Fly you and a companion to Dubai on Emirates for only $1299

Dubai is by far one of the coolest places I have visited.  If you have ever been thinking about visiting there, now is a great time to book.  Two of you can fly on Emirates for only $1,299.  That’s less than I paid for my first ticket.  That’s less than you’ll usually pay going to Europe.  This offer only applies if you live in one of the cities that Emirates flies to in the United States which includes New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Washington DC (IAD), Houston (IAH), Seattle (SEA), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and Dallas Ft. Worth (DFW).  You must book by June 14th and travel by December 18th.  A few blackout dates also apply.

The flight from Texas is a brief 15 hours. :)

For you high rollers out there, you can also fly Business Class for a mere $9,999.  I find that Business Class is usually booked up well in advance though.

Use promo code MFmVDxXm1MU when booking.

$1299 Emirates Offer

There is also a companion offer from Atlantis where you can save 25% on all room categories.  That means you will still pay a lot but the place is awesome.  You don’t have to stay there though, hotels are pretty cheap throughout Dubai.

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What is a “Wanna get away” fare on Southwest Airlines?

Southwest Airlines keeps their airfare classes extremely simple.  They don’t have Y, M, K, X, and other cryptic classes that only people with 10+ years in the travel industry understand.  They have three fares:

  • Business Select – Southwest’s top fare which includes priority boarding, more Rapid Rewards Points, priority screening, and a drink.  It’s also fully refundable and you can change your ticket at any time.  This is as close as it comes to first class on Southwest.
  • Anytime – This is Southwest’s fully refundable fare.  This fare allows you to change your ticket at any time without penalty.  It also allows you to fly standby at no extra charge.
  • Wanna Get Away – This is Southwest’s lowest fare aimed at the casual traveler.   You can get this fare by booking your flights in advance.  However, it comes with fewer Rapid Rewards points and flying standby will cost you extra.  If you want to fly standby, you will have to pay the fare difference between what you paid and the published Anytime fare.  On the plus side, there is no change fee charged on top of your fare.  You can change you flight at any time.  Just keep in mind fares go up as your travel date gets closer.

For the seasoned Southwest traveler, these fares may be common knowledge.  According to my analytics though, this is one of the top search queries directing users to my site.  For more information on Southwest fares, refer to this chart.

Changes coming to TSA PreCheck this month

TSA PreCheck LogoAccording to a communication from American Airlines, changes are coming to the TSA PreCheck program this month.  The change specifically targets users opted-in to the PreCheck program via Airline loyalty programs.  If you are not familiar with this scenario, some airlines would opt passengers into PreCheck due to their status instead of them applying for the TSA PreCheck program directly.  If this applies to you then, you will find yourself soon see yourself getting declined expedited screening more often.

The reason for this is clearly that there are too many people eligible for TSA PreCheck now.  As a result, these lines are getting longer and the benefit is declining.  I think this will be a good change and should help the lines at some of the busier airports in the mornings.

If you aren’t in the TSA PreCheck program now, you can always join (assuming you qualify).  If you have been getting TSA PreCheck from your airline directly, know that this doesn’t qualify you to get through the traditional TSA PreCheck enrollment procedure any faster.

Using T-Mobile’s in-flight texting feature with Gogo Inflight WiFi

I rarely fly on an airline that uses Gogo InFlight Wifi.  However, recently I had no choice to fly on one of those airlines so I sprung for the Internet.  First of all, Gogo Inflight is ridiculously over-priced.  At more than $22 for a day pass, I about had a heart attack on the plane.  This is nearly three times more than what Southwest charges.

That aside, @JohnLegere and his crew at @TMobile have managed to ink out a deal giving their customers free in-flight text messaging.  There are a few caveats though.  First, you need a phone that supports WiFi calling.  The newest ones from T-Mobile do.  However, the phone I unlocked and brought over from AT&T does not.  Second, you have to have configured WiFi calling when you are on the ground and have made a phone call over WiFi calling at least once.  You also need to have an E911 address on file (which you should have) with T-Mobile.

Once you are in-flight, you are ready to go.  Take your plane out of Airplane Mode once you have reached 10,000 feet.  This part threw me off because I just turned my WiFi off.  You actually want to fully turn your phone on.  Then connect to to the gogoinflight wireless network and choose T-Mobile Texting.  Once you connect, you should be good to go.  If it is taking a second, launch the WiFi calling app on your phone and it should connect.  This experience will vary of course depending on the type of phone you have.

Once connected, you can send and receive text messages, picture messages, and even listen to your Visual Voicemail.  The only thing you can’t do is make a phone call.  Since Visual Voicemail works on it, you know that they could technically support phone calls over the WiFi network.  However, I don’t blame them for blocking that.  The last thing you want is someone taking business calls in the seat next to you.

If you are on T-Mobile, try it out on your next flight with Gogo.

Do NOT purchase reserved seats on Lufthansa

A few months ago, my wife and I flew to Barcelona on Lufthansa to speak at TechEd Europe.  Having never flown them before, I chose them for a number of reasons including itinerary, inclusion of cocktails, and they weren’t American Airlines.  I have to say my in-flight experience was pretty nice.

However, one thing I didn’t like is how we were suckered into purchasing a reserved seat.  After you book your reservation, you have the option to book a seat.  This will cost you between $15 and $35 per flight segment per person.  That meant for the wife and I, we spent $200 for the entire trip.  This allowed us to pick seats in advance.  Otherwise, you don’t get to pick them until you check in 24 hours in advance.  For our long haul flight, I picked us some decent seats near the middle of the plane.  I regularly checked the site to see if any new seats had opened up.  A few days before our trip, some new seats open up, 18A and 18B I believe.  I selected them and thought all was great.

However, the day before the trip, I was sad to see that I had now been assigned seats 44A and 44B at the very back of the plane.  That didn’t make me happy.  I called customer service and they could tell that we had the better seats but had no reason as to why we didn’t have them any more.  We decided to inquire when we got to the airport and the agent asked a manager and they pointed us back to their policy that basically states, you don’t actually reserve a seat.  You just reserve the type of seat and you have no guarantee that you will get to keep the one you selected.  When you go look for the fine print on the web site, you will see the following:

“Please note that a confirmed seat reservation does not give you any legal right to a specific seat, only to a seat in your chosen category, e.g. window or aisle.”

Although the web site has this information, the way they present it is very shady and misleading.  In essence what happened to us is that someone with higher status checked in and we got bumped.  I may or may not fly Lufthansa again, but I assure you if I do, I will never pay for a seat reservation.

United MileagePlus switches to price-based loyalty program…soft of

United is the latest in airlines switching to a ticket price based loyalty program.  Delta announced their changes earlier this year.  United has followed suit and is yet another example how the big carriers continue to get it wrong.  The good news is that you will earn miles based on the number of dollars spent on your ticket.  Now, you will earn a set number of points per dollar spent based on your member level.

  • Member – 5 points
  • Premier Silver – 7 points
  • Premier Gold – 8 points
  • Premier Platinum – 9 points
  • Premier 1k – 11 points

That means if you buy a $500 ticket, a regular member would get 2500 miles, but a Premier Platinum member would earn 4500 miles.  You get rewarded for having a higher status.

Now for the bad news.  Like Delta, the changes to the program don’t help you earn status any faster.  You still need to get it based solely on miles.  Some fares have slight bonuses but for the most part you don’t get status much faster for booking high cost last minute flights.  There is also still a minimum revenue requirement as well.  This means you have to spend at least $2500 to get to the first tier.

While the new changes won’t likely get you status any faster, you may be able to accrue miles faster to spend on reward travel.    This is why getting status and points on Southwest still seems easier to me.

If you want to read more about the changes, see the United microsite.

 

Thoughts on the Delta 2015 SkyMiles Program

Today, Delta Airlines announced their new SkyMiles program coming in 2015.  I wanted to provide my thoughts as I think it is an example of how the airline industry is starting to shift.

When I first got married, my wife and I had a debate on whom our official airline partner would be.  She had Silver Medallion status on Delta and I flew Southwest of course.  Once I earned my Companion Pass last year, she decided she liked Southwest a lot in a hurry.  I did decide to give Delta a try though on a couple of flights last year because they had a direct option from JFK.

From my experience with Delta, I noticed a few things.  As I boarded I noticed the plane was pretty empty.  Since I booked last minute, I got a Premium Economy seat because I booked last minute.  That section was also empty.  What I did like was how large the aisles were on the Airbus 320.   For once I didn’t have to strafe down the aisle to find my seat.  There was no chance of getting a free drink (and they certainly cost more).  Internet cost more too.  I figured I would earn a decent amount of points too since I booked last minute.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the case at all.   I only got about 2,000 points for the flight.  Really disappointing.

When I read through the details of the new SkyMiles program, I laughed a little bit because I could tell a lot of these things were inspired by Southwest.  The first change is that miles are earned based on the cost of your ticket now and not the distance flown.  This is big for those short last minute flights which is how I typically accrue so many points on Southwest.  For a person without status, you get 5 miles per dollar spent.  That means a $500 ticket would give you 2500 miles (why they still call them miles in this new program I don’t know).   For those with status, you can get between 7 and 11 miles  depending on your tier.  Although Delta has more tiers than Southwest does, this is pretty much on par with their program when it comes to bonus points.  Miles never expire with Delta which has always been a nice perk of theirs.

Unfortunately, where Delta misses the mark is that earning status with Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) has not changed.   You still earn status by distance flow or flight segments.   This means, buying a more expensive last minute ticket will not get you status any faster (well only marginally faster).  Like United, they also put a minimum spend on each tier as well.  This means if you have enough miles for tier status but you got there on cheap tickets, you won’t get status.

When it comes to redemption, Delta implemented a no blackout date policy.  Southwest has had this for some time.  Nice to see other carriers adopting it.  They claim to have more reward seat availability with tiers requiring fewer miles.  Since the program is not live yet, we’ll have to see on that.  Southwest has a policy allowing you to book a seat on any flight regardless of the revenue that particular flight.  They’ve added the ability to do one-way flights as well (this seems like a no-brainer).  Finally they have added a miles + cash option.  That’s pretty nice and I would love to see Southwest adopt that some day.

All in all, I don’t see anything here making me want to switch Airlines.  It’s a step in the right direction but they still have a long ways to go.  Apparently this change is so drastic for them, it’s going to take them a full year to implement.   If you’re interested in reading more about Delta’s new SkyMiles program, you can go to their site.