Alaska Airlines joining oneworld alliance

In breaking travel news, Alaska Airlines will be joining the oneworld alliance sometime in summer 2021.

This news is both huge and surprising, as Alaska has been cutting ties in recent years with former partner American Airlines. I’m sure the news is especially well-received among oneworld members, as they recently lost LATAM (which was a significant loss, since it was their only Latin American-based carrier).

My thoughts: I’m a bit uneasy about this change, as my fear is that the following will be (negatively) affected:

  • How you earn status on Alaska (currently, pretty easy and based on the actual miles you fly regardless of how much you spend on your tickets)
  • Redemption rates for Alaska partners (an example of a redemption rate that I don’t want to lose is that you can redeem 55,000 Alaska miles for business class to New Zealand or Australia on Qantas)
  • Alaska partners (currently Alaska has a hodgepodge of great airline partners and they may lose some, like Emirates and Singapore, by joining oneworld)

That said, as a San Francisco-based traveler, this makes the prospect of status on Alaska makes a lot more since it’s hubbed in SFO and I can fly American Airlines for my international trips with oneworld status.

What are your thoughts on Alaska joining oneworld? Let me know in the comments!

As low as $2,003 round-trip for business class between San Francisco and Europe on American/British Airways

There are some great business class deals to Europe right now from San Francisco! I recently booked one-way from Paris, France to San Francisco (via Lisbon) on TAP Portgual’s new A330neo for $1,160, which I considered to be a pretty good deal.

But if you’re looking for round-trip travel, you’re in even more luck. Using Google Flights, I was able to find the following deals:

  • San Francisco to Barcelona for $2,003 (April 6-14, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Lisbon for $2,034 (April 7-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Budapest for $2,040 (January 1-9, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Brussels for $2,040 (April 7-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Milan for $2,063 (January 2-9, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Paris for $2,082 (April 7-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Berlin for $2,084 (April 8-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Mallorca, Spain for $2,129 (April 7-16, 2020)

These are just samples, and although the lowest prices are largely for the middle of April, you can find other fares for only a few hundred more within a few months of those dates.

This would also make for a great status trip run — the San Francisco to Paris deal above would net you 23,996 elite qualifying miles (EQMs) and 9,510 award miles on American Airlines.

American Airlines bonus points snafu

If you read my blog every now and again, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for a great credit card sign-up bonus. Less than a year ago, I signed up for the American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Business card, which came with a 75,000 AAdvantage mile bonus (worth approximately $1,050 according to The Points Guy, although I redeemed 70,000 of these miles for a Qatar QSuite from Chicago to the Madlvies, so I received a value of about $5,680).

In April, I was pretty excited when I received the following e-mail from Aviator Mastercard:

American Airlines promo 1

As an attorney, I knew to check beyond this and look at the actual terms of this offer, which read:

American Airlines promo 2.jpg

The promotion seemed easy enough – spend $2,000 on my card in May, June, and July and received a total of 5,000 bonus AAdvantage miles. Game on.

In May, I spent $2,121.36 on the card and received the following e-mail from Aviator Mastercard:

American Airlines promo 3.jpg

I decided to keep going with my spending so that I could receive the full promotion –  in June, I spent $2,061.68 on the card and in July, I spent $2,177.82.

The terms said that it takes 6-8 weeks after the promotion ends to receive the miles, and I decided to call on September 13th (6 weeks after the program ended) just to check up the status, since I haven’t received any of the miles yet.

I thought it was going to be a quick call, but was shocked when the representative on the phone told me that I actually didn’t qualify for the full bonus because I didn’t meet the May requirement. She told me that the promotion wasn’t actually based on spending $2,000 in May, rather it was spending $2,000 on the May statement (mine ended May 20th, and some of my purchases came in after that).

I asked her where in the terms it said that, telling her I had them in front of me. She said she couldn’t point me to it, but that it’s something I should have already known. I asked her about the e-mail I received saying that I made the bonus in May, and she couldn’t answer why that came through, so I asked to speak with her manager.

After about a half-hour on the phone, the manager (who was in a real rush to get me off the phone), said that the person I spoke with the first time was correct – that the bonus was based on the May statement, rather than me spending $2,000 to May. Again, she had no answer why I received an e-mail saying I met the May spending requirement, and said that she would escalate it.

I asked her for an e-mail address or contact where I could forward the e-mail saying I met the May bonus, but she said it doesn’t exist. She said I would be called back within 24 hours, although it’s now 2 days out and that hasn’t happened yet

I’m pretty upset over this and am considering cancelling my American card altogether (the only reason I still have it is priority boarding). Things like this never happen with my American Express, which is quickly becoming my card-of-choice.

I let American Airlines know that I’ll be filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (pro-tip: this is a great way to get companies to respond when you’ve been “wronged”), and hope I’m able to get these points soon.

American Airlines confirms imminent move to dynamic pricing

The senior vice president of revenue management for American Airlines confirmed today, while speaking at the Bernstein’s 35th Annual Strategic Decisions Conference, that American Airlines will soon be moving to a dynamic pricing model.

This is being heavily reported on a number of leading travel blogs, including The Points Guy. Importantly, the move to dynamic pricing may happen as soon as July 31, 2019, so if you are holding onto American Airlines miles, you may want to consider them using right away since dynamic pricing almost always leads to a drastic devaluation of miles/points held.

American Airlines is following in the shoes of Delta and United, the latter just announcing the switch to dynamic pricing in April.

I definitely expected American Airlines to make the switch, but wish they had given customers more time. I absolutely love their current business class redemption rates to Asia (I was recently able to score a 70,000 point business class ticket on Qatar Airways, in their QSuite), which I’ve found to be one of the best deals around.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see what these awards will look like after they make the move. But I’m not at all optimistic.

American Airlines keeps getting worse and worse

Less than 2 years ago, I held Gold elite status on American Airlines, despite being based in a non-American hub (San Francisco).

Flash-forward to today, where I’ve not only gotten rid of my American status, but I’ve also canceled two of my American Airlines co-branded credit cards and where I’m actively avoiding the airline.

Why? Well, a few reasons.

The first was American Airlines eliminating its partnership with Alaska Airlines. While I totally understand that this happens, my issue here was that American Airlines announced the change in July 2017, which was a big deal to me, since I had already spent 7 months earning miles on Alaska Airlines (I was going for status on Alaska with my American flights because, up until American cutting the partnership, status on Alaska was basically the same as having as status on American, and vice versa).

Another reason is that customer service on American Airlines has gone completely downhill. One of my favorite travel bloggers, Lucky at One Mile at a Time, has written a ton of blog posts about this (and so have many others in the travel blogging community). If you don’t have status and end up needing to call American, except to speak to someone who is completely unfriendly, unhelpful, and trying to get you off the phone completely.

Third, American Airlines award available has quite recently turned to crap. I had 140,000 miles to use and couldn’t find reasonable routing to Europe or South America over the last 2 years (which I know is such an awesome problem to have, but it’s still an issue). If you want to book something using miles with American, particularly if it’s a “Saver” route, expect to be routed to 2-3 different airports, even if there are more direct flights generally available. Also, when you try to book business class, you’ll often get a mixed cabin award, with the longest flight actually being in economy (so, for instance, I wanted to book a business class flight between SFO and Sydney, and while the rate they wanted to charge me was full-fare business class, only the flight between LAX and SFO was in business, and the flight from LAX to Sydney was in coach).

Finally, American Airlines has completely slashed its credit card benefits and has made it almost impossible for travelers like myself (who find awesome deals) to get anything above Gold status. They even eliminated the ability to earn EQD through their famous Red Aviator card.

Just 2 years ago, I would have ranked American Airlines as the 3rd best in the U.S. (below Alaska/Virgin and Delta). Now, I rank it 6th, below Alaska, Delta, United, JetBlue, and Southwest.

American Airlines limits EQD waiver through Barclaycard

In recent years, Delta, United, and American have instituted a rule that in order to qualify for elite status, you need to spend a certain amount of money on flights through the airline. American Airlines calls these Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD).

Below is a chart for how to qualify for American elite status:

American Elite

So, for example, if you wanted to earn Platinum status, you would need to fly either 50,000 miles or 60 segments and you would need to spend $6,000 EQD’s.

The EQD requirement is a major hassle for travelers like myself who are able to amass this much travel by spending very little (I’ll get 50,000 miles on United this year with EQD’s of around $1,200).

But, luckily, all three airlines (Delta, American, and United) had a workaround — if you spend at least $25,000 on a co-branded credit card, the EQD requirement would be waived until at least the third-highest-level status (Platinum Pro on American and Platinum on United).

I’m trying to decide if I want to keep my American Airline Barclaycard, so was looking at the benefits and noticed a major change from American: now, if you spend $25,000 on the Barclaycard, you will only be given an EQD of $3,000 (enough for the lowest Gold status), but nothing more.

American sucks

This is a disappointing move from American and will make it so many loyal American customers will no longer be able to obtain status above Gold.

I’m still going to keep the card because of 3 other benefits that it offers: priority boarding, 10% back on miles spent on award flights, and great award travel availability. But my fear is that those benefits may disappear in the coming months as well.

Will American slashing the EQD waiver on the Barclaycard affect you? Let me know in the comments!

NAACP issues travel advisory for American Airlines

Citing a “pattern of disturbing incidents,” the NAACP is warning African Americans not to fly on American Airlines.

“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” the press release said. “Booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them to disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”

The organization then gave an account of four incidents which “suggest[ ] racial bias,” according to NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. An account of these incidents can be found here.

For a full write-up on this developing story, check out the NY Daily News.