Archive for the ‘airlines’ Category

Frequent Flyer Tip – Assign Value Your Frequent Flyer Miles To Help Decide How to Use Them

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Thanks to credit card offers and frequent travel you may be sitting on a LOT of frequent flyers miles, but that doesn’t always mean you should use them up quickly.   Here are some tips on effective collection and use of frequent flyer programs and miles:

Collect more frequent flyer miles:
I’m amazed how many people don’t take advantage of frequent flyer programs, which will save a frequent traveler *tens of thousands* of dollars over a lifetime.     So the first tip is USE THESE PROGRAMS!      Second tip is  DON’T LET MILES EXPIRE!.      That usually involves simply spending a bit with credit card linked to your miles program, buying or gifting a few miles through the program, and other cheap approaches.    Even at the low valuation of a penny a mile, losing 25000 miles is like losing $250 cash and is often easily avoided.

Travel is NOT the easiest way to get miles.    Credit Card sign ups with flyer miles programs  are increasingly generous, so it’s not uncommon to get 50,000 or even more miles for a simple credit card sign up, often using cards sponsored by United Airlines, Delta Airlines, US Airways, British Airways, and more.     Although using these and other credit cards will often allow you to collect a few miles, a good trick if your record keeping is good is to cancel the cards after a year (before the fee kicks in) and then sign up again with the new offers that will come your way soon.    Depending on your credit and other factors, you can get hundreds of thousands of extra miles by simply signing up with different cards via different airlines over the course of a few years.   The best online resource I’ve found to help with this is The Points Guy.    Tips there are very helpful and he’s usually got the best offers current credit card offers highlighted and explained.

Using your miles wisely:
I like to assign a value to my miles to help compare offers.     I generally use a penny per mile but that may be somewhat low for most people.    I’d say .02 per mile would be on the high side.      For example if I can use 25,000 miles for a round trip but the ticket would cost me $350 I’d tend to use miles.    On the other hand if I’d need to use 50,000 miles for that $350 trip I’ll pay for the ticket.

Miles values will vary for different people since people have different levels of comfort (first class upgrades can be relatively cheap using miles vs cash), flexibility  (more flexibility means your miles will be a lot easier to use), inconvenience (miles are often somewhat trickier to use compared to booking a paid flight) and the fact that people’s time differs in value   (for example if you value your time at minimum wage and can spend more time looking for deals the miles may be worth *more* to you than if you value your time at, say,  $50+ per hour.

To get an idea of how many miles you’ll get for various trips, use the mileage calculator at Airport City Codes – just enter your two airports and add up the miles from different legs of the journey.

 

American Airlines AAdvantage Miles Expiration – extend mileage expiration with a donation

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

American Airlines Mileage donation program here: http://joinus.aa.com/miles-for-kids-in-need-aadvantage-miles-donate  is both a great cause and a good way to make sure your miles don’t expire unused.   Donations will extend your expiration date – usually to 18 months from the date of donation.     The minimum donation is only 1000 miles so this is probably the “cheapest” way to extend miles as the donation only “costs” you 1000 miles – a value of about $10-$15 depending on your flying and mileage program habits.      My personal rule of thumb *used to be* to use money when the cost of the ticket was LESS THAN a penny per mile used, but this has been complicated by the fact that I have a lot of miles now from credit card offers, ticket have become very expensive, miles tickets are HARD to get, etc.   I’m now inclined use miles whenever possible simply to avoid losing them.

In any case, be SURE to check your miles expiration if you have more than about 5000 miles in your account.   Fewer than that and it may not be worth the time to mess with miles now that tickets have become hard to get using these programs.    For those short on time and long on money I’d say under 10,000 miles may not be worth your hassle time, but obviously if you have over 25000 miles – basically a free round trip in the USA on many airlines – you’ll want to preserve those miles.

As always, the secretary disavows any knowledge of your mission.    Good Luck.

Airport City Codes

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Be sure to check our companion site  AirportCityCodes.com for Airport Codes, Airlines Codes, and our amazing flight distance calculator which will figure the flight miles from almost any two airports in the world.

As a reminder come to QuickAid.com for Airport News,  Airport City Codes.com for Airport and Airline data,  and TravelandHistory.com for a freewheeling blog about travel.    But wait, there’s MORE…..

 

 

TSA Transportation Security Administration Air Travel Review

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Although there are more flight travel rules than you could ever fully understand, the basics are fairly simple and boil down to the following notes from the TSA:

TSA’s  Prohibited Items  NOT all-inclusive but helpful.

3-1-1 Rule – CONSOLIDATE your liquids and gels into a single see-through bag.    Liquids and gels must be in containers smaller than 3.4 ounces (100 mililiters), and you can only have ONE bag that is ONE quart sized.    Zip lock freezer bags are a good way to go as they are sturdy, cheap, and easy to replace if spills or tears ruin them during travel.

For Travelers   General travel tips from the TSA

ID Requirements … Especially important for International travelers who can in some (rare) circumstances be denied entry if they don’t have the right papers/visas/passports/ID.

(Jan 2012) Airline Rules from US Department of Transportation

Friday, January 27th, 2012

The second phase of the new airline passenger protections are now in effect.   These rules are designed to solve problems consumers have faced for years regarding cancellations of tickets and flights and pricing problems.

·        Requiring all taxes and fees to be included in advertised fares.
·        Banning post-purchase price increases.
·        Allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.
·        Requiring disclosure of baggage fees when passengers book a flight.
·        Requiring that the same baggage allowances and fees apply throughout a passenger’s journey.
·       Requiring disclosure of baggage fee information on e-ticket confirmations.
·        Requiring prompt notification of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions.

Generally these seem to be a step forward where regulations will simply make the systems more transparent, although one can make a strong case that the new notifications and 24 hour purchase rule will increase costs for the airlines – costs that will need to be passed along to consumers.

Spirit Airlines has another objection to the new rules, which they assert require them to hide government taxes in their fares. For more about this challenge see their special website here:  keepmyfareslow.org

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“New Rules” full Press Release from the Department of Transportation:

DOT 111-11
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

U.S. Department of Transportation’s Expanded Airline Passenger Protections Take Effect

WASHINGTON – New consumer protections for airline passengers established by the U.S. Department of Transportation go into effect today, and will make flying more convenient and hassle-free for air travelers nationwide. The new consumer protections, finalized earlier this year, include requirements that airlines refund baggage fees if bags are lost, increase compensation provided to passengers bumped from oversold flights, and provide passengers greater protections from lengthy tarmac delays.

“The Obama Administration believes consumers have the right to be treated fairly when they fly,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.  “The Department of Transportation’s new passenger protections will help ensure that air travelers receive the respect they deserve before, during and after their flight.”

Effective today, airlines will be required to refund any fee for carrying a bag if the bag is lost.  Airlines are already required to compensate passengers for reasonable expenses for loss, damage or delay in the carriage of passenger baggage.  Under the new rules, airlines must now prominently disclose all optional fees on their websites, including but not limited to fees for baggage, meals, canceling or changing reservations, or advanced or upgraded seating.

The new rules also double the amount of money passengers are eligible to be compensated for in the event they are involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight.  Previously, bumped passengers were entitled to cash compensation equal to the one-way value of their tickets, up to $400, if the airline was able to get them to their destination within a short period of time (within 1 to 2 hours of their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and 1 to 4 hours for international flights).  If they were delayed for a lengthy period of time (more than two hours after their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights), they were entitled to double the one-way price of their tickets, up to $800.  Under the new rule, bumped passengers subject to short delays will receive compensation equal to double the one-way price of their tickets, up to $650, while those subject to longer delays would receive payments of four times the one-way value of their tickets, up to $1,300.  Inflation adjustments will be made to those compensation limits every two years.

The Department of Transportation’s new rule also expands the existing ban on lengthy tarmac delays to cover the international flights of foreign airlines at U.S. airports, and establishes a hard four-hour time limit on tarmac delays for all international flights at U.S. airports.  It also extends the three-hour tarmac delay limit for domestic flights, currently in place only at large-hub and medium-hub airports, to flights at small-hub and non-hub airports as well. All carriers subject to the tarmac rule will be required to report lengthy tarmac delays to DOT.  In all cases, exceptions to the time limits are allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.   Carriers must also ensure that passengers stuck on the tarmac are provided adequate food and water after two hours, as well as working lavatories and any necessary medical treatment.  

Additional measures under the new rule will take effect January 24, 2012, including:

·        Requiring all taxes and fees to be included in advertised fares.
·        Banning post-purchase price increases.
·        Allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.
·        Requiring disclosure of baggage fees when passengers book a flight.
·        Requiring that the same baggage allowances and fees apply throughout a passenger’s journey.
·       Requiring disclosure of baggage fee information on e-ticket confirmations.
·        Requiring prompt notification of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions.

The final rule, proposed rule and comments are available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2010-0140.

Google buys ITA Flight Search Software.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Google’s aquisition of ITA software, a powerful flight price comparison engine, may eventually add a huge new twist to the flight search space although Google’s current position is that they won’t enter this market as a competitor, rather as a more helpful and user friendly search routine for flights.   It remains to be seen how Google will implement this tool over time, but it’s probably bad news for what in QuickAid’s view is the best current player in this market, Kayak.com.    We’re not sure but believe that  ITA already powers Kayak’s search.

This from Google:

On July 1, 2010, Google announced an agreement to acquire ITA Software, a Cambridge, Massachusetts flight information software company, for $700 million, subject to adjustments.

  • Google’s acquisition of ITA Software will create a new, easier way for users to find better flight information online, which should encourage more users to make their flight purchases online.
  • The acquisition will benefit passengers, airlines and online travel agencies by making it easier for users to comparison shop for flights and airfares and by driving more potential customers to airlines’ and online travel agencies’ websites. Google won’t be setting airfare prices and has no plans to sell airline tickets to consumers.
  • Because Google doesn’t currently compete against ITA Software, the deal will not change existing market shares. We are very excited about ITA Software’s QPX business, and we’re looking forward to working with current and future customers. Google will honor all existing agreements, and we’re also enthusiastic about adding new partners.

 

Google Press Release and Video on the ITA Aquistion: http://www.google.com/press/ita/

British Airways Miles tips from “The Points Guy”

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Brian Kelley is “The Points Guy“, a frequent flyer who helps others get the best from their credit card frequent flyer deals and other travel offers out there.

In an excellent and detailed series of articles linked below, Kelley offers a lot of advice on the British Airways points system, which based on my limited experience offers some challenges in terms of fuel surcharges and other added on fees.   After signing up for new cards my wife and I now have over 200,000 miles to use, but I’m concerned that the “free trips” to London I thought we’d score from this are fading away fast, though it appears BA may allow us to combine several segments – a promising development.   I’ll be reading Kelley’s advice carefully to try to maximize the benefits of the British Airways Frequent Flyer Program.

 

British Airways Frequent Flyer Travel Tips from “The Points Guy” Brian Kelley:

General tipsPost 1 – Booking BA Awards, Post 2 – Booking Partner Awards, Post 3 – Oneworld Alliance, Post 4 – Taxes and Fees, Post 5 – Household Accounts, Post 6 – Companion Ticket, Post 7 – Using ExpertFlyer for Partner Award Availability, Post 8 – The Art of the Stopover, Post 9 – Leveraging Miles and Cash Redemptions, and Post 10– Using Qantas.com to Find Oneworld Award Availability. Also, be sure to check out my post on the credit card deal itself and the lengthy Q&A in the comments section.

Los Angeles Airport LAX: LAX Control Tower and LAX “Theme Building”

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011


Flickr Photo Credit:
monkeytime | brachiator

The futuristic looking LAX “Theme Building”, one of the great icons of international aerospace industry, reopened in 2010 after its post 9/11 closure for many years.

Here the LA Times reviews the situation as of last year: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/03/local/la-me-lax-building-20100703

As a major international gateway airport LAX is one of the world’s busiest Airport venues.

More from the LAX Los Angeles Airport Authority Official Websites:

LAX Parking:   Click here

LAX Maps:  Click here

LAX Flight Info from OAG:  Click here

Carry-on baggage, luggage rules

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

As the convenience of checked baggage diminishes even as the cost skyrockets to check your luggage,  most people now opt to use the “carry on” baggage rules and bring a small suitcase on board the aircraft, usually along with a large purse, backpack, or laptop bag.     Careful packing and planning means that most people who don’t require a new outfit every day can fairly easily fit everything they need – even for a trip of a week or more – in their carry-on luggage.

For most airlines the dimension of a carry on are 45 inches in total – meaning you simply add the highth, width, and depth of the  bag.   For example a bag with dimensions 12x12x21 should be OK as well as a bag of  14x14x 17 inches.  Technically any airline can can reject bags for many reasons, but in practice you are going to be just fine sticking with the 45 inch rule and probably even fudging a bit over these measurements.    However bringing large bags may get you some glares from the other passengers as you stuff your oversized luggage into “their” bin.    A major challenge of flying now is that with so many carry on luggage folks using the overhead bins, there is little or no extra room in those bins or under seats.  Often the carry-on bags need to be stowed in bins away from your seat or handed over to flight attendants, slowing the boarding process.

It is surprising to me how poorly organized the baggage and boarding process has become – I’d suggest to the airlines that more effective use or design of the overhead  bins is immediately in order.   Flight attendants, for example, know how to most efficiently stow bags yet they generally are not helpful as flyers tug, push, crunch and smash their and other bags into the dwindling available spaces.   Another innovation might be to redesign the bins or bin doors so they can hold more, or find ways to use the massive cargo space that must now exist below as flyers increasingly turn to carry on options rather than checking bags.

Another aspect of Carry-on rules are “Prohibited Items”.    Generally for that you’ll want to observe the 3-1-1 rule we discussed earlier.   More details are here at the TSA Transportation Security Administration‘s official site.  The link takes you to the “prohibited items” section.

Frequent Flyer Miles Madness

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

IMPORTANT:   This post is  simply a collection of notes from a recent flurry of activity using miles programs.   It may NOT represent the general experience for frequent flyer programs at United, American, or Delta.  If you’ve had different experiences please feel free to comment below, and if you are an industry representative also feel free to guest post or comment.

Frequent Flyer programs: You’ve got to love them for allowing you free or very cheap flying options, but the logistics are often intimidating even for experienced travelers.   Until this past week *thought* I was pretty familiar with the basics of the frequent flyer game but … no.   Due to a sudden illness in the family I’ve been arranging last minute trips back and forth from Oregon to Minnesota using the frequent flyer miles my wife and I had on three airlines:  United, Delta, and American Airlines.   I also just booked four paid tickets to Virginia on Delta’s very compromised online booking system which I learned (the HARD way) is not yet compatible with Google’s  Chrome browser.

More on that later but the tip of the day is “for Delta Airlines bookings, don’t use Google Chrome yet!”

Frequent Flyer tips from this experience learned:

United Airlines Frequent Flyer System  was great

1.  Kudos to United Airlines who came through with an excellent online booking system and excellent ticket availability without gauging me in miles.    If you are in a rural area like me, you may find your miles won’t work from your regional airport.   Here at MFR Medford in Oregon both Delta and United allow me to travel to and from here, but for American Airlines I need to drive to tt cities served by American which in our case are Sacramento, California and Portland, Oregon – both about 4 1/2 hours from home.     For me during this experience, United was the big winner by providing one way trips to Minnesota at the last minute for only 12,500 miles with only a $5 processing charge.

Delta’s Frequent Flyer System was expensive and somewhat confusing.  Delta Assist Twitter help was great.

The quirky tip I learned from Delta’s excellent online twitter help was that sometimes (always?) the cost in miles of a ONE WAY is the SAME as a Round Trip!     I was getting charged 40,000 miles for a last minute one way home for my wife, but thanks to the @DeltaAssist  I learned I could book a return for no extra miles.

Watch for Credit Card Miles offers that can be worth thousands of dollars in free tickets:

Watch out for sneaky tricks that aren’t worth the money for the miles:

Here’s a sneaky trick from Delta disguised as an “offer” (!)

Transfer Miles: Limited-time Offer
Bring your friends and family with you on your next vacation. Transfer miles to that special someone between May 1 and June 30, 2011 and we’ll give them a 50% mileage bonus.1

To be continued….