Monday, February 27, 2012

Reminder To Book/Rebook SPG Award Nights

Starwood Preferred Guest's annual hotel category realignment is coming March 1, 2012, so now is the time to peruse the list of changes and determine if there are any stays you should be booking or rebooking. For convenience, here is the full SPG award chart.

Not surprisingly, many SPG hotels in the larger cities across the United States are seeing their categories rise, as room rates have increased significantly in those markets during the past year. All hotels in New York City (Manhattan) and San Francisco are moving up at least one category. In addition, many hotels in China are moving up one category as well.

One bright spot I did notice was several hotels in Thailand. Both the Le Méridien Chiang Mai and Le Méridien Chiang Rai have dropped to category 1, as did the Aloft Bangkok. Coincidentally, I have a cash and points reservation at the Aloft Bangkok in early April, so I will be rebooking that stay after March 1st to take advantage of the lower redemption rate. Another hotel I will be rebooking is the Le Méridien Angkor in Cambodia, which drops from category 3 to category 2.

If you have an existing award reservation, go through the list of changes to see if your hotel has moved down in category. If so, you can rebook your stay starting on March 1st. If you have a future reservation planned at a hotel that is moving up in category, be sure to book your stay prior to March 1st so you can take advantage of the current redemption rates. Even if you are unsure of your travel plans, you should still book now since most award reservations allow for full cancellation without any penalties.

1,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Points - Act Fast!

Via Deals We Like. Enter the Go For The Emerald sweepstakes here and you can have a chance the win two OneWorld Explorer tickets in business class. These are basically round-the-world tickets that can be used on a range of OneWorld Alliance member airlines.

In addition, the first 20,000 people who enter will receive 1,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles! All you have to do is play a simple game that details some of the benefits of OneWorld Alliance elite status. When I entered about 10 minutes ago, they were already up to 12,000 entries, so act fast! I don't expect the 1,000 AAdvantage miles offer to last for more than another hour.

The website is a little buggy, so make sure you click all the way through to the end, where you can enter your name, email, and AAdvantage account number. You should see a confirmation page afterwards, and you should also receive a confirmation email.

EDIT:  Looks like the 20,000 entries have already been reached. You can still play the game and enter, but there are no guarantees that you will receive the 1,000 AAdvantage miles.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cambodia Angkor Air Finally Resumes Online Booking

In a bit of obscure airline news, Cambodia Angkor Air's website has finally fixed their online booking engine. I had been planning my Cambodia trip ever since I booked the international segments last summer, and I knew for the domestic leg from Phnom Penh (PNH) to Siem Reap (REP), I wanted to try out Cambodia Angkor Air. While it is a very short flight at 45 minutes, and their fleet of ATR 72s aren't especially comfortable, it isn't every day that you get to experience a small boutique airline halfway around the world!

Last summer, when I went on Cambodia Angkor Air's website, it directed all customers to the Vietnam Airlines website in order to book tickets. This is due to the fact that Vietnam Airlines owns a 49% stake in Cambodia Angkor Air, and they have a somewhat better online presence. However, once I was on the Vietnam Airlines website, it became clear that there was absolutely no way to book domestic Cambodia flights.

I created a thread on Flyertalk about this issue and got many responses, all basically saying that there was no current way to book domestic Cambodia Angkor Air tickets online. The only way was to either book it through your hotel, or wait until you actually arrive in Cambodia and find a travel agent.

Finally, around the end of November, someone posted on the same Flyertalk thread that Cambodia Angkor Air had relaunched their website and was now able to take online reservations. A week later, however, when I noticed the post and tried to go on the website, a message appeared stating that the booking engine was under maintenance, and to check back later. This message then stayed on there for the next three months!

Just today, when I inadvertently went on Cambodia Angkor Air's website again, I suddenly noticed that the front page had slightly changed, and a flight search function had been added. Immediately, I entered the date I needed and saw that it was indeed allowing online reservations! It accepted my Visa with no issues, and there were no additional charges for using a credit card. However, it does warn you that the name on the card must match at least one of the passengers on the ticket, and you must present the card at the airport for verification.

So if you have an upcoming trip to Cambodia, be aware that you no longer need to book the domestic leg through a hotel or travel agent. Hopefully the website will continue to remain functional from now on.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Virgin America 20% Promo Code

Promotions don't get any more simple than this! Just head on over to this link, enter your name and email, and Virgin America will send you a promo code good for 20% off your next round-trip flight between April 11 and June 13, 2012.

This offer ends February 29, 2012 or when the first 35,000 people have signed up, whichever comes first. You must complete your booking by March 31, 2012. Blackout dates are May 25 and May 28, 2012. The promo code is only valid for non-refundable Main Cabin tickets in fare classes S, L, M, U, E, H, B, or V.

New Zealand December 2011 - InterContinental Wellington

***This post is part 13 of a full trip report. The index can be found here*** 

We checked in at the InterContinental Wellington after taking a quick five-minute taxi ride from the ferry terminal. I had booked two rooms using Priority Club's cash and points redemption (20,000 points + $60 per room). Although we were only staying for one night, we decided to make the most of our time at the hotel since our anticipated tour of Wellington was scuttled by the foul weather outside.

The lobby, while not grand by any means, was beautifully adorned with Christmas decorations, including a nice gingerbread house. There was also a bar/lounge area near the entrance with plenty of comfortable chairs to relax in.

Friday, February 24, 2012

American Airlines Bans AwardWallet

Last December, I posted about American Airlines cracking down on AwardWallet. And while there may be legitimate concerns about a third-party website storing passwords and gaining access to personal information, the reasons they gave always seemed a bit disingenuous. The core issue has always been AA trying to drive more traffic onto their own website to increase revenue. After all, if people are using AwardWallet to check their miles balance, expiration dates, and even flight itineraries, why would they bother going to This issue can be seen in the same vein as AA's legal scuffle with Orbitz and Sabre last year, and I'm sure we'll continue to see AA do everything in its power to handicap competing websites that use its data.

Soon after the crackdown last December, however, AwardWallet cleverly built a workaround by way of a browser extension that effectively stored your password on your own computer and only accessed your miles balance, eliminating any excuse that AA had previously used. Unfortunately, this lasted only two months before AA took action again. Today, I received this email from AwardWallet:

"Dear Milesglu,

We regret to inform you that we will be discontinuing support for the AwardWallet browser extension on February 25, 2012. This means that you will no longer be able to track your American Airlines related information (balance, status, etc.) on

 We have been forced to take this action by American Airlines' stance toward AwardWallet. We created the browser extension in order to address American Airlines' concern that AwardWallet was collecting customers' mileage data. We believe the extension addressed this concern because it simply collected your mileage data and stored it locally on your computer. American Airlines, however, objects to the extension. It's position appears to be that AwardWallet is prohibited from providing any software tool that facilitates the ability to track the customer's American Airlines' mileage information. We think this is unfortunate.

If you have any questions about this matter please do not reply to this email, instead let's have a discussion in the forum:

Please make a note of your AAdvantage number and password as you will not be able to see it on after we make this change.

Thank you for your continued support of!"

Definitely an unfortunate turn of events, and one that I hope will not spread to other airlines in the near future. To learn more about AwardWallet or to sign up for an account, take a look at my previous post here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Zealand December 2011 - InterIslander Ferry And Wellington

***This post is part 12 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***  

After a quick one-night stay in Picton, we arrived the next morning at the InterIslander ferry terminal for our three-hour boat ride across the Cook Strait. Much like an airport terminal, there was a check-in counter, baggage drop-off, and gate area (otherwise known as a gangway for ships).

It was also very convenient that several of the larger car rental companies had offices inside the terminal, so all we had to do was leave our rental car in the parking lot and drop the keys off at the Apex counter. We also could have paid a little extra and just ferried our rental car across the strait, but we figured we really didn't need a car for our one-night stay in Wellington anyway.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Zealand December 2011 - Abel Tasman Kayaking And Hiking

***This post is part 11 of a full trip report. The index can be found here*** 

We had done some research prior to arriving at Abel Tasman National Park, and we knew that only a few tour companies offered kayaking inside the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. This is the area where you would most likely find fur seals, blue penguins, and other marine animals. Ultimately, we decided to go with the Sea Kayak Company because one of their tours fit exactly what we were looking for: half day of guided kayaking and half day of independent hiking. Although their price was a little steep at 190 NZD per person (especially since half the tour consisted of hiking on our own).

Marahau Beach at low tide

Unfortunately, the weather gods were not on our side that day, as a cloudy morning soon gave way to pouring rain by noon. The boat launch area at Marahau was beautiful nonetheless, as low tide at the beach made for some stunning and surreal scenery. The water in the bay recedes hundreds of meters out to sea during this time, and many boats remain on their side to dry until the ocean slowly creeps back in hours later. Also due to the low tide, all boats must be launched by tractors, which back up into the water until they are literally halfway submerged before finally releasing the hitch. Needless to say, this is my first time experiencing a boat launch by tractor!

After finally reaching the water, our boat quickly made its way north to Onetahuti Beach, where we disembarked and prepared for the kayak tour. By this time, the rain was starting to come down hard. Luckily the Sea Kayak Company provided us with nice dry jackets and dry bags to hold our valuables. After a quick lesson in steering and paddling, as well as safety instructions, we were on our way towards Tonga Island.

Kayaks and Tonga Island

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

3,000 AAdvantage Miles Or Up To 4,000 MileagePlus Miles For Joining Netflix

Right now, you can earn 3,000 AAdvantage miles for becoming a paid member of Netflix. This offer is only available to new subscribers. Current and previous members are ineligible. Some folks on Flyertalk have reported that despite having canceled more than three years ago, they were still unable to get the miles after signing up again, so proceed with caution if you had an old account.

I believe the cheapest plan offered right now is the streaming-only option for $7.99 per month. While I wouldn't sign up for Netflix just for the miles, it is a nice bonus if you already had plans to join in the near future. Allow 8-10 weeks for the miles to post to your account. You must link directly from this page and enter a valid American Airlines AAdvantage number to qualify for this offer.

EDIT: Here is an even better Netflix offer where you can earn up to 4,000 United MileagePlus miles after becoming a paid member. The terms and conditions are virtually identical to the offer above, except you will first earn 2,000 miles after signing up, and then you will another 2,000 miles if you pay with your MileagePlus Visa credit card. You can read more about the MileagePlus Visa here. You must link directly from this page and enter a valid MileagePlus number to qualify for this offer.

Dreamliner "Draws" Boeing Logo Across North America

This is pretty awesome indeed. A Boeing Dreamliner "drew" the numbers "787" and the corporate logo across several thousand miles of North American skies last Sunday. Gizmodo caught the plane in the act on FlightAware.

According to Boeing's vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth on the company's blog, "This wasn’t a joy ride. It was an 18-hour Maximum ETOPS (Extended Operations) Duration flight test for a 787-8 with GE engines. Our team coordinated with the many air traffic control centers, choosing the routing to avoid restricted airspace. In the end, the flight covered over 9,000 nautical miles - all of it captured by our friends at FlightAware."

This follows another etch-a-sketch drawing in the sky back in August 2011, when a 747-8 Freighter successfully completed it's certification flight test program by carving a giant "747" across the country.

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Zealand December 2011 - Road Trip Up The West Coast Of The South Island

***This post is part 10 of a full trip report. The index can be found here*** 

After arriving back in Queenstown from Milford Sound, we picked up our rental car from Apex and began our three-day road trip up the West Coast of the South Island. Driving is an ideal way to take in the beauty of New Zealand, as it allows for more freedom in deciding the length of time to stay at each location. The only set plans we had for our three days on the road were seeing the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, visiting Paparoa National Park, and hiking and kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park.

$25 For $75 Towards Round-Trip Airfare On JetBlue

Yesterday, I posted about the JetBlue deal via LivingSocial for round-trip airfare from Long Beach (LGB) to Anchorage (ANC), Seattle (SEA), or Portland (PDX). Today, they've expanded upon this deal and made the savings even bigger. Spend $25 and receive a $75 promo code for use on a round-trip JetBlue flight between San Francisco (SFO) and Boston (BOS), New York (JFK), or Fort Lauderdale (FLL). JetBlue offers free DIRECTV and satellite radio, and one free checked bag as well.

Tickets must be purchased by April 6, 2012 at If you do not redeem the promo code by April 6th, you will receive the original amount paid ($25) as a LivingSocial credit to be used on a future deal. Travel to Boston, New York, or Fort Lauderdale (both departing and returning) must be completed between February 21 and May 23, 2012. Blackout dates apply from April 5 through April 16, 2012. Any changes or cancellations will incur a fare differential plus additional fees. Limit one per purchaser, plus an additional as a gift. Click here for full terms and conditions.

This deal is also available for departure from Boston (BOS) or New York (JFK). Unfortunately, the deal for departure from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) is sold out!

EDIT: These deals have already sold out!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

$25 For $50 Toward Round-Trip Airfare On JetBlue

A few days ago I posted about the Virgin America Groupon deal, which lasted only a few hours before it was sold out. Now JetBlue is getting in on the action through LivingSocial - get in on this deal before it runs out too! Spend $25 and receive a $50 promo code for use on a round-trip JetBlue flight between Long Beach (LGB) and Anchorage (ANC), Seattle (SEA), or Portland (PDX). JetBlue offers free DIRECTV and satellite radio, and one free checked bag as well.

Tickets must be purchased by June 6, 2012 at If you do not redeem the promo code by June 6th, you will receive the original amount paid ($25) as a LivingSocial credit to be used on a future deal. Travel to Seattle or Portland (both departing and returning) must be completed between February 28 and June 13, 2012. Travel to Anchorage must be completed between May 20 and July 18, 2012. Blackout dates apply from April 6 through April 22, 2012. Any changes or cancellations will incur a fare differential plus additional fees. Limit one per purchaser, plus an additional as a gift. Click here for full terms and conditions.

Hmmmm... I have always wanted to visit Alaska, though the date restrictions really aren't conducive to viewing the northern lights.

EDIT: This deal has already sold out!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reduced Mileage Awards With Citi AAdvantage Card

If you have a Citi AAdvantage card, you can book round-trip American Airlines award flights with reduced mileage requirements from now through March 31, 2012. Every quarter, Citi releases a list of select destinations within the 48 contiguous United States and Canada for reduced mileage awards. They break down the list according to the specific Citi AAdvantage card type you have, but judging from what I have seen, the destinations are identical for every card. The only difference is that some card types offer a discount of 7,500 miles, while others only offer 5,000 miles. You must call the American Airlines AAdvantage award reservations desk at 1-800-882-8880 in order to book your reduced mileage tickets. Unfortunately, the $25 phone reservation fee will apply. Your booking and travel must be completed by March 31, 2012.

The list of destinations is somewhat limited, as it features mostly smaller, obscure markets that typically aren't very popular with travelers. However, there are a couple of interesting destinations that might be worthwhile. For example, I see Vancouver and Montreal listed for only 17,500/42,500 miles round-trip if you have the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Visa or MasterCard, or the Citi AAdvantage Select American Express. I also see Atlanta, New Orleans, Austin, and Richmond for 17,500/42,500 miles round-trip as well. Take a look at the full list of destinations; there may be some good deals to be had if you are planning on visiting those destinations anyway.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Southwest 50,000 Bonus Points Offer Still Alive

Southwest ran a great 50,000 bonus points offer twice in 2011, but each time, the promotion only lasted about a month. Well it appears they are now making the 50,000 bonus points more of a standard offer, at least for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card. Previously, both the Premier Card and the Plus Card carried the 50,000 bonus points offer - now the Plus Card has been reduced to only 25,000 bonus points.

The offer remains the same as the previous versions: earn 50,000 bonus points after your first purchase, which translates into more than $833 worth of Wanna Get Away fares. In addition, you will receive 6,000 bonus points every year on your cardmember anniversary. The $99 annual fee is not waived, as usual. However, the 6,000 anniversary bonus points essentially translate into $100 worth of Wanna Get Away fares, which covers the annual fee in every subsequent year. The earn rate is two points per dollar spent at Southwest, and one point per dollar spent everywhere else.

For details regarding the Rapid Rewards program, take a look at my previous blog post. There is a personal and a business version of the Premier Card, and evidence on Flyertalk suggests that people have successfully applied for both and received both bonuses, but YMMV as always, so proceed with caution when doing multiple applications. No word yet on when this deal will expire.

EDIT: This deal has expired. The current offers for all versions of the card are now 25,000 bonus points.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

1,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points For TurboTax Online

File your taxes with any TurboTax Online Federal product (Federal Free Edition, Deluxe, Premier, Home and Business, and Business) and receive 1,000 Rapid Rewards points. You must file between February 2 and April 17, 2012. This offer is only available to Rapid Rewards members with a valid account number and name. Registration is required.

Once you register, you will be directed to the start page of TurboTax Online, where you can login or create a new account to get started. Note that you do not need to finish and file your taxes in one sitting, but logging in each time ensures that you get your Rapid Rewards points once you complete your taxes.

This looks to be a pretty straightforward offer, but it seems to only be applicable to the TurboTax Online products. So if you purchase a hard copy from Costco or Best Buy, it doesn't look like it you will be able to get the bonus points.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hyatt Q1 2012 Promotion Finally Arrives

While all the other major hotel chains have already announced their first quarter promotions weeks ago, Hyatt has held off until now. From February 1 through April 30, 2012, every four eligible nights will earn you an incrementally larger bonus according to the chart below:

In addition, if you have a Chase Hyatt Visa, you can earn even more points on top of the standard promotion at the following rates:

Therefore, if you stay 16 nights between now and April 30, 2012, and you carry the Hyatt Visa, you will earn a total of 55,000 bonus points! Note that you do not need to actually book your nights with the Hyatt Visa. As long as you have the card, you will earn the additional bonus points. Register before March 31, 2012!