There are enough people in the blogosphere talking about things like innovative spending strategies, gift cards, and whatnot. I rarely post about such things here for a few reasons. First, I’m not doing anything that anyone else isn’t. Second, I’m not any better at it than anyone else. Finally, everyone else is already posting about it, so why pile on? I use that space for cruise stuff. :) However, I can’t let the upcoming demise of Amazon Payments as we know it go by without saying a few words.

AP was good while it lasted. While the volumes weren’t massive, when you look at the big picture, 12,000 miles is 12,000 miles. I’d come to depend on my “arrangement” like an old friend, but come next month, my old friend will be gone. I have no doubt I’ll find a new one, but I’m going to take a little time to reflect. RIP – AP.

-MJ, September 12, 2014

MJ Logo5

File this under “life on the road.” I’m traveling on business this week with two colleagues. We’re in the Los Angeles area, arriving on Sunday so we can get in a full week of work. One of the guys I’m traveling with took care of renting the car. My first mistake was not looking at the rental car provider when I approved his travel. I found out walking to the shuttle bus pickup at LAX yesterday that the answer to that question - Thrifty. :( Thrifty and I just never have gotten along. Signing up for BlueChip has helped deal with lines in some locations, but I usually return a Thrifty car with a grateful heart that the whole thing is over. Another colleague of mine and I came up with some sayings during a particularly intensive travel period a few years ago: “Thrifty, where the bus is not swifty.” There was also “Dollar, where the wait will make you holler.” I digress.

Back to the rental car shuttle pickup at LAX. We waited…and waited. Then we waited some more. A perplexed looking fellow traveler looks at us and asks if we’re waiting for the Thrifty bus? We waited. My colleague called Thrifty to complain…and we waited. After 5 or 6 Hertz buses (not lost on me that Hertz now owns Thrifty), the same number of Avis and National…. and at least 2 of every other brand X rental car agency on the airport, the Thrifty bus appeared in the distance….and then skipped the rental car pickup outside the Delta terminal. I’d had enough.

I reached into my pocket for my iPhone and tapped the Hertz app. In the space of about 2 minutes I had researched options, and confirmed a reservation for a car at a quite reasonable rate just as the Hertz bus was parking in front of us. By the time we were turning onto the street heading to the Hertz facility, I had received a text with our car type and space number. We walked to the car, packed the trunk, and left. End of story. One could be forgiven for wondering if we’d still have been waiting for the Thrifty shuttle. Ironically, we passed the Thrifty office on our way to the 405, and it looked like a large crowd was just standing around trying to rent a car….or get to the airport.

Moral of the story – time is money, and Thrifty at LAX is firmly implanted on my no-drive list.

-MJ, September 8, 2014

MJ Logo5

 

Life on the road can be entertaining at times. When you fly an airline like Delta, which I’ve found to be extremely well-run and operationally sound, it’s notable when things go wrong. Flight 110, from ATL to LAX on September 7, started out well enough. I was number 9 for the upgrade with 18 empty seats up front on this 767-300 domestic bird. I cleared into 1C. Bulkheads aren’t ideal, but no one is reclining into my lap here. Life was good, and for the record, it still is as I wing my way to LAX.

Things got a little weird when my 8:10AM flight suddenly became an 8:05AM flight while I was sitting in the Sky Club. No worries, I had plenty of time, but did make my way to the gate a little earlier. I arrived just in time to hear the announcement that boarding was delayed while the aircraft was cleaned. Delayed boarding vs. earlier departure? Things that make you go hmmm. Eventually, we boarded, and I took my seat. Boarding was progressing nicely, and I was certain we would make our (original) departure. Things were getting buttoned up, and the first officer came on the P/A to welcome everyone, pausing in mid announcement. He came back to say that he’d stopped to let the ground know that they should not remove the ground power, then continued with his welcome. And then the airplane went dark. :)

It seems we were without an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), which explains the original good intent of buttoning up the airplane 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Having a little airline time in my book, there’s nothing unusual about that. You use ground power until the engines are started, which takes about 5 minutes on a good day. End of story. Except for today. From my vantage point of 1C, I could hear a good bit of the chatter between our pilots, operations, and the ground crew. Our pilots deserve a medal for keeping their cool, because I would probably have been chewing someone’s hind quarters after about 2 minutes.

To make a long story longer, we sat at the gate, unpowered for about 20 minutes until the ramp crew was able to get the ground power functioning again. This resulted in a reboot of not only the inflight entertainment, but the cockpit instrumentation and navigational systems as well. Once we got an engine started, we had to sit a little longer for the navigation systems to reset themselves. No sweat….until the airplane went dark again. You guessed it….another reboot of everything. Somehow, we managed to block out with only a 37 minute delay from our original 8:10am departure.

The cabin crew is stellar, and the pilots did a good job of keeping everyone informed while everything got worked out. Boo to whomever dropped the ball on getting the ramp crew informed that the airplane was without a functional APU. Really not a big deal in the scheme of things, but certainly a reminder of just how many things have to happen behind the scenes to get to this -

IMG_1585

 

-MJ, September 7, 2014

I can’t deny that I am a big fan of Uber. I use the black car service more than the shared ride uberX option, but certainly use both. In some cities, uber offers uberXL service which is basically shared SUV rides. If you have a large party (up to 6 according to uber), consider booking uberXL instead of uberX. UberXL isn’t everywhere, but there’s good news for Atlanta-based uber lovers as uberXL is now available here in the ATL.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 12.34.01 PM

Uber is a welcome addition to the Atlanta transportation market, and uberX and uberXL are welcome competition to taxis. If you haven’t tried uber, use the link on my Thank You page to sign up. You get up to $30 off your first ride, and I get the same for my next.

-MJ, September 5, 2014

Even though SkyMiles 2015 doesn’t start until January 1, Delta flyers know that dollars spent already matter when it comes to your elite status next year. Now, in addition to miles flown, dollars spent are figured into your elite Medallion status qualification for next year.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 8.24.59 AM

Delta flyers are also aware that if you spend at least $25,000 on your SkyMiles Amex, you get a waiver of the MQD requirement. While I haven’t hit that number on my Delta Amex yet, I will. So if the MQD waiver is there, why should anyone care about MQDs? A matter of principle. Delta makes the rules here, and the least they can do is ensure MQDs get credited when earned. I was going through my flights for the year recently and found this.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 8.18.08 AM

I did not receive MQDs from a fairly expensive short-haul flight on the second leg of a roundtrip flight. I wrote Delta and pointed out the missing MQDs. To Delta’s credit, I received a response the same day.

We are aware that MQDs are not posting correctly for some tickets issued
in our system.  Often these MQDs are associated with flights which
experienced some sort of delay or cancellation.  Please understand, our
SkyMiles Leadership team has been working diligently with our IT team to
repair the problem.  We have forwarded the ticket information for these
flights and ask that you allow 8 to 10 weeks for the requested flights
to be corrected.  We regret any frustration or inconvenience this has
caused and thank you for your patience.

Thank you for your support as a Platinum Medallion member and for
trusting your business to us.  Be assured, we will make every attempt to
serve you well; we are focused on the future and look forward to our
continued business relationship.”

So, Delta is aware of the problem, and they are working to fix it. That’s good. The email points out that the SkyMiles leadership team is working with IT to fix it, and they’ve identified an issue when flights experience some sort of delay or cancellation. That did not happen on this particular flight, but I did same day confirm onto a later flight than I originally booked. Could be a useful data point in watching your MQD balance.

In the end, this isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but if you are a Medallion elite that does not carry any of Delta’s Amex products (and I know there are some), it matters. Mind your MQDs, especially if there is a delay, cancellation, or other change to your original booking.

-MJ, September 5, 2014

 

It’s not often that I am disappointed with Delta Air Lines. They run, without question IMHO, the best airline operation in the USA. They deliver a reliable and desirable product. The airline is in a word, solid. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the company, its managers, and its employees. That hasn’t changed, but things like this annoy me:

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 3.38.07 PM

I’m referring to Delta’s decision to prohibit ExpertFlyer from displaying any information related to Delta. I use ExpertFlyer weekly to inform my travel decisions, and I think Delta’s decision is regrettable at best. In truth, I suspect those of us that use ExpertFlyer frequently represent a fraction of Delta’s customer base, and a not much greater percentage of their Medallion customer base. I’d love to be wrong about that, but I’m likely not. Has life as I know it come to an end? No. Do I think Delta “hates customers?” No. Am I disappointed in Delta for making this decision? Yes, I am. Do I think Delta cares what I think? No, and maybe that’s the most disappointing thing of all.

-MJ, September 1, 2014

 

I recently completed a First Class transcon flight aboard American’s new A321T aircraft. It was a great flight, and I posted a trip report here. One thing barely touched on was the first class amenity kit. It’s a perfectly sized little bag with the things one might need on a flight. As far as I can tell, it’s the same kit they hand out in Business Class on their international flights.

IMG_0001

Inside the kit are socks, eye shades, ear plugs, tissues, lotions, lip balm, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a small pen. Just what one needs on a flight.

IMG_0004

It’s a pretty basic kit, but I can’t think of anything else I’d want, so I’ll call it perfectly serviceable. Knowing that many readers like to collect things like this, I thought I’d give the kit away. It is unused other than taking the contents out for the photo above. All you have to do is comment to this post with anything travel related, and can even be your own thoughts on the A321T service, amenity kit, etc. Just keep it clean. I’ll pick the winner via random.org tomorrow at noon EDT here in Atlanta.

CONTEST CLOSED – Winner TBA

I’m traveling today, and I was right at the point where I needed to decide, lunch at Fridays or just snacks in the club. Knowing that Delta has recently upgraded its food options in the Sky Club, I elected to just head straight for the Sky Club. The T Sky Club in Atlanta has always been a favorite of mine. It still has the old-school Crown Room feel and furnishings (not that there’s anything wrong with the more modern Sky Club decor), is quiet (usually), and happened to be next to my departure gate. While this wasn’t my first visit since the new food rolled out, it was the first one where I had the time and inclination to sample.

IMG_1565

 

One of my favorite bartenders recommended the chicken salad last week, so seeing that it was available today, I went for it. The bartender was correct – the cranberry chicken salad was quite tasty! I rolled with that, cheese spread, veggies, and the Italian Wedding Soup. Turns out, it was a pretty good lunch, all for the price of admission that is included with my Amex Platinum Card!

A few observations – I was in the club the morning after the new food options were rolled out. There was a manager in the club training staff on the new food. I’ve been in the Sky Club 4 times since, and each time, someone on the staff has asked me what I thought. I’ve been honest – it’s improved, and I appreciate it. It isn’t foreign airline lounge class, but it’s certainly tops for complimentary lounge food for the big legacy US airlines, I think. Have you tried the new food? What did you think?

-MJ, August 27, 2014

I’m going to tip-toe into the subject that blew up the blogosphere on Sunday/Monday. You won’t find the next big thing in these comments, but will find a reiteration of what I’ve been saying for a long time. Just a little history at a very high level:

  • Sometime Sunday (as far as I can tell), news hit the interweb of a potential major devaluation of BA Avios based on an award chart posted by Iberia
  • The world lights up
  • Many trips were booked (I hope so after all that noise)
  • Turns out that Iberia just made public an award chart that had been unpublished
  • A sense of calm ensues, and the world is declared right again

For the record, I have no idea if BA is going to change anything with Avios or not. I do have my doubts that 4,500 point one-way short haul awards (a sweet spot that has literally saved me thousands of dollars) are going to last forever, but that’s neither here nor there. What I do know is that along with death and taxes, a certainty in life is that the value of miles and points will not remain the same forever. I’d be lying if I told you that I don’t have an aspirational redemption or two in mind over the next year or so, and the points sitting in my pocket to pay for them when I am ready. That said, in general, I am burning miles and points the moment I can find a use for them that does not involve a toaster or new iPad.

Miles and points are easy enough to earn for now, and while I can’t deny that I like my miles, I try not to be overly emotional about them. Now, more than ever, don’t hoard, burn ‘em. It’ll make the inevitable shocks to the system like the recent Avios scare a lot more tolerable, and probably save you a few bucks on your travels too. YMMV.

-MJ, August 26, 2014

MJ Logo5

It’s been a busy week here at MJ on Travel. This week, we’ll have two hotels to review, a quick trip to take, and more. Last week, I was able to complete my trip report on the first class experience aboard American’s A321T, which I broke into two parts, ground services and boarding, then inflight services. One of my better uses of US Airways miles in a while. I just wish I could do that every weekend! Here’s a look at our weekly recap of posts at MJ on Travel.

And this week at MJ on Travel -

  • Hotel Review – Marriott Marquis, Washington, DC
  • Commentary – Airlines Are Complicated Businesses, but the Relationship With Their Customers Should Not Be

These travel topics, and no doubt more, this week at MJ on Travel.

-MJ, August 24, 2014

« previous home top

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.