1. I know that there’s mixed love and hatred out there for AirFrance, but in my opinion they’re an absolutely wonderful airline for Business Class or La Premiere. (Yes, I’m even including the older shrinking fleet with angled lie flat cabins, just make sure you sit in the middle section of Business Class for direct aisle access.) The food and wine is hard to beat, and the service for me has always been outstanding. AirFrance is also great for racking up Delta MQM and MQD on mistake or ultra-cheap business fares. To help with that, AirFrance has a new promo code: SPRINGAF21 for $70 off of your next flight to Europe or Africa, just book by May 14, 2021 for travel between May 1 and October 31.
The code is ok, but honestly I’m writing about this principally because Spring AF is about the funniest thing I’ve seen out of an airline in years. If it was any other code, I’m not sure I’d write about it. Well played AirFrance, though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t played on purpose.
2. Do this now: Register for bonus points at Hilton. It’s a snoozer at 2x or 3x points, but you never know when you might end up at a Hilton anyway and it may be too late to register or you may forget register. Don’t be in that boat!
3. Thanks to the AA 40th’s sweepstakes, you can get 20% off of standard rates at Hyatt properties booked by May 31 for stays through September 12, 2021. Use code AA40TH.
1. American Airlines has reduced mileage awards for AA credit card holders back on the table. These are actually a great deal and worth a look, especially because in most cases you can cancel and redeposit the miles with no fees if your trip doesn’t work out. Steps:
Call AA at 800-882-8880, and the booking is actually mostly painless
2.Southwest is having a nice fare sale with quite a few $50 fares out there. Remember that if the cash fare is cheap with Southwest, so is the mileage cost, and with mileage awards you can cancel and redeposit at any time for no fee. If you book something cheap in early June, you’ll almost certainly be able to change it to any other flight ±30 days in a week or two when the next free schedule change window opens. What a time to be alive!
Final note: The AA 40th contest is still going — lots of people are winning 4,000 mile awards recently. For best results, spin the globe as early as possible after 12:00 AM Eastern time. Since it’s a new week, you can get a bunch of new buttons by logging in and clicking all the blue buttons.
I’ve avoided writing about the United Quest credit card for a while because honestly the card annoys me (see below), and United really annoys me (also see below). That said, it can be a decent deal for the first year if you’re going to redeem for United flights, and there’s now a mostly public offer for 100,000 miles after $10,000 in spend. You can also use a referral link or get a referral from a Chase United card holder. (I’d chose TravelBloggerBuzz’s link, but you could get a link from another blogger you trust too, just not me. I don’t personally push referral links, that’s not why I’m in this.)
Why Quest Sucks
Rather than going over the positives of the card like everyone else, let me address the negatives, especially as compared to the mid-tier American Express Personal Gold card:
Quest’s spend bonus categories are weak for a card with a mid-tier annual fee ($250). I get bigger and better bonuses and bonus categories at the same price point with the American Express Personal Gold (e.g. 4x vs 2x at restaurants, 4x vs 1x at grocery, 3x on all airlines vs 3x on only United)
Quest’s annual “credits” are 5,000 miles after you take an award flight on United, twice a year. The Personal Gold gives $120 in Uber/Uber Eats credits and $120 in GrubHub/ShakeShack credits a year whether or not you redeem miles
Quest doesn’t give you two United Club passes, unlike its cheaper sibling, the MileagePlus Explorer card
Quest opens up “XN” fare bucket award availability, but so does the $95 annual fee MileagePlus Explorer card, as does the no annual-fee MileagePlus Gateway card
A modified double dip is a much better deal than the Quest if you’re under 5/24, and you can still turn those miles into United MileagePlus miles — you’ll also get 3x on all travel with a Sapphire, not just on United like with the Quest card. The American Express Personal Gold doesn’t care about 5/24 at all and also gives 3x
For a whopping $72,000 in annual spend, Quest will give you 3,000 PQP — uh, ok. For those of you fortunately not sucked into United Elite speak, a PQP is part of obtaining elite status, and 3,000 PQP is what you earn by spending approximately $3,300 on airfare. Trust me, your $72,000 in spend in the right places can earn you $3,000 in actual cash. Wouldn’t you rather have that than stupid PQP? I would
Quest gives you exactly one currency, MileagePlus miles. The Personal Gold gives you membership rewards, which you can transfer to less sucky airlines or cash out at a decent rate
Why United Sucks
Look, I get that some of you like United, and that’s ok, it’s definitely not all bad. United will usually get you where you’re trying to go, you might get a stroopwaffle, and they do offer many loopholes to those in the know (example: I once used same day changes every day to extend a trip by a week). I also get that some of you live in Houston or Newark and you’re a hub captive, and that’s also ok. But United:
Flies more cramped regional jets with gate checked bags than any other major domestic carrier, though this may have changed due to COVID (if you’re lucky enough to get the CRJ550, the cramped part doesn’t apply)
Often flies regional jets routinely between large cities with 3+ hours of blocked time, that’s a long, long time on a regional jet between two major business hubs like Atlanta and Denver
Often flies worn-out 737s or A319s on non RJ segments, and believe me when I say worn-out — some of these planes haven’t seen any love with respect to passenger comfort in a decade
Has Scott Kirby running the show, and Scott is famous for pinching every penny possible to ensure that you’re not getting any more than absolutely necessary
Offers dynamic pricing for award tickets, and many times charges more just because they can, though to be fair so do the other major domestic US airlines at this point
Often overbooks landing slots at crowded airports, leading to massive system delays
Still flies business class seats without direct aisle access
So, do you really want to get 100,000 miles and subject yourself to all of that with no other option? Honestly, I don’t unless it’s a last resort. But maybe if you’ve got a use for those 100,000 miles and don’t want to do the Modified Double Dip for some reason, this is still ok.
2.The Southwest free change window is back between May 9 and June 5. Book the cheapest fare between your preferred cities somewhere within that date-range, then change it to ±30 days for the actual flights you want for no additional fees.
3. I’m sure you’ve heard it elsewhere already, but American Express Centurion Lounges are disallowing guest access to guests on February 1, 2023 unless you spend $75,000 on your American Express Platinum card. As Windbag Miles says, look into the Morgan Stanley Platinum which gives a free Authorized User Platinum card also with lounge access benefits. Little known fact, a decent balance at Morgan Stanley for Platinum card holders gives an annual credit to offset the annual fee on this card.
4.Today is the last day for the Citi Premier card’s 25% uplift in point values on travel redemptions (1.25 cents per point today vs 1.00 cents per point starting tomorrow), so lock any bookings in now before it’s too late. Hint: Disney park tickets are a decent way to lock in the 25% uplift for a long while.
1. You can earn Star Alliance Gold Elite status, which will get you lounge access and free checked bags when flying on Star Alliance Partners like United by transferring miles to SingaporeKris Flyer from bank points (Chase, AmEx, Capital One, Brex, and Citi are all partners). Gold status requires a transfer of 250,000 miles, so this is only a good option if you’re already booking tickets with Singapore and plan on using the miles. Don’t forget that KrisFlyer miles expire after three years regardless of account activity. Louses!
2. If you have United Club passes that were expiring between April 1 and August 31, they’ve been extended to September 30. The new expiration is already showing in my United mobile app.
3. Southwest is offering a 10% rebate on Wanna Get Away fares booked today, or higher rebates for more expensive fare types. If you want to further goose this deal, perhaps book the cheapest fare between your city pairs for mid-May to early-June in anticipation of the next Southwest free change window?
4. The Cranky flyer outlines how you can essentially pay the difference between a refundable and non-refundable fare on United after you’ve already booked and get a refund for the initial fare way after the fact. You have to book through a travel agent though, and it’ll have to be a competent agent too.
Time to sail into the weekend. While you’re floating away, check the following:
1. Southwest has opened their travel bookings for most fall and some early winter travel through November 5. Now is a great time to lock in your fall travel if it involves any destinations served by Southwest. I’d recommend you book with Rapid Rewards points if at all possible because you can always redeposit or change Rapid Rewards bookings with no fee, so you can easily get the points back when the price drops or when your plans change. If you need a Rapid Rewards top-off, don’t forget that Southwest is a Chase transfer partner. Also, don’t forget that there’s no undoing that Chase to Southwest transfer.
2. Chase has targeted more co-brand cards for Q2 spend offers. Check your Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, United, AARP, Starbucks, and Disney cards (or any other co-brands you have with Chase) for a Q2 spend bonus here. If you don’t see any offer or get a strange error, reportedly incognito mode in your browser can help get you a bonus.
3. Since our favorite Vanilla Gift Card promotion code FLASH2020 has now died (more like SUNK2020, amirite?), I’m again interested in Simon.com gift card purchases. If you are too, use promo code APR21SAVE50 at Simon to save 50% on fees when purchasing Visa or Mastercard gift cards. Don’t use an AmEx though, you won’t earn points and the Simon transaction won’t count toward minimum spend.
We’ve been living in a golden age of flight change and cancellation flexibility, though of course the reason behind that flexibility sucks. That age is about to be over — most airlines’ liberal change policies on even the cheapest of fares are reverting back to normal on Thursday.
If you’re booking travel, and apparently a lot of you are because AA flights are basically full over the next couple of months, now is the time to lock in those bookings. Book by tomorrow and even Basic Economy fares on the major US carriers can be changed for only the fare difference and in some cases they can be refunded completely. Normally they’re of course non-refundable, non-changeable, and require that you wear your most uncomfortable shoes and a pair of underwear that’s two sizes too small. Scoot in under the deadline to avoid that nonsense.
If you want to travel in May or June instead (or, in April if the fares are still too high), hurry and book the cheapest fare between roughly May 10 and May 31, then move it ± 30 days while the current free change window is open, just keep the city pairs the same. When this window is open all changes can be made online, no need to call. It will probably be gone tomorrow.
It is of course a shame that the dates for the above two offers don’t overlap.