Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran in 2011, but the integration of the two airlines is still underway. The latest step in that process is the combination of the AirTran A+ Rewards program with Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. On November 2, 2014, A+ Rewards members who don’t already have Southwest accounts will have new Rapid Rewards accounts set up for them automatically, and their A+ Rewards points will be converted into Rapid Rewards points.
This automatic process will try to match accounts based on user information like name and address, but if you have accounts with both programs and may have used a different address or name with the different accounts, you may have to verify your accounts with Southwest to make sure they’re linked correctly. In fact, the airline is offering 750 Rapid Rewards Bonus Points for doing just that.
There are more details over at Frequent Flier. If you do have accounts with both AirTran and Southwest, your new combined balance might be enough for a flight or upgrade. If you still need a few extra miles, try the FlightNuts listings or exchange reward points and flight miles at Points.com.
American Airlines and US Airways (the two merged recently) have announced eight new domestic routes to start running this fall from their hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
There are two new routes beginning September 3 with service between:
Charlotte and Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR), operated twice per day as US Airways Express with Bombardier CRJs.
Philadelphia and Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR), operated twice per day as US Airways Express with Bombardier CRJs.
The remaining routes will launch October 2:
Charlotte and Evansville, Indiana (EVV), operated three times per day as US Airways Express with a Bombardier CRJ
Charlotte and Fort Wayne, Indiana (FWA), operated daily as US Airways Express with a Bombardier CRJ
Chicago and Bismarck (BIS), operated daily as American Eagle with an Embraer ERJ-145
Dallas/Fort Worth and Bismarck, operated daily as American Eagle with an Embraer ERJ-145
Philadelphia and Fort Wayne, Indiana, operated twice-daily as US Airways Express with a Bombardier CRJ
Phoenix and Cleveland (CLE), operated daily by US Airways with an Airbus A320
Customers can already book travel on most of these routes. Need some extra miles for an American Airlines or US Airways flight? Check the FlightNuts listings or head over to Points.com and exchange reward points and flight miles between your existing programs or trade your points and miles with other members.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Etihad Airwayshas just announced what is quite possibly the most opulent air travel option short of buying or chartering your own jet. It’s “The Residence”, a suite with a bathroom (with shower—limited to 4 minutes), living room, and bedroom.
It comes with a butler to make sure everything goes smoothly and a chef to make meals to order in case you’re not into the gourmet options on the menu. So how much is a ticket? Apparently getting a “residence” for your London to Abu Dhabi journey will cost $42,000. Other Etihadflights are more reasonable, of course.
There are more details over at FlyerTalk.
The travel site FlyerTalk is a really good source for learning how to maximize your miles. In a recent post, Rick Ingersoll (aka The Frugal Travel Guy), reviews the state of the miles-maximizing “game.” With policy-changing and belt-tightening at airlines, the game, Rick says, has changed a lot in the last 20 years. It’s less about mileage runs and more about credit cards.
Today, he says, the “game” is played primarily by getting big credit cards sign up bonuses and then maximizing your credit card bonus categories. These are the “big fish.” And both of these activities require good credit.
As Rick explains:
Without good credit, you are restricted to minuscule sized promos and the one or two debit cards that offer 1 point per $1 or 1 point per $2 spent of your own liquid assets.
With good credit, you will be involved in earning 25,000 miles or more at a time for doing the things we normally do in a day anyway. Your step number one is getting your credit score and either raise to 700+ or plan on acting in a manner which will maintain that threshold if you are already at 700 or above. This is a non-negotiable must for those interested in accumulating a large number of miles and hotel points.
In fact, having good credit is not just important for maximizing your miles. It’s also critically important when it comes to buying a house or getting favorable credit card terms, miles aside. If you don’t know your credit score, you should definitely check it ASAP. Don’t know how? Try using MyCredit Tracker.
Image from Flickr (CC)
Frontier Airlines is transforming from a low-cost carrier into what the industry calls an ultra low-cost carrier (or ULCC). What this means in practice is that it is lowering base ticket prices, but “unbundling” its services so it can charge for every extra amenity. There’s a certain economic rationale to unbundling. If some passengers don’t want peanuts, it’s more efficient to sell them to the passengers who do and reduce the base ticket price by a small margin for everyone else. The airline saves money (even if it’s just “peanuts”—har!) and so does the passenger.
This kind of unbundling first emerged when airlines started charging for checked bags and snacks. Frontier and other ULCC’s, however, are almost atomizing their offerings.
[Frontier] says it’s lowering base fares an average of 12%, but it’s also adding a fee to store a bag in the overhead bins. Frontier already charges for checked bags. (You are still allowed to bring one personal item, a brief case or purse for instance, that can fit under the seat. )
That does seem simple enough, but if you buy a ticket online, want to select your own seat, and check a bag or place one in the overhead, there are dozens of possible combinations of fares, fees and seats, depending on whether you are member of Frontier’s loyalty program or not. If you want a seat with extra room, which is what Classic Plus stands for, that’s another calculation. The bottom line is that you can pay $20, $25, $35 or $50 for a carry-on, while the opportunity to choose a seat will add $3, $5, $8 or $15 to the ticket cost.
It’s this kind of unbundling that has made Spirit one of the most profitable airlines, and Frontier is looking to follow in its footsteps. But this kind of unbundling also makes people feel like they’re being nickel-and-dimed. Spirit gets more complaints per 100,000 passengers than any other airline, according to a recent analysis by the Public Interest Research Group.
Image from Flickr (CC)
The Make-a-Wish Foundation, as you may know, grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses so they can do really unique, fun things with the limited time they have. It’s good work, to say the least.
More than 74 percent of these wishes involve travel. And with the organization granting a new wish every 38 minutes or so, that adds up to several thousand round-tip flights each year. So as it turns out, donating miles is a really, really effective way of helping the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
The Make-a-Wish Foundation is matching donation up to 4 million miles for the rest of April. If you’ve got some spare miles and want to earn yourself some good karma, donate here. They’re taking Delta, United, and US Airways miles.
Image of a kid getting to be a pilot from Wikimedia Commons
Skyscanner, the UK-based flight search engine, recently decided to test the durability of eight popular hard-shell rolling suitcases. Each suitcase was subjected to several bizarre yet punishing tests. The tests ranged from kicking the suitcases off of a platform to whacking them with a sledgehammer. The final test? Dropping a car on all eight suitcases, as documented below.
Skyscanner‘s core business isn’t crushing suitcases, of course—it’s a flight search engine like Kayak. The company has been growing incredibly quickly in Europe and is trying to get a foothold in the North American market (that might explain this media-friendly stunt). Regardless, it’s a useful site, and it’s worth trying Skyscanner out if you’re looking for a new way to find cheap fares.
Last month, a KLM flight from Amsterdam, Holland, to Birmingham, England, was struck by lightning three times. Everything was fine, though. Lightning strikes aren’t unheard of and pilots and flight attendants know how to deal with them. What was unusual about this case, however, was that one of the lightning strikes was caught in a photo.
In other news, Air France/KLM picked up 2014 “Program of the Year” award for European or African airlines at the Freddie Awards last week.
The 2014 Annual Freddie Awards took place last Thursday. The Freddies, if you didn’t know, are kind of like the Oscars but for frequent traveler programs. (In other words, they’re almost nothing like the Oscars.) Established in 1988, the Freddies were named after famed British airline innovator Sir Freddie Laker. The festivities went down at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
There are separate awards for each of three regions: the Americas, Europe and Africa, and the Middle East and Asia/Oceania. In each region, there are various awards for the best airline and hotel rewards programs.
In the Americas region, American Airlines’ AAdvantage Program took home the big “Program of the Year” award for airlines for the third year in a row. Marriott took home the “Program of the Year” award for hotels for the seventh year in a row. Air France/KLM and Virgin Australia cleaned up in the other regions. USA Today has a little detail on how the voting happens if you’re curious.
Here are the full results…
Best Customer Service — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards
Best Promotion — Avianca – LifeMiles
Best Elite Program — American Airlines – AAdvantage
Best Redemption Ability — Avianca – LifeMiles
Program of the Year — American Airlines – AAdvantage
Best Customer Service — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best Promotion — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best Elite Program — Hyatt – Gold Passport
Best Redemption Ability — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Program of the Year — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best Affinity Credit Card — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards Premier Card
Europe and Africa
Best Customer Service — SAS – EuroBonus
Best Promotion — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
Best Elite Program — Lufthansa – Miles & More
Best Redemption Ability — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
Program of the Year — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
Best Customer Service — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Promotion — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Elite Program — Starwood – Starwood Preferred Guest
Best Redemption Ability — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Program of the Year — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Affinity Credit Card — Flying Blue American Express
The Middle East and Asia/Oceania
Best Customer Service — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Promotion — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Elite Program— Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Redemption Ability — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Program of the Year — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Customer Service — Starwood – Starwood Preferred Guest
Best Promotion — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Elite Program — Hyatt – Gold Passport
Best Redemption Ability — Starwood – Starwood Preferred Guest
Program of the Year — Hyatt – Gold Passport
Best Affinity Credit Card — ADIB Etihad Guest Card
Just a PSA for any Frontier flyers out there. Frontier is offering double frequent flyer miles on 26 routes. The offer is available for a month on each route. Here are the routes and dates:
Between Cleveland and Ft. Myers, Atlanta, Orlando, or Phoenix between June 13 and July 13
Between Cleveland and Raleigh/Durham, Seattle, or Tampa between June 15 and July 15
Between Cleveland and Ft. Lauderdale or Ft. Myers between June 14 and July 14
Between Denver and Bakersfield between May 16 and June 16
Between Denver and Idaho Falls between June 12 and July 12
Between Denver and Memphis between March 7 and May 7
Between Denver and Missoula between June 13 and July 13
Between Denver and Sioux City between June 12 and July 12
Between St. Louis and Portland between June 15 and July 15
Between St. Louis and San Francisco between June 13 and July 13
Between Trenton/Princeton and Milwaukee between June 14 and July 14
Between Trenton/Princeton and Minneapolis between June 13 and July 13
Between Trenton/Princeton and St. Louis between June 15 and July 15
Between Trenton/Princeton and Indianapolis between April 29 and May 29
Between Trenton/Princeton and Nashville between April 30 and May 30
Between Trenton/Princeton and St. Augustine between May 2 and June 2
Between Wilmington/Philadelphia and Atlanta between April 29 and May 29
Between Wilmington/Philadelphia and Detroit between April 29 and May 29
Between Chicago-Midway and Harrisburg, PA, between June 13 and July 13
Between Chicago-Midway and Knoxville, TN, between June 15 and July 15
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