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Why I'm Not So Optimistic About Jeff Smisek Anymore

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On October 12, 2010 I wrote a post entitled, "Why I'm Optimistic about Jeff Smisek Leading United Airlines." Based upon an inflight anecdote in which Smisek engaged both crew and customers, I posited that "he appears to be laying the foundation to substantially lift employee morale." Three years later, I wish my foresight had been better.

People tell me that Smisek gets angry when anyone calls him Mr. Smisek. He is to be called Jeff, because he is ...

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Feeling at Home in Yerevan

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I grew up in Glendale, California, home to one of the largest Armenian populations outside of Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan. My best friend in grade school was Armenian and I have several friends in the Armenian community. In school the Armenian Genocide was remembered each year and Armenians run my barbershop and favorite restaurant. Even one of my former bosses was Armenian. Consequently, Armenia has been near the top of my destination list for years and visiting Yerevan was a big ...

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Delta Cancels Flight to Charter Basketball Team Instead

Whatever the going rate is for a chartered jet on Delta Air Lines, it must be better than the revenue from a scheduled flight, because when a Delta charter went mechanical on Saturday in Tampa, Delta promptly cancelled a commercial flight to Atlanta in order to get the University of Florida men's basketball team to Connecticut.

Delta spokesman Michael Thomas told The Sun in an email that the passengers from flight 5059 were accommodated on other flights and ...

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Overnight Train from Tbilisi to Yerevan, Armenia

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Back just after dusk at Tbilisi’s central railway station, I had a bite to eat in a small food court upstairs before boarding my second consecutive overnight train, tonight bound for Yerevan.

I had purchased the ticket earlier in the day at the station for ~$28, again in a second class compartment with four bunks. I was traveling with one rollerboard bag and my duffel bag and did not want to lug it around the city with me, so upon arrival in Tbilisi I inquired about whether the ...

How to Expedite US Airways Mileage Transfers with Points.com

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Many of you are taking advantage of US Airways' 100% bonus on Shared Dividend Miles this week and I have encouraged many of my clients to do the same. Transfers from account to account are typically instant, but can take up to three days to to process. That can be problematic, as it was for me yesterday. A reservation I had created for a client in Oregon was nearing the end of its 72-hour courtesy hold and the shared mileage transaction had not been processed 10 hours after initiation. I had ...

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Cyber Monday Specials at Marriott: Up to 30% Off

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Marriott's relationship with United Airlines has made me a Marriott customer once again and so today's Cyber Monday 30% off promotion caught my attention.

Bottom line--there are actually some very attractive deals with this one-day promotion.  A few properties stood out in particular--the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC for as little as $90/night. The JW Marriott just a few blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue is as little as $118/night. The Marriott Downtown property in New York City is as little as $139. I got socked with an extremely high hotel bill last year--$139 would have much more palatable.

The offer is valid for over 300 hotels in the U.S. and Canada for stays between December 20, 2013 through March 31, 2014. The sale ends tonight at 11:59p EST.

100% Bonus on Shared US Airways Miles (Business Class to Europe + Asia for $1027.50)

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US Airways is running the most lucrative mileage purchasing promotion this week, from 02-06 December 2013. Notice I said the most lucrative, not its most lucrative. Nowhere else in the airline industry can you generate enough points to travel to both Europe and Asia in business class for $1027.50.

The proposition is simple--share your miles and US Airways will give the recipient a 100% bonus when you transfer between 30,000 and 50,000 miles. ...

Pictures: One Day in Tbilisi, Georgia

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Tbilisi’s history dates back 15 centuries and like many capital cities, features a mix of war and peace spanning various empires. The Soviets invaded in 1921 and a Bolshevik regime was installed. Independence came in 1991, but like many of the former Soviet Republics, the transition was not smooth and a civil war broke out. Throughout the 1990s, the quality of life was poor and corruption rampant. A rigged election in 2003 ushered in the Rose ...

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100% Bonus on Shared Miles Returns to US Airways on Monday!

While buying US Airways Dividend Miles with a 100% bonus is a lucrative offer when available, the best deal for those with points already in their account is US Airways' 100% bonus on shared miles, since transferring miles from one account to another costs less than purchasing miles. We last saw the deal in October and it appears it will return on Monday, December 02, 2013 for 5 days in honor of Cyber Monday. I'll dub this the "last call" before the award chart devaluation.

The ...

Last Call for Small Business Saturday - $10 Free from American Express

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For a few more hours you can still get $10 off you next statement credit when you spend at least $10 at a local business today. Today is American Express' annual Small Business Saturday and though not as lucrative as the $25 statement credits the last couple years, this is still a worthwhile offer, especially if you are still formulating dinner plans tonight.

Register here.

A map of eligible small businesses in your area.

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United Airlines' Onboard Photography Policy Remains Unclear

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Nine months after being thrown off a United Airlines flight for taking a picture of the seat in front of me, I noticed the following picture on United's Instagram page--

From United's Instagram page. Note the comments.

As I discussed in my account of what happened, the whole point of United's onboard photo policy is to protect the privacy of others in the cabin--both staff and ...

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My Thanksgiving Hypocrisy

I try to avoid political controversy here, but for my annual Thanksgiving post I had planned to write a piece stating that I would not be shopping today or tomorrow and encouraging you to also spend the time with family and friends instead. Many retailers will be opening this evening for the first time ever on Thanksgiving Day and I hate the thought that on one of the only holidays of the year that virtually all Americans celebrate, some would have to leave family and friends to work. Greed, ...

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Pack a Sack as United Sacks Packs of Snacks in Back to Stay in Black

United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek promised USD$2 Billion in cuts at the last shareholders' meeting and the process has already begun. First, route cuts. Next, a threatened furlough of legacy United flight attendants (more on that in a future post). Now, a cutback in economy class meal service.

On Flyertalk, a United flight attendant posted this snippet from the November 20, 2013 issue of Inflight Services Weekly:

Offering Choice Menu in select Latin markets
Beginning ...

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Thanksgiving Travel on United Airlines at Chicago O'Hare

Chicago's local ABC affiliate did a fluff piece on traveling with United Airlines over the Thanksgiving holiday, but it still merits watching.

Note the gate lice at 1:58!

I like that the news clip actually paints an accurate picture of what it is like to travel with United at O'Hare and in general--the mobile app helps, PreCheck is available, boarding has been made easier with segregated lanes by boarding number, and overhead bins are ...

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Airport Security Exposed: How to Build a Homemade Shotgun After You Clear Security

No snow globes or yogurt are allowed past airport security checkpoints, but the video below shows that it does not take MacGyver to build a powerful shotgun with material that you can purchase once you get past the full body scanners...

There really is not much commentary to add to this, only that it is rather sobering to see so explicitly what a joke our airport security paradigm is. Let it be known to the TSA, the politicians, and the fear mongers that anyone with enough resolve and wit can wreak havoc. The $8bn airport security game we play each year is nothing but a half-hearted attempt to pacifcy those among us who live in a state of willful ignorance about what it truly means to be safe.

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Simplicity: The Key to a Smooth US Airways Award Booking

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US Airways mileage awards are perhaps the most enigmatic because there is seemingly no rhyme or reason to what is permitted and what is not. I laid out some general guidelines about booking US Airways awards, but six phone calls will result in six different interpretations of the rules. Still, I have found one method that generally results in a much smoother booking process--a simple routing.

That's rather intuitive, I suppose, but not when you consider the routings you can book ...

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TSA-Approved "Detention Pods" at Syracuse Airport

As part of its $60mn renovation, Syracuse International Airport has installed new exit portals that it says will replace the need for security guards or TSA agents to be stationed at exits to the secure part of the airport. The new system has been branded by some as a "detention pod" because of the ability to lock passengers in.

It should be noted that "security" is the stated purpose for this move rather than merely a way to cut labor costs.

"We need to be vigilant ...

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Generous Premium Award Space On British Airways' 787 Between Austin and London in August 2014

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I help a lot of families use their miles and points to book family vacations and even with depressed business demand for premium seats during the summer, finding three or more business class seats on the same flight often poses a challenge. British Airways is starting a new 5x weekly service between London Heathrow and Austin on its new 787 at the end of March and has released generous amounts of award space in all three cabins--economy, premium economy, and business class--on nearly every ...

The Real Reason Behind United's New Service to Atlantic City

United Airlines announced new service from Houston Bush Intercontinental and Chicago O'Hare to beleaguered Atlantic City, New Jersey this week in a deal that brought NJ Governor Chris Christie and United CEO Jeff Smisek together for a special ceremony on Thursday. But if you think this announcement is about service to Atlantic City, think again.

From Chicago, United's flight to Atlantic City will depart at 8:10 a.m. daily, arriving at 11:17 ...

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German Supreme Court: "Loyalty points are currency"

The German Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice) (BGH) held today that loyalty points are a type of currency that should not simpy expire.

Rewe, a grocery store chain across Germany, ran a promotion in 2011 in which you could collect stickers based on in-store spending and use those stickers to send away for knives at a steeply discounted price. I actually remember the promotion and still have some of the stickers I collected from it...

The promotion was ...