Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Mexican reach-around

Over the years I've heard a bunch of interesting, somewhat under-the-radar tricks that frequent fliers have used to fly for less. One of them involved buying a Star Alliance Round The World First Class ticket at the airport Venezuela using local currency. At the time, their currency was rapidly devaluing and you could score this ticket for a fraction of what it would cost anywhere else in the world. You saved so much money it more than paid for the cost of flying yourself there to make the transaction. Among my friends these things inevitably end up with wacky and suggestive nicknames.

Well, after last year's interesting attempt at getting onto a one-way flight back from Mexico without paying extortionary rates (seriously, all the normal booking channels wanted more for a one-way than a round-trip!), I found that local travel agencies could book the ticket for a reasonable amount (i.e., half the cost of the round trip).

I finally got around to finishing up next year's trip and encountered a similar situation. I was looking for the Oaxaca to Puerto Vallarta leg and the prices seemed extraordinarily high for First on a regional jet.

Aeromexico's US site

So just for fun I switched browsers and visited the Mexican version of Aeromexico's website and "ta da!" – that discount First Class bucket was magically available for the very same flight on the very same day for US$830 cheaper! Also notice that the cheapest Economy ticket isn't available on their US site, either. If you were flying Economy, this trick would save you US$40

I also replicated this on Expedia.mx and saw the same results. We've already started calling this particular trick the "Mexican reach around" 🤐

"shopping like a local"

My guide for getting to Puerto Vallarta.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Let's earn some bonus points together with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (and others!)

Chase released their Sapphire Reserve card a year ago to much fanfare and popularity. Now that the card is a year old, they're allowing existing cardmembers to refer their friends and both parties get a bonus.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

If you're getting one, please consider using my referral link. You'll get 50,000 bonus points, and I'll get some points for referring you!

I've had the card for a year and I've found the 3x bonus points for travel and dining to be its #1 feature (the travel bonus alone netted me 15,000+ more points in the first year versus spending on my Amex!). A few other things I personally found useful:

  • The high annual fee is easily offset by the $300 travel credit, which is insanely easy to use (even taxis and NYC subway fares count as travel!)
  • Just this month I renewed my Global Entry and the Reserve's rebate program saved me the $100 fee
  • Given those two things, I think of the annual fee as being $130
  • The complimentary Priority Pass membership has come in handy on several occasions, and is even more useful with their new airport restaurant credit program
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • A different set of transfer partners than American Express (e.g., United) 
  • Their transfer partner Korean Air recently added online booking for Skyteam partner rewards, so booking a Delta flight with Chase Ultimate Rewards points is a lot easier now

Interested in different card?

Here's my referral links for several other popular credit cards and services! If you sign up through these links we both get a bonus (Click the links to see the bonus offer)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Using the Priority Pass restaurant credit

As I mentioned earlier, Priority Pass recently added a new type of benefit to their airport lounge access card – a $28 per person credit when used at participating restaurants and shops within the airport terminal. Since most airport lounges only have free snacks and I'm often looking for an actual meal when I'm in an airport, this is a welcome new option.

Right now, Portland, Oregon (PDX) is a trial run for this. I had a dinner-time flight to JFK from PDX in Economy and wanted to bring a meal with me, so I stopped in to Capers Market and took a look around. I was surprised at the variety of things they had available. In addition to things you'd likely eat/drink on board or in the airport, there were a lot of souvenirs, wine, beer, and charcuterie.

One thing to note is that you have to use all $28 in one transaction, you can't, say, use $20 and then go back 10 minutes later and use the remaining $8.

Of course, since I'm not really a Delta gal, I got on board my flight and to my complete and utter shock I found they were serving a meal to everyone on board – including Economy!!

Capers Market (near D gates)

lots of local beers

soaps, chocolates, honey, tea

ice cream and beer

The usual beverages, coffee, pastries, sandwiches

local sausage, nuts, and charcuterie

My loot: salmon salad, cheese plate, an apple

Thursday, September 7, 2017

JAL's new tool to help you spot Mt. Fuji from the air

Japan Airlines just launched a new tool to help you figure out where to sit if you want to see Mt. Fuji from the air. Just enter your flight info and it'll tell you which side to sit on.


➡️ My other posts about Japan.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sometimes Economy has more room than First

As I've mentioned before, unless you're on a special, premium transcontinental flight like JetBlue Mint or United PS, domestic USA First class means a recliner seat with about 6 more inches of legroom than Economy. United likes to think those inches and (if you're lucky) a meal warrant a 300% increase in price. Delta usually prices theirs around 200%.

Most domestic first looks like those recliners on the left

But if you use Seatguru.com and are willing to poke a little bit at the seat map during the checkout process, you can sometimes land yourself way more legroom than First without having to pay those ridiculous markups.

I'm just booked a flight from Portland (PDX) to JFK and was planning on sitting in Economy but after consulting Seatguru I figured I'd click the Comfort+ option to see if 19F was open, and lo and behold it was! So for $70 I get early boarding AND infinite legroom. Theoretically I'll also get a pillow, blanket, and amenity kit for that money.

I love when infinite legroom happens!

But as I learned from my Hello Kitty plane experience, though, if there's an equipment swap, I'm hosed.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Tip about Google flights...

When you're searching on Google flights, you can put a list of 5 cities into the search fields, separated by commas. The airports don't have to be anywhere near each other.

In this case, I'll call this the "they're giving my husband's team the entire holiday weekend off" search 😁

♨️ 🐷 🥘 🌮 or 🌭 for the weekend?   

Great Economy fares to Tokyo this fall ($489 round trip!)

I was poking around Google Flights for a friend and noticed that there's quite a few dates in Autumn with super cheap economy fares to Tokyo from New York. Normally these would be in the $1000-$1300 range but these are as low as $489! Most of the cheap fares seem to be on Air China via Beijing or ANA/United via Chicago or Los Angeles, and both have reasonable layover times. If it were me, I'd take the ANA itinerary because of ANA's stellar reputation.

As far as Business Class fares go, there's a few Air China itineraries for $2100, but from the reviews I've read, the food and service is terrible, so that $2100 is to get you a lie-flat seat and not a whole lot else.

Keep in mind that the arrival of Tokyo's fall weather lags New York's by a month, so the weather should be mild and pleasant on a lot of the Oct and Nov dates...

$489 via Beijing on Air China

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or $627 on ANA/United

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My Japan tips are here.