Matthewonlive and let's fly

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 ...

5 Comments Read more

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 ...
9 Comments Read more

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 ...

11 Comments Read more

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 ...

3 Comments Read more

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:


2 Comments Read more

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!

1 Comment Read more

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 ...

4 Comments Read more

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 ...

5 Comments Read more

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 ...

4 Comments Read more

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 ...

9 Comments Read more

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 ...

5 Comments Read more

Dishonesty and Myopia at American Airlines

Last night I figured something was up when award ticket prices appeared to vary based on day of travel and my prediction was correct--AA announced a substantial devaluation to its AAdvantage loyalty program today, effective immediately. US Airways also modified its award chart, effective immediately. The changes are bad, but not unexpected. The cardinal sin is the lack of the notice. AA's decision to drastically alter key components of AAdvantage without giving customers any warning shows a ...

6 Comments Read more

Variable AAnytime Awards on American Airlines?


While American Airlines has not formally announced a devaluation of its award chart, the consensus is it is only a matter of when, not if. Tonight, is either acting up or gives us a preview of what a new AAnytime award chart might look like: variable pricing.

I was searching for London - Los Angeles flights for a client and noticed that prices for AAnytime awards (last seat availability) now fluctuate based on the date. AA had been the holdout among legacies, charging only ...

5 Comments Read more

Spin-Off of Thai Smile Another Blow to Star Alliance


Thai Airways will spin-off its Thai Smile Air unit into a separate subsidiary that will not participate in Star Alliance. Created in mid-2012 as a low-cost division of Thai Airways, Thai Smile has now obtained its own air operators’ certificate (AOC) and starting later this month will operate under the IATA designator code WE rather than under Thai parent company TG.

Route Map

Think of Thai Smile on the level of Cathay Pacific subsidiary Dragonair or ...

2 Comments Read more

United Airlines Releases Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Seat Map


United Airlines has released the seatmap on its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, set to enter service in late October on the new Los Angeles - Melbourne route.

Slightly larger than the 787-8, the new aircraft will have more seats in business (48 versus 36), Economy Plus (88 versus 70), and Economy (116 versus 113). Most of the additional seats come in business class or Economy Plus, so good news for upgraders--rumor is the new 777s on the Sydney routes, with 25% fewer business ...

New Nostalgic Ad Campaign from Air France


Air France has released a beautiful new ad campaign that plays up the stereotypical glamour and nostalgia for France and highlights the carrier's refreshed product. Ads emphasize the comfort of the A380, the new La Première (first class) and fully lie-flat business class cabins, gastronomy, and its worldwide network. It has also debuted a new slogan, “Air France, France is in the air.” The ad campaign was created ...

1 Comment Read more

A Meaningless Supreme Court Decision on Frequent Flyer Miles

While nearly all the national focus on Wednesday morning was on the U.S. Supreme Court's bitterly divided 5-4 decision on campaign fiance reform, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Court also handed down a unanimous verdict affecting our old friend Binyomin Ginsberg, holding that the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA) prevents him for suing Northwest Airlines over the termination of his frequent flyer account on bad faith grounds. 

SCOTUS blog ...

3 Comments Read more

Incredible Business Class Summer Airfare to Europe on United and Air Canada: $1468+ Round-Trip


Earlier this week several carriers ran a summer promotion sale in which business class seats were essentially the same cost as economy class seats for travel during the summer months from North America to Europe. United Airlines and Air Canada have brought back that special this evening and now is the perfect time to lock in summer airfare for an incredible cost of around $1500 r/t.

Here's some further detail:

You can travel outbound from 06/28 through 08/29 and complete travel ...
6 Comments Read more

Forcing Lufthansa into Submission Over Cancelled Flight


I hope that most of my friends, family, and clients would attest that I am a nice guy. I’m very mild-mannered, slow to anger, and try to be pleasant to all people. Sure, I could be a bit more organized, but when it comes to running Award Expert, the most important factors are trust and confidence—that clients know I will take care of them from the start to finish. Sometimes that requires me to be very nasty.

Lufthansa is one of my favorite airlines and I have fond memories ...

12 Comments Read more

United’s Baggage Cutoff is 45 Minutes at LAX, but no less than 40

Oh me! Oh life! As much as I love Los Angeles, its unpredictable traffic and my penchant to cut things close resulted in quite a screw-up today.

First off, I really need to settle. As much as I love the jet-setting lifestyle of frequently flying between Frankfurt and Los Angeles, it’s a lot more demanding than my old commute between LA and Philadelphia. I am in a state of constant jetlag and my ability to maintain a disciplined schedule of work is compromised when I must ...

5 Comments Read more