Monthly Archives: August 2012

UPDATE: Icelandair/Alaska Redemption Deal Ends Tonight (8/31) at 8pm Eastern

Hello all.

I just received an email from Icelandair telling me that the Icelandair deal as we know it will end at 8pm Eastern Time tonight, August 31st. I don’t know much more, but here’s what I do know:

– They are going to pull Alaska Airline redemptions tonight. They will come back at some point, but it will be at different redemption levels.

– They are still working through the taxes issue people have had – if you have emailed them, they will get back to you.

– The points are good for 4 years.

– If you are stuck with points that you purchased, you are basically stuck with points that you purchased. You can certainly wait until Alaska redemptions come back. You can redeem for a Radisson Hotel (34,000 points for a top level Radisson Blu, down to 18,000 points for a Park Inn (22,000 for a “Level B” hotel). See hotels here.

– If you feel you can’t let the points sit in Icelandair (which is what I would do – let them sit there), the best exchange is with US Airways, which will get you 593 Dividend Miles for every 1,000 Icelandair Saga points.

– Redeeming on Icelandair isn’t a bad deal at all (at least not in coach), especially during the summer. The chart is here, but it’s 50,000 points to Iceland from the Eastern US and 60,000 to most of Europe (that works out to about $575 for a flight to Europe – not too bad).

– If you do wish to top up your account so you have enough points for a Europe trip, remember that the 20% mileage purchase bonus goes through September 28th.

– Thanks to the literally hundreds of people who have written me and posted comments here helping others through this deal. And thanks to Icelandair, which has been incredibly helpful as they’ve dealt with more calls than they’ve ever received before.

– And those of you who tend to post on blogs about how bloggers “kill the deal” please save your comments for elsewhere.

I’m on vacation, but I will try to answer whatever additional questions people have today. Unfortunately, this is all I know at this point.

Thursday August 30 Wrap-up

Two quick ones this morning …

– United has released its domestic 787 schedule for November and December. They’ll be flying the new planes out of Houston before launching international service in January. Full schedule available here.

– A couple is suing United Airlines for taping a, er, sexual aid to the outside of their luggage. They were upset because it was removed from the inside of their luggage. This is why I always say to Fedex your sexual toys ahead in advance of your vacation. Wait, I never say that.

Icelandair Update: What To Do If You’ve Been Overcharged on Taxes

Quick update this morning: A number of people have written me (and posted on other sites) that they feel they have been overcharged on taxes for tickets purchased with the Icelandair/Alaska Airlines deal. For non-Mexico travel, taxes and fees should be in the $60-70 range. For Mexico tickets, it will be higher than that (I don’t have the exact amount in front of me, but I seem to remember it was something like $125/ticket – let me know if I’m wrong).

If you have been charged taxes that are significantly higher than those amounts, my Icelandair contact has asked that you send an email to — they’ll investigate. I believe that a couple of days ago they started charging taxes (US Departure tax, Passenger Facility Charges) that should not be charged on Award Tickets. I’m not 100% sure of that, but I think this may explain why some people are seeing charges in the $150 range instead of $70.

If you hear back from Icelandair, please post your experiences here.

UPDATE: a few (or more than a few) have said that they have emailed that address and not heard back yet. I spoke with my contact at Icelandair and they know about the emails and are working through them one-by-one. They will get to yours if you sent them an email, but it will take a bit of time. They’re swamped (again). Thanks for everyone’s continued patience.

Wednesday August 29th Wrap Up

Vacation continues, so today is (once again) a quick news wrap-up:

– American Airlines will launch Saturday-only service from Miami to Roatan, Honduras, beginning November 17th. Roatan is fantastic, and I always feel slightly bittersweet when I hear about airlines launching new service to places that are currently uncrowded. That said, one flight a week isn’t going to turn it into Cancun. The flight times do allow connections from the Northeast, which is good news for those of us up here. The bad news is that American hasn’t released any low-level award seats on the route. Boo.

– There must have been a signup bonus deal right around this time last year for the Amex Premier Rewards Gold because I’m getting a bunch of reader questions about what to do with Membership Rewards points right before you cancel your Amex card. I wrote about your options in this post here. As one of your options is to transfer the points out when there’s a bonus going on, it’s worth noting that there is currently a promo offering a 40% bonus for transferring Membership Rewards points to British Airways. This is great if you plan to use those points for American Airlines or LAN flights in North America, Central America, Caribbean and South America, as you won’t be charged fuel surcharges.

– Next spring Southwest Airlines will take over service to Branson, MO, from its sister carrier Airtran. They’ll offer daily flights to Houston (Hobby) and Chicago Midway, as well as Saturday flights to Orlando.

– I was recently calling Amex to cancel my SPG card and they offered me a $40 statement credit to keep the card open (which is what I was hoping for when I called them). That knocked the annual fee down (effectively) to $25. Which is just a friendly reminder to ALWAYS ask if there’s anything a rep can do when you call to cancel a card.

Chinese Carrier Bans Passengers Who Sought Compensation Following Delay

Chinese lowfare carrier Spring Airlines has banned a group of passengers who sued the airline for compensation following an 8-hour delay in April. China doesn’t have regulations regarding passenger compensation for delays, so each airline is free to make up (or, in this case, not make up) its own rules.

A court awarded the passengers about $30 each for their troubles. Spring Airlines then said that the passengers “used forceful methods” (duh) to get the payments and, in turn, banned them from ever flying the airline again.

In case you were wondering the official reason for banning them, the airline said that the lawsuit represented “unruly behavior” on the part of the passengers.

Apparently they are not the only Chinese airline to have a passenger blacklist.

Gilt City Offers 40% Off Virgin America Main Cabin Select

Gilt City is offering a deal where they’ll sell you a coupon for 40% off Main Cabin Select tickets on Virgin America for $99.

Transcon tickets in their “Instant Upgrade to Main Cabin Select” class run around $1100 on the low end, so with 40% off (+$99), tickets will be about $750 or so. Not exactly giving it away, considering regular coach tickets are running about $260 round trip at this point. Also slightly ridiculous considering “Main Cabin Select” is basically premium economy, with 38″ of pitch. You can fly on JetBlue and get pretty similar legroom for a just a few dollars over the price of their regular tickets.

But if you’re a Virgin America fan and want some extra legroom, that 38″ of pitch is about what you get in most domestic first class on other airlines.

Monday News Roundup

I’m on vacation this week with the family (Southern California – United in coach. Only two things to note are that flying with 6 year olds is infinitely better when they have iPads, and flying on former Continental planes is infinitely better now that they’ve started to reconfigure them with Economy Plus section), so my posts will likely be a bit limited this week. Unless I’m driving my family crazy (likely scenario), in which case I’ll lock myself in a room and write.

– A Florida woman is suing El Al because the airline moved her to a seat in the back of the plane after an Ultra-Orthodox gentleman refused to sit next to her. Not sure why the airline didn’t move the gentleman passenger. She’s suing because her original seat was on the aisle, which she had requested for some unspecified medical reason, and the non-religious seat she was moved to was not on the aisle. She is requesting $12,500.

– Allegiant is charging most customers $4 extra each way for using credit cards. When you search for fares on their website, they now display the price for debit cards. If you want to use a credit card, they charge the additional four bucks. Allegiant runs a fantastic operation, and they’ve been extremely profitable quarter after quarter. Most impressively, though, is that they’ve managed to avoid the public thrashing by customers that Spirit Airlines seems to face on a daily basis. I’m not sure why we don’t hear the vitriol for Allegiant that we hear for Spirit, considering they have similar ancillary fees in place.

Icelandair Will Launch Service to Anchorage (and 2 Other Cities) in Summer 2013

To those of you new to OTR, I swear that I don’t only write about Icelandair. Really, I promise.

That said, I thought I’d pass along that Icelandair will launch twice weekly service next summer between Anchorage and Keflavik, Iceland. I was going to say that you could use the Icelandair points buying deal to get to Iceland reasonably from Anchorage, but the flights are actually pretty (relatively) cheap: about $700 round trip during the summer.

The good news for folks in Anchorage is that this opens up a moderately reasonable way to get to Europe during the summer. Tickets to Europe (for the cities I checked) are less than $900 round trip, about $400 or so (at least) less than other options to Europe. It’s only 2 days a week, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Icelandair will also launch twice weekly service to Zurich and St. Petersburg for the 2013 summer season.

Thursday Icelandair Update: Points Are Now Processing

Hi all. Good news: Icelandair is once again able to process points. Purchases from yesterday should now be processed – you will receive an email if you purchased yesterday with confirmation.

Today’s purchases are in-process and should be complete by end of day.

If you purchased yesterday and DID NOT receive an email, Icelandair asks that you contact Good luck with that :)

United’s First 787 Routes Will Be…

For you airplane nerds out there (ie, me) United Airlines has announced its first 787 routes. Those kick off LAX-Narita service on January 3, 2013. Other routes include IAH-Lagos; DEN-Narita; LAX-Shanghai; IAH-London; IAH-Amsterdam. Details below – note that those of us in Newark won’t get to enjoy the new plane any time soon. Boo.

United Airlines today announced the first international routes for the airline’s newest addition to its fleet, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In addition to the previously-announced service from its Denver hub to Tokyo Narita, starting March 31, 2013, the airline will operate nonstop 787 service five days a week between its Houston hub and Lagos, Nigeria, beginning Jan. 7, 2013. United will also operate daily, nonstop 787 service between its Los Angeles hub and its Narita hub, beginning Jan. 3, 2013, and Los Angeles to Shanghai, beginning March 30, 2013.

United will also operate daily, nonstop 787 service from its Houston hub to Amsterdam and London Heathrow on a temporary basis. Houston to Amsterdam service begins Dec. 4, 2012, and Houston to London Heathrow service begins Feb. 4, 2013.