August Catch-Up

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Chase Adds Emirates as its Newest Ultimate Rewards Transfer Parter

Emirates Skywards is now the 13th program to which Ultimate Rewards can be transferred. On the surface this may not seem very exciting – noting that the best ways to fly Emirates on points is generally not through their own program, but it is important in my opinion for 2 reasons. First, with this partnership, Citi Thank You points become the last major points currency from which you cannot transfer to Emirates. Second, it shows us that Chase is still working to bolster its partnerships. I was disappointed when last year Korean was removed, and this certainly is not an equal replacement, but does offer hope.

Emirates redemptions are somewhat lackluster on their own metal (and can come with some significant surcharges) but do offer more interesting options with their partners. For example one way flights on JetBlue can be had for a mere 7,500 points, while one-way flights on Gol can be even cheaper at 4,500 points. Emirates also partners with airlines that service more exotic destinations, such as Air Mauritius.

Delta is About to go on a Flight Attendant Hiring Spree

Delta is planning on hiring 1,000 flight attendants in 2020, so if you have ever had the itch, now might be the time. If you’re 18 or older by January 1, 2020, hold a high school diploma or equivalent, are authorized to work in the United States, and are fluent in English, feel free to apply! Also, you might want to have some interest in planes, flying, airports or something like that. Oh, and I hope you have a lot of patience because in my opinion that is probably the most important trait that the best FAs have in common! You can apply HERE.

British Airways Adds $600 Award Surcharge Rebate to their Co-Brand Credit Card

At first it would seem this makes the decision to pick up the British Airways Signature Visa from Chase a no-brainer. However, the fine print shows a less compelling deal and to me smells like a money grab.

We all know British Airways has some painful surcharges which make certain redemptions almost pointless. These surcharge rebates can help in this arena but their are some specific conditions that can be met.

  1. There is up to a $200 rebate for an award flight in first or business class
  2. There is up to a $100 rebate for an award in economy or premium economy
  3. The credit is limited to 3 uses per year (hence the maximum of $600, if one was to use it three times on first/business class booking)
  4. The award flight must be operated by British Airways, be transatlantic, and must originate in the United States (the award ticket may have connecting flights that are non-BA operated)
  5. Taxes and fees must be paid with the Chase British Airways Visa Signature card
  6. Award must be booked from the cardholder’s British Airways Avios account

I say this seems like another money grab because it seems to be a passive acknowledgment from British Airways that their surcharges are high, but instead of reducing them, they shift the revenue burden from the fee to the co-brand card agreement with Chase. Either way, they are making that money somewhere.

The fee restrictions aren’t really that unreasonable, but is it worth it just to fly British Airways? A JFK-LHR one-way has a massive difference in fees on an award ticket between BA and AA with BA flights charging ~$530 vs. AA charging $5.60. I’m not here to argue which airline is better, but merely to point out how much higher the BA fees are than competitors on the exact same route. In order to get the maximum rebate of $600, you’d need to shell out over $1,500 AND pay the annual fee on the card. It is an interesting development, but a pass for me at this time.

British Airways Pilots Set Strike Dates

On the topic of BA, the British Airline Pilots Association announced that British Airways pilots will strike on September 9, 10, and 27th, so if you are planning on fly British Airways on those dates, call the airline and make other arrangements. I don’t intend on getting into the nitty gritty of this strike, but it is interesting to point out that this will be the first time British Airways pilots have gone on strike.

New Restrictions on “The Club” Lounges and Opening Schedules for New Centurion Lounges

For those that don’t know, The Club is a network of lounges located in 12 airports around the US that participate in Priority Pass. As of September 1 they will not allow entry prior to 3 hours before boarding. A similar change was made by American Express in their Centurion lounges for the same reason – to control overcrowding. I am not against this change, but it may mean a bit more wandering around for someone with a long layover.

A potentially more painful terms change is that of allowing children 12 and under in free of charge to now only allowing children 2 or under free of charge. Priority Pass members are typically allowed themselves and 2 guests in for free and in this case young children were not counted. Now, a family of 5 with 3 children over the age of 3 will need at least 2 Priority Pass memberships to enter the lounge. This change also went into effect on September 1.

Some brighter news is that American Express has provided a little bit more clarity on opening dates for the newest additions to the Centurion Lounge portfolio. Phoenix will be the first to come online, targeting a November 2019 opening. London – Heathrow and New York – JFK are both slated for the “first half of 2020,” while Charlotte, Denver and Los Angeles are all tarted as just “2020,” which leads me to believe they will be in the latter half of the year.

While we only have month and year for one of lounges, it should be noted that on average these lounges are larger than the ones currently in operation. Dallas and Miami are currently the largest, both at around 12,500 sq. ft., whereas the other six US lounges range from 4,500 – 8,500 sq. ft. LHR and PHX will be the smallest lounges in this new batch at 7,000 and 9,500 sq. ft. respectively, but the other four all come in between 13,000-15,000 sq. ft. which shows me that American Express is committed to expanding the both the portfolio footprint and the footprint of the individual lounges.

United Miles No Longer Expire

Great news, right? For those who rarely accrue MileagePlus miles, yes it is, but if you’re reading this you most likely don’t fall into that camp. United is certainly taking on greater liability by eliminating miles expiration, but I fear they are (and will be) mitigating that with less transparency with award redemptions and future devaluations. Delta was the first to do this and as airlines remove close-in booking fees, mileage expirations, and other items which on the surface are beneficial to customers they are pulling levers elsewhere to ensure their loyalty programs remain profitable. This profitability comes from “dynamic” award pricing, lower earn rates on each ticket class, and fewer available award seats. Of course I hope this isn’t the path down which United intends to go, but I am not holding out much hope.

Marriott to Eliminate Single Use Toiletries by 2021

Last month I wrote about IHG’s decision to stop issuing single use toiletries in their hotels and now on the heels of that comes Marriot’s similar announcement. I wholeheartedly praise this move and while I admit that from time to time I like to take some home with me, I am thrilled to see Marriott flex their corporate responsibility muscle and play a role in creating more environmentally conscious business practices. Marriott currently estimates that annually they stock 500 million small plastic containers, which equates to 1.7 million pounds of plastic waste. About 1,000 properties within North America have already switched over to the larger pump-type dispensers and most properties worldwide will move over to them by December of 2020.

Chase Pay App to Shut Down in 2020

The Chase Pay app, which allows users to to pay with their credit card using their cell phones at select retailers will be shut down in early 2020. Chase stated they will be focusing more on online payment methods as they look for ways to take on competitors like PayPal. If you have any credits in your Chase Pay account, those too will expire in early 2020, so be sure to cash them out!

Apple Credit Card – Not Suitable for Wallets!

Well, Apple is going to do things their way – always…and the Apple credit card is no exception. We did a deeper dive into the card back in March but noted that the design and intended use of the card was based around the use of ApplePay and purchases of Apple media and hardware. Apple did note the need for a physical card and in Apple fashion set out to make sure their card was sleek and secure. The card is coated with titanium and very quickly card users noticed that their cards weren’t up to the task when it came to the daily rigors of…well…being a credit card. Apple issued a statement that due to the card’s titanium finish, it shouldn’t touch certain materials such as denim or leather as it will discolor the card shouldn’t be stored in a wallet with other cards, in pockets with any loose change, keys, or other objects, and in general should not be placed on or near hard objects that can cause chipping. So there you have it, Apple created a beautiful card that effectively can’t be used as a normal person would use a card!

Status Update on United Polaris Roll Out

It was over 3 years ago that United unveiled the Polaris product and still at the end of 2019 only about one third of their wide body aircraft have been reconfigured. As of now United states that roughly 50% of wide body aircraft will offer the new product by the end of 2019 with the remainder being retrofitted/delivered (new aircraft) in 2020. To me a four year roll out of a product that only brings your airline on par with others isn’t exactly impressive. The lounges, on the other hand are far and away the best business class lounges offered by any US carrier (albeit with heavy restrictions on who may use them).

Only 5 Polaris lounges have been opened – LAX, IAH, ORD, SFO, and EWR. One is currently under construction at IAD and future locations are planned for HKG, LHR, and NRT but without targeted open dates.

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