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Showing posts from February, 2017

My first churn of 2017 – Starwood American Express

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Well it's late February and I'm doing my first credit card "churn" of the year. (Last year's roundup is here).

While I often say "this is a hobby for people with more time than money", there's also an obsessive-compulsive/extreme couponing vein running through point collector community. People go to some crazy lengths for a signup bonus, but for me, I generally sign up for a new card once or twice a year if something easy, interesting, or low-impact comes along.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card definitely fits that bill:
I already have another card with Amex they didn't pull my credit reportNo annual fee the first year25,000 Starwood points (some of the most valuable points out there – 2.2¢ each) after $3k of spendingStarwood points transfer to a lot more programs than Chase UR and Amex MR points do (just not instantaneously)A refer-a-friend program where you earn 5,000 points for each person who signs up through your unique ref…

Quick warning about JetBlue's Fly-Fi Wi-Fi service

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JetBlue recently announced "gate to gate" Wi-Fi connectivity but for now I'd recommend against using their onboard Wi-Fi until you're in the air.

I just flew from New York JFK (where cellular reception on the ground is a bit spotty) and used the onboard Fly-Fi to access the internet at the gate and during taxi. Once we were airborne I couldn't get my phone to connect. I'm a software engineer and a former technical support person (as is my husband) and neither of us could find any trickery to get my phone to connect.

I found a thread over on Flyertalk where a user (ostensibly a JetBlue employee) is reporting that this is currently a known issue. Until a fix is posted, it's probably best to use Fly-Fi only after you've taken off.



With my phone now unable to access the internet, I grabbed the laptop out of my bag and it worked fine. Until I tried to access my Google account:

Yup, I'd recently enabled 2-factor authentication and now couldn't recei…

North America's Hello Kitty Plane moves from Houston to Chicago

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Last year I tried to fly to Taipei on EVA Air's Hello Kitty plane, but a last-minute equipment change foiled my plans. According to EVA's website, the service is moving to Chicago starting 31 May 2017.

Flight BR55 departs Chicago at 00:30 and has the Kitty plane Thu, Sat, and MonFlight BR56 departs Taipei at 19:50 and has the Kitty plane Wed, Fri, Sun EVA operates a bunch of co-branded Sanrio planes, a route list is here. The new Gudetama plane sounds awesome – I saw it on the tarmac in Taipei when we were there last. But at this point I don't have any concrete plans to go back to Asia in 2017 😢

Other linksFun stuff we did in Taipei

United Polaris = Overpromise, Underdeliver

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UPDATE (Dec 2017): I put down these thoughts last February about United Polaris. TPG just posted a 1-year Polaris look-back, and sadly there's still only one Polaris lounge in the world and the reader comments about their in-flight experiences with the staff echo my concerns from last February…


United is pouring millions of advertising dollars to tell the world about their new Polaris Class. Essentially they're ditching long-haul international First Class in favor of a "Business Class Plus" experience and giving it a catchy name. Very seldom have I had so many non-plane geek friends bringing up a new product with me the way I have with Polaris – so kudos to their marketing department for reaching a whole new audience with this vision.

But there are a few problems:
1. The nice new seats from the commercials won't be fully installed until 2021

Yes, that's right, you can book a Polaris flight right now, but the only Polaris thing about your flight will be new cat…

Twitter is your friend

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I (mostly) hate Twitter. Despite all of it's obvious problems, I find it especially horrifying to see respectable writers forced into to spelling "your" as "ur". But despite all that it's still one of the best ways to get customer service these days.

Recently Alaska Airlines and Virgin America merged, and I'd read several reports that customers were getting 10,000 bonus Alaska miles upon linking their points accounts with both airlines. I linked my accounts and moved all of my Virgin points into my Alaska account but never saw any bonus. I waited a month or so and then tweeted @AlaskaAir to inquire about it. They replied the same day in a private window asking for my account details and a day later 10,000 points showed up!


Another thing I'll mention as I stare out at a foot of snow on the ground: definitely use Twitter if you want to know the precise moment that travel fee-waivers are issued due to bad weather. Our story from Mexico last year nearl…