Beware of How You Joke Around With a Pilot – First Hand Account

Thanks to Tyler Stone, a great friend and special contributor to MilesForPlaces for sharing this first hand account on a recent flight from Orlando, Florida to Albany, NY.

“On this day, my JetBlue flight was scheduled for an 11:40 am departure out of Orlando to Albany. The boarding process was business as usual.  Everyone  was already on the plane.  Then around noon, just prior to taxiing out to the runway, the Captain announced that there would be a further delay. He went on to say that he had been piloting for over 25 years and takes his job very seriously. He has built his life and his family around this career and has a clean record (sounds very agitated)

At this point, everyone started looking at each other like “what the hell is going on?” Captain continued that a passenger had claimed he saw the pilot at the bar and that these kinds of statements are taken very seriously.

“If a passenger makes these types of statements and other passengers overhear this, it can cause widespread panic among other flyers. Because of this,  I’m going to have to step off the plane and conduct some tests to ensure I am safe to fly. I can assure you that I have not consumed any alcohol prior to this flight and the gentleman who made this statement claimed he made it in a joking manner”

All the passengers were clearly annoyed at the man who made the comments. The Captain then mentioned that FAA personnel would have to meet with him and clear him prior to flying. An airport employee came on the plane and escorted the elderly gentleman who made the comments. He looked pretty embarrassed and obviously knew he messed up.

The Captain ended his brief speech reiterating that the passenger had clearly said he was just joking after the fact but these kind of statements are taken seriously and need to be followed up on.  The Captain said “you wouldn’t joke about having weapons while going through TSA. Likewise, it’s not appropriate to make these types of ‘jokes’.”

About 10 minutes or so passed. The elderly passenger who made the statement was led back onto the plane. Again, he looked visibly embarrassed and had just about every eyeball on the plane honed in on him.

A few moments later the pilot came back on and said everything was taken care of and we would be departing shortly (he still sounded very angry at this point). The rest of our flight was pretty uneventful and we got to Albany safely. The moral of the story, don’t compromise a pilot’s ability to do his job by making a smart ass comment that can get him in trouble.”

 

Review: Art & Lounge Newark Liberty International Airport

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Prior to a recent flight from Newark to Chicago, my wife and I had a two hour layover at EWR. Since we had a 3 hour drive without any lunch from Upstate NY, I thought we might have to settle for overpriced airport food. Fortunately for us, Art & Lounge in Terminal B that was part of the Priority Pass network. As a Chase Sapphire Reserve holder, Priority Pass allows me and one guest (some cases two) complimentary access to their vast network of lounges.

Art & Lounge is located prior to security at Terminal B. You can get there via the Air Train from Terminal A or C but if you have already cleared security, you will be required to clear it again when you head back.

 

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Entrance

 

Once you’re in, the staff at the front desk will verify your boarding pass and swipe your Priority Pass card. I was starving and went straight to the buffet area to check out what they were serving for dinner….

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Grilled tilapia, baked potatoes, pizza, and steamed vegetables

 

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Bowtie pasta

 

 

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Oatmeal and shortbread cookies

 

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Orange and apple juice at the bar area

The food served at this lounge was very good. The pasta was excellent, the grilled tilapia was fresh, and the steamed veggies and baked potatoes were all on point. I got there just as they were putting out the food. Had I got there two hours later, it’s entirely possible this review is different.  Let’s move on to the other areas of the lounge…..

 

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This is one of the common areas where my wife and I decided to get situated. The TV is on via a projector and just about every seat has an outlet to plug in electronics. If you want to read one of the many books they have on the shelf, you can do that as well.  The lounge itself is not big and when we got there, it was roughly half filled.  I can imagine this place being quite packed during peak travel times.

 

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The adjacent room had plenty of available space

 

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The first common area was mostly filled when we entered.

 

The one noticeable flaw this lounge had was the WiFi speed. It was dial-up level and business travelers that need to be connected won’t be able to survive on 0.59 Mbps.

 

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I’d rate this lounge a 3.8/5

Good food, good vibe, and comfortable if you can find space. The super slow WiFi speeds and its location pre-security are minor flaws. In case you are wondering, I was able to take the Air Train from Terminal B to C and clear security all within 10 minutes.  I do have TSA pre-check and for those of you who don’t, I’d probably leave the lounge 35-40 minutes prior to boarding.

 

United and Delta Devalue Their Miles

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Airline devaluations are one of the guarantees in life.  Some airlines will devalue their mileage currency annually and some will do it every three to four years. This hurts the consumer since it often takes more miles or a larger fee has to be paid in the form of a “surcharge” for an award redemption. Delta is known to devalue their Sky Miles frequently and without warning. Some in the frequent flier world refer to their miles as “Sky Pesos.” United doesn’t devalue as often but this particular devaluation will hurt travelers regardless of cabin class.

 

                               United

Prior to November 1st, the most you would ever use for a domestic one way ticket in economy was 25k miles . Now if you want that one way ticket during the holiday season or any other holiday, there are some days where you won’t have an option that’s cheaper than 32.5k miles. Here is an example for a one way ticket from Chicago to Los Angeles:

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Business class transcontinental award tickets will also jump up to 35k miles for saver economy and 60k miles for everyday or peak times. The same holds true for an international award ticket.  Business class tickets originating in the U.S. will see a 5k to 10k increase in miles on just about every route.

 

                                    Delta

Delta on the other hand is starting to devalue their Sky Miles by rolling out fuel surcharges on flights to Europe. You won’t see it on every route just yet but here is an example of a one way flight from Paris to Seattle:

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As you can see, the surcharge for this one way flight is a ridiculous 215 euros. That’s in addition to the 50k miles at minimum that are needed for this redemption. Whether Delta rolls out this surcharge for all flights into and out of Europe or only those are departing or landing on the West Coast remains to be seen.

Regardless of which airline program you participate in, frequent flier miles always depreciate over time. Sometimes, the devaluation occurs without warning. Use them quickly because you just might need a whole lot more if you wait.

 

 

Image source: http://www.trendler.com

 

Lounge Review: United Club O’Hare Terminal 2

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On my way back to Albany, NY, I had about an hour and change of free time at O’Hare International Airport. As a United Explorer credit card holder, United gives me two complimentary passes to the United Club lounge every year during my card member anniversary. Without the passes, I’d have to pay $50 out of pocket for a day pass. In essence, the two United Club passes make up for the $95 annual fee even if I never used any other benefit from the card. So I figured I’d give it a shot.

 

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The United Club lounge in Terminal 2 is located in the F concourse. Once you enter the lounge, the staff at the front desk will take your pass, verify your boarding pass, and direct you to the escalators that lead to the concierge. There are many factors that I’ll look at when evaluating any airline lounge. The most heavily weighted factor in determining how I’ll rate a lounge is food. If the food is good, it can make up for shortcomings in many other areas. It happened to be breakfast time so off I went to check out the offerings……

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As you can see from the pictures, cantaloupes, honeydew melon, grapes, yogurt, and oatmeal.

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Bagels, white bread, and whole wheat bread with cream cheese, butter, and strawberry jam or grape jelly.  The fresh fruit was pretty good. The bagels? dry with the texture of sandpaper. They also had an espresso machine (not pictured) which gave you a few different choices of latte’s, cappuccino, hot chocolate, and mocha. I had the latte and it was pretty decent. There was also orange juice and watermelon infused water. In terms of the food selection, it was nothing special and certainly nothing that was memorable. So let’s move on to other areas of the lounge…..

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The common areas were very spacious and the decor was pretty nice. The lounge was clean, perfectly lit, and didn’t suffer from overcrowding that routinely plagues the United Club lounge in terminal 1.

 

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There is an abundance of power outlets and it seems that just about every seat has access to one. This is certainly not the case at the United Club lounges in Terminal 1 so good for United in addressing that here.

 

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The bar area was quiet at 8am as expected.  Very spacious, clean, and an appealing ambiance.

 

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This lounge also had free wifi with very good speeds. Perfect place to get work done if you have a layover or you’re there a bit early and have time to kill.

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I really want to like this lounge more than I do. It was comfortable, clean, spacious, great ambiance, not overcrowded, great wifi speeds, and had a very friendly staff. But the food was mediocre at best. And even that’s putting it kindly. I can’t justify or recommend paying $50 for a 1 day pass if the best thing they have going for them is great coffee and wifi. The only way I’d ever return is on a complimentary pass or if I booked an award ticket on business class and complimentary access came with it. On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best, I’d rate it a 3.2. If the food is ever on par with AMEX Centurion lounges, it would easily be a 4.5 or higher.

It is important to note that these passes do not work at United’s Polaris Lounge in Terminal 1 or any of the Polaris lounges that are due to open at Newark, San Francisco, Houston, D.C., Los Angeles (LAX), Hong Kong, Tokyo (Narita), and London (Heathrow) over the next year. For those lounges, you need to have a business class or first class ticket on a long-haul international flight. I’ve heard a lot of great things about that product and if I’m ever fortunate to experience it, I’ll share my review here.

Deal Alert: NYC and Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from $338 Round Trip

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NYC to Kuala Lumpur for $338 round trip with multiple travels dates available in January and February. Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur for $344 round trip with availability during the same time frame. I don’t know if this is a mistake fare or not so if you decide to book the flight, hold off on making any non-refundable hotel bookings until your flight is confirmed. Below is an example from a search from NYC using Google flights:

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ANA is one of only nine 5 star airlines according to SKYTRAX so this would be a very comfortable flight during the Trans-Pacific portion of the itinerary.

 

 

Using Ibotta for Uber, Hotels, and More

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Of all the apps I have downloaded on my phone, there isn’t a single one that’s as rewarding as Ibotta. If you already have it downloaded and regularly use it, you know how it works. If you’ve never heard of Ibotta, I’ll introduce it and show you how you can benefit from your routine shopping. It’s available for both Android and iOS.

Ibotta rewards you in two different ways. The first requires you to upload your receipt from one of their listed retailers. Among them are Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Jewel-Osco, Pathmark, Mariano’s, etc.  For example, Walmart will have tons of different grocery or household items that will be eligible for cashback in a given week. If you purchase those items and unlock them on the Ibotta app, you get whatever the cashback is for that particular item. Here is example of some of the breakfast items listed this week at Walmart:

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Clothing retailers work the same way. Until November 2nd, you can make a purchase at H&M, upload your receipt and you get 15% cash back. The purchase would have to be made in-store.

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The other way Ibotta rewards you is by using their app to launch another app and then making a purchase. For example if you click on Uber via Ibotta, it will automatically launch the Uber app that’s already downloaded on your phone. For every ride you take, you get a dollar back:

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The same goes for travel websites such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Hotwire.com, etc. For these websites, you typically get between 4-6% back on your total cost.

 

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Make sure you have the apps for any of the above downloaded prior to making a booking. Ibotta will credit you the cashback once you have completed your hotel stay.

 

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Once you have $20, you can cash out via Paypal or Venmo. You could also select gift cards to retailers such as Amazon or Target.

You could also double dip using this app. For example, Walmart sells Hotels.com gift cards. You could use your Chase Freedom credit card to buy the gift card from Walmart and that will get you 5 points per dollar (Walmart is a 5x quarterly category for Chase Freedom this quarter). You can then make your booking on Hotels.com by launching the app via Ibotta and get an additional 5% back. Regardless of where you shop or travel, Ibotta has something that can benefit just about everyone. If you don’t already have Ibotta and you use my link to sign up, you get $10 back after uploading your first receipt or making your first purchase using the app. —->  https://ibotta.com/r/xq3zkq

As always, thanks for reading.

Earn 1,000 Marriott Rewards Points Free Once Again for NFL Sunday Trivia

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Marriott is giving away another 1,000 Rewards Points if you answer their Twitter NFL trivia question before 8 PM eastern. Marriott has been giving away thousands of points routinely via twitter and other social media  promos. They certainly add up over the course of a few months and in time, you might have enough for a free hotel stay. You can also supplement your Marriott account by transferring points via Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred. You simply have to answer the question via Twitter and make sure you have an active Marriott Rewards account. I made a post about that last week and you can read that here. The answer for this week is Canton, Ohio. You have until 8pm Eastern so go get yourself another  thousand Marriott points.

 

Southwest Airlines Announces Service to Hawaii in 2018

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Southwest Airlines announced that they will start start flying to Hawaii from the U.S. West Coast starting in 2018. Southwest will operate this route using it’s brand new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft with extended range. This is big news on a couple of different fronts. First of all, this gives Southwest Rapid Rewards members more options on award tickets. It also gives Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve holders who like to transfer their points into Southwest another option to fly to Hawaii. And most importantly,  this will likely bring down the cost of flying to Hawaii via the “Southwest Effect.” While Southwest is more of a legacy than a low cost carrier these days, they can still disrupt an industry for the better when they announce service to destinations they have never served.  As soon as their routes are finalized, we’ll publish them here.

Earn 1,000+ Marriott Rewards Points Free. Act Fast!

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Marriott is giving away 1,000 Rewards Points if you answer their Twitter NFL trivia question before 8 PM eastern. 1,000 points won’t get you a free stay at a hotel but Marriott has been giving away thousands of points routinely via twitter and other social media  promos. They certainly add up over the course of a few months and in time, you might have enough for a free hotel stay. You can also supplement your Marriott account by transferring points via Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred.

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To link your Marriott account to Twitter or other social media platforms, click here.  The answer for this week is 53. Just tweet 53 along with #RewardsPoints and you will see the points shortly. Marriott also awards you points by linking your account to Instagram and Facebook.

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Registering for a Marriott Rewards account is free so you have absolutely nothing to lose.  If you want this week’s 1,000 points, you have until 8pm Eastern. Better act fast!

Multiple Deal Alerts: Chicago to Miami Round Trip for $49, NYC to Singapore for $478, and more

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Miami, Florida

 

We’ve seen some excellent deals for airfare over the last several days and it seems like the trend will continue.

 

               Chicago to Miami for $49 Round Trip

This deal is available all the way through March on multiple carriers. American, United, and Frontier are all competing hard on this route so the consumers are the winners. I did a sample search on Google flights from December 4th-8th. Just keep in mind, these fares are basic economy. This means any bag you bring on the plane that does not fit under the seat in front of you will have to be paid for. You also will not be able to select your seats.

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              NYC to Singapore for $469 Round Trip

This flight departs from Newark on United and depending on your itinerary, you’ll have a layover in San Francisco, Los Angeles (LAX), or Tokyo. I conducted a search on Google flights from November 29th- December 11th.

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                    Chicago to Shanghai $454 Round Trip

                This deal is available through December on Hainan Airlines with a layover in                      Beijing. You can do a trial and error with multiple dates on Google Flights that                   should give you the $454 round trip fare.

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Featured Image Source: Vanity Fair