Weekly Review: February 28, 2015

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Hello from Seattle! I’m visiting some friends in my former hometown, which is a welcome relief from the past week.

I managed to catch a cold on my last trip (which is highly unusual for me), and have spent the past week laying on my mother’s sofa with a box of tissues, and writing trip reports like it’s my job. ;)

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Air France FlyingBlue May/June Promo Awards — Up To 50% Off

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One of the best uses of Air France/KLM FlyingBlue miles is booking their Promo Awards. FlyingBlue publishes these every month, and they offer 25-50% off select award tickets on Air France and KLM metal. Back in the day Promo Awards would consistently be for 50% off and would have a good number of options in business class, though unfortunately they’ve devalued the program somewhat since then, and the discounts now vary.

However, there are still some great values to be had. FlyingBlue just published their latest Promo Awards. These are valid for bookings made between March 1 and March 31, 2015, and for travel between May 1 and June 30, 2015. This set of Promo Awards is kind of average at best. For a bit of context:

— The January/February Promo Awards were awesome
— The March/April Promo Awards were not as awesome but still pretty good
— The April/May Promo Awards weren’t very exciting

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And The Gross Flight Attendant Of The Year Award Goes To…

Flight-Attendant

Yesterday I wrote a post about flying on what I think is possibly the most elite heavy day of the year (the last Thursday in February).

My flight from Tampa to Dallas was a smelly one, as the guy next to me basically farted the whole way.

But he had nothing on the (new hire) flight attendant on my connecting flight. I don’t even know where to begin.

On the plus side, my upgrade did end up clearing, thanks to a misconnect. So I had a bulkhead aisle, with a direct “view” of the forward flight attendant jumpseats.

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Review: Andaz London Liverpool Street Hotel

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While I transit Heathrow about a dozen times a year, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually visited London. I’m not sure why, exactly, other than the fact that it’s expensive and the hotel situation is a bit rough. And the weather isn’t great. And the UK APD. And… well, nevermind. ;)

In this case I was meeting some friends in London before we went to Copenhagen for New Years, so I booked a night at the Andaz London Liverpool Street.

The Andaz London is a Category 6 Gold Passport property, making a free night redemption 25,000 Gold Passport points per night. That being said, there was Points + Cash availability for my night, so I booked the one night stay for 12,500 Gold Passport points plus $150.

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Review: Etihad Airways First Class Apartment A380 Abu Dhabi To London

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I don’t think words can do justice to how excited I was when I boarded the Etihad A380. As soon as my boarding pass was scanned I jogged down the jet bridge to the door of the plane. That’s how excited I was.

At the door I was greeted by the cabin manager and one of the first class crew, who directed me left towards the First Class Apartment cabin.

Holy $hit. I try not to cuss too much in public, but that’s what I said. Actually, that phrase is about all that came out of my mouth for the first 10 minutes in the cabin.

Words can’t do justice to how beautiful the cabin is. There’s only a single aisle, which makes Etihad the first airline to use a single-aisle configuration on the A380.

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Is Today The Worst Day Of The Year To Be An Elite Flyer?

Centurion-Lounge-Dallas

Is today the worst day of the year to travel as an elite member… at least on American? Traditionally airline elite status expires at the end of February, so this is the time period where you have the most elite members flying. That’s because even those that didn’t requalify for status still have their 2014 status.

And it’s Thursday afternoon, which is traditionally the most popular time for business travelers to be gracing the skies.

So does that make right now the busiest elite travel period of the year?

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New American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card Benefits

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The American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card is one of the first cards I ever signed up for, and I’ve kept it ever since.

Back in the day the card was really unique, as it offered 3x points on airfare purchased with airlines, 2x points on gas purchased at US gas stations & groceries purchased at US supermarkets. In addition to that the card used to offer 15,000 Membership Rewards points for any year in which you spent $30,000 on the card.

In other words, $30,000 of airfare spend per year would net you 105,000 Membership Rewards points, which is a crazy good return.

Unfortunately since then a couple of things have changed which have decreased the value proposition of the card:

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Singapore Airlines Has Lowered Their Fuel Surcharges, But By How Much?

Singapore-Business-Class-777

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Singapore Airlines’ announcement that they’d be lowering fuel surcharges for tickets booked as of February 26, 2015. Singapore Airlines announced that fuel surcharges would drop between US$5 (S$6.80) and US$83 (S$113) per sector.

While fuel prices have plummeted, airlines haven’t passed on those savings to consumers. Which is fine and makes sense, since ticket costs aren’t based on the cost of fuel, but rather based on supply/demand. This is why airlines are sometimes extremely profitable, and sometimes extremely unprofitable.

There are implications of lower fuel surcharges on award tickets, but not on revenue tickets:

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Why Isn’t American AAdvantage A Citi ThankYou Rewards Partner?

American-777

On Tuesday I wrote a post comparing the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Visa Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, which are two of the most compelling flexible points currency cards on the market.

In that post I explained how the Citi ThankYou Premier has a more compelling earnings structure than the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but Chase Ultimate Rewards points are more valuable than Citi ThankYou Rewards points, in my opinion.

As a reminder, here are the transfer partners of both programs:

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China Airlines Awards Now Bookable On Delta.com

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Last May I wrote about Taipei-based China Airlines’ new business class product, which is available on their newly delivered Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

China Airlines is known as the second rate Taiwan-based airline (after EVA Air), and doesn’t have the best reputation (historically both in terms of safety and passenger comfort), though they’re trying to turn that around.

Their new 777-300ERs feature a fantastic business class hard product, consisting of reverse herringbone seats and onboard wifi. Their business class cabin consists of a total of 40 seats, spread across 10 rows in a 1-2-1 configuration.

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Earn 15,000 Starpoints This Weekend With The SPG/Uber Partnership

Uber

Yesterday I wrote about the new partnership between SPG and Uber, which is a huge value-add for SPG members.

Here’s a video introducing the new partnership:

Active SPG members earn one extra Starpoint per dollar spent with Uber (up to $10,000 per year), and if you use an Uber in conjunction with a stay at a Starwood property, you earn even more Starpoints than that.

As someone that lives in hotels, it looks like I’ll be earning four Starpoints and two Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on most of my Uber rides from now on.

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Marriott Rewards’ 2015 Hotel Category Adjustments

Marriott-GRU-Airport

It’s pretty normal for hotel loyalty programs to have annual category adjustments, whereby the number of hotels in each category changes. In other words, the number of points required for a free night at a particular category of hotel doesn’t change, but which hotel belongs to which category does.

While these are different than award chart devaluations (whereby the number of points required for a free night at a certain category of hotel changes), they can be even worse. If half of hotels go up in category, for example, that really ends up being a pretty big devaluation in terms of the purchasing power of your points.

With that in mind, so far this year we’ve seen category adjustments from Hyatt and Starwood:

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