Devaluations Abound

After writing up my post about the AA award chart changes, I took a quick glance at Twitter.  There’s not quite the sharp response that was elicited by United and Delta during their recent devaluations, but I caught notice of American Airlines promising that all would be revealed in the morning.

Well, okay, they didn’t quite say that.  They went for:

You’ll see some changes to the AA and US websites. We plan to officially announce some new policies later this morning

Then the other shoe dropped:

"Amol ‏@PointsToPointB  AND the other shoe drops. USA to North Asia on US Airways now goes from 90,000 to 110,000 miles."US Airways has a new award chart out, increasing the price to 110k miles roundtrip for business class to North Asia.  Somewhat oddly, first class remains at 120k miles roundtrip.

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There’s a Storm Coming

While it’s not quite as bad as the feared fuel surcharges of last August, One Mile at a Time discusses how AA has quietly restricted its AAnytime awards.  In between his original post and my write-up of this, AA has released a new award chart with “five” tiers:

  • MileSAAver Level 1: This looks like AA’s old off-peak awards.
  • MileSAAver Level 2: These look like AA’s traditional peak MileSAAver awards.
  • AAnytime Level 1: Old price
  • AAnytime Level 2: New higher tier
  • AAnytime Level 3: A very vague asterisk.

One commenter on FlyerTalk suggests that this is the start of market-based awards for last-seat availability:

It is meant to be announced tomorrow. AA did everything in their power to keep it hush hush until they sprang it on us.

AAnytime awards will now be dynamic, meaning we will have to pay a premium on high demand dates/periods, and less on off peak periods.

What is also unannounced as of yet is that International Gateway City Stopovers are also gone.

Emphasis mine on the real nugget in there.  Edit:  A quick search of NRT-LAX (stop)-BOS shows that this is pricing as two separate awards:
American Kills Stopovers at International Gateway City

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Europe for the Holidays: Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich

This trip was originally built around a segment starting from Zürich back to the United States.  During my trip, though, I kicked around dropping my United-ticketed return leg in favor of an American Airlines award.  As I had some domestic (yes, domestic) award travel in three-cabin first class on AA already ticketed, it dawned on me that I could add on flights from Zürich to New York for a marginal cost of 30k miles, some taxes, and a helping of British Airways-imposed fuel surcharges.

I’ve never been thrilled by BA’s fuel surcharges, but spending $340 in lieu of an additional 32.5k isn’t a terrible deal.  While a similar analysis could be done for making use of my stopover on my United award, UA didn’t have saver award availability on my desired dates of travel (nor did it ever end up opening up).

Meanwhile, as I kicked around rebooking myself, Lufthansa opened up some first class availability to New York from Frankfurt, so I jumped from the United-operated nonstop from Zürich and abandoned my aspirations of flying BA First (for now).

When I arrived at the lounge, the attendants directed me to the Business Class side of the lounge. The Lufthansa Group family of airlines are sticklers for making passengers show their Star Alliance Gold cards to have access to the senator lounges and my experience was no different.

Once inside, I visited the buffet for a light snack.

Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich

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Europe for the Holidays: Zürich

After leaving the Park Hyatt Zürich, I wandered around the surrounding neighborhood and the northern end of the lake.

Zürich

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A Bit of a Reprieve for the American Express Platinum Card

With the impending loss of American Airlines Admirals Club access for my Platinum card, I’ve been wondering what to do with it lately.  Previously, I had waived my hands and justified the $450 annual fee with its $200/yr airline fee reimbursement to get my cost of lounge access down to $250/yr, far below the discounted rate for Executive Platinum members.  (Plus, I’ve made occasional use of the card to visit US Airways Clubs and Priority Pass lounges.)  I’m still not sold on the swanky American Express Centurion Lounges, as I spend most of my time in airports with disconnected terminal buildings (JFK, LAX, and SFO) rather than those with a unified airside concourse (DFW).

Yesterday, American Express announced two new benefits for the card:

  • Beginning in June, cardholders will get free worldwide Boingo access.  I currently pay $12.95/mo for domestic Boingo access, so I’d be able to drop this in favor of the card-provided benefit in a few months.  After adjusting for Boingo and the airline fee reimbursement, my effective cost of holding the card is about $95/year.  There’s still some benefit from Priority Pass and the global aspect of this Boingo offer that I’m not accounting for.
  • As an alternative to the Global Entry fee reimbursement, American Express will cover the TSA Precheck enrollment fee.

 

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Europe for the Holidays: The Park Hyatt Zürich

In early 2013, I had signed up for the Chase Hyatt Visa card on the eve of losing Hyatt Diamond status. As a result, I had two free suite award nights for any Hyatt worldwide.  While I had managed to use one night in October at the Park Hyatt Milan, I still had a night expiring in mid-January.

To make the best of it, I decided to use it at the Park Hyatt Zürich.

Park Hyatt ZürichPark Hyatt Zürich

 

Park Hyatt Zürich

 

 

 

Park Hyatt Zürich Park Hyatt ZürichUpon check-in, the clerk escorted me to my suite and showed me around.

Park Hyatt Zürich Park Hyatt Zürich Park Hyatt Zürich Park Hyatt Zürich Park Hyatt Zürich Park Hyatt Zürich Park Hyatt Zürich Park Hyatt Zürich Park Hyatt Zürich Park Hyatt Zürich

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Europe for the Holidays: British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow and British Airways Club Europe London to Zürich

For my flight to London, I booked an Avios award in Club Europe for 9k Avios points.  While coach would have been good enough, this decision–similar to my flight from Berlin–was driven by award availability rather than personal preference.

After clearing security, I made my way to the Galleries First lounge.  As I was checking in at the front desk, the clerk suggested I might want to visit the Galleries Club lounge on account of traveling in Club Europe rather than the Galleries First lounge via my Executive Platinum card.

“Isn’t this one supposed to be nicer?”

“Well, yes, it is.”

I’m still puzzled why this conversation happened.

British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow

I made my way into the lounge to look into the dinner options I had available.

British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London HeathrowTerminal 5 would have sweeping views of British Airways’ various aircraft, but most are unfortunately obstructed by the terminal’s architectural features.

British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow British Airways Galleries First Lounge London HeathrowWith boarding about to commence, I made my way from the lounge to the remote terminal 5 pier.  Virgin Atlantic has taken to advertising in the middle of British Airways’ “home.”

British Airways Club Europe London to ZurichSadly, not my chariot to Zürich was not a 747.

British Airways Club Europe London to Zurich British Airways Club Europe London to Zurich

Club Europe’s legroom leaves a bit to be desired.

British Airways Club Europe London to Zurich

Once in flight, I got to discover the joys of children in premium cabins.  A family seated next to and in front of me had brought two children with them.  As to ensure I had a pleasant flight, they took turns screaming, crying, climbing over the seats, and throwing toys throughout the cabin.

We arrived at a remote stand in Zürich.  My luxury car rides to planes aside, it was one of the more pleasant remote stand experiences I’ve had, thanks to stereotypical Swiss efficiency.

British Airways Club Europe London to Zurich

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Europe for the Holidays: The May Fair Hotel London

For my two nights in London, I booked a category 6 award with Club Carlson for The May Fair Hotel for 50k points per night.  As part of the 2014 Club Carlson devaluation, this hotel is now 70k points per night.

As a Club Carlson Visa cardholder (a refrain heard often on this trip), my last night was free, so my stay only cost 50k points for two nights.  At the time of my stay, room rates started at around 350 GBP/nt.  Since I wouldn’t actually be willing to pay that much, even for a hotel in Central London, I can’t claim to have truly received 2.3 cents per point of “value” from this redemption.

The May Fair London The May Fair LondonAt check-in, I was assigned a standard room with a king bed.  Unfortunately, the windows overlooked an small airshaft rather than anything remotely scenic.

The May Fair London The May Fair London The May Fair London The May Fair LondonAs a Club Carlson Gold member (thanks to my credit card), I found a small box of chocolates and a handwritten note of thanks in my room when I arrived.

The May Fair London

The May Fair London

The May Fair London

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Europe for the Holidays: British Airways Terraces Lounge and Club Europe Berlin to London

For my flight to London, I booked a ticket in Club Europe with 9k Avios points.  This choice wound up being driven by award availability (or the lack thereof in coach), rather than any particular desire to fly intra-European business class.

Between possessing oneworld Emerald status and being ticketed in business class, I was able to fortunately avoid the lengthy check-in line.

British Airways Club Europe Berlin to London Continue reading

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Europe for the Holidays: Park Inn Berlin Alexanderplatz

For my two nights in Berlin, I booked two nights at the Park Inn Berlin Alexanderplatz.  As this is a category 4 hotel, awards cost 38k points per night.  Coupled with my Club Carlson Visa which saw a lot of use this trip, my cost was effectively only 19k points per night.

While this was not the absolute “best” value for Club Carlson points (my stay at the May Fair in London later on in the trip was far better), I’ve been keen to taper my Club Carlson balance to a more reasonable level.

As a bit of a history lesson, this hotel opened as the Hotel Stadt Berlin in 1970.  Fortunately, the hotel was renovated in 2012.

Park Inn Berlin Alexanderplatz Continue reading

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