Friday, January 31, 2014

Last Day Before United Airlines MileagePlus Devaluation!

UPDATE 1: According to this FlyerTalk post about the MileagePlus devaluation, the effective date for the new award chart has been postponed to February 3, 2014. If you were planning to book an award that was supposed to have a reduced mileage requirement starting on February 1, 2014, United will still honor the reduced amount in the interim, but the difference will be retroactively credited to your account within 10 business days. Looks like they may be having some implementation issues, and I can't blame them since this is a major overhaul to the way award itineraries are priced. In the meantime, keep burning those miles on premium class partner airline awards!

UPDATE 2: According to this Flyertalk Post, United is being somewhat more generous than previously thought with regards to mixed itineraries. For premium class awards on United metal with a short partner connection tacked on in the same class of service and within the same region, the United-only mileage requirement is being charged, not the partner mileage requirement. In addition, for itineraries booked prior to February 3, 2013, certain changes are being allowed without triggering a mileage re-price. See the FlyerTalk post for details.

Just a quick reminder that today is the absolute last day before the massive devaluation of United Airlines miles takes place on February 1, 2014. I wrote about this more extensively in my previous post when the devaluation was first announced back in November of last year. Virtually all long-haul premium class awards on partner airlines will be effected by these changes, with some redemption requirements increasing by almost 100%. Here is the chart I compiled that documents all the changes on one-way routes to and from the Mainland U.S., Alaska, and Canada. Increases are highlighted in red:

For other regions, take a look at the old and new United Airlines award charts:

Although premium class awards on United Airlines metal have milder increases, note that if any leg of your itinerary includes partner airlines in the same class of service, the miles requirement will automatically be bumped up to partner award levels. However, if the partner legs are in a lower class of service, then the United Airlines only award level prevails. This is a bit confusing, and I'm slightly skeptical that all the awards will be pricing out correctly come February 1st.

My suggestion would be to burn as much of your United Airlines miles right now on premium class partner awards, even speculatively, since the cost of booking these awards in the future far outweighs any cancellation fees, in my opinion. From what I have seen in the past few weeks, premium award space on partner airlines is drying up fast, but there are still quite a number of good options out there, especially if you are willing to travel during off-peak dates. Good luck!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Australia September 2013 - Qantas Airways 862 Economy Class (SYD → OOL)

***This post is part 7 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

With my MyMulti 3 ticket and a roundtrip GatePass fare already paid for, it was a quick and easy process to get to the Sydney Airport. From Circular Quay Station, the trip took less than 20 minutes. Terminal 3 is now home to all domestic Qantas flights, with QantasLink finally moving their operations over from Terminal 2 last summer.

Circular Quay Station

Much like my experience in Melbourne, the entire check-in process at Terminal 3 was automated. Once I arrived, I headed over to the check-in kiosks, entered my information and printed out both the boarding pass and the checked luggage tag. I attached the tag to my large backpack and proceeded to the bag drop stations. There, I scanned my boarding pass and watched as my backpack was automatically inspected and then whisked away.

Check-in kiosks

Bag drop stations

Terminal 3 is quite fancy for a purely domestic terminal. From the grand check-in hall to the quick and efficient security screening to the wide variety of dining and shopping options airside, the entire operation reminded me far more of an international terminal.

Scattered throughout the building were advertisements touting all of the extra perks that are included in the price of a Qantas ticket, such as checked luggage, pillows, entertainment, and food. I found it surprising that Qantas hasn't already followed in the footsteps of U.S. carriers and other Australian LCCs with the unbundling of basic services on domestic routes, but I suspect it may only be a matter of time.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Australia September 2013 - Holiday Inn Old Sydney & Exploring Sydney

***This post is part 6 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

If you plan on visiting Sydney for three or more days and don't have a rental car, I would highly recommend purchasing a MyMulti weekly ticket, which is good for use on public buses, trains, ferries, and light rail. Depending on how far you want to travel outside of Central Sydney, you can choose between MyMulti 1, MyMulti 2, or MyMulti 3. MyMulti 3 includes the NSW TrainLink Intercity network, which takes you all the way to the Blue Mountains and surrounding suburbs. As of September 1, 2013, MyMulti 1 tickets can no longer be used on the ferry system, and MyMulti 2 tickets do not include the ferry to Manly. This map shows exactly how far you can travel with each MyMulti ticket type.

After arriving at the Circular Quay station, I strolled around the ferry terminal and then headed west towards The Rocks. This is the northern tip of Central Sydney, and in recent years has become a rather cosmopolitan area filled with trendy bars and nightclubs. The Holiday Inn Old Sydney is just a five-minute walk from Circular Quay on the northern terminus of George Street.

Holiday Inn Old Sydney

While the hotel had an older-style atrium layout, the overall design of the lobby was simple and elegant. A huge skylight let in plenty of natural sunlight, and a grand staircase led up to the second floor mezzanine where the breakfast buffet was served. A friendly front desk agent checked me in quickly, and although she didn't give me an upgrade as a Platinum Elite member, I was content with the complimentary (and very fast) WiFi provided to all elite members.



Room 413 was perfectly adequate. Nothing stood out in a positive or negative way, and it reminded me of any other standard mid-level hotel room in the U.S. The bathroom was a bit cramped, but the facility was very clean, and all the requisite toiletries were provided. While the hotel is known to have a stunning view of the Sydney Opera House from certain penthouse-floor rooms, mine faced an inner courtyard lined with restaurants and bars.