $59 one-way flight from Washington-National to Boston.  I would plan to spend a few hours in Boston before hopping a flight to Dulles.

So essentially, I would be flying from Washington-National to Washington-Dulles VIA Boston.

Because that’s perfectly normal.

At $59, I guess it’s cheaper than a cab from DC out to Dulles…

My routing:  DCA-BOS-IAD-DXB-IAD-(BOS)

My routing: DCA-BOS-IAD-DXB-IAD-(BOS)

2014 Year in Review

Another year has passed, and once again I was fortunate enough to travel a good bit.  Now, I didn’t fly nearly as much as I did in 2013, but my 2014 effort ain’t too shabby!  Nevertheless, my stats for this year were less than 2013 for a variety of reasons:

  • In 2014, I focused on burning the tons of miles that I accumulated from flying over 150,000 miles in 2013
  • In 2014, I took a few very long trips instead of a dozen quick trips and weekend getaways
  • In 2014, I did not take trips “just because” due to the new Premium Qualifying Dollar requirement instituted by United.  This reduced the incentive for me to look for and fly cheap tickets for random weekends to various places, since status is no longer calculated solely by the distance one flies — there’s a dollar spent aspect to it now.
  • By the time I status matched / challenged to American, pretty much my entire year of travel was already set, and since I’d qualified for Executive Platinum, there was no reason to take trips for the sake of status.

Despite a large reduction in distance traveled, I’ve still had an incredible year traveling in 2014, and I present my 2014 Year in Review… Continue Reading →

Pardon My Absence Over the Holidays

First of all, I want to apologize for not posting the last month.  The last 30 or so days, my life has been completely and utterly swamped with moving, as I moved into Washington, DC from Arlington, VA.  That, combined with the Holidays and work really left no time to blog in my spare time.  Since I moved in last week, we did not have Internet connected until last night, so I really couldn’t have blogged from home even if I wanted to!

Finally, today I have some free time to kill in a couple of airport lounges, so I figured I’d get some material written.  I’m currently in the Boston United Club on my way to Dubai, where I’m spending the weekend with some friends.  Why am I in Boston?  That’s a story for another time — but long-story-short?  It was about half the price to fly BOS-IAD-DXB than it was the simply IAD-DXB round trip, so I naturally booked a cheap flight up to BOS this morning from DCA on US Airways.

I’ll publish a detailed trip report of my travels to Dubai, as I’m headed there tonight in United BusinessFirst on my last itinerary as a United Premier 1K member — so it’s my swan song, so to speak with United.  After that, almost all of my flying for the next year with be with American or its oneworld partner airlines.  Be sure to check out the trip report from my last trip to Dubai in June 2013.

In addition to the upcoming trip report on this little weekend jaunt to Dubai, I’ll be finishing up a report of my failed trip to Iguazu Falls in November, as well as a few posts about the latest goings-ons in the world of travel, points and miles.

Oh, and a belated Happy New Year to everyone!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

 

 

Revisited: How to Book an Around the World Trip with US Airways miles

Due to a ton of comments, questions and general interest on my last few posts about my First Class award flights around the World, I’m going to re-post the below post from a couple months ago where I detailed how to book one of these de-fact around the World tickets using US Airways miles ( it’s really an award ticket from North America to North Asia with a stopover in Europe).  My round-the-world flight reviews from that ONE TICKET are here:

A couple of notes regarding this post:

  • US Airways miles can no longer be redeemed for flights on Star Alliance carriers like THAI, ANA and Air China.
  • US Airways miles can NOW be redeemed for flights on oneworld carriers like JAL, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, British Airways and American.
  • The US Airways award chart will go away during the 2nd Quarter of 2015 when the Dividend Miles program will be folded into the American Airlines AAdvantage program.  At that point, all US Airways miles will be converted into American miles, and the American Award Chart and Award rules will supersede that of US Airways.  It will be a sad day.

US Airways Dividend Miles are some of the easiest miles out there to accrue, and at least for now, the airline has a very rewarding award chart with several awesome hot spots that one can exploit to derive maximum value from their miles.

Perhaps no award on the US Airways chart has more value than the business or first class award from North America to North Asia for 110,000 miles in business class or 120,000 miles in first class.   US Airways defines “North Asia” as China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.   US Airways’ liberal routing rules allow one to really exploit this award and turn it into a de-facto around the world ticket.

In this post, I will demonstrate:

  • The mechanics and details of a US Airways award ticket
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using American’s website
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using British Airways’ website
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using Qantas’s website
  • The proper way to call a US Airways and book this award

Continue Reading →

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 →

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 →