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Unlike some other travel writers and air travel commentators, I’m still a big fan of airline alliances. Those are the large, multi-airline, varying degrees of cooperation, groupings of airlines, promising “seamless travel”, “earn and redeem across our network”, “global recognition”, and other buzzwordy come-ons that often fall short. But not always. Of the three big alliances, oneworld, Skyteam, and Star Alliance, the latter, Star, is my favorite. Not only nor even primarily because it is the biggest, not because it’s the oldest, but because it is by far the most integrated. They come closer to delivering more of those cloudy benefits than do the other two, in my experience as a traveler and in what I read as an analyst of the travel scene. They are definitely doing so with this move.

Artist rendition of the completed T2 LHR Star Alliance common checkin area

Artist Rendition of the completed LHR Terminal 2 Common Check-in area. Courtesy Future Travel Experience. Click the image for Ryan Ghee’s article.

Star’s “Move Under One Roof” initiative – something they all talk about, but *A (as it’s often abbreviated on sites such as Flyertalk) is doing so much more with it. This initiative in London, at London’s premier international airport, Heathrow, really outdoes everybody. Read the story from Future Travel Experience, watch the video in that link, and then read on here. Continue Reading »

From USA Today:
United Airlines to add Denver-Panama City nonstop

This would have been great news for me in 2012, when I did a few flights between Colorado and Latin America.  To Uruguay in my case,  where I now live.  I took United’s Star Alliance and Mileage Plus partner Copa on one of those flights, starting with a United connecting flight to a Copa Airlines international gateway. But had to fly to Washington Dulles (IAD) to connect to Copa.

three side-by-side shots - Aerial view of hub showing relatively small size, a line of Copa 737s at gates, and a night view of the airport

Copa’s Hub of the Americas

From Panama, Copa Airlines has nonstop flights to many cities in South America, even to under-served Uruguay at our Montevideo International Airport (MVD). (Posted edited to expand information, add some links and images, after initial posting from WordPress’ inadequate mobile app.)

Continue Reading »

As many of you know, I now live in Uruguay, in a beach town about an hour from its capital, Montevideo. One of the issues in being an immigrant to a new country, or being an expat from somewhere else, if that’s how you consider yourself, is the cost of getting back “home”. Even if you don’t consider your country of origin your actual home anymore, you likely have family, friends, and other reasons to visit it. For many Uruguay expats, the USA is their home. Fares to and from the US to anywhere in the Southern Cone of South America are often awful. Uruguay one of the worst for finding deals, due in part to losing our national airline Pluna and limited options with other airlines. Darn rare to find under $1000 USD for a round-trip (“return” in non-USA English) flight. Often much more.

How does $627 sound? Continue Reading »

Bad news for United and Delta Frequent Flyers hoping for “aspirational” awards.

3 United planes and 1 Delta plane at adjacent gates - tailfin view

United and Delta planes – click for the linked Businessweek article.

If you’re still undecided about your 2014 Frequent Flyer earning and spending strategy to maximize future awards and benefits, give United and Delta another look. A look in your rear-view mirror as you say “see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya” while switching to a better program for you.

If you, dear reader, are among the “I only fly Southwest, bags fly free, no change fees!” crowd, this article is not for you, but thanks for stopping by. You are, sadly, likely deluded about the value of flying Southwest vs one of the international-network-affliated airlines, including being naive about “no change fees” (ever try to make a same-day change on Southwest and get soaked for hundreds of dollars difference between your “full credit” and their “same-day walk-up fare”, compared to $25-75 on those airlines with change fees but same-day-confirmed discount changes?) and “bags fly free” (ever wonder why they refuse to show their fares on comparison sites? Often higher by at least a bag fee, sometimes two) but that’s a topic for another day and another snark. Bottom line: You’re not getting to Thailand or Kenya or Austria or South Africa or Australia or Uruguay, ever, with awards earned by paying money to Southwest to fly on Southwest. Some of us want to go to those places. Some of us live in those places. 

For the rest of us, who may well want to travel somewhere outside of the domestic USA and its near-environs, and may want to gain awards on airlines other than the airline on which we’re suffering to fly, read on! “Real” frequent flyer programs with real international award opportunities are important to smart travelers. United and Delta just gave us a kick in the pants. Time to kick them to the curb! Continue Reading »

Congratulations to the people of US Airways, American Airlines, and all who worked to build this new company, which came into existence a few hours ago: American Airlines Group.

Whether you supported this merger, were neutral, were ambivalent, or hated the idea, it’s now a done deal. One company. Let’s hope it succeeds, because there are real men and women working at it, and at its vendors, suppliers, agents, affiliates, whose income and households depend on their employment. There are shareholders of the new American Airlines stock, including retirement funds, and of both airlines’ debt instruments, again including retirement funds. So whether it’s bigger than you wanted, whether you love’em or hate’em, there are real people’s lives at play here. Both AA and US (the airlines of the new company) have made a lot of improvements recently, so I’m hopeful for them. I also have some friends who work for them, and that’s my “skin in the game” right there – I want my friends to continue to have jobs!

Now some important questions, and what’s known of the answers, and advice. I’m going to skip most of the common stuff, because you’re better off clicking the picture above, which will take you to the American Airlines website aa.com’s special merger info page, www.aa.com/arriving. Or to the USAirways.com version of the merger info page.

That’s your first lesson, right there. US Airways and American Airlines are still two entirely separate airlines. They have two entirely separate websites. Right now, they have absolutely nothing in common, except that as of early this morning, Dec. 9, 2013, they are now both owned by the same company. You buy US Airways tickets at usairways.com. You buy American Airlines tickets at aa.com. You check in, whether online or at the airport, at the appropriate American or US Airways location. Nobody from American Airlines (the airline itself) can yet help you with anything to do with a US Airways flight, ticket, reservation, frequent flyer account, payment issue, nor anything else. Nobody from US Airways can yet help you with anything to do with American. It will be that way for months. On some issues, possibly for a few years.

In other words, as a traveler about to head out on a business trip, or for holiday season vacations and family visits, absolutely nothing has changed. Continue Reading »

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