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September 17, 2009

Double Miles De Rigueur

Filed under: American Airlines,Mileage Plus,Southwest,United Airlines — Chris @ 11:17 pm

Most of the Bay Area’s biggest carriers are piling on the miles for frequent flyers this fall, making it easier than ever to attain or maintain elite status for next year. American gets the credit for kicking off this latest mileage bonus trend, followed by United. Then today, Southwest joined the party. Here are the various deals:

>Southwest: Rapid Rewards members who book and travel between Sept 17 and Oct 31 get one bonus Rapid Rewards credit per one-way flight in addition to normal earnings. This means you’ll earn four credits for every round trip, so if you make four round trips during the promotional period, you’ll earn 16 credits, enough for a free flight. Business Select customers will REALLY like this offer because they’ll earn 4.5 credits per round trip for flights less than 750 miles and six round trip credits for longer flights. Registration is required:

>American AAdvantage members get double elite qualifying miles now through Dec 15. Register at

>United Mileage Plus is offering double miles OR double segments, but not both through Dec 15. Register for double miles here: at If you typically fly more short-stage flights, go for the segments. Register here:

Also on the mileage front…..

Elite bonuses: United is making a special offer to Elite members who will earn at least 35,000 miles by the end of the year. They’ll get to choose between a one-time Red Carpet Club pass ($50 value) and 7,500 bonus miles. If you are Premier Exec and earn at least 75,000 by the end of the year, you get two Red Carpet passes ($100 value) or 15,000 miles. 1K Members who earn at least 125k miles get two systemwide upgrades or 25,000 miles. (You must sign on to your Mileage Plus account to register.)

American’s making a similar offer to it’s elite flyers: Gold members who fly between 40,000 and 50,000 miles by year’s end will be able to choose between two 500-mile upgrades, a one day Admirals Club pass or 7,500 bonus miles. Platinums who fly 75,000 to 100,000 miles choose four 500-mile upgrades or two Admirals Club one-day passes, or 15,000 bonus miles or one-year Gold status for a friend. Executive Plat members who fly 125,000 EQMs by year’s end can choose two one-way systemwide upgrades, a one-year Admirals Club membership, 25,000 bonus miles or the ability to gift a friend AAdvantage Gold status for a year.


August 31, 2009

Summer Airline News: Bag fees, AA shrinkage, nerds, Wi-Fi, more

BAG FEES CONTINUE TO RISE. Virgin America has increased its bag fee to $20 for every checked bag. Meanwhile, nearly every major carrier has quietly raised fees for checked bags to $25 for the first, and $30 for the second (that’s an additional $110 round trip if you check two bags…). Some airlines will knock off $5 per bag if you pay the fee online. For international flights, the new custom is one bag free, then $50 for the second bag. (As usual, fees don’t apply to first/business or elite level frequent flyers.) Southwest remains the only major carrier not charging for checked bags.

AA SHRINKS IN THE BAY. American has eliminated the once popular “Nerd Bird” flights between San Jose and Austin, (is the techie crowd switching over to more teleconferencing? Or is it the economy?) It’s also cut its RJ flights between San Jose and San Diego and reduced frequencies between SJC and Orange County.  With Virgin America, Southwest, United and American all offering nonstop flights between SFO and Orange County, you just knew that one of them had to pull the plug. American will stop flying the route on Nov. 18. We think it’s only a matter of time before the great, shrinking United does the same.

HEY NERDS: YOU CAN STILL GET THERE FROM HERE. About the time American announced it was dumping the Nerd Bird flights, Alaska Air swooped in and announced a single new daily nonstop between SJC and Austin. The flight originates in Portland.

JETBLUE: MORE SFO, LESS OAK AND SJC. Hat tip to the fantastic Cranky Flier blog for this tidbit: “JetBlue will kill one JFK and one Washington/Dulles flight from Oakland. Those airplanes will now become a second daily flight from SFO to both JFK and Boston. JetBlue will also add two more daily flights to Long Beach from SFO and a single additional daily flight from Oakland to Long Beach. Those new Long Beach slots are coming from the three daily Long Beach – San Jose flights which are going away.”

MORE CREDIT CARD OFFERS FROM UAL. Chase is now offering United customers some new credit card flavors. The one that tempts me the most (since I lost Premier status) includes access to EconomyPlus seats ($275/yr). Another provides includes membership to the Red Carpet Club ($375/yr). Another gives Mileage Plus bonuses (such as triple miles for United purchases, double miles for everything else), paving the way to faster free flights ($130/yr). Details here.

UNITED CUTS REDEMPTION FEES. United has unilaterally dumped those obnoxious $75 fees for last minute Mileage Plus redemptions. Good move! Seemed mighty unfair to charge a fee for something that did not cost the airline a penny! (Interesting….other airlines have not matched this move.)

MY WI-FI EXPERIENCE. Your BAT editor has used in-flight wi-fi twice so far and was very satisfied with the experiences (The Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi system is now available on all Virgin America and AirTran flights and on about 60% of Delta planes. It’s also on American’s flights between SFO and JFK and should be on United’s PS flights at some point later this year.)  Signing on is simple. The connection is as good as the one I have at my office (except when streaming video.) The only downside is that wi-fi hogs battery power  (and the only carrier that offers in-seat power at ALL seats is Virgin America.) So my laptop shut down a couple hours into the four-hour AirTran flight between SFO and ATL—so I’m not sure I got my three-hour’s worth for $12.95.

ON-TIME PERFORMANCE CONTINUES TO IMPROVE. The DOT says that 76.1% of the flights operated by the nation’s 19 largest airlines arrived on time in June, compared with just 70.8% in June 2008. There’s a combination of factors at play here, including less congestion and more padding of schedules on the part of airlines. HOWEVER, NYC airports are still in the pits. Despite on-time improvements nearly everywhere, New York’s three airports are STILL stuck at the bottom of the list for major airports. JFK, Newark and LaGuardia airports ranked 29th, 30th and 31st, respectively, for on-time arrivals at the nation’s 31 largest airports.

PLANES ARE STILL FULL. Don’t’ think that the down economy means you might find an empty seat next to you on the plane this summer. Airlines are pulling their large planes out of the skies, parking them in the desert, and using smaller planes instead. They are also cutting back on flight frequencies. As a result, most major carrier planes are running 80-90 percent full this summer…about the same as last summer.

HOW MUCH ARE THEY MAKING IN LUGGAGE FEES? According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, airlines are raking in the bucks when it comes to those obnoxious new checked luggage fees. American leads the pack at $108 million. Delta’s earned $103 million in fees. Which airline has made the LEAST on baggage fees (since it does not charge for the first two bags)? Southwest, of course, at just $6 million. And it even managed to turn a profit in the second quarter!

AMEX HONORING CLEAR CARD DISPUTES. If you charged your Clear Card on AMEX and disputed it, it looks like you should be getting your money back. BAT reader D. Cumpston was the first to email us with the good news: “I got a very welcome letter from AMEX last week saying, ‘We would like to advise you that the status of your claim on your account from Verified Identity Pass Inc. We suspended the amount of $179 and advised you we would contact the merchant on your behalf. Outcome: This dispute has been resolved in your favor. The merchant has not yet provided the information necessary to resolve your claim. Therefore we have issued a credit to your account and removed the previously suspended amount…’ NICE!” Thanks, Amex!

SPEAKING OF CLEAR CARD. After several recent Sunday afternoon flights and LOOOONG lines at SFO security (which looked much worse than they ended up being….they actually  moved very fast) your BAT editor is still missing his CLEAR card fast track. It was such a nice insurance policy against security line disaster. Anyway….There are some rumors floating around about the possibility of a resuscitated program. Stay tuned as we sniff these out! But don’t get your hopes up.

NEW TERMINAL B AT SAN JOSE: The new Terminal B at San Jose International opened last month for Southwest Airlines flyers (only) since the carrier has laid claim to its first five gates. Delta and Alaska Airlines will move in when six new gates open in Terminal B next summer. For now, all other airlines use Terminal A, which is also under renovation, part of a much needed $1.3 billion makeover of the Silicon Valley airport.


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July 17, 2009

United Discounts Award Travel (Act by July 24)

Filed under: Mileage Plus,United Airlines — Chris @ 8:29 pm

United Airlines discounted the number of miles needed for free coach class trips this week.

I think this is an example of just how far airlines are willing to go to keep seats filled on their planes….they are discounting fares AND  rewards.  Great news for business travelers who want to use their miles to for late summer vacation or fall business trips.

United’s deal is limited to flights between August and November, and the discounts are really meaningful. For example, you can get a free round trip from the mainland to Hawaii for just 30,000 miles, down from 40,000. Fly to Europe for 44,000 miles down from 55,000. A domestic award trip is down to 20,000 miles from 25,000.

United Round Trip Award Discounts:
•    North America:  was 25,000 miles, now 20,000
•    Hawaii    : was 40,000 miles, now 30,000
•    Europe: was 55,000, now 44,000
•    Australia: was 80,000, now 64,000
(Source: United Airlines)

Act fast: You must book your trip between July 15 and July 24 for travel between August 18 and November 18.


June 26, 2009


Filed under: Mileage Plus,United Airlines — Chris @ 12:18 am

United’s decision to assess $100-$500 co-pays for upgrades using miles on low-fare tickets starting this month has stalled.

According to an update posted on the UAL site, awards with co-pay won’t go into effect until January 12, 2010.

Wondering just how much you’ll pay to upgrade? Here’s the new chart.

Note: This post supersedes a previous THE BAT post warning that the new rules would go into effect this month.

June 8, 2009


Filed under: International,Mileage Plus,united,United Airlines — Chris @ 5:08 pm

First the good news: Starting July 1, Mileage Plus members will be able to upgrade to using miles from ALL domestic and international coach fares, even the cheapity cheapest ones from which upgrades are currently forbidden.  (This sets UAL apart from other most other carriers, which currently disallow upgrades from the cheapest coach fares.)

Now the bad news: Starting July 1, you’ll have to make a “co-payment” of $50 to $500 for the honor of using your hard earned miles to upgrade off of those cheap fares.

Want to upgrade on that bargain coach fare from SFO to Honolulu? That’ll be 17,500 miles plus $250-$500 extra bucks. How about an upgrade from that awesome coach-class round trip deal you scored for your flight to Europe this summer? That will be 20,000 miles plus $250-$500. (Painful, but not a bad deal for business class to Europe.)

Generally, you’ll only pay with miles if you book the pricier Y, B, C or D class of ticket. All other classes of tickets will require the copay.

United details here:,6722,52895,00.html

March 31, 2009

Filed under: Mileage Plus,SFO,Southwest,United Airlines — Chris @ 1:34 am

SOUTHWEST DARK ROAST. Starting this May, Southwest Airlines coffee-posterswill unveil a new onboard coffee service dubbed “LIFT.” The new dark roast coffee will be served in a larger cup with a sleeve made out of 99% post consumer paper product.  Best of all, Southwest is dumping those awful packets of powdered creamer and replacing them with “liquid creamer.” (No word yet on if it’s real cream or just a liquid version of the powdered stuff…)

FEWER LOST BAGS? You betcha! Here’s a silver lining to all those dark and stormy stories about obnoxious airlines fees. After rising steadily over the last decade, the number of bags lost or misplaced by US airlines fell by 25% in 2008. How is that? The decline can be directly attributed to new airline policies of charging for checked baggage says SITA, a major provider of airline automation systems.

SPEAKING OF BAG FEES. SFO-based Virgin America has joined the ranks of every other airline in the country (except Southwest) by adopting a $15 fee for checked bags. The new fee is a bit unusual in that it’s imposed on the first TEN check bags. (other airlines charge $25 for the second bag…) Previously, Virgin did not charge for the first checked bag, but charged $25 for the second and $50 for the third. Some good fee news? The Virgin fee for ticket changes made online is now $50, down from $75.

40,000 UAL MILES TO EUROPE. United is offering MileagePlus members a short window to redeem just 40,000 miles for a round trip coach award to Europe instead of the standard 55,000 miles. Good for trips between now and May 14 with some dates around Easter (April 12) blacked out.

January 21, 2009

Hawaii Continues to be a Steal from the Bay Area (How about $245 round trip?)

Filed under: Mileage Plus,SFO,SJC,united — Chris @ 6:06 pm

Your BAT editor will flap his BAT wings later this week for a much-needed trip to Honolulu. I could not resist the $370 roundtrip fare (SFO-HNL) on United when I booked the trip just two weeks prior to departure. Well, I thought that was a great deal until I was pinged by the folks at the new “insider deals” website and found Hawaiian Air offering nonstops from San Jose to Honolulu for just $245 roundtrip (!) on certain days over the next two weeks.waikiki (Sorry if the fare is no longer there when you read this…we can’t do much about that. But it was there on Monday Jan 21 and it’s a good illustration as to how low the airlines are willing to go to get us on those Hawaii-bound flights.) If you are looking for deals this winter, check out Travel-Ticker, which was launched by the folks at Hotwire (which by the way, is based right here in SF.) The difference between Travel-Ticker and Hotwire is that the former “names names” meaning that you know the provider when you make the booking. Hotwire is an “opaque” site, which means that you book based on price, and only after paying do you learn which airline, rental car company or hotel you’ll be using.

Here’s what we scraped from the Hawaiian Air site to get that $245 fare:

Trip Summary

Thursday January 29, 2009
San Jose, CA to Oahu – Honolulu
SJC to HNL, Flight HA43
9:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Tuesday February 03, 2009
Oahu – Honolulu to San Jose, CA
HNL to SJC, Flight HA44
2:10 PM – 9:10 PM
Actual Price
Per Ticket
Price for 1 Passenger
Taxes & Fees
Electronic Travel Discount

Air Travel Cost


January 12, 2009

Non-elites at UA can now buy line-breaking privileges

Filed under: Mileage Plus,united — Chris @ 5:22 pm

United Airlines is giving coach passengers access to fast lanes at some U.S. airports, for a $25 fee each way.The new product, called Premier Line, lets travelers skip to priority lines at check-in, security and boarding (including boarding for connecting flights). Premier Line is available at the following airports: Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York LaGuardia, Newark, Orange County (Calif.), Portland (Ore.), San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma, Washington Dulles and Washington Reagan National. The service can be purchased at when booking a ticket or while checking in online. United said the option would be available at airport kiosks in the coming weeks.

Blog at