Advice

Flying This Weekend? Here’s What You Need To Know

Snow-JFK-Airport

As the projected severity of the winter storm in the Northeast increases, most domestic airlines in the US have either canceled flights, or issued waivers for travel over the next few days.

A bit of snow (much less a blizzard) can cause systemwide disruptions, so if you’re scheduled to travel this weekend you’ll want to take precautions.

As of this moment, most of the US airlines (and Air Canada) have issued some kind of notice for this weekend. These range from announcements that flights might be delayed, to full-on cancelations, depending on the airline.

In most cases, the waivers allow you to rebook your travel to a future date, change your routing, and potentially cancel altogether. You’ll want to contact your airline directly, and the extent of the waiver can change at any time.

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Qantas Denied American Award Seats — Any Recourse?

Qantas-Business-Class-747-03

A couple of days ago I wrote about how Qantas was releasing a good amount of business class award availability between the US and Australia over the coming months. While Qantas business class isn’t the world’s best product, it’s extremely rare for them to make business class awards available, so I thought it was a great opportunity, especially before American’s award chart devaluation.

However, some people have been having issues with ticketing these awards. While they’ve been able to place the Qantas business class award seats on hold, they seem to disappear from reservations within hours.

Reader Coloradomom shared the following experience in the Ask Lucky forum, where she changed a previously ticketed award to include a San Francisco to Sydney flight on Qantas, which was later removed from the reservation:

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Using Miles For A Family Over Peak Dates

ANA-Star-Wars-Planespotting

Being creative and flexible is pretty much the mantra when it comes to using frequent flyer miles. Especially when traveling over peak dates, and definitely when traveling as a group.

I know many people bemoan the difficulties of redeeming miles around the holidays, so I wanted to walk through the process I used to book award tickets for an entire family over New Years, which hopefully inspires some of y’all.

I knew we’d be using AAdvantage miles (because I had so freaking many), but to make this work, I knew we needed to decide what our priorities were. After some discussion, we came up with the following:

• Leaving anytime between the 19th and 23rd
• Returning anytime between the 31st and 3rd (depending on the outbound)
• Splitting into three groups, so we could take separate flights as needed

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What Are Your Rights If Downgraded On A Flight?

Emirates-Economy

Reader Liamlpa asked the following question in the “Ask Lucky” forum (it’s long but, poses an interesting question):

“Lucky: Do passengers booked on award tickets have fewer rights than those who ‘pay’ for their seats?

Was on a flight yesterday (on one of your ‘fanboy’ airlines) and witnessed something I have never seen before: after boarding, a top tier elite who had booked four F class tickets for his family using miles was asked by airline rep which of the two seats he was going to involuntarily downgrade. Understandably, this was a very tense situation.

The flight was oversold and two of the seats in the F cabin were broken (both facts had been announced prior to boarding).”

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Dear Hotels: Stop With Your Currency Conversion Scams

Currency-Conversion-Scam-2

“Would you like to pay in [local currency] or US Dollars?”

It’s a question virtually anyone with a US-issued credit card has been asked when checking out of a hotel abroad.

When you’re using your credit card abroad, you should always pay in the local currency. Always. I don’t even know why hotels offer the option of paying in another currency, since there’s zero upside to paying in USD. Why?

— Many credit cards have no foreign transaction fees nowadays, which usually use a market conversion rate (or very close to market)
— For cards with foreign transaction fees, you’ll typically still be charged the foreign transaction fees for things billed in USD outside the US (because it’s about where the purchase is processed and not necessarily the currency in which it was processed)
— The currency conversion rates hotels use are terrible

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Minimum Drinking Age On Planes?

Cathay-Pacific-Krug

I often receive questions from young readers asking about drinking ages on various airlines, and whether it’s okay to request a drink on a flight to/from the US when not 21.

It’s an interesting topic, though to be honest up until I was maybe 22 I didn’t drink much at all (I still don’t drink all that often). But what is the minimum age to drink when you’re flying internationally?

As a general rule of thumb, the drinking age of the country where the airline you’re flying is registered determines the drinking age of the flight.

But it’s not always that straightforward. Some airlines follow the drinking age of the country the flight is departing from, should it be higher than the drinking age of the country the plane is registered in.

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Why Alaska Will Innovate Mileage Plan But Won’t Go Revenue Based

Alaska-Seattle

In mid-November American announced their AAdvantage program would go revenue based in the second half of 2016, meaning that all three of the “global” US carriers will have revenue based programs.

Alaska Mileage Plan has long been an extremely lucrative frequent flyer program. Given their unique mix of partner airlines (including American and Delta), they’re also a great program for crediting partner flights to, even if you don’t often fly Alaska.

For example, their MVP Gold 75K members (status which requires 75,000 flown miles on Alaska or 90,000 flown miles on partners) earn a 125% mileage bonus. On top of that, upon qualifying for MVP Gold 75K you earn 50,000 bonus miles. This means that crediting 90,000 elite qualifying partner miles to Alaska will net you 252,500 redeemable miles. That’s the equivalent of a ~180% mileage bonus, which is incredible.

In late November I posed the question of whether Alaska’s Mileage Plan program will go revenue based, following in the footsteps of their partners/competitors. My conclusion was basically that it wouldn’t surprise me if they continue to award miles based on distance flown, given that they really do run their airline a bit differently than the competition.

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Etihad Now Lets You Easily Select Seats Online

Etihad-Economy - 2

Etihad is behind the times when it comes to parts of their website. For example, while it has long been possible to book the Etihad Chauffeur through Etihad’s website, it hasn’t even been possible to select seats online for a partner booking. In the past I shared a workaround for selecting seats through Etihad’s website, though unfortunately that trick stopped working a while back.

Their call center doesn’t usually have long hold times, though it’s still annoying to have to pick up a phone to select seats. And for that matter their call center has a super annoying prompt system, and the representatives ask quite a few verification questions as well, so it’s not the fastest process in the world.

Well, it seems like Etihad now lets you “legitimately” select seats through their website, though it’s not that straightforward of a process.

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Are Fisheye Travel Pictures Useful Or Annoying?

Etihad-A380

Over the weekend I wrote about the new toy I picked up — the Olloclip iPhone 6 lens. It’s basically a lens you can put on your iPhone, which takes both wide angle and fisheye photos.

I’ve really enjoyed playing around with the lens, as I find it to be especially useful for taking pictures in fairly tight spaces, like hotel rooms…

…and even airplane seats.

While it has been really fun to play with, I’m trying to figure out how useful the iPhone lens is in practice. Obviously I don’t want to get to the point where every picture is using a fisheye lens, but in general I’m curious about the following (and I’m sure I’m not the only one, as these iPhone lenses become more common):

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Is It Wrong To Travel To Countries Where Being Gay Is Illegal?

Maldives

Here’s something interesting I’ve noticed. I certainly respect if others feel differently about this topic, though I figured I’d write this post so that people can hopefully at least see my perspective.

As is well documented, I spend a fair amount of time in countries where being gay is frowned upon/illegal/punishable by law. Almost every time I write about traveling to one of these places, I get comments about it. They typically fall into one of the following two general categories:

— “How dare you travel to a country where being gay is illegal… don’t you have any self respect?”
— “Aren’t you scared you’re going to be jailed and killed?”

The second question typically comes out of a place of genuine curiosity/concern. And the first typically comes from someone who has put a lot of thought into formulating their opinion, though doesn’t really look at the other side of the equation.

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10 Best Credit Card Offers For December

Etihad-A380

Every month I make a post with what I consider to be the best credit card sign-up bonuses of the month.

While there are several excellent long standing credit card offers, the specifics of the best offers are constantly changing (be it the annual fee, minimum spend requirement, or even amount of the sign-up bonus).

If you read my blog on a daily basis then by all means skip this post, but for me it’s a useful, “current” place to refer people who ask about which cards they should sign-up for, a question I get on a daily basis. For reference, here is my list of the best credit card sign up bonuses for November.

With that in mind, below are what I consider to be the best credit card sign-up bonuses for this month:

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