Monday, May 20, 2013

United's letdown at Taipei

Eva Airlines' entry into Star Alliance on June 18th will be a pivotal move for the carrier as it essentially opens up TPE to the entire *A network.  The last nonstop *A route between the U.S. and TPE was discontinued by United in 2008, and China Airlines' Skyteam entry in 2011 solidified TPE as a Skyteam hub.  However, with Eva now as a *A member, Skyteam will have to share its fortress power out of TPE.  But exactly how big of a move is this for *A?

*A has hubs throughout Asia, most notably in NRT, HND, ICN, PVG, PEK, BKK, and SIN.  Skyteam is limited to TPE, ICN, PVG, and PEK.  In other words, TPE actually makes sense for Skyteam flyers since it's closer to South Asia than the other hubs.  However, *A hubs encircle Asia, making TPE an irrelevant stopover.  As China and southeast Asia continue to grow, TPE's significance may soon become a relic of the past.

Last year, United announced that it would resume nonstop flights between SFO-TPE in an effort to compete with fellow newly enshrined *A member Eva, who operates 2 nonstop flights per day to TPE during the peak season.  The route was scheduled to begin in April, but UA has since delayed it a full year to March 2014, citing irrelevant issues with the 787.  To add insult to injury, UA discontinued its NRT-TPE route last October, making ANA the lone *A carrier between that route.

So what's the fuss about?  For one thing, don't expect Eva to be generous on mileage earnings with United and US Airways members.  Discount economy fares on Eva only earn 50%-75% of base miles with UA.  And ANA's lone daily flight between NRT-TPE is now the only reasonable way of getting to TPE on *A, which will make layovers and award availability increasingly difficult.  So expect fare increases and full flights between those routes as biz travelers are going to stick with UA for mileage earnings and upgrade potentials.  In fact, ANA's NRT-TPE economy availability has officially been lost in the air.  That is, if you even have the luxury of being able to connect on the same day from your transpacific flight.

4 roundtrip flights to TPE in order to attain bottom-tier Premier Silver.  Oh wait, miles are not elite-qualifying . . .

It's interesting how Eva's entry into *A is only turning heads down.  With poor mileage earnings and upgrade potential, don't expect *A flyers to throw Eva a party.  ANA and UA have seemingly teamed up to make life miserable for *A flyers destined for TPE.  So much for alliances.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

American Express Business Gold card with 75,000 sign-up bonus through May 17th

American Express is at it again with their quarterly 75,000 point sign-up bonus.  Terms and conditions are the same, requiring $10,000 in spending within the first 4 months of card membership.  If you can meet the spending threshold, apply for it as this is easily the best credit card sign-up bonus available.

• Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card membership.
• Earn points even faster to get more rewards for your business.
• 3X points on airfare purchased from airlines. 2X points at US gas stations.
• Up to $100,000 in each category per year, then 1 point.
• Terms and limitations apply.
• Reduce travel costs, show appreciation for employees and clients, and offset everyday expenses by using points to get something back and grow your business.
• $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175.

Amex Membership Rewards points are especially useful for British Airways Avios points, which carry the best redemption value for short-haul nonstop award flights with partner carriers.  ANA has a lucrative award chart and is also a great points transfer partner since they eliminated fuel surcharges for international award flights on United and US Airways.  Remember that this card is restricted to new members only, which Amex defines as applicants who have NOT held this product or any other Business Gold, Green or Platinum Card account within the last 12 months.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

US Airways 100% bonus for purchasing miles

Right on the heels of Avianca's 100% bonus miles purchasing special, US Airways has followed suit with their own double miles purchasing offer:

Through May 31, 2013, when you buy or gift miles, you can get or give up to a 100% bonus – up to 50,000 miles.

  • Buy/gift 5,000 – 9,000 miles, get a 25% bonus
  • Buy/gift 10,000 – 19,000 miles, get a 50% bonus
  • Buy/gift 20,000 – 29,000 miles, get a 75% bonus
  • Buy/gift 30,000 – 50,000 miles, get a 100% bonus
Buying at least 30k miles (60k after bonus) is a no-brainer since your miles will be effectively doubled, thus coming out to 1.88 cents per mile.  This is more expensive than Avianca's 1.325 cents offer last month, but US Airways' promo can be a better deal for a number of popular routes since they have arguably the most lucrative award chart on the planet.  For example, an unparalleled gem of US Airways' award chart is the 90k miles for a roundtrip business class flight from North America to North Asia with a free stopover.  Free stopovers are normally limited to Star Alliance hubs, but this is often ignored by agents, who often allow flyers originating in North America to stopover in London or Paris en route to Hong Kong!  So the following around-the-world itinerary would cost you only $1,692 (90k x 1.88 cents) in business class:

Another gem of their award chart is travel within North Asia, which comes out to 25k miles for economy and a measly 30k miles for biz.  But remember that in order to maximize this offer, you'll want to buy at least 60k miles (after bonus) for $1,128.  That will top off 2 roundtrip biz flights from Sapporo to Hong Kong for only $564 each!

Keep in mind that when booking partner award flights with US Airways, you'll have to face incompetent phone agents and a $50 partner award booking fee.  Several calls may be required to book the actual flights that you want, but you still can't complain about an around-the-world business class flight for only $1,692.  If you're going to jump the gun, do it soon because US Airways is merging with American Airlines later this year with a consolidated frequent flyer program to go into effect next year.  Your miles will definitely be safe, but AA's award chart is not as lucrative for travel to and within Asia.