Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts

March 26, 2017

Cathay Pacific First Class Space Opened Up!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an award ticket downgrade on Cathay Pacific booked with Alaska Mileage Plan miles.  We had been booked in first class from Tokyo's Narita airport to Hong Kong prior to Cathay Pacific downgrading the flight to an aircraft without a first class cabin.  I opted to cancel the ticket and refund the miles - I figured something better would open up later.

I have been checking award space (using BA's website) every few days and last week, two first class seats opened up between Haneda and Hong Kong!  Even better than trekking all the way out to Narita!

I quickly called Alaska, fed the flights to a great agent, and had the award secured in less than 5 minutes.  Taxes and fees came to about $100 but at 27,500 miles/person, this award is an absolutely steal.

The flight is blocked at over 4.5 hours and a similar flight distance (1,800 miles) between Denver and Boston.  Consider that United first class between those two cities would cost 25,000 United MileagePlus miles per person - and that's if you can find the seats (tough to do these days) at the saver level.

Patience definitely payed off here.  We both love flying Cathay first and while this won't be the "full experience" it should still be pretty fun.  Even better that we get to fly out of Haneda which will save us ~90 minutes of travel time.

Stay tuned for the introduction and planning & booking posts!

March 4, 2017

Award Ticket Downgrade - What to Do?

Back in December, I was able to book both of us in Cathay Pacific first class from Tokyo (NRT) to Hong Kong.  I used Alaksa Mileage Plan miles to book each ticket for 27,500 miles.  A great deal considering this is a five hour flight on a premium route on one of my favorite first class products.

Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific isn't doing great financially and they've been cutting first class (frequencies and service on board).  I received an email from Alaska a couple weeks ago letting me know that my first class flight had been downgraded to business class in a regionally configured aircraft.  While that isn't the end of the world, the whole point of flying out of Narita (90 min bus ride) vs. Haneda (20-25 min taxi) was to fly Cathay in first.

I used the British Airways website to check Oneworld availability and on the day we're looking to fly, there really only are a few options.  I called Alaska to see what they could do for me and it was either keep the ticket or refund the miles and taxes and figure it out from there.

I opted for the latter option and am going to wait it out a bit to see if anything opens up.  At this point, my options are direct flights in business class on JAL or Cathay.  Or we could get exotic and book a paid flight on Hong Kong Airlines (haven't flown them but hear the business class product is decent) for around $650 each.  Or we could get really nuts and book Thai Airways first class all the way from Tokyo to Bangkok to Hong Kong with a stop at the first class spa for 60,000 United miles each.  That is a bit of a crazy routing (would take an extra 5-6 hours) but would be a lot of fun.  Emily still needs some convincing to pull the trigger on that one.

Will keep you all posted as we figure it out.

April 2, 2016

Alaska Devalues Emirates Award Chart

This has certainly been a week for big travel news.  First, Anbang withdraws their bid for Starwood.

And now this.

Without notice, Alaska Airlines massively devalued their award chart for redemptions on Emirates.  They did so without notice.  After significant backlash, they put out a blog post essentially blaming the travel blogging/hacking community for exploiting the rules.  They are the ones that make the rules and they can change them at their prerogative if that was truly the issue.  That's like saying one would be "exploiting" the law by smoking pot in our great state of Colorado.  The rules were's legal...I don't think that's exploitation.

Perhaps what they meant is "we see way too many people redeeming for first and business class awards and we need to change that."  Or perhaps Emirates told them exactly that.  Either way, they could have been WAY more transparent about the change and perhaps given some time for the changes to kick in  As Points MD notes, maybe there is a silver lining to this change?

I don't fly Alaska and don't have any loyalty for (or against) them.  I'm not even that upset as I will still be able to collect Alaska miles through a variety of means and hope to fly Emirates First Class again in the future.

Caviar setup in Emirates First Class

But blaming our community for "exploitation" seems like a bit of hyperbole.  The internet is a treasure trove of information.  There are lots of deals out there in the world.  Put the two together and it's natural that someone is going to write about a better way of doing something, obtaining a service, or purchasing a product for a lower price.

It will now cost 600,000 miles for a roundtrip first class award (for 2) to the Middle East/India.  I was able to snag that award for the equivalent (we only flew one way) 360,000 miles just 5 months ago.  That is hyper inflation!

Airlines/hotels are going to devalue - that is just part of this game.  They should do it respectfully and with notice.  Hopefully Alaska will learn from their mistake and won't repeat this in the future.

On to the next deal!

November 11, 2015

Buy Alaska Miles at 50% Off

Alaska Airlines is selling miles at a pretty significant discount through 12/23/15.  The sale is actually a "mystery" sale where you enter your Mileage Plan number and either receive a 35%, 40%, or 50% offer.  My account was targeted for the 40% bonus which brings the cost (if you purchased the maximum 60,000 miles) down to 1.97 cents per mile.

While I wouldn't speculatively purchase a big chunk of Alaska miles, if you are looking to book a premium cabin award on either Cathay Pacific or Emirates, this would be a great way to top up your account.

I actually purchased a handful of Alaska miles during the last sale in order to top up my account and book our Emirates first class flights to the Maldives.  I booked those flights for 90,000 miles each way per person.  Through this promotion, you can get pretty close to that amount for $1,650 + tax.  While you are limited to 60,000 (used to be 40,000) miles per transaction, there's no limit to the number of transactions you can make.

If you (hypothetically) had 0 Alaska Mileage Plan miles and wanted a roundtrip Emirates first class ticket to the Maldives, that would cost you 180,000 total miles and about $40 in fees.  If you were targeted for the 50% bonus, you could make 2 transactions for a total of $3,546 and purchase the 180,000 miles needed for the roundtrip award.  While I certainly would prefer to earn miles in other ways, this approach would still dramatically reduce the cost of something VERY expensive.

Here's an example Emirates first class flight to the Maldives:

$3,546 is still a lot cheaper than nearly $22,000!!!!

April 27, 2014

Upgrading to First Class on Alaska Airlines

I can't remember the last time I flew Alaska Airlines.  It's probably been over twenty years.  They have steadily built their west coast presence and actually have a pretty big operation in San Diego where I grew up.  Alaska does allow redemptions on partner Emirates in first class so I have been steadily racking up Alaska miles in anticipation of using them for an Emirates flight.

My parents are flying Alaska to Hawaii in May.  My dad just had back surgery and 6.5 hours is a long time to be uncomfortable in a middle seat so I set out to try and get them upgraded to first class.

It was actually incredibly simple.  Alaska allows first class upgrades (even on flights to Hawaii) for 15,000 miles one way.  There was availability on their flight (the non-stop from San Diego to Lihue) and the total was just 30,000 miles for both tickets.  I could see availability online but had to call to complete the process.  The call took about five minutes to process the upgrades, select new seats, and issue a new itinerary.

First Class Upgrades on Alaska are 15,000 miles One Way

Kudos to Alaska for having such a straight forward mileage upgrade process and enabling me to make my Dad just a bit more comfortable.  The product on this aircraft (a 737-800) isn't earth shattering but it will certainly be better than coach for a quasi long haul flight.  

Mom & Dad - hope you enjoy!!

February 25, 2014

Emily's Latest Round of Credit Card Applications

Last weekend, Emily applied for her quarterly round of credit card applications.  If you haven't already, check out these posts for my last round as well as background on the whole process.  Here is the overview and results.

1)  Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card

One of the best all around cards out there.  The current bonus is 10,000 SPG points after first purchase and an additional 15,000 SPG points after spending $5,000 in 6 months.  I will also receive 5,000 SPG points from the SPG Amex referral offer I posted about last week.  The $65 annual fee is waived for the first year.  30,000 total SPG points is good enough for 2-3 nights in a high-end Westin or W hotel in the US.  Or you could use 28,000 points for 5 nights (fifth night free) at the Le Meridien Bangkok!  I value SPG points at around 3 cents each so the value of this approval is $900.

Result:  Pended and then approved after waiting two days

2)  Citi Executive American Airlines World MasterCard

After getting in on this offer last month, I wanted to make sure Emily got to take advantage before the offer expires in March.  The $450 fee is not waived for the first year but the offer comes with a $200 statement credit and 100,000 AA miles after spending $10,000 in 90 days.  The annual fee and minimum spend are steep but it's well worth it in my book especially given the statement credit takes almost half the "sting" out of the annual fee.  100,000 AA miles is good enough for a free roundtrip business class ticket to Europe!  I value AA miles at 2 cents so the value of this approval is $2,000!

Result:  Pended.  Emily had to call, answer a few questions and was approved over the phone in about five minutes.

3)  Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card

I got in on this offer as well last month.  Emily was able to pick-up 30,000 miles with no spend requirement for a $75 annual fee.  For some reason, the offer is not showing up so the link above drives to an offer that provides 25,000 miles and a $100 statement credit after $1,000 in spend in 3 months.  Both pretty good deals.  We'll use these Alaska miles for a future first class flight on Emirates.  I value Alaska miles at 2 cents so the value of this approval is $600.

Result:  Auto approved.

Not a bad haul (three for three!) for about 30 minutes of work on Saturday.  Total "value" of approximately $3,500.  We'll need to spend $15,000 in 6 months but $6,000 out of that will be taken care of by Amazon Payments.  So $1,500 per month for 6 months is easily done.  And the end result will be well worth it.  Including minimum spend, we'll earn 175,000 miles and points for $325.

A very successful quarterly round of apps!

January 23, 2014

My Latest Round of Credit Card Applications: Results

Over the weekend, I applied for the following cards (read this post first if you haven't already).  This was one of the easiest rounds of applications ever.  I was done in less than 30 minutes all all three cards were auto approved onscreen.  It's not always this easy - sometimes you have to fight for an approval by calling the issuer and explain why you want the card.  In some cases I've had to move credit lines around when I have multiple cards with the same issuer to obtain an approval.  But at the end of the day, the banks want to approve vs. decline and keep you as a customer.  Agents are typically super friendly, knowledgeable and genuinely want to find a way to earn/keep your business.

I managed to grab screen caps of 2 of the 3 but missed on the Amex Surpass upgrade.  I'm always shocked at the credit lines these companies doll out. 

Barclays Arrival Auto Approval
Alaska Airlines BofA Auto Approval

All in, I value the points/cashback earned on these cards at $1,190.  Not my best haul but after a couple years of doing this, there aren't unlimited earning opportunities.  I am looking forward to diversifying my point mix a bit and earning Alaska miles definitely plays into that strategy.  I hope to be riding on the Emirates A380 one day soon!!  Stay tuned for the next round of applications in 90 days or so.

January 22, 2014

My Latest Round of Credit Card Applications - January 2014

As I discussed in this post, I apply for a new round of credit cards every 90 days.  Remember, this is not for you if you are a) working on improving your credit b) planning on applying for a loan such as a mortgage in the near future or c) if you periodically carry a balance on your cards.  The rewards that you'll gain in these cases will be heavily offset by either not being able to qualify for the lowest lending rate (due to recent inquiries on your credit report) or actually paying interest if you carry a balance.  Each application will typically ding your credit 2-5 points (those inquiries fall off over time and your score will go back up) thus the reasoning for applying for cards every 90 days on the same day.  The inquiries fall off roughly at the same time and on the day you apply, the other banks don't see that you applied for a card earlier in the day.  My FICO score has only approved over two years of doing this every quarter.  Before this round of applications, my score ranged from 765 - 780.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way...My quarterly "churn" happened to be this past weekend so here's an overview of the cards I applied for and why.  I'll provide an update on the results later in the week.

1)  Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature(R) Card

This card offers 25,000 miles upon approval.  Meaning no minimum spend required.  The card does offer an annual fee of $75 which is not waived for the first year.  I've been meaning to start stocking up on Alaska Miles since they introduced their partnership and award chart with Emirates.  For 100,000 miles, you can fly (one-way) from the US to the Middle East in First Class on the Emirates A380.  Not a bad way to travel especially when you know you can shower on-board.  I value Alaska miles at $.02 each making the sign-up bonus worth $500.