As a Million Miler with American AAdvantage, I am afforded AAdvantage Gold status each year. My credentials for the 2014 program year have already arrived. The envelope is the same smallish one as always, but I’m not complaining. I was actually looking forward to receiving my new card because it features the new AA branding. Yes, I know I’ve said I wasn’t a fan of the new branding, but the AvGeek in me was anxious to collect a new card anyway.
The folder containing the card featured a note from Suzanne Rubin, President of AAdvantage, thanking me for my Million Miler status. Other than the card, the only thing the packet contained was a sheet of recognition chits you can hand to employees who do a good job. I appreciate that American includes these for its lowest elite level members. The only thing that I would wish for the packet to contain would be luggage tags. I’d like to have tags featuring the new logo for a keepsake if nothing else. You used to be able to buy them, but that option was removed a while back.
So there you have it – Gold again. I wonder if I’ll be receiving a new AAdvantage “Silver” card next year?
-MJ, November 27, 2013
I no longer live in DC, but for those that do and need to shop on Friday, this is a deal worth considering. Valid from November 29 – December 1, and a fine way to avoid the stress of the 7th circle of hades known as Tysons traffic, Uber is offering flat rates from anywhere inside the beltway to Tysons.
Split this ride with friends and you are looking at a pretty reasonable way to avoid the stress of Route 7 traffic to get your post-Thanksgiving shop on. Get more details from Uber here. Get $20 off if you use promo code SHOPTYSONS if you’re new to Uber.
Don’t live in the DC area, or reading this after 12/1? Book your Uber using this link, you’ll get $10 off if it’s your first time using Uber, and I’ll get $10 off my next Uber. And be sure take a look at these other promos mentioned by View From the Wing.
-MJ, November 26, 2013
Celebrity Cruises has announced some major changes to its loyalty program, Captain’s Club. The highlights of the changes are:
- The addition of two new elite levels, Elite Plus and Zenith
- New benefits depending on your elite level like discounted internet, laundry services, and drink packages
- Pretty big changes in the way you accrue points towards elite status
Captain’s Club will now include six levels of status.
I think the biggest change is in how Celebrity will now calculate the points needed to attain elite status. Previously, this was awarded based on cruise credits – one cruise = one credit with bonuses for higher tier stateroom accommodations, etc. Now, the points system will be reflective of both the level of stateroom accommodation and the number of nights spent on board according to Celebrity as below:
For those exploring the Galapagos Islands aboard Celebrity Xpedition, points earned are as follows:
Now, the new elite levels.
Elite Plus members will receive enhanced recognition including:
- Complimentary 200-minute Internet package
- Complimentary cappuccino, latte and espresso
- 10% discount on any Beverage Package
- 15% discount on any Specialty Restaurant
- Private shipboard departure lounge with continental breakfast
- Access to a coffeehouse style breakfast and Evening Cocktail hour
- Invitation to the Elegant Tea event
- Complimentary access to Persian Garden (on one port day of your choice, while the ship is in port)
- Two complimentary bags of laundry (wash, dry, fold) on all Celebrity cruises
- Complimentary dry cleaning of one item
- Ability to enroll in Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society Diamond Level (Elite status reciprocity which I covered here)
Please click here to read the latest terms and conditions as well as any disclaimers.
Zenith members, Celebrity’s new top tier, will receive an impressive array of benefits:
- Access to Michael’s Club Lounge, including Embarkation Day
- Complimentary 1600-minute Internet package
- Complimentary laundry
- Complimentary Beverage Package
- 25% off Specialty Dining
- Priority Seating in Theater (on formal and production show nights, seats released 10 minutes prior to curtain call)
- Priority embarkation while the ship is in port
- Upgraded bath amenities
- Complimentary lunch at Bistro on Five (when sailing consecutively)
- Complimentary Extend Your Stay (where available stay onboard longer on disembarkation day)
- Complimentary Luggage Valet service from ship to final destination airport (where available, airline fees still apply)
- Upon reaching the Zenith tier, Captain’s Club will make a charitable donation in the member’s behalf
- Upon reaching the Zenith tier, receive a complimentary 7-night Caribbean or Bermuda cruise (in a Veranda stateroom only)
- At 6000 Club Points and every 3000 Club Points thereafter receive a complimentary 7-night Caribbean or Bermuda cruise (in an AquaClass®stateroom)
Click here for the latest details from Celebrity on their highest level of elite recognition.
While I tend to favor the KISS method in anything, including loyalty, I applaud Celebrity for managing to remake their program, enhance benefits for its most frequent customers, and not take anything away from existing customers at lower elite levels. Enhanced internet, and complementary beverage packages at the Zenith level are a real perk in my opinion and I really love the idea of Michael’s Club lounge access on embarkation day for Zenith level customers. If only I could cruise more!
What’s your take on the new program?
-MJ, November 26, 2013
“For an entire product class to be more or less serving as a mile-burning product, that’s not the right thing….”
-Christoph Franz, CEO of Lufthansa
About this time last year, MrsMJ and I were returning from a 3-week European vacation onboard a Lufthansa A330 in First Class. We were the only passengers in the cabin. While I’m sure the holiday week had something to do with that, it has a certain bit of extra meaning to me in light of the widely quoted remark above from a November 6th interview in New York since, of course, I payed for our flights with miles. MileagePlus miles and a few Ultimate Rewards points (15,000) transferred over to MileagePlus to be exact.
I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, an eternal optimist, and very entertaining in bars and nightclubs. Even still, I think it is time to let go of any notions we may hold that the next recession, oil shock, or other calamity is going to change the new reality. For the first time since the Wright Brothers flew, airlines are being managed like for-profit enterprises and not cash generators (in good times) and burners (in bad times) winging their way from crisis to crisis hoping to fire sale enough tickets and borrow enough money to meet payroll and buy fuel. That is a good thing, because only a consistently profitable enterprise can invest in the people and equipment necessary to deliver a product that customers want to buy. That is the primary goal of most any enterprise, including an airline, and that is the way it should be. The issue is that in managing their businesses in this new (to them) way, airlines have removed the release valve of empty seats they could once give away for “free” while not quite giving up on their addiction to minting miles for cash. Something was going to give, and it’s already starting.
I am not blameless either. I can produce miles out of thin air while picking up a bottle of Rogaine, so can you, and that is part of the problem as well. At the risk of turning this into an us vs. them or one percenter mileage hoarders of the world unite post, I think it’s time to embrace the new reality. I’ve probably taken my last trip in a near (hey, those were the old seats) world-class first class product for 125,000 miles. I am fortunate to fly enough for work and personal travel that I can hold a level of elite status to keep me more comfortable than the average Joe, and provide me with a reasonable cache of miles that others may have to struggle more to obtain. Maybe that makes me a little less troubled by things than I would otherwise be, and I acknowledge the possibility.
In the end, the result of all this is that “free” travel never really was free, and it is going to cost us all more miles than it did before. That’s not the end of the world, but it may also mean that doing other things with your hard-earned points or changing your focus on the mileage/points currencies you earn is becoming a relatively more attractive possibility. More this week.
-MJ, November 26, 2013
The reminders have been rolling in about Small Business Saturday coming up on November 30. I just got an email from Uber reminding me that by paying for an Uber ride on Saturday, November 30th, with a value of at least $10, I can get a credit of $10 credited back to my registered Amex card. Just one more reason why it pays to participate in Small Business Saturday.
Click here to register your American Express card.
Book your Uber here, and get $10 off your first ride. I get $10 Uber credit too.
-MJ, November 25, 2013
A few months ago I received an email from my friend Delta Points. He laid out the case for taking part in a pretty amazing deal. For $139, we would fly from LAS to MSP to JAX to MSP to LAS. Somewhere along the way there was a schedule change, and we wound up actually flying LAS-LAX-ATL-JAX-ATL-LAS. I repositioned out there on a one-way purchased fare on Delta which cost me $115 after using a $50 off coupon I had lying around. Being miles rich, and cash poor around the holidays, I elected to fly back to Atlanta on a one-way AAdvantage award that I ultimately did not need to use (more on that later).
I took one of the later Delta nonstops to Vegas on Wednesday night. That way I could put in a full day at the office and still get to Vegas in time to lose 20 bucks, get some sleep, and make it to the airport early on Thursday. My Platinum Medallion upgrade cleared at the 5-day window for this flight, which made me happy as it is blocked around 4-hours. I had a big seat and GoGo so I could get a little work done, but sadly, no power on this particular 757. Another novelty of this trip was that dinner was served. Seems that nearly all my flights are either breakfast, lunch, or no meal. I present you chicken with some kind of red sauce.
It tasted better than it looks, but this is another fine example of why I don’t take many food pictures on flights. Two choices of bread were available, and red wine refills were frequent. Like most Delta flight attendants, ours were great on this flight.
The Amex Centurion Lounge
I have to admit that the thing I was most pleased about during this trip was the opportunity to visit the American Express Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas. After a short cab ride and a quick transit through TSA PreCheck, DP and I arrived at the lounge, which is near gate D4.
We arrived at the lounge prior to the hot breakfast offerings, but even the continental breakfast tops any offering I’ve seen in a domestic carrier’s lounge. Furnishings were very comfortable, and there were power outlets just about everywhere, including the bar. Platinum and Centurion Cardmembers are afforded complimentary entry for themselves and up to 2 guests. Other Amex Cardmembers (affiliate link) can enter for a $50 fee, which I’d seriously consider paying if I were stuck in the airport with no other lounge access. Believe me, the Centurion Lounge tops the domestic legacy lounge offerings by far.
Running for Something
After a little morning coffee, it was time for the day of flying to begin. Our day would go something like this:
Leg 1 – LAS-LAX, A319, First Class
Leg 2 -LAX-ATL, B777, Economy Comfort
Leg 3 – ATL-JAX, B757, Economy Comfort
Leg 4 – JAX-ATL, B757, First Class
Leg 5 – ATL-LAS, B757, First Class (cleared at gate)
We made our way to the Delta gates, and soon enough, we were on board and on our way to our first connection in Los Angeles.
Soon enough, we were on the ground at LAX. Our chariot to Atlanta, a 777-200LR, already waiting for us.
The rest of the day went like clock work. On time. I highly recommend seat 31F in the Economy Comfort section of Delta’s 777. Would I have preferred to be in F? Sure! But really, I found the seat to be very comfortable for coach, especially considering I’m a bit of a widebody and the seat was a bit narrower thanks to having the video monitor in the arm of the seat as well as the tray table. It is a bulkhead, and my seatmates had graciously occupied all the nearby overhead space by the time I got on board, but the last small bin in the Biz Elite cabin was empty, all the F customers were already settled, and the bin was perfect for my backpack and jacket, and would have fit a normal sized roller bag very well too. My seat had both 110 power as well as a USB port. The only downside to this international 777, no GoGo. Low and behold, I finished a book during the flight! (MJ Note – I’ve actually finished two books since gate to gate PEDs started.)
We landed in Atlanta basically on time in concourse E and had plenty of time to saunter over to the Sky Deck in concourse F. Met some of DP’s readers, and relaxed a bit, then it was off to Jacksonville. The flight to JAX was packed, and both DP and I had tech issues. Somehow Delta’s system had managed to “uncheck” us in. No difference for me, but I think it might have kept DP from clearing into the F cabin. Quick turn in Jacksonville with just enough time for sandwiches at Shula’s ( very nice airport restaurant/bar by the way) and we were on our way back to Atlanta….thankfully in F. Aside from the Valley Girl (like…oh my gawd) reunion going on in row 3, a pleasant and relatively quick flight.
Not too long after our second touchdown in Atlanta, our upgrades cleared into F for the flight to Las Vegas. In the week before the flights, a couple of things happened that required a vet visit for the senior member of the MJ on Travel herd family, and more appointments were on the books for Friday. My MQM needs were met for the year, and my return trip had me landing after midnight Friday. I decided to bail on the last leg, and went home, only missing blog material with the Alaska Air/American Airlines adventure I had booked with miles for the return, and of course the miles for the flight to Vegas.
Really enjoyed the mileage run, visiting with Delta Points, and finally checking out the Amex Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas. Hopefully, I’ll be able to plan my next run a bit better in 2014, and not need to bail at the end. One of the more interesting data points for the trip was that DP’s and my upgrade rates were the same with he as a Diamond Medallion, and me as Platinum Medallion. For the upgrades that cleared at the window, we both cleared, but of course, he was a good bit further up the list than me for the gate dances. We are both Delta Reserve Card holders, and I am convinced that being so has helped my upgrade success rate on this trip and others.
As the year winds down, I’m sure I’ll have a business flight or two to take, and our vacation flights to San Juan are coming up very soon. I’ve elected to stop short of Diamond Medallion, even though I could have easily made it to 125,000 MQMs this year. After some personal debate, I decided that the metal bag tags, better phone support, and possibility of a Porsche ride just weren’t worth the extra effort for me this year. I’m sure I’d like the Diamond experience better than Platinum, much like I’ve found the Platinum experience to be better than Gold and so forth. That said, my status goals are met for this year, and now it’s time to start thinking about next year. More soon.
MJ, November 25, 2013
Hey…I went on a mileage run. Enough said. I’d hoped to do a live review of that, but a dearth of wi-fi on the longest flight means you’ll be seeing my “Not So Live Blog” this week. Let’s take a look at what we did get done though.
The Week in Review
- Three Things I am Almost Certain Will Change at the New American
- Holiday Pop Up Shops at the Delta Sky Clubs
- Three Things I am Certain Will NOT Change at the New American
- The Philadelphia Airport Marriott
- I For One Am NOT Ready for Cell Phones on Airplanes (Reader Poll)
- 30 Days of Boat Drinks – Membership Rewards
This Week at MJ on Travel
- My Not So Live Blog of Mileage Run 2013
- The Game May Not Be Over But It Is Forever Changed
These topics and more, this week at MJ on Travel.
-MJ, November 24, 2013
30 Days of Boat Drinks – Shopping Strategies and Getting Booked
30 Days of Boat Drinks – Backup Plan
30 Days of Boat Drinks – Onboard Spending Strategies and Life On Board
30 Days of Boat Drinks – Conclusion
In the next installment of my 30 Days of Boat Drinks series, I would like to cover American Express Membership Rewards points and their uses in paying for cruises. Membership Rewards are the favorite currency of many travelers, and have a number of uses including transferring 1 for 1 into partner programs like British Airways Avios or Delta SkyMiles. You will likely find those options more valuable to you than paying for a cruise, but if you don’t need to fly, here’s how Membership Rewards works with cruising.
When you book with American Express Travel you can pay for all or a portion of your cruise fare with Membership Rewards points. You can book online or call, but either way, a phone call is going to be required to redeem points for your cruise fare. The bad news is that your redemptions are worth a penny per point. So a $300 cruise fare would be 30,000 points, and there are no rebates or points discounts for booking travel. If you happen to use the Business Platinum Card, then you are still eligible for the 20 percent redemption bonus on Membership Rewards that used to apply to the personal card as well so that cruise would only cost you 24,000 points. Membership Rewards, as great as they can be, aren’t quite as good as Ultimate Rewards or Barclaycard Arrival Miles for this exercise. That said….if you have a few to spend it can be done.
I am a little leery of bringing up the excellent Cruise Privileges Program that comes with the Platinum and Centurion Card products, because I’m chosen to focus on the short 3/4 night cruise market for the pricing sweet spot that might allow one to spend 30 days on a cruise ship on points. One of the key rules with the program is that it only applies to cruises of 5 nights or longer. However, if you’re willing to get adventurous, I’ve identified a few 5 night cruises that are extremely affordable and you might be able to take advantage of one of these itineraries if the chips fall correctly. For that reason, I’m bringing Cruise Privileges into our discussion. I’ll cover the 5 night cruise options in my upcoming “feeling lucky?” post.
The basics of the American Express Cruise Privileges Program are this:
- $300 per stateroom shipboard credit, or two-category upgrade (depending on ship, category booked and availability – in other words…if you book the cheapest stateroom on the ship, your benefit will be less than this)
- Additional exclusive amenities unique to each cruise line (typically a complimentary specialty restaurant visit and/or a bottle of wine)
As of November 24, 2013, the participating cruise lines are:
Consult this page for the most up to date list of participating cruise lines and benefits.
We’ll start pulling together the finer details of getting the most cruise for your hard-earned points in the next post – Shopping Strategies and Getting Booked.
-MJ, November 23, 2013
Wow, no sooner than we finally get to read our e-books from gate to gate, and all of a sudden new rumors abound that there is a possibility that we could be approved for cell phone use in flight. I don’t care if it’s technically “safe” or not, I’d like the world to know that MJ on Travel is not a fan of cell phone use on aircraft. Why, you might ask? For far too many people, basic civility and politeness are either an afterthought or something they simply do not get.
I have no better example than the conversation between two of my fellow first class passengers last night. I (and Delta Points along with 3/4 of the First Class cabin) are aware of the details of the most intimate features of these two individuals’ lives. The fact that the majority of the cabin was glaring at them was lost on these two. I cannot fathom what would have happened if they’d been able to call someone from their flight with their iPhones.
So…you know how I feel, but I respect different opinions on this. I thought this would be a fun reader poll. Yes, or no?