Air Astana Is My Newest Airline Obsession


Yesterday I shared 13 airlines I’m hoping to review soon. While I’m largely reviewing new airlines to create interesting content for you guys, studying the premium cabin products on various airlines has become a bit of an obsession.

Like, I think I might have a problem, because when I find an airline I know very little about, I often find myself spending a substantial amount of time studying the airline’s routemap, products, average fleet age, markets with the best pricing, etc. It’s starting to be a problem, because I drop everything I’m doing for it.

While I’ve studied lots of seemingly random airlines pretty extensively, the latest airline I’m intrigued by is Air Astana, based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. I had seen the airline mentioned in passing, but never really looked into them very much until a few readers suggest I try them out.

For reference, here’s their routemap:

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American’s Most Expensive Award Tickets Are About To Get More Expensive


Contrary to popular belief, standard award tickets can actually be the most costly for airlines to offer. While saver level awards offer the best value to consumers, typically airlines are able to offer them in a way that minimizes lost revenue. This is either because those seats would otherwise go out empty, or at least they can adjust inventory and revenue management so they’re only displacing the cheapest possible fare.

Meanwhile standard level awards can often be used to redeem for last seat availability, and those are seats that could otherwise be sold at the full fare cost. Even when people are redeeming substantially more miles than the saver cost for one of those tickets, they can cost the airlines dearly.

So over the past several years we’ve seen a lot of increases to standard level award costs. In 2014 American adjusted their “standard” award rates. For years American was by far the most generous in this regard, as standard awards were roughly double the cost of saver awards across the board, even for last seat availability.

However, they finally adjusted that, and added a couple of tiers of standard awards, known as “AAnytime awards.” Here’s what their current chart looks like:

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What Caused LAX To Shut Down Last Night? The Airport Authority Explains


Last night I wrote about how LAX was shut down after reports of an active shooter surfaced. Passengers were evacuated, dozens of flights were diverted, and hundreds of flights were delayed.

The situation seemed to diffuse pretty quickly, as the story changed from there being an active shooter to there being a miscommunication/false alarm.

What we do know is that there was a man in a Zorro costume with a plastic sword being detained by half a dozen police officers at gunpoint. On one hand I assumed that wasn’t the cause of the incident. On the other hand it would be very coincidental if this just happened to be at the same time that something else big was happening at the airport.

Well, this morning there’s a bit more clarity as to what happened last night, as Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has issued a statement within the past hour about last night’s incident. Here’s their explanation of what happened:

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6 Thoughts On Yesterday’s JetBlue Points Match Trip To Las Vegas

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As some of you may recall, in late June JetBlue came out with their Points Match promotion, where they basically offered to match the points balances of Virgin America Elevate members.

This presented quite an opportunity, as Starwood is transfer partners with Virgin America, meaning you could transfer Starpoints to Virgin America, and then get those points matched.

In my case I was lucky to have just over 50,000 Virgin America Elevate points, which JetBlue would match to 75,000 points. The one catch was that I had to take one roundtrip flight by August 31.

I’ve had a busy few weeks of travel, so only took my roundtrip flight on JetBlue yesterday, given that the promotion expires on Wednesday.

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Details Of Marriott’s New MegaBonus Promotion


For years, Marriott’s promotions have been called MegaBonus, though the details of the promotions have differed. Back in the day, MegaBonus consistently offered a free night at a Category 1-4 property after every two paid stays. MegaBonus hasn’t been as generous since (which matches the trend in the hotel industry in general), though they’ve still kept the name of the promotion.

Marriott has just released the details of their fall 2016 MegaBonus promotion, which is valid for stays between September 15, 2016, and January 15, 2017. The past few MegaBonus promotions have been targeted, where different members have been eligible for different bonuses. For this MegaBonus promotion, all members can choose from the same two offers.

Members can choose between the following two options:

— 5,000 bonus points after your second paid stay
— 10,000 bonus points after every 10 nights, up to 50,000 bonus points

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My Worst Uber Experience: Don’t Leave Your Phone Behind


Like Ben, I’ve generally had great experiences with Uber. I take them several times a week, and almost all of my rides have been good.

Recently I had a terrible Uber experience. A friend requested an Uber to take us to dinner, and the second the ride ended and the driver pulled away, I realized my phone had fallen out of my pocket and was still in the car.

I called the driver right away from within the Uber app. He couldn’t have been more than 1,000 feet away at that point. He gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him back in a half an hour. When I called him back, he didn’t answer. He didn’t answer my texts either.

After several unanswered texts and calls offering to meet him anywhere that’s convenient for him (as well as an email to Uber), the following morning I offered him $50 cash to return my phone. Immediately he texted back and said “on my way.” I was in a big rush because I was leaving LA early that afternoon. He did return my phone, but the experience left me with a terrible taste in my mouth.

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LAX Airport Shuts Down Due To… Well, We Don’t Really Know


A couple of weeks JFK Airport shut down after gunfire was reported at the airport. As it turns out, there wasn’t actually gunfire, but rather the chaos and confusion may just have been caused by people cheering on Usain Bolt’s Olympics performance.

Well, LAX has shut down tonight, and we don’t yet know why. Initial reports indicated that there was an active shooter within the past hour, which has led to a massive evacuation.

However, it’s now looking like that may not have actually been the case, and that this was instead a hoax or miscommunication. The LAPD is saying that the reports of shooting have been proven to be “loud noises only,” and that no shots were fired.

I imagine we’ll find out more in the coming hours, though in the meantime the airport is closed and there’s a ground stop in effect.

However, the footage of people evacuating is pretty insane, both landside and airside (where we see people being evacuated onto the tarmac):

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An INSANE Business Class Fare From Asia To The US


Airline pricing can be highly variable depending on the market in which you’re originating, as I’ve talked about many times before. Some of the cheapest markets include “the four Cs” — Cairo, Cape Town, Casablanca, and Colombo. There are plenty of other markets as well, but those are among the most common for great fares.

I’ve booked plenty of business class fares out of these markets, in particular out of Cairo and Colombo. Qatar Airways is probably the airline that publishes the best business class fares out of these markets, making it a great opportunity to rack up American AAdvantage miles. That’s especially true now that American’s frequent flyer program is revenue based, given that on Qatar you still earn miles based on distance flown rather than how much you spent.

Well, Colombo, Sri Lanka, is probably the single market with the best business class fares to the US, and Qatar Airways has just published the best business class fare I’ve ever seen between Colombo and the US.

Specifically, you can fly from Colombo to Doha to Boston for ~$1,105 roundtrip. This is part of Qatar Airways’ current “Travel Festival” global fare sale, so you’re best off booking directly through Qatar Airways’ website.

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American’s Newest Ad Campaign — “World’s Greatest Flyers”


American has just unveiled their latest global ad campaign, which comes with a new tagline — World’s Greatest Flyers. Here’s how American explains the concept behind the new campaign:

“American Airlines’ new ad campaign celebrates people from all walks of life – our customers and employees – traveling on American.

As the world’s largest airline, with the best network, youngest fleet and competitive product, we need to focus on the people and the experiences we serve them to set us apart from the competition. American’s customers and employees all impact the travel experience. We’re celebrating the ways they elevate themselves from good to great flyers.

We developed this campaign from the inside out, listening to our employees and customers to discover what sets us apart. Our goal is to be the greatest airline in the world, by being the airline employees want to work for, customers want to fly and where investors want to put their money.”

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Airline Takes Out Newspaper Ad Asking For $1.1 Billion Loan (As One Does)


Yesterday I posted about media reports that suggest South African Airways might be on the brink of liquidation. They’ve been in a horrible financial situation for a long time, and have gone through seven CEOs in the past four years. The airline has an inefficient fleet and route network, and has been mismanaged far beyond those challenges.

Unless the airline wants to shrink into profitability, it’s going to take a lot to turn the airline around, including quite a bit of capital.

Well, it looks like South African Airways is trying to raise that capital… by taking out newspaper ads.

The airline took out an ad in a South African newspaper today casually asking for a 16 billion Rand loan, which equates to about 1.1 billion USD:

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The Next 13 Airlines I Want To Review (I Think)


At the beginning of the year I shared my goal of 16 airlines I wanted to review in 2016. Rather than reviewing first class on Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Lufthansa, etc., over and over, I wanted to start trying more new airlines.

I think I’ve done well so far this year, because in terms of new products I’ve reviewed Finnair business class, Air India first class, Hainan business class, Iberia business class, LAN business class, Oman Air business class, Air France business class, Avianca business class, Aeromexico business class, Air Canada business class, South African Airways business class, China Airlines business class, Japan Airlines business class, SAS business class, China Eastern business class, Royal Air Maroc business class, Saudia business class, Pakistan business class, JetBlue Mint, and Fiji Airways business class.

When I first set out with the goal to review more new airlines, my primary goal was to listen to the feedback you guys were providing about the airlines I was reviewing. This blog has grown like crazy over the past eight years, and I realize you guys want fresh and interesting content.

However, I’ve been surprised by just how much fun it has been to try new airlines, even if they’re sub-par. Heck, I’d probably make an effort of trying these new airlines even if I weren’t blogging about them.

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Review: Fiji Airways Business Class A330 Nadi To Los Angeles

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While my previous flight was operated by Fiji Airways’ one A330-300, this flight was operated by one of the airlines’ three A330-200 aircraft.

The business class cabin on both planes is identical, though the one difference is that on the -300 there’s an economy cabin immediately behind business class, while on the -200 the entire space between doors one and two is taken up by business class.

So business class consisted of a total of 24 seats, spread across four rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.

I had only assigned my seat at the airport (given that I booked only hours in advance), and ended up selecting seat 1B.

I was curious to try the bulkhead, given that there was much more legroom.

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Emirates Cuts Their Most Valuable Unpublished Elite Perk


I’ve long felt that the Gulf carriers have been leaving a lot of opportunities on the table when it comes to their loyalty programs. Gulf carriers have the capacity to provide compelling loyalty programs, but largely choose not to. As a general rule you’ll find a lot more empty premium cabin seats on an Emirates or Etihad flight, than on an American or British Airways flight.

Of course there are exceptions, like Abu Dhabi or Dubai to London, but as a general rule I consistently see the most empty premium cabin seats on Gulf carriers.

A lot of people choose to fly the Gulf carriers for their great service and fares. The Gulf carriers have among the cheapest fares out there in all cabins, and I frequently book discounted business class tickets on them.

However, they’ve failed to create a compelling reason to stay loyal to one Gulf carrier. Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, all don’t have very compelling loyalty programs, and the benefits are basically limited to priority services (premium check-in, security, boarding, and lounge access), as well as bonus miles.

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Delta’s VERY Generous Offer For New SkyMiles Members In Seattle


For a couple of years now, Alaska and Delta have been at war in Seattle. Historically Alaska is Seattle’s hometown airline. Then a few years back Alaska and Delta announced that they’d grow together. Delta launched a bunch of new international flights out of Seattle, with the intention of Alaska providing the regional feed for those flights.

That worked great for a while, but then Delta realized that they didn’t actually need Alaska to provide that regional feed, and that they could just operate those flights themselves. So they did, and they’ve been growing every since.

While the two airlines are still technically partners, they’re enemies at the same time. Reciprocal frequent flyer benefits between the airlines have been cut, and Alaska and Delta have both offered several promotions intended to poach customers from one another.

Over the past few months it seems like their battle has become a bit less public. I suppose that’s because Alaska is buying Virgin America, so they’re no longer just focused on maintaining their Seattle hub, but also focused on establishing San Francisco as a hub. So I guess their priorities have just changed a bit.

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