About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Weekly Review: February 18, 2017

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This has been an absolutely insane travel week for me, as I’ve been in Bali, London, and Abu Dhabi so far this week, with more to come. I’ll have lots more details on that soon, though in the meantime it’s time to catch up on sleep. 😉

On the miles & points front it has been an exciting week. We’ve seen the return of the SPG Amex 35K sign-up bonus, LifeMiles introduce a bonus on purchased miles, Cathay Pacific introduce a credit card in the U.S., and much more.

With that out of the way, here’s a recap of this week on the blog:

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Review: Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi

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A couple of days ago I finally had the chance to visit Etihad’s new first class lounge in Abu Dhabi. The lounge opened in May 2016, after substantial delays. While I used to fly Etihad all the time, I’ve been making an effort to review more new airlines lately, so this was my first time passing through Abu Dhabi in first class since the lounge opened.

Prior to that I visited Etihad’s Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi, which can be accessed by business class passengers. For a business class lounge it’s solid.

Etihad’s Abu Dhabi first class lounge is open 24 hours a day, and is located just past the security checkpoint at Terminal 3. So if you’re originating in Abu Dhabi you’ll find the lounge as soon as you clear the security checkpoint. Meanwhile if you’re connecting, clear transit security at Terminal 3, and then follow the signage to the first class lounge.

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Air Canada Sensibly Changes Their Carry-On Policy

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The past few weeks we’ve seen some airlines change their carry-on policies for the worse — specifically, Spirit and WOW Air come to mind. Well, it’s nice to see an airline change their carry-on policy for the better, for once.

Air Canada has just eliminated their weight restriction for carry-ons. More specifically, their new policy is as follows:

“Your carry-on baggage must be light enough that you can store it in the overhead bin unassisted.”

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Great Deal: Cheap Singapore Airlines Business Class Tickets To Asia & Europe

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Singapore Airlines is known for having one of the best business class products in the world. However, they also generally have fairly expensive fares, given how good their product is.

Well, at the moment Singapore Airlines has an incredible business class fare sale, valid for travel originating in the U.S. Through this fare sale you can book roundtrip business class tickets for just under $2,000 roundtrip.

The basic details are as follows:

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How To Know If You’re Eligible For The SPG Amex 35K Sign-Up Bonus

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At the moment we’re seeing the biggest ever sign-up bonuses on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. The cards are offering sign-up bonuses of 35,000 Starpoints upon completing minimum spend, which is the biggest bonuses the cards have ever offered.

35,000 might not sound like a big number, but keep in mind that Starpoints are the most valuable points currency out there, as far as I’m concerned. So those points are worth significantly more than 35,000 airline miles.

The bonus on each of these cards is “once in a lifetime,” though there’s some confusion about what that means in practice, so I figured I’d address that in this post.

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My Glamorous Life: Being Force Fed A Tasting Menu At 3AM With A Stomach Bug

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Let me start by saying that I’m beyond grateful to be able to make a living doing what I’m passionate about. Since a very young age I was obsessed with airplanes and travel, and I pinch myself every day about the fact that I’m able to do this full time. That’s despite the constant jetlag and exhaustion. Seriously, I couldn’t be more grateful for this, and I owe it all to you guys.

So take this post as being tongue in cheek, as it’s more of an amusing reflection of what my life is like in practice, despite what it may look like in Instagram pictures, etc. This has been an especially crazy travel week for me. Over the course of about a week I flew from Los Angeles to Taipei to Singapore to Bali to Hong Kong to London to Abu Dhabi (don’t worry, I’ll explain the reasoning for it eventually).

I took the 2PM flight from London to Abu Dhabi, which arrived at 1:30AM. I was dead tired after getting minimal sleep the past week. I wasn’t hungry in the slightest. And I even had a bit of a stomach bug.

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Up To 110k Bonus Points For Referring Friends To The SPG Amex!

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Yesterday I wrote about the increased sign-up bonuses on the Starwood American Express, which is the biggest bonus we’ve ever seen on the card. The details of the offer are as follows:

• For the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $2,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
• For the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $3,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

The standard sign-up bonus offers up to 25,000 bonus Starpoints, while historically they’ve had a promotion once a year offering up to 30,000 bonus Starpoints. So this is a further 5,000 Starpoints above the best offer we previously ever saw.

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Etihad A380 Apartment In 10 Pictures

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Hello from Abu Dhabi! Yesterday I flew from London to Abu Dhabi in Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment. I’ve reviewed Etihad’s A380 first class many times before, so won’t be writing a full review. If you want a super thorough review, check out my posts about my past flights from Abu Dhabi to London, Abu Dhabi to New York, New York to Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi to Sydney.

In this case I took the 2PM flight from London to Abu Dhabi, which is perfect in terms of enjoying the short flight, since you can have a nice lunch or dinner service, and then get some rest.

Etihad’s A380 first class cabin is stunning — it’s hands down the most visually stunning cabin on a commercial plane, in my opinion. It’s also the only single-aisle cabin on a widebody commercial aircraft.

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WTF: U.S. Customs & Border Protection Seizes 13 Pounds Of Horse Genitals

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I can only imagine the number of bizarre things that U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents come across. However, they’ve come across something so strange that they’ve put out a press release about it. Two women arrived at Washington Dulles Airport from Mongolia on January 29, 2017, with some crazy stuff in their bags, including horse genitals, apparently for “medicinal purposes.” Per the press release:

“After they deplaned, CBP officers referred the women for a routine agriculture examination. There, CBP agriculture specialists discovered a combined 42 pounds of meat described as horsemeat and other ruminant meat, including 13 pounds of horse genitals, and three liters of yak milk.”

Interestingly neither woman was criminally charged, and they were both released. I do wonder what sort of “medicinal purposes” they were planning on using the horse genitals for. At first 13 pounds of horse genitals sounded like a lot, but based on Googling (I did it so you guys don’t have to), that may only be a portion of a single horse genital.

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Can You Get 70K Bonus Starpoints By Applying For Both The Personal & Business SPG Amex?

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As I first wrote about yesterday, we’re seeing big increased sign-up bonuses on both the personal and business version of the SPG Amex:

— For the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $2,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
— For the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $3,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

This is the biggest ever sign-up bonus we’ve seen on these cards, so if you haven’t yet had these cards, it’s a no brainer to apply for them.

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U.S. Citizens Can Now Get An Electronic Visa For Vietnam

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Well here’s some great news for U.S. citizens looking to visit Vietnam. As of February 1, 2017, it’s possible for U.S. citizens to get an e-visa for Vietnam. There are actually 40 countries eligible for this e-visa, and the U.S. is one of them. The cost of a single entry 30 day visa is $25, which is much cheaper than any of the other current options available.

To request your electronic visa for Vietnam, visit the Vietnamese e-visa web portal.

The process is fairly straightforward, though you do have to upload a picture of yourself, and the approval process can take up to three days.

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Hong Kong Is Getting A St. Regis!

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I was in Hong Kong a couple of days ago, and for whatever reason I started thinking about the hotel market there. Hong Kong is probably my favorite major city in the world, and has a lot of great hotels, though also a lot of not-so-great hotels. For those of us who are points-obsessed, it can be a tricky market.

Hyatt has two properties in Hong Kong that I really like — the Grand Hyatt and the Hyatt Regency.

Starwood is more of a mixed bag. For example, there’s the Sheraton and the W, and their portfolio is further enhanced now thanks to the number of Design Hotels properties there.

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Wow: Delta Expands Free Meals To More Domestic Flights

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Wow, Delta is bringing back the good old days of free meals in domestic economy. 😉

Last week I wrote about how Delta is rolling out free meals in economy between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco as of March 1, 2017. This follows tests that they ran between November 1 and December 15 of last year. I guess the feedback was positive (who doesn’t like free food, though?), so they’re looking to make it permanent.

However, this new expanded meal service won’t just be limited to the typical “premium” transcontinental flights.

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Review: W Hotel Punta De Mita Mexico

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Prior to this trip I had never visited Mexico as an adult. As a kid we took a couple of cruises there (though 12 hours at a Cozumel cruise port probably doesn’t give you a fair representation of a place), and I remember once vacationing there when I was really young, but that’s about it. I also connected at Mexico City Airport last year, but that doesn’t really count.

Given that I fly halfway around the world to relax at a resort, I figured I might as well try somewhere closer to “home.” The new W Punta de Mita opened just last year, and looked like a fun place for a getaway.

I booked only a few days in advance using the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit. For my stay the hotel had a rate of ~$350 per night, which was brought down to an average of ~$260 per night after applying that benefit. The rate was actually much higher further in advance, but this hotel seems to consistently lower rates closer to the actual stay date.

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