Upgraded: Pancakes
Want to hide your junk from the TSA’s nude-o-scopes? Stuff pancakes made of explosives into your underwear. What?!

Upgraded, potentially: Star Alliance in Australia
Somewhat surprisingly, Virgin Blue is rumored to be interested in joining Star Alliance. Such a deal, if real, would likely make a pan-global Virgin alliance moot. So much for that theory. But for Star Alliance fans, a Virgin Blue tie-up would really open up a wide range of Australian destinations.

Upgraded, barely: US Airways lifetime status
US Airways has joined its peers and rolled out a lifetime elite level. One-million miles flown on US Airways flights yields only lowest-tier status, with Star Silver status attached. And it’s not even for life — you have to maintain activity at least every three years to retain the status. Pfft. Other airlines offer a much better deal. (Especially AA, among the US-based airlines, which counts all earned miles, and not just flown miles, when calculating million-miler status.) For a nice rundown of the various airlines’ million-miler options, see the Global Traveller’s breakdown.

Downgraded: Venezuelan humor
Unclear if this is truth or fiction, but a flight attendant was allegedly detained by Venezuelan authorities for announcing the time at the destination as “local Chavez time.” Chavez time? “In December 2007, Venezuela created its own time zone, moving the clock back half an hour on a permanent basis, and according to the U.S. embassy report, ‘the crew member was likely trying to remind passengers of this and to suggest they turn their watches back 30 minutes.’”


As we near year-end, it’s mileage run season, as travelers who play the frequent flier game make sure they’ve crossed the thresholds they need to attain or retain their elite status for another year. Some travelers are about to embark on a mileage run — unnecessary travel that’s solely for the purpose of mileage accrual.

There are those who embrace the mileage run — like my mom, again, this year — and those who think that the people doing mileage runs are off their rockers.

Spencer Howard sends in this animated video of a conversation between one person who has sipped perhaps one glass too many from the mileage run Kool Aid, and a colleague who thinks he’s an idiot or worse.

If there’s a critique to be made, I have to say his cents-per-mile is not particularly good…

I laughed, I cried, it was better than “Cats.” Watch it below.

Categorized in: elite status
02
Nov
2010

It’s Election Day in the USA, and I’m obsessively watching the returns, so here are a few quick nuggets you should be aware of, if you’re looking to upgrade your travel experience:

FareCompare wants you to go on a mileage run
The folks at FareCompare are running a sweepstakes of sorts, offering the lucky winner the opportunity to go on a mileage run for up to 15,000 miles of travel on the airline of their choice. If you’re just shy of elite status (re)qualification and have time to kill, it can’t hurt to enter.

OpenSkies knocks $200 off fares to Paris
All-premium carrier (and British Airways subsidiary) OpenSkies has a promo code for $200 off flights from New York to Paris if you book and fly by November 30, 2010. Promo code is PAR200DO.

Citibank brings back the 75,000-mile American AAdvantage bonus
Well, that didn’t take long… While the mega-bonuses on new Citibank/American Airlines credit cards ended on October 31, a new offer is already up. 75,000 miles after $4000 spend within 6 months, with no annual fee. Not quite as easy to attain as the last round of offers, but still a fine, fine way to collect some major mileage balances. (via Gary Leff)

Now, back to the polls…


United and Continental, though merged as a corporate entity, are still operating as two separate airlines, with two separate licenses from the federal government. And of more immediate importance to the frequent traveler, they still maintain two distinct frequent flier programs for now. So it is of some interest when the merged company announces that elite-level members of both airlines now have upgrade privileges on both airlines.

But much as merging airlines face internal strife over the seniority lists of pilots and flight attendants, who has the “seniority” among customers with similarly-fat elite-qualifying mileage balances? As of late yesterday, that’s been clarified.

For travel on Continental:

When seats are available, upgrades are automatically confirmed by elite level*. The chart below details when an upgrade may be confirmed, and if your benefit can be shared with one guest traveling with you on the same reservation.

Status

CO Presidential Platinum

CO Platinum

UA Global Services

UA Premier Executive 1K

CO Gold

UA Premier Executive

CO Silver

UA Premier

Prior to departure, confirmed as early as

144 hours

120 hours

120 hours

120 hours

72 hours

72 hours

24 hours

24 hours

Extend benefit to a guest?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

N/A

N/A



* Premier Associate® members are not eligible for Elite upgrades on Continental.

For travel on United:

This is an adaptation of what I’ve been able to glean from the United and Continental sites:

Status

UA Global Services

UA Premier Executive 1K

UA Premier Executive

CO Presidential Platinum

CO Platinum

CO Gold

UA Premier

CO Silver

Prior to departure, confirmed as early as

120 hours

100 hours

72 hours

72 hours

72 hours

72 hours

48 hours

48 hours

Extend benefit to a guest?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

It’s interesting that United is lumping all Continental elites with Star Alliance Gold status together in the same basket, while Continental is differentiating within the United-internal hierarchy. I suppose this indicates that Continental’s IT systems are more nimble than United’s which comes as no surprise. The end effect: Those on the very top of the United food chain come out slightly ahead of those on the Continental scheme.

In any case, United elites will still be favored on United aircraft, and Continental elites will be favored on Continental aircraft.

And best of luck clearing those upgrades, regardless of the color and design of your card…


Via View from the Wing, an interesting offer from bmi, the British member of Star Alliance: instant Silver membership status in bmi’s Diamond Club.

Silver membership in bmi comes in as Star Alliance Silver status.

The value of Silver status varies, depending on the alliance member you’re traveling on. But as Gary points out, that means you’re exempt from checked baggage fees on United, US Airways, and Continental. (Links go to the baggage policy pages.)

The only possible downside: If you’re reserving your tickets with your bmi Silver status, you won’t be able to collect miles with another program, should that be your preference. Your bmi status won’t help much with domestic upgrades, which rely primarily on status with the operating airline.

That said, the bmi program isn’t bad for earning-and-burning miles. At all. (See the earnings charts and the spending charts.)

Check the offer for yourself.

Update: Deal gone. Link dead.

Categorized in: bmi, elite status, Star Alliance

In October, United announced that they were moving to an “unlimited” upgrade system from their electronic certificate system. But as readers chimed in, one of the biggest complaints came from top-tier 1K members. The quarterly allotment of confirmed upgrades within North America was going away, and with that, a big perk of upgrade security.

United must have gotten a lot of complaints, as they’re reinstating the so-called “regional” upgrades:

1K® members will continue to earn Regional Upgrades
Sometimes no change is good news. After our last announcement, we heard from our 1K members how much they value their Regional Upgrades. To thank them for their ongoing loyalty, we’ve decided to continue issuing Regional Upgrades to 1Ks, even after the Unlimited Domestic Upgrades program launches.

That gives top-tier elites the best of both worlds: A reserved upgrade if booked in advance (and if United releases seats for upgrade early…) and the top of the free-upgrade list if they’re sweating it out at the gate.

And entry-level elites don’t really lose anything here. The 1Ks would be ahead of them in line, anyway.

Separately, United and Continental announced that reciprocal “unlimited” upgrade privileges will roll out in mid-2010. No word yet on what the hierarchy will be; I assume that, in a tie, UA 1Ks will still outrank CO platinums…

And on the semi-upgrade front: Continental elites will also have free access to the Economy Plus section on United flights — a privilege which United hasn’t been extending to other Star Alliance partner travelers.