Why Can’t Bloggers Stop Ruining All The Good Deals?!?

I’ve been writing this blog for over eight years, so at this point there’s not much which can get under my skin. Whatever attack you want to throw my way, I’d be willing to bet I’ve heard it before.

Yesterday morning I wrote about Alaska changing award redemption rates on Emirates without notice, a move which destroys the trust a lot of us have in the program. Given the volume of feedback Alaska got, they responded, issuing a quasi-apology for catching people off guard, while blaming “travel hackers.”

But bigger picture I think it’s worth addressing this change. People like to talk about the impact of “bloggers,” which I find a bit of an unfair term generically, since you have all kinds of bloggers. Hell, you even have bloggers who dedicate their sites to making fun of other bloggers. So trying to refer to them as a homogenous group doesn’t bring much to the conversation, other than trying to find a scapegoat.

I can’t (and certainly don’t want to) speak on behalf of other bloggers, but let me share my philosophy on this.

“Bloggers ruin everything”

Deals get shared. That’s what the internet is about. The internet makes it easier to share information with people around the world, and to consolidate that information in a useful way. There are other mediums where travel related information is shared, like FlyerTalk and even Reddit, though generally the information doesn’t go as widespread, since a lot of it is written in code.

That approach locks thousands of people out of deals. I’ve never understood how on one hand the internet is all about making information easier to share, while on the other hand many people use it to keep information to themselves and away from others.

The loyalty program industry changes every day. This is the case now, and this was the case a decade ago, before there were many widely read blogs. It might be easy to get pessimistic because of how widespread the bad news is shared, just like it’s easy to get pessimistic about the state of the world based on watching the news. Could you imagine if CNN and Fox News had been around during the Civil War or World War I?

Are the good deals going to be devalued over time? Yes, that’s inevitable. Remember how several years ago United charged just 90,000 miles for roundtrip business class to Australia/New Zealand, while now it’s 80,000 miles one-way? That’s a huge devaluation over the course of several years, but somehow bloggers aren’t being blamed for that. Yet it’s a very real reality — we find great redemption deals, airlines raise redemption costs, our buying power increases (airlines sell miles for less, issue more bonus miles, etc.), and the cycle starts all over again…

And that’s completely fine. In the meantime, as a blogger I’m going to share the best deals in hopes of people being able to take advantage of them. When I go through my Facebook feed and see dozens of people smiling in Emirates first class, that makes me happy. It means I’ve done a decent job at helping people try an awesome product. I’ve experienced the joys of showering on an Emirates A380, and I want you to as well.

Emirates-Shower

That’s the name of this game. Back in the day it was Lufthansa first class which was the most incredible deal, and when redemption rates were raised for travel on them, I started flying them less. Was I pessimistic for a moment, and did I wonder if this hobby was going to hell in a handbasket? Of course. But then I came to my senses and realized that there are so many other amazing opportunities out there.

Lufthansa-First-Class-747 - 1

What really happened between Alaska and Emirates?

I have a friend who works at Emirates, who shared with me what really happened. Emirates was pissed at Alaska for the number of first class redemptions coming through their program. They wanted to cut off Emirates first class redemptions altogether for Alaska Mileage Plan, and the new redemption rates were looked at as a compromise. The main goal was to make the product so highly priced that only a tiny fraction of people would redeem for it.

This is part of why I find it so hilarious that Alaska is pointing at “travel hackers,” as they’re calling them. They knew exactly what was going on, and were profiting hugely off of it. Internal reimbursement rates between airlines are low, and Alaska was making tens of millions of dollars selling miles to people they knew wanted to redeem for Emirates first class.

Last year alone, Mileage Plan revenue from selling miles increased by $34 million. That’s right, that’s a year over year increase, and doesn’t even account for how many miles they sold before. So Alaska was loving Emirates first class redemptions every bit as much as we were were.

Let’s keep in mind that Alaska is a relatively small airline, and that’s huge money for them.

My issue with Alaska wasn’t the change as such, but how they handled it. They changed the rates overnight, when a lot of members were buying points in good faith specifically for this purpose. And on top of that if we hadn’t pushed them on it, they would have pretended nothing change.

Alaska-Bonus

If you’re someone who doesn’t understand how it’s disingenuous for a company to actively promote selling miles with a bonus and then overnight raise the cost of the single most popular redemption value without notice, well, then you’re someone I’d love to do business with (in the form of you writing me a check, and me sending you back one for half the amount the following week).

But Alaska could have said to Emirates “this isn’t how we do business, we have to give our members some notice of this change.” After all, their partnership is going quite well and Alaska is one of Emirates’ few allies in the US, so you’d think they’d be able to have a dialogue about it.

Alaska-Seattle

Bottom line

I’m not at all surprised by this devaluation. And I don’t regret any of the amount of information I shared. The deal has been around for over three years, and thousands and thousands of people have experienced Emirates first class using Alaska miles. That’s fantastic, and something I’m proud of.

The internet is full of people with opinions, and that’s great. You have the people who realize deals will change over time due to the sharing of information, and then you have the people who think they’re the only ones entitled to information, and anyone else who shares it is ruining a deal.

Redemption rates staying the same over more than three years is something I’m pleased with. Now on to the next great deal…

Comments

  1. I just hope I don’t get denied lounge access when I have a layover in Dubai next month. Hopefully, they don’t start doing they same thing they did with the car service when it comes to award travel, and apply that to the lounges.

  2. Insightful article. @ Ben: Perhaps the people who can accrues the points required would now have easier access to the reward seats? A silver lining for those few “Lucky” ones ; )

  3. Totally agree with your philosophy on blogging. Devaluation is inevitable, so keep your head on a swivel and always be prepared to pivot and adjust your points and miles strategies at a moments notice!

  4. The blame for this falls squarely on Alaska Airlines. They duped everyone and made millions selling miles, then try and deflect the blame away from them, as if they were the victim. Yesterday they blatantly liked to their loyal customers stating that Emirates sets the award redemption rates. It’s disgraceful.

    Now, do I blame you and other travel bloggers for getting this deal killed? Yes, I do. Without the widespread broadcasting of this redemption value, it likely would not have been done away with as quickly or abruptly. HOWEVER, you and the other similar bloggers are also the reason so many people were able to redeem their miles for this amazing award and experience before it died. It is not possible to separate the two sides of the argument. Unfortunately, most people aren’t able to see both sides of the argument. People are inherently greedy, and once they’ve learned about a deal, they don’t want anybody else to get the same benefit that they got. It’s an interesting study in human nature.

    In sum, thank you for providing the info that allowed so many people to enjoy Emirates First, damn you for telling so many people about this redemption value, and fark Alaska airlines for screwing over everyone by not giving a single day notice of the devaluation and then lying about it.

  5. Elites (in the general sense, not the frequent flyer sense) never appreciate the democratization of information because it makes their comparative advantage lesser. So it doesn’t surprise me that there would be those who would object to your dissemination of information.

    But, with that said, I’m a schoolteacher who travels in intl J/F every summer and gets paid to book awards for wealthy friends, and that’s because of people like you Ben. I’ve read you and Gary and TPG-before-he-sold-out for over seven years now, and I’ve benefited greatly from your willingness to share what you know.

    So thank you.

  6. Few Cathay and JAL first class with my wife to and from Asia in February. Was an experience I’ll never forget and was only made possible by tips from bloggers like yourself. Don’t worry about the comment section complainers.

  7. People shouldn’t be surprised…someone has to lose, right? Emirates evaluated the total 2015 numbers and made adjustments. What’s the downside…they anger customers who may never pay $ anyhow? I think all businesses work this way…it takes 2-3 years for people to notice abnormal run rates, and then they change things.

  8. Hello Ben, you are correct that not all bloggers are alike. But some bloggers make it so blatantly stupid easy to hack for miles that they do kill opportunities. I used to worked at Amex and the frequent miler’s beautiful diagrams were circulating around the office. He had a huge impact in how fast Redcard got killed for CC and GC loadings. Trust me that if he stayed in code like FT blogs maybe it could have lasted longer. Who knows.

  9. I think the issue is a little subtler.

    In Reddit, no one hopes to profit from the info. Bloggers need readers to make revenue somehow, via booking services or credit card signup royalties. Nothing attracts readers like the great deals.

    I rely on you and Gary and Flyertalk for my info. I want you to make money otherwise my source will go away. True FT has much of what you highlight but I don’t have the time to filter out the other stuff,

    Keep on doing the great job you do!

  10. Lucky – I read your blog everday and it has a great info, but this post I disagree with.

    You can’t compare your blog to FT. You just can’t.

    FT is a place where poeple of the “hacking” community get to together and share information and different tricks. It’s a give and take kind of place. If you find different travel tricks you are ok with telling other poeple but you would expect them to give back when they find something. We all don’t like to work for nothing and when we tell our best friend a trick and it works for them we are happy because we helped someone and also because we know if I help them then they will help me.

    So a regular person doesn’t just want everyone taking from him if he will never ever get paid back and people just taking. So therefore alot less info is being shared by people who are just takers and abusers.

    You are different. You want to give to everyone since you know them following your blog is giving back to you. So you rather as much people as possible find out through your blog since they will probably give back to you in some way, shape or form.

    I am totally fine with that approach since everyone has to do what works for them, but to say “Hey FT talks about it so there’s no difference if I do also” is crazy. I am not saying the reason why EK devalued was because your blog, but to ignore the fact that you brought alot more attention to EK F bookings then is completely not true.

    Again, your blog is awesome and you taught me some great tricks.

    Keep it up.

  11. bla bla bla bla bla

    who cares if you had a part in killing it?

    you did nothing illegal and made a killing $$$$ doing so

  12. There seems to be an assumption in play that we can only get the news on deals from bloggers. Long before I started reading blogs I could find deals for the places I wanted to go. To be clear, I enjoy this blog and a few others and have learned a lot and am very thankful for the sharing of information that goes on here and elsewhere. With or without the blogs, the airlines will always keep changing the game and folks like us will try to find ways to exploit and game the system – they expect us to do no less! Keep writing – you’re the best!

  13. of course bloggers ruined it since they ‘breed’ so many readers into booking F/J awards against me. Everyone should clear out when I am ready to book my awards, now all that (good redemption) is gone. Why cant I be the only one that books the ticket?

  14. The strange thing to me is that EK could have easily adjusted the number of available F awards if this was really an issue. I guess in a sense that’s what they allegedly first tried to do.

    It seems foolish that they’d rather have a seat fly empty rather than collecting an award flight fee from AS. But I guess that’s their prerogative. Perhaps they expect people will just pony up the extra dough.

    Frankly I flew EK F a few years ago on the A380 (HKG-BKK) and didn’t think it was all that compare to top airlines. Too much bling, not enough storage in my opinion. But I did book one of their awards from CMB for later this year.

    I guess people will always want to be the “insiders” and keep everyone else out. How many of the complainers would have even realized this deal was available without blogger and FT?

  15. Alaskan just lost a lot of future business. Alaskan Air also just lost a lot of peoples respect. Its not going to viewed as the quirky little niche player it used to be. But more significantly I also think Alaskans actions will make purchasers of miles far more circumspect, so in a way all the mileage programs will lose out on some significant future revenues. The miles market just got a lot more cut throat. Great blog Ben please keep up the good work.

  16. I travel with an entourage so I’ve never been in 1st. I would rather hang with my people than alone eating caviar and I don’t drink so the champagne would be wasted on me. This week, I was on award bookings for 5 people. It really messed with (unnamed) the airline’s bookings. There was time to sort things out so I didn’t care, but she told me it was because I was on awards. I thought to myself, I guess most people don’t actually redeem these things. LOL On another note, Alaska is a great airline though IMO. It’s probably due to that Jennifer Anniston Emirate commercial. I mean Emirates is going pretty mainstream with that commercial so people just want to fly like her. Why should she get all the fun?

  17. Emirates will be enjoying almost empty 1st class cabins I’m sure. How many of you have flown on them in a fully packed 1st class? Ever? My own experience, and all the photos I see, are of barely any people in there.

    So what’s their problem with Alaska redemptions? It’s not like they’re displacing paying customers. It was hard enough already to find availability last year, had to wait 7 days until departure to book. Anyone who would have paid cash would have not waited that long to use up AS miles.

  18. People talk about devaluation but I consider it inflation. There are more and more ways to generate tons of miles that did not exist before. What used to be 25,000 mile credit card is 50,000 or more now. You also have 5x at office supply stores that includes gift cards that can be liquidated.

    If the earning amount goes up, so must the redemption amount. Inflation and not devaluation.

    That said, we do want notice before rates go up. I feel for people who transferred or bought miles then had the rug pulled out. However, any notice results not only a spike in bookings but creates speculative bookings. This creates chaos for people who can’t get a seat because someone else is holding it waiting for another date to open up.

  19. Very funny article, from a business point of view.
    Reddit community passed 40K members, this blog has 1M unique viewers.
    Alaska made the right decision.
    May be that earned 34M more in 1 year but they are not in a business of selling miles. They are in business of flying people. Something that Lucky does not understand.
    All those rewards programs were designed for frequent fliers, not for frequent hackers.

  20. Based on what your friend said, Alaska was able to save access to Emirates first class. That reflects well on Alaska. Having read several blogs on the Alaska change and the accompanying comments, I find it amusing that people are pissed off at bloggers and/or Alaska, but not Emirates. Yet your findings are that Emirates really forced a change.

  21. I’m not blaming bloggers, but I have to ask about this:

    “and did I wonder if this hobby…”

    Is writing this blog a hobby for you, Ben, or is it your job? I assumed that this was your job, and not just a hobby.

    It doesn’t make a difference to me either way, but I am curious why you would refer to it as a hobby, when from everything I’ve read here, it’s your source of income.

  22. “I’ve experienced the joys of showering on an Emirates A380, and I want you to as well.” Lol. Let me guess, it’s a lot like taking a shower at home only in a lot more uncomfortably cramped conditions. I guess we all have our definitions of “joy”.

  23. C. Diddy was on the right track, but missed someone: Emirates. However, that’s a detail missed, that’s all.

    The importance is that in human nature people immediately jump to pointing fingers and assessing blame. Look, ALL of us in some way share in this, and we should think about what could have happened along the way:
    1. Emirates for getting pissed and threatening to yank First & Business redemptions all together from Alaska. How would everyone have felt then?
    2. Alaska – the fact is that we don’t 100% know what discussions or decisions went on behind the scenes other than what was represented to us. It’s possible they told Emirates they wanted to or felt they had to give their customers notice, but Emirates may have said “Now, or never.”
    3. Travel consumers – I intentionally didn’t use bloggers or hackers or anybody else, but have included them all here. We saw an opportunity and played by the rules. We took full advantage of what was offered in fairness, though admit some abuses loopholes in the rules. Information was widely spread and I do believe Alaska underestimated the power of the Internet, Social Media and blogosphere. I don’t think they anticipated this opportunity getting blown out of proportion to the dismay of Emirates.

    Alaska likely saw an opportunity on two fronts: an attractive partner to the Middle East and connections worldwide with a great product. At the time Emirates redemptions were first allowed, I recall saying wow – 200k roundtrip is expensive! But we exploited mileage loopholes to make it happen based on info sharing. I can’t blame them for looking out for their customer, but do fault them for not anticipating how people can exploit their system. I think they’ll be much more vigilant or cautious about how their ‘loyalty’ program is structured.

    Loyalty has been widely talked about. Here is where I fault many travel consumers and yes, bloggers. The Mileage Plan, like all others, were originally designed to reward an airline’s frequent fliers that spend more to travel on that particular airline than others. NOT casual mileage junkies living in Singapore that have never set foot on an Alaska Airlines jet. Sure, again one can fault Alaska for not thinking that through, but someone overseas shouldn’t be surprised that their game is up. And frankly, the game really isn’t up for you, is it? You’re just being asked to pay more to play, since you’re really not ‘loyal’ to Alaska. For those of us who do fly Alaska sometimes, regularly, often or frequently, and are truly loyal to them, this hurts us more because our loyalty was devalued more than those who aren’t loyal.

    Now, as time as progressed, the loyalty programs have been exploited and abused to the point where they aren’t recognizable to those in the Miles & Points hobby as loyalty programs, but more like currency banks. Why should any of us be surprised?

    Sorry for long windedness, but we’re all to blame here: Emirates, Alaska, Travel industry websites and blog sites, and travel consumers for this mess. It would be irresponsible and unjust to do otherwise.

  24. Emirates should have just limited the number of award seats to Alaska if they were that pissed about it.

  25. You conveniently leave out how you profited immensely off of peddling Alaska CC’s for years, throwing up pictures of Emirates first class as an incentive.

    You can’t have it both ways. You were part of the destruction. You absolutely cannot compare yourself to FT. FT is where people go to share ideas WITHOUT looking to profit from them.

  26. @PM

    “…they are not in a business of selling miles.”

    Where does one start with this statement? You’re joking, right?

    Well, considering the date, your timing, at least, is right on…

  27. I’ve shared your blog amongst my friends and I appreciate the information BA bloggers and others have stated. However, one thing that always bothered me is some of the unnecessary snide comments you guys make (i.e. US Airways agents being clueless or geographically inept or lifemiles .) There’s no use making fun of a loyalty program when they’re the ones who are providing you with these amazing and luxurious travel lifestyle. This is not just you but the BA blogging community in general.
    I still remember your first EK F flight LHR-DXB from a BA award ticket. What an experience that was. In a way, a redemption becomes more special if it’s harder to redeem (or not as common to redeem.)
    As for Emirates, I have a few friends who work there too and they told me EK doesn’t follow the cabin crew rest policy listed in the GCAA approved manual all the time. I wonder if your friends there agree as well… or perhaps EK has started implementing the policy ever since the flydubai incident.

  28. Speaking for only myself, I wanted to figure out how to get free exit row seats and free checked bags when I first started visiting the blogs. Once I read the basics and learned the ins and outs of how to redeem miles I had but didn’t know what the hell to do with, this site became a regular visit for me.

    So thank you Ben for sharing information that helps us with our travels probably going places and sitting in seats we never otherwise would have or we would have just redeemed that many more miles for.

    The “travel hacker” statement by Alaska is sour grapes. The airlines created their own programs and set the redemption rates. Ultimately they will always raise the rates on us as they look to $ell the seats and make it harder or more expensive for people to use points or miles to travel with them. I do way more paid flying then redemption flights as I work hard to maintain status because I do get very well taken care of by AA for being EXP.

  29. Totally agree thats its wrong to blame bloggers for it been so popular – its impossi le to keep things secret when you can google all the charts – when you had to call them 20 years (or so) for that kind of information.

    Its interesting to see that Emeriates wants to meep its First super exclusiv – so will Japan Airlines been the next? Or a move in AF direction?

  30. “I’m going to share the best deals in hopes of people being able to take advantage of them.”

    Along with the fact that you are financially rewarded to do so. Which is cool with me, but be honest with yourself. You are literally incentivized to increase the redemption rate of award deals, resulting in the acceleration of their demise.

  31. @ atxtravel:

    My experience with EK is limited, but I flew first with them back in 2014….Prague to Dubai….and I was the only person in first. It was fantastic. The flight crew actually asked me if they were bothering me too much.

  32. Boom! Lucky just dropped the microphone and threw up a bunch of papers or maybe a keyboard.

  33. I can bet most of the people howling are liberals who think taxes should be high so government workers get paid to live in luxury and welfare queena live nicely. Everyone else should be paying taxes for it.

    But they want to keep all the good deals for themselves. No democraticzation there. Hypocrites.

  34. I’m not criticizing you, but of course you helped kill the deal. And you made a killing at it. If you weren’t making a ton of money on it you definitely wouldn’t tout it as often and loudly as you did.

    Having said that, you have every right to make money, like the rest of us, it’s just that your job helps (a) get more people aware of good deals (which is a good thing) and (b) get those same deals killed (which is a bad thing.)

    I’m not saying you should do anything differently. And one could definitely argue that if you weren’t the one advertising it someone else would. But you’re still part of the “problem.”

    The worst offender is TPG who, in his idiotic delusion, encouraged his sheep to bombast the DOT about the mistake fare. That numskull move was stupid because there was nothing to gain from it and he created unnecessary noise. That’s because he’s a narcissist who thinks everyone would pay attention to him because of the people who follow him. But I digress.

  35. Need to go back farther – Continental used to have 2 person rewards to Australia @ 150,000 for Business for 2 and 170,000 for First for 2. (CO used to have First and I flew it to Australia, before they introduced BusinessFirst.

    On the Blog issue – for those of us that read FlyerTalk and follow the blogs, we get good deals on reward travel and know how and when to book the rewards. Some of us even know some secrets about booking that you don’t know.

    But some bloggers, like yourself, have businesses (and yours is very large – say 12 employees) that book rewards for people for around a $150 fee for each ticket. And nothing wrong with these businesses.

    But what happens is that the good reward seats get snapped by your booking agents (tracking alerts, etc) for your clients, and that makes it nearly impossible for an average traveler that in not into FlyerTalk or Blogs to get good international rewards. While nothing wrong with that, the booking businesses and blogger tips have skewed the normal distribution of reward seats to the bulk of the flyers that have frequent flyer miles.

    Not a complaint, just a comment, as I was playing the game and knew all the reward redemption tricks before you were even born.

  36. I never respond to the blame the bloggers post but I have to make a point this time. It’s not greedy or selfish to want to keep information in smaller forums. It’s simply smart. It’s not that I don’t want my fellow travelers to have the same opportunities as me. It’s just that I don’t want to make it easier for the airlines and loyalty programs to know exactly what to devalue next. These blogs and magazine articles and other post highlight the weak spots of any program. It makes it too easy for them. That’s why we get mad at blogs. It has nothing to do with not wanting to share with other people and everything to do with not wanting to share with the airlines.

  37. We will be flying across the Atlantic and have a nice place to stay thanks to Lucky and some other kind souls . I don’t care if I’m more special than anyone else . I don’t care if I fly in first or not . We will be able to take a very nice trip and visit with some good friends . Without the help of ‘bloggers’ this would not happen . THANKS AGAIN Lucky !
    @ credit , you’ll feel better if you hold your head completely underwater for seven minutes .

  38. As soon as the banks cease giving away obscene amounts of miles merely for signing up to their cards the better. Less miles in circulation is a good thing; more miles in circulation is not~ they will inevitably devalue, just like the paper money sovereign states churn off their printing presses.
    I am so tired of clickbait articles excitedly outlining how some moron flew 20,000 miles in the best F cabin guzzling $400 bottles of champagne while shoveling down caviar, all for $108 ! (It turns out that person acquired 3 new credit cards with big signup bonuses, and paid $108 in fees ‘n taxes). This will majorly piss off the named airline~ justified IMO!) There is also an even more insidious side to banks encouraging a walletful of credit cards too. Add up all the authorized credit limits those cards allow, and from an accounting point of view that is your debt, even if you haven’t spent a cent! Multiply that by the number of card holders and that runs into trillions and trillions of dollars. A world ‘black swan’ event with the $US getting the wobbles, and the 2008 recession will seem like a Sunday school picnic. Course no-one will be flying even in Y.

  39. You, and other bloggers, have made the decision to make information more accessible so that a greater number of people get to take advantage of these deals. This is at the expense of also making the information more accessible to airlines and other programs. You simply cannot take responsibility for many more people enjoying Emirates first class (which you have) without also acknowledging and taking responsibility for your part in making the information accessible to airlines and accelerating the killing of a deal. So, yes, bloggers do make information more accessible to the public and many more people get to take advantage of the deals. But this also makes it easier for airlines to kill deals. You simply cannot separate the two.

  40. Three things killed this deal:

    1) BofA gave away 25k bonuses like they were candy
    2) Alaska sold cheap miles with no cap
    3) Bloggers/Travelers boasted about the ridiculous routings they were able to use

  41. A bit disingenuous to not mention all the referral money that you and many other blogs receive though, Ben – by comparison FT etc is quite different.

    You also didn’t mention that Alaska are refunding any purchases over the past month.

    Lastly re redemptions going up and sign-up bonuses increasing – sadly that’s only in the USA. Every other country had to deal with the increasing redemption rates but doesn’t have the same massive sign-up bonuses – so sadly it’s not a level playing field vis a vis redemption inflation.

  42. Kind of hypocritical to say deals should be shared because they’ll all eventually go away. You definitely didn’t share some of the juicier LM tricks back in the day – because a) you wouldn’t have gotten kickbacks from AV, and b) you wanted the days of cheap LH F flights to last a little longer too. I get that it’s not the same situation given AV was exploiting a major loophole, but AS was a posted and upfront deal.

  43. @ Tom — That has nothing to do with it. I’ve long shared my philosophy on sharing deals. I try to do what I think will maximize the greatest good for the greatest number of people. If writing about a deal will cause it to die quickly, I won’t write about it. If I think more people will benefit long term by writing about it, I will.

    There’s a HUGE difference between writing about a mistake and writing about an airline’s published award chart. This deal has been around for over three years, and I feel *very* comfortable in knowing that I did what maximized the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

  44. I wish that they would offer lower rates of redemption for people with higher status with an airline, thus rewarding those that actually fly with them vs people who only buy miles.

    I don’t really buy miles (might have bought a few small amounts once or twice) and maintain top tier status on AA and AS. If AS would have raised rates to the new amount but give a discount (starting at a lower amount for lower status and going to higher for top tier) it would even out the playing field a bit when it comes to award travel. Sure, there are still those with status who might buy miles, but I am sure there are lots more who simply fly all the time for work/pleasure and hold onto their miles for a bigger trip.

    I recently spent several hundred thousand AA miles on a few trips, but before that I typically just held onto miles or use them here and there for a first class seat when I had to fly last minute and it was too expensive. I typically want my flights to be paid to keep status and the perks (upgrades mostly) and before I know it I have lots of miles in my account.

    I am going to be flying all over the world this year, in part thanks to FT and Lucky and a few other places, as I did the research, figured out what I wanted to fly and how to get there. I took my first solo flight just days after I turned 5 years old and have loved it ever since.

  45. @ Jessica — I think that’s perfectly fair, though I think you also have to acknowledge that everyone can share information however they want to. I don’t fault you for wanting to keep the deals to yourself, but I don’t think you can fault other people for wanting to share deals either. It’s a two way street.

  46. @ Stannis — I share deals regardless of whether or not I’m compensated for them. I blogged for several years before I made a single dime on this site. And I promote *all* good opportunities to purchase miles, regardless of whether I’m compensated for them or not. Yes, I made a commission if someone purchases Alaska miles, but I don’t make a commission if someone purchases American miles or LifeMiles. Yet I’ve written about those deals every single time as well.

  47. @ Tyler — I’ve never made a single dollar from promoting Alaska credit cards. Nice try, though.

  48. @ Susan — When I talk about the hobby aspect of it I mean the joys of earning and redeeming miles, which I’ve been involved in since the age of 14. Yes this is my business as well, but it has been my hobby long before I ever started doing this as a job.

  49. @ PM — No, they’re in the business of maximizing shareholder value (whether that comes in the form of selling miles or flying people). If you think airlines nowadays are only about transporting people, I think you’re not looking hard enough.

  50. What @Alan means it that outside the US we cannot sign onto multiple CC offering big/huge mileage bonuses. Too many CC applications will rapidly trash ones credit rating, and they will be declined as a result. Qantas is the exception but CC offers are ‘modest’ and redemption rates are generally high.
    So if we want to travel on award miles, we have to buy AA, AS, UA, AV miles at the asking price, hopefully at a sale time with bonus miles.

  51. I don’t understand the notion that somehow people signing up for credit cards or buying miles and then redeeming them is an affront to the airlines. THEY are the ones partnering with banks and selling them miles for the bonuses. THEY are the ones selling miles directly to their members themselves. If it wasn’t contributing to their bottom line, they wouldn’t do it. And when it stops being lucrative enough for them, they make their arbitrary changes (as is their right under the terms of the program), and we start looking for the next “good deal”.

  52. That is some rich stuff lucky. You are blatently lieing if you claim your not making any money from the Alaska airlines card.

    My friend is a blogger and she tells me she has affiliate links for the AS card. Doesn’t pay as much as the Sapphire but it’s still there. Please don’t take your readers for fools.

  53. Funny that after your post there is an ad for an appliance warranty. Is that the next great deal?

    (Yeah, i know all about the internet ads and my comment is a joke.)

  54. Well actually AS and B6 have EK by their balls. I hope AS management read recent CAPA article about EK is pretty much restricted in USA to four B6/AS hubs. US3 already cancelled most of code share/interline agreements, and they are not going invite EK with open arms. EK doesn’t pay its partners very well.

    So AK/B6 both have upper hand can demand whatever they want.

    I know EK fan boys cannot swallow this, but it is a fact.

  55. I flew BKK DXB LAX in First and it was because you shared that information and gave me that opportunity to achieve that goal. Thank you. Don’t listen to the haters.

  56. Hey, how about this…why don’t you all just buy first class tickets? You don’t deserve to be in FC, take showers and eat caviar if you can’t pay for it. I for one am tired of the upgrade/award hoarders who take up the space I pay for… Stay in coach where you belong. It’s only a matter of time before the airlines eliminate FC awards, and I for one, will be very happy. And Lucky and others might to actually find a job.

    #payyourway

  57. Let’s be honest about it (i.e. sharing information). Talking about Economy awards, as opposed to amazing destinations or meeting amazing folks from other culture/countries, doesn’t sell to “your” readership (probably a wrong assumption on your part) or credit card affiliate/clicks..

  58. @Lucky-

    Regardless of whether your Alaska cc links were yours or not, you absolutely profited from it! First, most obvious, page views. Second, it drove more traffic to your other cc links.

    Quit trying to play both sides. You are not here doing us all a favor and not getting a dime in return- your primary intentions are revenue for this blog.

    It’s like claiming every doctor solely does his work for their patients… Forget the $300k in salary they earn.

  59. Ben, I’m gong to take my first shower on EK using Alaska miles in a few days thanks to the info you shared on this blog . I do have a layover in Dubai and was wondering what the lounge access controvery is?

  60. The more I think about these changes, the more I think it’s actually good for us 75Ker’s. At first I was pissed, but now that I’ve actually thought about it, it will be good for high level AS elites. Because now there will be more availability, and not every shmuck with a credit card can just get an emirates award. With the obscene bonuses 75kers get, I’m actually starting to warm up to these devaluations. There’s gonna be more seats for their most premier flyers. I get 10,000 miles just going sea-lax round trip. Hell, we get 50,000 miles just for re-qualifying for MVP75k. We get so many bonuses, it won’t hurt their coveted customers.

  61. The irony here is that in your post is a link to buy AS miles.

    i think there’s a reason why others feel blogger kill good deals….

  62. I feel bad for people like me who were saving for that F seat and shower that are now too steep to stomach, but I feel most bad for all those long time AS ff members who have been squirrelling away their miles for YEARS for that dream trip. If I were one of them, I’d feel seriously betrayed and would be looking for a new airline, asap.

    @credit-you clearly have no clue what liberals believe.

    @Tyler -you live in a very sad world if you really believe people are mostly motivated by money. Do you think Lucky is just lying when he says he did this for years without making money? I assure you that many people work very hard for motivations other than money. Helping others is very rewarding –you should try it some time.

  63. So Ben’s argument is the internet is free forum to share information, and even though he respects people not wanting to put really good deals out in the open he thinks it is fair for him to do so because he can. “It’s a two way street” he says. Well, because you can doesn’t make it right, and the way you do it kills good deals.

    I can tomorrow shoot somebody because I can buy a gun and do what I want with it. That doesn’t make it right and it is also breaking a law, a code, moral conduct. Call it as you wish.

    Look man, we all get that you need to promote this blog thingy as you decided to skip a real job to write about how wonderful life is on commercial first and business class. However, there is a fine line between writing good content that can help some people (which is what you preach you do) and really sabotaging good deals and pooping somebody else’s party. Some people actually spend time trying to figure things out and it’s not fair for the rest of the world to just take the easy path because “you can” show them how to do it.

    And if you can make millions by writing good stuff instead of your 20 some year old opinions of what you think about this business and the world (which is what you really do), then that’s great. But don’t try to defend the indefensible. You and other bloggers kill deals by promoting loopholes as they provide you financial gains through referrals and bonuses. Period.

    Look into the mirror for once. Ask yourself if all the people that spend time to write comments really “envy you” or “hate you” or are “trolls”….or are all these people mad because they have a point?

    And please do not ever compare your boarding area blog to FT. That’s the place from where you and TPG steal all of the good ideas, good deals, and actual information. You try too hard sometimes.

  64. @al. You are so right. Poor widdle wucky, he has so many “haters”. Grow up kid, take a look in the mirror and get some self awareness, something you are extremely short on.

    FT is all about sharing information and helping others for free. Sure the free market gives you and others the opportunity to monetize the info you and others pull from FT but drop the BS you do it out of the goodness of your heart. It’s a business for you and I can’t wait till the CC referrals go away. Let’s see how many times you will push CCs then.

    Just as you run a business so does Alaska AIrlines. It’s one airline redemption they changed. ONE. These “loyal” complainers are not the customers AS wants. They are the ones that don’t give the airline any BIS business and just churn and churn.

  65. “If you’re someone who doesn’t understand how it’s disingenuous for a company to actively promote…..” credit card sign ups for referral revenue while pretending to offer travel hacking advice “…well, then you’re someone I’d love to do business with.”

    :rolleyes

  66. I don’t blame the bloggers because this is a system the airlines created. If people share information, tough luck airlines, that just the way information works in the 21st century. Remember those $400 flights to Asia? It wasn’t bloggers who offered that but it was bloggers that definitely helped get the word out and some people benefited from it which is great. I agree with others that seat control would have been a better, but sneakier, way to fix this problem.

    I guess my concern is with the fake money element of the points hobby and how scary it is to have the rules change suddenly. We have a (tenuous?) relationship with airlines to collect points for our loyalty in the hope that they will be worth something. That agreement is all we have to work with and plan with, and it is scary to have the rules changes suddenly. With the “Battle in Seattle” I’ve been dreading any potential further separation between AS and Delta but I understand that this is part of the hobby and ave to be prepare for a lot of scenarios.

    I have never aspired for Emirates first (shocking I know!) even though I like reading about Lucky’s adventures 🙂 I just like free economy tickets and the occasional business/first upgrade. However, it makes me nervous if the industry perceives a “hacking threat” because it endangers legitimate loyalty to an airline/program and even meager redemption aspirations.

    PS: I love you AS, but please don’t touch the Cathy and Korean redemption values….

  67. @Al, sorry, but most of us don’t have the time to wade through ft, etc. looking for deals, and we rely on bloggers for that info. In exchange, the fair-minded among us use their links for cc apps. Everyone is happy except for you few hard school hackers with lots of free time. Sorry, but there’s nothing wrong with sharing the great deals, just because there are now a LOT more of us chasing them. Stop making it look like some kind of moral failing on Lucky’s part. It’s no longer a small club- get over it.

  68. @al: Sorry. your comparison to getting a gun is a bunch of gibberish.
    If you do get a gun, or have one, shoot your post.
    I traded securities for 18 years. Any good deal that has “alpha” (defined as “excess return,” which in this case in Emirates first class) is going to eventually be arbitraged away by enough people doing it. That, and the mental decline of aging leaves that business to young people.

    Yeah, I’m sure there are some good mileage deals few people have figured out and that don’t get posted, just as the same alpha exists in the securities markets.
    IF BEN MADE MONEY, GOOD FOR HIM.

  69. @mbh – you are one of those happy readers who take the easy way out. It’s not fair for the “few hard school hackers”. If you don’t have the time or the interest to learn and research, then you should not benefit. And you are wrong: it is still a very small club and will always be, just like any other club, organization or group that actually knows or does stuff – it takes hard work, dedication, education, and smarts to be part of it, and that is always and shall be always protected. Rats are not welcomed and we get rid of them, fast. There are makers and there are takers. You, my friend, seem to be a taker like 99% of the world. You may be more in numbers, but without the 1% you are worthless.

    @losingtrader – your opinion of my analogy is worthless to me. You traded securities for 18 years but my guess is you are no longer doing so because your name (losingtrader) probably defined your career. There are plenty of deals out there that neither Ben or TPG would ever know exist because they lack the ability to know what they are, where to look, and how to use them. But the sole thought of them finding them out one at a time because they read it somewhere or someone told them, and making them public, creeps the heck out a group of people that do follow a certain code. It’s not about whether he makes money or not, it’s about how he makes it, and about how “his graciousness to his readers” can destroy really good things.

  70. @al:
    My opinion of your attempted analogy wasn’t meant to have value to you.
    Yes, there’s a reason i don’t trade anymore. It’s not because I lost money for 18 years, although I’m sure I would if I continued.

    I think I made the same real point you are making. There’s excess return for those who do the work and don’t share it. I have yet to see any great award deal that was even close to being as difficult to find as is writing complex code for high-frequency trading, or combining a CPA, law degree, knowledge of markets, and speed. I’m not belittling what you do, merely pointing out it is not so difficult compared to other things when anyone who knows about it can do it.
    As to unwritten codes of conduct they are like the word “justice” in law. They don’t have any meaning because they are different for everyone.

  71. @losingtrader I’m not just discussing award deals, but it seems like you are. I’m talking about deals as a whole. That includes award tricks, fuel dumping, mileage runs, unknown J/F fares that have been around for a long time, third city dumps, booking so called phantom fares, hacking to open space, and many more I’m not even going to mention b/c you just have no idea. And you are not aware of these “deals” because they are indeed difficult, complex and do require time, study, and smarts. You think you can just look at award charts and figure out a way to do this or that, but that’s missing the point completely and it is the last thing we do. Not even touching your analogy on the complexity of what I’m talking about, which I don’t think you understand, because it’s laughable. What I can tell you is that we are going to point fingers when some blogger messes something up, like this guys seems to do a few times each year. And in the end it’s not so much what he does, but the attitude and these stupid posts that just try to justify his ways.

    Of course there is excess of return for those who do the work. That’s how it works in real life, even in the financial markets which is a topic you seem to be fixated on. The ones that have the knowledge have the power, and that is an undeniable truth. And btw unwritten codes of conducts are never left to the imagination or interpretation of each individual, they are implicit and straight forward for each group – nothing like “justice” in law.

  72. I wasn’t saying you hadn’t mentioned it all, just not in this analysis! Point taken re Lifemiles, although I think that’s the exception to the rule (plus the only one that doesn’t have a CC sign-up bonus).

    Dont get me wrong, I’m not saying you were wrong to share the deal, but I don’t think some of this rebuttal of the AS position quite holds water 🙂

  73. Don’t blame Alaska for this – you agreed to their terms before you signed up. If you didn’t want this to be affected by this, then you should never have joined their programme. I’m glad they’ve done this
    And lucky, you blame trolls etc. For the comments on your blog but they can’t all be wrong. Just think about it

  74. @Al: “And please do not ever compare your Boarding Area blog to FT. That’s the place from where you and TPG steal all of the good ideas, good deals, and actual information.”

    @Seriously: “FT is all about sharing information and helping others for free.”

    LOL … don’t kid yourselves. I’ve been on FT for 13 years (and have taken advantage of several mistake fares in that time – full disclosure) and a good decade ago there were posts and PMs about how some of the best deals/mistake fares were held back and not posted because they were kept within the inner circle/secret cabal of FT elites. While a lot of people on FT are nice and do share valuable fares/deals, hoarding of information has been around since, well, forever.

  75. @Al: “Of course there is excess of return for those who do the work. That’s how it works in real life … ”

    Not necessarily. Let’s examine how Ben/lucky has this blog and makes his money, shall we?

    His blog is hosted on a Web server box, running a Linux OS (Open Source), running an nginx Web server app (Open Source) and using WordPress (also Open Source). His traffic comes over the Internet using TCP/IP transport protocols (developed freely and openly by university researchers), going through routers and fibre channel connections and trunks designed by engineers.

    There are a ton of people who did all that the under-the-hood work to allow us all to debate in Comments sections, and the vast majority of them didn’t get paid jack s*** for it. There are loads of people like Ben making bank off the collective fruits of their labor.

    I should know – I’m one of them. Just felt the need to correct that.

  76. The FF programs started in mid-80’s. Flyertalk started in 1998, and likely did not get big until 2002-2004. So there was a period of close to 20 years, where there were no blogs and significant social media. So at that time, everyone had to figure out things for themselves. Some of us did at that time and took advantage of all the deals and maximized the benefits.

    But now when all the best deals and the approaches are published like cookbooks then everyone tries to use them and then the best deals disappear.

    The bloggers are really not doing this because the want to share with the world, they are because this is a business for them, advertising their booking service and providing an site that many want to read with advertising links. Nothing wrong with that – it is just the making this a business ruins it for the others smart people that can figure things out themselves.

    But you could argue that the CC companies are enabling the profitability but paying such high referral fees for a click on the CC link and getting one ($150 each).

  77. So, Randy, you really don’t get “wow, this is so cool. I want to tell everyone about this so they can enjoy it too!”?
    Personally, since I discovered travel and cc hacking a couple of years ago, I am telling everyone who will listen. I’m certainly not making a dime from sharing that info. I know Lucky makes a ton of $ from his blog, but I think it’s really shallow and cynical to assume that is his primary motivation. I think it’s obvious from his (and his team’s) posts that he really loves luxury travel and sincerely wants to share what he knows. The “I got mine, go get yours the hard way” mentality in so many of these comments sounds a lot like a certain doomed political party.

  78. @mbh – You forgot to mention he makes a ton of money off of posts that show that he “loves luxury travel and…wants to share what he knows.” Look at almost ANY post and you will see link after link after affiliate link that earns him money if used and repetitive report after repetitive report by him and his “employees” that likely exist for the tax write offs against the purchase of the tickets/miles of what was reviewed (that happen to take him to the most desirable places in the world to visit). Nothing illegal or inflammatory about any of that, but to say he does all this just to share is willful ignorance.

  79. @nick, Did you miss my sentence beginning with, literally, “I know Lucky makes a ton of money off his blog?”
    Also, I can attest that you can safely remove the cynical quotes from around employees. I have used Points pros as a booking service more than once and can confirm that Alex and Tiffany are certainly employees of that company.
    Stop being a jealous, angry consumer of blog content for which you pay exactly nothing.

  80. @Nick: I never understood all the scorn directed at travel bloggers – the biggest criticism being “he makes so much from all those affiliate links.” Yeah, but he also very clearly discloses that. It’s up to the consumer of information to evaluate the source. On the whole, the information in Lucky’s blog is both reliable and useful. That said, I always double check with another source, like Flyer Talk. For instance, sometimes Lucky doesn’t link to the best credit card sign-up bonus, presumably because it doesn’t provide him with a commission. I don’t begrudge him that because the information he provides is better organized and more clearly presented than the cacophony of FT and other disussion forums, and I really benefit from that. For example, his primer on how to get SQ F awards presents that information concisely and accurately. Why shouldn’t he be compensated in some way for what amounts to a service he provides the community?

  81. @mbh/snic – Not scorn, just realism, this is a business afterall and to say that all of this is out of the goodness of a blogger’s heart is just not looking at the whole picture.

    While I had a interaction with PointsPros that was worthless to me, I am certain that they have helped many people. I am fairly certain you know exactly which “employees” I am referring to and I have no need to say more on that.

    As to jealous – you couldn’t be more offbase. I am both a supporter of this blog and have reaped many bits of information that have led to wonderful times for my partner, my friends, my parents, and myself, but I also have a critical eye and am not afraid to expect a little responsibility from the authors.

  82. @ Nick – This blog is clearly denoted that it’s for entertainment purposes only. If you’re looking for responsibility, then read the NYT.

  83. Look, the real party at fault is Emirates. They don’t want to release for J/F award space and want their Skywards members to use it. That is despite great evidence that F cabins are pretty empty nowadays.

    Alaska should blame itself for ruining the deal instead of bloggers. Unlike pretty much every other airline or hotel program, Alaska is allowing UNLIMITED miles purchases (even LifeMiles has a limit). In effect, it means that they are giving a direct way to pay a lot less cash for a ticket which they were all too happy to accommodate as they made many millions of dollars in profit.

    Alaska’s reimbursement rates to Emirates for J & F were clearly less than what they charged to buy the miles even at 40% off (otherwise they’d have increased rates sooner), so they gladly sold unlimited miles to everyone until Emirates came down hard on Alaska and forced to make the change.

    Cathay and Qantas are probably going to be next based on what happened to AA chart.

  84. @Chancer – Well then, he may need to update his disclaimer to indicate that using his links could possibly give him a referral bonus so that the entertainment can continue for all of us! I guess it is along the lines of escort services indicating that they are for company only.

  85. @IvanY~ hardly matters if AS increases miles on QF awards. When was the last time you saw a QF premium award on AS? They are pretty scarce on Qantas’ own site, and even then you will need a lot of QFF points to get one. QFF members are advantaged too, as if an award appears, it is available for 3 weeks before AS or AA can get their hands on it, if it is released at all! I’m not complaining, as I picked up a LAX-SYD F award some time back for future travel this year for 144,000 QFF points. Course the date is pretty much set in concrete due to the near impossibility of changing it.
    NB: this was 100% by my own efforts, without any ‘help’ from the blogosphere.

  86. @al : C’mon man, it isn’t like brain surgery or brain surgeons would be complaining about others writing articles in journals.
    The difference I was pointing out was not just about securities markets. I’m saying anyone who knows your secrets can then do them. Otherwise there would not be a complaint about the blogger. Yeah, they may be imaginative, but if others know about them (and some may violate the Contract of Carriage so it would not be good if a lot of people started doing that) these “discoveries” can be done by anyone.

    That’s a problem you’ll just have to accept, because it isn’t going to stop. Certainly getting angry is your right but it still won’t stop and you are not going to shame anyone who is willing to talk about what you or your group discovers.
    I’m sorry , but unwritten codes of conduct–or even written ones, are just that. They only carry weight with people who give a shit about them and agree to them. I can’t imagine your group is the only one to discover certain tricks. That doesn’t bind other people.

    I learned this the hard way giving out secrets in trading and having others go so far as to sell those secrets–even friends of mine…best friends. If I got angry after the fact I’d have no friends.
    Life never gets easier, only more complicated. For me, I was disappointed in these people , but I can’t sue them and they are otherwise nice people with various motivations. I even invest in other businesses with them and they have brought me things to analyze they could not figure out where I have been able to profit.
    None of this requires highly specialized training is my point, so you have to expect that either someone inside or outside your group is also doing what you are doing. It’s a big World.
    I know from experience you can’t stop what you are mad about, so it’s best not to get mad and move on.

    I hope my points are clearer now.

  87. Chin up people. It’s only Emirates First Class. Big deal…

    Even before devaluation, it was a stupid way to spend miles.

    Who really needs a shower mid-flight? I’m sure even the real Jennifer Aniston could cope without one. And that horrible cabin decor. Good God, how tacky could you get?

    Airlines have the discretion to change their policies anytime. Sometimes shit happen. Suck it up and move on. Think about not having the chance to fly Concorde; now that is truly something to cry about.

  88. I have learned a lot of new things from these comments :
    “No one at reddit wants to profit …” per Beachfan
    It’s not greedy and selfish to be greedy and selfish . Jessica
    FT is about sharing information , or not sharing information .
    You don’t deserve to fly in first class…stay in coach where you belong . Luis
    If you don’t suffer ( by wading through the morass that is FT endlessly ) then you don’t deserve…
    At FT there is an unwritten code that all adhere to . ” Unwritten codes of conduct are never left to the imagination or interpretation of each individual , they are implicit and straight forward for each group .”
    Since this code is unwritten I wonder how one is to know what they must do or not do. I guess one must ask Al what the rules actually are . Perhaps they are all products of his imagination .
    I fact Al has worked very hard to know all there is to know about travel hacking and has never been one to read blogs for information .
    Seriously , kids , this is like ” I’m only telling you and six other people about the good fishing hole so don’t tell anyone else .” Only a matter of time before everybody knows about the good spot to fish and it’s not so good anymore . If you want to keep a secret don’t tell anyone not even FT. When one hole is fished out you look for another .
    I have some long time good friends who don’t understand why the world doesn’t work according to THEIR rules . Some people are like that.

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