avios

The Week in Review

Points Envy had a blast at the StarMegaDo4 this week. It was a wonderful chance to see how the sausage is made at United and to finally meet some of the most infamous points bloggers around. Most importantly, it was nice to have easy access to the buffet line from which said bloggers were all eating. Our last experiment failed, but we will rule this world yet!

The miles blogs have been filled with talk of an upcoming 30% Membership Rewards transfer bonus to British Airways, but the bonus does not begin until December 3. This reminds us of the way our dead parents used to start mentioning Christmas in November. This type of teasing did not end well for them.

Points Envy brought you an exclusive look, via Lucky (via Gary), at a 25% award redemption sale in the Avios program.

Dan’s Deals provided an excellent guide to maximizing this week’s Staples promotion whereby you receive a $15 Staples Gift card for every $100 Visa or Mastercard gift card purchased. So far, we have bought $30,000 worth of gift cards at our local Staples stores, and this afternoon we are flying to Nebraska to visit a few more Staples. Nobody in Nebraska is in the game yet, right? We assume it is like living in the 1990s there.

As predicted, Lucky has given us the beginnings of a stellar review of Lufthansa first class. Not to be outdone, MommyPoints also flew the most German of all airlines this week, and the full review of her A380 trip is forthcoming.

Million Mile Secrets provided a nice rundown of some ways in which to maximize the fourth quarter Chase Freeom bonus on hotels and airlines by purchasing gift cards. We plan on using this method to max out the $1500 bonus on all sixteen of our Freedom cards.

Last, but not least, our friend George was mentioned in a critical post by The Frugal Travel Guy, and has responded with a couple posts of his own. Rick then engaged George and his readers in a vicious catfight in the alley (aka comments section) of George’s most recent post. As a wise man once said: hate hate hate hate.

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Flash Sale: 25% Off Longhaul BA and Iberia Awards

Normally we don’t bother to wake up on Wednesdays, but today we were thrilled we did. The Avios program is running a six-day sale starting today, whereby you can save 25% off longhaul portions of award tickets on British Airways and Iberia. Lucky, a significantly more knowledgable and less lazy travel blogger, runs through more of the particulars here.

Iberia has a BusinessPlus product that we have not had the “pleasure” of trying out. Assuming they serve jamón ibérico and premium cava, it is probably tolerable. We have, on the other hand, had the pleasure of experiencing both the new and old British Airways first class products, and we consider them to be two of the best in the world. This sale therefore presents a fantastic opportunity for those of you with a hefty stash of Avios lying around, especially considering you would likely otherwise use those points for short domestic flights in American Airlines economy. Please, dear readers, step your redemption games up.

British Airways does, of course, impose hefty “fuel” surcharges, which, if what we overheard in the Heathrow Concorde Room is true, directly fund MI6. Having just seen the new Bond movie, Points Envy has nothing against supporting this high class lifestyle of international intrigue, but our wallets do not generally allow for it. We therefore tend to pay for these 007 surcharges with our Sapphire Preferred cards and then redeem Ultimate Rewards points for a one cent apiece statement credit. Some bloggers may tell you this is not the best redemption value, but they are not taking into account that earning points is much easier than earning money. And now, off to book eight of these first class awards to India next month. Bloody brilliant!

Which Bond are you? Craig or Connery?


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?


The History of “Adios” Points

If you are considering taking advantage of the new Membership Rewards 50% bonus on transfers to British Airways Avios points, you may be interested in the history behind the derogatory “Adios” nickname for BA’s recently-unveiled program. We caught up with Walter Thompson in Omaha, who was around for the first Chase BA 100,000-mile sign up bonus promotion.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Thompson. “I was searching through the AAdvantage Mall for something I could tolerate buying for bonus miles when I looked up to see my wife throwing away an envelope from Chase with a British Airways 777-300 on it.” After saving the envelope from its doom he ripped it open and nearly fainted from the offer within. He immediately logged on to FlyerTalk as user mAAdvantage and posted about the offer. Says Thompson, “Next thing you know, everyone and their mother was taking Chase up on the 100,000 offer.” As word spread in the frequent flyer community, thousands more cashed in on one of the most generous credit card sign-up deals of all time. We at Points Envy got three each.

But the offer was not unique, and when Chase brought back the 100,000 bonus in 2011, Thompson knew something was wrong. “Why would they be so generous after all the deserving people had already gotten it?” He claims to have foreseen the award chart changes that would ultimately devalue BA miles. “I was ready to give up on British Airways, and as soon as I saw talk online of the change to Avios points, I said ‘Adios,’ and I said it online.”

Sources at FlyerTalk have confirmed that mAAdvantage’s post was indeed the first to mention the word “Adios” outside the context of describing a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, but many still hesitate to offer Thompson any praise, usually citing what FlyerTalk user MilesHighness calls “the obviousness of the name.” According to MilesHighness, “Everyone thought of it when they heard about the change; so what if he posted it first?”

Such comments don’t rouse Thompson, who thinks the detractors’ jealousy is unproductive. In a recent post, he states: “Just to prove once and for all that I do think of these things way ahead of the curve, I am hereby unveiling the names ByeMiles and MileageMinus for Delta and United, respectively.” Thanks Walter, we would never have figured those out.