Thanksgiving planning was running late, and last-minute business travel followed by the disruption with Hurricane Sandy pushed my planning under the 21-day fee trigger for American and United award reservations for non-elite members. Too bad as I scoured the world for Delta options and turned up nothing reasonable, no surprise, and those who think Diamond status makes a difference, well, it is marginal.
My wife is interested in Brazil and I have only been to Iguaçu Falls, so we narrowed the focus and I found a 40k MileSAAver open jaw, EWR-MIA-SSA (Salvador) out and (Sao Paulo) GRU-JFK back. AAdvantage Geek reminded me to add a stopover on the return, so I called back to add a LGA-YUL (Montreal) flight next summer and put it back on hold to avoid the telephone ticketing fee. Yes, we could have gone as far as Hawaii, but without elite status we did not want anything but a nonstop and Montreal won out over San Diego due to convenience. The return from Montreal will be 4,500 British Airways Avios each.
Salvador-Rio de Janiero proved exasperating. First I tried a Delta redemption on Gol, an airline for which I have previously failed to succeed in booking and surprise, surprise, no availability among the many nonstops and connecting flights over many days. None of the agents I spoke to has ever successfully booked an award ticket on Gol. Where does Delta get these partners?
In fairness, Tam via United could do no better until the following week, so I eventually bought a revenue ticket on Gol, Orbitz the only website that could get the much lower fare shown on ITA. Even Gol’s website was double or more.
Rio to Sao Paolo I made my first ever MileagePlus booking, 12,500 for a one-way. Yes, the experts will probably say it is terrible value and that there was probably some backdoor to route through Kazakhstan, but my favorite redemptions are on short, expensive flights where the mileage earned on a revenue ticket is puny. I got that in 1 hour before the 21-day $75 fee was to kick in.
So, my first AAdvantage and MileagePlus bookings in the same week. Life beyond SkyTeam.
As usual for my destinations, Carlson/Hilton/Hyatt/IC Hotels/Marriott/Starwood are almost useless in Salvador and Rio and the few choices in Sao Paulo are mostly booked out. I am tempted to liquidate my Marriott points. 4 nights (or 5) is at the JW Marriott Rio is 140k, I have no sense of the value of Marriott points, but booked it since I have until the night before to cancel. I am only there 4 nights but can’t imagine ever spending 5 nights somewhere, so I can write off the last night with no guilt. Hello again, Priceline.
Two blogs this week reminded me to research topics on my long to-do list:
- Frequent Flyer University’s Booking Luxury Hotels Via Virtuoso Can Be An Amazing Deal.
- New Girl in the Air’s Stacking Restaurant Discounts.
The Rapid Travel Chai Foreign Desk has turned up reports of interest to hard-core miles and points collectors:
- Experian to Buy Rest of Brazilian Firm Serasa for $1.5 Billion, perhaps following the emigration to Brazil following this tip.
- Those in China might have had some fun with 360Buy, the major online electronics retailer, see 360Buy fixes bug to stop free payments.
- Perhaps change in the air for easy Star Alliance Gold? Aegean Airlines Ready to Shack Up with Olympic Air in Greece. Keep a watch on development. Points to Points B has the most thorough coverage on this.