United Airlines offering 2 free checked bags on flights between U.S. and China/Hong Kong

Matching some Asian competitors, including Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, starting today, United Airlines is offering 2 free checked bags for passengers flying between the U.S. and China/Hong Kong.

This policy also matches Delta’s for these destinations (although Delta’s free checked baggage policy applies to all of Asia for flights departing from/arriving in the U.S.).

Finnair to begin weighing passengers

Finnair, a part of the Oneworld Alliance, will begin weighing passengers and their carry-on luggage, as part of a voluntary program starting on October 31st.

The airline’s hope is to have more accurate data to calculate the balance of their planes. According to a local Finnish news report, the data Finnair currently uses for passenger weight is from a 2009 report from the European Aviation Safety Agency.

The information will be logged anonymously.

Weighing passengers before they fly isn’t unique to Finnair, though. The first time I was weighed on a flight was on a 5-person charter plane from Portland to Coos Bay, Oregon. Most recently, I was weighed before flying from Manila to El Nido in the Philippines and before boarding a helicopter on Kauai.

My fear is that Finnair and potentially other airlines will use this data to charge customers more, but I’m a fan of science and can’t be mad at them for wanting to get the balance of the plane right.

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.

United Airlines offering bonus miles to select customers

United Airlines is offering certain MileagePlus members bonus miles for money spent with the airline between September 15, 2017 and November 15, 2017.

Expedia.com

To find out if you qualify, follow this link.

I was eligible for this promotion and the offer I received was:

  • 5,000 bonus miles for $1,100 in purchases
  • 13,000 bonus miles for $1,400 in purchases

Although this offer is low (13,000 bonus miles = ~$162.50 at a $0.0125/mile valuation), there have been reports of offers worth over 95,000 miles depending on whatever funky calculation United is using.

While most flyers probably won’t book travel based on this offer, it’s worth signing up for and using if you are already planning on purchasing travel between now and mid-November.

H/T: Mommy Points

Flying AirSWIFT – the boutique Philippine airline with amazing service

El Nido is one of the most stunning places I have ever visited. However, it’s not the easiest place to get to.

The town, located on the north side of the island of Palawan, isn’t serviced by a major airport. Philippine Air only flies to Puerto Princessa, which is located about a 4-6 hour (bumpy) drive from El Nido.

Enter AirSWIFT. AirSWIFT, a small carrier based in Manila that, along with Cebu Pacific, offers the only flights directly into and out of El Nido. From the second you check into your flight, you can see why AirSWIFT’s motto is “Fly with Friends.”

Getting to check-in isn’t the easiest, though. If you are flying into Manila International Airport (MNL), you will need to transfer from the main terminal to Terminal 4, which hosts Air Swift and and a few airlines which seem to be more budget-conscious (don’t let this scare you from booking with AirSWIFT though).

Kiwi.com - Book Cheap Flights!

Although there is a free shuttle from the main terminal of MNL to Terminal 4, you will have cab drivers coming up to you, trying to charge you upwards of $10 USD for the ride. I ignored them and took the free shuttle, and when I got out, the driver asked me for payment for the ride. I was upset at the obvious shake-down, paid him about $1 USD to go away, and was upset when I got to check-in, so didn’t think the trip would be pleasant – luckily, I was so wrong!

If you’ve never flown in a small plane before, this might be a bit of a culture shock. Basically, they weigh you and your luggage at check-in. That’s right, you’ll need to step on a scale to fly. That said, only the person checking you in can see the weight and it’s for your own safety, so it’s probably better that they didn’t fly with only self-reported weights and guesstimates.

El Nido
Beautiful El Nido, Palawan

Terminal 4 is perfectly air conditioned with excellent WiFi (neither of which you’ll be getting when you land in El Nido). After you check in and go through security, you can get massages for around $4 USD and there are a handful restaurants. You should skip both at first, though, and head to the AirSWIFT counter to check in where they will be waiting for you with a sandwich bag of goodies, including a sandwich, chips, and brownies. This was the moment I knew I was in for a good trip.

The crowd flying the MNL to El Nido (ENI) route is generally younger, 20-something year old backpackers, although you’ll see some families as well and perhaps a curmudgeonly lawyer like myself if you’re lucky enough.

When you get onto the plane, you’ll see that it’s small, but comfortable. If you can, try and secure a seat on the left-side of the airplane for the killer approach.

Palawan Approach.JPG
Arriving into El Nido from the left-side of the plane.

The flight is 1 hour and 15 minutes and is stunningly beautiful almost the entire time, so you don’t need to worry about in-flight entertainment. If you do want in-flight entertainment, be sure to bring a book, as there are no screens, no WiFi, and nothing to read other than safety instructions.

When you land, you are greeted by a group of woman singing a welcome song, and are greeted with free drinks. It takes around 15-30 minutes for your luggage to be brought from the plane, for them to inspect your luggage (they open each bag in front of you), and to go out to find your “cab,” which is really just a motorcycle with a sidecar.

If you can, be sure to book your ride from the airport in advance, as the wait for transportation can be over an hour long, depending on your arrival.

If you are flying to Palawan and particularly El Nido, I would absolutely recommend AirSWIFT, and will hopefully fly them again soon!

Kauai expecting 42.6% increase in flights

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is expecting a 42.6% increase in flights to Kauai starting in 2018, according Kauai’s local newspaper, The Garden Island.

The additional flights will come from the following airlines:

  • United: Increased service from San Francisco, Denver, and Los Angeles
  • Delta: Additional daily flight from Seattle to Lihue
  • Hawaiian: New daily routes from Oakland and Los Angeles
  • American Airlines: Adding an additional daily route between December and March

Many local residents and business owners are concerned that the island will not be able to handle the increase in visitors.

That said, Kauai is a beautiful travel destination which has been at the top of my list of places I want to visit for a while now. I am excited that I will have a chance to visit the garden island in late September, before the increase in crowds.

Will you be more or less likely to visit Kauai with the increase in flights? Let me know in the comments!

 

Alaska Airlines slashing elite status and earning benefits with American Airlines

Earlier this year, Alaska Airlines ended its partnership with Delta. Today, the airline announced that its partnership with American Airlines would be changed dramatically beginning January 1, 2018. A great guide to the change in benefits can be found here.

If you regularly read Josh Trips, you know that I’ve been trying to status on Alaska Airlines this year based on the merger with Virgin America and the partnership with American Airlines. In fact, I am currently an American Airlines elite Gold member, and I was working to trade that for Alaska elite membership this year.

The most striking change, for me, is that you will no longer receive elite benefits when traveling on American Airlines if you are an Alaska Airlines elite member – something I relied on while going for status with Alaska.

Some other bad news? Alaska is devaluing the value of its award miles. See below for an updated chart:

Alaska updated reward chart

Although some routes have the miles required dropping, most routes are going up (some, significantly).

I think it’s pretty shady for Alaska and American to be announcing this change in July, when over half the year has passed and customers have made flying decisions based on the partnership. I called Alaska to express my concern about this, and how I never would have flown Alaska (or, at least, would have credited those miles towards American) if I had known about this, and the customer service representative accused me of being “sneaky,” saying that’s never how they intended their elite program to be used. I found this comment to be pretty rude and offensive, and after a bunch of complaining, was credited with $75 miles towards a future flight.

I asked for help getting my Alaska flights this year credited to American instead, but was told it’s too late.

With this change, I am officially (and again) stopping my quest for status on Alaska and will end up without status on American next year as well.

Will the change in American and Alaska’s partnership effect you? Let me know in the comments!