Alaska Miles Sweet Spot About To Get Even Sweeter—Cathay Pacific To Fly To Cape Town

One of my favorite redemptions is using Alaska Mileage Plan miles to fly Cathay Pacific from the US to South Africa in first class. Sure, you can use 70,000 Alaska miles (one-way) to fly to Asia in first class but why not tack on a business class flight from Hong Kong to South Africa for no extra miles?

Currently, Cathay Pacific only operates a flight from Hong Kong to Johannesburg but, according to the South China Morning Post, it plans to add a flight to Cape Town in 2018. Considering how popular Cape Town is, this is great news for travelers as it would be the only non-stop flight from Asia to Cape Town.

We don't know yet whether Cathay Pacific will operate a three-class plane (economy, premium economy, business class) or four-class plane (economy, premium economy, business, first class) on this route, but I wouldn't be surprised if they utilize one of their three-class Boeing 777s as they do on the flight to Johannesburg. If they're going to use a three-class plane, it would be even better if they chose to use one of their new Airbus A350s.

Personally, I'm just a little disappointed this flight wasn't available in November 2017 when I flew Cathay Pacific to Johannesburg on my way to Cape Town. The experience was fantastic but it would have been even better to ditch the Johannesburg to Cape Town segment (and the extra layover time).

What makes this booking option really fantastic is that Alaska Mileage Plan allows you to book a stopover on one-way award tickets. This means you can stop in Hong Kong for several days or even a couple weeks before continuing to South Africa. If you want, you could use Hong Kong as a jumping off point to see other countries in Asia before flying to South Africa.

Nonetheless, I'll be keeping an eye out for the launch of this new route as 2018 seems to be a year of expansion for Cathay Pacific.

How To Book Cathay Pacific With Alaska Miles

Once this route is available—or if you want to book other award flights on a Cathay Pacific with Alaska Mileage Plan, here's what you need to do:

  1. Create a British Airways Executive Club account
  2. Search for award space on British Airways
  3. Write down the flight numbers, dates, and times when you find award space
  4. Call Alaska Airlines at 1-800-252-7522
  5. Tell the Alaska phone rep that you would like to book an award ticket on Cathay Pacific
  6. Provide the flight info (you should have this in your notes)
  7. Have your passport and credit card info ready to complete the booking

One word of caution about booking with Alaska miles. British Airways is a Oneworld alliance partner of Cathay Pacific and, at times, has access to more award space on Cathay Pacific than Alaska Airlines. Don't be surprised if the Alaska phone rep doesn't see the same space. For this reason, flexible travel dates can be very useful.

Need Alaska Miles? No Problem

If you need Alaska miles to book this, you have several options. You can use one of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards from American Express—there's a personal and business version—which generally come with a sign-up bonus of 25,000 SPG Starpoints. Occasionally, the sign-up bonus will be bumped up to 30,000 Starpoints.

These SPG points can be transferred to your Alaska Mileage Plan account at a 1:1 ratio. Additionally, when you transfer blocks of 20,000 SPG Starpoints, you'll receive a bonus of 5,000 miles so 20,000 points can become 25,000 Alaska miles. This is why earning SPG points are one of my favorite ways to earn Alaska miles for flights on Cathay Pacific.

Another easy way to grab some Alaska miles is the Bank of America Alaska Airlines credit cards. You also have the choice of a personal and/or business version of this card as well. The standard sign-up bonus for each of these cards is 30,000 Alaska miles.

Final Thoughts

Cathay Pacific first class is truly excellent and their business class experience is quite nice as well. I enjoyed amazing service on both flights and many others have as well. With the addition of a flight to Cape Town, the whole travel experience will be just that little bit nicer (and quicker).

So, who's thinking about trying Cathay Pacific's new flight to Cape Town?

Earn Miles and Points For Paying Rent Fee-Free!

UPDATE #2: Looks like they've updated the fee to 2% on credit card rent payments making it superior to Plastiq.

UPDATE: This deal is tapped. Hope you were able to take advantage of the promo offer! You can still use RoomiPay to pay rent with a credit card with a 2.5% fee just like Plastiq.

Last month, MilesTalk shared a limited-time offer to pay rent with a credit card with no fee via RoomiPay. Now, I love using Plastiq to earn miles and points, but it comes with a 2.5% processing fee which makes its usefulness a bit more limited.

Fortunately for us, RoomiPay has brought back this fee-free promotion this month so you can pay your February rent and earn some points at no extra cost. This is a fantastic way to hit a minimum spend requirement or earn some extra points.

Last month, payments on the Citi Access More coded has computer software which earned 3x ThankYou Points per dollar. This card is no longer available for application but you can product change to it from another Citi card.

Another great choice would be the Blue Business Plus Card from American Express which would earn 2x Membership Rewards. If you have the Business Gold Rewards card from American Express and you selected computer hardware supplies, etc. as your 3x category, you should be able to earn a ton of Membership Rewards.

Of course, if you're working on a minimum spend, stick with that!

Now, the process to make a rent payment with RoomiPay is easy:

  1. Navigate to
  2. Select "check" as the required method of payment
  3. Provide your personal info—name, address, email, phone
  4. Provide your landlord's info—to whom the check is addressed, address, phone
  5. Provide additional info—due date, other info to include on the check, email of the person who referred you
  6. Enter your credit card info
  7. Submit

As you can see, the process is a breeze. It took me less than five minutes. Payments can take 3 to 5 business days to process so submitting early is wise.

For those of us (ME!) who live in cities with high rent prices, this is a brilliant way to get something out of the pain that comes with our monthly rent payment. I can't imagine this will last more than an hour or two, so get to it!

Singapore Airlines Ditches Credit Card Fee Almost As Fast As It Was Announced

In December, Singapore Airlines announced new fare types that included what amounts to a Basic Economy fare. Those who book these fares will receive less than the standard economy "perks" starting January 20 of this year. Singapore Airlines also announced changes to fees for award changes and made changes to seat selection and upgrade policies.

If the unbundling of economy fares weren't enough, Singapore Air announced that they would be tacking on a 1.3% fee to use a credit card when purchasing one of these Economy Lite fares with the fee capped at S$50. Considering credit card surcharges aren't standard practice in Singapore, this was a nice slap in the face for customers.

Well, just about as quickly as the fees were announced Singapore Airlines has already backtracked and decided not to impose this credit card surcharge. Singapore Air had planned to impose the fee on itineraries originating in Singapore so its no surprise that there was quite the backlash from Singaporeans who felt this fee was completely unjustified.

Singapore Airlines' actions don't surprise me as it seems all airlines think the best way to be profitable is to cut, cut, cut. While each country has different protections in place for consumers, I'd love to see intense pushback on American carriers who seem to think they can get away with anything.

I'm not giving them kudos for undoing something they should have done in the first place. Hopefully, no one else is applauding them for being reasonable, but only after catching flak for the move. Let's be honest, if they could have gotten away with it without public outcry (or even an acceptable amount, they would have done so in a heartbeat.

Hyatt To Count Award Stays For Status Starting 2018

Taking a page out of the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) playbook, Hyatt will start counting award stays toward elite status qualifying nights on January 1, 2018. An official announcement is expected later today, but this could be big news for some.

For those with tons of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, the ability to transfer points to Hyatt and earn elite status credit for award stays could be huge. Previously, you could book a Cash + Points stays that counted toward elite status but availability isn’t always great.

With a standard award, you just need a standard room to be available and you will be able to book a stay. This also removes the cash component required which could be very important if you’re shooting for top-tier Globalist elite status—requires 60 nights.

Globalist status comes with a number of perks including Club Lounge access at Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency properties and free breakfast at Hyatt properties without lounges. Additionally, Globalist members are also eligible to receive upgraded room up to a standard suite if available. They also receive 4 suite upgrade awards that can be used to upgrade an award or cash stay upon booking.

While award stays can help you reach each elite status tier a bit quicker, this is the one that really packs the biggest punch. Just below Globalist is Explorist which requires 30 qualifying nights. It does include some nice perks such as 4 club lounge access awards. Discoverist status can be warned with 10 qualifying nights but just holding the Chase Hyatt credit card gets you Discoverist status—it doesn’t do that much for you.

Beyond the change to elite status qualification, a couple other changes have been made to the World of Hyatt program. Upon reaching 30 qualifying nights (Explorist), members receive a free night certificate for a Category 1-4 hotel. Previously, this certificate expired after 120 days but members will now have 180 days to use the certificate. Similarly, the free night certificate earned upon reaching 60 nights (Globalist) that can be used at any Category 1-7 property will also be valid for 180 days instead of 120 days.

All in all, these are positive changes across the board. With all the devaluations we saw this year, it’s nice to end on a positive note. If Hyatt really wanted to do something nice for its members, they could change the qualifying nights requirement back to what it was pre-2017 under the old Hyatt Gold Passport program when 50 nights (or 25 stays) earned top-tier elite status.

In the end, this isn’t going to be a huge development for many, but it could be a nice boost for those close to Globalist or Explorist status. It also might incentivize people to stick with Hyatt even though it has a smaller footprint that hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, or IHG.

As someone who spends a good chunk of the year in hotels with a combination of paid and award stays, it certainly has me pondering whether I should consider shooting for Globalist. The sticking points comes down to Hyatt’s small footprint though as I travel around the world and don’t always have access to Hyatt properties.

Even if earning Globalist status fit my travel plans, I still wouldn’t be able to utilize the benefits until late in the year or until 2019… oh wait, that’s what Hyatt wants! Hook you, then make you keep coming back for more just to experience the perks.

What does this change mean for you? Will you try to earn elite status with Hyatt because of the change? 

*Image courtesy of Hyatt

Singapore Airlines Starts To Unbundle Fares: Changes Fare Classes and Fees

It seems that every time I leave the U.S., Singapore Airlines makes some changes to their KrisFlyer program—the addition of the Alaska Air award chart and the devaluation of their Star Alliance award chart.

Today, Singapore Airlines (with Silk Air) announced changes to its fare classes, seat selection, award upgrades, and baggage allowances that will take place on January 20, 2018, as well as award fee changes that will be enacted on March 1, 2018.

Fare Class and Earn Rate Changes: Lite, Standard, Flexi

Economy class passengers on a Lite fare—which includes fare classes Q, N, V, and K—will be required to a pay for a seat if they want to choose in advance. These Lite fares will earn KrisFlyer miles at a 50% rate and are not cancelable.

Standard fares including M, H, and W fare classes will be able to select standard seats in advance at no extra cost and will earn KrisFlyer miles at 75% rate. Finally, Flexi fares—Y, B, and E—allow passengers to select standard seats as well as seats in the forward zone. These fares will earn KrisFlyer miles at 100%.

Singapore KrisFlyer members who hold elites status—Solitaire PPS Club, PPS Club, KrisFlyer Gold, or KrisFlyer Silver—will be allowed to choose seats regardless of fare class at no extra charge.

Cash bookings in premium cabins will see a bump in their earn rate or remain the same.

All premium economy, business class, and first/suites class passengers will be able to select their seat at no extra cost upon booking. The earn rates for each are as follows:

  • Premium Economy Lite (P) - 100%
  • Premium Economy Flexi (S, T) - 125%
  • Business Class Lite (D) - 125%
  • Business Class Standard (U) - 125%
  • Business Class Flexi (Z, C, J) - 150%
  • First Class/Suites Class (F, A) - 200%

Most of these earn rates are an improvement with the only decreases coming for P fare class (110% earn rate to 100%) and M, H, and W fare classes (100% to 75%). K and V fare classes will see a bump from 10% to 50% while first class tickets will be bumped up to 200% from 150%. Flexi business class and premium economy fares will also see a bump. 

Upgrade Rules By Fare Class

Lite fare economy tickets will not be upgradable with KrisFlyer miles, but all Standard and Flexi fares will be which means more fares will be upgradable going forward. Standard fare premium economy tickets will not be upgradable, but you will be able to upgrade Flexi fares.

Business class Lite fares will not be upgradable, but passengers will be able to upgrade Standard and Flexi fares with their KrisFlyer miles.

Award Redemption And Upgrade Changes

The KrisFlyer miles required for award redemptions won't be changing, rather Singapore Airlines has decided to rename Standard awards as Anytime awards. What is it with airlines and changing the names of standard level awards? United now has Everyday awards instead of standard awards. It's still the same terrible redemption rate, so why try to dress it up?

With award redemptions in economy class, Saver level redemptions will receive 30kg in checked baggage allowance while Anytime awards will receive 35k in checked baggage allowance. Both award types allow complimentary advanced seat selection but Anytime awards can also choose a seat in the Forward Zone—basically, a seat closer to the front of the cabin so you can hustle out of the plane quicker upon arrival.

On the upgrade front, you can bump up to the next class of service if you have purchased an Economy Standard or Flexi fare. However, there are different upgrade charts based on your fare type so make sure you confirm how many KrisFlyer miles will be required ahead of time.

I mentioned you can upgrade to the next class of service. This means that you will only be able to upgrade for economy class to premium economy if a flight has a premium economy cabin. Singapore Air will not allow you to upgrade to business class on these flights.

KrisFlyer Has Bumped Up The Fees

Now, this is what I expect from airlines. None of the changes to award fees can be classified as good news for travelers, especially if you're booking saver level awards—why would you do anything else?! Here's what's happening for saver level award fees:

If you change your flight date, route, cabin class, or award type on Singapore Air (or Silk Air) you will now owe $25 instead of $20. Not brutal, but not moving in a positive direction. If you change your flight date, route, flight, or carrier on partner redemptions you will owe $50 instead of the previous $20.

Here's a fun one. Singapore KrisFlyer had reasonable $30 redeposit fees if you had to cancel award tickets. Now, the redeposit fee will be $75. Finally, no-show fees if you want the miles redeposited saw a big increase if you are flying in premium economy, business class, or first class/Suites Class. It used to be $75 across the board. Now, a no-show with an economy award (Saver or Advantage) will cost $100 with Premium economy up to $200, business class and first class/Suites class up to $300.

Now, the no-show change fee doesn't bother me too much as these cases are rare. More often people will know ahead of time if they can't make a flight. In theory, this could nudge people away from purely speculative redemption that they then forget to cancel thus taking award space from someone who could use it. Hopefully, Singapore Airlines will release that space when people cancel so others can have a chance to book.

Bottom Line

None of this is very surprising.

The unbundling of services on airlines is all the rage these days with the Big 3 domestic carriers charging ahead with Basic Economy fares. Now, these things are always presented as a way for passengers to choose what they want and only pay for what they want. In reality, the old economy fares become the baseline for basic economy fares and you end up paying more for the same.

The increase in earn rates for business and first class cash tickets also seems to line up with what other carriers are doing. If you spend big, you'll earn big. I fully expect this trend to continue.

Finally, the award fees. These aren't outrageous but it's never fun to see airlines move in the direction of higher fees. While I recognize that I could come to regret this, I'm okay with the no-show fees being increased as they are. I'd rather people didn't hold onto award seats they are very unlikely to use so others can have a chance to book what might be the trip of a lifetime.

What do you think of the new changes from Singapore Airlines?

*Featured image courtesy of Singapore Airlines

Japan Airlines Crushes Emirates Awards With Crazy Surcharges (Plus A Fun Solution to Fly First Class for $81)

Well, rather than devaluing their award chart by increasing the number of miles required for award tickets, Japan Airlines has taken a different approach. Japan Airlines will now pass on crazy carrier-imposed surcharges to booking on their partner Emirates from the U.S.

How much could Japan Airlines possibly raise the maximum surcharges on Emirates awards though?! Well, the maximum used to be $78.20. The maximum on a round-trip award from New York City (JFK) to Dubai (DXB) is now $1,716.09.

A one-way first class ticket on Emirates will incur over $800 in surcharges (YQ).

Obviously, with an increase of ONLY 2000+%,  those 9 cents were really freaking important. You can still use a reasonable 135,000 Japan Airlines miles to book a first class award, but you're going to have to take the big hit on the taxes and fees.

If you were hoping, JFK to Milan (MXP) or Newark (EWR) to Athens (ATH) would be better, think again! These routes still only cost 105,000 Japan Airlines miles for a round-trip first class award ticket, but you'll get hit with over $1,000 in taxes and fees.

This is a really sad development and it comes about 19 months after Alaska Airlines gutted their award chart for Emirates. After increasing award prices between 67% and 100%, Japan Airlines really became the go-to program for award bookings on Emirates.

Sure, you could have use Emirates' own Skywards program but they have uncompetitive rates and massive surcharges. Well, now we're stuck with horrible mileage rates with Alaska Airlines, horrible surcharges with Japan Airlines, and horrible mileages rates plus nasty surcharges with Emirates Skywards.

Of course, you could also use Korean Air SkyPass miles to book Emirates award tickets, but they also hit you with massive surcharges.

While people have long raved about Emirates first class for the bling, the massive shower, the Dom Perignon—I mean, who doesn't enjoy a glass (bottle?) of champagne when flying and the in-flight bar, it is getting harder and harder to book award tickets at reasonable rates.

It's really disappointing to see this change just as Emirates is starting to roll out its new first class product on the Boeing 777. I was very much hoping to try it as soon as possible, but that idea might be delayed for a bit while I consider whether its worth it over other options.

I'm actually very fortunate though in that I booked a crazy Emirates first class adventures with Japan Airlines miles earlier this year. I'll be flying from New York City (JFK) to Dubai (DXB) to Bangkok (BKK) to Dubai to Milan (MXP) to New York City for 155,000 miles and $120.76. Can you imagine the surcharges if I booked this now?!

What Are Our Award Options For Emirates First Class Now?

Will the new Emirates first class suite still be worth it to you even with the surcharges? - Image courtesy of Emirates

So, where do we go from here? Well, it's not pretty, but here are your options.

If you utilize the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program and have a ton of Starpoints, you will still get your best value out of the Japan Airlines award chart when it comes to the mileage required. You just have to be okay with the massive surcharges. If it's a once in a lifetime kind of thing for you, it might be.

Thanks to the 5,000-mile bonus you receive when you transfer a block of 20,000 Starpoints, you can reach the required Japan Airlines miles a bit quicker. If you wanted to book the same crazy route that I did, you would need to transfer 125,000 SPG Starpoints. However, you can only transfer 60,000 SPG points per 24 hours if you want to receive the transfer bonus on each block of 20,000 points. This means you'll need to do the transfer in 2 parts over a couple days.

If you want to avoid the cash cost of the surcharges, you could choose to use a ton more miles with the Alaska Airlines program which is also a transfer partner of SPG. Additionally, the Bank of American Alaska Airlines card (personal and business versions) can boost your Alaska miles balance with their 30,000-mile sign-up bonuses. You're going to need all the help you can get if you want to fly first class as it will cost 150,000 miles for one-way award.

Not an option I'd go for, but you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Emirates Skywards to book award flights. The mileage cost and the cash cost is going to be rough though, so I'd only consider this one if you don't mind the cash cost for a special trip and have TONS of Membership Rewards.

Finally, perhaps the least talked about way to book Emirates awards is the Korean Air SkyPass program. A round-trip first class booking between the U.S. and Dubai will cost you 210,000 Korean Air miles plus all the lovely surcharges that come with flying Emirates.

Fly Emirates First Class To The U.S. For $81

Wasn't all that super uplifting?! Don't worry, I have a solution for those of you who want to fly Emirates first class and enjoy some crazy luxury in the sky (that shower, though) without using all of your miles and points or paying stupid high taxes and fees.

You'll notice there aren't any surcharges (YQ) listed, unlike the the JFK to DXB route.

The solution: Fly Emirates first class from Hong Kong. It's that simple. It's a bit of a long way home at a minimum travel time of 28 hours, but you'll only pay about $81 in taxes/fees because Hong Kong doesn't allow carrier-imposed surcharges—I love them for this! 

To do this, you will want to book Emirates first Class from Hong Kong (HKG) connecting in Bangkok (BKK) and Dubai (DXB) to New York City (JFK) or Washington, DC (IAD). You could also skip the BKK segment and the booking would cost about $90 in taxes/fees.

You will need 115,000 Japan Airlines miles to book this. Look at that, we can still use the best redemption rate out there and NOT pay crazy surcharges! Thanks to the SPG transfer bonus, you can transfer 95,000 SPG Starpoints to get the required 115,000 Japan Airlines miles.

If you want to fly all the way to Los Angeles (LAX), you will need to transfer 115,000 SPG Starpoints to your Japan Airlines account to get the required 135,000 miles.

Sure, this isn't the quickest way to get back to the states, but it's a fun way to do it. You can even book a stopover in Bangkok and Dubai on your way back to the states at no extra cost (miles or cash)!

Bottom Line

Let's be clear, this massive increase in the surcharges required by Japan Airlines when booking Emirates awards is very disappointing. You'll also notice I call them "carrier-imposed surcharges" rather than "fuel surcharges" since fuel prices have dropped and the rationale for these surcharges disappeared. Now, it's just a choice of these airlines.

However, things aren't all doom and gloom. There is still a great opportunity to book award tickets on Emirates out of Hong Kong thanks to their law preventing surcharges. This is yet another example of why I try to drive home the point that learning how to redeem miles and points is just as, if not more, important as learning how to earn them.

For those of you who wanted to book Emirates awards, what approach are you going to take (no) thanks to this change?

PS. You can also book Emirates awards from Tokyo, Colombo, or Sydney without surcharges. Sao Paolo (GRU) and Rio de Janeiro (GIG) to Dubai round-trip can be booked with moderate surcharges—$465 is a lot better than $1,700.

Featured image courtesy of Emirates

H/T: One Mile At A Time

Singapore Airlines Devalues Star Alliance Award Chart, Adds Online Booking Capability

Singapore Airlines' KrisFlyer program has long been a favorite of many as it's the only way to book long-haul business and first class awards on their own flights. However, Singapore KrisFlyer has also had some great redemption rates on Star Alliance partners.

Well, things are about to change on December 7 when their Star Alliance award chart will be pretty thoroughly roughed up. This follows a March 2017 devaluation of their award chart for itineraries with flights only on Singapore Airlines - they softened the blow by getting ride of carrier-imposed surcharges on these awards.

The old Star Alliance award chart provided some creative ways to book Singapore Airlines flights (see the new chart below).

I think we should have expected this devaluation as the Star Alliance award chart actually allowed us to book Singapore Airlines award flights for fewer miles on some routes if we just included a connection on a Star Alliance partner. For example, you could fly first class (or Suites class) between the United States (east coast) and Australia for 127,500 KrisFlyer miles with a Star Alliance connection rather than 152,000 KrisFlyer miles when only flying Singapore Airlines.

Well, that fun trick is about to die, so book while you can. A one-way first class Star Alliance award will now cost 152,500 miles for that journey when the change hits in three weeks.

This announcement comes on the heels of the much-anticipated release of Singapore Airlines new Suites class that they're rolling out on their Airbus A380 aircraft. It's safe to say the new Suites class is a game-changer. This is just another reason I'm not surprised they changed their Star Alliance award chart, as I'm sure they want to ensure that booking an award ticket to experience this new product cost a premium regardless of how it is booked.

Star Alliance Award Chart Changes

Let's take a look at the changes to the one-way redemption rates you'll see on flights to and from the United States.

Southeast Asia 1
Economy Class: No change
Business Class: No change
First Class: 112,500 to 135,000 (increase - 22,500 miles)

Southeast Asia 2
Economy Class: No change
Business Class: No change
First Class: 112,500 to 135,000 (increase - 22,500 miles)

North Asia 1
Economy Class: 45,000 to 48,000 (increase - 3,000 miles) 
Business Class: 87,500 to 105,000 (increase - 17,500 miles)
First Class: 100,000 to 125,000 (increase - 25,000 miles)

North Asia 2
Economy Class: 45,000 to 54,000 (increase - 9,000 miles) 
Business Class: 87,500 to 105,000 (increase - 17,500 miles)
First Class: 100,000 to 125,000 (increase - 25,000 miles)

Southwest Pacific
Economy Class: 55,000 to 60,000 (increase - 5,000 miles)
Business Class: 97,500 to 117,000 (increase - 19,500 miles)
First Class: 127,500 to 152,500 (increase - 25,000 miles)

Europe
Economy Class: no change
Business Class: no change
First Class: 80,000 to 95,000 (increase - 15,000 miles)

Middle East/North Africa
Economy Class: 37,500 to 45,000 (increase - 7,500 miles)
Business Class: 57,500 to 69,000 (increase - 11,500 miles)
First Class: 75,000 to 90,000 (increase - 15,000 miles)

Central/South Africa
Economy Class: 45,000 to 52,000 (increase - 7,000 miles)
Business Class: 72,500 to 87,000 (incrase - 14,500 miles)
First Class: 110,000 to 132,000 (increase - 22,000 miles)

Central/South Asia
Economy Class: 52,500 to 55,000 (increase - 2,500 miles)
Business Class: 97,500 to 110,000 (increase - 12,500 miles)
First Class: 132,500 to 145,000 (increase - 12,500 miles)

The Star Alliance chart did not change for redemptions within North America or to Hawaii, Central America, or South America.

All in all, these are some big increases in mileage costs. Flying between the US and Australia in first class on a Star Alliance award will now require 25% more miles. Many other awards will see a 20% bump as well.

Book Star Alliance Awards Online

I'm sure Singapore Airlines would like to focus on the fact that you can now book Star Alliance awards online rather than over the phone and, while this is nice, announcing it with a devaluation is a sad attempt to make it seem like they're doing us a favor.

Rather than calling Singapore KrisFlyer, you can now book award tickets, changes award tickets, and redeem upgrades online. If you choose to do so over the phone, you will be charged a $25 (or 2,500 KrisFlyer miles) fee unless you are unable to complete the booking online. These changes will also take effect on December 7.

Bottom Line

Award chart devaluations are inevitable, but that doesn't make them sting any less. This one was entirely predictable given then changes to their award chart for Singapore Air flights earlier this year and the release of their new Suites class product.

The new online capability is a very small silver lining in all this. Fortunately, Singapore Airlines is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and SPG Starpoints so they are still some of the easier points to earn in the states... you'll just have to use more of them.

*Featured image courtesy of Singapore Airlines

Airline Makes It Easier to Earn Elite Status: Cathay Pacific Takes A Positive Step

In the last few years, we've grown accustomed to what seems like constant devaluation in both award charts and elite status. Elite status benefits have been stripped while the requirements to reach said elite status have become painfully more difficult.

Well, Cathay Pacific is breaking the mold. As of December 8, 2017, it will become easier to earn elite status with their Marco Polo Club loyalty program. Wait, what?! Did they miss a memo? Airlines are supposed to gut their loyalty programs not improve them.

Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club Earn Chart.png

Cathay Pacific is increasing the rate at which passengers will earn Club Points (similar in structure to British Airways Executive Club Tier Points) for many fare classes and flight distances. Short-haul and ultra-short flights in all fare classes will get a boost to their earn rate while long-haul and ultra-long flights in economy class and premium economy get a bump as well.

Medium and medium-long flights will not see a chance except for the cheapest economy fare classes (S, N, Q) and long-haul flights in business class and first class will not get a bump either.

The requirements for elite status (Silver, Gold, Diamond) won't be changing other than Green level members requiring 20 Club Points rather than 100 Club Points to maintain their status. However, these new earn rates will make it easier to earn and maintain status.

The Club Points you earn are not redeemable miles. Cathay Pacific has a separate program for earning redeemable miles called Asia Miles. The number of Asia Miles you earn is determined by your flight distance and the fare class of your ticket.

The points you earn can be used to book award travel on Cathay Pacific and anyone of their oneworld partners such as Japan Airlines and American Airlines. They're also transfer partners of both American Express Membership Rewards and SPG Starpoints which makes them relatively easy to earn.

We'll save a discussion about the many fascinating ways to utilize the Asia Miles program for later, but give it a look if you're bored. You might be surprised by some of the fun award bookings you can create.

Now, thee earn rates for Club Points are only changing for flights operated by Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon. The earn rates for flights operated by Cathay's partners will remain the same. All in all, this won't have a big impact on those who don't fly Cathay Pacific regularly, but I think the move is interesting nonetheless.

I can't remember a positive move like this by an airline. While I imagine the motivation stems from a number of factors including Chinese carriers going after Cathay Pacific's pilots and carriers into Cathay's market share with cheaper flights, Hong Kong Airlines even announced plans to fly to the United States which will only cause further issues for Cathay Pacific.

It's pretty clear Cathay Pacific has recognized the landscape has changed and is trying to incentivize travelers to stick with them. I just can't get over the fact that they did more than creating a marketing campaign to say how great they are. Rather, they actually made a positive change to their program.

I'd love to say that maybe other airlines will take a lesson from this and realize that it's okay to actually improve loyalty programs instead of gutting them and calling them "enhancements" as if we're all clueless children. Hopefully, it doesn't take terrible business conditions for airlines to recognize that.

Until then, it's just fun to see a positive change within an airline program even if it won't impact me or the vast majority of people in the states.

*Featured image courtesy of Cathay Pacific

Etihad Partner Award Issue Resolved? American Airlines Can See Space Again

American Airlines and Etihad Airways have a tense partnership, to say the least. About a month ago, American Airlines stopped being able to see award space on Etihad if the departure date was further out than 30 days and the flight was to or from the United States.

Just this week, Etihad announced that they were cutting its route from Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW). American had already announced they were ending their codeshare agreement with Etihad so this seemed to be just another chapter in this rough partnership.

Well, it looks like we might actually have a little good news on the award booking front. After speaking with MilesTalk and seeing a few data points on FlyerTalk, it looks like American phone agents can once again see award space on Etihad beyond 30 days on flights that touch the U.S.

MilesTalk was able to book a flight for early 2018 from Abu Dhabi (AUH) while others have reported being able to book even further out. Hopefully, this reversion to the norm sticks!

Was this an intentional move by Etihad to restrict award space to American Airlines? No idea, but with the way things have continued to devolve between the two this week, I'd guess it wasn't intentional.

For those new to booking Etihad flights with American AAdvantage miles, here's what you need to do to book:

  1. Find Guest First availability on Etihad
  2. Note the flight number and date
  3. Call AA’s Australian call center (+61 291011948 - Skype is a cheap way to do this)
  4. Ask the customer service rep to check for award space on the specified flight then ask them to place a hold on the award - they'll hold it for 5 days
  5. Note the reservation number they give you
  6. Call AA’s U.S. call center (800-433-7300) and provide the reservation number and tell them you'd like to confirm the booking
  7. Pay the taxes over the phone (they will waive the phone booking fee since this award is not bookable online)
  8. You will receive an American Airlines booking number and ticket number
  9. To select your seat, call Etihad or send them a direct message on Twitter and provide the ticket number

If you are planning to book the Etihad's famous first class product, The Apartments, on their Airbus A380, these are the redemption rates when booking with American AAdvantage miles:

  • New York City (JFK) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) - 115,000 miles
  • London (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) - 62,500 miles
  • Sydney (SYD) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) - 100,000 miles
  • Mumbai (BOM) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) - 40,000 miles

You can earn the necessary American miles with their co-branded credit cards provided by Citi and Barclaycard. You can also use the Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards to earn SPG Starpoints that can be transferred to your American AAdvantage account.

If you are going to transfer SPG Starpoints, make sure you put the award ticket on hold with American Airlines first to ensure you have the space locked up. SPG Starpoints generally take a couple days to transfer to American Airlines so the five-day hold gives you plenty of time. Just make sure you transfer as soon as you have the ticket on hold!

If you've been waiting to book an Etihad award with your American miles, what are you waiting for?! Get to it!

Garuda Indonesia Is Back With Another Promo Award - Up To 50% Off

Last December, Garuda Indonesia launched a 90% award promotion. With Garuda Miles being a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, I jumped at the chance to try their first class product. As I quickly learned, booking award flights with Garuda Miles can take quite a few phone calls.

Well, Garuda Indonesia is back with another promotion opportunity (thanks to @KartuPos for the tip!). This time you can earn bonus miles for cash tickets OR redeem Garuda Miles for an award ticket at a reduced rate if you book a flight between London (LHR) and Jakarta (CGK).

Garuda Indonesia Promo Terms

Garuda Indonesia has launched promotion that allows you to book award flights at up to 50% off.

For paid tickets, you can earn 50% more Garuda Miles in first class (F, A, and P fare classes) and in business class (J, C, and D fare classes). Economy class tickets (Y, M, M, K, and N fare classes) will earn a 25% bonus. You must travel between October 31 and November 30, 2017 to be eligible.

For award tickets, you can receive a 50% discount on first class bookings and a 30% discount on business class or economy class bookings. You must book your award flight by November 30, 2017 and travel between October 31, 2017 and January 31, 2018.

How To Book With Garuda Miles

First class awards on Garuda Indonesia usually cost 180,000 Garuda Miles (or Citi ThankYou Points) for a flight between London (LHR) and Jakarta (CGK), but the promo rate is 95,000 miles.

First class awards on Garuda Indonesia usually cost 180,000 Garuda Miles (or Citi ThankYou Points) for a flight between London (LHR) and Jakarta (CGK), but the promo rate is 95,000 miles.

Unlike the previous promotion, you can book this promotional award online. That means you don't have to call Garuda Indonesia or visit a sales office. However, since Citi ThankYou Points can take a few days to transfer to your Garuda Miles account, you might want to consider calling to put an award ticket on hold.

When I booked my first class ticket last December, I was able to put a ticket on hold for 7 days when I called to book. Fortunately, you can use Garuda Indonesia's site to search for award space so you'll be able to specify the date you want to fly with a bit more confidence.

If you choose to book over the phone, call the Amsterdam call center at 31 (0)20-5502600 as they are much easier to work with than the Jakarta office. Additionally, the Jakarta office cannot process American credit cards (as of last December - please let me know if that has changed) while Garuda's office in Amsterdam can. 

To book online but, you must have the required number of Garuda Miles in your account. The miles required for each class of service are as follows:

  • First Class: 95,000 Garuda Miles + about $190 in taxes/fees
  • Business Class: 63,000 Garuda Miles + about $190 in taxes/fees
  • Economy Class: 35,000 Garuda Miles + about $190 in taxes/fees

If you are deciding which class of service to book, I strongly suggest considering first class. I had a great experience last year. If you want the details of my entire trip last year, check out my review of Garuda Indonesia first class.

What To Expect From Garuda Indonesia First Class

On a long flight, you'll love the comfort of your first class bed on Garuda Indonesia.

To give you a quick idea of what to expect from Garuda Indonesia's first class product, here are a few things you can expect.

Your first class seat is better classified as a suite, not unlike Singapore Suites, with doors that close so you can have complete privacy. There are only eight suites in the first class cabin so it's very quiet throughout the flight.

Garuda Indonesia's crew members have a great reputation for being responsive and happy to help at all times. When my seat broke last year, the crew manager spent 10 minutes trying to fix it and, when unable to do so, re-accommodated me in the only empty seat in the cabin (whew!).

Is shoe service over the top? Absolutely. Is it fun? Definitely.

Oh, and do NOT forget the shoe service. It's totally over the top, but it is amazing. White glove service in which they give you slippers and put your shoes in shoe bags - you never know what might happen on a long flight!

The meals are very nice on these long-haul flights and there's plenty of great champagne for you to enjoy. Nothing like champagne and caviar to make you feel fancy!

If you are departing from Jakarta (CGK), you will have the opportunity to enjoy the new first class lounge - it was not complete when I visited earlier this year. What really impressed me about the first class lounge experience was that you are assigned two first class attendants. They escort you through security and are there for anything you might need during your stay.

Final Thoughts

To try Garuda Indonesia first class, I booked a trip around it. I flew to Europe just to try it on the Amsterdam (AMS) to Jakarta (CGK) route. Now, you might not be that crazy, but if you have a trip to Europe or Asia coming up, this would be a great opportunity to include a flight on Garuda Indonesia.

Let me know if you decide to book this amazing experience!