Surprising Offers from @United

This week I received two curious promotional emails from United. One was for a mileage promotion where I could spend $400 for 7,800 (bonus) miles, or $900 for 19,900 (bonus) miles. Certainly not bad for topping off an account! Granted, I have a hard time rationalizing flying on United where my status is complimentary thanks to their relationship with Marriott versus Delta where it’s earned with butt-in-seat miles.

If I were Premier Gold, where the Economy Plus seating was available at booking, and Economy Plus offered the same perks as Delta’s Comfort+ Seating I would definitely be open to taking United up on this offer. It certainly doesn’t hurt that SFO, IAH, and LGA have Centurion Lounges in their United terminals.

Not a bad boost!

The second email I received was from a new partnership between United and BP that allows you to earn miles whenever you fill up your tank. The frustrating thing here was that even though I attempted to register, it insisted that I couldn’t. Guess I’ll stick to discounted gas at BJs!

Has anyone else received these offers? Going to take United up on their offers?

Award Pricing with @United: Ouch!

The other day, Stefan at RapidTravelChai answered United when they asked him if he going in the direction he wanted. He outlines the real reasons to keep United as a secondary airline in the US, and many resonated with me. In particular: Star Alliance partners.

Though I am a loyal Delta flyer, the others of the big three can’t come close to their operational performance, having a backup option is always nice. With members in the Star Alliance that are known for their hard and soft products (Singapore and Lufthansa, for example), they are definitely a valuable asset to a traveler. Right now, my Star Alliance status is courtesy of Marriott, but with 2017 around the corner it is a good time to re-evaluate travel plans.

This morning, Tiffany at OneMileAtAtime published an article that shows just how broken the United website has become when trying to book award tickets. The worst part is, agents seem to be powerless to override these changes and book the tickets themselves! Miles are nice to have, but if you’re unable to use them, it’s kind of a moot point. 🙁

Singapore Airlines is well known as a workaround to earn at least 100% of the miles flown regardless of fare. Though I am not sure how long this is going to last, Singapore frequently has sales that reduce the number of miles needed for award flights. Another option is one I had previously not considered until Stefan mentioned it: Asiana. Asiana requires only 500,000 miles flown on Star Alliance partners before you attain lifetime Star Alliance Gold status. This is particularly valuable as you receive lounge access when you have Gold status with a foreign airline. While you don’t always earn full distance flown when it comes to award miles, it is much better than being a factor of the ticket price. (Especially when watching your budget!)

I’m still uncertain where I’ll put my extra flights next year, but Singapore or Asiana are looking to be very strong contenders for where to credit United miles, when I do fly them.

What about you?

Bulk Fares on @Delta, @United, and @American

Earlier this week Enoch of PointMeToThePlane shared the results of an experiment where he used the Citi ThankYou points portal to pay for part of an American Airlines ticket. While not something unusual at first glance, Enoch pointed out that the earning was based on the distance flown instead of the amount spent. Interestingly enough, the qualifying spend was also based on the distance flown. The reason for this is that the ticket is a special fare.

American is by no means unique in offering special fares. In fact, United and Delta also have these fares. The frustrating thing is that it isn’t always clear what kind of fare you are buying, particularly with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), because the fare type is different from the fare code. Bulk fares like this will still have the same letters you are used to seeing when purchasing tickets directly from the airline.

Julian over at FrequentMiler expanded on this information in the blog’s Devil’s Advocate column. You can see charts for the fares discussed on each airline’s website. These charts are also below, and each is accompanied by a link to the exception fare page for the respective airline.

American Airlines Exception Fares
American Airlines Exception Fares


United Airlines Exception Fares
United Airlines Exception Fares


Delta Airlines Exception Fares
Delta Airlines Exception Fares

While this might seem appealing, especially to earn more miles on cheap fares, be very careful with these bookings. As you might notice with the links above, the spend earning rate is sometimes 0% of the miles flown (as with United for non premium fares).

Another dangerous thing is that when you book using an OTA, you might wind up buying a ‘basic’ fare. Rene at RenesPoints detailed his experience comparing the prices at OTAs with what is offered from the airline, you sometimes don’t receive any warning in your booking. Like Citi, Chase allows you to spend their rewards points to buy tickets through their online portal. Rene pointed out that when booking this way, you don’t receive any warning that the ticket you are buying is Basic Economy.

@United – Last Seat Availability

Greg over at FrequentMiler recently shared his experience with United’s Last Seat Availability guarantee that he received thanks to his Marriott status (Marriott’s Platinum status grants you Silver with United, once you link the accounts), and that reminded me that since the acquisition of SPG by Marriott went through on Friday, those who had SPG Platinum would also have this once they linked their accounts!

United Benefits
United Benefits

If you don’t have status with United (or SPG/Marriott), don’t worry – you can still get access to this feature with United’s credit card through Chase. In fact, Greg goes on to detail a few other very helpful perks offered by a variety of credit cards that cardholders might not know to take advantage of. Though some of them won’t apply in the near future, such as Citi Prestige’s golf, the list is a good resource for those wanting to make the most of their cards.

Don’t forget to link your accounts – you never know when you will need to buy a last minute ticket!

@SPG and @Marriott Account Linking Active!

Get your link on!
Get your link on!

Lucky, over at OneMileAtATime, has detailed instructions on how to connect your Starwood Preferred Guest number to your Marriott Rewards number. It only takes a few minutes, and the status match is virtually instantaneous. It already matched my Platinum SPG!

In another post, he details some of the benefits of this link. The big thing to note is that the connection isn’t one way – you can transfer Starpoints at a 1:3 ratio to Marriott Rewards points, or go the other way and transfer 3 Marriott points to one Starpoint. Since AmEx changed their signup bonus this year, that means you can use the Marriott credit card to convert 80,000 Rewards points into just over 29,000 Starpoints!

Similarly, SPG Platinums are Marriott Platinums, which means we get complimentary United Silver Elite status. United Gold Elite members are Marriott Gold as well, so they can match to SPG Gold! Not a bad deal, all things considered.

If we keep all the programs separate, I can live with this! At the very least, it seems that the programs will remain independent until 2018, so that is a relief as I love the Starwood Preferred Guest program.

What are your thoughts on the merger?

Current Flight Deals

There are quite a few flight deals available right now – both for domestic and international travel. I’ve listed some of the big ones out below – keep in mind that some of these sales expire quickly!

JetBlue is offering many one-way flights starting at $39! The full list of terms and conditions are available at the JetBlue website.

British Airways is offering triple Avios earned on all flights, which can be quite generous when combined with the AARP discount. Keep in mind that earning is based on fare class and distance flown.

Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines all have excellent deals from various US airports to Europe. If you have any flights coming up on one of these airlines, it would definitely be a good idea to check out if you can get a lower price.

Virgin Atlantic is offering a 30% discount for Economy and Premium Economy tickets! This makes for affordable flights, though be warned that these award tickets do come with some hefty fuel surcharges (in the £200 range for Economy, and £400 for Premium Economy).

Finally, American Express has released some new offers, one of which is a $200 discount on Delta purchases of $1000 or more! Remember that you can open a new tab for each AmEx card you have, allowing you to get the same offer multiple times – one of my favorite tricks.

Analysis of Benefits: United


The “big three” airlines in the US (United, American, and Delta) are similar in many ways, but that is not to say they are all the same. There have been many changes to United over the past year, as well as some that I never knew about, that have given me hope for these airlines to break out of the rut they are in.


Let’s face it – the real reason we want frequent flier status, other than faster accrual rates, is to fly first class for free. Similar to Delta and American, you are given global and regional upgrade certificates upon reaching various tiers. You are also given the same option to upgrade to a higher class of service using miles – again akin to Delta and American.

The real way that United stands out from the pack is that upgrades clear based on the highest status on the reservation, not the lowest. This is huge when you travel with friends and family. Though Delta does not offer Diamond Medallion flyers premium drinks and snacks in coach, both American and United offer this to their top-tier fliers. Better yet, United now has an actual food menu.

Other Changes

United has recently brought back family boarding, as noted by MommyPoints, which is a wonderful change from a customer experience front. Forbes pointed out five other ways that they have improved over the past year as an airline, as well, and combined with the upgrade benefits versus other airlines, it is going to get very interesting going forward when comparing airlines.

Lounge and Alliance Benefits

Unlike Delta, United does not give complimentary lounge access to top-tier members. American Airlines does not offer this, either, but both United and American offer discounts based on your frequent flier status. It is far more economical to acquire a credit card to attain lounge access, however, as it is considerably cheaper.

United Club Card (not an affiliate link): $450 annual fee versus $550 if you buy the subscription outright

AAdvantage Executive Card (not an affiliate link): $450 annual fee versus $500+ if you buy the subscription outright, more for a family

As you can see, there are ways around this limitation, but it largely depends on how much time in an airport. The wireless and free alcohol are wonderful when it comes to spending hours in airports, as is a dedicated service line, but you can just as easily get access to a Priority Pass lounge using the Citi Prestige card (not an affiliate link), which also gives AAdvantage lounge access when flying on American.


All the changes to United are giving me hopes, to be honest. Their mileage earning rates are on-par with American and Delta, and their upgrade policy is far more generous. If nothing else, competition is always good for the consumer! What do you think?