Monthly Archives: September 2011

Openskies to End Washington – Paris Service

Yesterday I wrote about Openskies’ $750 round trip business class fares from Washington DC to Paris. Those fares are still available, but now it’s a clearance sale: tucked away in a release about offering iPads on flights between Newark and Paris is a note that they will no longer fly Washington to Paris beginning October 29th. This leaves Newark as their sole destination from Paris.

Openskies is a steal (flights are usually about $1900 round trip in business class) and service is fantastic. It’s beyond extremely difficult to make all-premium-class TransAtlantic service work (in fact, no one has done it successfully as its own airline — BA does fly single class flights from London City to New York, but it doesn’t have to be successful as its own company). It’s a shame, because at those prices, it’s was a fantastic value for premium class service to Europe. We’ll see how much longer Newark can last. And remember, 75,000 BA miles gets you a flight to Paris on Openskies. It’s a great deal.

The Quickest Way to 140,000 Hhonors Points…Only $158

It’s been pretty widely publicized at this point that you can open a Hawaiian Airlines Visa Signature card through Bank of America and earn 35,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles, which can then be transferred into Hilton Hhonors points at a 1:2 ratio, earning you 70,000 Hilton points. Not too shabby. (Apply for that card here – $79 annual fee applies, and you need to spend $1,000 in 4 months).

But did you know that there is a nearly identical card issued by the Bank of Hawaii that offers the same terms? You can apply for it here — same $79 fee, same 35,000 mile bonus after $1000 in spend.

You can apply for both cards (because the banks are unrelated) and earn both bonuses with no problem at all. $158 in annual fees + $2k in spend later, you’ll have 140,000 Hhonors points. Those can be used for 2-3 nights at most top-tier hotels, and a couple of weeks worth of stays at lower tier hotels. Actually, the cash & points deal for Waldorf Hotels (30k points + $100/night) is a great deal when combined with this offer.

Plus, check point stretcher hotels here for even better discounts at a handful of properties.

[Targeted] – Up to 40% Off Membership Rewards Transfers to Hilton Hhonors and Starwood

This is definitely a targeted offer, but many folks are seeing discounts of up to 40% off the normal number of Membership Rewards points necessary for transfers to Hilton Hhonors and Starwood.

At 40% off, you’ll be able to exchange 600 Membership Rewards points for 1500 Hhonors points. Or, you can exchange 600 Membership Rewards points and get 333 Starwood points (still a terrible option).

You can see what offer you have by logging in to your Membership Rewards account and looking at the Hhonors and Starwood transfer pages (mine shows a 15% bonus for Hhonors and zippo for Starwood).

Alternately, log in to Membership Rewards and go to the Membership Rewards homepage and look for a banner advertising 40% off deals, then click through to see the details.

(Hat tip, FT)

Yes, the Continental-Membership Rewards Transfer Is Ending…Chill, Please

Posted on the wall of the OTR office is a sign saying, “Don’t write about what everyone else is writing about.” Hence, that’s why I haven’t bothered to mention the September 30th finale of Continental transfers from Membership Rewards. Everyone else has given their 2 cents. You don’t need mine.

Except, I just think everyone needs to chill a bit here. It’s not the end of the world (the revoking of Presidents Club for Amex Platinum members is much worse). You can still transfer points to Star Alliance carriers Air Canada, Singapore and ANA (which often has much better redemption rates through their mileage-based chart.) Unless you are booking an award on September 30th on Continental, and you’re short some miles, I’d let this go.

(Now I’ll go back to not writing about what everyone else is writing about.)

Roundtrip Business Class Flights to Paris from Washington: $750 on OpenSkies in October

(Thanks, Flyertalk)

Openskies has roundtrip flights to Paris Orly for only $750 ROUND TRIP (tax included!) in the business seat for travel in October. Yeah, that’s right – $750 in business class.

If you’ve never flown them, Openskies offers what they call “business seat” service, which is akin to what the old non-flat Continental BusinessElite seats used to be like (or are still like on the 767s). It’s a steal at this price.

FWIW – you’ll also earn about 11,000 British Airways miles for the trip.

Speaking of which, you can redeem BA miles for Openskies flights to Paris for only 75,000 miles (they consider the service to be Premium Economy, but it’s so much better than that). It’s a fantastic redemption option many forget about.

ANA to Feature Bidets in Its New 787s

A quick one: If you’ve ever gone to the bathroom on a plane and thought to yourself, “hm. What this flight really needs is a bidet” – well, you’re now in luck.

For fans of having water shot onto your butt, ANA’s new 787s will feature bidets in both business class and coach (because it really wouldn’t be fair to make 300 people have a far less clean backside than the 50 lucky folks up front).

As the article states, and I’m not sure why this is my favorite part, the bidets will have “various spray options, controlled by push-button electronics.” Because I’m an American, and I’m generally confused by these contraptions when I see them overseas, I have no idea what the “various spray options” are. But I’m glad to see that the Japanese insisted on “push button electronics” to control those spray options rather than whatever other means one would use to control such a thing.

Actress Kicked Off Southwest Flight for Kissing Girlfriend (Or Something Like That. Maybe)

Is Southwest the only airline that kicks people off its flights?

Actress Leisha Hailey, who stars in the L Word, was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight because either she was kissing her girlfriend in a manner not appropriate in a public setting or because Southwest hates lesbians.

You make the call.

Delta Allows You to Buy 100,000 Miles for $1,694 through Their Incentives Program

You may have read about the ability to buy 100,000 US Airways miles for $1478 when they ran their 100% mileage purchase promotion over the summer. I won’t buy frequent flyer miles (though lots of others will), and if you would have otherwise had to pay $5,000 for a business class ticket to Europe, that certainly seems like a steal.

If you’re looking for a similar deal from Delta, they have a program called SkyMiles Incentives that allows you (well, really your busienss) to purchase miles to give away to customers or employees as incentives. After a $75 setup fee, you can buy miles for $.022 cents per mile, with a 60,000 mile minimum. That’s no great shakes, but through November 30th, they giving a 10% bonus for purchases up to 164,999 miles; a 20% bonus up to 249,999; and a 30% bonus for purchases over 250,000 miles. In short, you can buy miles for $.0169/each. That’s a bit more than the US Airways deal, but $1690 for 100,000 miles (ie, a free business class trip to Europe) is a great deal if you were going there anyway.

That’s even better than the 100% bonus Delta is offering through September 30th – that works out to $.0175/mile, but you’re limited to gifting or buying 60,000 miles. With the incentives program, there is no limit, so you can buy enough miles to get your whole family to Europe for $1700/ticket.

A Quick Reminder to Write a (Nice) Note If Your Flight Has (Legitimate) Problems

A friend recently flew British Airways with her family (including 2 kids under the age of 10) and discovered that the in-flight entertainment on her plane was not working. She sent an email to British Airways and in return they sent her and her husband 10,000 miles each as compensation.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, you should always write a letter to an airline if your flight has service issues. However, this does not mean you should complain incessantly about everything (like this guy whose Mileage Plus account was frozen after too many complaints). There is no point in writing about weather delays. Or flight delays in general. Or mechanical issues that delay the flight. Let it be. But broken business class seats, non-functioning in-flight entertainment, and non-delivered special means are all fair game for complaints.

Second, I see horribly, horribly written complaint letters all the time at my job. The primary problem is the litany of complaints spewed forth in a rambling missive. The two keys to a well-written complaint letter are courtesy and brevity. Do not be rude, and limit your discussion to the one (or, God forbid, 2) issue(s) that are causing you to write the letter. Any sort of “do you know who I am” will backfire. I’m also not a fan of “I’ve been flying Continental Airlines for 25 years and I’ve never seen blah blah blah.” Whether it’s your first or 700th trip, poor service is unacceptable.

With that in mind, here’s a sample of the letter I would write in the case above:

Dear British Airways,

My husband and two young chlidren flew home to New York from London on BA on XXX Flight on XXX Date in World Traveller Plus. We were very happy with the extra space provided in that cabin – that’s why we spent a bit extra to fly in WT Plus. Unfortunately, we discovered that our personal entertainment systems were non-functional for the duration of the flight throughout WT Plus. It’s not as if this ruined our trip, obviously, but we were really hoping we could use the IFE to keep our young kids entertained during the 8-hour journey. It’s a shame we were unable to experience the full quality of WT Plus with these systems not working.

We just wanted to let you know about our disappointment.

Thank you,
BA Executive Club #XXXXX

I don’t recommend demanding compensation. They will compensate you. Adding your frequent flyer number will give them the hint. I always cringe when I people say that their vacation was ruined because of some service slight – your 8 days in Paris were not ruined because the TV didn’t work on the plane. Overselling your discomfort doesn’t help. Kindness and conciseness will get you exactly what you’re looking for.

The Winner of the $200 Hyatt Gift Card Is…

Congrats to reader KWS who will now enjoy a $200 Hyatt Gift card courtesy of the OTR. For the record, KWS said his/her favorite hotel is the Andaz Wall Street, which I’m guessing the person wrote because they thought I was looking for a Hyatt hotel. I was not, but there ya go. Enjoy the card!

We’ll have another contest again in October…I’m always open to suggestions for new prizes.