Monthly Archives: January 2012

Introducing the OTR Post-o-Matic Blog Post Generator (TM) for New Travel Blogs

We’ve seen quite an increase in the number of travel/frequent flyer/credit card blogs out there recently, and I’m sure lots of folks out there are hoping to cash in on the millions-upon-millions all of us bloggers are making hawking credit cards incessantly (at least that’s what I’m hearing when I read people complaining about blogs on FT).

So, rather than be part of the problem, I thought I’d be part of the solution and introduce the OTR Post-o-Matic Blog Post Generator (TM) to help those of you thinking about starting a travel blog to get off your ass and get going. Here are the 7 posts you need to get started:

1) Hey, I just booked a trip!
2) Hey, look at me on the airplane! Please, I’m begging you, include a photo you take from your coach seat of the back of the seat in front of you. I always find that very helpful.
3) Hey, look at me in my hotel room! Bonus points if you include more than 5 photos of your room at the Holiday Inn Express Allentown.
4) Look at the credit cards I just got!
5) 263 groceries you can buy with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
6) 263 items in Home Depot you can buy with your Chase Business Ink BoldĀ® Charge Card card.
7) An admonition to be careful with your credit and not to over-extend yourself with credit cards, followed immediately by 7 credit card advertisements. Reminds me of Bud Light ads that say “Drink Responsibly” while showing a dude with a 6 pack surrounded by 3 women in bikinis. Yes, definitely, drink responsibly.

That’ll help you get started. I’m certainly open to suggestions from readers about other posts they think every new blogger needs to write to, um, stand out from the crowd.

We at the OTR are always happy to help.

United Announces Nonstop from Washington, DC, to Honolulu Starting June 7th

It’s always good news when we see new nonstop service from the East Coast to Hawaii. Hawaiian Airlines announced new nonstop service from JFK, which gives those of us in NYC 2 nonstop options to Honolulu (with Continental). Today, United announced that it will launch daily nonstop service from Washington Dulles to Honolulu beginning June 7th.

Flight departs IAD at 12:50pm and arrives at 5:15pm, in time for connections to neighbor islands. (Though to be honest, it may be easier to connect in LAX or SFO and fly directly to other islands). Return departs at 8:05pm and arrives at 11:30am in Dulles, making for a good night’s sleep.

New York to San Francisco, $194 round trip on Virgin America

Remember this post from last week about getting 20% off a Virgin America flight in February? Here’s a good way to use it:

Flights between JFK and San Francisco on Virgin America are just $194 round trip in February when you use that 20% off coupon. Los Angeles and Vegas are about $40 more. Anytime you can go transcon for under $200, it’s a steal.

Yes, that link for a 20% off coupon is still good. Enjoy!

Continental Finishes Economy Plus Rollout on 757-200s – Good News for Coach Flyers to Europe

If you’ve been stuck in coach on a Continental flight to Europe (as I have) you have likely thought to yourself at some point during the flight that you would like 6 additional inches of legroom. Or wondering why you weren’t born about 7 inches shorter. You probably were thinking that as the person in front of you reclined into your lap (which sounds like it could be a good thing under the right circumstances, but I don’t really mean it that way…)

If you’ve been in that seat, we’ve gotten some good news this morning: United (aka Continental) has completed its rollout of Economy Plus across its 757-200 fleet. If you have Gold status or higher, you can pick one of those 45 seats for free when you purchase the ticket; if you have Silver status you can get it at check-in (save your complaints – I know that’s not how it used to be). Everyone else is welcome to purchase it, and at a couple of hundred dollars or so roundtrip, it may be worth it to you.

Those of us who have a rough time in the tight confines of coach on longer flights now have a couple of reasonable options to grab a few more inches of legroom, with Delta offering Economy Comfort on flights to Europe you can grab more room for about $150 per leg. Again, maybe that’s worth it to you, maybe it’s not. But it does make a difference in terms of comfort. And since I really don’t care that much about airline food (or sleeping), especially on the way back from Europe, business class sometimes seems like overkill to me (Dear God, Blasphemer!!!! Travel blogger doesn’t not go nuts about Business Class!!!! Call the Blogger police, now!)

Although the 757-200 sometimes shows up on domestic flights, you’ll generally see it on these routes:

Newark to: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Belfast, Berlin, Birmingham, Copenhagen, Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Glasgow, Hamburg, Lima, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Manchester, Oslo, Paris, Shannon, Stockholm and Stuttgart.

Washington-Dulles and: Amsterdam and Paris.

Weekend Roundup

Let’s see, what did we miss from the weekend?

– Star Alliance carrier Spanair shut down, leaving a whole bunch of people stranded and forcing Star Alliance flyers to find another way to get to Malaga.

– Delta is rumored to be considering purchasing US Airways. It’s very early, so who knows, but I do know a couple of things: they would have an enormous presence East of the Mississippi with bases at JFK, LaGuardia, Philadelphia, DCA, Detroit, Cincinnati, Charlotte and Atlanta. And this will never, ever happen. I’ve got to imagine this is being floated to drive up the price AA will pay for US Airways. Unless Southwest jumps in and buys AA. I’m kinda joking. Kinda.

– I stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia last weekend, and I’m not a big trip report guy so if you’d like to see photos of the place, you are free to go to Tripadvisor. But I thought I’d mention it for 2 reasons: 1) 7 staff members opened the doors or were standing at the doors waiting to help us when we arrived, which I found pretty striking; and 2) My corporate rate was $160 for a regular room and $260 for the suite we had (I thought I could not turn down a suite at the Ritz for $260). I’m happy to share the code (which can be used to book online) if you’d like to email me. Of course that is just for informational purposes, as you should not share your corporate rate with anyone. But if you were to email me and say you are compiling a list of useful corporate rates for research that could be used by future generations (or to cure a disease, perhaps), I’d be happy to pass it along.

– I think I read something on one of the other blogs about a “MegaDo”? Did any of the other bloggers write anything about it? (insert maniacal cackling here). (Did I just make a travel blogger joke? I guess I’m the lame one…)

– An update to the compensation that Costa will be offering passengers on ship that went down in Italy: in addition to everything I wrote about here, uninjured passengers will also be given $14,400 each.

– Starting May 1st, the Thai Airways nonstop from Los Angeles to Bangkok will now be a 1-stop via Seoul.

Looks Like Summer Airfares to Europe Are Going to Remain Very High

The past few years have seen sky-high summer airfares to Europe, as airlines have removed capacity from TransAtlantic routes. For most of the 2000s, East Coast fares to Europe during the summer hovered in the $800-$900 range. Last summer, we were looking at $1400 consistently. This was especially ridiculous considering most airlines were offering ~$2000 business class fares during the summer.

This summer looks to be similar. If you were hoping for a summer airfare sale, don’t hold your breath.

Well, that’s not exactly true. SAS is promoting a Summer Sale to Oslo and Copenhagen. The fares? A mere $1100 round trip. Quite a sale.

20% AAdvantage Mile Bonus with Citi Card — Eh, So What

Citi is offering a 20% bonus to their AAdvantage card holders until April 30th through a targeted offer.

But if you are looking to acquire AAdvantage miles, you should absolutely NOT be putting your spend on the Citi card. You should get an Amex Starwood card, where you’ll earn SPG points that can be converted to AAdvantage points with a 25% bonus when you transfer 20,000 miles. You’re basically earning 1.25 miles all the time — why would you settle for 1 mile per dollar spent? Exactly.

20% Off Coupon for Virgin America

I know – I’m not the first person to post this, but somehow I missed it: Virgin America is offering a 20% off coupon good for flights between now and February 29th; and between April 15th – June 15th.

– Go to this site
– Enter your email
– Enjoy 20% off your flight

Reminder: Free Hilton Hhonors Gold Still Available

It was discussed widely a month ago, but I thought I’d just add a reminder that the free Hilton Hhonors Gold promo through Visa is still live. If you haven’t yet gotten your free Gold status through May 2013 (free Internet and breakfast), here’s how:

– Visit this page
– Change your HHonors account to have an Australian address (easy enough to Google an Australian address to put in there)
– Enter 442394 as the first 6 digits of your Visa Infinite Card
– Fill out the rest of the brief form
– Enjoy your Gold status
– Change your address back

(Thanks to Milepoint for the friendly reminder that this is still live)

In Case You Were Wondering What Compensation Those Costa Cruise Passengers Received…

You were likely not wondering what compensation the cruise company was going to offer the poor folks who were on that Costa Cruise that went down in Italy (unless you were me, in case you were very much wondering that). If you’re a nutcase like me, I have the answer for you:

– They will refund the full price of the cruise.
– They will reimburse travel both to AND from Italy.
– Any charges made onboard will be refunded.
– They’ll pay for any medical expenses.
– They are searching for stuff left in the safe in the cabins and are trying to return those. If they are not found, they are making arrangements for compensation.

Apparently some media outlets were reporting they were only offering a 30% coupon off a future cruise. Those reports were untrue.

(Thanks, Travelweekly!)