Don’t Forget: Chase Ultimate Rewards to United Transfers Are Instant

I have an award ticket on hold with United that expires at 6PM Today.  And My United.com balance is 937 miles.

Never fear – Chase Ultimate Reward transfers to United are instant.  This is what makes Chase points so valuable – you can transfer them to many airlines and hotels, and it is often instant.  Other transfers are instant too, as noted by this great analysis by Million Mile Secrets.

So I logged into my Chase account, put in my United MileagePlus number and first and last name, and voila – The points appeared on United.com after I logged out and logged back into my account.

Successful Aspirational Award Ticket: 3x Central America to Asia and Europe For Only 90k Miles in Business Class

This week I was able to successfully help a friend book her family (3 in total) in business class from their home in Nicaragua to Asia and Europe, all for only 90,000 US Airways miles per person.  They got the US Airways miles by doing quite a bitch of miles transfers back and forth to one another using the US Airways Share Miles Promotion.  As a Central America to South Asia Award, it is only 90,000 miles per person in business class (North America to South Asia is 120,000 miles per person!)

Once she had assembled 90,000 miles in each account, we begun to look for availability during her flexible dates in September in October of next year.  We settled on a destination of Bangkok and a stopover in Istanbul.  The hardest part was actually finding availability from their home airport, Managua (MGA), to catch feeder flights to Asia.  Houston to Beijing on China Airlines was wide open for most days of the calendar in September and October 2013, but sadly United never had 3 seats in economy or business from Managua to Houston to catch it.

Also the return from Europe proved tricky for 3 with all the “conventional” flights not showing availability.  Turkish Airways, which has a great 777 business class product, has decent availability for its new routes, including Istanbul to New York JFK, Houston, and Toronto.  We found twice in a month 3 seats available on Istanbul to JFK on Turkish.

Also going from Bangkok to Istanbul was tricky.  Turkish Airways flies this route direct, but only has availability for 2 and not 3.  Fortunately, Swiss Air had Bangkok to Zurich availability for 3 in business class on their wonderful A346 product for most Mondays – Wednesdays in October.

So here is how the routing ended up for 3, all seats in business class:

Managua – Panama City – New York JFK (22 hour layover to explore the city) [copa airlines, copa airlines]

New York JFK – Taipei – Bangkok (destination) [EVA airlines, EVA airlines]

Bangkok – Zurich – Istanbul (stopover) [Swiss airlines, Turkish airlines]

Istanbul – New York JFK – Panama City – Managua (return home) [Turkish Airlines, copa airlines, copa airlines)

map

All-3 long-haul segments (New York – Taipei; Bangkok – Zurich; Istanbul – New York) are on great 777 lay-flat business products.  There is a chance the New York to Taipei flight will be on the special “Hello Kitty” equipment.

They will have 2 weeks in Bangkok and 3 in Istanbul.  Taxes and fees came to $150 per ticket (plus US Airways $50 booking fee).

This is a fabulous award value for 90,000 points for business class which will go away soon once US Airways goes onto American’s platform.

Note that this has 9 segments, technically US Airways only allows 8 but if you start the conversation with the agent saying, “I just want to confirm that you can have 5 segments in each direction, is that correct?”  If they say yes i continue forward.  We had 10 originally but 4 one way, 6 the other which US Airways wouldn’t allow.  So we pared it back to 4 in one direction and 5 the other.

 

Aspirational Award Trip: Russia With Love

I successfully used 100,000 Delta Skymiles (AKA Sky Pesos) each to book my parents on an award ticket to Russia. This is exciting as this coincides with the time Lady Tocqueville and I will be in St. Petersburg on our Trip of a Million Lifetimes.  Given that my mother is from Russia, this will be an exciting trip.

Availability was tough given this is Delta we are talking about, but doable thanks to generous availability by SkyTeam partner Aeroflot.  Their routing:

  • JFK – SVO (Moscow) – LED (St. Petersburg) [Stopover]
  • LED – SVO – SIP [Simferopol, Ukraine] [Stopover]
  • SIP – SVO [23 hour layover]
  • SVO – YYZ (Toronto) – ATL
Russia With Love

Russia With Love

Every leg is business class except for YYZ – ATL, which was only available in Economy.  Strangealy, the award wouldn’t book correctly with ATL – JFK as the first leg, so we had to lop that off and they are buying ATL – JFK for $119 each as the first leg.  Taxes and fees came to a steep $475 per ticket due to fuel surcharges on Aeroflot.  But to use 100,000 DeltaSkymiles for a “Low” Business award 2 months out for two people is a feat in itself.

One other interesting side-note.  SIP – SVO – YYZ gives an exactly 24 hour layover in SVO.  The flight from SIP arrives at 10:25AM, and the YYZ flight departs at 10:25AM the next day.  I thought for sure delta would reject this as a stopover instead of a layover since it exceeds 23 hours 59 minutes by one hour.  Nevertheless, they, to my surprise, ticketed it without qualms.

The Wandering Aramean has some great travel tools, and one of which is a Aeroflot availability search which was indispensible to me.  Be careful when searching, as it appears Aeroflot restricts availablity for un-matched segments.  For example, I did not see JFK – SVO availability, but as soon as I put in JFK – SVO – LED or JFK – SVO – SIP availability was there.

 

 

Bold Prediction: Delta Announces SkyMiles Devaluation 8/1

So this is total speculation, but I predict tomorrow 8/1 Delta will announce a devaluation to Delta Skymiles.  There has been speculation amongst the bloggers that revenue based awards system is coming.  Gary Leff gives a nice synopsis, here.

Basically the rub is that Delta as part of their continued devaluation of SkyMiles, will change their awards system to one that gives awards fully correlated to revenue spent, not just “miles earned”.  This will take away the aspirational redemption values of business class flights.

Well I am trying to ticket an award ticket with Delta today.  The ticket hold expires tonight, so I need it done ASAP.  Well the agent said the SkyMiles system is down, and will hopefully be back up in another hour or so.  I have a feeling, given that it is the end of a month, and this devaluation is expected to be announced anytime, that the system is down so they can upgrade their systems into production for the devalued revenue based awards system.

We’ll find out tomorrow, won’t we.  In the interim, hope that Delta gets its current system up fast so I don’t lose this award ticket on hold!