Multiple U.S. Cities to Europe for Less Than $275 Round Trip

a321_wow_air

 

WOW Airlines, a low cost carrier based in Iceland is offering some incredible deals to multiple cities in Europe with a layover in Reykjavik, Iceland. WOW Airlines also offers a free stop over in Iceland so if you had future plans on eventually visiting Iceland, this would be a perfect time to take advantage of that.  WOW is not a full service airline so you will have to pay for everything from a carry-on bag to a beverage. They don’t charge for a personal item such as a book bag or a bag that fits under the seat. They do a charge an exorbitant $54.99 just to carry on a bag each way.  Since their base fares are so low, you would still be a getting a great deal even with the added cost.  If your goal is to fit a week’s worth of clothes into a back pack and get across the pond without forking over much cash, these deals are made just for that.  Here are a few examples using a quick search from Google Flights:

 

 Los Angeles to Paris for $240 RT

WowLAX2Paris

 

                        Boston to Paris for $219 RT

WowBoston2Paris

 

         Baltimore/Washington (BWI) to London (Gatwick) for $259 RT

 

BW2London

 

Availability can be seen for flights between September and December and in some cases, well into January. Over the past week, WOW announced new service to St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit. Over the past year, it has expanded in the U.S. at a rapid pace while finding a niche in the low cost transatlantic market. Along with Norwegian, WOW has certainly made transatlantic flights affordable and forced full service carriers to lower their airfares to Europe.

 

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Business Insider

My Experience Redeeming British Airways Avios for a Flight on American Airlines

british-airways-banner

 

Before I get into the tidbits of Avios redemption on American Airlines, I’ll share my recent experience with British Airways and how redeeming Avios on American Airlines rather than booking with American using its own AAdvantage miles saved me a huge headache. At a conference in Philadelphia two weeks ago, I arrived at the hotel and was asked to provide a drivers license or an ID and a credit card for incidentals. I opened my wallet and my credit card was there. I assumed I had my drivers license and looked behind a few cards but I could not find it (I left it in my scanner at home when I was making a copy 2 days prior). I went into all out panic mode and frantically started searching my pockets, book bag, and suitcase. I took out every single card from my wallet and nothing came up. I was the guy who booked the hotel rooms for 3 other friends and I’m thinking I might be the guy who might have screwed this whole thing up. I told the receptionist “uhhh I’m really really sorry but I don’t have my drivers license with me.  I think I dropped it. The only thing I have is my school ID.  Can you match that with my credit card and make that work?” The receptionist said they generally don’t allow it but since I was there for the conference, he’d let it slide. If you are some how reading this and you are that receptionist from the Double Tree near Phildelphia International Airport,  God bless you and thank you again. Half the disaster averted. Now I realized I also had a flight from Philly to Albany two days later and not having my license would really make things difficult ( I arrived in Philly via Greyhound and they never checked for ID).  I booked my flight using British Airways Avios on American Airlines for 7.5k Avios plus $5.60 in taxes. The cash price for this one way ticket was going for $422 (!). This gave me an excellent value of 5.6 cents per Avios.  If I had booked the same flight using American Airlines miles, It would have cost me 7.5k AAdvantage miles PLUS an additional $80. If you book an award flight within 21 days of departure on American, you are subjected to an $80 “close in” fee. British Airways does not charge the same fee when using Avios to book on American. This allows you to make same day bookings (if seats are available) without losing value due to a surcharge. Since I didn’t have my license and didn’t want to deal with extra paperwork and questions from TSA trying to board my flight, I decided I would just ride back with a friend who had driven there. I called British Airways about 40 hours prior to departure and requested to cancel my flight. British Airways’ award cancellation policy is very customer friendly. As long as you cancel 24 hours or more prior to departure, they will credit your miles back without charging a fee to reinstate those miles. The only thing you would lose is the $5.60 in tax which is negligible in the grand scheme of things. Had I booked this flight using AAdvantage miles, American would have charged me $150 to cancel the flight and reinstate those miles.

 

PHLAvios

The cost of my flight had I used cash to pay for it. Prior to cancelling, I only used 7.5k Avios, which would have given me a value of 5.6 cents per Avios.

 

For many of the reasons highlighted above,  Executive Club is one my favorite frequent flier programs for domestic travel. BA Executive Club is a transfer partner of Chase, AMEX, and SPG, so there are many ways to get Avios (British Airways’ frequent flier curency). I have never redeemed Avios for international flights on British Airways itself because BA charges a very hefty fuel surcharge on transatlantic award flights flown on their metal. I use Avios to book flights on BA’s OneWorld partner, American Airlines. British Airways utilizes a distance based award chart which means the number of Avios used depends on the distance you’re traveling. Zone 1 costs 7.5k Avios for a one way ticket (0-1,151 miles traveled),   zone 2 costs 10k avios for a one way ticket (1,152-2000 miles traveled), and zone 3 costs 12.5k Avios for a one way ticket (2001-3000 miles traveled).  When you book a saver award using American Airlines, domestic flights that are less than 500 miles require 7.5k AAdvantage miles. Anything more than that requires 12.5k at the saver level.  I do want clarify that British Airways award availability on American Airlines isn’t a sure thing on any given date. Generally if American Airlines is showing saver award availability via their own program, there is a decent chance BA will have access to those as well. I have posted an example of a sample itinerary using both programs.

In this example, we’ll use a one way flight from Chicago (ORD) to Denver (DIA) on September 17th. Let’s start off with American Airlines:

 

We can see that there is MileSAAver availability from Chicago to Denver. A one way flight would cost 12.5 AAdvantage miles.

AA2DIAEconomy

 

There is also discounted MileSAAver availability in business class for 25k AAdvantage miles.

 

ORD2DIABusinessClass

 

Now let’s see how much the same flight would cost using British Airways Avios:

 

AviosORD2DIAeconomy

 

The same flight we saw above for 12.5k AAdantage miles in economy can be booked for 7.5k Avios. And if we want to book a seat in business class……..

 

AviosORD2DIABusinessClass

 

This same flight costs 25k AAdvantage miles to book in business class. Booking with British Airways only costs 15k Avios for a business class ticket. When you take into consideration that booking just an economy seat using American costs 12.5k miles, an extra 2.5k Avios to bump up to business class is a tremendous value.

Another great use of Avios is for domestic award tickets on Alaska Airlines. Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines does not show up on British Airways’ website the way American does so you would have to call them to book.  If they tell you that a phone booking would cost you a fee, kindly request them to waive it since booking an Alaska flight using Avios is not possible through their website.

American Airlines Launching Non-Stop Service From Chicago to Venice and Philadelphia to Budapest and Prague

source: www.made-in-italy.com

Residents of Chicago and Philadelphia will have more non-stop options to Europe next summer as American Airlines announced seasonal service from both cities. American will fly from Chicago to Venice non-stop on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Philadelphia to Prague and Budapest on the Boeing 767. All three of these routes will run from May 4th-October-27th. Philadelphia will also see the return of daily non-stop service to Zurich, Switzerland. You can read more about Chicago to Venice here and Philadelphia to Budapest and Prague here.

Leveraging Your Routine Spending Into Points: Back to School Edition

Back2School

If you have driven past any mall or big box retailer over the past couple of weeks, you have seen the “back to school” signs plastered on storefront windows trying to grab your attention and inviting you to walk in. It’s the time of the year when parents will be restocking school supplies for kids and undergrad and grad students will be looking for the best deals on laptops and textbooks. This time of the year is pretty important for retailers and they know consumers have more choices than ever. In the realm of the points and miles world, this is also a time of the year where you can benefit greatly. If you plan on doing a majority of your shopping on Amazon, you can read in-depth how you can accumulate JetBlue miles by clicking here.  For other retailers where you might consider shopping online, I highly recommend using www.cashbackmonitor.com

This website shows you how many airline miles or hotel points you will earn by routing yourself through that airline’s or hotel’s online mall.  It’s pretty straight forward and you can find a detailed example below.  I have posted some screenshots for the online Apple store as an example:

This is the homepage of http://www.cashbackmonitor.com. The most popular retailers are listed on the front page. If you don’t see yours, search for it on the search tab

CashBackMonitor1

 

If you wanted to purchase something online from the Apple Store, this is how many miles/points/cashback different airlines/hotels/cashback portals are offering if you route yourself to the Apple Store via their own shopping mall. Keep in mind, it doesn’t cost you a dime to sign up for these frequent flier programs. At this particular time, United is offering 6 miles per dollar if you make a purchase on Apple.com by clicking through their link. This is the highest among any of the shopping portals. Let’s use that as an example.

CashBackMonitor2

 

When you click on United’s link, this is the page you land on. But wait, not only would you get 6 United MileagePlus miles per dollar for your Apple purchase, United is also offering a back- to-school bonus depending on your level of spending. That $1,300 Macbook Pro would earn you 10,800 United MileagePlus Miles –> ($1,300 x 6 miles) + 3,000 bonus miles for getting the 3,000 mile back-to-school bonus offered by United for spending $600. 12.5k United MileagePlus miles gets you a saver award one way in economy. In addition to that, Apple is offering free Beats headphones if you purchase an iPad or Macbook Pro for college (presumably with a student ID).

UnitedBack2School

Simply click on the “shop now” icon and you are directed to Apple’s website.

 

If you were going to shop for school supplies online at Walmart.com, this is how much you would earn through each portal:

CashbackmonitorWalmart

 

For you undergrad and grad students reading this, popular online textbook retailers such as Textbooks.com and Alibris.com are also listed on cashbackmonitor.com.  If you’re purchasing from Amazon, remember to route yourself via JetBlue. You are simply walking away from an easy opportunity to earn miles if you don’t. And remember, you can use this website to help you earn miles for your routine online shopping no matter the time of the year.

SOME VERY IMPORTANT TIPS BEFORE USING ANY PORTALS TO MAKE A PURCHASE

  1. Make sure your cookies are enabled. If they’re not, the airline or hotel rewards program can’t track your purchase and you might not get credited for them.
  2. Sign up for that particular airline’s frequent flier program PRIOR to shopping (it’s free and takes a minute).
  3. Make sure you are logged-in to the airline’s frequent flier program prior to clicking on the retailers website. Most portals will make you sign in prior to routing you to that retailer.

 

Deal Alert: Chicago to Los Angeles $89 Round Trip

LosAngeles

For anyone looking for a cheap flight to the West Coast, there are multiple carriers offering round trip tickets between $89 and $99 from Chicago (ORD) to Los Angeles for many dates between September and December. This deal also works in reverse for those of you on the West Coast wanting to travel to Chicago. I have posted a few sample itineraries below. Even though the American Airlines fare is $10 more, it isn’t in the basic economy fare class so you would be allowed to bring a carry-on at no charge. American also flies the comfortable Boeing 787 Dreamliner on some of these routes.

 

UnitedORD2LAX

Keep in mind, this flight is on United’s new basic economy class which means you would have to pay for any luggage that can’t fit under the seat. You can’t choose your seat during the booking process, and you won’t be able to use the mobile app to check-in. Booking this trip in standard economy would cost $80 more each way

 

ORD2LAXAA

This is the better overall value since you can take a carry-on and get access to overhead bins at no extra charge. You also get to choose your seat, use your mobile device to check-in, and earn elite qualifying miles.

U.S. to Barcelona for Under $350 Round Trip Between November and March.

Norwegian

For those of you who are interested in traveling to Barcelona between November and March, Norwegian Airlines has plenty of dates for airfare as low as $313 round trip from Boston and $344 round trip from Newark. Norwegian does charge to check in luggage and they do not serve complimentary meals on international flights so that is something to keep in mind. But even with the added cost, it is still a great deal to one my favorite cities in Europe and one that routinely lands on TripAdvisor’s top 25 cities in the world. Norwegian has a relatively young fleet and utilizes the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on these routes. I flew on this plane on the Norwegian metal two years ago and had a pretty comfortable experience in economy.   If you conduct a search on Google flights, you will get a calendar that shows you the low fares on various dates. Below is a sample itinerary from Newark (EWR) from January 21st to January 29th.

GoogleBCN

googleflights

Links to Referrals

Some of you have been kind enough to request referral links and I am very appreciative of that. If you happen to come across this page, you certainly aren’t obligated to use my referral links to sign up for any credit card or service such as Airbnb. But I will be very grateful if you do.

 

Airbnb: Click HereAirbnb is a great alternative to hotels in many locations around the world. If you use my referral link, you also get $40 off your first booking of $75 or more. You can read my post about Airbnb here

Chase Freedom: Click Here  The benefits of this card is the rotating quarterly categories that gives you 5 points per dollar on the first $1,500 spent on that category. For this quarter, the category is restaurants. Any restaurant, cafe, fast food place, etc will qualify for the 5 points per dollar. You can combine these points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred if you have either. Having either of the latter two will allow you to transfer the points to one of many transfer partners that Chase has.

Chase Freedom UnlimitedClick here The benefits of this card is that it awards you 1.5 points per purchase on every single purchase. I use this card for utilities, car maintenance,  trips to Walmart (very unusual to find a credit card that offers more than 1 point per dollar at Walmart), and other categories which don’t fall in travel or dining. These points can also be combined with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred to maximize your benefits.

American Express Platinum: Click Here This card has a hefty annual fee of $550 but if you know how to use the benefits, you still come out ahead. This awards a 60k bonus after $5k spending over the first 3 months so unless you know you will be hitting that threshold, do not apply for the card. Receiving the bonus is a big deal since you can transfer the points to many airlines and hotels. You get $100 global entry credit or $85 TSA pre-check credit. This card gives you complimentary access to Priority Pass lounges, Delta lounges, and Centurion lounges. One day passes for these lounges cost at least $50. You can also bring two guests with you. You get $200 credit to Uber annually, $200 travel credit to a designated airline, membership to Boingo Hotspot, and gold status at Hilton, Marriott, and Starwood hotels. I already detailed how having gold status for Hilton netted me greater than $700 in value from the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. You can read about that here and you can read about all the benefits of the card here.

American Express Hilton Honors SurpassClick Here and you can read about it here

Excellent Award Tickets to Hawaii from New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, and More using Flying Blue

flying-blue-LOGO

One of my favorite frequent flier programs and one which I utilize quite frequently is Flying Blue. This is the frequent flier program for Air France and KLM, but one which you could also use to book flights on Delta as well as other airlines that are part of the Sky Team alliance. Flying Blue is also a transfer partner for Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. If you have a credit card (see examples below) that earns points for any of the above programs, you can transfer those points into Flying Blue and then book a flight on a multitude of Sky Team partners.

 

All of these credit cards earn points that can be transferred into Flying Blue. With regards to Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred, points from the Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited can be combined to maximize the benefits.

 

In this post, I’ll go into detail on using those points on Delta for an excellent redemption to Hawaii starting from late August and into early November. While there are many cities where you can find these redemptions, I’ll go over NYC, Chicago, and St. Louis. Every one of these trips only costs 30k points round trip to and from Hawaii. The cash price on these tickets is well over $600.

New York City to Honolulu

 

FlyingBlue

If you have flexibility, you have several days from late August into late September that offers a departure for 15k points.

 

FlyingBlue2

Many return dates also utilizing 15k points per person

You also have several days on the return trip that have a 15k points per person.  If you were going to a book a flight from September 9th-18th using cash, you would paying at least $782 per person below. With the award redemption you’re getting round trip tickets for 2 people for a total of 60k points.

GoogleFlights

 

Chicago to Maui

 

ORD2OGGFLyingBlue

If you have some flexibility, plenty of departure dates using only 15k points per person

 

OGG2ORD

And plenty of return dates also using 15k points per person.

If you were going to pay with cash, a sample search from September 27th – October 4th is pictured below. This will give you an idea of how much you would pay in cash. The same dates using Flying Blue redemptions would be 30k points per person.

GoogleFlightsORD2OGG

 

St. Louis to Kona

STL2KonaFlyingBlue

 

St. Louis has many days in September that offer departures to Kona for 15k points per person. Kona is a district located in the Big Island of Hawaii.

Kona2STLFLyingBlue

Unfortunately, there aren’t as many dates available on the way back. If you have flexibility, you can use an itinerary such as September 11-18th. This would give you the 30k round trip redemption per person. And if you were to pay with cash for those same dates………

STL2KonaGoogleFlights

In all of these examples, you are getting an excellent value of more than 2 cents per mile for these redemptions. Keep in mind, all these routes would be flown on Delta Airlines. If you want to explore multiple islands, inter-island flights between islands are usually reasonable in price. So let’s say in the above example you landed in Kona but want to explore Oahu or Maui, you can check to see if there are 1 way redemptions from either of those islands back to St. Louis for 15k and plan accordingly. If you have JetBlue points accrued, you can use those to redeem for inter-island flights on Hawaiian Airlines . This is what I did when I flew from Maui to Kauai last December.

 

 

My Experience with AirHelp for a Delayed Flight to London

Airhelp

For those of you who have experienced a non-weather related flight cancellation or a delay of 3+ hours on a flight to or from Europe over the last 3 years, you might want to visit http://www.airhelp.com and see if you are eligible for compensation. On a flight from New York City to London back in May of 2015, my flight on Norwegian Airlines was delayed for 5+ hours. When I inquired about the reason for the delay, they said it was due to a scheduling error and not having a pilot available to fly the aircraft. I thought it was a pretty ridiculous excuse for a reputable airline such as Norwegian not to have a pilot available. A few months prior, I had heard about AirHelp and I thought I would give them a shot and have them process my claim. AirHelp has lawyers that process your claim for you in European courts. If the judge awards you monetary compensation (this can be as high as 680 euros), they take half of that (25% service fee and 25% legal fee) and directly deposit the rest into your bank account via Payoneer. If you are not awarded anything, they don’t collect. Classic case of zero risk, high reward. I emailed them my flight info and the reason Norwegian gave me for the delay. They told me right away that cases similar to mine were awarded compensation greater than 90% of the time. They were transparent throughout the entire process and kept me updated on where the case stood. About 14 months after I initially contacted them, AirHelp informed me via email that the judge ruled in my favor and I had been awarded 600 euros. In a funny twist, I received an email from Norwegian Airlines just 2 days later. They were offering me 150 euros as compensation along with an apology (lol, apologizing 14 months later). I immediately contacted AirHelp and they informed me not to accept anything. Norwegian was trying to give me a low-ball offer hoping that I would accept it and reduce their liability. I declined Norwegian’s offer and AirHelp transferred $328 into my bank account via Payoneer 4 business days later. Although the process took a while, there was very little effort in my part to collect the compensation. I paid $397 for the one way flight to Europe so the compensation covered more than 80% of that cost. If not for AirHelp, I certainly was not going to go through the hassle of filing a claim in Europe. If you have experienced a delay of 3+ hours transiting to or from Europe, the image below will guide you on whether you should pursue a claim. You will also find all the info you need on http://www.airhelp.com. You certainly have nothing to lose and they’ll inform you on whether your claim is worth pursuing in court.

Airhelp2.JPG

It’s unfortunate that the U.S. doesn’t have similar laws that would offer consumers the same level of protection for delayed and cancelled flights. We have our own air carriers that are chronically late and will continue to be late until punitive measures are put in place.  As of right now, the worst that can happen to them are a few negative yelp reviews.

New York City and Chicago to Asia for under $400 Round Trip

 

China Eastern

If you are looking for a great deal to Asia, China Eastern has flights from New York City (JFK) and Chicago (ORD) to multiple cities for under $400. According to View from the Wing the list below includes most of the cities where you can travel to and from Chicago and New York City:

  • Chiang Mai
  • Taipei
  • Bangkok
  • Phuket
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Bali
  • Cebu, Philippines
  • Macau
  • Manila
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Phnom Penh
  • Siem Reap
  • Ho Chi Minh City

 

I put in a random date from NYC to New Delhi and the price showed $379 for a round trip flight with a layover in Shanghai, China.

China Eastern

 

It’s pretty rare to see flights to China and Southeast Asia for under $500 so if you were planning a trip to any of the cities above, here is a great opportunity to get that flight at a bargain price. China Eastern is part of the Sky Team alliance so if you have a Delta SkyMiles frequent flier account, you would be able to credit the miles to Delta.

 

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred, you can use those points to book this flight from the Chase portal. The redemption for the Chase Sapphire Reserve is coming out to a little more than 26k UR points for a round trip ticket. Personally I have never seen a redemption this low for a flight to Asia.

 

ChaseChinaEastern