Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Eva Airlines' grand entry into Star Alliance

Last week, Eva Airlines finally made their long-delayed entry into Star Alliance.  Historically, partner alliance carriers have welcomed newcomers with open arms and bonus miles promos.  But this has not been the case with Eva as most Star Alliance carriers haven't even recognized Eva's presence.  Nonetheless, Eva's entry into Star Alliance effectively opens up Taiwan to the Star Alliance network.

Despite poor mileage earnings rates, it should be noted that Eva has a transpacific business class hard product that is second only to Cathay Pacific's.  Award availability is off the charts, so now would be a good time to book that biz class flight to TPE with US Airways miles for only 90k roundtrip.  TPE also makes a good connection point to southeast Asian destinations such as HKG, BKK, and SIN should the need arise.  HKG, which is a Cathay Pacific fortress hub, is now a smooth sailing option from TPE for Star Alliance loyalists who want to avoid United's subpar premium cabins.

In commemoration of their Star Alliance entry, Eva is throwing a campaign with 6 weekly economy roundtrip ticket giveaways through 7/15.  The last week of the campaign will also feature an additional 6 roundtrip biz class ticket giveaways (7/9-7/15).  As corny as their renewed frequent flyer name Infinity MileageLands sounds, you've got to give props to the ingenuity behind their new commercial:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

United follows suit with Delta's double down devaluation

To no one's surprise, United is implementing a revenue based elite-qualifying system for the 2014 qualification year.  Rumors of this change have been brewing for years even before United's merger with Continental, but nothing materialized until now.  Following the heels of Delta, United is officially weeding out their bottom feeders and thinning out their elite ranks.

Whereas meeting the PQD requirements may not be too difficult for savvy business travelers, this change effectively eliminates mileage running.  Last January, American Airlines had a triple EQM promo between SFO and ORD, and I earned top-tier Executive Platinum status by spending less than $1,800.  But as you can see in the above chart, I'd still be a hefty $8,200 short of top-tier status had AA used a revenue based system.

To add insult to injury, United is also upping their fees for award flight changes exclusively for non-elite members.  Aside from free stopovers and open jaws, one of the gems of United award travel was the ability to change travel dates without incurring a fee.  But effective today, any date changes 21 days out or 21 days in will cost you $75 or $100, respectively.  Furthermore, you'll now be down $200 if you cancel an award ticket.

In essence, there will no longer be any fast tracks and "free meals" to earning elite status with United and Delta.  As elite status benefits have also taken a royal shafting, this is just another path that these legacy carriers are taking in light of their razor-thin profit margins.  All said and done, this is likely the future of frequent flyer programs, and AA will likely follow suit after their merger with US Airways.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chase Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards with increased sign-up bonus of 60,000 points until June 22nd

The Chase Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards have consistently held the best sign-up bonuses for all credit cards in the past 1 1/2 years.  In commemoration of small business week, Chase is upping their already lucrative 50k sign-up bonus to 60k, making this the best Ultimate Rewards bonus to date!  What's more is that you can sign up for both the Ink Plus and the Ink Bold cards for a total bonus of 120k, which is good enough for a roundtrip business class ticket to North Asia.  The two cards differ in the sense that the Ink Bold is a charge card with a monthly balance that must be paid in full, whereas the Ink Plus is an actual credit card with the option of paying over time.

Chase Ultimate Rewards has arguably the best 1:1 transfer partners, including United, Hyatt, British Airways, and Korean Airlines.  Several of the many redemption gems:

1. USA to Europe for 80k and 100k KAL in biz and first, respectively.  Cancel or change at any time without a penalty with KAL miles.
2. West coast U.S. to Hawaii for 25k BA
3. NYC-JFK to Hawaii for 30k KAL
4. $1,000+ Hyatt flagship properties for a max of 22k points

Further card benefits:

• Limited-time bonus offer. Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.
• 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs.
• Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
• Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and for hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel
• No foreign transaction fees
• $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, then $95.

Be sure that you can meet the $5,000 spending threshold, which needs to be met within the first 3 months of card membership.  June 22nd is coming up really quickly, so take advantage of this offer now.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Delta's double down devaluation

Earlier this year, Delta announced a sweeping overhaul for their frequent flyer program, switching over to a revenue-based system.  Before, elite status was based on elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) and segments, which is in line with all the other legacy carriers.  But starting next year, flyers will need to meet thresholds for both miles/segments and revenue in order to qualify for elite status.  In part, this is Delta's way of weeding out their bottom feeders and least valuable elite "moochers".

Yesterday, in yet another devaluation, Delta announced that EQMs will no longer be earned with one their very own and most important Skyteam alliance partners: Korean Airlines.  This is the first time any alliance member has refused to acknowledge EQMs period from an alliance partner.  Furthermore, reduced EQMs will also be accrued from a number of other Skyteam partners:
  • Aeroflot
  • Air Europa
  • Czech
  • Kenya Airways
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • Tarom
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Xiamen Airlines
So that leaves Aeromexico, Air France, Alaska, Alitalia, GOL, KLM, and Virgin Australia as the last true partners standing that will dish out full EQMs with Delta.  Evidently, requiring revenue exclusively on Delta flights wasn't enough to weed out the bottom feeders.  Everyone has to go, including those flying with "less valuable" carriers.  Delta's justification:
We’d like you to understand that each airline determines its level of participation in partnership with us, so there are varying levels of customer rewards when flying with our partners.

As if Delta's program was already not one of the worst in the market.  In terms of the U.S. legacy carriers, Delta miles are by far the least valuable with the worst flexibility and most stringent rules.  But as airlines merge and fortress hubs abound, is Delta just adopting?  Perhaps this is the future of all frequent flyer programs, which are a scheme to begin with as 40% of members never bother to redeem their miles.  After their merger with Continental last year, United stripped their bottom and mid-tier elites from their most valuable benefits and made upgrades more difficult for top-tier elites.  Will American Airlines also follow suit after their merger with US Airways later this year?  Time will tell, but as history has always shown, yes.