Matthewonlive and let's fly

Thoughts on 2014 Freddie Award Winners


A highlight of my year is the annual Freddie Awards ceremony, in which airlines and hotels are recognized by millions of consumer voters for their programs and promotions. The 2014 Freddie Awards took place on April 24, 2014 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, a picture-perfect venue for the award ceremony. I had the privilege of being seated between Hyatt's Senior Vice President for Loyalty and Marketing, Jeff Zidell on my right and Herbert ...

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Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 is Anything But Transparents

Less than two years after the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) mandated that airlines and online travel agencies display all-in pricing at all stages of the airfare search, the House of Representatives is considering a bill called the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 that would undo this requirement. The name is deceptive--this bill will cause unnecessary confusion over airfare pricing and does a huge disservice to the traveling public.

Ramrodded by airline industry ...

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The Trust Deficit at United

With United Airlines posting heavy losses this quarter while its competitors reported healthy profits, the blame game has begun to escalate. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" no longer seems to be working, as CEO Jeff Smisek is now on the hot seat for the way he has guided United during his 3+ year tenure.

A piece in the Huffington Post by David Fagin entitled "Why United's Jeff Smisek Is the Worst CEO in the Business" makes the argument that the key ...

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This Commercial Made Me Laugh

I've been on some rather unsafe planes over the years, from a rickety old TU-134 in Russia, to a poorly-maintained 727 in Bolivia, and a battered ATR-42 in Cuba, but nothing all that bad, nothing out of a horror story, like this commercial:

The ad is for a German travel agency and I just laughed when I watched it. I think it was inflatable life rafts...for water.

Nice ad, but it has nothing over this amazing recent ad by Turkish Airlines:

Book SriLankan Airlines Award Space Online with British Airways Avios


SriLankan Airlines is now a member of the oneworld alliance and that opens up more several new options for redeeming your miles--particularly using points from US Airways, American Airlines, and British Airways. Perhaps most attractive of all is British Airways Avios, which offers a distance-based award chart and has already made SriLankan flights bookable on its website. Traveling within SE Asia or to the Middle East will become a strategic use of your Avios.

1. How do I search ...

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Airfare Pricing Insurance through Level Skies


A new startup, Level Skies, promises to provides price protection for your next airline trip. You enter your trip details and how long you wish to lock in the best price guarantee (between 1 to 4 weeks). They then search for airfare and calculate a fee to protect you in case the price increases during this time. The "locked in" price is the lowest currently available fare in the market--not necessarily the specific flights you want. If you choose to pay their fee, you can sit back over the ...

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No Fuel Surcharges on British Airways Awards with US Airways Miles


Since US Airways joined oneworld, the carrier has not imposed fuel surcharges on British Airways award flights. Considering fuel surcharges run more than $800 r/t for Europe and much more if you continue on to Asia or Africa, this has been a secret boon for those redeeming US Airways Dividend Miles over the last month.

A first class award from San Francisco to Johannesburg would have a fuel surcharge of $1506.

I ...

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May New York City Frequent Flyer Meetup

Mike is organizing another Reach for the Miles meetup in New York City. This one will be held Tuesday, 06 May at Professor Thom's in the Lower East Side. 

Come mingle and meet others from the travel industry, have a drink from the cash bar, and talk points and miles.

Please RSVP at

The event will be upstairs at Professor Thom's in the Lower East Side, located at 219 2nd Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets. 

Sadly, I won't be around for this one either, but I hope to attend one soon.

Update on Air China Award Booking Cancellations


More are reporting that their Air China award reservations booked with United MileagePlus miles are being cancelled and United is finally waking up to the problem. Still, there is no solution in sight.

You should be vigilant in monitoring your award reservations, but I am sad to say there is really nothing you can do to protect yourself from pernicious cancellations.

And keep in mind that Air China might actually not be the culprit. State-run Air China uses state-run ...

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See you in Seattle at Frequent Traveler University!

The opening fesitivities of Frequent Traveler University (FTU) Seattle are about to begin: a reception this evening and then a full day of seminars tomorrow and Sunday. I will be be delivering a presentation tomorrow afternoon called "Hacking United Airlines."

I cringe even saying the word "hacking" because it just sounds illegal, or at the very least unethical. But travel hacking is only about taking advantage of rules and polices to hack down the cost of your trip--there is no ...

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New, Stricter United MileagePlus Routing Rules for Travel Between USA and North Asia?


A report on FT suggests that United has imposed new, stricter routing rules on travel between the USA/Canada and North Asia. Thus far, my research points to a case of a mistaken agent.

Still, the following new rules, apparently effective today, were read to a customer just a short time ago--

No transit in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia or the Philippines on a US-North Asia award Maximum four segments (previously five segments were permitted) Must cross ...
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Mysterious Cancellations of Air China Award Travel Booked with United MileagePlus

Be warned if you currently are holding a confirmed award ticket issued by United Airlines that includes flights on Air China: reservations are mysteriously being cancelled.

The number of reported cancellations is rising and there seems to be common trend:

The problem is that United makes it far too easy for reservations to be cancelled and modified. You need only two pieces of information to control a United reservation: the six-digit record locator and the last name of the ...

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What the Teen Jet Stowaway Tells Us About Airport Security

Boy wants to fly to Hawaii. Boy sees Hawaiian Airlines jet parked at San Jose Airport. Boy jumps fence and hides in the wheel well. Boy miraculously survives, making once again a mockery of our so-called airport security.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—we are going about this airport security thing all wrong. We treat airline passengers like criminals, imposing nonsensical restrictions on hand baggage, yet airline personnel often roam free with only ...

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A Hijacking Joke Gone Bad


Tensions are high in the aftermath of the likely pilot hijacking of MH370 and even more than 12 years after the 9/11 attacks, the mentality of fear surrounding aviation security remains ingrained. With that in mind, I would recommend against joking about terrorism.

Last Saturday, a 14yr-old Dutch girl exchanged the following with American on Twitter, freaking out after receiving a chilling response from AA:


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50% Off Drinks in United Clubs - Today Only


In honor of tax day in the USA, enjoy 50% off all alcoholic beverages in "participating" United Clubs. Imagine that, half off what was free last year!


To be fair, United has introduced some top-shelf stuff that wasn't available before. As far as I can tell, all clubs are participating as well. 

So if you have any money left after paying your taxes or your refund check is a burning a hole in your pocket, UA's got you covered today!

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TSA Prohibits Mute Stroke Victim from Flying Because She Can't Speak Name

The TSA always finds a way to top itself when it comes to controversy, negative publicity, and most importantly, a degradation of human dignity. This time, it was by telling an elderly, disabled woman who lost her speech after a stroke that she could not fly because she could not say here name. This is no Onion story.

From the family’s side, we have a narrative that goes something like this—we have Heidi, a senior citizen who suffered a debilitating stroke ...

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Racism Charge Hits Lufthansa

I think the term racism is thrown around far too flippantly, but in a letter entitled "Dear Lufthansa, are your racist?" a Korean writer questions Lufthansa's treatment of a group of Korean reporters who missed their flight to Seoul--

Dear Lufthansa, are your racist?

Probably not, but this was the question that first popped into my mind when I heard about a bunch of unfortunate reporters who missed their Lufthansa flight out of Europe a few days ago.

This group of ...

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Italian Court Says Emirates Must Suspend New York - Milan Route

An Italian Court handed Dubai-based Emirates a stinging defeat yesterday, holding that the carrier could not operate its Fifth Freedom Route between New York and Milan.

It all boils down to this--there is a very real (and valid) fear amongst U.S. and European carriers that the Gulf carriers will eat up yields on profitable routes, adding excess capacity and driving down prices while offering a superior product and greater ease of connectivity in fortress hubs. With low labor costs and ...

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Dear Airlines, Why Aren't You Honest With Us?

First things first. Airline loyalty programs are here to stay--they are too lucrative. With airlines beholden to credit card companies, who purchase points en masse and distribute them to their customers, the possibility of loyalty programs going away is off the table.

But, we see that the concept of loyalty and the loyalty programs of several airlines are changing. No longer is the marginal traveler necessarily rewarded for the discretionary choice of flying one carrier over the ...

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Monorail and Runway Closures at Newark Liberty International


Newark Liberty International Airport is a fortress United hub but also one of the most annoying major airports in the United States. I used Newark often when I lived in Philadelphia, preferring to depart Philadelphia from Amtrak's 30th St Station (ZFV) on a United codeshare train service to EWR, then fly to Los Angeles direct from Newark. But it was annoying--the monorail connecting the rail link station to the terminals was excruciatingly slow and prone to delay as were late afternoon ...

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