1. Southwest seems to be counting award travel for A-List and A-List Preferred status as of last week. Is this intentional? I dunno, but my guess is that if you get status this way that you’ll keep it whether or not it’s a just a bug. Notably it still doesn’t count toward earning a Companion Pass.

    Hopefully Southwest is trying to copy Delta’s change that allows award tickets to earn Medallion status. (Thanks to Brian M via MEAB slack)
  2. JetBlue cardholders can now earn a referral bonus for referring new card members. The link to generate a referral is in your inbox from Barclays, if you can’t find it, customer service can have it resent though it may take a few tries to find the right person.

    The referral offer is as good as the best public offer, 80,000 points after $1,000 in spend in 90 days, and 10,000 points for the referrer.
  3. Check your American Express offers for $100 back on $500 or more at Alaska Airlines.

    Buying a non-refundable, non basic-economy ticket that costs around $500, waiting 24 hours, and canceling the ticket will allow you to bank $500 in your Alaska wallet for a net cost of $400, though eventually those wallet funds do expire so this is a short to medium term play, not a long-term one.
  4. Rakuten has 2% back or 2x Membership Rewards on Safeway purchases via their card linked program. I’m sure you can find an interesting use for this one.

A-List and A-List preferred status get you unlimited complimentary upgrades to the economy cabin.

  1. Do this now:

    Register for Marriott Bonvoy’s super-lame promotion
    Register for AA eShopping’s sweepstakes
    Register for Alaska MileagePlan Shopping’s sweepstakes
    Register for Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping’s sweepstakes
    Register for United MileagePlus Shopping’s sweepstakes

    The Marriott one is awful (2,000 points points per stay after your second stay September 21 – December 15, or 4,000 if you’re a Marriott credit card holder). The other ones have low odds, but the prizes are great (250,000 AA miles + $2,500, 100,000 AS miles + $2,500, 100,000 WN miles, 100,000 UA miles + $2,500).
  2. Southwest is opening their booking window through April 10, 2023 sometime this morning. If you don’t already have a spring break travel locked in, this is a good opportunity to get something booked.
  3. Staples online has fee-free $200 gift cards for sale, limit three. Worth noting:

    – Sometimes card linked programs track on staples.com online gift card purchases
    – Sometimes lesser used portals track on staples.com online gift card purchases

    These are Metabank gift cards so have a liquidation plan in place.
  4. Nutella shares that tomorrow is the last day for Citi Dividend card holders to opt-out of automatic conversion to the Custom Cash card. To do so, you have to call Citi at (888) 872-2214 and let them know.

    The automatic conversion date is apparently September 19, although there are mixed reports on whether or not the automatic conversion will actually occur.

Another candid of Citi’s IT room, illustrating why Citi’s CS reps always have their wires crossed.

  1. Southwest has a companion pass offer for booking a single round-trip or two one-way flights by tomorrow evening for travel before November 17. After you qualify, you’ll receive a companion pass valid from January 4, 2023 – March 4, 2023.

    (Thanks to the ineffable Brian M’s report via MEAB slack)
  2. Barclays has increased its personal JetBlue card’s sign-up bonus to 80,000 TrueBlue points after $1,000 in spend in 90 days. The card has a $99 annual fee and isn’t waived the first year. (Thanks to DoC)
  3. The Citi Shop Your Way Mastercard (a MEAB Unsung Hero) has been sending out targeted offers since last week. We’ve seen:

    – $40 back after six purchases of $50 each month for three months
    – 4,000 ThankYou points after six purchases of $50 each month for three months
    – 15% in statement credits up to $60 in travel purchases each month for three months
  4. Meijer online has $5 off of $100 Visa gift cards, limit 10. They’re Metabank gift cards, but Kroger, Walmart, and Safeway still universally allow $99 swipes with these and the cards will auto-drain a small balance at most grocery stores, so liquidation is possibly more straightforward than is typical.

    Unfortunately I have to counteract the good Metabank news with some bad: These are fulfilled by BlackHawk Network and won’t code as grocery for any credit card category bonuses.

Good news: Meijer sells sushi for less than a dollar and will auto-drain your Metabank gift card. Bad news: This is the sushi.

Editors note: Sometimes I can’t help but get academic and nerdy; but stick with me, the results are good. There’s good stuff in the academic community, and we can apply it directly to your travel to make it better. I don’t know of anyone else doing anything like this, so here we are.

Introduction

There’s an interesting statistics thought experiment that comes up in academia called The Monty Hall problem. The gist of the problem is:

  • You have three doors with something behind each door, 2 doors have something lame and 1 has something great
  • You choose a door but don’t yet know the results
  • The game-master tells you that one of the doors you didn’t pick has a lame prize, and shows you which door

Ok, so there are two doors left: The one you picked and the other door. Unless you’re trained in statistics, you probably think you’ve got a 50% chance that your door has the great prize and a 50% chance that the other door has the great prize, because there are only two left. But, the math behind the Monty Hall problem says that your door is 33% likely at that point to have the great prize, and 67% likely to have the lame prize. (See the Wikipedia page for the math behind the result if you’re interested.) In other words, the other choice is now twice as likely to be the best choice, so choose it if you can!

Applying This Result to Flights

We can apply this result to airline delays with some fuzzy mapping: one door is your on-time departure (your original choice, a delayed flight might be un-delayed and is thus still an option), one door is your delayed departure, and the third door is a an alternate flight.

Based on the math behind the Monty Hall problem, if you’re told that your original flight is delayed, then switching to an alternate flight is more likely to get you to your destination without a late arrival; twice as likely all things being equal (which they’re not). If you’ve ever experienced rolling delays on your original flight, you’ve got some intuitive feel that switching to another flight is probably less likely to lead to an arrival delay too.

Making it Real

There’s a problem with that analysis though: It’s highly unlikely that you’ve got an alternative flight to switch to that leaves at the same time as your original flight. So, to make this actionable for real-world scenarios, we’ve got to factor average delay time into our analysis. To do that, I downloaded the last 12 months worth US airline flight on-time data for a deeper-drive.

First, let’s assume that your airline posts a delay of 45 minutes or longer. In the last year, this is what each major carrier’s average arrival delay looked like:

Operating
Airline
Average Arrival Delay, August 2021-July 2022
(For Departure Delay ≥ 45 Minutes)
AA2 hours 13 minutes
Alaska1 hour 36 minutes
Delta2 hours 1 minute
Frontier1 hour 51 minutes
JetBlue2 hours 17 minutes
Spirit1 hour 49 minutes
SkyWest2 hours 21 minutes
Southwest1 hour 23 minutes
United1 hour 53 minutes

So when your airline posts a delay of at least 45 minutes, if you’ve got an alternate flight that leaves within an hour and a half or so, you should switch to that alternate flight (especially if your flight is operated by SkyWest).

Next, let’s assume your airline posts a delay of 90 minutes. In the last year, you’re looking at an average arrival delay of:

Operating
Airline
Average Arrival Delay, August 2021-July 2022
(For Departure Delay ≥ 90 Minutes)
AA3 hours 23 minutes
Alaska2 hours 35 minutes
Delta3 hours 19 minute
JetBlue2 hours 54 minutes
Frontier2 hours 54 minutes
Spirit2 hours 49 minutes
SkyWest3 hours 36 minutes
Southwest2 hours 19 minutes
United2 hours 59 minutes

The conclusion from this one: If your departure delay is posted as 90 minutes or later, switch to an alternative if you can get one in the next three hours or so.

Finally, let’s look at the data by major airports instead of by airline, sorted by the total number of delayed flights (these major airports are also the airports most likely have alternative flights):

AirportAverage Arrival Delay, August 2021-July 2022
(For Departure Delay ≥ 90 Minutes)
DEN1 hour 42 minutes
ORD1 hour 52 minutes
DFW1 hour 49 minutes
ATL1 hour 43 minutes
MCO1 hour 50 minutes
CLT1 hour 42 minutes
LAS1 hour 37 minutes
LAX1 hour 50 minutes
PHX1 hour 40 minutes

The statistics aren’t very different for other major (top 50) US airports. However delays are much more likely to extend beyond two hours at small airports, where you likely don’t have another option anyway.

And for my last analysis, I looked at the reason for the delay when it was available. In cases where the data is available, the longest delays are caused by (from the biggest contributor to the smallest):

  1. Carrier delays (crew problems, mechanical, etc.)
  2. Late aircraft delays (delayed inbound flight)
  3. Airspace delays (ATC traffic management programs, etc.)
  4. Weather delays

tl;dr

The internet: “Ok poindexter, enough with the nerdy stuff, how about a summary without all the goo?”

MEAB: Sure thing boss, also here’s the data in CSV form in case you want to be a nerd too:

  • If your flight posts a delay of 45 minutes or longer, switch to an alternate if there’s one available in the next two hours
  • If your flight posts a delay of 90 minutes or longer, switch to an alternate if there’s one available in the next two and a half hours
  • If you’re flying out of a major airport, a delay isn’t likely to carry on past two hours
  • If you’re flying out of a small airport, that delay is probably going to be a long one, sorry
  • If the reason for your delay is a carrier or late inbound aircraft issue, the delay is likely to be longer than for weather or other reasons

Happy Tuesday friends!

When United Express inevitably has a delay for something like this, switch flights (trust me, been there).

  1. American Express has 12 (!) transfer bonuses running for September, here’s each with a few sweet spots:

    – British Airways 25% bonus: AA and AS domestic flights
    – Aer Lingus 25% bonus: US economy and qbusiness class to Ireland
    – Air Canada Aeroplan 15% bonus: Short haul US economy, business class to Europe
    – AirFrance and KLM FlyingBlue 25% bonus: Promo Awards, business class to Europe
    – Qantas 20% bonus: Economy awards in the Americas, business class to South America
    – Aeromexico 20% bonus: Round trip to North Asia in business class
    – Hawaiian 20% bonus: [sound of crickets]
    – Virgin Atlantic 30% bonus: Business class to Europe
    – Choice hotels 25% bonus: Use Citi’s 1:2 ratio instead (but the Ascend collection if you must know)
    – Marriott Bonvoy 20% bonus: [sound of rotten grapes being smashed with a rubber mallet]
  2. The Air France and KLM FlyingBlue program has released its Promo Awards for September, and there are great prices for one way trips to and from Europe from Chicago (12,750 points), New York (11,250 points), and Los Angeles (18,000 points). The catch? These are economy flights 😱.

    There’s also a business class promo award to and from Austin for 51,000 points, which is what I’ll be looking at, because I’ll remind you for the second time this week, that I’m a J and F diva for international travel.
  3. In addition to the new passenger rights agreed to by the DOT and airlines discussed yesterday, there’s another benefit made obvious by the DOT Transportation Dashboard: AA, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, and United have agreed to rebook you on another airline under the right circumstances in the face of prolonged delays or cancelations. As with the other rights, you’ll probably need to know to ask for a rebooking to get one.

Pictured: A Membership Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy transfer, in-progress.

  1. US Airlines and the DOT have agreed to additional passenger rights for delays within an airline’s control (in lieu of additional regulation). Under the agreement, your rights are now:

    – A meal voucher for delays of three hours or longer
    – A hotel, or some other renumeration if a hotel is unavailable for an overnight delay

    Delays due to weather and air traffic control won’t qualify, but delays due to mechanical issues, crew availability, and gate congestion will. Because there’s no official law, the specifics vary slightly by airline. You can find the new airline policies here: Southwest, JetBlue, United, Delta, AA. Almost certainly you’re going to need to know to ask for what these rights grant you so keep the policies somewhere readily available.
  2. American Express has increased its Business Checking bonus to 30,000 Membership Rewards, after $5,000 in deposits within 30 days, maintaining that balance for 60 days, and making 10 ACH, mobile deposit, bill payments, or wires within 60 days.

    If you don’t have many shenanigans on your AmEx accounts and don’t expect to for the next couple of months, I’d do this sign up bonus and close the account immediately when it posts. If you do, I’d skip it.
  3. H-E-B grocery has a couple of travel gift cards at a nice discount through Tuesday, limit 1 per account:

    Southwest $100 gift card for $85
    Airbnb $100 gift card and a free bonus $15 H-E-B gift card for $100

    If I were in H-E-B territory I’d be scaling both of these quite a bit, but I’m not so instead I’m begrudgingly earning 1 SkyMile per dollar on my Airbnb bookings using deltaairbnb.com like a sucker.

Now you have something else to look forward to during your airport delay: A Michelin negative three star rated sandwich paid for by the airline.

  1. LATAM has a no-fee status match program running through October 31 for status through March 2023. The principle benefit for a US based flyer is access to Delta SkyClub lounges when flying Delta, even on domestic on international flights for Platinum, Black, and Black Signature elites (UPDATE: Thanks to VFTW for the correction on lounge access). They’ve provided a status match table and a FAQ too. (Thanks to Kathy at Will Run for Miles)
  2. Xfinity Mobile has a bring your own device $200 Visa gift card sign-up bonus when you port in a line and keep service for 90 days. It’s even more interesting because there’s a limit of $2,000 in gift cards or 10 lines per account, and there’s a “By the Gig” plan that costs $15+taxes per month regardless of the number of phones on the plan, just don’t use your data and your bill will be tiny. A few notes:

    – If you don’t have an Xfinity Mobile account there’s a $10 setup fee
    – You have to have Xfinity cable or internet to be eligible
    – Go through a shopping portal, ideally once per line

    Now, if only there were a way to get cheap phone numbers to port in, like I don’t know, say a $1 line from Boost or Ting. (Thanks to Derthsidious via MEAB slack)
  3. Check your Chase offers and Bank of America deals 10% back on Alaska Airlines airfare up to a total of $45 back. (Thanks to DoC)
  4. Southwest has a fare sale running through Friday for travel from September 6 to February 15 of next year, but it excludes major holiday dates and is only for Tuesday or Wednesday travel. The real utility here is that Southwest’s schedule changes haven’t rolled out for November and later.

Xfinity Mobile’s dedicated cell towers help make sure that you’re not using any cell data.

  1. Southwest will now let you buy an earlier boarding position during online check-in, which pairs well with the annual fee reimbursements from the Southwest Personal Priority orSouthwest Business Performance credit cards. (Thanks to Brian M via MEAB slack)
  2. The Capital One Venture card is now showing a targeted 100,000 mile sign up bonus through the pre-qualification tool. The bonus requires $10,000 in spend in the first six months. (Thanks to stillwaters23)
  3. A gentle reminder that the current best Chase Sapphire Reserve offer is 70,000 Ultimate Rewards as long as you have a Chase account, or 60,000 Ultimate Rewards if not.

    Background: everyone seems to be excited that the Reserve’s referral program is back with 10,000 Ultimate Rewards per referral and a maximum of five referrals per year, but the referral bonus is currently only a 50,000 Ultimate Rewards, so those referrals should only be for your enemies I guess. (UPDATE: Reader Doug notes that his referral offer is 60,000 Ultimate Rewards, so for non-Chase account holders a referral may be a wash)
  4. Stephen at GC Galore notes that Kroger is having another 4x fuel points sale on third party gift cards and fixed value Visa and Mastercard gift cards from Friday through Sunday. At this point I’m nearly speechless on the subject, and I suppose it’s time to be surprised if there isn’t an upcoming weekend 4x fuel points sale.

Southwest’s economy lie-flat seating is easier to get with early boarding.