THIS headline absolutely pisses me off

So I’ve got a Google keyword search that sends me a daily digest of the comings & goings of the Airline industry – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Well today can be safely thrown into the “ugly” category.  Seriously.

BusinessWeek.com’s website screamed this today:

Asiana’s San Francisco Plane Crash Seen Pushing Airline to Loss

Really?  I’m sorry, but didn’t we just lose a plane, injure hundreds, and call an entire industry’s training practices into question just a few days ago?  Not to mention the two 16 year old girls who won’t live to go to college, reach adulthood, and live a full, healthy life?  No, we don’t care about that.  Or at least the five financial analysts that put forth the data – and Bloomberg for publishing such tripe.

I get it; it’s a business.  But freaking come on, already!  Poor, poor taste!

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The Best Frequent Flyer Rewards Programs

This is a guest post from Angie Picardo, a staff writer at NerdWallet.

Choosing which airline’s frequent flyer program to sign up for can be daunting. How to earn miles, how to redeem them, when to redeem them—it’s enough to deter many people from making a choice. Below are some factors that might influence your decision and a comparison of the top rewards programs.

No matter what kind of traveler you are, first consider what airlines fly to airports nearest you. Which airports do you fly in and out of most? Also consider where you will stay in your most frequently visited cities, since many programs’ points also come from partners such as hotels, rental car companies, and credit cards. The key is to make sure each action you take during your trip will earn you points or miles. You will also get the best rewards when you choose a program and stick with it, and when you use that program’s sponsored credit card.

Airline Alliances
It’s good to be aware of airline alliances, since some rewards programs will allow you to earn or redeem points through partner airlines. The three major alliances are the Star Alliance (27 member airlines, including United and US Airways), One World (11 member airlines including American), and Sky Team (includes Delta airlines). It’s important to realize, though, that airlines in global alliances do not always have transferable rewards programs. You’ll need to double-check individual reward programs for details.

Best Rewards Program Credit Cards
To reap the benefits of these cards, you’ll also need to sign up for these airlines’ respective rewards programs. Regularly using these credit cards can score you some major free travel.

Card Name 5- Year Value Annual Fee Cost Per Point/Mile
Barclays Virgin America Visa $1,390 $0 $1.19
Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Card $1,380 $59 $15.80
Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card $1,001 Free first year, then $95 $1.00

 

Best Rewards for Business/Frequent Flyers
American Airlines AAdvantage: With the best top-tier level services and rewards, AAdvantage is high on the list. It includes a massive list of partner airlines and hotels that provides you with over 1,000 ways to earn your miles. You’ll also be able to register up to six credit or debit cards with the dining program. Although this program only gives you the actual number of miles flown rather than a 500 mile minimum every time, it is the best in overall quality. You’ll need 25,000 miles to reach the lowest frequent flyer status, but this is the only program in which miles earned from any source can get you there.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: You might be wondering how little old Alaska Air made it onto this list, but the benefits are not as limited as you might think. This program is great if you live in or travel frequently in the western United States. Alaska Air has partnered with several big legacy carriers, and has fewer hotel partners, but with a decent price point variety. It also offers car rentals, credit cards, dining and shopping as ways to earn miles. For every flight you take, you’ll get the greater of 500 miles or the actual miles flown. This program also offers good flexibility for non-loyal flyers. Your miles don’t expire but you need to have an active account for 2 years. With 20,000 miles on Alaska Air, or 25,000 miles on Alaska and select partners, you can reach elite status.

Southwest Rapid Rewards: With no blackout or expiration dates, points based on flight fare and class, and points redeemable for free flights, Southwest provides an enticing rewards option. With its Rapid Rewards card, points can also been redeemed for other purchases. If you can’t travel light or your plans are subject to change last minute, Southwest also has a two bags free policy and no flight change penalties. To reach the lowest frequent flyer status, you’ll need to take 25 one-way flights within a year, or earn 35,000 qualifying points.

United MileagePlus: With a long and varied list of partner hotels and airlines, eight different car rental companies, two mileage credit cards, and lots of ways to redeem miles, this program gives you plenty of choices. You will earn miles you fly on United and United Express flights, on the miles flown on airlines in the Star Alliance. Those major partners include Air Canada, US Airways, Lufthansa, and Turkish Airlines, among others. You can redeem miles for travel, upgrades, merchandise, subscriptions, and so on. You will have premier status once you reach 25,000 miles.

US Airways Dividend Miles: Though some consider US Airways to be a stripped-down legacy carrier, it has good airline partners because of the Star Alliance and a huge list of hotel partners. Car rentals, credit cards, shopping, dining, and numerous services are all part of this rewards program. For each trip, you’ll earn the greater of 500 miles or the actual number of miles flown. You can register up to five different credit or debit cards to use with the dining program. Higher levels of this program will enable you to earn more miles.

Delta Airlines SkyMiles: SkyMiles has a long list of partners to help you earn miles, including Hilton and Marriott hotels. You’ll receive either 500 miles a flight or your actual miles flown.

 

Angie Picardo is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance site dedicated to helping people get the most for their money and start planning for retirement.

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All #RealSlogan tweets

Because I loved them so much, I decided to archive all of the #RealSlogan tweets here on my blog.  Join in if you got ‘em!

#RealSlogan: Delta – You’ll pay our exhorbitant fares, get crappy service, and hate travel. We’re the biggest, so just deal with it!

#RealSlogan: Us Airways – We’re America West. I mean US Air. I mean American. SOMEONE PLEASE LOVE ME!

#RealSlogan: Alaska Airlines – You’ll love us! As long as you are in Seattle. Or maybe Portland.

#RealSlogan: Southwest Airlines – STOP MOOING! It’s not really cattle car class. And you’re not paying a baggage fee, so there!

#RealSlogan: Allegiant Air – Would you like some water? $2. Pretzel? $3. Life vest? We only take Visa and Mastercard.

#RealSlogan: Great Lakes Air – Yeah, our timetable’s more like a guideline, give or take a few hours.

#RealSlogan: Northwest Airlines – Yeah, we’re really starting to regret that whole Delta thing now, too.

#RealSlogan: AirTran Airways – Crap, Southwest is on their way over. Quick – somebody go hide the Boeing 717s!

#RealSlogan: Chautauqua Airlines – Hey, we can be your private dancer, too. Just, you know, not that far away from home.

#RealSlogan: British Airways – Gosh darnit, Eugenia – It’s teatime somewhere! God save the Queen and all.

#RealSlogan: Sun Country Air – Yeah. We go places, too. You could come with, if you wanna. Can you chip in for some gas?

#RealSlogan: Virgin America – Yet another airline from Richard Branson. It must have bugged him being a billionaire.

#RealSlogan: Air Canada – Our flight attendants play pickup ice hockey games on layovers. Oh, and we’ve got a sweet dental plan, eh!

#RealSlogan: Ethiad Airlines – We’re all over the globe! Just you can’t get there from here without a 24hr layover in the desert.

#RealSlogan: Japan Airlines – Now with 200% more glow in the dark flight crews! Thank you, Fukushima Daiichi!

#RealSlogan: Ryanair – The Southwest of Europe? Shut up and give me all the money in your wallet.

#RealSlogan: Aer Lingus – Yeah, we think it sounds dirty, too.

#RealSlogan: Qantas – No, sir. There aren’t any koalas or kangaroos onboard. Have another Fosters.

And now a special one from Twitter follower @user47

#RealSlogan Midwest Airlines. Who’d of thought our #SaveTheCookie campaign would do us in? cc @airsnark

Thanks for putting up with me, and thanks for taking part, folks!

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How I knew it was going to be a bad TSA day

I guess I can explain my tweet of last night.  Flying out of PDX, for some reason I didn’t get TSA PreCheck again.  Three weeks in a row.  I made a “Ugh!” type comment, was overheard by a TSA agent, and she proceeded to “bait” me into a fight.  Here’s the exchange:

Me (to TSA ID Checker): Oh jeez…  Three weeks without PreCheck?  You guys are killing me!  (said in a more jovial than not tone).
TSA ID Checker just rolled her eyes.  I made my way into the regular security line.
TSA Overhearing Agent: “You know there’s a line over there?” she said, pointing to the other lane.
Me: “Yes, but that one is wrapped around and this one is shorter, thanks.”
TSA Overhearing Agent: “I’m not arguing with you, sir.  I know you’re angry for not getting PreCheck.”
Me: I rolled my eyes at her obvious bait and asked, “Do you want me to switch lines anyway?”
TSA Overhearing Agent: “I said I’m not going to fight with you, sir.”
Me: “I’m not fighting with you; I simply asked if you wanted me to move to the other line.”
TSA Overhearing Agent: “I understand that you wanted to get PreCheck. It’s not our fault; it’s handled elsewhere.  I’m not going to fight with you, sir.”

At this point, I closed my eyes, counted to ten, and just stayed where I was.  I had a TSA Agent arbitrarily provoking me for whatever douchy reason she had.  I never raised my voice, said anything derogatory, or anything to the woman.  She just wanted me to snap at her for some reason.

Well I wouldn’t take the bait.  But that’s not going to stop me from calling her a giant douchenozzle and blogging about it.

Aah, adventures with the TSA.  Fun, eh?

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Remember, Flyers: NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO SMELL YOU!

It’s somewhat crazy in this day and age that people have to bring this kind of thing up.  But how you smell, and what you do with heavy perfumes, colognes, and perfumed lotions, can effect the people around you.  Especially if you are in a confined space – like, say, an airplane!

I just got off of a 30 minute flight from AVL to ATL, cramped in a tiny CRJ200.  The lady in front of me was wearing perfume.  A LOT of perfume.  Enough that even with the air vent turned on full blast, she was still bringing tears to my eyes.

The poor girl next to her; she had her fan going and was fanning herself.  By the time we were descending, the girl was sneezing almost non-stop.

Fragrance intolerance isn’t some passing fancy; it’s real, though people tend to just shoo it away as if the sufferer is just being “sensitive”.  I remember one trip, a 10 hour flight from MSP to AMS, sitting next to a woman who was bathed in perfume.  Within minutes I was sniffling, and by the time we took off, I was sneezing.  I literally had to stand in the back of the plane for probably 8.5 hours of that 10 hour trip, to get away from her.

People scream and shout if the person next to them on the plane is obese and takes up part of their seat.  I, myself, stood in the back of an MD80 for almost 4 hours on a flight from DFW to LAS, because the man sitting next to me was so large that he took up all of his and nearly all of my seat.  That’s not right.  And it’s not right that I have to suffer the smells of another person throughout a flight.  Sitting next to an obese person may get you a few frequent flyer miles or such, but putting up with overwhelming stench for hours on end will get you nothing.

So be kind when you fly.  You’re sharing a small space with other people.  You wouldn’t bring on a boom-box and blare it during a flight, would you?  So why would you blare your smell?  Forego your perfume or cologne, and all of the other stinky stuff for the flight.  Your fellow passengers will be glad that you did.

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Surf Air – The future of aviation, or just niche?

There’s a good article on up and coming airline Surf Air, and how they want to shake up the airline industry by offering a subscription-type monthly fee for flying, instead of a per-ticket price.  They’d be closer to a SeaPort Airlines and not a regular Southwest or Alaska, and would – at least initially – be flying to just four cities/areas: San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey California, Santa Barbara, and the Los Angeles basin.  All with a basic membership to be paid monthly, the lowest cost (of the 3 options) coming in at $780/month.

One of the attractive offers they have is that Surf Air isn’t relegated to commercial airports, like other commercial airlines.  For example, they could take off from Palo Alto Airport, which is basically in the middle of the San Francisco Bay Area being midway between San Jose and San Francisco – not to mention it’s closest to some of the biggest companies in the world (can you say Google and Facebook?).  Plus, no TSA.  BONUS!

On the other hand, no TSA – so what happens if they actually do land at SFO or SJC?  Offloading pax would have to be screened somehow before getting on to another commercial flight.  I know connecting service isn’t what these folks are offering – rather the “I live in SF and go to LA ever weekend” or “I live in Santa Barbara and work in Downtown LA” type of person.  Also, there probably aren’t rental cars at these small, non-commercial airports – so there’s that.

It’s all an interesting idea, and if I still lived in the Bay Area and had to fly to LA every week, I’d consider it.  What do you think?

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Wondering about AS fallout from the US/AA merger

It’s no secret that I’m personally a big supporter of Alaska Airlines.  Part of that is because they choose to not be part of an alliance, but instead work with a multitude of partners.  Their partnership with Emirates Airlines seems to be paying off; in recent weeks, I’ve seen a number of people flying with Emirates luggage tags.  I know that’s not scientific, but I hadn’t seen these luggage tags outside of the Middle East until now.

Everyone knows about US Airways taking over American Airlines.  But what’s not known is what’s going to happen with the Alaska/American tie-up.  Yes, the new AA/US is going to be part of oneworld (and isn’t US Airways supposed to drop Star Alliance any day now?), and the new AA will have hubs in Phoenix, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Charlotte, and Chicago.  But how is it going to effect Alaska Airline’s relationship with the “new” American?  I, for one, am curious.

And speaking of Alaska partners, they’ve severed their ties to Kenmore Air as of 4/1/2013, and will be severing their ties with Iceland Air on 6/1/2013 – and they say to consider one of their other partners, including American.  So there’s that (though it may not hold water – we’ll see).

I, for one, was actually wanting to fly to Reykjavik one of these days.  Guess it won’t be on Iceland, if I’m cashing in Alaska miles…

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Like GRR needs more expensive flights…

For six months in 2010, I flew into GRR airport (Grand Rapids, Michigan) every week.  The thing that got me?  I was paying a buttload of cash just to fly into there, or the tiny AZO (Kalamazoo) airport to the South.  Never failed; there were about a dozen consultants, though I was coming from the farthest, since I’m West Coast based, and my tickets were always around $1,000 per week.

A few times I flew on Frontier, one of the only LCCs to fly into GRR.  And now, Frontier just announced that they’re getting out of the GRR market.

Sources say that it’s because Southwest is going in there.  AirTran has been in GRR for a while, but apparently now parent Southwest is going to move in as well.  Will it have an effect on the $1,000 airfares?  I doubt it.  Why?  Because it’s not really had an effect in Atlanta.  So why should it have an effect elsewhere?  Higher fares – and fewer flights, on more and more unreliable aircraft (can you say ‘maintenance delay’?) – are here to stay, it seems.

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“Pay As You Weigh” is finally starting – in Samoa

Samoa Air, the small airline that flies small aircraft between places in Samoa, American Samoa, French Polynesia, and other island nations, is the first airline to start a “pay as you weigh” scheme.  Does it make sense?  The airline thinks it does.

When I think of Samoa, I think of people like Dwane “The Rock” Johnson, or the famous Samoan wrestler, Umaga.  These men are not small in the least (Umaga weighed in at 160kilograms or 350pounds); I don’t know what The Rock weighs.  And I typically think of larger people; Samoans aren’t well known for being svelte.

If you check Samoa Air’s flight schedule, you can see their new pricing.  Small hops, like Faleolo to Maota, which is under 20 miles away – but across the Apolima Straight, on a different island, cost Samoan Tala 1 per kilogram that the person weighs (WTS 1 = US$0.46).  So sending a 160 kilogram person on that route would cost WTS 160 or US$73.  Other flights would cost more, such as Maota to Pago Pago on America Samoa, which is about 100 miles away; those flights would be WTS 2.40 (about US$1.10) per kilogram.

The airline says it’s more fair, and that, say, families traveling with small children would make out like bandits, paying significantly less than they are now.  And they maintain that it’ll put Samoans into a healthier lifestyle frame of mind.  Me?  I’m not totally convinced.

What do you think?

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Differences in cabin crews

After yesterday, I felt I really needed to post this.

I fly primarily Alaska Airlines.  I think I’ve said this before, but I’ve never fully said why.  My flight on Delta yesterday should give you a good reason as to why.

Whenever I fly, no matter what airline, I always bring a $3 bag of Hershey’s Miniatures for the flight crew.  It’s just something that I do.  I have many flight attendant friends, and I know what they go through on a daily basis.  Trust me, it’s not always glamorous and fun.

So when I get on, say, a Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air flight, the reaction is always the same.  The person I hand the chocolates gets a big smile on their face, and they ask something to the effect of, “For me?  For us?  Really?”  And at that point, I either get a thank you or the biggest hug possible.  When I was flying American Airlines every week, I usually had the same flight crews – and often I would come down the jet bridge, and would here someone on the plane get on the PA and say, “Here comes the candy man!”  The flight crews on US Airways were almost as animated and thankful.

So I flew on 4 Delta flights this week.  Two of the times that I gave chocolate, absolutely NONE of that happened.  What happened?  The first time, the flight attendant basically rolled their eyes and took the chocolate, then turned to throw it away.  When I said that it was a treat for her and the crew, she “got it”, and said thanks.

Yesterday when I was flying home, I handed the bag of chocolate to the lead FA as I was boarding the plane.  What did he do?  Without asking or anything, he just turned around and threw the bag in the garbage.  I stood there kind of stunned for a second, then shook my head and walked to my seat.

I get people who tell me I should fly Delta all the time.  Why?  Seriously, why should I put up with the vapidity of a flight crew that many times a week?  It’s just not worth it.  As my seatmate on the plane yesterday told me, “I get treated better in Coach on Alaska Airlines than I do in First Class on Delta.”  And you know what?  He couldn’t be more right.

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