May 1, 2016

Lufthansa Removing First Class from A330s

Last year, Lufthansa announced that they would be bringing back direct service from Denver to Munich with A330 four class service (including first class) starting in May of 2016.  Our first and only Lufthansa first flight was on the A330 in November of 2013.

Well service is still going to start this week but the first class configuration will only be around for 10 months.  After removing first class from their 747-400 fleet, (which provides the Denver to Frankfurt service) Lufthansa is going to be removing first class from their A330 fleet.

Via Lufthansa Flyer, first class is no longer bookable for this sector after March 26, 2017.  While this is certainly a disappointment, you can't really blame Lufthansa.  There are thirteen other destinations impacted by the reconfiguration.

Lufthansa has historically had a very large first class fleet and are following the trend (as is Singapore Airlines) of reducing their first class capacity.  Unfortunately (unlike Singapore Airlines) they have a sub par new business class seat.

Lufthansa only makes first class awards available to partners within 15 days of departure.  That said, there seems to be plenty of availability on the Denver route.  For example, there are award seats for May 13th and 14th (Friday and Saturday).



I think I am going to have to find a long weekend to spend in Munich before March of 2017!

April 30, 2016

Review: Denver A Line Train to the Plane

After nearly 30 years of planning, twelve years since a successful ballot initiative, and six long years of construction, Denver finally has a rail line connecting downtown and the airport.  RTD's University of Colorado A  Line opened to long lines and great fan fare on 4/22/2016.  Note that the nod to CU in the line name comes from a paid sponsorship.


The commuter (heavier gauge than light rail) rail train leaves every 15 minutes for most of the day (30 minutes in the early morning and late evening hours) from both Denver's Union Station and Denver International Airport.  The entire ride takes 37 minutes, stops 7 times on the way to the airport, and costs $9 each way.

April 24, 2016

My 5 Favorite First Class Products

Over the past four years, I've been fortunate enough to fly on some of the world's best carriers in international first class.  If you're wondering how I've been able to do that, start here.

In fact, I've flown more than two dozen segments on nine carriers with another few dozen flights in international business class.  People often ask about my favorite carriers, flights, amenities, seats, etc...it's not the easiest question to answer since crews matter and vary from flight to flight.

Amenities (pajamas, amenity kits) are rotated.  Catering can be vastly different from one flight to another especially when comparing flights from a home base (i.e Singapore Airlines out of Singapore) vs. an outstation (i.e. Singapore Airlines from Frankfurt).  Don't forget aircraft - while the seat on Emirates' A380 and 777 is very similar, the experience is vastly different given the shower and onboard bar on the A380.

All that said, here are my personal rankings of the top 5 international first class products (in order):

1)  Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment

Hands down, Etihad offers the best first class product in the sky.  The amount of personal space is just ridiculous given that Etihad has a single aisle on their A380 vs. the double aisle that every other airline uses.


Etihad has amazing amenity kits stocked with Le Labo products and very comfortable pajamas.  The entertainment system is top notch and they offer live TV and wifi.

How to Book Singapore Airlines Award Tickets

Last week I posted on how to book Cathay Pacific First Class award tickets.  Today we're going to focus on booking award tickets on another of my favorite Asian carries.

As I eluded to this morning, I'm going to Asia later in the year.  While I had a couple of days to play with, my schedule isn't that flexible.  I generally want to fly home on Saturday or Sunday and for my specific dates, that left with only a couple of options.

Singapore Airlines offers non-stop service from Tokyo to Los Angeles as a continuation of their flight from Singapore.  This would give me another opportunity to fly the flagship Suites Class on the A380.  You can read more about previous Suites Class flights here and here.

Singapore Airlines Lobster Thermidor
The best place to search and book Singapore Airlines awards is on their own website.  For purposes of this post, I'm going to assume you have a Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account.  If you don't already have an account, sign-up for one here.

Great Value in Hyatt Cash + Points

In looking at hotels for my stay in Tokyo, I was trying to decide between three properties.  The Andaz, Park Hyatt, and Conrad are all on my list to check out.  The Park Hyatt is prohibitively expensive using points (30,000/night) and cash (north of $650/night AI) so I decided to stay at both the Andaz and the Conrad.  Booking the Conrad was easy thanks to a Hilton free night certificate and a giant stash of Hilton HHonors points.

The Andaz situation left me with three options:

1)  Pay cash at a nightly rate of $668 including near 25% tax (refundable rate)
2)  Redeem 25,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points/night
3)  Redeem 12,500 Hyatt Gold Passport points and pay $200 per night AI



One critical part of the equation is factoring in the HGP points earned in each situation.  As a Platinum member, I earn 5.75 points per dollar spent.  Add in the 3 points per dollar spent on the Hyatt Visa card and I'm earning 8.75 points per dollar spent.  I value Hyatt points at roughly 2 cents and consistently get greater value out of them.  For my two night stay, here's how the earnings break down:

1)  9,340 points earned for a total value of $187
2)  0 points earned
3)  2,800 points earned for a total value of $56


Cash + Points stays also count for elite credit with Hyatt but since I'm not making Diamond anytime soon, that's not something I care that much about.

While I wouldn't pay the cash rate (EVER) let's use that as the baseline to value the other point redemption options.

1)  Total cost (cash - point value rebate) for a two night stay would be $1,149
2)  At 50,000 points that is a redemption value of 2.30 cents/point
3)  At 25,000 points (subtracting the cash outlay in this scenario from the total cash cost and then adding back in the rebate from points earned) that is a redemption value of 3.29 cents/point

I was excited about staying at the Andaz but the value received for the cash + points redemption made the decision even easier.  

Solo Travel to Asia

Earlier in the year I posted about traveling solo to Tokyo.  For a variety of reasons, I had to push the trip back and am now going a bit later in the year.

I added a couple extra days to itinerary and am now headed to my favorite city in the world (Hong Kong) for two days prior to four days in Tokyo.

Victoria Peak view from the Conrad Hong Kong
I'll have more details on the exact itinerary and the booking process of some of the flight segments in future posts.  Needless to say, it is so much easier booking award travel for one vs. two people.

As a teaser, here are the three first class products I'll be flying during the trip!

Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class

Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class

Asiana A380 First Class

April 19, 2016

$25 Off on Gift Cards at Staples.com

Amex is out with a great new Amex Offer providing $25 savings on a $100 purchase at Staples.com.  The offer runs through 6/19 and is good on gift cards, just not electronic gift cards.  If you go through an online shopping portal, you may be able to earn an additional 2-3x miles or points from the Chase Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall.

Note that the offer is targeted and I wasn't targeted on any of my 5 American Express cards.  Emily did receive the offer on all three of her cards and I was able to successfully add it to all three (open up a new tab in your browser, select each card in a different tab, navigate to the offer, and you should be able to add it multiple times.

Staples.com sells a variety of gift cards.  A Visa gift card comes with a $6.99 purchase charge while other gift cards (i.e. Starbucks, Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, etc...) come with a $1.99 purchase charge and free shipping.



So you could easily pick up a $100 gift card for $101.99 and then receive a $25 statement credit back from Amex.


I will be maximizing this deal by purchasing three $100 gift cards (non Visa to merchants we'd spend money at anyway) for a total savings of $69 not including the Membership Rewards points and cash back I'll earn for the purchases.

You can check to see if you were targeted online or on the mobile app by clicking on "Offers."