Stays at Marriott hotels can now (and again) earn miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program. The two programs were partners in the past took a bit of time off and now are together again. For the occasional Marriott guest this means one or two points per dollar spent at the various Marriott brands. And for folks with larger balances in the Marriott Rewards program those points can now be moved en masse out to AAdvantage.
Here’s the breakdown on the two options:
You’ll earn two AAdvantage miles per $1USD spent on all qualifying transactions at these participating brands:
- JW Marriott®
- Autograph Collection® Hotels
- Renaissance® Hotels
- Marriott® Hotels
- Marriott Vacation Club®
You’ll earn two AAdvantage miles per $1USD spent on room rate only at these participating brands:
- The Ritz-Carlton®
- Gaylord Hotels®
You’ll earn one AAdvantage mile per $1USD spent on room rate only at these participating brands:
- AC Hotels
- Courtyard by Marriott®
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott®
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott®
- Residence Inn by Marriott®
- TownePlace Suites by Marriott®
- Marriott Executive Apartments®
You can convert Marriott Rewards points to AAdvantage miles:
- 10,000 points = 2,000 miles
- 20,000 points = 5,000 miles
- 30,000 points = 10,000 miles
- 70,000 points = 25,000 miles
- 140,000 points = 50,000 miles
American is also now a participant in the Hotel + Air packages Marriott offers. A seven night stay at a Category 5 hotel should cost 150K points (4th night free, 25K/night) but with the package you can get 50K AA points AND the 7 nights for 200K Marriott points, only 60K more than the 140K it takes to transfer to the 50K AA points from the chart above. Yes, you need to have a whole lot of Marriott points to get to that bonus, but if you have them it can be a tremendous value. Note that if you plan to redeem at a Category 1 or 2 hotel this program is probably a bad value.
Finally, as part of the new partnership launch the two companies are offering 500 bonus AAdvantage miles for stays at any Marriott which are credited to an AA account from July 15 – August 15, 2013. Not sure why the wait to start, but it is there.
Always good to have more partners. Added bonus in this case is that the partnership is a pretty fair one.
Looking to find award seats on Hawaiian Airlines flights? So long as you’re redeeming partner miles for the trip I’ve got a new option available via the Award Search page on the Wandering Aramean Travel Tools site. Currently economy partner seats can be searched for or alerted via the Star Alliance award method but that method is limited only to economy class seats. Based on my quick checks of a few data points those seats line up with the inventory available to both United Airlines MileagePlus members and American Airlines AAdvantage members but, again, only coach seats and pretty much (at least in my testing) only inter-island flights. But if you’re looking to redeem AAdvantage miles between the mainland and the islands or other partner flights the existing tool isn’t so great. Fortunately is turns out that the data is now available via another means.
Both the "T" (economy for partners) and "D" (first for partners) fare buckets are now searchable through the Hawaiian Airlines Partner Award Availability page. Here are a couple sample search results:
The data source even has some built-in proximity searching (which I don’t entirely understand) so a search for SFO will include SJC and OAK, too:
Like the other searches from the same source partial itinerary matches will be returned; that’s why LAS shows in the above results (the LAS-SFO segment doesn’t have inventory but it might still be useful).
At the end of the day I’m actually not entirely sure just how useful this is. I don’t spend much time searching for HA partner awards and I have no idea if others do. But the data is there and I can expose it like this, so here it is.
Last week I was facing a bit of a conundrum: I had an upcoming flight on an alliance I don’t bank a lot of miles in and I wanted to make sure I got the best points value for the travel. This was one of the $950 Chile in business class fares so, to be honest, even without the miles I’d say I was getting pretty good value (n.b. this is the same trip ultimately canceled due to illness but the exercise still makes sense I think). Given that the flights covered more than 12,000 miles in paid business class there had to be somewhere useful to put them, right? Here’s the thought process I went through to make my decision about where they should post.
First up, as is my default for flights on both American Airlines and Delta, I looked at crediting to the Alaska Airlines MileagePlan program. Alas, the two longest flights were codeshares (AA code, LA metal) which meant no chance of credit. Without those flights crediting the pain of splitting the segments onto different programs was far in excess of the value realized. OK, scratch MileagePlan from the game plan. I guess I really need to do some research on this one.
My next thought was to credit the flights to AAdvantage. It is an AA ticket, I already have some points in an AA account and, all else being equal, it seems like a reasonably safe place to put a small stash. But is it the best choice? Here’s what the points would have looked like credited to AA:
Netting over 16,000 award miles isn’t so bad, but also not spectacular. More disappointing to me was that the status earning potential in AAdvantage would be pretty poor. The 19,000+ EQPs is great but I still wouldn’t be AAdvantage Gold (lowest elite tier) And getting 6,000 more EQPs would take a lot of flying on cheap fares (only .5 EQP credit for G, Q, N, O and S) which is what I usually purchase. I was mentioning my disappointment over this to Fozz and he suggested Avios as an alternative. Now I had to do some real research.
The combination of Avios and British Airways Executive Club is one which I’ve thought about from time to time but never done much research on. I get Avios from my American Express Membership Rewards transfers more than from actually flying with their partners so not so much in caring about accrual rates. And status in a program which requires me to fly some number of segments on their planes isn’t quite so easy when said planes are based in London. Still, I had to give it a look. The numbers were pleasantly surprising.
That same 16,491 award miles number gets me three one-way short-haul awards (and a decent bit leftover) or two one-way medium-haul awards. I think that’s of more value than the same number in the AAdvantage program (though with much larger numbers the metrics can shift). On the status earning side of things the 540 Tier Points (Tier Points calculator here) leaves me 60 points short of Silver status. I’d have more than the 300 points required for Bronze status, though I’d still need two BA metal flights (or 4 for Silver). Sure, it would require more travel to get to the status threshold but far less than what AA would require of me and the value of that status would be much better. BA Silver includes oneworld sapphire status which includes lounge access, priority check-in and 100% bonus RDM earning on future flights. That’s pretty darn nice.
Alas, the trip was not meant to be for me (all three PointsHoarder hosts scheduled to make the hop to IPC had to cancel; maybe there is a curse). Still, going through the process of exploring where to credit the flights was a useful learning exercise for me. And spending the 20 minutes reviewing my options helped ensure I was making the best possible decision. At least I think I was.
Want to save hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges on Qantas award flights between Australia and Europe? Turns out it is a trivial task.
Photo from the Qantas/Emirates flyover of Sydney Harbour courtesy of Qantas
Thanks to the recent partnership between Qantas and Emirates has created a number of interesting arbitrage opportunities for members of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program. Included in that is a sizable gap in the fuel surcharge the two carriers levy for similar trips:
Travellers wanting to fly economy from Australia to London return have been able to escape paying $610 in fuel surcharges by redeeming their frequent-flyer points on an Emirates flight rather than Qantas.
A passenger flying one-way in economy or business on Qantas from Australia to Europe has to pay $380 in fuel surcharges, while on a flight to the US it is $340 and to Asia $175.
In contrast, Emirates charges $75 in fuel surcharges for a one-way economy ticket to Europe, and $30 to Asia. For business class, the surcharge for Europe is $230 and for Asia $165.
And the part where Qantas made searching for Emirates award seats incredibly easy by integrating such into their online award booking engine isn’t hurting the situation either.
The bad news for customers is that the two carriers are set to meet in the coming weeks to discuss this issue, among other things. Apparently they recognize the issues they’ve created for themselves.
Of course, this is not the only place where similar routes can attract widely varying fuel surcharges depending on the operating carrier of the routes. American Airlines will pass on the YQ from British Airways when redeeming AAdvantage points on BA metal while a similar flight on AA metal has no surcharge. ANA’s Mileage Club or Aeroplan have similar variations for partner flights. Certainly not a fuel dump in the traditional sense of the term, but the net savings apply in roughly the same manner.
If anything is unique about the Qantas/Emirates situation it is that they are apparently trying to address it rather than just hoping for the best.
By my rough calculations I should be about 500 miles off the western coast of Chile right now, happily ensconced in a LAN business class seat next to my wife as we wend our way to Easter Island for the Memorial Day Weekend holiday. Alas, instead I’m sitting on my couch at home having just cancelled the last bits of the trip. Being healthy is far more important that going on the trip so we’re focused on that. But I’m also not going to simply throw away the trip completely. There was a decent amount of work to be done to unwind all the bits I had assembled.
Our trip consisted of two separate reservations. One was the American Airlines sale fare from NYC to Chile for ~$950 in business class. I booked that as an open-jaw into Easter Island and out of Santiago so that we could see both. I added on an award via British Airways Avios from Easter Island to Santiago.
For the AA ticket I did what I’d normally do on a non-refundable trip where I need to make a change; I called and begged. OK, not quite that bad, but that’s basically what I did. Alas, the agent reviewing the record stood firm and even with a doctor’s order not to fly the $200 change fee plus fare difference was going to stand. Don’t get me wrong – I still am coming out ahead in the long run paying the fee versus buying travel insurance given how many tickets I buy – but I was a bit miffed that even with a doctor saying she couldn’t fly there was no waiver of the fee. And so I did what seemingly everyone else does when "wronged" by a company. I got passive aggressive on Twitter.
The @AmericanAir team took a look at the record and after a handful of DMs eventually agreed to waive the $200 change fee for us. I’m calling that a win. Honestly, I couldn’t expect them to honor the fare, too, particularly given that I had partner segments in there. I would’ve preferred that, obviously, but I’l take what I can get.
For the second flight it was a bit easier to manage. The Avios reservation has a published cancellation fee schedule ($40/ticket) and I figured that was a reasonably small penalty for getting our 25,000 Avios/ticket refunded. The BA website actually made the cancellation process pretty easy. A few clicks and I was done:
As an added bonus, I actually wasn’t charged the $40/ticket to cancel. I had only paid $13.42 in taxes on each ticket and the refund process had me forfeit that portion of the refund but didn’t charge me anything extra. It seems that their refund process (at least online) doesn’t have the means to initiate a charge as part of the transaction. So if the taxes/fees are lower than the threshold that’s all you pay. It actually makes Avios even more valuable for domestic US trips now, in my opinion; refunds are essentially free.
It turns out that my procrastination in booking a hotel for Santiago worked out in our favor; I hadn’t booked one yet so there was nothing to cancel there. For Easter Island, on the other hand, my 4-night booking at Inaki Uhi was complete and I was past the refundable cut-off point for the booking. Fortunately I had been in communication with the proprietor via email and after I explained the situation he was graciously willing to waive the penalty. I do expect that we will eventually make our way to Easter Island and I fully intend to stay as his property when we do; that he was willing to waive this only reinforces that plan to me.
Again with the procrastination bit…there really wasn’t anything else to cancel or change. No rental cars, tours or similar. Turns out I don’t usually book many of those things when I’m traveling anyways.
And so I’m sitting here, wondering what to do with ~$950 each in American Airlines credit. There are plenty of options, obviously. None are going to be as awesome a deal as Easter Island in business class but certainly we can still have some fun. Maybe Brazil, Central America or diving in the Caribbean. Using AA to Aruba and then hopping to Bonaire and Curacao, too, has been on my list for a while so maybe that’ll be part of or plans for this summer. Roatan, Honduras has also been on the list for a while but that’s Saturday-only service and I’m not sure I want to be in one place that long. Or maybe I’ll just make a couple mileage runs out of it, hopping around for no particular reason. That’s not too likely (especially as my wife certainly wouldn’t appreciate it) but it is an option.
Ultimately the lesson here – at least for me – is that the plans may have changed from what I initially expected them to be, but we didn’t really lose much in the process. In hard costs I’m out $26.84. I think I can handle that. Even if American has stood their ground the total would be $426.84; still not horrible considering our annual travel budget.
What would you do with $950 in credit from American? Where would you go?
A few months ago American Airlines quietly (or so they thought; turns out JohnnyJet was on a test flight so news spread quickly) started testing a new boarding process for their flights. The key change was that passengers with only small carry-on bags (i.e. underseat sized) would be allowed to board following Group 2. The theory is that these passengers are being rewarded for not putting bags in the overhead bins and they aren’t slowing the boarding process so they can board whenever they want (after the elite status passengers). But does it really matter?
One report on the process suggests that the total average time savings is 2-3 minutes per flight. Sure, multiply that out by thousands of daily departures and it sounds like a ton of time “saved” daily, but it really only counts if they change the flight times to account for that supposed savings. At 2-3 minutes on average per flight I’m betting against them adjusting block turn times for the flights.
Beyond that, however, I also cannot help but wonder which passengers are actually happily taking advantage of this benefit. Most of the race to board early is – at least from what I’ve seen – people trying to make sure they have space to stow their bags. If you don’t need overhead space it doesn’t make sense that there would be a great rush to get on the plane and cram yourself into a space just over 17″ wide and ~31-34″ deep, a small space that you’re going to be stuck in for the next many hours.
In other words, unless you absolutely need to be on board, why would you subject yourself to more time on the plane??
Don’t get me wrong – I love flying on a plane. And that means spending a lot of time on planes. But I also don’t go out of my way to be the first person on board. And when I’m traveling very light (which is most of the time these days) I happily board towards the end of the process, tuck my bag wherever it fits (including under my seat sometimes) and get going. Yes, I prefer to have the bag overhead, but that’s not the type of passenger this program is supposed to appeal to. This is for passengers who don’t have much in the way of a bag, for whom the need to get on board to store their stuff is key.
Maybe I’m missing out and there is a huge group of passengers who really, really, really like sitting in coach seats and want to do more of it. I suppose it is fantastic for that group. But it seems unlikely to me that anyone really benefits from this move.
More than that, however, there is also a reasonable concern that this will actually make things worse. Here’s one view which isn’t completely off-base:
If all the small things are put in the overheads because those passengers get on first that means more gate-checked bags, not fewer. Whoopsie.
I’m not completely convinced that it will be a problem, but I’m also not convinced this is a change which makes things better for many passengers. Certainly not enough to justify potentially pissing off a lot of other passengers for it.
What am I missing??
Not that it should come as a surprise to anyone, but Delta has joined United Airlines and US Airways in charging $200 for changes on non-refundable domestic US tickets. The change was published on their website today:
It isn’t only customers who are kvetching about the ever increasing focus on ancillary fees. Bob Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines (which hasn’t matched the increase, yet) and generally outspoken commentator on the industry pulled no punches when the topic came up last week at the Executive Travel Summit. Among the choice bits he offered up:
I think the airline industry is making a fundamental mistake when they rely as heavily as they are now on ancillary revenues. The industry cannot have a long future if they are focused on hosing their customers.
I don’t think anyone in the airline industry enjoys nickel & diming customers.
They may not enjoy it, but they’re getting pretty darn good at it.
Looking for some useful perks in an airline loyalty program above and beyond the normal elite tiers? American Airlines has a rather compelling offer out this year in the form of their 2013 Elite Rewards program (registration required!). The concept – extra perks earned at various milestones – is not a new one but the AA implementation this year is one of the more generous versions in quite some time.
There are two main factors which make the promotion so useful this year, mostly by making it accessible to so many customers.
1) The qualifications this year can be made by EQS, EQM or EQPs. In prior iterations the thresholds were defied by EQPs. That meant only high spending customers were likely to earn the benefits. This time around EQMs or EQPs count at the same rate so even the budget/mileage running passenger can earn the awards.
2) The milestones at which the earnings trigger are pretty smart numbers. Even lower frequency travelers can benefit from the 40,000 point threshold and the 125K and 150K levels do a pretty good job of keeping passengers around even after they’ve hit EXP qualification for the year.
2a) They have an awesome infographic. Seriously, it is pretty solid:
Some of the choices at the various threshold levels are not particularly great values. Like why would you choose a $100 Global Entry credit over 4 EVIPs or 40,000 RDMs?!? And it is worth noting that some of these benefits are not unique to American. The Global Entry reimbursement benefit is provided by United to everyone at the 75K level, for example. And additional upgrade instruments are given to UA elites as they pass the higher thresholds, too. Oh, and for UA elites there is no extra effort required for the additional upgrades; they just happen. Delta also has similar awards available where Platinum Medallions choose one and Diamonds choose two from the pool. Gifting status, bonus miles, upgrades and lounge passes are among the options.
Because of the choices involved it is hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison of the programs. Didn’t stop me from trying to, however. If you’re in to award miles (and that’s what you choose as your bonus) here’s what the earnings look like assuming you start from scratch:
If you are a 100K passenger already it looks like this:
If upgrades are your thing and you choose those instead of miles here’s what the earning looks like (and keep in mind that the relative utility of UA, AA and DL SWUs varies wildly by travel patterns, fares paid and destinations and that the regional upgrades are also quite different; also, if you are an EXP to start the year you actually don’t earn any e500s):
Things like the Global Entry option, lounge membership or wifi passes are probably lower value so harder to compare, but if you don’t want miles or upgrades AA is going to be better in this regard, followed by Delta and then United based on my quick review. Similarly, the opportunity to gift status is one which I know is appreciated by many Delta elites in lieu of upgrades in the SkyMiles program.
That’s not to say that the AA program isn’t very good; I think it is quite compelling for many AAdvantage members. It offers the best benefits at the lower tiers and the choices are broader than what Delta or United offer. But it is most definitely not the only game in town.
I’m often intrigued by the information I can glean from Twitter chats. I tend to avoid them more than participate in them but a chat this past Friday hosted by @JohnnyJet and @CJMcGinnis piqued my curiosity so I tuned in. The chat was about summer travel and used the #TravelSkills tag for tracking the conversation. The two hosts didn’t waste any time getting in to what is often a touchy subject: How much is a reasonable price for airfare?
My answer was actually easy to come up with. For summer travel I’ll spend up to 100,000 points for a business class trip to Europe. And I’ve been quite successful in finding those when and where I want them over the years. But that’s just me. What was interesting to me were some of the other responses I saw to the inquiry. Seems that a lot of people think that $1000 is an reasonable upper limit, with many believing that even lower fares are "fair" for such a trip.
Some responses based the price on where they’d end up:
And some considered where in the USA they were starting as part of the thought process:
Every single one of the numbers tossed out as being "fair" was actually below the average cost to operate the flight which would carry the passenger on the trip (based on published average cost data from the airlines). So, with the exception of some bargain fares on oneworld carriers to Dusseldorf (and even those are ~$900 from the east coast), it seems that many of the chat participants are going to be disappointed. Chris points out that average fares are in the $1200-1500 range already and there are no signs of those dropping much anytime soon.
Fares are higher on average than they have been the past few years; there is no doubt about that. Even off-season fares are higher. That mostly comes from less competition, less capacity and a desire by the airlines to actually make some money. Absolute fares are at or near all-time highs, while inflation-adjusted fares are still quite reasonable according to DoT analysis (note that the DoT data is for domestic, not international, but the trends are similar):
Not adjusted for inflation, the $367 third-quarter 2012 average fare is the fifth-highest average fare for any quarter since BTS began collecting air fare records in 1995. The highest was $385 in the second quarter of 2012. The previous third-quarter high was $361 in 2011. Third-quarter 2012 fares were $243 in 1995 dollars, down 18.1 percent from the average fare of $297 in 2000, the inflation-adjusted high for any third quarter (Tables 1 and 2).
Here’s another bit of analysis from Airlines for America, the industry trade group in the USA. It uses DoT data to track overall international fares since 1990 (a subset shown here).
These are overall averages for all international travel, not just peak season transatlantic. Still, the numbers make it hard to believe that getting peak season airfares at below average rates is going to work out well very often.
There was one slightly off-topic aside in the conversation which was also rather entertaining:
Apparently relatively normal airfares are, in some cases, shocking.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like paying very much for airfare and when the fare is too high I either don’t travel or I go somewhere else. But I also go in to the transaction knowing what to expect and being able to tell if I got a good deal or not rather than just expecting that fares are always so low. At the end of the day I guess I’m just surprised how low some people think airfare should be to be considered reasonable.
No wonder the airlines are struggling to eke out profits. For too long passengers have become used to the cheap fares offered as a result of excess capacity and increased competition. Mergers and ATI deals have cut almost all of that out of the system. And with the impending US Airways/American Airlines merger and Delta/Virgin Atlantic ATI request working their way through the regulators the competition is going to decrease. It is good for consumers that the airlines are able to remain in business. But that will mean higher fares, more crowded planes and fewer choices, all of which make for not-so-happy passengers.
Passengers will have one more option for flights between Milan and New York City starting this Fall. Emirates will launch the route in October 2013 ending their 5 year hiatus of service between New York and Europe. Their previous iteration of service was to Hamburg, Germany which ended in 2008.
Flights will depart New York at 10:20pm, arriving in Milan at 12:15pm the following day and continuing on to Dubai at 2:00pm. The westbound flight will depart Milan at 4:00pm, arriving in New York at 7:00pm the same day. The eastbound flight time is nice, providing useful onward connection options in Europe. It is also a late enough flight such that sleeping should be reasonably easy for passengers. Westbound the timing is great for passengers who want most of a day in Europe before heading back to New York City. Onward connections are limited, however, with the late arrival at JFK.
The route will compete directly with Delta, Alitalia and American Airlines There is also a flight on United Airlines into Newark. And the Emirates 777-300ER will be the largest plane on the route, adding a lot of capacity and also adding an option for first class service.
I now know which route I’ll be looking over the winter for bargain deals.