Archive | July 2013

Why I love my American Express Card

Most of my friends have a Visa or Mastercard, only few of them own an American Express card.  At parties I’m always the ardent supporter of the American Express Gold card.  There are many reasons I love my AmEx so much:

– American Express has a 24hr customer support.  You may think you will never get up at 3am in the morning to call their customer service but this changes when you are in Asia or the United States and you have an urgent problem with your card.  I remember a fact where I was in Las Vegas with only a Visa and there was a problem with the card….  you’re on your own.
– I never experienced long waiting times when I contacted their customer service and was always helped very efficiëntly and friendly.  (It’s not funny when you get to listen to 20 minutes of music if you’re making a long distance call)
– Your American Express card comes with a package of insurances (The actual insurance package depends on the type of card you pick).  As is always the case with insurances you hope you will never need them.  If you travel often you will however encounter a day that they come in handy.  These insurances helped me out on previous trips were our baggage was delayed or we got stuck for more than 24hrs due to technical problems.  My experience with their insurances was good as well: cases were handled quickly and efficiently.
– American Express offers it’s membership rewards plan to their customers.  Membership reward plans are different in each country.  My experience is that the options of membership rewards in Belgium are lagging a bit behind with the plans offered in other countries.  Options are however still far better than what you get with Visa and Mastercard.  Membership reward points do never expire and can be exchanged for different products, hotel points or airline miles.
– American Express Travel offers a portal to book your airline tickets (as well as hotels & rental cars).  Their rates are comparable to other search engines on the internet.  Once we got stuck and could experience their superior customer service we decided to book our tickets with them each time our flights were critical.  If it were to the airline we might have not made it to our cruise on time but our contact at AmEx Travel managed to get us tickets on the next flight.  Just in time to catch our cruise.

It came back in almost every bullet point, their customer service is what I like most.  They never disappointed me and I trust they never will.

Iberia – MyBagTag – Print your bag tags @Home

Maybe you’re just getting used to checking in online and printing your boarding pass at home.
Well, time to get ready for the next step.  Iberia is giving you the tools to also print your own bag tags at home together with your boarding pass.  The tag is printed on a single sheet of paper that you need to fold and put in a plastic enveloppe you will find at the airport.

Best thing about this is that they promise you this will save time at the airport.

The new MyBagTag is rolled out gradually.  Currently it’s available only for direct flights within Spain.  Iberia has made a nice video about their industry-first feature that you can find here.  More info in the press release of Iberia)

I think other carriers will follow quickly with implementing similar solutions if it turns out to work.  Certainly as Ryanair and other low-cost carriers could save an extra dime with this solution.

Hilton – Three times faster!

Just recently I wrote about the HHonors program and how they often have promotions that allow you to earn points faster.

Here’s your first chance to implement this strategy by registering for double or triple points with HHonors and start collecting masses of points.
(the bonus points are calculated based on the base points, any bonus you might earn as an elite member of the program will not be doubled or tripled)

You will get:
– Double points for stays on weekdays
– Triple points for stays on weekends (Friday nights and Sunday Nights are seen as weekend nights)
– The promotion runs till end of September
– You have to register to be eligible.  Do this now!  I always register for all promotions that I encounter.  You might not have plans that would benefit from this promotion at this time but things might chance really quickly and at that time you could have forgotten about the promotion.  It would be a pity to loose that promotion and registering costs nothing except a few seconds of your time.

As always with promotions from Hilton a number of Hotels do not participate.  This list can be found here.  You will see it’s a very long list and I find it sad that Hilton allows these exceptions (and certainly so many of them)

Most profitable airlines are low-cost carriers…

Ryanair & Easyjet

A study by WSJ just showed how Allegiant air is US most profitable carrier.  With a pre-tax profit of 18.5% it leaves all other airlines far behind.  Allegiant air probably doesn’t ring a bell for most of us.  It’s a rather small ultra-low-profit carrier flying 64 jets.  Second in ranking is Spirit airlines.  Another ultra-low-cost carrier.  Far behind them follow the airlines with a less low-cost like business model like Southwest, jetBlue and all others.

Profits US airlines 2013Q1If we look at the figures in Europe we see a similar trend.  Number 1 in profitability is RyanAir.  Second spot goes to easyJet.  This chart makes it painfully clear.  Despite so called legacy carriers are generating a lot more revenue they don’t manage to turn them into profits.  Low cost carriers have much better operational models.

Europe airline profitability 2012

Europe airline profitability 2012

Operating profits European airlines 2012

Does this mean the end of the legacy carriers?  Not so fast…  there are some limitations to the business plans the low-cost carriers (LCC) use today.

– Legacy carriers are most often in competition on the routes they serve.  LCC’s pick out routes without competition or with competion with a legacy carrier.  (hardly ever will you find a route served by multiple LCC’s.

Ryanair & Easyjet

Ryanair & Easyjet

(saturation of the markt is forcing them to consider these routes)
– LCC’s avoid paying fees or overhead costs by operating on their own.  They don’t offer connections or partnerships with other airlines and their tickets cannot be booked with travel agencies.  This sets boundaries to their market, one cannot travel everywhere with just a single flight.

– LCC’s will avoid flights that wouldn’t allow them to have the plane and crew back in their hometown at the end of the day.  Legacy carriers operate lot’s of flights where crew stays overnight in a hotel.

So even if the business model of the LCC’s seems to be superior to this of the legacy carriers this business model is not expandable to the entire sector.  There is room for both in the market and each model is superior in it’s specific domain.

Both business are now moving towards each other.  Former low-cost carriers are changing their business models more towards this of the legacy carriers. (eg. is Southwest that transfers luggage already for some time now)  As they move towards the legacy carriers we see new ultra-low cost carriers enter the market.  (eg. Allegiant)

We see legacy carriers adopt the low-cost model on those routes of their network where they can.  Iberia introduced Iberia Express.  Lufthansa is gradually shifting routes to their low cost subsidiary Germanwings.  Legacy carriers take a cautious approach with their new subsidiaries and will not implement all the limitations you see at the Ryanair’s of this world  (eg. Germanwings flights can be booked at travel agencies) but expect more fees and less flexibility.

Iberia 15 percent off within Europe

Iberia 15pct off

Be quick and get a 15 percent discount on your next flight with Iberia within Europe.

Here are the details:

– Book before July 17th
– Fly between August 20th and November 30th
– Offer valid on round-trip fares that are operated by Iberia (no codeshares)
– The discount is applicable on the fare without the taxes and service fees

You will only be able to book the discounted fares on after you have logged in with your Iberia Plus account.

If you rather earn miles with a oneworld partner of Iberia you can still profit from this promotion by switching your frequent flyer number after you made your booking!


Don’t forget the other promo that Iberia is offering in July & August : Double avios on these flights:
Reservations in any class:
To / From Madrid to Bilbao.
To / From Madrid to La Coruña.
To / From Madrid to Oviedo.
To / From Madrid to Dakar.
To / From Madrid to Lisbon.
To / From Madrid to Guatemala.
To / From Madrid to Panama.
To / From Madrid to San Salvador.

You have to register before July 15th to be eligible for this promotion!

Mercure 40th Birthday promotion

Mercure is celebrating its 40th birthday and therefor Mercure is running a promotion with discounts up to 40% and extra bonus points.  (2300 in UK, 2000 outside the UK)

mercure london paddington

Mercure London Paddington

To enjoy this promotion you don’t need to register, you just need to book the special rate you will see when you book your stay.
You need to be a member of Le Club Accorhotels.  If you’re not yet a member but you could profit from this promotion this might be a good time to become a member.  Membership is free!

All details about the promotion can be found here.

I did some searches and was not succesfull in finding huge discounts.  I found the rates that were offered to be slighthly below the flexible rates and slightly above the fixed/restricted rates.  The promotional rate does include breakfast whilst these other rates come without breakfast and off course you get your bonus points. 2000 bonus points are exactly worth 40€.

Here is an example taken from a test booking I made for the London Paddington hotel.In this case the rate is the same as the unrestricted rate.  The promotional rate includes breakfast and a 40€ discount for your next stay, the unrestricted rate off course does not.  The promotional rate is 12€ more expensive than the restricted rate.  If you would not be able to use your 40€ discount on your next stay you have to consider if the 12€ is worth it to have breakfast at the hotel.  I think it’s not a bad deal for a breakfast in London.

London Paddington Hotel Booking

London Paddington Hotel Booking

I have yet to find hotels that offer 40% discounts so this promotion seems to be not as exciting as it sounds but if you can make good use of the bonus points that are offered you can collect some serious discounts towards your future stays.

The free breakfast is a nice touch.  The bonus points is what makes this promotion really interesting. 

As is always the case with promotions, you have to consider if it’s interesting for your personal situation.  If you can make good use of these bonus points towards discounts for your future stays don’t miss this opportunity.

Devaluations all around…

A quick question to all of you that have a bunch of miles or points standing on their frequent flyer accounts: When was the last time that you made good use of them?

Don’t forget that your miles and points are subject to devaluations just as is the case with money on your bank account.  The ongoing crisis reminded us painfully how hard it is to fight these devaluations.  The good news it’s not as hard to fight devaluations with your miles and points.  The only thing you need to do is use them.  You basically got them for free and don’t need to worry about savings like you would with your money.

You might wonder how devaluations work in frequent flyer programs.  There’re actually many ways that this can go.  Airline programs will typically increase the number of miles required to fly between destinations or increase the nominal fee you need to pay to book the reward ticket.  Hotel programs tend to change the hotel categories.  Marriott for example states that the changes in hotel categories are done based on demand (hotels that are often booked as rewards moving up, others moving down).  The changes in categories implemented by Marriott in 2013 however resulted in 1% of the properties that decreased by one or more categories and a dazzling 36% of the properties that increased by one or more categories.  I wonder how this can be the result of their statement that this is based on demand…

Hotel programs are also implementing extra categories on top of the existing ones.  Marriott’s program has added a category for each of the last 2 years.  Hilton added 3 categories beginning this year.  Hilton also implemented seasonal awards resulting in higher redemption rates in high season.

Another devaluation just recently (beginning this week) implemented by Club Carlson is their reduced mileage when you transfer their points to frequent flyer programs.

– 2000 points used to earn 250 miles, after the devaluation only 200 miles
– 50000 points used to earn 8000 miles, after the devaluation only 5000 miles
– 100000 points used to earn 18000 miles, after the devaluation only 10000 miles

Honest programs, in my opinion, should always announce devaluations upfront to their members but unfortunately reality tells me this is not always the case.  The Club Carlson devaluation came unannounced in the middle of the year. (most devaluations occur at the start of a new year)
Unfortunately the number of announced (and unannounced) devaluations seems to increase.

So, 1 big advice I give to all of you, use these miles when you can.  It’s fun to have a look at your account and see a figure of 1 million miles or more but it’s even more fun to take a free trip!

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