Archive for March, 2012

Breaking News: Sapphire Preferred Bonus Dropping to 40K

Say it ain’t so Chase! As reported here, here, here, here, here, here, here, , and here, the sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is officially being reduced from 50,000 to 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points starting Tuesday, April 3.

The Sapphire Preferred, a stalwart of the points game, has for some time been the most frequently recommended card by many enthusiasts for its generous sign-up bonus, 2x travel/dining bonus, annual 7% bonus bonus, lack of foreign transaction fees, and the fact that it looks and feels so awesome. We attribute numerous “successful” dates with beautiful companions in part to this card’s impressive weight. For these reasons, you’ll find it in the Top Deals section of our site, even though we don’t get a referral bonus. Also, have you ever noticed how funny the word “bonus” is?

We assume this to be a sign that Chase is planning a huge new sign-up bonus to promote the Sapphire Preferred Preferred, but it remains unconfirmed at this time. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to ask our flight attendant for some liquor that we can pour out for this dead deal.

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AMR Looks to Mega Millions for Help

AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines and American Eagle Airlines, has been searching for a way out of bankruptcy since it filed for Chapter 11 in November 2011. With the current Mega Millions jackpot at $640 million and counting, AMR thinks it has a way to somewhat close the $4 billion deficit it currently faces.

“We are investing $180 million in Mega Millions tickets, which according to our economists will give us better-than-average odds,” said VP of Budgeting Chad Wilson. We suggested to Wilson that he read this CNN article, which states 1 in 175.7 million as the odds of winning and provides a dose of reality for hopeful gamblers. Says Wilson, “we read the article, we know the odds, that’s why we’re playing. As long as we buy at least 175.7 million tickets, we are guaranteed to win. Right?”

Guaranteed success

When asked how they would use the money if they win, an anonymous senior executive within AMR explained that they would “pay off some PR and legal fees from [their] fight with the money-wasting labor unions.” If they don’t win, they will just write the tickets off as losses and proceed with bankruptcy.


RyanAir Considering Cheaper “Drop Off” Option

It appears the world of budget airline travel will soon be revolutionized yet again by RyanAir, which announced today that starting this summer it will allow passengers an even cheaper ticket option: an in-flight drop off. For approximately 40% less than the standard ticket price, customers on certain routes will soon have the option of parachuting down to their destination when it is between the aircraft’s takeoff and landing points. Passengers will either need to provide their own parachuting gear or rent it at the gate for €15.

Paris-bound passengers, prepare for arrival.

Executives at RyanAir came up with the idea towards the end of a thirty-hour brainstorming session with limited bathroom breaks. They were hard at work discussing strategies designed to fill planes to capacity when one team member suggested combining routes, an idea that was shot down initially because the planes would have to take off and land at each added destination. The employee then jokingly added that they could just drop off passengers without stopping. Fortunately for budget travelers, the humorous tone of this remark was lost on top executives, who seized on the idea immediately.

The tentative inaugural drop will be over Paris on a flight from Dublin to Genoa in July. In preparation, RyanAir is setting up a landing field approximately nine kilometers outside of the city center, complete with a huge company logo painted into the grass. Passengers who “chicken out” from jumping will be charged the cost of the full route flown, as well as a €200 fee. We look forward to hearing about the experience from our poor readers!


Citi ThankYou Points May or May Not Be Valuable in the Future

At Points Envy, we have in the past redeemed Citi ThankYou points exclusively for steakhouse gift cards. After consuming more than $30,000 worth of steak and fine wine in the last two years, we were just as excited as the rest of the frequent flyer community when Dan’s Deals reported earlier this week that ThankYou points would, starting April 1, transfer to British Airways and Singapore Airlines at a 1:1 ratio. Of course, that rate is before Citi’s vicious tax on points, which effectively reduces the ratio to -3:1. Still, the possibility of redeeming ThankYou points for airline miles was intriguing, and the announcement was met with great celebration here in the office.

The following morning, we were greeted with champagne hangovers and the distressing news that Citi representatives had asked Dan to remove the story from his blog. It has since become clear that there is confusion even within Citi as to whether the points will be transferable to BA and Singapore, with Citi’s PR team denying any transferability while sales representatives continue to tell customers that the points will turn into anything the customers want them to.

If you ask us, we think it is clear that Citi has not been receiving enough applications for its ThankYou Premier card and decided to make up for it by playing an April Fool’s joke on people’s credit. We respect their cunning but will not succumb to their bait-and-switch. Maybe one day ThankYou points will get us a suite on a Singapore Airlines A380, but until then you can find us in the VIP section of our local Ruth’s Chris.

April Fools!


New Delta Award Booking System To Make You Jump Through Hoops

As many in the frequent flyer community have noted over the years, delta.com’s award booking system is broken. After fielding customer complaints and seeing bad press on the subject for so long, Delta is finally introducing a new award booking system, and with it comes good news and bad news. The good news is that low-level awards in both business and economy class will be far more plentiful.

The bad news is that whereas the old booking system required trickery, persistence, and sorcery, the new system makes you jump through hoops – literally. And when we say “literally,” we don’t mean an emphatic “figuratively,” we mean that you can reserve an itinerary on Delta’s site but then must head to the nearest ticketing office and jump through multiple hoops in order to complete the booking.
Flaming hoop

What would you do for BusinessElite?

“We listened to our customers’ complaints about lack of low-level award availability, and I’m proud to say that our low-level award inventory is better than it has ever been,” says Delta Award Booking VP John DiMazzo. “Now our customers can easily redeem their hard-earned SkyMiles for the flights they want. It’s all about the freedom.”

Nice try John, but if anything this is another example of Delta disrespecting our American ways.


Q1 2012 in Review: Maybe the World is Coming to an End?

Perhaps you’ve seen 2012 or read about interpretations of the Maya Calendar and other theories about the world’s demise at the end of this year. Some “scholars” say that the end of the Maya calendar on December 21, 2012 indicates a possibly catastrophic event spawning a post-apocalyptic future where we are barbarians and nomads.

At Points Envy we don’t really care if the world is ending or not, but if the last few months of disappointment in the points and miles game are a taste of what’s to come, then those of you so inclined might want to get right with the Lord before it’s too late. Think about it: credit card sign-up bonuses have been low, frequent flyer programs are getting worse, and airlines keep merging, meaning less competition. This theory is supported by legitimate sources.

2012

See where your points can take you.

We forgot the name of the cycle in the Maya calendar that’s ending on 12/21/12, but a couch surfer from Europe told us that it was really important because it’s from the Mayans. We have no reason to doubt him, and these tough times in the points and miles game could be a sign of real trouble to come.


Worst Flight Ever: Cathay Business Class JFK-HKG

Back before the Avios devaluation in November of last year, we redeemed 100,000 British Airways miles for a roundtrip from New York to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific’s updated business class product. In musical terms, this flight should have been what Avril Lavigne’s version of “Imagine” was to John Lennon’s: a heavenly update of a boring and uninspired original. Instead, it quickly turned into sixteen hours of sheer terror.

We started off the trip with a visit to the British Airways Terraces Lounge at JFK, which proved incredibly uneventful. Although all the normal amenities were provided and the staff was friendly and attentive, we had hoped for something special, a man dressed in full butler attire perhaps. You can see from the image below that is was, disappointingly, just a very nice lounge.

No butlers in sight.

Nice lounge, no butlers.

Once on board, we settled into our comfy lie-flat seat and felt at home. Service was impeccable and the food was also quite tasty. We opted first for the scallops course and had no complaints. In fact, our only real complaint about Cathay Pacific’s dining options would be that the beverage selection is lacking somewhat in the sparkling wine options.

Scallops, with fork and knife.

After the meal, we decided to watch Senna, a 2010 documentary about the life of Formula One driver Ayrton Senna. The film was captivating and, in combination with the decent bubbly and hot pork buns, we were nearing a moment of pure bliss towards its end when, with no warning whatsoever, Senna crashes his car into a wall and dies. [Spoiler alert.] The entire flight was instantly ruined.

Why Cathay Pacific chose to include such a depressing film as part of its in-flight entertainment is beyond us. You would think they would want to maximize the happiness of their business class passengers, and instead they smack us directly in the face with a massive tragedy fish. Completely crushed from this experience, we did not take time to peruse the rest of the films available, but we can only assume they included Schindler’s List, Bambi, Titanic, and Star Wars: Episode I.

We spent the remaining eleven hours of the flight in a state of emotional shock, unable to do much of anything. After a few more drinks, we managed to mumble out a breakfast order, and the resulting omelette was delicious, albeit a little salty from our tears. We landed a couple hours later and, despite this rough introduction, our time in Hong Kong was wonderful. On the return flight, we made sure to avoid the in-flight entertainment entirely.

Freshly-cooked omelette.

Would you like sadness with that?