I have something that has been wearing on my conscience for a few weeks now, and I feel like I have to come clean on it. I even had a nightmare about it two nights ago, which finally caused me to take action and fix the problem.

Remember how I stayed at Marriott Sao Paulo Airport a few weeks ago during my quick trip to Brazil?

Marriott-Sao-Paulo-Airport-02

Well, how do I say this? I… I… I… didn’t collect points for the stay. I was so lazy that I didn’t even put my Marriott Rewards number on the reservation. That’s mainly because I didn’t know what my Marriott Rewards number was and couldn’t easily find it. And I was too lazy to call up Marriott to figure out what it was, since I couldn’t figure it out through the online form.

I TURNED DOWN FREE POINTS.

Take away my blogger license (and ideally Christopher Elliott’s license to use the internet at the same time), I’m not worthy.

I don’t know why I turned down the points, exactly. Over the years I’ve done hundreds of stays at Hyatt, Starwood, Hilton, and IHG properties, while I’ve done maybe two or three stays at Marriott properties. And it just seemed like it wasn’t even worth the effort.

Fortunately I corrected that yesterday since my conscience was wearing on me, and I retroactively requested the points.

Marriott-Missing-Stay-Credit

To be honest it was partly motivated by the fact that I realized I have several upcoming Marriott stays, both at Frequently Traveler University in Seattle this weekend, as well as Frequent Traveler University Advanced in Chicago this summer.

It’s one thing to stay at a hotel without a loyalty program, but have you ever voluntarily not added your loyalty program number to a reservation? Make me feel better and let me know, please!

Reader KG sent me the following message:

I had booked a US Airways award ticket in business class for 90K per person. Our routing was IAH-IST-ZRH (open jaw), BRU-LHR-ICN-PEK (destination) – IAH. We flew the IAH-IST-ZRH legs. We arrived at the Brussels Airport but unfortunately were denied boarding. My wife holds an Indian passport and according to the airport officials needed a UK transit visa even though we were just changing planes and would be at LHR for 2.5 hours.

After we were denied boarding I tried to call US Airways to explain the situation but they said they couldn’t do anything to help re-route, etc (since travel had already commenced). At this point we just decided to visit Amsterdam and I booked a separate award ticket back to Houston. So my question is, do you think there is any point to trying to call or write to US Airways to see if they would return a portion of the miles or allow us to book the segments to/fro Beijing for a later date or do you think it would just be a wasted effort and my time would be better spent trying to accrue more miles? Thanks as always for your advice!

In a follow up message, KG explained that his boarding passes were issued without problem and then his wife was was actually denied boarding at the gate. Apparently the gate called UK immigration, but they didn’t let KG or his wife stand close enough to the phone so they could actually hear anything or talk to the immigration officers. When he asked them to call back they said they were only allowed to call once. Meanwhile he used another phone number to call UK immigration, and they told him that transit was fine as long as she had a Green Card.

US Airways doesn’t allow any changes to award tickets after departure

US Airways has among the most restrictive policies for award changes once travel commences. On paper they don’t let you make any changes whatsoever once travel commences, regardless of the reason.

In practice, US Airways sometimes lets you make changes after departure

So it’s extremely rare, though under severe circumstances I’ve been able to get them to change an itinerary after departure (not for my own travel, though). It may require hanging up and calling again, and for that matter only a supervisor would even consider making the exception. So I would ask for a supervisor immediately if trying to make a change after departure.

If you have a legitimate emergency or immigration issue they’re most likely to make an exception.

Ultimately it’s the passenger’s responsibility to check visa requirements Read More…

Link: Chase Fairmont Visa Card

Earlier today I wrote about the Fairmont President’s Club, which is one of the more unique loyalty programs out there.

Co-branded hotel credit cards have really stepped up their game lately, as they mostly come with mega-perks that more than justify the annual fees on the cards year after year.

Here are just a few examples of the benefits you get on the cards each year, not factoring in the sign-up bonuses:

  • Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card — Gold status for as long as you have the card, Diamond status when you spend $40,000 on the card in a year, and an annual free weekend night certificate when you spend $10,000 on the card in a year; $95 annual fee
  • Chase Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card — Silver status for as long as you have the card, annual free night at any category 1-5 property; $85 annual fee
  • Chase Hyatt Signature Visa Card — Platinum status for as long as you have the card, annual free night certificate at any category 1-4 property; $75 annual fee
  • Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Visa Card — Platinum status for as long as you have the card, annual free night certificate valid at any IHG property; $49 annual fee

Fairmont Visa Signature Card sign-up bonus

You earn two free nights at any Fairmont worldwide with complimentary breakfast for two after spending $1,000 within your first three months of account opening.

The free night certificates will be electronically deposited into your Fairmont President’s Club account within four to six weeks of reaching the minimum spend, and can be redeemed by phone. Blackout dates do apply, though based on what I’ve heard availability tends to be pretty good.

Fairmont-Visa-Card

Fairmont Visa Signature Card annual fee

The annual fee on the card is $95, though waived the first year.

Fairmont Visa Signature Card foreign transaction fees

The card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.

Fairmont Visa Signature Card earnings rates Read More…

Four Seasons has just announced that they’ll soon be introducing a private jet experience. It will be a 757-200 aircraft with just 52 seats, and should start flying in February 2015. If the rendering on their website is accurate, I’d say that’s one sexy paint scheme, giving Air New Zealand’s 787-9s a run for their money.

Four-Seasons-Private-Jet-1

The 52 fully flat seats will be in a 2-2 configuration. They look nice though not like anything special, given that they’re pretty standard business class seats nowadays.

Four-Seasons-Private-Jet-2

Here’s a video about the private jet:

YouTube Preview Image

If I’m reading this correctly, they’ll basically offer private jet “experiences,” whereby you can book a seat on an itinerary that stops in multiple cities with Four Seasons.

For example, the website has an itinerary for February 9 through March 4, 2015, with the following stops: Read More…

This past weekend I spent a night at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver, which simply blew me away. It was possibly the nicest hotel I’ve stayed at in North America, both in terms of the property itself and the service. Meanwhile a couple of weeks prior I stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver, which was nice enough, though didn’t really seem much different than the other “major” hotel chains.

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Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver Gold Harbour View Room

While I do still think Fairmont lacks an identity as a brand based on my limited experience with them, they do have some nice properties that I’d really like to visit. Beyond that, I have to say that Fairmont President’s Club members are some of the biggest advocates I’ve seen of any hotel brand. I get emails all the time from FPC members raving about how much they love Fairmont.

So I figured I’d write a post covering the basics of the Fairmont President’s Club program, and then write a follow up post about their co-branded credit card.

Fairmont President’s Club has three status levels

Let me say upfront that I find Fairmont’s program to be unnecessarily complicated and rewarding in a somewhat backwards way.

At the same time it’s one of the most generous loyalty programs for members without status, while the rewards for those with status are a bit more questionable.

Anyway, Fairmont’s three membership levels are as follows:

  • Club Status is earned just for enrolling in the program
  • Premier Status is earned after five stays or ten nights in a calendar year
  • Platinum Status is earned after ten stays or thirty nights in a calendar year

As you can see, the qualification requirements are reasonable compared to what other hotels require… but do the benefits add up?

I’ll share my thoughts on the top benefits of each level below, but feel free to check out the official Fairmont President’s Club status benefits page.

FPC Club Status Read More…

This past weekend I spent three nights in Vancouver with friends and tried out three different hotels. We spent the first night at the Hyatt Regency, the second night at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, and the third night at the Shangri-La.

Booking the Fairmont Pacific Rim

I booked the Fairmont Pacific Rim through Virtuoso, which comes with the following benefits:

  • Complimentary room upgrade subject to availability
  • Early check-in and late check-out subject to availability
  • $100 spa or food and beverage credit
  • Complimentary full breakfast for two

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Virtuoso welcome letter

The Virtuoso rate is the same as the best available rate. In this case I took it one step further, though. A friend that’s a big Fairmont fan transferred one of his Gold Level upgrade certificates to my Fairmont President’s Club account, so that I could upgrade to the Gold Floor. This requires booking a minimum of a deluxe room, which cost $324CAD.

Given all the benefits I was getting, I figured it was worth it to experience the Gold Floor.

Vancouver is generally an outrageously expensive city, though hotel pricing varies seasonally. It’s such a bargain to stay at the Vancouver Virtuoso/American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts properties in the off season, between the low rates, the benefits you get, and the fact that they often offer a third or fourth night free. It’s not unusual to see rates under $200 at the Fairmont Pacific Rim or Shangri-La between November and February.

I was really curious to see how the Fairmont Pacific Rim compared to the Fairmont Waterfront, which is located a block away. I stayed there a couple of weeks ago and had a nice stay and found it to be a great value. That being said, I didn’t find the hotel to be much nicer than a Marriott or Westin, for example, so was a bit confused as to how Fairmont was trying to position themselves.

Staying at the Fairmont Pacific Rim

We arrived at the Fairmont Pacific Rim at around 2PM, and I was immediatley impressed by the exterior of the hotel. It’s stunning.

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Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver exterior

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Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver exterior

As soon as we pulled up were approached by the friendly bellmen. They asked if we were checking in, and when they confirmed that we were President’s Club Members they called a front desk associate over to assist us. To be clear, I’m just a base President’s Club Member, and even with that they offer in-room check in. The friendly associate had my key ready to go, and escorted me to my room on the Gold Floor. At no point was I asked for a credit card or anything.

The exterior of the hotel is gorgeous, with the walkway into the hotel separating two small “ponds.” I found it kind of funny that they had a BMW standing in the water on one side.

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Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver entrance

The lobby was stunning. It had high ceilings and featured the check-in desks to the right and lobby bar to the left.

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Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver lobby Read More…

A couple of weeks back AAdvantage and Dividend Miles announced some major program changes. One of the smaller changes that was announced involved using US Airways Dividend Miles for upgrades.

Previously upgrade fees (co-pays) were waived for Dividend Miles Preferred members upgrading to first class. They weren’t waived for business class upgrades on their longhaul international flights, though. They updated those terms, and as of April 23, 2014, Preferred members will also have to pay the co-pay even on first class upgrades.

Here’s the upgrade fee chart:

US-Airways-Co-Pays

And then here are the upgrade terms:

*Mileage upgrade fee is waived for Preferred members (except for Business Class upgrades) or if you buy a full fare ticket (Y or B class). Starting April 23, 2014, the mileage upgrade fee will no longer be waived for Preferred members.**Mileage upgrade fee for Business Class is waived if you buy a full fare ticket (Y or B class). Any travel from France or the United Kingdom is subject to additional international taxes. All upgrades are subject to availability. Chairman’s members get two free Business Class upgrades each year.

So if you’re a Dividend Miles Preferred member and have a ticket you want to use miles to upgrade, be sure to apply it today. It’s okay if the travel is on a future date, as long as the upgrade is locked in today. Read More…

Emirates announced yesterday that they’ll be launching once daily A380 service between Dubai and Kuwait City as of July 16, 2014. This happens to be the 25th anniversary of Emirates’ service to Kuwait.

The new A380 service will operate with the following schedule:

EK857 Dubai to Kuwait City departing 4:00PM arriving 4:45PM
EK858 Kuwait City to Dubai departing 6:25PM arriving 9:10PM

Interestingly they’re still maintaining their four other daily flights between the cities despite them upgrading this flight from a Boeing 777-200 to an Airbus A380.

What makes this route especially interesting is that it will be the world’s shortest A380 route, at just 529 miles. The flight is blocked at 1hr45min in each direction.

Emirates-Dubai-Kuwait

So why would Emirates put such a premium aircraft on a route with fairly little competition? After all, they’re switching from a cramped, regional 777 to their “flagship” A380. If they viewed this as a super-premium route previously, they would have at least offered their longhaul product on the route.


Emirates A380 first class Read More…

I’ve written in the past about the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card, which is one of the most lucrative hotel credit cards out there.

Some of the benefits of the card include the following:

  • The card comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after the first purchase, and an additional 35,000 points after spending $2,500 on the card within 90 days
  • You get 40,000 points on your account anniversary each year, which more than justifies the $75 annual fee
  • You get Club Carlson Gold status for as long you have the card, which most notably offers free internet and room upgrades, along with some other perks
  • You earn five points per dollar spent on everyday purchases and ten points per dollar spent at Club Carlson properties
  • The second night of every award redemption is free, basically meaning you get “buy one get one free” award redemptions, assuming you stay in two night increments

Easily earn 37 points per dollar for Club Carlson stays

One thing that I find especially interesting is just how lucrative Club Carlson is in terms of the points they credit you for hotel stays:

So all things considered, if you have their co-branded credit card you’re literally earning 37 Club Carlson Gold Points per dollar spent, not factoring in any other promotions.

And it’s worth noting that this is after they substantially devalued some of the Club Carlson program perks:

  • The points bonus for Gold members was reduced from 50% to 35%
  • Members no longer receive an online booking bonus for every reservation online, aside from during promotional periods

37 points per dollar spent at Club Carlson properties — so what? Read More…

As far as I’m concerned, one of Alaska’s most valuable partners is Emirates. It’s possible to redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles for travel on Emirates since early 2013, which I do consider to be one of the best uses of Alaska miles.

But if you’re actually paying to fly Emirates, Alaska Mileage Plan is also one of the better programs to credit those miles to. And that just got even more lucrative, as Alaska is offering double Mileage Plan miles and a discount for flying Emirates.

Alaska-Emirates-Double-Miles

Earn double Alaska Mileage Plan miles for Emirates flights

Alaska is offering double redeemable Mileage Plan miles for flights on Emirates between Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C. and Dubai. Furthermore, they’re offering double miles on onward connecting flights on Emirates out of Dubai.

In order to qualify:

  • Book a qualifying flight on Emirates for travel between April 21 and November 30, 2014
  • Register both prior to June 15, 2014, and prior to traveling

Bonus miles should post to your Mileage Plan account 4-6 weeks after travel is completed.

5-10% discount for Emirates flights booked with Alaska promotion code Read More…

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