british airways

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Booking Dublin: A Change of Plans

Also see: 

Major change of plans is more like it.

Thanks to The Points Guy, I caught wind that an award I’d long had my eye on, BOS-DUB in business class on Aer Lingus, was widely available for booking with Avios points.

The good news: it still is.

I immediately transferred over some Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards (I love combining them when I can and British Airways is perfect for that – so is Singpore) to my British Airways account, and called in to book my dates.

Get 'em while they're hot!

Get ’em while they’re hot!

Throughout April and May, and possibly into the summer months, award availability is peppered here and there.

Business class award availability on Aer Lingus

Business class award availability on Aer Lingus (Click to enlarge)

That screen shot was taken just now. There are still some flights out there.

The best way to book this is by checking availability on the United website, then by calling British Airways to book over the phone.

I called them post Avios-hack (to change a different set of flights), and my hold time was less than 5 minutes. In fact, I was all booked and set up with flights in under 15 minutes (pre-Avios hack).

If you’re interested in booking, you have either one month or when availability runs out, beginning today. The Avios program is changing on April 28th, and this particular award will go from 50K round-trip in business to 75K, which is a pretty staggering change.

I’ve been interested in experiencing Aer Lingus business class, and visiting Ireland, for a very long time, so it’s all very serendipitous.

But what about the Delta flights?

Of course I had a pretty severe schedule change with Delta.

The mighty schedule change

The mighty schedule change

I was willing to get down to DC to take advantage of an awesome fare that Delta had earlier this year. I was even thinking I could spend a day or two in DC, maybe catch the tail-end of the cherry blossoms. But when the Aer Lingus award availability came around, I was then willing to get myself to Boston, and am now thinking of spending a day there instead.

I called Delta and explained that I had a schedule change of over 4 hours, and that those times no longer work for me – could I please cancel and get a refund? They immediately canceled the ticket and said to expect a refund in 5-7 business days. Awesome. So those are done.

It was a great deal, but then again, so is the Avios redemption on Aer Lingus, and even more so now that it’s time-sensitive.

The 2 round-trip flights would’ve been over $10,000 had I paid for them. Instead, I got nearly 11 cents per point of value by booking with Avios. An incredible deal – get on it if you can!

BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus business class

BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus business class

Getting to Boston

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I’m dumping the Chase British Airways Visa – and you should, too

For a long time, the Chase British Airways Visa has offered 1.25 points per dollar on non-bonus spend.

But starting April 30th, 2015, the card will become worthless. And you should dump it.

Rest in pieces

Rest in pieces

I’ve seen a lot of other bloggers saying how you can still get 50,000 Avios, without paying the annual fee of $95 the first year, and that the card is still worth it for that reason alone. No.

Dump it

I’ve long been a supporter of the Chase British Airways Visa. I’ve even toyed with the idea of putting $30,000 of spend through the card to trigger the Travel Together companion certificate, despite the outrageous (!!!) fuel surcharges. I even researched Fifth Freedom flights, in part to defend the usefulness of Avios.

But this new earning structure, combined with the changes to their business/first class award redemptions, renders the card completely useless.

In fact, many other cards offer better earning rates for British Airways Avios:

  • The Chase Ink Plus will continue to offer 5 Avios (Ultimate Rewards points) per dollar on office supply and telecommunication spend
  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred will continue to offer 2 Avios per dollar on all travel (a very broad category already) and dining (also very broad)
  • The American Express EveryDay Preferred will offer 4.5 Avios (Membership Rewards Points) per dollar on all grocery spend up to $6,000 per year (after 30 transactions per month), 3 Avios per dollar on gas, and 1.5 Avios on all other spend – this alone beats the socks off the Chase British Airways Visa – and it has the same annual fee (!)

Other thoughts

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British Airways Fifth Freedom Flights Bookable With Avios

Update 2/2/15: Reader Luke alerted me to a whole slew of Caribbean flights I was missing from this list, so now they are added!

Thought this was really cool.

British Airways has 15 city pairs with Fifth Freedom flights:

  • Abu Dhabi-Muscat
  • Bahrain-Doha 
  • Colombo-Male
  • Johannesburg-Harare
  • Johannesburg-Livingstone
  • Johannesburg-Mauritius 
  • Johannesburg-Victoria Falls
  • Johannesburg-Windhoek
  • Antigua – Saint Kitts
  • Antigua – Tobago
  • Antigua – San Juan
  • Nassau – Grand Cayman
  • Nassau – Providenciales
  • Saint Lucia – Grenada
  • Singapore-Sydney

The good news is that most of them are bookable using Avios, and could provide a springboard to expand award bookings, or to take advantage of open jaws, or as a trip unto itself.

Bookable with Avios

It looks like BA operates a daily flight from AUH-MCT and there is availability on every single flight for every fare class.

Screenshot 2015-01-31 23.06.18

AUH-MCT open award availability

Screenshot 2015-01-31 23.06.53

All fare classes are open, but economy is just 4,500 Avios

Ditto for BAH-DOH, and you can even use Avios to book on all of Qatar’s flights as well. Read More

Is British Airways planning to eliminate fuel surcharges?

My, my, my. British Airways. Now you’ve gone and done it – changed your award chart again.

I don’t care about the changes they’ve made to mileage earned for the various fare buckets – I mean, it truly sucks if you’re loyal to them as a frequent flyer. My relationship with British Airways is as an earner of Avios and redeemer of short haul flights on partner airlines.

I’ll admit, though, I was enamored of the idea of the Travel Together ticket until I woke up today and tried to get through their mess of an explanation email.

Screenshot 2015-01-28 23.10.11

Wait. What happened?

In the end, I feel relatively unscathed. The only thing I want, as an US-based flyer is those partner short-haul awards. Ooooh, yasss.

But, this does change things

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Details about FoundersCard benefits (Cathy Pacific, Avis, hotel discounts)

I recently got a thoughtful email from a reader with a few questions about FoundersCard benefits (HT: Kevin).

I’ve written before about the many benefits FoundersCard offers.

Also see:

I thought I’d turn my reply into a blog post as others might have similar questions before deciding to sign up for the card.

His email:

Let me get your advice…

1.  I am already BA Gold (Emerald) but could use a bit of VS Silver and CX Silver headstarts… and definitely could use the 10% off on US-originating BA flights to the UK (and the rest of Europe?).

2.  I’m already Avis Presidents’ Club so not sure about the Car Rental benefits.

3.  Especially keen on the hotel discounts, eg Park Hyatt Tokyo, SLS in Los Angeles.   Would you be able to share with me as a prospect what the rates are at these properties if you have the FoundersCard?

Awesome questions! I’ll go in order.

#1

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Trip Report: British Airways Business Class ORY-LHR-JFK

Also see:

I won’t spend as much time on this one since I just outlined BA/OpenSkies biz class in the link above. That post talked about flying there EWR-ORY, but in this one, I want to talk about getting back.

It cost slightly more Avios points because we flew ORY-LHR-JFK instead of direct. Since it’s priced per segment, I spent 49,000 Avios + ~$400 on these flights, which would’ve retailed for over $6,000.

The differences

For the ORY-LHR segment, we got the usual intra-European “business class” which is just regular seats with the middle one blocked out. The flight was only an hour, and I wasn’t expecting much, if anything. To my surprise, we were served a course of afternoon tea.

BA tea service - SO CUTE!

BA tea service – SO CUTE!

The other big difference was that instead of a Boeing 757-200 like the flight over, we flew back on a 747-400 for LHR-JFK which had… Read More

Trip Report: British Airways OpenSkies Club World Class EWR-ORY

As part of my recent trip to Paris, I got to fly from EWR to ORY on OpenSkies, a subsidiary of British Airways that flies exclusively from NYC-Paris. They have one flight that leaves from EWR and another from JFK. Due to award availability, I dragged myself over to EWR, but was really excited to take this flight.

This is a unique product for British Airways because it’s one of the few routes they fly that don’t involve a connection at LHR, which can add a lot of extra money in dreaded fuel surcharges. I did pay ~$450 + 40,000 Avios for the flight, but in my eyes, it was completely worth it. This flight often retails for over $7,000!

Click here to read about the award redemption for this flight in more detail.

The seat and flight

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Just booked: A ~$20,000 Dollar Trip to Paris for FREE? You betcha!

See you soon, Paris!

See you soon, Paris!

I am over the moon right now because I just booked an epic trip to Paris in June. I have booked complex, multi-stop and RTW itineraries before, but even still, was amazed at how easily and quickly this trip came together.

The trip

Leaving from EWR.

  • EWR-ORY in business class on British Airways
  • 4 nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome
  • 1 night at the Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile on Club floor
  • ORY-LHR-JFK in business class on British Airways
  • 2 incredibly stoked adventurers

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Mo’ Avios, Mo’ Problemz

Since meeting the first spending requirement on my new British Airways Visa Signature, I have become Avios-rich to the point where I don’t know what to do with them all. It’s introducing all sorts of new issues, including problems I love to have (see: Dilemma of the Day: Which Caribbean Island?).

Almost 64,000 Avios!

Almost 64,000 Avios!

What could I do with 64,000 Avios?

  • Take 7 trips to Montreal, Toronto, Boston, DC, Charlotte, or any other number of cool cities
  • Take 3 trips to islands in the Caribbean
  • Visit Vancouver for a long weekend
  • Go back to Hawaii

After I meet the next set of spending requirements, I’ll have well over 100,000 Avios and can do even more. I’ve also just discovered the BA eStore, which includes a few merchants I shop regularly at great payouts. I’m really getting into Avios for their practical purpose of short-haul flights (and for getting to Ireland on the cheaps!).

Now the only problem is finding the time to use them all…

American Express Vs. Chase: Why Chase Is Winning

Quite simply: signup bonuses with no BS.

I’ve been hating on Amex a lot lately, and with good reason. I now have four Amex cards, three with Amex as the actual issuing bank, and with two of those three, I’ve had to make numerous phone calls, write emails, and send tweets to their support team about not getting a signup bonus. After a lot of back and forth, they usually award me a fraction of what I missed out on as “good will”, but it always leaves a bad taste behind and is like pulling freaking teeth with them.

In my opinion, if an Amex cardmember holds the Platinum Card, their most premium card offering with a hefty $450 annual fee, any other cards should automatically come with an enhanced signup bonus. Something extra. Instead, we see this sentiment in a lot of the T&C:

Eff u 2!

Eff u 2!

What?! Why? That’s so stupid to punish people for wanting to open more cards. This is where Chase excels.

They have a few cards that feed into their Ultimate Rewards program the same way Amex has multiple cards that can be linked to Membership Rewards. But Chase doesn’t impose rules on signup bonuses with multiple cards. You can get a Freedom, a Sapphire, an Ink, and whatever else you want to get and get the FULL bonus on all of them. If anything ever goes awry, just give them a call and it’s taken care of almost instantly.

Not with Amex. They’re notorious for their Financial Reviews and for not awarding bonuses… at all. They’re also really slow and claim to have to “research” your claim. Not only that, but their Membership Rewards program has lost a few key transfer partners in the past couple of years, along with a few other consumer unfriendly changes while Ultimate Rewards continues to improve.

There are a few sweet spots with Membership Rewards. For me, it’s the British Airways Avios. They’re a transfer partner for both Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, which is pretty fantastic. Membership Rewards also transfer instantly to Delta, which would help me out a LOT with my dream trip to Australia if Amex would ever give me the points I deserve as a customer and card holder.

It goes beyond this, though. It’s about how the customer starts to view the company after a while. I’ve been screwed over by them a few times by now to the point where I’m thinking of switching all my spend over to Chase and giving Amex the finger. I wish it weren’t like this, though. Delta is pretty much forcing their customers to have a co-branded Amex to avoid the upcoming dreaded MQD component of the SkyMiles program, and I love having lounge access with the Platinum Card. But Chase always treats me so right while Amex continues to kick me to the proverbial curb.

So to Chase, I’d say keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working, and it’s so great. I have such a positive association with the company at this point. And Amex. Oh, Amex. Step up your game, because you’re getting your butt beat. I look forward to the day where I’m down to just the Platinum Card. In fact, Delta’s bid for more revenue is kinda sorta slowly driving me over toward American. But that’s a post for another day, and that post will be highly speculative.

When I think of Chase: I trust them, like them, want more of them.

When I think of Amex: Starting to shudder, need energy to deal with them, apprehensive about continuing to use their products. TOO. BAD.

Winner = Chase, hands down. Thoughts, anyone?

Dilemma of the Day: Which Caribbean Island?

St. John, USVI

 

Just what the subject says. As part of the signup bonus for the shiny new British Airways Visa Signature that I got during my recent App-O-Rama, I will soon get at least 75,000 Avios – and hopefully 100,000 Avios. They’re great for short hops or some mid-haul jaunts under 1150 miles. The caveat is that they can only be used on places where Oneworld has routes. So no Philadelphia, no Burlington, no Portland (Maine), no Albany… surprising, right? But then I pulled up the American Airlines route map and the British Airways Avios Calculator to see where all I could go on the East Coast. My eyes drifted toward the equator, and I saw St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and St. John just sitting there all lined up like a row of temptresses.

For 20,000 Avios R/T in economy, American will fly me to:

  • St. Thomas (STT)
  • St. Maarten (SXM)
  • St. Kitts (SKB)

But NOT St. Croix (and St. John doesn’t have an airport). I haven’t experiment with other islands yet, but I did notice it was the same rate to Cancun, though I’m not really interested in going there. Even though it’s not a short- or mid-haul, 20K R/T to visit the Caribbean from New York is pretty good, right? And it’s much less points the further south you start out from. Which brings me to my dilemma. Which Caribbean island should I visit first? I’ve been to none of them and don’t know where to start. I know they’re all probably amazing, but which one is best for a beginner? The research continues, into the islands as well as into the value of Avios.  I’d love to go sometime between April and June.

This redemption really got the thinking when I saw it, so I thought I’d share. It might be old news to some, but sure brought a warm feeling to imagine those bright, sandy beaches. Really liking Avios right about now. And open to ideas!