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

American Airlines Mileage donation program here:  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.

Google buys ITA Flight Search Software.

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,    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:

Is Selling your Frequent Flyer miles to a “Mileage Broker” legal?

The mileage broker market was once a thriving industry, buying frequent flyer tickets from people and then reselling them at a profit. Understandably the airlines don’t like this practice of monetizing their frequent flyer / mileage plus type systems. These are marketing tools and they arguably lose both control of things and lose paid tickets to free ones (though a mileage broker could make the argument that they are simply making the process more efficient by letting people turn one form of compensation – free tickets – into cash.

In any case this practice is still in play, but appears to be scaled down and risky for both buyer, seller, and especially for the airlines mileage brokers who can wind up in court.

A case that may set the new standards is Alaska Airlines vs Carey et al, where Alaska Air is suing mileage broker Carey (I think a small, husband and wife online business) for what they feel is an illegal resale of frequent flyer / mileage program tickets. I don’t think this case has yet resolved in the courts, though it may have by now.

It should actually be very cost effective to resell miles benefits at the 1.5-2 cent per mile rates we just reviewed at a mileage broker website assuming your travel plans are flexible. My rule of thumb is that miles are only worth about a penny. This calculation assumes you’ll have trouble getting a 25,000 mileage award and probably have to use 37,500 or even 50,000, and also assumes that a bird (cash) in the hand is worth more than a ticket in the bush (mileage award). A lot can happen to those miles in the new frenzied airline business where, for example, shorter – often only 18 month – mileage expiration time limits can easily kill your miles.

QuickAid at this time recommends you do NOT buy this type of ticket as the risks seem to outweigh the benefits, but we’re open to changing our minds depending on how the courts view the legality of mileage brokering.

Mexicana Airlines Suspends Operations “Indefinitely”. Refunds available.

Mexicana Airlines has suspended their flights and apparently all commercial operations “indefinitely” due to financial problems with the Mexican Airline.

Their statement reads as follows:

——–  From Mexicana ———–

Mexicana Airlines (Grupo Mexicana) suspends its operations indefinitely.

The current administration received the company seven days ago under Business Reorganization (Concurso Mercantil) and technically bankrupt.

Financial deterioration and lack of agreements force Grupo Mexicana to stop flying. Grupo Mexicana deeply regrets all inconveniences caused to its passengers.

————- End ————–

The Website home page appears to be down as of Sunday Morning, but CLICK HERE for the Mexicana Bankruptcy advisory portion to help you arrange for refunds or alternative flights.

Airport Codes for US Airports, Canadian Airports, and International Airports

The rumors are true – The Airport Directory has added a very robust list of Airport Codes from around the world divided into Airports from the USA, Canada, and International Aiports.    Click below or in the page menu above for the lists of codes or for Airline Phone Numbers and Websites.

US Airport Codes | International Airport Codes | Canada Airport Codes | Airport Directory

Airline Phone Numbers and Airline Websites

If you are shopping for flight travel bargains consider starting your search with the big “consolidator” websites and  (Kayak often lists Orbitz flights so I usually just use Kayak).       Try to use the “matrix” or “flexible dates” features to expand your search to 3 days before and after your preferred departures.   Small adjustments in times and dates often yield large savings.

This search will give you a good starting price to try to beat with other sites, which should include Expedia, Travelocity, and the actual airline websites from the best deals you’ve found so far (though going to Airline sites is often redundant as they generally have the same info that is fed into Kayak.

A problem with Kayak is that it does not have all the airlines so if – for example – you are in a market served by Allegiant you may find much better deals than will be listed in any consolidator.      Allegiant only travels to a few big locations from dozens of small rural markets, but if you are lucky enough to live in those markets and are travelling to Las Vegas, Mesa AZ, or Los Angeles California you’ll be rewarded with massive savings on the order of 1/2 to 1/3 the  normal flight costs.

For International Travel budget conscious flyers will want to work even harder, looking for flights that may not be on a daily schedule and therefore may not appear in all your searches.   Also, word of mouth is often a great way to find out some good starting points for international flights.     You may even find that a good travel agent can get better deals than you can find online since they will have the experience and knowledge that will allow them to find “hidden gems” or good promotional deals you may not become aware of.

So, as with any endeavor try to stay patient, do a few hours of searching and talking, and save yourself a bundle on flights.    Keep in mind that spending a few hours to save a few hundred dollars represents a substantial return on your time investment and puts you in better shape for your future travel needs.

China Trips – open jaw is often fine

Although the airline ticket market is so fast, furious, and whacky you’ll want to check many sources before booking, a few tips I’ve learned from my China ticket booking:

* Although I was told by a ticketer that generally Hong Kong is the cheapest destination it seemed Shanghai and Beijing (PEK) tickets were in the same price ballpark of 800-1000 from my rural area, and perhaps 100-200 less for round trips from San Francisco.

* Vayama was often the low rate among consolidators, but it was not clear if changes would be more severely penalized through a consolidator so we went directly through This was $46 more on my $886 ticket, an open jaw from MFR to Hong Kong, then Beijing to MFR. offered the same flights for $840. I’m assuming changes will be much easier directly through United, but not clear if this was worth the extra money.

* Open jaw did not seem to increase the price much if at all.

* Fees and taxes are not reported by all consolidators online, and it seemed there were no “killer consolidators” who offered rates much different from the Airlines for economy classes. I would guess that for first class things become driven by strange forces and your company should shop around carefully to avoid getting gouged. Some of the first class seats were showing at $25,000. I can’t imagine what I’d need in terms of comfort to justify that price, even if money was absolutely no object.

Travel Booking Tips from BT Travel

Note: I was not familiar with BTS Travel until tonight and cannot vouch for this as a good company – but they did have some great posted rates to China, and these excellent general discount travel tips:

Try including Saturday night during your stay at the destination.

We sell heavily discounted tickets only. Our seat inventory is very limited on each aircraft. The earlier you book the more chance you have to get the cheapest possible seat.

Traveling Monday thru Thursday is generally cheaper than Friday thru Sunday. This applies to departure and return travel. Airlines charge up to $80 more for weekend travel.

We offer substantially cheaper one way fares than many other major websites. Our one way fare are typically up to 50 percent cheaper than round trip fares.

Our search engine automatically searches for lowest fares using multiple airports within large metropolitan areas. This method is guaranteed to find you the lowest possible fare if you are flexible with the airports.

ATA Fare Sale for NYC and D.C. flights

ATA has some great fares to and from New York La Guardia (LGA) as well as flights to and from Washington D.C. Reagan International (DCA). Check out the ATA website for more details.

I think ATA is one of the carriers you may need to check separately in case the consolidator has not listed them or you have entered days on which they don’t fly, when a small adjustment to your plans could save a lot of money on the airline tickets.

YAPTA cheap fare search using "wisdom of crowds"

Yapta is trying to be “Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant”, using the collective wisdom of thousands of other Yapta subscribers to find cheap fares. I have not used the service yet but it’s a neat idea in that it could harvest information from a large number of travelers and then work to “optimize” their experiences based on all the extra info. Unfortunately many such efforts can get bogged down when it comes to monetizing the enterprise. For example if Yapta knows that your best travel day would be Tuesday with a Saturday layover but the Yapta advertisers want them to book more Friday departures there can be a subtle shift in focus. This is even happening at Google where the shading on advertising is slowly diminishing, blurring the distinction between “organic” and ad results.

But good luck Yapta! If you provide unbiased air travel info from a broad sample of air travelers you could be on your way to success.

Cheap Airline Booking Tips revisited

Via Jason Calcanis I just found a very thoughtful article by Nicole over at Mahalo with tips to booking cheap airline tickets.

Unless you have a *lot more* time on your hands than I do I think some of these suggestions are basically overkill (priceline and following prices after you book) but she’s making several great key points including how important it is to be flexible and to use comparison tools like Orbitz, Y ahoo FareChase, or Kayak.

Here is Nicole’s Cheap Airline Ticket article.

I think doing some diligent comparisons on Kayak over a few weeks will usually get you similar results for Airlines in USA. Overseas is much more complex because consolidators can be much cheaper – seek them out for expensive flights.

There is no magic formula – just keep on trucking and you’ll find cheap stuff, though not always online.