My Week in Points: 2015 Mid-Year Progress

Talking about travel it is only fair to readers to disclose my actual travel, especially since I am about 2.5 years behind on blogging my trips. In the spirit of View from the Wing and Pizza in Motion’s status checks, here is where I am.

New countries/territories visited:

  • Lebanon (Tyre and Anjan)
  • Egypt (Cairo, Mt Sinai, Port Said, Alexandria, El-Alamein, Luxor, Sohag)
  • Canary Islands (Grand Canary)
  • Cape Verde (Santiago)
  • Madeira
  • Iwo Jima
  • Belgium (Menen, Ypres, Waterloo, Spa, Bastogne)
  • Luxembourg
  • Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman)
  • Turks & Caicos (Providenciales)
  • Bonaire
  • Curacao

I am not an airline geek, for those who are, my new airlines, all coach except noted:

  • Middle Eastern Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Iberia (business)
  • Binter Canarias
  • TAP Portugal
  • Finnair (business)
  • US Airways
  • Insel Air

Airline Status:

Delta: already re-qualified for Diamond Medallion at 309,917 MQMs (207,901 rollover). Mostly boycotted Delta flights this year, though still partner flights and one paid business trip on Delta to Shanghai. Korean Air flights credited to Korean SkyPass.

I have no answer to the dilemma of good treatment as a Diamond, good operational airline, and dishonest, deceitful SkyMiles program. I am at 1,334,605 Million Miler count and would like to hit 2MM for annual Gold status. This is the easiest to earn as all MQMs count so while I have a job with some paid business class travel, I want to maximize lifetime earning.

United: planning to re-qualify for Platinum as 1k did little for me, currently at 53,018 PQMs and more to post as I flew today PVG-SFO-JFK in paid business. Star Alliance economy awards valuable to me for leisure travel. Terrible airline, see my latest take. Pullout from JFK will help my use of same-day changes.

Big confession: I thought all PQMs on United counted toward Million Miler status. Then I realized it is only flown miles. Forget it. Not worth it either way. When the earnings are high enough that I can’t resist I will still fly them, but I am going to fly more of their partners when I get the chance. Never flown ANA and some of the European Star Alliance members.

American: had not flown them or One World on paid tickets in several years. Like many inactive members, I was targeted for one of several offers at the start of the year. Mine granted Platinum status up front with no co-pay and only 12,000 miles/points needed to keep it for the year. Some had 30,000 offers to earn Executive Platinum, without the status up-front.

I was not going to do it, then some business trips appeared where only Iberia and BA were cost effective. It was all going to work out to get 50,000 EQPs to re-qualify for the following year until BA happened. I am stuck at 39,342 EQPs / 34,746 EQMs.

Long-story short: I had a paid business class BA/OpenSkies Paris – New York flight that went mechanical 9 hours before departure. BA have been outrageous assholes from the first moment to now 4 months later. Only way I got back was a 5-hour madcap drive from Luxembourg, finally snagging the last economy middle seat on Air France since no one at BA can do anything other than the airport agent. I have not received my 2-class downgrade refund despite promised many times, have not received any compensation, have been denied EU compensation and of course not gotten the miles I expected. FlyerTalk has an annual thread on BA screwing customers. I am reaching the legal action portion of the FlyerTalk steps. Yet Air France apologized that they couldn’t confirm me in Premium Economy, giving me a 150 euro voucher, and I got the miles for that to my Delta account. BA is now only the third airline, after Indonesia’s Lion Air and the Caribbean’s LIAT, that I will endeavor to never fly again. I will treat everyone to a longer rant or two on BA if this ever gets resolved or I give up.

Back to AA. AA Platinum is pathetic. The coupon upgrade system has gotten me not a single upgrade. They earn slow and I am not willing to pay cash. I didn’t have enough to try upgrading a LAX-JFK flight. I like the US Airways select a first class seat method at check-in, how fun.

One World is too limited for my travels, especially when trying to avoid BA, and there are too many fuel surcharges. BA Avios provide a good counterpoint to AA without needing status.

Only fee waiver is the 21-day award ticketing rule.

As I write this, Associated Leff reports that Same-Day Flight Changes have been gutted which until last year even Executive Platinums had to pay.

For elite status I care about (1) fee waivers and SDC to allow flexible travel and awards, (2) customer service when I need it, and (3) upgrades and the rest.

I can’t justify any effort to keep AA Platinum and with no step in between to Executive Platinum, I will likely stop here unless business travel pushes me that way. I do like 1.6 cents/point using my Citi Prestige card, which has been great for Caribbean island hopping.

Hotels:

I don’t chase status and don’t care much. I have lots of mid-tier status with credit cards. For paid business travel I go after the latest promos which this year have been IHG Set Your Sights (not Share Forever), Club Carlson and the brief Hilton one. For leisure travel I use awards, Priceline and, overseas, guest house and mom and pops on booking.com or hotels.com. I might care about hotel status if benefits really were guaranteed, however so much is at the whim of the hotel and people who care seem constantly complaining about what they didn’t get.

Credit Cards:

In February I added new Alaska, Virgin Atlantic, Fairmont, Marriott and American Airlines cards, all repeats, plus a Fidelity Amex to have in my drawer for when the Saverocity guys harp on about it. Denied for Ink Plus, Arrival+ and US Air, and FlexPerks Amex. Downgraded more cards to Better Balance Rewards. Did a bunch of apps in early July, when I got through my piled up mail will know more.

What’s in store for the rest of the year?

Summer is shuttling my wife and mother-in-law on seafood eating weekends, topping off with Radisson Aruba. I have been so disappointed by food in the Caribbean, Bermuda excepted, I hope my wife doesn’t rebel in Aruba if it is year another ‘chicken or fish’ plate meal island.

In the fall I have dreams of Africa, Wake Island, maybe a re-try for Guadeloupe and Martinique with Norwegian, and let’s see what else I can put together.

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  • Mike

    I read on Travel is Free that you have been to like 131 countries. Any chance you can post a list of the remaining 60 odd some countries you still have not visited? Thanks.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Mike – I can do that, I was planning when I hit 200 on Travelers Century Club later this year (currently at 131 UN, 197 TCC), though can do sooner.

  • Mike

    Great, thanks. It is always interesting to view the places a person has and hasn’t been. Mike

  • A wonderful comprehensive post–such a treat when you do these longer ones.

    It seems like you have seen the light on United miles. They are fairly easily to accumulate, but the real beauty is using them on other Star Alliance airlines. The United interface is straightforward, and its extremely easy to search for and book and award ticket. Just avoid United metal. We enjoy TATLs with Lufthansa and flying intraEurope with a nice airline like Aegean.

  • Charlie

    Great write up, Stefan! I’m curious – how was your Middle Eastern Airlines experience? I have them as an option for a couple of upcoming trips and was going to fly them just out of curiosity. Thanks!

  • Keep up the good work!

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Charlie – I flew them Rome-Beirut, I think they don’t do anything really long-haul. I was in coach. Friendly service, lots of pastels, generic plane, good enough for me.

  • Joey

    It’s always refreshing to see a blogger on BA who is not an AA exec plat! 😉 Kudos on your progress thus far on requalifying DL Diamond and UA Plat!
    I agree that star alliance miles are valuable — especially for travel within Africa!

  • Jay

    Bloggers virtually never mention being rejected when they apply for credit cards. I’d always wondered if banks put asterisks next to their names ensuring that they never get rejected for all the publicity (viz, your links to Sapphire reviews) it garners. Kudos for the honesty, which also makes me wonder if other bloggers have more mitigated success than they sometimes let on.

  • Charlie

    Thanks, Stefan. I would be flying them Abu Dhabi-Beirut-Athens in coach. Your answer helped! I was hoping to schedule a long layover to explore a bit, but not sure if that is going to work out.

  • Pastry Boss

    Un-approved trip plan! Not approved, not approved!

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Jay – I don’t have insight into special treatment bloggers might get for approvals. Credit departments may protect their independence from marketing departments more than we might assume. More common may be either bloggers not actually applying for many cards or neglecting to mention their denials to maintain their own image and marketing message.

  • Eric

    a bit random – but have you ever written about Bermuda? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the food (and the rest of the island)!

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Eric – we stayed several years ago over Christmas at the Fairmont Southhampton on a very cheap package. Had no idea how cold and rainy it would be. Loved the hotel and its afternoon tea, enjoyed the island and many of the restaurants had a joint promo of set price meals to buy in packages that we enjoyed, real fine dining, not burgers and pizzas, though the special always is rockfish. If I recall there are limits on tourists renting cars (can rent mopeds) so have to deal with taxis or public transport which in winter was infrequent. One of the few Caribbean islands would be interested to return.