Letters – May, 30 2007

Letters – May, 30 2007

Honeymoon Travel Success
We often hear so many negative stories about not being able to utilize miles and points. Well, I wanted to write about a very positive experience I had booking various awards for my wife and I on our honeymoon back in September with relative ease and various options that fit our schedule. I was able to book two roundtrip flights (100,000 total miles) using my Delta miles on Air France for both of us (New York to Rome direct overnight flight) and on the return (Rome-Paris-New York) we were even upgraded to business class on the return Paris-New York portion. I called the Delta service desk to book these flights as they were not available online — always a smart option.

Additionally, I reserved two nights at the wonderful Hilton Cavalieri in Rome for 80,000 Hilton points and they even upgraded us to a master suite. An incredible luxury hotel just outside of the city — $15 taxi to Rome center — with the most incredible restaurant in all of Rome ‘La Pergola’! We had a few great days in Rome exploring the incredible sights, etc. On our next stop we spent a few days/nights in wonderful Positano (a must for any traveler to Italy) along the Amalfi Coast staying at a great boutique hotel (Albergo California) which provided absolutely incredible views from our balcony and then a few nights on the Isle of Capri. We stayed three nights on Capri and I used Marriott points to book our last night there at the luxurious Capri Marriott for 52,500 points. Here we were also upgraded to a superior room with a great view overlooking Capri and the Mediterranean.

After traveling back to the mainland and Rome, our last night, we stayed near the airport for our early departure flight and used 35,000 points to book one night at the Hilton Rome Airport using my Blackberry the day before. This hotel is very convenient to the airport and they even provided us a free transfer to and from downtown Rome so we could enjoy one last great meal near the Trevi Fountain that evening — the coin toss into the fountain worked as we had already returned!!!

All in all I was able to book two roundtrip flights and four hotel nights for 267,500 miles/points.
– 100,000 Delta miles
– 115,000 Hilton points
– 52,500 Marriott points

I estimated I saved close to $5,000!
William Barbera

Editor’s Note: Thanks William for sharing your success story with us. We agree with you in that you hear more about members not getting the awards they want. But it’s good to hear from others such as yourself who truly are enjoying the rewards of their loyalty.

Honeymoon Definitely Over
Long time subscriber — since 1989.

The quality of the Delta SkyMiles rewards program has taken a huge nosedive.

SkyChoice is available at two to three times the previous number of miles required for a flight reward: 25,000 miles is now 50,000 to 80,000; 80,000 miles now 160,000 to 240,000 per flight. How many people have lost all chances of ever utilizing the rewards program? (Which I assume, is exactly what Delta is counting on!!)

SkySaver flights are almost never available. For travel to, for example, South Africa, it’s only available for two consecutive days out of the next 330 days!!! Why even bother!

Stating that SkySaver awards “might not be available on high-demand flights” opens this reward program up to MAJOR manipulation so that SkySaver awards are almost never available. Furthermore, the airline is adjusting SkyChoice miles up and down to their benefit.

I would sincerely appreciate if you would advise your readers to be aware of this and that the number of miles required for rewards have increased 33 to 66 percent.

Thanks for a very valuable Web site.

Editor’s Note: I asked our in-house award redemption experts to test out awards to South Africa and we must be lucky as we found far more than two days available over the next 330 days. The problem might be that you are trying too early. The sweet spot for those awards — even using partners — is normally about six to seven months out. Hope this helps and please let us help you if we can — we like these sorts of challenges.

Donate Miles for the Temple?
My Temple wants to set up a program where members can donate their airline miles from multiple airlines that our staff will use for Temple business. Is there a Web site that will do this? Our members have American, Delta, Northwest, Continental and probably many other airline miles. The donation would be to a charity so ideally we want a Web site already set up that we can just subscribe to, and then send out information to our members so they can login and donate miles.

We’d appreciate any advice you can give us.

Editor’s Note: We applaud your efforts in this area and you join many others that have similar ideas. You’ll not likely have much success in working directly with the airline frequent flyer programs for this initiative, but there is some hope. If you visit MileDonor.com, you’ll find information that will assist you in this. Essentially, you won’t be able to solicit miles from your members in the hopes of “pooling” them into a worthwhile award, but rather you will have to convince members to donate a whole award, which another member of the Temple can use for business purposes.

Pod Sleep
British Airways has launched an exciting series of six podcasts all about sleep. The podcasts feature one of the U.K.’s leading sleep experts, Dr. Chris Idzikowsky. British Airways’ “Dr Sleep”, looks at the impact travel has on our sleeping patterns and gives useful tips to help travelers, in particular business travelers, arrive at destinations refreshed. Check it out at http://www.ba.com/podcast

Return a Dress, Get Miles?
What’s to keep a person from buying something with a credit card to get miles, say a dress at my local Macy’s, and then return said dress at a later date to get my money back? Isn’t that one way to rack up a lot of miles? Just curious. I wouldn’t do this myself, mind you.

Editor’s Note: You’re not the first person to think this might work — but it won’t and we suggest you don’t try it (even though we know you have no intention of trying it). You might get the miles posted to your frequent flyer account, but when you return the dress, the credit card company will credit your account — and the airline will debit your frequent flyer account. Also, the miles might not post until after the 30-day return limit — then you’ll be stuck with the dress whether you want it or not — but at least you’ll have the (legitimate) miles.

The Two-Bag System
It makes good sense to avoid checking bags in at the airport. If you don’t check bags, you avoid theft or loss of the bag, or even theft of items from the bag. And you don’t lose time in baggage claim. More smart travelers are doing this.

I have several ideas regarding carry-on bags that I’d like to share with you. I have one bag the exact size and shape allowed by airlines to carry aboard. Into this bag, I place items I won’t need during the flight. I don’t want to be popping up during the flight to get something out of the overhead bin, which is where this bag goes.

I have another bag that I keep at my seat. You are also allowed to carry aboard a briefcase. (My briefcase is huge, but no one has ever challenged me on that.) Into the briefcase goes everything I may need at my seat: a book, reading glasses, small pillow, headphones, eye mask, etc. The briefcase goes under the seat in front of me, and it makes a good footrest. The pillow goes against the wall.

I really like this two-bag system. On most trips, two bags provide plenty of space for what I need to take with me. I avoid the agony of waiting for my bag to appear in baggage claim. (I’m never sure that the bag actually will appear; and someone may grab my bag if it looks to them like their bag.) And no one steals from the bag when I keep it with me.

Someone may have a better system, and if so, I’d like to know what it is.
Mark Terry

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