Secret Weapon to Europe 2.0

Business class space to Europe over the Summer can be some of the toughest award space to come across when most folks are looking for award space–roughly 3 to 9 months in advance.  Check out United.com’s calendar for Star Alliance availability for DC to Paris next Summer [all of my pictures will be for 2 seats, the blog name is WE Fly Free, after all]:

IAD-CDG Star Alliance

IAD-CDG Star Alliance

One day in June or July with award space in business class!   [Read more…]

BOOK NOW!! Amazing Emirates economy fares via Expedia!

Update: It looks like some city pairs like are pricing out as low as $179!!!

HOLY CRAP!

HOLY CRAP!

Update: Sometimes it looks like Vayama is doing it now too?  I’d search Kayak.com and just pick the cheapest purveyor of Emirates tickets for your chosen itinerary.

It looks like Expedia is forgetting to add fuel surcharge on Emirates flights.  I started to write this about a Washington, DC to Mauritius flight, but it looks like tons of other destinations are also in play… everything from Seychelles to Hong Kong, to everywhere!!!!

BOOK NOW!

BOOK NOW!

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Right now, you can book Washington, DC to Mauritius for $627 round trip via Expedia (sample dates that work for me are Nov 13 to 21).

via Kayak.com

via Kayak.com

Interestingly, it looks like it’s only available via Expedia, as the price on Emirates.com is higher.

via Emirates.com

via Emirates.com

It’s pretty clear when you look at the Expedia breakdown:

via Expedia ... final step before booking

via Expedia … final step before booking

…and the breakdown of what the fare is supposed to look like, that Expedia is dumping the fuel surcharge by mistake (the “YQ” line item).

Notice the YQ amount

Notice the YQ amount

This flight would be mileage-run worthy if you could find a program to credit your miles that earns 100% mileage on a “L” class economy fare with Emirates.  Alaska earns only 50% which would make this more than 8 cents per mile.

If you want to book this, I’d get on it ASAP!  These types of fares don’t last long!

Why is nobody talking about the Diners Club card?

Recently (as in this month) Diners Club re-launched consumer credit cards in the United States for new applications.  This is big news as Diners Club used to be a major player in the points game and has been closed to new applications for several years as the program has bounced from bank to bank.

My shiny new Diners Club card

My shiny new Diners Club card

They offer a flexible point program with several transfer partners.  Those partners are (via Flyertalk and 1:1 unless otherwise noted):

OneWorld: British Airways
SkyTeam: Delta Airlines, Korean Air.
Star Alliance: Air Canada, Eva Airways, SAS, South African Airways, Thai Airways.
Independent: Alaska Airlines, El Al Airlines, (50:1), Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Iceland Air, Southwest Airlines (1500:1200), Virgin Atlantic.
Hotels: Best Western (1250:3300), Choice (1250:2400), Hilton (1250:2000), Hyatt (1250:750), Intercontinental Hotel Group (1250:1500), Marriott (1250:1500), Starwood (1250:750).
Rail: Amtrak.

[Read more…]

Turkey & Greece 2014: Return Trip from Istanbul

In this post I’m going to cover:

Istanbul to Brussels (SAW-BRU) in Turkish Business Class

Brussels to Washington Dulles in Brussels Business Class

The same car service that picked us up from IST dropped us off at SAW.  The cabs in Istanbul drive like bats out of hell (and made both of us very car sick every time), so a nice big van and driver with fewer dreams of becoming Jeff Gordon was an even bigger blessing than we realized–we mostly booked the service for simplicity.

SAW airport is located on the Asian side of Istanbul which we didn’t have an opportunity to visit on our trip.  Accounting for less time spent in traffic, it was actually only about 5-10 minutes longer of a drive than IST to the Park Hyatt.  SAW is also a regional airport with fewer flights, so we probably gained that 5-10 minutes back just dealing with a smaller airport.  Getting to see a little bit of the Asian side too–even just driving through on the highway–definitely made it worth it.

Unfortunately, while Turkish Airlines does have a large presence at SAW, they don’t operate their own lounge–which is a major downside given that their lounge at IST is considered among the best business class lounges in the world.  At SAW, all airlines use a contract/CIP lounge beyond security.  That said, for a contract lounge (which generally stink), it’s not actually terrible. [Read more…]

Turkey & Greece 2014: Park Hyatt Istanbul

We arrived very late from our delayed flight from Athens into Istanbul.  Despite being lowly coach passengers (we paid for these tickets at about ~$120 each one way), our bags were among the first out of the carousel.  We’d pre-booked our airport transfers (IST-Park Hyatt-SAW) with a van company for 70 EUR round trip, and my name was among the hundreds waiting outside of baggage claim — seriously, I’ve never even seen 10% as many names on placards at any other airport.  We actually had to split up to find the placard.

What’s interesting about IST airport is that the name placard cartel seems to be extremely haphazard.  The guy who had our name placard also had about a dozen other names he was responsible for–as did everyone else.  When we identified ourselves, he looked at our placard for additional info and then called a number to let somebody know we’d arrived.  He then walked us outside to another man (man #1 at this time, goes back inside to deal with his other 10+ placards), who then called our driver, and at that point we waited about 5 more minutes before the van showed up.  At that point, man #2 goes back to the door, presumably to wait on more arrivals.  My guess  after looking at the whole situation is that the guys at the airport are there all day and may be paid some nominal amount per placard but don’t actually work for the van company as they seemed to have tons of different information along with the various names.  In all, it was a very interesting display.

Even at a pretty late hour, there was bad traffic in Istanbul, so the ride took us about 45 minutes to the hotel.  The Park Hyatt is not located in the “Old City” part of Istanbul, but it is located in what seems to be the very high end shopping district.  Basically, the “Champs-Élysées” area in Paris terms.  A new St. Regis is being built right around the corner, as well, so we may check that out next time. [Read more…]

Giveaway: Brussels Airlines Amenity Kit!

I have a still-in-plastic amenity kit from Brussels Airlines from our recent BRU-IAD flight and I’m giving it away.

Brussels Amenity Kit

Brussels Amenity Kit

How do you win?

[Read more…]

Should You Apply for the 140,000 Point Ritz Carlton Offer?

Chase has an unusually high bonus offer right now going on for the Ritz Carlton card at 140,000 points.  The basic terms here are:

  • $395 Annual Fee NOT waived.
  • 140,000 points after $2,000 in spend after 3 months
  • $200 in airline fee credits
  • A few other perks I don’t value so highly like gold status, 3 club upgrades annually, etc.
Ritz Carlton Abama (Canary Islands)

Ritz Carlton Abama (Canary Islands)

How much is the bonus worth? [Read more…]

Start Today! 5 Cards to Get You Started

One of the most common questions I get is, “OK if I’m just starting out, what should I do?”  The short answer is: apply for credit cards and learn how to maximize their use.

But which cards?  

Here’s the 5 cards I’d apply for if I were starting today.  Not only are they good cards, but they’re good cards to get together for a few reasons as well.  The goal here is to earn a diverse portfolio of points with as mild of a spend requirement as possible, get you set up for daily spending, and to affect your credit as little as possible. [Read more…]

Greece & Turkey 2014: Blue Palace Hotel

Blue Palace is actually a hotel that was on our radar last Summer, when we went to Le Meridien Split in Croatia so we ended up following through with that plan this year.

As a category 6 hotel, 8 nights cost us 140,000 SPG points in total including all taxes and service charge.  Given the best rate of about 375 Euro + tax at the time of booking, we got approximately 3 cents per point (about 3.05, actually) of value from our SPG points.  Not a mind blowing value, but an acceptable redemption to be sure.

We arrived via the hotel’s car service, which at 90 Euro for a 1 hour trip in a brand new Mercedes sedan seemed like a very good deal.  I checked taxi pricing and it was similar, and the few private car companies I inquired with actually wanted more than 90 Euro.

One reason I always like to get the hotel car whenever it’s not ridiculously expensive is that the hotel knows when you’re coming.  So they can “pre” check you in, which puts you in front of all the guests that may have been on your flight or others arriving at similar times.  That’s crucial for high season upgrades which may be limited to 1-2 guests per night.

At check in, we were told that we’d been upgraded from a standard bungalow to a bungalow with pool, which was exciting news, and quite fortunate given the high season.  When we checked out, we were told the resort was at 100% occupancy minus only the 5000 Euro/nt “Grand Villa.”

Given the late hour (~9pm), the desk agent who escorted us to our room suggested a property tour the following day.

When we woke up, we were treated to an excellent view from our terrace:

View from Pool Bungalow terrace

View from Pool Bungalow terrace

[Read more…]

Greece & Turkey 2014: Getting to Greece

As I explained previously, we chose a routing through London and Munich to get to Heraklion Airport in Crete in order to fly BA first class.

As usual, the evening started with an Uber car from our apartment in Arlington to Dulles airport, which at a flat $80, tip included, is a steal.  That’s roughly the same cost as a taxi + tip (maybe $5-10 more), but infinitely more comfortable, on demand via app, earns 2X Amex points, and with a driver that doesn’t make me fear for my safety (which is more than can be said for Arlington cabs).

Dulles Airport

We got to Dulles around 9:00pm for our 10:35pm flight.  I knew from reading online that the main BA lounge is closed for refurbishment at the moment (it’s being expanded as BA is bringing their A380 service to Washington, and the current lounge isn’t big enough), so we didn’t want to spend too long in the airport. [Read more…]