Matthewonlive and let's fly

Travel Restraint or Status Quo in 2014?

While my travel patterns have remained largely unchanged over the last three years and even the last decade, 2014 will usher in a substantial change in the way I travel and think about travel.

Reaching MillionMiler status on United gives me Star Alliance Gold Status for life—or at least until United decides to yank it. With United’s new $10,000 minimum spending requirement to qualify for 1K status—the effective end of mileage running—and a significant inflation ...

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Myanmar, Melbourne, Malta, Micronesia, & MillionMiler: My Magnificent 2013

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2013 flew by incredibly fast—just incredibly fast. Looking back at the year I marvel at what was accomplished and think about how the airline industry and my own livelihood has changed.

When I started law school, I had every intention of becoming a full-time attorney. Thoughts of working in the travel industry did not register outside of a legal role. Having a legal degree in my back pocket is still a remarkably valuable chess piece, but three years into Award Expert, I do not ...

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The TSA Presents: The 12 Banned Items of Christmas (Humor)

I love intelligent humor that not only draws a laugh, but makes a deeper point--perhaps a reflection on an pertinent political issue or on society at large that invites contemplation and discussion. A new video out poking fun at the TSA accomplishes exactly that purpose.

As the Christmas season comes to a close, enjoy this--but also think about the bigger message:  TSA carry-on policy is a joke, an arbitrary and capricious list of banned and permitted items does not make us ...

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Reminder: New Aeroplan Award Chart Takes Effect on 01/01/14

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Aeroplan is updating its award chart on January 01, 2014 and the changes are both good and bad.

The Good: One-way awards at half the round-trip cost

Right now Aeroplan charges 67% of the r/t price for a one-way award. Starting on 01/01, that rate will drop to 50%. That means a one-way trip between Europe and North America in business class will be only 45K miles. If you travel on Lufthansa or Air Canada you will be hit with heavy fuel surcharges, but there are a number of Star ...

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3:1 Avianca Lifemiles Today Only

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A targeted e-mail went out to Avianca Lifemiles members this morning with a 3:1 mileage purchase offer: buy 1,000 miles and get 2,000 free, today only. 1,000 miles costs $30 + tax, so you're getting miles for one cent, pre-tax. With sweet spots on the Avianca award chart like 110,000 miles r/t for business class between North/Central America and Europe and no fuel surcharges, there is not a cheaper way to secure premium cabin space. Many who did not receive the e-mail offer have reported ...

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The Night Before Christmas: United Airlines Edition

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the air,
The United executives stirred in despair;
The stock had grown on the NYSE with fanfare,
In hopes that great profit soon would be there;
The Chairman was nestled all snug in his bed;
While visions of cutbacks danced in his head;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Sat in the airport lounge pouring over a map,
When out on the tarmac there arose such a ...

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Singapore Airlines Accuses United Airlines of Lying About Pulled Online Award Space

Last week, United announced that it would no longer offer online searchability for Singapore Airlines award space. United stated this was a "mutual" decision but implied that Singapore had requested that United remove the space.

Hi everyone,

I wanted to give you an early heads up about an upcoming change to the Star partner award availability you see displayed online. Singapore Airlines and United have agreed to remove Singapore Airlines inventory from our award flight ...

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Generous Lufthansa First Class Award Availability between Tokyo Haneda and Frankfurt

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When Lufthansa recently announced new service between Mexico City and Munich as well as Toronto and Munich, premium class award seats were released on every flight. Even first class, which is normally only released to Star Alliance partners two weeks prior to travel, was made available on the Toronto route. With new routes between Tokyo Haneda and Frankfurt/Munich just loaded into the system, Lufthansa has again released a glut of premium cabin space, including two first class seats on every ...

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Star Alliance Should Pursue Alaska Airlines

For all the complaints about US Airways being a “low-cost carrier” or offering an inferior in-flight product, the carrier has been a valuable member of Star Alliance that will be missed tremendously. With a healthy European route network and an expansive route map in the Southeast and Northeast, US Airways has nicely complimented United’s route network and been very generous with award space, particularly with North American premium cabin space. US Air’s departure from ...

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Air India Again Positions Itself for Star Alliance Membership

When I worked for Star Alliance in 2011, the politics surrounding Air India’s failed bid to join the Alliance were fascinating. I am bound from disclosing the nitty gritty details, but the situation opened my eyes to how much maneuvering and backstabbing goes on in the airline industry. Now Air India is again making a concerted push to join Star Alliance and I think I can get away with saying, buyer be warned.

But for all the pitfalls of doing business with a flailing state-run ...

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Hitting the Million Miler Mark on United Airlines

My first United Airlines flight was from Los Angeles to Denver in the winter of 1995, but I did not start seriously flying United until 2005, the year I decided I did not want to sit behind the curtain any longer. Nine years later, I have logged over 998,500 lifetime United flight miles and this afternoon’s flight from Denver to New York LaGuardia will put me over the million mile mark.

In the coming days, I will recount my years of flying on United as well as look ahead to what ...

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Delta Actually Improves Skymiles Program with Attractive Upgrade Options

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Delta Air Lines has led the U.S. airline loyalty industry in duplicity and penny-pinching for several years running (even with a commendable challenge from United last month) so a day in which positive news is announced is quite rare. Yesterday was one of those days, as Delta announced a new confirmed upgrade incentive for Platinum and Diamond elites without the onerous fare class restrictions that have made such instruments virtually useless in the past.

Regional Upgrades for ...

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Video: WestJet's Heartwarming Christmas Surprise

Several airlines have released holiday-themed videos this month, but WestJet's "Christmas Miracle" film brought a big smile to my face.

The simple message--that it is more blessed to give than to receive--is not a trite expression, but a truism that this video so nicely demonstrates. 

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Higher Airline Fees in Congressional Budget Compromise

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), Chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, have unveiled a compromise plan to fund the U.S. federal government for the next two years, eliminating the spectre of another government shutdown in January. Pols from both sides have expressed indignation over the deal, suggesting it is not a bad compromise, but part of the deal is an increase in airline security fees. If it the ...

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United: US Airways Award Flights Bookable through March 30, 2014

United Airlines released an update concerning its future relationship with US Airways--

As you've undoubtedly seen, American Airlines and US Airways closed their merger today. While our partnership with US Airways will be ending on March 30, 2014, it's still "business as usual" until then. Here are some things you need to know for the next few months:

All current tickets for travel on US Airways will be honored You can continue to book award travel on US Airways using ...
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Frequently Asked Questions About the American Airlines - US Airways Merger

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American Airlines and US Airways have officially merged, but for practical purposes, the airlines remain separate entities and will maintain separate operations for several months. Business will continue as usual, with separate check-in, gates, loyalty programs, and policies: like recent mergers, integration will be gradual. Below are some frequently asked questions about the merger. 

Q: When will the merger happen?

A: Although ...

Man Wakes Up Onboard Dark, Empty, United Express Plane in Houston

A man buys a United Airlines ticket from Louisiana to California via Houston on United. He boards the first leg and being an extraordinary sleeper, falls into a deep slumber on an Embrarer regional jet, one of the most uncomfortable aircraft in the United Express fleet Upon landing in Houston, none of his seatmates wake up Rip Van Winkle and the crew leaves the aircraft without performing a walk through the cabin to ensure that all passengers and baggage have been removed. The lights are ...
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United's IDB Nightmare: 90-Year-Old Pearl Harbor Veteran Among 41 Bumped Off Flight to Honolulu

United Airlines is facing another firestorm over news that a 90-year-old Pearl Harbor veteran bound for Honolulu was among 41 passengers bumped when bad weather necessitated severally weight restricting a 737-800 aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport.

Ewalt Shatz travels to Pearl Harbor each year to take part in commemorative ceremonies and this year his trip was book on United Airlines. But at the check-in counter, he was told bad weather enroute meant that many ...

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Yerevan to Istanbul in Armavia Economy Class

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Armavia was Armenia’s flag carrier, but entered bankruptcy on March 29, 2013 and suspended all operations on April 1, 2013. I got in just in time, for I doubt there would have been a refund if my flight had been one month later.

Armavia is gone…liquidated, and Armenia’s primary cargo carrier, Air Armenia, has been granted authority to operate commercial flights and thus become Armenia’s new flag carrier. Armavia was founded ...

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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