Category Archive for 'Airline News'

If I Have To Give A Few Thoughts On The United Incident…

Friday, April 14th, 2017

I’m currently on “vacation” until next Wednesday at a Pesach program at the Four Seasons in Whistler, Canada. Though my vacation consists of giving 4 lectures/presentations here at the program, the out-of-this-world food, service, and entertainment make it an awesome experience.

At any rate several people have asked why I haven’t written about United incident with Dr. David Dao. There are even conspiracy theories on DDF and people asking why I bashed Delta and not United.

1. I’ve been enjoying some time offline this week.

2. Obviously the videos were horrific.

I am definitely sympathetic towards Dr. Dao. Nobody should be treated as he was. There is no excuse for that. But while some blogs have had dozens of breathless posts on the topic with flip-flopping opinions, I don’t find it all that interesting from an aviation perspective.

At the end of the day the Delta meltdown was a systemwide failure and was exacerbated by their own arrogance and greed while the United incident was a single isolated incident. Obviously the United videos were painful to watch and generated much more coverage, but the Delta meltdown impacted hundreds of thousands of people…does that make me callous?

3. United could have avoided this entire situation by empowering their employees to hand out higher value travel vouchers. It makes zero sense to limit voluntary denied boarding compensation to $800 in travel vouchers when they will have to pay out $1,350 in cash in an involuntary denied boarding situation.

There is no excuse for this. This incident doesn’t happen with employees that are properly empowered to fix situations like this by raising the compensation to a level that would entice volunteers to leave the plane.

4. I do think that one good thing from this incident is that all airlines will increase their gate agent’s ability to offer higher denied boarding compensation when the situation calls for it.

When I was single I’d spend days in airports getting bumped from flight to flight and wind up with thousands of dollars in vouchers and an upgrade to first class. But when traveling with small children it would take an awful lot to get me to give up my seat.

5. The memes making fun of United are hysterical, but for the 2nd time in a month, United winds up on the short-end of the reporting. Last month social media went nuts that girls in leggings were denied boarding by United. But as they were flying on employee buddy passes they would have known that they needed to follow the dress code if they wanted to fly for free and that means you can’t wear spandex as pants. Is that a fair rule? I don’t know, but if you’re trying to travel on an employee pass then you don’t have much choice in the matter. Violating those rules will cause headaches for the employee.

Every airline involuntarily denies boarding, and yes, sometimes that happens on the plane. Most people know that if you don’t follow crew instructions on a plane that you’re going to be arrested. Obviously you don’t expect to be knocked unconscious and lose 2 teeth in the process, but I’m not sure that United is worthy of all the hate sent their way. Pretty much every airline would do and have done the exact same thing by getting the authorities involved.

6. Many people seem to think that it was United agents that directly caused bodily harm to Dr. Dao, but it was the Chicago Aviation police force agents that did the real dirty work here. Why isn’t there more outrage directed at the Chicago Aviation police force for how they dealt with the situation?

7. Pro tip if you don’t want to wind up being kicked off a flight: Check-in to your flight online 24 hours in advance and make sure you have an assigned seat. If you aren’t an elite member, traveling on a full fare ticket, or traveling with small children, then United will likely prioritize who they deny boarding to based on their time of checkin. Last to checkin, especially if they don’t have a seat assignment, will be the first to lose their place on the plane.

8. We will see fewer cases of involuntary denied boardings because of this incident, and that’s a very good outcome. So we all owe some thanks to Dr. Dao, who will likely get a nice retirement nest egg settlement from United very soon so that they can bury this story without a drawn out court case.

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Delta’s Nightmare Week Has Been Made Worse By Their Own Greed

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

I’m currently on a United flight to Vancouver for Pesach.

Over the past few days I’ve had several friends reach out to me for help dealing with Delta cancellations while trying to fly for Pesach as well.

The last week has been a nightmare for Delta with thousands of cancelled flights. Last week’s operations issues have even spilled over into today as well. The monitors I saw in the airport confirmed that Delta flights were still a mess.

2 years ago Delta executives realized that their operational performance was much better than American’s and United’s performance. Delta had several years head start in the merger wars by swallowing Northwest earlier than United merged with Continental and American merged with USAirways.

American and United were experiencing merger pains and were increasingly reliant on Delta to accommodate their customers during irregular operations. So Delta gave American and United an ultimatum. Pay a much higher rate to take care of their customers or they would rip up their interline agreement that allows airlines to accommodate their passengers on other airlines.

United agreed to the significant rate hike, but American refused. Since then American and Delta will generally not accommodate passengers for each other. And with only 3 major network carriers left in the US, that is bad news when American or Delta have operational issues.

It meant that American refused to accommodate us on a Delta flight to London during our fiasco in November 2015.

It’s actually a nice unadvertised perk when flying United that they are able to accommodate on American or Delta. American or Delta won’t accommodate passengers on each other, meaning there are fewer alternate flight options available during irregular operations.

It wasn’t the end of the world that we didn’t make it to London. London clearly just doesn’t want me there as I’ve run into airline operations issues all 3 times I’ve booked flights there. Though to be fair, all 3 times were on OneWorld’s American or British Airways. Perhaps I’ll use another alliance if I try again.

One of the many reasons I avoid ultra-low cost carriers like Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit is their lack of interline agreements with any other airlines. When issues arise, it can be days before they can reaccommodate you.

Southwest and JetBlue typically have more frequent flights and better operations. The major network carriers also have more interline options.

While Delta normally does run a tight ship, the past week has proven that no airline is immune to systemwide problems.

And their own greed which led to their lack of an interline agreement with American has meant that it has been harder for them to get their passengers going where they need to be.

It’s something to think about the next time you need to get somewhere and can’t afford not to make it to your destination.

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Is The Electronics Ban Grounds To Cancel A Ticket Without A Fee?

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

The US launched a ban on large electronics a couple of weeks ago.

I still can’t understand why the ban only applies on nonstop flights from select Middle Eastern airports. Apparently we’re relying on terrorists not knowing how to buy a flight to the US that connects in Europe to easily circumvent the ban.

If there is a real threat it should apply from everywhere, otherwise the ban seems toothless from a security standpoint. So it won’t surprise me if the ban is expanded to more airports than are now included.

The fact that I arrived into the airside domestic section of JFK from Abu Dhabi means that the US trusts that the security and customs pre-clearance operation works well enough to trust that passengers coming from Abu Dhabi can fly onto domestic US flights without any additional security screening. Which of course means that the electronics ban from there is even more illogical.

But enough with logic.

I had an Etihad first class award from the Maldives to Cleveland via Abu Dhabi and JFK booked with American miles for my wife and myself. As I wrote in the trip report, my wife was not able to join me on the trip. However, I never cancel awards and pay redeposit fees before I need to. Better off waiting to see if there will be bad weather or a schedule change that will allow for a free cancellation. With American you can even change the dates on an award for free and see if a schedule change or bad weather will apply then 😉

In this case I had booked a ticket for a flight that included the ability to bring a camera and laptop on the plane. Was the ban a material change in the ticket that was sold?

I called American and the first agent agreed with that logic, but had to get a manager to sign off on it. The manager refused as it was a US government rule and not American’s rule. Normally I’d play HUCA, but I wasn’t interested in wasting the time while in the Maldives, so I had the manager cancel the award without redepositing the miles. That way I wouldn’t have to fight for a refund down the road or I could change the dates without paying a fee later on.

I wrote to the DoT to ask their opinion on the electronics ban being a material change to the ticket’s terms.

They agreed that it did fall under their jurisdiction.

The last time the DoT agreed with me over American it took 8 months to get a final resolution.

This time it took just one week for the DoT to work with American to have the miles put back into my account without a fee.

So in the end I missed out on taking good pictures of the Etihad Apartments cabin, but my electronics did survive the journey, and I came out $150 ahead. All’s well that ends well?

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My Experience With The #ElectronicsBan

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Last Sunday I flew from Washington DC to Dubai before the ban on electronics from select Middle Eastern and African airports was announced.

I wrote my piece on the ban last Tuesday. I don’t have issue with actual security measures, but the way the ban was implemented makes it seem like security theater at best.

Why else would a serious threat only apply from select airports and not worldwide? Why else would it only apply from cities without the presence of a US airline? Why else would it apply to very safe and stable countries like Qatar and the UAE and not Nigeria which has been rocked by Islamic terror (and served by Delta)? Why else did the US ban Qatar and the UAE while the UK excluded those countries from their version of the ban? What’s stopping a terrorist from flying from Morocco to the US via Europe with electronics? Do they only know how to book nonstops?

It’s hard to make the case that this isn’t at least partially about crony protectionism, as the US carriers are unable to deliver a product like foreign carriers can. I’m sure there was a threat, but the method in which it’s being enacted seems more than coincidental.

But the most ridiculous part of the ban is that Abu Dhabi is included. There is full TSA standard screening there and you must clear US customs before you board a US bound plane from Abu Dhabi. Upon landing in the US you continue in the secure part of the airport as if you arrived on any domestic US flight. Baggage is forwarded automatically to your final destination without needing to pick it up.

Some Middle Eastern airlines, like Emirates and Turkish, are allowing passengers to use their electronics until just before they board their US bound flight and then gate check them.

Presumably due to needing to pass US security and customs in Abu Dhabi, Etihad does not offer a gate checking option.

 

Originally Etihad declared that you must check in electronics at your origin airport, even if you were just connecting in Abu Dhabi on the way to the US:

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That was updated to make it optional to do so:

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I flew yesterday from the Maldives to Cleveland via Abu Dhabi, JFK, and LaGuardia. In the Maldives several Etihad agents told me that I had to check in all of my electronics in my luggage. They didn’t know of the updated policy, so I may have taken the liberty of misleading the overzealous agents in the Maldives…

Upon arrival in Abu Dhabi you need to go through a security screening to enter the airport. After security I went to the transfer desk to ask what I could do with my electronics and they just shrugged their shoulders.

So I went into the Etihad First Class Lounge and asked the agents what I needed to do. They made some calls and told me to declare my electronics at the US preclearance facility. So after a massage and kosher meal in the lounge I headed that way.

At security they were fully prepared for this scenario. They had special padded laptop bags and boxes for electronics.

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They did not have padding for other items, but I brought bubble wrap provided by the S. Regis Maldives and used that to protect the drone and camera.

I wound up checking in my:
-Sony A6000 with wide angle and telepohoto lens.
-Mavic Pro Fly More Drone Bundle
-Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga

I did not have to check in my:
-Verizon Galaxy Note Edge
-Google Fi Nexus 6
-GoPro Hero4 Silver
-Bose QC35 Bluetooth Headphones
-Spigen Bluetooth Selfie Stick
-15K MAh USB power bank

I got a claim tag for each of the items that were checked in, which helped assure that items would not stolen. Additionally the box had a fragile sticker and specifically said that it was not to be opened.

Even the US agents there were baffled by Abu Dhabi being included in the electronics ban. Abu Dhabi has literally bent over backwards to accommodate US security and customs. Meanwhile now that has made things even worse as electronics need to be checked at security rather than at the gate.

It was my first flight without a camera and laptop in many years. Luckily I had my own apartment on the plane and had a good night’s sleep. But more on the actual ground and flight experience in a future trip report.

More critically, all of my electronics made it to JFK in one piece.

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If you do fly Etihad to the US I’d highly recommend bringing all of your electronics to the US preclearance security and customs to check in your items rather than put them in your suitcase. If you are connecting in Abu Dhabi from another airport where they insist you check your electronics in you should be able to insist that you want to check your items in Abu Dhabi, but either way, they won’t actually check your items for electronics in those airports.

I’d definitely plan to bring bubble wrap to protect your items in the box provided by Etihad in Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile Etihad has announced that they will provide free WiFi and free loaner iPads for business and first class passengers flying from Abu Dhabi to the US. Nice touch, day late and a dollar short for me though. Truthfully though, a loaner laptop and camera would have been more useful for my needs. An iPad doesn’t really do anything for me that my phone and the plane’s entertainment system can’t do.

Still, it’s a nice offering on Etihad’s part, though I wonder what free WiFi will do to data speeds.

In the end, Emirates and Etihad shower classes are still awesome and unforgettable, with or without electronics. However it’s an open question if business people will book away from these airlines due to the ban.

What are your thoughts on the electronics ban? Are you having 2nd thoughts about booking a Shower Class award due to the ban? Hit the comments!

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Can Anyone Explain The New Travel Electronics Ban To Me?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

I’m in Dubai now and let’s just say that I haven’t had much luck on this trip. A flight delayed by 8 hours. A sandstorm followed by a downpour. Man plans and G-d laughs. But more about that in a future trip report. For now you can follow the trip via Instagram and view Facebook Live updates on the DansDeals Facebook group.

The US is banning all electronics except cell phones from flights flying nonstop from:
-Amman, Jordan
-Cairo, Egypt
-Istanbul, Turkey
-Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
-Kuwait
-Casablanca, Morocco
-Doha, Qatar
-Abu Dhabi, UAE
-Dubai, UAE

If you are planning on flying back from Israel to the US via Jordan or Turkey then you will be affected by this rule. Forget about bringing those tablets to keep the kids occupied.

I’m scheduled to fly on Etihad from Abu Dhabi to the US next week, so this throws a real monkey wrench in those plans.

I’m traveling with a Yoga X1 Laptop/Tablet, a Mavic Drone, a GoPro, Bose QC35 headphones, and a Sony A6000 mirrorless camera. Apparently I’m supposed to check those under the plane and trust that those items won’t be damaged or pilfered along the way.

There are so many strange things about this that I don’t even know where to begin.

-Royal Jordanian first leaked the news prematurely with a Tweet that said that electronics other than cell phones would be banned on flights to and from the USA. They later deleted that tweet.

-The US runs a dedicated customs facility with TSA screening in Abu Dhabi. Why in the world are these rules being applied in Abu Dhabi, where the US controls the security process for US bound flights, and not in other countries?

Flights arrive from Abu Dhabi just as a regular domestic US flight, so why is this rule in place for Abu Dhabi? Abu Dhabi flights to the US have some of the toughest security checks in the world. Are the US agents in Abu Dhabi incapable of properly checking what is going onto a plane? Or is something more nefarious at play here…

-It’s worth noting that no US carrier flies to any of these cities. The US airlines have lobbied for years against competition from the Middle Eastern airlines, so this ban is pretty convenient for the US airlines. Those airlines have been eating the US airlines’ lunch. And dinner.

-Delta flies to Nigeria, so it’s convenient that that terrorist infested country didn’t make the list, while far safer countries like the UAE did.

Shh, don’t tell any potential terrorists about that loophole or the stopover loophole.

The Nigeria exclusion sure makes it sound like protectionism is a big factor here. There’s an open skies treaty that can’t easily be undone, but we can sure make it miserable to fly on those airlines.

-Now that this rule has been announced, what exactly will stop a terrorist from flying from the Middle East to the US via Europe in order to be able to carry-on an explosive device?

This is pure security theater. It reminds me of the period after 9/11 when buying a one-way ticket guaranteed that you would get selected for SSSS secondary screening. As if it would take a potential terrorist more than a day to figure out that they should book a return ticket…

And this stuff rarely goes away. We still can’t bring more than 3.4 ounces of water through security. Though you can have as many 3.4 ounce containers as you want. (Pro tip: You can freeze your liquids and bring as much of it as you want that way).

We’re just lucky that we can still wear underwear after the failed underwear bombing incident.

-What ever happened to it being dangerous to check lithium batteries under the plane? Or does the US want me to check my Mavic Drone but carry-on the spare batteries I have for it? Or are its large batteries also considered electronics?

-Is this all a ploy for the government to get their hands on electronics belonging to people on watch lists?

-The UK has banned electronics as well, but only from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia. Presumably this was done based on US intelligence findings.

Noticeably missing from their list is Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai, the 3 mega-hubs of the big 3 Middle East airlines of Etihad, Qatar, and Emirates that the US airlines have lobbied so hard against.

Business travelers and families alike are likely to book away from these airlines if the ban sticks around, so this is a great way to deal with potential terror threat and throw the Middle East’s big 3 under the bus.

At any rate, there goes my plan to photograph the nuances and differences of Emirates’ shower class versus their rival’s Etihad’s shower class. They’re both obtainable with miles and are like flying in a hotel at 35K feet. Unfortunately I have 2 very dated smartphones with me and the pictures they take are close to those that a potato would take. Sigh. And I can forget about the plans to work and write a trip report on the way home. The truth is that I very likely would have cancelled the trip if I knew about this rule before I left home on Sunday.

I’ll leave you with this (language warning) and this for your viewing pleasure.

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Starting May 5th There’s One United Flight From Newark To Tel Aviv You’ll Want To Avoid In Coach And Another You’ll Want To Avoid In Business

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Effective May 5th United will start flying their new Boeing 777-300ER (77W) aircraft between Newark and Tel Aviv.

The 77W will be operated by subsidiary United crew members on the late night flight 90 from from Newark to Tel Aviv and the late night flight 91 from Tel Aviv to Newark.

United will continue to operate their pre-merger Continental 777-200 (772) aircraft with subsidiary Continental crew members for the afternoon flight 84 from Newark to Tel Aviv and the afternoon flight 85 from Tel Aviv to Newark.

The 77W offers United’s new Polaris business class with a 1-2-1 seating configuration that allows direct aisle access for all business class seats. It’s a big improvement over the 772 which has a 2-2-2 configuration that requires jumping over your seatmate or being jumped over by your seatmate if you select the window side seats.

The configuration is denser than business class on most airlines with a 1-2-1 business class, but reports are mostly quite positive so far and the middle seats in every other row offer a good option for couples traveling together. Plus with a whopping 60 business class seats, upgrades may be slightly easier than on other airlines with fewer seats:

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The good news ends in business class though. United has decided to cram 10 seats across throughout the 102 Economy Plus and 204 Economy Minus seats. By all accounts, it will be a tight squeeze for larger people in coach with seat width dropping from about 18 inches to just 17 inches.

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The old pre-merger Continental 772 aircraft will eventually be converted to have Polaris business class 1-2-1 seating, but for now is 2-2-2. It will also eventually be converted to have 3-4-3 seating in coach, but for now it still has 3-3-3 seating.

Bottom line: Starting from May 5th for the near future, United flight 84/85 will offer a better experience for coach passengers and United flight 90/91 will offer a better experience for business class passengers.

It’s worth noting that both flights already have the new Polaris branded bedding and pillows. Mattress pads and gel cooled pillows are even available upon request. However neither Newark-Tel Aviv flight will offer Pajamas in business class, though United’s Dreamliner operated nonstop flight from San Francisco to Tel Aviv is long enough to qualify for business class Pajamas, which are given out upon request.

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Air Canada Responds To Air Transat With More Nonstop Service From Montreal-Tel Aviv!

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Montreal based Air Transat started selling twice weekly nonstop service from Montreal to Tel Aviv earlier this year. It will fly an A330 from Montreal to Tel Aviv on Sundays and Wednesdays from June 18th until October 29th and from Tel Aviv to Montreal on Mondays and Thursdays from June 19th until October 30th.

Today Air Canada has announced that they too will fly an A330 nonstop from Montreal to Tel Aviv on Sundays and Thursdays and from Tel Aviv to Montreal on Mondays and Fridays from June 22nd until October 16th.

Tickets will go on sale this Wednesday.

The Montreal-Tel Aviv flight departs at 6:35pm and arrives 12:15pm the next day. The Tel Aviv-Montreal flight departs at 1:55pm and arrives 6:20pm the same day.

That’s great news for Canadians and Star Alliance fans. It’s just unfortunate that they chose to operate one of the 2 weekly frequencies on Thursday/Friday, which are not very useful for Orthodox Jews. The Thursday outbound flight allows arrivals into Tel Aviv with enough time for Shabbos, but many people would prefer a larger margin for error in case of delays. The Friday return flight arrives too close to Shabbos in Montreal.

Hopefully we’ll see some nice price wars between Air Canada and Air Transat.

Air Canada also announced that their 787 operated Toronto-Tel Aviv route will move to year-round daily service starting this summer.

For those keeping score at home that means that flights between North America and Tel Aviv in the summer/fall of 2017 should look like:
Boston: 3 weekly flights on El Al.
JFK: 7 weekly flights on Delta, 16 weekly flights on El Al.
Los Angeles: 5 weekly flights on El Al.
Miami: Unknown number (Likely between 3-6) of weekly flights on El Al starting Q3.
Montreal: 2 weekly flights on Air Canada, 2 weekly flights on Air Transat.
Newark: 14 weekly flights on United, 6 weekly flights on El Al.
San Francisco: 7 weekly flights on United.
Toronto: 7 weekly flights on Air Canada, 5 weekly flights on El Al.

Memo to El Al or United: We’re all waiting for you to announced Chicago-Tel Aviv service already…

HT: Davidthebest, via DDF

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Emirates Adding a 2nd Nonstop From NYC To Europe; Another Good Use Of Starpoints To Israel

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Update: Award availability for this flight has been loaded and is wide open for travel in March, April, and May.

You can search for award space on alaskaair.com or emirates.com

Alaska charges 95K miles in coach, 210K miles in business, or 360K miles in first class round-trip between NYC and Athens or Milan:

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However you can book the trip with JAL miles for just 40K miles in coach, 65K miles in business, or 100K miles in first class round-trip.

Taxes and fees on a round-trip should be about $95 with Alaska miles or $70 with JAL miles.

You can transfer Starpoints to JAL at a 20K:25K ratio and then call JAL to book at 800-525-3663 as it can’t be booked online with JAL miles.


Originally posted on 1/23:

Related posts:
-The Ultimate Israel Mileage Award Chart
-Getting To Israel Using Starwood Starpoints, 2016 Edition
American Express is a DansDeals.com advertiser.


Emirates currently flies a daily A380 nonstop between JFK and Milan.

Effective 3/12 they will also fly a daily 777 nonstop between Newark and Athens.

Both flights offer coach, business, and first class, though the 777 has 7 across seating in business class, has no business/first class bar, and doesn’t offer first class showers like the A380 offers.

Partner award inventory hasn’t been loaded for the Athens flight, but for when it does, JAL has the best award chart for Emirates flights. They don’t charge a fuel surcharge for Emirates flights.

A round-trip on either route or an open-jaw (for example departing JFK-Milan and returning Athens-Newark) costs 40K JAL miles in coach, 65K in business, or 100K in first class, round-trip.

The Starwood Consumer AMEX and the Starwood Business AMEX have the ability to earn points that are transferable to dozens of airlines at a 20K:25K ratio, effectively 1.25 miles per dollar spent everywhere.

Thanks to the 25% bonus for transferring Starpoints to JAL it’s effectively 32K Starpoints in coach, 52K Starpoints in business class, or 80K Starpoints in first class, round-trip.

From Athens it’s a sub-2 hour flight to Israel on Star Alliance member Aegean or on El Al. In May SkyTeam member Aliatalia will also fly nonstop between Athens and Tel Aviv.

Round-trips from Athens to Tel Aviv start at just $117:

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From Milan you can fly on EasyJet or El Al nonstop to Tel Aviv.

HT: Chapshnell, via DDF

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WOW Air Plans To Launch Service To Tel Aviv In June, Will You Fly A ULCC To Israel?

Friday, January 27th, 2017

WOW Air plans to fly from Iceland to Israel starting in June.

WOW serves 9 North American cities: Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, Newark, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto. You’ll be able to connect from those cities to Tel Aviv via Reykjavik.

They’re fashioned as a ULCC (Ultra low-cost carrier) like Spirit, but WOW.

They advertise cheap fares, but the extras add up quickly.

For a round-trip from the east coast to Europe you’ll pay:
-$102/$140 for a carry-on bag paid for in advance/at checkin. You’ll pay an additional $60 if it doesn’t fit in their bag sizer.
-$142/$160 for a 44 pound checked bag paid for in advance/at checkin. You’ll pay an additional $18.18 per pound over 44 pounds.
-Reserving a seat will set you back an additional $40-$200 depending on the seat.
-Water, soda, and snacks cost extra.
-There’s no Wi-Fi or entertainment onboard.

They haven’t yet announced if the fees for Israel flights will be higher than Europe.

Will You Fly WOW Air To Israel?

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HT: yochai, via DDF

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American Matches Basic Economy; Now Ranked As The WSJ’s Worst US Airline For The 2nd Year Running

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Delta currently sells basic economy fares. They award full redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles on those fares. But they aren’t eligible for seat assignments, economy comfort, flight upgrades, changes, cancellations, or standby. If you need to make a voluntary change you have to throw away your ticket and start again.

In November, United announced that they will start selling Basic Economy fares in Q1 2017. United added more restrictions to the ones above. Their fares won’t earn elite qualifying miles or lifetime miles. United also won’t allow large carry-ons unless you have elite status, a United credit card, or are traveling with a United elite member or cardholder.

American has announced that they will start selling basic economy fares on 2/10/17. It will be nearly identical to United’s version except that American will award 1/2 of the normal elite qualifying miles and will allow you to pay to choose a seat, but only within 48 hours of your flight.

These fares are intended to allow the network carriers to compete with Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit. People that want no-frills will be able to fly on a network carrier and still be able to earn miles, have access to roomier seats, free drinks, and more frequent flights in case of irregular operations.

The real question is will they just drive more people to fly on Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest, and Virgin America?


In other news, American took the crown for the worst US airline in the WSJs annual ranking for the 2nd year running:

 

 

That’s not much of a surprise. American is notoriously bad at cancelled flights and mishandling luggage, hence our London fiasco. My longest tarmac delays have also all been on American.

Delta runs a very good airline with a subpar mileage program

United runs a mediocre, but improving, airline with a good mileage program.

American runs a subpar airline with a mileage program that could be called a ScAAm these days.

Last year I compiled 23 bullet points asking “What exactly is American’s AAdvantage?” I don’t think the USAirways folks running American could answer that even if they tried.

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At Least 8 North American Airports Will Have Nonstop Service To Tel Aviv This Year!

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

After American suddenly ended their nonstop service from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv after merging with USAirways there were only 5 North American airports with nonstop service to Tel Aviv. American said the reason for the cancellation is that the route has always been a money-loser. The timing was curious and that statement was even more curious as former USAirways’ president Scott Kirby (now president of United) had called the route among the most lucrative in the USAirways system. It’s worth noting that American still owes Israeli ex-TWA employees over $15 million…

That was a low point, but after that things have been looking up for the North America-Tel Aviv market.

United added 3 weekly San Francisco-Tel Aviv flights and they performed so well that United quickly changed it to daily service.

Then El Al announced that they will resume service from Miami nonstop to Tel Aviv in the 3rd quarter of this year. They last operated that route in 2008. El Al will be receiving their new 787s starting in the 3rd quarter of 2017 and it seems likely that they would operate on the route.

Montreal based Air Transat has just started selling twice weekly nonstop service from Montreal to Tel Aviv on an A330. It will fly from Montreal to Tel Aviv on Sundays and Wednesdays from June 18th until October 29th and from Tel Aviv to Montreal on Mondays and Thursdays from June 19th until October 30th.

The Montreal-Tel Aviv route has been operated in the past by Air Canada and El Al, but there hasn’t been regularly scheduled service on the route since 2000.

For those keeping score at home that means that flights between North America and Tel Aviv in the summer/fall of 2017 should look like:
Boston: 3 weekly flights on El Al.
JFK: 7 weekly flights on Delta, 16 weekly flights on El Al.
Los Angeles: 5 weekly flights on El Al.
Miami: Unknown number (Likely between 3-6) of weekly flights on El Al starting Q3.
Montreal: 2 weekly flights on Air Transat.
Newark: 14 weekly flights on United, 6 weekly flights on El Al.
San Francisco: 7 weekly flights on United.
Toronto: 7 weekly flights on Air Canada, 5 weekly flights on El Al.

Looking forward, it’s likely that El Al or United will start service on the Chicago-Tel Aviv route. Both Delta and El Al have tried Atlanta-Tel Aviv route in the past, neither airline was successful with that route, but the Atlanta airport has lobbied for a return of one of those flights.

HT: travel agent, via DDF

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Fly Spirit…

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

A few years ago I wrote a post about booking hidden city tickets (which was followed up by a post on how to do it better than Skiplagged).

In that post I wrote, “Here at DansDeals we don’t do buses.” It’s become a common expression and even the signature of some members on the DansDeals Forums. Let’s just say I had enough nightmare Greyhound stories as a high school student in Pittsburgh going back home to Cleveland to keep me from ever stepping foot on one again.

I also don’t fly ultra-low cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit. I don’t like their nickel and diming to reserve a seat or get a drink of water. I don’t like their lack of legroom, their lack of a carry-on allowance, or their lack of useful miles. I don’t like that they don’t participate in Priceline’s “next day at 11:29pm” refund policy.

But I really don’t like what happens during irregular operations. They don’t have agreements with any other airlines and they don’t have the capacity to handle problems. When things go wrong they often can’t get you to where you need to go for an entire day, or even days.

I’d rather use miles or hunt for a better fare than be subject to that and that’s why I very rarely post deals for travel on the ultra-low cost carriers. Though when I do it’s about how to beat the Spirit pricing system with strategies like going to the airport.

Obviously, plenty of people have good experiences with the ultra-low cost carriers. If you are single, don’t need to travel next to anyone, don’t need to travel with any luggage, and don’t need to be somewhere at a critical time, then it can make sense. But otherwise when you include all of the fees you get hit with later and the risks of something going very wrong, I don’t think it will typically make sense.

As Daniel K said on the DansDeals Facebook Group, “Spirit is cheap but I will never fly it again….Spirit is everything wrong with flying.”

Case in point:

A friend of a friend of mine flew on Spirit flight 440 from Fort Lauderdale to Cleveland this past Monday. JetBlue and United also fly on that route and managed to make it to Cleveland, but the Spirit flight was diverted to Detroit.

Diversions stink, but they stink worse on Spirit. They were too cheap to fly them to Cleveland, so they put them on a bus.

And then hilarity ensued.

OK, maybe not quite for the people involved.

The Spirit chartered bus then broke down on the side of the road and passengers didn’t get home until the wee hours of the following morning.

You can’t make this stuff up. Read about the full story here and think twice the next time you want to save a few bucks by flying Spirit.

HT: Sam K.

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Alaska Breaks Up With Delta, Lowers Award Rates; Transfer 20K Starpoints Into 32.5K Alaska Miles, 40K For Cathay Business Class To Israel!

Monday, December 19th, 2016

The Alaska-Virgin America merger is complete and there’s lots of news.

1. The Alaska-Delta partnership will end effective 5/1/17.

You can still earn Alaska miles on Delta flights and vice versa until 4/30. If you purchased a ticket before today then you can earn miles on each other’s flights regardless of when the date of travel is.

You can book Delta awards with Alaska miles and Alaska awards with Delta miles until 4/30 for travel at any time, but no changes will be allowed after 4/30.

2. Alaska is also switching to a distance based domestic award chart effective today that will lower the cost of many awards for Alaska flights. Domestic awards will now cost 5K, 7.5K, 10K, or 12.5K miles based on the distance of the domestic flight.

3. You can now earn Alaska miles for Virgin America flights or Virgin America miles for Alaska flights.

4. Effective 1/9 you can transfer Virgin America miles into Alaska at a 1:1.3 ratio.

You can transfer 20K Starpoints into 25K Virgin America miles now. Then you can transfer those 25K Virgin America miles into 32.5K Alaska miles on 1/9.

Alaska has incredible award charts for travel on airlines like American and Cathay Pacific.

For example one-way flights to Europe or South America on American are just 20K coach off-peak, 30K coach peak, 50K business, or 62.5K first with no fuel surcharges.

One-way Flights to Asia on award-winning Cathay Pacific are just 30K coach, 35K premium economy, 50K business, or 70K first with no fuel surcharges.

One-way Flights to Israel on Cathay Pacific are 50K coach, 55K premium economy, 62.5K business, or 70K first with no fuel surcharges and a free stopover in Hong Kong if you want one.

Cathay starts flying to Israel on March 26.

You must call Alaska to book travel on Cathay Pacific.

You’ll effectively get 1.625 Alaska miles for each Starpoints, so just divide Alaska’s award rates by 1.625 to see how many effective Starpoints those routes will cost.

In other words a one-way business class flight to Israel would cost 62,500/1.625=about 38,461 Starpoints thanks to the 25% transfer bonus from Starwood to Virgin America and 30% transfer bonus from Virgin America to Alaska! A 40K Starpoints transfer would net 65K Alaska miles via Virgin America, more than enough for that award.

Alaska even allows for a free stopover on one-way awards!

It’s worth noting however that Alaska used to have amazing rates for Emirates suites, but they raised the rates without warning.

5. Virgin elites will be matched to Alaska status on 1/9.

6. You’ll be able to redeem Alaska miles for Virgin flights and vice versa on 1/9.

7. You can now earn more Alaska miles by crediting partner flights to Alaska.


American Express is a DansDeals.com advertiser.

-The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers 25K points for spending $3,000 in 3 months.

-The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express offers 25K points for spending $5,000 in 3 months.

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El Al Waiving Cancellation And Change Fees

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

El Al has been rocked with labor issues over the past week. Many flights have been moved to their wet lease operators, while others have been cancelled or delayed up to 18 hours.

El Al is now allowing refunds on flights booked through 11/30. They will also waive change fees, but if the new flight is more expensive then the fare difference will apply.

HT: Chaikel

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United Will Mimic Delta Basic Economy, But With More Amenities Stripped Out

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

Before all the airlines decided to merge in order to avoid competing, the network carriers decided they needed to launch low cost carriers to compete with airlines like AirTran, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit.

Continental Lite, Delta Song, United Ted, and USAirways MetroJet were airlines within an airline. They all failed miserably and shut down within a few years. Airlines with high cost structures can’t compete on price with airlines that have ultra-low cost structures. It also created brand confusion as former Continental CEO Gordon Bethune put it, “You can make a pizza so cheap, nobody will eat it. You can make an airline so cheap, nobody will fly it.” Airlines (except for El Al which recently launched “Up”) learned that lesson long ago.

Of course after that the airlines realized that they didn’t have to offer free checked baggage and started charging for the privilege unless you held elite status or their co-branded credit card.

Then Delta launched “Basic Economy” fares. They took a cautious approach to it. They would still award redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles. But they wouldn’t be eligible for seat assignments, economy comfort, flight upgrades, changes, cancellations, or standby. If you need to make a voluntary change you have to throw away your ticket and start again.

Of course that’s even worse then the low cost carriers that allow you to pick a seat if you’re willing to pay for it.

Today United announced they will start selling their own Basic Economy fares starting in 2017 Q1 for travel starting in Q2.

They will match Delta’s restrictions and add some more of their own.

United Basic Economy tickets will award redeemable miles, but they won’t award elite qualifying miles or lifetime miles.

Once you’re assigned a seat at checkin you will not be allowed to change it, so this fare won’t be a good idea for people needing to be seated together.

United Basic Economy tickets will also be ineligible to bring a large carry-on bag on the plane. United will accomplish that by making Basic Economy ticketholders board in the last group and everyone in that group will be forced to check their large bags and pay for them. Checked bag fees will be the same as they are for regular ticketholders.

The real question is if the process of charging for bags winds up delaying flights, which will cost United far more than they’ll take in.

The good news is that if you are eligible to board in an earlier group you will be allowed to have a free large carry-on, even if you have a Basic Economy ticket. That includes any Star Alliance Gold members, United elites, United primary cardholders, and anyone on the same reservation as one of those travelers.

Basic Economy ticketholders will be allowed to have a carry-on that will fit underneath the seat in front of them that is 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches or less.

I’d expect American to match United’s approach, or perhaps make it even more stingy than United’s such as getting rid of miles earned, in the very near future. And if Delta likes what they see I’d expect them to match the stingier aspects as well.

Will you book a United Basic Economy tickets if the fare is right?

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Are El Al’s Wet Leasing Practices Going To Cause A Strike?

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

For the past couple of years El Al has been wet-leasing planes from other airlines to cover their routes. This has led to people assuming they will fly on an El Al operated airplane and crew to be flown by Spanish airline “Privilege Style” and Portuguese airlines “Hi Fly” and “Euro Atlantic Airways.”

Dozens of readers have sent me horror stories about these airlines and I’ve made several posts about the situation. The bottom line is that if you want to fly nonstop to Tel Aviv and know what airline you’re actually flying on, you should book travel on Delta or United.

At any rate, El Al has cancelled tonight’s Tel Aviv-Newark and tomorrow’s Newark-Tel Aviv flight. They will offer refunds, but they write that they will not offer alternate flight options.

Globes is reporting that a full strike is likely within the next week in protest of El Al’s wet-leasing. El Al is blaming their pilots for tactics that have forced them to outsource their flying to the Iberian carriers. The pilots blame El Al for charging passengers a premium while shifting them onto low cost carriers that cost El Al far less than flying their own aircraft and employees.

Yup. It’s just another day at El Al.

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Cathay Pacific Launching Hong Kong-Tel Aviv Flights In March

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Cathay Pacific will finally launch nonstop service between Tel Aviv and Hong Kong in March.

This comes on the heels of Singapore Airlines announcing they are looking to start service between Tel Aviv and Singapore in 2017 as well.

Cathay Pacific is famous for their wonderful first class where they offer the best bed comfort, seat comfort, and pajamas in the industry. It doesn’t offer walled-in suites or the hands-on service of Singapore and it doesn’t have onboard showers like Emirates or Etihad, but I don’t think any first class can compete with Cathay’s ultra-comfy seat and bed arrangement.

Unfortunately the Tel Aviv flights will be operated by an A350-900 which only offers economy, premium economy, and business class. Still their reverse herringbone lie-flat business class is a massive step up from El Al’s.

-American is OneWorld alliance partners with Cathay Pacific and they charge 25K American miles in coach and 40K miles in business class each way between Tel Aviv and Asia with no fuel surcharges.

American won’t allow you to fly from the US to Tel Aviv via Hong Kong, but Alaska will.

-You can use 50K Alaska miles for coach, 55K for premium economy, 62.5K for business, or 70K for first class to fly one way to or from North America and Tel Aviv via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific and you can stopover in Hong Kong for as long as you want. There are no fuel surcharges.

The 70K first class rate is a true bargain, though you’ll only be in first class between the US and Hong Kong. The Hong Kong to Tel Aviv flight will be in business class. But it’s well worth the 7.5K premium to sit in Cathay First for the flight over the Pacific. Both seats are lie-flat, but the first class seat and bed are far more spacious and comfortable. First class passengers can also reserve Hermolis kosher meals in the Hong Kong lounges.

Cathay 777 First Class:

DSC07757a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cathay 777 First Class:

DSC08085a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cathay 777 Business Class:

DSC08110a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In North America, Cathay Pacific flies to Boston, Chicago, JFK, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver. Rumors also have them adding service to Honolulu and Miami in the future.

-You can use 22.5K Alaska miles for coach, 25K for premium economy, or 30K for business to fly one way to or from Tel Aviv and Hong Kong. There are no fuel surcharges.

American Express is a DansDeals.com advertiser.

You can transfer 20K Starpoints into 25K Alaska miles. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers 25K points for spending $3,000 in 3 months. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express offers 25K points for spending $5,000 in 3 months.

You can also transfer 60K Marriott points into 20K Starpoints into 25K Alaska miles.

Or you can use 90K Starpoints or 270K Marriott points for 120K Alaska miles and 7 nights in a Marriott hotel.

HT: damaxer91 and ExGingi, via DDF

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Singapore Airlines Applies For Tel Aviv Flights

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Ynet (Hebrew) reports that Singapore has applied for TLV landing permits for mid-2017.

Singapore flies a number of 5th Freedom routes such as JFK-Frankfurt, Houston-Manchester, Los Angeles-Tokyo, Los Angeles-Seoul, San Francisco-Hong Kong, and San Francisco-Seoul that all continue onward to Singapore.

It’s unlikely that Singapore would be able to pull off a 5th freedom route from a US city to Singapore via Tel Aviv, but we can still dream about that 🙂

Singapore is my favorite airline in the world. We’ve flown to Europe in Singapore’s couple suites, I flew on the longest flight in the world from Newark to Singapore for 19 hours in business class and was sad when it was over. I flew in coach with a ghetto upgrade (4 seats in coach for myself) from the Maldives to Singapore and that was actually better than the regional business class flight I took from Singapore to the Maldives. Singapore’s service is simply second to none and their cabins are all fantastic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They have amazing mileage rates for business and suites class and you can transfer points from AMEX, Chase, Citi, or Starwood to Singapore.

It’s worth noting that Ynet reported last year that Cathay Pacific was planning to fly to Israel in 2016 and that didn’t happen, so perhaps it’s worth taking this news with a grain of salt. But it’s still exciting nonetheless.

HT: a mirrer, via DDF

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El Al Miami-Tel Aviv Service Will Resume In 2017

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

El Al announced that they will resume service from Miami nonstop to Tel Aviv next year. They last operated that route in 2008.

El Al will be receiving their new 787s starting in the 3rd quarter of 2017 and it seems likely that they would operate on the route.

For those keeping score at home that means that flights between North America and Tel Aviv in the summer/fall of 2017 should look like:
Boston: 3 weekly flights on El Al.
JFK: 7 weekly flights on Delta, 16 weekly flights on El Al.
Los Angeles: 5 weekly flights on El Al.
Miami: Unknown number (Likely between 3-6) of weekly flights on El Al.
Newark: 14 weekly flights on United, 6 weekly flights on El Al.
San Francisco: 7 weekly flights on United.
Toronto: 7 weekly flights on Air Canada, 4 weekly flights on El Al.

I wrote earlier this year that Chicago and Miami would be up next for Tel Aviv service. Now it’s only a question of whether El Al or United will be the airline to operate a Chicago-Tel Aviv route.

HT: jaywhy, via DDF

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United Has 747s Masquerading As A320s

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Delta and United are retiring their 747 fleet as airlines continue to move away from gas guzzling 4 engine airplanes.

My son Rafi has been on over 100 flights and is obsessed with airplanes and especially the Queen Of The Skies, the 747.

I took him to San Francisco the month before United discontinued their Chicago-San Francisco 747 route in May. And of course I used miles to fly on the upper deck where he could walk up the stairs and spend time in the cockpit. His joy was contagious even to the checkin agents and he still talks about the trip all the time.

 

 

 

 

 

#CaptainRafi #QueenOfTheSkies #United #747 #FatherSonTrip #WhichButtonShouldIPush?

A photo posted by @dansdeals on

 

 

What's the appropriate compensation for being #Downgraded from #747 #Captain to #CoPilot?

A photo posted by @dansdeals on

 

But apparently United still flies 747s on the Chicago-San Francisco route. They just don’t advertise it.

A Flyertalker wrote that he was booked on a United 747 today from Chicago-San Francisco. I looked but couldn’t find it on United.com when booking a ticket or when looking at the flight status page for that route.

I went to ITA Matrix and searched with advance routing code “UA / aircraft t:747” and it too confirmed that there were no 747 flights for sale on the route.

ITA did get some hits when searching “DL / aircraft t:747” with 747 flights on Delta from Detroit to Atlanta, Settle to Atlanta, and Atlanta to Seattle on 11/26. Seattle to Atlanta and Atlanta to Seattle on 11/27. And Atlanta to Detroit on 11/28. I used my list of airports that comes in handy for hidden city fares lower than Skiplagged’s to find those.

Upon looking closer I did find the 747, it was just hiding.

Searching for a flight from Chicago-San Francisco this morning showed a flight advertised as an A320:

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But clicking on the seat map showed the largest A320 known to mankind. Or a 747 masquerading as an A320:

ua13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Same story for the return flight from San Francisco to Chicago showing as an A320:

ua9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until you open the seat map and see that it’s a 747:

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Flight Aware confirms that it’s indeed a 747, with an apparent identity crisis. Perhaps it figures that posing as an A320 will save it from this fate? 

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NYC To/From Miami For $68, NYC To/From Chicago For $53 Each Way, Chicago To/From Los Angeles For $58 Each Way

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

American Express is a DansDeals.com advertiser.
-Earn 3 points per dollar on airfare with the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Cardthe AMEX Business Gold Rewards Card, or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.


Bookable on Priceline. Tickets purchased from Priceline today are refundable until 11:29pm EDT on Monday, 9/5. Please see this post for directions on how to cancel these tickets.

Note that there are active Zika outbreaks in Miami Beach and Wynwood, so talk to your doctor before traveling to Florida if you have young children, if or your spouse are pregnant, or if you or your spouse want to become pregnant in the next year.

-Limited seats are available on each date and dates listed below will sell out quickly! Please post a comment with exactly which dates and route didn’t work for you and I will update the post.

Always search one-way for 1 seat and then work your way up to the number of seats you need in order to book as many seats on sale as you can. Searching round-trip may result in higher prices.

-Search NYC to include JFK and LGA.

AA/Delta: NYC to Miami $68 dates in bold, $73-$78 dates in plain font:
September 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28
October 4, 11, 18, 25
November 1, 2, 8, 15
December 3, 6, 7

AA/Delta: Miami to NYC $68 dates in bold, $73-$78 dates in plain font:
September 13, 14, 21, 27, 28
October 5, 18, 19, 22, 25
November 1, 2, 8, 9, 16, 30
December 7

Jetblue: JFK to Chicago $53-$63 dates:
September 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28
October 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 11, 12, 18, 19, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28
November 1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 29, 30
December 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 27, 28, 31
January 3, 7, 10, 11, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 24, 25, 26, 28, 31
February 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28
March 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29
April 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29
May 1, 2

Jetblue: Chicago to JFK $53-$63 dates:
September 20, 21, 24, 27, 28, 29
October 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 22, 25, 27, 28, 29
November 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 29, 30
December 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 24, 28, 31
January 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
February 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28
March 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
April 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 29
May 1, 2

United: Chicago to Los Angeles $58-$78 dates:
September 9, 14, 16, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 30
October 3, 5, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31
November 5, 9, 12, 16
December 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

United: Los Angeles to Chicago $58-$78 dates:
September 20, 27, 28, 30
October 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, 19, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31
November 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17
December 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13


Join the 74.1K+ people who follow @DansDeals on Twitter and you’ll get a tweet when a deal is posted on DansDeals.com!
You can even have Twitter send you a text message whenever a new deal is posted.

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DDFB Question Of The Day: Global Entry Or TSA PreCheck?

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

In 2008 the DansDeals Forums (DDF) was launched for people to be able to discuss deals, miles, and destinations at length and the DansDeals Facebook group (DDFB) was founded to provide email alerts about hot deals. Facebook took away the ability to send out email alerts, so Twitter took over that feature and the Facebook group has remained as an alternate, far messier version of DDF. Eventually I also made a Facebook page for people looking for Facebook notifications of new deals and finally opened an Instagram account where I post some pictures from my travels.

I spend hours every day browsing DDF and DDFB looking for tips and trying to help people out. I’ve occasionally featured questions here that are relevant to a wide audience, and perhaps I should do that more often.

Today this question on DDFB caught my eye,

“Should I get the global entry or the TSA pre? I could either one for free with my platinum AMEX”

TSA PreCheck is the best thing since sliced bread. It makes flying bearable once again and I can’t imagine not having it.

Without a doubt, it’s better than having low-tier elite status on an airline.

After an in-person interview you are assigned a known travel number. You just enter that number into your reservation and PreCheck will appear on your boarding passes when flying on domestic airlines (except for Frontier and Spirit currently).

PreCheck lines are significantly shorter than regular lines. I’ve walked right through security when the regular lines have been over an hour long. Without a doubt I’ve made flights that I would have otherwise missed thanks to PreCheck.

In San Francisco, after watching the Cavs win their first NBA Finals, the PreCheck line seemed significantly longer than the already long regular line. I had never seen that before and was almost tempted to join the regular line with my brother JJ who didn’t have Pre-Check. I stuck with Pre-Check though and finished a full half an hour before he came through security.

But aside from that, PreCheck allows you to keep your shoes, belt, and jacket on. You can keep your laptop in your bag. And you get to go through the old style metal detectors rather than assuming the position for a nude-o-scope.

Adults that have PreCheck can also bring their kids with them even if their kids don’t have PreCheck.

PreCheck costs $85 for a 5 year membership. Many premium credit cards, including the AMEX Platinum Consumer Card, AMEX Platinum Business Card, Citi PrestigeCiti Executive AAdvantage, Chase Ritz Carlton, and the upcoming Chase Sapphire Reserve will refund that fee.

But you shouldn’t use that credit to signup for PreCheck.

Global Entry offers everything that PreCheck offers and it also allows you to skip the lines when you return from abroad.

With Global Entry you don’t need to fill out the blue form when you return to the US, you skip the long line and go right to special Global Entry kiosks where you just scan your passport.

You also get a Global Entry card, though you don’t need that when you fly, it only helps when you drive into the US as it allows you to use the Nexus lane when returning from Canada to the US or Sentri lanes from Mexico to the US.

I still carry the card with me when I fly and it came in handy earlier this month when flying on Cathay Pacific from Vancouver to JFK. That flight has customs and immigration after you land in JFK, but the regular security line in Vancouver airport had a 30 minute wait. There was a no first class line, but there was a Nexus line with no waiting and they accepted our Global Entry cards to use the Nexus line.

Kids of any age are required to have their own Global Entry membership in order to use the kiosks when returning from abroad. However you can still bring kids that don’t have their own memberships with you in the PreCheck security line even if you have a Global Entry membership rather than a PreCheck membership.

Global Entry costs $100 for 5 years and is also refunded by those premium credit cards.

You can even add 3 additional users to your AMEX Platinum Consumer Card for $175 total ($58.33 each) and each of those cards will also get a Global Entry/PreCheck fee refund in addition to full Airspace, Centurion, Delta, and Priority Pass lounge access.

The only advantage to PreCheck over Global Entry is if you are paying for them out of pocket to save $15 over 5 years. But that savins will only be worthwhile if you never leave the country. Aside from that, PreCheck also allows walk-in applications while Global Entry applications must be scheduled in advance.

Finally there’s also Nexus. Nexus allows expedited entry into Canada in addition to full Global Entry and PreCheck privileges.

And get this, despite offering the most benefits of all 3 memberships, it only costs $50 every 5 years!

However for whatever reason, the credit cards don’t officially refund Nexus membership fees.

I originally enrolled in Nexus on my AMEX Platinum card. Of course it didn’t automatically credit the $50, however a chat agent was able to manually refund the $50 fee.

The main caveat of Nexus is that you must apply for it at the Canadian border. I had planned to apply in Detroit or Buffalo, but in the end I wasn’t able to make it up there. I wound up applying for Global Entry for myself, my wife, and our 2 kids as we were able to apply for it locally in Cleveland and those fees were automatically refunded.

It’s the best money I never spent.

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What Exactly Is American’s AAdvantage?

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Update: American’s revenue based mileage program goes into effect today, regardless of when you purchased your tickets. On its surface it’s a match of Delta and United’s programs, but as this article and the related articles below show, it’s actually significantly worse than the other network carrier’s loyalty programs.

Related posts:
-American Joins Delta And United In Revenue Based Mileage Earning
-A Comparison Of AA, Delta, And United Saver Award Space: Is AAdvantage The New SkyPesos?
-Is AAdvantage A ScAAm? See For Yourself And Let The DoT Know


Originally posted on 6/14:

American’s AAdvantage program has been undergoing death by a thousand cuts.

Clearly the mergers of the last decade have decimated airline loyalty programs. The loss of AirTran, America West, Continental, Northwest, and USAirways have meant that the remaining oligopoly of airlines no longer need to compete on the same level that they used to. Hubs have been eliminated and will continue to disappear. Miles have become harder to earn when flying and become less valuable when cashed in.

In the meantime Delta has put all of their focus into their airline operations and they no longer even publish award charts.
United devalued their program in 2014 in one fell swoop. But after American’s changes, the United mileage program is far superior and the airline’s operations have been rapidly improving since they fired Smisek.

American’s trickle style roll out of bad news since the merger coupled with poor airline operations and abysmal award availability has been nothing short of a horror film.

1. They removed the ability to get a free stopover on award tickets without warning. Their own partner Alaska allows a stopover on one-way tickets even when redeeming for American flights. Competition like United still allows for a stopover and open jaw on awards that make using miles very valuable when utilized properly.

2. They removed their lucrative round-the-world award chart without warning. We got great use out of it on a trip around the world in 2010 and would have liked to have known before it was removed. United and ANA still have good round-the-world options.

3. They increased their AAnytime award flight options to have multiple levels of expensive awards, making it cost prohibitive to redeem for flights on peak dates. United still maintains one rate that makes the higher award level far more reasonable than American.

4. They still don’t provide free upgrades for lower and mid-tier elites as Delta and United do.

5. The new Platinum Pro level is the most unimaginatively named level ever and is the 3rd type of Platinum in American’s program. Worse than its unfortunate name, it won’t have the fee-waiver benefits provided by Delta and United like free award cancellations and free confirmed standby and it only gives 2 free 50 pound checked bags compared to 3 free 70 pound bags with Delta or United Platinum.

6. They’re finally rolling out domestic upgrades on award tickets, but only for top-tier Executive Platinums (though that comes after cutting their international upgrade certificates in half). Delta offers this for Gold and higher while United offers this to all elites who have a United credit card.

7. They’re devaluing their Gold and Platinum lifetime status levels by introducing higher levels and upgrades that are prioritized by the amount of money you’ve spent on flights in the past 12 months, something that no other airline does. So much for long-term loyalty.

8. They’re now requiring $3K in spending on top of flying to earn Gold, $6K for Platinum, $9K for Platinum Pro, and $12K for Executive Platinum. That’s copying Delta and United’s requirements. However Delta and United waive the spend requirement for foreign members while American will not.

9. Delta and United also waive the elite spend requirement if you spend $25K in a calendar year on their co-brand credit cards (excluding the ability to earn 1K status on United), while American did not announce any such waiver.

10. Their saver award space availability has deteriorated to the point that I’m not even sure it’s better than Delta’s. Both of those airlines lag miles behind United, especially if you have a United credit card.

11. Their award chart was once a bright spot, but was mAAsacred earlier this year and no longer provides a competitive advantage.

12. They have draconian routing rules, such as not allowing a flight from the US to Australia to transit via Asia and not allowing a flight from the US to Southern South America to connect in Central or Northern South America. American also requires that there be a published fare for award flights that you take, that you take the most direct routing, and they limit the total distance you can fly to MPM+25%. These restrictions exacerbate award availability issues. United has none of these restrictions.

13. American charges a massive fuel surcharge to fly on British Airways and a small fuel surcharge to fly on Iberia, making it tough to fly to Europe without paying outrageous fees. United has far more partner airlines than American and doesn’t charge a fuel surcharge for travel on any of them.

14. Operationally speaking, American has the worst tarmac delays, cancellation, and mishandled bag rates among all domestic carriers. Delta is by far the best domestic airline from an operation standpoint, and United is better than American and has been improving.

15. American cancelled their interline agreement with Delta as it became too expensive to keep sending their delayed and cancelled passengers to Delta. United still has an interline agreement with American and Delta, meaning they have more options to accommodate passengers when issues arise. I experienced pain from this issue firsthand.

16. American ended their El Al mileage relationship in 2014 and ended their own flights to Tel Aviv this year, leaving them with zero partners that fly between North America and Tel Aviv compared to 7-11 weekly Delta flights to Israel and 28 weekly Star Alliance flights on United and their partner Air Canada.

17. The OneWorld alliance no longer requires airlines to interline bags to other carriers even within the  alliance if you purchase 2 separate tickets. American claims they will still do so, but in my experience it was very hard to get them to do that and will likely become impossible. Delta and United still interline within their alliance on 2 tickets and United will interline to other airlines if you have elite status or even if you just ask nicely.

18. Many of American’s award partners are still not available online, which means having to call and play call center roulette to book awards on airlines like Air Tahiti Nui, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, JAL, and others. Just today I had an American phone agent outright lie to me about award space that I knew was there. I HUCA’d and received it, but they have seemingly stopped making progress in getting more airlines on their website. Progress has even gone backwards as airlines like AirBerlin have shows more award space on Iberia’s site than on American’s.

19. American’s flight status on their website and app are very primitive. It’s updated very late and often displays incorrect information in delay situations. United’s flight status on their website and app provides far more useful and timely updates and information.

20. American’s customer service is horrendous. I’ve experience this firsthand on a few occasions, but every aspect of their airline from gate agents, club agents, luggage agents, Twitter agents, executive office agents, and DoT representative agents have dropped the ball on our cancelled flight to London and their failure to provide a refund or alternate flight afterward. Delta and United would have had this solved in no time, but nobody at American cares or has the power to fix anything.

21. If you do want to redeem for an American flight, you’ll always do better by using miles from partner airlines like Alaska, BA, or Etihad, so there’s no longer much of a point of collecting miles from American. If you do fly on American you should credit your flights to a partner like Alaska.

22. I’ve found American to be very inflexible to deal with for schedule changes on award tickets. Delta and United are typically quite accommodating when flight times change in my experience, while that can’t be said for American.

23. The bottom line is that if you want operational excellence then your default choice ought to be Delta. If you value your miles then your default choice ought to be United.

But unless you find a cheap fare or you’re stuck in an American captive hub like Dallas, what exactly is American’s AAdvantage and why do they deserve your loyalty?

Did I miss any other disAAdvantages? If you’re an American loyalist, are you planning on sticking around or are you jumping ship?

Hit the comments!

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A Comparison Of AA, Delta, And United Saver Award Space: Is AAdvantage The New SkyPesos?

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Last Tuesday I showed in 23 bullet points just how far American has fallen as the USAir merger has dragged down their airline operations and mileage program. One of the points was that, in addition to a massive mileage devaluation and a ridiculously bad elite status devaluation, they also have cut back saver award space. Not long ago American had the best saver award space, but anecdotal evidence has been that American may now be the worst.

To make matters worse, AA has also massively increased the cost of a standard award. On United a standard mileage award is typically about double the cost of a saver award. On American that cost can be 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 times as much as a saver award!

Historically Delta has long had the crown of the worst saver award space availability. Have things changed?

So I put it to the test last week and checked out nonstop saver award availability on several routes from June 19, 2016-May 12th, 2017.

Of course saver award availability can change dozens of times per day, which is why it’s always critical to just keep checking. But over the course of a year it gives a snapshot of how things look.

(more…)

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Roundup Of Routes Where Kosher Meals Are Served By North American Airlines

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Kosher meals, or KSMLs in airline speak, can be a hit or miss, though the latter is more common. In this post I wrote about some of the best and worst that I’ve received.

Hermolis out of London is famous for their very good kosher meals, though this salmon meal (there are also steak and chicken options) that we had in United business class from Honolulu to Newark in February was outstanding:

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Kosher meals need to be ordered 24 or 48 hours in advance and you should never rely on an online request or a request from a codeshare airline, you should always call the airline that you’re flying with to confirm a kosher meal request. It’s also a good idea to remind flight attendants to warm up the meal in the double wrapping and to serve it double wrapped. I’ve been served meals where the food has been opened and it’s worthless in those cases.

On long-haul flights I often bring my own double-wrapped meal (Nicknamed BYOK, as in, Bring Your Own Kosher meal) and ask the flight attendant if they can heat it up. I’ve only been refused on Cathay Pacific and just showing a flight attendant a bad kosher meal is usually enough in case they are on the fence. Often times the airlines forget to load your kosher meal and that’s a good enough reason for them to warm your own meal up and for some compensation afterward.

Either way, it’s good to know when you can order a kosher meal. Almost all major foreign carriers offer kosher meals in all classes of service on longer flights, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

As for North American carriers, Air Canada and Delta have the most generous KSML policies, while United is stingier and Ameircan takes last place. JetBlue has a simple policy and excellent kosher meals, but not many of their flights offer Mint class.

Air Canada:
-Available in all classes on international flights that depart or arrive outside of North/Central America.
-Available in first/business class on all routes.

American:
-Available in all classes on international flights across the Atlantic or Pacific.
-Available in all classes on international flights to/from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and the following Brazilian cities: Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Sao Paulo.
-Available in first/business class on flights to/from JFK and Los Angeles.
-Available in first/business class on flights to/from JFK and San Francisco.
-Available in first/business class on flights to/from Miami and Los Angeles.

Delta:
-Available in all classes on international flights across the Atlantic or Pacific.
-Available in all classes on flights to/from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru.
-Available in first/business class for domestic flights that are at least 900 miles long that depart between 5am-1:30pm and 4pm-8pm.
-Available in first/business class for domestic flights that are at least 1,400 miles long that depart between 5am-8pm.
-Available in first/business class on all flights to/from JFK and Los Angeles.
-Available in first/business class on all flights to/from JFK and San Francisco.

JetBlue:
-Available in Mint class on all routes. Menu can be viewed here.

United:
-Available in all classes on international flights across the Atlantic or Pacific.
-Available in all classes on flights to/from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru.
-Available in first/business class on flights to Hawaii
-Available in first/business class on flights from Honolulu or Maui.
-Available in first/business class on flights to/from Newark and Los Angeles.
-Available in first/business class on flights to/from Newark and San Francisco.

Alaska, Allegiant, Frontier, Hawaiian, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, Virgin America, and WestJet do not offer any kosher meals.

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British Airways Claims To Have Fixed Kosher Meal Snafu For Business Class Passengers

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Related: On The Topic Of KSMLs; Not Having A Reserved Kosher Meal Costs Lufthansa How Much?!?


British Airways offers a number of routes with “sleeper service” in business class. You can view the exact flight numbers of those routes here.

On sleeper service routes there is just a quick snack service before the lights are turned off. Previously BA would serve kosher meals in the lounge for these flights, but on May 10th they stopped offing special meals in their lounges.

I had some readers let me know that the lounge agents told them that they would have food on the plane, while on the plane there were no kosher meals loaded because it was a sleeper service flight. And there were reports online that confirmed that experience. BA’s flight attendants were never informed of any changes and told passengers that their meal was in the lounge. Flight attendants reported the issue multiple times to BA to no avail.

The irony is that passengers in coach and first class are able to order kosher meals, but business class passengers could not.

I emailed customer service on BA.com and got a response from “Utkarsh” that he checked on BA.com the kosher meals are still available. Helpful.

Then I emailed BA public relations and they responded last week,

For sleeper service, customers can order a Kosher meal, but it must be done 48 hours in advance and it’s offered at the lounge, not onboard.

Of course that wasn’t true anymore. It seems like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and that’s probably why people have been having issues. So I pushed again and said that the lounge agents are saying that kosher meals are no longer available in the lounge and sleeper service flights weren’t being catered with kosher meals for business class passengers.

And finally the right people appear to be in communication with each other as they responded to me earlier this week,

“British Airways made some changes to their catering recently for sleeper service flights and customers can book special meals in advance. These meals will now be served onboard where previously they were served in the lounge.

We apologize for any misunderstanding this may have caused with your readers.”

So hopefully they’ve solved this issue now and you will get a kosher meal in business class onboard the flight even on sleeper service routes. If you are flying business class on a BA sleeper service flight please post a comment about the current kosher meal situation.

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Have You Purchased An El Al Flight And Wound Up On A Privilege Style Airplane?

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Update, 6/2: El Al has just announced that their flights between Toronto to/from Tel Aviv will be exclusively flown by Privilege Style from today through 8/31. These flights have recliner-only business class seats and no premium economy seating.

I’ll update this post if these flights spread to other North American cities.


Update, 1/14: Commenters below share their experiences on Privilege Style, which range from mediocre to horrific. The most worrying one is from this commenter who wasn’t allowed to use their FAA approved carseat during takeoff and landing, a clear violation of FAA policy.

While some people have tried to be accommodated on an El Al operated flight and been refused, others have been able to be moved to another flight, so definitely keep trying until you get an El Al rep wiling to move you.

The OU has also released the following statement:
“The El-Al meals from New York are certified in the commissary only, but due to the way they are served, it is recommended to order a Regal (Mehadrin) Meal. The Orthodox Union does not certify the planes. This applies both to El-Al and Privilege Style operated planes.”


Originally posted on 1/12:

Due to “operational constraints” El Al has Spanish airline “Privilege Style” flying and operating a number of El Al flights between the US and Tel Aviv. That means you fly on a Privilege Style plane operated by Privilege Style flight attendants and pilots who are assisted by some El Al personnel. In industry terms this is called a “wet-lease”.

El Al had been using these planes to fly to select cities in Europe this past summer.

El Al says they are notifying passengers via SMS if they are going to fly on Privilege Style instead of El Al.

Privilege Style planes do not have premium economy seating, so you’ll have to request a refund if you paid for that.

If you do normally eat the regular Rabanut kosher meal on El Al, I’d definitely opt for the mehadrin meal if you’re flying on these flights. Well, I’d recommend that even on El Al aircraft as I’ve heard that the crew uses the ovens for their own food, but that definitely applies for Privilege Style flights.

El Al used to have a page on their site about this here, but they have taken down the page. Luckily Google has a long memory and you can view the page here.

Here is a list of upcoming 767 flights between Boston and Tel Aviv that will be operated by Privilege Style. The Privilege Style 767 is a former LOT Polish aircraft that was retired by them a few years ago. It has no seatback entertainment.

And here is a list of upcoming 777 flights between JFK or Newark and Tel Aviv that will be operated by Privilege Style.  The Privilege Style 777 is a former Asiana aircraft.

Those lists are subject to change, so other flights may be impacted as well.

Have you been on Privilege Style flight? Let us know how it went in the comments!

HT: MarktMan, via DDF

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United Rehauls Their Business Class Experience

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Continental eliminated first class in the 90s and leapfrogged their domestic competition by improving their business class and renaming it BusinessFirst.

United kept that moniker after the merger, but their business class has lagged behind the competition. They’re also in the process of eliminating first class, which will leave American as the only domestic carrier with international first class service.

Today United announced that United business class will soon be known as United Polaris. It will feature Zodiac 1-2-1 direct aisle access 6’6″ lie-flat seating and will launch when they receive their first Boeing 77W in December. Existing 767, 777, and 787s  will be retrofitted and new A350s will also feature the new seating.

United is also adding Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, memory foam pillows, and will provide pajamas on Polaris flights longer than 12 hours. That would unfortunately exclude the Newark-Tel Aviv route, but would include the San Francisco-Tel Aviv route for example.

United will also open Polaris lounges for Polaris class passengers starting with Chicago in December and then in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong, and London Heathrow next year. The lounges will have sleeping rooms, spa showers, and premium drinks.

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United Adds Flights, Delta Reduces Flights To Israel

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Earlier this year American abruptly cancelled service to Tel Aviv shortly after their USAirways merger amidst contradictory statements from their president about whether the Philadelphia-Tel Aviv route was lucrative or a money-loser. More bizarrely, they also ruled out launching the route from their JFK or Miami hubs. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know if profitability was the real reason or if it was related to outside pressure or due to TWA pension liabilities in Israel.

In the aftermath of that cancellation Delta announced they would increase JFK-Tel Aviv service from 7 to 11 flights per week and United announced 3 weekly flights from San Francisco to Tel Aviv.

For those keeping score at home that meant that flights between North America and Tel Aviv this summer looked like:
Boston: 3 weekly flights on El Al.
JFK: 11 weekly flights on Delta, 15-19 weekly flights on El Al.
Los Angeles: 5 weekly flights on El Al.
Newark: 14 weekly flights on United, 6 weekly flights on El Al.
San Francisco: 3 weekly flights on United.
Toronto: 7 weekly flights on Air Canada, 3-4 weekly flights on El Al.

-Delta has announced that they will reduce their JFK-Tel Aviv flying back to 7 weekly flights effective 9/6. Apparently their daytime flights didn’t perform as they had hoped.
-United has announced that they will increase their San Francisco-Tel Aviv service from 3 to 7 weekly flights effective in October as the 787 operated route exceeded their expected demand. The daily flights are not yet for sale but should be soon. The route’s success is great news and I wouldn’t be surprised to see United try out Chicago-Tel Aviv in the future.

In other news, Atlanta would love to have nonstop service to Tel Aviv. Delta flew nonstop from Atlanta to Tel Aviv until about 5 years ago. Apparently they are willing to offer subsidies to get the service off the ground again, but if the route didn’t work in the past it seems unlikely to work again for Delta.

It’s even more unlikely that El Al would start nonstop service to Atlanta before offering service to Chicago or Miami. El Al will receive their 787 order next year and I’d have to imagine that Chicago and Miami are in the expansion plans. If only they would fix their issues first

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Alaska Buys Virgin America For A Massive Premium, Though Nobody Can Explain Why

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Alaska is buying Virgin America for $2.6B in cash, or about $4B including assumed debt.

That’s nearly double what Virgin America’s market cap was before negotiations started.

Alaska currently has no Airbus aircraft and they’re buying an airline with an all-Airbus fleet. Though most of that fleet is leased, not owned.

Virgin America’s hubs are in Los Angeles and San Francisco, airports that are not slot restricted. Alaska could have grown organically there by just buying more Boeing planes and it would have cost a whole lot less than buying an airline.

They do gain a small presence at slot controlled Dallas/DAL, JFK, LaGuardia, and Washington/DCA.

It’s highly unlikely that Alaska will keep Virgin’s flashy first class or hip vibe. They may even look to sell off Virgin’s leases and the planes that they own.

Virgin America’s mileage program will be rolled into Alaska’s much stronger mileage program.

So what did Alaska gain?

They stopped JetBlue from buying Virgin America (which would have been a far more logical fit) which makes them the number 5 carrier in the US. For now.

They gain some bulk to compete with Delta, which has been encroaching on Alaska’s Seattle hub.

But overall, it’s hard to see what the driving force is to make them overpay so wildly for Virgin America.

Alaska currently has lots of airline partners in OneWorld, Skyteam, and non-aligned partners. It will also be interesting to see if they can hang onto them even as they grow through the merger. I’d wager that they won’t.

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On The Topic Of KSMLs; Not Having A Reserved Kosher Meal Costs Lufthansa How Much?!?

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

I always preorder a kosher meal when it’s available. More often than not it seems like KSMLs (that’s airline speak for kosher meals) are reheated dog or cat food at best, or completely unfit for human consumption at other times. But I do enjoy taking pictures of just how bad the food can be.

Stogel long-life kosher meal served in USAirways business class from Paris to Philadelphia in December 2012:

 

 

 

The rock-hard frozen gefilte fish is always worth a chuckle. I mean, who is eating this stuff??

Weiss kosher meal served in SAS business class from Newark to Oslo in March 2016:

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Sometimes the food is good though. Hermolis meals are usually decent enough.

Hermolis sliced lamb stew kosher meal served in Cathay Pacific first class from Hong Kong to Toronto in January 2011:

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My favorite kosher meals have been from even more exotic locales. The KSML on Singapore from the Maldives catered by Sydney based Lewis caterers and the KSML on United from Honolulu catered by Oahu Kosher stand out the most.

 

Oahu Kosher supplies fresh salmon, ribeye steak, and chicken for their kosher meals on United. This delicious salmon was served in business class from Honolulu to Newark, February 2016:

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JetBlue Mint class KSMLs between JFK and LAX or SFO also get decent reviews.

JetBlue Mint class kosher meal. Photo credit: Daniel T Allen

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More often than not though, I don’t eat the KSML. I use it as leverage to get a flight attendant to heat up my BYOK, as in, Bring Your Own Kosher meal (double wrapped) so that it can be warmed up onboard.

Most flight attendants will warm up your own wrapped meals, but some flight attendants are hesitant to so. The strictest airline by far is Cathay Pacific, but once I showed a flight attendant the lousy KSML served from Vancouver they were happy to warm up the divine Maple BBQ Chipotle burger and onion rings that I had bought at Maple Grill earlier that day.

Most airlines are pretty easygoing, but it isn’t always that way. The USAirways flight attendant from Paris was hesitant, but when I asked if she would serve that KSML to her pet, she became more than happy to warm up the felafel I brought from L’as du Felafel in Paris.

 

TAM First Class was amazing:

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Their KSML that they served us in October 2014 from Miami to Sao Paulo…not so much:

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But they had no problem warming up my BYOK:

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When we flew to Israel last year USAirways moved us to United. Connecting in Newark meant getting delicious Sesame Chicken with free delivery from New Kosher Special. The flight attendant was more than happy to warm some up on the plane as we didn’t have kosher meals because of the flight switch.

There are times when the kosher meal doesn’t show up at all. Some people will say that I shouldn’t complain about that, but if it’s something that’s included in the ticket I don’t see why it shouldn’t be brought up. If nothing else, it also helps the airline correct procedures for the future.

When United forgot my kosher meal when flying from Newark to Honolulu before the Island Hopper last May they compensated me with 10,000 miles, which is my general preference over frozen gefilte fish 😉 Besides, the flight attendants had no problem heating up the Pomegranate travel meal that I brought along. The Pomegranate meals are tailor-made for BYOK, if only an airline would contract with them to supply their kosher meals!

Getting some miles or a travel voucher is typical, though some airlines won’t give you anything.

Isaac Kopfler booked a Lufthansa ticket from Zurich to Sao Paulo on a codeshare flight operated by Swiss.
When you request kosher meals from a partner airline it often gets lost in translation, if you actually want the meal you should confirm it directly with the operating carrier, not from the airline that sold you the ticket. And that’s probably what happened in his case and why he didn’t get a kosher meal on the flight.

He sued Lufthansa for $5,000, saying that he fasted for 14 hours due to the lack of a kosher meal.
I think that’s beyond the pale.
Do Observant Jews really travel relying on the kosher meal served on an airline? Was there no fruit on the plane? And is that really something that merits litigation?

At any rate, the Brazilian court ordered Lufthansa to pay him $1,400 for “moral damage” and Lufthansa has committed to paying him. The airline also says they will offer him further compensation in miles.

$1,400 and bonus miles for a kosher meal gone missing? That’s a whole lot of gefilte fish!

What are your best and worst KSML experiences?
Do you rely on kosher meals from the airline or do you bring your own food?
Have you tried my BYOK method to get a flight attendant to warm up your own double-wrapped kosher meal from home or from a restaurant?
Hit the comments!

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Trip Notes: 4 Consecutive Transoceanic Itineraries With IRROPS, Here’s How We Handled Them

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

-Find dozens of trip reports by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
-Follow my travels on Instagram @DansDeals
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IRROPS is industry jargon for irregular operations, when delays or cancellations force you to be accommodated on another flight.

We’ve had a string of IRROPS flights running back to our last 4 transoceanic itineraries. Some would call that bad luck, but I’m definitely of the attitude that everything happens for a good reason. Some of them worked out better than can be imagined, others are still in the works, but here’s how we handled the IRROPS.

1. Monday, March 2, 2015, USAirways CLE-PHL-TLV:
When USAirways migrated their fare classes to match American’s it released award seats on routes that almost never had awards available. I quickly nabbed 4 business class awards to spend Purim in Israel.

On the day of the flight I always use the airline’s website or flightaware.com to track the inbound segments of flights I’m going to take. Our Cleveland to Philadelphia flight was coming from Charlotte and Louisville before that. In the morning, those were showing on time, but about 5 hours before the flight, the flight from Charlotte to Louisville was delayed for mechanical reasons. I called USAirways, but as they didn’t post a delay yet for the Cleveland to Philadelphia flight there was nothing they could do.

Rather than play the waiting game at home we all packed into the car 4.5 hours before the flight to try our luck at the airport. On the way to the airport I got the automated phone call that the Cleveland to Philadelphia flight would be delayed. We called several USAirways and American agents, but they all said the same thing. As it was a mileage ticket the only thing they were allowed to offer was coach class on another airline or the next available USAirways flight to Tel Aviv in 6 days.

Airport agents always have more power than phone agents, so that’s what we were banking on.

Alas at the airport, the agent repeated the same thing, since we were on award tickets she was only able to rebook us on another airline in coach. Then the agent proceeded to tell me that the flight would be leaving Louisville for Charlotte shortly and would be able to get us to Philadelphia on time. The agent next to her overheard her say that and laughed, saying that there was no way that we would make our connection in Philadelphia.

Time to charm her.

“But we’ve been saving up these miles to fly in business class to Israel for years.”

OK, so it didn’t take me years to earn the miles, but for many years I had indeed been saving and waiting to use the miles to fly USAirways business class to Israel as it was the best seating option from the US to Israel, and I had already flown on Delta and United to Israel in business class. Finding enough business class seats on this flight for the whole family is extremely rare.

After going on a charm offensive she was ready to fight for us. She called her help desk who repeated the same story, but she went to bat for us. They wanted her to find another OneWorld option, but there was nothing that would work out of Cleveland that night. So finally they agreed to move the 4 of us to United. Luckily, we arrived at the airport early as that allowed us to catch United’s flight to Newark.

It’s actually pretty rare for United to have 4 empty business class seats to Tel Aviv just hours before the flight, but luckily for us one of the United flights to Tel Aviv the day before was cancelled, so they operated 3 flights to Tel Aviv on March 2nd. We were in coach to Newark, but got the all aisle access middle business class seats in rows 8 and 9 which were great.

Of course we didn’t have kosher meals, but New Kosher Special delivers $40+ orders to Newark airport free of charge, and they make some of the best Sesame and General Tso chicken around. I double wrapped some in tinfoil and the United flight attendants were more than happy to warm it up for us. BYOK FTW!

United actually found a kosher meal for us for breakfast.

We had some friends booked on our flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv and they had plenty of kosher meals due to us not making that flight 😀

We were booked in the middle of row 2 and 3 and they told us there was actually a large dog in row 1 in the middle. At the time Rafi was terrified of dogs, so the United flight actually worked out for the best.

OK, it really worked out for the best as we were booked into paid business class and each earned a boatload of miles:

united3

 

 

 

 

 

And I did get to try the USAirways configuration a week later on the return. Much better for solo travelers, but not significantly better for couples. And United’s service was better than USAirways. All a moot point now as American has discontinued that flight for mysterious reasons.

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2. Monday, April 27, 2015, United: HNL-MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM-ROR

No need to rehash this one, you can read all about it here. An undocumented dog was brought onto the Island Hopper flight, causing a delay that made us misconnect in Guam.

At first we declared the trip in vain and were rebooked to go home early the next morning in order to get back to our families before Shabbos, as originally planned. But that night I made a phone call to my amazing wife who forbade me from coming home without snorkeling in Palau’s otherworldly Jellyfish Lake, and AJK refused to allow me to experience that without him. After some cajoling, United rebooked us to Palau and allowed a bonus 2 night stopover in Tokyo before flying home on Sunday.

With 25 hours in Guam I got in some great snorkeling at Ypao Beach, with a day in Palau we had the time of our life, and then we spent an amazing Shabbos in Tokyo and a night at the awesome Park Hyatt Tokyo.

United gave us 10K compensation miles and a couple hundred dollars in vouchers for the inconvenience, plus AJK also made out like a bandit with tens of thousands of Aegean miles due to being rebooked in revenue classes. Alas I tried crediting my ANA revenue first class flight to United and wound up with nothing…lesson learned!

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3. Wednesday, November 11, 2015, American: CLE-JFK-LHR

The worst flying experience of my life as told here.

I thought we had booked the bargain of the century, $446+30K Avios for business class tickets with 37K Avios rebated after the flight.

Instead it was just a nightmare.

We ran around the airport, from gate to gate, from club to club, and making phone calls trying to get re-accommodated after our American flight was delayed for mechanical reasons, but only Delta had 4 business class seats available that night and American refused to rebook on Delta due to the termination of their interline agreement.

When the lounge agent told us that our best shot at getting to London was running to another American flight and flying in coach, we did just that. Only to learn that first we had to personally go to baggage claim to recheck our bags as American’s policy was that their baggage agents couldn’t do that. The flight doors were closing, so there was no time to do that and we weren’t about to fly to London knowingly leaving our clothes, stroller, diapers, wipes, kids toys, and everything behind.

Back at the lounge the agents told us they confirmed with baggage that they reloaded our bags onto our original flight that was still awaiting a part being flown into LGA and then driven to JFK.

After waiting from 3 pm until after midnight our flight was cancelled. We accepted tickets on British Airways early in morning and turned down hotel vouchers. No point in shlepping to a hotel for a few hours with kids, we’d just get our bags and hang out at the gate. The lounge agents confirmed that our bags would be waiting for us.

They weren’t anywhere to be found.

American’s Twitter team promised me several times that an agent would come help us, but nobody ever showed up. After camping out the night in JFK agents arrived, but they still had no clue where our bags were. Rather than travel to London and arrive before Shabbos with no bags or stroller we opted to declare the trip in vain. American refused to book us on Delta from JFK, so we had to go to LGA to catch a flight home.

Our bags were discovered in Chicago 3 days later and returned to us. I still have no idea why they were sent to Chicago and why that information wasn’t scanned into their system. American reimbursed us for $147 of incidentals spent in the meantime.

An automated email apologized to all of the passengers on the cancelled flight and offered 20K miles each in compensation.

For reasons I don’t understand, we all got credit as if we flew the British Airways flight, despite the AA agent cancelling that ticket. That also triggered half of the transatlantic bonus, meaning we each got another 20K miles.

In the mess, Rafi left his tablet at the gate. Miraculously AA found it and I asked and was promised that it would be sent via Ground. AA sent it custom critical express and I wound up being charged $100 by Fedex. AA refused to reimburse that charge, but promised 10K miles to make up for it, though they have yet to post those miles.

AA refused to allow us to rebook the trip. I filed a DoT complaint but the DoT has been silent.

AAs Twitter team did have a customer service executive reach out to me, but she hasn’t fixed much.

They won’t compensate for anything more than the original 20K miles that all passengers on the flight automatically received. They won’t rebook the trip.

They did promise to work with BA so that I’d get a refund. 3 months later and I haven’t received a refund of the 30K Avios per person used for the tickets. They refunded $1,100 of the $1,784 used for the tickets, though I have no idea why they refunded that amount.

I nag AA’s Twitter team once a week for an update, and all they ever say is that it’s being worked on. Everyone seems completely unempowered to fix a thing.

Over 3 months after the incident I’m no longer holding my breath.

There’s a good reason American captured last place in the Wall Street Journal’s ranking of the airlines. They’ve managed to take the worst of USAirways and American to become a truly bumbling airline, worst overall, worst in cancelled flights, worst in mishandled baggage, a complete embarrassment:

 

 

 

 

Still trying to find the positive in this one, but I’m sure our families were happy to have us safe at home. The Paris terrorist massacre occurred on the weekend we were supposed to be in Europe.

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4. Monday, January 25, 2016, United: CLE-EWR-HNL-LIH:

I nabbed lie-flat business class seats from Newark to Honolulu and back months ago. It’s a bargain award at just 30K Singapore miles or 40K United miles for a flight that’s nearly as long as Newark-Tel Aviv.

Then along came Jonas. I knew it would be bad, I just didn’t know how bad.

But I wasn’t taking any chances. As soon as the monster predictions started coming in I nabbed 4 United Global First class saver award seats from Chicago to Honolulu on Thursday (These are 40K miles via Singapore or 50K miles via United). When I had previously searched this route it was operated with lame recliner seats in business class, but it had been switched to a 3 class international plane with lie-flat first and business classes. The same plane that will operated transcontinental flights over the next few months.

 

Newark-Honolulu didn’t have 4 seats available for another week after our flight, but I grabbed those as well.

And sure enough, United cancelled our Monday morning flight from Cleveland to Newark. The next available flight they were able to offer in business class was 1.5 weeks later.

Instead, I just had United cancel the flight and I used the backup that I booked. The agent was more than happy to open up award space back to Newark 2 days after our originally booked return flight due to the cancelled flight.

We had flown in Global First to Hawaii 2 years ago with carseats. Unfortunately, United installed shoulder seat belts in Global First in the meantime and the flight attendants would not let us use our carseats with them and downgraded us to business class while making 4 business class passengers very happy. That worked out OK though. United’s business class is an antiquated 2-4-2 configuration with alternate rows facing backwards and forwards. 4 seats aren’t ideal for most people, but it worked out well for our family of 4, probably even better than first class would have been for us. Plus, United refunded the extra 40K miles used for the difference between business and first class and awarded us with 35K miles and $600 in travel vouchers as compensation for being downgraded.

Overall, we were blown away by the service from United and by their excellent new kosher meals that they now serve from Hawaii. But more on that in the trip report…

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Have an IRROPS story? Share it in the comments!

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Roundup Of Travel Weather Waivers For This Weekend

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

Update, 1/24: Delta has extended the waiver for flights through tomorrow while American, Frontier, and United have extended the waiver for flights through Tuesday. United will also now waive the change fee even if you change the origin and/or destination city of your ticket, though you will be responsible for any difference in fare.

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Originally posted on 1/21:

Related post: East Coast Travel Weather Waivers Will Be Issued Soon, Here’s What You Might Want To Do Beforehand
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Click here to read American’s weather waiver and see the affected airports.
Policy: If you’re booked to fly on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday you can change your ticket to a flight departing between today and January 31, free of charge.
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Click here to read Delta’s weather waiver and see the affected airports.
Policy: If you’re booked to fly on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday you can change your ticket to a flight departing between today and Friday, January 29, free of charge.
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Click here to read Frontier’s weather waiver and see the affected airports.
Policy: If you’re booked to fly on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday and you booked before 01/20, you can change your ticket to a flight departing between today and February 5, free of charge. If your flight is cancelled you can request a refund.
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Click here to read JetBlue’s weather waiver and see the affected airports.
Mid-Atlantic Policy: If you’re booked to fly on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday you can change your ticket to a flight departing between today and Friday, January 29, free of charge. If your flight is cancelled you can request a refund.
Northeast Policy: If you’re booked to fly on Saturday or Sunday you can change your ticket to a flight departing between today and Friday, January 29, free of charge. If your flight is cancelled you can request a refund.
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Click here to read Southwest’s weather waiver and see the affected airports.
Policy: If you’re booked to fly on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday you can change your ticket to a flight departing between today and within 2 weeks of their original flight date, free of charge.
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Click here to read Spirit weather waiver and see the affected airports.
Policy: If you’re booked to fly on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday you can change your ticket to a flight departing between today and Friday, January 29, free of charge.
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Click here to read United’s weather waiver and see the affected airports.
Policy: If you’re booked to fly on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday you can change your ticket to a flight departing between today and February 2, free of charge. You can also change your flight’s origin or destination city and the change fee will be waived, but any difference in fare will be charged.
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Click here to read Virgin America’s weather waiver and see the affected airports.
Policy: If you’re booked to fly on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday you can change your ticket to a flight departing between today and March 10, free of charge. You can also request a full refund.

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East Coast Travel Weather Waivers Will Be Issued Soon, Here’s What You Might Want To Do Beforehand

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

This is usually a topic that I discuss at DansDeals Seminars, but I haven’t done one of those in a while, so here goes.

Most weather models are forecasting heavy snow this weekend on the east coast. I think that’s it’s very likely that by tonight (or tomorrow at the latest) the airlines will allow free changes and cancellations for tickets booked for travel for Friday-Sunday, with the exact dates varying based on the city.

The airline industry is notorious for sticking it to consumers when they have a change of plans, but weather waivers are one way that consumers can have a leg up on the airlines.

But are you a gambler?

Say you have an award ticket on American from JFK-LAX in June that you know you want to cancel. Most airlines charge about $150 to redeposit those miles. However making a simple date change is free on American, although on other airlines it might set you back $75. You could change the ticket to fly this Saturday and hope the weather waiver falls into place and then you would be able to cancel and get back the miles for free.

Only tickets booked for travel on weather waiver dates before the waiver is issued are eligible for free refunds or cancellations. Once the weather waiver is issued it’s too late.

Same story goes if you want to travel next week on a flight where flights are expensive. For example a flight on American from NYC to Miami on Saturday is $82 while Sunday is $201, but that Saturday flight will be changeable for free, assuming the weather forecast remains on track.

And the same thing applies if you want to travel next week on a flight without award space. United has saver award space from Newark to Tel Aviv this Saturday, but nothing for travel on Sunday, Monday, or Wednesday. Assuming a weather waiver is issued for Saturday travel that would be changeable and most agents can force open award space.

You can hedge your bets as tickets booked on Priceline are cancellable for free until 11:29pm tomorrow. And awards on most airlines besides American can be cancelled within 24 hours of booking for free.

Have you ever used weather waiver policies for your advantage? Hit the comments!

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Frontier To Add 9 Nonstop Routes From Cleveland In April

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Related posts:
United’s Jeff Smisek Is Out!
-United Will End All Flights From JFK
United: Goodbye International First Class; Goodbye Guam Hub?-With Frontier And Spirit Launching Focus City Operations In Cleveland -How Long Will United’s Focus City Operations Last?
-CLE News I Like To Cover And You Don’t Like Reading About: Ohio Attorney General Will Audit United, Regional Carriers Dropping United, Airlines Adding Flights To CLE, Which Hub Will Be Axed Next?
-Smisek Lies Again: “Our hub in Cleveland hasn’t been profitable for over a decade”
-CLE Is Dehubbed; The Continental-United Merger Has Brought Nothing But Misery To All

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United dehubbed Cleveland back in 2014, but the airport recovered strongly afterward by bringing low-cost carriers like Frontier, JetBlue, and Spirit to CLE which have driven average ticket prices down significantly.

United’s disgraced ex-CEO Jeff Smisek lied about the airport not being profitable in over a decade, when the real reason was the lack of pilots at their regional carriers. But closing the hub for lack of pilots would have resulted in tens of millions of dollars in fines, so the story told was the lack of demand.

While United shrunk the other airlines grew significantly.

Spirit has been building out a large network with their low cost model. You can buy a ticket nonstop to LA for just $60 round-trip by buying it at the airport and avoiding their online usage fees.

JetBlue now flies nonstop from Cleveland to Boston and Fort Lauderdale. Hopefully JFK and other destinations will be added as well in the near future.

Even American and Delta have expanded their route networks from Cleveland. American will also continue that expansion by moving into Cleveland’s Concourse C where United will be giving up all of their lower numbered gates as they retreat to the “banjo” gates past the United Club. Concourse D, the concourse that was custom built by Continental in 1999 is completely shuttered, but United pays the airport $1,112,482 every single month for the unused space until 2027. Talk about being underwater on a mortgage!

Blood is definitely in the water, though I give United credit for continuing to fly their 7 hubs and to 11 non-hub cities from Cleveland. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about further cuts in 2016 to the leftover non-hub routes that were spared.

Frontier has tested various markets from Cleveland and currently flies nonstop between Cleveland and Cancun, Fort Myers, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Tampa.

Going through their schedule manually though I found an additional 9 routes that they will be launching in April:

-Effective April 14 they will add nonstop service between Cleveland and Los Angeles, Portland, OR, and Raleigh/Durham. These flights will operate on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. No airline has flown nonstop between Cleveland and Portland since United ended the route in 2013. Intro fares are $69 one-way.

-Effective April 14 they will add daily nonstop service between Cleveland and Atlanta and between Cleveland and Denver.

-Effective April 15 they will add nonstop service between Cleveland and Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle. These flights will operate on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Intro fares are $29 one-way to Philadelphia and $69 for the other cities.

My only question is who will bring back the Cleveland-Kansas City route that managed to fill 4 flights per day before United closed the hub? I’m hoping Southwest or perhaps even American will beat Spirit to the punch there.

Definitely nice to see all of these additions even if I’m not a fan of actually flying on Frontier and Spiri. It brings the cost of flying down across the board and more competition is always a good thing.

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Aeroflot Eliminates 2nd Free Checked Bag; 3 Remaining Airlines With 2 Free Checked Bags To Israel

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Not long ago if you flew to Europe or Israel you got 2 free checked bags.

Then most of the major airlines started charging $100 each way for a 2nd checked bag.

In addition to flights via Moscow being cheap, Aeroflot and Transaero offered 2 free bags, adding another $200 in round-trip savings for heavy packers. Or for people like me who like to bring back parve kosher goodies from Israel that can’t be easily found back home (I’m looking at you Bugles (Apropo in Israel), Doritos Chamutz Charif, and Smirnoff Ice Lemon made with Vodka. Still need to figure out how to bring back some Ben & Jerrys Cholov Yisroel Chunky Monkey, not easy to find dry ice in Jerusalem!)

Alas Transaero has gone under and it didn’t take Aeroflot long to eliminate their 2nd free bag with their competition out of the way. Effective for tickets purchased on or after 10/12, for flights on or after 11/01, Aeroflot will charge $50 each way for a 2nd checked bag.

That leaves highly rated Azerbaijan and Turkish, and not very highly-rated Ukraine, as some of the only remaining airlines that provide 2 free checked bags from the US to Europe and Israel.

You and a companion can get 2 free checked bags with United if you have the $450/year United Club card (click on the club tab after clicking apply now). That card also gives 1.5 miles per dollar spent everywhere, waived award close-in fees, elite checkin, security, boarding, and baggage handling, a full United club membership with guest privileges, Hyatt Platinum status, and Hertz President’s Circle status.

Know of other airlines that provide 2 free checked bags to non-elite passengers flying in coach between the US and Europe or Israel? Hit the comments!

HT: Moishebatchy, via DDF

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Transaero Filing For Bankruptcy, Will Cease Operations

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Update: It now appears that Aeroflot will only be honoring people holding Transaero tickets for travel before 12/15/15. If you have a ticket on or after that date they say you should apply for a refund from Transaero or your travel agent.

Personally I’d also call the credit card used and dispute the charge if you’re scheduled to fly after that date.

You can also try calling Aeroflot to see if you can be recommodated after that date.

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Transaero, Russia’s second largest airline, will apparently be filing for bankruptcy after failing to complete a deal with Aeroflot.

It is no longer selling tickets and will stop operating shortly.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Aeroflot’s CEO as saying that they will accommodate Transaero passengers with a flight or a refund if no alternate flights can be offered.

I’ll post an update when more information is available on this story and on Aeroflot flight reaccommodations.

HT: Chaikel

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Delta Increasing Nonstop Service Between JFK And Tel Aviv

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Update: The correct days of the week that the new flight will operate have been added below:

I wrote on DDF several hours ago that Delta would be adding 4 weekly nonstop flights between JFK and Tel Aviv effective 05/26/16.

It’s the first major US-Tel Aviv route announcement since American announced they would pull out of Tel Aviv in January.

Currently Delta operates 1 daily flight that leaves JFK at 11:51pm and arrives in Tel Aviv at 5:35pm the next day. The flight returns from Tel Aviv at 12:10am and arrives in JFK at 5:14am the same day.

On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, Delta will operate an additional flight that leaves JFK at 4pm and arrives in Tel Aviv at 9:50am the next day.
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Delta will operate an additional flight that leaves Tel Aviv at 11:50am and arrives in JFK at 4:50pm the same day.

Both flights will be operated by a 777-200ER aircraft.

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Here’s What United Really Meant To Say Regarding United Club Access Changes

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Several people have emailed me, posted on DDF, and posted on DDFB with an incorrect interpretation of an admittedly confusing email that United sent out today.

The email said,

“We’ve been working on a variety of improvements to our United Club program. To provide a more productive and relaxing experience, we’re investing more than $100 million in renovating existing locations and building new spaces with expanded seating areas, more power outlets and upgraded Wi-Fi. We’re also investing in a brand new complimentary food menu that you can now find at our hub locations across the U.S. and will be available soon at the rest of our locations.

To maintain and further improve the United Club experience, we’re announcing the following change to our program:
-Effective August 18, 2016, a same-day boarding pass for all United Club customers, including members, will be required for United Club access.”

Never mind that they eliminated most free alcoholic drinks less than 2 years ago…

Many people were under the impression that a United boarding pass will be required for entry as of 08/18/16, but that’s not the case.

1. You can use a same-day boarding pass on any carrier to access the club.
2. You can use a red-eye boarding pass from the previous day to access the club.
3. You can use a boarding pass from an early morning flight (e.g. 1am) to access the club the day beforehand.

So you’ll still be able to use your 2 annual club passes from the Chase United Explorer card even if you’re not flying United. (A must-have card for anyone who collects United miles as it greatly expands your access to both saver and standard award availability.

Same things goes for Club members/United Club cardholders.

So what is being changed?

United is unique in that they allow Club members and their guests to obtain a gate pass to access the club.

It’s extremely rare for club members to do that. I’ve been told that by agents at several airports where I’ve done that. And that was before the free drinks benefit was gutted. Most agents don’t even know about the gate pass benefit for club member, though you can tell them to look at “GG Checkpoint Line 65” for the proper protocol.

Why have I done it? Because it’s a great way to get past security without a ticket.
-It’s always appreciated when you pick up a loved one directly at their gate. Especially when they’re not expecting it!
-I have fond memories of going to the airport as a child and watching the planes take off. It’s nice to be able to pass that on to my own kids.

The real question is why is United making this change? This will do nothing to solve overcrowding in United’s clubs as odds are that at any given moment there are exactly zero people who are in the club without a same-day flight.

Does the TSA want United to stop issuing as many gate passes?
Are there actually employees who are taking advantage of a membership to get free snacks?

I’d love to hear other theories as it seems hard to fathom that members like myself taking advantage of an obscure benefit by getting an occasional gate pass warranted making this change.

Of course there are workarounds:
-You can purchase a refundable ticket on any airline to get access to the gate and to the club. More annoying than getting a gate pass, but they can’t take that option away.
-Lifetime club members get 4 free hours of conference room reservations per day and all conference attendees will still be able to get gate passes.

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United: Goodbye International First Class; Goodbye Guam Hub?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

United CEO Jeff Smisek makes it official that United’s 3 cabin first class is on the way out,

“One aircraft he won’t be buying is the A380. “That is a product for state-subsidised airlines, or airlines that have it and wish they didn’t,” he says. Another thing he doesn’t like is international first class. “It’s a money loser, and we will be eliminating it over time. For example the 767s that have it today, as they get retrofitted you will not see it reappear. The problem is that it takes a lot of real estate, and people are not willing to pay for that. I suspect the other carriers, apart from the subsidised Gulf airlines, would say the same thing.”

Mind you, United has what is usually ranked as the worst 3 cabin international first class in the airline industry, so it’s no surprise that it’s a money loser. Why would anyone pay for United first class when the competition’s first class offerings are far superior?

And it’s not just the gulf carriers with successful first class products, United’s own joint venture partners ANA and Lufthansa have successful first class products. As do other Star Alliance airlines like Asiana, Singapore, Swiss, and Thai.

Sure, not all routes are cut out for first class, but the demand is there.  That demand is just voting against United’s extremely lackluster product.  Of course United themselves tacitly acknowledges this as since last year they charge a fraction of the miles for first class on their own flights as they do on partner first class flights.

Smisek eliminated first class on United’s JFK-LAX/SFO p.s. transcontinental routes a few years ago, even as American went ahead with a new plane order affirming that first class demand exists on those routes. Later this year United will completely retreat from JFK as they waive the white flag against competition from American, Delta, Jetblue, and Virgin America.

Of course Smisek’s motto is “Ultimately, we can’t create demand, but we do have a responsibility to react to it.”
As in, why proactively improve our first class product to compete when we can just reactively decide that it’s not profitable and eliminate it.

The irony is that Gordon Bethune, one of the most popular airline CEOs of all time, wrote in his excellent book “From Worst to First” exactly how that kind of reactionary thinking is what nearly drove Continental out of business is the early 90s. Or as he put it, “You can make a pizza so cheap, nobody will eat it. You can make an airline so cheap, nobody will fly it.”

Smisek may think that United is unable to create demand. The truth is that they’re quite adept these days at driving away premium demand.

Can you tell I’m not exactly Smisek’s biggest fan? Even if he did give me a framed photo of me sitting at his desk.
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At the beginning of 2014 United had a whopping 9 domestic hub airports (Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Guam, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, S. Francisco, and Washington/IAD)

Cleveland was downgraded to a focus city in June.

Is Guam next?

A few months ago I had the unique experience of flying on the Island Hopper to Guam.  It had been on my bucket list for a decade and I’m glad I did it when the opportunity arose.

8 months ago United eliminated flights from Guam to Hiroshima, Niigata, and Okayama. They also reduced the number of daily flights to Sapporo and Tokyo, meaning that the Island Hopper could no longer connect to Tokyo.

In September United will eliminate flights from Guam to Cairns, Australia and from Guam to Seoul.  AJK and I had debated whether to fly the Island Hopper to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef and then United up to Seoul via Guam connecting to Asiana first class to get back home. Ultimately flying to Palau and then home via Tokyo on ANA first class won out as it meant we would be home for Shabbos (well, it would have meant that had United been willing to hold a flight for 6 people for a few minutes as they did for 1 dog for 45 minutes). Korean still connects Seoul to Guam, but nothing else connects Cairns to Guam.

Now these reductions don’t have to spell the end of the Guam hub.  But as Brian Znotins, VP of United’s network strategy, explained to me in 2012, hub airports can go into virtuous cycles where flights keep getting added as more people flow through the network, or vicious cycles with flight cuts that eventually spell a hub’s doom.

It’s not looking good for Guam.

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