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.’”

Reader and friend of the blog Bill writes in:

A friend of ours doesn’t think she’ll be traveling anymore and wants to give us (insert drumroll here) 300,000 USAir Dividend Miles. I looked on their website and their transfer page has a dropdown that only goes to 50,000 and has a charge of $500 (Plus 7%) for that. That would mean it would cost about $3300 to transfer 300,000 miles, which would be about the same as just buying the tickets in the first place. Surely I’m misunderstanding this. If not, why don’t they just say “you can’t do that”?

You’re not misunderstanding this, Bill. Transferring miles comes with limits, and with high price tags. Airline-internal programs (between friends) and the points exchange offered by Points.com (between strangers) are both pricey.

At those prices, you’re frankly better off buying miles outright from US Airways. (I generally don’t recommend that either, given the high price, but US Airways has a 100% bonus running right now through November 15, 2010, for you to consider. Anyway…)

So what’s the best way to transfer miles to another person for award redemption?

Simple. Don’t do it.

Your very generous friend should just book the tickets for you, rather than transferring miles to your account. This is perfectly legitimate, according to the US Airways Dividend Miles program rules:

Transferring awards

1. You may redeem your miles for award tickets for use by any person you designate. Simply provide the passenger name(s) at the time reservations are made.
2. Name changes are not permitted. If you or the person you designate are unable to travel, you may redeposit your miles into your account for a redeposit fee.

Of course, you’ll want to pay your friend for the cost of any taxes and fees incurred. She will be stuck with those costs when she books the ticket, so stay on her good side and reimburse her quickly.

One other warning/recommendation: There have been reports of travelers being questioned by airline staff when the travelers aren’t the ones whose mileage account paid for the tickets. Some folks with high frequent flier miles balances have sold their awards, which violates the program policies. So, to avoid a hassle, make sure your friend writes a short note on your behalf. The note should simply read something like this:

To whom it may concern,
I have given Bill a gift of this ticket, issued with miles from my account [number]. Bill has not paid me anything for these tickets. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at [phone number].
[Bill's generous friend]

Good luck getting the tickets you want. And consider yourself lucky to have such a generous fiend.

- Reader mail: Can I transfer points from one airline to another?
- Is a new frequent-flyer point exchange a great opportunity or a new ripoff?

Categorized in: frequent flyer miles
Posted by: Mark Ashley

For those who complain about the state of airline travel, remember this: At least you don’t have maggots dripping out of the overhead bin onto your head.

Yes, maggots. Some genius decides to bring a “container of spoiled meat” onboard and the maggots run free. A delight for passengers, and a PR nightmare for US Airways, to be sure.

Video below, and the full story here. For those who may be squeamish, be forewarned. There will be maggots.

Categorized in: bizarre

Upgraded: Airline mergers, speculated and real
Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, it’s the time of the year when speculation arises again that US Airways and United will merge. How many times have we heard this before? Six? Nudge me when it actually happens.

In the non-hypothetical realm, British Airways and Iberia have actually merged.

Upgraded: Speculation of pay toilets on Ryanair
Another recurring story: Ryanair pursuing pay toilets again. Yawn. I feel like Ryanair’s PR department has a timer, to see how long it’s been since they’ve been in the news. It’s been a few months! Quick! Roll out the pay toilet idea again!

Downgraded: Kayak hotel search
Kayak has made it harder for fans of a particular hotel loyalty program to search for their brands of choice. As Ric Garrido points out, it’s no longer possible to, say, search for Starwood hotels.

Downgraded: PDA in Dubai
Just another warning for tourists heading to Dubai: Don’t kiss in public. Add that to your other Dubai related warnings, like not bringing melatonin along on your trip to fight jet lag if you want to stay out of jail.

Downgraded: Voluntary bumps
Most travelers want to get from point A to point B at the scheduled time. Others want to get bumped, to collect the voluntary denied boarding (VDB) vouchers. And according to the NYT’s profile of a frequent bumpee, the airlines have gotten better at predicting who will show up for a flight. Add to that the fact that planes are really full these days, and people are decreasingly likely to volunteer for a bump. Involuntary denied boarding, interestingly, is going up.

Categorized in: travel

US Airways is rebranding their Dividend Miles program as “GoAwards” and making the miles worth less. What a shock.

This should come as no surprise, given that US Airways’ Dividend Miles program had a more generous redemption structure than Star Alliance partner United. The US Airways release says nothing about partner awards — we await the next shoe to drop — but you should expect a similar scale. (For the time being, newbie alliance member Continental is the go-to carrier for cashing in alliance awards now.)

The biggest change is the introduction of two additional tiers of awards. Instead of the old “saver” and “standard” awards, the new program introduces “Off-peak,” “Low, “Medium,” and “High.” Delta added a third tier to their program recently; US Airways now has four. Whoo. As the names imply, the cost will vary according to the desirability of those dates.

As per the FAQs, the discounted “off peak” seats are available in a small window: “Off-peak awards are available from North America to Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean September 1 – 30; to South America May 1- 31 and October 1 – 31; and to Europe January 15 – February 28.”

So, while a saver business class award from the US to Europe now costs 80,000, it will soon cost either 60,000, 100,000, 200,000, or a whopping 350,000 miles, depending on the dates. And those 60,000 mile off-peak seats are only available for six weeks in winter. OUCH. And what are the odds that the 100,000 seats aren’t much more readily available?

The new program into effect January 6, 2010. Check the old award chart. Then compare to the new award chart. See where you stand. And if you can, book now.

Especially if you’re taking advantage of the great deal on purchased miles I posted about last week, as reader Chris notes in the comments.

Also, Preferred members of the program will not be exempted from blackout dates, of which there are several, though, oddly, they are different from the current program’s blackout dates.

This is a disappoint. Not a surprise, given United and Delta’s recent devaluations, but a disappointment nonetheless.


Periodically, US Airways runs a sale on buying their frequent flyer miles. Usually, buying miles is no bargain. But when they offer you double the miles for the same price…

Over at View from the Wing, the bottom line is clear:

With this offer you can buy 40,000 miles for $1030, get 80,000 miles in return, and fly business class from the US to Europe. Or if you and a friend each have 40,000 miles, you transfer to each other for $430 apiece, and you now both have 80,000 miles — enough for a business class Star Alliance partner award to Europe.

And don’t forget that US Airways doesn’t block Star Alliance partner flights like United does. This is a great deal, and a great way to book a complex ticket in business class at a low price.