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Showing posts from December, 2014

*Sad Trombone* Kimpton is being acquired by IHG

I generally prefer B&Bs to big hotel chains, but if I do have to stay in a hotel, I just stay at a Kimpton if one is available. They're reasonably priced, each one is unique, they have free wifi if you sign up for their loyalty program, there's decent free coffee in the lobby in the morning, free wine in the lobby before dinner, emergency condoms in the amenity kit, and some of them have free loaner bicycles.

Welp, it looks like they just got acquired by IHG. All discussions of hotel points aside, any time a small, unique, innovative, tightly-run business gets acquired, all of the things that made it unique and attractive are the first things that get cut. Maybe it'll be different this time, but I doubt it. 

Thankfully Virgin is launching a hotel chain, so at least there's a new entrant to that space... 

YESSS! Amex transfer bonus to British Airways is back!

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For the past few years, Amex has offered a monthly(ish)-long promo where you get bonus points when you transfer Amex Preferred Rewards points to British Airways. They don't publish a schedule, so whenever the first of the year rolls around people start speculating if, when, and how long the bonus will be this year.
Well wait no longer! Until 31 January 2015, you get a 40% bonus when transferring.
I'm still waiting to get more information about my brother's spring party in Tokyo, so I'll probably wait a bit before transferring anything. The main beauty of transferrable point cards like Amex Premier Rewards and Chase Sapphire is that you can transfer them, usually instantly, to an airline Frequent Flyer plan when you've found available award seats. It lets you keep points in a "neutral" place until right before you need them, and you can usually transfer into most of the big airline alliances so they're a great defense against getting tricked into loyal…

Virgin launching a hotel chain

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UPDATE: it's open now! review here.

I'm not a big hotel person. Most travelers roll their eyes at people who go to another country and then eat at McDonald's, but that's kind of how I feel about people who travel and stay at a Hilton, Westin, or other big hotel chain. Ideally I stay with someone local. My favorite thing about traveling is seeing people's day-to-day lives and taking part in it. If that's not an option I'll look for a small B&B or guest house so I have the chance to get to know the proprietors. If that's not an option, I'll look at AirBnB. Failing that, then I look to a local pension. 
If I end up having to stay at a big chain hotel, I just stay at a Kimpton if one is available. They're reasonably priced, each one is unique, they have free wifi if you sign up for their loyalty program, there's decent free coffee in the lobby in the morning, free wine in the lobby before dinner, emergency condoms in the amenity kit, and some…

Delta rebranding their cabins

Delta announced that they're re-branding all of their cabins. I've complainedtalked about about this in the past and today's changes are even more obfuscated than before. As I've said in the past, use SeatGuru when you're shopping so you know what you're paying for!

Basic Economy - even shittier than Economy, you won't earn miles, can't pick your seat, and no changes are permitted

Main Cabin - Virgin America has used this phrasing for their Economy Class for a long time now, I wonder if that had any influence on Delta's choice here.

Delta Comfort+ - I think Premium Economy has a different name on every single airline. Again, they're copying Virgin in that they're including free drinks, better food, and free movies along with the extra 4" of legroom. Let's hope they don't copy Virgin's ridiculous pricing to buy these seats.

First Class - The standard USA domestic first you've seen for years. 38" recliner seats, usually w…

La Compagnie

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Back in June I mentioned La Compagnie – an all-Business Class airline brought to you by the same folks who founded Openskies. Six months later, they're still in business with their one Newark - Paris route.

They've just announced a new route to London (the press release makes it sound like it'll be to Gatwick).

I've not flown them before, but I did fly Openskies back when it was an all-Business Class airline and I liked it. The big pro with these flights is that they give me cheap access to the one thing I want most: a seat I can comfortably sleep in. In La Compagnie's case, $2600 for TWO roundtrip Business Class tickets is unheard of. It's cheaper than many big airlines' economy tickets. They also offer pre-departure lounge access and, because they're french, the onboard liquor won't be a disappointment :)

There are, of course, downsides. If anything goes wrong with the plane, well… they don't have any other planes to put you on. You don't…

Buying up to the next elite tier...

Yes, I often rail about how airline loyalty is meaningless these days as airlines gut their elite benefits and keep raising the bar on all of the tiers. But for some people (e.g., people who fly a lot for work) it makes sense to try and make elite status if for no other reason than having a shot at a slightly less miserable year in the air next year.

I'm often surprised how many of my friends who fly 50,000+ miles per year for work often have very little idea about how mileage plans work. Though to be fair, I think the airlines do their best to make sure that the rules are as difficult as possible to understand.

With that said, I just wanted to point out that typically in December, airlines will let you directly buy Elite Qualifying Miles/Dollars to top off your account and ensure that you make the next tier up for next year.

DeltaUnited (United requires you to buy the points in conjunction with a flight)American There's more info over on The Points Guy, but keep in mind that p…

Tokyo in spring?

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So it's looking like my brother has settled on Tokyo Sakura Festival as the site for his big 4-0 celebration. While the whole country goes nuts celebrating the arrival of the cherry blossoms, it's definitely on my bucket list to brave the crowds and do that in Japan once in my life. The big challenge on this is that he can't commit to specific dates until February at the earliest. This makes finding award seats challenging. I'm thinking my only real hope is snagging some of the award inventory that airlines sometimes release at the very last minute (like less than 5 days from departure). But if you're going on a 3 week trip, that means you'll depart without a return ticket and you'll have to get up every day of your vacation and poke around award inventory and hope you can find yourself a seat home. Not exactly a relaxing proposition. Also, flights to and from Asia tend to be priced such that one way tickets are often more expensive than round-trips, so if…