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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Egypt Won’t Raise The Cost Of Single-Entry Tourist Visas After All


As I wrote about late last month, Egypt was planning on raising the cost of tourist visas on arrival from $25 to $60 as of March 1, 2017. That’s a 140% price hike, which is substantial, especially for a country that is trying to rapidly grow their number of visitors after a rough several years.

A couple of days later, Egypt decided to postpone their visa on arrival fee hike until July 1, 2017. This was the second time in a couple of years that Egypt has backtracked on introducing stricter visa policies. In 2015 Egypt planned on discontinuing visas on arrival for tourists, though they quickly postponed that, realizing the impact it would have on tourism.

Well, it looks like Egypt has changed their planned tourist visa fee increase again. After a government meeting:

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Less Than 2 Weeks Left To Earn 70K+ Starpoints

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For a bit over a month now, we’ve seen great increased sign-up bonuses on Starwood’s co-branded American Express cards. Both the personal and business versions of the card are offering sign-up bonuses of up to 35,000 Starpoints upon completing minimum spend, 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

While 35,000 points might not sound like a lot, keep in mind that Starpoints are among the most valuable points currency out there, so 35,000 Starpoints are worth more than that many points in just about any other points currency.

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Frankfurt Airport Now Has An Airside Transit Hotel


I seem to transit Frankfurt Airport quite a bit, and when I have a quick overnight my preference is to stay at the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport. It’s a great way to earn stay credits towards SPG status, the hotel is connected by a walkway to the airport terminal, and the club lounge is one of the better ones out there.

So on one hand my Frankfurt Airport overnight needs are more than taken care of. However, I also appreciate a good airside transit hotel. An airside transit hotel lets you get some rest without having to leave security or immigration, and there’s no denying that there’s something especially convenient about being able to head straight to your gate, rather than have to factor in security, etc.

For a while I’ve been hearing rumors about a transit hotel opening at Frankfurt Airport (I first heard about it in Daniel’s interview with Frankfurt Airport’s director of operations).

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Limited Time: Biggest Ever Sign-Up Bonuses On Hilton Amex Cards!


At the moment Hilton’s co-branded American Express cards have the biggest sign-up bonuses I’ve ever seen, valid for applications through May 31, 2017. Specifically:

— The no annual fee Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express is offering 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $2,000 in purchases within the first three months
— The $75 annual fee Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express is offering 100,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months; you also get a free weekend night valid at any Hilton Honors hotel on your first cardmember anniversary

Both of these cards have the best ever offers we’ve seen, so let’s look at them a bit more closely:

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Emirates Is Introducing A Laptop And Tablet Handling Service For US Flights


With the US having implemented an electronics ban for passengers traveling nonstop to the US from Amman, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Casablanca, Dubai, Doha, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kuwait City, and Riyadh, it’ll be interesting to see the ways in which airlines adapt to the situation. This potentially has a huge impact on the demand for travel on these airlines, as checking electronics is not only a huge waste of time (in terms of lost productivity, waiting at baggage claim, etc.), but comes with the risk of electronics being damaged or stolen.

With that in mind, Emirates is the first airline to announce a somewhat creative solution to this situation. Emirates is introducing a service that enables passengers to use their laptops and tablets until just before they board their US-bound flight. At the gate there will be security staff who will carefully package your electronics in boxes before boarding, and then you can collect them on arrival.

What I’m not sure about is:

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Richard Branson’s Open Letter About Virgin America’s Demise


Yesterday we learned a lot of details about the future of Alaska and Virgin America, following the two airlines formally merging late last year. Essentially Alaska will be the surviving brand and airline, though they’ll include some minor Virgin America touches, like mood lighting and hip uniforms.

However, if you’re used to Virgin America’s spacious first class and TVs at every seat, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Alaska flyers should be excited about these updates, as I don’t think it could have worked out a lot better for them. Most significantly:

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The Most Practical Way Airlines Could Avoid The Electronics Ban


As I’m sure just about everyone knows by now, the US has implemented an electronics ban for passengers traveling nonstop to the U.S. from Amman, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Casablanca, Dubai, Doha, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kuwait City, and Riyadh.

While I don’t question that they’re likely working off of a very credible threat, and while I think it’s important to keep passengers safe, I have a lot of questions about the implementation:

— The UK has instituted a similar ban and presumably they’re sharing intelligence, so why did the US put the UAE and Qatar on the list, when the UK didn’t?
— More specifically, there’s a US Pre-Clearance facility in Abu Dhabi with an additional and thorough security screening checkpoint, so why aren’t those flights excluded, because the security is unarguably tighter than if you’re traveling through many European airports?
— Only direct flights from the above countries are included in the ban, so Emirates’ flights from Dubai to Milan to New York, and Dubai to Athens to Newark, are excluded. Does that really make sense?

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American Is In “Advanced Talks” To Buy Stake In China Southern


In 2015, Delta invested $450 million to acquire a 3.55% stake in Shanghai-based China Eastern. While investing in a subsidized airline is something that you’d think Delta would be opposed to, the intent was clearly that China Eastern would give them better access to Shanghai, which is a major market already, and will grow over time.

Well, it looks like Delta isn’t the only U.S. carrier that wants a piece of a Chinese carrier. Bloomberg is reporting that American is in advanced talks to buy a roughly $200 million stake in Guangzhou-based China Southern. Per the story:

“The negotiations focus on an investment of about $200 million by Fort Worth, Texas-based American in China Southern’s Hong Kong-listed shares, said the people, asking not to be identified as talks are confidential. The sale likely would take place through a private placement, one of the people said. China Southern has a market value of about $10 billion.”

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BIG Updates About The Future Of Alaska & Virgin America


Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closed in mid-December, though we haven’t seen much in the way of integration so far. The two brands are very different, and their marketing campaigns have been based around that, acknowledging the differences between the brands, but arguing that “different works.”

One of the biggest remaining questions has been what the future of the Virgin America brand will look like. Will the entire airline be named “Alaska,” will they somehow run two brands side-by-side given their relative strengths, or…? They said they hoped to decide on that in early 2017, and it looks like they’ve now made those decisions.

Alaska has just shared a huge amount of information about the future of the combined airline. To sum it up, expect the Alaska brand and product to stick around, with a few small Virgin America elements.

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Will The Electronics Ban Change Which Airlines I Fly?


Reader David W asked the following question in the Ask Lucky forum:

“@Lucky @Tiffany and anyone else:

Will you be making changes to existing flights that are affected as well as changing plans that are in the works?”

I can’t speak for Tiffany or anyone else, though I will share my perspective. As I assume just about everyone knows at this point, there are restrictions on electronic devices in the cabins of planes for nonstop flights from:

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How Uber Has Softened Their Stance On Tipping


I think there’s no denying that the public perception of Uber has changed substantially over the past couple of years. When Uber first became popular it was sort of the underdog that everyone loved, as they were taking the taxi mafias to task. Unfortunately that perception has changed, especially over the past few months.

After countless corporate scandals and widespread dissatisfaction among drivers, they just aren’t as beloved as they used to be. Originally people used Uber to boycott taxis, and now people are boycotting Uber.

Personally I continue to use Uber, mainly because I think Uber is still better than taxis. I have started using Lyft a bit more as well, but they’re not available in all markets.

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The Expanded Amex Centurion Lounge Seattle Is Now Open


Over the past several years we’ve seen American Express open several of their own lounges, available to those with The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

In terms of U.S. locations, American Express has lounges in Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Up until now their smallest lounge has been in Seattle, which opened in mid-2015. The lounge has been roughly 3,100 square feet in size, and didn’t have all the same services as the other lounge — there was no hot food or full bar, but rather only cold snacks, along with wine and beer. As a result, they’ve referred to it as a Centurion Studio rather than a Centurion Lounge.

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How Long Do Citi ThankYou Points Transfers Take?


If you’re collecting miles & points through credit card spend, I always recommend doing what you can to accrue transferrable points currencies. That’s because these points are much more flexible than when you’re earning an individual airline or hotel points currency. You have the flexibility to transfer these points to all kinds of travel partners, and you’re safeguarded from a devaluation in a specific points currency.

With that in mind, I’m writing a series about the three major transferrable points currencies — Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou — talking about how long it takes to transfer points, along with the other basic details you need to know about transferring points. A couple of days ago I wrote about Amex Membership Rewards, and yesterday I wrote about Chase Ultimate Rewards, so today I’m writing about Citi ThankYou.

How many airline and hotel partners does Citi ThankYou have?

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Why I Have ZERO Sympathy For U.S. Airlines Whining About Gulf Carriers


For over two years now, the “big three” U.S. carriers have been trying to stop the “big three” Gulf carriers. The basis of their claim is that Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, have been violating the Open Skies agreement because they’re government subsidized, and therefore the playing field isn’t level.

They argue that it’s not fair that a reciprocal agreement causes them to have to compete head-to-head with airlines that are really big government vehicles.

I haven’t been very sympathetic towards the arguments the U.S. carriers make. Many people have assumed that it’s because I love the glitz and glam of the Gulf carriers, and don’t think of the impact it has on U.S. jobs, etc. That’s not the case. My main issue is that the U.S. carriers are making their case so poorly, to the point that it really feels to me like they’re targeting and bullying three airlines.

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