Around the World from DFW – Jan/Feb 2016 for only $1456!

Around the world for only $1288 + $168? Leaving from D/FW on Jan 20, 2016 in the sample below, you can visit Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Frankfurt for one great price! Operated by a mixture of Untied and Lufthansa flights. NOTE: You will need to purchase a positioning flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong as I cannot get it to price that segment for anywhere close to the same price. I found the sample below for only $168.

So all in your’re looking at $1456 to travel all the way around the globe. Not bad!

I know it’s a lot of economy miles flown but Lufthansa economy isn’t exactly torture. Dates are somewhat flexible in Jan/Feb 2016. Play around in Google Flights to find the best itinerary to suit your own dates.

RTW DFW-PVG-HKG-FRA-DFW

RTW PVG HKG Positioning

Portland (PDX) to Fort Lauderdale – United – #FlightDeal or #MileageRun – Jan 2015 – $292 R/T – #StarAlliance

One night mileage run or a maybe just a mid-week getaway to South Florida? Other dates or longer stays are available for around $315.

Sample Departure Date: Tues, Jan 13, 2015

Sample Return Date: Wed, Jan 14, 2015

Airline: United

CPM:  5.3 CPM 

Total Base Mileage Earned: 5,474 Base Miles

Routing:PDX-DEN-FLL-IAH-PDX

Total Roundtrip Fare: $292

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My Personal Rankings: Airline Phone Customer Service

As a young kid, I already had a fascination with air travel. When you’re 11 years old, it’s hard to get your parents to let you fly around the world on your own. I also didn’t have much more than a weekly allowance of $20 at that age. Therefore, my best outlets were to pester the local travel agent in our town (she was not fond of this, at all!) or to dial up airline customer service and chat up with a friendly phone reservation agent. I particularly liked to call Southwest (our family flew them regularly) or Northwest Airlines as I could usually find someone to look up complex, dream itineraries for me and chat up with me for an hour.

Whether they realized I was an 11 year old boy or a middle-aged woman (my voice had yet to deepen), that was a different time for airlines and their phone customer service. Of course with all the advancements in the internet, smartphones, and apps, far fewer people are contacting phone customer service unless they absolutely must. For those of us who are addicted to miles and award bookings, contacting an airline’s phone customer service is often required for complex bookings, partner award bookings, and ticket changes. Sometimes you can talk your way into waived fees with a few kind words over the phone. It’s hard to sweet talk an iPhone app into waiving change fees. But even though phone customer service departments for airlines have shrunk with demand and the quality of their service is quite mixed, some airlines have set a standard for excellent phone customer service, even in 2014.

Here’s a list of my favorites and not so favorite airlines when it comes to customer service via telephone. I’ve only included the airlines that I’ve had experience with over the phone:

The Winners

Alaska Airlines

It’s hard to find too many people out there that have disdain for Alaska Airlines. The hold times are  nearly always short and their reps are trained to be extremely courteous and knowledgeable.  They always thank me for being an elite flyer and I’ve never had a bad experience by phone.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest would have held the top sport for me a few years ago but as Southwest has grown, their phone service has changed. They used to answer the phone almost immediately but now there’s a long menu to sit through. Still, their reservation agents are friendly and helpful and you can’t beat the no-change-fee policy!

British Airways

Short hold times, those polite British accents, and knowledgeable reps. What’s there not to like? European carriers aren’t keen on advanced seat assignments but a friendly phone call and elite status with a OneWorld carrier or Alaska will plop you into preferred seats easily.

Swiss

The Swiss do everything so efficiently and the phone reps at Swiss International are no exception. I easily obtained advanced seat assignments without status at the time, even seats that are considered preferred for Miles & More members. Generally short wait times are a plus as well!

 

Mixed Bag

American Airlines

Just a few years ago, I would have stuck American well at the bottom of this list. Their reps were cranky and looked for any way to screw the average traveler. Well, a few things seemed to have changed at American whether it’s due to reputation or their merger with US Airways. The hold times vary but the reps are more likely to be helpful than not. Sometimes I have to remind them of their own policies but they tend to be flexible to work with with the right attitude. Their “Remember Me” phone feature is pretty neat too!

 

United Airlines

I contemplated sticking United in the Losers category but I have had them help me out in a pinch many times so I just can’t bring myself to it. Their hold times are one of the worst in the business and don’t bother calling the general line during peak hours. Their elite status line answers nearly right away but I’ve had a few cranky reps on the elite line lately. The main reason I’m not putting them lower on the list simply because I’ve encounters some great United reps and they have waived strict fees for me more than once.

 

The Losers

Delta

While I find Delta’s in flight service, especially in First Class, to be among the best, I don’t think much of their telephone service folks. The hold times aren’t terrible but I haven’t had much luck in regards to the friendliness of their phone reps. I’m always seeing blog comments about Delta’s IT and website woes and I’ve had to call in a few times for assistance with reservations. However, I don’t usually get much help on the other and and this usually leaves me feeling apprehensive about calling and asking for assistance.

Air Canada

Talk about ridiculous wait times! About equal to United in atrocious wait times (is this a Star Alliance habit?), Air Canada’s reps are about as boring as drywall.  By the time I get to a rep, I’m just ready to get what I need and get off the phone.

Aeromexico

Boy, do I regret the day I even joined Club Premier! The blogs are pretty quiet about this sleepy carrier but I found out the hard way why not many people are keen on Aeromexico. Their phone reps appear to be trained to be as unhelpful as possible. Every rep I’ve spoken with thinks of every excuse in the book to not help you with award bookings and forget about ever using their companion tickets! One day I will find a way to ditch these Club Premier kilometers I’m stuck with and bid goodbye to Aeromexico!

 

Sunday Was My Proof for the Naysayers That Airline Status Matters

For a lot of travelers, the point of flying is to get from Point A to Point B as quickly and as cheaply as possible. But for those of us travel hackers/mile hoarders/road warriors,  it’s much more than that. While my friends and family don’t criticize my obsession with miles and airline status, I’m sure there are those who find the hobby a complete waste of time and money. But this last weekend on my return to Dallas from Florida via Orlando (on July 4th weekend) was a prime example of why airline status is worth the effort and bit of cash.

While I’m only the lowly Premier Silver with United Airlines, the basic perks of simply Silver will save you all kinds of headaches. I’m sure most of you have been to Orlando as it’s one of the top travel destinations int the world. If you’ve been, you also know that it’s a very congested city due to all the attractions. And while Orlando International (MCO) is very well designed, it still doesn’t mean short lines and short waits for the average traveler. Our flight was an early one on this Sunday morning and while expected a crowd, I thought our pre-dawn departure would spare us slightly. Well, I was clearly surprised.

We approached the United ticketing counters to check one of our large bags at 5:00 AM. There were a minimum of 150-200 folks in line for United ticketing. Guess how many were in line at Premier Access? Two. Our bag was promptly checked in 2 minutes and we were on our way to security. Our next perk wasn’t directly related to airline status but to our Global Entry enrollment with the additional perk of TSA Precheck. That previous line at ticketing almost seemed like a breeze when we approached the TSA lines. There must have been 400-500 people in line, routing through ONE main queue line! Orlando’s has one central terminal with an “A” and “B” ticketing side. The PreCheck side is closer to “A” but we approached from “B” and both sides use the same TSA lines. We hurried over to the PreCheck side and were delighted when we only found 3 people in line for PreCheck! We were on our way to the concourse tram in just a couple of minutes and we easily avoided spending 45 minutes+ in line for TSA.

We skirted off for a quick coffee and onto our gate. We had plenty of time to move at our leisure thanks to our previous perks. We would have been far more rushed had we not had those perks. And to top it all off, we were upgraded to First on our IAH bound flight!

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Of course, this journey was an example of things going very much in our favor due to Elite status. However, the day wasn’t perfect as United did leave my checked bag behind in IAH and it was delayed. However, they did deliver it to my house just a few hours later. There were a few factors that did help make our experience even easier:

  • We were departing early on a Sunday morning
  • Orlando on a weekend means very few business travelers
  • Orlando is not a United hub/focus city, equaling small number of Elite travelers
  • Low time and day for Elite travelers and TSA PreCheck travelers

So for those of you newbie or light travelers who think that Elite status is just a waste of time, re-think about inserting status into your travel and miles strategy. It’s saving a ton in baggage fees alone! And don’t forget to do you research on status matches, it doesn’t hurt to politely ask!

 

Check Your Upcoming United Flights for Schedule Changes…..You Might Get a Free Flight Change!

For those of you with upcoming Fall 2014 travel with United Airlines, be sure to check your itineraries for schedule changes which occurred yesterday system wide. My upcoming trip to Hawaii in August was lucky enough to have a schedule change. This is the second change since booking to that itinerary by United’s schedule modifications. If my outbound connection gets any shorter, I’m in trouble!

If you are affected by United’s system schedule change, don’t be afraid to call United for a flight change. I’ve been successful in the past on getting on a more desirable departure time at no cost!

United Status Match Success!

With all the recent buzz about the negative changes to United’s Mileage Plus last week, I did get a glimmer of good news from United. I had recently gained elite status with Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan and decided to put it to good use with United. I’ve been a fairly loyal United customer over the last few years which is quite rare for a DFW based flyer.  United is currently advertising their status match program through July 31, 2014 at no cost on United.com. American Airlines also offers status match but they do charge a fee based on the status level you are requesting.

united status match

Email of course is the fastest and easiest way to send in your status match request. I simply sent in my personal details, Mileage Plus number, and a copy of my Alaska Airlines MVP card. The site says 7-14 days to process, but in less than 24 hours I logged into my United account and I was Premier Silver! Yes, for all you seasoned road warriors out there, I know Silver is quite amateur but it’s still pretty cool to me! Now you must achieve a certain number of United  premier qualifying miles in 90 days to maintain your new status for the remainder of the elite year. I should be set for this as I have enough United travel booked in the next 90 days to maintain my elite status.

With Premier Silver, of course I’m not expecting my flight experience to change dramatically with United. However, 10 minutes worth of work will now save me a couple hundred bucks in checked bag fees, upgrades to Economy Comfort, and who knows, perhaps First on a very empty flight!

That Cat’s Out of The Bag…..United’s Mileage Plan is Going to a Revenue Model

It was one of those mornings as a miles addict that when you open Twitter, and your morning has been shot. Delta did this to us a few months ago and now United has followed suit: United’s Mileage Plan is flipping from a mileage based rewards program to a revenue based one.

Of course, those of us who follow the airline and miles world daily, we knew this was inevitable in the U.S. airline industry. European carriers have fuel surcharges and now the U.S. carriers are going to revenue models. I had a feeling that United would be the first to follow Delta’s lead.  Many of us were hoping that the industry would wait and see how Delta fared with their revenue based program before jumping on that ship. Of course Southwest and Virgin America are revenue based but their model has always been different. I view those carriers with a completely different strategy.

For me personally, it stings. I’m a rare bird in the sense that I’m Dallas based and somewhat United loyal. They aren’t always my #1 choice and I don’t even have status with them. But I like the Star Alliance group and I can find decent award availability with United for the places I want to go. United always seems to have great European deals out of American hubs. But now that I’ve gone elite with Alaska, my strategy to gravitate with American, Delta, and Alaska will only strengthen. American and Alaska could go revenue based at any point but I think their a lot smarter than United. They won’t jump the gun and I don’t think they’ll be as lazy and uncreative  as United. United’s new revenue model is a mirror copy of Delta’s.

 

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United’s social media team wants me to give the program a chance.

 

United of course is promising all kinds of exciting changes to benefit Mileage Plan members with things  like using your miles to buy Economy Plus seats and checked baggage subscriptions. These are not genuine perks for customers but merely a gimmick for uninformed travelers to waste their miles on. If United wanted to go the revenue route, they should have at least made the model more attractive than Delta’s to lure customers.

Of course all the credit card bloggers claim they aren’t worried about the change because they’ll keep applying for dozens of rewards credit cards. But I disagree because airlines going the revenue route further limits the options for the everyday traveler to accrue miles. Credit card spending and bonuses are only a small part of my miles strategy. I actually enjoy air travel and the hunt for a sweet mileage run deal. I’ll keep modifying my miles strategy as the game changes but today was another defeat for travel hackers.

4.5 CPM – United – #MileageRun or #FlightDeal – PDX to FLL – Sep 5 to 6- Weekend – $289 R/T

This is an excellent fare for a transcontinental jaunt from from cool Portland to sunny Florida. Multiple dates available but first weekend in September only requires a one night stay for you mileage runners. Fare available in the reverse direction as well ($289 R/T) with but mileage accrual is greater originating in PDX.

Sample Departure Date: Sep 5, 2014

Sample Return Date: Sep 6, 2014

Airline: United

CPM: 4.5 CPM

Total Base Mileage Earned: 6,277 miles

Routing: PDX-EWR-FLL-IAH-PDX

Total Roundtrip Fare: $285

pdx fll sep 5

 

 Need a hotel on your visit to Fort Lauderdale?

Save an extra 25% on hotels with PACKUP. Valid 5/19 – 5/26/14.

5.1 CPM – United – #MileageRun or #FlightDeal – FLL to PDX – Sep 5 to 6- Weekend – $289 R/T

This is an excellent fare for a transcontinental jaunt from sunny Florida to cool Portland. Multiple dates available but first weekend in September only requires a one night stay for you mileage runners. Fare available in the reverse direction as well ($285 R/T) connecting through EWR for an even great mileage accrual.

Sample Departure Date: Sep 5, 2014

Sample Return Date: Sep 6, 2014

Airline: United

CPM: 5.1 CPM

Total Base Mileage Earned: 5,570 miles

Routing: FLL-IAH-PDX-IAH-FLL

Total Roundtrip Fare: $289

fll pdx sep 5

 

 Need a hotel on your visit to Portland?

Save an extra 25% on hotels with PACKUP. Valid 5/19 – 5/26/14.