We’ve seen many cheap transatlantic fares recently, not least with Norwegian who consistently offer flights from around $300 roundtrip. There are a few other transatlantic low cost carriers around right now, notably WOW Air from Iceland and Westjet from Canada, though IAG have announced they’ll be launching their own long haul low cost carrier based in…
While we often discuss the world’s best credit cards with $450 per year annual fees and incredible perks on this blog, there is a large group of people who are just starting out and need to aim slightly lower as they build their credit scores. I happen to be one of these people, along with most other teenagers and college students.
Just one month after my 18th birthday, I knew it was time to begin my slow journey towards a wallet stacked with rewarding credit cards. I was dying to get my hands on some of the perks offered to those with high credit scores. The only problem was that I had no credit history.
While visiting my uncle in San Diego, we went to his local strip mall where all the major banks had offices (apart from American Express, of course). Unsurprisingly, most told me I wasn’t eligible for any of their current cards. Finally, the manager at Capital One suggested I get a secured credit card to start out.
Rocketmiles is a great website offering returns on hotel bookings. In the past I used it with Norwegian Reward to get ~ $170 back on a two night stay. While their rates aren’t always the best, sometimes the returns are good enough to outweigh the small price premium. They’re partnered with dozens of large airline loyalty programs, including United, Delta and American. Interestingly, crediting to different programs seems to bring up different search results though.
Most milage based programs have the same return per night at the hotels that appear across most searches. That’s why, in most cases, it’s good to credit your stay to Virgin America Elevate or another program that has a high cent-per-point value. Well, through the end of the year Topbonus could actually be the best program to use.
At the moment, Air Berlin have partnered with Rocketmiles to offer double miles on all bookings through December 31, 2016. This means you can earn up to 20,000 award miles per night, which is an incredible return! While I’d usually choose another program, earning a 100% bonus per night is unbeatable.
Everyone is obsessed with JetBlue nowadays. Their premium product named Mint has dramatically lowered the overall cost of coast to coast travel in business class on all airlines, even though JetBlue is probably still the way to go. Ben loves them, I love them, and most other people seem to feel the same way.
Their one-way tickets usually start at $549 when flying from Boston or New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco. All these flights are 5-6 hours in the air, which is the minimum amount of time you’d want to spend onboard an airline to truly experience their premium products. On weekdays, most flights start at a non-so-bad $599.
Well, I was looking up flights between coasts in business class, eyeing my options on JetBlue, and I came across the lowest JetBlue Mint fare I have ever seen. On a very limited set of dates around the holidays, you can fly JetBlue Mint from Los Angeles to Boston starting at $264 or 19,400 points one-way!
The same weekend The Mira Hotel in Hong Kong joined Starwood Preferred Guest, they invited me to stay with them for a night to show what this Design Hotels member had to offer.
The Mira is a SPG Category 5 hotel, meaning a free night in a standard room costs 12,000 Starpoints. I did a search and most dates seem to price out around HK$1,500, while the 12,000 Starpoints rate is pretty widely applicable as well.
Finding The Mira was easy. Outside there was a large sign with an extravagant wall design, which matched the interior of the hotel quite nicely.
For decades telephone was the way to contact airlines, whether to book a ticket, change a reservation or voice complaints. However, most airlines now offer online features for everything, including feedback and compensation requests. Of the airlines I fly frequently, I’ve found that United and Norwegian are stars when its comes to online customer service. The six and two times respectively that I’ve submitted requests for compensation of some kind, my requests have all been honored without a word of objection.
This brings me to a recent situation I had with Brussels Airlines. It’s an airline I love and would gladly choose over its competitors. Unfortunately, my last trip with them this summer, a one-way ticket from Gothenburg to Prague via Brussels, didn’t go quite as smooth as usual.
Once I landed in Prague I realized my bags had not arrived. I’ve never had problems with connecting luggage in Brussels before, so I thought this was a little strange given my reasonable connection time.
The Royal Plaza Hotel is one of the cheapest five star hotels I’ve ever seen in a metropolis so naturally, I was intrigued when I saw it on TripAdvisor. The rates start at $140 per night, which is a low rate for any hotel in Hong Kong. I ended up paying $155 per night, which was a fantastic deal to me.
I figured it would be an easy walk to the hotel from Mongkok station, which is part Hong Kong’s world famous metro. The problem was that all the signage pointed me one direction while my phone pointed me another. It turned out the metro signs were rotated – sucks I chose to trust those over my phone.
After walking around Mongkok, arguably the craziest and most neighborhood area in Hong Kong, for 45 minutes in 100% humidity with two suitcases, I finally found the mall which was connected to the hotel.
China Eastern owns Shanghai Airlines, hence both earn miles with SkyTeam airlines. They were serving the Shanghai to Hong Kong routes with A320/A321s and A330s respectively, so I chose the latter, and luckily it was priced at the same cheap $64 one way as the rest of China Eastern’s flights. This way I could try a more regional airline and still credit my miles to Delta.
I was excited that my flight departed from Hongqiao, the secondary airport in Shanghai. Our friends said I should count on an hour to the airport from their home in central Pudong, but to my surprise the ride took a mere 28 minutes.
Just like Pudong Airport, and most other means of transport in Shanghai based on my experience, there was a security check at the door. They quickly scanned my bags and I entered the check-in area, which was relatively nice and appeared to contain a Chinese celebrity (judging by the fact that everyone was photographing her). It’s worth noting that since my flight was international, it departed from the much smaller terminal 2, which is not used by the majority of flights out of Hongqiao.
A few days ago I posted about Norwegian Reward and what makes the program so special. In this post, I’ll show how I leveraged Norwegian Reward and its partners to earn a return equivalent to $300 (2605 Cashpoints) on a $1200 weekend in Barcelona. This return doesn’t even account for possible credit card earnings.
Norwegian Reward is a unique airline loyalty scheme in the way that it’s essentially a cash back program. On all Norwegian tickets, basic Norwegian Reward members earn 2% CashPoints. 1 CashPoint = 1 Norwegian Krona = approximately $0.1. With a 1% return, a $1 spend produces a return of just around 1 cent. These rewards can easily be stacked with regular credit card earnings, i.e. double or triple points on airfare, so there is no opportunity cost to collecting them.
I wanted to fly from London to Barcelona, as opposed to flying from my home town Gothenburg. Although Norwegian serve that route as well, I’d already planned a trip to Fort Lauderdale the week before and saw this as a great opportunity to merge two trips. Looking at flight options, I saw Norwegian had one daily flight from Gatwick, departing at 7:20pm and landing at 10:20pm.
I recently tried Norwegian Air Long Haul from London to Fort Lauderdale and enjoyed my experience. Right now they’re having a Thanksgiving special, where all long haul flights are 20% off and short haul flights are 30% off. The airline is rapidly expanding their transatlantic network, as well as their intra-European operations.
Not many low cost carriers have loyalty programs outside the US, and the ones that do tend to have negligible returns. Norwegian, on the other hand, have a unique cash back loyalty program that can be incredibly lucrative if you use it right. Unlike most loyalty schemes that reward you in miles, Norwegian rewards you in a tangible currency called Cashpoints. One Cashpoint is worth one Norwegian Krona, which roughly converts to $0.12 or £0.09. An easy way to think about it is that 10 Cashpoints = approx. $1 or £1.
Firstly, there are the obvious benefits of earning returns on all flights. The program is revenue based like those of the big three US carriers, but far more logical. For every dollar spent on Low Fare tickets, you receive 2% Cashpoints, while you can get up to 20% Cashpoints on Flex Fares.
I arrived at the Bloc Hotel around 2:30pm after my flight from Fort Lauderdale. Unlike most airport hotels, i.e. the Sofitel Heathrow, this hotel is actually in the terminal. After leaving luggage claim, I walked straight toward Marks and Spencer before taking a sharp right turn, at which point signs appeared for the hotel.
I had to take the elevator up to the reception area, which is on the same floor as security. The reception is beautifully designed in my opinion, and makes great use of limited space.
There was minimal paperwork at check-in, which took less than two minutes – a good start to my stay. Three minutes after arriving, I was escorted to my room: The Runway Suite. Rates for this room are usually around £240, which is an incredible deal for a two room suite in an airport terminal. Since the Bloc Hotel is a Norwegian Reward partner, I could earn 12% cash back on my booking, which translated to 305 CashPoints. Thanks to their partnership, my total cost went down to just over £21
The No1 Lounge Gatwick South is located on the top floor of the main terminal area. It took me about five minutes to find the lounge, as its entrance was a small door between two stores.
Once I made it through the short hallway, I arrived in a much nicer lobby area, where a lounge attendant was seated behind a No1 Lounge desk. All Norwegian premium passengers receive free access to the lounge, although you can also buy a pass for £28 (or for only about £20 for Norwegian Reward members – more on that in another post).
The lounge isn’t big and the lounge attendants outside made that clear. There was a long line of people who wanted to purchase access, but they were all rejected. Apparently they were fully booked for the rest of the day – and I arrived at 9:30am.
SAS is currently having a sale on economy and premium economy tickets between Scandinavia and the United States. There are economy fares available from around $330 roundtrip to New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The latter destination is relatively new for SAS, as they’ve only been serving LAX since last spring. Ben had the chance to try the route in business class, though no one on OMAAT has tried it in economy or premium economy yet.
While I would definitely consider booking these flights in economy given the price, it turns out premium economy fares to the US West Coast are also incredibly low at the moment. You can fly roundtrip from Stockholm or Gothenburg to Los Angeles or San Francisco from only $720.
I touched down in London at 9:30am for my five hour layover before continuing on to Florida. All Norwegian’s flights depart from the South terminal at Gatwick, which is decent (in the main departures hall at least). I was excited to fly Norwegian to Fort Lauderdale given that it’s a city that is generally not served by large international carriers. This flight is only once weekly right now, but will be increasing to 3x weekly next month thanks to Norwegian’s 90% average load factor on flights from Gatwick to the US. Norwegian also fly from Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Paris to Fort Lauderdale.
As a Premium passenger with Norwegian you get complimentary access to the No1 Lounge at Gatwick South, which would normally cost £28 per person. I’ll be posting a full review of the lounge next week, but in short, it was an extremely pleasant place to spend my layover and it made time fly.
At around 2:30pm I left the lounge, since boarding was scheduled for 2:50pm according to my boarding pass. A word of caution – Gatwick uses holding pens for passengers to optimize the boarding process. There are also no toilets or windows, so try to minimize your time in there – as I did not.