Want to travel all around the world in business class? We’ve talked about the ANA Round the World chart before, but this week on Frequent Miler on the Air, Greg explains some of his latest finds regarding this powerful Star Alliance award. Then I discuss why you might not want to book with ANA but instead get creative with Air Canada Aeroplan’s flexible routing rules to book a similarly-impressive trip with an even bigger range of carrier options and no need to worry about carrier surcharges.
Elsewhere on the blog this week, Greg clarifies a number of Air France / KLM Flying Blue sweet spots, Marriott seizes the opportunity to dash away customer goodwill, Chase pours on the weaksauce and more. Watch, listen, or read on for more — but be aware that the Frequent Miler on the Air will be delayed this week due to issues with my transatlantic flight this morning. Both audio and video should be available by late afternoon — my apologies for the delay to those of you who typically listen on Saturday mornings. The video and timestamps will be embedded in this post when available (check back later today).
1:25 Giant Mailbag: About those Virgin Atlantic awards . . .
3:45 3 Cards, 3 Continents, 3 Updates
5:45 What crazy thing…did Marriott Bonvoy do this week?
8:41 Awards we booked this week
14:45 Main Event: How to book round the world awards
15:27 ANA Round the World
40:40 Using Air Canada Aeroplan to achieve similar goals
53:25 How do you handle an early morning arrival at London (or in general)?
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This week at Frequent Miler
As we hoped would be the case, our #3Cards3Continents challenge is already producing some valuable finds. As Greg has dug into actually booking an ANA Round the World trip, he discovered a number of useful tips — including that some carrier combinations allow a 72hr hold, the fact that a number of different types of changes can be made for free, and when you need to call to actually get through to an agent. If you’re interested in this terrific award chart sweet spot, you’ll want to check out this post.
I recently spent a week in Malta at the Westin Dragonara Resort. Malta was wonderful. I look forward to going back again someday and when I do I imagine I’ll likely stay at the Westin again. This isn’t a property I’d look to as a destination itself, but it’s a solid value for Marriott Platinum and higher elite members given a decent club lounge and extensive restaurant breakfast. Service mostly exceeded expectations; it always makes a difference in the quality of the stay when people generally seem to enjoy working in a customer service job — there were plenty of those people at the Westin Dragonara.
Stephen writes about a new overlapping opportunity between a Chase partnership and Chase Offer that could get you free use of a lounge or perhaps a hotel fitness center and pool while you’re stuck on a long layover. I actually find this pretty interesting as I could see it being appealing to run to a nearby hotel pool with my kids on a long layover. That said, I probably wouldn’t want to pay the membership fee for multiple people and then also pay the fee to buy points. However, while this is free, I might consider it as we probably will have a number of flights coming up over the next six months and we might be able to put this to good use.
This is a neat little trick to get around an award search annoyance that will certainly be handy for those who search for Flying Blue awards. I also like Greg’s tip about calendar view, but I caution you to only have about 23% faith in whatever the calendar says — I often find that the Air France calendar doesn’t always show the lowest price as it should. If you’re looking around a specific set of dates, it’s still probably worth checking each date separately (and then the hourglass tip comes in handy!).
I certainly like a hidden sweet spot and Greg has uncovered a little gem in the update here that may come in handy for me either on a family trip or on #3Cards3Continents. Either way, I’ll raise a glass of sparkling beverage to Greg in-flight if it works out. To be clear, intra-European business class is nothing to get excited about. but a little extra baggage allowance and more space to spread out on the plane for fewer miles sounds good to me.
On last week’s Frequent Miler on the Air, we talked about Virgin Atlantic’s expanded award availability and how Air France would be the best way to book those awards. While that is theoretically true, it turns out that this expanded award space mostly isn’t being made available to Air France, so you’ll be stuck booking it via Virgin Atlantic and paying their exorbitant fees if you want to take advantage.
Honestly, I’m kind of surprised that Chase is only offering Marriott Gold status as a 3-month fast track challenge rather than a standard renewing benefit. Offering it this way just makes the CSR look weak in comparison to the Amex Platinum card (which is something it already did just fine on its own considering the difference in welcome bonuses throughout the pandemic). I’m not saying that people shouldn’t take advantage of this if it’ll be helpful, just that I’m disappointed that Chase handled it this way.
I sometimes feel like Marriott gets hit with an unfair amount of criticism because with so many properties and members there are bound to be enough poor customer service stories to make it seem like it’s all doom and gloom even when it isn’t. But then they turn around and do something like this and I lose all sympathy I was tempted to muster. Clearly Marriott didn’t mean for these awards to get extended again, but given how rarely suite upgrades clear anyway, it couldn’t possibly have cost them more in dollars and cents to let this extension slide than it does in goodwill to appear customer-friendly and immediately take it back. Marriott still has properties that I would be excited to visit, but decisions like this don’t make me excited about Marriott Bonvoy.
When people asked where to transfer Brex miles, my leading candidate was Avianca LifeMiles (with the caveat that you need to be ready to deal with the short 12-month expiration policy). This transfer bonus solidifies things for me: the rest of our Brex points will go to LifeMiles and I’ll be happy with 25% more than I was expecting. While I don’t usually include transfer bonuses in our week in review post, this one seemed worth a highlight since most of those readers with Brex points need to redeem them within the next month or so before small business accounts are closed.
That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Keep an eye on this week’s last chance deals to make sure you don’t miss your chances to score a little win.