Although much smaller than its Star Alliance competitor, the oneworld airline alliance includes many award-winning partners, such as British Airways, Qantas and Cathay Pacific. However, finding award travel on partner airlines can be a challenge for American AAdvantage members because American's web site aa.com will not show partner award availability for Cathay Pacific, Royal Jordanian and many other oneworld partners.
And now with US Airways, American's recently announced merger partner, switching to oneworld later in 2013, there will be more partner award options although it is still unclear when current US Airways flights will be available to book on aa.com. All of this depends on government regulatory approval of the merger, joint operating certificates, and the speed of the merged airline's website/technical team.
For now, one thing is certain if the merger is approved: US Airways and American mileage balances will be combined leading to a bigger pile of miles for redemption opportunities. Let's take a look on the present-day award booking process on aa.com as we await news on the new AAdvantage program.
Recently, American's website experienced a total revamp and displays more partner award availability than before. This includes flights on Air Berlin, Alaska, British Airways, Finnair, Hawaiian, and Qantas. The best way to search for awards is to begin by searching each leg independently. Once you find all of the individual flights that fit in your itinerary, you can piece it together via aa.com using the multi-city search function or call American directly.
Search less common routes that many travelers may not now about such as Air Berlin's Fort Myers-Dusseldorf nonstop, Royal Jordanian's Montreal-Amman nonstop, and newly started routes like American's Chicago-Dusseldorf and Dallas/Fort Worth-Seoul flights where award space may be opened to encourage new bookings. This is another tip that frequent travelers may often overlook on their quest to find free award tickets.
But here's a tip that savvy frequent flyers already know: there are two oneworld alliance member airlines that do a good job of showing flights with available award seats on their web sites. This is important because it allows you to research available flights, make a note of their dates/flight numbers/routes, and then call up your airline program (the one with which you have collected the miles) to make the reservation. Airline telephone service center agents are not as likely to search all oneworld's award booking possibilities. So it's time to take matters into your own hands, at least until American's website shows all oneworld partners.
First, get a frequent flyer number with British Airways and Qantas Airways (if you don't already have one); it's free when you sign up on their websites. Once signed up with British Airways, you can scour their award booking engine for the seats you want on their own flights. The web site shows BA availability first, but by then going through its partner search option you can uncover Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Royal Jordanian, and S7 Airlines award seats. This is the only place where you can search for Japan Air Lines, Royal Jordanian, or S7 availability making it an important tool for those with travel to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. One caveat with the BA search tool is that if the route is served by American, British Airways or Iberia, it only shows those flights and not those of partners. That’s where the Qantas web site comes into play.
Qantas is equally helpful in showing award availability on its own flights and that of several partner carriers including American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, LAN, and others that American's website won't show. Simply log in to the site, and search your city pairs to see which partners are available. It also helps to know the route networks of your partners. One popular feature of Qantas' website is that it shows an entire month of availability whereas British Airways is more restrictive in the availability dates it shows (except for flights on its own metal). Occasionally there are times where Qantas shows availability, but it cannot be booked using AA miles, but this is a hiccup particular to Qantas flights using American miles.
These two partner award sites are useful research tools and will allow you to explain to American's AAdvantage agents which flights have open award inventory. While it may seem odd to put so much effort into searching for flights via various websites, this added time can help you to avoid paying more miles than necessary and to travel on your desired dates.
Unfortunately there are some partners that still do not display on any of these sites including American's non-alliance South Pacific partners Air Tahiti Nui and Air Pacific (soon to be rebranded as Fiji Airways).
Once US Airways is fully integrated, there will be even more options to use your miles, and new oneworld partners Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways will add new countries to the destination choices. Let's hope American makes it a priority to put that flight availability on its website so travelers can more easily redeem their miles.
Can’t be, won’t be cramped when flying? If you’re tired of squeezing into what seems like that ever-shrinking bit of real estate the airlines call an economy class seat, you’re not alone.
In an era where it’s often necessary to shell out extra bucks to get the kind of seat you used to be able to get as part of your base ticket price, we have to wonder: How long before they start charging us to even sit down at all?
But even now, in this time of downsized seats and rising fares, it’s important to remember that not all coach class accommodations are created equally terrible.
Sure, there are the dreaded seats that don’t recline on Spirit Airlines and have an excruciating 28 inches between seats (they call them “pre-reclined,” and for doing so, Spirit ought to get an award for the best /worst public relations spin, ever), or the brutally stingy sizing that we must take for granted on too much of the Delta fleet (that airline’s 737-800 models, to cite one example, have as few as 30 inches of “seat pitch” according to SeatGuru whereas Southwest’s 737-800 models have as much as 33 inches (and yes, two inches makes all the difference).
Some airlines (we’re talking to you, JetBlue) prefer to leave customers with intact knees at the end of their flight. Which is very kind of them, indeed. Some have seats so wide, you might even call them roomy. Others supply still more bells and whistles, such as killer entertainment systems, leather seats and more. Sound plush? It can be, actually, if you book correctly. Best of all, you won’t have to pay a penny extra.
For ten planes where being a cattle class passenger isn’t nearly as humiliating as you might think, check out Airfare Watchdog’s handy chart, here.
Note: Seat pitch, if you’re unfamiliar, is the industry term denoting the distance between any one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front or in back. Most experts say that 32” is the minimum before things start to get ugly, for anyone above average height. Width is important, as well – 17.5” inches or more is best, but in some cases, we’ve made an exception – and given an explanation.
Though a trip to the movies rarely exceeds two hours for $16, we're puh-retty choosy about our cinema seating. The same goes for a nine hour $800 ride across the ocean. A cushy chair can really make all the difference! And we don't ask a lot. Just that our knees never meet our face, and our tailbones never go numb. Pretty minimal requests, really. Which airlines rank high on our list of most comfy? Depends where you're flying! We've charted our faves by region and carrier.
Many longer flights on Hawaiian’s growing network – the airline offers an increasing number of Asian destinations, if you don’t mind a Hawaii stopover. (Life’s tough.)
Never known for roominess, Hawaiian’s coach product gets a big upgrade with these new planes. Comfy seats, seat-back televisions and USB ports spell W-I-N to us. The only thing we don’t like: Going back to the older planes after flying these.
From New York to Singapore via Frankfurt and Los Angeles to Singapore via Tokyo. (Passengers can book Frankfurt and Tokyo as final destinations.)
Korean Air’s new A380’s may have two more inches of pitch and ANA’s B787’s definitely come close on size, but neither airline is quite as alluring as Singapore, with its usually very good service and solid in-flight offerings. Europe-bound travelers should give the New York-Frankfurt flight at least a price check. It’s a good one.
From New York, Washington and Houston to pretty much anywhere east, via Doha.
Repeatedly found up at or near the top of those Best Airlines Of All Time, Ever list, Qatar’s seats, service and in-flight are definitely worthy. Intro fares for new Chicago service (starting in April) to India, Thailand, and elsewhere were on sale recently from $1,001 round-trip, including taxes and fees.
Looking for signs of spring? No need to strain those eyeballs – at these ten incredible indoor green spaces, there's always plenty of colorful flora to go around.
1. Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh Brightening up winter around these parts since the 1800s, a gigantic Victorian-style conservatory features a variety of fixed and temporary exhibits; on select Fridays this year, the beautiful Tropical Forest garden hosts Party in the Tropics, a blowout with beach-worthy cocktails and bites, along with a live DJ you can dance to (phipps.conservatory.org).
2. Eden Project, Cornwall, England It may be a trek to get there, but the world's largest controlled jungle, beautiful Mediterranean landscapes, all under massive geodesic domes in a former quarry, is well worth a journey. Until the King Abdullah International Gardens in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia are completed – they're still under construction – the Eden Project brags the world's largest indoor gardens (edenproject.com).
3. Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Inside a 250-acre bayfront open space – part of the gigantic Marina Bay development just steps away from the mighty towers of Singapore's banking district – you'll find two of the world's grandest conservatories, showcasing the exotic-for-these-parts flora of mountainous and semi-arid regions. For more tropical greenery, you are of course in Singapore – that’s everywhere, including the impressively-zen Changi Airport, with its popular orchid and butterfly gardens (gardensbythebay.org.sg).
4. Montreal Botanical Garden, Quebec From desert to rainforest to an acclaimed Insectarium, it's all indoors in this northern city that's short on greenery for nearly half the year (tourisme-montreal.org).
5. Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania A whopping 4.5 acres of glass-topped greenery make this 1,000-plus acre jewel near Philadelphia a year-round destination. It's hard to imagine once you're here – it's so, so big –but this was once a private estate, just another piece of the DuPont family empire, HQ'd just to the south in Wilmington, Delaware (longwoodgardens.org).
6. Botanischer Garten, Berlin The acres (upon acres) of outdoor garden at this important green space may be in slumber for another few weeks or so, but inside the 1.5 acres of conservatory – don't miss the bamboo forest in the giant Great Pavilion, or the impressive cactus collection – it's green as can be (bgbm.org).
7. Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago This 100-plus year-old oasis in a tough corner of the Windy City's west side is one of the best things most visitors to Chicago will never see; that's good and bad; good because at times, you'll have acres of tropical garden all to yourself (now there's a little thrill, particularly during a Midwest winter), bad because more people need to see – and support – this place, which needs help more than ever, after a brutal 2011 hailstorm that caused tremendous damage (garfield-conservatory.org).
8. The New York Botanical Garden, New York City Imagine Central Park, but with fewer people. And more elaborate landscaping. That pretty much sums up this green lung that beats at the heart of The Boogie Down, just a short ride on the Metro-North Railroad from Grand Central Terminal. While trails through true treasures such as the city's lone old-growth forest are beautiful at any time of year, come winter, the real action's indoors at the 110 year-old Haupt Conservatory, an ornate crystal palace that – if you can believe it – was almost torn down in the 1970s due to decay (nybg.org).
Want to see the lowest available fares to New York JFK, LGA, and EWR.
9. Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome, Tokyo From carnivorous plants to the unique flora of Japan's Bonin Islands – sometimes referred to as the Galapagos of the Orient – it's all about the unusual at this multi-domed attraction on Tokyo Bay. In all, expect approximately 1,000 species of plant, including a beautiful rainforest section, with waterfall and everything (yumenoshima.jp – in Japanese).
10. United States Botanic Garden, Washington DC A beautiful conservatory built in the 1930s – designed by the same architect responsible for the nearby Capitol – is a winter highlight of this national garden, brightening up its corner of the National Mall and offering the fastest possible escape from a wet, cold DC winter (and into the tropics) you're going to find (usbg.gov).
For an extra fee, some airlines will let you get on the plane earlier than other passengers, giving you a better chance of finding space in the overhead bin among other benefits. Here's a roundup of what's available on various airlines throughout the world.
What it's called
What you get
$10 and up
You board before anyone else and can grab any seat in the Hot Seat zones (typically the first few rows and the exit rows).
While Air Asia automatically assigns seats at check-in time reducing the stress of boarding first to get a good seat, many passengers find that selecting their own seat in these premium rows is worth the upcharge given how cheap Air Asia tickets can be to begin with.
You'll board in Zone 2 – behind the Business Class passengers.
This is something you buy at check-in; and probably only worth it if the flight is super full. Rather unexciting. As AirTran gets fully absorbed into Southwest, this will go away.
You'll be the first to board.
You can buy this in advance; on an airline like this with mostly slow moving leisure travelers, $5 isn't bad to hurtle ahead of all of them.
Group 1 Boarding
A bundle of ancillary services that can include Group 1 Boarding, free checked bag, same day flight change flexibility, Admirals Club access is also now being sold
Congratulations to AA on another smooth revenue generating move – getting rid of back-to-front boarding means they may sell more of this option. For those who want just early boarding, $9 is not bad, but the bundled options provide great value. The highest option Choice Plus includes a premium beverage, 50% bonus miles, and no change fees.
Slide into the SkyPriority line with the premium cabin passengers and elite level customers
Delta offers add-ons at time of purchase, and priority boarding can also be purchased as part of a package that includes onboard Wifi (available on all Delta aircraft except select international planes and the smallest CRJ-200 regional jets).
Even More Space
$20 and up
Breeze through security, be the first to board. Sold as part of the Even More Space option for now; the airline says it may go a la carte later on.
Basically, the Even More Space seats are even more valuable now. Check, though. Not all airports offer the security line jump although priority boarding is a given. Even More Speed customers only get expedited security screening despite the name implying faster boarding.
5 euros (roughly $7)
Like Southwest, Ryanair is a free-for-all when boarding starts so being in the first group called to board has its perks.
Four rows are still reserved in advance though and cannot be chosen for free (typically bulkhead and exit rows).
Early Bird Check In
$10 or $40 at the gate
Automatically checks you in as soon as check-in opens for the flight and assigns a boarding position that allows you to be one of the first people on the plane.
Don't get excited – they don't guarantee A Group. It can happen, but may not, if lots of people bought Business Select fares. Southwest is now selling this feature at the boarding gate for $40 as well if there are still positions available in the early group.
$9 and up
Gets you through check-in, security and boarding faster. Also offered in bundles with other services, such as guaranteed Economy Plus Seating, for a higher price.
Love it! Particularly at places like Chicago O'Hare, where we've avoided missing flights by buying this service at the kiosk before rushing to security.
$10 and up
This option gets travelers into the Preferred boarding lane with first class and elite level travelers. Some airports also feature priority security lanes and special ticket counters.
The price varies depending upon the airport, but can be worth it at busy places like Washington Reagan National or Charlotte.
Main Cabin Express
Be among the first passengers to board and the first to deplane since these seats are always the first few rows of the main cabin.
Besides getting first dibs at the overhead bins, you are more likely to have an empty seat next to you since not all passengers pay extra for the privilege (seats are assigned anyway). Elite members with the Elevate frequent flyer program receive access to these seats, however, without charge.
You probably already know that one of the benefits of obtaining elite status in a global airline alliance is gaining entrance to those posh airport lounges, enjoying comfy chairs, free Champagne, snacks, and other perks. But did you know that Star Alliance is the only one of the three global airline alliances to extend comprehensive access to international business class lounges of alliance-member airlines if you're a paid member of Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge, United’s Red Carpet Club, and US Airways’ Club members, when flying internationally? No matter what class of service you are flying or your elite status, flash your club membership card (yes, you must physically carry the card) and you gain access to alliance member business class lounges across the globe.
So let’s say you’re a paid member of the US Airways Club and you’re flying in economy class internationally on a Star Alliance airline, such as Lufthansa. Flash your membership card and a boarding pass for a flight that day, and you and a guest can enjoy Lufthansa’s business class lounge.
This benefit is often underused since most people think that Star Alliance Gold status or travel in a premium cabin is required to gain club room access in the above scenario.
Use of any Star member business class lounge is eligible, but not all lounge agents are fully aware of this benefit. One guest is permitted, and travel need not be on the airline of the lounge you are using. It only must be a member of the Star Alliance and for travel on that same day.
Since club membership is something that people pay for in North America (unlike overseas where it is awarded solely on status or class of service), this perk can sometimes be misunderstood. The fees for joining an airline lounge can range between $300 to $600 annually, but knowing about this international travel benefit can certainly sweeten the pot. Many carriers allow elite members to receive a discount for their annual membership, and special prices for spousal memberships are another great option. For information on pricing for each airline lounge program, visit Air Canada, United, US Airways
For more details about Star Alliance’s free lounge access for paid club members of Air Canada, United and US Airways (and a complete list of Star Alliance member airlines), click here. It is best to carry a printout of the rules in case an untrained agent gives you pushback.
The SkyTeam alliance offers this benefit on more limited scale, giving Delta SkyClub members access to alliance and partner lounges scattered around the system. A full list can be found here, but be sure to check Delta SkyClub Member on the right-hand column. Some interesting lounge access options include many Virgin Australia, Alaska Airlines, and contract partner lounges so be sure to study the list.
The oneworld alliance offers a similar program although travelers must present a same-day boarding pass on the lounge carrier airline. Admirals Club members traveling overseas have access to most Qantas Clubs and several Alaska Airlines, Finnair, Japan Air Lines, and Cathay Pacific lounges. The full list can be found here.
Even customers who have purchased 90-day memberships (perfect for non-revenue or military customers who travel infrequently) can take advantage of many of these lounges overseas. It is best to visit the lounge program's websites to verify if a temporary membership card will be valid.
Another little known fact: members with Star Alliance Gold status earned on non-North American carriers but who are flying on North American-based airlines, such as United, get access to any North American lounge of Air Canada, United, and US Airways even when traveling domestically in the U.S. since they are considered an international traveler. That’s because their airline program affiliation is from overseas. For example, holding Star Alliance Gold status on Aegean or Turkish Airlines (two airlines with notoriously easy thresholds for status) gives U.S. travelers access to Star Alliance partner lounges in the U.S. Even if traveling domestically, since the card holder is part of a foreign airline's program, the trip is deemed international granting access to North American carrier lounges. (Read our article on how to get fast and easy Star Alliance Gold status).
American Airlines' erstwhile chairman C.R. Smith launched the first VIP airport lounge in 1936 to reward his best customers and supporters, upon whom he bestowed the honorific "Admirals." Back then, membership was at the discretion of the sales force. Today, however, anyone with enough money can join. They're expensive, but considering the chaos of the typical airport terminal, especially when flights are delayed or cancelled, well worth it--a definite step up from sitting on the floor next to the gate, fighting over the last available power outlet. In addition to comfortable workstations and cushy chairs, they offer perks like free beverages and WiFi, and civil reservation agents. But is that worth the price of admission? It might be if you travel often.
You can buy annual club memberships using money or frequent flyer miles. Memberships cost $450 with Delta, US Airways and Alaska; $500 at United and American. There are also "spousal" memberships and multi-year options; however, it looks like the lifetime membership is a thing of the past.
“Initiation fees” (always with the fees, these airlines) may also apply (typically $50 for first time members), but there are discounts if you're an upper tier member of the airline's frequent flyer program. There are also short-term memberships, applicable to full-year dues, for less (for example, a 30-day pass might cost $90 with Delta, or a 90-day pass $120 on US Airways). Day Passes
However, if you're an infrequent flyer, but still want to wait comfortably and work productively, the best solution is a day pass, which costs $50 per person for Delta's Sky Club, American's Admirals Club and United's Red Carpet Club, or $29 with US Air if bought on line in advance ($50 at the door). Delta offers discounted passes for $25 with the Delta-branded Gold or Platinum American Express card.
Airlines also offer access to passengers traveling in the premium cabins on a same-day international (considered transoceanic or intercontinental) flight, plus customers traveling in first class or on full-fare Y class tickets on specific routes to/from JFK (Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, and Las Vegas) can enjoy access at JFK or one of the eight aforementioned airports. Passengers booked on United's p.s. (premium service) flights in business and first class between JFK and SFO or LAX get free access on the day of travel.
Alaska Airlines grants access to full-fare first class passengers at any of its Board Room clubs. Reciprocity
As an added bonus, some airlines offer reciprocal admission to other facilities although there are a few fine point restrictions. For example, Delta Sky Club members enjoy access to Alaska Board Rooms and vice versa when traveling on the other carrier. Although this could change when and if US Airways merges with American Airlines (since USAir will presumably join the OneWorld alliance), as of this writing United and US Airways offer reciprocal privileges with each other and with Star Alliance lounges throughout the world. Amenities vary
It's important to note that airline clubs vary greatly in quality, even within a single airline. One location might be new and spacious, while another might have seen its last refurbishment when the Boeing 707 ruled the skies, with nary a free seat to be found.
With your membership you get an open bar (although not top shelf) in some clubs, snacks, free wireless Internet, comfy chairs and two guests. Premium spirits, wines, and beers are available for sale in many clubs with rather extensive menus on offer in the American and United clubs. Delta is the only airline to still offer a variety of premium spirits and beers for free.
But another huge perk reveals itself when you need to be rebooked on an alternate flight because yours was cancelled or delayed. Would you rather stand in line with scores of the bumped and grumped, or go to the club, where the lines will be shorter (club receptionists are also able to rebook flights and assign seats). And for some, just having enough power outlets to charge computers and phones is reason enough to join. Non-airline programs
Then there are the non-airline airport club programs. Priority Pass offers entry to 600 lounges worldwide, many of them not airline affiliated, in airports worldwide. Membership costs either $99 annually plus $27 a visit or $399 annually for unlimited visits. Guests cost $27 extra, and there are often promotions for 20% off the full price making it even cheaper than a single airline's program.
True, there are gaps in Priority Pass affiliated lounges at a few airports--no one wants to trek to a different terminal for a few free drinks--but most domestic airports are pretty well covered. But this is still one of the best deals around as it permits access to the broadest selection of lounges, no same-day airline flight requirements, and the lowest price.
Another good deal is the American Express Platinum Card airport club program, which allows members to use their cards to get into participating Delta, US Airways, and American lounges, as well as at all the Priority Pass lounges above. Just show the card to get free access including for up to two guests at more than 100 locations worldwide, with the caveat that you must be flying on the airline of the lounge that you use that day (Priority Pass guests pay $27 per visit). Amex Platinum cards, whether business or personal, have a $450 yearly fee with no spending limit; essentially it's a combined Delta/US Airways/American/Priority Pass membership, which would otherwise cost three times as much. Sadly, United no longer participates, however you get a $200 airline credit with the Card that you can apply to an annual United membership if that’s how you choose to spend it.
Bottom line, if you fly just one airline and fly a lot, join that airline's club, with United an especially good choices thanks to reciprocal privileges. But if you fly on multiple U.S. carriers frequently, the American Express Platinum Card makes sense. Either way, you'll experience less stress, and work more productively. Unless you overdo it with the open bar.
To make air travel more enjoyable, and even less costly, Airfarewatchdog strongly recommends attaining elite status with a single airline and its respective alliance because of the many benefits doing so can provide. Some of the most popular perks include lounge access, priority check-in and security lines, and waived checked baggage fees or increased baggage allowances.
Star Alliance, with its 27 member airlines, is arguably the best and certainly the largest of the three airline alliances (the other two are OneWorld and SkyTeam). It includes some of the world’s most respected airlines (Singapore, Lufthansa, Swiss, United, and Thai among them, although US Airways will leave the group if its merger with American Airlines happens).
While many airlines offer fast track promotions to attain elite status, such as by paying a fee to participate in a challenge (such as this US Airways offer) here’s a fast, insider track to attaining alliance-wide elite benefits.
Aegean Airlines, a Greece-based member of Star Alliance, has the easiest path to Gold status with a low threshold of 20,000 status miles (signing up on line results in 1,000 free tier miles and overall, most other programs require 50,000 miles to be flown before earning this top-tier). Be careful though because Aegean does not use the calendar year to determine mileage earning, opting instead for within a 12 month period. If you earn 10,000 miles in March, you have until the next March to make up the difference to achieve Gold. This policy seems more generous than the calendar year policy set by North American carriers.
So how does this work? First you have to sign up for the Aegean "Miles and Bonus" program. Then, when checking in for any Star Alliance-affiliated airline's flight, credit your miles to your Aegean membership number rather than the program affiliated with the airline you're flying. This means you will earn Aegean miles, which you can later redeem for Star Alliance award flights on any partner airline. For example, let's say you fly between New York and Los Angeles on United nonstop (roughly 5,000 miles round-trip) and provide your Aegean frequent flyer number at check in. After four roundtrips, you will have earned Star Alliance Gold status. Even after just one roundtrip, you will have earned Star Alliance Silver status, which on Aegean requires only 4,000 miles. That entitles you to free checked bags, which can save hundreds of dollars over a period of time.
One caveat is that when crediting miles to the Aegean program, you pass up on the complimentary elite upgrades that United and US Airways may give their own elites on their flights. And, miles earned may not always be exactly the mileage flown since Aegean awards only a percentage of mileage flown on Star Alliance partner carriers' cheapest tickets (many of United's cheapest fares only earn 50% and some of Air Canada's cheapest fares earn nothing). For more information on the exact amount of mileage earned, visit this chart.
So who should take advantage of this strategy? It's great for anyone who travels a lot internationally and wants access to lounges, priority check in and security lines, and free checked bags when on the road domestically. Or someone who does not care about first class upgrades or flies on regional jets that don’t have first class anyway. You are still earning miles with a Star Alliance program allowing you to redeem them on any Star Alliance airline although the rate may not be as fast as earning and burning with United or US Airways. Star Alliance Gold status, when earned on a foreign-based carrier such as Aegean, also offers lounge access to three North American-based airlines' lounges (Air Canada, United, and US Airways), no matter what class of service you're flying, as this article explains.
And, once you attain elite status with Aegean, the bonus miles start piling up for each flight you take in addition to the actual miles flown. Yes, it is true that you have to call Aegean's customer service line in Greece to book award trips using their miles since their website does not allow award booking for non-Aegean flights, but the miles are good for all Star Alliance partners.
Most United and US Airways fares (the two Star Alliance airlines in the U.S.) are valid for earning status miles, but there are a few low fare classes that do not qualify at the full earning level. One positive is that Aegean awards status credit retroactively for six months before your join date allowing you to capture credit for Star Alliance flights that were not connected to any frequent flyer program. Sorry, no double dipping though.
More details about Aegean’s Star Alliance Gold program can be found here.
Taking the family to Orlando? As fun as things are inside the theme parks, you can’t sleep on the Dumbo Ride at Disney's new and improved Fantasyland, and you'll probably get kicked out by security if you attempt to camp out on the streets of Hogsmeade at Universal Studios. Whether your kids like it or not, plenty of your Orlando vacation will be spent at your hotel; the more entertaining the address, the better. Happily, Orlando throws parents a bone or three, with scores of places to stay that are geared nearly entirely around the younger set. Here, some top picks for the best kid-friendly Orlando hotels and resorts.
1. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort Walk to the Magic Kingdom? From this modern, more-Miami-than-Orlando condo tower at one of the Mouse's most iconic resorts, you bet. More than any resort on Disney World property, this one feels like home, offering oversized units for the kids to rattle around in and a modest but handsome lake-adjacent pool with a 148-foot water slide.
2.Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge You can wake up to a giraffe peering at you from outside. (Well, sort of.) What more could a kid (or kid at heart) ask for? A grand, beautifully-themed hotel (no, you just think you’re on the set of The Lion King) centered on 43-acre preserve that's home to scads of exotic wildlife, the experience of staying here is more than a little transporting. But wait, there's more: Most notably, the 11,000 square-foot Uzima Pool, featuring a beach entry, water slide and other fun bells and whistles.
3. Nickelodeon Suites Resort It's just a couple of miles from Downtown Disney and EPCOT, but if your kids have any say in the matter, you might never see either one, or much else in Orlando for that matter. Which would be entirely understandable. From breakfast with Dora and Spongebob to the on-site water park (with regularly scheduled slimings, naturally), a giant arcade and food court in a teen-friendly "mall" type setting – this one's a real crowd-pleaser. Best of all, it does it at very decent prices.
4. Grande Lakes It's really about how much you feel like spending, but either hotel you book – the JW Marriott or the Ritz-Carlton – at this grown-up resort property just down the road from Sea World provides its own twist on a very similar experience. Adults will love the upscale environment, with fine dining, luxury spa and on-site golf options, while kids will dig the colorful and fun pool areas at both properties.
5. Disney's Wilderness Lodge With some of the most terrific theming this side of the Animal Kingdom Lodge – this time, though, you're in the forests of the Pacific Northwest – this one wins purely on visuals alone, with dramatic design elements and solid construction that calls to mind the old national park hotels. (The hotel even has its own geyser, a la Yellowstone, jetting 120 feet into the air at regular intervals.) A white-sand beach, a family-style BBQ joint and sing-alongs by the campfire complete the picture. Those who know Disney can attest that true luxury in these parts means not having to drive everywhere, or stand around like a heel waiting for a bus: Guests at the Wilderness Lodge can avail themselves of free ferry service to the Magic Kingdom, offered all day long
6. Disney’s Beach Club Resort Located on Stormalong Bay, a 3-acre water park and pool area that includes a fun lazy river, water slides and an underwater shipwreck your little explorers can dive into, this EPCOT-adjacent gem is kid heaven. Logistically, it's a winner too, with all the food options at the World Showcase just a short stroll east of the hotel. No hurry, though – a sandy beach on the shores of the 25-acre lake out your front window invite sitting around and working on your tan while the kids run wild. Don't let them see the waterside, vintage-themed ice cream parlor, though – you'll be in trouble. Banana splits, anyone?
For a look at current deals to Orlando, visit our fare pages for MCO and SFB.
I’m often asked if it’s worth it to buy frequent flyer miles from the airlines, especially when they have bonus opportunities. As with many questions, the answer is, “it depends.”
American Airlines is offering a 50% bonus opportunity until the end of February. If you buy 60,000 AAdvantage miles, you get an additional 30,000-mile bonus. The cost? $1650.
Worth it? Depends on how you spend the miles. Let’s say you were contemplating a business class trip from New York JFK to Tokyo Haneda on American’s nonstop, traveling outbound March 4, returning on March 13, 2013. A business/first fare on American would cost $5136 round-trip.
But with your $1650 mileage purchase, you get almost all of the 100,000 AAdvantage miles you’d need to obtain that ticket, after paying $42 in taxes (plus, you’ll earn 3200 miles with your Citibank AAdvantage card).
So yes, I’d say it’s worth buying the miles in such a scenario (I’m assuming you already have 10,000 miles in your account).
I also looked at business class flights from LA to Honolulu, which you can get for 75,000 miles round-trip. The fare would cost at least $2348 currently. So again, you’d come out ahead buying the miles, and have 15,000 miles left over to upgrade, say, a $159 one-way flight between LAX and JFK to a business class seat that might cost $2000 or more (something I do frequently).
Short answer, yes, if you fly in business or first class, buy the miles. However, if you do most of your travel in economy class, then skip this sort of offer. It’s just not worth it.