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Airport Booking Strategy Miles & Points Money Passenger Rights

Where to Find Premium Airfare Deals on First Class and Business Class

Most frequent travelers know that to find flash sales and other great deals on economy-class air tickets through alerts, you don’t have to look far: Our sister site AirfareWatchdog, for example, is a leader in the field. Lots of online travel agencies and metasearch systems offer up standard airfare alerts—but finding one that will flag premium airfare deals requires a little bit more insider knowledge, and some cash.

If you’re interested only in evading the cattle car—flying in premium economy, business, or first class—you won’t find any deal alert services that don’t charge a fee. A bunch of free information sources can help you hunt down your own deal, but no premium airfare service is as automatic as Airfarewatchdog.

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Where to Find Premium Airfare Deals

Still, premium deals are available. Airlines offer flash sales and special promotions in premium cabins just as they do in economy. Two years ago, I found (and bought) a round-trip business class ticket to Asia for just $1,500—which was less than half the nominal first-class rate.

One reason for the lack of a simple premium airfare system is that, for many travelers, premium flying is inextricably bound to frequent flyer programs. The best way to get into a front cabin is often by using frequent flyer miles. And for some, the game is to apply for a bunch of credit cards that offer huge initial bonuses if you meet an exorbinantly large monthly charge threshold for the first few months. So the problem of finding outright premium airfare deals isn’t easy, but it’s not insurmountable, either.

First Class Flyer is the gold standard for finding deals on premium airfare, for both performance and membership price. The minimum Silver level costs $97 per year, and gets you a daily bulletin that covers special deals for both cash payments and use of miles. Higher levels of membership cost $197 and $297 per year and add on a bunch of additional information that’s useful, but not essential, if you’re just looking for flash sales.

MightyTravels’ premium option is $7.99 per month (about the same as First Class Flyer) and offers daily bulletins on business class, premium economy and first class deals from your home airport, including unpublished and “mistake” fares, plus access to an online dashboard with deals for most major airports.

A handful of free blogs also cover the full gamut of airfare deals with a minor focus on premium cabin options. TravelSkills posts such deals and offers occasional email alerts. Other free blogs don’t send you bulletins about premium airfare; you have to find their alerts on your own.

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All or most of the free blogs often find the same deals—so you’re probably ok finding one you like and sticking with it. Options include AirfareSpot, Godsavethepoints, No Mas Coach, One Mile at a Time, The Points Guy, and View from the Wing. There’s a lot about credit cards, hotels, and other stuff in them, too, but they do dig out some good premium deals.

FlyerTalk also has an online forum on premium flying. It’s not organized for easy search, but it’s especially good for deals that originate outside of the U.S.

So unless you spring for the First Class Flyer or MightyTravels paid services, you’ll have to do your own digging through blogs and websites. But that’s a lot easier than spending hours on a metasearch engine, yourself. The amount of money you’ll save warrants a bit of extra effort, anyways.

More from SmarterTravel:

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

Categories
Fashion & Beauty Luxury Travel Packing Travel Technology Travel Trends Women's Travel

What to Wear When Flying First Class

 When flying first class, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look the part. Complimentary Champagne doesn’t quite taste the same when you’re wearing your old college sweatshirt and those yoga pants with the hole in the knee. On the other hand, if you’re in for a long-haul flight, even when flying first class, you won’t be very comfortable in business attire.

What to Wear When Flying First Class

Dressing for a first-class flight means striking that perfect balance between comfort and style. Luckily, with the trend in athleisure fashion taking off, striking that balance is easier than ever. Here’s the perfect outfit plan for flying first class in a way that looks sophisticated and feels casual.

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A Reliable Bottom Layer

[st_content_ad]Skip the discounted packs of undershirts and tank tops, and invest instead in a bottom layer that has some lasting power. A reliable, durable, and comfortable bottom layer will make all the difference and in first class, you’ll need something that looks chic. For ladies, comfort and style are easily achieved with the high neckline of the soft and flexible tank top from ENIDMIL. For guys, this short-sleeved collared shirt from Todd Snyder completes a casual but put-together look.

A Sleek Top Layer

A good coat can make an outfit and help you pull your look together, but when you’re flying first class, you’ll also need something that will keep you warm in case the plane is chilly. For women, this is the time to embrace athleisure with a coat like the Hoodie Long Tunic Sweatshirt from TheMogan, which stretches past the knees for ultimate coverage and warmth. For men, a short and sturdy coat like the this one from Reigning Champ pulls it together with a baseball collar and keeps it casual with 100 percent cotton material and a two-way zipper.

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Dress Pants That You Can Sleep In

Although we can rely on our favorite jeans for just about any other moment in our lives, they don’t always work on airplanes. When your legs get restless, you’re going to want pants that are comfortable enough to move around and sleep in, but when you’re flying first class, they have to look good, too. This is when Betabrand comes to the rescue. With its Dress Pant Yoga Pants for women and the Dress Pant Jogger Pants for men, you can look ready for business and also be ready for bed with these soft terry pants that boast style and pockets for everybody.

Close-Toed Shoes

For the shoes, you’ll need a pair with stand-out style that are also easy to slip off when going through security and settling into your seat. Ladies can add a pop of color and sophistication with the Blondo Villa Waterproof booties, while guys can make a statement with the Kenneth Cole REACTION’s Chukka Boot.

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Scarf for Fashion and Comfort

Scarves are a necessity on long-haul flights, whether you’re flying first class or economy. From using it to stay warm to covering up a bad hair day, it’s a must-have, and on a first-class flight, you’ll want something that expresses your personal style. For women looking to brighten up an outfit, the Wild Oasis Cashmere and Silk Scarf can heighten the style of even the most casual outfits. Men looking for a more subdued scarf might like Tie Bar’s two-toned River West Solid scarves.

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A Stylish Timepiece

An eye-catching watch can be the perfect way to make a statement when flying first class, but you don’t have to go out and buy the most expensive watch on the market to do that. Recently released by Solgaard, the Hex watches like the women’s edition in stone and the Minimalist in matte black are the perfect way add sophistication to your first-class outfit, without looking like you’re trying too hard.

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Accessories for Flying First Class

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Categories
In-Flight Experience Luxury Travel

Is Business Class Worth It? 8 Reasons to Splurge on Turkish Airlines’ Business Class

Opting for Turkish Airlines’ business class is completely worth the money. From enjoying amazing Turkish cuisine to arriving at your destination refreshed and ready to go, here’s why a ticket is worth the splurge.

You Can Actually Sleep

Turkish Airlines’ business-class seats recline flat with the push of a button, and the flight attendants will turn your seat into a bed with a padded cover, pillow, and blanket whenever you’re ready to rest.

You Can Avoid the Reclining Wars

You’re not just pushing a button to jolt your seat back if you’re in business class: The seat is more like a cozy recliner chair. Lean back with your feet up and truly relax—the seat reclines back into its own shell, so you’re not impeding on the space of the person behind you.

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You Won’t Arrive Tired and Achy

[st_content_ad]After a long-haul flight in economy, I always arrive feeling sore and exhausted. But in business class you can lie flat, change positions, and easily access the aisle (even from a window seat), which means more moving around and getting comfortable—thus preventing the aches and pains that usually come with a long-haul flight. After flying in Turkish Airlines’ business class for more than 20 hours, I arrived at 6:00 a.m. pain-free and ready to take on a full day of exploring.

You Can Forget Mediocre Airport Food

Turkish Airlines uses famous chefs to prepare its business-class meals, all of which are delicious. You’ll choose dishes from a menu of options, and you can eat at any time you’d like—not just when the meal cart rolls by.

Turkish airlines' business class

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You Can Enjoy Peace and Quiet

Crying babies or loud seatmates won’t bother you in business class, thanks to the complimentary Bose noise-canceling headphones Turkish Airlines provides at each seat.

You Can Get Off the Plane First

Economy class is held back from leaving until business class deplanes. This was a key advantage for me for two reasons—first, when I had an extremely tight connection, I saved time by being the very first person out the door so I could sprint to my gate in time. Second, when I arrived at Kathmandu airport (known for its long visa lines) I was able to beat everyone else on my flight to the queue, which also saved me a lot of time.

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You Can Pack More

Business-class customers can bring a maximum of 66 pounds of luggage onboard, compared to the 44 pounds allowed in economy class.

You Can Skip the Line

Turkish Airlines’ business-class customers get dedicated lines not only at check-in, but also when going through security. This includes the extra security you usually have to go through at the gate before flying to the United States.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel received a complimentary upgrade to Turkish Airlines business class. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for in-flight and other travel photos from around the world. 

Categories
Airport Business Travel Luxury Travel

9 Amazing Things You Can Only Do in First Class or Business Class

Ever gotten a massage, taken a shower, or been served by a butler while flying? These envy-inducing experiences are only for first-class or business-class passengers. For a peek behind the first-class curtain, read on.

Fly in a Suite (Etihad Airways)

[st_content_ad]The Etihad Airways’ Residence might be bigger than your hotel room, but I’d say if you’re paying approximately $30,000 for a one-way ticket, you’re probably not booking a tiny motel room on the ground. Book this flying suite for yourself and a guest, and you two can enjoy your own personal living room, divided bedroom, and ensuite shower room. The living room has a leather sofa and two dining tables for relaxing or eating in front of your 32-inch flat-screen television, and the bedroom has a 6-foot 10-inch double bed that’s made up with designer Italian linens. The bedroom also has its own 27-inch flat-screen television so you can watch a movie as you fall asleep.

Get Chauffeured to & from the Airport for Free (Turkish Airlines)

Cancel your rideshare—if you’re flying Business Class on Turkish Airlines, the airline will send a luxury car and driver to come pick you up and take you to the airport or your destination after landing. Just tell them your flight details and they will get you there on time and in style.

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Have an Intense Business Meeting (Qatar)

At a few thousand dollars per seat, you have no excuse not to work if your company is financing your business-class ticket on Qatar Airways. The airline’s Business Class Q-Suites offer groups of four seats (two forward-facing and two aft-facing) that can be combined into a flying conference room, with media panels in between to display your exciting PowerPoint presentations.

Take a Shower (Etihad & Emirates)

Taking a shower while flying through the clouds has got to be a pretty bizarre feeling, but you can enjoy it on either Etihad Airways or Emirates Airline if you’re flying in First Class. Briefly. Both airlines only allocate approximately five minutes of hot water per person, so you’ll have to soap up quickly unless you like cold showers.

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Control the Temperature (Emirates)

If you’ve ever been on a plane that’s too hot or too cold, you know that the tiny airflow vent above your seat isn’t worth much when it comes to changing the temperature. If you had your own suite in Emirates’ First Class, you’d be able to set the temperature to be exactly to your liking. Each suite is fully enclosed with floor-to-ceiling doors, and comes with its own climate control capabilities.

Get a Massage (Turkish Airlines)

Worn out by the rigors of travel? The fully lie-flat chairs in Turkish Airlines’ Business Class have a built-in massage feature, so you can work out those knots at 35,000 feet. And if you want to take your massage on your back, the chairs fully recline into a lie-flat bed.

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Dine on Wedgwood China (Singapore Airlines)

When you fly coach, you don’t even get real silverware, but in Singapore Airlines’ upper classes, gourmet meals are served on bone china that was specifically designed for the airline by Wedgwood (a world-famous fine china company). As for the food served on those expensive dishes, it’s been cooked fresh by the onboard chef.

Be Catered to By a Savoy-Trained Butler (Etihad Airways)

Be catered to

Flight attendants can be great, but they haven’t undergone an intense weeks-long training course with the world-famous Savoy Hotel. Etihad Airways employs a fleet of trained, white-glove-wearing butlers to cater to first-class fliers staying in Etihad Airways’ The Residence class, who will work with the flight attendants to help arrange anything guests could possibly want while on the plane.

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Drive a Porsche on Your Layover (Lufthansa)

Instead of killing time in the airport lounge on a long layover, First Class guests flying Lufthansa can book the Porsche First Class Excitement experience. For just 99 euros, you’ll get a three-hour rental of a Porsche 911, gas, and insurance so you can explore the city at top speed and make it back for your connecting flight.

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Caroline Morse Teel would love to fly in first class someday. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.

Categories
Airport Health & Wellness Travel Etiquette

Can United’s New Procedure Fix the Boarding Crunch?

United Airlines is testing a new boarding procedure that it hopes will provide a better customer experience, with less crowding and more efficient boarding. According to the company’s website:

We’re dedicated to providing convenience and comfort throughout your journey with United and are always looking for ways to improve your overall experience. Our customers have told us they want a better experience when boarding, so we’re working to improve the process by testing a new boarding method at various airports across our network.

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So what is the new boarding process?

As always, passengers will be assigned to five different groups, depending on their seat location, ticket type, frequent-flyer status, and so on. But instead of the current five boarding lanes, the new scheme uses only two lanes.

Group 1 and Group 2 passengers will board first, through Lane 1 and Lane 2. When they’re onboard, the remaining groups will be boarded, in order, through Lane 2. Lane 1 will be left open, to accommodate late arrivals from Groups 1 and 2.

The trick here is keeping passengers seated until their group numbers are called, thereby reducing the congestion that inevitably chokes off the entrance to the jetway. If United can successfully encourage or enforce that behavior, the result should be a calmer, less stressful boarding experience. Problem: solved.

On the other hand, it seems to be human nature to want to be first in line, and it’s easy to imagine members of Groups 3 through 5 ignoring gate agents’ requests to remain seated and loitering at the entrance to Lane 2, long before they’ve been called to board. Problem: unsolved.

Reader Reality Check

Does this seem like a tenable solution, or not?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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Categories
Booking Strategy Frequent Flyer In-Flight Experience Travel Trends

And the World’s Leading Airline Brand Is … Aeroflot?

It’s often said that data, sufficiently tortured, can lead to any conclusion. Along those lines, sometimes poll results leave you convinced that the data must have been screaming in agony.

Case in point: the results of the 24th World Travel Awards, self-described by the sponsor as “the ultimate travel accolade.”

The same company operates the World Golf Awards, the World Ski Awards, and the World Spa Awards, so presumably they know something about polling. And the results at first blush seem to accord with those of other more prestigious polls. Among them:

  • World’s leading airline: Singapore Airlines
  • World’s leading airline – first class: Emirates
  • World’s leading airline alliance: oneworld
  • World’s leading airport: Singapore Changi
  • World’s leading business travel agency: American Express

No qualms with those picks. They might differ somewhat from mine, but I wouldn’t discount them as out of hand. They’re reasonable, and don’t leave me questioning the reliability of the award survey itself.

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But other picks are more likely to raise eyebrows: Hainan Airlines appears on the list five times (best business class, best inflight entertainment, best business-class lounge, best cabin crew, best inflight service) more than any other carrier. Really?

Emirates’ Skywards is the world’s best loyalty program. Huh?

And what for me was the strangest: Russian carrier Aeroflot was picked as the World’s Leading Airline Brand. That goes beyond questionable; it’s downright laughable.

This all raises the question: According to whom? World Travel Awards says that “the votes come from qualified executives working within travel and tourism and the consumer travel buyer.” There’s no information about the number of voters participating or the number of votes received. Where the voters come from. How often they travel.

These seem to be outlier results, and there’s a lack of transparency regarding methodology: Two big red flags.

The takeaway: Always consider the source of information before you use it to choose your travel.

Reader Reality Check

Is there a case to be made that Aeroflot is the world’s leading airline brand? Comment below.

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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Categories
Booking Strategy

Travel Agents’ Favorite Airlines, Hotels, Cruise Lines

Travel agents aren’t like the rest of us. We occasionally consume travel; they sell it every day. We’re amateurs; they’re pros.

[st_content_ad]When it comes to opinions about travel services and suppliers, we have our own, based on our limited experience; they have their opinions, based on their experience, plus feedback from thousands of customers.

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Travel Weekly, a trade publication for travel agents, has just published results of its 2017 Readers Choice Awards, with the top vote-getters in 77 categories, including best airline, best hotel, best cruise line, best travel insurance, and so forth.

Here are some of the more consumer-relevant picks:

  • Best domestic airline: Delta
  • Best international airline: Virgin Atlantic
  • Best first/business class: Emirates
  • Best global network: United
  • Best airline overall: Delta
  • Best car rental: Hertz (both domestic and international)
  • Best domestic hotel chain: Marriott
  • Best luxury chain: Ritz-Carlton
  • Best upscale chain: Hilton
  • Best mid-priced chain: Hampton Inn
  • Best boutique chain: W Hotels
  • Best hotel chain overall: Marriott
  • Best domestic cruise line: Carnival
  • Best Caribbean line: Royal Caribbean
  • Best Europe line: Celebrity
  • Best luxury line: Crystal
  • Best cruise cuisine: Oceania
  • Best cruise line overall: Royal Caribbean

No doubt you have opinions on some of the above “best of” categories, as do I. Always room for a second opinion, right?

Reader Reality Check

Any strong disagreements with the travel agents’ opinions?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

[st_newsletter]

Categories
Airport Booking Strategy Frequent Flyer In-Flight Experience

JetBlue Has a New Boarding Scheme. It’s Complicated

To airline managers, an airplane sitting on the ground is a horror: an expensive asset failing to justify its expense. The goal is full utilization, which means keeping planes airborne as many hours as possible, with as many passengers on board as possible.

[st_content_ad]One key to maximizing utilization is timely turn-arounds, which require quick, orderly boarding. That would seem to be among an airline’s easiest tasks. Yet after more than a century of commercial air travel, there’s still no consensus on the best way to quickly fill a plane with passengers.

Some airlines board passengers by row; others board by cabin; and still others use a hybrid scheme that combines considerations of row and cabin and other factors.

While there’s no consistency among different airlines, travelers can at least expect consistency from flight to flight when flying the same carrier. Until, that is, the airline changes schemes.

That’s just what JetBlue did recently, replacing its row-by-row boarding with a new group-based approach, which boards passengers in the following order:

  • Pre-boarding for disabled passengers
  • Mosaic elite and Mint passengers
  • Even More Space passengers (Group A)
  • Active military and passengers with children in strollers or car seats
  • Group B
  • Group C
  • Group D
  • Group E
  • Everyone else

Naturally, JetBlue paints a rosy picture of the new process, touting its supposed benefits to passengers. In response to a request for more information regarding the reasons for the change and its effects, a JetBlue representative claimed the new procedure was designed to “reduce congestion on the jet bridge and in the aisles—and get customers on their way faster than ever.” As for its effects, “While the process is still new, we have been quite pleased with the results. Many customers and crewmembers have remarked on the ease and speed of boarding.”

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Is it really any faster than the old way? JetBlue customers commenting on FlyerTalk, a discussion board for frequent flyers, gave the new scheme mixed reviews.

According to one commenter:

I was on BOS -> ORD round trip yesterday morning/night, maybe it was just a predominantly business crowd, but it seemed really quick and easy boarding each way.

But another’s experience was less positive:

I can’t accurately say if there was a change in boarding time, as this was my first A321 flight, but both boardings (particularly outbound from BOS) seemed to take forever. Flight back wasn’t full, so that helped, but boarding was pretty slow, and gate agents seemed to be allowing long pauses between boarding groups (presumably to let the aisle clear out).

And there was at least one conspiracy theorist, who divined ulterior motives in the switch:

This won’t affect me but I would like to know the impetus for the switch. Seems needless unless they are going to upsell the boarding groups to nickel and dime people.

Indeed, for what’s being characterized as a customer benefit, the airline has been notably mum on the subject. Aside from an email to JetBlue’s elite Mosaic members, there has been suspiciously little communication about the change. No news release. No social media buzz. Nothing.

As a result, many JetBlue travelers have been taken by surprise when faced with the new boarding rules. Whether it’s ultimately deemed a pleasant surprise or not remains to be seen.

Reader Reality Check

Upgrade or downgrade: What’s your assessment of JetBlue’s new boarding process?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

[st_newsletter]

Categories
Beach Booking Strategy Frequent Flyer Island Luxury Travel

Save 35% on Award Nights at Starwood Resorts

There’s a school of thought that suggests that loyalty points are best used for high-end travel: first-class flights and stays at ritzy hotels.

That strategy is inherently dangerous, because for most travelers, it requires accumulating points over many years. And during that time, the value of those points will inevitably decline, as award prices rise. Devaluation is the name of the loyalty-program game.

Award discounts, like this one from Starwood, in effect restore some of points’ lost value, and make once-in-a-lifetime trips a bit more accessible to average travelers.

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Offer Details

Through March 5, 2018, Starwood Preferred Guest members can redeem 35 percent fewer points for award stays in suites at 11 participating hotels and resorts:

  • The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket
  • Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Paris
  • The St. Regis Punta Mita
  • Le Meridien Bora Bora
  • The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort
  • Vana Belle, a Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui
  • W Retreat Koh Samui
  • Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai
  • W Retreat & Spa – Maldives
  • The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
  • The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

The discounted rates may be used in conjunction with Starwood’s 5th Night Free offer.

Bookings at the discounted rates must be made by phone, direct with the Starwood customer contact center.

Deal or No Deal

The participating properties are mostly very high-end resorts, with very high-end award prices to match. So even with the discount, the award rates are pricey.

For example, a night at the Bora Bora Le Meridien, in French Polynesia, normally costs a whopping 60,000 points. The discounted rate of 39,000 points is better, but still a stretch.

On the other hand, the prices will probably never be lower than they are now, with the discount. So if a suite stay in an exotic locale is on your bucket list, and you’ve been accumulating points in the Starwood program, this might be the time to cash in those points.

Don’t forget to pack the sun screen.

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

[st_newsletter]

Categories
Airport Booking Strategy Business Travel Frequent Flyer In-Flight Experience Miles & Points

Paris Business-Class Flights for Just $1,300 Round-Trip

La Compagnie, an all-business-class airline based in France, is selling round-trip flights from Newark to Paris for just $1,300. And because it’s called the Family Trip Offer, the airline has cut the fare for kids ages 2 to 11 to $1,000.

This is a terrific deal for anyone who hates flying in sardine-can economy seats. Typical economy nonstops from the New York area in mid-July start at $1,063; the cheapest business-class seats on other lines start at around $4,600, and the La Compagnie business-class fare is actually $87 less than premium economy on Air France.

Granted, La Compagnie’s version of business class is not fully competitive with what you get on most of the giant airlines these days: The seats are “angle flat,” not “flat bed,” so you sleep on a flat surface that’s tilted a bit. Also, the meal service is a lot less elaborate. But La Compagnie’s business class is far better than anyone else’s premium economy, to say nothing of regular economy. For the price, this sale fare is a hard value proposition to resist.

The airline has indicated a sale end date of August 27, 2017; for travel between July 10 and September 3, but seats are limited. If you’re headed to France this summer, take a good look at La Compagnie; you aren’t likely to find a comparable deal anywhere.

More from SmarterTravel:

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Booking Strategy Frequent Flyer Luxury Travel

Amex Adds New Perk to $550 Platinum Rewards Card

With its eye-popping $550 annual fee, the American Express Platinum charge card has to work hard to justify its existence, especially now that the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is nipping at its heels, with its own long list of travel perks.

In recent months, American Express has upped the earning rate for travel spend on the card from three points to five points per $1. They added a $200 annual credit for Uber rides. They expanded the network of American Express airport lounges. Those moves were made with considerable fanfare, publicized with news releases and all the other communications outlets available to the Amex marketing team.

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By contrast, the newest Platinum benefit has been slipped into the list of card perks with uncharacteristic stealth. Replacing the card’s previous (and mostly useless) two-for-one deal on full-fare business-class tickets, the International Airline Program has been redesigned to provide discounts on premium-class tickets booked via American Express Travel on 18 participating airlines.

The details:

  • Discounts available on first, business, and premium-economy tickets, both refundable and non-refundable fares
  • Travel must begin and end in U.S. or select Canada gateways
  • Discount can be applied to up to eight tickets
  • Eligible for Pay with Points payments
  • $39 fee per ticket

The discount varies by airline, and presumably by flight; cardholders will have to call the Platinum Travel Service for a quote on specific itineraries. While the lack of transparency is concerning, cardholders posting on FlyerTalk, a forum for frequent travelers, are reporting significant discounts.

The new benefit isn’t by itself a compelling reason to pony up $550 for a Platinum card. But it’s certainly worth factoring into the calculation if you’re considering the card. And if you already have the Platinum card in your wallet, you’ll definitely want to see whether you can snag a better rate on your next premium-class international airline booking.

Reader Reality Check

Can you justify paying a $550 annual fee for the Platinum card?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

[st_newsletter]

Categories
Cities

Lucky me and Malaysia

Author: Krystina Marie Price
Email: pricelez@aol.com
Date of Trip: April 2006

“Lucky” wouldn’t be me. Nope. I’m not one of those. But every so often, I hear the universe creak open a door and I step in, or fly away…

During last year’s meeting of the National Business Travel Association in San Diego, I watched my arm shoot up to claim the door prize — a ticket to Kuala Lumpur (locally known simply as “KL”) on Malaysia Air. Consistently honored with 5 Stars for its amiable flight crew and celebrated cuisine, Malaysia Airlines had refitted business class with personal pods, big enough to stretch-out or actually lie down during the 18-hour trip across the International Dateline. Note: the “Gold Club” lounge at LAX provides pleasant service before boarding, but on the return trip the cuisine and lounge were much finer at the Kuala Lumpur Airport (home to Malaysia Airlines). I left the crowds behind to relax while awaiting notice to board first, convinced that the airline lounge alone is reason to consider a business class upgrade.

The legendary Ritz Carlton became my favorite hotel when returning from exploring KL’s late night markets. Indeed, I was very happy to feel at home at this first-class boutique hotel.

After two days of maneuvering through warm, torrential downpours, my soggy shoes squished on the rug as yet again, I handed over my dripping umbrella to the doorman. “Welcome home, Ms. Price.” he said, as he guided me safely into the lobby.

The clubby Executive Suite provides business or vacation travelers with tasty bites and delightful sweets paired with libations to suit your hearts desire, elegantly served – any time of day.

The elaborate breakfast buffet is a tasting adventure. I suggest sampling the vast assortment of the freshest Asian, as well as Western, favorites. Each dish is imaginatively prepared by visible chefs and served by personal waiters. For lunch, you might try dim sum at Li Yen, the Ritz’s own 5-star Award winning Cantonese restaurant.

A Concierge is available, and for special needs, a live butler is offered with all of the 248 rooms. Overall service is personal, precise and very dependable. On your own, sorting out transportation is easily done by stopping in one of the many local tourist offices.

Tip: Advance reservations are key to using Air Asia as the most economical way to get around most of the continent. The business services are efficient and offer everything including state of the art conference rooms and free broadband. The family you left behind in the morning light might be enjoying the fitness center, pool or a treatment in the divine Tropical Spa Village. On your own, you might step outside to Bin tang Walk, the street that leads to Kuala Lumpur Plaza and Starhill, Malaysia’s most exclusive shopping mall. Marble and plush carpeting mark this elegant space as surely one of the world’s most spectacular spaces filled with the finest designer shops.

If you miss the legendary Central Market, night markets are plentiful. Chinatown on Petaling St. is a mass of bustling hawker stalls selling designer knock offs, and includes a very colorful and aromatic food court. The entire area is flanked by restaurants serving authentic, Chinese regional cuisine, shops selling herbal medicines, toys, textiles, and electronics. Very attractive prices make it a shopper’s delight, and with the required bargaining, you will bring it home for even less.

Muslims abstain from alcohol so you won’t find a convenient liquor store located around the corner, but you can count on the hotels and most eateries offering beer and wine. At night, Bin tang Walk vibrates with the excitement of evening entertainment. American favorites fill the air. I couldn’t resist taking a hometown bow after joining a rendition of “Hotel California.”

Inspired by the 5 Pillars of Islam, it’s hard to miss the gleaming 88-story Petronas Twin Towers. Soaring 452 meters above the city skyline, they are the world’s tallest. The centerpiece of the ultramodern KL City Center, the Towers are home to the Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Petronas Performing Arts Group.

If your time is limited, the Menara Kuala Lumpur Tower, also known as “The Jewel in the Sky” is a great spot to decide which attractions would suit you best. Conveniently located in the vicinity of KL’s hotel district, visitors can learn about and see the entire “Garden City of Light” from its observation deck or watch a panoramic view from its revolving restaurant. At 421 meters, is the world’s 4th tallest Tower. Situated atop Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, it’s the transmission station for KL’s telecommunications, radio and TV.

Safety shouldn’t be of concern, as Kuala Lumpur is one of the world’s safest capitals. However, allow some extra travel time to cover one of KL’s colossal traffic jams.

Feet often progress faster than traffic moves in KL, so after hoofing all over town, I had a Thai massage. Legitimate shops are open well into the night, but beware that the firm touch of Thai massage is not for the timid. An hour later, for the equivalent of about $6.00, I felt truly revived and assured that the circulation in my legs was much better.

A few Muslim females dressed in Burkas crossed my path at airport stopovers. In Taipei, I was fascinated by a very mysterious woman traveling with her two children. Her eyes were very beautiful but the rest of her face was hidden by a short black veil. As she climbed on the escalator behind them, I noticed her exposed hands and arms were covered in Henna Tattoos. It was the real thing and kind of scary. I feel Malaysia’s Muslim females wear the Tudung with a great deal of pride. Their large, pastel scarves were often elegantly bejeweled and artfully draped over shoulders of tailored uniforms, designer jeans or everyday clothes. And not one was having a bad hair day! They were a cultural eye opener. The Muslim men I encountered were very kind to me and seemed to enjoy a quiet strength which I attribute to their devotion to faith and family.

Once a multi-Colonial possession, these days KL is a spotless, industrial, international city poised and inviting as a world-class destination. Whether planning a business trip or a Club Med vacation in the area, include enough time to discover Kuala Lumpur. They’re waiting to meet you. Besides the shopping, did I mention the food is wonderful?

Malaysians love their food. In addition to aromatic herbs such as lemongrass, anise, cloves, cumin, caraway and cinnamon, coconut milk is usually added to rice and curry which makes it rich and creamy. The best Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine is said to be found for a few coins at stalls in hawker centers.

NOTE: Above all, don’t miss this opportunity to try the local street fare. However, it’s important to schedule a Hepatitis A shot before leaving home or stopping in one of the many hospitals the minute you arrive. My doctor tells me that even if you never leave the States, a hepatitis A shot is a good investment for future health.

If you are a “foodie” and traveling with a group, regional variations are taught in cooking classes available everywhere. Know that there is a 4 person minimum before you check the internet.

On my next trip to Malaysia, I will be seriously looking into surgery vacations, but that’s another story and the question will be, “Do I feel lucky?”

If my Kuala Lumpur adventure is enough to get you on a plane to Malaysia, visit their official tourism website: http://www.tourism.gov.my/corp/default.asp. To reach me: pricelez@msn.com.

Categories
Booking Strategy In-Flight Experience Luxury Travel

JetBlue Offers More Mint Service (But No More $399 Fares)

JetBlue’s premium lie-flat Mint service is killing it. Which, according to the law of the marketplace, means there’ll be more of it, at higher prices.

In 2014, when JetBlue launched Mint, its premium lie-flat service, between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco, it was mostly seen as a limited response to the premium services offered by the full-service carriers on those especially competitive routes.

But then JetBlue added Mint service between Boston and Seattle. And Boston and Barbados. And New York and Aruba. And New York and Barbados.

And there’s more Mint service in the pipeline, with flights now on sale for upcoming Mint flights between New York and both Las Vegas and San Diego, and between Boston and both San Diego and St. Maarten. In addition, more Mint flights will be brought online in several existing markets.

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By year-end, JetBlue will offer Mint cabins on one in every 14 flights, amounting to around 70 flights per day.

Conspicuously missing from JetBlue’s news release regarding the latest Mint flights was any mention of the price. That’s a significant change from the initial marketing of the service, which loudly and proudly trumpeted Mint fares “as low as $399.” A quick test booking for flights between New York and Los Angeles showed Mint fares ranging between $809 and $1,604 each way, hardly the bargain they were initially.

Although JetBlue didn’t disclose Mint load factors, the fact that the service is being expanded and prices are being raised is a sure indicator that sales are strong. Which means the days of $399 tickets are likely long gone, if not forgotten. But still, viewed either as a premium over the price of coach or compared to comparable-service prices on other airlines, Mint airfares remain a relative bargain.

Reader Reality Check

How much are you willing to spend to fly in JetBlue’s Mint class?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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Categories
Booking Strategy Frequent Flyer

Earn Up to 50,000 Bonus American Miles for S. Pacific Flights

Planning a visit to the South Pacific? These bonuses for American flights or Qantas-operated flights booked under American flight numbers can make the trip a more lucrative one.

Offer Details

American AAdvantage members can earn up to 50,000 bonus miles for flights between the U.S. and Australia or New Zealand, booked by January 31 and completed between February 1, 2017, and May 31, 2017.

Registration is required, using promotion code SPF16.

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Bonuses are awarded as follows:

  • Economy fares (Y, H, K, M, L, W, V, G, Q, N, O, S) – 1,500 miles for the first one-way flight; 2,500 for the second; 5,000 for the third. Total: 9,000 bonus miles for three one-ways
  • Business-class fares (J, R, D, I) – 5,000 miles for the first one-way flight; 7,500 for the second; 12,500 for the third. Total: 25,000 bonus miles for three one-ways
  • First-class fares (F, P, A) – 10,000 miles for the first one-way flight; 15,000 for the second; 25,000 for the third. Total: 50,000 bonus miles for three one-ways

The bonuses may be earned for a maximum of three one-way flights.

Deal or No Deal

The headlined 50,000-mile bonus after three first-class one-way flights is, indeed, headline-worthy. Even the roundtrip bonus of 25,000 miles is high value.

The business-class bonuses are decent, but only half as compelling as those for first class.

The coach bonuses, for such long, expensive flights, are uninspiring. And you’ll have to check to confirm that your ticket is in one of the eligible fare classes.

It’s a mixed bag, in other words. Which is better than no bag at all.

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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Categories
Airport Business Travel In-Flight Experience

9 Thoughts You Have Your First Time Flying Business Class

It’s a moment every traveler dreams about. You scan your ticket at the gate, walk through the jet bridge, arrive at the entrance of the plane, and turn left. Goodbye economy, you’ve got a business-class ticket for your international flight.

Whether you lucked out on a work trip, saved up your points, or just decided to treat yourself to a little luxury in the sky, flying business class for the first time is a milestone moment for every travel addict. You’ve had plenty of long-haul hours in coach to fantasize about the posh amenity kits and lie-flat seating, but when you arrive, it will be so much more than you ever imagined.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to fly business class for the first time on a Turkish Airlines flight from New York to Istanbul. Here’s what went through my mind.

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Jamie Ditaranto flew business class courtesy of Turkish Airlines. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.