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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 ...

Leaked US Airways Memo: Agents Forbidden to Manually Request Award Space

US Airways apparently did not appreciate my story on how to book blocked Lufthansa award space, because a new memo has been issued that explicitly instructs Dividend Miles agents not to manually request award space on any flight.

It was only in late September when US Airways told me "If a customer should request a long sell (which we don't think happens that often), and the agent actually knows how to do this function we will try to accommodate the request as best as we ...

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Merger! US DOJ Settles Lawsuit Against US Airways and American Airlines

US Airways and American Airlines have reached a preliminary deal with the U.S. Department of Justice concerning their planned merger. Details are still emerging.

Under the proposal, American and US Airways would sell 104 takeoff and landing slots at Reagan National Airport in Washington, 34 slots at La Guardia Airport in New York, and various assets at five other airports, including O’Hare Airport in Chicago, Los Angeles International Airport and Boston Logan International ...

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Overnight Train from Baku to Tbilisi, Georgia

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Each night an overnight train runs from Baku to Tbilisi, leaving Baku at 08:45p and arriving into Tbilisi the following morning at 11:40a.

Baku's central railway station is in the heart of the city and accessible by cab or Metro.

 

I purchased my ticket the evening before, but my train was lightly filled (granted, it was February and a bit chilly). If you are traveling during the spring and summer you are advised to purchase your ...

Are Airline Safety Videos Worth Playing?

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For years we have been told to set aside our reading materials while an airline safety video is played prior to takeoff, but few people comply with that request. In fact, most openly ignore it--continuing conversations, remaining focused on reading material, or even sneaking a peak at electronic devices. With electronic devices now permitted during all stages of flight, even more will ignore the safety videos. Does that compromise safety? Or have these safety videos outlived their ...

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Delta Skymiles Logic: A Devaluation Before the Devaluation

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You have to wonder what is going through the minds of the decision makers at Delta Air Lines when they announce a devaluation of their Skymiles award chart effecting all travel on or after 01 June 2014 then decide that was not enough and today implement an interim devaluation effective for travel on or after 01 February 2014, now less than three months away. 

Here's the "logic" from Delta--

This afternoon, you’ll be able to see some updates to our Award Ticket ...

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Book Your Summer 2014 Family Vacation in Lufthansa First Class with United Miles!

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Lucky shares that Lufthansa has opened the award space floodgates on its new route between Toronto and Munich that begins on June 5, 2014. Space is going fast already but Lufthansa has released eight business class seats and four first class seats on every flight! Typically, Lufthansa First Class award space is only bookable by Star Alliance partners 15 days or less prior to travel, but on this route Lufthansa has released space not only to Miles & More members but to partners as ...

An Armed TSA is a Threat to All

In the wake of a lone wolf gunman storming a Terminal 3 security checkpoint at LAX last Friday and murdering a TSA screener, some are now calling for a cadre of TSA screeners to be armed at every airport. I sense this issue is dead on arrival, at least for now, but let us explore why this would be a very bad idea.

On Monday, the union representing 45,000 federal security agents called for the creation of a class of armed TSA officers with law enforcement training and the authority ...

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Review: Park Hyatt Baku

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Other than its barrage of CNN advertisements, you don't hear too much about Azerbaijan. When you do, it is usually a story encouraging investment by heralding the country's favorable interest rates and stable government or perhaps a blurb on the continuing tension with Armenia. But there is another layer to Azerbaijan that you have to see to believe—the charming capital city of Baku hosts an array of restaurants, shopping, and attractions. The former ...

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Baku Metro (Pictures)

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Every time a population surpassed one million in a Soviet city, Soviet law allowed for construction a Metro system. The Baku Metro, which debuted in 1967, was the fifth Soviet Metro system and boasts a similar blending of utility, opulence, and ideological propaganda that characterize systems in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Paintings, statutes, sculptures, murals, and chandeliers decorate the deep underground caverns and the ...

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The Other United Airlines Devaluation: Fewer Upgrades at a Higher Cost

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The big news Friday was United's devaluation of its MileagePlus award chart starting 01 February 2014, particularly for premium cabins on Star Alliance partners, but United also announced a policy change eliminating complimentary upgrades on flights to/from Northern South American and within Asia:

The following restrictions apply to upgrades on flights to/from Northern South America and within Asia departing on or after February 1, 2014: (1) Complimentary Premier Upgrades ...

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Clarification from United Airlines on Award Chart Changes

United has addressed some initial confusion stemming from its announcement yesterday that on 01 February 2014 the award chart chart will be massacred.

1. United claims the cost of premium seats on partner carriers is "out of sync" with what current mileage levels.

Frankly, the levels at which we currently offer these awards, particularly in the premium cabins, have not kept up with the increased cost from our partners to United. It’s been several years since ...

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